ebb & flow

Life can be a beast.

Sometimes it gets to you, it invades your thoughts, your heart.  You become angry, feel helpless.

But I also believe life is like waves in an ocean.  Everything ebbs and flows.  The tough times help us appreciate the good times.  The sadness helps us know the full extent of the happiness.

We flew home from Jamaica last Saturday.  It was a long day.  Snow and ice rain delayed flights … cancelled flights.  We spent far too much time in a dumpy airport bar with Pizza Hut  personal pies.  I felt as though I’d never felt so tired.  (Which is saying something, as I am intimately familiar with fatigue!).

But on either side of that misery was family, our home, goodness.  Home cooked meals and evenings of laughter.  Palm trees, blue ocean — soft blankets and drifts of white snow.

Snow has begun to fall again today.  The skies are gray.  I had to cancel my girls weekend because somewhere along the way, I got a head cold that knocked me sideways.

But Christmas is around the corner.  Family and good food and snuggles.  Ebb, flow.

a few days of magic

We checked the weather pretty consistently leading up to our trip to Iceland.  The forecast was gloomily unwavering ~ 53 degree high with 70% chance of rain every day we were there.  I wasn’t too concerned.  I don’t like hot weather and rain doesn’t especially bother me (it more so bothers my naturally curly hair, but ce la vie when in Iceland, yes?).

So it was a super surprise that our last few days were filled with sunshine.  The golden glow of the sun makes Iceland even more magical than it is in the grayness.

We arrived at six a.m. last Friday morning, and after getting our rental car (a cute little VW Polo with heated seats!) we made our way down route 41 from Keflavik to Reykjavik.  It felt oddly surreal.  To begin, our flight had been somewhat painful ~ neither of us had ever done a transatlantic discount flight, and let me tell you, Wow Airlines is discount. So we were tired.  There had been several delays for various, increasingly absurd reasons, and then no pillows, no water or snacks … and a fellow passenger who insisted on keeping her window open, allowing bright sunlight to stream into the cabin the whole flight.

The thing about Iceland is that it reveals itself slowly.  The mist and Scottish rain were in full force as we searched for our car in the parking lot.  The country felt vast, as though emptiness stretched out in every direction.  When we were finally ensconced in the car and we’d duly read the driving instructions (road signs for four-wheel drive only roads, how to navigate blind corners, flooded roadways, being mindful of the strong wind, etc) we set off, finding out that our GPS didn’t work, and doing it the old-fashioned way (y’know, with road signs and paper maps).  The country-side was fascinating~ volcanic rock covered in vibrant green moss interspersed with clusters of bright purple flowers.  Puffs of sulfuric smoke billowing from the ground ~ a different cloudy white than the mist.

We made it safely to Reykjavik, sprawling along the shores of the ocean.  It didn’t feel like a city, but a country town filled with quaint buildings and shops.  Our apartment was close to a main thoroughfare and after checking in at the office, we headed down for breakfast at a cafe recommended by a friend.  It was surprisingly good ~ avocado on rye toast topped with arugula and bright, sunny side up eggs.  After eating, I felt a little more like a human so we wandered into stores and explored the area, waiting to hear that the apartment was ready for our occupancy.  Reykjavik is amazing ~ clean and filled with well dressed people, flowers blooming in overflowing pots on every lamppost, cobblestone streets, musicians on the corners and street art lining the narrow roadways.  Our first day was filled with tiny discoveries of the country ~ clues as to the Icelandic culture and people.  We did an early dinner at a small restaurant called “Old Iceland” (it was the best meal we had our whole trip, and we had some great meals).  Cured salmon, plump sea scallops, and our first taste of Icelandic Fish Soup.  We ventured up to the church at Reykjavik’s center after dinner.  Following that, I was dead on my feet and looking forward (very much!) to sleep.

On Saturday, we did the Golden Circle.  Iceland has a road that traverses the whole island called the Ring Road, and the Golden Circle is a small piece of that route.  It includes Thingvellir National Park (the rift between tectonic plates), Geyser and Gulfoss. We spent the whole day on the Golden Circle.  Everything was more beautiful than the last thing, and when you finally walk across the windswept moor and see the Gulfoss waterfall at the pinnacle of the trip ~ it takes the breath right out of your lungs.  We walked right up to the side, rain coats zipped up and hoods on.  It felt like true, pure, unadulterated magic.

