Michelle Smiles

Teaching my children to question authority, except mine.

Merry Christmas


Wishing you and yours a happy, healthy, and joyous holiday season and new year.

There are several versions of Christmas cards this year. My attempt at taking a photo resulted in 2 mediocre shots (out of 217) I couldn’t love enough to choose between so I ordered 2 versions. Then my friend, Crystal, took photos with Santa at our annual MOMS Club party. They were a little late but I liked that photo best. So I ordered a few more cards with that shot on it.


posted under family | 3 Comments »

T’was the Night Before Christmas


Those of you who’ve been reading here for awhile know I lost my Dad. It has been 5 years this month. I miss him. I hate that my girls never got to know him and vice versa. I try not to dwell because I’ve got it stuffed in a dark corner of my brain and it leaves me alone most of the time as long as I don’t poke it with a stick. Christmas Eve is one of those times I poke it. I tell this story most years on Christmas Eve but it is my blog and as a result I can indulge myself that way.

My dad and I had a complicated relationship through the years for a variety of reasons. None of those things are fit for blog fodder. The important thing is the last years were good. But through all of the years, difficult or not, we had 1 tradition. He read me T’was the Night Before Christmas (the original by Clement Moore) every year. I was a kid of divorce so some years it was done over the phone. Other years in person. As I got older, I kept it up for him. At some point, it flip flopped and became for me again. Although he sometimes grumbled about digging out the book I think he loved the tradition too. I listened to that poem from some strange places over the years. Once a bar bathroom, once a front porch of a party, many times from work. It didn’t matter where I was, I made sure to get in touch with my dad so he could read me the poem before we turned in for the night. Since Dad died, it has fallen to me to read this story to my children. I had always hoped it would be him. I rarely make it through with dry eyes which confuses my girls. And my vehemence about being the once to read it confuses my in laws a bit. For now, I do it for me. And for Dad. I hope in the future my girls come to love it and I do it for them too.

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 lustre 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 | 6 Comments »

Looking a lot like Christmas


I thought it would be fun to start the whole Elf on a Shelf thing this year. I was too cheap to spend $30 on a real one with a book so I just picked up an elf for $6 and told my kids about it. I stupidly started it Thanksgiving weekend because I was excited to get into the holiday magic – TOO SOON! And I have to say my kids are enchanted by it (although I don’t think it has done any good on behavior modification) but I am not. It is a pain in the ass to remember to move it every night and it pisses me off when I forget and have to get out of a warm bed to find a new place to stick the stupid thing. And I know there are websites with ideas but have you read them? These people are a little deranged. I am not pouring flour or sugar all over my counter so the elf can make snow angels and I can get up in the morning and clean up the mess. But so far it has moved every day and I haven’t run out of spots. A sampling of what he has been up to:

*A little tip. If you decide to have your elf magically turn your milk a color? Go with red. And do it when your gallon is nearing empty. I felt like the elf peed in our milk and it was the gallon that wouldn’t end.

We’ve been working hard to instill the whole giving portion of Christmas in the girls this year instead of just the getting gifts part. We had a few dicey moments with questions about why Santa doesn’t just give presents to those who don’t have enough but managed to negotiate that. Outside of charitable giving, we also wanted them to spend time on gifts for family. I picked up a bunch of unfinished wood items at Hobby Lobby for them to paint. They were beyond excited. I only twitched a little during the painting process – that is huge progress for me. They did a great job. Tessa especially shocked me at her focus and how well she did painting once she got a feel for it.

I found big gingerbread men at Trader Joe’s that came with icing and candy to decorate them so we let them do that. Tessa’s ended up with a big glob of icing in the middle but Sabrina did a little better at trying for a face. They thought it was great fun – I twitched a little during this too because the sprinkles went everywhere.

And just because it is so stinking cute, Tessa got a new hat and mittens:

posted under family | 6 Comments »

More Pinterest Reviews


I’ve made a few more things from Pinterest recently that I thought I would share my thoughts on because it seems we all see the same recipes floating around.

First, a few cookie recipes. I had my annual MOMS Club cookie exchange over the weekend and wanted to make something different. I’m not a baker – I will readily admit that. But I can read and follow directions so I should be able to replicated a recipe that isn’t horribly complicated. I spent 3 days trying recipes with no success. Two were mediocre and 1 was flat out awful. I ended up taking peanut butter blossoms and still had a freak out heavily laced with the f-bomb on some of my girlfriends after making those. I may not make cookies again. Ever.

These Cran-Pistachio cookies were good but not great. I think they could be pretty darn good but the cranberry needs to be doubled and I think they need some orange zest to cover the packaged sugar cookie flavor. Mine didn’t flatten out so I had to flatten them with the bottom of a glass. But they were simple and pretty so you can’t complain about that.

These rolo cookies sounded amazing. They were average at best. They tasted like something was missing. And they were a huge pain in the ass to make – the batter is sticky and thick and impossible to roll. I finally figured out if I got my cookie scoop out and pressed the rolo into it that it was much easier. But I won’t make these again.

These peppermint chocolate sandwich cookies came my way via a facebook post by Whole Foods. They sounded great. They were horrible. The filling was good but the cookies were so bad I threw them away. I didn’t even finish baking them – I threw them all away after the first batch came out of the oven.

Now for a couple of non-cookie related successes.

