Saturday, March 5, 2016

Coffee, and the meaning of life...

Even before I was drinking coffee, it had special a place in my life.  My dad always drank it, and because he was up and out of the house before we were out of bed most days, the only time I recall smelling it in the house was on Christmas morning. My first memories of coffee were warm and inviting, and associated with the most magical and wonderful day of the year.

There was also a time when my parents were involved, for years, in a Bible study. Sometimes we'd host it at our house, sometimes it was in someone else's home. Regardless of the location, coffee was served and the aroma filled the air.

My first job was working in a puppy daycare center (best job ever!) and I would open the place sometimes with my boss, who was also a drill sergeant...literally. I'd been around coffee all of my life, but I have a vivid memory of her asking me to make a pot one morning, and realizing I had no clue how. Momentarily dumbfounded, I thought..."how hard can it be? I can figure it out. "So I filled the filter all the way to the top, and leveled it off before filling the carafe with water. As any normal person might imagine, the result was essentially tar. Lacking any trace of a sense of humor, my boss didn't crack a smile when I poured her a cup and asked her if she wanted cream and sugar...and then she never asked me to make coffee again.  I went home and told my dad, who laughed and then showed me how to properly make coffee...a skill that has come in handy way too many times to count.

In college, I began to drink coffee on an as-needed basis. If I needed to stay up for many hours at a time to study or complete a paper, coffee was my comrade.  It was more a tool than anything. Until Jeanne came roommate who taught me to love this precious commodity. We shared many a meaningful conversation over coffee, and traveled distances to have a good cup to accompany our time that we'd share. In fact, I asked her to be my bridesmaid over a latte at the Red Door cafe in Kenyon College.

I also recall, during my summers off from college, earning minimum wage and measuring things I wanted to buy in hours worked. This was also around the time I discovered Starbucks. There is one memory in particular where I discovered that one grande vanilla latte was equivalent to approximately 30 minutes of work...what a steal!

My summers were spent obsessing over my new found love, Starbucks coffee. I wanted to share this experience with my sister, who was 11 or 12 at the time, so I took her one day to have her very first white chocolate mocha. As predicted, it was love at first taste for her as well. She was immediately amped on the caffeine and sugar, and we laughed until we cried. We still talk about that day. (Years later, Christy would become a barista for Starbucks...)

Once I joined the work force, post-college, I began to see coffee as a necessity once more. I've refined my taste over the years from Folgers' Columbian blend, to exclusively drinking Grounds For Thoughts' blends (Candy Bar Classic is my all time fave!) Friends and I would find favorite coffee places in Columbus, and again in Lynchburg, and what a treat those were. I have very precious memories that involve places like Scotty McBean's, Joe's, Stauff's, and The White Hart cafe.

I had a brief scare when I discovered my atypical heart beat, and was told not to drink caffeine for a spell. Thankfully, coffee was not the problem, and I could go back to my addiction drinking as usual.

Now, well into my 30's, I enjoy my morning cup immensely. I've been a coffee addict drinker for a good 15 years now, and am still finding new things to love about it! For example, I ran out of coffee creamer a few years ago, and drank my coffee black. All day long, I kept wondering why my coffee tasted so amazing! Turns out, I like my coffee black. Who knew?! And for Christmas this year, my beloved hubby got me a french press. This is an art form that I'm getting close to mastering, and is a little too labor intensive for daily use, so I save it for my weekends...and it's a treat!

Coffee been a player in my life for as long as I can remember, and I hope I've given it its due in this little blog post!

Back in the saddle...

It's been far too long since I've written anything. I came across a Pinterest pin that outlined a 30 day writing challenge. While I can't say that I'll commit to writing daily, I do want to get back in the habit of it, as it is something I enjoy. And I think it is, like any practiced skill, something that you lose if you don't use. For a long stretch, I thought that this (writing) would be my career! So, in honor of getting back in to a hobby that I goes!

Day 1: List 10 Things That Make You Really Happy.

