Saturday, January 17, 2015

Happy Holidays

Alright alright alright...sooo I know it is way past Christmas, but I promised myself I would blog about the holidays. So this is me... writing about Christmas... on January 17th. I might not be the timeliest goal accomplisher, but at least it is getting done! That's success in my book.

This year the Christmas season seemed to come so fast. Normally I am SO ready for Christmas- the music, decor, holiday goodies, etc but this year... I don't know... it just felt a little different, but that didn't stop me from enjoying the coziness of my home...
and the awe and wonder of my tree. I LOVE LOVE LOVE having a fresh tree every year brought by my dad and this one might have been the most perfect tree yet! It was gorgeous and I just... love sitting on the sofa each night basking in the Christmas tree glow. It is a small thing, but I just really enjoy it and consider it a sweet gift from God.
So let's get to the details...It's no surprise that I love gift wrapping. Each year I try to do something new and different.
This year my theme was simple - black kraft paper with baker's twine, fresh branches cut from my tree, and these classy deer tags I found on Etsy.

In general, we keep gifts to a minimum. For Allie, we try really hard to not go wild and stick to 4 primary gifts - a want, a need, a wear, and a read. It honestly is more about us having self control than it is about the unintentional messages heaps of gifts might send to Allie, but that is on our minds too and something we try and keep a firm grip on. This year I was so focused on the gifts I wanted to give that I was completely blindsided by the overwhelmingly generous surprises others had planned for me. Last Christmas, Zach got me this amazing 5-light pendant fixture for our kitchen. For a variety of reasons, we never got around to getting an electrician to our house to hang it. Fast forward until this year and my sweet, sweet MIL had it hung one day while I was at work. She wanted to be sure I could enjoy it during the holidays and it was an amazing surprise! I absolutely love it... this photo does NOT do it any justice, and it really sets the mood in our kitchen. Thanks Cindy!
Zach also surprised me with this ridiculous chandelier in our bedroom. (I guess it was the year of light fixtures eh? :))
He too pulled a fast one on me and got this up (by himself I might add and on a new dimmer!) one day while I was out. The fact he can pick stuff like this out for me... without me saying "this is the exact thing I want" or even describing what I want blows my mind. I am a blessed woman.
However... Zach lost his mind this Christmas (apparently) and had even more up his sleeve. Christmas morning he surprised me with a brand new computer.
A computer y'all. That might not seem extravagant to some of you, but a computer was waaaaaaaay beyond our agreed upon Christmas budget. After crying (because I reeeeeally needed a new one and had previously created my own version of "All I want for Christmas is a Macbook Pro... a Macbook Pro.." song, I did some pretty intensive interrogating about how purchasing this computer was really... the best idea. Zach shared with me all he had done to make it possible and that honestly, might have been the best gift of all- his sacrifice.

Oh- and he also got me this AMAZING coffee table book that I adore! It's about Rachel Ashwell's Prairie B&B in Texas and not only did I fall in love with this place, but I am determined to visit it in person someday! If you like shabby-chic and antiques, you will freak over this place.
Besides the gift-giving and receiving aspect of Christmas, I spent a good bit of my time cooking. I really do love cooking/baking and Christmas time is when I bust out the big guns. This year for Christmas Day, I made breakfast casserole, hash browns, and my MIL supplied the cinnamon rolls and fruit for our Christmas brunch. For dinner I made Zach's favorite app - dates stuffed with goat cheese and wrapped in prosciutto plus spinach artichoke dip. And the main course was steak (grilled by the Z Man), duchess potatoes, and the best broccoli casserole EVER followed by chocolate toffee brownies.
On the 26th the real feast preparation began as our extended family headed to Kale Manor for holiday festivities.

Kitchen island centerpiece, courtesy of the arrangement at my office. BOOM.
In typical Shelly fashion, I planned an over the top meal for our party of 8. I literally cooked/baked for almost 11 hours straight in preparation for our dinner feast. Yes, my feet were killing me and I was totally exhausted, but it was worth it to sit around my candlelit dining room with loved ones, enjoying their company and delicious food. WIN. WIN. WIN. 

The Christmas menu included the following, many of which I had not attempted before:

Appetizers: assorted cheese plate, mini quiches, and pear pomegranate crostinis (Oh and gooey Rotel cheese dip brought by my MIL!)
Main course: herb roasted turkey, cranberry apple crumble, boursin mac & cheese, crispy loaded potato rounds, corn casserole, brown butter bacon green beans, and fresh strawberry salad. 
Aaaand the desserts: homemade cinnamon strudel coffee cake, chocolate brownie mousse cake, mixed berry fruit parfaits with vanilla cake, and assorted chocolate covered cookies and candy (cookies and candy from Trader Joe's). It was ridiculous and we had food left over for a week! Ha! Honestly the hardest part about all the cooking was coordinating the oven space. Maybe one year I will get a double oven for Christmas! Haha

Because things were pretty intense in the kitchen I kept the table setting simple - basic place cards adorned with fresh cedar and lots and lots of mercury glass candleholders and fresh flowers.

