>> the best christmas

For no outlandish reason at all, this was the best Christmas ever. Just like a little kid, I slept so lightly the night before in anticipation of this special holiday. I probably freaked my husband out because as soon as his alarm went off, he opened his eyes to see my crazy face excitedly smiling at him. A few times, he'd drift back off to sleep then open his eyes again to my eagerly awaiting stare. 

First things first, we read the story of Jesus' birth from the Bible. Then we let Simon open his stocking, which contained a new bone, as usual. He is always so sweet on Christmas morning. He plops himself down right next to us and chews on his new bone as we open our gifts.

After our morning ritual, we got ready to go, loaded the truck up with presents and headed to Siloam Springs for Christmas with my in-laws.

Like always, we started at Nanny's house with extended family. After stuffing ourselves on delicious food and pie, we sat around the living room and opened gifts. Then we went across the street and opened presents with my husband's immediate family. I feel like every time I talk about my in-laws I have to stress how blessed I am by them. They have truly embraced me and treat me as if I'm their daughter. In the family picture above, I asked them to get together with the boys for a picture, and my mother-in-law told me to join in, too. Our time with them is always precious and we literally never want to leave once we get over to their house. But we had to cut the visit a little short this time because for the first time ever we were celebrating both our families' Christmases in the same day.

So to my sister's house we drove, truck loaded down with presents. I was thankful once we arrived that all my family members had stuck around and waited for us even though they had already opened gifts from each other and enjoyed a Mexican-style lunch.

I loved watching my nephew open his gifts. His face lit up for the toys, and he would scowl and throw down any cloth item, i.e., clothes or hats. The Veggie Tales DVD we gave him was a big hit. He had to watch it right then while the rest of us opened gifts. It was sweet to get to be a part of both my nieces' first Christmases too. They pretty much just ate and slept their way through it, but they sure were pretty doing so.

My favorite part of the night was when my mom surprised the boys with beanies she had crocheted and fingerless gloves for the girls. My favorite gifts to give were the monogram frames that hubs and I made together for my sister and brother.

This day was so special and just felt so full. Getting to celebrate with both our families on the same day was busy but perfect. Starting the day off with the focus on the birth of our Savior and a prayer really set the tone for a day where the blessings surrounding me were evident and in the forefront of my mind. I soaked in the laughter, I was more intentional with how I hugged people and I let the excitement of such a magical holiday light me up from the inside out.


>> cookie exchange party

Today I am having one of those days when I just can't get down about anything because I'm way too aware of all my blessings. Sometimes I catch myself having a secret little pity party because of the things I don't have. (Apparently, with all the undeserved blessings I've been given, a sense of entitlement has come along too.) I have to mentally put a stop to these thoughts as soon as they enter my mind.

This morning my church had a Christmas celebration. There was a full band and choir up front, so the music was absolutely beautiful. I looked around the theater (because we meet in a movie theater) and felt so blessed by all the friendships surrounding me. I can honestly say I love so many people in my church. My heart is full, but never runs out of room. 

I say all that to get to the point: I am blessed in so many ways -- especially in my friendships. I treasure my friends at this point in my life because growing up, I never had true, lasting ones. This is the first time in my life I've been fully excepted and included by such an amazing, supportive group of women.

We got together last night for a cookie exchange party. It doubled as an excuse to see my friend Chrissy's new house. Each of us brought individually wrapped cookies and enough recipe cards for everyone. As with any other gathering with these ladies, there was so much laughter and great conversation. We each brought an appetizer and spent a good while eating and catching up with each other. Then after a good long tour of Chrissy's house, we each got a gift bag and filled it with cookies and the recipes that went with them. My sister came along and brought my baby niece with her, which was an added bonus!


>> ho ho homicide

Last night we braved the icy roads to go to our friends' annual Christmas party. The theme this year was a murder mystery. A couple of weeks ago, we got the invitation along with the description of the characters we would be playing. I had never been to one of these parties before, so I was super excited.

The name of the party was "Ho Ho Homicide." Our host friends were Mr. and Mrs. Claus; there was a mailman named Holiday Wishes, and the rest of us were either elves or reindeer. Hubs was Dasher, and I was an elf named Jangle.

