Holiday Hoopla

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Has it really been fifteen days since I last blogged? That's embarrassing.

I've been so busy with finishing up with school for the semester and getting things ready for Christmas that I haven't had time for much else.

I'm pleased to report that I finished my class with an A+ though! Hard work really does pay off. And who knew that Hopkins had an actual "A+" in their grading system? From what I remember about the +/- system, the highest you could get was an A, but hey, seeing that little plus on there really made me feel good, so I'm not going to complain. Two A's down, only eight more to go! (hopefully...)

We spent the weekend after I took my final exam celebrating with our friends in downtown Annapolis. It was just what we needed. The store fronts were all decorated with fresh evergreen and twinkling lights. The windows were lit with candles and wreaths. Even the alleyways were decorated with snowflakes and bright white bulbs! Annapolis is by far my favorite town any time of the year, but there's just something extra magical about it at Christmas time.

We were surprised to find the Christmas boat parade in full swing when we got down there. Between that and the Navy win at the Army/Navy game earlier that day, the streets and bars were filled with happy people. It was such a beautiful evening and to make things a little more festive we snuck a little Bailey's in our hot chocolate as we watched the parade.


We spent the rest of the night dancing at some of our favorite spots. It was great to get out and really let loose after so many weeks of studying.

Santa's helpers opened up the dance floor with a giant holiday jumprope...?

Last week, we finally got some lights up outside, but unfortunately I don't have any photos to show for it. And not surprisingly, right after Mike got everything strung up, half of the lights went out on the left side of the roof, so it's probably better to just imagine what it would look like anyway. That's what you get when you buy your Christmas lights at Wal-mart, I guess. We now know exactly how Clark felt at his anticlimactic light ceremony...

Better luck next year!

On the horizon for 2015

Wednesday, December 3, 2014


The other night, Mike and I were sitting around talking about the upcoming year. We are beginning to plan out our budget, projects, and vacations for 2015 and as we were writing down all of the major events we have coming up, we started to reflect on how many positive things we've got going on next year.

For starters, my dad will be graduating in the Spring with his Master's degree! We are so incredibly proud of him! He has been working for a few years, chugging away one class at a time, and in just a couple of weeks he will be finishing up his final project. We can't wait to be there with him when he is awarded his degree!

We have a few milestone birthdays in 2015 but probably the most significant is Mike's 30th! We are hoping to do a giant combined birthday celebration with Mike and his mom and it's bound to be a blast!

Mike is not the only thing turning 30 next year either. In October, my parents will be celebrating their 30th wedding anniversary! I hope to plan something extra special for them!

My mom is also planning to retire after more than 35 years in September! She is one of the most hardworking, dedicated, and intelligent people I know and she so deserves this! I also hope that when she retires, she will have more time to come up to my work to have lunch with me. Ha!

We are also planning the trip of all trips for sometime in the fall next year. Where are we going? COSTA RICA!!! I am finally going to get to meet my sloths!!!

And just when you think we've packed all the fun and excitement we could possibly fit into 2015, there's more!

Three, count them THREE, of our absolute favorite couples are getting married next fall and I am in ALL THREE OF THEIR WEDDINGS! We've got Katie and Tyler in September, Ali and Matt in October, and Chelsea and Jordan in November! Ahhh!!!


If you can't already tell, I am so excited for next year! 2015 is bound to be one of our best years yet!

What have you got planned for 2015? I'd love to hear about it below!

Well Hey There December!

Monday, December 1, 2014

It is so incredibly hard to believe that we have officially reached the last 31 days of 2014. I seriously don't know where the year went! In only a few short weeks, we'll be waking up to brand new 2015!

Mike and I have been pretty busy over the last few weeks, just trying to soak in all that this season has to offer. Aside from wrapping up my second grad school class, we've been focusing on spending time with family, catching up with friends, and decorating for the holidays.

Our thanksgiving was absolutely fantastic and filled to the brim with love and laughter. We spent so much time enjoying all the food, games, friends, and family that we totally forgot to take pictures! We did manage to get a few moments here and there but even without photos it was a memorable year to say the least.

