Monday, December 28, 2009

Christmas in Virginia

Christmas this year, was a little bit different than any other Christmas I have had. It was the first Christmas I have ever spent away from "home" (MN), away from my family and my first Christmas in Virginia! First of all, how much snow would you expect Virginia to have during the winter? I, being from the coldest, snowiest state in the America, made the assumption that there couldn't be much snow... Afterall, Virginia isn't that much further north than South Carolina, and we get one inch of snow maybe once a year. I honestly can't remember the last time I owned boots. I do remember when I was in 5th grade, I had some old-school-Napoleon-Dynamite lookin' moon boots that I loved. They actually kept me warm as the big bully, Steve Bratts, pushed me down "The Big Hill" at recess (jerk.). I have wanted a new coat for a while now, but haven't needed one, since Greenville hasn't hit me with "freeze" yet. For some reason, this reminds me of a previous post when I made the "wrong shoe choice" and wore flip flops to a moshing rock show.

After saying a sad 'goodbye' to my sister who visited from Indiana for a long weekend, we packed up the car, Romeo included, and made our way up to northern Virginia. We were headed to Justin's brother, Levi's, one-bedroom apartment (which was going through renovations), located above a golf-cart shop/building. We didn't really know what to expect, but Levi had told us some pretty crazy things he had found upon moving in - from the previous tenants, who were apparently some hefty druggie/hippies.

[Hello, Snow..]

[Romeo seeing snow for the first time - He hated it!]

We finally arrived at Levi's and I was sorely mistaken about the snow. Apparently, they were "dumped on" the day before we got there and it was some phenomenon, because I guess I was right about Virginia usually not getting that much snow. Well, gosh dangy! Did I prepare for these events? Of course not!! I get out of the car, wearing my favorite suede, grey flats.. One of 2 pairs of shoes I brought, the other being a pair of flats made out of flippin' t-shirt material/canvas. Again. What's wrong with me?? I stepped out of the Element, nearly wiping out, trying not to complain.. I step in huge snowbank. Lovely. I guess I have forgotten about how much I hate being out in the cold/snow, despite spending 22 years of my life fighting it. To get inside Levi's apartment was more challenging than I thought, but quite comical. Since he didn't own a shovel yet (why would he need one, with the little snow they get?) the path we had to shimmy down, and us attempting to do so, was something I wish I had recorded on video. It was a kind-of "hold-onto-the-person-in-front-of-you-and-pray-you-don't-wipe-out" challenge. As we're attempting these maneuvers - steping into eachothers footprints - and carrying luggage (and wearing suede, grey flats), Levi tells us he named the path: The Gauntlet. Ha! Once we make it through The Gauntlet, we have to go through a few doors, climb a flight of stairs, past his 1 neighbor (a McSmoker, Catlady) and we reach his apartment. Home-sweet-home for the next 6 days!

[We met up with Justin's family, who drove down from Wisconsin - Sister, Mom & Me]

The next day, Christmas Eve, we spent relaxing and shopping for last-minute things needed for our gift exchange/"yankee swap" game. We headed over to our the Tucker's (cousins) for dinner and it was nice to finally meet an aunt and uncle of Justin's I haven't been able to yet! It was fun hanging out and catching up with cousins we haven't seen since our wedding. With permission, we brought Romeo along and had to keep prying him off the Tucker's female pup! He's such a friendly, little dude but when meeting new people and other dogs, his energy is never-ending. Afterwards, we headed to pick up some groceries for the week, and had some good laughs trying to organize all of Justin's many brothers.

[The Brothers, minus one!]

