How to do a Rodeo Houston 2015 for Less

UPDATE: Reliant Stadium is now called NRG Stadium! I attempted to update all the links for 2015, but some were not successful. ¬†I left some of the maps from 2014 – hopefully they’ll be close to the same this year ūüôā

On Facebook, I saw a friend asking about ways to go to the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo (HLSR) for less money!

RodeoHouston is the largest rodeo in the world! ¬†Isn’t that awesome?! And, there are ways to do it for cheap! ¬†I have gone the past 3 days, so I decided to share what I have learned about doing RodeoHouston for less!

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Park and Ride:¬†Here is some GREAT information about where to park¬†and ride –¬†pick a spot based on where you live, the group you’re with, and how much traveling you want to do!

If it were me, I would probably park at the OST lot – it’s a $10 and free shuttle!

Astrodome Lot: If you want to park closer to the park, I recommend the Astrodome lot – it a grass/gravel lot across 610 from the rodeo. ¬†It’s a bit of a walk, but there’s a free tram! ¬†The parking costs $12 – and make sure you bring cash!

The entrance for the astrodome lot is off West Bellfort (and Kirby).  This is my favorite spot, because there is less traffic, and it is usually less full than the yellow lot.  There are large electronic signs pointing your way to it.

If you’re headed to the NRG (formerly Reliant)¬†Stadium (concert or rodeo), after you get off the tram, go towards your left as you’re facing the stadium, and enter the park at the first gate you come to!

Here is information on the other public parking lots near NRG Park.

TICKETS

If you want to save money, Wednesday is the day to go to the HLSR!

Admission to NRG Park (for access to everything EXCEPT the Rodeo and the concert):

  • Adults: normally $10; on¬†Wednesdays,¬†$5
  • Children (under 12) and Seniors: normally $5; on¬†Wednesdays, FREE!
  • Children under the age of 2 are always free.

Concert tickets

  • The upper level seats are normally $21.75 online, $18 at the door; on Wednesdays, upper level tickets are $10! Now, these are in the “nosebleeds,” but there are some fabulous big screens and some great videography that makes it easy to see what is going on.
    • Wednesday, March 4,¬†2015 –¬†Hunter Hayes
    • Wednesday, March 11, 2015 – Brantley Gilbert
    • Wednesday, March 18, 2015 –¬†Florida Georgia Line
  • Children under the age of 2 are free if they will not be taking up an additional seat.
  • The seats at each of the “narrow” ends of the arena aren’t quite as easy to see, but again, fabulous big screens!
  • Bring binoculars if you want to get some good views!
  • Click here to purchase tickets online.

[On Wednesdays, $2 rides, $2 games, and $2 food bites from 11 AM to 4 PM in Kids Country Carnival.]

RODEO AND CONCERT INFORMATION

  • The rodeo and concert are held in the NRG¬†Stadium (Formerly Reliant).
  • The doors open around 5:30, but the rodeo doesn’t start until 6:45 – you can see all sorts of events:¬†bareback riding, barrel racing, bull riding, saddle bronc riding, steer wrestling, team roping, tie-down roping,¬†mutton bustin’ and more! It really is worth going for if you have never been before, IMHO.
  • The concert usually starts around 8:45, and lasts about an hour, depending on the performer.
  • No outside food or drinks are allowed inside the NRG¬†Stadium, and all purses and bags are subject to being searched.

FREE ACTIVITIES (once you’ve paid to get in!)

Here is a GREAT guide to the activities.¬† But since the goal of this post is not spending money, I’ll share with you the free things that I enjoy, or I have heard good things about! (The times are from last year – I have not yet updated them)

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1. Mutton Bustin‘: Sit in the stands and cheer on the cute 5 and 6 year olds as they attempt to hold on to sheep for the ride of their lives!

  • Location: Kids Country (brown area on the map)
  • Schedule: 10 AM to 7 PM (starting on the hour)

2. Pig Races

  • Location: Kids Country (brown area on the map)
  • Schedule: 10:30; 11:30 AM; 12:30; 1:30; 3:30; 4:30; 5:30 and 6:30 PM

3. Statoil Stars Over Texas Stage: sing-alongs, animal acts and more.

  • I got to see the Amazing Animals show, and it was PHENOMENAL.¬† They were engaging, educational, and fascinating ‚Äď even for adults!¬† Check out the schedule in the RodeoHouston App or Online.
  • The Animal Show seemed to be most days at 11, then at 2 or 3, then at 4,5, or 6.¬† You‚Äôll need to check the schedule for the day you want to go to make it work.

