My Favorite Christmas Traditions

Wonderful World of BreeI wait all year for the Christmas season. It’s not just everything that happens the day of, but it’s every special tradition leading up to it. Every year, my family has held tight to fun traditions and introduced new ones as more members joined the pack. Of all the fun things we do, these are my favorite.

Watching Classic Christmas Movies

The Grinch, Frosty, Rudolph and Santa Clause is Coming to Town are Christmas staples in my family. My mom even has the collectible characters and houses from the movies! Every year since I can remember, my mom and I have broken out those Christmas movies and binged on popcorn and hot chocolate. My sister and I event like to throw Elf in the mix (although my mom will object every time). It’s the memories of watching movies we may know every line to that make the Christmas season so special.

Breakfast on Christmas Morning

With so much family living in our city, Christmas Eve and Christmas Day can be busy. When I was little, my family and I would go to a big Puerto Rican party every Christmas Eve. Sometime, it would even be at our house. Now a days, my husband and I spend Christmas Eve with his family playing games, opening Secret Santa gifts and eating tamales. Christmas Day has always been reserved for my family. But my favorite tradition about Christmas Day was breakfast in the morning,

My siblings and I would wake up extra early and wait at the top of the staircase. We couldn’t go down stairs until Dad went first. My mom always had a delicious breakfast waiting for us on the counter when we finally made it. We’d sip orang juice and eat donuts as my dad set up his old school video camera. Then, someone was elected “Santa” and passed out the presents. All the unwrapped stuff was actually from Santa and we’d lose our minds waiting to open those gifts. But those few hours of bed head and pajamas are the biggest Christmas memories I have. That short time when my siblings and parents were celebrating with just each other will always be my favorite.

Now that we’re all grown and have our own little ones, each of us does a Christmas morning at our own houses. But, we always meet at Mom and Dad’s at night to celebrate as one big family.

Jesus’ Birthday Cake

Now this tradition has only been around my family for a few years. In honor of the real meaning of Christmas, Jesus Christ’s birth, my sister has begun making a Jesus cake. Every Christmas, we all gather around a cake and sing happy birthday to Jesus. All the little kids love it because of the candles, but I really think one day they’ll understand how important it is.

Seeing Christmas Lights

Las Vegas has so many wonderful lighting displays around town. When I was younger, my family used to hop in the car and drive around the neighborhoods together. Although we do still admire individual workmanship, we’re moved on to the big displays. We’ve visited Opportunity Village’s Magical Forest, Ethel and M’s Chocolate Factory and of course the Motor Speedway’s Glittering Lights. Visiting these places really makes Christmas come to life; especially with the oversized inflatable characters and hot chocolate.

Decorating the House

IMG_2502I can’t waiting until Thanksgiving night or the day after to start transforming my house into a winter wonderland. I’d start decorating sooner, but my husband wants to appreciate Thanksgiving first.

Every year, my parents broke out the big decor. We’d spend hours decorating the front yard with lights, putting candy canes on the walkway, setting Frosty up at the front door and trimming the house with icicles. Inside, snowmen were everywhere – on the stairs, fireplaces, kitchen and front door. The Staircase was even lined with lit garland. And of course, a huge tree (most of the time real) sat in the living waiting for use to decorate.

My mom always liked to pick themes for our tree. Some years it was blue and silver. Others, it was red and green. No matter what color, we always had an angel at the top.

In my own house, I also like to do themes each year. I started with Lakers, then went to Star Wars and now we have the Grinch. However, I am incorporating the tradition of adding a custom ornament each year. So far, I have ones for our new home, our pets and our wedding date. Next year, I’ll add one for our baby’s first Christmas.

What are your favorite Christmas traditions?

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My 3rd Spirthday – Mountains & Valleys

Wonderful World of BreeThree years ago I made the bold decision to follow God. I chose to die to myself and live renewed in the Spirit. November 10 is my spirthday – spiritual birthday. It’s the day that I participated in the burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ who died for my sins.

I was baptized in the spirit and proclaimed Jesus is Lord of my life. Three years ago, I made this decision fully knowing that life may not get easier but I was allowing myself to be held to a higher standard. I was making the decision to live like Christ and not myself.

