Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Dear 2013

Dear 2013,

It's been a hell of a year.

And I mean that in the most flattering way.

thought 2012 was the best year. And it was, as of January 1, 2013. But this past year has topped it in so many ways.

I started the year knowing the direction I wanted my life to follow. I had regained my self-worth and confidence in ways that I had lost somehow a few years before, and was ready to conquer - in every sense of the word, both personally and professionally. I was ready for something new. A challenge. A change of pace.
{Moving to Newport was the biggest change of 2013}

The beginning of the year began much like the previous year had ended - busy with work, yet it held great potential. After a few months of waiting, I found out I would make a relatively short move down to the Rhode Island coast. Though small in scale, it was a welcomed change for me, both in my personal life and for my career. I already had a great affection for Newport, but the last six months have made me truly fall in love with the town. It's a place I could picture myself living again in the future...because this July I will be picking up and moving my little world again - this time a much greater distance. To where? I don't know...but stay tuned :)
{The daffodil field a sweet man made in memory of his beloved wife}

2013 was also the year of really, really horrible, disastrous dates. I mean terrible. So bad, that in September, I was halfway convinced that I am meant to be single with a dog and adopt a baby when I'm 35. Someday, I will regale you with stories of these really ridiculous, inappropriate, and panic inducing events that have led me to my cynical view of dating, in general. Luckily, I can look back and laugh on my romantic misadventures of the past year, but Lord, please don't do that to me again.

Every time I begin to lose my confidence in the male population, one of my friends meets a wonderful man who is everything she ever dreamed of {and more}. Then I also look at my father, who is the most decent, humble, and loving man I've ever met, and then my faith in the other sex is restored, and I resolve that the right man will come along when I'm ready for it. Not a minute sooner. And let's face it, I'm not quite there yet. Maybe 2014 I will be, but if it's not, that's quite alright.

{True to myself, I visited many a vineyard and shared my love here and here.}

I'm admittedly in a very selfish point of my mid-twenties, and I think selfishness is perfectly acceptable at this point in life. Let me take a step back and clarify - selfishness in pursuing the life you want is acceptable; selfishness when it hurts and harms others and their wellbeing is not. I'm talking about the point in life where you make the choices for yourself and you alone. Doing what you want to do and choosing a path that will {hopefully} lead you to life-long happiness. There are certainly missteps on these adventures, and we often must change direction. But ultimately, you cannot make others happy if you are not happy yourself. So choose the way that brings you the most joy, and the rest will fall into place.
{Apple picking at it's best.}

2013, thank you. Thank you. Thank You. For the incredible blessings, unbelievable opportunities, and the extraordinary adventures you brought with you. I still have a lot of living, seeing, and adventuring to do in my life, and I know the next year will bring so many more opportunities my way.

So, here's to 2014. May you be just as wonderful {if not better} than the last twelve months.
The Lady Okie Blog

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Merry Christmas + Pizzelle Tradition

Merry Christmas, my friends.

It always boggles my mind how quickly the years go by. Each year seems to kick it up a notch and pass even faster than the previous year. I know everyone keeps saying this {to the point that I think we are all blue in the face}, but it's so true. I think people will be saying it until the end of time.

My mother's side of our family is Italian. Loud and proud, baby. Our family Christmas gatherings always include copious amounts of pasta, italian cookies, and delicious sauce. My mom and I contribute the traditional Italian pizzelles each year. Making these goodies is hands-down one of my favorite things about Christmas. I also love that we are sharing a part of our heritage with people we love.

My mother and I have been making pizzelles every year since I can remember. It's always our family gift to friends and neighbors during the holiday season. For those of you that haven't experienced the magic that is a pizzelle, it's a very light Italian cookie that is traditionally anise or almond flavored. We like to mix it up and make a lot of different flavors when we make these little pieces of heaven {think peppermint, cherry and raspberry}. This recipe is pretty close to our family recipe that we've had since my great grandparents came to the US from Italy. 

I truly hope each of you has the most wonderful Christmas if you are celebrating. If not, please know that the warmest thoughts and wishes are with you as I celebrate this joyous day. 

Monday, December 23, 2013

Christmas Spirit

Although I've been on the road for most of the last few months, I was so excited to do a little decorating at home for Christmas. 

The weekend before Thanksgiving, my mother and I took a wreath making class - and I'm very proud of how it turned out. I'm not the most crafty person in the world, but this project turned out quite well. Granted, I was the last one {by a solid thirty minutes} gathering evergreen and fir bunches and deciding which accents I wanted to add, but I was so happy to have created one of my favorite Christmas decorations by myself. I think this is going to be a yearly tradition for the girls in my family.

I didn't want to get a Christmas tree this year, since I knew my crazy schedule wouldn't allow me to spend even one weekend at home from November until after Christmas. So, some twinkle lights around my windows and doorways and a trio of festive candlesticks were my other decorations. 

