Thursday, December 31, 2015

Looking Back on our 1st Married Year!

I really can't believe how quickly this year flew past me!!  We sure did have a blast enjoying our first full married year together though - lots of fun date nights and exciting adventures!!  Here's a recap full of links to some of my favorite posts that reflect on the wonderful year of 2015...

In January, we watched lots of movies in preparation for the Oscars and saw Bradley Cooper on Broadway.

In February, we enjoyed Super Bowl XLIX and celebrated Chris' birthday WWE style.

In March, we made our way to Dallas to celebrate the nuptials of friends, enjoyed a NYC Cider Festival, and I started a book club!

In April, we celebrated the anniversary of our 1st date five years earlier and I announced my Saturday States series!

In May, we checked out an art exhibit in Brooklyn Bridge Park and I talked about my sorority girl days as a Phi Mu.

In June, we had fun with Brinley and Landon in the Big Apple and I ran my personal best in a 10k race to honor the memory of a special GC Tiger - Coach Mullins!

In July, we were moved on our trip to Mother Emanuel AME church in Charleston, had fun in Chicago at the Sakon-Cox wedding, and celebrated my birthday Finger Lakes style!

In August, we had a fun date night at Paint Along NYC and I had an exciting weekend at a Vegas bachelorette party!

In September, we showed my parents around Long Island City and spent some time reflecting on the past at the 9/11 Memorial and explored all over California to celebrate our upcoming wedding anniversary.

In October, we ventured to Madison Square Garden to watch some boxing, celebrated our 1st anniversary, and attended the final Old Girlfriends' Wedding in Dallas.

In November, I ran my 2nd (and final!) NYC Marathon and discovered audible in the process.

In December, we finally made it to the official NYC Bengals bar, saw our first show - Invisible Thread - as Second Stage Theater season ticket holders, and traveled to Annapolis to watch Chris' alma mater play in the Military Bowl!

What was your favorite part of 2015?

Andrea :)

Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Our Military Bowl Adventure

Chris has always wanted to watch his alma mater play in a bowl game so when we discovered that Pitt was headed to Annapolis for the Military Bowl we jumped at the chance to make his dream a reality! Unfortunately, Pitt didn't get the memo and managed to play terribly despite scoring on the opening kickoff.  Even though the Panthers weren't able to get their act together, we still had a great experience.

We spent some time checking out the festivities outside the stadium a couple hours before the game.  The alumni tailgate party turned out to be a dud, but we did get some really cool lanyards out of it!  And we found the #ConnorStrong banner to sign as well.  It was really special for the team to include Connor (a Pitt running back diagnosed with cancer earlier this season) as an honorary captain, too!

Once inside the stadium, several unique elements were seen prior to kickoff.  A group of veterans parachuted onto the field with American flags and the game ball.  The National Anthem was sung by Miss America while a flag the size of the entire field was unfurled.  And the teams finally took the field after an awesome fly over.

As I mentioned, Pitt got off to a great start!  They didn't do much else in the first half though.  That put them in quite a hole, but they didn't give up.  Pitt fought hard, but just wasn't able to overcome the deficit in the end.  Even through the chilly weather and occasional drizzle, our group had a blast in the Pitt section of the stadium!

Before we began our drive back to NYC, we grabbed dinner with our friends at the Iron Rooster in Annapolis.  They make their own DELICIOUS pop tarts...and serve breakfast all day!  Definitely recommend checking out this tasty spot if you are ever in town for a Navy game!!

Have you ever been to a bowl game?

Andrea :)

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Christmas in Kentucky!

We had the most wonderful few days celebrating Christmas in Kentucky this year.  We were able to catch up with friends, visit with family and other loved ones, and enjoy time with our awesome niece and nephew!!

I started the trip early last week with a fun overnight stay with the Heil's! The next day, Michelle and I met my parents in Bowling Green where we tried out a delicious farm-to-table spot called Home.  It was so great getting to catch up!  And the Kentuckyaki Cheesesteak was super tasty, too!!

I was back in Livermore with mom and dad for a day before Chris joined us.  My biggest Christmas surprise was a cake from The Rolling Pin in Owensboro - my absolute favorite!!  Mom and I spent some time visiting with Jean while Chris drove through torrential rain caused by random December tornado warnings in the area.  He arrived just in time for a little extended family time at Cracker Barrel!  Chris was able to spend some time with his buddy, Aunt Mary Ruth, before we made our way to Lexington the next day!

The kids were already in the cookie making zone when we arrived on Christmas Eve.  We iced the cookies they worked so hard to roll and cut after dinner that night.  It was fun for all even if it did get a little competitive toward the end of the night.