4. TDECU Fun on the Farm: ‚Äúallows children to explore the world of agriculture by following the process of producing farm products, from planting to market. Children can help with farm chores such as gathering eggs, planting and harvesting crops, and milking a cow. Be sure and check out Goat Mountain. Observe goats as they frolic on a rocky hill and learn how the goat industry contributes to Texas agriculture and your daily life.‚ÄĚ

  • Schedule: 10 AM to 7 PM

5. Agventure: ‚ÄúNearly every species of livestock can be found inside this fun and educational area, with several live animal exhibits.”

  • Exhibits included: petting zoo, honey bees, rainwater harvesting, fisheries, birthing center (watching baby chicks hatch!), rabbits, poultry, and more!
  • Location: Hall A of NRG¬†Center (far right side if you‚Äôre facing it)
  • Schedule: 9 AM to 9 PM

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You can also check out some pretty neat cattle, sheep, goats, etc. and just walk around! I’ve seen lots of interesting animals by doing that!

Here is a visitors packet with much of this information, including maps and the daily schedules.  (not yet posted for 2015)

FOOD

There’s not a whole lot of money that can be saved here… Most meals are $8-$12 (not including sides or drinks). ¬†Plan on eating as much as you can beforehand, and sharing a meal with a family member if you want to save money. ¬†Inside NRG¬†Stadium, food seems to be at least $2 more expensive than outside.

VOLUNTEERS

“The HLSR would not be the well-run success that it is today without the vision, dedication and hard work of its volunteers. What began as a small group of people with a dream has developed into an event supported by the efforts of more than 28,500 volunteers.” — Remember that most of the people you come into contact with are VOLUNTEERS! ¬†Don’t forget to show them a smile and understand there may be lines.

I hope you and your family/friends are able to go to the rodeo!  Make sure you comment anything YOU enjoyed that others might like as well!

**Most of this information was verified on the RodeoHouston website, although some of it is just from personal experience.  If something is not 100% accurate, I am sorry and please comment below so that it can be corrected!  Maps are RodeoHouston (although may have some notes); photos are my own.

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Day 2: Penghu!

Oh. ¬†My. ¬†Goodness. ¬†As much as I wanted to take a nap yesterday, I resisted (and my brother kept hitting, pinching, poking me). ¬†I feel sooooo much better this morning! Although I did not at 5AM when someone began banging on their neighbor’s door. ¬†For 4o minutes. ¬†With a dog barking at him.

[If you haven’t been keeping up with my travels, check them out here!]

Ok, so back to yesterday.

Nick and Liv had about 4 minutes left of class when his coworker brought me to Wen Au Elementary, Nick and Liv’s school. ¬†[To see how education here works, check out my dad’s guest post here.] ¬† Olivia asked the students, “Who do you think this is?” ¬†They replied, “YOUR SISTER!” She told them that I was Nick’s sister. ¬†They played “Fish-Fish-Penghu” (essentially Duck-Duck-Goose) until it was time for school to be over.

Fish-Fish-Penghu

A game of “Fish-Fish-Penghu”

I was still feeling a little ehhh from the long travel (and I think from lack of food. Does anyone else get to that point where you’re so hungry you feel nauseated?) ¬†We went back to the house, had some comfort food imported from America, and then hung out in the only air-conditioned room in the house. ¬†Nick wanted to go do something (I’m pretty sure he’s excited to show me around town ūüôā ) and so finally annoyed us enough to the point of going out.

My first-ever scooter ride!

My first-ever scooter ride!

We went to an adorable place that has a Penghu specialty: cactus ice cream.  It was delicious and so fun!

Cactus Desserts

Cactus Desserts

[Note the matching shirts. We only have one shirt that is the same, so it was pretty ironic that we ended up wearing the same one on the same day.]

Cactus Ice Cream - Penghu Specialty

Cactus Ice Cream – Penghu Specialty

A dinner had been arranged in the evening by the principal of the school for some of the visiting education officials from Taiwan. ¬†Some of the teachers from Wen Au Elementary where there as well. ¬†The seafood restaurant had some… interesting dishes. ¬†I was very grateful when they brought chicken out.

This was my first experience actually using chopsticks in public. ¬†How do you think it went? Hint: ¬†a¬†chopstick ended up on the floor. ¬†I think I’ll start bringing my handy-dandy silverware set everywhere I go.

Day 1 (& a little bit of 2): Travel!

My trip is finally here!  Where is my summer going??
After some confusion about my ticket (never using Orbitz again), I’m so thankful I got to the airport early.
I spent my layover in the United Club (thanks, dad!) – I was able to read comfortably, charge my phone, and have a snack. Then I made my way to the other end of LAX to the international terminal.
Taiwan Trip 003
 On my international flight, there was some interesting food:
The sunrise as we began getting closer to Taiwan was GORGEOUS.

