Category Archives: love

WHAT UP 2015!?!?

I’m doing it: 2014 retrospective! Sorry so sappy, but my blog is nothing but trying to reinforce lessons I’ve learned, process life, and sort my thoughts. Meanwhile, a bit of a show I’m re- re- re- re- re-watching on Netflix struck me as a great theme for the thoughts of last year and aspirations for next! From an episode of Gilmore Girls:

Lorelai: Wait, wait. Look around for a second. Notice?
Rory: Notice what?
Lorelai: It’s not so scary anymore.
Rory: No, it’s not.

Pretty much everything I’ve ever been anxious about worth being anxious about includes that moment of realization that “this isn’t so scary anymore.”

In chronological order of things to be scared of this year:

  • I left a great job for another great job. A few months later, I was laid off.
  • I got engaged!
  • I planned a wedding! Although it wasn’t perfect, it was a blast. I have family and friends who made everything happen, and I love those folks overwhelmingly.
  • I got married!
  • I have an exciting career opportunity!

I wrote a little bit about my wedding, but that was a combination of trying to edit my disappointment while emphasizing the most positive parts. Meanwhile, our experiences and memories were a little different.

I met some fantastic people this year. People who I’ve known and loved had gone above and beyond for me. My husband is a rock star, in more ways than one. 2014 was good for us, but I am convinced 2015 will be much better!

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Unconventional newlyweds

A few weeks before my wedding, my mom asked me if Bible verses I memorized when I was young came back to me when I needed them. My answer is resoundingly, yes. Specifically, “But Mary treasured all these things, pondering them in her heart.” Bible verses come to my mind all the time, and more when I need them. As my wedding day neared, that verse has stuck with me, and it has also come to mind during many times of major life changes.

I don’t know which came first — my need to treasure and ponder, or the Biblical justification that such a need exists. Either way, I tend to treasure and ponder. I haven’t been able to articulate how that tendency parlays into another ability I have, and I wish I could. I’ve been interviewing for new professional opportunities, and a side effect of all this professional soul searching is a renewed discovery in my innate skill to appreciate the big picture without losing my commitment to the smallest detail. Somehow, this ability and personal penchant are two sides of the same strength in my mind.

I got married almost two weeks ago. Wedding planning was another great way to blend my professional penchant for the process of executing a big picture. I love the big picture, but I love making it all happen. As time ticked down, I surrendered my responsibility to execute every little detail, and I’m so happy with the results. I did commit to the details that were crucial to me, and I had those experiences. Those are the important moments that I treasure and will forever ponder.

One moment I really wanted was with my dad and my sister. When Jeff and I got engaged I remember specific snapshots of my heart. I have those precious memories mentally frozen that made the event special. The first snapshot of my heart on my wedding day is first when my dad saw me in my dress. He’s a charmer! But just before my sister queued up to walk down the aisle, she tossed a look to me and dad over her shoulder and gave us a wink and a smile. That’s EXACTLY why I wanted my sister to be with me and Dad until we took our turn down the aisle.

I should probably verbalize to my sister how important she is to me, huh? I’ve heard of “Daddy’s girl” (yes, I am), and “Mama’s girl” (and I’m that, too), but I’m also a “sister’s girl.” My sister’s a bad ass.

For the record, I have sisters by another mother. They are bad ass, too. Getting married rocked my world way beyond the husband part. I love my husband, but I’m joyously overwhelmed by the other sister elements.

I have small, tiny regrets about our wedding day that I forgot or discarded for the sake of prioritization on the day. We forgot things that we never even missed, but the instances when a well paid vendor failed to deliver have plagued me. Those miscommunications have eaten away at me more than I anticipated. Some other troubles that I anticipated came to pass, and I wasn’t able to adequately articulate a solution during the day, and unfortunately that stressed other people who I didn’t want to stress.

Those minor regrets, which I take full responsibility for, have plagued me in the last few days. They began to outweigh the many precious moments from my wedding that I treasure and ponder. I’ve had dreams since the wedding in which I both did and didn’t confront the vendors. I’ve had dreams since the wedding in which guests confront me about these minor regrets. Because my husband left town for work two days after our wedding, I’ve had “Phantom Jeff” dreams that he was home and moving around or talking to me. Although my dreams are crazy with a side of nuts, I miss my mister more than I thought possible.