We ran a 5K Turket Trot on the morning of Thanksgiving and headed back to my parent's house afterward to cook and spend time with family the rest of the day. Mike's mom came to dinner with all of us and we thoroughly enjoyed a few rounds of drinks, games, and a late showing of "The Princess Bride" after the meal.

On Black Friday, we opted out of any shopping excursions but went up to our good friends Chelsea and Jordan's house for our first annual "Friendsgiving." It was by far the craziest evening we've spent at their house but we had a total blast and can't wait to do it again next year!

The rest of the weekend was spent catching up with friends that were in town and then taking a road trip up to Showvaker's Quality Evergreens like we do each year to hunt down our Christmas tree.

We got our tree home, decorated him up real nice, and spent the rest of the afternoon listening to Christmas music and decking the halls both inside and out. We are planning to put up our outdoor lights this week!

I hope that everyone had a wonderful Thanksgiving this year! Happy December!

Moment On A Monday

Monday, November 24, 2014

Last week we said goodbye to Mike's grandparent's home of more than 50 years. It was where his mom and her siblings grew up, where Mike lived next door nearly his entire life, and where his grandmother passed just a year ago. Mike's Uncle Jeff said it best in his post on settlement day about "Whit's End" which they named the property...

"Whit’s End has ended. Late this afternoon Whit’s End, the family home of Trudy, Whit and their four children: Jeff, Steve, Judy & Kathy, passed. For over 50 years, this crazy home was like a Hogwarts providing its own magic, delight and idiosyncrasies that was never even remotely captured in a HUD-1 settlement statement, transfer of funds and real estate funeral directors that surrounded its passing. Hidden doors, a snake pit, Sunset point, shed turned chemistry lab and summer hangout, spectacular view, never-ending rooms of unusual stuff. Ah the stories that we can tell."
Every Time we Say Goodbye by Ella Fitzgerald on Grooveshark

I have a confession to make

Thursday, November 20, 2014


T-Swift. Tay Tay. T-Swizzle. Swifty.

I'm almost embarrassed to admit this, but I love her.

When Taylor first came on the scene back in 2006 with her song Tim McGraw, I was initially hooked. I remember running downstairs all excited to play it for my mom after hearing it for the first time on Myspace (yes, you read that right... those were the days). Through most of college, I bought her albums religiously and really genuinely enjoyed her catchy tunes. I even saw her in concert once down in DC and screamed and sang alongside thousands of other pre-teen girls to every lyric. Whether it was cool or not, I was a fan.

Then, something awful happened. Taylor performed at the Grammy's in 2010 with Stevie Nicks and it was absolutely horrendous. She was terribly out of tune and her vocals were shaky and all over the place. Her performance truthfully sounded more like one of my drunk, tone-deaf karaoke ballads than something of a multimillion dollar, award-winning singer/songwriter. It left a bad taste in my mouth and for the next few years I really hated her songs. I started to believe that, while she was a fantastic lyricist, she couldn't sing at all and that her songs were probably heavily auto-tuned and overproduced. Every time she would come on the radio I would switch the station, and when her album Red came out in 2012, I wanted nothing to do with it.

Fast forward to a couple of weeks ago.

I still followed her on Instagram and would occasionally see her posts about her upcoming album 1989. It intrigued me, because well, for one, I too was born in 1989 and since she had promoted the album so much, I was well aware that she was breaking away from her country roots to create an entirely pop album. She was re-inventing herself and making a conscious move away from a genre I never really thought she fit into. (Listening back to her first album, it's painfully obvious that her country accent was totally overdone.) Then she started posting snippets of the reviews from Time magazine, Rolling Stone, and the New York Times that said things like:

"Ms. Swift is aiming somewhere even higher, a mode of timelessness that few true pop stars... even bother aspiring to."

"This is still an artist who likes to let it rip. Deeply weird, feverishly emotional, wildly enthusiastic, 1989 sounds exactly like Taylor Swift, even when it sounds like nothing she's ever tried before."

