Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Valentine's Day 2015: The Heart of the Matter

Each Valentine's Day for the last three years has been spent with one of my best friends. For the past two years I've worked on Valentine's Day (I'm sure other years prior, but I'm counting full time job hours). The hospital has been such a great place to be, and I try and make it a great day for the children and families that are stuck there. This year it was filled with cupcakes and Zumba! For the past seven years, I've had a boyfriend who spoils me to no end each and every day of the year, not just with material things and food, but with his undivided attention, love, and support. Even though we've been dating each other, every Valentine's Day that comes around, we don't make a huge deal out of it, because we show each other how much we love each other day in and day out. To us, it's not about one day, it's about day after day. So that's why I choose to go out with my friend on Valentine's Day. Sal and I still have our night out together and he still arrives to my door with flowers or has them delivered, but it doesn't need to be on Valentine's Day. 

Sal had flowers delivered to the hospital where I work. Receiving a phone call saying I had something downstairs in the lobby waiting for me was definitely heart wracking, but definitely made me smile when I picked up the box and saw what was delivered to me. It made me feel so special, and gave me a smile to wear the rest of the day. 

This year, my friend and I were going to go to a fancy restaurant, but it ended up being booked with reservations, so we decided to go to our favorite burger place, with wine (Zinburger is great for those of you that haven't gone)! We arrived even though it was snowing, and were seated immediately, with no wait ... which is funny because on any random night we'd go there, there would be a wait! I guess burgers aren't that romantic, well for us they certainly are! We immediately started off with a bottle of wine, even though they were out of one of our favorites, Reisling. We poured our glasses full, and began our usual conversation, catching up and gossiping and forming our plans for the summer, which will be epic. We placed our orders for our delicious burgers and sweet potato fries, and when they arrived, we still continued to talk as we stuffed our faces. It's funny because each and every time we go there, we say we're only going to order half of a burger, and we end up ordering and eating a whole one. We were full, but there was still more wine, so our night went on. 

Time went fast, and we found ourselves closing the place, so we headed next door to Cups and filled our cups with way too much frozen yogurt and toppings. Why we do this to ourselves, I'll have no idea, but it was too good to resist. We said goodbye feeling way too stuffed, and headed home. I arrived home and Sal pulled up with homemade cookie dough ice cream. Don't worry, I didn't eat it that night... I am definitely not a glutton for punishment. I did savor it and still am savoring it a little at a time because it's just so good. 

That Sunday night, Sal and I decided to go out just the two of us, on a date. He arrived to my house with two roses in his hand, and a cute little pillow that says I love you. I smiled as he led me to the car, and the whole walk there I just kept thinking about how lucky I am to be with a man that truly appreciates me. We walked hand in hand into the hibachi restaurant we would be dining at that evening, and we breathed in the smell of those Japanese noodles, steak, and lobster that would soon be coming our way. Sal, of course, headed to the indoor pond they have filled with fish, and then we ordered the best girly drinks ever... yes, you read that right... Sal enjoyed a nice Mai Tai with fruit! Once we were seated, we couldn't wait to place our orders. We ended up being next to a great group of people, and we made the night really fun. Our soups and salads arrived, and then our main entrees were cooked in front of our eyes, and it was a hilarious sight to see. I even tried the Sake! 

Dinner was beyond amazing, and worth every penny. We enjoyed every last bite, and will definitely be heading back there soon! We enjoyed every second of the night we spent with one another, and if I could spend every night with him, I would. Love is a beautiful thing, and it brings out the best qualities in both of us. It didn't matter that we hadn't gone out on Valentine's day, or that I didn't give him anything, all that mattered was that we were together, and we were truly happy. The heart of the matter is not having to be with each other for every single "holiday," or needing to get one another things to show that you love them... the heart of the matter is the love that is shared between the two of you... and that you tell and show that person you love them every day. 

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

TIUNJ Yoga Meetup & Brunch

I swear, I could rave on and on about the Tone It Up fitness community, and how over the years, I've been able to connect with and meet so many beautiful, inspiring women. So when Kristyn, at Creative with Kristyn, wanted to put together a NJ meet up, I was all ears. She was planning for a yoga meet up, followed by brunch nearby. She picked an awesome spot that had a beginner's yoga class that she figured would be great for everyone, even if a few of the girls had never done yoga before. She was recommended to try a spot for brunch afterwards, and made reservations for guess what - 15 women! I couldn't believe how many we had coming.

