of halloweens past

I've never been the biggest fan of Halloween. 
The candy, however, I have a big fan of...but I'm abstaining this year because, y'know, I have to fit in a wedding dress soon. 
Moving on. 
My mother never liked Halloween. It wasn't celebrated in South Africa, and she's pretty sure it's mildly hedonistic. 
I think she might be kind of right there.

Because she's the best mother ever though, she totally let her kids partake in the festivities (and the sugar).
I think I stopped dressing up around age 11, mostly because we always had practice on Halloween.
Up until that point though, my mother provided us with some pretty great costumes.
One year, I wanted to be Queen Frostine from Candyland.
She totally made my costume. #winning

Clearly, I felt pretty great about my costume because I am just hamming it up in that pic.
Other times, however, my mother seemed to have a little less time on her hands.
It was probably because she was coaching figure skating every night.
Or, it might have been because she carted her three girls around to swimming all the time.
Whatever the reason might be, sometimes we had some, well, questionable costumes. 

 I present to you what we affectionately (read: holy terror) refer to as "Ham, Part I & the scariest Snow White ever."

For some reason, Ham must have been a hit because it was repeated...on the littler sis a year later. 
Nikki was a cute little pumpkin, I was Queen Frostine that year...and Kristina was Ham. Part Deux.

It's the stuff of nightmares, guys. 

forays in photography

On a whim a few years ago, I bought a DSLR and had no idea what to do with it, so it sat collecting dust for a looooong time. This past year though, I've made a point of really taking it out and shooting more and more and, funny enough, some people have asked for paid shoots, which is super flattering. I've lined up a few family sessions in the coming months prior to my move, and I'm so excited to get out there and keep learning by doing. 

Trust me when I say that I have a lot to learn. I haven't taken any photography courses. I study lighting by doing more shoots and seeing what works best. I generally shoot in natural light because it makes for the best shots. I've struggled with self-doubt about it a lot because, well, who doesn't?

At the end of the day though, I really love what I do. It's just an added bonus that people want to shoot with me sometimes! I like doing styled shoots, but my preference is always natural - family, bridal, engagement, newborns, etc. Now that I'm moving to Arizona, I'm tempted to start shooting (and advertising) more often...but I fear rejection, so we'll see.

As an aside: if you live in New England and would like to shoot with me before I move, I'm offering mini family sessions now through December 2nd. For just $75, you'll get 30-45 minutes of shooting time, plus 20 edited high-res images on a disc. Just email melissabethphotography@gmail.com Shameless plugging :)

what we're watching this fall

Now, in the interest of full disclosure, I don't have cable. My roommate and I decided to get rid of it after a hellish (one of many) ordeals with Comcast after moving to Salem. We switched companies, and we decided to just go for fast, fast, fast internet instead. Plus, we can hook up Apple TV to our televisions and still see the shows we like. It works for us, plus it's cheap...and it didn't come with a contract. That's a plus because I'm moving in, y'know...3 months. I digress.

There are so many new shows out that I can't really keep up with them. I tried a few of them, despised most of them and was left with a couple to keep up with on Hulu. I've also given up on some of my favorite old shows in favor of new ones. Then there's the few shows that I'll be dying for in the mid-season interlude, of course. Now, as an aside, we really don't watch much TV. We watch a couple shows when we're eating dinner in the evening, and that's about it. 

Shows We're Watching
A. Arrow - It's finally finding it's groove...and he's really, really attractive. It works.
B. The Originals - Think Vamps circa season one...much more fun & mysterious.
C. Revenge - Guilty pleasure all the way! The fact that it's still suspenseful is amazing.
D. Reign - Iffy on this one, but it's super entertaining...albeit NOT historically accurate at all.

Shows We Quit Watching
A. Bones - I love Booth & Bones, but the magic was them NOT being together.
B. Supernatural - Love Sam & Dean, but I think I'm going to save it for Netflix now.
C. The Vampire Diaries - It just feels like a never-ending sob story these days. I'm bored.
D. Revolution - Loved the first half of season one, but I was so bored by the end of the season.

