Thursday, December 29, 2011

Year-in-Review (warning: lots of words to follow!)

I’ve been sort of been MIA lately. Truth is, I don’t have a good excuse, especially considering I’m currently on day 7 of an 11-day break from work. I haven’t left town. I haven’t completed any big projects (unless you count cleaning my house and putting away Christmas presents, because in my opinion, that is a big project). Yet somehow I still haven’t found the time to blog. But I make no apologies. My un-plugged break was much needed, especially considering I’ve had a bit on my mind lately. I’ve sort of been stumped, stifled, dry. But today it’s come back to me. The inspiration, the motivation, the urge to write!

And I don't think I can let the end of December come and go without doing the quintessential “year-in-review” post. It’s quite crazy, when you really think about it, how much life can change in a single year. 365 days. 525,600 minutes (according to a song from one of my favorite plays. In fact, that song is so appropriate at this very minute – go listen to it!). One year ago and here I sit, a changed person in many ways but still very much the same.

Let’s review, shall we?

In January I was featured in Shape magazine and our local newspaper for my weight loss journey. Hard to believe that was already a year ago! Somedays the routine of working out and trying to eat “healthy” gets old. Then I re-read these things and remember why I do it, and it re-energizes me. Hoping for continued motivation and new ways to push myself in 2012!

February was an interesting month. I turned another year older, but my birthday coincided with a stressful time at work (layoffs, high workload, lots of fun stuff). I did start to write down my “love story” with Sean, which gave me a whole new appreciation for the relationship we have today. We can’t forget that the beloved Green Bay Packers also won the Super Bowl!

In March I took the trip of a lifetime with my mom to take care of some family business. We spent the week working hard, but it was an unforgettable experience for both my mom and me.

Who can forget the Royal Wedding in April? A fun experience to witness, even if it was from thousands of miles away, snuggled in bed in the wee hours of the morning. More notably, April marked the second anniversary of Sean’s dad’s death. It still feels like a punch in the stomach to say it, as though I’m learning it again for the first time. April will forever be marked by that memory, but hopefully one day it will get easier to bare.

And then there was May. The first 27 days were probably great in their own rights, but May 28 certainly steals the show. That was the day, after 6 and a half years together, Sean asked me to marry him. Still makes me smile just thinking about it!

June was jam-packed. Sean’s brothers graduated (we were only able to attend his youngest brother’s ceremony). We had a dessert-themed party for his youngest brother. We started making wedding plans. And we celebrated Sean’s birthday (along with our soon-to-be wedding date)!

In July we had a relaxing holiday weekend. Later that month we celebrated our engagement with our friends who threw us a lovely party!

We had our second-annual golf tournament in honor of Sean’s dad in August—another beautiful day and a wonderful event. We also took a trip to visit 2 of my favorite friends in Madison, followed by our (hopefully) annual trip to our friend’s cabin—one of my very favorite weekends of the entire year. We of course made our yearly trip to the Minnesota State Fair and closed out the month with a fun, co-ed baby shower for 2 of our dearest friends.

September was rather quiet, but good times were still had. The month also marked the 10-year anniversary of 9/11…very hard to believe.

My favorite moment of October has to be the birth of my best friend’s daughter. Charlotte’s much-anticipated arrival came a whole week late but not a minute too soon. She’s perfect in every way and I love her to pieces! October was busy in lots of other ways, too. We attended our marriage retreat, made our annual trip to the apple orchard and pumpkin patch, took our engagement photos, and spent a blissful weekend with family when Sean’s brother and his girlfriend came to town.

Of course November is known for Thanksgiving. I also celebrated post-Thanksgiving with a very memorable late-night/early-morning shopping trip with my mom and sister. Unfortunately, November also marked the second round of layoffs in a year at work. This time we lost even more friends and colleagues, a tough day with lasting effects for those of us still there.

And now there's December. We spent some quality time with family and friends, and decorated the house with Christmas spirit (and after all that work, no one even saw it but us!). I contemplated some significant changes, but in the end came to a decision that was difficult but felt entirely right. And then there was Christmas. I never got around to writing about it, but we had a wonderful holiday with lots of family time.

So here we are, teetering on the verge of a new year, with both wonderful and not-so-wonderful memories behind us in 2011. I think 2012 is going to be a good year. There will be challenges and obstacles for sure, but also joy and opportunity and love. I’m excited just thinking about everything that is ahead of us. I wonder what this post will look like this time next year?

