Friday, December 31, 2010

Laura's Bucket List

Since 2011 is about to begin, I thought today would be a great time to pen my first bucket list. I hope that this will be a list that I can come back to, add to, check things off, and even delete items if I change my mind about them later. This is just meant to be a place to add some cool things that I would like to do. So here goes:
  1. Run a 5K (Race for the Cure, Seattle)
  2. Run a 10K (Peachtree Road Race, Atlanta)
  3. Run a 12K  (Bloomsday Race, Spokane) 
  4. Run a Half Marathon (Nov. 2010)  
  5. Run a Full Marathon or Half Ironman 
  6. Complete a Sprint Triathlon 
  7. Be on the field at Sanford Stadium (Aug. 2004)
  8. Climb the Great Wall of China (Summer 2006)
  9. See an active volcano (Dec. 2008)
  10. Get married (Dec. 2008)
  11. Eat gelato in Italy (Summer 2002)
  12. Have the Frozen Hot Chocolate at Serendipity in NYC
  13. Climb the Eiffel Tower
  14. Go on Medical Mission trip
  15. Send Bibles to an unreached people group 
  16. Be a Sunday School teacher  
  17. See the Pyramids
  18. Visit the Holy Land (Jerusalem, Isreal)
  19. Go back to St. Lucia for Honeymoon #2
  20. Go to Hawaii with Jason
  21. Learn how to play the guitar well 
  22. Start a supper club
  23. Join a book club 
  24. Do Bible Study Fellowship 
  25. Go backpacking 
  26. Re-upholster a piece of furniture 
  27. Learn how to sew 
  28. Ride a Hot Air Balloon 
  29. Get a dog
  30. Be a mom
  31. Be a grandmother
  32. Pay cash for a car
  33. Pay off my home 
  34. Be debt free but the house (Dave Ramsey Style)
  35. Get my Real Estate license
  36. Own 10 rental homes 
  37. Celebrate our 50th wedding anniversary 
  38. Start a blog (October 2010)
  39. Read through the whole Bible (2006) 
  40. Take a photography course
  41. Knit a scarf 
  42. Go to the Louvre in Paris 
  43. Drive across the country 
  44. Go on an Alaskan Cruise (see the Northern Lights) 
  45. See Victoria Falls in Africa
  46. Visit Venice, Italy
  47. Visit Barcelona, Spain
  48. Visit the Amazon Rainforest and the Amazon River
  49. Travel to: (Canada, Dominican Republic, Jamaica, St. Lucia, Spain, China, Poland, Italy, France, England, Australia, South America, and Germany)
  50. Visit all 50 states: Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Connecticut,Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, Idaho, Illinois, IndianaIowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, MassachusettsMichigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, South Dakota,Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Vermont, Virginia, WashingtonWest Virginia, Wisconsin, Wyoming, District of Columbia
  51. Visit all the continents: Asia, Africa, North America, South America, Antarctica, Europe and Australia

Wedding Week Day 3: Wedding Planning

Wedding planning is not for the faint of heart. Anyone who has done it before understands knows that it takes lots of energy and planning and WAYYYYY more time than you initially think. All that said, I loved planning our wedding. It was lots of fun and our wedding ended up being everything I had dreamt about.

Pretty soon after we got engaged, we set our wedding date for Dec. 20th, 2008. We thought it would be nice to get married then since we had a long three-week break from school, so we could have time for the wedding, honeymoon, and time to get settled into our new apartment after the honeymoon. We also decided to go with the "Christmas Theme" and the colors we settle on were dark green, dark red, and gold.

We started everything out with a Save the Date that I designed on Photoshop and then emailed to our wedding list - which saved lots of money right off the bat.
I spent a lot of time on http:/// for ideas. Here's a few of the photos that I used for inspiration. For the boquet, I knew I wanted lots of red roses and Christmas greenery:

For the reception and ceremony decorations, I knew I wanted a lot of flowers and Christmas greenery as well. We were trying to go for a really rich colored scheme - with lots of golds and dark greens - versus just bright poinsettia red. 

I also knew that I wanted a big Christmas tree in the reception hall. We planned to have the guests place their presents under the tree. Luckily, the venue that we selected had one that was already decorated in our colors!
For the bridesmaid dresses, I decided on long hunter green for the bridesmaids, and dark red for my maid of honor (my sister, Kristen). The guys wore matching tux vests. 
For the programs, I decided to go with something simple, incorporating our colors. 
From the picture below I got the idea to display the monogram from our program on the dance floor. 
From the tree on the left, I got the idea to use tags in a Christmas tree instead of a guest book. I also knew I wanted to get old photos of our parents and grandparents weddings to display on a table. 

