Tuesday, December 27, 2011

The Day After and Beyond: Christmas Memories

Ahhh, the second day after Christmas. I've decided this year I'm going to leave my lights up, watch holiday movies, and listen to Christmas music until I feel like stopping. None of those post-holiday blues for me!

How was your Christmas week?

Mine has been fabulous and full so far.

I'd love to look back over some of my favorite memories from this year's festivities:

Being told to walk calmly (not skip) through the metal detector at the airport
Stopping at our traditional spot for pizza and wings on the way home from the airport
Experimenting with peanut butter, egg nog, and pineapple upside down pancakes
(The egg nog ones were the winners!)
Singing karaoke for my first time with goofy brother Brad (he stole the show and entertained the whole bar with his air guitar, air drum, backup singing, and dancing antics, especially his performance to Tubthumping by Chumbawumba)
The plethora of desserts that were made throughout the week
(Including uh-maz-ing homemade Baklava)
The three hour long Chess strategy lesson I got from brother Nick
Watching brothers Peter and Jacob climb the two tallest trees on the property like lumberjacks
Multiple Chess games (I lost every time) with brothers Pete, Brad, Nick, and of course Dad
Spending a quiet, relaxing afternoon painting pottery with brother Jeff
Watching three new-to-me movies
(Santa Claus 3: cute and heartwarming; Sahara: a fun adventure; Inception: a mind blowing nail biter)
Falling asleep to a different movie every night
Eating my first venison in the form of delectable chili made by sister Andrea
A Christmas Eve brunch with my two sisters and cousin Tina who's basically a sister
Three of our brothers sitting at the booth next to us and crashing the party
(And sending a round of sausages over to them as a joke)
Watching a movie and drinking a bottle of champagne curled up on Mom's bed with Mom and Tina
Having a boisterous family sing-along of The Twelve Days of Christmas
Mom getting out her flute and playing while we caroled
Trying to learn chords to back Brad's guitar harmonies
Nick staying up for 30-some hours straight hand- making awesome presents
Our delicious Christmas feasting
(The huge pot of Tortellini Soup was devoured in a matter of hours)
The handmade gifts my sister Rachelle made us all
(Cinnamon ornaments, paper wreaths and pinwheels,
and decoupaged wooden plaques with quotes on the front that reminded her of each of us,
and personalized messages on the back (mine made me cry)
Hearing family members playing the piano and the guitar at random intervals
Playing with my cutie pie baby first cousin once removed (I call her my niece, it's easier)
Doing P90X every other day and getting pretty dang sore (and feeling buff)
Going to my new favorite bar and grill twice in one visit (Lamb burger with goat cheese = heaven!)
Playing Battleship with brother Jacob (and getting beaten every time)
Reading to and goofing off with my adorable niece Skyla and nephew Levi
Having a beautiful white Christmas
Eating Aunt Susan's breakfast casserole (made by her daughter Tina) for the first time in years
Eggnog (homemade by bro-in-law Will) with whiskey
Passing Chess With Friends on two phones clockwise around the table between five of us during a dinner outing

Hope your Holidays have been blessed with fabulous memories as well, friends!

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

My Best Friend's Wedding: Almost Time

A few scenes from the final moments of getting ready. I got to do PLP's hair! It turned out beautifully.
She was a gorgeous bride. It was touching watching the groom open her gift to him- he had to choke back
 some tears. Her nephew was hilarious- he kept bragging about his fast running skills while hanging out
 with the ladies. Speaking of hilarious, I love that outtake of us bridesmaids on the stairs! And the blurry
 shot of Katie with the rings just makes me smile. Most of us were pretty giddy.

P.S. Flowers and Quiet Wandering

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Thankful Thursday: Cheer


Plentiful Mexican food drive-thrus
Wine and chillin with my plp
Movies that make me realize how petty my worries are
Being on the brink of another week-long vacation
Feeling like I don't need a vacation, but I'm takin one anyway
Learning to have Christmas cheer without buying anything
Bosom friends-the kind you keep for life
Bosses who give pay advances for vehicle repairs
Being able to at least schedule bill payments
Knowing my next month's rent will be paid on time
Having a whole restaurant I'm responsible for, loving my job, doing it well, and being proud of my team
Seeing my family for another whole week for Christmas in four days
Being able to eat at work when my fridge is bare (and knowing, if I choose it to be, that it can be as healthy as shopping for dinner at Whole Foods)
Accepting that life, and plans, can change as quickly as the weather
Reading, in bed, during the day
Having a place to call home- to be comfortable in, to retreat to

Saturday, December 10, 2011

I'll Have a 'Green' Christmas

Have you guys ever thought about what all of our wonderful Christmas traditions are doing to our planet?

For instance, all of our pretty lights. Yeah, those twinkly ones hung on our houses, in our bushes and trees, on our front porches, and of course on our Christmas trees.

Those little lights burn a lotta energy! And energy production, until we all convert to cleaner production methods, is hard on the environment. Think of all the coal and oil being burnt and emitted into the atmosphere. Think of the waste and hazard created by nuclear power plants.

Not only that, think of our bank accounts! Our big energy bills come and let's face it, they take some of the fun out of the merry displays.

What to do, what to do...

Why, switch to LED lights, of course!

I know that LEDs seem more expensive to buy than the oldskool Christmas lights we all have in our garages/attics/basements waiting to be put up. But hear me out.

