A Sad Snowman
Oh no, it's a sad snowman.
An Ungrinch Present Arrives
Ungrinch is here to save the day.
A Snowman with flair
Now we have a happy snowman.

It's (Almost) the Day of the Show Y'all

Mickey_Walt

Christmas never really goes away around our house as we keep a pretty strong presence all year, but when July rolls around it really does start to feel like Christmas. And yes, I do realize what that sounds like to those people that feel like holiday radio stations starting the day after Thanksgiving is too soon. There is a reason for Christmas in July though... it's literally the halfway point and in my envisioned best version of myself, I begin to come on stronger with the holiday prep. The annual Hallmark Keepsake Ornament debut has become a fun ritual at our house. Just today, the older kiddos went through their own Dreambooks circling all the ornaments they wanted. At five and three, they are not incredibly discerning and I think a total of six ornaments (combined) went unpicked. We love our ornaments.

That said, I know we will be getting at least a handful this year. My favorites, so far at least, are Walt and Mickey, Maui, Rowlf, and The Kissing Hand. On my oldest son's first day of school, the teacher handed each child that book and we read it. It's a very sweet story where the mom and child each kiss each other's hand so that they can keep a kiss close should they miss each other too much during the school day. That memory is fresh in my mind now, but I love imagining my older self hanging it on the tree each year and walking back to his first year of school. Maybe I will even get to tell his kids the story while they help me decorate someday.

The first round of Keepsake ornaments are available for sale starting July 14, with more being released on October 6. And you can see the whole collection here.

My Favorite Christmas Department

Eddie's RV Department 56

Holiday decorating can get mundane, if you let it. That's why I was so refreshed when I was introduced to Department 56 a few years back. Along with classic holiday villages and accessories, the company also offers what I consider some really unique options for your holiday tablescapes and home decor. My favorite has been their licensed Christmas Vacation collection. It adds a little spunk to the season, and for me personally pulling in some great pop culture reference is fantastic. I know I am not alone in this, but Christmas Vacation was a staple in my house growing up, has become a staple in my own family's holiday traditions and I honestly dare anyone not to smile during at least 75% of the film. I actually worked with a woman who admitted that her husband had never seen the movie and although I only met him face-to-face a few times, that fact was always looming in the back of my mind. We went to the theater to see this as a family when it first came out and my dad had to pull the car over on the way home because he was laughing so hard he started crying and couldn't see. What part got him so hung up you ask? Snot. Just the sheer idea and memory of that dog had my dad so torn up he couldn't drive. It's one of my favorite family memories and it's just one of the classic movie moments that make me smile. So when it comes time to pull these bad boys out of storage each year, it always feels as exciting as the very first time and I love that one of my most treasured holiday memories will be passed onto my kiddos through not only the film itself, but also as it's woven into our family holiday traditions with these special decorations. Thus far, we have Cousin Eddie's RV, jogging Margo and Toddthe Griswald house, Cousin Eddie shitter was full and Margo and Todd's house. Another fun tradition for my family is that we try to add to our collection annually, which delights my inner Christmas nerd just knowing we aren't done yet. This year, I have my eye on a present for Clark which depicts Cousin Eddie's misguided attempt and getting Clark the perfect Christmas gift.

And if Christmas Vacation isn't your thing - first off don't admit that publicly (I jest... sort of), but do check out all the other awesome collectibles Department 56 has to offer. They also delve into Halloween and other holidays, so it's a great bookmark for gift-giving the holiday nut in your life.

 

A DIE HARD Christmas for All!

Die Hard Christmas Book

I love DIE HARD. It's a fantastic Christmas movie and stand out action flick. Both those are obvious - but the catch is that my kids are too young to fully embrace its awesomeness... until now. DIE HARD has now become a Christmas book. I repeat - DIE HARD is now a Christmas book. A Die Hard Christmas: The Illustrated Holiday Classic comes out on October 24, but is already available for pre-order. The book is based on the classic "Night Before Christmas" poem, but with the modern twist of amazing film-inspired illustrations and quirky copy pulling from the classic movie plot, foreign villains, renegade cop and machine guns included. This book sounds like such a win/win and I know it will be on my short list for gifts for film-loving friends and family this year. It already feels like a gift to know I get to introduce my kids to the wonder that is John McClane and start teaching them to respect one of my favorite holiday movies that I won't let them watch yet.

