Last Post of 2011

Here we are, almost to 2012! It seems like it flies by faster every year. We're not sure if we'll head to a party in Simi this weekend, or save the gas money and just cuddle at home. Either way we'll be together to ring in the new year (it's Michael's favorite holiday).

Last week we used some movie passes to go see Twilight (lucky for Mike he wasn't the only guy in the theater). I liked it, but definitely felt that some moments were over-dramatized (especially with all of the cheesy background music). I'm anticipating more cheese in the last movie. I also baked cupcakes with my visit teaching companion April and we took them to the rest of the young women presidency members and our visit-teachees. I'm glad I've made a close friend and have someone to talk to and see around here (including my aunt and uncle); it's funny how much we have in common.

We also saw a play at Fullerton's Maverick Theater called "Santa Claus Conquers the Martians" with two other couples from church. SO. GOOD. Definitely making this an annual tradition if we can.

For Christmas we drove to my parents' house and then carpooled to northern CA for our first Christmas ever in my sister's neck of the woods. It's rare for all of us to get together so I really enjoyed soaking in the whole day. The drive up the 5 is a boring monster but we managed it. Thanks for taking such good care of us sis!

Allyson's new cat Harriet
Harley, pobrecito loved his stuffed toy
Ozzy loved his reindeer
Harriet getting used to the dogs
Nom nom reindeer
Am I in trouble for this? awww.

Ever since I got married I've been studying parent-child relationships (particularly from a daughter's perspective) in the back of my mind. It's been hard for me not being home even though we don't live that far. I see how much my sister and I miss my mom and dad, how much my mom misses her mom, how a random stranger at the social security office in her 60's misses her mom and her father, other newlywed friends being homesick. I've come to the conclusion that this is a lifelong bittersweet gift that helps us treasure every moment we get to spend together. It can seem hectic and fly by too quickly when you see everyone around a holiday, but it's definitely worth it.

This week my parents drove out to OC with the dogs to check out condos with us. A few places have come up in prime locations having all that we're looking for, some a bit further than others. We're not sure if the timing is right, and boy is it scary, but we're getting closer to being homeowners. My aunt was feeling better after catching a really bad cold. But here's what she got to help my cousin Cindy nurture for a month:

Another reminder to look for the good in everything and carpe diem. God provides such beautiful and awesome sights.

Have a great new year everyone and we'll see you there! We love you!


Disneyland Desserts

A few days ago we had another fun evening at Disneyland and really enjoyed the holiday decor. Our mission was to scope out the "holiday desserts" we had seen on the Disney food blog. On another website I had seen something about a gingerbread beignet and holiday fritter at the Mint Julep Bar, but those were inaccurate. Instead we headed to California Adventure and found two delicious treats I DEFINITELY recommend you try.

Almond cookie sandwich with strawberry creme from the Lucky Fortune Cookery:

White chocolate cranberry bread pudding, found at the Pacific Wharf Cafe:


Time to Enjoy the Holidays

Well, we made it through the crazy week and a half of parties and such. The small "party" I threw for my literacy kids had some of the worst behavior I've ever seen. It spiraled downward when they didn't like the BRAND NEW BOOKS they received, which were donated by Disney. I guess they became used to getting what they wanted with treats etc. that they figured if they threw a pity party I'd swap them for other books. Oh well. I still got them pizza.

It was a lot of fun to hang out with Matt & Amy and the boys at Disneyland the next day. They had a blast running a muck on Tom Sawyer Island, now known as Pirate's Cove. That evening we also went to our ward's Christmas party and sang Christmas songs while enjoying good food and a cute nativity play.

On Monday at my Literacy Foundation work meeting, we got to share what our sites were like, and I'm so glad I wasn't alone in what I experienced at the elementary school. Kids have a lot of familial and social problems across the board. I am super excited to be able to do this again next semester, maybe at the same school.

The next two days were centered around the Young Women. We met Tuesday night to pack little gifts for them (homemade chapstick and sugar hand scrub) which inspired me to make fun stuff for birthdays and next Christmas too. Then the next evening we had the actual party for the girls. They each brought a treat so we had a ton of food, they enjoyed making little snowman and star ornaments, and I read a Christmas story Sister Woolf gave me. Overall it was fun and I'm glad to get to know them better. Sister Galati and I are getting to be good friends, which I'm really happy about, considering it's been difficult getting to know people. She's just like me - at home a lot of the time, wanting to have more motivation to do stuff. We're also visit teaching companions and we help encourage each other.

