February 28, 2012

back in action.

people who know me oh so well.

Well, the days of Australian love and merriment are behind us, and we had a fabulous time with our family when they visited. They were here for one week and some of the highlights included:

- Meeting our God-daughter (that's right, we're parents kind of!) 
Quinn for the first time and falling totally in love with her.
- Watching home movies from when the boys were silly little tikes.
- Eating our body weight in seafood; you know, to get the full experience of New England.
- Going to Fire & Ice, an awesome restaurant in the city with my in-laws.
- Having an incredible dinner at Alchemy in Gloucester as a double date.
- Taking two vacation days from work, heck yes.
- Having plenty of relaxing time to reconnect as friends.
- The boys getting tattoos together; don't worry, they aren't matching ones.

But one of the dearest memories of the week for me was a very early surprise birthday party!

If you are a deep, deep addict like myself, you're aware of a certain plot line in FRIENDS from "The One Where Rachel Smokes". 

Phoebe and Monica decide to throw a surprise party for Rachel over a month before her birthday so that she's really surprised. And the planning evolves as follows:

Monica: All right, that's a little sketch of the cake, umm some sample menus, umm y'know what I thought we would start out with Tuscan style finger food, and for music, here's an alphabetized list of all my CDs! I've highlighted the ones that would go really good with the food.
Phoebe: What happened to the intimate dinner party?
Monica: Oh, we're not doing that. Okay…
Phoebe: So wow, it looks like you took care of everything. Thanks a lot, co-host.
Monica: What?! I didn't take care of everything, there's-there's plenty of things for you to do!
Phoebe: Like what?
Monica: (Thinks) Cups.
Phoebe: Cups? You're giving me cups?
Monica: And ice!
Phoebe: Cups and ice? Ooh, I get to be in charge of cups and ice? (Thinks of something) All right. Fine, okay, I will be in charge of cups and ice!
Monica: Wait a minute, I can get ice at the restaurant…
Phoebe: I got it! Mine!


Phoebe: (entering, carrying two garbage bags) Hey!

Ross and Chandler: Hi!
Phoebe: Is it okay if I leave this stuff here 'til Rachel's birthday party?
Chandler: Ah sure. What's in 'em?
Phoebe: Umm, cups.
Chandler: Oh good, because uh we got Rachel 800 gallons of water.
Ross: Seriously that's a lot of cups.
Phoebe: Yeah well, that's 'cause Monica put me in charge of cups and ice, and Monica is gonna rue the day that she put me in charge of cups and ice.

I love Pheebs. So that's when the party looked like this:


Phoebe: (To Chandler) Check it out! Cup hat! (Points to her hat.) Cup banner! Cup chandelier! And the thing that started it all, the cup! (Holds up one.)
Chandler: Great job with the cups, Pheebs!
Monica: (overhearing that) Why don't you just go out with her!
(Chandler starts to follow her into the kitchen.)
Phoebe: (following him) And did you notice the ice? (Gestures to 3 huge buckets of ice on the table.) Look! We have it all! We have crushed! Cubed! And dry! Watch! (Pours some water onto the dry ice, causing it to evaporate/smoke.) Ahhh! Mystical!
Chandler: Awesome!
Monica: Chandler! Everyone--no one's eating my Tuscan finger food 'cause they're all filling up on Phoebe's snow cones!

Aaaah, I just love it. That's classic Phoebe. So when I left work early on Friday to go home sick, I was really looking forward to just crawling into bed for a nap. Will, trying to coerce me into staying awake asks, "Would you sit with us out in the living room if we were watching FRIENDS?" Why yes, yes I would, always.

When I walk into the house, with my sweatpants and FRIENDS in mind, I walk into this:

A birthday banner, cup decorations, "The One Where Rachel Smokes" playing in the living room, a Funfetti cake in the oven, and everyone yelling "surprise"! About a week and a half before my birthday.

This wonderful, extremely surprising event was all the doing of my cousin's wife/more-like-a-sister-in-law, Dayna, who knows me oh so well.

