Love and FOMO

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heart

Sadly we haven’t finished our laundry room, so I do not have an update on that YET!  It shall come sometime, when we order our counter top🙂

This weekend is all about, you guessed it, LOVE.  But not just love, what do you do to celebrate love, and how.  I don’t mean THAT (hey you with the dirty mind!).  If you are like me, you want to be creative and do something different every once in a while.  Do you have a tradition?  We definitely do, order P.F. Chang’s takeout and eat at home!  We usually get a gift card from Ray’s sister for Christmas, if not for this restaurant, somewhere, and we will still go to Chang’s for Valentine’s dinner.  We don’t like crowded restaurant’s for a special day.  We like to relax at home, by the fire, maybe candle light, although we both eat pretty fast, we try to take our time, enjoy our pork dumpling appetizer, Mongolian beef, Kung Pao chicken, and then some Great Wall of chocolate for dessert.

great wall

Wall of Chocolate

I got a nice bottle of red from a coworker that we can enjoy with the meal this year, and we can have left overs for lunch the next day!  We also feel better letting our dog Ralphie enjoy the night with us, rather than sticking him in his crate!

 

For the beginning of the day, since it is on a weekend, YAY, I wanted to do something fun.  Where to start…  Ray is an event guy, he likes sports, and music, and cars, and events and traveling.  I didn’t have time to put anything together for this weekend, but for Christmas I was like THE event master, so I planned for stuff around this month (January AND March, go figure haha).  First place I started was Google, duh.  Let me put together a list for you.  And by the way, during my search, I was contacted by this wonderful person who actually liked my blog and told me about FOMO (Fear of missing out).  You know, when you want to go see something and you have that feeling you are going to miss it?  Well, that is what apps and Google, and all these neat special event notification website emails are for!!

  • Goldstar: This website is fantabulous.  (I had to look the origin of this word up since I use it a lot, I heard it in movies and shows, and interestingly enough I found it has been in use since at least 1957, and it is used in Van Morrison’s song “Moondance,” little tidbit for ya!).  I found Goldstar a few years ago when looking up a good price for tickets to a Philadelphia Brewery Tour.  Their price was a lot better, you get a wrist band and special package prices, etc…  They send you notifications by email, and give you discounts to OTHER upcoming events, what could be better?  Well now I get notifications for all the best upcoming events in the area, I am hooked, and in the loop, and never miss out on the best events!  I bought tickets to the History Museum, AND the Travel Show at the Philadelphia Convention Center in March through this site that I gave to Ray in a package of event tickets for a Christmas present.
  • Groupon: Everyone knows Groupon, heck I buy  more than event tickets on here.  They definitely have the plethora of items and services to pick from.  I bought concert tickets to see G Love and Special Sauce at the Filmore as part of Ray’s ticket holiday extravaganza package.
  • Ticketmaster: This is the go to most of the time when looking for concert tickets.  Groupon is great for deals, but most tickets are not on there.  I actually do surveys sometimes to get Ticketmaster gifct cards!  Concert tickets can get expensive!  It is nice to turn on reminders because once those popular concerts go on sale, they SELL OUT QUICK!
  • Facebook: Believe it or not, free events, and just simple little friendly invites go through Facebook.  My friend is a comedian and they started a campaign to offer $5 comedy and informative shows, no service fees, through goodgoodcomedy.com (I think it is Philly area only), and they spread the news by inviting everyone through a Facebook event.  The first event for my friend Steve was January 9th, I think I was the first to snatch a ticket!  It was awesome and so informative with some comedy thrown in, I had a great time and was so glad to be informed and NOT miss out!
  • Stubhub: This one is the best for sports in my opinion.  Last minute if we wanted to see a world series game, we came to Stubhub.  My mom actually won standing room only tickets to game 3 of the World Series, 2008, the year we won, the year I met Ray, it was a winning season, and the year I met my future, now permanent husband🙂
  • Eventbrite: This site has actually been around a while.  A lot of times when I was searching events, especially when I was planning my wedding, I would come across Eventbrite.  They have a lot of expos and show cases.  They also have a lot of the big marathons and running events like Tough Mudder and The Lucky Run.  OR you can sell your own tickets here: https://www.eventbrite.com/l/sell-tickets/

So what are you doing this Valentine’s Day?  Hanging in?  Going out?  Did you decorate?  I always do!  Here are my mantel and Dining room table ready for the Chang’s dinner and wine :-)  Happy Valentine’s Day weekend!!!!

love

 

How to Organize Life?

