Silence

As you've probably noticed, I haven't been blogging. After the tragedy last Friday, I find myself unmotivated to write and quite frankly, at a loss for words as to what I could possibly write that anyone would care about.

27 people are dead. No one cares about my rants, raves or revelations.

Kelly Ripa said something yesterday that resonated with me. She said, "As a parent, I don't expect much, but I expect to be able to take my children to school and for them to come home at the end of the day."

Isn't that what we all expect? When we get off the phone, or say goodbye to someone, it's done with the expectation that we'll have another opportunity to say "hello" again. I just cannot fathom what those parents went through as they waited in that firehouse for news that they would not get that opportunity with their precious children again.

So, for now, I'm going to continue my code of silence and I'll be back when I feel it's appropriate.

Charlotte Bacon, 6
Rachel D'Avino, 29
Olivia Engel, 6
Dylan Hockley, 6
Dawn Lafferty Hochsprung, 47
Jesse Lewis, 6
Ana Marquez-Greene, 6
Grace McDonnell, 7
Anne Marie Murphy, 52
Emilie Parker, 6
Noah Pozner, 6
Jessica Rekos, 6
Mary Sherlach, 56
Lauren Rousseau, 30
Victoria Soto, 27
Daniel Barden, 7
Josephine Gay, 7
Madeleine Hsu, 6
Catherine Hubbard, 6
Chase Kowalski, 7
James Mattioli, 6
Jack Pinto, 6
Caroline Previdi, 6
Avielle Richman, 6
Benjamin Wheeler, 6
Allison Wyatt, 6.
 
 Credit: Living in Yellow
 
 
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the LIEBSTER award!

Well this is kinda of fun. I was checking blog comments this morning and saw a note from Samantha at Designer in Teal that she nominated me for a Liebster Award!
 What is that, you ask? (I did.)

The Liebster Award is given by bloggers to up and coming bloggers with less than 200 followers. The meaning: Liebster is German for sweetest, kindest, nicest, dearest, beloved, lovely, pleasant, valued, cute and endearing.

So, thanks lady! I'll take that compliment any day :)

