Thursday, March 20, 2014

saying 'hello' with real mail :)

My sister Nicole sent me a text message sometime last week telling me she was wondering if her phone wasn't working or if I had indeed taken so much time off from my blog.  I told her not to fear, her phone is in good working order, I had just taken a break.  It's been hard to come to this space.  My mind seems to be in a million different places lately.  Work is crazy & busy (not that I'm complaining because I have a job that I enjoy).  At home we're prepping for Spring and anxiously awaiting it's arrival.  A clean slate, if you will.  I've also been craving a lot of in-person family and friend time.  Internet and technology is great, but I've been feeling a little overwhelmed by it all.  Working to feel 'caught up' with things on my computer (social media, emails, blogs) is slowly starting to overwhelm me.

I decided to pull back and work on simplifying my life.  Cutting down on the amount of blogs I try to stay up-to-date with.  Unfollowing unnecessary streams on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.  At first I felt bad but you know what? It was the right decision.  It felt so good clearing out that space.  It allowed for me to focus on things I felt better deserve my attention.

Then, I grabbed a Dove Chocolate (dark chocolate - so good) from our Valentine's Day stash and just as I was about to throw away the wrapper I read the inside:

Umm...could it not have been more obvious?  Less technology...more hands-on, personal (to me) effort. 

BAM.  Just like that it all made sense.

I have several family members and wonderful, dear friends that live out of state.  I do my best to communicate with them on a somewhat regular basis, but as we all know, life gets in the way sometimes.  Doing little things to reach out and let someone know you are thinking about them is so important in keeping a relationship healthy.  So, that's exactly what I intend to do!  

I headed to Tiny Prints and found the perfect (for me!) personalized stationary.  This simple, classic, pink & initialed set tugged at my heartstrings.  I knew it would be perfect for what I wanted to do - send a quick yet thoughtful note to family and friends.

print on bottom says 'do small things with great love'  


Upon receiving the stationary in the mail I was thrilled!  The colors are prefect, the card stock is sturdy and will prevent bleed-through with the gel pens I like to use and the back of the stationary gives the otherwise white-paper a fun pop of color without being overwhelming. 


I hope these notes bring a little extra sparkle of joy into the recipients lives.  I love the idea of a hand-written note and I hope they will, too!  Plus, who doesn't love getting REAL mail that isn't junk or a bill?!

What are some ways you stay in contact with friends and family far away?

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Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Christmas Cards - the bloopers

As I mentioned earlier, we DIYed the photos used on our Christmas Cards for 2013 on Thanksgiving day.  We (of course) waited until later than we had originally planned so we scrambled to get something together before Thanksgiving dinner at my grandparents house.  (Of course we ended up with one of the coldest days up to that point)  We grabbed some holiday mugs and some fake snow (purchased from JoAnn's), went down to one of the ponds on my grandparent's property, wrangled my sweet cousin Annaliese to assist, and went to work!  We were overall really happy with the photos we ended up using but of course there were bloopers along the way.  And in keeping with tradition (since I showed them last year) here they are!

Testing out the wind conditions for the snow "tossing"

 
The exchange student staying with Annaliese and her family was in charge of the snow - her first try was slightly...aggressive - ha! 


#mileyphotobomb  She made it her goal to try and eat as many flakes as possible
 


Miley was so over the shoot by this point

our beautiful helpers for the shoot - couldn't have done it without 'em!  (Minari on the left and Annaliese in the center)

My - yayweredonecomeonletsgoimfreeeezingandhungry! face 

And the photos we ended up using on our card:






See 2012 Christmas Card and bloopers

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Monday, January 6, 2014

snowman + dog

= an arm-less snowman.

It's cold outside.  (Did you know that?  Are you tired of seeing it all over every social media outlet there is?)

We got a little bit of snow late last week (before the storm that brought more snow and freezing temperatures Saturday night into Sunday) and it turned into the perfect snowman making snow so I decided to take advantage.  Russ was busy sleeping - he worked a 36 hour shift with only 2 hours of "sleep" - so Miley was my partner.  Note to self: dogs do not make the ideal snowman-building partner.





In her defense I did use one of her toys as its hat.  And I guess the sticks, too, since they technically came from her yard.  So we have a snowman in our yard - but he's hat-less and arm-less.  Oh, and as of this morning nose-less, too.