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I can’t answer that question.  But it got me thinking, I feel like I need something to organize my own life.  Should I get a life coach?  Hm, I have heard it can be helpful.  But how much do they cost?  I don’t think I can afford it :-(   A friend of mine said, well you are taking an Information Systems and Data Analysis class in Excel and learning how to make stuff pretty in Excel and use pivot tables and do correlation tables, and use the solver tool, and statistical analysis, why not use those skills?  So don’t you know, I did!  Well, I started, with some tabs for each aspect of my life, and just a simple list, trying to prioritize things.  I will post a picture of what I have so far.  I think it is a good start.  My husband will probably think I am nuts!  I just needed something to ease this whirlwind in my brain.

I did get a little upset when I found out I have dig into my savings to pay for my class this semester, $3004 for one class, 7 weeks online is a bit much.  Not to mention I will probably be paying off the rest of my undergrad and grad loans until I am 70!!!  I like to go on vacation, so my savings is for that luxury.  Plus all the house projects we want to do, and other fun stuff in life.  I will complain about it until it is paid off, and deal with it.  Rather than pay it off, and live without those luxuries.  That is my choice!

What do you do to organize life?  I don’t mean write to do lists.  Those get messy!  I used to do that, especially with grocery shopping, I mean that is a given.  But for the long term stuff.  Do you have goals?  Do you have things in life you just have to keep in a book somewhere, on your computer, in a file?  I am interested how others do this.  I never really had a technique for this.  But now I need to, because it has to be tamed!  Thanks for reading🙂

exc

Mental Fitness is Key

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I know I promised another post in less than 7 months, so since I was coming up on 3, I decided this would be a good time.  So a lot of you may know that I suffer from high anxiety.  I have spoken with some people who are not aware of the effects this disorder can have on your body.  I have a very high stress job and it is no easy feat dealing with the stress when I can’t always control my own emotions.  I have gone through several different types of treatments, and more recently had a medication change.

If you have been keeping up with my life (why would you? I don’t know, but some of you might haha), you know that I have also been trying to keep in shape.  This is also not easy when I have terrible panic attacks, can’t sleep, and feel exhausted daily.  I decided to take a break from focusing on the healthy life style to focus on my “mental fitness.”  Once I can get that under control, then I can really focus on my healthy lifestyle.  I think I was doing a good job for quite a while.  I did 2 rounds of 21 day fix, and tried to continue the healthy lifestyle thereafter.  However, the stress of my job took a toll and grad school on top of that was so much pressure, I didn’t have it in me to go grocery shopping, prepare foods, or even stay awake when I got home from work.

I feel like me talking about my treatment may help others seek the treatment they might not know they need, or at least get thinking maybe they do need help.  It is not normal to have pressure on your chest and feel like you can’t breathe.  Yes stress is normal, and some people may experience anxiety.  Some people can experience occasional panic attacks, and not have a panic disorder (read more about it here: Panic Attacks).  But anxiety or panic disorder is something that can be controlled with treatment and/or medication.  The psychiatric definition of anxiety disorder: “a nervous disorder characterized by a state of excessive uneasiness and apprehension, typically with compulsive behavior or panic attacks.” (Google, 2015).  It is difficult to live life and have to deal with these feelings, ups and downs and feel like you are going crazy.  If I didn’t get help, I would probably be in a mental institution, no joke.  I get why some people may be embarrassed to talk about it, but you shouldn’t be.  I think it is actually somewhat common to have these disorders.  I have heard talk about chemical imbalances and there are so many different reactions and disorders across the population, it helps others to understand what you are going through if you can talk about it.

