The Solemn Vow

Last week was a whirlwind of Christmas cheer.  Here are the highlights:

1. We mailed out all of our Christmas cards! (So check your mail...)  We bought 100 and had exactly two leftover.  See, I refuse to have more than 100 friends.  It's my maximum.  This year, I dropped 4 friends.  One got a cat, two lost weight so I can no longer fit in their clothes, and the last one sent me too many chain letters.  Since I only made two new friends this year, I have a vacancy for two.  Interested in filling the spots?  Send me an email with your shoe size, a picture of your closet, and an essay titled Lizzie, the Beautiful. 

2. New apartment?  Check!  We signed our lease on Wednesday.

3. The Young Adults group at our church took a boat cruise through Naples to see all of the Christmas lights.  We sang Christmas carols and ate Greek food as Captain Corey navigated the narrow canals.

4. Our high school students came over for a White Elephant Exchange.  Doug and I both lead small groups at our church, and our kids are the greatest.

5. Doug received this Christmas mug at the High School Staff party and made a solemn vow:
"I solemnly vow to use only this mug until Christmas." 
Well Doug, if it's that important to you.  I will support you on your journey.

Update on the Budget pt. 1

Doug and I have been tracking our spending for 3 months now.  Surprisingly, there weren't really any surprises in where are money goes.  See what I did there?  Used "surprise" twice in a sentence.  Yep, it's a favorite of mine. 

In the budgeting worksheet that we use, our expenses are separated into two main categories that each contain subcategories.  The categories are "fixed expenses" and "flexible expenses".  Fixed expenses are the ones that don't change from month to month.  For example, car insurance, the cell phone bill (except when Doug is a texting machine and goes over $120 on his plan), and tithe are all fixed expenses.  As I entered our fixed expenses into our worksheet, I began thinking:

Even if we begin regulating our flexible expenses by packing lunch instead of eating out or not buying that pair of heeled clogs that I want desperately (j/k, still not sure about those...), we will always have to pay our fixed expenses.  These expenses are skimmed off the top of our income before we have the freedom to decide if we would rather save our money that month or take a last minute trip to Miami.  Doug and I decided that the next logical step in our budgeting is to reduce our biggest fixed expense, our rent.  This will give us more "flexible" money to use as we choose.  We love our apartment and it is bittersweet to move on, but the Spirit is leading us to something new.
The front yard of our apartment.


It was a lazy Saturday night at the Hulse house.  After a lovely morning of shopping, a photoshoot for our Christmas cards (WOO HOO!), and a black and bleu pizza from Lazy Dog cafe, Doug and I decided to go back to the house to watch some Mad Men and take a little snooze.  Well, to be honest, only I took a little snooze.  I am a HUGE fan of naps, and Doug is...well... not so much.  I slept away blissfully on the couch as Doug glared at me for 2 hours.  He's really good at that.  Glaring, I mean.  He doesn't even blink or look away.  I try to remind him that I'm sleeping, and I won't see him if he cheats and glances at the TV during my siestas, but he insists.  Disciplined little bugger, huh?

ANYWAY, I woke up at around 7 pm, and Doug asked me what I wanted to do that evening.  I told him that I wanted to decorate Christmas cookies.  I was kind of kidding since it was already 7 at night, nearly our bedtime, even after my nap, and we didn't have any cookies, cookie cutters, food coloring, or anything to decorate the cookies with.  Within five minutes, Doug had whipped up the dough for sugar cookies, dug a lone Christmas tree cookie cutter out of a drawer, and looked up a recipe for frosting.  While the dough chilled, we walked over to Von's and picked up some decorating supplies.  When we got back to the house, Doug used our one cookie cutter to cut out some trees and found other creative ways to make Christmas-y shapes.  By 8 pm, we were ready to decorate!  That's my man, just call him Martha Dougbert.

'Tis the Season

One of the highlights of living in our neighborhood is the Holiday Stroll in the village area.  All the shops open up for a night in early December and provide appetizers, wine, egg nog, or cookies to munch on as you wander up and down the street browsing the goods.  The Stroll has a Santa, horse drawn carriage rides, and Christmas carolers.  Most years, we split up so that Rachel and I can spend extra time in good stores, but Doug's buddy is down in Haiti, so Doug waited patiently on benches while Rachel and I tried to quickly peek at the merchandise.

