Bonbon Charms Photo Ornament Giveaway

Updated one more time to announce Sarah from themommylogues is the winner! Congrats Sarah. And thanks to Erica at Bonbon Charms for providing such a beautiful and elegant prize. Remember: The 20% code (LOVEWELL) is good through Friday.

Updated to add: It seems like traffic has been extraordinarily light over Thanksgiving weekend, so I'm leaving comments on this giveaway open until 7:00 PM Central tonight. Winner will be announced shortly thereafter. So you still have time. Tell your family! Tell your friends! Merry December!

The last few years, I've fallen out of love with Christmas kitsch.

That's saying something, because when we moved from California five years ago, I had at least four huge tubs of Christmas paraphernalia. Mismatched stockings, ceramic snowmen, Christmas dishes, the cheese knives that looked like pine cones, I had everything Target had ever clearanced. Most of it wasn't even my style anymore -- if it ever had been. It was just clutter I had accumulated, which I was then obligated to scatter around my house each December.

So I got rid of it.

Not all of it. Not immediately. But slowly, each year, a few more trinkets made their way to the Salvation Army or the dustbin.

The only box unscathed during the purge was the gigantic box of Christmas ornaments. My ornaments aren't just decorations to me; they are cherished memories.

I believe I mentioned last year during BooMama's Christmas Home Tour that my Mom started a tradition when my siblings and I were young; she gave each of us a personalized ornament each Christmas to commemorate a significant event that had taken place in our lives the previous 12 months. (Examples of what I'm talking about are halfway through that post.) The beauty of this particular tradition is that, when the child grows up and moves out, the ornaments go with them -- a sweet reminder of their childhood and a treasure trove for their own kids each year when it's time to decorate the tree. "What's this one, Mom?" "Well, it's from the year we got our dog...."

And that's the rather long back-story to the fabulous giveaway I'm doing this weekend. (It's my own contribution to Black Friday.) Perhaps you've heard of Bonbon Charms. Erica's day-to-day business is designing vintage, silver charms for bracelets and necklaces.

This year, she's also handcrafting Christmas ornaments, including personalized ones and -- my favorite -- photo ones. And because she's awesome (and the sister of one of my BBFF), she's agreed to give a photo ornament to one lucky reader of this blog.

To enter, you need to go to Bonbon Charms, do a little shopping and then come back here and tell me about your favorite Bonbon. And do it fast, because I'm choosing a winner on Monday, December 1 (which is supposedly the Internet's version of Black Friday, only without the insanity).

If you love what you see -- and you will -- you can also get 20% of your order by using the discount code LOVEWELL when you checkout. But be aware -- to get it delivered by Christmas, you'll have to place your order no later than Friday, December 5. That's not much time. Order early. Order often.

Personally, I can't wait to add a
Bonbon ornaments to my collection. Unlike the faux bronze decorative reindeer and the music box carousel, this is one piece of Christmas that will be treasured for years to come.

Thanksgiving Eve

I just took the pumpkin chocolate cheesecake pie out of the oven. It looks and smells wonderful. It joins the homemade rolls and the apple pie on the sideboard to cool.

Now I have to cook the potatoes and the vegetables and the stuffing and the green beans. And then I'll make the brine for the turkey and assemble the decadent baked French toast casserole for the morning and -- oh, did someone say something about eating dinner tonight?

Originally, I didn't plan to cook all day today. I had portioned out the Thanksgiving recipes and carefully divided the tasks for this week into tidy little squares.

But life is rarely that neat.

Teyla came down with a cold -- the kind that sends streams of golden goo flowing from her nose every time shes sneezes. (That makes it sound so much more pleasant than it is.) That means I cannot, in good conscience go workout after I drop the older kids off at school; the childcare workers would not esteem me. Plus, the sweet baby just wants me. So we've been joined at the hip -- or, more accurately, the shin bone -- all week. Which makes it hard to cook.

Also, my weary brain has entered into a new phase of sleep deprivation, one in which my ability to multi-task vanishes like frost in the sun. By dinner each night, I find myself sluggish and blurry, my speech slurring, my muscles trembling from the strain of staying upright. (Side note: I still maintain that the sleep training is working. But thanks to the cold, we've taken a break from the seriousness of it all. When she wakes at 4:00 AM with a stuffed nose and a dry mouth, I nurse her and rock her and wrap her in a blanket of comfort.) All that to say -- mushy brain, no focus, stay away from sharp knives and hot stoves.

