I’m Dreaming of a White Christmas

Well Christmas wasn’t snowy this year… but it was wonderfully full of friends, family, and joy… and I couldn’t ask for much more…

I’m quite emotionally drained from it all… so I’m just going to sum it up with 3 quick pictures…

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An intentionally blurry photo of my mom Christmas morning when the sun was just coming up. To me somehow this captured how this holiday felt for me… just slightly out of focus but like that’s how it was supposed to be all along…

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The cutest present you could ever ask for! A kiss from my princess Minnie who tolerated this bow for oh I don’t know maybe 10 seconds.

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And one super exhausted puppy last night after 20 friends and family were at the house for Friendsmas of 2014… It was a hit and I felt so incredibly blessed to have so many people around… In the words of Bing and Rosemary – When I can’t sleep I count my blessings instead of sheep…

I hope everyone had an amazing holiday whatever it is that you celebrate and that you were able to take a moment to count your blessings even if things were chaotic or plans didn’t go as you wanted… in the end there is always some type of silver lining…

I’ll be back in the new year with lots of great things once I’ve had a chance to recenter myself and gear up for everything that 2015 has to offer!

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Planning for Friendsmas

When I moved to Maryland for college I came home for Christmas my freshman year.  That year I had 7-8 friends over and we had a full meal, lots of cookies and exchanged little gifts.  I can’t remember when I had the next little get together like that but slowly over the last few years I’ve fully embraced the idea of a Friendsmas much like people have Friendsgiving these days.

The weekend after Christmas I invite friends over and cook a full meal and we just kick back and relax and have a day to not worry about much of anything.

Last year it was a great little group of about 9 of us.  Then 2014 happened.  And I opened up my life a little bit.  My cousins began family dinners on Thursday nights, I met some fantastic friends through Pirate games, began dating Ryan and hence grew the social circle a bit more and reconnected with some friends who had been lost over the last few years.

I sent out my invite list this year expecting maybe to have 12-13 people.  Right now my RSVPs stand at 22.  I feel so touched.  Even if everyone doesn’t make it to me that is incredible and it doesn’t even include the 4 or 5 people who are out of town and physically couldn’t make it.  While it will be impossible to have a sit down meal I’m still going all out and we’ll be eating on our laps college style and I’m ok with that it’s more about the company than anything else.

My mom, who isn’t coming to the party, because as she says, she’s too old for these shenanigans, is excited and keeps calling to tell me she’s bought assorted nuts and snacks for appetizers and how happy she is to hear about everyone getting together.

So what’s on the menu?

  • Turkey breast (I don’t do a full turkey – not that confident yet)
  • Small ham
  • Pineapple Stuffing
  • Good old fashioned stuffing
  • Brussels Sprouts Au Gratin
  • Green Bean Casserole
  • Sweet Potato Casserole
  • Roasted Garlic Mashed Potatoes
  • Creamed Corn with Bacon and Roasted Red Peppers

Now to get all the timing and prep of all of that down – that’s always the fun part… one oven… lots of food… bring me the crock pots!

Just Breathe

Something I say so often to myself when I feel a spiral begin whether it’s excitement or depression.  Just breathe…

Just breathe

This is especially important for me right now… My emotions have been out of control as of late and not in the whole manic highs and super low lows it’s almost as if I’ve been so super tuned into my emotions that I’m overwhelmed by coming to terms with everything I feel.  It’s as if I’m seeing myself for the first time in many ways, and holy cow is it terrifying.

Maybe it’s just a new level of sensitivity but I’ve had to seek out new ways to try and center myself.  More often than not I’ve yearned for a few moment that I can put on that music that sooths my soul that you’ve heard my gush about far too often in the last few months.  I’ll close my office door, stand in a corner of my kitchen after I get home, or curl up in my bed when I can’t slow down my mind at night and put that music on.

I’ve caught myself praying too.  I said the Our Father the other night when my anxiety spiked especially high.  I recite snippits of psalms that I remember from years ago.  I talk to my dad.  Not a lot, and not for long.  But I do talk to him.  And sometimes I just breathe.

This will be my 12th Christmas without my Dad.

I also just took a 3 hour break while writing this post after that last sentence.  Usually blog posts just kind of flow out of me and to be honest most of this one has.  But then sometimes I just get stuck.  Stuck in my own head, in my own breaks and cracks.

How true that quote is.  He wasn’t perfect.  And as I get older I find myself often saying, sheesh I know why dad was stressed so much, or I know why dad did this or did that.  And sometimes I think I know why he made some of the choices he made.  It doesn’t mean I agree with a lot of them but I think I get it.  And how I wish I had been older and wiser and had been able to talk to him.

There are so many ways to describe grief and everyone grieves differently.

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That is perhaps one of my favorite descriptions.  But I often think of grief like the weather.  There are days where it downpours and the wind blows and everything inside is so raw and torn open.  There are days when it envelopes you like fog settling down to the earth and it consumes you.  There are days that are clear, bright, that life feels right, that you celebrate all you had and have.  There are days that sometimes it never crosses your mind, that are so perfect that it’s like all of this was really meant to be in God’s plan.  And there are days like a quiet snow fall where peace and quiet fall over everything and you can reflect and accept.

I’m in the fog lately.  Like I can’t make my way out of whatever this little funk is that I’m in.  I’m not depressed, I’m not falling apart, I’m just acutely aware of everything yet I can’t decide which way is up.

12th Christmas.  And before I know it I’ll turn 30 in January and maybe it’s the idea of that new chapter of my life starting… I’m not sure… fog I’m telling you, lots of it…

So for now, in the midst of these ridiculous ramblings of an almost 30 something girl having an emotional holiday season… I tell myself just breathe.  And I turn up my music a little bit, say a silent prayer and close my eyes for a moment.  The fog will lift soon.  Just Breathe.

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…