Wednesday, February 28, 2018

Book Reviews: Read the Rainbow (Orange)

This year, I decided to link up with Mia to Read the Rainbow. I did a little better with orange than red. I really enjoyed all four books I read for the challenge this month.

I had read this book years ago, but was happy to pick it back up again. The story always speaks to me. Life seems like such a search and find mission sometimes, but if we look close enough we can usually find everything we are looking for right under our noses. Definitely recommend this fairly quick read if you haven't ever given it a shot.

This book spans several years beginning with Sarah and Handful being pre-teens and ending with them in their 30's. I enjoyed how the story jumped back and forth between the point of view of each person. In the early parts, it was interesting to hear the two different takes on a similar experience. Toward the end, it was fascinating to compare the decisions and lifestyles. I'm glad I took the time to read this one, but there were a few points throughout where it felt really bogged down in the details. Overall, I enjoyed it though.

I loved hearing the story of the Fugees soccer team. What an incredible servant of a coach - wow! I loved how the book reflected on how members came to find the team as well as the struggles that existed in scheduling and resources (goals, transportation) for the team as a whole. The entire book is really well put together. I would highly recommend reading this one if you have interest in exploring the injustices that still exist for refugees and those of color in our diverse America.

I wish I had read this one before Outcasts United because it is the story of one of the lost boys from initial attack on his village to his life as a refugee that eventually returns to South Sudan. This is a pretty quick read. I would recommend it for anyone that thinks seeking refuge in the US is an easy process or quick decision. I can't even fathom the scenes described in this true story. This one is worth reading for sure.

Have you read any good books this month?

Andrea :)

Tuesday, February 27, 2018

Happy Birthday, Christopher!

We had a great time celebrating Christopher yesterday! I took the day off work, and we had a relaxing day filled with a few presents and a lot of fun. Our first stop was Duck Donuts to design some breakfast treats. This place is really neat. I loved that we could watch them put together our creations. And they taste yummy, too!!

Chris had been wanting to see Black Panther since its release so we went to an afternoon show. It was a neat movie even for those of us (me) that aren't too crazy about the Marvel movies. There is a great overarching message to the movie and the scenery and costumes are amazing. Definitely check it out if you have a chance!

We went to a hibachi restaurant we recently found here in Columbus for dinner. It was SO good, but we left completely stuffed. Next time, I need to ask for a to go box at the beginning and put about half of it in there! :) I took some photos of Chris with his cake, but we decided to just take it to our small group meeting tonight since neither of us could bring ourselves to eat any after our massive dinner.

I am so thankful to have such a wonderful husband. It was fun celebrating him all day. He was happy to have a relaxing, low key day topped off with watching a Knicks game on TV last night. Cheers to the rest of his 37th year being just as wonderful. I love you, Christopher!

Andrea :)

Sunday, February 25, 2018

Book Reviews: Read the Rainbow (Red)

This year, I decided to link up with Mia to Read the Rainbow. I am a little late in getting my January (Red) reads reviewed; nevertheless, here are reviews of the two red books I completed.

What a classic story! This one was a re-read for me because I want to read the full series this year. I wanted to be sure the story was fresh in my mind. It is truly a great book. The length is perfect. Each time I interact with this story, it really makes me think. I can't imagine living in the world Lois Lowery created, but I am equally fascinated by it. If you haven't read this one, I highly suggest checking it out.

I started this book last year, but never made time to finish it. The content is certainly engaging, but it digs deep. I have followed Kelly's blog for the past few years and always find his posts insightful. This book is no different. In fact, he incorporates some of his more popular blog posts throughout.

Have you read any good books lately?

Andrea :)

Saturday, February 24, 2018

Photo a Day - February 2017

I spent half of February in Kentucky and half of it in New York with a fun long weekend bed and breakfast getaway worked in there. The shortest month of the year certainly flew by in a hurry!

My parents introduced me to free pie Wednesday at O'Charley's - yum! We checked out Midnight Cowboy before Dad was officially diagnosed with his torn retina. We managed some sweet treats and a service at my hometown church before Dad went under the laser.

Dairy Freeze is one of the highlights of McLean County and they rarely disappoint! I caught a beautiful sunset on the Green River and spent nearly a full day with Dad at a Bridge tournament in Owensboro one day. Friends of ours had a pet pig that I just thought was the best thing ever. Upon arriving back in NY, Chris surprised me with an edible arrangement treat for Valentine's Day.

Chris and I went to see A United Kingdom for one of our date nights. I went on a blind date with a book at our local library - so fun! And we spent a long weekend in New Hope, Pennsylvania at a the lovely Pineapple Hill Inn.

