Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Gathered 'Round the Table

With Hubby's Granny not in very good health, Hubby's mom has been here for going on 2 weeks. Obviously, my in-laws haven't been able to see each other in quite some time. So...yesterday, my father-in-law was able to work in a work trip with a short little extension to come and see his wife mainly, but also to see all of us.

We had originally made plans to have a nice dinner out but at the last minute we decided to simply gather around my sister-in-law's kitchen table for a family dinner. It was definitely the right decision! They have recently moved into a new, much bigger, house and it was a great opportunity for us to finally get to see their new home. Hubby & I; my sister-in-law, her husband, & my two adorable nephews Hunter & Jackson; my in-laws; & Hubby's aunt & uncle all joined together for a lovely dinner & great fellowship. Soon after dinner, Nick's aunt & uncle headed back home but we spent the rest of the evening just enjoying family time. I spent time chatting it up with my SIL & MIL and Hubby spent time with the little guys & also got to catch up with his dad & BIL. It was such a comfortable, relaxing evening.

There's just something about gathering together & having a meal with those people who you love the most. I've said it before, but God blessed me with such an amazing family & then he poured out his blessings again by giving me a fabulous set of in-laws. I realize that not everyone has a great relationship with their in-laws but that couldn't be farther from the truth for us. My parents have fully embraced Nick as their own & vice versa for his parents with me. Oh how blessed we are to now have 2 sets of parents in our lives for unconditional love & support.

Monday, June 28, 2010

House Hunters

In all reality there hasn't been much excitement going on in the Layman house as very evident by my lack of blogging. I've been busy at work and we've spent our evenings at home trying our best to stay cool in the crazy heat we've been experiencing.

Hubby & I did have a great weekend full of pipe dreams about our future homes. This weekend was the the local HBA Parade of Homes. There were about 15 homes that were open to the public for viewing. We love doing this together & we had such a great time. We both took off work on Friday at noon so we could tour the homes while avoiding some of the crowds. The weather was still ridiculously hot, so what better to do than tour beautiful, air-conditioned homes.

We saw homes on Friday priced everywhere from $225,900-$750,000. Honestly, the highest priced house was our least favorite. We did manage to find a home that will now constantly be in the back of our minds as a floor plan for our next house. Unfortunately the air conditioner wasn't working well in the horrible heat wave so we weren't able to look at every little detail. However, we fell in love with everything about the house & if we could have simply picked it up and moved it to a piece of land we would have done so in a hearbeat! Ok, well the finances might have to increase slightly as well...but it's still definitely doable! Friday we also grabbed a nice dinner before heading home. For all you Sonic lovers, they are currently having a BOGO shake promotion so we capped off the evening with dessert from Sonic and our town's local fireworks show. We parked on a church lot & had a great time seeing the fireworks without all the crowds.

Saturday Hubby had class--his last one for this section...YEAH!!!! I went to a bridal shower for a distant cousin. It was a great time with fabulous brunchy food & lots of my family members that I don't get to see very often. I spent the rest of the afternoon laying around the house & I might have worked in a nice little nap.

Saturday evening we put on our House Hunter shoes again, picked up Hubby's mom & headed out to look at some nice subdivisions. They'll be retiring back here very soon and are currently on the search for a great place to live. We drove all over one of the nicer subdivisions in the area and found some great houses for sale and also some nice empty lots. We also grabbed a very gourmet dinner of Chic-fil-A...YUMM!! and then headed out to look at some other subdivisions. One of the homes on tour was still open as it is being given away very soon with all the proceeds going to the St. Jude Dream Home. We had a blast looking at the home & dreaming about what might be possible one day.

Yesterday we headed to church, where we had a great service about spiritual warfare & not being an armadillo. I may have to expand on that little illustration later. After church we had a quick lunch & headed back to our favorite house on the parade of homes. We were able to spend a lot more time since the air conditioning was now fully functioning & I think we fell even more in love! We'll definitely have to wait a few years, but we're already excited about the possibilities.

