Kennywood Holiday Lights 2018

This post is a collaboration with Kennywood Amusement Park for their Holiday Lights 2018. In exchange for sharing these deals with you, we’ll be taking the kids to their Holiday Lights. Thank you, Kennywood, for this opportunity!

Holiday Lights

It is the most wonderful time to check out Christmas lights, right? What makes it even better is when those lights are at one of the best family-friendly places in Pittsburgh! There are still three weekends to enjoy Kennywood’s Holiday Lights event! 

Heralded as “Pittsburgh’s best wintertime family tradition”, Kennywood Park is open Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays between now and Christmas, and nightly December 26-30 from 5 to 9 PM.

During these special hours, you and your family will enjoy some favorite rides, holiday music, hot chocolate to keep you warm, and of course an amazing light display! There will be light shows, photo opportunities (we LOVE the big tree), Santa, and Kenny! 

Get Your Holiday Lights Tickets

Tickets are available at the gate, on Kennywood’s website or at your local Giant Eagle store. My readers can save by purchasing tickets here for just $13.99 each! (Children 3 and under are free. Not included in the ticket price is a $1 amusement tax and processing fee.)

We will be visiting soon, so make sure you watch for our adventures on Instagram

Bonus! Stuff those stockings with deals on summer tickets to Kennywood and three other PA amusement parks by shopping here

About Kennywood Park (source:

Founded as a recreational playground far away from the hustle, bustle and smog of Downtown, the idyllic site overlooking the Monongahela River has transformed over the past 12 decades into one of the world’s great amusement parks, featuring rides and attractions fit for all ages. Designated a National Historic Landmark in 1987, you’ll find three roller coasters that date back to the 1920s, each as fun as the day they opened nearly a century ago. Alongside those classic coasters come modern thrillers like Phantom’s Revenge, Exterminator and Sky Rocket. And opening Summer 2018, don’t miss Thomas Town™ at Kennywood. The second-largest permanent Thomas & Friends™ attraction in North America brings five new rides themed to the beloved children’s brand, plus live shows, an indoor play zone, and more.

Countdown to Christmas

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It’s hard to imagine that we are already over halfway through November. This Friday, the town we live in will hold its annual light-up night celebration. A few days later, it will be Thanksgiving, then shopping day on Friday. After that? The season of Advent will begin, our tree will be out, our house will smell of spruce and apples and cookies, then then it will be Christmas. Yes, the countdown to Christmas is officially on.

Our family has a lot of traditions, including attending advent calendars. Similarly, Theresa Seidlitz, a young girl (and now author), and her family had traditions. Her family had a Jesse Tree at Christmastime and her dad asked her and her siblings to find kids’ Bible stories to go along with the ornaments they were using for their tree. She decided that the stories should become a book, and thus “Countdown to Christmas : 24 Days of the Jesse Tree Tradition” came to being.

countdown to christmas

I’ll admit – I didn’t know before this book what a Jesse Tree was, but we’ll be doing one this year along with reading Theresa’s book (which comes with 24 paper ornaments matching the Bible Stories she shares). What do you need for a Jesse Tree?

  • A small 2-3′ tree
  • 24 Bible stories to read each night (we’ll be using Countdown to Christmas)
  • 24 ornaments
  • Simple lights
  • Tree skirt

Your Jesse Tree should be simple and be focused on reflecting on the bible stories read each night before bed. You hang the ornament associated with the story on the tree each night leading up to Christmas as a way to get to know Biblical characters.

Are you intrigued? If so, I’ve been given a copy of Countdown to Christmas to share with one of you (enter below!). If you don’t win, you can pick up a copy of the book through the publisher (Canter Press) or on Amazon. Watch us on social media for more about our Jesse Tree!



This Christmas Means to Me…


Something had been eating at me as we lived out of boxes and suitcases and from house to house in the 6 weeks between the sale of our home and purchase of our new one.

I really wanted to get Christmas started, but I didn’t know why.

You’d think that it would be next year, with getting to watch on wonder as four ‘lil Burghers gather by the tree and squeal in delight.  But that wasn’t it.

It wasn’t until I was around a table with some aunts and cousins, talking about Grandma’s tree star that I really got it.

I wanted to get Christmas started for Grandma. There are a zillion reasons why…

She always decorated her home with gingerbread people graced with each of our names. My mom tended to make her sweatshirts with all of us on it, too. (One year someone fell off and got crushed in our van door and I lost my mind because that’s just horrible to watch a cousin’s apple get crushed.)

