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12 days of Christmas: days 8-11

12 Days of Christmas

Days 8 through 11

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The 8th day of the ‪#‎12daysofChristmas‬ is about a classic…the Christmas tree. It is my firm belief that you can never have too many trees. Before we moved into our house we only had room for one small tree in our condo. I simply could not have put another tree in that condo without making it feel incredibly cluttered and uncomfortable. It was sweet and fun and I loved it. But now that we have a house, theres space for more holiday fun. So we have the big family tree in the living room, a smaller tree in the dining room, the two small trees in the boys’ rooms, and a teeny tiny tabletop tree on our dining table. I love having the twinkling lights all over the house, especially at night. And I love how they add cheer to every room. Now to drink hot cocoa while sitting in the glow of the lights.

IMG_2510On the 9th day of the ‪#‎12daysofChristmas‬ we have another tree, but this one is different. In our kitchen we have a wall with chalkboard paint (there will a blog post on my love of chalkboard walls at some point in the future, for sure.) The boys love it. And we almost always have a theme drawing up high–a turkey for Thanksgiving, a leprechaun for St. Patrick’s day, a cake and balloons for birthdays, and this year a Christmas tree for Christmas. The boys can still draw down low but the theme drawing decorates that corner for whatever celebration is on the horizon and acts as inspiration for the boys to begin to learn to draw more themselves. That corner turned out to be beautiful, festive, creative, and inspiring–exactly the type of home I want for my kids.

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On the 10th day of the ‪#‎12daysofChristmas‬ it’s about…trees again…kind of…but not really. My love of Christmas trees and twinkling lights runs deep (as evidenced by previous posts) but today I’m talking about what goes at the bottom of the tree. I love decorations with history like those passed down in the family. But I did not like the country quilt tree skirt we had while I was growing up and was sent to me by my mother when we had our first big tree. Then I saw an amazing “why didn’t I think of that” idea on @realgirlskitchen blog. Check out her California Christmas blog entry earlier this month to see how cozy and beautiful her tree looks. And look at the difference in our tree with the green & white check blanket, which we already had, (and a train track for the boys). I will be on the lookout for a fuller, more textured throw for next year but much prefer our new tree skirt to the quilted one that didn’t speak to me at all. Your home, your clothes, your holiday decorations should be a reflection of you.

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On the 11th day of the ‪#‎12daysofchristmas‬ we have the small (and sometimes forgotten) spaces. I am a firm believer that no front door should be without a wreath during the holidays. Our lovely wreath is a @llbean wreath that my uncle sends us each year. (FYI this is a great gift idea; I look forward to receiving it every year.) I also believe that every space should be sprinkled with holiday love. From the shelf up high to the cup rack and the window over the sink, I want to see Christmas everywhere I look, even if it is only a small reminder.

12 Days of Christmas

Day 7…a family tradition

The 7th day of the ‪#12 days of Christmas‬ is about tradition as much as decoration. (I like family traditions…a lot.) This year is the first year my boys have small trees in their rooms. They were so excited about the trees and twinkle lights, but even more so when I told them that I had bought an ornament for each of them every year at Christmas and they could hang their ornaments on their own trees if they wanted. It’s a Dwyer family tradition. And it is one of the greatest. IMG_2476Growing up my mother would put a new Christmas ornament by everyone’s seat each year for Thanksgiving dinner. It was a festive favor for any guests we had and an amazing tradition for the kids. It was something I looked forward to each year, as these ornaments went on the small trees we each had in our bedrooms and meant by the time we became adults we already had a collection of meaningful ornaments. By the time we left our parents’ house we would be ready to decorate our very first Christmas trees in our own homes. I love that in doing something so small each year, my mother really was doing something so big. It never occurred to me as a young child that each ornament was part of a larger plan, but I was so grateful when I got older and put up my first tree that I did not need to spend a fortune on ornaments and my tree was covered in beautiful memories. I still hang those same ornaments on the tree each year with my kids. And while I never host Thanksgiving dinner, I love the tradition so much that I have bought a new ornament for each of our sons each December and presented it to them before adding it to our tree. You could also give an ornament as a present for the feast of St. Nicholas if you celebrate that or have your elf bring an ornament for each child every year if your an elf on the shelf family. Or you could add an ornament to the gift wrap on a present to each child on Christmas morning as my grandmother used to do (she may have been in on the plan or she may have just been super fun and festive, she was probably both). But it is a tradition I loved as a child and continue to love as a momma.

