Shangri La’s Holiday Stroll

While in Texas we wanted to use our family time to create some new memories and Christmas traditions, so we decorated cookies, watched a light show at a local church, made a bonfire with smores and checked out the local botanical gardens for the very first time. The Shangri La Botanical Gardens has been around for a while, but none of us have ever checked it out. With a little bit of research we learned that not only are they open during the holidays, but they have a special “evening holiday stroll” event right after Christmas.

shangrila holiday strolls

Even at night, the gardens were stunning! We were so impressed with the layout, the landscape, the dozens of Christmas trees, the thousands of lights and the staff was incredible. Everyone was so friendly and helpful, it may for a very cheerful evening.

nativity me

 

We didn’t get a ton of pictures of all the lights and scenes. I guess we were too busy just looking at them with my friends and my family. We spent a full two hours walking around, drinking hot cocoa and taking group photos. I even ran into a very good childhood friend of mine who happens to work at the gardens! It was an awesome night.

hot cocoa and cookies
hot cocoa and cookies
My sister's family
My sister’s family
Friends!
Friends!
So precious!
So precious!
My family
My family

Two more years and we will return with an even bigger crowd!

Cheers!

My 2013

Happy New Year’s Eve! We made it back to Nashville last night, unpacked, re-packed and are now getting ready to drive up to the Smoky Mountains to ring in the New Year with a small group of friends in a cozy cabin. At this moment, I am actually sitting under a big warm blanket on the couch.. I am trying to enjoy every peaceful quiet second because it will be about a week before I get this moment again. As I sit here, I am reflecting over the last year…

Every year brings its great and its terrible moments. The bad times aren’t always forgettable, sometimes I don’t want to forget them, but for today I want to focus on why 2013 was a great year, and why every year just seems to keep getting better. You know I like to focus on the positive!

My 2013 in Review

The year started off with a little New Year’s Eve Party in Nashville.

1 new year 2013

My nephew, Micah, was born and I got to meet him for the first time when he was a month old. Being an Aunt is the best.

2 meet micah

Not only was my sister’s baby boy born, but a few of my closest friend’s had their baby boys this year. Being an honorary Aunt is also the best. 

3 danica

I learned to swing and flip on a trapeze!

4 trapeze

We made the decision to buy a house, and ended up buying a house in the country in Middle Tennessee… a huge move and decision after years of moving and traveling from city to city.

house

I left my job, which I loved, in NYC and have changed my entire idea of what I want to be when I grow up.

5 yoga

After spending the last month in NYC alone (Husband was already in Tennessee), I said “good-bye” and prepared for a new adventure. 

5.1 bye nyc
me in the cab on the way to the airport

*Our BIGGEST news this year! We announced at 10 weeks that we are expecting our first baby!

6 zimbickijr.

We found our Duckie abandoned and abused on the riverbank while canoeing and made her the newest addition to our family. 

meet duckie

We found out our first baby will be a little girl!

7 it's a girl

I met Taylor Swift at a fun and fancy awards dinner for Aunt Amy. 

8 taylorswift

I started a new website/blog with my friend Chris and am having a lot of fun learning to make it better and better each week. 

Get Kidz Fit

This was the first year we did not take an International trip in a very long time, but we still made time to travel in good ol’ America. Husband, surprised me on our 8 year dating anniversary by taking me to Disney California…completing our goal of visiting every single Disney park in the world!

9 disneyland

We had our annual trip to Hilton Head, South Carolina with the family. 

10 hhi

Spent some time in Pittsburgh visiting more family. 

11 pittsburgh

Went to a beautiful wedding Chicago.

12 chicago

And, OF COURSE, we made our annual trip to Disney World. 

13 halloween

There are dozens more good times I could write about from 2013, but this sums up the year pretty well. I’m getting anxious about what 2014 has in store (more good and more bad), but it’s exciting to think that some of our best memories and adventures have yet to happen. 2014, you have a lot to live up to, see you soon!

Cheers!

Little Holiday Snippets

Christmas may be over, technically, but I have too many cute photos and stories to not share them. Our Texas vacation is coming to an end soon, but it has been so nice to have over a week of non-rushed holiday family and friend time. It is so rare that we come to visit and aren’t running from activity to activity and then hopping on a plane back home. For once, we got to do simple stuff together and just enjoy everyone’s company.

