This past year has been probably my hardest year yet.

That's not to say it's been my worst year yet. In fact, it's been one of my best years. It was my first full year married to that Jared of mine, and I've learned a lot of good stuff from our adventures. Maybe the whole "hardest but bestest" thing is something I'll be saying at the end of every year from now on. Maybe that's what being an adult is? I don't know. Probably not. I'll keep you posted on that next year though, if I remember.

It has been so nice to be home for the holidays. Both with my immediate family and with Jared's family over the past few days. It's been like a much-needed refresh button, and I'm finding that each day we spend in America brings me an awareness of one more random thing to be insanely grateful for that I haven't been in the past. Carpet. The smell of pine. Falling asleep to silence rather than screaming tree frogs. Frost on the ground. Little spiders (wayyy better than giant spiders and cockroaches). And of course, family, but that's not random and I've always been grateful for that. Each day here also leaves me grateful for little Grenada-isms, which I think has been insanely healthy and will make this next term on our island much easier than the last. Perfect mangoes. Always soft skin. A completely free schedule for days at a time. Half a dozen gorgeous beaches, each ten minutes away (although let's face it, I'll always be a mountains-and-evergreens girl if I have to choose).
^^A picture from my in-laws' neighborhood lake. Isn't that the best thing?
I think every neighborhood should have its very own lake. 
In-laws, I love Washington. And your lake. And you!
^^A flight past my family's home this afternoon, and toward the SLC airport.
The ground looks gray in the picture, but it was a beautiful sunset-pink in real life. I love that valley.

So anyway, it's been a nice year, but I'm ready for a new one. I'm not one to make a million resolutions, but I've got one or two up my sleeve, one of which involves this blog. In the past I've been caught between two blogging worlds. The first is a world of journal blogging and family updates, and the second is a world of "gaining a following" and "maybe making some pocket change off this thing some day." The latter isn't something I'm really interested in anymore, and I haven't been for a while. I want this to be a place where I can combine scrapbook and journal, where I can let my family know what's up and record the everyday events that may or may not be interesting to the world at large.  For posterity--really though. Honestly, things will probably be pretty much the same as always around here, except that I'll make an effort to post more often, even if just a handful of pictures and a smattering of un-clever words. So anyway, that's just a head's up I guess. Or a public service announcement or something.

Mandatory Happy New Year's shoutout, everyone! I hope you all are attending lovely parties and sleeping in till noon tomorrow. I'll be recovering from a New Year's Eve cold, which I'm glad to be getting over with now rather than on our flight back to Grenada next week. Cheers to that!


We're in Utah! Have been for about a week now.
And clearly I busted into my new (refurbished) Macbook--which is working perfectly so far.
And clearly I discovered Photo Booth.
And clearly my husband and I spent an hour playing on it and laughing because we're ecstatic to finally have time for us and for enjoying such pointless activities!
Good life choices all around.

Our first item of business upon arriving in Utah (after Cafe Rio and walking through the mall) was to grab my favorite dog and go on my favorite Dry Canyon hike. This is where Jared and I took our first hike together and also where we got engaged and also the last hike we took before Grenada. So yes, you could say it's my favorite.
I've come to two life-changing realizations since arriving home. The first occurred when I tagged along with my mom on a trip to Walmart. You guys, I almost had an emotional breakdown in the breakfast foods aisle, and I actually teared up in the produce section. I felt lightheaded through the whole trip. I have never before appreciated or even realized how abundant and inexpensive and beautiful food is in America (specifically Utah). Would you believe me if I told you our monthly Grenada food budget is $650 US dollars? And on that, we really don't eat all that well. Sometimes the only produce available in the stores is slightly rotten, so I just have to buy it and cut out the unusable parts. I nearly choked when I saw a large $2.50 jar of jam at Walmart. A sample-sized jar of jelly in Grenada is $20 Eastern Caribbean dollars, or about $8 US. (Hence why I made like a gallon of mango jelly myself. For the win!) There are less expensive grocery stores you can visit on the island, but anything I've ever boughten from them is either completely stale or bug-infested. So anyway, I hope that I will never take a trip to an American grocery store for granted ever again. This is a beautiful nation.

