Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Week 15: Something excites you and fills you with joy

Week 15 of the 30 Week Writing Challenge

Something that excites you and fills you with joy 


International Traveling


So cliche but I so don't care. 




I love to travel overseas and I miss it so much. 
I get SO excited talking about my trips 
(my hands even start waving like a 6-month-old). 
I particularly love non-English speaking countries; 
I love the challenge. 
Reading a subway map in Ukrainian, 
ordering food in German, 
catching a cab in Hong Kong, 
and even crossing a busy street in Russia (TERRIFYING).
I'm all amped up just typing here! 


Summer 2005: Europe
My first overseas trip was with 44 other students 
on a 10-week International Business trip.  
Places we hit: 
Stockholm, Sweden;
Talin, Estonia;
St. Petersburg (beautiful) and Moscow (dirty!), Russia;
The Netherlands - dozens of cities, but we stayed in Oisterwijk;
Heidelberg, Germany; 
 Vienna and Innsbruck, Austria;
Lucerne, Switzerland;
Prague, Czech Republic; 
Paris, France; 
London, England 

Prague, my favorite picture the whole trip


Summer 2006: Ukraine 
I took a week off my summer internship at Deloitte 
to travel to the Ukraine with my accounting professor 
and another student, 
to teach an Accounting Fraud Seminar.
We flew in and out of Kiev, 
and then drove to Zaporozyhe to Hope Internationals' office there.
In all my travels, Zaporozyhe is by far the dirtiest city I've ever been to. 
 
Kiev has this massive statue called the Motherland Monument that towers over the city.
This picture in no way does its size justice.

Spring Break 2007: Hong Kong
We were in a college class, 
and my friend Michelle turns to me: 
"Hey, I want to visit my friend studying abroad in Hong Kong.  Wanna come?" 
Me: "OF COURSE!" 
I canceled the cliche Cancun spring break plans I had with my boyfriend at the time, 
and we set off to Hong Kong. 

The city of Hong Kong from Victoria Peak 
The smog is absolutely atrocious in the city. 
Impossible to get a clear shot.


Summer 2007: Italy 
Since we canceled Cancun, 
my then-boyfriend and I decided to go to Italy instead.  
We started in Rome, then Florence, Venice, and finally Milan. 
Rome was cool with ruins. 
Florence was beautiful. 
Venice was dirty, but cool. 
Milan was just casual fun. 
Every place had the BEST food I've ever eaten EVER. 
Every meal was phenomenal. 

Venice

Summer 2008: Spain 
One of the girls I used to babysit was studying abroad in Paris, 
and her exact words were: 
"You're the only friend I have with a real job, 
and thus you have money; 
wanna come with me to Spain with me?" 
SURE. 
We hit up Madrid, Granada, and Barcelona. 

Royal Palace of Madrid

Summer 2009: London, Paris, Amsterdam 
Finally a couple, 
Adam and I set off for Adam's first European experience. 
This was also my first time since Ukraine that we stayed in REAL HOTEL ROOMS 
(NOT hostels) 
and it was amazingggggg. 

Sacre-Coeur in Paris


Summer 2012: Kenya 
As I mentioned before
my BFF Amanda has been living in Kenya for photo-journalism, 
and in August 2012 
- 8 weeks pregnant and unable to drink for the 18 hour flights
my little sister Rebecca and I traveled over to see her. 


Nairobi National Park


And that's that. 
I guess I also went to Mexico and Canada in highschool, 
and St Lucia for our honeymoon, 
but that doesn't really count to me. 
I have to suffer through a 6+ hour plane ride to call it international travel.


Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Books I Read (Aug-Sept)

And another segment of random readings... 




Are you there, vodka?  It's me, Chelsea. 
By Chelsea Handler 

I think I read this book in 2 days. 
It's easy read, pretty funny, and fairly short. 
I have to admit, I related more to this book than previous female authors 
like Amy Poehler and even Tina Fey. 
Should I be concerned?  

If you've seen anything of Chelsea Lately 
(is that show even still running?
it's prime Chelsea. 
Her inappropriate humor, 
her awkward family, 
her love of midgets, 
and general laughs on life.  



 Crazy Rich Asians 
by Kevin Kwan

This book follows a few billionaire families, 
and an interconnected storyline around a single wedding.
It certainly has its slow parts, 
and some stories were far more interesting than others, 
but overall it was a decent read 
if you like reading about billionaires, 
their ridiculous spending, 
and a somewhat cliche "average peasant vs royalty" Cinderella story.



