Christmas 2010

A while back, a reader named Kelly shared some photos of her house with me. They were taken last Christmas, and I was totally blown away by how beautifully she had the place decorated. I immediately shared them with my editor at Cottages & Bungalows magazine, and we were thrilled when she gave us the go-ahead to photograph the place for a 2011 issue! I can’t show you much, but here’s a sneak peek of where we spent last Tuesday and Wednesday…

(If all goes according to plan, Kelly’s issue will be out sometime next Fall or Winter!)

I can’t wait ’til the magazine comes out so you can see all of the fabulousness Kelly created. She truly blew our minds with all of her spectacular Christmas decor. Not one room was left undecorated. Her middle name should be “attention to detail”. I’m not kidding. It was unreal! She even sent us home with some super-sweet Christmas gifts…

Books and magazines- our favorite!


We got back home from the shoot on Wednesday afternoon and although Kevin and I haven’t really been doing the whole “Christmas present thing” for the past couple of years, I really wanted to surprise him with just a little sump’n sump’n this year. He had been talking a lot about a book he wanted, and he still needed to pick up something for his Dad- so I suggested we hit Barnes & Noble before we hunkered down for the night.

Well, I don’t ever need to ask Kevin twice if he’d like to go to the book store, so off we went….supposedly to pick up a gift for his Dad.

I had been thinking about how I could get in there and get the book he wanted (while he looked for something for his Dad) the whole way home from the photoshoot.

When we got to the store, I walked with him to the childrens storybook section (his Dad is a retired cartoonist) and then told him I was gonna go look at the shelter mags. And since I always go look at the shelter mags, he totally bought it.

I casually walked away from him, in the direction of the magazines, but as soon as I was out of his view, I darted toward the section that housed the book he wanted. My pulse quickened, and I totally broke into “Mission Impossible” mode.

When I reached the right department, I scanned the bookshelves, row by row, for the title he wanted. He had just shown it to me a couple of days before, so I should’ve known exactly where it was.

Key word: should’ve.

Every second that I couldn’t find the book felt like an eternity. And I never (not once) looked up from the shelves to see if he was coming because I didn’t want him to be coming! I just wanted to believe he wasn’t coming, and find that book!

Then, all of a sudden, I spotted it.

I heard angels sing.

I grabbed it.

I darted back up the aisle, and ran/walked up to the register.

Uh, let me rephrase that.

I ran/walked up to the back of a very, very, very long line of people waiting at the register.

(I found this photo online to help depict my dilemma.)

I stood there, at the very end, for several minutes. I fidgeted, and contemplated telling the gals who eventually walked up behind me about my predicament.

I think I thought maybe they would help shield me from Kevin if he were to walk by while I was waiting.

I abandoned that idea though, when the elder woman turned to the younger woman, and while pointing at a man with tattoos said, “Ew, Lauren, look at that guy“.

I decided anyone who pointed and said “ew” to someone about a guy with tattoos probably wouldn’t wanna help shield me from my SEXY, TATTOOED hubby.

Then, as if to say, “Layla- don’t worry about those ladies behind you. We’re about to hook you up sister!“- the man at the register loudly announced, “IF ANYONE IS IN A HURRY- MATTHEW CAN CHECK YOU OUT OVER AT THE CAFE.”

(Not the actual cafe. I found this photo on the web too.)

At this point- I glanced over at the cafe, noticed that no one else was moving, and I believe I said “I’m goin’!” out loud.

Although I’m not sure if I just thought that, or if I actually said it out loud.

Either way, the cafe was indeed a ghost town, so I ran/ran over to it.

And wouldn’t ya know it, Matthew and his tattooed arms were able to ring me up and outta there in under 20 seconds flat. Whew!


Christmas morning I reached down under the bed (where I had hidden the book), and presented it to Kevin.

He was thrilled, but wondered how I had managed to get it, since we hadn’t spent more than a few minutes apart during that week.

I told him I used my brain, and that it was definitely a personal triumph.

That night, we decided to watch some TV and order a pizza. And that night will be the LAST NIGHT I order pizza for a very long time.

Papa John whipped up a pie full of food poisoning that kept me balled up in this thing for the past 3 days…

So needless to say, there wasn’t a whole lot of traveling, or spending time with family this Christmas like we had hoped.