1. Lists. I enjoy making lists.
2. The beach. There is no place on earth more exhilarating and relaxing to me than the beach. It is my ultimate happy place.
3. Helping people. The joy that comes with helping someone, in whatever capacity, large or small, brings me joy. ..which is probably why I chose a profession in this field.
4. Dogs. Not only to my own three pups bring me immense joy on a daily basis, but really...any dog will do! My heart knows no discrimination when it comes to K9s. If you're a dog, I will love you and you will, subsequently, make my heart leap.
5. Coffee. I enjoy the way it kick starts my day, and have, consequently, becomes something of a coffee snob. In fact, I'm currently writing a separate blog about the meaning that coffee has had in my life, long before I even began my addiction to drinking it myself.
6. My friends from college. These girls truly are my life long sisters, and I am immensely blessed not only to know them, but to be loved by them. They are forgiving and understanding of my faults and short-comings, and ultimately, they get me. They really and truly get me. All of them, every single one, is a woman with qualities I'd really love to have, so it's humbling, enriching and honoring to call them friends.
7. Andrew Hutcheson. He's been the love of my life for almost 20 years. I've known him longer than I haven't known him. While things aren't always daisies and rainbows, he makes me happier than I ever imagined someone could, and is my teammate and partner for life.
8. Cooking. When I have the time and energy to, I really enjoy cooking! It's a creative outlet for me. While I admire the chefs on shows like Chopped, who can make a masterpiece out of seemingly uncoordinated objects, I myself have to follow a recipe. Still...I enjoy seeing the finished product that comes from creating something from nothing, and trying new things.
9. Speaking of food, I love pizza. There, I said it. If I could eat pizza for breakfast, lunch and dinner every single day of my life, I'd be one happy lady. Consequently, I'd also be one very large lady with numerous health I don't. But I still love it, just the same!
10. Travel. I am a home body through and through, but really enjoy seeing new things and having new experiences. We traveled to Italy for our 10th anniversary, and it was such an amazing experience to see the history and the lifestyle (not to mention the cuisine!) of the Italians. In college, I spent a month in Belize, which was also incredibly eye opening and humbling. I wish everyone could have the opportunity to see the world from another's perspective. It really makes it seem much, much bigger.

So there's that. I guess I'm back in to blogging...

Monday, January 18, 2016

3 years ago today...

In some ways it feels like much longer, and in other ways, much shorter...but we've been here in FL for 3 years as of today!

After last year's international trip, we've laid really low this year. No complaints here - we live in a beach town! We've focused most of our energy and resources on making our house into a home.

As you know, I like lists. Here are the highlights of our 3rd year as Floridians:

1. Making the trek to Ohio for our 10th college reunion and seeing my girls. The time we had together was precious.
2. Celebrating my grandma's 94th birthday with loads of family members.
3. Multiple trips to Disney (esp with the Fez and Holder families!)
4. Reconnecting with the Cooks in Savannah this summer!
5. A summer full of much needed R&R. Wouldn't change a thing.
6. Seeing Ray LaMontagne live in concert. Aaaaaaamazing!
7. Celebrating 11 years of marriage (the "steel" anniversary).

While it was a very tough school year for both Drew & I, we are looking forward to the coming year refreshed, and with optimism.  We are healthy, we are employed, and we have each other!

Monday, September 16, 2013

Another year here!

We started our 3rd year here in Palm Coast this summer!  Last year, I wrote about the changes we'd experienced. I think I'll continue in that trend...

  • In December, we adopted a 3rd dog!  Buddy (formerly known as "Chowder") is a Chow mixed with something (we think Shiba Inu...?) who quickly became a part of our family. He is such a snuggler! Loves to sleep, and bark. He really, really loves to bark...
  • We are still Disney Annual Pass holders, though we haven't been as much this past year.
  • We celebrated our 10th wedding anniversary in Italy this summer!
  • Jason got married to Erin and they are expecting a baby this March!!
  • I am definitely no longer a rookie in my field, and am starting to establish myself and my reputation as a counselor. This is exciting to me, as I feel confident that I am exactly where I belong.
 All in all, we love living here. I am excited to see how many things have changed...and how much hasn't!

Viva Italia!

To say that we had a great time in Italy would be a gross understatement. We made memories that will last us for the rest of our lives. I kept a very detailed journal of our time overseas, and am thrilled that I took the time to, because already, 2 months later, I am already forgetting the details and love re-reading what I'd written. 

