Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Christmas time is here...

Alright, lets get this going! Christmas is next!

Aaron and I returned home from Mexico on a Saturday, late at night, so Sunday was a full day free to get into the Christmas spirit! It is difficult to go from the tropical temperatures and sandy beaches of Mexico to a rainy wintery December day in Phoenix... but I was ready. It was breaking my heart to not fully deck our little home with Christmas decor and holiday spells!

So we woke up Sunday morning and first stop was breakfast and Christmas Tree hunting!

We had breakfast near our house at the always delicious Vovomeena! If you have not eaten here in Phoenix, check it out! Their biscuits and bacon are my favorite!

After breakfast we headed straight over to Home Depot & Lowes to check out their selection. I have not had a real Christmas Tree at Christmas since I was very young. My family got a fake tree when I was about 5 years old, and ever since then we have had the fake tree. Aaron's family grew up with real trees... and while there are pros and cons to both, I was excited most have my house smell like a Christmas Tree!

We finally settled on this little beauty!

We got it home and started decorating! We had decorated my parents' Christmas tree before we left for Mexico and Aaron had marveled at how my dad could string Christmas lights on a tree like no one else. Believing it was a genetic gift and that I had the same talent my nature, he entrusted me to light our tree!

Aaron and I had quite a fun time getting out all our holiday stuff and combining it! I had two strands of lights that blinked and twinkled and he had 2 strands that shone without blinking... so we put all four on the tree!

In the back of the above picture, you can see the fireplace decor... brand new stockings from Target (Aaron's was red and mine is white). My mom had given me flannel stuffed letters for my birthday (A & M) and so we tied them to the stockings. On the mantel you can also see my beginning collection of Christmas Trees. My sister in law Nicole has an AMAZING collection and I hope to one day have some like hers with all different colors.

The tree took an afternoon of ornament decorating and then the following night we made a popcorn and cranberry garland to wrap around it and it was done :) I have never made a popcorn & cranberry garland and it was super fun! Maybe a new tradition?
And what holiday movie did we watch as we decorated our tree? The Avengers... ok not Christmasy, but still AWESOME!

The finished product!

Christmas time is officially here!

My family also gets together before Christmas to decorate Christmas cookies!! We had a facebook contest this year about who's cookie was best:

From top left: 1.)Shawn's "The Cruncher" (basically frosting and every sprinkle that can fit on the frosting and topped with more frosting; 2.) Tyler's "The Patriot Mitten"; 3.) My "Sparkly Candy Cane"; 4.) Aaron's "contrast Candy Cane". - Seriously the Mertz family did not bring our "A" game... aside from the awesome photo bomb by Aaron.

In reality the decorating was more for Emolyn and she was SO in the zone! She would decorate and eat all her creations with delight. Elsie on the other hand didn't understand why we needed to waste time putting the frosting on the cookie with style and so she would just throw some frosting on and chow down.
Fine family fun indeed :)

The weekend before Christmas Elisabeth and I went on our traditional Christmas lights tour! It is a self guided tour,  where we get neighborhood information off the web for our city and then drive around with warm drinks and Christmas music and look at lights.

This house was intense! so many lights!
While we were looking at the house above and taking pictures like the one below, a cop showed up at the house...  he rolled down his window and asked us if it was our house... feeling a bit nervous, Elisabeth and I said no. The cop then just looks at the house and says "its awesome! My partner and I are just driving around looking at lights." He then proceeds to talk about all the neighborhoods that have the best lights... nice to know our policemen are using their time wisely!

There were some pretty stellar neighborhoods this year. Some had movies showing in their drive way with seating, a popcorn machine, and hot drinks. Some houses had photo opportunities set up in their yard for visitors... like the one below.

Elisabeth and I made a promise a couple years ago that regardless of whether we were married or had kids, we would still carry on this tradition with each other with just the two of us... I love my time with Elisabeth!

