Always Alright

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  • Today, I WILL give Nutmeg a bath because she’s starting to smell like a big ol’ stinky pupper-poo.
  • This weekend, I WILL finish my wedding list and get my Save the Dates finalized.
  • This month, I WILL do Jillian’s 30 Day Shred every day even if it paralyzes me (which it is – I can’t even move after the workout).
  • This year, I WILL be me and all that entails.

Bret and I saw Silver Linings Playbook a few weeks ago, and while it wasn’t the BEST movie I’ve seen, there were several things I loved about it:

1.) Jennifer Lawrence

What’s not to love about her?  All the attention she is getting this awards season is well-deserved (plus, it gives us an opportunity to see what kind of pretty dresses she’s going to wear).

2.) Bradley Cooper

It was refreshing to see Bradley in a “serious” movie role.  I want to say that this movie made me really respect Bradley as an actor, but the truth is, he caught my attention when I found out he could do THIS:

3.) The Music

This movie has opened the doors for great artists to be recognized including The Lumineers, Alabama Shakes, alt-J, Jessie J…
I can’t stop listening to “Always Alright” by Alabama Shakes.  Just do yourself a favor – close your eyes, press play, and TRY not to nod or sway your head, tap your fingers, or even do a little shoulder shrugging.  So much love for this song:

Clear a Space

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If you’re coming back here, you’ll notice the blog has a different look and feel.  After a long debate in my head (long being about 5 seconds), I decided I needed to give this puppy a facelift.  Now, I’m not set on this final look/feel, but this blog needed to change to represent me versus just a music blog.

Moving forward, instead of solely being a place for music, this is going to be my “personal” space  - things that inspire me, that make me happy, that bring a smile to my face.  Music will always be included <3

First and foremost, if Lake Street Dive doesn’t become popular, I will be completely happy.  This band is so ridiculously talented, and their my favorite little secret right now.  Rachael Price has got this cool + sexy thing about her when she sings that so many artists right now simply cannot do so naturally.

This song choice obviously has a direct meaning for this blog, for my passion with reading, for taking long jogs, for enjoying life… I’m constantly figuring out how to challenge myself and become a better me.  Well, I’m having one of my lightbulb moments today, and I think it’s going to stick around.  I put aside so much time to work, to make dinner (this is actually my therapy for the day – I love the kitcken), to sleep, to drive + travel, to watch Millionaire Matchmaker (hey, we all have our guilty pleasures…) that I eventually forget to put aside time for one person – ME!

I’m going to clear a space for ME for this year.  This year has been focused on so many other people and their wants/needs/concerns that once again, I managed to shift any time that I could for myself towards them.  In the words of Sweet Brown:

I’ve preached about this before, but I lose perspective sometimes when I’m so caught up with everything around me.  It’s easy to get lost in your daily routine.  My next routine is to cut the routine.

Bret and I will be getting married in less than 8 months (CRAZY!), and I’ve been really trying my best to juggle everything that is on my plate right now which – at this moment –  is a lot.  I never was much of a hat person, but I definitely feel like I’ve got quite the collection going right now.

A few things I’m looking forward to:

  • Visit to Vermont
  • Nutmeg’s 9th birthday (actually, this makes me sad – she’s getting old)
  • Getting back into shape – I had a nasty ankle sprain in July that just ruined all the hard work I did over the course of 2011-2012.  2013 – I own you
  • Spring
  • Bret’s birthday (a few months away, but I always plan ahead)

What kind of things are you looking forward to?  What are you clearing space for this year?

Whoopsie Daisy!

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I know this video isn’t new at this point, but I still make it a point to include every single OK GO video on this blog simply because I love them and their intelligence and creativity when it comes to music videos just amazes me.  Plus, I have to give props to Chevy for considering OK GO to include their car in the video (awesome product placement)…

Ok, so… Every time I hear the phrase “Whoopsie Daisy!” I think of Notting Hill  and can only say “Whoopsie Daisy” in my best Hugh Grant voice.

I know you just did it as well.

Annnnnnnnnnd, I used the phrase “Whoopsie Daisy!” as my blog post title because it seemed to be the best way to apologize for the lack of blog posts followed by the brief disappearance of my domain name.

