Wednesday, February 29, 2012

In Review: February

Since it’s the last day of February and I’m trying to do anything to distract from the fact that we still haven’t heard about Jonathan’s job change, I figured I would briefly review my accomplishments for the month of February.
Travels: Ski trip to Breckenridge Colorado.
Recipes: Two new easy and scrumptious recipes have been added to my arsenal: Greek Pastitsio Casserole and Chicken Tortilla Soup.
Reading: I read 3.5 books this month: The Girls from Ames, The Paris Wife, and Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children. I’m  currently stuck halfway through Swamplandia! By Karen Russel and I just can’t seem to get hooked. I’ll give it a few more days before giving up, but if I’m still not intrigued, I will move on to March’s reading list of Cutting for Stone by Abraham Verghese and Beach Music by Pat Conroy .
Writing: As for my writing goal of 20,000 words per month, that’s been a pretty colossal failure. I have been writing a blog post every weekday which has helped my word count and my blog, but being as though blog posts average about 400 words per post, this doesn’t keep me on track for such a lofty goal. Plus, it reminds me every day that my life is not that interesting and I have the feeling the continuing to blog at this rate is a bit of a stretch. I don’t know how long I can keep it up, especially since I’m running up against a particularly nasty case of writer’s block.
Once I shake off my funk and start working on some short story/novel/essay ideas I have, I think 20,000 words per month might be more realistic. I just don’t want to start in my current uninspired state of mind. That’s my excuse this week anyhow.  With twelve hours left in the month, I’ve currently written in the ball park of 13,000 words. All in all, I’d call it a pretty good month.

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Travel Tip: Where not to take a honeymoon

A tip to all you engaged couples out there: When planning your honeymoon, cross off any locations which require you to take malaria prevention pills. First off, these are generally anti-biotics and therefore render birth control ineffective.

Not that we needed additional birth control measures during our stay in the Peruvian Amazon. Nope, our complete lack of privacy was deterrent enough. Now I’ve posted pictures before of our hut in the Reserva Amazonica which was splendid.
What the pictures didn’t show you is that the detached huts were placed about 4 feet from each other and rather than walls, only had screens and mosquito nets separating us from the couple staying next to us. While the ‘walls’ did little to protect our visual privacy, they did even less to protect sound.

I’ve always been very modest and the idea of anyone seeing or hearing any honeymoon business from our hut was appalling. Not to mention that the couple staying next to us were a pair of loud talking lesbians who also weren’t enjoying honeymoon festivities. I know this because one of them was on their period. I know this because she liked to talk about it. Loudly. It was quite the mood killer.
You know what else was a mood killer? The Amazon. Nothing screams romance quite like stinky birds, bats, tarantulas, giant slugs, and boa constrictors.
To top off the whole experience, I ended up with a parasite which kept on ruining the mood well after the honeymoon was over. So to all you engaged couples, please trust me on this one: If it requires malarial prevention, just say no.
(As a side note: Our trip to Peru was a fabulous once in a lifetime experience. I don’t regret going. I just regret going for my honeymoon. I'm sure Jonathan would agree with me on this one.)

Monday, February 27, 2012

The Draft

This is the big week. This week is Jon’s company’s version of the draft, and he is a free agent. Today the big wigs at Jon’s company will meet in Seattle to discuss the futures of 400 + employees scheduled for a job change this spring. We could know our fate as early as today or by Wednesday night at the latest.

While I’ve been trying to prepare myself for all of the best and worst case scenarios, there is one location I haven’t really prepared myself for: staying in Houston. When the option got tossed around last week, I was caught a bit off guard. Since I’ve done the appropriate research on our other options, I thought I’d take a minute to reflect on some things I love about this sprawling city.

