Saturday, December 13, 2014

Christmas Card 2014

I have always loved a good creative project, like the candy cane vase, my ONE candy cane vase.  See I like a creative project that has a definite end.  My mom likes to remind me of this personality trait as a child.  She said I would be working on an elementary school project and she would come by to check on my progress and suggest I add this or that.  My response was always the same, "Nope, it's done.  I like it just the way it is."   It makes us laugh today.  So you see.  I like an end to a project.   And Christmas cards fit that bill perfectly for me.  

A couple of years ago I saw the cutest idea on another blog-displaying the history of your family's Christmas cards on the staircase.  I fell in love!  Another project!

I bought some heavy duty boxes, cut them up into various sized squares, wrapped them in gold wrapping paper, hot glue gunned a red ribbon to it and attached my card!

Some years I add lighted garland to my banister.  This year I opted to just attach each card with these nifty wired garland strips.  

My family loves looking at the cards each year and it is always a hit with any company or friends that come into our home .  

I've almost run out of banister space on the lower set of stairs!

This is one of my favorite cards.  It was a time of life when it was impossible to get two kids to cooperate for a photo.  I remember the day clear as five minutes ago.  I wasn't going to send out cards.  It was late afternoon and on a whim, I dressed both kids in blue, grabbed a boogie board and headed for the beach.  The magic Christmas elves were blowing good wishes my way.

Snap, snap, snap went my camera.  They were happy.  I was elated.  I couldn't believe Truman was sitting there.  Look at those chubby cheeks!  And Kate's smile!  I went home and made my Christmas cards that year.  This card still makes me SMILE!!

Still one of my favorite photos of these two when they were young.

But this year's card got the most reaction out of all my other cards put together......and it was SO MUCH FUN!!!  I think it is definitely the 

Christmas 2014

Dignified wouldn't you say?  Maybe a little serious but definitely calm, peaceful and dare I say "perfect"???? The front of the card has a window cutout in it so that you can see the picture through it which is printed on the inside.

Closeup of the the family photo visible though the window.  

The front of the card sums up so nicely just what this little group is feeling.  We are~

Wishing You and Yours the Perfect Holiday

come on say it outloud.  there is no hiding.  we all know what you are thinking....
(....does this family really take themselves that seriously???)

Come please!!  Open the card with me!

Ha Ha!!!!!

As you can see Jake is in a swimsuit with a tag hanging off of it, Kate and I are in pajamas with bare feet and flip flops respectively.  Truman has hot pink socks on and Marc is in a swimsuit and flip flops.

I love the chaos going on around us.  And three of these people really did work on my house-two of them for a couple years.  The other person happened to be working on a fence in our backyard that day and we grabbed him!!!  So funny!  He got a kick out of it.

This was the most fun time we have ever had with a Christmas card photoshoot!  For the entire family.  Don't let the serious faces fool you.  

The back of the card had a small photo.  Our photo shoot "set".  We also pulled a few props from inside my house. 

This card now joins the ranks of the others and hangs proudly on our banister.

"Wishing you and Yours the PERFECT Holiday"
Merry Christmas Friends and Family 2014!
xoxo Ann


Friday, December 5, 2014

Favorite Things Party 2014

The stockings were hung by the chimney with hopes that the FAVORITES, soon would be there!!!

Please come in and take a peek at our Favorite Things Party 2014!!  

This was my fifth annual Favorite Things Party (with a one-year hiatus last year as I recovered from moving!)  I say this every year but this year was my "favorite!"

There is nothing like a party to motivate you to have your house "Christmastized" (I am pretty sure I made that word up but there is is) by Thanksgiving!!  I actually loved the motivation because now I can sit back and enjoy the entire month of December!  I even have a bulk of my Christmas shopping done.

I decided this year to decorate with burlap and red accents.

Kate and I hit the Thanksgiving Night sales for our new tree accessories.  I thought it was terrible when I heard that stores were opening on Thanksgiving night for shoppers to get a jump on their Black Friday Shopping.  But then when I saw the deals to be had, well let's just say Kate and I were in our car at 9pm with a list in hand!

I carried the burlap and red theme over to this year's name tags and gift bags.

The table decorations were simple red rose arrangements surrounded by candles.  Roses surrounded by candy canes or cranberries.  So colorful and festive!  I have to say that half the fun of this party for me was the preparations!  I always love a good creative project.

