Merry Christmas, from some lumber jacks and a yeti!

Ho, Ho, Ho!
Merry Christmas and tis the season to all!

Can you believe Christmas Eve is here? I barely can! I have to admit, having let the Christmas blues hit me once or twice in the last few weeks (stress about gifts/money, forgetting the reason for the season), I am feeling very repentant and humbled. Christmas is about being close to those you love most (call me Seuss!), serving, loving, and remembering one little Christ Child who was brought into the world to save us all.
From the little couch where I sit typing this I can see the whole stretch of our cluttered little cottage. I should wrap this up and finish wrapping and perhaps vacuum up the loose pine needles around the tree, but instead I think I will share the first official, Smith family Christmas card!

I have to give full, undivided credit to Mr. Preston Smith for the theme. He dreamt it up clear back at the end of October and made sure we had everything necessary to pull it off (say hello to the new family axe and hatchet). 

I recommend taking the time for Christmas cards to everyone! I mean, who doesn't love receiving mail, especially mail scattered with cute pictures and kind holiday greetings?!
A small bit of advice I feel justified to offer is: Don't let pictures stress you out, whether they be Christmas card photos, or family photos. Enjoy your self and truly be happy, don't try to fake it! People love receiving photos of the ones they love. 
I know we do!

I love knowing that this is just the beginning and we will be seeing many more of these sweet things in the years to come! 

Merry Christmas all! May you find true happiness in celebrating this wonderful time of year. 
Love, the Smiths
+ this yeti we spotted up at Brighton last night o:


Burly Fellow

Anyone who knows Preston knows at least two things:
1. He is extremely creative
2. He is a Burly Fellow

The sweet combination of these two common Presto-facts has resulted in a very cool business opportunity. Now, with his own Etsy shop, appropriately titled 'Burly Fellow', showcased are the classy, organizational school-tool of the 21st century for the masterfully stylish…… (drum roll please) …… the Briefcase Backpack!
 Another thing many a good friend may know about Preston is that he loves his thrift shops - DI & Savers are like toy stores to him. In high school he came upon a pretty cool looking briefcase and while reasoning with himself whether or not it would make sense to purchase, the idea of using the 1990s-businessman's best friend at school came to mind. Not in the way it was designed though, in a new, innovative, hands free way.
Boy made his first prototype as a senior in high school and has rocked that thing all the way to the present day. He has constructed a handful for good friends and even had a booth at the Craft Lake City fair in Salt Lake one summer. Many a people were impressed and intrigued with the reinvented briefcase and his booth was a great success!
Since then the backpack making got put in the corner, gathered dust, and was almost forgotten, not to be awaken until the half dozen unfinished packs were evicted from their current place of storage (parents..).
Now they are back and revamped with cleaner, more sturdy design and are the perfect gift for the person on your list that likes the unique+vintage+cool.

Check out his shop here
If you are interested and are a Utah/SLC native, give me a shout out and shipping costs can be waived with the good old fashion shady craigslist-eqsue meet up!

Happy Christmas - 8 days and counting !!!

xoxo Amanda


Hot + Sweaty

On the first Monday in December, my dear friend Alyssa and I decided to beat the cold and try our hand (and flexibility, and strength) at Bikram Yoga. If you have never heard of Bikram, it is sometimes refer to as 'hot yoga' or 'sweat your ____ off yoga".

The class is held in the 'hot room' (typically 105 degrees) and the series consist of 26 poses, most of which you do twice in the 90 minutes of class time. If you have not done yoga before, 'yoga breathing' might weird you out at first. I mean, the first breathing exercise sounds like a choir of dementors..

