Bringing a Southern Christmas to the North...Carolina.

I'm so excited to be a part of this year's Christmas Tour of Homes!  I just recently started this blog and remember when my sister-in-law Rachel participated in this tour of homes last year and I thought it was so fun!  So as soon as I got mine up and running, I found the blog that was hosting and planned to participate this year.  But then, the date snuck up on me and this working lady had to fight I-40 traffic to run a couple errands at the mall and then go to the grocery store, followed by dinner/clean up, etc, so hopefully I'm not too late! :)

Christmas Tour of Homes with The Nester

Christmas is my FAVORITE time of year!  And in the short year and a half that Ryan and I have been married, he's already learned that I'm a sucker for Christmas stuff...especially Christmas stuff on sale! Even if it's the middle of July. :)  So he is constantly trying to put blinders on me and steer me clear of the Christmas displays, haha!  (I get it from my mother...) I love when Christmas songs come on the radio, I love walking around the mall when it's decorated, I love decorating, but mostly I love the time spent with family and friends treasuring the relationships and the reason for the season and the hope that we have in our Savior who was born!

Welcome to our apartment! I found this cute wreath at Belk for $40 last year, so I waited til after Christmas and bought it for $8!  Last year was our first married Christmas (but our 8th together!) and since we were in a pretty small apartment (and turns out we're still here!) and were going to be spending Christmas at home in Georgia, I decided to not go all out decorating and to just wait until decorations went on sale after Christmas.  So this year decorating was a little bit more fun! ;)  Now, come on inside...

Mr. Snowman on the wall was a find from this year when I was shopping for a baby shower.  He had a broken arm, so I got him for $4 and with a drop of super glue, he's all better!

Here's a view of the living room when you walk in the door.  I'm glad I'm posting these pics since a lot of our friends haven't made it to Durham yet and haven't seen where we live.

When Ryan and I were home for Thanksgiving, we picked a whole trash bag of holly and magnolia leaves from his parents house with the help of our nephew Samuel and niece Ellie Kate.

Here are a few things I did with the Holly and Magnolia leaves...

I put together this centerpiece for the coffee table with some cranberries around the outside, some of the holly in a vase in the middle and then...dun, dun, pottery barn candles that I spent a total of $10 on last year...for ALL of them.  The candles are sugar cookie scented and they make the whole room smell delicious - it's the first thing I smell when I walk in the door from work.  I love the holy family in the background of the above picture.

And this is the centerpiece I made for the breakfast table, although it's not a very good picture between the shadow and the fact that you can't see the bowl it's in.  I also did not have my table set with the Christmas dishes yet when I took this picture (and the magnolia leaves and holly aren't looking as fresh now for a retake).

Since we have no fireplace...therfore no mantle...we decorate our TV stand instead.  $100 to anyone who can find where we hang our stockings... :) I don't have a hundred bucks to give away, so I thought that would be a safe bet.  You won't find our stockings because I left them in Georgia over Thanksgiving to have them monogrammed.  Besides, I can't really figure out a good place to hang them.  So as you look through these pictures and see our apartment, let me know if you have any suggestions!

Here is where we display all of our Christmas cards, which I just love!  I love reading the updates on people's lives that I don't get to talk to and see nearly enough and the adorable pictures of everyone's ever-growing families!  I love the "JOY" nativity scene on the left - it was a wedding gift from the Cagles, some good friends of my family and Georgia's Lieutenant Governer.  They gave us a whole basket of ornaments for our tree too, which was one of my favorite wedding gifts!  I thought it was so creative for a summer wedding.

And here's a closer look at the Willow Tree Nativity on the right side of the table that I also just LOVE!  It was also a wedding gift from a sweet sweet family that I babysat for - Tricia was my Sunday School teacher in high school and her husband Jeff was our veterinarian.

And here is our tree!

Thanks to Ryan's parents who bought it for our first Christmas, it was one of our only decorations last year and the ornaments from the Cagles filled it up! One day when we have more room, I want to get a live tree - nothing smells better than a Christmas tree!  But we will always keep this tree and put it out somewhere since it is special to us and will always bring back so many sweet memories from our first married Christmas living in North Carolina.

