Tuesday, March 31, 2015

My Real Life Book Club

On Saturday, I played host to my first ever real life book club.  And it couldn't have been more fun!  Over the years, I have participated in a number of online book clubs and even a blogger book club, but I always craved that in person fun of discussion and snacks!  So, after I returned from Super Bowl I began contacting friends that I thought might be interested and that brings us to Saturday!

Snagged the BBQ pulled chicken recipe from Amanda at The Lady Okie here.

Movie Time Snacks :)

Since I was serving as our first host, it was my responsibility to suggest a book.  I was interested in reading a book that had recently been released as a movie so that we could discuss and then enjoy a flick together as well!  I decided on The Maze Runner by James Dashner.

Here is the Goodreads synopsis:
If you ain’t scared, you ain’t human.
When Thomas wakes up in the lift, the only thing he can remember is his name. He’s surrounded by strangers—boys whose memories are also gone.
Nice to meet ya, shank. Welcome to the Glade.
Outside the towering stone walls that surround the Glade is a limitless, ever-changing maze. It’s the only way out—and no one’s ever made it through alive.
Everything is going to change.
Then a girl arrives. The first girl ever. And the message she delivers is terrifying.
Remember. Survive. Run.

Certain to be a thriller, right?  It kept me SO far on the edge of my seat that I not only read it, but also the other two books in the series AND the prequel book.  AMAZING series!!

These are my thoughts on each book and well as The Maze Runner movie:

The Maze Runner (book)
From the beginning, this book was a winner.  I was on the edge of my seat the entire book.  I loved the character development along with learning all about the inner workings of this new society known as The Glade.  It was brilliant that the author gave us a snapshot of the past with little bits and pieces of knowledge every now and then, but mostly just let the story play out.  I was certain that a number of Gladers would survive the maze and its grotesque Grievers, but I just couldn't wait to discover how it would all work out.  Needless to say, no one had to twist my arm to get started on The Scorch Trials!

The Maze Runner (movie)
The movie, per usual, got SO many things wrong.  It was actually quite disappointing after how much I had built it all up in my imagination. (Note: I didn't watch the movie until I had read the entire series.) There were several key parts of the book that either just didn't happen at all or were so much different that they simply weren't recognizable.  The overall plot and characters were there, but the character development was minimal and the story didn't seem as good.

The Scorch Trials
The second book places the remaining Gladers into a totally new and different simulation.  They encounter new people and truly must learn who to trust in order to make it out of the desert alive.  Once again, this book had me on the edge of my seat.  I was anxious to see who would survive and how the creators would manipulate and cause chaos in this much less predictable environment.  It was another page turner and I thoroughly enjoyed it.

The Death Cure
Given how much I enjoyed the first two books, I was sure this last one would really pull it all together and finish off the series well.  In the end, I wasn't super impressed.  The book was good, but it was as thrilling and exciting as the first two.  I also felt that the ending wasn't as concise and strong as I was imagining after all this time.  It did wrap things up, but not in a way that made it seem truly final.

The Kill Order
After the ending to the series, I was more curious that ever to discover how everything truly began in this prequel book.  Unfortunately, it was quite disappointing.  It did shed some light on how The Flare disease came into existence, but it did not adequately delve into the world of the Creators and specifically how Thomas and Theresa played such a major role in the organization.  This book introduced totally new characters.  Totally new.  I kept trying to make them be the earlier versions of characters in the other books, but it never quite matched up...and I ultimately discovered they were not in fact who I was trying to make them become.  I think this prequel had SO much more potential to be a really great way to explain how we got to the start of the maze experiment, but instead it just left so much to be desired.

Have you read The Maze Runner series?

Andrea :)

Monday, March 30, 2015

#MarriedMaitlands - FIVE months!

I surprised Chris with some yummy Baked by Melissa cupcakes similar to those from our wedding reception on our four month anniversary.  Not sure who was more excited about delving into them though. :)  We didn't get to have any at our reception so I thought it would be fun to have a little treat to celebrate being one-third of the way to a full married year!

Date Nights

-Chris' Birthday Celebration
Dinner at Del Frisco's
WWE Wrestling Show at Madison Square Garden

-Chick-fil-A lunch in Pittsburgh..YUM!

-Double Date night with Emily and Mark at Burger Bistro

My Rating: 3 out of 5 stars
Chris' Rating: 2.5 out of 5 stars
*This was a movie we had talked about watching for years.  Chris was on the set when he made a trip to LA prior to our dating days.

