Friday, December 28, 2007

Christmas in Grand Rapids

We spent a blissful 5ish days in Grand Rapids over Christmas. Our time was filled with family Christmas parties, catch-up sessions with friends, and lots of food. I think we had forgotten how much we missed West Michigan. 5 days wasn’t nearly enough time, and we will hopefully be able to go back up there soon.

Now for some pictures of good ole family fun...

Witte Family Christmas Party

We're clearly not lacking for people!

Also, a Christmas celebration is never complete without singing Christmas Carols and Dutch hymns. I need some significant help on those! I have no skills in Dutch, that is for sure.

Cousins. Now that I live by none of them, I’m reminded of how special they are to me. There was a family baby boom in the early 80’s, which was resulted in my having LOTS of cousins right around my age. Built-in friends that I have an excuse to see around the holidays. What could be better?

Christmas morning at the Witte house
All three of us kids were definitely spoiled rotten! What sweet, generous parents we have!

I got a Cricut! Can’t wait to get back to the scrapbook and use this AWESOME new tool!

Josh and I received a cow and a goat (respectively) this year. My parents had them donated through Samaritan’s Purse to needy families in other parts of the world. If you’re ever looking for a unique gift, they come out with an awesome catalog of charitable giving options. You can stock a fish pond or give toward medical equipment for preemies or buy a goat in the name of a friend instead of giving them more junk they don’t need…

I think it took my mom a while to find a plastic cow and goat for us to wrap up, but she managed. I put these on a shelf at home so that I can remember to pray for the families that received these animals.

Witte cousins over for game night on Christmas – complete with leftover sweets. My arm, Mark, Annette, Rebecca, Nathaniel, my brother Ben, Josh, Natasha, my dad, and Christina. We played Oodles, Euchre, and Trivial Pursuit before finally calling it quits around midnight.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Christmas cards make me really happy. I love the variety of colors and designs, and how each one reflects the person or family that sent it. The ones with pictures are really fun - especially now that we're far away from family. One of these days ours will include a picture. Maybe next year!

When they first started rolling in, I put them in a little box on a shelf. But that is sad for me because I like to look at them! So I attached them to these ugly doors in our dining room with paper clips and voila - I can see them every time I go to the kitchen. Makes me smily every time.
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Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Brands are Fun

I'm home with Riley-boy this week while Josh is off traveling around the midwest. By Friday he will have visited ConAgra, Unilever, Kraft, Miller, Oscar-Mayer (which I believe is owned by Kraft), 3M, General Mills (which I like to refer to as the mother-ship, due to the hundreds of bowls of Cheerios Josh consumes each year) and Target. Hopefully he'll come home with lots of samples!

So my brand manager-to-be husband is now fascinated by trips to the grocery store. It doesn't matter which aisle he is in - from shampoo to dog chow to frozen foods - but shopping for mundane household needs has become significantly more interesting to him. Our trips are peppered with questions such as "did you know Hunts (think canned tomatoes) is a ConAgra brand?" or "don't you think this Target brand body wash has unique packaging?" He often stops to read the labels on items such as deodorant, laundry detergent, and peanut butter. It is quite the adventure.

He has kind of gotten me into it, actually!

Did you know that the same company that makes Ragu also produces Lawry's Seasoning Salt and Snuggle? And like a million other things? Unilever. Kraft has Miracle Whip, A1 Steak Sauce, and Maxwell House, among other brands. Miller makes... well, just beer. And I guess they were giving out free samples today at 9:30 am. For some reason 3M products (Scotch Tape, Post-In Notes, etc) get me really jazzed. Those folks do a good job :)

So the next time you're putting creamer into your coffee or opening a bag of chips, turn the bag around and see what company really makes it. Kelloggs? Nestle? There is a good chance that the name you see on the front of the box is not actually the company that produces that product.

