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Friday, December 30, 2011

2011 recap

the past year in review...
project restyle
recipe found here
read about our trip here, here and here
about our house
find out about the trip here and here
a special celebration
date night
bridal shower decor: pinwheel and name tags
the wreath
favorite pumpkin recipe: pumpkin crisp
I'm so thankful for my husband's sense of humor: costumes
I love our good friends and community-- we are so blessed to have friends like this!
I loved doing this series with a bunch of guest bloggers all about ways to save ((check it out))!
I'm also so grateful for the blog community I am part of.
Celebrating Christmas
and here's to a wonderful 2012!

Thursday, December 29, 2011

our love story {part 4}

((to get caught up, check out part 1, part 2, and part 3))

Can you believe he asked to meet my father a week into dating me?!  I was shocked...and he actually asked to cook us dinner, but I told him I didn't want to share the memory of the first time he cooked for me with anyone else ((especially my dad...weirdo!))
I took these photos of Faneuil Hall and Quincy Market later in January 2009
As Brandon said, he knew very early on where he wanted the relationship to go, while I did not share such strong feelings upfront. Don't get me wrong, I liked Brandon.  He was kind and thoughtful.  I remember he had to work on New Year's Eve, but asked me to meet him downtown to watch the fireworks after he got off work around 11 or so.  It was really cold and I ended up having to wait for longer than expected, taking refuge in Dunkin Donuts.  The fireworks were canceled, due to wind ((this date was off to a great start)), but we ended up walking around by Faneuil Hall and he asked me the sweetest thing.  He knew I'd lost my mom seven years earlier and I had told him New Year's always made me think of her because she was born on New Year's day.  He took my hand ((for the first time I might add)) and asked me to tell him what my mom was like ((she passed away in 2001)).

Looking back on that New Year's Eve, I'd say it was the beginning of my falling for Brandon.  He was thoughtful and wanted to know me for real.

Fast forward into February, when a friend of mine from grad school in Colorado was going to be visiting her family in New Hampshire and I invited Brandon along with me for a day trip.  It was a cold and snowy morning, when we left and he was wearing a beanie pulled down low.  He got into the car and said something like "don't freak out...I gave myself a haircut."  And removed his beanie to reveal his bald head. Completely. shaved.  I was shocked, but quickly responded with, "surprisingly, you can pull off the bald look."  I couldn't believe it, but thankfully he hasn't shaved it completely since then.

That day marked the first time we took a photo together.  Brandon was into photography ((he still is, but doesn't often make time for it anymore)) and after visiting my friend, we went for a memorable walk in the snowy New Hampshire woods.
photographic evidence of Brandon's bald head from February 2009
I could go on and on about stories from our dating life.  As he already shared, he made his intentions of marriage clear to me about six months into dating.  I wasn't ready to admit I had imagined what life could be like if we were in it together for keeps.  That spring and summer are filled with good memories: we traveled to Tennessee to meet his mom and extended family, helped good friends by serving dinner at their wedding reception, going to Red Sox games together, we went camping with friends, and most importantly, I grew increasingly convinced he was someone I should spend time with.
(l) during a friends wedding (r) a day trip and photography adventure South of Boston
One evening that August, I remember standing in the kitchen with all three of my roommates and enjoying their company.  We weren't talking about much important, just getting ready for the week ahead ((I think it was a Sunday)).  I remember that night so vividly because I told them I was pretty sure I was falling in love. They squealed with excitement and I felt so blessed to have them in my life.


Wednesday, December 28, 2011

what I'm into {December}

I saw a post like this from Nish last month and I thought I'd give it a go as the year draws to a close. And I'm thinking it would be a fun monthly addition around here.  What do you think?
on my nightstand.
There's a pile of books I don't pay enough attention to, two phone charger cables ((no idea why I need two)) and some dust.  The books are Devotional Classics and Sacred Rhythms.

what I want to read.
This list is endless, mostly because I'm such a terrible reader. I mean I rarely finish a book. But here are the latest ones catching my eye: Me to We: Finding Meaning in a Material World and  Code Switching.

