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Christmas update  |  nextlifechapter.comWe had a great day spending our first Christmas in Philly and our last Christmas as a family of three. Tim’s brother and sister-in-law came over in the afternoon for dinner. It was a relaxing day, and Adelaide had a great time playing with her new toys, reading books and wearing her new Elsa dress.

For those of you on baby watch, no news yet. I’m officially off work for two weeks while the University is on Winter Break. We have been getting ready for the holidays, and unfortunately I’ve had a cough for weeks that’s caused me to pull a muscle on my right side. I want to use this time to nest and get caught up on some projects around the house, but I’ve been feeling very tired and not up to as much as I had hoped. I’m only 38 weeks as of tomorrow and I’m hoping baby girl holds out a few more days, but I’d love to meet her soon.

Merry Christmas!


$250 Amazon Gift Card Giveaway


$250 Amazon Gift Card Giveaway

This week, 24 friends and I have been sharing our best recipes, printables, crafts, decor and holiday traditions. If you missed the posts, check them out below! Then scroll down to enter the giveaway.


My friend Steph, from A Grande Life, gathered a group of us together for a fun round up of Christmas recipes, decor, printables, crafts, traditions AND an awesome giveaway! We are giving away a $250 Amazon Gift Card! Who’s feeling lucky? Join us for ‪#‎25BlogsofChristmas‬ and who knows YOU may be the lucky winner of the Amazon Gift Card! Good Luck! $250 Amazon Gift Card Giveaway

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Pickle Ornament Christmas Tradition  |  nextlifechapter.comChristmas 2007 was my last Christmas as an unmarried person. Tim and I became engaged that summer and although we had already taken turns spending the holidays with each other’s family, we decided that for our last Christmas as single people, we would be apart. Tim flew down from Philly to see his family in Tallahassee, Florida. I flew to central Illinois to spend Christmas with mine.

While visiting home, my mom took me to the C.H. Moore Homestead in Clinton, Illinois. I vaguely remembered touring the historic mansion in my youth, but it had been many years since I had been there and touring historic homes was a mother-daughter activity we had always enjoyed. While visiting the home, I remember our guide describing the Victorian-era tradition Americans had adopted from Germany of having a pickle ornament on the Christmas tree. The way I remember him explaining it, the parents moved the ornament after the children had gone to sleep on Christmas Eve. Whichever child found it first on Christmas morning got to open the first present.

Pickle Ornament Christmas Tradition  |

C.H. Moore Homestead as decorated for Christmas during my 2007 visit.

I came home very excited to introduce a pickle ornament to the holiday traditions of my newly forming family. When the next Christmas rolled around, I looked for  pickle ornament knitting patterns (the only ones I could find looked a little, how should I say this, un-picklelike). However, the girlfriends in my knitting group knew I wanted one, and I received a traditional pickle ornament in our gift exchange that year.

Recently, I tried to research the origins of this tradition and everything I’ve found has be inconclusive. In fact, the tradition may not have started in Germany at all. Also, different accounts say different things about the child who first discovers the pickle ornament on Christmas morning. Some reports say the child is given an additional present, or is just said to have good fortune for the next year.

Fast forward to 2014 and our daughter is now three years old. I think this is the first year she’s old enough to understand the concept of looking for the pickle ornament before opening presents on Christmas morning. Since she’s an only child (at least for a few more weeks), she won’t really be rewarded as the first to open presents–she’ll likely be the first to open presents anyway–but I look forward to introducing the Christmas pickle ornament tradition for years to come. “Hiding” it on the tree is a little something fun for Mom and Dad on Christmas Eve, and I hope our children will enjoy searching for the pickle on Christmas morning just as I imagined the children of the beautiful C.H. Moore Homestead doing so many years ago.

25 blogs of christmas button 2Looking for more Christmas ideas? Over the next week, 25 bloggers will be sharing their creative ideas with you for recipes, decor, crafts, printables, and holiday traditions. Each day 5 new posts will go live so make sure you come back to check them out! At the end of our 25 Blogs of Christmas, we will be hosting a HUGE giveaway for a $250 Amazon Gift Card!

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Last year Maryam from the blog Hi and Hello surveyed daughter Margaux on a series of questions right around the time of her 2nd birthday. I thought it was cute and wanted to steal the idea for myself last year. But, at age 2, I knew Adelaide wouldn’t be able to answer most of the questions. I figured I would get blank stares, and it wouldn’t make for a very interesting blog post. Fast-forward a year and I dug up the list of questions again. Adelaide is incredibly verbal now, so I knew she’d be able to do it. I thought it would be a fun thing to do each year at her birthday to see how her answers change over the years.