Wishing all of you a safe and happy New Year—with a blessed 2012 to follow!

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays

From our family to yours, we wish you a very merry Christmas and the happiest of New Years.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Thinking about change

“Change is good.”

Not sure where exactly the phrase comes from but you hear it all the time. Whether it’s the truth or simply intended to be something you can repeat over and over again until you actually believe that change is indeed good, I’m not sure. Or maybe it’s both?

Regardless, it’s not my point here. In fact, I’m not sure I have a point. But let’s just go with it, see where this road is going.
So anyway. Change.

To be honest, it scares me sometimes. I tend to be a creature of habit. A lover of familiarity. A firm believer in, “if ain’t broke (meaning seriously shattered and unfixable), don’t fix it.”

But that isn’t always the best way to be, is it? Sometimes you have to take big risks to get big rewards. And sometimes you have to take big risks to learn big lessons (from big mistakes). Wouldn’t it be nice if you could tell the difference ahead of time?

I tend to be a worrier so I probably stress a little more about change—or the possibility of change—than I should. I’m trying to be better about having faith in my decisions, trusting my gut, and doing what feels right.

In the end, change will likely work out in its own way. It becomes the new routine, the new normal. Or it leads you to discover things you never knew about yourself. Or if you’re lucky, it does both.

Faith and hope, it’s all I can put into the potential change in my life these days. I guess I’ll leave the rest to the Big Guy upstairs.

How do you deal with change? Any words of wisdom about embracing change?

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Christmas cookies: Melting Moments

I wanted to share with you a recipe for one of our favorite Christmas-time cookies: Melting Moments. These tiny little treats are delicious(and melt-in-your-mouth good, hence the name!). Plus, they’re super easy to make.

Here’s what you’ll need (the recipe says it makes about 3 dozen. I doubled the info below and probably got about 4-5 dozen):
  • 1 cup flour
  • ½ cup corn starch
  • ½ cup powdered sugar
  • ¾ cup (1 and ½ sticks) butter or margarine, softened
  • 1 tspn vanilla extract
And here’s what you do:
  1. Combine the flour, corn starch, and powdered sugar in a medium bowl and set aside.
  2. Put the butter in a large bowl and beat it with a mixer at medium speed until smooth.
  3. Add the flour mixture and the vanilla extract to the butter.
  4. Beat well until blended. (If the dough feels a little too sticky or soft, you can chill the dough in the fridge for a bit to firm it up a bit.)
  5. Preheat the oven to 350 and start rolling the dough into 1-inch balls.
  6. Place them on ungreased baking sheets, about 2 inches apart.
  7. Bake for 10-12 minutes or until the edges start to get just slightly brown.
  8. Remove from the pan and let cool on parchment paper.
Some people stop here, but we like to frost ours (and add sprinkles). We use a basic frosting recipe – you can really do it any way you’d like. We use, roughly:
  • 1 cup powdered sugar
  • 2 tspn milk
  • 2 tspn light corn syrup
  • ¼ tspn almond extract
Stir it all together (you can add food coloring if you want, too) and frost away! Sometimes you kind of have to add to the frosting as needed. If it’s not liquid enough, add a little more milk. If it gets too runny, add a little more powdered sugar. Pretty simple.

ENJOY! If you decide to try them out, let me know what you thought!

Monday, December 12, 2011

Christmas has appeared in our house

It's beginning to look a lot more like Christmas in our house. We finally got the tree decorated. The Christmas box has been carefully unpacked and the trinkets are scattered throughout the house. We don't have people over all that often, so it's unlikely our Christmas cheer will be seen by many. But if nothing else, the season is alive for the two of us - and the dog, too, of course.

And, I can share it with all of you!

Here's a mini photo tour:
Oliver likes to be a helper (and he just looks so darn cute, doesn't he?)

Last year's ornament - our first home!
Our ornament for this year - engaged!

Just a little glimpse at our Christmas decorations. Do you decorate for the holidays? I'd say this is the first year we've really gone all out, meaning we've actually gone above and beyond the Christmas tree. It's actually a lot of fun (but you may want to ask me again when the time comes to take it all down).

Less than two weeks till Christmas now - can you believe it?!?

Friday, December 9, 2011

In my happy place

Today, for what feels like the first time in weeks, I've finally had a chance to catch my breath. I'm feeling a little on top of the world.
I had the day off from work, mostly because I had vacation time to burn but also just so I could get some things done. I am feeling productive and festive and refreshed - and it's only the BEGINNING of the weekend.

