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November & December in Review via Allison MannellaI was running so behind on my November wrap-up that I decided to combine my review of the last two months of 2016. November had its share of challenges, as Stephen came down with his first cold and when he finally got better he came down with a second, much worse cold about 12 minutes later. We had about two weeks where he would nap for 28 minutes at the absolute most. The days can seem impossibly long during such periods – with one exhausted, cranky baby and a mama continually trying to play catch-up on work. But he did finally get better and our days and returned to their normal rhythm.

Simple Thanksgiving table setting | November & December in Review via Allison Mannella We hosted Thanksgiving at our home this year, and I cannot tell you how lovely it was to have nine people cozily seated around our new table. My parents traveled from Virginia to join us, and I even had the chance to enjoy setting our table – a luxury long forgotten when days are spent chasing after a sweet baby. The napkins and place settings were mismatched, and I relinquished control of the menu to instead have everyone bring a part of the meal. And for the first time (ever?) I did not feel an ounce of stress about hosting. I didn’t inadvertently snap at Mike before guests arrived, and I was showered and put-together (another luxury for a new mama) so I could greet our family with warmth and hugs instead of a quick wave of an oven-mitted hand from the kitchen.

Christmas tree bokeh | November & December in Review via Allison Mannella December seems like a blur, which is perhaps not surprising with a baby constantly on the move and trying his darndest to stand and walk. We kept Christmas decorations super simple again this year, though we did add our first big tree to the mix. Mike and I are on opposite sides of the tree debate – he likes artificial, I like the real thing – so we compromised and purchased a lovely, artificial tree (we got a great deal on Black Friday) for the next few years. Then when Stephen is a little older, we will start the tradition of making the trip to choose a real tree together. Like I said, we tried to keep everything super simple this holiday season.

November & December in Review via Allison MannellaBut the artificial vs. real debate was soon forgotten when sweet Stephen became fascinated with the lights and ornaments. There was one evening when he became incredibly fussy after dinner, which is completely out of the ordinary for him. But as soon as we settled in front of the tree, he snuggled right into my shoulder and just gazed at the lights. We did that every evening in December, and I hope I never forget those sweet, cozy moments.

November & December in Review via Allison MannellaWe enjoyed a wonderful Christmas holiday, especially since Mike was able to work from home for the week in between Christmas and New Years. It was so nice to have someone to talk with during the day and, of course, an extra set of hands with Stephen and the dogs is always a relief. We tried eating our first meal out as a family (better than expected, but not great), enjoyed a children’s concert at our local library, and “open gym” hosted by a local gymnastics studio. As exciting as it is to turn the page on a new year, a big part of me wished we could just stay in this week of everyone being home for much longer.

Here are a few more things we enjoyed in the months of November and December:

  • When Mike returned from a business trip, I decided to make pot roast for his arrival. I couldn’t find my mom’s recipe, so I tried The Pioneer Woman’s version. It was quite tasty – next time I will add lots more carrots and seasoning, plus find a way to make it in the slow cooker.
  • I rediscovered this recipe for Chicken Saltimbocca. I serve it with Nonna Luna’s Rice and it is just lovely.
  • I enjoyed reading Grace Not Perfection (so wonderful!), The Magnolia Story, Raising Grateful Kids in an Entitled World, and Cooking for Picasso.
  • We enjoyed an afternoon at the movies and saw Doctor Strange. At home, we enjoyed watching The Imitation Game, Restrepo, The Secret Life of Pets, Bad Moms, and Finding Dory.
  • I discovered this lovely Lemon & Oak candle by Skeem Design. I bought the little travel tin – the perfect size for my desk and our guest room.
  • I had the chance to visit the Juliska store and factory outlet in Stamford, Connecticut. What a treat! I fell head over heels in love with the gorgeous Country Estate pattern and treated myself to this coffee mug. I kind of love having “my mug” and it makes me so happy to enjoy my coffee in it each morning.
  • It became clear Stephen inherited the stubbornness gene from both sides (Lord help us) as he went on strike from being spoon-fed ANY solid foods. While I’ve been trying to figure out how to modify baby led weaning (so I don’t have a panic attack every time I feed him), these refillable squeeze packets have helped us sneak some of his favorite fruits, vegetables, and yogurt back into his diet.

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