farewell, 2013

I can't believe it's the final day of 2013.
This year has been such a good one, and after a really difficult 2012, this was much-needed.
Besides, the love of my life asked me to be his wife this year. 
Does it get any better than that?

In just five short days, I'll be married to the man of my dreams, 
and tomorrow marks the start of our year.
2013 was one of the very best years of my life, 
but I'd be lying if I said I wasn't absolutely thrilled at the prospect of new adventures in 2014.
Here are 10 things I can't wait for in 2014:

Ryan and I will set up our very first home together (for 11 months), and even though it won't be our home for long, it will be so special to share that space and start our lives together. Finally.

We made a goal to travel as much as possible in each state we live in because of the Army, so we plan to tour Arizona a lot during 2014. We'll finally be able to visit the Grand Canyon together, as well as the Havasu Falls, which we've both wanted to see forever.

This will be the year I'm finally able to pay off all my debt (God willing). With two secure incomes, we can easily survive on one until mine is gone, and I can't wait to have that weight off my shoulders.

Although we're not planning to start a family that soon, if it happens, the prospect definitely excites us, so as silly as it might sound, bebes are on our minds this year. We can't help it.

We're doing our first half marathon in September, and we can't wait. It's after Ryan is done with WOCs, and we have plenty of time to get in good running shape, so trust me, we're excited.

I'm a book blogger, too, over at i swim for oceans, and a new year means a million new and exciting books, plus Book Expo America with all my lovely book-blogging buddies. (Umm Ashley, you should come!)

Because I work in the cruise industry, Ryan and I are planning to take his very first cruise (!!!) from San Diego in May. I promised him he'll have the very best time, and no, we won't cruise Carnival.

As silly as this sounds, I'm excited to continue this little blog. I've got no crazy aspirations of growing it into a moneymaker, but I hope to keep it as a diary to reflect upon later.

This is the first year that Ryan and I won't really  have to do long distance at all. That, in and of itself, is an exciting, exciting thing. Yes, he'll be at WOCs for a total of three months throughout the year, but it's bearable because there will be a real end in sight.

Adventures - pure and simple. I can't wait to see what surprises 2014 has in store for me and for us as a couple. This is our year! Bring it on, 2014 :)

we work out

Ryan and I have pretty much felt like dirt after the holidays because,
and let's be completely honest here,
we ate like crap. 
There was just so much good food around that was super high in cards and super low in nutritional content.

So, we've been hitting the gym every day this week,
and I have to say that it's felt wonderful to go to the gym with him and leave there feeling accomplished.
In about 6 months, Ryan is heading off to Warrant Officer Candidate School (WOCs),
and he wants to be the fittest he's been in a long time.
I, too, want to get to a place where I'm fit, healthy, happy and comfortable, so we're enjoying this time a lot.

It's so easy for us to get bored in the gym though, so we've been working on being more creative.
The past two days, we've done a lot of running and some light weights.
Today, we're hitting the pool, where I can finally be better at something than him...boom!
We've also been adding in some tabata training, as well, to mix things up and get more balance.
This is what we've been doing:

I've missed workouts like these since I quit CrossFit,
so it's felt good to get a bit more of this fast, short and really intense training back in the mix.
Ryan enjoys it, too, because it leaves him winded, but he's able to finish it and finish it well.

Plus, it doesn't hurt that we're starting to feel leaner and meaner just in time for our wedding in less than a week!

counting down the days

As of today, we're under a week until I'm officially married to my very best friend!
You guys are going to be so sick of my countdowns, I know,
and for that, I'm sorry.
But I'm also not sorry because I'm just so. dang. excited!

For now, we're enjoying this time together and putting the finishing touches 
on what's sure to be the very best day of our lives thus far.

We spent yesterday sleeping in, 
continuing our Harry Potter marathon to make sure that Ryan loves HP as much as I do,
getting in a good run, and generally relaxing.
As an aside, I wore my new Brooks sneakers, ran 3.5 miles and felt great.
It was awesome (and even better that Ryan was there!)