She always wrote us cards, individual cards, with a sentiment…sometimes a “Love you” and sometimes more. Grandma had a lot of cards to write.

She always gave us ornaments for our tree, and last year they were accompanied by the note above. If you’ve received an ornament from me this year, it’s because of Grandma. Our kids will have a collection to start their trees with because I plan on adding to their yearly collections, too.

And, finally, because without Christmas with Grandma, I really am not sure I’d have what I do today. Grandma and Pappy welcomed us to their home every December, often on Christmas Day after 12 to 20 hours of driving through snow to the beach because it was 6 days my Dad usually could fairly safely take off before the new year. We would spend those days in Surfside with a walk or two on the beach, driving the Boulevard to see lights (hotels used to do that), and enjoying a warm Christmas week together. During these days, I fell in love with the Myrtle Beach many of you may not know…the local side of it. It gave me courage to spread my wings and eventually move there and close a chapter of my life and start a new one with Arianna and Greg.

And because this year, for the first time in a long time I will not get to go for winter in SC or get to enjoy moments with Grandma, I think I really wanted to get Christmas started early and let it last.

As we hung the ornaments, I cried a little. It’s easy to forget the little things until you realize you won’t have them again (at least not in the same way as before). And this year, the little things came in the form of four glittery ornaments in envelopes that we got for the last time last Christmas. But it prompted me to pick up some for us this year, as well as a chirping cardinal to remind me of my Grandma Peterson. Because even if in the moment you don’t realize what it is, someday you will. And it will be bittersweet, like this Christmas will be for me.

Gingerbread House

Tonight as Greg was leaving for work, I decided a fun pre-bedtime activity would be to build a gingerbread house. It’s been on the counter for a week, torturing ‘lil souls who just wanted to eat the candy and frosting.

Or torturing their Mama who wants all the sweets.

I didn’t read the instructions, just pulled the house out of the box and got to work. When I couldn’t decipher what piece was what, I did what any woman do and read the directions. Even then, it wasn’t clear to me this was going to take almost an hour and a half and the pieces just wouldn’t quite fit together. This bothered all three of us and our OCD. Especially when I picked up the front of the house and it fell apart. I almost threw the whole thing in the trash, cried, and stomped off…but I remembered I am the mom and needed to show them accidents happen and we would work around it.

Patiently, my two ‘lil ones watched as the house came together, fell apart, came together. (It was kind of like the whole home buying process all over again…grand visions…minor setbacks…small victories…then living in something you can call home.) I quickly snapped a photo as proof in case it fell (and rushed the kids off to clean the Oreo from their lips before letting them share in the glory).



They really just wanted that candy.

The directions said to let the icing set for 15 minutes. I went for 20 and told the kids 10. We had to leave the room after 2 because all three of us were scared to breathe lest the house would fall.

Finally, after an eternity of waiting and watching Arianna play stack cup 1000 times, the timer went off and we were in full on decorating mode. Pro tip (ha), use a rubber scraper to spread the snow “cause that’s how we do it in America, Mama” as Arianna advised.

Icing in our hair and on our jammies, the house was done. And as of this post, she’s still standing. Let’s hope Daddy gets to see it before the great fall…


Elf Pets: A New Tradition

(Enter disclaimer text) This Christmas, for the first time in our kids’ lives, we’ve introduced an Elf on the Shelf to our family. But there’s also a new friend, too! Her Elf Pets Reindeer Friend has joined us. It’s a new tradition that our kids are eating up.

elf pets

Time Out! Before you read more about our Elf Pets and Elf on the Shelf, I have to tell you a secret of the mom trade. You’ll need to be prepared to make the Elf do all the things because the kids are hearing about the other cool elves at the school. I suggest you head over to Amazon and pick up this Kindle book of Elf on the Shelf Ideas or this kit with elf-sized props. And if your kids have figured out your handwriting for the notes? This Magical Merry note kit is a must. Have them on hand before you dive into the tradition! 

I’m sure you’ve heard of the Elf on the Shelf holiday sensation. Our elf, Lily, can’t be touched by the kids and she watches over every day to make sure that they are on Santa’s nice list. At night, she “reports” to Santa on how the day went and moves to another location if things are going well. A book came along with Lily, and the kids’ eyes lit up as they heard about her magic and the rules to welcome her into our home.


