The Day We Got a Corgi

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Today is a very special day. This is the anniversary of the day we brought little baby Joey home. (Edit: Yesterday was the very special day. I’ve come down with a nasty bug that hindered all productivity yesterday, including this post.)

Mr. B and I spent the better part of a year weighing the pros and cons of getting a puppy. Some days it was the best idea ever, and other days we considered the responsibilities of puppy training and thought “nah, better not”. We researched breeds, scoured rescue shelter websites, and talked about the joys and messes that another dog would bring into our lives.

Mr. B fell in love with Corgis, and after considerable research, we decided a stubby little herding dog would be a perfect fit for us. Still, we weren’t sure we were ready for the commitment of adding another dog to our busy, on-the-go lifestyle. It wasn’t until the beginning of last year that we were once again perusing tricolor Corgis on the internet, that Mr. B declared that was what he wanted for his upcoming birthday: a puppy. I didn’t give it much thought, he’d been making similar declarations for a year, and the dedication to this particular decision never lasted very long. This time was different, though. The next morning, the first words out of Mr. B’s mouth were “I’m getting a puppy!” Holy crap, I realized, he’s for real this time.

And so, it was an unseasonably warm Sunday in January when Mr. B and I made the three-and-a-half hour journey to visit a Pembroke Welsh Corgi breeder. As we pulled into her driveway, the breeder stood on the stoop holding the puppy that we immediately fell in love with. From the moment we met him, Joey stole our hearts. He was friendly, sweet and playful, not to mention so stinkin’ cute! We couldn’t believe no one had snatched him up yet – so we did just that. We loaded him in the car and brought him home. (And took about 3,937,569,348 grainy phone pictures of him.)

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Over the last year, Joey has brought so much joy to our lives. He is the happiest, kindest, friendliest soul, and I can’t imagine our little family without him in it. Bringing home a new puppy is a huge commitment, but even with all of the chewing, the dog hair, the obeying-commands-only-when-he-feels-like-it, I’d do it all again in a heartbeat. The love I have for this fuzzy little creature is at crazy-obsessive levels. HE’S JUST SO CUTE.

Thanks for making us smile, Joey. We love ya, little buddy!

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This is Only a Starting Point

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I’m not where I want to be. Mentally, physically, emotionally – this is not where I want to be.

I ended 2013 with such optimism for the year ahead. After all, this is the year I marry my hunky homeboy. We’ve decided to build a life together and we get to celebrate that decision – and the love behind it – with our nearest and dearest.  In freaking MEXICO. How could 2014 not rock?!

Welp. So far, it hasn’t rocked. It’s done the opposite of rocking, actually.

Yesterday, I was reading a post that Ashten wrote about facing her weight and her choices and making some changes to get where she wants to be. It’s a great post. Go read it; be inspired. I’ll wait.

Welcome back. Did you catch the part where she said she left the doctors’ office with a “starting point”?  She decided that her current situation isn’t just something she doesn’t like, it’s something to be improved upon. It’s a place to begin moving forward onto better things. That really stuck with me. Because you know what? I’m at a starting point, too – I just hadn’t looked at it that way. And now that I am looking at it in that light, I’m much more excited about my world and all that lay ahead of me.

It’s time to make some changes. I need to do some serious purging in almost every area of my life; I need to figure out what I’m keeping, shine it up with appreciation and care, then I pick up some new goodness to add to the mix. It’s a daunting task, one that has felt like it is lurking over my head. Until I read the words “starting point”.

It’s such an optimistic idea. A starting point isn’t just where you begin; it’s something you launch from. You leave it behind, and burst onto better things. Sometimes, a starting point is left behind you in a cloud of dust. Other times, you slowly, methodically venture away from it. But no matter what, you take a step that moves you away from the starting point. Then another step. And another. Eventually, the starting point is so far behind you that you can barely see it through the fog of your own progress. So a crappy place is never really that bad after all; you just need to start seeing it as your starting point.

As the journey progresses, you remember the starting point. You know the feel, the taste, the smell of the starting point, but you also know that you can never truly go back there. Even if you can physically return, you will never again be the person you were when you were standing on brink of more. The steps you’ve taken to move forward have changed you; you’ve grown. You’ve changed.

