Dec 31, 2012

Best of 2012

With the new year coming, I figure we could take a look back to 2012. Funny thing is, this year Facebook decided to tell me what my biggest moments were for 2012... and it's pretty comical. But we'll recap 2012 on the blog too, favorite posts, best cities for visitors, you know the drill...

First off though I feel like a bit of a nerd once I found out what Facebook thought my biggest accomplishments were this year. So yes, Facebook got it right with these...

And then it got a little crazier. Top moments including a post about the time years back I got very sick in the middle of nowhere Kenya after eating kale. And then the first time I made a smoothie by pressing the blender button only once, like no stirring/shaking/wishing you had a better blender days. 

Three of my top twenty moment included the Olympics, you know sand volleyball and women's gymnastics, can you tell my husband was out of town during the Olympics??

Rounded off with pecans, blog posts, meeting famous people, and attending barn dance birthday parties. But the last moment is the one where my nerdiness was confirmed...

Anyways, that's what Facebook thought of me. Here's what you guys thought of the blog, a little recap like we did last year.

Top Cities for Readers (you know, the places where most people seem to read the blog)
1. Shreveport
2. Lindale
3. Lake Charles
4. Dallas
5. Denton

Don't worry, I'm not stalking you... I just have this thing that helps me with all my blog stats...

Top Countries for Readers Again, hello Brazil!! Wondering who you are down there... but welcome!
1. United States
2. Brazil
3. Canada
4. Mexico
5. Australia

And then of course the fun one. The top posts of the year, calculated by most views over the course of 2012. Funny thing is, not all of these were written in 2012, but apparently still favorites...

Top Ten (Most Viewed) Posts of 2012

Number One: Charlie Brown Chevron
Now this one was an interesting number one! But then I realized it's because I pinned it to Pinterest, so maybe that's why it got soo many hits...

Number Two: Wait, Where was Kyle?
You know, explaining where my husband went for 4 months...

Number Three: Summer List of Wonders
Although it was written in 2011, still a fave of 2012... maybe I should have done one this year...

Number Four: Car Funnies and Curtain Dilemmas
Maybe people actually thought I was going to ever make curtains and kept checking back... soon, I'll make the curtains soon, I promise...

Number Five: Today's Agenda
Which was more about the thesis, lol...

Apparently we didn't have the most exciting year on the blog, lol... where did all that time go since I finished my thesis?!?  But even though it feels like ages ago, my master's degree and thesis really did consume most of my time in the first few months of the year. The summer travelling back and forth was a little crazy. And I'm not really sure where the fall went, it kind of just slipped away.

Maybe 2013 will get exciting around here...

Oh 2013, what adventures do you hold?

What about you, did you have a blog post here that was your favorite that didn't seem to make the list?? Did you find an interesting array of moments on your "Facebook Top 20 Moments of 2012"? What were your best moments of 2012?

Dec 21, 2012

Merry Christmas from the Hess House

Merry Christmas from the Hess House!

We have been busy this week buying gifts and making gifts and wrapping gifts and making cookies and cookie exchanging and hosting game-show style competitions at our work parties and watching Home Alone and staring at our Christmas tree at all hours of the morning and night. It's been wonderfully Christmas-y at the Hess House.

Today we head to see my family for Christmas and I could not be more excited. We're still 'the kids' at my parents house, so we get to run down the stairs on Christmas morning and act a fool. We are still in our PJs and we all take turns opening gifts, Mom passes them out one by one and it's just the way I like it! We're looking at ice skating, family portrait taking, board game playing, and just plain ole family fun for the weekend. It'll be good to be "Home" for Christmas :)

I hope you have wonderful plans for Christmas, I hope you know how much everyone loves you and thinks of you. Really I hope you know how much God loves you, even if you're alone on Christmas, you still have Him. And it's kind of His birthday, so you have the guest of honor right there with you :) Praying that you have warm toes and warm hearts this Christmas.

Our best wishes, hoping that you are full of gingerbread and hot chocolate and family and love. We are truly blessed to have wonderful family and friends and a God who blesses us more than we deserve.
For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. - Luke 2:11
Merry Christmas from our little house to yours! May God bless you!

May your days be Merry and Bright, and May all your Christmases be white... or red with purple socks...

Merry Christmas!

Note - Not sure what the blog schedule will look like next week, I'll try to get our Christmas wrap up together and get some pictures up of all the holiday happenings this past week at the Hess House... but if I drink too much hot chocolate and get all jolly holiday with the fam, it may be a little delayed...

