Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Life is Better When You Shower

Last week I had a lazy week. I still got plenty done, but I wasn't nearly as enthusiastic about it as I could have been. For instance, there were a couple days that I stayed in my sweat pants all day. And maybe there was one day (that might have stretched into two days) where I didn't shower. Am I proud of this? A little. No.

The point is though, that at the end of those lazy days, I didn't feel nearly as good as I thought I would. I didn't sleep well those nights. I wasn't feeling great about myself. And I'm sure Dan was less than impressed (though, bless him, he didn't say anything).

In contrast, today I got up, showered, worked for half a day as a substitute teacher, had lunch with a friend, ran errands in town and did some grocery shopping. I feel awesome. I know that I'll sleep well tonight because I did something with my day. I know it won't win me the Nobel peace prize, but I'm really beginning to understand the importance of showering. Obviously, it's about much more than the physical shower. It's about taking care of myself and making the most of each day. Even though I'm not working at a job these days, I'm still a contributing member of society and of my household. When I treat myself as such, I feel a lot better about my place here. It makes me happier.

As these dark days of winter approach, this is something I'll need to keep reminding myself. Wake up and start each day like it matters.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Harrogate Christmas Market

This year, for the first time ever, Harrogate hosted a Christmas market. These markets are really popular throughout Europe, and Dan and I have already been to a few (Leeds, Bruges and Brussels). Markets range in size from a few vendors to entire cities. I haven't been to a proper German market yet, but I hear those can be enormous.

Since it was Harrogate's first time hosting a market, I wasn't sure how it would turn out. I was really impressed though. The market was bigger than it looked, with 130 stalls. There were fewer food stalls that I had seen previously, but I think that had something to do with the local pubs and restaurants. I'm sure they were weary of losing business over the weekend.

There were tons of hand-made local goods like candy; wines and spirits; candles; clothes, and more. I bought a really cute pair of cuff-links that I can't share with you yet. They're a gift for someone very special :)

The market even had rides and Santa's Workshop with live reindeer! Unfortunately they didn't look too happy to be here. Poor things.

After taking in the sights, sounds and smells of the market (mulled wine and roasting chestnuts? Yes, please!), Dan and I headed to Betty's for a little treat. I had their delicious Swiss hot chocolate; Dan had more mulled wine, and we split the rarebit. Have I mentioned how much I love rarebit? Because I do. A lot.

It was the perfect way to spend a Saturday night. And, it made me feel marginally better that the sun is now setting at 3:50 p.m.

P.S. Sorry for the blurry iPhone pictures. I accidentally left my camera at home.

Monday, November 26, 2012

Fall Decorations: Burlap Leaves

I had a lot of burlap leftover after making my table runner. I love the rough texture and fall feel of the fabric, so I decided to make some additional table decorations with it. Of course I turned to my good friend Pinterest to see what I could find. I loved the simplicity of these leaves. It looked like something I could actually make.


I found some leaf templates online and printed them out. Then I traced one on to my burlap and cut it out as a tester. Good thing I did one before making all of them. The leaf began fraying immediately. You couldn't even tell what it was after a bit.

I googled some solutions and found that if I Mod Podge the edges, the burlap won't fray. I used my homemade version of half glue and half water. I covered the whole leaf rather than just the edges in a thin layer of the glue and found that it gave it great texture and movement.

After spending what felt like hours cutting out my leaves, I was ready to start painting them! I borrowed some acrylic paint from Katie and started playing.

I liked how the leaves in my inspiration photo were painted with veins and an outline, so that's what I did.

Initially I was going to make a garland out of the leaves, but I ran out of time. Instead, we used them as table decorations. I think they looked gorgeous under the candles.

The best part is that these leaves will last forever! I'm thinking I might stick them all in a big hurricane vase on the console by the front door. Or maybe I will turn them into a wreath. We'll see. All I know is that I love them and they were definitely worth the effort.

Saturday, November 24, 2012

My First 5K!

Well, it happened. It was only a matter of time before the Badass Brigade, a.k.a. my S.O.S. crew convinced me to run a race with them.

Every year cities all over America host Turkey Trots. The races vary in length, but they all take place on or near Thanksgiving day. The base hosted a 5K version on Wednesday before Thanksgiving. I was doing my best to stand up to the peer pressure of joining when Dan blind-sided me, saying that he was planning on running it. That sealed my fate. I agreed to run too.


