Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Planner/ Dreamer

My Mema gave me a new planner for 2014. It's the "Our Daily Bread" planner and I'm already in love with it. Each new month starts off with a beautiful photograph and a devotional blurb to prepare your heart for the coming days. Then there is a month overview with a verse for that month. Each week has space for a to do list and a shopping list plus plenty of space for each day's activities. And in the back of the planner is a schedule for reading through the bible in a year.
I love sitting down with a blank calendar and filling in the dates with travel plans and birthdays and wedding weekends and holidays. I love looking forward to a new year and anticipating all that could happen.

I have so many dreams about what 2014 could look like for me. I feel giddy with anticipation for an open year just waiting for plans to be made and hopefully a few adventures. I sat down with my calendar to start penciling in the things already filling up my schedule, the year already seeming shorter and smaller. Then I opened to January's devotional and I was hit hard by the first verse there on the page. And I had to put down my pens and highlighters and take a step back.

"If the Lord wills, we shall live and do this or that."  James 4:15

Lord willing.
Lord willing and the creek don't rise.

Not because I want something to happen this year or on this date. Not because I write it down in my planner and check off to do lists. Not because "if I dream it I can achieve it". Not because I scheduled it and planned for it and am ready. Not because I'm impatient (and Lord knows I am) and want things to happen now, on my timeline.

But because the Lord wills it.
It's okay to make plans. It's okay to ask God for big things this year. He knows my dreams, the desires of my heart. He hears my prayers and also hears what I don't even know to ask him for. So I can plan this year and dream my dreams with him in the center, and this year will unfold as He knows best. The pressure is off. The deadlines I set, the anxiousness I feel, all that disappears when I say "Lord willing", confident of His loving plan. 

Monday, December 30, 2013

And lots of cookies.

It's so hard to write about a such a great holiday. It was just a wonderful time a home with lots of family and lots of cookies. Those are the best kinds of vacations in my opinion.

We cooked huge meals and crowded around our dining table and washed a lot of dishes.
We stayed in our pajamas and exchanged gifts and long hugs and thank yous.
We hiked in the snow and sang carols by candlelight.
I sat up late, sitting at the kitchen counter with my Mema, asking for more stories of her early days as a wife, her adventures with my Poppie no longer here.
I spent time with cousins and aunts and uncles and parents and the sister I see not nearly often enough.
And it was crowded, and I slept on an air mattress, and it was noisy and full. 
And it was sort of calm and most definitely bright.  
I think that's how Christmas is supposed to be. I don't even think the silent night was all that silent. 
But I know it was definitely full to the brim with life and family and joy. 

Monday, December 23, 2013

Pre-Christmas Weekend Recap

TJ and I decided that we didn't want to wait until New Years to celebrate Christmas together. So even though we had spent the previous weekend together and even though he stayed in town until Tuesday last week, and even though I'm going to see him again next Monday, I booked a flight down to South Carolina for the weekend. I guess two days apart is more than enough right?

I got in late Friday night (along with the rest of the holiday travelers) and was greeted by TJ and piece of chocolate cake. Both quickly lifted my spirits which were a little low after all the delays and travel headaches. Despite staying up much too late chatting and watching home videos of baby TJ, we both still got up pretty early (by my standards not his) the next morning not wanting to waste a minute of our short weekend together.

First on the agenda for the day was to head to our old college campus and see all the new stuff they've added since we've graduated. They've completely updated the bookstore and they've added a bar! (It was a dry campus when I went there so this is a huge change.) We then meandered around pointing out old dorm rooms and sharing stories of our college days. Even though we went to the same school we really didn't know one another until after we'd left.
After leaving the campus we headed into downtown to grab a bite at one of my favorite and dearly missed restaurants, Chicora Alley. After indulging on the best nachos ever we had to walk through Falls Park and then up to the Mast General Store, two of my other favorite parts of town. It's crazy how much has been changed and added (an Anthroplogie store!!!) in just the 3 years since I've been away. Visiting my college and the town where I spent so many fun days makes me really glad that TJ and I both share a love for this place.

We headed back to his house after our little excursion and decided that it was high time I learn how to shoot a gun (#5 on my list). With the exception of one experience at a girl scout camp many years ago I have no experience in this department. So we trekked out to the pasture on their property and TJ and his dad gave me the run down, making sure I knew how to turn on the safety.  They rigged up the clay pigeon launching thingie (that's the technical name for it) and after TJ demonstrated how it's done (seriously he was such a show-off, hitting every single one, making it look easy) it was my turn to try. I missed the first few but after a bit of feedback I hit one and got on a streak!
Above is my very serious marksman pose. I managed to hit a bunch in a row and I was feeling very Annie Oakley-esque and like I could do okay in a zombie apocalypse.  It was so much fun!

Later that evening we went to dinner with his parents and his sister. And then TJ and I stayed out with his sister and met up with friends in town. It was a really full day and we got a lot checked off our list. I was really glad I got to spend more time with his sister especially as she lives far away and hasn't been in town during my other visits.

Sunday was rainy and dreary so we stayed in our pajamas and stayed inside to enjoy homemade soup and corn bread. We also had a mini Christmas. I had brought a little something for TJ and his family and it was nice to sit in front of their tree and exchange gifts.
It was such a quick weekend (aren't they all) and after more flight delays and missed connections I made it back to DC. It was definitely worth all the travel hassles to get to spend more time with TJ and his family this Christmas season. I was pretty bummed about having to work today and tomorrow but this little pre-Christmas trip more than made up for that. Now I just have one more sleep until I head home to my family!

Merry Christmas everyone! 

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

How About the Hodgepodge

So I thought I'd link up to the hodgepodge this week since I've basically been missing in action on the blog front... blame this guy:

Here we go...

