Saturday, December 27, 2014

'Twas the week before my wedding....

I'm breaking my blogging silence to announce that by this time next week I will be getting ready to walk down the aisle! One week! One week! 

I cannot believe that Christmas is over and we are officially in full on wedding week mode. It was a quieter Christmas this year, just my parents, my sister and I (plus two dogs) around our tree this year. I didn't really anticipate how planning a wedding for the weekend after Christmas would affect all our family's holidays. We just did a little bit less since we're doing so much in the coming week. But we did still manage to fit in some of our favorite Christmas traditions, like a trip into the city to see the Rockettes and the big tree, and to enjoy a nice dinner out. And we made sure to still attend the candlelight Christmas Eve service and read "The Night Before Christmas."

On Christmas day I put down the checklist and guest list to enjoy the most wonderful time of the year. It was a time to unplug, and sleep in, and not wear makeup, and rest and find peace, before the hullaballoo begins. It was really special to get to spend this last Christmas as an unmarried gal at home. (Short-Arm-Shannon took a wonderful selfie to commemorate it.) It's a little strange to not know what next Christmas will look like, but one thing's for sure, T.J. and I will be Mr. and Mrs. and we'll be together. I've got a new ornament for our tree and butterflies in my stomach to prove it!
So what does the weekend before the wedding weekend look like around here?
Well, our dining table is covered in big poster-board floor plans which are covered in sticky notes with each guest's name. I haven't blogged in two weeks because I've been slowly and steadily checking things off that big long list you see below. The list which, at the start of those two weeks, had exactly zero things crossed off.  I'm trying to detox from the Christmas cookies so my skin will look glowy and my dress will fit. And one of the guest bedrooms has officially been renamed "the wedding room" and is filled to the brim with welcome bags, tags for the favors, menus and place-cards,  gifts for my bridesmaids, and every other little thing you can think of that we will be packing up into two cars, along with my wedding dressing, and a partridge in a pear tree.
There's a lot of emotions (I think compounded by the Christmas spirit and memories of holidays past), some teary eyes, but mostly just a lot of excitement around these parts. And it's doubling by the minute. Everything feels a bit surreal and I have to give myself a reality check every once in a while. I don't want to miss it while I'm too busy trying to plan it. This is it. This is the week before my wedding. The last days of being T.J.'s fiancee before becoming his wife.

Friday, December 12, 2014

Snippets of not quite our first Christmas

T.J. and I will not be together for Christmas this year and it kind of makes my heart hurt. I feel like I'm the worst fiance ever to leave him alone out on the West coast. Yes, he'll most likely have to work some at the hospital but probably not all day, and then what will he do? Thankfully I will be seeing him just a few days later or I don't think I could handle it. But oh how I wish we could spend it together. I wish we were going to be sitting around the tree with family and cups of hot chocolate, his stocking hanging next to mine.

When I was out in Washington the last two weeks we got a tree and decorated our house a little bit. No way was he not going to have a Christmas tree this year and it only took three trips to the PX to pick up the tree,  a tree stand, lights, and a then back again for a saw. We also started thinking about what some of our new/newlywed Christmas traditions would be in our new home. I made cinnamon rolls (yes, I count popping Pillsbury rolls in the oven as baking), we listened to the Alabama Christmas album, T.J. studied some while I ate candy canes, and in the end we had a sweet little Christmasy home.
(I had to explain the story behind the hedgehog to T.J. - an inside joke with my mom and sister about the time my mom picked up a dead hedgehog from our pond thinking it was a leaf. Shrieks ensued and sister and I were left to scoop it from the water while our traumatized mom watched from a safe distance.)
(How cute is this ceramic pot? It was a shower gift and that blurred out spot has our soon to be shared last name. Only 22 more days until it's official!)
It was so fun having a house to decorate (and to link up over at Kelly's Korner)! Not shown (because I'm a bad blogger) is the garland around our front door, the cute new plaid tree skirt, my Naptime Diaries advent calendar, and the wedding presents under our tree that T.J. so sweetly waits for me to open. On my Christmas list this year I asked for my very own nativity scene and I would also love to start collecting Snow Village pieces like my mom and Mema. That probably makes me sound like such a married lady (which my sister quickly pointed out) but they are quintessentially Christmas to me.

