December 31, 2023

Wordful Wednesday: Not Barefoot in the Park

Although it's snowing now, we took advantage of a sunny day to head over to the town park, which is only 2 blocks from our house. SoJo loves the swings (or should I say, loves looking at the ground for some odd reason when he's on them, as you can tell from the photos).
Some rare photos of me and the babe. Nice to have another photographer around, rather than just myself.
You CAN smile, Mr. Geek. The world won't end. And your Botox will be just fine :).
Ok, now there's a smile. Now if I could just get both of them on the same page.

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Happy New Year!!!

December 27, 2023

SoJo's First Christmas

Since I have a free moment (or maybe a case of blog withdrawal), I wanted to post a few pics from SoJo's first Christmas. I can't believe he's 9 months old today!
He got some really cool stuff, like that big drum and instrument set that Gram and Grandpa got at FAO Schwartz when they were in New York last month. Pretty swanky.

Don't you love the tie too? I won it from Red Pajamas, and everyone thought it was so cute. Except for Mr. Geek, who isn't a fan of fake ties--clip-ons, elastic or otherwise. I looked far and wide for a button-down white shirt, but couldn't find one, so I had to settle for a red and black plaid.
He also got a nice Jack-in-the-Box, which he actually wasn't afraid of. When I was little, my bros and I were a little freaked out by the clown one that we had. Maybe it was that it seemed like it might bruise your face if you got too close. That thing was so forceful! Plus it was a clown. Nuff said.

The next photos are from my in-laws house. Here's SoJo and his cousin, getting into trouble.
Does this kid have an oral fixation or what?

Here he is wearing the cutest, coziest blue corduroy suit that dear Auntie Naomi sent. It belonged to Jasper, who had outgrown it. It's more of an Easter suit, but I know SoJo won't fit into it at Easter. The pants are just his size right now. It looked good with the red shirt, surprisingly. Unfortunately after 2 days of partying, new faces, and no naps, SoJo was cranky by the time we decided to take a family photo. That's why he's grumpy in the picture.

All in all, it was a great first Christmas. As usual, holidays are stressful for me, trying to keep him happy, keeping track of present-buying, and dealing with the aftermath of SoJo being overwhelmed by everything. I was surprised that he wasn't more into ripping up the wrapping paper, since he loves tearing up any stray papers that might be lying about at home.

Hope you had a wonderful Christmas too.

December 25, 2023

A Christmas Miracle

He finally did brother Jeff got engaged!
I just had to share because I'm so happy that I'm getting another sister-in-law. And we all just love Izabela! She is such a sweet heart and so upbeat, which is the kind of wife my sullen little brother needs.
I can't wait to help her make favors and decorations and other stuff for the wedding, which a date has not been set for yet. Congratulations you two!

December 24, 2023

Merry Christmas!

May you and yours enjoy all things merry and bright...
...including the ornaments.
Merry Christmas from the K&K gang!

December 22, 2023

Gifts that Go Well with Salty Office Gossip

I was a busy little elf this weekend, wrapping up the last minute details and gifts for Christmas. Despite Mr. Geek being kind of a grinch at Christmas, I insist that he gives a bit of cheer to his co-workers, who have to put up with him all year long (love you sweetie). One year I made felt ornaments, and other years I've made snack mix. Last year's Firecracker Mix was a little too spicy for the PA Dutchie taste buds, so this year I switched to Zesty Snack Mix, which I found at the Taste of Home website.
It is similar to Chex Mix and very tasty. I did forget to add the Cheerios, but I don't think anyone would notice.

I packaged the mix in Chinese takeout boxes, which were left over from a craft project from a few years back. I got a box of 100 quart sized ones at ULINE for $18 at the time, and since there's a warehouse nearby, I picked them up myself and didn't have to pay shipping. They've really come in handy over the years for making nice gift packages. However, I do wince at their environmental impact.
I cut out some labels from Christmas scrapbook paper and taped it to the top. I also added a little tag on the side from the scraps of the scraps and tied on a ribbon. I would have liked to have tucked in a candy cane, but I forgot to pick some up at the store. I thought the peppermint would be a nice palette cleanser after eating all that salty zest. As usual, please forgive the awful photo quality.Simple yet elegant! I hope everyone at the office is jealous of Mr. Geek's wife. Now that's the Christmas spirit, eh?

