Thursday, October 31, 2013

River Legacy Park and Oktoberfeast

One of the best things about being married to Drew is getting to experience his sense of adventure. On our many trips out to Home Depot in the last three months, we have passed by a sign reading, “<-- Historical Marker,” and every time we drove by we wondered, “What is back there beyond that gate?” Last Monday Drew declared, “At some point this week I’d like to go check out that historical marker.” I thought it was a brilliant idea and so on Saturday morning I grabbed a water bottle and my camera and we headed out for our adventure. Drew had looked at the area on a map online and told me there were a lot of walking paths at the historical marker, but we had no idea what to expect. What a treat we found! It was a beautiful, cool, fall morning along the West Fork Trinity River. The path was lined with trees in the midst of changing their leaves from shades of green to deep oranges and rich reds and yellows. Halfway through our walk we happened upon an open area with parks full of young families, work out areas being used by the strong and brave, and open meadows begging to be enjoyed by picnickers. We didn't see the map of the paths until the very end of our walk, but fortunately, Drew brought his GPS with him and so we were able to get out of the park without having to walk an insane distance. Here are some pictures from our explorations:

This was in the parking lot!
This was just the beginning of our beautiful walk through the park.

How gorgeous is this?!

Be a handsome one.
Follow the red dashed path.

Drew WOULD cross the "Do Not Cross" tape to get closer to the edge of a cliff. His inability to back away from a dare often works to my advantage. "I dare you to not do the dishes!" Muwahaha!

Be adorable.
Something HUGE was swimming in the river.
Drew shouted, "TURTLES!" and half of them promptly jumped into the water.

"Bee" a good one.

I am rather proud of the composition of this one.

Be a strong one. His upper arms strength baffles me. All I can do is hang pathetically from the bar, and even only that hurts.

My exact words were, "Drew, we need to have kids while we live here so that they can play on this playground."
I love this picture so much.
Here is the whole River Legacy Parks system.

Here is the part that we explored. I think we went roughly from "You are here" to "Restrooms." Our round trip was a little more than three miles.

We wrapped up our day with what I called “Oktoberfeast.” Although Oktoberfest takes place in Munich at the end of September, I herby state that the last Saturday of October occurring before Halloween should be dedicated to eating German inspired foods, thereby called "Oktoberfeast". We had sausage cooked in beer, warm potato salad, sauerkraut, green beans, and a balsamic and basil tomato salad. We sipped on beers as we ate and for dessert we indulged in a creamy pumpkin ice cream.

It was an absolutely perfect day. I told Drew that we had the kind of day I always imagined we would have after we were married . . .  exploring new places together and simply enjoying one another’s company (and eating good food!). We are so blessed!

Friday, October 25, 2013

Part 3: "Don't Forget" Advice for the Bride and Groom

Good morning and happy Friday! Today I am posting the last part of the "Advice for the Bride and Groom" mini-series. The whole premise has been that Drew and I provided a mad-lib-like questionnaire at our wedding reception. One section read:

My advice for a happy marriage is to always ____________, never ____________, and don't forget ____________.

On Wednesday I shared the "always" advice and yesterday you got to read the "never" advice. Today I am going to wrap it up with the "don't forget" advice. I think this section is my favorite. Some guests were silly with their responses and others gave advice that touch my heart and soul. These really are things I don't want to forget. Married couples can fall so easily into a routine that they forget about the little things, and sometimes the big things, that make a relationship special. This is the lengthiest section, so take your time and enjoy it!

My advice for a happy marriage is DON’T FORGET . . . 

