Tuesday, November 30, 2010

so thankful

As I write this, I'm in my jingle jammies, wearing my Christmas penguin socks, working on Christmas cards, watching Home Alone 2: Lost in New York and I just finished a bowl of vanilla ice cream with crushed peppermint cookies from Trader Joe's. Fa la la la la, la la la la.

But I'd be remiss if I didn't pay tribute to Thanksgiving, which was absolutely delightful. Here's the recap, before I launch into pics:
  • My parents came on Tuesday night (sans Tyler, boo) and got here just in time to kiss me goodnight
  • Wednesday was spent lounging around the house, until we kicked it into gear to get our feast on the table. We did Thanksgiving on Wednesday night, since my parents had to leave on Thursday night and didn't want to make the drive in a comatose state.
  • The meal was fab: fried turkey, sweet potato casserole (with the nut topping), A+ stuffing (thanks, Mom!), cranberry sauce and salad. My mouth just watered.
  • Thursday morning, we stayed in our PJs until we were smelly. We watched the Macy's day parade, drank a lot of coffee, laughed, watched football and snacked on pie. Then my mom and I turned the kitchen upside down with cookie recipes. And my dad and Andrew put up Christmas lights (thanks, dearies!)
  • After a walk around the neighborhood and some oooh-ing and aaaahhh-ing over the lights, my parents hit the road.
  • Friday morning, we made our way to Concord for round 2: baked turkey, corn pudding, stuffing, broccoli casserole and a few other things that I'm sure I'm forgetting because there was a spread and I blacked out after my second serving corn.
  • Saturday morning, I met Martha for coffee (yay!) after YEARS of being separated. Maybe not years, but it was close. And we're soulmates, so no time apart is healthy. I love, love, loved catching up with her over Caribou Christmas coffee.
  • Saturday afternoon was spent at Hobby Lobby, for our annual post-Thanksgiving shopping spree. Laura and I always get a little carried away by all of the 50% goodness, but it's so worth it.
  • And then there was pizza. And Elf. And the Christmas season has been officially kicked off.
And on to the pictures, which were all taken here at home. The only pics I have from Concord are from the fashion shoot we had with Aunt Shelly, but I can't post those because she was modeling her wedding dress for the big day in December. But trust me, you would love them since they were beautiful and entertaining and at times, involved paper angels and other various props. But like I said, on to the pics...

I told you there was good food.

And beautiful pies.

And festive table settings.

That's my dad, trying to untangle my wind chime that got knotted up during a recent storm. He spent HOURS working on it while we cooked. Thanks, Dad!

And the baking. Oh, we love cookies :)

I was going to list what I'm thankful for this year, but it's late and this is already long/wordy and Carolina is losing. So I'll put it off for later. Until then...


PS: I made some soup with the leftover turkey and some turkey stock that my mother concocted and left for us. Oh.my.word. If you only knew how good it was, you would be SO jealous.

Monday, November 29, 2010

christmas card fail

I'll give a little Thanksgiving update later, but first things first: I don't like our Christmas cards.

I like the idea of them, but when I took them to be printed, the pictures came out all funny. Andrew says they aren't that bad, but I don't think I can put them in the mailbox without regretting it. How's that for irony? I spent all this time designing Christmas cards this year and I'm not even using my own. Oh well, c'est la vie :) And rather than pay to have something else reprinted, I decided to take Shutterfly up on an offer they made a while ago: blog about them and get 50 free cards. Okay!

I've long been a fan of Shutterfly, mainly because of their cheap prints for regular pictures and the fact that they have a relationship with Target and I can just send them their for printing rather than wait (and pay) for them to come in the mail. Love. But their Christmas cards are a delight, as you can see here and here. And one of my favorite gift ideas EVER is to do a calendar. No one really wants to look at me and Andrew for 12 months, but when we have kids? Watch out, grandmothers all over the world. You're getting a calendar.

