Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Choosing kindness

One of my most favorite mantras (quotes, words of wisdom, edicts, whatever) is "be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle."

I first heard this saying while I was working at the hospital after college, and it rang so incredibly true with me. Everyone I met in the Radiology waiting room was fighting a battle, be it big or small. It wasn't my place to determine the size or extent of their battle, but it was my place to recognize that they were suffering, and to offer kindness. That quote struck a heart-string, and it has been with me ever since.

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Recently, I learned of two different co-workers who have been struggling with some mighty big battles. These are strong, positive, amazing women, who have never once let on to the fact that everything in their behind-the-scenes home life is not as good as it should be. I was almost dumb-founded to learn about the battles they have been suffering through, while constantly being kind, generous, and thoughtful to those around them. It stopped me in my tracks. These women have chosen kindness, and extoll it on the people around the people around them. What an inspiration!

It is a choice to be kind - one we should all make. In every interaction you have, with every person you meet, you have the choice to simply be kind. It doesn't have to be overbearing or over the top; it just has to be heartfelt. Make the choice. Deliver kindness.

[source]

I don't mean to sound preachy or high-and-mighty. I just want to share something I've been thinking about. You don't know what battles the people you around you are fighting. You don't necessarily need to know. But I am making an effort to remember that everyone has some weight on their shoulders, and the least I can do is choose kindness. I hope you do, too.

Monday, October 27, 2014

Anniversary Time-Travel

For our anniversary, I gifted C with a night at a hotel in one of our favorite "quick getaway" towns: Williamsburg! A little time traveling is always a good adventure. I flew home from Detroit on Friday morning, and then had just enough time for a quick lunch and to throw some clean clothes in a new bag and grab my toothbrush before we were out the door again. I was afraid I would be too exhausted from the business trip to be much fun, but it turned out to be absolutely perfect. We had all of Friday evening and Saturday to spend being tourists, and then had all day on Sunday at home to get caught up on house and life things. It was a wonderful way to celebrate our anniversary, and I'm so glad I bit the bullet and booked the trip, because we'd been talking about it without committing for a while. Why the heck not!

Once C found out where we were going, he did a little research, and decided that we should finally do a Tavern Ghost Walk in Colonial Williamsburg. We checked into the hotel and then headed to the historic part of town for a walking tour by lantern, complete with real accounts of ghostly activity at some of the most well-known locations in the area.


It was goofy and fascinating... definitely got my gears grinding. I don't think I believe in ghosts, per say, but I do believe in souls hanging around. Does that make sense?

 

After our tour, we decided on dinner at one of our favorite restaurants in the area: Food for Thought. Can't recommend it enough if you find yourself looking for a good meal! The owner was in the house on Friday night, and stopped by our table to wish us a happy anniversary - so sweet. We had a fabulous meal, just as we always do there, and completed the evening by popping open a bottle of champagne from Old House back in the room & toasting with our wedding flutes. Three years down, so many more to come!

Blurry and dark, but then again, we were on a ghost tour... so that's what you get.
 

Saturday was a quintessential fall day in Virginia - blue skies, sunshine, crisp breeze, colorful leaves. We made the most of the weather and wandered around Colonial Williamsburg and the surrounding shops. There was a Farmers' Market going on, and a reenactment taking place in the center of town. Plenty to see and do! We grabbed sandwiches from The Cheese Shop and sat outside on the patio to enjoy them. A quick detour to the Yankee Candle shop left with me two new candles for the house (I had a coupon! Sorry not sorry) and, at the last minute, we decided to check out the Williamsburg Winery, which we've heard lots about but never been to. Time to try it!

 
 

We did a tasting to see what we liked (there was a white and a red that were very nice, and a spiced wine that I bought a bottle of and can't wait to turn into gluhwein!), and then decided to check out the Gabriel Archer Tavern for a glass of one of our favorites. Sitting at the bar, watching the hustle and bustle of the lunch crowd, was a lovely way to kill some time. Once we decided that we couldn't delay any further, we hopped in the car and headed home to our kitties. This was their first overnight alone since we got Toby! They did splendidly - the only casualty was a bag of corn tortillas that had been left on the counter. Apparently, Toby was in the mood for Mexican food... who could blame him?

