Sunday, November 23, 2014

Why I Hate the Elf on the Shelf ...

Stop looking at me, elf. Via
They're baaa-ack. And in honor of their return, I'm re-sharing this post from last year about why I so dislike the little gremlins. I'm so sorry if you like them. I just can't do it. PS This year we're going to welcome Kindness Elves into our home instead. You can read more about them here.


I'm just going to go ahead and put this out there. I hate the elf on the shelf. I hate his shenanigans (which require me to have to come up with thirty-odd days of ridiculousness, such as Jack the Elf drives the choo-choo train, Jack the Elf poops Hershey kisses, and Jack the Elf spills flour all over the kitchen counters and then writes his name in it - after which, I then have to clean up Jack the Elf's mess because the little jerk can't do it himself). The last thing I feel like doing in mid-December after grading stacks and stacks of student papers is brainstorming a new elfish scheme every ... single ... night, because God knows you can't repeat yourself or then the kids think Jack the Elf has fallen victim to Alzheimer's or dementia.

Or, I get the lovely morning wake-up call of "Mo-ooooommm, Jack didn't move AGAIN." To which I reply, "Oh, honey, Jack's legs are just really tired after running back and forth to the North Pole to report on your behavior. Plus he has something BIG planned for tomorrow" (all the while thinking, Jack the Elf shouldn't have had that extra glass of wine last night. Oooooppps). On that note, I am thoroughly on to the fact that my oldest kid has been thoroughly on to this game from about day 5. I think she just wants Jack to come back out of his closet so she can torture me. She's been asking "When's Jack going to get here?" since Thanksgiving night, while I, on the other hand, have been continuously griping about the stupid elves like an old-timer complaining about Black Friday turning into Black Wednesday: "Goddamn elf on the shelf. Who came up with this crap? A man no doubt, because I don't see any fathers knocking each other over to join the elf movement. I'm paying $35 for my own headache, not to mention all of the elfy paraphernalia I have to buy."

Finally, the Elf on the Shelf might be the creepiest toy invented in the last fifty years. Just look in his eyes. You can see it. Underneath that smirky smile is a Chucky just waiting for his chance. I know one of these mornings I am going to wake up to that elf sitting on my chest staring at my face, smiling the most sinister smile since Bela Lugosi's Dracula.

So, to all you moms who love the elves, more power to you. I, on the other hand, am sincerely hoping that the little creeps go the way of the Mon-Chi-Chi and Rock 'Em Sock 'Em Robots ... and fast. A/J

Friday, November 21, 2014

5 Fun #DIY Ways to Deck the Halls for the Holidays

Here are 5 of our favorite projects from the Skull from last year. Have fun! Share pics if you do any of them. We love to see your work! A/J

How to Make Nail-Polish Christmas Ornaments
Ornamenting the Stairs. Simple Project. Big Payoff!
This "Cookies for Santa" plate we re-created from Rook No. 17 last year. Such a great project. My sis-in-law loved it:))!!
How to Make Fresh Pine Garland for the Craft-Challenged Girls (PS, check your local tree-sellers. They will often give you the pine-clippings for free!).

A Christmas Tree with Exploding Stars. The post you'll read if you click on the link doesn't say a lot about how to recreate this, actually, but it's a meaningful post, so I'm linking it. I bought the stars at Michael's. And I stuck them on the wall with teacher's putty. The others I hung as I saw fit, and I used white lights on the tree.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

The Books I Plan to Read over Christmas Break

These are the books on my reading list for the Christmas break.

I've been holding off on this one, because I want to read it so bad. It's interesting though; I really don't care for Dunham's point of view sometimes. But I admire her bravado. Can't wait to read it.
I'll be teaching a dark fairy tales course in the spring. Gretel and the Dark, by Eliza Granville, seems like the perfect way to shift gears.
I read some Picoult over the summer (The Storyteller), and liked it very much as an escapist read. I've decided to try another.
I saw this one at Target last night (about Edgar Allan Poe's wife and a mistress). It looks interesting.
Four books seems doable, right? What are you planning to read over the holiday? A/J

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

The 12 Gifts of Christmas: A New Family Tradition

This year, I've come to the realization (which makes me feel a bit bad about the state of things in my household, actually) that my children do not need anything. I'm being perfectly honest here. They don't need more clothes. New shoes. New jackets. New toys. New electronics. A big fat nada.

My kids tend to get whatever their hearts desire. If we don't get it for them, their grandparents do. Now, I realize that it is a tremendous blessing to be able to give one's children everything they desire. Don't get me wrong. I do feel, however, that the amassing of mass quantities of goods also leads to a tremendous sense of entitlement and a lack of valuation of the things they thought they absolutely had to have. Consider the current state of our playroom.

I'm not alone in this. I'm positive of it.
So, here's what I'm doing this year to start scaling back our Christmas. In years past, I would go hog wild at Christmas time, buying a ton of presents. I wanted to give them everything I thought they wanted, but I also felt pressured to have a gorgeous array of gifts under the tree. First of all, I'm not going Black Friday shopping. I have in the past, and I have pegged it as kicking off the feeding frenzy of holiday gifting. I'm going to spend the day with my family, as it was intended.

