Caught In The Act

One of the rules I had to establish very early on with our little mouse Indy was that she is NOT allowed in our bed. And let me tell you, when a small dog has a face like hers and the persistence of a true fighter, this is not an easy task.

When I first brought her home, I made sure to crate train her. Once we passed that phase, I was excited to curl up and fall asleep with her every night, satisfying some silly dream of having her slumber on the end of the bed for the rest of my happily ever after days. No such luck. The monster insists on having as much of her surface area as possible up against mine, making it impossible to roll/kick/flail in an uninhibited manner, as I am wont to do. Good thing we have a California king-sized bed, right? Wrong. If I scoot over to claim some breathing room, she scoots as well, and it’s not long before I’m stuck in one minuscule corner and she’s sprawled out like the Queen of Everything. If you give a mouse a cookie.

Once she got the boot, it took a long time and a lot of creativity on my part to break her new rituals of sitting and staring, letting out high-pitched whines, clawing the mattress, and half-assed jumping in hopes of getting permission to full-assed jump, all at the side of the bed at ungodly hours. Like when I turned out the light. And at 2 a.m. Ten minutes before my alarm went off. My most intimidating “NO!” didn’t stop her. Neither did the spray bottle. Locking her outside the bedroom entirely ended with lost sleep and claw marks in the paint on the door about Indy-high. Finally, my research and exasperation came to an end when I discovered the miracle that is a slightly crumpled soda can filled with pennies and with tape over the hole. Give that puppy shake, and Indy is out the door and in her place.

Which is here:

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IN HER OWN BED.

Lately, though, I’ve had the sneaking suspicion that the rat has weaseled her way into the bed again, this time through the pure weakness of my man’s man of a husband’s affinity for small furry creatures (this one in particular). However, despite my inklings, which have been so far backed by spotty evidence, Bill has gotten away with full-faced denial of any treachery of the dog-spoiling sort. “No, she doesn’t run straight upstairs the moment you leave for work.” (I’ve seen her do it upon re-entering the house.) “No, that strange noise is not her snoring under the covers while you are getting dressed.” (I heard it, I swear I did.) “No, the fur in the bed is not from Indy herself but from our pajamas.” (Ooooookay.) “I don’t know WHY Indy keeps waking me up before my alarm goes off.” (I do, BILL.)

Well, this morning, I was vindicated. BEHOLD.

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CAUGHT. IN. THE. ACT.

There may be consequences, even though this is so stinking cute. And the best part about all this? Bill has no idea that I have hard evidence, so he’s going to find out the same way you are: BY READING THIS POST.

I just wish I could see his face when he does.

Playlisting: The Wedding Soundtrack

Every year on Valentine’s Day, I reach back into my late ’80s/early ’90s roots and put together Bill’s present: a mix CD. Now, I know you may be rolling your eyes at my reference, because if I were TRULY throwing it back I would have said “mix tape”. Let’s be honest, that’s just not realistic anymore. Unfortunately.

I mean, how amazing would it be to go back to the days of sitting by the stereo in your bedroom, waiting on edge for the next song to play? If it was a good one and you had lightning-fast reflexes, you could pound the button with the little red dot and keep that baby (minus a few introductory seconds, am I right?) for the rest of your life. Well, until tape players are no longer standard I suppose.

The first year I made Bill a CD was 2012, and I left it on his doorstep and ran away like a giddy teenager. The next year, I gave it to him in person when I showed up at his apartment after a grad school night class, as ordered, to find a candle-lit home-prepared (don’t care that it all came frozen… he put a lot of thought into that) meal, complete with the most adorable surprise for dessert. Let me tell you, that man sure knows how to steal a girl’s heart, toasting Chocolate Chip Eggo’s and filling them with vanilla ice cream like that. Romance is a frozen waffle ice cream sandwich, if you ask me.

Those CDs consisted of songs meeting one criteria: they had reminded me of him.

This year, the playlist was a lot easier to put together, but a thousand times more meaningful. This year, I got to relive our wedding by creating our soundtrack, something I had been eager to do since July 20th.

Music is such a part of my idea of a wedding, and I spent months and months researching for the right tracks. If it didn’t feel right, it didn’t make the cut. Plain and simple. Although I preferred to have a wedding with unique details, and, what with Pinterest, now ideas are stolen with the click if a “Pin” button, when it came to the music I didn’t care how many times that sucker had been played. It just had to feel like us. Music evokes such a feeling in me, and it can either set the vibe for the night or it can ruin the party. Don’t believe me yet? I bet the top two complaints you’ve had at any wedding, in no particular order, were: food and deejay. Correct?

So I wasn’t so obsessed that I dictated every song throughout the night, but Bill and I did make sure our deejay came with incredible testimonies, a reputation of trustworthiness, and the inspiration of our confidence. Kramer Events was such a great pick, and we signed pretty quickly. But a wedding has a lot of important moments, and those were the ones I wanted to get just right. No one else could pick those, since the most important thing a wedding can reflect is the uniqueness and personalities of the each of the lucky souls pledging undying love to one another.

So for anyone interested in one of the sources of greatest pride in our wedding, and one of the things that went very very right, here is the soundtrack of our wedding day, in order:

1. The Processional: “Marry Me” by Train

I know, I know, this song has gained a lot of popularity recently. The processional song was actually the last song we picked, but once I made the choice to stop resisting it, “Marry Me” made our list.

Processional

2. The Walk Down the Aisle: “I Saw A Light” by The Band Perry

I agonized over which song should play as I entered. AGONIZED. But then I downloaded The Band Perry’s new album the day it dropped – April 2nd, just three months before the big day – and one measure into the song, I already knew this was the one I would walk down the aisle to. It hit me immediately that the music to this song embodied the very essence I wanted our day to have, and as I listened, the words spoke directly to our own story of how we met. Such an important moment needed an equally important accompaniment, and to this day, this is my favorite song I have EVER heard.

