Some Lovely Pre-Christmas Snow

For the past couple years, Decembers here in Chicago have been fairly mild, without much in the way of substantial snowfall before Christmas. But yesterday, we got around four inches of snow, and it was a lovely sight, sticking to the tree branches and turning our boring residential street into a wintery landscape almost worthy of a Christmas card:

Snowy Street

We had a doctor’s appointment in the morning to get Lillian her flu vaccine (which was available as a nasal mist rather than a shot — everyone involved was very happy about that!) and since our pediatrician’s office is on the 6th floor, I was also able to snap this photo showing a bird’s eye view of the snow falling outside:

Bird's Eye View of Church in Snow

It ended up being just enough snow to create that wintery atmosphere without making parking too difficult, and it fell slowly enough that the roads didn’t seem too crazy while we were out. Compared to some snowstorms we’ve gotten in the past (like the big 2011 blizzard, which I mentioned briefly in this post) or winters with no snow at all before Christmas, it was kind of perfect.

Granted, it doesn’t stay all pretty and pristine for long, and within a day or so the lovely snowy landscapes mostly turn into icky dirty salt-stained city slush-piles, but I enjoyed it so much while it lasted that I didn’t even mind shoveling our sidewalks. (But then, maybe that’s just the brainwashing effect of all those catchy snow-glorifying Christmas songs playing on the radio!)

Tinsel Pigs, Yoda Lights, And Other Silly Christmas Things

For today’s post, I wanted to share a couple of random things we’ve spotted this Christmas season, and which I thought were kind of amusing. If you follow me on Instagram you may have already seen some (or all) of these pics, but keep reading to get the full longer-winded story!

It all started when we were browsing around Target last weekend, and saw a shelf of polar bear figurines — just some nice wintery home decor. But then Joe noticed that if you look at their faces, they kind of look suspiciously like squirrels:

Polar Bear Squirrel

I was entertained enough to snap this picture — they totally look like squirrels, right? And from there it became sort of a game looking for more silly Christmas things.

Shortly afterward, in the lights section, we spotted a string of lights that look like Yoda from Star Wars with little Santa Claus hats:

Yoda Christmas Lights

And not far away was this lighted tinsel pig — made up of a wire frame covered in shiny pink tinsel lit up from the inside, and also wearing a Santa Claus hat:

Tinsel Pig

And amongst a slew of other novelty ornaments, there was this one of Animal, one of Lillian’s favorite muppets (right behind Beaker and Swedish Chef, which she calls “Meep” and “Bork” respectively) — also wearing a Santa Claus hat:

Muppet Ornament

And as proof that I have the decorating impulses of a two-year-old, I’ll confess that the muppet ornament may have found its way onto our Christmas tree.

Muppet Ornament On Tree

Speaking of which, our tree is actually lit up and fully decorated as of yesterday! Only two weeks after getting it from the Christmas tree farm, haha. There are a few things we did differently with this year’s tree compared to the last two years, and the photo above gives a little sneak peek — stay tuned for all the pics and details, hopefully in the next few days!

In the meantime, have you guys seen any silly Christmas things this season? A year or two back, we spotted a car that had homemade-looking antlers attached to the roof and a big red Rudolph nose in front, which is a nice little reminder that the possibilities go beyond silly products for sale at the store!

My Response To Maria “What’s Your Excuse” Kang

Fair warning: this is going to be kind of a long-winded post. While it started out as my thoughts on an opinion piece that was posted on Time.com a few days ago, there’s also a bit of backstory involved, so I’ll go into that first.

A month or so back, there was a viral image making its way around Facebook and the mommy blogosphere. Maybe you’ve already seen it by now — I remember it showing up on our local news here in Chicago — but basically someone named Maria Kang posted a photo of herself posing with her three young children, the youngest 8 months old. She was dressed in fitness attire, showing off her flawlessly toned stomach, and she chose to caption the photo with a question: “What’s your excuse?”

Maria Kang - What's Your Excuse?

(Original source on Facebook here.)

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Types Of Live Christmas Trees

In my last post about going to a real Christmas tree farm to pick up this year’s Christmas tree, I mentioned that there were a bunch of different kinds of trees to choose from, and even said, “I could probably fill an entire blog post with the different kinds of trees we looked at.” So just to live up to my own challenge, here is a random post about five different kinds of live Christmas trees we looked at last weekend!

Types Of Live Christmas Trees

All of these photos were just taken with my iPhone as we wandered around the Christmas tree farm, and I included my hand in the photo to provide a sense of scale. And then I made the collage above, and even added some festive Christmasey touches.