Whoopsie Daisy!

Bret’s been on my case (in a good way) about updating this blog.  “You LOVE posting on your blog!  Don’t forget that.”  Well, I did forget, and even as I’m typing this, I’m happy that I’ll be able to get back on track with my blog posts.

In a life update, all is well here in our little home!  We have literally had a guest in our place almost every single weekend since we’ve been here or we’ve seen friends/family every weekend.  People are asking, “Are you guys all finally moved in?” to which Bret and I only respond:  “Sure!”

Do we have stuff still in boxes?  Yes.  Is there artwork on the wall?  Well, not yet.  Has Nutmeg finally adjusted?  You bet.

But we had our first case of dust bunnies last week.  Now, I know dust bunnies aren’t necessarily a good thing (usually it means you are lazy and haven’t cleaned your house), but for me, it was a sign that we were living and using our new home.  I won’t read into it too much because it is also shedding season for Nutmeg… but still.  Dust bunnies come around when you are “being” in a home.  So are we moved in?  No, but the dust bunny brigade has finally showed up!

Bret and I are definitely getting into our groove here.  Bret’s been hacking away at the bushes in front of our house (I only say hack because… he’s cut a significant amount of branches from the bushes.  We’ll see how that turns out) and has managed to bring life back to the blackberry bush.  I also made my first attempt at tackling the lavender that starting taking over our flowerbed/garden in the front of our house.  We’re planning on planting some herbs and arugula there, so hopefully it will all work out!

Bret found a baseball team to play with during this Spring and Summer.  With baseball season coming up, it is ALL Bret talks about.  “I need new batting gloves.”  “The Pirates play on Sunday.”  “Let’s go play catch outside.”  “Let’s go to the store to look at some bats.”

He’s lucky his birthday is coming up :)

Last night, I met with a small group of people to run with.  I’ve been running with Nutmeg outside, but running here is a bit different than my experience in Pittsburgh.  In Pittsburgh, I had the luxury of hopping outside pretty much every day and being in Frick Park almost immediately to run with Nutmeg.  Here, I kind of have to go hunting for my running paths, especially areas where I can let Nutmeg off leash while I run.  Fortunately, the weather’s been gorgeous here, so I’ve been able to scope out some places before the really nice weather sets in.  Below is a picture of Mt. Nittany (I took it from the Mount Nittany FB page).  I can’t wait to climb that guy over and over this summer with Nutmeg and Bret.

Mount Nittany

I began looking at wedding stuff a few weeks ago, thinking that since I have all of this time to prep for it (since the wedding won’t be until 2013), I might as well take advantage of it.  Well… I can tell you that the moment I started looking at stuff, I began freaking out.  It’s not that I don’t think I can plan a wedding, but Bret’s right — I’m not going to want to miss a detail.  I’m going to want to include “the little things.”  I’m going to want everyone to have a good time.  Sooooo I shut the wedding book and decided I’ll try the wedding stuff once it gets nicer out.

However, after a few more attempts, I have a better idea of what I want the wedding to be :)

There you have it.  In a nutshell, Squeaker Box is back… I’m back… We never left, but we’re here.  And now — I shall try to make some raisin-filled cookies!

I Want a Musical Kitchen

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These guys have too much time on their hands…

But aside from that, this video is pretty cool.

On Sunday morning, Bret and I made a nice heart breakfast of pancakes and bacon.  Now, since our fridge is still lacking almost every condiment possible (ketchup, salad dressing, jelly, etc.) but most importantly — maple syrup — we had to get a little creative since our pancakes didn’t have a topping.  Obviously, we could have gone to the grocery store to get some, but what’s the fun in that?

So, I improvised.  I’ve made a nice caramel butter sauce before, and Bret was more than ok with this substitute.

