Friday, December 27, 2013

Good Morning from Buffalo!

Hello from cold and snowy Buffalo!  I arrived in Buffalo yesterday afternoon and I am loving every second of it! I just wish The Husband could be here too! 

When I arrived yesterday, I pulled in the driveway to my adorable niece Ava standing in front of the snowman she built!  So cute!  She just loves the snow! I wish I had a snowsuit to play with her!



I spent all afternoon and evening with my family and it was perfect.  We opened presents, had a tasty dinner, ate "Christmas deliciousness", and watched a movie!  I was in bed by 11:30 and I slept solid until 8am! It was amazing.  Why can't I sleep this well while in Tampa? Oh wait, yes I know why... My pretty little kitty insists on waking us up as early as possible every morning! 

Here's a recap of yesterday's gift opening!!!



 
 I love that Santa dropped off some

presents for me! 

Here's some of the things I got! I totally forgot that I had mentioned to my mom the Pandora ring and matching charm! So glad she remembered! 

 
 Gorgeous!!!

 Lovely!!! This is my Christmas bracelet
because my other Pandora bracelet is at home.  
I'll switch it out next week!

I also got this ornament from my mom!
I absolutely adore it!!!

I also brought Ava some presents that The Husband and I bought for her... she loved them!


 
Today is going to be a fun day too!  We just finished eating pancakes for breakfast (my dad makes THE BEST pancakes!!!) and now we're all just lounging around.  Around noon, the kids are going out to lunch at my favorite restaurant - Giancarlos!  I love it there and they have the most amazing caprese paninis.  Get. in. my. belly.  After lunch, I'm going to swing by and pick my mom up and we're going to go shopping!  I have a few darling little ones to buy some presents for!

One more thing... I totally forgot how amazeballs hot chocolate is!!! My mom had an extra packet of french vanilla hot chocolate and I gracefully accepted her offer to give it to me! Oh. my. goodness.  Sooooo creamy and soooo tasty!!!





I'll see you guys later!

Simply Blessed,
Lauren

Thursday, December 26, 2013

7 Days of Christmas Things!

Yikes!  The Christmas-ness in the air got the best of me and I never finished my Christmas countdown! So sorry about that!  I'm at the airport right now and the plane is delayed (thanks to the incoming aircraft needing to be de-iced as it sits in Buffalo.... well played Buffalo, well played).  But I guess good things come to those who wait! :) Delayed plane means a venti cafe misto, a croissant, and a blog update! 

Yummy. This is a good way to cope 
with a delayed airplane!
Anyways, this Christmas was so wonderful.  I'm not going to lie - it's still tough adjusting to spending Christmas in Florida.  I miss my family in Buffalo so much, but we flew home at Thanksgiving instead and therefore I had to compromise and say that Christmas could be in Florida.  However, this is the last year for that.  I'd rather spend Thanksgiving in Florida as long as The Husband and I can go home for the Christmas holiday!  

But I'll post more about my Christmas later.  I wanted to catch you guys up on the rest of my Christmas countdown, if I can remember!  But hey, I can just check out my IG pics to jog my memory! 

Day 7 - Christmas party for my students!  I teach 4th grade students after school on Wednesdays and Thursdays for remediation and after we did a short activity, I surprised them with a little celebration.  It's amazing how much these things mean to children.  They were very happy to get a special treat and to spend a little time relaxing instead of working an extra 90 minutes after school on academics! 

Day 6 -  Show one of the very few cartoons that I watch - Garfield's Christmas.  During the week before Christmas vacation, I hosted the K-2 students in my classroom and I read them many Christmas stories.  I could tell one group wasn't feeling the second story, so I popped in Garfield's Christmas and they loved it!  I remember watching it when I was their age!!! 

Day 5 - Celebrate the start of Christmas vacation by heading to happy hour as soon as our principal said we could leave the building!  What made it even more special was that there were about 14 teachers there!  It was wonderful, in fact, just as wonderful as the Woodchuck Cider Ale that I was drinking! Oh yes, and I got ID'd by the bartender.  Amazing.  I felt pretty good about that, considering that I'm going to be 30 in a few months! 

