Saturday, December 31, 2011

2011 {A Year in Review}

What a year it's been!

I know I've been sort of MIA on my blog this week and all I have to say is...sorry I'm not sorry. We've been having such a wonderful time visiting with family and friends in Michigan, and I'm trying to soak up every last second here before we leave on tomorrow. I feel like our time here flew by, and while I'll definitely have a recap in the days to come, this week it's just been awesome to relax and spend time with the people I love.

However, since today is New Year's Eve, I thought it might be fun to take a look over the past year back before diving head first into a brand-new one tomorrow. The last couple of weeks Cam and I have spent a lot of time reflecting on how much has happened over the past twelve months and it's just crazy. It's weird because while I feel like the year went by both really fast and yet slow at the same time. On one hand it seems like we were just home in Michigan celebrating NYE 2010, yet it also feels like it's been a very full year. So before we say good-bye to 2011 tonight, let's walk down memory lane, shall we?

January started out the year in Greenville, South Carolina with a freak snow storm and a visit from my family.

We also officially adopted boxer/lab mix puppy Lola, and she's brought so much joy to our lives! (I saw officially adopted because we originally started out just fostering Lola for a few weeks last December when I was volunteering at the Greenville Humane Society. She was the runt of the litter and very underweight so the plan was for us to foster her for a few weeks, and then return her before Christmas. We fell in love with her right away and decided we wanted to keep her, but we had already made plans to go out of town for the holidays. Luckily, the Humane Society was kind enough to find a sweet family to watch her while we went out of town and then we picked her up when we got back in January!)

February was filled lots of hiking in the mountains of the Carolinas.

March brought a trip to New York City with Cam and my sister, and my first time making cheesecake!

May meant another visit to South Carolina from my family along with a trip to Charleston, a visit from Cam's family along with a trip to Savannah, and a visit to Greenville from some of our good friend from Tennessee.

December ended the year with a visit from friends, moving out of our apartment in Longmont, Colorado, driving 19 hours to Oregon to spend a week with Cam's family, and now spending a week in Michigan with my family!

Other important milestones from 2011...

Cameron and I both turned 25

We celebrated our second wedding anniversary

Baby Lola Beans had her first birthday

I baked...and baked...and baked
Some of my favorite recipes include from the past year include these brownies, this cake, this bread, and all these cookies!

 We hosted two holidays--Easter in South Carolina and Thanksgiving in Colorado

Between all of our travels and moves, we visited a whopping 19 states and drove our Jeep to both coasts!

We found out twice that we'd be moving slash I had two posts with the same title
(here and here)

And last but certainly not least...

This year, I fell in love with blogging.

Even though I technically started my blog back in 2010, this was the year that I really started to get a lot more into it and it's become a much more significant and rewarding part of my life then I ever anticipated. (I've made almost 200 posts this year in comparison to last year's 71!) I so enjoy having a creative outlet that allows me to chronicle this time in my life, and this  I've discovered so many amazing blogs over the past twelve months, and I even had the opportunity to meet up with one of those bloggers (Ashley!) while living in Colorado. I'll admit, as much as I'm enjoying these opportunities Cameron and I have been given to move to some amazing places, there are days when it's difficult. Being away from family and friends in a new city can be very lonely sometimes, and I feel like blogging has given me this wonderful, welcoming community of people to connect with. Even though I've never met many of you, I frequently read your blogs and feel like I know you (and I mean that in the least creeptastic way possible). I've been continually inspired by your creativity; in your kitchens, in the way you decorate your homes, and in the outfits you put together. I'm constantly encouraged by your stories, your honesty, and the openess with which you share your lives. I've so appreciated the time you've taken to visit my blog throughout the past year, and your kind comments and emails have meant so much to me. This has been an incredible year, and I'm so glad to have you all along for the ride!

2012 you have some big shoes to fill.

I hope that you all have a festive, fun, and safe New Year's Eve, and I'll see you next year!


Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Hospitality and Overnight Guests

Hello, hello!

I love this week between Christmas and New Years because all the baking and shopping and wrapping is done, most people are still off work, and you can just relax and do nothing. Woo! We're enjoying spending this week at my home in Michigan, and I'm sure many of you are still visiting family or have family in-town visiting you. That's why I thought it would be a perfect time for a post on hosting out-of-town company! I've seriously been wanting to write this post for the past couple of months, and being there's only a few days left in 2011 I figure I better get to it! 

