Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Charming Gardeners (and a Song)

"Let us be grateful to the people who make us happy; 
they are the charming gardeners who make our souls blossom."
-- Marcel Proust

No matter how independent or introverted a person is, I still think life is so much better with good friends. There are great people in the world, and it's nice to meet them, but when you click with someone, it's amazing. I've met so many of these gems, and whether they live next-door or halfway around the globe, they are... priceless. 

Hard times are easier. Good times are magnified. Love is infinitely multiplied. Laughs are boundless. I also feel challenged -- challenged to be better. I always want to be worthy of those friendships. I will probably never be... 

as fun as Leah, 
as grounded as Kay, 
as creative as Annie, 
as encouraging as Caitlin, 
as cheerful as SueEllen,
as uplifting as Cory,
as kind-hearted as Micaela,
as supportive as Dixie,
as thoughtful as Erin,
or as giving as Summer,

... but if I try, I'll be a better friend all-around. Sometimes friendships are forever, and sometimes they are for now. Either way, let's just aim to be charming gardeners, yes? Yes!

I found this last week when going through old music files. My sister and I recorded "For Good" from Wicked (the ultimate girlfriend friendship music theatre ballad) over four years ago. We made the mistake of trying to sing it at our grandpa's funeral and shed more tears than lyrics. Mom's birthday was a month later, so we recorded it for her for her birthday. It's so far from perfect, but for recording it in one full take and considering the emotional circumstances, it's more representative of that time, I think. 

"And we are led,
To those who help us most to grow,
If we let them,
And we help them in return..."

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

A Happy List

Sometimes, days don't go as planned, like yesterday. I had a raging headache by 2:00 p.m., was falling asleep on the couch by 7:30 p.m., and then our power went out. This Happy List post was supposed to go up last night, but now it seems more appropriate this morning. :)

* * * * * * * * * *

Butterfly garland from one of my best friends for Valentine's Day. :)

If only weekends could be longer! I would much rather work four ten-hour days and have three-days weekends. Can I get an "Amen"? I was in total student beast mode last week, so when Friday night rolled around, almost all of my work for the week was done. You might as well have told me I won one bajillion dollars. (How many zeros are in one bajillion?)

I enjoyed a weekend without a care for the past or the future. I did whatever I wanted, whenever I wanted. I stayed up late. I slept in. I veg'ed out on the couch. We checked out a pizza joint for lunch. I watched Poltergeist for the first time. I let my hair fly its freak flag. After  a year and a half, I finally transferred music to my not-so-new-anymore laptop and laughed at some of my severely misled music choices of yesteryear that I still love anyway.

It's Monday which means I'm going back into student beast mode through Thursday. But hey. There's plenty that makes me happy right now:
  1. Clean laundry.
  2. A text from one of my best friends with a photo of one of our first "friend date" spots in NYC on her bike ride through the city.
  3. Hot chocolate. 
  4. Finding myself on this really great list of blogs in On Blogging: What I Read at Something Charming. I love that she acknowledged the blogging community in addition to individual blog pieces like design, photos, and content.
  5. Incubus' Make Yourself and Morning View albums. High school obsession.
  6. Kettle Chips, particularly Sea Salt and Sea Salt & Vinegar.
  7. The Oscar results! I loved Django UnchainedLincolnSilver Linings Playbook, and Argo! I still need to see Les Miserables. The mixed reviews deterred me, but I'll watch it when it makes it to DVD or TV. I heard Anne Hathaway was quite fabulous in it, and now she has the Oscar to prove it.
  8. My dad and I say "Woot woot!" to each other all the time now. We're so hip.
  9. The spinach and artichoke dip at Goose's Acre.
  10. Kisses on the forehead. They never get old. (Are you reading this, dear husband?) I feel like I need to make a meme with my husband's photo that says: "Marriage. You're doing it right."

Cheers to a happy week!

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Dad in Training

Mr. TBS had two dogs when he was a kid, but he didn't have to do much to take care of them, and I don't think they were in the family for very long, unfortunately. It wasn't until we adopted Tolly (cute video of him HERE) in 2008 that he felt like he had his first pet. We're in our fifth year of being pet parents, and to us, they are our kids.

Now, don't get your panties in a bunch, everyone. (I hate the word "panties," but the line just isn't as effective if I say "undies," you know?) This post is not about comparing animals to children, and I am not devaluing anyone's experience as a parent. To us, they are our kids, and they provide the parenting experience that we know so far. As everyone else says, I know we will feel unquantifiably different when we have a child.