Day 4 - Christmas shopping!  Ugh, I so waited until the last minute, but I got everything I wanted for the people on my very short list, plus a few things for myself!  Hey, give me a credit card, Bath and Body Works Christmas scents, and a good sale, and I'm there!!!

Day 3 - Home Alone marathon!  Home Alone is by far one of my most favorite Christmas movies.  My husband and I pretty much know the movies by heart.  We watched both Home Alone and Home Alone 2 and it was so wonderful!  Only this time, we realized how violent it is and perhaps a lot of the tricks that Kevin plays would actually kill someone in real life - an iron falling on someone's head?  Bricks being thrown off the top of a building? A blow-torch to the head? But it's still a Christmas classic and I love it!!!

Day 2 - Christmas Mani!  I often do my own nails because I'm pretty good at it.  However, a fellow blogger posted her mani and she had the most perfect shade of red on her perfectly manicured fingers.  She said it was Big Apple Red and I had to have it!  Luckily my nail salon carries it in Shellac and so I had to do it!  I was on a wild goose chase on Christmas Eve morning to find a bottle of it in case I chip a nail.  Luckily, I found it! 

I love my Christmas nails!!! :)

Day 1 - Christmas Eve Mass - Growing up, I don't ever remember attending mass on Christmas morning.  My family and I always went to the afternoon Christmas Eve Mass and that's a tradition that my husband and I plan on continuing!  After Christmas Eve Mass this year, we went home, had dinner (my homemade chicken pot pie) and then we went to Christmas Lane in Dover!  It was amazing and it's something that we do every year!  

Well, I'm off to freshen myself up before I get ready to board the plane!  Hopefully we can get on board and make up some time in the air!  Catch you from cold and snowy Buffalo!

Simply Blessed,
Lauren


Monday, December 23, 2013

First Time Home Buyers

If you would have asked me in October when I think we would be moving into our first house, I would have guessed and said that it would probably be several months.  So not the case!  It's December 23rd and we have already been in our house for two weeks.  But let me rewind a little bit...

Over the summer, right as the school year was ending, our apartment was full of fleas.  We still don't know where they came from because our pretty little kitty Mia is an indoor cat and we lived on the third floor of an apartment complex.  After a mentally exhausting experience, my husband and I frequently talked about moving out of the apartment and into a townhome.  We looked at one in Brandon and fell in love with it - squeaky stairs and all.  But, we decided in August that we wanted to look at houses too.  

We met with a realtor from Remax in October and by the end of the month, we were signing papers for our mortgage application.  At first, we were looking at houses in multiple neighborhoods.  We looked in Brandon, Tampa, Carrollwood, Town and Country, etc.  After touring the neighborhoods, we had our hearts set on Carrollwood.  We love the quiet neighborhood feel and we wanted something that didn't have an HOA monthly fee.  

We fell in love with a house in Carrollwood, not far from Gaither High School.  My husband was actually out of town when I first looked at it with the realtor and the realtor told me after we viewed it that we had to act fast because it wasn't going to last a week on the market.  Being the awesome husband that I have, he told me to go ahead with the proceedings and that he would look at it later that week after he got back from his business trip.  Well, the weekend came and he loved it too!  

The Friday before Thanksgiving, we closed on the house and we moved the first weekend in December.  It was a quick process and to be honest, way easier than it is for most people.  I kept asking our realtor if things normally happen this fast, and he said definitely not.  I chalk it up to us having such good credit, we got a VA loan since my husband was in the military, and our realtor was quite aggressive (but in a good way).

For security purposes, I don't want to post a picture of the front of the house, but over the next two weeks, look for lots of pictures of the inside! 

Here's some for the moment!

 My office! Favorite room in the house!

 Our Christmas Tree... Next year I want a real one!

 Hutch and kitchen! 

 Kitchen - We are going to add an island in the middle!

 
 Eat-in kitchen area!

