weekend rewind.

We had a very relaxing weekend which was SO needed.  Brian's oldest sister was in town with her little ones for the past two weeks, so we were there all of the last two weekends, plus most weeknights after work (they live in Baltimore so we had to soak up as much nephew and niece time as possible!).  Once it hit Wednesday of last week, we made a joint decision to do absolutely nothing that we didn't want to do come Friday at 5pm... and that's exactly what we did.

Considering that I live two minutes from my office, I'm always home before Brian and have made it my little Friday routine to come home and do a quick once-over of straightening up the apartment.  With it being only one bedroom and one bathroom, it takes all of one hour from top to bottom to clean, and then I shower, open a bottle of wine, and catch up on the DVR until Brian walks in the door.  It's honestly therapeutic to have that "me time" and I love going into the weekend with a clean apartment.  We both decided we were too tired to cook anything, so it was takeout won ton soup and spring rolls for the win!

Saturday morning I woke up and headed to the gym and then out to Target and Trader Joe's, per usual.  Call me crazy, but it's this time of year when I (sort of) wish that I could be going back to school again-- how can you not after seeing aisle after aisle of fresh paper, pens, Crayola everything everywhere?  And I kind of love seeing kids pick out their new school supplies with their parents, mainly because I can remember digging through stack after stack of spiral notebooks until I found JUST the right color that I absolutely had to have.  Full disclosure, I do indulge in a new planner and colored pens every September-- who wouldn't?! 

After stocking up for the week, I headed home only to be greeted by delish homemade breakfast sandwiches made courtesy of the fiance-- I'm willing to cook during the week if he sticks with breakfast on the weekends!  We had an appointment at 11am to finalize our limo for the wedding party, so we were off and running out the door pretty quickly.  I've been emailing with the owner of the company for months now and just couldn't find time to get by to see the vehicle, which I definitely wanted to do prior to putting down a deposit.  It turned out to be absolutely perfect, and we put our names down and checked that off of our list!  

I had REALLY wanted a trolley for the wedding party transportation, but after lots of debate and considering the fact that it might look a little more fitting for a spring/summer/early fall wedding versus a November wedding when there could potentially be snow (hey, it's November 8th in New England-- I'm mentally preparing for all weather extremes), I agreed to entertain Brian's suggestions and look at a larger SUV limo.  We've both been in weddings where things were a bit too cramped inside once you have everyone decked out in wedding duds, but I don't think that will be an issue with this baby: 

It's super roomy inside, and there's even a designated seat for the bride.  I mean, yes please!

Once that was all set, I dropped Brian back at the apartment and decided to check out HomeGoods for any wedding-related additions for the rehearsal dinner or cocktail hour.  While I unfortunately did not find anything worth justifying (I've had to learn to stop saying "How could we use this?" and instead only buy when I KNOW how I can use it), I did find a new mode of transportation for me to enter the wedding reception:

I texted my dad to inform him that he would no longer be walking me down the aisle, but rather pushing me as I rode in on Ella the Elephant.  How insane is that thing?  For a mere $1400, Ella can be yours!  And if you have a room large enough to comfortably house that thing, let me know because I'm moving in.

The next couple of weeks are crazy, so we decided we owed ourselves a Saturday night date night out on the town.  I poured myself a glass of chard and sat down to watch Carrie and Big while putting my makeup on.  He went all the way to Paris to kick some Russian ass, and she was the one.  I always always stop to watch this episode when it airs!

It was one of those nights when I felt like a million bucks-- my hair was working with me, the makeup was spot-on, and I wore a top that I haven't worn in months (thanks, wedding diet!).  Brian's not one for selfies, but I did manage to snag this on our way out the door-- 

Love him!  

We went to a cute little Italian restaurant which we'd never been to before and all in all it was pretty good, but we weren't blown away which stinks-- always on the lookout for good new restaurants.  Brian had some kind of asparagus ravioli with scallops and I went for a major indulgence with pasta bolognese.  I'd show you a picture, but I only snapped one of the drinks and it was super dark in the room.

Sunday morning I was off to the gym and the grocery store, only to return home for the second day in a row to breakfast!  Homemade waffles and blueberry syrup-- I think he's a keeper!  

