Friday, July 26, 2013

Anniversary 2.0

We celebrated two stellar years of marriage last week on the July 16th. Happy anniversary, handsome boy!

To celebrate in style, we decided to take a mini trip to Nashville (only 3 hours away) to relax and be goofballs together. After a bit of research, we booked a night at a bed & breakfast about 1 hour east of Nashville called the Inn at Evins Mill. We figured one nice, relaxing evening outside of Nashville would be awfully nice. We also booked a night at the Music City Sheraton in Nashville to enjoy some Nashville food and music for the evening. It ended up being a quick trip, but a lovely getaway from the usual.

We weren't exactly sure what to expect from the Inn at Evins Mill, but to say it was amazing is an understatement. Before arriving, we stopped at our favorite hot dog spot in Nashville, Cori's Dog House, for lunch (cuz, duh, who doesn't love a crazily topped hot dog?), then headed one more hour outside of the city to our little oasis in the woods.

The Inn at Evins Mill

When we pulled up and got out of the car, we felt an instant sense of peace. It was so scenic and beautiful there, as well as quiet and delightfully slow paced. The bed and breakfast was really more of a resort in the woods. There was running water nearby, so that was our lovely soundtrack for our stay, and all of the cabins and main buildings were so well kept and made of the most delicious smelling wood (can you describe wood as "delicious"?). We were shown to our room and then quickly decided to go for a hike on the easier of their two trails. Yes, they have their own trails!! And not like intense, only meant for the fittest of folks trails. They're fun, not-too-time-consuming, and adventurous trails. And it was just so darn peaceful!

See the waterfall in the background? More on that later...

Fording the river.

I loved these little steps carved out along the path. 

So much happy, and only day one!

When we returned from our hike, we changed into some snazzier clothes and decided to explore Evins Mill, the mill the resort is named for. Though I'm pretty sure it's not up and running anymore, back in the 1800s it was a fully functioning mill. Pretty neat. At some point, the inside of the mill was converted to a recreation space and a conference area. While we waited for dinner hour to arrive, John and I decided to play some ping pong in the rec area. 

The walk over to the mill. You can see it hiding in the trees in the background.

On the bridge, headed over to the mill.

Evins Mill!

Lots of friendly ping-pong competition between the two of us during our stay. Note the awesome feel of the room - we
loved all the wood surrounding us and the twinkly lights everywhere. This is the renovated inside of the old mill.

After I won several (not bragging, of course) games of ping-pong, it was about time for our 4-course meal, cooked on site. We headed back to the main lodge and were served the most delightful meal, along with the 10 or so other guests of the resort that evening. Ginger carrot soup, grapefruit salad with a poppy seed dressing, delicious beef tips with cheesy potatoes, and a lemon tart dessert with raspberries picked from the resort grounds and happy little candles to celebrate our anniversary... mmm mmm mmmmm! It couldn't have been any better.

Dessert! Have you ever seen such perfect raspberries?

Happy Anniversary!

With happy tummies, we returned to our room and exchanged anniversary gifts.

He loves them!

The next morning, we enjoyed the most wonderful buffet breakfast, then went for a hike on the slightly more challenging trail. Though there were some steep climbs and lots of icky spiders webs, we pushed on through for what we knew was going to be an amazing site - the Carmac Falls!

The hike.

The spider stick! He led the way and cleared out all spider webs for me. So kind of him. 

Steep climb. 

We made it!

I give you: Carmac Falls! 

Camera timers and rocks used as stands were the only way we both made it into a picture with the falls.

Yeah marriage!

See ya later, falls <3

We chilled by the falls for a while, then decided to head back to the room and pack up.

The porch outside our room.

Oops, should have straightened out the bed a bit more.

Pretty bathroom

We headed up to the main lodge to check out and they had a picnic lunch packed for us! We ate the picnic lunch on one of their many scenic porches, played another quick round of ping pong at the mill, then headed out for our next adventure... Nashville!

First stop, picking out some new glasses for John at Imogene + Willie, a super hip clothing shop in south-ish Nashville (I think?). He picked out a sweet pair of Warby Parker glasses that make him look "professorial," as he says.

What do you think?

Next, Jeni's Splendid Ice Creams! John got an ice cream maker for his birthday last year and we've made a few splendid ice creams from Jeni's ice cream recipe book. She's just so good at thinking of odd but amazing flavor combinations. We thought we'd never actually be able to try her ice cream in one of her ice cream shops, but when we discovered there was one in Nashville, we just had to go!

So splendid.

Cherry lambic sorbet, whisky and pecans ice cream, salty caramel,
a crumbly, salty topping called "gravel," hand whipped cream, with
a cherry on top - drooling!