We made it back to Levi's apartment, and now that Justin's family from Wisconsin had arrived, his brothers (minus one until Christmas Day) would also be staying at the apartment. Fun Fact: Justin has 5 brothers (and one sister). 7 siblings. Real, live siblings. One family. It's awesome. I LOVE my in-laws. I think in any other situation, someone might think, "Whaa??!! 8 people in a 1-bedroom/ 1-bathroom apartment, for 5 nights?!" It was a blast!!! It wasn't so bad, as it wasn't all 8 of us there every, single night, but a few nights it was. After making it back from the grocery store, we had to bring all of the brother's luggage up, plus purchases from shopping, plus new groceries we had just bought. We begin our journey down "The Gauntlet", Justin and Lukus ahead of me, Jason behind me. And yes, I'm still wearing those sweet, little, grey, suede flats. I felt it only proper to snap a photo of this crazy experience of Gauntlet-walking, so I did. While laughing and feeling all confident (the path had been packed down a little more and wasn't quite so deep), since I should be a pro by now, I'm marching along and hello! I biffed it. Hard. Groceries go flying and I think my flats did too! Luckily, I was fine.. Just a little scraped up. Thanks a lot, Gaunty.

[Justin & Lukus, taking on "The Gauntlet"]

Christmas Day, we headed back to the Tucker's for some snacks and more hanging out. Caleb (who also drove up from Greenville) finally met us up there after work. Back at Levi's, Justin and I taught everyone how to play a game we like to call "What the Flip??" It's pretty much like "telephone" and "pictionary's" illegitimate lovechild. We played it back in Greenville with our friends and it's been a huge hit ever since.

[Merry Christmas!]

[Playing "What the Flip?"]

[Levi was so sweet to give us his room, the rest of them sprawled out in the living room and in Levi's closet - Haha!]

The next day, we headed back to Tucker's for more interesting snacks and hanging out with relatives. The night before, I had found some sweet instrumental hip-hop tracks from Levi's computer and burned them to disc so we could rock out in the car. Little did I know, my freestyle skills were not so sharp.. I never realized how difficult "hip-hopping" was! All I could think to rap about was "When I was FOUR, I went to the PARK.." It was pretty bad. Had some pretty good laughs about it though! After visiting at Tucker's, we headed back, relaxed some more, shopped and enjoyed a gigantic buffet that left us all so painfully full (what buffet doesn't do that to you??)! After dinner, we head back to Levi's. Getting out of the Element that night was a rough experience. I somehow managed to lose my suede flat (yup, still wearing them), which magically flew off my foot and landed upside-down in a puddle of mud. Wow. This really wasn't the week to wear flats. After accepting the inevitable, I marched down that Gauntlet and up to his apartment to enjoy our final night in Virginia. We exchanged presents for the names everyone drew and also did our gift exchange/"yankee swap" game, which always gets pretty interesting! Justin came out with an actual, lemon meringue pie and I won Candyland! We stayed up pretty late, playing "What the Flip??" some more and laughing so hard, we were breathless. Levi had to even get his inhaler! It was really fun to just hang out with all the guys!

[Romeo, tuckered out from all the attention...]

[Micah, Jason, Caleb, Levi, Lukus & Justin]

The next morning/afternoon, we (Caleb, too) said our 'goodbyes' and hit the road, back to South Carolina. What should have been 6.5 hours, ended up being 9+ hours, thanks to nasty traffic.

[With my little sister, Alyssa - My "Eskimo Friend"!]

[Our little co-pilot, helping us navigate our way back home]

Christmas was really nice. I've learned every family has different traditions and routines - especially mine! I definitely missed not opening stockings in our pajamas and eating our Christmas morning Egg Breakfast at my grandma's.. I missed my dad falling asleep and us kid's (even at 25 years old) stuffing things in his mouth and up his nose and taking pictures of him, while laughing our heads off.. I missed old traditions. I really loved something about this Christmas though. New traditions! Slumber parties in the living room.. Strawberry slush/ginger ale was everyone's favorite thing to drink.. Exchanging yummy recipes with my mom (in law).. It was good. It was really nice to relax and play the same, hilarious game over and over. Ah, what a trip.. Can't wait to see my families again soon.

