Friday, December 19, 2014

Seeing Santa

Coordinating a day to visit the Big Guy has been much harder than in years past. I feel like Christmas completely snuck up on me this year and I definitely don't have it all together. My house is *barely* decorated, there are still numerous presents en route to the Rockin' House and I still have so many things to accomplish before next week. 

After comparing schedules and debating Santa locations, we finally got it all together after church last Sunday. We always visit the same setup at a mall about 30 minutes from home. Santa sings and the pictures are always beautiful, if not a little overpriced. I know we can do the whole Bass Pro Shop for free, but I'm going to be honest here, okay? I don't love the whole woodsy scene. The lighting is always bad and I really regretted taking Sophie there for her first Christmas. This year, a friend told me about a photo opportunity at a local gift shop. Not only is it free to see Santa, but you take your own photographs, you don't have to have an appointment and because those girls are nothing if not creative, the background is absolutely stunning! Since we were having pictures made in our Christmas pajamas this year, I knew Ella was less likely to put up a fight if I wasn't making her cool, 8 year old self navigate the mall in long johns!

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Since Kamin is clearly the photographer in the family, she brought along her camera and took these pictures of the kids. I have never been happier with a Santa sighting than this. There weren't too many people in line and we got plenty of time to talk to him and tell him all about our wishes for Christmas. My girls are no longer teary-eyed at the thought of this moment <insert sad mama face here> but Hudson more than made up for it! He was so excited while we waited and offered plenty of waves and happy squeals, but those quickly evaporated when his daddy added him to Santa's already full lap.

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My girls have been pretty consistent with their wishlists this Christmas {thank goodness} and that day was no exception. Ella is asking for a Kindle and The Magic Treehouse / Jack & Annie books. All Sophie has mentioned is a "stuffed unicorn with one button that will grant your every wish and another button that will play you any song you like". Take that, Santa!


And in the spirit of Flashback Friday, you can see Santa pictures {and plenty of tears} from years past, using the links below: 
2013 | 2012 | 2011 | 2010

Thursday, December 18, 2014

A Christmas Home Tour... Sort Of

Remember when Sophie broke the door {hilarious video footage here}?! I had convinced myself that it was like six months ago, but when I scrolled through Instagram looking for the picture, it turns out it was in November. LAST November. We had been living with a square of cardboard on our front door for thirteen months. When we declared 2014 the year of lazy, we really got after it.

In case you haven't been to my house before, the stairs to our porch are on the side and there is a tall rock wall along the front of our porch. Nobody can see the door from the drive or the street and we almost always use the back door to come and go. Add a dark shade to the window and it was pretty easy to forget that we were missing a pane of glass.

There is a part of me that dreaded replacing the door, despite the broken glass and doggie claw marks. We assume this is the original door from 1923, but at the very least it is old and has vintage hardware. The knob on the outside is purple glass and the only way to lock it is with a slide bolt. Way to be safe, right?!

Well, it was bound to happen at some point! #tazstrikesagain #cardboardwindow

We had been debating what kind of door to replace it with, when Josh got a wild hair a few weekends ago. He declared he was tired of being lazy and we were replacing the door before the holidays. Wait, what? Lucky for us {extremely lucky given nothing is consistent in an almost-hundred year old home}, all of the interior and exterior doors appear to be the same size in our home. We had a door between our kitchen and living areas which doesn't get much use and we decided to re-purpose it as our front door. I was kind of over having a glass door anyway, so Josh got to work. In no time at all, we had an operating door, but we still needed new hardware and some weather stripping, thanks to a gap at the top of the frame.

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Fast forward to this week when we made three trips to Lowe's within a 24 hour time period and spent almost $300 on supplies. Our quick, free fix was turning south quick. On Sunday afternoon, we pulled off all of the exterior trim {breaking the doorbell in the process} and replaced it with new wood that left no gaps.

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Amid my favorite Christmas decorations to date and a whole lot of sawdust, we watched NFL football, ate Zaxby's for dinner and had an epic Taylor Swift dance party in our Christmas pajamas. Fortunately, our daddy has mad dance skills and knows all the words to Blank Space. What started out as a new door and a fresh coat of paint turned into a major project that didn't end until almost mid-night.