The next item on our list for yesterday afternoon was to visit Hubby's grandma who's been relocated to a nursing home about 20 minutes from our house. I've learned a lot of things in my 27 years of life, but I still have SOOO much to learn & there are still many things that I don't fully understand & I don't think are fair at all. Granny has lived a long, good life & it's so hard to see her in the state she's in now. Thank you God that I can have faith in you & know that even when my little human brain cannot comprehend your ways, that you always have a purpose for everything and it's in you that we can find peace.

We spent the rest of the afternoon relaxing around the house & doing some yardwork before the rains came. We barely got the lawnmower pushed in the garage before big drops started falling. It was such a pleasant sight as the heat & humidity have been so oppressive in the past week. Thankfully this week has temperatures forecast in the upper 80s with much lower humidity--which makes everything much more pleasant.

Hopefully I'll be back to blogging this week...or maybe I'll just become a professional House Hunter!

Monday, June 21, 2010

Weekend Rewind is HOTTTT outside. With temperatures forecast in the 90s all week & high humidity I'm planning on spending most of my time indoors to keep from melting!

The weekend wasn't much different in regards to the weather. Friday night was pretty relaxed as Hubby & I spent time working in the yard & visiting with our neighbors. We are so blessed to have such a great neighborhood full of friendly people!

Saturday I had to work & Hubby had class so I dropped Bogey off at my parents' so we could enjoy some pool time after work. It's definitely hot enough outside that if you're not in the water being outside at all isn't even an option. I had invited my good friend Andrea & her kiddos to join us at the pool & we had a fabulous afternoon. I just love watching little kids in the pool...they both definitely got much more brave as the afternoon wore on.

Hubby & I had plans to meet up with another couple for dinner at a new place in town called HuHot. Most everyone I've talked to has loved it & I was really excited...too bad a bad summer storm came through and knocked out their power for the night. Bummer! So on to Plan B which was Five Spice China Grille...a local variation of PF Chang's with crab rangoon that are to die for! We spent the rest of the evening just chatting it up with our good friends!

Yesterday was obviously Father's Day & another hot one. Hubby's dad is in Michigan so we only had official Father's Day plans with my family which weren't until later in the day. My precious mother-in-law is in town to visit her mom (Hubby's grandma) & we were able to work in a nice lunch with her after church. The rest of the afternoon consisted of picking up Bogey & heading back down to my parents' for some pool time. My brother & his wife joined us for a dinner of steak, potatoes & homemade ice cream with brownies. It was a great evening in celebration of my wonderful dad!

Today has been crazy, a typical Monday that also included 3 hours of computer setup for one of the new systems in our office. We aren't big enough to need an official IT person and as the youngest employee in the office I am the default computer repair woman. I'm definitely not very tech savvy and basically only know enough to get myself into trouble. Oh how I love that part of my job!

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Father's Day 2010

As today is the day to celebrate the daddy's in our lives, I can't let it go by without mentioning what an incredible father God blessed me with. I've always been & always will be daddy's little girl & I am so honored to be able to work beside him each day.

Thanks for singing "Hush Little Baby" to me as a bedtime song long after I was old enough to fall asleep on my own. And thanks for telling me the story of the rainbow bunnies, oh what a joy your bedtime stories were.

For giving us experiences in our young lives that even know we won't forget. For playing outside with us, and taking us on priceless adventures to show us the wonders of the world.
Thanks for being a daddy to Nick & I. A dad who was always there, for breakfast, lunch, dinner & late night milkshakes.

Thanks for supporting us in our crazy schedules. For never missing a sporting event, music performance, or honors' night...unless Nick & I had a conflict of timing.

Thanks for catching me when I fell, literally or figuratively. Even when it meant meeting me below a staircase & holding me tight.

Thanks for walking me down the aisle...on the happiest day of my life so far. Thanks for giving me an incredible example of what kind of man I deserve to have in my life & teaching me to never settle for less than the best.

And thanks for giving me away, to the man who leads my home now & the man who God sent for me; but also the man who in so many ways is just like you.

Thank for teaching me that Jesus loves me & died for me. Thank you for answering all the questions my curious mind wanted to know.

Thanks Dad, for loving Mom with your whole heart so that Nick & I can know what a marriage full of love looks like & that we can always have faith that marriages can have honeymoon periods even after almost 35 years of marriage.
I love you dad, and look forward with joy at with the future will hold for you & me together.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

A little more Natchez

Natchez is such a beautiful town. It's amazing how much history has been preserved. The people were so nice & glad to have us visiting.

