Last day of 2013

First of all, can we take a second and just say, when did that happen?
Looking back on it, I feel like it was a regular length year filled with good stuff, great stuff, and (like anything else) some not so great things, too.

When 2013 started, I had at least 3 separate people tell me that they thought 2013 was going to be my best year yet. How these people knew that, I had no idea, but they weren't wrong!

2013 held several milestones for me like turning 30 (which wasn't as sad, scary or horrible as I thought it was going to be), and that little old thing called getting engaged, in May :)

So, the last part of 2013 has involved some wedding planning. Luckily it hasn't taken over my life like it can, but I have a feeling that the beginning of 2014 is going to be slightly more wedding-focused since it's coming in April!

2013 also involved several trips:
One to mexico last January to celebrate MG's brother in law's 40th. It was such a fun trip and a great time spent with MG, his sisters and brothers-in-law, without any kiddos.

Another was our trip to NYC for my 30th birthday. MG surprised me with the whole thing including the hotel, my birthday dinner spot, and then Wicked on Broadway.

We went to Puerto Rico  during my Spring Break, which was an awesome beach and a great vacation!

This summer we went to the lake/mountains in PA and SC this summer to see some friends.

And then MN to see some other friends and watch the Vikings play.
Come to think of it, we did quite a bit of traveling this year :)

We've celebrated some friends' engagements and weddings...

And I even had my friends with me to find the wedding dress for MY big day:

We got our engagement pictures taken, which I absolutely love:

We've dealt with some drama...but let's not dwell on that (I've spent too much of my time on it as it is..) Time to look forward!

Overall, this year was filled with friends, family, love, support, happiness, surprises, and plans for the future.
2013 has been wonderful...I couldn't have asked for more. And I have a feeling that 2014 is gonna be just that much better :)

Weekend/Holiday Recap

I can't believe the holidays are already over, and in one day we'll be saying goodbye to 2013!

I spent Christmas Eve and Christmas morning with my parents (and Cooper). It was pretty low key (our Christmases since my dad's heart attack pretty much have been which is ok), but it was nice to spend time with both of my parents, just the 3 of us.

On Christmas afternoon I took the train up to Philly, MG picked me up at the train station, and we went straight to his sister L's house for Christmas dinner with his family. We arrived to the most beautiful sunset ever! The picture doesn't even do the actual thing justice.

We had dinner, opened presents, and spent time all together which was really nice. I love being a part of a BIG family holiday. It was filled with lots of love.

Thursday we went with MG's sister L and her kids to go ice skating. She and I stayed up above together while MG and the kids went skating. Then we made our way to an early dinner of the best cheesesteaks ever (I had requested one meal at this particular restaurant). That night MG, myself and his parents went to see American Hustle. It was interesting....but definitely strange, too. 

The next day MG and I drove into NYC to see his best friend and another couple friend who were up from SC (the couple we visited this summer). The ride was fine until we got to the Lincoln Tunnel, and then we sat in traffic for over an hour to go 2.5 miles. NO bueno!

Luckily it was all worth it because the night was a blast. We hung out at MG's best bud's apartment for a bit with the other two until we headed to dinner at Houston's. I had the most delicious burger ever...and a dirty martini :) 
After dinner we made our way to Rolf's bar, which decorates the entire place's ceiling with Christmas lights, garland and ornaments. It feels like you're underneath a Christmas tree when you're in there! SO pretty! Our friend Megan's sister and brother in law came out to meet us too, and they were so nice and a lot of fun.
The next day we made our way home, but encountered construction on 95 that had us in bumper to bumper traffic for over an hour. Ugh...
When we eventually got back to PA, we spent our last night there with L's kiddos, watching Monsters University, drinking hot chocolate, playing with the puppy, and snuggling on the couch.

And then, just like that, the holidays were over! I don't know how that happened...
But at least I can look back on a fun and memory-filled one :)
And one with lots of puppy cuddles!

Happy Monday!

