Simple Christmas Traditions

Simple Christmas traditions you should try this holiday season!

Oh the magic of Christmas!  I’ve always loved the Christmas season: the lights, the carols, the treats, the decorations!

And then there’s the shopping, the planning, the cleaning, the wrapping, the money, the stress, the guilt.  It’s so easy to get overwhelmed this time of year.  I know I feel the pressure of having to do Christmas right.  For my kids, myself, society.

Do you ever feel that way?

It’s so important to stop, to breathe, and to remember that there is no ‘right’ way or perfect way to do Christmas.  Every family does it a little differently, and we can even do it differently year to year.  And that’s ok.

Last year you got professional photos for your Christmas card, but this year you don’t have the money or the time?  Totally fine.

Your sister makes 15 different kinds of cookies and gives cookie platters to everyone?  Good for her.  (And yum!)

You wish you could decorate your house from top to bottom, but your kids are babies/toddlers and it’s a disaster/nuisance/safety hazard?  Don’t worry!

Do what you have time for, what you can afford, and what makes you happy.

These traditions make me happy, and so I keep doing them, year after year.  They aren’t fancy, or expensive, or elaborate, but they bring the magic of Christmas to my family.

Some of these traditions I did with my family growing up, some my husband did with his family, and some we started when we got married and had our kids.  Each one of these traditions is simple, and some I’ve altered to fit better in this season of our lives.  Each one brings me joy, so I’ll keep doing them as long as they do!

Cutting Down a Christmas Tree

This was a tradition that I did with my family growing up.  Here in New Hampshire, and next door in Vermont, there are a ton of amazing farms that have Christmas tree cutting in December.  I have such fond memories of getting all bundled up with my siblings and trudging through the snow to pick out the perfect tree.  My dad would cut it down, we’d strap it on the car, and we’d all head home to set it up and decorate.

With my husband and kids, we’ve been going to this great Christmas tree farm in Vermont for a couple of years.  They have hot cider or cocoa and Christmas cookies in the farm store, and the kids have fun running through the trees in the field.  It’s just a beautiful spot and a fun day.

Decorating the Inside of the House

We always cut down the tree and decorate the Saturday after Thanksgiving.  We get the tree, bring down the bins of decorations, play Christmas music, and get festive!  I decorate the main spaces of the house: the living room, dining room, and kitchen.  It’s fun to put away all of the pumpkins and fall decorations and spread a little Christmas cheer throughout the house!

Christmas Books

I store the Christmas childrens books in with our Christmas decorations.  This way, when we bring everything down Thanksgiving weekend to decorate, we rediscover our favorite Christmas books!  I leave them out mixed in with all the kids’ books for the season, and then pack them away with the decorations after the New Year.

Advent Calendar

I use the same advent calendar with my kids as I used as a kid growing up.  My mom generously gave it to me when I had my twins, and it’s one of my favorite Christmas items!  It is a cloth advent calendar with little pockets for each day.  There is a Christmas scene on the top part of the calendar and a little mouse that you move into the pockets to count down the days.  Because my kids are 3, the mouse is almost never on the right day, but just seeing it hanging in my house reminds me of my childhood Christmases and brings me so much joy.

Christmas Cookies and Treats

During the Christmas season, I try to bake as many cookies and treats as I have time for.  Some of my favorites are sugar cookies with icing, peanut butter kiss cookies, chocolate crinkle cookies, fudge, and pretzel turtles.  I bake one treat on a Saturday or Sunday and am able to indulge in the yummy festive desserts of the season without too much time or energy spent.

Eggnog in Coffee

I start buying eggnog after Thanksgiving, and use it as creamer in my coffee until New Years.  Is that weird?  Who knows, but it’s yummy!  It’s such an easy thing, but really make me feel festive and Christmas-y!

Cinnamon Rolls on Christmas Morning

This is a tradition from my husband’s side of the family.  His grandparents, then mother, would bake homemade cinnamon rolls for breakfast every Christmas morning.  I admit I don’t make them homemade, but I do continue this tradition with store bought cinnamon rolls (the kind that come in a can and you bake).  It’s an easy breakfast and makes the whole house smell amazing!

An Orange in your Stocking

This is something I got growing up, and I know of a lot of families do this as well.  Everyone gets and orange in the bottom of their stocking.  It always made me feel like I was in the book Little House in the Big Woods by Laura Ingalls Wilder.  Does anyone remember?  An orange and a peppermint stick?  It’s such a simple tradition, and it’s also a great addition to breakfast!

What are some of your Christmas traditions?

 

What You Need to Host Thanksgiving

Sweet Maple Lane shares kitchen necessities for hosting Thanksgiving dinner

What do you need to host Thanksgiving dinner?  Well really, all you need is a meal, people to share it with, and a grateful heart.  After all, it’s a holiday about being thankful for what you have, not about feeling pressure to throw a perfect party.

But, if you are hosting for the first time, you may be wondering what you need, or what is good to have to cook this fancy meal.  Or maybe you’ve hosted before, but are in the market for some fresh Thanksgiving kitchen supplies.  If so, read on, friends!

