January 31, 2011

Weekend? What Weekend?

When my alarm started to blare this morning, I thought, "Nope. There's no way it's Monday already. It was just Friday." and promptly rolled back over to snuggle up with Dan and the furball. Thankfully, that's why we set a few several way too many at least 5 alarms in the mornings.... we are a hard pair to get out of bed. By the time it went off a third time, I had had enough, and sat up in bed to realize that it was, in fact, Monday, and I was, in fact, already 15 minutes late getting up. Needless to say, I did not have time to pack a lunch today.
This weekend was fabulous and very, very full... except for Friday night, that is. I went to the gym after work and intended to get home, shower, and cook a delicious dinner to welcome Dan home for the weekend. Instead, he got back to town early (yay!) and we did what any exciting young couple would do: we lay on top of the covers in our bed quickly to catch up on our weeks and fell fast asleep around 8 pm. I slept for at least 12 hours that night, which was a little ridiculous but apparently necessary -- I hadn't slept well Wednesday night and I think it had finally caught up to me.
We definitely made up for that laziness the rest of the weekend though. Saturday morning we headed to my grandfather's apartment to meet my mom and aunt and go through my grandmother's jewelry. It was a sad thing to have to do, but we did enjoy looking at everything she used to wear and remembering her habits and special occasions. She had several large drawers and cases full, so I was able to bring home at least 10 necklaces, almost as many pairs of earrings, and several rings, bracelets, and pins. It's a little bittersweet, but I love everything I was given and can't wait to wear the pieces often and remember her. I'm wearing a wonderful pair of snowflake earrings today and every time I look in the mirror, I think of her and smile.
My fancy jewelry storage -- everything hanging on the left corkboard belonged to my grandmother!
After that, Dan and I drove out to a vineyard in the next county that makes the. best. wine. EVER. I've been in love with their reds since the first time I tasted their wine almost two years ago, and we wanted to see their location because we read that they are available for weddings. It was really fun to walk through a possible spot and think about our wedding, plus Dan signed us up for their "wine-of-the-month" club, so we left with 6 bottles of their newest wine (a 2008 cab franc and petit verdot -- yummy!). Can't wait to open the first one!
On our way back into town, we stopped by one of the local high schools to watch part of Dan's youngest brother's wrestling tournament. I never went to a wrestling match when I was in high school (even though Dan wrestled, I didn't know him that well when he was on the team), but I love going to watch his brothers. Both of his younger brothers wrestled (his older brother did too -- it's kind of a family legacy) and his youngest is now a senior and a really incredible wrestler. He has been to states the past few years and has a great chance of becoming the state champion this year, and watching him is always so much fun -- he's just so good at what he does! We were only able to watch one of his matches Saturday, but it was great to see him and Dan's whole family. That night, we met my dad and stepmom for dinner at one of my favorite new restaurants and had an excellent meal. We were exhausted by the time we got home and crashed on the couch to watch/snooze through a movie.
Yesterday morning, I left my boys curled up in bed to go to the gym. When I got back, we headed up to Washington DC to see one of my very best college friends and her boyfriend. We hadn't seen them in over a month, so I was really excited to catch up on their life and finally give them their christmas gifts. They spent christmas with family in Wisconsin, and they were so wonderful to get us a gorgeous basket filled with cheese, smoked sausage, specialty olive oil, beer, and a candle that smells fantastic. All of it will go so well with my wine! The four of us went out for an excellent lunch at a mexican place close to their apartment, complete with huge margaritas and chocolate lava cake (not exactly a spanish delicacy, but still yummy). I had a salad with corn, black beans, onions, and a huge hunk of salmon that was absolutely amazing. It was great to have a relaxing lunch and just talk for hours! Even though we were still stuffed from lunch, we headed to another friends' house for chinese takeout and more catching up -- it was really good to see her and her boyfriend as well. Hanging out with all of them makes me wish we lived closer and could do it more often, although the traffic in DC always reminds me how happy I am where we do live. I do miss seeing these girls daily like we did in school though!
my best friend and I at graduation
We got home late last night and for some reason I just could not fall asleep, so I watched a movie and stayed up a lot later than I should have... hence my disbelief at the alarm clock this morning. It was wonderful to have such an exciting and busy weekend, but it left me exhausted! Tonight Dan's parents and brother are coming over for dinner, so I have to grocery shop and clean after work. On top of that, I think I'm getting a cold. Must be a Monday!


