I could almost touch you

Talk about an emotional weekend.  I was flying all kinds of high from Thursday night through Sunday and it was just one of those times where I found myself really speechless sometimes.  And that’s kind of a big deal for me.

While I share a good bit of my personal life on this blog I don’t overlap too much with my professional life.  I think I’ve alluded to my work in healthcare administration but I’ve really left it at that.  Over the past few years I’ve gotten really active in some of the professional organizations that focus on career development, education, and advancement in the field including sitting on a local chapter board.  I’ve met amazing people and gotten to take part in planning and being involved in some amazing events.

At our annual meeting Thursday night I was surprised when it was announced I had been selected for one of the early careerist awards.  I got to take home some super fancy chocolates since the glass award wasn’t available yet – I was completely ok with that.

My mom said how proud my dad would have been of me.  And some of the people at the event knew him so I it felt good to know that I was living up to our family name.

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it even came with an instruction sheet as to what each chocolate was and what it looked like.

Friday I spent some quality time at home with this cutie pie.  I took the day off since Ryan and I would be driving to Baltimore that afternoon.

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Licks for everyone

We got into Glen Burnie around 6 and after getting settled in headed to a local mexican joint – Mi Pueblo for dinner.  After a short wait we got this GIANT bowl of fresh made guacamole.

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Can’t even tell you how amazing it was.

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We also were excited because we had been on the hunt for the Flying Dog Holiday Collection which apparently was only available in Maryland.  Lucky us – they had a couple of cases left at the first store we went to and the cookie inspired beer was all ours.  Of course we had to sample some that night.

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If you find yourself in Maryland you probably want to try and track down a case of this.  Just saying.

Saturday was the Army Navy Football Game.  I hadn’t been to a game since 2007.  My dad was a graduate of West Point Military Academy and we had gone to games for years.  We would meet up with his old roommates from the Academy and tailgate, catch the game, make a weekend of it.  After he died it got harder to go to the games.  And after the 2007 game I just couldn’t really bring myself to do it.  Then Ryan mentioned wanting to go this year – completely unaware of my history with it.  And I said – I bet I can make that happen.  My dad’s old friends came through helping us find tickets and oh the emotions.

We went early to watch the March On of the Midshipmen and Cadets and while Army lost (again), it was really magical to me.  I felt like some doors I had kept locked up had been opened up again.  It was ok to be here and be close to him again.

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IMG_4785IMG_4786IMG_4787IMG_4741 IMG_4745 IMG_4752 IMG_4757 IMG_4759 IMG_4765 IMG_4779 IMG_4784I shed a few tears during the game I can’t lie.  I look forward to going again.

And as a surprise my cousin and his son ended up making a last minute trip down to the game as well.  So we had a chance to see them and possibly get a new tradition started.

We got back late Saturday and I may have been a total bump on a log yesterday. 

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Minnie was right there with me.  A new indestructible stuffed animal that held her attention for two minutes.  She was more interested in cuddling with the people who had been gone for a whopping day.

The other highlight of the weekend was one little text message I received while at the game Saturday.  Ryan and I are huge Pirates fans.  It actually how we met.  And this weekend was Pirates Fest.  We missed it because of the Army Navy Game which was a bit of a bummer but there is always next year.

One of the coaches on the team has always reminded me of my dad.  Rick Sofield – always a smile on his face, always so motivating, just makes me want to go out there and kick ass at everything I do when I see him get amped up over things.  I wrote him a hand written fan letter this summer – old school style.  I didn’t include a self addressed stamped envelop to get anything back so I never knew if he got it and read it.  But my friends know how much I just idolize the guy.  At the end of the season this year a twitter friend had a photo printed poster sized and got it signed by him for me when I was home sick and missed the last home stand.  And then I got this.

