Thursday, January 26, 2012

Cotton


Apparently Cotton is the gift to give on your second wedding anniversary.  While Ryan and I promised we would not purchase any gifts, that doesn't mean I can't make him something!  Problem is, when I think of cotton, I think clothing, bedding, towels, pillows...all presents I'd love, but not quite screaming GUY to me and certainly not in my creative ability...  According to Ryan, all he wants is me in a cotton tank top and undies!  That's easy enough and he'll get it, but I really want to make him something as well. 

I am really hoping that someone has mastered this second anniversary cotton gift and has some great advice!  I need suggestions/guidance/HELP!!! 

Much love.

Spring in...January?

Imagine sixty degrees, a slight breeze, flowers budding and blooming, bird's chirping, blue skies for miles and puffy clouds...that pretty much sums up my last few days! I am a born and raised northerner in glorious shock.  Needless to say, I have been outside a ton...walking, seeding the lawn, turning the compost pile, and enjoying signs of spring. 

Here are some of the first signs of Spring here in Virginia...



My dad gave me these bulbs last fall and would be disappointed in my for forgetting to dig them up, but happy that they are starting to sprout! 

Watch is snow next week...

Much love.

Monday, January 23, 2012

A Welcomed Rainy Weekend

Isn't this face just irresistibly cute?!  Love Hawkeye!  He is the laziest male dog Lira takes laziest female dog I've ever seen, so having both of them together was very uneventful! 
Uneventful explains my entire weekend and it was glorious!  It rained on and off, wasn't too cold, but just cold enough to send a chill down your spine because of the dampness that hung in the air, and offered a wonderful excuse to stay in comfy clothing and read or watch football if you care about that stuff :) 

I am hooked on The Hunger Games series.  Yes, I know it isn't a challenging read, but since Wednesday afternoon I have read two books entirely and I am well into the third. That's what happens when the house is clean, you don't have a job, and it's raining outside!  Super exciting, I know!  (I'll write a review once I am done all of them, but so far, I highly recommend them to anyone looking for an exciting, easy read.)

A very successful Target trip, yoga, trip to Barnes & Noble, Mass and new friends made my weekend even better!  I love the feeling of a good deal and amazing new clothes and that's just what I got when I went to Target!  Two pairs of dress pants, a sweater, two shirts, a skirt, yoga pants, some Valentine's Day decorations, shoes, undershirts, sports bra and makeup for under $100!  Practically everything I purchased was 50-70% off!  I think I did very well!  

As for yoga...half moons and pyramids were hell for me.  I didn't feel it after I was done or the next morning, but while I was in the position, I was cursing my knees that hyper extend.  I am generally flexible, but those moves had it out for me this weekend.  Even with those moves, I love yoga and the lovely ladies that accompany me...Julia, Hannah and Heather, you all rock! 

Mass was very nice this weekend.  As some of you know, I can get very frustrated with priests when they force their opinions on me and when the topic of Abortion was mentioned during Father's homily, I immediately got tense.  To my great surprise, Father knocked it out of the ballpark!  He didn't turn it into a you're a horrible person if you have an abortion or you are killing a child or political debate.  Instead he spoke of the beauty of life, the ways individuals learn to make decisions and how our decisions impact those around us.  He told us to live by example and love everyone.  The more we love and care for others, the better the world will be.  If we are Christian, then we are forgiving; people make mistakes or regret decisions or not...regardless, as Christians, we need to be forgiving of all actions.  It was a touching homily and I felt blessed to hear it.  Thank you, Father Mario!

New friends are great, especially when they live across the street!  Since living in Virginia, I have met a ton of wonderful people and I am lucky to have added another great gal to my list of friends! 

Walks in the rain with little Lira and my love were plentiful!  Any excuse to wear my boots and I am all about it!  Gosh, they are great!


Ryan used coupons!!!  It was a proud moment! 
And they looked like twins aside from their difference in size of course!

I hope your weekend was wonderful!  Ryan is quite sad about the 49ers loss to the NY Giants, but that disappointment is nothing new to a Philadelphia fan. 

Oh and today I had an interview!  Please pray that I get a second one or the job!  Thank you in advance!

