In My House

Gifts That Give Back

In this season of giving, what can be better than a gift that, when purchased, also provides a charitable donation? Here are six gifts that give back. Happy shopping.

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1. Toms are a favorite of mine because they’re cute and comfy, but the company also provides a pair of shoes to a child in need for each pair of shoes purchased. The company does a variety of other charitable work as well. (Toms) 2. These adorable animals are a bit pricey, but every purchase helps battle childhood hunger. Each animal has a name, birthday, and favorite quote. (Cuddle + Kind) 3. These colorful stackable bracelets make a great gift and benefit a variety of great causes. (Pura Vida) 4. Kohl’s Cares stuffed animals each come with a book and purchases benefit the local community. The price point is usually between $5 and $10, making them a great inexpensive gift. (Kohl’s) 5. Each bottle of One Hope wine purchased benefits a different charity. (One Hope Wines) 6. A portion of the purchase of these celebrity-designed spatulas goes to St. Jude Children’s Hospital and No Kid Hungry. I have purchased a few of these. They are sturdy and can withstand high heat. (Williams-Sonoma)

Books

Books: The Testaments

How about a little feminist dystopian literature to kick off the holiday season? I am ashamed to say I only just read The Handmaid’s Tale for the first time a few months ago. It rocked my world in a way only the genius of Margaret Atwood can. I have read some of her other work, and the woman is just downright amazing.

I haven’t watched any of the Hulu series The Handmaid’s Tale (and likely won’t) so this review is strictly based on the two books. Despite being late to the game to read Atwood’s classic novel, published in 1985, it did prepare me to read The Testaments, the follow-up novel published this summer.

The Testaments places the reader back in the dystopian world of Gilead (formerly the United States) and alternates between the points of view of three different women. You might think from the beginning that one of them is Offred, the main character of The Handmaid’s Tale, but that would be wrong. Gilead is a place where women are regarded as objects merely for reproductive purposes. They are executed regularly and abused on a daily basis.

Atwood creates this place and the characters in it with dark artistry. Her dialogue is clever, like one narrator saying: “Torture is like dancing. I’m too old for it.” After finishing The Handmaid’s Tale, most of us were left wondering what happened to Offred and if she was ever reunited with her family.

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Mild spoiler alert:

Just when Atwood has us thinking there’s no hope, she has an evil character do good, and reunites a mother with her two children in some of the most beautiful writing I have ever encountered.

“She smelled right. It was like an echo of a voice you can’t quite hear.”

In true Atwood style, much is left up to the reader’s interpretation, but I finished the book certain that Offred’s fate was a relatively happy one and that Gilead would surely fall.

 

 

In My House

Six Festive Advent Calendars

I love advent calendars. When I was little my great-grandmother would give my brother and me the cardboard ones filled with delicious chocolate pieces, always with a festive scene on the front. Now, there are so many candy and non-candy options out there when it comes to advent calendars. These are a great way to celebrate the holiday season every day of the month while also keeping in mind the true meaning of the entire Advent season.

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1. The Rifle Paper Company artwork on this little tree makes it truly special. (Anthropologie) 2. This wooden box features piece of a Nativity scene, perfect for remembering the true meaning of the season. (Meri Meri) 3. I love anything to do with The Nutcracker Suite, including this handsome soldier. (Pier 1) 4. My daughters absolutely loved this Playmobil Advent calendar last year. You can reload the pieces to use again year after year. (Target) 5. This calendar is a miniature mountain with a tiny colorful tree for each day of Advent. (Anthropologie) 6. Why should the humans have all the fun? This Advent calendar has 24 tasty treats for dogs. (Williams-Sonoma)

Adventures

Disneyland

It has been almost a month since we boarded a plane for a few fun-filled days at Disneyland with my husband’s family. I was excited, and determined to have fun despite the inevitable monkey wrenches that traveling with two small kids can throw at a person. It was a success!

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This was my first time at Disneyland and I absolutely loved seeing my daughters’ reactions to all of the magic.

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Halloween is a great time to visit the park. My five-year-old braved the Haunted Mansion with her dad while I hung out with our two-year-old.

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We met Woody, Bo Peep, Mickey, Minnie, Moana, Milan, Cinderella, Elsa, Anna, Captain Hook, Goofy, Snow White, and Ariel.

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We spent time two days at Disneyland and one day at Disney California Adventure Park. We stayed at Disneyland’s Paradise Pier and loved it there.

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We kept our expectations fairly light, started each day early, and left the park by mid-afternoon to return to the resort for naps or pool time.

