Books & Reading Guides - A Wrinkle in Time / AWIT Guide Esperanza Rising / Guide A Long Walk to Water A Single Shard / Guide Summer of the Monkeys / Guide Pay It Forward Tuck Everlasting First Test (with local library book club) Caddie Woodlawn When Zachary Beaver Came to Town Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Percy Jackson Lightning Thief
Girlfriends are sometimes both the toughest and easiest to buy for, aren't they?! While you want to give them something unique and totally "them"... it's often hard to straddle the gap of a cool gift and keep it affordable. So this holiday season, I plan to pick out one gift to give to all of my gal pals and voila! Shopping made easy, no?
What are some of YOUR favorite gifts to give (or receive) with your girlfriends??? Check out some of the below gifts for your holiday shopping this year!
Some of our family's holiday traditions:
- Every year around this time, we take our holiday family photo. For the past couple of years, this photo has been of just the kids and we usually send it out for our Christmas card. This year, we coordinated the kids with cozy essentials and holiday looks from Gymboree. I love how they all coordinate! We plan for these outfits to be their go-to for our holiday parties, as well.
- We love making yummy hot chocolate and driving around looking at Christmas lights....with the windows down and Christmas music playing! Longest running tradition for the Jansens! We then let each kid pick their favorite house and give them some cookies.
- Every year on Christmas Eve, we gift our children new PJs. This tradition started when I was little...we got to open one gift on Christmas Eve. We've adapted this to specifically be PJs. My kids look forward to this each year! Gymboree has such darling PJs and slippers!!
- Elf on the Shelf. This tradition is fun for the kids...but geez...he gets on my nerves. This year he isn't making an appearance until much later. Last year he arrived on December 1!!!!
- We do a family night reading the Christmas story and acting out the nativity with our kids. This not only makes for special memories, but also reaffirms for our children the meaning and purpose of why we celebrate Christmas.
- We plan to institute this tradition Blake grew up with once our kids are a bit older: On Christmas Eve when everyone was asleep, the kids would try to sneak down the hall to get a "peek" at the gifts. BUT, Blake's dad would have booby trapped the entire hallway so that the kids would inevitably trip one of the obstacles and make a sound, then scamper back to bed before their parents woke up...then repeat. Think: rattling coffee cans and fishing wire. Genius!
So tell me...What are some of YOUR family's favorite holiday traditions???
The final leg of our northeast family vacation was spent in the glorious Southwest Harbor, Maine. We had a darling cabin nestled in a quiet little neighborhood, just steps from the harbor. Most days, we ventured into Acadia National Park, a short drive away. Between the hiking, exploring, crabbing, boating, and all manner of FUN...we had such a memorable and wonderful time.
If you've never visited Maine, I would highly suggest spending some time there in the summer or fall months (at least a week to really enjoy it). I love the costal areas especially, such as the picturesque town of Camden or the historical area of Penobscot. Staying close to Acadia was really a treat, as we frequented the park so often, biking the carriage roads and hiking the trails. Bar Harbor is another great spot on Mt. Desert Island, but a tad touristy...great for shopping and eating though!
After this trip (which my third time in Maine), I half-way jokingly mentioned to Blake that we need to figure out how to have a home up there. In my dreams! But really...it's THAT amazing! I described it to someone the other day as "feeling like you're in another country". I hope and pray we have many more memories to make as a family visiting the state of Maine, and who knows...maybe even someday call it home.
Or summer home. ;)
I shared the first part of our epic Jansen vacation all about New York City HERE...and our second leg of the trip was just as, if not more, exciting and fun! From NYC, we rented a minivan and headed upstate. Side note: I never have driven (nor probably ever will again) a minivan and I was oddly giddy about the chance to drive one for several weeks! Weird I know...but I digress.
We headed up to the Finger Lakes region and found our AirB&B in Honeoye Falls, NY. It was an old farm house built in the 1800s. We had an entire wing of the house all to ourselves, as well as access to the pool and grounds. Besides being a really old house (which showed its age a bit), it was the perfect accommodation and location for our family of six.
On our first day upstate, we visited some historic and very significant church sites, including the Smith Family Farm, the Sacred Grove, the Book of Mormon publication site, and the Hill Cumorah. We pretty much had each site to ourselves, which was so nice. Not only were we able to have some special family time spent at each of these locations, but being alone allowed us (especially our kids) to really understand and wrap their brains around what we were seeing/visiting. We hope at some point, our children's testimonies of God the Father and Jesus Christ were strengthened from their experiences.
The next day, we arrived early at Niagara Falls for our Maid of the Mist adventure. I had done this before, so I was super excited for the rest of my family to experience it. It's like nothing you've ever seen before, as the boat goes right up to the ginormous horseshoe falls. Everyone gets soaked (hence the ponchos) and the wind blows the mist so hard that at times you can't even look up! It's incredible! Afterwards, we cruised across the border to the Canada side to view the falls from a better angle. The Canadian side is way better, nicer grounds, and an absolute must if you visit Niagara. For lunch we headed down to one of the most picturesque towns I've seen called Niagara on the Lake. It sits right on Lake Ontario, which is a sight to see in itself! Although our stay in Canada was brief, I was glad the kids got to experience what it's like in another country...although Tyler Bree remarked how it's just like the U.S. Yep!!!
At the end of this leg of the trip, sadly Blake had to return home. Mostly because of our three dogs...we just didn't feel comfortable boarding them for 3 weeks. The morning he flew back home, the kids and I flew up to Maine to meet my mom and spend the next two weeks. Maine is one of my favorite places EVER and it was such a blast! More coming soon!