Farewell, 2013!

Tuesday, December 31, 2013

2013 has only a few precious hours left before it's gone forever and a new year begins, full of hope and promises and the unknown. Our 2013 brought so many changes: in fact, we spent the better part of the year in a season of change.

But you know what? As much as change unsettles me, it is a necessary part of life and a part that can make you grow more than anything else. Alex and I have a stronger marriage now, on this last day of the year, than we did on January 1. And I wouldn't have wanted to be alongside anyone else in the world for this year! I love that man and I'm so thankful for all the blessings we were shown in 2013. 

I am ready for the next year. What will it bring? No matter what, I'll have my best friend at my side and I know I don't have to go it alone, through good or bad. 

Here's to you, 2013 - and to your successor. 

Wishing you all a 2014 full of blessings, good health, prosperity and - because I now know it's a good thing - a little bit of change.

Repurposing Christmas decorations in our new home

Monday, December 16, 2013

You're tired of hearing me lament about moving this summer - I know. Even I'm tired of it.

But a whole new challenge - of the fun variety - presented itself when we got the Christmas decorations of the attic a few weeks ago. All of our decor had been purchased for the house we no longer own: a house that has a much different floorplan and is about 65 years younger than our new house. 

There are the decorating basics that pretty much everyone has: a Christmas tree, stockings, a wreath for the door. Those are easy to transfer to a new space. But the things that were bought specifically because of the features of the old house require a little more creativity. 

1. The Christmas Tree
This was an easy one, although the situation isn't as perfect as it was in our last house. We always get a real tree, and of course, real trees require access to the base for watering. Our old house had a perfect nook for a tree - like, I seriously think this nook was specifically designed for a Christmas tree - in front of a window in the living room. It allowed plenty of room for watering and also for presents to be spread under and around it. 

Our new house is much older, and doesn't have creative little nooks or conveniently-placed electrical outlets every 4 feet. But we made it work, and it looks pretty good!
Advantage: old house

2. The Garland
Our old house was two stories and had a staircase that opened to the foyer, which was perfect for a lighted garland. Our new house is single-story with nary a handrail in sight. But, lucky for me, our new house has three mantles, prime for some Christmas cheer!
Advantage: tie! 


3. The Stockings and Mantle
Our old house had a gas fireplace and a nook for a TV above the mantle, which was convenient and saved us from having to buy another piece of furniture. But our new house wins this category, with a wood-burning fireplace and a brick mantle. I love the character is has, and especially love it all decked out for Christmas!
Advantage: new house



4. The "Fun" Tree
We have a second, smaller tree that has all of our random ornaments on it that we've collected over the years. For example, I used to collect snowmen and I have a lot of really cute snowmen ornaments that don't match the big tree theme, but I love them on our fun tree! These are really the ornaments that mean a lot to us, because they have so many memories.

In our old house, we had a landing upstairs that was in front of a picture window, so you could see the tree from the street. Our new house has a sunroom that has windows on all sides, from which you can also see the tree from the street.
Advantage: Tie!


The bottom line? I love both houses, and our Christmas decorations have made them feel equally jolly and festive. And truly, if you have joy in your heart, the decorations are just icing on the cake!

Monthly Challenge: December

Saturday, December 7, 2013

It's here, the last month of the year: 2013 is almost gone! But I still have time for one last challenge to myself. 

I've had some really great monthly challenges this year: like January when I went on a purging and organizing rampage, and March when I started the Couch to 5k program. And then there were a few months that my challenge was selling our house, moving, buying a house and finding a new job (i.e., I didn't give myself an additional challenge). 

This month, I wanted to combine some of my favorite challenges of the year into a bigger challenge:

  1. Floss every day (this will change your life, y'all. 30 days of a routine makes it a habit!)
  2. Track my calories every day (and actually complete the entry)
  3. Remember to add my Advent Calendar ornament to the Advent Tree every day (that's a new one, ha!)

What challenges have you given yourself this year? 

Celebrating Advent with a DIY Advent Calendar

Friday, December 6, 2013

[A few days late, but Happy Advent, y'all!]