1. Do you believe in miracles? 
Absolutely. What I don't believe in is coincidences. God is in everything, and the smallest chance encounter, or the answered (and even the unanswered) prayers, are actually miracles if you open your eyes. God is still healing the sick, giving sight to the blind, and raising us from death to life. It's just harder to recognize all the wondrous, miraculous sights through the chaos and noise these days.

2. What's a recent fad you admit to trying?
Snapchat. I guess it's not that recent but I'm pretty new to it. I'm still not sure why getting a picture that disappears in 10 seconds is worth my time but I'll admit it's pretty fun to use. It's fun to have conversations with images and I totally wish my mom would use it. Plus I can send pictures like this to my sister and not worry about them showing up on the internet. oh wait...
3. Peppermint-are you a fan? If so, what's your favorite food or beverage containing peppermint? 
Yes! Especially in the form of a candy cane. My roommates and I hung some on our tree this year and let's just say there are now a few bare spots on the tree....

4. Break the ice, on thin ice, as cold as ice (emotionally, not literally)...which phrase have you run into most recently? Explain. 
Well, as a Young Life leader I often find I have to break the ice when new high schoolers show up at "club." I want them to feel welcome and like they are a part of something even if it's their first time and their mom made them come. It can be really weird to walk up to someone you don't know say hi and I've been totally rejected before. I've had high school girls look at me with a stare that says: "who is this girl and why is she talking to me? Is she in high school? She doesn't look like she's in high school. Please stop talking now so I can talk to people cooler than you."   I tend to be completely awkward about it all, but actually sometimes that helps. People put a high price on looking "cool" and fitting in. But really people just want to be included, no matter how thick the ice they put around their hearts. So break that ice. Fall through it.

5. Have you ever broken or spilled something in someone else's home? Still friends?
Many, many years ago when I was just 4, so you can't hold this against me, I "broke" all the fish in this aquarium at someone's house. The owner had let me feed them and I ended up dumping way too much food into the tank. So to compensate for all the extra food, I decided to take cups of water from the fridge to pour into the tank, thinking maybe no one would notice.  Yeah, they all died and I haven't ever been back to that house but not for that reason, I think...

6. 'Tis the week before Christmas...are you feeling more like Buddy the Elf or the Grinch before his heart grew? 
Definitely Buddy the Elf. And even though I have to work until 1pm on Christmas Eve (sucks) I am not going to let that dampen my Christmas spirit! I cannot wait to get home to my family and eat all the cookies and see all the snow that my parents have been accumulating just for me... And I'm also really excited about the gifts I picked up this year and that I just can't wait to hand out. I have almost spilled the beans so many times!

7. Share a favorite quote relating to Christmas.
(download here)

Monday, December 9, 2013

Let it Snow

Like the rest of the East Coast and a good chunk of the US in general we saw some snow yesterday. We didn't get enough to cancel work for the whole day but we did get a 2 hour delay which is better than nothing. I spent most (all) of the weekend on the couch with the blinds open,t he Christmas tree lights on and the holiday candle burning. Wrapped up in a blanket watching movies while the snow fell outside. 

There is something really relaxing and comforting about this weather. Sure it's a pain to leave the house and I can't drive in it (trust me on this) and holiday parties get cancelled. But even now the anticipation of a white winter wonderland gets to me. I get all giddy when I see the first flakes fall and I step outside on my front porch to feel them on my hands and catch them with my tongue. 
It really puts you in the Christmas spirit, you know? Along those lines... I was supposed to go to a Young Life Christmas party and I had the perfect shirt to wear. So of course I decided to just wear it around the house instead. You can't see it here, but beneath my warm snugly blanket I'm wearing this t-shirt... name what movie this is from!

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Still Thankful

Thanksgiving may be over and we may be in the full on Christmas mode but it's never too late to remember all the blessings in your life that you have to give thanks for.

Most importantly I am thankful I got to spend the holiday at home with my parents and my sister. It's been far too long since both sister and I were in the house at the same time and I know it makes my parents so happy to have us both at the dinning room table and both sleeping in our own rooms.

We watched movies, cooked and ate delicious foods, snuggled on the couch, stayed in our pj's and bundled up to go out. It was quiet and simple and time passed slower for a few days. It was so nice to have a few extra days instead of the usual whirlwind weekend trip I'm used to taking. There was time to unpack and settle in and breathe.

I think I kind of revert back to childhood when I'm in my parents' house for longer that 48 hours. I drink chocolate milk and let them take care of me. I sit in the back seat with my sister instead of the driver seat, and we hold hands and say grace around the dinner table, and I feel like a kid again and not a independent/young adult/working girl/whatever.

These holidays, the food and the traditions and the warmth of it all, wash over me and restore me. Sitting between my parents on the couch with just the Christmas tree lights, "playing piano" with my sister. They make it harder to go back to work, but they also give me the strength to do just that.

One day I know all my holidays wont look like this, the four of us.They'll be shared with other families or even separate. And it makes my heart ache. I can't think about it too long, it makes me want to grab my sister and move home. Not getting to see them every holiday is a part of growing up I'd like to skip please.

So I will be very thankful of every holiday together.  And I will store away these memories of hot chocolate with marshmallows in my holiday mug. Of my parents asking sister and I if we remembered our gloves, our scarf, "are we sure we're going to be warm enough?" Of airport picks ups and train drop offs. Of every goodnight and "Happy Thanksgiving" said in person and not over the phone.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Red Lipstick

I've never been brave enough to pull off red lipstick, or lipstick in general.  I always feel like a little girl playing dress up or I look like I should be under stage lights in a musical.  I pretty much stick to chapstick.

But when my roommate was cleaning out her room the other day she found this really red creamy lipstick in the bottom of her purse and we couldn't resist trying it on. And I kinda think the look is really fun. The color is  Revlon Super Lustrous Lipstick-Crème 725 "Love that Red".

I like the way lipstick feels, it's not as sticky or goopy as gloss and I just felt like making kissy faces and leaving my mark on someone's cheek. (Truly though I still don't know how you kiss someone when wearing lipstick - doesn't' it smudge right off, do people just not care?)