TV show worth watching.
TV watching hasn't always been a high priority for me, but with my husband in school we have a few shows that we both enjoy.  We typically DVR them and spend an evening getting caught up.
  • Person of Interest: ((who doesn't love Jim Caviezel?)) I love the plot of this show.  It's about a guy who creates a system that tracks every person on the planet for the government and when the government scraps it and his desire to help folks in trouble because he knows when something is going to happen.
  • Parenthood: I think it's the best show on TV these days. It's authentic with family drama, yet not over-the-top like so many shows.
  • Bones: While we knew it was inevitable that Booth and Bones would end up together, did they really have to go so far as to have a baby?
  • Up All Night: We're not parents yet, so this may be a grossly inaccurate account to a suburban couple's experience with becoming parents.  But I do love Christina Applegate and Will Arnett.
movie I've seen.
Crazy Stupid Love. I think I liked it.  A week later, I'm still trying to decide how I felt. I love Steve Carell and I'm probably going to make some enemies by admitting this, but I don't care for Ryan Gosling so it balanced out.  I will say Gosling was more tolerable than usual in this one.
We also watched several Christmas movies over the past week: The Holiday, Love Actually, Home Alone 2
in my kitchen.
Lately, we've been cooking with a lot of lentils, black beans, sweet potatoes, curry and onion....not all together, but they're definitely staples. Soups have also become a fairly common meal for us as the temps get cooler.

in my ears. 
Lots of Christmas music...most of which I downloaded for free thanks to Noisetrade!  Some of my favorites include A Neighborly Christmas, Ten out of Tenn Christmas, and Lo-Fi Christmas.
As far as non-Christmas tunes, I'm listening to an audiobook. And not just any audiobook, I gave in and started listening to Harry Potter ((never read a book or have seen a movie)).

items of note.
-our love story on the blog this month...thank you for letting me share!
-a dear friend of mine is starting a collaborative blog-- look for it in 2012
-my husband and I are taking our first road trip over 10 hours together this week

what I'm looking forward to. 
-snow ((we still haven't had more than flurries yet))
-tackling a few items on my winter to-do list
-my cousin's wedding ((tomorrow))
-crafting with friends
-new neighbors-- friends bought a house down the street and moved in last week!


Tuesday, December 27, 2011

cardboard {repurpose}

Rather than throwing out all the cardboard your household likely consumed this past weekend during Christmas unwrapping, consider ways to re-use it.  When I don't recycle it, I reuse it and make it into something else. Remember the yarn covered letters I made earlier this month?  They began as a cardboard box.

for your love
just for kids
for the home
Have you upcycled cardboard recently?

Monday, December 26, 2011

New England Christmas {recap}

We enjoyed a quiet weekend at home for Christmas.  I have been behind on my decorating, but thought I'd share some photos of our place looking festive!  We also made a delicious, non-traditional Christmas dinner that turned out so well, I had to share the recipe.  If you like curry, it's must-try since it will also allow you to use your slow cooker ((one of my favorite kitchen appliances))...and it got me thinking, we should always use a slow cooker on Christmas!  It just makes life easier.

our mantle
candle light 
dinner for two ((recipe below))
Curried Chicken Stew over brown rice
((recipe adapted from Better Homes & Gardens December 2011))
-5 bone-in chicken thighs
-2 tsp olive oil
-6 carrots, cut into 2 inch chunks
-1 medium sweet onion, cut into wedges
-5 small white potatoes, cut into fourths
-1 13.5oz. can unsweetened coconut milk
-1/4 cup curry powder ((or less depending on how spicy you like it))
-chopped cilantro & golden raisins to garnish

-trim excess fat from chicken and cook in 12-inch skillet, skin-side down in hot olive oil for 8 min.  ((or until browned))
-remove from heat & drain to discard fat
-in 4 quart ((or larger)) slow cooker, combine carrots, potato and onion.
-whisk half can of coconut milk and curry powder, pour over carrots, potatoes and onion ((refrigerate remaining coconut milk))
-place chicken, skin side up on top of veggies, cover and cook on low for 7 hours
-remove chicken, skim off fat and stir in remaining coconut milk, allowing it to warm 20 min. or so.
-cook rice ((if desired))
-serve over cooked rice or with bread/naan and garnish with cilantro and raisins ((as desired))

eat, drink & be merry...

What did you eat for Christmas?

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Merry Christmas

I'm wishing I were here ((my dad's house)) for many reasons.  Despite the lack of snow in the Northeast, we will celebrate Christmas with worship, laughter and friends.  I wanted to share the beauty of fresh snow in the photo my dad sent earlier this week with you as you celebrate Christmas this weekend!

Today we will...
>>bake shortbread
>>go to church with friends
>>cook and have a feast with another couple

Tomorrow we will...
>>talk to family on the phone
>>spend a quiet day at home
>>prepare to travel in the week ahead

How are you spending your Christmas?

Friday, December 23, 2011

sponsorship + a quiz

I'm offering FREE sponsorship for the month of January to new sponsors, please email me to let me know you're interested.

((If you would like to continue to sponsor, please email me and I will give you details.))

