Easter 2014

Yesterday was our first major holiday with Jackson around (Valentine’s Day doesn’t count since we don’t usually celebrate it and he was only about two weeks old)…and it was fabulous!

Every Easter we head out to my grandmother’s house for a big meal, hide some eggs, and spend time with the family. Jackson (obviously) isn’t old enough to participate in the egg hunting, so he napped while the rest of us hid eggs and watched my nieces hunt them. They’re both old enough now that we really have to get creative with the hiding, so it was quite a challenge to find new spots that are harder than our go-to spots we hide eggs in most years.

It’s pretty crazy to think that next year Jack will be old enough to participate in the hunting (though we’ll have to make it really easy for him)! I’m already pretty baffled by how fast he’s growing. He’s started rolling over when he’s on his tummy, and he’s become fascinated with toys – I’m so used to him totally ignoring them that it’s super strange to see him so interested!

This made me even more excited for future holidays with our little family. Jackson is only going to get more fun and interactive from here, and it’s so rewarding to experience all the same old things through his eyes. He’s encouraging me to take more photos, do more fun things, be more present, and enjoy all of the little celebrations in life that I didn’t appreciate before.

He’s pretty awesome. And I have to say, half the fun is just getting to get him all dressed up for the day! I mean, what could possibly be cuter than a baby in a sweater vest?

Absolutely nothing, that’s what.

How was your Easter?

Brain Dump

It’s been a while since I’ve done a brain dump style post. There isn’t much happening in our house right now (thanks to state testing season and the almost-three-month-old who has taken over our lives) but I’ve got a lot on my mind, so let’s dive right in.

Those of you out there who are already parents are going to laugh at me for this one, but holy cow I don’t think I realized how much having a baby would change everything. Don’t take that as a negative – I love my sweet little boy with all of my heart. But I honestly don’t think I ever could have been prepared for how much his arrival would turn my world upside down. Absolutely everything is different. Some of it is way better. Some of it is way harder. All of it requires a major adjustment. I feel like since he was born, we have been in a fog of new-parenthood, just trying to figure things out one day at a time. Some days we feel like we are doing awesome, and some days we wonder how we’re going to make it out alive. But now that he’s 11 weeks old, I feel like we are finally settling into a groove and things are getting easier. I finally gave Cullen a haircut for the first time in about three months the other day, I’m able to keep my house relatively clean, and I’m managing to cook dinner most nights. It’s a start!

Every year right around this time I reach a point where I am just over the school year. I think everyone in the whole school does. April is always a hard month to get through, because the weather is warming up and you want to spend all day outside, but you’re still over a month away from summer. May is easier because it feels like one long celebration of the end of the year, and you’re really in the final countdown. So, I’m in my April funk right now, but hopefully these last few weeks will go by quickly and May will be here soon…and then it’s really almost summer!

We took Jackson’s first bluebonnet pictures this weekend (Jackson and I went with some friends one day and Corey came back with us the next day!). For those of you who don’t live in Texas, you should know that it’s basically a requirement to take yearly photos in the bluebonnets. They’re so gorgeous and it’s impossible to resist them. I could just lay in this field all day long. It’s only about a quarter of a mile from our house, so maybe I will!

I made this strawberry cake this weekend and I cannot stop thinking about it. I’ve made it before, but I think I forgot how amazing it is. I honestly could have just eaten the batter and nothing else because it’s just that tasty, but the baked cake is pretty darn amazing too. Yum, yum, yum.

I cannot contain my excitement over Mad Men being back. I’m pretty mad that they’re splitting the season over two years, so I’ll be soaking up each of the seven (only seven??!) episodes we get this year. Corey and I are also excited about Game of Thrones, but we don’t have HBO so we’re behind already. Good thing we’ve read the books so there aren’t really any spoilers! Oh, and, can we talk about Kitchen Nightmares? Tell me I am not the only one hopelessly addicted to that show. Corey and I watched the season premiere this weekend, where they revisited Amy’s Baking Company…and oh goodness, those people are nuts. That show is so bad but oh so good.

What’s on your mind lately? What shows are you addicted to right now?

So We Don’t Go Blind…

Remember way (way, way) back last year when we got some new windows?

Well, when we did that, we took down all of the blinds on the windows we were replacing (obviously) and have been (very) slowly replacing them. The windows in our dining room have been on the “to update” list for a long time, but since they’re so large, they’ve been pushed back over and over. Only one of the windows has been replaced so far, so as of right now, it’s looking a little crazy in there.

