#Goals

The East Coast has its charms. For example, breakfast. The East Coast has breakfast places all over, and they're all mostly great. The West Coast does not have many breakfast places. It does, however, have coffee shops. 

East Coasters may think they have coffee shops. I mean...Dunkin' Donuts exists, in all of its fast food style glory, and if you're lucky you may be able to find a quirky coffee shop every once in a great while. But you have not experienced a real coffee shop until you have visited Seattle. Not only are they awesome, but they are also plentiful. Go to any town, and you will find at least three different coffee shop brands within a five-mile radius.

I, being an East Coaster (sider? Vermont has no coast...) through and through, had no idea what I was missing out on until I started dating a Washington state native. Starbucks gave me just the faintest glimpse of what could be, and I think that's the general reference point that we (the Easterners) think of when conjuring up the idea of a coffee shop. But now that I've been to the West Coast numerous times...I think it's time for something to change.

Georgetown, Massachusetts is in desperate need of a legit coffee shop, and it is my bound duty to make it happen. Just look how happy you'd be!

So I'm using "this space," as blogs are so often called, to declare my intention to finally make good on a several-years-in-the-making dream of having my very own coffee shop. Heck, I literally don't even like drinking coffee, but I love the community atmosphere, the scent of roasting beans in the air, and the comfy chairs where I can slowly sip my chai lattes. It's going to happen one day, people.

Now I just need to figure out how to write a business plan.

Going Abroad: What Not to Do

Well, hello there! Long time no...write! It's not like life hasn't been going on. Since the last time I posted, Holy Week happened, we took a trip to Ireland, and just this past week we got to go to Budapest for work. It's been a very long time since Chaz and I have been able to travel for work together, so this was a novelty. As an added bonus, three other co-workers were on the trip, so we had a grand time checking out the city outside of our work responsibilities.

I learned a few things from this trip, which I will pass along to you so that you can avoid making the same mistakes I did.

1) If you must choose between forgetting your hairbrush and forgetting your razor, DEFINITELY FORGET THE HAIRBRUSH. I forgot both, and while I was totally fine finger-combing my hair and then throwing it into some sort of up-do every day, I could.not.handle. the hairy legs situation. We found a grocery store on Day 2 and solved that with some disposable ones.

One of two possible hair solutions, plus one solution for forgetting about hairy legs.

One of two possible hair solutions, plus one solution for forgetting about hairy legs.

2) If you plan to carry a camera plus an extra lens around with you when walking around a city, plan to bring a bag big enough to fit everything. I didn't, so I bought one. It has an owl on it, and we joked that it will be a family heirloom because it's better suited to a child's life than an adult's.

Go ahead. Tell me he's not cute.

Go ahead. Tell me he's not cute.

3) Sneakers are your friend. I don't own any, but I think it's time to invest. My Converse shoes would start chafing my pinky toes around miles 4 or 5, so while they weren't the worst ever, they weren't the best either.

Or...forget the shoes and take a taxi.

Or...forget the shoes and take a taxi.

4) Always, always, always carry Advil! This was a dumb oversight on my part, since I normally do have Advil with me at all times, but I got a headache around 3pm on one of our work days and was stuck without it. I ended up having to skip the first half of a nice group dinner because I had to lie down for an hour. On the plus side, when I did walk to the restaurant, it was magically dusky outside and lent itself to some lovely photo ops. 

5) Never forego an opportunity for ice cream. We didn't make this mistake. We ate the ice cream and have zero regrets.

6) Captain Obvious here, but...milk the trip for all it's worth. Otherwise, we could have spent the entire trip doing this:

Screen blurred for privacy, of course!

Screen blurred for privacy, of course!

And the work is important! That's why we were there, after all! But it was wonderful to take some time to explore. 

And there you have it! 

An Apple a Day

Before we get this party started, here are three bits of information:

  1. I don't like needles.
  2. My worst fear is being unconscious. This fear outranks my fear of needles.
  3. Needles make me pass out.

Now that we have some context...onward.

On Friday morning, I went to visit the doctor for an annual physical. As far as I know, there is and there was nothing wrong with me, which is always good news, and also indicated that there would be nothing even remotely invasive (read: needles) involved. In typical fashion, I arrived to my appointment a rather unfashionable 17 minutes late, expecting (perhaps hoping?) the doctor would tell me that I was too late and I'd have to reschedule. But no! It was a lightly scheduled morning and the doctor was free. Good for my health, I guess.

The first half of the appointment was great. Everything checked out and you might as well call me a horse, because they say horses are healthy. She did note that my blood pressure was a little bit low, but that was nothing to be concerned about. UNTIL....