Leigha and Mallory hosted a beautiful table at the Women's Christmas Tea this year.  The theme of the Tea was "What if Jesus was born today?" and put the birth of Jesus into modern times through a series of skits.  I was truly struck anew with God's gift to us and his unfathomable love for us.  "But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us."

We chopped down a Christmas tree in the Santa Cruz mountains.  And by "we," I mean that Cliff chopped down a tree in the pouring rain as we slid around in the wet dirt and moss huddled under a golf umbrella, and Jessica tried not to drop Addy in the mud.  It was quite an adventure and extra special because the Christmas tree farm is the home of the florist who did our wedding flowers.

Oh!  And, I decorated our house for Christmas.  I stuck our Chistmas ornaments in a bowl on our coffee table, hung up our stockings from the only piece of furniture in our house that isn't from Ikea...and...that's all...

Top 3...

Lizzie's Top 3 Least Favorite Christmas Songs:
  1. I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus : When did perceived adultery become festive?
  2. Santa Baby : Taking Christmas consumerism to a whole new level.
  3. Hark How the Bells : There's nothing actually wrong with the lyrics of this song.  The "ding ding a-ling" just makes me want to peel of my own fingernails or stab myself in the eyeballs.
Happy Holidays! Love, the Hulses

Party Time!

My cousin, David, is getting married in December and had a West Coast reception in Santa Cruz on the Saturday after Thanksgiving.  We got to meet his fiance for the first time over the holiday, and I am so glad that she is becoming part of our family.  She is sweet, friendly, transparent, and honest and I think she will be a great partner for David. 
David and his soon-to-be bride.
More photos from the reception:
My hott Mom and Grandma setting up for the celebration.  I hope that I age as well as they do.
The lovebirds.

The nugget learned how to walk and she is pretty dang excited about it!

At the reception, we got line dancing and salsa lesson!  Any excuse to get on the dance floor and we are there!

Another close friend of ours, Steve, got married on the same day down in San Luis Obispo, so Doug took off early to head down for his wedding.  I kept the camera and don't have any pictures of their event, but I am so happy and excited for Steve and Emily's life together.  Congratulations you two!!!!

Giving Thanks

Doug and I had the most wonderful Thanksgiving up in Santa Cruz.  If my brother wouldn't have been stuck in crummy old Virginia, I would say that it was the best Thanksgiving EVER.  We spent Thanksgiving at my grandparent's house with 60 of closest family members. (Haha, yes, we have a very large family).  We had three turkeys including one that my Uncle David deep fried after watching many "What not to do" videos online.  When we arrived at the house, we asked where my Uncle David was so that we could go say hi.  My grandpa told me that he was behind the garage frying the turkey.  After wandering around trying to find him, we spotted him in the middle of a field with the deep fryer.  He wanted to be very sure that there was no risk of a fire, so he had decided to set up shop waaay far away from anything flammable.  We all thought it was a pretty funny sight, Uncle David in the middle of a field with the turkey.  The other highlight of the meal were some brussel sprouts seasoned with bacon and vinegar that rocked my world.  Who knew that brussel sprouts could be so delicious?
My sister and I with our cousins, Corinne and Kristen.
My cousins Corinne and Scott with their little Lucy.  She is such a cutie and a most excellently dressed baby!

My dad came to Thanksgiving at my grandma's house too!  It was so nice to have him there and to get to spend a holiday with both of my parents. 

Keeping with family tradition, we woke up at 5am on Friday morning for some black Friday shopping.  Our successes this year were rather limited, but we still had fun.  The only thing that I bought were some boots for 30% off from Macy's.  You can get coupons in the newspaper for that discount, but whatever, my sister will be very happy on Christmas morning.  Not so surprised though.  She picked them out.  My family doesn't do so well with the whole "It's supposed to be a surprise" thing. 

After we finish our girls-only shopping, we always meet up with the boys for some breakfast.

Jessie with the two babies.

Dougie's Birthday

 The man of my dreams turned 29! 

I am so incredibly blessed to have Doug as my husband.  I love his desire to be a servant of the Lord; I love watching him become a courageous man of God.  Especially in the last year, I have seen many areas of his life transform as he walks closer with Jesus.  I am so thankful that he is the head of my household. I am grateful for the wisdom that he brings to our family.  He is always steady and logical amidst my impulsiveness.  One of my favorite qualities about Doug is that he loves being a host.  The highlight of Doug's life is when he gets to cook breakfast when we have friends staying the weekend, bake fancy cupcakes for a game night, or fry his own chips for some delicious nachos.  He finds joy in serving others in this way, and what's not to love about that? I also love laughing with him, adventuring with him, vacationing with him, and pretty much doing everything else with him.  Except surfing with him...that's his man time.  But he sure looks sexy when walks up from the beach in his wetsuit.

