Family Photos for Christmas

This year (and the two years previous) I have purchased a Groupon for a portrait package with JC Penney Portrait Studios.  The purpose of the purchase was to have Christmas photos taken for our family Christmas card.

This year was by far the best experience we have had with the studio.  Each time we have used the same studio, and both this year and last year we had the same photographer.  I think a large part of the better experience this year was because Genevieve was older and better able to follow instructions.  She was also easier to bribe.

The most frustrating part of the experience is the time it takes to go through the ordering process after the pictures are taken.  The photographers are required to create specialty photos and packages for every option, prior to you being able to checkout.  This is a very time consuming process and quite annoying.  This is especially true since they try to rush through the process (because they know you want it to be done) and throw together things that dont even look good.

Our Groupon this year cost $13 and included 3 digital images (with rights), 1 free photo sheet, and 40% off any additional purchases.

Overall I have been very impressed with my Groupon photo packages and their values.  However, I must say, that next year I will be much more particular about paying attentions to sales and what I order.

I wanted to purchase Christmas cards, but there is currently a sale going  on that was cheaper than my Groupon 40% discount.  I asked about getting that price instead and was told that  I could not combine coupons.  I asked how long until my online album was created (they now load all your photos into an online album for future orders) and was told that it would be 48 hours until it would be available. I asked about ordering a ceramic ornament and was told those had to be ordered online. I went ahead and placed my order (and spent more than I intended … as always).

My frustration grew some when I got home and found out that my digital prints were ready to download and my full online album was ready to view.  I also discovered that I could already order from my online album and the prices were significantly less than I had paid when I was in the studio earlier.

Lesson learned.  Next year I will only take what is offered in my Groupon package and then go online and order from my album.  We always have these pictures taken at about the same time of year – so there is always a sale going on.

I will say that the staff were nice and the pictures ( for the most part) were really good.

Note: Michael refused to have a solo picture taken of himself.

Wrapping Christmas Gifts – Ashley’s Method

I am not sure how long I have done this, but every year I buy multiple rolls of coordinating wrapping paper for the purpose of wrapping the gifts I have purchased in a very distinct way. Im not a fancy wrapper – I rarely even attempt to even add bows.  Every year the gifts wrapped and placed under my tree are according to that year’s distribution chart.

Let me explain. Some people wrap gifts indiscriminately, not caring which gift is wrapped in which paper. Some people purchase multiple wrapping papers with the goal of using a different pattern for each child or family member.  The gifts under my tree are wrapped in patterns according to the household they will be delivered too.

Thats right, I color code the gifts under my tree based on their final destination. See, my parents are divorced and my dad’s parent’s host their own holiday celebration, and since meeting my husband, we also celebrate a separate event with his family. You read correctly – my family celebrates 4 Christmases – and they are spread all over the map (ok, Just Arkansas and Texas).

When I am making quick jaunts for a holiday, its too much work to sort through gifts for everyone and its so embarrassing to show up missing a gift!  Loading the car is so much easier when all I have to do is grab the “dot” paper or the “santa” paper!

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Stocking Hack!

Stocking hack! - I need new stockings hooks, but i wanted to display our new stockings (customized by @KreativeKraze ). So i needed to figure out how i could do thar until I find some new ones. My solution: leftover birthday balloons! Check out my blog at www.ashleykparker.us for details! #christmastime #thestockingswerehung #lifehack #creativesolutions #blog | December 09, 2015 at 10:40PM
Stocking hack! – I need new stockings hooks, but i wanted to display our new stockings (customized at KreativeKraze by Brandi Bobo). So i needed to figure out how i could do that until I find some new ones.

My solution: leftover birthday balloons!

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I had a ton of leftover balloons from Genevieve’s 1st Birthday Party.

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I blew up two balloons, each a different size. One needs to fit down in the foot and the other in the body. I made the balloon for the body slightly bigger than the balloon for the foot, so the Stocking would keep its shape. The exact size you need to inflate your balloons to will depend on the Stocking you are using.

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The balloon for the foot should slip in easily, but the balloon for the body should be a snug fit. I found that the easiest way to get it in was to start with the narrow end facing down and roll the balloon into place with a forward rotation of the wrist.

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Decorating for the Holidays…With a Toddler

My husband is always complaining that out house isn’t “decorated,” regardless of the time of year.

The house I lived in prior to our house was too small to really decorate, heck I had to by a special  one sided tree and block my front door to even have room for a Christmas tree.

Our house had been a construction project in process since we bought it in 2011 and I still have unfinished cabinets. Having unfinished shelf spaces means decorative items just look out of place and unfinished cabinets mean everything is strewn about because there isn’t a good place to put things away. These things make holiday decorating seem pointless.

Well this year, especially since the project at least looks a little more orderly, if not complete, I decided to try a little decorating this year.  We still don’t have much, but we do have more than a door wreath and a tree this year.

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Counter decor - Christmas packages, festive hats, Melissa and Douglas Advent calendar, Santa pouch

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But the TREE….what do you do to decorate a Christmas Tree when you have a 16 month old?! Since I bought a new table cloth and runner, I decided to match my decor and tree themes to it and to forgo my ornaments this year. All my ornaments are breakable and a large number of them are keepsakes and I didn’t want to deal with broken glass ornaments or broken sentimental items, so this year I decided to decorate the tree with ribbon, ornamental sticks, and clip on poinsettias.

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Genevieve also got a cute mini tree to adorn her dresser.

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Now we are just waiting for our new stockings to arrive from my stepsister, and owner of Kreative Kaze Designs.

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