15 questions to ask kids on their birthday  |


Here are Adelaide’s Birthday Questions & Answers at age 3:

  1. What’s your favorite toy?  “Baby” (When I followed up with “which baby?” she replied, “Annie,” as in Raggedy Ann.)
  2. What’s your favorite thing to eat for lunch? “At school?” she asked. “Sandwich–peanut jelly sandwich.” (When I prompted her to follow-up with her favorite thing to eat at home, she said, “For dinner? When I wake up? Banana.”)
  3. What’s your favorite TV show?  “Frozen” (She doesn’t really distinguish between tv and movies at this point, and she just got Frozen for her birthday and saw if for the first time this week.)
  4. Who’s your best friend?  “The reindeer” (meaning Sven, the reindeer from Frozen) When I prompted, “Whose your best friend in real life?” she said, “Sadie” (a friend from school).
  5. What’s your favorite thing to play outside?  “The slide. And the balls.”
  6. What’s your favorite thing at bedtime?  “The book. The doggie one.” (When I asked which doggie one she said, “Go Dogs Go.”)
  7. What’s your favorite food?  “At school, Mommy?” she asked. “Anywhere,” I said. “Orange.”
  8. What’s your favorite song?  “Twinkle Little Star”
  9. What’s your favorite movie?  “George” (meaning the Curious George tv show–see above about not differentiating between tv and movies)
  10. What’s your favorite color?  “Green” (holding up the green crayon that happened to be in her hand at the time)
  11. What’s your favorite fruit?  “Pineapple” (which if funny because up until about 2 weeks ago pineapple was about the only fruit she wouldn’t eat)
  12. What’s your favorite snack?  “Goldfish” (crackers, obviously)
  13. What’s your favorite drink?  “Nilk and water,” she said immediately. “And juice!” (I asked her what kind of juice and she said “fruit juice.” Then she added, “I like grape juice.”)
  14. What’s your favorite holiday?  “Princess”
  15. What do you want to be when you grow up?  “A singer”

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Today is my baby girl’s last day of being two years old. She will never be two years old again and this makes me a little sad. I’m excited for her to be three and all that being a three-year-old brings, but it’s been such a fun age. Adelaide’s language and personality really exploded this year. This girl is a talker! From the moment she wakes up in the morning she is all-go Chatty McChatterson. She loves to put on shows, or put a blanket over head and play “wedding” or “princess” or “superman.” She likes singing the ABCs song, Twinkle Twinkle Little Star and Baa Baa Black Sheep. She makes up her own songs, too.

She likes to take food orders and go pretend grocery shopping (real grocery shopping isn’t quite as fun, but she’s pretty good at that too, as long as we bring a box of raisins or some other snack). She knows her colors and most of her letters and can count to 15 pretty consistently. Sometimes she can count higher, but the numbers start to get mixed up and repeated (eleventeen is my favorite).

She loves the water and although we don’t get to the beach or the pool very often, she takes advantage whenever she can get the chance. Spraypark is definitely part of her vocabulary.

She often gets phone calls (using our remote controls) from Shrek or Princess Ona (Fiona), or from Mom, Dad or her grandparents. Her favorite shows are Sesame Street, Daniel Tiger and Curious George. Dad sometimes lets her watch Adventure Time although much of it is (thankfully) above her head. She loves books and having us read to her. She likes dancing and twirling and playing catch.

Coloring and drawing in her notepad are other favorite pastimes. She’s recently started drawing people with real faces, complete with two eyes, a nose, mouth, even eyebrows! She is very nurturing and often rocks her baby dolls, Grover etc… in her arms, puts them to bed, plays doctor and gives them medicine and shushes them when they’re crying.

Three years ago at this time I was about to go to bed, having no idea this was “the night.” (You can read Adelaide’s birth story here.) She’s the one who made me a mama, and she’s made me smile each and every day since. I love you, my sweet girl. Happy Birthday!

1st birthday |

First birthday party smash cake.

2nd birthday |

Second birthday party at the spray park.

3rd birthday |

Yesterday’s third birthday party at the spray park.

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Happy Father’s Day!

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Mothers Day   |

My sister posted this image on Facebook earlier this week. If I had to guess, I’d say it was taken Mother’s Day 1984–exactly 30 years ago.

I wish I could make out the writing on the letter I’m holding up. A Mother’s Day poem perhaps?

Happy day to my mom, my mother-in-law and all the moms out there. Also, happy day to the women who are not moms, whether by choice or not. Happy day to anyone who has been a mother figure when someone needed them most. This week I was proud to be quoted in this, “What I Learned from My Mom” post on Mom’

Happy Mother’s Day!

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Adelaide turned two last Sunday. It was a great weekend. We had a Sesame Street-themed party for her on Saturday at Herron Park Sprayground here in South Philly. She loved it.

Sesame Street Birthday Party |

Tim designed the invitation – notice his added touch of the Philly skyline reflected in her glasses.