Yeah…. All the feels…

Thanks to Rob Judge for taking a moment to get Coach Sofield’s attention and ask about my letter and then to get a video that I’ve watched way too many times…

It might not seem like much but I felt so close to my dad this weekend…

And on the ride home Saturday night I listened to an hour of Matthew Mayfield songs, and as I drove past the exit on the turnpike to where I grew up Follow You Down came on and I knew as always that he was there.

the long journey to health and happiness

Some of you who know me know that I’ve long struggled with my weight.  It’s not been something I’ve been proud of nor something that I’ve really ever felt like I’ve won the battle against.  Food has always been my coping mechanism.  Food has been my best friend and in many ways my addiction.  Has my relationship with food improved over the last 4-5 years – you bet.  I’ve learned to appreciate it for what it is, and to learn the tastes and the nourishment.  But I still catch myself binging, craving and giving in.  And I still ride the roller coaster of weight loss.

But as I embark on the honesty that I get to start again on a new journey to do it right all over again I thought I’d share a quick journey of where I’ve been at least.

Back in the day – as in when I was fit and fabulous at age 16 I was was no thin thing but I was healthy.  I was in shape I was solid and I was happy with it.  Then I blew my knee and ankle out in 3 months under went 3 surgeries and my dad got sick.  And I had no idea how to cope.

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In a matter of 2 years I put on 35lbs and headed off to college and packed on another 20 during freshman year.  I was spiraling quickly.  And I really never did a handle on things.

Before I knew it when life started to calm down I had hit a weight I was no ok with and life was pretty much collapsing.  I cracked down on my eating – pretty much because of the 2 things I could actually control at the time (whether I spoke or ate) eating was the one thing I could physically make decisions over.  I was healthy about it – portion control for the most part and I dropped almost 40 lbs.  And then life got comfortable again.

Next time I knew what had happened I had put everything back on… and then some… like DOUBLE… It was pretty sickening.  Like most overweight people I don’t have many photos of that “dark” time.  I made jokes about it – found what I thought were fashionable clothes.  Focused on my career.  That was in 2012.

When I graduated with my masters degree, my mom and my boss both started laying hints that I needed to get my health in check.  My migraines were out of control.  I’d just had my 4th knee surgery, my fatigue was at extreme levels and I just had to do something.

So I did. Slowly but surely I started to change what I ate, I started moving more, jogging, whatever got me out of the house.  And I was single which helped.

I got back down to that college freshman weight and stalled out.  And got frustrated.  I was failing as a runner – I just sucked at it.  And I don’t take failure well.  I started dating someone, started to get comfortable, let stress at work creep in, and got injured in a ziplining accident that set me back for almost a month…

When I got on the scale yesterday and I saw that I put on 10 lbs in the last year… I was disappointed though not defeated… I knew it could have been worse.  Because despite everything I was still well aware of what was happening… This week I made an agreement with myself that I needed to find something that worked for me… what that is I don’t know but then I pulled up all these old comparison pictures to remind myself that I can do this and I have done this and I’m going to keep doing this…

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October 2011 and summer of 2013

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October 2011 and Summer 2013

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Fall 2011 at my heaviest and Summer 2013 at my lightest since 2003

And I thought about all of the things I do now that I never did before and that to me are those things we call non-scale victories…

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Hiking up this hell of a hill at Dead Man’s Hollow in Fall 2014

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Getting out with friends to hike in Pittsburgh every couple of weeks – who knew fresh air was so freaking awesome!

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Connecting with family during races… though I’m currently on a break from running as my passion for it has gone missing

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Kayaking my number one true love that I’ve found… give me the water any day…

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Ziplining – no – this is not when I got hurt – this was a pretty awesome ropes course in North Park in Pittsburgh

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and more kayaking – couldn’t get enough of it!

