Christmas 2013

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Oh, Christmas. The most magical time of the year. This was me and James’ first Christmas as a couple, which made it a little more special. I’ll start with Christmas Eve. James and I both had family gatherings that day so it was the one day all of Christmas break that we didn’t spend with each other. My family went to my dad’s sister’s house for dinner. After dinner we enjoyed my mom’s delicious chocolate truffle cheesecake, followed by several rounds of Heads Up.

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The app provided some entertainment for a little while, but the real stars of the party were my Aunt Debbie’s chihuahuas.

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If you can even call them that…

We headed home after several hours of quality family time, only to wake up to this the next morning…

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For some reason, this Christmas was more exciting for me than it has been in the past. I think it’s because both of my sisters live away at college now and I’m the only one living at home so I don’t get to see them very often. Also probably because my boyfriend, who I also rarely get to see, was in town :) Roxie was excited to help us open gifts too!

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Don’t worry, she got presents of her own, too!

I enjoyed unwrapping a diamond candle, a martini glass set, and 12 more yoga classes, among many other things. My sister got One Direction tickets, which she never thought would happen in her wildest dreams. She shed a few tears, it was cute. We all made out really well and I feel very lucky!

After opening presents at home, James picked me up and we spent a few hours with his dad’s side of the family. Then, we headed to his mom’s house for the night before heading to Virginia the next morning!

**The first picture was actually taken at my grandparents’ house over Thanksgiving, but it was too perfect not to post for Christmas!

Weekend Update: Winter Wedding (and other family gatherings)

The day we got home from Traverse City, James’ mom hosted a holiday get-together at her house. The guest list included James’ mom and stepdad, James’ grandparents (on his mom’s side), my parents, my neighbors (who just so happen to be very good friends with my parents AND James’ mom…small world!), and James’ friend Justin and his fiancee Emily. I had such a fun time. Not only did I get to meet his grandparents for the first time, reintroduce myself to Justin, and meet Emily (before attending their wedding that weekend!), but our parents also got to hang out. It was like a big ol’ family meet & greet! My mom and I agreed that his grandparents were the sweetest people in the world. I’m thankful that I got to spend a lot of time with them that weekend :)

The next day, Justin and Emily had a pre-reception for their wedding. Since they had some guests coming from out of town (she is from Ohio and they are both in the Airforce) they hosted lunch at a local restaurant for everyone to mingle and say hello to the bride and groom before the wedding the very next day. They asked for everyone to bring 2 dozen cookies to be shared with guests at a “cookies & milk bar” at the wedding. I thought that was such a fun idea! James and I made peanut butter reindeer cookies, using this recipe. They turned out pretty cute and were a big hit with the guests!

After the pre-reception, we spent time with some family friends of mine. James got to meet a lot of new people who are very close to my family. We had fun playing Cards Against Humanity and ended the night with a white elephant ornament exchange. James and I thought we were being funny by picking out the ugliest ornaments we could find, but they did not compare to the one I ended up with.

I came in on a Chriiiiiistmas bulb!

I came in on a Chriiiiiistmas bulb!

After this party, James wanted to take Justin out for a drink the night before his wedding, like a good best man. When we finally made it back to his mom’s house for the night, there was no power! A big ice storm had swept through the area. This made getting ready for the wedding the next morning a bit difficult. Luckily, their venue still had power! It was the most picture perfect winter wedding. The lodge where they had both their ceremony and reception sat on a lake surrounded by woods. The storm from the previous night had covered all the trees in dripping icicles, looking like a winter wonderland. Inside, the lodge was decorated for Christmas, so there were elegant Christmas trees and twinkling lights all around.

