Monday, September 30, 2013

Menu for the Week

Charlotte weather really listened when we rolled into fall last Sunday. I've been loving the cool mornings & evenings and warm, sunny days of late. Fall is so comfy and nostalgic. It brings out the burrower in me...nothing better than smells of baking and cooking filling the house on a fall weekend afternoon, don't you think?

This weekend I cooked up a pot of this Chicken, Mushroom & Wild Rice soup - it doesn't take long, especially if you use rotisserie chicken meat, but there is some serious flavor from the sauteed vegetables, splash of white wine and half & half.

I also made a bolognese sauce from scratch yesterday, which we enjoyed over some fresh linguine from Pasta & Provisions and a couple glasses of Pinot Noir. YUM! We'll be enjoying the leftovers for awhile.

I'm looking forward to Chicken Vesuvio tonight.

I've been seriously slacking on sharing some of my recent DIY projects, so I'll be making an extra effort this week to share a few of my favorite projects.


Monday, September 23, 2013

Let's go to Tennessee!

I've often wished that I could be more spontaneous. I'm a total over planner, and am always jealous of people who can just fly by the seat of their pants. So on Friday late afternoon when A. and I decided to drive to the Smoky Mountains (leaving 20 minutes later after throwing things in a bag) I had to pinch myself a few times to see if it was really happening. We'd talked about going to Gatlinburg since I'd done a little bit of research and it looked like a fun weekend getaway, and we found a great deal on a mountaintop hotel (which was owned by Hilton, so we'd get lots of points with a current Hilton Honors 3x the points weekend deal going on) and off we went. I'm blessed to have a husband who doesn't mind driving through windy/mountainous terrain in the pitch black, because I don't think I could have done it.

We arrived in Gatlinburg around 10pm and headed up to our 6th floor mountain view room. Of course at this point it was too late to see what our view would be - I set an alarm for sunrise (7:15) on Saturday morning. The woman at the front desk warned us not to leave any food in our car because they have bears in the area.

When my alarm went off the next morning I headed out to the balcony to see that it was a very cloudy day. They were calling for a lot of rain, but it hadn't started yet. The view of rolling mountains was fantastic. Throughout the weekend, everytime we came back to the room my first stop would be to the balcony to check out our everchanging view. As the clouds rolled in and out, the mountains looked totally different. Below are four of my favorite views:
First morning "sunrise"
Clouds and fog as the rain rolled through.
2nd morning sunrise.
Panoramic view from our balcony.

Saturday morning we headed to the Log Cabin Pancake House for some breakfast. Gatlinburg has pancake houses on every block (at least.) The service was fantastic, the food was delicious and came out quickly. It was also nice that they have a private parking lot. Gatlinburg has a lot of pay parking lots, so we appreciated not having to pay $5-10 to park for breakfast. I should note that our hotel, the Park Vista by Doubletree, is on the Gatlinburg Trolley green and red routes, but we were planning to go do more exploring after breakfast and needed a car for our next adventure.
Wagon on top of the Log Cabin Pancake House. They had a long porch with rocking chairs for waiting, but we were lucky and were seated right away.
Up the same mountain that our hotel was on is the Roaring Fork Motor Trail, a 6 mile one-way trail you drive in the mountains. Apparently on a good day you can see all kinds of wildlife; black bears, deer, etc, but they must have all been hiding. While we were driving the trail the rain really started to come down. There are pull-offs along the trail, and parking areas if you're interested in taking one of the hikes, but we were totally unprepared for a long hike in the rain, and enjoyed most of the trail by car.
Overlook along the Roaring Fork Motor Trail, before it started pouring.
Waterfall coming down a cliff on the side of the road.

After our drive through the forest we headed to the Parkway/downtown Gatlinburg area to check out some of the tourist attractions. In my opinion, Gatlinburg is a really interesting mix of incredible nature and a ton of tourist stuff. Ripley's has several attractions including a museum, aquarium etc. We didn't do any of these things, but they seemed to be popular. The Parkway area reminded me of the boardwalk in many Jersey Shore towns. Souvenir and t-shirt shops with "White Girl Wasted" t-shirts in the windows etc. We did some window shopping and then stopped by the Old Smoky Moonshine Distillery to learn more about Tennessee's first legal moonshine distillery. They have free samples in their shop and a little area you can walk through to see how they make moonshine and read about the history of bootleggers during the Prohibition era.

