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Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Memorial Day Weekend

It’s hard to beat last year’s Memorial Day weekend, but this year was lovely, too. It was the perfect combination or productivity and relaxation.

I made it my goal to check at least 1 thing off my wedding to-do list. Being the over-achiever that I am (hah, yeah right) I checked off TWO—well, more like one and a half, but it’s still exciting. We got a few more gifts for the wedding party and got the design finalized for the program (now just to put them together).

Let’s take a look at a few other highlights, all courtesy of my phone since I didn’t bring my camera with me anywhere.
Barbecued and played some beer frisbee with friends
Enjoyed a double-date movie night with our friends Katie and Tyler

Got Oliver's haircut, which this picture has nothing to do with except to show of his big eyes
(and extremely long tongue, thanks to his incessant panting during a thunderstorm)
Went to a friend's housewarming party, where we got to spend some quality time
with my best friend's baby (oh yeah, and grown-ups, too)!
Made a delicious summer-time dinner!
Took in a Twins Game, thanks to last-minute tickets from my stepdad (12 rows from the field!)
Tried not to get terribly sunburned at said Twins game. Considering the tiny streak
on my forehead and the strange patch from my neck to chest, I'm proof that
sunscreen works (and doesn't work when you forget a couple spots!).
Here's to hoping the tan lines fade in the next 3 weeks!

Long weekends rarely disappoint. How was yours?

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

We love our animals

Growing up I was never much of an animal lover; we didn’t have pets and I was slightly intimidated by dogs. But as I grew up, I longed for that furry companionship—and Oliver and Murphy (my mom’s dog) brought that to our lives.

Over the years, I’ve found myself become increasingly in love with animals. I have a soft spot in my heart for them. I cry at the animal cruelty commercials. I can’t walk into a humane society or pet store because my heart can’t withstand the thought of not being able to take every single one of them home.

And last weekend, I sobbed through Rise of the Planet of the Apes, because, as I tearfully (again) recounted to some girlfriends on Sunday, “the monkey just wanted to go home!”

And admitting that one day we'll all have to come to terms with losing our faithful companions? Breaks my heart! 

And don’t get me started on stories like these:

The dog who lay sullenly by the casket of his fallen war hero owner throughout his entire funeral.
{Via}
The Pitbull who stayed by his fellow dog’s side for 14 hours after she was hit and killed by a car.
{Via}
I’m telling you, sometimes I feel like my heart literally melts!

Monday, May 21, 2012

Anticipation

{Via}
Can we talk about anticipation for a minute? And the crazy things it can do to you?

Anticipation is a constant in our lives these days. There’s the wedding, of course, but also several other things on the horizon that we’re anxiously awaiting.

And I have to say, I’m noticing the effects of growing anticipation now more than ever.

It keeps me awake at night. Distracts me at work. Makes me sometimes feeling like crying—out of both joy and fear.

Last night it kept Sean and I awake for nearly 2 hours past our usual bedtime. You could almost just feel the energy of the thoughts swirling through our heads. And just as we’d try to give into the dark silence, something else just had to be said. It was kind of nice, really, the time to just talk. But it can’t keep up or we’ll both be sporting some heavy under-eye circles in no time.  

It’s a strange thing, this anticipation, because it has the power to consume you with thoughts of things that are yet to be, things that are so much out of your control. But as much as I wish for things to hurry up and get here—if only so we can face our fears head-on with action—I know deep down that they will arrive. And in the meantime, I just need to try and let it be (perhaps the Beatles song should be my mantra).
{Via}
How do you deal with anticipation? Do you obsess over it, or are you good at just letting go and knowing only time will tell?

Friday, May 18, 2012

Friday's letters

Dear frozen meal I brought for lunch today, I’m sorry I forgot you in my purse until it was too late. I hate to waste food, but I just really didn’t want to risk being sick all weekend from spoiled food.

Dear Sean, yesterday we were granted a license to wed. Guess this means it’s really happening, huh?

Dear 100+ pounds of candy, I’m so glad you arrived in the mail without melting, but I greatly underestimated how much of you there would be. Unless our wedding guests eat their weight in treats, we may just have enough leftovers to last a lifetime.

Dear 90-degree weather, you’re not so bad, but I kind of prefer your friend 70-degree a little more. I can live with it for now, but on June 23, please send 70 so that I can avoid passing out in my very heavy wedding dress.