Walking Down the Aisle

3. Mid-Ceremony Performance: “The Light” by Sara Barrielles

Our officiant Jessie and her father Kevin are both considered family to Bill (and me!) after living across the street from the Halters for years during childhood. Both are talented musicians and frequently sing at weddings, so it was only natural that we cross our fingers in hopes that they would sing for us during our ceremony. “The Light” has always been one of the most romantic songs in my eyes, and we had to include it in the most romantic moments of our lives together.

Jessie Singing

4. The First Kiss and Recessional: “Brighter Than The Sun” by Colbie Caillat

We got married! That’s super exciting! So the first thing we wanted to hear after that was an upbeat but meaningful song to both celebrate what we just did AND set the tone for the party to come. With our California affair and wish for pure uninhibited happiness, this was another agony-inducing choice that became clear upon hearing the words to this amazing song.

First Kiss

Recessional

5. Wedding Party’s Reception Entrance: “Sirius” by The Alan Parsons Project

Bill had one request for our wedding. Ever the sports enthusiast, he wanted our wedding party to enter like the starting lineup, and he wanted to do the announcing. So “Sirius” was a must, and he paced inside barn out of sight with a microphone and an NBA-worthy script as each of our bridesmaid and groomsmen pairs danced their ways into the reception.

Wedding Party Entrance

6. The Presentation of Mr. and Mrs. William Halter: “Love on Top” by Beyoncé

Yoncé herself is a must at any wedding, and “Love on Top” was the perfect upbeat-yet-romantic song to come out to for the first time as husband and wife. Plus, I just love me some Queen Bey.

Presentation of Mr and Mrs

Tunnel

7. Our First Dance: “I Won’t Give Up” by Jason Mraz

This song had long been “our song”. So not only was it a great one for our first dance, but it is forever a reminder of the promise we made to each other on that day, whether the current one is going great or not so well.

First Dance

8. Father-Daughter Dance: “The Best Day” by Taylor Swift

My dad has often been a rock for me during difficult times, whether those were breakups, rejections, or just plain bad days. He is the solid voice on the other end of the phone and the drop-everything-and-drive-seven-hours presence on my doorstep. For years, this song made me cry when I thought of him, and now even more so with such an irreplaceable memory attached to it.

Father Daughter Dance

9. How We Got The Party Started: “Wobble” by V.I.C.

Disclaimer: Transitioning from the Father-Daughter Dance straight into “Wobble” was risky. The deejay even responded with an “Are you sure?” But how incredibly worth it was it to see my dad leading the Wedding Wobble?!? SO worth it. We started the show, soon to be joined by Bill, our previously trained bridesmaids, and finally, with much coercion (physical dragging, embarrassment, and otherwise), our guests, who were game to learn the moves as we went. Best part? Everyone was already on the dance floor as we got the rest of the night underway.

Wobble

Wobble Recruitment

10. The Cake-Cutting: “Tie It Up” by Kelly Clarkson

This song was new, it was (and still is) so fun, and we didn’t want to make a spectacle out of the cake-cutting and ruin the good vibes that were flowing already. Keep dancing everybody, and here’s some sugar to fuel the next two hours.

Cake Cutting

11. The Bouquet Toss: “Show Me How You Burlesque” by Christina Aguilera

After getting sexier than all get out to this song in one of my first Zumba classes, the idea for a ladies-only flashmob was born. My friend Ashleigh choreographed a dance for all my bridesmaids to learn, and a plan was hatched for them to strategically plant themselves around the venue. Bill was kept unaware of the plan, as this was as much a surprise for him as it was entertainment for our guests. As the song began, I made my way to the center of the floor, and my girls came out of the woodwork at a pre-determined time to the surprise of our unsuspecting audience. We did our routine incredibly well considering they had all learned it the night before, and after the first chorus, they took their charge of homing in on the single women in the crowd and dragging them out. Execution = spotless.

Bouquet Toss

Bouquet Toss 2

12. The Garter Toss: “Everybody” by the Backstreet Boys

While I was busy planning my surprise for Bill, he was busy planning one for me as well. Having told me that the garter toss was going to happen to the tune of “Eye of the Tiger”, I relinquished control over this detail although I was unimpressed by his choice. But my jaw hit the floor when Bill grabbed the mic and karaoked his way farther into my heart with a rendition of “Everybody”, knowing my weakness for the aforementioned boy band would knock my socks off. True story. This happened. It was spectacular. (Especially when he proceeded to give play-by-play through the same microphone of what was going on under my dress while removing the garter.)

Garter

13. A Must Play: “I Love It” by Icona Pop

We sang this song constantly. We went crazy on the dance floor. So did everyone else.

I Love It

14. The Last Song: “Anything Could Happen” by Ellie Goulding

The last song of the night was of incredible importance to me. I wanted something upbeat, unable to resist, and too good to be true. I essentially wanted the audio version of the stuff memories are made of. The last moments of the night were surreal, surrounded by our closest friends and family members and their most loved ones.

Anything Could Happen

So there you have it: the soundtrack to our wedding. Please feel free to snag ideas if they fit your idea of perfection, because we had ours, and you should too.

Scavenchiladas!

Have you seen that new Taco Bell commercial featuring Kevin Love for the XXL Steak Nachos? The gist of the commercial is that the nachos are normal-sized for 7’6″ Minnesota Timberwolves player Kevin Love, making them outrageously huge and beyond enormous for the rest of us.

If you haven’t seen it, here it is.

