Christmas Ornaments For Everyone

I know, I know, it's not even Thanksgiving yet. But we're decking the halls around here and shopping for Christmas gifts before we miss small business shipping windows.

Part of our Christmas tradition includes surprising one another with an ornament for our tree. The hope is that someday the majority of the ornaments will have memories that are "ours."

As I searched for Josh's ornament this year (and, let's be honest, one for Charlie, too), I found a handful of others that I thought were fun. 



1. How cute would this be for a friend who loves to travel? (and, of course, has been missing it deeply this year.) For the same person, see also: Cruise ship.

2. Gosh I love this set so much. For those who love women in powerful roles. For those who tore through The Crown. For those who haven't stopped morning the loss of RBG.

3. Pretty sure I'll be purchasing this one for Josh. The number of frozen snickers bars in our home at all times is impressive.

4. For anyone who loves puns. I'd hang this on our tree and, anytime someone new came over, I'd make a "Guac-ing around the Christmas Tree" joke. (You can't use that, I won't mind.)

5. For the 4th-grade boy in your life... or the youth pastor who still eats like a 4th-grade boy. 

6. For the siblings or roommates or spouses who always seemed to be hungry for the same snack at the same time. Or the long-distance friends who just love a good Mission Viejo from Bagels and Brew. 

7. I'm tempted to buy a dozen of these and hang them all over our tree. 

8. For the reader in your home... or for yourself.

9. For anyone who missed a trip to the coast, whose membership to the aquarium proved worthless, or whose child found Planet Earth during shelter-in-place.

10. Any other year this may have been a little niche, but I'm willing to bet most men attempted some form of facial hair during shelter-in-place. 

Two bonus ornaments: for the friend or family member who took to the kitchen during the pandemic. Or the one who hoarded all the toilet paper

Top 5 Thursday: I Can Watch That Show In One Day


Like the rest of the Netflix-subscribing world, we watched Tiger King during shelter-in-place. And because time was irrelevant during those weeks, we stayed up, bowls of Lucky Charms in hand, and watched the entire show in one night. 

Which, I have to say, is the only reason we made it through. Had it been an entire 22-episode season, I don't know that I would have been able to watch the whole thing. There was such so much brokenness, manipulation, and abuse in each person's story. Who needed to shoulder more emotional weight during a pandemic? I sure didn't. And yet, we watched.

Once we finished, we were on the hunt for more shows with that "can't turn it off" feeling. So, in case you're on the hunt for TV Shows to watch over Christmas break, here are five (other) shows we finished in a single day.

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Waco (Netflix) - Taylor Kitsch plays David Koresh with a great balance of creepy likeability. While I remember hearing a bit about the events on the compound of the Branch Davidians growing up, Josh--a Texan and History-buff--knew much more about it. We paused a few times to look up the accuracy of various elements, but for the most part, we were glued to the tv. The ending is, of course, heartbreaking and heavy (we had to watch a few Seinfeld episodes before bed) but it's really well done.

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The Jinx (HBO) - Linked to three murders, but still walking free, The Jinx is a true story of Robert Durst, son of one of the wealthiest families in Manhattan. Durst tells his own story to the documentary team and it's just a wild as you'd imagine. (This was my second watch through--Josh's first. We've already recommended it to at least a dozen friends. It's so odd and so intriguing.)

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Manhunt: Unabomber (Netflix) - This miniseries, originally on Discovery Channel, tells the story of the man--and the team--who developed a new style of investigation called Forensic Linguistics to track down and arrest Ted Kaczynski. It was fascinating to watch as all of this unfolds after the team notes a single odd phrase in documents included with bombs sent by The Unabomber through the USPS.

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11.22.63 (Hulu) - Based on a novel by Stephen King, James Franco goes back to the early Sixties in an effort to prevent the assassination of JFK. It may be because I'm not a huge fan of James Franco in serious roles (I do love his guest appearance on 30 Rock) or because the ending seemed predictable, but over all, I liked this show, I didn't love it. 

