“What is my expertise?” or The Art of Photo-Bombing Part III

Hi Friends!

Today’s #elf4health challenge is to “share my expertise.” Obviously, because I’m a Renaissance Woman, this is hard. I’m really good at many things, such as tripping up stairs, running into furniture, jam sessions while driving, spilling stuff all over myself and rocking second-day hair, but I didn’t think any of these were what Elle & Lindsay had in mind.

I tossed around a few other ideas.

I love to eat…bake and cook, weird things, especially… and add whiskey to cookies (or everything)…. but I’ve told you all about that before.

So, back to the drawing board I went… and I came up with something really good–and super useful–to share with all of you and my fellow elves.

Photo-bombing.

Yes. I am a not-so-secret photobombing expert. I realize that I’ve already written two posts on this, but what can I say? it’s kind of a big deal. AND, what better time of year to ruin carefully planned photo sessions with your loved ones than Christmas/New Year’s parties???

So, here is Noelle’s Notebook’s Photo-Bombing Refresher Course:

1. Pick your victims.

We all know THAT person. You know, the person who HAS to take the perfect photo… they need to stand “just so,” to hide their muffin top or do 2341354134135245 retakes until they finally look better than all other parties in the photo. OR, they have to document EVERYTHING (seriously, do you need to take a picture of Uncle Charlie eating a piece of celery?).

This person is almost always the one I pick…probably because sometimes I am that person (Farmer Ben can attest to this).

2. Plan your entrance.

Depending on the location, I have a few different approaches… at a party, I like to casually dance up behind the subject of the photo–slide to the left, you know? If the subject is sitting down, I prefer the walk-by… OR, I just quietly creep into the background. Your photographer is key to this step because if they so much as let out a chuckle, your cover is blown.

3. Find your motivation.

Are you the photo-bomber who tries to go unnoticed with the blank stare? Or do you go big–arms, eyes and all? I am typically  the “make the most horrendous face possible” girl, but to each their own. The important thing is, once you figure out what you’re going for, you have to commit…

There’s no turning back in photo-bombing–you only have seconds to ruin the perfect photo.

4. Escape.

Find the quickest way to flee once the camera flashes…this could be as simple as turning around with a sweet spin move, or as complicated as leaping over a couch. Just remember to plan ahead and act natural.

5. Have fun.

This one should be obvious but sometimes we forget. I realize that photo-bombing is serious business–Just remember why you’re doing it and the fun will follow.

Finally, because I love this photo so much, here is my finest photo-bombing moment (thus far):

He never saw me coming...

He never saw me coming…

To read Photo-Bombing Part I, click here.

To read Photo-Bombing Part II, click here.

Let’s chat! Are you an expert at anything? Discuss. What are some of your favorite photo-bombing techniques? OR are you a victim? Share your story.


Two Years Ago…

Two years ago today, Farmer Ben and I got married. It has been an adventure, each and every day…and I can’t think of anyone else I’d rather spend this life with. This man is such a blessing!

Anyway, I was going through some old photos of us and thought it would be fun to take a trip down memory lane.

Our rehearsal dinner:

The day before our wedding.... August 2011

The day before our wedding…. August 2011

 

Our wedding day:

The first of many "happiest days of my life."  (photo courtesy of Jona Favreau).

The first of many “happiest days of my life.” (photo courtesy of Jona Favreau).

In the last two years, we’ve run a few races together…

image

Wounded Warrior Run, May (?) 2012

Ragnar Relay Finish Line!

Ragnar Relay Finish Line! September 2012

Turkey Trot, November 2012

Turkey Trot, November 2012

We’ve taken a few road trips….

Finger Lakes Bound, August 2012

Finger Lakes Bound, August 2012

Food Experiments at the Brooklyn Brewery, December 2012

Food Experiments at the Brooklyn Brewery, December 2012

Boston for a Sox Game, June 2013

Boston for a Sox Game, June 2013

We’ve gone to some fiestas, celebrations and weddings…

Wedding, June 2012

Wedding, June 2012

And worked together…

A typical day...

A typical day…

We’ve climbed mountains together….literally and figuratively.

Catamount Mountain, August 2013

Catamount Mountain, August 2013

But the fact of the matter is that we’ve done everything together. We’re a team. Each and Every day.