Merry Christmas!

Dec 19, 2012

My DIY Office Wreath: No more Bacon Wreath...

So I love Christmas wreaths. I think they're pretty simple to make and can look pretty hoppin' hanging on the door. Really, I like to make them. I remember back in the day when I made those wreaths with my mom where you bend a coat hanger and then tie fabric strips around it (and I think they may be back in style by now...). Also I remember teaching a guy friend of mine how to make a wreath in college; and finding glitter on everything for weeks.

My most recent attempt to make a wreath was kind of a failure. I had a plain wreath, I brought it to work. I forgot to decorate it beforehand. So I used my fun dietitian food models to decorate the wreath. I thought it was pretty creative of me to use only what I had around my office.

Then someone called it "interesting and creative" in the way that you say not-so-great-looking people have a "good personality." Someone compared my wreath to Lady Gaga wearing meat as a dress, and one of the doctors told me she had to be honest and say it was ugly. I think only then did I take my blinders off and realize it wasn't the cutest thing on the hall. But "cute," it was "cute," many people said so...

What do you think? I took a picture for you, even though that may be against the rules (but not really)?

Okay, so it's horrible. It's a wreath with bacon on it (yes that's bacon in the bottom left corner), but it's fake food if that makes it better? Worse part is that it's been on my door for almost two weeks! I had loads of craft supplies at home to make a fantastic wreath with but I kept forgetting to bring the wreath home and I was not about to cart my entire world of crafting supplies to work... or so I thought.

I thought about how I have nothing hanging in the walls in my office and how I probably look like the person with the least amount of crafti-ness in the place.

So I carted my craftiness up to work and pulled off the fruit/veggies/awkwardly wrapped orange juice and got to work. But with less than a week left in the office until Christmas I wasn't about to buy anything. So I had scavenged the craft bins at the house and found some pearls on wire (I used to make a hair clip once in college), some Christmas ribbon that I got from Target at last year's after-Christmas sale, some hemp from my lanyard making days, and a flower clip that I got as a gift for helping plan the Women's Retreat at church last fall.

I quickly twirled the ribbon and wove it into the wreath. Twisted the wire pearls into the wreath, and tied some bows in with the hemp. Added the flower and we called it done. Time was limited.

What do ya think? Not exactly the same style we have at home, but it's for the office so that's not a problem... And just in time for Christmas right?  Oh my goodness, I think I'm just now realizing exactly how close Christmas is. Like less than a week away! Ahhh!

Happy HurryUpIt'sAlmostChristmasAndDon'tForgettheHotChocolate! :)

Dec 17, 2012

Jesus' Birthday Party!

Yesterday we had a birthday party for Jesus. The kiddos were sure Jesus would like a pizza birthday party with chocolate cake and a selection of cheese and pepperoni pizza (who knew?).

I teach the Kindergarden through first grade kiddos on Sunday nights at church. We play games, learn Bible verses, tell Bible stories and I can almost guatantee that I make a fool of myself at least once a night. At times I've been a news anchor with a fake microphone, a crazy mom in a fake mini-van who is lost on the way to grandma's house, and very inexperienced travel agent taking my kiddos on imaginary walks through snowy mountains. I'm sure the kids think I'm crazy, but we have a good time.

Anyways, with Christmas being Jesus' birthday we talked about how Christmas really is like the biggest birthday party in the world. We talked about how we celebrate birthdays; you know, water parks, ballerinas parties, bounce houses, getting presents like Barbie dolls, and legos, and hunting guns (it's East Texas, lol). And then I broke the news to kids, they got to plan Jesus' birthday party!

From the time I said pizza they were excited. But I want them to remember that we celebrate Christmas because it's Jesus' birthday and He's a pretty special dude. We told the story of Jesus' birth, which got a little complicated when I was explaining how Joseph and Mary weren't married when marry was "with child" when I asked 'shocked' "then how did Mary have baby Jesus if they weren't married yet?" hoping to get the answer "God" or "the Holy Spirit," or something along those lines. Instead a kid said, "I know a lot of people who have babies before they're married!" Yep... I was just using "married" instead of "knowing in the Biblical sense" and I wasn't about to explain that to kindergarteners... so we moved along quickly.

Anyways, the kids voted and this is what we got... (hard to keep them all still for a pic, lol)

We sang Happy Birthday to Jesus, thanked Him for being our very best friend, and then we tried to figure out how to get icing and pizza cleaned off the kiddos before they had to perform for the night's Christmas concert... oops!

