Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Peace, Quiet, & a Naked House

Well, we made it. We survived the busy Christmas weekend and all of the events leading up to and after Christmas Day. I have full intentions of posting some pictures from our fun times; however, no promises. This morning my in-laws left our house and headed back to Michigan. I am certainly glad to have my house back but it was so nice to see them and spend a lot of time together. I've said it before, but I'm going to be so glad when they move back here! Not only did my in-laws leave this morning, but Hubby left as well for an audit--he'll only be gone until tomorrow afternoon but that means tonight I will have the house all to myself for Bogey and I to enjoy. I had plans of putting away all of my Christmas tonight, but on Sunday afternoon Hubby & his mom helped out in a huge way and it's almost all put away. I just have to buy one more storage container for a few new things. My house looks so naked now that I have all my Christmas down---but I love it!!!! Don't get me wrong, I love decorating for Christmas but I'm even more excited when it comes down for good and I can get back to my normal house.

We had a great Christmas and were certainly more blessed than ever! Hubby & I exchanged our gifts on Christmas morning and I was more than thrilled with everything he picked out. I got a few more pieces to go with my Christmas dishes, a white North Face Denali jacket, some workout clothes & most importantly some bling! A beautiful pair of silver & diamond earrings!!!
They are similar to these, but circular instead of clover shaped.
They are beautiful and are made so that I can interchange the dangly part...I just love them and he spoils me so much! He definitely went over budget but what wife will argue with jewelry?!? He also loved everything I bought for him so that was a definite success!! Our parents both blessed us so much and we had a great time spending time with our families!

Tomorrow is New Year's Eve & we have plans to spend the evening with some people from our small group. It will be a fairly small group but I'm really excited to get to hang out with them and ring in the New Year.

We don't really do New Year's resolutions; however, I do have one goal as the New Year begins. There have been some things in Hubby & I's working world that I've been holding on to for dear life and just praying that everything would go my way instead of letting God take control. I don't want to go into details but let's just say there have been some situations in which things haven't gone exactly how I would have liked them to and instead of giving it all up to God I've just been holding on to it, worrying about it, and almost making myself sick over it. I'm trying to realize several things: 1. Life doesn't always happen exactly how you want it to & 2. God always has bigger plans than what you have for yourself--don't sell God short just because you're disappointed for a short period of time. God has blessed Hubby & I in so many ways and I can't help but be thankful for everything that he has given us--the least I can do is give Him control and let Him guide us in the way we need to go.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Christmas Vacation & Traditions

Well, in just 30 minutes, I'm offically off for som Christmas vacation and won't be back at work until Monday! Yeah!!! The next few days are going to be full of fantastic food, presents, family & hopefully some relaxation! Tonight I'm meeting up with one of my best friends from college. She now lives in Orlanda & works for Student Venture (Campus Crusade's high school ministry)--she has an amazing heart for high school girls and I can't wait to see her! Old man winter almost managed to ruin our plans but I think it's actually warmed up enough to melt the ice off the roads.

Tomorrow is Christmas with my mom's parents (the Town Grandparents that I've mentioned in previous posts). We always have a fantastic time & have a tradition of pizza for lunch so I'm super excited for that. Since we've added Hubby and my brother's wife Millie we have a little bit bigger group and even more fun! Hubby & I may head to our church's Christmas Eve service tomorrow night if all goes as planned...we'll see!

Christmas Day Hubby & I will exchange gifts in the morning and then head to his aunt's house for lunch. After a short bit there we will head to my favorite Christmas gathering of all--Christmas with my parents. It will just be the 6 of us and I'm not going to lie, my parents normally go over board on the gift-giving but they love it and it is by far probably my most favorite 4-5 hours of the year! We have always had lots of traditions there and though they've had to change a little since Bro & I have both gotten married, I will still cherish all of those wonderful memories.

When I was a little girl Christmas Day was always reserved for just our family, Mom, Dad, Bro, & me. My brother would wake up early (around 7) & come climb in bed with me and tell me to Wake Up! We would then go wake up my parents and tell them it was time to open presents. We would have to wait patiently in my parents room while they got ready and then they would head into the living room. I still remember my brother & I standing at the end of the hallway waiting on my mom & dad to get the cameras ready, turn on some lights, and wait for us to coming running down the hall to see what Santa had brought us! To this day, Santa still comes to my parent's house and I don't think he'll ever stop. Santa still enjoys his cookies and leaves toys for us in our stockings and he also somehow manages to find Hubby & Millie even though they're now at a different house. We don't get to spend Christmas morning at my parent's house anymore due to time constraints caused from marriage--however, those memories will never fade & someday I'll be able to start those same traditions with our children & watch their eyes glow as they open the presents from Santa.

