Christmas chalkboard

I am so happy this year to be joining Just a Girl and her home tour and if you are stopping by from her blog and if this is your first time visiting…..

…..nice to meet you.

The farmhouse and I are super excited you are here.

Happy because the halls are decked.

Happy because the floors are swept and the dishes are put away and the empty Christmas tree boxes are back in the attic.

But happy most of all because I spent an hour shopping the dollar aisle at Target just to get ready for your visit. 🙂

Christmas Kitchen

Christmas burlap sacks

Have you ever heard of the elf on the shelf?

We’ve had an elf that has showed up at our house every Christmas since I can’t even remember when.

His name is Jingle.

He is cute and sweet and red-capped and super-smiley…..

….and a lot of pressure.

Christmas Jingle Bells

Christmas birch bark trees

Every night he leaps to a different place in the house and in the morning the children rush in and wander around the rooms staring at the ceilings and the floors and everywhere in between trying to find him.

Silly Jingle.

And everything was great in elf land until my children got reports from school about all the crazy things their friends’ elves were doing like getting into the butter and leaving footprints and running away with the toothbrushes and climbing onto the roof and ending up on the weather vane.  And they promptly came home and asked me why all our elf ever did was sit on the bookshelves.


Super duper high-drama elf pressure.

Christmas kitchen and butlers pantry

Christmas burlap be merry

So you can understand it was with a little sadness and a whole lot of relief that I announced this week that this was the year Jingle the elf was going into retirement.

I made a little speech and explained that since we were in middle school now, we were starting new traditions and Jingle had things he needed to attend to at the North Pole and he might stop back by one day, but for now it was curtains.

I thought no one would care.

No one would even notice.

At most I expected a shoulder shrug or an eye roll.


Christmas galvanized shelf

Christmas hutch

I never expected weeping and gnashing of teeth.

I never expected people explaining to me in great detail that the elf was a tradition and how could I do this and that they liked finding the elf and just because they were teenagers now I was going to take away the joy of getting up in the morning and hunting for the elf.


I had to pause to let that amazing fact sink in.

They actually wanted to look for the elf?

Christmas evergreen merry

Christmas Reindeer

I held firm.

You won’t have time to look for him in the morning, I said.  You are fixing your hair and picking out the perfect outfit and texting your friends to see if they have the perfect outfit to wear to school, too.  

You won’t even notice the elf isn’t there, I told them.

They sighed and went upstairs to discuss and later that night I got this text.


I almost cried.

My heart sunk a little.

Maybe one more year?  Maybe we had stopped too soon?

Maybe we could call Jingle out of retirement?

Christmas kitchen table

Christmas Gray Hutch

And so it was that early the next morning, two not-so-grown-up teenagers with perfect hair wearing the perfect middle school outfits came down to breakfast to find this elf-scrawled note:

Hi friends….

Can you find me?

I’m back to visit a little longer.

Just because you believed.


Christmas table

Christmas elf

Jingle and his red-capped smiley face taught me a lesson this week.

One I briefly forgot.

You are never too old for Christmas.

You are never too old to rock around the tree or add extra marshmallows to your hot chocolate or wear a sweater that sings.

It is a time for celebrations and traditions and realizing there is so still much joy and good in this world….

…..if only you believe. 🙂

Christmas Room 1

And now for the next stop on the tour…..

….be sure and stop by Whimsy Girl for some more Christmas decorating and inspiration.

Want to know how to decorate your home for free?
Click here to get my FIVE BEST secrets.


  1. Image for Marisa Franca @ All Our Way Marisa Franca @ All Our Way

    Thank you for a beautiful tour -- I cleaned up "my room" before any would come to visit. I was so busy reading about Jingle I think I might have missed a thing or ten so I'll have to go back to reread!! I love traditions and I almost made my Honey put out his shoe for St. Nicholas night. He wouldn't do it. I asked him how would he know if he was naughty or nice if he didn't put out his shoe. He said he knew he'd been outstanding. *sigh* oh well I passed on the tradition to our kids and grandkids. Did I put out my shoe?? Of course!!! There were a few times when it was "iffy" if I was naughty or nice. Santa voted for nice :-)

  2. Image for Cecilia Cecilia

    Beautiful home as always. Love your Christmas decor. Someday will you share photography tips, I ask wistfully? As for Jingle, I understand the girls wanting to hold onto Christmas traditions. I remember how sad my twin sis and I were when Mom told us we were to old to leave cookies out for Santa. It took some of the magic out of Christmas. My children still like our Secret Elf tradition (where they find small goodies in their stockings throughout December) and they are grown! They are always patting their stockings when they come visit. I tried to stop it too and got fussed at. Here's to fun Christmas traditions! Hugs, Cecilia

  3. Image for mary beth mary beth

    Love the gorgeous photos and love the teen story! Last summer we removed one of the basketball nets (we had 2 and our kids are in their 20s) and our oldest cried when she saw it missing. Go figure!