The Jinx
My Rating: 5 out of 5 stars
Chris' Rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars
*We were a little late starting this short series, but it totally captured our attention once we began.  What an insane man...and story!!!  Truly wild beyond imagination...


-The last weekend in February, we traveled to Albany for a wedding.  We were also able to spend some time with my Aunt Mildred and meet our friends' new baby girl.

-The first weekend in March, we headed off to Pittsburgh to visit friends and celebrate Chris' godson's 3rd birthday.

Notable Events

-Chris' parents were our 1st guests at our new apartment.

-We hosted a small Oscar party...thanks for hanging out with us, Tracy!!

-Hung out with the Denings in Hoboken.

Andrea :)

Sunday, March 29, 2015

#MarriedMaitlands: Pre-Marital Counseling

"[Marriage] is rather like two bankrupt businessmen depending on each other for the capital to begin a new partnership."

On page 35 of The Marriage Builder by Larry Crabb, the above somewhat startling statement is made.  This idea was the central theme of our pre-martial counseling with the pastor we had hoped would unite us in marriage at our wedding.  We enjoyed our sessions with him on Thursday nights in late summer last year.  And we discovered much truth in that key statement.  Particularly if God is not truly at the center of the marriage.

The sessions matched up to chapters in the book that both Chris and I read each week before meeting with Pastor Sean.  Throughout our sessions, we discovered that we should look to God to meet our needs rather than our partner.  One can find themselves overwhelmingly disappointed when they look to another human being to meet all their needs and be their sole source of happiness.  We all want to feel secure and significant in the confines of our relationship, but ultimately we must turn to God.  While Christ satisfies our needs, we must also turn to one another to fulfill God's purpose for us in one another's life. According to the book, marriage requires giving your best to the partner you chose while relying on Christ to continually meet your needs.

We also discussed other topics that were more loosely tied to the remaining chapters in the book. Talking openly about conflict resolution, assertiveness, and finances proved useful in our everyday lives even though the conversations were structured around the relationship of marriage.  Pastor Sean also provided us with some helpful questions to consider as we moved closer to the day we'd say "I do".

We put together a thank you gift bag for Pastor Sean.  He loves Cherry Garcia!

Unfortunately, it didn't work out in the end for Pastor Sean to officiate our ceremony, but we were so happy that he was able to facilitate our pre-martial counseling sessions even though he wasn't able to make the trip to Kentucky for our wedding.  We enjoyed our time with him as we grew together and more fully discovered the importance of committing to a biblical approach to the union of marriage.
Andrea :)

Friday, March 27, 2015

Cider in the Spring?

When Chris mentioned he'd seen an advertisement for a March Cider Festival, I was surprised.  Cider is one of those things that belongs in the fall.  At least in my mind.  But after this event, it might be making the transition to spring.

We had an absolute blast trying all the different ciders and tasting yummy treats from the food vendors on site.  If you love cider, we found some great New York brands for you to give a whirl.

We started our tasting tour in the corner of the room that housed 1911 Hard Cider.  I had never tried blueberry or raspberry ciders, but quickly found that both were very tasty.  These two definitely got us off to the perfect start!

I knew I wouldn't be a fan of the Bourbon Barrel Bad Seed collection.  And I was right.  It had far too strong of a bourbon flavor for me.  I like my cider to be on the sweeter side.  Chris thought this was was ok though.  I was just excited to see they use barrels from KY!!

While I wasn't too excited about the brand name of this one, the pear flavor was fantastic! And apple was great as well.  This brand turned out to be our favorite new find of the night!

Not far behind was Harvest Moon.  They served three samples on tap. It was so cold and beyond tasty.  I loved the Raspberry and Cherry, but both were a little too sweet for Chris' taste.  He preferred the Four Screw flavor which had a little more kick to it with maple syrup used as a sweetener.

McKenzie's is hands down my favorite brand of cider.  I knew that before we came to the tasting, but it was great to see a familiar product amongst all the new!  I hadn't tried Black Cherry before and quickly became a big fan.  Seasonal Reserve has a bit of a pumpkin/spice kick to it.  Both are quite enjoyable.

The next two - Hazlitt's Cider Tree and Yankee Folly Cider - intrigued us because they came packaged in more of a wine bottle style.  Both had a crisp apple taste proving quite good.

And finally, we ended the night with Doc's.  SO good.  Chris mentioned that he'd seen it before, but this was my first encounter.  Pear and Apple for the win here!

Do you like cider?  What is your favorite flavor?  Brand?