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I am TERRIBLE at public transportation. growing up in the suburbs, I very rarely got to experience buses, trains, etc. The few times I have travelled to cities where it was necessary, I’ve had family or fellow students with me to help me navigate. And even then, we got lost on occasion. Or just confused in general.
When I got to Taipei, I had to make my way to the smaller, domestic airport in order to get to Penghu. That meant taking a bus. I am proud to say that I made it, although not without confusion and doubt.  I then had to wait a long time for my flight, so I finished my book, and then decided to double check whether or not they could put me on an earlier flight.  I was able to take a flight that was scheduled to board at 10.  It was 10:07.  Luckily, it was delayed, and I made it with no major problems.
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I tried to get in touch with my bro and SIL to let them know I would be early.  Since they were still teaching, they sent a sweet co-worker to pick me up.  It worked out perfectly!
I only got about 5 hours of sleep the past couple days… Maybe I can finish Day 2 tomorrow.
Good night, all!

Birthday Week How-To and a #birthdayofhashtags

My BFF’s mom has done a birthday week every year for both of her daughters. ¬†It’s a special tradition for her family, and I decided to attempt it for a very special birthday.

I don’t think I could do it every year, but for my mom’s 50th, I thought it would be a great way to make it special. ¬†[Especially considering I’ll be out of town visiting my brother and SIL. ¬†Oops.] ¬†Now, I may have gone a little overboard… Don’t judge our #birthdayofhashtags – my brother and SIL have made a habit of mocking hashtags. ¬†And we had just explained hashtags to our mother. ¬†So after 2 hours of skyping, #birthdayofhashtags has ensued!

How it works:

  1. Essentially, give a small gift each day the week leading up to the birthday: If the birthday is on Wednesday, start the previous Tuesday.
  2. Decide how you want to gift it each day:¬†outside the bedroom, on the seat of the car, in various hiding places hidden, at the breakfast table… ¬†The possibilities are endless! ¬†If you don’t live in the same city, you can recruit someone close to them (significant other, child, etc.) to give the gifts for you (you should have them all prepped and then mail them to the “someone close”)
  3. Decide on your gifts and make a list of what you need! ¬†Shop (online or in stores ūüėČ )
  4. Put them all together!

Remember to find things that are specific to your recipient. ¬†I did my best to think of things my mom was in need of and/or would love but wouldn’t get on her own. ¬†

The birthday week can definitely be done simpler! And now… The ideas! (Tutorials linked where necessary)

Birthday Week by thisthatandcraft

Flowers:¬†I LOVE Sam’s club flowers! ¬†They often have¬†gorgeous¬†varied¬†bouquets¬†for about $15!

Magnetic fridge list & pen holder: Here is my tutorial for the magnetic pen box using a spice tin (you can also just use a small box).  I also made magnetic pens.  I got the notepads at Michaels for $.50 each!

Birthday Week - Grocery List

Mani/pedi set: Buy one or make your own to your recipients liking! ¬†I love the nail clippers that have a cover – it keeps the trimmings from flying all over the place! ¬†I’ve seen them at Wal-mart, HEB, and more. ¬†Revlon even makes some! ¬†Here’s an adorable DIY Faux Antique Nail Polish.

DSC_7682 Faux Antique Nail Polish

Picture frame: Does he/she need a frame at the office or nightstand to display loved ones?

Birthday Week - Picture / Frame

Purse things: Include what she may need in her purse! Nail clippers, medicine container, Shout wipes, hand sanitizer  hair ties, tissues, bobby pins, small cosmetic bag, travel brush, compact mirror, pen, small notebook, mints, gum, chapstick, and the list goes on! [That reminds me.  I bought her favorite chapstick.  Hmmm, now where did I put that?]

Birthday Week - Purse Stuff

Car things:  I ended up making a car kit.  My mom and I are both traveling teachers.  I know the type of things that come in handy in the car, so I made this kit.  Check it out for a list of ideas.

Everything-you-might-want-in-the-car Kit by thisthatandcraft

Personalized Puzzle: This is my FAVORITE so I made it the actual birthday present!  Our family has a tradition of getting a puzzle at the national park we visited over the summer.  We spent a lot of time at a family home in Washington.  I decided to get a puzzle made out of a picture I took there last summer!

I used Missing Piece Puzzle Company¬†to order a 500 piece puzzle. ¬†They were FANTASTIC. ¬†I got my order within 3 days of ordering (I’m sure that’s not¬†guaranteed). ¬†They were very helpful and prompt when I contacted them for assistance. ¬†The puzzle quality is great! ¬†They have lots of other sizes as well!