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Stranger Things Season 1 (Netflix) - One night, after a game of Dungeons and Dragons, middle school student Will Byers disappears. In true 80s fashion, it's up to his friends and family to find him. Josh and I had both already seen all three seasons of the show, but after a very fun, very full Birthday weekend, we decided to spend an entire day on our couch, rewatching Season 1. Turns out, it holds up. And it's just as fun yelling, "WILL!" as it is yelling "WALT!" during LOST.



How about you? Have you ever watched an entire show or season in a single sitting? If so, what was it? Maybe that'll be next on our list!

Have You Tried This Coffee?!


In the first year of our marriage, we've worked hard to stay within budget. But the one thing we never skimped on was coffee. 

We'd take advantage of the Buy One Get One offer on Thursdays at our local Starbucks, or splurge on afternoon coffees as an excuse to get out of the house during shelter-in-place, or simply make a third (yes, third) carafe at home just because we could.

Through all of this, we've tried a few brands of coffee, but in late 2019, found a local roaster and had remained faithful. PLUS, with a renewed effort to stick to our budget, I stopped buying all the pretty bags of coffee I'd seen online and in stores. 


Flash forward to the start of Fall 2020. 


We were coming off a long few months of ministry--some really high highs in the midst of Quarantine (and Post-Quarantine) Youth Ministry, and gearing up for a Fall/Winter filled with events, and community groups, and early dark nights.

It felt like time for fresh little pick-me-up.

And, since flights aren't really option these days--nor are they the best choice when working to stick to a budget--coffee it was.


I'd seen these beautifully designed Blk and Bold bags at Target a few months back and they piqued my interest. I was curious to know if the coffee inside was as great as the packaging. 


After reading about the Iowa-based Black-owned company that “pledges 5% of its profits to initiatives aligned to sustaining youth programming, enhancing workforce development, and eradicating youth homelessness”, I really couldn't wait to try a few different roasts. I scrolled through a few reviews, I decided on a bag of La Guadalupe.

As I made our first pour-over, I told Josh, "This smells exactly like a really good Coffee Shop. I can't wait to taste it."


It was every bit as good as I'd hoped. 


It's smooth and flavorful and... is it weird to say the taste is comforting? Maybe it's weird, but that doesn't make it any less accurate.

I've already ordered two more bags: another La Guadalupe, because that's most likely our new go-to, and a bag of the Limu, which is a really delicious dessert-y coffee. (Chocolate and blueberries? Yes please! I'm really hoping they start to offer this one in Decaf.)

We're currently plodding our way through the remains of the final bag of our previous favorite (from the local roaster) because I can't bring myself to throw away perfectly good coffee. But you can bet your booty our coffee cabinet will be filled with Blk and Bold (and an HEB Decaf because I'm still waiting on Blk and Bold Decaf) from here on out.


Have you tried Blk and Bold? 

Top 5 Thursday: Etsy Items I Have My Eye On Round 2


We're less than 50 days away from Christmas! I've already ordered a handful of gifts and, in the midst of shopping, added a few new items to my Etsy wishlist. 

I thought I'd give you a quick list here in case you're still shopping around for friends and family members. 

1. These movie posters. It's hard to choose just one! I can picture hanging Inglorious Basterds, Sleepless in Seattle, and The Goonies (among others!)

2. Speaking of Sleepless in Seattle... I have big heart eyes for this sweatshirt!

3. And, since we'll be headed to Winter Camp in February, I could definitely use this adorable beanie.

4.  I can't imagine anything better suited for our entryway: this T Rex wall hook! And the Triceratops! I just told a student in our ministry that I would absolutely risk my life to visit Jurassic Park if only just to ride a Triceratops!

5. What an adorable tribute to RBG. This would be a sweet, subtle nod to her legacy. I loved learning about her life through both her movie and biography. 