Caramel Butter Sauce 

(I halved the recipe, but here’s the original)

  • 4 tablespoons of butter
  • 1 cup of brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream (I used half and half…  Once again, got creative with what we had)
  • 1 tabel of vanilla extract

The sauce turned out great.  Very yummy and delicious on top of our pancakes (made on our new non-stick skillet!)  You might think that “non-stick skillet” shouldn’t deserve so much excitement, but I have been battling with my non-non-stick skillet for years now.  Bret’s parents were awesome in getting me an All-Clad non-stick skillet for Christmas.  It worked beautifully with the pancakes, and I am so happy to have it.  It was great to make pancakes without having to go into World War III with them from sticking to the pan…

Now, the bacon.  As another Christmas gift (this time from my brother and sister-in-law), we received a different gift.  On Christmas eve, my twin sister and I opened our gifts the same time.  Steph had a little bit of a head start, and I heard her say, “Wow!  6 months of vegetables!  That’s great!”

Being a twin, sometimes you assume you get the same thing.  Automatically, I just assumed we also got months of vegetables, and was like: “Yaaa-!”

Wrong.

We.

Got.

BACON!!!!!

 I can’t even tell you how many times I’ve rejected Bret from getting bacon at the grocery store.  It’s not that I hate bacon (who hates bacon???), but when you are trying to lose weight and are eating healthily, bacon does not get added to the grocery list.

Needless to say, we were very excited to get bacon as a gift!  For the next three months, we’ll get special shipments of b-a-c-o-n.  Actually, the day we were moving in, our first shipment of bacon was happily waiting for us on our doorstep.  We made some bacon this morning for our breakfast (this kind was applewood smoked), and it was gooooooood.

However, our place smelled like bacon for the rest of the day…

… or maybe that’s a good thing?

Osh, Kosh — Mmm More Squash

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I’m going to put the playlist at the beginning because then you can listen to some music as you read along!

I love the weekends for so many reason.  For this weekend, in particular, I feel like I can finally relax.  Bret and I are in our new place (still not fully unpacked), the cable is set up, the internet is working, and Nutmeg has been left alone by herself without any issues!

That was my main concern…  In the past, Nutmeg would get stressed out when we left.  As you can see in the photo, she was not pleased when Bret left the house.  She literally sat in that same spot with her eyes glued to the door until Bret came back.  I was trying to get a photo of her staring at the door, but it’s clearly obvious she didn’t find my humor in the situation very amusing.  All in all though, she’s done a really great job going with the flow and adjusting to the new place and life in general.  Since we got her in 2009, she’s lived in three locations with us and has learned to live at both parents’ houses.  Additionally, the poor dog has so many nicknames for her:  Puppers, Pupparooski, PUPPY!! Nuh-ma-nay, Squirrel Girl, Nutmeggers, Nuttie Buddie (my mom), Nuttie (my dad), “Hey Dog” (Bret’s dad)… It’s no wonder she’s constantly having an identity crisis of some sort.  Bret and I decided that if she could be a superhero dog, she would be ADAPTADOG!

Bret and I have made dinner twice now in our new place — a true test of us “living” here.  I reheated the butternut squash ravioli I made earlier this week (recipe to follow), and Bret made his specialty — Meat Pasta.  Now, I have responsibilities when making Meat Pasta other than cooking the noodles.  It’s a pretty difficult recipe.  Here, let Bret tell you how to make it:

Brittany:  How do you make meat pasta?

Bret:  3 parts meat! 1 part pasta!  1 part sauce!

Brittany: …

Meat Pasta = Man pasta.  Bret’s specialty.

Earlier this week, I wanted to use the rest of the butternut squash, so I decided to make some butternut squash ravioli.  Now, this isn’t actual ravioli (I mean, seriously… I definitely am not making homemade pasta on a weekday night).  HOWEVER, I did this trick in the past for one of Bret’s birthday dinners — I think I made goat cheese and fig ravioli — and used won ton wrappers instead.

The hardest and most annoying part about this recipe is sealing the won ton and making sure you put just the right amount int he middle, or else the filling starts oozing out of the sides.

Ingredients:

  • 1 (1 1/2 lb) butternut squash , halved and seeded
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • salt & freshly ground black pepper
  • 3 tablespoons butter
  • 1 large leek , white part only, halved lenghtwise and cut into 1/4-inch pieces (I used a whole onion instead)
  • 1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese (definitely added more than 1/2 cup)
  • 1 tablespoon minced fresh flat-leaf parsley
  • wonton wrapper (square)
  • 12 sage leaves

Refer to this post as to how to make butternut squash puree (which you need).  I sauteed the onions (added 3 cloves of garlic as well) in the pan until they were almost caramelized.  Then, I mixed the puree, onions, cheese, garlic, and parsley in the pan.