Go ahead, make Jesus a birthday cake this year! It was real fun, and my kiddos loved it. And I loved the leftover cake...

Dec 14, 2012

A Little Outdoor Christmas Bling

Who doesn't love Christmas lights?! Well, who doesn't love Christmas lights once they are untangled and up on the house?!  After skipping the outdoor lights last year, we decided to bling-up the house this year with some lights. We hung got our lights up, and then we went to Santa Land, and so now we're dreaming about what we could create with lights in our front yard/roof/trees.

Anyways so we started at the Hess house. As I drank hot chocolate and ooo-ed and ahhh-ed, Kyle climbed up the ladder and did all the work. That's what big strong husband men are for, hanging sparkly Christmas lights on manly ladders, right? Anyways, a few strands of lights and a few roof clips later...

And then changing the camera settings just a bit...

It's simple, it's glowing, and we only have one outlet on the outside of the house (maybe we have more in the back yard...) but that's why you may see the random string of lights running down the front wall right in the center. Only one outlet for lights #firstworldproblems.

My favorite is when the lights are on and the Christmas tree is all lit up in the window. I love the Christmas trees you can see through people's windows. It's like the only appropriate time of the year to stare into other people's windows...right?

But then we got to dreaming... well, Kyle got to dreaming. What if we could wrap the entire pecan tree in lights? What if we could hang lights in the holly trees? We've been told that the previous owner lit the holly trees every year, and we've found remnants of the lights in the trees that apparently got cut once while trimming the tree. It was kind of exciting to figure out if we could Griswold the house into Christmas craziness.

But then it was cold and we figured we could plan something big for next year.

...and then we went to Santa Land. If you're not from Real Small Town, East Texas, you may not know about Santa Land. But if you've ever driven on I-20 past Highway 69, then you've probably seen it. Every day I drive past Santa Land on the way to and from work. It's actually on our exit. But it's a drive-thru Christmas light display that's been around here for years. The lines on the service road are backed up miles on weekends and nights nearing Christmas. It's kind of crazy. Like one time I couldn't exit the interstate because it was so blocked.  These people are serious about their Santa Land.

Don't be fooled though, I don't hate Santa Land. I'm actually enamored by it. I watch the glitter lights twinkle and dance around the 100 yard tunnel of Christmas trees and I've always wondered what it would be like to drive-thru Santa Land.

This year. We WENT! We took our friends Candace and Jody and forced them to drink hot chocolate and take pictures in really warm hats...

I could tell you all about the magic or I could just show you...

It was a good time. I was amazed at the number of the lights weaving in and out of trees, wondering how long it takes to get those up every year or if they even take them down or how they don't break if they're left up... Kyle was busy counting the cars and calculating the money Santa Land was making per car/per hour/per night/per Christmas season. He likes the idea of starting a business, and since he LOVES Christmas, he was locked in on the Santa Land business. I think he was calculating until we fell asleep that night...

or until he started taking pictures of the lights and thinking about how we could put up tons of lights in our yard...

Next year we could be Santa Land Part II. Look out!

Merry Christmas, may your days be merry and BRIGHT! It's not too late, get out there and light the house!

And did I mention I have not one but TWO Christmas parties tonight, and another on Sunday! I think the count after that will be five (not too shabby) at least until the next party on Wednesday...

Dec 12, 2012

Cinnamon Roll(s)

So last night I was wanting a cinnamon roll real bad. So Kyle and I went grocery shopping and we pondered over every cinnamon roll they sold in the store. We settled on J. Skinner's Cinnamon Craver's cinnamon rolls. These are like the kind I like, like the ones McDonald's used to make, like the ones that little bakery in the old LSU Union used to make... not so much like the ones in the can. They are gooey, but fully cooked, they have thin strips all wrapped up so there's the perfect ratio of dough to cinna-goo to icing. Matter of fact they're a lot like the Lake Charles Market Basket King Cakes, lol... just now realizing that.

Anyway, last night I ate 2.5 cinnamon rolls and I blammed it on Christmas. This morning I may have had another and packed another one in my lunch...

This is my excuse for not having a different blog post this morning. I spent my blogging time scarfing down giant cinnamon rolls and loving every minute of it.

Should have put that on the Christmas List of Wonders... just for the excuse, you know.

Anything sneak past your lips in great number this holiday season?

Merry Cinnamas ;)

Dec 10, 2012

My First Christmas Photo Shoot

So now that it's officially December and officially Christmas time, let me share a little secret.  I did my first ever Christmas photo shoot this fall!!! I just wanted to wait until their Christmas cards came out before I showed off all the pictures, lol! But guess what came in the mail last week...

