Monday, December 26, 2016

Parker Campbell: 3.75 Years

Our sweet Parker Campbell Klein...


This little love is three going on sixty-five. He's an old soul - a lover of classical music and sushi dinners. He's been called precocious on more than one occasion, and is most definitely wise beyond his years. Parker is super sensitive just like his Mama - he's the first to give you a hug to "make you feel better" if you are sad, and just loves snuggling and "getting cozy" :) He's a thinker like his Daddy and wants to learn how all kinds of things work, from clocks to cars to pin setters at the bowling alley. And of course, he's all boy. He'd love nothing more than to spend all day in the backyard playing tee ball, stacking rocks, riding his tricycle and running around. 


 New this fall was hearing him talk about his days at preschool! Parker attends just three mornings a week, but even this was a big change from being with Mama all day everyday. His preschool is a Montesorri inspired outdoor school on twenty-plus acres (and houses gardens, a creek and even goats!). The non-traditional feel and outside-the-box thinking it inspires feels like the perfect fit for our little man. He gets weekly Spanish lessons here, which we follow up with at home, so Parker can now count to his teens in Spanish and also loves practicing other words as well.


Parker has been fascinated with clocks since age 1.5 when he asked (via baby sign language) for a watch for Christmas. He's since learned to tell time on analog clocks pretty accurately, and is always checking that we are on time. His request from Santa this year? A twenty-four hour-clock for his room :)


Parker is obsessed with writing. He's been able to identify all letters since age two, but now writes most of them as well. He has a phenomenal memory, and is more interested in writing words other than his name. Over Halloween, he picked up how to write "witch" all on his own, and would want to write this instead of Parker. He will fill notebook after notebook with his writing, and actually loves writing numbers more than letters. He has taken to doing addition number sentences all on his own, and will also do equations mad-professor style orating while he works on his easel or wall chalkboard.



Parker also started piano lessons this fall. For well over a year now, Parker has been enamored with orchestras and instruments. He has been asking almost just as long to play violin, but we're starting with the piano which is working perfectly. In his short three months of lessons, he's learned to play many notes with both his right and left hands, and can do several songs. He had his first piano recital this month and played Jingle Bells (to the delight of his oh-so proud parents).



We continue to be mostly "screen free" with Parker. We are still television-less at home, and have been since we moved into the house in December of 2014. There's something very peaceful and pleasant about not having a T.V. running, especially at night. For Parker, I think the absence of television has encouraged his imagination, creativity and ingenuity. It's the idea of not having something on which he relies for entertainment. In the car he observes the world through the window, or requests his favorite songs to be played (right now it's Adele and Beethoven). Neither Max nor I have any kid apps on our phones, but we do let Parker check the weather if he asks. This has been a great way for him to learn his larger numbers! 


Parker does have the option of viewing a short video clip at home (a YouTube "how it's made" short, or Elmo's World) or playing on his (thirty year-old) Apple II computer as reward options. These were used when we were potty-training, and also from time to time as incentives for his very best manners or attention (for example after a fancy dinner or piano lessons). He has watched one full-length movie to date: Finding Nemo (over the summer). We popped popcorn and viewed it as a family on the monitor in Max's office. Parker thought it was the best thing ever :)


In his own words...
(With his hand to his mouth like a microphone): Please wait for assistance.

My seatbelt is still fastened. (Explaining why he can't leave his seat at the dinner table, pretending to be on a plane mid-flight.)

We're exchanging maps! (After asking Mama to switch her World placemat for his "Ooohh-nited States" one.) 

Can you put my dinner right where Mississippi is? (Pointing to the USA placemat on the table.)

I'm getting myself hydrated. (Drinking water.)

Should we go to the Porsche dealer and pick out my car? (Talking about being able to drive at age sixteen.)



Friday, December 16, 2016

Friday Faves

Friday Favorites from the most wonderful time of the year...

 1. 