  • you’re on the same team and your differences are opportunities to build your marriage and make it stronger, not an excuse to tear it apart <= I think our society's divorce rate is so high because many people have forgotten this.
  • to celebrate all your milestones
  • lunch dates are romantic, too
  • to keep God first <=Most definitely!
  • to tip your waitress <=This came from the same friend who told us to never eat MSG Chinese.
  • to trust and have faith in one another
  • to floss (x2) <=Morning breath is less severe when you floss before bed. Just saying.
  • to dance <=We like to sing, too :)
  • life comes in waves, take each with understanding and love
  • how much I love you <=We love you, too!
  • to keep Angie supplied with chocolate!
  • how much you are loved by friends and family!
  • to always say “I love you” (x4)
  • to always cheer for the GATORS!
  • laugh, love, and dance!
  • love is patient, love is kind <=I love this bit of advice! I feel like this needs to be daily mantra.
  • to properly cite your quotations <= If only I could have made my students understand this!
  • to do the dishes
  • to have fun and enjoy yourselves and everything and everyone that surrounds you
  • to bring a towel <=everywhere? all the time?
  • cheer for UF over everyone else <=Go Gators!
  • what today feels like
  • to cheer for UF over AU and A&M <=Go Gators!
  • to flush
  • to visit your cousins in Philly (free rooms…)
  • some things really are meant to be private . . . bathroom = ALWAYS!
  • you two are meant for each other (x2)
  • to say “good morning, I love you” each day
  • to always appreciate each other
  • to kiss and forgive
  • how much you love your spouse
  • love is not a high or low feeling – it is what you do
  • God united you, loves both of you, and loves you together!
    <=Such a sweet reminder
  • birthdays (x2)
  • to be thoughtful, kind, considerate, and prayerful
  • children absorb every single thing you do and everything you say, so make it all what you want them to be
  • to take it one day at a time
  • to turn on the baby making factory! <=This one cracks me up!
  • know you could have done A LOT worse!
  • to never let the sun set on an argument (making up is half the fun!)
  • to pray!
  • the love that brought you together
  • to keep learning
  • to “show” I love you instead of just saying it
  • to brush your teeth
  • she is always right
  • crying is blackmail <= I was slightly offended by this one until I remembered that the words, "remember that time you made me cry?" have actually come out of my mouth before.
  • Sunday = Church, then sports
  • ask for what you want
  • yes and no are perfectly acceptable answers to almost every question
  • if something can be interpreted two ways and one of those ways makes you sad or angry, pay attention to the other one <=Great advice from a seasoned married man. We need to take the positive approach when communicating with our spouses.
  • to visit me all the time
  • call me often!
  • to give each other a kiss hello, goodbye, and goodnight
  • God set you both up for a reason
  • cherish every “I love you”
  • to pray together everyday (x2)
  • take in every moment
  • cherish each other
  • we are always there for you <=We are blessed with amazing family and friends.
  • kiss each other a lot, especially when you’re stressed
  • to say “I’m sorry”

What did our guests forget to remind us to not forget?

To summarize the three posts in this short series: Our friends really want Drew and I to love each other, kiss a lot, take care of our oral hygiene, dance, and profess undying loyalty to the Florida Gators. How special that we have these thoughts from the most important people in our lives to cherish throughout our married life, to help us remember our wedding day, and to share with our future children and grandchildren. I can't think of a better gift we could have received!

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Part 2: "Never" Advice for the Bride and Groom

Never tell your husband he is bad at taking pictures with you.
It doesn't help.
And it makes him feel sad.

Yesterday I began sharing some of the advice that Drew and I were given on our wedding day. The "always" advice was very sweet and fairly tame. Now onto the "never" advice! Many of these things my husband and I would never do anyway, but I noticed that these little tidbits are especially important because the things we have been reminded to never do or say are the things that come most naturally to us; this is where we have the most work to do to fight against our instincts and improve ourselves. As you read through the list, remember that the word "never" goes before each piece of advice. If you forget that, it starts to sound a bit strange!

My advice for a happy marriage is to NEVER . . . 

  • fight unless it’s important
  • spend too much time apart <= We have had enough of that, already!
  • eat MSG Chinese food
  • poop your pants <=At least not until we hit 100 years old.
  • kick dogs or puppies
  • storm out – stay and talk it through
  • stop dancing
  • confuse "your" and "you’re," especially if Angie is watching <=Amen!
  • eat the last piece of cake in the house unless you’re Angie <=Drew will cut sweets in half over and over again until I give in and finish off the last bite. :)
  • poo with the door open <= gross
  • go to bed angry (x10)
  • give up
  • hold grudges (x3)
  • hold anything back (x2)
  • stop loving
  • boil chicken after midnight <=????
  • domestically abuse each other <= seems like solid advice
  • bottle things up (get it all out!)
  • nit pick <=This is one of my biggest weaknesses.
  • force the other to change
  • put yourself first (x2)
  • put each other down in front of others <=I can't even say how many times I have read or heard this advice!
  • say “never”
  • say “no” to the other’s dreams <= More importantly, encourage those dreams!
  • lie
  • make housework a competition
  • criticize each other out loud <= I need to work on this one, too.
  • say anything you’ll regret later
  • have a better friend than each other <= BFFL!
  • stop listening
  • stop celebrating
  • not call to tell her you’ll be late
  • be sarcastic to each other <=EPIC fail on this one. We speak sarcasm fluently.
  • cause your spouse to not trust you
  • cheat
  • root for the ‘Noles <= NEVER!! Unless they are playing someone I dislike more. Like Duke.
  • fight over money <= We need to have some before we can fight over it, lol.
  • do whatever you want when she says, “do whatever you want”
  • squeeze the toothpaste from the middle <=RIGHT?! WHY DO PEOPLE DO THIS?!
  • take a small moment for granted
  • compare and get snarky
  • take life for granted
  • take the other for granted