 And here's the kitchen...

 A closer look...

And our Christmas dishes!!!  You have NO IDEA how much I love these...but oh, Ryan knows! Poor guy...  I registered for these dishes and got a couple of pieces surprisingly (with it being a summer wedding) and intended to just add pieces each year until I had completed the set.  So last year, I waited until they went WAY, WAY, WAY on sale after Christmas and bought whatever was left, random pieces here and there.  Well this year, I planned to do the same, until they started disappearing off the shelves.  So, it turns out they have been discontinued, so I have spent the last week searching high and low for anywhere with ANY remainging pieces (Lenox, Macys, Belk, even!) and have had to have dinner plates shipped from New Jersey and accent plates shipped from Atlanta and the bowls from somewhere else. It's been crazy trying to round up the whole set and I think Ryan would be happy to never look at the again at this point, but I FINALLY got all of the ones I needed to complete my set.  

And these are the plates I hope to use with kids one day!  I think these are just so cute!  This was another after Christmas find from last year.  Ryan and I went to Wilmington on the North Carolina coast a couple hours from here during the dead time between Christmas and New Years when I was still off work and he was out of school.  I found these in a little Christmas shop at the Cotton Exchange there and the lady gave the whole set to me for $10!  They had originally been $45.

This Jim Shore angel was given to us as a gift recently from Lisa Cook, my mom's best friend and a very special person in my life.  She brought it to us when she came to visit recently with her grandson, KJ, who was a ring-bearer in our wedding. It's hand-crafted from wood and I just love the brilliant colors of it with the nativity scene on the body.

It sits on the desk in the guest bedroom...

And lastly, also in our guest bedroom, is our beautiful Fontanini Nativity set that my Crossett babies - Ked, Luke & Marigrace - gave us as a wedding gift.  I was blessed to spend two of my college summers with these precious kids while helping their busy mom, my dear friend Ashley, with them when they were 3 years old (Ked) and 18 months old (Luke/MG are twins).  Crazy life for sure, but a FUN one! :)

This is not only a gorgeous nativity set made by the Fontanini family (family-owned business) from Italy, but it's also such a kid-friendly nativity set as all of the figurines are made of a rubbery-plastic material so they won't break if they're dropped or played with.  Leave it to Ashley (supermom) to think ahead like that, haha!

The Fontanini set is also really cool because you can pick from a variety of different mangers and can add pieces over the years - they have hundreds!  Wise men on camels or wise men on foot, different angels, donkeys, shepards, and on and on... Also, Baby Jesus is a separate piece from the manger he lays in, so one day with kids, I can leave the manger empty until Christmas day as an activity to teach that Christmas is celebrated because of Christ's birth in the manger.  

"Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men on whom His favor rests"... Luke 2:14

Goodnight y'all - hope you enjoyed the tour!


Let the Christmas Festivities begin...and some SEC football!

Oh how I love and miss these ladies!!!!

These are my best friends from my childhood days!  (Minus Jess - we completely forgot to take a picture until she had already left and it was too late).  And every year, this group gets together around Christmas-time for a Christmas party.  And without fail, we start early and stay late...til 1:30 AM this year.  We just have so much to talk about and so much good food...

...that the party goes on and on.  The boys come along too, so we have to put on some video games to entertain them while we chat the night away.  I don't think they seem to mind too much.

In fact, us girls were wrapping things up and starting to gather the dishes we had brought and it was the guys who had to have a "rematch" and play one more game on Call of Duty.

They cracked us up as they went from sitting to standing to creeping closer and closer to the TV screen.  They were pretty intense about their game!

The next day was the SEC Championship game, which was a heart-breaker.  I knew that between Bama barely pulling out a win the week before against unranked Auburn and having lost to Florida last year in the SEC Championship, that they would come out fighting and could beat us.  But I did NOT expect them to beat us by three TD's!  I think all the Gator fans were in for a surprise.