Lastly – just a couple of months ago realizing that I still had made a ton of progress even though I had backslid a bit… all I had to do was look in the mirror – or take a selfie ;)

Summer 2011 and Fall 2014

Summer 2011 and Fall 2014

My journey will never be over – but acknowledging that, sharing the story and putting one foot in front of the other and admitting when mistakes are made is what makes us human and makes the journey what it is…. and honestly I wouldn’t trade it for the world.  Every scar, every bruise every ache is worth it…

Making a House a Home

In April of 2009 I took the plunge a bought a house… I learned a lot of lessons in doing so – like get a really good home inspector (I apparently did not), don’t be afraid to bargain (I did not), and in the end if you really want it, it doesn’t matter you’re going to get it, even if it does mean over paying for what turns out to be a lemon.

A typical Pittsburgh-ish house built in a steel suburb right outside the city lines, my house was built in the 1920s, matched 3 or 4 of the houses built right around it and clearly was in need of a little love and care – how much it would really need I had no idea.

In the 5 1/2 years since moving in I’ve…

  • replaced half of the windows
  • jetted the sewers lines
  • replaced the roof
  • rerun one of the french drains
  • removed most of the trees that had overgrown and were dangerous in back
  • replaced the front and back doors
  • gutted and redone the bathroom
  • and partially gutted and redone the kitchen

And I have no doubt that I’m leaving some out.  But you know, I can’t deny that the house is what I’ve made it now right?  Even if it is sucking all of my savings out of me.

I still have to redo some electrical (which I was told was done when I bought the house) and I’d like to get it fully insulated and have central air installed, but there’s time for that….

Let’s talk about the things I couldn’t be prouder of.

When I knew I had to redo my bathroom because… well… the entire thing was baby blue… from the tub, the toilet, to the sink to the blue glitter wall paper, and then a pipe broke, then the toilet broke and was macguivered back together, then the walls started to bubble because there was no exhaust in the room.

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blue – everything…. or grey – there was some grey… 

So I hired my boss’s neighbor who does contracting to put in my new bathroom.  We agreed I would purchase everything and he would gut, rerun plumbing and electrical and then install everything.  What an experience!  It took me 4 months just to pick out everything I wanted from the whirlpool tub to the vanity with the top that extended to only one side because I was determined to make the most of the space…

I think the final product turned out pretty damn amazing…

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down to the studs – yes – it’s an olllllllld house… and we had lots of fun electrical treats along the way…

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but there’s that beautiful new tub

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the official before and after – the space is small so its hard to get a full room picture but just a BIT of a difference wouldn’t you say!

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The vanity which is basically the center of the entire bathroom if you ask me…

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And a little reminder that I think it quite fitting.

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Full shot of the redo – yep – I’ll hang out in here and take a nice long bath any day of the week…

Ok so we’ve tackled the mess that was the bathroom – now that’s working and pretty and spa like.

Then a little over a year later it was onto the kitchen… oh the kitchen… the kitchen that when I bought the house, I thought oh there’s loooooots of storage – nope, not so, I never had enough room… Minnie was always on the counter, in the sink, stealing food, couldn’t ever find anything…

Just a mess… I went to the home and garden show in pittsburgh and long story short when with a local company who uses all local subcontractors for custom cabinets in the US, for the counter tops, I liked the owner and yes – were there some stumbling blocks along the way of course – there always are with anything like this but just wait until you see the results…. They sold me when they came to do the consult and instead of wanted to tear DOWN walls, they suggested filling IN part of a wall in order to add more storage and make the room more functional… I was all in…

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The before… on the right hand side there was a pass through window and doorway so there were no real options for the fridge other than basically the middle of the room… zero counter space… the bulkheads where horrible and well you get the idea… plus the chandelier in the kitchen? who’s idea was that?!

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clean up started and it still looked like the smallest kitchen or rather a decent kitchen with a horrible layout…

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Demo begins!

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Bulkhead came down and while we didn’t find any hidden treasure just like the bathroom we found electrical fun which added a few days to the project – but my kitchen is much safer now than it was before that’s for sure!

