auld lang syne

happy new years eve my friends!

oh my goodness. i can’t believe it’s going to be 2016! wow! what a year it has been. so many wonderful memories. so many amazing times with my hc and olive. i am so incredibly blessed to have such amazing friends and family by my side. i am fortunate to love and be loved. life has been good to me, to us, that i will forever see the glass half full.

i am fortunate to spend happy moments with my amazing dad. every second, every minute means so much to me. my mom’s desire to always take care of all of us is such a great gift. i am lucky to have a beautiful daughter and doting husband. i am blessed to have so many wonderful siblings and in laws.

looking back at 2015, it brings a smile to my face to think of all the fabulous things we were able to accomplish, do, and live. i had a blast celebrating my sister’s birthday in l.a. i celebrate the fact that i nursed olive for almost 20 months! i cherish the moments i am able to spend with my dear friends…all the brunches, dinners, and lovely times we have been able to have together. our yearly vacation to vegas with two very cool dudes. my brother getting engaged to a very lovely lady. the many fun moments olive has had with our nephews, and how sweet darling r is to her. i could go on and on about all the marvelous events that happened throughout 2015 but you could just probably scroll the blog and see for yourself. that is the main reason why i started this…to document life’s many great {and sometimes not so great} happenings.

well, my lovies, cheers to a phenomenal 2016. we wish y’all a blessed, prosperous, healthy, happy new year!! cin cin!

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xoxo

family birthday dinner

the birthday celebration continues!

hc coordinated a dinner with my family the day after my birthday at j. alexander’s in oakbrook. after my wonderful surprise party the night before, it was awesome to celebrate the occasion with my family.

it was quite the chilly evening. i arrived at the restaurant first, which was great, because i could relax and mindlessly be on my phone to catch up on insta and such. hc, grace, and olive arrived, followed by my sister kim and famille. we were waiting for my sister thuy, mom, and dad to get there before they would seat us.

the table arrangement in the restaurant didn’t allow for a large party, so they sat us at two separate tables, which was fine because the kids got to sit all together and be them crazy selves.

we ordered apps and perused the menu…i was totally feeling crab cakes. like big time but i received the most disappointing news of the evening – they were out of crab cakes! whaaaaaaa?! i was devastated. i had no idea what i should order in lieu of it. ya know when you totally have your mind set on an entree and that’s all you want? well, i was stuck, so i ordered their vege burger because i couldn’t figure it out¬†{in a total rush, she was already taking everyone’s order!}. ugh. mistake.

my vege burger was sub par. soooooo not what i wanted. the server felt so bad because it was my birthday and they didn’t have what i wanted, so she comped my meal and drink. that was very nice of them but regardless, my birthday meal was bleh. i was so disappointed that i had order that mundane wannabe burger! ha!

but no matter. what was really important was the fact that i was celebrating with my family and the kiddos were having a great time sitting together and being silly. overall, i really enjoyed our apps, our convos, and our time together.

it was a fabulous birthday dinner with my famille and a perfect way to top of my birthday celebrations! hooray!

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[the crew]

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[not what i envisioned as my birthday meal]

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[yup, this pic pretty much describes them]

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xoxo

surprise!

it was my birthday and it was a very good relaxing day. we spent the afternoon in the city, enjoying the festive surroundings and the slow easy day we had in store for us. after our afternoon jaunts, we headed back home for quiet evening in. the car ride was filled with lots of traffic and we were quite tired from the long commute.

as we were pulling into the driveway, i told hc to grab olive and bring her in and i would grab the bags in the car. as i walked towards our front door, i noticed all the lights still off. odd. i thought why didn’t hc turn on any lights? i then saw a little baby sitting on our mat. wtf. i was a bit freaked out. i stared intently at this babe. it wasn’t olive…i was sure but whaaaaaat? i was so confused. i didn’t recognize the baby and why was there a baby sitting at our front door?!!!!!! i slowly called out, “helloooooooo?” as i walked closer to the door. once i was inside, my bestie carol jumped out from the side and yelled, “surprise!”. omg. i was bewildered. what was going on? i was still so confused! i walked inside and our neighbor caitlin was in our kitchen prepping food. carol’s kids were crawling out from odd places…

my hubby is the best. he planned a small surprise party for me! i was soooo shocked! carol just flew into town the night before, so hc invited some of our close friends over for a catered dinner. he is so sweet and thoughtful. he really did pull one over me! i was over the moon at his efforts. i loved hearing all the fun details after the party on how he was able to pull everything together. when he ordered the food, who he talked to, how he hired caitlin to be our kitchen help for the evening. it was all soooo very sweet!

we had a fabulous time hanging out with everyone. we nibbled on food, caught up on life, and ran after our babes. it was so much fun. i had a very good time & my heart was so full!

thank you so much my darling hubby charming for always being the best partner, for always being so loving, thoughtful, caring, and oh so sweet. i love you!