All that aside, can I please tell you why my husband is the cutest dad in training?

He diligently researches holistic cat health.
"We value our health. Why wouldn't we do the same for them?"

He does not hesitate to buy organic, raw food for them.
"We're not going to feed them the McDonald's of cat food."

He nurtures them.
I learned as a CASA that the brains of children who are neglected are 
30% underdeveloped compared to those of children who are not. (See a CT scan HERE)

He purposely varies their food options.
"I wouldn't want to eat the same thing every day."

He will never let us miss or delay a vet appointment.
"It's important!"

He loves them.
It is the most precious thing on the planet to watch.

He is conscious of how stimulating their environment is.
He carries them outside or let's them play in the grass when they lead him to the door.

She can be held like that for hours. OK, minutes. For a cat, that's a long time!

He may continue to tell me that he won't know how to handle dirty diapers, spit up, and boogers when we have a kid, but I have a sneaking suspicion that he is going to be wrapped around that kid's finger and won't think twice about tending to him/her.

Essentially, men who love animals are sexy, and although my husband may not know it yet, our future kid is going to make a huge sucker out of him!

In other news, a Monsters, Inc., prequel is coming out this summer! Maybe I'll get another Halloween costume idea. ;) Who else is pumped to watch college-aged Wazowski and Sulley?!

Monday, February 18, 2013

On Marriage and Contribution

To say that things are busy is an understatement. Work has been buzzing, and my classes are... a lot. I love my classes which makes the additional 22-26 hours of homework per week a bit easier to accept. I have only one gripe: Group papers for an online class must be a special gift straight from Hades.

Last Saturday night, I plopped down on the couch around 11:00 p.m. and said to my husband,

"I'm sorry I'm such a boring wife!" He smiled and said,

"We're kind of hanging out. We're hanging out at home. You're just 30 feet away while I watch TV." Ha! More seriously, he said, "Yeah, but you're doing something really important."

It made me think about my contributions to my marriage, especially now that the "romantic holidays" (Christmas, New Year's, Valentine's Day) are over. I know this is somewhat cynical to say, but does anyone else ever notice the high expectations placed on men and gifts? It's a "cat and mouse" game of women pretending they don't want anything big, but they're hoping for the perfect proposal/getaway/candlelit dinner/gift, and the men frantically race around to find some extravagant gift that will prove they love their significant others. And even though these women "didn't" want any hoopla, they proudly announce how much they love their men because  of their extravagant gifts.

I know that this is a generalization, and I know there are plenty of women who are thinking, Are you kidding? I worked my butt off to make that homemade dinner for Valentine's Day! However, based on the amount of Instagram photos I saw on Valentine's Day of flowers, jewelry, clothes, restaurant dinners, iPads/iPhones, and more flowers, I think it's safe to say that many women are also thinking, Yes, I feel loved when I get gifts from him, and he knows it. (Disclaimer: I like gifts too! I just don't like the commercialism of Valentine's Day in the same way that some people don't like the commercialism of Christmas.)

I don't have extra cash these days. (Remember THIS and THIS and THIS?) I don't shower my husband with gifts, but I try to contribute to my marriage is other ways. I'm furthering my education, and I'm successful in my job. I am counting on both broadening my career which I hope will make a more comfortable life for us. Even though most of my leisure time has disappeared, I do my best to keep my marriage balanced. I still do the house chores that I've usually done in the past. We still run all of our errands together. I still help out in the kitchen and wash dishes while he cooks, so we can talk. I try to maintain the status quo, so he doesn't feel like a full-time working househusband who is dreading the next two years of my grad program.

Thankfully, we see eye to eye on the issue of gift giving. I would love to fall into some extra cash and take him on a European vacation that isn't paid for with credit card reward miles like the Leavenworth trip was. (But hey. How cool is it that we got a free trip?!) Until then, I'll contribute the best I can with what I have. Fortunately, he doesn't mind that my life is just a big mess of books and highlighters these days.

P.S. Look at the poor neglected sewing machine that I still don't know how to use.

Thursday, February 14, 2013

"I Love You with All My Brain"

Happy Valentine's Day!

