Saturday, December 31, 2011

2011 in Review

I cannot believe this is the last day of 2011.  Where has the time gone?!  The word blessed does not do my life justice.  I do not believe there is even a word to describe just how I feel.  The Lord has been so faithful and has come through more times than I could begin to count.

When looking back just on this one year of my life, I feel so overwhelmed with how fortunate I am, but also how undeserving too. But that's what's amazing about God's grace - no one deserves it.  He just blesses us with it because He loves us.  I feel like I said this same thing in 2009 and 2010.  And I did, but when I stop to think about it, I can point to one defining moment in my life that changed everything for me.  2009 was full of some very low valleys for me during the first part of the year.  I mean...rock bottom.  But it was also the best time of my life.  Although I had been saved when I was 8, I feel like I never fully trusted the Lord with my life.  I had my own agenda and I was going to do things my way.  It wasn't until He yanked away every single perfect piece of my little plan that I realized I was a fool.  But it was what I needed.  He used the low points to bring me closer to Him.  I can remember just hitting my knees and telling Him I was so lost and didn't know what to do, but that I trusted Him that His plan was better than anything I could have planned.  I promised Him that if He would pull me through, I would never turn my back on Him again.  I've kept my promise.  A little over a month later, Jared walked into my life.  A week later, I found the EXACT home I had been looking for that I could afford to live on my own.  Two months later, my perfect niece was born.  A year later, I was engaged to the man made just for me.  Six months after the engagement, we were married and living in our first little home.  That brings us to 2011.  I just did not think it could get better.  But it did.

I loved our little home in North Hill where we began 2011.  It was old, had character, but it was a bit small.  After we got married, we had nowhere to house our gifts, I had two cabinets in the kitchen and 2 functioning burners on the stove.  Once we got Rosie, it really felt cramped.  We made the decision to move to a bigger rental with a fenced in backyard.  I still think back about our little Barcelona house.  It wasn't much to look at from the outside, but we had some great memories there.  I'll always remember how the sun streamed through the windows every morning as we sat together drinking coffee on the couch.  And I could never forget how COLD that house was.  We were always bundled up it seemed.  It was our first home and it will always hold a special place in my heart.

Moving to the house on Sandcliff was fun because it was minutes from the beach, but it just doesn't hold the same memories like the Barcelona house did.  We actually had our engagement pictures taken at our Barcelona house out on the brick street in front.  I'm so thankful we did that now.

We went into this year with absolutely NO plans of buying a home.  It just wasn't in our budget.  So, we signed a year lease in March 2011 at the Sandcliff house.  We would have never dreamed we'd be sitting in our own home that WE own right now.  The whole thing was purely a God send.  Jared saw the house on MLS one day.  On a whim we decided to look at it a week later and loved it.  It was the exact neighborhood we were wanting to move in to, but didn't see that happening anytime soon.  We prayed about it and felt led to proceed so I called the bank, we got immediate approval, made an offer and BAM we were homeowners.  Just.Like.That.  But one thing loomed over our head - that darn lease.  We prayed fervently together again asking the Lord to send us a renter.  That very same day the man that ended up renting the home drove by for the first time.  He rented it right away and we were freed from the financial obligation of paying two mortgages at one time.  Tell me that wasn't the Lord's will at work.

J and I celebrated our first year of marriage this year.  We reflected back on just how much happened to us in a year and how thankful we are to have found one another.  I just can't get over how fast it went.  I'm looking forward to many, many more years with him.

I changed careers and became a teacher this year - something I again prayed a lot about.  God hears our prayers, folks.  I won't go into every single detail of how that came to be, but at the very beginning of 2011, our Sunday School teacher was talking about how you have to be responsible for taking that initial leap of faith and God will lead the way.  God couldn't just make me a teacher.  I had to first pass the tests and put myself in the position to have a job open up for me.  That class changed my life and I couldn't be more happy to go to work everyday.  It's hard and long hours (except for the vacations) but it never feels like work to me.

We got our little dogter in January of 2011 and boy oh boy has she changed our lives!  She has been nothing short of a little adventure in our everyday lives but she's so much fun.