"When was the last time you had a tetanus shot?"

"Umm...I'm pretty sure it's been longer than five to ten years..." 

"Yes, I don't see any record of that in your medical history since you've been a patient here, which was 2008. I think we'd better do that today. I also want to do blood work, since it's good to do that on a regular basis."

NOOOOOOOOO.

And yet I agreed to it anyway, because I figured that if I had to set up another appointment for both of those things, the nervous anticipation leading up to the event would be worse than having it sprung on me without notice.

I calmly informed the doctor about the passing out problem while internally weeping. I also asked her if it would be ok to have the phlebotomist use a child-sized butterfly needle, because it hurts a lot less and the bloodletting is slower, therefore making the sudden blood loss less faint-inducing. She was the nicest and agreed to all of the above, and then she left me to stew in my rising panic until the needle-bearing nurse arrived.

The tetanus shot was uneventful, mostly because it was small potatoes in comparison to the prospect of having my blood drawn. The nurse finished the shot in about five seconds, disposed of the needle with a kind smile, and left.

Then the phlebotomist walked in. Things were going fine until about 2/3 of the way through, when despite the fact that I was lying down, I started getting pretty woozy. I held myself together since I didn't want to look like a baby, and then asked for some water when she was done. She brought me some (thanks, Jan!), made sure I was alright, and then told me another nurse would be in shortly to take my blood pressure. After she left, I tried desperately to hold on to my slipping consciousness and spontaneously broke into a cold sweat. I tell you, hanging out with me at the doctor is SO FUN.

I managed to not faint, and soon another nurse arrived with a blood pressure cuff. She laughed when she could get no reading on my right arm, then checked her stethoscope when my left arm had nothing either. When the stethoscope proved to be fully functioning, I watched her face turn pale as she informed me that my blood pressure had become extremely low.

"I..um...it's REALLY low. Who saw you? I'm going to get her. Here's some water! Drink it all and DON'T LIE DOWN."

Which, of course, was awesome given my tenuous grasp on cognizance. 

The doctor returned with a concerned look on her face, three packs of crackers, and two more cups of water. She told me to consume all of it, then walked out again.

Six saltines and four cups of water later, I felt much better.

The doctor came back and took my blood pressure reading one last time and declared I had recovered. 

So the moral of the story is...I guess everyone has a high-maintenance trait. Doctor visits just happen to be mine. What's yours?

 

 

The Ultimate Decorating Project

As I know I've mentioned before, interior decorating is not my forte. If I was describing my decorating style to anyone who stopped me on the street and asked (a likely scenario, of course), I'd probably just describe it as "sparse." I think my biggest hesitation is that I don't want to buy things to hang on the walls, because it seems like things on your walls should have some sentimental value. Things that you buy at Home Goods generally do not have the sentimental value appeal, and so I'm stuck.

However. The time has come for me to up the ante on decorating, because Chaz got a new office. It already got a subtle improvement when I went to Ikea and got some picture frames and a plant, but we're still working with this:

We're really lucky to have a lot of flexibility in the decor department at work, and this flexibility has been effortlessly, flawlessly displayed by both the wives of the other large-office occupants. Needless to say, there's a pretty high bar for me. 

Challenge accepted.

Yesterday, we ordered a couch and an end table. That should make it feel more homey already, I think. I also got some fabric to make pillows for the couch, and prints for the frames are already in the mail. 

So I think it's safe to say that in theory, I have the right materials. And when it all arrives, I guess then we'll see if I can channel my inner Fixer Upper to make things look snazzy. I'll keep you posted...

The Wine Rack

Today I turn 27, which means that yesterday I was feeling the full weight of the gravity of the Last Day. You know, when thoughts like, "Today is the last day I'll be 26...EVER. I must make this day count for something!" run through the mind. What? I'm the only one who experiences that? Well...you should try it sometime. It turns your Last Day hours into the most productive ones you'll have all year. 

And so as a result, I realized that I absolutely had to finish my wine rack building project before my 27th world-entering anniversary rolled around if my 26th one was to mean anything. It's a project I had started a couple of months before, but had put on hold when the weather turned chilly since I had been working on it in the unheated garage. I sawed all the wood...

Or if I'm being honest, I sawed MOST of the wood. Chaz did the beginning few cuts.

That part took the longest, and I think that's why it got put on hold. It got a little repetitive, but after that I could start screwing the shelves together.

Having two drills made ALL the different - one for pre-drilling the holes, one for screwing in the screws. Rather than having to change the drill bit for every single joint, I could just trade drills. Thanks for the extra drill, Dad!