I invited my friend who just got into Tone It Up, and so we woke up bright and early and headed to the yoga studio. We parked, signed in, and waited. I was able to snap some pictures of the art in the studio. It was such a warm and inviting place, except for the lady at the front desk. When she realized how big our group was, I think the nerves got the best of her, and she started shouting to make sure we had all filled out our paperwork. Not so namaste. Once we were all settled on to our mats, things got weird. Okay, probably not weird for most people who have done different types of yoga before, but I'm a vinyasa girl - I like the flow of the moves and positions, and I like feeling like I'm actually working out. This yoga did not flow. We did several different moves, but I felt like I never got the chance to really lie there and focus on my breath, or end each move and give it closure. It was different though, and I'm glad I gave it a try.

We got the group all together, and took a great big picture at the end. It was exciting to see so many awesome women coming together. Kristyn passed out little bags of Perfect Fit Cinnamon protein tied together with an awesome friendship bracelet (how sweet, right?!). Most of us were going to brunch afterwards, and it was walking distance, so we began our trek outside while snow was falling down, which made for a very cold walk. It went fast though, and before you knew it we were waiting to be seated inside the toasty restaurant. Unfortunately, there were so many of us that they had to split us up and four of our girls had to sit at another table. We all ended up having a great time getting to know one another though, and we enjoyed such delicious food. I ordered eggs with sausage and tons of veggies with a side of potatoes, which was unlike anything I'd ever had, and it was hard to stop myself from scraping the empty plate and licking it clean. It paired nicely with my green tea.

It soon felt like I was having brunch with girls that I knew for year. Each and every girl was so open with their lives and experiences, and it was a breath of fresh air. It's a funny thing, friendships... sometimes, they just form so easily, and you can't even remember how it started in the first place. I'm glad I was able to attend, and I cannot wait for more meet ups to be planned.

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Date Nights Are A Must

I don't think that will ever change. Even when Sal and I are living together, even when we are married and have children, I think we'll still be going out on little date nights. And why shouldn't we?

We have been dating now for over seven years, and believe me, the butterflies have not gone away. I still get excited to see him everyday, and excited when we plan little date nights, whether we go out or spend the night cuddled up in a blanket together. We make sure that we plan to go out on a date at least once a week, especially now since we've both been so busy, it's even more important to spend even a little time doing something we love, together. With Sal at his new internship, and teaching at CKO, and me at my full time job, and teaching at CKO as well, we rarely have time to see each other and hang out like we used to, as I'm sure many have found out when being thrown into the real adult world. So, every week we make sure we plan something special together, and I'm not talking a big elaborate dinner at a 5 star restaurant either.

This past week, we decided Friday would be our night together, after I got out of work. We planned to go to dinner and a movie. I chose Steak N' Shake so we could grab some burgers, fries, and milkshakes, something we haven't eaten in forever! I had coupons, so it was going to be even less expensive than we had planned for the entire night. The coupons didn't work (long story), but we still enjoyed every last bite, and left the restaurant hand in hand.

We headed to the movies afterwards, and bought our tickets for American Sniper. If you haven't seen it yet, you really need to get your butt to a movie theater real quick. It was such a powerful, raw story, about something that we don't normally allow ourselves to think about sometimes, war and how it affects each and every man and woman that gets deployed and sees things that we could not even imagine, and how they deal with coming back to their families. We grabbed each others hands during certain parts of the movies, and I found myself resting my head on his shoulder every once in awhile, just to feel close. The movie didn't bring me to tears like some people who I know, but I was inspired to change my thought process, and to really appreciate each and every day I live in here in freedom, with the people I love and care about.

So since we're only here for such a short amount of time, why not still date the person you're with? Why not go out together and act as if you're going out on a first date, every time you go out? I'm pretty sure it's one of the keys to having a successful relationship, and if you're hesitant, I say, give it a try! Text each other at work that day, make plans to even meet at the restaurant or place you're going to, in separate cars just to build up the excitement! Get dressed up and just spend the night together - no phones, no fighting, just being the two of you! I promise you, it's worth it.