Yeah, that’s kind of what trying to feed Bill is akin to. The other day I watched him eat two turkey burgers for lunch in less than ten minutes. I bought him a large box of Raisin Bran Crunch on Saturday night, and it was gone by Monday night at around the same time. There were ten servings in that box.

With that said, planning a wedding was incredibly fun, but we often hear about the need to plan for a marriage. Now, this means a lot of things, including some very serious ones. But in the name of all that is holy matrimony, one of the things I was entirely unprepared for when tying the knot was the amount of time, effort, and money it takes to feed someone who is a) male and b) 6’7″. Bill is both of these things, bless his abnormally large heart.

All of these things add up to a lot of income-generating, grocery-shopping, and food-preparing work to fill his stomach. So when the universe drops a miracle in your lap in the form of pounds and pounds of leftovers from a taco bar at a work event, you grab it. When this happened the other day, I felt embarrassed about my urgency to pack up as much as I could for about 7.2 seconds, and then I didn’t anymore. I soon learned that the catering company would just trash it when they got back to their operating headquarters. The first thing that struck me was how sad that all that food would go to waste, as the event could easily have served another 15-20 people. The second thing was that this could potentially feed Bill for multiple meals. MULTIPLE MEALS! Scrounging around the office for any type of food-transporting materials turned up absolutely nothing. Since there was no way I was going to let this opportunity slip out of my hands, I actually mustered up the audacity to ask the catering staff to wait for me while I literally sprinted across campus to the university market and returned with a box of gallon-sized Glad bags and a few extra to-go containers meant for soup but perfect for salsa, guac, and black beans. Fast forward to the end of the workday, and if you had seen me lugging the tote bag I used to pack my hoarded treasure to the car, you would have absolutely zero doubt that I had taken not an ounce less than the max I could possibly carry. No shame, and SO not sorry.

That night, a Wednesday, Bill ate three burritos when I got home. On Thursday, he and one of his basketball buddies put away another huge portion after a couple (plus or minus a few more) beers. Friday, lunch was again provided. By Saturday, however, I knew that the Big Man would soon tire of the same meal, no matter how much he loves Mexican food. I needed to get creative. Determined to use what we had in the house, I threw together what ultimately became a hit according to Halter standards, and my Scavenchiladas were born.

What I found tearing through every food-storage area in my kitchen was a mix of things I always have on-hand (canola oil, olive oil, a clove of garlic), leftovers from my small Super Bowl get-together the weekend prior (half an onion, some shredded Mexican cheese, a handful of sliced olives, cilantro, light sour cream), some freebies from a food company who came to a career fair last year and gave our office the leftovers they didn’t want to ship back (a can each of tomato paste and crushed tomatoes with pesto), and of course, the gift from taco bar heaven I had scored earlier in the week (corn and flour tortillas, leftover salsa, shredded chicken, black beans, and salvagable-but-slightly-browning guacamole).

Now, I used to be so Type A that baking was more my thing – you know, the precision, the neatness, the following of strict rules. Things easily go wrong when baking when you don’t go by the book, and I am good at going by the book. However, I have always been secretly jealous of anyone who could just go through the kitchen and make something out of nothing, or so I thought. In fact, this jealousy flourished as numerous roommates with such a gift rotated through my house during college. (Amanda, Katie, Kaitlin, and Emily, I’m talking to you.) As we tend to do when we feel entirely inadequate at something, I had relied  on self-deprecating tendencies the last few years when it came to cooking, but I’ve had just about enough of that, let me tell you. I was determined to make a Mexican food masterpiece out of my misfit ingredients. Now with that in mind, I’m going to tell you what I did, and then I want you to throw out anything that does not apply to you and add anything you damn well please.

Scavenchiladas

Serves… however many can get their hands in before Bill destroys it.

(Adapted from this recipe)

Ingredients:

  • Canola oil
  • As many corn + flour tortillas as you can find (about 12 in my case)
  • 1/2 an onion, chopped
  • 1 clove of garlic, minced
  • 1 cup of salsa
  • 3 tbsp tomato paste
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 cup canned crushed tomatoes
  • Olive oil
  • Fully cooked shredded chicken
  • 1 cup black beans
  • 1 package light shredded Mexican cheese
  • A few cilantro leaves
  • Light sour cream
  • Guacamole
  • Whatever you have in your kitchen that sounds like it has any potential whatsoever to go in enchiladas

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What To Do:

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

2. Coat a large pan over medium-high heat with canola oil. Add a single layer of tortillas to the pan. Cook for a few seconds or until very slightly browned to reduce the chance of crumbling the corn tortillas upon rolling. (Flour tortillas will be more flexible.). Using a spatula, lift up the first tortilla, stack on it the second, then lift both to add another layer of new tortillas underneath. Cook for a few seconds, stack and lift again, and add another layer underneath. Repeat the process until all tortillas are heated, adding a bit more oil if needed. You can place the tortillas one by one on a paper towel to remove any excess oil (read: calories and fat), or don’t and have even yummier enchiladas.

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3. In a large saucepan, sauté the chopped onion and garlic in olive oil until tender and the kitchen smells amazing, then turn off the heat. Add 1 cup of salsa.

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4. Using a spoon, drop 3 tbsp of tomato paste into 1 cup of water until dissolved, or if you get impatient like I did, stir until the everything mixes together. Add the tomato paste water to pan. Finally, add 1 cup of crushed canned tomatoes, and stir to combine.

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5. Coat the bottom of a large glass casserole pan with some olive oil. (If you don’t have enough ingredients to fill a large pan, use a smaller one!) Lay a tortilla flat on a separate plate, sprinkle it lightly (or not so lightly) with cheese, followed by shredded chicken and a small scoop of black beans.

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6. Roll up the tortilla and place it in the casserole pan. Continue until all tortillas are rolled, and your pan is filled.