This year was JAM PACKED with weddings and I loved every minute of it.  I'm so thankful to have been able to share in so many friends' joy.  If you want to check that out, read this post.

I was able to spend another year with my loved ones and was blessed with good health.  My family and friends continue to be so supportive and encouraging in my life and I'm so thankful for them.  My mom and dad celebrated 30 years of marriage this year and are such a positive force in my life.  I love them so very much.

My faith has grown exponentially during this past year.  I continue to see God's work in my life everyday.  I set out as my New Year's resolution to read the Bible all the way through in 2011.  I am happy to report that although I did not completely meet this resolution, I did pretty darn good.  I finished all of the New Testament and am halfway done with the Old Testament.  I have developed a quiet time for myself and read my Bible on (almost) a daily basis.  That's coming a long way from nothing at all.  This year I plan to continue this and devote even more time to God's word.  I WILL finish the Bible this year - hopefully in just a few months.

I'm sure I'm leaving a lot out, but 2011 has been one great year.  Good thing I have this little blog to look back on some happenings from this past year.  My heart is so full of joy.  Here's to hoping 2012 is full of blessings for all!

Friday, December 30, 2011


J and I may have found a new favorite hobby - antiquing.  Believe it or not, I had never actually been before this week.  I've always loved anything vintage but would usually just pay full price for something new that looked old.

We got inspired by this antique china cabinet I've inherited.  It was constructed in London back in the 1800s and it's so beautiful, but comes with one large problem.  It has curved glass in the front and one of the panes is cracked.  We've talked to some folks and it seems that our only option is to either have someone from Dallas, TX or Ohio fix it...And let's just say it's not cheap - so sad!  I don't really know what to do with it now.  But anyways, since we've both had this week off together, we decided it might be fun to hit up some local antique shops just to see what they had to offer.  What we thought would be a short little adventure turned into an all day affair.  We had so much fun and found some really cool stuff.  No big purchases (yet), but we loaded up on some cool knick-knacks.

I love love love mercury glass (hence all of it at our wedding) and found those two hurricane vases for next to nothing.  I'm all a huge fan of the mason jars so I bought a handfull.  The wooden cross has already found a home on our wall and the books have made it to the bookshelf.  As for the 100 year old iron, it works perfect as a bookend. 

Now we're so inspired to hunt for more treasures.  The majority of the stuff we saw in the stores looked just like the items Pottery Barn makes to look old and charges a fortune for.  I've discovered I can decorate my home to look like Pottery Barn but pay half the price (or less).  I think I'm hooked.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

December Brain Dump

I realize I haven't just been bad about blogging lately - I've been downright awful.  I have not posted once in December.  Somehow I figured that this December would be much more calm and slower than normal but I haven't had much downtime so I'm going to make one long post about some very memorable moments of my life this December.

We were only in school for 2 weeks of this month and it FLEW by.  I participated in a Secret Santa with some of the teachers and had a ball.  My Secret Santa was so spot on with me.  I absolutely loved by gifts.  They were so heartfelt.  One that meant so much to me was a book titled "Having a Mary Heart in a Martha World".  I opened it up and started reading some of it.  I plan to finish it this week...WOW did I need that book or what...I'll blog more after I get done reading it, but it deals with things I really struggle with in life.

I had some really fun activities for my kids gearing up for the holidays.  We finished up our chapter in science on rocks and minerals.  To spice it up, I had my dad (who is a geologist) come in as a guest speaker.  He brought about 20 mineral samples and ended up making each kid a bag full of 5 minerals each.  He's the best father and has such a giving heart.  I know he's my dad, but I've never known anyone more giving than him.  The kids LOVED it!  They were so excited and it was a great way to make it a memorable lesson.  They had to take their bag of minerals up to my table and identify which ones they had.  I wish I had a picture of how it was all laid out, but as always, I am terrible about remembering to take pictures.