Shows We Are Looking Forward To
A. The 100 - I actually read the book & I didn't love it, but it reads like a TV show, so it could work.
B. The Following - This show is so sadistic. I totally got Ryan hooked on it. It's really well done.
C. Hannibal - I'm terrified of this show, but Hugh Dancy is in it, and it's really, really visually incredible.

And that's it. Naturally, I'm super behind on everything, but I have a lot to do outside of watching shows these days, and I love it! Am I missing out on anything in particular? Have you watched any of these shows, and if so, what do you think? 

confession: i'm a cat lady

I figured it was time to show the world my true colors (and the furballs). Truthfully, this is not a secret. While I'm also the proud owner of a chow-chow, she has to live with my parents because, apparently, she's a dangerous breed, and nobody will let me rent with her. Thus, it's just me and the cats right now. Ryan, bless him, is deathly allergic to the cats. He's getting shots to live with them. If that's not love, I don't know what is. 

Back to the cats though...Stella is my baby girl. She's 5 years old, and she's half Bengal, which basically means that she looks like a hodge-podge of breeds. Jasper is my giant baby boy. He's 4 years old, and while he weighs almost 13 lbs (I swear he's on a diet), he meows like a kitten, and he's afraid of everything. Except me. He loves me. I take great joy in this fact. They love each other, they beg for food at 3 AM and they are two very mischievous little heathens. I wouldn't have it any other way.

But seriously, guys. These two little rescues have brought so much joy into my life. Sure, they're a pain in the ass to put in their crates and relocate every time I move, but I wouldn't have it any other way. They'll be coming with us to Germany. Ryan thinks this is hilarious. I, however, am dead serious. Fingers crossed they don't hate me forever?

sprechen sie deutsch?

Remember how I mentioned yesterday that I'd fill you guys in when we got Ryan's official orders as to our next station?
We expected to get them in a couple weeks...no sooner, for sure, but probably later...because that's the Army for you, especially with Ryan going to WOCs before we PCS (more on that later).
Well, I was sitting at my desk yesterday wondering where the heck our lives would take us next,
when I got a text from Ryan stating simply, "I'm looking at orders now." Cue excited freak out.

"Babe, I think we're gonna have to buy you some Rosetta Stone soon."
My text back? "Where, WHEN, WHERE?!"
I'm all class under excitement, kids. All class.
He didn't keep me waiting long though (probably because he was more excited than me, if possible).
His reply? "My whole body is smiling. We're going to Germany!"

So yes, our little family is PCSing to Germany on January 2, 2015.
Yes, that is exactly two days before our first anniversary.
We can't wait to live in the land of shnitzel, Oktoberfest, amazing scenery and history.
The cats? Yeah, they're going to be clueless up until the point they're put in crates.
I'm pretty sure that's actually the only part I'm dreading.

I've only been to Germany once to visit family when I was 14. Ryan did his mission there for two years, so he's fluent in German, and he's excited to bust out that knowledge. I'm just hoping that my minimal Dutch and Afrikaans will somehow help me communicate. 
Regardless, though, this is the opportunity of a lifetime for us, and we couldn't be happier!
Have any of you been to Germany/PCSed to Germany?
Any advice or places that we absolutely must see during our 3 years abroad?

planes, trains & moving vans

I had a friend remark to me yesterday that I always seem to be moving, and it make me think about it. It's kind of true. I've lived in New Jersey, Florida, Utah, South Africa and now New Hampshire. In January I'll be moving to Arizona to be with my soon-to-be husband. Less than a year later, we'll be PCSing, and it looks like we've got some incredible adventures ahead of us (more on that later when we finally get his official orders from WOCs).

If you add that up, that's 5 places already in my 27 years of life, 6 before I turn 28 and 7 before my 29th birthday. To some, that may seem like madness. If I think of it in terms of the moving process, itself, it is madness. But here's the thing...I love traveling. I love exploring. Ryan told me when we first started dating that it takes a certain kind of woman to marry a military man because home is always changing and it could be anywhere in the world.