I thought the idea of throwing snow would be fun and different. But our photographer told us that the photos would turn out the best if we used sparklers- so we ended up using those instead. We got long gold sparklers that burned for 2 full minutes, to give us plenty of time. Also, the photo on the right gave me the inspiration to have a cake that was decorated with snow and snowflakes.

 So that's it for the wedding planning! Check out Post #1 and Post #2. Coming up next, I'll talk about our Rehearsal Dinner.

Happy New Year!

Monday, December 27, 2010

Wedding Week Day 2: Engagement Party

A few months after we got engaged - in February 2008- my parents threw us an Engagement Party. We had a ton of fun, and it was a great way to kick-off the celebrating- especially since we had an extremely long engagement of 14 months. We had the party at Williamson Brothers BBQ in Marietta, GA. If you have never tried it- be sure to soon, because it is the BEST BBQ in Atlanta. In the pic below, you can see the outside of the Marietta restaurant. The little section off to the right is the little room we rented to the party.
And here's a sample plate of the deliciousness...
We had amazing food, good company, and lots of cute details like hand-written place cards that one of my mom's friends made, classic coke bottles for drinks, square and circle tins with home-made brownies in them (as a party favor), and potted tulip centerpieces that my mom made that had childhood photos on Jason and I on them for decoration. For the party, we mainly just hung out each other and enjoyed our time together. Our dad's gave brief little welcomes and that was about it. So all-in-all, very low key.

Unfortunately, this is the best photo of the table settings and decor I have....
As you can probably tell, I didn't document this party very well :(. But here's a few of the pics that I do have of us as a newly engaged couple with our guests. The first one is me and my lovely bridesmaids.
Here's one of Jason, his brother Chris, my sister Kristen, and I.
And the last one is of us with both sets of parents.
 So that's about it! Don't forget to read post numero uno about our engagement. For the next post, I'll write all about wedding planning - for all you girls out there...

Friday, December 24, 2010

Yuletide Greetings

We just wanted to wish everyone a safe and Merry Christmas!
-Jason and Laura

For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Of the greatness of his government and peace there will be no end. He will reign on David’s throne and over his kingdom, establishing and upholding it with justice and righteousness from that time on and forever. The zeal of the LORD Almighty will accomplish this.  -Isaiah 9:6-7

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Dirt Cheap and Tasty Christmas Gifts

Jason and I decided to make some cheap gifts for our relatives before we visit them for the holidays.  It was hard for us to figure out what to do at first.  But then I realized that I have not yet made any Christmas sweets this year.  I decided that I wanted to make some Christmas fudge and homemade pralines.  Jason and I decided on two kinds of fudge; classic, chocolate fudge and peanut butter fudge.  We needed easy recipes that were still yummy so I searched my favorite cooking site!.  I found a really easy chocolate fudge recipe that didn't take anytime at all.  I also found a great peanut butter fudge recipe that wasn't complicated.  That only left the pralines and I used a Paula Dean praline recipe which I knew would be amazing although this recipe was a little bit more complicated.

After all of the baking was done, I had to wait until the next day to assemble candies.  I went to target and found some little gift bags.  They were 10 for $4.50 plus $1.00 for some white tissue paper.  I got home and had Jason cut the fudge into little squares and we decided that each little bag could hold 2 pieces of each fudge and 2 pralines.  So assembly began.  Below is a look at how all of the candies came out and the amount that would fit in each little bag (only one praline is showing but we put two in the bag, you just have to stack them vertically).

This next picture is midway through the assembly process.  We tore the tissue paper in half then stuffed it into the little bag so that the paper was making a nice barrier between all sides of the bag.  And there was enough paper left on top to fluff up the top to make it look more festive.

This is just a closer look at the finished product.  Aren't the little bags awesome!

It didn't take the both of us very long to fill all the little bags with the goodies.  Oh and by the way, we snitched some of the pecan pralines and fudge and they were awesome, so I would highly recommend that you use these recipes of you want to also make these little gifts.  These are all of the little bags lined up on the counter!

This little gift idea turned out to be easy, festive, and very tasty.  Plus, after the baking supplies, which were around 15-20 dollars, the cost per gift bag was only around $2.50!!  So this is a great little idea if you have some friends, relatives, or family that you don't know what to get for Christmas!

