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Tuesday, December 31, 2013

2013 In Pictures

This appropriately happens to be my 100th post on this blog! Happy New Year everyone!
Oscar-watching party with Shirley Temples

Joined a awesome book club where we read awesome books, like The Princess Bride.

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Thankful Thursdays: Christmas

Today I am thankful for Christmas.

I am feeling so blessed and joyful. It's been a chaotic, crammed, sometimes stressful month of preparation. Finally, the day is here.

This has been week of wonderful moments.

A wreath-making party, coffee cake and conversation. I help my grandmother as she works hard to make dozens of traditional cookies: Russian Tea Cakes, Peanut Blossoms, Pecan Tartlets and English toffee. I have I Celebrate The Day on a CD of Christmas music in my car and I tear up every time I hear it.

My two new cousins, just a month apart, meet for the first time.  One of my best friends and her husband's sweet baby boy is a few weeks early. I had more than my fair share of baby-holding this week.

We watch Muppet Christmas Carol, my favorite Christmas movie. My little brother says Scrooge doesn't believe in Jesus, but the Muppets do and that's why they have fun. I love that he is figuring this stuff out.

I spend an evening out at a dinner theatre with my friend and her mom. A local theatre group has adapted Pride and Prejudice, adding Christmas carols.

We have a Mongolian Grill dinner, followed by a drive around the hills to see the elaborate Christmas light displays. I drown in piles of yarn, trying to finish up a scarf for my brother. My mom braves the fabric store two days before Christmas to get more yarn for me.

I cram in all my favorite Christmas movies because I've been to busy to watch them sooner. The women of the family go out for an afternoon of shopping and lunch.

I work with my siblings to shop for groceries and then engineer an elaborate gingerbread creation. (This year, Smaug the dragon on a pile of treasure.) We cook and decorate and dress-up. When the gingerbread takes longer than planned, my mom jumps in to finish all the cooking and cleaning.

We host small Hobbit-themed party of close and nerdy friends, feast and play games, make new jokes, and exchange silly gifts. My grandfather dresses up and makes an appearance as Gandalf. I have the best family.

Last minute coffee orders get delivered and mailed. I finally have time to edit pictures and paint my toenails. My family stays up too late watching Chuck, our newest Netflix obsession. I eat more sugar than I mean to. I tally the sales from the Apparent Project party and it brought in a total of $991. I am happy to be able to support Haitian families.

I watch Home Alone and wrap gifts. I feel inspired to make them creative and pretty this year and we have lots of random bits of wrapping and decorations to use. I make a quick batch of my signature holiday dessert: peppermint bark. I spend a morning babysitting my almost-3-year-old cousin who's in town for the week.

I don't find as much time to read my Bible as I want to, but I read the Christmas story before I fall asleep and I slowly work my way through A Christmas Carol.

The house full of family, a pot of soup made by my grandfather, coffee and tea and goodies on Christmas Eve. My siblings and I stuff Mom and Dad's stockings.

Is it possible to sleep well the night before Christmas? There's a spark of magic in the air and I feel like a little kid again. I listen to my favorite Christmas episode of Adventures in Odyssey to fall asleep.

We spend the morning at my grandparents' new house. For years I clung to the idea of "the coziest morning of the year" in their old house, the only place I can remember them living. My Papa gets up early and the fire is always going by the time we get there. I am a stickler about tradition, but now that the time has come, letting go of the old house and tradition and moving on doesn't feel so hard.

Our extended family has gotten so big, we've had to arrange shifts for each family to open presents with my grandparents. We curl up around the fire, eat bagels and nuts my grandfather smoked in his smoker, and fruit, tea and coffee. We open our stockings. I'm thrilled with the selection of goodies my mom picked out from the Asian market: brown rice green tea, a tea cup, Korean instant coffee, my favorite Korean crackers.We take turns opening our gifts, starting with the youngest and working our way up to the adults.

