Tuesday, December 31, 2013

2013 Recap

The new year is always a time of reflection for me. I love to look back on the past year, thinking about highs and lows and how incredibly lucky I am to live in my shoes.

Last year, Jon and I started a "memory jar" -- Pinterest inspired, of course. We kept a mason jar on a table in our kitchen, right next to a stack of sticky notes and an ink pen. We wrote down little moments on sticky note throughout the year. Sure, I remember the big things -- celebrating my 25th year on Earth, Jon's big promotion, Meme and Papa's 55th wedding anniversary, etc. But we wrote down little things that might have slipped our minds if not for our little memory jar.

Here's what I found in the jar:

Jon's handwriting:
  1. When Can lost 4 lbs and ran around the house dancing. I'm so proud of her! {1.10.13}
  2. Our love for 1/2 price peanut butter fudge shakes from Sonic {6.13.13}
  3. We had Can's radio night as I worked. I quizzed her with songs on YouTube but she was looking up the lyrics without me knowing. {No date}
  4. Can's "sorry not sorry!" saying {No date}
  5. Can, while watching TV: "It's that hobbit speak! Push the info button! I bet it's that Hobbit Lord thingy!" {11.25.13}
  6. When Candice thought the ceramic bowls I made in college were from me as a little kid. {10.12.13}
  7. Candice didn't want me to throw the hotel shower caps away because she saves everything. {7.20.13}
My handwriting:
  1. Cleaning the bedroom for the Blackbirds... Jon was ruthless about throwing things away, but we laughed a lot at my packrat ways. :) {7.20.13}
  2. As part of the P90x program, Jon and I did the yoga video. We were terrible at it and ended up fast forwarding and laughing through most of it. {1.20.13}
  3. I pulled a muscle in my back at the gym and couldn't get the ice pack to stay on. Jon tied a blanket around me like a sling/cape. {6.24.13}
  4. I was grumpy because of my new diet, so Jon set up a shooting video game and let me "kill" him a dozen or so times. {1.12.13}
  5. Driving back from Easter weekend in Oklahoma, Jon let me listen to cheesy 90's CDs like Aqua and Nellyville. I sang and danced in the passenger seat while he laughed like a good sport and drove. {No date}
  6. We washed cars together and then went for a bike ride. < 3 {4.21.13}
  7. Jon wore his blue workout shirt backwards...mowed the lawn and went to Home Depot in it. I'm never letting him dress himself again. {6.14.13}
  8. Movie ticket to The Heat with this note on the back: Surprise Chick-Fil-A lunch + a movie date. {6.29.13}
  9. We got spray tans before the cruise and weren't supposed to shower for 8-24 hours. Jon washed my hair in the kitchen sink so I could have clean hair without getting my bod wet. {6.14.13}
  10. The time I tried to demo how one of my kinder kids rubs my toenail during class and we had a wrestling match over it -- that ended in Jon's defeat. :) {10.7.13}
  11. Jon made dumplings for me in Chicago over Christmas so I would feel more at home. < 3 {12.25.13}
  12. Jon took Reese's peanut butter trees to Chicago, wrapped them, and put them on the nightstand next to our hotel bed on Christmas morning. He's always thinking of me! {12.25.13}
It was so fun to look through all those memories! I think this is a tradition we need to continue.


All my friends were using this app called Flipagram to turn their pictures into quick, 15-30 second slideshows. Here is my 2013 in pictures:

 Here's the link in case you want/need to view it in a bigger screen.

This year has been so fantastic. I feel so blessed and look forward to another great year in 2014.


Sunday, December 29, 2013

Christmas #3

My family came for a visit over the weekend to end our Christmas celebrations for 2013. It sure was nice to see them.

They got here midmorning on Saturday, and we went to Torchy's for lunch. My dad and sister tried the spicy Brushfire taco


and helped them break out in a nice sweat. :) We did a little bit of shopping before coming home and lounging in the living room for the afternoon.

We did catch Meme and Papa holding hands in the car, which was the sweetest thing ever.

I hope I can stand Jon after 55 years together. ... I kid, I kid. ;)

For dinner, Jon used a recipe I found online for pulled pork in the crock pot. We just started embracing the wonders of crock pot cooking this past fall, and I kick myself for not starting it sooner; it's so easy! I made baked potatoes and took care of some of the decor while Jon made green beans and corn bread. There's a running joke in our family that Jon is my Meme's favorite. She always goes out of her way to cook a big, fancy meal when he's around, and she just pours praise all over him. It's actually a little sickening, and I'm not saying that out of jealousy or anything.