What Grinds My Gears: Winter Edition

I really do love the winter months, with all of the holidays, like Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Years, my wedding Anniversary. It truly is a great time of year as the temperature drops and fires are made in fireplaces, gallons of hot chocolate and apple cider are consumed, and the leaves fall off the trees in the crisp winter air. But there are just a couple of funny things that get under my skin during the winter months. Welcome to "What Grinds Jason's Gears: Winter Edition" in which I will describe a few things about the winter months that I have noticed that are not so awesome. Enjoy!

You know what grinds my gears in the winter? Static electricity! I mean come on! It's already bad enough that it's cold outside but then you have to get shocked because of the cold dry air!? I am mainly referring to vehicles. I mean, you leave the house, jump in the car and blast the heat. You finally get warmed up at your destination but then when you get out, you get moderate dosage of voltage from the car. I guess it's because the metallic car is moving rapidly through very dry cold air, but,... really vehicles. I'm tired of getting shocked every time I close the car door! I definitely can't wait until that ends and I can close the doors in peace.

You know what else grind my gears? Getting into a cold bed! I mean, there's really nothing you can do unless you have like a heated blanket. But who buys those! You always think of the bed as a warm and comfy place but no-ho, not in the winter, not at first. You have to get in your PJ's and then climb into a freeze chamber because the sheets and blankets are cold and the mattress is cold. Your poor toes end up going numb and you have to curl into the fetal position to keep warm. Granted, it only lasts for a little while but it'll be nice when we have to use the fan in the summer to cool down the sheets.

Finally, you know grinds my gears about winter!? Freezing cold toilet seats! I mean, come on! Really? I can't believe there has never been a solution to freezing your butt cheeks off when you have to go to the bathroom in the winter. They should make like a built in toilet seat heater or something because there is probably nothing worse than sitting down on a ring of ice before carrying out natural body processes. It's so cold that sometimes you don't even want to go to the bathroom because you know the ensuing feeling of icy icicles is going to sting your gluts and hammy's! So you just have to suffer through for the first few minutes while you transfer your own heat to the porcelain torture ring so that you don't end up with further medical complications. I'll be glad when the seats are no longer cold...that's for sure.

That's all that grinds my gears in the winter, so not too many things.  I hope you enjoyed some of the funny things about winter that I have noticed that are not the most pleasant. And if you have anything that you love or dislike about the cold winter months then let us know!

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Wedding Week Day 1: Engagement

So while the rest of the world is celebrating Christmas, Jason and I are celebrating Christmas + Our Anniversary! The funny thing is, my parents got married on Dec. 18th, and my entire childhood, I remember them trying to squeeze in a nice anniversary dinner or short trip during the hussle and bussle of Christmastime. My mom always said that it was too busy of a time to get married- but that it was cool because it seemed like the whole world was celebrating along with you...

Well lo and behold, what did we do - but also decide to get married at Christmas time! Our wedding was on December 20th, 2008 - well before I fully entered blogging land. So I thought it might be fun to take a trip down memory lane. Plus my two favorite bloggers of all time Young House Love and Bower Power also do a wedding week - and their wedding posts are some of my favorites. Check them out HERE and HERE.

So here goes: Jason and I met freshman year at the University of Georgia. We dated all throughout college - I pretty much knew I was going to marry him about a month into our relationship. The first 2-3 years of our dating relationship was lots of fun  and care-free, with no talk about marriage. I still love the fact that we kinda grew up together in college and knew each other as much less mature college students :).

During fall break (Oct. 2007) of our Junior year was when he popped the question. We stayed around in Athens the first day of fall break - so it was pretty much like a ghost town. We had planned on going on a date to Harry Bisset's downtown (that restaurant is sadly now closed). Before dinner, we planned to walk around North Campus. He proposed in a little garden right behind Old College - across the lawn from the Main Library. He said that he proposed there because it was one of the only little garden areas that didn't have a fountain (and all the fountains were turned off due to a drought ). So we were walking around North Campus and Jason asked me if I wanted to sit down somewhere - at this point, I will admit that I was starting to expect him to drop to one knee...simply because we had talked a lot about the timing of engagement, had gone ring shopping multiple times, etc. If anyone knows me, they know that I am too much of a planner to really enjoy being surprised- sad I know. But honestly, I enjoy the planning aspect of things so much that being surprised can take some of the fun away!