There was, however, a whole lot of weight loss.

And, fortunately, a lot of great magazine and book reading too…

Kevin surprised me with this one (and the journal & pen) on Christmas morning after I surprised him with his…

He thinks he stinks at buying presents, but I think he did a great job!

I started reading the book last night and it is wonderful! And I can’t wait to start scribblin’ stuff in that journal on Saturday. I figured the 1st was a good day to start it, and hopefully this food poisoning stuff will be totally gone by then so I can write about fun stuff instead of funky stuff.

PS- The winner of giveaway #11 is Heidi of Wonder Woman Wannabe, and the winner of giveaway #12 is Lorri of Lizards and Lollipops!

Congrats you two! I’ll be in touch via email to get your mailing addresses from you!


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  1. April in CT says

    Although about 5 years have passed since a HORRIBLE bought of food poisoning from a Mexican restaurant in Jacksonville, FL that left my husband and me completely unable to function, I can still remember it quite vividly. That is pure misery right there, girl. I hope you’re feeling ALL better soon! Way to pull the stealth shopper caper off. :)

  2. says

    I cannot believe you were so sick for Christmas, you poor thing! :( I love your bookstore story-sounds like a really cool book you got for him! Hope you are back to 100% by now! Love you!

  3. says

    I loved your Christmas story!! I was in suspense the whole time. so glad it all worked out but sorry about the food poisoning, bummer!! If you look at my post today you will see exactly what I am doing today!!! Kathysue

  4. geri says

    Merry Christmas and Happy Tummy.
    There is nothing good about being sick.(except your clothes feel
    like the dryer hasn’t shrunk everything you own anymore. hehe)
    Love and bestest wishes. geri.

  5. kelly says

    Layla, thank you for the sweet words! Having you and Kevin here was like having old friends visit – even though we just met.
    Your story of shopping was hilarious (Kevin’s book looks interesting) Hope you get all your energy back after that terrible sickness. And tell Kevin that he IS good at present buying – you can tell he put thought and heart into it. That’s what makes his presents so wonderful.
    Merry Christmas to you both.

    • Kim says

      I can’t wait to see your house Kelly! Your front door decorations are just what I would like. I like the paint color on your house…would you mind sharing the color? Thanks!

      • kelly says

        Thanks Kim! I can’t wait to see the magic Layla and Kevin do with their wonderful photography! I loved her photo of the red mitten with the snowball that was the “featured post” photo up top before her post on photography. The color is Pelham Gray (or grey?) from Martin Seynour. It’s not really a gray, though. It is part of their historical Williamsburg color collection, and if I remember correctly it may be an opaque stain – but still looks like paint.

  6. says


    I love your cute story of snagging the book for your hubby. So sorry you were sick for Christmas. Food poisoning is horrible!

    Thanks for sharing your life, home and stories through your blog. I enjoy reading!

    God Bless You

  7. says

    I love Barnes and
    Noble. I heard it was being sold to Walden
    Anywhoooo, I don’t go to the malls, Walmart, Target and of those places to shop after Thanksgiving. Since I am a member at B & N saved alot of shopping to do there. So here I was arms full, two big books, Legos, Green pretend dishes, Pirates of the Tub, flower making kit, and a teething moose……in the check out line and the lights went on and off and on and OFF. Blackout……all the stores in this block, food places and also the traffic lights. Home with out presents but ordered online and even saved money. So that you see is my B & N story.
    Hope you feel better. Peace and JOy to you in the
    New Year.

  8. says

    Eww, food poisoning=no good. That’s too bad, but at least it looks like you had a great Christmas gift from your hubby to keep you busy! I hope you were still able to have a very Merry Christmas :)

  9. Tiff says

    Aww man that’s terrible about the food poisoning. I’m glad that there were enought little highlights to help you stay happy.
    Hope your New Year is much, much better!

  10. says

    So, so sorry you were sick for so long! Ugh. But I selfishly am always happy about the drastic weight loss after any stomach bug :). Beautiful & thoughtful gifts you exchanged! Thanks for sharing them with all of us!

  11. says

    Sorry about the pizza problem. I had a similar experience while I was dating my husband….oh, that is a day I will never forget ;) Noticed your adoption book. We are a family via adoption. It’s amazing and more wonderful than you can imagine….not sure if you have the book because you are considering, but wanted to throw that encouragement out there. Merry Christmas!

