Category: Christmas decorating

Catching up on life

The past few months have been an absolute whirlwind.  A new marriage, lots and lots of birthdays and anniversaries, Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Year’s Eve, a dance event, a skiing trip in Colorado, huge amounts of interpersonal drama, and new jobs for both Michael and myself have proven to be just about all that I can handle.

It is ironic that, although I have been writing more than I ever have in my entire life, I think it’s the longest I’ve been silent on this blog since I started it.  Most of my time lately has been taken up writing for my new blog, forgingsignificance.com.  Right after the wedding I spent several weeks working on some quillwork for an artists’ market at my church, but since about mid-December I have officially taken the plunge and started working full-time toward becoming a freelance writer.

Since then, my days have consisted of lots of website tweaking and beating the pavement trying to submit articles to other sites.  I’ve consistently written at least twice a week on my own blog for several months now, as well as already had 3 articles accepted in other places.  Sometimes it’s frustrating and feels like I’m not making any progress; but then I remind myself that I’ve really only been at this a few weeks, and that helps puts things into perspective for me.

This post is just a brief summary, both for your sakes and mine, of what I’ve been doing the past few months.  Hopefully I’ll be able to write more regularly on here now that I’m in the swing of things :).

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Michael and I had the opportunity to go visit my New Jersey grandparents in October, just a few weeks after we were married.  I was so grateful that Michael had the chance to meet them both, but especially my grandfather, as he ended up passing away just a few weeks later.  We all miss him a lot.  He left quite a legacy.

I was able to do a few fall-specific things, like carve a pumpkin with Michael, meet my friend Sarah in Ellijay for their Apple Festival, and go to the Perry fair with my mom and younger siblings.  That was a really fun afternoon.  Perry is about half-way between Atlanta and Albany, so we met in the middle and made a day trip of it.  It’s hard to develop a relationship with your siblings when you live far away and they can’t drive and don’t have cell phones, so I’m always grateful for the opportunities that we do get.

I once again hosted a Christmas party this year, except this time I did 3 days in a row of Christmas parties!  We took this idea from a friend, and the thought was to try to incorporate as many people as possible, while also making an effort to focus on different aspects of the Christmas season.  So the first night was “celebrating friends,” which was basically my normal Christmas party.  I made dinner, we played games, decorated gingerbread cookies, etc.  One of the games was a new one – I wrapped little treats in saran wrap and made people unwrap the ball with oven mitts on.  It was actually a lot more fun than I expected!  You can read more about that here.

The other 2 nights were “celebrating others” and “celebrating God,” where we wrote letters to troops and did a lessons and carols service, respectively.  We had almost a completely different group every night, and it was really a lot of fun!  I was definitely tired by the end of day 3, though :).

One of the highlights of the last few months was New Year’s Eve.  Michael and I spontaneously decided to go to Birmingham for the night.  And it was really so much fun!  We hung out, played games, watched the ball drop, and enjoyed a great breakfast the next morning with people we love.  Nothing different from what usually happens when I go to Birmingham for NYE, but considering how much drama has been swirling around Michael and I lately, it was a welcome and much-needed respite.  You can read more about that trip here.

I also really enjoyed my birthday celebration a few days later.  It was a pretty low-key affair, but I was surrounded by some of my favorite people in the world (including my mother-in-law, who had just had knee surgery and could hardly walk!  It really meant a lot that she made the effort to come out.  I have great in-laws).  We had a potluck dinner and then went to downtown Atlanta to see the Christmas lights in Centennial Park.  The lights were gorgeous, and we even got a funnel cake!  I suppose that was my pseudo birthday cake, haha.

Several of my friends also brought gifts to the potluck, and as I opened them, I was overwhelmed by just how thoughtful they all were.  These people who had come to celebrate me together really cared about me.  I know it seems silly, as most people would say it’s obvious that I’m cared about…but when it feels like you’re being surrounded by selfish emotional drama on all sides, it’s easy to lose sight of that fact.  It was a wonderful night to be reminded that I’m cared for.