I'm still not sure I'm brave enough to go out all Taylor Swift-like in public but I think it's possible I've reached the "grown up enough to wear lipstick" stage in my life.

Rinse. Repeat.

It feels lately like my posts all sing the same tune:

I went to see TJ.
TJ came to town.
I had the best weekend.
Monday's suck.

I can't imagine it's very interesting to anyone else but me. And maybe my family.
But I'm gonna write it down anyway.
For posterity. (sidenote. In all our old home videos, my mom says this line every time they would catch a temper tantrum on camera.)
For memory's sake.
For my grandparents who read along.
For when I want to look back on these days of roommates and freedom and falling in love.

But right now we're in a bit of a holding pattern and it's easy to get restless and feel anxious to get to the next stage. I find myself hurrying through weeks, wishing the weekend would get here so I could get on a plane or train or in the car and get going already.

I'm more easily frustrated by the daily things I still have to do, aka go to work. It feels like I'm killing time until the next trip comes along. And it's not just about TJ, I promise. I've been at my job for over two years now, I've lived in D.C for that same amount of time and lately I've been burnt out on both. I think it has a lot to do with the metro delays every morning and just the repetitiveness of it all.

I haven't written a post like this in a while. Where I expose my heart a little bit and reflect on this post-grad, pre-adulthood season of waiting and wanting. But I always  find that when I get it out, write it down, and then read it back to myself I sound a bit... well... whiny. Really impatient and whiny.

I need to remind myself me that this is not how God calls us to face each day- wishing it away for the next one. He makes each day brand new. His promises are new every day. I am new everyday.

I am so thankful for my roommates/sisters/ the people I do life with.
I am thankful I have a job to go to everyday.
I am thankful I can afford to fly North, South, East and West to visit the people I love as frequently as I do.

I am also exactly where He wants me to be today (even on the days when I'd rather be somewhere else). So I will be content with it all. Getting on the metro, going to work, sitting at my desk, going home, fixing dinner, spending time with my roommates, (face-timing with TJ), blogging about the weekend and doing it all again the next week. Rinse, repeat until He calls me to something else.

Monday, November 18, 2013

Monday Musings

My first and forever roommate, Alana, came to town late last Thursday. She was interviewing for residency programs and had one up here in D.C.. On Friday I came home from work and it was so nice having a house full of friends. Both roommates were also home and there was wine and nail polish and curling irons and outfit switching. Getting ready to go out with friends is one of the funnest things ever- I say that every time it happens. All four of us headed out for dinner to Season's 52 and we had a blast catching up and being silly and requesting a song from the piano player. When we got home (after taking a bunch more pictures) we ended up watching Legally Blonde while waiting for TJ to show up...

Yep. That's right, TJ came up to see me this past weekend! I know, I know.  I just saw TJ the weekend before but neither of us were thrilled that our next visit wasn't planned until later in December. So Friday afternoon we were talking about our weekend plans and he didn't really have any so he hopped in the car and crashed our girl's weekend much to my delight!

Alana left around lunchtime the following day but not before we went on a walk all together. TJ and I then lazed around for a bit before we decided to head out to the National Zoo. I had never been before and it's free and not that far from my house. It's actually a really nice zoo and a great place to walk around. For such a gray cloudy day there was still quite a crowd, sadly no pandas were out.

After the zoo we stopped for a beer and to rest our feet before we met up with my roommates and their boyfriends for a triple date at Matchbox. The guys were content to watch football while we waited for a table and I was glad not to be the usual fifth wheel.
Sadly, my happy "all my best friends and my boyfriend is in town" daze faded all too quickly. TJ left early on Sunday morning and I consoled myself by baking pumpkin bread, then making homemade tortilla soup and piling it with cheese and sour cream, and watching Walking Dead. It's the little things, right? 

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Oh my darlin' Clementine

One of my favorite parts about this fall/winter season is clementines- those perfect, little, sweet, seedless, orange fruits. I know you can get them probably all year round some places but I always associate them with this time of year. We always get a clementine in the foot of our Christmas stockings and I just love snacking on them all season long. Plus, they're the sweetest defense against winter colds that I know of.  

We recently held a wine and cheese at the office, we do these about once a month and this month I decided to use clementines for all sorts of decorating purposes.  We have a very small budget for these events so we tend to put together all the decor from items we already have in the office (or at my house) or that we can get inexpensively.

So we picked up a couple bags of clementines and went to town. For the centerpiece of the dessert table we filled tall cylinder vases with pine cones, branches, appropriately colored candles, and those orange gems. Burlap was woven around the base and more clementines were scattered about. We also used clementines as menu card holders (which I think would also make adorable place-cards for Thanksgiving dinner).

In addition to hot apple cider, wine and seasonal beers. Our fall themed menu included:

S'mores Cupcakes (with toasted marshmallow frosting)
Pumpkin Cupcakes
Pancetta Sage Chicken Skewers
Roasted Butternut Squash Tarlettes
Artichoke Fontina Macroni Bites
Broccoli & Olive Bruschetta

This post probably seems totally random, I mean I hardly ever talk about my job on this blog. But I've been pretty distracted by a certain boy lately and  having a hard time staying motivated at work. Most of the day-to-day meetings and events we plan at the firm are pretty cookie cutter year after year. (Plus the stupid metro has made me late to work for the past two days which only fuels my frustration.)  So it helps to document an event like this where I can have fun and be more creative. Anywho, that's my spiel. I guess I can't only blog about TJ but that's enough about work for now.

Monday, November 11, 2013

I wanna be your Friday night

You'll never guess who I went to visit this weekend...TJ!
Okay, maybe that was obvious. I tend to write about him a lot on here.

