Wednesday, December 30, 2015

A Very Married Christmas

I don't have too many pictures from our first Christmas together as husband and wife. Mostly because we were so very busy going to and fro, here and there. It was one of those vacations that you come home from and kind of need another vacation to regroup. I will say that while it wasn't the most restful or quiet Christmas I've ever had, it was full of big meals, lots of sweets, and tons of family and that's really all that matters this time of year, or anytime.

Since my parents had gotten to see us at the wedding they drove us straight to T.J.'s parent's house where we planned to sleep the first couple of days but not before a quick stop for chicken biscuits at bojangles on the way (we were so happy to be back in the South). When we finally arrived in town his folks had shrimp and grits waiting for us and lots of catching up to do with their long absent son. We stayed there Sunday, Monday and Tuesday night and at my parents' on Wednesday, Thursday, Friday and Saturday since they had more family coming to town on Wednesday. During the day we drove back and forth between the two homes, spending time with each family and sometimes spending the afternoon's apart from each other, but always coming back together for dinner at one place or the other. 

On Monday we drove out to the lake so we could finally see the site of my parent's future home and the progress on their lot. I am so excited envisioning family gatherings on their screened in porch, laying out in the sun on the dock, jumping into the clear lake, cruising around on the boat between their house and T.J.'s family lake house.
After we got the lay of the land, and my parents had given us the run down of what will hopefully all be built the next time we visit, we headed out for lunch before they dropped us back off at my in-laws. That night we went out to dinner with just T.J.'s family at one of their favorite restaurants in town. The little town they live in, that T.J. grew up in, has really changed and grown, and upped it's small-town charm.

On Tuesday, T.J. headed out to do a little target practice and I headed over to my parent's place so us girls could do some Christmas baking. While T.J.'s family always has a certain delicious chocolate cake this time of year, we always have an abundance of cookies and buttercreams and that's one tradition I'm not letting go of any time soon. We spent the whole day covered in flour, checking the timer, rolling out the yummy treats, sipping spiced cider, and listening to Christmas music.

Later that evening we merged families and headed out for big steak dinner. I love that our two sides get along and that everyone is willing to share time and meals together.


The next day, after more cookie baking, and buttercream dipping, my parents, T.J. and I, and my sister went to see Star Wars together. I may have had to force my sister's hand by buying her ticket without asking her but she was so glad she came. One of the best movies I've seen in a while and I would have happily sat there and watched six more hours, darn those cliff hangers!!

T.J.'s grandma and aunt arrived to town just as we got back from the movie. We had their family's traditional homemade broccoli and cheese soup for dinner (with the last of the broccoli from their own garden) and settled in to watch some football. Honestly, at T.J.'s house, football is on all day long which is something I still haven't gotten used to, but nothing makes my husband happier than to watch football all day long. But after I'd watched all the football I could handle for one day, that night, since they now had a full house, T.J. and I hauled our stuff over to my parents' place to sleep.

After a yummy breakfast with my folks, T.J. and I headed back over to his house and then my family joined us a bit later for the big Christmas eve lunch. We had ham, turkey, dressing, collards, black eyed peas, mac and cheese, rolls. Then we headed out to my sister's church for the Christmas eve service. It was just what I needed. Between the travelling, the newness, managing the logistics, and the fact that it was 70 degrees in South Carolina, I hadn't been feeling very Christmasy. Sister joined the praise band and we all sang every single one of my favorite carols in between the reading of the Christmas story. It was the perfect reminder to just take a step back and rest in the greatest news, the reason we all gather together this time of year, and nothing else matters.

I  woke up Christmas morning and got to lean over and say "merry Christmas" to my husband beside me and that was just as wonderful as I always imagined it would be.  We opened our stockings, and had breakfast with my family before tackling the presents under the tree.

Though it was strange to change out of my Christmas pj's and head over to T.J.'s house I was eager to get a glimpse at more of T.J.'s holiday traditions. I'm so pleased that we seem to have similar Christmas mornings and both our families go over the top to make the day especially special. We opened more presents with his family before my parents made their way over for Christmas dinner- left-over yumminess from the day before with the addition of my mom's cheese ball (a must have for family gatherings).