We went on a ski trip 2 weekends ago – Michael’s first time!  It was bitterly cold, but a lot of fun.  Even though I’ve been skiing several times before, I actually ended up being a lot more sore than he was.  I think I was so scared from how fast I thought I was going that every muscle in my entire body ended up tensing up, lol.  But we both made it through the day in one piece, so I count that as a victory! 🙂

All that aside, Michael and I have been trying to focus on taking care of ourselves and getting into a regular schedule.  We’ve become connected with a small group at church that focuses on outreach to internationals in Atlanta.  I’ve really enjoyed getting to know them.  I’ve also started part-time work teaching a beginner ESL class twice a week.  It’s quite a challenge when you have Spanish, Chinese, AND Russian speakers, and there’s no telling how many people will actually show up!

Now that things are starting to calm down a bit, I’m hoping to be able to update both blogs.  But for the most regular updates, be sure to head over to my new site (forgingsignificance.com) and sign up for my newsletter!  I always post there on Mondays and Wednesdays.

The most wonderful time of the year

I have been looking forward to Christmas time since….well, probably since last Christmas, really.  It is definitely the most wonderful time of the year for me.  I love the lights, the weather, the foods, the gifts, the music (I am one of those people who start playing Christmas music in October)…it’s just such a festive, beautiful time of year.  I always do everything I can to make the most of it. Because I enjoy the season so much, Christmas festivities always start very early for me.  I think that the kick off this year would probably be the Tour of Homes that I took Michael on for a date in early December.  I don’t know what it is about home tours, but I find them exceedingly fascinating and enjoyable.  I’ve always enjoyed riding around and looking at homes from the outside…perhaps it’s just the extension of that activity that I find so much fun.  Whatever the reason, it was a blast.  There were 7 homes and 1 historic church on the tour, although we only made it to 6 homes before it ended for the day.  But even so, it was worth our time.  All of the homes were gorgeous, and on top of that most were decked out in all of their Christmas glory.  There were also different restaurants from around town that were offering food tastings at all of the houses.  We had apple and cheese wedges and a fancy meat and olive sampler and grilled cheese sandwiches with tomato soup and key lime pie dessert shooters and lobster bisque and I’m forgetting the other one but they were all DELICIOUS.  Oh, and gawking at the gorgeous houses was pretty fun too, of course :).

The tour of homes was followed shortly thereafter with Michael taking me to see A Christmas Carol at the Alliance Theater, which was FABULOUS.  I’ve wanted to go see that for years, but could never muster up the willingness to bite the bullet and pay the steep admission costs.  But Michael finally got me there, and it was totally worth it.  The set was beautifully done, and the actors and musical numbers were brilliant.  This version of the classic story also had a marked “gospel music” feel to many of the characters and songs, which was a new and enjoyable twist to a very well-known story.

A week or so later was my company Christmas party.  Michael has gone every year since the tradition was started, but this of course was my first time.  The highlight of the Brightlink Christmas party is the gingerbread house competition.  There are 3 rules – things can be prepared in advance, but nothing can be assembled ahead of time; everything must be edible; and you only have 1 hour to assemble your house once the contest gets going.  Some of the entries have gotten quite impressive.  There have been nativity scenes, a barn, an iconic building on the Georgia Tech campus, and an angry birds fight that involved a blowtorch and flaming marshmallows launched in a catapult-like contraption, just to name a few.  Employees are generally paired into teams with their spouses, but since Michael and I are dating we were also put into a team together.  Before this year, the gingerbread house that Michael was most known for was “Snowpacolypse” – he knew he wouldn’t get a house standing, so he put a bunch of marshmallows over the battered gingerbread and said a snowstorm had come through.  Oh dear.  I had actually never before built a gingerbread house in my life, but I knew that I wanted to at least get one standing, lol.

What we ended up with actually far exceeded my expectations.  We decided on a “beach house” theme, and I spent a long time the weekend before prepping everything I could beforehand.  I even made the gingerbread – Michael said that it look liked it had been store bought, a comment which I considered high praise, indeed.  We dyed blue icing for the water, made some grey icing for the mortar on the walls, and used a variety of different types of food to make the designs and textures that we were going for.  Some of my favorites included dried dates for the stones on the walls, triscuits for the roof, green peppers for the trees, fruit roll-ups for the towel and hammock, and crushed up cheerios for the sand.  It was fantastic!  I was so very pleased with the result….winning “chef’s choice” (the caterer’s vote) was just icing on the gingerbread (pun very much intended, haha)!