-Nearness to friends and family. My brother lives exactly 1 mile away and we are only about an hour from my parents Lake House in Montgomery. It’s about a 3 hour drive to Lafayette, 4 to B.R. and 5 to New Orleans.
-Renaissance Festival.
-World Class Shopping- Houston (ranks number one in the USA).
-Mega-International Airport with tons of direct flights.
-Great Museums for Art and Natural History.
-Mouth Watering food: just a few of my favorites are Barnaby’s, Brown Bag Deli, Broken Spoke, and if we’re feeling really fancy, Mark’s.
-Houston Restaurant Week which features great prices for 3 course meals at several of the best spots in town.
-Old Town Spring.
-The Historic Heights including events such as Heights Holiday Home Tour and Lights in the Heights. Other things I love about the Heights specifically: The Heights hike and bike trail, 19th street shopping, St. Arnold’s Pub Crawls.
-The Houston Rodeo.
-Nutcracker Market.
-Astros games (particularly vs. Cardinals).
-River Oaks Theater.
-Amazing groupon deals.
-Feeding the giraffes at the Houston Zoo.
-Memorial Park Aboretum.
-The Woodlands Mall and Pavilion.
-Great health care options which means never waiting more than 2 weeks for a Doctor’s appointment. It’d be a nice place to have a baby.
-Humidity. And for all you humidity haters out there- live in West Texas for a few years and you will never complain about humidity again. It's a blessing.
-Huge LSU fanbase.
-Dog-friendly bars.
-Our church, Ecclesia.
-Pinot’s Pallet art classes.
For this post I actually did a little research on Houston and discovered that the Waugh Street Bridge houses the 2nd largest Bat colony in urban Texas (1st place goes to Austin). This bridge is 3 miles from my house and I never knew that. I'm not sure if it's a negative or positive in the Houston column, but it's good to know regardless.

I also learned that Howard Hughes is buried in Glenwood Cemetery on the Washington Corridor. I’ve been to the Hughes Hanger bar on Washington Avenue but never realized there was a connection.

I could also easily list a lot of things I don’t love about Houston, but today I’m choosing to focus on the positive; the possibility. Stress will undoubtedly come later, but today is a day to celebrate a new chapter in Jonathan’s career, whether that be in Aberdeen or Angola, Texas or Thailand.

Today I wore my “kilt” to work, along with a silver ring from the Scottish Orkney Isles because in my heart, I’m slightly pulling for Scotland. But I’m also wearing my tanzanite earrings which were a souvenir from our trip to South Africa, just to remind myself that a piece of my heart lies there as well. I’ve always been symbolic like that.

The only thing I own from Thailand is an elephant print diaper bag and I didn’t think this was appropriate to bring with me to work today. And as for why I own an elephant print diaper bag from Thailand- I have my parents to thank for that. It was their most recent hint that they expect grandchildren in the near future. It has a bow, which is to let me know that the diaper bag is for a girl. Seriously.

No pressure.

Friday, February 24, 2012

Uncertain Terms

I’m a planner which means typically, I don’t deal very well with uncertainty. We found out six months ago that sometime in the next year Jonathan would be switching jobs, likely involving a relocation, and possibly a global one. We didn’t know where this move would be, but we knew we’d find out at the end of February/beginning of March. We figured that by the end of January, we’d at least have a pretty solid idea of where we’d be heading.At the end of January, we eagerly planned on a domestic move to Covington, LA.

But Covington slowly evolved into Thailand and I was excited in different ways. It’s always been my dream to live abroad, and Thailand was such an enchanting and exotic prospect that I couldn’t help but feel a thrill at the thought.
But then something came up. Something so wonderful, yet so improbable, that Jonathan and I dared not discuss it. But as it became an almost certain bet, we decided to let my parents in on the secret- we might be coming to join them in Nigeria. Now I’ve mentioned that my dad and husband work for the same company, in the same department. We always ruled Nigeria out as possibility due to this conflict of interest, but secretly I dreamed about living in the same city as my parents, especially since baby fever is running rampant in my household.

When rumors spread that there was no conflict of interest and Jonathan was asked if he’d be interested a position there, we foolishly let our guards down. We briefly discussed it before saying ‘heck yes’ and started preparing for the move. A few days later, it turned out that it was a conflict of interest for Jon to work in my dad’s department, and therefore Nigeria was not in the cards for us.

I was absolutely crushed at the news and was an emotional wreck for days. After much heartache and prayer, I realized Nigeria just wasn’t the place for us right now. I prayed for God’s peace in my heart, and he delivered. I told Jonathan that I didn’t want to discuss any more options- that I would rather him just tell me once the decision was made and I would get on board with wherever that might be. So that’s why, when he came to me last Thursday night with the option to go to Scotland, my heart rejoiced.