Real Love

It's the day after Christmas...hopefully you're 'drunk' on the love and fun of the holiday!

I wanted to share something today that, when I saw it, hit me so hard, and made me re-evaluate every trivial thing running around inside of my brain.
During the season of selfless giving, this is perfect.

You may have seen this story on the news or floating around on Facebook, but if you haven't, you HAVE to watch the video.
Grab some tissues. 

Here is the original post with the video attached

What an amazing woman...dealing with so much, and still thinking about others, even ones she had not met yet. The epitome of selfless love.

I hope your heart is filled with joy. :)

Merry Christmas!

Merry Christmas!!!!

I hope your day is merry and bright, filled with family, friends, and love. These are the best gifts of all.

Treasure the times...make lasting memories :)
Sending you lots of holiday love!

Our Christmas Dinner Tradition

Merry Christmas Eve!

I'm coming at you after the best night ever! MG and I had our annual Christmas dinner at Old Ebbitt in DC, and lucky for us, the rain held out, too!

We drove into the city, listening to Christmas music in the car, enjoying the monuments and other DC-esque things :)

When we first got to the restaurant, we were seated next to the busboy station, and our waiter was kind of not great (it took over 20 minutes and we still hadn't had our drink orders taken). We hung in there until one of the busboys purposely dumped water from his drink tray onto the carpet in front of the busboy station, which splashed onto my feet. Gross. MG got our table moved, and from that point on we had a great table, with a wonderful server. The night was saved!!

The restaurant had my favorite wine on their list, which made me SUPER happy! A great start to the meal to come :)

MG and I rarely do appetizers or dessert, but this meal is special. We started out with 6 oysters to share between us and they were fantastic!

Next up we had our main courses, which were yummy as always. I snuck a few bites off of MG's plate, too :)

And then we had dessert of creme brulee, with a cup of coffee and two Grand Marniers. This is our choice every year and it's SO yummy!

We took our time enjoying everything and it was a perfect night!

After dinner, since the weather was nice (chilly, but no rain!), we put on our coats and walked over to see the National Christmas tree and all of the little state trees around it.
inside Old Ebbitt
The National Christmas tree was SUPER pretty this year!
This year was such a nice celebration. I love that we've got this tradition, and I look forward to the Christmas dinners to come!

I feel so lucky to have such a wonderful man to share holidays and every day life things with. This year we're engaged, next year we'll be married, and who knows what will be going on after that! But, I'm really excited and I'm so happy that he'll be the one by my side through it all.
We got home to find that our ottoman had been delivered, so we put it all together and now our living room is complete! (And Cooper has found a space that he likes to lay on...ottoman, or dog bed? haha)

Merry Christmas Eve to you, your family and your friends!
Wishing you nothing but happiness this holiday!

Weekend Happenings

Happy Monday! Even happier because it's being brought to you from my couch and not work :) Winter Break is in full swing and I'm enjoying every second of it!

Let's recap the weekend!

Friday night MG and I got sushi for dinner, followed by a low key night in with a movie. We went to bed before 11...old people! haha

View driving into DC
It was actually good,  because Saturday morning we were up early to eat breakfast and then head into DC to volunteer at the Food Bank. We were put in charge of loading cans and other goods onto a conveyor belt for the rest of the volunteers to sort and box. We worked really hard for 2 and a half hours. It was hard work (I was sweating by the time we were done), but it felt good to have done something to help others, even if it was indirectly.

After that we went to have lunch in the city. The weather was GORGEOUS...high 60's, low 70's. While we were out one of my coworkers texted me to meet up with her and her husband for drinks outside, so we met up with them and some of their friends for a bit, and soaked in the amazing Spring weather in Winter :)

Then it was time to head home and get ready for the holiday/baby announcement party with MG's friends.
The party was really nice, and the couple found out that they are having a boy! They had confetti poppers with the color inside, so they were showered in blue! It was really fun to be a part of that.

