Create A Kids Band Thursday, November 29

Create a Kids Band
Last year for Christmas Nate and I decided to start creating more "experiences" for the kids vs giving toys that end up in the basement and broken. Memories are something the kids will always have and so last year we decided to create space in our unfinished basement for a stage! A place the kids could pretend they were on Disney or at Camp Rock performing for their lives! Each family chooses what is best for their kids, which is what is so cool about parenting, you don't have to be the same as anyone else, you have a clean slate, an opportunity to create family values, traditions, and in result determine the moral compass to which your family will follow. For Nate and I, we have really tried to be intentional in a cyber, social media driven world to keep our kids at bay until their is a need or they have the maturity to handle it. So this gave us the idea to be creative with our Christmas gifts. Of course the kids will get plenty of toys from grandparents and such but from mom and dad (they kind of know Santa isn't real, but he still fills all of the stockings with care).  

This has proven to be a fantastic and fun gift for our kids and they are literally coming up with plays and songs every weekend! And it will certainly make for some good laughs for you as well! 

Here are some pics of our kids, trying out their stage for the first time.

5 Gifts For Kids Wednesday, November 28

5 Gifts For Kids

Gift ideas are hard to come up with... I am always looking for something creative, inspiring, that will challenge the mind a bit but allow them to still imagine and explore. The Tablet has received huge reviews for kids this year, especially the 8 and under group. I am not of the mind to overload your kids with electronics, the more they are allowed to be kids the better. I love listening as they sing and play in the basement, coming up with "shows" and using their imaginations.  The Land of Nod Spy Kit, would be an awesome way to add a little fun to their play.  And since I have busy 1 year old twins, the music station could their little hands busy for maybe a few minutes, right! I also really love the little fox stuffed animals and their are many other options too, but something about the fox reminds me of many childhood stories growing up. Check out all the links below and happy shopping. 

5 Gifts For Kids by ahndeamay on Polyvore

Creating Holiday Memories

I am a huge fan of supporting local small businesses and creating wonderful memories with the annual events our community puts on. Wonderland Books had a wonderful little holiday party with treats and a few very special people for the kids to meet. Gina Bellisario, author of The Twelve Days of Christmas in Illinois, happened to be there signing her new book and talking memories and experiences she has had going up in IL. My kids were so intrigued and were so excited to get the book and read it together at home.  

We also got to meet local artist Lisa Frost, who creates whimsical holiday fun for all ages. She was there painting this window and her bubbly personality certainly added to the experience! Her new "Frost" room is filled with holiday creations, ornaments, paintings, and anything you may need to add a touch of cheer to you home! 
On the way out, we caught a glimpse of this little guy and my curiosity won as I had to know what this adorable snowman was about. Believe it or not, you can actually mail this snowman, as is, no packaging by adding a few stamps to the bottom!  What a perfect way to keep the imagination alive... send the snowman from "Santa" to your house or to someone you may not even know.  You can use permanent marker to write, color or draw on the snowman, telling a story or leaving a not from the North Pole! 
Of course the day would not be complete without a picture with Santa and Mrs. Klaus. The kids jumped right up on Santa's lap with no hesitation and honestly I had a hard time peeling them away for the little kids anxiously awaiting, lists and all. 

A Little Sparkle Tuesday, November 27

A Little Sparkle

I am on the hunt for a statement blazer with a bit of sparkle for the holidays!  There are so many ways to style a fun blazer and even better you can dress it down or take it up and wear it to all of those fun parties you will be going to.

Picture credits: Pinterest 

Carlos Miele shredded shirt, $175 / Dorothy Perkins / Hudson Jeans mint jeans / Matthew Williamson , $44 / Matthew Williamson / Michael Kors watch / Rope necklace, $110 / Vince Camuto sports jewelry

All I Want For Christmas - The Most Amazing Christmas Scent + Giveaway Sunday, November 25

