Tuesday, December 31, 2013

2013 Review

Oh 2013, you may have not been the most exciting year in my book (it is hard to beat 2012 when so much happened last year), but there has been pivotal moments that occurred that will set up for an amazing year to come (um...baby!).
Don’t get me wrong, lots of exciting things happened this year, but the best way to sum up 2013 for me is: work. Nick and I worked hard  in the years leading up to 2012, and we basically did the same thing this year. We’ve been working our butts off this year in knowing that it’s going to pay off years to come.

In January, our wedding bliss continued. We got finally got sealed in the Calgary Temple for time and all eternity. I had wanted to do it a few months earlier, but sometimes you can’t control everything, and if anything, it was a nice way to begin the New Year. We were sealed on January 19, 2013 followed by a small open house in Okotoks.  

A few weeks later our family secretly planned a surprise 75th Birthday Party for my Grandpa. He had NO idea, and I was amazed at how many people showed up! Family and friends from all over Alberta came, and for the first time in awhile my Grandpa had all of his siblings in one room!

We had a nice break of events in February, but I needed it so I had time to plan and prepare for my crazy spring plans! At the beginning of March I hosted a Baby Shower for my sister Danika. She was having a little girl which was perfect because I knew exactly what kind of theme to throw for her – pink & leopard! If you know my sister at all, you know this party screamed her name. 

A few weeks later Danika and Chad welcomed little Alexa Rosa into the world on March 20th and our whole family was thrilled! She was so perfect and I was so excited to become an Aunt. 

That same week, Nick and I left for Fernie with Crystal and Bianca for our Ski Trip! It was seriously one of my favourite trips we went on this year, and I can’t wait for next years!

In April Nick and I celebrated our 1st Anniversary. For our actual Anniversary I just made dinner, ordered peonies (the flowers I had in my bouquet) for the table and had a night in because Nick had to spend the rest of the time studying for finals. We ended up truly celebrating at the end of April. I planned a trip to the Columbia Icefields, followed by High Tea at the Chateau Fairmont in Lake Louise before arriving in Banff for dinner and a night at the Delta. It was good to get away for the 2 days and spend some quality time together before Nick got busy with school again. 

Halfway through April I had the chance to go up to Edmonton with some of my best friends to celebrate Bev’s birthday. We went for 2 days (1 night), and it was seriously one of the best trips to Edmonton that I have ever had. Lots of bonding took place, and I found a new favourite restaurant in Edmonton – The Red Piano Bar. It was such a good night and I didn’t want it to end. Hopefully we can do something similar this year, but we’ll have to see what kind of condition I’ll be in, being 8 months pregnant and all.

On May 5th, Alexa had her Baby Blessing performed by my dad. Lots of family came including Nick’s mom, and after we had dinner at my parent’s house followed by lots of family pictures.
That same weekend, celebrations kicked off for Crystal and Andrew’s upcoming wedding in June. Crystal hosted this beautiful High Tea Bridal Shower at the Palliser downtown Calgary.

Oh June. What a crazy month it was! Here in Calgary we had that big flood (with a current price tag of 6 billion dollars!) that caused a lot of issues. Obviously the biggest excitement of June was Andrew and Crystal’s wedding, and the craziness that surrounded that day. I don’t want to go too much into detail because I’ve already written a whole blog post on it, but in the end it was still a beautiful day (click here to see more stunning photo’s by Guenard Photography), and everyone that needed to be there was there. I saw some amazing strength from everyone involved, and was taken aback by how humble and composed Crystal was that entire day. *Girl Crush* 

July brought the Calgary Stampede, which I didn’t plan on attending at first, but my friend Whitney wanted to go, so just the two of us ended up attending. It was great because Whitney and I love the exact same stampede activities, so that made for an excellent day!
 I held a little birthday BBQ party for Nick’s 25th birthday, and invited all of our close friends and family. Nick doesn’t really like celebrating or being put in the spotlight, but it was his 25th, so I had to do something. I think next year, I’ll just keep it simple and just between the 2 of us.

Due to the flood, I got to attend 2 benefit concerts here in Calgary in August. I guess it was the silver lining to such a tragedy, as we got pretty lucky and had some big names perform for us here in our city. Between the Color Me Rad race, a bachelorette party, a wedding, a birthday party and a few girl’s nights, August was pretty heavy with events.

