Christmas 2016


This was our second Christmas as Mr. and Mrs., but our first to share quietly together in our own home, something we've been looking forward to since we became engaged.

On Christmas Eve (ACTUAL Christmas Eve!), my sister drove up to Huntsville so we could all go to a mid-afternoon candlelight Christmas service at Church of the Highlands.



The service was pretty incredible. I've never experienced such genuine worship through Christmas carols, but wow. Have you really noticed and pondered the lyrics to "O Holy Night"?!? Chills. Also, I'd never been to a candlelight Christmas service until this one, and it was quite moving; a much needed refocusing on what's important. I would definitely like to make this a yearly tradition.

After church, Jessica headed to my parents' house, leaving Matt and I alone to delve into our own Oliver Family Christmas Eve traditions. Starting with dinner at a local Chinese buffet...


...where I received this intriguing fortune:


Then, after dinner, I forced Matt to drive me around we drove around looking at Christmas lights, which was always one of my favorite traditions as a little girl. Every Christmas Eve, my parents loaded us into our stereotypical homeschool-family minivan and traversed the roads of our hometown, cruising through neighborhood after neighborhood to admire the local front-lawn light shows. I've always dreamed of doing the same with my future kids, but even now, without children, I wanted to go.


After exploring for a while, we returned to the apartment and excitedly got to our favorite tradition so far, the one we started last year: Christmas Eve Game Night. Each year, we play a board game, and the winner gets to choose one present to open that night (We even made a winner's medal and everything!) Last year, we played In a Pickle, and I won: 


This time around, we invented a fun new rule: last year's winner gets to pick this year's game. So, I got to choose what we played, and I picked Dungeon, a super fun D&D board game that involves dungeon exploration, monster slaying, and treasure collection. With So Delicious dairy-free eggnog and Christmas cookies from the Whole Foods cookie bar, we were set. 



After an intense quest, Matt came out the victor! 


The gift he chose to open?!?


The Dungeons & Dragons Starter Set (after playing a D&D board game, LOL). Yep. I reckon we're big-time nerds now.

So, that was that. 

The next morning, Christmas morning (ACTUAL Christmas morning!), we woke up and cooked ourselves a very special breakfast of bacon, scrambled eggs, hashbrowns, and gluten-free pancakes


SO. YUMS.

Then it was time to gather 'round the tree and open presents. Now, Matt is an excellent gift-giver; he knows me so stinking well and is always incredibly thoughtful and generous. His gifts always put mine to shame. But this one, which he made me open last...OMG.


I posted somewhat recently about how much I loved Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier and how it easily made my Top 3 favorite books. Okay, so, let me tell you the story of this particular copy. A few months ago, in Kirksville, Missouri, we checked out a little shop on the square called Rinehart's. They boast that they are "America's Oldest Record Store", selling records since 1897. In addition to records, movies, and games, they have an enormous collection of antique books. And let me tell you. The giant room in which these books are housed is an antique itself. Exploring the old shelves was a lot like wandering through a museum (and the smell was heaven!). 

Inside one glass case, I noticed this copy of Rebecca among the the titles. It was clearly a valuable copy, and I wanted to check it out. So, I timidly asked the owner if I could see it. He eagerly obliged, unlocked the case, and donned a pair of white cloth gloves before extracting the book from the case. I gulped. More valuable than I thought; I was too poor to even look at it. The shop owner held the book for me to see, carefully turning the pages. A rare first edition, gilded in actual gold. It was gorgeous. Breathtakingly gorgeous. 

Not really wanting to know, I inquired about the price. When the shopkeeper answered, I thanked him for showing it to me and speedily wandered away. 

Afterward, I gushed about it dreamily to Matt. Then I forgot about it. 

Until Christmas morning.


Yeah, I cried. 

And freaked out a bit.

Aside from completely ignoring our Christmas budget, I could NOT believe his sneakiness. How he had bought this book without my knowledge, packed it without me seeing it, and moved it from Missouri to Alabama behind my back... I was totally stunned. 

I don't feel fancy enough to own this book, and I feel guilty for touching it with bare fingers. But it's currently shelved alongside my nice copies of Jane Eyre and Pride and Prejudice, and that makes me feel like a proper English major. 

Meanwhile, the most expensive gift I got for him was Ticket to Ride. See? Shame.

Anywho, we like to do our stockings last, and we helped the pups with theirs before we opened our own. 


Annie must have remembered this experience from last year, because she got pretty darn excited when I picked up her stocking.



Annie and Brenna spent the rest of the day chasing each other and gnawing on their new toys, while we spent most of our time figuring out Ticket to Ride.


I am so, so, SO thankful we were able to spend a wonderful Christmas alone together this year! Even though we don't have kids yet, we are our own little family, so it was as it should be.

I'll close with a few random photos of our Christmas decorations:





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