Sugarplums dance in my head

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

In preparation for heading to Johnstown tomorrow (Christmas Eve); I went a little bonkers on the baking today.  I don't know if it was because I waited until last minute to bake or because I was super motivated and in a jolly mood.  In any case, my oven got a workout today and in return we have tons of goodies to take back with us for the holiday.  I bounced all through the kitchen today, mostly due to a sugar high, whipping up three different types of cookies, chocolate covered pretzels, and cupcakes!

Of course, there is always a downside to all that super sweet consumption...

Empire State of Mind...Let's hear it for New York!

I had a fun pre-baby trip to NYC with Lindsay to pick up her sister in the city this past weekend.  It was great to get away for the weekend with friends and laugh a lot.  We spent time in the city from Thursday night until Sunday morning...yes, right during the crazy blizzard that hit the east coast.  We got some shopping done, but it was mostly all about walking around, seeing the city decorated for the holidays, and eating!  We also got a chance to swing by a few bridal shops to do some wedding dress shopping for Lindsay- so exciting and so glamorous to do while in the city.  It was a great trip!

As always, I made a quick stop at St. Patrick's Cathedral because it is just too beautiful and peaceful to pass up.  It was decorated beautifully for the holiday too- which made it even more special.

I also got some much needed visiting time with some of my NYC friends Sabrina, Stirling, and Elena.  So happy to be able to catch up with them in Brooklyn<3  I miss it everyday.

December Kindness

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

I finished out our Year of Kindness this week by baking cookies for the local nursing home.  It was a very economical project since I just bought the tubes of cookies from the store (on sale!).  The baking & decorating was the most time-consuming and that only took a little more than an hour.  Even during the busy holiday season it takes very little to give some kindness to others.  I made chocolate chip & sugar cookies and dropped them off at St. Mary's at Asbury Ridge ( ) on Saturday.  It has a variety of different facilities including assisted living and an Alzheimer's facility.  I dropped off the cookies at the front desk and the secretary was so confused at first.  I had to explain three times that they weren't for anyone in particular; that I was just dropping them off for the holiday....Leave them out for whoever...Give them to someone who doesn't get any visitors, etc.  It took a while for it to sink in and she just kept saying "oh!" 

It made me feel good to be able to do it, but it would have felt even better if she could have responded, "I'll put them with all the other donated cookies!"  I didn't think that our December kindness was that out-of-the-ordinary, but the secretary's response made me feel like it was unique-but not in the good way.  It was a very low maintenance type of kindness, but a worthwhile one.

Deer Season comes to a close

Although our family had some great luck with rifle season this year- on the first day!- Dad shot an 8-point and Jordan got a 5-point...Unfortunately, ya can't win 'em all...B got to go out and hunt as much as possible- between work and getting the house in order.  However, he wasn't able to bag a big buck this deer season.  We are totally out of deer meat, so the last day of the season (pretty much at the last minute; it was already dark) he shot a doe to get us some meat.  He doesn't like shooting does, but it was a moment of desperation and we got a lot of good steaks & roasts out of it.  For all my vegetarian or PETA-esque friends- we love animals too.  Brandon doesn't hunt just to do it- we eat everything he hunts/catches.

The end of deer season (archery + rifle) also means the end of camo madness in our house.  I compromised with Brandon that during hunting season (October- first two weeks of December) means he gets free reign on the decor in our bedroom and bathrooms.  So, for the past two and half months we've had camo sheets, a buck-skin comforter, birch-like bathroom accessories, and camo shower curtains.  I was happy to get those all down this week and get back to "normal."  Hooray for bed sheets with more than 100 thread count and our big fluffy comforter back!!

Baby Bump...what a difference 14 weeks make!

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Brandon and I have been horrible about keeping track of my belly growth in pictures.  We have however been tracking it growth in inches each week, which I think is a little easier to stomach (haha, excuse the pun).  However, we did take a picture at 7 weeks (seems like forever ago) and then finnnnallly just took another this past week at 21 weeks.  I wore the same outfit both times to see if we could see any difference...the answer is obvious.  At seven weeks the baby is the size of a blueberry and now at 21 weeks the baby is as long as a large carrot!  (fruit/veg comparisons from aka my fav pregnancy website).  This baby has grown quite a bit in 14 weeks, and so have I!

