Feeling 16 again

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

For quite a few years now, (almost 9 to be exact) I have been trying to learn how to drive a manual vehicle. I have had a handful of different people try to teach me and for some reason it never stuck. So when I asked Mike to help me learn, I was determined to stay with it until I could actually drive out in normal traffic.

Over the last few weeks, we've been practicing in empty parking lots around our area and for the very first time on Saturday I drove all the way to my parents house ON THE REAL ROAD!!

I pretty much danced and giggled in excitement the entire way there and Mike thought I was crazy but I didn't care. I am so happy to be able to say that I can finally drive stick and check it off my 101 list!

#77 - Learn to drive stick.

YAYYY!! Happy Tuesday ya'll!

A Moment on A Monday

Monday, January 27, 2014

"We are tied to the ocean. And when we go back to the sea, whether it is to sail or to watch - we are going back from whence we came."
-John F. Kennedy

On the Ocean by Guster on Grooveshark

Homemade Salad Dressing

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

We got hit with a bit of a snow storm yesterday and I've been off work for a couple of days. We ended up with a good six inches on the ground. Of course now, it's all turning to ice but it still looks pretty!

Mike stayed home from work yesterday and we got a few little projects done around the house. It feels good to be making some progress with some of the things we've been putting off. We hung some pictures in the dining room and filled our new buffet cabinet with our china. We also ordered a turntable and have been collecting some vinyl records so I can't wait to start being able to play them! It is scheduled to arrive today but with the snow, I'm not sure if it will. Fingers crossed!

I figured I would also take some time today to try out a couple new salad dressing recipes I've found recently. We typically make our own but I've been dying to try a few new kinds to give us some variety. We mostly make a simple balsamic vinaigrette and a dijon vinaigrette. Mike had asked for Ranch and I really love Sesame Ginger so those are the two that I've picked for today. It's nice to have fresh dressing and to know each of the ingredients that go into making them. I was shocked when I learned how many nasty chemicals and preservatives there are in the store-bought dressings. I feel much better knowing that I can enjoy the same taste but with fresh, whole, and organic ingredients. Enjoy!


Sesame Ginger Dressing

1/4 cup soy sauce
1 tbsp red wine vinegar
1/3 cup rice vinegar
2 tbsp fresh ginger, minced or grated
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 tbsp honey
1/4 tsp pepper
1 tbsp sesame oil (can add another tablespoon for more sesame flavor if you prefer)
3/4 cup olive oil

Add all ingredients to a mason jar fitted with an airtight lid (or whatever container you have with a lid).  Shake vigorously until well combined.  Store in the refrigerator.

Ranch Dressing

5 tablespoons buttermilk
3 tablespoons plain Greek yogurt
1/4 teaspoon onion powder
1/4 teaspoon dried dill
1/2 teaspoon dried parsley
1/2 teaspoon dried chives
1/2 teaspoon salt
Pepper to taste

Using a whisk, mix all ingredients together in a bowl until smooth and evenly blended. Store in airtight container in the refrigerator.

Thinking Spring

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Now that Christmas has come and gone and we have said goodbye to 2013 and hello to a brand new year, I'm starting to get a little impatient.

You see, I have this problem every year where once New Years passes, I am immediately sick of winter and ready for the warm weather to come back. During the holidays, the freezing cold and snowy weather is perfectly fine. To me, Christmas wouldn't feel right without it. But once we get past all of that, it absolutely depresses me to think that we still have roughly three whole months of sloppy, grey, dreary winter left. The only time I'm okay with this weather is if we get a good snow storm out of it, but that probably happens maybe once every few years if at all. They said we are in for a good winter this year, meaning lots of snow, so if that's the case, I'll be alright, but if not, you can bet I'll have one bad case of cabin fever by the time April rolls around.

In the mean time, I thought it might be fun to take advantage of the all the post-holiday sales and start gathering some fun things for when we start working in our yard this spring. We are planning to landscape the front and back yards a little and try to make them a fun place to kick back with our friends and family. We are looking to add a garden, plant a couple of trees, and even build a little firepit! I was more than a little excited with this recent purchase though, because I also got to cross something off my 101 list in the process!

