i love mornings

I love when I wake up and look at the clock and realize I have an hour or two before everyone wakes up.

My morning is going to stretch out before me like a gift. The pure sweet quiet. Just the click of the keys, the dog snoring on the couch.

There is a lone light in the kitchen where I sit with my keyboard, a mug of strong coffee and the quilt that my grandmother made me to wrap up in if I feel a chill.

My kids are safe and warm and sleeping and dreaming in their beds. It’s moments like these when I think why would I ever need anything, anything else.

Truth be told, mornings can be all kinds of things around here. But this is my favorite way to start the day.

An alternative for those of you who don’t love malls…

I love, love, love holiday shopping. I love, love, love finding just the right gift for someone.

I love it when I find something that’s so exactly right that the person gives a little gasp and goes and takes it out of the box right then and there or puts it on or laughs and says “where on earth did you find this?”

It’s one of the supreme joys of life, I think.

But – and this is kind of a big but – I don’t like malls so much. Lots of people get really energized and into the holiday spirit when they go into a mall, but I don’t. I’ve tried, but for some reason, malls generally make me a little bit sad and kind of hungry.

So this is what I do each year (and I’m telling you this because I did it yesterday, and it was enormously fun): Each year, the wave of holiday catalogs comes starting in late October or November and I stash them away in a special out-of-the-way place where they stay until the time is just right (generally a cold and snowy day just before Thanksgiving) and then I pull out this towering pile of paper that I feel pretty guilty about even getting in the mail (even though I pretty much get only the ones I order from and I recycle when I’m done. Does that help? A little? I know it probably doesn’t. Catalog shopping is a secret guilty pleasure of mine. You could get together with friends and pool your catalogs, though, so you aren’t each getting all of this paper. Or just shop your favorite stores online and opt out of the catalogs. That would be the greenest thing to do, I suppose.)

Anyway, I make some really good gourmet coffee in my little coffee press and take out a stash of the very best chocolate and I get a blanket and I pull out the Catalog Tower, and I begin.

I have a legal pad that lists everyone I need to buy for and I sit cross-legged and I jot notes and tear pages and put these catalogs, one by one, in the recycling bin. Then I go back through my list and pare it down until I have something that’s just exactly right for everyone.

This takes awhile. Usually way longer than I plan for. But it’s fun. And I have coffee. And chocolates.

Right in the middle of all this, my kids get home from school and so I kind of panic a little because this isn’t the kind of project that you want to put away before you’re done. I’ve got torn pages and notes all over the place. So Ty gets home and orders a pizza and takes the kids outside to shovel snow. Meanwhile, I finish the list and call in the husband and kids and show them all the things I’m thinking for their grandparents and their aunts and their uncles and sweet little cousins so they can give me some feedback, after which there are adjustments (mostly additions.) And then I finalize the list and make a new list – this one organized by store.

And this list is really important because now I wait for these merchants to offer something really good: preferably a percent off and free shipping, and then I shop.

It’s best if I can get all of this list-making done before Thanksgiving, so I can watch the Black Friday and Cyber Monday online sales. These are two great days of deals, so you’ll definitely want to stay tuned to your favorite online stores on those two days, but if the preseason is any indication, merchants will be running big online discounts throughout the holiday shopping season.

Here are the merchants I’ll be buying from this holiday season (with links to their coupon pages, if available):

Lilly’s Kids
Plow & Hearth
Brookstone
National Geographic
LL Bean
Uncommon Goods
Exposures
Target.com
Borders
Harry and David

I think the reason I like shopping this way is the fact that my focus is completely on the process and the person I’m buying for – and not on Mrs. Field’s and her brownies or whether I’m missing a better deal somewhere else, or whether my kids are going to get the swine flu from the escalators. Also, I buy only what’s on my list, so I can still get really good gifts without spending too much.

I realize this shopping method is not for everyone. My husband, for example, prefers to directly support the merchants in our town. And so the day before Christmas, he takes the kids shopping (mostly for gifts for me. whee!) down Main Street, where the merchants give the kids fancy wrapped chocolates and hot cocoa to enjoy while they wrap the gifts for them. That’s how he likes to shop. And I like that he likes to do that because it gives me a little quiet time before the chaos to wrap presents and drink egg nog.

Oh how I love Christmas (especially when I remember to start getting ready early enough!)

Now I can get started thinking about Thanksgiving…

The Gentle Art of Distraction

“I have found that truly happy people have the capacity to distract and absorb themselves in activities that divert their energies and attention away from dark or anxious ruminations.”
From the The How of Happiness by Sonja Lyubormirsky

I am starting to find that a whole lot of my personal happiness level lies in my ability to distract myself when I’m feeling sad or mad or bad.

Instead of saying something snarky or sighing heavily, if I can just get myself to stop thinking about it; to stop allowing myself the self-indulgent tendency to steep and bathe and wallow and squish around in it.

