Thursday, December 31, 2009

Happy New Year!

Here is a toast wishing you and yours a Happy New Year!
Source

Thanks so much for reading my blog this year, dear readers!

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

The past decade

Since we are finishing up a decade, I thought I'd post about my goings-on this past decade. I got this idea from Sunshine and Unicorns.

2000: Freshman in high school
2001: Sophomore in high school
2002: Junior in high school
2003: graduated from high school and began college! I went into college as an undecided major, then changed it to English and added Classics. I met some of my best friends.
2004: met David and a bunch of my other really great friends in January, stayed the summer at school and worked a law job
2005: began dating David, went to Texas and Mexico with friends, stayed a second summer at school, finalized study abroad plans
2006: studied abroad, went to Washington, D.C. for the summer, got engaged
2007: Graduated from college, worked a different law job, married David, bought a house, got a cat and a dog, and began law school
2008: worked another law job, finished my first year of law school, traveled to Dublin and Budapest, got another kitty
2009: traveled to Paris, finished my second year of law school, moved for half the summer, began my final year of law school, and traveled to Mexico!

Wow! It has been a very busy 10 years. I hope that the next ten years are equally as blessed and wonderful.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Christmas 2009

We had a wonderful Christmas this year and I'm so sad it is over. I always get a little depressed after Christmas is over because I have so much fun every year! The fact that I start school again NEXT WEEK does not help either. Nothing says bah humbug like having to get back to the books, huh?

Enough complaining from Ms. Sourpuss. Our first real Christmas was with my mom's sister's family, seen below. We went to a delicious Italian restaurant where I ate waayyyy too much food. It was really fun to see everybody though!

Next we went to David's mom's house where we enjoyed more food (David's mom made chili, which is one of my favorite foods on regular winter days, so I ate too much of that!) and got ready for company. His sister and grandmas came later, and we enjoyed Christmas festivities. I don't have many pictures of adults because when you have a five-year-old, a two-year-old, and a one-year-old, attention centers around them. Bring on the kid pictures! Here they are dressed up in front of the tree:

Every year David and Peter's mother asks them to play Christmas Carols on the trombone. Since they both love their mother they gladly find their trombones and play for her. This year someone else seemed to be interested in trombone-playing:We give the kids savings bonds every year, but I try to think of something else small to stick in the package so they aren't opening up a piece of paper every year. This year I framed a picture of me and all three of them. Even though the picture is not the best one, it was funny when Noah opened his because he said, "It's us!!!"


After that was over, we drove to my parents' house, where we slept and then had Christmas the next morning. After that was over we went to mass where I played the piano and David sang (he is such a nice husband...I'm not sure he really enjoys it but he does it so I don't have to be up there alone). After that we went to my dad's parents' house for our final family holiday:Like every other year, we had a lot of fun and stuffed ourselves silly. We always laugh a lot! This year we had big news: my uncle is now engaged! We are all excited to hear the news.

I am sad our Christmases are over. :( But now we can look forward to the New Year!

Monday, December 28, 2009

Aaaahhhhhhhh

I just finished steam cleaning the carpets. It is not an easy job but when it is finished I always feel like my house is 95% cleaner than when I began. What is something you clean that gives you a lot of satisfaction?

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Baby-sitting

My brother and I baby-sat for my sister-in-law's kids last Tuesday. It was a lot of fun and I think their mother enjoyed the free time alone. Ryan and I both baby-sat a lot in high school for local kids so we have pretty much experience. Some keys to baby-sitting:
1. Learn how to get kids asleep when it is their nap time or time to go to sleep in the evenings = you get free time and non-cranky kids
2. It is better to let kids just have what they want because in two or three hours you get to leave and the parents come home and can deal with the chaos
3. Snack time is not only a time when kids get treats (because they find the hidden candy in the house and say, "my mom was saving this for when you came!") but also a time when you get to enjoy things like candy or fruit gushers that your own mother won't allow you to have.
Five minutes after her mother pulled out of the driveway, Emma asked us to get "that thing next to the blue stool at the very top of my closet down," which ended up being a stage set. How did she know it was up there? There is no way her five-year-old self could see it because it had obviously been stuffed out of sight. So Ryan came out of her room with a huge load of plastic posts and we set it right up.

Then she asked for a piece of candy (she said her mom lets her have one "after lunch"). I'm pretty sure she snuck more pieces of candy throughout the afternoon because her mouth went from blue to green to red. We also sampled some candy goodness, of course.

