Thursday, May 31, 2012

C'est La Vie - Finding Adventure in the Day to Day



I saw this image on Pinterest the other day and just wanted to share it with the world.  I love the patterns and colors and everything, but what I love most is the adventure it implies.  She has only herself, a car, a map, and a trunk full of randomness.  On my Bucket List is the item, “Go on a Road Trip Alone,” and this only spurs me to want to do that sooner.  There is something about being alone that makes you feel free.  You can do whatever you want because no one will know!  I do not mean this in a weird way, just there is this release of the need to impress. 
 
I know so many people, myself included, that just need to relax.  We need to give in to this freeing mentality of life being an adventure.  Sure, we have responsibilities, but I have lately been convicted to savor the moments and really sink into situations.  Do not let yourself feel awkward ever!  Find a new kind of humor in awkward situations.  Release yourself from self conscious tendencies.  Life is too short to worry all the time!  I really need to take my own words to heart today and start concentrating on being happy in my own skin and knowing that the day to day can be an adventure :)
 
Have a lovely Thursday my friends. 
Find passion in the journey today brings you!

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

The Wonder That Is Caesar Salad Pizza

There are some foods that you crave as soon as you are done eating them.  When you think of them, you always let out a little sigh.  You want them often and you think of them when you least expect it.  You constantly wish you could make it yourself, but it is just not in your skill set.  You have to patiently wait until the right time comes and you are invited to partake in them, or you make time to go to that restaurant that holds these wonderful items.

I am sure I have brought unique items to each of your minds, and that was kind of the point.  The item we crave and love and dream about is different for each of us.  For me, it has changed over the last few years.  It brings me sadness to think that in the past my favorite food items came out of my father's restaurant in Columbia, Maryland.  The reason this makes me sad, is because I live so far away.  We had a pizza on our original menu that I will never forget!  The menu has changed multiple times over the past few years, and it will never again return, but the truffle oil drizzle was only the beginning of it's perfection.

Is this post making you hungry?  Making you wish you could walk away from your computer and get your favorite foods?  Well, I am sorry for doing that to you, but I feel as though I have adequately set the stage for the joy that Bill's dad's caesar salad pizza brings my heart.  It is so delicious I can barely stand to write about it knowing we won't have another pizza party for awhile.  He make his dough from scratch and has such a science to the process.  I cannot get enough of it.  I can literally make myself sick eating piece after piece.



I believe this to be a high compliment in life.  When people can't stop eating your food and won't stop telling you how wonderful it is.  I aim to be a cook like that... one day!

To the original Bill Rogers, thank you for sharing this treat with me two years ago.  I am so happy to have been truly initiated into your family and to have finally gotten to help with pizza night this last time around.  I look forward to many more to come!

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

My Dress Obsession - Modcloth Collection

I have a problem and I can admit it, I love dresses.  When I wear them, I can't stop smiling.  I feel like a little girl on easter.  Even if it is just a simple sun dress and I am just hanging out for the day, I can't stop thinking about how happy it is making me.

This leads to my always searching for a perfect dress.  Now, understand, I rarely buy them.  I have only splurged once in my life on a dress - and on September 29th of 2012 that dress will debut at my wedding. Otherwise, I try to be economical about my dress purchases.  However, I recently ran across a website called Modcloth that makes it hard for me to exercise self-control.  For some reason it makes it easier when I know other people are having to exercise control with me, SO I am telling you, my lovely readers, all about it in hopes that you can share in my pain.






These are all dresses from the website, among so many more.  Literally there are hundreds of them.  I am sure if you love dresses, they have something that will match your style!  Take a look and let me know what you find.  Seriously... leave a comment below with the name of a dress you found.  I love that website so much, I am sure I will want to see how your style lines up with it!

I love lace and vintage inspired items, and this website is full of them.  In addition to dresses, there are tons of other clothes and house hold items.  

Make sure you check out Modcloth and take a look for yourself :)

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

A Penny For Your Thoughts - Looking Back & Missing Italy


I took this my first day in Italy, and will always remember my town just like this...
I realized something about my writing the other day, and that is that I am much more present in my writing than I am in my brain.  I am constantly thinking back, but I never write about my past.  Sure, I write a story here or there reminiscing on my African travel, but rarely do you hear about my life pre-California unless it is in reference to my family.  Lately, I have found myself pining for Italy.  Did you know I lived there?  Probably not, because I rarely mention it!

