2013 Reflections

It is hard to look back on 2013 and not focus 99% on our biggest life change to date – the birth of our son Rylan. I was lucky to enjoy a healthy and easy pregnancy and (feel free to roll your eyes) I loved almost every moment of the nine months. It was really neat to keep the sex a surprise and if/when we have Sprout #2 we plan to do the same. Staying active kept me sane and I feel very lucky that I was able to keep going strong until about 38 weeks. We took a short but incredible babymoon in Crested Butte and I surprised myself by patiently decorating a gender-neutral nursery that we absolutely love.

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Life changed for the better on July 24 at 12:40 p.m. Mike excitedly announced, “it’s a boy,” and just like that, we became parents. The actual birth is a bit of a blur and to be honest, for those first few hours in our hospital room when it was just the three of us, I stared at Rylan and worried that I wasn’t actually ready to be a mom. I stressed that I wouldn’t know what to do when we got home and that I would never learn his cries or love him the way all other new moms gush about loving their infant from the second they are born. But day by day we figured it out. I came to enjoy our quiet, though exhausting, middle of the night feeds because I realized how powerful our bond was becoming. I found confidence with every solo trip out of the house and successful nap battles won. I learned to accept help, stopped holding in tears on the tough days and found the couple of moms that I could be 100% real with, knowing they wouldn’t judge me for anything I shared or asked. I cherish these women!

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Unknown-2Rylan’s arrival changed a lot, but not everything. Mike and I took time for ourselves. He got back to band practice and played two shows. He traveled for work and I held down the fort alone. I got back to the gym, returned to work and found time to work on friendships – something I want to focus on more in 2014. We went on dates and found ways to divide and conquer the pressures of being a household of two, full-time working parents. Mike is the best father. The. Best.

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2013 rounded out with Thanksgiving celebrations with Mike’s family here in Colorado followed by Rylan’s first plane ride and trip to California to be with my family for Christmas (notice the unmistakable LA traffic pictured above, and thanks to grandparents who pushed us to escape for a date night and enjoy some cocktails throughout the week). We plan to spend a quiet New Year’s Eve together in the mountains, surely reflecting on how blessed we have been this year. Health. Family. Fun. Love. None of this is lost on me.

For 2014 I don’t want to make the typical resolutions. Yes of course I want to work out more, eat cleaner, put more money in savings – blah blah. I hope I’ll just do all of those things regardless because they are good for me and my family. If I had to set one personal goal for the year ahead it would be to work on my friendships. Through moves, weddings, babies, work, etc., I have missed out on nourishing certain friendships that mean a great deal to me. I’ve gotten lazy, relying on texts and Facebook to sustain friendships that are worthy of calls, trips, mailed cards for no reason…all the things we used to do before technology made it acceptable to wish a friend since high school a belated happy birthday on a Facebook wall. I’m not proud of what I have let slip, even though many would say I have an excuse with becoming a mom and working full-time. I am happier when my core group of girlfriends is strong and thriving, and in 2014 I want to work on that — along with deepening new, really amazing friendships I have formed through becoming a mom.

In closing, I want to sincerely thank you (my readers) for your support, advice and excitement this year. As I continue to evolve Lex & Learn I hope you’ll still come along for the journey and stories of our family adventures, struggles and celebrations. Please know that I am wishing you a very safe, healthy and blessed 2014.

Gift Giving Debate

The kid in me still gets giddy when presents under the Christmas tree have my name on them. But as I’ve gotten older there are so many practical items and projects that seem like a better investment than gifts like clothes, purses and shoes. This mainly applies to Mike and me, especially as homeowners just one year in.

To exchange or not to exchange this year, that is the question we are debating. We will get each other Christmas ornaments (a tradition started last year) but as much as I have my eye on a few frivolous items, I’m leaning toward saving money for our basement makeover. I cross my fingers and toes in hopes it will be done by the middle of next year. On our list? Recessed lighting, paint and drywall repairs, filing cabinet for office setup and media shelving/bookcases. In general, a head-to-toe facelift that lightens up the TV basement room by 150%.

My latest inspiration…

What about you? Do you exchange no matter what or opt to work on house projects, book a trip, etc.?

Autumn Mantel Inspiration

Have I mentioned how much I love the holidays? Pretty sure I have, but throwing it out there again in case you haven’t heard yet. Part of what made me fall in love with our house is the original, built-in mantel and cabinet upstairs. The wood is dark, rich and ready for decorating.

