Monday, December 31, 2012

Top 12 Times of Twenty-Twelve

2012 was an eventful year. It went by way too quickly, but then, don't they all? While it had its fair share of bumps along the way, I have to say it was mostly a year chock full of blessings. 

As I reflect on the happenings of the past 365 days, there are many joyous occasions that come to mind: my grandma's 83rd birthday, my family's trip to the lake, my friend Erin becoming a mother, taking my dad to the Browns/Colts game for his birthday, my friend Deanna getting engaged, my friend Jen telling me she was pregnant, finally celebrating Christmas '11 with Melissa in November, my friend Colleen moving back, the 1st birthday parties for Anderson & Eli, my trip to Cincinnati to see the Cardinals play the Reds...I could go on and on. But for your sake (and for the sake of a title with alliteration), I've narrowed the top moments of 2012 down to twelve.

12. My T-Shirt Quilt: Years in the making (and by that I mean years of hoarding t-shirts), it was a gratifying feeling to complete this project. 
Currently it's sprucing up the foot of my bed. I also used it at the beginning of the school year to teach idea development to my little 3rd grade writers. 
If you're in the market for a t-shirt quilt yourself, check out the Campus Quilt Company. They're awesome!

11. The Circle City: During our Spring Break, Joey and I decided to take a last minute road trip to Indy and it was the best unplanned getaway we could have imagined. 
I've spent years going to the Circle City to visit family, but I had never stayed downtown or done the tourist thing. We stayed near the White River State Park and were within walking distance of many attractions. We visited the Zoo, the Children's Museum, and Edward's Drive-In, among many other establishments.

We took a self-guided walking tour through downtown Indy and one of my favorite moments was dancing with a street performer we met along the way. 

If you've never toured downtown Indianapolis, I suggest you immediately put that on your to-do list.

10. Sparkle Sisters: My girl Jenny and I have been mistaken for sisters from the moment we became friends in college. We've heard the question, "Are you twins?" more times than we can count.
We've even been called the 'Bobbsey Twins', but we were not prepared for the new nickname bestowed upon us the night of my 31st birthday celebration. Totally unplanned (I swear), Jenny and I wore the same pink sparkly shirt (that we purchased at separate times mind you). She called me ahead of time to tell me she was on her way and asked me if I had worn my shirt and when I said yes she asked if I wanted her to go home and change it. "Don't be ridiculous!" I said. I thought it was a hilarious coincidence. 
So there we were in our matching shirts, minding our own business, when an older intoxicated creeper at the table next to us felt the need to strike up a conversation. "What's up with the Sparkle Sisters?" he grumbled, "Y'all twins or something?" 
I'll spare you the rest of his rambling, but just know that I haven't laughed that hard in a really long time. Needless to say, Jenny and I will now be forever known as the Sparkle Sisters. It really is the perfect nickname for us and I'm surprised we didn't think of it a long time ago.

9. Jimmy Buffet: With concert veterans Ruthie & Richard, I finally got to see the legend himself, Mr. Jimmy Buffet. Sporting my Margaritaville pants and all, I danced the night away to his sweet songs. And for just a little while, I forgot I wasn't really at the beach.

8. Smoky Mountains: I feel so fortunate to work with people I not only respect and can count on, but that I can also call my friends. To celebrate the end of the 2011-12 school year, my 4 fellow third grade teachers and I hit the road for Gatlinburg. We rented a cabin in the mountains (waaaaay up in the mountains) and had a blast. 

For me, nothing can compare to the view our first morning there. Walking out onto the back deck of our cabin, and being surrounded by the "smoke" of the mountains was a truly beautiful moment. 
I'm looking forward to a return trip to the Smoky Mountains in April with my family!

7. Holiday World: It had been years since I last visited Holiday World, or any amusement park for that matter. I was excited to take my goddaughter Hannah there while she was visiting me this summer. 
While it's true that Hannah is in 4th grade, I'm pretty sure Joey and I were the real "kids" that day. It's amazing how being on a roller coaster can erase all of your maturity. The highlight of the day was when, after waiting for over an hour to ride the Mammoth water slide, we finally stepped foot in our inner tube and Joey slipped on some water and wiped out, kicking some poor girl (with braces) in the mouth. Once we saw that the girl was okay, I could not. stop. laughing. His middle name is definitely not Grace. However, we did call him Talon Toe Joe for a while after that. 
We had such a blast with Hannah, Joey and I went back again a few weeks later. You'll be glad to know that no one was hurt on this particular venture.

I'm willing to bet that meeting Pat Koch was probably the highlight of Joey's 2012.