Next we headed to the Great Smoky Arts & Crafts Community, an 8 mile loop just outside Gatlinburg where over 100 arts & crafts shops have set up. They have every type of craft you can imagine, from pottery to walking sticks, leather belts to jewelry, woodworking to Christmas stores and more. Some of the shops are set up in little malls and others are just standalone galleries. We bought a few pieces of pottery, some for us and some as gifts from Alewine Pottery. We also stopped into a Christmas store, where a creepy Santa asked us if we were being good. We got a black bear Christmas ornament and quickly left that shop. Sometimes I'm too awkward for my own good.
I really loved these carved black bears found all over Gatlinburg. My parents' dining room has kind of a black bear theme, so I must come by it naturally.
By this time we were exhausted and headed back to the hotel for a quick cat nap and so that A. could watch part of the Notre Dame football game. Eventually we headed out for dinner at the Peddler Restaurant along the creek. We had to wait a while but were pleasantly surprised when we got seated along a wall of windows overlooking the creek, which they have lit up at night. The food was pretty good, I had rib eye and mountain trout, and A. had NY strip steak.

Sunday morning we got up (me at 7:15 to check out the sunrise!) and headed to the Donut Friar in a cute little shopping area on the Parkway called The Village. The Donut Friar has been around for a long time and opens every morning at 5AM. I hopped out of the car to grab coffees and a few donuts while A. circled the block. Again, who wants to pay $5-10 to get donuts and coffee? On our way out of town we decided to take the 6 mile Foothills Parkway to I-40. Apparently the Foothills Parkway was supposed to be part of the Blue Ridge Parkway, but when Congress allocated funds for the Blue Ridge Parkway in the 1930s, they didn't include any land in Tennessee, so the Foothills Parkway is only partially complete. It was a beautiful drive, with scenic overlooks every few miles. Our GPS had directed us to take it on Friday night, but I'm really glad we ignored it and took a slightly less curvy, mountainous route in the dark.



I'm so glad we stepped out of our comfort zone and took this totally unplanned, "on a whim" trip. There were plenty of things we didn't get to do, because of the rain or because we hadn't planned anything in advance, but we had a fantastic time. Maybe we're turning over a new leaf?

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Invitation Ornament take two

A few months ago I shared my "DIY Disaster Averted" when I had to make do with craft supplies I wouldn't have preferred. Well, I'm glad (and shocked) to say that since July, Michael's has actually put out their Christmas supplies and I was able to stock up on the proper supplies for making a few more wedding invitation ornaments. At the rate our family and friends are getting engaged these days, I should probably buy in bulk if I plan to keep making these!

Here are instructions for the proper invitation ornament:

Step One.
Gather necessary materials. You'll need:
-Invitation and a few pieces of cardstock paper in colors which compliment the invitation (or, you can use any other paper that may have some in the invitation - for another one I made, I used the outer envelope because it matched perfectly.) I guess I should also include that you might want to take a picture or make a copy of the invitation if you need the information on it!
-Clear plastic ball ornament from Michael's - I've used smaller and larger balls - depends how much paper we're dealing with.
-Ribbon or other tie-on decoration for the top of the ornament - I've used ribbon that was included with the invitation, baker's twine, anything I can find.
-Paper cutter (you could use scissors in a pinch, but I love the straight, clean lines my Fiskars paper cutter gives me)
-Pencil or skinny paintbrush for curling pieces and poking around in the ornament.

Step Two.
Shred/cut invitation into slices. They don't all have to be the same size. Make sure you don't cut through the middle of any lines of text, the point is to be able to see their names, wedding date, location, etc.

Step Three.
Using the paintbrush or pencil, slightly curl the shredded invitation. You want the shreds to sort of "hug" the inside of the ornament.

Step Four.
Start putting the shreds into the ornament. Try to get the names/date etc. to be visible. You can always play with this a little bit at the end using your finger or the tip of the paintbrush.

Step Five.
Make curlicues with the accent paper and insert. I added a few more curlicues after taking the picture, but this gives you the right idea.

