Saturday, December 31, 2011

A Merry Christmas & A Low Key New Year's

It's New Year's Eve at 8:27 pm, and I am blogging from our recliner in my pajamas! Michael and Scarlett are cuddled on the couch watching football. We are truly ringing in the new year! I don't think I would have it any other way. We enjoyed an amazing dinner at home tonight, compliments of the chefs at Whole Foods who made us stuffed porkchops, focaccia bread, and twice baked potatoes. All we had to do was make a salad and put the rest in the oven. Now, let's just hope we can make it until midnight...just 3 1/2 hours to go! Scarlett has already pooped out!


We had a great Christmas this year in Arkansas. We stayed with my mom for six days, and we celebrated with family on Friday night and on Christmas Eve. On Christmas day, it was 60 degrees, so we went to Burns Park on the Arkansas River and walked the trails for a couple of hours. On Christmas night, I made homeade white chicken chili, and we watched a movie.

Though we weren't planning to do gifts, my mom cannot seem to help herself when it comes to Christmas. Knowing she couldn't stick with the plan, we also got her a few sentimental gifts. My cousin Jack who lives in Boston gave me a cd with a ton of old family photos when we visited him in the spring. I had several pictures printed for my mom and bought her a picture hanging wire that she loved from Ikea when she saw it last year. We took the pictures and hung them above her guest room bed to make a headboard. It turned out so cute, and she loves the pictures.


Michael and I made out with some great gifts as well. He got some clothes and a ton of fast food giftcards since he enjoys eating out so much for lunch :)! Thank you mom for saving me money! Like I said, my mom cannot help herself. When she gets an idea in her head, she runs with it. For several years, she has always given me a set of new pajamas for Christmas. Pajamas are my favorite Christmas gift to receive for some reason, and my pajama drawer is ridiculous. contributed to my obsession by getting me 5 sets of pajamas this year! She warned me that she went overboard!


She also gave me some other "interesting" gifts for my stocking. I can only suppose that she bought these on her pre-Christmas trip to Branson, Missouri. Branson is home to the most knick-knack gift shops I have ever seen!


This gift is the funniest of all. She gave this to me early because she knew it would get a good laugh. It is made to go in my car, but as much as I love Scarlett, I think I'm going to pass. My mom has a fun sense of humor doesn't she?


I also got a cold for Christmas and was feeling under the weather for the past few days. Fortunately, I think I'm well enough to toast the new year with a glass of champagne tonight.

I hope you have had a Merry Christmas and are enjoying a fun and safe New Year's Eve. Cheers to a great year to come!

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Celebrating Christmas

Christmas is just around the corner! I hope everyone has finished buying, planning, stressing, packing, and baking, but if you are like me and the girls I know, that is wishful thinking! This has been an amazing holiday season for us (much better than last year). We had a wonderful trip to Pittsburgh for Thanksgiving to kick off the holidays, and I have loved every bit of Christmas so far.

Tonight, Michael and I are attending our church's Christmas Candlelight Service. Although it's 70 degrees in Birmingham, I think seeing everyone dressed up in holiday attire and listening to the Christmas performances will make it truly feel like Christmas. I can't wait to head to Arkansas to see my family and friends. Too much time goes by between trips home, and I feel blessed to spend a longer amount of time with my mom this year. We will celebrate with family tomorrow night and on Christmas Eve, and I will see my girlfriends on Monday night at dinner.

I officially kicked off the Christmas festivities last Saturday with a party for the girls I work with. We enjoyed wine and hors d'oeuvres at my place before heading to dinner. The dinner experience was a bit disappointing, but it was nice to spend the night with my girlfriends outside of the office. I had so much fun!


It's always a fun time with these girls.


Rachel, Jamie, Me, and Madeline at dinner.


I Love Madeline!


Lindsey is the funniest! Somehow she deformed her fork with a piece of bread. She was up to no good before dinner arrived.


I want to wish all of you a very Merry Christmas!

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Baby Arvin is A...

