Sunday, June 30, 2013

Dance with My Daddy

This month, I donated to a wonderful charity - Dance with My Daddy

 Dance with My Daddy was designed to allow families to focus on the relationship a father has with their special needs child.  This annual event provides fathers and their child the opportunity to spend quality time together over a hot meal, dancing, and games.  The organization also provide access to other community resources.

This charity is special to me for a couple of reasons. 

First, the founder is one of my Georgetown College buddies!  I could not be more proud of him and what he has established with this organization.  He was always one of my favorites because not only was he a great guy, he was also smart and well rounded.  I knew he would end up doing some great things...and he has proved me right!  Congrats to him on such a wonderful idea and organization!

Second, I have family members with special needs and have seen firsthand how incredibly difficult every day ordinary things can become so I know how very important something like a dance and just general fun night is to these families.  

This particular donation is also timely due to Father's Day earlier this month as well as the book I am currently reading - A Friend Like Henry by Nuala Gardner - about an autistic boy and his very helpful dog.  Looking forward to reviewing the book for you in a couple weeks!

What are you doing to support wonderful causes in your neighborhood?

Andrea :)

Saturday, June 29, 2013

Check Up Time...and a GIVEAWAY!

Earlier this month, I posted about my eight goals for June so today I want to recap my progress on them with you!  If you stick around to the end, there just might be a GIVEAWAY for you, too!

1)  Get everything prepared for our National 7-on-7 Tournament and first ever Lineman Challenge events to go off without a hitch just after the July 4th weekend.

This is going really well.  Surprisingly, actually.  I just hope things continue to go so smoothly for throughout the execution of the event in the next couple weeks!

2) Print out a running plan for this month...and stick to it!

This...sadly....did not happen.  I did print out a marathon training plan though so after the tournament I have something concrete to stick to for the next few months!  I hope!

3) Cut sugar out of my diet as much as possible.  Of course, exceptions MUST be made for cupcakes when Chris and I visit friends in DC at the end of the month!

This most definitely did happen....and it made a HUGE difference.  Generally, I felt better.  But I also lost around 10lbs and an inch off my stomach - yay!

4) Book travel for our summer trips.
We are planning to visit friends in DC, Chicago, and Pittsburgh as well as trek across the Atlantic so that I can meet Chris' family in England and we can go to my friend's wedding in Bulgaria.

Everything is booked except Pittsburgh and the NYC to England leg of the England/Bulgaria trip.  Hoping to get those squared away soon though!

5) Blog about one thing that really matters to me each week.

I only did this once.  You can check out that post here. Definitely something I want to make more of a habit though.  Just maybe not the best time to set it as a goal with so many other things going on.

6) Wake up earlier...which unfortunately means going to sleep earlier.  I am SUCH a night much easier for me to get things accomplished late at night!

I'd say I was about half and half on this one.  I've been trying to get up between 7-7:30am. Seem to be doing pretty good with it.  We'll see if I can push myself to 7am soon.  Oddly enough, I've found going to bed earlier really helps with this one...haha!

7) Solidify plans for my 30th birthday next month.

Done.  So excited!!

8) Get back on track with my reading through the Bible plan.

Unfortunately, this one didn't happen.  I did watch the entire The Bible series that had been on my DVR though.  I found it extremely interesting.  It made me want to do the readings and then watch that segment of the tv series again.  We'll see if I can get it together enough to do that.

NOW....for the GIVEAWAY that I promised you!!  I partnered with the lovely Mia over at The Chronicles of Chaos to celebrate her one year blogiversary!  YAY!!  Good Luck!!

Andrea :)

Friday, June 28, 2013

Book #9 - Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead

Our women's network at the office chose this book for our first book club meeting so I decided to join in the fun and read it.  To be honest, I had seen an interview with Sheryl Sandberg previously that had peaked my curiosity, but I just hadn't made the time to check it out before.  This was also the first full book I read on my kindle.  As a side note, I enjoyed reading from the kindle more than I thought!  Definitely going to be doing more of that in the future!