Of course, I can't show you what cards I'm getting this year: we still need a little bit of mystery left. But I'm sure they'll be a-dorable. Just you wait and see.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010


Christmas is here!

In the Castrodale house, at least. I must be honest: the Christmas music has been playing since Nov 1. I just love love love this time of year. And since we're leaving on Dec 17th for our Christmas travels, I wanted to make sure that we had plenty of time to enjoy the season. So Christmas exploded in our house last weekend :) Let's take a tour, shall we?

We got a BEAUTIFUL tree this year and if I'd been paying more attention when photographing it, I wouldn't have cut off the top. Anywhooo, here are some of my favorite ornaments:

Look how cute we are :)

When I was in middle school, my mom cleaned/redecorated my room one weekend as a surprise when I was out of town. This little angel was sitting in a mini rocking chair on my dresser. It's been in every room I've ever lived in ever since.

Oh, stop. He's too cute, right?

My sweetie gave this to me for our first Christmas.

This was last year's ornament from my mom. Winnie the Pooh (especially the Heffalumps and Woozles story) was my all time favorite bedtime book.

Let's continue...

Our stockings are hung....

...by the chimney with care.

Along with our little angel family. Complete with a Rudy Angel. My mom and I made these with styrofoam cups and paper towels when she was here in October.

Let's keep moving, folks. You might even see a precious, but slightly pathetic dog along the way...

There he is!

These snowflake lights flicker, so it looks like candlelight when they're on. Lovely. The little Santa head gave Rudy a fright when we first put it out, but he's come around to it.

This is the chorus of one of the most precious Christmas songs I've ever heard, I Celebrate the Day by Relient K.

Christmas over the sink. A little bit of happy while I do the dishes.

My sweet nativity. Mary is holding Jesus, which makes me cry if I think about it long enough.

There you have it, folks. The Castrodale Christmas Tour. And totally unrelated, but just too.stinkin.cute to pass up...

Tough life.

Friday, November 19, 2010

a loooooove story

Maybe it's because I just finished reading a romantic story of sorts. Or because February marks 5 years since the boy started studying in the library, just because I was there. And he thought I was cute. Or maybe it's because he remembers very little about 5 years ago (or yesterday) and is always after me to write it down so it's not lost forever. Whatever the reason, I'm inclined to do a little documentation of Andrew + Page, and I thought you might like to give it a read. Enjoy.

When I went to college, I had no plans of meeting my mate. Marriage was not on my brain. Boys, yes. Marriage, no. Big difference. I wasn't the girl who daydreamed about my colors or what flowers I'd carry. I didn't know what MOB stood for and I had certainly never read a bridal magazine. It really, really never crossed my mind. And then I got married at 21.

Let's back up, shall we? We'll call this part The Boy Timeline.

Age 5: We moved to Youngsville and I started at my new school in the middle of the year. I sat down and Blaine Holmes asked me if I wanted to borrow his black crayon. Because I was horrified that my parents would move me and make me go to a new school, I had a 'tude that particular morning. And no, I did not want his stinkin' black crayon. I wanted the purple one, thankyouverymuch. I was mean to him...and then I had a crush on him. A major crush, until the 4th grade when he moved away. Intense, I know. My friend told him one day on the playground (while I sat at the top of the slide and stared into the distance, with the wind blowing my hair. No, really) and he wasn't interested. Heartbreak 1, Page 0.

Age 10: My mom's friend had a son named Shaun. Move over, Blaine. Crush ensues and lasts until 7th grade. I don't mess around. I crushed hard. He never picked up on my hints and if he did, he didn't care. Heartbreak 2, Page 0.

Age 13: Greyson, my dear sweet friend, started to look a little different in my hormone-ridden state. My friend and I arranged a secret three-way phone call where I sat quietly on the line while she asked him what he thought about me. The verdict: he didn't like me. Heartbreak 3, Page 0.