At the end of August I planned a big camping trip for all of our friends. 25 people ended up coming, and it was nice to just get away from it all. Nick was also able to come, which was a huge bonus and kind of lucky to say the least. The day after we got back from the camping trip, Nick and I also found out that I was pregnant! It was so exciting to break the news to our family and close friends, as they were all aware of my baby fever. They were glad it happened so quickly and Nick’s parents are excited to be grandparents.
September was a little slow for us, which was a good thing, because I got my first taste of pregnancy. The nausea hit full force and eventually I made a trip to the doctor’s office for some relief. My appetite went up almost immediately, and sleep was my best friend. The biggest newsworthy moment was Nick finished his LAST day of practicum on September 15th. We were finally able to take a breath and celebrate. It was bitter sweet because Nick grew close to his last set of preceptors (he worked with them for 10 weeks, which equals to almost 500 hours!) and he was almost sad to not work with them anymore. Originally I thought it was a little mean that his preceptor Nicole was making him come in for his last day of practicum as she told Nick that she wasn’t going to sign his book until then. However, it was to make sure that Nick would come in so they could give him a proper send off. Nick had built a relationship with the whole fire hall and had “proven” himself (won’t go into the whole story, but let’s just say that some arrhythmic gymnastics, pull-ups, juggling, and other competitions were involved), so they threw Nick a little party complete with steak dinner and ice cream cake. Finally after being hosed down by the firefighters he was sent home to me.

In October Nick and I found ourselves with a little bit more of unexpected free time. It was nice to have some time together and not work so much. One of the biggest highlights for Nick and me in October was going behind the scenes at the Calgary Zoo. Earlier this year I bought tickets for a special and private tour of the Penguin Plunge at the Calgary Zoo for Nick’s birthday in July. Then the Calgary Flood happened and the zoo was heavily damaged and we had to postpone our little visit. Finally at the end of August I got a phone call saying they had reopened the Penguin Programs and asked when we would like to rebook. We decided to wait until October when Nick would be done classes and we would have a little more free time. It was such an awesome experience that will stay with us for a very long time. We learnt so much about the penguins, see what goes on behind closed doors and then go inside the exhibit and be up close with the penguins and feed them. We both left with huge smiles on our faces and agreed that it was well worth the money. The most important thing was Nick had a lot of fun and loved the entire experience.

November was an extremely busy month for us. Nick went up to Edmonton the first weekend to write the Alberta College of Paramedics exam for two days, and I spent some time with my parents. The next weekend I hosted a big party (read Part I, II and III) for mine and my friend’s birthday. It was a lot of work, but it turned out to be such an amazing night. The week following my birthday party was filled with lots of birthday dinners and activities with friends and family (yeah, my birthday tends to extend over several days, if not weeks!)
After weeks of waiting, the ACP exam results were posted and we found out Nick passed and officially became a Paramedic. Our whole year has been leading up to this moment, and it was such an awesome feeling to know that all of Nick’s hard work and sacrifices paid off.
The last few weeks of November continued to stay eventful with 2 Christmas parties and a wedding.

December was very emotional for us. While lots of exciting things happened, it also brought some sensitive and unexpected news. On December 10th, we found out that we were expecting a little girl, but they also detected a congenital heart defect (read all the details here). While we have received so much love and support (everything from phone calls, messages, texts and comments) from family and friends, it was still a little hard to take in. We knew our lives were going to change when we decided to expand our family, but with this diagnosis, the changes feel a little overwhelming. I’m trying to stay positive, breath and take it one day at a time. I pretty much have at least one medical appointment a week already, and there is so much information being thrown our way. I’m so glad I have Nick by my side, and I just pray Heavenly Father will give us the strength we need to be strong for our daughter.
Some highlights from December are the Ugly Christmas Sweater Fondue Party, the 3rd Annual Girl’s Christmas and my cousin Ryan and Devonee's wedding

Writing this post made me realize that 2013 was a really good year. I guess I just need a big vacation! We got to enjoy a few small trips around Alberta, but the beach is calling my name. Yes, I still consider 2013 a year of work, but I know hard work pays off in the end. Nick worked so hard to complete his Paramedic program at PMA, and he did it in 14 months (the normal program is 2 years). He spent almost every waking moment either working, studying, in class or on practicum. There were months that he was working 48 hours per week unpaid while working an additional 24 – 36 hours a week just so he could bring home a pay check. I too was working full time with not many extra days off so our mortgage and bills got paid. Though we didn’t struggle too hard financially this past year, it was only because of our hard work and dedication. My mom often tells me that we don’t know the definition of a poor student, but we still had our sacrifices. We often had a roommate living with us to give us a little extra change in our pockets. Big vacations and fancy gifts were out of the question, and we lived within our means. Don’t get me wrong, I still went shopping, and I have a few nice dresses sitting in my closet as proof to that. I think the biggest sacrifice we made was time. Nick and I really didn’t get a lot of time together (which we made up for in October and November). When I wasn’t working I distracted myself with plans and coffee dates with friends to make up for the fact that Nick was at work/practicum or studying. We just learned to cherish and savour the moments that we did have together.