I had some mixed feelings about Lean In.  She included lots of personal examples and stories along with a multitude of facts and stats from various studies and research.  The only problem is that her field isn't exactly like everyone else's field so many of the personal examples didn't fully translate to other fields of work.  I did like her chapter on sitting at the table.  I agree that sitting at the table is very important.  It speaks volumes without saying a thing.  The other chapter I really enjoyed reading was titled "Don't Leave Before You Leave".  She was explaining that often women get ahead of themselves and rather than focusing on their career and potential advancements they may think ahead to having a family and not take advantage of current opportunities because of what they see for themselves in the future.  This is a tough one.  I won't say that I have ever past up an opportunity or stunted my advancement in the company due to being too future oriented, but I do think A LOT about adjustments that would need to be made in my current situation when I get to the point of having a family.  That being said, this chapter was truly insightful and beneficial for me.

At our book club, some of my colleagues brought up great points about how Sheryl seems to be insistent upon success being equal to a top leadership position in a company.  Our group addressed the fact that some women (and men) feel success is middle management.  That is the ideal goal for them.  It was the collective feeling that Lean In pushed women to feel like only the top leadership positions were worthy accomplishments. 

Overall, I thought the book was good.  There were plenty of interesting viewpoints and ideas to think about.  I didn't love the writing style, but I did enjoy the material that was presented.  I'll have to check out her TED talk because I have a feeling I will like her better as a speaker than a writer. 

Have you read Lean In?  What did you think?

Andrea :)

Thursday, June 27, 2013

My first 10k...

I've been recapping the whirlwind London - Paris - Rome - London adventure that I experienced with parents back in 2011 the past few weeks.  Hope you have been enjoying reading about that super fun trip!  I know I will always treasure it!  However, the race I ran the following weekend is one that I'd rather forget.  I contemplated not even writing a recap of this race, but then I realized it is just as important for me to look back on the good racing times as it is the bad racing times.  And this was one of the worst.

It was October 22, 2011, just after returning from the whirlwind European adventure with my parents.  In retrospect, I probably shouldn't have signed up for this race given the surrounding circumstances, but I was oh so excited to be running my first 10k.  That was a distance I hadn't run before.  I had done a handful of 5k races and a couple of half marathons, but never managed to work in a 10k.  I thought this distance would be ideal - challenging, yet not too scary.  And if I had trained properly, I suspect I would have been right.

Pre-race :)

I'll just go ahead and let you know that I logged a time of 1:27:31 for the race.  That put me at over 14 minute miles...not exactly stellar!  I was pretty disappointed, but moreso because I hadn't trained properly than because I had a "slow" time.  Time isn't everything, but at 14+ minute miles a walker couldn't have moved more quickly.  Luckily, I had great support to cheer me up at the finish.  And I learned a valuable lesson - training is critical.  It is a must!  As I am begining to start that process for the NYC Marathon, looking back on this race is a great reminder of why it is important to work hard each day.  The race is only one day, but the lead up to the race is what makes all the difference in that one day going the right way!

Andrea :)

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Me and My Parents Return to London

We have finally made it to the last leg of our whirlwind adventure!!  Please check the beginning in London, the middle in Paris, and the (almost) end in Rome.

I left off with mom and dad anxiously awaiting my return from the Spanish Steps so we could head out to the airport.  Needless to say, we made it there with plenty of time!  This was our first Ryan Air flight of the trip...and it proved quite interesting!  They have a strict one bag only carry on policy.  It was actually pretty amazing that we were nearing the end of our trip and could still fit everything into our three backgrounds.  I was definitely impressed with our effort!  

One of my favorite pictures from the trip is one that we took after we grabbed our seats for the flight.  We were worn out, but still having a great time.  We weren't quite ready for our vacation to come to an end.

We made it to London without any problem. We took a bus from Stansted Airport to Victoria Station. Our hotel was within walking distance from Victoria Station, but we had a bit of trouble finding it.  Eventually, we arrived at the Victor Hotel and checked into our room.  Shortly after we checked in, we met up with my NFL Europa buddy, Michael Andrew.  We looked for a restaurant to grab some dinner, but the only place open was a Burger King back at Victoria Station.  We settled for burgers there.  I was able to catch up with Michael for about an hour or so before he headed home and we headed back to the hotel for some much needed rest.  We had one more day in London left and wanted to be ready to make the most of it!