For John’s birthday on Sunday, we booked time at the Blue Lagoon and the LAVA restaurant there.  We arrived in the mist and rain of the morning ~ by far the coldest and rainiest day we were there.  After navigating the gauntlet of the changing rooms, I met John on the other side, and the lagoon spread out before us, fading into dark cliffs and mist.  We waded in, water warm as a perfect bath, and slowly floated out, stopping to get glasses of champagne at the lagoon bar.  It was amazing, how blue the water was in the dark grayness and rain of the day.  The juxtaposition of the water’s warmth and the rain’s slick coolness remains indescribably perfect.  The water was opaque, so you couldn’t see your hands even an inch beneath the surface, and no matter how much time passed and how many more people arrived and drifted in, it never felt crowded or loud.  It just felt blissfully peaceful.  People covering their faces and arms with silica masks, floating into caves and underneath the man-made waterfall.  We found perches in shallow water and just sat, talked and drank champagne.  The epitome of decadence.  Lunch was yummy, too.  We did fish soup again (it is exquisite) and I had lamb, since Iceland is very proud of its lamb.  It was tender and perfectly seasoned, served with buttery baby potatos and perfectly cooked vegetables.  The restaurant did a special dessert for John’s birthday which was both beautiful and delicious.

We’d left Monday open, because we didn’t want to overbook ourselves (MS has taught us that).  So when we finally pulled ourselves out of bed, we decided to drive south, toward waterfalls and black sand beaches.  On a small quest to see the Iceland we’d come to know from “The Secret Life of Walter Mitty.”  The Iceland we saw was better.  Full of blinking sunlight and intermittent rain.  Craggy cliffs drifting into the clouds, waterfalls dotting the mountainside.  Volcanic rock softened by moss.  It was the perfect last day, which ended with a walk behind a waterfall and sandwiches from a food truck.  As we wound our way back into Reykjavik at nine p.m. the city had begun its celebration of the big Euro Cup win over England.  Fireworks set off in the midnight sun, car horns intermittently beeping.  The kindest and safest sports celebration I have ever witnessed in my life.

Tuesday morning was full of sunshine, not a cloud in the sky.  The blueness was vibrant.  We made our way back to Keflavik and enjoyed our last fish soup at the airport with Sauvignon Blanc and cured salmon over sliced hard-boiled eggs and arugula.  It was the perfect end to a perfect trip.

Iceland gets into your consciousness, filling it with optimism, with peace and gentleness.  I felt changed as we flew home across Greenland the wide Atlantic Ocean. I hope, as life reverts to the routine, I remember to hold the stillness, and peacefulness of Iceland in my heart and mind always.  And I very much hope that our next visit isn’t too far in the future.

resolutions

The beginning of the year feels mildly like a Monday — a great excuse to begin again, start new traditions.  I’ve found — in my limited time on this Earth — that the day you begin something doesn’t really matter.  It’s whether or not you believe in what you’re doing, why you’re doing it, and if you feel fully committed to making a change.

It is much easier said than done.

That being said  — here are some of my lofty (and not so loftly) goals for this newest year.  Happy 2015 World!

1.  I would like to learn to speak Spanish.  I was given Rosetta stone for my birthday, and I would really like to dedicate myself to working through the levels and being able to communicate in a second language.

2.  I would like to be disciplined enough to sit down on a regular basis, and play my keyboard.  John bought it for me last Christmas, and while I’ve worked my way through some of the early pages of my beginner’s piano lessons (from freshman year of college! eeek!) I have absolutely not spent enough time playing.  May I confess here that plopping down on the couch after driving home from work is  a much easier option?  It really is.

3.  I would like to make a more consistent effort in regards to my diet and how it affects my health and my functionality in life.  Yes, I love food — but I really need to be more steady in my routine diet choices.  Zucchini pasta anyone? (I love it!).

4.  I would like to unplug more.  This past month of mild social media separation meant I read more books, I wrote more things, I cooked more meals, I was much more on-point at work …. I mean, the benefits are basically endless.  I’d like to keep that up.

5.  I’d like to begin each day by saying “Today is going to be a good day.”  And then live it to the fullest, enjoy each moment, and rejoice in the blessings that fill my life.
I think I’ve given myself a plate-full, so I am going to decide that at the moment, those five things will occupy my time and require my full attention.

2014 began as a rocky climb up hill — but somewhere along the way, it got good.  I like how John and I adapted to the changes we faced (two restaurants for me, a new job for him, etc) and made the best decisions we could in regards to our future and our stability.  I learned a lot of lessons in 2014 that I hope I carry with me, and that help shape the next adventure.