7 weeks...bump not visible:

21 weeks...quite obvious bump:

As much as I love my bump, let's just be honest...I'm not going to be wearing that outfit anytime soon again...HAH.  In terms of food cravings or aversions, it hasn't been too bad.  I can't stand strawberries or orange juice.  Generally, I can't eat before 9am and have some pretty bad heartburn that can only be relieved by vanilla milkshakes (go figure).  I haven't had any serious food cravings, but there are certain foods that I would prefer throughout the day.  Like cookies, chocolate, vanilla milkshakes (heh), and anything with syrup on it.....haha, this baby is his mother's son that's for sure!  The baby loves breakfast foods (toast, pancakes, eggs, french toast, pastries, donuts).  So pretty much to look at the scoreboard of life:  Belly 11, Momma in 11 lbs (right on target).

I had to practically restrain myself in bed the other night at 4am not to get up and devour milk and oreos.  With some serious effort and coaxing, I didn't get up and it felt like quite an accomplishment.  So not a complete shut-out: Belly 11, Momma 1

Before & After House pics

Our new house is slowly, but surely coming together now; so I wanted to share some before and after pics- just like HGTV...hahha, in a blog.

We made some mayjah changes to the foyer at the front door.  We replaced the floor to beautiful gray tile and closed off the wall (used to lead into the "awkward room").  My dad made a gorgeous (and practical!) coat rack that hangs on the wall leading into the house.  The bench is from ALDI!  The accent wall color was inspired by the photograph hanging in the foyer, which I bought off the street in NYC.  It's called "Hands of Love."
Foyer before:

Foyer after:

The biggest change in the dining room was the paint.  The previous owners had some super-bright orange paint all through the dining room and that needed an update for sure.  We also expanded the walkway from the foyer to be wider so you got a better look into the rest of the house when you first walked in.  We then had to close the other walkway (used to lead into the "awkward room") since we closed that off to expand our bedroom.
Dining Room before:

Dining Room after:

The Living Room/Fireplace room didn't need too many changes.  Our moms and my sisters gave it a re-paint from peach to antique white.  Dad, Brandon, and Juice changed the fireplace hearth tile to match the foyer.   And of course- we added our furniture (and in this pic our Christmas decorations!)

Living Room/Fireplace room before:

Living Room/Fireplace room after:

There is much to still be done with the guest bathroom.  But, we made a minor update so that I could stand to walk in there (haha, I'm just being a brat).  Marianne painted it gray, to semi-match the tile which I think gives it a little boost.  So not horrible anymore, but not great either.
Guest Bath before:

Guest bath after:

Finally, we are mostly done with the basement (aka Brandon's "man cave") but still need to do some organizing and setting up of the bar area.  In the condition of preg&sober, this has somehow dropped on my list of things that need to get done right away..haha, go figure!  But Brandon painted the walls a chocolate mousse like color and we got a brand new sectional couch...that has four recliners.  It really is B's favorite place to be...and where our fish live!
Basement before:

Basement after:

First Lake Effect snow of the year

We had our first lake effect snow this week in Erie.  It actually wasn't too bad in accumulation of snow; we got about 10 inches, but it was mostly bad because of the wind.  It was blowing the snow everywhere, which made it hard to see and especially drive.  At points during the day, we weren't able to see across the street to our neighbor's house.

The wind also made for some interesting snow piles.  We had a drift hanging over our front porch which seemed very much against everything I know about gravity.  When Brandon opened the garage that morning, we had a snow wall that stayed perfectly intact where the garage door had been.