A lot of my coworkers know about my disorder, and I think that is okay.  Sometimes they say, did you take your pill?  And I am not offended.  I laugh, and guess what?  Sometimes I forget!  So it is a good reminder.  They care about me, and we are sort of close so we get each other.  They don’t get upset if I freak out at something, they know that it isn’t really my real reaction, it is my anxiety talking.  You don’t have to tell your boss, or disclose that information to your place of employment.  I actually feel like it helps those around me understand why I react certain ways to some things.  It helps everyone understand why Heather may be the crazy one sometimes.  So I chose to tell some people, and it doesn’t bother me that people know.  I know that there are people who would be very uncomfortable if others knew about their disorder, and that is okay too.  You don’t have to tell people.  But I feel like I would rather people know, so they aren’t surprised at my behavior.

So as I am going through this stage in my life, trying to take control of this disorder, and get myself in a mentally fit state, I wanted to share in hopes that maybe others who are going through a difficult time can take comfort knowing they are not alone.  The holidays are coming up, things can get crazy, so I hope to stay sane, and MENTALLY FIT :-)  Happy November!

keepcalm

Italy Trip May 2015

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Up early on a Thursday morning, so I thought I would finally post this!  I started writing when we got back from Italy, added a little here and there, uploaded pictures, it has been a work in progress.  I already have other posts in my head and pictures to share, but don’t want to get too ahead of myself.  One topic for now, and then I will try to post again in LESS than 7 months this time ;-)  I have been busy with school, almost finished my Master’s degree! (May 2016, cannot wait!).  And I have been working out and trying to get fit and healthy with 21 day fix and Shakeology.  I am making progress and I can post about that later!

Italy is amazing, and there is so much to see.  I have been to Rome before, but not Sorrento, so Ray and I wanted to do a little of both.  We flew into Rome and got there around 10 am Friday May 15th, Italy time.  We had a transfer from the airport to our hotel.  We had a little ‘issue’ with the hotel and ended up finding a different one.  Unfortunately it wasn’t in the same area, but we were glad we found one.  It was a busy weekend with the tennis finals and a lot of hotels were already booked.  We ended up in the Via Veneto area, but was still within walking distance to all the sightseeing (long walk, but we walked, nonetheless!).

We stayed in Rome for 4 days and visited the Spanish Steps, Catacombs, a few churches and Villa Borghese before having dinner with my cousins Ornella, Donatello and Martina that live in Rome.  Some pictures from Rome, then I will continue with Sorrento.

Spanish steps

Spanish steps

san giovanni laterano

San Giovanni Laterano

IMAG1066

Villa Borghese - Museum

Villa Borghese – Museum

Pond in Villa Borghese

Pond in Villa Borghese

We hopped on a train Monday morning from the crowded Roma Termini to Sorrento.  We purchased our ticket online for Trenitalia, which was very confusing once you get to the station.  There were kiosks that asked you to enter in a purchase number, so we entered what we had and it didn’t print any tickets out.  I waited in a line for them to tell me there are no tickets to print and to just have my number handy (which is not what the site said).  So we boarded the train, got pretty good seats, waited a few minutes.  A man came in and started spitting off words in Italian and everyone started getting off the train.  We had to ask what happened, apparently there were engine problems.  So they guided us to a new platform, boarded another train, and our seats were not great this time, but we were on our way.  No one checked tickets on the train

The drive was scenic, but we were going so fast I tried to just take a nap.  Looking out the window for too long was making me dizzy!  Once we arrived in Naples we had to catch another train via the Circumvesuviana, around Mount Vesuvius.  This was a much more scenic route, taking us through little cities, and stopping every ten minutes or so.  Sorrento was the last stop and it was beautiful!  Once we got off the train we had to find our hotel!  First we were going to take a taxi, and he was a little perturbed and said well you could just walk there haha.  We stayed at Hotel Eden (I didn’t even get pictures of the front! So I had to link to one…).  Most of the rooms were renovated, so it was quite nice and new.  The garden was beautiful and the restaurant attached was delicious, but a little expensive.

