Michelle Smiles

Teaching my children to question authority, except mine.

Christmas wrap up


I love the Christmas season but I am truly ready for it to be over by a few days after.  We arrived home this afternoon and had our third and final Christmas.  First, we had Christmas in Pittsburgh with Steve’s side of the family.  Then in Ohio with mine.  Now at home with our gifts and the things my mom sent.  My children are spoiled (as am I).  Now I am ready to clean it up and put it all away.  I have a date with the tree tomorrow I think.

I didn’t take as many photos as I normally do this year.  I was too busy watching the girls have fun.  But here is our Christmas in photos (minus our little family celebration here because I didn’t even get the camera out).

First just a quick look at our present under the tree because they looked so pretty all wrapped (loved the paper this year – Hobby Lobby has great paper, huge rolls, not see-thru…for great prices).  My husband and children didn’t appreciate so I put it out there for my fellow moms (or at least my mom).

Decorating gingerbread men at Grandma’s.

The kids were instructed that they needed to dry before they ate them.  Sabrina decided that meant the candy was free game.

Tessa couldn’t help herself.

I arrived Christmas morning to find Sabrina looking ready for her close-up on Toddlers and Tiaras.

Tessa’s Christmas outfit from Grandma was much less ruffly but she wouldn’t model it for me.

I took even fewer photos in Ohio but here is some of the carnage.  It is a shame my children don’t have any toys.

Uncle Mike is bound and determined to see exactly how much sugar it takes to make my girls throw up.  Here he is giving them hot chocolate (after the 6 or 7 hershey kisses and cake and who knows what else).

Time was short.  The trip was great.  The drive was long.  As always, time up north leaves Steve and I terribly homesick.

Sabrina’s favorite gifts (so far…she hasn’t even had a chance to play with them all because we haven’t gotten them all out of the packages): Barbie, Mobigo, and Go Go dog.  Tessa’s favorites so far: her little laptop, car garage, and her furreal kitty.

Steve and I received a fabulous (although largely unintentional) gift this year.  The girls are both old enough to stay at Grandma’s with their cousins while we were in Pittsburgh.  We had more time alone than we’ve had in 4 years and it was lovely.  We had dinner and talked about adult topics.  We watched a movie in bed at the hotel.  We slept in one morning.  It was such a treat.  We’ve been talking about how badly we need some time away together and this wasn’t exactly that but it was a great start.

I hope you all had a wonderful holiday.

posted under travel | 8 Comments »

Merry Christmas


From our beach vacation in August.  Nothing to do with the post, I just love this photo and haven’t shared it yet.  These 2 are my joy all year.

It has become a bit of a blog tradition (in my head at least) to not share my Christmas card photo until Christmas (or at least until all of my cards have been received).  I sent out 2 different Christmas cards this year.  The first card had the girls in their Halloween costumes on the front:

I didn’t have a Christmas photo yet and I needed to get some cards ordered so I used what I had.  The second, and more limited, version had this photo of the girls with Santa:

One of my friends in the Moms Club is a great photographer and takes photos at all of our events – I was going to have her do a photo shoot with the girls but time just wasn’t on my side.  So I used this photo from our Moms Club Christmas party for the second version of our card.

This was the first year that Sabrina sat on Santa’s lap – in the past she has always stood next to him and looked at him suspiciously from the corner of her eye.  She has been a lot of fun this year in anticipation of Christmas.  She remembers last year and has been excited both about visiting family and about Christmas.  Tessa is sure something interesting is going on but isn’t quite sure what. I’m looking forward to spending time with family and watching the magic of Christmas through my childrens’ eyes this year.

Merry Christmas!

Christmas Eve



This is the post from last year.  It all holds true is you substitute 4 years for 3. I’ve shared some  form of this post for several years on my blog.  It remains one of my most treasured holiday traditions and I am trying to carry it on with my girls.