Monday, December 17, 2007

Little Fur-Ball Loves The Snow

Good, solid, stay-around snow arrived in Bloomington over the weekend, and the little guy enjoyed the
delights of both rolling around in it and licking up as much as possible.
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Sunday, December 16, 2007

Christmas Dinner with Friends

What a fun Christmas celebration.
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Friday, December 14, 2007

Christmas Date

Wednesday Night.

After heading off to the salon for a much-needed haircut, I returned home to embark on my surprise Christmas date. Josh had warned me to not get my hopes up, that it wasn't all that special. But he was wrong. It was wonderful!

First I got to open my present, which was a leather-ish bench-ish thing that you can flip the top up on and store things in it. He knew I'd wanted one to put by the front door for all of the crap that inevitably ends up in that area of the house. We'd actually talked about just buying one, so it was more a present for us both. But very fun. So I opened the top of my present to find lots of little presents inside - pretty candles, a movie, chocolate truffles, an ornament, and a bottle of wine from a local place. AND a menu. He'd made dinner for me - a NICE dinner! And most of the rest of my presents were Christmas date-related. Candles to be lit while we ate. Wine for dinner. A cute Christmas movie to watch afterward. Truffles to munch on during the movie. Perfect!

By the way, if anyone is looking for an excellent tilapia recipe, try this one. It is super good and quite easy. Seriously, I've been scared of making fish for dinner after a tilapia fiasco in college. So this is the first time we've ever made it as a married couple. And we'll definitely continue to do so!

After dinner Josh got to open his presents - a new watch, and an ornament I'd made for him (and almost couldn't find).

So we snuggled up with Riley and watched a cute Christmas movie and had a wonderful, relaxing evening. Such a blessing during a busy week and crazy holiday season. Definitely the king of all Sweet Spots.

Now just a few more days of "together-ness time" (as my mom likes to put it) with Josh before he takes off for a week to visit more companies. Chicago, Milwaukee, Madison, and Minneapolis. The poor guy is going to be exhausted! But it will be a great opportunity to make contacts, see companies first hand, etc.

Tonight we've got a end-of-semester party to go to with the rest of the MBAs - should be fun. They're going to have an 80's cover band there and I'm super excited. Josh's last exam was today (yay!) and he'll be free until January 7th. I'm just slightly jealous. I miss Christmas break.

Then tomorrow we're getting together with Bloomington friends for "old fashioned" Christmas dinner. Turkey, mashed potatoes, and anything else you'd want. We went the turkey route because some folks (or maybe just one - my husband) don't care for ham. The girls are going to spend the afternoon cooking and crafting and movie-watching at Lora's, while the boys I believe are going to play Guitar Hero 3 and Dance Dance Revolution at our place. Then we'll get together for dinner in the early evening.

That's all for now, folks.

Hasta luego.
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Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Sweet Spots

My week didn't start out well. Monday morning I woke up at 8:20. And I start work at 8. I've been tired, stressed, and overly busy these last couple of days. Last night I couldn't even fall asleep because I was so worried about something at work. Yuck. And it is only Tuesday.

But I must say that God has opened my eyes to so many little blessings this week. God, in his infinite sweetness, has not only showered me with wonderful moments, but also given me the ability to stop and enjoy them. For me, it is when I'm wading through the muck of worry and stress that the sweet spots shine a little brighter.

So here are some sweet spots of my week so far:

*A free chair massage at work Monday morning (yes, even though I overslept!) that a kind-hearted Chamber member provided for our entire staff
*An extra cuddly dog
*A hubby who talks to me, calms me down, and prays for me
*Holding a new baby (who happens to have amazing baby hair)
*A super constructive and encouraging meeting at work
*A dinner tonight, held by the Dean of the Business School, for all of us "partners." Our students weren't even invited! Overall I think the Dean does a great job in making us partners feel welcome and valued as members of the school community. Obviously this guy is busy, and to take time out of an evening to invite us to dinner is really extraordinary, I think.
*Snuggling in bed and catching up on Prison Break with Josh
*A phone call from a friend I haven't talked to in awhile
*Receiving a couple more Christmas cards in the mail
*Wrapping Josh's gifts in anticipation for our "Christmas Date" tomorrow (which will be a complete surprise for me! Yay!)
*Scheduling a hair appointment (that may sound mundane, but I haven't had my hair cut since we moved to Bloomington. Since Memorial Day, actually. Wow, that is embarassing.) So hopefully it isn't a disaster. But disaster or not, it will be cut in time for my special date. And it is a relief to finally have one on the calendar!