As I reflect on my third spiritual year as a disciple of Jesus, I remember a lot more mountains than valleys. I can remember struggling emotionally to live like Christ and not give into my selfish mentality. I fought to vanquish envy and hate and replace them with grace and love. I struggled to see the path that God was building before me. I felt desperate in my career, praying for God to give me the answer of where He wanted me to be.

But my year wasn’t just filled with many, many, many teaching moments. It was also filled with an abundance of blessings. God blessed with an amazing new job in the non-profit world where I can connect my love for the community and animals. He blessed me with my own home. He blessed me with a furry new addition to my family as well as the news of my pregnancy. I was able to meet another nephew and a great-nephew.

Day one to-day 365 wasn’t a cake walk in any way. God challenged me to live like Christ in every area of my life. He pushed me to get down on my knees and pray to allow Him to work. He reminded me what life looks like without Him and why I chose this difficult journey. But most of all, He reassured me that He is always in control.

When I try to manage my own life apart from God, I create a disaster. When I choose to glorify myself instead of Him, I fail. As I sit back and try to remeber what is was like to be 22 and fresh out of the water, it’s hard to imagine how I waited so many years to say yes to God.

No matter what the world throws at me, God’s got my back. And when the people around me are being hateful, God’s love is unconditional. And when I fail over and over, God says, “It’s okay. Let’s try it again.” He’s never given up on for one second. He’s shown me grace every time I didn’t deserve it.

I don’t know all that year four entails. I know there will be some trails but I pray for even more blessings. I’m excited for where God wants to lead me and the amazing things He wants to use me for. I hold tight to the scripture I wrote on my heart three years ago at my baptism.

“Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make nyour paths straight.” Proverbs 3:5-6

Surviving the First Trimester

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Luckily for me, the first trimester wasn’t too difficult. It started off with aversions to certain foods like oatmeal, milk and fish. Then it went to strange cravings like bean and cheese burritos and limes. For the longest, I didn’t FEEL pregnant. I knew from the ultrasounds and my never-ending need to sleep that a person was growing, but I didn’t really see my stomach getting any bigger.

I’ve just hit four months and am now feeling it. I’ve had to swap my favorite skinny jeans for some elastic joggers. My new wardrobe is now filled with flowy tops, dresses and leggings. Looking back on those first three months, being pregnant was a bigger change than I thought. So I made up a few guidelines to get myself through it.

Be patient. There are so many crazy things happening to your body all at once that it’s easy to get overwhelmed. Be patient with your emotional fluctuations, food aversions and even morning sickness. Hopefully, your body will balance out and you’ll start to feel like yourself again.

Don’t compare your pregnancy. We’ve all heard it. Every pregnancy and body is not the same. Still, it didn’t stop me from over analyzing my symptoms or weight gain. I was lucky enough to not suffer from terrible morning sickness like many other women. Yes, many foods did make me feel sick. Overall though, I could function pretty normally.

It’s okay to rest. I’m the kind of person that doesn’t know when to sit down. Being pregnant has forced me to slow down and relax. The hardest part for me was changing my workouts or accepting that some days my body needed sleep more than power yoga.

If you’re like me, sleeping 12 hours a day is ideal. The whole first trimester I was fighting to stay awake past 8PM. Even now I find myself wanting a midday cat nap at work. But it’s okay. Sometimes I just have to say no to going out and doing things because my body says rest.

Pregnancy is definitely an awesome experience. I get so excited every time I go to the doctor (which is a lot, just warning you) and get to see my baby on the ultrasound screen. It’s such a surreal experience to be blessed with this tiny miracle.

“Children are a heritage from the Lord, offspring a reward from him.” PSALM 127:3

Myths About Adopting a Rescue Pet

Choosing to #adoptnotshop is one of the best decisions I could have ever made. My rescue pup, Smokey, has given more love than I could imagine. It’s almost as if he understands he was given a second chance at love.

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So many animals are lost, abandoned or surrendered everyday from not fault of their own. The Animal Foundation is a local shelter that works hard to give every animal the love and home they deserve. Still, many people have preconceived notions about adopting animals. Here are the myths we must break.