In case you didn’t know, I love Scotland more than any other place in the world. It is my happy place. It inspires me. It’s the setting of my daydreams. I tried to be cautious but Jonathan was assured that this was the real deal if we wanted to take the job (of course we wanted to take the job!).

We started making plans to ship the dogs, rent a house, and buy a Fiat hatch back. He was instructed to call Monday morning to set up a start date, yet when he did he realized it wasn't a done deal. It's still an option, but just one of many. So we're back at square one. Back at uncertainty. Back at praying for God’s peace and guidance.

Part of the relief I felt when I thought it was Scotland, was simply knowing where we were headed. Being able to start planning. Being able to move forward. The worst part about this experience has been feeling in limbo. We’re living in Houston with one foot out the door. We felt a natural tendency over the past few months to stop investing in friendships, church, our jobs. We’ve started pulling back and preparing to leave. We’ve been waiting for months and yet this final week has felt the most excruciating.

Each day brings new hints of where our lives might be headed, and then the next day everything changes. It’s exhausting and pointless to try to pin anything down. We’ll know soon enough.

More than anything, this situation is teaching me to trust God fully. When I heard the news about Aberdeen not working out, I teared up, but was nowhere near as devastated as I was when the Nigeria option was shut down. Almost instantly I felt God’s peace come into my heart and say ‘It’s okay. I have big plans for you’. My mantra lately has been ‘God has a plan. God has a plan. God has a plan.’ I repeat it over and over anytime I feel anxious about the coming months and it’s very effective (without the coma inducing side effects of Xanax).

And I know that God’s plan isn’t about what’s easiest and most comfortable for me, although it’s tempting to pray for that. I have to fight my heart when it wants to call out “Dear Jesus, please don’t send me to China. China really freaks me out. Please, could you just send me to Louisiana instead?”. Instead, I force myself to pray, “Dear Lord, please teach me to trust you. Please send us where we can best serve you. Please bring peace and comfort to my heart as you guide me towards your path for me.”

Changing how I pray has changed my entire world view. Once I snapped out of my selfish pouting and started trusting God with my life, it’s opened my eyes to what a self-absorbed brat I’ve been lately. My obsession with this uncertain, completely out of my control move has distracted me from focusing on my family which are frying way bigger fish right now.

Handing over my problems to God has allowed me to spend my energy praying for my grandmother who is having surgery to remove a tumor this weekend; for my sweet Dad who is having the worst month ever; for my fearless sister who just moved cross country with two small children for the second time in 6 months.

It’s like that saying: “if everyone put their problems into a pile, you’d ask for yours back”. I am so fortunate to have my problems. Like most things, it’s all a matter of perspective. I am small. My life is just one life. My problems are actually blessings. Thank you Lord, for this adventurous life. Please allow me to use it as a means to serve you. Amen.

In other, more light hearted news: We are on day 3 of our commitment to reduce our TV watching. It is amazing how much I can get done after work when I don’t plop down in front of the television right away. Last night we walked the dogs, cooked a new recipe for Greek Pastitsio Casserole (hint: use rotel for ‘diced’ tomatoes), and gave Samson a bath. (Samson's post-bath rawhide reward)
The mornings have been the hardest adjustment since I usually watch TV while I do the elliptical machine and watch Good Morning America while I get ready. As a substitute, I’ve been listening to podcast sermons from my church during exercise/getting ready time. This is doubly wonderful because we’ve been out of town so much lately that we’ve been missing a lot of Sundays. This gives me a way to catch up and start my day with a dose of Jesus, which is ultimately the point of this no TV thing in the first place.

It is still hard to break the habit and I caught my hand instinctively reaching for the remote this morning. Elipticalling without Downton Abbey was particularly difficult. It’s always hard to cultivate new habits, but hopefully by Easter I won’t be so dependent on TV.

Since we are still watching one show per night, I was able to keep up with the Top 24 on American Idol. I’m calling it right now that Philip Phillips is going to win the whole thing. He’s got the trifecta of talent needed to take the crown: Cute, White boy, with guitar. Or as the cool kids refer to it WBWG (Are you still a “cool kid” when you spend your free time on American Idol forums? If not, I’m screwed.).

Thursday, February 23, 2012


Is it a federal offense to open your dog’s mail? I sure hope not, because this 10 dollar reward from Target was calling my name. I’ll spend it on milk bones, just in case.

