Reviews

2013 Holiday Gift Guide: Holiday Specs

Hello, hello! People have been asking me what I think are some great stocking stuffer ideas for the little ones in your life. Well, folks, I’m excited to present to you…Holiday Specs.

2013 Holiday Gift Guide

I love Christmas lights.

I’m the kind of person that will drive around neighborhoods I have absolutely no business being in just to see the Christmas lights that people have decorated their homes with.  Yup, that’s me.  Nice to meet you.  I was okay with the normalcy of seeing regular holiday lights with my own bare eyes until I came across these really nifty little glasses from Holiday Specs that turn ordinary lights into magical Christmas moments.  Holiday Specs transforms regular Christmas lights into an assortment of miniature glowing winter favorites like Santa Claus, Angels, Rudolph, Snowflakes, and so much more.

Christmas Tree

Putting our tree up this year was a blast.  This was the first year that my daughter, who will be three in February, has been able to truly participate in helping to decorate it. Even though that took a tremendous amount of patience (on my part) and letting go of the OCD tendencies that I usually have when it comes to tree decorating, I knew it would be fun.  Even more than that, I knew that we would be trying out our new Holiday Specs shortly after the tree went up and I was almost bursting with excitement to try them out myself to see my child’s reaction as the lights transformed into something only the magic of Christmas can bring.

HolidaySpecs

Now before I show you the mind blowing things that took over our normal lights on the tree, I want to mention that the lights don’t translate nearly as well on film as they appear in real life.  You’ll have to take my word for it that these things are pretty good. Pretty, pretty good…

PrettyPrettyGood

Take a look at some of the cool Holiday Specs we had the privilege to try out:

Holiday Specs review It's An Ordinary Blog

Holiday Specs review

Holiday Specs

Ready to try them out for yourself? These affordable little stocking stuffers can be purchased online anytime. Be sure to check them out on Facebook and tell them It’s An Ordinary Blog sent you!

Disclaimer: Holiday Specs sent me an assortment of products for free in exchange for my review. I was under no obligation to write a positive review of their products and all expressed opinions are uniquely my own. Please feel free to reach out to me anytime with questions at ItsAnOrdinaryBlog@gmail.com. 

Uncategorized

Enjoying the Holidays: Our Christmas

Christmas Tree

If you ever want to know the true meaning of Christmas, celebrate the holiday with a toddler in the house. I had the best Christmas ever this year and it wasn’t the gifts, or the decorations, or the food that made it so special, it was my child. Watching her, experiencing the holiday through her eyes was pure joy.

Our (Christmas) holiday celebrations started on Saturday morning with our friends who have become family and their daughter. The girls are a little less than six months apart in age and love each other so much, it’s amazing. N and I made a great breakfast while the girls (and the husbands) played together and then we exchanged gifts. It was low-key and really nice, which is just the way I like it. That evening, we headed over to my aunt’s house for a family celebration.

We had originally planned to spend Christmas Eve and Christmas day with my dad. He lives about two hours south of us in a small Kansas town which is always a nice place to be (I love the more relaxed atmosphere small towns offer, it’s a nice change from the city). They’ve been so busy lately that they really just wanted to unwind over the holiday, go out for Chinese food, and maybe catch a movie so we stayed at home. At first, I’ll admit, I was a little disappointed at the prospect of spending a holiday without him but it was actually really nice not to have to worry about traveling or anything.

Christmas Eve was really nice. We had dinner, cleaned up a little, and then made cookies for Santa Claus. C decorated a letter for him while the husband and I each wrote him a letter. I figured I’d share:

Milk and Santa cookies

Dear Santa,

I hope you like the cookies. I also left a beer just in case you are tired of milk, or lactose intolerant. I won’t tell Mrs. Claus. C has been very good this year so if you want to leave her something nice, that would be great.

Thanks,

T

PS: Is your sled a time machine? That would be cool and would make sense.

Dear Santa,

I know you’re very busy and that you work so hard to bring joy and happiness to so many children, mommies, and daddies throughout the world. I just wanted to say “thank you” for the magic you bring to others. This Christmas, I would like a more peaceful, more understanding, more loving world to live in. I know this seems impossible nowadays but I haven’t given up hope. I hope you enjoy these cookies that were baked specially for you. 

Merry Christmas Santa!