Saturday, February 7, 2015

Healthy Bites: Cookie Dough Overnight Oats

Two healthy recipe posts in a row? Uh oh! You might be able to tell, but I've been majorly focused on my personal training, and wellness business in the works. Yes, you read that right. This is MY YEAR, and I am the one calling the shots. So I've been training, creating, and pushing myself past limits that I thought were set too high for me to reach. It's funny how we are always looking at others and saying, "well I can't do that," instead of saying "why can't I?" YOU CAN! I tell my kickboxing class all the time, you are capable of more than you think you can do! It's just a matter of pushing past our thoughts, and going for it.

I've been testing some healthy recipes out in the kitchen. I'm always one to follow a recipe, but once you have the basics down, you can pretty much mix and match ingredients to really make something new and delicious. I'm a huge fan of cookie dough, and if I could eat cookie dough ice cream every night before bed without it affecting me, I would. So I figured what's better than going to sleep, waking up, and eating cookie dough? Few things come to mind. So I've perfected that sweet cookie dough taste in overnight oats!

Cookie Dough Overnight Oats [1 serving]


1/2 cup oats
1/2 cup vanilla almond milk
1 tbsp plain or vanilla greek yogurt
1 tbsp almond butter
1/2 tbsp brown sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
splash of maple syrup
pinch of salt

2 tbsp chocolate chips/cocoa nibs


1. Mix all ingredients in mason jar, except for chocolate chips and shake well.

2. Place in refrigerator overnight.

3. Add in chocolate the next morning; mix in and sprinkle on top! You can leave it out to get room temperature, or enjoy right out of the fridge!

4. Grab a spoon and enjoy!

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Healthy Bites: Chocolate Chip Banana Bread Overnight Oats

I've been challenging myself to make more recipes from my Tone It Up nutrition plan. I've had the plan for awhile now, but I haven't made too many of the recipes... mainly because they require a lot of ingredients that I just don't buy. I'm determined to try more healthy recipes out though, so I have more meals to choose from, and ultimately more meals to make my belly happy. While I enjoy routine meals, and don't mind having the same thing every day, it's nice to change it up once in awhile and find new meals that I enjoy. 

The other day I tried out the Overnight Oats. I had never made them before, so I was interested to see if I'd even enjoy them. I wasn't a huge fan of oatmeal a couple of years ago, and now it's a staple in my cabinet for breakfast. I figured overnight oats wouldn't be much different, but oh I was so wrong. Overnight oats are delicious, and are a combination between cereal and oatmeal... at least to me. So when the recipe was a hit in my books, I took it upon myself to wander on Pinterest for yet another overnight oat recipe. If you know me, you know I LOVE all things cookie dough, so I found a cookie dough overnight oat recipe. However, I didn't have the one ingredient that probably makes it taste like cookie dough (nut extract), and so I ended up throwing a bunch of ingredients together, and it came out tasting like chocolate chip banana bread. 

I don't usually create recipes on my own, mainly because if it turns out bad, I just wasted a TON of ingredients, and there goes my money down the trash. I tested my limits though, all the while thinking I couldn't make these taste bad, not with all the tasty ingredients I was adding. So here you have it... 

Let me know if you make the overnight oats and how they turn out! 

Chocolate Chip Banana Bread Overnight Oats


1 cup oats
1 cup unsweetened original almond milk
1/2 ripe banana
1 tsp vanilla
1 tsp PB2
Splash of maple syrup 
pinch of salt
pinch of sugar

2 tbsp chocolate chips 


1. Place banana in a bowl in microwave for 30 seconds. Mash banana. 

2. Mix all ingredients (except for chocolate chips) in mason jar & shake it really well (with lid on).

3. Place in refrigerator overnight. 

4. Add chocolate chips the next morning; mix in & sprinkle on top! (Let it sit out to get room temperature if you'd like).

