Monday, June 30, 2014

Little Happies -- A Little Bit of NYC + Other Stuff and Things

Last week was filled with lots of travel, adventuring, eating, and New York City stuffs. Per usual, I'll write a full recap post with all the deets from our great trip a little later this week. As for today's Little Happies post, I give you a list of random happy stuff that came out of my brain this morning.

And as for whether or not we keep doing this Little Happies thing weekly... I say "let's"! Let's do it. We'll keep up with it weekly for now, but possibly switch it up in the future if necessary. Sounds good to me!


The show Nashville is one of my guilty pleasures. It's way too dramatic, over the top, crazy pants at times, but I still love it. And I especially love the music. This tune was from one of the last episodes in the first season. I love the harmonies and think it's heartbreakingly beautiful. Hayden Panettiere performed it on the show (her voice is just "meh"), but here we have the two ladies who wrote the song giving it their all. Listening to it gives me goosies every time.


We bought a Wii (U)!

Our 3rd anniversary is coming up and we thought the Wii U was the perfect shared anniversary gift. It'll encourage more play time together and will make us feel like kids again. It's nice to let go of your worries for a while while working together to beat the computer in a race around Rainbow Road, no?

The four games we've gotten so far are: Mario Kart 8, Super Mario Bros U, Super Luigi U, and Zelda.  What games would you recommend?


I cantored a wedding!

Yikes, I still feel the nerves just thinking about it. I was a bundle of stress leading up to it, especially knowing that I had to perform Schubert's "Ave Maria," a piece I've never tackled before. Bah! It was scary. But I did it. And I was kindly complimented by a handful of nice people after. AND I got some extra money in the bank. I may be able to find the courage to do it again sometime. :)


Ok, so these are kinda opposite Happies, but I'm going for it.

First, going off my (anti-inflammatory) diet to eat yummy things I haven't had in a while. When in NYC, I just had to eat bread and bagels and fresh mozzarella cheese. So I did. And it was glorious. That moment when you bite into the forbidden good stuff is just pure bliss.

And then, when I get back to normal life after taking a trip and get back on the wagon, eating only the stuff I'm suppose to, I feel strong, like a dieting wonder woman. Fresh fruit smoothies, here I come!


A happy little secret for you:

We learned while flying last week that you can, in fact, bring little bottles of liquor through security and onto the plane with you and no one will stop you or make you throw away your alcohol. So we brought some Maker's Mark and Amaretto Vodka along with us and added it to our complimentary beverages. It was way cheaper than the airline bottles of alchy and it put us at ease while we should have been stressing out about whether we'd make our connection (... we didn't, but that's a story for another time).

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Interview with a Husband

While we're away in NYC for the week, I figured it'd be fun to steal a blog post out of Kendra's book and copy her "getting to know the family" interview series. Since our family is just me and John, you only get one, but I promise it's pretty good...

King of tacos.

State your name.
John William.

Ok, I hear you're named for that American composer who wrote that epic music for Star Wars. Are the rumors true?
I would say it was more like he was named for me, retroactively in time and space. 

Walking his parents' dog, Cholmondeley (Chum-lee).

Alrighty then, let's continue with nicknames. Do you have any?
The Bear.

And this nickname comes from?
It comes from your youth group. We were doing a "sharing is caring" activity and we were talking about what our spirit animals would be. I said that clearly my spirit animal is a bear because, well, reasons.

Facial hair. Love of berries.


You do have a lot of hair. What's up with that?
I gotta grow it out while it still grows, man. I don't wanna look back on my life and say, "I wish I had grown my hair out, just one time." I can cross that off the bucket list now.

Do you like your job?
Yeah, I really like my job. Like anything, there are ups and downs and good things and bad things. But it's mostly like being a camp counselor at a camp where all the kids have serious infections.

Doctor, doctor, give me the news!

Tell us a little more about what it's like to care for sick kiddos in a hospital.
You know, a large part of it is remembering that the baseline state of all parents is that of intense paralyzing fear for the well-being of their children. A little bit of sensitivity to that and compassion for that goes a long way. And the ability to provide that makes it kind of all worth it.

What's your favorite meal to come home to after a long day of work?
Ice cream.

Is that really what you want to say?
No, I would love to compliment your cooking. You do make some killer mac and cheese.

Memphis BBQ & banana puddin'

Do you read my blog?
I do.

And what do you think? 
Well, it's got a spot on my favorites screen on my web browser on my phone. And I think it's beautiful and wonderful and funny. But then again, I'm biased.

He was a sk8er boi...

