Friday, July 27, 2012

I Won't Quit My Day Job

Last weekend, Joey and I went to Andretti Indoor Karting and Games. Maybe you've never heard of this place before... Just picture an adult verson of Chuck E. Cheese. Tons of arcade games, a rock climbing wall, an indoor ropes course, and my personal favorite - go-karts. Except these go-karts are on steriods and can reach speeds of 50 mph.

We ended up at Andretti's because Joey's office was hosting an Olympic competition of sorts. But let me tell you, London 2012 ain't got nothin' on these Olympics. For starters, these Olympics included an open bar and an hour of free arcade games. Score! But my dreams really came true when I got to throw on a stylin' green helmet and hop in the driver's seat.

Man oh man, I was flying. Soaring around the corners, the smell of gasoline filling the air, the roar and rumble of the engine beneath me. I sort of noticed that people were passing me every now and then... but I didn't think much of it. That is, until the end, when we got our score sheet.

See that? Waaaay at the bottom? That's me. Number 19. Out of 19 places. But, if you have really good eyes, check out #5. That's my Joey! (Or, JoJo, if you prefer to call him by his "racing name". I know. JoJo sounds real tough.) So the good news is, even though go-karts may not be my thing... between the two of us, we make a pretty average driver! Go team!

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Reunited and it Feels so Good

There's someone you need to meet. Two someones, actually.

Ella. Our sweet and crazy pup. Lots of energy (although these pictures would suggest otherwise) and a tail too long for her own good.

And Penny. Our cat, who I am utterly obsessed with... She is a daily reminder that I am in serious risk of turning into a crazy old cat lady someday.

I sure do love these two animals. And I'm able to love them even more because Joey does all the difficult things, like shoving the pills down Penny's throat that one time she had worms and taking Ella outside after the sun has gone down (I'm scared of the dark and the criminals who surely lurk there). What a guy.

With all the traveling we've been doing during the month of July, our animals were living at Camp Grandma for three weeks. We are so blessed to live near Joey's parents, who have a large yard with lots of tennis balls for Ella, a private basement suite to meet all Penny's antisocial needs, and are so generous to take these furballs in whenever we head out of town.

This week, we were finally reunited with Ella and Penny, and I had one of those moments of pure contentment.

In bed. With my favorite pillow.
Cuddling my two fur babies.
Remote in hand, watching HGTV.
Dear husband nearby, ready to capture it all on film. (or iPhone. Whatever.)

Joey and I always laugh because Ella hands-down prefers Joey. Not that she dislikes me... But imagine that cliche movie scene, with Ella seated halfway between me and Joey... both of us desperately calling her name to prove who is her true owner... Yeah, no question about it, Ella would be in Joey's arms in two seconds.

But on this first night with our whole little family back together, I was lucky enough to have both critters seek me out for a cuddle. I just knew that deep down inside, they love their momma. Even if she's never the one who changes the litter box.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

iPhones and Forgiveness

I live by the "if it ain't broke, don't fix it" policy. So when our cell phone contract was up last year and Joey started talking about switching carriers and getting new phones, I wasn't jumping at the chance... in fact, I was just plain dragging my feet. Sure, our phones may not have been the latest model, but they worked okay. In the end, it didn't take a broken phone to get me to make the switch. It took a stolen one.

Last week, while I was visiting my family and Joey was still finishing up the work week in Atlanta before joining us in New York, I received several calls from numbers I didn't know. Turns out, it was Joey trying to get ahold of me from borrowed cell phones. Someone had stolen his iPhone while he was swimming at the YMCA.

I was frustrated. I was irritated. I was angry. How could he leave something so expensive and important where it could be stolen? And then my brother took a moment to remind me of the time I was in college and my purse was stolen while I was at a friend's party. And then about a year later, the exact same thing happened with my favorite coat. (Aren't older brothers always so good at reminding of you of things like that?) And then my mom chimed in to remind me that my carelessness led to my own phone being stolen a few years ago. (Mom's are good like that, too.) And what did I hope for when those things happened? Understanding. Compassion. Forgiveness.

How quickly I put blinders on to ignore my own flaws, faults, and mistakes, while being quick to expect perfection from others. To judge and criticize. To hold grudges. To commit sin upon sin upon sin.

And let's be honest. Losing a purse, a coat, a phone... these are certainly not the worst things I have done or will do. I am a sinner. And through Christ, I have been given the ultimate forgiveness. How could I withold forgiveness from others?