We got to our seats and were sitting with a group of junior Florida students who knew they were in the family section, so as soon as I sat down, the guy next to me asked if I was a family member of a player.  I told him that #45 TJ Pridemore was our (Jamie was sitting next to me) brother and the guy was like "are you serious?!?  Pridemore's the best player on the NCAA game" and told one of his buddies a couple seats down that "hey, this is Pridemore's family" and that guy too was like "are you serious, I always play with him on NCAA...he's the best!" :) 

I don't know anything about TJ on the NCAA game, but I think he's the best too!  And I miss that kid like crazy - he's too dang far away!  But, despite the loss, it was a great weekend because TJ's coach ended up letting him come home with us for the night as long as he made it back to Florida the next day.  I think Sadie missed him too.  It was so fun to just have him home for a night.  I'm pretty sure he was glad to be home too.  Amidst the stress of football and finals from the previous couple of weeks, he hardly wiped the smile from his face the entire time.  I think it was just good for him to get off campus for a little bit.

The last minute permission to come home did pose a problem Sunday morning for church though.  He came upstairs dressed in his team gear and had me convinced it was all he had to wear to church since he couldn't fit into any of dad's clothes!   It turns out he had his suit from traveling (the team has to wear suits on the plane), so he actually ended up wearing that, which was still funny because no one dresses in suits for our casual church.  It turns out TJ never learned how to tie a tie correctly though so he got a Sunday morning tutorial from Dad. Nice combo huh...tie with sweats. 

And in my opinion, it's time for a haircut.  His girlfriend says the same.  He has a mullet in mind though - last year a mohawk, this year a mullet...

One of the best parts about having TJ home was getting to spend some time with Jennica too.  That crazy girl is too much fun!

And now...on to this weekend.  Ryan texted me yesterday and told me he had a surprise for me.  Recently we talked about going to the Transiberian Orchestra, but tickets were kinda expensive.  So, he starts asking me last night what I think this surprise is, so knowing he loves to surprise me, I was hesitant to say that I thought it might be the Transiberian Orchestra (and kinda hoped it was) since I knew they were performing in our area sometime around mid-December.  Finally, he had to give in and tell me because I would have to "prepare for" this surprise. 

Transiberian Orchestra?  Nope.

We're going to Figure Eight Island he tells me.  Wait a second, I say, isn't that that exclusive gated island where celebrities go on vacation and houses are like $6,000 to rent for a week?  Yeah.  And we're going there?!?  How'd you pull that one?!?  So, someone he knows has one of those million dollar beach houses there that's not being used this weekend and offered for us to use it for the weekend...FOR FREE.  Imagine my disappointment when I found out we weren't going to the Transiberian Orchestra...

I really do have the best husband in the world.  :) And now I'm off to spend the weekend snuggled up with him, a book, some coffee, and the sound of waves crashing in the background.

Have a good one!


Lots to be thankful for

Well, here we are again with a lot to catch up on because a lot has happened in a short time and I have not been able to find the time to stop and fill you in on it.

Last I left you with (before Mr. Guest blogger took over my duties…thanks Ryan!!) was how excited I was about Laura coming to visit a couple weekends ago. And we had so much fun…all three of us! The highlight of the weekend was Ryan’s facial expression when he walked in the door from work on Friday afternoon to find Laura in her black t-shirt with Edward Cullen’s enormous pale face on the front. Yes, we were a little excited about seeing New Moon and definitely dragged Ryan to it with us (after making him sit through Twilight, slumber party style on Friday night in preparation for the big sequel debut) . Haha, poor guy! He just rolled his eyes when Jacob Black shed his shirt to wipe Bella’s blood off her face - the part where all the middle school aged girls in the theater squealed.

We tried to visit the Duke Chapel but apparently, it’s just not meant to be for Laura to see it on the inside. Of two Durham trips and three attempts, it has been closed to the public for weddings every time we have tried to go.

In that case, we'll just find something else to get into....

Like...playing with Ryan's helmet and doing a reenactment of some eye-gouging!  Little known fact about that.  Brandon Spikes got in a lot of trouble with a lot of unwanted national attention for it during the Georgia/Florida game.  However, Georgia's players (Richt's angels) were doing a good bit of it themselves. In fact, #90 (so as not to name any names) squeezed in a little eye-gouging between plays himself and he happened to pick Florida #45's cornea to scratch (that would be TJ).  That'll make a big sis (and mom...) mad.  I feel better now though because I was informed that #90 was just suspended indefinitely from the team for his 3rd offense recently...that had something to do with beating up his girlfriend or something like that.  So there ya go, justice served.  :)

It was sad to see Laura leave on Monday morning, but the fact that we had a short workweek and would be heading home for Thanksgiving at home with Ryan’s family a short three days later was a slight redeeming factor.

