Monday, February 24, 2014

Sister Sister Weekend

Last week got the best of me and I never recapped the previous weekend with my sister.
A sisters only weekend. Just the two of us. A necessity.  
She gets me.
She picks me up- my spirits and from the airport. 

We sat on the floor of the mall and ate Dippin Dots while we simultaneously pointed out cute babies or weird get-ups and had serious heart talks about future stuff. 
We had a fancy dinner out, we split everything, and ended the night watching Pitch Perfect (again) in bed and eating Starburst jelly beans. 

We played with puppies at the humane society, and went to church, had lunch at my favorite college spot, and wandered around our campus in the pretty South Carolina weather. 
But all the things we did can't properly sum up the weekend or adequately explain how much I need her, these weekends, face to face time.

Because we just did our thing.
We just were together and that's all there is to it. Picking up right where our last phone call left off.
Talking about our boys, mom and dad, our jobs, and our separate but forever entwined together lives.

Friday, February 21, 2014

Nothing I hold on to.

It's been one of those weeks.
The ones where I've felt beaten. Where the little things that I normally brush off have piled up and weighed me down and broken my spirit. 

The car won't start.
The repairs are expensive.
The co-workers feel more like adversaries. 
The to-do list is unending. 
The boyfriend and the family are much too far away. 

I've cried on the phone to my mom not once, but three times this week. 
I've wanted to quit and run home.
I want to soak in the bathtub I don't have for a hour. 
I want summer to be here now. I have not been rational.

TJ calls me every night to hear about my day, to tell me about his. Talking to him and to my family is so dependably comforting. It's my favorite part of the day.  And this week I've had to apologize almost every night for whining about another day that I let get the best of me. I need to shut up already, I'm annoying myself. 

So I'm gonna let it go. It's Friday!!!
Bad work days, hyper sensitive emotions, car trouble. This is part of being a "grown up".
But it's all temporary. Today is another day. They wont always be so cloudy.
It's not worth holding on to my frustration and letting it build up and consume me.

I want to be a light in the world, in the work place, at home.
I want to have peace in my soul that doesn't make sense in the face of rough days.
Peace that is unmovable.
(download here)

So, I was treating myself to Starbucks this morning and listening to some music, wanting this day to start fresh without any stains from the days before. This song was the perfect motivation I needed for today so I wanted to share it here.

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 

There's nothing I hold on to 
There's nothing I hold on to 
There's nothing I hold on to 
There's nothing I hold on to

I will climb this mountain with my hands wide open 
I will climb this mountain with my hands wide open 
Nothing I Hold On To- Will Reagan and United Pursuit. 

Friday, February 14, 2014

Five on Friday

one. Wednesday night we were all hyped up. All day there had been talk and threats of tons of snow coming our way and we were ready! Around 9pm they announced the federal government would be closed the following day so I switched off my alarm and snuggled in to bed excited to sleep in thinking I'd wake up to a more realistic 6 inches (D.C tends to freak out and expect the worse and then we only get 1 inch- it's embarrassing).  Around 9 am I stirred and debated sleeping some more. I glanced at my phone and saw the text from my roommate announcing 13 inches!! 
So like any other kid on a snow day I leapt from my bed and hurried to the window. I know some of y'all are just so dang sick of all the snow. But seriously... it was just so pretty and clean and bright and I couldn't wait to play! I threw on my coat and rain boots right over my pjs and ran outside.
two. There was such a fun atmosphere in our little neighborhood. Everyone was out shoveling their cars and chatting with one another. After we had dug out all three of our cars (using one shovel and two lids from Rubbermaid bins...) we decided to have a little frozen fun.
I started rolling a small snowball together and before we knew it, the roommates and I were huffing and puffing and feeling like we were rolling one of those huge tires at a boot camp. It was the perfect snow man snow and after we successfully managed to roll the easily 200 pound center on top of the base (using physics and a ramp made out of snow) we were able to build the most perfect snow man!
Afterwards we treated ourselves to chocolate chip cookies and cheersed to the funnest snow day since the blizzard of '96.

three. By this point we were pretty wet and cold and worn out from all the heavy lifting.  We came inside and stripped off all the layers and reminisced over how as kids our moms used to make us come in through the garage and take all our wet clothes off outside and she would lay down towels so we wouldn't traipse snow through the house. Those were the days...