Our friends Chris and Nicole Arvin are expecting the arrival of their first little Arvin in April. Last week, we went to their home for their gender reveal party. Their friends and family were so eager to find out what the little peanut is going to be. I think we all ate very quickly, so they would finally cut the gender reveal cake that held the secret to the baby's sex.

Blue Icing Inside = Boy, Pink Icing Inside = Girl.

All of us picked a blue or pink plate based on what we thought the baby was going to be. I was convinced it was a girl, so me and my pink plate waited impatiently for the reveal.


The happy couple holding the secret we were all waiting for!


Notice Mommy has a blue plate....


Hurry Up Already!


Notice Any Clues?


Baby Arvin is a BOY!!! I was so shocked and so happy for them. He is going to be the most handsome boy. He will be loved by so many, and I cannot wait for his arrival in April.

Congratulations Chris and Nicole Arvin!

Sunday, December 11, 2011

LIFE Retreat

I attended my first LIFE Retreat this weekend. What an amazing two days that I will hold dear for the rest of my life! The Retreat was a God breathed, life changing but bittersweet experience because retreat weekend only means that the time with my LIFE Group is ending tomorrow when we meet for the last time. I have grown to love these girls, and I am so grateful for the opportunity to form strong bonds with them. I prayed for God to send me godly women to befriend, and he delivered as always!

The retreat lasted two days. It was spiritual, intense and exhausting. I slept for 12 hours last night, which I don't believe has ever happened! I feel so blessed to to be a part of this experience at a time in my life when I needed it. I am in awe of how God continues to reveal himself to me.


"Now all glory to God, who is able, through His mighty power at work within us, to accomplish infinitely more than we might ask or think." Ephesians 3:20

Friday, December 2, 2011

Family Photos

We got our professional family photos back today, and I wanted to share some of my favorites with you. In all, we have 107 to choose from, and I'm up to 24 favorites. My friend Laura with Laura Headley Photography did such an amazing job, and I am so glad we hired her. We have not had our pictures taken professionally other than our wedding day, so I am thrilled to finally have them in my hands. The hard part now is deciding which ones are going up on the wall!




This little girl was the star of the shoot! We have so many great pictures of her!


These pictures were a 5 year anniversary gift to me, so we took this picture on the fifty yard line on the Samford football field to celebrate 5 years together. I think it turned our awesome!



I want to thank Laura Headley for the amazing job she did on our photos. I can't wait to do it again soon! :)

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Thanksgiving in Pittsburgh

It has almost been a week since Turkey Day, and I am still basking in the time we spent with family and the delicious food tour we took of Pittsburgh. Unfortunately, I haven't quite recovered from the two 14 hour drives through 7 states that we made in four days, but I'm getting there.

Michael's brother Sean and his wife Caroline are new to Pittsburgh, and they wanted us to come see the city for the holiday. I didn't have high expectations of Pittsburgh, but the city truly impressed! Sean and Caroline live in a lovely area known as Squirrel Hill that is walkable and filled with shopping, bars, and restaurants. I miss the days Michael and I walked everywhere in Australia, and I hope to one day live in a place that we won't have to rely on a car so much.

Thursday was devoted to Turkey of course. Sean and Michael fried 4 turkeys (one was given away). The five of us ate three turkeys and mashed potatoes with gravy, sweet potatoes, stuffing and dressing, green bean casserole, cranberry sauce, and pumpkin cheesecake.



Our Thanksgiving puppies Scarlett and her cousin Dolly begging for turkey!


On Friday morning, we drove to the city's Strip District. Though its name sounds suspicious, the Strip District is a mix of individual markets and vendors offering anything from scarves, Steelers gear, and spices to food ranging from fresh fish to Mexican and Asian street food. This was our interpretation of Black Friday shopping, and it was fabulous! Every now and then between stores, we made several stops on what I dubbed the Pittsburgh Food Tour.



We started out in Italy with homemade Italian Pepperoni Rolls. These fresh from the oven rolls were 2 pounds each. We had the gentlemen split it in fifths, but I am certain I could have eaten the whole thing. Here is Michael waiting in line to purchase his first piece of pepperoni heaven!