5. Dig in with a spoon and enjoy! 

Saturday, January 17, 2015

DIY Project Life Album 1: 2007-2008

Ever since Sal and I started dating, I've been wanting to start a scrapbook... mind you, we started dating seven years ago in December of 2007. There were many, many failed attempts at starting a book filled with all of our adventures, but they were left with empty pages. Scrapbooks also require a ton of extra accessories to make it look presentable, and cute - whether it's borders and card stock, or adornments to add to pages to represent holidays and events. It can be quite pricy in the end, and then you have a huge mess on your workspace, and nowhere to put anything.

I'm not sure how I stumbled upon Project Life, but I am sure glad I did. I might've been googling easy ways to scrapbook, and it was definitely one of the first hits. Becky Higgins, the creator of Project Life, is seriously a godsend for all of us scrapbook challenged people. She has created a super simple, affordable way to document life in albums, but not those albums filled with picture after picture... you know the kind I'm talking about, the albums that your grandparents or even parents used to make you flip through every time you went to their house.

Project Life is "an ultra simple, uber-stylish solution to getting your photos off your phone and computer, out of boxes, and into albums. Gone are the days of cutting, pasting, buying oodles of supplies, and spending hours on an album. Or even hours on just one page." The process is easy, you head on over to Becky Higgins (or Amazon), and choose a Project Life Album, select a Core Kit full of designed cards, and buy the photo pocket pages. When you receive them, all you do is slip the photos and cards into the pages, place the pages into your album, and you have a beautiful book that's  wonderful to look at, filled with your memories! They even have a digital app for all of you in love with the digital world. I have not purchased the app, nor have I made an album through it.

Sal and I started our first album once I had the album, pages, pictures, and cards. I ordered most of it on Amazon, but thankfully, they just put a Hobby Lobby in my neighborhood and I was able to score some awesome designer cards from them (can anyone say 40% coupon!). We worked together a little bit every week; there were some nights when I would work on it by myself, but it was so easy and in a way, therapeutic, looking back on our first year as a couple, and seeing how young we really looked at the time. Pictures are funny that way... during a single moment you see the situation a certain way,  and then looking back on it, it's completely different. We've come a long way in the seven years since, so it was fun to put together.

Even during our first year together, we went through a ton of things from MDW and Prom, a good amount of Mets games, plenty of Holidays, and our first anniversary. There was no telling if we were going to last though because we were young, and we would always joke about "next year." We made it next year though, and five more after that. 

Putting this album together was so easy, and I will never look back on scrapbooking 'the old fashioned way.' The pages come together so well, and look beautiful. I could flip through this album all day, and not just because they bring back such amazingly, happy memories, but because the pages are eye catching, and I can feel the love pouring out onto the pages. Anyone can put these together, but even if you have the same kit as your neighbor, I doubt the pages will look the same. Every page can feel like a new day, and every memory can come alive with the help of Project Life. I cannot wait to display these in our house. 

One down, six to go. Here's a sneak peak into year two - 2009. 

Thursday, January 15, 2015

New Year, Better Me: 2015 Resolutions

You know that saying... new year, new you? Well, I completely agreed with it, until I said it out loud to the kickboxing class I was training, and then it got me thinking... why do we need to change ourselves into someone new in the course of a year, why can't we just better who we are day in and day out? Instead of being someone new, I'm just going to be a better version of myself than I've been in the years that have passed. Every new year, I make goals for myself to conquer in the next 12 months. Some of these goals are definitely easier than others, some of these goals make me grow as a person, and some are just for fun. 

Last year, I made 14 goals for myself to accomplish in 2014:

1. Travel to multiple states and abroad! 

- CHECK! Although I didn't travel abroad, Sal and I were able to go to a few places in 2014 including ConnecticutPennsylvania, Florida, and Virginia

2. Take & pass the GREs
3. Apply to graduate school, and never stop learning

4. Run more than 3 5Ks and start training for a longer run

- CHECK! I ran four 5Ks this past year - the Dirty Girl Mud Run (for the second time), the Foam Fest (for the second time), The Color Run (for the second time), and a local 5K

5. Start writing my book - (finally) get these ideas down on paper

- CHECK! I've started, but nothing too official yet. 

6. Keep my body fit and toned with the help of Tone It Up, the gym, CKO, and running

- CHECK! I've been keeping up with my workouts and healthy eating! 

7. Read at least 35 books

- CHECK! Okay, so I only read 30, but that's pretty close! 

