I have received so many gifts from friends and family members for Smudge. I can’t believe how many of my blogger friends sent us things for the baby. I am so humbled and spoiled. I’ve been a little nervous to post pictures of them during the first trimester, but since I am officially in the second trimester tomorrow I figure what better way to celebrate.

Lisanne sent us a pack of diapers, which is awesome because that’s something we’ve talked about stocking up on.


Casey got us the cutest pair of argyle baby socks. They’re so adorable!

baby socks

Connie’s gift totally surprised me. I thought it was the most awesome bodysuit ever. Now I understand why she asked if we’re still calling the baby Lil’ Geek (and we are).

lil geek bodysuit

Liz sent me a wearable blanket and the book “Your Pregnancy Week by Week”. I can’t wait to read it. And, check out the closeup of the top of the blanket. So cute!

wearable blanket

wearable blanket

Our good friends Mike and Suze sent us some cute winter outfits — a hooded sweater and a Christmas bodysuit.

christmas sweater and bodysuit

My parents gave us several things to celebrate the pregnancy — two Christmas onesies, a soft book and a stuffed lamb. Callie fell in love with the lamb when we first brought it home and was a little upset when I took it away, so my mom got her another stuffed animal made from the same material.

van dolson parents' gifts

Joe’s parents gave us the Dr. Suess book “Mr. Brown Can Moo! Can You?”


Bomma, my grandma, sent Smudge her first Bible. I’ve already looked through it, and it’s really cute.

first bible

Nana, Joe’s grandmother, sent us a box full of baby items — a beautiful blanket, a frog hooded towel, a frog robe, a duckie sleeper that says “Mommy Loves Me” and a duckie onesie that says “Adorable Baby”.

nana gifts

nana gifts

I’m just amazed at everyone’s generosity. It’s only been 13 weeks, and I feel like Smudge is so loved already. She going to be one cuted up little baby!

Wine Tasting the Redneck Way

Our Redneck Wine Tasting party last weekend was a blast. We only had a few friends who were able to make it (note to self: don’t plan a party in December), but it was still a lot of fun. And from the RSVPs we received, we should have a houseful for our next party.

Joe and I went out and bought a couple bottles of the fine $2.98 wine from Wal-Mart (and we’ll just say that it definitely *tastes* like $2.98 wine, but that’s the whole point, right?), and I was talking about wine glasses when Joe pointed out it wouldn’t be a redneck party if we used wine glasses.

So, we picked up some paper cups from the Dollar Tree. Yes, people, when we throw a redneck party, we go all out.


While we were shopping, we found tacky plastic checkered table cloths, which we decided were perfect. We even have an extra one for our next wine tasting event. And, all the horrible platters we received as wedding gifts also got used. For the first time. One was even still wrapped. They did seem to fit the theme quite well, though, and were perfect for the pizza rolls and cookies we served.


I also came up with the perfect use for the clam shell bowl. We still have no idea where that came from. I think Joe’s parents hid it in one of the many boxes they left with us and are at home laughing at how they got rid of it.


We had so much fun that we forgot to take pictures *during* the party. But, we did manage to get one of the two of us before our friends arrived.


The one thing that would have made it truly a redneck affair would have been watching Nascar or a Nascar-themed movie. We opted for The Big Lebowski instead. I can’t get enough of that movie. And, well, the characters are pretty redneck, so it all worked out.

I’m definitely expecting a full house the next time around.

Happy Holidays

I am always *so* ready to be home after holiday traveling. We always have a great time with our families, but by the time we leave I am definitely ready to be home with my cats and sleeping in my own bed.

Our travels for Thanksgiving began Thursday morning. I had to work, so we left from the station and headed to my parents’ house. We visited and helped finish the preparations for Thanksgiving dinner, and then sat down for a nice dinner with my grandparents and parents. It was fun just hanging out and talking.

After lunch, we headed back across the driveway to my parents’ house where Joe and I vegged out and watched tv for the rest of the afternoon. That evening, headed to the movie theater — our Thanksgiving Day tradition — and saw “Transporter 3”, which we really liked.

On Friday, Joe and I headed out to the mall after breakfast. We hadn’t planned on going shopping because I hate dealing with crowds, but I found a winter coat at J.C. Penney on sale from $180 to $40 and, since I needed a coat, I decided I couldn’t let that deal pass by. Then, we hit Barnes and Noble and McKay, the fabulous used bookstore in Chattanooga, and came away with enough books to last for a year.

After our shopping excursion, we packed up our things and left to go to Joe’s parents’ cabin in Blue Ridge. We discovered the last time we drove from the cabin to my parents’ house that it’s a pretty straight shot from Cleveland, Tenn., where my parents live. You hit Georgia not too far past the Ocoee River in Polk County, and Blue Ridge is about another 20 minutes or so from there. Plus, one side of the main street going through Copperhill, Tenn. is in Tennesse and the other is in Georgia. Of course, being the dorks that we are, we had to get pictures.

me in two states

There were a lot of people at the cabin when we arrived — 14 to be exact. It was hectic, but it was great. Nana was there along with her brother and sister-in-law from South Carolina and their daughter, son-in-law and grandson; and Nana’s brother-in-law and his wife were there from Florida, as were their son and his partner, who live in Atlanta. And, of course, Joe’s parents, and Rachel and Dave were there. It was a great gathering.