Birthday Week - Puzzle

Cupcakes in a jar: On her actual birthday, I had these cupcake jars ready for her.  Check out all of Glorious Treats Desserts in Jars.

Double Chocolate cupcakes in a jar

Acrostic gifts: You can create a gift bag or basket with various things for each letter of the recipient’s name. ¬†So for NICK – I could include…

  • N- Nerds candy
  • I- Ice pops
  • C- Clue (the game)
  • K-¬†Kaleidoscope

Soak up the sun: Sunglasses, sunscreen, SFP chapstick, sunhat

Other ideas I found online:

rope-handbag from The Long Thread

Rope Handbag from The Long Thread

Mason Jar Pincushion from Crazy Wonderful

Mason Jar Pincushion from Crazy Wonderful

Movie Night DVD Wrap by allred design

Movie Night DVD Wrap by allred design
or keep it simple: DVD, candy, and popcorn

DIY Coffee Cozy from Practically Functional

DIY Coffee Cozy from Practically Functional

Little gift ideas: You could also just do a litle thing some days to simplify it. ¬†Here are some suggestions to get you thinking (you can also google or Pinterest “stocking stuffers for __{type of person}__” and you’ll probably find some great suggestions

  • favorite candy
  • flameless candles
  • t-shirt
  • sunglasses
  • mug
  • hot pads
  • handwarmers
  • keychain
  • card game
  • cord wrap
  • crayons & coloring book
  • Here is a link for 25 Handmade Gifts under $5

What are some of your ideas or suggestions?  Comment below!

Everything-you-might-want-in-the-car Kit (makes a great gift!)

Another survival kit! My mom and I are both traveling teachers.  I know the type of things that come in handy in the car, so I made this kit.   I ended up making one of these for myself I loved it so much! 

Everything-you-might-want-in-the-car Kit by thisthatandcraft

What to include: [I did NOT include all of this.  Think about your recipient and what they will need!]

Beauty: (Most of this I found at Wal-mart in the travel section)

  • bobby pins
  • travel size comb or brush
  • hair ties
  • hair spray**
  • compact mirror
  • chapstick**
  • tweezers
  • nail file
  • blotting papers
  • hand lotion**
  • sun screen**
  • lint roller** [I got a lint brush]
  • deoderant**
  • toothbrush-to-go (Wisps, or my Wal-mart had a kit with an actual toothbrush and toothpaste for cheaper!)
  • floss

Health:

  • disinfecting hand wipes**
  • hand¬†sanitizer
  • tissues
  • bandaids / first aid kit
  • medicines: pain killer, antacid, motion sickness relief, etc.
  • tissues
  • barf bag (you never know when you might have a sick passenger)

Just in case…

  • mints or gum**
  • water bottle(s) [use your own judgement about whether or not you’ll drink from bottles stored in heat]
  • snacks – granola bars, trail mix**
  • plastic silverware packets [I may or may not have had about 20 in my car. ¬†I just took some from there…]
  • napkins
  • pen & small notepad

For clothing¬†(I found most of this at¬†Joann’s):

  • mini sewing kit
  • scissors (I have a pair of children’s scissors. ¬†Nice and small; safe if it goes flying about)
  • safety pins
  • Shout Wipes or Tide-To-Go**

In case of emergency: 

  • flashlight [I MAY have just taken the 2 that were already in my mom’s car… why buy another one? Ha!]
  • tire gauge
  • Fix-a-flat
  • a few pairs of disposable gloves
  • disposable camera [no need if your recipient has a decent phone or tablet]
  • utility knife
  • ice scraper [this has actually come in handy in Texas!]
  • maps
  • car pillow & blanket
  • box of matches
  • small garbage bags

**I live in Texas.  That means, between about April and November, things have a tendancy to melt.  I just keep these things in my purse during those months and taking them out of my car.

The bag – a few ideas: You’ll want to think about what will work best for the TYPE of car your recipient has as well. ¬†Remember, you should not put anything in sight that might look like a good item to steal. ¬†So if there’s no “hidey place” for a giant cosmetic bag, go with something smaller!

  • A number of small cosmetic bags – see through would be better! [I had a hard time finding these at a reasonable price.]
  • A large sturdy bag that can go in the trunk
  • A “purse insert” that will fit in the glove box like the one I used [I bought it on Amazon. ¬†It comes in a variety of colors! ¬†If you need it soon, make sure it is shipped from the US and NOT from Hong Kong. I learned this the hard way.]
  • A 2 part cosmetic bag with see-through pockets
  • A baby wipes container – who would steal that?