I think what I love most about this is that it was addressed to Samson K. Perry. Where did that middle initial come from? Is K the default letter when a middle name isn’t listed? By the way, if you’re listening Target, his middle name is Elijah. Next time please address it as such, otherwise he may get confused.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

40 days/40 nights

Since we aren’t Catholic, lent has never been a religious custom of ours. Growing up in heavily Catholic south Louisiana, it was always a secret pleasure of mine that, unlike my friends, I wasn’t required to give up any of my favorite things for the 40 days of lent and I could eat quarter pounders at McDonald’s on Fridays while they were stuck with filet-o-fish.

As I’ve gotten older, I’ve come to appreciate the sentiment behind lent sacrifices. What I think will help me to focus and seek Jesus is not to give up chocolate or French fries, but rather to give up something so terrifyingly necessary in my life that I’m a bit shaky in my commitment. What I’m struggling with most right now is being able to discern God’s message over all the other secular wisdom surrounding me. That’s why, after much (much much) consideration, I’ve decided that for the next 40 days I’m going to give up television. You heard me. Television.

It’s become routine in our house that I get home, walk the dogs, cook dinner and then immediately sit down in front of the TV for 2-3 hours. Then I read until I’m too tired to hold my eyes open, at which point I turn on Gilmore Girls which lulls me into sleep like a sweet lullaby. So after working all day, I come home and am bombarded with distraction after distraction. It’s robbing me of intimacy both with my husband and with the Holy Spirit.

When I first approached Jonathan about the TV idea, he was firmly against it. I believe he even said it was impossible. After a lot of discussion, we came up with a compromise. We may not quit watching TV cold turkey but we are committed to limiting our viewing to one show per night only after we’ve had dinner and after we’ve done our couple’s bible study. This will allow us to spend some quality time with each other and with the Lord before we turn our minds off for the day. The bible study we’ll be doing first is Gary Chapman’s The Marriage You’ve Always Wanted. I’ll also be starting Beth Moore’s Believing God series with my sister and Mom. In addition to the TV cutbacks, Jonathan has also committed to not working out for the next 40 days. Now that’s a sacrifice!

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

List of Five

Because I’m sick of compiling lists of 5 places we’d be open to moving to, I decided to blog about a more pleasant top 5 ranking.

After a recent American Idol episode involving a contestants crush on Steven Tyler, Jonathan and I began making our list of five celebrities we’re allowed to kiss. Because we don’t much follow the celeb culture, it’s actually been surprisingly hard to come up with a list. I fell more in love with Jonathan when the two he came up with right away were Zooey Deschanel and Evangeline Lily (the boy has seriously good taste).

In the moment, I could only think of Adam Levine, Prince Harry and Andy Roddick. Well, after watching a Dave Matthews and Tim Reynolds concert on TV last week, I have decided to add Dave to my list of five.
There is nothing cuter than a brown eyed boy jamming on a guitar and tearing up while singing a love song. With Dave on the list that only leaves one more spot. I think I’m going to let George Clooney and John Krasinski arm wrestle it over this one.

As a disclaimer: this is completely a joke and the thought of kissing someone other than my husband makes me a bit sick. It should really be a list of 5 celebrities I’m allowed to hug. Yes, I would hug the stuffing out of Adam Levine and I would pinch Prince Harry’s little cheeks so hard I’d surely leave a bruise. Lucky guys.

Monday, February 20, 2012

The Bachelor or Fear Factor?

I’ve alluded to the fact that ‘The Bachelor’ is a favorite show in my household. This season’s bachelor, Ben F., is a swell guy and if I weren’t a married lady, I could see myself dating him. Lucky for him I am married and not a contestant, because I don’t think this show has ever seen the level of panic attack that I would have certainly had on a number of this season’s ‘dates’.

For instance, there is not enough Xanax in the world that would make me get within 5 feet of a helicopter much less climb to the top of the Bay Bridge or free fall into an underwater cave. This week’s episode was the worst so far, requiring some poor girl to jump from a helicopter into Belize’s blue hole and then three girls on a group date to swim with sharks. They already got stuck with a group date and now you want them to swim with sharks? Over my dead body.

During Linzi’s romantic terrifying helicopter/Blue hole date, I started laughing hysterically. Jonathan shot me a quizzical look and I explained that I was just imagining Ben’s reaction to my reaction were he to ask me to jump out of a helicopter. Into 500 feet of ocean. With sharks. My reaction would have been ‘heck no’. End of story.