We went out to see a couple of open houses (blah) and I spent the rest of the afternoon writing out thank you notes and prepping meals for the week.  We ate a super late dinner while watching the VMAs and I can only say that you know you're getting old when you don't recognize a good amount of the performers or artists nominated.  I'm pretty sure I'm with the rest of America in saying that while Beyonce absolutely blew us away with that epic performance (and encouraged me to amp-up my squats on leg days!), Blue Ivy stole the show!  She danced in her daddy's lap and knew the words and I honest to goodness got completely teary when Jay Z and Blue Ivy came up on stage because the look on Beyonce's face was one of absolute happiness and love.  

Seriously-- shut the front door with that cuteness.  Can't blame the sweet girl-- with that mama and daddy, she's born to be a natural entertainer!

Well, back to the Monday grind.  I hope you had a fantastic weekend as well!

Heavy on my heart.

Most mornings on my drive to work, I call my mom for a quick chat.  Sometimes it's lengthy, sometimes it's brief, but regardless of the length of our conversation, it's always nice to start my morning having talked with one of my favorite people.

This morning was no different-- I dropped Brian at the train and as I pulled out of the T parking lot, I dialed her up.  We had our regular small talk about what we did the evening before, how could it only be Tuesday morning, how busy work has been, etc.  And then she mentioned her friend, Lorenzo.  

My mom works with veterans in a hospital setting and her place of employment also aims to provide jobs for veterans, which is wonderful in my eyes.  To know my mom is to understand that she is one of the most kindhearted and warm people that you will ever meet.  She truly has a heart of gold and will go out of her way to do just about anything for anyone.  She doesn't hold grudges and is big on forgiveness, and if someone asks my mom to say a prayer for them, you can absolutely bet that she's going to do just that.  I've heard many of her work stories over the year, and I've gathered that working in the environment that she does can be challenging-- unless you've been to war, there's no way that you could ever comprehend what veterans have experienced, and often times employees choose to not take a personal interest in the patients of the hospital, versus just getting their job done.  Unfortunately there aren't enough people like my mom because she's the one who the patients seek out, knowing that my mom will take the time to listen to their stories, to give them a tissue through their tears, to offer comforting words and assurance that she will do absolutely everything that she can to find a solution to their problem while getting her job done.

Which brings me back to Lorenzo.  Lorenzo is a veteran, and a wonderfully nice man.  I've met him several times when going to visit my mom at work when I'm home, and he is so kind and takes a genuine interest in whatever you're saying-- the last time that I saw him was right after Brian and I got engaged and I stopped by to see my mom's coworkers.  My mom told him the news and he gave me the biggest hug then hugged my mom and said "Mrs. Janice, I know you are so happy and blessed with this pretty girl and her lucky man" and it could honestly make me cry right now just thinking about it again-- he hardly knows me personally and was so genuinely happy for me.  I know that he has struggled with various issues over the years, both mentally and physically, but he has maintained his job at the hospital and seemed to be doing okay.  He has the most positive and happy disposition, but from what I've gathered he really doesn't have much support in his life-- no family to speak off, no wife and no children.  So my mom has kind of stepped in and filled that little missing piece for him where she can.

Lorenzo walks to and from work every day, and when it's too hot or freezing cold, my mom insists on driving him home.  His house is only a few blocks from the hospital, but, just the same as me, my mom can't stand to see anyone struggle or suffer, and he knows that Mrs. Janice is relentless (also like me), so on occasion he'll graciously accept the offer.  She always makes sure to remember his birthday and brings him a little something at Christmas that he can use.  My mom does this out of the goodness of her heart, and he knows that and is so beyond thankful to be remembered.

Recently, Lorenzo has been struggling a little bit and he missed a few days of work over the last couple of weeks.  Due to the missed days, his pay was cut short, and things are very tight for him.  My mom knows him well enough to know when something is wrong, and when she asked him yesterday if everything was okay, he confided in her that he's had to pay all of his bills but that he hasn't had much to eat the last few days.  She immediately told him that she would like to help him, but his pride is far too great for that, and he politely declined and just asked her to pray for him.  She promised him that she would, and she did.  

Again, to know my mama is to know that if she can do more than pray, then she's going to.  When she walked through the door after work, she had barely put her purse down before telling my dad that she needed to put a care package together for her friend.  My dad has certainly heard of Lorenzo over the years and told my mom to absolutely go ahead and round up what she needed.  So my mom went through their cabinets and refrigerator and filled two boxes of food for him, recruited my brother to accompany her, and off they drove, my mom still in her work clothes and my brother unaware that even at 25 he was still eligible for Teachable Moments from Mama.