It looks crazier in person, I promise.

The plan all along has been to get new blinds for both of the windows in here (because we aren’t big fans of the faux wood blinds), replace the curtain rods with the same ones we have in the living room, and change out the curtains for something a little more colorful. All of those things add up to be pretty pricey, though, so we just kept putting it off. We actually bought the curtain rods a couple of months back when they were on sale, but they’re just hanging out in the garage waiting for the curtains. So, all that to say…we’ve done nothing in here.

But! We finally reached a point where we couldn’t handle it anymore. Every evening when the sun sets, it sets right in our backyard – meaning it shines nice and bright right through this window. Guess what time it starts happening? Right around dinner.

It’s fun. You’re just sitting there, enjoying your meal, when all of the sudden you are hit by a ray of light so bright you are momentarily blinded. And it doesn’t go away until the sun goes behind the house on the other side of our backyard, which means you’re often dealing with it for a while.

It also shines into the living room and hits the couch, which means that even if we eat dinner early we’re usually having to deal with it while we try to watch television.

So, yeah. We had to do something about it.

And I’m so glad we did. We decided to go with bamboo blinds in here – which is what we’ve slowly been adding all throughout the house (we currently have them in the kitchen, our room, and Jack’s room). We went with the same color we did in Jackson’s room because we love how they work with the flooring in there, which is the same flooring that will eventually be everywhere.

We’re able to adjust them to just the right height so that they block out the sun until it goes behind the other house, so it works out perfectly. I think they look great, and they bring us one step closer to having the window treatments in here finished – we just need to buy some new curtains (we keep changing our minds about what we want, so it may be a while).

It feels good to do another house update. It’s been quite a while since we’ve actually done anything, so I’m pretty thrilled with this little change. And I’m very excited to be able to eat my dinner without worrying about blinding myself.

Have you made any house updates lately?

Our Favorite Games

Last week when I wrote about our weekly at-home date nights, I was shocked at the number of you who responded and said you’re into board games as well. I knew I had some awesome readers but I didn’t know so many of you were into gaming!

I had a blast reading the comments and seeing your suggestions, and several of you asked about our favorite games so I thought it might be fun to write a quick post about the board games we love, then open it up for y’all to share your favorite games as well. We are always looking for suggestions!

For those of you out there who have no clue what I’m talking about and who haven’t heard of any of these games, just trust me on this and give one or two of them a shot. I highly recommend Wil Wheaton’s show, TableTop to give you an idea of what some of these games are, and I promise you that once you try these games you’ll never want to go back to playing Monopoly or Life again. I included links to the TableTop video for all of the games that have one – I absolutely love watching Wil and his friends play the games, and it gives you a good idea of what the game is like!

So let’s jump in – my top 10 favorite games we’ve been playing lately.

Ticket to Ride (TableTop video)

This is a great introductory game for anyone who is just wanting to try something new. The rules are very simple and it’s fun to play with just two people or with more. This is a game where you don’t really know who is winning until the very end, which I always enjoy – it adds to the suspense! I also love playing the iPad app – it’s a nice low-commitment way to try the game out if you’re curious… I play it a lot while I’m nursing Jackson! The app also has a function where you can play with someone else via wifi, so Corey and I will play together sometimes as well.

Carcassonne (TableTop video)

I wasn’t sure about this one until I actually played it, but it’s so much fun! Corey and I haven’t had the chance to try it with more than just us yet, but it’s a great two-player game and I imagine it would be even more fun with more people. The concept of the game is very simple – it’s just laying tiles and scoring based on how you lay them, etc. but it’s a blast.

Alhambra (TableTop video)

This one is my current favorite. In this game you get to build your own little “house” and you score based on how many of a few different types of tiles you have in it. This one is kind of a pain to set up for two people, but it works well – and we’ve played it with four people and had a lot of fun, too, so it’s versatile!

Settlers of Catan (TableTop video)

This one is always a favorite at our house. Catan requires at least three people but it is so! much! fun! It’s one of the nerdier games that we have, but once you get the hang of it, it’s absolutely addicting. I have the iPad app for this one as well and play it all the time. This is one that has a lot of expansions to make the game different, and Corey and I just recently bought the two-player version (it’s a card game but has a lot of the same mechanics as the main game, just adapted to work for two people).

Formula D (TableTop video)

We’ve only played this one once but I loved it. In it, you’re playing a race car and your goal is to be the first to finish a lap (or more, if you want a longer game), but there are some elements added to make it more complex, such as gears and a requirement to stop a certain number of times at each turn. I believe it can be played two-player (we don’t own it, but have played with friends), but it’s super fun with four! Corey blew up his car and got kicked out about halfway through the game when we played it, which was wildly entertaining for everyone.

