Tag Archives: Christmas

Homemade Christmas Potpourri

I know I shared this a couple of years ago, but I just had to share this again for anyone that may have missed it!  I LoVe this homemade potpourri!  It is super easy to make and will smell up your entire home for the holidays!  Try it out and let me know what you think!

3 Cinnamon Sticks

3 Bay Leaves

¼ C. Cloves

2 Lemon Wedges

1 Orange Peel

(Top 3 ingredients are found in the dry spice section of the grocery store.)

CoMbiNe all of these ingredients in a small crock-pot.  Add water to cover top of all ingredients.  Leave on low temperature.  As the smell fades, continue to add water and various ingredients to keep the mixture moist for a continuous yummy smell!  EnJoy!

*Be sure to unplug your crockpot at night because all the water will be gone by morning and the potpourri will be burnt!

*If you are ready to start a new batch, drain the water and set out the old potpourri to dry.  Even as dry potpourri it smells AWESOME!  Place the dry potpourri in a pretty bowl on a table as another way to smell up your home and extend the life of your potpourri!

Need a quick X-Mas Present idea?!  Throw the ingredients into a basket or mini-crockpot and give as a gift!  Include a printed version of the recipe by clicking here!

~Lara

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How I am avoiding a stressful Christmas this year…

I know…it is only September…but I already have half of my Christmas shopping DONE!  The motive for starting so early?  I’m tired of stressing out during the holidays!

christmas countdown makie

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The reason I’m starting so early has to do with money.  If I began now, I could spread the cost of gifts over the course of several months, instead of spending a large sum of cash in November and December.  Since we do a monthly budget, I didn’t want to go WAY over in December (and throw the budget out the window), all because of Christmas.  I figure if I SpReAd OuT my spending, I could easily pay $50-$150 in Christmas gifts and it wouldn’t make much of an impact each month.

The last couple of weeks I started searching for a few gifts.  To my surprise, I was able to purchase several of my items half-off, just by shopping on eBay and Amazon!  If I would have purchased those same items in a couple months from now, I’d be bidding against NuMeRouS (stressed) Christmas shoppers, which would make the bidding prices go uP Up UP!!!  I have already saved significant cash on gifts, which allowed me to start working on the items I was planning to purchase next month.  Can’t beat that!

The other obvious advantage is avoiding to shop (and panic) at the last minute.  I feel less rushed doing it this way and can also make sure I get what I really want (since items are IN STOCK in September!  ha!)

Christmas can be the last thing on your mind since we haven’t even hit Halloween, but if your past experiences left you in financial ruins and stress, it might be worth considering!

Happy Shopping!

Lara

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Infertility During the Holidays

These days our house is filled with toys, laughter, and absolute chaos as we prepare for Christmas.  I’m running out of places to hide presents and our elf on the shelf, tripping over Abby’s little people reindeer thanks to her insisting that they “take off” in the middle of the living room, and loving the million different ways my kids pronounce Feliz Navidad (Denise Nady Na is my favorite) each time they hear the song on the radio!  However, a few days ago as I was hanging ornaments on our Christmas tree I was reminded of a Christmas not so long ago when I was longing to be a mother and that dream seemed beyond my reach.

ornament

Growing up I was a goal setter.  I knew right away that I wanted to be a teacher.  Not just a teacher, but a first grade teacher.  With hard work and a little luck I was hired for my first job the June before I graduated college to teach first grade the following year.  My next goal was to be a mom.  My husband Rob and I had been married for a little over 2 years and figured it was a good time to start trying to start a family.  When month after month turned into over a year and  the little white stick was still showing not a sign of pink I knew something was wrong.  We tried using ovulation predictors and monitors on our own and nothing seemed to help.

