bits o’ this, bits o’ that

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Bon Samedi!

Reads: It took me 3 or 4 days to read If You Feel Too Much by Jamie Tworkowski. I believe in the mission of TWLOHA since I was in college and have always enjoyed the honesty and raw emotions expressed in Tworkowski’s writing. I don’t think I’ve ever highlighted so much in a book before, or it may be that it was easy to highlight so much since I read it via my Kindle. Not as many people have the honesty that Tworkowski does and being able to express it tactfully. 

Listens: I love listening to Hillsong United’s Empires. I’ve been listening to it every morning as I get ready for work. Otherwise I’ve had Madisen Ward & the Mama Bear and the new Passion Pit albums on repeat. 

Eats: I’ve been on a 30 day challenge to not go out to eat and prepare all my own meals. I hope that my two lattes don’t count! Typically I spend my Friday evenings at the local coffee shop playing cards and socializing with friends. My favorite barista cooks dinner and it’s a good time. 

Buys: I haven’t bought anything, but I have my eyes on the new lines of Vans. They partnered with Disney and I’m pretty pumped about these Little Mermaid sneakers. I plan to buy the Winnie the Pooh or Minnie ones for my mom!

I’ve really enjoyed Lily Pebbles daily vlogging! I’m sure it was quite the daily chore, but I’ll miss tuning in each day. It’s also made me create a list of new make-up items to check out. 

Lusts: Several Sunday Riley items.. OMG why must they be so pricey? I’m really considering two of these, as I need some amazing skin products… a little more ooomph than coconut oil! 

What have you been reading, listening to, eating or watching? exciting purchases?!

Direction

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My last post mentioned how my emotions have been all over the place and it’s such an unusual spot for me. I’m finally in a very uncomfortable spot. A good uncomfortable spot. It’s also quite timely for just celebrating my 30th.

During my 20s I had a lengthy To Do List. Not a mental list, but one that was written out, revised, and had details below or to the side of the item. Only so many things were crossed off the list and that’s okay. I had some experiences get tossed my way that were amazing and heart wrenching, but they molded me and pulled me out of some comfort zones to get me ready for whatever was about to come next.

In 2011 I made a decision to move and extend my commute to work.  My commute became nearly 4 hours on some days and it exhausted me. I didn’t have much of a personal life and when I socialized I was making sacrifices with not getting as much sleep so I can still get some laundry, cleaning, cooking, etc. done. My health wasn’t as good because I wasn’t working out like I used to and I was sitting for much longer periods during the day. BUT, doing that commute for about 4 years made me realize some strengths I didn’t know I had. It also introduced me to an amazing group of people: my Train Family (we even have a Facebook group).

In February I started a new job and I commute only an hour-ish, round trip, each day. AMAZING. However, all the small moments I learned to appreciate through the day/week with my former commute haven’t been lost. I only sleep in an hour later than before because I really want to drink that whole cup of coffee, at a leisurely pace, before work. I can also stop and get more coffee and chat with some friends before really going to work. Again, AMAZING. I’m truly blessed to have such a schedule and I will never take it for granted.

So not only do I have a new job, a new schedule for life, but more time to live life. I’ve been writing more, reading more, cooking and baking, spending time with friends, and I’ll do laundry during the week and not rush around like a mad woman. I can enjoy the moment(s). While spending time with friends I’ve had the opportunity to say ‘hey I’m starting to blog again!’ and discuss some writing ideas and the kind of content I want to have on here. When I started all this stuff way back when (when Last Year’s Girl and I had met) there weren’t labels like ‘lifestyle blog’ and this is just what I’m going to fall under. My hair stylist said I should write about my make-up and my routines. One of my mentors wants me to just write about life so others can read and feel inspired. A best friend said I need to put all my cooking and baking creations on here because she’s tired of just seeing the photos sent via text. A colleague said they’d like to read what I have to say about God and my relationship with Him, because our conversations/healthy debates were a ‘breathe of fresh air’ to our insanely busy days. I also like reflecting back on moments, tid bits of conversations, that just really amuse me or make me think.

I want to share all of those things with you!