And that's the most special feeling.

Hope you all had a good week!

FRIENDS screenplay found here.

February 21, 2012

on holiday

Even though I'm not on holiday, our Aussies are! 
We picked them up at the airport on Sunday night and they're here with us for a week. Oh joy!
Therefore, you won't be seeing much of me these days because I'm going to soak it up while they're here.

Have a good week!

February 17, 2012

sponsor spotlight: tiffany, from coffee talks & cat walks.

I decided that it was high time to start introducing some of my friends over here on the left. 
And I'm excited to start off with Tiffany! 

She blogs over at Coffee Talks & Cat Walks and she is a sweetheart. In my opinion, what makes her blog so awesome and unique is that she has tons of regular series that I can look forward to. Motivational Monday and Fun Font Friday are self-explanatory and equally awesome. And then there's Copy Cat where she shows a stylin' celeb and shows you how to style a similar look on the cheap. 

And she has a beehive. If that isn't cool, I don't know what is.


Tell us about yourself! I'm a thirty something woman madly in love with Jesus and My Husband.  I don't have kids, but I do have a cat that I love to pieces, and a beehive.  Yes - I suppose the bees count as pets.  I'm a freelance graphic designer and wouldn't trade that job for anything.  It gives me lots of flexibility - and I'm my own boss ... and that is a wonderful thing.  I am originally from central Illinois, but now currently reside in the burbs of Indianapolis. 

How did your blog come to be, and what are some of your favorite things to write about? I started my blog back in 2007 but wasn't committed to it at all back then.  I picked blogging back up about a year ago when I became obsessed with sewing.  I was using my blog as a place to showcase the stuff I was making.  Eventually started selling the goodies I was making, so I started using my blog to promote my new products.  I also love to write about fashion, coffee, and random stuff from my personal life.

What are some of your hobbies/in an ideal world, how would you spend a day off? Hobbies....Sewing, spending time with my husband/bestfriend, cuddling, watching a movie with a fire in the fireplace and my kitty on my lap.

What is the most important lesson you have learned in the last 6 months to a year? Not to stress.  I'm a natural born stress case - and it's a sucky way to live.  I'm trying to squash my stress - it's not health - or necessary.  :)

What's your most notable quirk? I don't know if I recognize my own quirks.  I think I'm normal, but I know for sure my friends and family would dispute that.  ;)  I'm not a fan of ants. They gross me out.  I guess that is a quirk.

Where do you hope to be in five years? I just want to continue to grow both my crafty business (The Paisley Tab) and my freelance graphic design company & just want to please God in everything I say and do.

Do you have a shop you'd like to promote? I do! The Paisley Tab.

Tiffany, thanks so much for sharing about who you are and what you do.
To become a follower of Tiffany, find her here!

February 14, 2012

proof of much-needed exercise.

pink, swollen, chalk-covered hands.

These hands are proof that physical activity did indeed occur. And that it had been way too long.
We hadn't been climbing in a while (rappelling in January, but not climbing) - maybe since the early fall?

So after our climbing session last Wednesday night, even my armpit muscles were aching the next day.

Yep. More climbing is on the agenda and I'm thankful for the workout.

Oh, and happy Valentine's Day to my hub :)
These are for you:

Happy Valentine's Day to you all as well!
{photos from Eastern Mountain Sport's Facebook}

February 13, 2012

musical marvels

I'm starting to realize that I might write about The Civil Wars more than anything else. Seriously, they are probably one of my top three subjects written about most frequently. That's fine by me.

So this weekend, they destroyed all odds at the Grammy Awards! I'm so proud of them.

They won Best Country Duo/Group Performance against the likes of big names Jason Aldean, Kelly Clarkson and Kenny Chesney. What an amazing feat for these relatively new guys!

They also beat out artists like Gillian Welch, Eddie Vedder, and Fleet Foxes for Best Folk Album. That's so freaking huge. They deserve it more than anything - especially since they weren't even expecting to get nominated!

