Love is a Journey

Four years ago, my little brother Michael flew from JFK International Airport to Sweden, where he would spend a semester teaching abroad at Jonkoping University. Little did we know that while he was thousands of miles away in Sweden, Michael would meet Priscila, a student from Lima, Peru, and his future wife!

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Michael and Priscila racked up quite the airplane mileage over the course of their relationship – which was primarily a long-distance one for several years – visiting each others’ home countries and traveling together.

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Priscila and Michael now live together here in the U.S. – working in the Philadelphia area and planning a July wedding that will take place in Lima, Peru! (I just bought my plane tickets and couldn’t be more excited!)

My mother and I teamed up to throw Priscila a SURPRISE bridal shower (which, for possibly the first time in the history of bridal showers, was a successful surprise)! For weeks I plotted & crafted in secret (which partially explains my absence from blog-o-land over the past month, as I couldn’t share anything I was working on for the shower). I’m a theme kinda girl, and so we went with a travel themed party, focused primarily on the couple’s international love story.

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We used maps & globes, airplane travel & international mail as cornerstones for the overall theme, and paid special homage to four important locations for Mike & Priscila: The U.S. (primarily Philadelphia), Peru, Sweden, and France (the pair took a trip to Paris, France together, and so they attach special meaning to all things Parisian).

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But beyond all the decorations and international food offerings, this party was really about celebrating Priscila – a beautiful and kind woman who has become an important member of our family, and an amazing new sister-in-law and friend to me. Living away from home has its challenges – my brothers and I have all traveled and moved to various places and countries – and while Priscila has built a lovely life in Pennsylvania with my brother, I know she misses her home and her family. And so our secret, special surprise was truly the highlight of the party – “sneaking” Mili, Priscila’s mother, into Philadelphia (where she spent the night before the shower at my parent’s house). When Priscila walked into her shower (which she believed to be a family birthday party, hence the flowers in my brother’s hand), amidst the shouts of surprise and the cheers from her new Pennsylvania family, her eyes went immediately to her mother – and this happened:

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And then this:

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And this.

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It was a lovely day, and I have loads of details – things I crafted, things my mother & other relatives made, things Mili brought us from Peru, and things I made my father do – but they can wait until tomorrow. Today I want to focus on the real story of this travel-themed bridal shower: love. Go ahead and roll your eyes at all of my cheesiness. I don’t even care. 🙂

I hope you have a wonderful day!

To Carry Her Close

I have started this post at least a dozen times over the course of the past month. Each time, the words just did not come out right. This blog has been an outlet for me over the past year – in many ways. I’ve shared wedding plans and DIY projects, and occasionally written about topics of a more personal nature – today being one of those occasions.

2 months ago my grandmother – my Mommom – passed away. You may remember her from this mother’s day series I wrote last spring, when I talked about some of her amazing qualities & some of the important life lessons that I learned from her over the years.

mommomI’ve always counted myself to be so very lucky for having had so many years with each of my four grandparents. I lost my first, my paternal Grandfather, a few years ago – and it was a harsh reality to accept that I would not have my loving grandparents in my life forever.

My Mommom was diagnosed with a rare and terminal illness many years ago. And so my family prepared, in as much as one can prepare, for the day that we would have to say goodbye. Each holiday was a special joy, and having her with me on my wedding day was a blessing I had hardly dared to hope for.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERABut all of these important moments shared with her are kept only in my memory now. There will not be another Christmas together, there will not be baptisms and birthday parties. My future children will never know her – will never feel her unconditional love, experience her intelligent wit, or share an Entenmann’s crumb cake doughnut with her after a sleepover.

I worry that my own memory is insufficient. My younger brother remembers details and moments that are merely a haze to me. I remember fragments – pieces of my past. Like the colors of her garden in the springtime, the sandy taste of her Werther’s Butterscotch candies on a hot summer day down the shore, and the smell of spaghetti and meatballs cooking on her stove as I sat at her round kitchen table. I remember how she rarely raised her voice, and that she loved to tell stories. I remember mother-daughter miniature golf tournaments – for which my mother, Mommom and I would team up – and listening to broadcasts from the Metropolitan Opera House over the radio together.

I remember taking for granted that she would always be at everything. Every concert, soccer game, school play and recital. Every holiday dinner, every lazy summer in LBI. And as I grew older, and as I watched my friends lose their grandparents, I remember the  the tightness in my chest at the thought of having to say goodbye.

I miss her. I miss just seeing her, just sitting close to her. I miss the way my mother would tell her funny stories and make jokes because she couldn’t do that herself anymore. I miss watching my grandfather look at her with his expression of constant, steady love.

