Monthly Archives: April 2013

April showers bring May flowers – and life updates!

It’s crazy that today marks the end of April and tomorrow May will take its place. I feel like it was just yesterday that I rang in the new year and decided I was going to make 2013 my best year yet. I must say, four months in, I love the way 2013 feels. I thought I’d give everyone a brief update on what’s been going on in my life.

april update

In these past few months, I’ve checked twenty-five things off my 213 in 2013 list. Some of them have been small but meaningful – like spending a perfect sunny afternoon at a farmers market, buying up local art. Others were a bit intimidating, like skiing down a mountain for the first time. And some were absolutely life-changing, like finally go skydiving after years of only daydreaming about it.

Free-falling.

In just two weeks, Mike and I will be boarding a plane to Houston, Texas to visit his family. He hasn’t seen his dad, his stepmom and his adorable brothers and sisters in years, which is why I knew two plane tickets would be the perfect Christmas gift. I’m excited for my first official “vacation” since I joined the working world and look forward to stuffing myself full of authentic Texas barbeque. And to celebrate Mike’s 26th birthday in a big way. Because everything in Texas is bigger, right?

Mike's big Christmas gift this year - two tickets to Texas to see his family.

Mike’s big Christmas gift this year – two tickets to Texas to see his family.

Also – somehow over the past few months, I went from having a year until the wedding to only 142 days! That’s less than five months. Mike and I have been busy locking down hotel rooms, rehearsal dinner, guest transportation, suits for the groomsmen and a dress for my mom, you name it. In between all of the big stuff though we’ve been having a really great time working on the fun little details – like table numbers and invitations and centerpieces.

Cute little touches like this make me happy. Here is our "seating chart" sign.

Cute little touches like this make me happy. Here is our “seating chart” sign.

I think we’re now a couple thousand over budget, even with all of my DIY projects and bargain hunting. It’s crazy to me how expensive weddings can be, but I keep reminding myself it will all be worth it in the end. We have a meeting with our caterer in the coming weeks to nail down floor layouts, linen colors and dinnerware. If planning this wedding has taught me anything – it’s how to be more decisive. I’ve never had to make so many decisions in my life!

Only 143 days to go. Not like I'm counting.

Only 143 days to go. Not like I’m counting.

Oh, and in case you hadn’t heard – Mike and I booked our dream honeymoon. We’re going to Paris! And we leave the morning after the wedding. As in our flight leaves at 9:15am. And then we get to spend the next seven days in the city of love, canoodling over croissants and Chardonnay and everything magical that Paris has to offer. Thank you, tax return.

Awesome piece that appeared in USA Today on our Be Cruelty-Free campaign.

Awesome piece that appeared in USA Today on our Be Cruelty-Free campaign.

My one year moveiversary (May 12) and workiversary are also quickly approaching (May 21). It’s crazy how much can change in just a year. I’ve kind of fallen in love with my new home and the people I’ve met, although it has been a long, a bumpy road. My job continues to challenge me every day (in a good way!) and I’m unbelievably proud of myself for everything I’ve accomplished – from coverage in the biggest media outlets to growing as a professional.

New dining room paint job - still a work in progress.

New dining room paint job – still a work in progress.

Updated coffee table centerpiece - sans flowers. Can't you tell I love pink?

Updated coffee table centerpiece – sans flowers. Can’t you tell I love pink?

As for the day-to-day, Mike and I are working to make our apartment feel more like a home, between more Pinspiration and a few fresh coats of paint. We’re also putting down the takeout and opting for cooking healthier, fresher meals, which is making both our wallets and our waistline happier.

I made a homemade flatbread with low-fat/skim mozzarella, skim ricotta and some sundried tomatoes and basil. YUM.

I made a homemade flatbread with low-fat/skim mozzarella, skim ricotta and some sundried tomatoes and basil. YUM.

Which brings me to my point. I’ve been living by a mantra so far this year. And it’s working.