And did it feel good to be home or what? As soon as we got off the Hamilton Mill exit (after 7 hours in the car with crazy traffic), we stopped at the Kroger to get a couple “baking” essentials for the next day and saw our good friend Joseph as soon as we walked in. By the time we grabbed the two things we were after and checked out, we had run into three people we knew. Oh did it feel good to be home! 

Rachel and Jeff let the kids stay up until we got there and it was so fun to walk in the door to be welcomed by their squeals and them running  full speed (Abigail toddling) into our arms for bear hugs . They are just PRECIOUS.

And I can't wait to see this guy be a daddy one day.  As great of an uncle as he is, I know he'll be an amazing one!

We did lots of baking starting the night before Thanksgiving.  Samuel and Ellie Kate were my helpers - they were especially helpful when it was time to clean the beaters!

Chef Samuel ready to whip up something delicious!

I got to read bed-time stories and brush teeth and scratch the backs of these little ones at bed time, but I think my favorite is getting to snuggle with this little sleepy munchkin while she twirls her hair and wakes up from a nap.  I think her "wake-up" period is the only time she's ever still and snuggly. :)

There's never a dull moment with these cute kids!

And Ellie Kate just loved the "duke may-un".  She'd find this bag in the pantry and carry it around saying, "look it's the duke may-un" in her sweet little southern belle accent. We didn't tell her he was a "devil". ;)

Thanksgiving is never complete without a good football game...

And the Auburn/Alabama game is a big one for this side of the family, so there was definitely some tension as we watched that nail-biter of a game.

Ellie Kate and Ryan celebrated big after a BAMA touchdown because the Tide almost gave us a scare!

That tension I mentioned caused my brother-in-law Jeff to gradually inch closer and closer to the TV as the game came down to the very last second.  There may or may not have been some shouting at the tv going on as well...but I'll let the picture do the talking. ;)

But then she decided to join in with her daddy yelling "Rollllll Tide!"

We had a great Thanksgiving with Ryan's family and enjoyed spending time with everyone and playing with the kids.  I'm so blessed to have married into such a wonderful family!

We left Buford late Friday night to make it to Durham for the final Duke game of the season. My parents and Jamie came down from spending Thanksgiving in West Virginia with my dad’s family up there and my uncle/aunt/cousin Kirk, Debbie, and Logan came down too…and brought us leftovers from the WV feast! Kristy/TJ & Kelli/Aaron, want you to rest assured that they also filled us in on the inside jokes/facebook wall posts of WVTgivingY209. Jamie kept her crusty crusts to’ up with chapstick and we heard lots of “oh noooo, did I do thay-at” (Geiko pot hole commercial) from mom and Deb. And I’m sorry I missed out on meeting the new relatives, TJ (Green), but I want you to know that I’m just so proud to be Eli and Caedmon’s aunt. LOL. Missed you guys!

Me and my football player!

Matt and Kirk are two goofballs when you put those two together and I could not get ONE smiling picture of them without them picking on each other. Boys…

Matt with Kirk, Debbie, and Logan - it was SOO good to see y'all!

It seems like our sibling pictures are always missing one person.  We missed you Teej!

The next week, I hosted a baby shower for my dear friend Jodi Bailey from our small group. Can’t express how much I am THANKFUL (so fitting for this week of thanks) to have these sweet friends in Durham. Baby Bailey (it’s a boy!) is due on Christmas Eve. Can’t wait to meet him.

Ok, that’s a good stopping point. I’ll give the update and pictures from this weekend at home (Christmas party with friends and SEC Championship game) in the next few days. If you’ve made it through all of the above, I’m pretty impressed. I’ve really got to start writing posts more often so I don’t always have to play “catch-up”!

Oh and Sadie said to tell everyone to stay's getting cold out there!