Our 2014 Christmas Card

Merry Christmas from my family to yours!

I had way too much fun posing the kids and their big ol' personalities for Christmas photos this year. The photo I captured of HDawg and his frustration with Little Lady June crawling off during the photo shoot is literally priceless. I almost love the back of the card as much as the front. Thank you to Minted for helping me to design and get these fabulous cards out this year!

I love looking back at old holiday cards. In fact, I save all of the cards we receive for each year, punch a hole in the corner of them and tie a ribbon through them. One of the first things I do each year when I pull out the Christmas decorations is to look through the old cards! For a look back at my family's past Christmas cards, check out our:

Merry Christmas, my sweet friends!

Gingerbread Man-ing with A Dairy Allergy

Only three more sleeps until Santa, people! That means it's time to cram in as much caroling, Christmas movies and baking as we possibly can over the next few days.

If you follow me on Instagram, you know that we spend Saturday afternoon in the emergency room after HDawg had an allergic reaction to (we think) a pecan. He has a severe dairy allergy and we already carry an EpiPen for that, but have never had to use it. Apparently the pecan did the trick, though (even though he regularly eats almonds, peanuts and cashews!), and we landed in the ER. Thankfully the nurses administered the EpiPen and this frantic momma did not have to... but it was altogether a traumatic event.

Needless to say, I'm hugging my little family a little tighter today, grateful that everyone is well and that HDawg has just about completely recovered from the reaction.

Because of his dairy (and now tree nut?! will certainly be taking him to his allergy doctor this week for a new full panel test!) allergy, we closely monitor and exclude a lot of prepackaged foods for our family. That makes Christmas parties no fun for him a lot of the time, so I wanted to create a special gingerbread man baking/decorating time for him to eat all of the dairy-free goodies he wanted.

I purchased this gingerbread mix and used Earth Balance vegan butter to make the recipe. I also whipped up a batch of dairy free buttercream frosting with a standard homemade buttercream frosting recipe by subbing in soy milk and Earth Balance. Delicious. I picked up all of the other fun, dairy-free, sugar-high cookie decor in the holiday baking aisle at Target. Tiny little gingerbread men and Christmas trees? Check.

HDawg was so excited in his little mismatched pajamas that he kept yelling out- "GINNNNNGERBREADDDD!" Thus, all the blurry photos : )

The Santa tray, tiny Christmas tree, ornaments and "Merry Christmas" banner are also from Target. Thanks to Target for partnering up with me to share some of their fun holiday products!

The Ever Evolving Nightstand Saga

A million years ago (ie. way back when here), I bought these little Ikea nightstands with grand intentions of making them over with fresh paint and new knobs and other great goodness. 

Then I went all paralyzed with the options (have you ever searched Pinterest for "Ikea Rast hack?" Yeah, you'll be scrolling for hours with the amazing results.) and couldn't decide how to refinish. Then I got a better idea... I wanted to use these for some really fun kids storage and I wanted to find "the perfect antique solid wood mismatched but-still-look-good-together nightstands" for us. 

Yes, my middle name is High Expectations. Needless to say, the great nightstand saga is still unfolding. Otherwise known as... we still have cheap, unfinished Ikea mini dressers next to our bed, years later. Woops. 

So in the mean time, I decided to make them look pretty. I gussied up the ol' Ikea piece with a shiny new gold lamp (Target), a pretty new abstract art print (Minted) and some other accessories (yes, like my college English textbook which I am, in fact, currently re-reading). I even added a little holiday flare with some sweet-smelling evergreen clippings stuffed into little corks. How cute would those be as place cards at your Christmas table? All of this added prettiness almost makes me forget that we're still talking about a cheapo piece of raw wood, yeah?!

Three cheers to Michelle for world's longest Ikea hack!

The Ultimate Toddler Christmas Gift List

If your name is HDawg, close your eyes (yes, my two-year-old reads his mom's blog, duh). Santa is about to divulge a few of his secrets from this year's Christmas list! 