8. Become a Certified Personal Trainer & encourage others to get fit and feel great about themselves

- CHECK! I became a Certified Personal Trainer through NASM & a CKO Kickboxing Trainer!

9. Get Engaged

10. Buy a new vehicle

- CHECK! I traded in my old Ford, and bought myself a new Jeep! I'm in love with it. 

11. Move out into my own place

12. Start a Project Life Scrapbook

- CHECK! Finally finished our Project Life Scrapbook for 2007-2008. On to 2009! 

13. Save, save, save. 


14. Find balance in life, between work, family, friends, and workouts. 

-  CHECK! This is definitely an everyday lesson, and I'm still learning. 

I checkmarked 10 out of 14 things off of my list in 2014. Looking back on 2014, I feel like it was my year to push myself past the boundaries of being 'comfortable' and really find who I am, who I'm meant to be, and what I want to do with my future. I've surprised myself with what I'm capable of, and I love being able to push others in that same way! 

15 Goals in 2015:

1. Finish Project Life Scrapbook 2009

2. Build personal training career
3. Start and finish CPT neuromuscular stretching course
4. Save, save, save
5. Travel to a new place, state, or country
6. Read a new book every month
7. Picnic in Central Park
8. Blog 3x a week
9. Book reviews after every book read
10. Continue to workout (TIU, CKO, Weights)
11. Publish another Child Life article
12. Live in the moment more & take chances
13. Pay off more 'debt'
14. Say yes
15. Move out

Here's to a New Year, and a Better You! 

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Where Has Christmas Gone?

Is it just me, or is everyone else not over the fact that Christmas has come and gone so quickly? I feel like every year, the excitement over Christmas starts right after Thanksgiving, and then we blink and it's gone. I was one of those people that listened to 106.7 FM radio the day after our feast, up until the day after Christmas. I loved hearing the Christmas music on my way to and from work. I was probably that person that you passed while driving, singing at the top of her lungs and dancing. In my opinion, the music makes the holiday that much better, that much more cheerful.

Like last year, I spent Christmas Eve at the hospital, packing up bags of toys for the boys and girls to wake up to on Christmas morning. It's more work than you think, but well worth it, even if I don't see their smiles in the morning or hear their squels, I know they're happy. 

I rushed home that afternoon to make it back to my house before our guests arrived for Christmas Eve dinner. We have not let any year go by without this holiday tradition. I was home in no time, changing and getting ready for the night ahead. As my brother lit the sternos and the smells of the food lingered in the air, my stomach growled and I couldn't wait for the night to start! Guests slowly started to arrive, and the night slipped on by. Our conversations filled the house, and our bellies grew full. We lasted all night without taking pictures by the tree, another tradition that I'm sure my boyfriend could live without, but as people started leaving, we called them one by one over to our tree to take pictures. Taking pictures is something I won't ever give up, because they last forever and I love looking back over the years at events I've been to, experiences I've gone through, and people I've spent time with. 

I slipped into a dreamless sleep that night, with a smile on my face as I looked forward to Christmas morning. No matter how old I am, I think I'll continue to wake up early and excited on Christmas. I spent the morning in my pjs with my family. We opened presents, and then put on Christmas movies all morning. I scored a few workout outfits (VSX & Asics), as well as tons of gift cards and fitness related items. 

My mom cooked us our usual Christmas morning breakfast - eggs, bacon, toast, and of course, cinnamon rolls. I ate everything, throwing my "lean, clean , and green" rule book out for the day. Life is all about balance, and if you can't have a cinnamon roll drenched in frosting, what kind of life are you living?! 

After breakfast, we continued to watch movies. I even got my dad to watch Frozen. Thanks to my job, I was able to sing every song that came on. He just loved that, ha. Later that evening, I finally got dressed (before I fell asleep on the couch) and headed to Sal's house to spend time with his family. I went just in time to enjoy  dinner, which was delicious. They could spend all day at the table, first slowly enjoying appetizers, then moving onto courses, and eventually settling down with dessert - it could last hours, which is nice and all, but not something I like to do - I mean who wants to wait all day to eat or spend all day eating? 