...and I thought I'd share my answers to the Christmas quiz floating around blog world this week!  I saw it here first.
1. egg nog or hot chocolate?
for Christmas, I go with eggnog, but it's hot chocolate for the rest of the winter!
2. does Santa wrap presents or just sit them under the tree?
in my family, we always wrapped them ((unless it was too big and my mom would leave hints in the tree or a string leading to a closet...for my brother's new hockey stick or something)). Brandon and I wrap gifts for each other. 
3. multi-colored or white lights on tree/house?
4. do you hang mistletoe? 
5. when do you put up decorations?
I usually like to get the tree the first weekend of December.
6. what is your favorite holiday dish?
growing up, my family always had shrimp for Christmas Eve dinner and cream puffs for breakfast ((both are very special to me))
7. favorite holiday memory as a child.
when I was really young, I remember my mom used to surprise us with things when we were least expecting it. After Christmas eve service, she told us to go change into our jammies and then we'd read the Christmas Story and open a gift. She had put brand new pajamas on our closet hook. I was so surprised and loved having something new before I even opened any presents. 
8. when did you learn the truth about Santa?
I don't remember when I learned, but I do recall being scolded a bit by my mom because I told another little girl in Sunday School there was no Santa and her mom was not happy. I think my mom was more embarrassed than anything. 
9. do you open a gift on Christmas eve?
yes, growing up, we always got to open one gift on Christmas eve.
10. how do you decorate your Christmas tree?
I have been acquiring ornaments for years; my mom would buy us a new ornament every year while I was growing up so we'd have our own ornaments when we left home. I have a cabbage patch angel, care bear in a wreath, among other "old" ornaments I love to bring out. I have also added my own over the years, picking up meaningful pieces when I travel.
11. snow! love it or dread it? 
I love snow!
12. can you ice skate?
I think so, it's been at least ten years or so!
13. do you remember your favorite gift?
I remember being really excited when I got my first cabbage patch doll. I think I was four or five years old.
14. what's the most important thing about the holidays for you? 
I love going to church and singing Christmas carols, especially when it's a candle-lit service.
15. what is your favorite holiday dessert?
I love sugar cookies and Scottish shortbread
16. what is your favorite holiday tradition?
when we lived in Colorado ((up to age 10)), we'd always go to the Cadet Chapel at the US Air Force Academy for the Christmas eve service.  It's a beautiful building to begin with, and then the stained glass would glow when the candles were lit at the end of the service .  I always imagined it was a glimpse of heaven.
17. what tops your tree?
usually a star ((but we don't have a tree up this year))
18. which do you prefer: giving or receiving?
giving, I love to pick things out for my family and close friends.
19. candy canes. yucky or yummy?
yummy, but only in December.
20. favorite Christmas show?
Charlie Brown Christmas
21. saddest Christmas song?
I Wish I had a River ((Joni Mitchell))
22. favorite Christmas song?
O Come, O Come Emmanuel and Alleluia ((this year))

...and the winner of the December Sponsor Giveaway is:
Danielle of Sugar Blossom Boutique
email me and I'll get you in touch with the sponsors to claim your prizes, congrats!


Thursday, December 22, 2011

our love story {part 3}

((to get caught up, read part 1 and part 2))

Today, I have a special treat for you!  Brandon is going to share insights on our story, picking up where I last left off ((after our first date)).

Hello, the city readers. Beth asked me to write part 3 of the “Our Love Story” series. I’m happy to tell you today is the third anniversary of our first date. As much as I would like to say that her story so far has been biased, I don’t honestly think there’s anything I would change. So, on to the next episode.

“So, this is where you ask for my number,” she said to me. Admittedly not my finest moment. Standing on the platform in Park Street Station, two northbound trains had already passed.

“That’s a good idea,” was the only response I could muster in my embarrassment. We exchanged numbers, Beth boarded her train and headed home to Somerville.

The next day, I called Beth on my way home from work. I think I mostly wanted to prove that I could follow through after my poor performance the previous day. Not sure what to expect, I was pleasantly surprised when Beth invited me to get together one last time before she left town the next day for Christmas. Her roommate, Emily, and Emily’s boyfriend Anthony were there, so we could all hang out a bit. Needless to say, I accepted right away.
a Christmas tree shared with the roommates in 2009
Later in the week, Beth’s dad and brother were coming to the east coast from Colorado. Beth and I had talked quite a bit since our first date, and things were going well. I admit that it was a little early, but knowing that Beth’s dad and brother didn’t come to New England very often, I asked if I could meet them. Once again, pleasantly surprised, Beth agreed. A few days after Christmas, I met Beth’s dad and brother. The meeting was as awkward as you’re imagining it was.