The only downfall--and I want to share this because I'm having a hard time dealing with it--is that while we were in their kitchen MG and I were talking to someone, and both of us recognized that, among the Save the Dates and Christmas cards on their fridge, our save the date was missing. MG playfully said something to the husband of the house, and he said something like "oh...we realized earlier it was upstairs, but..." and then trailed off and kind of distracted himself with something else. So, it made me feel like they never had it up...and that they were going to put it up when we were coming, but otherwise wouldn't have. (Earlier, she had told me that they had gotten our Save the Date around the same time as another one, so I know that they had gotten it). Plus, the wedding drama couple's Save the Date AND Christmas card were up on the fridge, neither of which was magnetic. There was also a save the date from LAST June up there with one for July of 2014 as well.
I get that it's just a magnet, but it goes deeper than that, and it really hurt my feelings. MG was bothered by it, too. This girl is one of the wedding drama couple's good friends (but I've heard she had actually said that the email that was written to me was mean), but this couple wasn't directly involved in the drama, and they were supposedly MG's friends, too.  And, just when I thought we were all 'moving forward,' putting things behind us, I realize that it's not. 
I'm trying not to let this get to me, but it was hurtful, and I've gotten upset about it. Part of me wants to reach out and say something to her, but really what will that accomplish? (The other part of me wants to say "if you're too embarrassed, or whatever, about our wedding, then we'll spare you and not send you an invite"....but that won't accomplish anything either). I guess I just need to vent, and if anyone has any advice for how to not let this bother me, please share.

Anyway, Sunday started out SUPER warm (I went to walk Cooper thinking it might be a little chilly, and it was HOT). In the morning, I met up with my good friend Bree who I haven't seen in FOREVER, and got to hang out, eat breakfast, and see her pretty engagement ring since I haven't seen her since she got engaged (we really need to make sure it doesn't go this long again, Bree!) 

The rest of the day was pretty rainy and overcast. MG watched football with his friends and I took it easy since this weekend was super jam-packed.

At least tonight I have MG's and my annual Christmas dinner at Old Ebbitt Grill to look forward to. Yummy food, drinks and dessert with my love! :)

Mingle 240
Sami's Shenanigans   

5 on Friday

This may be one of the best Fridays of all--if you're a teacher, I bet you're right there with me. Today marks the last day of work....for TWO WHOLE weeks! Winter break here I come!!

But, before we get to that, we have to make it through today, and what better to help that happen than a little 5 on Friday?

{1}- Holiday Party #???
This Saturday MG's friends are throwing a holiday party (our 4th or 5th so far), and combining their baby gender reveal as well. There will be lots of people from that group of friends, and I'm hopeful that all will go smoothly and we can all have a good, festive, baby-celebrating time! Plus, we'll get to see this couple's place that we haven't gotten to see yet.

{2}-Wedding Invitations
Our invites, response and enclosure cards without
our information on them
I had set the goal for our invitations to be addressed (the outside and return envelopes) before MG and I left for Christmas (that dang exclamation point on checklist was driving me mad!)
Over the weekend I got the return envelopes printed, and on Wednesday, MG got the outside envelopes figured out, so we printed them all out. Then, because I couldn't just leave it, I decided to get everything done that night, including numbering the back of each response card to coordinate with a person/couple (in case people forget to write their name on the response card, we'll know who's coming or not, and their entree choice), and stuffing every envelope! All we need now are the stamps for the outside envelopes and they are READY to be sent out! CHECK MARK!

{3}-Too many goodies
Tis the season for baked goods. Especially when you work in a school. I can't tell you how many "treats" I've gotten from kids, in my mailbox, or had at holiday lunch celebrations in the past week alone. Goodies do not make for a fun dress fitting come January. Luckily I'm not going TOO overboard, but it's still not easy to resist ALL of the yummy treats, so I'm eating in semi-moderation. Semi. Kinda. Ugh. Lord help me get through the next two weeks without gaining a gazillion pounds. Definitely going to be using my Zumba game more and more, too...