Dear Birchbox, you were a fun surprise in the mail this week. But I have to admit, I wasn’t as jazzed as everyone said I would be. Maybe this month’s goodies just weren’t what I was looking for. I’ll give you at least 1 more chance.

Happy Friday friends!

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Dear Friday, have I told you lately that I love you? You make waking up easier, getting through the day more fun, and my mood exponentially more positive. Thank you!

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Finding the silver lining

I’ve found that sometimes life is all about how you look at things. In many cases, but certainly not all, my general happiness or satisfaction is driven by my own perspective.

So, because honestly I needed a little reminder today, I’m making an extra effort to look at the bright side of things, the silver lining.
{Via}
I’m on a big project at work that’s taking up a lot of time and energy…
but it’s also allowed me to get to know new people, practice my skills in new ways, and it makes the days FLY by! (And as Sean reminded me, I can be happy I have a job at all.)

With the wedding quickly approaching, I’m finally starting to feel some of the stress with what feels like a million things to do…
but that means I’m getting married soon! I’m going to enjoy it because no one will notice the small stuff, and in the end the only thing that matters is that I’m married to my best friend!

I’ve been feeling so pressed for down time lately…
but that only means I must be busy with fun and productive things, right?

Our house is a total mess just a few days after cleaning it…
but it’s mostly because it’s littered with thoughtful gifts and packages from friends and family.

It’s not Friday yet…
but tomorrow is! Thank God for weekends!

I know there isn’t always a silver lining (or at least it can be tough to identify one), but do you ever have to remind yourself to look for it like I do?

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Weekend recap (a bit late)

Technology is my friend again (at least for now). Unfortunately a few other things are creeping up on my STRESSED OUT list and time is proving to be pretty precious this week.

So while I’m a few days late to the party, and we’re now officially closer to next weekend than we are to last weekend, forgive me while I share with you some weekend highlights.

Not surprisingly, mother nature rained on our softball parade on Friday. The entire day was beautiful until dark clouds settled over the city for just 2 hours—the 2 hours we were playing, of course. Despite being literally weighed down by the rain, we had a lot of fun and swept the doubleheader. Success! And just in time for things to wrap up, the clouds parted and a beautiful sunset settled on the horizon.

Saturday was my much-anticipated shower and bachelorette party. My bridesmaids did an absolutely lovely job. We had another beautiful day (which was equally great for the boys who were golfing for Sean’s bachelor party). While I’m getting too old for late-night shenanigans and was in bed by midnight, the party was everything I could’ve hoped for—quality time with my favorite ladies before tying the knot.

And then came Sunday. We celebrated mother’s day by having our families over for brunch, and then went to tour some places where Sean’s mom is looking to live. We spent the rest of the day putting away some of our new toys and relaxing; a perfect Sunday.

I’ll leave you with a bit of photo overload. Knowing how I’m usually glued to my camera, one of my bridesmaids offered to take my camera and catch the moments of the day. So grateful because we got some great memories of such a fun day!
Me and my mama!
The winning toilet-paper-wedding-dress team!
Sisters!
Me and the mamas!
All my girls together - the first and only time before the wedding day!
Two of my favorites came all the way from Wisconsin for the party - so happy to see them!
Me and my matron of honor
Another one of my bridesmaids, and the friend I mentioned in this post :)
A few of my besties from high school!

Hanging out with one of the lead singers/drummers of the night's band!

Monday, May 14, 2012

Timeout for technical difficulties

I had such a fantastic weekend. Of course, some technical difficulties are standing in the way of sharing the highlights with all of you.

Let's just say I'm not the least bit happy about it.

I'll be back just as soon as I get it resolved, hopefully much sooner than later.

Happy Monday friends!

Friday, May 11, 2012

Friday's Letters

Dear bachelorette party, I am so excited for you this weekend. I can’t wait to spend some quality time with my girls, and to celebrate the big day being only SIX weeks away!

Dear storms, please hold off between the hours of 7 and 9 p.m. I’ve been away from softball for 3 weeks and need to play tonight.
Dear Sean, it’s been a week since the little scare you went through. I know it’s tough to let yourself rest but just remember how important it is for that heart of yours. I love you and am so glad you're on the road to recovery. 
Dear wedding nightmares, I really hope you’re not going to only get worse from now until June. I’d prefer not to wake up every night sweating and in tears because the best man lost the rings, my hairdresser didn’t show up, or (the weirdest of all) my tooth fell out.