We started out on Friday morning with another house tour at Dunleith. It was a beautiful home; however, we managed to experience our second long-winded tour guide & with the extremely hot temperatures it was a little more than any of us could stand.

Dunleith Plantation is the only mansion with columns all the way around...

The whole group of fabulous ladies!
After Dunleith we headed to an early lunch at Mammy's Cupboard. It was definitely a local joint but the food was wonderful & the mile-high pies were even better.

Did I mention Mammy's was located in the bottom of a ladies' skirt? So fun!
With all the heat & humidity we decided to spend Friday afternoon at the spa. There wasn't a spa large enough to do all of our treatments at one time so spread it out over the afternoon and those who weren't being pampered spent some time shopping & exploring the town. I opted for a swedish massage & was fantastic. I could handle one of those each week!
After our relaxing afternoon, we headed out for dinner at a place on the Mississippi River...what a beautiful view!

The banks of the Mississippi

and a gorgeous sunset!
After dinner we'd made plans for a riding ghost tour. We hopped on this shuttle van & had a great time! Some of those in our group got a little spooked from all the ghost stories. Near the end of the tour, we stopped at the Natchez National Cemetery. Wow, the stories that come from the South & from war times are pretty gruesome--even without all the ghost stories.

The Turning Angel...apparently some nights she is turned 90 degrees.

Ok, let me state...I DO NOT BELIEVE in ghosts. However, that white circle in the picture above...not the moon. And a picture taken right after that moving only 2-3 steps forward...the circle is gone. Kind of a good story to tell even if you don't believe in ghosts!

Sunset from the cemetery
After being spooked, we headed back home for some good girl time. We gather in one of the bedrooms, popped in Sweet Home Alabama & had a great end to the evening.
Saturday was our last day in Natchez so we headed to one more home...Monmouth Plantation. I actually failed to get a photo of the home. But the grounds were the most beautiful part. This location has slightly been commercialized as they host weddings & other events in addition to being a bed & breakfast. A wedding was being held the night we were there & it was going to be beautiful...extremely hot, but beautiful!

Myslef on one of the beautiful photo locations at Monmouth...

My momma...oh I'm so glad you came!
After Monmouth we headed to lunch at a local Italian place. Yum! We also looked around the downtown area & then split up a bit. My mom & I headed to drive around & look at some more houses & to drive around the cemetery in the daylight. It really was fascinating-some of the headstones dated back to the early 1800s. Natchez is so full of history!

Magnolia Hall...we didn't tour this home but it definitely had one of the spookiest stories of the entire trip!
After our afternoon of exploring, we got all fancied up for our farewell dinner at The Castle. This was the restaurant on the ground of the Dunleith & the food was wonderful. It was a fabulous way to cap off our trip!
Myself, Gayle (my mom), Susan (mil), Cherye(Susan's sister), Lauren (my sil), & Stacy (my sil)
Such a beautiful group of ladies & such a wonderful trip. Hopefully we can plan another one for next year or sometime soon! Oh how God blessed us with such a great time!

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Natchez, MS...welcome to the South!

Well after being home almost a week, I'm finally having a chance to get some photos posted from our ladies trip. My mother-in-law loves history & had put together a quick little trip for us to Natchez, MS to tour antebellum homes. For those of you who care, antebellem simply means before the war. Most all of the gorgeous mansions we toured were constructed before the war & managed to survive.

The trip included myself, my mom(Gayle), my mother-in-law (Susan), her sister (Cherye), & my 2 sisters-in-law (Lauren & Stacy). We all traveled in from Missouri, Michigan, & Minnesota to meet up in Mississippi...ok well we actually met up in Baton Rouge, LA at the airport but the M states made it more fun! We were let into our beautiful home (more on that in a bit) & grabbed some dinner at a local BBQ place. Some of those in our group just couldn't resist the first photo op.

Stacy, myself, & Lauren

While I helped out with some flight arrangements & travel insurance, for the most part my mil took care of all the travel plans. And let me say...she did a fabulous job. Instead of a hotel or even a bed & breakfast, she opted to rent us a beautiful home for the 3 1/2 days & 4 nights we were there.