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[liam, jaime, carol, and me]

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[my favorite macarons]

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[liam, travis, and olive]

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[hor d’oeuvres]

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[caitlin – the super helper]

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[cute little shelby]

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[pam and j]

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[ready to blow out the candles]

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[they are silly]

xoxo

christmas brunch

hc, olive, and i had a wonderful, casual afternoon hanging out in the city. it was my birthday and we hit the city to enjoy an afternoon of festive fun. brunch was at my favorite place, southport grocery! yummmm!

it was bustling inside but not too crazy packed like it usually is…it’s probably because we were a bit past lunchtime, so it was perfectly busy. we sat in a corner and throughly enjoyed our time together. i ordered my usual, the southern and as usual it was deeeeeelicious. i stuffed myself silly, rich enjoyed his spiked beverage and meal, and olive had a blast drawing. she loves to create fabulous works of art!

after we noshed on our yummy meals, i perused the shelves of the grocery store to see what items i wanted to buy to put in our gift baskets for our neighbors. did we want to create a dinner theme? a breakfast theme? a dessert theme? we went with the breakfast theme. breakfast is my most favorite meal of the day! i could eat breakfast all day! so, we picked out a yummy pancake mix, maple syrup, a peach spread, christmas sprinkles, and holiday cookies to top it off! it was all so cute! they do such a great job packaging it all up.

all while i was getting the gift baskets together, hc was chasing olive down and feeding her. she was so into her drawings earlier, she wouldn’t eat any of her food but once she was done, hc got her to eat most of her meal while she ran around the store. eep! she’s a funny one.

after brunch and basket making, we traipsed around southport and shopped a bit for gifts and christmas goodies. it was such a wonderful, beautiful afternoon. we had a great time together…it was a very joyous, eventful day. we were elated from an appointment we had earlier in the day and we were on cloud nine, thankful for all the blessings we have in our lives. thank God for the wondrous gifts that he brings.

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[olive checking out the kids menu]

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[selfie]

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[such a silly babe]

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[she’s very good at ‘cheers!’]

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[soooooo yummy]

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[perusing]

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[she’s soooooo silly]

xoxo

merry merry

merry christmas everyone!

may your day be filled with love, laughter, and meaningful hugs. i love christmas because, 1. it’s jesus’ birthday 2. being able to spend time with family. it’s such joy to be with your family, enjoying life, eating delicious foods and cookies, and watching your little ones open up their presents. it seems like the world pauses for a day and we are able slow down and revel in the joy all around us.

hooray! jesus was born on this day! i remembered, as a kid, how magical it was to attend church, listen to the story of jesus’ birth, and celebrate it afterwards with friends and family at our church. such great memories. i love the moments created around the holidays. the feelings evoked, the love, the reasons behind why we celebrate christmas, and the joy you feel with everyone around you being so happy and loving. i hope olive looks back on her holidays, and it brings a smile onto her face like it did and still does for me.

merry christmas my lovies. i hope your day is filled with many fabulous moments, lots of love, cookies, hugs, kisses, and euphoria. happy day!

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xoxo

so much love

i am ridiculously behind with my posts, so bear with me! i will probably have christmas posts in january at the rate i am going at! uh oh!

life has been so hectic, this holiday season has been so busy, exhausting, overwhelming, and tiring. honestly, i am beat. the last week or so has really kicked my butt. i can usually champion any task given to me, complete any ideas that pop into my head, and come out winning with extra energy. oy. not this season. christmas: 1 thu: 0 – tko!

anyhoo, over a month ago, i had made plans to meet up with my friend ande. ande and i go waaaayyyyy back to, hmmmmm, maybe 9-10 years ago. i was working on michigan avenue and ande was the store manager at the c.o. bigelow store in the watertower building.

my friend, matt, and i worked together at the time and we would constantly go shopping at ande’s store. we befriended ande and instantly hit it off. soon, we were visiting her on a weekly basis and eventually we would all go out to lunch, dinner, or attend any events that each other had going on. whether it would be a party, a birthday party, a comedy skit, or just a simple brunch get together, we would try our best to meet up every few months.

ande and i would always engage in conversations around kids…or lack thereof {at the time}. we always related to one another, hit it off on any quirky subject, or just reveled in life’s happenings. i love her weirdness and i say that with the highest compliment. she’s so kind, sweet, loving, smart, and just amazing. i always say this: surround yourself with wonderful positive people who enrich your life and ande definitely qualifies in all categories!

