Christmas Break 2018

Hey all!  As I mentioned two Fridays ago, my plan was to get back to blogging last week, but that just didn't happen.  So I am recapping allll of Christmas today.  

I always enjoy taking a lot of time off work around Christmas.  It's a relatively good time to be gone from work, and I just love the holiday.  

I started my 'break' on the Wednesday before Christmas.  

I drove home to my parents' this day, and while traffic was pretty minimal, the drivers that were out, were a bit crazy.  I actually got scared at one point, because I apparently was not passing traffic fast enough for the car behind me and it got soooooo close.  Luckily nothing bad ever did happen and I made it to town in one piece.  The rest of the day was pretty uneventful - wrapped a few presents, took a walk, visited, and overall just took it easy.  A nice way to kick off my 'break'!

In the past few years, my mom, my aunt, my grandma, and I have done a little 'field trip' around the holidays.  On deck for this year was seeing Beauty and the Beast at Drury Lane, followed by Bohemian food.  It was amazing.  Belle sounded like Belle, and Gaston was just hilarious.  Drury Lane is a wonderful venue, too.  It's beautiful and on the smaller size, which makes it feel more intimate.  I just cannot say enough good things about it!  We headed to Crystal Bohemian for food, and it was amazing, too!  Rye bread, beef noodle soup, breaded pork tenderloin. dumplings with gravy, sweet and sour cabbage, followed by a kolacky...gosh my mouth is watering just thinking about it!  We took the long way back to my grandma's and were able to check out some Christmas lights en route.  There are two houses close to my grandma's that go all out, so we had to do a drive by there, too.  It was a perfect day with some of my favorite ladies.  We were just missing my cousin, but hopefully one of these days she will be able to join us!

Friday was the day to load up on all the groceries for the upcoming days and celebrations.  My mom and I headed out of town to do this, and ended up stopping at Loft to look for a potential Christmas outfit.  I didn't find anything to wear, but I did find a skirt for work, and a really cute top that will be perfect for spring.  The real kicker was that the top came out to be less than $6!  You cannot beat that!  Grocery shopping wasn't sooo bad, although I can't say I was a ton of help because I am not super familiar with the store.  But we got all we needed, grabbed a gondola for a super late lunch, and made our way back to town.  After my dad got home from work, we decided to go look at lights around town, then ended the night with dinner followed by a Christmas movie (The Santa Clause).

Today was sugar cookie day!  The past few years we have made sugar cookies at Christmas, and I just love it!  It's a bit of a process, with making the dough, chilling it, cutting the out, baking, cooling, and then decorating, but I think we would all miss having them.  And I think we actually figured out a good 'process' this year to make it all a little smoother.  We also made other things for the next day - soup, chocolate covered pretzels, sausage bread, and more.

My brother and his family arrived around lunch, and the morning was spent getting ready for their arrival.  We ate pretty quickly after they got here, soup and sausage bread (something my mom almost always prepares when we are all in town - it's always a crowd pleaser!).  When my nephew went down for a nap, we watched a movie, and hung out before it was time to get ready for Dunham Christmas.  We had a smaller crowd than normal, but that was nice in a way, because we were all able to really visit and catch up.  My dad is one of 10, so between the aunts, uncles, cousins, kids of the can be a lot!  My aunt planned this really fun craft for the kids, but some of us adults joined in, too.  And wouldn't you know, we were the last ones at the table, still crafting after the kids moved on, haha!  All in all, it was a great night!

Christmas Eve was filled with more time in the kitchen, Christmas movies, our traditional Christmas Eve meal of Italian food (chicken parm, angel hair pasta), and opening of one gift.  Growing up, my brother and I would always open each others gifts on Christmas Eve.  We keep in with that tradition and open up on gift (usually from each other) on Christmas Eve.

I woke up Christmas Day to 'Merry Christmas Auntie Em' from my nephew.  Doesn't get better than that!  We were up early, opened presents, and then started the process of getting ready for the day.  In the midst of that, we had breakfast, consisting of monkey bread, scrambled eggs with bacon, and fruit.  Monkey bread has been a Christmas morning staple for years and years.  It simply would not be Christmas without monkey bread!  We all headed out to my grandma's to continue our Christmas celebrations.  We opened presents, snacked on yummy cheese, including my mom's cheeseball, and crackers, then sat down for the big Christmas meal with all the good stuff.  And followed that up with my aunt's Christmas cookies!  She made 16 different kinds of cookies this year.  Every year I try to pick out my favorite and it is just impossible.  We visited some more, said good bye to my brother and his family, then sat down for cards.  We always play Blitz when we are together as a family, and this was no different.  What is even more exciting is I won one round - that never happens!  Soon after it was time to head on out, and another Christmas had come and gone.

