Monday, December 31, 2012

As another year ends...

Hope smiles from the threshold of the year to come, whispering 'it will be happier.'
(Alfred Lord Tennyson)

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2012: Reflection Questions

1. What was the single best thing that happened this past year?
Oh man. Husband. House. There is no way to choose one adventure we set sail on this year over the other!

2. What was the single most challenging thing that happened?
Planning the wedding. I do not make decisions quickly and I do not enjoy drama. Weddings come with a truckload of both.

3. What was an unexpected joy this past year?
Getting to hug some old friends after far too many years.

4. What was an unexpected obstacle?
Well, we sure didn't expect the transmission on T's truck to bite the dust a month before we needed to drive it to Virginia to get married.

5. Pick three words to describe 2012.
Busy. Adventure. Transition.

6. Pick three words your spouse would use to describe your 2012 (don’t ask them; guess based on how you think your spouse sees you).
Hee! I have a spouse! Lunatic. Humorous. Bride.

7. Pick three words your spouse would use to describe their 2012 (again, without asking).
Homeowner. Husband. Sawdust.

8. What were the best books you read this year?
Far and away, "The Help" by Kathryn Stockett.

9. With whom were your most valuable relationships?
T. Nichole. Daniel. Alison. Heather.

10. What was your biggest personal change from January to December of this past year?
I went from fiancee to wife in September!

11. In what way(s) did you grow emotionally?
I definitely feel myself getting more patient and mellow as the years go by. (A statement I suspect will lead a few people to want to check me for a pulse. Hee.)

12. In what way(s) did you grow spiritually?
Not so much. I've been feeling a little...off...within my church. I'm just not a fan at how they are slowly cutting out all the old traditions and creating a very "Oprah-esque" atmosphere to (what is supposed to be) the Traditional Service. It's incredibly alienating.

13. In what way(s) did you grow physically?
My hair is longer than it's been in more than fifteen years!

14. In what way(s) did you grow in your relationships with others?
I have worked hard to make sure my relationships survive, despite distance and change.

15. What was the most enjoyable area of managing your home?
Decorating it for the seasons and holidays. It's so much fun to have a new space to work with.

16. What was your most challenging area of home management?
Staying on task with my cleaning schedule. I need to find a good rhythm.

17. What was your single biggest time waster in your life this past year?
Ha ha ha. Internet.

18. What was the best way you used your time this past year?
More reading!

19. What was the biggest thing you learned this past year?
People intent on causing drama will cause drama. It's up to me to not allow myself to get sucked into it.

20. Create a phrase or statement that describes 2012 for you.
I just can't imagine it getting better than this.

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Friday, December 28, 2012

Flashback Friday: December 28, 2012


Wee me, December 1977.

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Tuesday, December 25, 2012

First Christmases

It's our first Christmas as husband and wife, *and* our first Christmas in our new house.  It's been a full, busy year, and I feel incredibly blessed and oh-so-lucky. I've been spoiled silly, my tummy is full of a delicious dinner, and it's been a very good day. As merry and bright as any I can remember.

Also? When the opportunity to use a good pun presents itself, I am powerless to pass it up. I'll just apologize now to everyone who had to groan when they opened our Christmas card this year.

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Monday, December 24, 2012

The world in solemn stillness lay...

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Sunday, December 23, 2012

TV Loves and Hates: December 23, 2012

Disclaimer: I tend to be fairly behind on my tv watching. Even so, consider the fact that there could be spoilers ahead if you're even further behind than I am. You read at your own risk!


**Christmas specials on tv. The classics that I've been watching since I was just a tot -- Charlie Brown Christmas, Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, How the Grinch Stole Christmas -- are long-standing tradition. I also really enjoy the two new ones that Disney put out -- Prep & Landing and Prep & Landing: Naughty or Nice -- which are so well done that I think I need to add them to my permanent collection.


**I am not a fan of Last Man Standing turning Eve into a brat. There's enough brat in the form of Kristen (and enough annoyance in the form of Mandy) for them to allow Eve to be the awesome kid.

**This whole "Watson acting like she's leaving Holmes" nonsense on Elementary. No one is buying that. They go together and she isn't going anywhere, not without killing the pivotal relationship that makes this a re-creation of a modern day Sherlock. Stop insulting my intelligence with a series of events that means absolutely nothing to the story.

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Saturday, December 22, 2012

The Girl on the Other Coast: December 22, 2012

Like so many other people, G and I have both been busy getting ready for Christmas, so we decided that for this installment, we would give a little peek at what Christmas looks like on our "other coast." Whether you live on her coast or mine, or somewhere in between, we hope you have a very Merry Christmas!