With happy tummies, we checked into the Music City Sheraton hotel, took a much needed stuffed-belly nap, then got ourselves all snazzified and ready for a night out on the town. Well, actually, we only lasted a few hours out. Are we getting old or something? We had dinner at a great spot for an anniversary meal, Etch, and listened to some bluegrass music on Broadway at Layla's.

Love me some mandolin!

The next day, our actually anniversary, we spent a few more hours in Nashville doing a bunch of different fun activities around town, to include: hanging by the hotel pool, eating lunch at The Silly Goose, buying prints for our walls at the Hatch Show Print Shop (they still print their posters using an old fashioned printing press!), and exploring the Cheekwood Botanical Gardens & Mansion. Here are a bunch more photos of those adventures:

What to expect at the Silly Goose: menus on clipboards and bandana napkins

What to expect at the Silly Goose: AMAZING food, including this couscous dish

A print we picked out from Hatch Show

Another print we picked out at Hatch Show

At the Botanical Gardens! Notice the mansion and little orby lights in the background.
We weren't able to stay to see them lit, but the gardens were featuring several art/light
installations by artist Bruce Munro. The little orbs apparently lit up at night. The gardens
were covered with them, so I imagine it would have been an amazing sight!


Another installation by Bruce Munro. This one was in the Cheekwood Mansion.

We took a hike on the sculpture path.

Glass bridge.

We said farewell to Nashville and started our 3 hour trek home to Memphis. On the way, we decided we were still so full from all the amazing meals we had on our trip, we opted to stop by the fancy grocery story, Fresh Market, and just pick up some little side items to snack on by the pool for our anniversary dinner. It was perfect. They were even playing romantic jazz music at the pool that evening, which is totally not typical. (Usually it's Miley Cyrus or Maroon Five blaring from their pool speakers.) Must've been one of them little blessings from our friend upstairs.

Relaxed anniversary dinner, complete with candle, Sriracha, and handsome husband.

Basically, I couldn't have asked for a better trip. Also, I couldn't have asked for a better husband. Thanks for a great little trip, darlin'. And thanks for helping to show me that sometimes the in-betweens really aren't half bad :)

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

How I Met My Husband

A little over four years ago, I was living in St. Louis, MO as a full time volunteer with the Jesuit Volunteer Corps. This organization takes recent college grads from across the country and places them, for a year, in major US cities doing social justice work. When you are placed in your city, they put you up in a house with the other volunteers who have also been assigned there. Upon arriving in St. Louis, I met my four roomates, or community members: Mary, Alex, Justin, and Greg. They were all pretty neat. And once a week, we were asked to plan community nights, where we'd hang out and get to know more about each other. We took turns planning the nights and did things like bowling, playing board games, or working on art projects.

My St. Louis JVC Community: Alex, me, Greg, Justin, and Mary

One evening in mid-February, it was Justin's turn to plan the community night. He emailed all of us earlier in the day and said, "Surprise! We're all going speed dating!"

My insta-response (in my head) was, "WHAT?! Is that boy crazy?" I had only seen speed dating in the movies or on TV, and it was always portrayed as an extremely awkward thing. Why would I want to put myself through that?! I also had an assumption that it was only for the older crowd, as in, for folks who hadn't just graduated from college, like myself. What was he getting us all into?

Justin explained that it was for a good cause and that was why he had signed us all up in the first place. Ya see, it was being put on by the St. Vincent de Paul Society and all procedes from the night would benefit them. That made me feel a liiiittle bit better about it. Then, we also learned that the event had mostly been advertised to Catholics in their early twenties to early thirties. That made me feel even better. Maybe this night would be fun after all?

After dressing to impress, we all headed out to the event together. We arrived, walked into the room and...

I started freaking out! Ahhh! So many unknown people! So much schmoozing to be done! What if my outfit is lame? What if I have bad breath? What if I say something mega-awkward?! I knew this was a bad idea!!

My roommate, Mary, calmed me down a bit as we approached the sign-in table. We each received an individualized card that had the names of all of our dates on it, in order of the dates, as well as a name tag. 21 men's names were on my list. I was going to meet and date 21 men in one evening! Intimidating, right?

Since we had arrived a few minutes early, we killed some time by looking around the room at our "potentials," if you will. Of all the people there, the only one that stood out was a cute, tall and skinny, curly-haired, professionally dressed young man with precious nerdy glasses and handsome blue eyes. I noticed his name tag said "John" and quickly referred to my card of dates. He was near the bottom, so I knew I wouldn't be meeting him for a while, but I was happy to see he was on there. I made a mental note to be on my extra best behavior by the time my date with him came around, then nervously made my way over to my seat.