Since I started running a few weeks ago, I've only run three miles twice. A few people told me that if I feel comfortable running two miles, I shouldn't have a problem running 3.1 in a race. Marathoners often train the same way, running only 20 miles for a 26.2 mile race. I guess they were right. I did it!

It was a very hard race for me. The weather was terrible: cold, windy and wet. The course was very hilly; in fact it ended on a massive uphill. But, I did it! And I did it in great time. I crossed the finish line in just over 32 minutes. Dan did amazing too. His time clocked in at 30:44. Not bad for a first timer, right?

I couldn't have done it without my girls. Katie was awesome and ran with me most of the way until I forced her to leave me. And Rachel provided great moral support before jetting off for her super speedy under-30 minutes finish. I'm not sure that this is the start of a great running career, but I'm proud of myself for doing it.

Friday, November 23, 2012

DIY Burlap Table Runner

Well, I'm a day late and a dollar short, but happy belated Thanksgiving!! I love this holiday so much. I mean, what's not to love? It's a whole day devoted to food, family and friends.
Dan and I, along with our friends Katie and Jon, hosted Thanksgiving dinner for 25. It was a lot of work, but totally worth the effort. I'll write a more detailed post on the party details next week.

In the meantime, here's a how-to for a simple table runner. This project is really easy--anyone can do it! I bought a few yards of burlap and cut it to size. I went with around 8 feet long by 2 feet wide. I should have made it longer, but that was all the burlap I had. Use what you've got, people.


Then I pinned and sewed a 1/2 inch hem on each long side. I wanted it to look finished from the back too, so after I hemmed it the first time, I folded it over to hem it again. I used a burnt orange color to give it a "fall" feel.

Hemmed once

Pinning to finish hem

Once the long sides were finished, I moved on to the short sides. I wanted to make a pointed edge like this one:


To do that, I folded the short edge into a triangle and pinned each of the sides down with a 1/2 hem.

I ran the hem through my sewing machine, which left me with a large triangular piece of excess fabric.

I cut off the excess and then hemmed it one more time like I did for the long sides. Now the hem is finished all the way around.

I stenciled the two ends of my runner to give it a more polished look. I tried to buy a stencil, but I couldn't find one that I liked. Instead, I took inspiration from Katie's silhouette project and made my own. This was much easier than I thought it would be. I simply went into Microsoft Word, found a pretty font and printed an "L" for my last name. I used Harlow Solid Italic in 300 point font.

I used an x-acto knife to cut out the black portion of the paper. I cut out the two loops in the top and bottom of the L separately and taped those back in place once I positioned my stencil on the burlap. I used masking tape to hold it all in place. It worked great!

I smoothed down the stencil making sure that the paper was as flat as I could get it so that my lines would be clean. I used acrylic paint and a fine paint brush to paint a thin, even coat.

While the paint was still wet, I peeled the stencil off the burlap and was left with this:

I can't believe how perfectly it turned out! I loved it immediately.

I did the same thing to the other side of the runner. Once everything was dry, my DIY runner was good to go. Here it is all gussied up and ready for the party.

I hope you had a wonderful Thanksgiving. I know I did!

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Fakesgiving in Florida

After spending some quality time with my girls, I took a quick flight to Fort Lauderdale to meet up with my family. My mom, dad and sister flew in from Dallas and our flights got in only minutes apart.

Packing Light

We met up with my in-laws for a late lunch/early dinner. Dan's flight didn't arrive until much later that night.

Most of our trip centered around food...of course. We ate in some really good restaurants, including the Rusty Pelican. It's this gorgeous restaurant overlooking the Key Biscayne. The food is delicious and the presentation is even better. Sorry for the blurry photos :(

Whole crispy sea bass with lo mein noodles

Ceviche served in a sardine can

Another amazing restaurant is Rare Steakhouse in Miami. I've been dreaming about this kosher restaurant since Dan and I ate there on our first anniversary three years ago. It was easily the best burger I've ever had in my life. I'm so happy to say that it did not disappoint! It was just as good as I remembered. I love going to kosher restaurants and being able to order absolutely everything on the menu. I treated myself to a wedge salad with iceburg lettuce, fake blue cheese dressing, and maple pastrami BACON! YUM!

Wedge salad with "bacon"

The real highlight of our trip--food-wise--was Thanksgiving. Dan and I cooked while the family went exploring. All the favorites were on the menu: turkey; stuffing; sweet potatoes; mashed potatoes; cranberry sauce; apple pie and pumpkin pie. We did a terrible job of taking pictures, but a great job of eating!