I knew I was going to love it there, but it has stuck with me since the moment I left.  I have wanted to go back every  minute of every day since then.  The simplicity of life, the emphasis on slowing down, the architecture, the food, the flowers, the people, the color, the trains, the bikes, the gelato, the smiles and laughter, the wine, and the cities are only scratching the surface of things I love from the beautiful country of Italy!  I want to be there now, and every day from here on out, and I want to bring all the people I love, and I want to wander the streets with them and buy them treats and sit in cafes and drink hot chocolate that is the consistency of pudding.

Generally I try and focus on where I am and what I am doing, but I have let my mind wander to Italy lately.  Even though I preach being present, I have started to wonder what my life would be like if I had never left Italy.  Its baffling really.  The decision to move to California and not go back to Italy has brought me on a path that will last a lifetime, because of that decision, I met Bill.  He has changed my life for the better, and he is ALWAYS in my Italy daydreams, but he wouldn’t have been there if I had just gone straight back.  We never would have crossed paths.  I don’t know where that leaves me.  Should I stop daydreaming about this place that never would have held him and I together? 

It’s beauty is incredible and really impossible to explain, you MUST experience it firsthand.  I often wonder if I ever will again.  This blog entry is honestly hard to write.  Italy is SO deep in my heart it is difficult to come to an understanding that I will probably never live there again.  This is my vulnerability at its hardest.  I am processing through this with you.  My heart breaks when I think that this beautiful place will never again be in my life on a daily basis.  When I left I made all sorts of promises about returning, but the truth is, I may go back and see it again, but I will most likely never spend 4 straight months wandering its streets on a long term adventure. 

When I think about being there, I want to cry.  Both because I miss it and because it feels unreachable.  Sure, I can max out a credit card and visit, but it isn’t that easy.  I think what I am missing is my youth.  Yes, I am only 26 and still young, but I have more responsibility and consistency now.  I have bills and a life.  I do not need people to say “Welcome to the Real World,” I am already aware that such is life.  I just find myself wishing things were different… and less hard.

Maybe this is why I find the past hard to write about.  In the future is hope and things to look forward to, but in the past are things and people I miss.  Italy was a wonderful season of my life, and I will never forget it.

Where do you miss? 
What does your heart long for?

Monday, May 21, 2012

These Are A Few of My Favorite Things - Camping Edition

Camping. 
Most people love it or hate it. 
I personally love bringing it back to basics. 

I love smelling like a camp fire. 
I love climbing into a tent with a full stomach of hot dogs and smores and potato chips. 
I love the great conversations that happen around an open fire, for some reason it is a facilitator for those. 
I love how the fire light dances across people’s faces and lights them up as they talk and laugh.
I love the lazy mornings with everyone gradually waking up and coming out in the same clothes as the previous evening.
I love the grungy/dirty elements of it all.
I love going for walks, and appreciating the nature surrounding me.
I love sleeping with a hundred blankets and being freezing cold at night, and waking up so warm you can’t wait to get out.
I really love the extremes of camping, hot and cold and exhausted and wide awake.
I really, really love the camping experience.

Last weekend, me and a few friends went down to San Clemente State Beach camp ground, and honestly it was one of the most beautiful campsites I have ever seen.  Unfortunately, I could only stay one night and then had to leave at lunch time, but I could have spent a week alone at this campsite.  All I wanted to do was read and eat simple food and have fires and drink beer and just relax…  It was about ¼ mile from the beach and had the most incredible view of the cliffs when we looked over the edge of our campsite.  It was such a wonderful evening with wonderful people.  Drinks and chicken sausages were had by all, and it was a night I can’t wait to repeat. 

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Love Languages & Missing A Dear Friend

I love that we all speak different love languages.  I think it is important to find value in others, and not disregard them because it isn’t what comes naturally to you.  Some people are great with Quality Time, some people will perform Acts of Service, some people need to be Physically near someone, some have honed the craft of Words of Affirmation and some people speak through the language of Gifts. 