They pulled up to Lorenzo's house and rang his doorbell, each holding a box of food.  My brother told me this morning that when Lorenzo opened the door, he broke down in tears and thanked them over and over and over again.  My mom walked in and put the boxes down, hugged him, and told him that she knew that he would do it for someone else in that situation, and that he was to think nothing of it, and that's what friends are for.  

As my mom told me all of this as I drove to work, I was fighting back an ugly cry.  

I was overwhelmed at the generosity of my mom, of hearing her say so matter-of-factly "I helped him because it's what you do for someone in need.  I know that he would do it for someone else if he could.  And I would do it for anyone else out there."

I was sad for Lorenzo to be struggling after an already challenging life.

I was embarrassed at myself for being annoyed that I might not have time to buy a coffee. 

I was helpless thinking of how many other people are out there in the same position who we just don't hear about.

And so my heart feels a little heavy this morning.  My mom asked me to pray for Lorenzo, and every time I think of him I send up a few words, but I wish that there were more than can be done.  I know that there are people out there who are so very much worse off than our friend, people who don't have a roof over their heads, clothes on their backs, a stable job to go to every day.  But for some reason knowing that Lorenzo has these things and is still struggling to get by, to know that a good, honest, hardworking man who has already been through so much in his life now has to worry about where his meals will come from...  that's what hurts my heart

If you think about it and it's your thing, maybe send up a prayer for Lorenzo.  If praying isn't your thing, maybe a few words of encouragement could help.  My mom assured me that he's going to be okay and that he has a wonderful support system in his manager and team at work, and I believe that, especially with my mom on his side.

Wedding Wednesday: THE SHOES!!

I feel like I might be in the minority here, but when it came time to start seriously considering wedding shoes, I just could not get excited.  I'm not a huge shoe girl to begin with.  It's not for lack of lusting, but while I could gaze at gorgeous heels all day long, the thought of actually pulling the trigger and making the purchase is hard for me to justify, so I end up buying one great pair each of heels, flats, riding boots and sandals, and I wear them to death.

However, I also could not help but entertain the knowledge that these would be my wedding shoes. inducing teary thoughts of tucking them away into my closet for safe-keeping until I potentially have a little girl someday and she wants to see what mommy wore on the day she married daddy (that just gave me giddy chills and "Holy shit, not there yet..." chills, for what it's worth).  With that in mind, I knew I wanted to splurge the tiniest bit.  I've been saving shoe ideas for quite a while now, and really thought that I wanted my "something blue" to be a great pair of cobalt blue heels... but maybe let's just stick with traditional white/ivory or GLITTER!  What about glitter?  Maybe with gold?  (Hi, I'm the most indecisive person you'll ever meet, nice to meet you).

These Kate Spade beauties have been saved for quite a while, but I knew I didn't really want a strappy shoe.

I'm fairly certain that at one time or another, the majority of women who saw these lovelies on Carrie Bradshaw added them to their "I must make room in my wedding budget for them!"

The Kate Spade Charm Heel sat in my Zappos cart for a good two months before I started reading reviews from past brides who struggled with the glittery exterior of the shoe getting stuck in the tulle of their dress-- goodbye, my pretties!

Pretty much everything Badgley Mischka was included in my wish list too, including the "Goodie," but then I remembered that I would not only die in a 4-inch heel but likely tower over Brian.

At that point I started to get really, stupidly stressed about finding the perfect shoe, because everything that I really REALLY loved was close to $300.  I fawned and favorited practically every pair of Kate Spades from the Zappos site, and really wanted a way to make them work.  But as much as I wanted a special pair of wedding shoes, I couldn't justify spending that much-- I want new Hunters this fall!  But every time I would scroll through my to-do list spreadsheet, "Buy wedding shoes!" would stare me down, taunting me, convincing me I was probably going to walk down the aisle barefoot because I wanted a designer shoe at a non-designer price.  