I caught the Oscar nominated short films at IFC over the course of the week and took in some of the fabulous scenery around the city. We celebrated Chris' birthday at the NYC Beer Week Expo. I surprised him with Krispy Kreme donuts on the morning of his big day. I also finished Between the World and Me - quite appropriate for Black History Month.

Andrea :)

Wednesday, February 21, 2018

Date Nights - February 2018

We picked two very different, but equally fun date nights for February. I happened to see an advertisement for a couples' cupcake decorating event on Valentine's Day when I stopped in a local cupcake shop to get a couple treats to celebrate our engagement anniversary at the end of last year. Chris opted for a fun night out at an arcade in the heart of downtown Columbus.

Our Cupcakery is a cute little shop in Dublin. They have lots of neat classes and their products are quite tasty! For our Valentine's Day event, we spent most of the time working on various fondant designs at three different stations. We laughed our way through the sticky fondant fun. The second room is where we rolled out tiny roses - my favorite one! Finally, we added some shimmery dust to a couple of fondant hearts. After all our designs were created, we received some instruction on how to fill the cupcakes and then ice them. Chris and I decided to put strawberry filling in our chocolate cupcake, lemon filling in our vanilla cupcake, and stick with buttercream icing to fill our red velvet. I really enjoyed this part of the night, but Chris thought it was a mess. I think he preferred rolling and cutting the fondant. Either way, we did pretty good for a couple of fondant novices! Tasted amazing, too.

Chris found a unique spot for date night - Old North Arcade. The place has every arcade game you can imagine as well as a number of stations set up with Nintendo, Xbox, Sega, etc game consoles. We got there a little on the early side of the night which was a great idea because we had our pick of games. By the time we left a couple hours later, the place was pretty crowded. I enjoyed playing Ms. Pac Man and a new game I found called X-Bert. Chris liked the NBA and NFL games. I played those with him, but I wasn't much competition. We also found an old school Nintendo Mario Bros game open and played that for awhile. We wanted to try Mario Kart, but never could catch it when no one else was playing. It was definitely a fun night full of nostalgia and lots of laughs.

What are your favorite local date night spots?

Andrea :)

Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Date Nights - February 2017

After spending roughly over a month apart, we were super excited for some fun adventures. I opted for a more low key night with dinner and a movie. Chris planned a weekend getaway to Pineapple Hill Inn bed and breakfast in New Hope, Pennsylvania where he found a really fun wine pairing for us to try.

A Girl Scout Cookie Wine Pairing is a genius idea. We had so much fun trying all the treats and wine at Sand Castle Winery. We even found a lemonade cookie that we didn't know existed. The whole event was really fun. Along with the wine tasting, we were able to select a box of cookies to take home with us. I snagged the Samoas while Chris got some Thin Mints. What a fun night!

I'd just finished my Oscar movie watching and had seen advertisements for A United Kingdom on repeat. I thought it would be an interesting one for us to watch together so we headed down to Houston Street to see it at The Angelika. The story was based on true events, but since it dealt with England's history we weren't as familiar with the story going into the movie. We enjoyed it.

Do you have any fun bed and breakfast recommendations?
What is your favorite "based on true events" movie?

Andrea :)

Monday, February 19, 2018

Photo a Day - January 2017

Taking photos is one of my favorite hobbies. I love framing a shot or setting up a creative photo. I've heard about photo a day projects and always wanted to do it. I was SUPER proud that I was able to keep it up for the entire year. Some days were a struggle, but for the most part I really enjoyed this little project. Not to mention, this is a great way to catch you up month-by-month since I wasn't blogging last year. Enjoy!

I spent the first five days in NYC before heading back to spend a couple weeks with my dad in the rehab unit of the hospital in Owensboro. Chris and I managed to ride the brand new 2nd Avenue subway line on its opening day and work in two separate date nights. I basically moved into the hospital where I took turns entertaining Dad and my niece and nephew.

Jordan and Jen had gone down to Disney to run some races so me and Mom (along with a couple of my cousins) watched their kids for a few days. Dad got reacquainted with the piano at rehab and McKinley showed up for a couple game nights before Dad was finally released on MLK, Jr. Day!

Dad continued with therapy and daily trips to Owensboro for IV infusions, but we managed to have lots of fun in between. Dad celebrated Christmas on a bit of  a delay. I spent some time with Dad and his lovely bridge companions.

Jordan brought the kids back for another few days. Mom and I took them to see Sing. Brinley was adamant about completing her preschool "paperwork". We spent the rest of the month getting Dad's infusions, eating out in Owensboro, and seeing some Oscar movies.