We did find things to talk about: the Air Force (her dad is a retired officer and my brother serves now), hockey (her brother used to play and I know nothing about the sport, so he could teach me), ministry (her dad was interested in the work I had been doing and my future education). But, despite having a few topics in common, I was incredibly intimidated and I’m sure her dad wondered who in the world this kid was who had only dated his daughter for a week.
We took a tour of Fenway Park the same afternoon they met Brandon
With that encounter over, Beth and I could continue getting to know one another. I’m not ashamed to say that I knew very early on just how special Beth is and knew that this was a woman I could love (more on that later, if Beth lets me come back). By late Spring, I was certain that I wanted to marry Beth. We went to visit Beth’s grandmother in York, Pennsylvania in May, and it was while on a walk through a golf course near Granny’s house that I shared my intentions with Beth. I don’t think she was surprised, but I knew she wasn’t quite there yet. Still, I wouldn’t allow myself to be discouraged (clearly my persistence paid off).

There’s lots more to tell, and as much as I would love to share, I’ll let Beth pick it up from here.

Merry Christmas, everyone.


Wednesday, December 21, 2011

winter {to-do} list

Winter will officially be here tomorrow ((according to the calendar)).  In New England it hasn't felt like winter much.  We had some cold weather ((getting into the teens overnight last week)) but since we haven't see snow yet, it just doesn't feel like winter to me. Even so, I have no doubt winter will arrive around here and I've made a list...mostly the kinds of things I can tackle on a snow day ((fingers crossed)) but also to keep me motivated with some goals!

What do you hope to accomplish in the winter months?

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

tickle me tuesday {holiday party}

This Tuesday, I'm dreaming ((it is the week of Christmas after all)).  Working in higher ed, I don't get the opportunity to go to a dress up worthy Holiday Party.  But I've often dreamed of having one to go to ((maybe some day)).  I put this outfit together via Polyvore with some neutrals, black and red.  I especially love the lace tunic and red pumps!
Holiday Party
1 - (red open cardigan) Dorothy Perkins red top (Dorothy Perkins)
2 - (neutral tunic) Pin dress (ModCloth)
3 - (black skinny pants) Low pants (ModCloth)
4 - (neutral clutch) FOSSIL genuine leather wallet (Fossil)
5 - (red pumps) Miz Mooz vintage pumps (Nordstrom)

((I'm linking up with Sarah for Tickle Me Tuesday...check out the others linking up too))

Do you ever dream up outfits that aren't in your closet?

P.S. Have you entered the sponsor giveaway yet?!

Monday, December 19, 2011

sponsor giveaway {December}

Today, I have a treat for's time for this month's sponsor giveaway.

Angel @ Simply.Lovely.Things. is giving away not one but two pairs of earrings 
((one handmade and the other vintage-- see picture below))

Elizabeth @ The Young Retiree is giving away a $10 shop credit and offering a coupon for 15% off
((use code: DOTINTHECITY for 15% off your purchase all month))

How to enter:
Visit Simply.Lovely.Things. and The Young Retiree and 

tell me your favorite item from both shops in one comment below ((mandatory)).

For extra chances to win...
((leave a separate comment for each))
follow Angel, Elizabeth and me on Twitter ((one entry))
like Simply.Lovely.Things., The Young Retiree and the city on Facebook ((one entry))
heart Simply.Lovely.Things. and The Young Retiree on Etsy ((one entry))
tweet, blog or facebook this giveaway and leave the link ((up to three entries))

{tweet sample}
Don't miss the sponsor giveaway @dotinthecity to win earrings from @AngelDTaylor and shop credit from @theyoungretiree

The giveaway winners will be announced 
on Friday, December 23rd!
{all photos used by permission and provided by the shop owners}

Friday, December 16, 2011

instaFriday {Christmas is coming}

I haven't linked up for instaFriday in ages, but have been taking more photos on my phone ((thanks to downloading Path this week-- more on that soon))!  The days have been busy the work I do with college students ((managing the operations of the campus center)).  Today is the first day of finals, so the past week has been a mad dash to complete performance assessments, setup end of semester events and finally have our holiday celebration yesterday.

holiday baking & a cup of TJ's wintry blend ((I'm obsessed))
around the house
prepping for the Christmas program at church
random-- with the lack of snow around Boston ((and Seattle)) Erika and I both painted out nails this week to help get in the Holiday Spirit ;) and the mister made some fabulous chicken curry the other night...seriously, I don't deserve him!
life rearranged

Favorite posts of the past two week...
((gift giving inspiration)) 5 Tips for Christmas Gift Giving from MaieDae
((diy for the holiday season)) DIY Reindeer Artwork from The Real Housewives of Bucks County
((recipe on my to try list)) Curried Butternut Squash Fries from Healthy Food for Living
((cute gift wrap idea)) Mittens Ribbon Gift Wrap from Flamingo Toes
((new Twitter explained)) New, New Twitter and Higher Ed from Ed Cabellon ((applicable for those holiday conversations you'll have with family and friends you may want to tell about convince to use Twitter))

Happy Friday! What are your weekend plans?

