Monday, December 29, 2014

Thanksgiving in Nashville

Thanksgiving,  another great reason to go to Nashville.  Having no immediate family anywhere close usually means we don't travel to parents for Thanksgiving.  It is just too far for such a short time. We do however, love having some of Simon's family nearby whom we can spend Thanksgiving  with. 
We traveled to Nashville Wednesday morning to stay with Kira, Andrew and Alana, and Jessica and Grant met us there from Alabama. 

A picture of some quality gaming time :)

As always, one of the best parts of visiting Nashville is seeing this cutie. 

And one of the best parts of the holidays is the food! This Thanksgiving feast didn't disappoint. 

Look at all this delicious food! 
Can't beat it!

Family, of couse, is the truly best part about the holidays. Memories in the kitchen or on the couch, the holidays brings people together. This year, there was certainly plenty for us to be thankful for.  
On top of a wonderful meal, we also had fun playing games, baking cookies (and then eating too many of them), sitting around the fire, and going to the shooting range. 
We have tried a couple of times to make it to the shooting range while in town, but it never quite worked out. This time around, though, it did, and Andrew was an awesome host. 
It was a fun outdoor range. I had never been to one before, and it was a good first experience. 
You're bound to hit something with a mess of targets like that right? :)

Andrew is setting up the clay pigeons on the hill in the background. 
We had a lot of fun shooting and even hitting a thing or two.  

As is typical with a cute toddler bobbling around, we all spent a lot of time enjoying  watching Alana.  

Alana, Simon bonding time. 

Copy cat 

It is nice to have family close enough for a holiday weekend trip. We are thankful for those relationships and for the time we get to spend together.  Lots of love and thanks to the Fleshmans for, as always, being excellent  hosts. 

I'm also thankful that I got to sneak in an early morning coffee date with my best friend, Katie, who was home for the holidays in TN. 
This is a picture from Thanksgiving, 2009 while we were studying abroad together. Love and miss this girl. I'm glad we can reunite in Nashville now and again. 

We headed back home Saturday morning to beat the rush, and to enjoy some time at home before it was back to the grind. 

                         Cheese!  and 
                 Happy (belated) Thanksgiving

Christmas Festivities

The Holidays seem to have flown by even faster than usual this year.  Here is a quick recap of some of our Christmas festivities.

If you ask me, The Christmas Season begins the day after Thanksgiving.  So, the day we returned home from our fun Thanksgiving holiday, we went and visited the Christmas tree farm to pick out our tree.  

We drove through row after row of trees until we picked out the prettiest one on the lot.  

The woman at the front was so positive that cutting down the tree with the dinkey little saw she gave us would be super easy.   Yeah... we have different definitions of super easy.  But between a determined Christmas tree lover and a strong husband, we managed it.
Simon took over for the tough part at the end. :)

 Here it is, still tied up, in our fancy new stand, which we brought back with us from Germany last Christmas.  We were really excited to try it out and it worked great.  So much simpler than the one we used to have.  

Dressed and ready for Christmas 

Another fun Christmas tradition - 3 years strong- is my car transforming into a very convincing reindeer.   
 Simon really loves it. 
 He is not at all embarrassed by my shameless love for Christmas, my Rudolph car, or my christmas socks. 

We hosted our Life Group Christmas party.  We had a German Christmas themed party to introduce our friends to some of the delicious sweets and hot drinks associated with Christmas time in Germany.  We played dirty santa, listened to christmas music and just celebrated the season together.  We attempted to take a group picture in front of the Christmas tree, but it didn't work out all that well.  We kind of squeezed in and, of course, completely blocked the tree.

 **Stashing through the snow**

The girls.

 Again.  Okay that is the last one, I promise.  

Well, that petty much covers it as far as pre-christmas festivities go.  Can't believe the year is flying by so fast!  Hope everyone is enjoyed their holidays and the last few weeks of 2014!

Cleaning and Yard Work

Between you and me, having my parents come and visit for Christmas was secretly a plot to score some free labor.  
Well, not really, but we are very thankful that we were able to close on our house the day before they arrived.  It was fun to get to show them the pre-renovated house, and when they offered to help us clean it up a bit... well, we enjoyed that too.  :)

After a trip to the hardware store, and gathering up some cleaning supplies, we set off on Saturday for a day of hard work.  We got incredibly lucky with the weather; there is nothing like a rainy day to put a damper on yard work.  But, we were all thankful for the sunshine that day.  

Simon and my Dad tackled the yard.  And it was a lot to tackle! 

 Dad, in the middle there, working his yard magic on all of the unruly vines.  

 Simon blowing all of the leaves off of the roof and out of the gutters.  

Mom and I stayed in the house and tried to work some magic of our own on the bathroom and kitchen.

Mom, scrubbing away the 1940s

The boys hade proof of their hard work.  Bags and Bags of proof.