We spent the rest of the afternoon on the couch napping and watching Friends and the Olympics. And I also finished uploading a blog design I had done for StewMama Says. Stop by and check it out!

four. It's back to work today. We did have a 2 hour delay which was nice as it gave me time to clear off my car again after more snow fell last night. I also had time to pull together my suitcase because as much as I enjoy the pretty snow I am looking forward to a weekend out of town. I am heading to South Carolina for a sister weekend!! I can't wait to have a long weekend just us and I'm so glad that the weather sorted itself out before my flight tonight.

five. It's Valentine's Day! Now I'm not usually one to go all out for this day. I think it's fun to plan special treats and surprises and let people know you love them all year round. But I am a little sad I wont get to see TJ and tell him I love him in person. He surprised me with the sweetest package of some of my favorite things- candy, chocolate and tea and hand written mail- and I mailed him a little somethin' somethin' that was probably delayed by the weather but will hopefully tide him over until we see each other next.

Hope you all know you are loved today and everyday!

Monday, February 10, 2014

scenes from the weekend.

Friday after work I headed out to my friend Kelsey's house for an Olympic's Opening Ceremony party. She outdid herself food wise. There was Swedish meatballs, Jamaican jerk chicken, Greek salad, Mexican layer dip, French vanilla cupcakes, sugar cookies in all kinds of shapes. After stuffing ourselves we had a few little minute-to-win-it competitions ourselves before we settled down with White Russian cocktails to watch the interesting opening ceremony. 
We had a sleepover after the party but then I had to rise bright and early to head to Young Life Work Crew training Saturday morning. For those of you not familiar with it, work crew is where high school students pursuing a relationship with Christ can volunteer to wok at a Young Life camp for one month session. And it's hard work. They serve in the dining hall, they maintain the camp grounds, they wash sheets and towels, and clean cabins, and help out with all the behind the scenes stuff that goes into making camp the best week of a campers life. It's a chance for kids to live out their faith, to serve God while serving others. And what a testimony that is for those campers to see other high schoolers giving up their summer vacations to serve them. 

After work crew training I came home to take a nap before my roommates and I and their boyfriends headed out for a fun dinner. We went to Palladar which none of us had tried before. It's a "Latin kitchen" with a really fun vibe. We  got there in time to still enjoy happy hour. I got a mojito and we all shared guacamole and a salsa trio in the bar. These were served with assorted tortilla and plantain chips which were really tasty. 

We were pretty comfortable so we decided to just stay in the bar area for dinner. I was pretty full from all the chips and dips so I decided to order the tilapia and avocado ceviche. This would be perfect to share as an appetizer but was plenty for my entree. I love ceviche and this one did not disappoint. It had that tart citrus flavor I love, with an added sweetness from the crushed peanuts sprinkled on top. Everyone else got different kinds tacos (grilled sweet potato tacos, rio style chicken tacos, and cuban braised beef tacos). Next time I will have less chips and salsa so I can have room to try the fish tacos or maybe the coconut curry vegetables... is it lunch time yet?? 
We tend to be more "stay at home eat ice cream and watch netflix" kind of girls, so a night out for fun dinner with friends, and cocktails, and an excuse to take pictures, reminded us that we need to do this more often. 
Sunday we all made our way to church. The service I attend starts at 11 which is great because I can sleep in a little bit and it's not close by. But by the time it gets out I am starving and yesterday I happened to be craving eggs benedict. I stopped at the grocery store on the way home and picked up a few things then hurriedly whipped up my own version. It was an easy yummy brunch at home and I think I'll do a recipe post another day because I'm always surprised by how few people know how to poach an egg. 

