I remember, at nine years old, making a cake for my mom for her 30th birthday. There is a picture of it somewhere. I was so very, very proud of it. I remember a few things about that day: 30 seemed so very, very far away, I was giddy with pride over my creation and though I can picture it perfectly in my mind’s eye (so I am certain when I tell you it was a disaster), my mother treated it as though it had been made of the finest ingredients (not from a box) and crafted by a baker with the most perfect of pedigrees. (it hadn’t) I never suspected she was choking the cake down, though she may have been…..and her smile was anything but false.
I’m sitting in my office staring out my window. All I can see is snow. The cold is radiating from my windows like a living being. I feel it in my fingers. I feel it in my toes. I can’t get warm. There is nothing I detest more than the cold. You know the people who say they love the change of seasons, they love the snow – even for a little while? I’m not one of those people. I don’t even need to see pictures of it to feel complete.
And right now my world is white with the coldest temperatures I have ever experienced in my life. Friends, that isn’t hyperbole. I’m not exaggerating. The outside temperature in St. Louis, Missouri is -7 with the windchill registering at -31. That, my friends, is ALASKA COLD.
My good friend and co-author, Aliza Sherman spent a number of years living in very rural Alaska near the Canadian border as a result of her husband’s job. At one point my husband jokingly remarked, ‘Wow, she must really love her husband. You wouldn’t live there for me”. While I did smile and say, ‘No, I wouldn’t', (I am aware of my capacity for sanity), he and I both know that I did settle here, in his hometown, far away from the sunshine of Southern California, the friends and family I adore and the ocean that fills me up.
I came here to be with him. And I’ve stayed for him and because our family has settled in.
And we’re happy.
Or at least I am from April through October. I jest. Sort of.
The joking is one of the things that keeps us together and happy. I was reminded what a ‘secret’ this is to a happy marriage as I made my way through my friend Fawn’s new book, Happy Wives Club. Laughter is a thread that binds, it is a white flag in the midst of an argument and the broken ice when things are simply too serious. As Fawn detailed her journey – visiting 12 countries, 6 continents and visiting countless couples seeking the wisdom of their happy coupling – laughter and fun came up time and time again.
The book made me stop and think….just what IS it that makes a marriage work? What would I love to tell my younger self – that bride as she prepares for ‘the biggest day of her life’?
I came up with 12 Secrets to a Strong and Happy Marriage…as I am experiencing them right now.
Why 12? It’s more than ten since ten seems easy. (Marriage isn’t easy) Eleven seems too odd and well, twelve is the number of years I will have been married this year. I guess you could say I’m learning as I’m going. I’m ALWAYS learning.
Laugh Often and At Yourself – If you ask my husband, he will tell you he is ‘the funniest person he knows’. He may or may not be joking. Either way, he makes me laugh every day and he has taught me the value of letting go and laughing at myself. While I’ve always been a ‘happy’ person, you wouldn’t classify me as funny or goofy, but marriage has taught me how important it is to allow the ‘silly’ to take over. It’s hard to stay mad at someone while they are making you laugh.
Go to Bed Mad - I was raised to believe the sun shouldn’t set on your anger. Wrong. When you are in your marriage for the long haul, you have plenty of time to breathe, figure it out, forgive and forget. Early in our marriage, I would push and push and PUSH an argument…desperate for an immediate resolution. Sometimes you both need to walk away to allow for clarity to filter in. Things often seems less dire after both of you have had a chance to calm down.
Listen – Some people are naturally good listeners and well, some people aren’t. In each relationship there is usually one. So, for one of you, this isn’t such a challenge. But for you over there? Not so easy. Work at it. It is important to both of you to be heard and equally valuable to know what is going on in the other’s world. Take time each day to put the devices down, to ignore the TV, (maybe after the kiddos are in bed?) and just talk. And listen. You’ll be amazed at what you might hear.
Make Each Other a Priority – Even if you have children, in fact, especially if you have children, you need to spend time with each other. You need a date night, a vacation for just the two of you, time to cuddle, an opportunity to talk about something other than school, kid’s sports and work. When was the last time you said, ‘how are you?’ and meant it? Your small people are a manifestation of your love for each other, but one day, they’ll be gone and it will again be just the two of you. You will need each other then. Make the effort to prioritize each other now.