I had plans of just filling each vase with cranberries but then got ambitious and decided to surround each vase with candy canes.  I taped a strip of paper around my vase, got out my trusty glue gun and glued candy canes to the strip of paper all around the vase.  After seeing that I would need 300 some candy canes to cover all my vases, I admired my one candy can vase and opted for the cranberries in the rest.  :)

Four tables were set all around my house

Sadly I did not get any pictures of the food except for the hot apple cider with caramel in the bottom, whipped cream and a cinnamon stick to stir.  And a little homemade gingerbread man cookie to top it off!

But here is the menu so you can imagine it in your mind...

 Hors d’ oeuvres Selection 
 Abundant Cheese Tray with Seasonal Produce, Dried Fruit, Nuts, House Made Fig Jam & Wafers, Crackers & Crostini 

Dinner Buffet 
 Field Greens and Baby Kale Chopped Salad with Roast Sweet Potato, Pears, Persimmon, Dried Cranberries, Toasted Pecans and Cubed Jack White Cheddar with a Dijon Vinaigrette 
 Butternut Squash and Rosemary Roast Chicken Lasagna, with Fresh Mozzarella and Parmesan Reggiano 
 Roasted Brussel Sprouts with Pancetta, Shallots and
 Pomegranate Seeds 
House Made Bread & Butter Basket 

Dessert Selection 
 Ganache Glazed Chocolate Cake Bites & Spice Cake with Caramel Apple Glaze 
 Chocolate Pots de Crème with Fresh Whipped Cream and Peppermint Candy cane Sprinkles 
 Holiday Cookie Tray

And it was time to eat!

The tables around my home were surrounded by my beautiful, beautiful friends.  Friends from church, from my kid's schools,  from my old neighborhood, and from exercise.  I loved it!

And then it was time to talk and shop!!

Not only was my home full of beautiful friends, it was 
 full of the latest and greatest of every category of product a woman could want!  

For the part of the post we have all been waiting for.  


Thank you for indulging me in documenting the other party memories.  Not only for myself but for my sister and mom!

(A HUGE thank you to Erin for taking party notes and typing up a list with links to the products!!!!  Hours of work!  Thank you Erin xoxo!  And to Shari for party-day help!!)

******Favorite Things 2014******

Dry Body Brush and pure Almond Oil – 

I was so excited to tell everyone about the dry brush!  I learned about this at a Wellness Seminar that Deanne put on a few months ago.  The second I learned about it, I was all in!  I have been dry brushing for two months now and I crave it.  I never miss a day.  If feels good to the skin, is invigorating and so healthy to the bodies largest organ-our skin.  After my shower, I douse my body in pure Almond oil, rub it in and then towel off.  The benefits of dry brushing are AMAZING.  Read on to learn more.  

This is my favorite article on the topic:

Ulta Mineral Bronzer 

This is Jessic's all time favorite bronzer.  On days she doesn’t have time for make-up she just ads a dab to her cheeks, forehead and nose and she has a sun kissed glow!

Deanne and Amy:
This brush made it's debut at our Favorite Things Party  (by Amber) a few years ago.  Once a winner, always a winner!   I picked the brush that year and cannot survive without my wet brush OR dry brush!  HAHA!!!    Everyone with a little girl NEEDS a wet brush.  It will brush through ANYTHING!  It gets out the tangles without the tears.  

Bev and Sue:
Baker and Olive - Both Bev and Sue love their oils and vinegars from Baker and Olive.   One brought a bottle of the Cranberry Pear Balsamic and another brought a Traditional Balsamic.  They use them for so many things!  With bread, on salads, on fresh vegetables.  They really are delicious and we are so lucky to have a store so close to us (at the Highlands!)

Gratitude Journal  -and pen:  Genie did such a beautiful job telling us about the joy in writing in a gratitude journal.  I chose the gratitude journal this year because I really do believe with all my heart that when we feel gratitude and take time to notice all the good around us, we feel happier.  Genie included a little note of the benefits:  boosts health, more energy, more forgiving, less depression, less anxiousness, better sleep, fewer headaches, more feelings of being  socially connected.  SIGN ME UP!!!!  I had every intention of starting a nightly habit but my little eight-year old Jake asked me if he could have the journal.  The night of the party he listed ten things he was grateful for:
Jake's gratitude list:
rain, books, bowling (he went that day with some friends), friends, mom, me (himself-cute!), Elf on the Shelf (Frosty Joy is his name at our house), electricity, world, body
Looks like I am going to have to get my own journal now.  Love that kid!

