Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Final Days in Baltimore

Monday was Memorial Day, a heatwave, and marked my last hike on the Robert E. Lee park trail.  I will miss my time on the trail and seeing it throughout the seasons of the year.  I'll especially miss my hiking partners, Stacey and her labradoodle, Jameson.  We've had some wonderful talks during our time on the trails, an unspoken place to relax, catch up, and vent about the frustrating things going on in our lives -- many a plan has been 'hatched' there!  Some of my favorite memories include hiking right when the frogs 'hatched' - what I thought were tiny bugs on the trail were actually tiny frogs the size of the tip of my pinky finger.  Another time, Stacey and I decided to go on a winter hike when a storm came rolling in.  By the time we turned around because the conditions were worsening, four inches of snow had fallen.  I loved the muffled quietness of the trail at that moment, as though we were the only people in the world (we were the only people on the trail, to be certain). 

For the past three years, I've watched county and city officials try to block off the park at the trail's end (where it linked into the park), watched the conditions of the park become overgrown and deteriorate while officials decided who was responsible for paying the upkeep, and rebuilding the bridge where park-goers entered.  Now, there is a new bridge, and a new path, catering to those who use the back trail to link up with the park.  Areas have been cleared of overgrown weeds, and the old ranger station demolished.  Voted best dog park in Baltimore, because this is a place where dogs can go unleashed and frolic in the stream with other dogs.  Just under 6 miles of trails to explore and enjoy. 

I'm happy, however, that there is a nature trail within walking distance, just around the corner from our new house.  I can't wait to explore a new area, to just get lost in nature.  I have a lot of things to think about in the coming weeks, and believe that this is going to be just the place to get lost in those thoughts.  I love the fact that the sign, in the above picture, has been altered by hikers to say that the park is 'not' closed.  Officially, the park has been closed since I began hiking the trails 3 years ago, and no attempts to block it off have worked.  I'm glad, as I would not have been able to enjoy countless hours on those trails, losing myself in the beauty of nature...

Thursday, May 26, 2011

The Joys of Moving

From the time we found out that Sean was taking this new position, just one month ago, things have been an absolute whirlwind.  Scouting areas equidistant between Sean's workplace and the city, touring potential properties (or in our case, doing drive-bys after we toured, and loved, the house into which we are now moving), tying up loose ends at both of our respective workplaces, and for me, continuing to forge the path of self discovery and growth I began last fall.  Needless to say, I awake each morning remembering my crazy dreams in vivid detail! 

With just a little over a week left in Maryland, our pace has picked up considerably.  I can't imagine undertaking this move without my husband (and, of course I wouldn't be because we're moving for his job)!  I've been using Craigslist non-stop, getting rid of large items we have, and it takes time to respond and schedule times to meet people between my busy evening meeting schedule.  There is insurance to be taken care of (I've FINALLY scheduled my engagement ring on this new policy - shame on me for waiting so long), utilities to be set up, logistical planning for the new place (now that we're moving from a one bedroom apartment to a four bedroom house), working with our new landlord (who is a busy teacher with 4 children all playing sports right now), new draperies to be purchased (for the bazillion windows in the new place), no-damage nails to be sought out for hanging artwork, not to mention the organization involved in my new foray into extreme-couponing (had to throw that in for a laugh).  That doesn't even begin to cover all of the items Sean is taking care of on his end, as he works with his company for our relocation.  Today was the walk-through with our moving company - did I mention we have Sean's 3-bedroom house contained in two storage units...in addition to our apartment?! 

All of this is to say that I am ready as I'll ever be for this move!  I'm truly excited to embark upon this next chapter with my husband, building a home together and starting a new life together in an entirely different place (I'm totally going to be nesting over the next month!).  I believe that everything happens for a reason, that there is a higher power out there looking over Sean and myself; a higher power that will guide us through these next few hectic weeks, and one that will look over us as we journey into this next chapter together...

Thursday, May 12, 2011

No Time for a Yardsale? Try Craigslist, eBay or Half.com!

When Sean and I planned to merge our households last year, we knew we both needed to get rid of a lot of household items.  Selling some of the items we no longer used would also be a great way to raise some money to put towards our wedding expenses.  We were lucky enough to find a volunteer firehouse near Sean's house that was hosting a flea market.  So, we spent time sorting through items and organizing piles to sell.  We got up early, set up and things went really well -- Sean was able to make two additional trips to his place to get more items to sell, as the flea market was well attended AND people were buying!  The best part of it is that we didn't bring anything home with us!  At the end of the day, we were able to donate our unsold items to the firehouse stand -- they would store those items until their next flea market and sell them from their own booth, all proceeds contributing to their fund.  A win-win for everyone!