If I were having an average week, these things wouldn't shine so bright in my mind right now. I probably wouldn't be thinking about them. But here they are, in the midst of yuck. And they make me smile.

More on my special date later.

Sunday, December 9, 2007

Christmas Meme

I found this on a few blogs, like this one and this one, and thought it looked like fun. Feel free to play along!

1. Wrapping paper or gift bags?
Wrapping paper! Bright and colorful, but not cheesy. And sometimes, if I'm really on top of things, personalized, homemade gift tags.
2. Real tree or artificial?
Artificial. We always had them growing up and it was never my favorite. Our first year of marriage we went to a tree farm and cut down our own. I loved it. Then last year (our second year together) we weren't allowed to have Christmas trees in our apartment. So we bought a cheap fake one from Target. And this year, to save money, we're using our already-paid-for fake from last year. Maybe once Josh is out of school we can go back to real trees.
3. When do you put up the tree?
Some time after Thanksgiving, when we have an open Saturday. We're often travelling right around Thanksgiving, so we can't always plan it for the weekend after.
4. When do you take the tree down?
Some time around New Years, when we have an open Saturday.
5. Do you like eggnog?
Yes, but in small doses. I don't buy it to have around, since I'm the only one who drinks it and only like about 1/4 C every couple of days. What I REALLY don't like is when people (like my dad) put whisky in it. Gross.
6. Favorite gift received as a child?
My Annie doll. She is doll that looks like a real baby, and my grandma gave her to me in a bassenette that was filled with real diapers and baby clothes. She still lives in the closet I used as a kid and will be passed along to any daughters that I might have.
7. Do you have a Nativity Scene?
Yes, a Willow Tree one given to us as a wedding present. This year Josh knocked off the head of one of the wiseman. See picture collage, upper left.
8. Hardest person to buy for?
Josh's dad. By far. His toys are usually a little out of our price range!
9. Easiest person to buy for?
Josh's mom. We started a scrapbook for her last year and add to it for various occasions. Its fun to make and we always know what to get her!
10. Worst Christmas gift you ever received?
I don't know about that, but I do know the worst Christmas gift I ever gave... I was in 3rd grade or so and we did Secret Santas with girls from church. I, of course, had forgotten all about buying something, and at the last minute grabbed an ugly picture frame that I had painted myself. I think there was a rainbow involved. And I shoved my school picture into it and pawned it off as a thoughtful gift. Just what ever one wants, right?
11. Mail or e-mail Christmas cards?
Mail, and this is the first year I'm making them myself. I'm about 3/4 through them at this point and R-E-A-D-Y to be done ASAP. It was a good idea in November, and it was fun to put together something cute. But now it is simply tedious work.
12. Favorite Christmas movie?
ELF! I've already watched it 3 times this season. My favorite part? When he buys lingerie for his dad.
13. When do you start shopping for Christmas?
Usually November. I don't give it too much thought.
14. Have you ever recycled a Christmas present?
I don't think so.
15. Favorite thing to eat at Christmas?
Can I only choose 1? Bunket, which I need to learn how to make one of these days. It is a Dutch pastry-type-thing that includes almond paste.
16. White lights or colored lights?
White - I love the way they look on the tree and in our front window. Simple and pretty. Plus, when it comes to the tree we have enough crazy colored ornaments to make things looks bright and cheery.
17. Favorite Christmas song?
In the Christian realm, I love O Holy Night. I was in a children's choir (at St. Cecelia) when I was a kid and my favorite part of that experience was our Christmas concert. We'd each have a candle in hand and light it, one person to the next, while singing that song. It was awesome.
In the secular realm (and I know there is something wrong about this) my favorite is Baby Its Cold Outside. This may be because they sing it in ELF and it makes me laugh every time.
18. Travel at Christmas or stay home?
We usually travel. We're on a rotation with our parents where we see one side on Thanksgiving, one on Christmas, then flip flop the next year. It works pretty well. This year we're headed to Grand Rapids to see the Wittes, and went to Phoenix to see the Browns for Thanksgiving.
19. Can you name all of Santa's reindeer?
Don't think so, as I usually include "Dancer" in the list more than once.
20. Angel on top of the tree or a star?
A star I bought from Target a couple years ago.
21. Open the presents Christmas Eve or morning?
It was always CHRISTMAS MORNING (and NO other time!) for me growing up. And sometimes it would snow Christmas Eve and my dad would have to plow and sitting there waiting for him to come home was so painful. Now that I'm all grown up I have three different "Christmas-es" - one with Josh's family, one with mine, and one with just us. We opened presents with the Browns over Thanksgiving, Josh and I are having our special date this coming Wednesday, and then we'll do Witte presents Christmas morning. When we have our own kids they'll have to wait until Christmas morning like I did :).
22. Most annoying thing about this time of year?
If I say "traffic" does that make me sound really crotchedy?
23. What I love most about Christmas?
So much... getting to celebrate and remember God's tremendous gift to earth. Sharing love and food and friendship with lots of people. Lights, decorations, generosity, and holiday cheer. Angels, shepherds, scared teenagers, and a baby born in the most humble of circumstances... the King of Kings and Lord of Lords.