For instance, I wonder what Ben/ABC would do if a girl displayed my reaction when snorkeling recently in Hawaii. Would Ben have exhibited Jonathan’s patience while watching me stand on the edge of the catamaran for 30 minutes trying to muster the courage to jump in? What about when I finally did jump in, only to immediately start hyperventilating, sobbing, and puking to the point that I had to be tranquilized with my mom’s secret Xanax stash? And that was because I saw a fish about the size of my fist, which apparently is the whole point of snorkeling. Who knew there were fish down there? Terrifying. (Me, tranquiled after snorkeling. Thanks for the Xanax mom. Oh and also, thanks for taking this embarrassing photo.)
Maybe I’ve never really been in love, but there is no one who could make me feel compelled to do someone of these Bachelor stunts. I would simply refuse. I can just imagine it: “Laine, on today’s date we are going to hang-glide into an active volcano”. Not for a million roses, buddy, especially not for a relationship with a shelf life of 6 months max.

I’m starting to wonder if ABC makes these girls sign a contract agreeing to participate in these activities. I just want to know when ‘The Bachelor’ turned into ‘Fear Factor’. Gee, you know what would be a really romantic date? Why don’t we churn the water with some bloody fish and then have you and your romantic love interest jump into shark infested waters…on your second date. And would it really be a deal breaker if a girl flat out refused? ‘Why is so important to you that I swim with sharks? Is shark-swimming a trait that you’re looking for in a wife? And if so, I’m sorry but I don’t see this working out very well.’
Let me tell you, I married quite the adventurous man, and yes, sometimes it is frustrating to a scuba diver that his wife has a phobia of water; or to a black diamond skier that his wife won’t leave the bunny slopes. But being as though we don’t live on a ski lift or at a dive shop, these things aren’t part of our daily lives and therefore don’t really affect our marriage. Jonathan doesn’t share my affinity for European history or televised dog shows, but I’m still glad I married the guy.

I shouldn’t get so worked up about it. It’s just a reality TV show that feeds on drama. If these guys and gals could form a decent connection over endless breadsticks at Olive Garden, they wouldn’t be on the show in the first place. Maybe they need death defying stunts to forge a bond. Me and my man, we bond plenty just by watching ‘the Bachelor’.

Friday, February 17, 2012

Inappropriate texting and Belated Valentine's celebration

As I’ve mentioned before, Jonathan will likely be transferred in the next few months meaning a relocation for us. What’s still unclear is where we will be going, but we should find out within the next week or so. Yesterday morning Jonathan sent me a text message asking if I’d rather move to Angola or China.

Angola or China? I felt like responding: what, you mean Afghanistan and Somalia weren’t available?

Now I know China might not seem as bad as one of those places, but the people in China eat scorpions and reject Oreos. There’s something fundamentally off about a country that would choose arachnids over chocolate.

As for Angola…well it really is almost as bad as a place like Somalia. However, Jonathan’s company compensates financially for “hardship locations” where you might run the risk of contracting malaria or being kidnapped by pirates. They do not, however, compensate so generously for the absence of Oreos or the traumatic experience of watching my husband eat a scorpion (because you know he would). So Angola or China? I’d have to say I’m leaning towards….Switzerland. Is that an option?

And by the way, is this an appropriate question to ask via text message? Kind of puts that whole Joe Jonas /Taylor Swift break-up in perspective. So he dumped you via text message. At least he didn’t proposition you to eat a scorpion.

In other news: Since Jonathan was gone for Valentine ’s Day, we enjoyed a belated celebration at the Broken Spoke last night. Because nothing says romance like Belgian beer on tap. Also, he must be following my pinterest, because as a gift he got me this travel bag that I’ve been majorly crushing on (Okay so maybe he cheated and asked for a link to my pinterest, but the fact that he even knows what pinterest is proves that he listens).
And it turns out that I’m going to need a good travel bag because over dinner we ‘cheers’ed to a new lead on the job front. I don’t want to jinx it just yet by blogging it out loud, but let’s just say it’s more in line with Switzerland than Somalia. I’ll give you a hint: Cheers!