Cheers to new beginnings, clean slates, and amazing people with whom to jump off cliffs.

xoxo, g

tis the season

This morning, as the man and I carefully unwrapped ornaments and hung them thoughtfully on our Charlie Brown tree, I reminisced about how our lives have grown in the time we’ve been together.

Our first year, everything was a merge of ‘my’ stuff and ‘his’ stuff.  And slowly, year by year, things have become ours, ornaments with history and meaning — commemorating special times we’ve shared.  A golden leaf from Jackson  Hole, a horse-drawn carriage from Williamsburg, a snow globe in a stocking from Hilton Head.  I love that warm fuzzy feeling when the paper peels back to reveal what had been previously tucked safely away.  The first ornament we hung this year was a beautiful boxer with a red and white scarf, given to us by our great friends (it looks surprisingly like Lucy!).  John asked her where she wanted to hang it and she replied with a quizzical look and a suspicious sniff of the ornament.  It was adorable.  She’s still not one hundred percent sure she understands why there’s a live tree in the living room.  But she seems okay with it.

It’s always sort of interesting to contemplate the holidays as you gear up for them — how celebrations change and how they stay they same, how you personally feel about the time of year.  This December feels uncharacteristically mellow — I ordered our Christmas cards the first week of November and they are all sitting neatly stacked in ‘domestic’ and ‘air mail’ piles by the front door.  We have essentially completed all of our shopping, our tree is up, and we aren’t having a party this year ….. So that’s that, right?  It feels a little bizarre — anti climactic and strangely un-Christmas-y.

I have led a somewhat charmed life to this point — in that there was not a lot of drama during Thanksgiving or Christmas growing up.  When my brother and I were young, we spent Christmas Eve with our Italian relatives (Italian-American — my dad’s side) and there was always a table heaping with food (the seven fish my friends) and I barely ate any of it — and we all ran around and had wild conspiracies about Santa Claus and it was glorious.  And Christmas day was spent at home, opening presents and then eating a huge British Christmas lunch (my favorite) and then lounging around in sweatpants watching ‘It’s a Wonderful Life’ while messing around with all our new swag.

But as you grow up, and become part of another person’s family and holiday celebrations, you begin to realize that things morph — I think it has a lot to do with children, actually — and even if things had stayed the same, they would inevitably also be very different.

On our very first date, John and I wandered down the main street of Manayunk, grabbing drinks at bars that we would otherwise never have gone into (in an effort to avoid running into anyone we knew …. it’s a long story).  We ended up sitting outside at a tiny bar at one end of the strip, telling each other how much we loved Christmas, why and millions of stories of minutiae that we remembered with glowing detail.  It was June then, and I remember hoping my beer would never end, and that I could sit and talk with this wonderful man forever.

Luckily, that wish came true.  And the first year we lived together, every inch of our apartment was decorated for Christmas — ornaments and garland and twinkly lights festooned every corner of every room.

So this year, with our understated decorations, and no party on the agenda for the first time in four years, it feels quiet, and subtle … and somewhat out of character.

I’m glad this year is going to be low-key, and I’m glad that as of the seventh of December, we’re pretty prepared for the holidays.  I just hope this isn’t the beginning of the end of the magic.  Because to me, this as always the most magical and beautiful time of year.  And to imagine that feeling fading — well, that just about breaks my heart.

 

dawn

On June 1st, exactly five years after our very first date, John and I said “I do.”  It was a pretty perfect day.  This is one of my favorite shots, taken by my very talented Aunt, of our intimate ceremony.  It also happened to be beautiful.  But the best part was sharing it with my best friend.  And he looked so handsome, too!

Then … time seemed to just zoom on by.  We jetted to Colorado for a relaxing five-day stay at an incredible resort (Kessler Canyon) followed by the Aspen Food & Wine Classic.  And then … well, I broke my foot.

It was a very long last day in Colorado.  And July … it’s felt pretty long, too!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Denver was pretty neat ~ we were only there for a day, but we walked around the LoDo district (despite the heat wave from PA following us to CO and it being in the 90s every day!) and enjoyed dinner at a fantastic restaurant in an area called Larimer Square.  I wish we could recreate the atmosphere of that area in Philly ~ the streets were lined with outdoor dining, beautiful flower arrangements, wrought iron fencing and the entire block was strung with lights.  So gorgeous.  In addition, we have both decided that while our entire honeymoon was a culinary delight, dinner at Tag was our favorite.  Probably because our server was fantastic, the wine was delish and every plate that came out was beautiful and had amazing flavor.  It was a perfect start to the honeymoon.