But anyways, as we were walking along, he kinda gave it away when he pulled out a wad of paper towels from his suit jacket and began to wipe the nearest bench dry (since it had been raining all day that day). I knew that it was pretty un-characteristic for him to be THAT prepared. And sure enough, he pulled out a letter he had written for me, and proposed then and there. I remember being super happy - but what I really remember was how surreal that moment was. I remember feeling like I was watching a movie or like the little scene was being played in in slow motion.

We don't have any photos of the actual engagement- which is fine by me since it made the moment special because just the two of us shared it. But here is a photo that we snapped at dinner afterwards - notice me in all of my braces-at-22-years-old glory. I always tell people that I know Jason really loves me because he proposed to me in braces- when I honestly looked like a 14 year old most of the time.
That night we went back to Jason's apartment, called our parents, and then played Guitar Hero - lol. The next day, we celebrated by hiking at Toccoa Falls and Tallulah Gorge. Here's some pics:

And of course, you can't ever announce an engagement without the obligatory "ring picture" - much more of a phenomenon now on Facebook than it was 3 years ago...
After hiking, we made our way to Atlanta, where we toasted with my parents to our future together!
Finally, the last immediate celebratory event was meeting at Fuddruckers in Atlanta with Jason's parents- who at the time lived in Valdosta, GA. It is crazy how little my younger siblings are in these pics!

So that's it - the first stop down Wedding Week lane. Next up is a post about our engagement party! Merry Christmas everyone!

Year End Reading Review

Last year about this time, I made a goal for myself to read 5 books over the course of the year. This seemed like a pretty daunting task since most of my reading time involves reading rehab textbooks , which make you hate reading, so I didn't know if I could pull off 5 extra books in addition to my Biblical study, marriage, textbooks, and life in general. But I thought I would try. Low and behold, just two weeks before the year end period, I can say that I accomplished that goal. So for this post, I decided I would describe for y'all what I read this past year with a brief description and a personal rating. I hope you enjoy and maybe you will be inspired to read one of the selections. I must preface, all of the books I read this year were to help me grow spiritually in my walk with Almighty God and that's usually what I stick to for pleasure reading, which may be kind of weird, but I learned a megaton and I love Jesus even more.  I mean if you're going to spend time reading, it might as well be useful right?  Anyway, here it goes...Jason's Year End Book Review.

I started early this year with a book entitled Prodigal God.  This book is written by Tim Keller and is a most excellent short read that recaptures the heart of God, our miserable condition as sinful people, and relates it to God's amazing redemptive plan.  This book wasn't necessarily ground breaking theologically, however, it was very refreshing to be reminded of who God is.  The Book begins by defining "prodigal" which means recklesssly extravagant or having spent everything.  The premise is built off the parable of the prodigal son but Tim Keller also brilliantly points out that our God, based on the parable told by Jesus, is equally prodigal, having spent everything to save us.  So this book is definitely refreshing and as the title states, helps to recover the heart of the Christian faith in it's pure, biblical form.  I highly recommend this book.

After "Prodigal God"  I continued with Tim Keller by reading his book entitled "Counterfeit Gods: The Empty Promises of Money, Sex, and Power, and the Only Hope that Matters."  Another excellent books describing all of the many idols that ensnare Christians today.  He covered the most common cultural idols in our hearts like money, success, sex, and power, but he also described some interesting idols like political ideology and even the pursuit of head knowledge of God. This is a great book to bring some conviction to your heart and it points you to the fact that only Jesus can offer a true and lasting hope because everything in this world will pass away and ensnare us.  I would recommend this book for some of its non-traditional points about heart idols.

The third book I read this year was recommended by our pastor, Dr. McKinley at our church.  It's called "Spiritual Disciplines for the Christian Life."  I enjoyed this book.  It outlines major spiritual disciplines that those who profess Christ should be practicing in his our her own life.  It talks about such practices such is Bible study, memorization, fasting, praying, journaling, spreading the gospel, etc.  It also describes many practical ideas to implement those disciplines.  I would recommend this book, especially if you would like some practical ways and ideas to be more disciplined in the faith.

After learning about disciplines, I switched to an older author for some elderly insight.  I read Dietrich Bonhoeffer's "Cost of Discipleship".  This is a powerful book that discusses what it truly means biblically to be a follower of Christ and how, by partaking in that calling, we as disciples must surrender everything, including the attachments of the world and abandon to Jesus.  The author does this very well by providing insight alongside of Jesus' sermon on the mount.  This book is even more poignant because it was written during the Nazi reign in Germany in which professing Christians were often imprisoned or killed for preaching or sharing the Gospel.  The author had such a fate.  As a German theologian speaking out against what was happening and preaching Jesus, he was arrested and eventually killed for following Christ.  I would give you a favorite quote but there are to many.  This is a powerful book and I highly recommend it.