The rules:
  1. Post 11 Random things about yourself
  2. Answer the questions that the nominator sets for you
  3. Create 11 questions for the people that you nominate
  4. Create 11 blogs that you love (also with 200 or less followers). Link them to your post and let them know they have been nominated
  5. No tag backs!
11 Random things about me:
  1. I published my first book when I was in 2nd grade. It was called "How the Fox Got It's Tail." I published my second book when I was 25. I was the co-author on a book called "Career Building: Your Total Handbook for Finding a Job and Making it Work." I hope to publish a third book in the near future. And then a fourth, fifth...you get the picture.
  2. I'm terrified of heights. As in, I went repelling once and cried the whole time. As in, my knees get weak just looking over the edge of a tall building, no matter how high the railing. 
  3. My second fear is death, not as much my own as my loved ones.
  4. Writing is my greatest passion and my greatest insecurity. What do you do if you're bad at the one thing you love the most?
  5. I started dating my husband in high school. I was 16 and he was 18. Twelve years later, a couple of breakups, and two stints leaving across the ocean...we're married. He's the love of my life.
  6. I can't watch other people spit their toothpaste in the sink when they're done brushing. I gag.
  7. I've had a series of strange health issues, one of which almost killed me. One included seizures, blood infections and encephalitis, which lead to a coma. The other included a blood clot, which was caused by an extra rib I had under my clavicle, which was surgically removed. 
  8. In elementary school, I left an obscene message for my dentist. I was being harassed by a kid at school, and I hadn't told anyone, so I picked a number from the "Emergency List" on the fridge, and repeated everything this boy had ever told me.
  9. Two of my best decisions ever include attending the University of Kansas and studying abroad in Spain for five months.I saw things, visited places and met people I never would have otherwise. I learned so much about myself and learned some hard lessons, but all of them have shaped me for the better.
  10. My parents were high school sweethearts. My sister married her high school sweetheart. I married my high school sweetheart. Although my parents got divorced when I was 14, my dad is now married to my brother in law's mother. One big happy family!
Questions from Samantha:
  1. Where is the coolest place you've ever visited/vacationed? I've been blessed in my travels. I've been to Europe, Hawaii, several islands in Caribbean, Mexico and more. I think the I would say that Spain was among the most amazing because I lived and breathed the culture. It was truly amazing.
  2. What is your favorite meal? Dad's homemade spaghetti. It's our traditional Christmas Eve meal. Store bought noodles, but the sauce is homemade. Dad spends all day cooking it and we enjoy it with Caesar salad and garlic bread. Mmmm.
  3. What season do you enjoy most and why? Fall! Perfect weather, it's football season, it's my birthday, leaves are turning, sweaters and boots...perfection.
  4. What is the best gift you have ever received? My engagement ring. It was a "birthday gift" and it made my year. 
  5. Do you prefer coffee, tea or neither? Coffee! It actually took me a long time to even try coffee, but now I enjoy a hazelnut latte nearly every day.
  6. Are you an early bird or a night owl? Weirdly, not really either. When I was engaged, I got up at 5:00 am everyday to work out. Now, anything before 7 am is a struggle. At the same time, I'm could fall asleep by 9pm every night, but usualy don't end up going to bed until midnight. So..long answer short. Night owl.
  7. What was your favorite subject in grade school? Language arts, for obvious reasons.
  8. How did you come up with your blog name and style? I like alliteration, so it worked with my name (Rachel). And, while my blog doesn't really have a "theme" in terms of content, almost everything can be classified as a rant, rave or revelations. Basically, here are my likes, dislikes and everything in between. For my design, I worked closely with the wonderful {av}.
  9. Cat person or dog person? DOG person. Go read about Addy.
  10. What does an ideal weekend look like for you? Friday night: Happy hour with co-workers, followed by date night with the hubs. Or, just staying home with the hubs on Friday, unwinding from the week. Saturday, do some errands, go out with friends at night and Sunday - be lazy! Or, get drunk. Typically, it's the former.
  11. If you could live in any other era, what would it be? I'd love to live during the 80s as an adult. I was born in '83, so my memories are probably different from those of my parents, but I think it'd be pretty rad.
The 11 super-cute blogs that I nominate:

  1. Little Bit of Class Little Bit of Sass
  2. Forever  After Undecided
  3. A Girl Named Gay
  4. 25 in My 25th
  5. Blue Dog Belle
  6. Loveee, Sarah
  7. Probably Polka Dots
  8. Cookies for Breakfast
  9. XOXO, Me
  10. Mama Said There'd Be Day Like This
  11. Passion, Pink and Pearls
Questions for the Nominees:
  1. What is your favorite TV show?
  2. What is your biggest pet peeve?
  3. If you could travel anywhere in the world, where would it be?
  4. Why did you start your blog?
  5. What is your biggest fear?
  6. Tell us about your worst date.
  7. Beer, wine or liquor? What kind and why?
  8. What would you do if you won the lottery?
  9. What's the best compliment you've ever received?
  10. Favorite book?
  11. When you're on vacation, do you prefer relaxing or adventure?
Can't wait to see what happens!

Go link up and make some friends!


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Weekend Update: Holidays with the Hubs

Hello, lovers!

Mondays are so much better when you're heading into the week knowing that you only have 8 more days of work before vacation. I'll be spending a week at home in Iowa before Bryan and I leave for Europe on the 27th. We don't come back until January 8 and I can.not.wait. This year has been a bit trying for me in terms of work, so I'm excited for a long break and to come back in the New Year refreshed and re-enegergized.

Anyone, onto my weekend update:


I had a lovely weekend if I do say so, myself. I struggled with deciding whether to go home to Iowa for the annual Ugly Sweater Christmas party that my BIL puts on to raise money for cancer, or to stay in Chicago with Bryan, who is leaving on the 14th and I won't see him until the 23rd of December.

My husband won, but I still made a donation to the party. Everyone wins.