Curious what Christmas at my house looks like? (Humor me. Pretend you're curious.) Take a virtual voyage to Little Italy and find out!
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I love Christmas time! The decorations, the lights, the meaning. All of it makes me warm and fuzzy inside.

I thought since we moved to a new place I'd really want to go all out and decorate everything! But as it turns out, I really like the simplicity of what we already have.

So here is what Christmas looks like for me!

Favorite drink:


Favorite flowers:


Favorite snowmen:


Favorite ornament:


Favorite way to remember (and include) my father:


Favorite new addition:


Favorite childhood tradition (brought back by a sweet colleague who got me an advent calendar):


Favorite evening sight:


Merry Christmas!
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(edit to add mine)
I had tremendous fun decorating our house for our first Christmas in it. Many old favorites that had been tucked away for lack of space (consequence of being stuffed into a tiny apartment) were liberated from their tissue paper wrapped confines to join the few decorations that I had space to use the past six years. Even more fun, they joined some carefully selected new purchases, now that I am getting a feel for my real decorating style. Plus, I have a shelf on our new entertainment center that T built, which is perfect for decorating like a mantel! Festive and merry. I can't think of anything better. Everywhere I look, I smile.


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Friday, December 21, 2012

Let it snow.

While a large portion of the United States is digging out from a good-sized snowstorm, this is the closest I will get to the white stuff falling here in Florida.

I'll be busy dreaming of a white Christmas...

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Wednesday, December 19, 2012

I Want Wednesday: December 19, 2012

**It's so unlike me to be drawn to something so feminine, or at least it used to be, but I Want this top. I am loving the ribbon belt!


**When I placed an order from Sephora near my birthday, they included a couple of samples of Sugar Lip Treatment by Fresh, one in Sugar (clear) and one in Rose (tinted). I don't ever wear lip color because I feel like such a...sham, when I do, but I finally decided to give it a try. Now, I Want one in every color. (Except, maybe not Plum. Not sure I could pull that one off at all.)


**My Gram used to have a set of stainless steel bowls. As soon as I saw them and thought of her, I decided I Want some in my own kitchen.


**I have a wire basket on the kitchen counter for holding various bread products, but I Want to add a 2-Tier Basket as well, for non-refrigerated produce, so they aren't just rolling around loose all over the place.


**I Want to be done with my Christmas preparations so I can sit back and just enjoy the rest of the holiday season. I am so close, I can almost taste it. Just a couple more stocking stuffers to pick up and one more package to arrive in the mail to be wrapped so it can be sent off to its final destination.

**The past five days have been unbelievably heavy. I Want to see kindness and light prevail over darkness and for people to stop treating each other so hatefully. And I don't just mean random individuals who commit unspeakable acts. I mean the way we interact with one another on a daily basis.

**I Want the Red Sox to please re-sign Cody Ross now.

**There is no way I will get this one--even if the Christmas forecast wasn't looking like it will be near 80 degrees--but I can't help it. I Want snow from Christmas Eve through New Year.

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Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Be of good cheer.

Some days just require stripey socks and your favorite snowflake shirt.

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Friday, December 14, 2012

My Girls.

May they outlive me by a hundred years
May their laughter dry up all their tears
May they love and be loved back as I have been
(Trace Adkins)




Nothing would be quite as awesome without my three favorite girls in all the world. I only wish we weren't so far apart every day.

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Thursday, December 13, 2012

And exhale.

I've kept no secrets in regard to my trepidation about the re-imagining of one of my favorite attractions in all of Walt Disney World. Each new official update on the Disney Park Blog has lead to additional fretting and wringing of hands. I feared that when the walls came down, the parts of the ride I enjoyed most would cease to exist. When phrases like "Sim Car" and "design your own vehicle" were being tossed around, my heart sank, as I envisioned an entirely simulated experience. No matter how cool the update, there was no simulation that could take the place of wind in my pace as we zoomed around the elevated track attached to the side of the building.

As the date of the unveiling neared, evening circuits around World Showcase during Food and Wine Fest brought the familiar sounds of Test Track cars on the outside loop. Even then, I worried that they were finding ways to create a soundtrack, using the sounds of the attraction as it was formerly known for the the sake of nostalgia. I was bracing myself for a harsh reality.

On December 5, the doors were opened, welcoming in the first Epcot guests. I heard and read very little. When T and I planned our annual trip to Hollywood Studios to see the Spectacle of Dancing Lights (hooray for traditions!), I suggested that maybe we could stop in at Magic Kingdom first to see the brand new Fantasyland expansion, but T was itching to check out Test Track. I took a deep breath. There would be no more denying it, no more convincing myself that they couldn't possibly destroy my beloved Test Track.