It may not look like a whole lot of decorating, but it was just enough for my small space. I can smell my wreath from my couch and the lights around my living room are bright enough that I don't even have to turn on my sconce lighting at night. It's been a wonderful, cozy retreat for me after work each night. Add a glass of red, and it's complete perfection.

Sunday, December 22, 2013

The Sunday Currently

It's officially Christmas week! It's also day two of my two week vacation from work!

Double win, in my book.

I haven't had this much time off since college, and part of me has no idea what to do with myself. Another part of me has a list of all the little things I should do {ahem dusting}. And yet another part of me has zero desire to do anything but crash my parents' house and cuddle with Pepper Monster.

I'm currently listening to the latter part of myself, but can you blame me? Look at that face.
Speaking of currently, it's time for The Sunday Currently.

Reading...through Christmas cards. My parents receive so many cards each year, and I love seeing pictures of families growing, new babies, and catching up with lifelong family friends every year.

Writing...down a few drafts for blog posts. I've had a few things I've wanted to discuss/share here, but haven't quite found the right words.

Listening...to some Frank Sinatra Christmas tunes. It makes me sad that the day after Christmas all the musical goodness disappears. I'm soaking in as much Christmas music as I can.

Thinking...that my mother is an incredibly hard person to shop for at Christmas. Anyone else have a few remaining gifts to figure out? Just me? Awesome.

Smelling...evergreen and fir from the Christmas tree. One of my favorite smells of all time.

Wishing...my brother could be home for Christmas this year. I miss him terribly.

Hoping...there might be a slight dusting of snow for Christmas morning. The rain over the last few days has melted the foot of snow we had last week! I'm a true believer that white Christmases are the best kind of Christmases.

Wearing..yoga pants and a tee shirt. My mom and I just went for an early morning walk while we had the chance. The temperature in Massachusetts is 60{!} right now, albeit grey and rainy. Have to take advantage of heat waves like this! We'll be back to highs in the 20s in a few days. 

Loving...this roasted chicken and veggie recipe from Amanda at Marhalls Abroad. I made it for my parents last night and it was SO delish. Amanda has the most beautiful, healthy recipes.

Wanting...a vanilla cinnamon latte from the local coffee shop. And maybe a bagel with cranberry cream cheese. Yes, definitely a bagel.

Needing...to paint my nails in a glittery polish. Sparkly nails always puts me in a festive mood.

Feeling...like a nap will be in order this afternoon.

Clicking...through pictures from this past year. It truly was a wonderful time for me.


Saturday, December 21, 2013

O Tannenbaum

Decorating the Christmas tree is one of my favorite parts of the Holiday Season. 

It's usually a Mom + Brother + Me affair. 

But we were missing a very important little brother this year, so Daddio filled in and cheered us on from the couch.

My parents' tree is always my favorite {and I mean favorite out of every gorgeous tree I see each year}. It's not perfectly put together with lights meticulously spaced and ornaments beautifully coordinated.

Instead, we have popsicle stick ornaments my brother and I made in elementary school. There are family pictures posted on the back of a coffee can lid that we crafted in preschool. Ornaments my grandmother made when my mother was a child. Others that we thoughtfully picked out on our family vacations. Gifts from loved ones to mark special occasions in each of our lives. 

It's really a memory tree.

Every ornament on our family tree has a meaning and sentimental value behind it. And I think that's what makes our Christmas tree perfect each and every year.

I always get a little teary eyed as we decorate the tree. It reminds me how blessed I am as I take a trip down memory lane as each ornament is unwrapped from it's box or tissue paper. The ornaments are like pages of our family's life-long story book.

As we put more ornaments up and the tree becomes so full that we don't think we can fit any more on it, I began to think about how this little fir tree tells a story about each of us. Each year, there is usually a new ornament to put up, which means a new memory has been made - one of many that we each have from the past year.

I hope I have a tree like this for my children someday. So they too can tell stories about ornaments from my childhood and remember exciting and fun things from their own lives. 

Christmas is about celebrating so much more than our world today realizes. It's a time to be thankful for all the blessings we have been given in life. And I'm a firm believer that family is the best and most important blessing of all.

Friday, December 20, 2013

First Snowfall

Last weekend was the first real winter storm we had in New England. It came last Saturday afternoon right as my parents and I headed into Boston to see It's a Wonderful Life. When we came out of the theater, we found the kind of quite you can only find in a city during a snow storm.

Boston is one of the most magical winter places you will ever find.

I promise.

The usually bustling city was so calm and quiet for a Saturday night right before Christmas. My parents and I wandered around Faneuil Hall where only a handful of people were roaming through the snow. We had a delicious smorgasbord of lobster mac n' cheese, calzone, arancini and Italian sausage as we watched the snow fall outside the giant windows of Quincy Market. It felt like we were in a snow globe.

Boston is truly my city. No matter where else I might end up in the coming months.

P.S. My parents are the cutest.