Happy Anniversary, Farmer Ben. I love you, always!

Do you have an anniversary coming up? What do you and your person do together?


Celebrate We Will

Life is moving really fast.

The last month has consisted of many crazy things:

  • A promotion
  • With the promotion, a new office, chair, carpet, replacement, and a raise…and a whole mess of craziness!
  • More free time..which I am so not used to!
  • Somehow, completely filling that free time
  • Financial Peace University (taking the class through our church)
  • With FPU, a lot of hard looks at our spending habits
  • Learning a lot of new information and trying not to be completely overwhelmed
  • Baby Showers, Wedding Invites, Shower plans… all that girly stuff
  • Catching up with friends
  • Meeting new friends
  • A lot of reflection
  • Planning a Fun Run for Charity
  • Training
  • Marathon Training
  • Some major fundraising for a great cause.

If you’ve been following my blog for a little while, you know that in June of 2012, I lost a co-worker and friend. It was all of a sudden and it was really hard. Our whole office felt it. But, we decided to do something to help James live on.

We started a scholarship endowment fund for James and have been working hard to reach our initial goal of $10,000.

Since we began in July of 2012, we have raised about $7,500. It’s been a lot of hard work and I am so happy to be a small part of this wonderful group. It’s amazing that this group (including co-workers, the family and community members) took such a painful loss and have turned it into a major positive.

In all honesty, I am in disbelief that we have raised so much so quickly. What an amazing group. And how amazing is our community’s generosity?! I’m speechless. It’s been so uplifting to see people come together, especially under such tragic circumstances.

James would have been 27 on February 12. I realized this a few days ago and it really hit me. He had so much life ahead of him.

I’ve been working with his sisters on planning this fun run and one of them sent me photos to use on race material. One was taken not long before he passed and seeing it was, for lack of a better word, heart-wrenching.

I’ve dealt with his death. I know that he is in a better place. But the last month–especially the last two weeks–have been really difficult. Looking at old photos, sharing stories about him, meeting and emailing his sisters… It’s comforting, but it also brings back that day in June. And it all comes back. My heart still breaks for his family.

He was such a caring, warm person… Thinking about that, well…it explains why we are already so close to our goal. Because the people who knew him, knew that. And they want to share that warmth and caring with people for years to come. I know I do.

So, we’ll continuing working toward our goal–and past it! And we’ll continue to celebrate the life that touched us, if only for a short time.

I know it’s early…but happy birthday, James. You left us too soon but I know that you’re in a better place.

Celebrate we will.

Because Life is short.

But sweet for certain.


Time Warp. Part 2.

When I last left you, I had just experienced the first openly awkward encounter with one of the family members.

It was in the previously mentioned sea of bubbles that I was blindsided. I was expecting things to be (the closest to)  normal with this person…but I was wrong. And it didn’t get better…we had another, and equally awkward, run-in at the reception.

At first I was a little miffed about the weirdness, but after some thought, I realized that it had to be equally as uncomfortable for this group to see me as it was for me to see them… I mean, I was supposed to be a part of the family and then I just… wasn’t…and even worse, I went off and married someone else! So… yeah, it was a weird situation.

Ben and I quickly moved on to a different part of the group and--after a flub-up on a relative’s name and a sideways glance after telling her that Ben was my husband– had a really nice chat with other people I knew. It was while standing in this group that I almost had a heart attack (numero uno).

Out of the corner of my eye, I saw a familiar face walking toward us.

“No. No. No. There is NO WAY that he’d come over here. NO WAY! Just… NO,” I thought.

But, he kept coming. Closer and closer.  Everything slowed down to the point that I was a living instant replay….

“Nooo-oooo-oooo Waaa-aaaaay,” I screamed inwardly!

And then, standing right in front of me was the ex.

If the ground could have opened up and swallowed me whole, I wouldn’t have minded. As it was, I am pretty sure that my face changed three different colors and my legs almost gave out.

This had to be a joke, or a mirage? Something.

And yet, there he was. Still standing there.

It was the first time that we had seen each other since the day I left Virginia, just over two years ago. Except, this time, I was looking at a stranger.

“Hi! How’s it going?!” He asked, as if we were best friends.

