Thursday, August 28, 2014

New Season, Fresh Start : Letting Go of Fear & Letting Creativity In

It’s that time of year again. Back-to-school time. I don’t have kids and I’m seven years out of college, so this seasonal transition shouldn’t mean all that much to me. But, seeing the pervasive back-to-school ads and news stories on TV, and the cute “(so-in-so’s) first-day-of-school!” photos on Facebook, got me thinking… reminiscing, really. Ah, to be young again.

I loved school as a child. I excelled academically and I had friends, so going to school was fun for me (though, waking up and getting to school on time was an entirely different story, my mother will attest). I think I may have enjoyed the hustle-and-bustle of back-to-school more than being released for summer break.

From elementary through high school, I relished picking out new clothes and shoes to wear when I headed back to the classroom—a tradition I was very fortunate my parents could provide. And as much as I delighted in receiving an updated wardrobe each August, the nerd that I am equally looked forward to filling a shopping basket with school supplies: colorful pens and highlighters, neon sticky notes and index cards, huge binders, fanciful folders and printed notebooks. I want to hit the back-to-school aisle at Target right now!

Today, I can (for the most part) buy myself a new dress, a pair of shoes or a rainbow pack of Sharpies whenever I want. So as an adult looking back on that period of my childhood, I think the thing I miss the most is the promise. The fresh start. When the sunny days and shenanigans of summer had wiped the slate clean. Worries and responsibilities were small, or non-existent. When we went back to school our minds were free to focus but also free to be creative. At least six hours of each weekday were dedicated to learning something new. And while I didn’t always enjoy math or chemistry, my mind was forced to think, to work, to solve problems. Or create. I so miss band class and choir. How wonderful those days were, to have an hour set aside just to make music.

I think the reason I am pining for those regimented days of school is because I am currently unemployed. It’s far too easy to fall into the slow death that is laziness. The couch, the TV and my beat-up laptop are my new best friends it seems. It’s a multifaceted problem. I’ll try to sum up: Poor job prospects in my industry in my area + lack of a local support system since we moved across the country + fear of trying something new and failing.

Ah, to be a kid again!

I feel a strong desire within myself to be creative. That’s why I started blogging again. I’m a writer at heart; that’s what I do, what I love. That’s how I best express myself. I stopped blogging in 2011 because I got so busy, stressed, overwhelmed—heck, completely and devastatingly burned-out—from my professional writing job that I had nothing left to give to the personal outlet I had created. My inspiration and motivation dried up.

But I feel it bubbling to the surface again, and launching this blog was a first step in letting it out. I had been thinking about it for months, at least, before summoning the courage to do it. That’s the thing with me—I too often let Fear, Insecurity and Self-Doubt get in my way. I recognize it, but it’s still hard to beat.

There’s another creative passion I’ve wanted to pursue for quite some time, and that treacherous trio of Fear, Insecurity and Self-Doubt have held me back yet again. But, I’m in the process of taking some steps to get on the path to conquer those creativity-killers.

On our little apartment desk I propped up a print several weeks ago that reads: 

in the 
of your 

It’s pretty and inspiring—and quietly taunting me.

I’m unemployed. I have nothing but free time on my hands. Like all those kiddos rushing back to their classrooms in their very best outfits with the most colorful of pens, it’s time for me to embrace the promise of a new season, to give myself a fresh start. It’s time to not only believe in the beauty of my dreams, but to have the confidence to put in the work to make them come true.

So that’s my homework: To get rid of Fear, Insecurity and Self-Doubt and carve out a place where Creativity and Learning are not just allowed, they are encouraged daily to flourish.

It’s my back-to-school, grown-up edition.

(Images 1, 2, 3 and 4)

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Wedding Wednesdays : Getting Ready : The Bride

Since I recently got hitched, and have all the photos from the big day, I thought it would be fun to start a weekly series sharing my favorite images and memories, and maybe a few tips and resources along the way. If you're planning a wedding, make sure to check out "The Credits" at the end. Enjoy! 

I am not an early riser, but I woke up bright and early the morning of my wedding. After months of stress, plus the anticipation of the day ahead, a restful deep sleep eluded me.

So, at about 6:30 a.m., I quietly slipped out of the hotel bed I was sharing with my best friend and maid of honor and got to work on all the things still left to do: letting my dress out of its bag to breathe, writing thank you notes to my ‘maids and laying out their getting-ready robes and day-of jewelry, wrapping up the gift to my groom and penning him a pre-ceremony card, setting up my accessories and various other little details for the photographer to capture…

I was surprisingly cool and composed despite the emotional rollercoaster that was the day before. I wasn’t giddy though. I was doing my best to manage my fragile emotions by approaching everything I did as something to check off a list. Shower? Check. Teeth brushed? Check. Face moisturized? Check. All that stuff I mentioned above? Check x10.

My bridesmaids and mother arrived to my room, the makeup artist and hair stylist too, and the beautifying process began. The photographer and videographer showed up a bit later, and then the florist. The morning ran fairly smoothly and we seemed to be on schedule until a mini-crisis with my flower crown (which was pretty but not as I anticipated or described to my hair stylist) derailed us.