Sometimes you are forced into a long distance friendship, and you cannot have some of those methods in your friendship, and that is when creativity comes in.  My wonderful friend Heather gives the most wonderful thoughtful gifts, and while I believe her real love language is quality time, she really makes due with our current situation and makes the most of it.  She is constantly sending me boxes and letters and notes just to remind me she cares.  I am great with words of affirmation, and this is my gift back to her.  She is a beautiful, wonderful woman who teaches me about what is really important.  She always believes in me, and sometimes I think she has more faith in me than I have in myself.  She is so affirmative in every way she can be, and we are great texters to stay in touch as much as possible.  I never feel like she is far away.  I miss her desperately, always.

For my Birthday/Easter she sent a sweet box filled with all kinds of goodies and treats.  She bought little stuffed puppies, Easter egg dying kits, cupcake kits, cards, and bunny masks.  Everything made me smile as I pulled it out individually, and made me miss her more.  She really thinks about me and what would make me smile.  

There are some people you just want to be around, but the timing of life throws things off.  Heather is so dear to me, and I wish today that she could live next door, that our boys would be best friends, and that our puppies (mine is imaginary) would play together.  I am so proud to be her best friend.  She really effects me.  She makes me stop making excuses and face my problems, but she also laughs and cries with me through everything.  Honestly, I could not ask for a better friend.

Heather, I love you.  Thank you for every prayer and for all your love.  You mean the world to me.  Keep dreaming and reaching toward selfless love of everyone around you.  When it gets tough, give more.  You can always call me and I am always here.  I love you and miss you and can’t wait to see you in a few weeks.  You are a genuinely beautiful person, and I hope you can feel my affirmation miles and miles away.  You are a wonderful best friend.

Monday, May 14, 2012

A Penny For Your Thoughts - Blissful Exhaustion

I guess you can say I’m exhausted, but not in the way that makes me want to cry and scream and throw a tantrum.  I think there is a blissful exhaustion.  You pour everything you have into those around you, and you walk away feeling like there is nothing inside of you, except utter love for those amazing people.  This weekend was exhausting.  In the best way.  I spent time with people who are so dear to me, and did my best to be 100% present with them.  As a result, I came out needing a recharge day – which I don’t really get, but sometimes blogging about it helps!

Normally, I would apologize for not giving you as much of a blog as usual, but today I want to spin this so it is an encouragement to you.  Giving all of yourself attention at all times is necessary to feel whole.  Seems counter intuitive right?  Think deeply about how present you are with people.  Sure, we all check our phones and interrupt each other, but are you dialed in to their heart and emotions and what their words mean.  Get there, or you are wasting your time.  Work against being a surface person, dig deeper with those who you feel connected to.  The best friendships and relationships are those that show real present concern for the others hearts desires, which you can only be in tune with if you are truly there with them in body and in mind.

I had a wonderful weekend being with people.  If you asked me about other items, I could tell you how delicious the food was or how wonderful the weather was.  I would tell you about the camp site I stayed at one night or the beautiful flowers we got Bill’s mom and grandma for Mother’s Day, but the truth is, it is all about being with those people that matters.  My friends, my sisters, my new family, and so many more filled up my weekend with joy.  It was a lovely one people, and there will be many more to come!

Friday, May 11, 2012

Food I Ate Friday - Fresh Cilantro and Fish Tacos


A few months back (for our two year anniversary) I got Bill seeds for a garden to be planted in the spring for the summer.  Well, said garden was planted, and if I am honest I was a lot skeptical of its potential.  I have never had very much success at growing things (remember Tom), and I thought we were going to fail, but I didn’t want to let Bill down, so I enthusiastically told him how much I believed we would succeed.  He knew I was a doubter though, and called me out on it once.  I just shrugged my shoulders.  Man was I wrong!  That little garden is so happy, and flourishing on Bill’s deck :)

While a garden post is coming soon, today I want to focus on the beautiful cilantro in the top picture.  If this was all that came out of the garden, I would consider it a success; but everything seems to be growing strong! The others veggies will make appearances one by one as they are cooked into dishes.   I just could not contain the rush of exhilaration that came with cooking with something we grew.  It was so wonderful.  As we picked it off the plant and it went right to the table I felt like I had accomplished something fantastic.  Something simple.  Something self-sustaining.