I couldn't help but think about how our holiday will grow and change in the years to come. We'll accumulate ornaments, and maybe a dog and one day littles. Maybe next year, what will actually count as our first Christmas, we'll have family visiting 
our house for the holiday, or it might be just the two of us, or maybe some friends from our community who are also far from "home. Maybe next year we'll adopt a single guy who has to spend the holiday working like my T.J. does this year. 

I just love that warm glow from the tree and snuggling up on our futon when T.J. got home from work with just the tree lights on. And even though I only got to enjoy the tree for the short time I was out there, and I'll probably be returning to a dead tree after the wedding, I love that we got to have a little taste of Christmases to come.

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

one month

T.J. and I are tying the knot one month from today!

I can't believe it's so close! That all the planning, and list making, and organizing are wrapping up, to culminate in what I hope will be the wedding I've been dreaming of since forever.

It feels like we still have a million things to do. Welcome bags to put together, 50 rsvp cards we're still waiting on to be returned by the end of the week (ahem), programs to print, ceremony music to finalize, seating charts to plan. But today, I'm going to do what my mom suggested and "dwell in the shelter of the most High... rest in shadow of the Almighty." (Psalm 9:1)

One way or another it will all come together in this last month.

I've been trying to imagine what I will be feeling on that morning one month from today, when everything is checked off the lists (Lord willing) and all that's left it to let the day unfold.

Will I have been able sleep the night before or will I be too anxious and excited, like a little kid before Christmas morning? I imagine my sister and I will have been up late in our bedroom, giggling and shaking our heads in disbelief that I'm getting married that next day. Like we used to do when we were waiting for Santa.

How will it feel to see my bridesmaids, my best friends, in the suite all around me that morning as we get ready? A room full of hairspray and perfume and laughter and nerves.

Will I cry when I catch my mom's eye as she helps me into my dress and my sister fluffs my veil?
What will it be like to see my dad that day, the first guy I loved?

Will I be able to take it all in, to capture pictures in my head of that morning at the hotel, of the ride to the church with my parents and my sister, our family of four for the last time before T.J. becomes an official part of it?

Will I remember to smell my bouquet and take a deep breath and exhale and appreciate all the once in a lifetime moments happening around me? Or will the scene, the colors, the music be swirling like a haze?

In the back of the church before the doors open will my heart pound out of my chest? And when I see T.J. for the first time and he sees me, will I be composed and calm or will the happy tears fall free?

Oh I can't wait to see what that wonderful day will hold!

The magnitude, the weight, the deepness of that day, of the vows we'll exchange, of the shift in our lives that will happen as I take on a new role, another layer of my identity.
Not just a daughter, sister, friend.

In one month I'll become T.J.'s wife.

Monday, December 1, 2014

still thankful

T.J. and I have been enjoying time just the two of us out in our home. And we're getting a taste of what it will be like to be "roommates" come January.

I got out here last Sunday for a two week stay. It was perfect timing as I was able to have both my car and all my stuff from the East coast delivered on Monday while T.J. was at work. I spent the rest of the afternoon listening to my ipod and unpacking the kitchen and living room so we would have all we needed come Thanksgiving. T.J. was pretty impressed with my progress... until he saw the upstairs hah. Also our garage is a hoarders paradise but we're plowing through.

We've had an interesting past couple of months. Without going into too much detail, let's just say T.J.'s right eye has been giving us some grief so I've been getting acquainted with the army hospital where he works, and is lately sometimes a patient. Needless to say it was not exactly the Thanksgiving you could plan for.
But oh, did it remind me to be thankful.

I'm thankful that I was out here with him and not on the other side of the country worrying.
I am thankful for our health which we so often take for granted.
I'm thankful that I was still able to find a turkey late Wednesday night after another crazy day.
I'm thankful that instant tapioca is a substitute for (the sold out) cornstarch so I could still make corn pudding. Did you know that?
I'm thankful that we were still able to relax most of Thursday and still have the meal I had pictured and that my mom had taught me to make. 
I am thankful that God is good and He is in control.
Even during the unexpected and the confusing moments where we don't understand why or what's going to happen, He is there. 
I am thankful that T.J. and I have each other. That we will support one another during those hard moments and celebrate together in the after moments. 
I was reminded that what's important is not the perfect meal cooked in the perfect kitchen in the brand new roasting pan (though I have to admit I was pretty darn proud of my first Thanksgiving dinner). What's important is that T.J. and I take care of each other, love each other, laugh together, pray together.  We'll make plans together and when those plans get thrown a curveball we'll hold hands and move through it together. 

