Sunday, August 28, 2016

Building a Backyard from Scratch: The Grass is Always Greener

Greetings faithful blog readers!

When we last left off in the building a backyard series, I posted a picture of our newly planted grass. Here it is today:

Such improvement! Brendan is always the first to point out that it isn't as perfect as he wants it to be, but I'm like, "this is the desert and we are growing GRASS!"

Herb garden:

So much depends on a red wheelbarrow. Actually, not much depends on this one.

Bloom! There it is (get it?!)

Green things!

Overall, I'm pleased as punch with our backyard progress.

In other news, we just enjoyed a very low key weekend and with good reason. Tomorrow is the first official day of the fall semester, and we have friends from grad school (3 adults, 2 kiddos, and a dog) staying with us tomorrow night (more on that soon). Then, Amanda and Matt are coming this weekend. All in all, it's going to be a busy busy week. I don't honestly feel ready, but one thing I do feel totally relieved about is that my neck is finally feeling better (thank goodness!) which means I am sleeping a lot better too. Right now, I need to wind down early so that I can make it to school early early and be ready to go for 8:00AM. Wish us luck!


Thursday, August 25, 2016

A Painful First Week Back

Greetings fellow blog readers!

It has been a rough first week back. On Monday, bad news from my auto insurance about an incident back in June where another driver hit me (nothing serious: everyone is fine), and after two months, they still cannot process the claim correctly.

On Tuesday, I pulled a muscle getting out of bed (yes, I am getting old). As my alarm went off, I pushed my head back reflexively (but my head wasn't well supported by my pillow at the time) and heard a pop sound. Then I had pain in my neck and shoulder when moving my head side to side or up and down. Using ice and Salonpas has improved things quite a bit. My shoulder is no longer hurting, but my neck still hurts, and it's enough to make me too weary of attending barre class, so now I can't do one of my favorite things until this heals :(

Overall, I'm feeling really exhausted (it's hard to sleep with your neck hurting), but I will say that today is going better than yesterday. It does appear my neck is healing on its own. Now if only it would be instantaneous!

 My office looks nice at least. I'm telling myself to enjoy it now, as it will be trashed in two weeks and never cleaned again until January. My "organization" style=mostly chaos.

Here's a hilarious video if you, like me, need a laugh today.

I hope everyone's week is less painful than mine. Hang in there friends; it's almost Friday!

Friday, August 19, 2016

Soaking Up Summer

Greetings faithful blog readers. In the last week of summer, I'm just being weird full time. Okay, that's every week. Here's a look at the strange things I prioritized this week:

Priority #1: Movies 
Namibia doesn't have movie theaters, so we had some major catching up to do. Monday night, we headed to the drive in for a double feature: Secret Life of Pets and Jason Bourne. The first was delightful...the second was a chore. SPOILER ALERT: Jason Bourne's father didn't want him to be used as a human weapon. Listen, I may have spoiled that movie for you, but I really just prevented you from paying anything for that "secret." What kind of parent would be like "oh sure, make my son a human weapon!" THIS IS JUST NOT A SURPRISE, and there is no reason Julia Stiles should have died to let Jason Bourne know that his father actually valued his life beyond wanting him to be in vast danger All. The. Time. If you want a good secret, go see the animated movie about the pets.

Me smiling: before I saw Jason Bourne. 

On Tuesday, we took advantage of $5 Tuesday movies at Cinergy and saw Ghostbusters: Answer the Call. I'm behind on this, but it was a fun time. Today, we saw Kubo and the Two Strings, which I think I liked best of all the movies.

Priority #2: Food
It has been nice (and necessary for our waistlines) to cook dinners again after eating out so much this summer. We went to the farmer's market and have taken several grocery store trips to restock all our favorite things (we currently have four flavors of sparkling water if anyone's thirsty). I really must give all the credit to Brendan. He has made all the dinners this week, so I'm definitely cooking this weekend! I found Monday night's dinner especially tasty. I'll try to get him to recall the recipe he created.

Priority #3: Fitness
I went to barre class three times and spin class twice this week. We also took long walks on three different days. Brendan went on three runs this week. Overall, we're getting back into our grove and trying to drop the added pounds of vacation weight.

Priority #4: Netflix's Stranger Things 
We watched all eight episodes of Stranger Things this week, and it was amazing. It felt very Stephen King to me, though Stephen King was not involved. If you like supernatural and scary but not gory horror, you will love this show. It also reminded me of the film Super 8. It's good; just watch it! For those that have already seen the show, Dustin is my favorite character. I love that kid!

Priority #5: Unpacking
It took us basically a week to unpack, but finally the suitcases are it just me, or is packing way more fun than unpacking?

Priority #6: The Yard 
Again, I have to give Brendan all the credit here. He has done a lot of work in the yard since we returned. I helped clear off the patio and pull some weeds, but he has been out there many more hours. I'm really happy with the progress we made this spring. A post coming soon showing the fruits of our labors.

Priority #7: Laziness 
I've really been indulging my lazy tendencies this week. I got a mani/pedi, enjoyed long phone calls with a couple of friends, downloaded a new book on my Kindle, read magazines, and slept in whenever I could. There were times I felt I should have done something more productive, but it's back to the real world on Monday, and I probably won't regret my lazy day memories when they're in the distant past.

If you need us this weekend, we'll be soaking up the last of summer. I hope everyone has a good one!


Monday, August 15, 2016

BackTracking: Magnificent Maine!

We were very fortunate to be able to spend July 30th-August 6th in Maine with Brendan's family. Check out the sunset on that first night:

My goal in Maine is always to disconnect from the outside world, so I don't blog when I'm there and just focus on taking in the great outdoors (kayaking, fishing) and spending time with family (cooking, antiquing, playing board games, and hanging out).

