christmas-y happenings lately

Can you believe Christmas is in ONE WEEK!? I can't. I saw a meme the other day that said "December is the Friday of the months." It's SO true. There's so much anticipation up to the big day, and it's awesome and well worth the wait, but then it's just...Monday again (for like January-May). So part of me is already a little sad it's almost over and it's not even here yet! Does that even make sense? Someone else out there totally gets this.

Some things we've been up to lately to make our December as glittery and sugary as possible:

^Jillian loves to create, craft, and make. It will entertain her for hours. So anything that requires assembling and decorating is a huge win for all of us. Her mini gingerbread village kit was possibly the best $8 I've ever spent in my whole life (like two solid hours of entertainment good).

 ^Thanksgiving Point has real reindeer! Both girls were smitten. Olivia just said "reindeer" over and over for like two days straight, and Jillian was wondering why they weren't talking to us (the animated version of Rudolph gives kids false hopes in the reindeer department). I told her they could only talk to Santa...0_o We drove through the light display there and both girls were literally bouncing up and down in excitement. Christmas is 897 better with kids, I swear.

^What is Christmas without cookie making?! I'm a baking enthusiast the other 11 months of the year, but December is a bit like a Food Network marathon in this house. CHOCOLATE AND PEPPERMINT ALL THE THIIIIIINGS. 

 What good is snow without making snow ice cream? I remember doing this all of the time when I was growing up! (Before we moved to Florida, obviously). ;-) Olivia makes it her mission to shove as much as snow in her mouth as possible anytime we go outside, so she was completely giddy that I gave her a whole bowl of it- with sprinkles even!

 ^Jillian's snowman named "glittery sparkle". It's admittedly a little pathetic looking...I guess that's what we get for waiting until the snow started to melt before attempting one. I'm sure there will be many more snowmen made in the months to come. Don't worry glittery sparkle, we'll redeem you soon enough.

^We had a fun (and incredibly cold) night at Riverwoods eating reindeer cookies and meeting Santa! Both girls love Santa...from a distance. Up close is a completely different story (hence why we had to not only bribe them for a picture, but join them IN the picture. But I'm glad for the group shot anyway. ;-) 
And can I just say I'm all about the Santa's with the legit white beards? Don't even waste my time with your synthetic curls. 
This was actually the third Santa Jillian has seen this year, and started to comment on how they all looked slightly different, making comments like, "Mom you know when we saw Santa the other day he had jingle bells on his shoes? Where are his jingle bell shoes?" The astute little booger. I fear she'll figure out what's really going on all too soon, and that makes me a little sad!

 ^From snapping some pictures for our Christmas card! Seriously those eyes...everyone asks where she gets her blonde hair and blue eyes, and truth is I'm the only one of my siblings with dark hair and dark eyes so it's just those recessive genes coming through!

I'm excited for another week of lights, cookies, wrapping, all of the Hallmark movies one can tolerate and pure magic. T-minus 6 days people.


decorating the tree

It's DECEMBER! Fa la la la la, la la la LAAAAAAA. As much as I hate on the winter, it's pure magic in December-January through April, not so much... but for 31 days in the spirit of Christmas, bring on the snow- I don't even care. More reasons to drink hot chocolate.

Pretty much everything else in life has been put on hold to dig out Christmas decorations and scope out good toy deals online (I've turned into a mega online shopping addict over the last few weeks...). Everything is so cozy with the lights from the tree, my new Christmas-y pillows and warm throws to cuddle up in, and the fresh balsam candle burning in the kitchen, which makes the house smell like a freaking forest of wonder. 

Pretty much all of my decorations were put up before Thanksgiving this year (I know, I know...whatever...), but the tree didn't happen until the weekend after the feast. My sister and brother-in-law came over to help us put the decorations on, so we made a fun little video!

My tree has always been super eclectic; the same way my Mom did it when we were growing up and I love it! There are fancy ornaments, handmade ornaments, and the ornaments we picked out each year growing up- a tradition we've done with the girls as well! It's a little bit of this and a little bit of that, and a whole lotta happy merry holly jolly goodness. 

Let the baking, caroling, wrapping, giving, and ooo-ing and ahh-ing officially begin.


pie night

This year for Thanksgiving we decided to adopt a new tradition: pie night! A former co-worker of mine told me her family eats their pies the night before the big meal, when you're not stuffed from post-turkey and mashed potato goodness. It makes complete sense, if you ask me. And since my siblings and I will be in different places tomorrow, it seemed like a great excuse to still get together for at least a partial celebratory pig out (okay...total pig out). 

Thus, pie night was born. I plan to keep it around for many a turkey day to come.