Love,

Mommy (H) 

We were so lucky that Santa took time to reply to us…take a look:

Dearest CG,

Thank you very much for the cookies and milk you left for me to enjoy, they were really delicious! I packaged up the leftovers for you to enjoy with mommy and daddy this week. I know how much you love cookies. I peeked in to see you peacefully sleeping in your bed just now…my how you have grown this past year! I am so proud of how smart, sweet, and loving you are. I hope that you enjoy the shopping cart and register that I left for you this year. I know that you help mommy do the grocery shopping for your family and I hope this toy is something you will enjoy. I am looking forward to seeing how much you grow and change in the coming year. Hopefully next Christmas you will not be afraid to come talk to me when you see me in public. Always remember to be the sweet, amazing child that you are. Be sure to listen to mommy and daddy as they try to help you learn and discover new things. I know that being a toddler can be frustrating. Mommy and daddy love you very much and they will always be there for you. Have a very Merry Christmas!

Love,

Santa Claus

Dear Mommy and Daddy,

Thanks for the cookies, milk, and beer. I always appreciate when people think to do something special. To answer your question, Daddy, my sleigh is powered by the magic of the spirit of Christmas. That, in conjunction with he help I get from parents all over the globe make it possible for me to deliver the gifts as I do but if you prefer to believe that a time machine helps me, I’m okay with that. Mommy, thanks for the note. I, too, believe a more peaceful world is possible if we keep working towards it. C is a beautiful, sweet, smart little girl and I enjoyed peeking in on her tonight. I also peeked in on the two of you…my goodness, Daddy, do you not own pajamas? What if there was a fire? Next year- pants and a t-shirt to bed on Christmas, okay? Enjoy Christmas with your little family.

Love,

Santa Claus

PS: I heard the “fat man who wears a suit and breaks into houses” comment. That’s a good way to end up on the naughty list. Remember…I see all.

Christmas day was comfortable and relaxing. I’ve never understood the stress that so many people put themselves under in order to make a massive meal for the holiday and so we went the non-traditional route (similar to Thanksgiving). I prepared a big breakfast in the morning, we had turkey dogs in a blanket for lunch and I made crock pot chili for dinner. The focus was very much on family and spending quality time together. Watching C open her gifts and check out her new gadgets was the highlight of my day.

Now that the holidays are over, I’m looking forward to getting back into working on some home organization (which I’ll be talking about in the near future) and back to blogging on a regular basis.

How did you spend your holiday?

Culture, Daily Life, Parenting, Pictures, Society, Uncategorized

Toddle Along Tuesday: Holiday Traditions

Happy Hanukhristmafestivus!

It's An Ordinary Blog

Everything from that first snowfall of the season, the random caroling, wrapping gifts for loved ones, to baking with care I love everything about the holidays. Now that I have a toddler in the house, it’s important for the husband and I to establish those all important holiday traditions with our little one. Establishing these traditions, like anything in our life, is a work in progress and I’m sure we’ll tweak what we’re currently doing and maybe add new things throughout the years.

Neither of us is particularly religious and so when C was born we had some decisions to make regarding how we intend to raise her on a spiritual level. The husband is ethnically Jewish (stemming from his mom) but we both grew up in Christian households (though neither of us classify ourselves as Christians as adults). We know that eventually we’ll have to have discussions with C about life’s biggest questions (who we are, where we came from, where we’re going, and why we’re here) and we’ll probably have things figured out by the time that becomes an issue. For us, in our current station in life, the biggest hurdle is how to handle the holidays. In order to honor the history of our families, we decided to celebrate both Hanukkah and Christmas in our house each year. 2012 marks the second year we’ve celebrated both. It goes without saying that we also celebrate Festivus because, let’s be honest, we’re awesome. I thought I’d share some photos of our holiday decorations this year…enjoy.

It's An Ordinary BlogOne of my favorite things about the holidays is decorating the tree. It seems so silly to spend so much time putting up decorations only to take them down a month later but it’s worth the effort to have this beautiful, glowing tree in our living room. We had a blast putting up the ornaments. Pictured below are some of my favorites:

Christmas Ornaments

Menorah

Please excuse the missing candles…I didn’t replace them before I took the picture. I want to mention that I purchased this Menorah at Target last year. I’ve only seen Hanukkah decoration (and a Menorah) offered at Target and Pottery Barn (/Pottery Barn Kids) and it makes me proud to shop at both stores because I appreciate that they are more diverse than their counterparts. There is a Menorah I’ve had my eye on but I may need to wait to purchase it until it’s a better fit for our budget.