To start out, here’s a closer look at the Balsam Fir, which had short bristly needles packed tightly together on the branches:

Balsam Fir

(Balsam Fir)

The Douglas Fir had slightly longer needles and looked fuller in general. The photo below has the sun coming in at a weird angle, though — it wasn’t actually this yellow:

Douglas Fir

(Douglas Fir)

The blue spruce has a definite blue-ish tint to the needles, and of all the types of trees we looked at, it was by far the pointiest. Maybe they’re not all this way, but based on the ones we saw I don’t think I would enjoy putting ornaments on one of these.

Blue Spruce

(Blue Spruce)

The Scotch Pine had long thin needles, which gave the branches kind of a fluffy look, and overall a much different appearance than the short-needled ones we looked at.

Scotch Pine

(Scotch Pine)

And finally, the Concolor Fir (or White Fir) had longer needles, but the shape of them looked more like the short-needled trees than the Scotch Pine (or the White Pine we got for our first Christmas at this house — you can see that one here). Here’s a close-up of one of the branches:

Concolor Fir

(Concolor Fir)

We ultimately picked a Concolor Fir this year, which had more to do with the overall shape and size of the tree than the shape of the branches or needles. (Though I thought those had an interesting look as well!)

So anyway, that’s my collection of Christmas tree specimens this year, described and documented all sciencey-like. Not that I’m stalling or anything… okay, okay, we still need to finish actually decorating our tree. Hopefully the details on that will be coming to the blog shortly!

PS – This little blog has a Facebook page now! (After 2+ years of not living in this century, haha.) For anyone who prefers to follow/subscribe on Facebook rather than email or RSS, click here to check it out and click the “Like” button! :)

Picking This Year’s Christmas Tree

Each Christmas since we moved into this house, we’ve gotten a real live Christmas tree, though so far it’s always just been one of the pre-cut ones from Home Depot or Lowe’s. The results of this have been perfectly cromulent, as previous Christmas-tree related posts on this blog can demonstrate (see 2011’s tree here and 2012’s tree here).

But… the experience of picking up those trees from a big box store didn’t really feel all that special, and now that Lillian is getting a little older, we thought it would be fun to make an expedition to an actual Christmas tree farm to pick out our Christmas tree this year.

Rows of evergreens at the Christmas tree farm.

We found a small family-run Christmas tree farm in the west suburbs called Ziegler’s Christmas Tree Farm, and my brother and sister were even able to join us for the trip, which was a rare treat to have them both in the state and available. After stopping for lunch and generally dragging our heels, we were able to make it there with a whole hour before closing time to pick out our tree.

We didn’t attempt to bring the stroller, and two-year-old Lillian alternated between walking and asking to be carried, but she seemed to enjoy herself during this new and different experience — especially when she was asking daddy to carry her and run!

Our two year old daughter at a Christmas tree farm.

There were quite a few different species of trees to choose from, and it was neat to be able to see and compare them while fully alive and standing. I could probably fill an entire blog post with the different kinds of trees we looked at.

The only challenge at this particular tree farm was finding a tree of the right height. In the previous two years, we’ve had a tall-ish tree, maybe seven or so feet — but here it seemed like most of the trees were either too tall (10+ feet) or on the short side (barely 6 feet). We did manage to find one of just about the right size, though — here’s me and Lillian standing next to it for scale, keeping in mind that I’m 5′ 9″:

The Chosen Christmas Tree

The species we ended up picking was a Concolor Fir (also known as a White Fir) — there’s a nice article here with more info on this flavor of Christmas tree. Pricing for the trees varied based on whether it was a pine, a spruce, or a fir, with the firs being most expensive, and at $69 this was the most we’ve spent on a Christmas tree so far. Though it’s some consolation knowing the money went to a small family business rather than a big corporation.

Interestingly, it turns out that cutting down a live Christmas tree isn’t all that difficult (which is probably no surprise to people who cut down their own Christmas trees every year, but this was a first for me). My brother Jason did the sawing, and it only took him about 43 seconds from start to finish — and then he and Joe were hauling it away to be baled and tied to the roof of the car.

Carrying The Christmas Tree

So anyway, that’s the story of our first family Christmas tree farm trip! The tree is sitting in our living room now waiting to be decorated — and if last year is any indication, it may be another week or two before we finish that part, haha. Stay tuned for the sequel to this post, which will hopefully feature this year’s fully lit and decorated Christmas tree!