So as my life is taking some new direction, this blog will be following me in that direction.

emotions

emotions.

such crazy, annoying, amazing, awesome, strange, indescribable, little, yet big, abstract things…

Most of the time I’m a fan, as they really make the moment!

Lately, so much has been thrown at me in conversation, in prayer, in thought and I’ve been trying to face things head on and not toss time aside for later.

Hey, how convenient is it that Jamie Tworkowski’s If You Feel Too Much came out??

brb! let me get a hold on a few things and get my butt back here!

Car Conversations

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Over the weekend I hung out with Tara, a local teenager I met at my local coffee shop.  Tara and I were talking about her dating life and she said that she can’t settle.  She’s a planner and she knows what she wants.  Tara wants to have 8 kids and she has 8 names picked out, but the idea of physically having a kid herself is daunting. So, this man she’ll marry needs to agree and understand she wants 8 kids. Then she started elaborating more on how she’s a planner and after awhile I had to interrupt.

“Tara, can I share something with you that most people don’t know about me?”

“Of course!”

“When I was your age, my childhood best friend and I had our lives planned.  When I say ‘had our lives planned’ I mean we had it written in a book that we were going to go to these colleges, major in this and that, graduate, share an apartment together and then meet our husbands, get married, and have our kids. We even had all sorts of details between those milestones planned. We left, what we thought at that time, was wiggle room for other events, but we had serious plans for our lives.  About 2 years ago we talked about this book and what we wrote down and how NONE of it happened.  Not a single thing happened how we planned, but we agreed that if it did happen as we planned it would have had potential for being boring and frustrating.  Frustrating with trying to keep up to expectations we made for ourselves while listening to the Dave Matthews Band on my stereo and eating fried raviolis.  In short, don’t plan too much, but don’t settle for anyone or anything.”

“I don’t think I had that much planned.”

haha.

I’ve been thinking about that conversation for several days now.  I really planned a lot and I’m thankful that none of those things came to pass.  Boston had too much snow this winter and that was where we were going to end up.

Being Present

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The last 6 months have been quite the transition for me. While going through (still going through) the mourning process, I have been blessed to really see how my brother impacted other lives. I’ve been able to see this and reflect on myself and how others have reached out to me (which was quite overwhelming due to shock and unidentifiable emotions, but appreciated).

One thing I realized is that I need to live life more and not plan AS much. I’m a planner and I can openly admit that. I can’t continue to make all sorts of set times to be with people.. I need to live in that moment.

Speaking of living in the moment: when I was going through the process of applying for my new position and thinking about the obvious changes that would take place in my life, one of my best friends had given me a good talkin’ to.  I needed to be present and really breathe in what was happening and stop planning the ‘what ifs’.  If I kept up with all my planning, I wouldn’t have gone through the shakes post-job offer for 4ish hours.  (I wanted to get another cup of coffee, but after that phone call my arms were all shaking and adding more caffeine to that feeling wouldn’t have been a smart move!).  I took that advice beyond the days of my interviews and job offer and it has made some serious alterations with my life.

I thought that I was enjoying moments and experiencing things, but in the back of my mind there were so many thoughts going on that I wasn’t truly present. I was too busy planning what I’ll do next, how much I’ll get done once I get home, what time I should wake up the next day… exhausting stuff.

That’s why I decided I needed to enter my 30th year of life with being fully present.  I also decided that each month I will have some sort of activity that celebrates me being 30! I wake up each day thanking God for another day, so why not celebrate each month?!

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On the eve of turning 30, I didn’t feel any different or have any crazy thoughts about life, but I did think about how I thought I’d be in a different place then where I am now.  I didn’t become sad or upset, instead I am grateful for having the experience’s I’ve had so far. If it weren’t for them, I wouldn’t be who I am right now!

I’m excited to see what my 30th year has for me and all the things that God will do. 

Next up on my 30th year: Taylor Swift concert!

Month of Cake

AH!