A Little Christmas Mix

Wanna see pictures from the whole trip?
Virginia Christmas 2009


Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Sweeps McGee, a Weekend of Baking and Trying Everything Not to Wet Our Pants Laughing

I haven't seen my sister since last August, when my husband and I road-tripped home to MN and WI for a "summer vacation". The trip was complete with a Luau BBQ/50th birthday for my dad, movies at the drive-in, bridal dress shopping (for Vanessa), multiple days at the MN State Fair and lots of time with friends and family. Since she has a job that requires some crazy shifts and long hours, she had to work Christmas weekend this year. Vanessa is a nurse at a big hospital in the heart of Indianapolis. I'm so proud of my little sister! Since Christmas was not really happening for her this year, and it was a quicker drive to shoot down to SC than up to MN for a weekend, she decided to come stay with us for the weekend before Christmas, so we could play, shop and bake 'til we blacked out!

So, Vanessa trekked down from Indiana, on basically no sleep, with hopes of a problem-free journey. Well, little did she (or I) know, she drove directly into a nasty detour. After a few times of looping around, GPS failing to make sense and feeling like she was in the Twilight Zone, poor Vanessa began losing her mind and finally stopped at some ricketty gas station with an old lady out front sweeping the ground. As I'm trying to help her navigate her way to SC (via phone), with no clue where in the world she is, I tell her to go talk to Sweeps McGee and maybe get directions. Apparently the second she got out of the car with her atlas, Sweeper scurries into the station and locks the door. WHAT?? Because innocent, little Nessie is such a threat?! So what does my sister do? Oh yes. She begins to do jumping jacks up and down frantically in front of the locked gas station doors with her atlas in hand! She would not let Sweeper get away with such rude behavior! So what does Sweeper do in return? She scurries back to the locked doors and slips a tiny little piece of paper, the size of a fortune cookie fortune with "detour directions". Wow. Thanks, Sweeps McGee! Luckily, she made it here safely - Unfortunately, the detour threw her an extra few hours of driving. Ugh.

The next day, we spent shopping and laughing our heads off. For Christmas, we kids draw eachother's names for gifts and this year, I had Vanessa. So the plan was to spend some time in Tea Junction (yummy tea store at the Mall) to pick out her gift together. We spent probably almost 2 hours in there, smelling tea leaves, tasting teas and trying not to wet our pants laughing as we made new friends with other bystanders and customers. Vanessa ended up picking out the coolest tea steeper and some super yum loose leaf teas. We basically became tea experts over the weekend! Later that night, we tribal-danced to Santigold and Peter, Bjorn and John and we watched Julie & Julia, one of my new, favorite movies!

[Justin & Vanessa showing off their new tea goodies!]

[Loose Tiramisu tea I brought home for my hubby]

The next day, Vanessa and I spent a little time talking about ingredients we would need for our weekend Bake-a-Thon, we relaxed and of course we laughed some more! For dinner, we introduced Nessie to one of our favorite Greenville restaurants: Chicora Alley -- Mmm!!

The next day, we spent 4+ hours grocery shopping - including driving all over town to stores that had the ingredients that the first store didn't have. What a day! Trying to carry all of our grocery bags up all the flights of stairs to our apartment, bags started tearing and of course we're laughing so hard, trying once again not to wet our pants laughing! Our goal was to cook a bunch of our mom's recipes, new and old, as well as baking sweets, too! We made spaghetti pie, our family's tradional Christmas day Breakfast Bake, the one and only, Lost-n-Found Sweet-n-Sour Chicken recipe, Mom's famous BBQ Meatballs and Mom's famous Chili. For dessert, we made my Grandma's Hello Dolly bars, and Snowballs. What I didn't even think of, was that Justin and I would be going out of town for 6 days to VA the same day Vanessa was leaving - which means, all of our delicous leftovers wasted?? No way! Luckily, they freeze well, so there wasn't any problem! We realized the main theme of the trip was eating, laughing and eating. Ohh, we had so much fun!

It was hard to say 'goodbye' to my sister once again.. But we will reunite soon, when my mom and other little sister fly down this February and we will all go see MUSE in Atlanta! Can't wait!!!

See the whole album of photos!