Fight fairly – There is nothing worse than a dirty fight – name calling, dredging up past grievances or wasting energy being hateful. Look each other in the eye, be respectful and stick to the topic. I know it isn’t possible to always stay calm and keep your voice down – emotions can take over – but TRY. Once said, words can’t be taken back.
Grow Together – I am not the same person I was twelve years ago. I’d like to think I’m a wiser, kinder, more entertaining version of my 28 year-old self, but I recognize that I probably have less patience, I’m getting a little set in my ways and all of the ‘little things’ that my husband used to find cute and quirky about me are likely on their way to becoming wretchedly annoying. I’m a result of the life experiences I had before my husband and the ones I’ve had since and likewise, he is the same. We are growing together. It is important we respect new interests and changes in our personalities as well.
Be Kind – This isn’t just a marriage rule, this is a life rule. When my small people were very small, I constantly reminded them to ask themselves a very important question when dealing with each other, ‘Am I being kind?’ My husband and I need to do the same. Even when we have had a bad day. Even when we are short on patience. Even when we believe the other is WRONG. Acting and speaking kindly to each other can prevent arguments, smooth over tough moments and fix a day-gone-wrong.
Give More Than You Get – In a word, this requires you to be selfless. And it isn’t easy. We often do it naturally with our children, but sometimes it isn’t easy to do for your spouse. Work at it. Marriage is hard work. Take out the trash, do the dishes, give the kids a bath, make the bed, put gas in the car, shovel the driveway – even if you did it last time. If you are BOTH giving more, you are both getting more. This is a good thing.
Go for the positive - Talk positively about each other. It is one thing to be kind to each other…but something else entirely to be kind ABOUT each other. How many times have you heard a group of women or men talk or joke disparagingly about their significant other? Be the opposite. Be the one who DOESN’T complain about Football Sunday, about the last time he made the bed, about her terrible cooking, her juggling of work and motherhood, her lack of listening ability, about his absenteeism. Find the positive. Share THAT instead. Happy begets happy.
Share the Love of the Game - or food, or wine, or the movies, or mountain climbing. Don’t misunderstand – I’m not suggesting you lose yourself in someone else’s loves and hobbies, that you take up water skiing when you are afraid to swim or watch horror movies when you are afraid of the dark, but express an interest in something because it matters to HIM (or her). Coming in to this marriage I didn’t pay much attention to baseball. Baseball is second to religion in my husband’s family. He had to memorize the inscription on Stan Musial’s statue (St. Louis Cardinals Hall of Famer) before being allowed to walk in to the stadium as a 4-year old. I am now a fan and yes, cheer right along as our family room mantle is converted in to a shrine for the St. Louis Cardinals each October.
Take Time Alone – When I married my husband, I chose him as a life partner, but I didn’t choose to leave myself, my soul and all of my interests adrift entirely. We both know it is important to continue to do things that matter to us – and sometimes alone. He plays on a baseball team. I take a trapeze class. He likes Saved By the Bell and I love The Princess Bride. Sometimes we have to watch alone. We both enjoy time with friends – together and on our own. It is part of being a couple and being individuals.
Choose It – A few years ago, if you had asked me about the most challenging thing I had ever done, I might have told you it was raising children. Now, I will say it is being married. It is work, but work that is well worth it. We both know that every day isn’t like the day we married: the best day of our lives…but rather some are amazing and some are challenging. Every day you need to choose it – your relationship, your spouse, your family. Every day you must choose to listen, to be kind, to give more than you get and to laugh.
The older I get, the more I’m choosing kindness and laughter. What have you found are the secrets to your marriage – your strong marriage, your happy marriage? For more beautiful wisdom from around the world, be sure to pick up a copy of Fawn Weaver’s new book – Happy Wives Club - it launches this week, so I’m certain you will see her lovely face everywhere! You can also check out her website by the same name: Happy Wives Club – which was the inspiration for this project.
I’m grateful to my friend Fawn for sending me an early copy of her book – I’m so proud of her and this journey she is on. I’ve purchased two additional copies which I know will be on their way to me this week and I’m excited to be giving them to a few friends who I know will love the book as I do.