Throughout the week I was able to grab 2.5 substitute days, one of which was singing with kids all day. On Friday we went to Michael's work party at the Newport Beach Yacht Club. While watching the Christmas Boat Parade from the balcony, they gave each of us $1k in chips to play with. We learned roulette and played a little blackjack. We wanted to try out craps but the table was always packed. I met a lot of his awesome co-workers and their families and we had a blast. At the end of the night we were in 3rd place with the highest earnings of the night, and got to pick from the prize table. We scored a Kindle Fire! Just what I wanted! haha. I actually asked for the cheaper one for Christmas so we're going to wait and see what we get. I just wanted one of the lower grade readers because they battery life is much better and the screen is non-reflective.

Mike spotted a deal on a 50 mm lens on Amazon, so of course we got it. (I used it this Sunday, it was fantastic). Look how pretty!!

Saturday after visit teaching nearby, we went to Chino for a Burr family Christmas. I really missed seeing David & Terri a ton! It was so nice to relax and chat and enjoy a delicious meal. They spoiled us, as usual. That evening we were also invited to another church dinner, this time with Mike's home teaching companion and all of their families. Dinner was great and so was the conversation, but our eyelids were closing since it had been a long day and we went home and went straight to bed.

Lastly, yesterday we went to Ladera Ranch to photograph the baptism of a newborn I had just taken photos of the month before. The mom liked me so much the first time (and teased me for being too nice), she booked me again for this special day. We'd never been to a Catholic baptism before so it was really cool to see. I also got to use the 50 mm, which I love.

Now we're looking forward to Mike's work week being over, and going up north to my sister's house for Christmas with the Spencer side of the family. I love this time of year!


Mason Jar Snow Globes!

I just saw this today on www.julieannart.com and had to share it! I definitely plan to do this in the future.
[all photos borrowed from julieannart.com]

SO great!


What you'll need:
Any jar that seals
Distilled Water
Liquid Glycerin
Epoxy/Crazy Glue

(Glycerin can be found at the drug store in the pharmacy section.)

Using the Crazy Glue, attach your figurines to the lid of the mason jar. Let them dry completely. (She waited 24 hours to be sure.)

Next, fill your jar almost to the top with distilled water. Add a dash of liquid glycerin (this is used to make the glitter fall more slowly). The amount is glitter you add is sort of at your own discretion. "I ended up experimenting and some of mine have a lot of glitter and some don't." Screw the cap on tightly and shake your jar to get the glitter moving.

And you're done! Give your Christmas decorations a pretty handmade touch this year using this easy tutorial!


Christmas Rush? I think so.

It's amazing what can happen when you're stuck. Really, it is. Over the past week or two I've been getting as many substitute jobs as I can to help pay for Christmas gifts. This is also my last week with my first after-school literacy group. Funny how when I promise them a congratulatory party, they behave their worst the day before. Blerrrrg.

Anyways, back to being stuck. Mike and I had a rough night discussing budgeting a bit ago. It was not fun. It never is, and this time was particularly hard. I thought I was going to have to have my brakes done, and because of ________ (insert Christmas or extra or whatever you want) spending, we didn't know how we were going to cover it. Heavenly Father helped us out big time. I went to our family's trusted repair guy in Simi and it turns out, the back brakes just needed cleaning. They get dustier because stock brakes aren't as good as factory brakes. Blessing #2 came when one substitute district paid me earlier than I thought, and much more than I thought.

Lesson? Trust in God. Don't just tell yourself to trust Him, actually do it. Our faith is tested every day, and we make it.

I was really grateful to spend the extra time with my parents and have good conversation over breakfast with my Dad while we were waiting on my car. My parents have so much faith in me, and I really needed to hear it. Every time I visit, my Mom offers the whole kitchen to me, and I humbly accept some snacks and things to keep us going. It helps, and it also makes my heart ache and expand immeasurably.

Lastly in this post I'd like to mention how hectic this Christmas is. Seriously.
Yesterday: Relief Society Christmas dessert exchange and dinner, brought homemade cookies
Tomorrow: Work party for my literacy kids, bringing pizza (no bad behavior kids allowed)
Saturday: Disneyland with the Simi Burrs, then evening church party, bringing green bean casserole (church-related party #2)
Monday: Literacy work planning meeting
Tuesday: Meeting to pack gifts for the young women
Wednesday: Young Women Christmas party (church-related party #3)
Friday: Mike's work Christmas party in the Newport Harbor, seeing the boat Christmas parade
Saturday: Christmastime with David & Terri & Simi Burrs during the day, gathering at our church friends' house for a dinner
Sunday: Taking pictures for a client's baby's baptism



Denver, CO Temple, Thanksgiving

So, after a fun weekend of wedding and Vegas from 11/11 to 11/13, I then took a flight to Denver Colorado to see the LDS temple on Tuesday 11/15. I had planned it last year but had to cancel, and had to use the flight credits before they expired. Our budget was tight so we decided that I'd just book the original trip I had planned.