The starting point is filled with doubt, fear and uncertainty. Can I really do this? Must I? Maybe I shouldn’t? It is also filled with hope, possibility, and a drive unlike any other. I can do this. I will do this. I know how to get there, and I’m going to fight like hell. The road is clear before you. The steps are well-defined, if not smooth or easy. The starting point is filled with a very specific desire to move forward.

So, I am at a starting point. Several, if you want to get specific about it. I am moving forward. Away from what isn’t working, and onto something better. I am moving away from what is defeating me, and away from the person I do not want to be any longer. I am not trapped by past choices, traditions that no longer fit, a misguided sense of loyalty, or the expectations of others. I will step away from what is dragging me down, because after all, this is only a starting point.

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Our Christmas Festivities Lasted an Entire Week

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While I won’t be disassembling the Christmas tree or packing up the holiday decorations until after the first of the year, it seems the Christmas season is officially over. {sad face.}

This year, our Christmas celebration lasted an entire week. Since we both have multiple, separate families to spend holiday time with, it would be impossible for Mr. B and I to spend quality time with everyone in one or two days.

We started the Sunday before Christmas, with a ham dinner at our house with Mr. B’s mom, grandmother, sister, and future brother-in-law. We spent the evening sitting around eating, drinking, and catching up. Even though they all live nearby, we don’t get together often enough, so it was great to see everyone.

Monday night I ventured back to my hometown for dinner with my dad to spend the night at his house. Christmas Eve morning my dad and I woke up before the sun to head to Pittsburgh’s Strip District. This is one of the coolest parts of Christmas, so it’s totally worth getting up at the asscrack of dawn. We got to Pennsylvania Macaroni Co. around 6 am, and joined about 4 million other folks in the pursuit of fresh Italian goodies for our Christmas feast.

This is the line at the bulk cheese  at PennMac at about 6:30 am on Christmas Eve. It looks crowded and miserable, but in reality everyone is in a great, festive mood.

This is the line at the bulk cheese at PennMac at about 6:30 am on Christmas Eve. It looks crowded and miserable, but in reality everyone is in a festive, friendly mood. AND DO YOU SEE ALL THAT CHEESE?! Happiness. Pure happiness.

After purchasing (for 4 people, mind you) no less than 5.5 pounds of cheese, 2 gallons of olive oil, 4 sticks of Margherita pepperoni, I have no idea how much deli meat, plus some stuffed olives and sundried tomatoes for good measure, we figured we should probably find some breakfast.

You know how they say you shouldn’t go grocery shopping on an empty stomach? That’s some solid advice.

Maybe we’ll try that next year.

Eh. Doubt it.

Anyway, breakfast was ah-mazing. This pretty much sums it up:

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Afterwards, we meandered to the spice store, the pepperoni roll cart (from Sunseri Brothers, naturally, because I couldn’t settle for one that wasn’t bigger than my head. Duh.), the wine shop, the sausage shop, and of course, the bakery for some fresh Italian bread. If you couldn’t already tell, we like food.

We eventually headed home for naps and to meet up with Mr. B, who had to work that morning and wasn’t able to join us on our little shopping excursion. That night my dad made his famous “dad’s spaghetti” for us. It’s not your typical spaghetti, it’s actually penne in olive oil with banana peppers, hot sausage, sundried tomatoes, and broccoli. IT’S DELICIOUS. But it’s also super spicy, so Mr. B had steak.

The rest of the evening was spent drinking, laughing at Joey, and exchanging gifts. My cousin had planned on visiting with us, but she wasn’t able to squeeze us in to her schedule after all. (No worries, I got to spend the entire weekend with her, which is way better than an hour or two.)

Early Christmas morning, Mr. B and I headed back to our house to exchange our gifts. We bummed around the house watching Christmas movies and swearing we’d never eat ever again. Then we took a little nap and ate some leftovers.

Christmas bums.

Christmas bums, enjoying a little snuggle sesh.