I started the day at the gym, followed by a trip to the grocery store (checked that task off my to-do list a whole day earlier than normal? Wahoo!). I came home to our disaster of a house and got to work trying to put it back together. Two hours later it was glistening clean AND the Christmas tree was finally decorated. It's currently glowing softly in the corner of the room. I'm pretty sure I feel a huge weight lift off my shoulders every time I look up and see it complete.

We had an appointment for a home energy audit, so they came this afternoon to weather-proof our doors, change our light bulbs to high efficiency ones, and check up on other energy sources in the house. We live in a really old house, so it gets pretty drafty. I swear I can already tell a difference near the doors. And we got the service for half-off through our local newspaper. One of the greatest investments yet!

I finished the afternoon baking some Christmas cookies. Have you heard of Melting Moments? They're a favorite around here, and super easy to whip up. I'll share the recipe next week.

On most other Fridays, I'd be just leaving work right about now. While I'm sure I would have been productive in other ways, there's something especially gratifying about everything I got done today - and I got to do it all in my own time. Since Christmas is 2 weeks away and I'm not done with my shopping, I can only hope this productivity carries into tomorrow.

Happy weekend friends!

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Sometimes and Always

Megan over at Mackey Madness started a fun link up called Sometimes & Always - and I'm excited to be joining in!

Sometimes: I get really excited about the holiday season.  
Always: I feel guilty for finding joy in it when it can be such a sad and difficult time, too.

Sometimes: I think seriously about a complete career change.
Always: I change my mind because it’d be too hard to start all over.

Sometimes: I have a potty mouth.
Always: I regret it the second I let it slip.

Sometimes: I think my dog is going to drive me literally C.R.A.Z.Y.
Always: I love him like he’s my actual child.

Sometimes: I get so excited for our wedding I can hardly contain myself.
Always: I get nervous (for both of us) about being the center of attention.
Sometimes: I think that money could solve a lot of problems.
Always: I know that the things that make me happiest in life don’t have a single thing to do with money.

Sometimes: I miss the days when hanging out with friends was a given—every day after school and on weekends.
Always: I marvel at the way our friendships have grown, even if we go weeks without seeing each other.

Thanks to Megan for such a fun idea!

Monday, December 5, 2011

Weekends like this

I live for weekends like this one. While I didn’t get as much accomplished as I had hoped last week, it was still wonderful.

Friday night we had dinner with my mom, and spent the rest of the evening relaxing. We also spent 2 hours working on our Christmas tree. In order to solve the mysterious problem with the lights on the pre-lit tree, we decided to just take them all off and start over. It was a great idea—at first. Turns out it took us much longer than we could have imagined. More on that in a minute.
Saturday we took care of our usual routine – the gym, the grocery store, errands, a nap. We also picked up the real tree that we get from our realtor every year and delivered it to my mom, since we decided to go the artificial route this year. We put in 4 more hours on the Christmas tree (2 in the morning, 2 in the afternoon). We had dinner at one of Sean’s favorite local delis, and amidst the snow that had been falling all day, it was the perfect comfort food. We finished the day by bowling with friends. I haven’t laughed so hard in a long time – it was a great night!
I woke up Sunday determined to get the last of the lights of the tree. Two and a half hours later, the last strand was finally loose. Hoorah! That’s 8 ½ total hours, if you’re keeping track. Whew! Of course, I was a little Christmas-tree’d out so I haven’t had the motivation to decorate it yet, but we’ll get there soon. My body ached from being hunched over the tree all weekend, so Sean suggested I take a bath. Best. Idea. Ever. I practically fell asleep to the hum of the jets and the steam billowing around me.

We finished the day with a few of my favorite things. We had dinner with Sean’s family (I tried out a new recipe for baked spaghetti, and it was delicious!). When we got home, I had some hot chocolate while reading a couple magazines.

 Perfect end to a relaxing weekend!

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Routine disorder

Meet our Christmas tree…
It’s been sitting in that very state since we brought it home Sunday afternoon (Sean's mom got a new artificial tree and gave us her old one, we just have to figure out why some of the lights aren't working). It taunts us, begging us, please fix me. It’s a sad state of affairs, really. Its branches all astray. Clumps of lights strewn wildly about. The bag carelessly tossed to the side, unmoved since the second the tree emerged.