Finally, I got Noah and Allie asleep because their mom said that they had not yet taken a nap that day. The key to this is to have a very calm and soothing environment, meaning that I laid in bed with Noah telling him a story about a forest and then rocked and bounced Allie in my arms while saying, "Allie, Allie, Allie," over and over. It worked and they both enjoyed quiet slumber while Ryan and I played with Emma in the living room for the rest of the time until Sarah came home to two babies sleeping, a five-year-old with a sugar high, and a stage taking up 3/4 of her living room. We really enjoyed baby-sitting and I think it was a win-win for both Sarah and her baby-sitters!

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Recovering

We had a wonderful, wonderful Christmas holiday. It was full of fun and family and eating. From David's grandma's delicious pizzas to chili to bourbon weenies to delicious potato casserole, we stuffed ourselves silly.

Today we are relaxing and recovering from all the festivities at home. We are wrapped under a blanket of snow here, and it is snowing even more as I speak. Cinnamon rolls are rising on the stove, we made chicken and rice soup for lunch, and we will be laying low for the rest of the day.

Friday, December 25, 2009

Merry Christmas!


The Christmas Story from Luke 2:4-7:

4So Joseph also went up from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to Bethlehem the town of David, because he belonged to the house and line of David. 5He went there to register with Mary, who was pledged to be married to him and was expecting a child. 6While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born, 7and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn.


Merry Christmas to you and yours. May you and your family enjoy peace this holiday season and upcoming year.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Happy Christmas Eve!

Source

THE NIGHT BEFORE CHRISTMAS
by Clement Clarke Moore
or Henry Livingston


'Twas the night before Christmas, when all through the house

Not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse;

The stockings were hung by the chimney with care,

In hopes that St. Nicholas soon would be there;

The children were nestled all snug in their beds,

While visions of sugar-plums danced in their heads;

And mamma in her 'kerchief, and I in my cap,

Had just settled down for a long winter's nap,

When out on the lawn there arose such a clatter,

I sprang from the bed to see what was the matter.

Away to the window I flew like a flash,

Tore open the shutters and threw up the sash.

The moon on the breast of the new-fallen snow

Gave the lustre of mid-day to objects below,

When, what to my wondering eyes should appear,

But a miniature sleigh, and eight tiny reindeer,

With a little old driver, so lively and quick,

I knew in a moment it must be St. Nick.

More rapid than eagles his coursers they came,

And he whistled, and shouted, and called them by name;

"Now, Dasher! now, Dancer! now, Prancer and Vixen!

On, Comet! on Cupid! on, Donder and Blitzen!

To the top of the porch! to the top of the wall!

Now dash away! dash away! dash away all!"

As dry leaves that before the wild hurricane fly,

When they meet with an obstacle, mount to the sky,

So up to the house-top the coursers they flew,

With the sleigh full of toys, and St. Nicholas too.

And then, in a twinkling, I heard on the roof

The prancing and pawing of each little hoof.

As I drew in my head, and was turning around,

Down the chimney St. Nicholas came with a bound.

He was dressed all in fur, from his head to his foot,

And his clothes were all tarnished with ashes and soot;

A bundle of toys he had flung on his back,

And he looked like a peddler just opening his pack.

His eyes -- how they twinkled! his dimples how merry!

His cheeks were like roses, his nose like a cherry!

His droll little mouth was drawn up like a bow,

And the beard of his chin was as white as the snow;

The stump of a pipe he held tight in his teeth,

And the smoke it encircled his head like a wreath;

He had a broad face and a little round belly,

That shook, when he laughed like a bowlful of jelly.

He was chubby and plump, a right jolly old elf,

And I laughed when I saw him, in spite of myself;

A wink of his eye and a twist of his head,

Soon gave me to know I had nothing to dread;

He spoke not a word, but went straight to his work,

And filled all the stockings; then turned with a jerk,

And laying his finger aside of his nose,

And giving a nod, up the chimney he rose;

He sprang to his sleigh, to his team gave a whistle,

And away they all flew like the down of a thistle.

But I heard him exclaim, ere he drove out of sight,

"Happy Christmas to all, and to all a good-night."

Found Here.
Here is to hoping you find a wonderful gift under the tree rather than a lump of coal! Ho ho ho!

Monday, December 21, 2009

??????