Realization #2: Family trumps Christmas. In the past, the Christmas season for me has been about lights and movies and snow and all that other good stuff. This year, however, my paper chain counted down to seeing my family. Now that we're here, I haven't really thought all that much about Christmas. (Which is in 2 days? How??) Instead, Jared and I have been thinking about what fun things we can do with our families and all that we can cram in with them during the next two weeks. I'm excited for Christmas mostly so we can talk to my two younger brothers who are serving LDS missions. Family time is another thing that I have taken for granted in the past, but is really special to me.

These past few months have been life-changing in hard but really good ways. We are so beyond happy to be home for Christmas, and I hope that all of you will be able to spend time with loved ones during this holiday season. Merry Christmas!
Home for Christmas

I have a friend named Emily (we're friends, right?) who I visit taught in the BYU couples ward that Jared and I moved into right after we got married. I didn't get to know her all that well at the time, since she and her husband moved to a different city after just a few months, but a while back I came across her blog and now I'm a lot more up to date on this cute girl with the amazing hair.

Emily frequently makes "Happy Lists" on her blog. These lists record the little moments that made her happy throughout the week. I love the idea and feel like I could definitely stand to pay more attention to the happy little details in my life, so I'm going to try to make happy lists here every so often. You all should try it, too!
A Happy List:

All my girlfriends who keep me sane in Grenada (most of them pictured above) ||| Seeing my dad sing Christmas music with the Mormon Tabernacle Choir on my computer screen ||| Taking our little car for a Sunday evening joy ride to the airport and back ||| Slightly overcoming my fear of Facebook and checking my notifications three times in one day (I've had a quirky case of Facebook anxiety ever since we moved here) ||| Seeing a tiny blur of a mouse dash under our computer desk while we watched The Grinch, and then watching Jared chase the little guy all over our apartment with a broom ||| The adorable little boy at church who giggled loudly from the front row, "Mom, why did you talk like that?" after his Mom cried a little bit while bearing her testimony ||| Jared getting really good at braiding my hair each night before bed (a trick I taught him after I read that Emily's husband braids her hair every evening)

How are we at December 9 already? There are only two finals and one little apartment move left between us and our flight back to America for Christmas. Fingers crossed there will be snow!
A Happy List

Jared attended his last class of the term two days ago, and his final anatomy lab was yesterday. So for the next week, he is free to chill out at home and study for finals from dawn until dusk. Except, dusk hits at 5:30 here, so actually he studies from dawn until 10:00ish. This is awesome for me, because I get to see him all the time! This is also a bummer for me, because I am not allowed to distract him when he is in the zone. Aka, I can't watch Hallmark Christmas specials or old episodes of Downton Abbey (don't judge!) that are airing on Grenadian Netflix (I don't have a laptop, so I can't just lounge back and pop some earbuds in). In place of those activities, I have opted to work more and read the book Unbroken (go read it!), so it's working out.

Anyway, there comes a point each day, usually as evening approaches, when I can tell that Jared is slowing down and, if I play my cards right, I can talk him into a break. Two days ago, that resulted in Jared introducing my to the movie Jaws for the first time. Maybe not the very best movie choice for an island liver, but you know, it's fine. Yesterday I got him to break for 2-for-1 movie night at the Excel Plaza. We met up with some friends (all ladies--they were like, "Wait, you got your husband to come here how?") and watched Mockingjay while gorging ourselves on the inexpensive and delicious popcorn. Today I ordered him into our car (Oh! We got a car! Post to come, probably.) and took him to the Lance Aux Epines tide pools. I don't know when the ideal time to hit the tide pools iswe've never actually seen any sea life besides black crabs therebut it's a refreshing and beautiful place.

Walking back to the car after our lovely study break, we saw a family of giant, creepy, yet strangely beautiful black-and-white spiders resting between some cacti.
Soon after, a swarm of black birds flew out at us out of nowhere! It was crazy! I wish I had turned my camera on, but I was busy ducking down so they wouldn't hit me in the face, and they just kept coming for like 15 seconds straight. I've never seen birds behave like that, but it was really cool!

Jared, who thinks the sky is the most beautiful thing to look at  (besides me, probably), couldn't help but capture the pink clouds beneath the full moon, all above that adorable blue island home. That guy would probably be an awesome nature photographer if he could ever find the time for it. Study breaks for the win!

Study Break


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