Much love.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Military Life

As I sit here with Lira on my lap waiting for an email, phone call, status change, anything to let me know that some company is potentially interested in employing me, I feel guilty and saddened.  If that is my only worry at the moment, I am in good shape.  I have very close friends and family that are deployed, adjusting to extreme weather conditions, thousands of miles away from family and friends, fighting for their marriages, struggling financially, hurt from the actions of others, and the list goes on. 

My heart and prayers go out to them all.

This week has left me praying in particular for military families.  The life of a military family is so different from the life of a nonmilitary family...at least from my perspective.  I wasn't raised military, but I am living military now and while it is not at all how I pictured my life...deployments, many lonely nights, nightmares, feeling like a single parent, holding down a house by myself knowing full well that if I can't do this we will suffer, waiting for emails and maybe a phone call...it's daily life for me and many others.  We have lots of joys too!  The reuniting is amazing, date nights are treasured, love letters, glances and dancing in the living room are musts to stay connected and feel the love.  Being a strong military spouse, makes you an even stronger individual.  

When Ryan deployed after we got married, I collapsed for a few days. (That's all I'd allow myself to do.)  Then I started working.  Something comes over you.  You know you have to be strong for yourself and for your spouse.  The last thing I wanted was for Ryan to have to worry about me.  I was fine.  I could do this.  I'd be there when he came home. End of story.

I hate to say this, but I feel that I have become less sensitive, tougher, almost meaner since marrying Ryan and becoming a military spouse.  It might just be an illusion and in fact I am stronger and more closed off because that is my coping mechanism.  I don't know, but I do know that I want to regain my true carefree, lover of all things mentality.  Life's  challenges mold the person you are.  I may have let me true character be affected too much by the struggles of the past 2 years.  I will make sure I regain my inner peace and love of life this year.  

We all have our own struggles, military or not, and they aren't fun in the least.  If we can overcome them, we are generally stronger for it.  I hope that whatever it is that you are struggling with at the moment is resolved and that you feel the comfort in the Lord.  Prayer is a beautiful.  It gets me through every single day of my life.

From the bottom of my heart, if you could please keep two special intentions in your prayers for me, I'll be forever grateful.  

If you'd like me to keep any special intentions for you, please let me know.  No details necessary, just the simple request.

Much love.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Life...

As soon as J-man got off the bus on Friday, we headed golfing!  I played really well...2 pars!!  Yay for me!  J-man played well, not his best round, but once he starting swinging hard and listening to Ryan's comments, he played much better.  We are both works in progress.  This is a fake swing, but I really liked the idea of this picture, so I made Ryan pose.

New Year Resolutions are made and quickly forgotten. Not this year, 2012 is different. I feel strong this year. My moods are strong which doesn't always bode well for those around me. My opinions are strong. My determination is strong. Frankly, my muscles are getting strong too! Thanks to yoga, dancing and medicine balls.

Dance more - check! Ryan and I had our second dance lesson and it was glorious! We both had much more fun and learned more technique. I caught a glimpse of our new and improved waltz posture and thought damn, we look good...almost like we actually know what we are doing! Go us! I received a bit more technique instruction...point my toes, pretend to dance with a book between my legs to avoid looking frog-like, keep my butt in, shoulders down and back. Overall, a good starting point for proper posture is to pretend you are zipping your jacket all the way up; this extends your spine and creates a long, beautiful posture to which you add the proper frame and leg extensions.

Read More - check! I read The Art of Racing in the Rain, am midway through The Namesake and just started reading The Hunger Games. I have the Kindle app on my iPhone and realized that I am able to borrow books from friends who have purchased kindle books! Genius! Thanks, Mel! I only have 14 days to read each borrowed book, so I am spending my spare time staring at my little iPhone because The Hunger Games are good...super easy to read, but good nonetheless.

She's my little reading companion!
Write More - check! Letters have been sent in addition to my thank you notes. There is something about new stationary that gets me in the writing mood! I've found that Marshalls has some great stationary for quite cheap in comparison to most stores. Also, I started keeping a journal. I don't write a lot, but I write enough. It's a little something that I hope to be a gift for Ryan and my children in the very distant future...




