What I Got for Christmas

What I Got For Christmas | Writing Between Pauses

A few days after Christmas, I ran a poll on Instagram about whether people like Christmas gift posts or not. The results were pretty much split in the middle: half said they hated them, half said they love them. I got quite a few messages asking that I still post. 

This is just going to be a fun little post, mostly a list. I'll be reviewing some of these things in separate posts, so if you see something you want more details either 1) let me know and 2) I'll either email you directly with info or tell you the date the post will be going up. See? Easy peasy! 

Let's get down to business! 

1. A fruit-themed box of Lush goodies

The gift set I got was the Bella Fruta, but from what I can tell, they change this set almost constantly. The set I got contains a Yuzu Bubbleroon, a Comforter Bubble bar, A Strawberry Feels Forever massage bar, an Avobath Bomb, Sympathy for the Skin lotion, and the Comforter shower cream. That's a lot of stuff! I was so excited to receive this because I've never really tried Lush products, but have always wanted to. And I love a nice, relaxing bath! 

2. A gift bag from Bath & Body Works

This is a gift I get regularly from my mother-in-law... it's one I come to expect and love! In this year's bag there was the bag itself (a large, sturdy tote), a Champagne Toast candle, a Winter Candy Apple hand sanitizer and lotion, a shea butter cream lotion in the Berry scent, an Aromatherapy Body Cream in Recharge (sage and mint), and an Aromatherapy Body Wash & Bubble Bath in Recharge. I've been obsessed with herb scents lately, so I'm very excited for the Aromatherapy products! 

3. More socks than I honestly know what to do with 

Last year while opening Christmas gifts, my husband and I had quite the crack up because everyone had gotten me socks. My mom got me socks; his mom got me socks; and Danny got me socks. In 2016, I got about 20 pairs of new socks alone. Danny was pretty worried that I would be mad because, seriously, who wants that many pairs of socks? But fortunately, I love socks. This year, he got me several pairs of new socks again (about 5 pairs) and I got two pairs from my mother in law... for a grand total of 7 pairs of socks. Needless to say, I have enough boot socks to last me an absolute lifetime. 

In case you think Danny only got me socks, he also got me a new heating pad (don't freak out, but I sleep with one) and a new pair of sweater leggings with pandas on them. 

4. Crossing a lot off my Christmas bucket list

I think the best gift I received (not to be an absolute cornball or anything) this year was the fact that I got to experience Christmas in a way I never have before. Going to Idaho to celebrate with Danny's family was hard because, obviously, I wish we could be with both our families every year! But it was really fun to have a new experience, something completely different, and to see how much fun Forrest had! As well, we had a white Christmas!! The first of my life! That's a great gift. 

What did you get for Christmas? 

What Christmas Means to Me

What Christmas Means to Me | Writing Between Pauses

I was about 3 or 4 when I noticed that my present from Santa was wrapped in the same blue wrapping paper (with ice skating penguins) as my other presents. "Mom," I asked, on Christmas morning, "why does it have the same paper?" My mom hemmed and hawed, then said Santa had borrowed paper. I quirked my mouth and said,  "I don't think so." 

The jig was up. I'd figured it out. 

From that point on, Christmas wasn't about Santa at our house. As the youngest, and the earliest to discover the ruse that was Santa Claus, they had thought I would believe the longest of my siblings. But they were wrong. Naturally gifted in the art of noticing small details (shout out to my skills as an editor!), it didn't take long. 

It was almost a blessing though. As I wrote in my post about Santa Claus and my decision to not tell Forrest that Santa is real, removing Santa from Christmas makes it a lot more, well, magical. It's less about getting to the day and more about enjoying the season. 

When I was little, I associated Christmas with taking photos in front of the tree, eating squares of cheese on Triscuit crackers, and excitedly looking forward to getting to open my stocking. (My favorite part because it usually had candy.) 

As I got older, Christmas was much more about having a break from school. Less about the day, more about the month. (Does it feel like we used to get way longer Christmas breaks? Just me?) 

Now, Christmas is all about being a parent: making the season magical for Forrest, sharing my favorite movies with him, baking cookies with him. 

In the past 10 years, I've encouraged everyone I know to do less Christmas gifts for their friends and family, and more gifts for their community. Purchasing gifts for foster children or for women's shelters, donating money to charities they support, volunteering at soup kitchens, and more are all ways to give back to your community. Many of these, like donating gifts or money, can be done in someone's name. If you don't know what to get someone for Christmas, making a donation is something that both feels good and does good. 