Finally, I just finished David Platt's book entitled "Radical."  This was an excellent book.  I liken it to the 21st century version of Cost of Discipleship.  Because of that, it is much easier to read than Bonhoeffer, but the poignant message remains the same.  The unique thing about this book is that it not only lays out the Biblical meaning of being a follower of Christ and how we are to be poured out for the sake of Jesus and the spreading of the Gospel, it also includes a year long challenge to help change your current faith into a deeper, more biblically oriented faith.  Since the author argues that Christianity in America is been diluted by the American dream, it is a great book to open your eyes, be convicted about what you're living for, and begin being poured out and living your life for Christ.  I highly recommend this one.

Well, That's my year of reading in review.  All of these selections are great.  Let me know what you think or what you have read either fiction, non-fiction, or whatever as I plan out next years reading!

Saturday, December 18, 2010

'Tis the Season to Decorate!

Of all the holidays, Christmas is by far my favorite time to decorate. We got married on Dec. 20th, so we actually spent our first Christmas as a married couple in St. Lucia! That was really fun, although it didn't truly feel like Christmas - since we were on a beach, it was about 90 degrees, and we weren't with our families.

So last year, we set out on buying our first Christmas decorations. We had a limited budget to work with, but decided to skimp a little bit on Christmas presents in order to get some real decorations in our house. We found the wreath above the mantel at Tuesday Morning while visiting Jason's parents last Thanksgiving in Starkville, MS. I wanted a wreath that matched the colors of our living room, that also had lights already in it.

Since our wedding was at Christmas time, we were able to re-purpose  some of our wedding decorations. Like this little gold tree for example. At our wedding, we used it as an alternative to a guest book. We had little cards that people could write in and hang them on the tree. Also, the dark green satin under the gold tree is actually a chair tie that we used for the 8 high boy tables at our wedding. They have come in quite handy...Unfortunately, the one sad thing is that the gold tree has lights that are broken this year- half of the tree blinks! I can't figure it out- so for now, the tree is unlit :(.

On the mantel, we wound lights through two garlands and tied them together in the middle rights under the wreath. We used a three way power strip to get all the lights hooked together. I love how this looks all lit up with a fire!

Here's our Christmas tree all lit up at night! We bought lots of red and gold Christmas ornaments last year and sprinkled in some ornaments from our childhood and the many ornaments we got at our wedding!

On the coffee table, we wrapped red berries around some candles that we use year round, and added a little fake snow. The only flaw is that you can't turn on the fan - or else snow flies everywhere!

Above the piano, we used three vases that were used for decorations at our rehearsal dinner. Under the candles is a swag that Jason's mom gave us (she said she got them dirt cheap after Christmas - so I may be looking for more after Christmas this year). Then under the swag is more green satin chair ties and we sprinkled some little ornaments in the swag as well.

 On the day of the wedding, three of my aunts threw me a "Nutcracker-Themed Bridesmaid Luncheon". As a gift, they gave me this cute Nutcracker (which now sits on our entryway table). The ornaments in the bowl are just extras that didn't fit in the tree.

On our console table, I AGAIN used the some green satin chair ties, put another swag on top, sprinkled in some small ornaments, and displayed one of our  nativity sets - one of the cool things about getting married at Christmas is the Christmas decorations you get! I also put some scented pine-cones in the vase from Michaels we filled with fall decor in this post.

 In the guest bedroom, we displayed some candles (that I got discounted from a fall sale) and candle ring (that I got last year at an after Christmas sale) on a gold charger.

 Also in the guest bedroom, we have another very similar little table setting with another beautiful nativity we got as a gift, displayed with the bow ties, a swag, and some ornaments.

In the kitchen, we got a table runner and a candle/flower arrangement from T.J. Maxx - I love that place! We also got some gold chargers to make our white dinnerware look more festive. Plus, there's nothing like some Yankee Candles to complete the table. I have Mistletoe (green candle) and Sparkling Cinnamon (red candle). I'll probably wait til after Christmas to get some new cheap Christmas scents.

So that's it! I love decorating for Christmas - and the added bits of Christmas spread around the house do make the holidays that much more special. As for the outside of the house- I'm still working on Jason to put some up for me.... 


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