Listen to Santigold

Listen to Peter, Bjorn & John


If You Would Only Listen, You Might Realize What You're Missin'

I haven't posted anything in what seems like For-ev-er! And it's sad, because SO many huuuge things have happened! I think the best way is to make a few separate posts so I'm not so overwhelming. I've had some big changes, big news and lots of travelling ahead!

I recently welcomed some new kids as my clients and said goodbye to one child/client that I have grown so very close to. If you know me pretty well, I am quite emotional and saying 'goodbye' to the little guy after he reached all of his goals was harder on me than I thought it would be. Plenty of tears (happy too!)! It's really a blessing though, to know that I have helped him reach his goals and make so many improvements. That doesn't always happen...

I made one of the most impulsive decisions I have ever made -- I dyed my hair dark brown. Not such a big deal for some people, but it was a big leap for me! I've been blonde my whole life, and every time I've even considered going brunette, I've said "no way". Justin even challenged me a few times to do it, and I was too wimpy. When I had made the appointment, I even planned to do the usual - blonde. I have had the WORST experiences lately at a salon that - for some reason - I kept going to, because I felt bad for the girl who kept doing my hair. What's wrong with me? I think I just kept wanting to give her a chance, but every time I would leave, I hated it! And, when I would call the girl to have it fixed, I couldn't reach her. When I finally reached her, she told me I would have to pay for it, because it had "been too long". Are you kidding me?? So I finally pulled the plug, and said, "No more!!". I remembered an old friend I haven't seen in years, was working at an Aveda. I have always loved Aveda. I can't think of a time I have ever been unhappy with Aveda. So, not only did I get to reunite with a friend I haven't seen in years, but I finally left the salon happy. As we're talking about my hair and what I want, I barely mentioned that I had considered "going dark" once. After that, it was dunzo! Made the choice, dyes were mixed and next thing I know, I'm being rinsed. Holy canotes. Like I said, changing a hair color really isn't a big deal for most people, but for me, this was pretty huge. The conclusion of the story? I love it! I wanna stay dark for winter atleast, and then maybe go back to blonde. I shouldn't be so safe and boring -- I mean the first time I changed my hair color was at age 25? C'mon!

We found out our dear friends Marco & Michelle are expecting!!! Eeeee!!!! I am so excited for them!! We joined a 'shepherding group' through our church and have already met some really cool people. We found new, incredible music, which just makes me so happy! My sister came to visit this past weekend for an "early Christmas" and we had the BEST TIME (blog post)! We're about to leave to spend Christmas week with family (my husband's side) up in Virginia. There will be MANY stories! Can't wait!!

Mason Jennings - Your New Man

[Lyrics: Jack Johnson - Bubbletoes]


Monday, December 14, 2009

A Few of My ALLTIME YouTube Favorites

[Grape Lady Falls!]

[Shane Sings 5 Octaves]

[Star Wars According to a 3 Year Old]

[Red House Furniture Commercial (This thing is REAL!)]

[Whistling Puppy]

[David After Dentist]

[Darwin Reedy's American Idol Audition]

[Douglas Davidson's American Idol Audition]

[James Lewis' American Idol Audition]

["Ukulele Boy" - Jason Mraz's "I'm Yours"]

[Wine Glass Music]

[Hamster On A Piano]

[Hey Jude]

[Happy Feet Rosie]

[Incredible Breakdancing]

[Pickle Girl]

[Evil Eye Baby]

[Model Falls - "Walk It Out" Remix]

[Kids Get Low]


[Various Sources]

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Lights Out!

So I can't get enough of Santigold! I had downloaded a few of her songs free from itunes last year and enjoyed them, but didn't reaize how much I LOVED her until our friend, Marco re-introduced us to her a couple months ago. I totally love her style.. Kind of an 80s-slash-dub-slash-new wave-slash-electronic-slash-r&b-slash-psychedelic rock? She's original, fun and funky. If you don't know her yet, you should.