We had fun, but we were glad to escape to a family friend’s house where we were staying. The next day, we took a group picture before people started leaving. It’s hard to corral that many people, but we did it and got a great picture.


On Saturday night, Joe and I headed back to meet some friends in Kennesaw. Joe’s best friend Philip and his wife, Nayeli, were visiting from Arizona, and we hadn’t seen them in a year or so. Joe’s other friend Jon and his wife, Michelle, came too. The three guys hadn’t been together since our wedding!

jon, joe, phil


And yes, I was the odd person out in the picture since my hubby took it. Ha! It was a great weekend, but I was very happy to get home. That is until I tried to download our pictures and found out that our card reader had stopped reading. Luckily, we got that fixed by Sunday night and now all is well in our world.

Redneck Fun

Joe and I love to throw parties. We love having people over and entertaining. And, our most recent trip to Walmart sparked the idea for our next party — a redneck wine tasting party. Yes, seeing an endcap display of $3 wine made us think what a fabulous idea having a party with cheap wine would be.

And so, the idea was born, the evites were sent, and the idea seems to be a hit! We are choosing the worst time of the year to throw a party, but we’ll still have a nice little crowd. And, in addition to the cheap wine, we’re asking everyone to bring an appetizer complete with the tackiest servingware they own. This idea was spurred from our own tacky servingware, which we received for our wedding. As I’ve mentioned before, they are hideous. And, since I dug them out during The Great Box Project of ’08, I now have pictures to show you just how horrendous they are. We’ll start with the grape leaf hot plate.

grape leaf hot plate

It goes quite well with the grape leaf platter we received.

grape leaf platter

And then there’s the palm tree platter.

palm tree platter

It matches the palm tree serving spoon set that Rachel and Dave got for their wedding (and surprisingly, both gifts were given by different people).

palm tree serving spoons

We also found a clam serving bowl. I have no idea where it came from (it wasn’t a wedding gift) or what it’s supposed to be used for, but it’s simply awful and perfect for our party. I think it would be great to serve mini pitas and hummus.

clam shell serving bowl

I am super excited about this party. And if it’s as big of a hit as I think it’s going to be, we’ll definitely start planning a couple a year.


I’m seriously starting to countdown now until the New Kids on the Block concert here in Atlanta (only 21 days away, in case you want to know). I am *so* excited. Years ago, New Kids on the Block was the first concert I went to. My dad took me as a reward for getting straight A’s on my report card, and he stuck it out with me through the whole concert. Afterward, he saw the other dads leaving a room he later discovered was set up as the “dad” room with food and a sports game on tv. I don’t think he was too bummed, though, because we got to spend some good time together.

I tried to get my dad to go again for old times sake, but he said one NKOTB concert was enough. Instead, I’m going with my sil, who has never been to an NKOTB show before. I think she’s more excited that I am (not by much), but since she’s never been before I can totally understand that. It turns out that I have several friends going — a reporter at our local newspaper (who has front row seats *and* backstage passes — and yes, I’m j-e-a-l-o-u-s!), the bride from the Ohio wedding and one of her bridesmaids. Hopefully we can all hook up at the concert.

So now, I must find my large New Kids buttons, which are packed away somewhere in my parents’ garage; and buy a jean jacket because, really, who can go to an NKOTB concert without one; and then I’ll be ready to go. I can’t believe I have to wait until the end of the month. I seriously don’t know how I’m going to stand it.

Ohio Weekend, Part 3: The Wedding

Saturday was the main event: Jon and Michelle’s wedding. We woke up tired after being awakened at 1 a.m. by the groom in another wedding party having a *very* loud party in the room next door. It was so bad that Joe had to call the front desk and have them call the room and ask them to be quiet. It turns out we weren’t the only ones bothered by them. The next morning, Joe heard people talking about it in the hall, and Jon said he was downstairs complaining at the same time Joe called. It was ridiculous.

The wedding, though, went off perfectly. Jon was a little nervous, but surprisingly enough, that seemed to fade as the wedding grew closer.


The wedding was held outside behind the hotel, and it was very simple and very pretty. I was quite impressed.





After the ceremony, the guests mingled at cocktail hour while the pictures were taken. I think the photographer took them all over the property and golf course to shoot them and the wedding party!


Then it was time to party. The reception was a blast, and the dj they hired was *awesome*. He had so much energy, and he got out on the dance floor with everyone from time to time. He even got Jon’s grandmother out on the dance floor and they both sat in chairs and danced. It was hilarious. I wish I had gotten pictures.



Joe gave a fabulous speech. I was pretty proud of him. 🙂


And, we spent the night dancing. I actually got out there and danced, which was very unlike me because I can’t dance. But, the other members of the wedding party were so much fun that I just couldn’t help myself.


Oh, and did I mentioned that they did the hustle?? It was the wedding party dance and, judging from the rehearsal the night before, we didn’t think it would go very well. Yeah, that’s how bad it was. It was hilarious. And now I have a video to use as blackmail. 🙂


And, of course, I can’t leave out pictures of the cutest couple ever! Haha. 🙂


Party mouth, inspired by Sarah!


Up next: Amish country, two hall of fame visits (and extending our streak of visiting but not going inside) and Cleveland.