Sal and I didn't exchange gifts again this year, instead we plan on using the money we would have spent (and then some) on a trip far, far away, just the two of us. I'm thinking some place tropical? 

It was the perfect balance of food, family, and memory making, and I honestly would not have had it any other way. 

As much as I wish it was still the holiday season, I'll tell you one thing I don't miss about Christmas being over, holiday traffic. 

Thursday, January 8, 2015

25 Years Ago...

I was born. It's extremely weird to think of myself at that age because I don't feel older. I always thought I'd feel 25, have my life in order, and know what I want, and even though I'm definitely more mature than I have ever been, everything hasn't set in place, and I think I'm realizing that my life won't ever feel set in stone, and I'm okay with that. When I was in high school,  I had all these (false) expectations of where I'd be when I turned 25. I thought I would have moved out of my childhood home, married, and on my way to having a baby. I can't imagine me being any of those things right now... okay, except living on my own... that'd be nice. But that's not the point. The point is, with every year that I've grown a little more, I've realized that I'm exactly where I need to be, and that all of those things will happen, when they're meant to happen. 

Last year, when I turned 24, I vowed that I would complete 25 things on my bucket list before I turned 25. 25 before 25. Well, it turns out that a year goes by quite fast. I wasn't able to accomplish everything on my list, but I accomplished what I made important, what I pushed myself to accomplish, and what I had control over. 

1. I read 1 book a month. 
2. I became certified to be a personal trainer.
3. I bought a new vehicle.
4. I went zip lining.
5. I took a spontaneous trip with Sal. 
6. I presented at a child life conference.
7. I started and finished a project life album (2007-2008). 
8. I traveled to a new state. 
9. I did a 5 minute plank. 
10. I SAVED money! 

Even though I was only able to cross off ten things on my list, they were HUGE things, things I'm proud of. Many, many more things happened during my 24th year, and I wouldn't have traded any one of those things in, even if it would have helped me cross off something else on my list. And now that I'm 25, I find myself living more and more in the moment. Time slips by so fast, and if I've learned anything in this past year, it's that life is precious, more precious than any of us realize, and it can be taken away or changed in an instant, with one decision, with one tick of the clock. 

Not only did I turn 25 this year, but Sal did as well... 22 days before me, to be exact. For his birthday, he decided, he wanted to keep it low key and simple. I took the day off to spend with him, and we spent the whole day together, doing what he wanted! We woke up early and headed off to kickboxing to get in a killer workout, and then headed to a fancy brunch afterwards, where we enjoyed plates and plates of food, as well as mimosas! There he opened his fit presents, including a C4 and Cellucor weight loss powder, and a heart rate monitor (all of which he has since become addicted to- whoops!). We ended the day in our Green Bay jerseys, cuddling up on the couch for the football game. Yes, we changed our outfits three times that day, going from sweaty messes, to a classy couple, to bums, all in a matter of hours. 

Twenty-two days later, and I had quite different plans for my birthday. Every year I try and do something spectacular, something with a bunch of friends, that usually ends up costing Sal more money than anyone else. This year, I chose to do something a little low-key, but still really fun, and something that included all of my friends and loved ones. We went out on the 21st, instead of my actual birthday on the 22nd. I took the weekend off, and made reservations for a fancy brunch with my closest friends, at the same place that Sal and I went for his birthday, because I loved it that much. The only thing that was required was ugly christmas sweaters. I didn't think it'd be such a hit, but everyone that walked through the door showed up in an ugly sweater, and it was hilarious. We sat and enjoyed plate after plate of food, and I made the waiter and waitresses keep bringing us rounds and rounds of mimosas. I honestly can't even remember how many I drank, I just remember having two in my hands at all times. They were good, you can't blame a girl for drinking on her 25th birthday, now can you? The party wasn't over after we left though, considering that it was Sunday and football was on TV, we headed to the bar, where we enjoyed more drinks (since we had already been drinking since 12, what did it matter that it wasn't 5 o'clock yet? It's 5 o'clock somewhere, they say! Half time brought on free pizza, and we were the happiest people in there, we eventually cleared the place out, and headed home. The day could not have been more perfect. I think it was one of my best birthdays ever. 