We’re hosting Thanksgiving this year, so I’ve been thinking about the menu and planning all the details.  This will only be the second time we’ve hosted at our house.  Last time we hosted we were newly married and had just moved in.  We had almost nothing from this list, but thankfully my mom brought all of her stuff.

Let’s just say things have changed quite a bit around here!  At this year’s Thanksgiving there will be five toddlers (3 and under!) running around in addition to twelve adults.  I have more of the items below, but still not everything.  My mom still brings her turkey roasting pan and huge casserole dish for green bean casserole (we love us some green bean casserole!).

So if you’re curious about what you ‘need’ to host Thanksgiving, I’ve compiled a list of necessities.

Affiliate links are included for your convenience.  Read my full disclosure here.

Gravy Boat

gravy boat

If you’re making turkey, you need gravy.  If you’re making gravy, you need something to serve it in!  Gravy boats are super affordable and bring a little touch of fancy to your table.  (Look at me, I’m fancy enough to own a gravy boat!)  I like white for dishes and serving ware, but you could go bold with a fun color or pattern if that’s your thing!

Roasting Pan with Rack

roasting pan

This is an absolute must if you’re cooking a large turkey.  This pan is also great for roast chicken, which I do fairly regularly around here.

Meat Forks

meat fork

If you’re cooking a large turkey you’ll need assistance lifting it out of the pan.  I still remember one Thanksgiving when I was a kid my dad trying to use a wooden spoon to lift the turkey, and breaking the spoon right in half! Meat forks like these are on my wish list.  Or, get both the pan and meat forks together in this Calphalon set.

Turkey Baster

turkey baster

Use a turkey baster to prevent a dry turkey.  This stainless steel one is a nice upgrade from plastic!

Turkey Platter

turkey platter

A fancy dinner deserves a fancy platter to serve your turkey on!  I like the traditional ones with the image of a turkey on them.

Drink Dispenser 

drink dispenser

This drink dispenser is the best.  I got it to serve punch at my wedding, and have used it for nearly every major holiday, birthday, or celebration since.  It’s big enough that you don’t have keep refilling it, it has a built in center tube for ice to keep your punch cold, and it comes with a stand that lifts the spigot above your glass for easy filling.  This Thanksgiving mine will be filled with sparkling cranberry punch!

Pie Plates

pie plates

Pie is the traditional Thanksgiving dessert, so pie plates are a must.  These come in packs of two so you can make a couple different varieties!

Serving Bowls

serving bowl

You’ll need pretty serving bowls for all those yummy side dishes.  I love these Pioneer Woman serving bowls.  Everything in her line is so cute!

Are you hosting Thanksgiving this year?  What are your kitchen must haves for a successful dinner?

 

Meal Planning 101

Meal planning 101 at sweetmaplelane.com

Hi friends!  I’ve been back at school for a few weeks now, and I’m feeling a little more settled into our routine here at home.  The transition from summer to school in the fall can be hard, but I’ve found one thing that helps me stay organized and keep my sanity: meal planning!  Just a small time investment on Saturday morning and I’m planned and ready to roll for the week.

Here is how I do it:

Early Saturday Morning

Plan: While the kids are drinking milk and watching cartoons, I sit down with my coffee and computer and plan what we’re having for dinners for the week.  I jump on Pinterest to look up recipes and ideas, and I make a list for the next 7 days (Saturday to Friday).  I check the calendar to see if we’re out or having company any night during the week, and plan accordingly.  I like to cook a bigger meal on Saturday or Sunday and keep it easy during the week.  Friday night we always do frozen pizza and whatever veggies we have left from the week.

List: Once I’ve planned dinners for the week, I make a list of all the ingredients I need for those plus lunch and breakfast stuff. The kids eat at daycare and my husband and I usually pack sandwiches, yogurt, fruit, pretzels, or leftovers.  I make sure to check in the fridge and cupboards to see if we have the ingredients we need or if we’re running out of something.

Later Saturday Morning

I take my list, my reusable bags, and two toddlers to the grocery store for our weekly shopping.  I usually take the kids with me and give my husband an hour to be kid-free.  The kids really enjoy it, and our grocery store has free cookies for kids, so they love that. We drive around the parking lot of our local Hannaford looking for the two-seater cart that looks like a car (complete with steering wheels) and glare at any parents using it for ONE kid (moms of multiples, you feel me?)  No seriously, though, I can’t grocery shop without that cart, so I sometimes have to wait in the parking lot until one becomes available.  Ok, so I shop, use my list, and am in and out and home in record time.

The Rest of the Week

During the week, I come home with the kids around 3:30 or 4, relax for a bit, and then throw together whatever dinner I have planned.  Then we eat together when my husband gets home from practice around 5:30.  Ok, in all honesty, often my husband and I eat together while the kids play and run and scream as toddlers do.  Kids, you know?