I’m sitting on my couch snacking on leftover Honeybaked Ham as I type this. I wish you were here with me to indulge as well – that’s how much I love you. The ham is leftover from a brunch we had yesterday here at home where I was able to introduce friends of ours to one of my favorite holiday traditions….a meal that includes HoneyBaked Ham as its center. The only thing I love more than the traditions of the holidays is sharing them and hopefully allowing others to fall a bit in love with the moment as well.
When my husband and I married, I learned fairly quickly that it would be important for us to combine the traditions we both loved growing up. Amazingly, they weren’t the same. His entire family would spend the night together on Christmas Eve and their morning celebration and gift-exchange with 15+ people was fast paced and over in less than an hour. Mine on the other hand, centered around Christmas morning, only ever included my parents, brother, grandmother and I and would take hours as we opened gifts one at a time. Our gift exchange was always followed by a brunch that included HoneyBaked Ham.
That meal has made me a certified ham-snob. If I was required to do a blind-folded taste-test, I would know my HoneyBaked Ham the second I tasted it. This also means other hams don’t even compare. So, when HoneyBaked Ham offered me the opportunity to host a small meal at my home, I was excited to do it.
The memories! The tradition! The food! The sharing!
I knew it had to be brunch as that is what I have always loved. We invited friends of ours and their children. I placed a simple order with the HoneyBaked Ham store closest to my home for a mini ham (it definitely would have fed more than the 4 adults and 4 kids who were here – hence the leftovers I am enjoying now!) sweet bacon, potatoes au gratin, and an apple carmel walnut pie.
I made a few other breakfast items – eggs and pancakes – and served juice and mimosas to round out the meal.
If the silence as we ate was any indicator (and you know I had to ask for thoughts) every drop of food was loved. My husband even went back for seconds. On everything. Maybe it’s the glaze on the ham, or that there is never any water added… or maybe it is that it just stays tender no matter what. Either way, it was delicious – and the company was divine.
When I picked up the food, everything except the ham was frozen (which did initially panic me, I will admit, since my guests were due to be at my home within the hour) but all of the items come with easy cooking and thawing instructions and can be cooked or warmed right from frozen. I popped the potatoes and the pie right in to the oven and used the microwave to thaw the bacon before cooking. So, do keep this in mind for planning purposes.
It is also worth reminding you, that all of the food we enjoyed can be shipped as a gift package for the holidays (of you could just do a ham, a dessert or any number of their treats)
Because I love you, I’d love for you to share my HoneyBaked Ham tradition – I have a $50 HoneyBaked Ham giftcard to giveaway. But I want you to get it before Christmas – so the giveaway will only run until this Friday, December 20th. at 11:59 CST
Enter below by simply sharing one of your favorite holiday traditions. Or for additional entries, play along with Rafflecopter….
No purchase necessary to enter. ExtraordinaryMommy.com is not responsible for prizes that are shipped from outside vendors or sponsors. All entries will be pooled together and one (1) winner will be drawn. The winner will have two calendar days to reply via email. Unclaimed prizes will be placed for availability to newly chosen winners after that time. Giveaway is open to all U.S. residents only, must be at least 18 years old to enter. One entry per person, entries accepted through Friday, December 20th, 2013 ending at exactly 11:59 CST.
I have committed myself to embracing the awe of this holiday season. That means rather than focusing strictly on the go! go! go! of these last two weeks, I’m doing my best to embrace the presence of the season, the do less and be more.
I have found myself sitting in my family room instead of my office so I can be surrounded by the lights of the tree and the mantle, so that I can glance up and see the holiday cards that are arriving, so that our elf is frequently in full view. Despite a crazy workload (like all of you) I am refusing to work at certain times of the day so that I can just sit with my family and watch holiday movies or view this video of Little Drummer Boy (my favorite!) with my small people over and over again.
I was talking to my friend Alli the other day (who made a dynamite appearance on The Today Show talking about his very thing) about how my holiday memories from childhood don’t revolve around the gifts I received, but rather on specific moments – on sitting in my our family room in the dark, listening to the Carpenter’s Christmas RECORD, staring at the lights on our Christmas tree and of the meals – yes, the MEALS.
