Wednesday, December 23, 2015

The Meaning of Christmas + 2015 Christmas Card

I can hardly believe that Christmas is only two days away... where has December gone?! I am so excited to spend the next few days celebrating. At church on Sunday, our Pastor shared something simple, but very profound about the Christmas season, and I wanted to share it my blog.

I love Christmas time... absolutely love it - really, if my blog name wasn't Lisa Loves John, it would be Lisa Loves Christmas. The decorations, Christmas cards, non-stop holiday movies - I love it all. In fact, I don't even have to watch Christmas movies, I can just have them on, fold laundry, and still soak up the wonderfulness of it all.

I can recite Home Alone, front and back, and don't even have to be in the same room when its playing to know what's going on and I will still be excited about it!

Similarly, we all know the Christmas story, Mary and Joseph, how it all happens... and I love it! But it is important to make sure that Jesus, and the true meaning of Christmas isn't the feel-good movie playing in the background this holiday season. 



As Christians, Jesus's birth offers us so much more than a "feel good" holiday season, and we mustn't let the familiarity of the story (or the business of the season) tone down the gravity of it all. Because of Jesus's birth into this world (and because of His death), our future and salvation are secure in Him.

I don't know about you, but I don't want the true meaning of Christmas to be the background noise of my Christmas celebrations - I want it to be the reason! And the funny part is, is that when I am celebrating the true meaning of Christmas, it all becomes so much more wonderful.

That's exciting to me!

My prayer is that you too can celebrate the true meaning of Christmas this year - and not just have it in the background.


For to us a child is born,
to us a son is given;
and the government shall be upon his shoulder,
and his name shall be called
Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.

Isaiah 9:6

With a full heart, John and I are wishing you all a very Merry Christmas this year!!


Check out this throwback for our 2011, 2012, 2013, and 2014 Christmas card!

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Thinking On Your Feet!

I'm so thankful to work for a company that promotes health and wellness; in fact, on your first day of work at my company, you're given a Fitbit, and you can earn extra money by logging your steps, meals, the hours you sleep, etc. - it's awesome! 

Recently, my company purchased stand-up desks for anyone who was interested, and you best believe I was all over it. As with most things, I used it non-stop for the first two days, and then never used it again (does anyone else have this problem?!); however, when Fluidstance contacted me to do a review of their balance board, The Level, I knew I had to give the whole stand-up desk another shot.




The Level is basically a balance board that allows you to engage in constant movement when you're standing (kind of like a bosu ball). The first week of using the board, I was conscious of my movements, but eventually it got to the point where I was swiveling and rocking when standing and not even thinking about it!

The board has a chic modern look, is very durable, and most of all, it's fun to use (and it's made in the US!). When using it throughout the day, I had coworkers walking by asking to try it out! If your company gives you a technology budget, this is a must buy.

I've noticed that my posture is better when using The Level (some how I still manage to slouch when standing!), and it's much easier to concentrate and actually get work done than when bouncing around on a stability ball.


The Level isn't cheap, but to be honest, it is no more expensive than a nice office chair, and it really is an investment in a healthier work life (or just life in general!). And it is a lifetime purchase!

If you aren't convinced that movement is important, I encourage you to do a quick Google search about all of the harms of prolonged sitting during the work day - I don't know about you, but I sit way too much! If you have a quick minute, you should read Sitting is the New Smoking - it makes me never want to sit again (even though I am sitting right now... baby steps, people!).



Do you have a stand-up desk? How do you avoid sitting all day?

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

6 Must See Documentaries

John and I have been on a documentary binge lately. I partially blame the fact that there just aren't any good movies to watch (any recommendations?), but the truth is, I could watch a documentary on just about anything and find it interesting.

I've rounded up six of our recent favorites (I was going to do 5, but I just couldn't figure out which one to cut!). So grab a glass of wine, curl up on the couch, and documentary away!


***


Antarctica: A Year on Ice

This documentary was my personal favorite of all of the ones on this list. 
It reviews a year of life on Antarctica. It is important to review the full year since life is so different amongst "seasons." After a certain time of year, no one can come or leave the continent due to the weather, and in the winter, it is basically night time 24 hours a day (I would die!). 

