A Very Christmasy Blog Post

(If you make it to the end you get some holiday home tour pics.)

Growing up in our house, the holidays were a pretty big thing. My mom is a teacher so when Fred & I were on winter break, she was home with us, too. Back in my day (๐Ÿ˜) we didn’t decorate for Christmas before Turkey Day. Honestly, I don’t know how my mom fit all our Christmas fun into one month.

One evening in December we’d crawl into Dad’s truck and he’d take us to Fox’s Nursery to pick out a Christmas tree. Of course, once the tree was home you had to let it sit outside and “relax” the branches. A G O N Y for a child who wants to decorate it right. now. After a day or two Mom and Dad would wrestle the beast of a tree (always 7ft or taller) into the house and up to the living room. #yaysplitlevelhouses Then we’d decorate while sipping on eggnog.

For as long as I can remember, Mom has always made cutout cookies. She’d make the dough, refrigerate it (giving Fred and me about 24 to 48 hours to snack on it in the fridge when she wasn’t looking), and then we’d roll it out and punch out candy canes and trees and Santa sleighs. She’d get about an hour of decorating out of us before we got bored, swiped the 4 cookies we’d made, and disappeared to play while she finished up. To this day her cookies always look 5xs better than mine. I did not get the decorating genes.

Christmas Eve is my favorite, though. We’d always have a new outfit for the evening church service. We attended church with my grandparents and uncles and aunts so our pew was packed. At the end of a soft and cozy service, the lights would dim and we’d light our once-a-year personal candles and sing Silent Night. As an adult, my emotions sneak up on me and I cry during this part of the service. After church we’d shiver all the way back to the car and head to my grandparents’ house for sandwiches and punch and shrimp cocktail. My dad’s and uncle’s friends and their families used to come over, too. Then it was home to set out milk, cookies, and carrots, and off to bed.

When I was young & my grandparents lived in Chicago they’d travel to us on Christmas. (Some years we went there, but my memory is fuzzy on those years. They’ve since moved here.) My aunt and uncle from St. Louis would also come stay with us. That meant Audrey got displaced and tossed into Fred’s room since he had bunk beds. (I didn’t mind.) On December 25th around 4:30 or 5 am, Fred and I would creep to the top of the stairs and look down on the tree to see what Santa brought. (We were not allowed to go downstairs without the rest of the family.) We’d slip back to Fred’s room and lay in our bunks discussing what we saw. Mom’s rule was “sleep until (at least) 6am” so obviously at 5:55 were jumping on their bed and shoving their bathrobes in their faces. When we finally got them to the top of the stairs (6:08 am UGHHH) the morning was officially on and Christmas had begun!

The holiday has changed significantly, but these are my favorite memories from my childhood. Toss in shoveling the looong driveway we had and sledding on my grandparents’ big hill and Rascal bringing the Christmas tree down multiple times throughout the years. One year, the day after Christmas, we had to say goodbye to our family dog Bruno. Another year, also the day after Christmas, I totaled my car and spent the evening at the hospital. Not all my memories are happy, but the good outweigh the bad and my parents always figured out ways to keep the season cheery and festive.

For whatever reason, I just wanted to remember and share some of my favorite traditions of the season. And now, if you’re still here, enjoy some pics from the new house!

Why is this picture so terrible & blurry? I have no clue.

This is my “library” area, plus some dogs stuff and minus quite a few books (that are still packed up). We’re still needing to hang artwork and photos on the wall, too.

Happy Holidays, my friends! Enjoy the memories being made!

Linking up with Alexandra and Shea today!!

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To My Friends & Family

I am head-over-heels in love with this season. I enjoy dreary weather, I like the cold, and I live for the last three months of every year. I know there are plenty of people like me out there, but I also know there are not.

In addition to the daily chaos and hardships of life, the holidays add stress for people. Moms and dads feel pressure to make their homes magical for their kids. Bloggers see pictures of other bloggers’ decorated trees and hearths and homes. Instagram is filled with tightly wrapped presents and perfectly decorate cookies. I saw Bad Moms Christmas in theaters a few weeks ago and the premise- people (moms) are under a ton of stress to make the holidays perfect- is so true. Hell, people are under stress 365 days a year to make their lives (seem) perfect!

Right now I feel like a lot of my friends- real life and in the blog world- are fighting their way through tough ass seasons. Unfortunate health diagnoses or slow healing-injuries, parents pulling their hair out over rebellious toddlers or cranky babies, sick pets and struggling friendships or relationships and turmoil within the family… Everyone is going through something and it hurts my heart to see my loved ones plagued with these struggles.

I struggle with that fact that some people just aren’t happy. We only get one life to live and the idea of mucking our way through in a state of constant unhappiness makes me so upset. No one can be sunshine and rainbows all the time, but in general I want people to be joyful. I’m one of those people who feels like the weight of everyone’s happiness falls on my shoulders and, while I know that’s untrue and unhealthy, it affects me deeply when my friends are down and out.