This time around, Sean and I don't have the time to plan a yard sale or search for a flea market - we're moving in 2 1/2 weeks!  So, I've been busy advertising items on a number of online sites.  Craigslist has been invaluable, as we've been able to sell our left over wedding items AND make a little money!  Pretty soon the Whole Foods around the corner is going to start charging me a fee, as I've been using their parking lot to meet people buying our wedding items!  However, since this is a form of recycling, I don't think they would mind too much!  :)

Before working for my current company, I was in outside sales for a commercial publisher, so I invested a lot of money in my wardrobe.  Well, I've not worn any of my suits in a few years and they are all high end brands of great quality - why not try to sell them and make a little cash?  Hello eBay!  This week I was able to sell a lot of that clothing!  And lastly, what to do about all of my multimedia items?  That's where half.com comes in.

Half.com is a division of eBay with a couple of differences -- you can only sell multimedia items and there is no auction, the items stay listed there in a quasi-store.  Having two degrees in literature, I amassed several hundred books over the course of my studies.  I've been able to whittle my collection down over the past few years by selling off those titles through the site.  The downside is that you have to be willing to store them in the interim -- I typically sell the majority of my books at the start of each semester.  I also used to be a music enthusiast, so I had hundreds of cds (that I no longer listen to).  Thanks to half.com, I've been able to pare down my book and music collection, while recouping some money in the process. 

So, there is hope if you need to simplify your life and get rid of some of your material things.  Be prepared, however, because online selling does take a bit of work.  Lastly, anything I don't have time to sell through any of my online routes I drop off at Goodwill -- there are always options!  Hello feng shui and qi!

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

New Beginnings...

It's official - we're moving!  I'm so happy and proud of Sean - his new position will allow him to grow and will challenge him in so many great ways!  It's also a relief to have been able to submit my resignation, as I've known that this move was most likely going to happen.  Sean and I had agreed to go full force with the relocation back in early March, so it was as though I had been holding onto a secret for well over a month until he had a finalized contract!  I'm excited to be moving back to my home state AND to be moving to a new area.  We're moving to Ambler, Pa and will live a block or so from the train station, so I am able to walk to catch the train into the city for work (no more hour long commute by car)!  We are also within walking distance of a newly revitalized downtown area, with amazing restaurants, an arthouse theatre, yoga studio and more.  Thus, our transition to 'suburbia' will be more of an easing out of city life, rather than a shock to the system!

I've had a few people ask me how married life has been treating me and how I was liking being a newlywed.  Well, I can't say that we've really had a chance to enjoy it, as our relocation planning started with me pursuing a new position the week of our wedding and it's been full force since then!  I do feel, however, that once this transition takes place, our married life together will begin to settle down and we will have more time to enjoy each other (and, hopefully, start a family).  Let the official moving preparations begin...

Monday, April 25, 2011

Seeing the World in an Entirely New Way

I just purchased a new camera several weeks ago -- one that I've wanted for a few years now.  I'm calling it my 'big girl' camera!  Photography is a hobby of mine - I love to play around with it, but have never taken a class (although I've wanted to for many years, I never make the time).  I enjoy hiking and traveling, so most of my photos come from those trips and escapades.  I'm extremely drawn to the textures and 'architecture' of natural elements, and primarily work in black and white.  I'm going nuts, however, because the weather, and our busy schedule, has not been conducive to playing around with my new camera!  So, I've been stuck indoors with my kitty, Chaucer, as my guinea-pig (she only minds when I use the flash).  However, there are only so many photos one can have of her pet!  I swear I'm not (that much of) a cat-lady!

The weather decided to turn itself over to spring yesterday, so I'm excited to get out there!  If only I had done a little better research -- the stock lense that came with the camera is not the lense I need to do what I want to do with my photography.  I knew that camera equipment was expensive, but had no idea that I would be in want of a lense...that costs more than the camera itself!  For now, I will just have to satisfy myself with learning everything my camera can do, and being 'creative' in testing my current lense to it's limits.  *sigh*  I just can't justify buying that lense right now.  I feel like a little kid saving his/her allowance in anticipation of the 'toy' s/he has been wanting for ages!      