Mr. TBS and I don't celebrate Valentine's Day, but the holiday is more fun when you celebrate with your friends and family, anyway. Growing up, my parents would sometimes give us small Valentine's Day gifts. Amidst all the candy, stuffed animals, flowers, and cards from boyfriends over the years, my parents reminded me that the love in a family is worth celebrating too.

When I think of family, I think of my biological family and my chosen family, which are not mutually exclusive. I have grown with and learned from my family, husband, and best friends. Somewhere in there, blog friends seemed to have infiltrated that "chosen family" too. (You sneaky bloggers!)

To each of my "families," thank you for making my life brighter, warmer, and just plain fun! Happy Valentine's Day! I love you guys!

Monday, February 11, 2013

Recipe: Chocolate Chip Cream Cheese Rolls

How was your weekend? Mine was a success, and by “success” I mean that I saw Argo (fantastic!), and I was done with homework by 7:45 p.m. last night (made possible by studying until midnight on Friday and Saturday). Easy, yummy treats also make weekends pretty amazing.

A few years ago, my sister brought cream cheese croissants to Thanksgiving dinner. They didn’t last long. Those babies are Heaven wrapped in rainbows. Due to my culinary doubt, I never made them, but then I realized how easy they are to make. I highly recommend that you make these. They will have you smiling and sighing “Mmmmm” in no time.

Chocolate Chip Cream Cheese Rolls 01

Chocolate Chip Cream Cheese Rolls
 Makes 8 rolls

  • 1 tube of crescent roll dough (I used Pillsbury brand.)
  • 6-8 0z. cream cheese
  • 1 cup mini chocolate chips
  • Optional: Cinnamon

  • Unwrap dough and separate into 8 triangular pieces.
  • Spread 0.5-1.0 oz cream cheese on each piece and sprinkle with chocolate chips.
Chocolate Chip Cream Cheese Rolls 02

Chocolate Chip Cream Cheese Rolls 03
  • Roll them up, and place them on a baking sheet. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Chocolate Chip Cream Cheese Rolls 04
  • Optional: Add “toppings.” I made 3 with chocolate chips, 3 with cinnamon, and 2 plain.
  • Bake at 350 degrees for 15 minutes.
Chocolate Chip Cream Cheese Rolls 05

These crescent rolls are perfect desserts for parties or for gifts. We brought some to our neighbors who took care of the cats when we went on vacation last month. They called us ten minutes after we got home to ask for the recipe. They’re a hit! (Once I figure out how to make vegan dough, I want to try a vegan version.)

Give these treats a whirl, and let me know what you think. Happy Monday, y’all!

Oh, you better wipe that drool off your chin. Winking smile

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

One-Hundred Dreams, Part III

This photo has nothing to do with the list, but it makes me smile. 
It was taken two years ago when my family celebrated my dad's birthday 
with lunch and a few games of bowling. My mom, sister, and I 
were laughing hysterically about something right before this picture. 
I miss them, but I'll see them when I meet my nephew in a few months!

Anyway, I'm continuing with my List of 100 Dreams!

41. Build a snowman as tall as me.
42. Make homemade candles.
43. Make a doll. (Inspired by This Little Port)
44. Go paragliding. (Husband is in too!)
45. Sing with Sara Bareilles.
46. Be a certified ASL interpreter.
47. Compete on The Amazing Race. (I'm serious about this!)
48. Do an entire weekend (Friday night to Monday morning) without internet (laptop and mobile).
49. Be a CASA for another kid or teenager.
50. Do 60 push-ups in 60 seconds.
51. Own a Mac. (Husband has one, and I'm the loser with a PC.)
52. Do a singing telegram.
53. Live on a lake. Or in snow. Both, actually.
54. Work abroad.
55. Buy a baby grand piano.
56. Sing on a Broadway stage.
57. Have a chicken coop.
58. Surf on a wave machine. (Is that what it's called, Devon?)
59. Learn how to drive a stick shift just in case I need to know how for #47. :)
60. Be a millionaire. (Who doesn't dream of this?)

See the rest of the list here:

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

I'm Okay with That

New corporate headshot by Ken Walton

It's been about nine months since I had a stranger tell me all the things I could fix on my face, so the sting has mostly worn off. I spent a great deal of time ignoring it and reminding myself that it didn't matter, but after unleashing the story onto my husband last week, I realized that nine months later, it still matters to me. Afterward, he said, "That could be a blog post," so here I am.

