Sunday, December 29, 2013

Six Years Later...

As I type out the title, I'm still amazed at that number { 6 }. It has been six years since Sal and I went ice skating on a baseball field that had frozen over, six years since he asked me to be his girlfriend, six years since I said yes. At that time, we never knew what we were asking or saying yes to, we just knew that we wanted to be together at that time. 12/17/07 (hence my blog title 12.17 Love Notes & Travels) has now become such a meaningful date to the both of us; both of us, not having imagined still being together and honestly, more in love than ever.

We're trying to save as much as possible right now, but that didn't stop Sal from sending me gorgeous flowers that day. We made sure we got our kickboxing session in bright and early. It was snowing, and Sal was supposed to have school so we decided to just relax for the rest of the day and go out the following night.

We were in my room, when we heard a knock. My mom immediately asked me to get the door, but Sal being the gentleman that he is, started towards the door shouting he'd get it. We got to the door at the same time, and as he opened it he moved backwards, remembering, and there was the beautiful bouquet of flowers. Laughing, I received them and just looked at Sal. He had completely forgotten that he sent them to me. My mom then said, "why do you think I called Kristyn to answer the door?" Needless to say it was quite memorable. Sal and I ended up making a healthy dinner that night, enjoying each others company.

The following night we decided to try 'Brio A Tuscan Grille,' a little restaurant they recently added to a nearby mall. We were both indecisive about where we wanted to go, and even still as we walked into the restaurant, but it was elegant with great prices. We were in awe when we saw the restaurants decor, and we quickly noticed how the atmosphere seemed to put you at ease. Though it was busy, we got a table right away, and began flipping through the menu. I wasn't about to order something healthy though, especially when I saw they had a bruschetta sampler, which was probably the most delicious bruschetta that I've ever had, and I would go back there in a second just for the appetizer. We ordered a bottle of wine, not only because we thought it'd pair well with our celebration, but also because I had forgotten my ID, and I was worried if I ordered a glass for myself, that she would have carded me (thankfully she did not). While Sal went with the lasagna, I chose the shrimp and crab cakes, with vegetables, which were divine. I have to admit, I would go back in an instant.

Afterwards, we had plans to head into the city with my brother and his girlfriend, for our yearly tradition to see the christmas tree in Rockefeller Center. We do this every year; however, last year was a pretty emotional trek into the city, or I should say while we smiled in front of the cameras, because our pictures came out terrible. It seems silly now, even the day after, but that night when we came home to look at the professional pictures we had taken online, I cried. Every year we try and order the pictures, which has become somewhat of an anniversary present in itself, and it's nice to be able to look back on them through the years. This year we made sure we bundled up probably even more than last year, but this time the pictures came out perfect, and instead of waiting to order them online, we ordered them right then and there. I guess that's what happens when you're not expecting anything, and just go with the flow. We even took a few pictures on our own, and one especially nice couple took a picture of all four of us, which I must admit, is probably the best picture of the night. We snapped a few pictures, and then we headed back to the car, hoping that parking wasn't going to cost a fortune. We're not the type of people to hang out in the city for hours on end, but we like to enjoy the atmosphere before leaving. If we didn't go into the city, I don't think it'd feel quite like Christmas.

When I tell people that we just celebrated our six year anniversary, they immediately look to my left hand, expecting to see a diamond, but they don't. Sal and I are still young, despite having been together for six years, and we are perfectly fine with where we are in the relationship... though some days you might catch me staring at the rings in the glass cases.

Thank you love, for another amazing anniversary... Here's to many, many more. I love you Sal. 

Thursday, December 12, 2013

No Bake Cookie Dough Bites

If you know me, you know that I'm obsessed with all things cookie dough... and if you don't know me, well now you know. So whenever I find a cookie dough recipe of any kind, I always want to get in my kitchen, bust out my Kitchen aid, and bake, bake, bake. I was always in the kitchen baking just a few years ago, but then I started to watch what I was eating... I mean my hobby was great and all, until I started to realize that I would be one of the many people to eat these delicious treats, especially because the baker must taste test! It quickly became a problem, and I started to use Pinterest to find alternative sweet treats, that were still just as sweet, but healthier! It was easier than I thought it would be. I was also able to find plenty of healthy recipes on Tone It Up, and that's where I found this featured recipe: No Bake Cookie Dough Bites.

Remember how I said I love cookie dough? Well I was determined to make these; however, I feared that they wouldn't taste like cookie dough bites. My fears were null and void when I took that first bite though, because they tasted JUST LIKE COOKIE DOUGH. I couldn't believe it. These bites quickly became a staple for my after breakfast snack at work. They're easy to throw in a plastic bag, and go. If you're like me and always on the run, then these are definitely great to make for the long work week!