Thursday night, I went to see Trombone Shorty with my girlfriends. They discovered him at Jazz Fest last year and fell head over heels, so I decided to see what he was all about. I've gotta say, I didn't know what to expect and the concert was awesome! Shorty can blow, let me just say that. He can sing, too! It was a good time.


Friday night, we headed out to the Lincoln Park Zoo Lights, which is one of my favorite things ever. The zoo is completely decked out in Christmas Lights. On the trees, the pathways, random light statues everywhere. Music is playing, warm spiced wine is served. There are activities for little one, people making ice sculptures and, my favorite part: synchronized light shows to Christmas music! Then we went for dinner at a new place for us and it was super yum!

Saturday, I took our pup to Petco to get some vaccinations. Poor girl was so nervous but she did great! We did a couple of errands before going home, where I did some things around the house and relaxed. Bryan and I had date night #2, foregoing the Chriskindlmarket downtown and staying in our neighborhood instead. We tried a new italian restaurant that was delicious and then barhopped our way home.

Sunday was a lazy day that involved a lot of sleeping, eating and Lifetime movies.

Overall, a lot of qonderful QT spent with my love.

How was your weekend?

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Sunday Social: Holiday Edition

I'm being a lazy blogger today. And a lazy person in general. I'm too tired to put much thought into anything, so I'm linking up with Neely and Ashley. They're talking holidays, which I'm all about.

Sunday Social

1. Favorite Holiday Movies/TV Specials?
National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation is obviously the best movie ever. It's a holiday favorite and an all-time favorite. Other favorites include Love Actually, Home Alone and Elf. Side note: I spent the better part of today watching holiday movies on Lifetime, and remembered one movie from childhood that my sister and I loved: A Mom for Christmas, starring Olivia Newton-John and Doris Roberts. Anyone?  
 

2. Do you do any volunteering during the holidays, if so what? If not, what would you do? No volunteering, sadly, but my company sponsors a family in need each holiday season, and I always contribute. This year, my team went in on a gift of kitchen utensils.

3. Favorite toy received as a child for the Holidays? Oh man. I got the COOLEST dollhouse from Santa. I will never forget coming down on Christmas morning and it was all set up, with dolls, accessories, the works. It came with everything from a maid, to flower pots for the porch, bathtubs, and a convertible car. I had just about every room and all of the people. It was a go-to activity for my friends and I for years. Mom has it now, and I hear they go for a ton of money on Ebay - like $500! I just spent a solid hour looking for the make/model/pictures. It was a Playmobile Victorian Mansion Dollhouse 5305. AMAZEBALLS.  Ah, memories.
 
 
4. What was your must have item in high school for the Holidays? Hmmm. I think most of these had to do with phones. I want to say that my sister and I got our own phone line one year for Christmas, and I'm sure my first cell phone was a Christmas gift, too. All I cared about in high school was looking cute and talking on the phone, so...clothes and phones.

5. Item you begged for the most and never got?
I've gotta say, Santa has always been pretty good to me. But I do recall asking for one of those power wheels jeeps. I never got one. My 4-year-old niece is getting an Escalade this year. Times have changed!

6. What do you do on Christmas Eve? Christmas Eve is the best. My family eats a traditional meal of homemade spaghetti. My mouth is watering as I type. When we were younger, after dinner we got to choose one gift under the tree to open, usually from our aunts and uncles. Now that we're all older, opening gifts on Christmas Eve isn't a constant. Then we all go to midnight mass! It's getting harder to stay awake as the years pass. (I can't figure out if it's from the food or the wine.) Now that Bryan and I married, we usually spend the first part of the day with Bryan's family, eating appetizers and a lite lunch. Then we open gifts with his parents, sister and niece. For the past couple of years, they have joined us for Christmas Eve dinner, which has been fabulous!

That's it for me tonight, although I will admit that now I'm even more excited to go home for Christmas on the 20th!


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Wedding Wednesday: The One Where I Lost My Engagement Ring

This is not your typical Wedding Wednesday post. This is not about picking flowers or colors or venues. This is a story that no other bride should have to tell.