Next comes the fun (100% sarcasm here) part — putting the filling in the won ton wrappers!

They say to use a tablespoon, but I used a little over a teaspoon to fill the won tons since a tablespoon was too much.  You put a spoonful onto the wrapper, then brush the sides of the won ton wrapper with water, and fold in half.  Make sure you make a nice seam between the two sides.  I folded my won tons diagonally, but I guess most people fold them horizontally.  Meh.  I think the diagonals look prettier.

I had the water boiling while I made the won tons/ravioli.  You drop the ravioli into the boiling water, and it’ll take about 4 minutes to cook (or until they float to the top).  While the ravioli are cooking, melt the remaining 2 tablespoons butter in a small saucepan over medium heat. Brown the sage leaves in the butter for 3 to 4 minutes.  This brown butter sauce is sooo good over the ravioli, and the sage gets nice and crispy on top of the ravioli (so be sure to include it!)

One thing I did before topping my ravioli with the butter sauce was pan-sear them a bit.  I wanted them to be a little “toasty” and slightly crunchy, so I tossed some into the pan to heat up and sear before plating them.

And voila!  It’s pretty easy aside from the creation of the ravioli, so grab a friend to help to make the time go by faster.

Ingrid + Greg = Did you break up?!

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I think you’ll find in this post that I am a big fan of YouTube videos.  There’s something much more fun about watching and listening to a song versus just listening.

I’m also a big fan of Ingrid Michaelson.  Bret and I have seen her in concert three times (solo tour, Hotel Cafe tour, and solo tour again), and she is just fantastic live.  Well, I am excited to announce that she has a new album coming out January 24 called Human Again.

YAY!

The last time we saw her, it was very clear that her and Greg Laswell were dating.  Now, many of you either know this (or don’t) but one of my and Bret’s favorite memories everrrrrrr was going to a Greg Laswell concert at Club Cafe.  At this time, I was a super obsessed Greg Laswell fan.  I played his music while studying, sitting on the computer, driving in the car… everywhere.  I.  Loved.  Greg Laswell.  Greg ended up hanging out with us for hours.  AND HE PLAYED ON MY CRAPPY CASIO!!! (Yes, that’s what he actually called it: “What is this crappy Casio?” )  Bret and I were originally planning on going to the concert alone, but then four of his housemates came along as well, and it ended up being such an amazing night.

Ok.  Focus.  I got a little excited there.

Greg and Ingrid.  In love.  Together.  Two of my favorite indie/acoustic musicians got married to one another!  I know I’ve posted this before, but they sang this song when we saw them live, and it reminded me of Johnny Cash and June Carter:

And then.  She releases her newest song called “Ghost.”  Now, I must say that when I originally heard it, my hope and heart for the Ingrid + Greg = LOVE broke a little bit because my first instinct was WHAT THE HELL! HOW COULD THEY BREAK UP!  THE LIGHT, GREG! YOU SEE THE LIGHT IN MEE!

The video is very pretty and captivating, and the song is beautiful… I just hope it’s about a relationship before Greg and not Greg because if it’s about Greg that would just be terrible.  I’ve decided it can’t be about Greg because her wedding ring is still on in the video…

To keep the love going, Ingrid’s cover of “I Can’t Help Falling in Love With You” was featured the trailer for “Like Crazy” (which I really want to see):

Greg also released a song this year with Morgan Page called “Addicted” and it’s already been added to my running playlist.  It’s got a dancey feel to it, and I must say — I approve.

Where is the Silverware?

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Bret and I are slowly getting through unpacking our things.  The biggest hurdle to get over was unpacking all of my kitchen stuff.  I really can’t wait to get up and running with making dinners again and moving around my new kitchen.  Next, we conquered the living room and finally (hopefully) figured out a comfy layout.  However, as a result of empty boxes and piling boxes, our dining room/mud room kind of looks like a scene out of Wall-E:

There are boxes after boxes stacked on more boxes surrounded by other boxes.  While we were unloading the kitchen boxes, Bret and I began a fun game of  Where is the Silerware??  With each box we opened, we would say, “Maybe it’s in this one.”  Nope.  “It’s definitely in this one.”  Nada.  “Ok, this one looks promising.”  Wrong again.  I remember turning to Bret (as I packed it into its obscure location) and saying:  “When we finally unpack this stuff, we’re going to forget where we packed the silverware.”