But Thanksgiving is tomorrow; there's not getting around it. And even with all the mitigating factors, I was so looking forward to cooking this meal. So I cleared my calendar for today, ran one last trip to the grocery store to pick up forgotten ingredients (although I still can't find watercress; guess it will be parsley instead) and got down to business.

The best part about having a whole day to cook is the domesticity. It quiets my soul to work with my hands on what is right before me. That's how I came up with of What I'm Thankful For This Thanksgiving (A Partial List); it's posted over at 5 Minutes for Parenting today.

May God open our eyes wider everyday to his boundless glory. Happy Thanksgiving.

Thanksgiving Dinner 2008: The Final Cut

First, I'd just like to say to the recipes who auditioned for Love Well Thanksgiving 2008, you are all winners. Truly, each one of you has something unique that you bring to the table, be it comfort or flair or beta-carotene. I wish I could give each of you a serving dish come Thursday.

But as you all know, there isn't room for everyone. I spent the last several days going over your ingredients list again, and I've finally reached a decision on who will be apart of Thanksgiving Dinner 2008. The final selections are:

Good Eats Roast Turkey
Pioneer Woman's Delicious, Creamy Mashed Potatoes
Simple Stuffing with Mushrooms
Roasted Harvest Vegetables
Green Bean, Watercress and Fried Shallots Salad
Homemade Rolls (emeritus)
Pan Gravy
Land O' Lakes Apple Pie
Pumpkin Chocolate Cheesecake Pie

Those of you who made the cut, I'll see you tomorrow morning. Pie crusts, you'll be up first. Homemade rolls, you're right behind them.

And to the rest of you, don't lose heart. You'll go right back in my recipe box. There's always next year.

And So It Begins

Alternate titles:
a. It's Beginning to Look A Lot Like Christmas
b. Kill me now.
c. If it was 75 and sunny at your house today, do NOT tell me.
d. There is no spoon.

Feel free to suggest your own.

7 Quick Takes Friday (Vol. 1)

In case you don't read Conversion Diary -- and really, if you don't, I'm not sure we can be friends anymore; go subscribe right now -- I'm participating today in Jennifer's new Friday blog carnival.

------ 1 ------

It's bright and sunny out today. Naturally, it's bitter cold. The digital weather station I got Corey for Christmas last year (it was for him; I swear) said it was 10 degrees outside.

That's right. Ten.

It's winter's catch-22: You want sun? Fine. It's going to be so cold your jeans will creak when you run your daughter across the parking lot to school. What? It's too cold for you? No problem. Here come the clouds. It will be gray and dismal and dreary until you wish someone would sell you a butter knife and make dotted lines across your wrist.

------ 2 ------

Several of you have asked via e-mail or Twitter how Teyla is sleeping these days. My assessment is that the sleep training is working. But it's slow going.

She is no longer nursing to sleep, most of the time. (Sometimes I just can't catch her before she nods off.) She will fall asleep in her crib without me holding her, although I do still sit next to the crib and remind her to lay down (either verbally or physically) so as to encourage the sleep.

But she's still waking up multiple times each night, and sometimes, she wakes up and is very alert. For example, this morning she woke up at 5:30 and was ready to go for the day, babbling and looking at her fingers and making homemade movies on her little Mac. She eventually went back to sleep by 6:45, but she was up again (and CRANKY) at 7:00.

So we're making progress. But I'm still relying on coffee far more than I like to make it through the day.

And let's not even talk about the napping. It's Phase 2 of the Great Sleep Project.

------ 3 ------

I completely agree with Jennifer's take on Facebook (#6 on her list). I joined the Facebook cult a few weeks ago, after my family lovingly told me I might want to get with the 21st century.

But like Jennifer, I have zero interest in "finding" any people from my past, nor do I want them to find me. So I'm very hidden on Facebook, and so far, I only use it to keep in touch with my family and my real-life friends (and a few blogger friends who found me before I pulled out my super secret identity).

It's a fun way to keep in touch, but as someone who is already fighting to keep the computer from consuming her, I am playing very coy with it.

------ 4 ------

I'm trying to finalize my Thanksgiving menu today, a task that is both agony and ecstasy. Thanksgiving dinner is a meal of traditions, not easily refined. No one wants to see a huge fish gracing the table next Thursday, for example. But as a cook, I always want to try something new.