Back in June I was trying to decide what we wanted to do for Adelaide’s birthday. She loves animals, so I was thinking of something with a circus theme or a zoo theme. I didn’t want to do a bash quite as big as her Moustache First Birthday party last year. That party was really more for us than for her, so we just invited all our friends. This year, we wanted to primarily invite the kids from her class at “school” and their parents, as well as other families we know with kids around her age. With a birthday at the end of July, I knew it would likely be a hot day. Still, I wanted to invite quite a few kids and knew we didn’t have enough room to host it at our house. I tried to find an inexpensive air-conditioned room to rent within the city. I looked into the local parks and thought about having an afternoon BBQ. Finding a park that also had a public restroom was a challenge, and although Adelaide is not yet potty training, I knew several of the kids her age would need a restroom nearby.

Then, when we were in Illinois visiting my parents in mid-June, I saw how much Adelaide loved the Miller Spray Park outside the Miller Park Zoo in Bloomington. During our week vacation, we went there three different times. Back in Philly, a friend mentioned Herron Park and how she thought they had restrooms. So, our first weekend back from vacation, Adelaide and I made a scouting trip to the sprayground to check it out.

I thought it would be perfect.

A few days later I was looking through the book of birthday theme cakes at the local grocery chain when I saw one fitting for an animal theme. Then, we passed a cake with Elmo and Big Bird on it. Adelaide went berzerk yelling “Elmo, Elmo!” I looked to Tim. “I think Adelaide wants an Elmo party.” So, Sesame Street theme it was. Adelaide picked.

Sesame Street Birthday Party |

This cake from BJs Wholesale was nice because the plastic cars are something Adelaide could keep and continue to play with later.

We invited everyone from her class at school, everyone from my Saturday playgroup and a few other friends. Including Adelaide, we had 11 kids attend (ages three years to 19 months, most right around age two), the total group including parents was right around 30 people. Several people RSVP’ed late, so I was proud of how smoothly everything went.

I picked up some Elmo plates and napkins at the local party store and the party favor bags of Elmo, Cookie, Bert and Oscar were adapted from something I saw on Pinterest. The project was more time consuming than I had expected (I’m a bit of a perfectionist), but they were a big hit and I think it added a nice personalized element to the party. I filled each bag with a little container of bubbles (also from the party supply store) and a pack of Elmo alphabet cards I found online (using my free one-year trial of Shop Runner for free shipping).

Sesame Street Birthday Party |

I think Bert was my favorite.

Everyone loved the location, and I’m glad we brought the tent Tim uses to cover his booth for craft fairs. It provided a little shade for the table with the cake and fruit and for our guests sitting on blankets. The playground is newly renovated so the trees are young and don’t provide much shade yet.

The weather cooperated splendidly. (Did I just write “splendidly”?) It was in the high 80s, but not too hot and not rainy or cloudy. Having the party from 10 am to noon worked out really well too. It maybe was a little strange to eat cake at 11 am before lunchtime, but having the party in the morning meant people weren’t expecting a full lunch and the party didn’t interfere with all the different afternoon nap times. It also meant the sprayground wasn’t yet over crowded. It was pretty perfect if I do say so myself.

Sesame Street Birthday Party |

I can hardly believe I’m the mother of a two-year-old.  The terrible twos. The terrific, giggling, twirling twos.

Happy Birthday, my sweet girl.

 Sesame Street Birthday Party |

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I’m blaming it on Downton Abbey. The weekend of the Season 3 premiere, Downton Abbey was all the buzz. My Facebook feed was filled with friends updating their status in anticipation. Friends mentioned it in person, too. “Do you watch Downton Abbey? Oh, you really should. You’d love it.” I had to admit that while I had yet to see an episode, I had heard good things. It was on my list.

Season 1 is available on Netflix Instant, and on more than one occasion I asked Tim if he wanted to start it.

“We can’t start another series,” he said flatly.

True, we had started The Wire, Breaking Bad and Mad Men and weren’t anywhere near making it all the way through their multitude of seasons.

“But this one is different,” I pleaded. “Only two seasons have passed. We can catch up and watch the new episodes.”

It wasn’t working. Then, Tim gave me permission to go ahead and start watching it without him. I was kind of bummed that it didn’t want to see it with me, but I was willing to forge out on my own. I figured I’d probably enjoy it more than him anyway – it was a soap opera period piece after all. But, unlike the spring, summer and fall months when Tim works on Saturdays and I have the house to myself (with Adelaide) for most of the day, he’s home all weekend in the winter. When was I supposed to watch it without him?

One Sunday in early January I sent Tim upstairs (he had work to do anyway), and I started Downton Abbey by myself, with a cup of coffee and my knitting. And yes, I was hooked. I spent the next couple of weekends watching an episode here and there, and now I have just one episode left in the first season.