Step Six.
Put top on ornament and tie on ribbon or any other decoration.

Voila! I'm much happier with this version than the papier mache version from earlier this summer!

Monday, September 16, 2013

A Very Fall Day

On Saturday, A. and I headed down to York, SC to go apple picking at Windy Hill Orchard. The slightly cooler weather made it feel a little bit more like fall.

Luckily, we were more interested in sampling their various types of hard cider and eating apple cider donuts, because the trees didn't hold many great apples. We filled two 1/4 peck bags in about 15 minutes and then got down to business with a half dozen apple cider donuts (with cinnamon sugar) and a sample flight of four of their ciders.

 No, we didn't eat 3 donuts a piece (but they were so good we probably could have), we've still got two to enjoy for breakfast this morning. The ciders, from left, are the Strawberry, Gala Peach, Rusty Gold and Ginger. We liked the Peach, Rusty Gold and Ginger enough to bring home 750ml bottles of each.

 Next on the fall bucket list is the Rural Hill Amazing Maize Maze, but we'll wait until they have pumpkins available so we can knock out two items on our list. On Sunday I baked pumpkin banana bread to use up some very overripe bananas taking up prime real estate in our fruit bowl (we've got a lot of apples to house!)

Speaking of pumpkins, Michael's now carries wood pumpkins which can be customized with a variety of harvest/Halloween images, or a few lines of text. I saw them the last time I stopped in and am definitely tempted. They have a few sizes to choose from and just fill out a form and leave it at the store. Check out your local Michael's if you just have to have one!

I'm looking forward to more fall weather that they are calling for this week.

Friday, September 13, 2013

Friday the 13th Five on Friday

Happy Friday, y'all! After taking a break last week, I'm back with the Five on Friday link up.


In no particular order:

1. World Market Grand Opening - yesterday I stopped by the brand new World Market in the Cotswold Shopping Center in Charlotte. I'd received a 25% off coupon mailer, and was pleasantly surprised at checkout that my Explorer club membership got me an additional 10% off. They were also having a raffle for some gift baskets and giving away free Charlotte and interior decorating magazines. I've had my eye on these two beauties (1, 2) for awhile and am pleased to say they are now mine. There's also a very good chance that I find myself back there later today because they are having a one-day wine sale.

2. Okay, I know a few weeks ago I said I wasn't in the mood for fall yet, and the warm days are still making it somewhat difficult, but we've got some fun fall plans shaping up for the next month or so, including the Rural Hill Amazing Maize Maze and pumpkin picking, and apple picking/hard cider tasting/donut eating at Windy Hill Orchard and Cider Mill.


3. This job interview one-sheeter. I'm finding this really helpful to try to get all of my professional accomplishments, goals, and ideas in one place. I changed a few of the category names (brilliant ideas and why I rock might be a little presumptuous if seen by the wrong eyes, but if you're just using it for prepping at home, why not?) You can download it or make changes in Google Doc.

4. Gchats with my dad. They're ridiculous.

5. Looking forward to dinner at Chuy's this weekend - hopefully on their patio. Loving the beautiful weather!

Have a great weekend!


Thursday, September 12, 2013

Blogtember: Time you were scared

I'm going about these posts slightly out of order, but I wanted to share my "scared" story. I was racking my brain trying to come up with some scary situation and I have plenty of near misses with cars etc, but I figured you might as well get a laugh out of it, too.

Over winter break my freshman year of college I was home in Philly along with most of my girlfriends from high school. There's not a whole lot for 18 year olds who are getting used to college life to do back in your hometown, so we decided one day that we'd go to the Philadelphia Zoo. We went on a slow day, there was hardly anyone around, I think it was a weekday after most students had gone back to school (man I miss those month-long college winter breaks!), so we didn't really have to fight the crowds.