Now that Thanksgiving has come and gone most of us quickly jump right into the spirit of Christmas with Black Friday shopping and family traditions of heading up to the tree farm to find that perfect tree with the fullest branches and shape and that cherished "scent" of pine that embodies Christmas itself. Over the years,  I have switched between a real and fake tree depending on what season of life we happened to be in. But regardless, Christmas is not Christmas without the smell of pine wafting throughout our home so with every breath you are reminded of the holidays! Finding the right candle to burn can be tricky, as some are too strong, and some leave you with a headache and others don't even smell like pine but more of cleaning solution, a fake! 
Well I am happy to report I have found it! The best most addicting smell of pine and Christmas.  So real, you won't even need a tree (but of course you will want one)! Last year I popped into one of my favorite little boutiques, Porch and smelled something so fantastic, I had to have it! It was Thymes  Frasier Fir Candle
 I cannot explain how perfect this combination is other than to give you a chance to smell it for yourself! Remember  Porch, that adorable boutique, with unique jewelry, home decor, Christmas decor, boutique clothing and lots of other little gifts for baby and everyone you have on your stocking stuffer list! Well, they have graciously offered one lucky winner a Frasier Fir Candle wrapped up in their beautiful gift wrap. Side note, I am a sucker for pretty packaging which is another reason I love buying gifts from Porch... I don't have to wrap! 

Entry is simple and fair with Rafflecopter. The winner will be announced Wednesday Dec 5th! 

a Rafflecopter giveaway

A Week Of Thanks Monday, November 19

The week of Thanksgiving always brings focus to the many things, people, and blessings I am thankful for. Having kids is a constant reminder of how one of the many important qualities to teach them is genuine kindness and care for others. Surprisingly, this basic display of character can be missed and neglected, not intentionally but can get stuffed underneath the business of life "our" lives.  We have a choice to be inter-sectors or by-passers. Being available for that 5 min stop in the grocery store when you meet a woman named Julie who just moved from NY and after loosing a set of twin boys and another baby they decided to adopt triplet girls who are now 6 and are being home schooled by their mom who doesn't have many friends yet and really just needed someone to "care" about what she had to say.  Or maybe something as simple as seeing an elderly person struggling to get through a door and instead of rushing past, stopping and offering a helping hand.  Believe it or not, I have learned a simple smile can truly change how someone feels.  During this season, Nate and I try to be intentional about how we will model thanks and giving in our home and with our family. It's no secret that kids don't need any help being selfish, let's face it either do we sometimes, but what they do need is a life modeled not taught of serving and loving others maybe with a bit of sacrifice. 

As I began looking into organizations we could partner with I was instantly glued into the heartache and suffering of so many and yet the beauty and hope these many non-profits and volunteers have dedicated their lives providing. As I have been crying for the last hour just thinking about the families we personally know that have either dedicated their life to a mission like Christina Bacino, who is a mouthpiece and spearhead for Not For Sale to end human trafficking or our friends Dean and Tasha Ives who have started their own foundation Love You More after loosing their daughter Sydney, which is designed to help families in the fight for the life of their ill child. In the past 6 months there have been many families we know that have lost their babies. I cannot even fathom what that would be like and my heart just aches thinking of leaving the hospital without my babies. This organization Now I Lay Me Down To Sleep provides beautiful photography, a keepsake,  for the parents and family leaving a beautifully captured memory of their sweet angel. 

There are thousands of organizations bringing hope and healing to our country. Like The Red Cross  who is providing disaster relief and care to the many communities effected by Sandy. Or Project Angel Tree which provides toys and essentials to children over the holiday season. The Ronald McDonald House  providing shelter and allowing families to be together and Light House Family Retreat  serving children with cancer at a seaside retreat.  I literally could go on for days.  There is just so much need in our country but there are so many of us that can help.  Can you believe that 1 in 6 children goes hungry in a given day in our community, that is astounding, but we can help to change that by filling our local food pantries with projects like Bag Hunger  and Love Works.  What foundations are you connected with or have a special place in your heart?  Where is your family giving this year, or any traditions you have created with your kids to get involved helping others?

Happy Thanksgiving! 

All I want for Christmas: Chocolate + Giveaway Wednesday, November 14

What holiday is not complete without Chocolate... and loads of it!  You can expect to get at least one box of chocolates from a client or friend, and since I am kind of a chocolate snob, I stumbled upon the absolute best chocolate I have ever had the pleasure of tasting... and lets face it I have tasted more than I am comfortable mentioning. 