Acknowledging all that, my husband is home and my wedding was FABULOUS! Jeff woke up a few minutes ago and asked me how I was awake. I said goodnight, and that I’m awake because I’m writing. Once more for the record, my sister and brother-in-law are the best there are.

State Fair of Texas, y’all

Big Tex

Big Tex

We went to the State Fair today, which was more of an adventure than it has been in ages. We scored free tickets and took the DART Rail, which really gave our budget more bang for the buck!

After a quick meet and greet with Big Tex, we hit the auto show, the Hall of State (my favorite building in Fair Park because of the architectures, Jeff’s favorite building ever because he met Phil Collins in its sacred halls), and then headed to a new show this year. My favorite show for the last 20 or so years has been a really cool bird show. This show had parrots singing, but also eagles released from the top of the ferris wheel, falcons catching prey mid-air, and owls circling the outdoor stage. It was always impressive, and I was so sad that they retired. I’d read that the show replacing it was great, and happily the Wild West Pet Show didn’t disappoint! Dogs, cats, pigs, geese, and ducks were on-hand to entertain. We enjoyed a bit of the Memories of Elvis show, too.

We got to ride the Texas SkyWay and see amazing views of the Dallas skyline. Today was extremely windy, so I had a death-grip on the bench at the halfway point because our car was swaying wildly, but other than that I was able to enjoy the ride and the company.

For anyone who’s been to the State Fair of Texas, you know if you’re not there for the football, it’s about the food. So, here’s the food. We tried the funnel fries, which is really the only way to eat funnel cake. Because of the aforementioned gusting winds, this was the first time today I was covered in powdered sugar. It tastes great and brushes off a black shirt easily, but it burns in the eyes a bit.

State Fair of Texas deep fried bacon

State Fair of Texas deep fried bacon

Jeff got the “fried breakfast for dinner” that he really wanted, which he enjoyed. I had one of my favorites, Texas Tornado Twister, a.k.a. fancy potato chips. I skipped the delicious homemade lemonade this year because we had a lot of other sugar, but it’s another one of my State Fair favorites. I got a “bird dog,” which is a Fletcher’s corny dog made with a turkey frank, but not before we spotted the deep fried bacon.

I tasted the fried bacon, and as a non-bacon-eater, it was a tasty, crispy, salty, fried snack. Jeff loved it.

We looked at the fried Thanksgiving dinner, and I wish I would have found it earlier, because I would have tried it in lieu of the bird dog. We also looked at the chocolate strawberries, but Jeff ended up getting chocolate covered almonds.  Then we got a deep fried s’more! State Fair of Texas will literally deep fry anything. Unfortunately, it’s usually soooo good.

These indulgences do not come without a price. I, for one, am eating nothing but salad until the wedding in 12 days!I feel like I’ll be sweating grease until mid-Wednesday.

Because of the crazy winds, a tree fell on the DART Rail power lines, and all the rails in downtown Dallas were down. Instead of hopping a train to downtown, switching to a northbound train and being on our merry way, we had to queue up outside of the Baylor hospital station to catch a bus to a rail station with power. The bus lines were crazy and misinformation was rampant, but we were lucky to get on a bus going the right way in about 30 minutes, and then on a train headed home. We are home over-fed, under budget, and happily exhausted.

P.S. My feet are killing me from wearing closed toe shoes for the first time in months. Poor tootsies!

A very wedding post

I try very hard not to constantly talk about my wedding all the time, in person and online, but we are closing in and today was a banner day! I’ve managed my fair share of big projects and events before, but this is the first of either that changes my life forever. While meeting with our caterer and cake baker, Christine, I described my approach to our wedding: Instead of finding a checklist of all the traditional wedding things I “need” to do or have, I built up from scratch with the mindset that Jeff and I are getting married, and we want to celebrate!

One thing required to celebrate is definitely cake, and we had a lot of cake today at our tasting. Christine told us to pick all the flavors we wanted to try, but we only wanted to taste what we could see ourselves actually having. That’s a good approach in theory, but we couldn’t resist several flavors.

Wedding Cake Tasting

Wedding Cake Tasting

Although we got to the point that we wanted to talk specifics, we kept eating! The cake samples were pretty much devoured. Food and cake are pretty much nailed down. Whew!