A Whirlwind Birthday Weekend With Family

It was my birthday at the end of October! While it wasn't a big birthday (age-wise), it's been a long year, so my mom and her husband flew in for a quick visit.

As luck would have it, since my sister-in-law (Josh's sister) and I share a birthday (how fun is that?!), she and her husband and daughter (our niece!) decided to drive in from Dallas so we could celebrate together. Originally, Josh's parents, brother, and Grandma were supposed to join us as well. It would have been a big family weekend after months apart. Unfortunately, their trip was canceled due to a snowstorm. 

My mom and Dave arrived Friday afternoon. After a handful of flight changes, it turned out they would only have 26 hours in town. Not wasting a single minute, we kicked off our time together with a steak dinner and followed it up with ice cream from my favorite, Farmhouse Creamery. 


They brought me a painting that depicts what Josh and I would look like if we'd sat for an oil painting in Victorian days. While I'm not sure anyone bleached their hair in those days, I'm fairly confident Josh's beard would have fit right in.


Early the next morning, we met them for donuts and coffee (remember, we're trying to squeeze in a full visit in about 24 hours!) Then stopped by our house for a tour and a visit with Charlie.

My mom's never been a big fan of dogs (or pets in general, really) but had no idea Dave is allergic to dogs! So we kept the door open and made it a quick visit. 

On our way to brunch, we stopped by The Bush Library. The Library itself is currently closed due to Covid, but the grounds are open, so we walked through parts of the garden and up to see their graves.


Meghan, Eddie, and Norah made it just in time for brunch. Norah and I even coordinated the height of our poufs! 


After lunch, we went for round two of Charlie visits. My sister- and brother-in-law have a dog named Benny, so not only were they were looking forward to meeting him, but our niece was too. Her big Goldendoodle brother means she didn't mind Charlie's lack of regard for personal space!

He was definitely excited to have so many people come by to play in a single day. But aside from some semi-aggressive sniffing, he was incredibly well-behaved. He was very curious about the baby and her blanket and toys, but so gentle with her. It was really cute to watch them together. 





While Meghan and Eddie took Norah for a nap, Josh and I met my mom and Dave for a few hours at a quirky local coffee shop. We drank our coffees and chatted, grateful to squeeze in a little extra time catching up before the big birthday dinner at Campfire. 

Since my dad lives in town now, he joined us! It was so fun to be surrounded by family after months of visiting through a screen.

Dave, in his generosity, ordered one of every appetizer for the table, so we were all nearly stuffed by the time our entrees arrived.


Josh can't get enough of our niece. I often joke that he may never love our own child as much as he loves her. It seems the feeling is mutual.




After dinner and a complimentary birthday dessert, we said our goodbyes. 

My mom and Dave flew out early the next morning. 

Meghan, Eddie and Norah stopped by on their way home Sunday morning to drop off the most beautiful cake. Their nanny also runs a cake company and offered to make a birthday cake for the two of us. Sadly, we didn't get to share it, but I think Josh was pretty happy that there was enough cake in our fridge to last a week!

Thankfully, the holidays are just around the corner, so it won't be long until we see everyone again. Currently, we're planning for Thanksgiving with the Prices (and my dad!) in Dallas. And then driving out to California for Christmas. Already counting down the days!

Top 5 Thursday: Funny Kid Moments



the thank you note we received after B's birthday party. 
He told me it says, "Dear Allison and Josh. Thank you for coming to my party. Thank you for my present. I love you so much, I will never, never, never, never, ever not love you."


Every Thursday for a little over a year, I spend the day babysitting a (now) 4-year-old. At first, we mostly played with trains and read books about trains, and walked the toy aisle of Target looking at trains. But for the last few months, he's become my errand buddy. We drive around town alternating grown-up responsibilities and fun stops: grocery store, then the library, then Target, then the pet store. And, throughout the day, we talk--well, mostly, he talks--but he has such a fun perspective on things, I thought I'd share a few of my favorites with you today.