January 27, 2011

This Thrilling Life

I was all set to blog today about the unexpected and fabulous snow day we had here yesterday.... until I sat down to think about it and realized that, in fact, there was nothing even remotely exciting about it. Actually, while we're being honest, I've been exceedingly boring all week. (I really had you going with that title though, didn't I?!) In my defense, yesterday was really less a "snow day" and more a "snow afternoon" -- I didn't even get to leave work until 3:00. But those two extra hours were certainly better than nothing, and I was thankful to get out before the roads got too terrible. Once I made it home, I washed some dishes, cleaned up a little bit, and cuddled up on the couch with my favorite feline to watch some TV and take a nap. That's right, I'm a champion of the early evening nap... and so is Toby. Like mother, like son:
I did finally rouse myself around 9:00 and felt the need for some productivity to make up for my lazy evening, so I did what I always do when that urge kicks in: I baked. I've had a box of cornflakes just sitting around since making sweet potatoes for Christmas (another of my favorite recipes!), and I knew exactly how I wanted to use them up -- a batch of delicious cornflake cookies! One of my mom's old recipes, these odd-sounding delicacies were my very favorite growing up. She baked them all the time -- to cheer me up, to send in my summer camp care packages, and she even shipped them off to me when I was in college. There is nothing better than ripping open a box from home and seeing tupperware full of these babies. The other great thing? They are also incredibly simple to make: pretty standard ingredients (if you have cornflakes and coconut) and quick to mix up. Our recipe is a little different than most you'd find floating around the internet, so here are the specifics:

Cornflake Cookies
1 cup butter
1 cup sugar
1 cup brown sugar
2 eggs
1 tsp. vanilla
2 cups flour
1 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. salt
1 cup flake coconut
4 cups cornflakes

Preheat oven to 350°. Grease cookie sheets well.  Cream butter and sugars.  Add eggs and vanilla and beat in.  Sift dry ingredients together and cream into butter-sugar mixture.  Add coconut and cornflakes.  Cornflakes will break up when you use the mixer. [I don't have a kitchen-aid mixer (I asked for one for Christmas and my mom snorted with laughter. True story. Something about needing kitchen basics before luxuries. Humph.) and I had no trouble mixing all of this by hand. I typically cream/mix everything by hand when I'm baking, and this was one of the easier recipes to do manually.]  Drop by spoonful onto cookie sheet.  Bake 8-10 minutes.  Remove promptly from cookie sheets.  Makes 75 (small cookies). [I didn't actually make that many last night, but mine were pretty big. I probably got about 40 out of it.]

One important note: these guys spread waaaay out in the oven. Make sure to leave plenty of space between them so they have room to flatten.
I was so focused on eating cooling and storing the cookies after they came out of the oven that I completely forgot to take any pictures of them. You're just going to have to trust me on this: they are pure soft golden-brown heaven.
And that, my friends, was as thrilling as it got around these parts yesterday.


January 26, 2011

In Which a $16 Car Inspection Costs Me $511

Yep, the title says it all. I got up at the crack of dawn this morning to take my car in for an inspection. I happened to look down at the sticker on my windshield yesterday on the way to work and realized that I had been supposed to get one in December and completely forgotten. Each year, this little act of good citizenry seems to escape me -- I was late last year too and feel so guilty about it! This would be the point where Dan informs you that I am, in fact, blonde in real life, and I hide my head, ashamed that I look like such a delinquent. I was truly worried about whether the guys at the repair shop were going to yell at me for being so late (luckily they didn't).
I wanted to get it in right when they opened at 7 so that I could hopefully finish in time to grab coffee (my car place is on the same side of town as Dunkin' Donuts, which is a slight obsession of mine) and get to work by 8:30. My airbag light had other ideas. I should have realized that would have been too good to be true. Don't get me wrong, I'm really thankful that they found the problem and were able to fix it (in one day, no less), but I'm less than thrilled about the huge invoice that came with it. This is the third time since I graduated that my car has required some rather expensive tlc, and as much as I love my little jeep, this cycle is getting a little old. Plus, I'm still a little bitter that I didn't get my coffee this morning.... 


