December 29, 2011

Christmas in New York

We decided to spend Christmas with Aaron's parents in upstate New York this year.  We ended up being the only "kids" who were up there this year but it was still a lot of fun!

We got there on Friday night, around 8:30pm.  Smooth drive, except for a little traffic in Shamokin Dam.  Yes, the town is really called Shamokin Dam.  Ate food, talked, went to bed.

Saturday we went to a baptism, played games, and went to Aaron's grandma's apartment for dinner.  YUM.

Sunday we practiced restraint and didn't open anything until after church.  Karen asked me to sing with the RS and YW in Sacrament Meeting (Still, Still, Still) because there were only 2 altos and  plethora of sopranos.  We only had the one hour of church and it was full of music- I teared up a couple times.  I love when the Christmas program is on Christmas Day!


Once we got back to the house, we opened stockings and presents.  I think this was my first Christmas with just adults, so it was different, but still fun to give and receive gifts!



video

Then we ate Christmas dinner and played cards for a while until Aaron's grandma went home.

Monday morning we went shopping.  I LOVE shopping the day after holidays!  There's not quite as much of a selection, but you can stock up for the next year for about half the price.  So we shopped in Greece, Sweden, and Batavia (I think) and went to Friendly's for lunch.

Played Settlers again.  Aaron won again.

Once it was getting dark, we headed out for Niagara Falls.  We stayed on the American side this time.  They light up the falls with colored lights at Christmas and it's really pretty.  I had a hard time getting good photos of it but I ended up getting a few clear ones. (Click to enlarge)




Tuesday morning we packed up, ate brunch, and headed out.  We were doing really well until York PA, where there was an accident that closed I-83 S less than a mile ahead of us.  So after sitting there for a few minutes, we put the car in park.  After 10 more minutes, we turned off the car.  And about 30 minutes after that, we finally started moving.  Ugh.  Too bad there was no exit between us and the accident, or we would have taken it and found a different way around.

So we finally got home on Tuesday evening.

All in all, a great trip!

December 28, 2011

Crafty Christmas

This year was our first year with a full sized Christmas tree!  The last 2 years we had a tiny one-bedroom apartment, so the only tree we had room for was 2 feet tall, set up on a side table.  Our apartment now is significantly bigger (though still an apartment) so we got a 7 1/2 ft skinny tree.

Now, with a tree that sits on the floor, we were in need of a tree skirt.  So we decided to make one!

Aaron helped me pick out the fabric and buttons and I sewed it.  It took 2 evenings and I think it turned out really cute!


Apparently we can't celebrate a holiday without making sugar cookies anymore.  So we made some like we did for Halloween (this year and last) and last Christmas.





We had a cookie exchange at our ward Christmas party, so most of them were taken home by other people and we ended up with a plate overflowing with a variety of other cookies and treats!

December 13, 2011

Q&A About my Product Reviews

*I know some of you may also be curious about how I get this random stuff to try and review.  I had someone ask me about it so I thought I'd share the message here in case you're curious too!*  

Reader: 
Hey! So I keep reading these product reviews on your blog and how it's from the bzz agency. I looked it up online and it doesn't give me too much info. I'm kind of interested in doing it. Can you give me more info on it?

Erika:
Yeah! I love it! It's buzzagent.com and basically they send out products for people to test and talk about. It's along the lines of word-of-mouth advertising but they're not asking you to promote the products exactly. They just want honest opinions about the products.

You get invited to do "campaigns" based on age, gender, income level, etc. since they usually want people from a certain demographic (like how they only sent the Maybelline lip glosses to women).

You also get points for how much you talk about the product or share it (some of the kits come with samples to share or coupons to share) and those points go to mypoints.com which let's you redeem points for gift cards. I haven't earned enough point to redeem for the good gift cards yet but they have gift cards for all kinds of places like amazon and Walmart and restaurants.

The more you buzz about the products, the more points you earn and you're likely to be invites to more campaigns in the future.

I think it's a really cool program and I totally think you should join!

(I feel like I just wrote an advertisement for it! But it really is cool because all but one campaign is free to join and you get to try things for free! Most of the products are either new releases too or even prerelease so that's cool too.)

Let me know if you get into any cool campaigns once you join!

Side note- usually the products I get are cool enough that I want to talk about them anyway, so I pretty much get points for something I would have done anyway!

December 7, 2011

Giving Thanks

We spent Thanksgiving with the Brayleys in Manassas this year.  It was great because my whole family was able to get together the weekend before.  (Austin and Mariko went to Texas for actual Thanksgiving, but at least we were all together for a couple of days before)

I finally got to meet baby Amelia, Doug and Cassie's new baby girl who was born in October.  She's adorable, and I loved cuddling her every chance I got!