Think of switching to LEDs as an investment. In your wallet, and in our Earth.

For one thing, LEDs last much longer than traditional lights. Thousands of hours longer. (According to the Department of Energy, the best white LEDs have been found to have a useful life of about 35,000 hours, or four years of continuous operation.)

And if one bulb burns out, the rest of the strand stays lit! How nifty is that? Because not all of us get pleasure from searching a whole strand of Christmas lights for the one troublemaker in the bunch, right? ;)

LEDs also run cooler, reducing the risk of fires. Safety's always a good thing.

Probably most importantly though, is the energy savings with LEDs. The United States own Department of Energy has estimated that if all Americans replaced their old strings of Christmas lights with the new LED strands, over 2 billion kilowatt hours of energy could be saved just in the winter month of December. Apparently, that is enough to power 200,000 American homes for a full year. (Did you read that?? Power 200,000 homes? For a YEAR??)

Still not convinced? What if you didn't have to open your December and January electric bills with trepidation? What if you could display your Christmas lights for a few months and pay only a few cents per strand, versus a nice chunk of your hard-earned cash?

A 280 bulb strand of LEDs costs about 56 cents to run for 12 hours a day over the course of 40 days. A 300 bulb strand of the mini incandescents cost $6.03. And those big old fashioned bulbs, the ones that bring back so many memories? Just one 125 watt strand costs $25.13! (By the way, they now make large bulb LED strands that look similar to the old C-7s.) These are the stats for just ONE strand of lights, my friends. I don't know about you, but I like to use a lot more than one strand.. the cost adds up!

Plus, do we really need our lights on for 12 hours a day? I'm thinkin no. If we put them on a timer, or turn them off when we go to bed, we can cut that energy use in half.

I'm not saying let's all run out and spend our Christmas budgets on switching all of our lights over right now. But what if we replaced just one, or a few, strands per year? Every bit helps!

By the way, when those incandescents burn out beyond repair, or you decide to change over to LEDs, don't just throw them in the trash! Take them to be recycled. It's easy to find somewhere near you that will do it.

I hope I've made you think a lil bit. If just one person decides to make a change, that's a start!

Sources: one and two

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Thankful Thursday: Slow and Steady


::For all of the stability in my life right now
::For all of the possibility for change and growth I have
::For my comfy cozy bed
::For being able to take time off of work when I get sick
::For the people in my life who are always there for me
::For a steady income, paid vacation, and direct deposit
::For understanding landlords
::For days off spent entirely on rest
::For the slow progress being made toward my car having an awesome new engine
::For my happy plant garden that I never feel like watering but get so grounded and happy when I do
::To be going home to spend Christmas with family in a couple weeks
::For the fun excursion I'm going on with a bunch of my work girls this Sunday
::For everything I've learned, and am learning, at work lately
::For the break from routine I've had over the past three weeks
::For the pretty (and easy) new piano song I'm learning
::For the connection I'm able to have with faraway family and friends through social media
::For eating ice cream when I really want it and enjoying it instead of feeling guilty

What are you thankful for today?

Monday, December 5, 2011

A Very Happy Thanksgiving, Part I

1. Pumpkin reminder
2. Mmm... pear tart crust and almond filling
3. Brad's version of 'Blue Steel'
4. Our beautiful view
5. Jeff is such a great kitchen helper
6. Homegrown peppers gave our feast some spice
7. Our Thanksgiving table
8. Princess Skyla and her roll
9. Smiley sisters
10. Almost time to feast
11. Youngest and eldest
12. Almost our whole family, minus myself and brother #2 Nick, plus cousin Tina and her daughter Lily

*Cast of Characters, in birth order:
Myself, Rachelle, Andrea, Brad, Nick, Jeff, Peter, Jacob
Tina (cousin who is like a sister) and her daughter Lily
Will (Rachelle's husband), Skyla and Levi (Rachelle's children)

{A lot of these pics were taken with my phone, but it's the memories, not so much the photographic quality, that count here, right? ;)

Friday, December 2, 2011

"The Notebook" Inspired Engagement Photos


I haven't posted anything wedding-y in quite awhile, but this engagement shoot really knocked my socks off and I have to share it. 
Photos are of Cindy and Jean-Nicola by Chelsea Gray for Blushing Bride Studios. Go, check out the rest! Aren't they just perfect??

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Thankful Thursday

Thankful For...

((Coming home every day. To my own space. To a peaceful environment.

((Being blessed with a challenging job through which I've met so many rad people.

((Steady paychecks.

((Trader Joe's turkey meatballs and sweet potato fries.

((My Dad. He inspires me.

((My comfortable bed, and the great sleep I get on it.

((The help I've had/am getting with getting a rebuilt engine put into my car.

((Christmas Music. Regardless of the meaning or the hype, Christmas makes me feel merry.

((Friends. Old and new, steadfast and flighty, sensible and fanciful.

((This recipe, and the half of it I froze and just rediscovered.

((My brothers and sisters. They are all so interesting, smart, loving, and funny in their own way.

((The training I'm getting for work. (Even if it means another two weeks away from my restaurant! Eek!)

((Yoga (and other workout) videos. I love being able to exercise at home, and at will.

How about you?

(iPhone image: Pete (4th brother) and I on Thanksgiving. )