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Saturday
Dec202014

Why I Send New Year's Cards (+ 7 Tips for Writing Them!)

My love of paper, letters, and snail mail is well documented in these parts. There is no other word than “special” that describes the feeling one experiences upon receiving a personalized note after a long day’s work. And I think we all agree — it’s nice to be thought of and the holidays are the perfect time to let our loved ones know how much they mean to us. Cards are one of the best ways to do this.

Ever since I was a child (and I’m talking around 8 years old or so), I looked forward to penning a note, sealing an envelope, sticking a stamp, and sending it off to my friends. Although I may not have been able to articulate it then, I’m pretty sure I found the process grounding and meditative. It was my form of yearly reflection. Some do resolutions. I do cards. (See #1 below.)

Twenty-plus years later, I still can’t wait to send a holiday card. And, after much practice, I’ve developed a system of tips and tricks to keep it fresh. The last thing you want is your letter writing to feel like a chore or a mass-mailing.

7 Tips & Tricks for Writing the Best Holiday Cards

1. Many people recommend that you start writing your holiday letter the first week of December if not sooner (yikes!). I say, “Great, if you can do that and your schedule allows.” But don’t feel pressure to drop things into the mailbox if you’re not ready.

Hanukkah and Christmas sneak up on all of us. So in 2007, when law firm life got the best of me, I shifted gears and instead sent New Year’s cards. Giving myself the extra time helped restore the joy of holiday cards. Plus, you can stand out in the crowd when your note arrives a little later in the season, keeping the cheer alive.

Take away: If you still want to send cards, there’s plenty of time.

2. Whether you prefer family photo cards or traditional ones, I recommend heading to Target to purchase a few boxes. Without fail, I underestimate the number of cards I’ll need each year and I love that I can always find ones that are a high on design, but low in price. So, I stock up on the store’s paper atelier-like options. And any extras I don’t send, I use to adorn presents or deliver to co-workers.

Take Away: Target stocks its shelves with boutique-like holiday cards all season long, so grab a few boxes to send to loves ones or have on hand for the many holiday parties that are on the horizon. 

3. Or...make your own cards. There is no rule that you have to send pre-made ones. Use your resident artist (a.k.a. your child) and have him paint original designs. Kid Made Modern’s water color paper is of a heavier weight but feels soft, so it makes a luxe card. This year we hand painted letters to Santa.

4. Next, set the stage so card writing is a breeze. My writing mojo is thrown off when I have to address envelopes and affix stamps between each note. I groan. So, I prep by getting these boring elements out of the way.

Before sitting down to pen my letters, I address and stamp all the envelopes in advance. Then, I simply pull from the pre-addressed pile to know whom I should write, put pen to paper, then stuff the envelope. If I did it the other way, I’d have a lot of notes that would collect dust waiting for me to address them.

Take Away: Create a system for what you deem the less exciting parts of letter writing. Attack it first, so you don’t feel burdened when you sit down to write.

5. Look to the season to inspire your writing. Personally, I think holiday cards should be cheerful. To ensure I’m in a happy mood, I set up shop in my living room. I light the Christmas tree, play Christmas music from my phone, and I snack on a few cookies. Sweet sustenance is key. ; )

Take Away: Create an inspiring space for writing your cards.

6. So no two cards are alike, have a few approaches in mind when writing: Share your funniest moment from the year, draw up a top 10 list, include an appropriate quote. And, of course, end on a personal note that is specific to the recipient and comes from the heart.

Take Away: Keep it simple and have fun — it’s all about connecting and sending hugs from afar.

7. If you think holiday cards sneak up on you, thank you notes certainly do. Get a leg up by purchasing your thank you cards when you pick out your holiday ones at Target. Now that you have them, it will be easy to sit down and share your gratitude for gifts or parties while the excitement you feel is fresh.

Happy writing!

Thanks to Target, a store we shop at (all the time!) and adore, for sponsoring this post and supporting the work of Salt & Nectar. Of course, all opinions are 100% are own. Wishing everyone a Happy Holiday Season.

~ The Other Sarah

Monday
Dec152014

Holiday Hospitality and My Home

I come from a long line of Christmas decorators. My great-grandmother bought these beauiful gold wisemen we still pass down among us. My great-aunt had TWENTY tubs of Christmas decorations in her attic when she passed away. My grandmother has a Christmas tree that spins and my mother... Well, my mother takes it to a whole new level. 

Growing up, she decorated every. single. room. in our home. Every room had a Christmas tree, even if it was tiny and every surface was covered with Santas, nativity scenes, and Christmas villages. 

Holiday decorating is in my blood. Even in college I decorated for Christmas, dragging a little tree all the way from home and decorating it with several of my favorite childhood ornaments. That's how Nicholas and I began a holiday tradition we continue to this day with our children. Every year we decorate the tree while watching A Christmas Story and eating pizza. 

I love opening up the boxes of decorations every year. It feels as if every item is filled with memories whether it's my great-aunt's tree skirt or an ornament handmade by Griffin just last year. 