Christmas morning brought lots of joy as the kids finally got to unwrap all those presents under the tree.  It was SO much fun to see their faces light up each time it was their turn to open something.  And there was even more excitement when we started putting everything together for them!  Needless to say, we spent the whole day just relaxing together and playing games.

Our big family Christmas event this year was participating in a breakout game together.  Jen's mom watched the little ones while we ventured out for The Derby Heist.  There were lots of nerves and anxious energy before we entered the room, but once our clock started counting down from 60 minutes, it was all hands on deck.  We worked great together figuring out codes to locks and all sorts of other puzzles!  Despite the mere 30% breakout rate, we escaped with over 15 minutes to spare!  Our room monitor indicated it was the fastest he'd ever seen a group escape!  Hooray!!

Before we hit the road to head back to Nashville for our flight, we were able to meet up with Ashley and Parker for a cookie monster at Cheddar's - yum!  Great to spend some time with them!

As I reflect back on our time in the Bluegrass, it makes me realize how fortunate I am to have such an incredible family and wonderful friends.  No matter the length of time between visits (I was astonished by the fact that I hadn't seen my baby brother in person since last Christmas) or the distance between us in the meantime, everything just seems to fall into place when we are together!

Andrea :)

Monday, December 28, 2015

#collaboreads: A Friend's Favorite

When I saw the prompt for this month's #collaboreads book, I decided to pose the question to my Facebook friends.  I received an overwhelming response...and look forward to reading many of the other suggestions eventually!  I narrowed it down to the book my friend Michelle recommended for two main reasons - it sounded intriguing and another friend also commented that it was a good one!  I ended up having some time to connect with Michelle when I was home for Christmas in Kentucky so we snagged a fun photo with her copy of the book then!

What part of the book could you NOT get enough of?

The book had two parts with a mix of chapters split between Connie's story set in the 1990's as she works toward her doctoral degree at Harvard and the history and lineage of Deliverance Dane set in Salem during the late 1600's.  The stories were both interesting, but the overwhelming detail made parts of the book difficult to move through quickly.  This book involved far more thinking on my end than I anticipated it would when I read the synopsis.  I really loved the story of Deliverance Dane though.  Connie's story wasn't quite as appealing to me...and sometimes even seemed a bit far fetched.  I wish more of the book had taken place in that 1600's era.

How did you relate to/care for the characters?
What's your thought on the plot line and twists and turns?

I really loved Mercy (Deliverance's daughter).  There were a number of passages that focused on her relationship with her mom and dad that I found to be quite interesting.  I also really liked Sam (Connie's love interest) though I was shocked by how quickly they became an exclusive item!  Liz (Connie's roommate) and Grace (Connie's mom) were both a great additions to the story.  Unfortunately, I wasn't as fond of Connie.  I found it odd that it took her so long to figure out quite obvious things given her background as a top graduate student with keen research skills.  Something just kept seeming off about her.  In regard to plot line and twists, they often seemed clear to me ahead of when they were revealed in the book.  There were a couple of surprising elements toward the end though.

What other books are like this one? If none, did it remind you of a particular TV or movie with it's themes and characters? Does it serendipitous-ly line-up with things going on in your life or the news right now? 

This book reminded me A LOT of The Crucible by Arthur Miller - which I love!  Many of the characters in Deliverance's story were exactly the same as the characters in Miller's play.  After reading the afterword by Katherine Howe, it seems that was done on purpose to create as much accurate historical context as possible.  Also, Howe revealed her interest in writing the book came as she was a grad student in the Massachusetts area and developed a deeper understanding of her own genealogical ties to the Salem witch trials.  I wish she had made the afterword into a preface.  I think it would have peaked my interest even more had I known she was loosely basing it on her own family history.

You know you judged this book by the cover. What did you think of it? 
How did it relate to the contents of the novel? And the font and layout of the pages? 

The cover of the book was fantastic!  It fit the story perfectly!!  Connie discovers a key that initially leads her on the search for Deliverance's physick book.  And the house Connie inherits via her long-deceased grandmother is covered in ivy when she begins the task of cleaning it up that fateful summer.  The inside cover is the best part though - it is covered in old script with wording to indicate it actually is Deliverance Dane's highly sought after book.  

How many out of five do you give this book? Would you recommend this book to a friend?  

I would certainly recommend this book to others even though it was a bit tough for me to get started.  About halfway through, the story really picks up making the book hard to put it down at that point.  I'll give it 3.5 stars.  I only wish it had focused mostly on Deliverance Dane's story rather than modern day Connie's.