Christmas evening we ventured across the farm for dinner with Mr. B’s dad’s family. We ate more and watched the little kids play games. Some how, Mr. B got pulled into a game. I’m not clear on the objective of this particular game, but it involved putting cookies on his head.

Our final Christmas gathering took place last night, when my cousins came up for dinner.

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Nate was here this summer, and Tyler is going to school nearby so we get to see him all the time these days, but I hadn’t seen their sister, Danielle, in about 5 years. She actually spent the weekend with Mr. B and I, and her brothers joined us yesterday. Before they moved across the country, Dani was my little buddy, and I’ve missed her so much.  It was so nice to see her again and spend some quality time with her. She’s not exactly my mini-me anymore (since she’s as tall as me these days), but she’s even cooler than I remembered. Hopefully, it won’t be another five years before I see her again.

Even though I’m sad that it is over, it was a wonderful Christmas. The entire week was filled with fun, food, and lots of love and laughter. I can’t wait to do it all again next year.

How did you spend your holiday? Has anyone else sworn off eating for the rest of forever?

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Christmas Wishlist {12 Days of Blogging}

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I’m joining Amber and Erin as part of the 12 Days of Blogging Christmas linkup. Today’s prompt is “Christmas wishlist”

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Since the prompt today is wishlist, I figured I’d dream big. So Santa, if you are reading this, please know that while I don’t expect to find any of these things under the tree, I also wouldn’t hate it.

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1// This mixer wouldn’t really match my kitchen, but it’s just so pretty!

2, 3, & 4// I would really like some accessories for my fancypants camera, like these lenses and a tripod.

5// I’m SO over all this winter weather crap. I’d really like to hit the river with this pretty wakeboard, ASAP.

6// This camera bag would be an adorable way to tote around my camera and new accessories.

What’s on your wishlist this Christmas?

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My Favorite Christmas Tradition {12 Days of Blogging}

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I’m joining Amber and Erin as part of the 12 Days of Blogging Christmas linkup. Today’s prompt is “favorite Christmas tradition” (I’m a day behind on this one. Just go with it.)

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Growing up, our Christmas celebration centered more around Christmas Eve than Christmas day. I mean, sure, getting a bunch of presents was cool as hell, but Christmas Eve was when the really awesome stuff happened.

Each year, our extended family would gather at my great-aunt and uncle’s house (and later at my grandparents’) to spend the holiday together. For most of us, this just meant driving across town, but for my mom’s cousin and his wife, it meant making the trip from Buffalo to Pittsburgh with a van-load of children. The Buffalo cousins are close in age to my brother and I, so this was always a blast. Plus, our younger cousins would be there too. They lived nearby at the time, but I still got excited every time I’d get to see them.

I'm not sure when this picture was taken exactly, but it was a while ago. See the little cutie in the polka-dot dress? Yeah, she has a driver's license now.

I’m not sure when this picture was taken exactly, but it was a while ago. See that little cutie in the polka-dot dress? Yeah, she has a driver’s license now.

Each year we spent Christmas Eve the same way. First, we’d get all dressed up and head to church for the Christmas Eve service. I’m not much of a church-goer, but I love Christmas Eve service. The candlelight service and singing the songs of the holiday just warm my heart. After church, we’d head back to the house. I loved this short drive, where we’d see the houses all lit up and the beautiful luminaria lining the streets of the neighborhood.

Back at the house, my grandmother and great-aunt would have a feast waiting for us. Ham, turkey, and all the fixin’s, not to mention enough sweets to give us all diabetes. It was amazing. We’d stuff ourselves until we couldn’t eat any more, all while excitedly bouncing in our seats because we knew that the best part of the entire Christmas celebration was coming up next.

I don’t know who has connections with the jolly man in a red suit (though I suspect it’s my grandmother), but someone managed to talk him into stopping by before he started his night of globe trotting. Each year after dinner, we’d hear the distinct jingle of Santa’s bells, followed by the ringing doorbell. (Clearly, someone had an “in” with him, since it was casual enough for him to use the front door.) He’d waddle through the door, plop himself in a comfy chair, and dig deep into his sack of gifts. Each child (and sometimes a well-behaved grown-up or two), would be called up to sit on Santa’s lap and receive one early gift. He’d bring the rest of the loot when he stopped by again later that night on his usual route, but he always had a present for us to open on Christmas Eve before we snuggled into bed. Wasn’t that just so thoughtful of him?!