Our first stop usually involves picking blueberries, so we can make blueberry everything (pies and pancakes galore). I also simply love eating them fresh! This year, we were able to pick raspberries too, and they were also delicious.

There was a lot of fishing this summer, but not as much catching as we have had in some years. Still, I enjoyed just kayaking around the lake with Brendan.

This was my one good catch of the summer (don't worry, I put it back).

Our other Maine event includes eating lobster. Oh my, just looking at this roll makes my mouth water! 

This was at Red's in Wiscasset. I really enjoyed shopping around in the little town afterwards as well. I found the cutest stationary store. We also checked out a flea market and found some neat things there as well. Other highlights included winning at Yahtzee and Settlers of Catan (which we played on teams) and losing epically at Monopoly. This was my fourth time in Maine, and it's always more magical than the time before.

We got back to Austin on Saturday night (August 6th) and took my parents to Pho Thaison to celebrate my mom's belated birthday. The next day, my Dad took us out on the lake:

And we got to eat sushi and Amy's ice cream with Amanda and Matt. That is one dream day!

We had so much fun seeing family and friends and traveling this summer, but eventually, it was time to return home. After over six weeks gone, we were ready to be back, and the cats were definitely ready to be home too. There's a lot to catch up on: laundry, yard-work, restocking the fridge, finding a place for all the souvenirs we bought, but it feels great to be back.

Up next, I'll resume blogging in the present. Thanks for letting me reminisce about some of the best moments that I didn't blog!


Saturday, August 13, 2016

BackTracking: 4th of July and Celebrating Three Years

Greetings faithful blog readers!

I still have to go back in time to cover more of the summer fun.

After Tara and Dominic's beautiful July 3rd wedding, we started our Fourth of July off with an awesome post wedding brunch: we had delicious food and great conversation with the newlyweds. Then, we checked out of the wedding hotel, grabbed a coffee, and saw The BFG while waiting for our AirB&B space to be ready.

That night, we went to a Grucci fireworks show in Farmingville. They had a Billy Joel cover band and a beautiful display. We had not spent a Fourth of July in the states since 2013, so it was really nice. We were able to buy dinner and drinks and have a little picnic.

The next day was our three year anniversary. We went for a hike at nearby Avalon Park.

And afterwards, we took a very cold swim at our AirB&B. Our hosts couldn't have been more awesome. They had a cooler full of beer next to the pool and told us to help ourselves :) If you need a place to stay in Stonybrook, I have a recommendation.

After showering and getting ready, we ate a nice dinner at Mirabelle Tavern and exchanged anniversary gifts (we both got each other wallets for our leather anniversary). The meal was excellent.

The next day, we dropped off the rent car in Long Island and took the train to NYC where we stayed with my friend Corley. We met up with friends from Austin, Cassie and John, who also happened to be in NYC. We went to the Museum of the Moving Image (highly recommended), a bar called Sweet Afton, and a delicious Indian food restaurant that I can't remember the name of (also in Astoria) for Corley's birthday. Somehow, I didn't take photographs of any of this (what?!), but I guess it's a sign that I was totally lost in the day with friends. Returning to NYC is always an experience. Sometimes it's easy to forget the joy of what it feels like to be able to walk everywhere and to have everything at your fingertips.

We got some sleep, learned the news of my grandmother the next morning, and left for Africa feeling very sad. It was an emotional couple of days to say the least.

When we landed in Namibia, we had to sit through a powerpoint presentation at the rental car office about all the most dangerous roads in Namibia (and, of course, our itinerary had us driving almost all of them). Obviously, I don't post things like this until after our mothers are assured that we are safe, but driving from the airport to our first hotel in Windhoek, I think we both were thinking "what were we thinking?!" Luckily, we didn't have any problems.

I'll do some Maine backtracking next, and then we'll resume blogging in the present.

Happy Saturday everyone!

Thursday, August 11, 2016

Backtracking: Tara and Dominic's Wedding

Hi faithful blog readers. I'm backkkkkk (did you miss me?)

I took a break from blogging to spend time with Brendan's family in Maine and my family in Austin (more later). For now, I want to backtrack and tell you all about Tara and Dominic's July 3rd wedding.

Tara is my friend and sister from NYU. She married Dominic in a beautiful ceremony on Long Island this summer. I felt teary from the moment I saw her walk out.

Weddings are wonderful occasions: rarely do we have the privilege of experiencing so much concentrated joy. I think what made Tara and Dominic's wedding special was just how happy and in love they are. Their feelings just radiated throughout the evening and made everyone happy. That, and the fact that I've never had so much delicious food at a wedding! Wow!!

My dear college friends and sisters Cheryl (left) and Lauren (right) served as Maid of Honor and bridesmaid, respectively. It was wonderful to see them for the first time since summer 2014! You may remember Cheryl caught the bouquet at our wedding and is planning her own wedding for July 2017, and Lauren is now a proud mom of a beautiful little boy whom I had the pleasure of meeting before the wedding (he's perfect in every way!) 

Okay, back to the wedding! The ceremony was outdoors and gorgeous. It was beautiful weather for a wedding: sunny but cool. 

The party afterwards was incredible with so much dancing and food to satisfy every single tastebud! I think we had a choice of seven desserts (and every course offered just as much, if not more, variety). I was in love with the mermaid style dress that Tara choose.

One of my favorite moments from the wedding was when Tara and Dominic invited all of their guests to share their first dance with them about halfway through. It was so special to be in that moment with them. 

My other favorite moments included the funky photo-booth that had us cracking up, cake cutting (look how sweet they are!), and a sparkler exit complete with Irish coffees for all and cigars for the gentleman. 

Tara and Dominic, thank you for including us in your special day and congratulations! We know your life together is going to be awesome :) 

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