Archive for the ‘Holidays’ Category

Christmas 2013

January 12, 2014

This year’s Christmas was a wonderful whirlwind of travel, family, friends, presents and fun; I’d do it all over again in a heartbeat. We were in Texas a total of 11 days, flying in to Houston first; we spent a day there and then drove to Rogers to spend some time with my family. I absolutely love the difference between our time in Houston versus our time in Rogers…In Houston we’re always all over the place, visiting every friend we can and going out often…but in Rogers the pace is slower, we spend most of our time outside, roaming the property with pellet guns, loving on the animals or just lounging around. The two environments couldn’t be more opposite but I love them both and always look forward to time spent in both places.

I just love the Christmas tree at my parents’ house, I think I could stare at its glow for hours. The mountain of presents underneath are pretty nice too ;)

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One of the most entertaining things that we did while in Rogers was rake all of the leaves from the trees in the yard into one gigantic pile. We honestly didn’t know what we were going to do with it when we were finished but we knew it was going to be huge so we did it anyway.

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Then we had an amazing idea…Sadie loves to play fetch so let’s throw the tennis ball into the leaf pile and see what happens…she leaped in every time as if she were jumping into water! It was the most hilarious thing to watch and we threw the ball over and over again.

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The crazy part is that she found the ball almost every time; she would root around in the pile, her wagging tail sticking up out of the leaves, until she sniffed out the ball.

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Mark got some pretty awesome pictures of Jack in his natural habitat. Actually he threw Jack up in a tree for these photos which explains the “what the heck is your problem?” look on his face, haha.

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We managed to snap a few nice family photos while we were there too. I think the last time we took a good family portrait I was still in high school so it was long overdue.

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Christmas in Rogers wouldn’t be complete without the Christmas Eve Barn Service. This has been something that our church has been doing since the 80’s and it’s one of my favorite traditions of the holiday season.

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The service was pretty packed this year and it was uncharacteristically nice as far as the weather goes; usually it’s raining or freezing or windy. There’s just something about sitting on hay bales, singing Christmas hymns and sharing communion in an uninsulated barn that really brings your focus back to the one who was born in such a place.

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On Christmas morning Mema and Papa came out and opened presents with us. It’s so nice to have them living closer now so we can see them more often :)

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We all got some great gifts, Mark’s favorite was probably the quad-copter that he and Ben both received. They had so much fun trying to fly them around the house and outside. My favorite gift was a new power sander!

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After spending the morning with my family we packed up, said goodbye and hit the road for our second Christmas of the day in Houston. We did presents with everyone around 4 o’clock and then had a yummy dinner afterwards.

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Mark and I had the pleasure of giving the “big gift” this year. We wanted to buy a car for Tricia since hers wasn’t very reliable. The funny thing is that we ended up finding a car almost identical to my Mazda, just a couple years newer with fewer miles and a pretty blue color. She was beyond thrilled and thankful and I only wish that we had done this sooner.

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After the craziness of Christmas Day, we unwound with a little shopping, golfing, puzzle making and fort building with this not-so-little 6 year old.

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The whole family spent one evening at TopGolf which is an awesome three story driving range that is set up kind of like a bowling alley. Each person’s name is on a screen and when it’s your turn to take a shot, your ball’s sensor is activated so the system can tell how far you hit it. They also serve food and drinks, like an upscale bar/restaurant/driving range…it’s loads of fun!

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And as per tradition we completed our third family puzzle; we also took a group shot to be turned into the puzzle that we will work on next Christmas!

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Home for Christmas

January 16, 2013

For the first time ever Mark and I flew during the holiday season as we made our way to Texas to spend Christmas with our families. We had a great time, spending 9 full days back home, but before we left we had a mini Christmas, just the two of us.

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Our stockings were hung with care…

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…and we opened our presents from each other while listening to Christmas music and keeping warm by our crackling Netflix fire.

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A few days later we made our way to Houston and on the 23rd we visited the Houston Zoo to see some animals and Christmas lights. Since it was dark, we couldn’t see many of the larger animals outdoors but we did spot a few giraffes.

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We spent Christmas Eve with Tammy and Logan in Shenandoah; we decorated the tree, baked cookies for Santa and attended the midnight church service.

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Logan must have been an extra good boy this year because Santa brought him a pretty awesome workbench and tool belt. Mark and I both agreed that one of our favorite parts of this past Christmas was playing Santa’s helpers the night before to ensure everything was perfect for Logan the next morning…that and sipping eggnog, of course.

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Here’s our big, happy family photo with everyone in Houston. We’ve grown by one more since last year with the addition of little Lilian. It’s so adorable to see how protective big brother Logan is of her :)

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There was plenty of baby holding in Houston but once we made it to Rogers to see my family it was all about Jack.

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Just like last year, Jack absolutely loved hiding in and laying on any box, bag, tissue or wrapping paper within reach.