My uncle Kent and I always joke that we are going to start some sort of Anti-Jon Club for holidays. Our uniform will consist of jeans with a t-shirt. The t-shirt will have a big picture of Jon on it with a slash right through the middle and the words "WE WERE HERE FIRST!" at the top.

I'm mostly kidding. I'm really thankful that my family loves Jon as much as they do....even if it does mean that I got edged out for the slot of "favorite." ;)

Anyway, the whole point of that side note was to point out that Meme complimented Jon for everything. The baked potatoes, the decor, the hostess touches, the cornbread out of a bag... I started to give her a hard time about it and texted Uncle Kent so I'd have someone to commiserate with.

We opened gifts in front of a fire before going out for yogurt and turning in for the night. That was the first time my family had gotten to see our Christmas lights in person this year, so we got to show off all our Jon's hard work.

My friend Ami says we're one watt away from Christmas Vacation status. haha.

Here's our new nativity scene, courtesy of Meme and Papa

In the morning, I got to show off our Keurig -- is it bad that I'm still in love with that thing? -- and all the wonderful things it can do.

I'm terrible at taking pictures when my family is around. I re-realized this and frantically snapped a few pictures this morning, while we all still had morning breath and hair. {Sorry, guys!}

That look of concern on my dad's face is because we were trying to teach him what a hashtag is. It. Was. Hysterical.
Papa looked pretty comfy and cozy in the recliner by the fire.

As kids these days would say, I look a little rachet. #sorrynotsorry #toocomfytocare

We had lunch before we said goodbye, and Jon and I headed off to give my car a bath at the new car wash by our house. When we have kids, forget Six Flags -- we'll probably just take the kiddies to the car wash.

I found this cool app called Flipagram {Okay. I didn't find it. My friend Jill used it first, and then I copy-catted and started using it, too.} and have been using it to make some slideshows with pics. It's super-easy! Here's a slideshow I made to summarize Christmas 2013 for Jon and me:

And, uh, yeah. That's N'Sync's holiday CD you hear in the background. NOT ASHAMED.

Here's the link if you want/need to view it bigger.

Hope you had a merry Christmas, too!


Friday, December 27, 2013

Christmas #2

Prepare yourself for a long post with lots of pictures. Sorry in advance.... You can find most of these pictures on my Instagram and Twitter feeds, especially if you search for the #KarasDoesChicago hashtag. :)


Since we've been married, J and I have always gone to my family's house for Christmas because of his work schedule. But because of his more flexible work position, we were able to spend Christmas with his family in Chicago this year.

My panic set in on Thursday night when I was trying to pack and saw the weather forecast:

Gulp. Is that a negative niner I see in there?! I was not amused and honestly didn't think I even owned enough clothes to survive in that weather... but Jon vetoed me running out to shop on a Thursday evening, so I sucked it up and packed what I already had in the closet.

We headed for the airport right after school on Friday afternoon. It had been a long, eventful day at school, so I slept almost the entire flight. Our ride -- Jon's brother -- was sick, so we had to call some friends to pick us up at the airport. It was eventful trying to get out of the airport, since our friend forgot where she'd parked. ;) But the delay was fine, since it gave me a chance to enjoy the holiday decorations in the airport:

On Saturday, the kids, my mother-in-love, her BFF, and I all went "into town." My youngest niece, A, and my nephew, little J, were the best of friends and started jabbering away as soon as they saw each other in the car. Their conversation was all over the place. Here are some of the things I texted Jon while evesdropping in the back seat:

I'm a super-hero, apparently.

It was a long drive.

Here's my attempt to record some of the randomness:

It's a tradition for them to go to the Macy's in downtown Chicago and eat dinner under their massive Christmas tree. We arrived at the store around 1:30 or 2, and the first reservation we could get was at 5:30, so we killed some time by shopping and walking around the city.

Model of the city....made out of of chocolate.
Christmas store inside Macy's
A nativity scene -- hooray!
  Thought I was in NOLA again for a second:

"What do you do for a living?" ... "Oh, I drum on a bucket on the street."

 We took a break from walking to sit down and eat some fancy chocolates.... I knew I married into this family for a reason. ;)

My fav nine year old and me:

Then Jimmy jumped in on the action while my other niece socialized with the grown-ups:

We're smiling because our feet are resting and there's chocolate in our bellies.
Grandma said it was time to go...back to walking.
Finally, it was time to eat. This was part of our view:

As you eat, a "fairy" walks around, sprinkling you with "fairy dust" and "granting" your wishes. The kids were pretty excited about that.

Afterwards, we hopped on a bus and went to Navy Pier.

Reminded me of Town Square back home... I love wrapped trees!