Still no job. I've been studying for my GMATs. Photography has been here and there; I seem to be getting a better grasp on my photo editing program which is nice. Walks have been part of my daily routine and this lovely lady is happy as a clam to accompany me!  The fresh air doesn't hurt one bit either.


Oh and big news in hubby's world.  The 49ers won this weekend!  We were able to enjoy a little free date time while J-man was at a birthday party!  I thought a BL Lime was a good choice...it brought feelings of summer and baseball back to me!

Speaking of baseball...J-man has tryouts for minor league in March, so we are practicing daily!  We discovered as a family that I, yes, the only girl in the house, have the best baseball technique!  My catching, throwing and fielding pretty much dominate the family.  J-man is lucky to have such a great coach except he prefers dad to coach him for real.

Good luck with your 2012 resolutions!!! Have a great week!

Much love.

Friday, January 13, 2012

Stuffed Peppers

**This is a twist to this recipe**
Ingredients
  • 1 - 1.3 pound ground turkey (I use a full standard pack of lean ground turkey)
  • 1 (1 ounce) package taco seasoning mix (I like to use HOT taco seasoning because we like a punch of flavor)
  • 1/3 cup water
  • 2 teaspoons chili powder
  • 1/3 cup chopped squash or zucchini
  • 1/4 cup chopped mushrooms
  • 1/4-1/2 cup chopped onions
  • 2 handfuls of spinach
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon garlic salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 2 (8 ounce) cans tomato sauce, divided
    • I make my own sauce and it goes something like this...
      • 2 tsp tomato paste
      • 2 garlic cloves
      • 10+ basil leaves
      • 2 large or 3 medium tomatoes
      • salt & pepper to taste
      • Blend together
  • 3 large red bell peppers
  • 6 Tbsp of cheese (colby/pepper jack, mozz, anything you like/have on hand)
Directions

1.Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.  Grease a 9x13-inch baking dish.

2.Place the ground beef into a skillet over medium heat, and brown the meat, breaking it apart into crumbles as it cooks, about 8 minutes. Drain excess fat. Stir in the taco seasoning, water, chili powder, veggies, salt, garlic salt, black pepper, and 1 cup of tomato sauce; mix until thoroughly combined. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to low, and simmer 20 minutes.

3.Meanwhile, cut the bell peppers in half lengthwise, and remove stems, membranes, cores, and seeds. Place a steamer insert into a large saucepan, and fill with water to just below the bottom of the steamer. Cover, and bring the water to a boil over high heat. Place the peppers into the steamer insert, cover the pan, and steam until just tender, 3 to 5 minutes. (This can also be done in a microwave for 3-5 minutes.  You want your peppers to still be firmish, but moist looking.

4.Place the steamed peppers into the prepared baking dish, and fill lightly with the meat filling. Press 1 tsp of cheese into the center of the filling in each pepper, and spoon the remaining can of tomato sauce over the peppers. Cover the dish with aluminum foil.

5.Bake in the preheated oven until the peppers are tender and the filling is hot, 25 to 30 minutes.

Enjoy!

Much love.

I've Got the Fever

the dancing fever!

If you read this post about my 2012 goals and resolutions, you already know that dancing is on that list.  My lovely husband helped me achieve my goal and a promise we made to each other before getting married by purchasing a Groupon for 3 dance lessons. 

**Side note: Upon saying "I Do" we also made two very specific promises.  I promised that I would learn to golf and Ryan promised that he would learn to dance.  These are two things that a)we individually feel passionate about and enjoy and b) that we can do until we are much older...unlike soccer or mountain climbing.**

Dancing is something I have never had any formal training in, but have done for years and can get by on the dance floor.  I know the basics for East Coast Swing, West Coast Swing, Two-Step, Waltz, can hold my own through a line dance, fast swing i.e. the Hustle, and in general know how to move to the music.  Thanks Mom and Dad!  My love for music and dancing are two gifts, other than the obvious ones, that I will carry through life and try to instill in my children. 