You can see a few shots of the room here.

Christmas is a given but I am also tempted to spruce it up a bit for fall too. Rather than spend money on Halloween decorations that will have to come up and down, I think an autumn mantel with a Thanksgiving nod is the way to go. Cue Pinterest for inspiration.

 

This lovely pin led me to a fantastic “year of mantels” blog post by A Diamond in the Stuff. That is for another day though. Back to autumn. I think I can do this.

Working with what we already have, a few white pumpkins, stencils and perhaps another touch or two and I think this will work. If I give it a try I may go for an orange-tinted paint since our living room already has so much brown. Or perhaps a touch of gold as inspired by another pin I am loving below?

Source: lhj.com via Alexis on Pinterest

 

Or do I go completely out of my comfort zone and go bright? I’d definitely need H.E.L.P. from someone crafty to DIY an ombre pumpkin myself.

 

Help me decide people!

Happy New Years!

Wishing you and yours, a healthy and magical 2012!

Adventures in House Hunting: Closing Day Nears

Moving TruckFor anyone who hasn’t heard me go on and on about our house on Facebook or in person, I’m excited to report that our closing day and time is set! We close this Tuesday (12/20) beginning at 9:30 a.m. I’ve been told to get ready for three to four hours of paperwork and many hand cramps from all the signing that is required.

We could not be more thrilled and have begun the oh-so-fun task of packing. I am actually much more stressed about packing (surprise) than Mike. The move is only about 10 blocks so most everything can be transported without a lot of prep work. Clothes will stay on hangers and in drawers. The majority of our belongings from San Diego and our wedding never made it out of boxes, so despite the fact that Mike and I are not exchanging gifts this year, there will be plenty to open and rediscover.

For a moment I thought about running out to get a Christmas tree to have up Tuesday night thru Christmas Day in the new house, but I am trying to stick to my guns and wait for the post-Christmas sales. I need to focus on painting and unpacking, not decorating a Christmas tree. Perhaps a wreath would be a good compromise?

Besides pouring over dozens of paint fans and chip samples, I am literally chomping at the bit to go buy a house warming gift to ourselves–nothing fancy, just a little something. I am dying to go to Hutch & Fig and Lulu’s in particular…where I found a few items that I can’t stop thinking about. If you happen to live in Denver and don’t know about either of these home stores, you are really missing out. I actually went to college with the owner of Hutch & Fig and hope to spotlight the store soon here on my blog. She carries beyond gorgeous items that are completely unique–no mass produced Create & Barrel goodies in that place.

Next week be on the lookout for pictures, lots of exclamation marks when I write “we have the keys” and other updates from our first hours and days of home ownership.

It is going to be a very Merry Christmas indeed!

A Simple Salad

Cocktails. Desserts. Multiple dinners out each week. December can wreak havoc on even the strictest diet. This weekend was no exception and come Sunday night, I was craving a simple home cooked meal. Boneless skinless chicken, a yam and plenty of salad. Nothing can beat it.

My mom taught me to make a gigantic salad on Sundays so that you can enjoy the leftovers — kept crisp in the fridge with no dressing — for lunch and dinner through the beginning of the week. She also showed me how easy it can be to “dress up” the mundane salad by adding just one new topping, such as edamame or snow peas. Nothing fancy, but always a hit.

This week I decided to roast some beets for our salad topping surprise.

It wasn’t until earlier this year that I finally tried beets and much to my surprise, found out that they are tasty. They also couldn’t be easier to prepare. Tonight I was out of foil so after they were washed, I drizzled them with olive oil and baked them in a covered casserole dish at 375 degrees for one hour. Success.

Once peeled (Note: I wore plastic sandwich bags over both hands to avoid the dreaded beet stains) I chopped them up and Mike and I added them to our individual salads. Delicious! A bit of goat cheese would have rounded out the salad nicely, but I was trying to make the meal as fresh and healthy as possible.

How do you balance holiday indulgences with good-for-you meals?

Pinning for Christmas

As I’ve mentioned, we’re not decorating for Christmas this year in anticipation of needing to put everything into boxes starting next week. I believe Mike is secretly thrilled as he is not much of a Christmas decorating enthusiast. My hunch is that because his mom owned a Christmas store and has hundreds of decorations, he got his fill growing up.