  4. Image for Stacey Stacey

    Oh Kari Anne I share your guilt. The fairies used to leave lovely little notes in the garden dusted with fairy dust. How hard it was to answer the letters left by my daughter and her friends, who's mom's gave me no end of grief because the fairies didn't stop at their houses. By 13 years old, after my daughter found the teeth hidden in their adorable little fairy box never meant to be seen by her eyes, I relented and gave in to my own laziness. When asked by my young teen, "do you write the fairy notes too, because all my friends say you do", I gave in. Thrilled to think that I didn't have to go out into the summer night leaving tiny little notes and fairy sweets, (don't ask), anymore I told her I Wrote the Notes! Well, all I can say is that I swore NEVER AGAIN! Never again would I shatter a childs dreams. Never again would I give in because I was too tired to keep up the tradition. I will always support the legend of Santa Clause, I tell my youngest son, now 14, who is begging me to come clean with him, because Santa is a Belief System. You either Believe or not and no one can challenge ones beliefs. So now I sit here reading your touching and all to familiar story after having 3 hrs of sleep because I was decorating all night in preparation for my daughters return from college. Did I want to put everything up this year? No. Why I ask myself, Why can't I do a more simple and yet beautiful x-mas decor like Kari Anne's? But I put up all, (most) of the lovely little tchotchkes that my children have come to expect and would be bitterly disappointed not to find. After all, I did start all this because I wanted them to believe in the Magic and carry it in their hearts all their lives. Because you are never, never too old for a little Magic. I love your blog Kari Anne, which brings a little Magic into the lives of all your readers and your home looks Lovely!

  5. Image for Wendy @ Front Porch Mercantile Wendy @ Front Porch Mercantile

    Oh my friend, you home looks beautiful, as always and forever. I must say, I feel for you and your kiddos, my girl is 19, this year she is in New Zealand following her dream to travel, but she told me yesterday she misses snow (ya sure) but she was really sad not to have an advent calendar, those cheap, dollar store ones, she makes me buy one every year "cuz its tradition mom". One year I didn't (she was 16 and seriously, really, but she cried that I didn't get one) so I got one. Enjoy the traditions, have a wonderful holiday season my sweet friend! xo

  6. Image for lisa at celebrate creativity lisa at celebrate creativity

    Good morning, Karianne Lovely tour and I'm really coveting that galvanized bin storage unit. What an amazing storage solution. Also, I never get tired of a little peek at your awesome pantry. Have a wonderful week and happy holidays!

  7. Image for Jennifer aross Jennifer aross

    Kari Anne, What a sweet story. It made me chuckle and misty, all at the same time. If that doesn't prove the silent, strong way what we do infiltrates the characters of our kids, I don't know what would. Love your decor!

  8. Image for Jen Jen

    Although the photos are absolutely stunning, your story steals the show this time. It's so heartwarming to hear that your teens want to hold on to their childhood just a little longer. I hope you and your family have a magical holiday season this year.

  9. Image for Pat Pat

    Love everything you do!!!! As tradition goes, keep the elf. Some day, your kids will be sitting around frosting Christmas cookies with their kids and your kid will be telling them the day that grandma wanted to remove Jingle. Ohhh no..... If you need ideas, Google Elf on the Shelf ideas. Tons of ideas.... Have fun........

  10. Image for june june

    Kari Anne, You have such a way with words...I'm sitting here with tears in my eyes. One minute our kids want to flex their muscles of independence and the next they want to still be kids. What's a mom to do? It sounds like you have some overachiever Elves (ok mom's) that live in your community. Although, I have a friend who would find a way to get hers on the roof of her home. I'm wondering if my boys will notice the Lego train missing from under our tree this year? My husband questioned my decision. It is not a favorite of our granddog so we no longer turn it on. I guess I will know if a few weeks when they are both home for the holidays. I love the jingle bells - do you remember where you got them? Say hi to Jingle for me.

  11. Image for Nancy @ Slightly Coastal Nancy @ Slightly Coastal

    Beautiful! I love your neutral Christmas. I can't pick just one thing because it all works together so well. So funny about the Elf on the Shelf. We've never started that one because we already have a few in the works...the pickle in the tree...and a Jim Shore Santa with Naughty and Nice. My husband is in his 40's and when we go to his parents' house the day after Christmas he starts looking for the pickle. They're never too old.

