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!!!!