6. Dave Matthews: When we heard that Dave was coming to the Yum! Center in December, Courtney and I didn't hesitate to grab ourselves some tickets. Since we'd each seen him at least 3 times before, we went with the cheap seats in the nosebleed section to save ourselves a little cash. We had grand plans to eat somewhere fun downtown before the show, but a 7:00 start on a rainy Tuesday night proved difficult to make when it came down to it. So we did the next best thing: hit up the White Castle drive-thru. 
That wasn't even the best part, though--the best part is actually a tie for me between our seat upgrades and the encore song. Just before our noses started to bleed, an usher came up and told us we could move up to the front row of our section, as the seats weren't being used. Score! No one could block our view of Mr. Matthews and we were free to dance as we pleased. As if that wasn't already pretty special, then Dave came out for the encore to play "The Christmas Song". Neither of us had ever heard it live before, and let me just say it was well worth the wait. 

5. Upgrades: As I sit in my recently redecorated living room writing this, I am so pleased with the upgrades around me. I wrote about them in-depth earlier this year, so I'll be brief and simply say that flipping my living room around was the best happy accident that occurred this year; having a new perspective has truly given me a new perspective (see what I did there?).

4. March Madness: If you haven't figured it out by now, I am slightly obsessed with the Louisville Cardinals. I get it honestly. I can remember at 5 years old, watching my dad yell at the TV, cheering UofL on to their 2nd National Championship. 
As I've grown, I've seen Louisville win conference tournaments and make a few deep runs in the NCAA tournament. But unfortunately, we UofL fans haven't had the opportunity to see our Cards win a National Championship in 26 years. 
Riddled with injuries, the 2012 squad wasn't expected to go very far in the postseason. So it was that much more exciting when they dominated the Big East tournament and made it to the Final Four in a Russdiculous fashion. I'm talking high kicks in my living room when they took down Michigan State, and tears streaming when they came back to defeat Florida. I told you: ob-sessed.
Would it have been even sweeter if they had made it to the National Championship game by beating their hated in-state rivals the Kentucky Wildcats? Yes. Yes it would. 
But fear not, for the Cardinals defeated the Wildcats 2 days ago, and I have a hunch that 2013 is going to be the year we get to hang another banner--a National Championship banner, that is.

3. Best Halloween Costume: My sister's boyfriend, Andy, has a huge family--he's one of 11 kids, in fact. Every year they have an awesome Halloween party, and this year Joey and I wanted to bring it with our costumes. Inspiration hit over Red Robin onion rings one night: we would be Snooki & her baby, Lorenzo. 
Joey found an adult-sized set of footy pajamas, and I picked up a Jersey Gurl (that is not a typo) wig. We knew we would get a good laugh, but we could never have anticipated the honor of Best Costume and the free movie passes that came with it. A Happy Halloween it was indeed.

2. The Wealth of Health: Being able to celebrate Mom's 5th year being kidney cancer-free on June 3rd was a huge highlight of 2012. 
In a year when Mom also had to have a hysterectomy, Jill had bells-palsy, Andy had a collapsed lung, and Dad had some scary blood test results, I'm especially happy to say that everyone was healthy as we celebrated Christmas this year. The real wealth of life is not money, but health.

Now if you don't know what the number 1 moment of this year was, then you're either a) not my friend, or b) visiting this blog for the first time.

Nothing else even came close this year...

1. The Birth of My Niece: July 22 was officially the best day of the year (and of my life, for that matter) because I got to meet my little McNugget. I was not prepared for the amount of love my heart holds for this little girl. I sobbed uncontrollably the first time I held her (Micah and my mom were seriously scared), and to this day, my eyes still well up with tears when I think about that moment. 
She just makes life sweeter. 

Road trips, holidays, birthdays, ordinary weekdays--they're all better when that precious baby is present. Even when I was involved in a hit-and-run this year, all I had to do was spend some time with my McNugget and I forgot all about it. She's truly awesome. 

At the end of each year, it's easy to dwell on all of the things we didn't accomplish. But I'd rather focus on the positive and be grateful for the blessings these past 365 days have bestowed. 
Let's learn from the mistakes we made and change the things we can to make the next year even better.

2013 is a gift, so enjoy it. Happy New Year, Y'all!

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Crafty Christmas

So last year I was inspired to get crafty for the future Christmas. If you clicked on the link, you know that I had ambitions to recycle my Christmas cards to use for gift tags, as well as to make a scrapbook for my photo Christmas cards. 
Well the future is now, and folks, I've actually done it. 
No, I didn't make the cookie cutter ornaments (maybe next year), but the gift tags & the scrapbook are done.

I made the scrapbook this summer, simply by picking up a large one at Hobby Lobby and arranging the photo cards within. I actually think I'm going to need to buy some extra pages to include the ones I get this year. I'm happy that they're now all in one place and easily accessible. Plus it's fun seeing how my friends and family members have changed over the years.

