Blending Weihnachten and Christmas

The number one day for being homesick for me is without a doubt Christmas. That’s the 24th, not the 25th of December. Especially if the husband is working hard to fly people to their loved ones but I always miss my family and participating in the family Christmas festivities. But this year husband had the day off (the perks of getting older… more seniority… better schedules – FINALLY)! Alas, I didn’t just do what I would usually do, that is have a German Christmas, but we wanted to make sure to include both German and American traditions as we’re creating our own family traditions for the three of us.

When does the Christmas Tree / Weihnachtsbaum go up?

At home in Germany, my family always has an advent wreath and you light one more candle in it on every Sunday leading up to Christmas. The main greenery, uhum, that Christmas tree, funnily enough is put up just mere days before Christmas Eve. Heck, there’ve been plenty of years that we didn’t decorate it until the 24th! Promptly on January 6th though it would go to the curb. In my home village the volunteer fire department would collect all the Christmas trees and stack them up for the Easter bonfire. Fun times.

Conversely, here in the U.S. Christmas trees go up the day after Thanksgiving – the last Friday of November. Then I see them on the curb as early as December 26th. I totally love putting it up that early. I totally hate taking it down so soon. If I’m honest, decorating a tree is kind of a pain in my butt. Fun, but a pain. Getting all the ornament hangers untangled and stringing the light chain… Bleh. But, I love having a Christmas tree and after all that hard work of decorating it I want it up for as long as possible!! So it should come as no surprise that we are picking and choosing the best of both worlds. The tree goes up right after Thanksgiving and stays up until January 6th. I also want to make an advent wreath next year to introduce our baby boy to that tradition from back home.

Here are some cultural “gems” from our tree:

  • a “German” Christmas pickle that my husband got me for our first Christmas (that’s actually not a true German tradition but I love the pickle)
  • totally American NFL snowman cheering for husband’s favorite team
  • a Berlin Brandenburger Tor s’more snowman ornament (RANDOM! Yeah I don’t know how someone came up with that but it’s pretty special especially after the Christmas market attack there this year), and
  • American Santa riding in a NYC yellow cab.

German American Christmas Tree Ornaments

The other huge difference between a German and an American Christmas is gift giving. Back home, der Weihnachtsmann or das Christkind (Santa or Christ Child) deliver a few gifts late afternoon / early evening on Christmas Eve. We’d usually go to church and when we got back gifts would be under the tree. Of course here in the U.S. Santa Claus comes during the night before Christmas Day once everyone has gone to bed so you open your gifts and empty your stockings in pajamas on the 25th. Aaaand that’s how unflattering Christmas photos make it to Facebook. Messy bed hair, no make-up but at least a big smile (if Santa didn’t disappoint you). I get it, Santa needs time to fly from Europe to North America but watching my family open gifts while we video chat when I have to wait another whole day… ehhhhhh……

So after crowd-sourcing in one of the Germans living in the US Facebook groups we’ve decided to blend our traditions to celebrate Christmas with baby Leo like so:

Christmas Eve we’ll open gifts that are from us. They’ve been under the Christmas tree for days if not weeks by then anyway so clearly they’re not from Santa. Christmas Day we’ll check to see what Santa has left in our stockings over night (hopefully not coal!) and Leo (and maybe us, to be determined) will also find a special gift from Santa in front of the fireplace.

We'll check our stockings on Christmas Day.Excuse the fire, we won’t have one on Christmas Eves so Santa doesn’t get hot feet. Promise!

Hopefully that will also mean the kid isn’t up at the crack of dawn to check if Santa was there because he’s already received some gifts the night before but one can only hope. 😀

What are some of your Christmas traditions and how have you blended your traditions with ones from your partner’s family or new home area?

Merry Christmas and a happy New Year!