We made it to Navy Pier and made a beeline for some ice cream {again, this is why I married into this family... haha}. Afterwards, we made the trek back to the bus and finally, back home.

All that walking kinda wore me out the day before, so the next morning, I was eager for some coffee. Our hotel had a complimentary breakfast, so we made sure we woke up in time for it. Apparently, this "coffee well," as I named it, is not uncommon, but it was the first time I'd seen any such thing:

Not Starbucks and certainly not my K-Cups, but... it'll do.
We lounged at my brother-in-love's house all day:

This chair became my BFF while we were there. SO COMFY.
 Here we are on Christmas Eve:

Here I am, smiling through my chattering teeth in the car:

Here was the thermometer in the car one evening. NOT ACCEPTABLE. But after that, 20 degrees felt like a heat wave.
It was so stinkin' cold... I quickly found out that my "snow boots" are poor facsimiles. I also quickly understood why my mother-in-love took one look at my "winter coat" and laughed at me before boarding the plane at DFW.

Here was a pond that I thought was a parking lot... I'd never seen a totally iced-over body of water before.

It snowed quite a bit on Christmas day, and Jon quickly went outside to shovel the driveway {he's weird and likes to do that}. I went outside with him and got my first look at "real" snow. Who knew that the real thing is actually soft and fluffy?!

Jon was so sweet and made sure that Santa visited me at the hotel. Santa knows me so well -- he brought me Reese's Christmas Crack Trees and a sweet card. :) Jon also made my Meme's famous dumplings as a way to make me feel more at home away from home... I married such a good guy. :)

Uncle Kent texted me this, and I had to share it -- it made me laugh:

Here's a shot in front of one of the Christmas trees at the house:

Here's a little summary video I made for Instagram:

In case you can't hear it, this song talks about how I'll see Illinois again... Perfect!

We came home yesterday afternoon and went to bed pretty early. Neither of us is feeling particularly well, but we're hoping we'll get better ASAP, since my family is coming to visit early tomorrow morning.


Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Merry Christmas!

It's become a tradition for me to post these videos every Christmas {here's the 2011 and 2012 versions, in case you want to revisit!}, so I'll continue it this year...

I have no idea how I managed to get the entire video in a blog post last year, so some screen shots and a link will have to do this year. Scroll down for more details...

 Click HERE to view the video. Enjoy! :)


Thursday, December 19, 2013

Tacky Christmas Sweater

My school is so fun. The last two weeks of school before Christmas break are considered "Reindeer Days," and my admin does something fun for us each day. We either have a theme where we dress a certain way, there's a fun event we get to participate in, or our admin brings us food. I definitely feel extra-blessed to work there on those days!

This past Tuesday was Tacky Christmas Sweater day. I wasn't about to pay $60 for a sweater I don't even like and will only wear once a year, so Jon and I took inspiration from this pin and went the DIY route. Here's how it turned out:

I had varied reactions from my students. The younger students gave me genuine compliments: "Wooooww! You look so pretty!" {Um. Thanks.} The older kids asked if I'd forgotten to look in the mirror that morning. ;)

No matter -- I won first place in our sweater contest, so I guess it was worth it. :)

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Karas Christmas #1

Jon and I get to do a few Christmases each year, due to our families all getting together at different times. This is all about perspective for me. I used to think of it like I was a kid with divorced parents, having eleventy billion Christmases to attend, but now I'm trying to think of it as, "I'm stretching out the holiday season!" #choosejoy

Anyway, for the first time ever, Jon and I hosted a Christmas gathering. Here are some pictures from the night.

Reindeer donuts, courtesy of THIS site

Veggie Christmas Tree, courtesy of THIS site

I got "fancy" with my set up with free place cards I found somewhere on Pinterest. I dragged it into PowerPoint, typed in our dishes with a fun font, printed on cardstock for durability, and folded to create standing tent cards.
I'm mildly embarrassed to admit just how much I love this print.

I wanted to make a "coffee bar" around my new Keurig, but this was kinda the best I could do. haha.

Our tree was really starting to fill up after we added our gifts. You should've seen it after our family added theirs. I think we need a bigger tree...

Zooming in on our tree a little, check out this adorable ornament that my a family at school gave me for Christmas this week. It has a metal nativity scene and "snow" inside it. Precious!

I was hard at work, rolling dolla bills to make this creative Pinterest gift before our guests arrived. I found the poem on Pinterest but ended up making and printing it myself, since I couldn't find a free version anywhere.
We don't take many selfies, so naturally, we had to have one before our guests arrived.
One of the only pictures I got of actual people last night. Whoopsie.
Me, at the end of the night

 It was a good night. One more week of school before winter break {not that I'm counting down or anything}!