Of course we participated in non-food activities too. My sister is quite the little gambler, so we had to check out the Gulfstream racecourse and casino. Bradi is seriously the luckiest person I've ever met when it comes to gambling. It's gotten to the point where she is honestly convinced that it's not gambling, it's just free money. Luckily we're not talking huge sums of money on the line here; she put in a few bucks and won $30. We all had a good time though.

One of my favorite things we did was go to a Russian restaurant and nightclub called Tatiana's. My in-laws had been there before and loved the show. It was not at all what I was was so much better! It was like a cirque du soleil performance with all the aerial acrobatics, ballet dancing and singing. I loved it! Unfortunately, no pictures were allowed, but here's one from their website.


And of course, no trip to Florida is complete with out some beach time! We had one absolutely gorgeous day, and a couple of really windy ones. We made the most of it though.

It was a fantastic trip. I'm so fortunate that we could all be together to celebrate (though we missed Dan's sister Amy!). Let's not wait another four years to all be together again!

Monday, November 19, 2012

Meeting Baby Tessa

You know those friends that you haven't seen in way too long, but when you get together it's like no time has passed at all? That's Katie and Heidi for me. Though we haven't seen each other in over a year, we just picked right up from where we left off.

Heidi, Megan, me, Katie and Austin

Of course, a lot has happened since we last saw each other. I moved to England; Katie has a sixteen month old; and Heidi has a baby of her own.  

It was so wonderful meeting baby Tessa. Katie and I are convinced that she's actually a doll posing as a human baby. At eight weeks old she sleeps through the night and is eating like a champ. I think she cried once the whole weekend, and that was because we took too long to get her a bottle. 

Heidi looks great too. You'd never know she just had a baby. Motherhood definitely agrees with her.

We managed to go on what I called my "White-Trash Tour of America." Stops included:
  • Chipotle
  • Chili's
  • Sonic--they have the BEST ice!
  • Walmart
  • Jo-Ann's Fabric
  • Olive Garden--for a fancy night out :)

Walmart was definitely the highlight. I felt like I was inside this website.

It was so sad how fast the weekend went. Let's do this again soon!

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Guest Post: Adult Halloween Party

Remember the Chocolate Pumpkin Torte I made for Halloween? It was for this epic party hosted by Karen and Katie. These girls really know how to throw an event. I don't know what was more fun...eating, dancing, dressing up...all of it was amazing. I'm already pressuring them to throw another party soon. Here's Karen to give us the scoop.

Katie had her heart set on having a Halloween party for our friends in Harrogate and was looking for a venue. So I agreed to host the party at my house, and thus the fun began. It turns out that we work very well together, with the right combination of creativity and flexibility. Between the two of us, we had ideas for decorations, food, and entertainment. She came over the day before to prepare, leaving party day stress free for a change!

Ahead of time we made two kinds of Halloween cupcakes, both with a pumpkin spice base. 

Candy corns and owls fashioned out of buttercream

We also made maple sandwich cookies. There was onion dip, salsa dip, and buffalo chicken dip. One favorite was Katie's caramel apple bites.

We then decorated the house with her playful ceiling hangers and confetti, while finding spots for candlelight everywhere.

Afterward, we moved on to the pumpkin carving. Katie had two great ideas for a polka-dot pumpkin and an owl over a cemetery. I decided to match my costume with a Queen-of-Hearts pumpkin. Her husband Jon was very helpful with his clever drill.

Carving party

On party day, our advance preparations made everything easy and allowed us time to get in costume.

The hostesses

All our guests were quite enthusiastic with their costumes and tasty contributions.

Dessert table

Some of the party guests were part of an Alice in Wonderland ensemble.

And all of SOS were present for the festivities!

Queen of Hearts; Little Red Riding Hood; Cheshire Cat;
Risky Business; Alice in Wonderland; 70s Aerobics Man

Throughout the evening, we had a costume contest, where each person could vote for the best and sexiest costumes. Pirate Phil and Gaybraham Lincoln took the prizes!

There was also a doughnut-on-a-stick contest, a surprisingly difficult task.

Then during the dance party, the partygoers got low, very low, for the limbo.

Nick, the 70s aerobics man, enhanced his costume by leading several group dances/exercises! 

And we danced until the wee hours thanks to DJ Jay (10 of Hearts)! 

The party was a total blast, and Katie and I look forward to our next chance to co-host together!

It was amazing! Thanks for sharing all the details Karen! I can't wait for your next party, ladies!