Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Ten Unique Christmas Countdown Ideas

Hopefully we're not the only ones counting down to Christmas! It tends to be a pretty fun and festive time of the year, so we thought we'd bring you a few ideas for counting down to the big day! Feel free to share your own countdown traditions in the comments at the end!

You could do a simple countdown involving a daily piece of candy, but we thought it'd be more fun to be creative. So, today you're getting ten ideas for making your countdown unique this year. (Psst...you can always buy a candy advent calendar at the store if creativity isn't your thing.)

Countdowns can be as long or as short as you'd like. You could do one for everyday from 1-25, the twelve days of Christmas, or just the weekends. Essentially, it's up to you how long you make your countdown.

1. Give your mismatched socks a purpose.
Do you have a lot of mismatched or old socks hanging around? Give them new life by filling them with small goodies and hanging them on a clothesline. They'll look like mini stockings filled with a special treat everyday!

2. Create a movie countdown.
You can create a movie countdown in two different ways. The first way is to assign each movie to a day (much like the popular ABC Family countdown) or you can wrap all of your holiday movies and open a new one each night. This creates an element of surprise since you won't know which one you're going to watch until you open it!

3. Use local events as your countdown.
Look for local events that are happening and schedule one for each weekend leading up to the big holiday. This will get you in the Christmas spirit and out of the house for a while. Many of these events are free or low cost, so you can enjoy the holiday without breaking your budget.

4. Create a coupon countdown.
Make the countdown special with redeemable coupons that you make yourself. This is perfect if you're looking for a special way to treat your significant other or children to extra surprises. They can be as simple as "good for one hug." If you're making the countdown just for yourself, you could use self love coupons as a way to treat yourself.

5. Decorate the tree.
You could start a new tradition by turning the task of decorating the tree into a countdown of sorts. Each night, you could add a new ornament (or two depending on how many you have) to the tree until you have a full tree on Christmas day!

6. Create a nightly reading routine.
I've seen this one floating around for the past few years and I immediately fell in love with the idea. Unfortunately, I don't know where the idea originated so I can't give proper credit. Take 25 holiday themed books and wrap them in the same wrapping paper. Each night, have your child select a book to read before bedtime from the pile.

7. Use the reindeer for inspiration.
You could do a 9 day countdown using the reindeer for inspiration. It doesn't have to be elaborate. Maybe you dance around the Christmas tree on Dancer's night and wear red on Rudolph's night. There are lots of ways you can get creative with this one!

8. Create your own 12 Days of Christmas.
This could be a fun countdown to create for the family! Each day, you'll build on how many things you do. For example, on the first day of Christmas, you might decorate on the house. Then, on the second day of Christmas you might watch two holiday movies. Number a sheet of paper from one to twelve and let your creativity guide you!

9. Countdown using crafts.
Do you enjoy making crafts? Use the holiday season as an excuse to get crafty! You could plan your countdown around holiday crafts that you'd like to create. This is also a good way to make unique gifts for the special people on your list.

10. Learn about holidays around the world.
In the classroom, we turned the holiday season into a learning opportunity. Each day, the students would learn about a different country and the holiday traditions. They loved learning about new places and it was a great way to countdown the season. There are lots of books, craft ideas, recipes, and other goodies available on the Internet to make this a reality.

Bonus Idea: Make your own countdown!
You can always create your own countdown as well with different activities that your family will enjoy. You can do it in calendar form, with envelopes hanging on the wall, or even a good old fashioned paper chain. It may take a little extra work, but the personal touch will be worth it in the end!

Just for Bloggers: Countdown the holidays with the 
Holiday Blogging Challenge!

On December 1, The Petite Mrs and The Coastie Couple will be posting prompts and a link up for the holiday blogging season. We're inviting other bloggers to join us as we spread holiday cheer around the blogosphere. We'll be covering a wide variety of topics with our prompts, including fashion, traditions, movies, food, activities, memories, and so much more! Everyone is invited to participate by writing posts related to the prompts and linking them up to share. There is no set schedule or format, so you can easily incorporate it into your own blogging schedule! The link up will be live from December 1-25 to allow for lots of fun and interaction.

