Top Ten of 2013

Is 2013 really at it's end?  It feels like a minute has past since I sat down to write my 2012 Top Ten list and it's already time to write another?  2013 was a lot calmer than 2012 and I thought I would have trouble coming up with 10 significant events, but as it turns out I had a hard time narrowing my list down to only 10 things.  Going back and thinking about my year has left me with a really good feeling about where my life is at the moment.  Some years (a-hem, 2011) I'm upset that I didn't accomplish more with the year, and other years (2010 and 2012) I've had almost too many things to choose from.  This year felt a lot more relaxed, but still accomplished.  I hope I can continue this momentum through 2014.

The rules:  Come up with a list of 10 significant things that happened to you in 2013.  They don't necessarily have to be good things or major things, just significant to you.  You can only have 10 things on your list, no more-no less.
  1. making it through our first full year of parenthood
  2. continuing the construction on our house, especially our kitchen (someday I might actually post about our projects) you can read about some here, here, and here.
  3. the Polar Express
  4. the New Kids on the Block concert
  5. attending Blog Elevated (now to just apply what I learned) and connecting in real life with other bloggers
  6. finding an acceptable work/life balance, despite being so painfully strapped for cash
  7. visiting my Mom once a month so she can see Jack grow up
  8. unpacking a significant portion of the house (seriously, why did I not post more about this?!?)
  9. completing six months of contract work from home in my pajamas
  10. becoming a more dedicated blogger and finally starting to find my voice - sort of
If you're reading this and want to make a Top Ten list, please share it with me!  I'd love to read them.

Happy 2014!

Twelve Days of Christmas: Christmas Tree Farm

Dennis and I had quite the adventure today.  In an attempt to start yet another family Christmas tradition, I wanted to go to Dewberry Farm and cut down our own Christmas tree.  Back in September, I shared a coupon for admission to Dewberry's corn maze, and was given tickets in exchange for passing on the information, but unfortunately, Jack got sick the day we were supposed to go and our trip didn't happen.  Dennis and I had been to Dewberry a couple of years ago and had been looking forward to someday going back with our own kid, so getting a Christmas tree and taking Jack out to the farm was definitely a no brainer win-win.  We also decided it would be nice to take Den's mom with us, since we were able to take my mom on the Polar Express.

Today was the perfect day to head out to Dewberry.  It wasn't as cold as I would've liked, but since all the activities were outdoors, it was much easier with the weather being a little warmer.  During the Christmas tree season, admission to Dewberry Farm is free, so that was a bonus for us also. Who doesn't like free?!?

There are a ton of fun activities for kids at Dewberry besides just a corn maze or Christmas tree farm.  Some of them are free and some of them cost extra and a lot of the paid activities are closed during the Christmas season (good for us - no temptation!)  The first thing we did was play on Hay Mountain, then enjoyed Fort DewHickey and went down some slides with Jack.  I couldn't resist taking a ride on the Farm Flinger.  We had so much fun!!!

Jack thought he was swinging all by himself!

After all that fun, we hopped on the hay ride out to the Christmas trees.  We got a lesson in the 3 types of trees for sale and the proper way to cut our tree, then we were off into the fields to choose our perfect tree.  And we immediately realized that Dewberry trees were way beyond our price range.  They were so far outside our price range that we couldn't help but laugh.  It would've been disappointing if the trees were a little over priced, and we may have even extended our budget a bit, but we could've gotten 3 or 4 trees at Kroger or Home Depot for the price of one tree at Dewberry.  There's no way we were going to be able to justify that kind of expense this Christmas.  Don't get me wrong, these trees were beautiful, but even so, they were over priced for us.  After the initial sticker shock wore off and we quit laughing we decided to stop by Kroger or Home Depot on the way home for a tree.