I'm also thrilled for Adele for showing the world how it's done winning six awards (I think she won every category she was nominated for), and for Bon Iver winning Best New Artist! The term "new" is relative, but whatevs. The world is finally noticing how awesome he is.

Oh, and I just learned that Joy Williams (pictured above) and her husband/manager Nate Yetton are expecting their first child! Props for bringing more musicians into this world.

If you aren't familiar with The Civil Wars or only learned of them yesterday - time to get caught up.

Have a musical Monday!

February 12, 2012

bright & white.

In my opinion, that's the way a kitchen should be. I've been absolutely adoring photos of really open light-filled spaces lately. I think it's just so refreshing when a space is simple, clean, and the things that pop out with vibrant color are your belongings - accent pieces, dishes, art or plants. So fun.

My current kitchen is pretty open and bright, but you can't change much in a winter rental. But some day...!
Check out these inspiring bright white spaces.

{via - 3rd photo)

Now doesn't your mind feel clearer already?

February 9, 2012

adventures in meal planning!

Whenever I've read blogs where people meal-plan, I've always thought that they were uber-organized super moms who need to do this sort of thing, lest they lose their last remaining marble. So since I'm not really any of those things (that organized, a mom, or quickly going insane), I've never really considered it as something we should do.

However, there was a night a few weeks ago where Will and I were griping and complaining the whole ride home about how starving we were, and then proceeded to do everything in the world when we got home except for make dinner. We chatted at length about our days, tidied the living room, put PJ's on - I may have even cleaned the bathroom as a stall tactic. We ended up cooking something kind of ghetto and didn't sit to eat until after 9PM. Yeah, unacceptable.

After this debacle, I said to him, "We need to have a weekly business meeting!" and I actually wasn't kidding at all. We both used to live in intentional communities (houses of 14-17 people who cooked and ate dinner together four nights a week, did chores, and lived the ups and downs of life and became super tight) where business meeting was a crucial factor in our success. This is where we assigned which pairs would cook dinner on which nights, which pairs would do dishes, check in on how chores went that past week - without it, we wouldn't have been able to function.

So I proposed to Will that we have a business meeting on Sunday nights where we analyze our weeks and plan meals from there. Monday after work, we'd do all our grocery shopping for the week - good thing we both had the chore of "grocery shoppers" in our communities! My shopping mate and I would even organize our lists by where the items were laid out in the store for utmost efficiency. We were pretty intense.

For Will and I, we think buying groceries based on meals will not only help us to be organized and efficient at meal time, but we think it will also cut down our grocery budget because we'll only be buying things that we know we'll have a specific use for in the immediate future. No extraneous purchases that might eventually go bad/expire anyway.

This past week, we were able to assess that we only needed to plan meals for three nights, because we went to the pub with a friend on Tuesday, and saved Friday for consuming the week's leftovers. Saturday we were with my parents and Sunday was the Superbowl! It was a nice three-day week for transitioning into a new system.

Now I know it won't always be this way, but we came up with some pretty swanky meals for week one! Totally utilized some awesome cookbooks that we have. Don't even ask about week two. Epic fail. But in our defense, the Superbowl fell during out business meeting, so we were behind from the start.

Here were our successful meals from last week (please excuse the poor kitchen lighting in these photos)!

grilled scallops with crispy leeks

photo by Will
I give this dish an A++. We'll definitely be having this one again.
Leeks are delish and the scallops were impeccable and super fresh. 
We live on the water in a fishing town for crying out loud.

sesame chicken with edamame and quinoa

photo by me
I'd give it a B+. While I love edamame and quinoa, the sauce for the 
chicken wasn't what I was expecting, and I would have wanted more sauce 
than the recipe called for to make it a little less dry.

penne with chicory and honeyed walnuts

photo by Will
I'd give this dish an A for what it is, but we'd change a few things next time around.
Neither of us had tasted chicory before, and it was a wonderfully bitter complement to 
the sweetness of the honey sauce. But we'd cut it thinner next time as to not be left with
these big bitter and wilted stalks at the bottom of our bowl. They were 
intimidatingly large the way the recipe called for them to be cut.