It was hilarious to watch everyone stay in character all night. At one point, the lights went off and an elf named Jingle fell down to the ground. That was when the "murder" took place, and we were all handed an envelope. My envelope revealed to me that I was the killer but I had to keep it quiet and focus my attention on accusing everyone else. I must have played my part pretty well because when it came time to vote on who we thought the killer was, only one person suspected me.

It was definitely another awesome Christmas party for the books. The first few years, we always celebrated with an ugly sweater party. Then last year we did a cheesy game show theme followed by this year's murder mystery theme. They just keep getting better and better. Next year, we're already planning a Christmas Vacation theme, where we all come dressed as characters from the movie.


>> i love snow days

We got our first snow of the season! It started yesterday with sleet that turned to snow later on. By the time it stopped snowing this afternoon, we had close to 9" in our back yard.

It's times like these where the big kid comes out in me and I want to run around outside, build snowmen and slide down a hill in a cardboard box. But these activities are awkward to partake in all by yourself, so I enjoyed a quiet day spent mostly inside.

Wearing my cuddl duds and one of my husband's shirts, I cozied up on the couch and indulged in some of my favorite classic chick flicks. I could watch old Meg Ryan movies all day long. It's weird, but the way I feel when I watch movies like You've Got Mail or When Harry Met Sally could be equated to the way chicken soup warms your soul. For me, it's about as quality as "me time" can get.


>> deck the halls

Yesterday I hauled out my over-abundance of Christmas decorations and got to work decking the halls. This year, I stuck to subtle colors and lots of burlap for a simple woodsy feel.

When it comes to home decor, I've always liked bright colors. But I literally woke up one morning a couple of weeks ago and wanted all the bright colors in my house to be replaced with olive, gray and burlap textures. So in keeping with my new-found obsession with all things neutral, I spray painted our silver JOY stocking holders with a dark oil-rubbed bronze.

Even though I'm still really proud of the stockings I made for us last year, there's a small part of me that's bothered by the bright red chevron. I'm wishing they were lined with a dark olive and I'm actually debating making new ones - something I swore I'd never do again. Stockings are not fun to make. And who knows what I'll like next year. There's going to have to come a point where we use the same stockings year after year for the simple sake of tradition. And don't even get me started on Simon's flashy stocking. I am literally going to make him a new one. It's just time.

I love the warmth Christmas decorations add to our home. I always wish they could stay up year round, but I guess if they did, they wouldn't be as special.


>> thanksgiving

Thanksgiving is one of my two favorite holidays. There's something special about the tradition of 20+ people all gathered together, eating elbow-to-elbow at tablecloth-clad card tables in Nanny's little house. There's laughter, lots of catching up, a spirit of gratitude in the air, and, of course, pie. Fine, I'll say it: it's really all about the pie.

As usual, our Thanksgiving festivities were divided between two different days. We spent the actual day with my in-laws, but something out of the ordinary for us was that my sister and niece Molly got to come along too since my brother-in-law worked all day. I was a proud auntie getting to introduce Molly to everyone, and my sister just fit right in.

Big family gatherings weren't something I grew up with, so marrying into such traditions has been a blessing. I know for sure that I want my future kids to know what it's like to regularly visit extended family and celebrate holidays together.

 On Friday, a few of us siblings got together for what I'm referring to as "sibs-giving" at my sister's house. We enjoyed another full spread of traditional Thanksgiving food and took turns holding my sweet niece. We missed celebrating with my brother and his family as well as with my parents this year, but the holiday was still full of special memories and blessings.

Now I'm flipping the switch in my mind from Thanksgiving to Christmas. Tomorrow I plan on dragging out the tree and decking the halls. According to Facebook, most people have already decorated for Christmas -- like, weeks ago -- but I'm pretty set in my tradition of holding off until the weekend after Thanksgiving.


>> on being homely

This year I am getting to share a classroom with one of my best friends, Chrissy. Working with her has been so good for me for so many different reasons--namely, she's an excellent homemaker and has started rubbing off on me! Her home is beautiful and she does such a good job keeping it picked up and clean. She also loves to cook and puts a lot of thought into the dinners she fixes for her family.

Almost every day she asks me what I'm going to cook for dinner that night. A lot of times, I don't really have anything grand planned. I've always relied on boxed dinners or quick and easy meals to fill in the gaps between the well-thought-out dinners. That's not how Chrissy works, and I admire that about her. I've found myself not wanting to let her down when she asks me what I'm making for dinner! It sounds silly, but a change for the better is taking place in me.