After a pause to collect my thoughts and concentrate on my face not turning purple, I replied, “I’m doing very well, how are you?”

Now, I said in my previous post that I was more worried about seeing the family of the ex than the ex, himself. As I mentioned, we aren’t on bad terms but we also are not friends. We just… aren’t on any terms. 

Needless to say,  I hadn’t planned on him coming up and acting buddy-buddy. I figured he would do what any reasonable adult would do; ignore my existence unless we ran into each other getting a drink and then politely nod, exchange the obligatory, “nice to see you,” then go back to ignoring me. That’s what a normal person would do. And as much as I hate to admit it, it’s what I had planned on doing.

I should have remembered that nothing I ever plan on actually happens… usually the exact opposite happens.

Instead of moving away from the group I was with, the ex continued to stand there and pry conversation out of me as I skillfully hid the fact that I was having a minor stroke. 

I can’t imagine what was going through Ben’s head as he watched his wife,  face changing colors, sweating and legs shaking, and her ex-fiance, standing there with a manic smile and equally red face, trying to make small talk. That Farmer Ben is a keeper. If he was nervous, he didn’t show it.

I eventually re-introduced the ex to Ben, proving that I am, in fact, the universal queen of all awkward situations on the planet. Let’s just say, it could have been a lot less weird, but I took care of it.

 About 15 seconds after this awful re-introduction I saw another familiar face striding toward me.

“JAY!” I screamed as I practically jumped into his arms. I had never been happier to see my old roommate than I was at that exact second.

After a few more painful minutes, Ben and I headed back toward my car and started driving toward the reception site.

We decided that we both needed a beer.

I had been told by the ex that the reception site-the eagle’s club- had a giant eagle statue in front of it. I realized this was true after I sped past it. Of course I had someone following me, so I was pretty embarrassed when I had to slam on my brakes and pull into the next driveway to turn around. Oops. My bad.

Jay and his girlfriend, Ben and myself and another couple found a table in the middle of the reception hall. This seemed to be the safest place…at least that is what I had planned on, anyway.

We sat and chatted for a few minutes and watched as the rest of the wedding crowd trickled into the room.

The family and wedding party started to find their way into the building.

My heart sank as I watched something happen and knew there was nothing I could do to stop it.

Cue slow motion.

“Nooooo…No….Nooooo… No-ooooo Waaa-aaaay,” my inner warped voice screamed.

It was happening again. As I watched in horror, the ex and his date entered, he made eye contact, glanced hurriedly around the room (or in my mind, slowly around the room) and then made a beeline for a table. But not just any table. The exact table that Ben and I were sitting at.

The two sat down and everyone else at the table collectively stopped talking, exchanged looks of horror and then stared down at their laps. No one knew what to do.

I am pretty sure my face went from its normal pinkish-pale to bright red to paper white and my stomach went from its usual place, down to my butt, up to my throat and back. Twice.

Ben, noting my face color, asked “Are you okay?”  

I heard the ex mutter to Jay, “I figured I would dispel some of the awkward-ness now. You know?”

I almost jumped on the table and yelled “ARE YOU KIDDING ME?! How is this NOT AWKWARD?!” But I remembered that it wasn’t my day and that I was in a crowded room, so I didn’t. Instead I sat there, exchanged a dumbfounded look with a friend of mine and then got up to get a beer.

After that, the night was pretty calm. There were a few more awkward interactions and I somehow ended up having a really nice conversation with the ex’s date (she was a pretty cool lady, props! ).  Go figure.

Ben and I enjoyed a few dances together and Jay, our friend Danielle, and I reminisced about our time in DC. 

Everyone at the table enjoyed people watching and the awe that comes with being in such a rural town.  I really loved seeing Laura and Ted enjoy their first few hours of wedded bliss. So much happiness.

As much as I hate to say it, I give the ex props for being the bigger adult in this situation… not saying that I would have been rude to him, but I probably would have handled the situation a little differently if the roles were reversed.

In short, I got through the night. Ben got through the night. We did it together. I couldn’t have asked for a better date…or a better husband for that matter.

Upon leaving, I sighed with relief. I knew that I had survived the collision of my past and present. I smiled to myself as I realized once again that I am truly blessed. Every ridiculous crazy things has happened for a reason, even if I have no idea what it is at the time.