All of that was what I had finished before yesterday. But as of yesterday morning, I still had to attach all the wine bottle slats on all of the shelves and then put the whole thing together. In other words...unless I worked all afternoon, my entire 26th year would be meaningless. 

And so after moving the entire project into our basement (and going to church - can't finish off a year as a heathen either!), I got to work.

All the slats got attached. I ran out of screws and went to Home Depot. I came back from Home Depot and we watched Downton Abbey with a side of pizza for dinner (are you caught up?? It's the final season!). And then I went back down to my lair in the basement and put the whole thing together.

And I finished the wine rack at 11:07 on 2/21/16. 53 minutes before my 27th birthday.My 26th year was saved!

I suppose this now means that we need to start collecting wine.

I've always been a believer in doing things that are beyond your normal skill-scope. I'm not a carpenter by any stretch of the imagination. There are definitely irregularities on the wine rack that the graininess of my oh-so-lovely iPhone photos hide, and it's highly doubtful I'll ever be a master woodworker. I'm totally fine with both of those things. Trying something as a beginner is one of the few places where you have absolute freedom to make mistakes and enjoy the process rather than the end result. And what do you have to lose? I admit, I could just be biased because I like projects, but there's my two cents. Don't forgo creativity just because of unfamiliarity. 

Here's to year 27.

On Being a Woman and Traveling Alone

Fact: I am female and I travel a lot by myself. Almost all of this travel is work-related, but on most trips, I have a fair bit of time to explore on my own. In some cases, that time is between when I finish working in the afternoon and going to bed that night; in other cases, my flight home is either late night and I have the entire day to explore; and in still other cases, I've built in a little extra time if it's a place I've really wanted to see. Regardless of how long I'm going to be in a place though, the fact remains that I'm female and I'm traveling by myself. As a result, I've heard from a few people that doing that themselves would make them nervous. So I'm here today to give you all my traveling advice!

DON'T BE AFRAID. JUST GO...

Culture Observations: Maybe it's because my family had traveled internationally several times when I was small, but the landing-in-a-new-culture aspect of traveling has never put me off. That's the interesting part! You get the privilege of learning how day to day life operates in different patterns than your own. And that's not a bad thing. If you can come at it with interest rather than apprehension, you're starting off on a good foot. 

Flexibility: For me, traveling alone is sometimes preferable to traveling with either Chaz or a group of friends or coworkers, particularly if I want to see a lot of things in one day. I like the ability to set my own pace, and I know my own stamina, so I just go until...I stop. For me, that usually means I end up walking several miles in a day, which is not the ideal sightseeing experience for everyone. Regardless of how you like the travel, the beautiful thing is that you can do whatever the heeeeeeeck you want.

I freaking love my clogs. They are comfortable and convenient. Do not judge. FUNCTION. OVER. FASHION.

I freaking love my clogs. They are comfortable and convenient. Do not judge. FUNCTION. OVER. FASHION.

Pictures: Take a lot! One of the downsides of traveling alone is just that there isn't anyone else there to experience all the cool things with. Taking tons of pictures helps with that, because then it's like having a report to take back home. I also usually take a few selfies, which I sort of hate, but I also like having a picture or two of myself in places rather than just pictures of things. 

Packing: PACK LIGHT. Unless you are leaving your stuff in a hotel, you're going to be hauling it around and no one is going to help you. I can tell you from experience that bringing a rolling suitcase with you around the streets of a big city is not fun, even for an hour or two. Don't do it. My best packing/traveling experience was when I got everything into a backpack. I was able to walk around London for the whole day without bumping into people and getting in everyone's way.

There's four days' worth of clothes on my back right there, plus a computer and two pairs of shoes. 

There's four days' worth of clothes on my back right there, plus a computer and two pairs of shoes. 

Lug this thing around the streets of Oslo and you'll want to leave it in the middle of the street too. Even if it's only with you because you're heading to the airport.

Lug this thing around the streets of Oslo and you'll want to leave it in the middle of the street too. Even if it's only with you because you're heading to the airport.

Feeling Comfortable: I honestly think that some guidebooks (hey there, Rick Steves...) will scare you into believing that every person around you is just waiting to steal your luggage, your money, and your passport. I don't buy it. Wear your backpack on the front of your body and you will look like a nervous tourist who isn't having fun. Wear your backpack like a normal person and you will look...normal. You will blend in, and no one will give you a second glance. Do you feel comfortable walking on the streets in Boston? Great. You'll be fine in London too. But of course, as with anywhere, just be aware of your surroundings, because it's always safer when you're paying attention. Which brings me to part 2...