Andrea :)

Thursday, March 26, 2015

#MarriedMaitlands: Sending our Invitations

As I mentioned before, we opted to email a Save the Date Video to our guests given the short window of time between finalizing our date and location and when we needed to mail out the actual invitations.  Since we were doing a destination wedding of sorts, it was important for us to mail out invites early to allow guests plenty of time to arrange travel.

We looked through a handful of invite options before deciding we liked the New York and Kentucky theme best.  We used Invitations by Dawn to design the invites.  They were quick to turn around the online proof and speedy on mailing them out to us.  Time was the one thing we didn't have enough of at this point in the process so it was great to work with them.

Once they arrived, we began stuffing and stamping.  We had already decided to print basic address labels for the exterior envelope and for the return envelope.  And mom and dad were kind enough to gift us with plenty of wedding stamps.  As we began putting everything together we realized that we had made one big mistake!  We forgot to include a line where the guest could indicate they would or would not be able to attend.  Oops!!

Some quick wording on a label did the trick!  We printed enough of those to sticker the back of each response card and voila...problem solved!  It added a bit more work for us, but we managed to get them all in the mail with time to spare!  Now, the waiting game for responses began...

Andrea :)

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

A Day in the Life of ME

If there is one thing you need to know about me, it is that I am NOT an early bird.  AT ALL.  The morning is actually my enemy.  That's a safe way to refer to it.  I am a highly functioning night owl.  My best work and most creative ideas occur to me right around 2am.  That being said, here's a look at my typical work week day.

7:15am - First alarm goes off.  I promptly shut it off and tell Chris to wake up.

7:30am - Second alarm goes off.  I nudge Chris to get up.

8:00am - Chris wakes me up.  There is no alarm - just Chris' encouragement.
8:10am - Upon insistent (and requested) encouragement, I finally get out of bed.  Ugh.  I sleepily run through the morning routine.  A quick bowl of cereal so I can take my vitamins.  A dash of make-up.  And the beyond necessary straightening of my hair.  Seriously, if I didn't have to do this every morning I would totally sleep an extra 15 minutes.

9:15am - Get lunch together.  Along with anything else I'll need for the day.  And head for the elevator.

9:25am - Walk to subway.  Pray it's not raining...or the day will most certainly be ruined!  This is not a joke...if there is one type of weather I can't handle in NYC, it is rain.

9:33am - Get on subway train.  Hopefully, I make the first train that stops at the station.  Some days, I wait for multiple trains to pass before there is enough space for me to squeeze in there amongst the thousands of other commuters.  Oh, and preferably, I get a spot at the front of the train so I have to fight through less people to make my way up the escalators after just one measly little stop.

9:36am - All that fuss for a three minute ride.  Definitely doesn't do much to add cheer to the mornings!

9:42am - Finally, I am at my desk.  Still not totally ready to be awake, but I am getting there.  I change out of my tennis shoes into my dress shoes, put my lunch in the fridge, and login to my computer.  My work day has officially begun...

12:30pm - Take a break from the conference calls, emails, and other work for lunch.  My colleague (yes, the same one that made our Save the Date video...check it out here!) and I head upstairs to the Huddle Cafe.

1:00pm - Back to work.  More meetings, calls, and emails...

5:45pm - Begin to pack up and change back into my tennis shoes.  Say my goodbyes and head out for the subway.

6:00pm - After being completely squished by strangers from all walks of life both on the platform and once I finally managed to get into the train car, I am back at the apartment complex.  I check the mail and head upstairs on the elevator.

6:15pm - Changed and ready for my run.  *This portion of my day varies based on my training schedule.  If I have an off day, I use this time to read or work on blog stuff.  Or just relax.

I ran across the Queensboro Bridge to the East Side of Manhattan and back for a short 4 miler.  On the bridge, there are cars on one side of the running/bike path with a fence and the subway train on the other side.  Quite an experience!

7:15pm - Back from my run and ready for dinner.  We have been keeping a schedule of dinner meals to help us ensure we include healthy options and also so that we are sure to use all the groceries before we make a trip to the store for more.  This particular day, we veered from the schedule.  Chris opted for soup while I fixed some breakfast for dinner.

8:00pm - Catch up on the DVR.  In honor of all the March madness, we watched the 30 for 30 called I Hate Christian Laettner.  It was very good!!  Definitely recommend checking it out.

11:00pm - Shower and get ready for bed.  Call my parents to chat for a bit...they are on a different time zone (and also night owls).

11:50pm - Read in bed until I get sleepy.  Since I had the run today, I was probably out by around 12:30.

So there you have it...a typical day in my life.  At least at this point.

Are you an early bird or a night owl?  
What is your favorite part of each day?

Write or Die Wednesdays

Andrea :)