Thursday, February 16, 2012

King Cake

Yes, I had to be apart from my sweetheart on Valentine’s Day, but I consider that a small sacrifice in exchange for some authentic Louisiana King Cake. I won’t make any comments about how good this particular King Cake was or was not, but let’s just say that Covington has nothing on Lafayette in the King Cake baking department.

However, Jonathan didn’t go to Lafayette on business and since beggars can’t be choosers, I may or may not have eaten 3 pieces so far. God Bless Mardi Gras.

'Take Your Wife To Work' Day

While on our recent ski trip, our friend, Paul, mentioned that he is preparing to climb Mt. Rainer. Part of his training is climbing the 50 flights of stairs in their company’s downtown high-rise. Since I’m often complaining that running on the flat surfaces of Houston leaves my butt looking like its taking a nap, I thought this was a great idea for a workout. When Jonathan had to make a quick run to his office this weekend, I decided to tag along and do some stair-climbing.

While we did accomplish climbing up and down 50 flights of stairs (giving my butt a much needed espresso shot), I didn’t realize that by going to Jon’s office I was signing up for a flashback of my 8th grade “take your daughter to work day”.

Now when I say that I married someone just like my father, it’s a bit spooky. While their personalities are quite different, they are both complete dorks when it comes to engineering. They work for the same company and even began in the same position.

Growing up, it was good to see my father truly enjoy his work. He so desperately wanted me to follow in his footsteps and would often take me to his office to show me geological charts and explain engineering techniques. While I could see his fascination with it and I definitely liked the idea of a steady, comfortable salary, math was never one of my favorite subjects which made engineering low on my list of dream jobs.

Seeing Jonathan in his natural habitat, I saw that same enthusiasm as he gave me the tour of his floor and showed me the graphs for his projects. He was like an excited kid on show and tell day. While I am so proud of both my dad and my husband, it’s hard to follow their conversations sometimes. I’ve learned that Jonathan doesn’t expect me to comprehend, but instead just wants me to listen to him talking about work. I really try to act interested, but as in childhood, I was definitely more captivated by the fancy coffee machines and vending machine options in the office than I was with the geological charts.

I think the greatest gift I could have ever given my dad was marrying an engineer. They are truly a match made in in-law heaven.

And it turned out well for me, because feigning interest was definitely worth the stair-workout. My legs shook for the remainder of the day and my calves haven’t been this sore since the long gone days of soccer tournaments. I just need to decide if toned legs are worth the hour long lecture that’s bound to accompany any trip to Jonathan’s office. The goal is to eventually get so toned that he’s too busy staring at my legs to talk about work. If that's the case, I better get to climbin’.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

No Pressure

My Mom and dad just shipped us a rocking zebra from Nigeria for our "future nursery". The hints are not so subtle anymore.

After we'd been married a year, the occasional questions about when we were having a baby began. After our second anniversary, they became more persistent. As we approach our fourth anniversary they are straight up making demands for grandchildren. And not just grandchildren. In my mother's words, one grandchild would be great; two granddaughters would be better. I better get to work on conceiving girl twins.

No pressure.

Seperation Anxiety

Here is a picture of Bailey-girl looking mighty sad that her dad’s suitcase is out. Yes, both of our pups suffer from mild separation anxiety and anytime we start packing, they start moping.

When we first rescued Samson, we realized early on that he would cry incessantly anytime we left the house. While we were home, he was surprisingly well-adjusted for a rescue dog (well except for his licking the wall neurosis) so realizing how stressed he was when we left him was really heartbreaking. Bailey’s separation anxiety doesn’t manifest itself quite so cutely but rather usually results in the destruction of walls, furniture, shoes, etc.

Our main form of combat for this condition has been to lather them with toys and treats anytime we leave the house. They are conditioned now to be excited rather than stressed when we leave because during their potty break I will leave an Easter egg hunt assortment of chew toys, rawhides and cheese-whiz Kongs hidden around the house. While they are gathering up the loot, I’m able to sneak off to work unnoticed while they stay occupied right up until naptime. Once we figured out this trick, solving the dogs’ separation anxiety has been simple. I wish it were that easy to cure my own.
Jonathan has had a string of out of town work gigs lately, leaving me quite mopey myself when that suitcase comes out. My cure for loneliness is similar to the dogs as I plan projects and “me” time to distract me from the fact that Jon is gone. This time my treasure hunt of treats has included an at home facial, a new valentine’s day treat recipe from Pinterest (that’s right, he was gone for V-day), two Tom Hanks movies, overdue phone dates with girlfriends and a bottle of wine from the region of South Africa where Jonathan proposed.

