First Holiday Season with a Little & the Goal of Less Stuff

It is mid November. Or in our family calendar, the middle of “cake season”. It kicks off with the State Fair gluttony in September, followed quickly by my birthday then Matt’s (hence the cake…lots of birthday cake to eat!), Thanksgiving and Christmas. So much food! And then we always mange to plan a poorly time beach (ie: swimsuit!) vacation for early in the new year. Good motivation to work out I suppose!

This year is our first embarking on the holidays as a family of three. Having a little along really makes every routine, tradition and timing of it all go up for consideration. Naps! Gifts! Time in the car! With both our families living within two hours of us holidays look quite different from how I grew up. We are adjusting our routine to equitably squeeze everyone in while maintaining a sense of balance…or at least that is the goal!

christmas-gifts

I have been inspired by some blog posts and stories online about establishing traditions that don’t revolve so much around gifts and a huge Christmas morning. Our little family has been pulling away from acquiring random stuff for some time now. I will admit that I still fall prey to new things (thank you Amazon for making it WAY too easy to get find anything and everything), but I have made a conscious effort in the past two years to a) stop going to stores just to browse and b) getting rid of random stuff in our house.

The first was hard. I drive a lot for work and would have 15 minutes to kill before going to a meeting. Why not pop into Goodwill (I love seeing what “treasures” there are), Marshalls, World Market etc even just to look? The consequence was that I can always find something I like. Even if it is just dish towels. Now with baby clothes the temptation is even greater! And when thrifting etc everything is so cheap and easy to justify. But I came to the realization that this was just an impulse waste of time and money.

So I just have stopped going in. I have even caught myself pulling into the parking lot, and then turning around. If you don’t look, you don’t buy. Period. I spend that extra 15 minutes calling a friend, catching up on my emails, or journaling in the car. And the amount of time, money and stuff I have saved adds up. Which allows me to justify investing in higher quality items of the things that we really do need or want.

Now to purging: this house remodel has been so helpful in helping us really see what we use and what we don’t. All (and by this I mean probably 90%) of our belongings are being stored in the extra bedroom. For two years now. And we have not missed it. We have seriously paired down the random kitchen items, knick knacks, magazines, books, etc that just took up space. We still need to purge our closets and shoe collection, but it really frees up so much physical and metal space to have fewer things in our house. And when we officially move back in, we will be very intentional about what we keep and what gets rehomed.

All that leads me to the holidays. And gifts. We have been thinking hard about how we want to establish traditions with Oakleigh from the start, and expectations around Santa gifts and stockings and all the different Christmases we attend. We have not come to any decisions yet (any suggestions out there? I am all ears!!!) but do like some of the ideas around the 4 gift system from parents, asking for experiences (or specific items rather than random stuff or toys), and this out there idea about a rainy day gift closet. All of these align with our family values of meaningful quality over quantity, and getting back to a life with less stuff. And taking time to pick (both in the making of wish lists and in the giving of) meaningful gifts that will be appreciated for the long haul.

I remember a fun childhood with tons of gifts on Christmas morning, but every year, it is really just one or two gifts that I can still remember. These were the highlight and were something I treasure to recall. My porcelain doll. Tiny tea set. Set of coral encyclopedias. A red hooded pea coat. That single gift from my great-grandmother every year that I knew was super special. And I remember the afternoon outing that we would do as a family. Sailing, or taking a walk. That is the part of Christmas that means the most in my memory, and we would like to focus our time and energy in making that our holiday priority.

This seems to be a common theme. When discussing with a friend the other day, a random woman came up to us and joined our conversation. She was having trouble navigating similar expectations with her daughter and grandkids. She was unsure how to ask what they would want to receive so she would be sure to pick things they wanted and would use. It was fun to have this conversation from multiple generations of perspectives!

