Saturday, December 29, 2007

Christmas Day

On Christmas Eve, Justin and I woke up in Gulf Shores at his mom's house. We hung out for a little while that morning before heading to Mobile for lunch with Scott, Hilary, Meghan and Caitlin. We went back to their home for a little while, and after playing a racing game we gave Scott for Christmas, Justin, Rez, Adler and I headed back to Birmingham. Although Justin and I have no real deep-routed traditions as a couple, we have been blessed to sleep in our bed every Christmas Eve. :-)
We slept in on Christmas morning and made it to my Mom and Dad's for brunch at 11:00. First stop was the den to see if Santa had come.

He had!!!! I guess we were good after all!

I always look forward to spending time with my family on Christmas Day, and I'm so glad EVERYONE was able to be there this year! Mom and Dad prepared a great brunch of breakfast casserole, cheese grits, and biscuits. They also had yummy toffee bars on the table for snacks. They were sooooo good that they were worth mentioning in this blog. After brunch, we headed to the tree to exchange gifts. Here are a few pictures to capture some of the fun moments we shared.

Mom and Dad got matching iPods!

And so did Amanda and Matthew!

Justin got a big grill for our patio!

And I got 3 months with a Personal Trainer (although in this picture I'm holding up some cute pajamas that I also received). As official photographer, I ended up with very few photos of myself!

Justin and I gave Dad a nice hardshell suitcase for short travel.

And we gave mom 24 chargers for her dishes - 12 pewter ones and 12 gold ones.

The highlight of our morning was this gift to Mom from Matthew and Amanda. This is Clarence Claus.

Mom loved him so much she kissed him. I have a feeling Clarence Claus will appear in our family Christmases for many years to come! :-)

We stayed at Mom and Dad's for a lot of the afternoon, then headed back home. Our friends Dana and Daniel came over with their little boy Chase, and the guys played Wii golf (their current obsession), while Dana and I amused the kiddo.

Chase absolutely loves our dogs, and Adler was a good sport while Chase went for a "ride."

After our friends left, it was time for OUR Christmas. For the most part, we decided not to exchange gifts this year. We moved in September, so we just spent quite a bit of money making the house feel like our home.

Here is a picture of our mantle and tree in our living room. After so many "Christmases," there are only a few presents left under the tree. Sad!

I gave Justin a portable player for his Zune MP3 player, and he actually really liked it! I have a hard time surprising him with gifts that he really likes.

Justin gave me pink control covers for our Wii and Rainbow flip flops that I have really been wanting since the summer. He also loaded my stocking up with Christmas CDs. I LOVE Christmas music between the day after Thanksgiving and December 25th. Justin gets sick of listening to the classics on the radio day after day, so he thought this Christmas music might add a little diversity!

I included this picture so you can see the other side of the living room (Hannah), but also because it is so typical of our dog, Adler. Justin, Dad, and Matthew all received indoor remote controlled helicopters from Santa. After we opened presents, Justin was flying the helicopter around the living room, and Adler couldn't keep her eyes off of it. It was so funny watching her follow that thing around in the air, and then try to attack it when it crashed!

Around 6:30, we decided we were hungry again, and we had nothing at the house to eat. You would have thought we would have had plenty of leftovers seeing as we had feasted with the Leach/Henry family at our home just days before, but everyone had taken the leftover with them, and Justin had polished off our the leftover hashbrown casserole the night before. We decided that it might be fun to find an obscure restaurant, the only one open on Christmas, and have a new dining adventure. After driving around for a long while, and passing this restaurant up the first time we saw it open, we decided to head back for an experience I can call my first and LAST!

Please believe me when I tell you that this was THE ONLY RESTAURANT OPEN on Christmas Day. We passed what felt like hundreds of dark restaurants - sit down, fast food, semi-fast, etc. Even all the grocery stores and Wal-Mart were closed! Our alternative was cereal at home, and wings sounded good at the time. For those of you who haven't been there, the wings are pretty good, but the girls are definitely barely dressed. I felt a little uncomfortable, and I'm quite sure Justin did, too, but we enjoyed our meal, and headed to Blockbuster. We rented the new Christmas movie "Deck the Halls," and enjoyed the rest of our Christmas evening warm at home. I'm quite sure I will never forget the year we ate Christmas dinner at Hooters. ;-)

Friday, December 28, 2007

Christmas Greeting

...from our family to yours.