Over the past six months of living in Colorado, I've mentioned quite a few times on this blog that Cameron and I had a number of people come and visit us. We also had a fair amount of visitors during the year we lived in South Carolina as well, and we feel very fortunate that so many of our friends and family were able to come and visit us in our new (albeit temporary) homes. While it's wonderful to have visitors, it can sometimes be a little stressful if it's not something you're used to doing, however it doesn't have to be. With a little planning, you can make sure than any overnight guests feels comfortable and enjoys their stay with you.  I always want to make sure people feel welcome when they're in our home, but sometimes that task can seem a little daunting if you're in an apartment and low on space. So while I don't claim to be the expert in entertaining, here are some tips and tricks that I've picked up over the last year and a half:
1. Create a restful night's sleep
There's nothing worse than staying over at someone's house and not being able to get a good night's sleep, so my first tip for hosting guests is make sure wherever they're sleeping is comfortable. In our past three apartments, Cam and I have been lucky to have two bedrooms, however, our second bedroom is more of an office than a dedicated bedroom and we don't have a second bed. Our solution to this situation was to get an Aerobed (this is the model we have), and it's been a great investment. It fills up quickly, stays firm, and it was definitely worth the extra money over a cheaper inflatable mattress in opinion. Whether you're putting your guests up in a true guest bedroom with a bed, on a pull-out couch, or on an air mattress, make sure you try it out first to make sure it's not terrible. (Cam and I have slept on our Aerobed quite a few times during our moves, and we always thought it was comfy so I figured guests would think so too!) Also, make sure you have comfortable pillows for your guests as well!

2. Pick out pretty bedding
I think it helps to invest in some bedding that is only used for guests, because then even if you're putting them on an air mattress, at least it looks pretty. They don't have to be super pricey (my sheets and duvet are from Target!), but it's just nice to have something special that is only used for guests versus a bunch of random blankets and sheets. I would suggest using a duvet cover versus a traditional comforter for your guest bedding, as it's much easier to just take off the duvet cover and wash it after your guest leave instead of having everyone use the same comforter. I typically wash all my guest bedding as soon as my guests leave, and then put it all away in our closet until the next time we have visitors. I'd also suggest leaving an extra folded blanket or two in the room where your guests will be staying, that way they can make themselves comfortable in case they get chilly.

 3. Towels, towels, towels!
I think it's also nice to have a dedicated set of towels that are only used for guests as well, and preferably something in a different color than the towels you normally use day to day. I personally would strongly suggest white for guest towels, that way you can bleach them between guests and you don't have to worry about someone else's face wash discoloring your towels. We have a set of gray towels that we currently use for guests, but I'm going to need to replace them soon because they've accumulated some orange streaks due to different people using them. And if someone who's stayed with me is reading this, don't think I'm trying to call you out on wrecking my towels--far from it! I myself use a face wash that has benzoyl peroxide (which is known to bleach fabrics) in it and I always worry about messing up someone's towels when I'm staying with them. Also, make sure that you have a full towel set for each person, so bath towel, hand towel, and wash cloth.
4. Bathroom Basics
It's important to anticipate your guests' needs when getting you're getting the bathroom ready for their arrival. Make sure you set out their stack of (clean white) towels, and let them know that they're there for their use. Also, it's important to let guests know where you'd like them to hang their towels when they're done showering, because it's always awkward to be at someone's house and not have anywhere to put your towel. If you're short on space (like in our apartment), they make 3M hooks specifically for the bathroom, and they're great to put up on the back of a door providing the perfect spot for your guests to hang their towels. A wine rack mounted on the wall in the bathroom can also be a great way to store guest towels, and then a depending on how much space you have in your bathroom a coat rack can be a cute place for guests to hang towels when they're done. Another key thing to do before guests come is make sure your bathroom is well-stocked. It's a good idea to keep a few extra toothbrushes, contact cases, etc. on hand, and then it can be a nice touch to leave out some toiletries for your guests as well. A lot of times if I'll be staying with close friends or family I won't always pack a hairdryer, so make sure to see if they'll need any other personal care items like that during their stay and show them where they're located. And most importantly, make sure there is extra toilet paper in the bathroom in an easily accessible spot. There is nothing worse then going to the bathroom at someone else's house, running out of TP, and then not knowing where the heck another roll is. Also, make sure there is a toilet brush and plunger next to the toilet, that way guests can handle potentially embarrassing situations themselves without having to ask you.

5. Eat, drink, and be merry! 
One important part of being a good hostess is making sure your guests are well-fed and free from thirst. It's easy to forget sometimes when you're in your own house, but make sure you ask your guests if they'd like anything to drink, especially after they first arrive. It's a good idea to have a few different beverages for guests to choose from, and a Britta pitcher with cool water is always a good thing to have on hand. Showing the guests where the cups are located is also a good idea should they get thirsty, but it's always good to check in periodically during their visit and see if they'd like anything to drink because sometimes people aren't always comfortable going in your cupboards and getting themselves something! Also, I think that nothing says "Welcome!" like baking something for your guests. It makes the house smell fantastic and it lets them know that you're excited for their visit. Some examples of things I've made for guests over the past few months include Apple Cream-Cheese Bundt Cake, Snickerdoodle Cake, and the BEST brownies. (These cookies would also be great option!) If you don't have time to bake, at least have some sort of snack out when guests arrive, and be sure to have some snacks on hand as well. Everyone is different, and some people need to eat more frequently than others so be cognizant of that and check in with your guests regularly to see if they're hungry. Also, it helps to have some type of snack sitting out and readily accessible as some people might feel awkward telling you they want a snack. It's great to have a bowl of fruit sitting out in case guests want something to eat first thing in the morning, and make sure other munchies are readily accessible as well. Also, if you're a person that doesn't usually drink coffee in the AM, be sensitive to the fact that your guests might be craving a cup in the morning. Make sure you have things on hand to make a pot of coffee (a Keurig really comes in handy in a situation like this!) or at least offer to stop and get coffee if you're all heading out together in the morning.