Pretty much these are my men just enjoying a relaxing Saturday together,
and this picture cracks me.
Ryan is horribly allergic to my nuggets, but he loves them because I do.
He's the best :)

christmas in review

Can you believe another Christmas has come and gone?
Time is flying by so fast these days, in large part, I'm sure, because the wedding is in 8 days.
We decided to put all planning aside during the holiday though
because we didn't want to cloud one with the other, 
and we really wanted to make sure that this Christmas was as special as possible.

You see, this Christmas was the first year that my sisters and I all had our significant others with us,
and we got to spend Christmas as one big happy family.

We even had my brother-in-law's sister, Rachel, come up for the day.
Though his family is Jewish,
we celebrate Chrismakkuh every year, and Rachel has been a fixture in our lives for 11 years.
It was so wonderful to be together and hike in the woods on Christmas day.

^^^ Ryan, Moi, Adam, Nikki, Rachel, Kristina and Josh. (Ryan & I are not equipped for hiking)

We spent our two tiny days off playing far too many aggressive games Settlers of Catan,
inappropriate forays into Cards Against Humanity (with my father!!!),
a game of celebrity, in which we actually got my poor mother to play charades,
and generally laughed too much, too loudly and too often...though there's no such thing.
^^^ Rachel & Kristina, Ryan and I, the parents <3
^^^ Flyer played Settler's of Catan with us, a frozen Swift River, Ryan & Josh in their #ChristmasJammies

And now, with just 8 days left until the wedding, 
I'm officially going nuts over the last-minute details. 
I'm telling you, even with a tiny, bitty little wedding, it's madness.
Here's hoping it all comes together in the end!

and to all a goodnight

Ryan and I drove up north to North Conway tonight to be with my family for Christmas,

and now we are all settled in, nice and cozy,
for the holiday together.

I'm unplugging from the computer for the rest of today and tomorrow
to enjoy this time with my loved ones,
and I really hope that all of you are able to do so, as well!

I'll be back online this coming Thursday,
but until then, 
I hope all of you have a wonderful, amazing, splendid,
Christ-filled Christmas!

Love to all :)

bachelorette shenanigans

I've decided that I pretty much have the best friends in the entire world.
On Saturday evening, my two sisters, Nikki and Kristina, gathered a few of our closest friends,
and they threw me one heck of a bachelorette party.
To be honest, I wasn't really expecting anything major because I'm not having a real wedding party,
and we're just doing everything so low-key.

But nevertheless, they know how to plan a party,
and I can honestly say that I don't think I'll ever be able to top that for my little sister when she gets married.

Our group consisted of my older sister, Nikki, my younger sister Kristina,
my brother-in-law's sister Rachel and my roommate, Patrice,
my best friend from college (who came all the way from Florida!!!), Shannon,
and one of all of our closest friends, Liz.

^^^ please pardon the quality of these lovely iPhone photos. the DSLR did not attend.

We started our evening at Lolita Cucina, a tequila bar in Boston,
and we followed up an amazing dinner with a stop at Whiskey's and then another bar that I absolutely
cannot for the life of me remember the name of.

I can, however, tell you that the night was amazing,
and it far surpassed any expectations I might have ever had.
There are only so many pictures I can show you of the night because, well,
there are many phallices around my neck, which also made an appearance on my headband
for much of the night, despite my protests.
If, however, you follow me on instagram, you've probably seen it by now.

^^^ from the left: Nikki, Rachel, Liz, Kristina, Shannon, Patrice and yours truly

I'm paying the price for the debauchery and fun we had,
but it was so, so worth it.
And, as luck would have it, my amazing brother-in-law, Adam, and my little sister's sweet boyfriend, Josh,
threw Ryan a little bachelor party, as well,
and we all met up at our last stop by Fenway in the end.