{4}-George the Gingerbread man

Speaking of goodies, one of my students brought me a gift in the form of a massive gingerbread cookie jar. He's rather large, but cute. I jokingly texted MG's and my family that we have a new addition to the family, and then sent the picture of "George" the Gingerbread man. (I was also made aware, by my fiance, that the tag for the cookie jar is also conveniently placed in an anatomically correct place for George is now being featured in some of my Instagram pics...yesterday was a ride in the car without a seat belt. Today, he was waving good-bye to me before work. I think this will be a daily thing until Christmas, just because it's fun. Some of you have Elf on a Shelf. I have Gingerbread George! lol

{5}-Little Bit of Cheer: Christmas Cards

I love that our little wine/booze cabinet is displaying so many Christmas cards! They were slow to come in (I think Thanksgiving being later made things come in a little later), but now we have several and they barely fit on our cabinet surface anymore! (Next year I'm definitely doing one of those card holder things over the pantry door in our kitchen). We didn't do Christmas cards this year since we're not married yet, but I'm excited to see everyone else's and get some ideas for our cards next year!

And now, one more day to make it through before a nice relaxing break, time off from work, from kids, from stress...

P.S. Send a little love to MG this Sunday...he's in the final round of fantasy football play-offs this weekend, and if he wins, he'll get a pretty nice chunk of change which we could obviously use for the wedding. So, fingers crossed!! :)

Hope your weekends are filled with holiday cheer!

Our Living Room

MG and I have been making upgrades and changes to our place, slowly but surely, since we moved in together a year and a half ago. 

First up was putting paint on the walls, since MG lived like a typical guy and had white walls, despite owning and living in his condo for 5 years (boys, I tell you...).

We also bought a new bedroom set when we decided to move in together, so that we had a nice set and everything would fit my our clothes in our one-bedroom place.

We had a really nice comfy leather sofa and an over-sized chair set in our living room, but MG's side of the couch was getting semi-sunken in (7+ years sitting in the same spot will do that). We had also been wanting to get a loveseat so that we had more room to entertain when people came over, especially once we got rid of our old tv console table, which was a HUGE glass and metal monster, and got this guy at Target:
don't mind the wires, or Cooper's toy bin

This was much more with the style of the rest of our furniture in the place...the dark brown/black wood finish.

So with the one sinking seat, and more room, a few months ago we went on the search for couches to fit our room's dimensions, which is tricky when your place isn't super big. After a while of not finding what we wanted, we gave up, until the weekend before Thanksgiving, on a whim, we went out looking again and found a nice set that met all dimensions for what we'd been looking for:
In the store
In our place

Because we don't have our ottoman anymore (that got sold with the couch and oversized chair), we needed to get one that fit our space better than the makeshift version we have in the picture above.

I wanted something lighter since the darker furniture can be kind of overwhelming. And, it's hard to match leather to leather without it coming as a set.

After much looking, I think I found the perfect ottoman for our space, and MG really liked it, too. It's ordered and scheduled to arrive on Monday!
I wasn't 100% sold on it because we wanted an ottoman with storage for blankets and things, but I liked the look of it so much that I didn't care that it didn't have storage. We'll just move the longer one we have now into our bedroom, instead, I think.

And to complete the room, we needed an end table for between the two couches for drinks, picture frames and any other knick-knacks (I try not to say that word around MG....he doesn't like the idea of 'knick-knacks' until I put them out and make them look nice, not cluttered haha). I found an end table on Amazon for $73 which fit the dimensions between the couches nicely with some room:
With Prime, it arrived yesterday, in two days, and now we have our lovely new end table!

I'm super excited for the ottoman to get here! I think it will tie the room together nicely, lighten things up, and provide us some functional space for remotes, drinks, feet, etc (altho not feet and drinks at the same time. Ew.)

I'm so glad that we have a nicer space to entertain people in, now. It's been a gradual process, but sometimes it takes time to find what you want, but once you do, it all works out really nicely!