We shopped on Wednesday, looking for some new garland to replace my old stuff and a new 'winter' door hanging.  After shopping we headed to go see Mary Poppins, which was super cute.  Emily Blunt was wonderful, and it made me want to watch the original soon!  We headed out to one more shop after the movie, came back home, then headed back out to good old WalMart for a few things.  

This day was gross - rainy and super windy, so we ventured out to the gym for a workout class and visiting with friends.  My mom noticed a portion of the lights on the tree had gone out, so we tried to fix that, but ultimately let my dad handle it when he got home.  After spending almost the entire night on it, and then some in the morning, they are all lit again!

This day ended up being busier than anticipated.  I got in a great workout with a new friend, and then headed over to one of my cousin's for my aunt and uncle's anniversary party.  The party was a BLAST and it was so nice to see family.  

I may or may not have had a bit toooo much fun the night before, and planted myself on the couch the majority of the day.  It was bittersweet, as it was my last day at home.  Although earlier in the week I was finally 'ready' to head back, when the time actually came, I was not ready to come back to reality.

Sunday I was up and at 'em first thing in the morning to make my way back home.  I swear, that 3+ hour ride sometimes seems much longer because it's like two different worlds, going from Pontiac to St. Louis, haha!

All in all, it was a nice trip home.  I loved all the family time I got in - there is nothing better!

Linking up with Biana anLindsay.

Merry Christmas!

Hey all!  I will be soaking up all things Christmas the next few days, and will return to the blog after Christmas...maybe the 26th but that seems a bit ambitious, haha!

I copied the below from my first Christmas while blogging, and it is still my favorite, so I thought I would reshare.

"Glory to #God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men." #Luke 2:14 #Quotes:

Growing up, my church would put on a performance of the Christmas story during service.  My role was of the angel.  I still remember my part...glory to God on the highest and on earth, peace and goodwill towards men.  That has always stuck with me, so I thought it was only fitting that I leave you with that as I sign off to enjoy Christmas with my family.  I hope you all have the best time celebrating, however you may be, this year.  Merry, merry Christmas!    

Girl Chat: My Favorite Ornaments

I love Christmas ornaments.  I think my favorite thing about them is they usually have a story.  And when it is time to put them on the tree, you get reminded of those times.  It just makes putting up the Christmas tree that much more special.  

Now, I do have ornaments that I picked up just because they are cute, but even then, I usually think back to that shopping trip with my mom, or a time when I didn't have a ton of ornaments, so picked up some after Christmas to add to my collection.

When thinking of my favorite ornament, it was a no brainer.  I do have lots of favorites, but there is one ultimate favorite - my baby's first Christmas ornament.  This ornament is still on my parents' Christmas tree, but it's one I look forward to getting put up each and every year.  My parents usually send me a picture of it (front and center on the tree, towards the top!) when it gets put up each year.  

I don't know if because it was 'my' first ornament that makes it my favorite, or the fact that it is just so darn cute, but it will forever be my favorite.

With this being the last Girl Chat link up of the year, I wanted to say thanks to everyone who has 'chatted' with us and linked up.  I know I have really enjoyed having these different prompts, and I hope you have, too.  

With that, I thought I would take a quick look back at all the Girl Chats of the year, following by the link up.

Now, for the link up.  Just grab our graphic, link up and let's get to chatting!  Make sure to stop by a few others linked up for an extra bit of girl chat! 

Danielle - Bloglovin' | Instagram | Pinterest | Twitter 

Emily - Bloglovin' | Instagram | Pinterest 

Lindsay - Bloglovin' | Facebook | Instagram | Pinterest 

Lizzie - Bloglovin' | Facebook | Instagram | Pinterest 

Sierra - Bloglovin' | Facebook | Instagram | Pinterest | Twitter

What's Up Wednesday: December 2018

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The last What's Up Wednesday post of 2018...goodness gracious how did that happen?!