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I probably got just as excited as my daughters did to meet some of the characters. I have no shame.

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My two-year-old could’ve spent hours on the park carousel.

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Overall, it was an awesome trip. My legs were tired from the walking, but overall, I felt rested and rejuvenated after some amazing time with family.

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Until next time, Disneyland. We love you.

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Adventures

The Roller Coaster: When Everyone Else Chickens Out

Our sixth wedding anniversary fell during our Disneyland vacation. That meant we spent the big day at Disney California Adventure Park with my husband’s family. I awoke that morning excited for the anniversary dinner he and I would get to have that evening while my mother-in-law babysat the girls. I was looking forward to a leisurely meal, a bottle of wine, candlelight, and no cutting up food for anyone but myself.

What I was not expecting was to ride a huge roller coaster for the first time in my life. This is not me. I don’t like heights. I don’t usually choose to partake in something that is making others expel blood-curdling screams.

We could see the roller coaster from our hotel room window, and my husband was excited about it from the moment he saw it. His plan was to convince our nine-year-old nephew to go along. As we stood in front of the roller coaster that morning, every other family member tall enough to ride it backed out of going along.

But guess what? Marriage is all about being there for the other person. It is about maybe surprising them now and then, just when they think they have you pegged.

“I’ll go with you,” I said to my husband, almost in an out-of-body-experience sort of way. Did some adventurous, spontaneous gal just climb into my body and say that? Once I saw the surprise and delight in his eyes I knew there was no way I could stay on safe ground.

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We got in line and because it was early, didn’t have to wait long. I was sweating as I put my sunglasses in the little pouch in front of my seat and tugged on my harness at least a dozen times. Then we were off on a wild ride. I screamed and giggled so hard that I cried. I had a death grip on my harness like I was sure it was going to come loose. Even if it did, my grip wasn’t going to control gravity as I fell to my death.

But I didn’t fall to my death. I actually had a really good time and so did my husband, which made it all worth while. Riding roller coasters isn’t necessarily going to be my new thing, but this ride was a memorable way to kick off our next year of marriage. Later, we celebrated with the aforementioned romantic dinner.

There will be many times throughout our marriage that we face exciting or frightening times. There will continue to be times in which one of us must venture outside our comfort zone for the love of the other. On that particular day, the roller coaster served as a good reminder of that because, in the end, roller coasters and marriage are both about being there when everyone else chickens out.

 

 

 

 

 

 

In My House

Some Fall Favorites

Fall is in full swing so I thought I would share a few items for this wonderful time of year. We had snow here over night, but I’m holding out hope we’ll continue to see some beautiful fall days ahead. So light a candle, put something yummy in the slow-cooker, load up on Halloween candy, and go ahead and order yourself a pumpkin spice latte.

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1. I have been burning this Golden Chestnut candle as the days have started turning colder and it smells amazing. (Yankee Candle) 2. I love the colors of this $20 felt wreath. (Target) 3. I like sending Halloween cards and the artwork on this is too precious. (Rifle Paper Company) 4. This is a spoiler alert on the hubby’s Buzz Lightyear Halloween costume for this year. He’s such a good dad. (Target) 5. I bought these booties a couple of months ago and am excited to pair them with tights and dresses this fall. (Report, available on Zappos) 6. A cozy plaid scarf is a go-to item all fall and winter. (Gap)

Adventures

This Probably Won’t Inspire You

I haven’t blogged much lately. Sure, life can be busy. Mine is. Yours is, too. The reason I haven’t blogged lately, though, isn’t because of work demands or the craziness of parenting two small children. It is because every time I sit down to put pen to paper (or fingers to keyboard) I feel like what I have to say isn’t enough. It might not be moving enough. It might not inspire those reading it.

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Then I realized I need to stop expecting so much and just share what I’m thinking. I blog because I love it. I love reading other blogs, I love sharing my thoughts, and I love connecting with other people through writing. Sometimes it’s about something deep like the loss of a loved one. Sometimes it’s about something mundane like a cute pair of floral pants from Loft. Either way, it’s a connection and it matters.

So I’m back on the blog in a regular way. Sometimes I might have something poignant to say. Sometimes I might just want to share my latest favorite Yankee Candle fragrance. (Spoiler alert: It’s Golden Chestnut.)

Either way, I’m thankful you’re reading, commenting, and sharing as we continue on this journey called life. Thanks for being here. Thanks for letting me be me whether I inspire you or not.