I know, I know. There is an awful rumor going around that Santa Claus isn’t real. It’s crap. Don’t believe them. I can assure you, he exists. And if you know someone who knows the right people, he can even be talked into knocking on your front door if you behave yourself in church. (I know there are many, many pictures of this somewhere – I just wasn’t able to dig them up. But I promise, there is proof…somewhere. I’ll find it.)

What is your favorite Christmas tradition?

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It’s Not Christmas Without… {12 Days of Blogging}

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I’m joining Amber and Erin as part of the 12 Days of Blogging Christmas linkup. Today’s prompt is “it’s not Christmas without…”

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There are so many things that make Christmas special to me. From new traditions. like the ones Mr. B and I are creating together, to the old traditions that out families have built over decades, each little piece makes the holiday season joyful.

One tradition that I brought to the table was Christmas lights. Mr. B didn’t have much desire to climb on the roof during the coldest months of the year, just to have a higher electric bill. I, on the other hand, couldn’t stand the idea of a naked house in December.  It’s just not Christmas without the glow of the lights prettying things up.

Being the good sport that he is, Mr. B agreed to decorate the exterior of our home for our first Christmas together. After we headed to town for a shopping cart full of string lights, that sweet, sweet man hauled his ladder out of the garage and got to work. And again, the following year, without much protest, he hung the lights once more.

{If I had a picture of our home all lit up with twinkling lights, I would insert it here. Sadly, I don’t have any photos of it. #badblogger.}

Except last year (our second Christmas together), we had a bit of a problem with the lights. See, we checked each strand before putting them up, and yet…they didn’t always work. Not that a strand died and needed replaced – no, that would have been too simple. More like entire strands of lights would go out one night, but work fine the next night (or even a few hours later).

We tried to separate the iffy lights from the good ones, but when we used the “good ones” later in the year to decorate for a party, we realized they were all shit. Rather than taking a chance on the three strands that had yet to be fickle little assholes, we decided to pitch the whole lot and start all over.

Really, it was our own fault. We pretty much bought the cheapest lights we could find since we needed a whole house worth. So when they didn’t last, we were bummed, but not terribly surprised. You get what you pay for, I suppose.

We ended up not getting replacements this year; we simply had other priorities, and that’s okay. (We will probably snag some right after Christmas, when the holiday decorations are dirt cheap.) It’s sad, I miss laying in bed at night and seeing the soft, yellow glow lighting up the yard. I miss coming home after dark and seeing the cheerful sparkle from down the road. It’s not Christmas without the lights. Don’t get me wrong, even though I wish the house was all lit up, I’m certain that this Christmas will be wonderful with or without the lights. And it is heartwarming to remember how willing Mr. B was to do all that work for a holiday tradition that he didn’t give two hoots about. That boy really makes me smile sometimes.

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The Happiest Christmas Tree

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I’m joining Amber and Erin as part of the 12 Days of Blogging Christmas linkup. Today’s prompt is “favorite Christmas music”.

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Each year, Mr. B and I venture out to the local Christmas tree farm to cut down our own pine beauty.

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And every year, as soon as we decide which one is perfect for our home, a certain song starts playing in my head.

Ohhhh, I’m the happiest Christmas tree. Ho ho ho. He he he. Someone came and they found me and took me home with them.

It plays as background music to my thoughts the whole way home, and I hum and dance as we start to decorate the tree.

Ohhhh, I’m the happiest Christmas tree. Ho ho ho. He he he. Look how pretty they dressed me! Oh lucky, lucky me.

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And through the entire Christmas season, I’ll catch a glimpse of the tree and hear that sweet little ditty start up in my head.

I’ve got shiny bells that jingle and tiny little lights that twinkle. Whenever anyone passes by, I blink my lights and I wink my eye.