Thursday, December 15, 2011

our love story {part 2}

((in case you missed part 1))

I remember walking home from the T ((subway)) after our group outing to the movie/cafe and thinking about what a fun evening I'd had.  I felt so blessed to have such fun people in my life and to call them friends after knowing each of them for just 4 months.  I also thought about how I was excited for the date I had the next day.  I felt like I was at the edge of possibilities. 2008 had already been a pretty great year.

The date to the museum was nothing short of disaster.  He had trouble finding it, was late and didn't know it's proper to use an "inside voice" while walking through a museum.  He even asked me why I was talking in an almost-whisper.  It was pretty painful and I'll just spare the details of our awkward dinner conversation inquisition since that's not the point.  When I finally got home, all I could think about was how I had had so much fun in a group setting with Brandon the night before.  I even told my roommate when she asked how the eHarmony date went.

As any 20-something would do in the 21st century, I turned on my computer and logged into Facebook, only to find a message from Brandon.  It was very brief and to the point.  He asked if I wanted to have lunch the next day. I couldn't believe it.  I showed it to my roommate, Jess, to make sure I wasn't dreaming.  She laughed and said, "I guess he had fun last night too."  I replied ((you can see the conversation below)).
of course I saved the convo!
While I knew him from church, from our community group that was an offshoot of the church, I had never actually seen him at church.  He went to the afternoon service and I went to a morning service and our paths didn't cross at church.  As soon as I got to church, I spotted him waiting for me. He sat next to me during the service.  I felt very awkward, not because he made me feel awkward, I just didn't know if we were actually going on a date.  All kinds of questions raced through my head. Were we about to go on a date?  Had he invited anyone else?  Did anyone else think it was odd to see Brandon in the 11 o'clock service today?

Following the service, one of the single women from our community group (CG) was trying to round up a group to go out for lunch.  This wasn't an uncommon occurrence, but the combination of her insistence and Brandon not offering one way or another was killing me.  Finally, we made our way out the doors and once we were on the street in the falling snow, Brandon asked if I had been to a place called the Globe Cafe.  I had never been before, but told him I trusted his pick since he was working in the restaurant industry and was the only real "foodie" I knew.
The snow was falling lightly and it being the weekend before Christmas, downtown Boston was bustling.  I don't remember much about the walk to the restaurant. I ordered butternut squash ravioli and thought Brandon asked a lot of questions of the waiter, yet wasn't obnoxious about it.  He also paid a lot of attention to me, asking thoughtful questions though not making it seem like an interview ((as the date the previous day had)).  After our lunch, he suggested we walk a bit.  By this time, the snow was getting heavier and more wet.  It wasn't the kind of softly falling pretty snow that's pleasant to walk in; it was downright messy.  A few blocks down we took refuge in Starbucks, continuing the conversation that came easily.
The most memorable part of our date came when we got to the T station.  We stood on a platform for trains going in and out of the city.  I was going one way and he was going the opposite.  I said 'thank you' for lunch and assured him I had enjoyed myself.  I took it a step further ((for me)) and wished him a Merry Christmas ((train 1 came into the station unloaded and departed)).  I even gave him a brief hug to make sure he knew I really meant the "Merry Christmas" comment  ((train #2 approached)) and I made a comment thinking He doesn't have my number. He really should ask for my number if this was in fact a date.  But he wasn't saying a thing.  He was smiling, but not talking or offering anything.  I heard train #3 in the distance.  The subway announcer confirmed it.  I wasn't going to let THREE trains pass me by.  So, I went for it ((not my typical style with men-- especially those I wanted to date)) and blurted out what I was thinking, "If you want my number, now is a good time to ask for it."  I looked down to see he was in the process of pulling his phone out of his pocket.  He smiled and said, "yeah, can I have your number?"  I gave it to him, and hurried on to the train waiting at the station.  I felt to terrible I didn't wait another minute to let him ask!

((to be continued next week...))