No Bake Cookie Dough Bites by Lauren Conrad

yield: 12


- 2/3 cup raw cashews
- 1/3 cup oats
- 2 Tbsp agave syrup
- 1 Tbsp pure maple syrup
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- 1/4 cup sweet cocoa nibs or dark chocolate chips

{opt. 1 scoop Perfect Fit Protein}


1. Combine oats and cashews in a food processor and grind into a flour- like consistency. 
2. Add agave, maple syrup, and vanilla, and blend again until smooth. 
3. Transfer your dough into a mixing bowl and stir in the nibs or chips by hand. 
4. Roll the dough into 12 chocolate truffle sized balls. Enjoy or refrigerate!

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Paper Love Stationary {Giveaway} !

This has been a long time coming, ever since my friend Ardiana over at Paper Love Stationery designed my blog, I've been wanting to host a giveaway with her fabulous paper products. She has her own Etsy shop that features custom designed paper goods for all occasions, from wedding invitations and bridal shower invitations, to blank cards for holidays and thank you notes. She's always looking to please the customer, whether it's by changing the colors to match the colors for the wedding or if it's changing a thank you card layout into a note card just to say hello! She provides "a true representation of our clients' visions, styles, and personalities."

The time has finally come that I can now host a giveaway and it's the perfect time, since Christmas is well on it's way {13 days away}! Whether you're looking for a stocking stuffer or want to mail last minute holiday cards, I have the perfect greeting cards for you!

Paper Love Stationery {Giveaway}

     What You Could Win: 

Set of 8 'Merry Christmas Wreath' Note Cards with coordinating Kraft Envelopes

     How To Enter: 

You must follow my blog Love Notes & Travels & Comment telling me your favorite Holiday Tradition.

     Additional Entries:

Follow me and PaperLoveStationery on Twitter & leave a comment telling me you did. 

Follow me and PaperLoveStationery on Instagram & leave a comment telling me you did.

Follow PaperLoveStationery on Facebook & leave a comment telling me you did. 

Post about the giveaway to any social media outlet {Twitter, Instagram, Facebook} & leave a comment telling me you did.

     *Open to US residents only. 

     Giveaway Ends: 

December 17th, 2013 @ 11:59 PM EST.

Winner Announced. Thank you for entering!

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Twenty-Four, but Still a Kid.

Sal is twenty-two days older than me, and never lets me forget it either. This year he turned twenty-four, even though he still acts like a child. I didn't take off of work, instead we made plans to go out both nights on the weekend of his birthday, both Friday and Saturday (I know I'm turning into a party animal, watch out!). Plans were thrown together in a haste that Friday night, and before I knew it I was driving home from work, getting ready, and heading out to one of the local bars that was hosting a country night! We arrived and I was a little hesitant because there weren't many people there, but as soon as I heard the music, I was set for the night. Usually, we have to put money into a modernized jukebox in order to hear the music we like, so it was nice being able to just enjoy the atmosphere with friends.

The bar quickly filled up, and friends started arriving. Soon enough the shots were being poured, and drinks were being passed around. Knowing I had to work the next day, I chose to drive everyone. It was a good choice, as I was able to enjoy the show, so to speak. Sal didn't have any shots until the clock struck 12, which is a pretty good feat with his friends. As soon as the bartender found out it was his birthday, all hell broke loose. I couldn't help but laugh, but I took as few pictures as possible. Before I knew it, we were out on the dance floor; Sal is quite the dancer, even with a few drinks in him. Even though Sal and I said we'd never go to this bar, ever, I'm glad we did because country night wasn't all that bad.

The following day was Sal's actual birthday - November 30th, and that's when we had plans to go to Dave & Busters for the night (I told you he's a child). Before we left though, I knew I had to give Sal his birthday present that he had practically begged me for, so when he opened it, it was no surprise. I tried tricking him by telling him I didn't buy him anything, but he didn't even mind. So I eventually gave him his gift - a GoPro wrapped in princess wrapping paper! While he opened it I smiled, because he was genuinely happy, and I'm glad it was because of me.