Giving gifts and the generosity that comes with it is so touching and appreciated. And I know that everyone loves to spoil a baby! We had a great moment with my grandparents last week when my grandma was inspired to buy Oakleigh some new cloth diaper covers. This offer was SUPER appreciated and she asked some good questions ahead of time to make sure they were “right”. I was able to share with her information about what we used, and what we are needing next. It gave her the ability to help out, and we did not end up with random cloth diapers that we may not have used! Win win!

And with that, we embark on the 2017 holiday season! Wishing you and yours a time of restful, meaningful memories with your loved ones and families!

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A Year without a Christmas Tree

With all our interior renovations it looks like this may be a year that our precious ornaments and sparkly lights stay boxed in the basement. The living room is divided with a huge plastic sheet and every surface (on both sides of the sheet) is lightly coated in a fine layer of drywall dust. Not ideal for antique ornaments even if we could get the tree in.

Because yes, in fact, we do have a tree! My parents brought us one from their property when they came down for Thanksgiving. A beautiful tree that is currently hanging out a bucket of water on the front porch.

To top it all off, wind and rain have made the outdoor space pretty blustery this past week. Flooding is rampant and branches are down everywhere. Things are supposed to calm down this weekend so we may end up settling for setting up the tree on the back deck where we can see it from the living room window. No ornaments, just lights may have to do it for this year.

Sad, because we love our ornaments so much. Many of them are inherited from Matt’s grandparents. This year we also picked up another 10 antique ones from an estate sale. We love decorating our tree.

Silver lining: the house projects are going well! Matt is finishing up drywall and then it is just a waiting game before our friends can move their stuff back to their house (we are storing it while they remodel too), THEN we can relocate stuff from the next room we tackle. Open up another wall, frame in a new cased opening and THEN…dunh da da…we can open the kitchen wall! It has been a really fantastic learning experience about our house. We have spent lots of time in the attic, learned about load baring walls, electrical, and tuned up our drywall and framing skills (my best skill: cleaning up…I have been leaving most of the construction to Matt). The house may be a disaster right now, but it will be SO WORTH IT when this wraps up. I suppose a year without a Christmas tree will just make next year’s that much more special.

Return to Port Townsend

For our third anniversary (how has it been so long already?!) we wanted to go back to Port Townsend for a weekend getaway. An Airbnb was selected, but no availability till October…so we booked a late anniversary weekend for the fall. It turned out to be exactly what we needed. August was busy enough with house painting and other weekend commitments, and the fall colors were great this time of year.

Last Friday we headed out. I still am in awe of how much closer to everything we feel living on Vashon Island. Well, close to everything except maybe the cascades. Surfing is 2.5 hours away, Port Townsend 1.5 hours. We are near to Seattle, and Tacoma, AND the Kitsap Peninsula (and therefore the lake property). It is pretty awesome. After the short ferry ride to Southworth we were on our way, and before we knew it, arrived in Port Townsend.

First order of business was dumping our stuff at the Airbnb. It was a cute little 1 room tiny house, 10×12 with a small bathroom, kitchenette bed and outdoor shower. Perfect!

Then we went out for long walk around Fort Worden. I was in a bit of a funk because my main camera was cardless (argh!) and my phone memory was full. No pictures was hard for me. We walked around and discovered a new part of the fort and reminisced at our wedding site.

We walked until sunset and then headed to town for dinner at Waterfront Pizza (they catered our rehearsal dinner). Service was slow, and then made slower by some issues with our order so our pizza was on the house. Turns out the slow dinner was a good thing so we spent less time at our Airbnb.

When we got back “home” for the night we were pooped and headed to bed. That is when the trouble began. We were both really bothered by an odor in the room. We are still not sure if it was mold or an air freshner or what, but it kept us up for hours. In the morning, we decided we could not handle another night there and reluctantly shortened our trip. The day was supposed to be rainy and we knew we did not want to spend time in that room.