HDawg has the VTech Go Go train set and it is one of his absolute favorite toys. I love this set because there are different sets that all link up together into one big track. Like a little village! This Christmas, he's getting a few add-ons like the airport and some extra cars. The amusement park and construction site look incredible too!

I will admit that we have a lotttt of books already at our house. But with my kids, "a lot" is not enough! We read so many books every day that H is at the point he can recite most of them. And he's outgrown the "baby" books and is ready for lengthier story books. So this Christmas, we stocked up on a bunch of new books like Harold and the Purple Crayon and The Snowy Day.

All little ones love balls and we're amping it up this year with a toddler appropriate soccer goal for H.

Lego Duplo toys are always a good idea for tots. There are so many cute sets available!

I am a huge Melissa and Doug fan. We have the wooden clock puzzle and farm puzzle, and I'm eyeing the food play set and the tea set. Santa may or may not be bringing H the latch board, as well!

There is nothing cuter than the Little People sets. Both of my kids love them! The Little People farm and nativity set are huge hits around here. And I think these sweet Little People Disney Princesses will pop up in someone's stocking this Christmas.

Check out lots more amazing toddler-friendly toys at Target. Don't forget, they have free shipping through the end of the year on all orders! Thanks to Target for partnering up with me to share some of my favorite toddler toys.

Handmade Gift Ideas for Decor Lovers & Babies + Kids

There's nothing better than watching someone open up a Christmas gift and look genuinely happy and excited about the gift that you chose for them. Well, unless you made that gift like a rockstar DIYer. Handmades gifts are one of the best ways to tell someone- "hey, I love you so much that I broke out the glue gun for you." Or something like that.

So if you're feeling inspired to go the handmade route this Christmas (or if your wallet is telling you it's time to be frugal on gifts this year!), I've rounded up a few of my favorite handmade gift ideas for the home decor lover and the babies +  kiddos in your life. 

Ho ho ho! Are you making any other fun handmade gifts this year?

A Woodsman Chic Christmas Mantel

Woodsmen chic. That's a thing, right? Well, this year it is at my house. Mr. Woodsmen and his cute flannel self inspired my 2014 Christmas mantel.

I paired this woodsmen nutcracker ($10!) with some wooden objects (like my favorite Threshold wooden vase and this wooden star) and trees (these tiny white bottle trees are from JoAnn's). Gotta make my man in plaid comfortable with trees and wood, amiright? I also added some holly leaves from my front yard, my twiggy silver reindeer from year's past, a mason jar with tiny ornaments, some vintage red + green books and this felt holly garland. We use our fireplace all of the time and I didn't want the stockings in the way, so I opted to hang our classic monogrammed velvet stockings on the bookshelf on the other side of the room.

While I'm certainly crushing on Mr. Woodsmen and his awesome beard, I have to say that my favorite part of this year's mantel is the wooden star. It's such a powerful reminder of the reason for the season and the star that led so many to worship the brand new baby Jesus. 

Thanks to Target for partnering up with me to share some of their fun Christmas holiday decor!

Want to see more Christmas mantels? Check out some of my favorite past mantels.

All three of those posts have link parties with hundreds of your best holiday mantels, so be sure to check them all out!

Also, hop over to my Instagram account (@tenjuneblog) to enter to win free toys from Target's boutique toy line today! Contest open until 8 AM on Wednesday, December 3, 2014. #TenJuneTargetToys

It's The Season of Giving

While it's important to me and my family to focus on giving back year round, there's something about the holiday season that strengthens that focus. I think it's because we are so incredibly blessed and find ourselves extra happy and thankful during the holidays, it only makes sense to share what we have with those in need.

This year, I want to try and impress as much of that spirit that I can on HDawg and his two-year-old little self (let's just be honest, Little Lady June at 9 months old is not going to catch on yet!).

First off, I want to make sure H knows that we are blessed. David and I sat down with H and asked him- "what do you want to say thank you for?" We made a "thankful jar" filled with notes about the things we're thankful for this season... he said "my friends" and "Thanksgiving" (which kind of sounds like "ice-giving" in two-year-old speak) which we put in the bucket with some of mine and David's thanks for our faith, our health and, above all, our family. Our little H has been so sweet about reminding us of what we're thankful for and what's in our thankful jar, so I'm so happy we shared this little activity with him.