The people were interesting, the scenery was beautiful (those Southern lights - incredible!), and quite honestly, I now want to go to Antarctica (in the summer, that is...)!




Unbranded

This documentary was John's favorite on this list (in fact, last night he said that he wished he could un-watch it and watch it again... Yes, I know). Unbranded is about a trip of recent college graduates on wild mustangs from Mexico to Canada. I'm pretty sure if John wasn't a lawyer, he would have wanted to do something similar.

It was a great adventure documentary, and although I wasn't super into the storyline, I very much enjoyed the cinematography of the western landscape - it was very well done!




180 Degrees South

This documentary was 50% crunchy granola and 50% adventure; it featured the founders of Patagonia and North Face, and sadly enough, the founder of North Face recently died in a kayaking accident. I really enjoyed hearing the stories of how the companies started, what the founders are doing now, and the connections between the companies.

After watching this documentary, John and I decided that we must go to Patagonia. Like ASAP - we were drooling over the scenery!




Inside Job

Okay, so, this documentary wasn't the most entertaining movie, but it was super educational about the recent financial crisis. I'm not kidding, the movie is not quite two hours long, but it took us about twice as long to get through the whole thing because I paused it so many times to ask questions. Overall, I am super happy I watched it, and quite honestly, I found the whole thing very interesting.

This documentary will also be a good one to watch before seeing The Big Short in theaters.




Meru

My aunt recommended this documentary to me and John, and I really enjoyed it. Meru is about 3 men who attempt to big-rock climb the Shark's Fin on Mount Meru (which is basically the Everest of mountain climbing). I have always been into Mt. Everest documentaries, and this had a very similar feel but was with a new story line. 

There were some brutal moments (so don't come into it with a weak stomach), but I would highly recommend this to anyone who likes Everest-style documentaries.




Big Men

I was a little unsure of this documentary when John first suggested it, but honestly, I ended up really enjoying it. Big Men is about the oil industry in Ghana, and I thought the makers of the documentary did a pretty good job showing the situation from the side of local people, but also the side from the oil companies.

I have seen a few other similar documentaries (on the topic of drilling oil), but still quite enjoyed watching this one.



Have you seen any documentaries lately? Send me your recommendations, please!


Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Cranberry Holiday Bark!

This past weekend, I had a wonderful time with Kelli celebrating her birthday! She gathered her friends together for some DIY candles, champagne, and tasty food... my kind of night! 
I knew I wanted to make macarons for the occasion, but since those finicky little treats are never a guarantee, I wanted to have an easy back-up dessert to bring just in case.

When I was visiting my parents in Minnesota, my mom made this fresh cranberry bark, and it was absolutely delicious! Fresh cranberries are quite sour, so when paired with the creamy white chocolate bark, it makes for a match made in heaven.

Not to mention this dessert takes about 5 minutes to make - can't beat that for easy!



All you need are fresh cranberries and white chocolate (or almond bark).


Line a baking sheet with wax paper and spread out a layer of cranberries.


Melt the chocolate (or almond bark) according to the instructions on the package, and pour the melted chocolate over the berries.


Pop in the refrigerator to harden. Once it hardens, simply break the bark into small pieces.


Not only does this treat taste great, but if you ask me, the red berries are quite festive!



The cranberries and white chocolate couldn't be more of a perfect combination!

Have extra cranberries?! 
Freeze them, and pop them into your drink as mini ice cubes - champagne, please! :)

Monday, December 14, 2015

5 Easy Christmas Decorations

While typing this, I am currently in the process of watching National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation, and snugglin' with my hubby and pup - needless to say, we are in full-on Christmas mode here in the Pray household... and I am absolutely loving it!

This will be our first holiday celebration in our new home, and I am absolutely loving decorating for all things Christmas - seriously, the more garland, the better! Below you will find some of my inspiration for the season... These ideas work great for mantles, tablescapes, or anywhere needing a little Christmas touch - easy, fresh, and 100% festive!