We walked around town our first night and explored all the shops and the main part of town, searching for our future dinner spots.  We were only there 5 nights and there were tons of restaurants to choose from!  We stopped in a little Scottish bar called The Horse Shoe.  The owners were so funny and cute!  They were a husband and wife who had previously owned an Irish Bar, which they sold to a young group of guys since it was already successful.  They opened this bar and already had loyal customers, and this bar was just as successful!  They had pictures of themselves with celebrities that have visited the bar in the past.  They played sing along music like Frank Sinatra, and Dean Martin “That’s Amore.”  So appropriate :-)  I would definitely visit this bar again!

We did a few day trips to Pompeii, a drive along the Amalfi Coast, with a stop in the town of Amalfi, and a boat trip to Capri.  Extraordinary, for lack of better words.  The pictures say it all!  We took the Italo train back to Rome on Sunday (this one was much nicer and comfier, slightly more expensive), staying at hotel Cosmopolita right around the corner from Piazza Venezia.  We met my college friend Rosella (Roxy) for a drink.  It is great to have people to visit on any trip!  Then we walked around the Piazza, around the Forum, and around the Colosseum.  Our flight was Monday morning, and we were so sad to go!  The food was incredible, the sights were breathtaking, and the whole trip was spectacular!  We can’t wait for our next trip, we haven’t settled on a destination yet, but thinking maybe Costa Rica!  Enjoy some pictures, until next time!

  Hotel Eden – Sorrento Italy

20150522_181639 View from the room

20150522_192043 Sitting on our balcony

IMAG1100 Pompeii

IMAG1395 Drive to Amalfi

IMAG1381 Amalfi Catheral

IMAG1123 Capri

IMAG1128 Hiked to the Natural Arch on Capri

IMAG1426 Sunset in Sorrento

IMAG1094 Dinner at local Sorrento Restaurant (can’t remember the name!)

IMAG1090 Beach at Sorrento

IMAG1434
Altare della Patria Piazza Venezia

IMAG1438 Colosseum

Want to see more pics? I have an album of 300+ on Facebook🙂

New Year, New Me & You!

I am going to share my personal journey to a healthier me in 2015.  I hope that everyone is always striving to improve, whether it be on yourself, or something else in life.  It took a while for me to get to this point where I was a little concerned with my health and my extreme weight gain, so I decided to change my way of thinking, start a new lifestyle, and try to be more positive.  I know that is easier said than done, but I am off to a great start (if I can say so myself).

I stopped working out and eating healthy after my wedding May 25, 2013.  I had lost about 30 pounds between August, 2012 and May 2013 using Jamie Eason’s Live Fit Program (it was awesome, I followed it almost to a T and kept with it until the wedding, best part it is free, as well as other programs on bodybuilding.com).  I knew I would gain weight, so it was expected.  However, I gained OVER 30 pounds by December 2013.  I was feeling very lethargic, unhealthy, depressed, and I knew I needed to make a change.  Most nutritionists and weight watcher members, etc… tell you it is not a DIET, it is healthy eating.  Of course I knew I needed to eat healthier, but I needed to move more, get out, even if its just to walk the dog.  I have a sedentary job so I rarely walk or exercise throughout the day.

I started a challenge in February 2014 called the Labrada Lean Body Challenge.  Jamie Eason was one of the coaches, so I knew this was something I could do.  This was another free program, with great resources, a workout plan, clean eating recipes, and an approved food list and meal planning tips.  The kicker was to take pictures of yourself before and after the 12 week challenge and mail them in with the packet to submit your entry.  You also answer some questions before and after the challenge, explaining your goals and why you want to do the challenge. Then what you learned after the challenge.  Last year I only lost 10 pounds and a few inches.  I wasn’t eating as healthy as I could, and my workouts were not as strict as before the wedding.  I didn’t have the same goals, nor the same dedication since I didn’t have an event coming up, like my own wedding! Haha.