So we loaded the car, and headed to town for breakfast. Pastries and coffee at Sweet Laurette’s, cruising the farmer’s market were a great way to start the day. We wandered all the standard shops along the waterfront and found a vintage 1940s or 50s art deco framed print for our house at an antique shop.

By 1:00 we were ready for another Port Townsend tradition: ice cream sundae at Don’s Pharmacy soda fountain!

We took a second lap around the fort (this time with a camera!) to work off the ice cream and then hit the road home.

All in all it was a great trip, and being home Sunday was really quite nice. The cats and chickens were happy to have us home and it make the weekend stretch just a bit longer. Most importantly, it reminded us how much we just love spending time together wherever we are.

July 4th

The 4th of July: a pinnacle of summer fun. Lemonade, fireworks, BBQs, lawn games, maybe a campfire all come to mind. For many of us the the PNW this has not been the record for the 4th. The weather forecast usually promises sun about 10 days out, and then ends up being drizzly and 60 degrees on the actual day. Not ideal.

This year was an exceptional exception to this Seattle “rule”! We were camping at the family lake property on the Kitsap Peninsula and it was between 85 and 95 all weekend long. Perfect for camping sans rain-fly, running around in swimsuits and lots and lots of water time. The lake water was super warm and clear this year, and we spent hours splashing around like big kids. Paddle boating, swimming, water Frisbee toss, and making good use out of the neighbors floating raft with waterslide and diving board.

We chowed down on hot dogs, fire roasted corn and s’mores (and steamed broccoli because we like to get our veggies in!) and then were treated with a surprise apple pie! The neighbor, Mike, brought over a fresh-out-of-the-oven homemade apple pie, complete and homemade vanilla ice cream and a shaker of extra cinnamon! What a treat!

It was a spectacular, HOT 4th of July!IMG_5018[1] IMG_5163[1]  IMG_5175[1]IMG_5059[1]

Christmas Chickens & Fish

It was a whirlwind leading up to Christmas. A weekend with Matt’s parents, too many projects leading to late nights up working in the rain by headlamp (yes, we are that dedicated), hours of cleaning, cooking, baking and laughing. It was an awesome Christmas week.

This year we hosted in our sweet island house. That meant cleaning like a mad woman for two days before everyone arrived. I have to say the house has never looked better. The counters were piled with cookies and Matt and I prepared an epic feast for Christmas Eve. The Italian side of his family celebrates with the Feast of Seven Fishes, so we did our take on it for this party.

After many lists, coordinating with my mom to bring some of the food, thawing, marinating, chopping garlic, garlic and more garlic…we were ready. Want to know the line up? (prepare to get hungry)

  • Locally smoked black cod (with cheese and crackers)
  • Broiled clams on the half shell
  • Dungeness crab cakes from home caught crab
  • Grilled lemon garlic prawns
  • King crab legs
  • Baked salmon
  • Aglio e olio with anchovy
  • Plus bread, salad, and wine, wine, wine!

Halfway through crab cakes we realize how much food we had and ran next door to grab our neighbors, George and Linda at the Palouse Winery. Linda was busy, but George came over to eat…bringing with him three bottles of wine and then later going back for two more! What a fun night. Christmas music, laughter, stories, food, wine, food, wine, and more laughter and wine. It was a feast.

Christmas morning we opened stockings, ate breakfast, opened gifts and then took an island tour. The sun poked out just in time for a beach walk!

The best part of hosting Christmas Eve and morning? Leftovers, quiet and relaxing Christmas night. Matt and I enjoyed the hot tub, some cold salmon, and leftover wine selection from the night before. And then slept like rocks.

Boxing day is a work day for him, so I drove him in and we grabbed coffee on the way through town (to go with our leftover cake of course!) I picked up a Christmas gift for the chickens: a panel of clear roofing to make a skylight for their coop! We strapped it to the top of the mini, and 30 minutes later the girls had light in their coop! It looks awesome!