Your Name is Renee 
by Stacy Cretzmeyer

I own this book from my college holocaust class, 
and is one of the very few books we still have in our house. 
I had finished my current library books, 
and all my new ones were still being transferred inter-library, 
so I pulled this classic out and re-read it. 

This book is truly a beautiful read.
This story is told by Renee, through her 4-8 year old eyes, 
as her family flees around France to avoid Nazi capture. 
It's beautiful, it's sad, but (spoiler alert!) the family ends up together, 
a total rarity amongst Holocaust books. 

Also, I met the girl - Renee herself! - in college, 
and she is wonderful, spunky, and amazing



 The Royal We 
by Heather Cocks
 
This is a lonnnnngggg novel. 
I would go on multiple power reading sessions, 
and say to myself: "Whew, I must be halfway through" 
and when I snapped the book shut and checked my bookmark... 
not even 1/4 of the way through.  
Maybe an 1/8. 
Did I mention this is a LONG book.

Other thing I'd add is, don't read the Prologue
The Prologue jumps ahead like 10 years to some unidentified "issue"
and while it's supposed to leave the reader eager to unlock the mystery, 
I just plain found it annoying. 

Back to the book itself. 
The first 1/3 and last 1/3 are my favorite. 
The middle 1/3 is kind of depressing and draggggs on. 
Once I got through the middle part, I whizzed on to the end!






The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up
 by Marie Kondo 


OMG THIS BOOK IS MY SPIRIT ANIMAL! 
I'm a pretty tidy person anyway, 
so I figured I wouldn't learn a lot from this book. 

OH MY WAS I WRONG! 
I've never felt so inspired after a book. 
I took frantic notes in my iPhone notes section, 
and am mentally booking myself a vacation home 
where I just purge our entire house. 
I am already making lists of things to purge. 
I am so excited I cannot speak. 
#nerd 

(Full breakdown of this book and how it impacted me is here)


Coming soon... 
MINDY'S NEW BOOK IS OUT!!!!!!!!!! 
I'm ONLY #64 on the waiting list at the library. 
So... maybe in two months? 
At least it's closer than being #90, 
which is where I stand for 
"Primates of Park Avenue"

Monday, September 28, 2015

Getaway Weekend

I have been anxiously waiting for this getaway weekend for a while 
and it finally arrived!  
It kicked off with a bit of a scare, 
but ended up being picture perfect (literally). 


After a wonderful stay-cation this past week, 
we left Aaron in the care of Adam's parents 
and made the 3.5 hour drive to Penn state. 
We checked in to our hotel, the "luxurious" Days Inn
(location location location
and got all ready to go out. 


... And THEN I started spotting like crazy.
After 11 clean pregnancy weeks, 

I was not prepared for this. 


Cue freak out. 
Here we are 3.5 hours away from my OB, 
in a college town that probably doesn't specialize in prenatal care, 
and the closest hospital is where Adam had a verrrry bad experience 
when his appendix was out in college. 

All I could think is: 
"oh please not now, not here". 
I called my OB who was completely unphased. 
She told me if it gets heavy with cramping, then I'm probably miscarrying. 
If not, I can spot all weekend and they will see me Monday 
(I already had my 12 week appt booked). 
The only instructions were "no sex" which I thought was a tad humorous, 
given the fact that it was our getaway weekend. 


We went out shopping briefly but I started to get pain 
and rushed us back to the hotel. 
I was still spotting so we opted to just lie in bed for a while. 
While there, my mind flashed back to my first prenatal visit with Aaron, 
almost immediately before I set off to Africa to visit my friend Amanda
and the doctor had warned that I could spot a bit from carrying around my luggage. 
Well...
 I had recently hauled in my luggage from the parking lot up the stairs to the hotel, 
without thinking twice about it. 
I'm not some dainty girl who can't carry her own shit, 
and long ago Adam got used to this so he rarely tries to intervene. 
However, as soon as I mentioned my memory to Adam, 
he declared: 
"You are not carrying anything again all weekend. 
Not even a shopping bag!" 
(Okay) 


Long story short, 
the spotting stopped and we were able to have a fantastic weekend. 