That's really what Christmas means to me: it's about doing good and feeling good. Getting your house cozy, warm, and decorated--and helping so that others can keep their homes warm and cozy too. Donating gifts so that every child can have joy on Christmas morning. Donating supplies to women's shelters so they can feel good on Christmas day and beyond. Giving money to animal shelters so that every cat and dog can have a hearty meal. There are lots of ways to spread Christmas joy; and for me, Christmas is about making sure everyone has a good time. 

This past week, I saw a girl stop her car along a busy road, jump out, and retrieve a small, black drawstring bag from her trunk. It was like those bags you often get free at basketball games: a backpack shape, but with drawstrings. She ran to a man who was panhandling on the corner of the intersection and handed it to him. "Happy Holidays!" she said as she ran back to her car. I was stopped nearby and saw him open it; inside were hygiene supplies, food, a $5 bill, a voucher for a free cup of coffee at a local shop, and a few other things.

It really made me realize how Christmas isn't just about giving to our friends and family, but everyone. It was incredible to see happen in real life, but it's true that there are many Santas out in the world and we can all be one. 

So for me, Christmas means to not just celebrate the season and my family, but to act as Santa Claus in every way that I can: giving to those in need, lifting up those who need it, and choosing to be better, always. 

4 Desserts to Make for Christmas

4 Desserts to Make For Christmas | Writing Between Pauses

If you've followed my blog for a while, you know that I love baking. It makes me so happy! In recent months, I've been trying to expand my baking schedule to include things that aren't just cookies and cupcakes. I've made scones, trifles, brownies and bars, candy, and biscotti in the past year or so. It's been so fun to experiment, try new recipes, and learn more about baking than I ever thought possible. 

I've collected my favorite Christmas dessert recipes to share here. I tried to include one cookie recipes--because cookies are, after all, very easy to make and dress up. Add ice cream and you've got ice cream sandwiches; layer with whipped cream and you've got a cookie cake; dunk into hot cocoa and you've got magic. Here are 4 desserts that will put you in the Christmas spirit... just don't forget to share with your friends & family!

1. Candy Cane Brownie Trifle

Candy Cane Brownie Trifle

Listen: brownies. Candy canes. Whipped cream. Chocolate sauce. 

Need I say more? Served in a gorgeous wine glass (or, you know, just a bowl works too!), it's the perfect dessert. You can use homemade brownies, box mix brownies, or even pre-made brownies, pre-made whipped cream, and store bought chocolate sauce for the easiest, most delicious dessert in the world. Perfect for last minute parties that you forgot were happening. 

2. Grinch Sugar Cookie Bars

Grinch Sugar Cookie Bars | Writing Between Pauses

The Grinch Who Stole Christmas is one of my absolute favorite Christmas movies--so, of course, these bars are right up my alley. Delicious, soft sugar cookie dough topped with delicious, creamy icing. Easy, delicious, and totally Christmas-y--also, perfect for a movie viewing party!

3. Gingerbread Bars with Cream Cheese Frosting

Gingerbread Bars | Writing Between Pauses

Gingerbread is one of my favorite treats to have during December--and these bars combine it with my favorite frosting, cream cheese frosting. I absolutely love these bars and make them, actually, a few times a year, including for my birthday! They're also great to wrap and give as gifts, because they are so sturdy and transportable. 

4. Red Velvet Chocolate Chip Cookies

Red Velvet Cookies | Writing Between Pauses

I love red velvet cake--so when I first found this recipe, about 4 or 5 years ago, I immediately jumped to make these cookies. They are soft, cakey, and slightly chocolatey... and so, so good. They are super Christmas-y looking too! I make these every year for cookie exchanges and they are always a big hit because they are so unique. It's also fun to use mini Andes pieces (with the green stripe) for a little extra Christmas flair! 

A Busy Mom's Gift Guide for: Toddlers

A Busy Mom's Gift Guide for: Toddlers | Writing Between Pauses

I'm so excited to be posting my first gift guide. Now, these gift guides are going to be absolutely no-nonsense: easy, affordable options that you can order online with minimal hassle. Nothing fancy, but with options you'll feel good about gifting others.

If you're the mother of a toddler, or someone who loves a toddler (shout out to the aunts & uncles, cousins, and friends of moms out there), these are great options: simple, easy, and with a focus on nurturing how smart and curious toddlers are. 

Here are my top picks for Christmas gifts for toddlers, age 18 months to 4 years! 

1. Kid Kraft Chalkboard Table, $99.99

Kids Kraft Chalkboard Table | Writing Between Pauses

Confession: this is actually what I'm getting Forrest for Christmas this year. We've been looking for a table for him: somewhere he could sit to have a snack, draw, or play with blocks. I originally found this at Costco (as a side note: it is available for $59.99 at Costco, so if you're local, definitely look for it there) and knew I wanted to get it for him. It comes with a handy pouch for storing art supples (where my dog cannot get to those delicious crayons), two stools, and a roll of paper underneath for easy access. 

