Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Season's Greetings: A look back on 2008

Some of our mailing addresses were out-of-date, so if here's a copy of our Christmas letter in case yours didn't arrive!

We're writing to you with the 5th Annual Allen Christmas letter. 2008 has been another memorable year for us as we continue to enjoy this fun stage in our lives.

Our year started with the annual Frito-Lay marketing offsite in Miami. During the trip, Christine enjoyed winning the company "Rock Band" contest - full rocker outfit and all. We followed up the craziness of Miami with a relaxing trip to Puerto Vallarta where we enjoyed perfect weather and some incredible food. We loved the Westin there and although we generally prefer not to return to the same place twice, PV is definitely a place where we'll be back to at some point.

In March, we made a trip to visit Dana’s brother, Sam, in Hong Kong, where he’s been living for the past year. We were joined for this portion of the trip by Dana’s parents as well, turning the trip into a full family affair. Sam was a wonderful host, helping us to experience the energy of the city, the tailors of Kowloon, and the scenery and incredible seafood of neighboring islands. Christine & Dana then hopped over to Vietnam where we spent another 10 days, starting in Ho Chi Minh City (aka Saigon) and working our way north to Hanoi. The country was beautiful, the people friendly, and the islands of Halong Bay were breathtaking.

Back in the US, Dana found out that he was moving from Cheetos innovation to a new role - Frito-Lay's Multipack business (think small bags in bigger packages). Christine continued to work in Innovation and is currently working on the re-launch of Smartfood as a brand of smart treats for women (indulgent-tasting snacks with real nutrition). We've both enjoyed our roles this year and continue to love the people we work with at Frito-Lay.

Over the summer, we volunteered at church with their pre-marital program. We enjoyed meeting new people, helping them talk through different aspects of marriage, and also regrounding ourselves in the traits of a successful marriage.

Christine has several new hobbies this year. First, our many weddings were replaced this year with many baby showers. She is now an expert at shopping for baby gifts and planning showers if you need any advice! Second, Christine has taken her running beyond basic fitness and this year completed her first 10k, followed shortly thereafter by a 15k for good measure. Also, to celebrate her 32nd birthday, Christine recruited several friends to join her for trapeze lessons to check that off her "life list."

This year we spent Thanksgiving in Michigan with Christine's sister, Ana, who just moved to Birmingham. A highlight was taking our niece to see the Rockettes holiday show. For Christmas, we're excited to travel to Belize with Dana's family!

We wish you a memorable and blessed holiday season. Love, Christine & Dana

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Back from Belize....

We're back! The trip was AMAZING. More details to come soon : )

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Belize here we come!

We leave for Belize in just over 24 hours. We're really looking forward to 8 days of R&R with the Allen family!

Monday, December 15, 2008

A holiday weekend in New York City

We've been wanting to get back to NYC for a festive holiday weekend for a long time, so this past weekend we had a blast catching up with old friends in the city and doing a lot of touristy things.

Highlights include a romantic carriage ride in Central Park, meeting Jason Frank's wife Jenny (Jason was a close friend of mine in college), seeing Jerry's fashion studio (FORM) in Soho (Jerry is Dana's fraternity brother and a very successful clothing designer - check out "FORM" when you get a chance) and getting my first luxury designer clothing, listening to live music at a very cool venue with Jane, Adam, Kristie & Carol, holiday shopping at Bryant Park with Shannon & Joe (all incredible friends from Kappa or Hilton Head summers), and so much more!

Monday, December 8, 2008

Community Group Christmas Party

A fun-filled night of Ryan's special pasta recipe, a white elephant gift exchange and lots of Dance, Dance Revolution!

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Such a fun Saturday!

Yesterday was such a fun day! The girls in my community group spent the morning helping Stephanie create wedding bouquets for her sister-in-law's wedding. At first it was really stressful since none of us had ANY experience, but I think they turned out great. I made the "toss" bouquet, which was a totally new concept to me (making an extra bouquet to give away to the person who catches it).