I couldn't bask in all of the happiness though, because we had to leave. This was the first year that my brother was allowed to come being that he turned 21 this year. Other friends arrived little by little, but we were already playing games, and getting competitive, trying to win the most tickets. If you've never been to D&Bs, I suggest you go as soon as you can - it's like Chuckie Cheese for adults, with drinks and prizes! After playing for what felt like hours, we decided to take a short break for some snacks, and I may or may not have eaten a whole order of spinach and artichoke dip... okay not the whole thing, but close enough, which my brother informed me while laughing that I probably just consumed 1000 calories. Whoops! I wasn't going to complain about calories when I was having a good time. The waitress ended up messing up our order, so lucky enough for us we were able to all eat and refuel for under $15.00! We played a few more games, but then we headed home, having full bellies and a card filled with tickets. While none of us traded in our tickets for prizes, we knew we'd be back soon enough. to get bigger prizes. We didn't leave before snapping a Christmas card though!

Happy Birthday Salvatore; I hope you had one amazing birthday! I'm glad I could spend yet another birthday with you - that's 6 years in a row! 

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

The Beautiful Struggle

It's honestly a struggle for me to wake up and go to work sometimes, but not because of the usual reasons that people can't get out of their beds to head to work. I, for one, absolutely love my job. Of course, I have days that aren't as great as the days before, but I keep persevering and hope one day everyone knows, and understands, what I do. {side note: I'm a Child Life Specialist: I am a trained professional who helps children and their families understand the hospital environment and diagnosis through education, therapeutic intervention, and play.}

The reason why it has become a struggle is because of the drive. In the almost 6 years that Sal and I have been dating, Sal is more likely than not always the driver. If I can, I choose not to drive. I'm not sure why, or when this started, but I don't like being the driver in the car for more than a 5 minute drive. Is it just me, or do you wish you could blink and arrive at any given destination that you please? What's even more strange is that I absolutely love traveling, and exploring new places, as long as I'm not the one in the driver's seat. This drive to work isn't just down the street... it's about a fifty minute drive, which qualifies as long in my book, especially with my gas guzzler of a SUV. Fifty minutes is a long time to sit there thinking, and singing the same ten songs on country radio (NASH FM, please play a better variety). So by the end of the day, when I finally pull up to my house, I worked an eight and half hour shift, and drove two hours. It's no wonder that I have no energy to go out with friends.

Of course there are mornings when the sun is shining so brightly, there isn't any traffic on the road, and the ride seems to go faster than normal. Then there are the mornings when I sit in traffic, and wind up being late to work... these are the mornings that I watch the clouds fly by, the sun rise slowly into the sky, and I realize I'm luckier than most. Instead of complaining about my drive, I try to look at the positive things in my life, no matter how small those positives are. I begin letting my wind wander to the day I will have once I arrive at the hospital - hopefully better than the last. It's easy to sit there and beep at drivers that should probably go back and retake their driving test, to raise your blood pressure, and be angry at the world, but sometimes these things are uncontrollable. I always focus on my breathing, and breath as deeply as I can during my ride. Yoga has taught me this, and I'm so grateful that I have been able to bring this to all aspects of my life.

Life is beautiful, despite days that are filled with struggles.

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

A Different Kind of Thanksgiving

Last year, Sal and I ran in a local 5K Turkey Trot together, after having trained for weeks on end. We  never ran before we started training, and after a few weeks, I felt invincible. Of course, there were many times when I wanted to give up, but I didn't. We made it to race day, and ran our hearts out. This year was a little different because Sal was unable to run, though he was signed up. It turns out that Sal injured his leg and the doctor suggested (actually, he demanded) that Sal not run any more. When I heard the news, I was slightly devastated, and not because he was injured, because I know Sal will just persevere and push himself past the injury, but because I had lost my running partner. I laced up my shoes that morning, put layer upon layer on, and popped my earbuds in place, going through the motions I'd go through on any race morning. We waited at the start line together until we were about to start; that's when Sal headed to the sidelines, and I knew I had to give it my all. Despite the cold temperatures, and the empty space at my side, I ran. I ran even though I hadn't run in weeks, all while repeating in my head, the faster I ran, the warmer I'd be... the faster I ran, the sooner I'd see Sal. He was my motivation during that run, just like he's my motivation during many days.

When I made it to the finish line though, I didn't see him, and he didn't see me... there were thousands of people at the race. It was my fastest recorded 5K - 29:02. I was shaking, so I kept walking and grabbed a bottle of water, an orange slice, and a roll. I quickly decided my body needed liquids more than solids, after a quick bite of bread. I searched frantically, until I saw the back of his head in the crowd. I ran to him, as fast as my already sore legs would run, and called his name. We were both upset that he hadn't seen me cross the finish line, but he smiled and said he was so proud that I had finished, especially without him. I'm glad I didn't just roll over when I heard my alarm go off that morning, glad I called Sal to wake him up that morning, and glad I had finished yet another 5K on my own. You are stronger than you think you are. You don't always need someone there by your side, but having someone at the finish line is an indescribable feeling.