What you may be unfamiliar with is Elf Pets, a new addition to the Elf on the Shelf family. Elf Pets™: A Reindeer Tradition allows children to help Santa fly his sleigh on Christmas Eve by filling the reindeer’s heart up with Christmas spirit. As the book reads, kids are encouraged to touch, hold, and love on their Reindeer (ours is named Olaf) so that he knows how much hope and joy there really is in the world. (You can read more about this new product and get your own Elf Pet here.)

Elf Pets
Our Elf Pet, Olaf

Since we just have one reindeer, we’re doing a nightly swap of who gives love at night. Evan got to sleep with him first because Arianna had a “naughty list moment” that Lily happened to witness just before bed the first night Olaf joined us. He took his job seriously, worrying that Olaf wouldn’t be warm enough under Baseball Blanket or that Evan’s love for his tags would overshadow his love for Olaf. We worked together to find the ideal snuggly spot and Evan was thrilled.

We’ll definitely be enjoying the magic of Lily and Olaf throughout this season and anxiously waiting to welcome them back next year. If you are joining in the Elf fun this year and need some ideas about how to get creative with your new addition, check out for a photo gallery of ways you can engage your new friends in holiday fun (and make sure you are following along on Twitter @elfontheshelf!). Don’t have one yet but are looking to add an Elf or Elf Pet to your family? We suggest you adopt one now. (Update! The 2016 Christmas season has brought along a Saint Bernard, too. We’ve yet to get one, but I’m sure once the kids find out, they’ll be begging for one.)

elf on the shelf
Lily, making mischief!

Happy Magic Making!

Christmas Morning

Our Christmas Morning was full of love and laughs.

The day started with keeping Evan as occupied as possible until my parents, Jack, and Arianna arrived. (She spent the night at their house to ensure Santa came there and here after church.) When they got here, the amount of presents under the tree was insanely overwhelming. The adults settled in with coffee and prepared for a repeat of Christmas 2009 (which took four hours to complete, thanks to an OCD one-year old).

Christmas Tree
Our Tree

The kids, however, were quite excited. We sang Happy Birthday to Jesus then cuddled on the couch to read “The Sparkle Box” (which brought tears to my eyes as we recounted all the things we’ve done in the past year). We checked out Santa’s cookie tray, then let these two loose.

IMG_2689 (Copy)

Did you notice the small, tall-ish coordinated boxes at the front of the tree? Let’s call them a Santa (Mama) win. They noticed RIGHT AWAY that they each had four and that they were “Matchy-Match”, so decided to open them first. To prepare for Disney, I purposely bought them princesses and princes in the set. They loved them.

IMG_2698 (Copy)


Evan especially loved Prince Phillip (above) because he was my first boyfriend/husband/baby daddy. The Beast was also a hit – he’s an “action figure” that transforms from Beast to Prince. He actually was the first to pick up on the fact that the other three coordinating boxes MUST hold three more princes…and Arianna’s would hold princesses. So stinkin’ smart!

Arianna and that face. Sigh. She was overly excited about all four (Belle, Tiana, Ariel, and Aurora). She had bigger things to get to, like tearing through her gifts in 35 minutes flat. This was no four hour tour today, and she was a total mess about it.

Evan, on the other hand, was very meticulous about his unwrapping. He would tear, take trash to Pappy, then look at the gift. His eyes filled with wonder as he checked it all out, admiring Arianna’s gifts, too. He probably could tell you every single thing we all got this year.

After a blessed morning opening gifts, we enjoyed ham (recipe from my friend Denise), scalloped potatoes (Suzie’s recipe), and corn casserole (Ella’s recipe). Just a ‘lil  bit later, the kids and my parents loaded up the truck and headed to Myrtle Beach. Greg and I relaxed and enjoyed a movie compliments of three new toys (that hubby of mine deserves being spoiled).

Our Christmas tree light is still shining brightly, even as I write this. This year was a fantastic year of love and memories, and we thank you all for being part of it.

How did you spend your Christmas morning? Feel free to link up in the comments! 

Marked Moments

Disclosure: I was asked to write a review in exchange for the product(s) below. All opinions are 100% my own.