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Friday, January 3, 2014

2013 Year in Review

New Year's Eve Russ & I were half-hardheartedly joking that 2013 wasn't as exciting as 2012.  It would have been hard to top 2012 with as many milestones we reached that year.  So while 2013 wasn't as exciting as 2012, we still had a wonderful year.  We started making memories in our new home and get more settled into our jobs.  We were able to spend a lot of time with family and finally got used to not having to say goodbye - we can easily see them again with just a short drive (this took forever for me to get used to)!  We spent more evenings and weekends working on our house than I would like to admit...it was a lot, and while I'm proud of all the work that was done I have to be honest, I really hope there are less full-working weekends in 2013.  
January
+ spent a lot of time playing in the snow

February
+ we played in more snow - Missouri got an unusual amount of snowfall and we took full advantage!
+ experienced our first dinner train with Mom & Larry

March
+ Larry, Josh and a few helpers repaved our driveway
+ Visited Nicole & PJ in Texas (Parts 1, 2, 3, 4, 5)

April
+ Russ & I threw a surprise retirement party for my Dad - we got him good! 
+ The March of Dimes team I was a member of held a fundraiser and bake sale
+ We continued to take advantage of nice days outside and worked on projects outside 

May
+ We participated in the Columbia, MO March of Dimes Walk with our team
+ Went to our first professional soccer game with our friends Chelsea & Andy in St. Louis
+ Took an amazing vacation to California with my Mom and Larry, Nicole, and Josh and his family. It was amazing and I cannot wait to go back to explore even more!  (There are still a few more pictures coming that I wanted to share! - I KNOW, I'm late) See posts: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5

June
+ Russ & I celebrated our 1 Year Anniversary

July
+ Pickled my first batch of pickles (yum!) and made homemade bagels for the first time
+ Spent free weekends water skiing
+ More house projects took up our weekends including adding blocks off our porch, building up a concrete retaining wall, adding a few small retaining walls, and fixing water draining issues (which were 6 feet underground, go figure)

August
+ I turned 27 
+ We went to our second professional soccer game with our friends Andy & Chelsea
+ I took my cousin Annaliese with me to see Taylor Swift in concert and I developed major girl crush

September
+ Russ & I ran our first race - a 10K at the Roots n Blues n BBQ Fesitval
+ We returned from a short trip to Italy (Nicole & PJ got to go, too!) - Posts: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8

October
+ Went to a MU Football game
+ Our family welcomed another little boy, Cruze, into the mix

November
+ Took our DIY Christmas Card photos (coming soon!)
+ I attended Hunter's 2nd Bday - the boy is growing up so fast!
+ Finished up work on the porch - finally!
+ We went the Glasgow Christmas Parade 

December
+ We traveled to Cleveland to visit Brooke, Freeland and their kids
+ We took the month off from projects and focused on spending time with family and getting into the Christmas spirit


Some unique-to-us 2013 stats:
+ Russ was awarded the Best Junior Resident Award which was decided by votes from his superiors (and included both first and second year residents!) - a HUGE honor!  We were so proud of him and I'm so proud of how hard he's worked and that is was recognized.  I'm amazed and thankful with how happy and motivated he is at his profession - and to hear that his co-workers and superiors also see how great at his job he is makes me so proud. (Sorry, I just had to brag. #proudwife)
+ We ran our first race, a 10K - we are now considering signing up for more races in the future!
+ One 30 mile bike-ride (winery pit-stop included)

2012 Year Recap
2011 Year Recap
2010 Year Recap
2009 Year Recap

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Thursday, January 2, 2014

2013 Goals Update: December

Well, 2013 has come and gone so this marks the final 2013 Goals monthly recap.  It's hard to believe 2013 has come and gone - it went quickly, that's for sure!  I'm finalizing how and what I want to set up for myself in 2014, so that post will be coming shortly.