Another Holiday tradition that was started this year was the "Kids Of Rice Night" or KORN as we affectionally started calling it. My parents for years have taken us to "Rice Night" which was started by friends of theirs - Steve and Grace. The premise of the night is for each couple or person to bring a holiday dish that they grew up eating at Christmas. The rice that gave the party its name, is slow cooked sweet rice with butter and cinnamon/sugar on top. My mom would always make Swedish Meatballs and other people would bring wonderful delicious food for the night and it was great! But this year Shawn and Nicole decided to start a party for all of us kids to use to go to Rice Night... so we gathered at Shawn and Nicole's house and brought food, ate Baja Fresh tacos and hung out! We joked about doing it again next year but trying to incorporate KORN stuff into it... no idea how this might play out, but I am excited for the tradition to keep going!
picture taken my Amy Lynch

The last thing we did to celebrate Christmas before the big day was take Emolyn ice skating!!!! This was actually Aaron's idea because he would see the Downtown Phoenix skating rink every day and thought it would be fun to take Emolyn. When we told Em what we were doing she very sweetly tells me, "Aunt Miranda, I think I know how to skate already." - haha... we'll see.

We took her to lunch at Chelsea's Kitchen across the rink and let Emolyn order herself what she wanted. She was so delighted that she got to order herself. After lunch we walked over and got our skates and got on the ice. You could tell from the moment Emolyn stood up in her skates that this was not what she had expected, but she was FANTASTIC! She was so brave and while we took a lot of breaks, she was willing to continue to get out on the ice and try it again. We mainly just stuck by the gates to the sitting area going back and forth while she held mine and Aaron's hand. Aaron and I also got to take turns getting out on the ice the 2 of us and speed around the rink. It was a blast!
The day finished with Emolyn and us at home with hot chocolate and a movie and then back to Emolyn's house. Definitely a fun memory for the 3 of us!

Next post... CHRISTMAS!

Friday, February 22, 2013


My big brother is amazing!! I could go on and on about all the many times he has been amazing throughout my 28 years of knowing him, but to save time I will focus on wedding -related amazing-ness :)

First off, Shawn is one of Aaron's best friends. When your best friend starts dating your little sister, one might be hesitant, but not Shawn. I think from the beginning Shawn has been our biggest fan! In fact, Aaron asked Shawn and Nicole the week before he asked me out if it was ok with them... not really for permission I guess, but more make sure Shawn knew how important their friendship was to Aaron and how much he wanted to protect their friendship in the midst of Aaron and I figuring stuff out. He wanted Shawn to know that even if for whatever reason Aaron and I didn't work out, that Aaron and Shawn would still be the same friends they had always been and Aaron was going to do everything he could not to hurt me.

Can you imagine how amazing that was for me to know and hear?!?! That meant the WORLD to me!

So when Aaron asked me out, Shawn and Nicole (even though they were out of town and out of cell phone range) drove into town to be able to call me and hear all about it! Then when I saw them, you could see how excited Shawn was about his best friend and little sister finally together!

As we dated and then got engaged, Shawn was a huge support in asking how we were doing and checking in with both Aaron and I about wedding planning, relationship stuff, and making sure we were doing ok. It was so fun to have Shawn pop up on facebook chat during the day to chat about wedding plans :) Ha!

Shawn is also a VERY gifted media and logo designer. He has designed several websites, flyer, and promotional art for companies all over Phoenix. He has a great eye for design! His company is called Ithaca Media if you want to check it out online or look at his Facebook page! He does freelance design for nearly anything you could want!

It wasn't a question that we wanted him to do all out stationary designs.

I wanted a suite of sorts for our stationary. It was kind of like branding our wedding, I wanted a logo that would run throughout all the pieces. My parents had a picture of a boy and girl underneath a tree with the boy playing guitar on their wedding napkins and they eventually made it into an ornament... I wanted something like that. So the first thing Shawn did was design our monogram:

I took the monogram logo and turned it into a stamp for the back of the invitation envelopes and for the front of the CD favor packaging!

After the logo was ready, we worked on the invitations. I am not one for the packet of information because usually throw everything away accept the date, address, and picture, so I figured we'd keep it simple for the invitation.
A postcard with our picture on the front and the information on the back. We then had our website details for people to find out more information about the wedding day events.

Shawn also designed our wedding programs! I love the different fonts and sizes to break up all the names and order of service. I also loved the rack card format, so it was front and back and easy to hold.

Lastly Shawn is helping us with our thank you cards... you can imagine the business of the first few months of marriage can be especially when your first month included Christmas, New Years, and guests from out of the country for a couple weeks. Needless to say, they are in process and per wedding etiquette you can expect them within the first 6 months to a year :)

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Honeymoon #2 - MEXICO!