We got in the car and drove back toward my sister’s house. The night was over. And I was leaving with my person. Thank God.


Time Warp. Part 1.

A Note from Noelle: I’ve actually had this post written for a couple of weeks now but I’ve been stewing as to whether or not I should post it… In the spirit of being overly honest, here you are!

A few weekends ago my past and present collided. Literally.

As I drove down and across New York State , my hands shook, my hair stood on end and I was sweating. A lot. It was hot, cold and everything in between. I think I put on and took off my hoodie about 37 times during the five-hour trip.

The only thing that kept me driving down the highway at slightly over the speed limit was Ben, offering an affectionate squeeze of my hand or an encouraging smile every few exits.

When we got off  highway and made the turn toward my sister’s house, I knew there was no turning back… unless I suddenly came down with a nasty stomach bug… or my car broke down… or something, anything else.

As I tried on the first of the two dresses I brought, Ben smiled at me and my sister told me to wear it. I was fretting about wearing the right thing and not being too dressed up or down. My stomach was doing backflips and I was wondering if it would be too late to quietly back out.

Ben and I had a quick lunch together, consisting of a giant burger and french fries, then we rushed back to my sister’s house to get ready. Time was passing too quickly and before I knew it, I was hurrying Ben out the door and into the car.

I turned back on to the highway and headed west. As I drove, I wondered what I was thinking when I had RSVP’d yes.

It was a trip I’ve made several times but this time it was different. I was with my husband, who’d never traveled this road before and had no idea what to expect.

I was going to place I hadn’t expected to return to, and especially not under these circumstances. I was seeing people I’d never thought I’d see again… at least not on purpose.

We were quite literally traveling straight into my past life. The town where I grew up, with people I used to know, in a time where I didn’t even know who Ben was. As we got off the exit, we passed familiar fields and houses. I had forgotten how long it took to get into town and as we drove, Ben was surprised at how rural it was. The landscape had a few changes, but for the most part, all was the same.

We drove slowly down the street to the address mentioned on the invitation. Of course, I drove by it the first time. As we circled the block, we took in the sights of a small town that hadn’t changed in years.

I parked the car and realized that my hands were shaking, and I am pretty sure my legs were, too. As I opened the door, I felt like I was standing on the edge of a cliff, knowing that I needed to jump off.

Again I wondered, “is it too late to just get back in the car and drive away?”

I looked over at Ben, who simply took my hand, and smiled as we walked toward the church. I’m still amazed about how cool and collected he was compared to me… if the roles were reversed, I wouldn’t have been able to speak, let alone keep encouraging him.

We climbed up the steps and hung a right into the sanctuary. My plan had been to sneak into the back of the church unnoticed, but I had forgotten where we were.  Needless to say, it was a small enough church that no one walked in undetected. As I chose a pew in the back, I looked up and saw my ex’s father standing in front of me. Along with an uncle, aunt and some cousins.

At this point, my legs were shaking so badly that I am not quite sure how I made it down the row and returned their “hello’s,” but somehow I did and I introduced them to Ben. My husband. I felt like my stomach was going to leap out of my throat and my hands continued to shake as we finally sat down.

Another Aunt sat down behind us and, realizing it was me, continued to make small talk for the next few minutes. I was cursing my need to arrive at big social events early.

Luckily, another familiar face sat down behind us and I was able to switch conversations. An uncle smiled at me from across the room and mouthed a “nice to see you.”

Perhaps I should explain myself, before you think I’ve completely lost my mind.

My ex’s sister and I are still close. She even attended our wedding.  And to be perfectly frank, I was fine with seeing the ex. We aren’t on “good” terms per say but we aren’t on bad terms either…we just…aren’t on any sort of terms. So I knew that we wouldn’t be having any in-depth conversations. I doubted that we would even speak.

I was, however, absolutely positively terrified of seeing the family.

I was not in a good place three years ago when we broke up. I was extremely scared and insecure. Completely uncomfortable in my own skin. I haven’t seen the family since the day the ex and I parted ways and I was unsure what to expect this time. Especially because I would be bringing a date (my husband-who isn’t their son/nephew/cousin) with me.