The rest of the weekend included laundry (finally getting things put away from my Canada trip), The Walking Dead, and a few too many of these Dove chocolates. You'll notice that the wrappers say milk chocolate but that's because I ate all the dark chocolate.  They are the best. 
Hope everyone had a great weekend and that Monday treats you kindly. 

Thursday, February 6, 2014

the last of the Canada trip posts

We returned to Montreal city on Sunday afternoon with time to regroup and nap and shower before the Superbowl. TJ wasn't too thrilled about watching the game in Canada and he was pretty nervous whatever bar we went to would only have it on one TV with no sound. He would have been content to watch in the apartment where he was guaranteed to hear all the plays but his sister had reserved us a table at La Station des Sports so we were going to give it a try.

The place was actually packed and every TV had the game on and the sound played throughout the restaurant. Who  knew there were so many NFL fans in Montreal? Unfortunately we did not get the American commercials and instead saw a lot of adverts for hockey and Tim Hortons. Oh well.
We are all big Peyton Manning fans around here- how can you not be? So we cheered for the Broncos. TJ's sister's boyfriend is French (from France, not French Canada) so we had a fun time explaining the rules of American football to him and reassuring him that this performance was not normal. It is not usually such a painful disappointing blowout. ugh.

Had Peyton not been in the game we probably would have cheered for the Seahawks and then it would have been much easier game to watch. I love that one of their players is a volunteer Young Life leader. And also...TJ and I have a few secrets involving Washington state that I have yet to divulge on this blog...

We actually left before the end of the game because it was over long before the 4th quarter and after we had cheered ourselves up with a few episodes of Netflix we called it a night. 

On our last and final day in Montreal we ventured into the older/original part of the city near the harbor. We used the really simple metro to take us there (much cheaper, less dark and dingy than DC). And then enjoyed a really pretty and really cold walk about. 
The architecture definitely looked and felt more European in this part of the city and I just love when old meets new. We couldn't bear the cold for too long so we hurried to Chinatown to Restaurant Ruby Rouge for dim sum. The servers wheeled around carts of steaming treats and we enjoyed shrimp dumplings, pork sticky rice wrapped in a big leaf, crispy duck, and a much needed cup of hot jasmine tea. It was fast and filling and really inexpensive. 
After lunch we sadly had to pack up our gear and head to the airport. TJ and I said goodbye to his sister and her boyfriend, our wonderful hosts, and shared a cab with his parents to the airport. Then more goodbyes and thank yous for a wonderful trip to his parents. TJ and I stayed together as long as airport security and boarding times would allow before he headed to his gate and I headed to mine.

This was really my first time travelling with TJ. Sure we've both flown back and forth, and met in the middle, and in general have done a heck of lot of travelling this past (almost) year. But you get a different experience when you plan a trip together, especially with family. I had so much fun getting to know his family better and I loved getting to dust off my passport and my rusty French skills (to which TJ would jokingly respond in Spanish hehe). 

You really get to see different side of someone when you travel together, like how they handle airport headaches and close quarters and language barriers. All of which we experienced. After this excursion to our Northern neighbor all I have to say is I am looking forward to many many many more adventures with that guy!

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

la deuxième partie

The Chateu Beauvallon is an absolutely beautiful hotel/lodge. Lots of fireplaces and wood beams. It was very cozy and the perfect snowy retreat. It is also super convenient to the ski village without being right in the center of things. They have their own person who comes to the hotel and fitted us all with skis and boots and poles right there in the lobby so we didn't have to deal with the crowds when we got to the slopes.

Once we were all outfitted we piled on the layers, the goggles, the face masks, the long underwear and we headed out. Trust me... the face masks were necessary.
The hotel had a free valet to and from the slopes. They dropped off the kids (the parents had decided to skip skiing that day and do a little shopping instead) and we purchased half-day passes and were on our way. At the very bottom there was a big fire pit blazing. From there you take a cable car up to where the actual lifts start and the slopes end. Once there we strapped on our skis, adjusted our gloves, wiggled our fingers already starting to feel the tingling cold, as we hurried into the lift line.