After that I went to the mall to do Christmas shopping. Normally I avoid the mall when I know it will be crowded, but there was so much fun stuff going on! Nintendo was giving out free massages, Chick-fil-A was giving out free Peppermint Chocolate milkshakes, and there was a red carpet event where I got my makeup done by a professional and a free goodie bag of hair and makeup stuff.
Later that evening we went to a holiday party at my manager's house. It was beautiful and we won this cool digital picture keychain. This time we had to match people up with their favorite holiday memories. Dana's favorite memory is his mom stashing cookie dough in the fridge for him and his brother when she made holiday cookies. Mine is the year Santa came early and surprised us on just a random day because we were spending Christmas at Disney.

Friday, December 5, 2008

The days we really love our job...

Dana and I were in training together this week and it was honestly incredible! One of our VPs taught a marketing class that she created, and I felt like I learned more in 3 days than I did during all of business school. She's so inspiring. We had a ton of fun talking through case studies on brands such as Barbie, American Girl, BMW, Axe, Mountain Dew, Red Bull, Cadillac and Playboy. Dana won a $150 gift certificate to a nice dinner as a prize for drawing the best superhero - another fun assignment : )

Yesterday we stopped by Sondra and TJ's after class and enjoyed catching up over wine since we haven't seen them in forever. Sondra just completed a marathon and is in incredible shape. Tonight we caught up with Janelle, Michael and baby Maya over wine and pecan pie. Janelle loved the stuff we had made for Maya at Lizzie Rivers! My friend Ashley is really doing great things with her business.

We have a VERY busy rest of the weekend ahead... but more on that later!

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Good for a Laugh...

My 4 year old niece is learning how to make videos. She did this on her own when we weren't looking and it cracks me up!!!

Thanksgiving Traditions

I have a fun Thanksgiving tradition of meeting up with 2 of my Accenture girlfriends who I met while living in Atlanta after college. It's so wonderful to catch up each year!
This year marked our 10 year anniversary of meeting each other and our 4 year anniversary of meeting up in Dallas each year to catch up. Kelli (Carson) McKee lives in Gulf Shores and now has a baby named Carson who is such a cutie and Betsy is doing great in Atlanta. We're hoping to have a "reunion" of our old crew in Atlanta next May or June!

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Thanksgiving Gluttony & the Rockettes

We really need to step it up with our blog updates! Time just seems to be flying by... We've been in Michigan since last Wednesday. The first few days we were doing MBA recruiting back at the University of Michigan. It was very cool to see the new, ultra-modern business school (since we graduated they have started a huge renovation project).

On Friday we headed to Birmingham, MI where Christine's sister now lives with her family. Since then we've been busy cooking up a storm, shopping for xmas presents, remembering how to drive in the snow and getting in quality time with our nieces.

A few special highlights include going back to the awesome church we used to attend in Ann Arbor (New Life) to visit old friends and see their new building, participating in gymnastics class with the girls and seeing the Rockettes perform their famous holiday show. We had incredible seats that fell into our hands at the last minute, so we were so happy it all worked out!

Monday, November 17, 2008

Great Times.... Great Friends

This weekend Christine was in West Palm Beach, Florida for Sara's bachelorette weekend. The weather was PERFECT and the Kappas enjoyed a relaxing time at Kate's beach house. Highlights included running along the beach with Shannon, seeing dolphins swim along the yachts right in Kate's backyard, and participating in a weekend of "Sara's Favorite Things" - a cute theme that her bridesmaids created that re-enacted Oprah's big giveaway shows - but with Sara's favorites of course.

Dana partied it up at Erol & Danielle's going away party (sadly, our good friends are moving to Boston) and then he got to see Hillary, Rachel & Bill (who were in town from Chicago) at brunch before everyone headed to Lindsay Daigle's wedding.