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It was so wonderful to be home again…we heard stories and saw pictures from Ben’s trip to Africa, played fetch with Sadie, walked the property with pellet guns and of course watched the Garfield Christmas Special together {it’s tradition, after all}.

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Christmas Cookies

January 3, 2013

If I’m ever feeling homesick during the holiday season there’s one activity that is sure to cheer me up, baking cookies. I have my mom to thank for that; we always baked TONS of cookies every December for sharing {and eating}. Even though I usually consider the process of refrigerating, rolling, cutting and decorating sugar cookies to be a bit excessive, I find it somewhat therapeutic when I have time to enjoy it.

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This year, for the first time, I tried my hand at working with royal icing and flooding. Mark and I had fun experimenting with the different decorating methods and various sprinkles. These simple little trees were my favorite; definitely worth the effort :)

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DIY: Ruffled Tree Skirt

December 3, 2012

Ever since seeing this post via Pinterest about how to make a ruffled tree skirt with nothing but some fabric and a hot glue gun, I knew that I had to make it. My friend, Christine, and I wanted to craft them together so we bought our fabric with some 50% off coupons at Joann’s and got to work while watching National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation.

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For the base of our skirts we cut circles from a 5’x5′ canvas painter’s drop cloth, it’s wider, cheaper and more durable than anything we could have bought at a fabric store. We ripped our fabric into 3.5 inch strips, heated up our hot glue guns and started gluing the ruffles from the outside in.

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It was quite time consuming and since we were sitting on the floor we took plenty of stretching/cookie breaks to keep us going. Here are our skirts after just two rows of gluing. Christine went with red and white and mine is white and a gold glittery cream.

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And here is the final product beneath our beautiful tree. I absolutely love it and I look forward to using it for many Christmases to come!

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Rand Family Christmas Tree

December 2, 2012

For the first time ever Mark and I have a large, real tree for Christmas! The first two years we were married we had a tiny artificial tree and last year we had a 3 foot Douglas fir but we went for the real deal this year.

I’ve been searching for and collecting red, silver, gold and mercury glass ornaments since this time last year, it was so much fun to hang everything on the tree and see it all come together.

We splurged a little and went with LED lights which will not only last longer but also cost less to operate because let’s face it, I’m going to have the tree plugged in all. the. time. It took a few minutes to get used to the bright, white light but we love it!

Friendsgiving

November 30, 2012

Since we spent a week in Texas at the beginning of November and plan to return for the Christmas holiday we spent Thanksgiving in California. Luckily some of our friends were in the same scenario so we decided to have Thanksgiving dinner together, just the Rands and the Krouts!

I was in charge of preparing the cornbread stuffing and dessert. I went a little overboard and made mini pumpkin pies, molasses spice cookies and an apple pie. Honestly, I couldn’t tell you which of the three were my favorite because they were all amazing.

After dinner we watched some football and played with their cat, Aesop. The next day we were all free from work so we got together again and went wine tasting in Livermore. Compared to Napa and Sonoma, Livermore is much closer to home, the tastings are inexpensive {sometimes free} and the atmosphere is much more casual and less snobby. We haven’t lived here long enough to become wine snobs so that whole scene isn’t very appealing to us, we just like to enjoy some wine and good conversation with friends while watching the sun set over the vines.

Halloween Fun

November 27, 2012

Halloween this year was spent with some of our new friends Andy, Kirsten, Brendan & Christine. We all gathered at the Stearns’ house for dinner together and afterwards we carved pumpkins, decorated cookies and passed out candy to the neighborhood trick-or-treaters.

Here are the jack-o-lantern creations…

…and our decorated cookies! I made the orange “pumpkin” sugar cookies and bought a couple tubes of black icing for decorating.

Another fun project that I had seen on Pinterest and wanted to try was the glow stick monster eyes. I had a handful of toilet paper tubes that I’d been saving for a few weeks and I used an Xacto knife to cut out different eye shapes. Then at our Halloween gathering we snapped some glow sticks {found in the dollar section at Target}, stuck one inside each tube and taped off the ends with blue painters tape. We put them in various places around their front yard so when kids came up to the front door it looked like there were monsters in the bushes!

Christmas Time

January 5, 2012

Christmas 2011 was jam-packed with family, friends and fun. It’s always nice to be able to spend a good amount of time with both of our families and I am incredibly grateful that Mark doesn’t have to work between Christmas and New Years.

We spent the first few days of our holiday vacation in Rogers with my family. Once again the annual Christmas Eve barn service was cold, wet and muddy; to be honest I wouldn’t have it any other way, it’s kind of a tradition now. We also got to hang with our favorite fat cat, Jack…if you received a Christmas card from my parents you already know but Jack has officially changed residences. He is much happier living in a big house with more room to roam and he loves to go outside and climb trees and hang with his other kitty friends. My parents are quite smitten with him and I don’t think they would give him back even if we asked. He still loves when we come to visit though and we found out that he especially loves Christmas trees…

…and tissue paper. He played in our giant paper pile for hours and even took a nap hiding beneath the crumpled sheets.