The next morning, we packed up our stuff and made the trek over to Buckingham Palace for the Changing of the Guards ceremony.  We were not the only ones that had plans to be there that morning though.  It was completely packed by the time we arrived, but we found a decent spot up on the Victoria Memorial.  It was a perfect spot to see the two Guard groups march into the Palace area.  The ceremony was a bit long, but we enjoyed being there for it.

After the Charging of the Guards, we walked along the Jubilee Walkway from Buckingham Palace to Trafalgar Square.  We walked through a bit of St. James Park along the way.  We also saw the Admiralty Arch just before we entered Trafalgar Square.  

We did some last minute souvenir shopping in the Trafalgar Square area.  I even got some goodies for our plane ride home in a grocery store there.  

We people watched for awhile as well.  It was interesting to watch people climb up and down to take pictures with the lions on the monument.  Mom and I both reminisced about our initial trips to Trafalgar Square.

Again, we rushed to get back to our hotel and grab our bags before jumping in a cab to scurry off to Heathrow Airport.  The cab ride cost a little more than we had left, but the driver graciously accepted all our remaining money and sent us on our way!

We all had an absolutely wonderful trip, but we were also very glad to get back to America!!

Andrea :)

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Sing Me A Song

Life. Love.Lauren

I love music!  Both of my parents are musical people.  My mom played the flute in her HS band while my dad played the saxophone.  Dad has also played the piano at the church I grew up in since he was a kid himself.  Ironically, neither me nor my brothers found our passion in music...though we did all give it a fair shot!  I played trumpet for six weeks in middle school.  I did not like it at all!  I also took piano lessons for a time from an elderly neighbor lady.  I liked it better, but I hated the lessons and eventually that fell by the wayside.  I regret not being able to play the piano now, but it would be a pretty expensive hobby to take up in the middle of Manhattan...not exactly sure maneuvering a piano up the five flights of stairs to my tiny little box apartment would work out so well! Anyway, all that to say, music is something that I have always loved!  Lots of songs bring back wonderful memories for me!  Here are the five that I'm thinking of today...

The first two are from my high school days....

1 - Goodbye Earl by The Dixie Chicks

Me and my three closest girlfriends growing up had a slumber party once upon a time...and we made a music video to this song.  It was hilarious!  And I soooo wish I had a copy of it today!

2 - Arise My Love by NewSong

This one we did as a special at church many times throughout my youth.  I helped create an interpretive movement that we did with white gloves and black lights.  I always got chills when we preformed it!

Next, is one from my college days...

3 - These Are Days by 10,000 Maniacs

This is one of the songs we sang during rush in my sorority every year at college.  To this day, I still think about that circle of ladies when I hear this song randomly playing every now and again.

The last two are from just a couple years ago...

4 - Lady (You Bring Me Up) by The Commodores

Chris told me this song made him think of me toward the beginning of our relationship.  I really liked much so that I printed out the lyrics and hung them up at work!

5 - If It's Love by Train

Also, during some of our earlier dating days, Chris and I would go back and forth joking about this song.  It always seemed to come on when we were together so I started teasing Chris that it was our song.  (PS - It totally isn't!)  I even brought a Train CD along on one of our first road trips to a wedding and kept playing it over and over.  Even though the lyrics don't really hold much of a special meaning to us, the song itself does bring back some fun memories of good times with Chris!

What song brings up old memories for you?

Andrea :)

Monday, June 24, 2013

30 before 30 - Month Eleven Recap

write letter to family or friend

This month I sent a card to Christopher.  We had a stretch of about three weeks where we weren't able to see one another due to work trips and some other pre-scheduled events on weekends.  Those stretches are always particularly difficult so I sent him a card while I was away on my business trip this past weekend just to let him know that I missed him.  We are looking forward to these long distance days coming to an end soon, but in the meantime I like to remind him of how much I love him and appreciate him even though I'm not able to see him everyday!

3 monthly goals

1) Layout the Year 3 Scrapbook.
Done.  It is all ready to be put together now.  Who knows when I'll have a chance to start doing that, but at least I have it all ready when the time comes!

