Monday, May 27, 2013

Life-changing experiences

Since today is Memorial Day, and I feel like I have memorialized on here a lot lately, I'm going to take a different approach to my blog for today.

I have to lead in to this by saying that I am a firm believer in the power of music. I love how music can give you chills, or can make you feel excited or calm, or bring you to tears. It surrounds us even in moments of peace. I feel my biggest spiritual connections through music making and listening to music, and it is a huge part of my life- it always has been, and it always will be.

When I was in high school, I was very, very fortunate to be selected to perform with an elite musical group consisting of high school students from all over the United States. It's called the Sound of America Honor Band and Chorus. I auditioned for and qualified for both the band and the chorus, but chose to do the band, mainly because I had a few friends going who were also involved in the band. Make no mistake - this involved hours upon hours of fundraising, because I had to raise almost $6000. It was a lot of hard work, and the music was no joke.

But it was one of the best experiences of my entire life.

All of these pictures are my property... PLEASE DO NOT STEAL THEM! 

Salzburg, Austria

Mirabelle Gardens, Salzburg, Austria (featured in "The Sound of Music")

Austrian Alps

We had several "farewell" concerts at Dickinson College in Pennsylvania before we departed New York for Germany. From Germany we traveled through Austria, Italy, Switzerland, France, and Luxembourg before returning to Germany. It was AWESOME. 

Venice, Italy

Venice, Italy

Verona, Italy

Stresa, Italy

I got to eat authentic Italian pizza and swim in Lake Maggiore; see-saw and ice skate in Switzerland; walk a fortified German city (and shorted the electric in our entire hotel there); dance up and down the Austrian stairs made famous in the Sound of Music and see the Von Trapp house; listen to my peers sing in Notre Dame and travel to the top of the Eiffel Tower; and visit General George Patton's grave in the American Cemetery in Luxembourg. Among so many other things. 

See-sawing in the Swiss Alps

Listening to the chorus in Notre Dame, Paris, France


...Did I mention we got to go to Disneyland Paris?

Heck yes.

Most of the reason I am bringing this up today, though, is - despite some ill feelings toward America from various Europeans - I felt so much pride in where I came from and the work that we produced as an ensemble. We didn't meet each other until a week before we departed for Europe, and we came together so quickly to produce excellent music that evoked standing ovations and endless encores from our audiences. It was awe-inspiring and I'll never forget those feelings. 

General George Patton's grave in Luxembourg

Some of my fellow students changing the flag in the cemetery

At the end of every concert, we would finish with a rousing rendition of The Battle Hymn of the Republic, directly followed by The Stars and Stripes Forever. For your listening pleasure, I have included a link to my Sound Cloud so you can hear the power of this group that I was so honored to travel with. 

I am so grateful to all of the men and women who have fought for peace around the world, so that I was able to go on this trip, and so that I may continue to enjoy my freedoms today.
Have a great week,

Friday, May 24, 2013

This. Week. Has. Been. Crazy.

I don't even know where to start about this week, so I'm not going to. It's been extremely busy. Mostly with good things, but there has just not been a spare moment to sit down and really write a whole lot. I'm trying to wrap up this school year while preparing for the next one, as well as work on wedding things and stay on top of bills, mail, etc. Not to mention cleaning my house, which was starting to look abandoned, between piles of paper things (think mail, magazines, receipts, etc.) and dust and all of the hair falling out of my head and dirty dishes and laundry. AHHH!

But I'm caught up with a lot of that now, to the detriment of my blog. Sorry world (aka the 5 people who read this thing haha).

Anyway, one of my friends pinned a link this morning that I have been playing with and unable to fool for the last ten minutes:

I have tried everything from Homer Simpson to Megan (from Bridesmaids) and it keeps guessing them right!

UPDATE: I just tricked it, with Tris from Divergent. Muah ha ha.

Speaking of reading, I just finished "War Brides" by Helen Bryan and I immediately started reading it again. I tend to do that with books, just because the first time through I usually miss things because I am in such a rush to find out what happens. It's an excellent historical fiction book and I did NOT expect the ending. Check it out. : )

And after this brief blog post, I am going to get back to packing for what seems like the 30th time this month - which means I'll be unpacking again in a few days. Sigh. BUT I am super excited for this weekend, because bridal shower and bachelorette hijinx are going to ensue.

PS - I Google Imaged "bachelorette" for a meme, like I do, and this image came up.
HOW did I miss hearing about this movie?
Hey, Netflix.