January 24, 2011

The Sounds of Silence

This weekend has been one of the quietest I've had in months. I'd feel lazy and guilty for barely leaving the house, but I've gotten so much done that I'm actually kind of proud of myself. After two weeks of trying to avoid caring about the mess creeping through our apartment, I spend yesterday cleaning... and cleaning.... and cleaning. I did laundry and dishes and vacuumed and organized and put things away and threw things away and took christmas decorations down and cleaned out the fridge and scrubbed our shower until it sparkled and made the bed and moved some boxes and are you bored yet? Because let me tell you, it was pretty boring. I also found time for a nap somewhere in there -- Dan left crazy early for drill and I never managed to go back to sleep after that, so I was seriously exhausted. 
This morning I went to the gym (for the first time in a week.... yep, that was fun), grocery shopped, and my mom came over for lunch and to talk about wedding plans. I'm pretty excited and will write a post soon all about our somewhat unconventional plan for getting married (ah, the life of the military). 
Tonight, I whipped up a few yummy things in the kitchen for this week: chicken salad for lunches, the best salad dressing ever, a new recipe for granola bars (which I may share once I play around with it a little.... today's results were not quite perfect):
sticky goodness!
and a batch of the classic pretzel + hershey's kiss + M&M cookies:
I love the holiday M&Ms!
So simple but so good! These are the perfect solution to my frequent chocolate cravings. I'm also pretty excited that my mom brought me some of her fantastic banana muffins -- I had one for dinner (hey, no one was here to judge me) and they are wonderful. It's nice to start the week with lots of clean laundry and a full refrigerator!
I've missed Dan a lot this weekend but was able to keep busy enough that I didn't have time to indulge my loneliness. Toby was also pretty good company:
His new favorite spot atop the trash can -- how classy
Still, the house has been deafeningly quiet and I'm really looking forward to Dan being home next weekend!

January 21, 2011


.... really doesn't even begin to describe it. I am so frazzled from this week and absolutely ready for a quiet weekend. Of course, the weekend ahead may be a little too quiet for my tastes: Dan has to leave early Saturday morning for drill and then starts his new, far-away job next week (boo), so he won't be home until next Friday. Going to be lonely around these parts!
My brain is too overbooked right now to come up with anything too witty or, you know, intelligible, but here are a few tidbits (which may or may not be of any interest at all) that seem to be shining through the clouds in my head right now.
 -- I put on a pair of open-toe heels this morning to go with a pair of pants that I haven't worn in a while, and as I walked out of the apartment I looked down at my poor toenails that haven't been seen the light of day in at least a month. Oops! Needless to say, the once-cute pink polish is now chipped, faded, and sad. One more thing to add to my "to do" list this weekend, I suppose. Meanwhile, I've been hiding at my desk all day and hoping no one looks too hard at my feet.
 -- I haven't really been hungry all week, ever since I was so sick on Monday. I've had soup for at least 4 meals this week and applesauce for probably 4 more. In a meeting this morning, though, my stomach started to growl, and it was like the past 5 days of light eating caught up with me all at once. I was ravenous, and there was no way that the soup I brought for lunch today (of course) was going to cut it. I celebrated the return of my appetite by taking myself out to McDonalds for lunch (the choices around my office are pretty slim) and not feeling guilty about the calories. Now it's definitely time to get my butt back to the gym -- my 'sick' excuse has officially expired!
 -- Dan came home last night with information about an army-sponsored, all-expenses-paid "marriage counseling retreat" in April. He was nervous that I would take it the wrong way and think he was nervous about marriage or we had problems, so I think he was really surprised when I responded with a "well, where do I sign?!" It sounds like a fun (and free!) weekend, and I am a firm believer that no matter how good a relationship is, it's never a bad idea to learn about techniques for making it better. I don't think we have any need to sit down for couples therapy or anything, but this weekend will, if nothing else, be a chance to get away and learn a little bit about each other. I'm also hoping that we'll learn about how to keep our relationship strong while he is deployed.
 -- Speaking about the deployment, Dan told me recently that he got some interesting advice on how to stay in touch while he is overseas. Luckily, he should have no problems with internet access while he is there, and his friend (who will be going over for his third tour soon) recommended that we keep in touch by email as much as possible, skype once every week or two, and make phone calls once a month. At first, I was a little upset by that, but as I've thought about it more I've kind of gotten used to it. Apparently, if you talk on the phone too much, then you run out of things to talk about and start to fight. We've been together over 5 1/2 years and still find it easy to talk to each other, but I guess it makes sense -- while he is there, our lives are going to be very different, and honestly his will probably be pretty hard for me to understand. As long as he can email me consistently to let me know that he's safe, I'm sure I should consider myself lucky.
 -- In the evenings when we're at home, Dan and I basically either watch whatever is on USA (we love NCIS, Burn Notice, and White Collar) or movies (we have Netflix streaming on our TV, which is freaking amazing). There are no TV shows that we follow every week or even really watch in order. Now that I'm going to be alone in the evenings, though, I would love to get into a good show or two that I can look forward to every week. I'm hoping that this will also get me out of the habit of watching things I'm not really interested in so that I can get other stuff done (reading, cooking, sleeping, etc.) Anybody have any good suggestions of shows to get into?
 -- Tonight is date night, and Dan is making me pick between the two dinner possibilities we've come up with: either a restaurant with a great beer selection and fish and chips with the most amazing homemade tartar sauce, or one with a great wine list and crab bisque to die for. This may be even harder than deciding what to wear....
Happy Friday everyone!