#6 - Buy a hammock.


I am looking forward to putting this baby to use back by the pine trees we have along our fence. I am so tempted to go hang it out there now, grab some mittens, a blanket, a mug of hot chocolate, and snooze away! Who cares that it won't get above 45 degrees all week? Ha!

Book Review: I Am Malala

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Book #8 - I Am Malala by Malala Yousafzai
[image source: Goodreads]

What is there to say about this book other than 1. You should get your hands on a copy as soon as possible and 2. When will she write another one?

This is the incredible story of a girl named Malala who was shot by the Taliban for fearlessly standing up for her beliefs. Her courageous journey is as much heart-breaking as it is inspiring. The amount of violence that she has experienced in her mere sixteen years of life is more than anyone should have to endure in a lifetime, yet she continues to act and speak with the grace, patience, and determination of someone who has only heard of such evil.

Not only was her story inspiring, but it was also informative. It was amazing to me to read about events like 9/11, the transfer of power from President Bush to President Obama, and Bin Laden’s death from someone living in the Middle East under the rule of a seriously corrupt and virtually useless government. To hear about those events and how her country was affected, what role they played, and how they responded was astonishing. My eyes were opened to an entirely different world and way of life. I learned things about Arab culture that I never before understood.

I am so grateful for all of the work that Malala has done thus far. She is an immensely brave, inspiring, and influential young lady and I am confident that we will see big things from her in the future.

Summary (source)
I come from a country that was created at midnight. When I almost died it was just after midday.

When the Taliban took control of the Swat Valley in Pakistan, one girl spoke out. Malala Yousafzai refused to be silenced and fought for her right to an education.

On Tuesday, October 9, 2012, when she was fifteen, she almost paid the ultimate price. She was shot in the head at point-blank range while riding the bus home from school, and few expected her to survive.

Instead, Malala's miraculous recovery has taken her on an extraordinary journey from a remote valley in northern Pakistan to the halls of the United Nations in New York. At sixteen, she has become a global symbol of peaceful protest and the youngest nominee ever for the Nobel Peace Prize.

I Am Malala is the remarkable tale of a family uprooted by global terrorism, of the fight for girls' education, of a father who, himself a school owner, championed and encouraged his daughter to write and attend school, and of brave parents who have a fierce love for their daughter in a society that prizes sons.

I Am Malala will make you believe in the power of one person's voice to inspire change in the world.

My Review
What I Loved
1. This book helped me to appreciate so many things about my life that I take for granted. I realized how incredibly lucky I am to have been born in the United States and to have so many basic freedoms that others do not. I don’t need a man to tell me what I can and cannot wear. I’m not required to have a male relative escort me everywhere I go in public.  I can speak about whatever I want, whenever I want, and I don’t have to worry about anyone targeting me for it. Malala grew up in a country where those basic rights for women did not exist. Instead she "was a girl in a land where rifles are fired in celebration of a son, while daughters are hidden away behind a curtain, their role in life simply to prepare food and give birth to children."

2. There was so much to learn! In high school, I took a World Religions class where we learned about Islam but I really didn’t come to understand all that much about the religion and culture behind it until I read this book. All of the history, politics, traditions, words, phrases, and customs were so new to me and I believe I now have a much greater understanding about what Islam is really all about.

3. I loved how wise Malala proves herself to be, even at such a young age. She truly is wise beyond her years. She writes: “I used to think that the Talib would come, and he would just kill me. But then I said, ‘If he comes, what would you do Malala?’ then I would reply to myself, ‘Malala, just take a shoe and hit him.’ But then I said, ‘If you hit a Talib with your shoe, then there would be no difference between you and the Talib. You must not treat others with cruelty and that much harshly, you must fight others but through peace and through dialogue and through education.’ Then I said I will tell him how important education is and that ‘I even want education for your children as well.’ And I will tell him, ‘That’s what I want to tell you, now do what you want."