Too bad. He married a Christmas freak and I’ll be back in full force next year. Actually, come to think of it, he hasn’t even witnessed my holiday obsession because we’ve never lived anywhere large enough to go wild with North Pole-inspired goodies.

To quiet my decorating desires this year I’ve turned to Pinterest to create a Holiday Inspirations board full of gorgeous pictures of holiday decor…

Credits from top left: Holiday Countdown Sign; Christmas Kleenex Boxes; Colorful Snowflake Cookies; and a Chic Charlie Brown Tree

One of my favorite parts about holiday pinning on Pinterest is that my red and green decorating mind is exposed to all of the others colors and themes that can make for a beautiful holiday display. Natural woods, summer yellows, black chalkboards…your holiday home doesn’t need to resemble your grandmother’s anymore!

Where do you turn for holiday inspiration? Do you stick to red and green themes or do you experiment with bright and unexpected colors?

Christmas Movie Traditions

its a wonderful lifeChristmas songs are playing in every store and holiday decorations are out (at other people’s houses). We are not decorating this year because we’ll likely spend Dec. 23 and Dec. 24 moving into our new house! I see no reason to empty boxes when I should spend every night filling them up instead.

Therefore, my obsession with Christmas movies will have to quell my desire for a tree and other merry decor. Elf and Love Actually are two of my favorites this time of year, but when it comes to Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, I have a very particular order in which I like to watch a few classics.

Christmas Eve is the night for It’s A Wonderful Life followed by How the Grinch Stole Christmas (the original cartoon version). I like to watch both of these late in the evening, after church and dinner. The experience is enhanced with spiked egg nog. My grandmother was the one who introduced me to “adult” egg nog once I was old enjoy to partake in her favorite tradition of Christmas Eve. Rum, brandy, kaluha…it didn’t really matter. Any “spiking” would do as it kept her warm, cozy and happy as we relaxed from the evening’s feasting festivities. She also ate fruit cake while enjoying her egg nog but I’ll skip that tradition. I can’t stand that stuff!

On Christmas morning I like to watch Miracle on 34th Street (original, black and white version) after the gifts have been opened but before we take showers to go anywhere. Typically this is the second time I have watched the movie during the holiday season. We usually watch it earlier in December while decorating the tree.

It may seem silly to have such rigid holiday movie routine and I am of course open to switching things up this year, as it will be my very first Christmas not with my parents. Yep. It’s time to switch off and enjoy the festivities with Mike’s family. I am really looking forward to establishing some new traditions and cannot wait to watch our nieces open presents this year. They even seem to be grasping the Santa concept! I will miss my family immensely but know that it is going to be a very special holiday.

What holiday traditions do you look forward to most?

How do you cope with changes to your long-standing traditions?

All That Shimmers…

Colorado, especially the mountains, does not lend itself to glittery fashion very often. Unless you are attending a gala, jeans with heels and a cute top is about the most dressed up you need to be. Having spent Black Friday in a Los Angeles mall, I saw some gorgeous sparkly party dresses that I would love to rock at a Christmas or New Year’s Eve party if I wasn’t going to be the most overdressed person in the room.

If we were dressing up this year, I might opt for one of the looks below…

1.) AllSaints Paloma Cap Sleeve Dress 2.) Aqua Sequined Top Dress 3.) AllSaints Velutina One Shoulder Dress 4.) Aqua Metallic Batwing Dress

Maybe we will have to host a dressy holiday cocktail party next year in our (fingers crossed) new house. I’d love to send swanky Paperless Post email invitations, serve champagne cocktails and plenty of Bon Appetit inspired appetizers. We’d also need to leave enough money in the party budget for house cleaners the next day, just in case I have a headache…

Will you purchase a holiday party dress this year, or stick to jeans (or in our case, probably sweats)?

Holiday Cards

Do you send holiday cards? I like to send them in theory, but then when I have to sit and write them out I huff and puff and complain that my handwriting is terrible and my hand is cramped. That said, I get caught up in the holiday spirit just like everyone else and am currently on the hunt for cards to send our to families.

I love cards that are not super traditional and stores like Paper Source and Papyrus have really fun selections. Who knows…maybe one of the designs below will end up in your mailbox this year!

1.) Paper Source 2.) Papyrus 3.) Papyrus 4.) Paper Source

The “Seasons Tweeting” set really caught my eye because everyone makes fun of my social media addiction. That is the front runner (for now) because of the irony of the design/theme.

What kind of holiday cards will you send this year?

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