On Vacation Highlights: (growing louder with each sentence.) 

We stayed at a hotel. There was a tv in my mom and dad’s room! You can lay in bed and watch the tv. AND There was a pool... inside! AND THEY HAD STAIRS!


On Sports Fans:

Him: That’s where I play soccer.

Me: Oh really? Josh and I will come watch and we'll cheer. We’ll say, “Yay! Go Bry!” 

Him: Nah. Don’t do that. 

Me: Don’t come watch or don’t cheer?

Him: Don’t cheer. [pause] Well, maybe you can cheer like ghosts. Like “Ooooo! Goooooo Bryyyyyy.”


On Birthday Gifts:

"You can buy that thing and my Granada can buy that. But I'm gonna buy this one myself. I just need to get some rectangle money."


On Real Estate: 

"We’re moving to a house with a pool! I’m gonna use all my money, my mom will give me all her money too and get another job to get more money and we can use that too. We have to get a lot of money 'cuz it costs like $600."


On Death:

Him: [out of the blue] "We’re all gonna die." 

Me: [confused] "What?"

Him: "We’re gonna die and Jesus will bring us back to life."

Me: "Well, you’re not wrong, but that's a pretty dark thing to say in the shampoo aisle."

40 Things To Do Before I Turn 40

 


Around my 21st Birthday, I decided to make a list of 25 things I wanted to do before I turned 25. While I didn't accomplish 100% of the items on the list, it pushed me to try new things and work to make the dreams a reality.

So I made a second list, my 30 by 30. This one was slightly overambitious, so I toned it down a bit before making my 35 by 35

And, though it's shifted a bit since I made it (just before my 35 birthday), here's my 40 by 40. Since I just turned 38, I've already checked off a few

  1. Learn ASL.

  2. Make a quilt.

  3. Read 150 books. (92/150 so far)

  4. Visit 8 never-before-visited states. (1/8)

  5. Visit 6 never-before-visited countries. (4/6)

  6. DIY something to make our rental feel like home.

  7. Get an Abe Lincoln tattoo.

  8. Take voice lessons.

  9. Read the Bible all the way through.

  10. See a counselor.

  11. Shake Tom Hanks’ hand.

  12. See 35 bands play live. (13/35)

  13. Be completely unplugged for one weekend each year.

  14. See Niagara Falls.

  15. Eat at a DiLallo Burger.

  16. Learn to use my sewing machine...or get rid of it.

  17. Record an audiobook.

  18. Finish the screenwriter’s MasterClass.

  19. Be credit card debt-free.

  20. Go camping for a weekend.

  21. Hike to the Hollywood sign.

  22. Host an outdoor movie night.

  23. Teach God’s Word to a crowd.

  24. Open an Etsy shop.

  25. Help MV care for families with children with special needs.

  26. Take a road trip with barely any pre-made plans.

  27. Watch every movie Sorkin’s written. (7/8)

  28. Host a regular home-cooked meal for friends.

  29. Be in a successful dating relationship.

  30. Get a tattoo in honor of Bum (my maternal Grandmother).

  31. Perform a set of covers in a restaurant or bar.

  32. Buy my own in-ears.

  33. Find a way to care for/build up my community through a local ministry.

  34. Blog about the big trips from the last few years: Tokyo, Australia, Midwest, Beijing, Scandinavia.

  35. Find a job I love.

  36. Cook a lobster dinner for two.

  37. Get Global Entry status.

  38. Sit in on a case hearing at the Supreme Court.

  39. Find a regular, enjoyable exercise routine.

  40. Buy a house.

Have you ever created a list like this? If so, what was included? If not, what would you add to your list? I'd love to hear any and all recommendations since I'll be making my next big list in just a few years.

P.S. While we were dating, I encouraged (more like harangued) Josh to make a list too. Hoping to post his soon!