Cilantro is a very distinct flavor, and every time it burst into my mouth I was filled with excitement for our growing plants all over again.  These fish tacos were so delicious because they represented something Bill and I love, fresh produce.  We check on our plants often and get so excited to be able to see growth.  The rest of the ingredients were simple.  Brown rice, black beans, hot sauce, corn, tilapia chunks, and fresh limes.  We marinated the tilapia in some fresh squeezed lime juice and smoked hot sauce and then pan seared them.  The healthy combination made for a perfect meal, although I would have made some fresh guac and had a little salsa next time. 

I can’t wait to debut the rest of our garden, but for now, let us know if you need a little cilantro!  We have tons :)


Tuesday, May 8, 2012

My Hopes Revealed...

I have been feeling like I need to get back into serious writing, and when I saw an opportunity flash before my eyes, I thought I needed to put my best foot forward to receive the best chance at acceptance.  After being published on a women’s memoirs blog a few months back, I was filled with a sense of accomplishment, and even a glimpse of what I was designed to do.  Write.  So, I am creating this post specifically for those coming to judge my blog.  Please read my heart on this issue right off the bat. 

Bill and I sponsor a little girl, Rachel, through Compassion International who you have met before here.  I support all this organization is doing, and we are thrilled to be a part of their network of sponsors!  However, I do not feel like it is enough for me, and I never will.  After spending time in Africa, I have wanted to go back as soon as I can.  I even peruse international jobs on occasion.  I know the opportunity will present itself if I am patient and wait for the right timing.  I want to hug these kids and I want to see them in person.  I want to show them love, not just financially support them.  This led me to start looking for opportunities to do so.  You all know how much this blog means to me, and what I discovered today, is that Compassion International actually sends people on a trip specifically to meet kids and blog about it.  What a perfect storm!

I must be considered for this trip.  I must be given a chance to do this.  I want to tell the world about all of my experiences overseas, and now that I have found my voice, I can’t believe it is an opportunity in front of me potentially.  I want to be clear though, if it doesn’t happen, my heart will not break.  I will remain the same; in high spirits and in strong faith that God will bring this dream to fruition one day.

The goal would be to always blog vividly like the story that was published.  I would attempt on the trip to write in the first person and always paint a word picture.   So, for you, whoever you are, that are stopping by to see what I have to offer the blogging world, I submit this story below, as well as this intro above.  I pray it hits you, and whether you pick me or not you leave this blog feeling refreshed and revived, because, as always, that is my goal.  Enjoy new friends!
 
The idea of traveling to Africa seemed like a dream come true to a girl who grew up with a Pollyanna attitude and a smile on her face.  Packing my bags made my heart flutter.  Water seemed more refreshing.  Flowers were more fragrant.  Life felt purposeful.  I could not sleep the entire 30 hour trip because  I could barely contain my excitement.  I naively thought I was finally going to have a chance to “change the world” and be a part of something bigger than myself.  Shortly after I walked out of the plane and across the jet way, it became apparent that not only was it not that easy, but that I was in way over my head.  I had never felt so overwhelmed and alone.  My passion and purpose were viewed as an annoyance by my fellow travelers, and I felt a lack of ability to express myself when I generally have words flow off my tongue gracefully.  I thought we were all on the same page when we left sunny Southern California, but tension rose as each day passed by.  Sensitivity and patience were lacking on all accounts.  It was not the trip I had pictured nor the experience I would have chosen.

 

When it came to the local people, matters only worsened.  The way I ate, the way I slept, the way I sat; they were all pointed out and laughed at.  I felt like an alien.  I could not even wash dishes without a hundred children peeking their heads in the hut and mocking me.  I was literally in a village of strangers.  No one understood me and I was an anomaly.  Simultaneous to my alien status, they seemed as though they came from another planet as well.  They ate with their hands and cooked over a fire.  They chanted and danced and jumped up and down all the time for no reason.  The stench of the camp was a mixture of body odor and rotting garbage.  Why had I volunteered for this?  How did I end up here?  Frustration began to creep into my heart.  I hated not being able to communicate, and on this particular day, I had been waiting to go to bed to escape the scorn of everyone surrounding me.  Now that I was finally here, I realized all I wanted was familiarity.  I selfishly wanted to sleep in my own bed and forget this whole adventure had happened.  I was reaching the end of my rapidly fraying rope.