It's about the time I lost my engagement ring.

Bryan and I were just back from our amazing trip to California where he proposed two days before my birthday. That coming weekend, we planned to celebrate our engagement and my birthday by enjoying a typical fall Saturday: watching football at a bar.

We started the day in the early afternoon - for timeline sake, it was about 11am. I spent the day surrounded by our closest friends in Chicago, without a care in the world. It was my birthday! I was engaged!

We wandered from the Southport area (for those familiar with Chicago) over to Wrigleyville. The last bar we ended up at was the Houndstooth. For those unfamiliar with the city, I'd say it's about a mile walk from one neighborhood to the other. It was about 7pm, I would say.

A new friend joined us, and immediately, came up to wish me congratulations, asking me to let her see my ring. As I held out my left hand for the 100th time that day, I glanced down to sneak another peek at my new bling.

I saw four. empty. prongs.

Yep, you read that right. FOUR. EMPTY. PRONGS. The diamond—my beautiful, flawless, sparkling diamond—that had been in my possession for less than one week — one week! — was gone.

My mouth dropped open and I immediately burst into tears. I ran to my new fiance and silently showed him my left hand.

"Rachel, where is the diamond?" Bryan asked me, calmly.

(Sobbing. Hyperventilating. Sobbing. Shaking my head.)

I had no idea where it was. Did it fall out at the first bar we went to? Did it fall out on the walk between bars? Who knew!?

"Rachel," he repeated, a little more loudly this time. "We need to find the diamond."

I dropped to my hands and knees, frantically searching, but for what? A needle in a haystack. A literal diamond in the freaking rough. Yet, something caught my eye from across the bar.

There, smiling at me from underneath a bar stool, shone my diamond.

I was sober in an instant and immediately yelled at the top of my lungs, "EVERYBODY STOP MOVING!" Of course, only those in my direct vicinity heard me, but it had the desired effect. I made it to the barstool and snatched the diamond before it could get away again.

I walked it over to Bryan, who put the diamond in his pocket, and immediately left the bar. Me? I proceeded to cry my eyes out for the next couple of hours, while the group bought me shots in an effort to A) shut me up and b) make me stop crying. They did not achieve either.

The story is funny to tell now. I still hate to think about what would have happened if I hadn't found it. I exchanged words with the jeweler where Bryan purchased my ring and we have not had any problems since, thank goodness. As soon as my pretty princess was back on my finger, we got that shit insured.

So I guess that's the moral of the story: GET YOUR RING INSURED. Immediately, if not sooner. We—read, Bryan—would have been SOL had we not found that rock. Truly, it's sort of a miracle that we did find it.

But as someone who believes that things are meant to be, finding this special diamond was further proof that Bryan and I were just that: meant to be.

The night we got engaged in California, pre-losing the diamond.

Do you have any wedding or engagement horror stories?




A Happy Wife in New Orleans



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D is for Decorating

Hi peeps, and happy Monday! (Is that an oxymoron?)

Today I was a guest blogger for Krista over on Nineteen 93. She came up with a super-cute twist on guest blogs and linking up: It's called 25 Letters of Christma!


Each day this month, a different blogger will cover one letter of the alphabet that has to do with the upcoming holidays.

Today was my day: D is for Decorating the Tree!

Head on over to Krista's link-up and check out my post: http://www.estnineteen93.com/2012/12/25-letters-decorating-for-holidays.html 

Here's a couple of pics to give you a little taste!

 Ornament goodness.

Doggies, stockings and me!

 The final product!


Have you decorated for the holidays yet?
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Friday's Fancies: My Personal Style

Happy Friday, friends!

Tonight I write you, happily, from my couch. I'm in leggings and a sweatshirt, drinking a Boulevard Wheat, watching Top Chef, and waiting for my husband and dinner to arrive. It's been a long week, so I'm perfectly content where I am.

This Friday's Fancie's was "Dress Yourself." Ever gone shopping with someone who points out an item that's "so you?" That was the inspiration.