Saturday I'm hosting Hubby's family at my house for most of the day and I'm actually really excited to show off my house again. We're doing Mexican for lunch and then we always do a gift card exchange which is certainly entertaining.

I love Christmas traditions, and while Hubby & I are in a little bit of a transition time for creating traditions--we'll always just cherish the moments we have and the times we get to spend with our families & friends. May you all have a very Merry Christmas, eat way too much food, & remember each day how much God sacrificed as he sent us the most precious gift...his son Jesus.

Monday, December 22, 2008

The Smart Family Christmas

Well yesterday offically began the Christmas celebrations as we all gathered at my Grandma & Grandpa Smart's house for Christmas with my dad's side of the family. We have started drawing names which makes it much easier to buy for each other and we had a great time! I only have 4 first cousin's (from both sides of the family since my mom was an only child) and so we are very close. All but 1 was able to come in for Christmas and it was so wonderful to get to see everyone. My cousin Jason is the only one to have children and his little girl Allyssa is possibly the most precious little girl I've ever seen. She is 2 1/2 and is really starting to get a lot of personality. I just know Jason and his wife Michelle must be so proud. We have the same menu every year: Gulf shrimp (or ham if you don't eat shrimp), mashed potatoes, ceasar salad, bread and then rum cake for dessert with homemade whipped cream. We all eat until we can't hardly move and we laugh so hard everytime we're all together. This year the table topic at the Kid's table (yes, that's still where I sit even though we're all now over 21 and most of us are married) somehow became the cousin's reminiscing about how much trouble we had caused when we were younger. I seriously thought that some of use were going to fall out of our chairs or spit iced tea across the table from laughing so hard. I left there last night so thankful for the family that God has given me. As all of us cousins have grown up, we've obviously become more mature (except at the dinner table) and even though we all might live some very different lives or have different views on some things, we all manage to come together and enjoy each other's company if only once or twice a year. Yesterday wasn't about the present we took home or what kind of food we ate, but just that we were able to spend time together as a family and as children of God. After my dad blessed the meal, I looked up to see my Grandma with tears in her eyes and that to me truly says it all about how important we are to each other.

Tomorrow is my last day of work for the week and I'm super excited. I also get to see one of my college roommates who's flying home from Orlando for Christmas. I'm so excited to see her!

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Christmas Cards & Old Friends

Since a lot of other blogs I've been reading have been sharing their Christmas cards, I thought I would follow suit. I just love receiving Christmas cards and I've decided the best way to receive them is to send them out. This year we didn't order quite enough so we reordered once and then just decided we would do better next year. Last year we sent out a photo card with our wedding picture on it and I got so many compliments. I have decided that photo cards are wonderful because in so many ways they can show how people have changed during the year or what they've been up to without spending forever writing out a Christmas letter. We obviously had to include a picture of Bogey since he is the big addition to our family this year. That family photo was a struggle to get and I'm just glad it turned out as well as it did...(thanks Dad for being such a great photographer). I also included a picture of Hubby & I in NYC and one of us at one of our favorite things: a St. Louis Cardinals game.

In other happenings, Thursday night I had dinner with a bunch of my girl friends from high school. There were 7 of us girls that hung out and did practically everything together from 2nd grade until we graduated. There were certainly times when we were childish and immature but we have remained friends even as we all develop new friendships and move onto new chapters in our lives. It was so great to see all of them and see how wonderfully life is treating each of them. Only one of those girls has completely gone her separate way, but for the other 6...5 of us are married and 2 of those now have little boys. It's so exciting to see how God is blessing each individual family and each woman. One of the girls took a picture, but here's a picture of the 6 of us from my bridal shower in May 2007. Love you girls!

Today Hubby & I started what might become a tradition in the Layman house, I (we) attempted homemade iced sugar cookies for the first time. With homemade dough and everything. I made the dough, Hubby rolled it out and cut little snowmen, candy canes, stockings, Christmas trees, & gingerbread men/women out and I finished up with the baking. They're not covered in icing yet, but they finished product tastes pretty dang good so far! We're going to ice them later this week right before we head out to one of our Christmas celebrations. I didn't take any pictures because they're kind of boring with the icing but I'll try to remember once they're completely finished. We had a great time and it brought back so many memories of making Christmas cookies with my mom. Tonight we have my office party and we're eating at an amazing restaurant called Ocean Zen...I just love my office party because it's so intimate and close! With spouses and all, we only have 14 people in attendance which makes for a great time and also the option of eating at fabulous places! Tomorrow we start our first of several Christmas gatherings, I'll be sure and try to post as I can!