I had pretty much given up hope on the search for My Perfect Wedding Shoe until one day last week when I was on a supreme coffee high.  I was sitting at my desk on my lunch break and had powered through two cups of coffee at home plus a large DD iced, and I was racing through my spreadsheet checking things off left and right.  As I scanned over "Buy wedding shoes!" something inside of me said "Wedding shoes, you are my bitch-- it is ON." and in a stroke of genius moment, I went to The Google and typed in "Amazon Kate Spade shoes."  Lo and behold, a result popped up for the Kate Spade store which is a part of Amazon.  Now, I've ordered Kate Spade phone cases from Amazon before, but they're more like Kate Spode-- definite fakes.  I was a little apprehensive, thinking it wasn't legit, but I sent the link to Brian and he assured me that it was an actual Kate Spade store being sold through Amazon (if any of you know differently, please do not tell me because it may break this bride's brain to process anything of the sort).  As I typed in "Kate Spade wedding shoe" I felt butterflies of terror in my stomach-- could I seriously find my wedding shoes on AMAZON?  I mean, I find basically everything else on Amazon, but my shoes?!

As the search results populated on the page, I stared in disbelief as one of the shoes that I kept going back to time and time again stared right back at me... priced at nearly a third LESS than Zappos!  I was in shock.  I went to the bathroom, filled my water bottle in the kitchen, sat back down, refreshed the page... and it was still there!  There may have been a happy dance as I checked to make sure my size was there-- oh yes it most certainly was!  I had added the shoes to my cart, applied a $5 gift card that I had in my Amazon account, and placed my order with FREE 2-DAY PRIME SHIPPING before I even really knew what I was doing.

Ladies and friends, allow me to introduce you to my lovely, fantastic designer wedding shoes that I bought for a non-designer price!  As per Kate Spade, you may call them "Clarice." 

I seriously sigh every time that I look at them.  They were shipped Friday and I tracked them like a crazy woman all day yesterday and waited for the UPS man for a good two hours last night before I had to pick Brian up.  We were out and about until 9 or so, and I was bummed that they hadn't come earlier, and was nervous because our apartment complex has been known to not do great with deliveries in the past, and this was one they could not screw up!  Brian beat me up the stairs and I took my time coming in, putting my stuff down, washing my face, basically moping around because My shoes!  Amazon Prime!  They failed me!

When I finally headed to bed, there, tucked behind my pillow, was the best looking box I could have ever seen (well, aside from that pretty little blue ring box I love so much).  I opted to not waste my time threatening Brian with his life for grabbing them and hiding them when he walked in before me, and instead tore into the box to find the most perfect little shoes.  I love them.  I plan to wear them as much as humanly possible over the next 87 days to make sure they're nice and comfortable.  I also tried them on next to Brian, and I don't tower at all!  

The breakdown?  They were originally priced on Zappos for $328.  They're currently marked down on Zappos to $197.99.  Amazon Prime had these babies priced at $127.  I just checked and they're back up to $176, so I must have made the right choice at the right time!  
So, so excited to have this checked off of my list!


Up until this point, I don't believe that there has been a celebrity death that has struck me quite as significantly as the loss of Robin Williams.  James Gandolfini hit close to home because I was an absolute diehard fan of "The Sopranos" and felt that I was therefore familiar with a huge portion of his work as an actor, and Philip Seymour Hoffman was most certainly a tragic loss of talent as well.  I always cry during the "In Memoriam" part of the Emmys, the Grammys, the Oscars.  You seem to always recognize a face or two as they flash on the screen, you remember a movie that you once saw them in, feel a pang of "That's so sad!" and then they're gone, the memory is gone, and you move on, not out of lack of caring, but moreso because while they're a part of your memory somewhere deep, they didn't leave an indelible mark on your memories.  

Not this one.  Not for me.  Maybe it's because the face of Mr. Williams played the part of so many fantastically beloved cinematic characters.  From kids movies to award winning drama, he could take on any single character and bring that character to life, and in my eyes, that is what makes a truly fantastic actor.  To never be typecast into one specific genre of film, one particular type of script and characters, but to instead have such a vast array of talent that you can absolutely nail any part thrown your way... that's what leaves your mark.  That is what makes you truly great.

Same as so many of you, the first time I ever "met" Mr. Williams was as our beloved Ge-nie of the LAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAMP in "Aladdin."  He was blue.  He changed shapes and imitated Jack Nicholson.  He was hilarious and he lived in a lamp.  Even then, he had his young, absolutely obsessed audience in the palm of his hand.