Last Christmas season, I made up my mind that I was going to make a Pottery Barn-esque Advent Calendar, much like this:

And I spent roughly the first 10 days of Advent trying to find the perfect ornaments to complete the look. So it morphed into more of a 12 days of Christmas calendar.

Anyway - the point is that I finally found the right ornaments and this year, I actually got to start on the actual first day of Advent putting the ornaments on my designated little Advent tree!

Here's the finished product:
My knock-off Advent calendar

and the little tree the ornaments go on!

It's really easy to make, and inexpensive if you're careful not to let the ornaments add up!
You'll need:

  • a small/medium cork board (mine is about 2 feet tall)
  • burlap
  • staple gun
  • seamstress pins with pearls on the end
  • blank gift tags (found in the paper or card making section at Michaels)
  • 24 small ornaments, each different
  • Small tree (or you can hang the ornaments on your regular tree!)
Staple the burlap around the cork board (BONUS: you can use the burlap-covered cork board year round for pictures, notes, etc!). Write numbers 1-24 on the blank gift tags. Carefully lay out the tags so that they will be evenly spaced on the board. Attach them loosely with the pins through the holes in the tags. Hang a small ornament on each pin. Proudly display your Advent calendar and remember to put an ornament on the tree each day! 

I broke one of my own rules

Monday, November 25, 2013

I never, ever listen to Christmas music before Thanksgiving, let alone start decorating before then. 

But I did it. I broke own of my own rules this past weekend. (Two, technically: I listened to Mariah Carey Holiday Radio on Pandora, too). 

I couldn't help it. I had the house to myself - no husband, no dogs to distract me. I busted out the Christmas decor. 

I didn't do anything super major. I just put up a small (well, 6 feet...) tree and my Advent calendar. And decorated the mantle. Minor stuff. No big tree, of course - saving that for me and Alex to do together, obviously. 

My reason was good; it was pure: we won't be back home until Sunday, which is Dec. 1. How can you put up an Advent calendar after the day it's supposed to start?! (well, I did that last year, but I digress). I refuse to put up any outdoor decorations until after TG, so at least the neighbors don't know. 

So Christmas came a little bit early to our house. But that doesn't change the fact that Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday and it's just 2 days away - yesssss!!!

Thanksgiving Challenge - Week 4

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Friday, November 22: today I'm thankful for a husband that lets me do whatever makes me happy. Although he is getting ready to leave tomorrow for 8 days, I just wanted my Christmas decorations down from the attic - and he gladly said "okay." That's just a small example of the things he does to make me happy. 

Saturday, November 23: I'm thankful for a comfy bed and place to rest. So looking forward to sleeping in tomorrow (if my body will let me sleep past 8!)

Sunday, November 24: today I'm thankful for a quiet house (hubby and pups are already in Florida for TG - I'm going Tuesday after work). Although I miss them in the worst way, I was able to get a jump start on my Christmas decorating and played Christmas music all morning :) 

Monday, November 25: Today I'm thankful that Alex and I were able to go on a once in a lifetime trip to Italy this summer, amidst arguably the craziest time of my life. We had an incredible time  and I'm so glad we could make those memories! 

Tuesday, November 26: I'm thankful for a work team who came together for an outstanding potluck and tree-trimming today. Working with good people makes all the difference! 

Wednesday, November 27: today I'm thankful for be HOME for Thanksgiving! After a long trip home (a delayed flight, which caused me to miss my connection in Atlanta), it was a good feeling to wake up in my childhood room this morning. There's nothing like home for the holidays. 

Thursday, November 28: What am I not thankful for on this day of thanksgiving? I'm thankful for the food that went on for days. The 50 friends and family who joined us for "the feast". The love of Thanksgiving that I share with my Grandma. My cousins' little ones running around like it seems I did only a few years ago. The 4 generations who were present today. So much love behind every dish prepared and every mile traveled to be there and I am so thankful for all of it.

Thanksgiving Challenge - Week 3

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Friday, November 15
: I am so thankful for modern medicine! Thanks to Humira, my Crohn's is under control and I have been feeling great since I started it in February. 