For Myself:
- drink more water:  I've succeeded in making this a part of my daily lifestyle, and on those rare days when I don't get the usual amount (days spent traveling, mostly) I feel it.  (bloated and sausage fingers, anyone?)
- read at least 2 books per month: I only got around to reading one book this month, Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie.  I got this book after DJ recommend it on her blog.  It's not one I would rush out to read, but still a good book I would recommend.    
- make three vegetarian meals per week, one of them being carb-free: We did well overall, but weren't being as consistent as we once were.  Especially around the holidays we slacked off a bit.  I would say we did two meals consistently, but not always three a week.
- try a new recipe once a week: 
  • The Pioneer Woman's Cinnamon Rolls:  If you haven't made this famous version of cinnamon rolls, what are you waiting for?  I don't know why I waited so long, but after talking about them with Brooke I finally decided to try them out.  I try to make baked goods for my co-workers around the holidays so I figured this would be a great recipe to try since it makes so many rolls.  They were a huge hit. Next time I would like to change up the recipe a little - by either adding in some nuts (more along the lines of sticky buns?) or a different glaze.   
  • Gingerbread Speculoos & Dark Chocolate Cake:  If you like gingerbread, you'll like this cake. It's is quite heavy and dense, but I really enjoyed it.  However I forgot that Russ is more of a fan of snicker doodle and not gingerbread...so that left a lot of cake for me, which isn't a good thing.
  • Chicken & Wild Rice Soup:  Perfect for all the cold weather we are having right now - it's hearty, good for you and tasty, too!  
  • Heavenly Mint Brownie Dessert:  Go and make this now. Like, right now.  If you like chocolate and mint, this is the perfect dessert for you. It's SO freaking good!  I made it for our holiday party at work and there wasn't even a crumb left on the plate! My Mom introduced me to this recipe and it's one I will go back to around the holidays - it's so rich and definitely tastes more sinful than heavenly ;)
  • Pot Roast:  A good, easy recipe which resulted in a delicious roast!  
- start a savings account: This has continued to the back burner for no good reason other than pure procrastination and laziness.   
- practice yoga at least once every other week:  I've unfortunately fallen off the yoga routine.  I hate that it's happened, because I enjoy it so much.  I could only make two of the classes offered at my gym and one is always completely full because it starts at 5:30PM (and it's always a rush for me to make it on time with getting out of work at 5) and with the other class I just wasn't enjoying the teacher who lead the class.  Nothing against her, I just didn't gel with her.  So all that to say I haven't been enjoying yoga.  A new schedule is coming out in the next week at the gym, here's hoping I can make one of the options! 
- become more patient:  I personally feel that over the course of the last year I have made great strides with what used to be a big fault of mine.  Am I self-cured and completely, 100%, patient, all of the time? Heck no!  I have learned, however, how to check myself before I react.  My impatience was never an issue for anyone other than myself.  I would never "freak out" on anyone, but rather build things up internally to a point where I would be so emotionally distraught and stressed that it would result in breakdowns.  Who wants that?!   Not me, and definitely not my husband, who would oftentimes be the only person around when said breakdowns would occur.  This past year I have focused a lot on self-reflection, and focusing on things I can control - and working hard to let go of the things I cannot.  It's hard work.  Being patient in finding out the solution to the problem is still hard for me, but I'm in a much better mental state now that I have found a way to 'process' it all.  
- become more comfortable with letting things go I cannot control:  This tied in a lot with the patient-topic above in a way, but is still something completely different as well.  I'm a very emotional person. I take things that are said (or not said!) to heart. I sometimes expect more out of people than I should, but in the very least I expect to be treated with the same amount of love and respect I show you.  When that doesn't happen, I take it way too personally which results in me mulling over and over what I could have done differently.  It's an unhealthy and vicious cycle and doesn't work.  Sometimes things just aren't going to work out!  Learning how to accept and move on from that is hard. I'm still working on it.  2013 has been somewhat of a "cleanse" year for me. Friendships fizzled, I put more of my love and efforts into my family, Russ, and close friends.  With those changes, a lot of the issues I was dealing with disappeared on their own.

For our House:
- paint all the trim white:  We're continuing to move forward with this project.  I get too fed up and tired of trim.  We'll paint a room and then quit for several months then finally pick up the paintbrush and paint another room...quit.  So needless to say we're closing 2013 not having crossed this project off our list.
- paint the kitchen cabinets:  Done! 
- finish painting the doors:  We have 2 doors left - we were so close! 
- finish the laundry room:  This didn't get completed.
- install new shelving in the laundry room:  This didn't get completed.

Year End Conclusions:
For Myself:
While I maybe didn't read enough books or eat exactly the way I had intended, I feel I made big strides in other areas that perhaps can be considered more important (to me personally, that is).  Russ and I have continued on creating a much healthier life for ourselves - not only with what we are feeding our bodies and making sure we clock time at the gym, but with other aspects of life, too; family, friends, faith, and self-awareness have become bigger priorities than ever before.  We aren't perfect at juggling all of the pieces yet, and I doubt we ever will be, but we're always trying our best.

For Our House:
We didn't get even close to completing the goals I had hoped we would complete finished this year.  We had many projects creep up that took priority - projects that you can't even see now, took priority (as they should!).  We did all of these projects ourselves (with the help of amazing family members - seriously, we couldn't have done it without them!) which on one hand saved us a TON of money, but on the other took up a majority of our free time.  I think we are almost to a place where we can begin to refocus on the projects listed above, but even if they don't get completed, it's ok!  A house is A LOT of work. Constantly, always and forever.  Especially when you own an older home.  