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7. Pour sauce to the top of the rolled tortillas, making sure all are covered.

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8. Now the fun part: cover the whole thing with the rest of the grated cheese, plus more cheese and then maybe even a little extra cheese for good measure. I mean, who doesn’t love cheese? I love cheese.

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9. Put the casserole in the oven for 10 minutes or until the cheese melts.

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10. Garnish with cilantro, sour cream, guacamole, or whatever your perfect little heart desires, you pretty young thing.

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11. Hand to happy big man of the house. And maybe have one or two yourself.

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Big guy smiles.

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Clean plate club! Happy scavenging, everyone.

Overnight

Last night…

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…this morning.

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When normal isn’t normal, you have to celebrate the small things – like Friday nights and Saturday mornings.

Happy weekend!

Weekending: San Fran Getaway

Sometimes even our most important relationships can fall to the wayside when life gets going, and daily tasks take priority over daily people. Bill and I have admittedly been having a bit of a less-than-ideal patch, what with our schedules and responsibilities and still learning and adjusting to life as a married couple. Our relationship needed a little (or a lot of) TLC, and that’s exactly what we gave it last weekend with a quick, QUICK trip to San Francisco.

In our house, there’s is absolutely no doubt that our loyalties reside with each other… and the Minnesota Timberwolves. Before I met Bill, I had tried and failed to get attached to an NBA team in the way I have devoted my allegiances with the San Francisco 49ers and the San Francisco Giants. Alas, the Kings (closest to home) had never won my heart and the Warriors had made a seriously weak attempt at inserting themselves into my periphery on a consistent basis. This meant that Bill, who has devoted his life to sports in every aspect of life from career to hobby to preferred leisure activity, seized the opportunity to gather me up and place me right smack dab in the middle of Timberwolves fandom (with a small amount of help from the adorable Spanish-transport Ricky Rubio… those eyelashes!).

So being incredibly on top of everything Minnesota and sports-related, Bill took the sweet and passionate initiative to plan a trip to San Francisco to catch the Wolves playing the Golden State Warriors. He bought the tickets, booked the hotel, communicated with two of my great friends who live in the bay, AND planned way ahead to take both a Friday and Saturday off. The latter is actually a huge deal in our house, especially after the 4-Months-Without-A-Day-Off-Together Episode of late 2013. So I blocked out my calendar for January 24th and secretly looked forward to it for about a month. Here’s how it all went down!

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Bay Area traffic is no fun, unless you use the opportunity for impromptu wife-imposed dance parties to the tune of Ke$ha’s latest album. I swear to you, I am 100% unashamed at how much I love her train-wrecked songs.

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We met up with amazing friends Ashleigh and Joey, who moved to Daly City last August, at Jasper’s Corner Tap and Kitchen near our hotel and the Powell Street MUNI Station for pre-game snacks and libations.

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Jasper’s offered an cool and modern atmosphere, deliciously elevated pub fare such as mini sliders and pretzels served with gouda fondue, and a great list of beers on draught. Not normally one to partake in tasting flights due to bad experiences with small portions and high prices, I am officially a convert after taking a risk and discovering my new favorite beer. Run to your nearest fancy beer source (my words… I haven’t looked at BevMo! yet) and try out the AVBC Barney Flats Oatmeal Stout. Worth. Every. Penny.

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Ashleigh and Ashleigh… Yes, I do have a great friend with the same name, although our heights and dance abilities to the tune of hip hop, urban street jazz, fem, grooving, and house are significantly in opposition. (She’s the dancer, in case you had any doubt. Check out her new Bay Area-based dance company here: Street Adrenaline Dance Company.)

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Next up, Timberwolves domination. Well, sort of. They squeaked by in the last ten seconds or so to pull off a final score of 121-120, finally lifting morale slightly during a horrific run of heart-breaking losses. I was much more vocal (obnoxious, maybe?) than all five of the other Minnesota fans in the entire arena and even Bill, which meant some unwelcomed taunting and cheap digs in my directions from the die-hard Warriors fans of Oakland. I did manage to make it out alive.

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Do you know what’s really fun? Seeing someone you love so much in a situation they love so much. I might even say he was in his element. Adorable.

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Saturday morning brought an early wake-up call in order to take advantage of the free breakfast found tucked away on the 5th floor of our tiny hotel. We snatched up the essentials from the breakfast closet  – no seating area and no room for all ten of the people who came in after us and decided no-they-could-not-wait-for-us-to-finish-and-leave before scrambling for instant oatmeal, generic pastries, and the worst coffee-water I’ve ever had in my life. We plodded back to our dungeon of a room (see terrible quality picture above with absolutely zero natural light) to realize that it was so small that the only reasonable place to sit was exactly where we had just slept. Breakfast in a full-size bed it was!

Disclaimer: I do not mean to throw our hotel completely under the bus, just… slightly. Yes, the room was small and the coffee was terrible, BUT it was a amazingly located practically on top of Union Square and close to the Powell Street BART Station. Plus is wasn’t as outrageously priced as everything else in the area, so if you aren’t planning to spend too much time in your hotel room, checking out Hotel Fusion could be worth it. (But the website is definitely a misrepresentation… It’s more adequate than, say, awesome in reality.)

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So since coffee is such a integral part of treating myself when on vacation, shitty hotel coffee just would not do. Yelp-ing nearby coffee shops lead to the exciting discovery of Blue Bottle Coffee Co., which with 1264 reviews yielding a solid four-star rating, I was not going to let myself miss out on. Since Bill does not enjoy coffee in the least and was feeling more or less, um, under the weather – which may or may not have had anything to do with the shenanigans from the night before – I ventured out on my own in search of not-your-average caffeine fix. However, following my maps app left me stumped. I wandered and wandered Mint Street in search of some visual indication that I was in the right place, but nothing jumped out. Disappointed, I turned back toward the way I came for the third time, and the first thing to catch my eye was the street address. And around the corner from the street address was a small group of people huddled in a doorway. And above the doorway, I saw the only marking indicating that roasted bliss was waiting for me was the small (the picture make it look huge) sign serving as their advertising. Small, unmarked, back-alley coffee shop? That had mean only one thing: local secret hidden gem.

