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Category: Holidays and Traditions

And The Winner Is…

And The Winner Is…

It is with a great sense of defeat that I announce the winner of the 2017 Ornament Swap.

Britten’s penguin ornament won over the hearts of most readers and received 47 votes.

Brook’s RG Fit ornament only received 5 votes.

We were briefly concerned that the 2017 ornament swap was going to be a total shutout for the first time in the history of the competition. Thankfully,  a few of our more level-headed readers recognized the significance of opening a business and the toll it can take on your family and voted for my gym ornament. I’m not bitter. Really.

If you need me I’ll be under the covers sulking with my face buried in a pillow.

Ornament Swap 2017

Ornament Swap 2017

The annual Christmas Ornament Swap is a pretty big deal in the Taylor house. No matter where in the world we find ourselves, it seems to always be a very, shall we say, competitive part of our holiday season. When we are in the States our annual ornament swap is accompanied by a lovely dinner and a night away while our boys stay with grandparents. When we are overseas the Christmas date night consists of…

  • putting the boys to bed early
  • ordering take out

  • watching a Christmas movie by the light of the tree
  • and sharing a Double Doozie from the Great American Cookie Company that just so happens to  be in our city. #PTL

Ironically, it was a Double Doozie that made an appearance in our 2015 Ornament Swap.

The competition rules are simple. Find an ornament that reminds us of our year together, talk some trash to each other prior to the swap, open the ornaments and then let you all decide who was victorious. Winner gets bragging rights for 364 days.

Ornament #1 – My mother in law gave our family a day at Ski Dubai for Christmas. There was a pretty amazing Penguin Encounter included in the day’s festivities. Not only did we get up close and personal with a few penguins, we learned a lot of interesting facts.

Our personal favorite was that penguins mate for life. When a male penguin finds the female he wishes to spend the rest of his life with he searches for the perfect pebble and presents it to the female penguin. If she accepts the stone, the penguins bond for life. If she doesn’t accept, the poor pitiful penguin is left to find someone else. Sad.

Our new found penguin information quickly led us to start giving each other a stone at random times just  to say, “I love you.”  So it was only fitting that we add a penguin ornament to our Christmas tree.

Ornament #2 –  The majority of 2017 we were working to help get the doors open for a new functional fitness gym in our city. It was quite the ride to get the doors open, but very much worth it. The gym looks amazing. Guys are loving the fitness concept. And it is beginning to make an impact on our city.

Britten has been managing and training at the gym while I have helped coach the bootcamps on private compounds a few nights a week. So it goes without saying, RG Fit was a major part of our lives and definitely worthy of commemorating with a brand logo ornament.

So, now we take it to the people. All you have to do is cast your vote to help determine the 2017 Christmas Ornament Swap. Each vote will be tallied and the winner will be announced in the coming days.

Which ornament will take home bragging rights for an entire year?

Ornament 1: Pebble Penguin Love Birds

Ornament 2: Wooden Etched Gym Logo

Please cast your vote in the comments section below or by leaving a comment on the social media outlet of your liking.

And the winner is….

And the winner is….

The votes have been counted and the results are in.

Brook’s apartment ornament received 60 votes.

Britten’s Hermosa Beach ornament received 12 votes.

Two people declared the 2016 competition a tie.

I’m over the moon excited that I have secured bragging rights for 2017 but fully expect Britten to reclaim his title in the days ahead.

Ornament Swap 2016

Ornament Swap 2016

Last week our yearly Christmas date night and ornament swap went down.

If you don’t know what I’m talking about then take two minutes to get up to speed by reading the short explanation of our Christmas tradition.

The anticipation and build up was evident for many weeks leading up to our date night. Britten and I didn’t miss an opportunity to talk trash or taunt each other with the assurance that our ornament would win this year.

I’ll let you decide who you think came away with the win.

Here is the story behind the ornaments…

1. This past summer we took our first vacation sans kids since 2006 and I’m still not sure why we waited so long to do so. It was an amazing week touring L.A., riding bikes through Venice Beach and watching the Crossfit Games. One of our favorite nights during the trip was the night we went to Hermosa Beach, ate pizza at a little hole in the wall and sat for hours on the beach with our feet in the sand talking about life and dreaming about the future. As parents of many little guys, the opportunity to talk face to face with no interruptions doesn’t come often, which made this particular night such a gift. It was a night we both want to remember for a long time. Thanks to this ornament, we can remember it every Christmas when we hang the Hermosa Beach ornament on the tree. 

2. We have lived in 1,569, I mean a few different homes in our marriage. Each home was special and unique in it’s own way, but after a while it’s difficult to remember the various homes and what you treasure about each one. However, there are a few that have made an eternal impression on our lives. Our home in 2016 is one of those. The six story apartment building. The street name. The parking space under the building. The double glass door going into the lobby. The date we arrived. The city in which we lived. All those and more will be remembered each year that we pull out this hand painted Christmas ornament.