It had pretty much rained every day since we got to town but Saturday we woke up to a spring day! T.J. headed out to sit in a deer stand with his dad for most of the day and my parent's sister and I headed out to soak up some vitamin D and walk off some of the Christmas cookies at our college campus. It seriously felt like June and I was in 7th heaven. I know a lot of people want cold weather and snow on Christmas, and I love that too. But I will never ever complain about sunshine and blue skies and t-shirts. We grabbed slurpees on the way home and played a board game that I had asked for for Christmas (Ticket to Ride- so fun!) before T.J. came home to meet us for dinner.

We went out for dinner downtown and one of T.J.'s high school friends, and a groomsmen joined us for BBQ. We stayed out a bit later and ended up at a favorite bar playing darts, girls vs. boys. Sister and I were surprised to find that we have some dart skills and we ended up beating the boys once. I was glad to have this extra time with just my sister and it was a fun laid back last night in town.  

Sunday came wayyyyy too soon. When planning our vacation, it seemed like such a long time but it always goes by in the blink of an eye. Going in to the week I was honestly nervous and pretty emotional about how we were going to manage our time between our two families but it ended up working out pretty well and I feel like everyone got their fair share of Shannon and T.J. time. It's something we are still figuring out and I know it will all look different once we have kids but, for this year, it worked out just right! I hated leaving (and hated the canceled flights and the airport frustration even more) but we had such a sweet time with everyone and I'm looking forward to the next gathering sooner rather than later! I'd say our first married Christmas was a success!

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

a winter wedding

Before I write about our first married Christmas we have to jump back to the previous weekend. T.J. and I started our Christmas vacation with a wedding in Birmingham. I always thought I was going to be a summer bride, I love sunshine, and heat, and blue skies, and the song June Bride from the musical Seven Brides for Seven Brothers. In fact, growing up, I even thought I might walk down the aisle to that song. But ever since we ended up tying the knot on a cold rainy day in January, I find that I am actually quite partial to winter weddings. And the wedding I got to be a part of the weekend before Christmas was the most perfect Christmastime wedding you ever did see, full of twinkly lights, evergreen garlands, and snow!

The bride and I were magically, randomly, matched as roommates freshmen year of college, almost 10 years ago (can that be right?)and I was so excited to stand up next to her on her best day ever.

We left Seattle at 3:30 AM and arrived to town after a lonnng day of traveling and were greeted at the airport by my parents who were also invited to the wedding. After we quickly freshened up we hurried over to the rehearsal dinner and arrived at the same time as the bridal party. While I'd seen several of the girls at the bachelorette weekend back in October, I was so excited to be reunited with the few who couldn't come and whom I hadn't seen since my own wedding almost a year ago. We hugged excitedly and attempted to snap a good group shot (always a challenge) before sitting down to dinner, followed by a sweet slide-show and champagne toasts.

Knowing we only had a short time together, we headed out to a favorite spot of the bride and groom to prolong the festivities before the long day of traveling caught up with us and T.J. and I headed back to our hotel. The next day, like all weddings I've been a part of before, I rose bright and early to head to the church to spend the day getting hair done, steaming dresses, primping and prepping, and celebrating the bride all day long.
(Any Birmingham brides out there should definitely look at Alisha Crossley Photography. She was so sweet and fun all day,  and the preview I've seen so far is stunning!)
After an entire day spent in the bridal suite, we were all getting a little silly (and sleepy) so we cranked up some Taylor Swift to pump us up before the big walk down the aisle. And then finally it was time. The ceremony was perfect, we cheered when they kissed, and it was so special to see my sweet dear friend marry the love of her life! 