Knowing that he was having a great time while we were out on the town
made the night even better, and I can honestly say that I'm the luckiest woman in the world.
Only 12 days left!

this the start of something special

Today is the day, kiddies! 
No, not our wedding day, but almost as good!
Ryan flies into Boston tonight, and he's going to be here through Christmas, New Year's, our wedding and our honeymoon.
How lucky am I?!

I procrastinated hardcore until last night, so I had a bit of momentary panic last night.
I had meant to finish my Christmas shopping, buy a faux fur wrap for my wedding, clean the apartment, 
clean the car and do my laundry.
Ha. Boston/New Hampshire traffic had other ideas for me.
Instead, I sat in traffic for 2 hours, didn't find a wrap or finish my shopping or laundry.
But I did clean the entire apartment and my car.

As an aside, the apartment cleaning is a must because Ryan is highly allergic to my cats.
If that's not love, I don't know what is.

So, despite the fact that I haven't finished my Christmas shopping, 
or actually finalized all the wedding details yet,
I am totally on cloud nine right now. 

In 15 days, I get to marry the man that leaves me little love notes on the bathroom mirror.
The man that puts up with my cats.
The man that told me that there is nobody else he'd rather spend the rest of his life with.
Seriously, TGIF! 
This is the moment that our holiday season really gets going, and I couldn't be more excited :)

soup for the soul

It's no secret on this blog that I'm a huge fan of winter,
but with winter comes the cold, and sometimes it's hard to feel like you're ever going to warm up!
So, I'm a big fan of making soups throughout those cold winter months.
One of my go-to recipes is healthy, delicious and, well, it's Ryan's favorite.
In fact, he requested it as our first meal as husband and wife the other day.

I guess that means it's tasty?
I think so, but I'm biased, so I thought I'd share it with you guys so you can make your own decision!
It's not that many ingredients, and it is so, so easy to make.

Sausage & Kale Soup 

1 head of fresh kale
1 large white onion
32 oz of reduced sodium chicken broth
4 cloves of garlic
2 tbsp olive oil
red pepper flakes
salt & pepper

First things first, remove all the sausage from their casing and roll it into bite-sized meatballs.
This reduces calories, and it makes the meat much more tender.
Finely dice the onion and garlic and put it in a pot on medium-high heat with two tbsp of olive oil.
Once the onion is slightly translucent, add the sausage meatballs to the pot and rotate until fully cooked.

Once the sausage is fully cooked, 
sprinkle a tsp (or more if you like things spicy) of red pepper flakes over the onion, garlic & sausage.
Reduce the heat to medium-low,
and pour the chicken broth into the pot with the other ingredients.
Let it simmer gently as you start trimming the kale.

Trim about 3/4 of the head of kale from the stalks and chop it into bite-sized pieces (like lettuce).
A couple of handfuls at a time, drop the kale into the pot and wait until it's slightly submerged.
Once all the kale is in the pot, reduce the heat to low, and cover the soup.
Let it cook and simmer for 20 minutes, 
then add salt and pepper to taste.

Trust me, this soup is so, so, so delicious.
It's not too heavy, and you can alter the meat to make it something that suits your family.
I love that it takes me less than 45 minutes to throw this meal together,
and it satisfies our bellies. 

Bon appetit! :)

planning honeymoon adventures

Thank you all for your sweet words on yesterday's post.
One of the two girls has now declined to attend my wedding, and I'm actually okay with it.
I don't want or need the drama on my big day,
and if she can't put the issue with the other girl aside, then it's not worth her being there.

But enough of all that!
Ryan and I have started to plan some activities for our honeymoon,
and while many people think we're crazy to escape the cold to somewhere colder, we can't wait!