Of course, it always looks so beautiful when the snow first falls.  It looked especially pretty since the wind had blown the snow onto tree trunks and the mailbox stand; things that don't normally get to "hold" snow.  But with snow also comes the task of shoveling...and that my friends, is left to the man of the house.  Poor Brandon, he has a long winter ahead of him.  I'm fairly certain he is asking Santa for a kind winter.

CV Alumni Turkey Bowl

Monday, December 7, 2009

Brandon and I had our first ever CV Alumni Turkey Bowl on thanksgiving morning this year.  After acting as DD the night before and seeing most of the players out, I was a little worried about no-shows for the next morning since we were starting at 10am.  However, even though we had some guys roll in at 2 minutes before the whistle, we had almost everyone show up, gear up, and play!  We had people willing to volunteer and bring snacks for the players, which was much appreciated.  We even had a considerable amount of spectators for the holiday and I was so happy with the turn-out. 

The teams were split up by graduating year and we had players ranging from 1977 grads to 2009 grads.  It was (mostly) flag-football with just a few illegal tackles sprinkled here and there to make the game more interesting.  In the end, the Gray team came out victorious but I think the true victor was the school.  Through players' fees, t-shirt sells, and donations from spectators; we raised over $730 for Conemaugh Valley.  That is something to be truly proud of for the first year!  Hopefully next year will be even more successful. 

Valley is an integral part of mine & B's was where we met and first fell in love, it is where we still have good friends, it is where people knew who we were before we going back and sharing this with other alumni makes me so proud of where we came from. 

Thanks to everyone who helped in making the day a success.  It wouldn't have happened without all of you!

12 months of kindness- update

Well, our 12 months of kindness is almost to an end (only one month to go!)  I am mostly proud of our effort throughout the year towards the goal, but as we didn't complete every single month, I am a little disappointed too.  There have been two months where we have let our lives take control of us and we didn't hold ourselves accountable to pushing ourselves to be kind to others.  Here is a wrap-up of our kindness so far:

January:  $50 goods to the Local Humane Society

Feburary:  bake cookies for the local fire department

March:  March Madness tournament with friends/family (donation to PA Special Olympics)

April:  Start composting & plant tree raspberry bush

May:  Studer Scholarship at Valley

June:  $100 goods donation to food bank

July:  Beer Olympics with friends (proceeds to benefit Make-A-Wish foundation)

August:  Donate to

September:  Participate in Operation Shoebox

October:  Participate in Trick-or-treat for Unicef

November:  $50 goods donation to food bank

December:  Bake cookies for local nursing home

I'll be working on our December kindness next week, and I'll update with some cookie pics- yum!  As you can see, we dropped the ball in September and November...I am only blogging this because I think its important to share that even with the best intentions; it might not be possible to do everything you set out to do.  However, even though we weren't able to finish the full year of kindness; we made HUGE strides in helping others through almost the whole year.  I am fully planning on creating another set of 12 months of kindness for 2010 (maybe re-working/changing some of the months). 

I hope that some can be inspired by how easy it can be to set a small goal of helping others a little each month.  We'll probably never know how far our help has reached..but I do know that it feels good to give:) 

Giving IS receiving.

It's a BOY!!!

Our ultrasound was at 7:15am on Thanksgiving eve (my Dad's 50th birthday!!)  It really took a long time for the techinician to get all of the photos that she needed to for medical purposes because our crazy baby was moving around so much.  After at least a half hour she finally announced that she knew what the gender was and we both looked at her like she held the knowledge from the tree of life-   When she said our baby was a boy Brandon was so happy which made me even more happy.  I would loved it if it was a kitten for goodness sakes?!  She tried to get a good profile shot, but our little wild man was not having any more of this paparazzi-ridden lifestyle.  To top it off, I was about ready to jump off the table and sprint to the bathroom anyhow.

When I got home from the appointment, I pulled out the sugar cookies I had made the day before and got to changing the white icing to BLUE! 

