Tuesday, December 31, 2013

2013 in Review

Happy New Year's Eve, y'all!  (We are currently in Texas, so my use of "y'all" is fully acceptable.)

This past year has brought many surprises, growth, and most of all, blessings. 

In 2013 my husband graduated from law school at the University of Michigan, took the bar exam, and became a licensed and practicing attorney.  We moved from Canton to Ann Arbor to Albuquerque.  We said goodbye to a kitty, hello to a puppy, and celebrated our second wedding anniversary. I left my job in Michigan and started a new position in New Mexico.

If I could sum up 2013 in one word, it would certainly be transition. Transition is a funny thing - it can be terrible, or wonderful... all depending on how you look at it (and trust me, our outlook on a situation has been known to change several times even within the same conversation...).  We went back and forth more than we would probably like to admit, but looking back, it is very clear how blessed we are.  

In this new year, John and I have talked about not asking "why" of God's plan so much, but just trusting His plan, process, and timing. This is difficult for us both (we have many "maybe this happened because..." conversations), but we are determined to grow our faith in God's plan.

Here is a look back at the highlights of our busy, slightly overwhelming, but very wonderful 2013.

***

We started 2013 in Washington, D.C. with John's dad and family.


We visited John's mom in Albuquerque.


Scout joined Pray-fam.


























I started a new job at the University of New Mexico.


We took a mini-vacation in Texas to bring in 2014.

Thursday, December 26, 2013

Christmas Eve in Pictures



Scout and her Christmas duck! 

Playing Bananagrams!


Christmas Eve church service

Luminarias in Old Town Albuquerque

Old Town

Old Town Christmas tree and luminarias

Christmas Eve dinner

the aftermath

Sporting some of my Christmas gear
(leopard pjs - def. a necessity!)













Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Christmas Eve Games

Merry Christmas Eve! Tomorrow we celebrate our Savior's birth... and I don't know about you, but that is exciting to me!  Christmas is such a beautiful time, and I love everything that it represents - the hope, joy, and life we can have because of the birth (and death, then resurrection) of our Lord. 




Our Christmas Eve day is going to look like this (or so we plan)... John has to work until noon (boo!), and when he is at work, I will go get my nails done - I'm thinking a holiday gold!  Once John gets off of work, we will go to the afternoon church service and then walk around Old Town to look at the luminarias (this is a New Mexico thing, and it is beautiful!!).  After Old Town we will be having dinner at our place with John's mom and her husband.  After dinner, it is a family (Western family, but now Pray family) tradition to play Christmas Eve games.  

Luminarias in Old Town

Luminarias in Old Town

If you can't tell from my agenda above - I am all about mandatory Christmas fun.  It isn't until everyone plays Christmas games that gifts can be opened.  I think this is great because it extends the evening, and with lotto tickets for prizes, the games get fun and competitive (although I am sure my husband and I would want to win even if a prize wasn't involved...)!

Just for fun, I thought I would post some of the games that we play every year... they change slightly, but mostly get repeated every year.

1.  Christmas Carol Riddles - You have a certain amount of time (this amount of time can change depending on how young or old your crowd is) to answer as many of the Christmas carols that the pictures are referring to.  Answers here.



2.  Christmas Carol Riddles - Basically the same rules as above (guess the name of the Christmas carol), but instead of picture clues, there are word clues. Answers here.



3.  Christmas Toy Trivia - Props to my little brother for introducing this one... these Christmas games are a family affair - everyone is required to host at least one game! This game is pretty tricky, but still fun anyway. Basically, there is a list of toys, and you need to guess the year that the toy was introduced. If you correctly guess the year you get a point (or, if too difficult, if you correctly guess the year you get 3 points, and if within 5 years you get 1 point).  Answers here.

  • Parcheesi® game 
  • Lionel® train 
  • Crayola® crayons 
  • Teddy bear 
  • Rook® game 
  • Tinkertoys® 
  • Lincoln Logs® 
  • Radio Flyer® wagon 
  • LEGO® building set 
  • View-Master® 3D viewer 
  • Candy Land® 
  • Silly Putty® 
  • Mr. Potato Head® 
  • Play-Doh® 
  • Barbie® doll 
  • Etch-A-Sketch® 
  • G.I. Joe® 
  • Easy Bake Oven® 
  • Twister® 
  • Spirograph® 
  • Hot Wheels® racecar set 
  • Rubik's Cube® 
  • Cabbage Patch Kids® 
  • Trivial Pursuit® 
  • Magna Doodle® 
  • Pictionary® 
  • Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles™ 

These are just a few of the games we have played - others include Christmas bingo, Time 100 (who can name, by looking only at pictures, Time magazine's most influential people of the year), Christmas movie quotes (guessing what Christmas movie chosen quotes are from), Merry Christmas languages (Merry Christmas is written in a variety of languages, and you guess which language), etc.