Christmas Card 2007

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Hardy Family Christmas

Sunday morning, Justin and I left to spend a few days with his family in Mobile. No one was really wanting to do the whole big food preparation, so we decided to gather at Justin sister's home for a beautiful Christmas feast of PIZZA! Rick and Debbie were gracious hosts and we had a great time opening presents and singing Christmas carols with Sue (Justin's mom), Scott and Hilary (Justin's bro and sis-in-law), Meghan and Caitlin (their kids), Rick and Debbie (Justin's sis and bro-in-law), Jared (their son), Jessica (their daughter), and Aidan (Jessica's son). Melissa, V and Cullen were not able to make it because Melissa isn't feeling well. She is pregnant, due in May. We missed seeing them! Here are a few pictures from the Hardy Family Christmas.
Meghan with her gift from us - a Webkinz leopard she named Liz after her teacher.

Caitlin with her Princess Dress Up clothes. For the past few years, Caitlin has been all about Dora the Explorer. She informed us this year that she's over Dora and it's all Princess now!

This is Jared, our nephew. We went in with Scott and Hilary to buy him a steering wheel for his XBox 360. What we didn't realize was that he was actually getting the XBox from Santa... our Christmas was 2 days before. Oops!

Aidan is our great-nephew... our neice Jessica's son. He was trying to exchange this ornament for my camera. Sorry Aidan. :-)

Justin's brother Scott. Husband of Hilary, dad of Meghan and Caitlin.

Meghan wanted to take a "gangsta" picture. SO, this is it. Just before this photo, Caitlin asked me how to do take a gangster photo. This is her attempt after a brief tutorial. Look closely, hilarious!

Justin got a leaf blower from his mom, and she gave me Auburn folding chairs. Ms. Hardy, if you're reading this, we really appreciate the chairs and will definitely be using them, but we may buy a few Alabama chairs to even out the loot. Although I cheer for Auburn when they aren't playing Bama, I bleed Crimson and White in my core! :-) We got a Books-A-Million gift card and a stress-reducer thing that goes around your neck, and I got a furry headband from Scott and Hilary. We had a great night. My very favorite part was singing Christmas carols... of course.

Stay tuned for the Leach family Christmas post!

Crazy-Busy December Continues

And the month continues...

December 17: Silent Night Christmas Worship at Homewood Church of Christ. This is our annual candlelight Christmas worship and celebration of Christ's birth. There were about 50 members of the chorus this year, and many others who were part of the drama portion and kids songs. I think this year was the best yet... with the exception of the Hallelujah Chorus which ended up being more like the William Tell Overture it was so fast. In years past, I have been a part of a womens' group that sings Silent Night. There are 6 girls all about my age and we sing a beautiful version of the song arranged by our worship minister, Kevin Kilpatrick. This year, they chose to have children from the church's Pre-School sing Silent Night, but I was asked to sing What Child is This. I think it turned out okay, but the DVD will tell. I may try to figure out how to post the clip once the DVD comes out. Here are a few pictures of the night. The pictures of the church with all the candles illuminated are great. Photos compliments of my very talented husband.
That's me singing What Child is This

Here is the church after the candles were lit. There were about 800 people there. Next year we're shooting for 1000!

December 18: Welcome to the world Brennan William Parsons! Congratulations to my good friend Sarah and her husband William on the birth of their first baby! The picture below is one Sarah sent to my cell phone. She says he looks a lot like his daddy.

Brennan William Parsons

December 18, 2007

8 lbs, 9 oz

19 inches long

December 20: I babysat the sweetest baby twins in Ross Bridge! My friends Kate and John went to a friends house for dinner, so I watched their precious 2 month old twins for a few hours. Ella was a little fussy and just was so much happier when held, and Thomas was just as happy as he could be in his boppy. When it came time to eat, I let fussy Ella eat first while Thomas chilled in the swing. Ella was content long enough for Thomas to eat, and then it was back in the arms. I just love those kids!