Quebec City offers so much variety in terms of activities.
We're staying at Le Chateau Frontenac, so we'll be in heart of the Old Quarter,
which is chock-full of history, fantastic French eateries, amazing excursions and more.
We'll be spending five nights up there, then one night at the Mountain View Grand Hotel,
so we're going to make the most of all our time together.
^^^ images via here, here and here

Chateau Frontenac plays host to toboggan races every winter right behind the hotel,
which I think is probably what Ryan is most excited for.
They offer you fresh frozen maple syrup candies at the bottom, and we're gluttons, so I'm sure it will be epic.

Quebec City is also renowned for its seasonal and yearly Hotel de Glace,
or the Ice Hotel,
which is exactly how it sounds...crafted entirely of ice.
Though we're not staying there (it's like $300+ a night), we're definitely going for dinner and drinks one night.

Quebec is also known for the stunning Chute de la Montmorency,
which is a stunning waterfall that completely freezes over in the winter.
Visitors can actually hike right up to the falls and, if they're super daring, climb the ice.
We won't be climbing the ice, but we'll definitely be exploring the beautiful scenery!

Ryan and I were talking last night, 
and we can't tell you how very excited we are that our day is almost here.
We are so, so, so excited to finally be able to escape all the stress, distance and planning,
and just have a week together as husband and wife.

stressing and stressors

As much as I hate to admit, I'm starting to get very, very stressed.
Don't get me wrong...
I'm more than excited to be married in less than three weeks, 
but there is just so much to do still, 
and it seems like when I think things are finally falling into place, something throws a wrench in the plans.

Case and point?
I'm having a grand total of 19 guests at my wedding.
Two of those guests were from my former crossfit gym and the best of friends...
until two days ago, that is.

Now these two friends are refusing to speak to one another or sit together at the wedding.
I won't go into what happened between them because it disgusts me,
but now, one of them has told me (after everything is paid for, mind you), 
that she no longer wants to come to my wedding if the other one is attending.
Thank you for informing me of this 18 days before my wedding.

Does anyone know how to handle something like that?
Because honestly...I'm just at a loss because I was not even involved in the mess.

Yesterday, Ryan was informed by housing on post that the wait time is now between 6-8 weeks.
That means we either wait 6-8 weeks until I move out there when we have our on-post housing,
I move out there and we continue living with his roommate off-post until housing becomes available,
or we choose to live off post, 
which we don't want to do for safety reasons while he's off training.

I know that everything will work out in the end.
Trust me, I do.
All I want is to spend a perfect holiday with my family and my almost-husband,
then marry him in a sweet, simply, drama-free day,
and I know that it will happen.

I just wish that these little curveballs would stop.
None of it is going to deter me from marrying the love of my life,
but I can tell you with complete certainty that I'm definitely getting more stressed by the day.
Any tips on how to unwind and de-stress?

On a very positive note though,
Ryan arrives in Boston on Friday for Christmas, New Year's, our wedding and our honeymoon!
That makes up for the stress, at least :)


It was a snowy weekend (finally) in New Hampshire!
I realize some of you might think I'm crazy for being so cheery over this, 
but I was legitimately giddy about it. 
There's just something about a white Christmas.
Plus, you know, the fact that it won't be all brown and dead for my wedding now!

^^^ two snow-loving rascals - my pup in the foreground and my momma's in the back

I went up north to my parents' house again this past weekend to wrap up some wedding stuff.
I needed to put the final touches on the wedding favors, which are finally done,
and I wanted to get some more Christmas shopping out of the way.

It's crazy to think that in 19 days, I'll be married.
So, basically, once Christmas rolls around it's crunch time, and I want to be able to enjoy the holiday
without any wedding stress.
I think we're well on our way to being there now. 

But anyway, back to the snow.
My parents got about 14 inches in their neck of the woods, which then had to be cleared.
I tackled the cars and the porch, while my father cleared the driveway, 
and let me just say that I am really and truly feeling all of the shoveling I did yesterday.
That is one heck of a workout.