What I'm eating this week...

It's a bit of a free for all this week, haha!  I have a feeling some Panera gift cards will be put to use and breakfast for dinner!  

What I'm reminiscing about...
Christmas seasons past and just this past year.

What I'm loving...
The next week or so...the lead up to Christmas is my favorite!

What I've been up to...
Honestly, it's been a mix of busy weeks and low key weekends.

I participated in my second Cookie Walk at church.  It was a little more eventful than last year, because on my way in with my cookies, I dropped one whole container right on the sidewalk.  It was one of those 'you have got to be kidding' moments.  But the walk itself was successful, and I even snagged some cookies for myself!

I hosted my first get together in my condo - a few girls from church.  It was really nice to get to talk to each other outside of the church setting, since we don't always have time to visit.  I am hoping to make this a semi-regular thing!

Although the weekends were low key, I did make it to another CYCLEBAR class.  That is a goooood workout!

A few other friends stopped by to see my place and then we went out to sushi.  It was kind of full circle, as they were really helpful at the beginning of my home search, and really throughout it all, too.  But they still hadn't seen the place I actually ended up with.  We just needed to mark a date on the calendar, and I am so glad we finally did!

I made it out to see some Christmas lights with my peppermint hot chocolate.  Normally I am pretty traditional and prefer white lights, but I was kind of loving the red and white this year, too!

I celebrated the holidays at my work party...they had a cookie decorating station which was such a cute idea.  

Really, I feel like there isn't a TON to recap for this month, but we still have the best days yet to come, and I am so ready for them! 

What I'm dreading...
Taking down Christmas decorations.  That is a task!

What I'm working on...

My goals for next year.  Although I am always sad when Christmas is over, I love the start of a new year.  I know you can start a new every day, but I think January just brings some fresh perspective and that extra bit of motivation to get things going. 

What I'm excited about...

What I'm watching...

Lots of Christmas movies, along with some old stuff on my DVR.  I finally caught up with the Kardashians, as well as Teen Mom OG.    

What I'm reading...
Still all the Christmas books.  Although I posted my review the first week of the month.  I have been updating it as I read a new book...that way they are all in one place.  My latest favorite?  The 13th Gift.  It's a true story and it will just pull at your heartstrings.

I did get a little jump start on organizational type stuff I usually read in the first part of the year.  I checked out A Simplified Life, and while I am only a few pages in, it already has me motivated to start decluttering.  

What I'm listening to...
Christmas music.  I use Pandora while at work / home and my station of choice is 'Christmas Radio'.  It has a good mix of classics and a few 'newer' songs thrown in there, too.  Of course, I make sure to 'thumbs up' certain songs to help tailor the station to my tastes a bit, too!

What I'm wearing...
I have been on a oversized sweater kick lately and got this turtleneck from Free People (I sized down one size), and this mock neck sweater from Lord & Taylor.  I snagged the Free People sweater from Macy's on sale for $89 and although still kind of pricey for a sweater, it was much better than the original ticket price.  It's worth it though - the quality is so nice and I know I will wear it again and again.  The mock neck sweater, though, is a better price at just over $35.

I am also still loving the Amazon leggings.  I think everyone else is, too, because I went to grab a pair of navy and they were all sold out in my size!  But they do have black in all the sizes if you need a pair of those!  I really can't recommend them enough.  I actually wore them with the Free People sweater, a puffy vest and Hunter boots this past weekend, and it was such a cute and comfy outfit!  Perfect for running errands in some not so great weather.

What I'm looking forward to next month...
Similar to what I said above, I am really looking forward to the fresh start the new year brings.  

What is my favorite last minute gift idea...
My favorite last minute gift is nothing ground breaking, but I think it's something we all appreciate - a gift card!  You seriously cannot go wrong with those.  I know some people think they are impersonal, but I know I love when I want to buy something and then realize I have a gift card to put towards it.  Or maybe it's something I wouldn't do for myself on a regular basis (like grab a drink from Starbucks), but now I have been gifted that opportunity via gift card.  You can always make it more personal with a little note, or something that goes along with it, like a tumbler with a Starbucks card, socks with a Loft card, or hand lotion with a Bath & Body Works card.

Linking up with ShayLindsay and Jessi.