After the challenge was over, I began eating unhealthy and stopped working out again.  I felt like I failed at losing weight and there must be something wrong with my body.  I gained more than FORTY pounds between May and December, spiking up to my highest weight EVER (and I mean ever in my life, never weighed this much before).  I made an appointment with my doctor and got a blood test.  He thought to check my thyroid and other levels to see if there was anything wrong since I was gaining weight so fast and easily.  I know my metabolism probably slowed down, but it was alarming how much I was gaining, and I got worried I could have some sort of issue due to my long family health history with heart disease, high cholesterol and high blood pressure.  We found that my triglycerides were super high, over 600 (normal level being 300).  I also had a very low level of Vitamin D (that they have seen before and given me 1,000 milligram pills). And my cortisol level was really high (I forget the specific number, but high enough to be concerned).  My doctor did an EKG and my heart rate was a little high (might also be related to my high anxiety).  He referred me to a cardiologist to do an echo-cardiogram, and gave me Tricor to get my triglyceride level down.  Also a Vitamin D pill with 10k milligrams to take once a week for 8 weeks.

My echo-cardiogram was on January 15th.  The cardiologist said the stress level on my heart was 35, normal being 30.  He said he wasn’t really concerned with that, but with other things from my blood test.  He referred me to an endocrinologist for my high cortisol level (which I have also read is due to stress, and a direct link to producing fat in your belly, which is huge right now, someone asked me if I was pregnant, no joke).  He also told me I need to lose 30 – 40 pounds, and referred me to a nutritionist.  Then he asked that I get my lungs checked, just in case (since my mother had a lung/heart disease, it can be genetic).  Now I have all these other appointments to check all this stuff out.  I take a blood test this week and will report the outcome once I meet with my doctor.

I did start eating healthy again January 2nd.  I started working out January 3rd, and joined the Labrada Lean Body Challenge again, which technically started January 12th (when I had to take my starting pictures).  I have been doing great, eating healthy, working out, and keeping to a schedule.  I don’t even have cheat meals like some people suggest (I had one skinny vanilla latte in more than 2 weeks, and one dinner with wheat pasta).  I feel that what I eat is satisfying enough, and I have ‘healthy’ snack/dessert alternatives (like Jamie Eason’s chocolate protein bars YUM).  I also started going to the gym at Widener, since I started back to continue classes for my Masters degree.  I am really excited, feeling positive, and ready to get in shape for touring Italy in May!

I will post more on our trip to Italy in another post, but I definitely need to be in better health, and more energized, to do all the touring and exploring we have planned.

What are you planning for 2015?  How is your year going so far?  I have definitely had a major lifestyle change and hope to continue being healthy and happy for years to come.  It takes a lot to stick to a plan, especially when you have no ‘end’ date (like the wedding).  I have a great support group, friends, family, and my loving husband who is motivational enough and not so much harsh or being mean LOL (sometimes I feel like I need a drill sergeant/trainer to yell in my ear ONE MORE KEEP GOING!!!). I hope everyone is having a great year so far and I look forward to new happy and exciting posts for this year!  All positive and looking ahead in life.  I would like to conclude with a picture of my besties so happy and having fun, and one of my favorite quotes: “Life’s a journey, not a destination.” 😀

lwed

It’s the Most Wonderful Time!

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All the Christmas decorating really gets me in the mood for Christmas.  Not the shopping, not the music, not the traffic.  I love decorating my home (still feels new, even though we have been here a year!).  We get new ornaments every year to add to the tree, and add one or two unique items around the house.  I love this simple little silver deer statue that we found at The Christmas Tree Shop, $7!!!  Perfect for the mantel.  And I changed out the pine cones from Thanksgiving, to ornaments in the glass vase!  Still kept a few pine cones as decor. And one of my FAVORITE additions is Ralphie’s ‘mini’ stocking above the fireplace (how cute, right?!).

christmas deer silver  ornaments in vase on mantel  stockings hung by fire

There is something nostalgic about using my grandmom and mother’s decorations as well.  They are a tradition and will be out every year, no matter what!  It’s the little things…

I bought a new ornament this year to commemorate my mother.  I miss her every day, and what better way to represent her presence during the Christmas season then by adding a special memorial to our tree❤

mom ornament

And of course, the lights, OH the lights :-)  Last  year we had one lit deer on our porch, but only plugged him in on Christmas day.  We needed to do more set up for electric outlets, extension chords, weatherized stations, etc… I am glad Ray is so good at it, I don’t have the patience!  I will post more pics when it gets closer to Christmas as we are still working on the finishing touches😉

I am excited to host 14 people this year for Christmas!  We are doing a secret santa, and having a nice big dinner with turkey, ham, mac and cheese, mashed potatoes, tons of veggies, lots of desserts.  I can’t wait!