I’m a very different person than I was back then and my life has changed in so many ways, it’s difficult for me to connect to my old self and seeing this family was going to force me to do so.

They are wonderful people, but I am sure they thought it was a little odd that I was going to the wedding. Most people would have just sent a nice gift.  If they did think it was odd, they didn’t let on. All of them were wonderful, and-with the exception of a few sideways glances-everyone exchanged pleasantries and small talk.

I have to admit, I definitely made this a bigger deal than it actually was, but when you go from having  people very much a part of your life to… not a part of your life, what can you expect? I had no idea. Neither did Ben.

The ceremony was short and sweet and I have never seen Laura look more beautiful than she did in those moments.

After the ceremony ended, the crowd made their way outside to enclose the bride and groom in a sea of bubbles.

 It was in this mass exit that I had the first-and most unexpected-awkward exchange of the evening. I’m going to chalk it up to having too much going on and not being sure how to react in the bubbles, the people and the activity. There was one more sideways glance, but again, it was done with grace and barely detected.

And now…for a short break. Click here for Part Two.


And Before You Know It…

A Note from Noelle: I am trying something a little different today, and depending on your feedback it may become a permanent Monday fixture; I’ve been wanting to do a bit of free-writing/journal-ing and figured that there’s no time like the present. Per usual, I’d love your feedback.  Thanks! -N

Now onto your regularly scheduled blog post!

It’s funny how something can you bring you back to an exact moment in time. It doesn’t have to be big. It can be the smell of a stranger. Or the chorus of your favorite song, drifting out of an open window. Or even just putting on an old t-shirt… Biting into a sandwich.. Driving down an old dirt road. Rainstorms. A glass of red wine or a phone call from a friend.

 And upon that one small thing crossing your path, while remaining in the present moment, you are transported back to a different place and time. And feeling exactly how you felt.  The same thoughts are running through your head, the same sounds gracing your ears and there you are, face to face with a former self. It doesn’t matter who you are in the present, because for that one moment, you are taken back to where and who you were. Living in the past, just for  moment. It’s time travel in its  truest form.

Most recently for me, this “something” was an invitation. In that particular (present?) moment I was a strong, put together 24-year-old woman, looking forward to an evening spent with my wonderful husband…until, an unexpected invitation arrived.

And there I was, a 20-year-old, living in a new place, standing next to a monument in complete shock and awe as I watched a ring being placed on my finger…onto a know-it-all fourteen-year-old with a serious case of puppy love, and then-just like that!- I’m sixteen. 

As quickly as I’ve been taken to these places, I’ve left them (and been to a few places in between). Then, I am twenty-one, crying hysterically after sliding the ring off my finger and knowing I’ll never wear it again, wondering what I could have done to prevent this. 

A moment later, six months have passed and I am timidly looking across a table at an old acquaintance.  After that I am fifteen, standing in a friend’s living room meeting a goofy boy for the first time. Seconds later, I am twenty-three, standing in that same goofy boy’s kitchen as he asks me to marry him, another second passes and I am having a difficult conversation with someone that I used to know. Then, with a flash, I am saying my marriage vows on a hot summer’s day.

And then, as quickly as it came, it’s gone. I am back in the present, staring down at an invitation. My head is spinning, lost in a sea of memories and I smile to myself, realizing how each one of these moments has shaped who and where I am in this exact moment. 

I used to hate being flooded with memories and dragged through years of forgotten (and remembered) moments in time, but now I think it’s God’s way of keeping me from getting too comfortable. It’s his way of reminding me of where I’ve been, while showing me where I’ll end up next.


Just in Case.

It’s going to be a short one, but I want to start out by saying that I have so much to tell you! December has been a busy month. Unfortunately, it’s been so busy that I haven’t had much time to sit down and actually talk about it. Forgive me. I will catch you up on the happenings in my life soon… Unfortunately, today is not the day.

Because I have to work today and tonight, continue baking, shop and sing tomorrow and have family things to do the rest of the weekend, I am taking this spare moment for you. The holidays are about spending time with friends, so here we are.

I can tell you that I am very thankful for a good job and great co-workers, Christmas food/baked goods, time off from work, new tires-finally, a wonderful family and my new husband. The last year has been crazy, but I wouldn’t change a thing.