I’ll be missing one tradition today as I have for the past 3 Christmas Eves.  My dad was not a particularly sentimental guy but we had one tradition between just us.  Every year, no matter where we were, he would read me Twas the Night Before Christmas every year.  I would call him before bed if we weren’t in the same place.  I made that call from some strange places over the years – work, in-laws, locked in a bathroom at a holiday party, my car, maybe even from a sidewalk in front of a bar one year.  I never missed that call.  Through the years it sometimes meant more to one of us than the other (during my teen years, I made the call for him…later I made it more for me) but it was our tradition.  It was our thing – one of the few things that existed just between the 2 of us.  My dad passed away 3 years ago this month, tonight there will be no call.  This year, it is my tradition to carry on with my children.  I breaks my heart he never knew my girls and never got to read Twas the Night Before Christmas to the next generation.

I’m sure when Dad started reading it to me as a child he never dreamed it would turn into such an important tradition with us.  Some traditions aren’t planned that way and those are often the best ones.

Always the original version (by Clement Clarke Moore).

Twas the night before Christmas, when all through the house
Not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse.
The stockings were hung by the chimney with care,
In hopes that St Nicholas soon would be there.

The children were nestled all snug in their beds,
While visions of sugar-plums danced in their heads.
And mamma in her kerchief, and I in my cap,
Had just settled our brains for a long winter’s nap.

When out on the lawn there arose such a clatter,
I sprang from the bed to see what was the matter.
Away to the window I flew like a flash,
Tore open the shutters and threw up the sash.

The moon on the breast of the new-fallen snow
Gave the luster of mid-day to objects below.
When, what to my wondering eyes should appear,
But a miniature sleigh, and eight tinny reindeer.

With a little old driver, so lively and quick,
I knew in a moment it must be St Nick.
More rapid than eagles his coursers they came,
And he whistled, and shouted, and called them by name!

“Now Dasher! now, Dancer! now, Prancer and Vixen!
On, Comet! On, Cupid! on, on Donner and Blitzen!
To the top of the porch! to the top of the wall!
Now dash away! Dash away! Dash away all!”

As dry leaves that before the wild hurricane fly,
When they meet with an obstacle, mount to the sky.
So up to the house-top the coursers they flew,
With the sleigh full of Toys, and St Nicholas too.

And then, in a twinkling, I heard on the roof
The prancing and pawing of each little hoof.
As I drew in my head, and was turning around,
Down the chimney St Nicholas came with a bound.

He was dressed all in fur, from his head to his foot,
And his clothes were all tarnished with ashes and soot.
A bundle of Toys he had flung on his back,
And he looked like a peddler, just opening his pack.

His eyes-how they twinkled! his dimples how merry!
His cheeks were like roses, his nose like a cherry!
His droll little mouth was drawn up like a bow,
And the beard of his chin was as white as the snow.

The stump of a pipe he held tight in his teeth,
And the smoke it encircled his head like a wreath.
He had a broad face and a little round belly,
That shook when he laughed, like a bowlful of jelly!

He was chubby and plump, a right jolly old elf,
And I laughed when I saw him, in spite of myself!
A wink of his eye and a twist of his head,
Soon gave me to know I had nothing to dread.

He spoke not a word, but went straight to his work,
And filled all the stockings, then turned with a jerk.
And laying his finger aside of his nose,
And giving a nod, up the chimney he rose!

He sprang to his sleigh, to his team gave a whistle,
And away they all flew like the down of a thistle.
But I heard him exclaim, ere he drove out of sight,
“Happy Christmas to all, and to all a good-night!”

posted under family | 10 Comments »

And we’re off


Strapping my kids into their seats and playing many hours of Disney movies a foot from their faces while we drive north.  Then I will complain that I don’t understand why all kids insist on having branded items all of the time and wonder why my girls love princesses.  Cuz I’m awesome.

But? I’m not a bad blogger…I have a couple of scheduled posts for you. One of them featuring my adorable children on Santa’s lap.  AND! No one is crying!  Bonus!