^^^ there really is a Civic buried under all of that white stuff
Honestly though, there's magic in snow.
The whole word just settles into something so peaceful and still.
It's this pristine beauty that really speaks to my soul, and I think that's why I love it so very much.

the classiest christmas party

It should be known that I fit in very well at my job, 
which is a great thing, and also a terrible thing, if I think about it enough.
We are known as the department that laughs a little too loudly, a little too often...
about those things that aren't necessarily "work appropriate."

Every Friday, my department (the Lifestyle & Marketing department) has cookie time.
Yes, you read that correctly. 
It's exactly what it sounds like, really.
Once person brings cookies, and we proceed to laugh and cry over stupid, inappropriate things for an hour.
Cookie time is fantastic, and to answer your next question, no we, don't have nap time. Yet.

It's a tradition at World Travel Holdings that every department has their own Christmas party,
and while the classy departments like HR and IT do potlucks and white elephant parties,
we go bowling at Jillian's in Boston.
And, well, let's just say this crowd is known for its day drinking.

The point of this post is coming, I promise.
Guys, our Christmas party is today!
I was named a captain this year because I was injured last year, and we like torture one another.

For the record, 
I'm a terrible bowler, and I'm even worse at being the center of attention,
but I got to pick our team name, so you'd better believe I took this job seriously.
My friends, may I present to you....
"Bowl Movements."

Obviously, today is going to be fantastic,
though we're hoping not to lose because the losing team has to take a shot of the winning team's choice.
No me gusta, my friends!

Also, just as an FYI, we do have a classy work party, as well,
but that's not until next week,
and that one inevitably melts down, too, once my department arrives.
There may have been some cat-calling last year and telling the head of HR to "jump" or "let down his hair"
while standing on the little balcony from which he emcee'd the party.

I told you...we're a classy bunch.

choosing wedding announcements

Because Ryan and I are having such a small, intimate wedding with just 21 people (including us),
we knew right off that we wanted to send wedding announcements to all those we didn't invite for the day.
Here's the thing though...
wedding announcements - heck, cards in general, are expensive,
So, we really want to make sure we pick the right one.

Obviously, we'll be waiting until we have our wedding photos back before we send them
because we'd like to have a photo card for those who didn't attend.
We didn't do engagements because it just wasn't our cup of tea, so this is how we're making up for that.

We're okay with spending a little extra on these cards
because we've cut a lot of corners elsewhere, and it's something special for those who couldn't be there, too.

We also think we want to combine it with a sort of New Year's card, as well,
because we're planning to have them all out by the end of January.
But we've narrowed it down to a few cards that we love, and we really can't choose between them.

Frankly, we love all of these options,
and we'd be happy with any of them, really.
Minted has such a great collection of cards, and though the prices often deter us,
we think they might be worth it this time around.

^^^ image via 

^^^ image via 

^^^ image via

Soooooo....help please!
Which card do you like the most?

creating traditions

I think one of the most exciting things about my upcoming marriage
is the fact that Ryan and I are going to have the opportunity to start some of our own holiday traditions.
Christmases have always been spent at my parents' house in northern New Hampshire.
We're doing the same this year because we don't even have a house yet, and we'll probably do it next year, too.
But still...it's an incredible thing to think of us finally being able to carve our own niche.

Christmas Eve always involves the most delicious beef Wellington, courtesy of my father,
a midnight candlelight Christmas Eve church service,
plenty of inappropriate board games (read: Cards Against Humanity arrived yesterday),
too many sweets and the best people in the world.

We have our own little New Year's traditions, too.
When my brother-in-law's sister, Rachel, lived in New York, New Year's Eve was always spent in the city.
We'd overindulge in Korean food in K-Town then play board games until the fireworks started.
This year, for the second year in a row, we'll be enjoying Boston on New Year's Eve, instead.

^^^ NYE 2013 in Boston at Faneuil Hall 

I'm so, so excited that Ryan will actually be able to spend this holiday with us because training
has always prohibited him from doing so for the entire time we've been dating.
Now, however, we're going to overindulge in delicious treats from The Melting Pot,
listen to fun Irish bands at Mr. Dooley's and ring in the New Year with our loved ones all together!

