Our 2015 Christmas

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Christmas this year was different in many ways. It was the first Christmas that Mike and I haven't run around to a bunch of different houses, eating all the foods and opening all the gifts as fast as we can before rushing off to the next place. We decided instead this year to stay with my parents and carve out time over the remaining days of 2015 to spend with Mike's family and celebrate with them. While it was a little strange not seeing Mike's mom and sister on Christmas Day, we are looking forward to spending five days in Delaware with them for New Year's. In the past, it's often felt like we spend our entire holiday in the car instead of relaxing and enjoying the company of family, so I am definitely loving the change of pace.

This year also for the first time in a long time, we got to celebrate the holiday with some of my extended family from Chicago. It's been quite a few years since we've had anyone special in town for Christmas and spending a week with my cousins, aunt, and uncle was a serious treat!

We played a ton of games, watched movies, ate more cookies than I can count, had our traditional steak and lobster dinner, and spent most of the time laughing and carrying on until the wee hours of the morning as we usually do. It was a blast and I miss them terribly now that they have left.

I'm sad that Christmas is now over, but I am more than a little eager to kick off the new year. We have big plans for 2016 and I can't wait to see how it all unfolds.

I hope everyone had a beautiful holiday! Merry Christmas to you all!

Christmas Cookie Extravaganza!

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Over the last two weekends, we've been going a bit Christmas cookie crazy!

It's always been a tradition in Mike's family to bake up dozens and dozens of cookies of all different kinds and give them out to friends and family as a sweet little gift in the weeks before Christmas. I believe it was his grandmother who started the tradition many years ago and she always took great care prepping and baking the cookies, tallying and recording the number of each type she had made, and then packing them up to share. Since we've shamefully slacked off over the last couple of years due to busy holiday schedules, we wanted to be sure that we gave the tradition all the respect it deserved this year and we planned three separate days for baking!

We spent an entire weekend over at Mike's mom's house in Delaware baking up a storm and then another evening with my mom making a few of our family's traditional cookies.

From chocolate chip and sugar to pizelles and pfeffernusse, we ended up with more than a dozen different kinds and hundreds of cookies and treats to gift!

Mike was in charge of the pfeffernusse (his Grammy's favorite traditional German cookie) this year and I have to say, he did a fabulous job! Between that and his santa decorating, there's no way he's going to be able to get out of baking next year!

I can't wait to see how everyone likes them! Happy Tuesday!

12 Questions of Christmas

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

The other day, I was tagged by Macy from To Travel and Beyond to answer the fun Christmas questions below that Meg from The Borrowed Heaven created. So I thought I'd take some time today to answer them!

1. What is your favorite Christmas Tradition?

Ever since I was a little kid, my parents and I have had a fabulous Christmas eve tradition where we all hop into our PJs after church and dinner, make up some hot chocolate (now with a little Bailey's for me), and drive around to look at Christmas lights. We always visit our old houses - including my parents' houses where they grew up - and see how the neighborhoods have changed. It's so much fun reminiscing and chatting about when we all were little!

2. Where do you spend Christmas?

Since we got married, Mike and I have made a point to actually wake up on Christmas Day in our own living room. We enjoy baking up a Christmas breakfast together, usually overnight French Toast, and spending the quiet morning opening the gifts we got one another. It's just nice to spend some time just the two of us before we run around to visit with our families.

3. What is your favorite Christmas song?

For Christmas, I'm all about Bing Crosby. I can't help but stick with the classics. I love decorating the tree listening to his albums. It would probably be a tie between his version of White Christmas and Mele Kalikimaka. 

4. Do you decorate before or after Thanksgiving?

Definitely after. Or in the case of this year, about three days before Christmas. We are so behind.

5. Tinsel or garland?

I love a little tinsel and the way it makes the tree sparkle, but there is no way we can have it with Carlisle. He seems to think it's a tasty silver snack. So garland, by default. 

6. Who are you most excited to see this Christmas season?

My family from Chicago! My aunt, uncle, and their two girls are coming into Baltimore to spend the holidays with us and I cannot contain my excitement! Can't wait for them to get here!

7. Do you own an ugly Christmas sweater?

Actually, no. Every time we've gone to an ugly Christmas sweater party I've borrowed one from my mom. (Sorry, mom.) But this weekend we have another party coming up so we are going out one night this week to snag a couple. I desperately want this sloth one, even though it's a dude's sweater, but they're always sold out. Sad face.

8. What is one Christmas food you cannot live without?

Every year on Christmas day, my parents make a big steak and lobster dinner. It's one of our family traditions that's been carried down since pretty much the beginning of time. I look forward to it so much every year and I don't know what I'd do if we couldn't have it. 

9. Peppermint or gingerbread?

All things peppermint!

10. Have you ever tried a fruit cake?

Ew, yes. It was a decision I deeply regret.

11. What is one thing you asked for this Christmas?

I actually didn't make a list this year. But if I had to ask for one thing, it would probably just be that everyone has a happy and healthy holiday. So many people I know are going through some tough health issues right now, so I just pray that they can spend some time relaxing and really enjoying the season, getting the break they so much deserve.

12. If you could be any Christmas movie character, who would you be?

Aunt Bethany, for the win.

A Very Merry Christmas Card

Monday, December 14, 2015

Officially less than two weeks until Christmas!

It's blowing my mind how quickly the holidays are approaching and Mike and I have been busy bees trying to get everything ready in time. We spent all weekend at my mother-in-law's house in Delaware baking up a Christmas cookie storm, even in the 70 degree weather!

