Friday, December 31, 2010

So long, farewell, auf Wiedersehen, adieu 2010

Well, 2010 is coming to a close.  I thought the best way to reflect on my year was through pictures.

What a rough winter.  I felt like the snow was never going away.  So the only option we had was to make the best of a bad situation and go play in the snow.  Even Nora made some snow angels.

Our first Valentine's Day as husband and wife!  I wanted to make it really special, so I decorated the house, cooked a delicious dinner, and made a cake.  Hubby came home with roses for me.  It was a perfect day.  This is also the month I started my blog!

We are adjusting to life with a puppy.  Dexter joined our family after Valentine's Day, and we immediately fell in love with him.  Our lives will never be the same.

Hubby took me and Dexter on a mini vacation to Deep Creek, Maryland for my birthday.  It was a little chilly, but that did not stop us from at least dipping our toes in the lake.  We visited Antietam and Harpers Ferry,  as well as Burkittsville, and thoroughly enjoyed the trip.  On my actual birthday, we left to come home, but not before going geocaching.  Once home, my friends threw me a surprise birthday party.  Once again, it was a perfect day.

We surprised our friend J, whose girlfriend E planned a birthday night out at Ruths Chris.  He had no idea we were going, and we had a great time.  After dinner, we, along with E and J, and J and M, frolicked in the fountains in Pittsburgh.  Later on in the month, E and J got engaged in Paris.  It was a great month of surprises for wonderful friends.  Also, Hubby and my dad replaced our dining room floor, and built a fence for our yard.  It is finally sinking in that this is home!

Hubby and I went to visit my brother and Paul in Columbus.  We packed so many fun things into just two days.  We went to Katzinger's Deli, the Book Loft, a cute little seafood restaurant we dubbed The Old Man and the Sea, I introduced them to Rita's Ice, and Paul gave me a fabulous photo shoot of glamour shots.  It was so much fun!  This month J and I went to the Arts Festival, and Hubby and I participated in the Relay for Life.

This month was packed with celebration!  There was the Big Butler Fair, July 4th Baker party, Ford City Heritage days, my parents' anniversary, the Folk Festival, just so much summer fun packed into this month.  It's no wonder I decided late in July to try to start losing weight!


August marked the one year anniversary of us buying our house, so we celebrated with an ice cream social.  So many of our wonderful friends came to the party, many of them seeing the house for the first time.  We had tons of goodies, lots of laughs, and (gosh I am getting repetitive) it was a perfect day.  And I started seeing some weight loss this month as well.

This month was Hubby's birthday, and we had a whole weekend of celebration!  We went to visit Fort Necessity on his birthday, went to a Pirate's game, and had a Labor Day cookout with family.  Later in the month we went to Podcamp, participated in our block party, and also hit up some fall festivals.

One year of marriage down, a lifetime to go!  It was our first wedding anniversary this month.  We went on an adventure, had a wonderful dinner, then later shared the top layer of our wedding cake with our friends.  It was delicious!  Later, the month was filled with 80s birthdays, spooky parties, fun fundraisers, and a zombie opera.  Lots of Halloween fun!

So much awesomeness this month!  We redid our bathroom and dining room, I got my first massage, we reconnected with Podcamp friends, and got to dress up once again for Prohibition Night!  We also attended and had tons of fun at a teen birthday party.  This is also the month I started getting really involved with the Kindness Movement, and tried to raise awareness for Pancreatic Cancer.  We went to my first ever Light Up Night.  Oh, and in between all these things, I hosted Thanksgiving dinner for my family, and we went to our first official Pens game.

Yet another busy month!  I collected Toys for Tots, we got our first snow of the winter, did some Christmas Caroling, had a wonderful Christmas, and got another puppy!  Whew!  You know, a lot of people think I have no life because I am so involved with social media, or because I do not work full time, but looking back over the year, I can easily see how busy, full, and enriching my life actually is.  I would not have it any other way!

