Friday, December 28, 2012

The Night Before Christmas

On Christmas Eve, Caitlin and I had a few friends over for dinner. Yvonne, from Rwanda, and Karin, from Cameroon. Neither of them were able to go home for the holidays, so we had them to our home. It was so much fun talking to them about unique Christmas traditions they have, and getting to spend time with our great friends. 

After dinner, we went to Midnight Mass at the Catholic cathedral in Brattleboro. It was a beautiful service, although unlike services we are used to. We were so tired afterward, and didn't get home until after 1:30 a.m. - but it was totally worth it.

A Christmas tradition we have is to give pajamas on Christmas eve, so we opened up our gifts we picked out for each other and wore our new pajamas to bed - that way when we got up in the morning, we looked nice. :) Although I hardly ever wake up looking nice - more like I got hit in the face with an iron. Actually, getting hit in the face with an iron only came to my mind because we also watched Home Alone on Christmas Eve, and I for sure do not look like those robbers when I wake up in the morning. 

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Les Miserables

Caitlin and I went and saw Les Miserables on Christmas day - and we were less than thrilled with the movie. It was beautifully done, and the music was amazing - but it was a bit more raunchy than we had anticipated. Granted, we knew that Fantine was a prostitute, but we found the way they portrayed her situation, and other scenes in the movie to be a bit distasteful. We for sure would not buy the movie - although the soundtrack would be nice to have. There were also quite a few close up singing scenes where all you could see was the characters face. Although it looked nice for one scene - it was difficult to sit through 2.5 hours of close ups and no action.

I did love the make-up and how visually stunning the movie was, and I really loved (and kind of hated) how the characters teeth were disgusting and such. Made it seem more authentic. And although Russell Crow isn't the best singer, and Javert is my favorite character so it was a little difficult to overlook - I did enjoy his acting choices, and thought he did a great job. Overall I think I would give the movie a B - could've been an A if there hadn't been the overly graphic scenes at the beginning.

Christmas Card

We didn't have a lot of time to send out Christmas cards (nor a lot of spare change for printing and stamps) so I figured that I would post our card online for you all to check out. 

I saw a cool design on Pinterest and decided to recreate it for our card - and this is how it turned out. 

And here is the picture that goes with it. Merry Christmas! Love, the Graves Family

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Red & Green

We tried to do a lot of fun things this Christmas season, but since it was also a season of finals for me... we weren't able to accomplish all the things we wanted to. But even though we didn't do everything on our Christmas list, we did do quite a few things - so here are a few pictures of some of the fun things we did. 

We baked sugar cookies and frosted them with red and green frosting. We were going to deliver some of them to friends/neighbors, but we never got that far. We did, however, eat so many of them that we gained 15 pounds and felt sick for hours and hours. 

We decided to use a copycat recipe for those really good sugar cookies with the sprinkles at every single grocery store. The recipe was perfect, which made these babies even more irresistible.

We also had a "red & green" dinner, where we only ate red and green things. We had fajitas with red and green peppers, red meat (some steak strips), red onion, all wrapped in a green spinach tortilla. We had green guacamole, red and green M&M's and strawberry milk as a beverage. 

It was actually a pretty good meal, although we probably will skip out on the M&M's and strawberry milk next time.

Lastly, we built a fireplace in our living room. It gets pretty cold in our house, so we figured building a fireplace would help keep us warm. It for sure worked. Our fire never goes out, and there is hardly any need to chop firewood. :)

It was the perfect place to hang our stockings, and even though it was fake, it made our house feel more like Christmas. 

These are just a few of the Christmas things we did during December. We keep forgetting our camera everywhere we go, and nobody really wants to read a blog full of text sans pictures. 

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Gingerbread Architects

This past week, we became both architects and construction workers as we designed and built an amazing gingerbread house with some SIT friends. We used Fluff and frosting as our glue - and our first attempts didn't go so well... we actually had planned on making one giant house, but settled on 3 miniature houses when ours didn't turn out so nicely. 

And after a little while, we abandoned any tools that we were using, and just started smearing Fluff and frosting on with our fingers instead. 

In the end, our houses were beautiful though. Here are a few of the creations. 
Catherine, Krysta and Nicole showing off their beauties. 

Our masterpiece after we finished. We had a chocolate chip roof on one house, a graham cracker shingled roof on another, and reeces pieces roof on the last one. Beautiful footpaths and decorative foliage in front of the homes. Basically it was amazing. We never knew we were so talented at making houses!

Here's the whole gang with our completed houses

Even though our houses were great - we didn't win the competition we had going with our friends. Nicole and her campsite won - although I'm pretty sure she bribed the judges. :)

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

O Come, Emmanuel

Doesn't this song and video get you into the Christmas spirit? What a blessing it is to have wonderful music and talented individuals that produce things like this. Push play and enjoy a little piece of Christmas.