In a nutshell, and because I like lists, here are the highlights and the lows:

1. Meeting up with Kim and John Gridley upon our arrival in Rome, and spending the evening with them at a restaurant near their hotel, in the "Park Ave of Rome."
2. Realizing the moment I fell in love with Italy (while on a tour bus, driving through the city to the Vatican/Sistine Chapel) and seeing how utterly surrounded we were by sheer beauty! Every single place we looked - absolutely gorgeous.
3. The history...the incredible history of it all! During a visit to the Colosseum, we learned that in Rome, anything built after the 1600's was considered "new!"
4. Walking on a mosaic tiled floor that was built in the year 2 AD inside the Vatican. The year TWO!
5. Seeing where St Peter (from the Bible!) was buried - and experiencing the Sistine chapel. It was an experience, that's for sure. No talking or photos allowed in there! I'd been told that it was smaller than I'd expect...not so! It was enormous, and even the walls were ornate and impressive and I can't imagine how Michelangelo did all of that.
5. Sorrento was our favorite city, probably because it was on the coast. I am so proud of Andrew for doing the chair lift with me on the island of Capri, 1100 feet above the sea!
6. In Sorrento, we spent one evening in the best pizza place in the world, eating the best pizza on the planet! This was what it was all meal of the trip by far.
7. We saw The David in Florence and it was even more breathtaking than I could have imagined. I loved learning about Michelangelo's personality! He was such a total introvert and considered himself a sculptor (and boy, was he!) but he still was able to paint one of the very greatest masterpieces of all time.
8. We ditched the 2nd tour of the day and wandered all around through the city, including the leather market, and marveled in the marble structures that were all over.
9. Finding ourselves at the end of a street, and facing Ponte Vecchio - a place I'd read about and seen pictures of, and we simply happened upon it!
10. This was probably the most memorable part of the trip...Ponte Vecchio used to be homes/apartments, but were later transformed into shops (tanners, butchers, etc) but were now nothing but very, very super fancy jewelry shops. I was one of many, many women drooling over the shiny gold and diamonds in their display windows. Andrew and I saw one diamond ring in particular that was just so unique and beautiful - and he BOUGHT IT FOR ME! Andrew bought me an 18k white gold, made in Italy, diamond ring. It was a precious moment, and the shop owners were genuinely happy for me. It was a woman whose parents sent her to Boston to learn English and go to college, and her father, who spoke no English.We'd wanted to purchase something more than a trinket to bring home - Andrew reasoned that this (unlike the furniture and artwork we'd liked) would be easy to pack :)
11. In Venice, we took a water taxi to San Marco Square, where we'd missed a tour. We opted to walk (as opposed to taking the overcrowded, overpriced water taxi) back to our hotel. This ended up being a 6 hour walk where we got completely lost in Venice. It was so incredibly fun picking which street after gorgeous street to wander down, only to find a bridge that led to more exquisite beauty.

1. After all of that, I am having a hard time thinking of any!
2. Part of Italy's "charm" was that the tables were so incredibly close to one another. This became less and less charming as the time grew on, and we longed for our good ol' American personal space!
3. The bathrooms in Venice and Florence were unbelievable small! The toilets and sinks were practically IN the shower stalls!
4. Like a good girl, I'd picked my seats on our 3 return flights well ahead of time. The day before flying home, we found wifi and logged in to "check in" to our flights...however, at about 7am the morning we were to fly home (at 11am) I checked my email on a whim, only to find that our flights had been cancelled, "sorry for any inconvenience." Loooooong story short, we were re-routed 4 times, and had to RUN through Germany and Canada's airports to make it to our connecting flights as they were finishing up boarding...and our seats were all over the place, so we had to finagle that at the very, very last minute. BUT - we made it home, and made it safely.

All in all, we had a fabulous time and are eternally grateful that we were able to do all that we did. This was truly a once in a lifetime experience for Drew and I - and to be able to celebrate 10 years of marriage in such a way was amazing to me.

Sunday, June 30, 2013

My bags are packed, I'm ready to go...

We leave for Italy....tomorrow! My bags are packed, we figured out airport parking (and snagged quite a deal, thankyouverymuch!) and have cleaned out the fridge.  My dad has graciously and generously offered to watch our dogs for the time we're gone, they're all set with food and treats. All that's left to do is slap on a fresh coat of toe nail polish, and hit the road! 

