Health, Love & Fire: December 2014

Ringing in 2015!

Wednesday, December 31, 2014

I can't believe we've already reached the end of 2014 and are about to ring in 2015. What ever happened to 1999? I still remember that new years eve spent roller skating with a friend singing we're gonna party like it's 1999 at the top of our lungs! I still can't believe how much faster time flies by as I get older!

But since I'm clearly back about 15 year ago, I've decided to help you kick off your new year right, even if I'm still trying to figure out what year it is! 6 other bloggers and myself have teamed up to bring you a little jump start to the year 2015–$80 PayPal cash is up for grabs! Wouldn't it be lovely to start the year off with a little extra cash saved up? Use the Rafflecopter below to enter and be sure to thank the lovely ladies who helped make this possible!
The giveaway will run from 12:00 am EST on December 31st until 11:59 pm EST on January 5th. Entries will be verified, so please be honest with your entries. The winner will be notified by email and will have 48 hours to claim their prize before a new winner will be selected. Thanks for entering, and good luck!
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End of the year highlights

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Now that we just have two days left (today and tomorrow) of 2014, it's time to look back on the last part of my year! If you've been doing the same, make sure to leave your link in the comments so I can check out all the highlights of your year too!

September: 
The highlight of this month was definitely the family time that included a visit from my Aunt and Uncle from Chicago. We don't get to see them very often, so any time is special. We toured our new home, the fire station Dan works at and a local winery. But mostly we just enjoyed each other's company and lots of laughs.


October:
Since we were supposed to close on our new home this month and it was pretty obvious that didn't happen, October consisted of lots of wine and trips by our new home under construction. We also celebrated my mom's birthday with a fun wine party at a local winery. All you need to say is wine and I'm in!


November: 
And November felt like I was constantly busy between Thanksgiving, concerts, events and hoping that our house would be done someday soon. This entire month sort of flew by, which I was definitely happy about since I was so eager to get in to our new home!

December: 
It's probably fairly obvious to anyone who's been around the blog for very long what my highlight for this month would be. Moving in to our new home definitely tops the list and maybe even tops the entire year, just maybe. And of course I love everything about the holidays and my birthday, so as always December was by far the best month of the year!

I hope that everyone else has a fabulous end of your 2014 and a great safe time ringing in 2015. I am excited to see where our lives in our new home and this blog will go over the next year!
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Summer months of 2014: when the living was easy and there were was lots of packing!

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Time for the second part of my look back on 2014. This time we are looking at May through August!

May: 
This month started out our journey on our home building adventure. This is the month we put our house on the market, signed papers with our builders to begin building our new home and shared our exciting news with all our friends and family!!

June: 
The month of June started and ended with fun trips throughout Oregon. We started the month by spending a weekend in Kah-Nee-Tah with two of our best friends. Their twins were due in August (ended up being born in July) so it was fun to take one last baby-free trip together! The month ended in Sunriver where we spent a long weekend with my parents running a half marathon, going for bike rides, playing games, and going kayaking! Summertime is so much fun in Oregon and I was so glad we got to take both of these trips this past year!
Check out our Kah-Nee-Tah Trip: Here 
Check out our Sunriver Trip: Here

July: 
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Each year, our July kicks off with a week at the Rodeo in the next town over with all of our family and friends. This is a tradition that we have had for at least the last 10 years, and I look forward to continuing the tradition for years to come. We enjoy going to the shows at the rodeo, watching the 4th of July parade and the fireworks, and spending some evenings out with friends! It wouldn't feel like July for us without the Rodeo and all of our friend time!
Dan and I also celebrated our 4th wedding anniversary with a night out on the Portland Spirit. It was such a fun way to celebrate, a great way to see Portland, and a nice break from all the packing and home stress!

Our month ended with the arrival of two sweet little babies from our best friends! We had spend lots of time celebrating their arrival and we were so happy to see our friends with their new family and their happy and healthy babies!

August: 
We finally sold and closed on our first home, finished packing, and moved out. It was a surreal experience to move out of the home we came home to after our wedding and honeymoon and had made so many memories in. But we were excited about the prospect of our new home and our dream becoming a reality. At the end of the month, our builder's broke ground and work on our new home began. It was such a fun experience to be able to drive by every day to see the progress and be able to make all the selections for our new home!

It's been fun to look back at the adventures and experiences we have had during the past year! Look for my last post of my loopback of 2014 on December 30th. Be sure to leave a link in the comments if you're looking back at your 2014 because I'd love to read it! What's been your favorite thing about 2014?