Even though we were getting constant texts from the grandmas and my sisters, they knew that they had to wait to find out by the icing color on the cookies.  We couldn't hold in our big secret entirely so (I'm sure to our parents chagrin) we called some of our best friends to share the news.  Jon can't wait to teach our son curse words.  Karpy and her car crew all screamed while driving to NC for the holiday, Katie is working on an arranged date between our son and Sophia, and Juice said he knew it was a boy all along.  By telling our friends (and swearing them to secrecy) it made keeping the secret from our families a little easier.  I also caved in and told my dad (it was his 50th birthday!!)  and he said he had a feeling right from the start that it was a boy.  I know he is happy to finally have a little man in his life to teach all of the boy stuff like fishing, and building, and games. 

I got home before Brandon (he was working) so I stopped at Dad's work to get all of my boy excitement out.  Then, when I got to my parents' house (mom, sisters, and gparents all there) I somehow kept all of my pronouns in check for four hours until Brandon finally came home.  My mom was almost bursting at the seams to find out the truth, so B barely got through the door before we had to bring the cookies in.  We gave everyone a final guess (Mom, Tasha, Gram- boy, Kayla- girl) and in the last moments before the reveal, Pap changed his guess from girl to boy.  My mom pulled off the lid and everyone started screaming.  Mom literally jumped into the air, I swear, three feet and into Brandon's arms?!  She is so happy to finally get a boy in our family after so much estrogen all our lives. 

So, it was off to the Studer house where Marianne practically attacked us at the door.  Again, final guesses were given (Marianne- girl, Rudy- boy).  We told her to rip off the lid of the container so it would be revealed to everyone in the room (us and Rudy) but in pure Marianne fashion, she just peeked under the lid and started screaming.  She then looked at Rudy and said, "Well, you're going to be happy" and pulled the lid off.  Rudy, who is always so reserved in emotion, got a huge smile on his face and high fived Brandon which I thought was adorable.  Mare stated that she will now have to re-work all her planning for a girl and that we had ten minutes to tell Grammar before she texted every person she ever knew and then she was going to post it on facebook.

So, it was up to Grammar's house where we also found Morgan.  They were both excited because they knew why we had come up and we had brought up a little plate of cookies for them.  Grammar would have been happy for either- but I know she was especially glad to have another grandson.  Brandon is the only grandson on the Studer side, so (finally!) another boy can hopefully take some of the Kingboy title from him...I doubt it.  Morgan promised to keep it a secret until the next day when we could tell her mom&dad in person.  (And she did keep it a secret!!)

It was a really fun day and so awesome seeing everyone's reactions to the baby's gender.  Sometimes its hard living far away from home when stuff like this comes up.  But with a little self-control and secret keeping we managed to still celebrate at home with everyone with our big big news!

We get by with a little help from our friends (..& family!)

House reno continues with an update to the foyer and the fireplace tile.  My dad came up over the weekend and he and Brandon finished putting up the trim.  Juice arrived on Saturday and the foyer floor demo started.  Jason worked so hard bringing up the parkay flooring in the foyer out and Dad worked on replacing the tile in the fireplace hearth. 

We picked the same color tile for both the hearth and the foyer.  The inspiration was my Hands of Love photograph (I bought on the street in nyc).  All three guys worked on getting the tile down in the foyer and putting the grout in...who knew it took fifty million buckets of water to do that?!  I didn't.

Jon came up the following Friday (Brandon's day off) and they were like to men on a mission.  There were 8 truckloads between the old house and the new; two washers; two dryers; one refridgerator; a king size mattress, and our living room suit.  They only stopped for some burnt hamburgers (I don't know how to work the grill?!) and finished at almost 6pm. 

Brandon's parents came up on Saturday to help some more.  Mare painted the guest bathroom gray, which makes it look a little better than that light blue did.  It still needs an overhaul- but its stock has gone up.  Brandon and Rudy worked on moving everything else that he and Jon didn't bring over...which meant millions of random things.  Its amazing that we have collected even this much stuff just over a year.  We have quite a growing pile of garage sale/donation stuff in the garage.

We have really been so fortunate with our friends and family coming to visit to help us get into the new house.  We are reminded constantly of how lucky we are to be surrounded by love.