It is not often that a package comes my way and I am all “I have to get on the blog and write about this right now“, but it definitely happened last night. When Travis from Marked Moments, an Etsy shop, asked me if he could help me make my tree look even more awesome, I took him up on the dare.

He was right.

So right.

If you don’t know, our dogs are a huge part of our lives. They have their own beds and stocking (okay, they share for now). We really feel like we have four kids with our two friendly beasts. What Travis and Ela of Marked Moments did was recognize that and offered to send me ‘Rowdy’ and ‘Shadow’ personalized ornaments like these. They realized how important our furbabies are to us, and wanted to help us include them in the Christmas memories.

First of all, the presentation of the delivery is superb. Turnaround time is fast. They are in Texas, I am in Pennsylvania and in less than four days, I told Travis “go” and have the ornaments on my tree. Even better, the box inside the padded envelope is gorgeous and just might come in handy as I gift others this holiday.

Okay, enough. I know you want to see what I am so excited about – the dog bone ornaments that Marked Moments personalized for Rowdy and Shadow!


I know to some people these may just be wooden ornaments etched in dog names. But to me, these are a part of our lives. 95% of our tree is personalized ornaments in some fashion. We had nothing for our furbabies, so now we do!

The detail on the ornaments is incredible. I really love the edge work which you might see better as they hang on the tree:



Travis and Ela, you made me one happy mom. Arianna was so excited to hang these birch wood ornaments and have our pups included. Thank you for helping us celebrate the season!

If you’re wondering about our whole tree look, just be patient. There’s a post on just that. 


You have until Monday, December 16 to place an order on Marked Moments for Christmas delivery: And they don’t do just dog bones. Think last names, baby’s first Christmas, gift tags, cupcake toppers, and bride/groom hangers (making me want to redo our wedding reception, so adorable). Go, look. The prices are reasonable (my ornaments will run you $12 each plus shipping – but there’s a code out there for free shipping on orders over $50, sorry for any confusion) and the quality is definitely a perk on these keepsakes.

Join me in liking them on Facebook, too!

Christmas Eve with Mrs. Claus

Disclosure: I received a copy of this book in exchange for a review. All opinions, as always, are 100% my own.

Here’s another fun holiday book to add to your collection: M.P. Hueston’s “Christmas Eve with Mrs. Claus”. Via Heuston’s words and Teri Weidner’s illustrations, your children will learn what exactly happens at the North Pole while Santa is out and about bringing gifts to the world.

Christmas Eve with Mrs. Claus
Credit: Sterling Publishing

Mrs. Claus is hard at work baking treats with the help of her North Pole creatures. The book is full of lift-a-flaps for surprises as to where the missing ingredients are stowed. At the end, there’s even a surprise for Mrs. Claus thanks to her helpers.

This book is charming and a fun “is it here” game for the kids. Mine enjoyed the flaps and got a hungry tummy while reading about the gingerbread, biscuits, and other treats the Mrs. Claus is whipping up. (And my kids are rough readers…the flaps should stand up to normal use. We’ve yet, knock on wood, had an issue.)

You can find your own copy to add to your collection (or Holiday Wish List) at Sterling Publishing‘s website. This book, a hardback, retails for $12.95 and is recommended for kids ages 3-7.

The Gifts They Gave

Disclosure: I received a copy of a book in exchange for a review. All opinions, as always, are 100% my own.

Based on the traditional Christmas hymn, “The Friendly Beasts” with two new verses (written by author/illustrator Patricia Reeder Eubank) to include the cat and dog, “The Gifts They Gave” is sure to delight your ‘lil readers this Christmas season.

Jesus our brother, kind and good,
Was humbly born in a stable of wood,
And the friendly beasts around him stood,
Jesus our brother, kind and good.

Adding precious illustrations to the verses, Eubank tells the story of the nativity. Animal lovers will appreciate the tenderness that the stable friends show to the newborn babe. The creatures are illustrated as “fluffy” or snuggly, and are sure to wow your kids. (My ‘lil animal lovers kept saying “awwww” and “so sweet” as we read this story.)

The Gifts They Gave
Credit: Sterling Publishing

While I love all of the pages, the one with the dove and resting Baby Jesus is my favorite of them all. Eubanks made Him look so sweet and peaceful, a perfect Christmas moment.

You can find a copy for your holiday enjoyment in your bookstore orat Sterling Publishing to order online. This hardback book retails for $9.95 and is recommended for children ages 2-5.