"Swift has already written enough great songs for two or three careers. Red, from 2012, was her Purple Rain, a sprawling I-am-the-cosmos epic with disco banjos and piano ballads and dubstep drops. But as every Eighties pop star knew, you don't follow one epic with another - instead, you surprise everybody with a quick-change experiment. So rather than trying to duplicate the wide reach of Red, she focuses on one aspect of her sound for a whole album - a very Prince thing to do."

The kind of mastery and strategy described in the last paragraph is something that Dylan did frequently. He kept people guessing all the time, evolving his music, changing with the times, and always staying fresh. You never knew what he was going to do or say next. That's why he is so classic and timeless. And that is exactly what led me straight to Target to scoop up 1989. I had to see for myself.

The verdict?

For the last two weeks, I have listened to nothing but that damn album. And I honestly can't say that there is a single song I don't like. My favorites most definitely include Blank Space, Style, Clean, Out of the Woods, This Love, You are in Love and Wildest Dreams. I also absolutely love that she included the extra songs on the Target album and the so-called "songwriting voice memos" that give you a peek into her creative process.

There are many reasons why I have come to love Taylor again. For one thing, I did my research and discovered that she really can sing, and not only that, but she's pretty incredible at it. No, she's not Adele, but she doesn't try to be. She's totally, completely, and unapologetically herself and that would be reason number two behind my recent obsession.

She also absolutely adores her fans. Did you know that she hosted "Secret Sessions" where she invited groups of 89 of her biggest fans to each of her homes around the country and one in her hotel in London where she got to know them personally and played her entire album for them live months before it was released? She scoured social media secretly looking for dedicated fans that had never met her and had them flown to her house. She even baked them cookies. #jeally

She's relatable. She writes about stuff I understand and stuff I've been through. And while breakups and relationships tend to be her go-to material, I still feel like none of her songs sound old or like they've been done before. She also happens to be friends with some of my favorite female superstar celebrities like Lena Dunham, Ella Yelich-O'Connor (Lorde), Emma Stone, Amanda Seyfried, and Ingrid Michaelson. They are all independent, strong women I respect deeply, who are also doing incredible things.

I understand that Taylor is not everyone's cup of tea, but you have to admit that... well, girl can write a hook.

Even if you don't enjoy her insanely catchy songs, I feel that she at least deserves respect as an incredibly skilled artist. She knows exactly what she's doing when it comes to the music business and the kind of brilliance and calculation that she displays when it comes to crafting her songs is somewhat unheard of nowadays - at least for pop music. One thing is for sure, she's created one hell of a brand.

All I know is, if she keeps writing, I'll keep listening. And I don't care who knows it.

If I had to plan my wedding again...

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

A few weeks ago, I read a post by Helene from Helene in Between titled "If I Had To Plan My Wedding Again" and before I even clicked on the link, I felt like I already had a lot to say about the topic. I wanted to write my own version of the post, so here goes... Thanks for the idea Helene!

First of all, let me say this: our wedding day was one of the absolute happiest days of my life. We got everything we wanted and then some and could not have been more blessed to have everyone there to celebrate with us. Our focus for that day was not on creating a big show or having the most incredible food or playing the best music to keep people dancing until their legs fell off. Instead, we wanted the day to be focused around our guests and the union of two families. We wanted a casual and relaxed environment that didn't force everyone to sit in the same room for five hours where dancing was the only activity. We wanted everyone (vendors included) to have a good time and really feel like they were a part of our celebration whether they had known us for twenty years or they had known us for five minutes. Based on the comments from our attendees I'd like to say we achieved our goal.

Here comes the but...

While our day was absolutely incredible and appeared to be totally "easy and breezy," it did not come about miraculously without a mountain of stress and a TON of tears.

Now, it's possible that this was amplified by the fact that Mike and I were going through a lot of transition at the time and this added to the pressure and chaos of planning such a big event. We were house hunting, trying to organize multiple budgets, managing job changes, moving, and trying keep everyone happy in the process. But I do honestly believe that our wedding day could have been planned and organized with fewer breakdowns had we done a few things differently.