So, we show up to our local Arthur Murray Dance Studios and fall in love.  The instructors look like Dancing With the Stars professionals and apparently have the hook-up there. They were nice, easy going, yet very professional.  Ryan and I hear music counts differently in our heads and our instructor picked up on that immediately and started teaching us each in our own fashion.  Before we knew it, we were doing the basic box step, a little rumba, east coast swing with the rock step, and west coast swing with the one, two, three, and, four stepping on the "and"...it was awesome! 

I was very proud of Ryan because he was completely out of his comfort zone, but still went out there and gave it his all!  That's not easy to do.  Thanks Babe!  While I don't have any photos of us looking at our feet and thinking we look ok dancing, here are some photos of our instructors...
See the personality?!?!  I do and I love it! 
We had no idea that they were ranked nationally and internationally, but they are and we totally lucked out!  Ryan's even talking about continuing lessons past the first three weeks!  I am super excited!  If I am able to take any photos next week, or if I can snap any of us practicing in the living room, I will for sure! 

Oh how I missed dancing! 

Happy (hopefully long) Weekend!  We have some fun plans - golfing, bowling, yoga, a birthday party, maybe a day at the beach and of course, some football viewing.

Much love.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Lira

She's an emotional puppy. 
The groomers are not her friends.
If I could have taken a photo of her flattened to the ground on our way into the groomers, I would have, but comforting her was my number one priority.
She looks pretty...darn mad at me.
She won't even look at me.  Evil mama.
J-man's bus is coming!  Finally someone who doesn't take me to the groomers or vet and just plays and cuddles with me!
Mom...stop taking pictures of me.
 Ok, I'll pose for one more...
Not looking. I swear she was starting to give me attitude.  Lucky for me, I love this shot!
And because I am a total sucker for her cuteness, I gave her a pig ear.  In true Lira style, she snatched it and ran under the table to enjoy it!

***
I am learning to use my new photo editing program, Lightroom3.  Any pointers you have for me are more than welcome!

***
Ryan and I are taking dance lessons!  More to come on that tomorrow!  In a nutshell, I am stoked and so happy to be dancing again!
***

Much love.

Spreading the Word

Hello Friends!

This is not my typical post, but I feel called to spread the word about Down Syndrome and inparticular a special little girl whose mama is making big strides for all those with an extra chromosome and their loved ones.

This is Nella.

Isn't she precious?!?! 

I don't actually know her, but through her mother's amazing writing and photography skills, I speak of her and think of her as a friend. Just ask my husband...He knows all about Kelle (mama), Laney (sister), and Nella very well!  Stop on over to Enjoying the Small Things and fall in love! 

Back to my main point.  If you are looking to donate any amount of money this new year, Kelle Hampton has made it possible to donate to the National Down Syndrome Society in Nella's name.  Through this donation, you not only make a financial commitment, but you are also given the chance to connect to a sweet little girl and an amazing family that lives, conquers, and cherishes the gift of down syndrome every single day.  In honor of Nella's upcoming 2nd birthday, her mama has set up the following link for donations to NDSS: 2-for-2 Pay It Forward

**I know some of you already read Kelle's blog, but I still wanted to share.**

much love.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Weekend Fun

Ryan and I have been doing the 17 Day Diet.  We have heard some great things about it and wanted to jump start our weight loss, so we figured we'd give it a chance.  It works.  I'm back to my normal weight and Ryan has lost 6-ish lbs.  We just wanted to drop a few pounds.  Neither one of us has insane weight loss goals.  It's a great diet if you want to restructure your meals and eat more vegetables, fruit, and lean meat.  It does take some time though and there are sacrifices as most diets require.  

This weekend was filled with lots of action!  On Friday my computer battery went kaboom...a new one is in the mail.  That was sad, but it prevented me from looking at my computer which is a good thing sometimes.  In response to my extra time, I took down all of the Christmas decorations, tree and all, and cleaned the house!  Laundry, bathrooms, kitchen, bedrooms...that's the entire house!  I LOVE a clean house!  It literally makes me giddy!  Call me crazy!  That night, we watched the new Harry Potter in HD and it was ok... I never read the books, but all the hype had my expectations sky-high and it was a flop in my opinion.  