Oh, I’m the happiest Christmas tree! Christmas day, wait and see, I’ll be laughing happily with a ho ho ho he he!

Unlike, oh, every other song to ever get stuck in my head, I never get sick of it. I can’t say it has any special meaning for me, it just brings a smile to my face. Maybe it’s just that I have a tendency to give personalities/hopes/dreams to inanimate objects and this particular song lets me know that I’m not the only one to do so. Maybe it just makes me feel a little less crazy. Then again, maybe it’s just a happy-maker.

In case you have no idea what I’m talking about, here’s Nat King Cole in all his glory:

See, it’s catchy and fabulous isn’t it?!?

Also, it should be noted that I (obviously) had this song playing while I wrote this post. Upon hearing it, Mr. B chimes in, “you know that song basically just justifies you killing a tree, right?” Ahh, that Mr. B. Always so full of Christmas cheer.

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I Feel Fluffy. And Blah. Mostly Blah.

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My wedding dress has arrived.

About a month and half earlier than anticipated.

I got a call from the bridal shop last week that it came in early, and they are ready for me to come for my first fitting. But instead of joy, overwhelming excitement, and all that wonderful bride-y flutter, my first reaction was “Uh, thanks. Maybe later.”

Don’t get me wrong, I can’t wait to marry Mr. B. I adore my gown. The ladies at the bridal shop were beyond wonderful, so it’s not like I’m avoiding them. So why wasn’t I rushing out the door to see what is arguably the most monumental article of clothing I will ever wear?

I joked that between my trip to New Orleans and all the Thanksgiving food, I’d eaten too much and was in no rush to try to squeeze into my dress. It’s true, I suppose. My clothes are a little snug these days and I am afraid the dress won’t exactly fit like a dream. But that’s not the whole story.

I’ve been eating like crap. I’m still not eating a ton of junk food, but I’m not eating the things that make me feel good. Lean protein and veggies? Sure, if someone else wants to cook it. No? I’m on my own? Ok then, Thanksgiving leftovers it is! I ate all of those? That’s cool. Pasta is cheap and easy. Basically, I’ve been carbo-loading for the last 2 weeks. Except, without the major athletic event. So I feel fluffy. Fluffy like all the mashed potatoes smothered in gravy that I’ve consumed in the last few weeks.

I’ve also been getting less exercise. I don’t work out in the typical way – I don’t go to the gym, or even really utilize the NordicTrack (remember those?!) in the basement. I’m busy, always on the move. Between the farm work and the boat and hiking with the dogs and horseback riding, I use my body. A lot. Except…it’s winter so there’s not a ton of work to do around the farm, and I’m not really up for leaving the warmth and comfort of the house these days. And since Mr. B still refuses to let me bring Sally in the house, I’m doing a lot less of the keep-me-moving stuff that I normally do. 

Slacking on the exercise + carbs + salt + butter = a fluffy Nikki.

This isn’t about my size or weight or dress size though. This is about how I feel. I feel sluggish. I feel bloated. I feel tired. I feel BLAH. And that’s the real problem.

I’m not concerned about how I look (though, let’s be honest, I don’t love the extra chunk protruding from the top of my jeans), I’m mostly concerned about how I feel. I don’t feel good. I feel lethargic, slow, and foggy. I know it’s my own fault, I don’t feel the way I want to feel. And I’ve realized, I don’t want that feeling anywhere near my wedding dress. May 10, 2014 is going to be a magical day, and I don’t want that blah feeling – or anything associated with it – anywhere in sight. So I don’t want to slip into that gown until I feel better in my own skin, until I feel better about my body and how I treat it and what it is capable of.

Yes, my face is a little rounder, my thighs are a smidge closer to one another, and my midsection is a little softer than it was a few months ago, but I don’t doubt that I will be able to zip the dress up. I do doubt is that I will feel good in it, and I don’t want to feel like anything less than a million bucks when I put it on . Even in the fitting room of a bridal shop, 3,000 miles and 6 months away from my wedding. I’ll brave the cold more often and take the time to make healthier meals. I’ll get back to me. And then I’ll go for my fitting, and it will be fabulous.