I put together Parker's teacher gifts this week, and I adore them! He has six different teachers at his preschool that we wanted to buy for, so I wanted to keep the price for each one reasonable. I was so excited to see the Spode Christmas Tree oven mitts on sale at Kohl's for half of what I normally see them going for! You can still find them on sale here. I own two of the Spode Christmas tree mitts and love, love, love them. For the presents, I combined the oven mitts with bamboo kitchen utensils from Target. They come in packs of three, which worked out perfectly since I needed six (I purchased two packs and used the utensils as singles). I'm hoping the teachers enjoy the mitts just as much as I do!



2. 

Speaking of teachers, we are so thankful for them! Parker's preschool is outdoor based and nontraditional (so we don't get very many papers or projects sent home), but my Mama heart was so happy to get these yesterday!


Here's more from this little guy (Q&A idea swiped from Little Baby Garvin because I thought it was so adorable!)

1. What is on your Christmas list? 
My Christmas list is, I need a big bed and a red dinosaur, I really been wanting that red dinosaur. And a twenty-four-hour clock.

2. What is the best part about Christmas?
Track 18 (which is Frosty the Snowman on the Michael BublĂ© Christmas CD we have been listening to in the car).

3. Where does Santa live?
In the North Pole.

4. What are the names of Santa's reindeer?
Red nose reindeer. 

5. What do you think Santa's favorite food is?
Chocolate. Chocolate cookies.

6. What will Santa bring Mommy and Daddy for Christmas?
You want an Apple watch!

3.
We've been keeping up with our advent calendar for daily holiday related activities...


Most of these were just saved from last year, so I'm planning on storing them and reusing for as many years as I can!


Since the Q-tip painting was such a hit, we painted more paper Christmas trees but this time with pom poms and clothespins (which made bigger "ornaments").



 4.

 

Each December, I usually display the Christmas cards we receive by pinning them on ribbon that's either wrapped around our staircase or framing a window, but this year I was feeling more minimalist. I blame The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up - it's a must-read if you haven't already, and will inspire you to have the cleanest most organized home possible.


Anyway, instead of making a big display, I've been doing what I usually wait until January to do: I've been hole punching our cards as we receive them, and binding them with loose-leaf rings to make a book. Our card goes in the front as the cover. I've been doing this for years now, and I love bringing the books out each December and looking back on years past. Of course each year my stash gets a bit bigger so I'm not sure how sustainable it is, however it's working for now!


I also have a book going just for Parker. Each December, I add our Christmas card from that year, with the idea being that he'll one day have a collection of all our cards. The first card in the book is the one we sent out when I was pregnant, and this year he's just obsessed with it and how he was "in Mommy's tummy!"



5.
Yesterday I wrote about the Ornament Swap party I attended for Junior League. We played Secret Santa style, and you know the gift you brought is a good one when it's stolen the maximum number of times!


My gift was this ornament from Nordstrom, mostly because "y'all" is officially part of my vocabulary now that I'm a Southerner ;) It was stolen in the game the very last time from my Provisional Chair (who has been an amazing help to me with the league this year), so today I ordered her one of her own as a holiday gift. Order here through Ebates right now and you'll get 6% cash back on all Nordstrom items! (On a side note, tons of our Christmas shopping was done via Ebates this year and I feel so efficient! Instead of a random site getting the commission for advertising, it all comes back to me - score!).

Ebates Coupons and Cash Back


Wishing you all the coffee with extra whip this Friday!





Thursday, December 15, 2016

Life Lately

Life lately has been full of festive fun! 


Last night, Parker played in his very first piano recital! It was a holiday concert at the conservatory where he's been taking lessons for the past three months. The song was a simple Jingle Bells that he knows forwards and backwards, yet my poor Mama self was just so nervous for this little guy beforehand. It would be his first time ever performing for an audience - and at the tender age of three-and-a-half no less! I had a glass of red to calm my nerves before we all took off to drive the four minutes to the historical house where the concert was taking place. Parker was second to play, yet the youngest by far. My Mama heart was just bursting as he so confidently walked right up to the piano with his music, climbed up on the bench and played for everyone. Unfortunately when I get super nervous or uncomfortable, I laugh... and I was definitely having to hold in my giggles as this sweet little guy played. I was so wrapped in nerves that immediately afterward, I wouldn't have been able to tell you if Parker even played the correct song, ha! Luckily Max recorded the performance on video, so I was able to watch it afterward - and Parker did play so accurately and well!