I know it probably sounds silly to say that we needed to recharge our marriage a little bit - I know, we don't have kids yet, we work the same hours, blah blah blah... but really, we did need it. Work has been draining me lately, we've gotten into a meal rut, the chores are piling up around the house. It felt so nice to take some time away together, without anyone but the two of us, and go on an adventure with no agenda. We did whatever we want, when we wanted it, and just enjoyed some quality time together. A night away from home to focus on each other was just what we needed. The last three years have been so wonderful - I can't wait to see what year four brings us!



Monday, October 20, 2014

Monday in Motor City

Hello from the great state of Michigan! I flew into Detroit last night and spent the night at one of my favorite hotels (the Westin in the airport) before starting a full week of meetings today. I have seen my fair share of hotels in the last few months, and they have ranged from grimy to gorgeous. The Westin has proven to be one of the (much) nicer ones - though I really can't believe they want to charge $10 to use the wifi. It's 2014, dudes! That's my only complaint. 

The neighborhood I grew up in held its annual Chili Cook-off this past Saturday, and since C was out of town visiting some friends, I headed up to spend the day with my family. It was a perfect fall afternoon, with just a hint of wind and clouds, and the 12 types of chili being made were the ideal complement! We had so much fun. 




C and I went on a date on Friday night before he left - we were planning to stay in and cook dinner, but when I realized that Fury had just opened, we had to go. We both love movies like that - historical action types - and we thought it was a really good film. Technology has come so far, and war movies are just so accurate these days. Amazing. 

Before the movie, we got dinner at our favorite local Mexican place. Yes, we were the young couple ordering the "fajitas for 2" special at 5 pm. 20s going on 70s. It happens. 



It was a great weekend, and good to spend some time with my love and my family before a week away from home.  My current biggest issue is that I didn't realize how cold it already is in Michigan!! I didn't bring the right clothes for this.... Whoops. I might find myself being the proud new owns of a Michigan sweatshirt from the airport... Just what I need! Ha :)

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Long nights make for long days

I am not a good sleeper. In fact, I'm quite a bad one, at that.

Be careful not to misinterpret that statement - it's not that I don't like sleep, or don't want or need sleep. I really love it. And I definitely want and need it. I'm just not very good at actually achieving good, restful sleep.

My brain tends to go into over-drive mode at night (I received an actual medical diagnosis of suffering "racing thoughts" at one point) and it's very, very hard to shut down, even when I'm tired. My body can be totally worn out, screaming for rest, and my brain is still going a mile a minute (usually creating heart-pounding anxiety, because it's always when I generally start thinking the worst of the worst stuff, awesome!).

Once I do fall asleep, I'm not great at staying asleep: I tend to wake up multiple times throughout the night, either getting up to use the restroom or just laying awake because something disturbed me. I'm pretty sure I inherited this lovely trait from my mama. She's a really light sleeper, too - I can remember standing next to her side of the bed when I was little, just barely whispering "mom!" and her instantly being wide awake. I thought it was just a mom-thing, but, since I'm not one yet, I think it's just a trait... sigh. I wish I'd inherited my dad's ability to sleep through anything and everything, instead!!

C, luckily thankfully (I guess) does not have this problem - he generally sleeps like a rock all night, every night. Me, on the other hand? I toss and turn, and the slightest thing wakes me up and keeps me up. Lately, that thing has been a certain kitten who wants to bound across the bed and aggressively snuggle. C keeps snoring away, never even noticing the cat in the bed, but the minute Toby jumps up, I can feel it, and I'm awake. We try to solve this by closing the bedroom door, but if the door is closed, the cats sit outside it and cry, which (surprise) keeps me awake. Again, C doesn't even notice.... ha

Anyway. Over time, I have developed a list of things that generally sometimes help with my sleep issues. I thought I'd share a few of the tactics that I rely on, in case there are any other (sleepy) bad sleepers out there reading.


