Suz's love for COWS + Allan's work with LASERS = one unique blog name! Welcome to our blog filled with race recaps, pictures of our labs, and everything else we share with blogland!

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Our Christmas in Pictures

I know, I know, it's been a few days since Christmas and I'm just now posting our pictures. Let me give you the cliff notes version of our Christmas travels.

December 21: My Birthday!!!, Drive to Montgomery
December 22: Day in Auburn, Bought Allan a second desk because apparently one isn't enough
December 23: Christmas lunch with my parents, my sister, and her husband; Open presents that night
December 24: Run, Rest, Eat, Rest, Eat
December 25: Lunch with my parents, Drive to Birmingham, Eat, Open presents
December 26: Hour long walk with Jodi, After Christmas shopping
December 27: Drive home, Unpack, Go grocery shopping
December 28: Wake up with sore throat, Catch up on blogs, Watch Love Actually (finally), Parents arrive

My sister Rachel & I with her dog Blackjack

Allan got money from almost everyone so he could pre-order the PlayStation Vita which comes out in February

My cookie cake from Allan (slightly pissed that they misspelled my name)

There was lots of playtime for the dogs in the pasture

A few games of A Christmas Story Yahtzee

English peas in with cash because Mom likes to make everyone open presents

Very festive attire at Allan's mom's house

Allan & Ali playing piano

Ali opening her presents
Overall both my birthday and Christmas were wonderful. Not only did Allan get me the yummy cookie cake above but my parent's got me a cookie cake as well. Don't worry, Allan and my sister's husband Michael made sure there was none of either left by Christmas Eve morning! We were very blessed to be able to spend so much time with both families. The two of us received some wonderful gifts from family and friends.

I'm praying that I'm not actually sick and it's just a sore throat but that's not looking very promising at this moment. Hope all of you are having a good week post-Christmas!

Did you do a lot of traveling for Christmas? What was your favorite Christmas moment this year?

Monday, December 26, 2011

Christmas Virtual Races

Never and I mean never have I run so much between December 23-December 26. Normally during Christmas I can be found curled up on the couch at my parent's from the time I wake up until the time I fall asleep each night. This year that was not the case! I signed up for not one or two or three but FOUR virtual races during Christmas. I walked 1.5 miles on December 23, ran 6.2 miles on December 24, walked 1 mile on December 25, and walked 3 miles today.

No internet = No printing race bibs!

Of course I signed up for Kiley's Christmas Virtual 5K over at Daily Vitamin F. I ran this on Christmas Eve and doubled up with the Christmas Eve 5K that the Amys from Run My Guts Out and Run Mom Run organized. I didn't find out about this until the night of December 23 so I figured I was planning to run anyway so why not. I was originally planning to do the Home for the Holidays Virtual 10K on Christmas or the day after but when I got out and ran on Christmas Eve I knew I was going to go ahead and run a 10K that day. I also found out about the Dashing Through the Snow Virtual Race on Christmas Day. I could either run or walk a mile, 5K, or 10K. I walked a mile on Christmas afternoon at Allan's mom's while I chased the dogs around the house.

Lucky & Sasha running
For the Home for the Holidays 10K there was no PR for me at 1:23:59 but a PR for both our dogs. They did their first 5K in the pasture for Thanksgiving and this was their first 10K. Needless to say Sasha was pooped! Sasha has never run anywhere close to 5 miles much less over 6 miles! The dogs are so motivational for me to keep running because even when Sasha looked so tired she kept on trotting along so I did too. Lucky never really looked tired so I'm contemplating taking him on longer runs to see how far he is comfortable running.

1:23:59 for the 10K which is not bad since I ran a 45:26 for my 5K
I finished my Christmas Eve 5K/Daily Vitamin F Virtual Christmas 5K at an easy 45:26 with three dogs who ran with me and the cat who served as our race director. At one point I was running with the three dogs, the two small dogs were barking from the window, the cat was poised on the bush hog watching everything, and my dad and Allan were cheering me on and taking some pictures.

Notice my little race director Spiffy who supervised the event
Today Jodi and I got out and walked 3 miles. Allan, Adam, and Ali dropped us off at the park in Hoover and after we walked for 45 minutes and the boys were still at Wal-Mart we decided to just walk home. Curvy road, narrow shoulder, and lots of cars made for an adventure! We survived and made it back home in one piece. It was really nice to have someone to get out and walk with.