I have done yoga here and there over the years, I really enjoy when I do it, but have never been very persistent. Going into Bikram I wasn't sure what to think, part of me expected it all to come fairly easy, and the other part was actually very nervous. Well, when Monday morning came around Alyssa and I went into the studio early to register and pay. We found ourselves in a beautiful studio, light and minimalist, accompanied by friendly staff, complimentary water and ice (the best kind of ice) and a lovely bathroom/locker room with complimentary showers equipped with body wash, shampoo and conditioner.
As we got set up in the hot room, our instructor was good to remind us to take it easy and to watch the other students around us before trying some of the more difficult postures ourselves. "Its ok to sit out of some postures, I was on my knees for half of my first Bikram class" our instructor told us. I thought, sure, she is just saying that to be nice. Well. This girl was indeed on her knees 60% of that first class.
I was experiencing the fuzzy, white, twinkly vision that accompanies becoming dizzy and overwhelmed by heat all at once. Rest assured, this only happened the first time, and I attribute it to not having drank enough water before class. Now I am completely fine as long as I drink no less than 32 oz of agua before class.
after only a couple classes alyssa has almost mastered the standing stick pose - dumb dancers :P

As of now, Alyssa and I have been 14 days in a row, so naturally we decided we'd better go for the 30 challenge. Students who attend class for 30 days straight get excelled flexibility, strength and a FREE t-shirt, and who doesn't love a free t-shirt (especially one that declares your exhausting 30-day dedication)?!

And guess what guys. Preston is shooting for the 30 day challenge too! He on his fourth day and loving it!

If you are in the Utah county area and interested in trying it out click here.
I would suggest getting their intro pass, a whopping $21 for 21 classes (which is sssssssssignificantly cheaper than the monthly passes, and it's a great way to try it out without too much commitment).
If you try it and love it, Brick Canvas is doing a special Yoga Buddy promotion right now, you can check that out here (it's a pretty good deal)!
If you are in the Salt Lake county area, good news, they have a sister studio located in Sugarhouse!


On the brain, as of late

December is here. It's HERE, & it's almost been here one whole week!
I hope everyone had a happy, healthy, loving and lovely Thanksgiving. We did. Breakfast with Prestons parents, siblings and their cute kids and dinner with my mothers extended family. Technically, this was our 'first married Thanksgiving' (we were eating tacos and honeymoonin' in Mexico last year), and it was what I consider, perfect.

This past week, a couple things have been circulating in my mind, non-stop.

A) Technology, technology, technology.
 I realize I am not the first to make the connection, or admit to the fact that technology is addicting, that at times, I literally feel addicted to my phone. I am embarrassed to think of how many times a day I check social media. I am embarrassed to think of how many seconds, minutes, hours of my time is wasted this way. Don't you dare get me wrong, I love the Insta, and I love browsing Pinterest, and I don't think either are the bad guys here. With my time spent wisely I feel content seeing the beautiful/funny/interesting/cute/thoughtful photos posted by friends, family and unique vendors that I follow. I feel equally content pinning clever/pretty/food-related/crafty/helpful pins for now or later.
I am not a hater of social network, it can be used in the best of ways.

I guess what part A is getting at is that I want to find the right balance with technology. I want to be more PRESENT when with friends, family, and especially with my husband. Heck, even myself! There is just too much importance in physical, real life, here and now conversations, mediation or just plain taking-it-all-in.

In that same token I am happy to have the technology to keep in touch with loved ones and acquaintances. I am happy to have imdb.com so Preston and I can learn everything we can about the movie/show we are watching/finished. I am happy the church has utilized technology in a way that allows us gospel information at our finger tips (so awesome now that I have a calling, I can have my primary lesson book right on my phone, whata-what). I am happy to have a 'insta-life-tracker' that I can look back on on what I felt was 'important' enough to share (sometimes important translates to 'I'm bored, I  wonder how many likes this will get' - am I the only one who has done that? A little embarrassing but it feels good to get it out). But really, I do like 'stalking' my own feed every now and then to see what mine and Preston's life in pictures looks like.

Technology is good, at the right time, in the right place. Moderation. Moderation in all things.

This one.. This one has been haunting me.. I feel like I have been fighting the 'I want, I want, I want' bug for days now and it. is. hard! It is hard because I finally realized how much I don't like this unhappy, ungrateful person the 'I want' persistency had created. 