Okay, so not only is this my first Christmas photo shoot, but really my first photo shoot ever. You know, being on the shooting side of the camera.  Earlier in the fall I was talking to my good friend Lauren about the new fancy camera. We started talking about Christmas card pictures and it ended up with me saying, "please, please, let me take you on a photo shoot adventure and take pictures of you and your hubby (and dog) for your Christmas card!"

Good thing we're friends... she said yes. I have no prior experience, never taken Christmas card pictures before, still learning to use my camera. So just as the leaves started to turn we scheduled a day for a shoot and the researching began. I scanned any article with pose ideas, with scouting ideas, with lighting information. I hopped on Pinterest and looked at every "Photography" and "Christmas" pin board I could find. Can you tell I was super excited?!

I had a few sketched of poses ready, and I had talked to Lauren about what her and Curtis should wear. I figured winter-like clothes would work best, even if it wasn't quite winter yet (it was like the weekend before Halloween or something crazy like that). As far as the lighting, I looked up the weather hoping for good cloud cover. From what I read it's nice to have consistent lighting and the clouds help blur the lighting to prevent shadows and the like. I'm not so sure on that one, though, because it ended up real sunny out the day of the shoot and we made it work. I did find a website that calculates the "Golden Hour" for any location. Apparently the "Golden Hour" is an hour-ish after the sun rises or before the sun sets that makes for some real nice picture taking.

So a few days before the shoot I headed out to the Mineola Nature Preserve for the Golden Hour with my camera in hand. The preserve is only about 15 minutes from the house and I knew I could get a great perspective shot on the main walking trail there. I didn't find it online or anything, I had just remembered the trail from a previous trip to the preserve. I'm not sure where you look up shoot locations online, but really I think it's about knowing the area and even driving around scouting out places before the shoot.

Walked around the preserve making note of what time it was at each location. The sun lasted longer than I thought and I realized I could get in a second location before I lost all lighting, so I headed to downtown Mineola. Mineola has this cute little downtown area with shops and restaurants and streetlights and a train station so I figured we could find something there. I started on a side road off the main street and although I hadn't planned to take pictures there the spot was perfect. Less traffic than the main road, beautiful red brick road, just what I was looking for.

After all the scouting I went home and looked at all the pictures, the lighting, the camera settings, made sure I liked the locations through the lens as much as I did in person. I searched a few more poses and gathered/made a few props, signed Kyle up to be my assistant and I was ready.

So here's what we packed:
 - the fancy camera, of course
 - one fully charged batter in the camera (I only have one right now or else I would have brought an extra)
 - one 16GB memory card in the camera (again would have brought an extra but only have one)
 - a foam board to use as a reflector as needed
 - a small stool
 - my tripod
 - blankets (in case anyone needed to sit on the ground)
 - a big Christmas ornament (didn't really use it)
 - my homemade paper banners.
We put most everything in a rolling suitcase and that helped. And Kyle, he helped too, I'm glad I didn't think I could do it all by myself and carry all that stuff...

We had a wonderful time, laughed lots, and they had a lot of patience for me when I said, "ooo wait, try this!" and "I know we've taken a lit, but I think you're going to love this one..." And then we all went to dinner and it really was the best time.

And for those of you who are interested in the final product, well the sort of final product (these are not edited much, Lauren has some nice editing software and did her own editing for their card). Here are a few of my favorites.

Aren't Lauren and Curtis just so cute and happy and in love? Aren't they so brave to come venture with me and let me take their pictures? We really did have a great time. I feel like I learned a lot, and after getting home and looking at my pictures I learned a lot more. Like how I'm not the best at using the auto-focus, or how I tend to frame the pictures a little high by almost cutting the feet off in every picture. But I'm learning.

And learning is the most fun... Happy Christmas-is-finally-here. Now I've just gotta get Kyle out to take our Christmas picture...

Have you taken your pictures yet? What do you think of my first shoot?? Yes, yes, they were brave.

Dec 7, 2012

Trimming the (Christmas) Tree

It's time for the Hess House Christmas Tree Trimming. The lights, the berries, the red, the ornaments, and well we just kind of love our tree. Same tree as our first tree, but with many more decorations than our bare newlywed tree. Anyways, here's how it went down this year.

First we had to move the desk, along with some other furniture moving (which you'll see later on) we made room for our tree extraordinaire. Isn't she beautiful?