We took my nephew  to the mall with all of us and watched him take his first photo with Santa. OMG, watching kids take Santa photos is HILARIOUS. The kids who cry and are terrified of Santa make the best photos.

first santa

What a lil' trooper
What a lil’ trooper

Of course, Micah was then forced to accompany us to Starbucks and Target for some last minute gift getting…gotta teach em’ when they’re young!

mom and micah happy baby

Sorry, I tend to go a little overboard when taking photos of Micah…

target

our drinks

All tuckered out after a long morning of Santa, Starbucks and shopping. Maybe I should have shared some of my latte.
All tuckered out after a long morning of Santa, Starbucks and shopping. Maybe I should have shared some of my latte.

At my parent’s house we even decorated sugar cookies together… I’m pretty sure this is the first time we have done since I was in Elementary school. If you read my post about our “cookie decorating party”, than you know my skills are extremely limited. And, now you can learn that the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree. Husband and my Dad have better decorating skills then us girls do.

sugar cookies sprinkles making cookies

Micah even had his first taste of icing!

icing

Can’t wait to share our photo’s from Shangri La, family/friend picture day and my baby shower (which is tomorrow)! There’s just too much to look forward to this week!

Cheers!

Holiday Hangover

Anyone else still recovering from Christmas? I can’t even drink, but the amount of food I’ve consumed and excitement we’ve had has put me in a Christmas coma. It’s the 27th and I just now have a little bit of time and energy to edit some photos and write about how awesome my Christmas in Texas has been over the last week. We spend every other Christmas in Texas with my family, and this year is my nephew’s very first Christmas! Needless to say, it was full of adorableness.

annual parade
me and my nephew watching the parade together

It is also the first holiday season without my MawMaw, which means we have lost some of our family traditions, but at the same time we are creating some new ones that will soon become the traditions for our own kids. To really put a spin on things this year, my Bro-in-law had to work in Dallas on Christmas Eve and fly in Christmas morning to be with us. So our Christmas morning was slow to start, which turned out to be really nice and relaxing.

pawpaw

We ate breakfast, stay in our PJ’s, sipped our coffee and I taught Micah, the nephew, all about the very important tradition of watching Disney’s Annual Christmas Parade.

relaxing

Look at that adorable little Santa butt!
Look at that adorable little Santa butt!

My Mom makes seafood gumbo, potato salad, green salad, fruit salad and rolls every single year for Christmas dinner, and this year we all helped cooked and had everything ready before we even opened the gifts from Santa.

Gift opening was perfect. Even though Micah is too young to actually open his gifts or care about anything except the wads of ripped paper on the floor, it was really fun for us to give him gifts and take a billion photos.

first christmas

Besides, Micah’s gifts the rest of us seemed to have read each other’s minds when it comes to gift giving. My Mom and Dad each gave each other a new tablet, my Mom, sister and I all got new purses. My Mom searched literally all over the country to get me a BCBG coat that I have been dying to have, but couldn’t find anywhere.  AND, my sister, myself and my Mom all ended up making each other a very special gift from my Grandma.

ipad
dad opening his ipad

BCBG mom

My sister and I were super excited about making a framed picture of one of my Mom’s favorite quotes from my Grandma’s journal. Husband had the great idea to print it over a page copied from her journal, and with a little Photoshop it turned out beautiful.

to mom

After receiving the gift, my Mom disappeared for a minute and came back with two extra gifts for me and my sister. She said she had planned on saving them for my baby shower, but couldn’t wait any longer. Turns out that she found 2 poems in one of my Grandma’s spiral that no one has even seen yet. One was written for a daughter (probably for my Mother), and the other was written for a child (obviously a boy, and mostly likely written for my MawMaw’s 8 sons). My Mom had the poems printed and framed to go into our kids’ nurseries. It was the perfect gift, and it felt like a gift directly from my MawMaw.

All three framed quotes and poems.
All three framed quotes and poems.
The poem that will hang in Luna's room.
The poem that will hang in Luna’s room.