Lazy, I tell ‘ya. That’s pretty much our only excuse. The house is full of clutter and a bit disorderly. And the giant, undecorated Christmas tree right smack in the middle of the room certainly isn’t helping.

It’s funny how every weekend we manage to restore the house to a glistening clean and we sigh and look at each other and say, “we should really try and keep it this way this week.” And then life gets in the way. We leave the house under the dark morning sky, and return—if we’re lucky—just early enough to see the last bit of dusk fade into the horizon. And since we go to bed earlier than most infants and geriatrics, the time in-between is excruciatingly brief.

So somewhere in the very little time we have to ourselves, I lose my motivation. I don’t want to scrub the dishes or empty the dishwasher. I have no patience for sorting the mail and organizing the recycling. I don’t always want to fold clothes or put things away in their carefully assigned places.

So we don’t. Five days a week we go to work and come home and just be. Sure the house is a little messier than either of us prefer it, and we don’t often have much to show for evening productivity. But the weekend will come around and order will be restored and all will be well. In the meantime, all week-long, we get to do things our way, even if that includes ignoring the broken Christmas tree in the middle of the room for days on end.

And I’m not sure I’d have it any other way.

Monday, November 28, 2011

New post-Thanksgiving tradition?

I enjoy shopping. I’m certainly not an extreme shopper by any means, but it’s a pastime I typically find pleasure in. A few years ago I braved the crowds for the ultimate shopping experience—my first Black Friday. And you know what? I’ve kind of been hooked ever since.
I totally get sucked into the BIG DEALS mentality that these retailers are shooting for. The rational side of me knows very well that—at least most of the time—they’re luring you into spending more money than you normally would. The deals seem too good to miss, yet, they’re often not as great as they seem.

But I do it anyway. I have so much fun scouring through the ads, picking out my favorites and making a list of everything I’d get if my wallet was bottomless. I love the thrill of weaving through the throngs of equally crazy shoppers in the wee hours of the morning. I get a bit of a buzz from the counter-balance of shopping endorphins and plain ol’ exhaustion.

I’ve had my share of Black Friday success and disappointment. Three years ago Sean and I became the proud owners of a 50” flat screen TV, thanks entirely to his brother. When the doors opened at WalMart, he (literally) pushed his way to the front of the line (knocking over coffees in his wake) and sprinted to the back of the store, throwing himself over the very last box of our soon-to-be prized possession. Completely against the Black Friday etiquette that’s since emerged, but it was brilliant and Sean and I were (and still are) very grateful.

The following year we were less successful. Or I was less successful, I should say (and selfishly, that’s all I care about, duh!). I was on the hunt for a TV for our bedroom but failed miserably. Sean and his brothers got some good deals though, including a GPS system that Sean still uses on a regular basis. I guess it was just a disappointing year for me, then.

But this year, I’d have to say, was my favorite year yet. It’s going to be hard to top it, but if it becomes the tradition we hope it will be then we’ll definitely give it a run for its money.

At about 7:00 Thanksgiving night, my mom, sister, and I decided we’d give Black Friday a go. WalMart deals were starting at 10. By 9:30, the 3 of us (in our unplanned, practically matching outfits of leggings and oversized sweatshirts) were in a mad-dash for the Xbox line. My mom got the very last one – a surprise my brother will be very excited about. The rest of the night was a whirlwind—bouncing from store to store, stopping only a few times to get some food or wait for a store to open. At our last stop, I got the laptop I had been eyeing and researching for weeks (thanks to the online previews of Black Friday ads).

By 6:45 a.m. I was crawling back into my bed, just in time for Sean to start waking up from his long night’s sleep. I was up again by 8:30, and took only an hour nap later in the day. But surprisingly, I wasn’t terribly tried. I was probably still running on fumes from the fun and excitement I shared with my mom and sister. Maybe it was just the quality time we spent together, or the delirious state of pulling an all-nighter. Or it could have also had something to do with nabbing most of our sought-after items. Probably it was all of it.

My favorite night of the long holiday weekend, and a tradition I hope we continue for a long time!

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Happy Thanksgiving!

This morning, Sean and I started our Thanksgiving with delicious homemade mini cinnamon rolls (one of his mom’s traditional recipes) and a pile of Black Friday ads. Perfection! For the rest of the day, I’m looking forward to relaxing with family—and of course indulging it some delicious food.

But let’s talk about what today is really about: giving thanks. And boy do I have a lot to give thanks for this year.