Thursday, December 18, 2008

25 degrees below & over 24 inches of snow! (updated with pics)

Yep, you read that right...25 degrees below zero is what one person's phone said on Monday morning as we rolled out of bed. The day before, Winter Park had received over a foot of snow and on Tuesday another foot or so of snow fell on the mountain. What a whirlwind trip! We had a great time and really enjoyed being in God's beautiful Winter Wonderland.

Isn't God's majesty just amazing?

We finally got into Winter Park a little after noon on Saturday and after we got settled in we decided to take advantage of our afternoon and we headed out for a snowmobile tour. This was incredible and we went up above the tree line on one of the peaks. We've got some fantastic pictures and I'll post them once I get them all together. Sunday, Monday, & Tuesday we spent our time skiing the slopes and trying to enjoy all the fresh snow. For some, the fresh powder is fantastic; however, it made things a little difficult on the first day. By Tuesday we had definitely gotten our legs under us and we were much more comfortable on the snow. Too bad that was our last day and we had to head home. The trip started out with Hubby & I along with my parents staying in a 4 bedroom condo and it ended up with the 4 of us along with my cousin & his girlfriend along with her sister and a friend of hers. We all had a great time and it was great to have such a big group. The snow was beautiful and we all had a great time but I was certainly glad to be able to take off my ski boots for the last time. For those of you who have skiied before, ski boots are not fun and are not comfortable.

Enjoying some play time on the snowmobile

Don't we look like such an adorable couple?

(The snow was waist deep at this point)

Too bad looks can be deceiving--He tackled me, and took me straight to the ground!

My poor mom, all she wanted was a nice picture in front of those trees--too bad the snow was waist deep and pure powder.

The picture my mom was originally going for--what a great time!

We rolled into my parents' house last night about 9:30 and I was ecstatic to be home. It's a 12 hour drive home from Winter Park and that's a long time to be in a car during a single day. Bogey was certainly glad to see us & I was very happy to sleep in my own bed. In the meantime, I'm also going to try and get caught up on all of your posts...you girls have been busy in the past few days!

Friday, December 12, 2008

Winter Park here we come!

Well, we are headed out in just a few hours. I'm leaving work at 2:30 and hopefully we'll be on the road with my parents by 4:00. I'm so excited to get away for awhile and I just love the beauty of snow covered mountains. Too bad it's only supposed to be 12-19 degrees while we're there! I'll certainly be out of the blogging world until next Thursday but I'll definitely have pictures and stories when I get back!

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Cookies Galore & much, much more!

Wel...as you can tell from my lack of posts, life has been incredibly busy around the Layman household. Christmastime is always so hectic and with a brief vacation in the middle that makes everything that much more crazy (more on the trip in a bit). So...Tuesday night was the scheduled Christmas shopping trip with none other than myself. I seem to shop better when no one else is with me; plus, I needed to get a few things for Hubby so he obviously couldn't be involved. I am very proud to say that as of now I am about 2 gifts away from being done with my Christmas shopping and let me tell you...THIS NEVER HAPPENS!!! I'm definitely not a Christmas eve shopper, but I am never done this early. After I got home I also sat down and wrapped and bowed everything we have! I'll try and post some pictures later of all my progress.

Today my mom had her own Christmas Cookie Exchange so last night I made my recipe, it was fantastic and a big hit at the party today. They were just Peanut Butter Balls, but what's better than chocolate and peanut butter?

Crunchy Peanut Butter Balls

1 lb powdered sugar
3 cups Cocoa Pebbles or Cocoa Krispies
1/2 cup melted butter
2 cups crunchy peanut butter

Mix thouroughly and form into balls. Refrigerate for approx. 1 hour.

16 oz milk chocolate chips
16 oz semi-sweet chocolate chips
1 slab paraffin wax

Melt the above ingredients and dip balls into mixture. Place on waxed paper until set.

The peanut butter balls that I have had in the past were always creamy and the cereal just adds a special kick! I've also got pictures of these that I'll try and post later.

So now for the most exciting part! Hubby and I are leaving tomorrow to go to Winter Park, Colorado for a short ski vacation. We are going with my parents and I am so excited!!! I haven't skiied in a few years and this will be Hubby's first time skiing since he broke his leg about 4 years ago. It was our first vacation together & it was the first day of skiing, 3rd run of the day...Bummer! That's another story all in itself, but regardless let's hope this trip goes better than that one. We'll be back on Wednesday and then it's practically time for Christmas! Where does the month of December go?!?