Our home for the trip...

All the bedrooms & rooms were beautiful & Stacy made the executive decision of assigning rooms since none of us really cared. My mom & I shared this beautiful red room...

and this lovely lavender bathroom. Seriously, how long has it been since you've seen purple tile & countertops?

My mil was sold on the place when she saw the kitchen...

It was such a beautiful home & perfect for the 6 of us. We were able to have breakfast each morning & have a great place to relax in the evenings. There was also a pool in the backyard that some of us took advantage of!

My two mom's with our very own knight in shinig armor...he stood in the entryway of our home.
Thursday was all about the homes, since this was the point of our trip. We made our way to the visitor's center, picked up our tickets, & headed out.
First stop...Rosalie.

Where Lauren got to play the piano...or she may have been forced to once she admitted she knew how!

On the 2nd story porch of the Rosalie with my momma...

After the Rosalie we headed to Stanton Hall where they have an excellent restaurant called The Carriage House. Their specialty was fried chicken and I couldn't pass up the special. They also served baby butter biscuits...YUM!!! Mint juleps were their specialty as well & we ordered one to share amongst the table since it was only noon. I think that will probably be the first and last drink of a mint julep I have in my lifetime....a little strong for this lightweight.

Stanton Hall

Next up...the Auburn. Where we had our first of 2 long-winded tour guides. I think we were there for almost an hour & a half touring this should have been about 30 minutes. This house was beautiful as well but the most interesting feature was this free-standing circular staircase. Notice there isn't anything holding it up but the bottom step.
Our last house of the day was Longwood. Which was probably the most interesting of all & to think it wasn't even finished. The story was so sad & so interesting. Basically, a man started to build a 6-story, 32,000 sq ft home but only managed to finish the basement because the war began and all of his labor was from the North. They all fled and took their tools with them. During the war he lost everything & was unable to finish the home. It was almost heartbreaking to think about what could have been.
Looking up from the 1st floor rotunda.
Funny thing about the exterior...the original plans had him covering all the brick in stucco. Why on earth would you do that?
After the tours we grabbed some dinner at a local place downtown & then headed out for a carriage ride. Tim, our driver...& Hal, the horse gave us a wonderful tour full of history & fabulous stories. First full day in Natchez...definitely a success.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Weekend Rewind

Well we're home. The 6 of us ladies parted ways yesterday around 1 pm at the Baton Rouge airport. Some of us had flight issues, but the 4 of us heading to Missouri made it home with ease. Hubby was there at the airport with my dad ready & waiting. We made it back to the house around 8 & oh, how there's no place like home.

A full trip recap will follow, but I've got to get caught up here at work & at home so the recap may have to wait.

However, here's the bottom line. Do you ever have experiences in your life when you are so thankful for the blessings God pours out on you & the people he surrounds you with that it brings tears to your eyes? Well that's how I feel. The 5 other women I spent the last 5 days with were some of the most godly women I know & how blessed I am to be a part of their lives.

Mom, Susan, Cherye, Lauren & Stacy, Thank you.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Riviera Maya Recap...Time to Say Goodbye

With Saturday as our last day, we chose to spend it relaxing & enjoying our beautiful beach. I'd been told before we traveled that the beach at our hotel was one of the most beautiful beaches in Mexico, I don't have to visit the otheres to agree. Our stretch of sand couldn't have been more perfect.

Some rundown fishing boats abandoned on shore...

For lunch our last day we walked down to a beach bar near our resort...such fun times!
This is definitely another story for another time, but let me just say that I'm terrified of sailboats because of a bad experience when I was a little girl. One of the activities at our resort was a hobie cat ride with a guide. Hubby wanted to do this & finally on the last day I agreed to go along for the ride. It wasn't quite a sailboat, but I'll save conquering that complete fear for another day, another trip.
Our guide was fantastic & even though I had a white-knuckle grip on the ropes, I actually did have quite a bit of fun.

I have to admit...a sail in the wind is such beautiful sight!
Also in honor of our last day in paradise, we decided to head back to Akumal for a nice dinner. We decided on La Lunita & had a wonderful, romantic dinner to cap off our trip.