[Self-Titled Album Cover - And oh yes, she's totally throwing up gold! Credit]

[Santigold - formerly known as "Santogold" - Credit]


Listen to Santigold

Monday, December 7, 2009

A Lost Paycheck, An Artsy Reunion, and Smoke- Alarmed Crunchwraps

What a fabulous, eventful weekend!

I guess I had a WHOPPER of a "did that just happen" moment occur, before the weekend even came: As I am a counselor for a Mental Health Clinic here for the State of SC, I am paid for my driving mileage that I do while transporting clients around from place to place. It definitely adds up, and at the end of the month, I can definitely look forward to receiving my mileage check. I turned it in for the month of November, as I do every other month, and usually receive the check within 2 weeks of turning it in. Well, my friends, we are now well into December. Something isn't adding up here. So, I'm communicating with my co-worker about whether or not he had received his mileage check, and sure enough - nope! We came to the the conclusion that the HR lady must have just fallen behind, as we never even received a confirmation, which usually clues us in, that the checks are on their way. So, we make the calls to our HR lady friend. He called first, and had a quite shocking conversation with her. I decided to call her myself, and she gave me the same schpeel! When I asked her about the delay, she mentioned something about a "new system" (which is possible) but then proceed to tell me about how her mom just had a successful estate sale and she would be happy to offer me a loan if I needed some money. WHAT?! I'm pretty sure I was speechless for about 15 seconds before I could respond. "Uhhhh.. No.. I don't want a personal loan from your mom's estate sale earnings, I WANT MY PAYCHECK!" (my thoughts, not my words) It's the principle! Not the money! How completely unprofessional! I mean don't get me wrong, it was a very lovely offer... but seriously right now? My co-worker and I even joked about going there - as she had offered him the same loan - and going in to each take her up on her offers! She would be lending quite a bit of money! I'm still dumbfounded by this. Does this stuff happen to anyone else?

Moving on..

Friday was great! As it would have been a blast to see the Features and the Whigs in Atlanta, GA in honor of my Mom and her friend Lori who just LOVE them (hehe), it just didn't work out. Justin and I were so pumped to be able to reunite with our good friend, Jenny, who just moved back to Greenville from D.C. and she was having a little house-warming party we couldnt miss.

[Me & Jenny]

After the party, we all headed around Greenville for the winter art studios! We headed to the "big white house" gallery (is there a name for that? I just always think it's Chris and Annie Koelle's Gallery, but I know there are more) where they were having the "I'm Dreaming of a White Whale Christmas". My friend, Michelle and I were drooling over some gorgeous pottery and whale necklaces I've had my eye on. I bought something small, but I can't share, becuase it's a gift for someone who may be reading this (eep!)! Afterward, we went to Art & Light Gallery and of course we couldn't miss our favorite artist, and dear friend Marco Suarez, who froze all night, setup by Art Crossing. What a great night!

Saturday was loaded with 100% relaxation and hours of catching up on my New Moon. Enough said. I'm sick of defending myself and my enjoyment the books to friends and others.. I know they are just giving me a hard time - which I can take it, but it's getting a little old. All I have to say is: I love reading the books. The movies are a tad cheesy and if I want your opinion, I'll ask. :) I can't WAIT to finally see the movie on Tuesday, though! Eee! Better get back to reading! Did a little Christmas shopping and spent more time over at our friend's house later that night. Their neighbors stopped by with their new baby, which only made Justin and I more giddy about our future and how we're only moving closer toward the time when we're ready to say those words: "Let's have a baby!" We're both so very happy and excited for when that time comes, too. I'm glad I don't have a husband that buckles up and freaks out at the mention of the word "baby". He's just as excited, if not more! It made my heart skip a beat seeing him hold the lil bundle of squishy joy! Hmmm! Just between whoever is reading this and me, we have a plan - I'm just not telling you yet!