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While waiting in line, I hurriedly gathered as much info as possible to make an educated order. What I found? Exotic (and expensive) coffees from around the world and a new technique I had never seen for brewing the perfect cup. I almost ordered an $8 cup of regular coffee just to experience the siphoning myself. However, I went with my favorite in order to compare, and when I asked what flavors they had for their nonfat lattes, the barista replied, “We don’t have flavors for our coffee,” and looked at me with a sly smile as if to say I was in for a treat.

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Well, hello beautiful. Care to walk me home?

With short pit stops at the seven-story Macy’s and the most beautiful Crate&Barrel on the planet, I made it back to the hotel to find Bill chipper and ready to head out on our next adventure. When the grizzly bear is hungry, it’s time to feed him lunch.

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But on the way to lunch, we drove past the Civic Center, which was quite obviously being used for rally purposes. Curious for a new experience, we spontaneously pulled over to listen in on the happenings of a major gathering of people who did not quite share the same opinions or values as I do.  A big city demonstration was new to a small town girl like me, and I was slightly uncomfortable but glad we stopped. I highly recommend being a silent observer in this type of situation, as you get the other perspective sans confrontation.

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After subjecting my friend Laura to a gushing rave about my new obsession of cornmeal crust pizza earlier in the week, she recommended we visit Little Star Pizza. We ended up both on Divisadero and in cornmeal-crust heaven, if one should exist.

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The vibe inside was conducive to giddy anticipation and happiness, generally.

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We ordered the deep dish, half Little Star, half Classic. This masterpiece is what ended up in front of us.

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The crust was divine. The composition, intriguing, with toppings first, then cheese, and lastly the sauce on top. This little piece is about to meet its maker.

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The verdict? Good to the very last bite. Which I ate. Clean plate club. I told Bill that this is becoming one of our “spots”, even though we live four hours away.

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Plans to meet one of my bridesmaids, Shelby, and her boyfriend Joe at Crissy Field lead to Bill’s first glimpse of the Golden Gate Bridge. Welcome to the pride and joy of Northern California, Minnesota Boy!

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A walk along the ocean brought us amazing views of the bridge…

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Up close…

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And in the distance. It was so beyond great to catch up with Shelby and Joe, and meet their new bundle of personality Charlie, that we chose to extend our afternoon together as much as we could.

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With a pitcher of sangria of course! Hanging with Shelby is always a reminder to love the simple life, with some of my best memories consisting of impromptu afternoon drinks with absolutely no agenda and no worries allowed. Our final date at Hayes & Kebab was no different, and I left content with life as it is… and slightly tipsy.

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As we packed ourselves up in the car to leave, this sweet little thing seemed to be bidding us adieu. I couldn’t help but sneak a photo, having been utterly obsessed with The Little Mermaid growing up. Max here just tugged at my heartstrings.

The four-hour dive went quickly. Both of us had to work the next day (Sunday), he with his normal anchoring schedule and myself with a speech at a career symposium. And even though we both wished the weekend wouldn’t end, would last just a little longer… I couldn’t help but feel closer to him than ever before. It’s amazing what spending time focusing on each other can do, and now I’m floating through the week with these new memories on my mind. This trip was no longer bittersweet, as they often have been in the past. It was just sweet.

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Billy, what do you say we do this again soon?

On Life and Loneliness: A Ramshackle Glam Take

A big (and potentially embarrassing?) dream came true for me this morning.

A week or two ago, I contacted one of my blogging idols, Jordan Reid of Ramshackle Glam, with a question. After receiving such an amazing response to my Wife of Solitude post, I wanted to reach out to one of the most inspiring women I’ve come to admire and who I know has experienced very similar things with her husband Kendrick heading back to grad school. She responded with the most poignant of emails, and it was so helpful. So incredibly helpful, in fact, that I found myself holding back tears at my desk. I expected her to relate and understand, of course. But what I didn’t expect the extent to which she actually did – just as I hadn’t expected so many of my strong, loving and vibrant friends to confess similar feelings to me. It was a strange experience laying my feelings out on the table like that, especially since Bill was so supportive and receptive to my public exposure of a personal struggle of our shared married life that he even retweeted the post to his local followers:

Bill's Tweet

But back to Jordan.  She reposted my question with a link to my blog (!!!) on her own beautiful Ramshackle Glam, adding her response to the bottom in the form of her own generous wisdom and experience. The post can be found here:

When You And Your Partner Have Different Schedules (A Little On Loneliness)

I highly recommend you hop on over and read her post, today and everyday! I guarantee you’ll fall in love with her take on life (and with her adorable son Indy).

Conversations on Babies

Every single one of us has that question. You know, the one that everyone and their mom keeps asking you over and over and over again until your head wants to explode. It always has something to do with major life milestones and the fact that they have not yet happened in your life. Examples include:

What do you want to be when you grow up?

Where are you going to college?

What are you doing after graduation?

Why don’t you have a significant other?

You have a significant other! When are you two tying the knot?

Yeah, that question.

As most of you know, Bill and I got married in July of last year. Here’s a wonderful picture to show you that we did, in fact, do this.

Wedding Picture

It has been just over 6 months since that amazing day, and I’ve been enjoying the heck out of being married. I love Bill a lot, true story. But not long after we made it permanent, a new question started popping up. You guessed it: BABIES. Now, I do not blame the asker. I mean seriously, I WANT TO KNOW TOO! When ARE we having babies? If anyone hears anything, let me know.