I couldn't resist the perfect picture

One last perfect sunset...

and one last cheesy self-portrait!
As I've said before, I couldn't have hardly asked for a better vacation. We had an incredible time for a pretty small budget & still managed to have some wonderful experiences.
Goodbye...Catalonia Royal Tulum...
Whew...and I'm finally finished. Now it's time for another trip, see you all next week!

Riviera Maya Recap...Under the Sea

Ok, we're almost done. After such a long day at XPLOR on Wednesday, we reserved Thursday for a chill-out day.

We had plans for snorkeling on Friday so we snorkeled a bit off of our beach. The water was very calm & super clear & we didn't really go out far enough to see anything amazing, but we saw lots of fish & several neat coral formations. The main goal was for Hubby to get the hang of snorkeling since he'd never done it before. He caught on fairly quick after a few suggestions.

You can wear yourself out snorkeling so after quite awhile in the water we were ready to relax. We spent the rest of the afternoon sitting in the shade, reading our books. We also took a walk down the beach near a deserted resort. It had been severely damaged by a hurricane & it appears that the owner just abandoned the property instead of making the repairs. It's too bad really, because the location seemed great...minus the rocky beach--but this made for some great photos!

Thursday night we took advantage of the free hotel shuttle into Playa Del Carmen. We were ready for a nice dinner out & asked for recommendations from the guest services representative. She recommended La Parilla. We hopped off the shuttle bus & when we came upon a restaurant by that name we sat down & had an amazing dinner. It wasn't until much much later when we realized that the 5th avenue area of PDC was HUGE that there were actually several restaurants named La Parilla. We're almost positive we didn't eat at the one she meant, but we had a great dinner anyway.

I hadn't been to PDC in about 15 years. At that time, PDC was simply a fishing village that also housed the huge ferry dock for rides to Cozumel. Oh how things have changed! Street performers, Mexican souvenir shops, & just an overall crazy atmosphere! It was quite the experience!

Hubby & I couldn't resist...I think we gave this guy $1 for each photo! Much cheaper than the photos our hotel was selling with the same basic character!

Friday we grabbed a taxi from our hotel & headed out for a day of snorkeling. We were in search of sea turtles & headed to 2 separate locations.

Yal-ku was more of a lagoon type location & honestly I was less than impressed with the snorkeling. The water was very murky & while we saw some fish & neat rock formations, it was certainly not all that exciting. And needless to say, no turtles where in sight. I did manage to capture a few good pics...

Love this one with the single fish in between the cracks in the rock! Yup, that's me...a professional photographer!

The colors of fish in the Caribbean are stunning!

These fish were everywhere in huge schools...I couldn't believe how close they would get to us.
After Yal-ku we headed to our original destination of Akumal. They had a nice beach & we had been told this was definitely where to see some turtles...
Welcome to Akumal...

The view from our table at lunch...I just love all the open-air, beach front restaurants. You just don't get views like this in Southwest Missouri!

We headed out snorkeling & the experience was already better. The water was so much clearer & I could actually tell if a fish was swimming towards me!

These needle-nosed fish swam right at the top of the water & were so neat!

I have no idea what this fish is, but how cool is he?

We saw some fish & lots of grassy areas & then it goal of the day! Our first turtle!!! They are so incredible to observe & just amazing creatures. We hung out & just watched him eat for awhile.

I will admit...we got out a little far from the shore on this little snorkeling adventure & I was definitely ready to be back on shore. But hubby wanted to look for a few more turtles since we had only seen one. Well, low & behold there were 2 more, just swimming through the water. I think they were probably turtle kids as they were much smaller than the others. After we saw these two, I looked to the left & there were 2 more much bigger turtles just hanging out on the ocean floor.

Notice the algae eaters on the one on the right...I don't really think the turtle was thrilled about them being there!

Love this shot of the turtle heading to the surface...
We had a great time but were EXHAUSTED!!! If you've never snorkeled before, it can be really hard work & you don't really recognize it until you stop. We headed back to the resort for some time at the pool...we'd both had about enough salt water for the day!
Next up...our last day...just another day at the beach, but not really!