I kept the other Christmas cards that I received (the ones without photos) all year and finally busted them out. I used the dye cut machine at school to cut out the first initial in each of my family members' names for their respective gifts.
Each card was selected for a reason, of course, 'cause that's how I roll. The penguin card for my sister, the pink & sparkly card for my sister-in-law, the cardinal for my mom, and the cute snowman & little girl for my McNugget. The dudes got the cards that I thought would work best for their letters (and let's face it: it will be a miracle if they even notice the letters at all). I don't have Pete's yet because I was hoping to find a pug card to use for his. 
At any rate, here is the finished product and I have to say, I'm pretty proud of myself.
I do think these would look better on brown parchment paper or a solid color wrapping paper, but overall I still think they look precious! Not only are they better for the environment and for my bank account, I love that they make each gift that much more personalized. This is a tradition I will keep up for future Christmases to come!

Fa La La La Local

Happiness is home.

I love my house. I love it even more when it has Christmas decorations in it; the glow and glitter of the season make everything better, period.

Although I've been shopping since October, and listening to Christmas music since November, I did wait to put up the Christmas decor until the day after Thanksgiving. Things are looking pretty similar to last year around the house, with the addition of a few new trinkets--some of which I purchased at local shops in town.
Here's the first ornament that made it on the tree this year. Believe it or not, this is first Cards ornament I've ever had--I know, I'm as shocked as you are. As passionate a UofL fan as I am, it was high time my tree reflected as much. I thought about leaving it as the only ornament on the tree, but then I was like, "It needs more glitter."

Do y'all remember these Hallmark family trees?
Well, I've had one for years and as I've (slowly but surely) been redecorating my bedroom, I decided it was time to let this baby go. But I saved the little frames and updated the photos with little black & white prints of my fam. They look precious on the tree!

A few months ago, I was shopping at one of my favorite local stores, The Urban Farmhouse Market, and found this gem. 
Basically I love anything with a fleur-de-lis on it, so when I saw it, I knew that this jar had to be mine. I've used it to hold candy, as well as little plastic lemons to brighten up my counter. I found the assorted miniature (sparkly of course) ornaments at Wal-mart to dress it up for Christmas. 
If you've never been to The Urban Farmhouse Market, go immediately! They have the cutest decor, jewelry, stationary and more.

Speaking of shopping local, I'd like to give a shout-out to Katie & Kevin of Bourbon Built. If you love Louisville and/or bourbon, you'll love their unique shirts, prints, and bourbon-inspired gifts. I recently purchased this shirt via their website and it has quickly become my favorite thing to wear.
You can also purchase their merchandise locally at Gifthorse and Tribe. Seriously, people, softest. Shirt. Ever. And locally made to boot!

I wrapped up my Christmas shopping this past weekend at Why Louisville, a local gift boutique in the heart of the Highlands neighborhood. As their website says, they "specialize in locally designed shirts and accessories, books and magazines, gifts and cards, and general curiosities." 
I had way too much fun in there and could have spent all day checking out their merchandise. The Why Louisville gifts that my lucky friends and family members will be receiving this Christmas could not have been found anywhere else.

If you're in the market for restaurant gift cards for your friends & family this season, let me suggest The Irish Rover, Cafe Lou Lou, and Boom Bozz. Yum! Local restaurants rule.

I'd also like to give some props to Carmichael's Bookstore. Not only are they Louisville's oldest independent bookstore, but they also have the best customer service of any bookstore I've ever visited. Whenever I need a book, I call Carmichael's. If they don't have the book I want, they will order it and usually have it ready for me to pick up the next day. They also gift wrap books for free! 

This past weekend, my family went to my mom's hometown, LaSalle, Illinois, to celebrate Christmas. I ended up getting my aunt's and Grandma's gifts from a local Louisville boutique, Rabbit in the Moon. I also gave my uncle, a beer aficionado, a pack of locally brewed beer
Although we were there to exchange gifts and visit, no trip to LaSalle would be complete without going to our favorite local shop in town, Old Glory. I'm pretty sure my pictures don't begin to do it justice, but trust me when I say that this is one of the most beautifully decorated stores I have ever seen! In every corner there is so much to meet the eye that I always have to take multiple trips around the store to even scratch the surface.

The purple room, also known as my favorite room.

I managed to behave and only buy 4 ornaments (yes, only 4), along with a beautiful star garland. Since I can't live in the store, it's nice to be able to take a few pieces of it home with me.

On another note, we discovered that the clerk at Old Glory has a son who lives and attends school in Louisville--at the University of Louisville, mind you. It really is a small world, you guys.
So if you're ever on a road trip to say, Chicago, I suggest taking a detour and checking out this beautiful boutique.

The best thing about shopping locally is that you're sure to find gifts that are unique, whether they're gifts for you or for someone else. I'm happy to say that many of my gifts for others were purchased locally this year. 
Keep it fa la la la la la la local, this Christmas y'all.