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Ch-Ch-Ch-Cha-Changes!

I've been remiss with my blogging, but for good reason!  Things are happening rather quickly for Sean and myself - he's checking out an opportunity in Philly this week, then I'm in Philly next week regarding an opportunity for myself!  If all goes well, we should be moving sometime in the next couple of months, and that I am definitely excited for!  No more cramped attic apartment dwelling for us.  Sean will be finally be reunited with his two storage units of possessions (basically the contents of a 3 bedroom house and an insanely large vinyl collection), and we will be able to use all of the wedding gifts we received, in addition to those household items we've been itching to purchase.  Simply put, I can not wait for the time when a simple shopping trip doesn't clutter our entire living space!

As much as I've enjoyed living in Maryland these last 5 years, I've wanted to move back to Pennsylvania for some time (not necessarily the Philadelphia area, but hey, that works too!).  Not only is the real estate market less inflated, but the education system is a great deal better -- something very important to factor, as Sean and I would like to start a family in the near future.  In the past, I would have asked people to wish us good luck, but I now realize that luck has nothing to do with it.  If this is the right path for us, then it will be (not without some hard work on our parts, of course).  I'm looking forward to the next couple of weeks...

Monday, April 4, 2011

A Worthy Cause

Upon my engagement, and having worn my hair short for several years, I decided to grow my hair for my wedding 'do'.  The problem with my hair is that it is naturally curly/wavy, and I like to wear it straight.  Well, the longer my hair gets, the more difficult it is to straighten.  I digress.

As my wedding approached, and I had run out of creative ways to style my long hair, I kept telling people that in addition to getting married, I was excited to get rid of all of my hair!  I don't know how it came to mind, but I decided to donate my 'wedding hair' to Locks of Love.  Knowing that my hair would go to such a wonderful cause made me even more excited to cut it all off! 

Around Thanksgiving of last year I had had enough -- I couldn't do ANYTHING with my hair because it was so long!  I went to the salon and was determined to do whatever I could to be able to style/straighten my insanely long head of hair.  Out of sheer frustration,  I had quite a bit of length cut off and tons of layers put in...putting my hair donation in serious jeopardy.  While I felt disappointed that I might not be able to donate, I was now able to do something with my hair :)  (However, I still had months to go before my wedding.)   

My wedding day came much faster than I ever would have imagined (after a year of planning).  On my wedding 'to do' list was scheduling my post-wedding hair appointment.  Eager to get it done (especially before leaving for my honeymoon a week after the wedding), I scheduled an appointment for 3 days after my wedding. 

During my wedding weekend, I found out that a family member of mine had been quietly battling stage 3 ovarian cancer.  While Locks of Love is an organization to help children with hair loss due to any medical condition, I couldn't help but think about my aunt -- my donation became so much more important.  Finally, the day of my hair appointment came.  I sat in the chair and held my breath while my stylist measured my braid...10 INCHES exactly!  I found myself crying in that chair, out of relief that I had met the minimum length for donation, and out of the joy and happiness of being able to donate. 

Thus, I happily sent in my donation with a note, stating that I hoped that my 'wedding hair' helped make a child as happy as I was on that day.  When I think of all of the ways people can help others, I think this one is the easiest.  It doesn't take time from your schedule, if you don't have any to give, and it doesn't cost anything but a haircut and some postage.  If you have the hair to give, I would encourage you to do it -- you'll be helping put a smile on a child's face AND you'll love your new 'do'!  www.locksoflove.org/donate.html
  

Friday, April 1, 2011

April Fools!


Happy April Fools' Day!  A year ago today, Sean and I announced our engagement.  While not planned that way (to my knowledge), the timing couldn't have been more perfect.  One of the many things I love about Sean is his sense of humor -- much of our relationship centers around laughing together.  I'm still amazed when the two of us can encounter a situation, turn to eachother, share a knowing look, and burst into fits of laughter (we both have such warped senses of humor).  So, when Sean proposed to me on March 31st of last year, I was in a love-induced state when I announced our engagement on April 1st -- some people actually did think it was an April Fools' joke!

What I love about us is that we tend not to take things too seriously.  When we do have disagreements, we often use humor to diffuse what could turn into a heated situation.  Then, there are those times when we're just downright silly -- this happened right around the time of our wedding, when we were running on a lack of sleep and were pushed to the limits with stress.  While I can't remember any specific stories relating to our sillyness, I do know that we became scarily goofy together!