Joking aside, it’s an endearing question, and I give them the best answer I can. Do we want to have kids? Yes, we do. Very much. How many do we want? Two to three. Two and a half. (Kidding.) Do we know when? No, not yet. We have some things we want to get together/figure out before we do, and we are just enjoying married life right now. And then there is my personal favorite: are Bill and I talking about kids yet?

Why is this my personal favorite? Because despite the patient reply of “Not yet!” I often give, I would love to tell them the honest truth. Bill and I ARE talking about kids, but not in the way you would think.

Disclaimer: One of the major milestones we HAVE hit is the one where we can say anything to each other, no holds barred, and not be judged for it. So in the name of the infamous turkey sandwich, the mind explosion of which was thoroughly explored in yesterday’s post, I’m going  into the depths of our relationship to share with you a type of moment not often shared.

Our latest conversation about kids!

Thursday, January 16th at 2:34 p.m.

(Via text message – I’m in blue.)

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So there you have it. The honest truth!

We are so looking forward to having children one day, but until then, we are going to keep it simple. When we are ready, we are ready. For now it will just be the two of us, loving each other, and looking forward to the day when we decide to begin the process of trying to grow our family.

Just for the record, I don’t mind if you ask. But I just might be tempted to tell you the real story.

A Wife of Solitude

I’m about to get real. There’s a new feeling that has entered my life in the past few months, and it’s not one that is often talked about. In fact, if it is, it usually incites two typical responses. The first is a look of pity followed by some mopey drawn-out utterance reserved for a weak kitten and the closest acceptable level of baby-talk that the targeted 26-year-old (me) will tolerate. The second option for a response is implying a sign of weakness and self-infliction by launching into “Well, why don’t you get out and do something about it?”, thereby blaming it on being a recluse. You’ve probably guessed what I’m referring to already, and it’s loneliness.

I’ve mentioned before how work schedules do not line up in our house. A refresher: I work a normal weekday 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., while Bill’s work week spans Friday through Tuesday from 2:30 p.m. to midnight. What I haven’t mentioned is my end of the deal on a daily basis, and I’m slowly realizing that I’m not the only newly married young wife experiencing this. In fact, even my unmarried yet coupled-up friends are feeling similar from time to time.

So here’s how it is. I’ve never had a problem with alone time. In fact, I would consider myself one of those people who needs it to maintain sanity. I love quiet things, like reading and lounging and watching HGTV. I love to go for runs to clear my head. There are definitely times that I go to our room and shut the door and just sit. I also look forward to nights in on more-than-rare occasions. I don’t like missing gym sessions, which oftentimes are derailed by plans with other people. I’ve gone to the movies by myself, I’ve eaten at restaurants by myself, and I’ve taken off on an impromptu day trip by myself.  I’ve even traveled Europe for a week, completely on my own, seeing the sites and staying in hostels/houses/tents in Scotland, Ireland, Germany, and more. In a sense, I enjoy going it solo.

But this is different. When I come home from my full-time job on a weekday, the house is usually very quiet. It’s great for unwinding from the day, changing out of my stuffy work clothes, and just taking a break. On weekends, I enjoy hanging out with Bill for a few quick hours, and generally by the time he leaves, I’m content to sit and eat my carb + condiment combo (think pretzels and hummus, wheat thins with goat cheese and blueberries, water crackers and brie, pita chips and spinach dip… all the keys to my crunchy, salty happiness) to my little heart’s desire without fear of judgement from anyone but the dog. But one to three hours later, whether weeknight or weekend, something creeps in. The house feels bigger. The rooms feel emptier. The strange noises get louder. And I get more… alone.

It’s a strange thing, this creeping void. It’s almost as if our home is hollowing into something more akin to a house. Less welcoming. Less warm. Less comfortable, safe, familiar. There is more to be done and less to be enjoyed. Boredom and tediousness and echoes replace contentment and progress and laughter. And I start to feel restless, wandering through our commonwall, parking myself on some project or in front of some distraction, only to get up and try to satisfy the disquiet someplace else.

I remember the loneliness of singledom, when all you want is just to have someone to love and to love you, and you go about your business always on the lookout for the next big thing to happen in your fast-paced life. I am in no way saying that this is better or worse than what I am describing, as everyone’s experience is relative. However, there is another type of solitude that manifests when you are married. It seems to me that this heartache is born of the idea that when you find the person you want to share the rest of your life with, you picture yourself, well, actually sharing your life with them. Your daily life. The good mornings and the goodnights and the how-was-your-days. However, life sometimes interferes.

In fact, it seems to interfere far more that I expected. Maybe it’s the fear of being lame or getting the standard responses I mentioned at the start of this post, but I’ve found it harder and harder to reach out to others with the way I feel five days a week. To my surprise, though, a funny thing is happening now that I’ve made the leap to stop the downward spiral of “hiding my loneliness, getting lonelier” just for a second by taking a step outside and just observing. I’ve started to drop little bits of information, small watered-down summaries, and slightly self-deprecating jokes in conversations to see what happens. As it would turn out, other attached women feel the same way, and they are just as reluctant to divulge.

There’s the friend whose husband is currently trying out a new job across the country, leaving her and their baby at home for a few weeks at a time. Or the friend whose partner is spread pretty thin, working creative projects during the day and bartending at night. Or the friend whose husband is a charter pilot, on call for stretches of time, not really allowing for concrete plans and leaving her for days at a time at a moment’s notice. Or the friend whose husband is a director, spending three months of the year conducting three- to four-hour rehearsals after work most nights of the week. I can’t even begin to imagine how military wives feel.

