4 Ideas for Incorporating Photos into your Holiday

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Scene: 1953, my grandma’s living room, annual Christmas card photo shoot. Four boys huddle around the fireplace, the littlest three smiling and holding their stockings up to hang while the oldest holds a prop camera–the kind with the big round flash, now vintage–and pretends to take a photo of them. The mantle looks a lot like mine does now–bottle brush trees neatly arranged across the top and evergreen garland draped festively in front. The boys’ fresh haircuts are combed perfectly to the side, and every outfit is ironed and neatly tucked for the picturesque portrayal of that 50’s Cleaver perfection. How do I know this? Because I have the photograph framed with three other of my grandparents’ Christmas cards and displayed in my hallway. And even though they have long been gone, I can feel my grandparents in the photograph–my grandpa’s attention to detail in the orchestration of the shot and the way he added a chair for my uncle to stand on to evenly space the boys’ heights, my grandma’s impeccable housekeeping and her dedication to the things that were of utmost importance in motherhood then–ironed clothes, fresh haircuts, clean faces, the deep roots of a loving home.

The love of photos runs in my blood–on both sides of my family, actually (throw in Brett’s–the deck is stacked)–and every time I walk past those old Christmas cards and see my grandma’s family, a lot like mine, I feel so appreciative for the way photographs rekindle our memories, connect us to a time, place and people we love, and make us feel loved and inspired. And because I speak fluent photo love, I’ve taken it upon myself to wrangle together four ways you can incorporate your favorite photos into your holiday this year, all of which bring a little happiness and sense of home. My friends at Artifact Uprising have hopped in to offer a giveaway at the end of the post, so make sure you check it out because their photo books are simply delicious.

1. Make a Book of Christmas Past for the Coffee Table

Collect all your holiday memories in one place so you can look back at how the kids have outgrown their Christmas footie pajamas and how your kids have matured in the annual photo with Santa  from screaming-on-his-lap to happily standing next to him. We used Artifact Uprising’s Hardcover Photo Book for ours. To keep it easy, I arranged photos randomly (rather than chronologically) and included the year on each spread by inserting a text box in simple white text (all easy to create and manipulate on Artifact Uprising’s site).

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My favorite thing about our book is how much the kids love to look at it and talk about the photos.

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When the season’s over, we’ll pack up our book with our decorations to be tucked away until next holiday.

2. Transform the Photos You’ve Taken This Year into Gift Tags

I love the art of wrapping and the challenge of using simple things to make packages look beautiful, and photos are the perfect way to personalize a gift and add a unique little “garnish,” not to mention pull up some great memories you’ve made over the year.

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Artifact Uprising’s 3.25 x 3.25 Everyday Square Print Set are perfectly sized to work as gift tags or to accompany them to make a gift stand out.

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The hard part–choosing which memories to include!

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3. Print Old Holiday Photos to Display in Your Home

This is one of my favorite ways to decorate for the holidays, and it’s super easy. Simply collect holiday or wintery scene photos from over the years, print them and display around the house during the holidays. I switch out our framed art in our living room with holiday photos (I store them taped behind the other prints, so it’s easy to make the switch) as well as add some to the kids’ bedrooms. I love Artifact Uprising’s Wooden Photo Ledge (made of real walnut wood and handcrafted in the U.S.–ours is the 18″ one) because it’s made to hold photos without frames, so it’s easy to switch out prints throughout the year.

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We keep a stack of prints in a drawer near our ledge so we can switch out prints whenever we want to freshen things up.

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4. Create Meaningful Gifts with Your Photos

The best gifts are always the ones with meaning and memory, so you can never go wrong with a photo gift. And for grandparents? Photo gifts are always the way to go. We’ve done photo books and framed photos and, while I love them, I’m always looking for a little more out-of-the-box way to present and gift photos. I love these two:

This Brass Easel & Print Set that comes with twelve 5 x 7 prints of your choosing.

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It’s beautifully packaged, and its sleek design fits in with any decor.

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And this Handcrafted Wood Clipboard Calendar (has a magnet on the back) that doesn’t take up a lot of room (I love a good calendar but can never find the wall space to display them) and combines your favorite photos with a simple calendar design for a sweet little display.