So, I encourage you all to take some time to celebrate today with a joke or two, and always remember to add a little laughter to your day...

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

What's in a Name?

As a female newlywed, I have a lot of work to do AFTER the nuptials have been exchanged.  To change my name, or not to change my name, that is the question.  And, this is a question I had thought long and hard about over the years.  In my twenties, my early feminist days, I was absolutely going to hyphenate - no question.  When I actually got engaged (in my 30s), my thoughts on this had changed.

I love my husband dearly, and am so proud and honored to be his wife.  Heck, the icing on the cake was that I actually got to MARRY my partner and best friend!  Simply put, I WANTED to take his name.  But, what to do about my maiden name?

My maiden name is a 10-letter Polish name, ending in 'icz' (it's pronounced 'its', in case you were wondering).  I used to dread the first days of school, when roll call would cause a bout of apoplexy when teachers came across my name -- it wasn't until college that my last name was pronounced correctly, and without the mildest of hesitation from professors.  In some ways, however, I think I'll miss finishing for people when they attempt my last name.  My maiden name has been my identity for 33 years, and it's not so easy to give up.  Everything I've worked for professionally is linked to that name, and that is definitely a difficult thing to let go.

I debated about changing my middle name, despite it being a family name, to my maiden name when taking my husband's last name.  While it wouldn't be hyphenated, my pre-marriage identity would still be there.  I wish I could tell a great story about me weighing pros and cons and going deep into meditation to aid me in my decision, but I can't.  The reality is this: I had the social security card paperwork at my desk, and when it came to the blank where I had to fill in my name, I simply shouted to my dear colleague (whom I trust in such important situations) over our cubicle divide, "Should I change my middle name or just change my last name?"  The response?  "Just change your last name.  Trust me, it will be a lot easier in the long run."

And that, my friends, is exactly what I did.  No flip of the coin.  No meditation.  No agonizing and going back and forth.  I am now in possession of a new social security card and my new, married identity.  I'm sure it will take time to remember to sign my married name and heck, even respond to 'Mrs.', but I'm happy with the decision.  And hey, if I feel an inkling of regret, I can always devise a plan to convince my husband to take my maiden name, right?   

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

The Dining Experience of a Lifetime: Espuma Restaurant in Zihuatenejo, Mexico

Where do I even begin?  For the last night of our honeymoon, Sean and I chose to eat at a restaurant, outside of the resort in which we were staying, and we chose Espuma.  Wow!  I had read about Espuma in a magazine provided in our room, but had NO idea what we were about to walk into.

We walked a short distance from our villa to the restaurant, which was pretty on the outside - nothing much to look at.  But, when we stepped through the doorway, we were immediately transported to another world!  Architecturally speaking, the restaurant is a work of art in itself (that's apart from the food!).  We were escorted to our table, which literally sat on the edge of a cliff overlooking the bay.  The way the table was situated, it created the illusion that the cliff dropped off just past the edge of the table.

Upon further inspection, we found that we were surrounded by art.  Fountains ran throughout the restaurant, and even in the trough, just past the edge of our table where the cliff began.  From the neutral tones to the modern decor, every single detail was intricately planned.  We looked up to find a projection of moving art high on the main wall above the lounge area.  The film was shot in sepia tones, and included people around the world (a man diving underwater and swimming with manatees, a woman in India frollicking with elephants, etc.).  Beautiful New Age music was synched with the film as it played.  Both Sean and I agreed that at that moment, we felt more relaxed than when we got a couple's massage on the beach a few days earlier!

Back to our table.  As the above photo shows, our table was cut from quartz (we think) and lighted from below.  This was the only light provided...and it worked!  The menu was a 5-course tasting menu, each ingredient so well thought out as to create both a harmony and balance of flavors in every dish.  This was, for me, the most incredible dining experience I've ever encountered.  With each course, our waiter would shine a flashlight onto our plate to describe the dish and then poof!  we were left to eat in the dark.  This only served to heighten the experience and ensure that EVERY one of our 5 senses was tuned-in to the experience.  All I can say is wow!  My resident foodie, Sean, ranked this in his top 5 dining experiences (which is saying a lot).  At the end of the day, this non-foodie was unbelievably proud to have picked the restaurant...!