I also bought our wedding bands today. Huzzah!! I didn’t get the one I’d had my eye on all this time, but I’m so happy with what I got. It matches Jeff’s ring more, and it’s a ring I’ve adored since the first holiday season I worked at James Avery years ago.

Among my other accomplishments, I survived a Walmart today. I, of my own volition, entered a Walmart. I wanted to price check some wedding decorations, but I also needed some crafty items. I also justified that I needed a bottle of wine, and Walmart was the only place with everything I needed. I rocked through all of my list in a sprint until I hiked from household to food and made a straight-shot for the wine aisle. Of course, because it was Walmart, a patron in a motorized cart moved and adjusted her cart to align with the entrance to the wine aisle! She didn’t just randomly end up blocking the aisle, she stopped, reversed, adjusted, and proceeded to set up camp. I witnessed two “excuse me” interactions and attempted my own, but she cared not a jot for blocking us from our booze.

Although I was annoyed that I had to go down another aisle just to come up the wine aisle, I figured the extra steps would help to counteract the cake tasting to come! Come on, though, no one at Target or Tom Thumb blocks people from the booze aisle. That wacky stuff only happens at Walmart.

The good news from my Walmart adventure? I now have a cake topper (such a random, unnecessary piece of fluff! I was not going to spend a cent on one of those stupid cake toppers, such as the bride dragging the groom, or the ball-and-chain crap, or Hello 80s! something from Precious Moments.) But I was willing to make something that went with our theme!

Another project finished after the trip to Walmart was a sign I want to hang in a grouping my mom, sister, and I planned to draw attention to the door to the bathroom. My mom acquired an antique room divider years ago, but she hasn’t done much with it. The wood is old, and the hinges are old, but it’s really pretty. We decided to use it as a decoration instead of as an actual room divider because, frankly, it needed more work than I cared to exert. My sister and I have dubbed it the Janky White Thing (JWT). I have almost completed the decoration for the middle of the JWT!

Decorations, rings, food… whew! Today was a very “wedding” day, and this is a very wedding post. I’m winding down tonight with wine and Wheat Thins.

 

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Selling it!

Way too much of my brain has been focused on lead generation for too long! I find myself continuing to struggle with maintaining a branding mindset, which is odd because my passion for marketing is actually more branding than lead gen! I guess shifting between the marketing languages one speaks is like shifting between any other languages one knows.

If I knew of anything I could so easily sell right now, it’s getting a massage. And the power of sound-proofing. And the wonders of clean sheets. And the glee of being engaged.

I had the best massage yesterday. I can’t recommend Julie Burkhart enough! We worked together years ago, and I loved her so much. She was a nail tech with an awesome sense of humor and great attitude, and I was a naive esthetician thinking that every esthetician was in the business for the same reason I was — to help people. Julie has been a massage therapist since then, and wow does she have the touch! Unlike many massage therapists I’ve had, she does not skimp on the reflexology on the hands and feet, nor does she torture the legs with excessive pressure to the shins. She was not afraid to dig into serious problem areas, AKA my softball-sized left shoulder knot that has been festering since the beginning of January. If you ever need excellent help from a genuine therapist, ask me for Julie’s details!

I’m wearing my Fitbit again after losing the case for it that clips onto my clothes. If I could sell a pedometer to anyone, I would tell you how informative it is to at least know how much you move around and, likewise, how much you don’t. The sleep tracking of the Fitbit is also really informative.

Parenthetically, one of the great things about having a fiancé is that he reaches all the tall stuff for me! Seriously though, I love coming home to him every day. I enjoy being engaged more than I thought possible! Everything is different, but I can’t explain it.  Perhaps it’s our new home, or learning new communication techniques, or just spending more time together. Note to self: Get engaged to Jeff every time you can. He is endearing.

Year of Life Changes: He popped the question edition

I have a fiancé! His name is Jeff, and a few weeks ago he said to me, “I just want to be a hero for you.” And he is. He’s the hero I never knew I needed, but still everything I’ve been praying for.

He was concerned about ruining the romance and element of surprise, but I could only handle so much unknown stuff to worry about, so he did confirm that a proposal was forthcoming early this year. I’ve been alluding to it, but I didn’t know any details. I even told a coworker on Friday that I was convinced that he didn’t have a ring yet. He had reservations for dinner last night at Mercy Wine Bar, one of my favorite places and where we had our first date almost two years ago. At dinner, I could tell he was nervous, and I was, too. If the huge pile of leftovers in the fridge are an indication, we hardly ate.