Well, I'm off to finish my coffee (mmm, peppermint mocha creamer) and then I have a list of things to get accomplished today!  The Husband's work holiday dinner is tonight, so I'm quite excited about that!

I will be back with more ideas for the countdown to Christmas later tonight or tomorrow morning!

Simply blessed,
Lauren

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

More of the 12 days of Christmas

Wow. It's amazing how I forget to post things that I mean to!  A few days ago, I wrote a post, 12 Days Until Christmas.  I left off on day 10, so I will continue the list for what I have so far! 

Day 9 - Watch a Christmas movie, eat Christmas cookies, and snuggle under blankets with The Husband and my pretty little kitty.  We decided to watch Elf because we love it!  :) I'd recite some of the lines, but I'm far too tired to type anything out! LOL! 

 Homemade cutout cookies, peanut butter blossoms, 
and double chocolate peppermint!  Sooo tasty!!!

 She fell asleep so I covered her up!
Spoiled little kitty!!! 

Day 8 - Participate in a cookie exchange with my coworkers.  I've done this for several years, but this year was absolutely amazing.  We had about 12 people participate and we all left with massive amounts of Christmas goodies!  There was quite a variety - peanut butter buckeyes, chocolate chip, snickerdoodle, grinch mint, peanut butter, and so many more!  Now if only I can track down all the recipes!

 Why yes, my husband and I are sitting on the couch,
staring at all these goodies!!!

 Ahhhhmazing!!!

Day 7 - Read The Polar Express to a group of children.  A few years ago, the reading resource teacher at my school invited classes to come to her room for a holiday story hour.  Since the level of the stress of the teachers at my school is unbelievably high, I decided to bring back this event because the teachers are all so deserving of a nice 45-minute break to just relax before the end of the week!  



 One of my most favorite Christmas stories!

Candy canes are a must!

Well, that's all I have for now. Even though dinner tonight was easy-peasy, I'm so tired and I just want to kick my feet up and relax for the rest of the night! 

Simply blessed,
Lauren 

Monday, December 16, 2013

A New Christmas Tradition

With living in Florida, Christmas fun is limited because of the lack of snow.  Growing up in Buffalo, I have awesome memories of getting hot chocolate and getting in the car for a ride through the "fancy" neighborhoods to look at all the Christmas lights.  It's really no fun doing that here in Florida because honestly, Christmas lights look so much prettier when there is a fluffy layer of snow on top of them.  With that being said, I'm always looking for new Christmas traditions that can be done here in the sunshine state.  

There is a mall north from where we live in Carrollwood that is pretty awesome. It's a nice mall that has an open design and all of the store have entrances from the outside!  Over the summer, they have a fantastic market on Saturdays, but we haven't gone there in a couple of years.  At the holiday time, they have a tree lighting ceremony and a Christmas light show that is timed with Trans-Siberian Orchestra music.  Apparently the show is played every hour, on the hour, beginning at 6pm.  

After cooking a tasty meal of homemade sauce and meatballs (I did not make homemade pasta.... ain't nobody got time for that!!!), we quickly cleaned up and headed out to the mall in Wesley Chapel (It's called the Shoppes at Wiregrass).  When we got there, we quickly realized how chilly it was and we made a beeline for Starbucks.  Unfortunately, the only Starbucks there is the one inside of Barnes and Noble and the line was suuuuuper long.  But, you all know me and Starbucks - I've learned more patience there than anywhere else! Ha!  We opted for 2 tall hot chocolates - mine had skim milk and no whip and The Husband's had regular milk and whip cream.  Very tasty, but mine was only lukewarm.  I felt bad because I told my husband it was fine to go ahead and start drinking it, but his was of course, scalding hot.  Weird.  But, even though it wasn't all that warm, it tasted amazing  Godiva hot chocolate? Yes please! :)

By the time we made it back to the Christmas tree area in the courtyard, we must have missed the light show.  But, we were able to catch a local dance company performing some numbers from The Nutcracker! They were really good! We enjoyed standing there, taking in all the sights, and sipping on hot chocolate (or chocolate milk, ha!).  