Dear perspective, thanks for helping me remember to look for the silver lining in things. You really know how to make a girl turn frustration into gratefulness, and fear into hope.


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Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Sunday dinner

After our long weekend, we were ready for a low key Sunday at home. I made a quick grocery trip, did some laundry, and we spent some quality time with the couch and the TV.

Since cooking can be calming sometimes, I decided to try out a new recipe for dinner. Plus, it’s just so much harder to find the time for more complicated meals during the week, so Sunday was the perfect opportunity.

I browsed Skinny Taste (a site recently recommended by a friend) and settled on Chicken Cordon Bleu and Scalloped Potatoes. I will definitely be using this site for many meals to come. There are so many wonderful—and healthy—options.

While the prep work took a little while, it really wasn’t difficult—and the end result was worth it.

Here’s how you can try it, too, if you’re interested!

Chicken Cordon Bleu
Ingredients:
  • 32 oz. (4) boneless, skinnless chicken breasts
  • 1 large egg and 2 large egg whites
  • 1 tbsp water
  • 12 slices thin lean deli ham
  • 12 slices reduced fat swiss cheese
  • Salt
  • Toothpicks
  • Spray oil
  • 3/4 cup season bread crumbs (We used a mixture of corn meal, corn flour, and seasoning instead to make it gluten free
  1. Preheat oven to 350 and then slice the chicken breasts into thin cutlets. (The original recipe says you can probably get 3 out of each breast. But, my lack of skills and terrible knives meant I only got 2. I did pound them down a bit though to make them thinner.)
  2. Cut each slice of cheese into squares and stack on top of each other.
  3. Place a slice of ham on top of each chicken cutlet and top with the cheese.
  4. Wrap the chicken around and secure with toothpicks (try to make sure there are no holes so the cheese doesn't leak out - you can see I failed at this!). Season with a little salt.
  5. Whisk the eggs, egg whites, and water together to make an egg wash.
  6. Dip each piece of chicken in the egg wash and then in the bread crumbs (or other type of breading).
  7. Place on cookie sheet sprayed with oil, and lightly spray (just once) each piece of chicken, too.
  8. Bake approximately 25 minutes, until cooked through.


(Original recipe here)


Scalloped Potatoes
Ingredients:  
  • Olive oil spray
  • 6 medium yukon gold potatoes, sliced 1/8-inch thick
  • 2 tbsp light butter, melted
  • salt and pepper
  • 1/2 tsp garlic powder
  • 3/4 cup shredded reduced fat cheddar cheese
  • 1 cup skim milk
  • 1 bay leaf
  • a pinch of ground nutmeg
  • 2 tsp thyme
  1. Preheat oven to 425 (since I was making the chicken as well, I cooked the potatoes at 425 for 30 minutes until I put the chicken in, and then turned the oven down to 350).
  2. In a large bowl, combine potatoes, butter, garlic powder, and salt and pepper.
  3. Arrange half of the potato slices in a baking dish, top with 1/4 cup cheese and add the remaining potatoes.
  4. In a small saucepan, bring the milk, thyme, bay leaf, and nutmeg to a boil and then pour over the potatoes.
  5. Top with the remaining cheese and bake uncovered for 45-50 minutes, or until potatoes are tender (cook time really depends on how thick the potato slices are). 



Let me know if you give these a try - I'd love to hear how they turn out. And as always, feel free to share your favorite recipes, too. We're always looking for new things to try!

Monday, May 7, 2012

Writing through the night

** Caution: Many, many words ahead! **

While waiting through the long hours of our first night in the hospital, I took to my iPad to write. It was deeply therapeutic at the time. And because I want to remember it, I'm capturing it here, too. I won't be offended if you choose to skip this post all together - it's terribly long and a bit emotional (a side affect I'm going to attribute solely to the joys of monthly hormones and not to the fact that I'm a big huge baby).

On an average night, 9:00 means staying up past my bedtime and the 5:30 alarm clock starts ringing much too soon. And then, on a night like this, I sit here wide awake, knowing sleep just isn't in my future and wishing the sunrise would hurry up already. It's funny how priorities change, adrenaline rages, and your body ignores fatigue as though it never even knew it existed.