King of Tokyo (TableTop video)

I hated this game the first time I played because I got my butt kicked, but I love it now. It was one of the first board games we tried with our friends, and now that I’ve played it a few more times I’m a big fan. This is a fun game if you like to get really competitive and attack people (in the game, of course).

Forbidden Island (TableTop video)

This is a cooperative game, meaning everyone wins or everyone loses. It has a very different feel than most of the other games, since you’re all working together, but it’s very fun! The concept of the game is that you’re trying to collect four “treasures” and get off the island before it sinks – it’s fun to problem solve with everyone and figure out how you can accomplish your goal. I hadn’t ever played cooperative games until recently, but I’m a big fan!

Love Letter

This one is a new favorite in our house. It’s probably the simplest game that we own – it’s a card game with only 16 cards, and the goal of the game is to end each round with the highest numbered card. I always feel like people think I’m crazy when I explain the rules because it takes less than a minute to explain, but it’s strangely addicting. I keep this game in my purse for Corey and I to whip out when we are bored or waiting (like at a restaurant or something), and we have a blast with it!

Fluxx (TableTop video)

Corey got this one for me for Christmas a couple of years ago, and we still play it all the time. It’s an incredibly fun card game where the rules change constantly, and it can last five minutes or thirty. Almost every time we introduce this game to someone new they spend the whole time complaining about how confused they are, but as soon as we finish they always say they want to play again. This one has a ton of different versions, each with different themes – we only have the base game for now, but I want the Wizard of Oz one!

Betrayal at House on the Hill (TableTop video part one, part two)

This one is here for those of you who are already into playing board games because it’s not really for beginners. We just bought this game recently and are completely in love with it. We’ve only been able to play it once, but it was so much fun and I’m obsessed. In this game, you build the board as you go (meaning it looks completely different each time you play) and at some point in the game one of the players becomes a “traitor” and begins playing against everyone else. The best part about this one is that there are about a million (okay, fifty) different ways the game can end, and the goal of the game changes just about every time you play. It’s hard to explain (and the rule book is super long!) but it is an awesome game and we can’t wait to play it again! A special note about this one is that it has been out of print for a while. Apparently they stopped producing it right after it was featured on TableTop, so it’s become incredibly expensive. Our local gaming store got a few in recently, so we were able to snatch it at a much lower price, but it’s pricey on Amazon right now. If you can find it locally, though, I definitely recommend it!

(All links are Amazon affiliate links – meaning if you click and purchase I’ll get a small percentage. But know that I wholeheartedly recommend each and every one of the games above! All images above are via Amazon as well.)

And those are our favorite games! What games have you been playing lately? Any awesome recommendations for two-player games? We’re always looking for more!

Date Nights With Baby

I’ll be honest – Jackson is two months old and Corey and I have yet to go on an actual date since he was born.

Those of you with kids probably understand this. It’s almost impossible to find time to go anywhere without him, and quite frankly we aren’t super interested in leaving him alone with anyone else just yet. We’re hoping to go on a real date at some point this month, but over the past two months we have found other ways to set aside time for one another, and in the process we created a new tradition that we are kind of obsessed with.

Game night.

Corey and I have tried to have weekly at-home date nights for as long as we have been married, but over the last year or so they had kind of fallen off our radar. It wasn’t a big deal because we had plenty of time together, and never really felt like we were missing out. But! When Jackson came along we very quickly realized that we needed to start setting aside some specific time for one another again, and thus game nights were born.

Every Tuesday evening Corey grabs a Papa Murphy’s pizza and we eat that while we play some games. We don’t watch television, we don’t zone out at our computers – we just have some good quality time together. It’s a super fun way for us to connect and it’s way more fun than just watching television like we do most other nights.

We’ve gotten really into board games now, and are always on the lookout for new ones. We’ve learned some really unique games and have been introducing them to people we know so we now have lots of friends that will play with us! I still think that 1:1 dates that actually involve leaving the house are important (and our goal is to have at least one a month, starting this month!) but this is such a perfect way to connect a little more at home, and we’re hoping to keep it a tradition even as Jackson gets older. In a few years we’ll probably be playing Candy Land instead of our current repertoire, but we already get excited thinking about teaching Jackson all of our favorite games and having this as a tradition for the long haul.

How do you stay connected with your significant other when things get crazy?