I also want to make sure he starts to grasp the concept of giving back. The kids' school was doing a food drive a few weeks ago for a local organization that supports the elderly. H helped me shop for non-perishable food items. He also helped me load up the items in a bag and drop them off at his school to be delivered to the elderly center. It was clear that he took a lot of pride in donating the food. In fact, he told his teacher "I share my peanut butter with the people!" after we dropped off the items which included jars of peanut butter. That's right, buddy, you did!

We've also decided as a family to make it a priority to organize and donate some of our gently used clothing. David recently lost some weight (okay... a lot of weight- almost 60 pounds!) and has a bunch of extra clothes that don't fit him. Couple that with all of the baby clothes Little Lady June has already outgrown (Miss Chunk is pretty much in all 12 month clothing!) and we have a lot of extra clothes around our house that we want to pass on to those in need.

Over the weekend, I brought out a few baskets and we sat down in front of the fire as a family and folded the clothes to donate. We talked about where they might go and who might wear them. It was a special time, gathered and working together as a family to hopefully help another family.

This holiday season, one of my favorite retailers has decided to get in the spirit of giving back, too. Target has teamed up with TOMS with a great line of products that are not only adorable but also make a difference.

For every item purchased, Target and TOMS are giving blankets, meals or shoes. For example, that soft, fuzzy TOMS blanket covering HDawg's sweet little toes while we folded clothes to give away? I purchased that blanket and Target and TOMS will give either a blanket to the American Red Cross or one week of meals to Feeding America. Same with that pretty grey cable knit TOMS sweater- I purchase, Target and TOMS gives a blanket to the ARC. Isn't that awesome?

You can check out the Target + TOMS items at your local Target store or online.

I'm grateful to Target for partnering up with me to share this great collaboration with all of you. I think it's so important to give back and to share that spirit with our little ones. 

How do you give back during the holiday season?

The Paper Lover's Delight: Christmas Cards and Art Gift Ideas

It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas...! Every year, I love sharing with y'all one of my favorite holiday traditions- the Christmas card. It makes me so happy to run to the mailbox every day during the Christmas season and find a beautiful card highlighting our friends and family. I actually go so far as to save every card we receive and make a book for each year- just punch a hole in the corner of each card and string a ribbon through. Voila! A Christmas card book for each year.

This year, we ordered our cards again from Minted. I'll share the final result once we get them back from the printer, but above are some of my favorite options Minted has available this year. 

I also love their new ornament shaped cards. These are sure to stand out from the crowd of standard rectangle Christmas cards!

Minted also has a new holiday card booklet for 2014. Such a cute idea to share with your family and friends not only photos of your family, but stories and information about your year. It's sort of the revived "family update letter" that we grew up with. Love it.

You can check out all of Minted's Christmas cards right here. This year, Minted is offering free recipient addressing, which is pretty much amazing. Type your addresses in and they do all the work for you! Through the end of today, you can save 15% on your cards with the code: HAPPYHOL15. Be on the lookout later this week, as Minted will have some awesome Black Friday/Cyber Monday sales available! 

As if these adorable Christmas cards aren't enough, Minted also has upped their game when it comes to art prints. They've got an amazing selection of limited edition prints that you can check out here. I can't even tell you how many hours I have spent looking through their pieces. I love sooo many!

Not only are these beautiful, but there are some affordable prices, too. And Minted offer framing options! I think the art lover on your Christmas list would be more than happy with any of these pieces, don't you? I'm hoping a couple of these abstract pieces end up under the tree for me.

Have you ordered your Christmas cards yet?!

For a blast to the past or a little Christmas card inspiration, check out our illustrated 2013 Minted Christmas cardour 2012 Christmas card (hint: there was a naked baby involved!) and our 2011 Christmas post card.

Thanks to Minted for partnering up with me to share their 2014 holiday collections!