I know the minute every bride slips on that sparkly ring, she thinks to herself, "There's no way wedding planning has to be as stressful as everyone makes it seem. This is going to be a fun process and I won't let any of the drama get in my way of planning the perfect day." At least that's what I thought to myself the day Mike proposed. It's just not the truth.

Everyone wants their day to be perfect but no matter how many hours you spend slaving away over colors, centerpieces, schedules, and seating charts, there are always bound to be a few bumps in the road.

So here are a few things that I would do differently if I could press rewind...

1. Sit down and define a budget with everyone that wants to be a part of the wedding. It's much more helpful to have an exact number in your head when you start looking at venues, caterers, dresses, and vendors. It's tough to get an idea of what you can afford when you don't have a clear picture of how much money you're working with from the start.

2. ENLIST THE HELP OF FRIENDS AND FAMILY! I did not do this NEARLY as much as I should have. I'm a control freak - it's no secret. I tend to think that I can handle everything on my own because I like to have the final say. I feel the need to know what's going on with every step of the process so that nothing goes wrong. While this seems like a nice idea, weddings are a lot of work and virtually impossible for one person to plan. There is a lot to keep track of and you simply cannot do it all on your own. Take advantage of those offering to chip in! You won't regret it!

3. Choose your wedding party very carefully. You want people beside you that are going to have your best interest at heart and not try to push their own agenda or shift the focus to themselves. You don't need that kind of drama and that's all I'm going to say about that.

4. Possibly enlist the help of a wedding planner or coordinator - or find a friend that can act as one for you. There's a good chance that if I could do it all over again, I would have at least investigated the costs of a wedding or event planner. It's nice to have someone that allows you to choose how involved you want to be in the process and takes away the responsibilities you don't want to deal with. From what I've seen, the couples I know that have used a wedding planner (or even just a team of creative friends) to keep them on track have had a much more enjoyable planning process overall. Having someone who coordinates everything for you takes a lot of weight off of your shoulders. While it may cost a little more in the end, it may be worth the investment.

5. NO ONE WILL CARE IF THE FONT ON YOUR FAVORS MATCHES THE FONT ON YOUR INVITATIONS. Or if the color of your linens is the exact same shade as the bridesmaids dresses. Or if your hair looks funny in that one engagement photo your mom chose to frame for the guest book table. Or any of those other ridiculous details that you spend weeks and months stressing over. All people will remember when it's all said and done is the happy bride and groom and how much fun they had celebrating your love. So, don't sweat the small stuff. (Seriously, don't.)

6. Things will go wrong. Learn to accept it and breathe through it. Vendors you love may accidentally double book you and cancel, your dream venue may close shop, your florist may suddenly stop contacting you a month before your wedding, your photographer may lose half of your photos - something (or sometimes multiple things) will get screwed up and cause you to panic. I wish I could say that this wasn't true but I have never met a bride that hasn't gone through something like this. The key is learning to roll with the punches and understanding that you have no control over these things. Just remember to focus on why you are getting married in the first place and that it (probably) won't matter even a year from now.

Is there anything you would do differently from your wedding? Or, if you're not married, is there any advice you would give to new brides-to-be? I'd love to know! Feel free to share in the comments below!

Odds and Ends

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Sigh... November already?

Seriously, guys, where did this year go? I mean I honestly feel like we were just celebrating Easter last week and now I see Christmas stuff everywhere! I don't think I'll ever catch up. I might as well just break out my New Year's party hat and pop open a bottle of bubbly now, since I know 2015 will be here before we know it. They say life speeds up as you get older but man, they weren't kidding. I can't imagine what it's going to be like when we have kids!

Just a warning, this post is going to be filled with a bunch of randomness since that's all that's going on in my brain lately. Here are a few updates on what we've been up to...

We had a really good time dressing up this year for Halloween. We went as ninja turtles with a couple of our good friends and had a ton of fun running around Federal Hill with everyone else for the night. We made sure to stop off for a giant pizza - something I think the turtles would totally appreciate.