  12. says

    I am the mom of two adopted children. Since we did independent adoptions determination was key. After a year of frustrating infertility treatments, I decided in June that I was going to be a mother by Christmas. We brought Hannah home on December 17th. It was the best Christmas present ever. I’d love to chat with you about the process. Just contact me.

  13. Debbie says

    Wow! So you have the same shopping challenges! I also didn’t know you were an Andy Andrews fan. We have his original Sawyerton Springs book, but I am not sure where the three volumes of Storms of Perfection (now called Go for It) went. It was interesting to see how our leaders, celebrities and sport heroes view the world and life. Here’s hoping adoption is progressing well for you! Let us know if you need anything!

  14. says

    Aww…you guys gifts are so sweet!

    The husband and I also try to keep gifts on the thoughtful, but inexpensive side. He got me one of David Sedaris’ books…(he always makes me laugh).

    Definitely journal about your adoption journey. And keep us updated. ; )

  15. says

    so sad you were sick for Christmas. But, although food poisoned and ill, you tell a tale of happiness and joy! You are blessed Layla!

  16. chinazhoumom says

    Hi there – as an adoptive mama – with a daughter born in China – I wanted to tell you about someone we know that does a great job in helping families decide what is the best fit for them…just thought you would like to know.
    Good Luck
    Carol in FL

  17. says

    Great story but sorry about the food poisoning. Mine was at Pizza Hut in college and I spent 2 days in the hospital. It took me years to eat Pizza again…

  18. says

    Well, I’m sorry you had food poisoning but how fun to have a wonderful book for Kevin and he for you. Have a wonderful week and lets hope that 2011 will be a wonderful year for us all.

  19. Carol says

    I totally understand what you went thru with a Papa John’s pizza because the same thing happened to my husband. It took him about a month to recover from it and we also have never ordered a Papa John Pizza again and that was over 10 years ago! And if one could have seen what my husband went thru, you would understand about us not taking that risk again.

  20. says

    I keep hearing you talk about adoption and I want to say what an exciting and wild ride you are about to undertake. We tried for 3 years and then finally decided to adopt, it has been a journey that God has taught the two of us so much about.We later had two daughters naturally, no one knows how but they appeared two years apart on the same day. I will be praying and anticipating the fun that you will have as you move forward with this exciting leap of faith! Thank you for your honesty.

  21. Kirstin says

    Another great adoption read from a Christian perspective is “Adopted for Life” by Russell Moore. Blessings on your journey…I know it is hard, we are waiting too!

  22. ÄmberP says

    I’ve been reading your blog for a few months now and am really excited to hear that you guys have begun the journey into adoption. I wanted to let you know about another blog I’m a big fan of … Flower Patch Farmgirl (she has adopted 3 children of her own) and if you haven’t read her Adoption Story series, I strongly encourage you to hop on over to her site and do so. It is sooo touching and inspirational and just seems like such a good read for anyone who may be thinking about adopting

    Good luck to you both and may God bless you

  23. Katie says

    Ah, I love that Kevin wanted the Brain that Changes Itself. We read it in our Neuro class in PT school and it is amazing… He will love it! Great gift! Merry Christmas!

  24. says

    Such a sweet post….well, minus the poisonous pizza bit…I’m glad you’re feeling better and had a wonderful Christmas together. Happy journaling!

  25. says

    I love Andy Andrews! I think the Butterfly Effect is the only one I haven’t read. Enjoy!
    I’m glad you are feeling better, sorry your Christmas was ruined by Pappa John.


  26. Carolyn says

    I hope that you and Kevin have a wonderful ,exciting, Happy New Year(to make up for your not-so-hot-Christmas)
    Hugs,Carolyn in New Hampshire

  27. says

    I love the teaser shot of Kelly’s house. Will you let us know when Cottages & Bungalows publishes her home?

  28. says

    I have to laugh at your post (not the sick part…that’s not funny) because it sounds so much like my life. “Hiss” to mean lady who judged tattoo guy and “Hurrah” to cafe guy who helped you get out of that awful line!
    Hope you are better soon!

  29. says


    Way to go on your stealthy shopping moves. I know the feeling. It’s like a ball of anxiety for what seems like the longest minutes until your purchase is secure and hidden away.