My first encounter with Robin Williams as an actor was when he played Dr. Malcolm Sayer in the film "Awakenings."  I was young, probably too young, and I vividly remember watching the movie and being absolutely beside myself with tears.  Robin Williams as Dr. Sayer, DeNiro as Leonard Lowe, and a hospital in the Bronx where seemingly catatonic patients are brought back to life, if only for a little while.  Absolutely phenomenal.

I remember going to my aunt and uncle's house when I was little and I absolutely couldn't wait to get there because my older cousin had "Mrs. Doubtfire" on VHS.  It was the highlight of every trip, and I would laugh laugh laugh at Mrs. Euphegenia Doubtfire.  There were few better highlights at that age than the cake-to-the-face scene, followed by that unmistakable "Hellooooooooo!"

To this day, if I'm flipping through the channels and I see that "Hook" is on, I will stop and watch it in its entirety.  I loved Peter Banning, the Lost Boys, Julia as Tink... and I have always loved one of the last lines of the movie, when Tootles gets his bag of marbles back-- he really did lose his marbles.

The Birdcage was one of those movies that I saw when I was, again, probably too young, and I didn't quite get the humor for the majority of the movie.  Truthfully, I don't think I even understood the concept.  But today?  Today, this movie can make me laugh until I cry every single damn time.  How can we forget Armand Goldman dancing across the stage in rehearsals as he explains to the TOO interpretive dancer "You do an eclectic celebration of the dance! You do Fosse, Fosse, Fosse! You do Martha Graham, Martha Graham, Martha Graham! Or Twyla, Twyla, Twyla! Or Michael Kidd, Michael Kidd, Michael Kidd, Michael Kidd! Or Madonna, Madonna, Madonna!... but you keep it all inside."

For as long as I live, I will never forget watching "Good Will Hunting" for the first time, sitting on the couch absolutely frozen as the credits rolled.  It was one of the first movies that struck me to my core, that reached inside, stirred things around, and made me think that there was more out there for me.  Up until that point, I was quite the connossiur of crummy teen movies, so it was probably the first time that I also saw superb acting.  There was certainly the appeal of Ben, Matt and their friends, and Will's line "Well I got her number.  How 'bout them apples?" to the douchey Harvard guy with the ponytail.  And, they were in Boston, my dream city.  Robin as Sean Maguire absolutely made the movie.  I could list my favorite scenes but I would be better off showing a link to by the movie, because there are too many to list here.  This clip has been circulating the web since last night, and it absolutely encompasses why Sean, played by Robin, made this movie so fantastic.

Last, but so certainly not least, is the my beloved "Dead Poets Society," the movie that led me to pursue an English major.  Yes, it was just a movie, but it encapsulated my passion for the written word.  I would dream to have a teacher like John Keating, wishing that just maybe he could step through the movie screen and teach my AP English class.  No such luck.  I never had him as a teacher, but I'll always have his performance as the English teacher who pushed his students to think big, to be individuals, to step outside of the box and live for themselves, not for the expectations others have of them.

"O Captain, my Captain. Who knows where that comes from? Anybody? Not a clue? It's from a poem by Walt Whitman about Mr. Abraham Lincoln. Now in this class you can either call me Mr. Keating, or if you're slightly more daring, ‘O Captain my Captain’."

Rest peacefully now, Mr. Williams.  You will be so tremendously missed, but I can only hope that you are at peace.

A quarter of my life.

Seven years ago today, this naive little girl from Texas made her way across Boston to the courtyard at Government Center.  I had spent hours choosing my outfit, applying my makeup, making sure that my hair looked just right.  I had three different transportation options written down and tucked away into my purse in case the train broke down, I couldn't find a cab or I needed directions to walk (these were even pre-iPhone days), and I made sure to set out on my adventure with plenty of time to spare so that I didn't break a sweat in the sticky August heat. 

It was no problem finding the train station, and I caught my train quickly.  There's no telling what the passengers around me must have been thinking because I could neither stop smiling or checking my hair against my reflection in the window.  I vividly remember the stops flying by, people getting on and off of the train, and me watching as we grew closer and closer to my own stop.  I thought my heart might beat out of my chest as I rode the escalator to the top of the Government Center station and stepped out into the sunshine of City Hall Plaza... and immediately reached for my phone.