April = Month of Cake
April is a busy month for birthdays around here.  My mom and myself are in April, while my brother’s birthday was in April, too.  Over the Christmas break my mom and I were sitting on the couch and she decided to start a conversation by saying, “Next year you will be 30..” and I quickly followed up with ‘and I’ve never been to Disney World!”
So, we went to Disney World.  In February. I ended my then current job at the beginning of February, went to Disney, took some extra time off, and just before the month ended I started my new job. Honestly, it was such a fun and well needed trip for the two of us.  I’ve never been, and wouldn’t settle to go with anyone but my mom for the first time, and she hasn’t been since she was 18 (that was only for a day!).
Then we decided that we’ll make one another’s birthday cake!  My mom said she wanted a yellow cake with white fluffy icing… so I had to work with that request.  Any time there’s an option for something s’mores or chocolate and peanut butter she’s all over it.  So, I went to work with make her yellow cake and white fluffy icing:
For the yellow cake I used Smitten Kitchen’s recipe for the best birthday cake. I made 2 layers with a 9 in. pan and it overflowed. I was prepared for that possibly happening.  Once the layers cooled I leveled them and the leftover cake was good to nibble on :)  For the fluffy white icing I made marshmallow icing.
On top of the first layer of cake I had made a thick fudgy icing, made a graham cracker crumble (broken up pieces dribbled with melted butter and sugar, then put in the oven for about 10 minutes), and then I had put a layer of peanut butter icing over the graham cracker crumble.  I improvised these icings since I only need such a small batch. I should have used more butter and cream for them because the cake separated a little at the middle with the graham crumble.  So, you’d have a plate with a layer of yellow cake and fudge and graham cracker and then yellow cake covered in marshmallow icing with peanut butter and graham crumble.
Too bad I forgot to take a picture!
My cake was something else… ohmigosh, it was rich and took nearly 2 hours to eat a slice!  I said how about a chocolate cake with coconut icing?
Being that my mom knew I’m a Smitten Kitchen fan, she made this recipe. The ganache was soooooooooooooooooooooooooo good.  She used that between the layers and melted it over top the coconut icing.
The icing recipe was for a bundt cake, but this layered cake was generously iced and still had some left over… I can’t imagine how much icing would have been on this bundt cake!!  There was one issue that my mom ran into with the cake: again, 9 in. pans and the batter would rise and then fall.  She’s not normally one for measuring, but she measured everything accurately.  I didn’t find anything in the comments about this, so who knows what happened!
Either way, the cake was fudgy and moist and absolutely delicious:
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welp, that’s what I’ve been up to… celebrating birthdays and stuffing myself with cake for breakfast everyday :D
Happy Birthday to the other April babies!!

Struggling with Addiction

I wanted to share about my brother passing and it has everything to do with addiction.  I’ve experienced a whirlwind of emotions when it comes to sharing his story, but it needs to be shared.  There are people everywhere who struggling with addiction and those who love/share homes with someone who struggles with it.  This is an introduction to these entries, as it’ll be personal information that I haven’t shared on such a platform before.  I intend to share more, in pieces, as it’s a hard topic to write about in one sitting.

My paternal grandparents were addicted to nicotine and alcohol.  Growing up, they smoked all day and would drink any time after noon.  They were highly functioning alcoholics.  My dad was exposed to that for most of his life and the addiction was learned.  My brother and I were exposed to my grandparents addictions and saw my dad fall into his struggle with alcohol.  I was estranged from my dad for nearly 10 years and was greatly impacted by my grandparents choices.  I wasn’t going to let something ruin my potential and take over my life.
My brother was close with my dad and learned this behavior. At a young age my brother started smoking to fit in with the kids he wanted to hang out with, later becoming addicted to pain killers and dabbling into some other drugs. It was heartbreaking to see this happen, knowing how destructive it was on the outside and not knowing fully how destructive it must have been on the inside. My brother had a lot of secrets, which I’ve been learning about since he passed in November.  I’ll never know some of these facts, what drugs he did or how often, but I do know that they took him through a downward spiral for ~10 years.
It was so intense for him, during the last week of his life he drank a cold medicine to dull the pain.  I can’t imagine being at that point.  It hurts to know that my brother felt the need for that.
This is going to be the most personal I’ve ever been, in a long time, on the internet about my life.  I hope it helps someone.

at long last!

In 19 days I will turn 30.  Whaaat?!  It’s hard to believe.  I thank God that I have lived to see 30.

My absence on blogging was mainly due to my job – working long hours, then cut backs, and my commute… it made certain things hard to commit to, but it all worked out as it was supposed to.