We quickly left because by that time Sal's feet were frozen, and he could no longer feel his hands. My heart was still racing, and my blood was warm as the adrenaline was still coursing through me, but I knew it would wear off fast, so I didn't hesitate when he said let's go home! I finished off a water bottle, and talked with Sal about the race, as we drove home. We were both looking forward to spending Thanksgiving with our families... Sal at his house, and mine at a formal restaurant. We decided a few years ago that we would see each other at some point during Thanksgiving, but that we would spend it with our family separately. I am all for spending holidays together, but Thanksgiving seems like an important holiday to spend with your own family. It works for us. I had some time before we were going to our dinner, so I took my time, enjoying watching the Thanksgiving Day parade with my brother and mom, while chowing down on pumpkin muffins she had made for us while I was running.

When we arrived at the banquet hall, we were greeted with 'Happy Thanksgivings,' and while I was sad that these individuals were all working, and my being there was not helping them be with their families, I hoped they'd be able to see them after their shift was over. The spread was incredible, from butternut squash raviolis, turkey, and a mashed potato bar, to pies of all kinds and chocolate covered fruit! While we tried to take our time, pausing after appetizers, and again after dinner, we were stuffed at the end of our three course meal, that ended up being four or five for my brother and dad. The atmosphere was perfect, and I truly felt like I was enjoying dinner with my family at home. We cheered with champagne, that might've been the best I've ever had, and then drank wine during dinner. It was relaxing, and it felt right, unlike many holidays prior to that ended with everyone in different rooms. I enjoyed having my family right there with me for a few hours. No cell phones were brought out, and the conversation never lulled. There was no stress in the kitchen, and even though there were no leftovers, I kind of consider that a blessing. Not being able to stuff your face with turkey and mashed potatoes all night, is definitely a good thing for me. I counted my blessings sitting at that table together, and my family is definitely at the top of that list.

When we got home, we relaxed in the living room, lighting a fire, and turning on a movie. We sat on the couches, and laughed for what seemed like hours. I could not have been more thankful, could not have been more blessed.

I hope everyone had a wonderful Thanksgiving with their loved ones. 

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Catching Up

Ever hear of that old saying, "Life gets in the way"? I know I've used it as an excuse a time or two. When in reality, we're always living, it never gets in the way. We put different things at the forefront, at different times in our life. In high school, life seemed to always be about our friends, and what we were doing after school or that weekend. In college, we were concerned about our classes, but also made time to go out and experience 'college.' Now that I'm out of college, and currently have a full time job, I've come to realize how hard it is to maintain those friendships that we worked so hard to keep up with over the years. It's a difficult balancing act, that doesn't seem to get easier no matter how many hours a sleep I get a night. Sometimes, I seriously weigh going out with sleeping longer, and I'll be honest, sleep usually wins, but I've come to reason that spending time with friends, as well as family, is more important than sleeping an extra hour, when it's probably going to be just as difficult to get out of bed the next morning. I don't want to look back at my life and think of all the times I got a good nights sleep, because quite frankly, who cares? I'm going to want to flip through photo albums filled with travels, with good food, and fun, memorable times with friends and family.

Over the years, I've lost many friends - we outgrew one another, we stopped talking, or we just lost touch. I've been so grateful to reconnect with some old friends quite recently, while keeping my current friendships in tact. It doesn't take much now a days, just a quick text telling the other you're thinking of them, wishing them luck on a current endeavor, or asking what days they're free next week, giving them plenty of time to schedule in a date just for you. Now believe me, I'm not the perfect friend, but I've begun to realize that it takes work, from all individuals, and sometimes it's harder than any one thought possible. 

It's not about the amount of time you spend with someone either, as long as you're both present and available during the time you spend together, that's all that matters; whether it's for a quick lunch date for salads, a dinner date followed by loads of conversation, or just a quick coffee before bed. 
In the past few weeks I've caught up with my friend who is still in college, with a difficult schedule -
we went out to dinner and enjoyed some sangria over conversations about life, love, and our new workout schedules, or lack there-of. I've caught up with an old friend, who I hadn't seen in a year or two, during a quick lunch date, eating salads and talking about what has happened in our lives since graduation. I was also able to grab lunch with another friend who I hadn't seen in months.

Sure, I've been able to go out with Sal's friends, but these are my girlfriends, and girl time is much different than going to the bar with a bunch of men.