So that's that! Hopefully we can pick up this week's slack and deliver a good show next week.
Let me know if you want any of these recipes!

February 6, 2012

a new "series" of sorts

There's a book out right now that I bandwagon-ed a little late on, so forgive me if I'm like 10 years behind the eight ball.

The book is called One Thousand Gifts by Ann Voskamp. Ever heard of it?
image from the author's site
After this book was handed down to me from my mom-in-law, and recommended by two or three friends, I finally decided two months later that I'd start reading it. I think if a book is recommended that I know nothing about, I'm kind of like "yeah, whatever." But as soon as I heard more about this one, my ears perked up.

It was November, nearing Thanksgiving and I was feeling a little jaded. When I learned this book was about learning how to be thankful for all of the truly beautiful moments in life, I knew I needed it.

The concept of the book revolves around the term eucharisteo, which when translated from the Greek is a deep thanksgiving consisting of both grace and joy. It's the kind of thanks that Christ gave at the table for the Last Supper. Voskamp calls it the central symbol of Christianity. Eucharisteo is a type of thanks that we should give whenever we can, for everything. Voskamp encourages readers to try and foster this spirit of thanksgiving throughout all of the seemingly insignificant and mundane things in life, to experience a true and lasting joy that only Christ can bring.

She does this by accepting a challenge to keep a record
of 1,000 gifts - the small and the simple things that bring her joy.

Overall, I think I'm liking it so far. I'm only a few chapters in, but I've already been able to delight in 363 gifts she's shared, like "hot oatmeal tasting like home" (55). There are some things that are annoying - like the inordinate amount of sentence fragments. I understand adding the dramatic effect from time to time, but it can be over the top.

Aside from that though, her writing can also be so vivid and raw. She'll come out with things like, "Yellow marbleizes into indigo dark" to describe nightfall - and I do appreciate illustrations like that (69).

So as I continue reading, I've decided that I'm going to start documenting my own "thankfulnesses" to help me further connect with her goal in experiencing eucharisteo. No matter how outwardly trivial these small joys may feel, she encourages readers to live more fully in the moment by taking the time to experience the joy in everything. What a valuable lesson in slowing life down. I'll be tagging my little joys as "gifts".

So even though my dear Patriots royally blew it last night, there are still many reasons to give thanks.
Absolutely no promises that I'll make it to one thousand, but here goes:

warm towels out of the shower.
They remind me that I'm blessed to have clean textiles
and the running water that millions don't have access to.

Happy Monday, friends. Give thanks on this day.
And remember, pitchers and catchers report for spring training soon.
Go Red Sox!

February 5, 2012

are you ready?

For some football, that is?

The majority of my readers probably don't give a damn about football, but today is a sacred day.
Raised in New England with the family God gave me, there was never a choice of being "interested" in football or not. I was raised this way, and I'm very proud to be a fan of {arguably} the best dynasty in major league sports - Bill Belichick, Tom Brady and the New England Patriots.

Most Patriots fans are proud, cocky little buggers, so I try to rise above. If we win, I will rejoice and cry and scream my brains out - not shove it in anyone's face except for my New-York-Jets-loving boss. If we lose, I will fall into a state of silent depression to mourn for a spell. I may not be able to write anything besides sad songs and quotes from Lamentations for a week or so.

So with that, may the best man win.

via wsj blog

And it's not Eli Manning.

February 2, 2012

a random smattering of updates

I don't have much time to write today because I have legitimate work-related tasks to attend to (what?!?) but here are some Groundhog's day updates!

For starters, isn't it funny how irrelevant the concept of Groundhog's day is now that we're not in elementary school? It's very sad. That poor Punxsutawney gets no more face time. I heard he gave some bad news today anyway so, what does he know.