My Style

My Style by rzupek featuring a grey sweater


This was an easy one for me. My go-to outfit, especially in the fall and winter is a cute sweater, boots and skinnies. I steer toward neutral colors in the winter, but I always think it's fun to do a pop of spunk in accessories. (Just not in this outfit.)

This sweater is only $44 and just might make my Christmas list. I love it!

Link up with Friday's Fancies and show us your personal style!
Happy weekend!


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Saw It. Pinned It. Did It: Goat Cheese with Pistachios & Cranberries

I love this link up. I get to peruse other people's awesome craftiness, and I don't feel as inadequate about certain aspects of my life because I have something to contribute!

OK, OK. So my pin re-lived was another no-bake recipe. Shoot me. But, in my defense, it was for the holidays and I needed something I could bring to three different places (one for each, of course). I needed something delicious, quick to make and easy to transport.

As soon as I saw this Goat Cheese with Pistachios and Cranberries recipe on RealSimple.com, I pinned that ish to my food board and went straight to the store.


                                                              Original Source


Here's what you need:
  • 2  tablespoons roasted pistachios, chopped
  • 2  tablespoons dried cranberries, chopped
  • 8- to 10-ounce log fresh goat cheese
  • crackers or bread, for serving
I opted for Trader Joe's to find my ingredients. I knew they sell just the pistachio nutmeats, which meant no shelling for this girl. Let's just get to the good stuff! (Although, anyone else like to suck on the shells? Ummm....) I also chose a Chevre Honey log, rather than just "regular" goat cheese.

Here's what you do:

1. To chop the pistachios and cranberries, use a food processor. Or, put pistachios into a plastic bag and use a rolling pin to chop to desired consistency. Then just use a knife to chop up the berries.

 
 2. On a large plate, combine the pistachios and cranberries.

  
3. Roll the goat cheese in the fruit-and-nut mixture to coat. If neccessary, pat the mixture into any holes until covered. Serve with the crackers or bread.

And there you have it! The second easiest no-bake recipe ever to bring to your holiday party!



Now go join in the fun!
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10 Years Later

Sigh.

That's me, sad to be home after a wonderful Thanksgiving at home with family and friends. Even though we were there from Wednesday until Sunday—twice as long as our normal weekend visits—it went too fast, as always.

Aside from spending time with both of my insanely cute nieces, my crazy family and in-laws—God love 'em all—I was able to get in some good time QT with friends.

Like at my 10-year high school reunion. I'm officially old.

Truth be told, I wasn't totally pumped about going. My husband was definitely not pumped about going and I did not give him a choice in the matter. Keep in mind that he went to high school with most of these people, too, and has tried to distance himself from that life as much as possible. I make that strangely difficult for him. But not on purpose.

You see, my group of friends has been friends since high school. Most of us since even before.

And...we're still friends.

In the past 10 years, we've graduated high school, gone to colleges around the country, and lived around the world, from Iowa to Kansas to Michigan to California to South Dakota to New York to Tennessee to Australia to Spain. We've gotten jobs in every vocation; bought houses and pets; become mothers.
The day I left for college. Lots of tears!

We've been in and attended each other's weddings and bachelorette parties. We've upgraded from keg stands to wine, from wild nights downtown to quiet nights where we can sit and talk. We've gone through ups and downs. Some of the friendships have weakened while others have thrived. But at the end of the day, we're all still friends.

 Left: Summer 2002. Right: A few familiar faces on May 28, 2011.

Fun tidbit: One of my girlfriends remembered a time capsule that we all buried on May 17, 2002 in a city park, that we were to open on our 10-year reunion. I think all of us forgot about it, but thankfully she didn't.

Can you spot me?

We opened it at the reunion and it was so fun! Inside was an old Bud Light can (the red and blue one, and our illegal beer of choice back then), an empty bottle of Mountain Dew Code Red (to mix with Vodka), and an empty bottle of Absolut Mandarin (to wash down with Code Red?). Also inside were pictures of our "group," all of our graduation party invitations, notes to each other, and cutest of all, this:

Left: The night we buried the capsule. I must have been taking the pic. Right: The note we left inside.