I've been trying lots of new Pinterest recipes lately, and will stop by the grocery store on my way home from work if there are ingredients I need that I know I don't have at home. Honestly, it's just dinner, but the extra time and effort I've been putting into it has made me feel better about myself.

One of my favorite new recipes from Pinterest is this Cheeseburger Soup. Obviously, it's not at all healthy, which means it's extremely delicious! It's the perfect time of the year to be trying out new soups, and believe me, this one is a keeper.


Another thing I've been doing better at is cleaning. I've finally found a routine that has worked for me the past couple of weeks so far. I do the majority of my cleaning on Sunday afternoon. Come home from church, eat lunch, relax for a few minutes, then get busy for a couple of hours. I get all the laundry done, including towels and bedding. (And while I'm talking laundry, I just have to say it is absolutely blissful to lay down at night on sheets that have been freshly washed with Gain Hawaiian Aloha detergent. Blissful. Mark it down. Buy the detergent.) I have been choosing what needs to be done the most, such as cleaning the bathrooms, dusting, vacuuming, or mopping and focusing on one or two of those big tasks to take care of while the laundry is going. I am doing a better job throughout the week of keeping the kitchen tidied up as I cook, as well as putting dirty dishes in the dishwasher and starting a new load when it gets full. The hard work put in on Sunday, along with the daily bed making and kitchen tidying makes for a very pleasant home to live in throughout the week.

All that being said, I still have a long way to go before I'm really good at this whole taking care of a house and husband thing. For every toothpaste spot I wipe off the mirror, there's a new cobweb appearing on a light fixture. It seems the blinds on the windows need cleaning way more often than I'd ever care to even think about, but I still dream of white grout lines on my tile floor and a home that smells of freshly-baked cookies when visitors come in. 

Even if that scent is from a scented wax warmer and not actual cookies...baby steps.


.my two nieces.

The past few weeks have changed my life. My heart is even more full with the addition of my two nieces.

Welcome to the world, Mia and Molly!

Mia was born October 20.

Molly was born November 2.

Aunt Martha is so proud and very much in love!


.brunette by mistake.

Another day, another lesson learned.

Friends, don't attempt to highlight your hair at home. No matter how good the customer reviews are on the product, the outcome will NOT be good.

In an attempt to save money, I decided to research at-home highlighting kits. I figured I had watched my hair dresser do her thing enough, I could surely do it myself.

Sally's Beauty Supply has a highlighting kit called Blond Brilliance that has great customer reviews. I bought it based on the reviews and price. (It was just under $10.) I also bought a small package of foils and a comb with a skinny metal handle to use with the foils. Armed and ready, I was excited about the potential money we could save in the future by my doing my own hair.

The fun stopped there.

The kit came with a cap, which I decided to try first. I was doing it all by myself, so I thought the cap might be easier to master. Not so. I had a lot of trouble finding all the holes on the back of the cap, plus it hurt to pull my hair through. (Sensitive scalp, what can I say?) 

I then clipped up all my hair except for the very bottom. I opened my foils, folded one over the comb handle just like the professionals do, and couldn't for the life of me figure out how to get the hair to stay taught over the foil, then how to brush the bleach on my hair without being able to see the darn back of my head. (Having someone to help me would've been ideal. I, however, was too eager beaver to wait on help.)

That's when I got the brilliant idea to simply brush the bleach on my hair section by section. 

What do you know? It was a terrible idea.

As the bleach processed, my new butterscotch/carrot top look emerged. I stared at myself in the mirror for a good while, trying not to freak out.

Then I decided what I had done was an awful, awful thing.

I got in the shower to wash my hair and cried.

All I could see in the mirror was me as a freshman in college, yellow-orange hair from a box kit that had promised to turn my hair platinum blonde.

I threw on a baseball cap and drove to Wal-mart for brown hair dye.

I ended up buying this:

Like a desperado, I drove home to blow dry my butterscotch hair and apply the brown dye. I didn't leave it on my hair as long as the box said because I didn't want my hair to be super dark.

After rinsing and blow drying my hair, I noticed some splotchiness in the color. I still had dye leftover, so I tried to cover the blonde stripes up. Re-rinse, re-blow-dry. Notice more splotchiness. Repeat process about 3-4 times.