Perfect Christmas. Even the dogs has special treats.

belle leia

The rest of the day was spent stuffing our faces, having family stop by to visit and we even made time for some family exercising. (Luckily, it was relief day on Shaun T’s the Asylum).

relief

I hope each of you had an awesome Christmas, holiday, festivus, or whatever you celebrate. I hope to keep posting through the New Year, but with 2 baby showers, a drive back to TN, a New Year’s trip to the Mountains and a second family Christmas over the next week…who knows what will happen! Have a safe, wonderful and fun New Year, just in case I don’t see ya!

The last Christmas with just the two of us!
The last Christmas with just the two of us!

Cheers!

Opryland: A Country Christmas

opryland hotel

After walking through “Ice!” at Opryland we had to make our way over to the Gaylord Opryland Resort and Convention Center to walk around and gawk at the 2 million Christmas lights hung around the 9 acres of indoor-gardens in the enormous resort.

country christmas

We met up with our friends Jay and Emily, or Jamily which is how I like to refer to them. The four of us spent the evening walking around, watching families take a million photos with numerous DreamWorks characters spread out around the resort, drooling over every restaurant, exploring the empty convention rooms and getting lost among the many gardens and observatories.

There's even a river boat ride that takes you through the hotel!
There’s even a river boat ride that takes you through the hotel!

three of us water fountain restaurant lights friends

This year marks the 30th anniversary of “A Country Christmas” at Opryland.

This tree is 48 feet tall!
This tree is 48 feet tall!

husband

Opryland does an incredible job turning their entire resort into a magical wonderland. Besides the indoor attractions, there are even more lights outside and a giant free nativity scene. Of course the Radio City Rockettes perform all season at the Grand Ole Opry and too many other performances to list are also happening throughout the holidays.

garden

If it wasn’t so outrageously expensive then we would make a night out of it, get a room and enjoy the lights from our balcony…maybe one day.

Hope you are all having a very Merry Christmas Eve! Xoxo

Cheers!

Ice at Opryland!

ice

Alright, alright, it’s that time of year. That super busy time when it’s so hard to get everything done, and right now I am lacking in the writing and sharing area. Tonight, though, I finally have some time to share a review of our trip to Ice at the Opryland Hotel in Nashville! The very nice people who work for Gaylord were kind enough to have come and check out their show that we just love so much.

frosty

Years ago, when we first lived in the Nashville area we went to “Ice!” every year. The Opryland Hotel always puts up an amazing exhibit of Christmas themed scenes all made of ice. This year’s theme is Frosty the Snowman (awesome…one of my all-time favorite Christmas movies). They used over 2 million pounds of ice to create the very colorful and very large scenes! It took over 40 talented artisans from Harbin, China to create the show. It’s very impressive.

Look at Frosty go!
Look at Frosty go!

The master ice carvers actually travel all the way to Tennessee to create their sculptures. They work in 12 hour shifts in the 9-degree freezers to get the job done! The sculptures are then set-up and put together in large rooms for all of us to tour, but these rooms are also kept at 9 degrees. The guests are provided with long hooded warm parkas, but I’d say it is still VERY necessary to dress warm. I had a gloves, close-toed shoes and a scarf and still felt chilly.

fire

The scenes from Frosty were just adorable. The characters were flawless and dialogue from the movie played as you walked from room to room. Even before entering the exhibit we were entertained. The que was lined with big screens TV to entertain us while waiting. We were then ushered into a large room that gave the played a short film on the history of “Ice!” and ended with “snow” falling on us.

que

wait room

snow!

Besides the cute characters and scenes there is also 4 large slides made of ice to enjoy, but beware: lines are long. There are also tons of opportunities for cute photos around all the ice scenes.

slides train

When Frosty’s story ends there is a bonus NYC room this year! Because we are cheesy and sentimental we were especially excited about this section. We are really missing New York this time of year, and all of its holiday glitter and fun. It was nice to walk around a fake New York made of ice. It had all the iconic Christmas in New York attractions…Rockefeller Center’s ice skating rink and giant tree, Broadway, Time Square, 5th Avenue and the Statue of Liberty.

nyc

Can you find Husband on the big screen in "time square"?
Can you find Husband on the big screen in “time square”?