    Sorry about the food poisoning. I have had it before and thought I was going to die. It is the worst thing ever. I’ve never hugged a toilet quite so tightly like I did when I had food poisoning.

    And congrats on your decision to adopt. I am an adopted child myself, and I commend you for stepping out and doing something like that. Not only are your completely changing the life of that child, but your life will also be forever changed. I love adoption for numerous reasons. I wish you all the best in the process.

  30. says

    I remember last Christmas you linked to a blog that had amazing photos of Christmas decorations, but I haven’t been able to find that link again. All I remember is that a girl with dark brown hair was standing side on to the camera near her Christmas tree, and the photos were beautiful! Do you know the one I mean? I would love to have a look at that blog again.

    Love your Christmas stories! The right present is so important, and often we will do mad things to get them in our clutches! Merry Christmas to you! xx

  31. Mariefi O'Malley says

    Great book! Other good reads on brain function and living life fully are: “My Stroke of Insight”, Jill Bolte Taylor, Ph.D. and “The Last Lecture”, Randy Pausch. Happy New Year to you both! Much happiness and laughter in 2011!!

  32. says

    I enjoyed everything about this post, like we were sitting and laughing about it together or something. I can’t tell you how much I love reading the journal that I kept while pregnant with my first. I can imagine that keeping an adoption journal will be just the same for you, in that you think you’ll never forget the details and emotions, but trust me, once that little bundle of sweetness arrives, you will totally forget about half the things you ever thought you knew because all of your thoughts will be for that tiny package and it’s every need. LOL (Or perhaps that was just me.) I totally thought of you yesterday when I was moving my furniture all around and re-fluffing the nest after taking down a very crispy Christmas tree. I kept wondering to myself, “Would Layla put this bowl here, or somewhere else? I don’t know! What would she suggest?” Gosh it would have been so much easier if you were actually here just doing it yourself, because I can only guess what you would have put where. :)

    Oops, I guess I just wrote ya a book. Well, glad you’re up and feeling better again,

  33. tonisha echeverri says

    hey there, I have been following your blog for a couple of months now and enjoy reading it a lot. would you mind posting more about the book you got on adoption as you read it? are you guys thinking of adopting? my husband and I are beginning to think about adoption as well and I love to read and research anything I can about adoption right now. I have also been looking for a journal to start jotting down my thoughts and discoveries during this journey as well. thought it was neat to see something similar on your post!

  34. says

    I got food poisoning the night after Christmas…or at least I think thats what it was. I cried because my stomach hurt so bad. I couldn’t imagine I had anything left in my body after 4 hours of tourture. Hope you are feeling better. I’m definately hittin’ the hay after work today for some more sleep.

    PS- those sneaky gifts are always the best!

  35. says

    I am reading The Brain that Changes Itself at the moment! It is such a great read and makes me think over and over how wonderfully we are made by God.

    Hope you’ll feel back to normal soon Layla.

  36. says

    ♪♪♫♪ ♪♪♫♪ :II ♫ Start spreading ♫ the NEWS ♫♪♪♫♪ ♪♪♫♪ It’s going to be a GREAT year in 2011!! ♪♪♫♪ ♪♪♫♪

    All the best to you Layla in the upcoming NEW year!
    xo Lynda

  37. Josey says

    Hello Layla – even from a single photo I can tell that Kelly’s place will be impressive. I actually have a question about/for Kelly: What paint color (brand and color name) is the exterior? My husband and I have been struggling to choose a paint color for our house of 2 years FOR 2 years and this looks very much like what we’ve been describing to the paint mixers, but always end up with something more olive or more grey. If she’s willing to share this color information, or you happen to know it, I’d be so appreciative!

    Hope you’re feeling better – I know how much that sucks. Happy Holidays to you and your little (growing) family!


    • kelly says

      Hi Josey! This is Kelly. Layla was wanting the paint color name when she was here too. It is called Pelham Gray (grey?) made by Martin Seynour. I know it doesn’t look like a gray, but that is its name. We tried a zillion samples before deciding on this one. It is an opaque stain if I remember correctly, but still comes out looking like paint. Glad you liked the sneak peek photo. Wish Layla would could do more of them. I’m dying to see what they do with all the photos!