We went to dinner at The Deli
where I got the best warmed goat cheese salad of my life. 
(I resisted taking pictures of all my food... you can thank me.) 

Still a wee bit nervous about spotting, 
I didn't want to cram into a packed college bar, 
so opted for Mad Mex
where Adam enjoyed a margarita and I polished off an entire bag of chips and salsa. 
Amanda, I thought of you! 

That night we got a BLISSFUL 10 hours of sleep. 

The next morning was breakfast at the Waffle Shop on College Ave, 
followed by more shopping, 
then a 3-hour hang at Cafe 210 West
where we "splurged" on $9 pitcher of Blue Moon for Adam. 


One of the funniest things about the trip was alcohol prices. 
It is absolutely normal to pay $8 for a 12 oz beer in Philadelphia. 
But in State College, you pay $9 for a 48-oz pitcher! 
It was just silly how cheap it was. 
Too bad I couldn't take advantage. 
(I had a few sips, of course)


 Because we didn't eat enough Cafe 210 (HAHAHA), 
we stopped by the Creamery on our way to the stadium, 
indulging in the BEST ice cream I've had in ages. 


And then THE GAME! 
We had scalped our tickets the night before, 
paying dirt cheap prices for really good seats. 
We got to them only to find out that they included seat backs
I have never been so comfortable during a football game ever
Oh my. 



Oh, and Penn State won! 
Which is always good. 
(Especially when it's a game you're supposed to win) 

 And the sunset to commemorate the win was breath-taking




Afterwards, 
we trudged down the hill and stopped at my favorite destination: 
CANYON PIZZA. 

A little backstory to Canyon:
I've mentioned before how I dated a guy (not Adam) at Penn State all through college. 
He lived directly across the stress from the famous Canyon Pizza, 
which has been serving $1 pizza slices forever. 
(The only place I've ever seen where the price hasn't budged a penny in 10+ years.)
We used to stand on my ex's balcony watching the late-night drunk crowd gather, 
and when the line was short enough, 
run down to grab a slice or two. 

I was afraid that it wouldn't taste as good in my sober state. 
But it was AH-MAZ-ING. 
Every ounce of pizza deliciousness even without the extreme drunkenness. 
Ahhhhhh. 


Another BLISSFUL 10 hour night sleep, 

and we headed home the next day, 
first swinging by the Creamery to grab a few gallons to take home 
(for us and friends, trust me we don't need that much ice cream). 

 How did Aaron do without us? 
He had the BEST time with Adam's parents and my parents. 
Lots of cupcakes, no naps, and little adventures like tree climbing. 


 You'd think when we walked in the door that he'd RUN to us in glee, right? 
RIGHT? 
We walked in the door and he RAN AWAY declaring: 
 "No good home!  
I stay at Gamma and Gampa's house!  
I play with toys." 

Nothing makes a mother feel loved like being rejected for toys. 

Sigh. 



Friday, September 25, 2015

Stay-cation

In yet another episode of "eat our words," 
Adam and I swore we'd never do a "stay-cation."  
We mocked those who stay home all week instead of planning a decent trip. 
Funny the things we tell ourselves before we become parents.


A few key points to our stay-cation:

House Clean-out: 
Inspired by this book, I went on a cleaning spree. 
I hauled off all unwanted toddler clothes and toys to JBF
The remaining adult clothes and household goods 
(including a few clutch items like the Roomba, Heineken Kegerator, etc) 
were scheduled for Purple Heart pickup
I bring this up because it was on my list of 25 goals to get rid of this Heineken Kegerator. 


A Date Night with Dinner and a NON-Movie. 
Another of the 25 goals!  
Aaron went off to Monthly Kid Swap 
while Adam and I hit up our favorite outdoor bar/restaurant Taphouse 23 
followed by go-karts and bowling. 
The go-karts were particularly funny because I'm a pretty aggressive driver on the road but a TOTAL WIMP on go-karts. Meanwhile, Adam who won't go above 5 mph over the speed limit, was doing laps around my cautious driving. 
Also, it later occurred to me that go-karts fall on the list of "activities pregnant women shouldn't do." Whoops. 



Meanwhile, funny stories from the toddler sleepover! 
We had paused our monthly kid swap over the summer as both families were too busy. 
During this pause, we both took our boys out of cribs. 
This was the first sleepover where they were both out and mobile around the room. 
We expected them to be up for HOURS 
but a shocking 35 minutes later, 
the two were passed out on the toddler air mattress, 
perpendicular to each other, 
with both heads smushed in the corner. 
How cute is this?!