The coordinator of the event spent a few minutes going over the basics of the evening:

1.) Dates are 5 minutes long. Talk about whatever you want.
2.) When the bell rings, men move to their next date while women stay seated and wait for their next date to come to them. Classy!
3.) At the end of your date, next to your date's name, circle either YES or NO. If you circle YES, you are interested in another date. If you circle NO, you're not.
4.) Cards are collected at the end of the evening and processed by the coordinators of the event.
5.) If you get a mutual YES with someone on your list, the coordinators will send you that person's contact information. If you say YES and that person says NO (or the other way around), no contact information is exchanged.

And then she rang the bell. Dinnnnnng.

I was still nervous, but as the dates went on, the evening got easier and more fun. I definitely repeated myself a lot - "Hi, I'm Stephanie from Rhode Island. I'm living in St. Louis for the year as a volunteer. I teach science at an all-boys middle school for low income families. My favorite color is green. Tell me your story!" But overall, I had great fun meeting lots of new people and sharing plenty of good laughs.

By the time my date with John came around, I was a seasoned pro! And man, he was still looking cute by the time he got to my table. I found out he was a 4th year pediatric med student at St. Louis University about to match for his residency! He was intersted in residency in Cincinati, Houston, Philadelphia, Nashville... so many fun-sounding cities. He even asked me to help him rank his cities - a little bit intimidating, now that I think of it. Anyway, the date quickly wrapped up with another dinnnnnnng and I circled YES as soon as he left my table. Although it wasn't the best conversation of the night, I still thought he was cute and the perfect amount of nerdy. Did I mention that I lovvvve nerds? *swoon*

The next day, I found out I matched with him! He said YES to me! Yay! (And just in case you're curious, I matched with 6 other guys as well, though I never went on dates with any of them). I decided I wasn't going to email any of the guys. I wanted to be pursued! So I sat around, obsessively checked my email, and hoped they'd email me.

And they did! But I was obvi most excited when I received John's email. He asked me out to dinner or dessert or coffee or whatever I was most comfortable with. I decided on coffee/tea, since I wanted to go on a date I could easily back out of if things got weird. But things didn't get weird. It was a lovely first date (we don't consider speed dating our first date because we were sorta forced to date each other that night). I smiled so much, my cheeks hurt from smiling.

We stayed at the coffee/tea shop until it closed and swapped stories about life in general. We found we had so much in common - Catholicism, nerdiness, awesome families, taste in movies, etc. It just felt so good to find someone who lined up with me so perfectly! I even said to my mom a few days later, "I'm pretty sure I'm going to marry this man." :)

Looking back, it's so obvious that God had this plan for us all along. I would have never lived in St. Louis if it weren't for the volunteer program. And I would have never gone to speed dating if my roommate hadn't planned it. And John wouldn't have gone to speed dating if the Knights of Columbus (he was a knight in his college's chapter) hadn't sent him an email at the last minute begging the men to sign up for the event. (The speed dating event was very short on men a few days leading up to it.) That all had to be divine intervention. There's just no other way to explain it! So, thanks for that, God. You found me a good one!

Oh, and John later told me that at the beginning of the speed dating evening, he was surveying the room too and thought I was the cutest girl there. He also says that I caught him checking me out, but  I don't remember that at all. What a goof!

We just celebrated our 2nd wedding anniversary a few days ago. I have lots of great pictures to post from our little anniversary trip. They're coming up next. Until then, I leave you with some pictures of our dating years.

On our second official date - a night at the St. Louis Orchestra

St. Louis Arch!

A month after we started dating, John came home with me to RI for Easter.
He was able to meet my Pepere, who passed away later that year <3 

John's med school graduation! 

At a Cardinals game in St. Louis

Celebrating my birthday in Houston. His present to me - that dress!

Hahaha - little Johnny! Sorry, I couldn't resist. I love this pic.

Thursday, July 11, 2013

A Day in the Life

So, what does a Stephanie do on a daily basis? Since most of you either know me from a Catholic IF facebook group or in real life but live far away, I figured I'd give you a little snap shot of my life here in Memphis to help you relate to my story as this blog thing continues.

My husband and I live in a sweet little apartment outside of Memphis. It's very pretty. And hardly clean. But always "30 minutes to clean," as I like to say. So if you ever want to visit, we'll just need a 30-minute heads up, thank you very much.

The kitchen and dining area, complete with cooking husband.

I'm a late riser, so most days, I get up around 9am. I was not always so lucky to live a life of such luxury (teachers get up before the crack of dawn, eww). But now I have the best hours evarrr, so I'm allowed to snooze a little extra. I report to work at noon on the dot every day and wrap up around 4:30pm. This lady is NOT complaining 'bout that.