DIY Toddler Busy Bag Popsicle Color Matching Game

Back in September, I was asked to be part of a toddler busy bag exchange with a few other bloggers. Life got a little hectic and I never shared my tutorial for the busy bag I created. For those of you searching for some DIY inspiration for Christmas gifts for the toddler or baby in your life, I thought I'd share now! It's cute, it's simple and the kiddos love it- a popsicle color matching game.

Simply round up several colors of felt and cut two matching popsicle shapes from each piece. Also cut a tiny square from each color felt piece. Use fabric glue to connect each matching felt piece, but leave a space at the bottom unglued (along the straight edge) about two inches wide.

Next, glue each color felt square swatch to the bottom of a large popsicle stick. Once everything dries, you'll be able to match each popsicle stick to the popsicle through the opening you left unglued. Easy peasy! This will teach your toddler or baby their colors as well as a little hand-eye coordination and small motor skills as they attempt to put the pieces together. Store the kit in a cute pencil pouch (I got this one at Target) and you've got a fun game for the car or anytime momma needs a few minutes of quiet time! You can check out my busy bag in action over on Julia's blog.

Here are the girls who participated in the busy bag exchange. These are some fabulous blogging mommas, so make sure to check them out!

Colleen at Meet the Sullivans
Emily at Dear Owen
Natasha at Schue Love
Erin at Hello Erin

Going for A Stroll

Lately, I've really been making it a priority to be intentional with my time. With David, with the kids, with my family, with my friends. I want my time with them to mean something. These little boogers are growing at Jack and the Magic Beanstalk speed. Like, Little Lady June is trying to walk, y'all. It's all happening so quickly! So I never want to be absent from my time with them (or any loved ones!) just because I was busy playing on my phone or being distracted by something. It's all about the quality time, am I right?

A lot of the quality time I spend with my kids is outside. Unfortunately, the cold weather dragged itself into Georgia this weekend (and everywhere! boo, polar vortex!) but we luckily soaked up the beautiful weather all fall. 

A few weeks ago, we took our new stroller for a ride around the neighborhood. The stroller is part of the Maxi-Cosi Bohemian Collection. Check out those colors. Pretty fun, right?

Little Lady June is all, yeah, I'm wearing stripes and I match my stroller. Kickin.

I love that this stroller is lightweight and easy to fold up. It's kind of like a fancy umbrella stroller. I think this would be a perfect stroller to travel with- I can just see it jaunting through an airport swiftly and comfortably and easily being folded as a carry on as you step onto the plane. I will say that I was a little disappointed the stroller had two handles to push instead of a bar across the top... that makes it harder for mommas like me to push with one hand while juggling a toddler who is simultaneously trying to climb a wall/tree/bench/dog/fill in the blank.

I didn't get a picture of him in the stroller (he must have been too busy swinging like a big boy in his faux toddler Ray Bans... which he refuses to take off most days), but HDawg loved it too. So, it's light, cute and my kids like it? Win win.

How do you spend quality time with your kiddos or loved ones? Are you in the market for a new stroller?

*The stroller was provided to me by Maxi-Cosi but opinions, faux toddler Ray Bans and cute babies belong solely to me.

Black + Glossy Entryway Update

Lately, I've been working on a little project that I like to call "operation get my entryway's act together." Just in time for the coats and hats and scarves and boots and book bags and mittens and purses and shopping bags galore, I want to get our front door area organized and pretty.

In particular, I've got one big element I'm focusing on. Here are two hints: black + glossy. Okay, wait, my Pinterest boards have a little bit more to say.

Go ahead, call me Captain Obvious. But I can't wait to share once the project is complete! (which we all know may be in 42 years... will y'all still be here in 42 years to see it?!)

Blogger Busy Box Swap

When you're a momma of little ones, one of your most valuable resources is other moms. There is truly nothing better than being able to call or email a friend who also has a two-year-old and an infant to get some of their sage advice or just to share war stories. 

I've been fortunate enough to find myself in an amazing group of momma bloggers with kids who are similarly aged. In the past, we've done some fun swaps for our kids like our Secret Santa swap. For this back-to-school fall season, we decided to do a homemade busy box swap. 