Saturday was glorious!  I went to yoga with my friend Julia and it was so needed!  Yoga works my body in ways I never work it.  I was feeling the alligator the next morning.  Holy Cow my arms are weak.  Balancing on my right side was a breeze, but I looked like a swaying tree when balancing on my left leg.  I blame my lack of balance on my knee surgery when I was 17. 

That evening, Ryan, J-man, Julia and I all went ice skating!!  I am proud to announce that Julia and I didn't fall!  J-man fell quite a lot which is to be expected because he had no fear and it was his first time ice skating.  Ryan didn't fall until he started to get cocky! Bahahaha!
Julia, Ryan and J-man all ready for some fun!
Ryan and I ready to hit the ice!  I was so excited!  I grew up ice skating, so this was a fun night out for me with little to no stress or anticipation.  Plus, I got to wear my super cool and crazy hat!  Totally stoked!  
**Little fact:  I had double bladed ice skates when I was little...4-6 years old.  My siblings and I used to skate on the creeks and ponds that line our property.  Avoiding the bumps, branches, snow puffs, and holes made us pretty talented skaters!
 
Bracing himself for the ice and watching the zambonie making the ice extra smooth and slippery.
 Off he goes!

Lira was a lazy puppy and enjoyed the sun streaming through the windows all weekend long!

Sunday Funday
We started the day off right with Mass!  It was an exceptionally long Mass, but it was very nice and my favorite priest!  Since it was the feast of the Three Kings, I received my last and truly appreciated, dose of Christmas songs!  This Christmas season I felt that Christmas songs were not embraced at my new parish as they have always been at my childhood parish.  It was disappointing.  Needless to say, I thoroughly enjoyed belting We Three Kings this past Sunday!  Ryan felt differently about singing Christmas carols after Christmas, but to each their own. 

After nourishing our spirits in Mass, we ventured over to Costco where Jared sampled absolutely everything and Ryan and I made selections to nourish our bodies.  Costco is an amazing place.  There are some great deals there..and there are some not so hot deals, but in general, Costco is always a successful trip. 

 
After our morning errands, we headed home for some lunch and prepared to go golfing.  Ryan is a stud; he grew up on the golf course.  Jared is a pretty good, especially when he listens to our guidance!  He figured out we actually knew what we were talking about when he took our advice and hit a really nice drive.  Once that happened, he asked does this look right before every single shot.  He did much better after the first 4 holes.  I did well for not playing in months.  My drives were decent, my  4 wood shots were amazing, my putting was accurate, but my speed was off.  Oh and my chips were way better! With practice, I will get better.  Oh and I fed the pond a few balls...oops.  That's nothing new though.  Overall, it was a successful outing...no tears, still smiling at the end. Oh and I looked cute and used my new LaSalle golf bag! It's awesome!

 Jared showing off his skills!  He received a golf glove in his stocking and loves it!  With a little more practice and attention to his swinging, he will be a little stud.  I just want to get good enough to not embarrass Ryan on the course.  
This week has me in a tizzy.  Yesterday was Ryan's first day at his new job, Jared was at school, the house was clean, it was raining and I was at a loss.  I studied for my GMATs, looked up some jobs, and got myself into a funk.  Not having a job...a purpose as I see it...is killing me.  Please pray that I don't drive Ryan crazy because last night was one of those nights that I just wanted to be alone, cry a bit and try to figure things out.  

Here's to an uphill climb from here on out! 
Much love.

Saturday, January 7, 2012

Two Year Anniversary

It's been two years since I started blogging and it's been a roller coaster ride to say the least.  Here is my two year story...

We moved i.e. drove from San Diego to Pennsylvania in February 2010 during a huge blizzard!  Holy cow was this a tense experience.  My core hurt so badly for hours because I was beyond tense for hours upon hours.
We got hitched!
(between driving from PA to VA)
We moved to Virginia and lived in a hotel for far too long.
Ryan got deployed for the second time.
I spent the summer living and working in Philadelphia and then came back to Virgina to start graduate school in August!  Thanks to my best friend who flew in for my first week in Virgina, my transition was all the sweeter!
The semester went along.  I debated about switching from MA Econ to the MBA track and freaked out about not being able to handle Econometrics which I now love more than any other subject.  As you all know, I did just fine.  My reward for a semester of 4 grad courses, living in a new state by myself and making friends, my little, handsome hubby came HOME!