Sunday attended our first Thanksgiving party at the Keys. Our church small group got together for a wonderful meal! Lindsay's house looked incredible - just like a page out of a Martha Stewart magazine. Christine was happy to have her first eggnog of the season!

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Still enjoying the beautiful fall weather...

Baby Hottinger has arrived and she is such a cutie! Welcome to the world Maya Anderson!

Friday night Dana cooked Janelle, Michael and Chad dinner so that we could get in some quality time with the new baby and give mom & dad a rest.

Yesterday I created homemade spa treatments at Rhasheda's baby shower. I can't wait to try them out!

Last night we enjoyed some good wine and yummy jambalaya at the Leach's November bash. (Melanie is from Southern Louisiana and takes her Southern heritage very seriously) I spent a lot of time catching up with Padmini and her husband Raj and I feel like I learned a lot of interesting things about India. Great times!

Saturday, November 1, 2008

I love Halloween!

I absolutely love Halloween. I get such delight watching the little kids in our neighborhood all dressed up. We get a lot of trick-or-treaters so it's a total blast handing out candy. My favorite this year was this sweet little ladybug in a red tutu, black leotard and red dots. She was precious!

The weather has been absolutely gorgeous here lately so I had to be outside today. I woke up and did a 9-10 mile run. I was so proud of myself (since I still don't really like running)! I am considering doing a 10 mile run in Austin next weekend so I had to get ready... just in case.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Christine heads home to St. Louie

I seem to be traveling a lot for work lately and this week I had the good luck of being sent to St. Louis. Ironically, I had meetings 5 minutes from where I grew up! The meetings went great and I was able to spend some really wonderful quality time with my mother and grandfather. The highlights of my brief trip were 1) discovering that one of the people I was meeting with was the younger sister of one of my dear highschool friends (Jody Meyers) 2) meeting my grandfather's friend at the lavish retirement home he now lives in and finding out she's the spunky mother-in-law of a previous Pepsi CEO (we work for Pepsico) and 3) discovering that my sweet, sweet 93 yr. old grandfather has a secret subscription to Playboy. Astounding really. I'm not sure if I was more shocked because it seems so completely out of character for him or because he's 93 - but I thought it was pretty hilarious.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

iPhone Bliss

So much has happened in the last week that it's hard to believe that the whole Austin/Trapeze experience was just last weekend!

This past week Christine was in Chicago for a work photo shoot. She had a chance to catch up with Hillary, Rachel Fiely, LMJ-A and Jenny Young. Such fun! She also had an amazing dinner at this place called Moto that Dana had been to the week before when he was in Chicago for a different photo shoot. Moto is CRAZY! A food experience like no other... They call it molecular gastronomy and the chef uses lasers, liquid nitrogen and eclectic (a.k.a sometimes scary) ingredients to really wow you.

This weekend we've laid low and spent most of our time trying to figure out our new iphones. Today we had over the Hottingers, Scurlocks and Cavins for Dana's yummy brunch (homemade orange cinnamon rolls, pumpkin muffins, honey ginger fruit and egg casserole).

The weather was so beautiful this weekend (70s/80s and sunny) so it was hard to tear ourselves away to go see a movie tonight. We saw "Fireproof", a Christian movie with cheesy acting but a GREAT message about the importance of pursuing your spouse throughout your marriage. Christine basically balled her eyes out through the whole thing (which is common - even in Disney movies). The film was very inspiring!

Janelle's baby is due in 2 weeks and we can't wait!

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Celebrating Janelle's Birthday

A fun dinner with Kate, Kelley, Janelle & Michael at Breadwinners in honor of Janelle's birthday. It was free dessert night and we went a little nuts!

Flying High

This was definitely one of the coolest experiences of my entire life!

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Trapeze Rocked!

Trapeze lessons rocked! They were everything I dreamed they'd be and more. I can't wait to post pictures.

