Monday, December 26, 2011

all things merry and bright.

Listening To: Us Against the World by Coldplay

Happy Monday, Party Animals! I thought I'd wield some photojournalism savvy and send some fun pictures your way, along with the usual holiday love and cheer. (I'd also send you some Chattz if I could, because I've been hitting the stuff pretty hard, because it is so delicious, but alas. That could get pricey. Do try it though, if you're ever in the area!) I have a Christmas Tale of Terror involving a duck attack, but I'll save it for next week. Let the anticipation build, etc.

So here goes: 

First, let's discuss my family's Christmas tree. It's a fine and fluffy tree, circled with starry-white lights and perfect for picture taking. Fake trees know how to strike a pretty pose: 

Note the lovely gifts underneath the tree: 

Also note this gift, which was not so lovely, which I affectionately call, "Best Wrapping Job EVER."

Last week, after we talked about ornaments we loved, my brother texted and told me that I needed to remind you of the "best" ornament on our family's tree, the one he purchased and put on the tree himself. The one my mother tries to "accidentally" drop and break or hide in the back of the tree proudly displays each year: 

That would be a Santa Claus holding a shamrock and a pipe. My brother is all class. 

Speaking of The Rogue Accountant: 

Here he is hanging out with my dog. They look to be conspiring in this photo: 

And here we are with Chase's dog, Kramer. I love that the camera flash always catches Kramer's eyes. Makes him look like an adorably fuzzy little psycho:

Doesn't he look like a little Ewok?! (Kramer. Not my brother.) Too adorable. 

Biscuit was mostly thrilled and snuggly and tail-waggy about Christmas: 

But. She's kinda territorial and she doesn't like anybody else playing with her toys ... or sharing her family ... or trying to eat leftover snacks out of her beard (what girl does?). Kramer's love language is licking. So Kramer loves chew on Biscuit's beard and Biscuit isn't down with that. So they don't get along. At all. Biscuit mostly eyes Kramer like she wants to brawl so we kept them apart except for a few, very short, well-chaperoned visits. We had to takes pics with them separately, due to ongoing shenanigans. I wish I knew how to convince the dogs to like each other ... but I don't. Any tips? 

Let's talk gifts. Nothing says "merry and bright" like this gift, which my nephew asked for: 

Which appears to be a large, scary Lego man holding a flaming robot-head. Tis the season! 

I didn't get a flaming lego head for Christmas (not yet, at least). But my family makes me promise to buy absolutely no books after November 1. Books are what I hope for and books are usually what I get. Behold this year's stash: 

So much squealing went down. (I was the one squealing. My peeps don't squeal so much.) I've pretty much declared the next week BookFest 2011 so I can devour some of them. Or all of them. Whichever comes first. (I also got Beth Moore's new study, "James" ... but that one isn't pictured because I had already opened it and started working on it.) Have you read any of these? (I can't wait to email my friend Ruth and talk about Dyan Cannon's Dear Cary ... because I have a feeling she'll squeal with me over that one.)

Now. Do you see the Mindy Kaling book? That's the only book that I'd dropped a hint about. And by "dropped a hint", I mean: my brother called and said, "What do you want me to get you for Christmas?", and I said, "Mindy Kaling's book!" and he was all, "Cool." So I thought I might get it. 

But then, this week, The Rogue Accountant got all cocky started saying stuff like, "Not to brag, or anything, but the thing I got you for Christmas this year? Is the best thing I've ever given you. EVER." 

And then he smiled in this quasi-evil way that made me wonder if he was giving me a slug farm or a sculpture made of spam cans. If you have a brother, you know this feeling of impending dread. 

Before I tell you exactly what my brother's gift entailed, you need to know these things: 

1.) This was an off year for me. Usually, I have this savvy about gift giving. Most years, I know the perfect gifts to give. Other than my ability to start kitchen fires with nothing but chopsticks and a sweet potato, I'm kind of known for my gift-giving-prowess. But this year? NADA. Everything about this year was off for me. My world got a little bit crazy (in a good way) and I didn't give this area the time and attention I usually do. I didn't put the creative time and energy into my gifts, not like the masses have come to expect. I warned the fam early on that this year was an off year. The gifts I gave were cool, just not up to par with what I usually do. Even Santa has off years, I've tried to convince myself. But alas. I have lots of Christmas guilt this year. 