1. My best friend in the whole universe was born on this glorious day! Happy birthday to my Ab! We met in the third grade and were friends through elementary school, middle school, high school, and colleges states apart. She was the maid of honor in my wedding and I will be hers this July. We are best friends, soul mates, kindred spirits for life. I wish that everyone had the chance to have a friendship as rewarding and fulfilling as the one that Abby and I share. It's truly a unique blessing and I think it's really a rarity in this life.

photo by Give & Take Pictures
 Let's take a minute to admire her gorgeous, all natural, fiery locks. What a beaut.

during her speech at our wedding. feel the love. \\ photo by Give & Take Pictures
 I am so thankful to her parents and to the Lord for bringing this 
wonderful woman into my life to stay.
Happy birthday Abby.

2. I will intersperse the two items of good news with just one tiny piece of bad news. Remember the Pilates class I was so excited to take? Well it turns out that it's kind of geared toward the elderly. The woman who teaches it is in her fifties (which doesn't mean anything!) and the class is not as intense as I was hoping. Will referred to it as "geriatric stretching." Yeah. Not really what I'm into.

But after I asked the rec director about it, he said, "if you want to go and get certified to teach Pilates and get paid for doing your work out, I would love to offer a higher level class!"

Hmmm. She ponders. Could this be a possibility? We'll see.

3. Remember how I mentioned that the Aussies were coming this summer? As much as we were excited beyond belief to see the fam, we were nearly certain that because of work/time off, our cousin Tyson and his wonderful wife Dayna wouldn't be able to come in June. Here's the brief on our relationship with them:
Will's cousin Emma, her husband Ben & baby Chloe, Aunt Patti & Uncle Wolfgang, Tyson & Dayna.

- Will and Tyson, although also cousins, have been the best of friends for a long time. Very very close.
- Tyson and his fam visited the states a lot growing up, and he even spent some time living over here with family members.
- Will also took a year off after high school and spent time living in Sydney with Tyson's fam.
- During this time in 2007, Tyson met Dayna and they began dating. Tyson, Dayna and Will were all working together at the time, so Will had a front row seat from the very beginning.
- Tyson and Dayna were married in 2008 and Will was the best man.
- One year later, they visited Philadelphia and met Will's new girlfriend they'd heard so much about. I was petrified knowing that these were basically the most important people in his life, so I hoped they'd like me!
- In less than one week, we hit it off magically :)
- I studied in Australia six months later in 2010 and shared Easter week and the last week of my stay with them. This is where my individual friendship with them began to grow and deepen. 
- They came to visit the states in the summer of 2010 and spent more time with... just me :) Will was sadly in Romania.
- They had a BABY in May 2011! Dear, beautiful baby Quinn! How could we not have been there?! Tragic. Tears were shed of joy and aching sadness.
- We got married in 2011, but with Quinn being so little, the doctors wouldn't let them fly over. More tragedy and tears.
- To this day, they are the soul-friend-couple who we want to live next door to and raise children alongside. We miss them to the point of tears. Regularly.

Through all of this, our friendship hasn't changed a bit. I was blessed to see them three times in 2010, but zero times in 2011. Will hasn't seen them since 2009 when I first met Tyson and Dayna. Crazy! Needless to say, we were so bummed that we wouldn't be seeing them this summer.

Until Will got a phone call from an unknown number yesterday. Upon answering he heard, "Hey mate! How ya going?" and nearly collapsed to the ground. Tyson was calling! Because of the ridiculous time change, conflicting schedules and our lack of internet access, we haven't talk to them since August! I know, it's so stupid and lame. But Will, jumping out of his skin, yelling and pacing around on the phone, learned the news that would make our year.

Will: "Tys, this phone call is the best surprise I've had all year!"
Tyson: "Well it's about to get better... what are you doing February 19th through the 26th?"

We're hosting the little Aussie fam at OUR HOUSE.
In 17 DAYS.
Our first time to meet that baby girl.