Until recently, we all just smiled and assured each other we were doing okay. But the conversations are shifting. Apparently we all feel bouts of aimlessness from time to time, wondering where our partners are. We all wonder when our houses got so big and quiet, no matter how small and cozy they actually are. We all debate in our heads whether it’s worth it to actually cook or open a bottle of wine, when the former won’t be enjoyed and the latter will go bad. So we eat crackers and cheese or cereal or whatever leftovers are in the fridge and drink hot tea instead. We would all love to go out with our single friends if it wasn’t for the nagging feeling of not wanting to drink too much or worry about a ride knowing we have a home waiting for us. When spouses are working, there are no built-in rides home. When they’re not working, favors like picking your drunk ass up from the bars are not limitless. Not to mention that we’re now when we’re out, we’re the “married one”, meaning no more free drinks and no more fun conversations, which isn’t so bad… but now we’re also the ones who get ditched when something hot and shiny comes along. And crashing on a couch is no longer an option because your marriage bed is waiting. On top of that, money is now a shared commodity, and $10 drinks are not in the budget of saving up for kids and houses and rent and groceries and paying off debt from that heck-of-a-party disguised as our wedding day that you attended. All of this adds up to “it would just be easier to stay home”, since excuses for half-assed partying are still not accepted. So we bake cakes and move furniture and watch dramas/sitcoms/reality tv. We style our home decor, and then we style it again. We browse the internet and go to Target and walk the dog and vacuum the floor. We move things slightly to the left, stare, then move them slightly to the right. But these things feel half-hearted, and although are houses may be nice and clean, we are unfulfilled. Nesting isn’t as fun when the nest is empty.

Now, don’t get me wrong. I wouldn’t trade my marriage for anything. It’s one of the best decisions I’ve ever made. In addition, I think I made it very clear a few paragraphs ago that pity parties are not welcome here. This is merely a conversation, an observation, maybe even a therapeutic word vomit. Settling down can be beautiful, and after a year like last year, all I want to do is revel in it. But as I muse and contemplate and ponder the empty feeling that comes out of the cracks and corners and the spaces of my house a few hours into each of my husband’s shifts, I am beginning to realize the Disney Princess mindset with which my generation has been conditioned to prescribe to isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. It seems that marriage isn’t as much of a happily-ever-after guarantee as we’ve come to think of it. It’s more of a literal “for better or for worse” story that comes with actual ups and downs instead of singing birds and fireworks and riding off in carriages after sunset. It’s promising to stand by your spouse even when times are hard and you don’t have much money and nothings going right and you’re always alone. And it’s your spouse knowing that even though you are at home – alone – that you’re not going anywhere, figuratively and (more often than not, it seems) literally.

So I have a few take-aways I’d love to impart onto you.

The first is this: If you are the friend of a married person, check in with them to see how they really are. Society puts a lot of pressure on us to keep a happy face, even when all we want to wear is our sad/frustrated/tired/lonely one. The easiest way to do this is, every once in a while, suggest a night in. She probably has some wine left over from the wedding. A huge collection of chick flicks. A spread of gourmet cheese and crackers. And my bet is that she will be more than happy to share all of it, with a side of major love and appreciation.

Secondly, if you are the spouse who is always working, we know that this is just how it is. We know you have to make a living. We know you are doing the best you can. And we know that you are doing this for “us”. What we don’t know is that you appreciate us for the compromise we are making in letting you do what you want to do. And we don’t always know that you miss us and you would rather be home or out or anywhere, really, as long as it’s with us. So please, tell us. And not just once, because that monster that eats the warmth of our homes comes out everyday. Not just once, because this is our lifestyle, not just a passing moment.

Third, if you are the one at home, know you are not the only one feeling like this. We are all out here, doing our thing too. Hopefully our paths will cross and we can grab a glass of wine on a Saturday night and talk about all of this, because it’s amazing how much better it feels knowing that even though you might be by yourself, you are not alone.

And lastly… Billy, you are an incredible husband. I know that we argue about this. I know that you feel bad. And I know that no matter what you say, it probably never feels like enough. This is just a major adjustment period, both in the grand scheme of things and in the small details, and I’m working on it.  If this is what it means for you to follow your dreams, I’ll do it. In fact, the alternative is not even an option in my mind. So just be patient with me, and I’ll try to be patient with you. And even though by the time I see you tonight it will have been about 52 hours (ahem, more than two days) since we last saw each other in a state of consciousness, I want you to know that I’m here, and I’ll be waiting for you. And if you’re wondering what I’m doing at home by myself all the time, it probably looks a little something like this:

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Anyone want to come over? I don’t know how I’ll finish all this by myself, so I’d sure love some company.

A Toast to Extraordinary Simplicity

New Year’s Eve is always an interesting holiday for me. There’s the excitement for a brand new year. Then there’s the nostalgia of looking back on everything in the past one. There’s usually a little sadness involved, what with Christmas being over and the anticipation dying down. And don’t forget the electricity in the air when everyone begins to feel like reinventing themselves.

I’m usually a pretty big supporter of ringing in the New Year in overly fabulous ways. But not this year.

My New Years’ plans started out in the vein of throwing a huge cocktail party with a close friend, Danae. But when Christmas travel plans prevented us from planning early and then Danae and her husband both got sick, we decided to nix the endeavor two days before. So now I wasn’t sure what I was going to do. Bill had to work until 11:30 p.m., which meant he would just make it for a midnight kiss on our first married turn-of-the-year. I had been invited downtown, but that makes it especially difficult for him to drive from work, park, and get passed the line, in the bar, through the crowds, and next to me in the 30 precious minutes after he clocked out. We tried that two years ago, and it wasn’t the best experience for either of us.