12 Days of Christmas: Days 5 & 6

12 Days of Christmas

Days 5 & 6

I planned on writing up the blog posts for #12daysofChristmas in three posts each covering four days, but I have decided to update the blog more often so I can share a little more than the small entries I write for Instagram and Facebook. While many of the Christmas decor ideas I share are to inspire the holidays to be as festive and beautiful as possible, others are inspired by something greater, like family traditions (make sure to read day 7) and the true meaning of Christmas (check out day 6 below). I hope my ideas inspire you not only to decorate your home (or office or any other space you live, work, breathe) beautifully but to truly enjoy this special time with your loved ones and begin some traditions of your own. Now onto days 5 & 6…

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For the 5th day of Christmas we’re talking tree decorations. I strongly believe each Christmas tree should represent all of a home’s inhabitants and there should be a good mix of old and new. Our family Christmas tree has ornaments passed down from parents and grandparents, others that represent my husband and my alma maters, some bought from our favorite vacation destinations, & some that were made with our boys. There is also a good mix of new ornaments that are just fun, beautiful, or deemed necessary by our boys (i.e. Thomas the tank engine). The tree is a beautiful representation of our whole family (big lazy dog included) and what the season is all about: love and gratitude.

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Day 6 of ‪‎the 12 days of Christmas‬ is celebrating the nativity. If Christmas is a religious celebration for you, as well as a secular holiday, a nativity is a must. It is a great way to begin talking about the birth of Jesus with your kids while they are still young, but the nativity is also a visual reminder of the true meaning of Christmas. And it is a reminder that we could all use from time to time throughout the holidays as the craziness and stress of all that needs to be done becomes overwhelming and can impact our attitudes and behaviors towards others. In our home the nativity is mix and match, of course. The basic nativity was a present from friends and is supplemented perfectly by the three wise men made by my mom from discarded chair legs. I love these three wise men. And every Christmas they remind me to be thankful for the absurdly creative mother I am blessed to have.

Have you noticed themes to my decorating style? If not, you will over time. Just in the #12daysofChristmas posts there is at least one theme repeating: DIY, one of a kind items. 

12 Days of Christmas

12 Days of Christmas

Days 1 through 4…

Last Wednesday I began a series of instagram/Facebook posts entitled the 12 days of Christmas, a post every day (Monday-Friday) through Christmas Eve with my favorite ideas for celebrating Christmas. (Quick aside: if you aren’t following me on instagram or following me on Facebook, click the links above and follow and like away!) It’s taken me a couple days to have the time to bring the 12 days posts to the blog so today I will be sharing the first 4 days and will add days 5-12 in two additional posts, each sharing four additional ideas to spread holiday cheer. Without further adieu…days 1 through 4…

For the 1st day of Christmas I shared an idea that suggest not all clutter is bad, and when the additional “things” are a collection they can be quite fun and festive. At our house we love Santas and snowmen & women, but you could choose anything you love: snow globes, Angels, reindeer, whatever brings a smile to your face. Place them all together (the closer the better), in one or two chosen spots for holiday fun with a decorators’ flair.

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For the 2nd day of Christmas, we talked holiday cards. I LOVE getting holiday cards. (Who doesn’t love getting holiday cards now that so many have updated photos of our family and friends, many of whom we don’t get to see nearly as often as we’d like?) And I love incorporating them into our Christmas decor. Use your favorite basket, find a fun holiday basket or bowl (like mine below), or buy a large glass canister (Crate and barrel’s heritage jars are great) to corral your cards in a beautiful display that you can enjoy throughout the holidays.

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The 3rd day of Christmas was all about gingerbread! I will admit that the making of our gingerbread house and tree may have gotten a little tense (I may be a bit OCD which doesn’t always combine well with a toddler and preschooler and crafts) but we survived and everyone was happy (at least by the end). A gingerbread house (or tree or train or sleigh or whatever else you can find, there are so many options these days) is a must do if you have kids but also a great activity for a couple or super creative festive single as well. In the end homemade decorations are always everyone’s favorite. And a tradition that involves making one is even better!

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For the 4th day of ‪Christmas I shared my love of advent calendars! I have long loved advent calendars and when I was young my favorite way to countdown to Christmas each year was hanging handmade felt ornaments on the handmade felt Christmas tree, all painstakingly made by my super creative mama. How she had time or the patience to make it while home with three kids? I do not know. But I am so glad she did. Receiving it last year made my heart flutter with happiness. Sharing it with my boys, who love it as well, makes my mornings brighter. I said it before and I will say it again, homemade decorations are always the best ones. And you could never go wrong with an advent calendar. Start searching Pinterest for ideas for one to make today! (You’ll probably need to start brainstorming now in order to find the time to make it by next year. 😬)

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Follow me on Instagram or Facebook for daily doses of Christmas inspiration or check back here in four days for the next recap. Until then, drink some hot chocolate, sing holiday songs, watch some Christmas movies, and enjoy time with your loved ones….