Thorina has taken to sitting on my laptop while it is open. The other day she sat on my computer and opened up the Firefox preferences. Apparently she also changed the homepage to this useful address:
file:///bv%20cdv%20....//////////%20m,cv%20x

I'm not sure what Thorina is trying to find there.

I suspect that it may be revenge for making her wear this adorable Christmas bow:

My Favorite Christmas songs

Today I wanted to post about my favorite Christmas songs. Here they are!

Otis Redding, "White Christmas"


"The Coventry Carol"


"Silver Bells" by Vonda Shepard


Handel's "And the Glory of the Lord"


Tchaikovsky's "Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy"


"Oh Holy Night":



What are your favorite Christmas songs?

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Christmas at our house

We had Christmas at our house last night. We go to family Christmases over the actual holiday so we always open gifts a little early. David and I already bought each other new cell phones for Christmas, so we did not have any gifts to open. Therefore, our Christmas was a little more low-key than normal.

This year we only had one gift to open: a mysterious gift that David put under the tree about three weeks ago. It said, "To Arwen and Thorina", and of course I went crazy trying to figure out what it was. My friends were convinced that it was a piece of jewelry for me and David had disguised it as a gift to the cats to be funny. I knew my husband too well for this plan, though. David is a great husband but is not good at jewelry surprises because he HATES spending money on unnecessary items like that (which is why I just have to buy that kind of thing on my own). Anyway, I was pretty convinced that it was indeed a present for the cats.
It turns out that the present was kitty treats that David bought from a little girl selling 4-H treats at his work. The cats and Paco were very delighted with the new grub. They each got two treats last night.
Today I am off to make peppermint bark and sugar cookies to bring to our Christmas celebrations! Decorating sugar cookies is one of my favorite Christmas traditions.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Tour de Tree 2009

I thought I'd share a few of our favorite Christmas ornaments. I took these pictures two years ago thinking that I'd post them, but I never did, so here we are! The ornament above is mine from CCD from 1990 or so. I don't put it on my tree anymore because the crazies kitties keep shaking the tree (and I'm not talking about the Peter Gabriel song) and I'm afraid that they will knock it off.

Next up is a homemade ornament by David's niece when she was about 2 (right), and a homemade ornament of mine from when I was probably in kindergarten or first grade.
The little mouse in a violin is my favorite ornament. I used to play the violin, so my mom got it for me one year and I think it is really cute. Another fun ornament is the gingerbread lady, which says 1988 on it. Both my mom and my grandma bought me Daughter and Granddaughter Hallmark ornaments every year, so I have a nice collection by now. On the far right of this picture you can see a Granddaughter ornament.
This little guy is David's from his childhood. It is also a favorite of our cats: we constantly find him on our floor.
Here is a picture of the main ornament destroying culprit:

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Mexico Travel Tips and Hotel Review: Riu Tequila


The night club where the dancers performed- in this picture you can see the dancer in charge of entertaining the young kids

We had an absolute BLAST in Mexico. I wanted to write a review about what services we used, our hotel, and getting to Mexico.

1. Transportation: we flew to Mexico and had a connecting flight. If I had to do it all over again, I would think that it was worth it to pay the extra $$ and get a direct flight. I'm not sure how much more this would have cost us, but it would be worth it to me.

A waiter making baked Alaska at the Steak House Restaurant

On Friday evening David and I drove to the airport from his parents' house because they live in STL. However, my other friends got a hotel room at the Marriott and used a park and fly package. This was worth it for them because our flight was super duper early. Plus the Marriott had good service to and from the airport.
Again, the dancer in charge of the kids performing with his helpers

Another tip I have would work for some and not for others. If you can, take carry-ons only. We didn't have any issues with our checked bags at all, but I think it is infinitely easier to clear customs and make your next flight without stress if you don't have checked bags with you. This is because once you enter the U.S., you have to recollect your checked items and clear the baggage area. However, someone like my friend Rachel has a tripod, a bag, another bag, a camera bag, etc., etc., so obviously this does not work for everybody. Just something to consider if you want an easier flight.

The performers after dancing to the Mamma Mia soundtrack

Once we arrived in Mexico we had booked a shuttle with Best Day Travel, a service that brings people from the airport to their hotels. This was a great experience. I really liked that they grouped us together according to location so we were not traveling to Cancun (more north) and then back south to drop us off. I've had an experience like that once, so having it more organized was really nice. Once we arrived at the shuttle area, the workers quickly greeted us and kept us informed on how many minutes we would have to wait (maybe 7). Then we were whisked away in a really nice air-conditioned shuttle! The next day they made us meet with a rep in order to get our voucher back, but the meeting only lasted about 10 minutes and he gave us tips on shopping, so that was fun.