Then of course, was the decorating. Which meant we needed to figure out how we were going to attach the star this year. It's kind of wobbly because the base is a coil/spring. And our tree is like 4 inches too tall for the star, so there's tree wire bending and unbending.

We ended up using the green twist tie from the tortilla bag and the bread bag and now it's pretty secure. Can't you see how secure Kyle thinks it is?

With the basic tree as our base (pre-lit) we then add my favorite: the berry garland stuff...

When I was little my mom used a roll like this on our tree, but it was made out of gold stars. Maybe she still uses it, crazy that I'm not sure. I'll have to check on Christmas. But anyway... We start with the berry garland, move on to the red wooden beads (you know, because Kyle said it was unsanitary to use actual stringed popcorn), and then the red unbreakable hand-me-down ornaments, and then the cool ornaments.

Like this classic bright red and green horsey. This one's off my mom's tree. She donated a few, and I love her even more for it. Makes decorating the tree a little more like the Kingsley fam is there too (even though they live a few hours away...)

Another jewel from my mom's tree is Ruth. You may not recognize Ruth from the Christmas Story. It's because she's not in it. Sort of. But really she had a baby that had great-great-great more greats grandkids and they had Jesus. So she's kind of in there. I have no idea why we have an ornament of Ruth, but she's one of my favorites. She looks so happy on her tree holding her barley, probably because she had just seen her main man Boaz, right? Carried away? yes.

Then we have one from Kyle's mom. You know. Baby's First Christmas 1982. That would be Kyle. So it's on the tree now too. I bet he was a cutie back then too. (Ooh and this is a great close up of the red wooden beads...)

Then another one to mark a big day. You know, wedding day!? One of our good friends gives these as wedding gifts. Isn't that so fun? There's me and Kyle being all bride and groom like.

And you know, our first Married Christmas! See how cute they are, they're like smores snowmen (and woman). You know you want one!

But wait, our second Married Christmas! Doesn't it look like a wedding cake? And again, don't you wish you had TWO of these...?

And then this one I'm sure our someday children will love and fight over. Right now we're sharing well... the LEGO snowman ornament! Kyle got it for me last year for Christmas because he knows me so well. And I think he's really cute (the ornament...oh and Kyle)!

And so that's how we roll here at the Hess House for Christmas. The finished tree. Check one off the ole Christmas List of Wonders. Pretty good tree picture, still though I think I like the close-up shots better, like you're almost inside the tree or something.

Happy Tree Trimming, even the fake ones like ours (someone's allergic).

Anyone else with favorite ornaments? Random Bible characters? Old family ornaments?

Dec 5, 2012


Apparently after you make a list of things you want to do during the Christmas season, you become very Christmas-y.

Exhitbit A:
Of the Christmas List of Wonders, we've already completed 2.5 items and are seriously getting to work on another. We hit up A Christmas Carol on opening night, had punch, and cookies, and got Tiny Tim's autograph. Best Tiny Tim ever...

We watched White Christmas AND Christmas Vacation (which is not as polite of a movie as I remember...). We're all over decorating the house, getting the tree lit, getting the lights ready to go up outside. Don't worry we'll be talking about all that on Friday. And I've got four, yep, four Christmas Party invites pending...

Exhibit B:
I have Christmas decorations in my office... that I actually brought... to be Christmas-y. Usually for holidays someone else hangs something on the nail above my door sign. My hall in the building tends to match and we all have red white and blue for Independence Day and things like that. But this year I brought my own little tree. With lights, except that I need 2 C batteries to make the lights work, and you know no one has C batteries, unless of course you need AA batteries and then you'll have tons of C batteries...anyways. And I even have a wreath, but I can't find my door hanger yet. (So maybe I'm not as decorated as I thought?)

[And I would have pictures except that I'm not sure if I'm allowed to take pictures at my office because it's government property, they have crazy rules about all that...]

And I even saved these tiny cardboard boxes all year because they were PERFECT size for ice blocks to build an igloo around my door at work. I was going to spray paint them white and I was definitely going to win the Best Door prize this year. But then the safety people said all the door decorations have to be flame-resistant or something like that... so maybe I'll turn my desk into an igloo desk?? or going Elf-crazy and turning my office into the North Pole and then I'll have to sneak a picture...

Anyways. I hope you've caught the Christmas bug. The fun one, the one full of happy times and craftiness and doing things because you can and want to not because you "have to get it done."

...just gotta figure out the igloo...

Update: Just found the door hangers... okay, Kyle found the door hangers. :)
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