 So there you have them, my hospitality tips! I heard this proverb the other day and it made me chuckle...

“Hospitality is making your guests feel at home, even though you wish they were” 

Although sometimes it can be a little bit of work to have house guests, it's definitely worth the effort because I think people truly appreciate when you open up your open to them. Entertaining friends and family is a beautiful thing, and makin them feel at ease in your home allows you create to all create great memories together. You never want to make your guests feel like they're inconveniencing you, but rather show them the same kindness and courtesy that you'd like to be treated with.

I hope that you're all having a fabulous week, Cam and I are having a wonderful time in Michigan! Every year since going away to college, my group of friends from high school gets together over Christmas break and goes out for a nice dinner, so that's what we've got on the agenda tonight! It should be a great time as always and I'm so looking forward to seeing everyone! Xoxo

Monday, December 26, 2011

Christmas in Oregon

Good morning!

How was your Christmas?!

Mine was wonderful, and I hope that y'all had an awesome day as well! Cam and I had a great time celebrating with his family yesterday, but the holiday festivities are nowhere near over as we're currently en route to Michigan to go visit my family! (Gotta love holiday travel!) I'm so looking forward to spending this week in the mitten and I can't wait to see my family and catch up with friends. But before that happens, I thought I'd share some photos from our week in Oregon!

(I have a lot of photos, so it's probably easiest to start with yesterday and work my way back...)

Santa came to Oregon and left lots of presents under the tree!

Christmas morning started off with a few little presents for Lola...a new collar (navy with pink polka dots), a bully stick, and a new toy!

Did someone say presents?!
Sweet, new stuff!
 Thanks Santa!
I've been such a good girl this year...
Yesterday afternoon, everyone opened presents together, which is always a lot of fun. Our nieces Alexa and Meara are so stinkin' cute, and I'm really glad we could spend Christmas with them this year. I got some really awesome gifts...but more on that later this week!

Meara looked so adorable in her Christmas dress
Alexa rocking her new sparkly Toms shoes and opening her apple beanie from Aunt Jane and Uncle Cam
Opening presents, while Cody, Cam's parents sweet, older dog, tries to figure out why Lola keeps tormenting him, poor doggy!

I love presents!

Girls playing pool with Uncle Cam
Lola was following her cousin Kaya around like a shadow...
Luckily Kaya was very tolerant of Lola's persistent need to constantly lick her in the face!
Me and Miss Meara
Cam rocking some super sweet onion chopping goggles while making a salad with me for Christmas youuuu.
Our third Christmas as husband and wife, crazy how time flies!
On Christmas Eve, Cam and I went to candlelight church service (one of my favorite things about Christmas!) and then came home and watched my all-time favorite Christmas movie, It's a Wonderful Life.

On Christmas Eve Eve, Cam's brother Jordan and his wife Ashley came over to open their presents because Jordan is a firefighter and had to work Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. And there was also some gun shooting involved because that's how my husband and his brothers celebrate the holidays.


Enthralled in a Christmas movie

Boys putting together Jordan's new Lego firetruck...with Alexa's help of course.
Lola hiding out from her dog-cousins who were trying to herd her like a sheep

 Earlier in the week, we took our niece Alexa to paint pottery and went and checked out the Christmas lights in an area of Portland called Peacock Lane. It's this cute little street where everyone goes all out with their lights, and I told Cam we have to move there. Ha. 

Alexa's colorful creations
Cam's Boulder tile and my oversized mug...can't wait to see them after they're fired!

There were so many people walking around checking out all the beautiful lights!

And then finally, last Tuesday we celebrated Cam's mom's birthday, along with all of the other December birthdays.

Cam's mom always makes a homemade four layer cake, so delicious!

Playing some poker...
Lola trying to weasel her way inside

The whole family
 Last but not least, Cam and I spent some time in downtown Portland, and of course I had to snap some pics with my cell phone...I love this city!
Portland runs their Saturday market for the entire week leading up until Christmas! favorite stationary store in the Pearl District
This was the most random thing ever--this empty office space had a Santa on it's sign...
And then the entire building was filled with these little light-up Santas! So strange/cool!
Pearl District
I love how they add a red nose to make it look like Rudolph on the sign during the holidays!

All in all, a fantastic week! I do have a few more photos from a little day trip that Cam and I took while we were in Oregon, but I figured I'd wait and share those later on! For now, Michigan here we come! Xoxo


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