Rescue animals are troubled. 

This has to be one of the biggest myths of all. The majority of unwanted pets end up in a shelter or with a rescue group because of circumstances out of their control. Most animals are not aggressive or fighters. Many of them have owners who can barely take care of themselves or can’t afford to reclaim them.

Rescue animals don’t get along with children or other pets. 

FALSE. Rescue pets have just as much capability of loving multiple family members as a pet store pup. Many rescues may have even come from environments with multiple fur siblings. The first few interactions are important to make sure your current family doesn’t feel abandoned or threatened and your new pet feels welcomed. At first, my dogs were not best friends. My rescue was still unsure of his new home and my other pup was defensive. Eight months later, they cuddle in the same bed together. It just takes time and patience from everyone.

Adopting is expensive.

Adopting a pet has become extremely inexpensive for rescues and shelters. Every rescue pet will have a microchip, vaccines, spay/neuter and some training before heading home. All of these items combined would cost $1,000 or more! Still, giving a pet a second chance at love is worth every penny.

Rescues only have older dogs.

Many rescue groups may be breed specific, however many others, including shelters, are open admission. The Animal Foundation in Las Vegas takes animals in all conditions, of all ages and all species and works hard to help them. Other local rescues help a variety of animals all ages and sizes. There is not one breed or size fits all pet. When you find your perfect match, you just know it.

When my husband and I first met our Smokey, we knew we were going to take him home. If you are interested in adding a furry member to your family, choose to adopt not shop and save a life.

You can read Smokey’s adoption story here.

2017 Halloween events not to miss

How-O-Ween Dog Costume Contest at Downtown Summerlin

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Head to Downtown Summerlin and dress you pup to impress for the annual Howl-O-Ween Dog Costume Contest. As part of Treat Street, this contest offers pups and their parents to show off their good looks. All proceeds from the event benefit The Animal Foundation. Registration is $20 for one animals and $30 for two. Register here.

HalloVeen at Opportunity Village

The famous Magical Forest transforms into a Halloween town during October. Tickets are $12 for adults and $10 for children 4-12. Proceeds benefit the work of Opportunity Village. Buy your tickets here.

Springs Preserve Haunted Harvest Spooktacular

Head to Springs Preserve for the annual Haunted Harvest. Enjoy a haunted maze, petting zoo, face painting and crafts for kids, performances and food! Entry is $8 and children 2 and under are free. Buy tickets here.

TRIQ or Treat and a Halloween Celebration at the LINQ

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The LINQ honors Halloween this year with the Zombie Apocalypse. All Halloween weekend, you can enjoy music, face painting and an hourly drum line. Admission is $20.

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Prepare to be scared at the famous Freakling Bros. Trilogy of Terror. This year features The Coven, Gates of Hell and Castle Vampyre. Gates of Hell is by far the scariest haunted house I’ve been and do not recommend it for the easily scared. Tickets start at $15 a house. Get tickets here.

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Circus Circus Adventure Dome transforms into a haunted nightmare each year for Halloween. Filled with multiple house, scares and classic rides, Fright Dome is the ultimate Halloween experience. Tickets are $37.98. By tickets here.

10 Things to Do To Prepare for Baby

Finding out I was pregnant was an instant whirlwind. I have plenty of nieces and nephews but still felt completely overwhelmed. Here are 10 things I started with right away to prepare for my mini me.

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1. Budget.

If you haven’t already started budgeting or your pregnancy is a surprise, start now. My husband and I set a savings goal to achieve by the time the baby arrives. We accounted for all of our bills and saved the rest. We wanted to make sure we had enough to cover bills for three months while I would be off plus the additional expenses.

2. Make a doctor’s appointment.

This may sound pretty obvious but in the midst of all the excitement selecting your doctor is key. Most women already have a specialist that does deliveries but you may not know what hospital they use or anything about the prenatal unit. Get started today.

3. Do your research.

Everyone around you will have advice. Most of it will definitely apply to you but some of it may not. Do your research and decide as parents what works best for you. After all, this will be a team effort for the rest of your life. Why not start coming together on the little stuff?

