Christmas 2015 – Recap

It’s hard to believe the holidays are just about over. I actually get a little down every year starting December 26. I tend to feel like someone burst my bubble and I’m suddenly back in the real world. I try to hang on to Christmas as long as I can. 

After all, the Twelve Days of Christmas only begin on December 25. I’m totally that weirdo still rocking out to Christmas music. My tree and decorations may come down in the next few days, or I might leave it all up until Three Kings Day, also known as Epihany, which marks the end of the Christmas season on the church calendar. 

Before New Years and it’s suddenly January (!), I wanted to stop in and share a little bit about our Christmas. 

In my last post, I mentioned that the Sunday School Christmas program was the following morning. I’m not sure that I shared that it was a family affair. It’s a pretty small church, so Rosie, Shane and myself were drafted to play Jesus, Joseph and Mary. Tristan played both a scribe to the Wise Men as well as a [wandering] sheep. 

The whole thing is on YouTube, if you’re so inclined. It’s about 24 minutes long. There’s two different perspectives available, actually. One of the high school youth wrote the play. It’s a comedy that focuses on the Wise Men and I found it hilarious. 

Tristan’s shining moment as scribe is about 5 or 6 minutes in. 

The rest of the week consisted of fudge and pizzelle-making, the crafting of paper snowflakes and a visit or two with some family. 

 Shane was working, so I took the kids to church on Christmas Eve. They were adorably excitable throughout the service. It all went well except for the part where Tristan nearly lit Rosie’s hair on fire during Silent Night. Thank you, Jesus, for letting us avoid that disaster!

Christmas morning started early, especially early for Shane who worked until midnight Christmas Eve. I’m not sure who was more excited, me or Tristan. He came up to our room about 4:30am, which is typical for him. He’ll usually snuggle in and go back to sleep until 6 or 6:30. 

This year, however, he knew to check to see if Santa left gifts. On his way to our room he stopped to check out the gifts under the tree. All were wrapped except for a new play tent, which he started asking about once in bed with us. Shortly after, Rosie woke. Everyone was squirming around and we realized nobody was going back to sleep. Thus, gift opening began at 5am. 

Tristan was so excited to figure out which present had his Kylo Ren lightsaber. Rosie was just totally content to toddle around holding scraps of wrapping paper. 

Once the much anticipated lightsaber was located, the dueling commenced, using the Anakin/Vader lightsaber he received last year. My kid has a thing for the Dark Side. Much of the morning (and the past week, actually) looked like this:

Gifts were pretty simple this year. Apparently Shane and I are of an age where gifts are [mostly] practical and received in advance. We didn’t exchange gifts with each other since we got power tools to build the swing set (post coming soon!)

We set a strict budget for gifts for the kids – and lucked out when we scored a few new-to-us items from friends that were moving. Rosie’s big gift from Santa was a sing & learn dog. However, I think she was most excited by the jingle bells in her stocking. 

Between coffee, pizzelles, more lightsaber duels, and ripped wrapping paper, we Facetimed with our family on the mainland before heading to brunch with Shane’s dad and Anita. 

Shane had to work that afternoon and evening. The kids took a nap when we got home while I assembled one of their gifts – an art easel – and watched Elf. The three of us had a simple dinner and called it an early night. 

All in all, it was a great Christmas! Don’t mind me, I’ll be hoarding candy canes to make it through to next Christmas season. 

Christmas Week Begins! 

Christmas Week Begins! 

I’ve been at a training on Oahu for the last week and feel like I hit “pause” on Christmas. I’m so excited to get back home and have some Christmasy activities this week with my two kids! I think there is some fudge and cookie baking in our future!

I am obsessed with Christmas and it is my favorite holiday. I present evidence I am a Christmas nut:


(Sadly I did not purchase that hat). 

We decorated the tree a few days before Thanksgiving. I’m usually strict about decorating the day after, but Shane was off work and I knew I was going to be gone for a week. I didn’t want to miss out on the decorations for a whole week, so I did it early! 


More evidence I’m a little nuts about the holiday:


Once the tree was up and decorated I was able to get pictures of the kids!!! It’s a little bit of a lean year for us financially, so we only sent 9 cards. (Thank you coupon code for 10 free cards, Shutterfly). Don’t think we forgot you if you don’t receive a card. They pretty much only went to grandparents. 

I used these two photos on the cards we made. 

 It was so fun because both Tristan and Rose are wearing clothes that belonged to me and my brother. My mom actually sewed Rosie’s romper for me on my first Christmas. How fun it is to have my daughter wear it for hers! 

We’ll be kicking off our week with the Sunday School Christmas program tomorrow morning at church. This year it will be a family affair. Rosie, myself and Shane will be playing Jesus, Mary and Joseph. Tristan will be a sheep again. This always makes me think of the Charlie Brown Christmas specials. Haha!
Besides the baking there will be lots of Christmas music and maybe some paper-snowflake-making. What will you be up to this week?