I took off work on Friday and after an incident involving a rogue tarp and the right engine, quickly followed by the the smell of burning plastic, a new gate and a new plane I was on my way to Charleston. I only got in a couple hours late but I was definitely kicking myself for not flying out Thursday night (not sure what I was thinking when I booked this early morning flight?)

After getting settled back at his apartment we headed out for lunch at Butcher & Bee which I definitely recommend. Their menu changes daily and apparently they are the place to go for late night food since they're open till 3am. It felt practically tropical that afternoon and we dined outside much to the delight of my vitamin-d deprived self.
The excuse for this trip to Charleston (aside from just wanting to spend all my weekends with him) was to be TJ's date to a fun med-school function: a wine tasting at the aquarium (I can cross off #39 on my list). I broke out my new heels and dress and we both got a little fancy and enjoyed wandering around the aquarium after hours sipping wine, indulging in the biscuit bar, and of course admiring the fish. I also got to meet a ton of his med school friends and TJ maybe showed me off a bit and I maybe loved that. Sorry not sorry. 

We didn't stay out all that late because did I mention I was wearing new heels? Worth it though.
P.S. my dress and heels were both from ASOS.
The next day we slept in and watched a little football before heading over to the battery to meet an older couple that TJ has gotten to know while living in Charleston. TJ had told them a lot about me and they wanted to meet me while I was in town.

After a really pleasant visit we headed across the bridge to James Island to see Ender's Game. (Two movie tickets cost only $8.50 total! Yes it was a matinee, but still that's less than the cost of one ticket in D.C. I was in shock!) I'm going to get up on my soap box now. I've said it once and I'll saw it a thousand times more: seriously, please please please always read the book first. Ender's Game is such an amazing book, one of the best stories. And the movie comes no where close to doing it justice. I'm glad I saw it, and there were parts that were definitely entertaining, but as far as books-to-movies go it was poorly done. Really, they probably should have made it two movies honestly instead of trying to squeeze it all in to one. There was no time for character development and the story was not nearly as powerful or convincing because you just didn't have time to get to know or believe in the characters.  READ THE BOOK!!
Stepping down now.

After the movie, and after I ranted about it to TJ for the entire car ride, we stopped for dinner at the Fat Hen for some yummy low country food. This was our first dinner date out which is kind of funny to think about. Yes, we've had plenty of meals together but usually I've cooked or we've gotten carry out, or we've been with a group of people. This was the first classic dinner and a movie date night. We like to say that our first date was pizza and a bottle of wine enjoyed picnic style on the floor of his apartment. Which was pretty perfect in my book. Let's just say we definitely haven't done things in the expected way and I'm more than okay with that.
After dinner we watched more football on the couch (I'm becoming quite the football fan....sort of) and then picked up some ice cream during half time (I'm definitely a fan of that). We talked about our mutual distaste for distance and I began feeling the usual franticness that creeps in at the end of every good weekend.

We still had basically all of Sunday left together and Sunday morning we went for a really long hand-holding walk all through Charleston. We stopped for brunch at Leaf and got to sit outside again. The warm sun, the good food, and the best company did not make leaving that night any easier.  I'm ready for our time together to not involve him dropping me off at the airport. 

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

All my posts are weekend recaps...

This past weekend TJ was introduced to the Garden State. 

He made a spontaneous decision to take off Friday and Monday to hang out with me and my parents. Train tickets were booked the weather was checked.  I felt a little bit like I had tricked him into coming to the wild North when he realized it would be a high of 40 low of 25. But he dug out his only jacket and long sleeve shirts from the back of his closet and left South Carolina early Friday morning.  He got to my office after lunchtime and I got to show him around my little space and introduce him to everyone. Our train to New Jersey wasn't until 6 and I was planning to work a full day so he was going to have kill some time alone until I got off work. Luckily he's so charming (and my manager knew I'd likely be distracted knowing he was nearby) so she let me leave early.  We headed to the station and we're able to get on an earlier train and start the weekend early.

My parents picked us up from the station and we headed to the Jefferson Diner. The diner is something to see and it's a staple of New Jersey. It's open 24 hours a day 7 days a week. And you can get anything from their 20 page menu at any time of day. Nothing like stuffing yourself with greasy delicious diner food at 9 pm.
And of course that didn't stop us from inhaling mom's chocolate cupcakes with peanut butter cream cheese icing when we finally arrived at my house.

The next day TJ woke up before me and went for a run with my dad- which is great because Dad is always looking for someone to go with him and mom and I are running out of excuses. TJ was a little ill-prepared seeing as it was 30 degrees outside and he was in a t-shirt and shorts but a hot breakfast was waiting for them when they returned.

We ventured back out into the cold after breakfast and drove through the New Jersey countryside. Which, if you're anything like TJ, you might not have known that existed. He was pretty surprised to see how many corn fields and farm lands, and how few oil refineries there were out there. New Jersey was really showing off and everything looked especially inviting in all it's fall glory.

We drove up to High Point, the highest point in New Jersey where you can see 3 different states and freeze your butt off at the same time. We snapped a few photos and jumped back in the car before I could blow away. From there a stop at the local pub, followed by football and a nap on the couch was well deserved.

Of course we didn't let the cold keep us from enjoying a fire and roasting marshmallows on the back porch that night (helped by a few blankets and the two cafe heaters my dad got set up).

Sunday included much of the same, relaxing and spending time cozied up indoors. My parents had the opportunity to share some good little kid Shannon stories- things like not being able to tell time, or make change, or blow my nose, or swim in a pool without belching every time I came up for air. Thankfully it wasn't anything embarrassing...

TJ even humored me and watched some home videos. They redeemed me some because I was pretty adorable if I do say so myself. Then there was more football, some homemade vegetable soup, repacking suitcases, driving back to the train station, and saying goodbyes all too soon.  As per usual. 

It was such a good visit and I just loved that my parents and TJ got to spend time getting to know each other better. And we were able to change the reputation of New Jersey for at least one South Carolina boy. By the end of our visit TJ was saying things like: "I could see myself living in a place like this." And while I'm glad we've dispelled some of the misconceptions people have of the Garden State, lets not get crazy.