 

We also had an amazing stay at The Oxford Hotel ~ incredibly beautiful rooms, rugs in the elevator letting you know the day of the week (so charming!) and a complimentary bottle of champagne with chocolate covered pretzels.  So wonderful!

 

 

 

Kessler Canyon was a four plus hour drive from Denver, and as we approached it, I think we were both curious as to what we would encounter when we arrived.  But it was a little piece of heaven tucked in a valley between mountain ranges and the hospitality was overwhelming, as was everything else.  Every morning began with coffee by an outdoor fireplace looking out over the ‘lake’ (John would like to say for the record that it was a pond, not a lake) and each day was full of fun things to do (shooting range, ATV rides up 2000 feet from the valley on switch back curves, hammocks, canoeing, hot tubs … basically whatever took your fancy!).  We met some really great people and had a really relaxing time.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I took a ton of pictures on the drive from Denver to DeBeque.  Hard to pic a good one.  But the mountains were all stunning! A couple more from Kessler … although these are all from my phone (not the nifty new Nikon 3100 that we bought right before the trip … and still haven’t downloaded!).

The last day of our time at Kessler there ware so few guests, we all got to eat in the kitchen.  So much fun!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The last pic was actually the last pic we took at Kessler being goofy on the back porch ~ we did see a bear the first day, though!

Another two hours in the car to Aspen, and thankfully, the temperature dropped significantly (whew!).  We got to our digs in downtown Aspen, and after some confusion about our trade packets for the event, had all our goodies and were set for the fun to begin the next morning.  We took full advantage of the in-ground hot tub right outside our front door, and the gorgeous pool.  I wish I’d taken pictures …. maybe next year!

Since the Food & Wine Classic was ah.may.zing, I’m going to wait until tomorrow and really try to share as much as possible.

Until then … I have avoided this blog since I got home, not because I didn’t have things to share, but because I wasn’t in a very good frame of mind.  I felt as though I’d lost my way here … and I couldn’t find it because I couldn’t (and still can’t) get around very easily.  It has been exhausting and frustrating and a number of other descriptive words.  I am lucky to have a man willing to take care of me on every level ~ and those boundaries have certainly been tested since June 15th (the breaking of the foot day).  It has been easy to get discouraged, easy to feel listless and lost, easy to get mad, feel sad and basically pity myself.  Coming off the difficult and challenging diagnosis of MS this year, breaking my foot just felt like the last nail in the coffin.  Could it get any worse?  I felt as though I’d lost my will to stay positive.

But as I have (valiantly/) tried to remind myself recently … it’s always darkest before the dawn.  And time will keep on ticking, and eventually things will be easier, and I will be capable of doing more.  It’s hard to remember that when your dog is ringing the bell to go outside to potty and you can’t take her … or you want to take a shower but you don’t have the strength to get in and out by yourself … or a cup of coffee would taste wonderful, but you have no way to transport it to an area where you can actually sit down and drink it.  But having these difficulties has also made me more aware of the fact that we all – whether we mean to or not – take so many things for granted.  And while I know a time will come when I too will once again take the ability to sleep on my right side for granted (something I have not been able to do in weeks … ) I know that for a few moments, I will be grateful for the little things that have come back to me.

Until tomorrow.  xo.

 

daily gratitude

I’m not always the biggest fan of social media (let me also clarify that, along with most of the population, I am somewhat addicted to it).  Sometimes, though, social media offers up something truly worthwhile ~ something a little bit better than a glorified chain letter.

Today, I saw the beginnings of something I think we should all do regardless of the time of year ~ but Thanksgiving inspires it, so for that, I am thankful.

Multiple people online were listing things they are grateful for by day.  The idea is to do it every day until Thanksgiving.  I liked it so much, I figured I’d bring it to the blog.

November 1st ~

I am grateful for power (aka electricity).  When you are deprived of something, it becomes startlingly clear how much you rely upon it.  I am grateful for all the creature comforts I daily take for granted.  I am thankful that despite the devastating aftermath of Superstorm Sandy, she helped me remember how lucky I am for all that I have.

November 2nd ~

I am grateful for John.  We have spent the past three plus years building a life together in our snug apartment and every day I am reminded of how amazing it is to share a life with my best friend.  I haven’t always been so lucky, and because of that, I think it helps me to appreciate what ‘good‘ feels like.  It’s easy to take your person for granted, to take out your frustrations and daily irritations on that person because he’s there day in and day out.  It’s also sad to see people together who clearly make each other miserable ~ who only see the other’s faults and spend their time picking at the other, spot-lighting their partner’s failings.