The serene demeanor I tried so hard to hold on to began to crumble in the frenzy of activity that followed—rushing to finish getting ready and dressed, open the gift from my husband-to-be, take photos, get down to the car to get to the first look… It was crazy and managing my emotions was nearly impossible in that last hour before leaving the room. I started crying before I even opened GT’s card!

Looking back, I wish I had not opted to have my makeup done last and that I could have enjoyed the whole getting-ready process more. And that I drank more Champagne, ha! I was too nervous but it probably would have helped ease my nerves. Nevertheless, I’m so thankful to my girls and my mom for not only forcing me to eat, getting me dressed and accessorized, and wiping the extra deodorant from under my arms (talk about a true friend!), but for keeping my spirits up during what was, for me, the most stressful part of the wedding day. (I envy those carefree brides who feel nothing but happiness and excitement! I’m too much of an emotional, over-analyzing worrier. But don’t you worry, the happiness and excitement kicked in at the ceremony.)

Now, more getting-ready photos, if you’d like to see…

Yep, that last photo prettily captures the craziness.

Next week, I’ll share the groom’s perspective and getting-ready memories! That will be fun :)


RINGS: White Gold Engagement Ring and Custom Rose Gold Wedding Band by Ben Bridge | Men's Hammered Recycled Sterling Silver Wedding Band with Black Diamond by Point No Point Studio

BRIDE'S STYLE: Theia Wedding Dress and Untamed Petals Aimee Sash, both from Lovely Bride Los Angeles | Alfani Women's Kyrah Wedge Sandals in Dusty Rose (looks like they are no longer available) | Necklace and bracelets made by bride | Gemstone Dangle Earrings by Delezhen | Vintage Beaded Purse from Le Mollusque

'MAIDS' STYLE: Dresses from ModClothLuLu's and Express (all no longer available) | Necklaces and Earrings from Francesca's

DETAILS: Bride's Rustic Custom Wire Hanger with Flower by Highfills Hangers | Bridesmaid Personalized Hangers by The Heirloom Hanger | Getting-ready Crossover Kimono Robes by Silk and More | Custom Wood Ring Box by End Grain Wood Shoppe

FLORALS: Modern Bouquet
MAKEUP (Cheriene) and HAIR (Nicolette): Beauti on the Go
Getting-ready VENUE: Hotel La Jolla
PHOTOGRAPHY: heidi-o-photo

Monday, August 25, 2014

Missing Forty

My older brother, Jeremy, would have turned 40 years old today. But he's been gone for 13 years, which is hard to believe. The years seem to fly by, and while I often think of Jeremy (especially when I see my tattoo), it's days like today that really make me stop, remember and reflect.

The sadness I feel at this time this year is a bit different than it's been in years past. It is felt by the heart of a fully grown and now married woman. When Jeremy died, when I was 16 years old, one of the things that crushed me the most was the knowledge that he wouldn't be around to see me get married. To hear my engagement news, to lovingly give my fiance a hard time as the protective big bro, to sit in the front row as we said our vows.

At my and GT's wedding, I had a memorial boutonniere placed on the chair at the ceremony he would have sat in. A candle was also lit for Jeremy, as well as for all our other family members we wished could be there to celebrate with us.

See, he is always in my heart and, more often than not, on my mind. The littlest things can remind me of him, but it is on his birthday, the day of his death, and in important moments of my life that the loss stings with unusual sharpness. The pain that has dulled with the passing of many days and years becomes more palpable. I'm not reminded just of happy memories, which are what typically fill my thoughts. I remember what was taken too soon.

It's also harder this year because I am across the country, far away from home. I can't go to the cemetery to place flowers at his grave. But I know that act is more for the living than it is for the dead. I can honor my brother's memory simply by taking the time to remember him, acknowledge his impact on those he touched in this world, and on me.

So tonight, I will celebrate Jeremy's 40th birthday with one of his favorite simple treats: a scoop of vanilla bean ice cream drizzled with maple syrup. That's a fun little trick for jazzing up plain ol' vanilla that he showed me when I was just a kid, and I thought my brother was so cool for coming up with it. Heck, I thought anything Jeremy did was so cool

No matter how many years go by, even though I am now older than he was when he died, he will always be my super cool big brother, a guy I looked up to and lovedand forever miss.


(Some readers may remember I have previously shared about Jeremy on my old blog here, here, here and here.)

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Blue Apron : It's What's for Dinner

Some might call (and some have) my husband and I “foodies.” One of our favorite pastimes is going out for a nice meal and, especially, exploring new restaurants. But we also eat at home often because GT loves to cook. (I know, I’m a lucky woman.) And while he is the one typically in the kitchen making dinner, I actually enjoy cooking, too—though, my college roommates might beg to differ.