January 20, 2011

The Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Weekend... and Me

I have to start with a few apologies: first, for the serious lack of levity around here recently. I really do like to write about happy things too, and hopefully I'll have the opportunity to do more of that soon. Also, an apology to Judith Viorst, author of one of my favorite kids' books:
for borrowing her choice of words to describe my own plight. All weekend, it was the title of this book that was running through my head, as I kept asking myself, "how much worse can this really get?"
Right after lunch on Friday, I got a call from my mom. My grandmother had been in and out of the hospital for several weeks, struggling with numerous health issues which all boiled down to a single cause: cancer. She was diagnosed in the spring of 2008, at the very end of my sophomore year of college (Sorry, we seem to be working backwards here) Chemo was successful for a few years, and she fought her way into remission several times. Through it all, she lost her hair, her appetite, and her strength, but never let go of her sense of humor and a fierce determination to stick around. Just before Thanksgiving, though, her body started to give up -- she fell and broke her hip, dealt with intestinal problems, caught a bad case of pneumonia, and had to be "isolated" (visitors had to wear gloves and gowns) for a Vancomycin resistant infection. She seemed to be doing well despite these major setbacks, but as soon as I heard my mom's voice on the phone Friday I knew something was wrong. Her doctors think she had a stroke during the morning, and by the time I made it to the hospital that afternoon it was clear that she was uncomfortable and unhappy. As I sat there Friday evening, with my grandfather, my mom and stepdad, my aunt, and Dan, I was still amazed at how much my grandmother continued to laugh and smile with us, even through her pain. Leaving the hospital that night, I was hopeful that she would again be able to beat the odds and go home.
By Saturday morning, though, we knew that our time with my grandmother was running out. My uncle arrived from Florida very early that morning, and Grama's final words were to tell him that she loved him. When Dan and I arrived at the hospital later, the last of the family to get there that morning, she smiled at me and then, in a gesture I will never forget, looked right at Dan and winked. These responses were our final glimpse, and until she passed away Monday morning, she remained unresponsive, although we hope that she heard all the things we told her in her last days. Luckily, the hospital released her on Sunday to return "home" -- the Westminster Canterbury Retirement Community in our town. I am so thankful that she was able to leave the hospital and that my grandfather, my mom, and my aunt and uncle could be by her side when she passed away.
I am incredibly sad, however, that I was not there with her as well... but truly, I had a fairly good excuse. After spending basically the whole weekend in the hospital, I started feeling kind of icky Sunday evening. By midnight, that dreaded monster known as the flu had reared its big, ugly head and positioned mine, to put it delicately, just above the toilet. Too much information? Trust me, that's nothing -- I will spare you the really gory details. Suffice it to say that those were some of the longest hours I've ever lived through (and the most sleepless). I lost almost 10 pounds in approximately 24 hours... worst. diet. ever. The only good thing about these kinds of bugs, though, is that typically if you make it until morning the worst is over. My wonderful dad brought over a survival kit at about 10:30 the next morning, and oh my goodness gatorade has never tasted so good. I was achy for the rest of day, but that was positively delightful after all I had been through. All in all, a fitting end to a truly awful long weekend.
I don't feel that the real weight of my grandmother's passing has settled yet -- when my grandfather (on the other side of the family) died my senior year of high school, it took months for me to completely grasp the loss. As it did then, the realization that she is not here anymore hits me at odd times: doing the dishes last night, in the shower, and driving home from work. I went through a gazillion pictures yesterday (more of which would be included in this post if my scanner wasn't being a jerk) and loved seeing the ones of my grandmother with me as I grew up. She was without a doubt one of the most talented and inspirational women I have ever known: an intelligent lady who raised three wonderful kids, an excellent gardener, a skilled knitter, an incredible cook (I loved anything she made), a fantastic host, an avid reader, an able hiker, a world traveler and, perhaps most importantly, an extraordinary wife. She and my grandfather, married for over 60 years, were the most loving, faithful, and inspirational couple you could ever meet. My heart breaks for my grandfather, because I know that he is going to be so lonely without her.
Aren't they a cute couple?
I am missing her more than words already, but I know that I am lucky to have such wonderful memories of her life. I learned so much from her and hope that I can be half as determined, resilient, and happy as she has always been.
For now, I am just thankful that this miserable weekend is over, and hopeful that life will get better soon. I am anxious to write about happy things again soon!