I feel so thankful for wonderful gifts this year. It's a great mix of semi-practical things I needed and fun surprises: new pajamas and a robe and socks with llamas on them, a TARDIS necklace, a bright red purse, a beautiful copy of The Count of Monte Cristo, (which I've never read.) My grandparents donate money to an orphanage in Mexico on behalf of our family. My aunt gives us a jar of homemade pesto. My grandfather has put together packs of home-smoked meats and cheeses and nuts.

Now we're home, showing each other our presents and enjoying some of them (especially the food ones.) We rest and nap and tidy up. I'm watching It's a Wonderful Life. Little Bro is becoming an expert at putting together Lego sets.

Tonight some family will probably come over for a meal and some games. Everyone has little ones now, so the nights don't go as late as they used to. We don't play Hearts for as long. But it's okay. Times change, but Christmas is still Christmas. I am more flexible and have learned to lower my expectations and enjoy whatever happens.

I've spent my Christmas season surrounded by the people I love, good conversation and good food.

Wherever you are, whoever you're with, whatever you're doing, I hope your day is filled with joy and celebration of our Savior. Merry Christmas!

What are you thankful for today?

Thankful Thursdays Link Up:

Monday, December 23, 2013

Winter Photoshoot

A few weeks ago, we took advantage of (very) rare snowy day, pulled out our hardly-worn winter clothes and had an epic photoshoot. I finally had time to finish editing the pictures today.

P.S. Thankful Thursdays will be back this week. December has been super crazy busy, so I haven't been very on top of posting.

I finally got some pictures of this sweater I knitted last fall.

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Thankful Thursdays: Warm Things

Today I am thankful for all things warm.

Where I live, it does not snow. Like, maybe once a year we get 2 inches of slushy stuff that's gone the next day. On Friday, we got 7+ inches and it's still on the ground. We've hit the lowest temperatures the town's seen since the 1970's.

Since we have approximately one snowplow here, the roads haven't been great. A lot of places have been shut down, and people have been staying home as much as possible. (All of my classes have been cancelled, and since I work from home, cabin fever is setting in. I'm pretty sure next week's Thankful Thursdays topic will be "thankful to get out of the house.")

Anyway, I HATE being cold. I'm fairly convinced I'm meant to live in a tropical climate. Being cold makes me tense and grumpy. So I am so thankful this week for our pellet stove. For socks. (Even though I hate wearing them.) For knitted scarves, legwarmers, hats, headbands, and gloves. For sweaters. For my wool coat. For blankets. For boots. For walls and insulation.  For tea and coffee and soup.

I'm also thankful for this bunch. Turns out we all have a lot of winter clothes we never wear. We got out in the snow and had a ton of fun doing a 3-hour photo shoot. (More pictures coming soon!)

What are you thankful for today?

Thankful Thursdays Link Up:

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

My Top Five Christmas Albums

5. Joy to The World ~ Pink Martini

Pink Martini has unique music, blending different international styles and languages. Their holiday album is no exception! 

4. Let It Snow Baby... Let It Reindeer ~ Relient K

I love Relient K for their brilliant mix of humorous and meaningful songs. "Santa Claus is Thumbing to Town" has me laughing hysterically, while "I Celebrate the Day" had me tearing up this week and might be the best Christmas song ever. 

3. Christmas ~ Anna Gilbert
This is a newer album, but it's quickly made it into my favorites. It's full of beautiful, worshipful piano versions of carols. She has some originals and less popular songs. I'm in love with "Some Children" and "Rest in the Light". They make it onto my playlists year-round. (Not to mention that cover photo is beautiful.)

2. A Charlie Brown Christmas ~ Vince Guaraldi Trio

It just doesn't get much better than Charlie Brown Christmas. The jazz music is so relaxing and so Christmasy.

1. Home for Christmas ~ Amy Grant
Amy Grant's 90's album wins for the perfect balance of songs about Jesus, celebratory songs, and nostalgia. 

A few runners-up (runner-ups?....I'm always confused/annoyed about which is right) who also have great Christmas music are Michael Buble, Aly & AJ, (way better than their other CDs, in my opinion) BarlowGirl, Glee, and Jump5. (Must be nostalgia, but I still love their first Christmas CD. #sorrynotsorry)

What Christmas music do you listen to?