I look around at the cute little house my grandparents are renting to us, that they have put lots of work and concern into to ensure our comfort. I see my handsome husband, he's making me my favorite green smoothie in our perfectly good blender before we hit yoga class at the gym that we have monthly passes to (that Preston frequents and I should frequent more). I see this little life we have together, pictures, books, open and unorganized drawers of clothes, shoes strewn about, my little plants on the windowsill, our warm jackets and good snow boots, our cars getting covered with snow outside.. I have so much. I, HAVE SO MUCH!  Yet, why, oh why do I let myself feel like I am missing out on something? Why do I need new this, or a new that, and more of this, and a new pair of those, when I already have all those things, when I already have more than I need? 

I am definitely not against getting something new. I have really appreciated the times I have planned out, worked hard and budgeted for the things that I want. What has freaked me out is when I realized this problem and that with it my 'want' list was growing, while my 'thankful' list was beginning to shrink.. and that is just no way to live!

Guess what. Very shortly after I pin-pointed this 'want, want, want' issue, a quote came up on my insta feed (see, technology/social media can be so great after all ): 
"Do not spoil what you have by desiring what you do not have. 
Remember that what you now have was once among the things you only hoped for."

Maybe the holidays and being with family and friends a lot more has sparked this need for change within myself. I hope to focus more on 'being present' and more on giving and gratitude.

To finish off, with a slightly unrelated note..
 One positive thing I have been more mindful about lately is that of my health. This week I have been enjoying some stinkin' awesome yoga (I will talk about that more later) and getting re-motivated to focus on eating clean.

A sweet family friend of ours, Carina, lent us a bounteous stack of cook books a month or so ago (a month?! they are currently sitting in my car waiting to be returned - whoops!) with this common 'clean eats' theme. Many of them being vegetarian/vegan. I have looked/read through them all a couple times and I think my favorite book was one by Gweneth Paltrow called It's All Good (which isn't vegetarian, but it's full of clean-eats and gluten-free).

This same friend, (she knows how interested Preston and I are into health) recommended we watch a couple documentaries, one being Forks Over Knives (guys, it's on netflix)! The premise, a look at America and it's food history, eating habits, and what the cause of all these crazy health conditions our country has been facing could be - the two major concerns being animal consumption and processed foods.
I found it seriously, so interesting!
I really liked this counter-comparison of eating clean/vegetarian/vegan to how many Americans get gastric bypasses every year:
"Despite the apparent success of th[is] dietary approach, some critics say eating this way is extreme.
Now, with the western diet, this guarantees there's going to be what, a half a million people in this country this year who will have to have the front half of their body divided, their heart exposed, then veins will be taken from their leg and sewn on their heart. Some people would call that extreme." -Forks over Knives
I don't know that I will be completely eliminating meat or animal by-products from my diet (I already naturally limit them anyway), but I have definitely been re-motivated to research and know my foods better - get them from a sustainable, clean source and to enjoy more plants based foods and stay away from ominous processed foods.

If you are still with me, I seriously applaud you. It's been one great spew of self improvements, gratitude with a little bit o' health soapboxing if you ask me!

So there you have it! Life is about making changes for the better and doing/learning/enjoying what you love. 

Amanda Kaye
ps. Please do share if you have any advice for problems A-B or comments/quesions/recommendations about 'C' - I hear The China Study is another great source for this information, have you read it?


Mountain Country

It happened. Preston and I have season passes, for the first time.. since high school!
Guys, God is good, and so is snow.

Yesterday was our first day back on the mountain. Snowboarding is always like riding a bike for me, except I hardly get nervous to jump back onto a bike than I do to strap my feet back into my bindings, but the nerves are always followed by sheer content as I realize I haven't forgot how to carve and won't have to plow down the whole run (:
For Christmas last year I got Preston and I a couple day passes for Brighton, so last year was the first time I had ever experienced all that Brighton has to offer, in the daylight (we frequented their night riding in high school, it's the best in around). I discovered as Preston already knew, that the 'back country riding' (which to me is any riding we do that is not on a groomed path) was magical! This kind of riding is the most exhausting but most rewarding to me and the day we tried it out at Brighton the trees looked 1000 feet tall and glittery snow was sailing down with every small wave of wind. Amazing.
Now, the snow is still fresh right now and back country was a little less magical and a little more iffy due to the yet-to-be-covered trees and rocks, but give mother nature a week or two more and my only worries will be dodging full-on trees and not so much the underlying jagged rocks and branches of death.