As my mental temper tantrum took over, I looked around the roof of the straw and clay hut with mice crawling around the upper rim and focused on the thin white net that separated me from these creatures.  The heat overwhelmed me and, at times, I felt dehydrated and close to passing out from the intensity of it.  My many attempts to fall asleep failed as I constantly felt like something was crawling on me.  The radio seemed to be screaming once popular American music, and the speaker lay just beside my head giving me the closest proximity to the heat and the music.  They both pumped their poison to my body continuously.  The course material of the bed scratched against my bare legs and I winced whenever I touched the thin shear netting.

 

I lay with sweat dripping down my face and I began to grasp the difference between what I needed and what I wanted.  I was not hungry, thirsty or in danger – I was just uncomfortable.  My basic human needs were met.  So why did I feel such a lack of freedom?  Does freedom equal control?  Somewhere in my mind I was equating the two.  I decided in a split second that being outside of your comfort zone should not make you feel impaired.  This entire concept was brought to a head, as this was how I was spending the 4th of July in 2009.   The 4th of July is generally one of my favorite holidays, but this time around I was not watching fireworks and eating hot dogs.  I was spending time in Sub-Saharan Africa learning to appreciate my freedom, independence, and blessings as an American.  While that is not why I went, it is one of many things I was learning to take from it.  I guess it is one thing to say you appreciate what you have, but it is an entirely different thing to experience the life that has been handed to others and see the beauty in their simplicity. 


As these concepts and thoughts rushed through my brain, I felt a calm wash over me.  I had the freedom to decide how I was going to react to a situation that was not only out of my control, but also one that was not ideal for my personality and range of comfort.  I had the freedom to decide how I was going to deal with unfamiliarity.  I could decide my own destiny by using the independence I possessed to tackle any situation I was placed in.  It did not matter how I got in this hut with the mice and the roaches and the strangers.  What did matter was what I took from it and the attitude I approached life with from that moment forward.  No matter what situation we are faced with in life, we have the freedom to choose how it affects us.  I fell asleep with ease shortly following this list of realizations, with a full heart and head.  It’s amazing what heat and mice can stir up in your soul…

A Sweet Birthday Celebration - Rey Rey the Beautiful

I'm blogging from my phone as I sit outside Bill's apartment and wait for him to get off work. I started to think about how blessed I am to have his family in my life, and then I started thinking about how much I can see them becoming my family. It really is an incredible thing!

Faith and I attended a sweet birthday party for Bills cousins daughter and let me tell you how precious it was! Everything was Disney themed in a lovely way. These loving parents ADORE their daughter, and it showed in the care they took in her birthday party.

It was also so amazing to see the friends and family support that they had assembled. When Reyes smashed her cake people crowded around to watch the mini photo shoot and cheer her on. She didn't really get it ;) but, it sure was cute!

No matter what, as she grows up, I will always remember Rey Rey as one of the sweetest little girls I've ever had the privilege of spending time around. She is really a blessing to everyone she encounters :)

Monday, May 7, 2012

A Season Of Reading - The Hunger Games Trilogy


When I started this season of reading, I never knew I would read my first trilogy.  You remember me telling you about my experience reading the first hunger games book, but I have not reported on completing all three! These books have become one of the most popular trilogies ever written, and I was not sure how I would feel at the end of the journey.  Honestly, I love them.  However, not the way I expected. 

The first one was such an epic adventure.  It kept you on the edge of your seat in every moment.  You were right there alongside Katniss fighting for your life.  The second, I was trying to put the pieces together the entire time and connect the dots.  What was going on with everyone else was a concern.  Where was this story headed?  The third was about the results of what happened in the first and the second, and about the effects of change.  The entire series kept you flipping pages and wanting more.

I think what I experienced that I did not expect is how messy war is, against an unreal backdrop.  People have to make tough choices, people you really care about die, and generally… you AND everyone you love cannot survive.  This is something my generation has only experienced in a minimal way if they have relatives in the military overseas, but it has never knocked on our door.  I loved the realistic way it all came to a close.  Katniss represented a movement, and all her fame did not make her happy as it tends to be painted in life these days.  In fact, it only complicated matters.  Fame and fortune paled in comparison to the worth of family and freedom. 

