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Hokey Holiday Movies to Watch Tonight

Tuesday, December 12, 2017
The Christmas Spirit has finally made a home in my preoccupied heart. We went to get our live Christmas tree in the first snow of the season this weekend and suddenly I'm looking at life through red-and-green-colored glasses. Next thing my poor husband knew I wanted to bake cookies from scratch (which I don't have time for) and give to those in need. Long story short - CHRISTMAS HAS ARRIVED!!!

There are some beautiful traditions that come with the Christmas season. Many of us have planned for nights of decorating the tree, sipping cocoa while eating loads of homemade treats, and snuggling up to read a holiday-themed story in brand new pajamas, just to name a few. One of the most amusing rituals, if you will, that December has to offer is the seemingly endless supply of corny, lovey-dovey made-for-television Christmas movies. My mom and I are suckers for these movies, even if we have been burned a few times. Not all flicks are the same. Nevertheless, let the hokey holiday movie viewing begin with those I've given my seal of approval.

It's A Christmas Carol meets The Time Traveler's Wife, and it is surprisingly intriguing. Attorney Kate Jordan gets things done and she is sent to Vermont to get an historical inn sold as soon as possible. The trouble is an original inhabitant of the inn hasn't crossed over and he doesn't take kindly to new people, or the curse he's been under for about two hundred years. The two end up working together to end the curse, but at a price.

Shelby Haygood and her parents run a berry farm in a quaint mountain town that is facing foreclosure. Meanwhile, town hero and country music star Mason Wyatt has returned home for a fresh start musically and romantically. Despite trying to keep her distance from their uncomfortable past, Shelby realizes that Mason might be what her family's farm needs to stay afloat. Still, this movie isn't as predictable as it sounds and Alan Powell does some sweet crooning that is worth witnessing.

A secret admirer is sending the 12 Days of Christmas gifts to a woman who has some high expectations regarding love. At first all the attention only feeds her hopeless romantic vibe. But as she works to figure out who the sender is she has to learn to redefine what being in love actually means. In the end, the lesson learned is universal and so real. Also my friend Anna Daines was in it and she's just an amazing human. Therefore the movie is amazing. The end.

Amber is an aspiring journalist who is finally sent on her first assignment: to get dirt on the womanizing future King of Aldovia. After a couple mistaken identities, Amber ends up deep undercover and learns more about the royal family than she expected. Now she must choose between her big break or breaking hearts. I've recently heard that people are not digging this movie and I can't understand why. This one is a good effort at bringing together all kinds of "magic" from royalty to romance wrapped up in a Christmas bow. 

Now remember, if you've never watched a cheesy holiday movie before you have to go in with an open mind (and heart). But if you are willing, let the clichés of the season warm your soul. Merry Christmas!

Last-Minute Buys for Baby's First Airplane Ride

Sunday, December 3, 2017
Travel can be all kinds of crazy for many uncontrollable reasons. Add a baby to the equation and the craziness increases exponentially. For a new mom who already sees the world a little more anxiously than the rest, preparing for a last minute trip across the country with a new baby can be terrifying. From making sure you have everything to battling germs there is a significant amount of brain work.

November found us in a bittersweet place saying goodbye to my husband's grandfather and taking Bunny on her first airplane ride and introducing her to some of our favorite people. Since we only had about two days to get ready I was definitely nervous. However, I managed to keep the packing list simple with some last minute essentials that made for a successful trip.

**This post contains NO affiliate links. All writing and opinions are mine and exist only because I want to share cool stuff with you.**

Disinfecting Wipes

By far my biggest concern was Bunny getting sick. I caught the flu on the plane last year while I was pregnant. There is only one thing more miserable than a sick pregnant lady, and that's her sick baby. I was going to do everything in my power to make sure we didn't come home with one. We went on the defense with a couple packs of disinfecting wipes. When I got on the plane I gave my daughter to my husband with the instructions to not let her touch anything while I wiped EVERYTHING down. And it must have worked, for her at least, because my husband and I got colds and she didn't. Works for me.

Compact Stroller

If asked, I could go on about my Chicco Cortina CX travel system all day long. I had my heart set on taking it with me to Idaho. With all the storage room and features I figured there was no other way to travel. That is until my mom showed up with a cheapo compact Cosco stroller she snagged the day before we were leaving. I mean at first I wasn't sold - no storage - but we took it with us and it ended up being lighter weight and simpler to lug around. The fact that our carseat fit over the handles for easy carrying was nice surprise. Try it next time you're out trekking!

Tray Table Busy Pad

I wanted to make sure Bunny was well occupied during our trip in case she decided to be awake the entire time and one tip I found said that having something "new" helped keep baby's attention in flight. I snagged this airplane tray table busy pad off of Amazon (no affiliate) and I'm glad I did. Not only are there lots of fun tactile things for littles, but it also has some extra cool features for parents including a touch screen pocket for phones and it's two-sided. Bunny used this activity pad for floor play on the trip too which means this piece could get a lot of use.

Kids Mode App

Bunny doesn't exactly need phone access per say, but she still gets her fingers on mine every now and then. I downloaded the Kids Mode app from Samsung because it kept the rest of my phone secure while giving her access to plenty of engaging and unique activities. I recommend this app because it required a pin to exit the launcher, it allowed customization by adding your own games from your phone, and it was free without ads. The app is available for Android here, though I'm sure Apple has plenty of options for kids apps too.