See, back then, oh, about eight years ago, I didn’t have much to brag about in the cooking department. Even with the luxury of an apartment kitchen, my go-to for lunch or dinner was pasta (boil water, check) or nuking a Lean Cuisine. My reasoning: Why go through the trouble and expense, the time and effort, of making a meal for just one person? Especially when a perfectly portioned (if not very appetizing) one was just a microwave away? Plus, if I’m honest, I was nervous about cooking a chicken breast from scratch. How do I know when it’s done? So, I relied on the supermarket’s frozen aisle… and store-bought pesto.

While I always looked forward to helping my mom in the kitchen on Thanksgiving and Christmas, it wasn’t until a handful of years ago that I started to venture past just playing the part of a holiday sous chef and finally put into practice all those tidbits I picked up watching too many episodes of, well, anything on the Food Network.

Today, I love whipping up new creations in the kitchen and even relish the challenge of throwing something together last-minute with whatever random ingredients we happen to have in the fridge and pantry. But, like I mentioned, my hubby loves to cook, too. It’s his creative outlet. So he usually has reign of the stovetop and almost always politely declines my offers to assist.

So, when I read about Blue Apron a few weeks ago on one of my favorite blogs, I decided it would be a fun surprise for GT and signed up immediately.

Blue Apron is a meal delivery service that sends step-by-step recipes (with photos!) with the exact premium, fresh ingredients to cook each one right to your doorstep. Check out the contents of our first box:

Our plan delivers three meals (based on our dietary preferences) for two people each week at a cost of about $60, or $9.99 per person per meal. Whether that is reasonable or expensive depends on your perspective and normal cooking routine, I think. If you eat out almost every day, you probably would save money! For us, we do a lot of cooking at home but we also enjoy trying new restaurants, and when we do the bill tends to skyrocket. So, for us, Blue Apron isn’t necessarily a cheap choice, but it also isn’t a serious splurge. While there is a definite convenience factor to having groceries delivered to your home, I signed us up for the experience of cooking new things together, not to save time or money. Fortunately, there’s no long-term commitment—you can skip any week without penalty. For us, Blue Apron will likely become a once-in-a-while culinary treat rather than a weekly constant.

Until then, the menus have looked so good that we haven’t skipped yet. Everything we have cooked thus far has been beautiful and delicious, a feast for the eyes and the tastebuds.

The interesting spices, dressings, sauces; the building of textures and complex flavor combinations—sweet and savory, creamy and tangy—are what really make the dishes pop.

We’ve received two weeks of deliveries so far (our third comes tomorrow) and it’s been a blast cooking in the kitchen together, tasting new ingredients and discovering food preparations we hadn’t heard of or tried before.

It’s difficult to choose but I’d say my favorite meals so far were the Pan-Seared Salmon with Fennel & Heirloom Potato Salad (pictured above) and Rice & Beef-Stuffed Poblano Peppers with Lime-Crema Sauce (below).

We had Pan-Seared Cod with Parmesan-Crusted Squash & Roasted Red Potatoes last night (that gave the salmon a run for its money, with its luscious-yet-crisp crust) and we will be making Pan-Seared Chicken Thighs with Roasted Baby Zebra Eggplants & Fennel Salad, a recipe from award-winning New York chef Michael Anthony, tonight.

Have you heard of Blue Apron? (I never had before but I am seeing ads all over social media and the blogosphere now.) Would you sign up for a meal subscription service? My experience with the company has been positive thus far—packages delivered on time, in good condition, and the meals have tasted great—so I would recommend giving Blue Apron a try if you’re considering it.

Or, Blue Apron posts its recipes on its website so even if you don’t want to sign up, you can always find some dinnertime inspiration online. Happy cooking!

Disclaimer: No one paid me to write this. This is simply my honest review of my experience with Blue Apron.

Monday, August 18, 2014

Puppy Love : Meet Jasper!

Exciting (and adorable) news to share today! Yesterday, my husband and I welcomed a new furbaby into our family. Meet Jasper!

Jasper is a nearly 3-month-old Biewer Yorkie. He's inquisitive, friendly, playful... and a little feisty at times :) But he loves to cuddle, too.

GT and I have been thinking and talking about getting another pooch for quite awhile. And we had been actively searching since moving to St. Pete. When we saw Jasper's happy little face, we couldn't resistand knew we had found the right match!

Our almost 6-year-old Lab mix Cali hasn't quite warmed up to Jasper just yet. Though she is much, much bigger (and has been around small dogs before), she is a bit afraid and hesitant to interact and, yes, a little jealous. Jasper would love to play with Cali and he has made a few attempts, but Cali needs some more time to adjust to her new little brother.

Last night was our first together, and it was rough and restlessfor us and the dogs! Jasper decided he wanted to play, go potty (not always in the correct place), and chew everything he could get his baby teeth on. Sleep was limited from about 1 a.m. until almost 8 in the morning, when he finally conked out in a silky-soft heap of fur on top of one of daddy's old shirts. Ah, the joys of puppy-parenthood.

I'm sure there will be many more potty accidents and a few sleepless nights ahead. But we are overjoyed by the new addition to our lives! We are already addicted to Jasper snuggles.

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