And then, of course, I also hosted my own Christmas party before leaving for Albany.  It is becoming a tradition – this is the third year that I’ve done it.  It was a blast, as always.  And this time I didn’t try to cram all of the prep work into a single day, which meant that I had enough energy to actually enjoy it by the time that people started showing up.  We had a nice dinner, decorated gingerbread cookies, played some Christmas games, made some silly photos in front of the Christmas tree, and then did a white elephant gift exchange that was really a blast.  Last year about 2/3 of the gifts were some form of chocolate, so this year I forbade anyone from bringing that, and it seemed to ignite people’s creative juices when it came to white elephant gift-buying.  There were books, and funny hats, and blankets, and house decorations, and even a bungee-cord chair.  That’s the one I ended up with :).  I really do very much enjoy hosting, and I love Christmas, and so throwing this Christmas party has probably become one of my favorite events that I host all year.

After the bustle of celebrating Christmas in Atlanta, though, it was nice to have a toned-down week in Albany.  Michael came with me, but we had very little in the way of planned activities.  One night we all went out to see Christmas lights, my grandfather took us out to dinner once, I went clothes or grocery shopping with various members of my family, and we watched several movies together (if you haven’t seen Annie yet, go see it!  It’s fantastic).  And then Michael cooked dinner for my entire family the last night that he was here to celebrate my birthday, which was lovely.  He really blessed all of us a lot over the course of the week.  But overall, Christmas week was a pretty low week, which was just what I needed.  A little R&R is a great way to start a new year! 🙂

Christmas break part 1

Well, after a long hiatus, Sinbad has returned!  Hopefully I’ll be able to be a bit more regular in my writings this semester! 🙂  But I can now officially say that I survived my first semester of graduate education!  It was a really tough semester, so I’m really pleased to be able to say that I survived :D.

The one good thing about being a graduate student, is that there are no finals in grad school!  So, I was able to leave about a week and a half earlier than everyone else, which was wonderful, to say the least. The latter half of my Christmas break was frenetically crazy, so having an extra week at the beginning of the month to just relax at home was just delicious.  I got to be home for both Josh and Matt’s birthday (and see their graduation from white to yellow belt in karate!), decorated the tree with my siblings, went to a tacky sweater party as a family, drove around looking at Christmas lights, and overall just had a grand time together.  I’m so blessed to have a family that loves me so much :).  It was even better this year, because last year my Christmas was so squeezed, since I only had 2 weeks of leave to be home from Korea.  I think having such a crazy holiday last year made me appreciate the extra relaxing time even more this time around.

Mom made a homemade ice cream cake for Josh and Matt’s birthday

The brand-new yellow belts! 🙂

My shirt is snoopy, and I’m holding a Charlie Brown ornament.  I thought it was cute… 😉

My family really got into the tacky sweater party

Mom and I dressed a bit more conservatively 🙂

Right before Christmas, however, the mayhem began!  Together with my family, I drove several thousand miles – right around 3000 – within the span of 2 1/2 weeks.  The whirlwind tour began in North Carolina, with a visit to my dad’s parents.  They took us to WonderWorks, the same hands-on science museum that I went to in Orlando late last year (check out this link to read about that).  And it was just as fun the second time around!  Maybe even more, actually, since this time I went with my beloved family :).

The whole family (plus Jan!) in front of WonderWorks

Indoor ropes course!

Even mom went up!  I was so proud!! 🙂

After North Carolina, we went even farther north, spending Christmas in New Jersey with my mom’s parents.  We did a bit of visiting, a bit of helping them move and get unpacked, a bit of hanging out; and then it was time to move on again!  After 3 days spent with each set of grandparents, we headed back down to Georgia.  It was quite a whirlwind tour, and exhausting to say the least; but really wonderful at the same time.  I get to see my grandparents so infrequently; getting to see all of them within the same week was just unheard-of happiness! 🙂  More about the latter half of my Christmas break in the next update!

Catching up

It’s been almost 2 weeks since I’ve written anything…I’ve been so busy I’ve barely had time to think, let alone breathe.  I should have more time next week, but rather than make you wait another week I’ve uploaded some pictures with captions under them, to give you an idea of what I’ve been up to.  Enjoy!!