...BUT DON'T BE STUPID.

Common Sense: As mentioned above, be aware of your surroundings. I like to stick to places where I know there will be lots of people so that I don't find myself in a dark alley all alone. Not that that's likely. I try to avoid dark alleys no matter where I am! Which is sort of the point: if you wouldn't do something at home, don't do it abroad. 

Wandering After Dark: This is debatable. I once walked three miles after dark in a town outside of London to get from my hotel to the grocery store and back again. I turned out fine, but I was on edge the entire time and I decided not to do it again. Had it been daylight, I probably would have thought nothing of it, but the fact that it was very dark made it freaky. Learn from my mistakes! Take the cab.

Public transportation: the cheap traveler's best option. Also the dirtiest.

Public transportation: the cheap traveler's best option. Also the dirtiest.

Pack Carefully: Packing light is really great, but it's easy to steal any form of external luggage. If I'm walking around with any sort of bag, my wallet, passport, and phone are not in it. They are instead in an internal pocket of my zipped-up jacket (or if it's hot...somewhere else not in a bag). That way, if my whole bag gets stolen, I still have money, identification, and a communication device.

Let Someone Know Where You're Going: This is actually an idea from a friend (hi, Sarah!) that I hadn't thought of, but it's a good one! In her words, "I always make friends with the hotel desk person, and then if I'm going out I'll casually mention what time I'm going to be back. They probably won't pay attention, but it can't hurt, right?" Right. 

I left the client-site and saw a fort in Puerto Rico during the day time with people around. Safe or not safe? Pop quiz!

I left the client-site and saw a fort in Puerto Rico during the day time with people around. Safe or not safe? Pop quiz!

Trust Your Gut: Intuition is a useful thing, I've found. Something smells fishy? Walk away. Seriously. Fish smell terrible... (insert courtesy laugh here). But for real, just pay attention. Don't do anything that makes you feel uncomfortable.

MOST IMPORTANTLY: HAVE FUN!

That's really all it boils down to, after all. Go be adventurous and discover the world, because it has a lot to offer. Then come back and show me all your photos over a glass of wine and some chocolate, because coming home is pretty great too.

Mostly my face, with a side of Buckingham Palace. Also: the same jacket was worn for each of the above dastardly self portraits. Apparently I have a security blanket.

Mostly my face, with a side of Buckingham Palace. Also: the same jacket was worn for each of the above dastardly self portraits. Apparently I have a security blanket.

And as a parting gift, a word to the wise: DO NOT get stuck in traffic on the way to the airport unless you want to have a heart attack.

These Days

Ahhh, that was a great Christmas break, wasn't it? It's good to be back in the saddle...a month later.

This month has been a quiet one, in a way. No traveling (at least for me), lots of evenings at home, lots of friends, lots of crafting. I tend to think that's how the long winter months should be spent, since the cold outside prevents most other things. We don't have enough snow outside to do the typical outside winter activities, but you won't hear me complaining! Remember last year?

Also: all hail the power of the snow blower. If I had to spend one more winter shoveling the amount of snow we shoveled last year, I might just decide that it was worth staying inside until it all melted, however many months that might take. 

Honestly, that's really the latest from around here. Just a small account of the quiet, happy, sometimes boring joy of the everyday. 

On a tangent: would you host a Super Bowl party if your main team AND your backup team are both out of the running? 

What We've Been Up To...

Well, we flew to Washington...which unfortunately turned into an experiment on blog abandonment. Instead of blogging, I've done a lot of the following:

A) Eating. Pretty sure I'm going to be a few pounds heavier upon my return to MA. There's just so much good food! Teriyaki restaurants, pizza places, burger joints, fro yo...you name it, and we've eaten it and enjoyed every last darn bite.

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B) Shopping. We waited to get Christmas gifts for the family members out here until we arrived since we didn't want to haul it all in our suitcases, and since there are many family members, we've been in more malls than you can count.

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C) Exploring. Washington is the coolest, I tell you. Do you want to see water? Ok...look out the back door. Mountains? Yep...look out the same door. We decided that view wasn't quite enough, so we went on a drive through a mountain pass on a day when there wasn't a massive snowstorm, and it was well worth it. 

D) Beer-tasting. Ok...this is admittedly not me. But I appreciate it in spirit. Does that count? One day I hope I grow to like it, but not this trip. 

E) Coffee-shopping. There are SO MANY COFFEE SHOPS(!) out here! Why is this not a thing in Boston? They're comforting and friendly and they have tasty things. Who wouldn't like that type of thing?