  • Our incredible families.
  • My best friend and soon-to-be husband (1 day less than 7 months to go, but who’s counting?)
  • A home to call our own
  • Friends who have stood by us through everything
  • Health, for us and our families
  • And strength—for the times when things aren’t always as smooth as we’d like them to be
And it seems this only scratches the surface. I feel so blessed.

What are you thankful for this year?

Have a safe, healthy, and happy holiday!

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Thanksgiving weekend bliss

Today is day one of my five-day weekend. I'm thrilled to have some downtime with friends and family. And if the relaxation and productivity of today sets the tone for the rest of the weekend, I am going to be one happy girl.

My day started pretty early for a day without work, but I kind of like it that way. (I feel a lot more productive when I get a head start on the day.) On days when I'm still home before Sean leaves for work, I rely on him to wake me up. He comes and sits at the edge of the bed to and talks with me fore a few minutes before he has to go. It might just be one of the very best ways to start the day.

After he left, I watched the morning news and then caught up on some shows in the DVR. I eventually made my way to the gym, and headed straight for the mall from there (don't worry, I showered!). There were lots of great pre-Black Friday sales, but I managed to stay focused on the few things I came to find. I made a pit-stop at the grocery store on the way home and then did some holiday baking. We're having dinner with some of Sean's friends tonight (a tradition they started in high school), so I prepped our contributions and rocked out to Christmas music.

Looking forward to the rest of this great day - and it's only the beginning of a long, relaxing weekend. Love!

Happy almost Thanksgiving friends!

Monday, November 21, 2011

Thankful - Part I

This week I’m focusing on giving thanks. Cliché I know, but so completely and overwhelmingly appropriate.

Things have been a bit crazy lately. Unfortunately, it’s meant that I started to lose sight of the simple pleasures that kept me sane – like writing in this blog. And I’m determined to change that. Without those things—the ones that keep me grounded and focused and happy—I get too wrapped up in the chaos. And chaos is not what I want to center my life around.

So here I am. Trying to get back on the wagon. And what a great week to start, since thinking about what I’m thankful for gives me an abundance of things to write about.

Today I’ll just share one. I’m thankful for my job. It feels almost petty and vain, but it really is important. And today I really need to remember that.

I love my job (most of time at least). I wouldn’t be doing it for 5+ years if I didn’t. But with the latest happenings around here, it’s been pretty dismal around there. A lot of us are struggling. We’re happy we didn’t lose our jobs, but feeling awful “survivor’s guilt” for even thinking about feeling that way. We miss our friends. We miss business-as-usual. It’s kind of ugly, actually.

But like I told someone today, I still love the people I work with—it just so happens there’s a hell-of-a-lot less of them now. So I’m thankful. Thankful to have the opportunity to keep doing something I enjoy. Thankful to wade through these muddy waters with coworkers I respect. Thankful—and let’s just be blunt here—to still have a paycheck.

It’s funny how much we can rely on a job. It’s our livelihood. For some it’s nothing more than a place of employment, a time card. But for most of us, it’s almost always something we’re doing for someone or something else (in the best and worst ways). So the CEO can make his millions. So students have a place to grow and learn. So our families can thrive. So we can put our talents to use. So we can challenge ourselves. So we can feel like in some way, we’re making a difference.

So for that—the opportunity to keep doing those things through better and worse—I'm thankful.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Impending doom

Today my company announced that, for the second time this year, they'll be doing layoffs again. Starting today.

Our department has been told that no decisions will be communicated today, and that we should know by end of day tomorrow who is affected.

We sort of had a feeling this was coming, but it doesn't make the stress and frustration any easier. When this happened earlier this year, we had to go almost 2 weeks before we knew if we were affected, so at least it's only 48 hours this time.

The problem is, I am one of the most anxious people I know. I can hardly standing waiting, especially when it's coupled with fear and stress. I have such physical reactions to emotional stress that I work myself into a total tizzy.

I've already broken my no-crying-at-work rule today. I can probably guarantee you I willl not sleep tonight (unless aided by my dear friend Advil PM), and my stomach will be in permanent knots until closing time tomorrow.  No matter how much I talk myself into being "safe," there's still no way of knowing. And no matter what happens, it just plain sucks. People will be losing their jobs, people who I am used to seeing every day.

Worlds will be turned upside down in the next 48 hours. Please God, just don't let it be mine. (And yet, I feel guilty for praying for my own job security when it means someone else may not get the same.)

