Happy Birthday Little Sister!!

 Happy Birthday Paige!
Little sister, musician and merrymaker!

My little sister Paige is my favorite person to laugh with. Earlier this year I called her laughing so hysterically that I couldn't even speak. She patiently waited (while laughing with me) until stopped giggling hard enough to share with her what was so funny. If I know something funny, she's the first person I want to share it with.

When my husband and I watch a funny movie together with Paige, she always makes the movie more hysterical with her goofy character voices. My mom always begs us to do our pretend Saturday Night Live skit of "Chinese Cheerleading" that we've done since elementary school...it gets funnier with wine!

When Paige comes in town, we stock the pantry with kettle corn and my husband is sure to make her favorite dinner, sticky chicken wings.  

Paige is one of those extroverted people who knows everyone everywhere. When my sister lived in New York City my mom and I visited her. I remember the three of us walking down fifth avenue and someone across the street shouted, "PAAAIGE!" It happened again with a different person when we were shopping for hammers and nails in Gracious Home. That same day Katharine Hepburn had hugged her after she had waited on her in the restaurant she worked at. There's always someone somewhere who knows my sister and if they don't know her, they want too!
My sister Paige on an Easter egg hunt, dressed as Betty Boop for Halloween and silly sibling pics from the 80's.
After I had my first child, my sister helped out so much. I don't mean she did the dishes and laundry, but she just knew how to make life happy and easy going! I was so tired and was trying to finish the book "The Baby Whisper" when she told me to close my eyes and she read it out loud to me. 

Growing up, Paige and I used to share a room then later, the upstairs of my parents house. She's a very heavy sleeper and when her alarm would go off for school, she would KEEP SLEEPING! She was smart to move her alarm away from her bed so she'd have to get out and walk to it and try to wake herself up. 

Something I admire about my sister is that she doesn't seem to need anything material. I think of her a little like a nomad, moving from Texas to Montana to New York to California and she just goes...not holding on to material things. I also admire her confidence and spirit. She's a talented singer/songwriter. Her band is called The Peach Kings and she just keeps getting better. My favorite song she sings is Fisherman. It's like a Lay's potato chip...you can't listen to it just once! 
Aunt Paige making my children laugh!
My little sister is a beloved Aunt! She creates scavenger hunt games for the kids, plays endless games of hide and seek and is not afraid to be loud playing "marching band" while my little ones follow her around the house banging on drums. 

Three sisters saying serefe! (our sister-in-law Jeyhan, me and Paige)
Children of the same family, the same blood, with the same first associations and habits, have some means of enjoyment in their power, which no subsequent connections can supply...~Jane Austen

Many happy returns ma petite soeur
I love you!
xx, Ashley

New Year's Eve Lobster fête...avec les enfants

My friend Jen and I have spent many New Year's Eve nights together...starting in the early 90's. It's changed a bit since we've had children, but we have double the fun with NYE energy times four!

Jen lived several years after college in Boston where she met her husband. My husband grew up in Rhode Island so that makes lobster a perfect New Year's Eve dinner...our children love it too!
New Year's Eve celebrations are often thought of as being adult-only parties but the kids get just as excited about saying, "Happy New Year" as the adults. 

The kid's table is where it's happening! Like any party avec les enfants, the kid's table is the one with all the noise makers, party hats, English party crackers, and M&M's sprinkled like confetti! 

Families with young children might as well entertain at home with friends. I promise, it's loads of fun and you're making happy memories for your children. Who knows? Maybe our children will continue the "Jen and Ashley New Year's tradition" of ringing in the New Year together! For now, we're perfectly happy celebrating the New Year a little bit early with good food and the best of friends.     

Glamorous glasses are the only way to go for New Year's Eve. The coupe is my favorite glass to drink champagne from but I also love these dainty and ever so feminine champagne flutes from Olive and Cocoa. My daughter would call these "Fancy Nancy" glasses. The kids will be tickled pink to have their white grape juice in this glass.

As for the adults...we'll be drinking Kir Royal champagne cocktails. A little splash of blackcurrant liqueur makes for a delicious start to the New Year. It's called a "Kir" after a priest in Northern France, Canon Félix Kir. The priest was tired of drinking poor quality wine during WWII and found that a little crème de cassis, made the wine drinkable. When mixed with a proper bottle of champagne or white wine, it's amazing good and goes well with lobster!

Something else you might need for your New Year's Eve fête is the Corkcicle...the newest and "coolest" wine gadget and New Year's Eve is the perfect time to use it. Imagine eliminating the ice bucket and keeping your wine/champagne chilled for an hour right on the table...fabulous!
The kid version of the corkcicle is a glitter wand. This makes the perfect party favor! Don't you remember being memorized by glitter wands when you were a child.  

However you celebrate, Cheers to tradition on New Year's Eve and singing Auld Lang Syne with the best of friends because that's what singing Auld Lang Syne is for...a tribute to friendships that have endured. 

Should old acquaintance be forgot,

and never brought to mind?
Should old acquaintance be forgot,and old lang syne?