I started laughing after the second picture...

I started laughing after the second picture...

F) Crafting. Sorta. We painted pottery, because the town we're in had a place that coupled pottery painting with a coffee shop. Brilliant.

G) STAR WARS.

So far...that's it. Considering we still have three days though, I'm sure there will be more to come!

Thursday Vignettes, Vol. 3

It's been awhile since I did one of these, so the time has come again! 

1. We had our final Star Wars movie night last night - we finished Episode VI just in time for Episode VII to "hit the theaters," as they say. We made our traditional movie night dinner (nachos) and our somewhat new dessert tradition (ice cream), and it was great.

I also found a Star Wars t-shirt at Target the other day, and since this new movie coming out is such a phenomenon, I bought it. I mean...it was six dollars. I plan to wear it to the theater when we go see the movie in Washington next week. Nerd alert.

2. I have a dreadful addiction to the cards and invitations section at Target. I went in the other day to pick up something random for the house - a soap dispenser, maybe? - and I almost left with two new sets of thank you notes just because I might need them sometime. I stopped myself (I really have no need for an extra 150 thank you cards, since I still have leftovers from my wedding 1.5 years ago), but it was hard.

3. Ever since we ordered all the things we need for the guest bed, we've been getting packages almost daily. One of them arrived other other night from Ikea, containing a rolled up mattress pad. At first I was confused as to what it was, though, because the box looked like it could have housed something about five feet long. Nope...turns out Ikea just has strange ideas about packaging non-breakable items.

4. I can't really say that I have a gift for words when it comes to expressing profound thoughts, which is why I stick to the more light hearted stuff over on this blog. But if you do feel like you want some deeper thoughts to sink your teeth into, a friend from home in Vermont has been writing a wonderful blog. It's currently focused on Advent, so check it out!

5. Since, according to the social media world, Thursdays are now dedicated to throwbacks (or has that trend sorta stopped?), I'm going to throw it back to the last Thursday I was in Puerto Rico. I had heard from the last coworker who had been there that supposedly iguanas were everywhere. I believed him until I got there, because for three full days and almost a fourth full day, I had seen none. It may have been frivolous, but apart from working well, seeing an iguana was the primary goal to complete before leaving. And lo and behold, as I was leaving the school campus on the very last day, THERE HE WAS. Those things are huge, and they move faster than lightning. I posted a zoomed in picture on Instagram when it happened, but I took another picture out my rental car window because the iguana was sitting behind a parked car. Having him there gave a nice reference point for how big he was, so...enjoy.

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The Barre Experiment

Last night, my friend Meghanne, her friend Lindsey and I decided to try something new and completely different. Well...new and different for me. Meghanne had done it once, and Lindsey several times. What did we do? We signed up for a pure barre class and exercised our butts off. Or at least that's what it felt like last night. This morning I can attest to the fact that it's very much still there due to my aching muscles.

I obviously didn't take any pictures while at the class, because that would just be weird. No one takes #workoutselfies in a class of six people with a ton of mirrors, and honestly...no one wants to see that anyway. As a result, I can only give you a mental picture.

At one point in life I thought that I could pull off a "passably graceful" status. NO. Pure barre has taught me that I cannot look smooth and flowing when lifting a sand-filled ball above my head while simultaneously pulling my knee up to my elbow. In addition, it's very difficult to extend your leg out to a 90-degree angle from the rest your body. I know this because I attempted it and reached about a 60-degree angle instead.

By the end of class I could barely wobble out to the car, and I felt like I'd gotten a very good workout. Hence the wobbling - the result of the best type of workout, I say. Despite my lack of gracefulness, I'll probably be back. Also, we felt so good about our worked muscles and burned calories that we celebrated with a trip to the Cheesecake Factory.

Oh, you want to see a photo of just the glorious, once-time-per-year peppermint cheesecake? BUT OF COURSE.

Pardon the lighting. The Cheesecake Factory doesn't specialize in brightly lit spaces.

I'm sure we had burned off all of the calories that we consumed, right? Isn't that how exercise is supposed to work? 

Christmas Dilemma

By yesterday afternoon, I kept thinking that it was Tuesday, and I woke up this morning feeling like it was Wednesday. Anyone have tips on how to reset your internal weekly calendar? 

Non sequitur.

In some years, I've done very well with Christmas gift ideas. Last year in particular was a good year - I got my mom a crockpot, my dad a craft beer book, and Chaz a coffee maker that we have used every single day since.