Jan 2013
Feb 2013
March 2013
April 2013
May 2013
June 2013
July 2013
August, September & October 2013
November 2013

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Tuesday, December 31, 2013

2013 Christmas Card

I realize this is just about a week late but I still wanted to share our Christmas cards from this year...
























And since this was yet another DIY photo shoot, you know there are bloopers - they are coming up next!

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Friday, December 13, 2013

Our Cleveland trip that almost wasn't

A week ago today we were on our way to Cleveland to visit Brooke, Freeland, and their three (adorable!) kids!  The massive storm that was moving through the country almost cancelled our plans, but in the end we persevered.  We spent the night at Russ' parents house on Thursday evening so we could get an early start on Friday (and shave off 2 hours of travel time).  By the time we went to bed on Thursday, we were pretty sure that we wouldn't be able to make the drive.  There were so many accidents being reported around St. Louis and surrounding areas, and it just wasn't looking like it was going to be a smart decision.  Pouting, we went to bed but still set our alarms to wake up somewhat early on Friday to re-evaluate the roads and conditions.    
Friday morning arrived and saw that the roads around the city had been cleared and were in ok condition.  We checked more weather maps then was necessary and ultimately made the decision to just go for it.  We knew that with our luck, if we didn't go, the roads would be fine and we would regret not trying.  So we did and agreed if things started to look bad, we would just turn around and come home.
I'm so glad we pushed through!  Illinois was perfect, Indiana was ok, but Ohio sure did welcome us with some intense snow and traffic. While we did hit a rough patch around Columbus, it was all worth it once we arrived and pulled in their driveway; we realized just how much we needed this visit and how excited we were for the weekend!



It was so nice seeing Brooke and Freeland and catching up with them.  It had been over a year since we saw Freeland (at our wedding) and even longer since we've seen Brooke!  It was definitely a visit that was long overdue.  They were so gracious to open their home to us and host us - they've had so many visitors within the past few months and will continue to have people into their home, so allowing us to visit over one of their empty weekends was so sweet of them!

It's hard to put into words how grateful we are for their friendship, love and support.  You know those people who you feel are absolutely gems, who inspire you, love you, and challenge you in the best way?  They are those people for us.  They are an amazing role models to Russ & I - we admire how healthy, fun, full of love, faith, and inspiring their marriage and family is. It's completely refreshing and visiting with them always helps Russ & I in bringing us back to focusing on what is important.  I wish they didn't live so far, so these visits could come around more often!

I hardly picked up my camera while we were there - we were so focused on just soaking up the time with them and enjoying the moment.  There were so many moments that Russ & I feel so thankful and blessed to have been a part of.

We did try to get a photo with River, Wylder and Chapel and as you can see below...it didn't go all that well.  Chapel isn't a fan of being with someone other than her Momma when she's in the room...so once she figured out that Brooke was the one taking the pictures and not actually holding her...well...


























I promise that she liked us!  We did play together - it just wasn't captured on camera ;)

Thank you, Brooke & Freeland, for letting us visit, love on your kids, feeding us delicious food (already planning on making the pizza!) and being friends we are so thankful and blessed to have in our lives!

I'm ready to come back to Cleveland already...have a free weekend? ;)

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Wednesday, December 11, 2013

2013 Goals Update: November

For Myself:
- drink more water: I've continued to do well with this and see this as being something I've come to adapt as a normal, everyday thing.  Positive lifestyle change for the win!
- read at least 2 books per month: I only read one book in November; Life After Life by Kate Atkinson, which was highly recommended all around the internet. I have to admit, I wasn't as sold on this as others were.  A good read, but I don't know if I would necessarily recommend it to a friend.
- make three vegetarian meals per week, one of them being carb-free:  We've been working on being more conscious about the food we put into our bodies for several months now.  We realized after Thanksgiving that really haven't been eating any grains for lunch/dinner for a while.  We're happy with this change - it's not that we've completely taken it out of our diet (I could never do it - I'm too much of a pasta/bread lover) but overall we've significantly decreased the intake.  We have quiet a bit of pork and ground beef (low fat percentage) in our deep freeze, so I've had to adjust this 'goal' a bit, but I feel that although we may be eating meat more consistently than before, what we're eating it with is typically healthy and light.  Because of that, I'm not going to consider  this a loss for this goal.
- try a new recipe once a week:

  • Korean Beef Bowl:  We really loved this dish - it was easy and quick to prep, cook and clean up which is always a win in my book (especially for a weeknight).  Had a great amount of spice in it, so if you don't like things too spicy I would lessen the crushed red pepper flakes it calls for.
  • Slow Cooker Lemon Garlic Chicken:  Slow cooker meals are always nice to have on hand. I really enjoyed this dish although I have to admit I probably would enjoy it even more in the spring or summer, when I'm craving a lighter, more citric-y tasting meal.  If I were to make this again in the colder months I would just lessen the amount of lemon used.
  • Autumn Chopped Salad: We've had this salad every week for the past 3 weeks - so that's saying something.  It's SO easy to make and so delicious!  I won't add bacon every time (subbing chicken breast during those times) and I've been using pecans over peanuts, which we prefer.  We've also jumped around with dressings - using a combination of what we have on hand, so feel free to mix it up! (we've done olive oil + apple cider vinegar, the combo in the recipe and recently used a champagne vinaigrette - so good!)

- start a savings account: This has still gone undone.
- practice yoga at least once every other week:  With the change in my gym's schedule I haven't been going to yoga. I miss it terribly.  I did purchase a two-week pass to a hot yoga studio in town, though.  I'm both absolutely terrified and excited to try it.
- become more patient:  I'm continuing to work on this and continuing to improve (at least, I hope I am!).
- become more comfortable with letting things go I cannot control:  I've continued to work on being aware when I'm in situations that things are out of my control.  It's still difficult for me, but I really do believe I have come a long way.  

For our House:
- paint all the trim white:  I've had to take a break from the trim, but I know how good it would feel to just get done with it already!  Hoping that I can work on tackling a decent portion this upcoming weekend.
- paint the kitchen cabinets:  Finished! 
- finish painting the doors: We haven't gotten any more of the doors done - the 2 that are left upstairs are also where there is trim that needs to be painted, so they will probably be done around the same time.
- finish the laundry room:  This is something that will need to be pushed into 2014.  There is just no way we had time to do this in 2013, nor will we with the few weeks that are left.
- install new shelving in the laundry room:  Same as the laundry task above, this will not be completed until 2014.

Conclusions:
For Myself:
I have felt myself slipping on keeping up with tasks this month.  The dark, cold evenings make it hard to want to be productive after work.  The addition of the hustle and bustle of the holidays always make things a little more chaotic. Overall, I feel much better about where I was a year ago, so I think that's the biggest thing to take away from these goals.

For our House:
It's been a process making our house feel like a home.  A long process.  I envy those who can throw things together creatively and make everything seem perfect within a year.  That just isn't Russ & I.  We throw ideas around and then sit and think about them for way too long and then once we think we knew what we're doing, we question it and sometimes start all over again.  In addition, this past year we've done a lot of work to the house, it just isn't work you see.  Things that have to be done to keep up the house but that aren't necessarily "pretty".  It's frustrating, but goes with owning a home.  The positive thing is that we're proud of the work, since all of it has been done by us - along with our very helpful and supportive parents - who we couldn't have done anything without!

Jan 2013
Feb 2013
March 2013
April 2013
May 2013
June 2013
July 2013
August, September & October 2013

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Friday, December 6, 2013

Italy - Part 8: foosball & Ponte dell'Olio

I promise I'm almost done recapping our Italy vacation (only 4 months late!) and what's even worse, I never finished recapping the California trip from earlier this year! It's a shame, really.  This blog has really taken a back seat in my priority list but I've been lacking in motivation to really get anything down.  I'm at a computer all day, 5 days a week - the last thing I want to do once I get home is stare at one some more.  BUT! I'm determined to finish recapping our vacations from this year before 2014 begins...which, hello! is only 3.5 weeks away!

One of the things we try to do with every visit is get as many people in the family together as possible for a dinner.  It's gotten more difficult as the years have passed, but we still try and those who do show up have a wonderful time.  This year, to make it easy on my aunts and uncles (who would be doing all the work) we decided to all meet at our favorite Pizzeria, La Villa.  Everyone had their fill of delicious pizza, wine, beer, dessert and we even had after-dinner entertainment...foosball!  My family (mostly my male cousins) get extremely into the game - serious wages and bets have been made and lost over this table game.  There never fails that someone is shouting and slamming the table while the other team is celebrating with high-fives.






In Part 4, I talked about our town, Bettola.  Another town that we frequent is Ponte dell'Olio.  It's about the same distance from our house as Bettola, but bigger.  We often go there when we need things that Bettola's small stores don't carry or if they aren't open - for those afternoon siestas - ha! ;)   Ponte has a main street where most of the business are located, and it happens to be my favorite part of the town, too.  The old, brick road makes for a bumpy ride, but I think it's add so much charm!  Plus all those balconies and street-facing windows!   





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