Saturday, December 31, 2011

2011 in Review

I cannot believe today is the last day of 2011! The year seems to have gone by so fast and yet so much has happened! I love reflecting on when things happened and how much has changed "since then." The new year seems to bring that about as Chris and I talk about what we would like to do "next year" and what we enjoyed about this past year. So here it is, my year in review:

In January I set a challenge for myself: I would walk 700 miles this year. But in February my feet started to tingle and be numb making it impossible to walk more than 1/2 a mile at a time. Over the course of the year I have seen too many doctors to count and had too many tests to keep track of. I still don't have answers but am getting closer. Throughout all of this, I kept track of my walking and kept aiming toward my goal. I got close, but just was still a ways off.

I made it to the 530 mile marker. Thankfully I can walk for 25 - 30 minutes now without having too much pain. I still have a lot of work to do, but the pain levels are much lower now than they were back then.

In February we also paid off our debt! We began working toward this goal when we first got married and combined our finances, after only a year and seven months we did it! This was such a heavy burden lifted. Now we are saving up our funds for a trip to Europe which will hopefully happen next summer. We've had a few bumps in this road as Chris is still looking for work, but if we keep at it, I think we can do it! 

A few of my girlfriends and I started sewing together in March. I hadn't sewed since high school but it all came right back to me. This year, I've made several things including my tree skirt and stockings for Christmas, doll clothes, place mats, and burp cloths. I've really enjoyed having a hobby and having something I can do with friends.

My job description changed a little bit in April as I was trained to be a back-up and work part-time in the sales and customer service department of Jews for Jesus. I've really enjoyed this change and the challenge of learning something new. I'm hoping this next year will provide more opportunities to learn and develop my skills. At the end of April, our really good friends in the city moved across the world. They were one of the first couples we had met in the city and we became instant friends. They also happened to live just down the street. It was awful saying goodbye and we miss them terribly.

In May, one of my very best friends got married. I traveled to Colorado Springs to attend to her every need on her special day! Anya was a beautiful bride and her day was absolutely perfect!  I had such a great weekend with old friends. As much as we wanted to visit our friends and have them visit us after we moved, it has proved to be harder and more rare than we had imagined. So, these opportunities to visit are always special.

The summer proved to be a busy time for us. In the beginning of June, a friend of ours was flying to New Zealand and planned a lay-over in San Francisco to see us. We had a great day together driving all over the city and catching up. Then Chris's sister came to visit bringing along her youngest daughter. We had not gotten to meet our newest niece who was born in December of 2010. I had a wonderful time getting to spend time with them both. This was a very special trip since Sharon and her family have recently returned overseas. We also started making day-trips to the beach in Santa Cruz where we could enjoy the sand and sun during the summer months since San Francisco is a bit colder during this time of year.

We celebrated our 2nd wedding anniversary in July. We celebrated by going out to dinner to Flour & Water one of our favorite places in the city. The next weekend, my youngest sister got married in Minnesota. She got married during the hottest weekend of the entire summer but it was still a beautiful wedding! We had a great time with family and I even got to attend part of my 10 year class reunion!
A week later, we flew to Hawaii and spent a week with Chris's parents and younger sister. I loved the beaches, waterfalls, and time to relax.

In August, my best friend made a brief stop in San Francisco on her way home from Australia. Katie was here to hold my hand while I had someone chop off all my hair and help me celebrate my 28th birthday.

In September I made some changes to my blog; hopefully making it easier for you all to follow what I've been up to. I also bought a new lens for my camera. I have always loved photography but this past year, I was losing momentum to keep it up. The new purchase was just the motivation I needed to keep trying to improve. We also started hosting or small group in our apartment which has been very fun for both of us.

I participated in the Walk for Life in October. Thanks to many of you, I was able to raise over $400 for the Alpha Pregnancy Center and meet a wonderful mother with three kids who has been helped by their services. I really hope I can participate again in 2012.

Josh came to visit us later that month. His timing was perfect as Chris had just found out his studio had closed and he would have plenty of time to hang out with his buddy. We tried the local CSA produce box this month too but only for a short time. It made cooking a creative endeavor but not as cost efficient as we needed it to be.

I blogged almost every day in November partnering with Dawn's Good Life blog and 30 Thankful Days. That really helped me get ready for Thanksgiving! We had a great holiday with local friends-Chris made the turkey and they brought the sides, it was relaxing, yummy, and an all around good time. We also tried the opera for the first time. I enjoyed the performance but I can't say we will go back any time soon.

December has been a full month with holiday festivities and travels to Texas. It has been a full and very fun month. There was a lot of baking, eating and singing. We were even able to go out to the Nutcracker ballet which was incredible.

Right now, as I type this, we have two really good friends staying with us! What a great way end the year than with friends from the past! And as I type this blog post, I'm realizing just how many friends from the past we've been able to see and how many new great friendships we have.

It was a wonderful year--filled with great memories.  Thank you for reading my blog and continuing to be a part of my life. May you all have a blessed New Year!