I think it is going to take me ages to catch up and I will never be in the present day... I will be blogging about February adventures in June and that is just not ok! So I am going to do my best to be better and more frequent in posting, so you aren't reading 6 months ago! haha.

However, before I can tell you all about my present life, I have to go back to the middle of December and tell you about my amazing honeymoon! This is the big one! Disneyland was just prelude to the tropical honeymoon everyone always dreams about!

I already blogged about how we came to the decision of choosing Mexico for our honeymoon (read here)... so I'll just get going on telling you how amazing it was!

Arrival into Cancun airport

Flights were good, transfer was good, arrival to the hotel was awesome!! We were dropped at the hotel in the evening and so we were quickly shone around the place in the dark and then we basically unpacked and settled into the place.

The next morning we woke up and went exploring! Check out our awesome view and roof top deck!

View from our rooftop

Our awesome private patio! Complete with grill, jacuzzi, lounge chairs, covered area with couches, and patio table.
I had full on plans to spend a lot of time up here! Our accommodations was actually a condo and so there were 2 bedrooms, 2 bathrooms, full kitchen, living room, and rooftop balcony of course. There was full room service from neighboring hotels, cleaning service, and DVD rentals in the lobby.

After some exploring  around our accommodations we were down for breakfast. There was a wonderful restaurant called Imprevist just on the first floor of our condo building and they gave the guests free breakfast every day... yummy options from eggs benedict and french toast, to Mexican breakfast favorites like Molettes.

our table for breakfast

entrance to hotel
We then wandered over to the grocery store to grab some snacks for the room. We thought about possibly making our own lunches and dinner for the week... we never did. Ha! There were too many good restaurants to try!

If I remember correctly (see I get forgetful if I wait too long to blog about something), we just walked around the beach town and the 5th avenue shops all day. We walked along the beach for about 15 minutes, but didn't settle in too much. We had lunch at a delicious restaurant that served yummy tacos and this spectacular salad! Ok lets be honest... anytime I talk about food I am going to say it was delicious... it seems that when I go on vacation I get ravenously hungry and think everything is delicious even if its not. haha!

 That night we went out to eat at one of the towns restaurants and got a little dressed up. I wore my rehearsal dinner dress! It was so warm in Mexico!
 If you can see my shoes in the picture, please note this is when they died... the last known photo of one of the cutest pairs of shoes I have ever owned. It rained that night and I ended up stepping in a HUGE puddle and destroyed my cute floral flats... sad day... they died for a good cause though :)
Look at these pretty ladies!

The next day was beach day! We woke up, got out bathing suits on and plopped ourselves down at the condo's private beach club! They had such comfy chairs at it was right on the water. The sweet sunshine was heavenly!

A pina colada and the beach... what more could anyone ask for!

bathing suit picture!

That night was fancy night! We went to an italian restaurant that we had walk passed during the day and it was super swanky... so we got fancified!

The next day was Tuesday and we had a tour to Chichen Itza booked! It was the one thing we had set in stone all week and we were excited to go and see some history and culture! Chichen Itza is one of the wonders of the world and so it was not to be missed (alright, in all actuality after going to it, I was glad I went, but it was not super-duper-incredible-your-life-is-incomplete-without-visiting-the-site).

I think my opinion of the whole trip was probably tainted by the fact that it was a 3 hour coach ride away and while our coach was clean and had a bathroom on board, it was also freezing and the roads had a lot of potholes... I was not feeling so great by the time we got there. Luckily it was warm outside so once my body defrosted and my stomach stopped churning, I was good to go!

Excited to see a big pyramid!

There it is!!
 Ok Chichen Itza is actually pretty cool. I knew what it was as far as it was a big pyramid down in the Yucatan peninsula, but if you would have asked me before going I would have told you it was probably a tomb... no sir! It is actually a Calendar!