So don't let 'life get in the way', just LIVE

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Tony Stark & Pepper Potts

This year Halloween was quite different than the last years, and I'm not complaining. I had to work at the hospital during the day, but I was able to go in early enough to get home with enough time to get ready to go out with friends.

At work, some of the nurses and other child life specialists dressed up for the children. It took me quite some time to finally decide what I was going to be and I was leaning towards a minion or Super Mario, until I was in the halloween store and I found a woody costume that would be perfect with my cowboy boots! Since it'd give me another chance to wear my cowboy boots, I was sold. It was easy and comfortable to wear, except I hadn't realized I'd be running around the floor with cowboy boots on (my feet were a little bit sore when I finally took them off).  The children loved it, as did most of the staff; and it made the day fun. The children couldn't dress up or go out trick or treating, which I never thought about prior to working in a hospital. Even while I was volunteering and interning in hospitals, I never thought of children being in the hospital on holidays. While you may be thinking Halloween isn't a huge holiday to miss, it is to a 7 year old who planned to dress up as his favorite super hero and have a candy competition with his friends. We were able to bring joy to children though, even the babies who would be missing their first halloween, by doing reverse trick or treating! We handed out halloween bags that morning (though pillow cases could have worked just as well; remember those days?!), and we had the nurses and staff participate by knocking on their door, saying 'TRICK OR TREAT,' and giving them a small toy or knick knack ... does anybody still say knick knack anymore? The children, as well as the parents, loved it, and were happy their children were able to celebrate halloween in a special way. We also had ongoing crafts in the playroom, with the help of volunteers, and passed out cupcakes, as well as their own mini pumpkins! While we couldn't carve the pumpkins, some kids used markers to draw on them.

It was incredible seeing the resiliency of children in the hospital; while they were upset in the days prior to, they were no longer upset when they had a bag filled with special toys. I bet they didn't think they'd be celebrating at all in the hospital. Hopefully it made it a little less scary and a lot more fun.

When I got home, I had a bit of a wardrobe change, transforming myself into Pepper Potts. Not sure who she is? Have you ever seen Iron Man? Pepper Potts is Tony Stark's girlfriend. Tony Stark being Iron Man himself, and who, you ask, would be Tony Stark... well Sal would be. Sal had it in his mind that he wanted to be Tony Stark, not Iron Man, just Tony. Joking around, I said it would be funny if I was Pepper, only I didn't have blonde hair. He decided that after 5 years, it was time for us to actually dress up as a couple on Halloween. While I wasn't against the idea, I wasn't completely sold, until he told me that I could wear business attire, and just had to add on a blonde wig. I have to admit something though; the minute I put the blond wig on, I cried. Identity crisis commence! I was fine once I got into character, and kept repeating that I could take the wig off once the night was over. Once we were both dressed, and I had my ID badge on, along with my Stark Industries notebook in hand, we looked quite like the characters themselves! We headed out with our friends, and while I thought it was obvious who we were, we had to explain it to some, but I didn't mind. It was funny to see what people chose to dress up as, all while enjoying a few cocktails.

I learned a few things about myself that day... #1 being that I will never, ever dye my hair blonde.

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Happy Birthday, Mom!

My mom's birthday usually lasts all month; and boy do I enjoy her singing, "It's my birthday, it's my birthday' all October long. Despite her belief that a birthday should be celebrated all month long, we only celebrate the weekend of her birthday. Last year, I threw her a surprise 50th birthday party, inviting all her friends to a local bar and restaurant, with decorations and a birthday cake too! While it wasn't a huge get together this year, it still included most of my mom's friends and the people that mean a lot to her, especially my brother who came home from school just for her birthday.

I couldn't get there until after work, but my mom didn't mind; it was the fact that I was there that showed I cared, and really, how could I miss my mom's birthday!? When I arrived I made my mom open her birthday gift. I had went to Pandora earlier in the week to get more charms for her bracelet that we promised we'd attempt to fill it with each occasion that passed. I had originally planned on getting her two charms, but fell in love with three of them when I paired them together on the string in the store. When she opened up the box, her eyes filled with tears. She immediately realized the significance of all of them: an opal for her birth stone, angel wings in memory of my grandmother, her mother, and pink and purple sea glass, that signified the ocean/beach, where my grandma loved to spend her time, looking for shark teeth.