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We installed our very first deadbolt and can lock our house from the outside for the first time in ten years. I can't believe how embarrassed I am to type that sentence?! After the kids were in bed, we ran an air compressor and a vacuum cleaner right outside their bedroom door and they never made a peep. We might be lazy, but we raised some crazy good sleepers.

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This sweet girl just laid in her chair watching us for hours and didn't even seem to mind the mess we made all over and around her.

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So despite the fact that I promised a rare weekend post full of Christmas decor, you'll have to settle for a random Thursday post of construction dust and evergreen instead. I really do love how my tree and garlands turned out, but it's hard to see them around the piles of tools on the coffee table. In my defense, I did actually take some pictures over the weekend, but there was so much chaos in front of and behind every single thing I photographed, that it seemed a waste of energy to share them. I'm calling for a redo. AFTER we get that front door painted peacock blue.

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Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Spark + Arrow

I've been meaning to tell you about this news for weeks, but now that the website and blog are fully functioning, I'm glad I waited! If you've been reading for any amount of time then you've heard me talk about my sister, {Kamin}, quite a bit. We are so fortunate to have grown up in a very creative household and my parents didn't blink when we both pursued fine arts degrees in college. 

K is six years younger than me and a crazy talented photographer. For the last seven-ish years, she has worked for a Birmingham based magazine publisher and made quite the name for herself. Her editorial photographs are lovely and she has a very successful portrait photography freelance gig. Several weeks ago, because of some crazy circumstances, she was gifted with the opportunity to quit her full time position and stay at home with our favorite brother-cousin. A little nervous at first, she hit the ground running and we began getting her new {website} up and running. On top of that, she partnered with her very best friend {Sarah} on some other creative endeavors. These girls are so amazing and have turned a new career into a new company.

Not only are they offering the same amazing photography services, but they are styling homes, doing holiday decor and planning events. Their website is adorable and the blog is already full of fun inspiration.

If you aren't already, hop on over to {Spark + Arrow} to see their beautiful work, read the {blog} to see what these girls are sharing for the holidays and follow along on {Instagram} to check out sneak peeks of their new projects!

Monday, December 15, 2014

Dear Ice Skating,

You are way harder than I remember. (Especially while trying to text Jennifer and skate at the same time. She had to ask me to translate my texts more than once. Ha!) 

When I was a little girl, Ryan & I used to ice skate all the time. I remember exactly what I wore the last time we went. In like, 1992 or something. I remember thinking I had mastered it. Surely I could pull it off again at 35. Right?!

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We took the kids to the Pelham Convention Center a few weeks ago to celebrate the birthday of that pretty girl in the middle. Isabella lives in Chattanooga, so when she is here visiting her daddy, we try to get in as much time with her as possible. My girls act like it's Christmas morning when it's her weekend at home!

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We had talked about ice skating and it's similarities and differences to roller skating for days. Days and days. Sophie was positively elated and Ella was nervous. Story of my life. We talked about gloves and extra socks and layers and how to hold your feet to keep them from tipping over, but nothing can prepare you for stepping out on the ice for the first time in twenty-three years.

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That kid up there was a disaster. I'm not even kidding when I tell you that she only made it around the rink one time. No matter what I said or how I tried to help her, she just could not stand up on her skates. I spent the majority of the morning trying to keep her alive and finally convinced her to take a breather while I hung out with Belly for a bit.

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Uncle Bull was a life-saver. He was also just as good on ice skates as Sophie was. Fortunately, he didn't mind hanging out with her and watching as the rest of us practiced our mad skills. She loved that their outfits coordinated and she pretty much stuck to him like glue the rest of the day.

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These two girls, however, rocked their socks off. It didn't take long before they were rounding the rink at high speeds and they were not ready to go when the rink called for public skating to end. We will definitely be taking them back again in the future.

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This kid? I might leave at home next time. We weren't even skating there, just trying to get a family photo and down she went. Those blurry bodies are the sweetest trio of boys who helped her get back on her feet again. Of course, she was flirting with them.

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Best part of the day? The Zamboni, obviously. Or the SEC Championship win later that day. It's a toss up.

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Friday, December 12, 2014

Catching Up

So my plan for today was a holiday home tour. The problem is, that would actually require that my house be decorated for Christmas. I'm usually done with Christmas shopping in early November and then completely decorated by December 1st, but I'm falling way behind this year. Being out of town over Thanksgiving certainly contributed, but I think a fair amount of laziness has to be acknowledged. I am planning to get the remainder of my decor up over the weekend and have an extra post up to share them all before Monday rolls around.