Testing came back labeling us as “unexplained infertility”  and 3 intrauterine inseminations (IUI) later I was still not pregnant.  By now I couldn’t hide the fact that we were doing infertility treatments to try to have a baby.  I wear my emotions on my sleeve and it was clear that we were having a problem.  I was also being so closely monitored for egg production that I had to miss school a lot for the insemination schedule that I was on.  Now that I look back, I am thankful for all of the support that I received from everyone who knew what Rob and I were going through.  I saved every card, St. Gerard medal, and well wish that was given to us during our journey and would often joke that I felt like George Bailey in It’s a Wonderful Life from the end scene when he is on the bridge and everyone is praying for him…except everyone was saying…Dear God please give Robyn and Rob a baby!  I had a co-worker who told me over and over that the baby that was meant for me wasn’t ready yet.  I knew she was trying to be helpful, but when you want nothing more than to be a mother RiGhT NoW you don’t want to hear anything like that!  In hindsight…she was right.

After the 3 failed IUI’s we decided to go straight to in vitro fertilization (IVF).  This just had to work.  How could it not?  They take healthy eggs and healthy sperm, put them together, implant them into the perfect location in your uterus and all they have to do is implant.  We did the injections, the 6:00 am blood-work and uterus scans every morning, egg retrieval, and then the big day…the embryo transfer.  I can’t even begin to tell you how exciting it is to lay on the table with a photograph of the embryos that the doctor is transferring in hopes that one will implant.  In the days that followed my transfer I carried around that photograph like I had just been to Portrait Innovations with a newborn!  After the transfer comes the wait.  For a week we waiting hoping those little embryos had nuzzled in to stay, but we were saddened when my blood-work came back to show that I wasn’t pregnant.

Moving on we had to wait one cycle before we could begin another round of IVF.  By this time I felt like a professional at the infertility group.  I sat in the same chair each morning for my monitoring, had become friends with all of the nurses, and knew which parking spots were the best to get out of the hospital lot the fastest to get me to work on time.  My doctor changed my medications a little to get more eggs to fertilize this time and I had 26 eggs retrieved and 13 that went on to fertilize and become embryos.  Getting the call that I had produced 13 healthy embryos had us on cloud 9…we were sure this round would get us the baby we so longed for.   The next morning by a horrible twist of fate, we received a phone call from my Dr. notifying me that due to a “Catastrophic error on the part of the lab” all of my embryos had been lost because there was something wrong with the gel that holds the embryos.  There are honestly no words to describe the pain we felt that day.  Even today when I think of 13 potential lives lost it kills me.  We didn’t even know what to do with the news, we just knew that we wanted a baby and we needed them to get one.

We went ahead with a 3rd round of IVF and by now we were going on 2 and a half years of infertility.  I was emotionally drained and depressed.  I went for my egg retrieval and transfer and I honestly didn’t have much hope this time.  I had been through so much heartbreak that the naivety of the “This is definitely going to work” was LoNg GoNe.  I went for my blood-work the morning of my pregnancy test, but I was already spotting so I figured that it hadn’t worked.  I went back home after my blood-work and put my pajamas back on and laid in bed waiting for the phone call from my nurse.  Rob and I answered the phone together and were shocked to hear, “Robyn, you’re pregnant!”  We both cried along with our nurse who had been through all 3 cycles with us.  My pregnancy wasn’t easy but I delivered a healthy baby boy and finally understood what my friend meant… All of those missed opportunities to conceive didn’t happen because Nicholas was the baby that was MeAnT FoR Me!  If I had gotten pregnant any of those other times I would have had a baby that I would have loved, but I wouldn’t have Nicholas, and knowing that makes all the years, all the heartbreak, and all the lessons learned worth it.  Nicholas is 5 years old now and I still call him my little miracle.  When I meet couples going through infertility I try to remind them of this and to NeVeR GiVe Up HoPe.

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Our Miracle

Finally A Mommy!

Finally A Mommy

Those of you who follow Suede Sofa know that besides Nicholas I have a daughter named Abby who is two years younger.  As shocked as I was the day I found out I was pregnant with Nicholas, multiply that by 100 the day I figured out that by some either miracle or complete fluke we conceived Abby on our own!