I think you get the point - I love my Christmas games!

Monday, December 23, 2013

Christmas Wrapping

I have been so busy (but a fun, excited, very happy busy!) getting everything ready for tomorrow and Wednesday... I swear, I spent about 5 hours wrapping gifts (although I did have a sweet little puppy trying to "help" me!).  I enjoy wrapping gifts just as much as shopping for them.

I was perusing Pinterest for fun wrapping ideas and came upon the below lovely ideas.  Hopefully you have all of your gift wrapping done, but if you are one of those Christmas Eve shoppers, you should try out some of these fun ways to spice up your gifts!


1  |  Create a monogram using washi tape.
2  |  Chalkboard wrapping paper (you can personalize each gift!).
3  |  Use an alternative material like a map or newspaper.
4  |  Make your own (this is a fun idea if you have kiddos!).
5  |  Tie something fresh to the top of the package - like greens or pinecones.
6  |  I love, love, love big beautiful bows, but ribbon can get very expensive if used on all gifts - bakers twine is a great alternative!


I am also loving the wrapping papers below... I wish every day was Christmas!!



Lastly, I'm all about a big, beautiful bow.  How lovely are these?!



--

Luke 2:11-14
"...Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord.  This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.”  Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying,
   “Glory to God in the highest heaven,
    and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.”


MERRY CHRISTMAS!! :D



Friday, December 20, 2013

Five on Friday!

It's Five on Friday... AND only FIVE days until Christmas - whoohoo!! Today is my last day of work until the New Year, and I am not going to lie... I am SO excited for a week or two off!

To celebrate this, I'm linking up with the lovely ladies of The Good LifeCarolina CharmA. Liz Adventures, and Hello Happiness for everybody's favorite link up, Five on Friday! 




ONE

Salad in a jar!

John and I try to bring our lunches to work whenever we can, so to switch up the boring ole sandwich routine, I decided to make a jar salad.  I saw a Pinterest (where else, right?!) tutorial on how to layer the ingredients, and it worked perfectly!

First, put your salad dressing at the bottom of the jar.  Next put your vegetables in the jar on top of the dressing.  Place your meat and cheese in next.  Then put your lettuce in the jar and top with croutons.  When you're ready to eat, shake the jar and you're good to go! Very yummy and you can even make it the night before (and it won't be soggy).



TWO

Bananagrams!! 

Has anyone played this?! I played for my first time this week at a work meeting, and it was such fun! I am going to go buy it for John and me this weekend (it is only like $5 too... The perfect stocking stuffer!).  

The game is like Scrabble where you build words, but it moves much, much faster.  John and I love playing Scrabble, but sometimes the games take so long with only two people, and we get bored half-way through, so this game is perfect!



THREE

New chairs!

For Christmas from John's dad and step-mom, we received money for new dining room chairs.  This was the perfect gift because chairs can be expensive, and perhaps, not the most practical thing to buy when you are semi-recent graduates.

I had much fun shopping for the chairs, and we ended up buying 4 of them from World Market.  John is still planning on building a bench for our table, but it is nice that we have some chairs in time for a little holiday entertaining!  (We plan to sand the legs and stain them the same color as the table... But only after we enjoy them for a bit!)



FOUR

Homemade Soap

One of my coworkers makes soap... How cool is that?!! And very thoughtfully, she gave everyone in the office two bars for Christmas.  I thought this was incredibly fun, and such a neat alternative to the typical cookies or food-snack that most people give coworkers (and fewer calories too!).

Since I work at a university, I get a very generous tuition reimbursement - 12 credits per semester - and a certain amount of those credits can be used on classes like how to make soap! There are a few classes that I have my eye on (like jewelry metalworking) and I can't wait to try them out (for free!).



FIVE

The Weather

I'm not going to lie, this whole New Mexico winter weather has been a bit of a let down... Last week was FRIGID - in the low 20s during the day (and much colder at night), but yesterday was BEAUTIFUL!! 

Having just moved to New Mexico from Michigan, and looking forward to a warmer winter, the winter hasn't fit the bill until yesterday - it was lovely, lovely weather! I was a happy girl!


Thursday, December 19, 2013

Holiday Plans & NYE Get-ups

This year John and I will be spending Christmas in Albuquerque.  Although I have almost two weeks off from work, John hardly has any vacation time (the woes of a new attorney, I suppose).  Last year for Christmas we were able to squeeze in a trip to Minneapolis to see my parents and also spend week in DC to see John's Dad's side of the family.  It is a little sad that we won't be able to make rounds this year to see all of our family, but thankfully, John's mom lives in Rio Rancho (which is directly north of Albuquerque) so we will be able to spend Christmas with some family.


