Saturday, December 28, 2013

If you don't smile at these, you don't have a soul.

Dramatic? Maybe. True? Absolutely.

So these are some recent little videos of Klair taken with my iPhone. They capture her current personality so well. (I say current because as any mother of a 1 year old probably knows her quirks, noises, and tendencies change rapidly.) 

This is Klair Bear in her toy room. She was talking and squealing like this for quite awhile when I realized that a moment like this should probably be captured on video.

Aaand, this is a video of Klair's reaction to a deer that strolled into our yard. Rosie started barking, so I looked outside and saw this fella back there.

Thanks for stopping by! Have a happy weekend :)

Friday, December 27, 2013

A Very Merry Christmas!

This Christmas was better than I expected. I knew it was going to be great. I mean, I have a one year old daughter. And, even though it technically was not her first Christmas, it was the first one where she was old enough to respond and understand on some level the excitement and spirit of Christmas. Yet, even though I expected it to be fun going into it, nothing could have prepared me for how magical it turned out to be. From the sparkle in her eyes the moment she saw the Christmas tree lit up for the first time, to her love of the Christmas songs we sang all month, to the very last present that she so eagerly tore open--Christmas with Klair was incredible.

Sam was also able to take almost the entire week off, which was a pleasant surprise. I have really enjoyed having him home. With all of his traveling for work the past few months I feel like it has been a much needed reprieve. The amount of family time that we've been able to have is a heaven-sent blessing.

One particular blessing happened in a simple yet beautiful moment. On Christmas Eve Klair woke up from her nap and Sam and I both went into her room to get her. She was already sitting up in her crib (she's been doing that a lot lately--either sitting up or standing when we come in for her) and as soon as she saw us a wide smile crossed her lips and she started babbling excitedly.  You could tell that she was pleasantly surprised to see both of us greeting her after her beauty rest. Her crazy-fluffy-bed-head-hair bounced around as she spoke to us in what we call "Klairinese." I imagined that she was recounting her dreams, or... perhaps divulging the secrets of the universe? Regardless, it was adorable. I lifted her out of her crib and she immediately nestled into my shoulder. Then, she went to her "dada" and gave him the same affection. My heart was filled with such pure love and joy in that moment as we played with and talked to our happy, bright-eyed daughter. I couldn't help but feel that this is what heaven must be. This, this is what Christmas is all about. 

Apart from spending lots of quality time as the three of us, we've also been enjoying this Christmas break by celebrating with family. These pictures were taken on Sunday after church at Sam's parents' house. We coordinated our Christmas reds for church and  had our Christmas party with our Duke family that night. 

I love these photos of Sam and Klair.  They capture the essence of their relationship so perfectly. Also, doesn't he look dashing in a bow tie? 

We had so much fun celebrating Christmas that night! Delicious dinner, great company, good conversation... and of course lots of presents :) It all  made for a lovely evening. 

Here is a video of Klair opening her favorite present of the night. Thanks Grandma and Papa Duke! (she also has her pajamas that they got her draped around her neck because she loves scarves. Apparently I wear them all the time and she's picked up on it...)

On Christmas Eve we had Sam's brother and his family over for breakfast. Klair has two little girl cousins who love her, and it was really fun to see them all play together. After her birthday, our celebrations last Sunday, and opening some presents Christmas eve morning, Klair was a certified professional present un-wrapper. She destroyed that wrapping paper. She was so excited about the prospect of opening presents that we had to keep her away from the tree. If I wasn't watching close enough she would make a bee-line for the tree and rip wrapping paper off before I could intervene. 

We let her near the presents for this photo opp. Luckily this particular visit with the presents didn't result in too much damage. 

Christmas Eve night we had my mom, and my sister and her family over for dinner and a movie. We had pizza and brownies (my own personal favorite) because we wanted to keep it simple. Afterward we opened presents and watched Elf (because no Christmas is complete without it).  We really enjoyed their company and it was a perfect way to spend Christmas with my family. 

...And then it was Christmas morning. 
Complete with Christmas jammies!

Here's a photo of Sam with all of his stocking spoils. I may have gone a little overboard...? It just doesn't feel like Christmas without some treats. 

This is a video of Klair unwrapping her talking dog. It  demonstrates her rapidly developing skills in the art of unwrapping presents:

We felt that Rosie needed some treats, and Sam even wrapped them up all pretty.

Sam's self-proclaimed two favorite gifts. His boots and his midi-controller keyboard. Immediately after taking this photo he put his boots on, and he played with his keyboard all day. He even wrote a song! He's impressive like that. 