I finally purchased a few (clearance) mums and gourds to decorate the front porch. It's so sad that I didn't get around to it until the first week of November, but hey, better late than never right? It was funny though because by the time I finally felt like decorating, I couldn't find fall decor ANYWHERE. I had to drive around to five different places looking for mums and gourds. Thanksgiving is still more than three weeks away but I swear, the day after Halloween, it's like everything fall-related just evaporates into thin air. Fortunately, our local natural food store had a bunch of stuff on clearance so I grabbed a few things there. The lady at the checkout also told me that the gourds I bought were organic and great for baking. She even gave me some recipes to try with them when I pull them off the porch. I can't wait to give them a go! Yay for holiday spirit!

I've been trying desperately to get back on the bandwagon when it comes to decorating the house and I may have gone a little crazy on my last trip to Target. I bought a couple of welcome mats for the porch, some new sheets, candles, and a bunch of stuff for the upcoming holiday. We also finally purchased some curtains for our living room and hung a few pictures too. The pillows I got were on clearance and I just love the gold pattern on the big one. There were a few sparkly gold Christmas ones there too that I think would go really well with the room. So, to keep up with my track record, I figure I'll wait until January to purchase them. Ha!

Considering the fact that this is what our living room looked like when we first bought the house, I'd say we've come a pretty long way! I just had to pull out an old photo - it's amazing to see the transformation!

Speaking of Target, have you heard of Target Cartwheel? I am obsessed and I wish I had known about it sooner! I wouldn't be surprised if I was really late to the game on this one, too, though. For those that don't know, it's an app that you can download specifically for Target. It has all kinds of coupons available for you to use when you shop and you can add up to 10 of them in one trip. When you're ready to check out, the app creates one big barcode at the end for the cashier to scan and that applies all your discounts. The best part? You don't necessarily have to spend time scrolling through to see if there are coupons for what you want to buy. As I was adding things to my cart, I would scan the barcode on my item and it would search for available coupons! I got an extra 20% off on my sheets just for using it! Overall, I think I saved almost $20 and for anyone who is a regular Target addict shopper, you know what a great deal that is!

Also, Starbucks red cups are back! I'm sure you've probably noticed this already, but I still thought it was worth mentioning for those who have been living under a rock for the last month like me. I've gotten myself hooked (or re-hooked) on a new/old non-coffee favorite of mine. You see, when Starbucks first came to our area way way waaaay back in the day, my mom and I drove out one night to see what all the hype was about. But since my mom likes to drink black coffee for the most part and I was too young to start drinking coffee (or at least to start liking coffee) we ordered what they used to call a "Vanilla Creme." It's literally just steamed milk with vanilla syrup and whipped cream, but it was divine. For three years, that's all I ordered. Last week, I went up to the counter and described the drink to the barista and she happily informed me that they actually still make them. They're technically for kids, but they're now called "Vanilla Steamers." So I ordered one and fell in love all over again. If you're looking for something to warm you up this winter but don't want coffee, I highly recommend trying one!

Okay, I think that's enough babble for now. Have a wonderful Thursday!

One Lovely Blog Award

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

A couple of weeks ago I was nominated by Andrea from Each Lovely Thing for the One Lovely Blog Award. She is absolutely one of the sweetest bloggers out there and while I've only been following her for a short time, her blog is a must read! Thank you so much for the nomination, Andrea!
This blog award is a little bit different from the ones I've done in the past and that makes me a happy girl. I like changing things up! Instead of asking and answering a bunch of questions, you get to post 7 facts about yourself and then nominate a bunch of other lovely bloggers to post seven awesome facts about themselves! Fun, right? I think so! And a great way to get to know other bloggers!

Here are seven little known facts about yours truly:

1. Despite my love for science, I have secretly always wanted to be a chef! I feel like it's a lot like science but you get much tastier results! I'd love to take cooking classes one day.

2. Sloths are my everything. I'm more than just a little obsessed. I'll probably die the day I get to meet one.

3. I'm a sucker for old, classic films. I could watch actors like Gene Kelly, Audrey Hepburn, Cary Grant, Fred Astaire, James Stewart, Lauren Bacall, and Ingrid Bergman forever. Rainy days were just made for cozy blankets, hot cups of coffee, and Hollywood classics.