Eventually we made it to the petting zoo and it was totally deserted except for us. We put some coins in the feed machine and made our way around, visiting the sheep, goats, etc. Finally we made it to the donkey enclosure and I held out my hand to feed the donkey some pellets. Well, turns out this was a carnivorous donkey, because along with the feed, he also chomped down on my finger! I was pulling my hand and trying to get my index finger out of his mouth, but that just made him bite down harder. I yelled out for my friends to help me, but we couldn't figure out a way to make him open his mouth. Finally he must have gotten annoyed at my practically crying laugh-sobs (does anyone else have a stupid reaction to stressful situations?) and my friend laughing and touching him on the face. I looked at my finger, afraid it was going to be broken, and there were two distinct donkey teeth marks/dents between my fingernail and first knuckle, but luckily the skin wasn't broken. There wasn't even a zoo keeper to tell, so after calming down a little bit, and washing donkey spit off of my hands, we left the petting zoo area.

You're in luck, because one of my friends, rather than help remove my finger from the evil donkey's mouth, took a picture of the whole ordeal. It is also important to mention that my best friend, who is laughing in the picture, is now an equine veterinarian - so hopefully she now knows some trick to get a horse or donkey to unclamp it's jaws.

Without further adieu:

You're welcome.
 A couple things:
1. I really had remembered this donkey being full-size, I'm just now realizing/remembering that it was a miniature donkey.
2. Can you see the look of sheer panic on my face?
3. I distinctly remember A. telling me not to get attacked by any of the zoo animals when I told him my plans for the day.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Blogtember: Favorite Online (Wedding) Shops

For today's post I'm going to share with you some of the online shops I used for our wedding. I haven't been doing a whole lot of online shopping recently, so I think this is the way to go!

Because we were planning long-distance, I did a lot of our shopping online and shipped it to my parents' house. It was always exciting when we were back for a visit to see what had come in.

Marriage Certificate/Guestbook
http://www.etsy.com/people/eDanae
Danae does incredible things with calligraphy and watercolors. I knew from the start that I wanted a Quaker marriage certificate like the one my parents had hanging in their house. Guests sign on a line and agree to witness your wedding ceremony and to support you in your marriage. We had it matted and framed for Christmas and it's hanging in our bedroom.

Bolero
From the start I loved the look of a sweetheart neckline dress with a short sleeve alencon lace bolero. I love those alencon lace "eyelashes" on the edges. My dress was pretty simple, so the bolero was the perfect way to add a little something.
http://www.etsy.com/listing/61122781/the-lacey-bridal-shrug-white-or-ivory?ref=shop_home_feat
Emily at Rohm Bridal on Etsy was fantastic to work with, she even sent samples of the three colors of lace she offered, so I could compare them to my dress and find the perfect match.

Hair flower(s)
One of my favorite planning blogs was (and still is, I just can't quit it!) Weddingbee, and one of the former bee bloggers has opened an Etsy shop of beautiful and affordable hair flowers, among other things. They are beautifully made and Brandi is super responsive to questions. I ended up with two because I was worried that the first one, on a comb wouldn't stay in my very thick but very sleek/slippery hair.
http://www.etsy.com/shop/Silverpencils
I'm totally obsessed with this mirror and can't find it anywhere. I believe it is a discontinued Ballard Designs piece.


Card box
I've talked about my card box on here a few times before. I love it, and am so glad that it will be on display in our home forever. It is well made and just exactly what I was hoping for. I love that we could customize the colors and some of the accessories. But I still think it's important that I point out that this item was my one stress that was left the week before the wedding. It shipped only a few days before the wedding, and arrived a few hours before the rehearsal dinner.





Table Number Holders
These were pretty simple - just a sliced up birch branch with slits cut to hold my homemade table number cards. I was more enamored by the adorable mental image from the Etsy seller. The family lives in Vermont and has 7 kids who help collect perfect birch branches from the woods surrounding their home.
http://www.etsy.com/shop/vermontbranchcompany/about?ref=announce



Favors
I loved our favors! We're still hearing from family and friends over a year later how much they loved the spice rub that we gave each of our guests. We really wanted to share something from Texas with our family and friends attending - so we decided to make jars of spice rub. We found a great online company, SuckleBusters, who sells their barbecue cook-off award winning spice rub in bulk.

We also used mini card from Moo.com as tags on our favors. The quality of the printing was fantastic, they use a thick card stock and the size was perfect. We used one of our more "Texas" engagement pictures (just our cowboy boots) on one side and a "thank you" on the other side. I did bruise my palm punching heart shaped holes in the cards (and actually ended up bending and ruining the hole punch - damn you Martha Stewart!)