Let's be clear about something - the only reason actual "hijinx" would ensue would be if Ryan Gosling actually attended. When my girls and I party it usually involves drinking at home while playing board games and laughing our heads off, which is fine by me : ) Not sure what they have planned, but it doesn't need to involve any phallic symbols or shots at a bar. Yikes.

Okay then. Packing time. PEACE OUT!

Monday, May 20, 2013

I'm a Master!

This past weekend I was in Boston with A. and my family for my "graduation" even though I officially graduated in January. It was still nice to spend the weekend with them, and visit Boston, and walk across the stage in my regalia. The weather was gorgeous and the food was great!

Here are some pictures from the weekend...
Talk soon,

Me and A. in Christopher Columbus Park (in the North End... loved it there!)

Walking across the stage

Picture of the North End


Beautiful picture of the Harbor Walk outside our hotel

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Dinner Time Tuesday: Chicken enchiladas

Hi guys!
I'm trying to make an effort here! Two days in a row! Getting back in the swing of things!

Becky, I don't know how you teach first grade every day; I subbed first grade today and I'm exhausted. Like, "I just took a two hour nap in which I was completely out" exhausted. A.'s mom came over, A. collected trash from every can in the house, and I slept through it all. (And then my mom texted me and I woke up.) 

Before I fell asleep though, I did actually cook dinner tonight!

I don't know if you've ever used Philadelphia Cooking Creme, but it's pretty good. I really like the Santa Fe kind. We haven't gotten it in a couple months, and they redesigned the package and, I think, the flavoring - because it's spicier than I remember!

I really like enchiladas, and when we go out for Mexican, that's what I normally get. So a while ago I took the advice of one of my friends who used to blog - but doesn't anymore - and tried this Cooking Creme to make easy enchiladas. The recipe I use used to be on the back of the container, but they replaced it with a beef enchilada recipe. Luckily the Kraft website offers many recipes and this one is still there!

I didn't even get a picture of my enchiladas in the pan because I was so excited to eat them when they came out of the oven. NOM NOM NOM.

We both really enjoy these but they are not healthy by a looooooooooong stretch. In fact, if you have two enchiladas made by this recipe, I believe it's 16 WW Points+. (That's a LOT). I usually have one and a half and it fills me up... but these are definitely a treat. We don't have them often but when we do they are glorious.

I guess since I just woke up from my nap I should go get ready for bed... sheesh!
Take it easy,

Monday, May 13, 2013

In Memory

A week ago tomorrow, my Uncle Bill passed away after a month in the CCU.
Today I'm missing his memorial service in Baltimore; a week from now I'll be attending his funeral mass and burial at home.

Uncle Bill loved Hawaii. He went there every year after Christmas for a month... I know, nice right?! He always brought us back nice things - pineapple, candy, Hawaiian shirts - and he brought me a pearl pendant necklace and a sarong. You could tell he was bummed he couldn't go this year because of chemo treatments, but he was definitely looking forward to going back again. 

Uncle Bill was a really smart guy. Our family loves board games, and pretty much everyone remembers Uncle Bill beating them... and not just close calls either, he would really kick your butt. He had an extremely extensive vocabulary. He was just a really smart guy- with a really sarcastic sense of humor!

Ever since I can remember, Uncle Bill got me and my brother puzzles for Christmas. They were always hard puzzles too - double sided, 3-D, impossible shapes and patterns. One year he got me an octagon-shaped puzzle that featured a red background covered in dalmatian dogs. We returned the favor by trying to find a puzzle for him every year - this picture features "The World's Most Difficult Puzzle" - and wrapping them with duct tape, yarn, wire... which never really stumped him, but we tried. He returned the favor in kind, as once we turned 13 we were deemed too old for presents and got cards with money instead - but Uncle Bill wouldn't settle for giving us money in a card. He would deliver it in puzzle cases, a tank full of sand, or at the end of a scavenger hunt. Every year all of us cousins would wait to see what kind of challenge Uncle Bill had for us next.

When we were little we used to go visit Uncle Bill's house in Maryland, to play in his pool and hot tub, visit the Aquarium and Inner Harbor, and play Duck Hunt on his original Nintendo. I also remember watching musicals like State Fair and South Pacific at his house. There was a Pepperidge Farm outlet nearby, so we always had Goldfish crackers and Milano cookies, and for some reason I remember drinking Coke out of chilled glasses filled with ice.