Friday, November 4, 2011

On wedding planning

{Via Style Me Pretty - and also lyrics from one of my favorite songs!}
In about 7 months Sean and I will finally say, “I do.” It seems like an eternity, but I’m not wishing time away just yet. I am getting very anxious to be his wife. And I’m excited for the wedding too of course; it’s sure to be a good time!

The wedding plans are coming along, but sometimes I feel like we haven’t done very much. Many of the big things are checked off our list—we have a date, church, reception venue, DJ, and limo, and we’ve picked out a color scheme, my dress, the bridesmaid dresses, and Save the Dates.

I realize there’s still a lot to be done, but I tend to feel like I have all the time in the world (mistake #1?). Then I have these moments—mostly sparked by conversations with others—where I feel like I’m not doing enough. So far it hasn’t been terribly time consuming or stressful, and I get the impression from some people that they expect it to be. So far, the entire process has been really laid back and enjoyable (the only thing I find stressful are the price tags). Am I missing something?

These are the top 3 things that seem to be working for me so far:

Staying organized. This is huge. Thanks in large part to the friends who have done this before me, I’ve managed to stay pretty organized. I have a binder with paperwork, ideas, and notes for every aspect of the wedding. I have countless spreadsheets and word documents full of information I either know or need to know. If I can stay on track with all of this, I think I’ll be golden.

Taking a little at a time. Sometimes, I wish I was doing more wedding stuff—it’s a lot of fun after all. But taking care of things in small steps has definitely helped keep my stress levels low. I assume as we get closer to the big day it will get a bit harder to put things off and spread things out, but for now, this is working really well. Besides, I work better under pressure, so I’ll probably be fine, right?

Ask others. I’m probably one of the most indecisive people you will ever meet. I can spend 20 minutes trying on a single sweater in a dressing room just because I can’t make up my mind. So when it comes to wedding plans, I so value the opinions of my family and friends around me. My mom, Sean’s mom, and my bridesmaids have all been wonderfully helpful. Sean’s helpful too, when he needs to be. I don’t blame him for caring less about fabric color or invitation designs. The cake? Now that he’ll care about!

If you have any suggestions, do share! I’m always happy to hear tips and ideas from people who have done this before.

Monday, October 31, 2011

Blissful weekend

Weekends are good for the soul, and this weekend was especially good for mine.

It was full of family time and relaxation and nothing more than simple contentment.

Friday we ordered pizzas and watched the World Series with friends, including baby Charlotte. I’ve mentioned her quite a few times before—can you tell I just love her to pieces?

Sean’s brother and his girlfriend came in town for the weekend (they’re living in Denver right now), too. We spent most of Saturday together and it was just perfect. By Saturday night, we sat around the dinner table and I couldn’t help but think about how this was my ultimate happy place. All of us back together again. And my mom joined us too, so I was literally surrounded by some of my very favorite people.

The night was full of laughter, wine, and wedding talk. The boys retreated to watch the hockey game not long after we started playing church music and talking colors, but they were great sports. We ended the night with frozen yogurt—my new favorite obsession.

Sunday morning, us girls got manicures and pedicures. I almost fell asleep in my chair, no kidding.

I honestly almost cried on Sunday afternoon when it came time to do my grocery shopping and return to our normal routines. It wasn’t too terrible. Sean and I did some yard work and made a yummy dinner, and settled in for bed almost an hour earlier than usual. But man I would have loved for this weekend to last just a little bit longer.

Bliss. It’s the only way to describe how I feel. Can’t wait for more weekends just like it!

My terrible success at taking photos this weekend (all by phone):

Oh and p.s. - Happy Halloween!

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Wordless Wednesday (kind of)

I've never actually participated in Wordless Wednesday before. But today I am crazy B-U-S-Y so I figured, why not? Except I'm breaking the rules and including a few words.

Here's a sneak peak at our engagement photos:

When we first got them I was hyper-critical of the outfit I chose and thought I looked like I could be with-child in some of the photos. But upon closer inspection I realized I was being overly sensitive and the vast majority of them are actually pretty great. (And the ones that aren't great have nothing to do with the photographer. He did a great job all around - I just didn't love my drunk-looking eyes or Sean's fake smile in a few of them. But that's why they take so many, because they can't all turn out perfect! So huge thanks to our photog Michael - we can't wait for him to shoot our big day!)