January 14, 2011

On a Serious Note

While I'd really like to do a fun and upbeat Friday Favorites post again, unfortunately I feel like there are more pressing issues in my life to confront this week. Some are happier (wedding plans!) and some are not (a deployment), so buckle your seatbelts, ladies and gentlemen: this may be a bumpy ride.
Even though I've had a full 3 months to prepare, the fact that Dan's deployment is almost here (and creeping ever closer) shocks me every single morning. While he doesn't actually leave for almost 4.5 more months, he has to start prep work in about a week, which means that he will be in a town 3 hours away every Tuesday-Friday. Sometime in February he will be in another state for a few weeks taking a class (which he has actually already taken and passed....), and then in April/May he will be away training basically full time.
I keep struggling to look at this positively: the next few months will get me used to him being gone and make it easier when he really leaves, the deployment is (for now) only 7 months, this is something he needs to do for his career.... blah, blah, blah. No matter how I spin this one, it still sucks from every angle. We have been apart and done the long-distance thing a lot in the last 5.5 years, so I'm not worried about our relationship "getting through" this time -- I know we love each other and still will when all of this is over. I realized just last night, however, one thing that really makes this time different: while in the past I was living either at home or at school, this time Dan is leaving OUR apartment, vanishing from a place where I am used to seeing him pretty much every day. It is going to be so quiet and lonely with only the cat to talk to for almost a year. As bad as it will be, though, being apart is not even close to the worst thing about this deployment.
I'm a worrier -- always have been and (despite my best efforts) probably always will be. Over the next few months I trust that Dan's training will keep him safe, but I'm sure that once he heads overseas I will be spending many sleepless nights staring at the ceiling and wondering about his safety. I do know that he is incredibly good at what he does, but I also know that sometimes, no amount of skill or preparation can keep you safe in a war. Missing him is really going to be nothing compared to worrying constantly about where he is and whether he's ok. I can handle being lonely and missing him as long as he comes home to me in one piece after 7 months.
The specific timing of this deployment has proven slightly problematic as well, interfering with the wedding plans that we were trying really hard to start making. Right now we're working through our options and trying to figure out a "plan B" that is acceptable to everyone. The one thing we know right now: we both want to get married before Dan leaves the country. Meaning that we have to do it, at least on paper, very soon. Our main issue at this point is how to reconcile this with the fact that I am that girl who has been dreaming of my wedding since the day I figured out that boys didn't actually have cooties. I'm still really excited and I know that whatever we choose, the day (or days?) will be magical and special, but trying to figure out what to do has been a stressful process with a lot of varying opinions from all sides. So many people keep telling me that the only thing that matters is what Dan and I want, but I'm not really sure if either of us really know what we want.
So there you have it, the serious side of life. Not very fun or happy right now, but necessary I suppose. Some days, I'd prefer to be one of those birds that buries its head in the sand, but it seems that no matter how effectively (or not) I try to hide from it, the future finds a way of arriving much faster than I expected.

January 12, 2011

A Whole New Meaning to Caffeinated

I tend to have a hard time trying to motivate myself to run, especially in the winter when it's frigid outside and I have to do it on a treadmill. Running outside is rough, especially when it's hot and humid and gross, but at least the scenery changes and I have a sense that I've actually traveled a distance, even if it's just in a circle. When it's cold outside though, I feel like my muscles kind of freeze up and dragging myself all of the 50 yards to the gym door is like yanking a big, yawning polar bear off his iceberg.
Yep, that looks about right.