  12. Image for Lisa at Texas Decor Lisa at Texas Decor

    Beautiful tour! I've always loved your pretty kitchen! My boys are the same's not acceptable for me to stop certain traditions. ;) They're 21 and 16 and I still buy them those chocolate advent calendars every year and they insist I set up the countdown to Christmas chalkboard. :)

  13. Image for Velia Velia

    Dearest Karianne, your home is decorated so festive and ready to warmly welcome the holidays. The nature items you decorated with are perfect in your home and your beautiful setting. Your talent and creativity in decorating can only be surpass by your wonderful writing. Thank you for sharing your gifts with your friends. Your post reminded me of our family holiday traditions and certain decorations displayed while my children were still at home. Now with their own homes, they are making new traditions yet it warms my heart that they continue with some of the activities we shared together. Your family will lovingly remember all your efforts that you put into your holiday preparation. Many blessings to you and yours.

  14. Image for Natasha @ The Authentic Mama Natasha @ The Authentic Mama

    Beautiful as always. Kids will always hold to those traditions! It's fun to do the same with our kids as they grow up!

  15. Image for Sheila Sheila

    My kids are all grownup now, but when they were in there teens I told them that the had to Believe (in Santa and magic) or the presents would not show up. Also, I have heard that non believers (in Santa's magic) get underwear. Who wants to risk that!? So..keep those traditions alive! Never stop your elf's magic! Even when the house is empty of kids...keep the elf alive! Text them about the elf. Do whatever you need to do to keep those family traditions alive. You never want the magic to stop. IMHO. :-) sheila

  16. Image for Yvonne Shafer Yvonne Shafer

    A wonderful story now and a great memory for your dear children later. One friend did this with her family elf: she put a cast on his leg and a doctor's note saying he had to stay off his leg for two weeks! A tired mom has to be very creative!

  17. Image for Brook Brook

    Humbling. And I cried. Thank you for the reality check KariAnne. I was feeling a bit frustrated about our EOS. No more!

  18. Image for Vicki Vicki

    That truly made me cry! " Don't stop making memories", is what your family is saying. Your children, and Jingle, will be gone much sooner than you even know- off to make even more memories with their own friends and families (one day your grandchildren) - and your influence of happiness is so needed in this world! Thank you for your influence in my world by writing this blog! You insert laughter and joy into my world every day! Merry Christmas!

  19. Image for Susan Susan

    Welp...I'm crying all over the place, now. You are an amazing storyteller and I was wishing and hoping Jingle would come back, so when the picture of the text appeared I cried happy tears!!! Jingle should never, ever go away again. K? Merry Christmas!!

  20. Image for Kim Goldsberry Kim Goldsberry

    In my home with my middle school children we ran into the same dilemma this year, we (my husband and I) thought for sure the elf would retire. However he is alive and with us, and even talked about with their other middle school friends who also still have elves. The nice thing is, our almost high school daughter even moved the elf when she knew we would be getting home a little late. Your blog made me smile today. Thank you!

  21. Image for Suzy Suzy

    Thank you so much for your elf story. Our family also has an elf, Buddy, who visits our home during the Christmas season. I have read so many stories of banning the elf. Buddy is such a fun tradition in our house. Even my 16 year old and his friends love searching for Buddy. In fact this Friday night they all came over after the basketball game for the sole purpose of looking for Buddy. They came, they searched, they found, then they left for Whataburger. WHAT!!!! Buddy came before Whataburger. That just tells you how important he is in our house. Even my Sophomore at Texas A & M gets in on the search( and sometimes hiding) when he is home. So glad Jingle is back. Your house is beautiful! Christmas Blessings, Suzy(ps our Buddy is basically a shelf dweller too, no elaborate setups!)

  22. Image for Adrienne Adrienne

    Your home is amazing. And I feel ya on the elf. We're in the same boat at my house. We're still hiding Elfred every night even though everyone knows, but it's tradition and of course thanks to Pinterest, he can't just sit on the shelf, he has to do something crazy!

  23. Image for Kerri Kerri

    I was anxiously scrolling to the end to see what happened to Jingle! My girls are 6 and 8 and we have two elves, Ralphie and Snowflake. Every year up to this year our elves would hide in our kitchen, dining room and living room. However, my girls have been coming home questioning why their friends' elves do crazy things. So the past few nights our elves have eaten cookies and had a snowball fight with marshmallows. But I love being able to make my girls happy. It is all about BELIEVING!