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The Train {12 Days of Blogging Christmas}

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I’m joining Amber and Erin as part of the 12 Days of Blogging Christmas linkup. Today’s prompt is “Christmas tree/home decor”.

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I’ve already told you how excited I get about putting up Christmas decorations each year. Growing up it was no different; I was thrilled to pull the old boxes out of the attic, unwrap each festive item, and find it a place in our home. My favorite part of all was setting up the train.

It wasn’t just a train, it was an entire town. Not just any town, actually. Since it’s always a winter wonderland and the Claus’ reside there, I think it’s safe to say it’s the North Pole.

This year, my dad passed the train set down to me, and he helped Mr. B and I set it up at our house. It takes up roughly half of our little living room, but it makes the whole house a tiny bit more magical. Once my dad got it running for us and showed Mr. B how it all works, Mr. B and I finished setting up all of the little details.

My great uncle, Uncle Mike, hand painted all of the houses, buildings, and figurines.

My great uncle, Uncle Mike, hand painted all of the houses, buildings, and figurines.

 

Santa and the Misses have a cozy little home right next to Santa's workshop and the toy store.

Santa and the Misses have a cozy little home right next to Santa’s workshop and the toy store.

 

There are so many pieces to the train that we can't use them all at one time. This is what we've got set up this year.

There are so many pieces to the train that we can’t use them all at one time. This is what we’ve got set up this year.

 

The trolley and the working car are on a separate track in the middle. Mr. B set up this cute coal platform along the train tracks.

The trolley and the working car are on a separate track in the middle. Mr. B set up this cute coal platform along the train tracks.

Oh, and just in case you are wondering how Joey feels about this, check out this video on Instagram.

What Christmas traditions are near and dear to your heart?

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Our House is Decorated Like a Happy Holiday Wonderland

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It’s December!

Thanksgiving is over and I am finally able to decorate the house with twinkling lights and evergreen-scented candles without protest from Mr. B, who believes (strongly) that Christmas should not be celebrated for the entire last quarter of the calendar year. Since I have a very hard time restraining the holiday cheer after Halloween, it means a good number of Scrooge and Grinch jokes get lobbed around our house during most of November.

I couldn’t help myself this year – the Christmas dishes made an appearance about a week before Thanksgiving – but I was able to refrain from fully decorating the house. That being said, I practically ran home after our second turkey dinner and pulled all of the garland, ornaments, and festive knick-knacks out of the attic. Okaaaay, okay, I waddled home, slipped into stretchy pants, took a nap, and decorated the next day, but you catch my drift. I was EXCITED.

The house is almost completely decorated (the train needs finished, my dad is going to come help us with that this weekend), and I love how cozy it feels with Christmas cheer all around us. Here are a few of  my favorite parts:

For most of the year, I'm not big on knick-knacks, but during the holidays, they are everywhere.

I’m not usually big on knick-knacks, but during the holidays, they are everywhere.

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I love these little guys on the kitchen window sill.

I love these little guys on the kitchen window sill.

Especially this sweet little tree. He's the perfect size to keep my ring safe when I get my hands dirty in the kitchen.

Especially this sweet little tree. He’s the perfect size to keep my ring safe when I get my hands dirty in the kitchen.

Most of our Christmas decorations are hand-me-downs, like these candles.

Most of our Christmas decorations are hand-me-downs, like these candles from my grandmother.

This nativity scene from my grandmother, sits on my great-grandmother's chest at the foot of our bed.

She also gave us this sweet nativity scene, which now sits on my great-grandmother’s chest at the foot of our bed.

I love seeing the decorations all lit up.

I love seeing the decorations all lit up, so they are almost always turned on.

That candle smells like a Christmas tree. It makes me so happy.

That candle smells like a Christmas tree. It makes me so happy.

I made all of our stockings, which is why they don't match. Joey's is still in the works, so the one with the green strip is his "for now" stocking.

I made all of our stockings, which is why they don’t match. Joey’s is still in the works, so the one with the green stripe is his “for now” stocking.

 

Do you get excited about decorating for the holidays? What are you favorite decorations or traditions?

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