Thankfully I didn't have to say goodbye to TJ until Monday morning-when I headed off to work and he didn't follow through on his "threat" to kidnap me and take me back to Charleston with him. Oh well... 

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Pumpkin Bread with Cinnamon Drizzle

I baked the best pumpkin bread to take with me to TJ and his family over the weekend. It made two loaves which was perfect because I could take one to work and have them taste test it first. Of course I went to Pinterest for the recipe and I ended up combining two- this one for the bread and this one for the glaze on top.  It turned out so moist and delicious and the little bit of sweet crust on top was just right!

The Bread 

4 large eggs
3 cups granulated white sugar
1 cup canola or vegetable oil (or 1/2 cup oil & 1/2 cup unsweetened applesauce)
3 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking soda
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon nutmeg
1 teaspoon ground cloves
1 teaspoon allspice (I substituted for Pumpkin Pie spice instead)
1 teaspoon salt
2 cups pure (unsweetened) pumpkin puree
2/3 cup water

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease and flour two 9x5-inch loaf pans.
2. In large bowl, whisk together eggs, sugar and oil.
3. In a separate bowl, whisk together dry ingredients (flour through salt) and then stir it into the wet mixture. Add pumpkin and water and stir until combined.
4. Divide the batter between the prepared pans. Bake for 1 hour and 15 minutes, or until toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.

Cinnamon Drizzle 

1 cup confectioner’s sugar
1 teaspoon cinnamon
½ teaspoon vanilla extract
2-3 tablespoons water

Mix all ingredients. When bread is cool, drizzle over top.  I wanted mine a little thinner/less like icing so I ended up thinning it out with an extra tablespoon of water and I didn't use even close to all of it. But it's delicious and the perfect finish for the bread because it soaks in a bit. Basically though I wanted to drink the leftovers with a straw.

I recommend making this tonight for yourself and you neighbors if you're good at sharing.  Your kitchen will smell like heaven and it will make you many friends.

Monday, October 21, 2013

Feels Like Carolina

I had such a great weekend down in South Carolina with my sweetheart. I flew out Friday night after work and was lucky to have zero delays. Don't you just love being picked up from the airport? Having someone waiting there for you, both of you anxious for the plane to land? It makes me so happy to walk out the door and scan the line of cars for his.

We drove from the airport to his childhood home so he could pick up a few things and show me all the cute baby TJ through high school football TJ pictures. I can't get enough of those dimples... 

After our little pit stop we continued on to the lake. We didn't have any concrete plans for the weekend except to watch football and be attached at the hip and we definitely accomplished both those goals.

Saturday we woke up and watched College Game Day and the fog clear off the lake. For breakfast I had baked some pumpkin bread to share and there was also some of the best cinnamon bread ever which I can never say no to. We would have been pretty satisfied to just stay on the couch and stuff ourselves all day. But we decided we'd feel less guilty about the bread and later the BBQ, and the gumbo, and the steak, if we got outside for a bit of fresh air.

It's slowly starting to look like fall down there so we headed off down the scenic Highway 11 and pulled in to the Keowee Toxaway State Park. It was the perfect temperature, just a little cool and just right for a hike.
We weren't out too long- like I said, Henry's BBQ was calling our name. The rest of the day we happily lazed around, watching Tennessee beat South Carolina (go Vols). We took a break from the football to watch World War Z. TJ and I both share a love of zombie movies although The Walking Dead is by far superior.

After watching a pretty fantastic sunset from their porch we sat down with his parents for a delicious steak dinner with sweet potatoes and salad- all the veggies were from their garden.  Following dinner we attempted to watch the Clemson game... but had to change the channel when it got too painful. I'd had about enough football at the point anyway and ended up dozing off on his shoulder. It was a pretty perfect day.

The next morning his parents headed out early and then we took our time leaving- how was is possibly already the last day of my visit?

We had plans to head into downtown area to meet up with my sister and her boyfriend who also happened to be visiting.  On our way, we drove through our university's campus and laughed about all the times we were in the same place at the same time but didn't really know each other. I'm so thankful that our ties to this place brought us together eventually and at just the right time. (P.S. isn't this just the prettiest campus? I'm not biased, it is an absolute fact.)
Driving into downtown just made me feel homesick. I wanted to go to all my favorite restaurants and just see all the things that I've missed. The number one thing I miss, though, is my sister. 
We ordered some cheese fries for the table (of which the boys had none and sister and I had all of them) and the guys talked football, fantasy football, baseball, whatever. Meanwhile sister and I happily imagined future double dates and vacations with all four of us if only we were all in the same place.  Of course we made the waitress take our photo- the parents wanted this documented. 
We said goodbye to these two and then TJ and I went back over to his parents house for a little while longer, where I got the grand tour, saw the garden where all those yummy vegetables came from, and met their horse (named Dixie- just like my pup).

All too soon TJ was driving me to the airport and dropping me off not even 48 hours after picking me up- my least favorite part of the weekend. Of course in order to make this distance less painful I already have another trip planned in a just a couple weeks. We've decided a month apart is our max and that's pushing it.
Let the new countdown begin. 

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Long Weekend

This weekend I packed up all my summer stuff and hauled out the colder weather wear.  I also took a bag of clothes that I didn't touch all summer to Goodwill. I figure if I didn't wear them this season there's no point storing them for next summer. I actually love doing this- clearing out space in my closet, having everything so organized before it succumbs to the rush of the early morning when I leave sweaters flung about in a frenzy.

Of course more room in my closet meant a trip to Target was appropriate. Plus I had a $25 gift card which means I only spent $150 instead of $175.... what is it about that place??!