I'm learning a lot as I share my life with Joey... and one pretty important lesson is how much we need forgivness in this marriage of ours. Because a forever together is going to include a lot of love and a lot of happiness, but also a lot of mistakes.

[ via ]

And wouldn't you know, the stolen phone turned out to be a blessing in disguise. I actually like these new phones of ours. I love that my husband, who travels over 1,000 miles a week for work, will be safer with his trusty sidekick Siri available to read and write his texts and emails while he drives. I'm amazed by the quality of the 8 megapixel built-in camera and I've been snapping pics everywhere. I enjoy having a phone that works quickly enough to let me use Twitter, Instagram, and Pinterest on the go. (I'm like a real blogger now!) God sure is good.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

The Roc.

Rochester, New York. Home of Kodak, Wegmans, and Lake Ontario.

And of delicious meals at lakefront restaurants because the parents are treating. (Thanks, mom and dad!)

Our weekend trip to visit my family was fun and relaxing, but now its back to Atlanta and back to reality. I've got 15 days of summer break left. I'm gonna make 'em count.

Monday, July 16, 2012

National Lampoon's Marathon Training

So we're training for the Chicago Marathon. Training officially started four weeks ago and has been keeping us pretty busy since then.

Yesterday, we did our weekly distance run - 20 miles. On the bright side, Joey and I took a trip back to upstate New York to visit my family for the weekend, which meant we got to run with my dad, who is also running Chicago with us faster than us. A trip home also meant that we were able to run along the very flat Erie Canal Towpath instead of over Atlanta's hills. (This is a very good thing. I'm pretty sure if the route included traversing any hills, I would be in the hospital right now.) On the not so bright side... we had to run 20 miles. And it was a really tough one for me.

The distance was only part of the ridiculousness of this run. Before setting out, we had to pack all the necessities... change of clothes, several towels, two CamelBaks, toilet paper (don't ask.), six bottles of water, plenty of Gatorade, Clif Shot Bloks, and snacks. Overkill? Maybe a little. But a lot can happen in 20 miles. Gotta be prepared. Hence, the five bags of supplies that took us an hour to pack.

We're basically members of the Griswold family.

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Except I didn't get a trip to Walley World out of the deal.

P.S. I'm linking up with Carissa at lowercase letters for Miscellany Monday. Check it out!

 Miscellany Monday @ lowercase letters

Saturday, July 14, 2012

The Joy of Zesting

Some days, when I don't feel like cooking, I oh-so-casually suggest to Joey that we fire up the grill... because if there's one thing my man loves (besides yours truly, of course), its grilling. Early on in grilling season, we Joey made an amazing batch of kabobs (kebobs? kebabs?). We were both craving them again, but given that the main ingredient in the marinade is Miracle Whip, we knew they weren't the healthiest thing we could eat. I've also been trying to avoid processed foods to see if my migraines improve at all with a more natural diet, and Miracle Whip is... well, pretty processed.

So we set off to find a healthier, but equally delicious, kabob recipe. I was inspired by the Clean Eating Kebob recipe I found on The Gracious Pantry website (Please, go check it out! Tiffany does an incredible job not only creating her own healthy recipes, but also taking pictures of her creations that look so yummy, I pretty much want to lick the computer monitor.)

The recipe first caught my eye because it called for lemon zest. Yessss! A chance to use that sweet zester we got for a wedding present. I just knew registering for it was a crucial step in starting our lives together.

I made several adaptations to Tiffany's recipe - she called for just chicken and asparagus, but I used the tomatoes, zucchini, yellow squash, and onions that I had on hand. Her recipe also calls for a ground herb called savory. I checked in two stores and neither of them carried savory, so I substituted Mrs. Dash Original Blend Seasoning. I figured it tastes pretty savory any time I've ever used it, so its pretty much the same thing... right?

Lemon Chicken Kabobs

  • 4 chicken breasts
  • 2 medium tomatoes, cut into chunks
  • 1 large zucchini, cut into chunks
  • 1 large yellow squash, cut into chunks
  • 1 white onion, cut into chunks (red onions are great for grilling, but I avoid them cuz I usually taste 'em for days. TMI? Sorry.)
  • 2 tsp Mrs. Dash
  • 1 tsp garlic powder
  • 1 tsp onion powder
  • 1 tbsp lemon zest
  • 1 tsp lemon juice
  • 2 tsp olive oil
  1. Place all the ingredients in a large dish and mix it up, so chicken and veggies are coated with oil and herbs.
  2. Optional step: Cover and marinate chicken and veggies up to one hour in the refrigerator. (I was too impatient for this step.)
  3. Skewer the chicken and veggies. Make sure you create a beautiful pattern. They taste better that way, promise.
  4. Hand skewers to husband for grilling - 10 to 15 minutes on the grill, turning kabobs after 5 to 7 minutes 
Simple as that! And for those of you who don't love zesting lemons quite as much as I do, you can find the original Miracle Whip kabob recipe here. Enjoy!