I have a couple of posts brewing that require actual thought and words and stuff.  They will have to wait until after the holidays.  (At least one is prompted by Mamalita.  Have you read it?  I want to discuss.)  Many of my posts are driven by what I find on my camera.  I mentioned that Tessa has recently become even more adverse to my camera.  The second I turn it on she hides her face.  It has gotten so bad that when we are watching Diego and Click the Camera comes on, she runs away.  Heh.  So I’ve tried to lay off the camera for the past couple of weeks since I know that Christmas will look like a paparazzi event with the flashes going off.  As a result, I don’t have many photos of the girls to share…and the 2 I do are the back of Tessa’s head.


A rare photo of me – mostly for my BFF since she never checks facebook.  Hey Deanna – I cut off all of my hair and got red streaks last week:


A house about a mile from us does it up Clark Griswold style every year.

The kids love it.  I’ve been told he pressures his neighbors to decorate early and often so that people can bring their kids down the street for a whole show.  The funniest sign appeared across the street this year at a house that remains dark each year.

Hilarious!  Initially, I wanted to take these people out to dinner because they have to be awesome!  Then I learned that Clark Griswold actually bought the Ditto sign and put it up.  Still funny and it makes me like him more.


I’ve been trying to decide what to hang in my pink and black powder room.  I decided it needed to be a black canvas with the Eiffel Tower on it (don’t ask – no idea why).  But now I’m kind of thinking it looks too kindergarten.  (I painted it – it is meant to be simple and whimsical not fingerpaint-ish.)


Speaking of being crafty, I painted the cutest plate for the girls to leave cookies for Santa:


We got a little snow a couple weeks ago. The girls were very excited until we actually went out into the frigid cold.  We stayed out less time than it took to get them dressed to go outside.

Sabrina wouldn’t even lay down to make the snow angel she spent all morning talking about.  Not that I blame her.

posted under Misc. | 2 Comments »

Swedish Meatballs


I occasionally get kidded about my recipes having fancy ingredients or seeming complicated.  I tend to think they are pretty simple recipes with a few good ingredients that make them taste extra yummy.  But I get that not everyone cooks the way I do.  So here is a recipe for anyone.  There is nothing weird in here – I won’t even harass you about a unicorn losing its horn if you use garlic powder instead of fresh garlic because this is one recipe where it probably won’t make that much difference.  And bonus – it cooks in the crockpot.

Swedish Meatballs

1 can condensed cream of mushroom soup (I used the healthy request)

1 can condensed cream of chicken soup (healthy request)

3/4 cup (light) sour cream

1 can evaporated milk

8 oz mushrooms (I sauteed them first)

1/3 cup white wine

1 tsp dijion mustard

1 Tbl Worcestershire sauce

onion powder (couple of shakes)

garlic (2 cloves or a couple of shakes of powder)

celery salt (couple of shakes)

nutmeg (1 good shake)

black pepper

dried parsley (4 or 5 shakes)

(optional: I also threw in about a tablespoon of horseradish for a little bite)

1 bag frozen meatballs (beef or turkey – whatever you prefer)

Put everything except the meatballs into the crock pot.  Whisk together.  Add meatballs.  Cook on high for 1 hour then turn down to low for 4 or 5 hours.  Serve over egg noodles.

Visit Rachel for more Mouthwatering Monday recipes:

posted under food | 4 Comments »

Saving graces


Anyone who knows me in real life, knows that I am not enamored with Sabrina’s pre-school.  I mentioned here once my initial frustrations in a vague way.  I continue to have mixed feelings about her school.  They set such high expectations when I toured the facility and I just don’t fee like they lived up to their own brochure.  They treat Sabrina well and she is happy there so that is what is really important.  For a variety of reasons (cost, distance, logistics, my disenchantment), Tessa will not attend the same pre-school when the time comes but it has been a good first school experience for Sabrina.