That might have provided the necessary remedy had Jonathan been my only good-bye this weekend. Unfortunately, I had other goodbyes on Sunday. My sister and her family are in the process of moving to Gainesville, Florida. She and her boys stopped at my parent’s lake house for the night on their drive out. I drove up to have pizza with my nephews and watch Breaking Dawn: Part 1 with my sis. They left at 8 am the next morning and it was so hard to end my goodbye hugs to each of them.

Usually I don’t say goodbye but rather “I’ll see you soon”. The only problem is that I honestly don’t know when I’ll see them again. They used to live a few hours away from Lake Conroe and so I would see them during my parents’ bi-annual U.S. trips. Now that they are in Florida, I know it won’t be so easy for them to make the trip twice a year.

To make it a bit more uncertain, Jonathan and I will be finding out in two weeks if we’ll be moving ourselves. Since he works for a very global company, we could be relocated anywhere. It’s starting to hit me that my sister will live in Florida, my brother in Texas, my parents in Nigeria, and soon Jonathan and I could possibly be in Asia, South America, Africa, Europe or even Australia. We’ve known for a while that this was a possibility, but as possibility quickly turns into reality, I’m starting to feel a smidge of separation anxiety.

It’s making me reflect a lot on my marriage vows, during which I promised to “live where you live”. Our whole wedding party giggled during that part since at the time Jonathan and I were in the process of moving to Midland, TX from our home in Louisiana, and I was not too thrilled about the change.
Looking back, the move solidified our relationship more than any other experience and it taught me that as long as I have my husband and my sweet pups, it doesn’t matter where I live. Even though it hurts and can be frustrating to be so far away from my friends and family, Jonathan is the one person that I absolutely refuse to be separated from. So if that means moving anywhere (other than Midland, TX), sign me up.

Monday, February 13, 2012

Happy Valentine's Day

Last week I found a simple and cute recipe for Valentine ’s Day treats that I wanted to try. I knew instantly that it had the makings of a winning recipe because it a) had only 3 ingredients and b) involved melting chocolate. The three ingredients are square pretzels, Hershey’s hugs and valentine’s colored m&ms. Now I also love recipes like this because there are innumerous combinations to try. For instance, you could easily use dark chocolate Hershey’s with peanut m&ms. Or milk chocolate Hershey’s with plain m&ms.
Making them was seriously easy and therapeutic. I just turned on a Dave Matthews and Tim Reynolds concert on TV and went to work. First you line a cookie sheet with wax paper and line up your square pretzels. Since I’m a perfectionist, I only used the unbroken pretzel pieces which meant Samson and Bailey reaped the benefits of this particular neurosis by eating broken pretzels for dinner. Once the pretzels are lined up start topping each of them with a Hershey’s hugs/kiss. While you’re doing this, preheat your oven to 200 degrees. Put the pretzels into the oven for 5 minutes. You don’t want the kisses to completely melt and they should still maintain some of their shape. Once they are out of the oven, smoosh the chocolate down by placing an m&m in the center.

Place the concoction in the fridge for about 10 minutes until they cool and then place in an airtight container. Viola: easy, adorable, delicious Valentine’s Day treats. You’re welcome, coworkers!
And of course, these could easily be adapted to Christmas, St. Patrick’s Day, Easter, Mardi Gras, etc. simply by switching up the colors. See, endless possibilities!


You know that old cliché “It’s the journey, not the destination”. Well when it comes to the actual art of travel, this is false. Especially if your journey involves air travel. Something always goes wrong, and it’s never the same thing. Every time I travel, I experience some new quirk about air travel that I didn’t even know was possible.

For example: This past Monday I took the day off to recuperate from my weekend skiing injuries and decided to use the time off to unpack and do about 15 loads of laundry. When I went to unload our suitcase, I saw that the zippers were locked together. I found this odd since we’ve never ever ever locked our suitcase before, but of course I still immediately blamed Jonathan. I called him to ask him where the key was and we quickly discovered that it was actually TSA that locked our bags.