He proposed with a rose

He proposed with a rose

I have snapshots in my mind of Jeff walking toward the table after dinner with a long-stemmed rose in hand and a huge grin on his face. Aww! right? Oh wait, why is that rose sparkling?! He got to the table and said, “I love you!” and I said, “I love you, too!” And then he was down on one knee in front of me and I saw the ring and I was vaguely aware of a dull roar around us as people realized that there was a proposal in their midst. I wish I could remember what he said exactly, but it was something about how happy he is with me and would I marry him. I said yes, but I was shaking and oddly scared to let him put the ring on. I was afraid it wouldn’t fit — what an odd thing to fixate on in that moment.

We took some time to sit together and just bask in the moment, assisted by the champagne our server brought out to us, but that didn’t last too long. We walked to the nearby Whole Foods for some champagne and dessert, went back to my place and sat out on my balcony to talk about the experience because it was a gorgeous night after a beautiful warm spring day. (Today, however, it’s freezing and ice is falling from the sky. Welcome to Texas, y’all!) It was too late to call my parents, but Jeff couldn’t wait, and I couldn’t either, so we started sharing the news.

Aquamarine engagement ring

Aquamarine engagement ring

About the ring: Very early 2013, Jeff took me to a jewelry store under the guise of wanting to walk around the mall for awhile. He would have moved heaven and earth that day to get me any ring in the store that I said I wanted, I have no doubt. Why do I believe that? Because he did move heaven and earth to get me the ring that I eventually wanted, and he did it in a timeframe that was comfortable to me and best for us.

I’m one of those tree-hugging, people-loving, think-global-act-local, put-your-money-where-your-mouth-is anomalies in Texas. As part of that, I did not want a diamond. I have a conviction about the diamond industry, and I want no part of it. I have a whole rant about diamonds; I won’t get into it because I already know it, but I hated the idea of Jeff spending his hard-earned money on some belief that “diamonds are forever” because of a heinously funded marketing campaign that started in the 1920s to convince people that a man should spend X times his income on a particular rock or metal. (OK, I worked most of the rant into that. Whoops.)

I wanted something different! Jeff and I are special snowflakes, and no one else’s relationship is like ours, right? After a lot of deep reflection and discussion — I made the joke more than once that if a sapphire is good enough for Princess Diana, it’s good enough for me! — we started looking at everything, everywhere. I’m obsessed with Art Deco, sapphires, and making sure my relationship with Jeff is perfectly us. Our first date was on my birthday, so I thought it would be so sweet to have aquamarine, my birthstone, in our ring. I was adamant that Jeff not take on any debt for a ring. Basically, I set some tough limitations on the poor guy’s options, because it’s easier to go to a big box ring store, get credit, and buy a diamond. To me, that just reinforces what’s wrong with that industry, but nobody asked me. Luckily, Jeff cared about all of my concerns and wishes.

So much of the unique stuff we found and loved was expensive, and that was disheartening. I had a chat with my college roommate about what I loved and the realities of the ring industry, and I realized that I really wanted a specific look. After that, I researched like the crazed researcher that I am and found a jeweler in Boston that offers highly customizable pieces with certified jewels.

Jeff got me exactly what I wanted: A bezel set aquamarine with a white sapphire halo in white metal. Dreaming about a ring is a superficial thing, I know. I always believed that pining for the perfect ring is kind of a mean measure of “did he listen to me?” As much as I loathe these tests, I love that my fiancé went beyond my wildest dream! Perhaps I’m a hypocrite in that story because I didn’t want bling, but I wanted bling. I wanted something with sentimental value. And I so got it. When I stare at the ring for too long, I start to cry. Jeff, my hero, understood my sentiment without judgement and made my dream a reality.

I know I’ll have so much to write about the actual wedding stuff, but we’ve decided to wait a bit to get started with that. We can’t wait to celebrate our life together and our families and friends, but we are enjoying the glow of the recently engaged! I have a finacé!

The sweet side of life

Let’s dig dirt: I had a bad relationship. It destroyed me. I don’t like to talk about it. But I learned a ton about myself (and narcissists).