So today is the day. I've been clipping recipes for month, auditioning them in my mind. Today I make the final cut. Should I go with the traditional sweet potato praline casserole? Or should I go with the lighter, roasted harvest vegetables? Should I stick with plain pumpkin pie? Or try the pumpkin-chocolate cheesecake pie? Do I make Pioneer Woman's mashed potatoes? Or Martha Stewart's mom's?

Decisions, decisions.

I'm in heaven.

(Jeni over at One Thing posted a very funny tribute to her foodie sister earlier this week. She captured how I feel about Thanksgiving perfectly. Food is my spiritual gift.)

------ 5 ------

Given that I'm slightly excited about Thanksgiving, you might think I've been loving the "Dear Food Network: Thanksgiving" specials. You would be right. I stumbled on the dessert episode Wednesday night, and I'm still lusting after a piece of Alton Brown's pear-cranberry pie. And Ina Garten's nontraditional mixed berry cheesecake? Wow. I've never made a cheesecake before. But I'm mighty tempted to try it after I saw that one. (But for Christmas. I can't NOT make pie for Thanksgiving. Tradition, remember.)

------ 6 ------

I checked out a stack of books at the library last week, the first time I've checked out anything for myself in about a year. (Who has time to read when you have a blog and three kids?) I immediately devoured Tony Campolo's "Letters to a Young Evangelical." I don't agree with Mr. Campolo's viewpoint on many things. But he's a spectacular thinker and communicator, and I believe he's very much a prophet, calling the modern Western church to get back to the basics of Christianity and not be swayed away by the siren call of political power or too much Western thinking. I recommend it.

------ 7 ------

The sad truth? It's taken me almost six hours to write this post, thanks to constant but sweet interruptions. Which means I'll barely get it posted while it's still Friday. So that clunky title, Jennifer? How about Saturday Seven?

The Band in My Utensil Drawer

As I was making dinner last night, Connor started sorting through my utensil drawer, on the hunt for “musical instruments for his band.”

He pulled out a solitary chopstick.

“It’s a baton,” he explained.

Next up, my wooden rolling pin.

“A guitar,” he grinned.

My favorite tongs?

“A snapper,” he said, clicking the two pinchers together.

A cookie dough scoop?

“A skoozer,” he said emphatically.

(I don’t ask questions.)

Then my long-forgotten wine bottle opener, a relic from the days I worked at Friday’s and Olive Garden.

“A gun,” he solemnly said.

Because goodness knows, every band needs a gun. Those groupies can get out of control.

My post at 5 Minutes for Parenting today is also about when cooking and parenting collide. Sort of. It's a little esoteric. Go see for yourself.

Deep Thoughts, Part One

I have so many deep thoughts rumbling around in my brain right now. It feels weighted down and very tangled. One trail leads to another which leads to another. Eventually, I end up going in circles. And the fact that I'm sleep deprived doesn't help. As I've often said to Corey this past week, I don't think I'm licensed for this.

What I really need to do is journal. It's always been the way I clean out my mind. There's something tremendously cathartic about getting all those thoughts out of my head and down on paper where they can be studied and analyzed and (if nothing else) captured and told to be still. But lately, I find it difficult to journal because the blog guilt is ever present. "Shouldn't you be writing something for the blog? Have you checked Twitter lately? Did you leave a comment on all the blogs you read today?"

Annoying. And wrong.

I've got some ideas about how to balance this addictive and fulfilling hobby with the kind of writing I used to do on a regular basis. But so far, I haven't reached any conclusions. Circles, you know. But still. It's good to be thinking about it. I feel like, the past few months, I haven't had a blog. The blog has had me.

That has got to change.


Teyla past the ten-month mark on Sunday.


Making the time warp worse was the fact that my nephew -- whom I've only gotten to see once in the last 12 months, which breaks my heart -- turned one on Sunday. ONE!

He is the first child of my brother, Michael, and his lovely and hysterical wife, Julie. And he may be one of the cutest babies ever to be born.

Here he is just at just a few weeks old.

The face! I can't get over it!

And here is in at his party on Sunday.

With his Mom.

And his Dad. (Michael is just three years younger than me. I feel the need to point that out, since I will now feel younger by association.)

Looking at his birthday party pictures last night made me feel a nostalgic and time warpish. (It's a word now.) So I did what I often do when feeling a tug on the heart strings -- I pulled up my blog from exactly one year ago and read what I was thinking about 12 months hence. I posted over at 5 Minutes for Parenting today about what I was doing back then.

