Friday, November 30, 2012

Flashback Friday: November 30, 2012

These two, forever in my heart and thoughts.

December 1995 - Gram and Gramp by their Christmas tree


Wednesday, November 28, 2012

I Want Wednesday: November 28, 2012

**I Want to add to my winter (as in: after Christmas comes down) decorations and I think the Flickering Silver collection from Yankee Candle would be perfect, all soft white with a hint of sparkle. I would gladly take either or both of the Jar Holder or the votive holder. I'm not picky.

**I have a dressier beige sweater, but I Want a cream colored one as well, for when the brown family doesn't match the rest of the outfit. I think this Ann Taylor Draped Front Cardigan in Abalone would do the job nicely.

**I have zero idea when and where I would ever have the opportunity to wear it, but that doesn't mean I Want this Shimmer Lace Dress and red Iridescent Fringed Wrap any less! I love the way the material gathers off to the hip and then cascades down, and the rich red is so festive!

**I Want this "Our Wedding" Keepsake Ornament in the worst way for our Christmas tree.

**There is a new series of Hallmark Keepsake Ornaments I Want to start that debuted this year: Cookie Cutter Christmas. How adorable is he, on his little sled?? And Christmas tree sugar cookie cutouts hold special meaning in my family, as if I needed another reason to want him.

**Speaking of Hallmark Keepsake Ornaments, I Want the next installment of the Season's Treatings as well. I have the first three, courtesy of my dad, and I love them, so if he doesn't get me this year's, I will have to send T out looking for one on Ebay for me, I guess.

**Because it reminds me of my grandparents' house, I am partial to birch tress, so it stands to reason that I Want the Woodland Wonderland ornament as well.

**Ooo! I Want a couple of these mercury glass bottles to use for some New Year's decorations!! Joy and Peace would be perfect...

**I Want to put two or three of these Champagne Ice Drop Sprays in a tall vase. They would be ideal all-winter-long decorations!

**I've always thought Rachael Ray's Little Hoot dishes were adorable, with their autumn colors and that sweet little owl, but I think her Holiday Hoot designs are even cuter! The only question is would I Want the more Christmas-y dishes or the ones that could be used all winter long? Although if I am just wishing, who says I can't wish for both?!

**Someday, I Want to actually sit and see The Candlelight Processional at EPCOT in its entirety. (I've only seen bits and pieces as I've strolled by, but it was amazing.) If I were going this year, I would want to see it when either Andy Garcia, Trace Adkins or Gary Sinise were the celebrity narrator.


Sunday, November 25, 2012

Food and Wine Fest 2012: Top 5

I have this rule for myself, when I am doing Food and Wine Fest, that I cannot repeat a dish until I've tried everything on my list once. I can't risk not having enough time or room. If everything goes according to plan, my Grand Finale Tour of Favorites can take place. Conveniently, this final round reflects my Top Five of the Festival (with the honorable mentions, of course--I *am* a Libra after all!).

This was difficult. Painfully, deliciously difficult. There were some repeats from last year and a lot of mental back-and-forth to reach my final results. They were all so going it was nearly impossible to pick one over another. If there were ranking numbers, I would have to going out at least five or six decimal points.

5. Spanakopita (Greece)

4. Zapiekanki (Poland)

3. Crispy Shrimp Taco with Chipotle Lime Mayo and Cabbage on a Flour Tortilla (Mexico)

2. Lemon Custard Verrine with Blueberry Compote (Desserts and Champagne)

1. Kalua Pork Slider with Sweet and Sour Pineapple Chutney and Spicy Mayonnaise (Hawaii)

Honorable Mentions
Lobster and Seafood Fisherman's Pie (Ireland)

Pumpkin Mousse with Dried Cranberries and Orange Sauce

Favorite Beverage
(and I cannot believe the Cosmo Slush got unseated as my long-running festival favorite! but edged out, it was)
Florida Orange Groves Key Limen (Florida Local)


Saturday, November 24, 2012

Saturdays Are For Weddings: In Words and Photos

A wedding is a funny thing. You get engaged. You expect an immediate whirlwind of Things You Must Do. But the time really moves so slowly. There's only so much you can tackle, because there is a timeline for many of these tasks and jumping the gun isn't necessarily in your favor. The days plod along and, for lack of anything else to do, in this information age, you (well, "you" if you're me, anyway) fill the time by looking at wedding blogs. Photography and inspiration and occasional questionnaires where the brides give the same trite wisdom and a few shopping details. I remember feeling a combination of excited, overwhelmed, mildly concerned (by the process, not the decision), and curious.