Friday, July 13, 2012

Paradise: Take Two.

One (huge, major, massive) perk of being a teacher - I can travel freely alllll summer. This week, Joey had a work conference in Amelia Island, Florida. Free trip to the beach? Staying at the Ritz-Carlton? Don't mind if I do...

Because, let me tell you, I love me a good hotel stay. How can you not love a place that is designed specifically for stellar sleeping? That encourages you to order food that will be delivered directly to your bedside? Where leaving your towels on the floor is a symbolic gesture that you're ready for someone to collect them and clean them for you? (If only that worked at home...)

We arrived to the Ritz-Carlton Hotel around 6:00 on Sunday night. Okay, so I knew the Ritz-Carlton has a reputation for being ::ahem:: elegant. I don't live under a rock. But apparently I may be slightly out of touch... since I arrived to the hotel wearing sweatpants, a ratty lime green t-shirt, and flip flops, while my fellow Ritz-ers were decked out in their Sunday best (All the women were wearing ::gasp:: heels!)

The bellhop escorted us to our sleeping quarters (Can you tell I'm trying to sound as elegant as this hotel?), and the second I touched the bed, I instantly forgot that "look what the cat dragged in" feeling. The bed was a downy nest of countless pillows and blankets. I sank right in and it was heavenly. I quickly erased all images of spending my time in a lounger by the pool and replaced them with a sweet, sweet vision of me, laying in that bed. all. day. long.

Which explains why the photos below are the only pictures I took the entire time I was in Amelia Island. All of which were taken during the last 30 or so minutes of the trip.

I did drag myself from my lair a few times... The first night, I tagged along with Joey and his coworkers to eat dinner at Salt, the restaurant in the lobby of the hotel. The premise of the place is that they offer over 40 different types of natural and infused salts that pair well with different dishes. Dinner here was a learning experience for me. Frankly, I didn't even know there were more than two types of salt - the kind you have to grind before you use it, and the kind where that step was already taken care of in a factory somewhere. I enjoyed a Nebraskan free-range chicken breast with Adriatic citrus salt. For dessert - a decadent dark chocolate souffle paired with milk chocolate hazelnut ice cream and a white chocolate creme anglaise. (Waitress' words. Not mine. I still don't even understand what an anglaise is.)

The next night, I got to be smiling, talkative wifey while Joey and his coworkers hosted a dinner with people from a few different medical practices. We ate at a place called PLAE (People Laughing and Eating). A little overwhelmed by the menu, I decided to order from the "Bistro fare" section - a plae burger. Minus mushrooms. Minus blue cheese. Minus tomato. Okay, so basically just a burger on a bun. I pretty much ordered this restaurant's equivalent of a Happy Meal.

Don't get me wrong... the food at both restaurants was straight-up delicious. I devoured it all, and it was fun to experience with Joey, because we certainly don't eat food like that on a regular basis! I just get a little uncomfortable when the waiter or waitress takes the time to describe each menu item in detail, yet I still have no idea what I'm about to eat.

The best part of vacation to me was the road trip home. Nothin' like an endless stretch of time when all Joey and I have to do is talk and be goofy together. (I also may be biased in how much I enjoyed this time, since Joey did all six hours of driving himself. Yet another reason I'm thankful for him!)

And as a symbol that vacation was over and it was back to reality... We had dinner at Taco Bell on the way home. Totally back in my comfort zone.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Paradise: Take One.

Last week, Joey and I visited the Grand Palladium Riviera Maya Resort in Akumal, Mexico. And, after several warnings from my ever-cautious parents, I decided not to advertise the whats and wheres of my vacationing adventures on various social media networks until after we had returned... You know, just in case some extremely technologically savvy criminals out there were able to determine that we were out of town, break into our home, and rob us blind. (Note to all technologically savvy criminals: We actually don't really own much that's worth stealing, so all that cyber stalking might have a better pay off elsewhere.)