My family ~ 2012

My family ~ 2012

If you or someone you know is struggling to conceive this Christmas season please share my story with them.  I know how hard it is to put on a brave face when you want nothing more than to be a part of what it seems like everyone else around you has.  Remember the words of my friend…Maybe the baby that is meant for you just isn’t ready yet!

Merry Christmas & Happy New Year…

~Robyn (Jersey Girl)

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Day 16 – Advent Calendar

Go through your house and make a pile of gently used toys, books, and clothes to donate to a shelter.  Drop it off on your next trip to town!

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{You may choose to simplify the process big-time.  It doesn’t need to be time-consuming, stressful, or cost you anything.  Do what works for you and enjoy the season with the ones you love!!}

Alternative Activity:  Dance to a Christmas song!

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Day 14 – Advent Calendar

Advent Day #14 –Have a candlelit dinner, with Christmas music in the background.

Candle%20lite%20dinner(1)

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{You may choose to simplify the process big-time.  The most important thing is that you do what works for you and enjoy the season with the ones you love!!}

Alternative Activity:  Choose a different place to eat dinner or let your kids decide.  Maybe you can have a picnic on your livingroom floor as you watch the Christmas lights twinkle in the distance.  Don’t have a candle? Turn off all the lights in your house except for one in the room nearby for a “low-lit” meal.

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Day 12 – Advent Calendar

Advent Day #12 – Send a thank-you note to a priest, pastor, teacher, …

{You may choose to simplify the process big-time and do something as easy as  pick one person a day from now ’til Christmas and pray for them.  It doesn’t need to be time-consuming, stressful, or cost you anything.  Do what works for you and enjoy the season with the ones you love!!}

Alternative Activity:  Bask in the love of a God who is crazy-in-love with you.

“Your Love Is Extravagant”

Your love is extravagant.  Your friendship, it is intimate.  I feel like moving to the rhythm of Your grace.  Your fragrance is intoxicating in our secret place.  Your love is extravagant.
Spread wide in the arms of Christ is the love that covers sin.  No greater love have I ever known. You considered me a friend. Capture my heart again.
Spread wide in the arms of Christ is the love that covers sin.  No greater love have I ever known; You considered me a friend.
Capture my heart again.  Your love is extravagant. Your friendship, it is intimate.

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Day 3 – Advent Calendar

Advent Day #3 – Make a list of love and appreciation.  Sit down as a family tonight and spend some time talking about what you love and appreciate about every person.

{You may choose to simplify the process big-time and do something as easy as  pick one person a day from now ’til Christmas and pray for them.  It doesn’t need to be time-consuming, stressful, or cost you anything.  Do what works for you and enjoy the season with the ones you love!!}

Alternative Activity:  Tell someone who you don’t tell regularly, “I love you.”

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Day 2 – Advent Calendar

Advent Day #2 – Shop for a new toy to donate to a charitable organization.

{You may choose to simplify the process big-time and do something as easy as  pick one person a day from now ’til Christmas and pray for them.  It doesn’t need to be time-consuming, stressful, or cost you anything.  Do what works for you and enjoy the season with the ones you love!!}

Alternate Activity:  Prepare your heart in a spirit of penitence by reading Psalm 51.

Psalm 51

For the director of music. A psalm of David. When the prophet Nathan came to him after David had committed adultery with Bathsheba.

1 Have mercy on me, O God, according to your unfailing love; according to your great compassion blot out my transgressions. 2 Wash away all my iniquity and cleanse me from my sin.  3 For I know my transgressions, and my sin is always before me. 4 Against you, you only, have I sinned  and done what is evil in your sight; so you are right in your verdict and justified when you judge. 5 Surely I was sinful at birth, sinful from the time my mother conceived me. 6 Yet you desired faithfulness even in the womb;  you taught me wisdom in that secret place.  7 Cleanse me with hyssop, and I will be clean; wash me, and I will be whiter than snow. 8 Let me hear joy and gladness; let the bones you have crushed rejoice. 9 Hide your face from my sins and blot out all my iniquity.  10 Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me. 11 Do not cast me from your presence or take your Holy Spirit from me. 12 Restore to me the joy of your salvation and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me.  13 Then I will teach transgressors your ways, so that sinners will turn back to you. 14 Deliver me from the guilt of bloodshed, O God, you who are God my Savior, and my tongue will sing of your righteousness. 15 Open my lips, Lord, and my mouth will declare your praise. 16 You do not delight in sacrifice, or I would bring it; you do not take pleasure in burnt offerings. 17 My sacrifice, O God, is a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart you, God, will not despise.  18 May it please you to prosper Zion, to build up the walls of Jerusalem. 19 Then you will delight in the sacrifices of the righteous, in burnt offerings offered whole; then bulls will be offered on your altar.