A Break from the Norm: What We Read on Vacation

I work in publishing, selling books for a living, so much of my time is spent reading books for work.  Vacation is meant to be a break from work, so I try to allocate that time for reading books that I don't sell, as well as competitor titles.  I was happily able to read some wonderful books over my vacation! 

I started prepping for the tropics by reading J. Maarten Troost's, Getting Stoned with Savages.  (I should add that I love to read travel and food writing when I'm taking a break from fiction)  Wickedly funny, I found myself chuckling as J.M.T. catalogues his misadventures in the South Pacific.  If you're looking for a non-fiction read, by an author with a wonderfully self-deprecating sense of humor, you should check this out!  After reading, I brought it along on vacation, as I knew it would be something my husband would enjoy.

I was just getting started with Jennifer Egan's, A Visit from the Goon Squad, as I was leaving for vacation AND when it won the National Book Critics Circle award (great choice on my part!).  This is one of those times when I was GLAD to have left my electronic reader at home.  I quickly became enmeshed in the characters' stories, and took a brief glance around when other air passengers were told to turn off their devices -- those poor souls -- I got to continue reading!  I picked this title up at a client's recommendation, and was so glad that I did.  I got lost in the nostalgia of the 80s and 90s, and loved the sci-fi twist Egan adds to the (immediate) future.  If you haven't already, pick up a copy for yourself - you won't regret it!

My next read was Kristen Cashore's Graceling.  Graceling had been on my 'To Be Read' shelf for almost a year, after I picked it up while shopping at one of my favorite independent bookstores, Browseabout Books, in Rehoboth, Delaware.  I will begin by admitting that it took me about 100 pages to get into this book.  I'm not a huge fan of fantasy, but when it's done well, and has a strong (and believable) heroine, I tend to enjoy it.  Needless to say, after 100 pages I was hooked.  So much so, that I couldn't wait to get stateside to find a bookstore carrying the next book in English! 

Speaking of which, I was OVERJOYED to find that they had a Borders Express in the Phoenix airport (where we had a 5 hour layover)!  While they did not have Cashore's next book in the series, Fire, I was able to check out another, older title, from a competitor (I've been remiss in my reading) -- Scott Westerfeld's Uglies.  I had the opportunity to see Scott at last fall's Baltimore Book Festival and was impressed with his wicked sense of humor.  After reading just a few pages of Uglies I was hooked!

In between finishing Graceling and beginning Uglies, I picked up Kate Taylor's Going Hungry, which is a collection of essays by various writers (including Jennifer Egan) about their experiences with eating disorders.  While I thoroughly enjoyed reading the experiences of others who have battled the disease, it is not exactly 'light' reading (better to pick up, read an essay or two, and put back down).  So, I was in desperate need of some lighter YA fiction when I started Uglies!

What did my husband, Sean, read?  Well, Sean works long hours in the restaurant industry, and is a bit of a foodie (HUGE understatement), so reading is a bit of a luxury for him.  Don't get me wrong, Sean enjoys reading, and he's even co-written a book, but finding the quiet time to relax with a book is difficult.  At any rate, he picked up an advance copy of Gabrielle Hamilton's Blood, Bones, and Butter...and absolutely LOVED it!  In a nutshell, Sean described it as the female perspective and writing equivalent of Anthony Bourdain.  Well, I'm definitely sold on that!  I love Bourdain's writing and sardonic sense of humor -- I even used an excerpt from A Cook's Tour in my Masters thesis!

While my vacation is over, I already have a 'To Be Read' pile started for the next chunk of time that I have off...

Monday, March 28, 2011

Back to the Grind

This past weekend marked 3 weeks since getting married, and one week since returning from our wonderful honeymoon in Zihuatenejo, Mexico.  Thank goodness for that relaxing week, as both Sean and I hit the ground running when we got back.  Not only was I playing catch-up from being gone for so long, but we announced the release date of a highly anticipated title at work (= craziness).  Needless to say, I spent all of last week feeling as though I was trudging through mud (the pile on my desk, thankfully, has dissipated!).  Sean came back to an offer for a wonderful job opportunity with his company...in the Philadelphia area, so this has led to many conversations regarding our future.  There's still a lot we don't know (and are in the midst of discussing), so I don't want to say too much here, except the fact that this is a tremendous opportunity for Sean and, well...for the both of us in our new life together.  The only thing we can do, at the moment, is to sit back and see where the cards fall.  We are both confident that everything will unfold the way it's meant to happen for us...