I can’t control you or your life or the things that happen to you, but I do know that what you’re going through is a season and seasons pass. The Christmas season is a wonderful one for me, but it won’t stick around forever. The next season will be better or worse and have it’s own arsenal of curveballs, but it will arrive and I will deal with it and, eventually, it will pass. And with every season we learn something new.

So, my friends, don’t fret. This season will pass. Whether you wait it out or turn the page yourself, you will come out on the other side and things will be different. Perfect? No. But it’ll be different and you can look back (or not look back), and be grateful for where you are now. Love yourself and give yourself grace along the way. Practice kindness and accept help from others. I guarantee you are loved by someone (possibly me!) and that person is rooting for you- whether you know it or not.

If you’re reading this and you’re a close friend and you feel like you’re struggling, I hope you’ll reach out. I know the holidays can get dark and overwhelming but I promise I’m always free for a phone call or text exchange or mailed Christmas greeting. There’s always room around our holiday table and I definitely don’t mind a dinner date with a friendย โค๏ธŽ

Try not to spend the holidays (or your life) faking a smile- find a way to crack a genuine one. You don’t have to have a perfect tree or a perfect home or a perfect Instagram. You’re loved just the way you are and you’re doing a great job. Life is difficult and you’re doing it- be proud of yourself.

Throwing a Party with +50 Guests

I was terrible about snapping pictures at Kyle’s 30th birthday party, but if you followed along on Snapchat you may have seen a few quick moments from the event. A few weeks ago I threw K a party and invited over 75 people. Roughly 50 to 60 showed up.

Only after I counted all the “yes” RSVPs did I realize that this party was going to be the size of a small wedding reception. (Whoops. ) I’m no stranger to throwing large parties, but it’s still a pretty daunting task. Just in case you were wondering, here’s how I did it and here’s how it went!

I made a Facebook event about 4-5 weeks in advance. While I love paper invites and prefer them 100xs over any kind of e-vite, FB was the way to cut costs and get the word out quickly.

We had the party in the company warehouse. Thank God for K’s employees Jake, Jordan, and K’s dad Jeff*. Together the five of us cleaned, rearranged, and set up the open space on Friday before the party. (It’s our slow-ish season so we were able to take a day and deep clean/set up.)

(* We only hire people with J names obviously, lol.)

This is how the warehouse typically looks. We cleaned and put everything in its place.

I sure wish I had an “after” photo. *facepalm* Anyway, we converted two of the workbenches into a salsa and taco bar and then set up another mobile workbench with the cakes (one decorated vanilla on vanilla and one yellow with chocolate frosting) and drinks (margaritas, beer, water).

We trailer-ed in three picnic tables and two long folding tables from my parents house for dining. We borrowed two sets of cornhole boards from my aunt and uncle, we borrowed a large backyard Jenga set from friends, and we set out Blockus, Twister, and domino men for the kids to play with. (Turns out the 2 to 4 year olds loved the domino men, I ended up playing Blockus at 12:45am, and no one touched Twister.)

We have a 20′ x 20′ tile carpet area that we use in the booth at trade shows so we broke it out for a seating area complete with couches, chairs, a TV and Wii system, and the little kids area. My brother-in-law also brought his Nintendo Switch for the teens/adults to use. And we definitely did.

I’m getting a little bit better about asking for help/delegating. My mother-in-law brought the margaritas and some queso dip. (Thank you!) My grandma and my mom made some cookies. (Thank you!) And K’s aunt, dad, and mom were on call when I needed anything. (Thank you!) The party would not have gone so smoothly without them.

I made a “baby chalkboard” for Kyle, I bought “3-0” balloons, and I hung a happy birthday banner for the event. Other than some table cloths and fabric to cover the warehouse mess, there wasn’t much decorating.

I made 20lbs. of beef, chopped 14 onions & 15 tomatoes, and bought 180 tacos (100 soft, 80 hard), four large bags of cheese, and 10 small bags of shredded lettuce. Also, I got 3 large jars of salsa, some store-bought guac, and 6 bags of tortilla chips. To be honest, we had WAY too much onion and tomato, but I only had 1/4 of the beef left over which impressed me. I could’ve cut the cheese and lettuce inventory in half, but who knew. I provided taco lunches for the warehouse guys in the days following the party.

All that remained of the party on Monday…

Our party started at 4pm and we had a steady flow of people all night. Some even left (and dropped off a kid or spouse) and came back. We invited family and friends and friends of the family, ha. Overall, we had a fantastic time ๐Ÿ™‚ Our last guests left around 1:30am. I was so exhausted.