Friday, December 30, 2011

Christmas in San Antonio

It has taken me a while to actually sit down and tell you about my Christmas. This week has been busy! 

This year we spent Christmas with the Babiaks in San Antonio. We arrived on Thursday afternoon to a house filled with the warmth and love of family and Christmas. I was pleasantly surprised to see a stocking on the mantle with my name on it! (This was my first Christmas with the Babiak side of the family.)

This was the game we were introduced to by Chris's brother. Bohnanza is all about bean harvesting (in card form). It was a great game! We played it at least once a day.

The only thing I told Chris I really wanted to do while we were in Texas was look at Christmas lights. In the city, very few people will decorate the outside of their home.

One night we drove around the neighborhood to see the Christmas lights. I don't think I have ever seen houses this decorated before! There were several houses completely covered! They were absolutely stunning.

On Christmas night we drove downtown to the River Walk. The city had gone all out decorating the trees. We walked along for about an hour taking in the scene. It was a wonderful evening with the family.

The whole trip was really relaxing. I read a lot, played games, watched movies, had good time with the family, went to the Christmas morning church service, and went on this amazing walk through down town. It was just want I needed!

I hope you all had a wonderful Christmas!

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

The Hunger Games Continued

I couldn't wait to get into the second and third books of the Hunger Games series. I finished the second book just days before our flight to San Antonio . . . I don't know what I was thinking! Thankfully a friend had the third one so I didn't have to wait for it from the library! I could hardly put it down during my vacation with Chris's family.

These books are really easy reads (they are written for young adults btw), but the topic is an interesting one. Without giving too much away, it's a story of young teenage civilians taking on their oppressive government. It's an interesting topic, especially for young adults . . . oppressive government, war, figuring out who your allies are and who the real enemy is and what you can do about it all. I'd be interested in hearing what these high school kids think of it all!

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Baby Gifts

Two of my cousins recently had babies! One of the downsides to living so far away from family is that I miss out on meeting my new relatives and partaking in the normal baby showers and celebrations. But I found the perfect care package/baby gift to send to express my joy and care for their new babies.

Burp cloths:

baby girl gift

for baby boy

I got the idea from my friend Lauren who has a new baby niece. She's made quite a few of these burp cloths and told me that they were really easy to make and very handy for the new mom.

These are Gerber cloth diapers (the same style my mom probably used when I was a baby). I found some fabrics that I thought would decorate the new mom and dad's shoulders nicely and cut and sewed. It was pretty easy! I've also heard that they are so absorbent that they get used to wipe up just about everything!

Happy parenting!

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Future of Forestry Concert

Last year, our church hosted a Christmas concert featuring "Future of Forestry" so Chris and I went. And let me tell you, we were blown away. They were amazing! I was telling everyone about them.

They decided to come back this year. So we went again! They had a different venue, but the concert was still outstanding! And as I did last year, I am still telling everyone about them -- only this year, I am using my blog to do so.

If you ever have the chance to see them live- please go. You will not be disappointed. Every person on that stage plays multiple instruments, the lead singer has an incredibly pure and rich voice, and the lighting is pretty stellar too. Just to prove my point - I had Chris take a video with his camera phone. He did some work on the sound so it you won't hear the distortions that the phone recorded -- but honestly, just check out their stage presence!

Friday, December 16, 2011

Our Stories

"No one likes to be preached at or yelled at, but everyone likes a good story. We want to see what life is like in someone else's shoes." 

The lead singer of "Future of Forestry" said that last night as he was introducing his song "The Earth Stood Still." It got me thinking.

It's so true. For me anyway. I long to know what other people's lives are like. When I was a kid I remember asking my neighbor what high school was like, when my friends started dating I remember being so interested in what that was like . . . and marriage, and babies, and every other stage of life. I wanted to know what it was like in their shoes.

Most likely my motivation back then was to be prepared for my next stage in life. But as I've gotten older, it isn't so much about me being "ready for it," but just sharing in and enjoying the diversity of our lives.

Stories also lend themselves to great learning opportunities. What better way to learn about history than to talk to someone older than you, someone who has experienced it? Stories let us share our beliefs, ideas, and experiences without "preaching" or being taken offensively. Stories allow someone to enter in to your life like nothing else.

I think that's why blogs are so popular. We enjoy seeing other people's lives, hearing their story--even if it is from a distance. That is one of the reasons I read other people's blogs and why I check their Facebook status. Sure, these are ways to keep in touch, but more often than not, I'm only reading their story, not sharing mine. (Yes, I suppose that makes me somewhat of a stalker).

What other ways do we get to hear people's stories? Biographies, documentaries, even "based on true story" movies could count. Stories can move us to change, they can move us to compassion, they can move us to action. Stories are powerful.

Isn't that how Jesus taught his disciples? Through stories. Isn't that how we first learned about the birth of Christ?
What about faith-based testimonies? Isn't that one of the greatest stories we can share? How the Son of God entered our lives and left us forever changed.