Growing up, we had two traditions – Christmas dinner was a meal my mom and I made each year….and it was a formal event. We started cooking mid-day, crafted each of our family recipes carefully and finished by dressing up and using the china and crystal. Breakfast was more relaxed, but always included one constant – HoneyBaked Ham. I will admit it, I am a ‘ham-snob’. If you have ever had a HoneyBaked Ham, you likely know what I mean because it is divine. It is sweet and tender and there are never any extra water or juices added. I always loved that we were able to have some left over after the holiday as well.
A few weeks ago, the amazing folks at HoneyBaked Ham asked if I would like to host a small holiday meal at my home…. this, my friends, was an easy yes. This ham is a tradition for me – and the opportunity to put it in front of people I love is nothing but FUN in my eyes.
So, I have this meal planned for this weekend – and to prepare, I was sent this extraordinary box of goodies – serving dishes and utensils, cake samplers, a carving board and even an apron.
I have chosen to host a breakfast, just as we always had at my home on Christmas…. I can’t wait to share the details with you – which will include a $50 giveaway to HoneyBaked Ham.
Be sure to check back here on Monday for some wonderful holiday HoneyBaked Ham goodness.
I am one of those people who absolutely LOVE to go out on New Year’s Eve. There aren’t many nights that allow me the luxury of being truly fancy – from the dress to the shoes to the makeup, but this night DOES. It has been a while since my husband and I have had a night to ourselves.
Head-turning. Glamorous. Festive.
I want the party-perfect hair and the makeup that takes me a while to do. I have found a dress I love (do you see it right there?) and I’ve been practicing the perfect makeup look as well. While I normally wear some makeup, my routine usually takes about 5-7 minutes – between the powder, the blush and the mascara. For me, New Year’s Eve is different. It is about so much more than that….and it starts with my eyes.
In working with Kohl’s this holiday season (that is where I found my New Year’s Eve dress) I’ve been exploring all kinds of amazing all-in-one beauty products. For a New Year’s Eve makeup look I love, I have found the perfect set – one I can’t wait to show you:
It isn’t just that red is my favorite color.
Or that red and silver are stunning together.
Or that my small people morph into magic beings this time of year, their eyes perpetually wide, their jaw permanently open in wonder… (though that last one could have a little to do with it).
Quite simply, I adore the holidays. And the sooner I transform my home from standard living to holiday style, the more spirited I feel, the more apt I am to embrace everything special about this time of year.
My favorite room in the house – especially this time of year – is our family room. It is where our tree lives, where we spend the most time and where you will find this mantle.
I fell in love with this mantle before our house was built. It is lovely from January through November, but right now? It is glorious. I could stare at it for days. Because I think your mantle – any mantle – or even a shelf that plays a central role in your main room deserves to be the focus of the holiday room, I wanted to share 8 tips to transform your mantle for the holidays.
8 Ways to Decorate Your Mantle for the Holidays
Choose a Palette - I know this sounds like fancy-decor-speak, but in layman’s terms – choose a couple of colors (rather than ALL of the colors) so the space will be pleasing to the eye when you are done AND so you can easily spot new pieces to buy when you are out shopping. Ideally purple, red, silver, blue, green and gold will feel like too much, so focus on just a couple.
Keep Family Photos in Place- On any given day, our mantle plays host to any number of family pictures – specifically some of my favorites. Keep them in play. Your family is central to the magic that IS the holidays. Use these pieces for their sentimental value and for filling some larger space. If you have Winter or Holiday pictures – the kids sitting with Santa, the morning your puppy arrived, the family on that ski vacation, swap some of these out to make it more festive.
Go Green – I love the texture that greenery can add to any space, but specifically a shelf or mantle. This is your version of bringing the outdoors inside. Much of the greenery you can purchase is evergreen in nature and has pine cones or berries, so the holiday feel is instant.
Incorporate year round decor – Once you have decided to go with certain colors or textures, feel free to move other items from around your home to this center spot to increase the holiday focus. Those red stars? They aren’t only holiday decor….I use them in our house all year. But they are red, they are eye-catching and they add to the overall feel.