What are you doing for Christmas?  Are you getting excited?  Comment about your plans and decorations, I love to hear all the different traditions!

Beer Advent Calendar

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My coworker shared a link to a Pinterest pin for a DIY Beer Advent Calendar.  As soon as I saw this, I just HAD to make one for my husband.  There are many ways you can construct your calendar, the one I found had each bottle wrapped, in a beer box, with number tags.  If you live in Canada, you can actually pre-order a ‘calendar’ that is already constructed for you filled with craft beer: Craft Beer Advent Calendar.

I started by taking a trip to the local liquor store that sells loose bottles (they have a ‘make your own six pack’ aisle).  I picked up a beer box on the way in and filled it up.  I chose several different types of seasonal beers, as well as a couple that I think Ray may like from different countries.

24 beers for advent calendar

I happened to have a pack of white paper lunch bags.  I wrote out numbers 1 – 24 on the bags in alternating red and green marker.  Then I put each beer in a bag and stapled them.

Numbered beer bags

We have a big old cabinet in the garage, so I lined up the bags and added a sign that I made with sharpies and construction paper (high tech, I know haha).  And wah lah, there ya have it!

Beer advent calendar

Beers in bags christmas calendar advent

beers in bags for christmas advent calendar

2015 Weddings in the Works

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I miss planning my wedding so much, that I was overjoyed when THREE friends starting to plan for next year, so I can spread my knowledge and help in any way I can.

The first is May 9th, 2015.  Located near Pittsburgh, PA.  The ceremony will be in a church, and reception at a really cool rustic barn turned catering extravaganza for special events like weddings.  I love how the bride chose to go with a variety of different color dresses for the bridal party, I think it is going to look so gorgeous that time of the year.  Her centerpieces will be in wooden flower boxes, with a variety of flowers and candles around the boxes.  I can’t wait to see her in her dress and party hardy!  We fly out to Italy the weekend after this wedding, so it will be an eventful May 2015 for us!  Here are some of the inspiration pictures for this wedding:

variety color bridesmaid dresses

wedding center piece signs for vintage wedding

The next one we have is August 8, 2015.  I might have prodded a little much here, I asked what my friend Brittany was doing for every aspect and gave all the recommendations I knew of LOL.  Her colors blush and gold are going to look amazing with the vintage feel she is going for.  The ceremony will be in a church and the reception at the Cedarbrook Country Club in Blue Bell, PA.  It is so much fun talking colors, dresses, decor, flowers, invites, pictures, you name it I told her to ask me anything anytime haha.  Here are links to her 2 Pinterest boards and then a few of my favorite of her inspiration pics: http://tinyurl.com/k5rz7vq   / http://tinyurl.com/meq9flr

vintage wedding blush pink flower letters

champagne wedding favor gold chevron straw   vintage wedding window placecards chalkboard

Then the last wedding we will have will be October 10, 2015.  This wedding will be at the Ridgeland Mansion in West Fairmount Park, Philadelphia, PA.  Dawn is also going for a rustic theme with grey bridesmaid dresses, and fall color flowers.  We discussed all the vendors she will need, as when you rent a venue like this, not much else is included.  She has to rent a tent, tables, chairs, linens, and get a caterer, as well as purchase her own alcohol.  This is a beautiful location, but she definitely wanted a Day of Coordinator (DOC) to help with all of the vendors this involves.  I was happy to recommend my videographer and a caterer that I found when I started my own search.  I also recommended a photographer that a couple of our friends used last year that have great packages.  Hopefully I get to be her personal assistant at the wedding so I can help her stay calm and not worry about a thing.  I had a friend be my DOC and it was SO helpful, and kept me assured everything was going smoothly!  I highly recommend hiring or asking someone that is not in the wedding party to do this, as it is a huge help and takes a load of responsibility off your shoulders.  Here are her Pinterest boards (one for must have wedding photos), and some of my favorite pins she has for inspiration: http://tinyurl.com/ou6u8oc / http://tinyurl.com/pcd89hz

ridgeland mansion with tent philadelphia fairmount park

diy beer bar keg wedding   grey bridesmaid dresses wedding

I still have my Pinterest boards as well.  Of course I didn’t do 80% of what I pinned, it was still fun to collect ideas and have them all available at the click of a button.  Thanks for reading and I love to hear your comments, what you like, what you used at your wedding, what you are planning to use, or what you absolutely hate!