I have no idea what sort of traditions Ryan and I might have in the coming years,
but I can almost guarantee that they'll involve standup comedy or karaoke in some way, and I love that.
I have butterflies just thinking about it :)

What sort of holiday traditions do you share with your loved ones? 

personal blogging is personal

For those who know me in real life, they understand that my brain moves a million miles a minute.
Every. single. moment. of. every. single. day.
I'm hyperanalytical, hypercritical of myself and prone to worry.
It's who I am, and I've been this way as long as I can remember, really.

I was sitting in my apartment with a cup of cocoa last night thinking about a million different things,
and realizing that I'm a constant maze of thoughts at any given time.
I usually have to write them down to keep track of them all, too.
Come to think of it...that might mean I'm crazy.

Regardless of my inevitable insanity though, there are some things I've specifically discovered
just by starting this personal blog.
If anything, this blog is helping me learn more about myself...things like:

1. I envy fashion bloggers. Guys, I have zero sense of fashion, and you know how some bloggers just have this innate sense of style? Yeah, I'm not one of them. Truly. My work is lucky if I show up wearing anything other than jeans and a v-neck sweatshirt, a scarf and a top-knot.

2. I don't fit in with the Mormon blogging crowd, despite the fact that Ryan and I are Mormon. We're both such students of religion, if that makes sense. We are faithful. We believe in the Word of Wisdom. We follow it...but we have questions, and our questions tend to make us think a little more than some of our Mormon friends think is necessary.

3. While I'm calm on the surface about wedding planning and dress drama, trust me, there are a thousand little panicky voices screaming reminders at me all day every day. January 4th can't get here fast enough.

4. I love friends. Really, I do. If I can offer one person a sage piece of advice a day or make someone smile, that's enough for me. It truly makes my day.

5. I'm a really, really impatient person. If I had a dime for every time I said "impatient" on this blog, I'd have about ten dollars.

But here's the thing...despite the fact that some days I worry that I don't really have anything planned to post, and despite the fact that, without fail, I always forget to take pictures of events to blog, I really do like this personal blog. 
I love documenting this crazy little life of mine - if only to remember the important moments later.
I think that, at the end of the day, this is why I blog.
Why do you blog?

what's in a weekend

Those of you who follow me on Twitter probably saw there was a bit of drama this weekend
on the wedding dress front.
I went for my final dress fitting, and let me just tell you that it was hell on wheels.
The dress had been altered in such a way that the top was misshapen,
there were loose black threads (on a white dress?!), the lace was torn and there were stains.

I was in shock, really. 
I put on the dress, and I wasn't even feeling it anymore.
I was assured that it could be fixed, but I don't trust it anymore, so I bid that dress adieu. 

I cried about it to my older sister over the phone for a few minutes, 
then I took a deep breath and got it together.
It's just a dress.
It could've been so much worse, and heck, I'll wear anything just to marry my man.

My momma and I did, however, find a replacement dress this weekend, and I couldn't be happier.
It's not a traditional wedding dress, but it's perfect for our day.

Despite that drama, it really was a great weekend full of Christmas decorations,
apple crisp, stuffed Santas and children's ice skating shows.
My mother is a figure skating coach, and I announced their skating show on Saturday.
It was pretty much the cutest thing ever. 

^^^ my sisters' dog, our wreath, a random house that totally wins christmas, a skating show and apple crisp

Oh yeah, and it's totally supposed to snow (!!!) and ice tonight into tomorrow,
so I'll probably be all cuddled in bed working from home for the day.
I don't commute in snow…that's for the crazies.
Here's hoping the snowy season is here to stay, 
and that you all had the loveliest of weekends, too! 

the final stretch

It is less than one month till the big day!
(29 days, if we're being exact.)
I've been procrastinating lately, mostly because there's not too much to do,
but also because time is dragging, and I'm hoping doing it all in the last few days will make the time go faster.
Yes, I'm aware my logic fails.