Sasha on the ride to Birmingham yesterday

Lucky riding in the backseat with me yesterday
Thank you so much to everyone who organized the virtual races over the past few days! I had a great time participating in all of them. I would have posted more over the past few days but the internet got taken out at my parent's in a storm on Thursday so no blog writing for me. I did catch up on all of your blogs on my phone but I just hated to blog from my phone without any pictures. I promise to make up for it this week!

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Our Favorite Ornaments & a WINNER

Yesterday got away from me and between doing a little cleaning, putting away things, and preparing to host my book club's Christmas party there was little time left for blogging. As promised here are our favorite Christmas ornaments from our tree. I wanted to briefly talk about each one so if you want to read the story behind each of our favorite ornaments read on or scroll through the pictures and get to the bottom to see who the lucky winner is!

Our First Home 2009

There are a few cows on the tree of course

One of our many plush J Crew ornaments (I also love the blue one in the background)

Cute little black heels because I LOVE shoes

An ornament I had made for Allan a few years ago

Of course there's a little bit of Auburn here and there

We have two of these that Allan's mom gave us when we graduated from Auburn

A gorgeous Waterford ornament I found a couple of years ago

A Lladro ornament for the year we got married

My favorite ornament that has hung on my parent's tree since I was a baby and now hangs on our tree
Alright let's get down to the exciting part. Today is my 28th birthday and I can't think of a better way to celebrate than to announce which one of you is going to be receiving our HUGE giveaway! First let me say that normally I go through and make sure everyone commented separately for each entry but it's my birthday and I have more exciting activities to get to so if you lumped comments together I'm sorry! The lucky winner is #73 and that is Jenn from Jenn's Adventures!! I swear I am not making this up. This girl has some incredible luck when it comes to winning our big giveaways! We love you Jenn and I know you will enjoy all of this!

We are going to have another giveaway starting after Christmas so there will be plenty more chances to win something from our blog. This will be our first sponsored giveaway. For all of the other giveaways we have bought everything ourselves and will probably continue to do a lot of that in the future.

Is there something you would like to see in one of our future giveaways?

What's the best giveaway you've ever won?

Alright off to get ready for my birthday lunch date at Olive Garden with Allan! I'll be back tomorrow to report on all the birthday festivities of the day! Thank you all so much for being such wonderful friends!

Monday, December 19, 2011

Galaxy of Lights & Gigi's

On Saturday night after chowing down at our favorite Mexican restaurant we went to see the Huntsville Botanical Garden's Galaxy of Lights. Thank goodness we don't get bored easily because it took over an hour to make it to the entrance. Apparently everyone else waited until Saturday night to see the lights too! There were several new displays that have been added since last year and it was absolutely beautiful!

F-14 Tomcat

After enjoying all the lights we got home and got into some Gigi's Cupcakes. We picked out several different kinds: Eggnog, Scarlett's Red Velvet, Kentucky Bourbon Pie, Midnight Magic Chocolate Chip, Banana Cream Pie, Grasshopper, and a Christmas colored vanilla cupcake. They were all pretty tasty!

Sunday was a pretty lazy day since I spent much of the early morning on the floor of the bathroom with my pillow and blanket. I felt kinda rough most of the day Saturday after the race and I didn't really feel back to normal until this morning. Sunday afternoon Michelle and Will had to leave but Sunday night we were lucky enough to have Margie stay with us. We all stayed up way too late playing Buzz Quiz on the PS3 and playing the new Bejeweled on all the iPhones and iPods. It's really addicting!!!

We called this Ali's tacky sleeper
This morning Margie was up and gone before most of the house was awake. Adam, Jodi, and Ali stayed until this afternoon before they had to leave. We had a pretty lazy Monday relaxing with the three of them and tonight we ran a couple of miles at the community center before making a little trip to Starbuck's. Yes, we are having Starbuck's for dinner. Lattes are so healthy, didn't you know?!

Tomorrow is the last day to enter our HUGE GIVEAWAY so get entered if you want a chance to win some jewelry, a Starbuck's giftcard, fuelbelt, and other goodies. Come back tomorrow to see some of our favorite ornaments on our Christmas tree!

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Rudolph Run = Jingle Bell H-E-Double Hockeysticks Run

This morning Allan and I got out of bed at 6:30 AM and headed to downtown Huntsville for the 2011 Rudolph Run. I had signed the two of us up for this race before Allan told me he won't be doing any more 5K's when it's cold. We bundled up (minus gloves because I forgot those) and got to the start line over 30 minutes before the race was scheduled to start.