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the floor from hell

Now lets talk floors… The contractor didn’t do the floors – they would recommend that could do the floors when the project was done but I wanted the floors consistent under the cabinets so I insisted getting a few extra days after demo to pull up the old floor and lay a new one… oh my god was I stupid.  Thankfully I had some great friends that pitched in and one in particular that spent two days chiseling up the old floor – finding fun subfloors underneath then laying new cement board and over the weekend a team of us attempted to lay ceramic tile ourselves… Next time I’ll have a professional do it.

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Looked great right? Well the next morning over half the floor had popped… the mortar hadn’t been thick enough or the dog had managed to somehow walk on the tile or SOMETHING had gone wrong…. I scrambled the next morning to relay tile… Now the floor doesn’t sit level completely – thankfully I’m the only one that notices because I walk on it every day but yeah never again – I am not a DIYer

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meanwhile my dining room turned into this and I wanted to cry

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The wall was closed in and the doorways widened and squared off

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Then the cabinets came in!!!!!!!! and all was right in the world again… I went white because I wanted to brighten the kitchen up…

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I mean seriously can you believe that is the same room!?

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i am happy to announce that I am capable of grouting a floor though – as I did this all on my own and it turned out just fine I think.

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I went with a light yellow on the walls and red accents for the small appliances

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The window has since gotten a beautiful curtain and no it’s not a new window though it might look it – you can just actually see it now that the bulkhead is gone…

The cabinets are amazing – roll out trash bin, lazy susans, that pull out right new to the sink is a roll out spice rack! magic corner cabinets and the storage above the fridge is large enough to hide a small human…

So while the kitchen was being redone I was spiffing up the dining room a bit too… with this GORGEOUS table and bench from John Malecki at Studio AM in Homestead.

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So I’m getting there – things should finally be close to done by Christmas – all the wall patching painted and everything in a place… and for the first time since I moved into that house I’m going to be proud to show it off to friends and family.  It’s mine… It’s my home…

What are some of the intense home improvement projects you’ve taken on?

A Holiday Weekend – In Pictures

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Night before Thanksgiving dinner of homemade crabcakes with a roasted red pepper remoulade sauce, cream cheese mashed potatoes and peas.

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Thanksgiving morning breakfast – Breakfast Braid – stuffed with honeycrisp apples, white cheddar cheese, sage sausage, scrambled eggs and some sharp cheddar cheese on top… mmmmmmm

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Lots of napping by this one…

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The never ending battle with the hot rollers….

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But I mean – when the result looks like this it’s totally worth it!

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Thanksgiving dinner at my Aunt’s house… So great to get to spend this day with family… This year was such a positive day for us…

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Ryan was even given my Dad’s old seat at the table – a little bitter sweet but still made me smile.

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Can you believe I made that little turkey guy in 2nd grade? He’s held up well!

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almost the whole crew was there by dessert. Love these guys more than words can express – including everyone that was out of frame!

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Got the tree up and decorated – Mom described it as “delicate” in appearance – I guess that’s a good thing right?

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I prefer it at night all lit up – though this picture does not do it justice

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My little side table with perhaps my favorite sign :)… I’ve also hung my stockings from the shelf above it and make the most of the small spaces I have for decorating.

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Had a little of this to kick back and relax and hold on to my time in louisville

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Spoiled this little girl silly for a few hours… She wasn’t one to complain…

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Sunday – I made brunch for my mom and grandma since I didn’t spend Thanksgiving with them… Homemade hashbrowns with roasted peppers and onions…

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Cinnamon roll casserole prior to the maple sugar glaze on top

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Eggs Benedict Casserole before we topped it off with homemade Hollandaise sauce

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All ready to enjoy – btw I could bathe in that Hollandaise sauce – a fat kids dream

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DIG IN!

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Mom wanted a family picture – Minnie included… I think I’ll get her and my grandma a mimosa next time to get them to relax a bit!