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Our First Vacation to Charleston with The Baby

One of our favorite escapes from Charlotte is Charleston, SC. We love the food, beaches, historical downtown and the low country. So when we found out that my parents in law had never been we decided to take them there for their birthdays. I was hoping they would agree that experiences and time spent together are the best gifts and hey in my book those are much better than something that would collect dust. We got them enough of those things for Christmas. 😀

We’ve been incredibly lucky that husband’s parents have begun snow-birding in the NC mountains so we get to see them much more often now. Also great because we could all drive down to Charleston and meet there. I had found a super awesome (if I may say so) vacation rental on Air BnB. With four months old baby Leo and his grandparents there, having a common living area and a full kitchen was fantastic and look at the view from the living room; we loved seeing the creek at low and high tide!

Best hidden secret for staying near Charleston, SC

Mount Pleasant

We usually don’t stay in downtown because we love going to the beach, too, aaand it’s significantly cheaper. Mt. Pleasant is a short drive across the marvelous Arthur Ravenel Jr. bridge and has loads of great dining and shopping options so we enjoy staying either there or in one of the beach towns. Thanks to Yelp and places we’ve discovered and loved during previous visits there we had bitchin’ food at Page’s Ocra Grill, Five Loaves Cafe, and Poe’s Tavern (best burger!).

Best burger in Charleston: Poe's Tavern on Sullivan's Island

While the men enjoyed a(n entire) day on the air plane carrier USS Yorktown at Patriots Point, my mother-in-law and I spent the day with Leo. No, that didn’t mean we hung out at home and entertain him. Thankfully he loves being carried in his baby carrier and so we checked out a local furniture consignment store and then drove to the beach town of Sullivan’s Island. We had that great burger for lunch, then I fed Leo who had napped through our lunch and we walked off all those calories on the beach. Winter temperatures in Charleston are so so so pleasant!!

Sullivans Island's large beach

As you can see it definitely wasn’t high tide when we were there. The texture of the compacted sand was just perfect for a long beach walk. I so love the wide Carolina beaches and that day I found my first whole sand dollar ever! Yeah I get excited about them and sea shells and that kinda stuff. 😀 I get bored and usually over heated just lounging around at the beach so this was the perfect beach day in my book!

Downtown Charleston

Of course we spent a day in downtown Charleston as well. My parents-in-law had never been so we wanted to show them the essentials. With soooo many things to do there it can be tough narrowing down your agenda so we settled on doing a walking tour through the historic center after cruising by the Citadel (a prominent military college). It’s not far out of the way and you get a pretty good impression of life there when you drive around the main square. Bonus sightseeing points if you stop to take a photo with their bulldog statue outside of their stadium.

A quick drive through the Citadel campus. Top things to do in Charleston.

After parking the car (And man was that painful, parking was tough to find! We liked the garage on Cumberland St.), we felt like eating brunch and as luck would have it, Toast was right across the street. My MIL wanted to try it and we were all glad she did because it was goooooood. Great breakfast all day, a changing table and I felt comfortable nursing there so that’s a win in my book.

Freshly nourished we strolled down Meeting Street to take in some Charleston history. The first quick stop was the cemetery of the Circular Congregational Church, which didn’t disappoint with grave stones from the 1700s.

Old cemetery in Charleston

We continued walking south, peeking into St. Michael’s church, marveling at the old houses that didn’t crumble during their big earthquake in 1886 and enjoying small, tucked away parks like Washington Square. The Nathaniel Russell house (uhm excuse me, mansion!) drew us in. Such a cute garden! Also, great restroom with a nice changing pad that you can access through the gift shop. This was the first time we did the actual house tour and it was great! Instead of of just talking about this piece of furniture and that painting (yawn), they talked a lot about what life was like back then in the Charleston society. Loved the grand staircase!

Nathaniel Russell home tour in Charleston, SC

From there we continued walking south to battery park where the boys of course checked out the cannons. I’m usually more interested in the ocean view there and we love the strolling along on the harbor wall. The historic McMansions are so charming!

Historic mansions on our walk around Charleston

Further up we looked at Rainbow Row, the pastel colored row houses, and then had fellow tourists take this beautiful family photo of us at the pineapple fountain. Is that perfect light just before sunset or what?! Pineapples are everywhere in Charleston and fittingly stand for hospitality.

