January 12, 2018

Death of a Prophet

The leader of my church, whom we regard as God's prophet and mouthpiece on earth, passed away recently, and today was his funeral. I listened to the hour-long service online, and then I felt compelled to stand outside, waiting for his motorcade to pass. (Luckily, I work about a block away from the motorcade's route, so it was really easy to just pop out and stand on the street.)

I feel a deep love for him. I got to meet him twice, both very brief interactions. But I could feel, both in person, and any time I heard him speak at a conference, that this man truly was the prophet of God. The first time, I was 16 (I remember I was wearing a peasant blouse I loved!), and he had spoken at our regional conference at the Dee Events Center. The second time, I was a college freshman at the U. It was Christmas break (December 2002: yikes!!), and I was shopping with my family at Nordstrom. We were in the men's shoe department, when lo and behold, who should also be there but President Monson!

We were so excited to talk to him, and it was even more exciting to get to take a photo with him. I pulled out my trusty disposable camera (I seriously never left home without it!), and some nice stranger took our photo. (My dad thinks he's hilarious and pretended to be the shoe salesman helping Pres. Monson try on a pair of dress shoes. Smh, Dad. Smh.)

President monson

One thing that was really lovely about being on South Temple today is that the Cathedral of the Madeleine, which was located on the motorcade's route, rang their bells today from the time the funeral ended until after the hearse had passed. Such a lovely sign of comraderie and co-mourning from our fellow Christians. It was also really wonderful to see other people lined up on South Temple to bid our prophet goodbye. I stood next to a young mom with her four kids (all of whom appeared to be age 5 or younger!) and marveled that she had brought them out on a crisp January afternoon to see our prophet pass by. I teared up a little at the two ladies who brought white handkerchiefs and waved them as President Monson's hearse drove past. I ended up being 20 minutes late to a work meeting, but I'm grateful I had the opportunity to say goodbye. I'm a little puzzled, having not known President Monson personally beyond two passing encounters, by how tender my heart felt today. I loved our prophet and am grateful to know the line of prophets will not end with him. How truly blessed we are!

Here are some more photos from today:

waiting for President Monson's motorcade
(Note the mom of four behind me)
President and Sister Uchtdorf ride by
President and Sister Uchtdorf

President Monson <3
Our prophet <3 (aptly, in front of the Thomas S. Monson Building, which houses the Gardner Policy Institute)
God be with you 'til we meet again, dear President Monson. 💗

January 09, 2018

The Cat Game

Saturday night, we went down to Melanie's for a get-together she was hosting. And, of course, we had to bring The Cat Game. It's safe to say the game was a big hit! Especially with Melanie's cat, Willa. 😂

The Cat Game

We've played The Cat Game so far with my family (teens and adults), Stephen's family (ages 2 and up), and friends (adults), and everybody has loved it! It's basically a glorified form of Pictionary... but with cats. 😸

I bought ours on a whim at Target on Black Friday, but if you're interested in getting your own, it's still available. :) $ well spent!

January 07, 2018

Swimming Lessons

Holy moly, I started swimming lessons this weekend! I am insanely scared of water (I learned what a panic attack was after having one before swimming at Zion National Park 5.5 years ago...), but two things: 1- Stephen and I are going to Hawai'i later this year, and it seems like it'd be a lot more enjoyable if I knew how to swim, 2- it is time: it is finally time to face my fears and learn to swim!

Swimming lessons

Stephen came with me, and -- bless him! -- stayed with me through the whole class. I'm really grateful he did! Having him there helped me feel a lot more confident. The instructor was late, which was a blessing, because I was SO nervous on the car ride to the lesson, and it was nice to have a few minutes to just get used to being in the water. Stephen gave me a headstart on my lesson (he's been swimming his whole life and did swim team back in the day), and by the time the actual lesson started, I felt ready and not panicked, which was a huge step for me.

By the end of the lesson, I was able to swim the length of a lap, I practiced kicking, I learned that water will get in my ears but will eventually come out, and I started practicing how to breathe out through my nose underwater. Stephen and I stayed at the pool after class and practiced some more. He helped me learn how to swim on my back, he taught me freestyle stroke, and he helped me kick better when I was going sideways or backwards (yes, somehow I managed to move backwards while swimming).

I'm nervous but excited for the next few weeks, but I can't overstate how grateful I am for my sweet husband and for his undying support. I might've made it through the lesson without him there, but it was so much easier knowing he had my back. Wish me luck and lots of learning in the next few weeks!