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At Friendsgiving Sunday I got to hang out with this cutie pie :)

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THEN! Merry Christmas to ME! On black Friday I bought myself a Kitchenaid Mixer on Amazon. I’ve wanted one for 6 years and finally bought one…

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Chocolate Chip and Butterscotch Chip Cookies… SO EASY…

Connecting

This years holiday cards have a picture of my dad from when he was about three IMG_4603.JPG
I’ve had the photo for years… With every intention of putting it on a card but never did… This year I did…

Today I did all of my Christmas cards… Friends and acquaintances just got generic cards and those custom cards sat in their box untouched with the list of people that were getting them off to the side… I did lots of errands and by 5pm still hadn’t touched them…

I knew I was putting it off… I knew that part of me didn’t want to do it… Save them for next year but I put my head down and addressed the 20 cards putting a short note inside each…

And as I packed everything up so proud that I overcame something that I wanted to avoid the song that started playing on my iTunes on shuffle stopped me in my tracks… Of 1400 songs, follow me by matthew mayfield – the song I dedicated an entire blog post about a few weeks ago began playing… I felt like it was a sign that my dad was watching and he was talking to me in some way… So as I sit here crying they are not sad pity tears they are possibly the most healing tears I’ve ever cried…

Love the little things

Sometimes you are reminded that you need to take a moment and appreciate every moment you have with those that you love.  When I take a second and look back on this weekend I’m so glad I got a chance to do everything that I did because when Sunday night rolled around and my boyfriend’s phone rang the news wasn’t good.  A death in the family – a relatively unexpected one is never easy.  So I’m going to take a moment to reflect on all of the little things I did this weekend because I know this holiday will have a different meaning for Ryan and in turn for me too in a way.

Thursday I hosted another family dinner – just my couple cousins and I, but even when it’s just the five of us in my half done dining room I appreciate that sitting around the table that will now be the center of family meals I know that it’s an extra two hours that I get to enjoy with those I previously didn’t get to see often…

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Friday was a lot of nothing honestly… Ryan and I went to our favorite local restaurant Dorothy 6 Cafe in Homestead for a drink and just relaxed for a bit… and geared up for a bit of a busier Saturday…

Saturday kicked off with an awesome breakfast if I do say so myself… I think I’m starting to love cooking again – especially breakfast… I used the corncake recipe from the How Sweet Eats Cookbook (you must buy) and topped with things like salsa, fried eggs, basil chicken sausage, gouda cheese – you get the idea…

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Then it was off to take miss Minnie to the vet who I’m happy to say has lost 3 lbs in 3 weeks however today i got her blood tests back and her levels are still low so they are upping her thyroid meds and we’ll retest again in 3 weeks… I just keep hoping that the improvements continue and that this is all going to lead to a better quality of life for her…

this is how car rides occur.... big dogs cannot be kept in their place...

this is how car rides occur…. big dogs cannot be kept in their place…

Ryan and I had tickets to see White Christmas in downtown Pittsburgh at 2pm and of course weather decided to go insane Saturday – roads turned to ice – we came across closed bridges and roads but thankfully made it to the play… White Christmas is my all time favorite holiday movie and I was thrilled to get to see it on stage…

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The dancing was superb but I wasn’t thrilled with the character tweaks to Judy and the show added a scene after the iconic White Christmas scene at the end which was kind of a major fail but over all i was happy and it was a great time.  We grabbed dinner downtown – sadly my phone died so I couldn’t take photos of the thanksgiving meatball I had at Sienna Mercato.  Holy delicious.

And the day wasn’t over there.  I’ve been on a music roll lately and another one of my favorite singer song writers tweeted me on Thursday to let me know he was rolling through town and doing a low key show just outside the city Saturday night.  It was basically a version of a house show and had a lot of Q&A, requests and was completely acoustic.

Matt Hires and Kyle Cox at the Parkway Theater in McKees Rocks

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Big concerts are just going to be let downs now.  Check out their music.  Ryan loved them and that’s kind of saying something because there’s not much music he and I agree on!