**If you’re wondering, the top two right hand windows were our home in 2016. And we also had the upper area which was the outside space for our kids to frolic. 

In my humble opinion, it was a strong year for Christmas ornaments and we will treasure both of these for years to come, but I’m leaving the final outcome of this year’s contest in the hands of my readers.

Notice I didn’t tell you who bought each ornament. That was on purpose. If you would, take a second to decide which ornament you think won this year and cast your vote. We look forward to gloating and basking in our success upon hearing the results.

Our Jesse Tree

Our Jesse Tree

Today I posted a picture of our Jesse Tree on social media which led to a number of  text messages and comments asking about the tree. The process is so completely simple and underwhelming that I decided to snap a few pictures and throw together a quick how to.

My amazing husband has a list of talents and abilities that could quite possibly shut down the world wide web but handy man is nowhere on the list. Taking that into consideration, I try and choose projects that do not solicit his assistance. Make sense?

If you happen to have a handy husband then don’t let him read this post because he will balk at the elementary way I’ve gone about this little project and rightfully so. Not to mention, he can probably come up with something way better.

But for those of you that just want a simple task you can finish by yourself in a single afternoon…I’m your girl.

Supply List: two boards, 25 upholstery tacks, paint/stain, nails, hammer, Plaster of Paris, bucket, cloth, ribbon, ornaments

You’ll need to make a quick trip to Lowe’s for two pieces of wood. Our Jesse tree comes up to my hip and to have one approximately that height you will need two boards, one 17 inches long and the other 33. Not to mention, if you’re super kind to the guy in the wood section at Lowe’s he will totally cut the pieces to the dimensions you request.


Paint or stain the boards to your liking and nail them together in the shape of a cross.

Of all the steps, this next one is the most tedious. You’ll need to figure out the spacing of your upholstery tacks so that all 25 of them will fit nicely on your cross. It’s up to you how you place them so just go with whatever works.

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Pour the liquid plaster into the bucket and stand the cross up in the center of the plaster. I secured ours to our back porch deck with a rope so it would dry without me standing out there holding it for 8 hours.


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Your cross will more than likely be secure in the bucket once the plaster has dried but over the years ours has worked it’s way out so I just slide it back into the hole.

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Use the cloth to wrap around the bucket and secure it with the ribbon.

We are currently using this book to guide our family worship times but there are several more options out there. Before you order anything just make sure whatever you order lines up with what you believe because there are variations in the material based on the author.

I ordered our wooden ornaments many years ago from Etsy and couldn’t find the exact set but this one seems to be the same thing and even comes with a booklet explaining each ornament and the story that goes along with it.


We go through one story each day during the month of December with the hopes of our boys being able to recall the story, using the pictures on the ornaments as reminders. It has grown to be my favorite Christmas tradition and a great accountability tool for slowing down each day in December to retrace the genealogy of Jesus and behold the beauty of the Gospel.

Ornament Swap 2015

Ornament Swap 2015

Although our Christmas ornament tradition looks different than it originally did when we started, we still make sure it happens and we are still just as competitive as ever, maybe even more.

The fact that we are now living in our third country in under three years means we have a wide range of things about our life that are ornament worthy.

I considered going with a camel ornament, for obvious reasons.


Or maybe a brightly colored chick to represent the ones our neighbors once gave us for pets.


Even an abaya ornament would be fun, considering my latest fashion forward attire. Be jealous.

IMG_2727 So many different options and Etsy only a mouse click away. What’s a girl to do?

After several weeks of pondering my ornament options I decided to go with a favorite memory from our last year but you’ll need a tiny bit of background for it to make sense.

Moving to a new country, finding a language teacher, learning a new language dialect, arriving with only 18 suitcases for your family of seven, riding around for 4+ hours a day with your five kids in the car to find an apartment, searching night and day for things to go in your empty apartment, having your credit card stolen, totaling a car that belonged to another family, Ramadan starting, your computer falling off the couch and shattering the screen and your iPhone  crashing can all be pretty stressful occurrences. And when all of those things happens within a six week time period, you start to question your sanity. #truestory

This past summer when we first moved it just seemed that something went wrong at every turn. We just couldn’t catch a break and so I did what any other grown woman would do, I put on my big girl panties and tried to focus on the positive I cried. And Hubby, being the amazing man that he is would leave at any hour of the night and drive to the Great American Cookie Company to get me a Double Doozie because calories and chocolate seem to fix everything. I’m not going to say how many times he made late night runs to the Cookie Company but I will say he’s on a first name basis with the cashier.


Now each year when I pull out the ornament I got for Britten this year, I’ll look back on those stressful days and smile.


Britten came strong with his ornament this year as well. Remember the picture above of my stylish new outfit? Britten got me an ornament that represents what the ladies in our country wear. I love it!


We decided my ornament was the winner this year because of the story it represents for our family but I’ll let you decide who you think won the 2015 Christmas ornament exchange.