December 22: The Leach/Henry Family Christmas. Justin and I hosted 23 family members for a sit-down brunch at our home. Present were Mimi and Daddy Bill (my grandparents). Mom and Dad. Matthew and Amanda (my bro and his wife). Aunt Linda and Uncle Jim (my dad's sister and her husband). Josh and Becky (my cousin and his wife). Jordan and Krista (my cousin and his girlfriend). Scott and Mary Ann (my grandmother's brother and his wife). Michael and Glenda (Scott's son -my second cousin- and his wife) and Price, Aaron and Abby (their kids). My Aunt Fran (Mimi's sister) and her friend from Atlanta... and Justin and me, of course. I hope I didn't leave anyone out. It was fun to have everyone to our home. We usually go to my Aunt Linda's in Chattanooga, but my grandmother wanted everyone to see my new home, so I was volunteered to be the hostess. There was so much food, and I so much appreciate everyone's help!

Aunt Linda, Dad, Mom and Becky helping get everything ready.What a smorgasbord!

We headed to Mobile early Sunday morning. Christmas Posts to follow!

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Crazy-Busy December

It's amazing how time flies, and this month has been no different. We've been buzzing from one event or party to the next with little down time in between. Here is a recap of the month so far, and a few pictures to document...
December 1: SEC Championship game. Party at the Hardy's.

December 2: Our Small Group Christmas Party at Mike and Jessa's. So much fun. I made hashbrown casserole and 4-layer chocolate pie. The dinner spread was impressive and we had a mean game of Dirty Santa. Justin and I came away with a scarf/glove set and an electronic dartboard... both of which were brought by Maghan and Hal. Ironicallyl, Maghan and Hal ended up with OUR gifts! I brought a candle and Christmas tissues, and Justin brought a tiny but powerful flashlight... a gadget guy's dream.

December 4: My good friend, Roni Holland Haskell and her husband Adam had a baby girl, Elizabeth Morgan Haskell. She lives in Charleston, SC now, so I haven't gotten to see the baby in person, but here is a picture.
Elizabeth Morgan Haskell
December 4, 2007

December 7: Lighting of the Green at Ross Bridge! This is one of the biggest events held in our community. Each year (3 so far), the community has gathered for this Christmas kickoff. Santa and his elves put on a great show on a big stage with lights, kids from the elementary school sing, and Santa puts on a great pirotechnic show to illuminate the big christmas tree and the Welcome Center! As soon as the tree is lit, fake snow fills the air... for most of us there, it's the closest thing we'll see to snow this year. Santa is escorted inside where kids have an opportunity to sit in his lap and tell him all their Christmas wishes while filling up with sweets and cider. There is a grand carriage drawn by clydesdale horses that takes it's passengers on a brief ride around the park and back. It's fun for everyone there... but especially exciting for the children. Didn't get very many pictures, but here are a few.

A terrible picture of the stage area where kids are singing the sweet song from Polar Express.

Failed attempt at a Christmas card picture... but good enough for the blog! :-)

P.S. This night, we also babysat triplets from church... well, they're practically triplets. They are 3 brothers born a month apart... twins (Baylor and Basden) and another boy (Parker)... all adopted by our minister. They all just turned 1 and are a handfull, but we had fun watching them with our friends Maghan, Hal and Rachel!

December 8: Signature Homes' Christmas Party... always a fun party. I am blessed to work with such great people, and we always have the BEST time! Here are a few shots from that night.

The best work partners ever. Leah, then me, Kate and Kelli

Me and Justin

Me, Brandi and Jonathan (Brandi is in interior design with our company and is Jonathan's wife, Jonathan is part owner of our company) and Kate (my partner... the one with the baby twins)

December 13: The Best Sales Meeting Ever!!! I know that sounds weird, but this one was amazing. We arrived at a model home in Beaumont, another community where we build to a breakfast feast of ham and egg casserole and mimosas. We played dirty Santa and I came out with a great Christmas-thing (sorry for the sorry description) that hangs up. It's totally precious. After Dirty Santa, we went outside and saw a stretch Hummer limosine driving our way. Somewhere around 20 of us piled inside equipped with envelopes loaded with $200 cash. Rule #1: Spend the entire amount over the next two hours, or give it back. Rule #2: Spend it on yourself, not on anyone else. They dropped us off at the Galleria, and away we went. After scurrying around the mall looking for just the right thing, I settled on a Coach wallet that somewhat matches the purse Mom and Dad gave me for my birthday. The sad part is that I had to add to what was given to me by my generous bosses. Yes, ADD TO... just for a wallet! I would have never bought it on my own, so I appreciate the little incentive. Thank you so much Dwight and Jonathan for the fun shopping spree!