2. Mega Bloks Build 'N Learn Math Building Set, $24.99

Mega Bloks Math Set | Writing Between Pauses

We are big fans of math, science, and reading themed toys in our house; for his birthday, Forrest got a set of baby science books that he absolutely loves. This block set combines the fun of building with math; you can put stickers on blocks to indicate numbers, add them, subtract them, and learn basic math! For older toddlers, this would be really fun for those first math lessons and for experimenting with counting. 

3. Seedling Littles Galaxy Rocket Adventure Cape Costume Kit, $25.99

Seedling Littles Galaxy Rocket Adventure Kit | Writing Between Pauses

I had never heard of this Seedling Littles brand before, but this rocket adventure kit has absolutely made me a fan. It's basically a little cape that toddlers can put together, decorate as they like, and then dress up with to pretend they are going to space, exploring the world, or just zooming. It is so much fun! They also have other great ones like this farmer's market playtime kit, this dress up headband kit, and this under the sea playtime kit. If you're into interactive and imaginative play with your kids (which, I hope you are!), these are absolutely perfect toys! 

5 Free iPhone Wallpapers for Christmas

5 Free iPhone Wallpapers for Christmas | Writing Between Pauses

December is my favorite time of year. I often get made fun of by my friends and family because I put up my Christmas tree as early as possible: November 1, usually, but sometimes I wait a week into November. You know, wait. I really enjoy the Christmas season. 

So it goes without saying that I usually Christmas-ify everything in my life: my bedroom, my kitchen, my planner, my phone. Thanks to Pinterest, it's easier than ever to find cute, seasonal wallpapers. For your enjoyment, I've gathered up 5 of my favorite wallpapers that I've been cycling through! Check them out below. 

[One] [Two] [Three] [Four] [Five]

A Sensible Gift Guide for: Toddlers

Have a friend with a toddler? (Is that friend me? I hope it's me.) It's really, really tempting to go crazy in the toddler clothing and toy aisles. Trust me, I know. 

But please, friends, I beseech you: don't load your loved ones with toddlers with toys and clothes. Guaranteed, their toddlers probably already have more than enough of both. I created this gift guide to give people without kids (or who have older kids) an idea of what to get for toddlers--besides clothes and toys! 

1. Decor items

Toddler rooms are in transition: it's no longer a nursery, everything is safety-proofed, and the crib has possibly transformed into a toddler bed. Ask parents what kind of decor the parents would like for the room and find something cool. I love this pillow from TJ Maxx and this wall art from Etsy

2. Books

Toddlers are getting right to the age where books are fun. (Forrest will sit for a long time, for him, looking at his books now, which is exciting.) If you can think of nothing else, a favorite book of yours from childhood is a perfect and thoughtful gift. And if you're totally not sure, a gift card to a (local!) bookstore is also perfect. 

3. Toy storage solutions

The toys, at a certain point, no matter how organized I am as a parent, get out of control. Cute, clever storage options are a great gift idea, especially if they can be used in the toddler's room. I love these stacking boxes from Target, but there are tons of options out there. 

4. Wooden toys

If you really, really want to buy toys, I encourage you to buy wooden toys. The less plastic, the better. These wooden stacking dinosaurs are perfect for young toddlers; they're educational, durable, and fun. 

5. Blankets

Forrest loves blankets and it feels like I'm always looking for one to give to him. When it doubt, a cute, cozy blanket is a great gift. Toddlers can use them in bed, for naps, or on the floor--or for cuddling up with their parents. It's more of a family gift, actually. 

5 Christmas Movies I Have to Watch Every Year

Christmas. You feel it in the air, right? The faint scent of peppermint, cinnamon, and pine trees everywhere, the crowds of people at the mall, the Christmas tree posts on Instagram. 

I don't make any excuses: I'm obsessed with Christmas. And Christmas movies, specifically. 

Rituals are very important to me. I resist to call them "traditions" because traditions suggests a cultural relevance--and my habits are highly individual, especially when it comes to Christmas movies. 

There are five movies that I have to watch every single year to mark the Christmas season. If I don't get them in (like last year), it almost feels like Christmas didn't happen. Am I the only one? 

Anyway, here are my five favorites: 

1. The Santa Clause

"The Santa Clause" is one of those movies that I loved as a kid and I still love as an adult. I also recently found out that a significant number of people believe Claus is actually spelled with an "e" and don't realize the title is a pun. Oops. Watching it these days, I totally see Scott's side of everything--and find myself even more bewildered by Charlie's mom and Neil. It's such a great movie: simple, heartwarming, and featuring some of the best, goofiest, 1990s-era jokes and effects. 