We're In!!

Monday, December 22, 2014

We are officially in our home! As of Thursday evening at about 7:30 we got the okay to start moving in! And less than 48 hours later, we hosted our first party! Thursday December 18th was one of the most exciting days that Dan and I have ever experienced together and we still can't believe the whirlwind that the last few days have been! Yesterday when we finally took a break from unpacking and organizing our new home, we both decided a nap was definitely in our future and agreed that the past few days have definitely caught up to us. So while I'm not going to give you a whole update on where the house is and which rooms are unpack and organized already, I did want to pop in and say thank you for all the happy birthday messages and all the congratulations we received on our new home! We couldn't be happier and can't wait to share all the pictures with all of you! Here's a few shots from my phone of the last few days!

 This is our first night in our new home! We spent a few hours that evening after getting the keys unloading boxes and unpacking a few things. Some of the first things to be unpacked with the stockings, carpet and my bed! I was set on the sleeping there the first night we could!
 
This photo is just 24 hours after getting the keys! While most of the rest of the house isn't finished, I was so happy to end my birthday with our tree all decorated in our new home! 
 
And yes, if you were wondering, Cooper has settled in too! 



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Happy happy birthday!

Friday, December 19, 2014

Happy Birthday To Me!


Today I turn 27 . . . wow I can't believe that! Today I am actually spending the day off of working moving in to our new home. Pretty great birthday gift if you ask me! So I hope everyone has a wonderful day & I'll be back to update you on my birthday, the house, and the crazy party I am hosting on Saturday just a day after moving in!
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The day is here . . . 1 week countdown!

Thursday, December 18, 2014

I'm not exactly sure what could be better than a big ol' giveaway to celebrate the fact that Christmas is in 1 week & I am moving into my new house this week!! (Hopefully today) So while I'm hopefully moving into my new home (finally) please get yourself entered for this awesome giveaway! 



Not only do you have the chance to win $170 via paypal,
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Looking Back: Birthdays, Concerts, Trips & Parties

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Last year I linked up with one of my favorite bloggers Lauren to highlight 2013 as we were getting close to entering 2014. Even though there might not be the same linkup, I thought it would be fun to look back on the past year. Please feel free to join me as I will be breaking my posts up into three posts, highlighting 4 months at a time. Today's post will be January - April.

January:
Our family ended last year with some difficult times, loosing my father in-law just the day after Christmas, so we spent a lot of time with family and friends in the beginning of the year, and of course I had a trip to Seattle to see Justin Timberlake! Our weekend getaway and JT concert was the perfect way to get our minds off of all the craziness going on in our lives and let just relax and have some fun! We ended the month celebrating Dan's 30th birthday with all of our friends!
Here's our fun Seattle weekend away and Dan's 30th birthday celebration!

February: 
Portland got a rare few day break from work and life with a snowstorm that slowed everything down for a few days. Contrary to popular belief, we don't get much snow here in the Pacific Northwest, unless you're in the mountains, so the foot and a half of snow really caused everything to come to a halt, and was the perfect opportunity for some fun and photos in the snow!
Check out the Snowpocalypse of 2014.

March:
This month was all about our vacation! We set sail at the beginning of the month and enjoy 8 amazing days of vacation together. We visited Florida, the Bahamas, St Thomas, St John, San Juan, and Grand Turk. This was a trip we had been dreaming about for years and it was everything we had hoped for!

Check out posts from our trip Here, Here, Here and Here.

April: 
We started our house hunt adventure so we were pretty busy most of the month, but definitely not too busy to host our best friend's gender reveal shower. We had found out they were having twins right around the beginning of the year, so we were all so excited to find out if the babies were boys, girls or one of each! We really are blessed with awesome friends who are more like family than just friends, so we loved being able to host this fun day for them!
See pictures and video from their Gender Reveal Shower.


It's been a year full of changes, and part of the reason I love having this blog is to document life as it happens so I can look back on it all. Join me to look back on 2014 as we roll in to 2015. Here are the dates I'll be posting my next recaps:

May through August : December 23rd
September through December: December 30th 

What are your favorite memories from the last year?

And to bribe you to join me in my look back at the past year and look ahead to 2015 I have a fun giveaway for you!


I can't believe another new year is almost here - hello 2015! To celebrate, I've teamed up with some other fabulous bloggers to give one lucky ready a chance to bring in the new year with a bang with a $115 Sephora gift card. What better way to start a new year than with a whole loot of new makeup? Enter below and make sure you go check out these amazing ladies!