  24. Image for Gail Gail

    Tradition is strength and stability. We as a military family built many traditions that kept HOME wherever we were that year. Kids may seem at times as though they have grown and aren't interested but they are. Little things that are familiar give them stability and relief. Wonderful story. We moved 22 times in 23 years and I always tried to keep Christmas as normal and traditional as possible. My kids still want us to stick to the plan.

  25. Image for kathy mitchener kathy mitchener

    Im all teary to ,this year missing my boy /man who is fighting for our country they grow up too soon sniff sniff ,your house is so awesome I love it !and enjoy reading your post ;)

  26. Image for Jolyn Jolyn

    You always make me cry with your sweet stories! This is my first Christmas with an empty nest, but when my chickens return to the coop, I make sure to keep up the silliest of traditions. They like coming home to the familiar, and the safe, and the HOME.

  27. Image for Madison Sanders Madison Sanders

    I'm stopping by from Just a Girl. Beautiful post! I can empathize with your children on not being too old. You'll be glad you did the elf because it's something they will always remember, even when they grow up and move away. I also LOVE your wooden Christmas trees! I've never seen anything like them. Can you share where you got them?

  28. Image for Trina @ afewmineradjustments Trina @ afewmineradjustments

    Our elf {Cookie Crumb McDoodle...CC, for short} brought our boys the cardboard reindeer head straight from the Target dollar aisle this year too! He just couldn't pass it up! I am so glad to hear that your kiddos still love the tradition! A lot of people knock the elf, but he is so much fun....even if he forgets to move sometimes! Your house is lovely, as ususal! XOXOX

  29. Image for Teri Teri

    Have to admit that I barely noticed the pictures of your house because I was so enticed by the story. I too shed a tear. Yep, a bit tear rolled down my cheek. I thought to myself, perhaps it is because I am tired and worried about the pace of Dec. Perhaps it is because I too have twins in middle school, who seem to cling to wanting holiday traditions continue into their teen years. Perhaps it is because there never seem to be enough hours in the day. Then I thought to myself - well at least I never started the tradition of hiding an elf! To our own established traditions, you inspire me to stay up late, get up early and continue them. Today is a day I needed your message. Thank you.

  30. Image for Peggy Peggy

    This is a very, very sweet story. We all need a little magic. And at Christmas the magic just seems to reach out and touch us a little more. Our children are grown an now there is a little grandchild that the traditions are being passed on to. You are never too old for Christmas. I loved your Christmas tour. The kitchen and dining area look beautiful decked out for the holiday!

  31. Image for Gran Wood Gran Wood

    Wow, you had me scared! So glad Jingle got to stay. Tell the girls if he needs a new home he is always welcome at Pa & Gran's. Love y'all!

  32. Image for Ardith Ardith

    Happy Holidays, Karianne, to you and your family. Thank for sharing your elf story, too. It reminds me of the two times that my mom tried to end the Christmas stocking tradition---once during high school, then again in college. Both times she relented. But when we tried a third time in adulthood, no luck. No worries, I've carried on the tradition myself. Best of the holidays to everyone, Ardith

  33. Image for Marijean Marijean

    I love you Karianne for always putting a smile on my face or a tear in my eye, and sometimes both at the same time !

  34. Image for Lynne B. Lynne B.

    Your house always looks so beautiful. Never give up Jingle! My children are 37, 34 and 30 and now they pass on to their children all the traditions and fun they had when they were little. I think my son, now 37, was about 15 when I said, I think its time to stop this. His reply was, "How could you, its part of Christmas, it won't be as much fun" so like you we continue! I love creeping around with my little grandchildren as they whisper "Is this where the hiding place is, is this where" Pure joy!

  35. Image for Karin Karin

    Best elf story EVER! Makes up for his creepiness. Almost. lol. Thanks for sharing the true spirit of Christmas - happy holidays, Karianne! xo from Alexandra and Karin at heartlovealways.

  36. Image for Laura Laura

    Karianne, Your tour was beautiful, but the story was priceless...My chilcdren are 28 and 30, and we never go without baking mexican wedding cakes and watching White Christmas at the same time. I still can't put their presents under the tree because Santa doesn't come before Christmas never know what will stick until the one time you don't do something....which means you are usually doing something right.

  37. Image for Lauren Lauren

    Thank you Kari for that beautiful story about Jingle. Thank you for keeping the spirit alive and reminding all that there is a part to all of us that believes in goodwill and the Christmas spirit. Your stories and traditions will forever be remembered by your family. And thank you for sharing your beautiful home with all.

  38. Image for PC PC

    I am putting out something for my staff every day. They go rummage in the mailboxes to see what's there and they are 20-somethings to 50-somethings. Your home looks great. Love the milk glass.