4. I have an unhealthy obsession with Gilmore Girls. When they finally released the entire series on Netflix, I laughed a little when everyone went nuts and then felt a little embarrassed because I've owned all seven seasons since practically the beginning of forever and I literally watch them every night before bed. What can I say? Lorelai is my spirit animal.

5. My favorite color is teal and I would probably paint our entire house that color if Mike would let me.

6. There is not a single food in the entire world that I dislike or won't try, with one exception: figs. I absolutely cannot stand the vile little things. I don't know what it is but I tried them once at a really fancy restaurant and I will never go near them again.

7. I'm not a morning person OR a night owl. So I guess that would just make me, what, a day person? When I was younger, I used to love staying up late and sleeping in but as I've gotten older, I've started dozing off before 10:00pm! And don't even try to speak to me before 10:00am either. I've pretty much got a 12 hour window where I'm a happy camper and the rest, I'm basically a zombie.

And my nominees are...

1. Alex @ Ali Rose
2. Melissa @ When The Stars Aligned
3. Megan @ Soup of the Day
4. Jenn @ Making a Life
5. Macy @ To Travel & Beyond

Be sure to post the award logo, too!


Wednesday, October 29, 2014

“I’m so glad I live in a world where there are Octobers.” - Anne of Green Gables

This quote has been floating around in my mind lately.

October. The air is crisper, the leaves are falling, and life is shifting gears. With all of the hustle and bustle of the season, there's so much change swirling around.

People are decorating their porches with bright orange pumpkins, bales of hay, and beautiful blossoming mums. Pretty photos of carefully decorated tables, spiced lattes, bonfires, and cozy boots are popping up on every page. Everyone is busy with something. Preparing and baking and readying their homes to welcome guests this season. Everyone seems to be taking full advantage of the spirit of autumn, trying to make the most of the daylight while we've still got it.

And me? Well, I'm just sort of taking it all in. I haven't carved a single pumpkin or raked a single leaf. I haven't decorated my porch or sipped any cider or done much of anything at all, actually. I'm just sort of stuck.

October is usually a time when I feel most alive. Every year, when the summer heat gives way to the cooler mornings and evenings, I feel my soul awaken. I'm typically moved by the change of pace that autumn brings, but not this year.

This year I'm standing still. When everything around me is in transition, all I can bring myself to do is watch. Day in and day out I sit quietly, observing. Reflecting. Grieving. Trying to decide what Octobers mean to me now. I'm still reeling from loss, trying to pick up the pieces, and carry on like the rest of the world. But, no matter how hard I try to enjoy the normal things, the elements that make October beautiful, I can't see past how very different this October feels. How much this October has changed me. How much this October has changed all the future Octobers.

I'm still very glad to live in a world where there are Octobers, but it's going to take some time to adjust to this new reality.

Picking up the pieces

Friday, October 24, 2014

On Sunday, October 12th, I watched my grandfather take his last breath. We were all there with him. Talking to him, holding his hands, trying to hold back the tears, joking and laughing and storytelling like he would've wanted us to, then letting the tears fall anyway when we finally realized he was truly gone.

He was diagnosed with colon cancer back in January and despite agressive chemo treatments over the last few months, the cancer spread and quickly took over his body. When we got the call Sunday morning from my Aunt Jeanie and my Grandmom, we all scrambled to get up to the hospital in Pittsburgh to be with him as he passed.

He had always said that if things ever got so bad with his health, and his body was failing him, that he didn't want to die in the hospital. Instead, he wanted to buy a giant tub of butter pecan ice cream and climb to the top of the mountain near his home and pass on. While we couldn't give him the mountain in his final hours, we made sure he got his ice cream.

It's difficult for me to try to describe the kind of man my Grandad was because he had lived such an incredibly full life that a single post would simply not do him justice.

He was one of the first to hold me when I was born and from that day on, I adored him just as much as he loved me. He taught me so much in the years I knew him. He showed me so many new places, helped me to appreciate history, and develop a strong love for learning. He was a brilliant storyteller, full of knowledge and life experiences, and I never got tired of listening to him. When Mike first met him, he told me the same thing - that he could sit and talk with him for hours just absorbing everything he had to share.