Inspiration:

Father's Day Car Kit by Holidash

Father’s Day Car Kit by Holidash – sewing instructions!

Emergency Car Kit from My Creative Stirrings

Emergency Car Kit from My Creative Stirrings

Martha Stewart DIY Car Kit video

Martha Stewart DIY Car Kit video

Time to Travel the World!

Very soon, I’ll be beginning my journey to Magong City, Taiwan to visit my amazing brother and sister-in-law. My goal is to blog pretty frequently about my experiences! ¬†I tend to forget things easily, so this will be a fun way for me to share my experiences with friends and family, AND have a record of my thoughts and pictures from the trip. ¬†Let’s hope I can keep it up!

I’m so excited! I’ve traveled overseas one other time for a study abroad trip to Italy. Of course, that was with a whole group of people. I’ve traveled without supervision plenty of times…with my brother, who was in no way a supervisor for me, since we were both kids heading for grandparent visits. But this time, I’m traveling across the world alone!

The travel time to Taipei is more than 19 hours. But my trip goes beyond Taipei! I have another flight at a DIFFERENT AIRPORT to get from Taipei to Penghu. Add another 6 hours (including a bus ride across Taipei) for that! EEK! But the end result is going to be fantastic! I’ll get to go to a country that I NEVER would have traveled to otherwise, see two of my favorite people and have a blast exploring beautiful islands!

Here’s the entire route!

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Wedding Day Survival Kit: Free Downloads

I’m starting to be known around my friends and coworkers for my “survival kits.” ¬†I don’t know how it happened. ¬†I guess I just love the practicality and the personalization I can do when creating a kit for someone I care about. ¬†Here’s the one I most recently made! One thing I love about this one is that anything the bride doesn’t end up using can be used for a guest room bathroom! Wedding Day Survival Kit: Contents What to include:¬†[I did NOT include all of this. ¬†Think about your bride and what she would actually use in an emergency]

For clothing (I found most of this at Joann’s):

  • sewing kit (if possible, make sure it has the bridesmaids’ dress color thread) – I found mine at Michael’s for $1.50 in the baskets of value items!
  • scissors (my sewing kit included mini scissors)
  • double stick tape
  • corsage pins
  • safety pins
  • clear nail polish (for fixing a chipped nail, runs in hose, or putting it on the thread of a button about to fall off)
  • stick-on instant hemming tape
  • white chalk (for masking stains)

[Side note: You’d think you wouldn’t need any of this. ¬†At my best friend’s wedding, one of the bridesmaid’s zipper BROKE on her dress. ¬†The zipper had seemed a little “off,” but David’s Bridal said they couldn’t do anything about it. ¬†She couldn’t get it zipped, and then one side came completely out. ¬†We had to literally sew her up, but the thread color didn’t match and we ran out! ¬†EEK! ¬†The bride may have been hiding under her veil at this point…] Wedding Day Survival Kit: Hair & Make-up

Hair & Make-up: (Most of this I found at Wal-mart in the travel section)

  • bobby pins
  • comb or brush
  • hair spray
  • compact mirror
  • chapstick
  • tweezers
  • nail file (I found a cute set at Wal-Mart by the nail polish!)
  • nail clippers
  • blotting papers
  • cotton balls
  • Q-tips
  • make-up wipes
  • hand lotion
  • lint roller
  • deoderant
  • toothbrush-to-go¬†& toothpaste kit (travel section)
  • floss
  • mouthwash
  • eye drops (if the bride wears contacts, make sure to buy drops¬†that are specifically for contacts)

Just in case…Wedding Day Survival Kit: Just in case!

  • bandages¬†or first aid kit
  • blister kit
  • mints
  • tissues
  • earring backs
  • tampons
  • Shout Wipes or Tide-To-Go
  • static cling
  • water bottle(s)
  • straws (to keep lipstick from getting totally ruined) – next time you grab and extra one from a fast food place, save it!
  • superglue
  • lighter (for lighting candles or to fix fraying ribbon! It works for most ribbons – just swipe it so it doesn’t catch on fire!)
  • for outdoor weddings: sunscreen, bug spray, allergy medicine

For Sanity:

  • medicine: headache, pain, antacid, etc.
  • snacks (I got Nature Valley fruit and nut bars or Clif bars – no chocolate or anything that will stain!)
  • I’m not a drinker, but if the bride is, you could go with some mini containers of …juice…

Now, for the bag. ¬† I wanted something with a handle that could be easily carried. ¬†I considered¬†a purse or beach bag, but then realized either everything would be floating around, or I would have to purchase additional pouches. ¬†I also considered a tackle box. ¬†While this is a super cute idea, and they tend to be about the same price as what I got, I thought it’d be too annoying to carry around / have to keep upright. ¬†SO I went with a cute cosmetics bag with a handle, various pockets, and even a hook to hang it over a door. ¬†I find this is my favorite style to gift.