2) Book travel for London/Bulgaria trip.
Done.  Sorta.  We have the Bulgaria part booked.  We are still working on finalizing the dates from NYC to England, but that should be happening in the next week :)

3) Set the plans for my 30th Birthday celebration.
Done.  SOOOOO super excited about this adventure!  I'll keep a secret for now, but I'll just say the tickets are officially reserved!  Looking forward to the celebration in just ONE more short month!!

facetimes with Brinley

We had a fun facetime in late May where I was able to see Brinley climb up on the couch for the first time!  She is getting into everything these days!  She sure keeps her parents busy!!  I just love watching her play with her toys.  She is super quick now.  She was too cute toward the end of the call when she just crawled over to her bedroom door and started to wimper.  Guess she was ready for bed!

I was also able to facetime with Brinley toward the middle of June.  She was on the move!! She is walking everywhere now.  Jordan can barely keep her in the screen sometimes!  It was fun to see her so active.  Toward the end of the call she started playing with her laundry.  She was too funny holding things up under her chin and trying to pull them over her head.  She is a cutie!  Looking forward to seeing her next month when we visit right after her little brother arrives!  Can't wait!! 

Date Night

Chris and I managed to work in a date night at the very beginning of June. We went to see Colin Quinn in his performance of Unconstitutional at a small theater in Greenwich Village which we followed up with a nice Italian dinner.  So fun!

Girls' Night

Unfortunately, this just did not happen for June.  Total bummer, but we were all in and out of town and just busy with all the craziness that summer brings in NYC.  Hopefully, we'll work it out for next the very least we'll hopefully get together to celebrate my upcoming milestone birthday :)

I marked 7 items off the list!!

3 - complete Year 2 (done March 2013) and Year 3 scrapbooks (layout done June 2013)
*As mentioned above, Year 3 is not fully complete...but at least half of the battle is laying out each page so it's getting marked off the list!

6 - go to (at least) 6 broadway shows: 1) War Horse (July 2012) 2) Grace (Nov 2012) 3) Annie (March 2013) 4) Lucky Guy (April 2013) 5) The Call (May 2013) 6) Cinderella (June 2013)

8 - visit England with Chris (might happen in the fall, but at least have reservations by July)
* mentioned above, the trip is essentially booked.  We have flights from England to Bulgaria...and obviously, we will be going to England to catch those flights :)

15 - visit friends in Chicago
*Plane tickets booked for 4th of July weekend!  Pumped!!

16 - visit friends in DC
*Headed there on Friday.  Can't wait to tell you all about the fun we had next week!!

17 - plan a really interesting/exciting/fun way to celebrate turning 30
*As mentioned above, the celebration is certainly interesting, exciting, and fun...I'll also add unique and well recieved by my friends to the list as well!

26 - explore (at least) 6 new places/areas in NYC - 1) West 4th Street area 2) downtown courthouse area 3) Williamsburg (Brooklyn Brewery) 4) Dumbo (Smorgasburg) 5) Brooklyn Botanical Garden 6) Greenwich Village (Barrow Street Theater)

I feel safe in saying there was some real progress made on the 30 before 30 list this month!  There are a few more items in the final stages, too.  I anticipate getting those knocked out before my birthday next month! 

The final countdown is ON. 

Andrea :)

Friday, June 21, 2013

Book #8 - Mind Gym

Happy Friday!!  It's been awhile since I linked up for Book Club Friday, but I am excited to review Mind Gym by Gary Mack for you today.

I enjoyed this book even though it took me a very long time to get through it.  One of the reasons for that is because the chapters are broken down in a way that doesn't make it absolutely necessary to read them in chronological order.  This is the kind of book you can truly scan the table of contents, pick an interesting topic, and read all about it.  I like that because it makes it very handy to refer to in the future.  The book is broken down into four major sections.  

Welcome to the Inner Game focuses on mind games we play with ourselves, being mentally tough, and being responsible for your attitude since it is one of the few things you actually can control.

Living the Dream covers maintaining focus in general -  putting yourself in the right places and situations, working hard even if progress doesn't happen quickly, and possessing desire, dedication, determination, and discipline (the four D's).

Mind-Set for Success teaches that attitude is everything.  These chapters emphasize being in the now, using fear as an ally, and the power of believing in yourself.