Tomorrow you'll get to see the "don't forget" advice, which is full of fun!

What other "never" advice do you have for us?

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Part 1: "Always" Advice for the Bride and Groom

For Drew and me, planning for our wedding day was all about us (duh?). No rules to follow or standards to meet. Throughout the months of preparation I read a lot of articles explaining the etiquette surrounding various aspects of a wedding, and then I decided that most of the rules were silly or stress-inducing and that Drew and I would be better off doing things however we felt was best (live on the wild side!). Pinterest and every other bridal magazine would have you believe that do-it-yourself-all-the-way-country-chic is the way to go for weddings, and while it is a beautiful theme, it wasn’t for us. We did do a lot ourselves, because it was important to us that our guests got to see our personality as a couple through the little details of our wedding, not so that the reception looked as though it popped out of The Knot (and we saved a lot of money that way, too).

There is nothing more fun than celebrating milestone life moments with the people you love the most. And as much as the day was about the new Mr. & Mrs. Smith, it was also about the many people in our lives who helped us make it to the wedding day.

We wanted to give our special guests a chance to show off their personalities in the midst of being bombarded by ours, so we put a questionnaire on the back of everyone’s dinner menu:

We recently read and LAUGHED our way through each card. We are going to enjoy looking these over for many years to come. It's amazing how well some of our family and friends know us and how bold some of them were with their responses! The “advice for the bride and groom” section was quite entertaining, especially when we had cards from married couples; I have to wonder if some of them collaborated on filling in the cards! 

For example: 
(Husband) Always dance together, never remind your spouse you are right, and don’t forget you really are . . . just pretend for argument's sake.
(Wife) Always remind him you’re right! Never let him know you’re reminding him! And don’t forget making up is sometimes worth the fight!

And here are a few clever favorites:
Always have fun, never sweat the small stuff, and don’t forget it’s all small stuff.
Always go out (on dates), never walk out, and don’t forget to make out. 
Always kiss, kiss, and kiss some more, never stop kissing, and don’t forget to kiss and make me lots of nieces and nephews!

This advice is too good to be kept to ourselves so I am here to share it. Instead of typing out each card like those above, I am going to compile each of the three parts to make life easier for all of us. As you’ll see, some of the advice is serious and some of it is goofy (which may or may not have been alcohol-induced). Here are some of the shiniest gems from the “always” section that were appropriate enough to share:

My advice for a happy marriage is to ALWAYS . . .
  • say, "good morning" and, "goodnight" to each other
  • remember you’re in it for the long haul
  • talk to each other (x3)
  • laugh (x2)
  • think before you yell . . . and compromise
  • treat yourselves
  • keep God first (x2)
  • go to church
  • hug
  • find something in each fight for both to improve on
  • make sure to visit Sarah in Kenya
  • remember why and when you fell in love
  • dance (like no one’s watching)
  • plan for the unexpected
  • be honest (x2)
  • smile (x3)
  • listen and be forgiving
  • fight after you’ve eaten <= Why?
  • say “I love you” (x3)
  • live each day better than the last
  • love each other for who you are
  • love each other (x2)
  • put the other before your wishes
  • hold hands, commit to God, and forgive
  • ask God for “spiritual eyes” to see each other truly
  • say “thank you”
  • forgive
  • talk through a disagreement
  • say “yes dear” (x2)
  • respect one another and compromise
  • make time for one another
  • see the best in each other!
  • kiss and make up
  • spend time together
  • be honest and loving
  • assume she’s right <=obviously
  • stay positive
  • pray together
  • try to attend Gator games!
  • listen to the wife
  • say “I love you” with phone calls
  • ask the other about their day
  • say “I love you” as much as you can
  • have fun
  • make notes for each other
  • kiss each other
  • remember the wonderful things the other does <= We were just talking about this last night. After only four months, we already know how important this is.