Fun facts:
- Every bit of the pyramid represents pieces of the Mayan calendar - number of days, months, seasons, etc.
- The main stair case (behind us in the picture above) is actually a snake. One day a year on the spring equinox, the sun hits the sides of the stair case to form a snake!
- If you stand on the north side and clap your hands, it will sound like a bird is calling from the top of the pyramid
- The bird noise actually sounds like it is screaming "ku-kul-kan",  which is the name of the snake deity that appears on the equinox!
- There is more than just the pyramid on the Chichen Itza site. There is also a sports arena, an observatory to the heavens, a tomb of Mayan soldiers, and even more than has yet to be excavated yet!

In the Arena
The sporting Arena on site at Chichen Itza is where the Mayans would play a game much like soccer and basketball combined. Fun fact: the captain of the winning team would be rewarded by being BEHEADED!!! There was not greater honor to the Mayan gods than for their strongest warriors to give their lives and their blood.

After 3 hours of wandering in the now scorching sun, we boarded the bus to head to lunch. We stopped at a restaurant and market with a full Mexican food buffet! I had delicious tortilla soup, chicken with Mayan spices, and salad. During the meal, traditional dancers entertained us by dancing and spinning around the room while balancing bottles on their heads! remarkable!

Surrounding the eating area were little ponds and hammocks! After filling ourselves to the brim with food and ice cream, we lounged for a bit in the hammocks.

Then we wandered through the handmade markets. After a bit we all left and headed to our next place, which was a Cenote!!!

A Cenote is an underground water hole. You walk down into a cave of sorts and come upon a little nature made swimming pool!

This cenote had been updated and made safe for tourists, so the stair case down, the deck where we waited our turn to jump into the water was all man made.

Aaron jumping into the water!
It was so much fun to jump into the water... terrifying, but awesome! The water is actually 150 feet deep... SUPER DEEP! Which creeps me out, but I couldn't not dive in! Sadly my jumping picture is super blurry.

Quick note... and this will be important later... when hitting the water both Aaron and I confessed that we inhaled a lot of water... Mexico water... see where this is going? Just wait... it'll all make sense soon.

After the a dip in the Cenote, we loaded and up and headed home. Aaron and I decided after our long day and long drive that we would not be leaving our condo and beach for the rest of the week. It was an exhausting trip and a long drive back... but like I said, I am glad I can say I saw Chichen Itza, one of the wonders of the world.

The next day we woke up, went for breakfast and decided to walk around the town to wait for the sun to come out. Half way through the walk I started to not feel well, but I told myself it would pass. When we got back to the Condo, I told Aaron I needed a nap to hopefully get rid of a churny stomach and he confessed too that he wasn't feeling so great. We slept for over 2 hours and when we woke up we were worse... low at behold like clock work - almost exactly 24 hours after diving into the cenote Aaron and I both threw up every bit of food in our entire body... (does the cenote water make sense now? It is our best guess for the thing that gave us food poisoning). It was like a scene out of Sex & The City... you know the one where Charlotte and her husband Harry get food poisoning at the same time and take turns running to the bathroom... yeah that was us. I have never been so thankful for a a two bathroom condo! We each had out own territory. I think Aaron got it worse than I did... but thankfully by midnight that night we were both asleep. We spent the entire evening taking turns being sick and drinking purified water and watching TV... a marathon of Keeping up with the Kardasians was on... note: that was Aaron's choice, not mine ;)

I have never had food poisoning before, but I am SO thankful it only lasts 24 hours... by morning we were able to get out of bed and take down some crackers and water. We were both super bummed we lost a day, but it was actually rainy the whole time we were sick, so its not like we would have done much anyway!

Our morning after was spent here... yes that is a bucket of popcorn... it was the only thing that sounded appetizing. We read and laid around in the cloudy rainy morning. Aaron was reading Pride & Prejudice again and I was reading Harry Potter 6 for the 3rd time. It was much needed and afforded us a chance to build up energy to make our way down to the beach.

The rest of the week was pretty much laying on the beach and sleeping... man I am jealous of myself right now as I sit at my computer... wish I could go back right about now.

On our second to the last day, Aaron and I finally tried some Mayan hot chocolate! My favorite movie is Chocolat! In it, Juliette Binoch plays a woman to moves to a tiny tightly wound village in the French countryside and shakes things up with her Mayan chocolat. Every since seeing the film I have dreamed of trying some! and after getting sick and then being afraid to eat anything unsual for my tummy's sake, I kept putting it off. It was really yummy! It has a spicy bite from the chili pepper they put in it, but it is definitely a fun treat!