And then we headed to the reception! T.J. had spent the day catching up on sleep and enjoying yummy bbq with my folks so I was happy to be reunited with my handsome date. The bride and groom danced to "All I Want for Christmas is You" which I think was just the perfect December wedding song.  The band was fantastic and once the floor opened up we danced the night away and savoured the short time I left with my college friends. 
All too soon it was time to send off the happy couple with a handful of "snow!" This was definitely the most creative send-off I've ever seen and I am just so over the moon in love with the newlyweds! 
While they headed off to Whistler, T.J. and I loaded into the car with my parents and headed on to South Carolina. There aren't any more weddings on the horizon (yet) so we don't have another guaranteed reunion on the books. I'm really hoping it's not another year until I see my favorite friends. 

Monday, December 21, 2015

Our Christmas Card

I posted a little preview of our family walk where we took our Christmas card photo but I didn't share the image we selected for the final print. Now that they've been mailed out here's the final product!

I love how they turned out and I felt very grown up sending them out to friends and family. This was the best one we got of the pup, he was totally uninterested in anything other than getting in the water but I'm glad he made the card! I ordered our design from Minted and also picked up some cute return address labels from Tiny Prints which I think will work year round for all our mail from the Evergreen State.  
We also sent out a little letter detailing our first year of marriage and all the fun we've had settling into our new roles as husband and wife. One day we'll be able to look back on old Christmas cards each year and see how our family has grown and changed. And I feel very lucky to get to celebrate this most wonderful time of the year with the most wonderful people. 

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

a new Christmas

This will be our first Christmas together. This year is the start of the rest of all the Christmases. From here on out, no matter where we are, or whose family we visit, or who comes to visit us, the one constant for all Christmases to come will be T.J. and I, together.  That is both wonderful and yet, at the same time, hard. Hard because, until now, the constant has been me, my parents, and my sister. Year after year, every year. Either we were in New Jersey with my mom's side, or Tennessee with my dad's side, or in the England years it was just the four of us. Whether we traveled or stayed home, I always knew my sister and I would wake up together on Christmas morning and wait at the top of the stairs before mom and dad said we could come downstairs to see what was under the tree.

Christmases now are more fluid, flexible, changing and now I have a second family to share it with. As T.J. and I are the first in our both our families to tie the knot, we're all trying to figure out what holidays will look like, who's house we will wake up in Christmas morning, where we'll sleep each night we're in town.

It's going to look different. It's not going to feel like all the other Christmases of our childhood, and that's okay. I imagine, eventually, we will settle into a new pattern, a new normal, with traditions combined from my side and T.J.'s side. But right now we're in the in-between Christmas stage. The stage where we're not quite children anymore, but there aren't any other little ones about yet to shift the focus to.

I'm so thankful both our families live in the same town and that we don't have to pick who to visit... but still I'm curious to see what Christmas will look like this year. I'm nervous about managing everyone's expectations, and feelings, and making sure everyone gets to spend an equal amount of time with us.  So I'm also doing my best to manage my expectations, perhaps the hardest part of all.  I don't want to spend our entire vacation worrying, or feeling like I'm disappointing someone.  Mostly I just want T.J. and I to be able to relax together, to spend quality time with our families and friends, sharing meals, playing games, soaking up some Carolina sun (Lord, please let there be sunny blue skies the whole time we're in town), taking it easy, and enjoying our first Christmas as husband and wife. We need this vacation, so bring on the first Christmas of all the future Christmases.

And at the end of the day, probably the biggest thing to get used to will be sleeping in the same room under our parents' roof- hah.

Monday, December 14, 2015

the stockings are hung

I've had our house decorated for Christmas since the weekend after Thanksgiving but I was waiting until our new stockings arrived to add the finishing touch before I shared pictures here. I love coming downstairs in the morning, immediately turning on the Christmas tree, and passing the nativity as I head to the kitchen. There is something immensely soothing and peaceful about a Christmas tree. I all but sit in the dark with just those twinkly lights on each night. We also finally had someone out to inspect our fireplace and now the coziness is multiplied.
This was taken before the stockings were hung by the chimney with care but you get a good look at our tree. 
My parents gave us this ornament for Christmas last year and I was so excited to hang it on our tree. I can't believe we've almost been married a whole year. That Christmas doesn't feel so long ago. This year has simply flown by!
 