Charleston's pineapple fountain is a great backdrop for family photos

To complete the perfect Charleston day I recommend a little shopping for example down Market Street or King Street. We checked out the historic society’s store for some local gifts and really enjoyed their selection of local children’s books. Grandpa bought Leo The Legend of Putterfrog, a goofy little story about a frog on a nearby golf course. 😀

On our final day we went back into town for lunch at our favorite place, Husk. I checked for reservations about two weeks in advance and I kid you not, the only things available during the week (!) in November (!) was lunch. I gladly snatched up the table and loved my shrimp and grits – a southern must!

Husk is a must eat at restaurant in Charleston

Traveling with our baby boy is definitely different and takes much more planning but it is totally possible especially these days that all he needs is my milk bar. If he’s cranky we get take-out, otherwise he’s usually very chill when we go to restaurants. Going early or later if it’s lunch helps a lot: less wait time for a table and the kitchen isn’t as busy. Yeah we don’t go to pubs or bars with him but husband got a six pack of local brews at a grocery store there so he was able to sample local craft beer nonetheless.

2.5 Days in Charleston, SC with a baby

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Free Printable 2017 Planner

planner-post-graphics

You guys, I’m checking off a big item from my bucket list: designing my own calendar / planner / journal / agenda! And because it was way too much work to just sit on my desk I’m sharing it with all of you. Huzzah! Earlier this year I splurged on an Erin Condren planner, which I really liked, but there were just a few things that I wished it would have had to make it perfect for me. For instance, I didn’t want to have to add stickers every week to keep track of the same items. So I looked at plenty of planners online and none wowed me. I didn’t like the binding of the Happy Planner and was worried that I’d never keep up with a bullet journal and neither did I like not having all of the year readily available. Well, since my middle name is Frugal and I do marketing and design for a living I figured I would create my own. And so I did. I hope you’ll love it as much as I do and get good use out of it!

New Year’s Resolutions Tracker

Making resolutions is easy but writing them down makes committing and keeping them so much easier. I love striving for continuous personal improvement and so I’ve created six categories that you can choose to focus on next year: personal, physical, spiritual, financial, professional, and domestic goals. There’s plenty of space to draw your own trackers, doodle some inspirational images or whatever your heart desires.

Free year planner with new year's resolution tracker

2017 Lists

I love looking back at old planners and using them as sort of a hybrid planner and journal so it’ll be neat to jot down trips we’ll have gone on, books I’ve read, etc. Again, extra space to add what’s important to you, be it races you’ve run, baseball stadiums you’ve visited, Pokemon collected… Hey, whatever floats your boat.

Meal Planning

Something that’s really helped me avoid eating junk food this year is meal planning. I’m not a strict planner (hard to believe seeing I just created my own planner, I know….) but knowing what we’re planning on cooking or eating out does help. I usually shuffle meals around throughout the week depending on changing plans, baby’s nap times, eating all of the leftovers or just because I simply don’t feel like cooking that night. In any case, this planner has space for not only a weekly meal plan but also for a meal master list that’s split into categories like desert, veggies, crock pot, grilled, yada yada. I’m planning on using it to write down healthy go to meals as I make them to create a master meal list. Hopefully it’s going to make meal planning even easier with it as a reference list. I’m guessing this list will come in even handier if you are following a special diet.

Free printable annual planner with meal and cleaning planing

Home Disaster Avoidance Plan

Heck yeah! Something I want to be better about next year is keeping our home sparkling clean. I like calling it avoiding our home becoming a complete disaster, alas, the Home Disaster Avoidance Plan was born. It starts with a list of Beast Projects. Suckers that I’m dreading to tackle but are necessary. Like filing taxes. Bleh. For me, I’m also going to add organizing the freezer and sprucing up our front yard. Any larger home projects like repainting a room, building a deck, etc. would be perfect in the Beast Project category if you ask me.