I had off yesterday for Columbus Day. It's so nice to have a random day off and I kind of like that I didn't have any plans. I got sleep in and take a really long shower and take the time to actually style my hair. And then I took myself to Panera for 3 hours and ate lunch outside in the sun (finally it stopped raining) and I chatted on the phone with my mom and I didn't have to cut her off and run back to the office.

But it also felt a bit like a waste of time. And honestly I wish we had this extra day off around Christmas time instead of for this fake holiday.

You see I'm going to South Carolina this weekend to see my boy and I'm just ready to get this week going and get to Friday! It's been over a month since his 24 hour visit and FaceTime is not the same as face to face time.

So I'm hoping this week flies by and I hope my flight is on time but then I hope time stops for a few days and that next weekend passes as sweet and slowly as this 3 day weekend.

Happy Monday, I mean Tuesday!

Friday, October 4, 2013

Five on Friday

one. Sometimes it's hard to find quiet time. Even when I'm home alone with hours of nothing before me, I just can't find the quiet in my house. Between the dishes, the laundry, the tv, the laptop.... So the other night I drove myself to Panera. It was later in the evening and it wasn't busy or noisy. I ordered my soup and salad and even picked up a pumpkin cookie. I set myself up in corner booth and read the book of Ruth which was on my mind because my mom and I had been talking about it earlier. I got out my journal to write down some thoughts, which is sometimes the only way to settle my brain. But I realized I didn't have a pen. So instead I made myself sit there quietly and just unwind. And I didn't get on twitter or facebook (yes I instagramed this photo, but that's it) and it was so needed and so refreshing. 
two. After my Panera retreat I drove over to the house of another leader on my Young Life team. Their family has graciously allowed me to sleepover Wednesday nights so that on Thursday mornings I can hang out with some of the kids before school. My Thursdays now involve waking up a lot earlier and driving my young life girl and I to Dunkin Donuts and then heading to bible study with some awesome high school friends. I am so impressed by how alert and tuned in this group of people is between 6-7 am. We are learning some great truths and building each other up to be strong leaders in the high school. I'm so refreshed by how close they are and how they long for their high school to be transformed.

“A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”
John 13:34-35

I also love the donuts...
three. After dropping some kids off at the high school, feeling like a total soccer mom, I got to see this beautiful sunrise.  Yes... the sun is barely up when school starts. What's the deal with that? Still, it's an awesome sight that most days I sleep through. We also so a heard, yes a heard, of  20 something deer just hanging out in the early morning fog. It's amazing what a different world it is when you get up early to greet it.
five. Thursdays are long days now but they are so sweet. They're also making me extra grateful for Fridays, and weekends, and my usual 7am wake up time all the other days of the week.

Have a happy weekend everyone!
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Monday, September 30, 2013

He's Got the Whole World

This weekend I crossed off #27 on my listmake or find wall art for above the couch. 

Back in July I saw this post on the blog Marshalls Abroad where they showed off their new baby's nursery and the awesome framed wall map that they built for their son. I love their blog and the beautiful photographs of their life in Okinawa and you should definitely read it.

I decided to copy their idea and purchased this huge wall map.  I also had a coupon from AC Moore for 60% off custom framing and I requested that they mat it on foam board and leave off the glass front so I can put pins on all the places I've visited. I got a call from AC Moore a few weeks later and it was ready to be picked up.

Now, when I say this map was huge, you should know that it is also massive, gigantic, and really freaking big. 73 x 49 inches, not including the frame, to be specific.  Needless to say, it did not fit in the trunk of my car, and I drive a Jeep.

Anyway, long story too long, I left without the map and left it sitting at AC Moore for over a month while I tried to figure out how to get it home. Thankfully, this past Saturday my roommate and her boyfriend agreed to help me tie it to the roof rack (and stick their hands out the window to keep it from blowing off) while I drove really slowly with my hazards on.
Little did I know getting it home was the easy part but after sponging off a few scratches on the wall, and with the help of a Pinterest/ toothpaste trick we got it hung up. Finally. 

And here's the finished product! I'm so pleased and feel like my bedroom is finally complete, more than two years after moving in...just in time I'd say.

This map and the bridge from my new favorite song makes me smile and feel excited when I think of the adventures unknown ahead of me, whether it's across the world or just down the road....

Spirit lead me where my trust is without borders 
Let me walk upon the waters 
Wherever You would call me 
Take me deeper than my feet could ever wander 
And my faith will be made stronger 
In the presence of my Savior

{Oceans- Hillsongs}

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Signs of Fall and Worship

The sky just looks a little different these days, the light, the color.
The air is a little more brisk and the sun is less brutal.
I pulled out my favorite boots from their box under my bed today.
I wrapped up in a chunky sweater and I kicked up some leaves on my walk to the metro.
This time of year just feels so fresh, so alive to me, even as the green colors fade and the leaves fall.
I love the smells and the way the breeze makes me want to wrap my hands around a cup of something warm.
I know this season is so fleeting and before I'm ready it will simply be cold.
But for now I just inhale that cool air and feel revived.
Speaking of being revived, tonight I'm auditioning for the worship team at my church.
I'm pretty terrified. But also I'm not.
I don't know anyone on the worship team personally, I haven't really practiced, and I've never played with a full band before, it's usually just little ol' me and my guitar in front of my high school friends. It's highly likely that I will embarrass myself.

Last week I very nearly cancelled. I was all in my head and fretting about not being good enough or prepared enough. Even last night as I was practicing the two songs I've chosen to play (Jesus Paid it All and From the Inside Out) I was getting more and more nervous picturing the situation I had gotten myself into. What had motivated me to put my name and email address on that form and drop it in the offering basket that Sunday?

And then I remembered that I had been sitting in the pew, hands open, singing these words, raising them up as an offering to the heavens.

"I lean not on my own understanding 
My life is in the hands of the Maker of heaven 
I give it all to You God trusting that you'll make something beautiful out of me"
(Will Reagan- Nothing I Hold To)

The music is quite possibly my favourite part of church and my favourite way to worship my Saviour. And tonight I get to sing and play songs with other people who are passionate about praising Him with music. And I want to enjoy it. I want my spirit to feel light and free, not fearful.