Design for the shirt
I was feeling pretty good and assumed that I would be fine to run the 5K and hopefully set a new PR as long as there was one water station along the course. We jogged back to the car and put my handheld water bottle back after drinking half of it and headed to the start line. The start was really crowded and the first street was narrow so it was difficult to battle 1000+ people that first mile. I still managed to run the first mile in 10:02. The second mile was much more hilly and I slowed down to a 10:53 mile. This was where things got ugly and I realized this was MY Jingle Bell H***. THERE WAS NO WATER STATION!!! The third mile was brutal and I'm not sure how I ran the last 1.1 miles of the race in 11:15.

I really do love this picture but yet hate it at the same time
When I realized there would be no water I knew that a PR was out of the question unless I killed myself. At one point I did almost start to cry but then realized that would only make my breathing worse so instead I chose to laugh. I can manage a pretty sincere funny haha laugh when really I just want to scream! Allan ran holding my hand for a little while and doing his best to encourage me to breathe. When I started to wheeze I took a break to walk once more and then pushed it at the finish "chicking" four guys at the end. I crossed the line at 32:10, 25 seconds shy of setting a new 5K PR.

Allan got a lot of War Eagles with his Auburn santa hat on
I was mad because the PR was there. I know if I had a chance to have some water during the race I wouldn't have had the same difficulty with my breathing. I never should have taken my handheld back to the car but who has a 5K with no aid stations at all?! I was diagnosed with sports induced asthma as a teenager and running in cold weather is really tough on my lungs. It's easier for me to run without water when it's blazing hot than when it's cool outside.

This was NOT what I looked like after the race
On the plus side I did get to sport my Under Armour headband that the wonderful Beth @ Running Around My Kitchen sent me in the Christmas gift exchange. It was perfect, staying in place, and keeping my ears warm. Thank you so much Beth! I also rocked my GoSport ID in addition to my Nike watch and I couldn't even tell I was wearing it. I love my GoSport ID!

Love this thing!
I'm happy to report that I not only knocked out the Rudolph Run and the Jingle Bell H*** but also the TNT Lousy Medal 5K Run too. After I waited 20 minutes to find out my official time from the Rudolph Run we came back home and told our guests all about the race and this is how Ali felt about no PR:

No bueno Aunt Suz!
Our day was really just beginning with the running. Allan came up with the crazy idea of hitting the thrift stores to find ugly Christmas sweaters. We found two for the adults and one for Ali which she will be wearing tonight. Before we went out to dinner we did a little shopping at TJ Maxx and Marshall's and Allan and Adam decided to try on some hats while they were waiting.

Allan had to wear his tacky vest in Marshall's because he was SOOO excited!
After we went to our favorite Mexican restaurant for dinner we came home and got ready to go to Huntsville Botanical Garden's Galaxy of Lights. Allan and Will decided to sport their tacky Christmas outfits for the event. (We just drove through thank goodness!)

Don't they look festive?!
Check back tomorrow to hear all about our adventures at Galaxy of Lights and how the rest of our weekend turned out!

Friday, December 16, 2011

Glancing Back & Looking Forward to Christmas

Last Thanksgiving I rode back to TX with my best friend and his wife and a few days later said goodbye to my best friend as he deployed. I spent the next two weeks with his wife (Allan's best girl friend) before flying to Birmingham. The next morning I threw a baby shower with Allan's mom at her house for Jodi (Allan's younger brother Adam's wife). By the time I got home that night I was packing my bag again, dropping Allan off at the airport, and leaving for the farm. The next few days we took turns sitting with NeeNee as she continued to decline. She passed away on December 16, 2010, around 1 AM. That morning I wrote her obituary and called Allan's coworker to see if there was a way to get a message to Allan. Due to work Allan wasn't able to fly home in time for the funeral and due to pilot training Rachel (my sister) was husbandless as well for the funeral.

Rachel and I stayed home until Christmas Day and I have to admit that driving away from the farm on Christmas Day was the hardest thing I've ever done. It was all I could do to make it through Christmas with Allan's family without losing it. The next day I practically collapsed onto Lucky crying like a small child when we got home. Our house felt so cold and empty with no sign of Christmas except for our tree Allan had put up with only orange and blue lights on it. My favorite part of the year normally filled with so much happiness had been filled with so much heartache. I remember crying and wishing for it to be Christmas 2011.

I say none of this to be depressing but to explain why this year I pulled out nearly all the stops decorating the house and spent the entire year searching for all the right gifts for everyone. Several of my most cherished memories are from Christmas Eve at NeeNee & Pa's and Christmas morning at home with Mommy, Daddy, and Rachel. NeeNee and Pa normally arrived by 10AM to see what Santa brought and to eat lunch with us. There have been moments these past couple of weeks where I've been curled up in the chair looking at our tree and listening to Christmas music and I could almost hear NeeNee rattling off the Christmas menu to all of us and Pa saying prayer before the meal.