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Our kind friends at Artifact Uprising are giving away a Hardcover Photo Book like ours. All you have to do is enter your e-mail below for a chance to win.

I’ll share a few tips in December on taking pictures through the holiday, how to capture the best moments and how to balance “capturing” with the moment itself.

Enjoying: Park Place Holiday

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I get up early in the morning–the kind of early that makes me question, as I’m lying there sorting out the last dream, if it’s my wake-up time or quite possibly 2 in the morning based on the silence and the darkness. I was waking up at 5:30 before Daylight Saving kicked in, but when we all turned our clocks back and my internal alarm didn’t adjust, I figured “To hell with it, I’ll just get more done.” That, of course, leaves my daily quota for energy dried up and depleted by the time the kids go to bed, so their bedtime is now my cue to follow suit. Or, as Brett likes to say as I’m slipping into pajamas and washing my face, “Goodnight, Grandma–don’t forget to take your Miralax.”

The thing is, I like waking up early and look forward to the recognition that sleep is over because there’s a prize inside that cereal box, and it’s called Alone Time. I can do whatever I want–which I always describe as “read,” “write in my journal” or “do yoga with candles” but sometimes looks like “look at my phone,” “online shop” or “research paint colors for a wall I’m never going to paint.” Tomato, tomahto. The important thing is that these things can be done in silence, without interruption and in the clarity of brain space that is not simultaneously wondering if the sound of water running in the bathroom is normal-post-bathroom-hand-washing running water or eight-Barbies-having-a-rager-in-the-sink-that-is-about-to-overflow running water. 4:30 a.m. is when I can sit on my couch with a cup of coffee that won’t get slopped and a book I can actually read, and a candle that will not be blown out by a 4-year-old pyro.

Let’s just say if Airbnb was renting out my living room sanctuary for early risers, the price would have tripled this past weekend, shifting into the “In Season” red-marked calendar dates.

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The tree is up, a red carpet roll-out on the invitation to wake up and sit in that space and just be.

“You know what we’re sliding into now?” I asked Heidi the other day. “If the year was a Monopoly Board, we’re entering Park Place/Boardwalk territory.”

Twinkle lights don’t remove the challenges or responsibilities of everyday life, of course (I mean, there is a Luxury Tax space between Park Place and Boardwalk, if you recall), and, in some ways, holidays can intensify demands and painful recognitions. But, there’s something about the tree and the lights and the celebration that softens it somehow and reminds us to come sit down.

Fire and annual tradition of watching Elf together
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Thanksgiving morning parade and fort-making
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So this might possibly be my favorite Enjoying post of the year, and–warning–it’s mega festive.

With no further ado, we’re enjoying…

Pulling out the winter village that gets a little more chipped up and broken every year (what is it with these villagers’ heads falling off?!) but never loses its charm.

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First night of holiday jams and checking off the holiday bucket list “roast marshmallows in the fireplace” activity.

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I love how Nella will roast a marshmallow, put it on a graham cracker, pull out a bar of chocolate…and then abandon the marshmallow/graham cracker altogether and walk away with the chocolate.

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Enjoying Thanksgiving morning lazies…

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…and our annual breakfast tradition with our neighbors.

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Enjoying little pie helpers this year…

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…and Nella’s Thankgiving plate of nothing but a heap of “mashed potatoes and grabies.”

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Enjoying sorting ornaments and memories and lingering over the story behind each one.

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The kids love this part. I hold up the little “Baby on the Way” cradles and “First Christmas” tiny spoons, tell them all about how they used to pull the ornaments off the tree or rip the wrapping paper open when I wasn’t looking, and while they don’t ask me to tell another story, you can totally tell by their big eyes and shy smiles that they want to hear more.

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And finally…enjoying Dash’s first holiday date.

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I take the girls to the Nutcracker every year (hopefully someday he’ll join us, but not his cup of tea right now), and this year Dash picked going to a movie with his buddy Thomas as his date. So we started a new tradition…Movie & Milkshakes.

