Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Greenville Christmas 2011

Ok, so I didn't quite make my goal of finishing the Christmas posts before our weekend in Little Cayman, but I'm not too far off! We've been super busy since returning to island on January 3rd. I've started volunteering as the nursery director at our church which involves scheduling our once-a-month volunteers and organizing the curriculum. Brent and I have continued volunteering with the "adopt-a-school" outreach at George Town Primary. We both really enjoy spending time with those kiddos one night a week, and I'm always amazed that they remember our names and rush to hug us each visit. In addition, business has been booming for KruBooks - I received 11 album orders in the first 11 days of the year! All of this made me very excited for a relaxing long weekend in Little Cayman. And it really was everything I hoped for and more. But I'll save that post for another time...first, our Christmas in Greenville, SC!

Christmas Eve

We arrived in Greenville late on December 23rd, so our first full day was Christmas Eve. We spent most of the day at Lorren and Cole's house. Cole made an amazing fried turkey for dinner. I'm glad we got to spend some time with the Varner four before they become the Varner FIVE!

Trying out Christmas presents after the kids go to bed :)

Christmas Day

We woke up early on Christmas morning so we could be at the Varners before the girls woke up. I love being with kids on Christmas morning...it brings back such great memories. The thrill of coming downstairs and seeing all the presents around the tree, the tradition of reading the Christmas story together, the anticipation as you pass out presents to your siblings. I can't believe I'm now one of the adults sitting back with my mug and smiling serenely at the whole scene. When did I get so grown up?

We headed back to Brent's parents' house in the afternoon and met up with the Turners there. More presents, of course!

After opening presents, we took a little walk around the neighborhood. We stayed in our pajamas and pulled coats on top. I've never done a "Christmas walk" before, but it was a really nice to get out of the house a bit and enjoy some fresh air. A perfect segue between presents and dinner.

Note the guys all wearing their new Bojangles camouflage hats. If that's not southern, I don't know what is.

Movie Night

Another favorite from this trip was the night we stayed in, made popcorn and snuggled up for some family movie time.

The kids weren't the only ones captivated by Rio...

Downtown Greenville

We enjoyed very mild winter weather in both Cincinnati and Greenville. No snow this year! One afternoon we took a walk in the park downtown. The scene was so perfect, we couldn't pass up the chance for some impromptu family pictures.

Who Dey

The Bengals were trying to claim their spot in the playoffs the Sunday before we left. Brent's family was so nice to join us as we cheered on our team. They even wore orange and black! Now that's love :)

Loosing the game was a little less sad when surrounded by family. And thanks to some other teams loosing, we still made it to the playoffs (but only the first round...oh well, there's always next year!).

All and all, it was a wonderful visit to the States. It was our longest trip yet, which allowed me to fully enjoy our time there, but also made me more ready to return to Grand Cayman and get back to "regular life." Really, how can you be sad flying back to a view like this?

Monday, January 16, 2012

Cincinnati Christmas 2011

"I'll be home for Christmas, you can count on me."

This was our longest trip to the States since we moved to Grand Cayman, about 3 weeks total. It was such a nice change. I didn't feel like I was rushing or constantly counting down the days. We got to fit in more visits with friends, and still had plenty of time for family and holiday merriment. The first half of our time in Cincinnati was packed with wedding anticipation, but we got to squeeze in some other fun as well...

Putting up the tree

The day after we flew in, my parents invited the whole family over to have a tree decorating party. It was fun decorating a real live tree again, especially with the ornaments I remember so fondly from my Christmas past.

Love birds

Steak 'n Shake

Don't ask me why, but I have a very soft spot in my heart for Steak 'n Shake. Brent and I used to frequent the Westwood location on a regular basis, and I've really missed the place these last 14 months (hard to believe with all the good eating we do in Grand Cayman, but it's true!). So Brent and I were happy to take Jack and Noah for their first visit. Yay for seasonal shake flavors (eggnog for the Swartzentrubers and peppermint chip for the Kruithofs)!

Jack really didn't want to put on this hat, but we bribed him with a cookie. Totally worth it.

Festival of Lights

I haven't gone to Cincinnati Zoo's Festival of Lights since I was a kid, so I was thrilled when Amy and Zach asked if we wanted to go. It was a treat to spend some two-on-two time with the soon-to-be newlyweds. The lights were wonderful - I tried to follow my map to get to every single one of those exhibits. Plus we got to see the polar bears, elephants, and giraffes (Brent's favorite). It was a blast; I hope it becomes a new tradition.

Swan Lake, my favorite!

Deck the Halls

Even with the wedding, my mom did a great job making the home feel festive and cozy.

View from front porch, vintage ornaments on the mantle

We had the annual Bongey Christmas party a couple days after the wedding. And though I didn't take many pictures, I had to share this one of the chocolate covered cherry mice Anna made. Aren't they wonderful?

Closing off with a couple random pictures of our oldest nephew, Jack. He's at such a fun age. We really enjoyed doing another slumber party with him this visit. I was amazed that he remembered I had a different colored toothbrush last time we were home. Brent taught him the joys of a slinky and made up an awesome bedtime story involving three reindeer named Brenty, Kiki, and Jack.

I'd have to say that he's the world's best (and most handsome) uncle. Next up...more uncle and aunt time with those Greenville kiddos!

Friday, January 13, 2012

Amy and Zach's Wedding

Part One of who-knows-how-many "Trip to the States" posts. My goal was to have all these pictures edited and up before our trip to Little Cayman in a week. But considering the amount of pictures and free time I have, that's pretty much wishful thinking!

First up, Amy's wedding! We got to Ohio on December 10th, and had almost a whole week before the wedding to catch up with family and friends. Some of those pictures will show up in the next post, but first here's a breakdown of the wedding fun.

Bachelorette Night

The wedding festivities officially began Thursday night with the bachelor/bachelorette parties. The girls went downtown to get drink and appetizers at Palomino's.

Then we went back to Amy's apartment for some more snacks and treats. Sarah made these beautiful cupcakes and goodie bags.

Pedicures and facials...I love girl time!

Day Before Wedding

A group of us gathered at the reception place on Friday morning to help set up some decorations.

All hands on deck

There's always time to get a quick posed picture!

After setting up, we went straight to the church for the rehearsal, then headed to Dewey's for dinner.

The Wedding

Here's the beautiful bride! I'm so proud to be her sister!

The bridesmaids

I don't have any pictures of the ceremony, but it was truly beautiful. I can't wait to see the photographer's pictures! The reception was super fun. Amy and Zach had stations with different favorite foods - specialty pizzas, burgers, soups and salads. They played up the Christmas vibe with "Amy" and "Zach" stockings by the fire, mistletoe, a beautiful tree and sleigh. My favorite was the festive beverage bar with eggnog, hot chocolate, and holiday-flavored coffees.

Sarah and Jack, world's best ring bearer

I love the reflection of the head table in this next shot

Watching the first dance

Husband and wife

All partied out :)

Ah, I will forever have such good memories of this day. Amy looked gorgeous - perfect dress, hair, and make-up. And Zach was a very happy groom. Congratulations to the beautiful newlyweds. We love you guys!