Monday, November 17, 2014

Weekend Recap

With three checked bags, one extremely heavy carry on and a mandolin on my back, I made it to South Carolina and leg two of my around the country tour before the wedding. It was pretty hard to leave my parents (even though I'll be back up there in a month for Christmas) but I'd gotten so comfortable at home with them. Isn't it weird, and really sweet, how quickly you get used to being back at home. Having dinner with my parents beside me every day, shouting good nights down the hall to them,  I felt just like a little kid again and it's always hard to leave that behind. But I am so excited to be staying with my sister for the week and I'm loving every minute of my sweet time with her.

I got in late Friday night and we grabbed chick-fil-a and milkshakes on the way home to her apartment. We hauled all my gear up three flights of stairs and settled in for a fun week together. Saturday we slept in and then went on a date to the cutest little creperie called Tandem. I ordered a cappuccino and we both indulged in banana and Nutella crepes. It was a beautiful sunny day and we took our time over a leisurely brunch together.
After brunch we got ready and headed to a shower hosted by kind friends of my future mother in law. I have to admit I was pretty nervous as I didn't know anyone going in to it except my MIL and just one of the hosts. I was really grateful that sister was coming with me but, as it turns out, I had nothing to worry about. They immediately embraced me, popped a veil and a tiara on my head, and were so excited to hear about our wedding plans and to just get to know me. They were so generous and I am definitely excited that they will be a part of our day. 
Later that night sister's boyfriend helped us unload all my new gifts and then made us chili and it's been so nice to also get to spend more time with him and get to know him better. On Sunday we went to church (at the church where T.J. and I will be tying the knot in just a few more weeks). I love her church, and even more so now that I'm looking at it through my bride-to-be eyes. I love that it will forever be a special place to me after our big day. And just like I love going to the church where my parents got married in Maryville, Tennessee, I can just picture coming back to town some years down the road and taking future littles there to show them where mom and dad got married. 

Later in the day I got to join sister at her community group. She has found such a great group of friends from her church to meet with each week. They share food, and their stories, and they pray for one another and laugh with one another- and that's just what I witnessed at one get together. It makes me really eager to get out to Washington and find something like that for T.J. and I to be a part of. A community, friends, a set apart group of people who will be like family while we're far away from family. People who will encourage us in our newlywed years and who will hold us accountable and pray for us and comfort us.

Hope everyone had as nice a weekend as we did!

Friday, November 14, 2014

Five on Friday: Status Report

I've basically been on summer vacation these past two weeks at home with my parents. Who would have thought it be so easy to transition from going to work every day to not. Gotta say, I doubt it's going to be as easy going the other way.

But just because I'm not getting a paycheck doesn't mean I'm not doing work. In between lunch dates and shopping and mani pedis we've been busy checking things on the seemingly expanding wedding to-do list. So here's five things to keep you updated on where things stand just 50 days out from THE day. 
oneI've taken on wedding planning full time and I'm also in "wife101" with my mom as the teacher sharing recipes, words of wisdom and some tough love when I need it (I've needed it). Yesterday she walked me through homemade turkey stock and gravy and cornbread stuffing. We made a mini thanksgiving meal so I could practice before I head out to Washington to spend it with T.J. I'll probably still be calling mom with a bunch of questions when I attempt it solo in my new house (with my new roasting pan- thanks roomie) but I'm excited for our first thanksgiving together. 
two. The welcome bags for out of town guests are almost something I can check off the list and they have been so fun to put together. Thank you Amazon prime for making everyday feel like Christmas. Our guest room is filling up with boxes of treats and surprises that we'll be wrapping, personalizing, and hauling down to South Carolina. 