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We saw the movie The Star, followed by milkshakes at The Royal Scoop next door.

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And then they talked me into taking them to the park where the sun shined magic-like through the tree branches and did all sorts of cool flarey things with its light to make up for the fact that we don’t get snow. I get it, Florida. You’re pretty too.

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In a matter of weeks, we will be lamenting over the fact that this all flew by too quickly–that we can’t believe it’s over. We’ll be ready to take down trees, purge our closets and remove garlands in attempts to reset, minimize and clean spaces for new goals and adventures. We will Pass Go again, sliding into to the less-twinkly routines and responsibilities of St. Charles Place and Virginia Avenue, but we’ll find good motivation there and know that Free Parking celebrations will surprise us over and over throughout the year.

But for now, I’m setting up houses on Park Place and planting a nice little hotel right in the middle of Boardwalk. I will wake up early as as many times as I can this next month and sit with my coffee, my computer, my book, my body and my thanks…for all the little pleasures we get to enjoy right now in this season.

There’s room in my hotel…come on in.

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Happy Monday, friends. xo

The 2017 Epic Stocking Stuffer Guide: 59 Unique Stocking Stuffers Kids and Teens Will Love!

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There’s a post-Thanksgiving cozy gathering post to come, but we’re laying low today and putting the tree up, so I haven’t edited much. I have, however, been working for the past month on my stocking stuffer list. If you’ve been a reader for a while, you know that stocking stuffer guides are my thing. As the self proclaimed president of the Tiny Shit Lovers Club of America, I dig deep into tiny shit research this time of year in search of the coolest, fun things kids will love. This is my love language. I speak fluent stocking stuffers. It is Enjoying the Small Things, after all.

It’s funny, after all the planning of the “big gifts,” it’s the little ones that often delight the kids the most, and the same was true when I was a kid. We love trinkets, stickers, cool socks and fun art supplies. So, I went digging–searching the Internet for the greatest little treasures out there. And this year, I found 59 things, separated into two lists–one for the kids and one for teens. Most of the links are Amazon because we are big Amazon Prime users, and when I’m buying a bunch of small things, I don’t want to pay shipping and want to get them all from one place. Come Christmas Eve, when I’m helping Santa out a little, I completely geek out filling the stockings with these things and look forward to seeing the kids pull these treasures out just as much as the more meaninful gifts.

So happy Stocking Stuffer shopping. And I hope you all had a wonderful Thanksgiving yesterday. We are full in many ways.

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For the Kids

1. Handi Squirrel. Lainey loves quirky little gifts like this. It’s weird, it’s funny, it serves no purpose but to make you laugh, but it’s guaranteed to provide my kids some entertainment.

2. Hatch’Ems Dinosaur Egg. I end up putting a version of this on every stocking stuffer list because it never grow old. Drop egg in water and watch an animal hatch from it within two days. All three of my kids love this.

3. Magnetic Travel Bingo Game. This compact little Bingo game is perfect for travel, and the best part–the pieces don’t fall all over because it’s magnetic!

4. The Original Slime. The perfect consistency–galactic slime in bottles appropriately sized for stockings. This set of three makes one for each stocking in our family.

5. Slime Sucker. What’s better than slime? A slime sucker! They suck up strings of slime by their nostrils and sneeze them back out.

6. Flying Frogs. These have Dash’s name all over them. A set of 12 rubber frogs, made for stretching and flinging.

7. The Original Mood Ring. Every girl should experience a mood ring at some point in her life.

8. Clip-in Rainbow Hair Extensions. These are always a hit with my girls. These extensions can be cut to size and clip in easily for a head of rainbow locks. It looks even cooler when you braid hair after clipping them in.

9. Shrinky Dinks Jewelry Kit. This mini-sized kit is perfect for stockings. We love all things Shrinky Dinks over here.

10. Candy Cane Pop Rocks. Classic Pop Rocks in a minty holiday flavor.

11. Glitter Razzle Dazzle Colored Pencils. Art supplies are always a hit for stocking in our home, and these colored pencils have the “Wow” factor with glitter.