UPDATE: Here are a few I have made since this post! I even personalized some of them with vinyl!

I got the larger cosmetic bags at TJMaxx, Marshalls, and Tuesday Morning for less than $15 each.

I recently made¬†the purple clutch survival kit for my fashionista friend! ¬†Carrie had her cosmetics kit on her table at the reception! ¬†I knew Allison would not put a bag that didn’t match on the table,¬†and that she would appreciate a matching clutch, so I ordered this “large” Missy K Rose Clutch¬†on Amazon. ¬†It was hard to fit everything I wanted to in there, but I think it works for Allison!

I also made a mini wedding day survival kit for another friend of mine.  I found the small bag at Target for less than $2and was able to fill it with lots of good stuff thanks to this: My Tagalongs Personal 911 Kit.  I found these at TJMaxx for less than $5!  I love a good deal!

Label:  I used Callie Hand font for my label.

This download¬†includes a standard printable PDF with no bride’s name. ¬†Download and print on cardstock – I used my handy-dandy paper cutter and corner rounder to make this all pretty, punched a hole, and tied it with a ribbon.

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This download¬†should work with fonts on most computers. ¬†I’ve been including a list of what was included for my bride! ¬†That way, she¬†can look through it without emptying out the bag when opening her gifts.

I also made you lovely ladies a shopping list! ¬†Again, I made one in Word, so you can edit it as needed. ¬†Or, you can just print it, and you’re ready to go! ¬†Here is the PDF.

Screen Shot 2014-05-05 at 10.13.08 PM

Just delete what you’re not using and change it to your favorite font! ¬†If you have trouble, please let me know. ¬†Comment below if you have anything you added, and please link back if you use these ideas so I can see what you’ve done! ¬†Thanks for reading!

Sources:

So long, 2012! It’s been great!

2012 was a year of change, but a year of blessing, for me and my family.

I’m in the middle of my third year of teaching deaf and hard of hearing (DHH) students and in my second year as an itinerant teacher – I travel from school to school and work one-on-one with DHH students. ¬†That means I get the students who are able to speak and hear well enough to function in a general education classroom, but who are still struggling academically as a result of their hearing loss. ¬†I¬†love¬†my job. ¬†My co-workers are amazing, my students are fun to work with, and the classrooms and teachers I work with are great! ¬†I am continually amazed at how God has blessed me with a job so fit for me. ¬†I laugh a lot, especially when my students say things like: “I’m starting to think this is a tiny version of Alcatraz” [referring to my lesson on summarizing]. WHAT?

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My fantastic co-workers

This summer, God called me to take a second job as Kindergarten Director at River Pointe Church.  I had started volunteering in pre-school ministry with 4-year-olds.  In May, the early childhood director asked if I would be interested in the Kindergarten Director position.  It was all perfect timing Рthe 4 year olds I had been teaching promoted to Kindergarten my first week as director.  It was incredible!  Most of the kids already knew me, and I was able to continue to build those relationships and start building relationships with the amazing volunteers.  I loved my job Рit is my dream job when I am a mom.  But with the school year starting back up, it was too much on my plate!  I was working 7 days a week.  My co-workers and boss there were INCREDIBLE, knowing I was overwhelmed, and doing everything they could to help me!  We looked for a long time for someone to replace me.  In November, Sarah took over: she is AMAZING and an incredible asset to the staff at RPC.  I miss my sweet and crazy kindergarteners, but I am much less stressed!

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Small groups during my last week at RPC]

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Tara (Saturday Coordinator), Sarah (new Kindergarten Director), and I

If you have talked with me, or seen my Facebook at all this year, you probably know that I have spent a lot of time social dancing in the past year (lindy hop / swing, and country). ¬† ¬†In a swing dancing workshop, the skill of “following” finally made sense to me. ¬†You might say I became obsessed or addicted. ¬†I have acknowledged it and have gotten it mostly under control ¬†ūüôā . ¬†Dancing has truly helped me come out of my shell: I can now approach a stranger and strike a conversation (or even ask for a dance),¬†communicate with people and guide “small talk,” I learned that I am not obligated OR¬†entitled¬†to dance with anyone, I am confident in who I am (even when I fall flat on my back. ¬†Twice. ¬†Within 10 minutes.), and my desire to share my love for Christ with others has grown immensely. ¬†I love that God has used dancing to change who I am for the better – there was definitely an adjustment period where I got a little carried away, but in the end, I don’t regret one minute.