I'd be lying if I said the prospect of many, many moves in the next 15 years didn't scare me just a bit, but seriously, how could we pass up this opportunity? My best friend and I will get to explore this incredible world together in ways so many people might otherwise never be able to. That, in and of itself, makes up for the uncertainty of Army life, if you ask me. 

thoughts on a wednesday

It seems like lately, God has been reminding me ever-so-gently to slow down, step back & take a breath.
This past weekend, I got nervous and frustrated about invitations, decorations and, of course, my dress...when the truth of the matter is that I'd marry Ryan in a heartbeat without any of that.
And so, I stepped back and said a prayer, asking for God to simply have his will be done with this wedding.
'Lo and behold, things have started moving...and at lightning speed!

The original invitation we wanted fell through because the woman just didn't respond in time and then chastised me for not ordering sooner (at which point I politely informed her that I just got engaged).
I spent hours scouring Etsy looking for a design I'd love just as much - neutral, rustic & not too feminine. 
And I found something. Ryan loves it. I love it. We ordered it, and we've already seen our proofs and they'll be in the mail on their way to us...tomorrow. Just a little sneak peek: 

Our invites and RSVPs match, and I'll be sure to share the whole thing after the wedding is done. 
For now though, it's for our eyes only...you understand!

We were also stressing about the minister and how we'd find one within our budget and our timeframe. We also needed a non-denominational minister, as Ryan's family is LDS, but my family is not.
Would you believe it if I said that God directed us to the husband of a friend?
He's a licensed minister in the state of New Hampshire. Non-denominational. Devout. Amazing...and he doesn't charge a dime for weddings.
Obviously, we'll pay...but wow! It's amazing how easily things work when we cease to interfere with God's plan for us :)

making a list (checking it twice)

It seems that, in addition to an endless series of countdowns (38 days till I see Ryan for Thanksgiving, 61 days till I see Ryan for Christmas and 75 days till our wedding!!!), I know am the proud owner of a million lists.

I have many, many lists of things to do for our wedding.

There's that list of people that will receive wedding announcements as opposed to invitations, simply because we're having such a small wedding.

There's a list of things I will be moving with my to Arizona, plus a list of things that won't be. Congratulations, cats, you made the cut. I know you're excited to drive 23984290384 miles with me to your new home at Fort Huachuca.

There's the list of documents I know I can't move without. 

It's seemingly endless, and it made me panic and get frustrated more than once this past weekend. Ryan, bless him, took it all in stride. He calmed my nerves and my fears about not being financially stable because of this wedding and the move. He remained my rock, for which I will be eternally grateful.

My parents, too, have blessed us in a way I never thought possible, and I realized this weekend that I need to take a step back, breath and just be.

It is so easy to get caught up in everything that has to be done and miss out on all the little things in life. I made a promise to myself, to Ryan and to my parents that I'm going to work harder to stop stressing and start enjoying.

And, most of all, I made a promise to Heavenly Father. I overlook his divine guidance too often. I know that His will plays a part in everything, and for that I am so, so blessed. 

i've got sunshine

I woke up feeling a little bit blah about Monday today, but I hustled my butt to the gym at 5:30 AM (hey, I have to look good for my wedding), and I got my day going. Then...the first thing I saw in my inbox this morning was a sweet comment from Katherine at The Newsom's Nest saying that she nominated me for the Sunshine Award! It totally brightened my morning, and I'm ready to tackle yet another week now.

This cute award is offered up to bloggers that bring a little sunshine into the world, which I think is adorable! So, without further ado, I'm answering Katherine's questions then offering up some of my own!


1. Fall is in the air! What is your favorite thing about fall?

I love the smell of the leaves in New England, as well as all the beautiful colors. Also, it's the perfect time to start making hot cider, wearing boots with long socks, scarves and big, knitted hats. Fall is by far my favorite season!

2. What is your favorite all-time movie (or movies if it's a tie!) and why?

Oh gosh...someone asked me this the other day, and I couldn't give them an answer. If I had to pick though, I'd say that it might just by Fern Gully. Or Wild Hearts Can't Be Broken. Or She's the Man.