Isn't that how we are meant to minister to our neighbors, friends, and families? By living out and sharing our story?

I'm reminded this Christmas season, that the story of the Christ child's birth is real. And it changed my life. My sharing of that story can change someone else's life too. Stories are powerful.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

The Great Dickens Christmas Fair

Chris and I attended the annual Dicken's Christmas fair this weekend. We'd heard of this event last year but weren't able to go. This year, I was ahead of the game and bought our tickets the week of Thanksgiving. We weren't going to miss it again!

The Dicken's fair is like a time warp to Charles Dicken's life in London. The venue is transformed into the city streets, shops, pubs, restaurants and concert venues. It felt like you were being transported through time. People were even dressed up to match the time period. There was music, dancing, monologues and even a reading of A Christmas Carol by Dickens himself! (Well, okay, it wasn't really him.) Queen Victoria even made an appearance!

 This was a Scottish and Irish Dance Show - I love the hard clacking of their shoes on the floor.

                                              "Brass Farthing" singing about beer mostly!

                                  Just one of the many scenes set up "on the streets of London"

I know this isn't the best shot, but just look at their dresses!

A traveling music group - we heard them quite a few times

This was the "Bruno Band" that played waltzes and polkas for people to dance to

This was a special performance by the Bay Area youth harpists

This was a professional Celtic Harpist, Chris Caswell

As soon as you walked into the venue, you were surrounded by the scents of cider and roasted peanuts. There was even fake snow falling on you! As we walked around, there were other Christmas-y smells and music. It really did feel like you were walking the streets of London from long ago.

Next year, we may need to dress up too!

The Festivities Continue

December has already proven to be a busy month. I suppose the Christmas season usually is a busy time of year. Everyone is out doing their shopping and making plans for their holiday celebrations. Here area few highlights from this month of Christmas festivities:

It all started on December 3rd with my chiropractor throwing a Christmas party. I know. It's crazy. Anyway, it was fun. She did a fundraiser for an homeless shelter where we all brought toys for the children living there. You should have seen the pile of toys she ended up with. It was awesome.

Last weekend Chris and I went downtown to take a look at Union Square. It was beautiful! Nothing like the lights of downtown to get you into the holiday spirit!

Last week some of my co-workers and I participated in a cookie exchange. Baking is one of my favorite things about the holidays. As I was baking my ginger snap cookies I couldn't help but remember all the goodies my mom would make every year. 

Seriously, these ladies put my baking to shame with their special Christmas treats. Everything was so delicious!

And this past weekend a friend hosted a fun ornament decorating party. I had never been to one of these before but it was a blast! The host had 5 different types of ornaments you could make with all the supplies you needed. It was a great afternoon of fellowship and creativity!

This week we will be attending a Christmas concert by "Future of Forestry" (an amazing band that if you haven't heard yet, you need to check them out) and my work Christmas party - and that should be the last of the festivities before we board a plane to San Antonio to spend Christmas with my husband's family. I truly love this month of festivities!

Thursday, December 8, 2011

This Momentary Marriage

I received This Momentary Marriage by John Piper as a wedding gift and I'm sorry to say it has taken me a while to get to it. I have to be in the right mood to read a John Piper book. I had looked at it many times, but just couldn't get myself ready for him. He's very intense. I heard him speak once when I was in college. He's a great preacher.

I have to say that I really liked this book. I did have my doubts. But I was able to get right into what he was saying and agreed with most of it. He uses a lot of scripture and he drives home his main points by restating a lot of what he has already said.

I would even say that I found this book inspiring. I was inspired to love God more, love my husband more, and be an active participant in this marriage. To not take this covenant lightly. To keep it sacred.

His main point is that marriage between husband and wife is meant to be an example of the covenant keeping relationship between Christ and the Church. Ephesians 5 is quoted a lot -- which was the scripture that was read at our wedding. I can't go into all of the points that really caught my attention but I will say that I really needed Piper's reminder about what submission looks like in marriage and why it's so important. I definitely recommend that you read it! The chapters are short and it's a fairly quick read if you can stick with it.

Friday, December 2, 2011

O, Christmas Tree

This is a year of firsts for me. It is the first year I have ever had a real tree for Christmas (okay, now that I think about it, my parents had a real tree when I as a baby . . . but I wasn't old enough to remember so I can't count it).

This is also the first year that Chris and I decorated our home together for the holiday. Our first Christmas, as you may recall, was spent dog sitting for another family. And although their house was decorated for Christmas, it wasn't the same as it being "our home." And last year, we had someone living with us and didn't have enough room for her and a tree.

Here are a few photos of our tree:

My mom has given me an ornament every year for Christmas -- usually signifying something that happened that year. She gave me these elephants the year I got back from Africa. I think it's one of my favorites!

The tree skirt's debut! It's not quite wide enough to catch all the pine needles, but it does a great job of making the tree look complete!

We still need a few things - like something for the top. But that will come. I really love our tree. I love the festive feel I have just turning on the lights each evening. I love this wonderful season! I hope you do too!