So, there is a snapshot of my year.  It was full of wonderful memories, supportive family, fabulous friends, and the unconditional love of my Hubby.  Is it any wonder I rave about how blessed I am?
Happy New Year to you and yours, from me and mine!

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Word Filled Wednesday: The Beginning

Genesis 1:1-5
1 In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. 2 Now the earth was formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters.
3 And God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light. 4 God saw that the light was good, and he separated the light from the darkness. 5 God called the light “day,” and the darkness he called “night.” And there was evening, and there was morning—the first day.

New Years' Eve is right around the corner.  Time for a fresh start, a new beginning.  And also, a great time to reflect on the very beginning.  The first day of eternity, when God created the heavens and earth.  I absolutely love the creation story, regardless of whether is is literal or figurative, or some hybrid of the two.

To me, it is amazing that God knew exactly how things were going to play out, all the way from the Garden of Eden to the Garden of Gethsemane.  God knew exactly how sin would enter the world, and exactly who would take away our sin.  He had the power to change it, to make life easy for us, and to save His son, yet He allowed things to happen the way they did.  He did this as a gift to us.  Life is a gift, from the very beginning, every setback as well as every blessing.  And Him allowing it to happen this way is a supreme act of love.

As we have a new beginning coming up for 2011, we also have an opportunity to chose supreme acts of love.  Love for God, love for each other, love for friends, and as Jesus taught, love for enemies.  While I do not make New Years' Resolutions, I do want to set goals for the upcoming year.  One of those goals is going to be to take advantage of a fresh start, and try to carry out acts of love more often, whether it is in the form of cooking Hubby's favorite meal, or leaving words of encouragement for a stranger to find.

I will undoubtedly fail with some of my goals, and God will love me anyway.  Because that is what God's grace is all about.  Grace was with us in the beginning, and every new beginning since then.

Enjoy your fresh start of a new year, and celebrate it as a beginning.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Small Town Elements: Here We Come Awassailing

When I think of small town Christmas, one thing comes to my mind- Christmas Caroling.  It is sadly a dying art.  Once upon a time, church groups and townsfolk would go caroling around their towns.  My dad remembers doing this, and being rewarded with hot cocoa and cookies at every house.

When my friend E suggested we go caroling, I loved the idea, but feared it would be one of those things that we talk about doing, but never actually do.  Oh how I underestimated E's powers of persuasion.  While many people wanted to come but could not due to previous engagements, we did get a group of 15 people or so to go out.  It tickled me to no end that there were two small little ones, and 5 teenage or preteen girls among our group, what a great tradition to start with them!

We drove to a couple of special stops, one the grandmother of one of the carolers,

and another was a family celebration for one of her friends.   In the second case, one of the family members was going in for surgery, so the whole family gathered to celebrate Christmas early.  They were so touched that we visited them.

After that, we headed to town.  It was clear that people were not used to people singing and spreading cheer.  We had several instances where people closed blinds, shut off porch lights, and retreated deeper into their homes.  But many people were quite happy to come out and hear our singing.  And one house even gave us cookies.

We ended the night on our street, singing to Hubby, our friend M who was visiting him, and my neighbors.  The neighbor kids LOVED it!

We may have been off key, and some people may have thought us a nuisance, but I hope, no, I know, that we succeeded in spreading cheer to quite a few people.  And next will be even bigger and better.

It Made My Day: I must have done something good

I must have done something pretty amazing to deserve my Hubby.

Just when I think I cannot possibly love him any more than I do....

I was so tired this morning, because Sunday night I slept hardly at all due to excitement about getting Chloe.  And last night I slept with her on the couch, to take her out to potty and slowly get adjusted.  So 7 am, I put both dogs in their crates, and tottered upstairs to snuggle with Hubby.  Once I was alseep, he crept downstairs and took care of the "kids" all morning, and I slept until 11.  It was glorious.

Then, I went upstairs to get a bath, while lunch was in the oven, and I heard him talking to the "kids".  