Monday, October 24, 2011

Fall traditions

For the last 4 years, we’ve made it a tradition to visit a local apple orchard/pumpkin patch with our friends. More people join us every year, and we always seem to get a really good turnout.
We had a beautiful day for the trip this weekend. The sun was shining, the leaves were glowing, and the temperatures were a perfect balance between crisp and balmy.
It was also Charlotte’s first trip to the orchard (obviously, since she’s only 2 weeks old!). She was on her very best behavior. In fact, I think she slept the whole time.
Last year we couldn’t pick apples because the trees had all been damaged by late season storms. We were looking forward to picking some this year. But the trees were pretty picked over, so we ended up picking an already bundled bag from the orchard store. We still had fun walking through the aisles though. Did I mention it was a beautiful day?
We finished the trip by going out to dinner – it is half of the tradition after all. We were done early enough that a nearby bar and grill could easily accommodate our group of 17 without any wait.

It was the perfect way to end a great afternoon. The day left me feeling grateful for so many things, especially our one-of-a-kind friends!

Don't you just love this season? Do you have any fall traditions?

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Just in time

I love it when the weekend arrives just in time.

Just when I thought I couldn't possibly make it through another 8 hours of work.

Just when I'm ready for 1 morning where I don't have to wake up to an alarm.

Just when I'm ready for my comfy clothes - leggings, slippers, and Sean's oversized sweatshirt (I swear if it were socially acceptable, I would wear this all day, everyday).

Just when I need an unstructured day without a single thing on my to-do list.

I have to use a bit of vacation time before the end of the year, so a few weeks ago I decided to take tomorrow off on a whim. Funny how I somehow just knew I would need it. It certainly doesn't mean I don't enjoy my job or am not grateful for it - I'm just also grateful for the much-needed breaks sometimes, too.

Sean, who never uses his vacation time, surprised me today by taking it off, too. All week I've been encouraging him to go crazy and enjoy a day off work, and he actually listened!

So tonight we're making one of our favorite chicken dinners, renting a movie, and starting our weekend a whole day early. came just in time.

Looking forward to a fun weekend ahead - walks with friends, our annual apple orchard + pumpkin patch trip, a football game. How about you?

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

In high school, I had a core group of girlfriends that I spent the vast majority of my time with.
We’ve been lucky in that most of us have stayed really close all these years. With jobs and families and the usual chaos of life, we don’t see each other all that often, but we try and get together for dinner here and there.

And every time we do, I’m amazed at the ease and comfort of our conversations, the simple pleasures of being in the company of people you share such a history with.

Last night they came over to our house, with their significant others and children in tow. Our house is small, mind you, so the presence of 11 adults and 6 small children felt increasingly crowded. But I loved every second of it.

I looked around at where we’ve all landed—working, raising children, owning homes, building lives with both new and long-term loves. It’s far from the days of sleepovers and troublemaking. But the joy of it all, made even greater by sharing it with friends you adore, is just as abundant.

It’s funny how life changes, and how it changes you. I used to wonder how I’d ever manage to live to see a day without a curfew. And then I did (and it didn’t matter, because I wanted to go to bed by 10 anyway). I used to think I’d never survive the stress and complexity of college. And then I did (and even went back for more!). I used to wonder how I could ever love something more than a packed social calendar. And then I did (quiet nights at home top my list). I once thought I’d just never find someone to love me and marry me and raise kids with me. And then I did (and I still can’t believe it some days).  

And I used to think it would be nearly impossible to grow old with the friends you had in high school. And then I did (well, I’m working on it).

These girls are my heart. I couldn’t imagine anyone better to have by my side.
{Old photo - 2 new babies added since then!}

(Just a note that this is not to say I don’t feel the same way about other friendships, some that go back to even before high school; that’s just another post in and of itself.)

Monday, October 17, 2011

License to wed

{Via Pinterest, copyright to the Amateur Writer}
This past weekend Sean and I attend the marriage preparation retreat that is hosted by our local archdiocese. Like most couples in the surrounding churches, we’re required to attend before we can get married.

Even though the wedding isn’t for another 8 months, it was nice to check another item off our to-do list. And since we “passed” (and by passed I mean attended the entire thing, thus receiving the certificate of completion), we’re one step closer to getting married, too!

I know some people really get into these things, but for us, we went in a little bit leery of what to expect. Sean was less than thrilled about how much time it was going to take up (10 hours on Saturday is kind of a lot), but I’d say overall we were both pleasantly surprised by how well it went.