While mom and I scrubbed for hours trying to shine up the place, at the end of the day, it didn't really look a whole lot cleaner.  Old houses are old houses I suppose, even when they are clean.  

We can't say thank you enough to my parents for their help!  It was a fun work day.  The first of many many more!  

Sunday, December 28, 2014

Our First House

To say that we are over apartment living would be an understatement.  Not only am I ready to not hear my neighbors sneeze, chop vegetables, and flush the toilet, I am also ready to not have to make two trips up and down the stairs and across the parking lot to unload groceries, and to not have to limit my picture hanging because we don't want to put too many holes in the walls and risk not getting our deposit back.   
I realize all of those are unimportant, even silly things, but they all reflect the same truth, we aren't truly settled; this place isn't really ours.  The last three and a half years of life have been a mish-mash of here-and-theres.  It has been a lot of fun in a way: New states, new cities, new apartments, new friends.  But if I'm being honest, I'm looking forward to planting some roots and knowing that we are where we are for the foreseeable future.  For me, there is something peaceful and comforting about that knowledge.   

Of course, with that peace and comfort comes things like broken water heaters, and leaky faucets, and lawns to mow.  But I think we are ready to take the good with the bad. 

Back in November we began house hunting.  Our lease will be up in February and we weren't sure how long the whole thing would take - we are rather picky. :)
As it turns out, not so picky that we couldn't be won over by the third house we toured.  I had already fallen in love with it online and hoped it was as perfect in person as I imagined it to be.  It was.  
It checked nearly all of our boxes.  The location was great: right in between the cities we each work in, the price was right, it was an older home with some character, and it was, without a doubt, a fixer upper.  

We had an awesome realtor and just an awesome home buying team in general.  I feel as though we bough a house with our smart phones.  We barely had to sign anything in person until the day we actually closed.  Maybe that is just how things are done these days but we both felt like it was smooth sailing and completely painless. 
Our offer for the home was accepted at the end of November, on Simon's birthday as a matter of fact, and we closed on December 23rd.  Quite the Christmas gift!!

This, along with a beautiful Poinsettia, were waiting for us at our house after we closed. :) Told ya we had a great team.  

We will not officially move in until the end of February, when our current lease is up.  We want to get a lot of the messier renovations completed before we move in any furniture, just to keep it as simple as possible.  
We have a lot of projects planned over the next week or so, taking advantage of our holiday vacation time.  The timing is such a blessing!  We each have the next week off and can really dedicate a lot of time to getting things done.  I will post lots of updates so you can see all of the craziness we are undertaking.  Hopefully nothing too shocking will come up, but in an old home I guess you just have to expect the unexpected;  It is all part of the adventure, right?  
Wish us luck!

3rd Annual Apple Picking Trip

Fall is becoming my favorite season; More and more every year, it seems.  Warm, spiced drinks, beautiful foliage and warm cozy scarves- What's not to love!
Every year since moving to South Carolina, we have made it a tradition to take a trip to the apple orchard just across the boarder of North Carolina.  Last year we went with my parents when they were here for Thanksgiving.  It was a little too late to actually pick any apples, but this year we went much earlier and it was perfect for picking.  Our friends Patrick and Diana joined us and we made a day of it.    

 My favorite, and Simon's least favorite, en rout picture.

Let's be honest... The real reason anyone goes to this apple orchard is to get a taste of THE best apple donuts in the world!  Ok, well I can't say that for sure, but I would imagine they have to be pretty close!   I love them and, truly, I look forward to them for days before we go.  A guilty fall pleasure, I'll admit.   

 Our friends brought their new pup along.  He was loving the outdoors.  

 Some tree climbing is sometimes necessary.  
Rules, Schmools

It really was a beautiful day to be outside.   The orchard has rows and rows of all different apple types,  half of which I have never heard of.   

 Group Pic :)

Orchard wildlife.  
Before moving here I had never seen such vibrant, blue butterflies.  I always love it when I get a glimpse of one.  It isn't even possible to truly capture their beauty on camera, but here was an attempt.

 Please note all of the Clemson fans in the background.  Can't get away from those crazies.  :)

It is always such a fun time.  The weather was perfect brisk, very fall-ie, and there were still plenty of apples, if you were willing to climb a little.  No doubt we will venture back next year.  

What do we do with all of those apples you might ask (well you probably didn't but I'm telling you anyways).  Again this year I made an apple pie from the delicious apples.  You just can't beat fresh apples when it comes to apple pie! 

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Canoe Trip

Now, let me just begin by saying this: Simon and I are not campers. Or hikers. Or hard core out-doorsie people. So going on a canoe trip of any length is broadening our horizons a bit. But plop us down for a 23 mile one, and oh yeah, we are sleeping in a tree house for a night; You just never know what might happen.

Along with the fun day at Biltmore House, Simon's parents planned out an awesome 2 day canoe trip. (Actually, up until a few days before, we all thought it was kayaking, but I digress).  13 miles on day one, 9 miles on day two, and an overnight tree house adventure in between. :) 

Group pic before.  Look how clean we look...

