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!