Everyone seemed to give rather sweet and touching advice in the "always" section. Tomorrow I will have the "Never" advice for you, which gets goofier, I promise. :)

Do you have any "always" advice for newlyweds?

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Peg People

For any of you who, like me, have been sucked into Pinterest, you know that it is the best and worst thing to ever hit the internet. If you thought regular social bookmarking was cool, the addition of pictures makes it so much easier to find what you are looking for and enter a fit of distraction! Pinterest and procrastination go hand-in-hand. On the flip-side, once you peel your finger off the scroll button and avert your eyes from the screen, you are often consumed by a period of frenzied productivity. The DIY & Crafts section is the best/worst, closely followed by the Weddings and Holiday & Events sections, which are basically more specific DIY & Crafts pages. And then there are recipes, but that is a whole other story. Every pin viewed produces the desire in me to drop everything, run to the craft store, spend thirty bucks on supplies, and launch into a do-it-yourself spree. If I am lucky, my finished products will come out looking like the pins that "pinspired" me.

Therefore, I fully blame Pinterest for what is, most recently, my biggest “problem.”

I am addicted to painting wooden peg people. (I alternate between obsessions with pegs and felt flowers, which you can see in the background of the picture above.)

It all began when I was planning my wedding. During regular browsings of the Weddings and Events section (which usually occurred when I was supposed to be sleeping, or grading papers, or planning lessons) I came across homemade wedding cake toppers. Given how expensive or cheesy or inappropriate or impersonal wedding cake toppers can be, I thought a handmade topper was a brilliant idea. After some Etsy-induced sticker-shock, I figured I could do the same or better on my own for a fraction of the cost.

So, during a summer off from teaching, these were the first two pegs I ever painted:

One year later, the little cuties got to adorn the top of the most scrumptious coconut wedding cake with raspberry mouse filling:

I had so much fun making them and they were probably my favorite detail from our wedding day! I was immensely proud of myself and, like a good bride, I didn't let Drew see "me" until the wedding day. He saw the completed project for the first time just moments before we cut the cake. Don't they look perfect up there? When I planned the project, I bought extra pegs, because I assumed that I would need room to make mistakes, like when I drive to a new place for the first time and there are lots of u-turns and frustrations and yelling at the GPS. The endeavor worked out better than I anticipated and since I needed/wanted to use the rest of the pegs, I made a nativity scene, a couple of sports stars, princesses, and superheroes.

I recently donated my princesses to an auction to raise money to help my sister-in-law's sister adopt a fourth child, leaving me the opportunity to revisit my Disney friends as a seasoned peg-people-painter. So, for about a week, the kitchen table was a mess of pencils, paint, pegs, paintbrushes, and paper towels. The whole process to me is so cathartic and relaxing. I get so much joy out of trying to capture the essence of each girl and the finished pegs are simply irresistible.

In both a fantastic and terrifying way, the possibilities are endless; I find myself making lists of the peg projects I would like to tackle in the future . . . I could be very busy for the rest of time. 

If you are looking for a fun and inexpensive craft to occupy some free time, I recommend finding some pegs, paints, and brushes and getting to work!

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Laundry: A Lesson in Love

(Subtitle: They say finances are the thing married couples disagree about the most, but laundry is probably high up on the list.)
Today, Drew and I are celebrating four months of wedded bliss! The time is flying by, obviously because we have a lot of fun together. We enjoy our Monday date nights, which half the year consist of dinner and watching either the Bachelor or Bachelorette (don’t judge us too harshly; it’s our guilty pleasure and it’s all my fault). Since the Bachelor isn’t back on until January, we just wrapped up eight Mondays of Harry Potter movies, and now I am introducing Drew to Downton Abbey. We have also gone on a few adventures exploring the DFW area and each new discovery is a wonderful memory we create together. It goes without saying that in a marriage you will learn a great deal about your spouse, but I have also learned quite a bit about myself these last several months.

For the past 15 years or so, I have been responsible for doing my own laundry. (Advice to parents – teach your kids to do laundry at a young age. That way they can laugh at all of their bewildered college-mates who enter the laundry room for the first time and don’t know a washer from a dryer.) Although I have ruined my fair share of clothing, I generally do a pretty good job of cleaning my wardrobe and most things come out the other end with all the right colors and still fitting properly - an imperfect but decent track record.

