Monday, December 31, 2012

The Best of 2012

What a full year 2012 has been! I cannot believe how many amazing things I have done and been a part of!! Here’s a quick review of some of them:

If this year was not so wonderful for you, keep your chin up. I can attest to the fact that things turn around, and even this year was not without difficult struggles for me.

You can try to blame hard times on one thing or another, but really, life always cycles up and down, regardless of a person’s status or religion. All any of us can do is become stronger with each struggle and make the most of each moment of joy in our lives.

Have a fun, safe New Year’s Eve, and may 2013 bring us all more knowledge, personal growth, and memorable adventures.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Quick Update

Just in case you were wondering, yes, I did update the design of the blog. You're not going crazy. :) I'm playing with a couple ideas, so don't be surprised if you see a few other changes here and there. Thanks, and let me know if you like the new design! Erin

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Oh Christmas Tree!

December brings with it my favorite holiday of the year, Christmas! I enjoy other holidays, such as Halloween and Thanksgiving, but Christmas is the holiday I remember most from my childhood. The lights outside houses and the holly draping inside them – it is always so festive and welcoming. I also loved decorating gingerbread houses with my cousins, singing Christmas carols with my friends, and watching Christmas movies with my mom.

In all the crazy, joyous events surrounding Christmas, my all-time favorite event is decorating the Christmas tree. While my mom and I would decorate the rest of the house ourselves, the Christmas tree was the one decoration that my whole family would do together. My dad would set up the tree and put on the lights, and my mom would open up the Christmas boxes and pass ornaments to my brother and I to hang on the tree.

We all had our favorite Christmas ornaments. My dad liked the crystal ornaments (except for this one crystal ballerina with fat legs. LOL); my mom liked the handmade ornaments from nuts and yarn; my brother liked the train ornaments and usually took them off the tree to play; and I liked a dog ornament that was made out of tiny little pine cones.

Many of our ornaments had stories behind them, such as who made it and what event it was created for. My brother and I had our first baby ornaments, and there were the ornaments that grandma had made, including the decorated nuts and pine cone dog. There were also countless ornaments that my brother and I had made in school or church over the years. Even the ornaments with next to no story were always greeted as friends when they were unwrapped from their protective tissues.

First Christmas ornament I ever made

Though I live on my own now, I still treat my Christmas tree the same way I did when I was little. The first thing I do is pick out a nice live tree. Fake trees work just fine if you have enough room for a second tree in a house, but the family tree, that protects the presents until Christmas morning, MUST be a live tree in my house.

The process of decorating the tree is sacred, and being the strange person that I am, I do it the same way every year. After the tree is in its stand, I put on the lights. First twining them against the trunk of the tree; then, circling them out on the edge of the branches. Next, I wrap a pretty ribbon, usually red or gold, around the tree. The ornaments follow shortly after. All the fun, unique ornaments go on first, making sure our favorite ornaments get the best locations. The colorful bulbs go on next to fill in any empty wholes. A few small red bows usually get scatter around, and finally, I hang a box or two of classic candy canes all over.

The result is always wonderful, and I love staring at the tree for the rest of the holiday season. Here’s a picture of this year’s Christmas tree!

In addition to a few of my favorite old ornaments, Dan and I’s tree is decorated with some of his favorites and a new one that we picked up the night he proposed. :)

Dan's favorite ornament

Ornament from where Dan proposed to me

As Christmas and the other holidays celebrated in December draw closer, I wish you all at least a few moments peace in all the craziness. Remember that the holidays are supposed to be about giving and spreading joy to others, which does not have to come in the form of a present.

Merry Christmas! Happy Holidays! And a wonderful New Year to all!

Robots on a Christmas treee? I wonder where that came from!

Friday, December 14, 2012

Handcrafted by At The Lamppost

While researching wedding decorations, I have come across TONS of great ideas using wine bottles and corks. Everything from candle holders to chandeliers can be made from wine bottles, and wine corks can be used for wreaths, place card holders, and more. One of my favorite ideas so far is cork keychains. What better way to remember your favorite bottle of wine than to have a keychain that you can carry around with you!

On a recent VA wine tour, Dan and I stopped at Aspen Dale Winery, one of my favorite wineries. It did not take us long to start up a conversation with the proprietors, Larry and Kelly, who were eager to help us add Aspen Dale to the VA Wine geocache trail. After we hid the new geocache, Kelly and I started talking about weddings, and I mentioned some of the ideas I had for incorporating wine bottles and corks into our wedding.