broadway

The final room in “Ice!” is the traditional and always beautiful Nativity made of ice. This room uses all clear glass (no color) and is always the grand finale.

nativity

Afterwards, we defrosted and let our hands regain feeling in the guest shop right outside of “Ice!”. They sell a bazillion souvenirs, hot chocolate, kettle corn and what-not. This year, there was also a special Gingy room. Gingy is a character from Shrek and they had an entire gingerbread house set up where kids can get their photo taken with Gingy, buy a stuffed Gingy and pay to create an entire Gingerbread house. It looked like fun…maybe when Luna is here and a toddler we can actually try this part out!

gingy toy gingy

If you are interested in seeing Frosty and his friends all carved from ice then head over to Opryland by January 1st!  Check their site for prices and times here.

Cheers!

Adults Decorate Cookies Too

To continue our weekend of time with loved ones, we spent Sunday evening at our friends’ house for what will hopefully become an annual Christmas Cookie Party. These particular friends always throw the most beautiful and delicious parties. They seriously know how to host, decorate and prepare the most decadent foods… it’s the same house where we have our annual Second Thanksgiving/Just Dance party.

party

 

I am getting rather uncomfortable at 31 weeks pregnant. (Get out of my ribs Luna!) So, I dressed for comfort with a bit of festive flair. Husband, however, decided to outshine me and get all decked out for a night of eating and drinking with friends.

Woah! That's a big belly!
Woah! That’s a big belly!
Holiday Hair!
Holiday Hair!

Because our hosts wanted to make a “simple” dinner (hah!) we had 3 different soups, an entire table of snacks and hors d-oeuvres and another table lined with fancy Russian chocolates.

snacks table sweets chocolates

After we were beyond full we rolled ourselves into the kitchen to make and decorate some cookies. We actually used pre-made cookie dough, because who has time to make dough after preparing a huge dinner? Now, you may remember decorating cookies as a child, and if you really remember than you know they all turned out looking like broken blobs of cookie crumbs and mounds of icing. Well, I apparently never grew out of that stage….

chocolate chip knead star friends

This is the BEST cookie I made...
This is the BEST cookie I made…

Guys, I tried. I seriously tried to make this a cute cookie. It’s my best work. It’s also proof that I will never be that Mother that brings adorable baked goods to classes or parties. Sorry, kid, but you’re taking pre-made baked goods to school.

Whatever, ugly or not, the cookies tasted like cookies.

What are some of your holiday traditions? Do you party with friends? Celebrate with family? Make ugly cookies? Can’t wait to hear about it!

Cheers!

Making Time for Both

It’s that time of year… the happiest, busiest, most loving, awkward, traditional and hectic time! I love the holidays and the crazy busy-ness that accompanies them. I enjoy being super busy, running from party to party and shopping for gifts for everyone. My anxiety has been so low (thanks pregnancy!) that I’m probably enjoying this season more than most. The only problem is making time for EVERYTHING.

Last week, I had every intention of finishing my to-do’s, working (outside of the home) everyday, working out everyday, wrapping all the presents, attending all the parties, etc. However, I didn’t, because you know what else you are supposed to do the time of year? Spend quality time with your friends and family. One night, Husband and I were snuggled up on the couch getting ready to catch up on our Netflix shows. Like most nights, I had my phone in one hand and laptop in the other and was setting up camp to write, write, write. Husband, who has never ever expressed this before, actually told me to put everything away and just be with him. He was actually sad that I was giving him enough attention. So, I did.

I have to admit, it was hard. I REALLY wanted to catch up on so many things and I caught myself peaking at my phone for notifications and texts, but I did my best to refrain, and I continued refraining all weekend. Saturday morning we woke up before the crack of dawn to drive many many miles to our friend’s college graduation. That morning happened to be the best I have slept in weeks, the pillows were arranged perfectly and it was pouring raining and pitch-black outside. The last thing I wanted was to get up, but I did because that’s what friends do. This friend is a little brother to us and we are so proud and happy for him. We packed a van and made a day trip to celebrate his big day.

IMG_20131216_010341 IMG_20131214_101519 IMG_20131216_005801

It was a day of friends, good Indian food, soda shop fun and a little too much rain.