While some describe him to be sort of gruff and stubborn (which he probably was from the stories I've heard of his youth) I have only known him to be kind and gentle. To me, he was the man with the big warm belly who gave the best hugs. The one who spoke with a slight back country drawl and would do anything for his family. He loved peanut butter and chocolate and books about war and airplanes. He loved to sit and watch the history channel adding in personal anecdotes from time to time if they were running a program about something he had experienced. His second favorite channel was the weather channel - something I still laugh about to this day. He could fall asleep anywhere at the drop of a hat, but the minute you said his name, he would answer like he had never dozed off in the first place. He had a strong love for his tiny hometown in the valleys of the Allegheny mountains and even though he had lived many places around the world, he always came back to his roots.

Everyone who knew him would say that he was a man of strength and grit. He was a survivor who weathered many storms both literal and metaphorical. He had quite literally traveled the world, seen more places, and had more adventures than anyone I've ever known. And through it all, he never lost his passion for life. He was a man who knew exactly what he wanted and made darn sure he got it.

What I loved most about him was his wisdom. He was a teacher who loved to share his knowledge. And, boy, did he have a lot to share. Aside from all of his travels and experiences, he was a man who loved to work with his hands and had many skills. He love to build things like cars and motorcycles and even planes. I remember when I was younger, he and I spent some time together when my parents were away and he took me out to watch him fly. He showed me all the different parts of his plane, how it all worked, and explained how he had built ones like it.

That was Mike's favorite part about our last visit to PA - checking out his shop where he was building his plane.

He was a very special man to many people and we all miss him so much. The holidays this year will be especially tough without him. There's a big hole in our family now and it's going to take time to heal from this loss.

While I'm still greiving every day and I will be for a long time, I am glad he's no longer suffering. He's finally at peace and I take comfort in knowing he's never far away either... after all, he'll always be up there in the sky, flying his planes and blasting good old Hank Snow, watching over us all.

Love and miss you Grandad.

In loving memory of Robert Dale Lane
April 17, 1938 - October 12, 2014

Halloween Memories - Blogtober Day 9

Friday, October 10, 2014

For me, Halloween is one of those holidays that has always been either really, really good or really, really bad. Never in between.

When I was little all of my Halloween memories were good. I mean, it can't get any better than having an entire night devoted to bagging a ton of free candy. My friends and I would walk from house to house for hours, carrying pillow cases, doing our best to fill them up as high as we could. Fortunately, we lived in a really big neighborhood so we could hit lots of homes in a relatively short period of time. My childhood best friend, Erika, her little brother Garrett and I would stay out as late as our dads would let us trying to get every last piece of candy from every last house with a light on. The best was toward the end of the night when people would give us all of the candy they had left, emptying out their candy bowls, so that they could go to bed. That's when we would score some of the best stuff. It really was all about the candy.

That's me there in the indian costume.
This was in kindergarten when our parents would go all out to dress us up.

This was the year I was an American Girl (I think I wanted to be Felicity?) with my best friend Erika.
Our moms actually made those dresses!

Probably one of my all-time favorite costumes. This was in middle school and I actually didn't have a costume to go trick-or-treating so my dad and I went into his closet and pulled out a bunch of his most mismatched clothes to make me a "nerd" costume. I think I pulled it off pretty well even without the clothes.

When I got to college, my Halloween experiences began to go downhill. While they created lots of lasting memories, and most of them started out really, really good they almost all eventually ended really, really badly. The reason for the highs and lows can mostly be blamed on alcohol.