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Things You Should Know Before Building Your New Home - AKA Things You Learn The Hard Way

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

If you asked me this time last year if I would spend the majority of 2014 planning and designing our new home being built I would have laughed in your face. While Dan and I had dreamed of finding something bigger that we could raise our family in and settle down for several years, I was still under the impression that it was out of reach. When we began talking about it seriously last February and it all started to fall in to place, it was like it was meant to be. And while this last year has definitely not gone how we planned and has made me realize why people say building a new home is one of the most stressful things you can do, I am so thankful for the opportunity to see one of our dreams become a reality.

Starting the process to build was something I was clueless about. With our first home, we purchased it while it was in some of the final stages of building so we were able to choose from a small selection of flooring and tile colors, and were able to choose all the exterior paint. So I guess in my head, I felt like I had a good understanding of what it would be like to start the building process from the beginning. Well let's just say I was wrong (and I hate to be wrong), but I've learned a lot along the way. Here are some things we did to help us through the building and design process.

Look at as many plans or as many homes as you can before coming to a final decision. Before signing on the dotted line, we walked through other homes being built (even ones in areas we didn't like) just to get a better idea of the exact square footage we were looking for, design elements we liked and aspects of the home that were on our must have list. At our meeting with out future builders, we gave them some of the sizes and parameters we were hoping for and asked them to bring some of their plans to show us before deciding one "the one".

If you can, walk through other homes that your builder has built. This way you can get an idea of some of the other options they have used in the past. This might be helpful when you're picking out flooring, lights, fixtures or cabinets.

Write a list of your "must haves" and "would be nice to have". This way, you can see what options you both absolutely want in your home and figure out from that list, where you might need to spend a little extra on upgrades. One of the things that both Dan and I knew we wanted was painted cabinets, so when it came time to make all of our selections and upgrades, we made sure to talk to the cabinet people first so that we know how much to budget for that upgrade and how much we would have left.

Don't settle right away. While there will always be things on your list that you just aren't able to afford, make sure you check out your options before you dismiss the idea completely. After our meeting with the company our builders work with for lighting and other fixtures, we were really discouraged. We had a certain look and feel in mind especially when it came to the lighting in the kitchen and dining area. Instead of just settling and going with the basic light package that everyone else had, we asked our builders if we could use the allotment they were going to spend on lights somewhere else and if we could personally pick and purchase all of our own lights. They agreed, and we were able to pick exactly what we wanted, within reason of course. Now one of the things I love more than anything in our living space are the lights!

Walk through lots of current construction homes. I can't tell you how many new homes Dan and I have walked through in the last few months. And while we aren't able to change the structure of our home after walking through other houses, it gave us great ideas for finishes and designs later on.

Attend local home shows. Whether you attend a Street of Dreams, Parade of Homes, Homeramma, or some other home show, just attend one and get ideas. Even though all of the houses were out of our price range, many of the furnishings or overall look can be found or replicated in a cost saving way. By attending a local Parade of Homes event, we actually came up with the inspiration for our Kitchen.

Meet with a mortgage person before looking at houses. We went and talked to someone to figure out exactly what we qualified for before even considering the idea of moving. We walked out of the meeting knowing exactly what we qualified for, what price of home we should be looking at for our target monthly payment, and how much money we would need to put down depending on sales price. Doing this not only provided us was a lot of guidance and helpful information, but it also put my mind at ease and helped some of my worrying.

Take pictures of everything! If you're a fellow blogger like myself, you're used to taking pictures of anything and everything, but even if you aren't . . . do it! You may think you don't need too many before and after or progress photos, but those photos have not only helped remind us of where we started, but they have also been really useful along the way. At every appointment and selection meeting I not only took a picture of the paperwork, but I took a photo of every item we selected along with the item number and name. That way, if anything was lost or incorrectly ordered I was able to look back and know exactly which product we had decided on. Trust me, after scouring through dozens of similar looking options for carpet, you don't want to have to do it all over again hoping you choose to same one again.

Drive by all the time. You may feel a little crazy like I did at first driving by every day, and it may be disappointing on days when you drive by and nothing happens, but still do it. Not only is it fun to see the progress, but it's also good to check to make sure everything is going smoothly. We found wires that weren't exposed that were supposed to be,  exterior paint that was missing, and items that were in the wrong place. When builders are working on several projects at once, it's easy for them to mix up details.
Have you ever built your own house or helped design parts of your home throughout the building process? What are some of the things you learned or did that would make the process easier? 