Now that we have returned to the good ol' US of A ::deep, sad sigh::, its time for a post about our deliciously wonderful trip to Mexico. Planning this trip started over a year ago, when my dad and I had the great idea to organize a huge family trip to a resort in Mexico. We started planning, but as babies were born and moves were made and life happened, fewer and fewer family members could actually go (...Either that, or the rest of the family is trying really hard to avoid me.) So, in the end, the trip ended up being just me, Joey, my mom, and my dad. Which I was actually very excited about, since I don't get to spend nearly enough time with my parents since I made the move to Atlanta.

I wish I had all kinds of adventurous stories to tell you about our time at the resort... but I don't, because we didn't do anything. And every second of this nothing-ness was glorious. We only had very basic decisions to make each day...
Lay by the beach... or by the pool?
Drink a mojito... or a pina colada?
Should we schedule that couples massage for today... or tomorrow?
Walking to the snack shack... yay or nay?
Do I really want to get up to reapply my sunscreen? (Looking back now, as I cope with these wildly attractive patches of peeling skin, the answer should have always been a resounding "yes!")
I also spent some time contemplating the legality of bringing a kitten home from a foreign land. (Decided against it, in case you were wondering.)

And that's about it. And amidst this simplicity, I made an amazing discovery while we were out of the country...

(sun + delicious beverage + Kindle) - (stress x responsibility) = paradise

photos I took during a sunrise walk along the beach

cabana bed at the salt water pool

flora of the Riveiera Maya - oh how I love the textures and patterns of plants!

infinity pool at the spa, by night

To make an already exciting trip even better, Joey and I also celebrated our first anniversary while on vacation. We enjoyed a beautiful anniversary dinner at the resort's Mediterranean restaurant. Our private table was set on a small cabana built in the middle of a koi pond, and the meal was made complete with a serenade from a guitar duo just before dessert arrived. When we returned to our room, the butler staff had arranged our room with flowers, candles, champagne, and chocolate-covered strawberries.

All in all, a great way to celebrate our first year of marriage, and to look forward to many more wonderful years together in the future!

Monday, June 25, 2012

Reliving My Awkward Years

I'm going to the orthodontist today. Which brings me right back to this point in my life:

Yup, that's me posing for the paparazzi (aka my dad) before my eighth grade semi-formal. Lookin' gorgeous in my spaghetti-strap dress and white high heels. Both of which made me look slightly more gangly than I would have on a regular day... If that's even possible. And let's not forget the blue and white butterfly clips adorning the up-do that I carefully crafted in front of the bathroom mirror, right before I smeared on a hint of shimmery white eye-shadow and some clear mascara (Fancy, huh?) I had just gotten my braces a few weeks before this photo was taken, and I specifically selected silver bands to coordinate with my dress on this once-in-a-lifetime occasion.

Last week, I bit into an apple and somehow managed to break the permanent appliance that was glued to the back of my two front teeth after my braces were finally removed when I was 16. I hadn't thought about that thing one time since the day I was sent away from the orthodontist's chair with a shining braces-free smile and a bag full of bubble gum, Starburst, and other braces-breaking candy... and now, suddenly, dealing with this appliance became a full-time job.

As an adult, I struggled to find an orthodontist who would see me to make the repair. I guess you're not a priority when you aren't 12 years old and debating between pink or green rubber bands for your braces this month. I was literally to the point of calling coworkers who have teenage children and begging them to put in a good word for me at their orthodontist office. Thankfully I found an office who was willing to see me with just a 6 day wait, instead of 2 1/2 weeks - the soonest appointment I could find anywhere else. And what's even more exciting? This office has video games in the waiting room.

So today, I will be unearthing my purple glittery retainer with a star sticker cemented inside from it's home at the back of a bathroom drawer, since my new orthodontist specifically requested that I bring it to my appointment. (And I will then have to admit to the orthodontist I have not worn said retainer for quite some time). I just hope she doesn't yell at me. Or even worse, suggest a wildly expensive treatment plan to correct the damage I have done by denying my teeth the glittery support they so badly needed.

Tomorrow, I turn 27 years old. But for today, I am 13 again.


Sunday, June 24, 2012

I Need a Shoe-tervention

This week's Organize Life challenge actually made me feel like a little less of an organizing failure. Thanks to a wall-mounted key rack/mail basket and memo board, we already sort of kind of have a "catch-all" place for most of our necessities.