4. Start a registry.

I chose to use Amazon and Target because they were the simplest options. Target offers a free $20 gift card when you start a registry as well as discounts on not purchased items. Amazon does even better. You can receive free diapers, a baby bundle and discounts on everything on your registry. They both offer a step by step guide on what items you will actually need.

5. Exercise.

Through the nausea and fatigue, working out can feel like the last thing on my list. Luckily, I was already in the habit of doing 30 minutes to an hour of exercise daily. Consult your doctor on the best workout for your pregnancy but most will agree that yoga is a great choice. My doc suggested 20 – 30 minutes of low impact activity and light weights if I chose to use some. Take a look at prenatal classes in your area as well.

6. Water, Water, Water.

Water will be your new best friend. My doc suggested drinking about a gallon of water a day! At first, it seemed impossible. But I learned a little trick. Use a cup with a straw and you won’t even notice how much you’re effortlessly sipping.

7. Vitamins.

If you haven’t already started taking prenatal vitamins, grab a bottle. You little baby will be soaking everything you have to offer, including your vitamins. Choose one with high folic acid as it’s imperative for brain development. Check with your doc aboutspecific brands they recommend for any other supplements you may need.

8. Have a Baby Moon.

Through the hustle and bustle of preparing for your little miracle, parents get stressed out. My husband and I are planning to get away maybe a few times before the baby arrives. Once the baby is here, it may be a while until vacation is even in our vocabulary.

9. Make a Pinterest Board. 

With all these idea swirling around in my head, I had to get them in a central location. I’ve actually created multiple board to organize my thoughts. Head to Pinterest and get pinning!

10. Plan your announcement. 

Deciding how we would tell our dozens of family members was difficult. We decided on showing an ultrasound, having my siblings read a Baby Recipe on a chalkboard, wrapped a photo in a baby items for Nana and Facetimed and called members that we couldn’t visit. Our official announcement was a cute photo that we posted on Facebook.

Moms, what items would you add to this list?

Prayers for my Home

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Waking up today wasn’t pleasant. It was six am and my husband asked if I knew anyone at the Route 91 festival. He read the news article detailing 50 had been killed and 200+ were injured in the worst shooting our city has ever seen.

Shocked, I had not words to say. Dozens of names flashed through my head as I scrolled through Facebook looking for updates. A multitude of people I went to school with were recalling the worst night of their life. Many left before the shooting began, but some were forced into hiding for serval hours.

My heart hurts for this painful night. What was supposed to a celebration turned into a nightmare. It’s moments like these where there only comfort I can find is in God. I will never understand why this happened, but I know that He is with each and every victim and their family.

“The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.” PSALM 34:18-20

“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.” Matthew 11:28

Get Xtreme with Friday Night Bingo at Santa Fe Station

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Santa Fe’s renovated Bingo lounge kicks the normal play up a notch with themed nights every weekend including Xtreme Bingo and Girls Night Out Bingo. As a first time bingo player, I started small with the extreme session.

Xtreme Bingo takes the stage on the last Friday of every month. The session may start at 11AM, but the party begins when the doors open at 10PM.

 

 

 

 

As I entered the new space (previously my country line-dancing stomping ground as Revolver), floods of players lined up to cash in. Ranging from 21 – 99, the bingo patrons came ready to party and take their chance at $1,900.

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For only $25, patrons receive an open bar, access to 10 electronic games, glow sticks and glasses, a DJ and dozens of other free items. Even local radio stations are getting in on the action providing t-shirts and vodka giveaways.

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I took my seat close to the main screen and readied myself for my very first adult bingo experience. Originally, I was picturing large printed cards with wildly colored daubers. But with an open bar option, Santa Fe must have clued in that drinking and daubing don’t go together.

Each round we had the chance to win a $100 and some rounds included liters of vodka. The digital screen gave you 30 cards and basically did all the work. As each number was chosen, the cards automatically updated and shuffled the closed cards to the front of the screen. If you have bingo, the screen projects a giant “WINNER” image and your entire table takes a shot.

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Although I did make it up to three spots left, I came home empty-handed. My husband on the other hand, consistently had one spot left and always got beat out by a loud mom with a beer in her hand. Still, I may give it another chance.