2. The Polar Express

Pretend for a moment that this movie doesn't have that weird, hyper-Christian undertone. Ok, now I love it. I just ignore all that part. It's a beautiful movie (even with the uncanny valley effect) and has some amazing songs and moments. I always find myself wishing to know more about all the other kids on the train and I wish more of the movie was spent in the actual North Pole, because the buildings, elf workshops, and square are just beautiful. 

3. The Muppet Christmas Carol

Every year as a kid, I looked forward to watching "the Muppet Christmas Carol" on TV. It was the best part of the holidays. I still love this movie. When I finally got a DVD copy a few years ago, I had to order it from Hong Kong. Now, you can find it in Target almost every year. It's totally worth owning because I like to watch it every single Christmas eve. It's the perfect goofy, fun movie. 

4. Love Actually

I know there are some critics out there who argue that "Love Actually" is not, actually, a very good movie. Here's the thing though: they're wrong. Is it problematic in some ways? Oh, sure. But does that take away from my enjoyment of it as a Christmas movie? No. Because every single time Emma Thompson turns on that Joni Mitchell CD and cries in her bedroom, I cry like an infant whose been left behind. It's a breathtaking scene and any criticism of the film is redeemed in that moment. Because Emma Thompson is queen. 

5. the Nightmare Before Christmas

Is it a Halloween movie? Or a Christmas movie? That's the question. I like to think it's both. It's a movie that's perfect for the run up to the Christmas season--for that time between Thanksgiving and Christmas when it's still Fall, but you want to get excited about Christmas. All I know is, it was one of my favorite movies growing up and it's still one of my favorites now. And it's not Christmas until I've watched it. 

What are your favorite Christmas movies? 

Oh, and while you're at it, sign up for my new newsletter! I'll be sending out the first edition on Wednesday, December 14--and then every other Wednesday after that. 

A Sensible Gift Guide for: Moms

Gift guides. Two words that you hear, roughly, every 5 minutes in the month of December. 

I'm here to add a little more clutter to that segment of the internet. You know why? Because sometimes, moms get forgotten in the gift guide mania. Gift guides are often created with the intention to be used by the primary shoppers in family units (re: moms). Gift guides are sometimes made for moms or wives to "treat themselves." 

That's not this gift guide. This gift guide is for you (you're a mom or maybe a wife or a girlfriend who wants some nice stuff because you're stressed) to subtly (subtly) send to your husband/partner/boyfriend/girlfriend/whoever to give them ideas for your Christmas presents. 

So, take note people who are reading this lift to figure out what to get the mom in their life: these suggestions come from a mom who is just as exhausted as your person. I know what I'm talking about. 

1. Giftcards, giftcards, giftcards.

Listen, if you don't know what to get the mom in your life, I have two simple words for you: gift cards. Some people think gift cards are terrible gifts, but I would argue that, no, they are the best gifts. I get so excited when I get a gift card, especially to a place I already shop. Target, Sephora/Ulta, Starbucks... where does that special mom in your life like to treat herself? Get her a gift card for that store because most likely, she doesn't get the things she needs for herself very often. 

2. A really nice wine glass set & a bottle of wine. 

Not to play into stereotypes here, but most moms love a nice glass of wine after their wrestle their toddlers or young kids into bed. It really takes a lot out of you. Mostly, though, wine glasses are beautiful and a nice set is often something young families don't have, leading many moms to drink their wine out of coffee cups (no shame in that game). Throw in a bottle of your favorite wine and you're set. 

3. A journal or planner. 

Nothing says "I care about your mental wellbeing" like something to record thoughts or appointments in. I love getting a new journal for Christmas because journaling is incredibly relaxing and perfect for the end of the day. Pick one that's fancier than the average spiral bound notebook, prerferrably something that will look nice on Instagram. 

4. Candles.

Candles are often gifts that are thought of as boring or last minute. Nah! Candles are great because: 1) they smell nice, 2) they're relaxing, and 3) they look beautiful. I like this one from Zoella

5. Picture frames. 

Most moms have a ton of photos that they just, well, haven't gotten around to doing anything with. Personally, I'm always just a little behind when it comes to getting stuff framed and put up. Take the plunge and buy the mom in your life a nice set of frames (or even a collage frame). She'll appreciate it,  I promise. (You can even get a head start and frame all those photos she's been meaning to!) 

Want to know where everything from this photoset is from? Check it out on my Polyvore!