three. Speaking of personalizing, my favorite part of most weddings is all the little personal details. I love to see how couples make it not just a pretty event but something that is special to just the two of them. Now that all the big ticket items are booked and set, it's all about the little details over here and I'm having so much fun! But I seem to keep making more lists and adding on little projects. Let's see how much I can actually squeeze in to the remaining time. I can't wait to over-share after the wedding. 

four. Checking the mail everyday is the best thing ever. I love seeing those little sage green envelopes in the stack of much less important mail. Before we open the mailbox we all guess how many we're going to get that day. Then we try to guess just one person who will be in the pile. I've been wrong every day but it's so fun to check off names from our list. Picturing who all is going to be there on the day celebrating with us makes me even more ready for those 50 remaining days to fly by. 
five. I am flying down to South Carolina today to spend the week with my sister. We plan to have one big sleepover every night, get take out,  play with her puppy, and see Mockingjay when it comes out on Friday. Plus I get to go to her classroom and meet her kiddos and watch her do her teacher thing. Aside from all that fun sister stuff, while I'm down there I'm going to squeeze in as much wedding planning as I can. I have another shower tomorrow (yay) and I'm planning to do my menu tasting and my hair and makeup trial. Can't believe we are already at this point! 

It's getting so close y'all! 
Have a great weekend! 

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Last times and goodbyes.

I have been so busy/emotional/sick/excited/tired/crazy these past couple of weeks so there has been no time to blog. Let's see... what have you missed??

Well for starters, I had my last pizza night with my roommates...during which I burned my hand, making it a little easier to let this tradition go... We also watched Walking Dead together for the last time, but they did promise to skype me in this Sunday to ease the transition.
I had my last 2 weeks of work during which I trained my replacement, took a sick day with my roommate, packed up all my heels that I kept under my desk, had a surprise going away party at the office, and went to happy hour with my co-workers. Of course I left everything till the last minute and I spent a big chunk of my last day arranging for temporary health insurance until I can get on T.J.'s plan, which was fun... but it distracted me from being too upset about saying goodbye. It's so weird not having to go in to the office everyday. I still catch myself looking at my phone to check work emails which I no longer receive. But I'm sure that will pass ;)

My last day of work also happened to be Halloween so we threw a party at our house. Since this was my last time hosting a party with these girls we went all out. Chili bar, "blood" splattered cookies, cobwebs and bats and candy, candy and more candy! Like all our late nights this one also somehow ended with us sitting on the floor singing along to show tunes and Disney songs. It's weird and wonderful and how every night should end.

I didn't get too long to recover from our big night as I had a billion more boxes to pack before the movers came. You  don't realize how much stuff you own until you have to box it all up. I managed to purge and give a lot of things away but still... I hope T.J.'s ready for me. My room looked like an episode of hoarders and was a total obstacle course/maze/fire hazard for a couple days. Fortunately my mom came back to help me get everything sorted out on Monday.  She also provided much needed emotional support during all the tearful goodbyes.

Aside from helping me pack she hand addressed ALLLLL the invitations. And then we stamped, stuffed, licked, sealed and mailed them out on Monday! It is such a weight off my shoulders (and my mom's) having this checked off the list.

I had my last night in my bedroom before the moving truck arrived bright and early Tuesday morning.  They made quick work of all my boxes and soon I was looking at an empty room. The movers pulled away and my one roommate came home from work for a long lunch break and my other roommate walked across the street from her house.  We needed to hang out just a little while longer, and put off the inevitable for a little while longer.
Then the car company came to load up my jeep and send it West with all my other belongings. I was a big ball of conflicted emotions. Desperate to hang on to these last moments of my familiar life and my people a little longer, but anxious, excited, and ready to get on the road and start my new adventure. 
I've been so settled there for the past almost four years it just really hasn't set in that I've finished that chapter of my life. I'm up at my parents now for a little while and it still sort of feels like I'm just up here for a break and that after the weekend is over I'll be heading back down to my house and those girls and my job and picking up the old routine. But that's not the case this time. We've made lots of promises and plans to always keep a visit on the calendar, it makes the time in between easier. I'm so looking forward to all being together again for OUR WEDDING! And then there's talk of them coming out to Washington in the Spring. It will be so fun to have friends out to my new home. And there will be new traditions and more weddings and hopefully one day baby showers and joint family vacations. But I hope we still do pizza nights, only next time with T.J. 