“You are the creator of your own happiness.”

After I graduated I fell into a slump. I was lonely. I felt disconnected. I wasn’t myself. I was unhappy.

april update happy

It’s amazing that the second you make the decision that all of those negative feelings stop, that pessimism won’t win, you regain your balance. And ultimately your happiness.

I’m loving life right now.

Because I choose to.

What exciting things do you guys have to look forward to in the coming months? Any big life changes you want to share? I’d love to hear!

Advertisements

#24. & #25. go paintballing & plan a brother-sister weekend

If your parents are anything like mine, or any other parent on the face of the planet, you’ve probably heard the following at least a hundred times:

“Be nice to your brother and sister. You may hate them now but they’re going to be all you have one day.”

The worst part about it? Realizing like pretty much everything else they’ve ever said to you, from saving money for college to not getting that face tattoo you want, they are always right.

brother sister

Being the oldest of three, I was excited to have a little sister and brother to look after and take care of. Until I realized it meant sharing the precious camcorder spotlight or not getting as many toys or new clothes, or no longer being the cute, little one in the family. No – I was the older sister. I needed to make “sacrifices” and have “responsibilities.”

So I decided to do what any normal older sibling desperate for attention would do. I tried to mail my sister to China. And frame her for stealing books by putting barcode stickers on her. And blame her and my brother for breaking chairs or my dad’s favorite painting or spilling spaghettios. Basically, I was a devil child (in disguise).

But over the years, as the three of us grew up, something weird happened. We started to actually like each other.

And so we began sharing secrets. And making inside jokes our parents wouldn’t understand. And calling one another when we needed help. Things that my parents warned us would eventually happen, even though we swore they were crazy.

The three of us no longer live under the same roof anymore. My sister lives down the street from my parents with her boyfriend. My brother goes to school at Temple in Philly. I live in Maryland. Naptime and playtime and dinnertime have been replaced by full-time jobs, heavy course loads and other adult responsibilities. Which is why when the three of us actually are able to spend time together, I like to take full advantage of it and appreciate every single second.

As you may have already gathered from Monday’s post, my sister, her boyfriend and my brother had made plans to come down this past weekend so the two boys could jump out of a plane with me. I wanted all three of us to participate in something together though, which is why I was excited when Mike made reservations for all of us to go paintballing on Sunday. I couldn’t imagine a better group to go with.

After a very long and exhausting day at the skydiving center, followed by a late (albeit delicious) dinner at Matchbox, we came home, played a few card games and called it a night around 1 as we had a wakeup time of 7.

paintball

After groaning at our alarm clocks and throwing on layer after layer of t-shirts and sweats, we made the hour and a half drive to middle-of-nowhere Virginia to get geared up and down and dirty.

We were assigned our teams, given instructions on how to shoot the guns and rules for the game: capture the flag. After a brief strategy meeting, we found our posts and got ready to defend our bunker.

paintball boys

Something you should know about me if you haven’t picked up on it already: I’m a bit of a girly girl. Not necessarily the kind that loves Katherine Heigl movies, wears pink sparkly nail polish (ok guilty) and squeaks every time she talks. I’m talking more along the lines of hating dirt and messes – especially when I am the one getting dirty and messy.

As a kid I was a total tomboy. I climbed trees, made (and sometimes ate) mud pies, organized neighborhood street hockey games – you name it. Somewhere between my pair of denim overalls and my first pair of glitter heels I forgot about the rough and tumble girl from years ago. The one who collected caterpillars and danced in the rain every chance she got.

On the way to the battlefield I tried jumping from place to place in a hopeless attempt to avoid the giant mud piles strewn everywhere. My post itself was behind a fallen over tree in a giant puddle of mud.

Bugs everywhere.