3. Where do you call home, and what makes it home?

Right now, I call home New Hampshire, but I was talking to Ryan about this the other day, and I said I don't know that I've ever felt at home in a specific place yet. I've lived all over, but I think home will always be with my family...plain and simple.

4. Where did you find or order your favorite meal/recipe? (And how was it?)

I think my all-time favorite recipe that I've cooked is butternut squash soup. It's incredible, if I do say so myself. My favorite meal to order though is the jumbo prawns we get when we're in Cape Town, South Africa...specifically Simonstown. Those things are incredible.

5. Favorite vacation spot? When did you go there?

I think it would have to be Zebula, which is about 45 minutes north of Johannesburg in South Africa, where most of my extended family lives. My family owns a house on a game reserve there, and it's the most incredible place in the world. Proof:

6. What is one thing about you, that people are surprised of when they find out?

I think people are surprised that I speak three languages and that I love to move to new places. I'm sure the Army will beat that out of me (or attempt to), but it's gonna have a hard time doing so!

7. What is your biggest dream for yourself? (Job, goal, life's mission, etc)

Honestly, I think my dream job is that of a mother. With Ryan and my wedding fast approaching, we're eagerly anticipating the day we can become parents, too.

8. If you could go back in time, what year would you travel to?

I don't want to travel back. I'm happy right where I am, to be honest, and it's taken a really long time getting here!

9. If you were a painter, what would your greatest work be? (What kind of art would you create?)

Well, considering I have little to no artistic ability, this would probably never be the case. If it was, however, I would paint pottery!

10. What is your favorite American landmark that you've visited? (Capitol, state parks, statue of liberty, etc?)

Ooooof...good question. I think I'd probably have to say that visiting Moab and Arches National Park is my favorite. Does that count? If not, probably visiting and touring the FBI building in Washington, D.C. when I was little.

11. What is one of your favorite quotes, and why?

"My thoughts are stars I cannot fathom into constellations." - The Fault in Our Stars 
Plus, I'd have to add that I have a million favorite Bible verses, not the least of which is:
"There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love. We love because He first loved us." - 1 John 4:18-19


And now...the fun part! I get to nominate 11 other bloggers to receive this award and pass it on, as well! I'm new to the personal blogosphere (I've been a book blogger for 3+ years), but you've all made me feel so welcome, and I'm really thankful for that! Here are the bloggers I nominate:

And....I get to offer up 11 of my own questions, which is just fantastic because I'm quite the curious individual. Here are the questions you lovelies get to answer, should you choose to participate in this sunshine-y award :)

1. Do you have a nickname? If so, what is it?
2. What is one food that you absolutely could not live without?
3. What is your all-time favorite book and why?
4. If you could only shop at three stores for the rest of your life, what would they be and why?
5. What is one fashion trend you are really glad you outgrew?
6. Who is your celebrity crush and why?
7. If you could travel anywhere in the world on someone else's dime, where would you go?
8. What is one thing that you absolutely must accomplish in life to be happy?
9. What is your biggest fear?
10. Do you have any hidden talents we should know about?
11. What is the last movie you saw, and what did you think about it?

the evolution of sisters

I've been thinking about this a lot lately, and I guess it must be my old age catching up to me. 
I kid. I know I'm not old. Yet.
I have two sisters, and I'm the middle child. 
We're all about 2 years apart...a little less...well done, parents.
And when I was growing up, I definitely didn't appreciate them like I do now.

As an aside - no, Nikki is not strangling Kristina...she was trying to get her to sit up straight.

These days, my sisters are truly my best friends.
Do we fight? Sure, but not like we used to...
And I definitely don't have "middle-child syndrome" like I used to either.
These girls are incredible. 
Nikki's one smart cookie - she's a vet. Kristina is in law school. Smarties. 

And yet, we still have fun like we used to - only better.
Nikki married and gave us the best brother we could ever hope for. 
Kristina grew 29340823 inches and towers over us,
But it hasn't changed our shenanigans,
Or the seemingly endless amount of fun we have together.

Clearly we haven't changed that much because there's a 15 year age gap here.