The week before Christmas, we made snowmen out of water bottles and then made cinnamon applesauce ornaments.  The snowmen were adorable.  My kids' creativity was cracking me up!  I bought pipe cleaners, felt, poms, googly eyes, and Styrofoam balls to help make the heads, arms, and clothing.  We stuffed empty water bottles with white tissue paper and then glued everything else on.  I had them write a story about "The Day it Snowed" to tie it into Language Arts.  Such a fun activity!  Now the cinnamon ornaments were a hit too - but time consuming!  It took them about 3 days to dry before I could have the kids decorate them.  Luckily they were all done in time to go home for Christmas.  The last day of school, we had a Christmas party in class.  My kids all got a little something from me (with the help of my folks) and I made them hot chocolate in the crockpot while we watched The Polar Express.  It was also pajama day at school.  We had a great time!  These are special memories that I will always cherish with my first class.  I love those kids.


Aside from work, we attended a few Christmas parties and ornament exchanges.  Our Sunday School Christmas party was a lot of fun this year.  The theme was "What Child is This" and our teachers compiled a booklet full of all of us in the class as children then we had a dirty Santa ornament exchange.  J and I ended up with great ornaments.  I thought mine was so stinkin cute.  It's a Mary, Joseph and baby Jesus s'more set.  J got a talking Beaker from the Muppets.


If you've read my blog for any length of time or know me, you know I love to cook and bake.  Unfortunately, I did not have nearly enough time for that this year like I had hoped, but I did try making cake balls for the first time.  They were really easy and very good - got lots of compliments on them.  This is them before I packaged them all up for delivery.  The white coated ones are strawberry and the others were chocolate.


I also made these Christmas cookies for a cookie swap at school.  I had pinned them sometime ago and figured I'd try them since they looked so Christmas-y.  I thought they were good, but they were different.  They get their red color from cherries that you puree, so if you're not a fan of cherries, you won't like these.

We were blessed enough to be able to afford a dining room table right before Christmas.  We had been searching for awhile and finally decided on a set we kept coming back to.  I loved having it in the house for us to enjoy during the holidays.  We hosted our first Christmas dinner over here and all got to sit around it.  At night, it was perfect for our intense evening of board games.  ;)

I did not take one picture of Christmas festivities.  Shame on me.  I was too busy doing this or that.  It makes me sad now, but what can I do.  This reminds me again of how much I need to read "Having a Mary Heart in a Martha World".  Jared managed to snap a few pictures of us girls cooking.  I made my grandma's dressing recipe for the first time and I was so excited by how well it turned out.  There's no "recipe", just a little of this and a little of that.  My mom told me what all was in it as best she could and I totally winged it.  I was so thankful that it turned out better than I could have imagined and everyone enjoyed it.  Making that dressing is one of the reasons I love cooking so much - it was my dad's mom's whom I never met; she died way before I was born.  But I feel like her memory can live on through me by recreating her recipes.  I don't know if that makes sense to anyone else but it always makes me feel good to cook family recipes and bring joy to my family like I know my grandma used to do through her cooking.  We had a big feast - ham, dressing, sweet potato souffle', mashed potatoes (thank you, Jules!), green beans and corn (thank you, MIL!), bread, chocolate cake, and pecan pies (thank you, Angie!). 

Rosie enjoyed her first Christmas with us as well.  We got her last January so she's never spent Christmas with us.  She was feeling very festive.  And I was so very happy that she did not feel the need to tear up any decorations or pay any attention to the tree!  Yipee!


The best part about this December has been the time I've spent with my loved ones.  My husband is the most wonderful man and I am so thankful to spend my days and nights with him.  He is truly amazing and such a God send in my crazy life.  It was so nice to see all of my family this year and spend time with old friends I hadn't seen in awhile.  I love being able to hug my mom and dad's necks and loved having J's family here for the holidays.  I loved celebrating my Lord's birthday and tried to keep that as my focus as I prepared for Christmas festivities.  I could definitely have done a better job than I did and I think that will be my goal from here on out - make Christmas all about Christ instead of decorations, holiday shopping, etc.  My heart felt so happy when I put on Christmas songs and Christian music and just sang out loud as I worked to prepare the food.

I'm sure I've left something out, but this is enough brain dump for one sitting.  I'm off to warm up some leftovers and snuggle up with my hub-sand.  We're enjoying a nice quiet evening in our sweats - it doesn't get much better than that! ;)

I hope y'all had a wonderful Christmas filled with love.  XOXO