If you had your own blog, what would it be called?
Be Excellent to Each Other

And what would it be about?
Exploring societal themes through interpretive dance. *Giggles a little.*

No, but what would it really be about?
Well, they always say write about what you know, right? So, it'd be about how awesome my wife is, video games, puns, bears, and exploring societal themes through interpretive dance.

Playing a round of Agricola.

*Rolls eyes.* How about you tell us about some of your less-than-usual interests.
I don't know about less-than-usual, but we love to play board games and I'm pretty sure everything I like is awesome. So, I don't know what's unusual about it.

Ok, but are you maybe not telling us about a little fashion obsession you've had as of late?
There may be a small amount of style obsession. I like being well put together and men's clothing is kinda different from women's clothing. You can kinda get a whole wardrobe together without too many pieces and then play mix and match 'cause most things go with each other, come up with fun combinations. So, it's fun trying to find a good deal on nice, high-quality things that'll last a long time.

The fashionisto hanging out in the snow.

So, what you're really telling us is you're good at shopping the J. Crew sales rack and skimming through GQ for fashion inspiration?
I don't know if I'd say I'm good at it, but I enjoy it.

Cool. A man who doesn't mind clothes shopping. I kinda like that. Have I told you yet that I kinda like that?
You have!

Let me serenade you...

Good! Let's move on. Let's say you have an hour of free time and you're not feeling like you need a nap. What do you do?
Well, probably play some Spelunky [translation: nerdy video game] or work on learning some more Lua, a programming language, or do a little working out, or if it's warm enough, bask like a lizard beside the swimming pool.

Who's on your dream dinner party guest list?
Pope Francis, Bob Marley, Indiana Jones, Sir Patrick Stewart, the queen of England, Doctor Who (take your pick on which one), and a circus bear. That's a dinner party.

And if you could go anywhere in the world right now, where would that be?
Somewhere with Caribbean blue waters and white sand beaches. Bahamas today, tomorrow... who knows!

Aruba honeymoon

Tell us how you're feeling about your future adoption right now.
Feelings on this subject are always very complex. There are a whole lot of different emotions all bundled together. There's fear and anxiety and sadness over infertility and the loss of that possibility mixed in with hope and happiness and joy at the idea. It's kind of a big tangled mess. Complicated question.

We built a crib!

Woah, that got heavy. Anything else you'd like to tell us?
I don't know if you can tell from the blog, but my wife is awesome. You could probably tell.

Ok, now this time without all the cheese...
You know, it's all cheese. That's all I got. Thanks for reading!

Rockin' at the role of husband since July 2011.

Monday, June 23, 2014

Little Happies -- Is the Pope Catholic?

Hi, fraaands! And welcome back to the happiest little link-up there ever was. :P

I has a thought. 

While I love, love, LOVE reading all your Little Happies each week (like, seriously, LOVE), I was wondering how all of you Little Happiers felt about doing the link-up only once a month... ? Not that we don't have things to be happy and grateful for every week, but I'm thinking spacing them out a bit would just cause Little Happies posts to be even more of an explosion of happy, since you'll be saving them up all month. And it'll make it easier to participate, since you won't be scrambling to put a post together each week.

I really want your honest thoughts here, folks! So shoot me a comment and let me know what you think. While we're sorting this out, let's still plan to do a Little Happies link-up next week. Thanks in advance for your input! 

Now, on to the good stuff...


A board game called Is the Pope Catholic!?! The Catholic Nostalgia Game.

A kind older parishioner donated the game to our youth group, so obviously that meant I had to try it out first before letting the teens play it.

You know it's going to be good when the introduction reads:
This game is dedicated to the "survivors" of the Catholic Church and the Catholic educational system which existed prior to and shortly after Vatican II. This game offers practicing Catholics, "fallen away Catholics," and those Catholics somwehere in between, the opportunity to re-experience those "golden years" of pagan babies, May Crowining processions, sin, Saturday afternoon confessions, meatless Fridays, sin, Baltimore Catechisms, ruler-battered knuckles, and sin... all of which led us to become "soldiers of Christ and heirs of heaven." Although the stated goal of this game is to become the "Pope," the underlying purpose is to look back, resurrect a memory or two, and perhaps find some humor and healing for that period in our lives.
I kid you not, that's the premise of the game. Crazy hilarious, right? 

Even better, there are sin cards that cause you to lose a turn or go back several spaces and grace cards that gain you advantages. You have to read one for yourself to believe it.

This game is the bees knees. It had me in stitches last week as I played it with my friend and fellow youth minister, Jeff. 

And for the low low price of $50 ('cause apparently it's a collectable now), you too can be the owner of this ridiculously perfect Catholic nerd game.



Two words: Oprah Chai.