Lockets1I wear this locket now – and gave its twin to my mother – so that I can always carry my Mommom close. It’s the beautiful Forget Me Not Tiny Heart Locket from Heartworks by Lori, which I then sized and cut a photograph to fit inside.

LocketsThe image is of the hands of my Mommom and my mother, along with mine – joined on my wedding day this past October.

DSC_5971Three generations of strong, intelligent, funny and loving women (not to toot my own horn!) Each caring for the other in their own special way. It’s an image that reminds me of how lucky I was – and am – and to forever treasure my memories.

Happy Easter!

I hope anyone celebrating Easter today had a lovely day! The hubs and I had an absolutely fantastic meal with the in-laws at one of our favorite local restaurants. It was delicious & low-key, and now we’re kicking back and enjoying some relaxation time.

Yesterday, I went home to PA to visit my family, including my cuter-than-cute nephew Silas! He and his parents have been visiting on and off for a few weeks now (they live in California), and I’ve just been jumping at every opportunity and free afternoon to spend with him.

SilasWateringCanI gave Silas some Easter presents – and the big hit was a set of two little plastic watering cans – a blue elephant and a yellow duck – that came from the dollar section at Target.

SilascansIt just goes to show that the price tag in no way correlates to the fun that little ones can have!

WateringFlowersWe spent the morning walking around Grammie’s garden and watering all of the flowers, bushes, trees, and pretty much everything else out there. It warmed my heart to see these little flowers poking their way up – spring has definitely arrived!

SilasPlaygroundIn the afternoon, we played in a nearby kiddie playground. Here are Si and his daddy (my brother) braving the ladder. I love that look of determination on his little face.

SilasAdorbsThis kid has just stolen my heart. I can’t even deal with how cute he is.

SilasRunningI mean it, guys… I’m obsessed.

We dyed some Easter eggs, too. I lived in the purple & pink range. Not too creative, I suppose, but I think they’re purdy.

Eggs2I hope everyone enjoyed quality time with family & loved ones this weekend! And if you’re feeling crafty, why not make some wooly sheep pals like these?

Happy New Year!

Hello there, friends! I hope you are all well, happy & healthy on this first day of 2013! I’ve enjoyed a lovely break from work for the past week, including a little blogging break while I spent most of my free time binge-watching the first two seasons of Homeland. Great show, and I can’t believe it took me so long to check it out! Now that I am reeling from the season 2 finale, I thought I’d take a second to share with you some of my favorites moments of this past holiday week!

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Little bits of happiness from my week- from the top left photo clockwise:

a beautiful dusting of snow on Christmas morning in my parent’s backyard  // my sweet little nephew enjoying a Christmas story on Christmas eve // crate of gifts under our Christmas tree (significantly emptier than pre-Christmas, but we still have some to give!) // the glow of a candle in an aluminum lantern, surrounded by pine cones & glittery balls // sparkling wine and our wedding toasting flutes to ring in the new year // our part cozy – part college-kid-esque New Year’s eve dinner. Dining by candlelight on our coffee table with our new wedding china and paper towels for napkins. We’ve got class AND we don’t buy real napkins. Bam.

New Year Resolutions for 2013? More family, friends, crafts and books – less take-out, stress, and overflowing laundry baskets.

What about you?

It’s Who You Make Your Cookies With

Before I begin this post, I’d like to share a disclaimer: My mother, father, grandparents, brothers & I have been making Christmas cookies for decades with great success. I come from a long line of Christmas-cookie-bakers. We take a day or two every December to come together (as many of us as are around) to whip up batches of our family standards – Chocolate Chip Cookies, Butter Cookies, Snickerdoodles, Roll-Outs & Spritzes, among others. Every year we make cookies, every year they are delicious.

This year, we tried to make made cookies. It may (or may not) have gone exactly as planned. We may (or may not) have had a few disastrous trays of Butter & Chocolate Chip cookies for inexplicable reasons (It was definitely my brother’s fault). Suffice it to say, this post will not include photos of perfectly baked Christmas cookies.

recipeA well used & loved recipe for my Mommom’s Butter Cookies. Any recipe that calls for two sticks of butter is sure to be a win.

It really doesn’t matter, though. It’s not about how the cookies come out, it’s who you make your cookies with. (This explanation got me off the hook when I came home with less than the expected multiple tins-full of cookies for my hubby to snack on).

pbakingMy lovely sister-in-law carefully measuring ingredients – clearly she is innocent in this debacle.