Urban Ears - Kari swears by these!  She was at the airport and desperate for some earphones and bought what was available but low and behold she found they were  the BEST headphones ever!  She uses them to talk on the phone, listen to books on tape, tune people out.  :)
Enjoy Hair Straightener –This product has been a LONG time favorite Erin's.    She loves it!  She puts a little on her wet hair after she washes it and it makes it so silky and straight and smooth!  Also so much easier to blow dry.  She's given it to friends for gifts in the past and they all love it too.  A staple at her house!  I always love a good hair product and WANT to try this Erin!

Joan and Kristen:

Hip Sister – I was on the horse trail with Joan and Kristen the day they saw a girl walk by with a hip sister on.  I don't think it was the first time they had seen this but they both went after that girl to find out where to purchase it!  I was laughing!!!!  I love that they both brought this because you can never have too many of these in a room of exercising women.  I chose this as one of my take home items because I have a running belt that rides up around my waist when I run and it drives me CRAZY!!  I am so excited to try my new hip sister!  It’s a fabric like yoga pants that you put around your waist when you walk/jog and it holds your phone/keys while you exercise.  Like a fanny pack but much sleeker and cooler.  
Jackery Portable Battery Charger – This was another item that I chose.  I have an iphone 5s and ever since I upgraded the operating system, it's won't hold a charge for very long.  It DRIVES ME CRAZY!!!!!!!  When Darci started talking about this I slyly sat in front of it hoping people would forget it was there.  The little group around me snagged them all haha!   It’s a portable battery charger for your cell phone!  So handy to take on trips or just anywhere with you so you always have a way to charge your phone if it dies.  Darci also pointed out that she loves having her phone with her as she moves around her house and if your battery is dead and charging in the wall, you can't very well do this.  This way, she can carry it around with her and the jackery continues to charge her battery.  Brilliant!


Maybeline Lash Stelleto Mascara – I am always excited to try a new mascara that a friend loves!
Nuface - This device is my number one item on my Christmas list this year.  Vanessa isn't one to buy into any gimmicks but she swears by this product.  When she arrived at my house she pulled me into my dining room to show it to me and tell me that she had tightened up her face right before she arrived!  I was laughing but she said it really did tighten it up.  I am all over this product!!!!!    It’s a facial toning device that you use each night to help improve your skin tone and wrinkles.  Because it’s expensive, Vanessa brought $15 gift cards to Nordstrom (another one of her favorites) where you can buy the Nuface (or something else!).  She was so cute in pointing out that if you forgo two facials from a spa, it pays for the Nuface.  I like the way you think Vanessa!!  You are my kind of girl!

Benefit They’re Real Mascara – Another mascara enthusiast.  I must say that during dinner, I was admiring Susan's long lashes.  Excited to try this mascara too!


L’oreal Elnett Satin Hairspray and a bun shaper.  I don't wear hairspray very often but every once in a while Kate or I do need it and I was excited to hear about a tried and true brand.    Katy and I were also sporting matching side buns at my party but instead of her hair being full of a hundred bobbie pins, she had a secret hiding in her hair.  :)      This bun shaper from Nordstroms is her secret!  Brilliant.  So fast and looked so cute!

Anthropologie candle “Volcano” Capri Blue - Jessica was so excited to tell us about her favorite candle.  She told us that this is the one candle that she buys over and over again and can't stand it when it burns out.  It was more expensive that our $15 range but when she saw it on Black Friday sale, she grabbed them.  She passed it around the room and everyone fell in love with the scent.
Orfluido Hair Oil – Another hair product I want to try!  Seems similar to a product I love and use now – Moroccan Oil (I put this on my hair after I blow it dry and it makes it silky smooth!)  Either of these hair oils would make great Christmas gifts.
Good Grips Salad Dressing Holder  - and lemon salad bowl: Francie told us about her beautiful daughter who has recently lost 50+ pounds!  She has inspired the whole family to eat more salad!  This is Francie's favorite salad dressing mixer.  It is ideal for mixing, serving, and storing salad dressing and sauces!  She also included a darling salad bowl adorned with lemons that she found at Kohls. 
Apotheke M Body Scrub , Big Fat Yummy Hand Creme and a pumice stone and Aquaphor for your feet AND chocolate!  Shari left her samples at my house that she passed around for us to smell and I have to admit, I used them.  :) She knows.  My hands felt so smooth and smelled soo good!  I may never give them back.  Except that she has already let me know that she is missing them!  She and I were also getting pedicures a month ago and I was complaining to the lady working on my feet about my cracked heels.  She told us Aquaphor was the solution!!  Shari has always loved Aquaphor for everything!!!