At work, I dibble dabble in random stuff that needs to get done. I send emails, lots of emails, to my youth group and their parentals. I coordinate outings (bowling and laser tag and snow cones, oh my!), and weekly meetings and plan big service trips. I also work hand-in-hand with some of the other cool ministries at our parish - the middle school youth group, the PRE program (aka CCD, at least when I was a youngin'), etc.

My youth groupies on a service trip.

When projects slow down, I try to learn a little more about my Catholic faith while at work. For example, I'm currently working my way through Pope Francis's recent encyclical, Lumen Fidei... which is pretty enlightening (bahaha! cheesy pun!). I'm also working my way through the Youcat (an easier-to-read youth version of the Catechism of the Catholic Church), so that's neat. AND, when I've reeeeeally got nothing to do, I find hilarious Catholic Memes on facebook and post them to my youth group's facebook page. Cause I'm cool. And I'm trying to convince the teens I'm funny. And that people can be funny, cool, and Catholic all in one. It's a hard sell, but I think I'm slowly making progress :P

A silly from Catholic Memes

When I'm done with work, I like to Jazzercise, but only about twice a week. I've tried a bajillion different forms of exercise (step class, ellipticals, jogging, bikes, body pump), but find that my favorite is exercise that involves some sort of spastic dancing. Zumba is another one of my faves. If I've gotta do this thing that's good for my heart, I might as well shake my bon-bons while I'm at it. It's fun stuff and it (mostly) passes the time quickly.

During the hours and days that I'm not working or Jazzercising, I mostly enjoy being lazy or adventuring with the husband. However, this only works when he's not working. Ya see, his schedule is a bit non-tradish. He's a pediatric hospitalist and he works 7 days on, then 7 days off. When he's on, he's gone. He leaves the apartment by 6am and doesn't return 'til 8 or 9pm. He'll get home, kick off his shoes, eat the delicious meal I've prepared for him, then go to bed to do it all again the next morning. It's not my favorite, BUT I do love it when he has 7 days off.

About to head out for his first day of work!

Hanging out by the pool, trying new recipes, eating our way around Memphis, catching up with friends, jamming out on ukulele and guitar, clothes shopping, watching movies... these are the types of adventures we like to have when he's not working. And they're usually pretty darn great.

I'd say our favorite recipes to cook are usually tacos. Any kinds of tacos. Ok, but mostly fish tacos.

More like taco EVERYDAY

Taco date in the park. We're serious.

When it comes to finding new places to eat out, I obsess over Yelp and restaurants' websites and find places with mostly positive reviews and interesting menus. Sometimes, while we're out to eat trying a new place, I'll spend more time on Yelp finding another place to eat for the future or I'll find a restaurant that would have been better than the place we're currently eating. I know, it's silly. But it's me! Some of our fave cuisines include: Greek, Ethiopian, fancy pizza, fancy hot dogs, authentic Mexican (I mean, we did live in Houston for 3 years), sushi, and any kind of fro-yo, duh.

Trying adult beverages in a fruit? Sure, why not?

Clothes shopping happens when there's a sale at J. Crew. We. cannot. resist.

Movies are usually rom-coms or nerdy action movies (Star Wars, LOTR, Harry Potter, Back to the Future, etc.). I know what you're thinking... she likes the rom-coms, he likes the nerdy action movies. Well, you'd be kinda wrong if you thought that. We both like both equally. Cute, right? Oh, and we love animated movies too, specifically Pixar movies. But who doesn't love Wall-E and Buzz Lightyear and Ratatoullie? Amiright?

We also get addicted to TV shows, even though we don't have cable. We watch 'em after the fact on Netflix or Hulu. Shows we love include Friday Night Lights, Arrested Development, and Downton Abbey.

Oh, and we also spend a lot of time thinking and talking about being parents. Truth. Obviously there's a  bunch of medical stuff going on, now that we're working with a NaPro doctor, so we discuss that a bit. We also talk about adoption. And all the other "what-ifs" that come with infertility.

For the most part, we're just two kiddos in love, out in the world, trying to make the best of things while we wait for God to help us make the next step happen. As my husband likes to point out, we've got to be joyful with our lives in the in-betweens. We can't just live our lives mostly being excited about the next big step (finishing college, getting engaged, getting married, going on trips, having babes). We've got to find a lot of love doing the little things. So that's what I'm working on. Finding love in movie dates and new foods at new restaurants and being a Youth Minister and holding hands at the park.

Don't mind us, just being reeeeal cheesy.

What do you do in your in-betweens that makes life worth it?

Up next... the story of how John & Steph met and were married. Stay tuned.


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