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

2 week notice

I put in my 2 weeks at work last Friday and the moving truck comes to take away all my stuff two weeks from today.  Only two more weeks at my current job is actually pretty exciting. No more metro! I am ready to kiss that office goodbye and spend the rest of the time before the wedding flitting around from here to New Jersey, to South Carolina to Washington and repeat. I'll be playing and planning and taking care of all the last minute details for our big day and the big move.

But then it hits me, and my throat catches and I remember that means I only have two more weekends at my current address with my people. 
That's just two more weeks of coming home from work to our town home with the tissue paper pom poms hanging in the corners, that we never took down after my roommates engagement party. Just two more weeks of groceries on my shelf of the cupboard. Of sitting in my corner of the couch eating candy corn and catching up on each other's days. 

We'll only share two more episodes of Walking Dead together, with my roommates and their guys. All of us squeezed onto the couch in our living room, with the lights off, feeling jumpy.  I'm really going miss that. I'm even gonna miss the part where we all snap at each other to stop talking! when the commercials are over.
I won't be a part of our homemade pizza nights anymore. And even though I really prefer to just order delivery, I'm gonna miss giving them a hard time about it. Plus pizza nights usually ended with my iPod speakers blaring all our favorite songs and all of us gathered around the kitchen table like a family...

I'm going to miss my roommate's boyfriend, and my other roommate's husband (so technically not my roommate anymore but they live literally across the street so that's what I call her). They've been like brothers.

Only two weeks, means only two weeks!

I really can't bear to think too hard about how short a time we have left.  After 8 years, from freshmen year of college to almost five years out, of having roommates, and dividing up fridge space, and taking turns emptying the dishwasher, and splitting rent, and sharing life with friends who are more like sisters... it feels like it's all wrapping up. ("It's the end of an era!" Friend's reference anyone??)

The next two weeks will involve boxes and bubble wrap. I'm taking stuff off my walls. Forwarding my mail. Shipping my car.  My next roommate will be my husband. And I am so excited and ready and I can't wait to be out there with T.J. What an adventure!

But I am really going to hold on so so very tightly to these next two weeks. And even still, when my mom comes to help me move out and then we finally have to drive away, I know two weeks won't have been enough.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

My Shower and Bachelorette Weekend

Last weekend I was showered in love and some lovely presents by my friends and family! My sister and maid of honor planned such a special weekend for me and I felt so blessed to be surrounded by so many of my favorite ladies! Most of my bridesmaids made the trip out for the weekend which I was so excited about. It's not too often that I get to spend a weekend with all my best friends and I know it's a lot to ask of these busy girls to take time out of their lives for all the different wedding festivities.

On Friday, while we were waiting for everyone to arrive, sister and I snuck away for my dress fitting. I was so excited she was able to join me, and reassure me about the alteration decisions, and practice dancing in the dress with me. And it was nice to have a little one on one time with just her.

After several trips to the airport to collect everyone we finally were all under the same roof. We picked up takeout pizzas and salads, popped a couple bottles of wine and got caught up. Then we all watched Pitch Perfect and sang along, because of course.

The next morning we got dressed, loaded up the cars and headed over to the Annapolis area for my very own shower! Along with my sister, one of my childhood friends and her mom hosted it at their home and it was just the sweetest afternoon. They thought of so many cute details, including an adorable green candy bar (as nod to my wedding colors and my undying love for candy) yummy chicken salad sandwiches, and fun games like a bridal version of Scattegories (the women in my family LOVE Scattegories).
Along with these bridesmaids, both grandmas and most my aunts were able to make the trip, as well as a bunch of local family friends. It was so great to visit with everyone before the wedding and I was so excited to receive so many wonderful gifts off my registry and some really personal gifts that I can't wait to set up and use in our new home! 

After the shower we came home and napped and then all my friends wore black dresses and I slipped into something red. I'm not really use to being the center of attention but I've decided that once in a while is okay with me. We had some pre-dinner snacks and then I blushed the entire time I opened up some pretty lingerie. In between each gift my sister asked me questions which she had secretly asked T.J. to answer to test my knowledge of my husband to be. I still have a few things to learn I'm sure (that's an understatement) but I did pretty well!