My sisters are, first and foremost, my friends.
They picked me up when I was broken after failed relationships, 
And they celebrated with me when I found the man of my dreams.
These girls...I'll miss them when Ryan and I set off on a world of adventures.
But seriously...we're the three best friends that anybody could have (I'm so punny).

a rude awakening

I mentioned yesterday that Ryan was going to meet with housing today about our living situation after our wedding and once I move to Arizona.
Well, he did...and it wasn't really news that was easy to stomach.
Apparently, at Fort Huachuca, unmarried soldiers (even when engaged) cannot be added to the wait list.
However, the super accommodating lady in housing told him that they might have a place available in our time frame.

She basically gave us two options:
A) Get married in a courthouse so we have our marriage certificate on hand to provide to housing and be placed on the wait list.
B) Get married on January 4, 2014 as planned, fax our marriage certificate over to housing, cross our fingers and pray really hard that something is open in the two weeks between our wedding & our move.
Neither solution is really great, to be honest.

If we go with the first option, that means one of us has to spend the money to fly out to the other to do the courthouse ceremony...taking money from our actual wedding budget.
If we go with the second option, we're not really guaranteed a place by the time we arrive, and with two cats, plus all our furniture in tow, that's bound to be hell on wheels.
Needless to say, despite promising I wouldn't stress, I definitely had a meltdown.

I know that God will grant us the peace of mind and clarity of heart to marry when and how it is meant to happen. And, in a way, I'm thankful this is happening.
I need to learn how tricky the Army procedures are because it will be our life for another 15 years.
We could choose to live off base, but I know Ryan wants to be on-base to meet more young families and so I won't be lonely, especially because I'll be working from home.

We're hoping to have our final decision in the next few days, and we're praying heavily on guidance to make the right decision for both of us, as well as our families.
Please, please keep your fingers crossed for us! 
It's not the biggest issue ever, but it's definitely a rude awakening to the Army lifestyle.
Ladies, I have a heck of a new appreciation for all you do for your soldiers, sailors, airmen & marines now.

planning, planning, planning

I've made a point of the fact that I refuse to stress over this wedding. This is a blessed, exciting and happy time, and Ryan and I are just looking forward to starting our lives together. At the risk of being super annoying on this blog, I'll be posting little bits and pieces about our plans because, y'know, with less than three months to go (!!!!!!!) we have a lot to accomplish.

We're starting on the wedding planning, which really is a blast. We're going super simple, sweet and low-key...which is definitely us. He'll be wearing his dress uniform, so any colors we do use will serve to complement that. We're thinking silvers, golds and lots of neutrals.

Oh, and the dress? Yeah, no clue. That's going to be fun. 

We did, however, score a photographer from back in my modeling days, and we're very exciting that she's going to shoot our wedding and teensy "reception" for next to nothing.

And yes, I put reception in quotes because it will be more of a family dinner out than anything else. The second we label anything with the term "wedding," the price goes up astronomically.

So, tentatively, our day looks like this: Ceremony, Cocktail Hour (all food and drinks made my yours truly), Pictures in the White Mountains, Dinner with Family, Drinks and Dancing with the youths.

Simple. Sweet. Succinct. Love.

After the wedding, Ryan and I are hoping to move straight into on-base housing since we'll be in AZ for just less than a year before we have to PCS. From what he's heard, it looks like we need to have our marriage license in order and everything first. Otherwise, we'd have to rent an apartment until it's all cleared up. Do any of my military spouse friends have any info on this sort of thing?

 We'll have my car, my furniture, his furniture, his car and two cats to move, so it's going to be, well, unique.

we have a countdown

Ryan and I picked a date! I know it's all really fast, but like we told both our parents: we love each other, we're tired of the distanced and there is really nothing holding us back. I spoke with my work yesterday, and they've officially decided to keep me, as well. So, this means I'll still have my great job, and I'll just be working remotely from Arizona. 

The only real hitch is that I have a lease that I can't back out of. I'll have to pay my portion of my rent in New Hampshire through May. It's not an astronomical cost, but it's definitely not ideal either. My roommate is going to be looking to see if anyone will take it, but it's doubtful, so I'm not holding my breath.