Earlier, I was happy to be making our way to this room because it meant we were no longer cramped in the temporary surroundings of the ER. But then we took a left turn, followed familiar hallways to a place I had hoped to never see again. A waiting room ahead—the same one I made several devastating phone calls from almost exactly 3 years ago— and another left turn and I felt my breath stop short of my throat.


I was relieved when we turned into another unit, willing myself to ignore the one straight across the hall that had stolen a life, a future from Sean and his family. But then, just as I prepared to let go, the nurse asked me to wait in the waiting room while they got him into bed and on his machines.

She showed me the way and I almost stopped to tell her, "No, I know where it is, thank you. I spent two of the worst days of my life in that room," but decided I'd spare her the awkwardness so early on in our relationship.

Just 10 minutes, she promised. That's all I had to wait. But the second she left the room I felt my heart race and I wanted nothing more than to forget this tiny little, no-good, horrible room. Three years ago we set up camp here. Tried, but failed, to sleep in the reclining chairs. Charged phones in every outlet. Piled purses and clothes and gifts from visitors in a corner. And in our last hour there, made the hardest phone call of my life – to inform the funeral home that the man who was supposed to one day be my father-in-law had died.

And here I was again, a place I never wanted to revisit and a night I never wanted to relive. The circumstances were obviously different, the outcome likely far better this time. But the reminder made me ill. And then, as quickly as the panic started to set in, it was over. I was allowed back into his room and we laughed and joked with the nurse as she got Sean settled.

And here I am a couple hours later, curled on a chair with a hospital blanket and an iPad, doing the only thing I know how to do in times like this - write. I'm thankful to be in a place like this, knowing there's constant attention and care on Sean’s heart. A very important organ, I told him, because he uses it to love me!

But part of me feels guilty. When we sat in the ER, a voice inside me hoped they would keep him here. Not because I wanted something to be wrong but because I wanted them to be absolutely sure they did anything and everything to make sure he was healthy and ok. I wanted to leave here only after we were sure his heart was a healthy workhorse - and not a second sooner.  But now we lay here, unable to sleep, and Sean wants nothing more than the comforts of home. And I can't help but think I brought it on all myself by asking God to keep him here, in the protection of people to whom He gave the gifts and talents of modern medicine.
And then there’s the other half of me, the half that watches the green, blue and yellow lines of his monitor like a ballet—marveling at the dancing lines and knowing that for a long as they move harmoniously along, we're in a safe and happy place.

The uncertainty of what this day will bring is unsettling, but knowing the strength of the man lying in the bed beside me fills me with hope —all wrapped up in the faith and protection of God and all our angels up there with him.

I'm in the middle of reading Kelle Hampton’s Bloom. While an entirely different story, it seems surprisingly fitting tonight. Kelle talks about how sometimes it's the struggles, the challenges in life that mold our character into something strong, resilient, beautiful. And it's true. In the hardest of times you can learn the biggest of lessons, witness the greatest of graces.

And so I take on this challenge, knowing we will get to the bottom of it and Sean and I will be stronger in the end. Never before have we sat in a room for hours, nothing to do, nothing to distract us, and just enjoyed the conversation. We joked about the "urinal" they expect him to use from his bed. Talked about (and disagreed on) names for our unborn children. Exchanged smiles and glances behind nurses’ backs. And laid in silence, trying to fall asleep but keeping each other awake with pillow talk from across the room. Yep, this "through sickness and health" thing? We got it. Maybe just 1 more task in the list of marriage preparation activities God had in store for us.

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Long weekends you don't wish for

This weekend unexpectedly turned into a long one for Sean and me. Only, it's the kind of long weekend you don't wish for. I would have traded our 3-day weekend for an average fast-but-fun 2-day weekend in a heartbeat.

It started Thursday night when I got home from work and learned more about the strange symptoms that had kept Sean home from work that day. He had downplayed them all day long but it never felt right to me, so by the time I got home I insisted he go to the doctor.

And, though we didn’t know it at the time, so began our weekend.

After a visit to urgent care Sean was instructed to go to the ER for further evaluation. Hours later he was being admitted. We didn’t get to his room until almost 1 a.m., and we didn’t get any sleep. They continued running tests and by mid-afternoon Friday had confirmed their presumptive diagnosis of inflammation of his heart muscle.
He stayed one more night for observation and they brought me a cot to sleep on. We finally got the sleep our bodies were craving. He was discharged Saturday afternoon and we were thrilled to be homeward bound. The rest of our day was pretty much a wash. Our internal clocks were still a bit thrown off and we spent most of it in and out of sleep.