Hours later, I feel much better.

If anyone dares mentions the blonde patches that are still there, I'm gonna claim the ombre look. 

In a couple of weeks, I'll probably buy the same hair color again and give it another all-over treatment to help cover any remaining blonde.

So until further notice, I suppose I'm a brunette.


.when being a girl isn't so fun.

I want to start by saying: I love being a girl. I think I'm good at it. Way better than I'd probably be at being a guy.

Regardless, there are times in life when being a girl flat out stinks.

And now I'm going to talk about something that, if you're a guy, is going to be grody.

This one's for the girls though...

Ladies, have you ever had an ovarian cyst? Oh, ew. Yeah, it's kinda disgusting. More than that, it's darn painful. And I have one.

Or, should I say, I had one??? (Please, God, let it be gone. Let that horrific, relentless pain I felt earlier today be what the doctor described as the cyst "resolving itself.")

AKA, with any luck, that little nugget of pain is ruptured. But I don't really know for sure. All I know is this:

(Here's my cyst-tastic story.)

So, apparently back in June I felt a pinching feeling in my right ovary. I have that recorded in my calendar. The emptiness on my July and August calendars tell me those months must have been blissfully pain free.

The pain reared its ugly head again in early September. I remember three solid days of that pinching feeling on my right ovary. I was walking bent over a lot of the time, and, even though  I still went to work, I would unbutton my jeans on the way to work to try to help ease any pressure that might be causing pain in that area. Obviously, I made an appointment during this time.

For the first time in my life, I had an ultrasound (which are kinda fun and relaxing in a way -- the belly jelly is warm -- who knew). I also had a (close your ears, potential boy readers) vaginal ultrasound. Gag me, right?!?!

But I'm so glad I was proactive enough to get these done despite being nervous. I got a call a few days later telling me that I do in fact have a tiny cyst on my right ovary that would, in time, "resolve itself." These are apparently very common in women of child-bearing age.

Why haven't I heard any of my friends talking about this before? Huh? Where's the info? Way to leave a sistah in the dark.

Fast forward to today. I start feeling achey, like maybe a fever is coming on. It's Sunday, so I feel justified in taking a nap anyway. Upon waking up, I feel even worse. I'm running a low-grade fever, shivering, and my ovary abruptly starts hurting. Doesn't take but a blink of an eye for the pain to escalate to the point of me writhing around on the bed, whimpering in pain. I send a text to my husband (who is watching Nascar in the living room) and ask him to come in the bedroom.

When he gets there, I (while in excruciating pain) manage to get the words out that I need some Aleve. It probably takes about a half hour before it really kicks in, and during that time I experience the worst pain I think I've ever felt. I decide in that moment that if what I am feeling is anything like what being in labor feels like, my new life motto is going to be, "Get me the epidural."

I'm praying that what I felt was the cyst rupturing and that relief is here. If the cyst is still there, I'm dreading the next time it gives me grief. Besides that pain on my ovary, there was excruciating pain in my whole lower area (sorry for the TMI but some women need to know), the fever and chills, and nausea. All are symptoms of a cyst rupturing.

I'm sharing this info on my blog in case any other ladies have questions about this particular issue. Being a woman is (most of the time) amazing. Our bodies and what they are capable of are nothing short of miraculous. But for the times when being a woman isn't all it's cracked up to be, it's good to know we can share our struggles with each other.


.abby's fall picnic baby shower.

My sister and sister-in-law are both due in October with their little girls. We had my sister's shower a couple of weeks ago, and we had Abby's shower yesterday.

It was a gorgeous day, and Fall was definitely in the air, so our "fall picnic" theme felt just right.

Mia's nursery is decorated in plum and aqua chevron, so we incorporated these colors and patterns in here and there, along with fresh wild flowers, gingham print, finger foods and a variety of pies as opposed to the traditional cake. (The pies were my personal favorite part.)


Pie (apple, cherry, pecan)
fresh baguette bread
cubed cheese
 red grapes
pita chips
spinach artichoke dip
quiche (spinach, bacon, crab)
apple orchard punch

We played a game where everyone got a list of characteristics & had to guess whether Abby hoped Mia would acquire Abby's or my brother's of each one.

The winners (we had a tie) received a goody bag filled with hand sanitizer, a nail file, nail polish, body butter, Burt's Bees chap stick and notepads.