A busy box or bag is simply a little kit created to keep a toddler busy for about a ten minute period. Each busy box includes a learning concept designed to teach our little one while keeping them entertained. A busy box is perfect for a car trip or to keep HDawg busy while I'm nursing Little Lady June.

We each made a busy box for another little one in the group. Here are the gals who participated!

Colleen at Meet the Sullivans
Emily at Dear Owen
Natasha at Schue Love
Erin at Hello Erin

We were lucky enough to receive a busy box gift from my sweet friend Natasha and her little boy Ethan. HDawg got the perfect busy box for him... alphabet magnets in a tin camo box!

H is obsessed with the alphabet right now and is constantly pointing out in books, road signs, etc. his favorite letters. "MOMMMMMA! IT'S A 'D' FOR DADDYYYY! V FOR VEGGABLE! LOOK, IT'S S FOR SNAKESSSSS!" This cute little metal lunchbox not only holds the magnet letters but he can use the box itself as a magnet board! So cute. As he was playing with the box he kept yelling out "THANK YOU ETHAN!!!!" He was just so excited. This is going to be a great busy box for us to take on an upcoming road trip.

Head on over to Julia's blog, Life in Transition, to see the busy bag I made for her little girl!

Busy boxes are seriously so easy and fun and there are a ton of great ideas on Pinterest if you're interested in making one for your kids or their friends. Each of us will be sharing the tutorial for the busy box we made next Tuesday and I think we'll make it a fun little party with a blog link up. Whatcha think? Anyone interested in making and sharing a fun busy box idea?!

Six Natural Skin Care Products to Love

Last year, I made it a personal goal to enhance my skin care routine. While my lovely golden age of thirty is certainly not old, I ain't no spring chicken. I started shopping a few natural products and began testing them out to find out what worked best for me. Then I got pregnant again, like a minute later (hey, Little Lady June!), and my skin went wack with preggo hormones and I sort of gave up on really setting roots with my new skincare routine.

But, here I am, six month post-partum and ready to get my skin back on track. Through several trials and tribulations, I have finally mastered a mostly natural skin care routine that I love.

Let me start by saying that I prefer to use products without parabens, dyes, phthalates, sulfates and other crazy chemicals (yes, that's a scientific term). I'm sure there are some other outrageous, wrinkle-preventing mega beauty products out there but while I'm nursing and have kids licking my face on a daily basis these natural products are a priority for me.

So. My nightly routine. Wash off the makeup/pureed sweet potatoes/craft paint from my face with the Alba pineapple wash. My friend Courtney introduced me to this product line and I love it. The cleanser gets all of my makeup off and leaves me feeling clean but not too squeaky, if you know what I mean. Plus the pineapple smells delicious. When I don't have makeup to wash off or sometimes to wake me up the mornings, I wash my face with the St. Ives scrub just to give myself some extra buff. The green tea extract in the St. Ives scrub makes my face feel totally refreshed, it's awesome. And now I sound like a commercial. FYI for you pregnant mommas out there, there is salicylic acid in the St. Ives green tea scrub so I didn't start using this product until after LLJ came along.  Both the Alba and the St. Ives products can be found at the drugstore, which is great on the wallet and convenience factor.

Next, I use the Korres face serum. I'm pretty new to this product, but I love the natural ingredients and their firming/smoothing technology. I put one squirt in my palm and use on my face and neck. Next, I follow up with the Korres moisturizer which IS. THE. BOMB. Seriously, y'all. I love it. I took a brief hiatus from it when I stopped working for six months earlier this year because I thought, self, you don't need to pay $40 for moisturizer. I tried a few drugstore varieties and couldn't find anything I loved. Now I'm back to the Wild Rose moisturizer and I'm obsessed. It's the perfect weight- not too heavy, not too light and feels great, even under makeup. Love it.

Then my tired little eyes and their friends, Bags McGee, get a nice dose of the eye serum. Something about the tea extract in this makes everything feel better in the world of puffy eyes. I've even had friends remark that my eyes were looking good once I regularly started using this product.