I went to a Beethoven concert with Anthony and Yu-gyeong

Dinner and girl time with Nia

The cake that my lunch class surprised me with on our last day of class

My lunch class <3 
Going to Busan with Anthony to see a musical review

Killing time in the world’s biggest department store….

Musical review – “Love…hurts”

Lucy and Schroeder, from “You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown.”  Love it! 🙂

Host family threw me a “one-month” party, to celebrate me living with them for a full month 🙂

Host papa making kimchi….in his business suit.  Gotta love Korea!

A Christmas concert with Anthony.  There was something completely beautiful about hearing the old classics sung in a different language….
Decorating my church for Christmas.  We had so much loot!!

The whole decorating gang 🙂

My Christmas presents for my host family – their names are at the bottom.  Took me almost 4 weeks to make!!

Relaxing and counting my blessings

This weekend marks the first weekend that I’ve stayed in Gyeongju – except for the weekend that I moved – in nearly 2 months.  I cannot even begin to express to you how excited I was to not be catching a bus or a train or a taxi this weekend.  Nevertheless, I found things to do, as always.  Saturday morning I went over to Harry’s house and helped him decorate his house for Christmas.  It was a little sad – Christmas decorations are not particularly easy to find in Korea, resulting in a rather small pathetic little pile of decorations.  But we played Christmas music and wore a Santa hat and did what we could, and still had a joyous time.

Saturday night I went to a party.  It was the first time I’ve been out among the foreign population in ages.  It was good to get out.  They catered dinner – and it was wonderful! – and I got to catch up with some people that I hadn’t seen in a while, and all in all it was just a nice relaxing evening.  I was one of the first ones to leave because I had to get up super early to Skype with my family the next day, but it was still a lot of fun.

I had to get up so early because my brother Josh’s blessing ceremony was at 5:30 am on Sunday morning my time, and I was able to Skype into the ceremony.  It was a beautiful ceremony.  Definitely bittersweet on my end, because I so wanted to be there in person, but in the end I’m just grateful for technology that allowed me to be there at all.

Josh’s blessing ceremony has got me thinking of all of the blessings I have in my life.  Actually, it had me throwing a pity-party because everyone else in my family was together and I couldn’t be there…but I decided that that wasn’t a good attitude to have about it, so I’m trying to adopt a different perspective.  So here goes – some of the things that I’m grateful for.  I suppose during this season of family and thankfulness this is a fitting way to end this post.

I’m thankful, first and foremost, for my Lord and Savior.  He has blessed me – and stretched me as well – in ways that I would have never imagined, nor could have ever planned for myself.  No matter where my life ends up, I know for a fact that Jeremiah 29:11 is true, and that He WILL take care of me.

I’m thankful for my family.  Whenever I get into one of those self-pitying moods, I have to remind myself that the reason I’m so upset is also the very reason why I’m so blessed.  So many people don’t have families that they’re crazy about.  So many people don’t want to go home.  The fact that that’s not the case with me is one of the greatest blessings that I will ever have in my life.

I’m thankful for the opportunities that God has given me.  I’ll be honest, sometimes I suffer from a severe case of “grass is always greener” syndrome.  I miss being home and comfortable – but God has given me an incredible opportunity to see things this year that most people will never have in their entire lifetime.  It’s an experience that I never thought I would have, and it’s one that I would do well to remember what a wonderful chance it truly is.

I’m thankful for my friends.  On a day like today, they also make me sad, because most of them are so very very far away from me.  But again, God has been reminding me that He has given me companionship all over the world.  No matter where my wanderings have taken me, He’s led me to people that will uplift me and challenge me.  What a blessing that has been.

I could go on, but the night grows long, and I still have much to do.  But above all, I want to remember what God has done for me.  It’s hard to be depressed when you sit down and really count your blessings. 

It’s the simple things…

So, I must apologize to you guys. I lied in my last blog – my next update is not about Morocco. The only thing that I can say about Morocco is that I´m a little nervous about being a christian female in a muslim country – you can be imprisoned in Morocco for wearing the wrong clothing or taking pictures of the wrong buildings or prostletizing. But God´s got it under control, I´ll be fine :). Also, I get the feeling that you will excuse my slight fib in my last message; I like to think that most people won´t mind to read one extra blog :).