Menu Board

Menu board

I had this chalkboard that I picked up at Michael’s with a coupon a few years back, and right before school started I decided to turn it on it’s side and hang it in the kitchen.  Now I use it as a menu board so I don’t forget what we’re having for dinner.  You can see last week’s dinners below:

FREE Grocery List Printable

I whipped up this grocery list printable to make your meal planning and grocery shopping just a little bit easier (and prettier too).  Just click below to download the free printable!

Free grocery list printable from Sweet Maple Lane

Click HERE to download my grocery list printable for free!

Top 10 Summer Must Haves for Toddlers

10-summer-must-haves-toddlers

Disclosure: Some of the links below are affiliate links.  This means that I may earn a small commission if you purchase through the link.  Please know that I only recommend products I have used and loved.  Read my full Disclaimer for more information.

Isn’t summer the best?  Swimming, barbecues, travel, and lots of time outside.  As a teacher, I’m on summer vacation, so I get to spend 10 wonderful weeks with my family.  Of course, without our normal schedule, things can get a little chaotic!  And with two year old twins, I’ve found that things are always a little easier if I have everything I need.  Here are my top ten summer must haves for toddlers.

Sweet Maple Lane's top ten summer must haves for toddlers.

Sunscreen

Obviously, sunscreen is a must.  I like to have multiple bottles in different places, to make sure I always have it when I need it!  I usually keep one in the diaper bag, one on the entryway table (to grab right before we go outside), and a travel size in my purse.  I’ve used all different kinds, and I’m really not that picky, but this summer I’m loving this sunscreen stick.  I use it on faces, necks, ears, and arms, and then spray my kids’ legs.  I think it’s supposed to be for faces, but it is so much easier to use this stick than a lotion or spray on their faces and arms.

Hats

Besides being adorable, hats provide another layer of protection against the sun.  We use both the bucket hat style and baseball caps.  I like the bucket hats a little more because they provide more sun protection.  This is the one my daughter has this year.

Sprinkler and Kiddie Pool

While it’s fun to go out and have adventures, sometimes you just want to stay home. And summer is hot.  A sprinkler and a kiddie pool will provide hours of entertainment for toddlers while keeping them cool.  We have a cheapo plastic kiddie pool from Walmart (I think it was 9 dollars!) and a sprinkler that has a few different spray options like this one.  My kids are fond of filling the kiddie pool with dirt to make mud.  Messy is normal with twin two year olds running around!

Multiple Bathing Suits and Swim Diapers

I like to have a few swimsuits for each kid so I don’t have to worry if one is wet or dirty.  I usually keep one in the diaper bag with a few swim diapers for impromptu swimming or sprinkler sessions if we’re out.  I’m a big fan of the sets with a rash guard top like this one because that’s less sunscreen I have to slather on a wiggling toddler.

Hooded Towels

I love hooded towels for little ones.  Not only are they super cute, but the hood helps keep the towel on and keeps their little heads warm.  There are so many adorable versions of hooded towels, but right now we have this one in a shark and a kitty.

Insulated Water Bottles

I just bought two of these fantastic insulated water bottles from Target, and I love, love, love them.  I can fill them in the morning with a few ice cubes, and it stays cold for 12 hours!  Perfect for summer days out.  Also, we’re trying to get rid of the binkies, so having water bottles instead is a good distraction.

Snack Cups

I know every mom probably already has one or two of these snack cups, but I think they’re amazing so I’m adding them to my list.  The tops allow little hands in, but stop the contents from spilling out!  Genius.  I fill them with Goldfish, Pirates Booty, pretzels, or other dry snacks for days out.  Just throw them in the diaper bag, and you’re all ready with a snack to perk up a hungry kiddo!

Mini Popsicles 

My mother discovered these mini Frozen popsicles, and they are awesome.  The perfect, mini size for a two year old!  My kids love popsicles, but they melt fast and the big ones are just too big!  These are perfect.  Also, they come in blue, white, purple, and pink–the perfect colors for my son and daughter (he loves blue, she loves pink — go figure)!

Multiple Changes of Clothes

Let’s be honest, with toddlers, back ups are a necessity.  I like to have at least two full changes of clothes all the time, but in the summer time, things just seem to get a little messier!  Watermelon, popsicles, icecream, mud, water, you name it!  I like to stock up on Garanimals separates at Walmart at the beginning of the season.  They go for $2.88 a piece (score!), and they come in super cute colors and styles.  Perfect for getting messy!  And when they get completely ruined (it’s inevitable, people), I don’t sweat it because of the price.  Here is a similar Gerber set.

Go Everywhere Shoes

Shoes that can be worn for wet and dry activities are the best.  One pair of shoes for the whole summer?  Yes, please! I just got these Stride Rite Phibians for my kids this summer.  They have a rubber base (kind of like Crocs) and a mesh part around the top to prevent chafing.  Also, they’re non-slip, so kiddos won’t fall down when running around on a splash pad or wherever.  Another plus: my kids can put them on and secure the velcro closure themselves.  They are amazing and I love them!

There it is–my top ten summer must haves for toddlers!  What would you add?  Let me know in the comments!