Then, I added a list of areas in your home that you can pick from to tackle each month. There’s a spot in the monthly calendar view to jot it down so you have it in front of you all month long to declutter and deep-clean in one of those focus zones. Next we’ve got a handy check-list of handy items to have on hand and space for whatever else fits your lifestyle. I think we’ll use it to write down maintenance tasks like chimney sweeps, air filter and other oh so exciting things that come with home ownership.

Lastly, that page has a cleaning matrix that you can use to personalize your ideal cleaning routine if you so choose to. I’m hoping it’ll help us to add these cleaning tasks to the weekly to do lists instead of just thinking about them. Nothing like checking off a completed task! That’s about it for annual plans although I may design some additional themed pages later. Oh the beauty of making my own planner and making it look however the heck I want it to. 😀

Monthly Planner

The monthly calendar is pretty straight forward. It’s got days and numbers!! Yay? There is a page for plans and goals and plenty of space for notes though. Personally, I’d like to do something touristy every month, be it in our home town or further away. I’m also hoping to learn something new throughout the year so I’m making it a point to plan on doing that every month. You know how easy good intentions fly out the window, alas, I’m going to write stuff down next year.

Monthly view in the free printable Sannipanni planner

Weekly Planner

Squeal! I’m pretty stoked about the weekly spreads. The first page is again for goal keeping to help you be the best version of yourself. There’s a hydration and fruit and veggie tracker and then there is space to track exercise and crafting, playing or just being creative. I also left space to track additional daily habits you’d like to nurture, be it not eating candy, making your bed, taking your vitamin, writing in a journal, having a glass of red wine, walking the dog, …. Make it yours!

The planner’s got that meal planning list, a shopping list (just snap a photo before you head out), space for notes and doodles and a few journaling prompts. Boom!

Weekly view in the free Sannipanni annual planner

The actual planner portion of it is partitioned into three sections. I use the top portion as a space for that day’s happenings, birthdays, etc. To Do is a personal to do list and Boss Life is space to keep my consulting work schedule and to do list. If you don’t want to add professional or school stuff or for example Etsy shop happenings there, how about using it for your kids’ or pets’ schedules? After all you’re the boss! On that note, being boss can just mean kicking butt so use it for whatever area you want to kick butt in!

Download The Free 2017 Planner

Download the 2017 monthly, weekly planner here: 2017-sannipanni-printable-planner. You’ll want to right click on the link and save the file on your computer’s harddrive. Open it in Adobe Reader instead of your browser for better printing. Also choose printing on both sides to create nice spreads.

Multiple Formats

While I designed the planner in 8.5 x 11in US letter format, I’m actually printing it at half of that size on 8.5×5.5in paper. To do that or if you’re elsewhere in the world, simply use the “Shrink oversized pages” option to scale it down to A4 or A5.

Useful Supplies

Finding the right supplies to print the planner took a little bit so I’m going to share my findings with you in case you don’t want to shell out a ton of money to have the planner printed and bound at your local copy shop. The planner still looks neat in black and white so that may be a reasonably priced option if you don’t want to print it at home.

Please note, the duplication of this file or any of its parts is strictly prohibited. My planner is free for personal use only. If you’d like to share it, link to this post and not the actual file to make sure you always have access to the latest version of it. Thanks and I hope you’ll love this planner! Can’t wait to hear some of your feedback and suggestions for my 2018 planner! Show me your planner with hashtag #SannipanniPlanner

Amazing free printable planner! #bujo #lifeplanner #planner #filofax #calendar #journal

 

 

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11 Things I Wish I Had Known About Breastfeeding

What I wish I had known about breastfeeding before I had my baby

11 Things I wish I had known about breastfeeding. Must read before baby's birth!

Now that we’re four months into our breastfeeding journey I feel like things have fallen into a nice routine for baby Leo and me. He’s got the concept down and when he’s hungry he happily chomps away at the milk bar. I love glancing down at him and knowing my body actually makes all that he needs to grow. The whole concept is still mind-boggling and just amazing to me.

However, breastfeeding wasn’t all roses and butterflies from the get-go for us, though, and in hindsight there were a few things I wish I would have known beforehand. Our nursing story starts a little different than most families’ but keep reading as these tips should be super useful for any new mom.

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