We eventually ordered pizza and drinks, and thankfully, knowing the bartender meant that he was there whenever we needed another round. Clashing of plates, screaming happy birthday while the cake was brought out, and laughing so hard we received quite the looks from the surrounding tables, meant that it was a successful night, aside from the fact that they served my mom a slice of carrot cake with a candle on it... who even eats carrot cake?! Ever heard of ice cream cake? We snapped a few pictures, and before we knew it the night was coming to an end. My mom wasn't ready to call it a night though, (I swear sometimes I think she has more energy than I do), so she stayed out for a little longer with her friend. While I'm all for celebrations, there are just some nights after work where I don't have an extra ounce of energy, and I can't force my eyes to stay open any longer. I know that my mom had a great time though, because we were all there, for her. 

Happy Birthday Mom - I love you so, so much. You deserve all the happiness in the world. 

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

A Cottage for Two

In the past, I was always looking to Sal to see if we would be able to afford a day trip or a weekend getaway. Since landing a full-time job, I have been able to spend more money to travel, both near and far. I had a three day weekend recently, and decided that I wanted to get away with Sal for a night. We looked at locations with wineries in Pennsylvania, and then asked for recommendations from friends. Luckily, Kristyn over at Creative with Kristyn, one of my friends I met through Tone It Up, suggested the Lehigh Valley Wine Trail. Once we heard there was a trail, there was no way we could pass up the opportunity. While we could have just stayed in an inexpensive hotel, I wanted to make it more memorable, giving us the feel that we were all alone in the country. That was when I found Glasbern Inn, and their small, cozy cottages for two. I was hesitant at first to click reserve, but when I did, I found that the excitement was starting to build. Whenever Sal and I have plans to go away, I get nervous, and my heart starts to beat fast. We've been away plenty of times, but that feeling doesn't seem to fade, which is quite exciting. It makes me live in the moment and be aware of everything going on around me, not what's happening on social media. We don't turn on the TV or check our phones; we just enjoy the days together.

We set off rather early, and still arrived before check-in, so we decided to explore the town, heading to the Promenade Shops at Saucon Valley. We walked around, peeking in the windows of all of the shops, but not going in, because we're not shoppers, quite frankly, unless we need anything. Instead, we noticed that our hunger was starting to strike, and so we decided to eat lunch at one of the restaurants, which reminded me a lot like Panera. Afterwards, we headed back to the Clover Hill Winery, a beautiful, modern winery, where we tried impeccable wine. The views were incredible, even on a cloudy day, and I felt so warm and welcome as soon as we walked inside. We ended up buying a bottle of wine or two. Since it was still early, we headed to another winery nearby, Vyncrest Vineyards and Winery, which had a more farm feel to it. The lady who served us our wine was extremely friendly, and some a wine was great. We bought another bottle or two while we were there.

We headed to our cottage to check in, and instantly fell in love. We walked into our cottage and knew we could live there forever if we had to (okay, no one would even need to force me to live there).  A fireplace, a small couch for two, a sleep number bed, AND a jacuzzi upstairs, what else does one need? After we settled in and cuddled up on the couch for a few, we decided to explore the grounds, and we took a long walk, noticing the color of the trees changing, the animals who provided everyone that lived there and visited with meat, eggs, and everything in between. We held hands as we walked in silence. We were back in the cottage before we knew it, but not before we raced up the hill, which may or may not have led to no where. After cleaning off, we headed to dinner in the main farm house, dressed to impress. We ordered drinks, and looked over the menu, where over half of the apps and entrees were made farm-raised and home-grown. We both ordered salads, fresh from their garden with fruits and nuts. Then the main course arrived; Sal had ordered the steak with fries, and I had ordered the pork loin with veggies and potatoes. Though the size was rather small, it was delicious, and it left us with room for dessert. Most of the time when we go out, we never have room for dessert, so this was a great treat! I had the pumpkin cheesecake, which was probably one of the best that I've ever had, and Sal had the chocolate cake, which was so rich and decadent, I could only try one bite.

We ran down the cobblestone road in the rain to our cottage. Neither of us had thought to bring a jacket or umbrella to dinner, making it quite an exhilarating run! We lit a fire in the fireplace, and immediately started running the jacuzzi up the spiral stairs, popping open a bottle of strawberry wine and pairing it with the chocolate wine we had bought in NY. The night ended with us playing Hangman, because I refused to let us be sucked into the TV. While I never did find my number, I fell asleep before I knew it.

The next morning we awoke, and remembered that they were serving farm raised breakfast, and while it took us awhile to actually get out of bed, we were glad when we finally did. Breakfast was incredible, and I wish I could have had a second plate!