I think I remember using this knowledge to my advantage when my kids were smaller – not so much consciously – but just as a way of breaking them out of a funk. If the kid was a little upset, a good distraction was my best weapon.

When they were really little, I used to make an animal sound under my breath. “Quack, quack” or “moooooo,” followed sharply by my question: “What was that?” Pretty soon, they were falling all over themselves to play in my little game and they forgot that they were mad about something. It worked so often that I started to feel pretty good about myself.

Now that they are older, they see right through me.

But it still works for me, I find – sometimes. If I can somehow trick myself into not thinking anymore about what’s making me mad or sad or bad, it helps. Then I can come back later with a fresh head and work out whatever it is.

Sometimes, good hard runs straight uphill help the most because I don’t have space in my mind for any thought but “Good Lord. I’m going to die.” Other times, it’s enough to watch giggling babies on YouTube.

Susie Michelle Cortright is the founder of Momscape.
Follow Momscape on Twitter.
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Visit Susie’s personal blog: SusieMichelle.com

The Winner of our Artful Soap Giveaway…

Congratulations to Kimberly, who won our Artful Soap giveaway! (I’ve just sent you an email, Kimberly).

Thanks to all who participated. I especially enjoyed reading about all the ways that you celebrate winter, indoors and out, because this is the time of year when I sometimes need a winter pep talk.

I live at 9500 feet elevation in the heart of the Rocky Mountains, so winter is both exciting (because we get to play new sports) and long (because it doesn’t fully end until July.) Oh, I might wear short sleeves and sometimes even cropped pants in May and June, but as soon as the sun goes behind a cloud, I secretly wish that I wasn’t.

So, sometimes at this time of year, I have to prepare myself mentally for the start of a long winter by making a list of all the things I love about these many frigid winter months:

Here are a few:

  • Fresh corduroy on ski runs.
  • Icy ponds.
  • Irish Coffee.
  • The way my dog rolls in fresh snow, like it’s the best thing that ever happened to him.
  • My red snowboard with polka dot bindings. (Her name is Lucy.)
  • Snow forts.
  • When snow sticks on my daughter’s eyelashes.
  • Watching toddlers sled down snowhills that their dads have made.
  • The sight of steam coming off my husband’s head when he takes off his hat after a good, hard backcountry ski. And then sitting on the tailgate of his truck and sharing a Thermos of coffee.

There. Now I’m feeling better. Now it can snow.

New Momscape Giveaway: Sweet Cakes of Artful Soap {Contest Closed}

I just love these soaps.

soaps-400x315

I love it when someone is artistic enough to elevate an ordinary, everyday thing like soap to the level where it becomes art. Sometimes I think that’s what life’s all about.

These beauties are made by a little company named Milagros, which used to have a their own shop on Main Street in the little Colorado ski town where I live. Now you have to go upstairs in a flower shop to find them, but I sniffed them out and we are now happily reunited.

These bars smell divine. Heavenly. And you can find a design to suit any personality. Beyond coffee cups and, well, the Earth – there are martinis, gardenias, mountain scenes, Christmas trees, cherries, watermelons, peaches and lots more – with scents to match. You’ll have to use your olfactory imagination here, but the scents for the soaps pictured above are as follows:

“Good Earth” has hay, floral, and citrus notes.
“Café Ole” has hazelnut, cinnamon and coffee bean oils.

I’m giving these two bars away to a randomly selected reader who leaves a reply at the end of this post and tells me simply this:

My favorite winter sport is ____________.

If you don’t personally participate in any winter sports, please note that I will also count watching others as they engage in sport, as well as indoor pursuits, such as cocoa slurping or Frito munching or dog snuggling.

I’m not sure why I chose these two soaps to go together. Perhaps because coffee makes my world go round? In any case, the drawing will be random and the entry deadline is Monday 11-9-09 at midnight mountain time. (US and Canada 18 and over, please. Complete rules are here.)

Also, please note that comment moderation is enabled, so your comment will not show up immediately, but as long as it’s not rated R, it will appear below quite shortly.

Then follow us on Twitter or find us on Facebook because these are the channels through which we’ll announce the winner on Tuesday the 10th.

So, tell us: what is your favorite winter activity?

Thanks to all who entered! This giveaway has ended, but stay tuned for more!

Great Gift: Free mp3 player when you join audible

There’s this guy in my neighborhood  – a very well-read fellow he is – but he actually reads while he hikes.

These trails of ours at 9,500 feet in the Colorado Rockies – they are crazy with rocks, icy spots, tree roots, not to mention the coyotes and the bears and the pumas.

Each time I see him, balancing his hardback book in his jostling hands, I want to say “Go! Get thee an mp3 player and a subscription to audible.”

I want to say this, but he doesn’t look up. If he were to do so, I would add that, if he were ever going to splurge on an audible subscription, now is a very, very good time to do it.