So I had a few options. I could go downtown with a large group of some of the most fun people I know, but risk missing Bill at midnight. Plus, no matter how hard I tried, I would probably end up hungover on New Years’ Day. (No thanks.) The other option at this point would be to stay home with the dog, in my cozies, watching movies, and drinking champagne. Alone. I found myself excruciatingly torn, and I couldn’t figure out why. I didn’t want to be alone,  but I also didn’t want to fight a sea of drunk people all night long. I didn’t want a dead house, but I could not wrap my head around deafening bass thumping and party screaming either. I felt like my former party girl self was at war with my new wife persona, and I didn’t like it. I don’t want to be lame. I really don’t. So I didn’t say anything, and I wrestled with my decision and spent the last few days of 2013 stressing about it.

But then I realized that one of the things that I wished I could change about 2013 was how anxious I felt, the composed show I put on, and the feelings I hid. I spent a lot of time struggling internally with how others would view me and what they would think, and the shoulds and the coulds and the have-tos took over. It made for some unnecessary unhappiness, and I didn’t want to do that again. 2014 is going to be different.

So I put on my big girls pants, and I owned up to my true feelings in a text to Danae.

“So I’m feeling really weird about tonight… I’m almost feeling like this year was so crazy that I want something more mellow and less crowded with college students than downtown.”

I held my breath. I had officially entered the zone of marriage decreptitude I had been violently denying and fighting tooth and nail since July. I’m only 26. That’s too young to die on the inside, right? But to my surprise, Danae’s response echoed mine.

“Oh I totally feel the same way! I’ve been going non-stop and then this cold kinda killed it for me. Honestly, I’m happy watching a movie and drinking champagne. I know I’m a party pooper, but I really don’t want to go out.”

If she’s a party pooper then I’m a party pooper, because that sounds like exactly what I had been hoping for over the last few days. I just wasn’t brave enough to say it out loud… until now. And guess what? I said it, and I felt SO MUCH BETTER. We explicitly decided to spend this New Years’ Eve in a way that would set the tone for the year to come, and the result was beyond spectacular. A simple night celebrating good friends manifested in Danae and I in sequined dresses and drinking peach champagne… while watching comedies and putting together a good old-fashioned puzzle in the company of her husband, her siblings, and – at the end of the night – Bill.

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Not only were the activities of the night a perfect mix of simple and glam, but the company was just as fantastic. Danae was such a wonderful addition to my life last year as our wedding stylist/coordinator with her company Danae Grace Events, but more importantly as a friend once the nuptial craziness died down. As you can see, she has an uncanny ability to make simple things beautiful, without second thought. I am constantly inspired around her.

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Simple does not have to mean ordinary!

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A snapshot of the season. (I often say my favorite food is champagne, but even more so when it’s enjoyed from gold-rimmed flutes in front of a Christmas tree.)

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The husband and I just after midnight, looking forward to what’s to come!

So in the end, we wore our sequins, drank our champagne, and shared a glamorous night in. Our night was quiet. It was cozy. It was comforting. Oh, and it was marvelous, of course.

Just like I hope the next year is – in every way, shape, and form.

There’s Something About Inner Peace

Bill said something about a week ago that really stuck with me.

We were in the car about 6 hours into a 7-hour drive, heading home to my family’s house for the holidays. He was driving, and we were tired. We were both in our go-to traveling clothes – his idea of comfort being unshaven and wearing warm-ups and a sweatshirt and no shoes, mine a faded plaid flannel shirt and stretchy skinny jeans and boots. My initially straight-up posture had evolved into the slouched posture of a slob with my butt almost off the seat and one knee up on the door. The dog had been climbing all over us in the cramped space, and we were covered with her obnoxious and persistent black fur. The sun was just about to go down to the left, and for some reason Bill kept looking over at me from the driver’s seat.

“What?”

“I don’t know.”

“Why do you keep looking at me like that?”

“You… you just look like a wife.”

Huh? “What does that mean?”

He thought about it a second. “It means you look happy, and like yourself, and like you’re not out trying to chase boys or impress anyone. You look beautiful.”

I looked down through my aviators at the made-for-comfort-not-for-impressing-boys outfit I was sporting, surprised. First that he thought I looked even remotely attractive, but then because he was right. I haven’t consciously felt fully like myself in a long time, maybe ever. There was always some motivation to be on my toes, someone to impress, or a reason to worry or feel insecure. But here I was, with the person I would most want to impress on the entire planet, and he was appreciating me as I am right now, this second. And it wasn’t the outfit, or the makeup, or the clever quip, or the funny story, or the playing hard-to-get, or even the smart anecdote that shows off an ability to converse intelligently about anything you might throw at a person. It was the rare moment of peace I didn’t know I was feeling on the inside, and Bill saw it from all the way over on the other side of the car.

I’ve been thinking a lot about that exchange in the last 8 days. How strange it was that even though I was the one experiencing the moment, it took Bill bringing it to my attention for me to truly see it. It’s sad that a feeling of calm and contentedness with ourselves is such a foreign feeling. What is it that makes us worry and stress and keep up with the Jones’, when what we really want is already there within us everywhere we go? All that other stuff that we continuously inject into our lives is actually just getting more in the way as it builds and builds, not helping us reach our happiness. So just for this second, no matter how fleeting it is – and it is fleeting – I’m going to vow revel in that feeling. And the next time it happens. And the next and the next. Maybe then it will become a more frequent realization, and ultimately, a habit.

For now, I’ll just have to use that memory from last week and let it soak in as much as I can. That memory of when my husband glanced over at me and told me I looked like a wife, and for the rest of the drive, I couldn’t help but look over at him, with our little monster of a dog on his lap, and think of how grateful I am for what I had.

Driving

That memory of when he looked like a husband, and the dog looked like a dog, and I felt like me.