We then piled into a couple of ubers and headed to my favorite Mexican restaurant in D.C, El Centro DF, for copious amounts of chips and salsa and tacos (and maybe a couple margaritas). Then we strolled a couple blocks over to break in our dancing shoes. Being the bachelorette has some perks and we were able to skip the lines and dance the night away in a vip area without being accosted by any sketchy people. 
We stayed out much later than I have in a looonnnng time before jumping back into cabs and heading home. It was a perfect girls night out and just what I wanted for my bachelorette!

After brunch the following morning everyone was headed home. They left me to work on thank you notes and to figure out the best strategy for packing up all my stuff to ship across the country next month... fortunately after my shower I have a ton of boxes piling up in my room and mom is coming to help me sort it out next week.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

weekend camping trip

My family used to go camping all the time back when we were kids.
When we were all under the same roof/in the same country/same state, we'd load up the trunk with all the gear and head out into the great outdoors.

I remember "helping" dad put up the tent. I remember crisp Fall air and bundling up in fleeces and long johns, sipping hot coco in camp chairs. Hiking up to waterfalls or down to beaches where we'd hunt sharks' teeth. Dinner would be cooked on the grill or propane stove and dessert was always dad's famous peach cobbler made in a cast iron dutch oven over the fire. And in the evenings we'd all snuggle down in sleeping bags after our hair was checked for tics and then usually one of us would read out loud before we'd all fall asleep, nice a cozy like.

I have been telling T.J. how badly I want to go camping with him. I think it would be such a fun way for us to explore the west coast and I am definitely going to look into acquiring our own tent and dutch oven.

But in the meantime... I actually did get to go camping last weekend with my aunt, uncle and two cousins.  I met up with them Saturday morning on Assateague Island over in Berlin, Maryland. I had been here once before with my parents and distinctly remember there was a horrendous thunderstorm and dad had to dig a trench/moat around the tent so we wouldn't float away.

I had a bit of a calmer experience this visit. This sliver of an island is not too far from Ocean City and is home to actual wild horses. They roam freely across the bridges, into the marshes, weaving in and out of the camp sites, and running down the beach into the ocean to play.
We camped in the State park and were just feet from the ocean and even though it was cloudy and windy and overcast I somehow still found myself in the water. I was going to take full advantage of the last weekend in summer and the surplus of boogie boards. Basically I got to be a kid again. I ditched the "grown ups" and ran head first into the waves with my cousins.
Assateague has really unpredictable weather and soon the wind drove us into hot showers. Sweatshirts and leggings and layers were required for the evening. While we waited for the sun to set and for the grown ups to make us kids dinner my cousin taught me how to ripstick (like skateboarding but not). I sort of/kind of/not really got it eventually but not before taking a nice big wipe-out that my booty is still paying for.
With the sun setting we had hot dogs, brats, baked beans and iced tea around the picnic table. Then, in keeping with my "never grow up" attitude, me and the cousins and the other kids played a couple intense rounds of manhunt in the dark.

 Once we were sufficiently worn out we settled around the fire for s'mores. Before calling it a night, we grabbed nets and head lamps and ventured down to the beach to hunt (and the promptly release) ghost crabs.
Typically I prefer tent camping but it was super damp, and humid, and also pretty chilly, that I was thankful for the more solid camper for sleeping that night. The next day we were greeted with gourmet hand-dipped donuts from the Fractured Prune. Dunkin Donuts has nothing on these hot from the oven, melt in your mouth treats. I had the OC Sand which gets a honey glaze before it's tossed in cinnamon sugar.
After my donut I promptly headed back to the beach and then happily took a nap in the sand with one of my favorite sounds in the whole world, crashing waves, lulling me to sleep.  After my nap and a bit of lunch I said goodbye to the beach and my relatives and headed home. I am so glad I got to have a little getaway with this family of mine. I have loved living close by and having family in town to run to when I need a break, or a comfortable place to just be. Truly it's made my time in Maryland infinitely sweeter and I can't help but feel sad that I won't be able to see them whenever I want anymore. But I will definitely be taking advantage of every opportunity to spend time with them before I move and I know they'll make their way across the country to visit me on the West coast.