So, after being out of town for two weeks for the holidays (read about our 16-hour drive from Philadelphia to Tallahassee with a 16-month-old and a dog here), I spent my weekend blogging time catching up on the first season of Downton Abbey, instead of updating the blog. Guilty as charged.

If I had been blogging, I might have written about how Adelaide loved the Christmas tree at her grandparents’ house. How she learned to say “Santa” and loved to point out all the animal ornaments on the tree.

I might have written about visiting with good friends, going to the playground to play with their kids, and then having Mommy and Daddy nights out to the movies (what a luxury!) and out to dinner with friends.

I might have written about going to see a light display with Adelaide in her PJs, or the Christmas Eve service, or my sister flying to Illinois on a red-eye from LA and arriving on Dec 22 only to drive to Florida with my parents on Christmas Eve. They arrived at my in-law’s house shortly before dinner on Christmas evening.

I might have written about opening presents Christmas morning and how Adelaide was still too young to really understand the concept and that it was okay to rip up the paper. How she got tired very quickly and we saved a few presents for her to open later in the week. I might have said that we opened presents from my parents at their hotel room the next day, and that Elmo likes to Rock ‘n’ Roll.

I might have written about touring the Goodwin Plantation with my parents (the site where Adelaide’s aunt and uncle were married when she was still in Mommy’s tummy). Or, about touring the Tallahassee Museum with the entire clan.

I might have written about how special it was to see both sides of our families for the holiday, including Adelaide’s 90-year-old great-grandmother and how hard it was to say goodbye knowing that it will be several months until we see them all again. I might have written a lot had I not been watching Downton Abbey.

Here are a bunch of photos from our Florida trip…

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We enjoyed a nearly two-week vacation to Florida for the holidays.

Since Tim and I have been married, we’ve been taking turns and spending every other Christmas with each other’s families. Last year we went to Illinois to visit my side of the family. This year it was the Florida family’s turn. Adelaide was only four months old last Christmas, so knowing she would be a lot more fun to watch this year, and knowing that she is the first grandchild on both sides, Tim’s parents graciously invited my parents and my sister to come to Tallahassee and spend Christmas with us this year.

My parents were already considering driving to Philly to see us after we got back from our Florida trip, so they decided to take Tim’s parents up on their generous offer. Florida, even north Florida, is warmer than Philly this time of year.

We decided to drive to Florida so we could bring our dog and save the cost of boarding him for two weeks. We traded the cost of airfare for the cost of gas and a night’s hotel stay there and back. We stayed at a dog-friendly Ramada at the “half-way point” in Florence, South Carolina.  I was nervous about driving 1,000 miles with a 16-month-old and a dog. I bought several small new toys for Adelaide and planned to slowly introduce them in the car — a magnetic doodle board, an Elmo sticker book, other stickers and notebooks, new books from the library. These were helpful, but food was perhaps the best distraction.  Instead of sitting in the passenger seat, Tim and I took turns sitting next to Adelaide in the back. Since she’s still rear-facing, it worked out well that we could see each other and play together. Hugo spread out on the bench seat in the far back.

When it was Tim’s turn to drive, I was constantly trying to keep Adelaide entertained. I fed her peas and then raisins. We looked at her sticker book. We played with the See-n-Say. We ate blueberries and crackers. She didn’t sleep as much as I would have liked, but she could have done much worse. The last hour or so of driving each day was a bit rough, but the smart phone and YouTube videos of Elmo helped keep her calm in those crunch moments. I was tired of being in the car too, so I understood where she was coming from.

I think Adelaide did better when Tim was next to her. It seemed that once we switched places and it was my turn to drive, Adelaide would always fall asleep. It seemed unfair. I wanted her to nap on my watch so I could nap too. I began to think that I was trying too hard to keep her stimulated and entertained. I knew she was tired. Maybe if I would just ignore her a bit and lean back and shut my eyes, she would sleep.  It didn’t really work for me. When I was sitting next to her, Adelaide wanted my attention. She wanted to nurse, or for me to hold her. It wasn’t an awful drive — I mean, it could have been worse — but I wouldn’t want to do it again any time soon.

Unfortunately, we did have to make the drive back home 12 days later. On day 2 of our return drive we hit a lot of traffic, so the trip took a lot longer than we expected. On the positive front, Adelaide slept from Washington D.C. to home (about 4 hours). I was driving (of course), and although I thought I might pee myself, we decided to press through with no stops because we really just wanted her to sleep and for us to get home as fast as possible.

Here’s a photo montage of our return trip:


Adelaide ate to stay busy and keep happy in the car.


Gram wrapped little presents for her to open in the car. This was a spoon and fork set. Bonus points for the Elmo wrapping paper. It kept her attention for an extra 3 minutes.


We have a real artist on our hands. …Okay, so maybe Mommy helped on this one.


Hugo resting in the sun.


Peas! More eating. And then, more eating.

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