Andrea :)

Saturday, February 17, 2018

Date Nights - January 2018

We went for a little local flavor with our date nights this month. Chris found a unique duck pin bowling alley. I found a cooking class that focused on sheet pan dinners with root vegetables. Both nights were a lot of fun!

I loved duck pin bowling. First of all, it is just so cute. Everything is small - the pins, the ball, the lanes. It also helped that I won our first two games! Chris got a bit more into the groove of things after that first round. Plus, I told him a couple of my strategies. At least that's my story. At any rate, we had a great time. I highly recommend Pins (or any duck pin bowling experience, really).

I discovered Local Matters when we met the Executive Director and her husband at a Books and Brews event at the library this past fall. She mentioned to me when we met in early January that her non-profit offered cooking classes. It has long been my intention for one of our date nights to be a cooking experience so I was thrilled. Chris and I picked one that suited our interests and made a donation to them in exchange for a great night of fun and delicious food. Chris even managed to be selected to help with the protein portion of the meal. It was a fun night - we'll definitely try to go back in the future.

What are your favorite winter date night ideas?

Andrea :)

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

DIY Valentine's Day Project

Last year, I decided to get creative with my Valentine's Day gift for Chris. I was still at my parent's house back in Kentucky so I had a bit of extra time on my hands. I decided to make him a 52 Reasons Why I Love You card deck.

I got the supplies - a deck of cards, hole punch, glue stick, and ribbon. Then, I typed out my 52 reason and cut out those squares. The project was pretty simple, but did take a bit of time to patch together. My dad had a day long bridge tournament so I loaded up all my supplies and used that time to create the finished card deck. I was surprised how easy it was to make. It was fun to think of the reasons and also to decide how to order them on the cards.

I presented the deck to Chris along with a copy of Loving and some Reese's Cup treats in a soccer tin. We saw Loving in the theater together the previous fall and really liked the movie. I know Chris liked the gift, but I think he was happiest to just have me back home.

Hope you all have a wonderful Valentine's Day!!

Andrea :)

Monday, February 12, 2018

Date Nights - January 2017

Chris and I only spent the first week of January together last year, but we managed to pack a lot of fun into those few days. We saw Who's Bad perform at Brooklyn Bowl and spent some time touring the Tenement Museum in the Lower East Side.

Who's Bad covered Michael Jackson through the decades. They were really good. We enjoyed the show full of great singing and dancing on the stage. They even did a some Prince about halfway through the performance. It was a fun night for both of us. I mean, really, who doesn't love a good Michael Jackson tribute?

The Tenement Museum was somewhere I had wanted to visit for quite some time. That time period is always hard to wrap my mind around, but I love hearing the stories or watching plays/movies set in that era. We signed up for the Hard Times tour and thought it was really insightful. We learned about a couple of different families that lived in the building during two different time periods. Definitely a neat place that I highly recommend checking out if you are in New York City.

Have you ever visited a really neat historical museum?
What is your favorite Michael Jackson song?

Andrea :)

Friday, February 9, 2018

Goals for 2018

I've always been a goal person. The more manageable and specific, the better. This year, I sprang for some Powersheets. I heard many good things about them and even had a small discount code so I jumped on board. I loved the pre-work even though I didn't get through all of it until nearly the middle of January. The pre-work phase was incredibly worthwhile so I'm glad I stuck with it. It helped me discover my word of the year - thrive.  

In an effort to keep myself accountable, here are some of my 2018 goals...

#1 - Continue my health journey through both exercise and meal planning.

I started making a conscious effort to focus on my health in late October last year. Our townhouse has a finished basement room that was perfect for at-home workouts. I knew I needed to really make my health a priority after Chris and I had signed up for a couple of races and I could barely manage the training runs. I decided to start small with the 21 Day Fix program. I already had the DVDs and portion containers. I made steady progress and managed a clean week just after Thanksgiving. That week was a turning point for me because I really focused on the meal planning aspect of healthy living. I completed another round of 21 Day Fix during the holidays and moved forward with 80 Day Obsession in mid-January. I will finish Phase 1 of that program tomorrow. I feel great. I'm really looking forward to winter going away so I can get back out there for some runs.

#2 - Read 40 books (and the Bible from cover to cover).

I love to read. Now that I have to drive everywhere, I am also really loving audiobooks. This year, I am participating in Mia's Read the Rainbow Challenge and Erin's Book Challenge 8.0 from January-April. For Erin's Challenge, I used only books that were on my shelves at home. After packing them up and moving them up and down stairs, I figure I owe it to myself to read them. Additionally, I've committed to reading the Bible from cover to cover by completing a small portion every day. I have made that commitment before, but gotten side tracked in the Spring. I am determined to make it a reality this year.