Then time takes on some crazy warp speed characteristics. You seem to be transported from "a year is plenty of time" to "what do you mean the wedding is in ten days?!" in an absolute instant. Suddenly, it's go time. Table numbers and place cards and centerpieces (oh my!) dance in your dreams. When you actually sleep. And like a snowball rolling downhill in a cartoon, it picks up size and momentum, carrying you along with so many arms and legs sticking out the sides and a shout that is somewhere between "wheeeeee!" and "aaaaaaahhhhhhhhhhhh!"

As part of my thank-you speech to our guests, I said, "I don't think there is a little girl out there who didn't dress up and pretend to be a bride at least once. We get this image in our heads of princesses and fairy tales. And somehow it all magically falls into place. We don't think about what it takes to make all these details come together. And then we grow up. Life teaches us some lessons, some less pleasant than others, about reality. You start to think maybe it won't happen, you won't get there. Until the day that you're standing here, in a room like this, filled with people who want nothing more than to celebrate your fairy tale with you. And I have to tell you, it's nothing like what I pictured in my little girl mind. It is so much better. And it is so much better because I know what goes into making a day like this happen. ...A wedding can happen anywhere and at any time but it can only be a true celebration when all the people you love are there to share it with you."

Even as I composed the words, weeks in advance, I didn't know how it would feel to be standing there, not really. There I was, in the dress, with the guy, our shiny new rings and our shiny new promises. And it was all so...surreal. There's just so much build-up and so much commotion. Everyone wants a piece of the bride. There were so many camera flashes, I didn't even know where to look. And yet, the whole time, I knew right where my groom was. The calm in the center of the crazy. The whole day was perfect and in the back of my mind, a voice pleading with me to stop and remember, don't miss committing to memory how this all feels. But I wasn't sure that I had.

Just recently, I was wandering aimlessly online again, browsing some of my favorite photographers' blogs, when I came across a group of wedding photos, for the first time post-wedding. That's when I knew I had succeeded in retaining the true emotions and essence of our wedding day. As I looked into the faces of these people I don't know, surrounded by details that were nothing like our details, I wasn't seeing them through the wistful eyes of a girl hoping "one day," or the hungry eyes of a girl, newly engaged and in the throes of wedding plans, hunting for inspiration. I saw through the photos instead, with warmth and understanding, tenderness and joy, recalling how it felt to live those moments of my own. I could see it all with a clarity that startled me, because it had felt like the whole day whipped past me in a blur, the hands on the clock unwinding the hours like Father Time gone mad. But with each photo I saw of someone else, it was how my own moments felt that played out in my head.

I've been asked, many times over, how it "feels to be married now," and the answer is, really, it feels no different. In many ways, that's true. We have a good relationship, a strong one. We communicate well. We laugh often. We respect one another's quirks and independence. The dynamic between us has always just been easy and comfortable. None of that has changed, nor would I want it to. What *has* changed--and I didn't really expect it--is that I can be whisked right back to that day, to how I felt, without warning, and it's like floating on a cloud. Once again, I am the princess, *his* princess, and the world is golden and warm. I know exactly how it felt to take his hand, to hear his voice, to whisper something in his ear that makes him laugh--things I do nearly every day--but they are captured, these essences of us, in the snapshots of this specific day, and I glow inwardly in a way I never expected. And while it's about that day, it isn't really. And it's something I haven't been able to put into words over these last four weeks. But when I look at any photos, from any wedding, I feel it all in my heart: remembering a day that was a perfect microcosm of who we are and how we treat each other, a day like every other, and yet like no other, because for those few hours and a lot of fanfare, we let the rest of the world in on the secret of who we are as the two of us.

A wedding is a funny thing, because even with the very obvious changes the day brings, if your foundation is sure and solid, nothing changes at all. You, as a couple, are both who you were and who you promise to be, which is the same, only with a declaration that is both public and intensely personal. Something old, something new...indeed.


The Girl on the Other Coast: November 24, 2012

G's turn to pick our co-blogging project prompt! It was a good one: not as simple as it appeared at first glance. It really made me think!