4. Her words are so immensely inspiring. There is no way you can’t sit back after reading this book and pretend like her story and her life hasn’t affected you in some way. She is bright, strong, intelligent, well-spoken, gentle, and stubborn all at the same time. Her determination to bring peace and education to the children of the world is steadfast and I sincerely believe that she is destined to become a historic leader.

What I Didn't Love
1. The story was a bit choppy at times. The personal, historical, and political accounts kind of all mixed together which made it a little hard to follow. I got the overall timeline but some of the stories were difficult to place in relation to the other events going on around them.

2. Maybe it was just because it was a different culture and the names were so foreign to me, but I pretty much gave up on trying to differentiate who was who about half way through the book. There were so many leaders and authorities and dictators and historical figures given, it was tough for me to keep track of everyone. I tried to keep using the timeline and glossary in the back of the book but it definitely slowed me down by having to keep flipping pages back and forth.

3. It’s amazing to me how many of the Pakistani people despise her and ridicule her for what she’s done. A young girl standing up for peace and education in my mind should be supported not condemned, especially when she has been attacked by extremists and has clearly done nothing wrong. And when those same groups are still out to kill her. This is not necessarily something I didn’t love about the book but it’s for sure something I don’t love about the reality of her situation.

5 out of 5 stars

A Moment on A Monday

Monday, January 13, 2014

"Sometimes you meet someone, and it’s so clear, immediately, that the two of you, on some level, belong together; as lovers, as friends, as family, or as something entirely different. You just work, whether you’re in love, creating things together, foxhole buddies or partners in crime. It’s so clear, right off the bat, that this is what you’re supposed to be doing, that this is what you’re for. You meet these people throughout your life, out of nowhere, under the strangest of circumstances, and they help you make a life. I don’t know if that makes me believe in coincidence, fate, or sheer blind luck, but it definitely makes me believe in something."

Make You Feel My Love by Adele on Grooveshark

Easy Holiday Sangria

Thursday, January 9, 2014

Today I thought I'd share a little sangria recipe that I tried (and loved) over the holidays.

If there's one thing you should know about me, it's that I love a good glass of wine. Over the last few years I've grown into quite the wine fanatic and it has quickly become my drink of choice no matter where I am. Parties, bars, clubs, relaxing in my jammies at home - vino is my go-to. Red or white, dry or sweet - it doesn't matter I seem to love them all.

Add a little fruit, fizz, and spice? I'M SO THERE.


Easy Holiday Sangria

1 pomegranate, seeded
1 cup fresh cranberries
2 pears
1/2 cup apple vodka or apple brandy (optional)
2 small apples - 1 red, 1 green
1 1/2 bottles red wine (Cabernet or Red Zinfandel work well)
2 cups ginger ale
1-inch chunk fresh ginger, peeled and thinly sliced
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1 large pitcher/medium bowl (for serving)

Core the apple and pear, and chop into bite-sized pieces. If using the apple vodka or brandy: Soak apple chunks in vodka or brandy for up to a few hours for an extra-boozy treat!

Combine the pear, apple (soaked or not), and cranberries in the pitcher or bowl and stir. Add pomegranate seeds, ginger chunks, and cinnamon on top. Add wine, and stir to combine.

If you have time, let sit for 2-3 hours. Just before serving, add the ginger ale and stir gently to distribute. To serve, scoop out some fruit into each cup before filling. Enjoy!

Hello, 2014!

Tuesday, January 7, 2014


Over the last week, I've been reading through all kinds of posts on New Years resolutions and goals for 2014 and I've been pondering what changes I'd like to make in my own life in the new year.

I decided to dig up my list of resolutions from last year to see how many of them I accomplished and sadly, not a single one had been checked off. There were a few that I had made good strides toward accomplishing but my progess fell apart somewhere along the way. One thing is for sure, I was incredibly ambitious, listing nearly 20 different goals. I realize now that this was likely part of the problem. Too many goals.

