happy birthday, sister

Happy birthday to Molly - my big sister, my dearest friend, and greatest matron of honor. All this wedding business was a sweet reminder of how blessed I am with this sister of mine. I think she came to Louisiana every weekend between May and August. And I don't know what I would have done without her priceless wedding and marriage advice [including her suggestion to take the plunger off our wedding registry].

But what struck me was much more than her presence and her plethra of tips. I realized, finally, just how much work this big sister role has taken over the last 22 years. You see, my super-smart sister, through the Lord's perfect will, moved to Auburn, AL when I was eight years old. Yes, you did the math correctly. We are ten years a part in age. [Oops, sorry Moll, I think I just gave your age away.] I should have known then that Louisiana would never get my go-getter of a sister back. And then she sealed the deal with marrying an Alabama lawyer.

What I realized is that things could be so different. She could have come home less and been much more annoyed with me during ages 8 though 16. But she's never missed a holiday and was excited for me when I started shaving my legs. Now, since I've left home, I see that these long distant relationships take work, and I see just how much work she's put into it over the last 14 years. And I see that she was the one making the effort, since I was a clueless adolescent. It's true that whatever Molly does she does incredibly well. How thankful I am that it has always been the same for this big sister job.

And this has got to be my favorite sister stage yet since I've joined the married club. We have more fun sharing hotel rooms and road-tripping in their sweet new ride. I love our closet switches and being her fashion go-to girl. I'm so thankful that she gave me the brother I always wanted and made me the aunt I always wanted to be. I love that we still look at the American Girl catalogue together [RIP Samantha and Felicity]. I'm proud when people say I sounded just like her when I said something and that we look alike [even though that's totally not true]. And I love laughing at the same family jokes over and over again and that she always knows exactly what I'm talking about. I know I owe that to all those years of her relationship-building work.

I'll keep begging God that, if it's His perfect plan, we'll live next door to one another one day. Or at least close enough to have a lunch date and to be each other's kids' emergency contact person.  And I'll go ahead and cement my control-freak feet to the floor in order to keep myself from making that happen by my own design.

So happy birthday, beautiful sister.

You the best.


real world?

So I've got this new lifestyle going on. It's that wake up with the sun, work 8 to 5, fight the commuter traffic thing. A whole new world for a late-morning-class [sometimes] goer and an afternoon crafterr/ spend-time-with-roommates...er.

In the mornings, the rational side of my brain begs the irrational side to stop hitting the snooze button and get up in time to have a quiet time and look presentable to the professional world. I think Dustin is continually amazed at my ability to snooze. I swear I am fully asleep as I'm laying back down after punching my alarm. After that battle, I pack a lunch, grab my capitol ID card, and hope that my boring black heels are still in my car where I kicked them off on the homeward commute the evening before. I'm still gaging how fashion-daring I should be at the ol' Capitol.

I can't say that Policy Coordinator for the Governor's Office of Coastal Activities was on that "things I want to be when I grow up" list. And sometimes I wish for more people-time and a creative outlet. But in those moments, I am very thankful. Thankful for a job. Thankful for the provision. Thankful for the experience and growth that I know will come from it. And thankful that my chair is really comfy.

I am learning a lot. At times, I'm convinced that our director is single-handedly saving the coast. All the while I'm learning how to dial into those fancy conference calls and how to function with a Blackberry. You know, the really important stuff.

I think I'm actually getting the hang of it. After my first couple of days, I'm glad they decided to keep me around. This was ignorant of the fact that I managed to turn my screen sideways, get a little
Triscuit residue on some meeting supplies, and give myself the world's deepest paper cut. Glad we're passed that "new kid at the office stage."

I'm conviced that we could be a material source for The Office. It's amazing the exercises people can execute in a cubicle. I'm also a fan of the fact that my boss is a blog-reader. So, just incase he's reading this...I mean, um...Chip is really cool. And he doesn't micro manage and let's me burn candles and drives the GOCA mini van like a police car. Can I have a raise now?

So, if you're ever in the downtown Baton Rouge area around lunch time, let me know. We'll do something cool and big city-feeling like go to the Main Street Market or eat from a Food Truck.

And then I'll give you the grand tour of my quaint office space [be sure to bring a sweater]:

I know, I know - you can't wait. I'll be sure to pencil you in. Which I definitely can do since I stick to my pen and paper style planner.


grilled pizza

Though I sometimes feel like I see my husband about 36 minutes weekly, I have actually gotten to cook for him a few times. And use all those shiny new gadgets that we feel undeserving to have. But our tiny little kitchen is very grateful. I think it makes it feel prettier.