Curious how many of our answers were similar, despite not knowing what the other was saying? (Humor me. Pretend you're curious.) Take a virtual voyage to Little Italy and find out!
8 Things

Things I'm Passionate About
1. My Career. I’ve wanted to teach since I was 7 years old. I worked incredibly hard to put myself through graduate school (and was lucky to meet some amazing people in the process). I’m extremely dedicated to my profession and being the best I can be for my students. I want to make a difference in their lives that goes beyond the classroom.
2. Being a good friend. I have been blessed with some amazing people in my life. I have also encountered (many) not so amazing people. The older I get, the better I am at determining which category you fall into. I’ve found that there are quite a few individuals who claim to want what’s best for you when really all they are doing are making empty promises or attending to their own needs. I’m learning to accept only the behavior that I would allow from myself.
3. Learning to relax. It’s a constant battle. With a job like mine, it’s very easy to allow yourself to get burnt out. The other problem? I’m a bit of a perfectionist so I want to get everything done right now! It’s just not feasible. And I’ve recently learned that if you don’t listen to your body and slow down, it will make you! Do I follow my own advice (or that of others?)? Not always. But I’m getting much better at it. And that’s saying something.
4. Being creative. I’ve always had a desire to do something creative whether it’s in the form of singing, scrapbooking, or (as of late) blogging. My best friend and I love to get together and just make stuff. I really need to carve out more time to do this since it really gives me such a sense of accomplishment when I’m done. I love to look at something, smile, and know that I did that myself. I think something I need to keep in mind is that creativity can take many different shapes and I should dabble in what is making me happy at that time. J
5. Saving. My father instilled in me while I was young the importance of “saving for a rainy day”. I must be honest, I just can’t understand how people live outside of their means. Do I have bills that I have to pay? Yes. Do I use credit cards? Yes. But I’ve never pushed my limit to a point where I couldn’t get back. I don’t need  things to make me happy. I need people to make me happy. And thankfully, I don’t have to purchase that! Plus, I sleep WAY better knowing that God forbid something were to happen I have a little nest egg to fall back on.
6. Reading. I grew up an only child and would spend hours on end reading. I remember being about 5 years old and going to my first book store. For some reason, books just hold magic for me. It’s amazing when you can get lost in a story and find yourself hours later looking around and realizing you aren’t actually participating in the book you’re reading.
7. Organization. I’m obsessed. Am I organized? I feel like that’s always a work in progress. But boy do I LOVE the feeling of finishing an organizational project. Getting rid of things, putting away what I keep, and being able to find it easily? Bliss.
8. Lists. (I had to copy Dawn on this one!) They are everywhere. On the coffee table, stuck to binders, in my phone. Mr. Smith made a good point…”Why stress yourself out trying to remember everything when you can just write it down and relax?” 100% agreed. Plus, crossing things off just make me happy.

Things I Say Often
1. You’re my favorite. (Reserved for Mr. Smith only.)
2. Seriously? (I’m pretty sure I say this at least once a day at school.)
3. Are you kidding? (My 2nd most popular saying at school. This is high school people. There’s many a strange thing happening with these crazy teenagers.)
4. I feel like,… I picked this up from my friend Jen. She says it all the time and I started saying it too. It just stuck.
5. It’s too good.
6. I love you. (And when I say it, I mean it.)
7. No, but really… (because clearly you didn’t get it the first time I tried telling you!)
8. See how I’m not looking at you right now? That means I’m not listening. (Again, teenagers firmly believe the world revolves solely around them. I’m sure what they have to say is important. Just let me finish what I’m doing first so I can pay attention to you.)

Books I've (Tried To) Read Recently
1. Life of Pi – Yann Martel
2. Happier at Home – Gretchen Rubin
3. The EveryGirl’s Guide to Life – Maria Menounos
4. The Emotionally Destructive Relationship – Leslie Vernick
5. Ugh…I can’t even come up with 8. Sad.

Songs I Can Listen to Over and Over
1. "I Won't Give Up," Jason Mraz
2. "Beautiful,” Barlow Girls
3. “I’m Yours,” Jason Mraz
4. “Ave Maria,” by almost anyone
5. "Blessed,” Brett Dennen
6. "Don’t Stop Believing,” Journey
7. "It’s All Coming Back To Me Now,” Celine Dion
8. The Big Bang Thoery theme song…does that count?

Things I am Grateful For
1. Mr. Smith
2. My friends
3. My co-workers
4. A place we love to live in
5. My family
6. My health
7. Faith
8. The opportunity to travel

Things I Want to do Before I Die
1. Travel the world with Mr. Smith
2. Go to Walt Disney World
3. Fly without fear
4. Have children
5. Learn to speak Italian
6. Become better at cooking – where it doesn’t stress me out so much!
7. Be comfortable in my own skin
8. Learn to swim. Seriously. It’s embarrassing to date a competitive swimmer-state champion-could have competed in the olymipics-and I can keep myself afloat. Barely.