Andalou Naturals-1000 Roses Moroccan Oil – Amber had us all in stitches reminiscing over the "Sea Breeze" days  

But thankfully she has found something else.  :)  She loves Andalou Naturals 1000 Roses Moroccan Oil.  I want to try this!  She also loves their renewal cream, pumpkin peel, and glycolic lip treatment.
Headsweats Outdoor Sports Visor and  Pentatonix Christmas CD– The ladies in the room who have worn this visor could not say enough good things about it (it works with a pony tail, doesn't give you a headache, can tilt on your face to avoid the sun, is machine washable etc. etc!)  Another perfect item for the exercising, kid-sports-watching group!  She also included a Christmas CD that is all voices, no instruments!
Comal Griddle - Anya loves this griddle because she can heat her tortillas with no butter or oil.  She uses it almost everyday! 
Penzey’s Spices - Yolanda gave me the bakers four pack a few years ago and I have absolutely loved cooking with them.  Yes, they are different than the spices you purchase at the grocery store.  They are much more concentrated and intense in their flavor and scent.  Bev also uses them (I can't remember the variety!) on her salmon.   Greatest spices!  
Stretching Strap from Lululemon - Kate asked me what she thought the group would like and be interested in.  I told her not to think of the party that way but to tell me what her favorite thing was right now in her life.  With zero hesitation she told me that it is her stretching strap.  She started running cross country this year and her coach gave each of them a stretching strap.  She can use it to stretch almost every muscle in her body.  She feels better and it has improved her running.  
Lush Shower Gel/Body Conditioner – Isabel (Kate's bestie) was SO cute in telling us about her favorite store and products.  The lush products are all made with fresh organic ingredients with no fillers.  They smell so good and Isabel loves them.  The Lush store is at our UTC mall!
CND Vinylex Nail polish top coat - This is supposed to be the BEST top coat for nail polish out there.  Goes over your nail polish and will make it so your nail polish really lasts.  I’m excited to try this because I never paint my finger nails for that very reason.  Within two days it’s all scratching off!
Incipio Cell Phone Case - This cell phone case looks awesome.   It has a place to also carry your credit card or drivers licence.  Perfect for when you are going somewhere that you don’t want to take your whole purse.  The gym or Disneyland came to our minds.  Angela also said she has dropped her phone many times (who hasn't) and it has stayed protected!
Diamond Dazzle Stick  and Olive Oil– Clean your ring while you brush your teeth.  So often I don't clean my ring because it isn't fast and convenient.  This is so cool!  It's a pen that quickly cleans your ring!  I love it!  Emma also brought her favorite olive oil from Olive and Baker.


Teavana Perfectea Maker and chocolate mint tea:  Leslie loves this cup because she can make her perfect cup of tea quickly and perfectly.  She said it will work with any mug. She also included a delicious smelling chocolate mint tea! 
Kitchen Aid Dish Scrubber - This makes washing dishes a breeze!  You can fill the handle with soap and when you press a button the soap dispenses as your scrub your dishes.  So efficient for us busy ladies!

And that's it!  Whew!!!!  What a line-up.  I felt overwhelmed with what in the world to choose and so did everyone around me.  Katy told me that she just went up to the table and grabbed whatever because she wanted it all!  :)  I always use so many things from this party each year and this year is no exception.  I will be trying them all!!

Last but not least- my very favorite part of this party was the input and planning help by Kate!!  We had a great time working on this party together.  She has been coming to my party since she was nine years old but this is the first year that she has participated in the planning and execution.  I LOVED it!!

And the guests have all gone.  Good night Favorites 2014.    
(Alli told Marc, without me knowing, to get a picture of me closing the door at the end of the party-I love it!)  :)

xoxo Ann

(I have already heard from a few of you that you are using and loving your new favorites!! I thought it would be fun if you left a comment about your experience so the others can read it and the person who brought the item knows too!!!)