Sunday, Justin and I realized we were having some serious taco cravings during church and decided to make it happen. Have you ever had a Crunch Wrap Supreme from Taco Bell? Well I can only imagine it's loaded with fat and other secret naughty, fatty things, but it's too yummy. I have to give thanks and credit to my sister, Vanessa who first told me about the Crunch Wrap years ago, when I was in college (2003?). She informed me of this delightful item on TB's "secret menu". What?! Did you know Taco Bell has a "secret menu"?? Well I didn't. And how did Vanessa know?! Haha! Regardless, she passed along this valuable information which is no longer a secret. Behold:

[Taco Bell's Crunch Wrap Supreme]

Of course, how often does it look that good, when you order it? Never. Either way, Justin and I wanted this for lunch yesterday, so we made it happen. To make a long story short (which is clearly impossible for me), we bought the ingredients we needed, and began experimenting with how you wrap these complex things and keep 'em closed! Plus, how do you stuff all the tomatoes, lettuce and everything in there without it getting soggy? Our conclusion? Crank the heat on those pans, and grill those bad boys up!

[Justin, under pressure!]

We get our little system down, spoons and flippers in hand, ingredients everywhere, Romeo running around frantically with one eyebrow (saving that for a WHOLE other blog post...) and then it happens. Our ultra-sensitive smoke-alarm starts screeching at it's highest pitch. Of course! In our frantic flipping and inventing, I'm trying to fan the alarm with a plate to stop it. Thankfully, it stops. Within seconds, the alarm starts again, so Justin takes a crack at it. He starts fanning it, and but forgets he has a spoonful of butter in the same hand and as he's flailing to stop the alarm, butter is now flying around the room! Oh. My. Word. Can you imagine the chaos and level of excitement occuring within the matter of seconds?! I love how there really never seems to be a dull moment in our lives. Honestly, all I can really do is laugh!

As far as Romeo's one-eyebrow fiasco goes - what the flip?! Apparently he has been scratching, and our friend, Marco noticed it the other night! Since I noticed it, I've been calling Romeo, "Whoopi Goldberg" and "my lil' bald eagle". At least I made an appointment with the vet, and spoke to his grooming lady, who thinks we might be "bathing him too often". How can you have a dog that's too clean? I would think that's a good thing! But I do understand that dogs apparently have certain "oils" and blah blah. I just won't allow having a doggy-smelling dog, plus I like it when he's silky smooth!

Ok, I think this is a long enough blog for today. If you actually read this, I'm flattered! :)


What I'm Listening To:

Radiohead - Karma Police

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Honky Tonk Stomp Romeo

So last night, Justin and I were laughing about how bad Romeo has been desperately needing a haircut and Justin says, "he looks like one of the guys from Brooks and Dunn!" I'm thinking, whaaa? I have know idea who Brooks and Dunn even ARE, but I think maybe I have heard of them once or twice... My first initial thought was, Oh yeah..those circus performer dudes, and one of them was eaten by an elephant or something? Nope. That's Sigfried and Roy. And I stand corrected: Poor little Roy was mauled by a tiger, but thankfully lived. So who the flup is Brooks and Dunn?? Well. I am not a lover of country music in any way, shape or form - so maybe that's why I had no idea. (I don't even know how Justin knew who they were!) Turns out, Brooks and Dunn sing lovely little songs like "Honky Tonk Stomp", "Cowgirls Don't Cry" and "Hillbilly Deluxe". I can't help but laugh out loud, trying to imagine our precious pup resembling one of these country singer geniuses! I took it upon myself to set up a side-by-side analysis of our challenge...

[Dunn vs. Romeo ]

Any resemblance?


Fortunately, I'm NOT listening to B&D.
Instead, I'm listening to Iron & Wine

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Slow Me Down

I've never really been a huge fan of Emmy Rossum - you might remember her from Phantom of the Opera, Poseidon [remake] and The Day After Tomorrow. I think I always thought she was kind of cheesy or something. Well, I found this music video of hers, and I totally fell in love with it. The sound is a little different from something I might normally listen to.. In fact, Justin thinks it's funny I like it, because it sounds a little cheesy like most of her other stuff. Whatevs, I love the color, love the lyrics, love her clothes. Just wanted to share!

[Click to open lyrics]

What's your opinion?



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