so, we met up one evening for dinner. matt and johann were able to join as well! i made reservations at summer house santa monica in lincoln park. it was a cool winter evening; johann was the first to arrive, then me, then ande, and then matt. i couldn’t wait to see her! the last time i saw ande was around august, i came in to visit her at her store in lincoln park.

unfortunately between august and now, ande was diagnosed with cancer. i was shocked and in complete disbelief. questions flew through my head. why? how? how could this happen to her? why do crazy things happen to good people? i was sad, upset, and shocked. i reached out to ande to give her my support and prayers. we texted back and forth for a bit and then we set up a time to meet up to catch up. i am so glad we were able to meet up when we did, right before ande started to feel even worse from her chemo treatments.

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[me with this gorgeous lady]

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[best bunch of peeps ever]

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[summer house santa monica]

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[celebrating my birthday early!]

we had such a great time. natch. we always do. our dinner was filled with lots of laughter, some tears, and sooooo many fabulous moments. ande filled us in on how she discovered her cancer and what treatments she was on and her cancer free party scheduled for april 30th!

i am so blessed to know this lady. she is a wonderful friend, a supportive person, and an incredible human being. i pray every day for her health and have faith this positive lady will be cancer free! love and laughter is the best medicine and ande gets a full dose of this every day from her friends and family.

xoxo

holiday downtown

we made our annual trip downtown to field’s on state. yes, i still call it that. call me old school. it’s still comiskey park, sears tower, these landmarks will forever live with me in their original names. it’s not like i don’t like to lead change, think differently, or i am not open minded. it just irks me that some family or some company pays more money so they can have their name etched into these chicago landmarks. yes, sears was named after sears robuck and co {the largest retailer at the time} but there is history behind it all. not just the fact that someone dumped money towards the building and says, “ok, we are now naming it blah, blah, blah”. ok, ok. enough venting.

we started our day with lunch at the french market. i love going there. there are so many fun little shops and yummy eats. we walked around trying to figure out what we all wanted to eat. we purchased the kid’s meals first and let them eat while all the adults mulled around, trying to figure out our palette of the moment.

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[working the runway]

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[sooooooo many delish goodies]

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[my favvvvvvvvvv]

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[i snapped this pic because of the above lights but now i find it funny because the three girls in the picture look like me and my sisters in a less sophisticated way. thuy is to the left, kim in the middle, and that would be me…yes, with the colored hair]

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[love these little rug rats]

i decided to go with a vietnamese favorite, banh mi. unfortunately, it was an ok meal. there just wasn’t the right kick to it. my favorite banh mi is from ba le up in argyle or really, my aunt vuong’s banh mi. my aunt’s sandwich is the most delicious, hands down.

we walked around, i bought the kids candy and purchased some hot, freshly made sugared donuts for everyone to eat. i love going there on the weekends too because it’s so quiet. the market’s busy time is monday through friday {since it’s down by the train station}. so, on saturday, it’s chill and crowd free and you can casually walk around without waiting in line at any booth.

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[banh mi]

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[mowing down a hot dog]

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[being all cute while we wait for our freshly made donuts]

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after our little lunch fun at the french market, we headed down to fields on state for some holiday fun. we typically head to the eighth floor to see the tree in the walnut room. we snap some pics, relax on the sofas, and just chill for a bit before we head downstairs to their ornament room. we love going there to nab a few ornaments for our tree.

before we actually did all that fun stuff, the kids wrote their letters to santa. it was so cute. reagan was so serious about it and olive intently wrote hers with beautiful doodle marks. after their letters were dropped off in the mailbox to the north pole, we headed on up for some christmas tree fun.

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[she was loving the felix in a box]

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[writing letters to santa]

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[in deep thoughts]

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[hanging out on the ‘clean’ carpet]

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we perused the different trees and we were trying to figure out what ornaments we wanted to buy. hc found his ornament right away! it was a glass red fire engine truck. of course! it was a perfect ornament. i thought – hmph…he scored a cool ornament right away. i looked and looked but i was having a hard time finding an ornament that i really liked. i finally walked into a room that they had in the far back and found a whole bunch of ornaments that i loved! give me a dessert ornament any day and call me a sucker! i chose an ice cream cone ornament as my decor of choice!

after we hit the ornament room, we cruised downstairs to grab a drink and a bite to eat. oh my…there was a line for everything! everything! i went to starbucks and it was quick to order but it took over 15 minutes to get my drink! bananas! anyhoo, after our stint downstairs where the restaurants were, we all decided to call it a night. we all gathered our treasures for the day and headed home.