The Holidays, Unplugged

The Holidays, Unplugged

Don’t worry, there’s plenty of lights twinkling on my Christmas tree! If I had it my way, our house would be the Griswold House, 2.0. Lucky for Shane, and perhaps our neighbors, electricity costs an arm and a leg here and we’re in the middle of nowhere. No Christmas light display on our home’s exterior. [Insert Allison sad face] But, I digress.

My Facebook friends already know this, but I’m taking a social media break, my holidays “unplugged,” if you will. It’s kind of an early New Years resolution kickstart. I found myself forming bad habits ignoring my children, to be perfectly honest, in favor of scrolling my newsfeed. Since I recognize my weakness, why wait for the new year to make changes?

I’m taking the time to be more intentional with my family and friends and the time I spend with them. I want to make some holiday memories instead of reading about what others are doing. I like hearing “Mom this is fun!” instead of “Moooom, put down your phone!” I realize that my presence, fully in the moment, is the best gift I can give my children and the rest of my family. I’m looking people in the eye when we converse. I’m getting down on the floor and really enjoying playtime with Tristan and Rosie. Shoot! I’ve even been more productive around the house, actually tackling projects that have been stacking up on my to-do list.

Thanksgiving was so enjoyable since I wasn’t worried about taking and sharing the perfect photos or seeing what everyone else was doing. I was able to be truly present with the people by my side – and engage in some hilarious rounds of Cards Against Humanity!

Naturally, as soon as I take a break, something post-worthy happens. On the Tuesday before Thanksgiving, Rosie took her first steps!!! It took her a little over a week to gain her confidence. The last couple days she’s really taken off walking everywhere she can. I was finally able to get some video of her adorable baby steps. Every time I tried to get it on video she would stop and start crawling again. This is the best I could do. My baby is getting so big!

In other happenings, last week we paid a visit to Santa at the ʻImiloa Astronomy Center‘s holiday party. After dinner we decorated cookies while sipping hot chocolate then went to see the big man. Rosie was reaching out to him while in line but freaked once she got close. Tristan confidently sat on his lap and discussed the new Star Wars movie. Of course he asked Santa for “the red light saber with the side blades.”

After that we got our family picture on the moon! Tristan and I then made shrinky-dink ornaments before calling it a night. As sugared up as they were, we didn’t think the kids would make it through the Christmas star film showing that night.

Imiloa Moon Picture
I hope to be back soon with a post about the swing set. We started assembly over the weekend and it’s going to be awesome!!!

A Simplified Christmas

20130106-223618.jpgDon’t be fooled – most of those gifts are for Tristan!

Before it gets too late, I want to make sure I recap our simplified Christmas. I really did enjoy giving myself a break from sending Christmas cards this year. Thank you to all of you who still sent me cards anyways. Nothing makes my day like a Christmas card waiting for me in the mailbox! Hopefully next year I won’t feel so burdened by everything else I have going on and will mail them again.

Since I wasn’t so stressed about Christmas cards and fighting the crowds at the mall or our local Target, I got to spend a lot of time in the kitchen! For me, that’s heaven! You probably saw my post on my family tradition of pizzelles at Christmas. I also managed to make about four pounds of fudge (I made both peppermint and walnut), some killer salmon with a maple glaze for Christmas Eve dinner and a fantastic cranberry-upside-down cake for Christmas brunch. I will be starting a new tradition and making that cake every year – it was sooooooo delicious! The fudge also worked out well as last minute hostess gifts.

Enough about my kitchen escapades – what did we get for Christmas? Did we manage to stay within our self-imposed challenge guidelines?

I would say our simplified Christmas was a success! I pushed it right to the limits of my budget and did end up purchasing one thing from Michael’s (which I don’t think fit the rule for small businesses), but overall I think I did pretty well. My favorite gifts for Shane were of the homemade variety:

Like this photo ornament I made with some scrap booking supplies and a photo Tristan and I took at the church craft fair:


I also DIY’d photostrips using a tutorial found on Pinterest. I had intended to make them all bookmarks, but I thought they might look cool as-is on Shane’s locker at work.


I think Shane’s favorite gift was this matchbook-style coupon book. (Also made with a printable found on Pinterest). It includes coupons for Chinese take-out for dinner (not my favorite), movie nights both in and out, and back rubs.



I also gifted Shane a dice bag custom-made from Etsy (so he looks cool among his D&D friends), and a custom iPhone case with a picture of Tristan.

My favorite gift from Shane was this:

I also got a pretty sweet Hinano swim cover-up that Shane picked up in Hawaii earlier in the month.

Tristan did pretty well this Christmas! His gift from us came just after Thanksgiving and was an activity jumper. His big gift on Christmas morning was a Radio Flyer wagon from Uncle Gavin! It’s pretty cool, and we’re all quite excited for it! He also got a ton of new books. He’s going to be one well-read kiddo.


I should also note that Santa surprised us with The Avengers on blu-ray for Shane and a copy of Cinderella for me! Not too shabby!

This Christmas was pretty perfect because I got to spend it with the two men in my life! Since it worked out so well, I’m hoping to keep thing simple again next year too!