My Mayan hot chocolate in front and Aaron's regular hot chocolate in the back.
Some more beach pictures!

Ok before you judge me for post two pictures of me in a bikini, let me make a point that I will not look like that forever... heck, I don't even look like that now... so forgive me for wanting public documentation of my hot husband and I!

The picture above is of our last night! It was so warm out that night and so we ate at a patio restaurant! I had... wait for it... a DELICIOUS pesto shrimp ravioli dish and Aaron had yummy grilled prawns... but seriously I have had dreams about that ravioli since then... I miss it.

And there you have it! Our time in Mexico. I applaud those of you who made it to the end of this post! It was a doozy... looking back I should have divided it into two posts... ah well. If you have made it to the end, feel free to leave a comment :)

Monday, February 11, 2013

Wedded Bliss Part 2...

After Disneyland one would assume that life would start getting back to normal... not for us, though! Not 2 weeks after our mini Honeymoon was Thanksgiving. Our first married holiday. When we picked the date for our wedding, we were so excited that we would be able to spend the holidays together, we did not fully think through the strategic planning that would go along with family holidays as newly weds. It seemed that everyone we spoke to after the wedding no longer asked about wedding details. Instead, they asked if we had figured out the holidays yet... as if everyone know it was going to be stressful.

Luckily Thanksgiving was a breeze!! We spent the morning with The Mertz's for breakfast, we had full thanksgiving dinner with my family and cousins, and then we went home! Aaron went shopping for black friday late at night and I went to bed because I had work in the morning. But overall an excellent day of family and good food!

Here is the Thompson family Thanksgiving!
Sadly we didn't get pictures with the Mertz's that day.

Our first order of business was to start getting our house in order. I wanted to try to get our Master Bedroom painted and arranged first because where you sleep is the most important room in the house... maybe that isn't true, but it was definitely an easier room to tackle than the living room or bathroom. All it needed was a new coat of paint and the furniture moved in!

Aaron's parents did all the painting for the room the day after Thanksgiving while I was at work... this also happened to be my birthday - awesome. I came home though to a beautifully painted room! After a couple days of letting the paint fumes air out, we moved the furniture in! We also set up my little Christmas Tree in the corner to have a little Christmas in our home!

Back to my birthday - it was blissfully low key. I am a big person with my birthday and want something special to celebrate it. It might be because it is so close to Thanksgiving and other things seem to overshadow it, but I am very protective of my birthday. However this year, I just wanted to go out to dinner with my husband and watch a movie. With a wedding and Disneyland Trip, I felt like I had been celebrated enough. Aaron took me to the Arrogant Butcher downtown and I had a steak... the most delicious steak EVER! Then we went home and watched a movie.
The next night, my family came over for dinner and Elisabeth joined us. That was a fun time of celebration! Good food too... I made Olive Garden's Zuppa Toscana and my mom brought my traditional birthday cake - an ice cream cake with an oreo crust, cookies and creme ice cream middle and chocolate syrup on top. Good food and family and my new husband... what more could a girl ask for :)

Wednesday, February 06, 2013

Honeymoon #1 - DISNEYLAND!

To continue the story... I woke up Friday morning, my fever broken and feeling like I was becoming myself again. I had planned on going to work that morning, coming home early and us leaving for California around 2p. However, with the lack of restful sleep, instead I fell back sleep for another couple of hours and when I woke up, I was ready to go!

We were on the road by 10a and were so excited to get to the park early! With our early arrival we decided to head to the park for the evening shows and maybe a ride or two!

I cannot tell you how much that I love the fact that my husband loves Disneyland! I'll admit I was nervous because he was so anti-Disneyland when we started dating. In his words, it was immasculating and for little children. As someone who loves and knows him, I could not take this as truth, but ignorance... I knew he would love it if I was the one who got to show him :) 5 months into dating, we did a weekend trip to the Happiest Place on Earth with 2 of his college friends, Herb and Katie (Herb was a usher in our wedding) and it was a BLAST! He fell in love with it! He fell in love with the romance, the nostalgia, the ambiance, the rides, the history. His favorite part about Disneyland is just walking around taking it all in... rides come second to just enjoying the atmosphere Disney masterfully creates. Magical!