We had wanted to hike that day, but it was raining and so we ditched that plan. There were two more wineries we were to visit that day, so we packed up our things, and left our cottage behind, certainly not until after we snapped a picture of every inch. Blue Mountain Vineyards and Cellars was our first winery that day, and I was immediately put off by the look of the building, and eventually even more so when we walked inside. They had a dog walking around, and while I love dogs, I don't want to have one rubbing against my leg while I'm trying to taste wine. I wasn't a huge fan of the wine, but we did end up buying two bottles to make sangria with, hoping it tastes better with fruit in it. I was upset, but happy that it wasn't our last stop. Pinnacle Ridge Winery ended up being Sal's favorite, but I think that's because he instantly became friends with our wine tasting server. The wine there was great, and I loved the feel of the winery as soon as we walked in. You were able to see the barrels and barrels of wine, and although no one was making any, it had the distinct feel of a magical place. Sal told me it reminded him of his grandfather's basement, where he used to make wine. We were recommended to a pizza place for lunch, and while I'm usually weary of pizza any where other than in NJ or NY, we tried the place, and it ended up filling us up enough for our ride home.

I couldn't believe how fast our two days had gone, and though it didn't go exactly as we had planned, we made long lasting memories, and we made them together. Plans never go exactly like you planned, but I have found that it's better to focus on each and every solitary moment in a positive manner, than by focusing on the negative.

Saturday, October 26, 2013

Rows & Rows of Pumpkins

In the (almost) 6 years that Sal and I have been going out, we've done our fair share of fall activities, but each year we always find a way to change it up, whether it's by going to a different location or trying new things. Sure we've gone pumpkin picking before, but every year we go to a different farm. I don't think we've ever been to the same place twice. We decided to check out Alstede Farms this year, a place that Sal's former place of employment took their employees to last year. His friends suggested it to him, and I was certainly up for the ride.

I may have skipped as we walked past the bales of hay stacked up high, with the cloudless sky above us. I felt young and refreshed as I took a deep breath of the crisp fall air. We decided right then and there that we would make this day ours, and we purchased our tickets that included not only a pick-your-own pumpkin, but also a hay ride and a chance to find our way through the corn mazes. 

We ended up with the wrong map, however, and couldn't start until Sal ran and grabbed the right map. If we didn't have a map, we might've gotten lost... okay, we probably would have gotten lost, because even with a map we couldn't even find our way to every number. How we got from number 2 to number 6 is beyond me. We came upon a bridge, and the view was beautiful; corn stalks for what seemed like miles. Luckily, we found our way out, and then decided to try to find our way through the smaller corn maze, meant for children. We definitely made it out in 5 minutes, and I laughed the whole way through. After some pictures in the corn stalks, we found our way to the animals. Sal fell in love with the cows, and made sure he fed them quarters, upon quarters worth of animal feed. I, fell in love with the bunnies, why bunnies were on a farm, I'm not quite sure, but they were way too cute to be ignored, especially the one trying to make a great escape underneath the fence. 

We then hopped on the hay ride and headed to the field with rows & rows of pumpkins. Sal wanted an oblong pumpkin, which was definitely a first. We kept reminiscing about all of the pumpkins we've carved, and how for the most part, Sal's pumpkins looked as if they were carved by a 5 year old. My pumpkins, on the other hand, were all beautiful, because let's face it, I'm a perfectionist. Sal picked his pumpkin quickly, while I kept searching for mine. It took a while, but I ultimately picked the first one I set my eyes on, which thankfully I was able to find again. 

We piled back on to the tractor, along with many, many people, and as we rode back and bounced over bumps, I could not get off quick enough. Pictures were taken on the bales of hay, and then we saw that the wine tasting shack, with wine from Tomasello Winery, was open - which, let's face it, could not be more perfect for Sal and I, as we have an obsession with wines, and tastings. The wine was absolutely incredible, and was probably one of my favorite tastings that I've been to, and I could not get enough of the wine. 

With our souvenir wine glasses, we headed to an early dinner, grabbing slices of delicious pizza before we headed home with our pumpkins in tow. 

Monday, October 21, 2013

Bonding with My Momma

I'll be the first to admit that my relationship with my mom is far from perfect. She says I used to be such a sweet child, now she often asks herself what happened. I used to think it was a joke, but she might've been serious. We were always fighting, and now I realize it's because we're probably more alike than I choose to realize. Lately though, I've been trying to put life more into perspective. I'm honestly jealous of other daughters who have such incredible relationships with their mothers. I want to have that type of relationship where we can just go grab dinner one night, go shopping and get our nails done, or just go to the gym together. I don't want to come home from work every night and get or give the cold shoulder to my mom because we fought that morning. After my mom lost her mom, it hit me that my mom won't be around forever, and I should take advantage of the time I have with her, while I can, especially since I'm still living at home. She's always been there for me emotionally, as well as physically, supporting me in every decision I've made, providing me with anything I've asked for, and while I've always appreciated it, I might've not always shown it.