We brought some Wii games with us, to play on my parents' sweet set up downstairs.  They have a projector in their big open basement, great for watching movies and playing games.  We had so much fun playing together, especially Just Dance 2.

I am thankful for my amazing family, and so glad I got to spend the holiday with them!

Unfortunately I didn't take a single photo.  But here's a cute video of Archer and his favorite Aaron:

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December 6, 2011

MLK Jr.

We were in Manassas the weekend before Thanksgiving and we went with Austin, Mariko, Harrison, Natalie, and Chris to the new Martin Luther King Jr. Monument in DC. It's a pretty neat monument. He is depicted as the "stone of hope out of a mountain of despair" that he mentioned in his speech.


"The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy." (25 February 1967, Los Angeles, CA)

December 5, 2011

Photos! Halloween cookies!

Photo overload- sorry, but I think my Halloween cookies turned out really cute!

(To learn how to do this kind of decorating, see this blog.  I learned all of my sugar cookie decorating skills from there.  But the baking skills- I learned that from mom.  And BHG.)

December 4, 2011

New Couch!

So up until the end of October, we were using these:


This set is about as old as me.  Now, I know I'm not THAT old, but for a couch... well, they needed to be replaced.  My parents bought this couch and chair new years ago, and until it moved up here with us, they were sitting in my parents' basement, seeing little use.


Well, we put them up on craigslist and found a new home for them at the end of October, because we bought a new couch!  (Side note, when we were moving the old set out of our apartment, we found a duplo block rattling around in the base...  how long it's been in there, I have no idea...)



I love it.  It's so comfy and pretty, and even came with the leather ottoman!  Now I just have to figure out what to put on the walls above it!  (Suggestions welcome!)

December 3, 2011

Buzz Can Fly!

...Sometimes...

One Saturday earlier this fall, it was pretty windy, so Aaron and I decided to take our kite out to fly.  At first we were getting a lot of this:




But eventually we got him to fly!





We probably looked pretty silly, two adults flying a Buzz Lightyear kite in an elementary school field, but who cares?  We had fun!

December 2, 2011

Let's Review- COOKIES!

I love cookies.  I especially love homemade cookies.  So I was skeptical when I was asked to try these "Kroger's The Truly Awesome™ Homestyle Chocolate Chip Cookies," which are NOT homemade, obviously.


So they sent me 2 boxes to try.  Aaron and I opened a box and tried them.  We were not impressed.  Not that they were bad, because they weren't.  But there were exactly what you'd expect from a boxed cookie.  Yes, they were a little bigger than average, but there also weren't as many as you'd find in an average box, so I figure you get the same amount of cookie overall.

So we figured we would try a suggestion that was included in my package- put the cookies in the microwave for a few seconds.  Apparently this makes them taste like they just came out of the oven... like homemade!

Well, surprisingly, they were right!  We put them in the microwave for about 20 seconds and they came out warm, soft, and delicious.  We devoured the whole pack of cookies as soon as we realized how good they were!

I have to admit, I still prefer homemade cookies.

But this is a pretty decent alternative.

*I was given free samples by BzzAgent- opinions are mine.*

December 1, 2011

Oh Life...

Somehow life keeps happening whether I have time to blog about it or not.

Whew.

Keep your eyes peeled for some new posts in the next few days.












Please don't really peel your eyes. That's just gross.

November 29, 2011

Let's Review- Maybe it's Maybelline...

Time for another product review! Makeup again today.

This time it's Maybelline mascara and lip gloss.


Let's start with the mascara. It's called Lots of Lashes. It's the same stuff you see everywhere with the pink tube and green lid, but it has a different applicator brush. It's heart shaped so that it's easier to get all those tiny lashes in the corners.


I already used Maybelline mascara before this, so the finished product wasn't too different from what I'm used to, but it really was a lot easier to get the lashes in the corners! It even got my lashes a little more curled than they usually get without using an eyelash curler. I give this an A.

Baby Lips is also great. They sent me five the six flavors they have out (Quenched, Peppermint, Peach Kiss, Pink Punch, and Cherry Me). Two are clear and the other three are tinted different shades of pink and red. They all smell great and they make my lips feel pretty awesome too. I especially love the tinted ones though. They have SPF 20 and they're also supposed to improve your lips' moisture in a couple of weeks use. I haven't particularly noticed that improvement, but then again, we are heading into winter and my lips always get more dry in the winter.


I have to say that even though I'm loving these lip balms, I think I liked the CoverGirl one better. These Maybelline ones just don't seem to last very long. I would love to put it on and not have to worry about it for a while, but I can't so I just keep one in my purse and I'm happy. So... I think I'll give these an A-.