Goodness gracious, I had the greatest realization of what having a season pass really means.. for Preston, it means unlimited riding any day of the week, whenever we can! But for me, for me it means that I-don't-have-to-worry-about-getting-my-moneys-worth-from-one-expensive-day-pass, so if my legs become jello and are on the verge of giving in, I can sport a clear conscience at the end of the day about my decision to sit in the lodge to read or in the car to catch a cat-nap while Presto finishes up the last few runs. jooooooy.

You're absolutely welcome!
Thank you Nic and Shayla for inspiring us to get passes this year (:

PS. Other grand happenings this week:
Monday, after a delicious weekly homemade meal by our landlords (my grandparents) our friend Kyle invited us to go climbing at The Quarry (they have a good deal for families on Monday nights) which I had not done in so long!! We mostly boldered since that is our favorite thing to do at the climbing gym and it was good.. but slightly frustrating for me!! I am always frustrated when I am out of practice and not accomplishing what I did before. Good thing Preston is always with out fail Mr. Positive and pretty much told me to relax and have a good time regardless of what I could/could not do.. umph.. (:
Tuesday we got to have two wonderful friends, Elliot and Tizzy over for a delicious healthy dinner. I feel that I am going to become a master of disguising vegetables thanks to our sweet friend, miss picky-pants (:(:(: (I am getting good practice cooking for the picky kids Preston and I refuse to have :P). Afterward we went bowling and just had the greatest time. 
Wednesday was Wonderful! Wonderful Wednesday! Now, I am making an couple little mental notes with this little week update: a) I probably need to post more regularly to avoid crunching all this information into one post b) documentation, documentation, documentation! I have no photos from these past great nights, and I am a photo loving fool! Ughh!
Anyway, I'll work on that. Back to Wonderful Wednesday! 
Both my parents have birthdays coming up, mother on the 24th of November and father on the 2nd of December. Preston and I very successfully surprised them with an early-birthday-date-night venture to see the Trans Siberian Orchestra at the ESA! Guys, this was the best because I don't know about anyone else out there but dads, DADS are the hardest to surprise/gift! At least, thats how I feel about my sweet dad. But man, he was so surprised and excited, it was the best reaction I have ever witnessed, and that was just the beginning of a completely perfect night.
Ok, I do have at least one picture to show for! TSO was amazing. The Tillotsons and Smiths are huge, Christmas music fans (Dad has a Christmas playlist housing something like 500 songs) and this is Christmas music on straight rock-steriods! It's rock and roll meets a heart felt Christmas message (I did tear up at one or two points in the show, but I am an emotional bomb with the likes of The Lion King, so…), I think it's safe to say Trans Siberian Orchestra has become a Pre-Christmas tradition! 
Wrapping things up..
From Brighton resort we headed into Salt Lake, did a spiffy clean up/clothing change in the City Creek Harmons bathroom (has anyone been to that Harmons? It is, dare I say it, the most beautiful grocery store I have ever seen!) and headed out west to Grantsville, Utah. No sir, I definitely had never heard of Grantsville let alone known there was anything that side of the Great Salt Lake. What took us out there was a yummy dinner and an awesome visit with a wonderful couple, Kamilla and Richard and their sweet baby boy Dakota. These guys are the coolest and are pretty much living examples of the kind of parents and people Preston and I want to be! Also, we are now fans of Grantsville/the whole small town feel. 
Also, also, we are now itching for a puppy, a baby, and a house (geeshe, thanks guys)! 


The Greatest 365 days +

anniversary |ˌanəˈvərsərē| noun
a date that is remembered or celebrated because a special or notable event occurred on that date in a previous year.

What better way to get back into the spirit of blogging than to gush about year 1 of marriage?