The next stop was the Mexican Market where Michael ordered two of the freshest tacos I have possibly eaten. After eating from the taco man, we walked down the block to Peace, Love, and Little Donuts. Here, we experienced our first taste of Maple Glazed Donuts with Bacon!!! YUMMY! YUMMY!!!!

A few hours later, we got the bright idea to eat some more! Sean took us to a Pittsburgh institution called Primanti Brothers where the sandwiches are piled high with meat, vinegar coleslaw, and french fries. Here are our sandwiches getting ready for fries!


We packed our bags and headed back home on Saturday afternoon. We braved 14 hours straight in the car and finally arrived in Birmingham at 4 am on Sunday morning. Another Thanksgiving has come and gone already, and I have now celebrated 29 times!!! I hope you all had a wonderful Thanksgiving!

Sunday, November 20, 2011

You Say It's Your Birthday

Yes, I say it is! Happy Birthday to me! I'm officially 29 and counting, and though I'm inching closer to 30, I guess I don't feel too differently. As a birthday gift to myself, I made sure to enjoy the weekend. I don't know if it's a sign of my age, but enjoying the weekend meant taking on some projects around the house, putting up my Christmas decorations, organizing my guest room closet for the millionth time, and baking muffins and cookies. I did fit in some fun with my girlfriends last night at dinner. Unfortunately, Michael had a busy weekend, but we get to spend 5 straight days together for Thanksgiving!

Right now, I'm enjoying our piece of Christmas. I decorated early this year, but I wanted to come home to Christmas once we get back from our Thanksgiving travels to Pittsburgh. I didn't decorate last year, and I forgot how much I love this time of year.


I fit a lot into a small space, but I love all the color and sparkle!


I love my feathers too! :)


And my huge turquoise ornaments! I LOOOOVE them!!!!


I hung ornaments and snowflakes from our dining room chandalier, and I think it's so pretty. I just refinished the old brass mirror in our dining room, and I love how the heirloom white turned out. The ornaments look so pretty reflecting from the mirror.

I have had a wonderful birthday, but I think I am more excited about Christmas!!! I hope all of you have an amazing Thankgiving holiday.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Painting The Tree of Life

Hey Everyone! I hope you are having a wonderful week. Hold on a little longer...Friday is just around the corner. It has been humid and rainy for three days straight in Birmingham, and I am hoping the yucky weather clears out this weekend.

Just in case you forgot, my birthday is this Sunday, and I cannot think of a better gift than hanging out at home in peace and quiet. I want to relax and read a book, take Scarlett to the park, and watch movies. Unfortunately, Michael has a busy work weekend, so it will be just us girls.

It is my goal to have our Christmas decorations out before we leave for Pittsburgh to celebrate Thanksgiving, so I don't know how much resting I will actually be doing. I want to come back from our trip and open our front door to Christmas. I love this time of year!!!

I want to share some pictures from my Monday night out with my LIFE Group at Sips and Strokes. Our leaders booked a private party for us to paint a funky and fun tree of life to represent our LIFE Group. Aren't our leaders awesome? In two days, I got to be a part of an amazing photo shoot and paint a piece of art that will always be special. More than anything, I have grown closer to these women through these two awesome times we have shared together.

Here are some pictures from our painting party. I want to give a shout out to Mrs. Mandi for taking pictures.

Me and Mandi!


Our fearless co-leader Christy. I love this girl!!!


We all look so serious!


Our other co-leader Blair. Isn't she precious?


Our finished trees! I love how they turned out so beautifully and so different from one another. I got a kick out of how everyone's trees reflected their personalities. Unlike the whole point of the piece, mine had no funky tree vibe whatsoever. It was neat and simple and exact. Others were daring, abstract, crazy, colorful, and bold just like the painter. I loved every tree!

Monday, November 14, 2011

Picture Day!

This Saturday was picture day for me big time! Michael, Scarlett and I had our pictures taken in the morning by my friend Laura Headley, and I had another photo shoot taken with my LIFE Group at 2:00 pm. I had so much fun, but I was exhausted from all the preparation and smiling!