After that, I had an anthem, which I haven’t listened to for some time until tonight. It’s an awesome anthem for anyone, but I like it for myself tonight because of all my recent life events.

I’m about to rock an awesome job at an incredible company, I’m about to move away from a crazy landlord, I’ve been reaffirmed for at least the 100th time that my Mr. and I will get engaged soon. Very soon. This is relevant because loving someone who loves you back is incredible.

I wish love would come to you, if it hasn’t yet.

Apple pie Valentines

I spotted a heart-shaped pocket pie press at Target and was inspired to make my boyfriend a little Valentine treat. He loves apple pie — my apple pie, to be specific — I thought, “Hey, this will be great! He’ll love it. How hard can it be?!” Uh, so, so, hard. But so worth it!

Heart-shaped tartlet press

Heart-shaped tartlet press

I couldn’t find any examples or recipes of an apple pie version, so I had to experiment. My initial attempt was pretty awful for a couple of reasons, mostly my technique, and somewhat my recipe. Initially, I didn’t flour the press or chop the apple filling finely enough. I also didn’t know to use egg white on the inner edges to seal the dough.

First attempt at apple tartlet

First attempt at apple tartlet

My first attempt turned out very blob-like. I just slapped and hacked with no finesse or insight. I knew a little better for my second attempt, but not much.

First attempt looks like I made the apple tartlet with my feet

First attempt looks like I made the apple tartlet with my feet

I Googled around, and although the pie press is pretty popular with the mommy bloggers, no one else I found made apple versions. I read as much as I could and put the advise I found to good use, I think. I started with a pretty high-level instruction and then found a detailed, step-by-step instructional blog with images that made sense to me. Armed with more knowledge, I kept experimenting.

Additionally, I decided that because most recipes were calling for two tablespoons of filling, I needed a more finely diced apple filling. I hoped that with a finer filling, I would be able to push the two tablespoon rule.

After chopping, I mixed in my traditional apple pie filling ingredients.

apple tartlet filling

Apple pie filling, diced finely for tartlets

Like the instructions suggest, I used the bottom of the press to cut the shape out of dough, lay the dough in the press, brush the edges with egg white, and place two or three tablespoons of apple pie filling in the center.

Filling the apple tartlet

Filling the apple tartlet

Following Mrs. Dragon’s advice, I placed the second dough cut out over the filling, and then pressed the crimp side of the press down. I then dumped the raw tartlet onto a parchment paper-covered cookie sheet. I didn’t like the back side, so I flipped it crimp-side-up.

Decent apple tartlet potential

Decent apple tartlet potential

I brushed the tartlets with egg white and sprinkled them with sugar. I’d pre-heated the oven to 400, but the crescent roll directions called for 375. My rationale was that the filling needed the higher temp to really bake. I set the timer for the recommended 13 minutes. The egg white browns the dough considerably, so a temp of 375 would allow the tartlets to bake two or three more minutes to soften the filling before browning the dough.

Apple tartlets turned out nicely, and smelling just like my apple pie!

Apple tartlets turned out nicely, and smelling just like my apple pie!

I’m quite pleased with how these turned out. They smelled just like my apple pies, so these will taste great. No filling spilled out, despite the fact that I didn’t poke a whole in the dough.

I’m not sharing any packaging details because I’m writing this before Valentine’s Day and I haven’t decided what to do yet. If whatever I come up with is worth sharing, I will!

Happy February, and happy baking!

EDIT TO ADD: My Valentine suggested that I should have taken a picture of him enjoying the tartlets, which is a great idea. Too bad I didn’t think of it when I gave it to him! He reassures me that he loved his gift. 🙂

Vacation of glory

Just to be clear, my recent vacation to Texas Hill Country was exquisite. The wildflowers were everywhere! I loved it. I loved the drive, the scenery, the hiking, the disk golf, the antiquing — all of it.

I loved the company — my boyfriend has a great sense of humor, an amazing sense of adventure, and an infinite amount of patience with me (and my panic disorder).

I loved my week off. I love Texas Hill Country. Go there if you can. Texas is not the flat, boring, wasteland people think it is. Texas Hill Country is gorgeous. I took dozens of pictures to prove it; alas, my iPhone went for a swim and many of the photos are lost.

TL;DR: Texas rocks.