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Christmas Card Tradition

Monday, December 15, 2014

Every year, I always look forward to sending our christmas cards, part of it probably has to do with the fact that I look forward to dressing up my dog, but who's checking. After halloween is over, I start thinking about what I want our cards to look like this year. Since we don't have kids yet, I like to include the dog in our photos. Last year if you remember, the card featured only Cooper :). And since getting both the cats to join us in the picture sounds like just a little too much chaos, I started brainstorming about a fun photo for all of us to be in this year. Here's some of the fun outtakes from our photo shoot and the final card at the end.








I am so happy with how these turned out! I found out it is actually a little difficult to find ugly christmas sweaters for large dogs if you want to be able to see a design from the front. And if our Christmas cards and the fact that I dress up my dog every year are any indication of what's in store for the future, our children are truly in trouble! :)

What are fun traditions that you include in your Christmas cards? Please tell me I'm not the only one who starts thinking about your cards in August!?! 

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Here's the scoop . . . where we're at with our house building adventure

Thursday, December 11, 2014

I've gotten lots of questions basically anywhere I go about our home. I guess I can't complain much seeing as how I filled you blogger feed for a while with all things new house. And now that it's been silent for a while, I should expect people to still wonder. Everywhere I go whether its in my email, at work, or even at the grocery store people are curious what the heck is up with our new house . . . and frankly I'm feeling the same way! There's all this talk of a new place and then no pictures or info is given and it just makes us wonder more! So here's the scoop . . .

I'm still driving by daily . . . confession, I went by 3 times on Saturday. We did our walk through with our realtor and two builders last Thursday to try to mark all the things that still need to be fixed so that we can hurry this process along as fast as possible. Our current hold up is still the road and sidewalks. We know that when we move in the road won't be finished, or even paved for that matter. But in order for the city to grant us temporary occupancy, basically in order for them to say it's okay for us to even live there, the curbs and sidewalks have to be finished as well as the landscaping. So here we sit and wait. . . . Now nearly two months to the day passed when it was supposed to be finished. I daily drive by and look at a nearly finished home on the inside and a constant state of chaos on the outside.

The inside is everything I had hoped for! I tend to have these visions in my head of how I want things to look, which my husband has a hard time understanding until it's in front of him. Let's just say we are both happy with how my vision came to life! Every time I go over, it gets even more difficult to get me to leave. I'm almost convinced that no one would notice if I just move an air mattress into our master closet . . . and given a few more days that may actually be where you find me. But c'mon, tell me you wouldn't want to move in with a kitchen that looks like this . . .


One of our builders actually joked last week that if we were unhappy with how the house had turned out that they could start over. I quickly squashed that idea because I am pretty sure neither my husband or I could survive this entire process all over again. So here I sit, and wait for that day that we finally get keys and the okay to move in. I'm just praying that it's soon and before the holidays, especially since I currently have a party scheduled for our new home on December 20th, and that date is quickly approaching! So if you find me sitting outside your home staring at all your amazing Christmas decorations, don't worry, it's only because I am missing everything holiday in my own home!

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Being Married To A Firefighter

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

When you tell people that your husband is a firefighter, there are several popular reactions from how cool, to how scary, to he must be really hot. People are so interested in the fact that he’s a firefighter and what his job actually entails, but what about the wife behind those firefighters. I wrote a post a while ago when I first started this blog about being married to a firefighter, but figured it was time to update it and share it with all of you again. So, what does it really mean to be married to someone in the fire service?

You Know You're A Firefighter’s Wife When...

You may be on the phone with your FF (firefighter) for 10 minutes, but you actually only got to talk for about 5 of those minutes because you have to stop talking mid-sentence so he can listen to the dispatcher.

You secretly love the way smoke smells. You sort of have to learn to love it cause you know the smell of a house fire can stay in his skin and hair for days!!

You're learning you can’t be as 'traditional' as you would like. There will be some years where he will work every single holiday just because of how the shifts fall and there’s nothing you can do about it.

When people hear that your husband is a Firefighter they will automatically assume you know every single Firefighter they know, like every one of them is related or friends or something.

You think its funny when people think all your Firefighter does is fight fires. They do so much more than the public realizes. They respond to every 911 call: broken bones, burns, wrecks, nosebleeds, headaches, shootings, crazy people who took too many drugs... While they aren't running calls they are doing all the maintenance around the station, cleaning the fire station, the trucks, drive around painting the fire hydrants, go to schools to teach fire safety to the kids, grocery shop, cook, go do training and take classes.