Thursday, November 24, 2016

Happy Thanksgiving

We hope you're enjoying time with your family and friends on this holiday. We're wishing you a Happy Thanksgiving and bringing you a reminder to be thankful today and everyday.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Ten Reasons I'm Thankful for our Military Lifestyle

We have been through a lot of ups and downs this year. Some of these ups and downs have been related to the military and the lifestyle we live as a result. I've been working hard lately to focus on the positives and wanted to put some of this into text for others that might be struggling with the lifestyle.

There are times when the military lifestyle can seem like too much to handle. There are other times when the lifestyle presents us with opportunities that we wouldn't have experienced without it. It's not always easy to focus on the positive, but I want to encourage you to make your own list like this one!

1. It allowed me to meet my husband. (Seriously - he wouldn't have been in Charleston if it wasn't for the military.)

2. We have gotten to see the country more than once. (This summer was our second cross country move together.)

3. We have met some incredible people in the military community and outside of the military community.

4. I know exactly how strong our relationship can be due to deployments and other military moments. (Trust and communication are definitely high priorities in our marriage.)

5. Our lifestyle (and our frugal nature) is allowing me to be home with our baby when he's first born. (We both believe that those first years are pretty crucial ones.)

6. We were able to use a VA loan to purchase our first home together. (Buying a home wasn't the original plan when we found out we'd be PCSing to Michigan but it's one that we're happy we made.)

7. The military lifestyle has taught us what's important in life. (Hint: It's not money!)

8. We've gotten to experience life in many different climates which is pretty cool. (I had no idea how beautiful fall could really be...)

9. Although it can create extra obstacles, our insurance has treated us pretty well in terms of keeping medical costs low. (It's nice knowing that the birth of our baby won't cost us a small fortune.)

10. The military is a part of who we are and how we met, so it'll always be something important to our relationship.

I'd love to hear what you're thankful for in your life! How has the military made a positive impact on your life and relationship?

Thursday, November 17, 2016

Holiday Tips for Military Families

The holidays can be stressful. There's gifts to buy, money to budget, halls to deck, people to feed, and the list goes on and on. It seems like the work and stress is never over when you're dealing with the holidays. That being said, I feel like there are a few added stresses for military families due to geographical location and work schedules. That being said, we thought we'd share a few of our tips for tackling these unique obstacles!

As a military family, there are often many decisions you have to make regarding the holidays. Then, there are the decisions that are out of your control and the decisions that you sometimes have to bend and twist because things are always changing last minute. Flexibility is an important virtue for anyone affiliated with the military and it's even more important around the holidays.

Work might get in the way.
Wouldn't it be great if the world just stopped for the holidays so that we could all enjoy our family? Sadly, that's not the case and some people end up working on the holidays - especially in jobs where there's security and safety involved. If you find out that your military member is going to have to work during a major holiday, it's better to find a work around plan than to complain about it. You could schedule your family celebrations and traditions to take place on another day. Or you could plan to bring goodies to the workplace if that's allowed. Anyway it goes, remember to put a smile on your face and not be selfish - I guarantee you it's harder for the one who has to work during the holiday.

It's deployment time.
This one is similar to the previous obstacle. There are times when our loved ones are deployed through the holidays. Remember that statement about the world not stopping? Unfortunately, it means the holidays aren't a reason for a deployment to stop. This doesn't mean you can't still celebrate though. Send your deployed service member a care package and fill it with his favorites from the season. Write him letters or create a fun countdown for him. Take lots of pictures that will make him smile. (P.S. We have more fun ideas in this post.)

Family is miles away.
If you're used to celebrating the holidays with your extended family, it can be hard when you're miles away from them. We've spent the holidays away from family for over two years now. As a result, we've found little things that we can do to feel like we're still a part of the big family Christmas as well. We send gifts via snail mail every year. We also skype or call all of our family members to wish them happy holidays. Then, we focus on building our own traditions for us and our future kids. (Soon I won't be saying future anymore!)