12. Coffee & Rainbow Cake Squishy Set. All three of my kids are obsessed with squishies, and they’re on all of their Christmas lists. This set of two squishies was practically made for filling up the toe of the stocking.

13. Jacks Set. Teach them the art of classic jacks with this inexpensive and entertaining stocking stuffer.

14. Tiny Nutellas. Nella’s going to skip right past everything else in her stocking to get to these babies. Target has them for a little cheaper in their stocking stuffer aisles, but they’re also available in a set of two on Amazon here.

15. Candyland Bandages. Christmas is a free pass for your kids to use all the Band-Aids they want and put them on imaginary boo-boos. These Candyland ones are adorable enough, you’ll be stealing them for your next potato peeling mishap.

16. Color Changing Spoons. Add some entertainment to the morning cereal bowl routine with these color changing spoons–an easy winner for a stocking stuffer that will be used and loved.

17. Mason Jar Zipper Bags. To add some charm to your candy stocking stuffers, use these zipper bags to fill with Skittles, m & m’s, gumballs…sure to delight all ages.

18. Handheld Water Game Before Atari and Nintendo came along, these were our “video games.” Strangely satisfying–your kids will love them as much as you did.

19. Poop Emoji Youth Socks. Anything poop emoji is a winner with kids.

20. Cattoos New from Chronicle, these temporary tattoos are cool for kids but funny enough that you’ll be stealing them. I love the “High Four!” paw salute and the Caturday roar.

21. Balloon Jet Racer. Powered by the air in a blown-up balloon, this little car speeds across the floor. Buy 2 for competitive races. This has Dash’s name all over it.

22. Whoopie Cushion. Never not funny to kids.

23. Head Lamp. My sister got one for Dash this summer, and he thought it was the coolest thing ever–still plays with it. Hide some candy canes in the yard and take them outside to find them at night, and this lamp will come in handy (sure to make a memory!).

24. Flingshot Monkey. The best part about this slingshot monkey? It howls when it’s flying through the air.

25. Pocket Volcano. All you have to do is add baking soda and water. Kids love things that explode. Thank you, Santa.

26. Holiday Scented Gel Crayons. These crayons glide like buttah and even better…they smell like Christmas! Gingerbread, sugar plum, candy cane and more.

27. Brick Stix Removable stickers for your Legos! Add windows and landscaping to your homes to turn them into little brownstones or transform blocks into pet stores with these signs and window cats.

28. Cartoon Enamel Pin Set. Lainey’s backpack is covered enamel pins, and she’s always on the lookout for cool ones to add.

29. Cupcake Dental Floss. Maybe–just maybe–they’ll floss their teeth without being asked if their floss tastes like cupcakes.

30. Dinosaur Hand Puppet. Super ferocious looking. Be prepared to be attacked.

31. Dover Make-Your-Own-Pizza Book I love little Dover books because they’re super inexpensive (this one’s only $1.61) and are great for tucking in your purse to entertain kids at restaurants, in the car, etc. This one comes with all the pizza toppings so kids can personalize their pizza to their liking (no mushrooms!).

32. Popcorn Youth Socks. Tell Santa to throw in an extra pair for you. Wear them when you hit the theater for a holiday movie over break.

For the Teens

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1. Microphone Eraser Toppers. I want these. For when I’m pretending I’m a news anchor which happens more frequently than I’d like to admit.

2. Mad Gab Card Game. Impossible not to laugh when you’re playing Mad Gab. This card game version is compact, simple and easy to slip into a purse to pull out when things get boring.

3. Toilet Roll Talker. Best stocking stuffer ever. You can record any message into this toilet paper roll, slip it into any bathroom without anyone knowing, and when someone pulls the roll…your voice will start talking.

4. Auric Blends Love Perfume Oil One of my favorite inexpensive fragrance secrets. I keep a roll of this in my purse. I used to be able to find it at Whole Foods but haven’t been able to lately. It’s warm and spicy with a tiny bit of vanilla–an overall soft clean smell.