This morning, I woke up knowing that today was "gym day"..... not a good way to start off. I was a little bit hopeful, though, because I've been wanting to have a chance to watch snow from the huge windows in front of the treadmills. The forecast was snow all day, so I was clinging to this little glimmer of motivation.
Right. Not only was it dark by the time I made it out the door, but it had (of course) stopped snowing. So much for that. I hacked out a 5k (which seems to be my typical length these days), and then I decided to try to go above and beyond, so I ran a whole .2 miles more. Again, motivation is NOT my strong point. As I'm walking to cool down a bit, though, my mind started to wander to the cup of coffee that my amazing-awesome-fantastic-wonderful fiance delivered to me at work this morning (yes, he's that sweet, and yes, it was partially to make up for the fact that he got the day off. ahem.) Now, when I give in to my Starbucks cravings (in the winter) I stick to a tall peppermint mocha with no whipped cream and skim milk.... I try to save my calories where I can. Dan, who luckily loves me just the way I am, extra 5 pounds and all, upgraded me to a venti with plenty of whipped cream. Which I of course finished. So as I'm walking, I start to think about how many awful calories must have been in that huge paper cup of goodness, and because I have no restraint or sense at all, I pick up my phone and google that shit. In case anyone else was still in doubt, I (re-)discovered right there on that treadmill how terrible an idea it is to research the number of calories in anything that tastes good.
[Disclaimer: This is in no way meant to criticize Starbucks or any of their drinks. I am fully aware and appreciative of that company's efforts to provide low-fat, low-cal, healthy options. It's no one's fault but my own that I don't take them up on that.]
480 calories. 4.8.0. My jaw hit the heart rate monitor. How on earth was I able to consume that many calories before 10 am?! I checked my calorie count on the treadmill (I know it's barely even a decent ballpark, but I love watching that number grow as I run), and I was hovering around 420 -- more than a usual day for me but not even enough to cover my mocha. So without even thinking about it, I sped that baby up and started to run again. Fast. And I didn't look back until I had hit 480 calories and almost 4.5 miles. 
Not exactly the way I wanted to find inspiration today, but I suppose in the end the fact that I completed an extra-long run makes it a success. I think this could work out well -- the next time I need a little kick in the butt, you'll find me drinking my weight in coffee.

January 8, 2011

These Are a Few of My.... Friday Favorites

Since it's Friday, and since my last post was extremely long, and since my brain is fried from this incredibly long week, and since both 'Friday' and 'favorite' begin with the letter 'F' (how convenient is that?!), I thought I'd take it easy today and share a few of my newest favorite things. I am fully aware that this is in no way unique and I'm sure there are a ton of other bloggers doing this any given Friday, so I take no credit for the idea, just for coming up with the lovely alliteration in my sleepy little brain. Really, this just gives me the excuse to do something I've wanted to do for a while: talk about a bunch of things that make me happy recently. Here's to a new Friday tradition!

This little guy is my new best friend and definitely the best Christmas present that I received I gave to Dan (oops!) this year. A few days ago he made amazing chocolate milkshakes for dessert, and yesterday morning I made a coffee/smoothie that rivaled Starbucks itself (except that Dan's new coffeemaker makes coffee that tastes like plastic... yick). I am so excited to experiment with more combinations -- I think pumpkin is next on my list!
I know I'm sort of cheating since I've already posted these here once, but they are just so great that I have to share them again. Typically I'm a ballet flat kind of girl, and this pair was my first foray into the world of boots, but I love them so much! They are extremely comfortable and it seems like they go with basically any outfit I own. What a perfect addition to my closet!

 My dad and stepmother came over for dinner last night -- our first time entertaining! -- and I made the easiest stuffed mushroom appetizer ever. Ok, ok, so mine didn't look quite like those up there, but I completely forgot to take a picture before we devoured them. They were SO yummy and so incredibly simple to make -- even I didn't mess them up!
Over the past several years I have tried so many brands/varieties of mascara and was really beginning to get discouraged -- they all either clumped, dried out, or left me looking like a manic raccoon. This one, however, finally seems to work: it looks good and goes on perfectly with little to no skill required.

Rounding out this week's picks is my newest favorite song -- a gorgeous (and very sad) piece that I've been listening to on repeat recently which has yet to get old. Sara Bareilles is such a talented pianist as well as vocalist (and she's gorgeous, too -- some people get all the luck).
Happy weekend everyone!

January 4, 2011

Ringing in the New Year: Nostalgia and Aspirations

We spend January 1 walking through our lives, room by room, drawing up a list of work to be done, cracks to be patched. Maybe this year, to balance the list, we ought to walk through the rooms of our lives... not looking for flaws, but for potential.
~ Ellen Goodman

It completely stuns me that 2010 is already over -- the year flew by incredibly fast. It certainly had its share of ups and downs (with a few weird knock-you-upside-down loops thrown in for good measure), but I think it's actually fair to say it has been the best yet. I don't typically make new year's resolutions -- I'd rather grumble to myself when my favorite treadmill is always taken in January and chuckle when, come February, I'm back to being the only one at the gym. But this year I did want to document some of the best parts of 2010 and make a few.... well, let's call them loose goals for the year ahead.