Saturday, November 16: Today was the Florida/South Carolina game (the one game a year Alex and I do. Not. Watch. Together) and I am so thankful for my Alma Mater. Even though football has not been a strong suit for Florida this year, I'm thankful for my degrees from a truly fantastic school. Also thankful that my family (brother in pic) was here to watch it with me! 

Sunday, November 17: I'm thankful for a weekend spent with family in town. I cherish days with my family since they live so far away. Just blessed to get to spend time with them! My mom and stepdad also helped me do a lot around the house, which was verrrrry appreciated! 

Monday, November 18: I'm thankful for a fun dinner out with some new friends. Being a Columbia newbie, it's nice to be establishing a new network of friends. It's hard moving to a new place as an adult, but thanks to work and Junior League, I'm starting to make some great connections in my new city. 

Tuesday, November 19: I'm thankful for my Dad and I miss him very much! I don't get to see him as often as I see my mom and brother, but I think I laugh every time I speak to him on the phone - the man cracks me up. I'll always be his little girl. 

Wednesday, November 20: so thankful for my Besties Lindsey and Lesley. It's tough only seeing them a few times a year when I saw them every day for years on end, but our friendship is still as strong as it ever was. They're the sisters I never had! 

Thursday, November 21: I'm thankful for technology (specifically Apple products!). Like my new iPad I'm typing on right this minute to finish this blog post. And special shoutout to Target's trade in program that gave me $200 for my first generation iPad a few weeks back. New toy and a bargain? That's something to be thankful for. 

Thanksgiving Challenge - Week 2

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Friday, November 8: today I'm thankful for date nights! Without any kids in the picture, we can go out whenever we want, for however long that we want. I guess we should take advantage of it while we can, right? (don't get any ideas - there's no bun in this oven!) 

Saturday, November 9: I'm thankful for weekends that allow me to get stuff done. I definitely appreciate the leisurely type of weekends, too - those are a very necessary part of life - but I so love crossing things off my house to-do list! 

Sunday, November 10: today we visited a new church (we're still "church shopping" in Columbia). I'm thankful not only for religious freedom, but having so many churches to choose from. I still miss our church in Greenville (below) but I have faith that we'll find an awesome church family here.

Monday, November 11: today I'm thankful for my sweet baby angels, Penny and Ellie. They bring me so much joy, it's unbelievable (and their enthusiasm when I get home is uncontainable - always a nice way to be greeted!). They are a huge part of our little family. Puppy love. 

Tuesday, November 12: I love chilly weather and I'm thankful for the chill in the air! The crispness of fall reinvigorates me and puts pep in my step. There's no other feeling quite like it. 

Wednesday, November 13: I'm thankful for busy days at work. Even though today was a long day - and tomorrow will be even longer - it feels good to feel like I'm finally making a difference at my job, 3 months in. 

Thursday, November 14: I'm thankful for the things I learned on the job today. My job introduces me to so many people and industries, and it's fascinating. I got to spend the day - and into the night - with some fun clients, and got to enjoy the view of a cotton field while doing so. It was a good day.

The Last Box

This is it, folks: the last box from our move. 

I unpacked this puppy a few nights ago. We finally finished our bookshelf project in the Study, so I could finally unpack all our books and "book shelf trinkets," as my friend April labeled them when she helped me pack up our study in Greenville back in July.

I am SO happy to be done with boxes. And our house is feeling more like home everyday. 

Thanksgiving Challenge - Week One

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Yep, I'm aware that TG doesn't last for weeks at a time - though with all I eat over the weeks between Halloween and New Years, it sure feels like it does.

This is the first post in my monthly challenge series for this month: Be positive and give thanks. I have sooooo much to be thankful for. 

Friday, November 1: I am thankful for my husband Alex. He is my best friend and knows me like no one else in the world. I am so thankful that God brought him into my life six years ago! What a wonderful ride it's been. I can't to spend forever and a day with him by my side.
This is NOT 6 years ago - it's just a few weeks back :)

Saturday, November 2: I'm thankful that I am able-bodied and can do things like this hike. So many people would love to be able to, but are physically prevented. Taking in God's creation while challenging myself physically is a wonderful mixture.