Reach out to others.
This one isn't an obstacle but more of a reminder. You may be facing your own obstacles for the holidays, but remember that there are many service members who face these same obstacles and are unmarried, which means they have even less of a support network. Be kind and reach out to these individuals during the holidays. Invite them to spend some time with you or take them an extra treat if they're the one working so that your spouse can be home with his family. Let's aim to spread cheer to others this year.

Do you know how you're going to be spending the holidays or do you still need to discuss your plans?

A few other bloggers shared their tips and stories with me and I thought they might inspire you as well!

"My husband's last deployment we were living quite far from family so when Christmas came we decided to go to Manhattan just because we could! It was the perfect distraction and I wrote a post on it that you can read here." - Kim of She is Fierce

"When we lived overseas, we sometimes travelled on Christmas. Waking up in a new city was an exciting adventure! Then we followed the local tradition of not opening presents until January 6 (Epiphany ). Now we live in the States, but equally far from family, so the Grandparents are flying out to spend Christmas with us." - Lizanne of Seasoned Spouse

"We were stationed in Japan. Hubby was out to sea, so we got together with a couple of other families and enjoyed one another's company. Not only did we build friendships, we learned others traditions and tried new recipes. Yummy food and good times."- Sybil of Preschool2Teen

A few other posts you might enjoy from fellow bloggers:


Tuesday, November 8, 2016

Making Holiday Decisions as a Military Family

The holidays are a hard time for most military families. Even if the military member is at home, there are still decisions that have to be made about the holidays. In many cases, these decisions need to actually be discussed in advance. That's why today, we're bringing you this list of decisions to make. Hopefully this post will help you get the conversation started!

*Legal Obligation: This blog uses affiliate links to direct you to some of our favorite items. We make a little money from these links which helps us keep the blog running.*

Thanksgiving and Christmas both present many topics of discussion regarding the holiday and how you're going to spend it. If your spouse is deployed or working for the holiday, you might find yourself making these decisions alone. However, if you're lucky enough to have your spouse around for the holidays, then you might want to discuss a few things ahead of time.

Where will you be spending the holidays?
Most military families do not live close to their extended family. (If you do, then count yourself among the lucky ones!) Therefore, it's important to decide ahead of time if you'll be making a trip home to see any of the extended family. Make sure you discuss the pros and cons of making a trip home for the holiday before you settle on your decision. We also recommend making this decision early to allow for the proper leave paperwork and plans to be made. (And of course, always be flexible as things can change last minute! Back up plans are a must at the holidays.) Remember, you don't have to go home for the holidays. Since getting married, we have yet to make a trip home for the holidays.

Who will you be spending the holidays with?
If you're going home, you'll likely be spending the holidays with your family. If you're staying put, then you might want to discuss how the holidays are going to go. Many military families like to get together and spend the holidays together. In many ways, our military friends are a part of our family after all. Last year, we went to Friendsgiving hosted by another couple. This year, we're inviting his station mates over to our house for the holidays. We'll be using our handy planning guide to stay organized this year. Christmas tends to just be the two of us, but we haven't thought that far ahead yet - one holiday at a time for us.

What will you be doing for the holidays?
This one may not require much discussion if you have a holiday tradition in your family. However, if you're like us and still establishing traditions, then it might be worth discussing what you'll be doing for the holidays. Will it be a movie marathon? Big dinner? Gift exchange? Don't forget that your activities will be influenced by the other decisions you've made regarding the holidays.

When will you celebrate?
This one goes along with the other questions mentioned above. It's important to decide on the details, especially if you're inviting others (friends or family) to join you for the holidays. We like to open gifts on Christmas Eve and make dinner with a movie marathon on Christmas Day. Every family is different. (If you're traveling home for the holidays, make sure you find out what the plans are as well - this will help curb your holiday stress.)

Make the holiday yours.
There's one thing you should always remember when you're making your holiday plans. There is no right or wrong way to celebrate a holiday. There's simply the traditions and memories that you choose to make together as a family.

Do you know what your plans are for the holidays? Do you have any fun traditions? We'd love to hear about them in the comments below!

Thursday, November 3, 2016

Avoid Thanksgiving Stress with a Plan

November is here and that means Thanksgiving is just around the corner! We'll be bringing you more recipes this month, but in the meantime, we thought we'd offer up some tips for avoiding Thanksgiving stress. And guess what? All it involves is making a plan! We're even providing you with a printable planning page that you can print out today to get you started!