December 18, 2023

Green Gift Wrapping Options

With Christmas next week, I've been thinking of all of the wrapping paper that ends up in landfills year after year. Leave it to me not to be thinking of sugarplums and candy canes. And to be honest, I do use some wrapping paper, mostly because it looks so darned pretty on ordinary boxes, especially some of the cool patterns that I've seen lately.

But I do try to reduce my usage by using recycled materials like brown paper bags, old maps, and even newspaper to wrap gifts. My frugal grandpa used to save the Sunday comics for weeks before Christmas to wrap the kids' gifts. At the time I thought it was just cheap, but now I think it's great that he was inadvertently helping the earth. I'm not sure those papers were recycled afterward (it was the 80s and not so easy), but nowadays you could certainly do that.

Here are some other ideas for wrapping gifts in an eco-friendly way:
1. Recycle your kids artwork
2. Wrap gifts in scraps of fabric left over from other projects and tie with yarn
3. Save and reuse paper from last year
4. Use reusable paper gift bags (I do this a lot and have quite a stash for all occasions)
5. Sew up some fabric sacks from scraps that can also be reused or repurposed for other things around the house.
6. Pack multiple items in a basket or even a clementine crate that you've painted or decoupaged with paper from magazines or scrapbook remnants
7. Recycle CD Jewel Cases into cute gift card holders. Decorate them with nice paper and cut a slot for the gift card.
8. Give a gift in a reusable shopping bag that can also be used at the grocery store. I love the Envirosax ones that can be folded up and kept in your purse or glove box.
Feel free to add some more in the comments! I'd love to hear your ideas.

December 17, 2023

Wordful Wednesday: First Snowfall

We've had a dusting of snow already this season, but it wasn't until yesterday evening and into the night that we got our first real snowfall.
I love snowy white winters, at least until February or so, but lately it seems like we just have cold winters that are dreary and bleak. At least snow makes everything look so nice. Until you look at the slush along the roads. Still, it's prettier than a brown, empty field in January.Here's the holly tree in the backyard, the source of many gift-wrapping embellishments, and also the source of summer curses when I'm trying to plant things bare-kneed and keep getting holly leaves stuck in my skin.

We're headed to grandma's to bake cookies, so maybe I'll take some more photos of SoJo in the snow.

For more Wordful Wednesday (and more of us who can't simply post a picture without blabbing), visit 7 Clown Circus.

December 16, 2023

Great Finds and Buys at Marshalls & TJ Maxx

As many of us are on tight budgets this year, it's hard to stretch your money to get a little something for everyone on your list. I for one have a huge family, both counting mine and my husband's. It's overwhelming trying to think of things to buy or that I can make (or have time to make) for everyone. I'll bet that, like me, there are times you wish that you could just give someone a pomegranate or orange, like they used to do in Victorian times. I for one would appreciate the sentiment in that gesture, but I'm not so sure about some others in my family.

I do enjoy checking out TJ Maxx and Marshalls, since you never know what you might find. I was on the hunt for items to put in some breakfast-themed gift baskets that I was making for friends and family. On a recent trip to TJ Maxx, I found all kinds of gourmet teas, coffees and chocolates that were 70% off what you'd pay in a department store or boutique. As tempting as it is to hit the dollar store for stuff to fill a gift basket, to me the items you find there are just that: dollar store items (I'm not fooling anyone with those cheap teas). At least at Marshalls and TJ Maxx, you can be frugal and no one will know!