We approached. Not too scary from the entrance...


The queue is completely different. Gone are the test dummies, the test simulators, the black-white-grey-yellow color scheme, the clanging-banging-relentless background music. It's all cool, soothing and sleek now. Blue and silver now accompanies the yellow. The soft color of neon and muted back-lighting has replaced the harsh overhead factory setting lights. And Chevrolet takes sole sponsorship.


Thus far, not at all painful. Dare I say, I like it better?

And then... I bet Bill and Sherry won't be waiting behind those doors, not even with a fresh script and updated hair styles.


As you file into one of the two possible studios, you stand at the screen that matches the color and number you waited on outside the doors. Here's where you get to play a bit. (Also known as break up some of the wait time with distraction!)





I was fidgety. I wanted to know if I would depart this room to shuffle my way through line into a lackluster simulated "Sim Car" that pretended to test the vehicle T created for us. (Everyone has the opportunity to design their own, if they wish. T and I opted to share.)

Oh, ye of little faith! I spy...

...a REAL CAR. In the same old (just repainted) loading dock.

I grinned with sweet relief. There are no photos from the rest of the ride (too dark to get photos while in motion), but suffice to say, the rest looks almost completely different but feels exactly the same. All is well.

Well, almost all...

MOO in peace, old friend and favorite detail of the original Test Track. I wish they'd found a way to bring you along or at least give a nod to your awesomeness in its new incarnation.

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Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Peace

Late last night, I was washing up some dishes and reloading the dishwasher. T had long since gone to bed. The television was off. The house was softly lit and quiet. As I went easily about my tidying, I kept catching views of the tree, standing in the dining room, at various angles. Its beauty actually stopped me several times, as I would catch myself paused in suspended animation, staring at its glow. A half dried pot in my hand, dish towel extended but still. I was mesmerized by the reflections in all directions. Instead of making yet another mental note to "photograph the Christmas tree at night," when I turned out the kitchen light, I picked up my camera.





And in these photos, I have captured the peace I feel in the wonderment of simple things.

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Saturday, December 8, 2012

The Girl on the Other Coast: December 8, 2012

Next installment of the joint blogging project I've been doing with G! It was my turn to pick a topic, but I have been too busy to give it much thought, so I went with something super simple: a snapshot of our current playlists. I thought it would be a especially fun, since there was bound to be a seasonal twist to our musical choices right now.

Curious what I'm singing along with in the car these days? (Humor me. Pretend you're curious.) Take a virtual voyage to Little Italy and find out!
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My playlist at this time of year is always Christmas music! I just love it but can only listen to it once Thanksgiving has passed. It seems inappropriate to listen to it until then (this means YOU stores that put out the holiday decorations when I'm still looking at Halloween candies!).

My absolute favorites are:

O Holy Night - I sang this as a duet at a choir concert my senior year and to this day it still gives me chills
Little Drummer Boy - A.D.O.R.E.
Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas - the classic version only please
All My Bells Are Ringing - Lenka - This is part of a collection called "The Hotel Cafe presents...Winter Songs" and it quickly became one of my favorite Christmas cds
Silent Night - I love all versions but the one by Priscilla Ahn done on the above cd? Unbelievably good. All a cappella. All amazing.
Away in a Manger - I sang this in 1st grade as a little angel at the Christmas pageant. I wish there were pictures as I can totally remember it. Oddly enough, the classic version is not my favorite. But Operatica does this fantastic hip, electronic-style version that makes the oldies a new one again
God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen - 98* version. Don't judge. There rendition also gives me chills.
This Gift - Also by 98* - hey, I may have been a bit obsessed with them during their heyday. A poppy but sweet Christmas song about love being the only gift you need. True dat.
Anything off the Josh Groban "Noel" cd - And I mean anything. Basically anything by Josh Groban period. His voice is so dreamy. And his Christmas song renditions? Make me cry.