A few highlights of things we learned this weekend (whether it’s what they wanted us to take away from it or not):
  • It’s not marriage related – but having presenters who are entertaining and engaging speakers makes a big difference to a crowd of 100+ people who are sitting in an auditorium all day.
  • Sean and I have actually gotten to a really good place before even going to this retreat. They talk about the importance of understanding a lot of things before you get married—finances and budgeting, family styles and traditions, communication and conflict strategies, just to name a few. Many of these are things Sean and I have talked about and worked through in the nearly 7 years we’ve been dating. This makes me feel so confident and affirmed in the decision we’ve made to become husband and wife, and the future we’ll have together.
  • There are lots of small traditions to add to your day, week, or month that can help you keep your marriage strong. One couple told about their “rule” to always give each other a 5-second compliment and a 10-second kiss at least once a day. Another always makes time for “couple time” to talk about all of the things that can sometimes get missed in the hustle and bustle of everyday life. We may not really be the type of people to make this a regular habit, but it was a good reminder to find unique ways to connect with each other and not get lost in routine and chaos.
  • Public speaking isn’t so scary after all. Sean and I got asked to do the readings at mass. Since we’re both pretty shy, it took us out of our comfort zone a little, but we both did fine and it showed us that there’s really nothing to be scared of.
  • We’re not mind readers. This sweet older gentleman with a great sense of humor presented the first night. Among his many reminders were that we have to remember that we’re all different, and we can’t read each others’ minds. It’s easy to get angry over things we wish our partner would understand, but unless we can be open and communicate those things, they may have no idea it’s even an issue. This—for me at least—is a reminder I needed!
  • Finally, my favorite was from the same gentleman I mentioned above. He talked about how we need to stop thinking that “if you don’t think as I think, feel as I feel, and do as I do, then you don’t love me.” Again, this wasn’t news to me, but the perfect reminder that we each love in our own ways—and that’s ok!
All in all, an interesting experience. While there was a combination of things we found interesting and others we found a little dull, I’m glad we went. And I can certainly understand why the church requires it. There are some important conversations that all couples should be having before they get married—and this certainly helped ensure that they were happening.

What's your favorite marriage or relationship advice?

Friday, October 14, 2011

Fun recipe for a Friday

A few weeks ago, we went to a party where someone brought these delicious (homemade) bite-size candy treats. They were a big hit and everyone just had to know how to make them. Turns out, it's actually really easy. And they taste just like the popular candy bar they're modeled after.

I made my own batch of the treats that very same weekend. I've brought them into work a couple of times and they're popular here, too.

So, I just had to share with you! Of course, I can't take any sort of credit for the recipe since I got them from someone else, adn I don't even know where she got it or what she calls them.

But here it goes anyway!

Homemade "Butterfinger" bites

What you'll need
  • 1 box of Cheez-Its crackers (I usually pick the reduced-fat)
  • Some peanut butter of your choosing (creamy works best)
  • 1 package of almond bark chocolate
Here's what you do:
  1. Place a sheet of parchment or wax paper out on the counter. You'll need to put the finished product here to cool.
  2. Start creating small cracker sandwiches by spreading a small amount of peanut butter on 1 Cheez-It and topping it with another. My latest batch only got me about 65-70 pieces, so you can create them all at once, or start with a small number and make more as you go.
  3. Since the chocolate melts fast, I usually wait to melt it until I've got a good start on the cracker sandwiches. Break the bark up into large chunks and put it in a microwave safe bowl (of course, you're welcome to melt it over the stove, too). Cook for about a minute at a time, stirring between each cycle. It should only take about 2-3 minutes to be fully melted.
  4. Once you've got the chocolate melted and the sandwiches made, take a fork and dip the sandwiches into the chocolate one at a time. (Or, like me, place a bunch of them in the bowl and then sink them under the chocolate one-by-one).
  5. Once the crackers have a good coating, pull it out with the fork, letting some of the excess chocolate drop back into the bowl.
  6. Place onto your cooling paper, and keep going.
  7. Once you're chocolate is gone or you've made enough cracker sandwiches to tie you over for now, let the candy cool for a while - 30-40 minutes should be plenty.
  8. Eat and enjoy!
We store ours in the fridge to keep them crisp and cool. They're great for small treats at home, at parties, or in the workplace. And like I said, they taste JUST like a Butterfinger. Who would've thought some cheese crackers, peanut butter and chocolate could do all that?

Let me know what you think if you give them a try!