After all of the unwrapping fun, Klair decided the best way to spend her time would be to climb into Sam's empty shoe box. A room full of toys and this was her first choice :) 

Sam saved my best present for last. For several days before Christmas one of our spare bedrooms became off limits to me. He told me my present was in there, and made me promise not to go in. And I didn't. Not because I wasn't curious because trust me, the thought crossed my mind. But I knew that if I went in there I wouldn't be able to lie if he asked me if I had peeked. I'm a terrible liar. Thus, I avoided the room like a plague.
And, although I had my suspicions, I couldn't have imagined it would be this awesome!
(Keep in mind, there was nothing in this room before)
... He got me a sewing machine! .... and a desk, a lamp, some storage boxes, and a picture frame complete with a picture of Klair.  Isn't he sweet?  He even placed all my craft supplies in the drawers. This space is so perfect and conducive to creativity. 
I love it.

I've been wanting a sewing machine for awhile now--not because I'm a sewer, but because I want to be one. This year I made Klair a quilt (well, to be honest I'm still working on it--I need to finish the binding) and it sparked a desire in me to sew more. After all, I have a daughter! I would love to be able to sew her pretty little dresses and patch up the holes in her knees. I'm excited to learn and I'm feeling hopeful that maybe I inherited some abilities from my talented relatives. 

This is me hugging my beautiful present. It seemed like the most logical thing to do. 

We spent the morning playing with Klair and all of her new toys (she would play with one for 5 minutes, and move onto the next). After her nap we went to a family Christmas party with Sam's grandparents and some of his aunts, uncles and cousins. 

While we were at his Aunt and Uncle's home, Klair randomly decided to climb their stairs. It wasn't a small flight of stairs either (they have a big, beautiful two-story home). Klair simply made up her mind to do it and took off. After conquering them she naturally wanted to climb all night. It was so fun to see her learn a new feat and find such excitement in practicing it.

Overall this Christmas (and all the excitement leading up to it) was amazing. We feel so blessed to have our wonderful families, each other, and our sweet little girl. She has brought so much happiness to our lives. We both enjoyed Christmas with her more than we can say.

We feel so much gratitude in our hearts for the birth of our Savior, and the opportunity we have had to celebrate Him. We have so much. He has given us everything.  Looking through these photos and reflecting on the last few weeks has given me a fresh perspective on my life. I am grateful. And, I feel inspired to be better--a better wife, mother, friend... a better person. I know that it's a result of the Christmas spirit--the spirit of Christ-- that has been very present in my life.

Merry Christmas everyone! And Happy New Year!
I hope this holiday season has and will continue to treat you well!

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Christmas Party and Reindeer Cookies

Last Friday we decided to throw a little Christmas themed get together with some of our close friends, complete with a white elephant gift exchange and reindeer cookies. How much more Christmassy does it get than that? The only thing we were missing was A Charlie Brown's Christmas and singing carols. Next year.


I used the party as an excuse to wear my new winter leggings. Rosie really wanted to be in the picture so we went with it. With her long, crazy curls isn't she just the cutest little winter doggy?

I saw these cookies on Pinterest and simply had to try them out. These are the kind of baked goods that I can't wait to make with Klair someday. They were so easy and yummy, I'll definitely be keeping this recipe in mind for the future. 

I feel like these cookies are pretty self explanatory. Once you have all the ingredients they are ridiculously easy to make. 

For my own little reindeer I used my favorite peanut butter chocolate chip cookie recipe (except without the chocolate chips this time in favor of the m&ms). 
For this recipe you will need: 
  • Pretzels (the gluten-free variety if you so desire)
  • Red M&M's (you get more reds in a christmas package)
  • brown, blue, and green mini M&M's
  • 1/2 cup of peanut butter
  • 1/2 cup of softened unsalted butter
  • 1/2 cup of sugar
  • 1/2 cup of brown sugar
  • 3/4 tsp of baking soda
  • 1/4 tsp of salt
  • 1/2 tsp of vanilla
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 1/2 cups of flour ( If you would like to keep this gluten-free then substitute for gluten free all purpose flour--I use Bob's Red Mill-- and add the appropriate amount of xanthum gum if required)
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Mix all of the ingredients together until well blended. Drop rounded tablespoon sized balls of dough on a cookie sheet a few inches apart. Bake for 8 to 10 minutes (I usually do eight because I prefer my cookies to be softer).  As soon as you take the cookies out, press two pretzels into them for antlers (I discovered that they look and stay in place better if they're angled slightly upward). Next, press the mini M&M's for eyes and the red ones for Rudolph's nose. 