Sunday was laid back – low key and the weather let us leave the house for a few minutes and enjoy the porch… Breakfast of stuffed french toast… peanut butter for the bf and cookies and creme spread and bananas for me…

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We went up the road and spent some time with my grandma… I don’t see her nearly as much as I should and we just enjoyed the time chatting and making plans for the holiday… Around 6 Ryan’s mom called and it woke me up from a half sleep you know when you can just tell that something isn’t right… His grandma had died and I knew that things were going to get tough and quick…

I don’t really know how to comfort people in times of loss… ironic right?  I know that when I lose someone I just shut down… I handle it completely internally… some of it might eek out over time… but I just distract myself in all ways possible… so I have no idea what to do for someone else who is hurting… I hope I did what was needed to just be there and that’s what I’ll keep doing I suppose… but what I always do is cook… so I made homemade chicken parm… His grandmother was italian so as a silent tribute to her make something italian…

And as death always makes us do, everything starts to slow down, you think about what you could have done differently… and you think about what you can do with those you still have in your life… and maybe that song on the radio stops you a little bit in your tracks today… and maybe the rain makes you a bit sadder… and maybe now the holidays aren’t so happy… but I think as long as we remember to find joy in the little things and smile at the memories and appreciate what we had and what we have that everything is ok…

Louisville…….. and bourbon

My best friend Melissa and I took a long weekend to Louisville Kentucky this past weekend.  If you follow me on twitter or instagram you’ve already seen many of these photo’s but of course I have to add some commentary now and let you know what a fabulous little get away it was.

We left early Friday morning and took a very short detour to Frankfort, KY to the Buffalo Trace Distillery so that I could load up on their Bourbon Cream… It’s pretty much to die for… you should try it… seriously…

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We hit up a local, well reviewed cafe called Adelia’s which I have to say didn’t disappoint.  I had a baja panini and it was fantastic to say the least.  The cafe is locally sourced and without a doubt had that fresh flair.  Melissa opted for a wrap which she described as stir fry in a wrap.

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Then it was onto to Louisville.  We checked into the hotel and after a quick recharge headed downtown to begin the Urban Bourbon Trail which is a great way to not only see downtown Louisville but to challenge yourself to try new bourbon drinks.  You check into designated bars after a purchase and after 9 bars over the course of time you get a t-shirt. Now, I am not a bourbon drinker…. at all…. like I catch a whiff and I’m like ok eyes burning and coughing… Melissa is a bad ass and drinks it straight…

But the bartenders were pretty amazing and when I’d say I’m kind of scared of bourbon they’d make me something that would mask the flavor a bit and boom before a knew it I had a new love for bourbon.  And who knew the drinks could be so pretty.

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Don’t worry those weren’t all mine!

Stopped at Bluegrass Brewing Company for dinner… Nachos were consumed so fast that we couldn’t even snap a picture and the pizza wasn’t too bad either.  I picked up a 4pack of bourbon barrel stout to bring home too.

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Saturday we were up early enough to hit up the anniversary tour of the Evan Williams Bourbon Distillery downtown (Heaven Hill) which was really neat because it was a commercialized and modern way to present the history of bourbon.

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And then we ventured onto the City Taste Tour of Louisville.  If you go to Louisville you need to do this tour.  You see a little bit of everything in 3 1/2 hours and it is affordable, the guides are fantastic and just DO IT.

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Just some of the sites we got to stop at…

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A candy shop across the river in Indiana open for over 120 years that had great chocolate covered honeycombs

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Old Louisville with Victorian Mansions just to die for and walking paths that mad you feel like you went back in time, gas lamps and all.

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Churchill Downs – we even caught a race!

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The Falls of the Ohio River

That night we stopped at Havana Rumba in St. Matthews right outside of Louisville for some Cuban food and yes – can we please get something like this in Pittsburgh… or can someone tell me where a cuban restaurant like this is hiding?

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We grabbed breakfast on the way home Sunday and called the trip a success.  All in all it was quite a fabulous trip.  Affordable – great history and you can easily fill up a weekend there.  Go – you’ll be pleasantly surprised.

Here’s to you Louisville – thanks for your hospitality.

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