1. A warm drink: I rely heavily on Sleepy Time Tea, which is an herbal blend made with natural sleep aids. I make a cup before bed a lot of nights, and if I'm really feeling wired, I use two tea bags to double-brew and hopefully get a little more oomph. Another go-to for me is a cup of warm milk with some Ovaltine powder stirred in. As old as that makes me sound, it is really comforting, and it's what I usually make if I find myself awake in the middle of the night.

2. Don't look at the clock: This one is hard, but it really helps me. When I wake up in the night, I make every effort to not look at the clock beside my bed. If I could, I'd get rid of the clock all together, but I'm pretty sure not having it would cause me anxiety... what a cyclical issue, ha! If I look at the clock, I start to get worked up about the sleep I'm not getting. Which obviously doesn't help! So, I do my best to not look at see what time it is, and just work on keeping my eyes closed and going back to sleep. If the alarm hasn't gone off, I don't need to know what time it is.

3. White noise: We run a box fan in our bedroom 24/7/365. I have found that having some noise in the background keeps me from focusing on either the impending silence, or the little tiny sounds that a house makes when it's quiet. The sound of the fan is just loud enough to keep me from hearing every drip or creak, and quiet and constant enough that it helps lull me to sleep.

4. Benadryl: I'll be honest - in college, I got a bit too reliant on both prescription and OTC sleep aids, and had to work really hard to wean myself off of them. I didn't like the fact that I couldn't sleep without taking something, and I thought it was better to naturally sleep badly. I still generally feel that way - it's better to just be in my natural state than reliant on medications. However, we do usually have a bottle of OTC Benadryl, which has the same active ingredient as an OTC sleep aid, but at a much cheaper price. On really bad nights, or after a few days of not sleeping well, I will take one pill, and it usually does the trick. It's just enough to put me to sleep without making it hard to wake up again or making me groggy the next day.

5. Multiplication tables: This one is probably unique to me, but it works. Your average "counting sheep" or just counting "1, Mississippi, 2, Mississippi" doesn't work for me, because I count too fast and then get anxious about how much time I've spent counting (a little crazy, I am!). I resorted to multiplication tables a few years ago, and have found that they have a much better effect: I have to think just enough that it keeps my brain focused, but is repetitive enough that eventually I fall asleep. I start at 1x1 and work my way to 1x12, then start over with the 2s. A few rounds in, and I'm usually sawing logs!

Do you have trouble sleeping? Any tricks that work better than others? Are you someone lucky enough to have no trouble sleeping, anytime and any place? Trust me, I'm jealous...! Teach me your ways.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Birthday Cake Cookies

I love cupcakes as much as the next person, but sometimes, they can be too much - they are hard to transport, there is frosting everywhere, they get smooshed... sometimes, cupcakes are not the answer.

A co-worker was celebrating a birthday recently, and I wanted to bring in a treat - cookies seemed like the answer, but I wanted them to be special! I found the answer laying in my pantry (and no, it wasn't Toby, although that is where he likes to hide these days...).

I used the standard Nestle Toll House Chocolate Chip Cookie recipe as the base, but then swapped the chocolate chips for white chocolate chips and sprinkles. The recipe for the cookie batter is a classic, and you really can't go wrong when you start with it. These cookies turned out fantastically, and my co-worker loved them. Perfect for birthdays (or any day that needs a cookie)!



Birthday Cake Cookies
makes appx 2 dozen cookies

Ingredients
  • 2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup (2 sticks) butter
  • 3/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 3/4 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 cup white chocolate chips
  • 1 cup rainbow sprinkles

Directions
  1. Preheat oven to 375° F. 
  2. In a small bowl, combine flour, baking soda and salt. 
  3. In a larger bowl, combine butter, sugars, and vanilla, and beat until creamy (a few minutes, at least).
  4. Add eggs, one at a time, and beat well after each addition. 
  5. Slowly add in flour mixture (I usually divide into three parts) and stir well after each portion. 
  6. Stir in morsels and sprinkles. 
  7. Drop by rounded tablespoon onto ungreased cookie sheets. 
  8. Bake for 9 to 11 minutes or until golden brown. 
  9. Cool on baking sheets for 2 minutes; remove to wire racks to cool completely.