Michael and I have been together eight years, and with the exception of our wedding day, we have never had our pictures taken professionally. Having our pictures made was Michael's gift to me for my birthday and our 5th anniversary. The morning was perfect, and the leaves were beautiful, so I cannot wait to see how the pictures turned out. I got to see a sneek peak of what will be our Christmas card, and I loved it.

Our LIFE Group leaders gave us a professional photo shoot as a gift to all of us. How amazing are they, to be so thoughtful! 19 of us got all dolled up for a photo shoot at Ross Bridge. Everyone looked so amazing, and we had a great time taking pictures together. After our photo shoot, we headed to our friend Mandi's house for appetizers and hot apple cider. This is one of the professional pictures from our photographer Elizabeth Ann.


Tuesday, November 8, 2011

A Week Without Facebook

It's been a week since I declared my Facebook Fast, and I thought I would let you know how it's been going.

Do I miss Facebook? YES and NO

Why do I and don't I miss Facebook? I don't feel connected and I don't feel connected

Facebook is how everyone communicates, and if I'm not communicating on Facebook, then I am not communicating much at all. A part of me feels like I may be missing out, but then I think about all of the wonderful parts of not being connected. On Sunday for instance, I didn't have to read through all of the maddening status updates from Alabama fans after their loss. I don't have to read about what you are doing every five minutes while you are just sitting at a red light on a bridge at 5:35 pm before you go through the drive thru and pick up dinner and head home to feed your kids, give them a bath, and put them to bed before telling all of us every minute detail from the moment you rolled out of bed today. I don't have to know where you've been by your check-ins nor do you need to know where I've been. I don't want to read a promotional shout out about your new business every few hours. Don't get me wrong, some people want to know every move you make, but I don't think I do anymore.

Facebook is not all bad or annoying. It is fulfilling to keep up with friends in other states and countries. I love looking at your pictures, and I especially enjoy the great articles that have been posted from other sources by my friends. I learned about a new radio station that I love through Facebook. I guess I'm realizing that I need to filter my news page when I log back on. I believe that is the only solution to not be so annoyed all the time!

So what have I been doing without Facebook? I have been exercising more. Okay, so doing my Jillian Michaels' 30 Day Shred two times last week isn't something to brag about, but I promise that Facebook would have made the number of times I excercised zero. I read two books, one on being childfree and the other on yoga. I had some of the best quiet times in the mornings, I made a few delicious dinners, and baked homemade cupcakes for the first time in my life. I sat in the quiet and soaked it in, and Michael and I had amazing conversations.

I believe I could do more to make this fast worth it, so I need to work on that. I know I will reconnect on Facebook when the 40 days are over. It's almost impossible to give it up forever. But I realize that I can accomplish so much more and fulfill my day with meaningful tasks if I choose to disconnect more often.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Game of the Century

Last night, everyone in the South were glued to their televisions to watch what was touted as the "Game of the Century." Never have the #1 & #2 teams gone head to head in the SEC during the regular season, so this was a big deal for Alabama and LSU fans. Heck, it was a big deal to all SEC fans I think. Unfortunately, now that the hype is 24 hours behind us, I don't think it lived up to being the game of the century. The two Alabama kickers may disagree, but for a completely different reason.

Michael and I watched the game at my friend Lindsey's house. Some other girls from work were there as well. I didn't watch the game as much as I should have, but I was too busy socializing!


Lindsey, Madeline, me and Jamie. You can tell I was apathetic to who won by my lack of team spirit. What can I say, blue is my color. ha!


I love me some Madeline!!!


Me and Lindsey. I love this girl too. She has a crazy sense of humor, and she is hilarious.


Look it's Michael! He's not working on a Saturday night!

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Facebook Fast

I am still in disbelief that it is November already! This can't be true! November is a big month for us as we celebrate Michael's birthday November 4, Scarlett's Birthday November 7, and my birthday November 20. This will be my last birthday celebration of my 20's, and I don't know if I have accepted it! 29 sounds so blah.

We are also celebrating Thanksgiving in Pittsburgh with Sean and Caroline who will be hosting the festivities for the first time as husband and wife. I am excited about seeing their new home and enjoying Michael's family, but I pray that we don't get snowed in!