          This first year has brought us so much adventure and just the right amount of challenges (the good kind, that help you learn and grow - all challenges are good ones in our book). From a tropical honeymoon and road trips to Washington, to traveling Asia - we have been so outrageously blessed to have had the experiences we have this young into our marriage. I know I will always cherish memories from living with Preston in a foreign country for four months. I know I will always adore the exploration dates we would go on and laugh about the crazy circumstances we would find ourselves in. I will never forget the sights we saw, the people we met and grew close to, or the experiences had all within the first few months of marriage.

    I think I have always taken for granted the fact that I get to work side by side in the family business with Preston. It's a funny thing telling people that you and your husband manage a haunted house, but I find comfort in knowing that it is the most exciting and interesting job you could ask for! It has been a complete blessing working as a team because lets face it, he handles stress and chaos significantly better than I do (this is usually where the 'things always turn out better than you think they will' speech comes in). He is always, ALWAYS, so upbeat about work - and never, ever complains about the long hours or the strenuous manual labor, he totally keeps me in check and reminds me constantly how good we have it! What a guy he is! I know we have both learned so very much working together.

          Along with celebrating year one of marriage, we got to celebrate our fifth year of dating a couple days ago earlier (November 12th). 

    I met Preston when I was a senior in high school and he, a junior (call me a coug). I was so completely intrigued by Preston, he was so unlike any guy I had ever dated! He was so sweet and terribly funny and treated me like gold. I instantly fell in love with is outlook on life, he has always (always) had a resounding air of positivity about him. This was first illustrated to me by his life motto, 'things always turn out better than you think they will' (guess what, this is tried and true - and they do)!

     Another thing easy to fall in love with was Preston's love for his family. Pretty quickly after we started dating, Preston started inviting me to his big once-a-month family home evening with his moms side. I felt right at home with his huge family (both my dad and his mom have eleven siblings - whoa) and adored watching him play with all his little cousins. It became apparent very early on how important family was to him, and even at 17 I couldn't help but think of what a cute father he would be one day. 
    *Side note - my family fell completely in love with Preston. We broke up once (for a very brief amount of time) and I couldn't tell who was most upset - me, or my mother! I am pretty sure that the night I announced we were engaged was the night that my siblings decided I wasn't so bad after all - seeing as they got to have Preston as a part of the family. My dad even loves Preston! This was really first illustrated after Preston came home alive, a few days after the engagement, from a motorcycling trip with Dad and the boys (:

    We always had (and still have) so much fun together. From sluffing school for snowboarding (sorry mom and Maurnie) to exploring our favorite antique shops on the regular. For awhile there, we spent every single moment together. After we recovered from our ooey-gooey, year-long, honeymoon-dating stage, our friends finally agreed to be around us again. Preston led us all on some very exciting photographic ventures leaving us with some lovely memories. We've been lucky with the friendships we have had throughout our relationship.

    Preston and I started talking about marriage early in our relationship. I know it is a miracle that we made it to where we are and that we definitely would not be here with out the challenges and obstacles we faced. I know for darn sure our relationship would not be anywhere near where it is now without having gone through those things. Isn't life funny in that way?
    When I look at Preston, I see a husband who is with out question, my very best friend. I see someone who knows me as well (or better) than I know myself. I see my biggest fan, and greatest advocate. Sometimes I think his mission in life is to get me to love myself as much as he loves me. I am forever thankful to his wonderful parents for instilling the attributes they did in him. You guys brought up such an amazing man. I have never known a sweeter,  more brilliant, or handsome human as Preston James Smith.

    A lot of people like to say that the first year of marriage is the hardest. I like to think that marriage/dating/relationships in general - is what you make of it. What we have been able to make has been beautiful. It's been a year full of laughter, love, adventure, challenges and lessons put into good use. The memories we have made will be forever and ever cherished. 

    I love you with all I've got Preston!  Happy Anniversary, here's to seven-million more!