I was a little disappointed as we were leaving because I was hoping to be starting a Christmas tradition.  I remember going to a Christmas tree farm as a kid with our entire extended family.  The kids got to play in the rows of trees and drink hot chocolate and then we picked our trees and went home.  Good times, even though I think we only went twice.  I was thinking about this as we were heading to the freeway when all of a sudden I remembered seeing signs for a different Christmas tree farm on the way to Dewberry.  I pulled out my iPhone (thank you modern technology!), and sure enough, we were going to drive right by High Star Farm.  Dennis called them to see if they were still open (it was starting to get late) and if we could get a decent tree within our budget.  Sure enough, they had trees in our price range, and they told us to hurry and get there.  Dennis smiled and said, "Maybe we just started a different Christmas tradition:  go out and play at Dewberry, then pick our tree at High Star."  I couldn't agree more!

We pulled into the parking lot of High Star about 20 minutes before sunset.  Jack had fallen asleep in the car, so Den's mom offered to wait with him so we didn't have to wake him.  We were the only car in the lot, and when we walked onto the lot, a nice lady greeted us with a Christmas tree tag and instructions to hurry!  So we grabbed a saw took off running into the rows of trees.  I know, running with a saw isn't the safest thing in the world, but our out of shape running is more like fast walking with high knees.

The trees at High Star aren't as picture perfect as the ones at Dewberry, but they definitely have more personality.  There were some Charlie Brown trees and some Griswald trees (okay, maybe not that tall, but definitely that full).  I didn't have a chance to take many pictures; we were pressed for time!  We raced down the rows and quickly spotted Our Tree.  It was a little smaller than we would've liked, but we were trying to stay in budget and weren't sure how tall our budget actually was.  And just like that, Dennis cut the tree and we were on our way.

When we made it back to the front of the farm, the nice lady was like, "That was fast!", and we were like, "You told us to hurry!" and we all laughed.  We bought some hot chocolate for the ride home while our tree was bailed.  High Star is family owned and operated and everyone there couldn't be nicer.  Our visit was fast, but that was part of the fun!   And as it turns out, we were the last customers of the season!  How's that for lucky?!?

All in all, we had a fabulous day.  I don't think we'll be buying a tree at Dewberry any time soon, but we will definitely be back out there to play in the hay.  High Star saved the day and we still got to cut our own tree.  Plus I get to cross something else off my 101 in 1,001 list.  We'll be customers of theirs for a loooonnnngggg time.  Win-win-win!  Now to decorate the tree!

Twelve Days of Christmas: Tomball German Christmas Festival

Today we went to the Tomball German Christmas Festival.  I've been wanting to go for years, but have always worked weekends, so I was glad to finally get to go.  Dennis and his brother from another mother, Roger, go every year, and they even have lederhosen to wear.  They're nothing if not festive.

they walked in the parade

The day started off chilly and grey (my favorite), and got even cooler as the day went on thanks to some crazy gusty wind, but we didn't mind.  I wore Jack in our Moby wrap so were super snuggly warm, but Dennis had to finally break out his heavy coat.  We escaped the cold for a little while in the historic train depot to watch some model trains and also checked out several antique shops in Old Town Tomball.

this guy had the best beard ever 

The festival is actually a lot bigger than I expected it to be.  There were several stages (with plenty of polka music to go around - I've never seen so many accordions in one place!), lots of vendor booths, and a variety of food and drink tents.  I ate like a pig, but that's what street festivals are for, right?  I had a giant apple strudel and wassil (spiced apple cider), and I tried to eat a brautwurst, but Jack stole it from me.  What can I say, the kid knows good meat.  I also had some potato pancakes, and a bite or two of Den's gyro.  There as also a booth of old fashioned sodas like sarsparilla and cream soda, but my favorite was the muddy creek (chocolate soda!).

I think we have added yet another Family Christmas Tradition!  I already can't wait for next year.


Twelve Days of Christmas: Santa Claus

I'm really excited for this holiday season.  Last year was actually Jack's first Christmas, but being a preemie, we were pretty limited with where we could go with him and what we could do.  I would've loved to have newborn pics with Santa last year, but since kids are all covered in pestilence, I couldn't risk Jack getting sick just for a photo opportunity.  So, needless to say, I was over the moon yesterday when Dennis and I took Jack to the Galleria to meet Santa.  Although Jack actually met Santa for the first time on the Polar Express last month, he didn't really have time for a great photo opp.