Sunday, November 3: I am thankful for a God who paints pretty pictures, and who has a wonderful, beautiful artistic side. Every day - especially in the fall - is a masterpiece.

Monday, November 4: I give thanks for my home. It was a struggle to leave our beloved first home this summer, but I love our new house - and it's home now. Thankful that we can afford to own a home and make it ours.

Tuesday, November 5: I am thankful for a backyard in said home. It's a work in progress (old pic below - "After" pics will come when it's finally complete!). I'm so glad the dogs have a place to let off steam and look forward to making a lot of memories in that back yard for years to come.

Clearly taken in the midst of a major overhaul! 
Wednesday, November 6: I am thankful for this time change. What, you say? How can she like the sky turning dark at 5:30pm?! Well friends, it sure is nice in the morning. I enjoy waking up to a sun-lit sky. It makes me feel refreshed and ready to tackle what lies ahead.

Thursday, November 7: I'm thankful for a healthy (okay, maybe a little pea-heavy: at least it's a green veggie!) meal prepared by my hubby. The fact that he offered to make dinner is blessing enough, but I'm also thankful that we in America have access to the safest, most plentiful food supply in the world. #farmersdaughter

Overwhelmed by the many blessings I see in each and every day! Thank you, Lord, for every one of them!

Playing catch-up

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

I blinked and it's November. I swear.

Here's a quick run-down of what we've been up to lately:

Alex was in a wedding down in Florida a few weeks ago. I took Friday and Monday off of work, so we enjoyed a nice 4-day weekend in the sunshine. Even though I grew up in Florida, I don't recall ever having a beach weekend in late October. But it was glorious! The weather for the wedding (in Fort Myers) was absolutely perfect and the wedding itself was beautiful. I've never been to an outdoor wedding with weather that perfect. 

Sunday after the wedding, we went down to Marco Island for the "after party" which was the next night. We got to enjoy a full day on the beach and pool-side complete with pina coladas, tropical music, picturesque blue skies and 80 degree weather. Ahhhhhhhh.

My stress faded just looking at the Gulf waters!


Halloween snuck up on me - I can't believe the first of the 2013 Holidays is over! Wowzers! The girls dressed in little Holstein cow costumes to pay tribute to my family's dairy farms (this was Alex's idea, by the way). They were presh. The trick-or-treaters loved to see the Penny and Ellie all dressed up! 

Nice expressions, pups!
My obedient Golden
If looks could kill...

With the crazy Summer that transitioned into a crazy Fall, I didn't put up many Fall decorations this year because I feel like I just unpacked my "normal" decorations for the house. Which I did, like a month ago. So we kept it simple with just a few outdoor decorations to put on a good face for the neighbors, ha! And it goes without saying that there are a few pumpkin-scented candles sprinkled around the house.


Last weekend, Alex was at a tournament with the golf team, so I went up to my mom's cabin in NC. We hiked on Saturday down to the river to watch the annual Green Race, a professional kayak race on the Green River. The hike on the way down took about 45 minutes and was somewhat challenging: I didn't anticipate it being soooo steep (and, by the way, there was no trail. We blazed our own). But it was so worth it to see the gorgeous rapids and watch the very impressive kayakers! Those people were amazing. 

The hike back up the mountain, however, was a different story. An hour and a half of climbing literally on my hands and knees because it was too steep to stand wore me out!! I haven't been that "one with nature" in a long, long time. But it was A BLAST. I didn't care how dirty I got, or that I my legs were throbbing with emerging bruises from all the rocks I was "walking" on. It was straight up little-kid-playing-in-the-dirt FUN, y'all. It won't be something I'll do all the time, but I will certainly do that hike again. Plus, it was really fun to do it with family (shout out to my 54-year-old mom who killed it!). We felt really accomplished at the end of the day, and although I was pooped, it was the good kind of worn-slap-out. 

You can sorta tell how steep it was in this pic


In addition to all this goodness, we've been playing house in our new (or not so new anymore - been there for 3 months!) home. I've been working on a couple of big projects: can't wait to share the finished products!

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