I had great luck finding a lot of the little details for our wedding on Etsy and other sites. I loved all of the little personal touches at our wedding.



Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Blogtember: Day that changed everything

A little bit of back story might help here:

A. and I dated long-distance through college and spent our summers back home in Philly "short distance." After graduation, A. joined a company with an 8 month training program in Ohio, and I stayed in Massachusetts to finish an accelerated Master's program. This way he'd have his placement by the next Spring and I could finish up and join him. That fall I visited over family weekend and got to meet one of the VPs who helps with those placements and he told me "I don't put people out of their comfort zone, I want them to do well." I took that to heart. Then, right around Christmas, the list of possible cities for A's training class came out, and not a single one of them was east of the Mississippi River. Now I know that the VP has no control over where the openings will be, and it's kind of a game of dominoes where when someone moves to a new territory/role, they have to back fill a lot of positions, but I was shocked. We'd still have to wait until mid-February to find out where he'd be. I'm pretty sure I was in denial the entire time. This was definitely not the high point of our relationship. I hadn't decided if I would even move to whatever city he ended up in. Anyway, moving on.

My best friend from Philadelphia happened to be staying with me in Massachusetts for a night while she interviewed at a Vet School nearby when I got the call from A. "Houston," he said. I don't remember exactly what I said, or if I said anything. As soon as we got off the phone I went out into our suite's living room where my best friend from home and one of my suitemates were and instantly broke down crying. I don't think I even got the words out before the tears came, and then I managed "Houston" between sobs.

A. moved to Houston a week later (they don't mess around!) and I went down to visit over my spring break. I demanded a stop to buy cowboy boots immediately after getting off the plane, and then we spent the rest of the weekend furniture shopping - the closest thing to a couch that he had at this point was one lawn chair and an air mattress - oh the "bachelor" life. Although the Houston Rodeo was going on during my first visit, I think we made a wise choice not to go that year - I'm not sure it would have swayed me towards wanting to live in TX. Which is pretty funny because now I'm sad that we'll miss out on next year's rodeo. I moved to Houston in August of that year and now here we are back on the East Coast. Oh, and as for the "comfort zone" thing - yes, there were uncomfortable "you yankee" moments, but A. did really well in TX and that's why we ended up in NC/back east so quickly.

Monday, September 9, 2013

Blogtember: Personality Test

Today's Blogtember prompt is to take a short personality test and share the results. As a management minor in college, I've taken this test a number of times, but it never ceases to amaze me. (I must admit, the spelling extravert vs. extrovert is driving me nuts!)

ENFJ
Extravert(11%)  iNtuitive(12%)  Feeling(88%)  Judging(44%)
  • You have slight preference of Extraversion over Introversion (11%)
  • You have slight preference of Intuition over Sensing (12%)
  • You have strong preference of Feeling over Thinking (88%)
  • You have moderate preference of Judging over Perceiving (44%)
 I think that my "preference" for extroversion has shrunken recently because I'm in many fewer social situations since leaving my job and moving to a new place. 
 
I Googled a profile of ENFJ and wanted to share a few things that really struck a chord with me. ENFJs have Extroverted Feeling with Introverted Intuition. I'm not at all surprised to know that I have some introverted tendencies, I was very shy as a kid, and to this day need a fair amount of time to recharge and relax after a lot of social activity.

However:
"Have the tendency to be hard on themselves and turn to dark thoughts when alone."
This one really hits home because I've been dealing with a lot of anxiety recently, but I've noticed that when I'm immersed in some activity or surrounded by other people, the anxious feelings go away. But as soon as I'm back by myself with no distractions, they come flooding back in.

 "ENFJ's tend to be more reserved about exposing themselves than other extraverted types."
Yup! I've been told a few times that I hold my cards really close to my chest.