December 14: Daniel Corporation Christmas Party. This is the other company I work for... much more "corporate" than the first. Usually, this is a rather stuffy party with a sit-down dinner and some sort of entertainment (last year, it was a comedian who had no idea who her audience was). This year, the party was held at the Barber Vintage Motorsports Museum. The venue was quite impressive with what seemed like thousands of cars and motorcycles dating back to the early 1900's. The food was good, and they gave out great door prizes... but I didn't win anything.

Me and Holly, another agent in Ross Bridge, but not my partner

December 16: FUN Night at the Hardy's. Church was cancelled this night because our annual Christmas worship service was to be held the following night. So, instead of meeting with our small group for Bible study, we thought it might be fun to have a completely optional "FUN" night. I'm not big on mandatory fun, so it was a come-as-you-are, low key thing. The guys ended up playing the Wii most of the evening and the girls made homemade sugar cookies and decorated them with homemade icing!!! It was so much fun. I broke out my gigantic Kitchen-Aid mixer for the first time and was totally impressed by the way it turned butter into cream in NO TIME! I usually use my hand mixer for this type of project, but I really enjoyed the big mixer. Now, our Christmas cookies looked more like baby shower cookies by the end because the icing didn't quite take the red and green food coloring well, but they still turned out cute.

Rachel, me and Martina with our platter of yummy Christmas cookies

Just a few more events to post, and then I'll be caught up, but I'm running out of time, so I'll leave you with a teaser. This past Monday night, I sang a solo during our Christmas Worship at church. I'll post pictures and a full update another time. Hope you all are having a VERY merry Christmas season!!!

Sunday, December 09, 2007

Another Sighting...

As Justin and I walked toward the doors of our local K-Mart, I saw him again... still ringing the Salvation Army bells. I tried not to stare, and politely said hi as we walked in the door. Just inside the door, Justin turned to me, "Did you see the name tag?" I hadn't noticed it, and after trying to guess his name, I finally gave in. Sheila. The Santa's name is SHEILA!!! She's a GIRL!

In an effort to be more politically correct this time, allow me to revise my description. What I saw was actually a vertically challenged female of African descent dressed as Santa Claus, the non-religious holiday icon.

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Rare Christmas Sighting...

Let it be known that last night I saw a BLACK MIDGET SANTA CLAUS ringing the Salvation Army bells outside of Wal-Mart. I wanted to take a picture, but I couldn't figure out a way to do it without being rude.

Monday, November 19, 2007

Holy Matrimony

We've been busy the last few weeks getting the house ready and going to wedding receptions! Not the actual weddings... just the receptions. It has come to my attention that as we get older there are fewer and fewer actual church weddings with the big white gown, 500 guests, and heavy hors d'oeuvres. Most people we know these days are getting married quietly in the mountains or in the tropics, and later having a reception at home. So, for the past two week ends, we have been to wedding parties honoring the brides and grooms of such wedding ceremonies.

Bonnie and John Pearson were married in Mexico, and had their wedding party at a farm in Montevallo, AL two week ends ago. They invited a lot of family and friends and had a taco bar and Tex-Mex appetizers to munch on! The first floor of the barn was your typical, well, barn. Stables, hay, maneur, etc. The main room on the top floor was decked out with rusty antiques (shoe shining chair, farming tools, etc), tables, chairs, and do-dads from time gone by. Adjoining the tribute to the "Good Ole Days" was a great room with a bar, fireplace, comfy chairs and a buffet area (host to the taco bar). The entire barn was designed for parties. Bonnie and John had their "first dance" on the main level with all the guests overlooking from the balcony above.

This past week end, a lot of Justin's family came to Birmingham for the wedding party of my sister-in-law's brother Shawn and her best friend, Shawn's new wife Marla. Shawn and Marla recently moved to Birmingham, whiched seemed like a central location for both Shawn and Marla's families. We hosted their party at the Ross Bridge Welcome Center, and just over 50 people were there to share the day with Shawn and Marla. Hilary, my sis-in-law, and her daughters Meghan and Caitlin stayed with us on Thursday night, and Friday I went to the spa for a manicure and pedicure with Marla (the bride), Hilary, and their friend Che. Shawn and Marla married a few months ago at a mountain chapel somewhere in North Carolina.