"The art of losing myself in bringing You praise..."
(Hillsongs- From the Inside Out)

I'm not doing this so I can prove how good I am, but so I can praise the One who created the seasons and is deserving of all my songs. If I don't make the band, that's okay. I'll still sing and praise the Lord even if it's just in the quiet of my bedroom with no audience but Him.

Monday, September 23, 2013

I kept a secret! Sort of.

As a notoriously bad secret keeper, planning a surprise anything is a challenge for me. I just really have to avoid all people I'm trying to surprise in order to not spill the beans.

I like to think I'm getting better at this and I even managed to plan a surprise engagement party for my roommate. And last week I was able to keep a secret from my mom for almost 6 days! This is basically a world record for me considering I talk to her nearly everyday.

My mom's birthday was last Wednesday and I wanted to do something special for her.  She loves to make a big deal about everyone's birthday and her own is no exception. But a birthday in the middle of the work week is kinda lack luster, plus she had been feeling kind of under the weather. So I collaborated with my dad, booked myself some train tickets, and was quite pleased with my plans to take off work on Friday and have the entire weekend at home. Mom and I would get to have lunch together on a week day, probably do some shopping, and lots of gabbing. And it would all be a big surprise for her!

Throughout the week I dodged questions about my weekend plans and told her how sad I was that I couldn't celebrate with her in person. I felt very sneaky and very impressed with my secret keeping skills, which up until this point were basically non-existent. Growth.

Her actual birthday arrived and I ended up talking to her on the phone 3 times that day. Which was why I couldn't keep it in any longer. Oh well.. baby steps.  I spilled and I loved every minute of her shock and surprise.

On Thursday I brought my suitcase to work, I had submitted my time-off request on Monday, and nothing stood in the way of me and a long weekend at home with my family.

Except work... ugh.

Due to a lot of annoying unforeseen circumstances, I ended up having to change my train tickets and I didn't get to leave until Friday after lunch. Boo. I was livid and all worked up. I was mad that I had prematurely told my mom about my plans only to have to change them the very next day. But as my wise boyfriend told me (after listening to me rant and threaten to just take off work anyway) mamas are more understanding that managers.

Ain't that the truth! Of course he was right and in the end it all worked out.

I still got to have a wonderful 2 and half days with the parents. It involved Rita's Italian Ice (cotton candy flavored, my fave), a very New Jersey Oktoberfest, and lots of time around the fire pit. 
Just good quality time, being a kid in my parents home. And I never get enough of it and I never, ever take it for granted. 

Monday, September 16, 2013

short but sweet

I had a wonderful surprise from TJ this weekend. He made a last minute decision to drive up to see me and it was a short not even 24 hour visit but still so sweet.

I woke up to a text at 7:45 saying he was on the road and I hopped out of bed with the biggest smile. Why doesn't that happen when I wake up before 8 on work days?

I started tidying up a bit and made a trip to the grocery (he's driving 8 hours to see me- I better have something good to feed him) and then my roommate and I decided it was time for Fall. So we broke out all the glittery pumpkins,the mini porcelain pumpkins, the plastic pumpkins, the pumpkin spice candles, and the candy corn. Bam! Ten minutes later, our house was ready for Fall and for visitors!

I decided to make a brisket in the crock pot mostly so I could have everything ready and I wouldn't have to spend any time in the kitchen when he arrived and also because it's delicious.  I let that yummy smell fill up the house and then basically sat by the window and waited to see TJ's car pull up.

He made great time and arrived around 3:30. We had pumpkin beer and watched the Alabama game and sat really close to each other on the couch and he didn't mind that I talked through most of the game. We had dinner  and later ice cream and just enjoyed sharing the same space.

In the morning I made blueberry pancakes from scratch to really drag out the last few hours before he had to head back to South Carolina.  He left a little after lunch time and I was feeling pretty blue, fortunately ice cream and Harry Potter are guaranteed pick-me-ups. Plus I have a trip scheduled for October to look forward to- I need to always have something on the calendar.

Later after he was home we realized we had officially been dating for 3 short but sweet months. But to me it feels like so much longer and not in the bad way. In the I feel like I've known you for my whole life kind of way. Sigh... counting down the days till October.

Friday, September 13, 2013

five on friday

It seems like summer is truly coming to a close as things have really picked up at work. And even though we had a couple hot days this week, it's dropped to the 70's today. This is all fine with me though because I just purchased this really wonderful sweater from Spool No.72 that I cannot wait to wear in the cooler temps.
The approaching fall is also good news for me and TJ. I get to go down to South Carolina at the end of October for another weekend at the lake and another Clemson Game. And come November he will be all done with his away rotations and will have a more flexible and free schedule. Which means... more time for him to visit me!

Since I wrote this post about wanting to save more money I have been really good. I have walked to work and packed my lunch almost everyday these past two weeks. I look at it as competition- it's me against my laziness and the prize is more more plane tickets and cozy sweaters.

Along those same lines, I made these yummy black bean burgers and they have gotten me through the week. I did the prep work on Sunday night and had one for dinner on Monday. The recipe makes 6 burgers so I shared with my roommate and have had the rest to pack in my lunch. A side of sweet potato fries makes this a really easy, delicious and healthy dinner.   (fyi. I skip the yogurt sauce suggested in the recipe- the burger has a lot of flavor already.)
5:30 cannot get here soon enough. My weekend includes laundry, House of Cards (on Netflix-so good), and a possible surprise appearance by TJ.  Happy Friday everyone! 

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

What I Read this Summer

Here is a recap of the books I read in June, July and August...

House at Tyneford - Natasha Solomons
This is a great read if you love Downton Abbey. It's set during World War II and focuses on a Jewish girl who flees Vienna and takes up a position as a maid in a English country home. I don't want to give anything away but there are some delicious upstairs downstairs relationships within the pages of this book.