2.) I gave my brother the following: I took one of my favorite pictures from our summer trip to Oregon, and I sent it off to the picture elves, and the photo came back as a big print. And I framed it. The pic is really cool: a beautiful shot of Multnomah Falls surrounded in fog. I also gave him a pack of Tully's Coffee and, and this is the especially funny part, I gave him a block of Tillamook Cheddar Cheese. It was like a Pacific Northwest prize pack and I was pretty proud of myself. Plus I thought it'd be funny to give him a block of smoked cheddar with a bow on top. And it was.  

And then I opened my brother's gift to me, which was Mindy Kaling's book.

I freaked out, because Mindy Kaling is funny and smart and awesome. And I'd wanted her book so bad for so long. 

And then my brother said, "There's a bookmark in there." 

And he flashed that quasi-evil grin again, the one that made me wonder if he'd scattered dead bug confetti between the pages or something.  

I was surprised to discover that my brother had tucked a receipt into the Mindy Kaling book. 

A receipt for the purchase of two tickets to see, oh, just some little indie band ... 

For Christmas? I gave my brother a block of smoked cheddar. 

And he got us tickets to see Coldplay!!!!!!!


After lots of screaming, this slight juxtaposition became apparent to me. And I got very quiet and looked at the tickets. Then looked at my brother. Then looked at the tickets. Then I buried my head in my hands and said, "I gave you smoked cheddar.

To reiterate. My brother gave me this: 

And I gave him this: 


I've been a Coldplay fan since high school which has been, gah, over 10 years. (I know many of you were *gulp* born in the 90's ... but if you were in high school in the 90's, you might remember the first NOW CD? That's when I first heard Coldplay! Heh. :) And I've always wanted to see them live but tickets have been a little too pricey every time they've been close. And they sell out quick and all that jazz. So I'd kind of assumed Coldplay Live wasn't in my future. 

Would you think me especially dorky if I told you I cried, just a little bitty bit when I realized what my "bookmark" was? 

I have the sweetest bro ever. Seriously. 

But it's not just the Coldplay *dances a happy jig* part that makes me happy. I'm most excited that I get to see them with my brother. Like most sibs, we have a bunch in common. We can talk in movie quotes. We have the same weird sense of humor. We're both ambitious and we love dogs and we have that shared language all families have; the kind made up of the funny, inside jokes nobody else will ever get. But Chase also gets the music-part of my heart. He gets the visceral reaction I have to music, because he has it too. He knows what it's like to tuck a memory into a song. He knows why I listen to certain songs during certain seasons, why I write lyrics on index cards and on my mirror and sometimes, randomly, on the back of my hand so I can keep them close. I'm forever spellbound by the stories songs tell. Music makes me feel wild and safe. But the best part is that music makes me feel. Whether my heart is pounding in fear or anticipation, I've got a song that I can steady against it. That all probably sounds goofy, but I'm sure you get it too. Music is a gift that I'm endlessly grateful for. 

And that's a roundabout way of saying that I can't wait to see Coldplay live. I've set so many of my memories to their songs that I wonder if the concert's going to feel like reading an old diary.

Is it July yet?! ;-) 

One last gift. And this is so very girly, so please scroll if you don't like to discuss clothes.  My parents gave me too much sweet stuff, even though I told them not to get me anything. (Because, not to be corny etc., but I feel like the fact that I get to be around them so much is pretty much the best gift ever.)  One of the gifts they gave me was this jacket: 

Pardon the dressing room pic. That's the pic I sent to my mom and sister a dozen times and said, "... Maybe?" (To which they both replied, YES!!!) I kept going back to the store, and trying it on, but I never bought it because 1.) I'm cheap and 2.) because it's a weirdly wonderful blend of trends: military style + ruffles + a bold, brassy zipper and I think ... is this too much trend for me to work?

Even when I opened the present, and flipped out and said, "... but are you sure I can wear this ..." My mom was like, "YES. Duh. Yes. Of course you can wear it." And, truly, if I had no qualms about wearing snakeskin jeggings (more on those later), you'd think a well-structured jacket would kind of be a no brainer. I dig it.

I hope you had the sweetest weekend ever. I hope you were surrounded by people you love. I hope you laughed until your face hurt. I hope you ate loads of Oreos. Or bacon. Or both. 

Merry (... day after ...) Christmas, friends! I would love to hear how your weekend went. Did you get any new books? Start some new traditions? Travel somewhere amazing? 


  1. I totally had an off year with present-finding, too. We can commiserate about our gift guilt. Your brother? Totally awesome! I'm thinking he should give lessons to my brother. Glad your Christmas was merry.