Adding to the sense of wistfulness is that my sister, who birthed the other cutest nephew on the planet almost two years ago, is now pregnant with her second. And TODAY is the all-important ultrasound where she finds out if she's having a girl or boy. (This post was about her, by the way. Corey's record lives or dies with Emily. The irony is rich and thick there.)

I just wish I was there in California with her to hear the news in person. I don't like all this living happening when I'm not around to experience it.

So there.

But I am blessed beyond measure to know that my siblings and nephews (and maybe a niece?) are living each day in love and health and security. Family is the best gift from God that I can imagine.

I guess that's why time seems to fly. We're just having too much fun.


Corey offered to take the kids Saturday morning and leave me home alone with Teyla.

“I can get them to karate at 10:00 and then hit Home Depot and Trader Joe’s before swimming lessons. You’ll have the whole morning to yourself,” he said warmly.

How could I deny that?

Yet, as I helped the kids get into their karate uniform and tie their belts, I felt oddly empty.

I went to find Corey.

“I don’t want to be home all day,” I said meekly. “I know you’re trying to help me, but if you run all the errands this morning, I’ll have nothing else to do today, no where else to go.”

He grinned at me.

“I forgot,” he said. “Solitude isn’t a gift to you.”

No. No, it’s not.

So he took the kids to karate while Teyla took a nap. Then I ran the rest of the errands – plus lunch at Wendy’s – to round out the morning.

And I was happy.

Library Day

My head is stuffed with cotton and filled with deep thoughts tonight -- the product of sleep training a strong-willed child and me inhaling this book in a matter of days. I'll have much more to say about that .... soon. (I'd say "tomorrow," but we all know that's the kiss of death for a post. So I'll just say ... soon.)

But first, I need to show you what book Natalie checked out of the school library this week.

It's a Christian romance novel.

It's called "Loving Care," in case you can't make out the title due to all the pastel sweetness on the cover.

The back summary says (and I quote):
After the failure of her marriage many years ago, Christie Hanuman started over and vowed to remain single . . . until her ex-husband walked back into her life. Patrick had also changed, and was now raising his three-year-old son while also caring for his ailing father. Even more amazing to Christie, he had discovered a profound faith in God. Was this transformation a sign from above? And with so much history and love between them, could Christie dig deep into her soul and uncover the truth -- that she'd never stopped loving Patrick . . . and that this was a new chance at happiness?
It's sap at its strongest. Worse, Christian sap. (Sorry for the offense. Just goes against everything that is within me.)

Also? Natalie is seven. She's in second grade. Last year at this time, she couldn't read a Dr. Seuss book by herself.

When I pulled the paperback out of her school bag, we had the following conversation.

"Ummmm, Natalie? Is this the book you checked out of the library today?"

"Yes Mom," she said with a bright smile. "It's a chapter book. It's called 'Loving Care.' And I know we should be loving and we should care, so I checked it out."

Hard to argue with that.

Thankfully, the book was set aside immediately, as are most of the books she self-selects at the school library each week. (Last week's selection was a field guide to butterflies.)

As for me? I'll be stepping up my own loving care of Natalie this very month. If it's chapter books she wants, chapter books she will have.

Only none of the ones I'm choosing have pastel covers.

Election Reflection

I have to admit: I didn't wake up this morning with a pit in my stomach that signaled the world was about to end.

(I can't vouch for my sister. She lives in California, near San Francisco; thus, her exposure to The Crazy is about 250% more than mine. For the past six weeks, she's been making plans to move the family to our house in Tiny Town -- which is still on the market, in case you were wondering and/or looking for lake property. She's already decided that her husband will bring his gun to hunt deer, that the garden would need to be expanded to feed the extended family, that she would assume the homeschooling duties for the children in the compound if I would agree to cook. And all this was decided at 2:00 AM. She's nothing if not a Beaver.)

There's a part of me that feels I should be more concerned. After all, while I respect the process that gave President-Elect Obama his title and while I'm absolutely sure that God is in charge even today, I don't agree with many of the man's politics. Many of his views run completely contrary to my own, and he has now been given the right to enact those viewpoints.

But last night, I went to bed with a blanket of peace wrapped securely around my heart and my head, and this morning, I awoke with a smile on my face. (After I'd had my coffee, natch.)

Want to know why? Read the whole story over at 5 Minutes for Parenting.

Beacon of Hope

Teyla was awake more than she was asleep last night. I woke up this morning with puffy eyes and a pound of cotton in my brain. Teyla was equally delightful. She woke up at 7:00 AM and started crying. No smiles, no coos, just wails.