As a note, I received all of these samples from BzzAgent but the opinions are mine.

October 16, 2011

Les Misérables

For many years, my favorite musical has been Les Misérables.  My mom had the soundtrack on cassette tape and I loved listening to it (along with Phantom of the Opera and Evita...)

When we lived in Bloomington, Indiana, the traveling company came and my family went.  I remember sitting there, in awe of the huge stage (it was the first thing I ever went to that was performed on a full size professional stage) and even more amazed that the whole stage rotated.  As I learned more about the play, I discovered that the whole stage, basically, has this massive turntable on it.  Some scenes are performed with the turntable in motion, other times, the turntable was used to rotate set pieces and props on and off the stage.  I remember so vividly the barricade scene, when the students were lying dead on and off the barricade. The student who had been waving the flag when he was she was draped over the barricade along with the huge red flag.  As the orchestra played, the stage rotated and you see everyone who had fallen on both sides, with the bright red of the flag cascading down among the bodies.  It was such an epic scene- as you should be able to tell, based on the fact that I remember that from when I was... maybe 10 years old?

Les Misérables is playing right now at the Kennedy Center in Washington DC and Aaron and I went to it on Thursday.  The music was just as good as ever, though with slightly different instrumentation (no soundtrack is as powerful as hearing it live), and the theater was beautiful.  Most of the cast was amazing- I have to admit that I cried several times throughout the performance.

However, I was disappointed to learn that the production was changed for its 25th anniversary.  The staging and set was completely redone.  It was still a great set, but I guess they removed the turntable.  Maybe because it was difficult to transport, maybe because they were just trying to do something new different... I'm not sure why they did it, but it diminished the performance a little bit for me.  The stage also seemed a little small- I think that's because they had some rather large set pieces that framed the stage throughout, cutting out some of the usable stage space.  Aaron had no problems with it- I did only because I missed the turntable.  And obviously, no turntable = no rotating barricade.  I found myself missing it.

They also used lighting effects to create the backdrops- they were generally very good, but they freaked me out a little bit when they moved.  For example, when Jean Valjean is carrying Marius through the sewers, the backdrop moved to make it appear as thought the characters were moving forward even though they were actually walking in place.  I don't know whether this is a new effect or maybe I just don't remember it from before, but I have mixed feelings about it.

Also, I was really unhappy with Eponine.  She has always been my favorite character in Les Misérables.  But the actress I saw this week was... not impressive.  I didn't feel like she stood out enough- she really blended in with the crowd, vocally and physically.  And she was a good half step flat on her last 2 notes of On My Own.  Sad.

Okay so I know I've pretty much written about everything I didn't like about the show, but really it was awesome.  Most of the things I didn't like are only because I have an earlier production to compare it to.  If I didn't, I'm sure I would love the set (it really is good), and I wouldn't even know to miss the turntable.  I would probably still be a little weirded out the by moving backdrop, but it was beautiful and flawless when it was still.  The singing and acting was impressive  and the cast was well chosen (minus the Eponine issues, which I would have noticed whether I'd seen it already or not).  It was emotional and grand, hence the crying in multiple places.  I recommend it to anyone, really.

October 13, 2011

Austin and Mariko (and Harrison) come to visit

The Brayley #3 family (Austin, Mariko, Harrison) came to visit us last Saturday!  This was the first time that they've come up to see us and our new apartment and had fun with them.

We hung out at the apartment for a while, went to 5 Guys for lunch, hung out again (while we digested), and then went for a walk (to work off what we had just digested) in the Nature Preserve walking trails that are near us.  It turned out to be a pretty warm day and we had a good walk.  I got a WORKOUT from carrying Harrison for a bunch of the walk.  He's a big boy!



Harrison seemed to be getting a little tired by the end though.  All that hard work of being carried all the time... ☺

We also gave them our extra TV while they were up here.  It barely fit in the trunk of their car, and Mariko claims that she's going to go blind because it's so big.  Nice.

October 12, 2011

Camping!

We took a camping trip with my parents over Labor Day weekend.

We went to a park near Harpers Ferry, WV, but our campground was actually in Maryland.

It was a great, relaxing weekend.  My mom was quite distressed that her iPad couldn't get any service... LOL... only my mother would bring the iPad on a camping trip...

We went to the lake and did some paddleboating.  We took a bunch of pictures, but they're all on my mom's camera.

We went to church on Sunday morning before heading to Harper's Ferry for the afternoon.  My dad didn't change his socks...

And saw some reenactments and we got some delicious ice cream for a snack while we walked around.





All in all, a great weekend.