It’ll be my first Christmas as a Mrs., so I am wondering what sort of traditions we will start…so far, we have waiting til the last minute to do…everything! What are some of your favorite Christmas traditions? Or favorite memories?

Some of mine are having dinner at my grandmother’s house with all of the family, or going to Boston and having the Christmas Eve party at my Uncle Paul’s house-complete with Chinese food. There was also the time spent watching Christmas movies with my siblings. I also fondly remember singing in Christmas programs at my church, including one special Christmas where I threw up in the middle of singing “Oh Holy Night” with my sister.

I want to take this time to say “Merry Christmas,” in case I don’t have another moment. I hope you all have a safe and happy holiday, full of baked goods, wine and time spent with loved ones. God Bless.


For the Love of Lentils

Confession time. I absolutely adore lentils. I love them. Not only are they ridiculously good for you, but they are super easy to make. You know those foods that bring back memories? Happier times of childhood? Lentils are one of those foods for me.

I have fond memories of giant pots simmering on the stove and sitting down after a long day of school, practice and farm work to a piping hot bowl of lentil soup. My mom was a traditionalist, she kept the recipe simple but it was always delicious.

As I got older, I found out that there was a whole world of possibilities when it came to lentils. I remember my time in Spain, one of my favorite meals was a lentil stew with chorizo and garlic. During my time in DC, I used that meal as my inspiration for cooking lentils.  I also explored Indian, Latin and Moroccan recipes. I loved it all. Luckily, my husband appreciates lentils as much as I do… and he loves getting creative with them.

These days, I typically stick to a one-pot method, similar to my mother’s but with my own twist. A friend of mine has begged me to divulge the recipe, so, as a gift to you, here it is. I have to say, I am a bit embarrassed because it is stupidly easy. Hopefully, you’ll enjoy it as much as I do.

What You'll Need

Noelle’s Lentils:

  • 2 cups lentils (I used black belugas, but any kind will do)
  • 32 oz. Thai Culinary Stock (We got it at Wegmans, chicken or vegetable broth will also work)
  • 1 medium yellow onion
  • 2 cloves of garlic
  • 1 carrot
  • 1 Bay Leaf
  • 2 tbsp. Olive Oil
  • Salt and Pepper to taste
  • 2 tbsp.Chili Sauce (I use the husband’s super hot variety. )

*For less spice, you can also use chili flakes/powder and some cumin in place of the chili sauce-a few dashes of each*

Rinse and drain lentils (a lot of times there are small stones/dirt that get in the package, just pick them out).

No words.

Dice onions, garlic and carrot.

In a large pot, add olive oil over medium heat.

Add onions, garlic and carrot. Cook until onions feel soft and are slightly translucent, stirring occasionally.

Stir in the lentils,  Thai stock and the bay leaf, bring to a rolling boil, reduce heat (medium-low will do).

Cover and let simmer for about 30 minutes, stirring occasionally. I get very impatient, so I stir often and uncover a lot. Try to resist the urge-it saves a lot of time.

Add in your chili sauce after about 20 minutes. Stir it in and re-cover.

Lentils are done when they feel tender and most of the liquid is gone.

Serve hot with a sprinkle of parmesan or with a fried egg and avocado slices (this is my favorite way), also pairs well with rice  or your favorite sausage if you’d like something more hearty.

Enjoy!


Weekend Warrior

Wow…this weekend went by way too fast! As I sit here on Monday morning, I am reflecting over all of the randomness that occurred.

I mentioned looking for a part-time gig… Mission accomplished. I got a phone call Thursday night asking if I was interested in a hostessing position. I called them back on Friday and was told that I would be starting on Saturday-and btw, it was going to be very busy.

Okay, no big deal. The bar was bumpin’ as it was the annual Toys for Tots party, but the dining room wasn’t very busy, which meant that I wasn’t either. It felt weird to be working on a Saturday night, as I haven’t done so since the summertime…and since I have only ever worked at one restaurant…as a waitress, not as a hostess, I think it will take a few weeks to get back in the groove.

It made me nostalgic for the Rusty; running around like a crazy person, balancing martinis and a bottle of wine, pestering the kitchen to get my order out and taking a moment to look out the windows as the sun was setting over the lake and Valcour Island.