I hope that with all that we have going on, November will somehow be a time of quiet and reflection. 40 days from today, I will be attending a LIFE Retreat with my LIFE Group, and I pray that my life will be forever changed by this experience. I have committed to purging some areas of my life until then so that I can experience God as much as possible this month in preparation for the experience.

I am also, as we speak, giving up Facebook until the LIFE retreat ends. This is going to be so hard for me, but I believe it is necessary. I feel convicted about the time I WASTE on facebook. I in no way mean to offend anyone by saying this, but I waste precious time looking at the profiles of people that I am truly not "friends" with. I have Facebook friends who I would pass by in the grocery store if I saw them because I wouldn't have anything to say or I may not even recognize them in person! I know that I have Facebook friends who only added me to be nosy and vice versa. I'm definitely not innocent of being a Facebook stalker myself!!!

For me, Facebook is not real life, and though I do think there are great things about it, and I love keeping up with friends from places we have lived, it has replaced valuable time spent on real-life relationships. Today, I deleted any Facebook friends that I am not real friends with or would not befriend in person. It is nothing personal, but it just felt fake. I used to think that having less Facebook friends than others meant I was a loser. But today, when I purged my Facebook friends, I felt amazing. When I do log on again in December, my newsfeed won't be cluttered with junk from friends who aren't really my friends at all.

I hope the time that I have free from Facebook, the TV, and the internet (except for a few occasional blogging moments) will give me a greater sense of myself and my purpose. I want to grow closer to God, I want to discover parts of myself, and I want to grow my relationship with my amazing husband and friends who I can actually touch!

Monday, October 31, 2011

Happy Halloween!


We hope you all have a Happy Halloween!

Michael, Brandi, and our pumpkin Scarlett Belle

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Semi-Homemade Comfort

It's been over a week since I last blogged, and I had to force myself to write something today. I'm just not feeling it lately. If I can be honest! I want to be back on the beach. I am so glad we went when we did because last week was FREEEZING!!! This week was a little better, but it's supposed to be a chilly tomorrow.

I love this time of year for so many reasons, but one of my favorite things about fall and winter is making soups. I have made two semi-homemade soups lately that I loved. I loved them so much I ate them for lunch and dinner a couple of days!!

Here is my recipe for Semi-Homemade Chicken Soup

8 cups chicken broth
1 tsp olive oil
1/2 onion diced
1-2 cloves of garlic diced finely
1 1/2 cups of carrots diced
3 stalks of celery diced
1 chicken bouillon cube, crumbled
1 bay leaf
Sea Salt and pepper, to taste
1/2 tsp dried thyme or basil, or more if you like
1 1/2 cup cooked rotisserie chicken, shredded
Spaghetti noodles broken in thirds (use as much as you want. I used 1/3 of the package)

Sauté onions, celery, and carrots in olive oil until soft, about 5 minutes
Add garlic & cook for 30 seconds to 1 minute, stirring constantly
Add broth & the remainder of ingredients, except for spaghetti
Cook over medium low heat for 1 hour
30 minutes before eating, add the noodles
Eat when noodles are cooked


Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Life's a Beach!

Last week, I took my mom and her two friends Cissy and Barbara to Orange Beach as an early birthday present for my mom who will be turning the big 50 in January. We had a great time sitting on the beach, looking for shells, shopping, and eating!

Being from Arkansas, the beach was not too close for me growing up, and I did not see the ocean for the first time until I was 16 years old. I was hooked immediately by the beautiful white sand and ocean blue water, the feel of the ocean breeze, the sense of calm next to the water, and the sweet sound of the waves. I know I'm getting a little poetic, but I don't feel closer to God in any other place that at the beach. I really could live there 365 days a year!

Perhaps my dream of living on the ocean will come true someday, but until then, I am grateful to spend vacations at my favorite place. Spending time on the beach with my mom makes it even better!


My mom and me!


Waiting to eat some delicious seafood!


With the girls at the Shrimp Festival. It was a little windy!



The gorgeous view from our balcony!


My mom loved looking for shells. This is a picture from our balcony of she and Barbara walking along the beach.