[source]

But this year I'm completely drawing a blank for both Chaz and for my dad. HELP. For Chaz, here are the rules:

  1. No "random stuff" - it needs to be something we'll use regularly or has a specific function. Basically, nothing that you'd find on the "100 Great Gift Ideas for Guys!" lists that you'd find in a Google search.
  2. No clothes.
  3. Not very expensive - the bed in the guest room was our main Christmas gift this year, so we're each planning to do something small and not pricey.

Anyone have any inspired ideas?

Project Days

We were so excited on Friday because we had a weekend where nothing was going on, for the most part. Every once in awhile, that's a much needed thing, I think, as it gives you a chance to catch up on sleep and cooking and all the other things you've put to the side. Say...cleaning the house. We knocked that one out first on Saturday morning.

Since we had so much left over time, the rest of the weekend sort of morphed into a weekend for building things. First, I put together the headboard and bed frame for our guest room, which means that if you come to visit us, you no longer have to sleep on either a twin sized bed or an air mattress!

Next, we hung up a picture that had been sitting in our office for months, just waiting for us to nail a little hole in the wall. This particular item should have been hung much, much earlier, considering it took us a total of five minutes to do it on Saturday.

It was a wedding gift from our friends - it's a painting by their uncle of the spot where we got engaged! 

After that, I decided to try to make monkey bread. We had gone to the store before looking at the recipe and got ourselves some Pillsbury crescent rolls. Those are delicious, but they aren't the right sort of Pillsbury product needed for monkey bread. Nevertheless, I attempted. The pre-baked version looked promising.

It smelled amazing while it was baking, but when we tried to take it out of the pan, all of the pieces just sort of fell apart. They're still delicious, but you can't really call it monkey bread. We dubbed them Joy Nuggets.

Then on Saturday evening, I decided to get started on a project we'd been thinking about for awhile: building a wine rack. We still have leftover wine from our wedding over a year ago, and right now it's sitting in a giant cooler that doesn't look aesthetically pleasing just hanging out in our basement. Thus, a wine rack. I'm following these instructions. It took me two trips to Home Depot to get all the stuff, and I realized at the end of the day yesterday that I actually need one more board, so that's going to make it three. 

I then spent all afternoon on Sunday cutting up pieces of wood. I hadn't used a circular saw since probably 7th grade Tech Ed class. Thrilling.

Chaz did some of the initial cuts to make sure the saw was working and to sort of figure it out, and then I took over and did the rest.

It's not done yet, so this is sort of a home-improvement cliff hanger. I'm sure you're just dying to read about my finished product, right? 

Ha.

This post is brought to you by Tell-Don't-Show Writing, Inc. I'll do better tomorrow. It's Monday, after all...what could you expect?

Crafting Complete

I think I finished the wall art! It's not hanging up yet, but it's ready to be hung up and that's what counts.

As I mentioned yesterday, I got the idea from Pinterest, but the real source is here. You really only need five materials: a canvas, some paint, scrapbook paper, glue of your favorite variety, and Mod Podge.

First, you take your canvas and paint it so that the whole thing is the color you want as the background. I used spray paint because it was fast and I'm impatient.

Let the paint dry...obviously. To keep you occupied while it dries, take your scrapbook paper and cut out one circle for the center of the flower and a lot of leaves of various sizes. I ended up using ten different patterns of scrapbook paper for the leaves, and I cut out eight big leaves plus one tiny leaf from each one.

Once the leaves are cut and the paint is dry, start arranging them on the canvas.

When you're happy with how the pattern looks, glue them down so that they won't move. I used hot glue, because again...impatient. Who wants to wait for glue to dry after you've already waited for the paint?

Finally, after things won't be moving around anymore, Mod Podge the whole thing so that it looks uniform.

And finally, once the Mod Podge is dry, you're done! Go hang it up.

Or...you know...just put it on top of a table until you figure out where you want it. That works too. 

Have a most excellent weekend!

Decor Challenged

This year, Chaz and I decided that our Christmas present for each other would be a bed for our guest room. It's the one room of the house that's very obviously unfinished after moving, so the time has come! The other room like that is the "kids'" room, but there are no kids, there are a lot of small items that don't have final storage spots, and it's upstairs and not used by your average house guest, so it can wait. 

Black Friday weekend was glorious for finding good deals on a bed. I found a nice headboard on Wayfair.com that was 70% off, and Macy's was having a crazy mattress sale, so we got everything done and ordered well ahead of Christmas.