Seeing all our friends and family was fun, although I think I will request a vacation for my 30th birthday ๐Ÿ˜‰ What are some fun things you’ve done for “monumental” birthdays?

On the Road Again (w/ A Grateful Heart)

Last Monday was my birthday & I was bombarded with 15 texts, two phone calls, +60 Facebook posts, and a ton of blog comments & snaps & tweets wishing me a happy day/week/year โค๏ธŽ I am so grateful for my community & tribe & environment.

Today we’re home from 4 days at the beach. We started the trip with a visit to the Circleville Pumpkin Festival in southern Ohio with my brother & sister-in-law. Then K and I hung out in Myrtle Beach for a while. And last night we got to reunite with our fur kids. It was another fantastic weekend.

Since I’m quite tired and keeping this short, I figured I’d drop a few links to my Twitter, Instagram, & SnapChat since I haven’t done that in a while. If you don’t follow me there you shouldย  ๐Ÿ˜€

Tweet Me on Twitter!
Follow along on Instagram!
Check out my snap story as audie_lou

Have a great Monday!

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A Grateful Heart with Ember Grey

 

Freddie Gets Married

I never talked much about my baby brother’s wedding so I figured I’d share a little bit today. Mostly it’s a photo dump with all untagged photos taken by Kylie Noelle Photography.

Fred & Christina got married on Saturday, July 23rd in Columbus, Ohio. They had a pretty large wedding party (8 and 8) but that made the set up and tear down a little easier. I’m sure it was different for other people, but I knew most of the groomsmen through Fred and I’d met all the bridesmaids during a shower or shopping trip, so the whole weekend was awesome. It’s way more enjoyable when you know the wedding group you’re a part of!

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*First Look* Christina’s girls included her two cousins, her sister, four of her closest friends, and me
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My handsome brother in the middle with the bow tie & my smokin’ hot husband to the left of him.

On Friday night all but one bridesmaid stayed at the hotel with Christina while the men crashed at Fred’s apartment. Our morning was laid back and included breakfast and primping. The music at the church didn’t start until 4:15pm so we had plenty of time to get (more) beautiful and excited!

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Christina is a fashion guru & she didn’t miss a single detail. We all picked out our own dresses and shoes but it came together perfectly under her direction & guidance. As avid F. Scott Fitzgerald fans and lovers of the Art Deco movement, Fred and Christina steered the style in a direction Daisy Buchanan herself would envy.

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The ceremony was spiritual and personal- a perfect balance that mirrors my brother & his wife’s relationship with one another and God. Apparently my family took bets as to if when I’d pass out in my heels. I’m happy to report I made it through the ceremony & out to the receiving line before I had to peel my shoes off. K was a sweaty mess in his heavy, burgundy tux… but damn he looked good ๐Ÿ˜‰

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As much as I love a good wedding ceremony, I’m alllll about that party reception! A few weeks before the wedding Fred asked if I’d give a toast. I don’t shy away from public speaking and I am so proud of my little brother so I accepted and spent days perfecting and practicing.

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My favorite picture from the whole day!

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The reception was at a theatre/ballroom, originally built in 1896. (The Columbus Athenaeum.) It was pretty awesome. The head table was on the stage and then was taken down to allow for a large dance floor. Since my best friend lives in Columbus I told her to pull on a dress and crash the wedding. There are no pictures, but she showed up after the meal and danced all night with me, then came out with us!

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Not so flattering for me, but I love that this pic has my four cousins in it.

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The party ended for most of the guests after the gorgeous sparkler exit… except my crazy parents and their friends and my in-laws; they took the party back to their hotel bar lobby with R. Kelly. And since we can’t turn down an invite from my dad we ended up at the hotel bar and then a late night taco restaurant. We finally hit the sack at 3:30am. (And then I drove Fred & Christina to the airport at 6am. WOOF.)

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So there’s the recap of our crazy, fun, tiring, sleepless weekend at my brother & sister (in-law)’s wedding. Of course there are millions of little stories and funny moments from the day, but it’d take months to blog all that. Suffice it to say, if Fred & Christina’s wedding is any indication of their marriage it’s going to be long, fun, full of love, and total unpredictable. But only the best things are ๐Ÿ™‚

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*Like I said, kudos to Kylie Noelle and her gorgeous photography skills!!

My People

First of all, thank you to everyone who commented on and shared Wednesday’s post. You all totally reinforced my point about the blogging community. I honestly believe every single one of you is great and I’m so happy to know/”know” you! โค๏ธŽ

Onward with the good vibes (and Chelsea‘s Tell Me Something Good link-up)!

Last weekend K and I attended his cousin’s wedding. His entire paternal family came from Texas, Tennessee, and parts of Ohio to celebrate the bride. I also knew the groom’s family because his sister and I were really close in grade school. He was also friends with my brother. Plus we all went to the same church. #SmallTownVibes. Needless to say, I knew a lot of people at the wedding.