Here's the second thing. I explained to the girls last night that this year we are going to try something new. They get to make a list of twelve "things." Two of the things can be bigger presents. One can be an experience - like spending the day in the "big city," going to a play, a special dance workshop, etc. One should be a new book that they really, really want to read. The other eight should be smaller things they really, really desire.

It breaks down like this.
Here's what I'm hoping.  First, it gets my kids to think about what they really would like to have and what they would value, since they only get to pick so many things. Second, it automatically makes the number of presents I have to buy even (something I always struggle with having two kids). Third, there's less I have to wrap. Ha! All joking aside, I think it will be fun for them to make a list that requires some thought, rather than just listing off EVERY SINGLE THING they saw in the past year that they would like to have (we're then going to take them to Macy's and mail them off to Santa next week while I'm off for Thanksgiving break). Of course, I will also probably throw in a few surprises so that Christmas morning is still fun and has a magical element of the unexpected - there's always the stockings to fill!

Oh, and we are going to do the Kindness Elves tradition this year. You guys know how I feel about that damned elf (and in case you don't, here's a post explaining exactly what I think about that little jerk). What ways are you cutting back this year, if you are? A/J

Monday, November 17, 2014

My Christmas Wish List 2014

Here's what's on my Christmas list this year (hint, hint husband;)). What's on yours?? A/J

This "Sunday Funday" Drapey Graphic tee from Old Navy.
I have wanted a copy of this book for a long, long time. I love the cover image, which shapeshifts from McQueen's face to a skull depending on how you turn the book. You can find a copy here.
This lovely little globe (for only $14.99!!) from the Threshold collection at Target. I love the black background and gold base. It would look perfect in my living room.  
I'd like about 8 more pairs of these Victoria's Secret Knockout Tight  pants, especially in the capris. They are the best workout pants I've ever come across - and I've tried many.

I'm a huge fan of the Loft skinny jean of late. Huge (Imagine Kit DeLuca speaking here). I want some more.
My current yoga mat is beat (you can read more about why I love it here). I need a new inspirational yoga mat. I like this one.
This jacket from Rosegal looks so incredibly snuggly. I have to have it.
While we're at it, I'll also take this draped-front faux leather jacket from Kut. Only $53 right now!

Friday, November 14, 2014

Thanksgiving Dresses from Blu Pony Vintage

I think this Thanksgiving, I'd like to dress my girls in a mash-up of Laura Ingalls Wilder/Molly from the musical Annie. Alas, I think Maggie is now to old to play dress-up doll for me, but aren't these dresses cute??

Visit Blu Pony Vintage for more dresses like this. Their clothes (and the styling of them) are absolutely adorable. A/J

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Why Everyone Should Re-Read the Books You Were Forced to Read When You Were a Teenager

When I was in my junior or senior year of high school, I don't remember which, I had to read The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. I slogged through it, but I recall hating this book with every single fiber of my being. I mean, I reviled it. I didn't understand its humor. I didn't understand much of the political environment in which it was embroiled. I hated the fact that women/girls didn't seem to come off extremely well in the books' pages. I thought Huck was a pretty horrible character, and Tom Sawyer ... don't even get me started on him.

And then, I read the book as a college junior. It was only a few years later. I really wasn't all that much more worldly. But on the second go around, I loved the book. I thought it was uproariously funny. I was pierced by both its humor and its humanity (I still hated the last several chapters, I have to say, but for very different reasons than why I didn't like the book when I was in high school. And I still didn't like Tom, but I came around to Huck).

What I'm getting at here is that everyone should re-read the books that we were forced to read when we were young, even if we developed an appreciation of those books at the time and especially if we hated them. Because as an adult, we will most likely love, revile, or appreciate those books for very different reasons.

Here's what is on my list of books to be re-read in the new light of my advancing age (hey, I will be 40 in a few years). Oh, and let me know what books you hated in high school. I'll put them on my reading list;). A/J

Maureen Corrigan's book on Gatsby's appeal has really made me want to return to this high-school classic and reopen its pages. I read it when I was probably a junior in high school, and I enjoyed it. But I don't think I got it. I also re-read it in preparation for my field exams for my doctorate, but that reading was so swift and so pressured that I don't think I enjoyed it or thought about it as much as I could have. 
I just started re-reading this book last night, which I read during my first semester of graduate school. I loved the beginning of the book, but if I'm being completely honest here, I never finished it. I will now. 
I didn't much care for Holden, the main character in Catcher, when I was a teenage girl. Maybe I'll be more sympathetic now? Or maybe I'll despise him even more?
Don't even get me started on Billy. We spent months and months on this book (that's what it seemed like anyway). My teacher loved it. She could not understand why we didn't. Why we were so recalcitrant in our dislike. I now understand where she was coming from, so I'll give it a second chance. 
This is a book I adored as a teenager. I want to go back and see if I adore it just as much now. 
Here's another one that I despised in high school. I just could not identify with it. I'm ready to give it another chance.
One thought, we apparently didn't read many books by women in my high school. I'm shocked. Not.