We might have the key and mail situation worked out, but we I have a major shoe problem. We generally enter the house through the front door instead of the garage (Mainly because the garage is so full of junk, I can't make my way to the garage door once my car is in there. But that's an organization project for another day.) This means the tiny entrance area of our town home becomes a dumping ground for shoes. In an attempt to remedy this problem, we purchased Ikea's Hemnes Shoe Cabinet shortly after moving in. This piece was perfect for the entrance way because it provides a table space to add decorative elements to the space, and is designed specifically to store eight pairs of shoes.

Problem #1 - We I have been shoving waaaay more than eight pairs of shoes in this poor shoe cabinet. And the shoes that don't fit? Well, I just leave those on the floor.

Easy fix... I moved the shoes that I don't wear daily up to the shoe organizer in my closet, where they belong.

These are all the "extra" kicks that I dug out of the shoe cabinet. (The cat, however, was not removed from the shoe cabinet.)

Problem #2 - A few months ago, the Home Owner's Association built a dog park in our neighborhood. And everyone LOVES it. (I'd even say it is almost worth the hike in HOA fees that came with it.) The dog park is so very loved, that it has actually become more of a mud pit. Which means several times a day, our sweet pup, Ella, treks mud and bits of dead grass into the house. Because when you have a dog who is thoroughly obsessed with chasing tennis balls, there is simply no way to avoid this mess. Cleaning it up is literally driving me crazy... which is why I usually don't even clean it anymore. Because I hate hiking up the stairs to get the broom to sweep up the dirt when I know it will simply reappear in a few hours when Ella is once again reunited with her precious tennis ball.

Light bulb! Why not keep a broom downstairs? I bought a small hand broom and dustpan to keep in the shoe cabinet, along with a small towel for cleaning wet messes. Now, when we bring the dog in, all it takes is a quick sweep with the broom, dump the dirt back outside the front door (Because I will avoid an extra trip up and down those stairs at all costs), and all is well in the world.

So in the end, there's one drawer for Ella. One drawer for Joey. And two drawers for me. Don't judge me. We've already established that I have a shoe problem.

And with that, this space is manageable again:

Much better. The next time I'm tempted to drop a pair of shoes where it doesn't belong, I need to remember how nice it feels to open our front door to see this, instead of an imitation of Imelda Marcos' closet.


Monday, June 18, 2012

Repurposed with Purpose

The organization continues! This week's "assignment" was to organize a cabinet. I decided to confront the terrifying space under our kitchen sink. This cabinet has been a huge frustration... I could not find bins and baskets that fit around all that crazy plumbing in there, so instead I just shoved all our cleaning supplies wherever I found space. Anytime I needed some cleaning product, I had to pull everything out (if it didn't all fall out on top of me first) and I pretty much ended up making a bigger mess than the one I was trying to clean up in the first place. Clearly wasn't working for me.

Then, I stumbled across this genius idea of using a repurposed tension rod for under sink storage (Found it on Pinterest of course, where else?):

And with that, I was finally inspired to begin the makeover.

I installed the tension rod with the intention of using it to hang spray bottles, but then I remembered that a few years ago, in a failed attempt to organize my bathroom, I purchased a BYGEL rail and hanging baskets from Ikea. (Failed attempt because I never actually installed said rail and hanging baskets. Turns out I don't know how to use power tools.) I dug the baskets out of their home on a shelf in the garage and discovered that they fit perfectly around the tension rod! I filled the baskets with garbage bags, extra sponges, and dishwasher tablets

Next, I found shallow plastic storage bins at Target that slide perfectly under the sink pipes. It turns out I prefer to keep all my cleaning supplies in a bin, so when its time to clean, all I have to do is pull the entire bin out and everything I need is right at my fingertips. I was sure to put the things I often use right up front (Helloooo Lysol wipes and pet stain remover!), and the things I rarely use tucked in the back (Tough to use silver polish when I don't yet own any silver...)

Costs for our new and improved cabinet:
  • Tension rod from Lowe's - $4.34
  • Set of five plastic storage bins from Target - $5.99
  • BYGEL container from Ikea - $0.99
  • (I already owned the hanging baskets so I didn't have to purchase them, but for those who are not pack rats with random baskets lurking in the garage, you can buy them for $1.99 at Ikea)
Grand Total - $11.32. Not to shabby.

The only problem is that now I have two leftover plastic bins... Guess I better start organizing another cabinet so I can put them to use!