But not that sissy stuff they make at Starbucks. No, you MUST buy a few ounces of the loose leaf version at Teavana and make an extra strong brew for yourself. If you like spice, especially cinnamon, you'll love this liquid treat!


TWINS! No, just kidding. Just me and me again.

I'm pretty sure a major headband obsession has just kicked in. I bought those two beauties above at Francesca's last week and I just ordered two even cuter ones from Monroe & Harlow a few days ago. A fun, easy, and affordable accessory -- what's not to like? :)


Have you ever snuggled under a Vera Bradley throw blanket before? Oh my goodness, they're the softest, cuddliest fleece blankets you'll ever own. I bought my second one last week as a treat for making it through my youth ministry mission trip and have been laying under it ever since. 

I know they're a little pricey, but here's my expert tip: click on the "sale colors" tab and pick your favorite from there. It knocks off $20 and makes it much more affordable. I know, $30 is still a bit steep for a fleece blanket, but you just have to touch it to believe it: it's waaay worth it. And who doesn't love a cute Vera Bradley pattern? They make great gifts too! Just go for it. 


I bought it a few weeks ago and have rocked it several times since. It's plain, but oh-so-flattering. The material is heavy enough to feel sturdy but light enough to wear all summer long. 

Even better news: it's currently on sale! Plus, Old Navy is running an online only 20% off sale until Wednesday, so if you like it, I say go for it! It'll look cute on you.

Oh, just a side note -- you may be tempted by the other cute colors, but from all the reviews I read, apparently the colorful ones show every bump and jiggle and imperfection. So stick to the black, unless you don't care about that stuff. And to that I say, more power to ya! ;)


That's all for this week. John and I are headed off to NYC tonight for a little vacation before my vacation time resets. We'll spend the week chillin' with his aunt and uncle, seeing several shows (including Once on Broadway!), probably eating too much, and just enjoying some free time as tourists. I've got a scheduled post coming your way on Thursday, but other than that, things will likely be quiet from me for the next week.

Catch you all on the flip side.

Have a lovely week, loves!

Saturday, June 21, 2014

The Anti-Inflammatory Diet: What I Ate, Part 1

I'm just a girl trying to master the Anti-Inflammatory diet. I am not an expert. I don't always know what I'm doing (examples ahead), but I'm really trying! And have been trying since last December. 

It's been a slow learning process, folks.

What I know about the Anti-Inflammatory Diet is all based on this special food pyramid from Dr. Weil:

So I try to eat lots of fresh veggies and fruits, nuts, healthy fats, fish, and beans; limit chicken, dairy, flour, sugar, and soy to only a few servings a week; avoid processed crap, peanut butter, and fatty meats. I could be a little off in my interpretation, but that's what I've been aiming for. 

I'm finally feeling like I have the hang of things, sorta, so I thought it'd be fun to start a Things I Ate Today on the Anti-Inflamm Diet series. Don't worry, I'm not going to do this often. I don't want to spam you with diet food porn. No, no. But I think it'll be fun to chat about how I think I'm doing and how you think I'm doing every once in a while. 

Plus, maybe I'll inspire someone who's on the fence about the Anti-Inflamm Diet to give it a try. I sure needed inspiration when I started. I bet something like this would have helped. It's really not as bad as I thought it would be, especially now that I have the hang of it. And it has me feeling much healthier these days, plus it's supposed to help with some of the infertility stuff. Win!

Here's what I ate last Wednesday. And yes, I ended up making healthier choices because I knew you'd all see it later. Thanks for that. :)

Water, water, water all day long.

Whole wheat waffle with almond butter and a drizzle of honey

Deviled eggs (leftover from a work birthday party the previous day)

The biggest, colorfulest serving of fruit salad you ever did see: blueberries, strawberries, oranges, grapes, kiwis

I ate waaaaay too light a lunch to make it to dinner without snacking. So the list of snacks was long this day. I often enjoy a lunch that's comprised of a bunch of (healthy) snacks that I spread out through the afternoon. But that wasn't my plan this day. I was going to try to make it through with that giant fruit salad. Doy. That didn't work. So instead, I hyper-snacked...

2 pickles

Handfuls of smokehouse almonds (They taste like bacon! But I later found out they have lots of icky preservatives in them. Should have read the label first. Boo.)

More deviled eggs
A big slice of watermelon


Green beans tossed in olive oil and salt, baked in the oven
Spinach salad with strawberries, scallions, and walnuts + sweet vinegar and olive oil dressing

Well, there you have it! I'm feeling all sorts of vulnerable right now sharing this stuff with you! Eee! Daily food intake feels kinda personal and private, ya know? But I think it'll be worth to share. Especially if you can help me make positive changes for the future. :)

How do you think I did?