One year, a group of my friends and I went out to Fells Point in Baltimore to join the massive crowds that flooded the streets around the bars during their Halloween Pub Crawl. We dressed up as the characters from "Scrubs" and drank pretty heavily at their apartment beforehand. This was probably where the night should have ended. We should have just thrown a Halloween party at their apartment and skipped the cab downtown. But this was college, there was no stopping us. We were determined to continue the fun. When we got downtown, we spent an hour or so walking around checking out all of the awesome costumes, taking drunk pictures with strangers like we knew them, and just trying to have a good time. Then out of nowhere, this random girl in a superwoman costume ran up to one of our guy friends sobbing and threw herself into his arms. Being the compassionate drunk person that I am, I decided to see what was wrong and try to console her. BAD MOVE. The second I tapped her on the shoulder asking her what was wrong, she flung her head back, screamed at me calling me a very profane name that I will never repeat, and then punched me square in the jaw. Between the box of Franzia I had consumed and superwoman's mean right hook, I was down for the count. I came to in an ambulence surrounded by medics. They checked out my jaw, asked if I wanted to go to the hospital - of course I said no - and then we were on our way. Unfortunately, getting punched in the face wasn't the worst part. It hurt like hell the next day but as it turns out, when she punched me, she managed to hit me hard enough to tear a section of my gums which got infected and I spent two weeks on antibiotics after that. Woo... college is fun.

(And no, I never told my parents this story - sorry mom and dad... at least I turned out alright!)

The Halloween that takes the crazy cake though most definitely has to be in 2010 during my senior year in college the fall after I met Mike. We had a Halloween party at our apartment on campus. Mike went as Captain Morgan with his bottle of 100 proof Captain Morgan and I as Ke$ha with my toothbrush and bottle of Jack Daniels. (Get it?)

See all that liquor behind us? I'll let you guess how that one turned out.

Helene in Between Blogtober
I know I'm a day behind but I'll be back on track tomorrow! Happy Friday!

Best and Worst Vacations - Blog Challenge Day 7

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Today's challenge: Best/Worst vacations.

To be totally honest, the worst vacation I ever took is not something that I can comfortably blog about since too many friends and family read my posts. Even if no one I knew read my blog, I still don't think I would be comfortable talking about it since it was the most miserable trip I've ever been on. Who wants to relive all that negativity?

To avoid being totally cryptic, this awful vacation involved people who were not my family members (most of whom I had met only an hour before our flight out of Maryland) and they were by far the loudest, most immature, rude, and obnoxious people I've ever met in my entire life. They barely knew me and somehow I ended up getting dragged into their drama for a full 8 days and 7 nights. Now, it wasn't all bad, since I ended up meeting a couple of cool people, and there were a few (fleeting) moments of fun, but I would be lying if I didn't say that it was a pretty intense emotional rollercoaster. Thank god there was booze.

So instead of discussing the awful details of that trip, I figured I would instead share some photos and memories from two of my all-time favorites.

Number one? Our honeymoon! What newlywed didn't love their honeymoon? Okay, I'm sure there's a few, but for us, it was one of the best trips we have ever taken. Looking back at the photos now, I'm extremely jealous of myself. I wish I could be back there floating in the Caribbean instead of sitting at this desk.

For our honeymoon we took a week-long cruise on Royal Caribbean out of Port Canaveral to the Western Caribbean.

We sailed to Labadee, Grand Cayman, Jamaica, and Mexico. We relaxed on all the beaches, ate incredible food, drank way too many cocktails, danced our tails off, and had a genuinely wonderful time.

Some of the highlights were ziplining in Labadee, jet-skiing and snorkeling in Grand Cayman, getting massages at the on-board spa, going to piano bars and comedy clubs with our other newlywed friends every night, and playing literally every single trivia game the ship offered. We lost every time, but god it was fun. If you've never been on a cruise, I highly, highly recommend checking it out. You won't regret it.

The second vacation that I'm going to share today has since become the highlight of my year. This past May we had the opportunity to stay in a treehouse (the Burl) at Treehouse Point in Washington State.

We spent a week there hiking and exploring every mountain we could find, checking out the city of Seattle, drinking tons of local wine and coffee, eating more oysters than we could count, and visiting with our awesome family.



It was one of those trips that is actually kind of hard to describe to people since we did and saw so many things. We took advantage of every moment and somehow, didn't end up exhausted in the end. It was actually rejuvenating and incredibly relaxing. I think just having time together exploring a place that neither of us had ever seen was what made it so great. And, come on, what better city to explore than Seattle?

To read the full posts with links and details, click here for Treehouse Point and here for our Seattle adventure.