Mud everywhere.

paintball dirty

At first I resisted. I whimpered at the mud that was starting to cover my shoes and I squirmed at the bugs that were crawling in front of me. But before I knew it a paintball when whizzing by my head, nearly hitting me in the face right before I ducked and fell to my knees in the mud puddle in front of me.

I lifted my hands and let the mud squish through my fingers. I looked up and saw my brother and sister ahead of me, both crouched down in the mud, behind trees. I felt a ball form in the back of my throat – the kind of ball that forms when you try to choke back tears. Because I realized that those afternoons making mud pies with my brother and sister and playing hide-and-go-seek in the woods were some of the best days of my life but I didn’t figure that out until now.

paintball girls

For the next two hours or so we crawled through mud, ran from tree to tree, hiding behind barrels and logs as we played a game of full-on war. It was by far one of the best afternoons I’ve ever had. And I’m so lucky I got to experience it with my brother and sister. For a few hours that day we were kids again. Not plagued with prepping for finals or stressing about work. Rather we played for hours, got dirty and loved every minute of it.

We made the long drive home after we were worn out, bruised, and out of paintballs. One by one we washed off our warpaint and filled our rumbling stomachs with a healthy dose of Nando’s Peri-Peri and froyo.

They packed their bags and we said goodbye to each other.

paintball group

It’s funny how parents are always right in the end. Sometimes it takes a couple hundred miles, a few adult responsibilities mixed in with some mud and paint to make you realize that two of your greatest friends have been standing right beside you all along.

#23. go skydiving

When I was a little girl, in Ms. Wright’s 2nd grade class, we were asked to write an essay on what animal we’d like to be for a day. Some students chose to be lions while others chose to be giraffes. A classroom full of bright-eyed second graders lost in their imaginations as they dreamed about being any animal in the world.

Me? I chose a bird. A bluebird to be specific.

One by one each student stood in front of the class, telling everyone about their amazing day as the animal of their choice – from roaring across the jungle to hopping across Australia.

When I went up, I talked about being a bird. How fantastic it would be to fly across great expanses, thousands of feet above the earth, with nothing but clouds and blue sky in sight. My teacher went on to frame my essay and told me how wonderful I made it sound – being a bird for a day.

As I continued to grow up, while I realized I would never be a bird, the thirst for that kind of uninhibited freedom that came with flying never left. For years and years, when people would talk about the biggest items on their bucket lists, mine always remained the same: skydiving. I wanted to fly.

A charm my sister bought me the night before I jumped out of a plane.

A charm my sister bought me the night before I jumped out of a plane.

The problem? I’m a total chicken. I’m talking major scaredy cat, cries on rollercoasters, gets faint at the top of a high set of stairs, big ol’ wimp. I’m the girl who while her head is dreaming in the clouds, much prefers to have two feet safe on the ground. Which is why I shocked about every single person who knows me when I told them I had purchased a ticket to go skydiving as part of conquering my fears and jumping (literally) out of my comfort zone for my 213 in 2013 Project.

Luckily for me, I was able to convince my brother and my sister’s boyfriend to jump with me, so on Friday night my sister and the two boys drove down from Pennsylvania for an adrenaline-filled weekend.

My boys and I getting ready to jump.

My boys and I getting ready to jump.

I woke up pretty early Saturday morning thanks to a dream I was having about my parachute not opening (because dreaming about dying hours before putting your life at risk is totally normal). As we were getting ready to head out the door, I received a text from the skydiving center alerting me that due to high winds, they were pushing jump time back by an hour. As if I needed any more reason to be nervous.

Literally signing my life away.

Literally signing my life away.

When we finally arrived it was all a whirlwind – filling out form after form, literally signing my life away. Sign here if you understand that you can die. Sign here if you understand that if you die, your loved ones can’t claim your life insurance. Sign here if you promise not to sue if you wind up falling to the earth, breaking every bone in your body and spending the rest of your life as a vegetable. Check, check, check.