At the night club anticipating the Mamma Mia show

We booked it through Expedia and got an awesome deal on the entire package.
2. Hotel: Riu was an awesome hotel. We stayed at the Riu Tequila, which was part of a bigger complex of Riu hotels in Playa del Carmen:Source

The Riu Tequila was not right on the beach, and thus was cheaper. However, there was a really easy path leading to the beach that we walked every day, as well as a little golf cart shuttle running every 15 minutes or so. Furthermore, the Tequila had a great pool. We didn't stay at the pool very much, but when we did we participated in stretching. Instead we often went to the Riu Yucatan's pool because it was closer to the ocean.

First off, the staff was very helpful. Upon arrival, we learned that our rooms were in different buildings. As soon as we said something they changed our room so we were right next to each other. As you walked by every staff member, they greeted you with a smile on their face. They reminded us to relax, relax, and relax! They were very good.

The entertainment staff at our hotel was also very good (of course you shouldn't expect Broadway quality, but they did a really great job). Every night we enjoyed a performance. Saturday's show was a Michael Jackson impersonator, Sunday we enjoyed a show called "Around the World", which featured different dances from around the world, Monday we watched Mayan traditional dances, and then on Tuesday we watched them dance to the Mamma Mia soundtrack. I think that watching the dances was my second favorite part of the trip (besides staying by the beaches!).

Our bathroom in the hotel room: everything was completely clean

Every night before the dancing show, a performer would come and ask for audience volunteers. We went up once and it was fun: mostly dancing in a goofy way. Another night they made men do push-ups, which was hilarious. Also, before the big show, the performers would let kids come on the stage and dance around, which the kids and audience loved.

This brings me to my next point: deciding whether to go to a resort that allows children. Riu allowed children into the resort and we did not care at all. We were never bothered by them (except when they took all the french fries from the buffet!!!!), so I am glad that we didn't pay more just to go to a resort that didn't allow children. That said, I totally understand if you have four kids and want to get away from all things under 18. But, if you do not care, I would say to just find the best deal and go with it.

The drinks were really great: we enjoyed pina coladas and other delicious treats. There was a bar in our room with Vodka, Tequila, and beers. They also had plenty of water for us to enjoy. Every day near the Yucatan pool we got fun sample drinks. We were definitely pampered with drinks. The best part is that they actually use real sugar, which makes them way more delicious than drinks here.
Our room upon arrival. It was very clean.

Finally, everybody wants to know about the food. Honestly I didn't have high expectations for our food because of the amount we paid for the total trip. I was neither disappointed nor pleasantly surprised. The food was mediocre, and I would compare it to a dorm food experience. I ate a lot of chips and salsa, french fries (that was my guilty pleasure), and fruit for breakfast.

The view outside our balcony

That said, I am the pickiest eater abroad that you know. I didn't eat any meat, nor do I eat cheese or dairy, so this nixed 85% of the menu right there. SO- take my review with a grain of salt. The food that we got at the fancier restaurants was definitely more delicious. I had shrimp at both the Mexican restaurant and the Steak House, which was very tasty.
The beach

Finally, the beach at the Riu was simply. amazing. We had beautiful white sand, gorgeous clear blue water, and they offered a lot of water sports with the all-inclusive package, including kayaking and boogie boarding. The beach was my favorite part of the entire trip. I loved it!
Every evening the staff would come out and greet the patrons outside the buffet restaurant.

3. Activities: we did snorkeling for $30 that just went to a local reef. It was perfect for us because we were not really serious about having a really awesome snorkeling experience and wanted to keep it cheap. Other than that, Jolene and Beth got a massage on the beach that they said was simply amazing. Rachel and I did kayaking and boogie boarding, which was free with our hotel. Other than that, we enjoyed laying on the beach!!

Overall, I loved our experience at the Riu. The staff there really made it a wonderful experience. They provided excellent service and fun activities. This vacation has definitely made me anxious about traveling to another beachy location in the future, and I would highly recommend it for a group trip or for a fun getaway for a couple. It would be a perfect place to go for a (cheap!) getaway with your husband and wife for a few days.