Just about every year, right around the holidays, audible sends out this great little package so you can get someone an mp3 player along with a monthly subscription. If you know anyone who would enjoy this kind of thing, it’s a great deal.

Audible allows you to experience some really great audiobook productions while you do the things that you kind of wish you weren’t doing: jogging, doing the dishes, shoveling snow, scrubbing the walls after your son wipes his nose on them. (What, you don’t have that problem)?

Here’s the details on the promotion:
Free mp3 player
Audible Starter Kit: Get 3 Audiobooks, Plus a Free Phillips Spark 2GB MP3 Player
Philips GoGear Spark is PC-compatible only
- Open to residents of the US and Canada only
- One Starter Kit per account
Customers will be signing up for a three-month commitment of the AudibleListener® Gold membership plan at $14.95 per month, plus a one-time non-refundable shipping and handling fee of $9.95.
Audible will send you a 2GB Philips Spark MP3 Player.
Your AudibleListener Gold membership includes one audiobook credit per month. A very small number of titles are more than one credit.
After your three months are up, your membership will renew each month for just $14.95 each month so you can continue to receive:
- One audiobook credit per month
- Members-only discounts on all audio purchases
- Free content for members
- Access to exclusive sales

See the audible site for all the details >

Or click here for all current audible coupons and promotions >

Little Dude is almost 7

I could stare at my son’s profile all day. His eyelashes are long, and they sweep up, then down, as he blinks. He is sitting on my lap, teetering to one side and then another. He and his bony bottom don’t fit so well on me anymore, but he doesn’t notice this. He just balances there, birdlike – perched and attentive.

He’s going to be 7 in a couple of weeks and, for whatever reason, I have an emotional time with the odd years. These birthdays trigger emotions that the even-year birthdays don’t. Does a 7-year-old seem that much older than a 6 year-old? A 5 that much older than a 4?

I think so.

I hold on to those things he still does that are so babyish. I don’t correct him even when I know I should. He is starting to read much better as a first grader, but there are still things he gets wrong because he has only heard them said, never written. I mean, for a time, he thought we were saying “Bronco Bottom” and not “Barack Obama.” But those little details of life are starting to fill in for him. The lights are starting to come on and pretty soon, he starts to act, well, about 7.

At the end of a school day, he finds me on the schoolyard, waiting for him and for his sisters, and he starts toward me with this exaggerated run, elbows jutting out, head swinging side to side. I have to brace myself before impact so he doesn’t knock me on the asphalt. And then he leaps into my arms and squeezes me around the neck with his wiry little muscles.

He used to do this every single day. Now it’s only when he’s feeling particularly silly after a long day of first grade. I imagine, before long, he’ll stop doing it altogether.

He’s my baby after all. I do miss his baby-ness.

But happy birthday just the same, Little Dude.

kobe-web
Susie Michelle Cortright is the founder of Momscape.
Follow Momscape on Twitter.
Find Momscape on Facebook
Visit Susie’s personal blog: SusieMichelle.com

Holiday photo cards that made me swoon (and a discount for you, too)

minibook-minted

Y’all know how I love to browse etsy.com. Even if I have nothing I need to buy, I love to sit there with a cup of coffee in my hand and spot fresh little pockets of talent. It somehow makes me feel good about the world and all the gifted people in it who can make things with their hands. Unlike myself.

I also dig a well-designed personalized card (especially one that’s on that meaty, luxe paper.)  So I loved it when minted.com approached me about what they do.

Have you seen this site? First, they hold these bi-monthly “design challenges.” The winning designs are then sold through the minted.com website in a format that you can customize with your own text and photos.

Now if you’re a designer and you win one of these design contests, Minted makes it possible for you to do what you do best without the burden of printing your own cards and marketing/advertising your own products.  (Designers earn cash prizes and 5% of ongoing revenues).

I like to design my own cards, but – truth be told – these designers are way more talented than I am. Plus, I don’t seem to have a whole lot of time these days, so when minted offered to send me some holiday cards if I’d give it a go, I jumped aboard and ordered 25 of these (except in blue).

(That’s not my family, though they are cute, too.)

It was a cinch to navigate through the process – uploading the photos and changing the text. I’m just waiting now for an online proof.

Here are some other things I really like from the Minted holiday collection:

* The “Yearline™” Holiday Photo Card Option, which allows you to share the events of your year with four photos and text along a timeline.

* The Mini-Book Holiday Photo Card Option, which allows you to create a keepsake card with seven photos and text in a booklet fastened with silver grommets.

See:

Oh mercy – I just love that. Each of those pages opens up to reveal more photos.

As you might imagine, in addition to holiday photo cards, Minted offers wedding invitations, save the date cards, birth announcements, party invitations, shower invitations, personalized stationery, and thank you cards.

We post the latest Minted.com coupons and promotions here.