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My dancing buddy and one of my best friends, Melissa

I’ve made many great friends dancing. ¬†Melissa and I got involved in a group that cooks themed (usually gourmet) dinners every week. ¬†It has definitely helped me expand my palate (I’m much more open to trying new foods. ¬†Although, I’m still a bit of a picky eater)! ¬†Some of my favorite themes this year were “Back to School: Apples” and “Places” (my idea!).

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“Foods Named After Places” Edition: Waldorf salad, Brussels sprouts, Chicken Kiev, and Texas Toast

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Wild West Wednesday Dinner (this happens to be Texas themed)

My brother, Nick, and sister-and-law, Olivia, graduated college. ¬†I have completely grown to love Olivia more than a sister! ¬†She is such an amazing woman, and somehow, Nick and I get along way better when she’s around! Growing up, Nick and I were either best-of-friends or worst-of-enemies at all times — it’s a huge improvement! ¬†Then, they¬†moved¬†8090 miles away to teach English to Taiwanese students in Taiwan. ¬† I’ve done a lot of Google Chat, Google Voice, Skype, and Google Hangouts this year. Check out their blog:¬†Nick and Liv Go Abroad.

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Nick and Olivia at the Fongguei Cave in Penghu, Taiwan

If you’ve been keeping up my blog, I have been doing a lot of crafting, baking, and sewing this year. ¬†It’s been fun to open up my creative side and learn some new skills (sewing is still a struggle for me, but I’m actually enjoying it!). Feel free to surf my blog to check out what I’ve been up to this year!

My biggest blessing has been the amazing people in my life. ¬†Especially my closest friends and my family. ¬†I am so thankful for them. ¬†I have been close to Rebecca and Elizabeth for a long time – but this past year has grown our friendships so much! ¬†Melissa and I have been friends for over a year now, and despite our very different personalities, we became close quickly. ¬†We’ve made efforts to stay in touch and keep up the friendships despite all having busy lives. ¬†I love my monthly girls’ nights with these amazing ladies!

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Rebecca, Elizabeth, Melissa, and Emmelyn –
Our typical attitudes.

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Merry Christmas! Skyping on Christmas day

Here are some other fun things I did in 2012!

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Going to gardens in Texas with my Johnson grandparents

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Finished my first 5K for Attack Poverty with Rebecca [Note that I didn’t say “ran” my first 5K…]

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After 11 years in the Comet Optometry study, I am now going to have to start paying for glasses, optometrist visits, and more. Maybe Lasik for 2013…

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This summer, my family visited my current favorite place in the world – my grandparents’ home in Gig Harbor, Washington. This is the view. Love.

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I have wanted a DSLR for a long time – since I was in such a beautiful setting (Washington State), and had been saving up, I decided to go for it! Despite not remembering much from my digital photography class, I’ve had a lot of fun with the auto settings ūüôā Maybe I’ll actually learn how to use it in 2013!

The Prepcats Swing Dance team I was a part of – performing at Sugar Land TEDx

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Skeeter’s minor league baseball game

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Traveling to Port Aransas with the Elder family for the Harvest Moon Regatta

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Harvest Moon Ball – Swing dancing

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The amazing girls from the church group I am involved in. It was a Christmas Sweater party!

Happy New Year!

~ Emmelyn

Bachelorette Party Photo Scavenger Hunt [[clean & alcohol free]]

I’m soooo late on blogging about this, but I thought it ended up being so fun, so I decided to post about it anyways!

My now-sister-in-law didn’t want a drunken bachelorette¬†party. ¬†So her maid-of-honor and I tried to think of something that would be enjoyable, yet awesome! We decided on a Nick and Olivia themed photo¬†scavenger¬†hunt! ¬†The only con to this was that we split up into groups, and only one group got to be with the bride-to-be for the actual hunt part!

Here were our rules!

  1. All pictures need to contain all but one member of the team, unless specified.
  2. Team must stay together.
  3. ‚ÄėStranger‚Äô means someone you DO NOT KNOW ‚ÄĒ and once they‚Äôve taken a shot with you, they are now family‚ÄĒ every Stranger picture will require someone NEW.
  4. ‚ÄėTeammate‚Äô means one of the people on your team
  5. Each picture may count only for one task.
  6. Meet up at ____________________ by _______.
  7. Each team loses 3 points for every 15 minutes they are late.