This week, we have quite a few things to check off our list including decorating our tree that we got on Friday and mailing out Christmas cards!

Every year, I look forward to choosing a design and photo for our Christmas cards and this year we ended up going with a foil card from Shutterfly. I couldn't get over how pretty the silver and white snowflakes looked and paired with the picture from my best friend's wedding, it was a definite winner!

On the back, in teal, we included a sweet Christmas quote:

"Our hearts grow tender
with childhood memories and
love of kindred,
and we are better throughout the year
for having, in spirit, become a child again
at Christmas-time."

-Laura Ingalls Wilder

So excited to be linking up with Macy and Mary for their Christmas Card Link-Up today!

Home for the Holidays

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

We're baaaack!

Our Caribbean cruise vacation was spectacular and I miss it so much already. We spent a week at sea on Royal Caribbean's Freedom of the Seas and island hopped from CocoCay, Bahamas to Charlotte Amalie, St. Thomas to Philipsburg, St. Maarten. We drank and swam and snorkeled our way through each of the islands and it could not have been more beautiful.

I am planning to put together a separate post for each of the ports we visited and hopefully a fun video of our entire vacation. I am not the best when it comes to making videos, but we recorded so many moments from our trip I feel like I have to do something with them all! So we'll see!

Now that we're back in the states, Mike and I have been working hard to catch up on all of the holiday fun that everyone else has been enjoying for the last week or so. We feel a little behind this year but in the last couple of days I've been fully immersing myself in all things Christmas. Before we left, I bought a ton of Christmasy things from Target and planned out all of the cookies we're going to be making this year so that at least I would have a couple of things checked off my list by the time we got back. This week, our plan is to knock out most of the others. We are going to get our tree, put up lights, decorate the house, buy the remaining cookie supplies, head to my high school's annual Christmas concert (one of our holiday traditions), and then spend the entire weekend with family baking cookies and Christmas shopping. Hopefully we can get it all done!

My favorite part of all the Christmas prep this year though was shopping for our Adopt-a-Family. For a couple of years, I've wanted to participate in the Adopt-a-Family program through House of Ruth Maryland, but somehow I would always forget until it was nearly December and all of the families had already been adopted. So this year, I made sure to apply early and I ended up getting an email in November with our adopted family's profile! For those that are not familiar, the Adopt-a-Family program through House of Ruth Maryland works to help provide a nice Christmas for women and children who are victims of domestic violence and living in a shelter during the holidays.

The family we adopted this year included a mother and her 5-year-old son. We had so much fun shopping for them and working hard to get all of the items on their wish list. I was pleased to find out that nearly 400 families were adopted this season and I love knowing that we could help give back to a family that really needs some love and comfort.

This was also an item on my 101 list, so I'm even more excited to cross another one off! I'll be back later in the week to share some more about our holiday plans! Have a wonderful Tuesday!

#HeresToYouDecember Instagram Challenge Day 1!

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

If you missed it last week, today is the first day of our #HeresToYouDecember Instagram Challenge! I'm teaming up with Macy from To Travel and Beyond, Megan from Soup of the Day, and Annie from The Free & Wild Blog to bring you all kinds of fun photo prompts for the entire month of December! Whether you join us for only a single day or all 31, we can't wait to see what you have to share! Don't forget to follow each of us and use the hashtag #HeresToYouDecember for each post!

Since today's prompt is all about introducing ourselves, I thought I should take the time to re-introduce myself here on the blog, too.

So hey there! I'm Laura.

I was born in Baltimore in the summer of 1989 and I've lived in good old Maryland my entire life. Some would say that's boring but I say, that's Baltimore. Once you get a taste of life here, it's hard to leave.

I am the only child of two high school sweethearts. They are the most incredible role models and I talk about them often here on my blog because they take up so much of my heart. I grew up in a cul-de-sac full of crazy kids in suburbia doing everything Marylanders love to do - cheering on the O's, picking crabs, going "downy ocean, hon," and loving every minute.

I went to college just north of Baltimore to get my Bachelor's in biotechnology. I won't bore you with my resume, but I'm currently in grad school at Hopkins part-time while I work in their labs as a Research Specialist full-time. We develop super cool technology that deals with infectious disease and from time to time I get to travel to Belgium to do science and stuff. It's pretty rad. But honestly, I love everything about my job and I feel so fortunate to work in such a ground-breaking industry for some of the greatest minds in the biz. Working alongside them is truly an honor.

Somewhere along the way, I fell in love with this cutie. His name is Mike.

He stole my heart on the banks of the Severn River and back in September of 2012 we celebrated our wedding in that very same spot. Since that day, I can't say that everything has been a fairy tale. We've had lots of ups and downs, but I'm so incredibly grateful that I've had him by my side through it all. While there's been some tough stuff, we've also had our share of things to celebrate. We bought our first house just over two years ago and adopted our first little fur-baby on our first wedding anniversary.

His name is Carlisle. He's talkative, expressive, goofy, and energetic. We are so blessed to have him and his big personality to brighten up our home.

Right now, Mike and I are on a cruise ship in the middle of the Caribbean because we had a really rough year and didn't take any vacations. We are working hard to focus on the positive and travel as much as we can. In 2016, our goal is to knock off a few of our bucket list items and do some serious global exploration, including a trip to see my sloth babies in Costa Rica. They are my favorite animal. Don't judge.

As for blogging, I started shortly after we got married and it has been one of the best things I've ever done. I feel like I say this all the time but I've met some of the most incredible ladies here, some of which I hope will be friends for life. :)

If you feel like it, say hi down below. I'd love to get to know you! Thanks so much for stopping by!