I'm driving up to my parents' again this weekend though 
because I have my final dress fitting (!!!),
and my mother and I are going to attempt to conquer the centerpieces and favors.
We did decide the actual centerpieces, but I'm saving those to share after the fact.

For the favors, we've toyed with a few ideas, 
but we think we're going to stick with our favorites - hot cocoa - and play off the cold winter months.
We also decided we're not going to do a seating chart. 
Instead, we're going to do simple little place settings, 
again, playing off the winter month.
Guys, I really can't express to you how very excited I am.
There are some butterflies,
but they're most definitely the good butterflies.

Ryan is going to be flying into Boston for Christmas, the wedding and our honeymoon in just two weeks.
It's getting real now, and we're getting so so so excited.
I think it's safe to say that we're (mostly) ready!
Now, if anyone has some advice on how to write and read my vows without a full-scale meltdown,
that would be awesome.

Also, I'm really hoping it snows soon.
We've got nadda thus far except a few dustings.
I'm really, really hoping that the big day looks like this:

^^^ my parents' house circa 2011

Wouldn't that just be the most magical thing ever?
Snow dances, please, people!
Let's make it snow in New Hampshire for January 4th!

curveballs & christmas catastrophes

I should have known better than to get excited about our PCS to Germany next year.
The Army decided that after giving Ryan his dream orders, that his unit in Hohenfels is going to shut down.
So, he received an email first thing yesterday that our orders were rescinded.
I knew this could happen, but still...this was me:

Anyway, they asked for our next top three choices (not that they care),
and we requested anything in Germany or Europe, but Fort Drum in upstate NY as our alternative.
It took them all of 15 minutes to tell us that Fort Drum is what we're getting.
For now.
Ten bucks says they change their "plans" again before next January.

At the end of the day, we're going to move wherever they station him next, so there's no point in being sad.
It is what it is, or something like that.
I'll be happy, so long as I'm with him.

In other news, we had a few Christmas catastrophes around here yesterday. 
We decided it would be good to attempt to build a gingerbread house from a kit we found at Christmas Tree Shops.
It ended up looking like Section 8 housing, and Stella ate Santa ten minutes later.
Then, while hanging random ornaments, 
I might have accidentally decapitated an elf.
Does this mean I ruined Christmas?

learning how to run

I've been an athlete my whole life, but I'll be the first person to say that I am a terrible runner.
I've never been particularly good at it, 
and I figured that so long as I was swimming, it didn't matter.
Fast forward 5 years post-college and swimming is a lot less convenient than running.
But when I run, I pretty much always end up looking like this:

^^^ holy death. image via Jordan Samuel Photography

I thought that by doing CrossFit, I could forgo running.
Well, I was wrong, and when I destroyed my knee, I learned really quickly that I had to make some adjustments. 
I'm just barely getting back into running, and I have a little bitty goal of 12-15 miles a week.
As my knee continues to heal, I have to be careful and pace my progress.
This is not my forte.

I've come to the fact that I will never be a great runner, by Ryan runs all the time for PT and the Army,
so it's something I'm passionate about doing with him.
We have a plan for 2014...
We are going to sign up for a 5k, a 10k and a half marathon. 

Here's the thing though...my shoes are shot, and while coddling my knee,
I have come to the realization that I desperately need new shoes.
My Saucony shoes are too heavy and cause wicked shinsplints, as do my Asics.
I've been running in my Reebok Nanos because they're lighter and they don't kill my muscles, but they obliterate my feet. 

I put out a call for advice on new running shoes on Twitter, and I got some great advice.
I've narrowed it down to a few choices per the running store and some lovely runners who spoke up.

^^^ images via here. here. here.