Monday was the Please Touch Museum 
which we referred to as the "toy museum". 
Sadly, the Please Touch Museum just announced bankruptcy. 
Adam and I could see the major wear and tear on the museum. 
In fact, we got a 30% discount and free tickets to come back because 1/3 of the museum was closed for roof structural problems. Such a pity because the building is absolutely beautiful and historic. 
BUT none of this meant anything to Aaron. 
He LOVED it and went from room to room and back again 
excitedly playing with "toys" and "riding the horses" (carousel). 



Tuesday was a big shopping day
I did the JBF drop-off first thing in the morning, 
then Adam, Aaron, and I hit both KOP and the outlets. 
I finally bought Laura Mercier's second skin blush I've been eyeing since spring 
(another item checked off my 25 list!). 
Then the rep was so wonderful 
(even making a "flag" for Aaron out of a-tips and makeup sponges!
that I ended up buying the setting powder too, 
and so far love much more than the Clinique I had been using. 
Adam got the best of the outlets by restocking his Nike golfing attire, 
and we snagged a few footie PJs for aaron cuz why not? 


Wednesday was the Philadelphia Zoo
Aaron zoomed through the zoo like a kid on a mission. 
No animal was allowed more than 0.3 seconds of attention. 
Also, Adam's mom suggested we bring the umbrella stroller. 
But we parents know best, right
We knew our active little guy would be determined to walk it all, right
I mean, that's what he does every time we bring the stroller. 
WRONG. 
At exactly halfway through the zoo loop, 
Aaron demanded to be picked up and we took turns carrying the 34 lbs burden the rest of the way. 



Thursday was a MAGICAL DAY
Adam took Aaron over for a playdate with our nephew, 
while I spent the morning dusting off my maternity clothes 
and purging my closets. 
It wasn't a full Mamas Day Off
but it's the closest I'm going to get for a few months 
and OH MY was it amazing. 
Would I be a terrible mom to say that Thursday was my favorite day? 
Ok, so I won't say it. 


And that, my friends, is our "Stay-cation." 
This weekend we head off to Penn State for our getaway weekend
Please wish my parents and my in-laws the best of luck 
as they stay with Aaron 
and navigate Pope-apocalypse traffic
YIKES!


Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Week 14: Relationship to Food

Week 14 in the 30 Week Writing Challenge

Relationship to Food 


Oh my, I have been SO EXCITED for this week. 

I LOVE LOVE LOVE talking about food. 

Prior to Aaron, 
the most photographed item in my life was food. 
Not Adam. 
Food.  
(proof below)


The MOST important moment in my day, 
is planning out what I'm going to eat. 
 I love meal planning for the week. 
And I get an amazing thrill whenever our food arrives at a restaurant.

 
But like any relationship, 
there are positives and negatives. 


Let's start with the negatives...

Of course, my love of food has gotten me into trouble. 
I'm one of those unfortunate people who will eat as a coping mechanism, 
which has led to some pretty severe weight fluctuations in my life. 

Food is definitely an area where I lack self-discipline. 
I struggle with overeating.
Leaving food on my plate 
- or not going back for seconds
is probably the HARDEST thing ever in my life. 
(And that's a life that includes active labor, c-section, nursing, etc) 

I love unhealthy food, too. 
Some people are all: 
"oh, I prefer salad over chocolate." 
Um, NO. 
I love chips & french onion dip. 
And wings with an insane amount of chunky bleu cheese sauce. 
I can eat a whole bag of cheese puffs in one sitting. 
I could eat refined white flour pasta until I burst. 

You get the idea. 


Now the positives... 

My love of food leads me to try new recipes all the time. 
I've had my failures, 
but I've also discovered some amazing keepers. 


I SWELL WITH PRIDE when people rave about my food. 
Among my in-laws, I'm known for my desserts. 



I can eat out virtually anywhere. 
Even though I'm not crazy about Mexican, 
I  can always find something I like. 

(True story, one of my traveling audit teams loved authentic Mexican, 
and since I didn't want to eat alone at another restaurant, 
I ate grilled cheese off the kids' menu for the entire audit... 
and LOVED IT.)