"Where are you?"
"Just got off the boat-- I'm walking towards the train.  Where are you?"
"I just got off the train and am walking towards the boat... I think.  I can't tell.  There are so many people!  What are you wearing?" 
"Well, stop walking and look for my green hat."

That next moment was one that I hope that I remember for all of the rest of my days.  I don't even have to close my eyes to see it right this very second.  City Hall Plaza is a huge, open space and I was giddy with excitement, looking at every person my eyes could catch and then, I looked up and my Brian was just... there.  We had talked for months and months, me in Texas, him in Massachusetts at home or while he was at school in New York, but to finally have him there in front of me, walking towards me, right into my arms for the most anticipated hug of my life... Yes, that still gives me butterflies and makes me teary.  

And that was the beginning of us.  We spent the day walking around Boston, and we laughed and talked for hours, sneaking glances and flirting, not wanting our day to end.  When it finally came time for him to catch the commuter boat home, we made plans to see each other again the very next day, and I'll never forget the text that popped up on my faithful old Razr as I made my way back to the train-- "I can't stop smiling."  Considering my own silly smile hadn't left my face, I knew that this was something special.  There was something about every single minute of being with him that just clicked, and I knew in my heart of hearts that there wasn't a single other soul out there in the world for me, and that I didn't want for there to be.

2,555 days later, a quarter of my life spent with this man, and here we are.  We've had fantastic days and days that almost ended us as a couple.  We've seen our families expand to welcome little ones and have been each others support as we've mourned the losses of our loved ones.  We've learned what makes each other tick and what drives each other absolutely up the frigging wall crazy.  We've endured years of long distance dating, living with relatives, functioning in a tiny apartment and (if we survive) hunting for our first home together.  We've learned to trust, to praise, to communicate, to manage expectations, and to accept each other for who we are.  We've learned that we both need "me time" and that it's good, no, it's essential to get out every once in awhile with just our friends.  We've been each others biggest cheerleaders and biggest fans.  We've made each other laugh until we cry with that humor that only a couple truly "gets" the full hysteria of-- nobody else is going to know why you're laughing so hard you can't speak because of a cat commercial on the TV, because nobody else knows the infamous cat imitation (See? Couple humor).  We've become Uncle Bri and Aunt Kiki, and godparents to our niece.  We've come to love our families for who they are-- enough said.  

Seven years of laughter and arguments, cheers and tears, lots of love and (almost) marriage.  Ninety-four days from now, we'll be dancing the night away at our wedding reception, as husband and wife.  That makes me so unspeakably happy and excited, but even more than that, I can't wait to have my best friend by my side as we face whatever life may deal us.  I know that in him I have neverending love, support, encouragement, direction, and more laughter than I could possibly know what to do with.  Seven years as a couple and so many, many more to go, and I'm so happy that it's with him.

brian-- love you so very much.  

99 Day Countdown = ENGAGEMENT PICTURES!!

Friends, we are officially in the double-digits!!  99 days from today, I get to marry my absolute best friend and the love of my life.  I would say "Let's just fast forward to The Big Day" but I've been so stressed over so many silly little things the past couple of months that I'm making a conscious effort these last three months to soak up every minute of being engaged.  I absolutely cannot wait to be a wife, and to be Brian's wife at that, but I'll never be a "fiancee" again, and I want to revel in this little bit of time in between dating and marriage.  
To top off that exciting little countdown, our photographer (the fantastic CoCo from Krista Photography here in Boston) sent back our edited engagement pictures today (squeee!!!).  So, to go out on Friday with a bang, here are a few of my favorites!

the spot of our very first date

...AND the spot we Brian proposed!

boat shoes and boots :)

love these.

I was nervous about the misty, foggy morning, but it actually worked in our favor for the pictures!  It was perfect, and I highly recommend taking engagement pictures sort of as a trial run to the big day.  It's nice to get a feel for how you'll interact with your photographer, and gives you an idea of what to expect with a camera in your face constantly.  We were pretty awkward at first but once we got more comfortable, it was a piece of cake!  It was hard to pick favorites because CoCo just did THAT amazing of a job.  We definitely have a great connection with her and know that she'll be a perfect fit with us on the wedding day!

Have a fantastic weekend!!