Weekends mean nothing to you. You're looking forward to 5-day break! Dan and I work fairly opposite schedules. I work 8-5 Monday through Friday and he works a 24-hour shift every third day, not including when he works additional shifts for overtime. So it’s only every third week that we get an entire weekend together. I always look forward to when he has a day off, which actually means he has 5 days off in a row.
  
You can bet on it, if anything will go wrong, it’s going to happen when he's on shift! (Which means he won’t be home until tomorrow morning). Dogs out of control, getting a cut and needing stitches (that happened to us the first year of marriage), car troubles, getting really sick, it will all happen while he’s gone.

You brag about your FF a lot! If there's one thing I know about my husband, it’s that he is VERY humble when it comes to his job. He will not be the one to tell people about how last night he had to do CPR on someone, or how he pulled a dog out of a house fire and put oxygen on him, or how his crew went to a call just to put out a little fire.

You wish someone would make one firefighter movie- JUST ONE- in which no firefighters die. I literally can't watch Ladder 49 without balling my eyes out! 

You have ever had a heated debate over the color of fire trucks.

You know the difference between a police siren and a fire siren, or the difference between an ambulance and an engine just by the sound of the siren as they’re headed to a call. 

As soon as you tell people what your husband does, they no longer care to know what you do, because their job is clearly way more interesting.

Your single friends are always asking, "Are there any single firemen at your Hubby's work?”

You've had some of the best holiday meals at the fire station.

You’ve waited around for hours after he was supposed to pick you up for a date worrying and wondering if he’s okay, only to find out later he was on a fire for 8 hours and forgot his phone to be able to let you know where he was at.

Some of your favorite pictures of the two of you are taken in front of a burning home and instead of looking terrified you look completely happy. (Note: every time I post one of these photos on social media people freak out asking why he’s not helping put out the fire)

You’ve gotten so used to the sound of his pager that you’ve slept right through calls and only woken up when he comes back home and gets back in bed.

Nearly all your friends and people you hang out with are somehow connected to the fire department.

Your neighbor’s think there must be something wrong with you because of the number of times a week an engine or ambulance is parked out in front of your home. Little do they know it’s only because your husband forgot his lunch or needed to let the dog out.

You have your own scanner app on your phone that you can turn on from anywhere to use when you hear a bunch of sirens or haven’t heard from your husband for a few hours. Some call it stalking; I call it ensuring he’s fine.

I clearly wouldn’t change a thing about who I’m married to or what he does, but being married to a firefighter can definitely have it’s benefits and challenges. Not only does my husband share a bond and a camaraderie with his fellow firefighters, but I feel that same connection and understanding with fellow fire wives. I'm thankful for the additional family I gained through being part of the fire service, and can't image it any other way. 
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Stocking Love

Monday, December 8, 2014

Since I've had so many holiday posts lately, I figured one more wouldn't hurt anyone, or at least I hope it won't. One tradition that my family has always done is stockings. It's the first thing we all open on Christmas morning and a fun start to our holiday. Ever since I can remember, I looked forward to seeing all the fun items my mom "Santa" was able to fill it with. This year, my mom even upgraded our stockings to larger ones so we could fit even more in them! It's a tradition that Dan and I have added to our holiday traditions too. So this year, when I was trying to come up with ideas on what to fill his with, I came across Datevitation and I can't wait for him to open it on Christmas morning. 


Datevitation.com is the web's first online platform to create a custom love coupon book. Unlike the pre-packaged love coupon books on the market, you pick the dates and can customize the text to your liking.  Once you are done customizing the text in your book, Datevitation will print it out and ship it to you. Their library of images contains over 500 date ideas for you to choose from, ranging from skydiving to stargazing to steamy adult-only activities. There’s also an exciting feature that allows you to add photos of your own faces to the illustrations! This is one of my favorite parts of the book, and definitely makes the gift even more personalized!  



Books normally start at just $25 so it makes for a thoughtful yet economical gift.  But as a special treat for my followers, you can use the code  ‘LIBBYLOUU’  for $10 off your purchase plus free shipping (total value of $13.50). The order cut-off date for guaranteed delivery by Christmas is December 13th, so you still have a few days to order to get it for your stocking gifts! 

And as a special gift to my readers, Datevitation is offering one of you your own book to personalize and give to someone special this holiday season. I hope you love this gift idea as much as I have!

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This is a Sponsored post written by me on behalf of Datevitation. All opinions are 100% mine.