Obviously, the silver needed to go into a box containing a Christmas tree spire, two Pittsburgh Pirates Snuggies, a computer printer, golf balls, card games and a hanging shoe rack (just to name a few….)

“I’m assuming you packed this box, Brittany…”

Guilty.

Next hunt, where is the shower curtain? (We both are pretty certain it was left behind).

A month or so ago, I saw on my Facebook feed my old Business Communications teaching assistant (wow, that’s a mouthful) post a link to his sister’s YouTube page.  His little sister happens to be an AMAZING musician.  When I hear someone sing like this, I’m completely blown away.  I could listen to singers like her for hours.  Songs like these spark images of:

Bluebirds

(Bret says I like any songs that a bird could hop-dance to… and I agree)

Swaying in a hammock

And of course — romance

I guess if Jake (my old TA) ever ran across this post, it might seem a little creepy since I’m featuring his sister on here due to me seeing one of his Facebook statuses…….. but whatever.

His sister kicks butt.  She deserves to get a ton of recognition for her talent and voice, and I’m more than happy to share her music with all of you :)

Comfy and Cozy – Butternut Squash Bread

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I love listening to music when I cook or bake.  Aside from listening to music while I work, it’s the time where I listen to music the most.  I feel most at ease when 1.) music is playing 2.) the stove/stovetop is on and 3.) a recipe is in front of me at the same time.

Gotye’s song “Somebody That I Used to Know” has been making it’s rounds for awhile now in the blogosphere.  It’s one of those songs I still haven’t downloaded, but everytime I get on Hypem and it comes up, I listen to the whole song, then I click on repeat.

Sorry, Gotye.  You’re great and all — but I just ran across Walk Off the Earth’s cover of your song, and immediately fell in love.  When I see videos like this, all I can think about is how much I want to be in that room watching that performance.  Everything from the first guy playing percussion on the guitar, the spot-on vocals from everyone (especially Sarah), to the last guy treating the guitar almost like a harp/sitar…  Awesome.  I can’t get enough of this video:

They also did a cover of The Pogues “Fairytale in New York” which I always include in every Christmas playlist…  Watch it here :)

I didn’t take a photo of the recipe below, but I’ll include the photo from where I got the recipe and can promise you that it is yummy!  First off, don’t judge me that I pulled the recipe from an online blog.  Right now, every single one of my cookbooks are boxed up, waiting to be removed in our NEW HOUSE!  Yes, Bret and I finally moved, and all of our things are no longer sitting in a storage shed.  They are currently sitting comfortably in our new home, waiting to be taken out of their boxes.  So like I said — don’t judge me for already breaking one of my New Year’s resolutions because I had no control over it.

Bret’s mom had given me two butternut squashes before I left during Christmas.  I absolutely love anything butternut squash, and it will be served somehow at our wedding.  There is something so velvety and sweet and comforting about the taste of it, and I didn’t want to make just your ol’ typical roasted butternut squash, and I’ve gone the soup route plenty of times.  We ran out of desserts now that the holiday season has passed, and Bret and I like to have something sweet at night.  So I thought…  Pumpkin is a squash and I can make muffins/bread/cookies out of that… I bet I can make bread out of butternut squash.

After a little searching, I found a recipe that I thought would be great.  And it was.