So I've been proactively changing my attitude towards her, and it's done wonders. I can now say we're in a great place in our relationship. Just last week, I suggested we go to the mall and then grab dinner, and guess what? That's exactly what we did. We went shopping, buying a few items for ourselves, and then we went to California Pizza Kitchen. We sipped on some wine as we caught up on every day life. We didn't fight (or worry about the calories), rather we enjoyed each other's company.

So when the opportunity arose again this week, we went again! This time the shopping was all about her, and we were able to score some great deals (anyone love free things as much as I do!?). We then headed to my favorite coffee shop, and ate incredible salads and drank iced teas. We don't have to do anything extravagant, just getting out of the house, and sharing these nights together, is something I'll remember for years to come. I'll look back on these nights and smile, knowing that we both made an effort to be there, in the moment, with each other. Our relationship might not be perfect, actually it's still far from it, but we're in a good place and I wouldn't trade it for anything.

Saturday, October 19, 2013

New York Hiking

Sal meets quite a few people when he's shopping for fish... to be honest, he meets people everywhere he goes, but that's not the point. When he was buying fish for his tank he started talking to a man that worked there. They somehow landed on the topic of hiking and nearby trails, and that's when the man mentioned of a trail in NY, which ended up being closer than I thought! Sal told me to dress appropriately - for some odd reason, I have a rather tough time picking out clothes to wear according to the weatherl of course it may look hot outside, but I'm never sure if there's wind, or if it's going to get cloudy later, so I always dress like it's winter, despite the sun beaming down on us. This time, I dressed perfect - for the weather and the hiking. Sal packed a cooler with water bottles, and I brought a few healthy snacks: apples, almonds, and bars.

It took no time at all to get to the first lake, but then I realized there were seven lakes. Did we stop at the first stop? Of course not, because we are two people that love to go wherever the wind blows. Seriously, we just kept driving until we found a spot that looked almost surreal, had it not been for the people that were making their own way into the lake whether it was by kayak or foot. Once we were in the woods though, away from everyone... it was just us and nature, and it was as if we were breathing for the first time. The air was crisp and fresh. I felt like the world had melted away from me, and I could take deep, long breaths without smelling anything other than the fresh water, and the rich oxygen that the trees were giving off. While there were trail markers, we wandered off by the lake. As long as we followed the lake we would not get lost, according to Sal.

When we saw the perfect rock, right by the water's edge, we climbed it, and sat admiring the water and just talking. Isn't it great, just to ponder life and all it's wonders. I'm not sure how long we were on that rock, but long enough to figure out you could scream and make silly noises and you could hear the echo throughout the trees. Our voices were all around us, and it was quite magical - for a few minutes anyways.

We hopped off the rock, and kept walking, until we felt as if we had found another lake entirely. We reconvened and decided that it was best to start walking back, following the trail. We took a break beforehand, having a quick snack to refuel. I was in my own world, quite literally; I never even heard two older hikers walking towards us, which nearly scared me half to death! Thankfully, it wasn't a bear, because I don't know how much help I would have been to Sal.

When we were back at the car, we decided to keep following the lakes to see what else we could find. Before we knew it, we were overlooking the beautiful Hudson River. Sometimes, these adventures lead to difficulties, and I find myself asking... "Now how are we going to take a picture of us with this incredible view behind us?!" Fortunately for us, two individuals saw us struggling, and asked if they might take our picture. Perfect, right!? Uh, is that Luke Bryan!?

We still weren't ready to let this day end just yet; just a little ways down the road, and we began to see signs for a trailside zoo! Of course, Sal, being the animal lover that he is, couldn't say no to a zoo. I was all about walking more, and seeing some animals, until I saw that it was free to get in. It only got worse when I noticed that most of these animals were outside, with the highway being right next to them. It's not that the animals didn't seem well taken care of, it's just that sometimes seeing these animals in cages upsets me. I understand some would be extinct if we didn't keep them in zoos, but it just leads to me to think, "what kind of life is that?" I sure wouldn't want to be locked up in a cage, pacing and pacing. I did notice that some of the animals were being moved to bigger habitats though, which is a great thing.

I don't think we could have walked anymore, even if we wanted to. We decided to splurge on dinner and headed to Steak & Shake (if you've never tried their steak burgers or shakes, you're missing out)! Spending the day outside could not have been more perfect, and inexpensive too! Aside from dinner, we didn't open our wallets once! What more could you ask for?