Confession: I can't make pie crust. I can do a lot of things in the kitchen, but pie crust isn't one of them. Truth be told, I've only tried one recipe (one my Mom swore was SO easy), and I guess the utter failure scarred me so bad I haven't tried since- there was something about ice cubes?? So, thanks Pillsbury pie crusts! You're a life saver.
(Oh, but then Michaela showed up with her apple pie-including a homemade crust- and was all, "It was SO easy!" And then I rolled my eyes.) ;-) 

But you better believe every other ounce of that pie is homemade! If there's one thing my I've learned from my Momma, it's that Thanksgiving is always homemade and dessert is never store-bought (regardless of the occasion).

Because Thanksgiving in the Shannon/Houlin family has always been pretty casual (something I totally appreciate), I wanted to make this a little more fancy! It was super simple (NOT like a homemade pie crust) to use butcher paper as a table runner, with a fall garland and small white pumpkins for decor. I had Jillian collect some pine cones from our yard and spray painted them Gold.

So I told myself I was only going to have tiny pieces of each pie, but as you can see my plate has three FULL sized pieces. C'est la vie. Or...something. :-) I mean it was an entire meal dedicated to pie. I feel no guilt, just pie.

Jillian was looking forward to pie night for days! Safe to say she enjoyed herself. 

My list of things to be thankful for grows daily. I'm glad for a time of year to purposely make us conscious of everything in our lives that is good. Happy Thanksgiving!


diy rustic mid century modern bench

Whew. That's kind of a mouthful. 

I'm hoping to finish the makeover in our master bedroom next month! So next on the DIY list was a bench at the end of the bed. I wanted to add an element of the mid-century modern trend happening, and nothing says that better than metal hairpin legs. When I was shopping around for benches, the only place I found one like what I had in mind was on Etsy. Don't get me wrong, it's gorgeous and real reclaimed wood, but it's $200 (plus shipping!) and I just didn't want to drop that much!

This DIY version is only $65. SIXTY-FIVE DOLLARS.

-4 metal hairpin legs (I found them the cheapest on Ebay for $55)
-2x12x10 board (2" thick, 12" wide, 10 feet long) cut to the length you want your bench to be--mine is 50" $10 
-Tools to beat up the wood (hammer, screws, screwdriver..whatever you want to use)
-Wood stain (I had some on hand, but you can buy a small can for around $6)   

First, beat up your wood. However you want to.
I enlisted the help of the toddlers, who seem to enjoy destroying things above all else. I used both ends of the hammer to hit and dig up the wood. Basically you're trying to make it look old, not brand new. Everywhere there is a ding, the stain will be darker. I used screws to scrape in some areas, and in some places set a screw on the board and hammered it to leave an imprint. 
You'll also want to sand down the edges of the board to look more worn. (I also gave the whole thing a quick sanding just to get off any splinters from all of the banging).

 ^What the edges looked like, pre-staining.
I ended up mixing two stain colors for my bench- totally personal preference. I used about 60% Minwax classic gray and 40% Minwax dark walnut. Raw wood absorbs stain pretty quickly, so once I rubbed some on (using a cut up old t-shirt), I didn't have a whole lot to wipe back off. Just follow the directions on your stain can.

^One coat of stain vs. two coats of stain

Once the stain is dry, flip the board over and attach the legs 1/4"-1/2" from the edge of the board.

And that's it! Seriously SO simple.
I didn't use any top coat, mostly because it will be in our bedroom and not really get a TON of use. But in the future if I see I need to add something for protection, I'll use furniture wax instead of poly (poly will make it shiny, which won't really look "rustic").

 Jillian wanted to photo bomb some of my pictures:

This room is seriously SO close to being done it makes me giddy! 
To recap:

-Paint walls 
-Plank accent wall
-New curtains/bamboo shade
-New lamps on night stands
-Add captain's mirrors above each night stand
-DIY tufted headboard 
-Add bench to end of bed
-Extra baskets/storage containers
-New bedding & pillows
-Large plant in corner

Just a few finishing touches left! I can't wait to share the full reveal next month!



my office/craft area update

Sooo yes, I AM in the middle of updating our master bedroom, but sometimes I get a little sidetracked. Thus, my office got an update! It sort of started earlier in the year when we switched our basement layout around, putting James office in the guest room and putting a playroom where his office used to be. My work space has always been in this spot, but not very organized. With the girls spending more time in their playroom, I spend more time in my office, which consequently means I start to twitch if things aren't in neat little boxes with labels ;-) (Hello my name is Whitney and I have a problem).

Sooo the before:
(Well, clearly I was already testing wall colors...)
 I used the dresser to store a lot of my craft supplies, but with the girls being down there more I wanted it out of the way to give them more space.


Here's the after:
With storage space, if you can't go out, go UP! Using vertical space will really help cut down on overall clutter and give you more space to move around. It's my new life mantra. 

I also painted! The rest of the basement is now white (Benjamin Moore Dove White to be exact) instead of tan, and the gray wall is the same color I used in the back of my open kitchen cabinet, Weather Vane by Valspar. I wanted to paint the accent wall to anchor my space and give it a little bit of separation in feel from the rest of the playroom. (The rule for the girls is, if it's on the gray wall- YOU MAY NOT TOUCH IT). Haha.