 

The first year we moved to Paducah I decided to open our home to our friends and family and share a little holiday cheer. I love to decorate. Nicholas loves to cook. So, it's the perfect opportunity to join forces and thank the people who have been so important to our family all year long. 

We always host it on a Sunday afternoon and give people about three hours to stop in as they please. Fridays and Saturdays fill up so quickly this time of year and we've found Sunday afternoons to be a nice compromise.

 

Kids are welcome and we serve heavy hors d'oeuvres, as well as several desserts. This year we added a cranberry Moscato punch to our usual beer, wine, and soda, which was a big hit. 

Every year I like to add a new decoration to the dining room. I love sharing my traditional decorations throughout my home but I also love freshening up the space where everyone congregates for a little something new.

This year I added several pieces from the Oh Joy! for Target collection, including her gold table runner, paper fans, and falalalala banner. I'd already added a white tree with gold accents so they were the perfect addition. 

I also like to add in fresh florals. This year my amazing friends at Flower + Furbish created large and small arrrangments in milk glass with beautiful holiday florals featuring magnolia leaves, red roses, and berries. I love to see the flowers mixed among my old and new holiday decorations.  

Every year we have the most wonderful time sharing our home with our most favorite people. We laugh and remember funny stories from the year past. The children run among us as my friends exclaim that they want the recipe for this cake or that appetizer. My home is filled with the beautiful faces of those I love the most and that is always the best Christmas gift of the year. 

Plus, my friends brings the BEST hostess presents! Seriously, how many people show up with brussel sprout branches!?!

Thanks to Target, a store we shop at (all the time!) and adore, for sponsoring this post and supporting the work of Salt & Nectar. Of course, all opinions are 100% are own. Wishing everyone a Happy Holiday Season. 

 - Sarah Stewart Holland

Thursday
Dec042014

Gingerbread House Party

Baking is an essential part of the holiday season for most families. Sharing a warm kitchen and delicious treats with those you love can put even the stubbornest of Scrooges in the holiday spirit. 

For the past several years, my girlfriends and I have gathered with our children a few days before Christmas and baked sugar cookies. Of course, the real fun part is decorating the sugar cookies with every little one piling on more icing and sprinkles than even Santa himself could justify. 

This year I decided to do a little something different. Instead of cookies, I invited our crew over to decorate gingerbread houses. Inspired by this party featured on HOUSEography, I did a Pinterest deep-dive for all the best gingerbread tips and tricks.

For decor, I turned napkins from the Oh Joy! at Target collection into placemats. I absolutely love this collection and added the pinwheels and falalala banner as well.

I took the easy way out with graham crackers for the houses themselves. (A kit would be the easiest way out!)  I loved the ice cream cones as Christmas trees featured on That Mommy Blog so I added those. I followed Martha's advice on the caramal syrup as glue.  I'm glad I did because the kids immediately asked if they would be allowed to eat their houses, which obviously would have been out of the question had I used hot glue as some recommended! 

A batch of Make It & Love It's royal icing and we were ready to go! The condiment bottles didn't work as well as I wanted but I think I might have waited too long for the icing to thicken up. Either way the little ones didn't seem to mind. 

As always, it was fun to see the moms get involved and remember how fun creating with your kids can be, especially around the holidays. We all had a wonderful time and plenty of sweet treats. (I discovered yellow gum drops - delicious!) 

Before we knew it, the kids were begging to eat their creations. My friend Elizabeth had made a delicious batch of green icing for the trees that was a much bigger hit than the royal icing, and within moments the houses were treeless. 

The party was a bit of a whirlwind - as events often are during the holidays - but fun. Spending time with my dear friends and their kids creating sweet treats is always such joy and I realized once again why it is one of my favorite parts of the season.

Thanks to Target, a store we shop at (all the time!) and adore, for sponsoring this post and supporting the work of Salt & Nectar. Of course, all opinions are 100% are own. Wishing everyone a Happy Holiday Season. 

 - Sarah Stewart Holland

Wednesday
Nov262014

‘Tis Better to Give Than Receive

While opening presents on Christmas morning is definitely a highlight of childhood (and parenthood — I mean, just look at my oldest squeezing that bear!), one of the best gifts I can give my sons is a sense of selflessness and the desire to help others. But teaching little kids about giving back can feel daunting because it’s sometimes hard for them to understand community needs in the abstract. So, the holidays are a great time to plant the seed for lifelong giving — they can learn by doing.

For the past three years, my son has enjoyed participating in his school’s toy drive for deserving children. It’s become our annual tradition to head to Target, where he’s empowered to select all the presents he wants to give to another little boy and girl. And I get excited to see him so excited about picking the perfect present to brighten someone’s day.

This year he handpicked the notebooks from the TOMS for Target collection. Just like the company’s famous one-for-one model, Target and TOMS are giving blankets, meals, and shoes to Americans in need for every purchase made. He chose the trio of books for another budding artist (and its attention grabbing arrow motif — what can I say, he’s a boy at heart), as well as scooped up a snuggly blanket and knit mittens.  In addition to the other toys and goodies he picked out that day, I loved how easy TOMS for Target made it for him to understand the impact of his gifts! The sweet illustrated tags showed him that three other people would also get a blanket from the Red Cross, kicking off a great conversation between us about the spirit of giving during Christmas.