Middle school was kind of a blur (thank, God) and I found myself a freshman in high school; the smart kid with braces. Score. To date, no boy had ever shown interest in me. My dad said they were intimidated by me. If by intimidated he meant scared-to-look-directly-at-it-for-fear-that-her-buck-teeth-might-attack intimidated, then maybe he was right. Otherwise, I think it was because I was awkward. Oh, heavenly Father, was I awkward. I was 14, tall, skinny, pale and had enough metal in my mouth to reap a fortune at the scrap yard. It was not pretty. Dear future daughter, I'm sorry. I'm so very sorry.

My sophomore year, I was in a chemistry class with juniors. And there were boys in that class. It's true. And in April of that year, something happened that changed my romantic life forever. I got my braces off.

{Stay tuned for more, as I feel inclined to write it...}

Thursday, November 18, 2010

loot for your stocking

Another late night and I've got myself some more stationery! I just love it too much to stop. So far the only orders have been familial, but whatev. It gets my creative juices flowing and I can watch TV at the same time. Multitasking at its finest.

So what are you in the market for? Some mongrammed notecards for your sweet friend at the work?

Some thank you cards to throw in your sister's or your daughter's stocking?

Or what about the kiddos? How about some fill-in-the-blank thank you cards, to make it a little easier this year?

Do you love them? I sure do. They're so fun! I put a link to the Etsy shop down on the right side of the ol' blog. Just click the Marvelous Prints logo and get on over there to check it all out :)

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

the thankful jar

Let's be honest. I make up traditions on a regular basis. On any given day, I can decide that we should always eat with the butterfly napkins on Tuesdays or always burn a candle in the evenings. It's ridiculous, really. So imagine what happens around the holidays. I'm a tradition MACHINE, crankin' them out left and right. Like last week, in the form of this thankful jar.

I've read about people having a jar or a box or a notebook of some sort vessel for expressing thanks. One note a day for the month of November, to be revealed on Thanksgiving day. Sweet, right? I'm completely aware of the fact that Thanksgiving is like, next week, but I wanted to start anyway. It's our tradition.

First, I spraypainted an old yucky frame. Now it's a nice shiny brown. I arranged my wooden letters and some scrapbooks stickers onto a piece of burlap and slapped it in the frame. Now it's the designated thankful station.

Then, I tied a ribbon around a goodwill bowl and cut up some scrapbook paper to fill it full of our thankful thoughts.

And there you have it. The Castrodale Thankful Jar tradition is born.

PS: My mom and dad (and hopefully Tyler!) will be here in 6 days. SIX DAYS! :)

Monday, November 15, 2010

...and there were biscuits...

We were so super excited to have my grandparents visit this weekend. They drove in from Black Mountain, NC and we packed the days full of food and quality time and great conversation. I loved every single minute of it.

First on the list, learn how to make biscuits. And I was almost successful!

After we made a mess in less than 5 minutes, we had a pan of biscuits ready to go in the oven. They came out quite tasty, although a little flat. The good news is that Nanny thinks it's the flour and not me. So I'm going to get a new bag and see if I can perfect them. The key: knead 10 times. Overdo it and you'll end up with something similar to the plastic biscuits in my Sesame Street kitchen set.

We spent Saturday frolicking around town - the farmer's market, the Habitat Restore, back home for a quick lunch and out again to Drayton Hall. Andrew and I love this plantation so much that we became members. Our first visit was when we were down here for our first anniversary. Now that we're members, we can bring guests for free. So get on down here, folks :)

Seriously, this place is beautiful. So simple, but breath-taking. The weather was gorgeous. The sun was about to set. Lovely.

Be still, my beating heart. He sure is handsome.

That last one was just for my own pleasure :)

We went to church on Sunday, had a great lunch and then they hit the road. Andrew went on his way to study and I started Christmas crafting. (Yes, I did. And I'm not ashamed.)