Back to the wedding though...we're going really small, and we're pretty much inviting solely family and, perhaps, two or three friends. It'll be a grand total of no more than 25. Neither of us want to drop a lot of money on a wedding when we'd rather plan for the future, and neither of us really wants to deal with planning a wedding when we firmly believe our marriage should be more beautiful than our wedding day.

But, we've booked our photographer, it looks like we might have snagged a reservation at a great restaurant for a dinner/reception number and, if all goes well, we should know our venue this weekend! So when, you ask, are we getting married? 

January 4, 2014

We'll have a small honeymoon after, and then we'll head straight to Arizona. If you don't want to count that out, that's just 89 days till I move. Permanently. Andddd it's just 82 days until our wedding day! I have to admit...I'm still nervous about the planning though. Even small, there are details to take into account, and I worry I'll forget something. Any advice from my sweet married friends?!

utah has my heart

This weekend was such a whirlwind.
I flew out of Boston at 7 AM Thursday morning, and I arrived in Utah at 10:15.
Ryan picked me up, and we were so excited to spend a little quality time together...
Because now we have another 6 weeks until I see him for Thanksgiving.

This man knows me so well.
He took me straight from the airport to get a much-needed coffee,
then we drove up to Park City to spend an hour or two with a friend of mine from college & her baby.
Then, we raced back into the valley for a delicious Peruvian dinner with a friend of his.
By the time all of this was done, I was spent (still on East coast time), and he was a bit off - tired and jittery.

We drove to American Fork to stay at his parents' house and, upon arriving, I walked in and put my bags in my room immediately...more than ready to crash for the night.
When I walked back out to see if he needed help bringing his stuff in, I noticed dozens 
of fire and ice roses on the dining table. 
"Wow," I thought. "His mom has great taste in flowers."

And then I saw him...my man...on bended knee.
Right there, with the most beautiful flowers in the world and the most amazing man in the world,
everything stopped. 
I wasn't tired anymore.
Ryan spoke to me about our dreams, how blessed he was to find me, and how very much
he can't wait to start a life with me.
Then, he asked me to marry him, and I've never been more certain of anything in my life.

I said yes!

(roses...my beautiful ring - Tanzanite & diamonds for my African roots)

I'll have more on the upcoming wedding in the next few days. 
We'll be moving fast since we're eager to be married and not have to stomach the distance anymore.
For today though, I'm just letting this joy sink in :)

leaving on a jet plane

I'm heading to Utah tomorrow to visit my old stomping grounds and see my man.
It sounds funny that after a year of dating, I can still say that I get butterflies every time I see Ryan.
There's a part of me that gets nervous...not bad nervous...but still nervous.
After weeks and months apart, it's always like meeting him for the first time in those first few minutes until we settle back into our groove again.
Does anybody else get like that when they see their significant other after a long time?

We talk every day and utilize multiple modes of communication...
But there's something so entirely different about having that face time with the person you love.
It's exciting, thrilling, nerve-wracking, joyful and, well, peaceful.
I can't wait.

I doubt I'll be posting while I'm in Utah for a couple of reasons.
A) I don't plan on bringing my laptop because I'm working on being more "unplugged" while not at work.
B) I don't get much time with Ryan. I'd like to spend it living in the moment and in the present.
C) It's a tiny little 3-day trip. I'm back to the grind on Sunday.

I will, however, bring my camera with me. 
I'm doing my best to bring it everywhere, capture every moment that I can and remember them forever.
There's something so beautiful about freezing time and keeping it for posterity's sake.

So, be prepared, please! 
I shall inundate you all with photos upon my return :)

learning to give myself a break

So, I decided about a month and a half ago that, upon needing to quit crossfit due to my knee, it was time to lose a bit of the extra weight I've been carrying. Now, I've never been overweight, but I will tell you that I bulked a lot while crossfitting - probably in large part because my body didn't adjust well to heavy lifting, and I didn't quite figure out how to balance my eating to accommodate a diet that was focused far less on cardio than the swimming that my body has been used to for 20+ years. 