Heather’s Wedding Pinterest boards:

Wedding Stuff

Must have wedding photos

My wedding

Hectic Holiday Happenings

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Thanksgiving decoration

This little guy is in our foyer

Greetings!  (Does anyone else enjoy alliteration as much as I do? It is so fun haha). Thanksgiving is almost here, I am so excited!  I want to hear your plans, please leave me a comment!

Ray and I were able to make plans for Turkey day, to bring my grandmother to Tom’s River and have dinner with my dad’s sister (Aunt Pat), her 2 daughters (Patti Ann and Kathie), Kathie’s husband (Ting), Kathie’s son and his girlfriend (Brandon and Tiana), Kathie’s daughter in law and grandson (Meghan and Alex). They will be driving down from the Poconos. Patti Ann lives with my Aunt Pat, and I think they are doing most of the cooking! Unfortunately my cousin Eric (Kathie’s other son, Meghan’s husband) is working, so he will be missed. My dad is not able to afford the trip here from Kansas this year, maybe next year!  We will be driving on Thanksgiving day (gasp!) to drop Ralphie off at a sitter, pick my grandmother up in Vorhees, NJ, then about an hour and a half drive to Toms River.  Eat, watch the Eagles, relax a little then drive home.  Lots of driving, but worth it to spend time with family I rarely get to see!  They were so generous to invite us since we celebrated Thanksgiving with Ray’s family on Sunday and didn’t have plans for Thursday.  I am really looking forward to a good, home cooked meal, and the company of family.

Sunday was a nice day, I picked up my grandmother from her place, brought her back to our house.  We made mashed potatoes, then went to Ray’s parents house at half time (Eagles game).  Joined Ray’s parents, his sister Cathy and fiance’ Joe, to finish watching the game.  We had a ginormous dinner!  Turkey with gravy, stuffing, candied yams, green beans, corn, mashed potatoes, and cranberry sauce (The works!).  Then THREE desserts: pumpkin pie, lemon meringue pie, and ice cream cake!  The picture below is now our holiday tradition (holiday ice cream cake with knife in head lol):

turkey ice cream cake

I do not plan on traveling on Black Friday, I have run out of patience as I get older and cannot handle the crowds anymore.  That, and I am super irritable when it comes to crazy pushy shoppers.  I don’t know how anyone deals with it!  I will, however, be partaking in Cyber Monday🙂

It is this time of year that we all express what we are thankful for, even though they are not just important now, but year round.  Last year was the first year I had to experience holidays without my mom.  It was rough, but family and friends got me through it.  I am truly grateful to have a solid supportive family and friends to keep me going.  That sounds cliche, but really, without the kind words, event invites, the check ins and constant reminder that there are others who still think about me and want to see or hear from me, fills in a little of the piece that will always be missing.  This is going to get a little sappy…. a mother’s love is irreplaceable, and I wish that I could just call her to say hello, see her smile, or hug her one more time. I don’t know how anyone can go through losing a loved one without support, so I am lucky to still have that, and so much of it, in my life.

:::Wiping tears:::  I hope everyone takes the time to remember what they are grateful for and what really matters in life.  It is always wise to step back once in a while, take a look at the positive and good around you, because we can all get caught up in the stresses, the bad, the ugly, the “why/how could that happen” moments.  We are all lucky in one way or another, even at the times where we feel like life is taking a turn for the worse.  It’s the small things that can make a big difference (running water, food on the table, electricity, friendly neighbors etc…. some people don’t have that!).