Friday, December 7, 2007

If You Know It, Hum Along

I've been thinking a bit about surrender lately, especially while reading this book. Often this hymn comes to mind. There are some times in my life that this song is more true of me than others. Most of the time I'm just far from it. But this is where I want to be, and where I'm headed. And thankfully God is okay with the mess at the moment and is molding the work-in-progress that I am.

Just singing/whistling/humming/whispering this helps me head in the right direction.

All to Jesus, I surrender;
All to Him I freely give;
I will ever love and trust Him;
In His presence daily live

All to Jesus I surrender;
Humbly at His feet I bow,
Worldly pleasures all forsaken;
Take me, Jesus, take me now.

All to Jesus, I surrender;
Make me, Savior, wholly Thine;
Let me feel the Holy Spirit,
Truly know that Thou art mine.

I surrender all,
I surrender all,
All to Thee, my blessed Savior,
I surrender all.

Thursday, December 6, 2007

More Picasa Fun

So this program continues to make me smile. I had fun making Santa red and everything else black/white.
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Wednesday, December 5, 2007


So am I the last to discover this delightful (and free!) resource? Picasa is my new best friend.

For those of you who are similarly clueless, Picasa does double duty as a picture organizer/viewer AND a poor man's Photoshop.

Actually, it is also a dumb man's Photoshop. We have that program loaded onto Josh's computer (as a student he can get it super cheap through the University) but I really can't make heads or tails of it. Picasa has fewer photo editing options, but for me that is a good thing as I'm overwhelmed by Photoshop anyway. Picasa, in my opinion, is even easier to use than Microsoft Office Picture Manager - and has really fun options.

I've been playing with some of my favorite pictures of my boys and discovered some of the fun editing options. Easy cropping and Sepia tones were used on the top picture. Then in the bottom picture Josh's hand came out blurry in the original photo. It always bothered me, but I've figured out how to focus the picture in on their faces, while making the rest a little blurry. Now his hand blends in better. And I used a soft glow option on it :) FUN.

Another great thing? Pictures (like these) load directly to Blogger with the click of a button. And I don't have to input them one at a time! Yipee!!!

Next I'm going to work on making some online albums, and when I do I'll post a link.
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Monday, December 3, 2007


I've been tagged by Aletha (Pearls Events)

Here are the rules of the game
1. Link to the person that tagged you and post the rules on your blog.
2. Share 7 random and or weird things about yourself.
3. Tag 7 random people at the end of your post and include links to their blogs.
4. Let each person know that they have been tagged by leaving a comment on their blog.