We love Parker's piano teacher - she is just so good with him, and I'm beyond impressed with what she's already done in just a few short months.



The night before, we had Parker's preschool's Winterfest! Max was on business in Rhode Island this night, so it was a Mama/Parker date :)


Parker's favorite part? Dancing to the music with his friends! Though I think the sweets were a hit with him as well. He helped me make brownie bites earlier in the day, which we brought to add to the pot-luck style spread. 


To make, we just did a boxed brownie mix that I poured into mini muffin pans instead of a big baking dish. Once baked and cooled, I piped on melted white chocolate (tinted with green food dye), and topped with sprinkles! So festive and fun!


The night before that (Monday night) was my ornament swap party for the Junior League Provisional Class. I ended up with this darling gold ornament with the nativity painted on it and I just adore it ... and by "ended up with" I mean I totally stole it in a very lively game of Secret Santa Ornament Edition ;)

Going even further back in time, we had a Nana and Papa visit this past weekend!

We all braved the cold and had lots of Christmas fun (especially the tiny guy in the middle!).

We have been going nonstop it feels like, so tonight I'm ready to take a cue from Lady :) Her robe was a gift from Sweet P - he spotted it at Target and said he thought Lady would like something cozy (melt my heart) so we just had to put it in our cart!

Happy Christmastime!

Friday, December 9, 2016

Friday Five

1. It's the most wonderful time of the year... and the crazy busiest! The first week of December was full of commitments and events, and next week is looking to be just as packed. Last night I helped host my provisional project for Junior League... and after coming home and setting up Lady's marshmallow bubble bath, I ran one of my own (sans marshmallows, ha!).

2.
We've been advent calendaring with holiday activities for each day in December. On Monday, Parker handed out candy canes to all the Huntsville Library employees :) 

Wednesday's activity was visiting Santa Claus! Sweet Parker won Santa over, using his very best manners and asking him for a twenty-four hour clock.


3.
Nap time this week was spent addressing our Tiny Prints Christmas cards...

Am I the only one who hoards Christmas stamps? These gingerbread ones are from years ago, and I have snowflakes and the new Christmas window collection as well... I always stock up just in case I can't make it to the post office one year, except that I do it every single year. They're all the forever stamps so I suppose it's not a bad investment ;) 



I wrote here about DIYing your family photo... I ended up selecting this one above for the front of our card, and talked about our year on the back:



4.
My favorite nap time activity, though, is chalkboarding of course!

Even the playroom chalkboard got a festive makeover!


5.
Max was in London this week, six hours ahead of us. Parker seemed like he was trying to get on London time as well, waking up earlier and earlier each morning this week... pre-sunrise kind of early. So, we did his Tuesday advent calendar activity in the dark of the morning before preschool (and still had plenty of time for breakfast, getting dressed, and even more playing before it was time to leave).


He loved it so much we busted out the paints and paper trees the following mornings as well, joined by ginormous cups of coffee for Mommy :)


If you're looking to do the same project with your little one, you'll need:

Q-tips
Crayola Washables
An empty plastic egg crate
Green card stock cut in the shape of a Christmas Tree

*I also like putting down parts of cardboard boxes to serve as a workspace

The Q-tips help keep the colors from mixing, and bonus - they're a breeze to clean up since they go straight into the trash afterwards.


Have a happy holiday weekend!!






Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Holiday Hosting!