For me this year is about reclaiming the joy of Christmas that the little girl inside of me still holds on to. It's reading the story of the birth of Jesus and picturing what it must have been like to have been there in that moment. It's about the joy captured in the moments with family and friends where love and laughter are plenty. It's snuggling fireside with Allan and Lucky (Sasha gets too hot so no snuggling for her!) and knowing that I have everything in the world in my arms. It's the look on my parent's faces when we arrive for Christmas and they rush out to greet us. It's the phone calls on Christmas from my two best friends that truly know me better than anyone and will love and defend me forever. It's holding our niece and watching her eyes light up as she looks at the Christmas tree and its many ornaments. That's what this Christmas is about for me...

Thursday, December 15, 2011

It's Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas!

After reading all of your comments from the GIVEAWAY post, I want to take a moment and clarify something. We believe first and foremost that the reason we celebrate this time of year is because of the birth of Jesus Christ. Both Allan and I were raised in homes where Christ always came first. For both of us Christmas is about celebrating Jesus Christ and his birth and everything else is secondary. Yes, we do exchange gifts and have things we ask for when family and friends inquire as to what to give us for Christmas but we never forget the "reason for the season".  I apologize if asking what's on your list for Santa or what's the best gift you've ever received implied that it had to be something material. The best gifts are seldom ones you can hold in your hand!

Our wreath which has battery-operated LED lights in it but I didn't have them on
Our table & mirror in the entry way
Our card holder at the front door and Sasha

Decorating for Christmas is something I look forward to each year. Starting when I was a little girl my sister and I each had our own small tree (silver for me & white for her) in our rooms that we decorated with our own ornaments and could put our gifts we had made or bought for each other and our family under our trees. When I moved to college the trend continued and I decorated every year the day I returned from Thanksgiving break with ornaments from childhood and ones I had since acquired. I always exchanged gifts with my roommates and enjoyed having the Christmas decorations out while we were cramming for finals and pulling all nighters.

Bookcase in the front hall

Christmas Cow Parade Cow

Lladro Santa, Willow Tree Nativity, Christmas arrangement my Dad made for my Mom when I was born
Christmas 2009 was our first Christmas in our first house and our first Christmas as newlyweds and I wanted a live tree but not just any live tree. We cut down a tree from my parent's farm that I had planted in the yard when I was little. It had been bent over when the cows got out once when I was little but I was resourceful so I took duct tape and taped the tree back together. To this day you can still see pieces of duct tape on the bottom of the tree! The top part continued to grow but grew back at an odd angle. This top part was perfect for my first live tree! I was terrified it would fall over (since I've never had a live tree) so we only decorated it with cloth or plastic ornaments. Nonetheless the tree was perfect! Lucky actually still totes it around the backyard from time to time playing with it.


Decorative trees Allan picked out two years ago and we LOVE them!

Our Hispanic nativity and our Advent "Tree"

Wooden sign & Rudolph plate on wall going into the kitchen
Last Christmas was not the Christmas we expected but I'll explain that in tomorrow's post. This year I dragged out ALL my decorations and started putting everything out in the house. I decorated our den, kitchen, two guest baths (I forgot to take pictures of these but I'll include them in another post), and entry way. I hung our Christmas garden flag out at the mailbox and Allan hung icicle lights along the front of the house. I had lofty goals of decorating the two trees Allan's mom gave us when she bought a new one this year but once I volunteered to host my book club's Christmas party that idea went out the window! Moving furniture in the dining room and library to put in the two trees made the rooms too crowded so we put them both away.

Snowmen & Cows

More snowmen & cows

Our Christmas Auburn plate

Christmas towel, oven mitts, and a couple of our mugs
We have enough ornaments to fill all three trees so we picked out and selected our favorites for the tree this year. Those will be highlighted in their own post next week! Allan's main task is setting up the tree, fluffing it, and putting on the lights. I drag everything out and put everything away and do all the rest of the decorating indoors. We decorated the tree together while watching Sunday Night Football because what event in our house is complete without sports mixed in there somewhere!

Jingle Bells for the nite nite room (the dogs sleep in the laundry room)

Allan is the only one with a stocking right now

The doggies are getting this for Christmas!

Sasha figured out I was leaving as soon as I got done with the photo shoot

Our Christmas Tree!
Hope you've enjoyed the Holiday Tour of our house! Tomorrow I'll talk about Christmas 2010 and what we I'm looking forward to for Christmas 2011!

Are you done decorating?

What are some of your favorite Christmas decorations?