Mexico!

Well, Mrs. Haid was correct...I was in Mexico!!!!
Needless to say, it was amazing. Going from 18 degree weather to 86 degree weather was fantastic. Reading and enjoying the ocean in December was awesome. I went with my friends Beth, Rachel, and Jolene. We thought about going on a trip together and thought about going to Chicago to see Oprah but decided on Mexico instead. I'm glad we did because I loved the hot, hot, hot weather! I wanted to put up recaps now so that I didn't pucker out during the middle like I normally do. Oops. Tomorrow I will post about travel tips to Mexico.

We arrived at the airport and cleared customs. After meeting our shuttle to our hotel, we sat back, relaxed, and enjoyed the drive to Playa del Carmen. We stayed at the Riu Tequila. I will post more about the hotel later! We thought that they would be handing us a drink as soon as we stepped off the shuttle, and they did! They gave us some delicious fruit juice that tasted really fresh. We checked in and went to our rooms, which were clean and nice.

Immediately upon our arrival we changed and went to the beach. The beach was breathtaking and wonderful. That evening we went to a buffet restaurant on the resort and encountered these fellas:
They are apparently called Kudamundis and are very friendly. As soon we we saw them we took a picture, and as soon as they saw us taking the picture they headed towards us to investigate:We ran away! It was scary! Here is Beth, Rach, and me before dinner that night:

Every evening the hotel's dance troupe performed. On Saturday night we watched a Michael Jackson impersonator. He was pretty good, especially with the dancing. Also, every evening before the troupe invited little kids up on the stage and this man wearing a ridiculous pair of overalls danced with them. It was pretty cute. Besides this, the troupe invited audience members onto the stage. On this evening they invited a bunch of men. The men didn't know that they would have to do a Michael Jackson impersonation in front of the entire audience. This resulted in a pretty hilarious spectacle. If they didn't do a good job or even if they did do a good job, the men had to take shots of tequila. One old man was especially funny because you could tell that he didn't really know how Michael Jackson danced. His name was Archie, was from Wales, and had his entire family with him including grandkids and kids. He became the audience favorite and throughout the week we got excited whenever we saw Archie.

The next morning Rachel and I woke up earlier than the other girls, so we went to breakfast and went to the pool for a while. On the way we saw a giant lizard.

That morning we participated in a stretching activity led by a rather good-looking dancer man. David kept telling me not to fall in love with a cabana boy while I was gone, but little did he know he should have been worrying about the yoga instructors! (I'm kidding, of course!) After stretching we headed to the beach for the day and relaxed!


That evening we went to a Mexican restaurant where I enjoyed some yummy shrimp. The dancers performed dances from around the world that night, which was enjoyable. We wondered what America's dance would be and it was a Broadway dance to "New York New York".


The next day we woke up in time to go snorkeling! Unfortunately I could not bring my digital camera with me, but hopefully I will get some pictures of the activity. We went to a local reef where we saw two sea turtles. Snorkeling was really fun and I enjoyed it. Being in the water was so much fun.


That evening we decided to go shopping on Fifth Avenue in Playa del Carmen. The shopping was pretty good there: we saw a lot of souvenir shops and prescription drug shops. I didn't buy anything, though. While we were out we saw people participating in Law Posadas (I think). The kids were so cute:That evening we returned to find Mayan dancers! The entertainment that night was a traditional Mayan dance, which was cool to watch. Here we are with the dancers:
The next day we decided to take it easy at the beach. Jolene and Beth enjoyed a beachfront massage and Rachel and I kayaked in the ocean:
This was pretty laughable because we basically went around the swimming area and back. Rowing is hard!
I enjoyed more of this:
And that night the performers had their best show of all, Mamma Mia! They danced to the music and we enjoyed it very much:
We also ate at a steak restaurant on the resort property. Here a waiter makes Baked Alaska:
Jolene and Rachel enjoying the food:
This man was posing as a macho man for his wife on the beach. Unfortunately I didn't quite capture the moment. Fortunately you don't have to see him in his speedo:
This is another funny story. Throughout the trip we mused as to why there were red flags around the beach. On our last day we finally stopped and read the explanatory sign next to them:

Apparently the red flags meant that the water was pretty choppy.

Overall we had a total blast. Going all-inclusive was a great idea and the vacation was so relaxing. Tomorrow I will write a post about our specific hotel and other services we utilized.