Merry Christmas 2010 to me!
Except he spent Christmas day on the evil ship while I was home alone... you learn to make the best of situations when the military dictates much of your life.
We flew to visit J-man and Ryan's family during his leave period.

We moved into our very first house!  It's still a rental, but it's a house nonetheless!  Actually, I moved into the house because Ryan was out to sea again.
We went through a rough patch of emotions...well, I went through a rough patch and Ryan felt the brunt of it.  Everyone handles their significant other coming and going differently.  I was great when he came home from deployment, but when he left for a month only a month later, I retreated inside myself.  It wasn't pretty, but it was a learning experience.  I had my routine with school, I put the house together, I had a life that I liked.  It was hard for me to stop that life and restart my life with Ryan.  The coming and going continued through October of 2011.  Luckily, I learned how to handle it much better.  That's the ugly side of the military. 

We lost Ryan's grandfather, one of the sweetest men I have ever met.  I am truly blessed to have known him.  He was a good man and his life will live on forever in all the minds of those who have met him.  We love you Grandpa!
 Like Grandfather, like grandson
This is one of many views of his golf course
I love his smile! It makes you feel welcomed and loved instantly! 

In July, we went to a family reunion in Iowa.  It was a blast and there were a ton of extended family members.  It was my first time meeting most of them...I'd estimate that I didn't know approximately 95% of the family members there. There were a ton of Norwegians throwing around Dontcha know?!   Loved it!
 That's just some of the gang.
Mr. J-man met us there (thanks to his Grandparents) and came home with us!!!  This was the first moment Ryan and J-man embraced!!
And we met our little niece for the second time, but the first time where we could spend some quality time with her!  She's a cutie!
After the reunion, we headed home and Ryan went back out to sea.  The rest of July was consumed with lots of research for me while Jared was at his grandparent's house.  August continued in the school theme, except this time I was studying for comprehensive exams. 

I took a nice little break, traveled to Michigan and celebrated my best friend's wedding!!!  Congratulations Sarah & Carl!

 Matron of Honor (me) & Best Man
 Proud Father of the Bride
 Mr. & Mrs.
It was an absolutely amazing wedding!  We reunited with old friends, introduced Ryan and J-man to some amazing people and enjoyed a fun night out with the ladies!

Back to reality...Comprehensive exams were that week.  I stressed just enough to make sure that I passed them all!  Praise the Lord!  First step to graduation = Complete!
(If I had time to take a picture of the bags under my eyes, I would have and it would be here, but luckily for you, I was far too busy for that.)
With Comps passed, school had officially begun for all three of us!  J-man started 4th grade, I started my final semester of graduate school and Ryan started his first semester of his MBA.  I was a graduate teaching assistant for a 200 level macroeconomics course and loved it, but it added another element of time-commitment to my schedule.  In hindsight, I think it helped me a lot because it forced me to be at school much more than I would have traditionally been.

We went camping this fall!  It was our first family camping trip and it was great!


Virginia Beach/Norfolk is really great about having free festivals all Spring, Summer and Fall!  We took advantage of a ton of them, but only remember the names of a few.  Neptune Festival at the oceanfront was fun!  The sand sculptures were amazing.  Wine Fest was a blast, as always!  Brew Fest was more fun though!  It was a fun group of people on a beautiful cool fall evening!  Again, no pictures. 

Halloween was Ninja-tastic!
Thanksgiving was spent with my family in PA and was also quite fun!  We went to the Thanksgiving Day Parade and had 20 people at my parent's house!
 I love the floats!
Ryan was looking extra cute this weekend! 
After Thanksgiving, it was back to the grind.  Ryan had finals, I had finals, Jared started being tutored for math.  Ryan passed, I passed, and J-man went from a 42% to 100% on his math test!!  It was a successful month for all of us!
I graduated in December!!
Merry Christmas!
My little sister took the photo and the sunlight played with her.  It's the only family picture I have, so I had to use it. 
Happy New Year! 
Much love.