Since they had a small wedding  party, everyone who stood in the wedding was allowed a seat at the head table for their guest. That means I got to sit at the head table! James was so nervous for his best man speech (he didn’t even start writing it until that morning!), but he completely nailed it. He had the whole room laughing, but it was also perfectly sentimental. I was so proud :) It was such a fun night! Throughout the reception we danced, mingled, and gorged ourselves on wine and cookies from the cookie bar. Afterward, James and I stayed the night at the guest lodge, along with several other guests. The amenities were very crappy. The bed felt like cardboard, the water was brown and wouldn’t get hot, and the only vending maching (with clean water) was broken! We still managed to have fun though. Before we went to bed we hung out with everyone in front of the fireplace, playing Jenga (Justin and Emily had everyone sign a giant Jenga piece in lieu of a guestbook), eating junk food, and drinking some more.

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My handsome sailor

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It was one of the best weddings I’ve attended. I think the fact that it was during the holidays made it much more cozy and magical  I had the best time getting to know James’ best friend and his new wife, along with spending some more time with his family!

Traverse City Trip

Oops, it’s been awhile! What can I say, my last semester of classes kept me busy. Now that I’m in my student teaching semester and I’ll be teaching writing to three different classes, I know it’ll be important for me to practice my own writing. Speaking of student teaching, today is supposed to be my second day but it’s actually the second snow day! There’s good reason, too. I don’t remember the last time I’ve seen this much snow. It’s also been nearly 30 degrees below zero!Too cold for kids to be walking to school and bus stops. My dog won’t even go outside to do her business because of the cold!

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So I haven’t actually started student teaching yet…but I can’t complain. I had such a wonderful Christmas break! It’s been nice to have it extended 2 extra days :)

My break officially started on December 17th when James came home! The last time I saw him was for three days at the end of September, so I spent almost every waking second with him during break. The morning after he came home we headed up north for a few days. Our first stop was at my grandparents’ house for a night. Every year, my entire family heads up to my grandparents’ house for about a week after Christmas. I had plans to go to Virginia the day after  Christmas this year, so it would be the first time of my life not celebrating Christmas with my mom’s side of the family! I’m glad James and I made time to visit them, even if it was just for a night. Plus, it was the first time my grandparents met James. My Grandpa used to be in the Navy so he talked James’ ear off. In fact, I’m pretty sure he spent more time talking to my boyfriend than me :P

We made sure to fit in some outdoor winter fun in while we were there. We took a snowmobile across the street and did some sledding. It’s a BIG hill so we only did a few runs down before we became exhausted from climbing back up. The rest of the time was spent goofing around (tackling each other and throwing snowballs at cars passing by). For dinner my Grandma made a delicious nacho chicken chili. For dessert I took James to Short’s brewery! I think it’s a cool place and they always have new beers on tap, so we sampled a few. I wasn’t as impressed with this selection of beers as the ones they had over Thanksgiving. But I insisted on ordering the s’mores stout because it comes with a flaming marshmallow on top! James wasn’t very impressed with the beers either but it was fun to show him one of my favorite places.

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The samples are served in a ski! Fun.

The next morning we said goodbye to my grandparents and made our way to Traverse City to do our own little wine tour. We visited the wineries of Old Mission Peninsula, where we were the only visitors! This definitely earned us special treatment…we got a discount at almost every place. Another highlight about visiting Traverse City during this time of year is the ice wine. Ice wine is made from frozen grapes and it is DELICIOUS! We only visited 4 or 5 places before we had our fill of wine and checked into our room. We stayed at Chateau Grand Traverse and were the only guests at the inn as well. It was a beautiful house with gorgeous views of the bay and vineyard. We exchanged our gifts in front of the fireplace upstairs and then curled up in front of the fireplace in the basement and watched a movie (perks of being the only people there: we get ALL the fireplaces!). They provided plenty of food for breakfast for us in the kitchen. As we were eating, the owner of Chateau Grand Traverse walked in. He used to be in the army so James and him talked some military talk and then we got some free chocolate covered cherries and cherry salsa :)

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A wine bottle Christmas tree!

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The view from our bedroom’s balcony.

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It was a fun little getaway, and the perfect way to start our first holiday together! We already decided we want to make Traverse City an annual holiday trip.