On my actual birthday, I woke up and opened my amazing gifts from my family, in bed. Once I was dressed and able to be seen in public, my brother and I headed to get the world's best breakfast sandwich - taylor ham, egg, and cheese on a bagel. We sat in the small bagel shop, talking so long that when we left we smelt like grease, which is always great to smell like, especially on your birthday. We went home, and Sal came over, and that's when we relaxed and popped in a movie. We eventually had to drag ourselves off the couch so that I could go and teach at CKO Kickboxing that night, because I was not about to take off of teaching, it was only an hour. Afterwards, we headed to Applebees for half price apps with my family, and it was such a perfect way to end the celebratory weekend. 

Even during my birthday weekend, I found lessons in life's moments, and have never felt more sure of myself. Sure, I've gained materialistic things in the past year, but more importantly I've gained more confidence, closer friends, and more love than I ever thought was possible. This year has taught me all about balance. I used to be so focused on doing it all - working out like a maniac, working to make money, trying to see all of my friends and family, and it was tiring, and I ended up burnt out and exhausted. I refocused this past year, and have been really able to balance, find my passion again, and bring it to life. Twenty-five is looking like a good year, already. 

Saturday, January 3, 2015

Winter Traditions

Aside from going to see the tree in NYC every year, there are a few other traditions that happen every time the cold weather hits . It's funny how one year you decide to do something, and the next it becomes tradition. It's as if there is no way that you can let this year pass without doing it. It never has to be some grand event either, it can honestly even just include yourself - whether it's watching a movie every Christmas day, or eating a special meal on New Year's Eve. Sometimes, though, traditions just stop... it could be because you've grown out of it, you can't seem to find the time, or you just don't want to do it anymore.

I created a winter to-do list this year, of things I wanted to do, which included obvious things like seeing the tree in the city, making a gingerbread house, and driving around aimlessly looking at Christmas lights. Needless to say, when winter rolled around and the holiday seasons snuck up on me, I ditched the to-do list, and decided that whatever was to happen, would happen, and I didn't need a list to check off in order to make memories with my family and loved ones. As you saw from my last post, Sal and I did make it to the tree, and we even got to look at Christmas lights together! We drove around staring at the bright, shiny lights that made the streets feel magical. Sal knew a couple of special places where the lights covered every inch of the house. We even decided to have a contest of who could find the most penguins, and to be honest, we found quite a few christmas pigs in the process. (I won, in case you were wondering). We talked all night, and stopped to pick up some hot chocolate, which is the perfect drink to have when you're in your nice warm car, staring at the lights. We got to thinking though, how weird it would be if you drove around and stared at people's houses on any night during the year... how it's not creepy when there are lights on the houses... but how creepy it'd be coming to a stop in front of a house to just stare... weirddddd.

Not only did that tradition continue, but I was able to make my grandma's cookies with my mom, brother, and cousin. It used to be my mom who made them for the holidays, and then my brother joined in, and quite recently I have helped out. We added my cousin to the list this year, and it just made it that much better, that much memorable. To make these special cookies though, it takes at least three days... one day to make the dough, which must be chilled at least overnight... one day to bake them, and another to ice them. We were all able to make the dough and bake them together, making silly comments about the other ones dough like we were in competition with each other. Eventually putting Elf on, the movie that must be playing when we bake them, and watching the oven, making sure not to burn them. 

It didn't even matter when some of the cookies came out funny looking, what mattered was that we were continuing my great grandmother's legacy, and baking cookies that were in my family for generations, for our loved ones to enjoy. We were baking them together, creating our own memories, as she had with those who she baked with. These everlasting memories will be what we remember, not the way the cookie tasted... okay maybe that too, because these cookies are really that delicious.

Some traditions fell through the crack this year, like our gingerbread contest, but we just didn't have time for it. We bought the gingerbread houses, and then every time we had tried to plan to put them together, someone had something else to do. We even tried doing them after Christmas, but at that point, no one really was in the spirit to do them. We figured we'd save them for next year, because who really eats a gingerbread house anyways, right? So it's not like they'd go bad. There's always Christmas in July!

Traditions truly teach us more about ourselves each year... what we're willing to hold on to and continue, and what we push aside and forget about. What's really important to us will continue on, and what isn't will be forgotten.