Uncle Bill was special to me because he was my godfather, and he always treated me like I was special. When I was two, he gave me a red corvette for my birthday. (He did not give me an adult-sized one when I turned 16, no matter how much I pleaded.)

Every year for Christmas, starting in 1993, Uncle Bill gave me a Holiday Barbie ornament. When I moved out on my own and decorated my first Christmas tree in my apartment, most of it was covered in Barbies. After Christmas this past year, I found a bargain on a small pre-lit tree at Target, and said I was going to use it as my Barbie tree - for no other ornaments. Uncle Bill was happy about that and said they deserved their own tree. I took a picture of my little Barbie army to send him, and I think I put it on my blog when I first started at the beginning of the year...

I really miss Uncle Bill, and I'm not sure exactly when it's going to hit me when he's gone. I was in the hospital room when he died, surrounded by his family and close friends, but it still doesn't feel real to me. I feel like he's still going to turn up and laugh and beat everyone at Scattergories next Thanksgiving, and he'll be first in line to polka and do the Dollar Dance at my wedding. I just can't believe that he's gone.

I know my blog's been a little silent lately, and this is why...
Just too sad.
Thanks again for all of your prayers over the past month - they meant the world to me and my family, and I know that he's not suffering anymore, and he's probably chilling out in the heavenly version of Hawaii (probably the same only with fewer oceanfront megahotels) and driving a brand new tricked-out BMW.
I just miss him.
Hug your loved ones extra tight --

Thursday, May 9, 2013

My HP Fix : Prisoner of Azkaban


Today is the last official HP Fix before summer, so I wanted to get in on it... even though, to be fair, I have not been in a happy-blogging-mood the past few days. But HP Fix got me involved in blogging so I couldn't just let it go!

Today's HP Fix is all about the third book/movie in the series, The Prisoner of Azkaban.

I think the most amazing thing about this chapter of the story is the crafting that went into the Time Turner aspect of the story. Every time I read or watch that part of PoA, I am awed by all of the thought and detail that went into setting up the ability to time travel, and to save both Sirius and Buckbeak.

I also love, love, love the character of Professor Lupin. Even though he has a "hairy little problem," he is such a smart and kind-hearted character, and arguably the best Defense Against the Dark Arts professor in the series. 

Here's the thing. The movie for PoA, while it finally put the kids in normal clothes and gave the story a darker tone, also had the lamest, lamest ending of all of the movies. LAME.

WHAT WAS THAT?! WHY!? It did not fit the sequence of the story at all, it was pretty much thrown in at the end to give Harry a broomstick again, and the way Harry got the broom in the book was, in my opinion, much more effective. The ending of the book was so much better. I'd gladly give HP a higher rank in the order of my favorite HP movies IF NOT FOR THE STUPID, LAME ENDING.

Okay, I think I made my opinion known on that. 

For the record, I think this is how I would rank the movies:

1. HP & The Deathly Hallows, Part 2
2. HP & The Half Blood Prince
3. HP & The Goblet of Fire
4. HP & The Deathly Hallows, Part 1
5. HP & The Sorcerer's Stone
6. HP & The Prisoner of Azkaban
7. HP & The Order of the Phoenix 
8. HP & The Chamber of Secrets

That could probably change on any given day, but as of right this second, going through them in my brain, that's how I'd rank them. The books would probably not be in the same order. 

Since we all know I love me some memes... here's what I found : )

Also, fun fact: I went to Europe when I was in high school, and while I was there, HP&PoA was out on the big screens, so my friend J. and I took this picture in front of a movie theatre in Austria : )

Anyway, it's good to be back on HP Fix... maybe it will inspire me to get back on blogging track. 
Take it easy!

Sunday, May 5, 2013


Here's a list of what's been going on lately:

1) Wedding stuff.... like crazy. We're two months and a few odd days out. I feel like there are six million things to do. So I'm trying to do a couple each day.

2) Relay for Life. I "raised" $200 (I use quotation marks because I hate to say I raised the money when people donated it to me online). I walked six miles. I had three luminaries - one for my dad, one for my grandpa, and one for my uncle, who is still in CCU. The luminaria ceremony was beautiful, poignant, and really emotional; I cried a lot, but since then I have felt much better. I held a lot of it in the past two weeks, and I finally had an appropriate outlet to get it all out.

3) And of course, as previously mentioned, my uncle has now been in the CCU under sedation for four weeks. Everyone in my family is drained.