I discovered in this past month, however, that I'm not always the most kind to myself. I grew up competitively swimming from age 5 all the way through college. Now I compete in open water races, and I've always been a competitive person. It's in my blood. I think that's why I pushed myself so hard in crossfit - to the point where I got injured. I quickly learned while getting my diet on track that I'm very, very hard on myself though. 

I love fitness, and I love being healthy, but I'm definitely an emotional eater. I can tell you that being in a long-distance relationship hasn't been easy on my psyche. When I was stressed or down, it was pretty darn easy to settle for the instant gratification of yummy ice cream (amiright?!) But I know that I want to live a clean, healthy and long life, so I got my act together. 

And now? Now I need to learn to be kinder to myself...to slow down. I need to learn that it's okay to slip up. I work out at the gym (not crossfit anymore, unfortunately) about 4-5 days a week, and I force myself to give my body a break the rest of the time. I really need to learn that it's okay to stop, take a breath and just be. Does anybody else have this problem?

a lazy weekend wrap-up

It was a pretty laid back weekend around here. Honestly, I had absolutely no plans, and usually, that's my favourite thing in the world because I can just be lazy - something that doesn't happen all that often. This weekend, however, I really wanted to stay busy. My roommate was busy helping her sister with preparations for her sister's wedding on the 12th, so I was left to my own devices. What's a girl to do?

Well, I decided to check out the fall foliage because, hey, when in New England, do as the the New Englanders do, right? It was beautiful. I can tell you this with utter sincerity. Arizona, if and when that time comes, isn't going to be able to even hold a candle to this:

In other news, I spent half my weekend craving Chinese food but abstaining because I fear the sodium content, and I'm doing my best to be a healthy (read: not restrictive) eater. So, I decided instead to try my hand at making my own version, and it was bomb! I made my own version of General Tso's chicken, plus cauliflower fried "rice" inspired by this. I'll post the recipe tomorrow.

Other than that, nothing really happened. I joined a gym that agreed to let me join on a month-to-month basis because Ryan's in the Army, and I don't know when (or if) I'll be moving. So, now that it's back to the grind, I have three more days till I head to Utah! I'll be visiting some old school/swimming friends and spending some time with Ryan and his family. Needless to say, the countdown is on!

15 things you never needed to know about me

So, having a brand new personal blog is daunting. I've been book blogging for over 3 years, but there's something totally different about putting yourself out there. For this reason, and this reason alone, I've compiled a list of 15 things you really don't need to know about me (inspired by Brianna's list)...but they might just give you a better insight into what makes yours truly tick. Oh, and even though I'm brand new, I thought it would be fun to open this open to new links for, like, a month. So, if you feel so inclined, do feel free to do your own!

ONE: I'm a middle child, and yes, I suffer from middle child syndrome. Below are my sisters and I circa 2010. Always in the middle. Le sigh.

TWO: I promised my father when I was 13 that I would get a full scholarship to college. I got a full swimming scholarship to two schools...Indian River and the University of Utah (GO UTES!)

THREE: My fight or flight response is broken. Just ask Ryan. Scare me, and I will fall into a fetal position. Literally. 

FOUR: I started my book blog because nobody wanted to talk to me incessantly about books.

FIVE: I was engaged before I met Ryan. Super glad that didn't work out.

SIX: I eat tomatoes like apples. Hey, they're fruit, right?

SEVEN: I am super passionate about animals. If I had a million dollars, I'd probably donate it to an animal charity vs a human charity because I'm that nuts.

EIGHT: I did ballet until I was nine, but I was never built like a ballerina, and I got tired of always being the littlest soldier in the Nutcracker.

NINE: I am an open-water swimmer, and I justify this by the fact that if I get eaten by a shark, it's kind of like the circle of life...right?

TEN: My mother's entire side of my family lives in South Africa. It's a great excuse to travel and play with wild animals. Like snakes. And camels. 

ELEVEN: I hate raisins. Like, really hate them. I'm pretty sure hell is filled with them.

TWELVE: I'm deathly afraid of the bottoms of boats. I have no idea why.

THIRTEEN: I get hives when I have to speak in public. I just can't do it.