We really had the most awesome time. I'm so, so, so blessed to have grandparents that are as amazing as they are. Really, truly.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

signed, sealed, delivered

Why, yes, it is 1:00 in the a-m. I was wide awake as of two hours ago, so I decided to get up and make myself useful. Bloggy, you sure do come in handy during times like these :) So with a cute puppy curled up at my side and eyelids that, I think, are about to be heavy, let me explain my latest time-passing endeavor...

Every year (and by every year, I mean the last two years) when I sit down to make our Christmas cards, I get reeaaally excited about it. I've designed the last two and I've loved every minute of it. I enjoy the actual design part, but I really love how personal they are. Love, love, love. So when I started thinking about our card for this year, I got a little carried away. And basically, I decided to give myself eight billion options. Here's a looksie (click to enlarge):

You like? I know we're not The Smiths, but it's a prototype, people. Go with it.

So then I thought to myself: Self, that a) took very little of your time and b) was extremely entertaining. What if I justified designing stationery by putting it on Etsy for $0.20, just to see if anyone else loved it all as much as I do?

Why, self. That's a great idea. And so that's what I did. What do I have to lose? Nothing really. Except maybe some time, but let's be honest. I've been looking for ways to lose that for a while. So, I bring you...Marvelous Prints. Custom stationery, designed by a Navy wife looking for ways to creatively pass the time. And just in time for the Christmas season!

And what about those Christmas card-ers who are looking for ways to include pictures of the fam? No worries, we'll just drop your pic right in...

Stop! I just can't stand how cute they are. This year, while you wonder about your Christmas Card options, you should stop on over at Marvelous Prints on Etsy. Let me know what you think! :)

Thursday, November 4, 2010

here comes santa claus

It's no secret that I love this time of year. Love it. I never could understand why the holiday season always stressed my mom out (she's since made a resolution to enjoy it) because I have always been in love with it. Maybe I'll feel differently when we have kids and it's more travel/wrap/cook/rush than cider/movies/fires/flannel. But until then, I love it.

So today, when it's gray and cold and the gas logs are turned on and there's a puppy sleeping by my side, I've started my list. The obligatory "Things I Want to Do This Season" list. And it goes a little something like this:
  • Bake A LOT of apple pies. Maybe even "invest" in one of these fancies from Williams-Sonoma.
  • Make as many handmade gifts as possible for Christmas
  • Host my very first Thanksgiving dinner. And pray that it's good.
  • Go to the Lighting of the Christmas Tree ceremony downtown
  • Go to the Christmas Parade of Boats downtown (a bunch of boats get decked out in Christmas lights and drive by the battery)
  • Go to the Christmas parade downtown, which I'm sure includes bigger floats than the parade in Youngsville. No offense, precious hometown.
  • Go to NYC (yessssss) and watch the following movies in preparation: Home Alone, Elf, and Miracle on 34th St.
  • Watch these other movies, just in the spirit of Christmas: Christmas Vacation, Polar Express, Charlie Brown Christmas, How the Grinch Stole Christmas, A Christmas Carol, Claymation (duh), Love Actually and It's a Wonderful Life. Ambitious? Yes. Have we done it every year that we've been married? Yep.
  • Drink lots and lots of mulled cider.

And because this is the first year that I've had a) the money and b) the time and c) the space to craft, I have a ton of ideas just waiting to be brought to life. They include, but are not limited to:

  • Thanksgiving table runner
  • Thanksgiving table setting: centerpiece, napkin rings, etc
  • An ornament wreath
  • A Christmas tie blanket
  • Christmas pillows
  • Christmas table setting
  • Stockings. We made some when we first got married but they're primitive and teeny. And now that I know how to sew, I want to do it right. Don't worry, I have big plans for the originals.
  • DIY Christmas Cards
  • Aaaaand lots of other fun things :)

So that's where I am right now. Daydreaming about the holidays and pulling out the red and green ribbon. Again I say, I love this time of year.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

praying for friends, pt2

Last week, I wrote about the first time I prayed for friends. It felt a little silly at the time, but when I was immediately given the gift of community, I realized that maybe it's okay to pray for something like that. I really do believe that we were created for fellowship and companionship and community. We are relational creatures. Agreed?