Andrea :)

Sunday, December 27, 2015

Health & Fitness in December

For the month of December, I took a break from all running.  I won a FitBit through a drawing at work so I decided to start it on December 1 and track my steps for the entire month.  I didn't do anything outside my regular activities (ie going to work, social events, etc.) for this month so these numbers are a true baseline for me.  And I was stunned at the end of the first week when I hadn't managed to hit the daily goal of 10,000 steps one single time. 

Dec 1 - 5,793 steps
Dec 2 - 6,442 steps
Dec 3 - 5,181 steps
Dec 4 - 9,349 steps
Dec 5 - 2,823 steps
Dec 6 - 7,379 steps
Dec 7 - 8,195 steps

I managed a pretty good streak to start the next seven days and managed to get fairly close to my goal on each of the other days.  A simple one or two mile walk work have easily pushed me over my goal on each of those days.

*Dec 8 - 12,198 steps!!!!*
*Dec 9 - 11,543 steps!!!!*
*Dec 10 - 10,354 steps!!!!*
Dec 11 - 7,136 steps
Dec 12 - 8,407 steps
Dec 13 - 7,911 steps
Dec 14 - 7,923 steps

Then, a cold/sore throat struck and I was even more sedentary than usual.  Ugh!!  I rarely feel crummy, but when I do it is no fun at all.

Dec 15 - 5,593 steps
Dec 16 - 5,949 steps
Dec 17 - 5,201 steps
Dec 18 - 6,153 steps
Dec 19 - 3,728 steps
Dec 20 - 7,711 steps
Dec 21 - 3,523 steps

I flew to Kentucky on the 21st where I spent most of my time in a car for several days straight and hit my lowest numbers of steps for the whole month.  I sure did enjoy all that time with my family though!!

Dec 22 - 3,665 steps
Dec 23 - 3,770 steps
Dec 24 - 3,164 steps
Dec 25 - 1,887 steps
Dec 26 - 3,014 steps
Dec 27 - 3,761 steps

I made a bit of a surge the last few days of December even managing to hit my goal one last time before another holiday was upon me.

Dec 28 - 8,877 steps
Dec 29 - 5,981 steps
*Dec 30 - 10,713 steps!!!!*
Dec 31 - 5,466 steps

Overall, I learned from this month that it is crucial to my health and fitness that I make a concerted effort each day to exercise in some form.  Maybe one day it is a run and others it is a walk.  Or perhaps I decide to spend time going through a workout video.  Whatever way I choose to do it, I learned from tracking my steps with the FitBit this month that it is extremely important to be much more active than I anticipated!

How was your December??

Andrea :)

Friday, December 25, 2015

Merry Christmas!

Huge thanks to my friend, Jennifer, for taking such awesome photos of us around Long Island City in October. We had such a blast! These are our favorites from the shoot we did with her on our 1st anniversary in mid-October - ironically, it might have been the coldest day of the year so far!! I haven't been able to wear that sweater again until this past week! Anyway, Merry Christmas to you all!!

Andrea :)

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Our New York Christmas

Since we are spending the next few days in Kentucky, we celebrated Christmas in New York this past weekend.  We spent time visiting with Chris' family and exchanging a few gifts out on Long Island before a delicious dinner and the trek back to our apartment.

At the last minute this year, I decided we needed a small tree for our apartment.  Our little tree wasn't much, but it sure is cute!  When we exchanged gifts, I was SO excited to find tickets to see Bruce Willis and Laurie Metcalf in Misery on Broadway as well as a year-long subscription to audible in my package from Chris!!  Definitely two perfect gifts for this girl!!

I got Chris a new board game for our next game night and a ticket package for Red Bulls games this coming season as well as a fun California ornament that highlighted all the exciting places we visited on our anniversary trip this year! 

We had a lot of fun exchanging gifts and spending time with Chris' family, but the most important thing this holiday season is that we are all healthy and ready for the coming year!  I am looking forward to more family fun in Kentucky the next few days - can't wait to see my precious niece and nephew and all the excitement on their little faces when Christmas morning rolls around!

Andrea :)

Monday, December 21, 2015

The Color Purple

Wow!  What an incredible display of talent - absolutely stunning voices! Cynthia Erivo as Celie was breathtaking!  An amazing voice that easily overshadows all others - and that's saying something when Jennifer Hudson is making her broadway debut as Shug Avery!  And Danielle Brooks is putting on a show of her own as Sofia.

An uplifting story about the power of love, faith, and confidence for women finding themselves in even the most trying of circumstances. The story isn't a new one if you've read the book or seen the movie starring Oprah, but I would certainly recommend checking it out if you are in the New York area. A truly wonderful revival of this great story with a soundtrack for the ages!