Monday, December 3, 2012

25 Days of Christmas

Both Caitlin and I love December. We love holiday music and Christmas festivities, and everything else that comes with December (except the cold - we're not fans of freezing).

This year will be our first Christmas married, and our first Christmas on the east coast. So we decided we should make a countdown of fun Christmas things to do for the month of December. It's already the 3rd and I've missed some days, but I'm hoping that I'll be diligent and blog about the majority of our fun activities.

Here is the list:
  1. Visit Rockefeller Center
  2. Watch the LDS Christmas broadcast
  3. Watch Rudolph on TV
  4. Make Christmas ornaments
  5. Build a fireplace
  6. Wrap and mail family Christmas presents
  7. Start the Forgotten Carols
  8. Mail out our Christmas cards
  9. Read Christmas stories by our fireplace
  10. Make snowflakes and decorate with them
  11. Make gingerbread houses
  12. Get Christmas coloring books and color
  13. Go to Yankee Candle
  14. Make wreaths
  15. Make Christmas goodies and deliver them
  16. Drive and see lights (Bright Nights at Forest Park)
  17. Watch the Grinch on TV
  18. Go caroling
  19. Eat a red and green dinner
  20. Make Jib Jab e-cards
  21. Go to the Winter Solstice celebration
  22. Go to Portsmouth, New Hampshire
  23. Watch the Nativity
  24. Watch Home Alone on TV
  25. Read the Christmas story in Luke 2

Day Number 1

We knew we were going to NYC on December first, so we decided that going to see the tree in Rockefeller Center would be the best way to start off our 25 days of Christmas. It was a madhouse trying to see the tree - but it was worth it. It was so big and there were so many lights! We loved it. Actually, we didn't love everything about the tree. We had a really rude guy standing next to us as we tried to admire the beautiful ambiance. It's crazy how rude some people can be. But just to prove that we weren't rude people, we helped a man carry his stroller up some stairs so he wouldn't have to move against the crowd to find the ramp. I'm sure that karma will kick in sometime soon. 
Here we are at the tree.

Now the rest of this post is not about our 25 days - just the remainder of things we did in New York. 
We got pizza of course.
And we went to see the temple at night.
And we enjoyed some of our favorite things in Central Park, like the ice skating rink and street performers

Many of the other parts of the city were covered in decorations as well. We aren't very good at aiming the camera, but if you look behind us you can see a pile of red Christmas balls in the middle of a fountain. Very festive. Almost as festive as our winter hats that we made sure to wear in the chilly New York air. 

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Fjällräven Polar 2013

Earlier this week I was talking to one of my friends from BYU-I (Chase Burk) and he told me about his brother-in-law and something called Fjällräven Polar. First off - I can't even pronounce it, so I wont try and spell it phonetically. Second off - I was so confused as to why he would be telling me all about this dog sled race across Norway and Sweeden. But then he asked me if I would watch this video and see what he was talking about: 

Maybe you didn't watch the video above, so I'll tell you a little about it. Larry Daugherty has been dreaming of competing in dog sledding races his entire life. BUT - as is the case for many of us, sometimes life detours our dreams. Not that they have gone away entirely, but other things detour us from accomplishing that "far out there" type dream. 

Larry now has the chance to compete in Fjällräven Polar - but he needs votes in order to win. As of 2:40 (Eastern time) on Sunday, December 2, he is in 3rd place. Could you do me (and my friend Chase) a favor and go here or here to vote for Larry. It would mean the world to me and you would be helping a friend of a friend accomplish a lifelong dream. Click on the link and click "vote" in the upper right hand corner.

And heck - share it with other people you know. And no, if you don't vote nothing heinous will happen to you and your family (this isn't some weird chain mail that gets passed along) - it would just mean a lot to me if you participated. 

Friday, November 30, 2012

Christmas Prep

We are getting excited for Christmas! Right after we got home from Thanksgiving, we started to set the mood for the "most wonderful time of the year." We even started buying Christmas gifts on Black Friday - so we have a few tucked away under our Charlie Brown Christmas tree. We don't have a lot of decorations up yet though, but there will be more to come as we have time. In the meantime, we've hung our stockings and trimmed the tree! :)

Caitlin, with the help of her grandma, made our stockings. We found similar ones at Kringle Candle, but they were $45 each. I'm so lucky to have such a talented wife - can you believe that she can sew!? That's a skill I've never even attempted. 

And of course, we had to take a picture in our Christmas corner. We are loving having everything up - and we light up the tree almost every night. 