"ENFJs do not like dealing with impersonal reasoning. They don't understand or appreciate its merit, and will be unhappy in situations where they're forced to deal with logic and facts without any connection to a human element. Living in the world of people possibilities, they enjoy their plans more than their achievements."
This is so on point. One of the reasons that my husband and I work so well is that he is incredibly logical and I'm very emotion/feeling-centered. It can also be difficult when he can't see it my way (and I'm sure it's difficult for him too when his logical answer is so obvious to him and I'm just not getting it.) The second part of the quote is also true - I'm such a planner, I like to see the end result, but I'm always scribbling away notes for ideas and some of them never come to fruition.

"An ENFJ who has not found their place in the world is likely to be extremely sensitive to criticism, and to have the tendency to worry excessively and feel guilty"
Again, this one really rings true recently, I take quick offense to questions about how I spent my day recently, because I feel guilty a lot of the time that I haven't found a job and do have a lot of lazy days.

Even though I've taken this personality test before, it was really interesting to take it again and to read the profile because certain feelings and tendencies which didn't really manifest before have come through because of what is going on in my life. I've probably just ignored some of the lines in the past.


Veggie Burger Test Kitchen

After a hearty roast beef dinner last night, I'm planning to try my hand at a few new veggie burger recipes this week. I love whipping up a big batch of burgers/veggie cakes and freezing them between parchment paper for lunches. I've also got a few other favorite tried and true recipes which I'll share below. Another favorite of mine, not homemade, would be Trader Joe's Veggie Masala Burgers - they are great chopped up in a wrap using naan for the wrap bread, ranch dressing or tzitziki sauce and shredded lettuce. Yum! I'll be sure to come back and update you on the results of the test recipes.

Tried & True
Zucchini "Mock Crab Cakes" - my Grandmother's recipe (follows the rest of the recipes.) The zucchini really does seem "crabby" in texture.
Quinoa Spinach Cakes - from Skinnytaste, these freeze well and are great with an egg on top!

Test Kitchen
Black Bean & Brown Rice Veggie Burgers - modified from: http://www.marthastewart.com/316269/black-bean-and-brown-rice-cakes
Brown Rice & Lentil Cakes - modified from: http://engine2diet.com/recipe/candle-cafe-brown-rice-and-lentil-burgers/


Zucchini Mock Crab Cakes
2 c. grated zucchini
1 egg, beaten
1 T. mayo
1 tsp Old Bay Seasoning (or more)
1 c. Italian bread crumbs (I've used unseasoned Panko with success too)

Mix all ingredients together.
Make into cakes.
Fry like pancakes.

Sunday, September 8, 2013

What's Cookin'...

Holy cow - our apartment is pretty close to the Greek Orthodox Church in Dilworth, and their annual Greek Festival is this weekend. We took advantage of the drive-thru food lane for lunch on Saturday and picked up gyros and a big Greek salad. It was D-E-L-I-C-I-O-U-S! And why doesn't every festival EVER have a drive-thru food lane? I can totally get behind that.

It was a good food weekend all around - on Friday night I chowed down on pretzels and a big skillet full of mussels in beer broth at the Liberty in South End.

Here's what else is cookin' this week:
Sunday - Roast Beef, Lightened Up Creamed Spinach, Roasted red potatoes
Monday - Chicken Sausage & quinoa with veggies
Tuesday -  Rotini with Butternut Squash sauce
Wednesday -  Eggplant Parm (I love the frozen breaded eggplant cutlets at Trader Joe's, they're better than you can get at many restaurants.)
Thursday - Coconut Shrimp

Plus I'm planning to stock the freezer with several types of veggie burgers, which I'll write about tomorrow.

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Blogtember: Good advice

I have two favorite quotes by Mary Anne Radmacher which I try to remember in stressful/scary times:

One
Courage doesn't always roar. Sometimes courage is the quiet voice at the end of the day saying "I will try again tomorrow."

Two
“The jump is so frightening between where I am and where I want to be...because of all I may become I will close my eyes and leap!”

I am by nature a worrier. I plan and overthink and overanalyze like the best of them. I get stuck on the details, I lie awake at night and think of things that need to be done. So both of these quotes remind me that it doesn't all have to happen at once, and that sometimes it's better to just DO IT than to mull it over forever! Spontaneity is a wonderful thing, but it's really hard for me, it is way outside my comfort zone.

 

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Blogtember: 3 months off...