Christmas tree branches.

If you have a real Christmas tree, this one should be pretty easy for you - simply trim a few branches from underneath the back of the trim, and place in water for a pretty arrangement. If you're rocking a faux tree (like we are!) you can busy fresh greens from most grocery stores (like Trader Joe's!).
Pretty, simple, and fresh :)




Ornaments.

Perhaps I'm just attracted to shiny and sparkling things, but Christmas bulbs make for an easy, but beautiful centerpiece. Mix together different sizes, colors, and textures... put them in a large bowl or vase and voila!



Candy Canes.

Although John doesn't understand it, I buy a box or two of candy canes every year. In fact, I consider myself a Christmas traditionalist, and still hang them on my tree! They make for great place card holders, and a perfect vase liner (just make sure you use a different vase to hold the water so you're not left with a sugary mess!).



Wreaths.

Yes, yes, yes!
I'm a little bit obsessed with wreaths right now, and this past weekend John and I browsed Trader Joe's and you can buy mini fresh wreaths for only $5.99 - yes, please! Mini wreaths work great as centerpieces, and would even make for beautiful chargers.



Tartan.

Who doesn't love Tartan?! Table runners, place mats, napkins - give me all things Tartan, please! By the way, how amazing is that board on the table in the below photo? Absolutely love the rustic look... perfect for a dining table or buffet!




Wednesday, December 9, 2015

It's Christmas Timeee!

John's parents were in town this weekend, and I don't know if it is all of the family time we've had lately, or if it's because of all of the Christmas lights outside (Texans sure do Christmas right!), but it feels like the holidays are in full force - and I absolutely love it!! 

Here's a quick peek of what we've been up to lately!

***

So, the weekend started with a little emergency incident involving Scout... the sweet girl ate a pack of sugar free gum with xylitol. Thankfully, John walked in on her eating it (otherwise we may have never known what happened!); we had to rush her to the emergency pet hospital and keep her there overnight. She was a sad puppy the next morning when we picked her up, but thankfully she's okay.

So a little PSA for all pup owners: if you have sugar-free gum in your purse (or sugar-free anything, for that matter!), keep your purse zipped up...


John's parents were in town this weekend, and we had a great time exploring the River Walk. The River Walk is completely decorated for Christmas with lights, luminarias, carolers - it's beautiful!


After a delicious dinner at Boudros, we had some ice cream (which is totally acceptable in December in Texas!) and walked around downtown to enjoy all of the scenery. If you ask me, there was definitely a Christmas "buzz" in the air!


And no visit to the River Walk is complete without seeing the Alamo (which looks tiny next to the ginormous tree!).


Saturday morning we headed to Fredericksburg, which is a super cute German town. I'm tellin' ya - Texas does Christmas right... the little town had all sorts of German Christmas decorations - including a giant Christmas pyramid. I plan to head back one more time before Christmas just to explore a bit more.


And of course, the afternoon wouldn't be complete without another serving of ice cream. :)


Saturday evening we went to dinner at La Fonda on Main and then went to the Spurs game with John's dad. It has been awhile since I have been to a professional basketball game, and the stadium was packed and loud - Spurs' fans loveee the Spurs!

We had great seats and a ton of fun... we're definitely planning to go to another game soon! 


John's parents gifted us a new coffee table for Christmas, and let me tell you, piece-by-piece, our house is becoming a home... and just in time for the holidays! Couldn't help but have a happy heart with a Christmas-decoration-filled home, a fire going, and a pup-dog relaxing!


The weekend ended right where it started... dinner on the River Walk! This time at Acenar; we dined outside and enjoyed delicious Mexican food - doesn't get much better than that! We are so thankful for family time during the holidays, and are looking forward to more get togethers soon!


Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Grab-and-Go Breakfast Croissants

I'm not much of a breakfast person, but there is something about chilly mornings (and football Saturdays!) that make a warm breakfast really hit the spot. I'm not a huge fan of eggs, pancakes, waffles, french toast, or pretty much any other breakfast food, but I do love a good breakfast sandwich - especially if a croissant is involved!