I like a good picnic as much as the next girl, and I like to get out there and experience nature. But I was definity a little nervous about what might unfold on such a long commitment. 

Despite any wariness I had about the unknown, I'd say we all had an exhaustingly fun time.  
Preparing took nearly a whole day. Although there would be lodging, we had to provide almost everything we would need for the trip. Food, water, toilet paper, linens, etc. And it all had to be canoe friendly.  (AKA it could survive a capsize). 

We packed coolers, trash bags, and ziplock bags full of our necessities. And some unnecessities that were much appreciated by all... Like soap and wet wipes.  Plus we each packed a backpack.  Honestly, the water for 2 days was the most challenging part. Packing enough as well as keeping it cold. 
Simon had the great idea of freezing the day 2 water and having it act as ice packs for the perishables. Then it was still nice and chilled for the second leg of our trip. Genius! 
Our trip was from a Sunday morning until a Monday afternoon (holiday/long weekend). 

Early Sunday morning we loaded the car and drove to the welcome center/starting point. We didn't have a guide, but we did have an instructor who gave us the skinny on what to do and not to do, as well as pointers on finding our tree house, etc before we set off. 
Once we has been instructed on procedure, and warned of snakes and gators (not kidding) we were on our own. There was one other little family in the info session; they were also spending the night in a tree house that evening. We passed each other back and forth over the trip, but it was mainly just us canoeing by ourselves.
We had two canoes between the four of us. One for me and Simon, and one for Martin and Irene. :) aren't we cute. 

Martin and Irene pushing off from our starting point

13 miles is a lot y'all. 

There were "mile markers" along the way. Or so we were told. We probably saw 6 the first day, maybe. And I think 2 or 3 the next day. In the beginning we thought we had gone so far and when we finally saw a mile marker, we hadn't even gone 4 miles yet. Pfew. We were working hard. 

Us on the river

We stopped for lunch along the bank. 

We were sweaty, tired, and so over the hot sun when our tree house came into view. 

Canoes safely docked

There was definitely a feeling of accomplishment in knowing we had come so far.  After parking the canoes, and an ungrateful dismount we surveyed our home base. It was a bit larger and cleaner than I had imagined. There was a ground level picnic area with a gas grill, and upstairs was the cabin. It consisted of a large living space and small kitchen. Then, a ladder led up to a loft with a giant pallet floor. 

 There was another couch mirroring this one on the other side of the cabin.  

 The little cook top was great for breakfast and for washing dishes the next morning

The walls were full of screened windows so the small cabin was flooded with the sunshine. Between our battery operated fans (feel free to tease) and our lanterns, we were prepared for the evening. 

A creek pool at the front of our camp site allowed us to wash up. Clean hands and face, and a fresh set of clothes really does wonders for four weary travelers. Our spirits were instantly lifted when we all congregated in the picnic area to get dinner started.

Thank The Lord for propane. 
Chicken breasts, baked potatoes, corn on the cob.  Ahhhhh
You could feel the collective deep sigh as we all took the first bites. 

And, you can't camp without s'mores! So naturally, that was our dessert. Martin and Irene had never tried a s'more so we felt it was our responsibility to amend the unjustice!  :)
They were a hit! 

First bites haha.  Messy as promised!

The lanterns allowed us a few extra hours after the sun set to play some games and plan our tomorrow. 
We all agreed that a good night's rest was needed, but an early start would make the whole day smoother. So early to bed, early to rise. 

We had the cabin packed up and cleaned out at dawn and we were pushing off from the bay with the mist of the morning still filling the air. 
Farewell treehosue cabin

 Packing up in the morning

Off they go again!

We all had a few hiccups along the way, but Martin and Irene had some unfortunate luck, on a couple of occasions, and got a little tangled up in some branches here and there.  In the background of this picture you can see them having a battle with some tree branches.  I had to add this in there :) heehee  And also, my handsome husband as we began day two.  

The first few miles, serene and fresh, allowed us to take in the beauty of the perfect morning. A completely different world than the humid, stickiness of the previous day. The morning brought with it a wild calm that saturated the waters and the foliage as we glided by. You almost felt as though the slicing of our oars through the waters would somehow lift the magic, but it went on like this for several miles.

 My camera lens was fogging around the edges because of the morning moisture in the air.  

With the rising of the sun,- came the sticky air and the need for sunscreen.  Day two was only 9 miles (our treehouse was nearly a mile further than the other tree houses so our first day had been closer to 14 miles) we decided not to even stop for a snack or lunch, but rather to just take turns having a quick granola bar. The idea of reaching the end faster, and being back into town at a reasonable hour was very motivating.   

I think the relief was almost tangible as we saw the docking area come into view.  

I meant to take an "after" picture of us all, but I think we were all so gross and tired, that no one even thought about taking a picture in our state.  

But, picture or no picture, we made it!