  2. I loved reading your post! (not that that's any different than usual...but, you know.)

    We are working on a Beth Moore study too, in Kiev. 3 of the single lady teachers (me, my roommate, and another gal) get together with one of the missionaries/moms to watch and discuss the Esther study. Last week our group grew to include a few more friends (and Colleen always tries to get her high-school-age boys to watch the videos too!). It's a lot of fun, when you do the study in a group. :)

  3. My christmas was filled with heartache, lots of difficult things surrounding my family and friends this holiday season.
    I can relate to the way you listen to music. I am the exact same way!
    I got books for Christmas aswell. and I did go somewhere, but not somewhere adventerous. I went with my family to small town Manitoba, which was definatly not fun and adventerous. But your post brought a smile to my face during this busy, and stressful, christmas time, so thank you! Merry Christmas!

  4. This must go in a book:
    the one that made me wonder if he'd scattered dead bug confetti between the pages...

  5. I got a stack of books, too. :) You have to tell me how the Cary Grant book is! I read the one by his daughter this year but haven't got around to that one yet.

    That's so exciting that you get to see Coldplay! :) I only have X&Y, but I love it.


  6. okay, so i don't think my first comment worked second timee's the charm...oh my goodness! coldplay!? awesome!!!sounds like your christmas rocked. mine did too. have a happy new year!

  7. my brother has an ugly cheeseburger ornament that has to be proudly displayed front and center every year.

    I'm eying the Mindy Kaling book; please let me know if, 1) it's worth the $13, and 2) if my parents would freak out if they read it. ;)

    ahhh Coldplay! Coldplay! I am officially jealous. That would have pulled tears from me as well. Brothers are honestly my favorite people ever.

  8. I saw Coldplay with my brother in New Orleans a couple years ago. It involved a bit of a road trip, but I've since decided that siblings are the best people to go to concerts with. Even if your tastes in music are different, you were raised on the same thing, so the core of what you love about music is essentially the same. I couldn't have picked a better person to go with me to the Coldplay concert. We also went to see Jars of Clay together a couple weeks ago, and my theory was confirmed. When we were little, instead of playing the Beatles or Simon & Garfunkel, my dad would play the self-titled Jars of Clay album for years on end (still does). The concert was perfect, especially with Bradley. We ended up getting my dad their self-titled album on vinyl (even though he doesn't have a record player... yet).

  9. My sister and I share music tastes as well. Our music purchase this year? We geeked out with the Fiddler on the Roof soundtrack, then listened to it all day yesterday while making matzah ball soup and latkes for Hanukkah.

    Siblings give the best gifts. Probably because they know you best and pick up on all the subtle hints you unknowingly leave all year. All my best gifts came from my sister. The girl sewed me a QUILT (in 3 days!!).

    I didn't travel for Christmas but I'm heading to Pittsburgh for New Years to see my best friend! Which means this south Louisiana girl gets to see SNOW! SO.excited.

  10. I did get a book, Paperdoll! I even did one of those big gasps when I opened it! (:

  11. Your cheese video reminded me of this Looney Tunes video..

    haha :)
    I don't comment often, but I check back here regularly and love your writing. Thanks so much!

  12. Bethany and I were gonna try and see NeedtoBreathe together in March, but then we figured out that flying me out to Wisconsin for my birthday just for a concert and missing school wasn't quite worth it. *sigh* But I still get to see them, but I've been blessed to have had more than my fair share of concert experiences with my big sister. She's amazing: Family Force 5, Skillet, Disciple, Thousand Foot Krutch, and Barlow Girl are all precious memories.

    She also got me the most amazing book, The Night Circus, not sure if you've heard about it but it's different, which I like a lot.

  13. It's been awhile since I have gotten to read and comment on your blog! Whirlwind six months of graduating, getting a job, getting engaged, planning a wedding in 98 days, and getting married! However, I am so glad to be be back reading your stories and aww-ing over cute pictures of Biscuit.

    I hosted my first Christmas dinner! My family came to visit me and my husband (still kinda weird to say) and I cooked a ham!

    I may have to add a couple of those books to my list... it's a pretty bare list right now, so suggestions have been welcome!