As for the St. Ives lotion, it's a little heavy for me to use ever day, but I keep it in my purse for when I'm having dry, patchy moments.

So there you have it, my six favorite natural skin care beauty products. I like that I have a good mix of drugstore and "nicer" products. Next up, I need to lock down a great vitamin routine. Any suggestions? I have been taking prenatal vitamins since the summer of 2011 (yes, seriously) so I am way behind in the vitamin world!

Loving Lately: Kilim Throw Pillows

I don't know if it's their cozy fall-like vibe or their super chic patterns, but I just can't get enough of kilim throw pillows these days. They are super cool and add the perfect dose of texture to any space. I've been a little hesitant to pull the trigger on a kilim pillow for our home because they're a little pricey and, well, let's be honest, everything in my house right now is covered with a nice layer of soy milk and spit up. Sooooo. Do you think vintage kilim fabrics are machine washable? Mhm.

Needless to say, I'm loving me some kilim pillows lately. What are your favorite kilim sources?

Hey, Hey, Hey

Well, hello there! Remember me? Your old pal, Michelle. 

Seriously, who says "pal" anymore? Clearly I haven't been in the blogging game for awhile....

Y'all, it's been a great summer. The last time I checked in, I was hanging out with my sweet babies (HDawg will be TWO YEARS OLD and Little Lady June will be SIX MONTHS OLD at the end of this week... where has the time gone?!), working hard at my new job and, well, living it up and been spending most my life living in a gangster's paradise.Truthfully, I'm happy to report that's been the status quo around here!

For awhile there, I kind of lost the taste for all things blogging. I even sort of lost the touch for interior design and had thoughts like, "why the HECK do people waste so much time on decorating your house and, even worse, doing projects yourself?" I ain't got time for that. Especially when you've got fat baby necks to kiss on and 400 diapers to change each day. I was pretty much on the "handmade-stuff-is-for-the-birds" train. 

But then, just like that, I woke up and sort of missed it all. Instead of launching my West Elm and Pottery Barn catalogs into the recycling bin, I pored through them. My stack of Better Homes and Gardens mags actually got read. I started thinking about interior design again and how much I wanted to start a new project, get my hands on something creative. Boom. I'm back.

So that's where I am today. I definitely don't expect myself to be jumping back on the DIY bandwagon and taking on, say, a full bathroom renovation or a complete living room overhaul. But maybe I'll sew up a pillow or two and share some fun projects I'm working on for HDawg's birthday party!

As always, I'm all about sharing what inspires me. Here are a few things that have tickled my fancy as I get back into the interior design world.

I saw this chair on Dana's blog many moons ago, but it's kind of come back and haunted me. Buyyyy me, Michelle! You know you want me at your desk every dayyyyy! I should totally take the plunge, right?

Better Homes and Gardens magazine is one of my favorites. Instead of ripping out pages of the magazine and storing them in my inspiration binder like I used to back in the day, I whip out my iPhone and snap a picture of the magazine itself for Pinterest. Doesn't make for the best photo quality, but it keeps all of my inspiration in one place.

Totally inspired by this black + white, simple entryway. So many textures!

Also from BHG. But seriously, I need this porch.

My sister just painted her pantry door turquoise and it looks all kinds of fabulous. Jenny from Little Green Notebook did the same... I think I need to jump on this train, I love it.

Speaking of amazing colors, these hues from a Design*Sponge article make me want to redo my master bedroom in these romantic tones. Maybe I will....

Another crappy iPhone photo of a catalog, but this Pottery Barn living room knocked. it. out. of. the. park. with me. I love it all... the chandelier, the gold hex side table, the distressed wood + iron accents, the velvet drapes, the fall colors. Yup, I'll take it all. Totally on point.

This art display? Insanely good. Please let's duplicate on my living room wall. K, thanks. Photograph by Nicole, photo found on sfgirlbybay.

Since I'm a little more sparse on the blog these days, come follow me on Instagram or Pinterest where you can keep up with my daily shenanigans, including lots of fat baby necks.
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