Use Ornaments in Different ways - Sure ornaments are beautiful on your tree, but make a change: add some to your mantle instead. Allow your creativity to take over here: put them in a tall vase, set them within the greenery, use them as ‘book ends’ to hold up some of your holiday cards. The key is to choose a theme or feel – blue and white? Green and Red?
Light it Up – This can be as simple as adding a few candles. I like to vary the colors and sizes of the candles we incorporate in this space. But I also love the look of the white lights wrapped in the greenery. (the greenery/lights came together so I don’t spend additional time each year melding the two.)
Highlight Family and Friends - Going to the mail this time of year makes me giddy. I adore seeing the faces of family and friends and want them on display. Consider adding your holiday cards to the mantle to highlight the people you love most this time of year. I know my parents used to put holiday cards on our refrigerator, but I want this loveliness as part of the decor.
Hang Stockings with Care – Now clearly, the holidays don’t include stockings for everyone, but for us, they are a part of the decor and a big part of what turns this space into a Christmas room. When I was a little girl, I had a stocking with my name on it – done with glue and gold glitter – long before personalization was ‘a thing’. Now, I don’t think having the stockings personalized matters as much as having one that represents each member of your family. My small people love to hang these each year.
And then….sit back and enjoy. I love spending time in this room just soaking of the magic of the space. How do you decorate for the holidays? Share links in the comments below – I’d love to see.
At the beginning of October, one of my neighbors put their holiday lights on their home. As we were still weeks from Halloween – and I have small people who require us to fully embrace each and every holiday individually – I could only stare. Surely, they didn’t mean to skip right over Halloween and Thanksgiving, right? I will give them credit, they didn’t turn the lights ON until recently, but it didn’t stop me from staring.
Or from being just a little bit jealous. Yes, I believe it was too much, too soon. Yes, I wanted to be fully present for all things scary and trick-or-treatish for Halloween and all things food and gratitude for Thanksgiving, but I do so love this time of year. If, in fact, I could do it without experiencing any cold weather, ice, or snow – Christmas time would be perfect.
I love the spirit. I love the magic. I love the gift giving. I love the decorating.
Ohhhh – how I love the decorating. Each year I pull out everything I have used from the year before and then begin the hunt for new, unique items to add to our decor. I am fully enamored with how our home dresses up for the holidays, but I’m fully aware of my addiction to adding more.
Here’s what I know about my desire to up my holiday decorating game:
- I am drawn mainly to silver and that gorgeous shade of deep red – almost a cranberry.
- I prefer original or unique items – I don’t typically want to grab the items that I’m confident everyone else is adding to their decor. This means I do love decor that is handmade.
- I’m always looking for items that can be added to both the outside of my home as well as the inside.
- I do not discriminate: I love wreaths, table settings, ornaments, and wall hangings.
- I don’t want to spend a fortune.
- I have found a new avenue for my addiction: Ebay’s Collections.
Ebay Collections are following the curating trend by allowing individuals like you and I to create boards (read: collections) that revolve around our interests. You can bet I have dedicated a number of my collections to holiday decor in one form or another: Holiday Door Decor, Holiday Tables, Christmas Trees and Ornaments and even Holiday Dresses for Little Girls. Do you want a handmade wreath? One with burlap? Are you looking for something purple? Or made entirely of fathers? I have them all and can add or subtract based on what is currently available.
The collections have helped me to find, watch, save and ultimately buy some of the most glorious decor.
Here’s the thing – with every collection I am sharing my interests, I’m offering my friends and followers a way to find some of the items they might very well love AND I have a place where my family can easily answer the question, “what does Danielle want for Christmas?”.
Like with some of the popular social media platforms we use regularly, Ebay Collections allow us to follow our friend’s favorite collections and keep up on the latest happenings with an up-to-the-second feed that tells us who has created a new collection, what they are adding as we are spending time online and who is following whom. You can also follow the #FollowItFindIt hashtag to keep up with some of your favorite people and what they are collecting.
What type of collections have you created? Or what will you create in the future. I’d love to know. In the meantime, I’ll be decorating my home for the holidays and doing lots of gift shopping. Be sure to follow me over on eBay.Disclosure: My eBay Collections were curated as part of a sponsored collaboration with eBay though as always, the words and thoughts expressed here are mine and mine alone.