Well, I must say I'm probably too happy November is over. It was busy with travel at the start, a full agenda at work in the middle, and the holidays coming as it ended. Though, I'm looking forward to the holidays and more down time to write. And of course sharing special time with my little girl. Hashtag baby's first Christmas!

Ideas for an Eco-Friendly Fall

Sunday, October 22, 2017
Fall is finally here in Northern Virginia! I am looking forward to family gatherings and warm, cozy nights in when we can (finally) break out the hot cocoa. I also love how Fall can make us itch with a need for change leading to closet swaps for warmer clothing and maybe an autumnal version of spring cleaning around the house. Arhaus, a home furnishings company committed to quality and sustainability, recently shared some of my thoughts on an infographic to make the home a more mindful one this season (see below). This year Arhaus has partnered with American Forests for the One Purchase, One Tree program with a mission to plant trees and promote greener living. I was intrigued, especially by their products, like dining room furniture sets that are made with refurbished copper and harvested tree roots to help protect the environment. We don't get as many "green" visuals in the Fall as we do during Spring, but we can certainly turn our thoughts toward our environment by making our homes more eco-friendly doing things you already do.

Open up the windows
While growing up I learned from my mom that simply opening a window was like a magic spell. She often opens a window or two to let the sun and a breeze into our home to freshen things up. Take advantage of the transitioning weather that is the charm of Fall by welcoming in some fresh air and possibly offset some of your energy costs with natural elements.

Celebrate Green!
The holidays are coming. From Halloween to Christmas, the season is upon us which means parties and dress up and food - oh my. Spend less green while going green this year with DIY and local alternatives for holiday entertainment. Create costumes from clothing that could have a second life, upcycle something you would normally throw away to make seasonal crafts, or serve up your favorite recipes made using local produce. You'll be having a good time AND helping the environment.

Commit to reducing paper waste
Speaking of the holidays, things are about to get a little frenzied as we move through the last few months of the year. Keeping track of all the get togethers can require a lot of mind work, and paper. Consider managing your footprint by consciously choosing electronic options for things like your calendar, bills, and travel tickets. You've heard the phrase, "There's an app for that," so finding options that work for your needs shouldn't be too difficult.

Bring nature to you
Brighten the indoors with plants or décor made from natural materials. Houseplants especially are known to improve mood and air quality, keep temperatures low, increase humidity, and a slew of other benefits. Start small with an herb garden in the kitchen or by keeping succulents around the house which require little effort yet still provide the perks. If you're going for the real deal, spider plants, ivy, and palms are also low-maintenance with much more of the show.

If you're thinking of jumping all in to more environmentally-friendly living get more ideas that you can use all year round from Arhaus and American Forest below:

Ways To Make Your Home More Environmentally Friendly

Places To Take A Brand New Baby In Halloween Costume

Monday, October 9, 2017
You did it! You found the PERFECT Halloween costume for your new baby. Bonus points if you've made an entire family costume out of it. You're totally mom winning right now and you can hardly wait to strut your festive stuff. Except now you're wondering where exactly you should be going with a baby who can't even say "trick or treat," let alone knock on any doors on her own.

My Bunny, who surprised us with red hair, has an adorable baby version of Jessie the Yodeling Cowgirl from Toy Story 2 as her first Halloween costume. My dad picked it out on a trip to California shortly after she was born. I've been very excited to see her all dressed up. Holidays and dressing up are two of my favorite things. But the more I thought about it, the more I realized there isn't really anywhere to take her that she would care about. She's not moving or eating yet, and I'm not quite ready to go door to door with a little one who doesn't get it. Instead I came up with some places that give us a chance to take Bunny out in costume which are more her pace.

Drop in on a community Halloween party
As these are already family-focused they're a perfect place for the whole crew to enjoy some Halloween festivities. My church does an annual Halloween party that starts with a Trunk or Treat (trick or treating out of our cars) and ends with a chili cook-off for dinner. Inside there are games for the kids, a haunted "hallway," and tons of downtime for catching up with friends. Everyone is welcome. Check your local calendars for some events that you can stop by to show off your little one's ensemble, and maybe make some new friends.

Trick or treating at the mall
When I was a kid I dressed as Dorothy from the Wizard of Oz with my brother as the Scarecrow. I had just seen the Wizard of Oz on Ice. We met my grandparents, who had come as the Wicked Witch of the West and another scarecrow, at a mall to walk around and collect candy from the participating stores. It was low key but super fun! Our local shopping center is putting on Mall-O-Ween the weekend before Halloween with more than simply candy. Even better is that it will be a daytime event so no bedtime schedule conflicts - woo!

Go watch the town parade
Small towns were made for parades and our county seat, Leesburg, VA, has had a Halloween parade for over 60 years hosted by the local Kiwanis Club. The town also hosts a bunch of other Halloween-themed activities throughout the month such as haunting tours, but I'll stick to the parade. Does your local town or city have something similar? Find out when it's going down and take your little ghoul see the sights.

Head to the pumpkin patch
Inevitably you'll be taking your little one to the pumpkin patch or apple picking no matter what age she is, right? I say go in costume! Pictures from the day will be much cuter and cherished for years to come.

This list requires a little bit of digging and Googling. But if you are a friend of ETLT, you probably already knew that. In the end, though, all the spoils go to you. High-five, mom and dad, for a fun and festive (and happy) Halloween!

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