For today, why don't we play catch up? I could have called it 5 on Friday, but there are more than five things. Let's just pretend for the sake of linking up, mmmmkay?


While we were on vacation last month, K snapped some pretty cute family pictures for our Christmas card. Of course, we were all freezing and making weird faces and I ended up thinking outside of the box for our cards this year, but I'm still pretty smitten with these shots. We're planning on a full family shoot sometime over the holidays and I cannot wait! Since we missed out on beach pictures this summer, it's been over a year since we had a family photo session.


Have you seen this mayonnaise?! I found it at Walmart last week and was super pumped to try it out. It isn't exactly Whole30 approved, but it is way better than the Kraft mayo I usually buy and it tastes better than my homemade version. Here's to healthier chicken salad in my future!


I chalked a pretty Christmas sign for a friend over the weekend. It was ready just in time for her Christmas decorations and this fun little photoshoot with my amazingly talented sister {more to come about her newest endeavor next week!}.

I ran this week. Nothing revolutionary happened, but I did realize that I'm not a complete flake. My pace wasn't anything for the records books, but I got in two 4 mile runs and I didn't die. I predict that in a few more weeks, I'll be right on track for the half-marathon in February.


On Wednesdays, Ella has been going to a local church with one of her best friends. We only have children's services one Wednesday a month, so it's been nice for her to have some additional bible study time with children her age. This past week, they put on a nativity play for their parents and it was hilarious. Think elementary school kids dressed up like animals, fighting over straw and making appropriate noises. We were dying.


And leave it to Ella (who thrives in the spotlight) to be the narrator in a play at a church we don't even go to! She & Jana tag-teamed and did a fabulous job.

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Our cousin Jay was also in the play and he was a fabulous wise man!


Do you need some new-to-you Christmas music to listen to? While we eagerly await the January release of the new Drew Holcomb album, we've had their first holiday album on repeat. I dare you not to love their version of Hark the Herald Angel Sing!


Did you watch the Lifetime mini-series of The Red Tent last week? If not, I'm pretty sure you can still catch it on demand. And in case you didn't already know this, it was a book first. I read this book my senior year in college, while my grandmother was recovering from brain surgery. It was a pretty scary time in the life of our family and we all passed around reading material in the waiting room for several weeks. It is hands-down, my favorite book of all time. In case you aren't familiar, it is biblical based fiction and tells the story of Dinah. The catch phrase for the movie seemed to be, "The Bible gave her one line, now her legend will be told." If fictionalized Bible stories rub you the wrong way this book might not be for you. Diamant took many liberties in the telling of this story, but wow does it make it real. The thing the book did for me at age 21 was remind me that the characters in the Bible were real people with real stories. We are only told one thing about the life of Dinah, but before that she was born and after that she kept on living. I seriously sobbed through the entire movie and was so impressed with how well it was filmed and how beautiful the story was. It could have been on the big screen for sure. Now I need to dig out my well-worn copy of the book and read it again!


I got my hair cut on Tuesday. I'm not really high-maintenance when it comes to hair. I don't color it and I always get it cut at one of those walk-in places. I just decided at ten o'clock that morning that I thought I'd like it short, so I ran in and got it chopped off while the girls were in dance class. It will take some getting used to, but I'm so glad I did it! I have had long hair since Sophie was a year old, so it was time for a change.


My friend Beth (also a graphic designer) and I were texting back and forth about how much we loathe cheesy fonts a few nights ago. These meme always gets to me. Comic Sans, anyone?
And just in case you ever wondered how we do Christmas lights in the country, here you go. Josh's parents moved into a new house earlier this year and we had no idea that this would happen on their street during the holidays! I filmed it because the kids weren't with us and they deserved to get to see it, but we've since taken them back. There are several streets in our sleepy town who go all out for the holidays and my kids cannot get enough.

Well, I think that covers everything that has happened to us in the last week or so! I hope you are gearing up for a fabulous weekend and that you'll come back tomorrow night to see how our Christmas decorating adventures come together. How is the big day less than two weeks away?!?!