Courtesy of mybakingaddiction.com

Butternut Squash Bread

First, I had to puree the squash.  In the past, I’ve always roasted the squash and hate trying to scoop out all of the yummy squash goodness without completely burning my hands.  Instead, I peeled the whole squash, then cut it up into cubes.  I put it in a microwave-safe casserole dish covered with a lid, and microwaved it for 10 minutes.  SO EASY.  When I took the dish out, all I had to do was mash the squash with a fork and it was perfect, squash puree. Mmmmm…

To Make the Bread:

Ingredients

  • 1 cup butternut squash puree
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 1 cup white sugar
  • ½ cup brown sugar
  • 1 ¾ cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoons baking soda
  • ½ teaspoon kosher salt
  • 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • ½ teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • ½ teaspoon ground cardamom (I didn’t have cardamom, so I used 1/4 tsp allspice and 1/4 tsp ground cloves)

* I added about a 1/2 cup of mini chocolate chips and about a 1/2 cup of chopped pecans as well… YUM!

Directions
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Grease and flour one 8.5 x 4.5 x 2.5 in loaf pan.
2. In a large bowl, mix together the butternut squash puree, eggs, oil, water and sugars until thoroughly combined. In a separate bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg and cardamom.
3. Stir the dry ingredients into the butternut squash mixture.  Add any additional items here (chocolate, nuts, dried fruit, etc.) Combine just until incorporated; do not over mix. Pour into the prepared pan.
4. Bake at 350 degrees for 55-65 minutes (it’ll depend on your oven, so keep an eye on it) or until a wooden skewer inserted into the center of the loaf comes out clean.

Bret and I have been slicing it up and putting a little butter on it.  The taste of the butternut squash does not get lost at all.  Like I mentioned above, I added mini chocolate chips and chopped pecan halves which gave a little extra sweetness and crunch.  Bret said that the next time I make it, he would like me to add golden raisins.  YES!  BRET WANTS IT AGAIN!

Butternut Squash Bread = Success.

Goodbye 2011 — Hello 2012!

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I’m baaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaack!  And this post is going to be a long one. So, if you’re just here for music, here you go. Otherwise, read on.

Ok.  Sooo… It’s 2012.  I took a few minutes to look back through my blog posts and what this blog used to be, and I feel like I want to go back to staying true to 1.) posting on this blog consistently but more importantly, 2.) I want to go back to this blog being more than just a music blog.  Originally, I had recipes, thoughts, opinions, updates, PHOTOS! on this site.

However, as the blog continued to grow, so did the pressure of having more playlists with more music. Believe it or not, the reason why I started this blog in the first place (which was to share music I find to all of you) started to get lost.  The pressure of having a playlist every week kind of sucked the fun out of searching for music.

So – blog – my New Year’s resolution to you…!  I will go back to my original blog roots and keep true to  posting any artist I find that I love without feeling pressured to do so!  I want to share the music I find, and for the past few months, I started to dread making posts.  NOPE!  Not anymore.  I’m going to post anytime a song strikes a special chord with me, makes me want to jump out of my chair and dance, or will be stuck in my head for the rest of the day.

Anyways!  I pulled up my brief post for the beginning of January 2011, and I had stated:

Happy 2011 everyone.  Since #11 is my lucky number, I’m hoping that this year will be a good year.

And wow — what a great year it has been for me.  I am so so grateful for what this year has done for me.  During this past year, I felt like I could really grow and become (or try to) the “adult” I want to be.  I made more positive decisions that favored myself.  Now, that might sound selfish, but I’m the kind of person who will go out of their way for everyone.  This past year, I really taught myself some constraint when it came to dealing with issues beyond my control.  However, I realized that there were several things in my life that I could control and jumped at the chance to do so.  I’m not one to put everything out on the table (especially via the internet), but 2011 is over… and I need some reflection time :)

Favorite parts of 2011:

Renting our “first place” together.  Up until Regent Square, Bret and I lived with his housemates, and then we stayed in that same house until we found our first place.  April 2011 marked us being in Macon for a year, and it is going to forever be an important part of our lives as being our first “home” together. Edit:  I just had to have Bret come over and give me a huge hug because I do miss Macon a lot…. :(
Running every day in Frick Park with Nutmeg.  This might sound cheesy, but Nutmeg really got me back on track with my weight and working out again.  She was the best running partner and kept me devoted and dedicated to jogging every day.  It was awesome to look down and see her jogging right next to you with the BIGGEST SMILE on her face.  I love her, and she helped me get through some personal physical mountains this year.