Alrighty then.

Connor, Natalie and I managed to get ready for the day amid the screams. ("SHE'S HURTING MY EARS!" Connor shouted at one point, his hands firmly covering his own.) We left for school on time, which was an accomplishment. I tried to grab that small beacon of hope and hang on. I'm not a morning person in any sense of the word, but I hate starting my day with a thundercloud around my head.

I assumed Teyla, bless her poor exhausted soul, would fall into a sleep coma the second we hit the freeway. I assumed wrongly. She stayed awake. However, the screaming stopped.

Which is why I decided to drive straight to the polling center after we deposited Natalie in her classroom.

That's when the beacon of hope started to shine a little brighter.

It's a beautiful morning here in the Twin Cities. Normally, November is a bleak, gray, barren month. But this year, fall is refusing to succumb to winter's bullying ways. As I drove along my neighborhood streets, I saw trees still clothed in shades of gold, maroon and wine and bushes blazing with brilliant red. The grass is still green, if not growing. The sun is bright and warm. Our high today is 71 (which is about 25 degrees above normal).

I pulled into the Lutheran church where I would cast my vote, a freedom that was bought for me with much sweat and even more blood. Moms pushing strollers and elderly couples walking slowly and young men with scraggly beards mingled on the sidewalk. I parked the mini-van and joined the throngs. Despite the uncertainty about the economy and the angst about the direction of our country, the tone was decidedly expectant and proud. The red "I Voted" stickers were worn as badges of honor.

And that they are.

I have mixed feelings about politics. I have little faith in either party these days, nor do I believe that America is somehow close to God's heart because of the faith of some of our founding fathers. I think God is in perfect control of this world, no matter who is elected President tomorrow, and I have complete peace in that.

But I do love this country. Despite her many, many flaws, I believe she is among the best countries in the world. And that's why I was proud to vote this morning, proud to have my five-year-old son help me put my ballot in the ballot scanner, proud to have my baby daughter hugging my thigh as I exercised this precious freedom.

That beacon of hope shines brighter still.

Which is a good thing.

Because Teyla is crying in her bed right now, refusing to go down for her nap.

Ladies and Gentlemen, We Have a Winner

Wow. What a fantastic turnout for the Sloppy Baby giveaway. I think 219 entries sets some kind of a record for me.

But I don't blame you. My friend's baby gear is adorable. Who can resist it?

And the winner is ...

Random Integer Generator

Here are your random numbers:


Timestamp: 2008-11-03 02:58:21 UTC

... Leslie. She doesn't have a blog, but in her comment, she said she has a new baby, Shelby Kate, and thus far, Shelby has had to make do with hand-me-downs from her older sister. Well, no more! Shelby is about to get some baby stuff of her very own. I hope she enjoys it.

Thanks for playing everyone. And congratulations Leslie! May you enjoy each day with your own sloppy (but sweet) baby.

Willy Wonka's Got Nothing On Me

I'm pretty sure a diabetic would keel over just by walking across my threshold right now.

There is candy everywhere. EVERYWHERE. From the looks it, an entire regiment of Oompa-Loompas has set up shop in my kitchen.

How did it get this bad?

I bought two bags of candy late in September --
a 105-count bag of Blow Pops and a 290-count bag of Sweet-Tarts, Laffy Taffys, Nerds and Runts.

Late last week, I panicked. We have at least 40 kids in our neighborhood these days, I reasoned. I have enough candy for them. But what if we are flooded with adorable little visitors? What if the kids in our complex have friends over? What if I run out?

So I swung by Sam's Club and picked up a third bag. "Just in case," I told myself. "I won't open this one. I'll just keep it as insurance."

And last night?

We had seven trick-or-treaters. SEVEN.

Rumor has it that most of our neighbors took their kids to THE MALL to trick or treat in banal safety.

Meanwhile, Connor and Natalie trick-or-treated in our townhouse complex and were rewarded with handfuls of candy at each stop. Seems I wasn't the only person in our neighborhood to overestimate the amount of Halloween candy needed. Connor and Natalie actually had to come home every few houses to empty their buckets.

We even opened the door this morning to find one of our neighbors -- a single guy from India who appears completely amused at the Halloween frivolity -- handing us all the bags of candy he wasn't able to give out last night. He said he didn't want it in the house, and he figured we could use it.

Corey didn't have the heart to refuse him.

And that's how I ended up with 12 pounds of candy in my kitchen.

How many Operation Christmas Child boxes do you think I can fill?