it was a lovely day {the temp was amazing…60 degrees!}. we had a great time spending the day in the city with our family. it was fun, yummy, and festive. i love going downtown and seeing all the pretty christmas decor and experiencing the hustle and bustle of the chicago. it’s all part of the cray holiday season!

xoxo

hello christmas decor

we usually decorate around thanksgiving or right after but this year we were in slow motion, at least i was. i am usually the one that ignites everything and gets things going but this year, i was lethargic and slow. so, decorating our house got off to a late start and it took us three days to finally finish! holy moly!

as we do every year, we blasted christmas music, imbibed some beverages, and had a jolly good time decorating. since it was taking us forever to decorate, each day was filled with silly little obstacles! hc broke a bunch of stuff off the mantle one night, we didn’t have the right screws to hang the garland on the outside frame of the front door, and we struggled to find some of our decor from last year. ha! so bananas!

well slowly but surely, we got it done! it always feels great to see your abode deck out in holiday gear! the only part that makes me very sad is when we take it down. ok, ok, i won’t mention that again! anyhoozle, i love christmas and i love decorating and i love everything that goes with it! baking cookies, seeing the city all decked out, holiday parties, seeing santa, drinking hot chocolate with marshmallows, oh the list goes on and on!

olive had a great time decorating. it was so cute to watch her, she was amazed by the ornaments. it was hilarious to watch because she would put ornaments on the tree but then she would take them off and put them back into the box. haha! she did very well though. she is always such a great helper and loves to participate in everything. she’ll say, “i help! i help!”. i love it!

once we finished all the trimmings around the house, the tree was our final stop, we decorated it with all our fun ornaments, and olive helped put the star on top of the tree with her dada. it was sooooo cute! she knew what she had to do and she tried and tried to reach for the branch but she was just a few inches too short so hc helped her out and got that star situated and pretty! ta da! our christmas decorating was dunzo! woot woot!

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[my favorite animal head vase]

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[putting ornaments on the tree]

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[topping off the tree]

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[daddy helped]

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[it’s a marshmallow world in the winter]

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[i will say it until it’s done…please disregard our kitchen under remodel]

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[handmade snow globes]

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[our bay window]

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it was definitely a team effort and now our house feels christmassy and pretty! i love the smell of fresh pine, scented candles, and the pretty glow of lights all around! olive was such a fantastic helper, i love how this will be her third christmas but the first one where she is so interactive and is able to really enjoy the whole process. it’s pretty awesome.

well, merry merry everyone! we hope your house is warm, cozy, festive, and fun like ours! happy day!

xoxo

santa

last year’s visit with santa was successful yet unsuccessful. it was fun and interactive but olive’s time with santa was terrifying for her. alas, this year was no different! eep!

we arrived a few minutes late to our scheduled appointment time but santa’s house was running behind anyways. it was quite chilly out, so it was nice that we could wait inside until it was our turn to go on our adventure to visit santa.

olive was not having it. since she’s turned two, she has been so anti-crowds, anti-strangers. there were two other families waiting inside with us and olive did not want to be in there with them. she screamed, she shrieked, she wanted to go outside and be away from everyone. she kept saying, “outside! outside!” and pointed at the door. hc insisted that we stay put. i was upset because olive was upset and we couldn’t console her. she was screaming at the top of her lungs and these poor strangers had to listen to it!

within a minute or so, it was our turn to go on the adventure with santa. well, olive’s mood inside the waiting room set the tone for the rest of the event. ugh. she was so frustrated and upset throughout most of the tour. it was stressful and i all i wanted was for olive to enjoy the fun trip to the north pole! she did enjoy the interactive screens and part of the sleigh ride to the north pole {although there were some parts with the dragon that scared her!}. when she saw the dragon on the screen, she started crying and buried her face in my side. awww, poor thing!

we finally arrived at the north pole and we were waiting our turn to see santa! the whole week and time leading up to her visit, i tried my best to prep olive on the idea of santa claus. she recognized him and would point him out, so i was hoping that when she saw him in person, it would be a familiar face that she would be looking at!

hahaha. nope. what was i thinking?! that was a far fetched hope of mine! we walked into the room and immediately, she freaked out. she started whimpering and frantically clung onto me. santa stood up and said we could sit in the chair to take a family photo together. oh em gee. the look on olive’s face is hilarious. she was like, “i still know there’s a strange man behind me in a red suit.”

santa was a trooper. after a few family pics together, he was ready to take on olive. the photos captured are hilarious. i didn’t post them all but these are the best ones! ¬†there were a few more screaming poses, where olive looks like she’s fighting for her life but i felt like the two down below were the most descriptive of her visit with santa!

after our visit to the north pole to see santa, we were magically transported back to oakbrook center! haha! after our adventure, we decided to check out the christkindl mart to see what it’s all about. we perused the cute little shops and purchased some potato pancakes to munch on. they were deeeeeelish! yum! olive was most piggish over them, she became upset when hc or i tried taking a bite. what a little piggy! she insisted on having the last bite and after she did, she said, “all done!”. yeah, no kidding olive, all done alright miss piggy! ha!