Oh! Not only is my husband a great swimming support; he took me to brunch at Cracker Barrel for doing so well at my lesson! I've heard Cracker Barrel is tasty but have never gone. I wholeheartedly recommend the wild blueberry pancakes. A+

Cracker Barrel brunch

January 01, 2018

"Married" Christmas 2017

Chatwinners' First Christmas tree Our first Christmas

Married Christmas... Merry Christmas. Get it? :) Happy New Year, everyone! Before I have to go back to work tomorrow, I wanted to make sure I documented our first married Christmas. :)

I tried to persuade Stephen to let us get a REAL Christmas tree, but, alas, it didn't work... But at least we got our faux tree on a Black Friday sale, so I suppose that's something. :) We didn't want to put up just any ol' ornaments, so for the first week or two, our tree just had lights on it. And then Stephen found a set of vintage ornaments for sale! We quickly scooped them up. I was a little wary, but they turned out to be much cuter in person. :) We also added a few special ornaments to our tree:

  • a Hogwarts express ornament from our trip to Harry Potter World in early December
  • a golden snitch ornament (that we made from a keychain) from the same trip (in honor of our golden snitch wedding cake ball toppers)
  • a cute snowman made out of s'mores (because we had s'mores at our wedding)
And then, because, realistically, many of our coming Christmases will hopefully involve little Chatwinners at home, we bought a few felt plush ornaments from Target to round out our little tree. :) We also tried to make a DIY golden snitch tree topper, but we weren't able to figure out this year. We improvised with a Gryffindor beanie as a tree topper instead. (Thanks to my Reddit Secret Santa for the beanie!) The golden snitch will have to wait for Christmas 2018.

Oh, and please note on the photo above that shows our stockings.... You won't see a Y ornament. Why? Because Target is super LAME and doesn't sell them, that's why. I settled for a Z instead. Maybe next year... (Or maybe next year, we'll find cuter stockings elsewhere.)

Now for the actual Christmas celebrations. Christmas Eve was on a Sunday this year, and we started our day by worshiping with our congregation. The services were shortened for the day and primarily consisted of a musical Christmas program. The music was lovely, and my heart was touched by the Christmas spirit. After church, we came home and had our own little Christmas brunch. I made German pancakes with berry compote and fresh fruit on the side. I'd really love to have a dish that can become our traditional Christmas breakfast, and this recipe seems like a good contender, mostly because it's so easy AND delicious!

We drove up to my family's for Christmas Eve dinner. We celebrate on the 24th and open all our presents at midnight, and it was especially fun this year to celebrate with my baby nephew, who is now 15 months old and aware of what's going on around him. :) Christmas with kiddos is so fun!

Zavala Family Christmas 2017
The whole family! L-R: Daniel, Kim, Jasper, Stephen, me, Chris, Dad, Mom, Jason, Spencer (missing Jason's fiancée, Shirley)
Below: Mom's tree + Jasper with Tía Yándary y Tío Stephen
Connie's Christmas tree Jasper and Chatwinners

It started snowing while we were up in Ogden, so our drive home was slow, and we didn't get home until about 2:30am. We were high on Christmas spirit and opened our presents to each other when we got home. :) And we were maybe a little too excited, because we decided to open our Santa presents then, too! (Good thing Santa came to our house early this year!) My favorite thing about Christmas gifts is watching people open a gift I've picked out with such love and care just for them, so this part of our celebration was extra fun for me. And I must say, Stephen really knocked it out of the park! He's so thoughtful. :)

Christmas morning, we slept in until 10am. We decided Chatwinners stay in their Christmas PJs all day, so we bundled up and made our way over to Stephen's parents for Christmas Day celebrations. We also brought over our new ugly Christmas sweater, and everyone had fun taking turns to try it on.

Chatwinners in Christmas PJs Christmas sweater

We had Christmas breakfast and lunch, played lots and lots of board games, and once all the in-town grandkids had arrived, we opened presents. It was really fun to see the kids enjoying their gifts!

Ev and her horse GF pie Board game fun

Other activities we enjoyed on Christmas Day included going to Walgreen's to get me some Lactaid (oh, the joys of adult-onset lactose intolerance...) and napping in our Christmas jammies.  Well, at least Stephen did. ;)

Christmas Lactaid run Christmas napping

We ended the day at home watching one of our favorite movies. (I am proud to announce that we finished watching all eight Harry Potter movies over Christmas break AND Fantastic Beasts (Santa brought it for Stephen)!