Excitement beyond belief.
We cried. Obviously.

That is all.

February 1, 2012

points of positivity

I rag on my job a lot, and for that, I'm sorry. Time for some positivity 'round these parts. While my actual job isn't the greatest, my place of employment is the absolute best. Here's why:

1. When my office has a sign at our front desk saying that we're in a meeting, the truth is that about 98% of the time, it's actually a birthday party. My office parties hard :) When my brother used to work in the campus safety office, he was bitter saying, "We can't just stop and party, our work never stops! If we stop working, people might die! Your office is a bunch of slackers." Well, I don't hate it. 

If it's your birthday, you should still act surprised when a meeting is called and you walk into a fully decorated conference room - even when it happens for every person, every year. The decorations are always person-specific, but this week's party was over the top.

Our assistant direction loves the Myers-Briggs personality test. When our director will say certain things, she'll mutter, "You're such a T. You can't even control it." She will analyze things I do (lucky for me, I'm the same exact type as one of her daughters... feel on display much?) and say, "Why am I not surprised?" with a big knowing grin. Sometimes it's weird, but sometimes it feels nice to feel known so intimately.

So for her party, we all wore crowns displaying our Myers-Briggs types on our foreheads. And someone made  Myers-Briggs cookies using alphabet cookie cutters just for the letters E, I, S, N, F, T, J, and P. And we watched the You Tube videos of the motivational posters that were created for each of our types. Hilarious, thoroughly planned, and an hour well spent during the work day. 

What am I, you ask? I'm an
which Myers-Briggs refers to as "The Caregiver".
Read below to learn more about each letter! Except I lean more 
and more towards a P as my days go on, so don't be deceived.
And I'm really on the line between F and T.

Want to know what type you are? Take the test here!

2. The next reason why my workplace is actually really awesome, is a little game called Secret Heart. Initiated by our President's wife, this is a game of Valentine's Day themed Secret Santa (get it?) to beat the winter blues. Everyone who wanted to participate signed up online, and HR paired us all with faculty or staff members in different departments as a way to get to know one another better. Isn't that so fun? What an awesome way to make new friends! So from today until Valentine's Day, we'll be sending little gifts, notes or doing random acts of kindness for a colleague. On Valentine's Day, there will be a reception where everyone who participated can go and enjoy some snacks and the mysteries will be revealed.

They had us fill out a short questionnaire when we signed up so that if you were assigned to a complete stranger, you would at least have some clues on how to love on them. And then last week, a stealthy envelope was placed on our desk of who our Secret Heart is! And Gordon friends, if you're reading, I got the best assignment!! Except I can't tell you, because there's a miniscule chance that she might read my blog. But ask and I'd gladly brag! And no, it's not my mom. Human Resources knows we're related and she most def reads the blog :)

But whoever has me for this game is a freaking champ! For starters, they sent me a gift yesterday on January 31st. Over achiever. Secondly, did my mom get assigned to me?! Because my gifts have been spot on. Like, strangely so. Maybe it's someone in my mom's department, or maybe they emailed my husband for advice. How accurate? Well:

- I got a pear-scented antibacterial hand gel from Bath & Body. Pretty obscure scent, right? Well I adore pear flavored and scented things. I don't even think my mom knew that. Right on, Secret Heart.
- She also got me a Ghirardelli caramel-filled chocolate bar. I don't even really have a sweet tooth, except when it's chocolate + caramel. I used to get Caramello bars in my stocking. Mom would know that.
- Today, she sent me a Patriots car decal in an envelope that said "Go Pats!" Genius woman, for two reasons: I'm the major sports fan of the household, so Will is a little less pleased with the massive Patriots and Red Sox car decals on our Subaru. He said he would be more content if they were a little smaller. Secondly, I don't like the newer logos - I always go for the old school. So what did I get? A small, old school logo Patriots decal. My husband would totally know that.

What an incredibly awesome game this will be.
Happy two weeks from Valentine's Day everyone!
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