Merry Christmas Music Listening!
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(edit to add mine)

My current playlist is heavily seasonal with a couple of other songs tossed in that I've been loving lately! I have fairly eclectic taste in music--anything from pop to country, instrumental piano to singer/songwriter. My playlist is all over the place. I love the classic Christmas music, along with more contemporary original songs. Any time I hop in the car, I plug in my iPod, pull up this playlist and hit shuffle:

1. O Come, O Come Emmanuel (Enya)
2. Mistletoe and Holly (Frank Sinatra)
3. Take a Walk Through Bethlehem (Trisha Yearwood)
4. Jingle Bell Rock (Brenda Lee)
5. Breath of Heaven (Amy Grant)
6. Oh Christmas Tree (Jim Brickman)
7. Come Thou Long Expected Jesus (Daniel Renstrom)
8. The Christmas Waltz (Frank Sinatra)
9. The Christmas Can-Can (Straight No Chaser)
10. It's the Most Wonderful Time of the Year (Amy Grant)
11. Christmas Time Is Here (Sarah McLachlan)
12. It's Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas (Bing Crosby)
13. Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas (Martina mcBride)
14. Made to Be Free (Tim McMorris)
15. Home (Phillip Phillips)

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Thursday, December 6, 2012

Ten Reasons Why I Loved My Vacation: San Francisco

This week has whirled by in a blur. It keeps me from feeling like the clock is moving in reverse, which is always good, especially when I spend forty-ish hours sitting at my desk at work, but the flip side of that coin is that I don't feel rested or relaxed. I feel tired and irritable. I want nothing more than to not go out anywhere, to curl up in my comfy clothes and hang out on the couch with my husband. Even when fun things, like dinner with a couple of friends I rarely see and a Christmas party and a much-anticipated trip to Disney World to see it all dressed up in its holiday finery, are on the calendar. Never mind the fact that when I am at work, I should be focused on my tasks, because if I'm going to do something, I prefer to do it properly.

Yet, here I am. ::ahem::

My mind needs a little break, it seems, even if my body can't be granted one. It keeps traveling back to the west coast, where I took my vacation this past August. (Four months ago. Before I was married. Feels like it's been a lifetime.) Ever since I saw The Pioneer Woman do a blog post recapping "Ten Reasons I Loved Our Family Vacation," I knew I wanted to do one of my own, documenting my trip to San Francisco with Nichole and Daniel. It was just the kind of trip you want to remember, and before I lose the *feeling* of this trip as a casualty of ever passing time, I'm going to take that little mini-mental-vacation right now.

1. The excitement of boarding a plane, knowing you're about to have an adventure, seeing a new place.

There is just something about standing in the middle of a place where you've never been, soaking in brand new sights. I like to stand still for a few minutes, turning slowly right where I am, just soaking in how it looks and feels and sounds. Those are the things I want to be able to call to mind later when I look through my photos.

2. We stayed at the coolest hotels.


We stayed one night at The Argonaut, down by Fisherman's Wharf, and the rest of the time at The St Francis. They could not have been more different. The Argonaut was quirky and nautical. The St Francis was sleek and classic.

3. The "inside jokes" born because you really did "have to be there."

Like this photo, for instance, which was taken by Nichole at The Winchester Mystery House. Doesn't look like much to *you*, but to us? That is photo contraband. The look on Nichole's face when she realized she just took a photo inside (photos were only allowed outside)...and the fact that she didn't delete it. We laughed and laughed over things like "Little Jerry" and how I threatened to murder the next person who suggested we walk back to the hotel after being made to climb eleventy billion steps up the side of a mountain up to Coit Tower. The cab driver with the napkins. The guy at the bar with "the question." Trying to make elevator mates wonder what we were up to based on the conversation we were having (we never were able to pull this off with a straight face). "Going UP!! Going down..." When you spend time with people whose company you enjoy, you're bound to find things to laugh about long after you've returned to regular life.

And so much laughter.

I have a series of photos--thirty-one, to be exact--that work something like a flipbook. I set the camera to continuous shooting and captured Nichole attempting to eat this gelatinous dessert with chopsticks. It was one of the funniest things I have ever photographed. It was like a real life cartoon.


4. The food. So many delicious meals.





5. Seeing sights you've only ever seen on television or in photographs.
Like Lombard Street,

The Rock,

and the Golden Gate Bridge.

It still has not gotten old (at least for me) to point and shriek, "I've been there!! I saw that EXACT. SAME. VIEW. I stood right there in that spot!"

6. The opportunity to play with my camera in a brand new environment.




7. The night tour of Alcatraz.



Hands down, one the coolest things I have ever seen.

8. Crossing an item off my bucket list.

One of the things I would love to do is see a home game for every Major League Baseball team. San Francisco Giants? Check!

9. Seeing the fog.

Not even close to a good photo. I don't travel with my tripod and there was no way to improvise one in the hotel room. So I took what I could. It's about as technically imperfect as a photo could be and I don't even care. Because when I look at it, I know exactly how crazy it was to watch the fog actually rolling in through the tall buildings of the city, completely blotting out lights and structures I had seen with my own two eyes earlier.

10. Being there. Being present. Having this opportunity and recognizing how grateful I am to have had it.

I was there. I saw new things. I made new memories. I spent time with dear friends. My life became a little richer.

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