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

On The Hunt

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One of my favorite Christmas traditions, the one that welcomes the holiday season to our house, is our annual trip to the tree tent. We almost always go the morning after Thanksgiving, load up on pancakes at IHOP and then dash around the corner to pick out our tree. Despite the fact that we live in rural Alabama and there are plenty of places to chop down our own evergreen, my girls delight in the big striped tent. It's a family from out of state who operate from an RV for the month of December and sell the most beautiful Frasier Firs we've ever seen.

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Since we were out of town the week of Thanksgiving, our Friday morning trek into town didn't happen. I lobbied for Sunday afternoon, but the girls were already under the weather and we were exhausted from traveling. We hated to wait an entire week, but we finally found ourselves under the big top last Friday night. Since we refused to abandon two of our favorite things, we decided that breakfast for dinner was in order. I was hoping for Big Bad Breakfast for french toast and spicy bacon, but guess what? They are only open for breakfast?! Whomp whomp. 

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As expected, we were at the tree tent for approximately seven and a half minutes when the girls decided on a tree. It might have been our shortest visit to date. We rounded up some fir scraps to make a few feet of fresh garland once we got home and daddy took care of getting the tree trimmed and loaded in the car.

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After my disappointment over the Big Bad Breakfast debacle, we went back towards old faithful and ordered pancakes at IHOP. Since there was no scary mustache to bribe Josh with {see that post here}, I left the big camera in the car and we begged him for a few iPhone snaps instead. He and Ella do the exact same thing to me every time and take pictures when I'm talking or gesturing. In the spirit of full disclosure, this is what we usually look like!

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We finally got the tree in the house on Sunday afternoon and had the lights on before bed. We tackled some burlap ribbon and the first box of ornaments on Monday and finished up with the second box of ornaments last night. I can't remember another Christmas where it took me so long to get the house decorated! I'm trying hard to have a holiday decor post up on Friday, but you might get a weekend post out of me with the luck I've been having!

Monday, December 8, 2014

Dear Mercedes Marathon Weekend,

I am so not prepared for you. Yes, there are still eleven weeks left until you find your way onto my calendar, but I usually start training in October. Here I am, eight whole weeks behind. The timing is funny because I asked Josh just a few days ago if it would make me a total wimp for not registering this year. I know myself, though, and I'll be profoundly disappointed. I'll mope about being that girl that ran it two years in a row and then turned into a quitter.

Race Day // 2013

As fate would have it, our office decided to put together a men's and women's relay team to run the full marathon and I was asked to take the long leg. It's broken into 5 sections - two 3 mile legs, two 6 mile legs and an 8 mile leg. I tried to convince myself that I would be just as happy about the 8 mile leg as I would have been about the half and maybe this was my out. The more and more I thought about it, though, the more it felt like a cop-out. After a little more research, it seems I can run the first 6 mile leg of the relay with our team and then go on to finish the half. Add to it that we have two teams and I can work to out-pace the man running leg one and I'm finding my competitive spirit kicking in.

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Race Day // 2014

I'll be honest. I'm a little bit nervous approaching you with insufficient training. I know in my head that 11 weeks is plenty, but it's still a little scary. I've taken so much time off to deal with my stupid ankle and I'm worried that I don't even know what I'm doing anymore. It has to be like riding a bicycle, right? 

Today is my official start day. I'm planning to tackle a 3-4 miler at lunch and see how things go. How my ankle holds up, how the weather feels, if my pace is pathetic and if I'm forced to walk at all. When did I become such a wimp?

3.25 miles with my big girl this morning. We did run/walk intervals, but I'm pretty impressed with her first "long" run. Even if she hates me right now. ��#kristinruns #ellarunstoo #halfmarathontraining #kidsmarathontraining This girl was begging to get outside this afternoon. We added 3.25 towards #44milesinnovember. #kristinruns #ellarunstoo #halfmarathontraining #kidsmarathon #mercedesmarathon2015
Ella's Training Runs

In other news, those two tiny feet belong to Ella. She's running the Kid's Marathon on Saturday of race weekend and we are all so excited for her! We've been getting our practice in on short runs for several weeks and she's working hard to accumulate 25.2 miles before race day, where she'll run the last mile to get her medal. Her goal is to be able to run the entire mile without stopping. I'm hoping I can convince her to jump on the route with me about 3/4 of a mile before the end of the race and cross the finish line again with me on Sunday. I can't wait to take a picture together in our bibs and medals and hope when she gets a little older that she'll run the half with me.

Okay, wish me luck today.