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Our Twist On the Advent Calendar

One tradition our families have begun includes that of celebrating the arrival of Christmas with an Advent Calendar.  And although we love the excitement and anticipation that an Advent Calendar can bring, last year we tired of making the focus on giving our kids more stuff, even if it was as simple as a small piece of candy.

So we put our heads together and decided this year we wanted to do something different.  We wanted to focus on what Christmas is really about – giving and reflecting on the true meaning of this incredible holiday.

As I began to prepare for this post I did a little research on what Advent really means.  It turns out that I had a lot to learn about this subject from my Catholic friends (I know Catholics aren’t the only one who celebrate Advent.  They were just the ones I got my info from so I’m giving them credit.)

According to Catholicism.about.com and other sites, Advent really means “little lent” and should be a time of increased prayer, fasting (for some), good deeds, and penitence.  In layman’s terms it is a time for us to take stock of our lives.  To take a look inside and see if our heart is right with God.   As we approach Christmas with this attitude of humbling ourself it brings us peace and joy as well as a heightened sense of anticipation.

In the spirit of Advent, this year our Advent Calendar is going to consist of doing kind things for others and cherishing the moments we have with family and friends.  But most importantly it will consist of us preparing our hearts for Immanuel – God with us.

Each day from now ’til Christmas we will share with you ideas you can use to celebrate this season using the Advent Calendar.  Maybe you already have an Advent Calendar tradition.  Then go with it.  Or maybe you are looking for new ideas.  Hopefully you will find some here.  Our biggest piece of advice is to do what works for you and your family.  That may mean doing a handful of activities on the weekend when your family has more time to spend together and then skipping days during the week when your schedule is on overload.

You may choose to simplify the process big-time and do something as easy as  pick one person a day from now ’til Christmas and pray for them.  It doesn’t need to be time-consuming, stressful, or cost you anything.  Do what works for you and enjoy the season with the ones you love!!

If there are things your family does or if you have an idea to share, please do so!  We may even use your idea for one of our days!!

So, let’s get started!!

DaY 1 AdvEnT:  Send someone a card who has lost a loved one this year letting them know you are thinking about them/praying for them.

Happy Advent!!

:)Robynn

P.S.  If you don’t have an Advent Calendar, you may want to make one.  Choose one of the following or find one to make on www.pinterest.com by typing “Advent Calendar” in the search box.

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{Get A Head Start On The Holidays}

For the past few years I have scrambled to get my ChRiStMaS cards out before DeCeMeBeR 24th.  My problem wasn’t that I had the cards sitting around the house and just didn’t get around to it, but rather it was racing to get pictures taken and then have the cards made.  Last year I only received my cards 2-3 days before Christmas.  After spending hours addressing them the eve of December 23rd, I decided that was it.  Then and there I resolved that I would get Christmas pictures taken in June and create my Christmas card in July.  I was tired of self-imposing stress on myself during what should be a JoYoUs HoLiDaY.  And that is what I did.

This year I’m getting my cards at Tinyprints.  I haven’t ordered them yet, but I plan on ordering them by the 18th of this month because if I do I will get a 25% discount, (yet another benefit of ordering early!!)  Now that I have Christmas cards checked off my list I’m thinking of Christmas planning, shopping, etc. that I can take care of now so that when the joyous holidays do come I can enjoy every minute of it.

Is there something you can do now that will free up your time and energy for the holidays?  They will be here before we know it!!

:)

Robynn~

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