4) Since I found out I'm working full time in the fall as a marching band director, I've been busy trying to throw all of that together - which involves scheduling, paperwork, picking music, figuring out budgets, and deciding when to do recruitment and drum major tryouts.

5) And I've been subbing as a full time teacher, which means I had to write sub plans for my part-time job.

6) Also I'm still teaching private lessons at home.

7) And I'm graduating in two weeks so we're trying to get stuff together for our trip to Boston! YAY!

8) My dad's birthday is today so we drove up to see my parents and I am so glad we did. : )

9) A. got poison ivy while working in the yard, so that has been fun for the both of us.

I'd like to promise that I'm going to be posting more, but I can't promise that right now. I feel bad because I've been missing things, including HP fix, that I enjoy, and I haven't been commenting around as much. My schedule is kind of overwhelming me right now. Trying to take things one day at a time and enjoy the good things. I really appreciate all of the ongoing positive thoughts and prayers for my family.

Random side note - I discovered these today, and they're fantastic - only 4 WW points plus -

Skinny Cow frozen candy bars - Cookies 'n' Dough!

I'll be back soon, I hope! With more than just life updates... which does not a good blog make.

Love you all <3

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

I'm here, I promise

When I left you last, I was on the GM [Crash] Diet. I ate beef and tomatoes. It made me sick.

Following some encouragement from a nutritionist friend (and much facepalming for not having researched the diet thoroughly beforehand), I dropped it on Saturday. I felt bad for not being able to commit to a week-long diet, but it was doing some not-nice things to me by Friday evening. Instead of doing the beef-and-vegetables regimen all day on Saturday, I cooled it a little. I ate a normal breakfast. I had a banana. I still drank a ton of water. For lunch I had a steak salad, for dinner we made shish kabobs on the grill using beef chunks and a variety of yummy veggies marinated in balsamic, and brown rice. I felt SO MUCH BETTER on Saturday night.

Sunday I was pretty much back to a more normal, well-balanced, healthy diet, and when A. tried to give me a chocolate milkshake that he thoughtfully brought home from lunch with his cousin, I respectfully declined it. (I had a few bites when he got it back out of the freezer later, though - not gonna lie!)

Basically my friend told me that I should be focusing mostly on lean proteins and fruits and vegetables. "Eat fruits and veggies for your snacks," she told me. "If you don't want to eat a fruit or veggie, you're not that hungry." So that's going to be my focus.

I can take a few good things away from the crash diet, though - eating more fruits and veggies is easier when you have a lot in the house. Even though beef is a good treat for me, I know my system enjoys chicken, ground turkey, pork, and seafood a lot more. I cut out my Diet Coke habit - I had one for a treat yesterday, and I'm not going to have one today. I have been drinking a lot more water - and using a refillable bottle. Now that it's nicer outside, I'm going to do more yardwork and exercise more. So it wasn't a total loss, it just wasn't the best idea I've ever had in my life.

On the plus side, I had my first dress fitting on Saturday and it was pretty exciting! I'm so excited now to see what the dress looks like when it fits properly. AHHH! It's coming up quickly! RSVPs are coming in, which is also exciting. However, apparently A.'s boss's invitation got lost in the mail, and he's been on A's case about it all day at work. (In a good natured way, I'm sure, but I've got to put together another invitation tonight for him to hand-deliver tomorrow!)

On the down side, I have mentally been a little down the past few days. My uncle is still in CCU after 3 and a half weeks, and he's not improving anymore. They had to do a tracheostomy this morning, and we're waiting to hear back about the results of an ECHO they did of his heart earlier today. It's making me really anxious and upset- which I'm sure would pale in comparison to my uncle's feelings, were he not sedated, but I just want everything to be okay. In addition to my uncle's health concerns, my grandpa had a bad fall this weekend, and then went to chemo yesterday, where he sat for one and a half hours before someone realized that they forgot to turn his chemo on. So he had to sit there an extra hour and a half on his bruised hip. MAD. Also, my brother developed another mystery flu and was in the hospital with a temperature of 103 two days ago. Yesterday it was down to 100. I haven't talked to him yet today but hopefully he's doing better.

Basically, the men in my family need to get it together.

Sad fluffy puppy...

In a nutshell, that's why I haven't been posting anything. I've been busy and I just haven't been in the mood for it. The nice weather today is helping, so now I'm going to go sit on my deck and soak up some sun and read a book and try not to think about anything!!!

Take it easy, blog world,