(edit to add mine)

8 Things

Things I'm Passionate About
1. Taking photos. Of things. Of places. Of events. Of people. Of food. Of tiny, often-overlooked everyday details. Some of my most prized possessions are the old photos my Gram gave me about six months before she died. They weren't all perfectly composed. Some were dark or blurry. But they were life, as she and my Gramp saw it. They are concrete reminders of days I cherish. Photos are time machines for me.
2. The Red Sox. The "joke" in New England is that everyone has two religions: the one related to a church and the one that plays at Fenway Park. I rarely miss a game (we buy the Extra Innings package on cable so we have access to almost every game, even though we live out-of-market) and I may or may not attempt to communicate with the players through our tv.
3. Balance. I firmly believe in and defend my internal sense of balance. I don't appreciate people who intentionally shove my world out of balance. While circumstances can be out of my control, I adhere to the principle that for every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction. So when some unavoidable change occurs in my world, I actively seek out what it will take to make things balanced again to accommodate it. When I am balanced, I am a much better person to be around.
4. Fiscal responsibility. I don't believe that anything comes free. If you get something that you didn't work for and earn in your own right, that means someone else did. And they are now not seeing the fruits of their own labor. I was raised to work hard and save up for what I want, only after my needs and responsibilities were met. Gifts may be bestowed but they were at the grace and unbidden generosity of the giver, never by demand. I don't understand living beyond one's means, not making good on financial obligations, or expecting anyone else to bail me out of my inability to adhere to a proper budget.
5. Being a good friend. It's really easy to be a "well-drainer." It takes effort and awareness to replenish at least as much as you take from the well. Going the extra mile doesn't have to be a grand gesture. In fact, it is the cumulative "little things" that often have the greatest impact on brightening the lives of those who make *your* life brighter.
6. Optimism. The world is full of darkness. It's far easier to succumb to complaints and bitterness than to choose a more positive attitude. I prefer the extra work of being cheerful, grateful, light.
7. Down time. Bodies need time to restore, recharge, rest. While activity is both beneficial and necessary, both physically and mentally, so, too, is the time spent relaxing. When I take the time to be still, to read or enjoy a tv show, I have more energy reserves to use for motion, for work, for tackling the everyday.
8. Lists. Things I want to remember. Ideas for gifts. Wish lists. To-do lists. Grocery lists. I've never met a list I didn't like!

Things I Say Often
1. I don't care.
2. Crap ton (as in "We have a crap ton of napkins in the cabinet, so why do I keep buying more?")
3. Seriously (followed by any one of the following: question mark, period, exclamation point, or used as an adjective)
4. If you aren't useful or don't bring me joy, why are you cluttering up my world? (This can apply to people as easily as to objects.)
5. "There are three things I've learned never to discuss with people: religion, politics and The Great Pumpkin."
6. My 30s have been the best decade of my life.
7. I better write that down.
8. I love you. (Three small words. None more important for the people you love to hear.)

Books I've Read Recently
1. The Gunslinger (Stephen King) (currently reading)
2. Knuckler: My Life with Baseball's Most Confounding Pitch (Tim Wakefield with Tony Massarotti) (currently reading)
3. Murder in the White House (Margaret Truman)
4. While My Pretty One Sleeps (Mary Higgins Clark)
5. If Books Could Kill (Kate Carlisle)
6. Ghost of a Chance (Amy Patricia Meade)
7. The Murderer's Daughters (Randy Susan Meyers)
8. Homicide in Hardcover (Kate Carlisle)

Songs I Can Listen to Over and Over
1. "The Shape of Us," by Ian Britt (our wedding song)
2. "Overwhelmed," by Tim McMorris
3. "I Won't Give Up," by Jason Mraz
4. "The Way I Am," by Ingrid Michaelson
5. "She's Everything," by Brad Paisley
6. "Come Away With Me," by Norah Jones
7. "Edge of Desire," John Mayer
8. "Her Eyes," by Pat Monahan
I can't even begin to tell you how difficult it was to pick only 8! My "favorites" playlist includes well over 100 songs.

Things I am Grateful For
1. My husband.
2. My friends.
3. My home.
4. My faith.
5. My sense of self.
6. My upbringing.
7. My values.
8. My Annual Pass to Walt Disney World (sounds silly and frivolous, but it's my ultimate happy place, and to be able to go any time I need or want to is a blessing).

Things I Want to do Before I Die
1. Visit Washington DC as an adult. (I went in 7th grade, and I loved it, but I know I wasn't able to fully appreciate what I was seeing.)
2. Visit all the Disney Parks.
3. See a home game for every Major League Baseball team.
4. Go on a real sleigh ride.
5. Visit all fifty states.
6. Visit historical sites from the birth of this country: walk the Freedom Trail in Boston, explore battle sites in Virginia.
7. See the great sites of the United States - to name a few: the Grand Canyon, Mount Rushmore, Gettysburg, Old Faithful.
8. Get through my stack of magazines. (Seriously. OMG.)