I also got a new toy on Wednesday...Hubby had been saying that I could buy a new camera for a long time now and I finally pulled the trigger and ordered it. It's a Canon Rebel 12.2 megapixel XSI. I love it!!! It takes such better pictures than my point and shoot and I just know it will take some beautiful shots of the snow covered mountains!

Hope you all are enjoying the Christmas season...we certainly are and I just love spending time with family & friends!

Monday, December 8, 2008

O Christmas Tree

Well it's official, our Balsam Fir real Christmas tree has officially found its home for the next 2-3 weeks...our living room. Saturday afternoon we headed to a local store where they were selling trees and we picked ours out from among hundreds of other beautiful trees. Now this wasn't quite the same as walking up and down the rows of trees and cutting it down ourselves, but it was fun nonetheless and it looks beautiful in our home. Please don't judge by these pictures because the lighting was terrible, I'll try and take some better pictures tonight when it's darker.

Hubby put the stand on it and leveled it and then came the fun part...hanging all of the ornaments on it. I just love pulling out each individual one and being reminded of when or where I got each specific ornament. I mentioned in my last post that we dont' really do theme trees with my family, but each ornament is definitely meaningful (even if it's just because I picked it out) & just love the memories I will have to share with my children some day. My mom also made me a beautiful tree skirt that I will now have forever and it looks just wonderful under our tree.

In other weekend happenings, Friday night we got all dressed up and headed to Hubby's office Christmas party. We had a murder mystery dinner in a neat old ballroom. It was a little hokey, but we had a good time. I again failed to take pictures, but in my defense I was in a room full of CPA's and those aspiring to be CPAs so it wasn't just a real lively crowd...;o)

Saturday was Tree Day and after decorating we were pretty worn out so we went out for pizza and when we got home I am proud to say I wrapped almost all of the presents we have bought so far which is quite a few. We're almost done with shopping, I still have a few things to buy for Hubby and I need to take care of my brother's gift...but otherwise we're pretty much finished. This is possibly the earliest I have been done shopping...EVER! I am also very happy with our gifts this year...I really work hard to get something that each person will love & I hope I've succeeded this year. We also work hard to stick to a budget for each person since we have quite a few gifts to buy...I'm also proud to say we have managed to stick to our budget very well. One quick financial tidbit, one of the smartest things Hubby ever made me do was to save for Christmas time, we put back a set amount each month and it's so nice when Christmas comes that we dont' have this huge credit card bill because we've already prepared for it. It's so easy and the money we put back each month we never miss!

We wrapped up the weekend with our Small Group Christmas party, we just love those people and I love the relationships we've built with them. We had a white elephant exchange and we actually came out quite well, Golden Tee Golf Arcade game for TV & a gift card to the movies! SCORE!!! Apparently the couple who brought Golden Tee got it for like $5 but Hubby was very excited!

Tonight includes putting bows on the presents I've got and wrapping a few more! I'll also try and remember to take some photos of the outside of our house. Hubby did such a good job with the lights!

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Party Recap, Christmas Trees, & Christmas Decor

So I must begin this post by saying that my Cookie Exchange was fantastic last night! We had a fabulous time and all my fears about the groups of girls not meshing or someone feeling out of place were completely ridiculous because everyone got along just perfectly! We had some fantastic soup, and some even more fantastic cookies (I'll be sure and share some of the recipes later). After everyone left I could honestly sit down and say...Wow, that was a huge success! Well, it was a huge success minus one little detail...I was so busy trying to be the perfect hostess that I managed to not take a single picture. Oh I got plenty of before shots of how wonderful everything looked...but no pictures of all my beautiful friends, no pictures of the food, and most importantly no pictures of all the wonderfully delicious cookies. Oh well, not much I can do about it now.
Never fear, I do have some pictures of our Christmas decor. I will let you know that I do not have pictures of our tree because we continued my family tradition of getting a real tree and we haven't had time to go pick one out yet. Speaking of picking out a Christmas tree...has anyone noticed how no one goes to a Christmas tree farm and picks out a tree anymore? Hubby & I were just reminiscing tonight about how both of our families used to go out to a tree farm and there in the middle of nowwhere was a fun hayride or carriage ride that took us out to the rows and rows and rows of Christmas trees. Each family would walk down the rows searching for the perfect tree and there was always the token picture of Dad cutting it down. Then the perfect tree was loaded onto the trailer, taken back to the little shed to be wrapped and prepared for travel. Meanwhile, each family could have some Christmas cookies, hot chocolate, etc. before they headed for home. It was such a fantastic memory and something my family looked forward to every year. Even now as Hubby & I try to find our perfect tree, we certainly still walk up and down rows of trees...but we're in Lowe's or Home Depot, or a flower shop that has moved on from Spring flowers and mums, to Christmas trees. It seems so sad that this tradition has been lost in exchange for a pre-lit tree that in some cases just gets rolled out of a closet each year. Now, for all of you artificial tree lovers, I completely understand that they are much easier to take care of and there are certainly many many advantages to artificial trees...I guess it's just the tradition and the event that I miss, not so much the actual tree.
Ok, so now that I've had my reminiscing moment and I'm off of my soap box...on to Christmas Decor pictures!!! Keep in mind that all growing up, my mom never really had a theme (except for red & green). She just bought whatever she thought was cute or neat or what she thought would look good and she managed to pull it off into a beautiful masterpiece. So with that said, Hubby & I really don't have a theme, just lots of festive decorations in the traditional red & green colors. Enjoy!
The Main Table (I normally don't have the table clothes, just festive place mats & napkins)