What do you think of our "new" space? Think it will work for company and look nice all together? I can't wait to have a dinner party or something so that we can utilize it all :)

Chicken Parmesan Meatballs Recipe

It's ONE WEEK until Christmas, can you believe it??? I can't!
My early present to you is 
 spectacular recipe, as promised!
I found this gem...where else?...on Pinterest, and decided to make it for MG for his birthday when he got back from out of the country.
(Technically, mine are turkey parm since I used ground turkey, but who's judging?)
What You Need:
-1 lb ground chicken (or turkey)
-1 cup Panko bread crumbs
-1/2 cup white onion, chopped (about half an onion)
-1/2 cup red bell pepper, chopped (about 1/2 of the pepper)
1/2 Cup Parmesan cheese (I used the shredded kind)
-1 egg
-1 Tablespoon oregano
-6 fresh basil leaves, torn or cut
-2 cloves of garlic, minced (or 1 tsp minced garlic from jar)
-about 2 cups of marinara sauce (or your fav sauce)
-1 Tablespoon olive oil
-pinch of salt and pepper
-mozzarella cheese cubes (enough for each meatball)

What You Do:
1. Preheat your oven to 400 degrees. Do this after everything is already cut up and ready to be mixed (I used a chopper for the onion and the red bell peppers to get them really small so the meatballs wouldn't have big chunks in them which helped a lot. I also used herb scissors to cut the basil leaves into tiny pieces).

2. In a small bowl, mix the Panko bread crumbs, half of the cheese (1/4 cup) and the olive oil. Mix together with your hands until evenly coated. Set aside.
this is not the "well mixed" version.

3. In a large bowl, lightly beat the egg, then add in all ingredients except for the sauce and the mozzarella cubes (ground chicken, onion, red bell pepper, remaining Parmesan cheese, basil, oregano, garlic, salt and pepper). Mix with your hands to combine.

4. Lightly coat a muffin pan with non-stick spray. Put a couple of tablespoons full of the meat mixture into each well of the muffin tin. Add in a cube of mozzarella to each one and cover the cheese over with the meat (should look like the first picture when you're done, but the cheese is now inside).

5. Add the Panko topping to each meatball, gently pressing the mixture into the meatballs.

6. Bake for 25-30 minutes, until the Panko topping is golden brown and the chicken is cooked through. (Mine took about 27 minutes).

7. While the meatballs are baking, warm your sauce in a sauce pan over the stove.

8. When the meatballs are done, let them sit for about 5 minutes. Use a knife to loosen each meatball from the pan.

9. When you're ready, add some of the sauce to the bottom of a plate or serving dish, place the meatballs on top, and enjoy!

The original recipe says it makes 16 meatballs. Her muffin tin may have been smaller than mine because this only made 12 for me. But, there was plenty for leftovers and the leftovers were even better than the night of, I think!

{Check out some of the other things I've been cooking, here}

Product Review: Keysocks (Last Minute Xmas gift idea!!)

*this review is based solely on my own experience with this product, purchased by myself with my own money. I was not given anything in exchange for this review*

Have you seen these funny looking socks on Pinterest? 
They're called Keysocks, and I had seen them a while back, pinned them, and then kind of forgot about them, until I saw them again when I was perusing Pinterest. They were on someone's blog as a review, so I read it, and because the review was such a raving one, I decided to bite the bullet and try out a pair. One pair is $11.95.

Well, when I went to the site, there was a deal that if you bought 3, you got a 4th one for free (a pack of 4 for $35.85 and FREE SHIPPING). Since I'm participating in a Secret Santa with MG's family, and I have one of his sister's for my person, I thought this could be a cute and practical gift if they turned out nice (along with something else, of course, because socks aren't really a fun gift). So I got a 4 pack (2 black and 2 nude; but you can get any combination you want practically).