There was one point during the reception when I was off to the side, standing between K and his sister. On either side of them were my in-laws, as well as K’s brother (and maybe his wife? I can’t remember). For whatever reason, in that exact moment, as the group of us stood there watching the party around us, I became aware of how ridiculously fortunate I am to call those people my people. I felt so special to casually stand among them- like there was never a time that I didn’t fit into that group.

*I wanted to insert a ridiculously adorable throwback photo K’s family here, but I didn’t know if they’d be ok with that. Just trust me on this one- it’s an adorable picture!*

I enjoy weddings. They give my an excuse to drink a lot bit and dance. I get to see friends and family that I don’t normally see. And more than anything else, I love watching two people exchange vows while I sit next to the guy that I promised to love +3 years ago. Additionally, sometimes a wedding joins two families. I know that’s not always the case- it depends on the family dynamic- but that was the effect of our wedding. I honestly don’t believe there’s anything that my mother- or father-in-law wouldn’t do for me. I love splitting a glass of wine with all my siblings-in-laws. My heart flips inside my chest when I see my dad and K hanging out. I loved that Fred & Christina asked both K and me to be a part of their wedding party. I honestly try very hard not to take for granted the family that I was born into and the family that I was blessed with through marriage. I know I’m lucky.

And standing among that tribe at the reception with K and his my family just made me feel it 10xs over. Whether it’s friends or family, I hope everyone has a group like that. Remember to be grateful for them.

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Tell Me Something Good Friday!

Currently…

I always feel like I’m out of touch (in Blogland) when it comes to link-ups. I keep a calendar for my blog but I always forget to note the link-ups that go along with popular prompts… (If you can think of any offhand feel free to mention them in the comments! Thanks to Kristen’s reminder I did remember to link up with her & Gretchen.)

Currently

Since my last “currently” post was in April I figured I’m due for an update! (The photos are some favorite random pictures from my phone.)

Reading… Death Wears a Mask by Ashley Weaver. I’m also working on The Royal We. (Is anyone else shocked by how thick that book is??)

Listing to… The Harry Potter soundtracks. K makes fun of me, but I love sitting and listening to the music from the movies. Order of the Phoenix is my favorite.

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a pic with my new sister-in-law hours before she became my new sister-in-law

Eating… Prepped carrot and celery sticks. When I got home from the store this week I actually prepped some snack food right away! Also, I made this recipe Monday night. It’s a little different, but perfect for my sick hubby.

Drinking… Lots of water. But also coffee ๐Ÿ˜‰

Loving… Our Fur Babes. Ever since their mini-escape I’ve been much more vigilant. Also, posts from incredible organizations like this one make me hug my babies tighter and long to comfort other pups who’ve had a rough life.

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Planning… A Pure Romance Party. I’m not usually one to host these retail parties, but the brand rep is so funny and sweet- I think all my guests will get a kick out of her! Plus, PR has some really good smelling lotions and shower scrubs!

Feeling… So Tired. After vacations and weddings and overtime I just can’t find any energy. K is sick this week and the dogs are extra cuddly and there are a lot of dishes and clothes going unwashed right now. Whew.

Watching… The Newsroom. We’re on an Aaron Sorkin-spree right now. We finished The West Wing last month and we’re already in season two of The Newsroom. This is also detrimental to clean dishes and clothes…

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Wanting… Some nice, cool weather for the two 5Ks I’m in this weekend. (That makes me sound athletic… I’m actually just walking in both of them.)

Avoiding… The weeds in my driveway. Um… how is ALL MY GRASS DEAD but the weeds are thriving?! I need to set aside a few hours and rip them all out but I really, really don’t want to.

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I look ROUGH but Mom & I painted these tails for Reading Week at her school and we needed a picture of it…

Hating… Politics. Violence. Hate. D) All the above.

Missing… College. My oldest little cousin ships off to school this month and it’s making me all nostalgic for 3am coffee, quick ramon noddle lunches, and Panera or Sheetz dinners on the apartment floor with all my closest friends and roommates. *sigh*

Anticipating… My Volunteer Interview. Next week I have an interview with an animal rehabilitation/trail & parks center. I’m sure the interview is a formality, but I’m so nervous and excited!

Creating… A New Event on Facebook! October is less than two months away and Halloween is in October so you know what that means… OUR ANNUAL HALLOWEEN PARTY. I’m not kidding- I created the event and invited people on FB yesterday. I wish my blog friends could come!

Dreaming about… A Getaway. K and I just went on vacation with my parents last month, but I keep dreaming about clear beaches and white sand and a fruity cocktail. I feel like that might re-energize me. Hehe ๐Ÿ˜‰

And that about sums it up. What are you currently up to?

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