2011 Christmas Gift – 8 months of CSA items.  Best.  Decision.  Ever.  I’ve never cooked with so many fresh, healthy food items before…  and it was great.  Having the CSA box really taught me how to cook healthy dishes for Bret and I.  I learned how to LOVE kale, radishes, collard greens, and pickled beets (to name a few).

Surprise birthday trip to Michigan.  This trip was such an introspection trip for Bret and I… We had TONS of good laughs and smiles and quality time with one another.  We also stayed up every night to watch this sunset at 9:00 (Yes, the sun went down at 9:00 at night).  It was beautiful and perfect and everything we needed at that time.  Little did I know… Bret would be proposing to me in less than a month.

Getting engaged to my best friend, soul mate, partner in crime, other half… Bret.  There’s no better feeling than taking every step forward in life with someone right there by your side.  Bret and I have been together almost every single day of our post-teenage life.  Eleven is my lucky number, and 2011 has been such an AWESOME year for me.  Twelve is Bret’s lucky number, so I hope this can be his lucky year <3

For those who know me, I’m a HUGE list maker.  If I put it on a list, it will get taken care of or addressed.  Last year, I wanted to make some personal changes, so what did I do?  I made a list (it had 10 things on it, but I’m only including 5):

1.       I will make sure I spend 1 hour a day to something that makes me happy

This was by far the MOST IMPORTANT item on my list.  By telling myself to put aside ONE HOUR to do something that made me happy — listening to music, making a new dish in the kitchen, reading a book, jogging outside, playing tennis with Bret, driving to a coffee shop that’s out of the way — I felt like I could add some spurts of happiness into my day. I should have also put a sidenote that the one hour thing had to be something related to not being on the computer or in front of a TV.  Sometimes everyone gets so caught up in life and work and busy schedules that they start forgetting to take care of themselves.  I found it important to stop allowing myself to get lost in the mix.

2.       I’m only human…  I’m allowed to make mistakes

I never thought I was a stressful person until I went to CMU.  Additionally, I personally have set high standards for myself and have always been an overachiever.  You want 100%?  I’ll give you 110.  You want that done tomorrow?  I finished it yesterday.  However, this kind of pressure can really wear and tear at you. NO ONE IS PERFECT.  For anyone who thinks there is a perfect someone/idea/world out there – you’re wrong.  This isn’t me being cynical.  The reality is — you have full control over the life you want to live.  People make mistakes, and so do you.  I have learned to embrace my mistakes and flaws because at the end of the day, those flaws are a part of who I am.  I can learn and grow from any hiccups that I make along the way as long as I take the time to recognize those mistakes  and work to change them.

3.       I have a purpose in life… and I will discover that purpose

One thing I’ve adopted for myself and have tried to pass on to other people is the action of asking a simple question when making a decision:  “Will you regret doing this?”  I have found that simple question has helped me in both small and large situations.  Some of my favorite moments this year have been the results of answering that question.  “Will you regret taking Nutmeg for a run?”  “No.”  “Will you regret taking this new job?” “No.”  I even had Bret’s Grandma ask herself this question during Christmas when she didn’t really want to go shopping with the ladies of the family:  “Will you regret not going?”  And she said, yes.  So, she woke up the next morning and went (I don’t know if my question helped, but I hope it got her to think a little bit).  Regardless, I have found that the saying is true:  LIVE LIFE WITH NO REGRETS.  I’m working on finding my purpose in life, but I’m definitely taking the right steps towards getting there.

4.      I will stop taking what others do or say personally

There are some mean people out there that simply don’t care about you or your feelings and will say mean things to cut you down.  There are also people out there who will things they don’t mean.  I used to have a habit of sometimes taking what people said or acted as a personal attack: “She didn’t call me back — Did I do something to make her mad?”  Or… “She didn’t listen to a word I was saying.  She was ignoring me…”  Sometimes, I used to over-analyze certain situations (don’t get me wrong… I still do) so much that it was exhausting.  Bret has really taught me how to not be so defensive in situations and how to learn to take constructive criticism and advice which everyone needs.  By doing this, I feel like I’ve become a more positive to those around me while also adding even more positiveness to my life.