All of that said, the school has recently done 2 things that makes me almost give up my slightly hostile disgruntled feelings toward them.

1. They didn’t force me to sit through a cheesy, crowded, chaotic, melt-down filled holiday program.  THANK YOU.

2. They didn’t take the traditional school photos.  The art teacher did the photos.  They are gorgeous and interesting and not a small kid sitting against a blue-ish gray background with hands folded in her lap.  LOVE.

If they don’t make me sit through a cheesy, chaotic, crowded, melt-down filled “graduation” with silly caps and gowns AND do more cool photos in the spring, I might just end our year there with warm-ish, fuzzy-ish feelings toward them.

posted under family | 13 Comments »

Kitchen Excess


Okay, okay, I’ll start showing some of the house even though it is all still a work in progress.  I’ve gotten several emails professing great curiosity.  I have to admit to loving my kitchen.  It isn’t the most efficient set up – I would re-arrange things like putting the cooktop in an island to make it more central.  I also wouldn’t choose granite counters – especially black because they always look streaky.  But with all the space I could possible want, I can’t complain.  And after 2 1/2  years of being blocked off from the rest of the house when I’m in the kitchen, I love that it is open to the living room and our office area.  I look forward to having a table in our eat in area so that I can see the girls while I am making breakfast and lunch for them but I haven’t found one that I like and can afford yet.  (Please excuse that I didn’t clean my counters off – keeping it real.)

I blurred the counter in the butler’s pantry because there is some mail and items with our names on it.

So there you have it – a peak into my new kitchen.  It actually isn’t my favorite spot in the house (but it’s close)…I’ll have to take some more photos to share soon.  And yes, I feel like a shameless show-off for those who know it makes me uncomfortable to own such a great house.

And for those who don’t care about houses (seriously – doesn’t everyone love looking at photos of houses? LOL), a rare photo of my children standing still, together, looking toward the camera.

Sorry, I got lost in 2007 for awhile


I snapped this photo of  Tessa in the tweety bird hat yesterday (in other news: it is effing COLD in TN).

She seemed to like the hat.  She laughed and played peek-a-boo while wearing it.  Sabrina got this hat for Christmas and hated it.  She cried the moment we put it on her.  The only blog evidence I could find was this photo:

Somewhere in the depths of a backup drive is a photo featuring that hat and a look more like this one:

I spent almost an hour surfing around in the past remembering how cute and sweet she was before she could talk back when she was little.  I adore Tessa and adore watching the girls together. I wouldn’t change our path for anything.  But I have to admit when I look at photos from that period, before Tessa, I miss the closer relationship I had with Sabrina.  She was my pal, my buddy, my sidekick.  Tessa changed our dynamic so much and Sabrina became more of a Daddy’s girl while I was on bedrest and then spending so much time trying to nurse Tessa.  It makes me a little sad that I lost that.  But without that shift, she wouldn’t have a sister.  This is how I found them watching TV this morning.  (Please to ignore the wires and end table serving as entertainment center…we are going to order something to hold the TV and other crap sometime after the holidays.)

How sweet is that?  Even though they fight and whine and bicker and drive me to drink insane, I love that they will always have each other.

posted under family | 5 Comments »

Beginning to look a lot like Christmas


The stockings were hung by the chimney with care…

For a minute.  I started having visions of Tessa pulling on the stockings and those heavy stocking holders crashing down on her head.  I got nervous and took them down.  Maybe next year.

The tree is trimmed.  (The photos are more for my own record than your enjoyment because other peoples trees all start to look the same, don’t they?)

For those who have been asking for more house pictures…I’ve heard you but there isn’t much exciting to showcase right now.  The tree is currently in our empty eat in dining area.

Tessa is wearing some of her holiday finery.  And you’ll notice all of the photos/prints in the  background waiting to be hung so you see…we are still a work in progress.  One of these days I’ll take some more photos.  Once things are more settled.

posted under House stuff | 3 Comments »
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