We arrived into the park all decked out for Christmas... the Christmas festivities at the park had not started yet, but the fireworks show and the snow fall on mainstreet were starting that night. We however were going to see Fantasmic, as Aaron had never seen it. We got to the park, grabbed bread bowls of soup in New Orleans square and then dessert at the Critter Country sweet shop. We took a ride on the Haunted Mansion and Pirates of the Caribbeane and then settled along the Rivers of America to wait for Fantasmic. Before the show started the fireworks lit up the sky above the park and snow began to fall on us in New Orleans square! I literally started crying! ha! I was sitting in the middle of Disneyland, next to my HUSBAND, and "snow" was falling all around us. It was amazing!
We headed back to the hotel pretty quickly after the Fantasmic show to try to get to bed somewhat early due to recovering from sickness still.

Aaron and my mission this trip to Disneyland was to ride all the "lesser" rides of the park. We had gone crazy in February with Katie and Herb, riding all the biggest "must-ride" rides, so this time, Aaron wanted to focus on the smaller rides that aren't as popular and we both wanted more of an opportunity to just sit or walk around the park and not have to race from ride to ride.

The morning of Day 2 in the park, we got down Main Street and grabbed some breakfast at the Jolly Holiday bakery and sat on a park bench in the middle of the circle area in front of the Castle.

You can see it very well in this picture, but the night before Aaron and I had gotten the "Just Married" pins from Town Hall to mark that this was our Honeymoon! I have it pinned to my scarf and Aaron's was on his backpack. Everyone from ride operators, to street sweepers, to fellow guests of the park would stop and congratulate us... literally the best part of the weekend!! It was a constant reminder than this was our HONEYMOON because just a week before, we got MARRIED!

Aaron's first visit to Tarzan's Treehouse

Pirates Treasure on "Pirate Island" - AKA Tom Sawyer's Island

Mark Twain's Riverboat!

Disneyland has a PETTING ZOO!! This is Stitch the goat :)

I love Disneyland at Christmas

Of course... a churro
Aaron and I had a super blast in Disneyland enjoying all the Christmas decor! It is my favorite time in Disneyland.

Over to California Adventures!

In the Carthay Circle Restaurant
 This was my first time seeing the newly re-done Buena Vista Street in California Adventures. It is so much better than the previous entrance to the park.

For a wedding gift from Andy and Carissa (Andy was a groomsmen in our wedding) and Andy's parents Tom and Joyce was a dinner at the Carthay Circle Restaurant in California Adventure!! It is the super nice restaurant in the center of the park! They made a reservation for us and gave us money to pay for the dinner. We felt so classy! The restaurant is usually booked for weeks in advance! The restaurant building is styled after the theater where Snow White premiered and has a very 1vintage Hollywood feel to it. I ordered a glass of wine from one of the Disney vineyards and Aaron had a very manly cocktail. We dined on their delicious firecracker duck wings and delicious entrees. Then we enjoyed a piece of pear pie for dessert. With our meal we got special passes to the World of Color show that night too!

After dinner we walked around California Adventures going on a couple rides, taking the character quiz in the Beast's library - I was Belle and Aaron was Tigger. Then we walked through the new Cars Land! Aaron has a love of neon signs, so he was in heaven!

We watched World of Color and then called it a night!

The rest of the weekend was fantastic! We took our time riding rides and enjoying walking around the parks. We never waited too long in lines and had so much extra time that we even were able to head back to our hotel room for a nap - seriously being sick took a lot out of us.

 Another fun story on our trip was the Sunday night we were there we had dinner at the Carnation Cafe on Main Street. Of course the server congratulated us on our wedding - thanks to the pin. It was the birthday of the boy at a table near us, and so the servers at the restaurant brought out a sundae and sang to him. Then our server brought us a ice cream sundae all on his own and told us, "getting married is a big deal! Congratulations again!" Such a sweet guy!
having fun in Toon Town

We finished off the trip with a visit to the Mouse that started it all! Mickey!!! We waited a long time, but it was worth it. He took my hand when I walked in and admired by wedding ring! It is always nice to have Mickey Mouse's approval.

Overall a wonderful weekend away with my love in once of my favorite places in the world!