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Month: December 2017

Ornament Swap 2017

Ornament Swap 2017

The annual Christmas Ornament Swap is a pretty big deal in the Taylor house. No matter where in the world we find ourselves, it seems to always be a very, shall we say, competitive part of our holiday season. When we are in the States our annual ornament swap is accompanied by a lovely dinner and a night away while our boys stay with grandparents. When we are overseas the Christmas date night consists of…

  • putting the boys to bed early
  • ordering take out

  • watching a Christmas movie by the light of the tree
  • and sharing a Double Doozie from the Great American Cookie Company that just so happens to  be in our city. #PTL

Ironically, it was a Double Doozie that made an appearance in our 2015 Ornament Swap.

The competition rules are simple. Find an ornament that reminds us of our year together, talk some trash to each other prior to the swap, open the ornaments and then let you all decide who was victorious. Winner gets bragging rights for 364 days.

Ornament #1 – My mother in law gave our family a day at Ski Dubai for Christmas. There was a pretty amazing Penguin Encounter included in the day’s festivities. Not only did we get up close and personal with a few penguins, we learned a lot of interesting facts.

Our personal favorite was that penguins mate for life. When a male penguin finds the female he wishes to spend the rest of his life with he searches for the perfect pebble and presents it to the female penguin. If she accepts the stone, the penguins bond for life. If she doesn’t accept, the poor pitiful penguin is left to find someone else. Sad.

Our new found penguin information quickly led us to start giving each other a stone at random times just  to say, “I love you.”  So it was only fitting that we add a penguin ornament to our Christmas tree.

Ornament #2 –  The majority of 2017 we were working to help get the doors open for a new functional fitness gym in our city. It was quite the ride to get the doors open, but very much worth it. The gym looks amazing. Guys are loving the fitness concept. And it is beginning to make an impact on our city.

Britten has been managing and training at the gym while I have helped coach the bootcamps on private compounds a few nights a week. So it goes without saying, RG Fit was a major part of our lives and definitely worthy of commemorating with a brand logo ornament.

So, now we take it to the people. All you have to do is cast your vote to help determine the 2017 Christmas Ornament Swap. Each vote will be tallied and the winner will be announced in the coming days.

Which ornament will take home bragging rights for an entire year?

Ornament 1: Pebble Penguin Love Birds

Ornament 2: Wooden Etched Gym Logo

Please cast your vote in the comments section below or by leaving a comment on the social media outlet of your liking.



I have a love/hate relationship with American holidays in the Middle East.

I adore them because of the simplicity. There is no commercialism, mass consumerism or expectation of what holidays are supposed to be. We are free to create traditions or customs based on what a holiday truly means to us and that can be a beautiful thing.

Holidays are also familiar. For some aberrant reason it feels “normal” to have a house full of people (even when they are from all over the globe) and make cornbread dressing with cornmeal you imported from the states. When everything about life feels foreign, you treasure the things that remind you of your home culture.

On the other hand, I usually get misty eyed at least once on all major holidays. I miss my family. I miss our friends. I miss the way we used to celebrate. I miss our old traditions. I miss being able to find the things I “need” to make the holiday special. (Full disclosure: I once cried because I make sausage balls every Christmas and now live in a country where pork is forbidden. I’m ashamed of my behavior.)

My compassionate husband goes out of his way to cheer me up when the holiday sadness sets in. This Thanksgiving was no different.

Thanksgiving is just another day here so that morning I headed to work.  Britten could see the sadness starting to rear its head so he picked me up that afternoon and said we were going out for Thanksgiving lunch. He then convinced us to say “The Thanksgiving” in front of everything we ordered. The only catch was you had to do it with a straight face and no laughing or smiling.

The boys nailed it as they politely ordered, “The Thanksgiving Nachos” and “The Thanksgiving Waffles.”

Britten had to fight off a smile as he asked our sweet waiter for the “Thanksgiving Eggs Benedict.”

I, on the other hand, could barely keep a straight face as I ordered the “Thanksgiving Sushi Roll” but it was impossible to fend off the giggles when I asked for a “Thanksgiving Diet Pepsi.” Laughter erupted across the table and all was right in the world.

Our amazing waiter didn’t miss a beat and even played along by serving each dish with, “The Thanksgiving” in front of it. Hearing our sweet Phillipino waiter say, “And who ordered the Thanksgiving Breakfast Bagel?” was a sweet spot in the day and a memory I will treasure for years to come.

The next day we hosted a traditional Thanksgiving Dinner complete with turkey, dressing and sweet potato casserole. The climax of the meal was when our friend from Zimbabwe said, “Can you explain to me how the food works?” You can’t comprehend the joy of introducing someone to turkey, dressing, gravy and cranberry sauce for the first time.

The guys competed for the coveted Thanksgiving Weigh-In Trophy. Each guy weighed before dinner and again after. The person that gained the most weight took home the trophy. I’m still not sure how it happened but our South African friend Garreth took home the trophy with a weight gain of seven pounds.

We ended the night with an amusing round of White Elephant, a tradition that’s been in our family for over ten years. Each person brings a gift that they no longer want or need. It can be a re-gift, something you no longer need, something that no longer fits or something you just don’t want. The only rule is you can’t spend money on your gift. We took home a vegetable peeler and a Chia Pet. Winning.

Our holidays are different every year depending on where we live and the diversity of the people that are near. But one thing remains the same, when the last guests leaves and the door is closed tight, my heart is full to overflowing for the friends the Lord has brought into our lives and the special times we celebrate together.