There’s a place nearby that I’ve been checking out for employment for several years and one afternoon I looked at their site to see the perfect job for me was open.  More or less the same exact thing I was doing, but it also allowed me to learn and grow in areas that I knew of and didn’t do day to day.  It took 7 business days for two interviews (phone and on site visit) and the job offer to take place! 

I accepted a new job, planned my first vacation to Disney World to celebrate my 30th birthday two months early, had time to shake off the old job and get excited for the new job, and then started my new job.

2015 had started with excitement and sadness.  I was beyond thrilled for a new calendar year and what it will bring, what God has in store and all the exciting things He has for me.

On November 28th, 2014 my mom had received a call from my dad stating that my younger brother, Joe, had passed.  It was something that wasn’t expected.

The last 5 months of my life have been a whirlwind.  In some ways it still is, but not as much. 

The passing of my brother was quite the learning experience.  With friends checking in and stopping by, it was brought up that I wasn’t blogging and that after this experience I will blog more.  I’m not blogging now because my brother died, but for several reasons: I have the time to dedicate to this process, I have less deadlines and stress, time for adventures, laughter, and memories, and I have a story to tell… testimonies to share.  There’s someone who needs to read about my brother, who needs to read about my mourning, who needs to read about how all this had happened, but I was still thanking God. 

I have parts of my life that needs sharing. 

so, let the sharing begin!

what’s new?

So what have I been up to? Well, other than catching up on my DVR and making Christmas gifts, I have been exploring some of the cutest towns in Maryland. When I lived in Philadelphia I could just turn my head east and over the river I saw New Jersey. Now all I have to do is drive west 20 minutes and I’m on the Eastern Shore. I’ll be completely honest, I’ve judged these towns based on how much they resemble Stars Hollow from Gilmore Girls! These are tiny towns that have the cutest ‘in town’ streets, shops and restaurants. In addition, you can clearly spot the locals and that they’ve known by the shop owners or are regulars at the establishment. It also gives off a nice homey feel.

SOUNDS: I’ve been loving the new Gungor album. I’m pretty excited to see them in November. I’ve also had the latest Civil Wars and Audrey Assad albums on repeat. There’s also The Highway station I listen to in my car… I find it hilarious that my little Veloster will blare country music next to ginormous pick up trucks on the road.

WATCHING: I’m still trying to finish Season 3 of The Walking Dead… I know I know! I can’t wait till Scandal starts up again and I’m still slightly devastated that Dexter didn’t end up with Hannah. I do like how it ended, as it reflected his personality and personal beliefs, but I REALLY wanted him to just be happy and with Hannah in Argentina.

READING: I haven’t really been reading much lately. I’ve been listening to a lot of podcasts if I’m not yammering with my train mates (while crocheting at the same time). I haven’t even successfully read the last issue of VegNews! :(

EATING: I’m trying to get in as much crabs as possible! This season wasn’t really a great season, but I’ve been indulging in seafood and trying to savor what I can before Autumn flavors truly set in. I have had two pumpkin spice lattes and I like to rub it in to my UK buds, as their PSL season hasn’t started yet!

What have you been reading? Listening to? Watching? Eating? Suggestions?!?!

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This year has proven to be challenging, but in a good way. It’s made me bend in a lot of ways, but I didn’t break. It’s made me shrug my shoulders and say to myself, “This is life: I can choose to react this way or that way. I can choose to make the best of this or be bitter/angry/complain/etc and be miserable (which will get me nowhere and not make anything better).” I was removed from my Comfort Zone more times than I can count, but I needed to be pushed out of it.

Being removed from your Comfort Zone is life and part of experiencing life. It helps you grow and recognize qualities that you weren’t aware you had. I’m working to remove some of these qualities and working to improve others. Heck, this is just what being an adult is all about!

My faith has played an enormous role in me being able to get through these events. My faith has grown and strengthened. I’ve retreated from some people and grown closer to others. I’ve also become increasingly aware of my emotions – how I can be overly emotional or not want to face emotions.

I’ve neglected this space of mine, but I want to continue to build it and communicate with other fellow bloggers. I’ve missed it!

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