Each task is worth 1 point unless otherwise noted

  • Olivia needs some ideas:¬†¬†At least one teammate being (uniquely) carried over a threshold¬†[[+1 for each additional teammate;¬†¬†¬†¬† +3 for each stranger participating]]
  • One team member modeling a wedding dress [[+1 for garter;¬†¬†¬†¬† +2 if all team members are in wedding dresses]]
  • creative groom’s ring from local hardware store
  • the funniest wedding card you can find
  • a church [[+1 for bible]]
  • Stranger on one knee proposing to teammate [[+2 for guys proposing to the whole team]]
  • Stranger with a lipstick kiss on his cheek [[+3 if a teammate is kissing him in the picture]]
  • A wedding cake
  • 1 teammate wearing stilettos [[+1 if you are measuring in the picture;¬†¬†¬† +1 for team with the highest heel]]
  • Man with the largest bicep you can find
  • Two love birds (actual birds) together
  • Two love birds (people) who really might consider taking it behind closed doors. [[(not necessary for team members to be in this photo)¬† +2 for team in the picture]]
  • Action figures representing Nick and Liv
  • A couple who has been together for over 50 years
  • The bride‚Äôs fav color is green: A picture with at least 5 different items of this color. ¬†[[+1 for the team with the most items of this color]]
  • A Pastor – get his advice for a great marriage.¬† Have him write it on the back of a business card.
  • Take a picture of three bachelors and have them write their advice on marriage on card/napkin [[+1 for each phone number (even if it‚Äôs on a business card)]]
  • Any hotel‚Äôs honeymoon suite [[3 points total]]
  • A penny with Nick and Liv‚Äôs birth year
  • Spelling out N & O in some way
  • Spelling out ‚Äúlove‚ÄĚ with bodies
  • Parody Nick and Liv at their 1st¬†dinner as a married couple
  • Because Nick is a lifeguard – in kiddy pool
  • having mock cook-out at Lawn & Garden section of store
  • Because Olivia found her frog/prince : Teammate (almost) kissing a toad or frog

Because Nick and Olivia are so fun-loving, here are some fun activities to record pictures of:         

  • on a spiral slide
  • under a bed (as if playing hide and seek)
  • in dark, with flashlights to faces
  • having pillow fight
  • balanced on playground see-saw
  • in a shopping cart
  • jumping in the air (must be off ground)
  • Teammate saying ‚ÄúUnmph!‚ÄĚ with a word bubble while getting punched

A printable version

It was a blast. ¬†Our group had a hard time convincing a guy to take a picture with one of us “proposing,” we had to agree not to put it anywhere. ¬†We think he thought it was some sort of trick.

The BEST part was looking at the pictures and having delicious dessert!

Cheesecake Stuffed Strawberries

Zebra Cake

Chocolate Chocolate Cupcakes [frosting recipe included!]

What is the likelihood of 3 out of my 6 co-workers have birthdays within a week of each other?  Good thing they all LOVE chocolate, because it was easy for them to agree on chocolate cupcakes.

So, of course, I went to my ABSOLUTE favorite chocolate cake recipe. ¬†It has never failed me before, and it definitely didn’t fail me this time! ¬†It’s been a while since I made it, AND I rarely make JUST chocolate. ¬†But it was DIVINE. ¬†A number of people said it was one of the best they’d had. ¬†If you’ve never tried to make cupcakes from scratch use this recipe!

I also discovered this amazing frosting recipe. ¬†[sidenote… food.com, previously recipezaar, is one of my favorite things] Oh. Muh. Wurd… I’m not really a frosting person. ¬†Especially chocolate. ¬†But MAN was this frosting AMAZING. ¬†And pretty easy too! ¬†Do yourself a favor and try it.

I got a new piping tip and had fun (and made some ridiculously awful looking cupcakes) trying out new stuff!  I kinda tried to make a rose.  I was pretty excited about the possibilities!

Here’s the recipe I used for frosting. ¬†Just in case you don’t know how to click a link.

Kittencal’s Chocolate Frosting

1/2 cup butter, softened (don’t you dare use margarine)
2 2/3 cups confectioners’ sugar, sifted
1/3 cup half-and-half cream OR 1/3 cup milk (can use unwhipped whipping cream in place of half and half)
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla
CHOOSE ONE OF THE FOLLOWING ¬†**use less confectioners’ sugar when you use more cocoa powder
1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder, sifted (for light)
1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder, sifted (for medium)
3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder, sifted (for dark rich)

1.  Cream the butter in a small bowl.
2.  Blend in the cocoa powder (the amount desired for a light, medium or dark flavor), vanilla, confectioners sugar, alternately with the cream.
3. ¬†Beat with an electric mixer, until the desired texture is achieved. (I used the whisk attachment and beat it … maybe about 5 minutes?

I added a little bit of vegetable oil to make it shiny and pretty!

Adapted from kittencal on food.com.