Okay, before I get into my post for today - can I just have a moment to whine about how bell peppers are 2.99 EACH at Harris Teeter? What?! I actually don't understand how this is even possible. Just for fun I looked up my old grocery store and they are 88 cents a piece there. Are bell peppers seeds in North Carolina encrusted in 14K gold and watered with the tears of angels? I don't get it!

Enough of that. I guess I'm doing this Blogtember thing...I'm a little nervous to commit to it but I'm enjoying the prompts so far and figure I'll play along at least for awhile.

Wednesday, September 4: If you could take three months off from your current life and do anything in the world, what would you do?

This is sort of a funny prompt because I have just hit the "three month off" mark from leaving my job in Texas and moving to North Carolina. And truth be told, if I could take the ideal three months off, it would not be this. Job hunting in a new city is stressful, y'all! I had such a great network of professionals in Texas, and I don't have that here yet. And I find it hard to enjoy the time off because unlike vacation, I never know when one of the cover letters I send will get a response. I think I'd do better with a definite end date.

So, if I could take 3 months off, I'd gather up my husband, our friends and families and go on a bunch of epic vacations. A week here with friends, a week somewhere else with family. I'd love to go on a cruise and explore a bunch more islands with my husband, get a cabin in the woods and eat hot dogs on sticks and s'mores by a campfire with friends, tackle some European cities neither my husband or I have been to (it seems like all the cities I've been to he hasn't, and vice versa.) Definitely some beach time at my in-laws' place in New Jersey - it doesn't all have to be fancy! Then, I'd like a week to just BE and do crafts and fun stuff at home.

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Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Where Are You From?

I was inspired by the Blogtember Challenge prompt for today - Where or Who do you come from?

Answering the WHERE question for my first 20 years of life was super quick and easy - Philly! Now, it seems it's not quite as succinct. Having met a lot of new people recently - one of the topics of conversation is always where you come from. Well, most recently I "come from" (literally) Houston, Texas...but that is only part of the story. But, who wants to be the person that gives their entire life story when people are expecting a one word answer?
Old picture from a late summer Phillies game
Philadelphia, PA is my hometown, but it's feeling less and less like "home" over the years. I love going back to Philly to visit, but there aren't as many people to see as so many have moved away. And I don't really find myself taking advantage of all the things Philly has to offer because I turn into a total homebody when I'm there - soaking up as much time with family and old friends. A few years ago I had some out of town friends come to visit me in Philly and I was struck that my knowledge of the city really ends at 18 years old. I hardly know anything about the nightlife or anything new that's opened in the past 8-10 years.

Then at 18 I went off to spend 5 years in Massachusetts, and there will probably always be a little soft spot in my heart for all the memories I made there. But the winters are too cold for me to see myself back there permanently. I've been spoiled by cities that absolutely shut down at the threat of winter weather. Still, we've found ourselves in Boston at least 3 times in the past year, with one more trip on the books - it is a wonderful place to go visit so many friends.

The Texas move was a shocker. I can remember getting the call from A. that he was moving to Houston in a week. His company doesn't give much notice when they move their trainees! I was still in Massachusetts for a few months finishing up grad school, so I got to go visit a few times before fully committing! In mid-August, my mom and I packed up my car and headed off on a road trip to Texas. Honestly, the first year was rough. I remember wondering several times what we'd gotten ourselves into - it was HOT, it was HUGE, and it was like no other place we'd known. Many Texans do not hide their disapproval of Yankees. But, when we realized we were there regardless of how we felt about it - we decided on a major attitude change. Why not enjoy all these strange, eccentric, quintessential TEXAS things? We rodeo-ed, went to Indy Car, enjoyed patio dining in February, and then sat in blasting air conditioning all summer long (minus short trips to the pool, but by June it's like a bath tub.) And now, we have separation anxiety for our life in Texas! Texas was the place that A. and I really settled into our "adult" life together - from picking a grocery store (let's face it - in college you go wherever is cheapest without regard for selection) to feeling out our routine and figuring out all the things that make us happy.

Now we're settling into North Carolina, but it isn't quite "home" yet. I'd say we've made tremendous strides in the 3 months we've been here, but it takes longer than that to settle into a routine, and figure out all your "go-to" places. But we're working on it, and enjoying figuring it out together.