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Holy Toledo!

Welcome to the story of my week at a Catholic mission camp.

We call it Catholic HEART Workcamp (CHWC) and it's full of, you know... HEART and warm fuzzies and Jesus talk and serving others. That sorta stuff.

Last year, my youth group attended CHWC in Atlanta. It was already planned when I stepped into my role as youth minister, so I just went along with it and it ended up being a fantastic experience.

Fast forward to late 2013. It was time to start planning our next summer mission trip and I felt we just had to return to CHWC. So I took a look at their handy website, read the list of cities and dates, and immediately fell in love with the idea of going to CHWC in Toledo, OH.

I know, I know, so random, right? But hear me out: I was trying to attract teens to our summer mission trip. We only brought 9 teens with us the previous summer, so I was looking to at least double that number. I mean, I work in a pretty big parish. Surely there are more than 9 teens out there who want to fill a week of their summer with service, no? Well, maybe not. Service can sometimes be "lame" and "uncool" from a teen's perspective. But I figured if I had something else to draw them there, I'd have kids signing up like there was no tomorrow. And then they'd fall in love with CHWC and want to go back every year.

So, that's why I decided on Toledo. Because, do you happen to know what's practically right next door to Toledo, OH?

Lemme esplain...

CEDAR POINT!!! AKA the roller coaster capital of the world. They have roller coasters out the wazoo! How many, you wonder? SEVENTEEN! That's a lotta coaster.

And as God would have it, that's the same number of teens who signed up for our trip this summer. Not exactly double last summer, but pretty darn close.

So off we went! We departed at 12am bright and early on Sunday morning and arrived in Toledo later that day around 2pm. Phew! 14 hours on a bus (including stops for bfast and lunch) was... exactly what you'd think. Long and a little uncomfortable and filled with movies upon movies.

Sidenote -- Did you know our Bishops rate basically every movie in existance? At first I told the teens we could watch G or PG movies (none of this PG-13 voilence or sex or foul language nonsense), but then decided to teach them a little about our Bishop's rating system by requiring that all movies be A-I or A-II as rated by the Bishops. Cool teachable Catholic moment right there.

From here on out, I'm just going to picture dump if you don't mind. It's definitely the best way to recap the week. I'll throw in some stories too.

Oh, please excuse the "meh" photo quality. I brought my nice camera along, but realized as soon as we arrived that I forgot the SD card at home. Oops. Thank goodness phones take decent pics these days.

Let's start with a pic of the whole crew.

Those shirts say "Holy Toledo!" because obviously I can't help myself when it comes to a good pun.

After that long trip on the bus, I say we don't look half bad. Can you spot Steph & John?

My work for the week was at a neighborhood outreach center running their Vacation Bible School. Along with one other adult chaperon and 6 teens (plus lots of adult helpers who work for the outreach center), we worked approx. 6 grueling hours a day playing with adorable kids. It was tough, I tell ya. But actually, I'm completely kidding. Look how cute they are:

That was the day one of them came up to me and said, "Let's play hair salon! I wanna do your hair!" And so we did. And then all the other CHWC girls in my group volunteered their hair for up-dos. We got braids and buns and barrettes. It was just stinkin' adorable.

My primary job at their Egypt themed Vacation Bible School was teaching the songs (with dance moves) to all the littles. They were nervous and shy that first day, barely participating, but by the last day of our week, they were screaming along, dancing their tails off, grinning ear to ear. I don't even care that all the cheesy songs are still stuck in my head. Worth it!

We also had other jobs, like chaperoning the kids on a trip to the art museum, face painting, acting out scenes from the story of Joseph (you know, the guy with that amazing dream coat), picking (and eating) strawberries from the community garden, and playing with worms in a compost bin.

Overall, it was a fantastic week of service. When you arrive at CHWC, they almost immediately split all the youth groups into several different work groups. Most work groups renovate houses, paint, garden, clean stuff. So, I'm pretty sure my group got the best work assignment ever. Kids are so cute.

Our work group even got a chance to see the inside of an abandoned Catholic church. It's right next door to the outreach center we worked for. It seems like they kinda still keep tabs on it, but clearly don't do much upkeep. It was a little eerie and extremely beautiful.

After our long, strenuous days of work ;), CHWC runs evening programs for the campers. It involves lots of silly activities, skits, prayer time, witness talks, live music, and other great stuff.

One night, my husband got called up on stage and the camp staff dressed him as a woman. Here you see him twirling his fake orange hair.