And here we are, Sunday already. The extra day in our weekend actually had the opposite effect, robbing us of time and sleep and productivity. While I’m sure we both would’ve preferred a different kind of weekend, I’m happy that it at least meant Sean got the care he needed.

I’m still feeling a bit off balance but hoping some good ol’ chores and organization will put us back on track today. Monday tomorrow already? Oy!

Thursday, May 3, 2012

People watching on the bus

{Via}
Working in a big city, it’s much more convenient to use public transportation to get to work. Surpassing the snarled traffic, the bus happily cruises down the shoulder and drops me at the front door (or damn near close) much faster than any other alternative. And my bank account thanks me for the money I save not spending it on gas or exorbitant parking fees.

The benefits that accompany this mode of transportation are abundant. Every day I can count on at least 40 minutes—20 minutes each way—of “down time.” I can read, browse the Internet from my phone, or simply get lost in my own thoughts. Or, as was the case yesterday, I can use the time for a quick nap. I swore I’d never be one of those people, but after being up all night with the dog, it didn’t take much more than the soothing hum of a quiet bus to lull me to sleep, even amidst strangers.

I’m lucky in that my bus route is typically clean and conservative. Unlike the horror stories—or more like, comedic relief—of many fellow coworkers, I rarely encounter loud and drunken passengers, fist fights, or puke (all true stories). It’s the benefit, I guess, of a route that only connects a small but vibrant neighborhood with the bustling business district of its sister city.

But one of my favorite parts of riding the bus has to be the people watching. Maybe it’s a Minnesota thing (or maybe not), but most people I know appreciate a good people-watching session (that’s what places like the State Fair and the Mall of America are for!).  

It’s funny, having ridden this route for more than 6 years now, how I can see total strangers and feel like I know them. The woman who just came back to work after her maternity leave (her second baby since we’ve shared the same transportation). The boisterous older gentleman with a fat diamond in his ear who starts his car remotely as soon as he’s exactly 1 block away. The man—a bus driver himself heading home from his shift—who brings a mint every day for a woman who gets on a few stops after him.

I may feel like I know them but the truth is I really have no idea at all. I can write their stories in my head, make assumptions from their passing conversations, but they’re strangers nonetheless.

I wonder sometimes who I am to them. The girl who landed (literally) in a nice gentleman’s lap after the bus stopped abruptly?  The one who can sometimes be seen chasing the bus down with her car to get one stop ahead and catch it just in time? Or the quiet girl who stands out like a sore thumb among the polished professionals when she wears jeans to work 2-3 times a week?

Then again, maybe the curious observer in me is one-of-a-kind. Maybe no one else thinks beyond the kind smiles and gentle hello’s we share with familiar strangers.

Tell me, do you like to “people watch?” Or am I alone on this crazy train?

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Showered with love

This past weekend, I had my first bridal shower. In fact, I had my first TWO bridal showers. I was overwhelmed with the outpouring of love from some very special people in our lives.

On Friday, the shower was hosted by Sean’s aunt and a friend of his family (who is as close as family as anyone else). The hosts came up with the cutest theme: Deck the Deck. Everyone brought gifts to help us make the most of our outdoor space—grilling tools, lantern lights, salad bowls, a firepit. We were amazed at how kind and generous everyone was. We felt so blessed to have these wonderful people in our lives!

On Sunday, a couple of my aunts (my mom is one of 11 girls!) threw a shower for my side of the family. Again, I can hardly put into words how blessed and loved I felt. For many years I attended showers for other friends and family and dreamed out what it would be like when I was the guest of honor. It was everything I could have imagined and so much more. They served a delicious lunch and an ice cream sundae buffet. We played games, visited, and talked about the big day. Again, we were overwhelmed by all of the thoughtful gifts. We now have a complete new set of dishes, fun glassware and vases, a new pots and pans set, baking tools, and so much more. Now we just have to figure out where to put it all!



Events like this make me more and more excited for the upcoming nuptials. A coworker asked me the other day what I’m most excited about, and I knew my answer right away. I can’t wait to have all the people we love—from so many different areas of our lives—in one room, celebrating with us. When I envision that day, I see scene after scene of our friends and family. This day may be about Sean and I coming together as husband and wife, but it’s also about the people who have shared in our lives and will be there to celebrate this incredible milestone. I can’t wait!