5. Every Day’s a Holiday Desk Calendar Every day deserves to be celebrated, and this calendar delivers–all the secret holidays buried throughout the year from National “Go Barefoot Day” to my personal favorite, “Wave at the Surveillance Camera Day.” Did you know October 2 is Name Your Car Day? Who knew?

6. Loaded Questions On the Go Card Game Perfect for getting to know your teen and their friends more. Next time there’s a pile of teens on your couch, all on their devices, pull these cards out and start some interesting conversation with these questions…”What can instantly make a person unpopular?” “What is your favorite song to dance to?” “Whose voice from the movies can you imitate?”

7. “I Just Farted in Public and It Smells Like” Hand Sanitizer. I mean, a necessity for teens.

8. Manly Man Soap. Nicely packaged in a chic little tin and perfect for the gym bag, this soap is scented with essential oils.

9. Tweexy Nail Polish Holder. Make nail polishing easy for your teen with this bottle holder that slips right on your finger so you can paint away without spilling.

10. Glove Shoulder Massager with Roller Balls. Of all the handheld massagers I’ve used, this one’s the best. We have one, and everyone loves it. Whether you ask someone to use it on your back or you slip it on yourself to get the knots out of your shoulders, it’s perfect to keep in a backpack for some relief after a day of book toting.

11. Jane Austen Libary Tin Travel Candle For the literature buffs, these chic little tins may be small but are chocked-full of rich scents that embody the worlds of Jane Austen, Edgar Allen Poe and Oscar Wilde.

12. Battleship Eraser Pad Game. All the fun of Battleship shrunk down into a small pad of paper and a handful of erasers.

13. Retro Camera Pencil Sharpener. Teens who do homework need a pencil sharpener, and teens who are fun need a cool one. This retro camera delivers.

14. Scalp Massager. This weird-looking contraption delivers instant relaxation.

15. Yoga Deck Cards. This yoga deck delivers 50 poses and meditations for mind, body and spirit. Every teen could benefit.

16. Hey Girl Hey! Gum. Blue Q doesn’t make a product a teen wouldn’t like. And with this gum in your teen’s pocket, they’ll be waiting for someone to ask, “Do you have any gum?” “Hey Girl, Hey! I sure do!”

17. Frida’s Frocks and Smocks Magnets. This entertaining magnet set comes in Frida’s Frocks for the art lovers, but there’s also Freud, Mr. Rogers, Elvis, American Gothic, Obama, Shakespeare and more if you click on the link.

18. Banned Books Socks. Just try and censor these socks. Roll ’em up and slip them in the toe of the stocking.

19. Just Sayin’ Note Pad. A great conversation tool for your kids to humorously tell their friends that they did something awesome, messed up or maybe need to freshen their breath. These notes provide simple check boxes with phrases such as “You’re on Fire!,”  “I’m open to flowers,” “There’s this thing called mouthwash” and more.

20. Turtable Light-up Keychain. This tiny key chain not only lights up but makes a realistic dj scratching sound.

21. Chandelier 3-D Air Freshener. The cheapest chandelier you’ll ever buy.

22. Mirrored Flat Lens Sunglasses. Teens like sunglasses. Teens lose sunglasses. These inexpensive ones won’t break the bank but are still cool enough that they’ll high five Santa.

23. Log Cabin Incense Burner. Perfect for cozy journal writing sessions in their bedrooms on a cold winter night. A great conversation piece–the incense smoke twirls out of the little chimney.

24. Pizza Coaster Set. You can never have too many coasters with teens. These pizza-on-a-paper plate ones are appropriate for their age group and a fun addition to Friday night hang-outs.

25. The Universe is Kind of a Dick Socks. I know, I know. We shouldn’t talk to our kids this way. But technically, it’s from Santa, so he can say whatever he wants and sometimes, things need to be said. I’m just sayin’. Teens have bad days, and these socks might help a little.

26. Retro Handset for Devices Old School is the new Black. Show them how we used to live.

27. James Baldwin Candle. I love everything the Unemployed Philosopher’s Guild makes, and these candles are no exception. Whomever your kid admires–they probably have it in candle form–Margaret Sanger, Ada Lovelace, Carl Sagan, John Lennon and many more.