I have a life goal of doing a temple session in all of the US temples (maybe the world if I get the time). Denver's was built in 1986. My parents lived out there for awhile for my dad's work, and my sister was born in Aurora, so even though I only drove around for a day, I got a small sense of what they saw. Next time I want to go see the University of Denver where my dad earned his MBA. Enjoy the photos below.

The following weekend, Michael took photos for Vasty and Jeremy (see them here: MBKB) and they turned out great. I also tried to certify to be an ETS essay rater but the website isn't working on our home computer. So much for that! Maybe it wasn't meant to be.

Thanksgiving week/weekend was great. Michael's work had a feast, and the next day we drove up to Fresno and stayed at Bryan and Amanda's apartment. We enjoyed seeing family and relaxing. Then on Friday we drove to Carson City, Nevada and spent the evening and all of Saturday relaxing, exploring around town, and seeing the Muppet movie with Allyson and Peter (cheesiest movie ever). Speaking of cheese, Allyson made some yummy homemade mac n' cheese. I was reluctant to go home but we'll see everyone again soon.

Besides substitute teaching and other stuff, I've also wrapped all of the Christmas presents we have so far. The only people left that we want to shop for are my dad and each other. It'll be a small Christmas this year, but it's funny how materialistically smaller Christmases get, the more I love them simply because I'm with family.

hints of snow here and there


Viva Las Vegas!

After Amanda's wedding on 11/11/11, Mike, his dad and stepmom and I drove to Las Vegas that night. It took about 6 hours to get to state line from Fresno since we had to backtrack down the 99 freeway, so we got there about 2:30 AM. Whiskey Pete's had turned off their card key machine (what hotel does that?) so we had to wait ten more minutes before heading to bed.

I was in my pajamas with my imitation Ugg boots from Costco, looking very disheveled, and grateful for a bed to sleep in considering we only got 3 hours of sleep the night before. Terri got the room for free, and they also gave her some free playing money, so she hit the slots to pass time and ended up having really good luck! So good that she stayed another 2 hours into the morning! Lucky duck.

We slept until 1 PM on Saturday (yes really, I'm ashamed but we needed it) and then drove across the way to Primm for lunch. Then we hit the outlets for some early Christmas shopping - love it. Afterward it got dark so it felt like we should be going to bed soon, but not in Vegas! We drove to the LDS temple and did a session. Their temple is really cool! I have a life goal of doing a session in all of the US temples, and hadn't done Vegas yet.

We then headed to The Orleans where Terri had more free rooms! That evening we started playing and had some snacks around their eateries. This was my first time gambling, so I was nervous at first but got really comfortable since you could play pennies, nickels, and dimes, so the money goes away slowly instead of quickly, haha! Michael and I were up and down and up and down, but by the end of our trip we were down, booo. One game I won $20, which was pretty cool. I'm glad we didn't gamble much, but I loved playing poker! So fun.

The next day we met up with our friends Devon and Vanessa and ate at the French Buffet downstairs. So yummy! They were both fun and funny to spend time with, I'm glad we met up! They celebrated their 2-year anniversary the next day :)


Afterward, we gambled more, and Mike actually got to play poker at a table with real people - it's more fun for him rather than a machine. I love my machines though! Since we joined their points club for free, The Orleans may start mailing us free deals too. Mike got 1000 free points since it was his birthday month.

We played to have fun, and we totally did. It's more fun and lasts longer when you don't risk much. I remember when I was younger, my Uncle Leon won something like $10k and I think it was playing Keno, not sure. So, some are lucky! Terri got a really good machine and was doing well.

reminds me of the Hollywood Tower of Terror
We refilled this baby with Dr. Pepper at least 4 times. lol

Creepy faces!

Before we headed out of town, we walked around the Fremont Experience and saw some crazy people in costume, ziplining, etc. and took in the atmosphere.

After going home, I realized there was just something about Las Vegas that stayed with me, it makes me excited every time I think of it. I doubt it's the gambling bug, but more of everything combined: games, lights, atmosphere, lots of people, excitement, food, fun. It was the most fun trip Mike and I have had yet. Thank you Dad and Terri for taking us, we loved it! We should go again, maybe in January since it's my birthday month. We've been to the strip before, and while it's amazing inside the resorts, the one thing I don't like is people shoving inappropriate fliers in your face walking down the street. Yuck. The Orleans wasn't like that at all, we loved it.