Poor Doug... his birthday always falls right around Thanksgiving.  Next year, it's actually on Thanksgiving.  This year, he got to spend his birthday in a car for 8 hours driving up to Santa Cruz.  Once we got up to Santa Cruz, Doug was surprised with some red velvet cupcakes, homemade egg nog, and some birthday gifts.

I love him.


I got these beautiful babies at Burlington Coat Factory for a cool $20. 

Amazing, right?  I'm super excited to make good use of them this winter. (Rain, please?  Please, please?)  I already have big plans for them involving my new grey skinny jeans that I got at Ross for $13.00 and some black leg warmers that I got for Christmas last year. 

There is just one very sad problem- the rubber smell is overpoweringly awful!  Seriously, Doug insists that we roll down the window in the car whenever I wear them so that we don't get headaches.  When I visited my dad a few weeks ago, he informed me that I had B.O.  In his words, "Lizzie, you smell a little ripe."  I had just taken a shower; I had on clean clothes, but I had stopped wearing deodorant a few months ago (more on this later).  Obviously, I panicked.  After forcing both my mother and Doug to shove their faces into the inside of my jacket and my armpits, we concluded that it was not me that smelled bad. It was the boots...  This was a relieving revelation but very depressing at the same time.  Currently, my boots are airing out on our deck.  Here's hoping that they come back inside fresh and stench free.  If not, I think I'll settle for "B.O." over not wearing these totally awesome boots...

Getting Hitched!

Well, I knew this weekend was going to be awesome, but I did not know the surprise that was in store:
These two crazy kids are going to tie the knot!
After we picked my mom and Cliff up from the airport on Friday night, we walked to a restaurant right around the corner from our house to wait for my sister and Brandon to arrive.  As soon as they got to the restaurant, Cliff said, "Ok, let me take a picture of you guys."  While we posed for the picture, my mom slipped on her rock and put her hand right next to the camera.  Here is the picture:

I know that this picture looks posed, but it's not.  Doug and I immediately noticed the giant rock on her finger, and we were stunned.  It took Mimi and Brandon a few more seconds before they realized what was going on, so they were still smiling for the camera at this point.  I just think this picture is hilarious.

I am so happy for my mom and Cliff.  She is such a wonderful mother, and I am so glad that she had found someone so sweet to take care of her and be her partner.  I am excited for all of the festivities to come (hello, bachelorette party!) and to welcome the new additions to our family.

I was going to apologize for the terrible picture quality, but you know what?  This is my blog.  You get to read about my life.  Take what you get, ok?

It came at last- Pt. 2

The weather in Las Vegas was absolutely delightful and we hung out at the pool all day.  If you haven't already heard, the new trend in Las Vegas is "day life."  This basically means that many of the trendy hotels have turned sections of their pools into nightclubs for daytime.  There is a DJ, cabanas, and a general liveliness that makes it a lot of fun, but there are also some drawbacks. 

1. It is absolutely impossible to sleep with loud nightclub-ish music blaring in your ears.  Top 40's: Great if you're ready for a dance party, not so great if you want to sleep in the glorious sun.

2. A frozen margarita is $16.  We're not talking about a huge fishbowl of a margarita that you can share with all of your friends.  We're talking about an 8 ounce margarita out of a slushy machine.  Unfortunately, I couldn't resist the frozen treat and bought one anyways.  Oh, the shame.

3. There are bouncers who check your purse, id, and pat you down if you want to go in.  They even took the lid off of Kelly's chapstick to make sure it was chapstick.  We were trying to figure out what they thought she was hiding in there...  A very small knife?  A midget prostitute?  Ecstasy?  Really?  At the pool?

The highlight of our entire weekend, as always, was, of course, the Mandalay Bay Breakfast Buffet.  This year, Halloween was actually on Sunday, and there were lots of Halloween themed treats to enjoy at the buffet.  And the crab legs.  Always the crab legs.

A little sampling of the Spoooooky Halloween treats.

I made everyone display their favorite Halloween sweet.

Making out + Crab legs = Perfection
 Of course, Doug continued to wear his Woody costume.  Later that day, we ran into the cutest little Woody and we had to get a picture of them together.