The extra humongous wall calendar is probably my favorite part of it all. It's for next year though, so I get to look at January for a couple of months. Good thing she's purty.

I wanted the shelves to be both pretty and functional with lots of color. I used some storage bins I already had, and found some new ones from Ikea and Target. 

I love using the hanging metal baskets to store things like pens, pencils, scissors, brushes, etc. to keep things up off of my desk, which gives me a lot more actual working space. 

With my space now complete and the girls' playroom nearly complete, the basement is one of my new favorite places! Who would have guessed. Now time to get back to the master bedroom (which will hopefully be done in a month or two!)

Desk | Ikea
Wall shelves & brackets | Ikea
Hanging metal baskets | Ikea
Wall calendar | 1 Canoe 2
Gray storage boxes | Ikea
Clock | Target
Floral framed print | Waffle Love



Halloween is right up there next to Christmas morning in my book. It is every bit as magical. I don't really get into the scary parts of Halloween- the haunted houses, scary movies...I'm just a giant pansy and don't like being scared. But the chili cook-offs, staying up late the night before to put finishing details on costumes, running to the store again for just one more bag of candy, trick or treating, and the comradery of neighbors who open and close their doors probably 572 times in the same night and "ooo" and "aah" over each costume just the same- sign me up. I'm there. Front of the line waiving the holiday freak flag.

This is the third year we've gone with friends to their parents' awesome neighborhood for trick-or-treating, and for the third time it did not disappoint. Those people get me. I think I've told James every year we've been, "I want to settle down in a neighborhood like this..."
It's like the Disney movie Halloweentown reincarnate. People set up fire pits in their driveways, project Halloween movies on their garage doors and pass out popcorn, butter beer, caramel apples, hot chocolate...and of course heaps of candy. Some drive hayrides and bucket trains up an down the hilly streets for anyone who wants to hop on them. 

All of the giant heart-eyed emojis. All of them.

And since I live for this kind of holiday cheesiness, I make my family dress up in a coordinated costume. ;-) It's always a tricky balance though- between letting Jillian be something she wants to be and thinking of the coordinating characters to match what she picks that James would actually be willing to dress up as (he HATES Halloween- so bless his heart for doing it for the girls every year!). This year she wanted to be a princess- no surprise there- so I came up with the princess and the pea! Fortunately Olivia is small enough not to care she got stuck with the pea- but she is one cute little pea!

All of the pea costumes sold in stores are pea pods, but I wanted just a single pea (being true to the story). I ended up using this soccer ball costume tutorial and just changed the felt color to green for a pea! It was actually surprisingly easy and quick to put together, especially given my strong dislike for sewing projects.

Jillian used a princess dress up from Little Adventures (they make the comfiest and most durable dress up clothes!) and we made the princess hat together with paper and ribbon. 

To make the bed, I covered two pieces of cardboard with batting. Then I just got 1/4 yd pieces of fabric and taped it on each side on the back (I wanted to tape instead of glue so I can reuse the fabric pieces). The bed posts are just rolled up pieces of brown craft wrapper paper and the finial is a small foam ball from the Target dollar section wrapped in brown tissue paper. I hot glued ribbon on the back of each pieces so they could hang around our necks (which is why I opted for super light weight materials to put it together!)

It was a fun, sweet night!
Happy Halloween!


trip to the farm!

My mom has been in town this last week- which means we stayed up too late, ate too much, but had lots of fun. :-) She flew out today and we already felt the "get the girls back to their normal bedtime and routine" crunch. Blegh. 

On to the fun stuff we've been up to! We joined my cousin Jenn (who just moved back to Utah--YAY!) and our good friend Kristen and their kiddos at the farm. Smelly, but entertaining. And really smelly.

 ^Olivia was bummed she couldn't ride a "tony" like the big kids!

 ^Jillian refuses to let me help her with ANY thing when my Mom is around, including helping her ride the pony (and get her snacks, read her bedtime stories, help her in the bathroom, play with her...yeah...pretty much everything). 

^It was funny to watch all of the kids adopt her as their Nana for the day! Nanas are just the best.

A few days later we went to a pumpkin patch, because fall is for farms and pumpkin patches. Growing up in Florida, when you go to the pumpkin "patch" you go to an acre lot or church parking lot or something with just piles of pre-picked pumpkins lined up in rows. So when I moved out here where there are honest to goodness, pumpkin on the vine patches, it was a moment of enlightenment. 

 ^"Monnies!" according to Olivia.

 ^The goats were cute and harmless to Jillian until some sheep three times the size of Jillian came over, which was obviously terrifying. We had a quick lesson on what sheep eat..i.e., not people.

Ohhhh fall. You are glorious.