Speaking of tree - here is the beauty! I absolutely love it. It's small, and fake, but it's our first one and it's perfect. Hopefully you all are putting up your Christmas junk and listening to holiday music. We are becoming so festive up here, the only thing that would add to the Christmas feeling would be snow! But we're not wishing that upon anyone. :)

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Second Thanksgiving

One of the best things about Thanksgiving is the leftovers. Eating turkey sandwiches on homemade rolls. It is truly divine. But since we spent Thanksgiving 3,000 miles away from home, we didn't have any leftovers in the fridge. 

So... we decided to cook a turkey, rolls and stuffing for a second Thanksgiving dinner. We had never cooked a turkey before, but it turned out amazing! We cooked it all day long while we were at church and then made gravy and stuffing from the drippings. It was very delicious. 

While I was playing around with the turkey, Caitlin was at work making rolls. She has made rolls in the past, but they have always been a bit dense. Now she has perfected the recipe. These rolls were perfect. Light and fluffy and delicious. Such the best 2nd Thanksgiving dinner.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Lost Generation

In one of my classes we watched this really cool video and I thought I would share it with you. It is a reverse poem, so be prepared to be blown away. 

Monday, November 26, 2012

Wednesday Thanksgiving

Caitlin's sister Lindsey is going on a mission of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints next week, so all the family gathered together to see her off for Thanksgiving. Unfortunately, we could not afford to fly out after Thanksgiving day, so we ended up flying on Thanksgiving and celebrating a day early. Everything felt like Thanksgiving (except no Black Friday ads for Caitlin to look at).

I was in charge of the yams/sweet potatoes. Caitlin's mom doesn't like them, so she let me cook them for everyone. I'm pretty sure they were a hit, cause there weren't a lot left over.

Caitlin was really excited to make pies this year, so the ladies in the house spent the afternoon baking up a storm. She made an Oreo pie, Amber made an apple, Lindsey made a banana, and Teresa made a chocolate one. DELICIOUS!

Teresa also did an amazing job cooking turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes and gravy, and many other delightful Thanksgiving foods. It was such a great time to spend with family, and we LOVED being with everyone in San Diego. The worst part was that after we flew home, we had no leftover turkey to eat. :(

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Playing on the Playa

This year for Thanksgiving we went to San Diego. Having in-laws live in San Diego is one of the perks to marrying Caitlin (among many others). We enjoyed an entire week basking in the beautiful sun, yet only went to the beach twice. 

The first day was kind of cold. Well, it wasn't really cold, but the wind made it chilly. We eventually got off the beach and played in the park next to the sand in our sweatshirts. 

We are getting really good at jumping!

Here are Caitlin's mom, sisters, and brother.

I really wanted to take a nap on the beach, but Elaine didn't feel the same. She came and started piling sand on my legs, then decided to climb on top of me. I would have gotten grumpy, but she's so cute that I couldn't be mad. :)

A few days later we went to the beach with Andrea, one of Caitlin's YW leaders from back in the day. We went to a cool eatery that had a balcony overlooking the beach and ate lunch. Then we walked along the beach and enjoyed soaking up the sun for a few minutes. 

Now we're back in Massachusetts, and it's 34 degrees. Makes my heart pine for some San Diego beaches.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Mormon Helping Hands

Yesterday we had an amazing opportunity to go to Connecticut and help clean up after Hurricane Sandy. It was quite the experience. We met up with the Mormon Helping Hands and about 300 other volunteers. Many had worked the previous weekend as well. 

We went down to Milford, Connecticut and worked right on the shoreline. I can't believe how hard this small community was hit by the hurricane. There were several places we saw that only had stilts, or foundations where houses used to be. We helped scrub basements, clear out insulation and other debris, move furniture, shovel/rake mountains of sand, and crawl around in dirty crawl spaces under houses. It was quite the day of dirtyness.

Mormon Helping Hands provided lunch for us and we sat along a fence with a handful of missionaries. Then FEMA came around and started videotaping us eating. I'm wondering what that video will be used for. If we find out, we'll be sure and post it on here. 

Behind Caitlin there used to be three houses. Now there is just a bunch of debris. The ocean was beautiful and I can see why someone would want to live right there, but it is so tragic what happened to their homes. 

After a long days work we were exhausted, but we felt so good. It is amazing how great service feels. The last house we were in we got so dirty pulling out wet insulation out of a MUDDY basement, but afterward we spoke with the owner and she was telling us how she and her sons can't even stay in the house because there is no electricity, water, or heat. She was so grateful we were able to help so that they can move more quickly into their home. Two of the three houses around hers were demolished. She said that on the bright side, she now had oceanfront property. What a positive attitude. 
We love giving service, and are so grateful for the opportunity the church provides for us, because we doubt we would've tried to organize something like that on our own. Our prayers and thoughts go continually to those affected by Hurricane Sandy.