All that was really just backstory for the main point of this post, which is decorating, and the fact that I am not a decorator by any stretch of the imagination. Or at least...I'm either bad at decorating or not millionaire-enough to put together a room all at once. If it were up to me, sheets sets would be no more than $20. I'd also price nice furniture in the $100 - $200 range rather than the $500 - $1,000,000 range, but furniture makers don't ask me, do they? I'm guessing the real answer lies in thrifting. Thrifting is another skill that I lack. Someone want to teach me?

This has been the most rambly post. That's really all I have to say for now, except that I'm making this because I saw it on Pinterest and I love it:

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Mine doesn't look like much yet.

And the only thing tying all of this nonsense together is the fact that the art is going in the guest bedroom with the soon-to-be bed, and hopefully someday other decorative things that I haven't discovered yet. 

The end.

Thanksgiving 2015

This year for Thanksgiving, we stayed at home. My family came from various parts of New England and so our house was the gathering place. It was wonderful. Since as far back as the beginning of college going-on-nine years ago, I haven't had a holiday that didn't involve traveling. What a gift it was to really be able to relax without needing to pack up and drive or fly as part of the time off! And so to my family I say thank you for coming to us and helping us have a wonderfully laid back Thanksgiving. 

We planned our Thanksgiving feast for later in the afternoon, which gave us time to go for a walk that morning. It was a beautiful day and not too cold - perfect fall walking weather.

At the end of the trail we found a camp (closed for the winter) and a small pond, which is good to know for whenever warmer weather rears its head again.

And with that, we stopped, took a couple pictures, and then headed back to the kitchen.

Let me just add a note here and say that I don't know how chefs do it day after day. I cooked the most food I have ever cooked in a single day, but that's something they do on the daily, so...props to you, chefs of the world. 

Our menu included turkey (of course), gravy, stuffing, mashed potatoes, green beans, cranberry sauce (from a can), rolls (from Whole Foods), and two kinds of pies. I made the chocolate cream pie, but Costco made the apple pie and it was glorious. Never underestimate the glories of Costco.

And when it was all finished at 5pm, we sat down and ate. 

Finally, the food was eaten, the leftovers were put away, the dishes were washed, and the counters were wiped down. Logically, the next step was the pie, which may have been the crowning victory of the whole endeavor.

And because pie...I think we'll leave it with that. Happy Cyber Monday, y'all!

Puerto Rico in Pictures

If I were being completely honest, I'd probably tell you that Puerto Rico isn't my all time favorite destination, but saying that sounds repulsively snooty. It may just be the area I'm staying in - it's very...urban residential? I guess you could call it that. Basically it isn't anywhere near to things that you'd want to see. I also wouldn't trust valuable things to stay in my car overnight, but you could say that about any city, I think.

Nevertheless, it has some cool stuff! Each evening after work I've had a couple of hours of daylight left to fill with whatever the heck I want, and thus...to Old San Juan I went two days in a row. There were forts!

Also, many of the houses are painted fun colors, which makes everything bright and cheery, even though you're melting in the heat and sweating all over.

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I liked the forts the best though.

And yet despite the cool forts and the balmy temperatures, I'm very ready to head back to my comfortable 30 degree weather, Thanksgiving preparations, and favorite human. Hasta la vista, Puerto Rico!

Hazard Lights Required at All Times

GUYS. Driving in Puerto Rico is NO JOKE. 

This trip was a bit of a surprise, so I had about a week to figure out all travel arrangements. Since it's a four-day trip instead of the usual two or three, I realized pretty fast that I'd need a car to get around. Public transportation wasn't an option, and I'd be taking far too many taxi rides for that to be a financially viable option. And thus...a car.

Economy rental cars are my friend on business trips. This time, I have one of these guys:

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SORTA. It's not actually that new, and it's not actually that clean. It also makes a funny buzzing noise that only economy rental cars can make when it's going faster than 10mph. Best of all, it has Eco mode, which basically means that its pickup is nonexistent.

All of that would be fine if I was driving around the back roads of any rural area. Who needs pickup when no one is on the road? No one, that's who. But in Puerto Rico? Let's just say that I don't have a picture of the traffic because I didn't trust myself to have my attention removed from the road even at a full stop.

I once naively thought Boston drivers were aggressive. My eyes have since been opened. Behold: some actual thoughts from my driving experience here:

"That stick-your-nose-into-oncoming-traffic-to-turn-left move I hate at home? Time to try it out!"

"WHAT ARE YOU DOING?!?"

"I've literally used every trick in the book that I learned from driving in Boston!" 

"I'mgonnadieI'mgonnadieI'mgonnadieI'mgonnadieI'mgonnadie...."

"Seriously, what on EARTH makes you think that your 18-wheeler is going to fit between my bumper and the car three inches in front of me?!"