10 Best Moments of 2010:

10. the final advisory meeting for my psych research project: This spring, to finish up the credits for my psychology minor, I completed an independent research project for which I read upwards of 40 articles and wrote a paper. Not exactly a thesis, but still a whole lot of work. By accident, I ended up with a topic that I was able to study from both a psychological and a legal perspective, perfectly combining the minor with my government major for some incredibly intriguing reading. I was also lucky enough to have a faculty advisor who supported this dual approach to the subject and allowed me a lot of freedom, which was exciting but also a little scary -- I had no idea what she would think of the (very long) end result. The paper took me months to research, write and edit, but in the end those late nights payed off: my advisor loved it and said that she actually learned from my work!
9. starting this blog: Even though it's still very much an infant and has a grand total of 0 people reading (except maybe Dan, when he remembers), getting this little blog off the ground was a major step. I've been reading blogs for years and wanting to start my own for almost as long, so I may have had a little private celebration after finally hitting the "publish" button on my first post. It's a little scary to be putting myself out there for anyone (or, as the case may be, no one) to see, but I'm also loving the chance to write about my life!
8. finishing my first 5k: After several months of hibernation last winter, during which I darkened the doorway of the gym maybe twice, the warmth of spring enticed me to start running again. It was pretty rough in the beginning, but with a persistence fairly uncharacteristic of me, I stuck with it. After a month or so, each run was a little bit easier... so I signed up for a 5k in my college town, telling myself that even if I had to walk most of it, I'd at least feel accomplished for getting up that early on a Saturday. I was extremely anxious and wanted to stop running soooo many times over that 3.14 miles, but I made it to the finish line in just under 30 minutes. It was an awesome feeling, and even though at the time I celebrated by promptly going back to bed, I've channeled the exciting energy quite a few times since then when I'm struggling to make it through that last mile.
7. family dinner before graduation: Since my parents divorced when I was in middle school, they have been (luckily) civil and polite but rarely spend more than a few moments in the same room. I was a little nervous about spending the entire graduation weekend with my mom, my dad, and my stepmom -- as much as I love each one of them, Dan and I prepared ourselves for a whole lot of awkward. It was really important to me, however, that I get one dinner with everyone together, so the night before graduation we all piled into one car (oooh the uncomfortable silences) and headed to a fantastic restaurant. Thankfully, with a glass of wine in hand and a plate of scallops in front of me, the night turned out to be fun and drama-free. The conversation was remarkably easy and we all laughed a lot and genuinely enjoyed our evening. I am so lucky to have parents who, even if they aren't still married, were willing to ignore their history and make the night really special.
6. bringing Toby home: I never thought I'd be a cat person -- I was always more comfortable around dogs and tended to that think most cats were an amalgam of teeth and claws better left alone. Although Dan and I are pretty sure that Toby IS actually part dog (he follows us around and cuddles like only a puppy can), he gets cuter each and every day and is rapidly gaining ground toward changing my mind in this matter. In only a month, the little furball has snuggled his way into our hearts.... now if only he'd stop circling and lie down already!
5. picking up the keys to our first apartment: Simply put: I was finally moving out of my mother's house. For good. And moving in with the best roomie ever: Dan. I'm pretty sure I frightened the office manager with my giddy smile.
4. finding two new best friends: I've had a lot of good friends in my life, but I never had a best friend -- a together-since-childhood, knows-all-my-secrets, her-family-is-my-second-family type friend. Instead, I had several good friendships which all lasted a few years and then slowly and naturally grew apart. College was no exception, and I drifted between groups for my first few years, until I pledged the co-ed social/honors fraternity and discovered the best "greek" experience possible, my own place on campus, and two of the most amazing best friends I could ever ask for. Even though I had actually met M my freshman year, we were reunited in the same pledge class and became quick friends. During the fall of my senior year, I met A as a pledge and knew immediately that I wanted her as a little. She and I are almost frighteningly similar and I'm pretty sure that we may share a brain. Even though I met these two ladies late in my college years, they were by far the best part of my college experience. They are truly the best friends I've ever had -- supportive, fun and down-to-earth girls who always get me and never let me down. The three of us had so much fun and made so many memories my senior year, and I am sad that I don't get to see them every day now. 
3. starting my new job: I spent a great deal of time and energy last spring worrying about what I was going to do with my life for the next few years. I knew I wanted to go to law school, but I also knew that I needed to take a year or two off to get some experience, regroup, and store up a good reserve of sleep before I embarked upon 3 years of hell. I knew that waiting tables for two years wouldn't exactly sparkle on my applications, but after applying for job after job.... after job.... after job and never getting so much as a courtesy rejection call, I started to get a little bit frustrated. Dads seem to have a talent for recognizing when their daughters need help, though, and when mine told me there was a job opening at his bank, I was desperate enough to know that I couldn't turn it down because it wasn't exactly my area of interest. I thank my lucky stars that I was mature enough to suck up my doubts, put on my heels, and show up the next day to meet with human resources. I never could have guessed how much I'd love this job, the people I work with, and... well... the paychecks aren't so bad either. It's not permanent, but being able to lie down at night and sleep instead of worrying about the next year or two is all I can ask for now.
2. graduating from college: It is still, more than 7 months later, unreal to me that I have a college degree. I worked my butt off for 4 whole years for that little piece of paper (written in Latin, no less -- just like my grandfather's), and I am incredibly proud of it. Walking up the steps of one of the oldest buildings in our country's history to accept my diploma was one of the most incredible things I've ever experienced.
1. engagement: The story of my engagement -- a fantastic but very lengthy tale -- is a story for another post, but suffice it to say that this was absolutely the best moment of my year -- if not my life. I am so lucky to be engaged to marry my best friend, my high school sweetheart, and my hero. I can't wait to get married!!!