It was a BEAUTIFUL day (clear blue skies, perfect temperature) to be flying around. It was honestly the scariest thing I've ever done (even more so than skydiving and bungee jumping - both of which people can just push you and you fall so no thinking is required). Lauren, Cayce, Sara and I took the lesson while our other 8 friends watched and cheered us on. Sara was a natural! They even offered her a job. I seriously think she could do it for a living.

By the end of the lesson we were flying through the air, doing flips, hanging upside down and getting caught by a guy on another swing. Incredible! It was totally worth it and I'm thrilled to check it off my "life list".

It's finally time for Trapeze...

After months of waiting, our "trapeze lessons" weekend has arrived! This is part of a belated b-day celebration (yes I know my birthday was 7 weeks ago). We are in Austin this gorgeous weekend with 10 dear friends.

We're staying with Sara & James and last night we went to hear a live band play. Austin has incredible music, so it was fun to experience that. Today's the big day! Trapeze is this afternoon after lunch at the Oasis. More pictures to come soon..

Thursday, October 16, 2008

An unexpected snow day

Today our company went through some layoffs. A lot of it had to do inflation and the enormous impact it's had on our raw materials. As you know, food prices are skyrocketing!
The good news is that Dana and I were not impacted. You always get a little nervous even if you think that you're going to be okay, so it's a relief it's over. They closed our office for the day to allow those who were impacted time to clean out their offices, so we had a "snow day" essentially. I got a pedicure and a massage (it's "spa week" in Dallas so lots of good deals around....) and took an interior decorating class (with the b-day gift $ that Ron & Judy had given me)! The stress aside, it was a really fun day.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

So You Think You Can Dance

Last night we went to see the top 10 dancers from the TV show "So You Think You Can Dance" perform as they traveled through Dallas. They were truly incredible. I wanted to sign up for dance classes on the spot!

Today I was totally immersed in Book 4 of this "Twilight" series. It really is vampire crack. I can't put these books down! The only productive part of my day was getting to the gym to run 10K. I now am in this strange trend of not making it to the gym all week long and then punishing myself with a 10K every weekend.

Tonight we went out for a fun sushi dinner with Janelle and Michael. Their baby could come in just 3 weeks, so we needed to get in some quality adult time while we still could.

Tomorrow we are really excited to see the King Tut exhibit that is traveling through the country! Moorea and Samui gave Dana tickets for his birthday (since King Tut loved worshiped cats of course). I'm sure we'll learn a lot!

Monday, October 6, 2008

Pizza Making Party

Pizza making with our nieces!

Sunday, October 5, 2008

Visiting Family in San Francisco

What a weekend! After too much time apart, we finally made it out to California to see family. We hadn't seen our nieces since Christmas (which is crazy), so it was such a treat to reconnect with them, see my sister & brother-in-law and catch up with Dana's parents.

We celebrated 3 birthdays and 2 wedding anniversaries! Lots of blessings to be thankful for - and lots of time playing with the princesses : )

Sunday, September 28, 2008

What a weekend!

The Allens are all having such exciting weekends! Ron & Judy are off exploring Hawaii, including enjoying a helicopter ride on Kauai. Sam is watching the Formula 1 Race in Singapore. And we indulged in a once in a lifetime meal with friends at the Mansion on Turtle Creek.

As a treat for work well done, work sent us off to have dinner last night at a place of our choosing. So we choose the 6 course chef's tasting menu (which was really closer to a 9 course meal) at the Mansion. Nicole and Stan joined us for what was certainly an event we'll never forget! The experience was beyond anything I could have ever imagined - even some of the fanciest restaurants I'd had the chance to dine at in NYC didn't come close. I broke all of the rules on things I "won't eat" and even tried foie gras and oysters. Now I'm not saying that I'll eat them again, but I'm glad I tried them once. We had matched wines with every course but I'm such a light weight that I just ended up with a row of glasses across the table since I couldn't keep up. One of my favorites was "Divine Drippings", a sweet sake that they paired with our oysters.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Another shower for Baby Hottinger