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Although I loved getting my two-step in at Revolver, the new Bingo space is classy and offers great late night options.

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Bingo sessions are hosted daily on the odd hours from a 9A – 11P. Girls Night Out is every Saturday with a buy-in of $25 that includes 10 electronic games, specialty martinis and free drinks for ladies.

Find more bingo info here.

 

Meeting My Fitness Inspiration: Cassey Ho

This weekend was a once in a life-time experience. Fitness leader, Cassey Ho, offered a complimentary live Pop Pilates class at Idea Fit here in Las Vegas! As soon as I found out, I planned my Popflex outfit.

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As mentioned in previous blog posts, I’ve been following Cassey’s page, Blogilates, on Youtube for over two years now. I first got hooked when I was looking for a hardcore fitness routine to get me wedding ready. Now, I’ve tried a ton of different workout from Insanity to P90X and more, but Pop Pilates was different.

For years, I’ve been attending Pilates and Yoga studios to get my workouts in. And yes, I love hands-on training from certified teachers, but I didn’t love the competition between other women working out. In Yoga, I haven’t come across too many vain individuals. Pilates is a completely different story. I loved the workout but never felt the community…until I tried Pop Pilates.

Pop Pilates is more than just a workout. Each video Cassey posts is a little fitness inspiration to love yourself where you are at. Working out shouldn’t just be about looking good; it should be about feeling good not matter your size. And there is a whole community of people working toward thats goal. Her program even offers tips on eating right for your body and rocking some body flattering gear.

So when Saturday rolled around, I was too excited sleep. I arrived at the Las Vegas Convention Center at 9:45AM to get checked-in for my class and get a seat close to the stage. Many other Popsters were already lined up outside of the ballroom waiting for the show to begin.

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The Blogilates team revered everyone up by filming and photographing participants as we hurried inside. The room quickly filled to its 400 person capacity and the floor became a sea of yoga mats. All across the room, ladies we decked out in Popflex gear.

About ten minutes later, Cassey came on stage and the crowd erupted. She wasted no time and jumped right into the choreography for the event. One hour later and I was sparking in sweat after a killer workout.

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The Blogilates fam hosted a complimentary Q & A with Cassey right after the class. It was so inspired listening to her talk about her fitness journey from vanity to strength. After her few questions, the team announced a surprise meet and greet with Cassey! I all but flew off my mat to get in line.

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As I stood at the edge of the stage, I ran through what I could possibly say to such a successful fitness leader. Her genuineness to her brand was astonishing. She really lived her values and never gave up when times got tough. As I walked on stage to say hello, I shared that my passion for Pop Pilates started when I began wedding planning. She gave me a hug, posed for a picture and completely made my day.

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Feeling so inspired by these few hours, I made my way over to the Director of her team and inquired about certification. By Spring 2018, I will be a certified Pop Pilates instructor! This opportunity is a God send and a dream come true.

Keep an eye out here and on social for more updates on my progress!

What’s Up Wednesday

Wednesday Wisdom

It’s raining. Monsoon season has begun in Las Vegas. Today, the freeways and streets were covered with droplets. iPhones buzzed with flash flood warnings and drivers prepared for alternate routes.

It’s been a while since I’ve written anything meaningful. I’ve only been able to muster up a few fluff pieces researched just enough to provide special event information. I just couldn’t find the motivation to focus my thoughts.

This past few months (can’t believe July is almost over) have been a whirlwind. I started a new job with a non-profit and expended all of my creativity on marketing. I’ve found myself just coasting and flowing from one event to the next. I’ve avoided reflecting on just about everything.

But, there’s something about a raining afternoon that puts life into perspective. This last week has been exhausting, emotionally and physically. So many confusing things I haven’t made sense of yet. There is only one thing I know for sure, God is working.

From building and refining relationships to new opportunities, God’s plan is unfolding right before my eyes. Friendships I thought impossible to create are slowly forming like clay under His hands. Plans that fell on my deadlines are clearly unfolding far earlier and in a way I never expected.

It’s difficult to see the big picture when you’re staring too close to the pieces. From my perspective, I can only see colors and make out shapes. But God already sees the full masterpiece.

What has God been showing you?