We enjoyed spending time with family and friends, and wish both of these couples a very happy life together!

Monday, November 05, 2007

30 Great Years

Dear Justin,

When I look at my life, no one has quite had the impact that you have. Through highs and through disappointments, we have overcome victoriously. When I look back, I see a life full of God's blessings, but at no point in my life have I ever felt so complete. The Lord is truly shining on us right now, and I can't wait to see what other little blessings God has in store for us. Over the past 30 years, you have become the man I am proud to call my husband. Although you are human, and you make mistakes, you are committed, strong, caring, considerate, determined, successful, passionate, loving, supportive, brilliant, and exciting. I could go on and on. You are truly celebrating 30 great years. I look forward to the next 30, and the next 30. I love you!


So, Justin's 30th birthday was Sunday, November 4th. I couldn't wait to give him his present, so I let him open it late Saturday night... hey, it was almost midnight! I had searched high and low to find a Nintendo Wii, but after unsuccessful attemps at 7 different stores, I got in touch with a few friends, and our friend Tim happened upon one at GameStop, so he bought it for me. Thank you SO much, Tim!

Here are the presents, all wrapped up.
Surprise! I think I was more excited about the Wii than Justin is, but I'm sure he'll learn to love it! I wanted to get him something that he wouldn't buy for himself. Something that we can just let loose and have a little fun with. Justin set the Wii up Monday night, and we've had fun with it so far!

Sunday morning, Justin woke up to birthday cards from me and from the dogs, and to what he was thinking was just another typical birthday. And it was, for the most part, until the end of the day. We went to church, went to lunch with our friends Brian and Kristen, and then wasted time at the mall for an hour or two before going home to play with the dogs. We always have Small Group on Sunday nights at 6:00, so Justin thought nothing was out of the ordinary when we left for one of our favorite restaurants, Jim 'N Nick's at about 5:45. See, we usually meet at people's homes, but about once a month, we usually do something different like go to a park, or something like that. We walked into the restaurant, and went straight to the back room, which is a semi-private room they open when they are busy, or for parties. Rounding the corner, Justin saw a lot of familiar faces, but it wasn't until my dad yelled "SURPRISE!" that it really clicked. Somewhere around 50 people showed up to wish Justin a happy 30th birthday. It was fun to surround Justin with so many people who love him! I knew that surprising him would be a huge feat, but we were able to pull off the huge party without any sort of suspition from the guest of honor! Here are the pictures from the party.
Justin and Me at the Party! He was so surprised!
Red Velvet Cake, Justin's favorite!

Justin blew out all 30 candles with one breath. Hope his wish comes true!

The Castleman Family
Amy, Elyse, Steve, Justin (a Hardy, not a Castleman), and Emily
Missing in the picure is Erin.
Our Small Group at Church (clockwise from bottom left)
Maghan, Martina and Camron, Shaun and Ashley, Jared and Rachel, and Hal
More of our awesome Small Group!
Jessa and Mike, Bret and Lanie, Cortney
The Koski Family
Todd Howell, David Sr., PK, Momma Koski, and Melissa

The DeRosa Family
Cherry, Joe, Meredith, her boyfriend, and John

Britney and Scott

Ken, Kameron and Kelli Gunnells (Kelli is one of my work partners)

The Leach Family! (clockwise from bottom left)
Mom, Mimi, Krista and Jordan, Daddy Bill, Josh and Becky, and Dad
Jordan and Josh are my cousins. Their mom is my dad's sister.
Not pictured here are my brother Matthew, and his wife Amanda.
Ashley, Me, Justin and Daniel (Daniel's wife, Dana, couldn't make it because they had a sick little boy. Get well soon, Chase!)

Glida and Richard Magnani

Justin and one of his best friends, Daniel Pittman

My good friend Ashley and Me

Kim and Keith. Keith is Justin's long-time good friend. We recently went to a party celebrating their marriage!

And last, but certainly not least, two of our very best friends, Andrea and Tim

A big thanks to everyone who came to the party, and to all of you who wanted to make it, but couldn't. And a big Happy Birthday to my fantastic husband. I hope your 30th year is the best yet!