I can't end this post without some hardcore #foodporn. 
This is by no means my favorite food snapshots, 
just the only ones I can find right now. 

So here we go... 

 Fries in Amsterdam (they serve them with mayo) 
Fries may be American, 
but the Dutch have perfected them. 

 The most over-exposed little French tartlet ever

back to the US... my attempts at being patriotic and creative

Cake made for Rosh Hashanah (Jewish New Year)
"L'Shana Tova" means "for a good year" in Hebrew 
check out that fantastic I-don't-know-how-to-work-with-lighting shadow


I went through a period of being obsessed with ebelskivers
and dipping them in nutella and peanut butter
I really should make them for Aaron because he'd love 'em


typical breakfast on our honeymoon in St Lucia
When I thought of Caribbean food, I thought "bananas" and "pineapples," 
but in truth, their tomatoes are TO DIE FOR
Every morning I had an english muffin with cream cheese, salmon ("lox"), and tomatoes. 
AMAZING. 
AH-MAZ-ING. 
I want to go back JUST for the tomatoes.

 Minion cupcakes made for Aaron's 1st birthday 
(not made by me, I'm not that talented)


to-die-for pancakes at Jones in Philadelphia

"Pepper Skins" (like Potato skins, but more flavor) 
Peppers stuffed with bacon, cheese, and scallions, 
roasted, 
and then topped with sour cream.
I just made these again the other day and both Adam and Aaron inhaled them.

Salami crisps with sour cream and basil
Taken from Giada de Laurentiis
Adam recently requested these again, 
so it looks like I'll be whipping them up for football games in the fall

And if you ever doubt my devotion to eating, 
here's me stuffing my face with appetizers at our wedding. 
Adam's expression: "Are you done yet?  Let's wrap up these photos so I can get to the bar!"


Monday, September 21, 2015

Announcement!

I've never been creative so we'll just go with this...


I have an announcement: 
Baby #2 is due April 12th! 



This tiny announcement is the #1 reason my blogging activity has dwindled 
from posting every-other-day 
to one post per week, 
usually about the 30 Day Writing Challenge
which I'm so happy I partook in because otherwise this blog would be crickets. 


 The funny thing about being pregnant is that it really does consume all of you. 
Exhaustion. 
Future plans. 
Exhaustion. 
Expanding waistlines. 
Exhaustion. 
Baby names. 
You get the idea. 
It's hard to write a blog when every other word is 
"I'm so tired because first trimester sucks the life out of me." 
(which is basically all I wanted to write here)
or 
"I'm a ticking time bomb of hormones." 
 (Perhaps why the snide comment about 'Big Law Firm' sent me into a long post here)
And while I'm generally okay broadcasting my life to total strangers, 
I felt that we should at least checklist off a few select people
prior to blog-announcing. 
And that took a lot longer than planned. 
With Aaron, we carefully crafted all these reveals. 
Poor neglected Baby #2's announcement is  "oh yeah, I'm pregnant." 
We DID do clever "Big Brother" t-shirt with our immediate families, 
but that was the extent of our creativity.

ANYWAY
Now it's all out there!
I tried documenting this first trimester much more this time 
(with Aaron I didn't start until around 15 weeks
so expect upcoming blog posts on that. 

But until then...
I'm going to go back to dreaming of sleep. 

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Week 13: Someone you've always wanted to meet

Week 13 in the 30 Week Writing Challenge

Someone you've always wanted to meet


I've always wanted to meet my biological mother
who died when I was 6 months old from cancer. 




I'm very lucky that I am surrounded by people who like to talk about her. 
Growing up, my grandmother talked about her all the time. 
My dad would tell funny stories about camping with my Mommy Cheryl. 
And my mom would pass along whatever she's heard along the way, 
from aunts or friends.


Thing I know about her


She was one of the nicest people ever


She always lit up the room when she walked in. 


She had thunder thighs 
(Thanks for passing those along!)


Despite that, she had fantastic self-esteem. 
My aunt overheard her saying: 
"I don't understand why everyone hates themselves, 
I love myself" 


She really got along with everyone, 
even people who were hard to get along with.


A highschool friend once told me:
"She was such a fun person, 
and we never understand why she went for your dad, 
an awkward guy with a pocket protector" 



I would love to meet her, 
and as her grave stone says, 
"Until We Meet Again"