#3 - Have at least two date nights a month.

Chris and I started this tradition a couple of years ago. It is nice to have something to look forward to each month. We each pick one date night a month. It always turns out to be so much fun.

#4 - Complete the outstanding photo books and/or scrapbooks.

Again, I lugged all the scrapbook stuff with me to Ohio so I better make use of it and start crafting! In all honesty, my only excuse in the past was not having the space so it's now or never. Plus, I really enjoy making them.

#5 - Build New and Strengthen Old Friendships.

Moving to a new place at any point is a difficult thing to do. I left behind some really solid friendships in New York. I am determined to continue to build memories and foster those relationships. At the same time, there is a whole new landscape full of friendly faces to discover here. And, I'm be remiss to discount all those friends in cities near and far. I really want to make a conscious effort to be a good friend as I navigate this transitional time in my life.

#6 - Stay involved in networking and volunteering opportunities.

If there is anything I learned from my year of unemployment, it is the power of networking and volunteering. I made a vow to myself that I would continue those practices when I started a new job so I don't want to loose sight of that commitment to myself. Plus, I really like volunteering and connecting with people in the process.

What are you focusing on in 2018?

Andrea :)

Thursday, February 8, 2018

Hello...let me catch you up on life these days

Hello, friends! It's been roughly a year since I visited this space. I have missed sharing my adventures with you all and using it as a creative outlet (a lot). Suffice it to say, I'm back!

Lots of life has happened since I last published a post. Let me catch you up in a somewhat abbreviated version. I spent a bulk of the beginning of last year back in Kentucky helping my parents as my dad recovered from sepsis. During my time there, it was also discovered that he would need surgery to correct a triple retina tear in his right eye. Despite the hurdles, we had fun spending time together, ate at nearly every restaurant in Owensboro, and managed to see all the Best Picture nominees.

When I returned to New York on Valentine's Day, Chris and I began putting our relocation plans into high gear. I was making networking calls, applying to jobs, and taking phone interviews in a number of cities across the mid-west. Eventually, we narrowed our prospects to Nashville, TN, Louisville, KY, or Columbus, OH. All three cities had advantages and disadvantages. I had a couple of interviews in Nashville, but things just weren't seeming to pan out there. In late April/early May, I spent three weeks at my brother's house in Lexington with meetings in both Nashville and Columbus sandwiched between being auntie extraordinaire, my niece's 5th birthday party, and my other brother's medical school graduation.

There still hadn't been quite as much movement on the job front for me as we had hoped, but we knew moving away from the expense of New York City when our lease expired in August was the right move for us. In mid-July, Chris and I made a trip to Columbus for a week where we both had some really encouraging networking meetings. After spending some time in Columbus, we felt like it was the right place to pursue. We squeezed in some birthday fun with our nephew in Lexington before heading back to New York to pack up our apartment.

After 10 years of living in crazy busy NYC, it was much more difficult that I expected to say goodbye. Once we officially made our decision to move to Columbus in mid-July, I began the overwhelming task of packing up our apartment. It was a small space to begin with so adding boxes everywhere made it especially daunting. In the end, we got it done.

In mid-August, we loaded up our packed to the brim U-Haul and made the journey to Columbus. We decided to rent a townhouse (more than triple the amount of space we had in NY!!) in Dublin, which is roughly 20 minutes from downtown Columbus. Upon arrival, we promptly bought a car (our 1st major purchase as a married couple) and began our life here.

We drove back to New York for one final week. I was able to complete my Level 3 Improv Intenstive with Magnet Theater, and we hosted a final shindig at our rooftop LIC apartment building. It was a bittersweet week, but we left with no regrets (and one final completely full SUV load of stuff).

We spent a couple weeks getting adjusted to our new life in Columbus - checking out all the local grocery stores, securing our CAPA season tickets, and organizing our new place. We managed an extended weekend trip to Lexington to visit the Ale8 Factory, watch Brinley and Landon play soccer, and tour Old Kentucky Chocolates. On the heels of that trip, God provided an employment opportunity for me at a local YMCA as a youth development director.

I started that position the last week of September and hit the ground running. It has certainly kept me busy while Chris continues to search for a great opportunity. We also found a wonderful church home thanks to a sorority sister of mine that lives here now as well. We spent most of the last part of the year exploring our new city, visiting (and hosting) family and friends, and simply taking a breath. Much of that carried over into January, but getting back to blogging is a priority for me this year. I'll continue to share bits and pieces of the happenings from last year - most of the highlights, our date nights, and my photo a day project - as I move forward with focusing on the current year and all that is to come.

Andrea :)