What I did expect to experience was a torn girl, and that I definitely got.  She loved more than one man, she wanted to be a child and an adult at the same time, and she really grew up emotionally over the stories.  I loved that she wasn’t mature at points and didn’t know how to handle some situations.  I love that she had to be rescued and was not invincible and didn’t recognize the obvious things in front of her at times.  She was very relatable.

I would absolutely recommend this series to anyone looking to get wrapped up in a story.  It really wraps you up and takes you over.  I am happy to report I have finished my first trilogy, and I am sure it will not be my last.  I am also happy to report, that I loved the movie and cannot wait for the second one to come out in a year and a half :)

Friday, May 4, 2012

Together Today - Oh How I've Missed You


You may recognize this picture from this post, but it is one of the few recent pictures we have (from Christmas) of the whole clan, so I thought I would throw it on this post :)  This is my family.  They are so amazing, it is hard to put into words.

Now sure, we fought constantly as children and struggled with our identity as a unit, but I think we are coming out stronger on this end of things.  I have gotten to watch each of these people grow, both literally and figuratively.  They have become men and women of God more everyday.  My parents have always been living examples for us of what love looks like, and they have shown us unconditional love and support everyday of our lives.

Tomorrow, Faith (with the blonde curly hair in the front in the picture), will graduate from college, and then Joy will be the only one left in school.  It overwhelms me to realize how much older we are getting.  With age, comes responsibility.  We can no longer ignore issues or push things off until we are older or make excuses.  I am so proud to be related to people who understand that.  We have to fight for our relationships to remain strong, and that isn't always easy.  It means accountability and honesty.

This picture really is inside my heart.  Each of the people mean so much to me, and wrapping my head around that can be a little overwhelming.  All you need to know is, they are every bit as good as I sell them to be.  Through God's grace, we have come out strong.  I pray that everyday that passes we each learn to love Him and live for Him in a unique and important way.  And that we learn how to show each other His perfect love.

As I sit over our spaghetti dinner tonight, I know I will feel like crying (in a good way).  I love the anticipation of overwhelming joy :)

Have the best weekend friends! 
And if you know Faith, make sure to say congratulations.  She has worked so hard for her degree!

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Planning Ahead - Free Movie Mondays


I look forward to this event every year.  Orange County Performing Arts center hosts 5 free movies that are projected on the wall outside next to an enormous field/courtyard.  Hundreds and hundreds of people come and watch and enjoy.  Outdoor movies are something I LOVE.  Snacks and blankets, with a glass of wine in hand, I breathe in the fresh air as often as I can and it would be nearly impossible to wipe the smile off my face.  I dream of these things.  Seriously… they really make me feel like I belong in this world…  I also love that they consistently play old musicals and classics at these nights!

On a seemingly side note, while some of you may not know about my Gene Kelly love, I want you to know how real it is.  He is/was one of my favorite entertainers and always will be.  He was a graceful, but not girlish, man.  He was strong and robust while being light on his feet.  You just do not see that balance now in the dance world as much!  He was a face for his times in the entertainment industry.  I wish I lived then when dance was prominent in movies.  I own a few Gene Kelly movies, and hope to own all of them one day.  There is something about his stage presence that refreshes me!

When I found out An American in Paris with Gene Kelly was playing this year for Free Movie Mondays my heart raced with excitement.  I can picture the snacks and the wine I will bring as I sit and soak that in.  If no one can join me, you will still see me on a picnic blanket sipping my wine alone.  I might even tear up at the perfection of the moment designed for me!  Have you ever felt like something was so wonderful it overwhelmed you?  Have you ever found an activity that spoke deeply to your soul?  I know it sounds like I am exaggerating, but I swear to you it really blesses me.  God brings us each different things to give us joy, and this just happens to be one of my things!

I can’t wait for July 16th, 2012 when I know one of those moments will present itself to me, and I will gladly welcome it with open arms!


You want to join me for any of these movies? 
Please feel free to come sit next to me on my blanket and enjoy with me! 
Just let me know you are coming, and grab a glass to share my wine :)