These pepperoni rolls are AMAZING. I’ve made them twice and they were a hit both times. They are simple to make – you just have to plan ahead for the bread to defrost/rise. I tend to preheat my oven to warm then open the door to let most of the heat out. Then I put the bread in there to rise.  It takes 5 or 6 hours usually.  I also add some sliced provolone and capicola (sp?) ham. It isn’t something to make for dinner because it will kill you – but it is great party food.

These roasted mushrooms are yummy. And the broth/sauce is great to dip a nice crusty bread. I added white wine into the mix because it just seemed to call for it. I actually ate these for dinner one night when Steve was gone. Just a big dish of mushrooms and nothing else. And I liked it.


posted under food | 4 Comments »



Enough. I call uncle. No more.

Since earlier this fall, it seems everyone wants something all the damn time. It started with school supply lists that seemed out of control. Then a fundraiser sent home at the end of the first full week of school. Since then, it seems almost weekly, someone has wanted some small item sent in. A box of graham crackers. A plain white t-shirt to make racially offensive “Indian” shirts. A package of turkey. Twenty dollars for field trips. A bag of marshmallows. A dish for a teacher luncheon. A fundraiser for a dozen different worthy causes that I want to support. None of these items is a big deal individually but taken together it is starting to feel like too much. Add in car maintenance and 2 (count them TWO) furnace repairs in 1 week and a winter wardrobe for my children and now Christmas gifts. I call uncle.

I’m saying right now that if the school sends home one damn request for a MLK party contribution or whatever other reason they can think up, I will scream my damn head off like a fool. Please everyone, no matter how worthy your cause or how fun the school activity, give a momma break for a few weeks in the new year.

We are fortunate to have the ability to give. I know that. I will be the first to tell you how blessed we are. I enjoy giving.

posted under Misc. | 4 Comments »

Crafty Bitch


I’ve been quite the little Martha Stewart wanna be this holiday. I cut out one of my intended homemade crafts (luxury body lotion bars) because the ingredients were a little pricy and I wasn’t sure how it would turn out.

First, the advent tree made its annual appearance. Nothing new to say but this photo was taken 10 days in so it is look a little sparse and uneven now. The girls think it is a lot of fun. But I have to say between this and the new addition of that damned elf everyone has, it is feeling like a lot of work for a little magic around here.

Next up, teacher gifts. We all seem to stress about these. It is just as easy (and appreciated I am sure) to throw your hands up and get a Starbuck’s card. But I decided to be crafty instead.

I made vanilla extract and snowman ornaments with names and year on the back.  Two completely unrelated, random gifts. The vanilla I had been wanting to try – I started it back in October.  I saw something similar to the snowman ornaments in a shop 2 years ago and have been meaning to make them.  I also saw them floating around Pinterest yesterday.  They are easy to make – getting the stupid fake snow inside the ornament is a pain in the ass but otherwise it then just requires a little paint and ribbon.  After many rounds of trial and error when I was painting ornaments a couple years ago, I will advise you to find oil based paint pens/markers.  Sharpie makes the best but I can’t find them individually anymore (except an art supply store online that wants $7.99 for shipping) and they want $20 for a package of 5 at Hobby Lobby (didn’t have time to wait for them to go on sale). I own a bunch but can’t find them – they are likely in the boxes in the garage that I will be unpacking after the holidays so I didn’t want to drop big bucks on them. Hobby Lobby sells this brand individually – the work fine for small projects like this. They just streak more than the Sharpie if you are coloring larger areas. I can’t speak for other craft stores – I only have eyes for Hobby Lobby.

The vanilla is vodka (or rum or bourbon – your choice) and vanilla beans. Then you let it sit in a dark, cool place for 6-8 weeks. After googling, it seemed 3 beans per cup of booze seemed the “right” formula. After the extract is 1/2 gone, you can refill it with more vodka and let it rest for a month and you’ll have a refill. I’m not clear on how many times you can top it off.

Then I saw some adorable gift tag ornaments floating around Pinterest a few weeks ago. The caption claimed they were salt dough. After some digging, the person whose photo was used blogged that it wasn’t salt dough, it was porcelain or clay (I can’t recall). But I was intrigued so I started googling and came across this post about salt dough ornaments/tags. (And WOW hers are amazing. You should totally check them out.) So off I went. The recipe is 1/2 cup salt, 1/2 cup water, 1 cup flour. Mix it. Then knead it for 7ish minutes – it starts to feel more like bread dough when you are done. Roll it out. Use cookie cutters.  I stamped them with rubber stamps and regular ink then baked them for 5 hours at 200*.  I used paint pens to write the person’s name on the back and will use them on packages for Christmas this year. I still need to clean up the edges. I will either use a cheap nail file to smooth them or some steel wool – I have to experiment to see what works best. For the bowl shown in the collage above, I did 2 batches and ended up with 24.

posted under Crafty | 6 Comments »

Can you spot the differences?


What, besides sunshine and pretty fall leaves, is missing from this picture I took this morning?





Did you spot it? The For Sale sign is gone. And no, we didn’t sell the house. The move is off. We are staying. Steve will be home for good after the holidays. He will be working from home for his current employer and we will all live in the same zip code again. Such a huge relief to have a resolution after 7 months of limbo.

posted under nashville | 14 Comments »