Tawau, East Malaysia

Friends. Family. We have been home just about a month and a half now!
Our blog seemed to slip off the face of the earth after we left our home in Zhongshan, China. After talking with so many cool people who actually read our little entries - and enjoy them, I decided to continue posting about our 'adventures', whether at home or abroad! Before I post about our current 'ventures', I think I will try finishing up our last few weeks of traveling Asia..

Saturday June 22nd, Preston and I stood at the bus stop facing our apartment. We were there with our sweet little coordinator Vicky, watching some of our teachers waving to us from the fourth floor. We were officially leaving!
While standing there waiting for the 003 bus, I may have been drying a teary eye, and just boggling over the fact that we had just come to an end of our stay in our beloved city. At this point, Preston and I had been a married couple in China longer than in America, for pete's sake! It was like this chapter in our life, starting mid February suddenly fast forwarded us to that point in time, at that bus stop, like it had been four days instead of four months! 
I know I will never forget the time we spent in China as newly weds. We learned even more about each other than we thought possible after being together nearly nonstop for the past four years! The things we learned from one another, the situations that brought us closer,  the memories we made and the friendships formed are completely invaluable to our marriage. Awe.  
When the bus finally arrived, we hugged Vicky and watched her waving all the way around the bend. Once we were out of Kaiyin city limits, I had a sudden change of emotions; suddenly we were on our way to another adventure! This time to:

                               >>>TAWAU MALAYSIA<<<
This included; 
two bus rides
one speed train,
one passing through the China/Macau border,
one flight from Macau to Kuala Lumpur,
one loooooooonnnnng layover (16 hours, hello airport campout,
and finally,  one last flight to Tawau, Sabah, East Malaysia

Why Tawau (pronounced; Tao-wow), you might ask? 
Why, to visit some really spectacular people related to my handsome husband.. Grandma and Grandpa Atkinson! 

Pam and Lloyd were just a week and a half away from finishing up their second LDS mission to the wonderful land of Malaysia when we came to visit - talk about good timing!
Pamela and Lloyd Atkinson: Parents of Prestons' amazingly, wonderful mother and ten of her crazy-fun siblings, grandparents to countless crazier grandkids, a few great-grandkids, and missionaries!
On the left: muslim masque
On the right: The bay

a hawaii inspired jig
Grandma and I shaking the bridge, Grandpa hanging out by the river while we swam in
Palm oil trees
A dragon fruit orchard
Monkeying around with Grandma Atkinson
The tree walk

 the most exciting people I know!
My jungle man
The worlds biggest rolli-polli/potato bug!

This photo was taking not long after pushing my husband in and jumping off rocks with Grandma A!
Trying to look as cute as our furry friends.. he succeeded 
Monkeys, everywhere! 
We LOVED the trees in Malaysia

twisty trees
tall trees

Whomping Willow-esque trees
Trees with crazy roots!

Although exploring the jungle, hiking to waterfalls, swimming in the rivers and seeing monkeys was the biggest blast, I think what Preston and I enjoyed the most about our time in Malaysia was the small look we got into the world of a missionary work
Visiting a sweet family that lived in the jungle
These cute kids sang us every primary song they knew, some in English, most in Malay (:

A surprise party for Elder & Sister consisting of cake, pop corn and performances by the kids from Gangham Style to primary songs (a family of thirteen! look at all eleven of those adorable kids)

A cute couple from the branch we got to hang out with a couple times
New found friends
Sometimes you just need an ice cream cone and a good ol' church film to end the day
is what Grandpa called the old Safari that him and Grandma drove for the last year and a half. 
This car is comparable to Mary Poppin's carpet bag; since many of the members live so far from the church building and often don't have the means for public transportation, Grandma picked up quite the crew every Sunday morning before Sacrament meeting started.

Nineteen little Malaysians and one little Pamela

We were lucky enough to be in Tawau for Pam and Lloyds last Sunday of their mission. It was an honor hearing their testimonies and feeling the incredible spirit that resides with their humble little branch. 

The experiences we had in Tawau will never be forgotten. Thank you Pam and Lloyd for your examples of missionary work and for allowing us the chance to visit a place we would have never thought of visiting! 

XOXOX - Amanda