We had such a great time and Mia received lots of pretty presents. I can't wait to meet my sweet niece! She'll be here before I know it and my heart will be so full.


.goodbye summer.

I remember once...about 2 weeks ago...it was Labor Day. And it was a good day. Even if it did take me this long to blog about it.

Hubs and I enjoyed a day out on the lake with family. It was so relaxing. I love the feel of the wind in my face while chilling in a boat, cruising over the water.

Afterwards we headed back to my sister's house for grilled out burgers and hot dogs.

Now that Summer's last hoorah is over, I'm ecstatic about the months to come.

Did you know that Fall is my favorite time of the year?

Candy corn, changing & falling leaves, Thanksgiving, pumpkins, chilly air, fire pits, and...most importantly...the arrival of my TWO nieces!

Sis and SIL are both due to deliver their little girls in October. Two more reasons my most favorite month of the year will be even more special!

On that note, I bid adieu to summer 2013 and welcome with open arms the season that brings exciting change and a fresh invigoration for this blessed life I live!


.a very special woodland baby shower.

A couple of weeks ago, my sister-in-law and I threw a woodland-themed baby shower for my sister. I put my heart and soul into this one, and it was a success (thanks to Pinterest, which is where every design element came from). My sister shined and baby Molly was gifted with many beautiful things. So without further ado, here are some pictures!


Pretzel Crisps
Pita Chips
Broccoli & Carrots
Ranch Dip
Owl Sugar Cookies
Spice Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting
Punch: Apple Juice mixed with Sprite

We filled out "Wishes for Molly" cards.

And instead of playing games, we decorated onesies, which was so much fun. We found most of our white onesies at yard sales for about .50 a piece, all in new condition!

Supplies for Decorating Onesies:

Butcher Paper (to cover table top with)
White Onesies
Store-Bought Stencils (letters & various designs)
Freezer Paper Stencils (pre-cut with my Silhouette Cameo)
Fabric Scraps
Wonder-Under (for ironing on fabric designs)
Iron-on Letters
Fabric Paint
Sponge Brushes
Fabric Markers
Cardboard (to go inside onesie when using paint)
Iron & Ironing Board

Finally, my sister opened her gifts. She got so many cute things and lots of handmade gifts for Molly. And me, being the good sister I am, made my sister cry with my letter to Molly. My sister only read a few lines and had to stop because she didn't want to cry. She said she'd finish reading it in about 10 years. I honestly don't think she's finished reading it to this day...

I had SO MUCH fun throwing this shower for my big sis, my BFF. I am so excited to meet Molly, it's not even funny.

I love you, Emily! (And Molly Grace) ;-)


.sisters reunited.

My sister moved to my neck of the woods!!!!!!

Y'all may not understand. She's my bestie. And we haven't lived close to each other in 7 years.

And I'm in love with her new home. Is it okay to be obsessed with it? Because I'm enthusiastically crazy about it.

I mean...right?!?!

For her first night in the new house, her husband couldn't be there, so my mom and I spent the night, girls'-only-slumber-party-style. No furniture had been delivered yet, so we slept on cots and an inflatable mattress.

So. Much. Fun.

Even though she's still 45 minutes away from my house, I'm ecstatic she's here. It doesn't seem real yet that we can actually hang out on a whim. No packing bags to visit, no going months without seeing each other. Sisters reunited.

^ That's my preggo sis. Also, that's her house. The one I'm all giddy over.

Hope she's cool with hosting all the family holidays and special events. Because I already signed her up for them.


.linen & flax.

Last week, a longtime dream got crossed off the bucket list.

I, along with my mom, sister and sis-in-law, started a flea market booth!

Derived from Proverbs 31, we named our booth Linen & Flax.
"She seeketh wool, and flax, and worketh willingly with her hands."
-Proverbs 31:13

"She maketh fine linen, and selleth it..."
-Proverbs 31:24

Our booth size is 6'x5' and we are upstairs in a legit old building.

We. Are. Having. A. Blast.

We even have a FACEBOOK & TWITTER to post updates whenever we add new items. Feel free to follow along!

Here's a little shot of me, my sister and mom after we got the booth set up. (My sister-in-law was out of town.) We were completely exhausted but so very excited!

Let the adventure begin!