I love going home at Christmas time and admiring/oogling over my mother’s huge collection of beautiful holiday decorations. I love the Sunday in December when we get together to bake & happily make plans for the upcoming holiday. This past Sunday, after an especially trying week and the unbelievably horrific events of Friday – I loved it even more. Even though my drive to Pennsylvania & then back to New Jersey was dreary and rainy. Even though my brother ruined the chocolate chip cookies our cookies were less-than-adequate-for-human-consumption.

bakingBaking is a group effort in our home. The culprit is the one wielding the cookie gun.

Time with family is a treasure.

momandmommomMy mother, and her mother, decorating the butter cookies.

Decorating butter cookies with your grandmother is a blessing, and must never be taken for granted.

mommomcookiesThe more sugar the better, I say.

Knowing that within the next week we will truly all be together – when our Californian contingent flies home for the holiday – is reason to celebrate.

I love Christmas. I always have. I cannot help but be extra-aware of how lucky I am this Christmas – to be surrounded by family, to be spending my first Christmas married to a man who makes me laugh & loves me for all of my quirks and flaws, and to have my very own Kitchen Aid Stand Mixer so I can make some more cookies that my brother won’t be able to ruin to share with friends & family. 🙂

P.S. After I left, my family continued baking and suddenly all the cookies came out great. Either I was the true culprit, and blaming my little brother is unfair, or they were actually just holding out on me so they could hoard all the GOOD cookies for themselves. I choose the latter option, what do you think?

Showered with Love (for a second time!)

This past Saturday, my mother, maid of honor, and sister-in-law/bridesmaid threw me an absolutely lovely bridal shower at my parent’s home in Pennsylvania. Since my fiance and I live in New Jersey, and his family/the majority of our mutual friends are from New Jersey, I already had an AMAZINGLY beautiful shower (hosted by my future mother-in-law and my bridesmaids) in August. So lucky duck that I am, I got to celebrate my impending nuptials surrounded by lovely women TWICE!

This shower was primarily for my family, who live in various parts of Pennsylvania. Many of my family members drove several hours to spend the day with me, and for that I am so grateful! The biggest difference for this shower was that it was not meant to be a surprise, and so I was at my mother’s house helping with preparations & getting sneak peeks (and sneak tastes) of all of the amazing things my bridesmaids conjured up for the special day. It was a real treat, and meant I got to spend even more time with the amazing ladies helping me through this crazy wedding process.

It was a beautiful day, and the first day of fall. It was warm- maybe even in the low eighties, but there was a strong wind. The threat of rain held off until evening, so we lucked out! Here’s my parent’s house all decked out for fall.

Beautiful, right? My mother and father both love to work in their gardens, and have plenty of space to go garden-crazy in. Someday I’ll take you on a tour of my mother’s gorgeous home & landscaping.

This ‘antique’, family heirloom chalkboard was set at the front door to greet the guests. How sweet, right? (Plus you’ll see the heart & initials motif again when I share my invitations/wedding day-of paper!)

My maid of honor Becky is an all-out, party-planning rockstar. Besides being one of my best friends in this universe, my go to girl for pretty much everything, and the girl I do crazy things with, like drive to Pittsburgh and back in a day and a half, Becky is SUPER organized, creative & giving. She will do anything for pretty much anybody, and I am no exception to that rule. Just look below at the delicious pumpkin & cream cheese cupcakes she baked & decorated with hand cut & lettered umbrellas. (The shower theme mixed the end of summer/start of fall, and our fall-themed wedding with Tim’s & my love for the beach- it was perfect!). Those cupcakes were to DIE for, and Becky promises to share the recipe. Below the cupcakes, you can see the favors Becky handmade- little mason jars filled with Salt Water Taffy (YUM) and topped with a sticker commemorating our wedding day. I love how they were tied with raffia- so perfect.

The outdoor tables were covered in pretty gold cloths my mother found, and decked with mason jar arrangements of colorful flowers (featuring my favorite, daisies), and scattered with pretty seashells.

We enjoyed a delicious lunch of sandwiches, Becky’s amazing homemade seafood chowder & tossed Ceasar salad.  My sister in law Priscila, who is from Peru, made amazing peruvian treats that I still cannot pronounce, but tasted like heaven.

I was again amazed by the generosity of my family and friends, and overwhelmed by the amount of home & kitchen gifts we received. It took two cars to get everything home! Every single gift was amazing and thoughtful, but I’ll share two of my favorites with you:

Taking the prize for the most unique shower gift any bride has ever received anywhere (in my opinion), is this “Dingerwocker” gifted to me by my mother. My mother is known for the occasional odd gift, however this one really took the cake when I opened the bag. I was delighted, however, to learn the story behind the item.