As a natural Type-A list-maker, I also have a tendency to be a bit of a perfectionist. I often have pretty high (and somewhat unrealistic) expectations of myself when it comes to what I can get done. I end up juggling a million different things and get really frustrated when I can't balance them all perfectly.

So this year, instead of making a laundry list of things I want to change about myself or my house or my body, I've decided to put my energy into a single goal. That way, I don't overload myself with a to-do list and end up getting so overwhelmed that I drop it all by February.

My mantra for 2014 is simply this: Learn to appreciate what I have by doing more of what I love.

This year, I want to concentrate on appreciating the wonderful things I already have in my life instead of trying to change them.

I want to focus on my family, focus on my friends, on my relationships, and the people that mean the world to me. In order to do that, I want to do more with them. Do more of what I love with them. That means, more home-cooked meals, more dinner parties, more family game nights, more phone calls to distant relatives, and more time spent with them. I want to learn more from those closest to me, get to know their hearts, and share more experiences together.

I want to make our little home into a place that people feel comfortable and welcome. I want to add our personal stamp and create a space filled with love and memories. We are so lucky to have a place to call our own. I want to take advantage of the time we have here and learn to love every square inch of it.

I want to erase the pressures of perfectionism and incorporate more of the good stuff into my life. I don't want to get hung up on the small, insignificant details of things and end up completely missing the moment. It doesn't matter how many game nights we host or how many times I pick up the phone to chat, it just matters that we do it more.

I want more of the simple things I love and I want to be grateful for all that God has given me.

More love, less stress. More satisfaction, less coveting. More appreciating, less comparing.

Christmas Re-cap

Monday, January 6, 2014

I know I'm way behind on this but I still feel the need to post a couple of pictures from our Christmas festivities. After uploading everything that was on my camera, I realized that I didn't take too many photos so I apologize for the lack of material. We had an incredibly low-key holiday which probably had something to do with it. We tried to just sit back, relax, and enjoy the company of our family. We went through all of our typical Christmas Eve traditions and then snuggled up back at our house to watch my favorite Christmas movie (the original) "How the Grinch Stole Christmas!"

When we woke up the next morning, I was so excited to jump out of bed and get our first Christmas in our new home started. I made an overnight French toast which was actually really tasty. Mike's family came up to our house this year so we celebrated with them in the morning and then went over to my parent's house that evening for a gift exchange and our traditional steak and lobster dinner. I literally crave this meal all year, so I was on cloud nine when we finally got to feast.

Overall, it was a beautiful Christmas and we thoroughly enjoyed how slow and easy it felt. I hope that all of our Christmases can be this simple for years to come. I hope everyone else had a fantastic holiday!

Anniversary Feature

Thursday, January 2, 2014

Today I am so incredibly excited to share that our anniversary session has been featured over on Heart Love Weddings!

Our incredible photographer, Natalie Franke, who I pretty much obsess about all the time, met up with us back at the end of August in one of our favorite parks to snap a few photos for our anniversary. She's been such an incredible joy to work with and her images are breathtaking. From our engagement, to our wedding, to our first anniversary, she's captured each milestone in our journey in such a beautiful way and we are so grateful for all she has done.

If you have a little time today and feel like checking out the feature, you can find the story here. The article is so beautifully written and means so much to us to hear that other people can truly see and feel the love that Mike and I share for one another.

What a lovely way to kick off the new year! 

Happy New Year! - 2014

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

I'm baaack! And gosh does it feel good to be blogging again!

I had an absolutely fantastic and much needed break relaxing with family and friends. Our holiday was simple but still special and most importantly - stress free. I'll do a little Christmas re-cap later in the week and share a few photos from all of the festivities over the holiday.

We rang in the new year last night with a big group of our family and friends and had a blast celebrating into the wee hours of the morning. Holidays are just so much more magical when you're surrounded by the people that you love. We had a wonderful dinner, played games, enjoyed a few cocktails, and even got a surprise fireworks show right in the back yard. I can already tell that 2014 is going to be a wonderful year, packed full of adventure, and I can't wait to experience it and blog about it all along the way.

Happy New Year everyone! Cheers!