That’s the thing I both love and hate about starting somewhere new… finding the rhythm of the new place, picking up on the vibe of the building and its people and figuring out where I fit into all of it.  It was not a bad night. I came out unscathed and I am extremely grateful for the second job. My next shift is on Tuesday and I believe that I will have the rhythm of this place down…or at least I hope.

On a less uplifting note, I also attended a funeral this weekend. It was a very sad occasion, but the family chose to celebrate his life and it spread to the other attendees. The man whose life we were celebrating was one of the regulars at the Rusty. He was a very particular man but he was one of my favorites, I was sad to hear of his passing. Apparently many others were too, there was not an empty seat in the church. Occasions like this always make me reflect on my own life, my loved ones and what God’s purpose for me is.  I think about where I am and where I was…and wonder where I am going.

I have to laugh, because one of the hymns sung at the funeral was “In the Garden.” It’s one of my favorites but I will never be able to sing that song or take it seriously ever again because of my ex. He always used to change the words of the song (“And he walks with me/ and he talks with me…) to “Andy walks with me/Andy talks with me…” and so on and so forth.

Of course, during the service, while those around me were tearing up, I was trying not to crack a smile while I was singing. Please don’t judge me. I’m really not a bad person.

It’s funny how little things like that keep you moving forward. I used to get so annoyed when he would reference that song and his little lyric change-up. Stupid memories/quirky habits (whether your own, your ex boyfriend’s or an old friend’s) that you used to hate come back in different forms and actually help you when you’re dealing with a difficult time. I hope that this man’s family will be able to draw from their own funny memories as they continue on their journey. From what I gathered, there were many.

Sunday was our usual ritual of waking up late, rushing to get to church on time, devouring breakfast and coffee, Sunday School with the kids and then the service. Our service was about the Wise Men. It definitely got me thinking, once again, about purpose.

There are so many things that I love to do. But I still haven’t found the thing that I want-or am meant- to do forever. I am a big believer in no regrets, everything happening for a reason/being part of God’s plan and so far it hasn’t failed me…though, I do admit, I have had a few major bumps along the way…which I will always refer to as learning experiences. Hopefully, one day I’ll be able to collect the entire sum of knowledge gained and put it to use…til then, I hope others will learn-and be entertained-just as much as I have from them.

The rest of the day was spent with the hubs. We had some great sushi for lunch then braved the mall for a post meal calorie burning walk…this lasted about 20 minutes before I reached my limit of holiday mall madness and we headed home. The rest of the day was spent watching movies, writing thank-you notes and baking Amish Friendship Bread (Thanks Dana!). It was nice to relax after a pretty hectic week. I always enjoy Sundays because it’s our day to do whatever.

I also made a pretty quick and easy pasta dish on Friday night.

I call it…

Pasta Carbonara-ish

Serves 4

Ingredients:

Your favorite pasta-I used the tri-color rotini.

Small bunch of Sage, finely chopped

2 garlic cloves-diced

4 tbsp. butter

1 to 1 1/2 cups milk/cream

Parmesan Cheese-to taste

cracked pepper to taste

salt to taste

1 egg.

Cook your pasta al dente, drain and set aside.

Using the same pot (on low-medium heat), add butter, chopped garlic and chopped sage. Melt butter, stirring occasionally.

Add milk. Stir.

Grate in parmesan cheese-I put in about 1/4 cup. Continue to stir until cheese starts to blend in.

Return pasta to pot. Stir until well incorporated.

Crack an egg in. Mix well. Continue to stir until egg is cooked in (this should only take a few minutes, you’ll be able to tell by the texture.

Add salt and pepper to taste.

Serve Hot, garnish with a couple of basil leaves and more Parmesan cheese..

So delicious!

Anyway, hope everyone has a good week! Stay tuned for an awesome gift idea and my scheming as of late!