After gorging ourselves on dinner, we had a wonderful night listening to Christmas music and exchanging gifts with my mom and dad, Al, Zach's mom, his brother Ian, and his gf Heather.
This year I also got an awesome gift from my sister. For months I had been wanting to find an old game Lindsay and I use to have when we were kids - Guess Who. They still make this game, but it's not the same - the faces are what makes it and I just cannot handle the new modern ones. LOL Anyway, my mom worked hard to win this 1987 version of Guess Who on Ebay and gave it to Allie and me as a gift from L. We played MANY games over the holidays and it was so fun to see Allie, Zach, and my MIL Cindy enjoy this game I've always loved.
 An Allie sandwich between beard brothers.
This girl y'all... every time we are together she somehow captures more of our hearts. I never think it's possible and then bam! - we fall more in love with her and the young woman she is becoming. I couldn't resist taking a few quick pics of her as we explored the creek and woods behind our house.
She is so lovely without even trying. And like... how does she know how to style her hair like that?

It was also really great for Allie to be here the week Zach's transition from 12Stone was announced to the church body. For those that don't know, Zach is the new Worship Leader Director at Perimeter Church, a wonderful community church just 10 minutes from our house (which is somewhat of a miracle in it of itself). Zach and I are both so grateful for the time we spent at 12Stone and the many people we met who challenged us, supported us, and refined us into better versions of ourselves. This opportunity at Perimeter was unexpected, but one we felt really led to pursue and eventually, accept. One of the huge blessings about this transition versus others in the past is that since we are staying local, we don't have to say goodbye to friends and colleagues from 12Stone. It's for real a "See ya later" and we couldn't be more grateful.
This is particularly important to Allie who has made friends with many people on  Zach's worship team (like Savannah pictured below)
and at middle school ministry. Thanks Steve for being such an awesome student pastor! We are overjoyed Allie loves M12 as much as she does and we look forward to her continuing to be a part of it... or err... H12 (High school. Lord help us! Haha).
After church on Sunday Allie and I treated my mom and my MIL to part of their Christmas present - a trip to Dr. Bombay's Underwater Tea Party! This place is so special to Allie and I and we were thrilled to introduce both of them to it.
 Vintage dishes. I have never had the same tea cup, saucer, or plate.
 Allie and I love sugar cubes. I think I'm gonna get some for special occasions :)
Mom and Al
 Treats and teas

 My MIL and me

Such a fun time with all the moms and Allie!

The week after Christmas was full of lots of quality time with Allie - shopping, going to restaurants, and just... general hang out time. On Monday while I was working in the office, Zach and Allie had a daddy-daughter day which included a trip to one of Zach's favorite lunch spots - Ria's Blue Bird.
Later on in the week we did some shopping on the Westside so Allie could go to a real Free People store. :) Our growing teenager is loving to shop more and more and she is definitely creating her own unique style. She loves the brand Free People, but had previously only seen garments in small sections of department stores. Lucky for her Atlanta is all about the hip shopping scene and we finally were able to browse a freestanding Free People shop.

 Afterwards we headed to Bocado for burgers and fries (Allie's favorite meal right now)

We also went to see the final installment of the Hobbit - in IMAX 3D (which apparently almost requires a home equity loan just to cover the ticket prices... Good Lord! So thankful we had two free passes.)

 Three 3D nerds.
And our matinee movie was followed by more shopping (What did I tell you.. Allie is becoming a shop-aholic...haha) at one of Al's favorite second hand stores, Rag-o-rama. It is super hipster and that is the style she is into right now.
 Weird wigs

Besides all the shopping, and lots of chill time at home playing games, watching movies, and lots of convo time, we did have a really fun NYE. Our friends Kyle and Juliet had a NYE party and it was great seeing some old friends and making some new ones. Unfortunately I don't have ANY photos from the night besides this one of us with Juliet
and this one of me and Allie being all "It's NYE and we're up late/crazy fools" with Kyle's head in the background. HA!
Happy 2015 everyone!

One of our New Years traditions is having a little time of reflection as a family. I put together a short list of questions for each of us, a few looking back over 2014 and a few looking ahead to 2015. We put on some music and each have about 20 minutes to answer the questions. Then we share our answers as a family and pray for our year ahead. It's a time I really treasure with Allie, especially watching her answers and insights change through the years as she matures.

Another tradition we have is doing the survey for Allie's Adventure book. Every year I make Al a yearbook and it always begins with a list of Allie stuff - her favorite activities, favorite foods, favorite memories, things she's learned, etc etc. I always do this questionnaire with her right at the end of the year as I prepare to make the book. I love this time with her reflecting on the year and seeing what sticks out in her mind as significant and noteworthy. This year, it truly made my heart explode to hear her say that one of her favorite things to do/favorite memories from 2014 was all the conversations we've had with her just sitting around the house. (I mean seriously?! Of all the places we've gone, things we've done, and people we've met, your favorite thing is talking with us?! Be still my heart.) I am so grateful God has used this time so well and just... answered so many prayers in 2014. We are so thankful and so excited for what lies ahead for our family and especially our Allie girl.

With 2015 already well underway I can't help but realize how fleeting time is and how important every moment is - with our family, but also... just in general. Time is really the greatest non-renewable resource and it's so important to use what time God has given us well and to live with purpose. I hope at the end of 2015 I can look back and be content with how I used my time/life to love others well and share the truth of Jesus. For now, I am just gonna take it a day and a week at a time, setting small goals and praying for God to open doors.

Stay tuned for more from the Kales in 2015! My job has kept me really busy lately plus all the time working on Allie's book, but I am really gonna try to blog more regularly. 2014 was a dismal blogging year for me, but hey... like I said in the beginning... I might not blog on time, but at least I get it done. Victory!

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