I'm really relieved that Jack didn't burst into tears when we sat him on Santa's lap.  He was a little confused at first, and Santa didn't really say anything to him/us (I think he was trying not to freak out Jack - just be still and maybe he won't notice I'm a strange person), but after a few seconds, we got a great smile out of Jack.  The background was a little lacking, so I spruced it up using an online photo editor; not the best job in the world, but I'm no photo editing professional!  Ha!

I have always loved Santa Claus.  In fact, Santa still visits me every year.  I always make sure to spend Christmas Eve at my Mom's house so he'll know where to find me.  I never get over the excitement of coming down the stairs on Christmas morning to see what gifts are waiting under the tree.  When I was about 16 my Mom and I had this conversation about Santa:

M:  We need to talk about Santa.
J:  No we don't.
M:  Jess, you do know that I---
J:  Shhhh!  I said I don't want to talk about that.
M:  But you do know, right.
J:  I know I really like "Santa" to visit me.
M:  Well, "Santa" really likes visiting.
J:  Good, so "Santa's" going to keep showing up.
M:  "Santa" would love to.
J:  Well, then, that's settled.

I hope my immaturity seeps into Jack and he can find magic and wonder in Christmas as long as I have.  Santa now visits Jack, Dennis, Mom, and me on Christmas Eve.


Day in the Life, December 1, 2013

I've been so excited about this month's Day in the Life post that naturally I'm super late getting it up.  With the Renaissance Festival finally behind us, it's fast forward into the holiday season.  I think I pretty much speak for everyone when I say this time of year is cray-cray.  I've been busy with my day job, busy with Jack, and I've been busy trying to meet a deadline for my side job, along with trying to get the house ready for Christmas and all that jazz.  It's time to play a little catch-up around ye olde blog.

December's Day in the Life happened to fall on the closing day of the Texas Renaissance Festival.  Dennis and his Brother From Another Mother, Roger, own a couple of businesses out there, so we're there all 8 weekends of the festival.  Closing weekend is always bittersweet.  We all love Faire, but after 8 weekends of it we're all ready to pack it up and get our weekends back.  There are friends of ours we only see during the run of the festival, so there are plenty of "see you next year's" and those are never easy (although, as I get older and time passes faster, it seems to not be quite as bad).

I took a TON of pictures on the first, and I'm going to share them all in this post.  You'd know that already if you followed me on Instagram, go ahead, I'll wait.  I made sure to take and label the "official" hourly posts, and everything else was a bonus.  So come along with me for a day at the renaissance festival.  As usual, I didn't do anything out of the ordinary, I just went about my day and snapped pictures at the top of the hour.

5 am
up and working

6 am
light on the back deck

6 am
neighboring booth 

7 am
Dennis and Roger open up shop

7 am
view from my work table

8 am
packing up the laptop

8 am
the baby awakens

9 am
Den decorates his  new mug

9 am

10 am
walking to back gate

10 am
Jack works the Gutenburg Press

10 am
baby in cage

11 am
photo bomb

11 am

12 pm

12 pm

12 pm
he didn't even notice the parade

1 pm
everywhere we go
meeting back up with Den

1 pm

2 pm
walking around with friends

2 pm
checking in at The Royal Coin Mint

2 pm
Dragon Swings

2 pm
prison break

3 pm
more crowds

3 pm

3 pm
fighting nap time

3 pm
down for the count

4 pm
Pirate auction

4 pm
sleeping baby = snack time

4 pm
awake from nap
yes, this was December 1st, and yes, it was warm enough out for a naked baby

5 pm
hammer time

5 pm
The Boys at The Mint

6 pm
The Gutenburg Press

6 pm
lights at The Mint

6 pm
Dennis and Jack at The Mint

7 pm
chatting in the lane with friends

7 pm
Pigger & Butt-Naked, ready to go home

8 pm

8 pm

8 pm
Roger cleans The Press

9 pm
packing to go home

9 pm
saying goodbye

9 pm
Jack and Danatee

10 pm
sleepy eyes

11 pm
on the road home

11 pm
hungry cats

And finally bedtime!  Jack only woke once to nurse, so thankfully we all got a good night's sleep

7 am
back at it

Next month's Day in the Life should be interesting since it'll be the first day of the new year!  I can't believe 2013 is almost behind us.
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