Some First Dates Are Better Than Others…

I remember my first date. It was the summer of 2001…I was 13, super awkward and had told the older boy I was hanging out with that I was 16. No big deal. His name was Matt and I had met him ice skating with my friend Fauna (Side note: I miss those days!) back in January. I had been stalking him at the rink and via AIM and we had even instant messaged each other a few times (Holy cow, this makes me feel so old!)! I found him so dreamy…

Anyway, it was now August and we had decided to “hang out” in real life! We went to a block party in the town where he lived. Again, I was super nervous and worried that he wouldn’t like me-or worse! That he would discover my real age… We ended up going and walking along the river, where he gave me my first kiss. I could have fainted. It was magical…until he tried to put his hand up my shirt. Because I was still an awkward 13-year-old pretending to be a cool 16-year-old, I just brushed his hand away…In later years, I would have slapped him. Boys, take note, don’t get grabby on the first date! Not classy!

Sadly, things with Matt didn’t last (we remained AIM buddies)… A few months later I met Marc, who would become my mostly on-again boyfriend for the next 7 1/2 years. Our first date was in December of that same year. It was still awkward but had a better first kiss… After all, I was 14 and had so much more experience (I was a bit delusional as a teen).

Looking back, I realize that I was NOT ready to date. But no one could have told me this at the time.

First dates-and first kisses- in my later (and off-again) years were a bit better, but there was always that awkwardness…and more fighting off unwanted advances. I was not impressed and I was not that kind of girl. I’m sure everyone has similar stories…

Fast Forward to January 2010. I was living in Arlington, VA as a totally together single gal but was talking to a guy from home. Ben and I had known each other for a long time through mutual friends but it wasn’t until now that we were really getting to know each other. We had been talking daily for about a month, but hadn’t seen each other since Thanksgiving. I happened to be going home for a few days to visit my mom and he asked me for a date. A date? Here I was again,  so nervous I could puke!

This date was different from the get-go. First off, I got ready at Vanessa’s house and he came to pick me up. I was expecting to just run out when he got there, but he actually came into the house, and opened every door for me. Not that I’m complaining, but this was something new. We went to the local pub for drinks. After sitting down in a quiet booth, we just sort of stared at each other. I was clutching my glass so hard I thought it would break…I couldn’t find a topic of conversation to stick with. We bounced back and forth from the weather, life in DC, the drive up, traffic, our friends and then just… unsure silence.

“Oh no,” I thought, “this is NOT going well…what should I do?!” 

So I did what any normal girl would do…I started to tell embarrassing childhood stories. Ben, by nature is a pretty quiet guy. This made me more nervous, causing me to tell more embarrassing stories. Most of these stories involved vomit, more specifically, me throwing up at inopportune times; projectile vomit down a long table full of my fellow classmates in the library during a story time, puking while sitting in a circle during show and tell, driving down the road in the family (two door) Ford Festiva and being trapped in the back,  singing in church on Easter Sunday, singing in church on Christmas Eve, during a presentation…

Yup, I went through my entire childhood collection of barf stories…I couldn’t help myself. When I find myself in an uncomfortable situation, I let out all of my verbal vomit. I just keep talking until I talk myself into a comfortable subject…on this night, that subject was barf. So romantic. But overall we had a great time and a lot of laughs.

I was feeling pretty tired (running on about 3 hours of sleep), so we decided to go to his house and watch a movie that we had been talking about. I made it through the first half hour and started falling asleep. Ben, being Ben, let me sleep.

At about 3:30 am I decided that it was time to go..unfortunately I didn’t have my car. Taking it in stride, Ben bundled up and went out in the bitter January night to drive me back to Vanessa’s. He then got out of his car and walked me to the door. Again, this was new.

The door.  It was absolutely freezing outside, but it didn’t distract me from how nervous I felt. We stood there, kicking at the snow and glancing around nervously. Finally we locked eyes and just looked at each other for a moment.

Then he smiled at me and said, “Goodnight, Noelle.” And walked away.

I stood there for a moment, completely dumbfounded. This had not happened before and I wasn’t sure what to think.

I hurried into Vanessa’s house, trying to be quiet as it was past 4 am. This was pointless as Vanessa and Tina were both still awake. We finally got to bed about an hour later.

I woke up at about 8:30 that morning, a message from Ben waiting for me. It said, “would it be selfish of me to ask to see you again?” He came over that morning before he headed to work. We saw each other that night-I guess you could call it a second date…and when he finally kissed me, it was perfect.

I remember driving home with a big smile on my face, thinking how crazy this was. But it was crazy enough that it just may work.