My husband and I were on a date and popped into Artale for some wine and I noticed a little mini temperature controlled box with a tantalizing photo on it like this one

Of course, trying one of these treats was an absolute must and disappoint it did not. Living up to the mouth watering photos, this treat was like no other. As I researched a bit I found that these chocolates are actually made right in my home town of Rockford, IL and cacaocuvee was chosen as one of  Oprah's Favorite Things for 2012. Besides the fact they use 100% natural and organic ingredients, their flavor combinations like apple cider and sake are just a sampling of their brilliance. 

My purchase was something called a galapagos and I though I will just have a bite and leave it in the car while we eat dinner.  After tasting this utterly divine goodness, I could not get it out of my head and literally sent my husband back out to the car to retrieve my new found addiction. It was the combination of unique nuts and a homemade carmel so different than anything I had ever experienced. Topped with  dark chocolate and introducing bliss!

So if your not ready to try cacaocuvee yet there is one more incentive... Oprah sent her team on a mission,
 "I challenged O's creative director, Adam Glassman, to find me a bite-size, 100-calorie 
piece of dark chocolate made with 67 percent cocoa, and he did it, with 10 calories to spare! It's a gift for every day of the week." 

This is what they found

cacaocuvee invented the ultimate superfood, a 7 day supply of  antioxidant filled chocolate bites with only 89 calories, preservative and gluten free and just enough sweet to curb your sugar cravings and strengthen your cardiovascular system. You can order a 30 day supply with a special "O" discount or order some of their other delectables as gifts this year. 

So now your mouth is probably watering... as is mine and luckily for us Susan Pitkin of CacaoCuvee' has offered a sampling of their chocolates to a lucky winner! Enter below with Rafflecopter by liking CacaoCuvee's facebook page and joining the fun here on "Style Story." For extra entries you can tweet the below text as well as post a comment telling us which chocolates you would like to try! 

*this contest is only for residence in the United States or Canada 
a Rafflecopter giveaway

DIY Wristband Tutorial Monday, November 12

What you will need:

>A cool fabric with a bit of stretch to it ( mine is from my "yia yia's" vintage collection
>Scissors, thread, needle, backings and vintage buttons or embellishments

Cut a strip about a half inch longer than the size around your wrist

Cut 4 squares each smaller than the last

 You will have one long strip of fabric and 4 squares

Turn the fabric to the back side and pinch across the top lining up the ends and sew tightly across

 You should then have a wristband like this one

Stack your squares largest to smallest

Pinch down in the center and sew up and down shaping a bit to bring form

You should then have something like this

 Hot glue or sew your backings on

Add vintage buttons or other embellishments like tool or lace

You will then have this beauty! But not just this because the flower is convertible and can then be placed on a scarf, headband, blazer coat or your fantastic new wristband

Be creative with your designs

Holiday DIY Fun

Holiday DIY Header

The holidays are upon us and in the world of pinterest and DIY everything, I thought I would give you a few fun "Holiday DIY" projects to try. 

I love these adorable ornament chandi's! I am going to do this with ribbon in my dinning room this Christmas. You can see the tutorial on Real Simple.

Look how cool this project is with some simple yarn and clips! Wrapping yarn around a door in your house and clipping all your Christmas Cards to it... so creative, and when you get lots of cards like we do, I would love to display them all. The Wicker House has this tutorial for you all. 

Now this tree is a must.... and simple, putting long sticks in a pretty container, hole punching your cards and tying ribbon around the branch. 

And finally, what holiday would complete without metallic animals, and these from heodeza are just adorable. I love the idea of playing with pattern and small details. 

Steal Alert: Half Off Old Navy Outerwear Entire Family Sunday, November 11

Check out this deal.... it's that time of year and if your like me you have lots of coats to buy and when it can be easily $100 a piece this Old Navy sale is fantastic!  Coats for $20 - $40, Perfect! Here are some of my picks.  Loving that yellow peacoat with the bright colored scarf. 

Steal Alert: Half Off Old Navy Outerwear Entire Family

Old navy coat

Old navy coat

Old navy coat

Old navy jacket

Old navy jacket

Old navy jacket

Old Navy hooded toggle coat