I just love this because it's so honest, but innocent at the same time. We knew that we may not be best friends anymore, but we'd promise to at least still be friends, somehow. And for the most part, I'd say we are.

All in all, the reunion was a hit. It was like not reunions are in the movies — maybe because those in my class are cool!! I caught up with not only this group of ladies, but other friends from high school that I have really only kept up with from good ol' Facebook. Not a ton of people showed up — probably less than 100 out of a class of close to 400. But it was a good group regardless and fun to see so many. After the official "reunion," we all convened at a bar downtown to keep the party going and a good time was had by all.

Anyway, that's my weekend update in a nutshell!

 

Link up, tell me about yours and any funny high school reunion stories!

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With This Ring...

I l-o-v-e talking about weddings. Especially my own :)

I will have plenty to do by way of weddings in the next couple of years, with both my best friend and my sister getting married. I  hope my sister-in-law will get engaged soon, too...add another to the list!

In any case, my friend Mary told me about this Wedding Wednesday link-up with A Happy Wife in NOLA. It's open to all brides, former and to-be. I had so much fun with my wedding and I didn't have my blog—er, didn't write on my blog—during our engagement, so I hope I can offer some advice and wisdom to others!


A Happy Wife in New Orleans


I think I'll start with vows. One thing I learned during the wedding planning process was that your vows could be whatever you wanted them to be. I guess I thought that there was a set to choose from or that the officiant just chose some? So naive.

This actually goes for the ceremony, too. Well, at least for us. Since we got married outdoors, we didn't have any "rules" to follow. We put a lot of thought into our ceremony, and while many couples just want to get to the reception, I loved our ceremony. It was very personal and I had many tell me how much they enjoyed it.

Anyway, back to the vows.

We though about writing our own vows, but I felt confident that I would not be able to get through them coherently. I was worried enough about having to recite them from someone else. So, we basically took all of the traditional vows that we liked and mashed them together until we found words that spoke to us, about each other, and that held promises that we wanted to keep to one another.


Here's what we ended up with:

Do you Bryan, take Rachel to be your wife? Will you love her, comfort her, honor and keep her, in sickness and in health, for richer, for poorer, for better, or for worse, forsaking all others, keeping yourself only unto her as long as you both shall live?
Do you promise to be true to each other in joy and in sorrow?
To care for each other in sickness and in health?
To trust one another in triumph and in trial?
To honor each other in your words and actions?
To cherish one another with love and grace until you are parted by death?

Both respond: We will


Bryan and Rachel, please repeat after me.

From this day on I choose you to be my wife/husband
To live with you and laugh with you
To share all things with honesty, trust and compassion.
To be joy in your heart and to remain faithful to you.
To bring out the best in you and be the most for you that I can
To solace you when you are downhearted
As we grow old together, still loving each other gladly
All the days of our lives.

For the exchange of rings, we went with a simple:  With this ring, I give you my heart.


Perfection.

Some advice to other brides: Don't be afraid to write your own vows. Don't feel like you have to conform to the traditional "til death do us part." Although there is nothing wrong with that at all! Make sure the words are something that mean something to you both, and that truly encompass the things you want to promise to each other for the rest of your life. Look around on the Internet, ask friends what they said. Pick and choose the words that speak to you both.

A couple pieces of logistical advice: 
  • Don't forget to look into your bride or groom's eyes while you're saying these important words. Oftentimes, I see brides looking at the officiant without so much as a glance at the groom.  That's who you're talking to. 
  • Don't yell your vows. I made this mistake :) You're talking to your bride or groom. S/he is the only one who needs to hear you. Most times, one of you will be miked, so everyone else will be able to hear. And if they don't — it's OK.
  • Don't be afraid to cry. This is big stuff, people! My groom teared up several times during the ceremony and it was the sweetest thing.
Got any questions for me about anything wedding? Ask away! 

What did you say for your vows?
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