Holiday Decorations

It's An Ordinary Blog

It's An Ordinary Blog

Don’t forget to share your Holiday Traditions post with Growing Up Geeky’s Toddle Along Tuesdays.

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“No! No, Santa!”

We took C to see Santa this morning…as you can probably imagine (give that I have a 21 month old) it did not go so well. She hates Mr. Claus, take a look:

Toddler Visits Santa

Daily Life, Tutorials

Gift Giving for The Hard to Shop For

I’m sure you have someone in your life that’s nearly impossible to shop for. We all do. There is always someone who either has everything they want or could possibly need or that doesn’t really want anything in particular. That person, for me, is my dad. Every year for his birthday and Christmas I put my thinking cap on and try to figure out what I can give him that he’ll enjoy. This year I wanted to do something a little extra special. Why? Because I love my dad and I wanted to find a way to tell him. So I decided to give him an envelope for every day between his birthday this year and his birthday next year (2013) with something special: a memory, a picture, a “coupon” (for a hug, a home cooked meal, a movie out, etc), a good quote, or a random fact. My goal was to give him a daily reminder of how much I care about him and how special he is to me.

Let me be the first to tell you that this idea is a labor of love. If you want to go with the 365 day route, give yourself a lot of time, because I had to change my plans after the first five or so hours into the project. I didn’t start my dad’s birthday gift until the day before I gave it to him. I was also cooking our non-traditional Thanksgiving feast so I was, regretfully, short on time. I ended my dad’s birthday gift at 100 days, which I still think will be good.  I purchased a box, envelopes, and index cards from my local Target and went to work.

Working on this gift for my dad was really fun for me. It was really nice remembering events, conversations, and other memories from my childhood but it was also really great to look back at the pictures that I shared with him. I incorporated some of his favorite candy into the box so that he would have something other than just a box full of cards to enjoy on his birthday.

Here’s the finished product:

He’ll be celebrating his birthday today and will (hopefully) open up his first envelope. Happy Birthday, Dad!

Now I just have to figure out what to do for Christmas…

Culture, Daily Life, Parenting

The Best Gifts You Can Give This Year

It’s that time of year again where people gather together and stand shoulder to shoulder to wait in line for those “must have” gadgets and toys that will bring a smile to the faces of their loved ones this holiday season. It’s that time of year when, no matter how bad the state of our economy seems, people are still out there spending money. It’s the season of “lay away” and “interest free financing” to make gift giving a little easier for families who live paycheck to paycheck. It’s that season. Now that my daughter is old enough to appreciate the holidays a little more than last year (she was only 10 months old at Christmas time in 2011), I understand that desire parents have to find a gift that will make their children happy. I get it, I really do.

I remember when I was younger. My parents were divorced and I lived half way across the country from my dad. That was hard. One Christmas, I can’t remember what year it was, I received a massive box of gifts from my dad for my birthday and Christmas (my birthday is a week before Christmas). I couldn’t be in the Midwest to celebrate the holiday with him and so he wanted to send me something that would make my holiday a little more special. I can’t tell you why that Christmas, in particular, comes to mind as I write this but it does. I think it’s because it was one of the first holidays where I was acutely aware of how much I was missing out on a relationship with my own dad. Through no fault of his own (we moved to the East Coast after my parents divorced and my dad was stationed at an Air Force Base in the Midwest) he wasn’t there and I remember how, even though I was thankful and happy for the gifts he’d sent, I would have given all of that up for a little more time with him.

I’ll be honest, I’m not cool enough to know what the most popular gifts advertisers are pushing this year and I couldn’t tell you what the new gaming system even is or what games should be at the top of your holiday gift giving list this year. But I don’t think any of that really matters. You could spend every last dollar you have on some great gadget that will inevitably become outdated next year. So maybe this year you could give something that nobody else can give your child: you.

Give your time. Put down your cell phones, your laptops, turn off your televisions and spend some real, quality time with your children. Do a puzzle, have a dance party, laugh, tell stories, read a book. Give them your complete and undivided attention. Included with C’s holiday gifts this year I plan to have a bowl with 365 little ideas for her and I to do in 2013. Some of them will be extra hugs and kisses and some of them will be a trip to the park or to the zoo or even just some quiet time alone with mommy. Regardless, I’m more excited about this gift than any other because it’s one that’s really for both of us.

So, as you head out to do your shopping think about what kinds of gifts really matter this holidays season.