Remember to smile, spread the love, the cheer, the good and positive vibes around because there are people suffering out there.  You never know who you might help one day just by being kind.  I love seeing news about paying it forward, and some super Good Samaritans that spread their wealth or kindness to others.  I have seen a lot of positive post and news sharing on my social networking sites that remind us those people still exist!  With all the negativity and terrible events we see happening, there are just as many good, positive and happy things going on at the same time.  Let us all focus on the good and help each other through the rough times (sorry this sounds like a toast or a philosophical rant).  Moral of the story: celebrate, live, laugh, love and be happy as often as possible.  I have to remember to heed this exact advice, as I can get stressed very easily.  Even if it is just celebrating the small things, having something to celebrate is reason enough.  Heck I just celebrated while feeding Ralphie breakfast, he gets SUPER excited everyday like its Christmas morning!

Cheers to the start of a good holiday season, and may you all find that open road, short line, last cookie, a random act of kindness or whatever it may be to remind you that the good is still out there😀

Thanksgiving Traditions

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What did you / do you do for your Thanksgiving traditions?  Do you always have dinner at the same place/house?  Do you have to have a special family recipe dish every year?  Do you brave the crowds for Black Friday shopping?  Do you not celebrate at all?  I want to hear all the crazy, not crazy, normal, not normal or whatever type of traditions you have, whether they are new or old🙂

I have a huge family, and Thanksgiving was always such a big deal every year.  As I get older, and our families branch off into families of their own, we don’t go as big.  I know I know, it is what you make it.  I really do miss seeing the whole family, but hey, I know how hectic it can get.  Which family do I eat with this year?  Do I go to more than one house? 3, or dare I say it, even FOUR?!  (By the way, love that movie Four Christmases, I enjoy Vince Vaughn humor haha).  Well our dilemma is will Ray’s mom have to work on Thanksgiving? (Yes, stores are now OPEN, what a joke!).  If not, will we pick my grandma up, bring her here have dinner with Ray’s family, and bring her back home?  Or if Ray’s mom DOES work, will we do Thanksgiving on a different day of the week with his family (GASP, I know, how un-traditional! but we did it the Sunday before in 2013) and then take Mommom to Villari’s like we did last year? (By the way the food was DELICIOUS, and no clean up involved).  Pics below – the three of us, including the turkey and ham dinners.

thanksgiving

turkey dinner  ham dinner

When I was REALLY little, talking toddler years, we had Thanksgiving at my Mommom and Poppop’s house pretty much every year in Blackwood, NJ.  One year we went to my Uncle Tom and Aunt Cynthia’s house in Cleveland (Shaker Heights), OH and had dinner with all my cousins and some of their other family/friends in the area.  When I turned 14 I inherited a new family, around when my mom got remarried to Steve, and we went to a resort every other year with his whole family.  It was always so much fun with all my cousins and never ending food.  Then there was shopping, oh the shopping!  At that age, I could handle it.  Not quite anymore, Amazon is my best friend these days hehe.  My mom would book the hotels for all of my step dad’s family and we usually stayed Thursday – Sunday.  It was the perfect getaway.  My cousins and I loved to roam around the hotel, entertain ourselves, befriend the hotel help (yes, we even named one of them Lorenzo, no that was not his real name).  Someone had a guitar, I played the few chords I knew and made up songs. Oh childhood with less responsibility and less things to worry about haha.  Below are some pictures to reminisce.  The first couple are from 2007, the last few are from 1998 (sorry for the flash spots, I didn’t have time to scan).

Thanksgiving 2007

From the left front row – Mom, Steve, Harriet (Granny), Pam, Nancy, Randi, Hope, Irv, Lori, Debbie, Me. Back row – David, Sandy, Stan (Pop), Mitchell, Bret, Alan G, Jared, Michael, Alan K

Thanksgiving 2007

Me, Jared, Nancy, Pam massage train!

1998

Thanksgiving 98

David, Lori, Jared, Me, Brett, Mitchell – cousins!

Thanksgiving 98

Front row: Jared, Michael, David. Back Row: Brett, Lori, Stan (Pop), Mitchell

Thanksgiving 98

Jared, Alan G, Pam

Thanksgiving 98

Brett, Nancy, Lori

Let me hear your plans, I love to read all your comments, they make me feel special🙂