  39. Image for Shannon Shannon

    Kids will just never fail to surprise you at every turn! Happy holidays to you & your family Karianne. The house looks beautiful. I loved every tiny detail. Especially the wee peek of Jingle ;)

  40. Image for Jae Jae

    Beautiful pictures, wonderful story.....but the last few paragraphs say it all! Still good and beauty and kindness in this world. I chose to Believe!

  41. Image for Laura @ The Turquoise Home Laura @ The Turquoise Home

    I'll admit that when my mom told me she wasn't going to give us kids anything in our stockings anymore, I wanted to cry. I was only THIRTY TWO! Seriously, never too old to be a kid at Christmas. And don't worry. She brought them back the next year because she forgot that she quit doing them. I guess that's what happens when you're really old (55). ;-)

  42. Image for Julie Julie

    That's it. We're moving in. Got room for 5 more?! Our boys are super mellow. Great, now Santa's not coming. ;) It's the most beautiful Christmas home tour I've seen, KariAnne. Love the white, natural elements and farmhouse charm. Sweet, sweet story. So glad Jingle is back.

  43. Image for Donnamae Donnamae

    Even when I read your stories a day late...they still bring tears to my eyes! Bottom line...if your kids give up the elf, they have to grow up...and none of wants to grow up, especially when it comes to Christmas. Because some of us, still believe! Everything looks so pretty! ;)

  44. Image for Terri Terri

    My two youngest grandchildren wait in anticipation for "Elfie" to appear.... with his little anctics... and notes etc. !! They love it ( they are only 7 and 9 ) BUT.... the best part..... they call "Grammy" (That's me!!) and explain to me what Elfie did during the night... and what Elfie is up to AND THIS GRAMMY ..... is thrilled beyond thrilled!! Because I am included in the "Antics... and the play by play"... They call and make me a part and that fills my heart to overflowing!!!!! So... in my humble opinion... I sure do hope it's a looong time before Elfie is retired !!!!! :)

  45. Image for Pamela Pamela

    This is so sweet and also bful decor! My middle school son has been disappointed too, that his elf, Hymie, is not hiding or moving. I'm thinking we need to start the "tradition" again! Thx, you brought a tear to my eye, also!

  46. Image for Nikki Nikki

    I came over from Hi Sugarplum's to see your Christmas tour. Just this morning, as I was deleting what seemed like thousands of emails, I scolded myself for signing up to so many blogs. Well, you just won yourself a new reader/subscriber. You brought a tear to my eye. Love it.

  47. Image for Marie from The Interior Frugalista Marie from The Interior Frugalista

    Awe, that's such a great story KeriAnne. I remember my kids being disappointed when I attempted to change a few traditions, like the advent calendar treats. Like you, I was shocked they were still into it in junior high. You are so right about never being too old for Christmas! P.S. Your home is beautifully decorated for the holidays - so warm and welcoming!

  48. Image for Carol @ The Red Painted Cottage Carol @ The Red Painted Cottage

    I love how you decorated your house, Karianne; and I really loved the story about Jingles. It reminded me of a tradition in our family. Mrs. Claus always baked gingerbread men for Santa to add to their stockings. I always baked and decorated them when the kids weren't around or were in bed. One year I just didn't do it. They were older teenagers so I knew it was time to quit this...WRONG! They all asked where their gingerbread men were and that this has been a tradition, and on and on. So the following year, Mrs. Claus resumed her baking. As they married, I told them to start their own traditions If you have time, my friend, stop over and see me little tour. Merry Christmas!

  49. Image for Create With Joy Create With Joy

    Dear KariAnne, Your home and blog are beautiful and your story-telling skills are captivating! It is such a pleasure to visit you each week! :-) Congratulations - I'm delighted to share that you are our Friend of the Week at Friendship Friday at Create With Joy! :-)

  50. Image for Sue @ Home Heart Harmony Sue @ Home Heart Harmony

    Oh my goodness!! You just brought tears to my eyes with that story!! My children are growing up too and I must be feeling emotional but thanks for sharing that, helps me to remember that there's still plenty of magic yet....I love your Christmas decor too! xx

  51. Image for Cindy Cindy

    I've never heard of this "Elf on a Shelf" before...I feel cheated! lol! I think I'm gonna have this convo with my of course she's gonna think I'm completely out of my mind at 44. LOL! I'm with the kids:) What's one more year of footprints in the butta? The day will so be here, and you'll be the one waking them up on Christmas morning! Keep the Elf:D At least he doesn't eat much, and he needs a home too!

  52. Image for Donna Marie Donna Marie

    Mooooommmmmm you can never rush your kids growing up! They will come home from college and look for the elf!!!

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