Last April, I stood beside one of my best friends as she said "I do" to a fantastic guy. Earlier that morning, we bridesmaids went to the hotel's salon with Annie to get our hair and make-up done. My make-up is minimal and always the same, and I always do it myself. Even on my wedding day, I did my own make-up, but this time around, it was important to me to be with Annie and other girls to experience the day together. I felt apprehensive going into the appointment.

I was quick to explain to the make-up artist that as a Bare Minerals-wearing girl, I prefer neutral, natural-looking make-up. Nothing heavy, no bold eyeshadow colors, no false lashes, no lipstick, no brow filler. We were off to a good start, and then the words started spilling from her lips.

What kind of make-up do you use?
What do you wash your face with?
You need to get your eyebrows done.
Are you sure you don't want false eyelashes? You'll look so much better.
Have you noticed this on your cheek before?
Do you get facials?
You really should have a professional do your brows.
 Your lashes are so short.
What do you use to balance your skin tone?
Your eyes will look so washed out without false lashes.

It was exhausting listening to her recommend all the pricey beauty services and products I needed. I'm sure she was well-meaning, but it started to get really uncomfortable, and my only civil defense was to shut down. Ever so inconveniently, it seemed like the room would fall silent just as she was giving her next tip. Believe me when I say I wanted to shrivel up and die. Like many others, I'm great at discovering my own flaws, thank you very much!

I hated how I looked. The heavy foundation, the darkened eyebrows, and the opaque eyeshadow left me speechless. I was embarrassed to look like that in Annie's wedding photos. I didn't look like myself. It's no surprise that I took very few pictures that day.

I never mentioned any of this to a soul until my conversation last week with my husband, because a) how I felt about my looks was completely petty on a loved one's wedding day and b) I didn't want this story to be indicative of how I felt about the day overall. The sting wore off, but those words still got under my skin. I've wondered how that woman couldn't see the discomfort and humiliation unfolding before her very eyes, but that's neither here nor there.

Nine months later, this vlog by Alycia on her YouTube beauty channel gave me new perspective. (See first two minutes)

I realized that I don't have a problem with how I look. I felt embarrassed that someone else had a problem with how I look. Why did I let that bother me? Life is not that serious, and now I can't believe I actually let it get to me so deeply. I'm with Alycia. This is what I'm supposed to look like, and I'm okay with that! 

All that to say that no matter how many times a person gives an unsolicited dissection of your looks, remember that your aura, smile, humor, and confidence are what make you glow from the inside out.

Suck on that, false eyelashes. ;)

Monday, February 4, 2013

I'll Have You Know I Did Not Burn Down the House This Weekend.

How's that for a dramatic title? Alas, 'tis true. I cooked three times this weekend, and the kitchen was left unharmed and spotless. I'll openly admit that this sweet man I call a husband does all the cooking. (Well, I take that back. I can make a hearty vegetable soup.) He has been sick this weekend and getting a major ab work-out from coughing, so to avoid a lung in our cuisine, I tried to help out in the cooking department. One batch of dairy-free mac 'n' cheese, six black bean burger patties, and one week's worth of lunches later, I proudly type this free of cuts, burns, and cooking anxiety.

In other Good Wifely news, I also spent an hour scrubbing the shower. "You'll stay up 'til this place shines like the top of the Chrysler Building!" (Ten points if you can name that movie/musical.) Basically, I'm just tooting my own horn, because I need the pick-me-up after swimming in Business Law and Organizational Behavior theories.

I'm sorry blogging fell by the wayside last week. Can we talk about how time-consuming work and grad school are? (Nope. Not enough time! <-- Ha.) I knew school would take up a majority of my formerly free time, but I will make a concerted effort to better use the free time I still have. I've spent many a night on the couch watching Seinfeld reruns and DVR'ed shows as my consolation for working hard, but as nice as it's been, it is doing me no favors when it comes to my Gain list, unless I can gain eyeball muscles from watching TV. (That sounds both disgusting and ridiculous.) Hopefully, my weekend cooking extravaganza catapults me into a phase of productivity with my free time. I make no promises, but I'm hoping. ;)

In the hopes of starting your week off strong, I encourage you to toot your own horn about something awesome you did recently. Go ahead! I'm requesting you do it, so you don't have to feel arrogant.  

Leave your toots in the comments -- meaning your awesomeness, not toots from the place Boone dispenses ribbon!