That night, I went to see the Nutcracker in Nashville with my friend Emily. We got all dolled up, drove through the sleet and had beautiful front and center seats at the Tennessee Performing Arts Center. The Nashville Ballet did a beautiful job of depicting the traditional story while also integrating famous sites and historical buildings found right here in Music City.

IMG_20131215_143534

I did not get a lot done this weekend, but I really enjoyed taking some time to just enjoy my friends. I hope you all have time for a little of both this next week.

Cheers!

Attempting to Meet Santa

no one looking

Five years ago I found out that Petsmart has a “Santa Claws” photo event. They set aside a few days in December for your pets to come in and take photos with Santa. Adorable! I took Belle that year and the next, with the idea of making it a yearly tradition. However, we then moved to Albania, then NYC and the so-called tradition was forgotten. Until this year…about a week ago my friend Bella informed me that the Green Hills Mall in Nashville was hosting their own “Pet Photos with Santa” event.

We decided it would be fun to go together with ALL of our pets, including our newest addition, Duckie. I texted Bella beforehand to see what she was wearing… I decided to go all out in Christmas colors and elf looking socks and I didn’t want to be the only cheeseball. She responded with a pic of a red sweater bedazzled with sequins. Thank God, I’m not the only one who likes to play dress-up.

The Green Hills Mall set aside two hours at the end of the day for crazy people and their pets to take their photos with Mr. Claus. We arrived a few minutes early to beat the crowd. However, when we arrived there were already about 100 people and their pets of all sized in line and Santa was taking a break. When he returned he took photos with some kids who had waited first, and then took another break! After waiting for 45 minutes, not one pet had its picture taken with Santa and the animals were getting restless. We decided it was not going to be worth our wait (at least another hour) and created our own photo-op in the mall. We grabbed our pets, headed to the big tree behind Santa’s chair and took our own family and friend photos!

Unpacking the cat
Unpacking the cat

christmas2013 allthepets lovetheanimals

I think our photos turned out great. Who needs Santa anyways? We weren’t the only ones with restless animals either. Lots of people started following our lead, taking their own photos and heading home.

meandpets
My Christmas sweater won’t even cover my big belly!
my babies
All 3 of my babies!

green hills mall

It may have been a failed mission, but it was pretty exciting just to stand in the crazy line and watch the hundreds of pets and owners. There were dogs of all sizes wearing costume of all sorts. It was worth the wait just to watch them. Although, we may still try going to Petsmart next weekend to get an actual Santa photo.

bad kitty
naughty kitty attacking her sister

Anyone else crazy enough to attempt pet pictures with Santa?

Cheers!

P.S. The cat was much better behaved and more calm than our dog… Husband was probably the least happiest to be there, but he’s a good sport when it comes to my ideas of festive fun.

A Weekend in Dallas

Husband and I have taken turns spending either Thanksgiving or Christmas with each family for years now, but this is the first year that I got to see both families over the Thanksgiving holidays. I flew to Dallas on Friday to spend time with my sister’s family and parents, and it’s only my second time to ever even see my sister’s house! We both live far away from home, so when we see each other it’s always because we both go home to visit our parents.

I was excited to see everyone, to do some “Black Saturday” shopping and all that jazz, but really I was most excited to see this little turkey.

micah

Every minute not shopping was spent snuggling, reading to, playing with and snapping photos of the most handsome little nephew you ever did see.

silly face micahliam nephew helmet IMG_20131201_224720 us two

I got to spend a little time with the adults in the family as well. In fact, at one point it was only my parents, my sister and myself..we can’t even remember the last time it was just the four of us. We had to get our waitress at Cheesecake Factory to commemorate the moment.

IMG_20131201_125411

Seeing my parents as Grandparents is the sweetest. My Dad, especially is the most proud Grandpa I have ever seen! I miss them and hate living so far from my nephew, but thankfully I will see them all in just a few short weeks for Christmas! Can’t wait!

tree

This little guy isn't too bad either.
This little guy isn’t too bad either.
Grandparents...caught sleeping.
Grandparents…caught sleeping.

IMG_20131129_234148

Cheers!