*Affiliate links are used in this post. They help us keep the blog running and allow you to find recommended products.*

Whether you're hosting Thanksgiving for 2 or for 20, it's always easier to host a dinner when you have a plan. We're opening our  home up to the people that the husband works with so we could be hosting for a much bigger group this year. Good thing we bought a house! We're going to share our tips and ideas for using this page. All you have to do is click on it, print it out, and reference our tips for each section - easy, breezy, and a lot less stressful than throwing it all together last minute!


The Basics
The first thing to consider are your basic details. How many people will be attending? Will it just be family or are you opening your home up to friends as well? If it's just family and no one extra is coming, then your timing is more flexible. If you're inviting others, then you need to consider a time of arrival. You'll also need to consider if you want your guests to bring something or if you'll be providing it all. Be up front with your guests and let them know up front if the event is potluck, BYOB, or anything else special. You're the host so the decisions of how the dinner will go all fall on you.
Main Course
The next step is to figure out your main course. Turkey is the traditional main course for Thanksgiving, but some families like to serve ham along with it. It's also best to find out if any of your guests are vegetarians because you might need an additional main course in that case.

After you decide on the main course, it's time to figure out the sides for the event. If you're going with potluck style, then you can ask your guests to bring sides to go along with the meat. It's perfectly fine to ask them what they'll be bringing to avoid doubles. You can always make a note by each item on the printable of who is bringing it. This will help when you're planning your grocery store trip. Even with a potluck dinner, I would recommend providing one or two sides yourself in case someone has a forgetful moment!

Stumped on possible sides? Check out this list! 
Green beans
Macaroni and cheese
Casseroles - hash brown, green bean, corn, potato, etc
Mashed potatoes
Sweet potatoes
Pasta salad
Deviled eggs
Cranberry sauce

It's always best to prepare for the sweet tooth that is bound to pop up sometime after dinner! This is another one that you can invite guests to bring to help alleviate your hosting duties. As I mentioned above, feel free to ask your guests what they're bringing to avoid duplicates!

We've got yet another list of ideas for you!
Pumpkin pie (check out our recipe)
Apple pie
Pecan pie
Cherry pie
Ice cream
Homemade fudge or candy
Candied yams

Drinks are another area of decision making. I highly recommend doing BYOB because it allows everyone to enjoy their favorite drink of choice. Discuss in advance if you want alcohol present at your event and make sure you inform your guests of your decision. As the host, it's entirely up to you. (Looking for a festive drink idea? Why not try spiced eggnog or apple cider sangria?)

How will you entertain your guests? They'll certainly be entertained by food for part of the time but do you need to have other activities available? If your guests don't know each other, activities can be a big way to break the ice. You could watch football, play games (one of our favorite adult group games is Boxers or Briefs), or host a discussion using discussion cards. The activities you choose will really depend on who's attending your event.

Every party deserves fun decorations. Thanksgiving is no exception. This is the perfect time to create a beautiful display on your table. A few other things to consider for your "decorations" includes whether or not you'll use paper products or normal dishes, where you'll set all of the food, and where everyone will sit during dinner.

Other Things to Consider
These aren't on the planning page but they are things to consider as you make your hosting decisions.

Do you need appetizers? If people are arriving right before dinner then you can forego the appetizers. However, if people are coming over to help with the cooking, some snack foods might be nice to have around.

Will there be kids in attendance? How will you keep them entertained during the non-eating hours? Will you have a separate table for the kids or are they old enough to sit among the adults?

Does anyone have any allergies or special needs that you should take into account? This could include gluten free, specific allergies, or vegetarian preferences. All of these should be considered when you're planning the menu and events of the night.

Keep in mind that planning will help lessen the stress of Thanksgiving, but it won't make things perfect. Even the best laid plans can go awry so be flexible and go with the flow as needed! And definitely don't forget to print out the planning page!

We'd love to hear about your Thanksgiving plans and favorite foods in the comments below! Do you know yet what you'll be doing or is it all still up in the air?