Sunday, December 29, 2013

Edmonton and a Wedding

For months I had been looking forward to my cousin Ryan’s wedding in Edmonton. Getting the whole family together is really hard, but what’s a better excuse than a giant party? Another great aspect was that it also happened to take place on the weekend before Christmas, and it’s been YEARS since the whole family has been together for Christmas.
So once Ryan told me the wedding date I quickly looked at hotels and booked one right away. With the wedding being close to Christmas I was worried about things booking up fast, and I’m also a little picky when it comes to hotels. We ended up staying at the Sandman Signature, and we were blown away with their customer service (I’ll get into that a little bit later).
So Nick and I were invited to attend the Ring Ceremony, Family Dinner and Reception. We decided to just head up the morning of the wedding and head straight to the ceremony. They were sealed earlier that morning at the Edmonton Temple, which my parents got to be in attendance. We got to Edmonton with lots of time to spare and just hung out with my family and grandparents. News of my pregnancy and our baby’s congenital defect had already spread, so of course they had lots of questions (which I fully expected).
Finally the ceremony and program got underway and it was so beautiful – especially the bride Devonee. A late lunch was served and I got to finally meet Ryan’s new wife. Devonee was wonderful and I love her already! She was so kind and spent time talking and getting to know us. Finally they left to take pictures, and we decided to leave the church and go check into our hotel and maybe take an afternoon nap.
During all of this we heard that my niece Alexa was very sick for the first time since she was born and was vomiting nonstop. Apparently she threw up over everything Danika had brought, even the hotel bed. Danika called down to the front desk (the whole family happened to stay in the same hotel) to inquire about laundry service, which they didn’t have. They suggested she use one of the washer and dryers that some of their suites had, so Danika headed down there to grab a room key. After talking to the front desk girl, they asked if she would just like to be upgraded for free. This made such a huge difference, as Alexa continued to throw up all weekend and Danika ended up using the washer and dryer multiple times. The suite also came with a little kitchenette, which was also a huge help. Caring for a sick baby isn’t easy, but dealing with one when you’re miles from home sucks.
Danika and Chad ended up missing out on the reception, which Danika was so bummed out about. Around 6:30pm Nick and I headed back to the church for the reception and dance. We had dinner, dessert (plus a candy bar, which was my favourite part), and finally the dance got underway. It was a really fun night overall. Austin caught the garter belt, and Nick twirled me around the dance floor a few times. Finally around 10pm we left and headed back to the hotel.
The next day we stopped in Red Deer on our way home where Nick wanted to take me to “his” Denny’s. It was the Denny’s that he and Tia (his EMT partner) would eat at once a week while he worked for East Central EMS. It was a great way to end a great weekend!

Ryan, Devonee, Me and Nick
Austin catching the garter

Monday, December 23, 2013

3rd Annual Girl's Christmas

Danika, Crystal, Me, Ashley, Whitney and Bianca
So for a third year in a row, us girl’s decided to make memories instead of buying gifts for each other (read first year here, and second year here). It’s one of my favorite traditions, and I truly hope it continues. This year we decided to go for lovely dinner followed by watching a classic Christmas show – The Nutcracker.
I grew up dancing in the Nutcracker and it always helped make it feel like Christmas, and so I insisted that we go see it this year for our Annual Girl’s Christmas. We picked a date, bought tickets (which I ended up forgetting…) and chose a restaurant – The Ox and Angela. The food and service was amazing! We did the Spanish Table, which is very similar to a chef’s tasting. They brought out lots of little dishes full of smaller gourmet meals. My favorite was the Calabacines, which was a zucchini salad topped with almonds and cheese.
We finally made our way over to the Jubilee (traffic was crazy!), and though it wasn’t the smoothest transition into the theatre (Danika accidently hit one of the ushers in the face while trying to hold the door for us before they locked the rest of us out), we made it just in time. It’s funny thinking back to the fiasco, and though sometimes Danika does things that annoy or embarrass me, I still love her and she did after all save the day.
The performance was great, and the girls loved it. It was a great evening and so glad I was able to spend one last night with them before we all split for the holidays.

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Ugly Sweater Fondue Party

Calvin and Ashley
Sean and Andrew
Danika and Alexa
Danika and Chad
The girl's working on their gingerbread creations
The Fondue Girls
Me and Nick
A few months ago when my friends and I started talking about Christmas and all of our plans, parties and get-togethers, I decided that I wanted to have a simple and laidback evening to hang out with my favorite people during this crazy season. I quickly came up with having an Ugly Christmas Sweater theme as I’ve always wanted to go to one. We then decided to incorporate a fondue aspect and we were set. Besides, it was a great excuse to pull out the fondue set that Nick and I got from our wedding, but had been sitting in our garage untouched.

I was in charge of the meat fondue, Ashley did the cheese one, and Whitney volunteered to do a dark chocolate dairy free fondue. All three of us had never done a fondue party, and so I’m thrilled to say at what a total success it was. Seriously – it was all so good that we’re definitely going to do it again (we’ve already made plans to bring it to Whitefish at the end of January).

There were some great sweaters that were worn that night, but a shout out has to go to my sister Danika. Danika and Chad came in sweaters that Danika had made by hand with designs she had crocheted herself. Amazing!

Overall it was a great night filled with wonderful company, good food and gingerbread house making.