      • Josey says

        Kelly – Thank you so much! I can totally relate to the “zillion samples” because that’s where we are (and have been for far too long). As soon as I saw your sneak peek photo, I believe I said out loud “that’s it!” Now I’m going to push my luck – how about that trim color? The color is so rich ad from your photo it doesn’t seem to look like a pure white, but a more subtle white. Am I right? This is the first I’ve even heard of Martin Seynour. I’m up in New England, so if I can’t find a retailer here that carries MS, I’ll have to call around and ask for some retailer elsewhere to send me a paint chip or give me the formula. Ugh – you don’t know how happy you’ve made me! I can’t wait to try a sample on the garage (which has literally been 7 colors so far). I have to mention, LOVE, LOVE, LOVE the board and batten look on the porch too – even from a snippet, you seem a decorating genius!

        • Kevin & Layla says

          Hey Josey!
          She IS a decorating genius, and we can’t wait to try out her paint colors too! :-)


          • kelly says

            Y’all are making me blush! No genius here – just a do-it-yourself-er with an angel for a husband. Josey I hate to disappoint you, but the trim IS a pure white – Benjamin Moore Moorglo in Brillliant White. We originally painted the house a beachy gray, and I wanted the trim bright white for it – didn’t change it when we changed the body color. If you can’t find the Martin Seynour brand, the porch ceiling is a Valspar paint from Lowes called Lydhurst Timber. Although it is not a perfect match, it is close (and I have used it some on the interior too.) Hope these work for you!

  38. says

    Layla, I am so sorry to hear about your food poisoning episode. I had been poisoned once with chicken and when I tell you I was praying to die, I’m not kidding. I have never been that violently ill in my life and pray it will never happen again. No one deserves that. Take care.

  39. says

    By the look of the books you chose, I’m guessing you might be a fan of the Life Today show with Betty and James Robison?? I’ve seen both of those authors on their show and am hoping to read them.
    Thanks for sharing :)

  40. says

    Great post! (except the food poisoning part) :( Glad you’re feeling better and hooray for weight loss…if there can be a silver lining to food poisoning, I guess that’s it. Hope you felt well enough to eat your chocolate! ;)
    Can’t wait to see what the new year holds for you…prayerfully by next Christmas you’ll be a family of three!
    Love ya much!

  41. Mindi says

    Sure hope you are feeling better! Love, love, love your blog! My family thinks I am crazy because I talk about it so much – we are a bunch of wanna be artists/decorators! By the way – we traveled all around Georgia for Christmas and hear there is an awful virus going around. Of course I don’t know for sure but you may have had that, especially if Kevin ate the pizza and was ok. Oh, I bet you are thinking I work at or am related to someone who works at/owns Pappa John’s – NO WAY. It still could have been the pizza – I just hope you have a speedy recovery! Gotta go, my daughter is not feeling very well, uuuggghhhh….

  42. Bethany says

    Jan Karon will bless your soul. I love her books and just re-finished Shephards Abiding – I read it every Christmas. A great gift!

  43. says

    last year around the 1st I started one of the 365 projects. (where you take a picture a day for a full year) I wanted to document our adoption journey as well as our day to day life for future children. I think it will be so neat to look back on and see the year that started off as being delayed in the adoption process, getting approved, and then going to pick up our baby! Who would have thought that in one year so much would happen in the adoption process and I am so so thankful I have that documented for the future.

  44. says

    So happy for you and your hopes to adopt! We adopted our daughter at birth two years ago and she is our dream come true!! :) It’s a long hard process but worth it for sure!

  45. Kristi says

    Just found your site…and I love the pictures and ideas I’m getting!! Thank you! I’ll add, as well, that we are a family blessed by adoption. It is definitely a journey. One I would do over and over again. The blessing is the greatest gift I’ve ever known. It is often a hard journey…and not for the faint of heart. We were in the delivery room and have taken care of our daughter every second of her life on earth. Nothing could be sweeter. I see that many have commented about starting to pursue adoption…besides the wonderful books out there, there is an adoption forums you can google…and it is a wealth of information and support as you are starting to decide and research. Lots of support while you are waiting. Lots of information from all sides of the adoption triad–birthparents, adoptive parents, and adoptive children. Blessings and prayers for you!

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