When I lived on my own after college, I didn’t have a washer and dryer in my house, so I trekked home at least once a month to visit my family and commandeer the laundry room. During Drew’s weekend visits, his laundry sometimes got added to mine, and we usually tag teamed the folding. I used to hate doing laundry, because it always got worked in between homework and social activities when I was a student or lesson planning, grading, and lamenting the dearth of social activities in my life when I was teaching. I would dump the laundry basket of clean clothes on the bed so that I would HAVE to fold them before going to sleep, but it was way easier to shove them back in the hamper and repeat the routine until there were only half as many clean clothes to fold. Now that we are under one roof that we share with a washer and dryer, we I do laundry much more frequently. But, since I am taking some time off right now, I find a lot more fulfillment in daily chores, because I don’t have to fit them in amongst all the other stressors in my life. For the first time, I actually enjoy doing laundry! There is one thing, though, about laundry. One thing that makes me irrational and turns me into Miss Cranky Pants. One thing that makes my skin crawl. One thing that puts me a couple notches below Carrie in a coffee shop. (Not really, but I couldn’t resist!)

Fortunately, this one thing has recently taught me a lot about love.

Now that you are super curious, what is this one thing that makes me so crazy?!?


Yep. I inherited this pet peeve from my Mama, who wouldn’t fold our laundry if we left it inside out. In a family of six, ain’t nobody got time for that! It was never a habit of mine to leave clothes inside out, so I lived very peacefully under Mama’s rule until my laundry became my own responsibility. Apparently her influence became ingrained in me and I didn’t realize it until I got married. From my perfectly logical perspective, folding laundry is a much faster and smoother process when you don’t have to turn clothes right-side-out. Okay, maybe not a lot faster, but at least a little bit. That’s what I keep telling myself, anyway.

As you may have deduced, Drew sometimes leaves his t-shirts inside-out. He claims he does this to keep the designs on the shirts intact, but I have two comebacks to this assertion: 1) Plain t-shirts don’t have anything on them to protect so leaving them inside out, in particular, is illogical (my gosh, the Vulcans are in my brain), and 2) My shirts with designs on them still look good after years of right-side-out abuse.

(side note: As I am re-reading and re-editing this post, it is starting to sound a lot like The Butter Battle Book, by Dr. Seuss.)

ANYWAY, this post is not for me to complain. I am here to provide hope to other inside-out t-shirt haters. (I’ll be launching Inside-Out T-Shirt Haters of the World Anonymous, IOTSWA, in the near future.)

I am not proud of this, but for the last couple of weeks, my impulse when folding laundry has been to fold my husband’s t-shirts inside-out. That’ll teach him, right? Geez, Louise! Stubborn much?

Inside-out proof in all its folded shame.

I had a revelation yesterday, though, thank God. I was doing laundry when I picked up one of my t-shirts and, without thinking, turned it right-side-out. Excuse me - 
In NO way could it have been my fault, because I NEVER put a shirt in the hamper inside-out. Okay... in reality, it probably was my doing, or maybe it got flipped in one of the machines, or maybe my Guardian Angel did it to teach me something. Why would I fix my own t-shirt, yet refuse to fix my husband’s? My hypocrisy made me aware that every t-shirt folded inside-out is an act of crankiness rather than love, stubbornness rather than compassion, and selfishness rather than selflessness. Yes, it is just a t-shirt, but the little things in life make the biggest impact.

So, I might not be happy about it, but I am resolving, from here on out, to fold all clothes right-side-out, regardless of how they come to me out of the dryer. And as I have told my students countless times, I will do it with a smile on my face and joy in my heart. Over time, I hope that I will view each folded shirt not as an annoyance, but as an opportunity to love my husband. Marriage is about compromise and give-and-take. That means that sometimes I have to give and I can’t always be right. 
I can’t always be right. 
I’ll say it again, to make it really sink in: I can’t. always. be. right. 
Whew! Glad that is out in the open.

I love Drew a whole lot, and he knows it. He even finds my stubborn laundry tendencies endearing, and he will tell me I am being too tough on myself in this post, which makes me love him even more. Perhaps I have made a big deal here out of something small, but as a teacher, I believe real, humorous, and poignant lessons can be found anywhere. Remember the inspiration for this blog: "Whatever you are, be a good one." Learning about love while doing laundry- who woulda thunk it?