11 Goals for 2011:

1. finish unpacking & decorating our apartment: Yes, there may still be a few lingering boxes. Yes, I feel pretty bad about that since we moved in almost 3 months ago. Yes, starting a full time job is totally an excuse, or at least it's the one I'm using. Yes, this needs to get done. Pronto.
2. learn lots of yummy new recipes and cook more often: While I am a damn good baker, if I may say so myself, my basic cooking skills leave a little a lot to be desired. There are a very few dishes that I make pretty well, but beyond these staples my time in the kitchen is typically a long series of errors with barely edible results. Ironically, though, I LOVE cooking (although I'd always rather be baking), so my goal this year is to try lots of new things, expand my repertoire, and not burn down the apartment in the process.
3. save money: It's true, I love to shop. Clothes, shoes, books, anything found at Target (well, maybe not anything)... I'm a sucker for a good sale. This year, though, I have to keep in mind that there are much better things worth saving for (yes, even better than another pair of heels): a wedding, a honeymoon, even a house sometime in the future. Not a bad trade-off for limiting the number of Starbucks trips every week.
4. continue running: It's not always fun and there are so many days that I'd much rather hide under the covers and nap with the cat, but I know that I have to keep at it to stay in good shape -- the weight won't lose itself. I hope to sign up for (and complete!) a few more races this year to keep me on track (literally).
5. keep up with this blog: So far, updating this little thing every few days has been pretty easy, but I'm always worried that I will run out of things to write about. Maybe this goal should actually be "have an interesting life for the next year."
6. keep it together through Dan leaving and make the deployment as easy as possible for him: This is probably the most challenging goal of the whole list. It's a little bit hard to get excited about this year when I realize that I'll be spending more than half of it alone, while Dan is training and then deployed. It's going to be really tough on both of us, but I know that we are strong enough to make it through just about anything. Hopefully I can hang in there, keep everything at home together, and find time to put together a few fantastic care packages for my love when he's a world away.
7. ace the LSATs and plan for the future: #1 project during the deployment. 'Nuf said.
8. watch more movies: #2 project during the deployment. Not very ambitious, but let's face it, I resolve to do this every year. My netflix queue is about 16 miles long, and I'm thinking lots of lonely nights curled up with the kitty and a good glass of wine will fix that little issue.
9. spend lots of time with friends: It's hard to be several cities away from most of my friends, but especially with Dan gone I know that they are going to be an amazing, essential support network for me. So many have already told me that I can come visit anytime, and I know that this year I have to force myself to be social when I'm feeling down and make a huge effort to spend lots of time with people I love.
10. get more sleep: Fairly self-explanatory. I usually get by on 4-5 hours a night and try to make up for it on the weekends, which makes getting me up early a hard job for even the jaws of life. I'm pretty sure I'd be a much happier person on 6-7 hours a night. Which leads me to my final goal for 2011....
11. BE HAPPY: Even when life is not perfect. Even when things go wrong. Even when work sucks. Even when things break. Even when my fiance is far away and I am alone. Even when I want to hide from everyone in the world, even the cat. Even when I don't think that it will get better. Making myself happy is a skill that I'm going to have to perfect over the next year, like or it not. I'm looking forward to getting damn good at it, and having an amazing year, no matter what life brings!



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