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[she was very unsure of what was going on and shrek scared her!]

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[ready for a sleigh ride to the north pole!]

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[we loved all the interactive screens for the kiddos]

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[immediately, she was like, “who is this man in the red suit?! i don’t like.”]

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[classic]

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[santa was sooo good with her! actually, he was quite funny.]

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[christkindlmarket at oakbrook]

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[sooooooo yummy!]

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after we walked around the christkindl mart for a bit, we decided to head home and get cozy for the rest of the evening! it was fun {well, maybe olive didn’t think it was as fun} and we really enjoyed our little festive evening together visiting santa. ho ho ho!

xoxo

turkey day

another turkey day has come and gone. of course it was yummy and awesome as always. every year, we always hit hc’s side of the family for our first thanksgiving meal and then head to my parent’s house for our second meal of the day. it works out perfectly every year although we try to not overeat, in which case, we do every year. ugh!

well, in typical fashion, we were running so behind. we were hoping to leave for his aunt’s house by 12:30 pm but it turned into after 1 pm. we arrived in no time and everyone was already there hanging out and having drinks. we said our hello’s and happy thanksgivings and settled ourselves in. as in the prior post i had written {about olive’s birthday party}, hc’s side of the family missed her birthday party due to the snowy weather, so auntie missy had brought the birthday present she had for olive. it was oh so very sweet of her!

of course, olive was sheepish and shy in the beginning. she didn’t even want to open her gift. she just kept hiding her face and turning away from everyone. oh, poor baby girl. i just wish she’d be more open to people but she isn’t.

supper was served and we all chowed down and filled our bellies full of not so healthy bites. after eating, we just relaxed, conversed, and enjoyed our time to chill with family. after a few hours over aunt wendy’s house, we gathered out belongings and left to head out to my parent’s house for dinner number 2!

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[looking at the photo book gramma gave her]

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[the best pic we could get]

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[gramma, daddy, and aunt missy]

when we arrived at my parent’s house, the making of our turkey dinner was in full force {thanks to my sisters} and heaping mounds of apps were being served! this is what i call a day of gluttony!

our family friend lan, pete, and avery were over as well. it was great that they were able to spend thanksgiving with us. as always, the more the merrier! immediately, i started helping out and hc hung with boys {natch}. my sister, kim, is the head chef when it comes to this meal {or pretty much any holiday meal}. she is an amazing cook and always makes the most delicious entrees. everything is always oh soooooo yummy!

they also set up a kid’s table, where the kids could draw, doodle, and get creative. so cute! and draw they did! they had so much fun creating cityscapes, shapes, pictures, and it let their imagination run wild as they continued to get creative.

after the delicious dinner was served, the boys went upstairs to watch the bears play and the gals cleaned up. oh my gosh. it takes almost as long to clean up as it does to cook! hahaha!

i had made a few batches of my yummy sugar cookies for the kids the night prior. i whipped up a few dozen cookies, i do this every thanksgiving so the kids can have fun with their desserts! i bring icing, sprinkles, and frosting; the kids go wild and get creative decorating each one of their cookies. after they decorate a few dozen of them, i gave them the green light to eat ’em! i must admit…i love my sugar cookies, they are so buttery good!

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[yummy apps and lan’s kettle corn]

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[the kid’s table]

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[she was very excited to draw]

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[full concentration]

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[hc and my brother dan]

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[soooo yummy…truffle cheese]

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[thuy, lan, moi, and kim]

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[cousin love]

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[my sister’s fabulous centerpiece]

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[ready to eat!]

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[family]

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[the kids decorating sugar cookies]

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[the works of art]

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[eating their works of art]

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[happy thanksgiving and an early start to a merry christmas!]

after the dishes were done and the desserts were served…we j u s t relaxed. it can be so exhausting eating so darn much! i was stuffed like a turkey and so flippin’ tired!!

we had such a great time hanging out with both sides of the family for thanksgiving. it’s always good to be around family. of course, i love hanging out with my family so much! there’s nothing better than that. i love thanksgiving and i am very thankful for all the blessings i have in my life!

xoxo