My sled centerpiece (my mom & I bought a little swag and just tied it onto the sled with some ribbon--I love it!)
The window in our dining room
A festive shelf display in our dining room

The other table set for all my girls
Our nativity scene and The Reason for the Season
The decor above my cabinets

Festive shelves in the living room

Our entryway table

Jolly Old St Nick

My glitter trees

Wreath closeup

The entire mantle display

Well there you have it, I also have a few little things in our bedroom and in the guest bathroom--but nothing major. Hubby also did a fantastic job lighting up the house, I'll include those pictures later on along with the tree process. Happy decorating to you all!

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

1st Annual Christmas Cookie Exchange

For several years now, my mom has been hosting a Christmas Cookie Exchange each year for all the ladies I work with and several family members. We all gather together at lunch time, have soup & then share a favorite, or new, cookie recipe. Each lady that comes brings a dozen cookies so we can sample them and then copies of the recipe for everyone. It is a great time, and you can also get some great recipes from it.

This year, I've decided to host my own with about 10 of my favorite girl-friends. They come from all parts of my life, some have been friends forever, some are family, some are college friends, and some are fairly new friends from our church. Regardless, these women are all amazing women of God and I'm so excited to spend an evening with them. They have all blessed me in so many ways and I am so thankful for so many great Christian women in my life.

So...I've got my entire house decked out for the holidays (minus our Christmas tree since we get a real one it's a little early). I've got the tables set, my cookies made, and everything ready to go. I'm so excited!!! We have 3 different soup options--chili, baked potato, & cheesy chicken tortilla (my favorite). I'll be sure and post pictures of all the goodies and hopefully my Christmas decorations as well. This is my first official holiday gathering and I'm so excited to be able to open up our house and be a host!

In other news, I have been terribly awful at commenting on all of your posts. You have all shared some amazing things, and I'm sorry to say that I have completely failed to comment as I would like to. It just seems there aren't enough hours in a day (or enough hours at work to steal away some time). I have read some heart-breaking stories, some fantastic stories of other holiday gatherings, and I've seen some incredible wedding photos with some very beautiful ladies. I will certainly try and get caught up, just don't hold it against me...I'm certainly reading, I just might not be commenting!

Monday, December 1, 2008

Home Again

We finally made it home last night after 13 hours in the car. We ran into a little bit of traffic and we had to go get our furry son last night so an 11 hour trip turned into 13 hours very quickly. We were definitely both about to go completely stir crazy by the time we made it home. I had a great time in Michigan and it was so nice to get to spend time with the in-laws...even though my poor MIL was sick most of the time we were there. She was a trooper for the first few days but then the sickness just got the best of her. It's definitely no fun to be sick, especially when company is around! I do apologize but I didn't take a single picture while we were in Michigan...I'm really going to have to work on that!

I'm back at work today and it's been fairly busy, typical for the first day of the month. We've got tons of stuff going on this week and it doesn't look like it will slow down until after the Holidays are over. With Christmas parties, birthdays, shopping, a quick ski trip (YEAH!!!!), and other various events we're going to be running around like crazy in the next few weeks! However...I can honestly say that I LOVE IT!!! I will certainly be happy when the holiday craziness is over, but Christmas truly is my favorite time of year and I am thrilled that Christmas music is now being played on 2 local radio stations 24/7. Hubby certainly doesn't enjoy my renditions of Silver Bells, Frosty the Snowman, Joy to the World, etc. but it definitely gets me in the Christmas spirit.

My posting may be quite sparse this week as I'm hosting my First Annual Cookie Exchange on Wednesday. My most favorite girls (11 in all) will be coming to my house for soup, cookies, and lots of fun! I'm so excited and I'll definitely post pictures of all the goodies when I can! Have a great week!