I am eternally grateful that we found each other, and that despite some misgivings from my friends due to my previous relationship, and some bumps at the beginning, we were smart enough to recognize our souls in each other.  He is my sounding board, the yin to my yang, the voice of reason to my irrationality.  He protects me when I am afraid, supports me when my wings feel frail, and loves me even when I am my most ugly.  Today, I am most grateful for him.

weekend bonfire

Okay, so I’m still working on getting good shots with the panorama feature on my phone, but this is a (bad) picture of our kitchen mantle, after I got a little enthusiastic at Michael’s (fall leaf garlands?!? = must.have!).

And here is our living room mantle (pop quiz: name a benefit of living in an apartment that was originally an antique store?  yup, that’s right folks ~ two ornamental mantlepieces!).

Last weekend, a few of my girl friends from highschool and their guys journeyed from Philadelphia (I realize that makes it sound epic ~ we’re only 12 miles from Center City so it can be done in 35 -45 minutes if the traffic isn’t bad) to our little country house for dinner and a bonfire.

It was one of the best evenings I’ve had in a long time.

First, it was awesome to have our friends over (the man and I love to entertain) but also, isn’t it so great to spend time with people who have known you since pretty much the beginning of you?  I moved to Wyomissing between my sophomore and junior year in highschool, and I feel blessed that these two ladies are still/again in my life.  It’s comforting (I know, I use that a lot but I love feeling comfy!) to be with people who know your family, who understand where you came from.  And, both their guys are fantastic too, so all around, it was so much fun!  (I’m gushing.  I know.  But seriously.  I -and the man- had such a good time!).

Second, the man and I love doing stuff like this.  Prior to their arrival Saturday evening, we did some decoration shopping (I had this idea of how I wanted everything to feel so we went on a mission and I felt supremely satisfied after our sojourn) and meal prepping.  We were presented with a few meal-planning challenges (which is too strong a word, but my brain seems to be short-circuiting in the synonym department) because one of my friends is a pescatarian and the other doesn’t eat gluten (better women than me for staying disciplined!).  Some of our tried and true dinner menu items were out (sadly, no hickory smoked cheese bread … ah well!).  We ended up making Smitten Kitchen’s Buttermilk Chicken and cooking it on the grill, vegetarian stuffed peppers and potobello mushrooms, and oven-roasted potatoes.  For dessert, I whipped out a favorite from IGE ~ crispy homemade peanut butter cups.  We also enjoyed some amazing cookies and delicious Pumpkin Beer (I am now a huge fan!), as well as a few nice reds, a tasty white & a bottle of bubbles to celebrate bar passages and game releases, and upcoming tests, and just getting together!

After dinner we all ‘retired’ to the firepit with hot mugs of cider (some spiked, others -like mine- as is -because that’s how I like it!).  Before we knew it, it was past midnight and everyone headed home.  But what a great evening! I like remembering really fun times, and I especially like reminiscing during a particularly stressful time at work.  It cheers me up to no end.

Happy Fall!  Next up … our first major PSU tailgate for OSU next weekend.  It’s a white out ~ we have a spreadsheet for who is bringing what ~ it’s going to be epic.  (And hopefully, very organized!)

S’mores!

This afternoon, the man & I decided to make s’mores, because by the end of the night, everyone is too full & too tired (or, more accurately, much more interested in “iced tea” than gooey marshmallows, silky chocolate & crunchy Graham cracker).

The verdict is in & I am a fan of campfire s’mores. Prior to today, I had melted marshmallows as a kid in our family’s fireplace, and intermittently over firepits in suburban backyards. There is something to be said about a true campfire s’more. I am off to enjoy the delicious goodness. Happy Sunday!

Lucy’s First Camping Trip

I’m blogging from my phone today with very iffy service,so I will be short & sweet. We have been planning this camping weekend for quite some time – it is Lucy’s first (and only my second, so the man is dealing with uber novices).

We recently bought a new tent which we managed to set up in the dark so we could sleep last night (huge triumph). We realized this morning, however, that while our trial run last weekend of setting up the tent was very helpful, we’d managed to forget some crucial elements (an example ~ both sleeping bags!) We have managed to remedy most of the boo-boos, and the man is off getting more firewood as I tend the fire.

I would love to add pics but I can’t seem to upload them from my phone, so I promise to add at a later date. I hope you are enjoying Memorial Day Weekend as much as we are!