Friday, November 23, 2012

Flashback Friday: November 23, 2012

What I wouldn't give to sit down and have a long conversation with her...

December 1992 - Gram, in her kitchen with her Christmas cookies


Wednesday, November 21, 2012

I Want Wednesday: November 21, 2012

**I Want to add these Glitter Maple Stems to my autumn decorations. My holiday decorating style is evolving and they would fit in perfectly.

**I added an owl to my autumn decor and now I Want to add another. I love the natural looking materials and his sweet little face. He could even make a return appearance for winter!

**I Want someone to do these exact Save-the-Date cards, right down to re-creating the photo. If I didn't absolutely love the ones we used, which were so perfect for us, I would be *so* disappointed that I hadn't gotten these.

**I have no idea where it would fit, but I Want to use this parson's chair in our bedroom.

**Our walls are still empty. I Want to figure out what to put on them. The colors in these Floral Art Squares are sort of right for our living room, but I am just not convinced enough to discuss them with T.

**Everywhere I look this year, I see tall sparkly Christmas trees that I Want, either for the top of our entertainment center or the ledge overlooking the dining room. These Glitter Cone Trees are no exception.

**I Want more decorations for after Christmas that give a wintry feel to our home, because I have to create the illusion of seasons, here in Florida. I am loving the subtle sparkle of these Beaded Birch Pillar Candles--so reminiscent of the birch trees I remember from Gram and Gramp's front yard, glittering with ice and snow.

**I am very picky about turkey decorations for Thanksgiving. So many are too cartoonish or too...realistic (let's face it: turkeys are not all that attractive). Natural Feather Turkeys from Pottery Barn are some rather handsome fellows, though! I Want them to come home with me.

**I Want more autumn vase filler as well. Preferably, natural looking. Acorns and Pumpkin Pods would work perfectly.


Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Food and Wine Fest 2012: Round Five

Just a few more stops to squeeze in before this year's Festival comes to a close. ::sniffle::

I began my final (pre Grand Finale Tour of Favorites) round with...


Escargots Persillade en Brioche (garlic and parsely snails in brioche). Eiffel Sour Cosmo Slush.

Sometimes I still can't believe I eat this. But when I can't *see* the snail, all I can taste are butter and garlic, which, hello! Delicious! And washed down with a refreshing tart cosmo slush? You really just can't miss. At this point, these two are nothing new or adventurous. They are just very yummy old friends.

But now, it was time for something new!


Seared Mahi Mahi with Jasmine Rice and Singa Sauce.

I had tried the other menu option from Singapore last year (the Beef Rendang) and so I was prepared for a little spiciness this time. The fish was perfectly cooked (probably due to the fact that my piece came out of a fresh batch--it can be difficult to pull off perfectly cooked fish in mass quantities if it's been sitting even a little while) and the spice rub on it was noticeable but not overpowering. The sauce had some bite to it, but the jasmine rice tempered it well. It was a very balanced dish, overall, and I enjoyed trying this new dish.

From here, we headed to...


Zapiekanki (toasted mushroom, caramelized onion and cheese bread with house-made ketchup).

This dish may have been my biggest surprise of the 2012 Fest. I had smelled it several times over the course of my various trips around the world and it certainly smelled appealing. I knew I was running out of room, though, and I was going to have to choose between an old favorite (the Kielbasa and Potato Pierogie with Caramelized Onion and Sour Cream) and the risk of passing it up in favor of an unknown contender. Bottom line: it was going to have to be *good* to make it worth sacrificing the other dish. Since we make kielbasa and pierogies at home fairly often, I opted to take the risk. I chose correctly!! It was sort of like a pizza, but...not. It was definitely more bread than pizza crust. The combination of flavors from the onions and cheese made up for all the mushrooms being there (truthfully, they weren't that bad), but the star was that tangy, slightly spicy ketchup. It made my taste buds jump to attention.

It was time to make my final stop of 2012...


Chocolate Cake with Passion Fruit Sorbet and Coconut Foam.

Well...I should have stopped with my previous dish, except that I try to at least taste something from each booth, and there was no way any of the other options from this booth was going to pass my lips. The cake was dry and, I have to be honest, this whole foam fascination in the culinary world just doesn't make sense to me. The only redeeming quality of this dish was the sorbet.

What an underwhelming way to wind things up. Good thing I had my Grand Finale Tour of Favorites to look forward to!


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