In the Zone emphasized inner excellence along with preparing and performing in a manner that leaves you with nothing to regret when it is all said and done.  This section also shared various paradoxes of performance.

This book was the perfect read as I begin to ramp up for my marathon training.  Athletics (and particularly running) is mostly mental.  Of course, there are some physical aspects to it, but much of it is all in your head.  The overarching premise of Mind Gym was to exercise your thoughts as they relate to your physical activity.  The author wanted to give you a means of building your very own mind gym.  The ideas were very well presented with each chapter ending in a question or action item for the reader.  I would definitely encourage any athlete to check it out!

Andrea :)

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Never have I ever....

...said no to a cupcake.  Seriously...I love cupcakes!!

...missed a day of school.  At least not K-12.  Pretty hard to believe, right?  They gave me a plaque at graduation.  I missed a few days here and there in college, but was still pretty consistent.  I figure if I paid the money, I might as well get the most out of it! 

...had multiple piercings.  I have earrings (one in each ear), but I never got into piercing everything.  Though I did have a phase where I was attracted to guys with eyebrow piercings. Glad that phase passed!

...not collected penguins!  My parents started a collection for me right after I was born.  I probably have over 500 penguins now...stuffed, ceramic, posters, etc. through the entire Bible.  This is something that I have always wanted to do....and I'm currently working on completing the task...but it seems like I get to a certain point and then manage to find myself distracted and it gets pushed to the back burner.  Definitely have to be more disciplined with this one!!

...been interested in fashion.  To be honest, I just don't get it.  It's always changing...and expensive.  Just never been my thing.

...been the tall kid.  I wish though!  Funny enough, I was the center on my middle school basketball team even though I wasn't the tallest by any means.  Guess I got had hops!

What have you never done?

Andrea :)

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Me and My Parents Meet Rome

In case you missed the first two legs of our whirlwind European adventure, you can read about London here and Paris here 

London and Paris were great, but Rome was a first for all of us so we were beyond excited to begin checking everything out!!

Our hotel in Rome was set up a bit differently.  The main lobby where we checked in (and nightly snacks were served) wasn't where our room was located.  A hotel staff member took us across the street and up the block to the building where the rooms were located.  Then we crammed into a very small elevator, put a dime into this lever box, and up we went to our room.  We had some interesting rides in that elevator.  This was our favorite hotel on the trip.

We barely fit in the tiny elevator, but we had a great experience at this hotel!

After we checked in and got settled, it was time for lunch.  The little restaurant next door to our hotel caught my eye.  We had pizza and Italian desserts.  Both were excellent! After lunch, we headed off to the Pantheon.  We walked to it without too much trouble.  The atmosphere in Rome was very relaxed.  

The detail on the column (upper left) was astounding.

The most interesting thing about the Pantheon was the oculus (hole in ceiling).  Raphael's tomb is also located here.  We enjoyed looking around inside and outside the Pantheon.

Next, we strolled through Piazza Navona.  It was a very artsy area with some really cool fountains. We took a gelato break on our way from Piazza Navona to the Trevi Fountain.  The gelato was so good!

We arrived at the Trevi Fountain just as the sun was setting so our pictures from there aren't that great, but we had fun spending some time in this area before dinner. We all took a turn throwing a penny over our shoulder into the Fountain.  None of us wanted to miss out on a return trip to Rome someday!

Dad wanted to have at least one meal outside in true European style so we stopped at a place nearby the Trevi Fountain on our way back to the hotel.  The food was delicious!

The next morning, we were up bright and early to head to the Vatican.  We spent basically the whole day at the Vatican Museum and St. Peter's Basilica.  There was SO much to see!  Italian sculptor Pomodoro's Sphere Within Sphere was fascinating.  You can also see the top of the dome on St. Peter's Basilica in the background of the wide shot.

We went on a guided tour of the Vatican Museums.  I can't imagine trying to do it any other way.  Our guide was very detailed and provided us with a very enjoyable experience. You technically aren't supposed to take any photos in the Sistine Chapel, but on this particular day the tourists weren't following the rules.  The picture on the right of Mom and Dad looking at the ceiling with Michelangelo's The Last Judgement in the background is one of my favorites.  We all enjoyed our time in this historic place!  We even got one interesting group shot with Michelangelo's ceiling panel symbolizing creation in the background.