As you can see by the card attached, this gift was originally given to MY mother, by her mother (my Mommom) at her bridal shower. (The card is the same, but the actual items are new). Here is the basic rundown:

This Dingerwocker, I do declare

When taken apart will do its’ share.

My head is a funnel used to pour things through

my arms are clothespins to pin the clothes for you two.

Well, when it comes to my feet, club-footed you’ll see,

one a soup ladle if such a thing the bride can make.

The other a turner for hubby’s hot cakes.

But my body, you’ll admit, is as useful as any

for corn cobs aren’t just always as plenty.

Last, but not least, is my shawl

just a tea towel, to be used after the feast.

Are you scratching your head? I was too. And the ‘body’ is a roll of toilet paper, so re-read lines 8 & 9 to see if you can put THAT together.

My mother explained that her mother (my Mommom) was given the same gift for her wedding in 1953, by my grandfather’s sister (my Great Aunt Ruthie). She said that she “google-d” & researched this poem and gift, but learned nothing about the origins of the idea – though she assumes it comes from a Pennsylvania Dutch tradition (which fits with my family background).

I bet you won’t see many of these floating around Pinterest, huh? 🙂

And finally, this gift from my bridesmaids (and man of honor) was so sweet & creative. They each picked a bottle of wine for FH & I, and Becky assembled the basket assigning a bottle for various milestones in our relationship, such as our wedding night, first fight, Christmas eve, and first baby (only FH gets to drink that one!)

I love this idea, love the time and thought that went into making it, and love my bridesmaids. Love all around, people.

It was truly an amazing day, and I can not thank Becky, Priscila, my mother, future mother-in-law, (and bridesmaids & man of honor who could not attend but were there in spirit) enough! I also am so grateful for everyone who traveled to be at either of my showers, and for each of the amazingly generous and kind ladies in my life. I am so blessed – and I will never forget the feeling of being so supported & cared for by so many. It is truly a lovely thing to be a bride. Too bad I’ll only do it once. 🙂

From top left- me with my future mother in law, me with my MOH & Rockstar bestie Becky, me with my Mommom & Grandpop, me with my Grandma (and awesome bow-hat), and me with my sister-in-law/beautiful bridesmaid Priscila & Becky.

What was the craziest/coolest/most interesting gift you received (or gave) at a shower?

What’s Your Reset Button?

Every once and a while, my iPhone will start to act sluggish, crash randomly, or behave in an erratic manner for no apparent reason. The fail-safe fix to this problem is the “hard reset” advised by those smarty-pants Apple employees at the “genius bar”. I hold down the top and bottom buttons at the same time for a few seconds, and restart my phone to return it to it’s natural state of awesome.

Every once and a while, I start to act sluggish, crash randomly, or behave in an erratic manner for no apparent reason. My fail-safe fix to this problem, my “hard reset”, is the simultaneous feeling of sand between my toes, ocean spray upon my face, and UV rays soaking into my skin. The beach is my reset button. It never fails to bring me back to MY natural state (of awesome).

 

I had the opportunity to spend this past weekend with family and old friends in my favorite place on this earth- Surf City, LBI. I returned to reality yesterday with sunburned knees and shoulders, car seats covered in sand, a hemp & seashell ankle bracelet, and an overwhelming sense of satisfaction and completion. Sunday and Monday were beautiful beach days. I spent time with my amazing, one-year old nephew, my brothers and sisters-in-law, my parents and many extended family members and friends. My best friend and I also drove to Pittsburgh and back in a 24 hour time period (through the middle of the night both ways) to attend a high school friend’s wedding, but that is a story for another day. (Or a story that best remains untold on the internet due to the overall insanity of the entire trip).

I witnessed a beautiful sunset over the bay:

 

I made a super-fun wedding related purchase that I will reveal later this week, and I attempted to teach my nephew to fist pump, Jersey style. Let me just say that babies at the beach are a totally amazing thing.

We built sand castles:

 

and played in the waves. (My nephew was born into a family of part human-part fishes, and therefore proceeds to make a direct beeline for the ocean whenever he comes to the beach).

 

I had an absolutely amazing time soaking up the rays, and brought home a little taste of the Jersey shore (fresh fluke from the fish market) to make for dinner Monday night. It is back to my regular work schedule now, but everything just seems better today- despite the fact that I cannot wear a regular bra because it cuts too deeply into my sunburn… (TMI? Sorry.)

We all have our own reset button- our own place, activity, person or thing that helps bring us back to home base when things get out of control. Don’t forget to figure out what yours is, and treat yourself to a good, long, hard reset.