We bought this house because a. we LOVED it and b. it had a partially finished basement (HUGE in Oak Park) which in my mind equated to PLAY ROOM! Shortly after moving in last year we realized that whoever finished the basement may or may not have put insulation in the walls because the basement was FREEZING! We bought one of those little fan heaters from Home Depot thinking it would do the trick which it of course did not. This winter we were prepared to do (almost) whatever it took to make our basement "playable". Thanks to this space heater it took about $70 and free 2 day shipping from amazon. We turn it on in the morning and while it does take a solid hour to really heat up the whole space it is TOASTY once it does (so much so that I don't mind Ainsley running around in her swimsuit pretending she's "going a pool!" like she likes). Our basement now houses most of the toys the girls own so we can play hard and then walk up the stairs, close the door, and WALLA! peace and relatively tranquility. Worth every penny and then some.
2. Car Top Carrier
Again an investment that we thought would be more substantial but we found this one, also on amazon for a mere $35. With barely making it home packed to the brim from the holidays last year fresh in our minds we opted to spring for a soft top carrier to help ease the burden of creative packing this year. We were able to fit everything into our car, and carrier with some room to spare. While Ian solely did the unpacking, so my optimism and judgment may be a bit biased, we LOVE the carrier. Again, worth every cent.
I spent hours, literally hours "window" shopping for the perfect play kitchen for Ainsley. I knew I wanted wood, small, functional and FUN but was unwilling to pay the $250+ dollars that my favorite plan toy kitchen cost. At the nth hour I stumbled across this one and Ian concurred what I already knew in my heart. This was it. After a solid hour of two person assembly on Christmas Eve it was ready to go. We accessorized it with pots,pans, utensils, and adorable plush fruits and veggies from IKEA. After Ainsley awakened from her sugar plum dreams on Christmas morning it was love at first sight. We spent a good 1-2 hours a day with that kitchen and the best part of all? It fit in the back of our escape surrounded by bags of gifts and clothes WITHOUT being disassembled. Now that's a Christmas gift.
4. Smart Wool socks, and baby booties
I bought my first pair of Smartwools in running sock form about a year and a half ago and fell instantaneously in love. /while I am not one of those uber-sensitive-to-wool types I don't find that they itch at all and keep my toes so toasty warm. I stumbled across toddler sized Smartwools at Peapods in St Paul when Ainsley was a baby and Santa decided that both of the girls needed new sets for the cold winter in our drafty old house this Christmas. Ian's sister Sonya bought both Ian and I a pair for Christmas and so now all our feet are warm and snug and oh so cute.
It was such a blessing to receive so many wonderful gifts for the girls and ourselves this Christmas. One of the "downfalls" of parenting is that moment when you go to dress your child and realize that they've grown out of EVERYTHING they own and you know have to drop a load of money on new clothes. I remember when Ainsley about about 3 months old and I realized that we had NO toys for her growing curiosity and was astounded by how much basic things cost at a toy store. Thanks to the generosity of our family and friends the girls will be well clothed AND entertained for months and months to come. Thank you!
6. Spending time with family and friends in Minnesota.
It wouldn't have been Christmas without the 15+ hours in the car, full cookie belly's, fun games, long talks, and full glasses of wine. Thank you everyone for such a wonderful holiday. Holidays sure have changed with our growing family and we love every minute!