Let the cookies cool for a few minutes, and then transfer them to a cooling rack to cool completely. And... voila! You have your very own team of reindeer. They make a great party treat, a fun neighbor gift, or they simply pair well with hot chocolate. 

 Oh, and for the record, mini M&M's are incredible. They're way better than regular M&M's. I haven't had them since I was a kid, and now realize what a shame that is. Am I the only one who is just re-realizing how devilishly good these little candies are? 

My Birthday

After all of Klair's birthday preparations, I told my husband I wanted a low-key birthday this year (my birthday comes only 11 days after Klair's). I knew he was going to be out of town on my actual birthday (the 10th) so I imagined that we would go on a nice date the weekend before and have some family over for cake and whatnot.

But, being the romantic that he is, Sam couldn't resist throwing me a surprise party. And, let's be honest, everyone loves surprise parties. Even the girl with the ba-humbug attitude towards birthdays got all giddy at the prospect of a surprise party. I say "prospect" because I discovered his plans and sort of ruined the surprise... but it was still sweet nonetheless. (I kept insisting on making plans on Friday night, and he kept turning me down... until I figured out what was going on). We still went through with the party, sans the whole hiding and jumping out thing. We had some of our close friends over, and Sam took care of everything. It was so sweet to see him cleaning the house and playing the host. I'm spoiled.

In addition to the great party that he threw, he made me this card. It made me choke up when he gave it to me. 

When people asked what to get me Sam told them that I liked movie tickets and fashionable scarves.  How cute is that? Needless to say I got lots of movie tickets and fashionable scarves... two things that I really do love.  I also ended up with two new cake stands from my sister and my best friend (probably because I'm always borrowing theirs haha). My favorite gift came form Sam of course. He got on my Pinterest and bought me a necklace that I've been wanting (so thoughtful). I would have a photo to of it, but apparently it takes awhile to ship things from Canada and I'm still waiting.

After my party, we slept in the next morning with our baby girl. It was lovely. Then, we spent the day doing some Christmas shopping and enjoying time with our Klair bear. We went to a local cafe that specializes in grilled cheese sandwiches (they even have a gluten free option) for lunch and Klair was all smiles. Apparently the love of grilled cheese is genetic.

Happy girls. Haha, I love her face in this!

That night Sam took me out for what I had originally envisioned for my birthday--dinner and a movie. We dropped Klair off at his parents and found ourselves at my favorite sushi restaurant. They gave us free dessert for my birthday and surprisingly, they even had a gluten free cheesecake.  It was kind of perfect.

Afterwards we went to see The Hunger Games because we are both big fans and somehow hadn't seen it yet. We tried taking a picture in the theater and this was the best we got. haha! In my defense the flash on Sam's phone is really bright. 

This one turned out a little better. Well, at least my eyes are open.

These are our very favorite treat. They are Guittard chocolate chips and yes, we did sneak them in. My birthday wouldn't have been complete without them.

That night it was really, ridiculously snowy. As in, I'm grateful our car has all-wheel drive. And even then, it was still a little scary. But the snow did make for a pretty evening, especially with these Christmas lights. It was nothing short of magical.

Overall it was the perfect birthday weekend. I enjoyed it very much. 

Sam left Sunday for a business trip and didn't come home until Thursday. Thus, he was gone on the actual day of my birth. Rather than sit at home feeling sorry for myself, I decided to seize the day. With Klair as my little birthday buddy, we spent the day shopping and even found time to take a leisurely afternoon nap together. It was heavenly. That night my in-laws kindly offered to babysit again so that I could go to dinner with my girlfriends. I had such a good time. It was so nice to get away and spend time with some of my favorite ladies. I needed a girl's night out. 

I decided to play the role of birthday girl and dress up a little more than usual. With a one year old I don't find many occasions outside of church to wear a dress, but it seemed as good a time as any to break the norm. I also decided to coordinate Klair's outfit to mine. Cheesy? Maybe. But it was my birthday after all. 

It was really hard to get a good photo of Klair and I with a self timer, but I finally got one.  I love her little OshKosh dress ;) 


With Sam home from his business trip we had a little get together with my family this past weekend. We had them over for dinner and brownies (I prefer brownies over cake any day). And, with that, I ended my birth-week celebrations.  Thanks to everyone who made this birthday special, especially my incredible husband! I'm one lucky girl to have so many amazing people in my life.