We had a little snack before we left the Vatican to head over to St. Peter's Basilica.  These potato chips tasted pretty much the same, but I thought the packaging and name were interesting.  I have to say that the Vatican wins the prize for most effective (and creative) trash disposal system.  These machines compressed the trash as people disposed of it.  Someone was thinking when they designed this one!

After the Vatican museums, we headed over to St. Peter's Basilica.  The picture below shows a bit of St. Peter's Square as well.  There were a few fountains, but the area was mostly filled with chairs and some large screens for viewing purposes.  

Inside the Basilica, there were lots of things to see. The picture on bottom right is of Michelangelo's The Pieta which we saw upon entering the Basilica. Pictured in the background of the top photo is an ornate canopy designed by Bernini.  The tomb of St. Peter is underneath this canopy.  We looked around inside for awhile before heading outside to get a group picture before we made our way back to Rome for the evening.

One of the funniest moments on the trip occurred between St. Peter's Basilica and the Spanish Steps.  Dad was ahead of Mom and I as we headed onto the platform area of the metro station.  He got on the train that arrived and turned back to see us coming off the stairs just as the doors to the train shut.  I started yelling "Spanga...get off at Spanga" and Dad said he wondered if he would ever see us again.  The stop was Spagna, but we were reunited. We didn't stay too long at the Spanish Steps because my camera battery died and we were exhausted from a long day.  We had a delicious dinner of a variety of pastas and Caprese salad nearby our hotel.

First thing the next morning we headed off to the Colosseum. We also saw the Arch of Constantine pictured on the bottom right. We took a guided tour of the Colosseum.  The steps to the top were pretty steep, but we all made it.  We had fun taking pictures of the ruins.

After touring the Colosseum, we headed over to check out a specific area of the ruins known as the Roman Forum.  We could have really used a tour guide here, but we were a little short on time so we used the self guided method.  The picture on the upper right is of the Palantine Hill area. We had some fun taking pictures in this area. One of my favorites is the one on the bottom right looking into the Roman Forum from just beyond the arched exit.

We took a quick break for lunch at McDonald's - a staple in each city at this point on the trip!  I got mine to go and headed back to the Spanish Steps to get the pictures I missed out on the day before.

I also wanted to climb to the top.  The picture on the bottom left below is a view from about 2/3 of the way up the steps.  The picture in the middle is from the very top.  I didn't stay long, but I was so glad I went back to get some great photos.

Mom and Dad were anxiously waiting for me in our hotel lobby when I returned from my Spanish Steps excursion.  They were worried we would miss our flight if I didn't get back soon.  Based on my stop for the gelato pictured above, I wasn't in too much of a hurry.  I attempted to save some for Mom and Dad to try, but most of it had melted by the time I got back.  Our taxi to the airport awaited...

Andrea :)

Tuesday, June 18, 2013


Life. Love.Lauren

I have lots of favorites.  Favorite people.  Favorite places.  Favorite foods.  But favorite products threw me for a bit of a loop.  I'm not much of a makeup and hair kinda gal which was what first came to mind when I thought of products.  Then came technology...which I'm a little more keen on, but not really a fanatic there either.  So, without further are my six favorite products.

1 - iPhone.  The top of my list has to be reserved for it.  I love that thing.  Seriously.  I would be lost without it.

2 - Essie nail polish.  That stuff is amazing!  Lasts FOREVER on my nails!!  And I love the colors :)

3 - Neosporin.  That may seem strange, but it is just so helpful for little cuts and scrapes.  I love it so much that I even put it on my Christmas list last year!  Also, that might seem a little strange.

4 - Hair Gel for scrunching my hair during the summer.  Help me out on this one.  I haven't found a brand I truly love.  Any suggestions?

5 - Mary Kay vanilla eyesicles.  That don't exist anymore :(  I bought a tube on ebay for a ridiculous amount of money a few months ago, but when that one runs out I'm not sure what I'll do.

6 - Recollections stickers.  This might be a stretch, but I've been on a scrapbooking kick lately so that might explain this odd ball response!

What is your favorite product?

Andrea :)