I have been preparing for this for months...looking up restaurants around our hotels and near the places we're visiting - poring over reviews and picking my favorites. We've converted what we assume to be a good amount of American dollars into Euros and have secret compartments so as to avoid pickpockets & gypsies. I've learned a (very) few Italian phrases, and have several translation and map apps on my iPhone. I know which Taxi's to use and which ones to avoid - and even how to order coffee (never order a cappuccino after breakfast, it's so uncouth).

In other words - we are ready.

I feel very much like I've felt the night before taking a major exam for my certification, or before an important job interview. I've done all the preparing that I possibly can. This is it! I can do no more - not only because I am now out of time, but I am also out of brain-space. I am as ready as I am ever going to be...

There is a very strong mix of emotions going on as we count down the hours. (It used to be months, weeks and days - now it is HOURS!) I have been looking at the 10-day forecast for Rome, and remember the feeling when I scrolled down and saw July 2nd - we will BE THERE on that day! I've been playing the "One week from today, we'll be..." or "one week from right now, we'll have seen..." and am just so excited!

But, at the same time, I have never been to Europe and don't speak the language. I've been told that, since we're in mostly major cities, not to worry. Our concierge staff at the hotels (all of whom I've emailed to insure we have non-smoking rooms) have been incredibly kind already. "What is there to worry about now?" I keep asking/reassuring myself.  But my emotions continue to vacillate between incredible excitement and borderline paranoia.  I've never been on an airplane for more than a few hours. This one is going over the Atlantic, and is 11+ hours long....GULP! I pray that the claustrophobia I feel during a facial when they put the washcloth over my face doesn't rear it's ugly head when I start to realize the confined (large, though it may be) space that I'll be in for half of a day...and did I mention it is over the Atlantic??

Ok...back to the positive realm. We have a few hours in the Frankfurt airport. While we won't technically "be in Germany" - I am looking forward to taking in as much of the culture as I possibly can at the airport, among the masses. I plan to forgo a stop at their Starbucks for the local "Erster Weiner" cafe that is house between terminals. My goal is to sample a German pretzel, and plenty of Kinder chocolate, before boarding our flight to Rome. 

So....tomorrow at this time...we will be waiting to board our flight!!!!!

Tuesday, April 30, 2013


On June 14, 2013, Andrew and I will have been married for 10 years. An entire decade.

To celebrate, we are going to Italy! I could not be more excited about this. Aside from our honeymoon, we've only gone on one trip, just the 2 of us, that does not involve family. It was a 3-day weekend trip to the Outer Banks, NC for our 5th anniversary. I am not complaining, we are truly blessed and have no regrets - but this is, undoubtedly, going to be a once in a lifetime adventure for us!

We began planning in February. It was Italy or England. What a tough choice! On one hand, England might be easier as first time travelers to Europe, as they speak the language. However, Italy seems far more exotic!

First step - we called Sandy Harrison, one of my mom's oldest friends. She has been a travel agent for approximately 1,000 years. We told her our meager budget, and our dreams. Her response was very kind, but not what I wanted to hear. She was encouraging us to try a Caribbean cruise, as it was more suited to our budget.  We looked at a few, but felt like we really wanted to do something much more memorable. After careful planning, on her part, she figured out how we could spend 10 days in Italy on a teachers' salary.

So - we're going to Italy on July 1st! We'll visit Rome, Naples/Sorrento, Florence & Venice. I have absolutely no idea what to expect, but am so completely thrilled to get to see another part of the world. I'm very, very excited to see the Vatican City, the Trevi fountain and David - the Sistene Chapel! I'm also pumped about visiting the Amalfi Coast, and the Island of Capri, and all of the natural wonders Italy has going on. Our hotel in Sorrento has a view of Mt. Vesuvius! Are you kidding me?!

Then there's the food...Naples boasts having the best pizza on the planet (and if you've met me, this is a major ordeal for me - I love pizza) and if you've met Andrew, you know that pasta is his favorite thing in the world. We are going to be in heaven. We may come back 20 pounds heavier...but we recently joined a here's hoping that it works itself out!

Not only that, but we'll be celebrating a marriage that has been through the fire and has come out refined by it.

I already can't write about what our trip ended up being like. The sights, the people, the food...