Though the weather was a little icky during our stay in Rogers we made the best of it. On the 26th my mom and I went shopping all day while the boys went to see a movie and go bowling. I always love looking at the discounted Christmas decor and for once I splurged on some pretty ornaments at Marshall’s. My mom and I had so much fun spending the day together :)

This year I was inspired by some snow globes made using bottle brush trees in mason jars from Anthropologie. I couldn’t quite handle their $30 price tag so I made some of my own to give out as little gifts to Mark’s coworkers and some family friends. They were so simple to make!

After spending a few days in Rogers we headed to Houston to be with Mark’s family for New Years. When we got there the table was cleared and covered in puzzle pieces…they had a puzzle made from our family picture taken on Memorial Day. It turned out to be a lot harder than it looked and we finally completed it at 2:15am on January 1st! We all decided that this needed to become a tradition so we took a picture of ourselves with the finished puzzle and a puzzle of that picture will be made to be worked on during our July 4th trip up to camp in Maine. Once that puzzle is finished we’ll take a picture with it, and so on and so on…

While in Houston we stayed pretty busy; we assembled Logan’s new bike, we went indoor rock climbing, I went to a painting class, Mark played golf, we watched some movies and got lots of great quality family time!

Holiday Baking

December 19, 2011

For me the holiday season means lots and lots of baking; growing up we would always start baking cookies the day after Thanksgiving. We made a wide variety including monster cookies, sugar cookies, chocolate chip cookies, spritz cookies and my personal favorite, molasses spice cookies. All of them looked festive in one way or another, topped with sprinkles, dyed sugar or red and green M&M’s. All of the cookies would be stored in the freezer and towards the end of December we would pull them all out and make plates of cookies for teachers and friends, finishing the plates off with mini candy canes, Hershey kisses or mini Reese’s cups.

I still love giving out cookies to this day, it’s one of my favorite Christmas traditions. But since I can’t send cookies to everyone I wanted to at least share my favorite holiday cookie recipe with you!

Molasses Spice Cookies

  • 3/4 cup butter, softened
  • 1/3 cup sugar, plus more for dipping
  • 1/3 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1 large egg yolk
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1/2 cup dark molasses
  • 2-1/4 cup flour
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1-1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1-1/2 tsp ground ginger
  • 1/2 tsp ground cloves
  • 1/4 tsp allspice
  • 1/4 tsp ground black pepper
  • 1/4 tsp salt

Mix dry ingredients and set aside.

Beat butter with white and brown sugars until light and fluffy. Add egg yolk and vanilla. Next add molasses, mix well. Reduce speed and gradually add in dry ingredients. Once fully incorporated, dough will seem very soft but don’t add any additional flour.

Refrigerate for at least a couple hours, preferably over night.

Preheat oven to 375F.

Pour some extra sugar or sprinkles into a bowl. Scoop large tablespoons of dough and roll between palms into balls. Roll tops of dough balls in the sugar. Bake 10-12 minutes, until cookies are browned, still puffy, cracked on top and the edges have begun to set but center is still soft.

I always use Grandma’s dark molasses, it’s the best of the best and I like to put it on my pancakes too!

Every time I make these cookies it makes my kitchen smell like Christmas and it takes me back to those fun times baking cookies with my mom :)

I also tried a new twist on my typical sugar cookie log today; red and white swirl! It wasn’t easy to do but I still believe it’s less hassle than using cookie cutters. I divided the dough into two equal portions, added red food dye to one half, rolled each dough ball out into same-sized rectangles, put one on top of the other and then rolled it up into a log.

All of these festive cookies are going on a big platter to Mark’s coworkers tomorrow!

Memorial Day 2011

June 24, 2011

Each year our Memorial Day weekend on Lake Conroe continues to get better and better; it’s become quite the family tradition. Mark and I were both able to take off on Friday, leaving us with a full 4 day weekend away!

Mark had a little shadow most of the time; Logan loves to do everything Uncle Chris does!

The majority of our time was spent on the lake tubing, wakeboarding, sunning or just riding in the boat. Mark is pretty good on the board and he’s entertaining to watch; I managed to get up a few times but I’m still learning.

We captured a few good videos of tubing wipeouts and enjoyed watching them over and over. The larger of the two tubes {the MONSTER, as seen above} was notorious for bouncing the other, smaller tube around the wake but in a series of battles the small tube claimed victory 99% of the time due to its lower center of gravity.

My good lookin’ hubby driving the boat :)

See? Just like Uncle and Grandpa!

Logan spent a lot of time fishing off of the boat dock; he got pretty good at casting the line out and reeling it in. It paid off because he caught his first fish!

And it wouldn’t be Memorial Day weekend if we didn’t boil some crawfish! Along with the main ingredient we threw in corn, red potatoes, onions, garlic, sausage, lemons and of course the crawfish boil seasoning. It turned out spicier than before but it was still absolutely delicious.

Another successful Rand/Kearning Memorial Day!