    -Samantha (original blog: I'm Still Growing Up... formatting got wonky so I switched to a Word Press, but I promise I'm not being blog-host-pretentious)

  14. LOVE your new jacket! Looks really cool! We kinda started a new tradition which may sound odd but meh :) This year we blew up balloons AND made Jesus a bday cake! Was pretty rad. My mum had a dream/vision and saw this iced blue cake and well so thats exactly what we did. Then we all sung Him Happy Birthday and then we all crowded around the cake and blew out the candles, in which there were thirty (the age He started His ministry :) ). Also as its summer here we (as in my youngest brother and I) decided to make up a Summer List which You featured on your blog not long ago. And so we've wrote down a bunch of activities etc and are slowly hammering into them this week. (as I am holiday :D ). So yeah thats been my week so far tehe :) Usually I ask for books at Christmas but lately I've been all about music so I got vouchers and also a lot of beautiful jewellery tehe!
    I hope your having a awesome week Nat! And hope your still digging Bar Method..I totally am though it kicks my butt everytime!
    Hannah xx
    Question: You wouldnt know of any cool bible reading plans for the year would you? Am looking for a new one for the coming year :)

  15. BEST BOOKMARK EVER! I saw Coldplay in September at Music Midtown in Atlanta and they were outstanding! And Mindy Kaling's book is phenomenal—don't tell Tina, but I liked it better than Bossypants!

  16. Katie, I can picture the cheeseburger ornament so well. That sounds exactly like something my brother would pick out. And I concur that brothers are pretty amazing creatures. I'll let you know when I finish the Kaling but so far, I don't think they'd freak out at all. If they're cool with you reading John Green, I think they'll be okay with this.

    Ashley, is that the album with "Flood"?!

    Rebekah, I love that your sister made you a quilt. That's some serious-amazing gifting. I hope it snowed a load while you were in Pittsburgh! I always, always hope for snow around the holidays. Makes the whole world feel extra-magical :)

    Lydia, WOO HOO! :) I hope you enjoy the book!!

  17. Morgan, that video is exceptional. If ever I become a superhero, I can only HOPE to be called The Queso Bandito. Hilarious. Thanks for sharing (and thanks for popping into say hey!)

    Allie, you MUST let me know what you think about The Night Circus! I keep going back and forth on whether or not I want to read it. Only because I hear she's heavy handed with descriptions. Sometimes I love that, but sometimes I feel bogged down by details. I'm so intrigued though. I love the concept, and I hear it has a Potter-ish vibe to it. Let me know if it's a keeper!

    Sam, congrats on all the awesome stuff happening in your life!!! And dang - you already cooked a ham?! That's for serious :) Sounds like you had such a sweet first Christmas together!

    Hannah, your Christmas sounds so wonderful! To answer your questions - yes, Bar Method is still kicking my rear. I didn't work out for a few weeks and whenever I skip those DVDs' for more than a few days, I ache like I've never done them before. Those things are intense. Burr knows how to bring it :) Also - I've been using a Bible reading plan that I really like . It's actually a workbook by George Guthrie called "Reader's Guide to the Bible: Chronological Reading Plan". The title isn't so creative (ha :) but the book is great. By the end of the year, you'll have read the whole text of the Bible chronologically. He has a short little note on each passage. I'm liking it so much. I especially like his commentary on the Old Testament, because those books are tough for me to tangle with sometimes. Another resource I've seen is a free app from - the app has a bunch of different Bible translations and several different reading plans on it. I'll look around and see what else I can find!

    Hannah, I haven't read Bossypants, because I've been living under a rock this year, but I've heard several people say they like it more! Mindy endeared herself to me by page 2, pretty much. She's so funny and smart. It's like you're reading something a friend wrote. I'm liking it a lot so far!

  18. LOVE your tree, and the Irish Santa cracked me up! :) And I can't WAIT to hear your thoughts on the Cary Grant book, I DON'T have it can you believe it??? Looks awesome!

  19. I would consider my Christmas gift-giving of every year to be an off year because there is really nothing anyone in my family wants for Christmas.

    I did hit the sweet spot with my brother though. I was going to get him $15 for iTunes, which he said he didn't want, so instead I got him $15 for Subway. And when I was home he said all he wanted was money and Subway gift cards, so inside, my mind was like, "AHHHHHH AFSDFAKLSDJF I GOT YOU SUBWAY." In turn, he bought me the Hunger Games trilogy. I had already read them {by borrowing them from the library}, but I am thrilled to have my own copy {& it's paperback, too!}.

    My brother and I listened to Mylo Xyloto exclusively probably up to six weeks after it came out. So exciting that you get to see them live! And I have heard Mindy Kaling's book is really good. I'll have to snag it from the library soon!

  20. Is that the album with flood. Pshah. Please, please, please do yourself a favor and spend a few weeks poring over some JOC history. They are true artisans of lyric. (And mandolin. And accordion. And harmony. Also, their lead singer did most of the percussion during the concert. Mad props from someone who can't clap and sing at the same time.)

  21. Thanks Nat! :) I'll shall have a look into the George Guthrie plan Sounds awesome! :) and glad your still into Bar. I TOTALLY know what you mean when you say you ache if you havnt done them in a while. I totally do too!
    Bless you :)