And here we go...
1. I bought a shredder today from Staples.
2. It is lime green :)
3. I'm painting pottery tonight at a local place called The Latest Glaze. For about 5 years during high school and college, I worked on and off at a Grand Rapids equivalent called Naked Plates. The first time I went into The Latest Glaze, I mentioned something along those lines to the owner, and he actually learned the business from my old boss, Laura, who did pottery place consulting on the side. And that was back when I worked there. He probably came into the studio during my shift to learn all about bisque, kilns, and business. Ha!
4. I'm trying to be on a diet. Although what I hope is that I come out even after the holidays are finished:).
5. I have somewhere in the neighborhood of 40 first cousins. And that doesn't count the spouses and children that have cropped up over the years.
6. There is a headless wiseman on my bookshelf at the moment. The rest of the Nativity is still intact, however. Josh accidentally knocked it over while looking for a book. But that is what super glue is for, right?
7. I love getting Christmas cards and often send mine out early so that people don't forget me. Plus, we've not moved every year since we've been married so it is also a way to remind people of our new address.

I don't think I have seven bloggy friends who haven't already been tagged! Can I still pick
Sarah Baar? And Erika, Kara (You can do it! Highlight this from my blog. Right click and go to "Copy" then open an new blog page in your blog and right click again. Go to "Paste." Then delete any of my words that don't pertain to you) Julie, Sarah, Annette, and Jamie. (James, as your blog is a conglomerate, feel free to leave your thoughts in the comments).

You're it!

Sunday, December 2, 2007

Christmastime is here...

Think the Charlie Brown song...

I LOVE the Christmas season. And this week was full of Christmas moments for me! So fun.

I received my first Christmas card in the mail (from Jamie), sang carols at church, pulled out the decorations, and lit the candles that Josh bought me last year - in Christmas Eve and Sugar Cookie scents from Yankee Candle... MMMM. Today I've watched both It's A Wonderful Life and A Charlie Brown Christmas (see picture above).
My favorite part of decorating for Christmas is by far pulling out the ornaments and decorating the tree. Josh and I both brought LOTS of ornaments into our marriage, and have accumulated quite a few since. I like to buy them when we go on vacation - and each year I smile when I pull out a gondola (from Colorado), a double decker bus (from London) and an angel made of seashells (from our honeymoon in Hawaii).
And then there are the ones from childhood. My Grandma Sharpless got all of us Hallmark ornaments each year from birth to 20 I think, so it is always fun to pull those out. Josh has a whole set of Pooh characters, which I love. And this one REALLY makes me laugh:

Yes, we have Ninja Turtles on our tree, from a former fan. And yes, that IS plural. We have a figure of his favorite character AND a ball with all 4 Turtles depicted.

If you're not completely bored already, let me describe one more. The first year we were dating - 2003 - Josh was thoughtful and got an engraved "Our First Christmas" ornament for me. Super sweet. What he didn't realize, however, was that the ornament was very wedding-y. It involves a heart shape with small shapes around it - intertwining rings, champagne glasses, you name it. Not exactly appropriate for a college couple who has only been dating 4 months or so. And I love it.

And as this is something we're not used to:
A little furball who takes off with new chew toys (chew toy/ornament, what is the difference?).

Today was the first Christmas-y church service, which was exciting. And surprisingly, the pastor spoke about this verse:

"And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the Lord's people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God."
Ephesians 3:17-19

An interesting choice for an advent message. It doesn't involve shepherds or stars or virgins. But the pastor encouraged us to remember this verse and dwell on the love of Christ this season. Through busyness and family time and shopping and decorating. To me, Christmas and love seem to go hand-in-hand. God's love for the world that caused him to send Jesus to earth. Love between family and friends that for some reason rises to the surface more during the holidays. Increased concern for the needy. And the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge.

A good reminder.
Merry Christmas from the Browns!