Harry Potter Christmas

September 29, 2017

The Last Seven Months

The last few months have been a wild ride, such that... I haven't even blogged since February. 😅😬 I suppose the quickest way to give an update is via bullet points. In no particular order, here's a recap of my last seven months:
  • In February, I got laid off. :( Naturally, we were super bummed about this. Applying and interviewing for jobs is THE WORST!
  • A few weeks later, we got engaged! I knew Stephen had bought my ring at the end of January, and he didn't propose until MARCH 3rd. 😵😱 It was the longest six weeks of my life!
engaged! engaged!
  • My Tío Jose passed away at the end of February. :( He had been sick for a few months, and I know he had been in pain, but it was still really sad. I'm glad I was able to use sky miles to travel to his funeral in California. And actually, Stephen proposed just a few hours before I flew out. It was really lovely and comforting to be gathered with family to celebrate my uncle's life that weekend. And it was nice to have some happy news to (tactfully) share amid our sorrow.
  • We celebrated our one-year dating anniversary!
symphony date one-year anniversary date
  • I learned how to ski! Two winters ago, I had purchased a lessons + season pass package to Snowbasin. The silver lining to getting laid off is that I had more time to actually use my pass. I updated briefly on this two posts ago, and I'm happy to say things improved after that post. I'm definitely still a beginner, but I felt a lot more confident towards the end of the season and even managed to make it down a blue run (albeit very, VERY slowly)! AND I didn't run over any more children.
  • I moved out of my little apartment! This was harder than I imagined it would be. I was so excited to be marrying Stephen. My lease ended at the end of April, and we decided it made sense both logistically and financially for me to move into our duplex first (Stephen bought a duplex last fall, and we'd spent the previous few months fixing it up, so he hadn't moved in yet). It was hard for a few reasons. 1- I loved my little apartment. I'd put so much care and effort into fixing it up and decorating it just so. It was hard to let that go. 2- While I was beyond excited to marry my bestie, I was concerned that I would have a hard time adjusting to living with someone else again. Living alone had been such a treat! (I'm happy to report that living with Stephen is an even more delightful treat!) 3- Stephen is amazing and always kept a "we" mindset about things, but part of me still felt a little bit like a mooch living in "his" house by myself? I've definitely gotten over that, but it was an adjustment. I've had an entire life before this chapter. I'm used to being on my own, taking care of myself, etc, and while I know I wasn't giving that up, part of me felt like I was. (I wasn't. I just had to get over myself a little bit.)
sad face: moving out
  • We spent months and months and months working on our house. We're still not quite done, but we're hosting family for a birthday brunch for Stephen this weekend, and we're at least to a place where we can mostly do that. Ha. :) If all else fails, we'll just shove everything into the second bedroom and shut the door. ;)
Home Sweet Duplex
  • We planted a little garden, and it's still alive! I've never successfully kept plants alive for longer than a few weeks, but so far, we've eaten cucumber and zucchini, and we hope to have some tomatoes soon! We have a watermelon plant that might not have anything for us, and we planted a baby nectarine tree that will hopefully bear fruit in future years. Our lime tree got moved to my office yesterday, where it will live out the winter next to my big windows.
  • I started a new job in July! I was grateful to a good friend who passed along the job link to me shortly after I lost my job in February. It's a great opportunity for me, and even though the learning curve has been steep, I'm really enjoying it so far.
  • I free-lanced this spring/summer, and I learned I am not cut out for being an entrepreneur. (I think?) I also worked as a Matchmaker for a hot second, mostly because it sounded like fun. What I learned is that being a paid matchmaker is the WORST. Matchmaking for fun is, well, fun! 
  • Two weeks after I started my new job.... WE GOT MARRIED!! :) Wedding planning is one of the worst and most unenjoyable things I've ever done, but our wedding was SO much fun! We were actually a little sad to leave at the end of the night, because we were having such a great time. It was so wonderful to have the people we love most gathered in one place to celebrate with us. I loved meeting people who love my Stephen and have played an important part in his life, and I loved getting to introduce him to my people. It meant so much to have so many of our loved ones travel from so far to celebrate with us. We were married on July 21, 2017 in the Ogden, Utah LDS Temple. I'd love to write more about our wedding day in a separate blog post, but it is the most wonderful thing in the world to be married to my best friend. I count my lucky stars every day to have found him and to be his wife forever. The actual wedding day felt like a blur (I can barely even remember our sealing), but these last few months have been the greatest adventure.
first dance IMG_1127 Ogden Temple wedding day
  • We just got back from our honeymoon! This deserves its own post also, but we went to London and Paris and just had the best time. :) 
Honeymoon recap