5.   I will learn to say “no” without feeling guilty

This was the second biggest positive addition to my life this past year.  Now, it might seem weird that saying “no” would be a positive thing, but think about it:  how many times have you been in a situation where you wanted to say “no” but instead you said “yes” and ended up being miserable?  I spend so much time wondering what everyone else wants instead of focusing on what I want.  Usually, if I say “yes” instead of “no,” I would make the best out of the situation regardless.  However, just the process of deciding between “yes” or “no” started to get a little tiring for me.  So, this past year, if I was on the fence about something and weighed more heavily on the “no” side… I went with the answer “no.”  If my gut or brain told me “no,” I went with my immediate thoughts.  I actually save this article (click here to read it) which explains my inability to say “no” perfectly.  I’m already an honest person, and saying “yes” at times when I wanted to say “no” seemed dishonest… so I started going to honest-to-myself-and-others route.

So 2012.  What do I want to accomplish this year?  This year, I’ve decided I’m going to continue to work on my personal goals.  However, I have some basic “habits” I’d like to change starting this year (HERE COMES ANOTHER LISTTTTTT!)

  1. Any recipe I use must come out of the 30+ cookbooks I own.  Once Bret and I are up and running in our new place, I’ll be able to get back into the groove of cooking every night.  However, I want to pull every recipe I cook from a book.  Adios, AllRecipes.com!  *teaaaaar*   I want to write notes in my cookbooks.  I want the pages to curl from being worn.  I want oil spots to show up here and there on the pages… I want my books to be loved and right now, they are not.
  2. Do a 10k, then hopefully a half marathon.  I really would like to commit to a 10k this year.  I was already running 5-6 miles a day during the spring/summer, so a 10k should be no problem.  However, I just need to do it.  Check it off the bucket list.  Once I do that, hopefully, I can do a half marathon (but I also have the world’s worst ankles, so we’ll see).  For now, I’ll focus on the 10k.
  3. TAKE MORE PHOTOS! and put them in frames.  This is one resolution I think I make every year and don’t keep.  I NEED to take more photos.  So, I’ve decided that I will take photos if I have frames to put them in.
  4. Visit Friends Out-of-State.  Since most of our buddies are no longer in PA, Bret and I need to make sure we visit all of our friends.  I’m definitely on board with doing a bunch of mini-weekend vacations during the year.
  5. Buy things I need without feeling guilty.  This is similar to the “learn to say no without feeling guilty” thing.  I am the WORST shopper.  I hate shopping — every part of it.  I don’t like the crowds.  I hate dressing rooms.  But most importantly — I hate the price tags.  I don’t shop because I don’t like spending money. GASP!  ALL GIRLS LIKE TO SPEND MONEY!!!  Uh.  No.  It is so hard for me to spend money.  This year, if there is something I want or need, I’m going to get it without putting additional stress into the purchase decision.  Don’t get me wrong — I’m not about to go on this massive spending spree!  But… if I have a coat covered in hot chocolate and coffee stains with holes and a broken zipper and have owned it for over 8 years (yes… I was wearing this coat), I’ll replace it — AND I DID!

Thanks for reading.  I’m back everyone.  Watch out… 2012 — I’m coming for ya’.

Time to Unwind 11.22.11

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I can’t believe Thanksgiving is in 2 days.

TWO DAYS!

I had a personal goal of figuring out Christmas gifts by Thanksgiving, and I must say, I’m pretty impress with myself.  So far — so good!  I think I’m on track for at least having an “idea” of what to get everyone by Friday.  YAY!  I’ve also been listening to a lot of Christmas music lately (already).  I think that by listening to the music, I’m feeling motivated about playing Santa and getting my gifts :)

Bret and I played in a Turkey Bowl on Sunday, and I’m not even joking — I feel like every single muscle in my body hurts.  Baahhh….!  I had a pretty sweet catch and interception while Bret scored a touchdown, so we are sore for actually DOING something.  However, I really hate football right now.

We are definitely not sideline sitters…

You’ll notice in the playlist that I’m really loving me some Irish and French music lately.  For whatever reason, I would love nothing more than to be sitting in Ireland by a fire with some local guy singing + playing music… or to be in France — bundled up in my best winter attire — eating a macaron.

Guess I’ll just have to listen to the music and pretend :D