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.

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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!