I love hosting in December! Since our house is always decked out for Christmas, the parties are extra festive (and extra easy as there is no need for more decorations!). Max and I came up with a genius idea for our hosting this year: we had two different parties to host - one for his division at work, and one for my Bunco group (I always leap at the hosting calendar for Bunco when it comes out so I can secure December!). Our genius idea? To host the parties two days apart, with the same exact menu. We had around twenty people on each respective guest list (ladies only for Bunco), so that helped in that we needed similar amounts of everything. Hosting them back-to-back was great since we just stayed in party hosting mode, and the best part was serving the same foods twice. We didn't have any cross-over in guests, so all of this worked (I even wore the same dress for both parties!). 


My favorite part about our parties this year? The champagne bar! In addition to red and white wines, I put out an ice bucket of champagne along with three different champagne cocktail recipes. It was a hit! We went through seven bottles of champagne at Bunco alone! We have tons of identical and inexpensive wine and champagne glasses for this exact purpose, so wine charms are a must to let guests identify their beverages. These gold numbered ones are darling and these gemstone ones would make a fabulous gift! 


I love cranberries at Christmastime, and since we have a ginormous rosemary bush, I combined the two for a festive drink garnish. To make, just spear several cranberries with a toothpick to create holes, and thread a sprig of rosemary through (remove the rosemary from the stem on the part that will do the threading). On a side note - rosemary is super easy to grow. It also seems to thrive in any environment (even the Scottsdale desert). I planted our Alabama rosemary with my Mom in the spring of 2015 and it's still going strong, and has gone from a teeny tiny starter to a huge bush. It does seem to go a bit dormant in the dead of winter (it snows here in Huntsville) but springs back after.


I also use the cranberries for my signature holiday water (I've been doing it the exact same way since my Scottsdale holiday parties). I fill a beverage canister with tons of ice, add cranberries and sliced oranges, then cover in water. My beverage canister was a gift from my Mom, and while it only makes a few cameos each year, it's one of my very favorite things! (Similar beverage canister found here.)


Our menu was a mix of purchased and homemade dishes, all of which could be prepared ahead of time (so nice when you're feeding twenty-ish people). When it came time for dinner, everything was being warmed on the stove, in a crockpot or in a roaster, and guests just served themselves buffet-style.


I read somewhere that real silverware makes eating so much more pleasurable versus eating with plastic. It makes sense - we wanted something that would hold up to the tamales, ha! I always bring out our beautiful engraved silverplate flatware (gifted from Parker's Gigi), and it makes everything seem even more festive. Bonus, it's dishwasher safe so we just toss them all in when the party is over. For dishes, Parker's Nana gifted us the gorgeous Spode Christmas Tree dinnerware. I feel the same way about the plates - they are too pretty to not use, and just like the silverplate, they go straight into the dishwasher post-party. It's actually so perfectly loaded at the end of the night since everything matches! I did purchase some extra matching dinner plates this year since we were hosting up to twenty. We felt it was a good investment since we'll definitely be hosting lots more holiday dinners over the years.



For the appetizers, simple and make-ahead was key. This goat cheese with pesto was gobbled up both nights.





To make, just spread some herbed goat cheese into a bowl, top with jarred pesto and sprinkle on some toasted pine nuts.


For appetizer labels, I used a chalkboard pen on black paper to mimic a blackboard (because I'm a bit chalkboard obsessed). 


The Bunco party was first, and proved to be a bit more rowdy as it was a bunch of ladies, and we had the late night rounds of Bunco to boot! 

I did come away with a few ideas and pointers for Max's work party - for example, the Buntinis I served at the Bunco dinner weren't labeled with the flavors. One of the Bunco gals suggested topping the raspberry vanilla ones with raspberries, and the lemon ones with lemon zest, which I did for the second party.


I think it made them look even more adorable! 

I ended up doing all the flowers myself. Costco has such a beautiful selection and the best prices in town. I purchased one holiday greenery bunch, one bunch of red roses and one of white hydrangea, which was enough for several displays. I just love the red rose/white hydrangea combo!


Holiday festive makes me happy!

Are you doing any holiday hosting this year?

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