Happy Holidays!  Merry Christmas from my family to yours.  For some reason, I’ve felt extra festive this holiday season…maybe it’s because we’ve hit a stride in our marriage, maybe it’s because we’re so happy in Austin…I don’t know, but this month, our home has been filled with holiday cheer.

Here are a few things that have helped make this season special:

1.  1st Christmas in our new house!  All month, I’ve been constantly playing Christmas music, watching classic Christmas movies, decorating, baking, shopping, hosting, etc.  One of the best kickstarts to all of these seasonal delights was decorating our inaugural Christmas tree.  I buckled to the husband’s wishes and just got a faux tree for the new house.  Went with unlit this time because the strings of lights that come on the prelit variety always seem to go out prematurely.  As for ornaments, this year I decided on metallics — specifically, a mix of shiny & matte silver I found at Hobby Lobby.  They have some of the best prices I’ve seen on things like ornaments, tree toppers, weighted stocking holders, tree skirts, etc.  p.s. Why are tree skirts so freakin’ expensive?!  I don’t get it.  Anyway, I spent one cold rainy afternoon in early December buying the adornments and placing them just so.  Matte & shiny silver Christmas tree

2. odd duck.  We finally made it to the hot new restaurant on our street!  It’s a sister restaurant to the well-reviewed Barley Swine, which always seems to evade us with hour & a half wait times or being booked up for the evening.  When our friends from D.C. were in town over Christmas, we suggested Odd Duck and knew we had to get there as soon as they opened for dinner the second Friday evening their doors were open.  Luckily we got a table right at 5 p.m. and were delighted to order one of our new favorite red varietals, Cab Franc, by the glass off their drink menu.  Best part of the dinner was the pretzel bread served w/ some kind of mustard mousse dipping sauce.  I’ve heard good things about their desserts, too, and could totally see myself blowing my  New Year’s Resolution on a repeat visit to dine on nothing but their bread, desserts & wine.

3.  “Russian Red” by MAC.  So I’ve been searching for the perfect shade of red lipstick for like years.  Sometimes, I’d find the right hue but not the right texture.  Or, maybe the quality wasn’t great and the color feathered & bled.  Well, the search is over because I’ve found my new staple in MAC’s Russian Red — it’s perfect for the holidays and beyond.  It’s also been named one of the most timeless shades of red and I totally agree.  Not that of-the-moment shade of tomato orangey-red, not a red-with-too-much-blue that doesn’t flatter my skintone; just a perfect & true matte red.The best shade of red lipstick

4.  The Osaki Zero Gravity Massage Chair  I booked myself a post-holiday-travel massage  at Zero Gravity Institute today and while the human masseuse did a great job, the massage chair I sat in just before the appointment blew. my. mind.  If you ever have a chance to experience one of these, it’s the best massage chair on the planet.  Beats the one they let you test out at Brookstone in the mall, by far.  The Zero Gravity feature lifts & reclines back almost parallel to the floor so you really get this unfamiliar weightless feeling.  There is also a feature that scans your body and tailors the pressure points fitting your height…how it can get to certain spots in my neck and the bottom of my feet is pretty neat, for a machine.  If you’re someone who has the disposable income to dabble in the massage chair market, this is the coolest one I’ve ever sat in.  Though nothing can compare to an actual massage performed by a real live person.  I really can’t think of a better time to treat yourself to a relaxing massage than just after the craziness of the holidays, right?  I was searching for a way to destress after a dramatically eventful few days over Christmas and …this was perfection.

5.  And last but certainly not least, the best Christmas present of all:  the Gift of Life.  My father has been dealing with liver cancer for about a year & a half and his only life saving cure is a full-fledged liver transplant.  In his case, they couldn’t cut it out –there are two lesions in two separate quadrants of the liver and doctors said the organ wouldn’t survive the trauma surgically removing them would entail– and his chemo sessions have only shown to contain the cancer from spreading.  After a year on the transplant list, they got the call on Christmas Day:  rush to the hospital because a liver donation was being flown in from Dallas.  It’s been a crazy last few days, but the surgery went great and my dad is now awake, talking, even sitting up.  The next three months of recovery will be tough on him & my mother, but I’m so thankful that he’s now cancer-free and progressing just fine.  Thank you Jesus!  And please consider becoming an organ donor…someone’s compassionate choice saved my dad’s life.

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