Before I knew it, Vince, AJ and I were getting suited up in our harnesses and going over instructions that would make the difference between life and death. We practiced arching our backs, safety positions, how to land without breaking your legs off, you name it. And while I was yelling at my brain to pay attention with all my might, my thoughts were stuck somewhere between complete terror and excitement.

My amazing instructor Kurt, who sort of resembles Hulk Hogan, came up to me and stuck a video camera in my face asking if I was ready and who I wanted to say “goodbye” to. Somehow his constant jokes about being terrified to die and only having three days experience made me feel better. I know – I’m weird.

The plane we jumped out of.

The plane we jumped out of.

Hulk Hogan and I were the first to climb into the plane and AJ and Vince filed in shortly after. The plane was small, old and rickety – the kind of plane I wouldn’t even dare to get in to, yet alone jump out of. After the entire group got into place, the blades on the plane started turning and before I knew it we were climbing rapidly into the air.

500 feet. 2,000 feet. 7,500 feet. 12,000 feet.

I watched as the first pair slid to the edge of the plane and within a matter of seconds, they were gone. My hands were sweating, my legs shaking. I could barely find the strength to breathe.

Before I knew it, I was sitting on the edge of the plane. My feet were dangling 12,000 feet above the ground. When I looked up, the clouds were so close I could practically touch them. My hands were glued to the rail above me – the only thing keeping me from falling out of the plane.

My instructor yelled ‘Let go!’

And in that moment, that tiny, no more than a single second moment when my hands let go of the bar and there was nothing holding me back – from the 12,000 feet below me, from the years and years of fears that had built up and resulted in “I wish” or “What if” – all of it for that single moment was gone.

I let go of it all.

And I jumped.

And even though I was falling…

…I felt like I was flying.

Free-falling.

Free-falling.

I cried nearly the entire way down. Certainly some of those tears were out of fear, but most of them were reserved for the overwhelming pride I felt. For the once-in-a-lifetime view, with the mountains in the distance and treetops as far as the eye could see. For the freezing cold air that was rushing past my skin as I plummeted towards the earth in free fall. For doing something I had only dreamed of for years.

When the parachute opened, I breathed a sigh of relief as we floated down. My heart was beating so fast I was sure it was going to explode. And for the next 60 seconds or so, I enjoyed the view. The view that millions of people will never get to experience – but that I will get to hold on to for the rest of my life. The view that was mine and mine alone.

When we got to the ground, we wiped out (despite my best efforts at practicing), and when my face hit the earth, I wanted to cry again.

Who would have thought 15 years after writing that essay, I would finally get to be a bird.

Even if only for a minute.

[Looking for a good laugh? Check out the video below.]

finding good in the world

UPDATE: I was browsing through my WordPress Reader and stumbled upon this beautifully written post – Talks with Tragedy. Go read it – you won’t regret it.

I hit publish on yesterday’s blog post about my picture-perfect weekend when a friend of mine texted me saying there had been an explosion at the finish line of the Boston Marathon, in which her mom was running.

I quick logged on to Twitter and sure enough my entire feed was full of breaking news reports about the unthinkable tragedy that had struck during one of America’s oldest and most prestigious marathons. Images of people missing limbs, bloodied sidewalks and people crying. Videos of the blast knocking down runners. Numbers coming in of the dead and the injured. My eyes glazed over as tears began to fill the rim of my eyes. My heart ached for those whose lives would be forever changed by such a senseless act of violence.

prayforboston5_1x

I went home so angry at the world. Angry at how people could be so cruel. But as I followed the coverage throughout the night, stories began trickling in – stories of hope, courage, selflessness and bravery.

As Mr. Rogers once wisely said – “Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.”

And that’s exactly what we’ve seen since the tragedy in Boston occurred yesterday.

Stories of runners who after crossing the finish line, continued to run to local hospitals to donate blood.

People offering up their homes for free to those displaced after the marathon.