So let's fast forward to now, where we've been living in a new place for the last few months. At first, everything was moving so fast that I didn't have time to think about friends. I was so excited to have Andrew home after twelve long weeks away that I really just wanted to hang out with him, my BFF. Who needs friends when you've got your long-lost hubby?

But as the weeks progressed and Andrew got more plugged in at school and I spent more time at home, our conversations went a little something like this:

Andrew: What's wrong?
Me: Nothing.
Andrew: Are you sure?
Me: Yes.
Me: I just...
Andrew: Yeah?
Me (commence ugly cry): I just don't have any friends! You have your friends and school and I have no one! I don't talk to anyone all day! Andrew, do you know that if I got a flat tire, I don't have anyone to call?
Andrew: You could call me, pretty girl.
So I guess you could say that maybe I was a little lonely. Just a smidge.

I was feeling this way (pitiful and pathetic) for a few weeks. As we started getting more involved in the church, I was more hopeful, but still skeptical. And then I remembered the prayer that I prayed my freshman year. Was it already buried deep inside my heart? Yes. Does it sometimes help to say it outloud, practicing a faith that I know will give me the desires of my heart? Yes.

So in a tiny, sad voice...I said it. I prayed the prayer again. Just one friend.

That was three weeks ago and you wouldn't believe what happened that weekend. A friend of mine from UNC relocated to Charleston. A couple we got to know during the OCS days reported to Nuke school. A woman in our home group invited me over for dinner when Andrew was studying. Another woman from our church asked to meet me for lunch.

All of a sudden, I'm putting down roots. I'm sharing stories with women who understand these circumstances. I have friends to meet for coffee. Or a movie. Or shopping. We catch up and laugh and talk about this week's episode of Glee.

Like I said, I believe that we are relational creatures. And God knows that this daughter of his thrives on community and so naturally, He wants to bless me with that.

He's just good like that.

Monday, November 1, 2010

weekend visitors are the b-e-s-t

It's a good thing we live somewhere awesome, because we might not get visitors otherwise. And since the Navy does a good job of keeping us confined to the great state of South Carolina, I'm pretty sure we wouldn't see our amazing friends and fam if they weren't willing to come this way. And look who came this weekend!

Andrew's parents got here on Friday, just in time for dinner at our favorite Italian place. Saturday was spent downtown, enjoying some culinary delights at Poogan's Porch, popping in and out of antique stores and partaking in a fab cooking class. I first experienced this class, Charleston Cooks, during a girls weekend when Andrew was at OCS. This particular class is called Taste of the Lowcountry, where you get the history of this region's food, along with a demonstration on how to make a Lowcountry meal. Delish.

On the menu this time? Shrimp and grits, with a skillet apple crisp. Yes, please. I learned a billion things about kitchen prep and cooking and now I have an insatiable desire to go to culinary school. And buy a new chef's knife. And pots and pans. Amazing, I tell you.

We wandered around a little more, until it was getting dark. See how we're shopping here?

Courtesy of Andrew, the random photog.

And after dinner at our favorite burger dive joint, we turned in early.

Sunday, we joined our church (yay!) and it was very special to have his parents there for that. We are SO super thankful to have found this church. To say it is an answer to a prayer is such an understatement. Really.

We're grateful to still be within driving distance of family. It makes such a huge difference when we start to feel a little homesick and isolated. I try not to think about the days when we might be across the country (or world, eeks!) because I might cry. I might just cry.

And of course, in honor of Halloween, here's our little jack-o-lantern.

He was great with the trick-or-treaters, except the kids with masks. Those made him tuck his tail and hide behind Andrew, poor guy. But other than that, he was super sweet and the kiddos loved him. He's a keeper!

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