Have you ever read The Color Purple or seen the movie?

Andrea :)

Sunday, December 20, 2015

2015 Goals - Final Review

1 - Read through the Bible! 

Well...I didn't complete this one, but it will be going on my list again next year.  And I have a new game plan - audible.  I still want to physically pass my eyes over the words as well though.  After some discussion with friends, I think it might really help me stay on track to both hear and read it simultaneously.  I've already downloaded it so I'm ready to FINALLY conquer this one in 2016!

2 - Focus on my health and nutrition.  

Overall, I did pretty well on this one.  Though we've spent far more time in December at restaurants and holiday parties, on a regular basis we rarely eat out these days.  We will continue to try to focus on portion control and healthy options going into the new year.  I haven't done much running since the marathon and my short run at the end of November, but I did begin tracking steps with my Fit Bit on December 1 - definitely an eye-opener!

 3 - Enjoy life as newlyweds.

I'll give us a high-five for this one!  We had a great year - lots of fun and exciting adventures.  It is still hard to believe we passed the one-year mark already!  Time really flew this year! If you are interested in checking out our newlywed adventures, look no further - Month One, Month Two, Month Three, Month Four, Month Five, Month Six, Month Seven, Month Eight, Month Nine, Month Ten, Month Eleven, and Month Twelve.

4 - Do more things for me.

I still have a way to go on making this a constant priority, but I have gotten much better.  I still have a number of things I want to do, but I'm slowly marking them off my list.  One of the things I am most excited about in the new year is the ABC Reads Challenge that Mia and I will be hosting for all the book lovers out there!!  And, of course, the ever-elusive improv classes are still on my list.  As are the mounting pile of scrapbooks that simply MUST be completed soon!!

5 - Redesign this blog. 

I sort of lost my interest in this one toward the end of the year, but I did manage to update my blogger profile photo!  I guess that's progress on some level.  I need to do a bit more searching and determining if I was to refocus the content before I firmly decide on making a switch with name or design.  I'll just leave it at that for now.

6 - Find my passion.    

My hope is that all the soul-searching and struggling that I did throughout this past year will find meaning as I further explore the paths toward my new passions in the coming year!  It certainly hasn't been an easy road, but I'm hopeful I'll look back on it down the line and realize its value.

 Did you manage to complete all your 2015 goals?

Andrea :)

Friday, December 18, 2015

#MarriedMaitlands - 1st Anniversary Photo Shoot

It has been a couple of months since we celebrated our 1st Anniversary, but one of the things I was adamant we do was take some professional photos!  Just a couple weeks shy of the big day itself, Chris and I met up with the lovely Tara (Wiley) Robstad of Tara Wiley Photography for a fun little shoot.  Chris and I had fun while she worked her magic behind the lens.

Here are our favorites:

Which one do you like best??

Andrea :)

Thursday, December 17, 2015

Invisible Thread

Invisible Thread is one of the most exciting and inspiring shows that I have seen.  Ever.  It tells Griffin's story...a true story...and it is phenomenal.  The music is poignant and beautiful.  A cast full of stunning talent...and incredible emotion!

Griffin Matthews, a gay Christian in an interracial relationship with Matt Gould, attempts to find purpose in his life by volunteering as an aid worker in Uganda, Africa.  Of course, he finds SO much more than his purpose.  In the meantime, his relationship is strained and his resources drained.  Eventually, Griffin returns to New York, but his heart is still in Africa.  The story is heart-wrenching, but told with sprinkles of humor.  And the soundtrack is unbelievable!  If there was a way to purchase it, I would have done so yesterday...SO fabulous!!

Unfortunately, the show isn't on for much longer so if you are in NYC...immediately click HERE and buy your ticket!  If you aren't able to see the show, I'd still invite you to learn more about Griffin's story by checking out his Uganda Project website here.  And, if you want to hear a couple of my favorite songs from the show - click here and here - you won't regret it!!

Andrea :)

Monday, December 14, 2015

Mini of the Month: December

With a name like Snowstorm...especially given the incredibly warm winter so far...I was expecting a real treat from this month's mini.  And I always love those marshmallow toppings so my hopes were high for this one!

Unfortunately, there was just too much sugar going on for me to really enjoy it the way I had envisioned.  The white vanilla cake with vanilla icing and nutella stuffing worked, but the white sugar topping was a bit too much - though I did love the mini marshmallow topping!

Do you like nutella?  What about sugar sprinkles?

Andrea :)