It's Beginning to LEGO® Lot Like Christmas

Lego Christmas Advent Calendars

Cheesy title aside, it's an exciting time for Christmas-loving LEGO® fans as the annual Lego advent calendars are now officially for sale. As mom of two LEGO®-loving boys, the LEGO® City Advent Calendar we did last year was a home run at our house. The kids played with all the characters throughout the year and I am so excited to order ours early this season. For those not in the know, these advent calendars have been offered on/off since 1998 and the 2017 options offer the same three trends as last year. You can choose from LEGO® CityLEGO® Star Wars or LEGO® Friends. Each calendar has a punch out box for each day of December that contains a new build. We like the LEGO® City version, which offers either a character or accessory each day for the kids to build and add to the ever-growing holiday city scene. At my house, we switched off days so the boys traded off being able to open the box and build every day... adding excitement and a lesson of patience each day, both valuable in my humble opinion. They loved seeing the scene come together and played with all the parts as a unit and separately. They also enjoyed guessing which part of the city they would get the next day, so the excitement never really ended with this gem. 

Since we are a holiday-obsessed family, our elf on the shelf comes out the day after Thanksgiving. Our tradition is for him to bring a gift with him upon his arrival back from Santa's workshop, and this advent calendar is the perfect gift for him to deliver. It gives you a few days to pump up excitement and provides some positive behavior incentive for moms and dads for a few days before the official Christmas countdown begins. It was a really fun activity for us to do as a family and we also used it to help reiterate the lessons of counting and patience as two excited little boys remain on overdrive awaiting Santa's return. I would recommend ordering yours early though as the closer you get to December, the harder - and more expensive - they get. LEGO® never disappoints in our house, and the LEGO® City Advent Calendar is no exception.

You can purchase here. They retail starting for $29.99, but get them while you can. These are almost guaranteed to sell out as we inch closer to the big day.

Do You Want to Build a Snowman?

Tomato Caprese Snowman

In the full spirit of ungrinch, we watch Christmas cartoons throughout the year. One beloved classic in our family is Curious George: A Very Monkey Christmas. In his quest to find the perfect gift for the Man in the Yellow Hat, George visits one of their favorite restaurants to learn how to recreate a tomato snowman in hopes of making the man happy. The kids really wanted to try making our own tomato snowman, just like in the movie, so we decided to go for it. A perk to this is that we love caprese salad, so it was really a win win for kids and parents. It was also really fun and it's now something we are going to do annually as part of our celebrations leading up to Christmas day. We still have some honing to do, but I think this recipe, once I can nail the technique, will be an awesome addition to our Christmas day menu. Here's what we did. Let me also put out there that I am totally open to suggestions, so feel free to leave a comment below if you have any construction or recipe tips!

Tomato Snowman
Servings: 4

Ingredients:

- 6-12 tomatoes (Campari are ideal, but if not available, aim for a small, round variety)
- 5 Mozzarella balls (2 sliced)
- 6-8 fresh basil leaves
- Salt & pepper to taste
- 5-6 toothpicks

tomatosnowmaningredients

Directions:

As you can see from the photo above, we just arranged our snowman on a plate. Rookie mistake, but we were just practicing right? I'd recommend using a nice holiday-themed platter so that you can space out the snowmen and give a better overall presentation. Our next lesson came with learning we used tomatoes that were just plain too big. It made construction more challenging than necessary and our snowman stood up for about two minutes after I took that photo. For my next round, I would definitely aim for the Campari tomatoes because they are small, round and delicious. I also modified some of the directions below where I think we made a few other rookie mistakes (not slicing all the cheese and uniform stacking for example) so that your construction would run smoother.

Start by slicing two of the mozzarella balls so that we could layer between tomatoes. This helps balance the tomatoes and add more cheese for your caprese-style snowman. Use the toothpicks to keep the tomatoes stacked together: poke one tomato with half the toothpick, add a slice of mozzarella and one fresh basil leaf in between, and then top with the next tomato. Do this twice so that the snowman was three tomatoes deep. 

For the snowman's arms, stick two more toothpicks in on either side and wrap two fresh basil leaves around each toothpick on each side. For extra balance and ambiance on the bottom, cut the remaining basil leaves Chiffonade style (stack the leaves on top of each other, gently roll them into a cigar, and then use a sharp knife to slice them into thin ribbons) and sprinkled them over the top of the remaining unsliced cheese balls. 

Finally, drizzle the entire snowman with olive oil, season with salt and pepper and enjoy the delicious holiday treat!