These breakfast croissants are easy to make ahead and grab 'em and go when you're ready to eat... nothing better right?



Start by slicing your croissants in half.


Spread a thin layer of spicy mustard on the bottom half of the croissant.


Add ham and provolone cheese on top of the mustard.


Wrap the croissants in foil, and bake for 15 minutes at 350 degrees.


Cut the croissants in half and serve warm.


These keep great and are so east to reheat in the microwave (without the aluminum, of course!).


If I didn't know any better, I'd say that these croissants have made me a breakfast convert!

Monday, November 30, 2015

Giving Thanks!

This past week was marvelous and SO good for the soul!

John and I spent the week with my parents in Minnesota, and it was such a treat to be with family over the holidays. We don't live near any family, and it can be difficult to find time to get together since everyone is so busy (and, in fact, it had been almost a year since we had last seen my parents!), so our time together was certainly not taken for granted!

We arrived in Minneapolis last Sunday, and although it was cold, there wasn't any snow - but you best believe we were still excited to break out our not-often-worn cold weather gear. My parents have a condo downtown, so we spent the day walking around shops in the North Loop (Filson was a must-stop for John...).


Monday morning my mom and I headed up to Fergus Falls with my Aunt Kathy to see my grandma and grandpa. It was wonderful catching up with them, and we enjoyed a tasty dinner at Mabel Murphy's. We stayed up late playing cards, drinking wine, and watching Steven Colbert prank the Butterball hotline.


Both my dad and mom grew up in Fergus Falls, so it was fun being shown around town and clued in to all of the old spots. In fact (!), the booth below (from Mabel Murphy's) is the same booth that my mom and dad had their first date in - how fun is that?! I couldn't help but take a picture of it. :)


Getting to see my grandma and grandpa was so special and really the icing on a pretty perfect trip! I have a lot of good memories from visiting them when I was younger (one of them being walking to a local gas station to get candy that is now out of business - boo!), and it was nice to be able to go back to visit... I miss them already!


When my mom and I were in Fergus Falls, John and my dad stayed back for work. John's firm has an office in Minneapolis, and it just so happens to be right next to the building that my dad works in, so they walked to and from work together every day!


And although they had to work all week, they were able to sneak in a happy hour and a Timberwolves basketball game. I'm not going to lie, I was a little jealous that I wasn't able to join!


One thing you need to know about my mom is that she is a phenomenal cook - like seriously, I think the reason I am so bad at making dinners is because growing up she did all the cooking... and any attempt I made at cooking would pale in comparison - so I left the work to the professionals! She made soup, salads, steak, dumplings, etc.

But, I do love desserts!! And I made a tasty homemade creme brulee (with her supervision, of course)... I even used my dad's blow torch to melt the sugar!


And they were pretty tasty, if I do say so myself! 


Wednesday morning my mom and I got our hair blow dried, and it was amazing! If there is one thing I love, it's a good blow dry. My hair is pretty long, and I normally let it air dry and then curl it with a wand since blowing it out takes forever. So having someone else do all the hard work for me was totally welcomed!

After our blow outs we had a tasty lunch at Agriculture and did some shopping while waiting for my dad and John to get off of work - a pretty perfect day, if you ask me!


Once my dad and John got off of work, we met them downtown for a happy hour at The Oceanaire. One of the great things about my parents living downtown is their access to so many awesome restaurants and happy hours... many within walking distance! 


Our food was delicious, and our dessert basically could have served an army... it was huge! Death by chocolate is certainly an accurate name for that dessert (and I loved every single bite of it!).


My parents make me really excited to grow old with John... they have such a beautiful marriage, and I am so blessed to call them my parents!


We woke up Thursday morning, Thanksgiving, and sure enough it was snowing! My parents have a great view from their condo, and the snow made the cold weather and scenery all the more festive.


John and I were so excited it was snowing, and we even decided to brave the weather with my dad for a walk around the Mississippi river... complete with snow ball throwing contests. I would love to say I had the most accurate throw, but my dad definitely wins that one.