"I see that two-foot spot in the next lane and I CLAIM IT AS MY OWN."

If I make it out of this place without a dent in my rental car's bumper, will someone give me an award?

Let us pray for the whole state of Christ's church and the world...

I'm in Puerto Rico right now on...you guessed it...another business trip. I had been intending to write about that and regale you with yet another tale of traveling, but I think I'll have to save that for another time. Today, the state of the world is lying too heavily on my heart to write about anything else.

I didn't update my Facebook profile picture in the wake of the Paris attacks. For me personally, it just felt empty. Within a few hours, the politicized how to fix it arguments started rolling in with their uncomfortably predictable patterns: gun control is bad. Gun control is good. We need to talk about religion. We shouldn't even think about religion. We should stop refugee relocation efforts. We should increase refugee relocation efforts. Your argument is wrong. No, your argument is wrong. 

It's exhausting. 

Micah 6:8 keeps repeating itself in my head: "He has shown you, O man, what is good. And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God." Like so many others, I want to live that out in a global context. It's with aching hearts that we read one story after another of the poor, the widowed, the orphaned.

And yet at least for me, my reach is too small. I can't drop everything and fly to Greece to help people find some semblance of normalcy after fleeing their homes. I can't travel to Paris or Beirut, turn back time, and stop the violence. And so like everyone else searching for the answer to the ever-present how question, I feel mostly helpless.

So I guess what I've been thinking most is that where I can help, by necessity, must be close to home. I can love my family better. I can give more. I can look for ways to help in my surrounding community. And I hope that in some small way, helping in little ways can help others - who might have access to a broader reach than mine - help those who are hurting most.

Lord, have mercy.

Drinking Vegetables

Now that Halloween is over and Thanksgiving is on its way, I've been thinking about how to eat better. See...I love candy with an unholy passion, so whenever we have some in the house, it slowly but very surely disappears. Into my mouth. Chaz does not suffer from the same affliction/addiction that I do, and therefore he remains immune to the perils of eating too much junk.

As a result, a couple of friends and I are jumping back into the crunchy world of Whole30 Whole-however-many-days-there-are-until-Thanksgiving. We'll see how it goes, since I'm going to be on yet another work trip next week...this time in Puerto Rico.

Last time when doing the Whole30, my default breakfast for almost the full 30 days was bacon and eggs in some capacity or another. That holds true today, at least:

But earlier this week, I added smoothies to my breakfast rotation. I figured it wouldn't be exactly healthy to have the same two ingredients every single day for breakfast, so this was a nice way to switch it up. 

I put three ingredients in my smoothies: a bowl-ful of frozen fruit, a splash and a half of orange juice, and enough spinach and/or kale to fill up my blender. When I'm trying to be Whole30 compliant, I'll make sure that it's an all natural orange juice with no added sugar, since sugar isn't allowed. Also, it should be noticed that my blender is not especially large. 

When you put it all in the blender, it looks so nice and colorful!

But I confess that when you're finished blending and you pour it all into a glass...it looks like horrible green sludge.

Nevertheless, after the first sip you don't taste spinach or kale at all, and instead you taste the fruit and lovely citrus-y accents (you know...because my smoothies are hoity-toity and high class), and it makes for a nice healthy breakfast with some vegetables hiding in the mix. Hurrah!

Now I need to go make some fajita marinade for dinner. Don't worry...I'll be eating them in lettuce wraps instead of tortillas. Just call my Crunchy McCruncherson, ok?

One Weekend in Maine

Deer Isle is a rather substantial island up in Maine. It's a beautiful island, not least because my friend Diana lives there and between that and the surrounding natural beauty, it's spectacular. 

I went to visit Diana this past weekend, and it happily coincided with her baby shower. 

It was the type of visit that just puts live back into perspective, because time passes slowly and the camaraderie fills up your soul to the brim. Well, time passed slowly until the shower, which involved a warm bustle of activity and was followed by homemade pizza, which may have been the best I've ever had. 

Lately (or always?) I've felt like I'm juggling a lot of things, and not quite keeping all of them in motion. I remember feeling like this in college - school work, practicing, friendship, faith - but it hasn't really been something I'd felt for awhile. The newer version of juggling is work, music, marriage, friendship, and faith, and lately it's the friendship ball that's been dropped. This weekend represented a much-needed reset. I haven't figured it all out yet, but I'm very grateful for Diana's wisdom on the matter. "I think of it as a new phase, really. Friendship looks different now that life has changed, but it's no less valuable." 

As usual, she's right. I just need to figure out how this new phase works before it changes again!