FOURTEEN: When I was little, I pretended that I loved the Backstreet Boys because all of my friends did, but I loved U2 and pretended I didn't because I didn't want to be like my sister. Truth.

FIFTEEN: Of all the states I've lived in, I hated Florida the most. I'm sure Arizona will soon be on that list, as well. 

If you want to make your own list...feel free to link up!

that time I won a free cruise

So, it's a not-so-little-known secret that I work for a cruise travel agency called World Travel Holdings. I'm not in sales (let's be honest here, my phone skills are rusty at best), but rather I work a really great 7 - 4 job in marketing in which I pair up with all the brands we partner with to market cruises from all the fleets that we partner with. The logistics of it all will make your head spin, but basically I market and do all the writing for cruises under the US Airways, United, Best Buy, Hilton, etc. brand names. It's great. I love it.

Anyhoo, every year around the holidays, employee names are put into a lottery and winners are selected at random to get a free cruise. Now, while I generally have pretty good luck, I also usually don't win anything. However, this time I did. I won a free 8-night cruise to the Bahamas on this bad boy: 

image via

This is awesome, right?! Well, yes, but here's the thing. A free cruise is great, but the drinks and gratuities are where the cost really adds up, so I had to put my reasonable thinking cap on. I don't have an immense amount of PTO because I travel so regularly to see Ryan in Arizona. We're desperately trying to save up so that I can relocate sometime soon-ish, and I really just need to keep a lid on my piggy bank.

And so, I won a free cruise, and I gave said free cruise back to be replaced in the lottery and given to another employee. It was a sad day for me, but I'm also kind of proud. Maybe I'm actually maturing? Wonders never cease.

living in the moment

Sometimes it feels like I'm living in a constant state of countdowns. 
Right now, I'm counting down the 8 days left until I get to see Ryan in Utah.
There's the 55 days left until Ryan comes to spend Thanksgiving with my family.
There's the 78 days until Ryan gets another big chunk of leave and gets to spend both Christmas and New Year's with my family.

I swear that not a week goes by that somebody doesn't tell me to just live in the moment.
Trust me. I am. 
I love my life. I love my job. I love my friends, and I certainly love my man. But...
There's something missing when a piece of you that has your heart is thousands of miles away.
And missing that piece makes you want to count down until you're whole again.

I know it sounds mushy.
I never thought I'd be that girl. You know, the one that lives for the chance to see her man.
But here I am...proudly owning up to being that girl.
So, maybe I'm not living in the moment entirely right now, but I can tell you that I do my best.
And I definitely look forward to that day that Ryan and I don't have to do this distance all. the. time.

Does anybody else ever feel like they're living by a countdown clock?

andrea's maternity shoot

I've had a beautiful DSLR for about 3 years, but I never really knew what to do with it, so it kind of just collected dust for a year and a half while I resorted to my user-friendly iPhone. This past year though, I began to realize that I really actually loved to take pictures. Capturing a moment and freezing it in time forever? Priceless. I know, I just went all Kodak all over you.

The point is simple though. I decided to take a shot at the whole photography thing. I was bad to start, guys. Like...really bad. Well, I knew what I needed to do to get good pictures, but I was awfully intimidated by shooting manually, so I held off. Once I did though, things really took off, and I've had so much fun learning and growing as a photographer. 

Anyway, on Sunday, a good friend's wife, Andrea, and I set out to take some beautiful maternity photos to document this amazing journey she's on to becoming a mother. As a quick aside - it's impossible to take bad photos of this girl because she's drop-dead-gorgeous. That said, we had SO much fun, and I'm really happy with how the pictures turned out. Here's are just two of my absolute favorite images:

All images are (c) MelissaBeth Photography and may not be recreated in any manner. If you would like to use my images, please feel free to contact me

Needless to say, I absolutely cannot wait to set up my next shoot, and I'm looking forward to building a new client base, too, when I eventually relocated to Ryan's post. For now, I'm content with shooting in beautiful New Hamsphire. If you'd like to check out more of my work, I'm on Facebook (shameless plugging, heck yeah!)