Now over the years we have accumulated several hodgepodge suitcases most of which were hand me downs from my parents. This particular bag was one such item and therefore, neither of us had ever laid eyes on a key. I ended up having to wait for Jonathan to get home with his man tools in order to break the locks on our suitcase.

When we opened it we had a nice note from TSA stating that they inspected our bags and they apologize if they had to break our locks. But you know, if your locked bags are chosen for inspection, they really have no choice but to break in.

I totally understand that. Only thing is, our bags weren’t locked for inspection, yet were afterwards since TSA so courteously locked them for us. Therefore our locks still ended up broken. Alanis Morrisette has me permanently confused, but I am pretty sure that this one of those situations where there term “ironic” applies.

Silver lining: I had the perfect excuse not to do laundry and instead stay in bed all day reading Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children. Thanks TSA!

Friday, February 10, 2012

Reading List

In the book Outliers by Malcolm Gladwelll, I read that it takes 10,000 hours of practice to become an expert at something. Unfortunately, the only things I’ve spent a fraction of that much time on don’t help me to pay the bills. Over the course of my life, I guess I’ve become a a quasi-expert in 4 things: running, soccer, watching Gilmore Girls, and reading.

I’ve made great strides in the reading department over the past few months since I set a goal in August to read 2 books a month. For instance, it’s February 10, and I am deliberately stalling the completion of my second February book. Mainly because I don’t have a library card and it’s becoming an expensive hobby. In an effort to cut back on book spending, I started scanning my bookshelves for books I haven’t actually read yet. I uncovered Jane Eyre (Charlotte Bronte), The Lost Symbol (Dan Brown), CrazyLove (Francis Chan) and Water for Elephants (Sara Gruen). Those four should theoretically keep me busy through April, but I can’t help feeling a bit uninspired by the list.

Other than CrazyLove and Jane Eyre to some extent, I am just not excited about another Dan Brown novel or Water for Elephants. I started reading both of these at some point and ended up getting stuck and moving on to something else. I’m on a streak of really creative, uplifting and beautifully written books and I don’t want to stop following new leads.

Maybe I’ll try reading CrazyLove and Jane Eyre next. The Water for Elephants movie is next on our Netflix queue so I’m hoping the movie will help to spark some interest. I’m actually one of those weird people who prefer to watch a movie before reading the book. In my eyes, the book is always better than the film so you’re just setting yourself up for disappointment to do it the other way around. However, if you watch the movie first, you're excited to uncover more details in the novel, rather than being perpetually disappointed when your favorite bits are left out of the movie version. In fact, that’s why I’m a bit excited to finally read Jane Eyre. I saw the 2011 movie recently and loved its haunting imagery, but definitely wanted more explanation on the love story. Like when I saw The Descendants, though I enjoyed the movie, at the same time I knew the book had to be even better.
As for The Lost Symbol, I’ll admit that there is a time and a place for Dan Brown books. I’m not going to act pretentious and say that I didn’t enjoy The DaVinci Code or Angels and Demons, because I absolutely did. The DaVinci Code actually changed my perspective on a lot of assumptions we make about Jesus based on centuries of unchallenged organized religion. I don’t necessary put any stakes in the theories he presented in the book, but it did make me go “So what if Jesus was married?” and realize that it’s okay to challenge and question even the most accepted religious ideas.

I’m getting off on a tangent, but the point is, maybe I should keep an open mind and give The Lost Symbol another try. I did just order Swamplandia by Karen Russell so I’ll be able to throw in something fresh if I get into a rut.
Also, I previously posted about using novels as a way to learn about geography and travel. I recently bought a book recommendation guide titled: “Book Lust: To Go”. The author, Nancy Pearl, makes reading recommendations based on geographical locations. I think it will be a good resource and help me with the constant nagging question of 'What's next?' in terms of both travel and reading lists.

Last week I also challenged myself to the goal of writing 5,000 words per week. I’ve adjusted this to 20,000 words a month just because it’s easier to keep track of and some weeks I overcompensate while others I’ll lag a bit behind.

Two weeks into February, I’m hovering around 3800 words, so I’m worried that my eyes are bigger than my stomach so to speak. I do find that writing has a snowball effect in that the more I write, the easier it is. Practice makes perfect. Hopefully one day I’ll add writing to a list of things I’m an expert in. At least that has the potential to generate some income.