Wishing you a very Happy New Year! 
xx, Ashley


We are only weeks away from Christmas day! Here are some ideas to help you check off everyone on your list. Think personalized and thoughtful gifts that make your loved ones feel extra special. Chop! Chop! Time is running out. Need more ideas? Check gift guides from 2011. Happy Shopping!!

Gifts for the Kids
Geomag Young builders will have fun with magnetic construction. This is one of my little boy's favorite things to play with. It doesn't break, teaches problem solving and creativity. starting at 19.95

Paris in a box Play with wooden landmarks of Paris. $17.95

HABA Wonderful World Wooden Animal Blocks Children can create scenes with wooden animals, figures and trees. $31.04

Tegu I love the click-clack sound of the Tegu magnetic blocks and the feel of the hardwood. These are one of my favorite toys my little boy has and plays with more than his Legos. starting at $12.00

Doll Party Pillow My little girl loves to play with dolls and dress up. I thought this would be the perfect gift for her. $59.95

Lego Big Ben For kids of all ages! You're never too old for Legos! $39.95

Gifts for Everyone
Stickygram magnets with photos from instagram that can decorate your fridge or a Christmas present. These will bring lots of smiles...and so will the price. $14.99

Wax Seals  Seal your card with a xo and make your letters oh so special! $16.00

Silicon Ice Ball Maker Imagine the smile you'll get from your husband when you serve him his favorite cocktail with a giant ice ball!

Talavera Platters  Give the gift of color in the kitchen with a beautiful Mexican platter. $76.46

Kaleido Trays stackable and versatile, these trays make organization colorful. starting at $16.00

Feed Projects I have such love for Feed Projects. Give a gift that gives in return. starting at $5.00

Gifts for Mom, Sister, Best Friend...
Priceless Prints A kit that lets you take your child's fingerprint and turn it into jewelry. $75.99

Wire wrapped personalized bracelet delicate cursive that's personal and unique. $99.95

Gold Initial Earrings  These earrings will become your best friend's signature piece. $132.00

Ten Thousand Things You will find beautiful and colorful jewelry here that looks like it could have been heirloom. starting at $65.00

Gifts for Dad, Brother, Best Friend...
Glow in the Dark Bocce Ball Everyone loves a game and anything outside in the dark is fun! $68.95

New York Times Subscription Make his weekend happier with his favorite newspaper.starting at $3.90

Brooks Brothers Boxers I always give my husband boxers for Christmas. Brooks Brothers are his favorite. 
3 for $59.00

Shirt Pocket Magnifier This might be of some assistance at his desk and he will thank you! $6.99

When I asked my husband for ideas on what a man wants, his first response was for everyone to be happy. I did get out of him that he appreciates a custom made shirt. Good luck with that one! 

I always think this Bo Derek quote at Christmas time...Whoever said money can't buy happiness simply didn't know where to go shopping. It's all about the smiles :)

The Sweetest Dreams Come to Life through the Nutcracker

GROWING up, I remember my mom dressing me up in a navy velvet Christmas dress to see the Nutcracker ballet. She even let me wear my tiara. I had no idea the effect the ballet would have on me. Sitting in the audience, I was overwhelmed by a dreamy feeling of Tchaikovsky’s music, the winter wonderland set, George Balanchine’s choreography, but most of all how I felt the urge to dance.

Watching the Nutcracker today with my own children at the Winspear Opera House seeing the Texas Ballet Theater, I am still taken back to my childhood and those same dreamy feelings. There is magic in the Nutcracker with the Kingdom of Sweets, Sugar Plum Fairy, snowflakes, tutus…it leaves you spellbound and inspired.

The Nutcracker is a fairly old ballet. The first performance was in 1892 in St. Petersburg, Russia (it was not a success). George Balanchine choreographed The Nutcracker premiering in New York City in 1954. Balanchine's Nutcracker was nostalgic of his Russian Christmases and has remained successful and a Christmas tradition.

The Nutcracker ballet will forever attract the young and the young at heart. Drosselmeyer (the man of mystery) is the only thing “old” in The Nutcracker.  The many children onstage help to keep the ballet so young and innocent. It is a story from a child’s dreams and watching it, you become part of the fantasy.

Fritz and Marie (or Clara) are like all children...impatient and restless. When Drosselmeyer gives Marie a Nutcracker doll and her brother Fritz breaks it, the children in the audience can relate to them.

When children watch The Nutcracker, they feel inspired as if they are seeing their sweetest dreams come to life. I love the expression that children have when watching ballet…it is true wonderment and MAGIC!

The Nutcracker is ballet bliss. When the ballet ends, the audience feels like Dorothy from The Wizard of Oz and wonders…was it really all a dream? My daughter asked me, “Mommy was that…real snow? angel really flying? Christmas tree really growing? The best response I could think of was, “It’s real in your heart.” 

I was lucky to view that expression children have when seeing ballet up close when I danced for the second grade (where I teach school). Our reading book story was about ballet so it was absolutely necessary that I taught second grade in my tutu and pointe shoes! 

Ballet is magical!