Ladies, let me tell you, these socks are awesome! I hate wearing flats in the winter because my feet get so cold. And I have the little footy things that are made out of pantyhose material, but those only help your shoes not stink--they don't do anything for warmth. And, let's be honest, when they peak out of your shoe, they look hideous.
Left: shoes, wearing the nude keysocks; Right: shoes, wearing the black keysocks
Keysocks DON'T show in any flat that I have worn them with, and your toes/feet feel WARM. Also, they go up the length of your calf, so your legs get a little extra layer of warmth during the cold season, too (I realized this when I wasn't wearing them last night and my legs were cold in just jeans). They aren't too tight or too loose-they fit perfectly. They also have sizes for thicker calves as well.

I'm totally in love with them, and now I kind of don't want to give one of my pairs away, BUT I will because an awesome find makes an awesome gift. I highly recommend you getting at least one pair to try out....I'm SUPER glad I got the 4 pack, so I can do away with those stupid footy pantyhose thingies, wear cute flats, and have warm feet! Win-win-win!!!

One of my coworkers actually noticed them when I was sitting in a meeting with her (you can see them when your pant legs go up a little bit when you're wearing skinny jeans and you're sitting) and said she'd never seen socks like that, and then asked me where she could get them because she hates the panty hose ones, too!

If you're looking for a stocking stuffer (ha...get it...stockings? socks? Ok, I'll stop...), go get  a pair or set of these! I don't think you'll be disappointed!

{check out some of my other product reviews here}

Blogmopolitan Quiz

You've probably seen these floating around the last week or so, and I thought it was a fun idea that Erin had, so I hopped on the bandwagon.

You might have trouble reading a few of them, like The meaning behind my blog: it was focused around my long distance relationship (LDR), but now it's just about life and the future since that break-up.
"I know it's weird but..." my answer is: I cant' stand bananas. Their consistency grosses me out"

Hope that helps, and I hope you enjoyed getting to know a few things about me!

Weekend Happenings

This weekend was super busy but also super fun!

Friday afternoon our couch set arrived! 
We're more and more pleased with them as the weekend went on.
We've already placed an order for a bigger ottoman, which will be coming in about a week! And an end table that's coming on Wednesday :)

Friday night MG and I made our way to my coworker's housewarming/holiday party. It was super nice to hang out with and talk (for more than a passing few minutes) with my coworkers, and meet some new people. Remember how I said the hostess had mentioned that there were 4 Christmas trees in her house? Yeah...she had 5!  Their house was amazing. I'm sad I didnt take any pictures...I was too busy socializing (bad me).

Saturday MG and I went shopping for presents (and I had to return some things to Loft). We ended up getting MG a nice new blue suit that he had wanted for his birthday (from his dad). He actually was able to buy the suit right then and there, with no need for alterations, because it fit perfectly.

Then we made our way through Macys where I found my wedding earrings:
They are exactly what I've been looking for, and I think they will be perfect to add some bling, but not take away from my dress, etc.

MG wanted to head into Brookstone, which is always trouble. He was looking at a back massager that he had told his parents we were interested in getting, and I discovered the best thing in the history of ever. A foot massager that is AMAZING. Once MG tried it, it was all over, and all of a sudden we had another "gift to each other" to add to our list (wedding bands, the a foot massager). It is the most amazing massager ever!
Saturday night, after our shopping trip, we went to my school's holiday party. It was nice to get to know my new principal (she started right after Thanksgiving) and to talk to some of the coworkers that weren't at the party the night before. MG made fast friends with one of my coworker's (who I really like) husband. Again, it was a night filled with so much socializing that I didn't take any pictures. You can slap my wrists again....

....ow!....ok I promise I'll do better in the future!

Anyway, the night was a lot of fun and we came back home, relaxed for a bit, and then went to bed. Sunday we ran errands, MG went to watch the football games with his friends and I took care of getting our response card envelopes printed. Next up: invitation envelopes! (I swear these are going to be done, and MAYBE stuffed, before Christmas!)

And now it's 5 days left of work until Winter Break! Let the countdown begin!
I hope your weekend was fun-filled!

Mingle 240
Sami's Shenanigans