Let's talk about how much I love grilled pizza. It's a new found love. It didn't take long, and I didn't hate myself like I do after most pizza-gorging. And, yes, it can be done on a George Foreman.

You will need:
Pizza dough [I used Pillsbury that I got with a coupon]
Fresh vegetables - rustically chopped
           Tomatoes, zucchini, garlic, onion, and more!
Sliced or shredded mozzarella
Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Fresh basil

As little of chopping as possible gives that great rustic texture. And a little S&P when grilling.

I cover them in tin foil and set them inside the oven until needed. The oven isn't on, so I'm not really sure how it helps. It's just what my grandmother has always done. And, when it comes to cooking, you don't question Loyce. 

The pizza dough could not have been easier. Make sure to keep it refrigerated until you are ready to grill. Shape it into the size of your grilling area. Brush the grill with EVOO and place the dough on top. I closed it in the George for 1-2 minutes. The top will begin to look puffy. If the dough releases easily from the grill with tongs and is decently stiff on the underside, it's ready to flip.

It makes the most delicious dough. Soft center, slightly crunchy outside, and that grilled taste. YUM. 

It should look something like this...

The other side of the dough will grill after you add the toppings. This also helps to press them down and somewhat stay in place so you don't look like a total monster attempting to eat it.

This was after I tried to strategically slide the pizza onto my platter. The garnish serves two roles: makes it more delish and hides the travel scars.

And if you happen to have your entire [and AMAZING] wedding cake topper that you only had the will power to save until you made one month of marriage, it pairs nicely.



i like it

I've answered the question, "So how's newlywed liiiiife?" a lot lately. For the record, I like it. I like it a lot.

I like the memory of being carried over the threshold with our automatically closing door making it that much more memorable. I like not having to kill the bugs. There have been two. I like having a nightly prayer partner and pillow talk buddy. I like husband-planned living room dancing even if it's amidst tarps from my table-painting projects. I like the way my anxiousness was eased when D suggested that it's good that we don't do everything perfect at first [house keeping, decision making, etc.], that learning is a part of the process. For a somewhat quiet fella, he has those zingers that make me want to drop everything and grab my quote book. I like that we laugh at ourselves for hanging crooked curtain rods [my bad] and irresponsibly rewarding our wall-mounting efforts with non-budgeted pizza. I like seeing girl friends and knowing nothing has changed. I like that I have finally humbly stubbornly accepted the fact that we have vertical blinds and there is nothing I can do about it. I liked spending Friday evening with a room full of fellow newlyweds. I believe we found comfort in our shared time of life. You could tell - no one wanted that night to end. We stayed and ate more dessert and swapped similar stories and figured out how we could do it all over again soon.

I am baffled by how quickly the minutes flew between our first date and our wedding day. Or my last day of high school and first day of my big girl job. I'm not convinced that my running feet ever hit the ground. I guess I have a quiet fear that the rest of life will be like that. That I'll never be able to soak enough of it up. I want to pile up the sweet times and roll around in them. I want to sit cross-legged, face-to-face with the trials and learn from them. I don't want to rush to future times of life even if it means a different home with [possibly] more inhabitants or a grocery budget that allows for more creativity and fancier cheeses or even schedules that coincide more gracefully. I want to remember and absorb and cherish. Right now I'm focused on basking as a newlywed. And I like it.

P.S. If you are like me [your husband is at work, you are already in your lounge pants, and you are an avid pageant fan], Miss Universe is on tonight. I'm pretty sure you can watch it on their website if you are also like me in the way that you don't have cable. Also, please join me in my pre-pageant-watching tradition. Very few things make me cry from laughing. But this. This does it every time.

Bless her heart.


the honeymoon revisited: part two

I guess I should give all of our excursions their moment in the sun. I am so obsessed with our last experience of the trip, that I can hardly wait to write about it. And, yes, I realize that I am a complete lunatic.

Ok. In Costa Maya we walked around, souvenir shopped and laid in those picturesque hammocks. In Roatan, Honduras, we had a lovely little private island with rescued wildlife [up close and personal with sea lions!], the most beautiful water I've ever seen, and a killer lunch buffet where we were baffled that we couldn't go back for seconds [cruise-spoiled]. And in Belize we rode a charmingly janky bus into the Belizean jungle for over an hour. Me - terrified, Dustin - thrilled. I just new we were going to discover some unseen, ginormous species of snake on our Mayan cave tour. I panicked a little more as they suited us up with a harness, helmet, and head lamp and chilled out a bit as we started hiking up Central America mountains and crawling through old old caves. After we got through the first repel, I was happy to zipline and trample across some rope bridges from then on.