He tells me he picked that specific wig so he'd look like me. Thanks, dear. Now I know what our bio kids would look like. But hopefully not. :P

The most spiritual evening of the week includes a powerful prayer service called Four Corners. Adult leaders hang around the gym with candles to chat with teens about anything heavy on their hearts and then pray over them. Teens can also write positive messages or prayers on a large white banner, hung for all the see the next day. And lots of priests from the nearby churches come in to hear confessions, all of which are needed because that confession line gets long! (Praise God!) Often teens share some deep stuff with the adults and priests and overall there are lots of tissues needed, if you catch my drift. It's really a beautiful thing.

On the last evening, there's always a light show. This year, everyone got to wear these neat light-up gloves and we moved our arms in unison to the instructions on the big screen. It was really cool to see.

And then we had a free day!!

Off we went to Cedar Point. Our group is pretty adorable, don't ya think?

Us chaperones stuck together and headed straight for one of the tallest coasters in the park, Millenium Force. Over 300 feet tall, speeds up to 93 mph. There it is behind us. It was a doozy!

I have always loved roller coasters. In fact, one of my ulterior motives for choosing Toledo was so that I could cross a trip to Cedar Point off my bucket list. (Shhh, don't tell the teens.) But after riding one after another after another, I have to be honest... they kinda hurt! Is that just what happens as you get older? Are my coaster loving days drawing to an end? Is this real life?

We probably rode about 10 roller coasters that day and never waited more than 30 minutes. I was worried our waits would be much longer, as a google search before the trip told me wait time at Cedar Point can be up to 3 or 4 hours for the big coasters. Yikes! Lucky for us, it rained just a teeny bit as we were arriving, so I think that scared some folks away. Plus, apparently school's still in session up there, so that helped too.

The coaster you're about to see is the tallest in the park. The Top Thrill Dragster. 420 feet tall, fires you off at 120 mph (AHH! ONE HUNDRED AND TWENTY MPH!!), over in 17 seconds.

We didn't ride it. I was too scared.

But I did eat this delicious turkey leg...

I bought the last one on the grill, ate about 1/2 of it, and made a complete mess of myself. 

Don't judge.

Our last coaster was the Gate Keeper. And then we posed for a cute pic near its entrance.

After gathering the troops, we headed back to camp headquarters, about 1 hour away, and slept a little bit, then woke mega early to start the long trek back to Memphis. Another 14 hours on the bus, lots of kids movies (Brave and Up and Frozen), fast food meals, and passing out in awkward positions.

We made it back, parents in the church parking lot excited to greet us, and life was good. A successful summer mission trip under my belt and this youth minister was ready for a nap. Nay, several naps.

Monday, June 16, 2014

Little Happies -- A Mission Trip Snippet & Johnny's Day

I'm baaaaack!

John and I spent the last week on a mission trip in Toledo, OH with over 300 Catholics from all around the midwest. The week was wonderful! Sure, there were some hiccups here and there, but for the most part, I'm smiling. 

I'm going to keep this Little Happies post short because most of my Happies last week were Big ones. Don't worry, you'll hear about them soon in my trip recap post, to come later this week. Until then...


My service for the week was at a neighborhood outreach center run by one awesome whippersnapper of a nun. My group spent the week helping with the center's Vacation Bible School for the K thru 8th graders in the neighborhood. Of course there was lots of recess time in the mix. And of course the kiddos LOVED the swings. The teen helpers in our group were pro swing pushers by the end of the week.

I decided to snap a few pics of the fun in action and caught this gem. Look at those little piggies! And her adorable smiling face! I look at this and still feel the joy of the moment.


When we got back from our trip, we celebrated Johnny's Day (in place of Father's Day)! I surprised him with Cosmic Encounter, a board game he's been eyeing for some time now, and promised that I'd play it with him, even though it seems quite nerdy. Unfortunately, it requires 3 players minimum, but fortunately, we're not above playing with a stuffed animal as player number 3.


Speaking of Johnny's Day... 

Earlier in the day, we got a call from one of John's good friends, Reuss, (a groomsman in our wedding). He told that he was at the airport on his way to Memphis for a business trip this week. We made plans to hang out later in the week and sorta left it at that. 

For dinner, John requested Pyro's Pizza, so we made that happen. As we're sitting down to eat on their storefront patio, who does John see walk by (out of the corner of his eye) but Reuss! SO RANDOM!  We didn't even know where he was staying, but it turns out it was only a block over from Pyro's Pizza. And he just so happened to be walking over to find somewhere to eat dinner as we were eating ours. A most wonderful coincidence! 

We spent the rest of the night catching up with our good friend, smiles on our faces and delicious pizza in our tummies. A Happy evening indeed.

Have a great week, friends!

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