"Chloe, it's ok baby girl.  Dexter, the living room is a Stonehenge of treats, clean some of this up, and stop playing with your older sister's toys".  So adorable, my heart hurt from all the love.  I can't wait to see what he is like if we ever have a baby.  World's Best Dad in the making, right there.

And then, after my bath was over, I came down to discover he had washed dishes while I was upstairs.  This man is a total ANGEL.  And I fall more and more in love with him each and every day.

As Maria and Captain von Trapp once sang "For here you are, standing there, loving me

Whether or not you should So somewhere in my youth or childhood I must have done something good."

Thank you Hubby, for being so good to me.  It made my day, as it does every day.

New Addition

Big news folks, we have a new addition.  That is right, our little family has a new puppy!

She is a long haired mini dachshund puppy that we have named Chloe Rand Harkleroad.  The Rand is after Ayn Rand, Hubby's favorite author.  Dexter's full name is Dexter Hayek Harkleroad, and the Hayek is after Hubby's favorite economist.  Are we nerds or what?

Dexter is thrilled to be a big brother, he just adores Chloe, and she loves him right back, as you can see in this video.

Life will be busy, and sleep deprived for a few weeks, but I am happy as a clam.

The biggest problem is my pet blog, The Tales of Dexter and Nora.  I am not sure whether to just change the name and keep the old URL, or to attempt setting up a new blog and importing the old.  I have no clue how to do that, and how to redirect my old followers to the new blog.

In either case, I need to think of a new name, and am considering hosting a contest to have someone name the blog.  What are your thoughts?  I really want the blog to reflect all 3 of our "kids".

Anyway, that is the big news, but I will be posting more about our other holiday celebrations soon!

Hugs to all!

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Christmas Eve traditions

I am Polish, and grew up in a very traditional Polish Catholic family, including my Grandmother, who lived across the street from us.  Gram was set on teaching the grandkids about our heritage, and we had several traditional holidays, but the biggest celebration was, by far, Christmas Eve.  It is a tradition we carry on to this day, and probably always will.

The traditional Polish Christmas Eve meal is called Wigilia.  We have a delicious menu of fish, never any meat, only fried fish and shrimp, pierogi, saurkraut with peas and mushrooms, buckwheat groats, macaroni and cheese (homemade), potato salad, pickled herring, stewed prunes, and various delicious desserts.

Before dinner can start, we break holy bread, which is called oplatek.

It is a wafer, much like communion bread, that has been blessed.  Each person takes a piece, and goes around to every other person wishing them 3 wishes, as they break off a piece of the person's bread and eat it.  Usually the wishes are for good luck, good health, and prosperity in the new year.

After that we take a small toast of home made Polish wine, say grace, and then, we dig in!

This year, we did dinner at my parents' home, as we always do.  It is a neat continuation of the original Wigilia tradition, as my parents now live in the house my grandmother lived in.  They have done a wonderful job of redecorating and making the house their home, but I can not help but get nostalgic for Gram on Christmas Eve.  She passed away several years ago, in her nineties, and I know she looks down on us and smiles at the fact that we continue the tradition.

Since last year, my sister and brother in law have built a beautiful new home on the property on which we all grew up, so this year, we went over to their house to exchange gifts.  My sister had the house decorated so cute for the holidays!

We all get gifts for the kids, but the adults do a gift exchange so we all just have one person to buy for.   We opened gifts in the basement/Steeler room, which had its own Christmas tree, all Steelers themed.

This year, I got my brother in law, and got him an awesome Steelers collage.

 Hubby had my dad, and got him a shirt and some Pens window decals.

My brother had me, and he got me a book, a cookbook, and an adorable dachshund calendar.

Mom had Hubby, and she got him lounge pants, a book, and Season 5 of It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia.

The kids got tons of gifts, and had a blast opening them all!

My mother, brother and sister all also have December birthdays, so they usually have birthday gifts to open as well.

All in all it was a wonderful day.  I am incredibly blessed.  I have a wonderful Hubby, and an awesome family.

I hope you all had a very Merry Christmas!