Photo credit: Wall Street Journal

Photo credit: Wall Street Journal

Images of people running TOWARDS the explosion to help others, rather than running away.

What happened yesterday is nothing short of horrendous. But as more reports and numbers continue to come in, I hope that everyone can try to have faith that there is still light and good in the world. I know I’m trying to.

My love and thoughts are with you, Boston. You will overcome this.

#22. go to the cherry blossom festival

Spring has officially sprung in D.C., and to celebrate and cross another item off my 213 in 2013 list, Mike and I decided we were going to brave the throngs of tourists and make it out to the Tidal Basin just in time for the end of cherry blossom season.

For those who don’t know – (I hope you’re all okay with a brief history lesson here), in 1912 the Japanese sent 3,020 cherry trees to the U.S. as a gift of friendship. The first two trees were planted by First Lady Taft and wife of the Japanese Ambassaor, Viscountess Chinda, on the northern bank of the Tidal Basin. Today, more than 1.5 million people flock to D.C. each year to admire the blossoming of the cherry trees and participate in several culture programs throughout the city.

I first went to see the cherry blossom trees when I was very young with my parents. I don’t remember too much – just that I complained a lot about my feet hurting as we has spent the better part of the day walking from the Lincoln Memorial to the National Monument to the Jefferson Memorial. Even still – I thought the vibrant, bountiful trees were beautiful and I enjoyed having the blossoms stuck in my hair as my mom held my hand and walked me through the Basin.

I hadn’t been back to see them since. Between moving to Pennsylvania and hearing horror stories about how insufferable the tourists were, I just didn’t have the motivation to go back. But I wanted to give it another shot.

Cherry blossom fail - but we loaded up on tropical drinks and mac n' cheese.

Cherry blossom fail – but we loaded up on tropical drinks and mac n’ cheese.

Two weekends ago my best friend and roommate from college, Jess, came down with her boyfriend Tim to visit for her birthday. We had planned to partake in the cherry blossom festivities and made our way to the Waterfront for a festival full of music, food, beer and fireworks. Unfortunately, the trees were experiencing a late bloom this year and while the food and drink were plentiful – there were absolutely no trees that had bloomed down by the marina.

Before I knew it, around mid-last week, all of the local news stations began reporting that the trees were in full bloom and this past weekend would be the last chance to enjoy them. Without any plans scheduled, Mike and I woke up early on Saturday and set out for the Tidal Basin.

Snapped this beauty crammed in between two porter potties. Anything for a good instagram shot.

Snapped this beauty crammed in between two porter potties. Anything for a good instagram shot.

For anyone who knows me – I hate crowds. They make me grumpy and angry and I say wildly inappropriate things – way too loudly. So when Mike and I went to make the transfer to the line that would shoot us to the metro stop closest to the cherry blossoms, and I saw throngs upon throngs of people pushing and shoving to squeeze themselves into already packed metro cars, I began questioning if this entire thing was a good idea.

After being pushed and stepped on a hundred or so times, and cursing quite audibly about how much I hated everyone, we got off at the Smithsonian stop and slowly but surely made our way over to the Basin.

Mike channeling his inner model. Just kidding - he had no idea I was taking this.

Mike channeling his inner model. Just kidding – he had no idea I was taking this.

The trees were no longer in peak bloom but it didn’t take away from the sheer beauty of it all. The weather was perfect – sunny and warm with a slight breeze, which made the picturesque setting even more enjoyable. Of course, the whole thing would have been a million times more perfect if there weren’t clumsy tourists setting up oversized tripods in the middle of the walkway to take a thousand pictures of themselves in front of the trees – but regardless, if you’re able to tune out all of the craziness, all of the crowds, all of the noise – you’re left with a canopy of more than 3,000 beautiful trees, their blossoms as delicate as I remember. You feel like a part of history just being there.

The perfect canopy.

The perfect canopy.