Although it was chilly, a walk before our massive Thanksgiving meal was a good decision. 


Thanksgiving was spent at my uncle Nick and aunt Kathy's home. Similar to my mom, my Aunt Kathy is an incredible cook - and the food was delicious! If you ask me, John even went a bit overboard (I think he may have had 4ths at dinner and then finished them evening with 3 slices of pie... I was a little alarmed, but he assured me it was acceptable).

We followed up dinner with card games... and spoons. If you have ever played spoons before, you know that it can get pretty violent with competitive people (which we indeed are...). My cousin Hannah took home the "W", and although I didn't win, the game ended with zero casualties, which is basically a win in my book (you gotta end well so people are willing to play again!).


Thanksgiving wouldn't be Thanksgiving if it didn't end with puppy cuddles; and although it wasn't my pup, my parents' dog Molly is the next best thing!


On Friday morning my mom and I made a quick stop to see my aunt Janine and cousins, and then headed to Stillwater for the day with my aunt Kathy. Stillwater is a super charming town on the St. Croix River, which divides Wisconsin and Minnesota. I couldn't help but be a little giddy seeing the Christmas decorations everywhere!


We had lunch and cocktails at a super fun place called Lolos. Although I later regretted eating my massive burger topped with pork belly and an extra order of homemade potato chips (hello Thanksgiving, round 2), the food was absolutely delicious.


Along with the delicious food, they had an awesome cocktail menu with super unique and quite frankly, unusual choices. Take for example the "Coffee & Cigarettes... a Joe Goulet Story" which had bourbon, coffee, donuts, ciggarettes, and bacon - what?!! Crazy, I know! Another cocktail incorporated popcorn (which I can totally get behind, by the way).


On the way home from Stillwater, we stopped to pick out a Christmas tree for my parents' condo. Since John and I have a fake tree this year, it was extra fun to still get to participate in picking out a live one (even if it wasn't coming home with me!).


While we were in Stillwater, John, my uncle Nick, and cousin Noah went pheasant hunting. They have the sweetest English Setting named Millie, and boy, this dog is a cutie... I pretty much cuddled her all Thanksgiving, ha!


Since John normally hunts alone (I will tag along but not actually shoot anything), he had a blast getting to go with people who actually hunt... and not to mention, they brought home a ton of birds!


Friday night my parents bought tickets to go to a dinner theatre to see Sister Act - and it was so fun! I love musicals, and it was fun to be able to have dinner and dessert while watching the show.


We had awesome seats, and to be honest, perhaps too awesome - we had a couple close calls with audience participation (thank you, Jesus, for avoiding that...). We really aren't audience participation kind of people, so I was thankful that we were able to avoid that (loosening up is one of my New Year's resolutions, but I will start working on that in 2016, ha!).


My parents are certainly the hostess with the mostess... truly, they showed us such a good time, and this trip really meant a lot to both John and me. We are so thankful that we were able to go, and cannot wait to see both my dad and mom again soon. And thankfully, we will see them again soon because they are planning a trip to Texas at the end of December - whoop whoop!


Saturday morning (3:15AM, to be exact...), John left for the airport to head home, and believe it or not, he just about missed his 5AM flight because the airport was absolutely slammed! John and I booked our flights separately, and my flight didn't get in until 1AM... and although the airport wasn't as busy, absolutely everything was closed. Literally, not even the magazine store were open, and I was starving (I guess that's what happens when you stretch your stomach all week!).

After landing in San Antonio, all I could muster up in a text message to John was to "please bring pizza" - haha, and in sure enough form, he did. If there is one thing I know for sure, it is that God made that man for me!




Our Sunday was spent recuperating after a late flight, cleaning up our home, and lovin' on our much missed pup! AND, it was the first Sunday of Advent. My mom and I are doing the She Reads Truth Advent (anyone else doing this Advent too?!), and my dad and John are doing the He Reads Truth version... and I am so excited to celebrate and prepare our hearts for the most beautiful time of the year!


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