An Organized Vacation: Meal Planning

An Organized Vacation: Meal Planning

A couple weeks ago, my family went to the shore for a week. One of the things I love most about renting a house or condo, rather than staying at a resort or hotel, is that we have a kitchen to prepare our own meals. My husband and I have always enjoyed preparing dinner together but do not have the opportunity to do so often now with two little guys and irregular work hours. Weekday dinners are typically either take out or meals that do not require a lot of preparation time, many of which are fabulous but made by one person in a hurry to feed the kids and keep the night time routine moving. The fun of cooking together and enjoying a leisurely meal is a thing of the past during the week, and often difficult on weekends. (Those little guys are not very patient and really hate to sit still.) So the idea of cooking dinner on vacation is one we really love and we always plan on at least 3-4 home cooked meals, which allows for a couple nights at restaurants or getting take out. The organizer in me plans our menus in advance and brings as many of the ingredients as possible with us in order to avoid having to go grocery shopping on vacation. (I kind of hate grocery shopping, so doing it on vacation is particularly distasteful to me.) There are some items that are just too annoying to travel with (meat, for example), especially if you are traveling far. But if you pick the right meals you can bring much of what you need with you, making home cooked meals on vacation more convenient and potentially cheaper.

090512With that goal in mind, here are my rules for organized vacation meal planning:
First, keep it simple. The less ingredients the easier it is to plan ahead and transport them. This summer we made scallop sandwiches and roasted brussels sprouts one night. Other than the obvious main ingredients, the only additional ingredients needed for both was olive oil, salt, and pepper. Only three additional items for the entire meal. That is a perfectly simple meal choice. And it is delicious!
Second, pick meals with ingredients you will use more than once. The scallop sandwiches and roasted brussels sprouts is another perfect example of this. All three of the additional ingredients are ones we would easily use for other meals. In fact, they are all items we would have brought with us anyway as everyday staples.
Third, pack only what you need, when you can. For example, if only one meal requires balsamic vinegar, pour only the amount you need into a small bottle or jar and bring that instead of the large pantry bottle you have at home. And pre-measure and mix any dry spices. This summer we made bean, corn, and spinach egg rolls (a favorite at our house) and I measured out the spices needed into a small tupperware container and brought that one small container instead of 4-5 spice bottles. I’ve done this previously for a chili rubbed skirt steak (another favorite) and the batter for fish and chips. With the rub pre-measured and mixed we eliminated having to bring or buy a number of spices on vacation while also making meal prep both easier and quicker.
Fourth, look into grocery delivery at your destination. You will need to do this well in advance, at least a week, in order to get a preferred delivery slot. The slots late Saturday and early Sunday are the first to go for areas with Saturday to Saturday rentals. Some delivery services (like Fresh Direct) allow you to make reservations a week in advance but have a deadline closer to the delivery by which you must place your order. We used Fresh Direct at the shore this summer and it was amazing. We brought what we could, including the ingredients discussed above as well as coffee, snacks, cereal, and bread to name a few. Then first thing Sunday morning the delivery came with our seafood, produce, and dairy. It could not have been more convenient. And it was all possible because we planned in advance!

Welcome to my new blog!

Welcome to my new blog!

Welcome to my new blog! I’m Susan, a former prosecutor turned professional organizer and decorator. I began the transition from my career as a trial attorney to professional organizer five years ago and in that time I worked as a professional organizer, become a mom to two funny little dudes, moved from a 850 square foot condo in Hoboken to a house in the ‘burbs, and managed a renovation of both the interior and exterior of our new home. I’ve always been freakishly organized but in the two years since I’ve become a mother I’ve learned more about prioritizing than I could have imagined possible. And living through a renovation, both as an occupant of the home and the lead designer, affirmed something I always knew…it’s impossible for me to separate organizing from decorating. A seasoned organizer I consider a mentor once told me not to concern myself with design when working with a client. Her opinion was that if an organizing client wanted to make changes to the design or aesthetic of their home or workspace that I should recommend they hire an interior designer to handle the redesign at the conclusion of our organizing work. At the time I did not understand what she meant and could not envision an organizing job that did not involve some sort of decorating component as well. Five years later, I still do not understand her opinion. I suppose interior design is not a requisite interest or skill for someone to be a talented organizer. And if a client hires an organizer for whom that is true then it is in the client’s best interest to split the organizing and design services between two professionals. But I have never been able to separate organizing and design for myself. I don’t understand having a home that is functional but not inspiring, or neat and organized but not beautiful. Both elements are equally important to me and both serve to improve the client’s use and enjoyment of the space. And so that is why I am here and what I hope for this blog to be about: to inspire you to make your spaces both functional and aspirational, comfortable and beautiful. I’m excited to get started…