Alright now that that's done, let's talk about Cozumel. I keep saying that Cozumel was the best experience of my life, but then I remembered that I stood on stage and married my BFFL [<-- that is a joke] just a few days earlier. So, yes, the wedding/marriage excitement totally trumps this. But it's the SECOND best moment of my life.

We swam. with. DOLPHINS. For some background, I've been a long-time dolphin lover. And though I have friends that rag on me for it, I'm proud of my childhood dolphin figurine collection. That sounds so much more lame when I type it. At some point during junior high or high school, I thought it a good idea to make a life to-do list, a bucket list (though I didn't know that it was called this until that Jack Nicholson/Morgan Freeman movie). Number one on this list: swimming with dolphins. Really deep and meaningful, I know. But all I can say now is check, check, CHECK!

I'm pretty sure the people in our group thought I was a complete idiot. I continually waved to Athena [our dolphin] while everyone else listened to directions like normal people. Poor Dustin. Hopefully my excitement only enhanced his experience. I was the first to get a kiss from Athena and yelled, "that was awesome!" which my whole group laughed at. I supposedly hugged her a little more passionately than instructed. And the instructor may have had to pull me off of her when I didn't let go early enough at the end of the ride. I'm probably flagged at Dolphinaris as a hazardous visitor. It was well worth it. This could possibly [but hopefully not] be a once in a lifetime experience. Gotta live it up!

Afterwards, we headed back to our home at sea for our afternoon ritual: Dustin watching all the embarkation mechanics while I journaled the days memories. I think I filled up an entire page about Athena, and I knew that I had caught the new adventure/experience bug. And, in that moment, that desire to live this life to its very fullest became so much sweeter because I knew that I'd always, if the Lord wills it, have Dustin to share it with. I got anxious to step off that boat and into this brand new life we now shared. What a loving God we serve. He began this journey as a rich blessing and promises to uphold and guide us through every turn, both slight and sharp. And that's all for the mush. We've just got this party started!


the honeymoon revisited: part one

After so much wedding enjoyment, it almost seems unfair to get to honeymoon. I'm not complaining or anything. It's just that it was almost too good to be true.
We stayed the night at the Baer Inn in Vicksburg, Mississippi. And when I say we stayed the night, that's exactly what I mean. Got there around 12:30 and hit the road 7 hours later. Nevertheless, it comes highly recommended. You know my affinity for comfy beds and good food surrounded by old lovelies!
I must admit, I was a little cruise-skeptical. Though I didn't have much time to think about it thanks to the wedding buzz, I wondered if it was going to be over-saturated, cheesy, and filled with crew members trying to persuade me to do karaoke on the lido deck. [Moment of truth - it just took me several tries to spell karaoke before I got it close enough for Google to recognize.] This, of course, would be a pretty big disappointment since I have this selfish wish that the Titanic had never sunk so I could sail on it and experience all its charm. Let me say, the Norwegian Spirit nearly satisfied that desire. From the majesty of the ship itself to the the shiny hardwood features to the walloping windows in the main dining room surrounded by fabric covered walls - it was better than imagined.
Boarding could not have been easier. One of the Norwegian employees even told us "congratulations!" without us telling him that we were newlyweds. Good to know that our honeymooners' glow was seriously undeniable. Before our stateroom was ready, we grabbed lunch in that pretty dining room I mentioned earlier. We were obviously cruise novices seeing how we weren't aware that we each get to order a starter and we got up and left before dessert. Crazy look from our waiter. Now we know. Even sans-dessert, it was love at first bite. Steak for lunch seemed like an appropriate way to start this gorging-of-a-trip. Why the heck not?
We did break a cardinal cruise rule by skipping lunch one day. But we made up for it by taking advantage of the late night pizza delivery, ordering multiple starters, too-big-to-be-called-a-snack afternoon snacks, and nearly killing ourselves on the Chocoholic Buffet. Dainty little eaters, we were. See, the thing is, eating was just so much fun on the ship! We were seated at tables with crisp, white clothes where they pull comfy chairs out for you, put your napkin in your lap, hand you your menu and remove any tableware you don't require. Charming. Even more than that, your in this atmosphere filled with candlelight, soft music, and that wonderful dish-clanking sound of a great restaurant - every night for seven days!
Ok. Don't want to bore with an extensive vacation dialogue. Part One ends now. Of course I blogged about food first.