The Free Bionic shoe is probably the most minimalist of the three, but I've heard great things about it.
The Free 5.0+ is apparently lightweight and flexible, plus it has great reviews.
The Free Advantage shoe is marketed as a trainer, but I know distance runners who swear by its lightweight fit.

When did running shoe shopping become so difficult?
It's seriously making my head spin, and I really, really need new shoes so I can keep running.
Runners - or anyone for that matter - any advice about new running shoes for someone with a bum knee
and a history of wicked shin splints?
Also, have you tried any of these shoes? 
I'm desperate!

a crafty christmas

I'm of the school of thought that homemade gifts are often a million times more special than the ones we buy. I'm also doing my very best to be frugal for Christmas this year, so we all decided to get a little crafty this season. This Christmas will be spent with my parents, my sister, Nikki, and her husband, Adam, my little sister, Kristina and her boyfriend, Josh, my brother-in-law's sister, Rachel, and her friend, Carlos and, of course, Ryan. That's a heck of a lot of people (and gifts)…the most ever.

We do a gift exchange each year where we choose a name from a hat, and that person gets a big gift.  Everybody else gets a gift of a $25 max, so I decided to mix things up this year and make some gifts that might mean just a little bit more.

Rachel recently moved to Boston for a year-long orthopedic fellowship after a year in Los Angeles, and she misses it so much. I knew I wanted to make her something that would remind her of her home and keep it in her heart until she goes back next year. I found a little inspiration on Pinterest & made this:

Guys, this was super easy, fast and really affordable, and I'm it's the kind of gift that a person can look at for a little happy reminder all year 'round. I spent a grand total of $19.33 on her gift, and I'm legit pondering making one for myself…except there is no one state that I really consider my home! Sheesh.

To make one of your own, all you need is a picture frame - I think an 8x10 would be best to make sure you can really see the state - matting for the frame, mod podge, glitter, glue (a hot glue gun, glue dots or a stick would be better than the liquid glue I used), a sponge brush, hair spray, white or colored card stock and scrapbook heart stickers. 

I printed an outline of California, then I cut it out and traced it upside down on card stock…this is so the lines you trace won't show up. Once I cut the state out of the card stock, I brushed it with a thin layer of mod podge and then doused it heavily in glitter. I did this in a deep baking dish to attempt to stop the spread of glitter, which is honestly the herpes of craft supplies. Let the glitter and mod podge and glitter dry for ten minutes, then shake off the excess. If it needs another coat, repeat the mod podge/glitter step again. Once it's completely coated and dry, spray it lightly with hairspray to fully adhere the glitter to the state.

After that, glue the back of the state and place it neatly on a second piece of card stock behind the matting in the frame. Adhere a heart sticker in the city or locale of your choice, then tighten up the frame and voila! Seriously, it's super easy and despite the fact that glitter is the bane of my existence, I'm really happy with how it turned out. 

Do you guys ever do crafty gifts? I can't wait to do a few more and, hopefully, share better pictures ;)

i disappeared (for good reason)

I think that this was my best Thanksgiving to date, hands down,
and I have to say that I'm absolutely thrilled and immensely excited for Christmas in less than a month!
Ryan flew back out to Arizona last night, and I have to say that it sucked.
It sucked a lot,
but the bright side is that he's back in less than three weeks.

Ryan flew into Boston early Thursday morning, 
and we drove the three hours up to my parents' house in northern New Hampshire.
It was so. cold.
But honestly, I wouldn't have traded it for anything in the world.

On Saturday, my parents took Ryan and I to the Mount Washington Resort to celebrate our engagement.
They treated us to a pretty decadent lunch,
and we enjoyed the amazing scenery.

We also finally got to meet our minister on Saturday evening. 
He and his wife are just amazing.
They are incredible people with such a down-to-earth perspective on marriage.
We'll see them again the day after Ryan gets in on leave, and we're really looking forward to it.

In just barely over one month, I'll get to marry the most amazing man in the world.
I have everything in the world to be thankful for, and seriously,
this was the best Thanksgiving ever.