Pizzelles – A Christmas Tradition

Christmas isn’t Christmas for me until I can smell pizzelles baking.  The Italian cookies have been a family tradition for as long as I can remember.  When I was younger, my brother and I always looked forward to the day on Christmas break when our mom would bring out the pizzelle iron and we’d spend a few hours making cookies while watching a holiday movie.  The recipe turned out dozens and dozens of cookies that we would stack in containers after they cooled on the kitchen table.

I’ve always noticed the absence of the cookies during the few Christmases that we’ve skipped the pizzelles for one reason or another.  My mom was even so kind as to bring pizzelles to Hawaii the year Shane and I got married just two days after Christmas.  You can imagine, I was completely thrilled last year when I received my very own pizzelle iron as a gift from my mom.  I’m only bummed that it took me nearly a year to use it!

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After emailing my grandma for the family pizzelle recipe, I mixed up a batch of dough.  Wow – I couldn’t believe how quickly the smell of the anise and lemon extracts brought me back to my childhood!

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It was fun to think about how I will get to continue this family tradition with Tristan and future bambino(s).  Tristan wasn’t all that interested yet, but one day he’ll be begging to lick the spatula instead of his socks.

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At least I got to enjoy the delicious cookies!

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I’m super excited – the booklet that came with my pizzelle iron had several more recipes I want to try including Orange Rum Pizzelles and Chocolate Pizzelles!  I just might become that crazy pizzelle lady!

Making pizzelles this weekend was one of those simple pleasures that brought back so many special memories of Christmas as a child.  I’ll file this under Simplifying Christmas.  For more Christmas posts, check out the patchwork stockings I made last year and our meaningful Christmas decorations.

Simplifying Christmas

Just two days after we’ve all shared our gratitude for the people and things in our lives, we’re already in the thick of the Christmas shopping season.  This year, the Hanley Household is attempting to simplify our gift-giving and avoid the crazed hordes at the mall.  Needless to say, I was not up before dawn on Friday to go shopping.  Since neither Shane nor I really have anything on our Christmas list (and we’re pretty broke), we decide to challenge ourselves in our gift exchange this year.  Instead of buying the same things as millions of others at Target, I wanted to get creative and support small businesses along the way.  The rules for our gift exchange are below:

  1. We will not spend over $75 on each other
  2. Gifts can be handmade, thrifted, or purchased from a small business (Etsy shops count)
  3. No gifts from big box stores!

With regards to Tristan, or plan is to follow this:

Found via Pinterest (click image for original source)

Our goal is to set healthy expectations about gifts and instill  a sense of gratitude in our children from the very beginning (and re-instill in ourselves).

I should also add that I’ve decided against sending Christmas cards this year.  I absolutely love sending and receiving Christmas cards in the mail and with the little guy’s first Christmas it was hard to resist making the perfect photo card!  I find myself already over-committed to other things, why would I add one more thing to my to-do list?  I’ll admit that giving myself permission to skip this one thing is quite freeing! No stamps to buy, no envelopes to address.  That’s more time I have to enjoy with my family and that’s absolute happiness to me.

We’re hoping our gift exchange “challenge” will simplify our season and make it a bit more enjoyable.  We’ll check in post-Christmas and let you all know how we do.

Anybody else looking to simplify this year? What are your plans for gift-giving? Was anyone out at midnight on Thanksgiving looking for the best deal? Who else is skipping on the Christmas cards?

All the Stockings Were Hung…

on the banister with care.

I completed the Hanley family stockings last night! Woo hoo! We don’t have a fireplace mantle on which to hang our stockings, so the next best place is on our banister near the front door.  That way, St. Nick will see them first thing when he enters our house Christmas Eve.

I used a Simplicity pattern I picked up at Jo-Ann’s along with six different fabrics that Shane helped pick out.  The two red fabrics came from the quilting section while the other four were from this years holiday fabric selection.  (Side note:The green fabric with the candy was also featured on Cam’s holiday shirt in the Christmas episode of ModernFamily this season).  I went ahead and made four stockings, because I doubt I would be able to find coordinating fabric in the future as we add to our family.  There’s a stocking for Shane, for me, for Baby H and a future baby we may have.  This year two of the stockings will be used for my mom and dad while they’re here visiting for Christmas.

The pattern caused a few hiccups along the way that definitely slowed my progress on the stockings.  First, there was an error in the layout of how to cut the pattern pieces resulting in backwards pieces for the lining of the stockings.  I ended up running to Hancock Fabrics up the street, which of course doesn’t carry the same fabric as Jo-Ann’s, and just purchased a plain white cotton to replace the backwards lining.  Luckily, I purchased more fabric than I thought I needed because I had to use it for the cuffs as well.  All in all, I think they turned out better for it, with half the lining inside white.

The hardest part for me was picking and choosing which fabrics to use on which part of the stockings.  It probably took me far longer than necessary to cut out the fabric as I was fooling around with the placement of all the pieces. In the future, I would like to embroider our names or monograms on the stockings to identify to whom each stocking belongs. At least names aren’t totally essential since each stocking is different because I don’t know how far in the future the embroidery will take place.

Here’s a neat shot of the back of the stockings:

Can’t wait to see them Christmas morning filled with goodies from Santa!