The only not-so-perfect part was our drive home. It started to blizzard overnight and continued through the morning we left. The rental car that James got had terrible tires, which resulted in getting towed out of a snow bank. 

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A Boot-iful Obsession

I have a problem. This problem started three years ago in the fall when I saw some booties my sister was wearing and thought, “Those are cute. I must buy some.” So buy some I did, and I definitely got good use out of them. I wore them almost every day throughout the fall and winter. I loved them so much that by the time the next fall rolled around, I wanted some more. One of my favorite stores was selling  boots 2 for $30, so I took advantage of it! I thought it was a great deal, but the more I wore them the more I realized they were pretty cheap. The fake leather was noisy and pretty unappealing, and they hurt my feet. I still stuck it out and wore them as often as I could. By the NEXT fall, I was ready to upgrade to something a little more high quality, so I bought myself a nice pair of black suede boots that definitely got their value’s worth of use that season, although I hate having to clean off the white crusty salt that accumulates after walking outside in the winter.

Just in case you’re having a little confusion keeping up with the dates, the story now brings us to THIS fall with 4 pairs of meh boots. I hadn’t felt guilty about my past purchases because they were all very different styles, and I got some pretty good deals on them. This year is a different story. Once again, I saw some boots of my sister’s one weekend and immediately went into the “must.have.now.” mindset. I owned a pair by that Sunday.

photo (5)No sale, no coupons, not a very good deal at all…but I have gotten tons of compliments so that makes it worth it, right? ;)

I absolutely love my new boots, but before I even knew what had happened, two more babies made their way into my possession.

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Aren’t they pretty?

I definitely feel guilty about purchasing 3 pairs of boots in one month but I just couldn’t stop myself! I keep trying to justify my purchases by reminding myself that these 3 new pairs are of good quality so I won’t need to upgrade for about 5 years! But we’ll see if I still feel the same way next year…

Have you made any shameful impulse buys recently?

Flashback Friday: Europe, Part 1

Timeframe: May 2012

Backstory: EF College Break is a company that takes people ages 18-26 on trips all over the world. I traveled with this company once already when I was in high school, so I knew they were legit. They have a bunch of different trips to choose from and all you have to do is pick your favorite trip and sign up! That’s how I was able to travel to Europe with my sister, Rachel, and our friend, Veronica.

What we did:

LONDON

London was the first stop on our European adventure! We instantly fell in love with this city. The pubs, the tiny cars, the old buildings, the accents…it was all so charming!

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To avoid making this post overly long, here’s how we spent our first few days in London, in a nutshell pictures:

Eating in pubs. Not pictured is the black sausage we tried, which was delicious. I will not tell you what it’s made out of, but I will say that I’m glad I didn’t know beforehand.

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Big Ben.

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Frolicking in Kensington Gardens.

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Kensington Palace

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The London Eye. It was a foggy day when we went, but a very cool experience, nonetheless.

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Westminster Abbey.

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Buckingham Palace. We were not so impressed with this place. There were crowds of people lined up around the gates for a garden party so we couldn’t get very close that day.

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A night out at the Zoo Bar.

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HARRY POTTER STUDIO TOUR! Easily the highlight of London for me. We got to walk through some famous sets (like the Great Hall!) from the Harry Potter movies, see all of the props and costumes, drink butter beer, and end the tour at a scale model of Hogwarts. It was an incredible, once in a lifetime experience!

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I also got to hold hands with Rupert Grint.

Other unpictured highlights include midnight strolls around our hotel with mugs of wine in hand, discovering a tiny but fabulous little Italian restaurant in Piccadilly Circus, getting completely lost while trying to navigate the streets, mastering the tube system, climbing on lions in Trafalgar Square (oh wait, I did catch that on camera), and so, so much more!

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We ended our stay in London by relaxing in Hyde Park, taking in our last London sunset.

This is how we watch sunsets together.

This is how we watch sunsets together.

London was the perfect city to start off our “holiday.” Stay tuned next week to find out where we traveled next!