View of downtown Minneapolis from my parents condo

Day after Christmas pheasant hunting

The national Christmas tree in Washington DC

Since we will be staying local for Christmas, John and I decided to take a mini vacation over New Years.  We will fly into Dallas on the 27th and spend about five days exploring the Lone Star State.  (Speaking of Dallas, has anyone watched Courtney Loves Dallas on Bravo?  Can people please send me free clothes too?!).  And totally random, but it just so happens that my good friend Elizabeth (who was a bridesmaid in John and my wedding) will be in Texas the week before with her boyfriend... it is a shame that we will have just missed each other!!

Normally for New Years, John and I stick around home and watch the ball drop on TV (although last year John went to bed at 11:30 because he just could not stand staying awake 30 more minutes), but since we will likely be out and about, I am having fun thinking of cute NYE get-ups.  When it comes to dressing for the holidays, it doesn't matter how far in advance I plan, I always decide what I am going to wear 30 minutes before - ergo, I need options.

Here are some options that I am feeling for this year.









For more NYE get-up inspiration, check out Khala from The Birdie Bowl and Sam from The Ledford Life's New Years Eve link-up!


Pop Fizz

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

DIY Farmhouse Table




John and I (...or mostly me) have been eyeing DIY farmhouse tables for a while, and about a month ago, we finally got around to building one.  We were quite happy with how it turned out, and now John has even talked about building a coffee table and end tables.  I am trying to get him on board with this headboard (how fab is that?!).

All together, the materials to make this table cost about $200 (which is quite a steal considering the cost of dining room tables!), and it took us about 5 hours to make.  For inspiration, we used these tutorials as guidance: here and here.

What you need:
- A sander
- A drill
- 1 3/4 inch screws
- 2, 2x12 (@ 65.5 inches long)
- 2, 2x10 (@ 65.5 inches long)
- 2, 2x8 (@ 40.5 inches long)
- 2, 1x4 (@ 73.5 inches long)
- 4, 1x4 (@ 34 inches long)
- 7, 1x2 (@ 34 inches long)
- 4 stock legs (@ 29 inches long ...or you can use 4x4s for legs - depending on the look you're going for)


We were able to get all of our wood cut from Lowe's for free; we used pine, but obviously you can use a more expensive wood if it fits your fancy!

Begin by sanding all of the wood - especially the edges that were cut and the edges that will be exposed once the table is assembled.  No need to sand the 1x2s as they will be under the tables. 


After sanding, start by making the table frame using the long 1x4s and 2 of the short 1x4s.  Make sure that the long 1x4s are on outside of the shorter 1x4s.

Then, take the 1x2s and lay throughout the frame.  Make sure the bottom of the 1x2s are are level with the bottom of the frame, and screw them together.


Next, lay your 2x12s and 2x10s on the ground (make sure that the ends are equal with each other), and center the frame top.  Screw the 1x2s (that are fastened to the frame) into the 2x12s and the 2x10s that are laying on the ground.


After securing the 2x10s and 2x12s, place the 2x8s at the ends of the table and secure the same way.  For extra reinforcement, we laid a 1x4 flat and it fastened to the frame, and then screwed the board into the 2x8s.


Lastly, when the table is still on its back, fasten the legs to the frame.  John and I wanted sturdier looking legs so instead of using table stock legs, we used bar stock legs (which are larger than table legs) and trimmed the legs to the correct table height.  Secure the legs in the corner of the table by drilling from the outside of the frame into the leg.  

If you are concerned about nails showing you can use a countersink (the screws didn't bother us so we didn't worry about it).


Once the table legs are secure, flip the table over.  John and I carved our initials into the bottom of the table - just to really make it ours. :)


Once your table is flipped over, sand any remaining edges that need to be touched up.

In some of the tutorials that we read, people would bang up their tables a bit to give them a more weathered look, but we opted to not do this (we figured it would happen naturally over time).


We haven't stained our table yet, but we plan to eventually (although, to be honest, I am not in a huge hurry to do this).  If you don't stain your table right away, just take care to not spill anything especially severe on it (i.e., red wine) otherwise you may have a sad stain!


For Christmas, John's parents generously gave us money to put towards chairs for our lovely table.  And ever since, we have been on a chair shopping mission - and we think we finally have it narrowed down - hopefully our new chairs will be ready in time to show off for 5 on Friday! :)
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