When I mentioned cork keychains, Kelly got really excited, saying that things like that would sell very well at the winery. I completely agreed, and next thing I knew, we were talking logistics on how Dan and I could make cork keychains to sell at Aspen Dale. :)

The display board and cork keychains for Aspen Dale

Over the course of the next couple weeks, Kelly and I figured out what the keychains would look like, what kind of tag they should have, and how we could best display them to customers. It was a blast!! Here are some of the things we though made cork keychains a great purchase:

  • They make excellent stocking stuffers for Christmas!
  • It’s a great way to remember your visit to Aspen Dale
  • Pick a cork from your favorite bottle of wine
  • Cork keychains are great for boat keys because they float
  • And they just look downright cool! ;)

Last Sunday, Dan and I made our first delivery of cork keychains to Aspen Dale. It was so exciting to see the display board that Dan made hanging in the tasting room! The cork keychains looked fantastic, and everyone was happy with the entire presentation.

So, when you stop by Aspen Dale Winery for some wine and geocaching, be sure to check out the cork keychains (made by yours truly) hanging by the checkout counter!

Wednesday, December 12, 2012


It’s the last sequence day of the century!! Those of us alive today will probably never see another one like it! I hope you all have something fun planned to celebrate and make it memorable. There are rumors of lots of different parties and events to commemorate the day, including a concert benefit for a Hurricane Sandy relief fund.

For myself, I am planning a quick geocaching lunch near my work. I hope to find at least one of the four caches that are close to my building. Maybe I’ll pick up a cool geocaching badge for my account. :)

Update (2pm):
I found two geocaches during lunch. It took me a little longer than I was expecting, because I am a little rusty at finding them. Guess I've been spending too much time hiding the VA Wine Trail caches. LOL However, I was awarded a cool, new souvenir!

My shiny, new souvenir

Update 2 (later that day):
My fiance and I got to do even more geocaching after work. Through some friends, we learned of a geocaching event happening near our home; so naturally, we joined in. We followed the coordinates of the event and found an entire restaurant filled with geocachers! It was great fun swapping stories/TBs/swag with our fellow geocachers.

Dan and I got to meet the leaders of the NoVaGO group (a group of cachers in the NoVa area), and we even got to make an announcement about the VA Wine Trail of geocaches. Judging from the number of people who came up and asked us questions afterwards, there will be a lot more people hunting the VA Wine Trail soon. :)

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

How To Make Tails Wag

Abigail - a precious beagle mix looking for a home

I absolutely love animals. When I was little, I wanted to be either a vet or a zoologist. I never became either, but that has not stopped me from greeting every animal that I come across. :) As any pet owner can tell you, a pet brings an incredible amount of joy to the lives of their owners, not to mention the friends and family of their owners. It is because of this that I chose to start helping more homeless pets.

When most people think about helping animals, they think about adopting animals from a shelter. While this is definitely an important undertaking, not everyone is able to adopt an animal. Perhaps they cannot afford one, or perhaps, like me, they already have as many animals as they can support. No matter what the reason, I have learned that there are many other ways to help homeless animals.

Griffin - a lovable young fellow who just found a home

Shelters are always looking for donations. Some only accept money donations, but others accept old toys, bowls, towels, and so forth.

Shelters need all kinds of different volunteers. Some have a higher commitment of time, and others have a come-when-able commitment. Volunteer positions also range from keeping up grounds to working with the animals – find what fits you!

Most people do not realize how big an impact education makes for homeless pets. Education can cover everything from presenting information about spaying/neutering to teaching your children how to greet and handle different animals.

Cha Cha – an energetic munchkin who needs a home to play in

For myself, I started volunteering as a dog walker at Friends of Homeless Animals (FOHA) on Saturdays and/or Sundays. With my sporadic schedule, walking dogs gives me the freedom to volunteer without having to commit to a specific timetable, and I ABSOLUTELY LOVE it!

In addition to walking the dogs, I try to take pictures of each puppy I interact with and post it up on Twitter. I have no idea if this matches a dog with a potential owner, but it certainly helps spread the word that there are wonderful dogs out there looking for a good home. :)

Malcolm - a sweet Rhodesian mix who's found a home

So as we celebrate all the different holidays this month, remember all the pets who are looking for a home where they can bring more joy to the world!

Eden - a little gentleman looking for a place to play

Shalimar - a cuddly lady looking for a permanent friend to cuddle with