Mike and I grabbed a funnel cake (by his demand) and found a semi-quiet spot under a group of trees. It was perfectly shaded, with rays of sunlight peaking through the hundreds of branches and warming the sides of our faces. As we laid on the grass, I closed my eyes and wrapped each blade between my fingers. I smiled when the wind blew and a few dozen or so blossoms landed on my cheeks.  It was in that moment that everything quieted and I was 5 years old again, swinging from my mom’s hands as the blossoms kissed our faces.

It was the perfect reminder that you can always find peace, even among the chaos.

#21. go on a picnic

Happy April Fool’s Day everyone. Hopefully your weekends were full of jellybeans, Easter dinner and time with family.

Nice dress.

Nice dress.

Before I get into how Mike and I spent a beautiful Saturday in D.C., I’ll preface this post by letting you know that we spent nearly four hours Friday night in the Emergency Room. Everything’s fine now – but Mike did have a little scare. I couldn’t resist snapping a picture of him in his adorable hospital gown.

People watching and creepily snapping pictures.

People watching and creepily snapping pictures.

We figured the weekend could only go up from there and we were right. We had originally intended to do some major list-kicking this weekend. Our plan was to pack up a picnic, go down to the giant Kite Festival on the National Mall, fly a kite and check out some cherry blossom trees. Three things in one day – I was clearly aiming for over achiever status. It sounded like the perfect spring day… in theory.

Word of advice to anyone interested in attending any sort of major festival in D.C. during peak tourist times: don’t drive. For the love of god, do not drive. After making our way to the farmers’ market and Whole Foods in downtown Silver Spring to pick up some picnic goodies, Mike and I hopped in the car with our big quilt blanket and tote bag full of food excited for a day of relatively cheap fun.

Fast-forward two hours later: no parking anywhere, continually stuck behind large masses of high school students crossing the street at invisible crosswalks, me yelling at Mike for not being able to fly the car above the masses of people and create a parking spot out of thin air, Mike gripping the steering wheel in an attempt not to yell at me for being ridiculous, etc., etc. You get the idea.

Behold... the spread.

Behold… the spread.

We scrapped our plans for going to the kite festival, mostly in fear of killing each other, and decided we could at least still salvage the picnic part of our afternoon. We drove over to ol’ faithful – our usual grass knoll spot right in front of the waterfront in Georgetown. After paying to park in the world’s tiniest parking garage (which took 30 minutes to do with all the maneuvering, mind you), we finally got out of his car and ran across the street to set up our picnic.

My two favorite food groups: bread and cheese.

My two favorite food groups: bread and cheese.

Farm fresh berries.

Farm fresh berries.

We found a nice spot parked between a PDA enthusiastic couple, a group of women with their babies and a man with his scruffy dog. After laying out our blanket we wasted no time whipping out the goods – pineapple chunks, strawberries, comte cheese (one of my favorites!), a french baguette, chips, water and of course – a cupcake to finish it all off. We spent the next two hours sprawled out in the sun, dozing off, people-watching, munching on snacks and enjoying the first signs of spring. After we finished our meal, we went down to the waterfront and fed what was left of our baguette to the dozen or so ducks that scarfed it up with appreciation. It was, albeit for the few bumps in the beginning, an absolutely perfect afternoon and one that I won’t soon forget.

So pretty I almost (almost) didn't want to eat it.

So pretty I almost (almost) didn’t want to eat it.

In the beginning of our relationship, Mike and I used to go on picnics all of the time. I was a broke high school student and he was just plain broke, working at a music store. So we made do with what little we had. Instead of shelling out the big bucks for a fancy dinner we’d find creative ways to have a good time and enjoy each other’s company – and it was those dates that always turned out to be my most favorite.

This 213 in 2013 list was created with the intention of reinventing myself – little did I know that it would work wonders for Mike and I’s relationship as well.  After seven years together, sometimes there is nothing better than revisiting how it all began.