Oh, and they now have names! Cesar is our rooster, and his ladies are Mary (not in this pic), Belle (the yellow blonde), Holly (red/brown), Helen (silver grey) and Rita (blond and white one in front).

Happy Christmas! Happy Chickens! Happy Friday!

Comfort Food Favorites

Now these are staples of our family’s holiday table. They are not the tried and true “been there since great-grandma-whoever” but they are SO GOOD that we can’t have a holiday feast without them. In fact, they are so popular that every guest also requests the recipes. And they are vegetable dishes…totally healthy! 🙂

First up: Carrot Puff. My grandma introduced this to our family 10 or so years back and it is a stronghold year round. We have made it with carrots, or squash, or sweet potatoes…or a combination. We have made it in a Dutch oven over a fire. In deep round dishes and big flat 11x17s for picnics. It is best hot but we have been known to eat it cold. It tastes like vanilla pudding so even the pickiest of vegetable eaters will gobble it up.

Carrot Puff

  • 2 lb carrots or sweet potato or squash or mix of all – peeled, cut into cubes, cooked till tender ~ 20 min boiling
  • 1/2 c. melted butter
  • 5 eggs
  • 1/4 c. sugar
  • 6 Tb flour
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 2 tsp vanilla

Mix all ingredients together in blender, adding cooked carrots a little at a time. Blend till smooth. You may need to do in 2 batches and mix together. Pour into greased casserole dish. Bake at 350 about 50 – 60 min until firm in the middle and golden.

Next up? Super awesome corn bake. Again, this one is pretty versatile in the veggie department. Sometimes we add cubed summer squash. Sometimes not. It is great either way!

Baked Corn (and squash if you choose)

this makes an 8×8 pan or so…….

In large bowl:

beat 2 eggs
add:
1/2 cup milk
salt, pepper
2 Tb flour (~ 4 if you add squash)
1 Tb sugar
1/4 c melted butter
2 -3 Tb onions chopped small
1/2 c grated parmesan
1/2 c grated cheddar (I probably use more)
add: a pound of corn / squash cubes mix and pour into greased 8×8 pan Bake 350 about 45 min. Done.

Enjoy!

The Perfect Tree

This will be our second Christmas on Vashon. Snuggled down in our little house, enjoying the glow from our stove, and watching the sunset over the Olympic Mountains. Things look pretty different too. The living room has been refinished…complete with the new door! Friday was the second to final touch – paint! Molding will have to wait till after the holidays. The view is different too. With the big tree gone we see so much more sky. The sunsets have been incredible.

In preparation for the holidays we spent a good portion of the weekend cleaning, dusting, moving furniture to make room for a tree. Bonus: there was snow on the ground.

We woke up Saturday morning to a rare treat: fresh snow blanketing (ok, thin 1/4 blanket) the ground. The temperature was still dropping and so it was perfect conditions for a beautiful tree cutting day. We headed out to the car and …. nothing. The car would not open. The door handles were frozen shut. We managed to climb through the hatchback of our little mini cooper (wish I had gotten a photo!), warmed up the car and took it on a scenic snowy drive. Sure, we could have gone straight to the tree farm, but in all likelihood the car would not have been warmed up enough to let us out the doors!

We first stopped at Augie’s Tree Farm, a place we had been planning to go since we moved here. Unfortunately we did not find what we were looking for. After much debate and more driving, we ended up stopping at the fish stand along the highway, where this month they also sell trees. 5 minutes later we had found the perfect Noble Fir. Paid, loaded, done! Not our typical tree cutting adventure but fun none the less! And it was so cold that quick experience was all I really needed.

We got the tree home and immediately got to put our new 36″ door to the test: it was perfect! So much easier to bring in a tree than last year! We set up the tree, let it defrost and dry, then decked it out in lights and vintage ornaments inherited from Matt’s grandparents. It is perfect.

We curled up next to the tree for a feast: roast duck with mashed potatoes and balsamic figs. Yum. Yum. Yum.

Happy Holidays!