I ended up adding a coffee press to one of the baskets (also at half off of retail price), and to cushion the baskets' contents, picked up some dish towels that were a great bargain. There were 6 super absorbant towels that ended up costing less than $2 per towel. I made and bagged my own homemade pancake mix and cocoa mix and packaged it all up in a red mixing bowl (which were 3 for $10 at Marshalls). I added a felted potholder for a handmade touch.

I do confess to buying some blueberry syrup and some whisks at the local grocery store, since they were great bargains, and also the cute little bags to put the pancake/cocoa mixes in were from the craft store. But truly, if you haven't already, you need to visit for little odds and ends, like stocking stuffers and hostess gifts. Their Bath and Body section alone would make any gift recipient happy. And don't get me started on their holiday decorations, which are of such high quality! I bought a wreath there last year which was really inexpensive but looks so fancy.

If you're still searching for that last minute gift, don't forget about Marshalls and TJ Maxx. Most areas have a store nearby, and you can find something for everyone at great prices.

December 13, 2023

Handmade Wreath Ideas

I was paging through one of my mom's Good Housekeeping magazines (she's been a faithful subscriber since my childhood in the 80s) and I found some wonderful ideas for handmade wreaths, some of which are made from recycled or natural items. These are a far cry from the plastic grocery bag wreaths that I remember in my grandparents' house when I was a kid. I just had to share these, even if it may be a little late for decking your doors.

Mens' Tie Wreath

Recycled Christmas Card Wreath

Cookie Cutter Wreath

Cranberry and Popcorn Wreath

Recycled Cork Wreath

Wreath Decked with Candy Canes

An Elegant Paper Wreath from Martha Stewart

Gift Box Wreath (also from Martha)

And one of my favorites is this one made from traffic signs by Boris Bally. You can buy it at if you're so inclined.
Go on and deck those halls!

December 12, 2023

Handmade Holiday: Hostess Gift

'Tis the season for holiday parties and visits to friends and family, both near and far. It's not my nature to show up empty-handed at someone's holly-decked door, so I like to bring a little hostess gift to express my gratitude for the person's company and festivities. We have our first holiday party tomorrow evening, so I thought I'd bring my friend Kate and her family some homemade goodness.
I put together a little brown bag of kitchen goodies, including a hand-printed tea towel from Flying Rhymes, a great little shop with Scandanavian-inspired wares. Here are a few other examples of the printed tea towels. Quite charming!
I also embellished a jar of local jam with some scrapbooking paper and jute. All you need to do is cut a square a bit larger than the jar's lid,

fold it in half to make a triangle,

and fold in half again,

and yet again, so that it's folded into eighths.

Then you want to round the outer edge with scissors, forming a pie-shaped wedge.

Then you cut a few scallops or zigzags along the rounded edge. It's a little like those snowflakes you used to make as a kid, which would be equally nice on top of a jar of jam.
You just need to tie it on the top of the lid, which is easier said than done. It helps to have a second pair of hands to hold the paper in place.

I wish I could take credit for all of the hand-making here, but sadly, the only thing I had time to make was the jar of herbal tea, which was organically grown in my garden. It's a blend of peppermint and lemon balm, which I packaged in a recycled baby food jar.
The final touch was a flame-blackened spreader from Jonathan's Wild Cherry Wooden Spoons, a shop that I highly recommend for any handmade holiday gifts. The flame-blackened wood items are nice because they don't get "fuzzy" when they're wet, which wood naturally does.
I took a ride out to Jonathan's studio today and got to see where the spoons are made and shipped. I swooned over spoons, and all of the other wonderful items. I bought some Christmas gifts, and also a ladle for myself. I know I'll be headed out there to buy some more things very soon.

The final touch was a scrapbook paper flower to embellish the brown bag. I just made three more of the paper jar-toppers and punched two holes in the centers of them, then threaded some yarn through to secure them to the bag's handle. It's a step beyond the traditional red and green. I took a cue from the colors of the tea towel.
So that's it! I hope Kate likes it. It seems a little more interesting than a bottle of wine.
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