I was able to capture a few pictures and thought I'd share them!

 Such a pretty tree!

 Enjoying the dancers!

 Now I really want to go see The Nutcracker!

 Starbucks in hand! :) Wow, I'm really short! LOL!

Now we're off to watch The Elf and have some Christmas cookies!  I love this time of year!

Simply blessed,
Lauren 

Friday, December 13, 2013

12 Days Until Christmas!

You would think I'm a seven year old child the way I act this time of year.  There's just something so amazing about this time of year.  Living in Florida, it's hard to get into the holiday spirit without the snow, but I'm starting to get used to it since there's just no way it's ever going to snow in Tampa.  But realistically, I only need the snow on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, but when I go home this year the day after Christmas, I'm sure there will still be snow on the ground.

I've decided to start a new tradition of doing something Christmas-y every day counting down to Christmas and day marks just 12 days to go! It's going to be hard to do something with my husband every day because at some point between now and Christmas, he's going to have to go out of town for work, but we will manage the best we can! 

I haven't made up the entire list yet, but here's what I've come up with so far! 

Day 12 - Bake homemade cutout cookies with The Husband.  No pre-made dough for this family!  I have the most delicious recipe from my mom and I pretty much loathe every other cutout cookie.  I'm a cookie snob. I admit it.  

Day 11 - Decorate homemade cutout cookies with The Husband.  Now normally I'd do it the same day I baked them, but I'm way too tired to be frosting cookies and making a mess with sprinkles and icing.  Today was a pretty hectic day at work and going to Happy Hour after work for two hours was well worth me getting behind on my to-do list!

Day 10 - Go to the Wiregrass Mall in Wesley Chapel to see the Christmas lights. 

I'll be finishing the list tomorrow morning over a cup of coffee and I'll be sure to share it with you! 

Here's a sneak peek at our cookie extravaganza from tonight....







I'll be back tomorrow with more of my list.  Right now it's time for a tasty holiday cocktail and Grey's Anatomy that we DVR'd last night! 

 Have you tried the cran-brrr-ritas!?!?
Amazeballs.

Simply blessed,
Lauren

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

The Sights of Christmas

Christmas has always been my favorite holiday.  Growing up, I was blessed with a family that found great comfort and joy in spending time together.  Christmas was no exception to this.  Every year, we would gather at my aunt Mary's house on Christmas Eve, eat tons of food, share presents, and watch movies.  We would go to my aunt Patty's house on Christmas Day for a delicious home-cooked meal that consisted of ham, turkey, and all the trimmings! 

With all of that being said, it's no surprise that as an adult, I am completely still obsessed with Christmas.  Once Thanksgiving is over, I'm all about the Hallmark Christmas movies, Christmas cookies, old Christmas Songs (My favorite song is Johnny Mathis - "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas"), and the decorations! In fact, this past weekend, while my husband was loading the moving truck, I was at the house putting up the Christmas tree.  Christmas is just such a joyful time that I don't hold anything back!

Here are some of my favorite sights of Christmas, all of which are taken from our new house! 
One of my purchases from TJ Maxx! 
Smells like peppermint!
 I absolutely love our tree! I have such 
a beautiful collection of ornaments and 
so many of them remind me of my
childhood and growing up with my beautiful family!

 Even Christmas decorations have their place in the kitchen!

 All this needs is some greenery or fake white snow! I'm thinking a trip
to Target this weekend is necessary!

 This Santa holds a special place in my heart.
It's very old and we put it out every year growing up!
I was super excited when I moved down to Florida and 
my mom said I could have it! 
Gingerbread candle = amazing.

I still have my childhood stocking, but I wanted matchy-matchy
ones with my husband.  This year we had to add a stocking
for our pretty little kitty, Mia.  Please ignore the uncovered
outlet in the background....we just moved!

So now that I've shared some of my favorite sights of Christmas, what are yours?

Simply blessed,
Lauren

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