a new kind of Christmas

you can find me at: @K_AnnM | Insta | LinkedIn

This holiday season a lot of my friends took part in unconventional traditions. You can add me into this group, too. Rather than boarding a plane and heading back to the Motherland (Wisconsin), I found my mom picking me up in Charlotte, North Carolina. Arriving in Charlotte wasn’t even the end of it; from there we drove 2 hours west to their new home in Hendersonville, NC.  After a week with my family in Hendersonville, I can report back saying Christmas wasn’t any different from other years (other than the fact that I didn’t get to see Matt). We still watch an uncountable amount of Christmas movies, drank a great deal of Brandy Old Fashioneds, went to Mass on Christmas Eve and waited to open gifts on Christmas day afternoon.

Growing up you can only imagine Christmas at your house, with that special dinner, opening gifts, etc., but once you hit a certain age that all changes. I now see and understand that it doesn’t matter where I celebrate Christmas as long as family and your loved ones surround you Christmas is the exact same. Do you feel that Christmas can only be special by celebrating it a particular way?

I hope all of you had a wonderful Christmas and have a happy New Year!

holiday movies to watch

here’s the list

you can find me at: @K_AnnM | Insta | LinkedIn

First and foremost, a very merry Christmas to all! A big family tradition for me is cozying up next to the fire, with the pup playing and the family all in one room, watching holiday movies. So far today, we’ve already watched three: Holiday Inn, I’ll be Home for Christmas and Window Wonderland. The following are a few movies to watch during the holiday season.

Die Hard

I’ll be Home for Christmas

Love Actually

Christmas Vacation

Home Alone

White Christmas

Charlie Brown Christmas


Santa Claus

Jack Frost

Before the day ends, I trust that my family will have conquered this list! From the list above, we have two left. Christmas is kind of a big deal in this household. With that,  I will leave you to enjoy your family and your holiday traditions.

dc’s best kept secret


you can find me at: @K_AnnM | Insta | LinkedIn

I know what you are thinking: Shirlington, please that’s not in DC, therefore not DC’s best kept secret. Well, listen here, I understand that Shirlington is in Arlington, VA but it’s the best! The tiny little village is a lot like Old Town Alexandria but always filled with holiday cheer. Shirlington “and urban village”  lies in the valley of Four Mile Run along the Potomac River.

In the past month, I have made my way to Shrilington four times, and every time I discover something new and better than the last. This little urban village makes me smile and giddy like a school girl. Shirlington is simply the cutest thing I have ever stepped foot in. The best way I can explain the city without you seeing it is: a Lifetime or Hallmark holiday movie–but all year round.

If you are interested check it out, The Village at Shirlington or a more modern version, that will be sure to tickle your fancy and entice you to visit Shirlington.

christmas tree lighting

National Christmas Tree Lighting Ceremony

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The year 2013 marks the 91st anniversary of an American tradition. Through peace and war, from national celebration to national mourning, treeAmericans have gathered together and celebrated the season in this holiday event. President Calvin Coolidge was the first to light the Christmas Tree in 1923. He walked from the White House to the Ellipse to light a 48-foot decorated tree, as a local choir and a “quartet” from the U.S. Marine Band performed. Still, 90 years later, this American holiday tradition continues. This tradition brings citizens together to share in a message of hope and peace.

oday, the National Christmas Tree will be lit (December, 6th). The ceremony beings at 4:30 PM EST. You can watch the lighting here online or on the PBS broadcast.

The National Christmas Tree and 56 smaller trees (Christmas Pathway of Peace) – one for each state, five territories, and the District of Columbia, become the focal point of the holiday. The Christmas Pathway of Peace is lit each evening at dusk until 10:00 PM (ET) through January 1, 2013. Each tree is decorated with unFirst_Lady_Reading1687ique ornaments created by an artist and volunteers from that state, territory or District of Columbia.

Last year, I won the lottery! I had the opportunity to see the National Christmas Tree Lighting Ceremony take place, which was an awesome experience! Typically, I watched this on TV, but I never dreamt that I would be there. Sure, I live in DC, but the chances of winning tickets, are slim to none. Last year marked my first holiday season in Washington, so to me, it was a big deal that I attended the Ceremony. In addition to the ceremony, The Night Before Christmas was read to the audience, Christmas carols filled the air, and cookies were passed amongst friends.

For future reference of how to enter the lottery, go to recreation.gov. A note from them is as follows: For those that have applied for the National Christmas Tree Lighting Ceremony, the status of your application will be emailed to you by Recreation.gov on Thursday November 1, 2012. You can check the status of your application anytime by logging on to your profile.


st. nick’s day

discovering the truths about St. Nicholas

you can find me at: @K_AnnM | Insta | LinkedIn

After moving out to the East Coast, I learned that there are many traditions that Midwesterners do that go unnoticed around the US, which I think is silly and kind of a culture shock. A big tradition that goes unnoticed is St. Nicholas and St. Nick’s Day. Allow me to enlighten you on my dear friend, St. Nick.

His feast day, St. Nicholas Day, is December 6, which falls early in the Advent season. In some places, he arrives in the middle of November and then moves about the countryside. When he is moving around, he visits schools and homes to find out if children have been good. In other places, he comes during the night and finds carrots and hay for his horse or donkey along with children’s wish lists. Small treats are left in shoes or stockings so the children will know he has come.