This has been a cool week. It´s the little things that have stuck with me the most. I had a tutoring session with my kids on Monday – after we were done, they asked if I could stay and have a snack with them. Now that my dance class is over, I don´t have to run around like a chicken with my head cut off, so I said yes. So we snuggled up next to the space heater, eating chocolate rice krispy cereal and doing card tricks for each other. I know a grand total of 1 card trick, but it´s pretty cool; my kids were rather impressed :D. That was a wonderful way to spend my rainy Monday afternoon. I´m also seriously considering teaching ESL after graduation…

Speaking of kids, I saw the cutest demonstration this week. My school not only gives classes to English-speakers in Spanish, but they also teach English to Spanish-speakers. Yesterday while I was in the computer room waiting for class, one of the English teachers came in with her 4 students (they couldn´t have been older than 5), and asked if they could sing to us what they had learned. So they sang a little Christmas song in English, complete with hands sign and everything. It was adorable :D. That same day I went down and helped decorate the school for Christmas. I was giddy. I loveeee Christmas, and decorating for it has always been one of my favorite things to do. Check out the tree that I decorated. It´s not very elaborate, but I didn´t have much to work with, lol. Also, they had the most elaborate nativity scene that I´ve ever seen…it was incredible!!! Christmas is in 3 1/2 weeks, and I´ll be home in 2!!

But anyway, I digress. Monday night, I went to a bar to watch THE game – Futbol Club Barcelona vs. Real Madrid, the 2 top ranked soccer teams in the world at the moment. Madrid was ranked #1, but I was rooting for Barçe – I really liked Barcelona when I went there, and I really DON´T like Madrid after my experience in the Madrid airport. The game was interesting to watch, although not exactly a nail-biter – Barcelona trounced Madrid, 5-0. The more interesting part to me was watching the other people in the bar. It is no exaggeration to say that soccer in Spain is LIFE. The bar was packed hours before the game started – when we got there and hour before it started, it was already standing room only. The entire room pulsed with energy – when someone scored, they all stood up and cheered as one; when someone had a penalty, the entire room hissed with disapproval. Remember way back in the summer when I talked about the Culture of Braves when I went tot he baseball game in Atlanta? Well, there´s definitely an entire culture of soccer, too. It was pretty cool to watch in action, although I was glad to finally get out in the fresh air – the cloud of cigarette smoke was pretty suffocating by the end of the night.

Wednesday night I finally made it to Cine Cervantes!! I´ve been trying to go there literally ever since Jon sent me there the first week of September. I finally conviced Rodrigo to go with me last night to see Entrelobos, a Spanish film based on a true story, about a boy who grew up by himself with only the wolves and a ferret for company – rather Jungle Book-ish… The only time we could both go to was the late showing, at 10:20, but we decided to go anyway. I´m so glad we did. The movie was quite interesting, very well done (although it felt a bit like a documentary at times; there were a few too many random shots of soaring birds and rushing rivers for my taste, lol), but the real thrill of the movie was the theater itself. Cine Cervantes is one of the only historic theaters, if not the only one, still in existence in Seville. The experience starts outside, with the antique sign lit by a single flickering neon light that without a doubt used to be far more impressive. Tickets are bought outside the theater, through a tiny 1×1 foot hole in the wall. Once inside, you have to climb up a creaky set of stairs, the wood groaning every step with age and history, to get to the theater. The huge theater, with a faded red curtain and seats that were obviously plush and luxurious in their time, remind you of the theater´s heyday. The impression is accentuated by the box seats for the super rich, now standing vacant, that line the walls of the theater in 3 different levels. Every detail of the theater is that of a grandeur now mostly lost. It was a very unique experience – far different from the normal super-commercialized and modern movie theaters that we´ve all become accustomed to.

So there you go, those were the simple things that made my week so special. Not only did you get to share them with me, but it wasn´t nearly as long as my last post!! See all my pictures from decorating the school here. As I´m leaving for Morocco tonight, I PROMISE that my next update will be about Morocco.