Shadow Puppets- Orson Scott Card
I am basically addicted to this series and I just keep gobbling them up. Seriously- I can't recommend it enough- read Ender's Game and all the rest that follow.

World Without End- Ken Follet
This was a mountain of a book. It went up and down. The plot would thicken, the conflict would build, the antagonist would anger me, and finally the main characters would overcome the challenge before them. The end, I thought! Then I'd remember I had another 400 pages and a whole lot of drama for my poor characters to face. Ken Follet is not gentle with his protagonists. They just can not catch a break for 1000+ pages. I started reading it back in May, took June and July off to read some other things, and finally finished. I'm exhausted but it was worth it.

The Count of Monte Cristo- Alexander Dumas
I downloaded this on my Nook (classics are cheap or free, which I love) and debated for a while on what version to read. It's translated so I wanted to read the version closest to the original. I ended up getting the "Barnes & Noble Signature Edition" which I  believe is slightly abridged. This is one of TJ's favorite books and I love the movie version with Jim Caviezel but have never read the book (shame on me). TJ says there are a lot of differences and the movie is basically crap in comparison (aren't all movie versions?)  Back when this was first written authors were paid by the word. So it's wordy and I've barely scraped the surface but I love the adventure and romance and am excited to keep reading.

Don't you just love the way a good story can suck you in and hold you hostage?

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Game Day and Labor Day

On Friday I flew in to Charleston, SC and had a sweet reunion with TJ. We hadn't seen each other in almost a month and that is much too long in my opinion. Fortunately we had a lot of time to properly catch up during the 4 hour car ride to Lake Keowee. I talked his ear off until we pulled into the driveway of his lake house around midnight. His parents had waited up and fed us dinner before we all called it a night- we had a long day of tailgating and football ahead of us.  TJ surprised me by getting tickets to the Clemson v. Georgia game last minute, they were selling like crazy since it was the first game of the season and a huge rivalry.

I had never been to a big football game before. I mean I had been to one NFL game before, a Jets game, but the feel and the emotion and excitement of a big college football game, especially one in the South, is a completely different story. When I was in college I used to really enjoy tailgating and getting dressed up for games (do you do this or is it just a southern thing?) and walking around "the mall". But our university's football games were the opposite of Clemson football game. For starters it was a dry campus, and there was about one twelfth as many people. Plus, our team wasn't that great and the students generally left at half time.

Needless to say, I was unprepared for the experience of a Clemson football game.

We started out the day with french toast while we watched ESPN College Game Day- hosted at Clemson. As a few more of our friends arrived we donned purple and orange, packed our coolers and headed into town.
We parked more than a mile away from all the activity knowing that it would be much easier to get out once the game was over that night. TJ and I separated from the other girls and headed to meet up with one of his best friends from high school. His family had a prime tailgate spot right by the stadium-complete with a TV hooked up to their van for pre-game coverage viewing, platters of chick-fil-a nuggets, hot dogs and strawberry cake in the shape of a tiger paw.

It was so fun for me to get to meet some of TJ's old friends and hear stories from his growing up days,TJ has been going to Clemson games since he was a little boy, (plus I just love being introduced as his girlfriend).
The crowd all day was insane! I really can't imagine what it would have been like to go to Clemson as a student- and it was actually one of the schools I applied to and visited.  To have the campus be that crazy (and trashed) every weekend, well...it's hard to know how anyone does anything productive.

Finally it was time to make our way into Death Valley. We actually had really great seats, and although we were a little too close to the Georgia marching band for our liking, there were very view Bulldog fans near us.  Did you know that when the Clemson team runs down The Hill, past Howard's Rock and charges into the stadium at the start of the game, it's known as the 25 most exciting seconds in college football? That was how TJ set it up for me and I was not disappointed. Fireworks, orange balloons, the anticipation, the band, and 87,000 fans screaming C-L-E-M-S-O-N. I can't imagine how hyped out those players must have felt.
I've never really been someone who enjoyed watching football before (let alone reading a long blog post about it). I never really understood the rules or got into the action of the plays. But clearly that was because I've never seen a football game like the one I saw on Saturday. I did not know what I was missing out on. I was jumping up and down, high-fiving strangers, biting my nails when it got too close, screaming whenever they dropped the ball or recovered a fumble. It was a blast and thankfully Clemson won! I would not have liked to see that crowd angry. At the end of the game the student section rushed the field. 

The rest of the Labor Day weekend was much more low key. Sunday we slept in and then spent the day relaxing on the lake, floating on rafts, sitting in rocking chairs and watching a thunderstorm roll in. It was just my kind of day.

Unfortunately TJ had to work on Monday so he dropped me off at my sister's apartment and headed back to Charleston.  I hated seeing him go but I did love getting to spend some extra time with my sis.  The two of us went out and grabbed a yummy dinner followed by some Yogurt Mountain which we enjoyed while watching Sister Wives (it's a train wreck we both enjoy). On Monday we gabbed over bagels at Panera and then wandered around the absolute cutest shop in the South, Swoozies. I could have literally bought everything in there but I especially wanted all these cute lake items and a lake house of my own to put them in.
Sister just started her first teaching job (I posted about this here) and she was eager to show me all her lesson plans and her roster. After she filled me in on all the 3rd grade drama we drove out to see our Aunt, Uncle and cousin, who live not too far away, for some bbq chicken and macaroni and cheese (which my cousin made using a recipe from the Beanie Baby Hand Book, it's a real thing) . When I was in college it was so nice having them close by whenever I needed a home cooked meal or an escape from campus and I was glad I got to visit with them, catch up on life, and play a few rounds of Scattegories before I had to catch my flight home.

Sorry this was such a long recap but I didn't want to forget a minute of this fun weekend. It was just chock full of the most important and simple things in life: family, friends, good food and evidently football.