Where St. Nicholas is prominent, his day, not Christmas, is the primary gift giving day. Parties may be held on the eve, December 5th, and shoes or stockings are left out for St. Nicholas to fill during the night. Children will find treats of small gifts, fruit or nuts, and special Nicholas candies and cookies. St. Nicholas gifts are meant to be shared, not hoarded for oneself.

For things to get even weirder for me– I found this out: In Milwaukee children don’t write letters to Santa; they hang stockings on St. Nicholas Eve with a wish list for Santa. St. Nick comes to each house, collecting the wish lists and filling stockings with candy and toys for good children and coal for naughty ones. The coal is a warning to get one’s act together in the next three weeks before Christmas. The schools alert new families so no one will be left out. Personally, when growing up, we put shoes and stockings out for St. Nick’s Day and wrote letters to Santa for Christmas.

Did you know: St. Nicholas may also be the inspiration for a special Advent project—one which shows his concern for justice and relief of suffering.

holiday traditions

Everyone has different holiday traditions and I am always interested in hearing about them. This year I will get to experience new holiday traditions. This holiday season marks a new chapter in my life. From here on out I will be celebrating two ways: once with my family and another with Matts. As I know my family’s traditions, I am excited to learn about the new ones I will encounter with Matt and his family. Below Matt tells us about his family’s traditions. Is it Christmas yet?

you can find me at: @K_AnnM | Insta | LinkedIn

Christmas, edt

guest blog presented by: Matthew D. Shalbrack
You can find Matt on Twitter: @hamsterjockey; insta: hamsterjockey, make sure you follow him

With the holidays quickly approaching, Kendal Ann wanted me to share some of the holiday traditions that my family and I partake in each Christmas. Christmas has always been a big festivity for my family. Each year, we put the tree up, make cookies, go to my Grandpa’s on Christmas Eve, go to midnight mass and then open presents. I get excited for Christmas each year and I’m even more excited for it this year because it’ll be Kendal Ann and my first Christmas together. So many memories will be made! I cannot wait. Here’s a rundown of the main Christmas traditions that I have with my family and ones that Kendal Ann will be a part of this Christmas season as well!

The first weekend in December

On the first weekend in December, my Mom, Dad and I put up our Christmas tree. The type of tree we use varies – a few years ago we used an artificial tree while last year we used a real tree. We have boxes on boxes on boxes of ornaments that we put up each Christmas. Each of these ornaments has a meaning and it’s hard to not get a little misty-eyed while remembering the memories that each ornament possesses. We use colored lights instead of white lights and we sometimes put gold garland around the tree as well (I’m not the biggest fan of this to be honest). But besides spending time with my family, my favorite thing that we do when we put up the tree is listening to the Charlie Brown Christmas CD. On a boom box mind you.

The weekend before Christmas

During the weekend before Christmas, my parents and I always make Christmas cookie cutouts. We roll and knead the dough, bake the dough and then DECORATE DECORATE DECORATE! We have the same old cookie cutouts that we use each year and we use the same sprinkles, but the designs are always different. I have a tendency to put too many sprinkles on my cookies, but I’m okay with that. It’s always great fun and this tradition goes back to when I was just a wee little tike. Can you guess what is playing in the background as we do these cookies? The Charlie Brown Christmas CD obviously.

Christmas Eve

On Christmas Eve, my family has a whole conglomerate of traditions that we take part in. In the early afternoon, we go over to my Grandpa’s house with most of the Shalbrack clan (except for my relatives who live super far away) and we all get together and have dinner. The same thing usually happens each year in terms of eating. My cousin eats all sorts of hors d’oeuvres and then she can’t eat the actual dinner. After we eat the meal, the cousins and I go upstairs and claim out spots in the living room. My cousins and I actually sit in the same spots year after year. It’s great. While we are sitting by all the presents and snooping, the parents are downstairs doing the dishes and cleaning up. After about 30 minutes, my uncle comes upstairs and turns on, you guessed it, the Charlie Brown Christmas CD for us to enjoy until everyone decides to come upstairs. Once everyone is upstairs, we pass out gifts, open them and shoot wrapping paper balls into the garbage bag. After we finish at Grandpa’s, my parents and I head back home to prep for the midnight (10:30 p.m.) mass at church. My Mom is a part of the choir, so she has to get there extra early, so my Dad and I always go later and sit in the choir loft with her. Once mass finishes, we scurry home because Santa has already dropped presents off (my house is obviously one of the first ones he hits). We open presents, listen to more of the Charlie Brown Christmas CD and then we go to bed.

Christmas Day

On Christmas Day, my family and I have breakfast together and just relax for most of the day. We have a dinner with my Grandma early in the afternoon and that’s about it. Christmas Day for us is all about relaxation and enjoying spending time with one another. It’s great and I wouldn’t have it any other way.


Well there you go! You know have a firsthand look into what my family does during Christmas. I cannot wait for Kendal Ann to be a part of these festivities this year! What do you do for the holidays? What things are different and which things are similar to the ones that I have listed?

harvest season

“Beer is proof that God loves us and wants us to be happy.”-Benjamin Franklin

autumn has arrived?

you can find me at: @K_AnnM | Insta | LinkedIn

I’m the biggest advocate for a good beer as the next person is, but I’m an even bigger advocate for autumn! And when you put these two things together, it is honestly heaven for me. Both beer and autumn are a God-sent and they couldn’t have come at a better time.  Listen, I’m not saying I like having my Summer cut short and Halloween decorations to be out already–I just want a nice long autumn. So, hear this Christmas–don’t get any ideas about promoting yourself even earlier this year.

Take a listen and give me your thoughts!