Sitting on the lift I admit I was feeling a little nervous as we slowly climbed to the top. It had been a few years since I was last on skis and I wasn't sure how I'd do. The initial turn over the edge of the slope is always a rush. But we started off slow and it just comes right back to you. However I definitely noticed that I was more cautious and not as much a fan of that free-flying-sort-of-out-of-control feeling that you get when you cruise down the slope at top speed. I am pretty envious of the little kids that are just absolutely fearless and oblivious to the height or the edge or the ice. So I took wider turns and used the classic "pizza move" when it got icy. I declined to try the black diamonds and happily stuck mainly to the blue and green slopes.

After a few runs and a few hours we were worn out and hungry. So we slid into the town, loosened those boots that make you walk with a swagger and met up with TJ's parents for a snack. The perfect post-skiing snack in my opinion is poutine. French fries, gravy and cheese. What's not to love?

Since it only continues to get colder and icier as the afternoon wears on, they close the lifts at 4. Which was fine with us because we were full of poutine and our half day of skiing was just the perfect warm up for the following day. That night we hit up the outdoor hot tub, relaxed in the hotel, and TJ and I watched Netflix (I've gotten him hooked on 24 and somehow he's got me watching Archer). 

Saturday we woke up early again eager to get back out into the cold. It was a balmy 10 degrees and they were calling for snow a little later in the day. Basically conditions were perfect for skiing! This time all of us loaded up our skis and headed out. We had picked up our passes the evening before so we didn't have to wait in any lines. Since we had familiarized ourselves with the mountain the day before we knew that the versant nord (north slopes) would be the best place to start since it had more runs and happened to be the side that caught the sun more and the wind less.
I'm pretty sure that snow maker sees very little action.
The trees up at the top of the slopes looked like they were doing quite the heavy lifting under all that snow and in the distance from up top you could see the completely frozen Lac Tremblant. It was a bit of a struggle to pause on slope, remove two layers of gloves, un-zip my phone from it's inside pocket and snap these pictures, but the view was too breathtaking not to.

After another successful day of skiing we were sore and frozen and ready for some hot chocolate and a nap. The town gets really quiet once the lifts stop running but on our way back down we felt we had earned a beer and some maple syrup taffy!

I ordered quatre sticks and watched as the gentleman poured the hot syrup right into the snow. He instructed us to place our popsicle stick on one end and let it sit there for about 30 seconds. Then we rolled it up to enjoy. It's so sweet and sticky and it got all over me and my facemask but it was a nice jolt of sugar and just so yummy.  
That night we dined in the hotel bar and fell asleep early. We had to get up and moving and get back to Montreal in time for the Superbowl the following day.
The third and final (promise) recap tomorrow! 

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Montreal & Mont Tremblant. La première partie.

Today I am back in the office after my Canadian excursion. I took Thursday, Friday and Monday off from work (heaven) so TJ and I, plus his family could venture to Montreal, visit his sister and faire du ski. 

Thursday morning I said bon voyage to DC and flew out on Porter Airlines which I had never even heard of before this trip (and was honestly a little skeptical of) but it was so nice! I think if it kind of like a Canadian version of Southwest Airlines in that it really only seems to be in Canada or northern states and it's pretty much just short local routes. The service was impeccable and it was such an easy and relaxed journey. On board everyone was served beverages in glassware and the snacks included Terra chips or salted almonds. The announcements in both French and English made me feel very cosmopolitan. And in the Porter lounge where I waited for my connection there were yummy foods, complimentary beverages, coffees and teas, again served in china. That's enough about the airline but I seriously recommend Porter if you're journeying to French Canada.
Anywho...We were all coming from different airports and the weather in the south threatened to keep TJ and I apart but we managed to all arrive around the same time. After exiting passport control and customs with a new stamp in my passport (#23) I found TJ and his family and we hailed a cab into the city to his sister's apartment.