 I also got this nativity scene for Christmas last year and I love it! It was so special unwrapping each piece carefully from the tissue paper and setting them out in our home. We always had a nativity displayed prominently while growing up and I love knowing that this will be a fixture in all our Christmases to come.
 I ordered our stockings from Mark & Graham and had them embroidered with our names. I also bought the cutest jingle bell hangers from Target (their holiday section was on point this year) and I may have bought a couple extra hangers to store away for future littles.
This "reindeer feed" pillow is from Nordstrom
  
I filled my cake stand with extra ornaments I had and I love the cheeriness it adds to the bar cart.
 Hunley tries to eat every single dish towel we own. If I leave one anywhere near the edge of the counter where he can snatch it,it's gone. But.... for some reason he has left my holiday towels alone and I am much appreciative.
Instead of a wreath on our front door I hung this cute wooden sign (again, from Target, where else). And though we didn't have a chance to do too much outside, I hung this dollar store lighted garland around the front door. And since the sun sets here around 4, we get to enjoy it for a good chunk of the day. hah. 

Since we are going to be with family for the holiday I am sure I'll end up leaving everything out until after the New Year. The house feels so much warmer when it's all dressed up like this. Thanks for stopping by for our little Christmas home tour! 

Monday, November 30, 2015

thankful for the weekend

Those past four days really felt good. Like really restful and peaceful and just the way I like this time of year to be. T.J was thankfully off for (most of) Thanksgiving (he worked the night before and then until 2pm that day, but whatever) and we hosted dinner for some friends. It ended up being the two of us plus three other guys all flying solo for the holiday. In this community we find ourselves in, nothing looks like my childhood memories, where the traditions were the same, consistently year after year, and it was dependable and comfortable.

Now holidays, especially Thanksgiving when it's harder to get away, are a blended mix of people, residents, spouses, someone always coming and going as they're paged back to the hospital. But no one spends it alone because we're all very aware of the demands of the job and we all just roll with the call schedule.

"So you're husband's working tonight? You can join us. You're on call all weekend so your wife went out of town to visit family? Sneak away for dinner if you get a break and we'll feed you."

We were invited to three different Thanksgiving dinners. It's a very inclusive, we're all in the trenches together kind of attitude, and not just at Thanksgiving. I like it. I wouldn't mind having dinner at someone's home but this year I really wanted our first married Thanksgiving to be in our house, and I wanted an excuse to use some of our new serving pieces. The food, and the friends, and the fellowship was a success,  and while I miss the rest of my family this time of year, I loved spending the holiday with my husband.
Friday was not black Friday for us, not ever, no thank you, amen. Instead I started taking down the Thanksgiving/pumpkin/ fall decor and started getting ready to bring Christmas cheer into our home. Mostly, though, we spent a good chunk of the day bundled up and cuddled up on the couch. I just love the coziness that naturally comes with this time of year.
T.J. had to work Saturday overnight so, while waiting for him to get home Sunday morning, I picked up donuts and sat down for day one of the She Reads Truth Advent devotional. I'm so excited for this book. My mom, sister and I are doing it together and plan to have a little skype date each week to chat about it. And we probably should just always have a little skype date each week anyway. 
I stayed my Christmas pj's all day and I was determined that the tree would go up (if for no other reason than that Hunley had started trying to eat the box it was stored in). We went artificial this year because we have a puppy and I don't hate myself. But I have the best little candle that gives off that fresh cut Christmas tree smell we're missing. I went ahead and assembled the tree so Hunley could start getting used to it. He settled right underneath it for a little snooze, which just so happens to be my favorite place as well.  Of course that peacefulness went right out the window once T.J. got home and we started decorating it. We limited the ornaments to the top half only but the tree skirt is still a little too tempting for the pup. 
Even though I know I'm going to spend a good chunk of this season shouting "no!" at Hunley as he attempts to eat said tree skirt, I still find so much joy basking in the twinkly light with my little family. I am so thankful for this weekend and the perfect start to the most wonderful time of the year.