Our fun continued after the car ride home. Like most five year olds, my son has very particular ideas about everything – including wrapping the presents for his toy drive. So, he painted his own decorative paper and gift bags by drawing his holiday landscape and using watercolors from Yoobi (another great brand found at Target that provides school items to classrooms in need). I think his personalization really adds a special touch to the care packages he’s going to deliver.

Thinking about more ways we can celebrate this holiday cheer, I thought it would be a great idea to host a give back party instead of a gift exchange with family friends. To do this, I’d ask our family friends to bring a few items off a suggested donation list. Here, you could contact a local charity or community organization to find out exactly what they need. Or you could follow the approach we took when shopping for gift items at Target, where my son gathers goodies according to the rule “something they want, something they need, something to wear, and something to read.”

When guests arrive, they can place their gifts that give back in designated bins and make their way to a hot cocoa bar. I suggest one for adults (wink, wink) and one for the kiddos. Together, kids and parents can sip and nibble on their treats while they decorate wrapping paper and bags at an art station. Once the bags are prepped, guests can gather and craft care packages by taking one item from each designated bin.  As the host, I’d then deliver all the gift bags to our charity of choice. It would be a merry afternoon with a caring mission.

I think friend, writer, and blogger Katie Hurley recently said it best on her Facebook page, “Family to family, person to person...open your hearts and spread kindness. Little by little, we can all make a difference in this world. All we have to do is try.”

How do you teach your children about giving back during the season?

Thanks to Target, a store we shop at (all the time!) and adore, for sponsoring this post and supporthing the work of Salt & Nectar. The Toms for Target Collection is currently in stores and can be enjoyed by all. Of course, all opinions are 100% are own. Wishing everyone a Happy Thanksgiving and beyond.

- The Other Sarah

Monday
Jul282014

Parenting Free & In the Moment With Two Kids

Moms are inherently good jugglers. But I assumed keeping things in the air would become a smidge (or a lot!) more challenging with the addition of a new baby. It had been four years since we balanced car seats, strollers, diaper bags, shopping bags, and purses…. And this time around, we’d have to throw an almost five-year-old’s snacks, toys, backpack, T-ball gear, and whatever else he “needed” into the mix.

Yikes.

I envisioned myself a Sherpa schlepping our entire nursery and playroom around town, pushing one and pulling another. This thought made climbing Mt. Everest sound more appealing. I’m not kidding. I get stressed when I’m burdened with too much stuff. It feels distracting (I’ll call it mobile + mental clutter), and I want to be light and free so I’m focusing on what matters in the moment.

This feeling of presence is even more important to me as I carve out time with both my boys. With their age difference, I want them to feel equally connected to an experience, each other, and me.  A stroller system and all that extra baby paraphernalia would make this hard. My oldest son might be edged out by the buggy. My baby might miss opportunities to see new things when in constant recline. And crowded places would simply be off limits for us.

The Ergobaby Carrier allows me to be close to both boys, while giving us mobility and flexibility to enjoy our everyday adventures. I can hold my toddler’s hand, chat with each of them about what we’re doing, and share a sweet ice pop between us. I love that it makes bonding easy and comfortable — the ergonomic design is a must for the baby and me. He isn’t dangling by the crotch and instead gets to enjoy the ride from a comfortable seated position (better for his hips and growth, of course). And his weight is evenly distributed across my body, so I’m not saddled with achy shoulders or lower back pains (better for my energy and well being, of course). 

Because Ergobaby has been part of our family since 2009, it’s exciting to see how the line has grown. We started with the Original in black, but now it comes in array of colors to suit your style and climate. I chose a natural-colored cotton for our hot LA summer, so the baby and I feel cooler when we’re out and about. Thankfully, though, it exhibits the same great versatility and can be worn in three positions. Or you can opt for the newest Ergobaby Four Position 360, which allows your little dude or dudette to enjoy a forward-facing seat as soon as they’re stable enough around 6 months of age. 

I don’t know what I’d do without our Ergobaby because the carrier makes it easy to parent freely with my attention focused on my babies, and their attention focused on the people and world around them. So, we're excited help you live and love life with your wee one by offering one reader the chance to win an Orginal Carrier.

To enter to this #lovecarrieson Giveaway, simply leave a comment by using the Rafflecopter entry form below telling us why you love babywearing. You also have the option (although not required) to earn four bonus entries by liking our Facebook page and Twitter, tweeting, and/or subscribing to our blog. No purchase is necessary to enter to win. This giveaway is only open to U.S. residents 18 years and older. The giveaway will run until 12:00 am CST Sunday, August 9, 2014.  One winner will be chosen at random

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Thanks to Ergobaby for sponsoring this post and supporting the work of Salt & Nectar (and babywearing parents everywhere). We appreciate Ergobaby for giving one lucky reader an Original Carrier, like the one worn here, to enjoy with their family.While we were compensated for this opportunity, all opinions are 100% our own. 

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