We got settled, had a bite to eat and put on a few extra layers. TJ's sister then had to go to an interview so her boyfriend volunteered to give us a bit of a tour. We headed up the slushy streets, up the only real hill in Montreal, to the Parc du Mont Royal. It was a slippery, snowy, winding, hike but the view of the city from the top was worth the climb.

We journeyed a little deeper into the park to the Lac aux Castors or "Beaver Lake." At this time of the year however there were zero beavers and in their place we found a completely frozen lake dotted with ice skaters. And it wasn't that perfectly circular skating rink with everyone going clockwise in the same direction like you might see back home. People were weaving and twirling in every direction with classical music softly playing in the muted landscape.  It was truly a picture perfect winter wonderland.
We were now sufficiently cold so instead of crunching through anymore snow we took a bus back to the apartment to thaw out, take hot showers and get ready for dinner. That night we went to a favorite Italian spot of TJ's sister, Chez Ennio. The place is small and intimate. It feels a bit like your grandparents living room with only 6 tables, knick-knacks lining the wall, a snow village in the window. Ennio is really the only person who works there with the occasional single waiter. This is not a place to go if you're in a hurry since it's a one man show. But you can bring your own bottles of wine and we settled in for leisurely meal. I had veal Milanese, TJ had quail, his sister and her boyfriend both had rabbit. Plus there was pasta and salad and veggies and good conversation all around.

We were supremely full and worn out from our day of travelling and sight-seeing so we headed home to bed. Our plan was to rise early, pick up a rental van, and drive to the slopes! Friday morning came and TJ so kindly went and picked up donuts and coffee from Tim Hortons from just around the corner. I so badly wish we had Tim Hortons here in DC.  Their coffee is twice as cheap as Starbucks and they have the yummiest, lightest crullers (or roussettes au miel) ever!

After breakfast we dragged our suitcases back down through the slush and loaded up the van. We piled in and headed about an hour and half away to Mont Tremblant. We got to our hotel, Chateau Bauvallon, a little before lunch time and we were instantly ready to ski!
And now this post has gotten a little long so la deuxième partie will be on here later in the week. Au revoir!

Father Daughter Time and a Trip

Last night I got to meet up with my dad for dinner in DC. He was in town briefly for work and I was so glad it worked for is to have that time together.

We headed to Old Ebbitt Grill for dinner. The food was good but the company better. The restaurant itself has, pretty dark wood interiors, gas lamps, velvety seats and it's often full of politicians and the like. Dad and I had a cozy corner table. We took our time ordering each course as these shared meals are few and far between. We shared a platter of yummy oysters and clams from the raw bar and after the waitress came back for the 4th time we finally decided on crabcakes for me and cod for dad which came with the best crispy brussel sprouts. 

As we were handed dessert menus two people were seated beside us. They unlayered all their winter wear and we commiserated about the cold and asked them where they were from. And much to our surprise and delight, one gentleman was from the village just down the way from our very own village in the UK! 

Our family just lives for these small-world connections, any tie to that expat life we loved.  We swapped names of favorite pubs and pints and rugby teams and very nearly convinced the other man at their table to move overseas by the end of our exchange. 

We could have hounded our new British friend for stories of "home" and just listened to him speak for the rest of the meal but we left them in peace and ordered dessert.

After devouring my creme brûlée and further reminiscing over our family's adventures we headed back out into the cold. As per usual this visit came to end much sooner than I would have liked. Dad walked me to the metro and we snapped a few selfies before parting. 
He headed back to his hotel and I headed home to this... 
I had some major packing to finish and an early flight to try and fall asleep for. Somehow I crammed a dozen different layers, extra socks, ski pants and two costs into one suitcase. Today I am heading to Montreal to meet up with TJ and his family and enjoy some even colder weather and skiing!! I actually whipped up this post in the air over Canada. 
And It's a good thing I had this trip planned because I really haven't gotten enough of this arctic weather and last night had me itching to travel. I'mexcited to dust off the passport.