Monday, December 31, 2012



2012 was full. It started out in Shanghai, China, where Jeff and I rang in the western New Year, and then the Chinese New Year in February. We celebrated one glorious, tough, trial ridden, tender, and sometimes argumentative year together in our first apartment in Suzhou, China. We explored new places, new people and LOTS and LOTS of new food. While most people boast losing weight in China, we managed to maintain and gain while grazing and dining on the tasty treasures our new home had to offer. We made new friends, were parents to a sweeet French Bulldog, Jack, for a while, and enjoyed our religious freedoms through our small branch of church in a city that treated us very well. We haggled, lost our tempers, humbled ourselves, and grew close to a people that found us intriguing. We lost count of how many times it was bluntly pointed out that we were fat, learned to let it go, and found an even deeper friendship in each other in the absence of others. We had visits from old friends, and went on countless adventures, both large and small. We got lost, got found, and got sick. We held wild animals, learned to bake in unconventional settings, and mastered transit systems. We went to the Temple in Hong Kong, and had faith moving experiences. We livened up Hong Kong Disney, and rekindled the kids within us. Jeff conquered Chinese airplanes, and the splits. We lost my mother, who finally succumbed to a valiant fight against cancer. We left Suzhou unexpectedly fast, leaving much behind, including objects, friends, and work. We made it home in time for the funeral, for closure, and the reaffirming of family ties. We've quickly picked up from where we left off in Lexington, found a comfortable place to live and are now preparing for the next leg of the journey that lays ahead of us in 2013. 

In 2012, we lived sincerely, wholly, and with hearts open.

2013, bring it on.

Friday, December 21, 2012


In general, I honestly do love my life. I have a fantastic husband that fits me perfectly. We have a comfortable, clean and safe home. I have a job doing something I'm passionate and excited about. I have a good relationship with my immediate family and spend oodles of time with my Dad now that we're back in Kentucky, and I really enjoy and cherish that time. I have a car to get me from place to place without the tedium of mapping out bus routes, walking and metros. I once again have my dear friends within driving distance and can visit them whenever I like schedules line up. We have a good, relatively comfortable life, and I'm extremely grateful for it, and generally I am able to maintain an optimistic perspective about life.

It's just been a week or two of really frustrating, annoying, and sometimes discouraging days full of Murphy's Law moments. Car trouble, sickness, more car trouble, rain ( which I normally don't mind... until it starts to flood my car), budgeting, disagreements with peers in the sandbox ( you know what I mean), and a packed and stressful work and social calendar.

And so, I bake - a lot. Because it relieves stress, and gives me control over something, and yields fantastic end products. Last night? I layered my super reliable chocolate chip cookie recipe over a layer of brownies and baked them together. I can pretty much guarantee you while these desert bars will not bring world peace, they sure as heck made me feel a little happier. Though, I can't say the same for my waste line.

What do you do to make yourself feel better when you're having inexplicably bad days?


Tuesday, December 18, 2012


Get a look at that kitchen aide.. Forgive my drooling...

{Kalamata Olives}

I like olives. Really, I love anything that's pickled, but especially olives. After a particularly awful day of teaching, I packed up my stuff and decided to head to my parents house to hang out for a bit ( code for: they had cable and I didn't). I vented to my mother about coworkers, students, and how discouraged I felt. My brother got home from his job working as a cook at a local restaurant, Malones. He had spent the slow time of his shift that night stuffing a pint of teeny tiny kalamata olives by hand with blue cheese just for me. He had done it on a whim, having no idea the day I was having. They were just olives, but was just one of those little things that made a difference.

I miss my brother. There, I've said it. Not something I would have ever thought I'd say, let alone write. Don't get me wrong, I don't hate the kid, he's always just... been there. So He's never been one that I've had to miss. That, and we have had our healthy moments of sibling rivalry so that when we did have times apart, like while I was at college for semesters at a time, they were welcome breathers.

But, It's been a LONG two years. A LOT has happened. We separated two very different people than we are now. He's had his first very large taste of freedom from home ties, and has been forced to develop a sense of self and an identity that stands alone from who he's perceived within our family dynamics. And that's pretty huge, and has made him someone I'm very excited to get to know better when he returns in February. But also, since he left, I got married. I've had to grow up ( just a little more) since then and learn to be just a fraction of a bit less self centered, and egotistical. The world in fact does NOT revolve around me all days of the week ( ignore Jeff in the background shaking his head vehemently), and while I've got a long way to go, I'm a nicer, softer version of me in a lot of respects than what he'll remember.

And so, I've been reminiscing a lot. I've actually spent a lot of time in my head lately. Partially because it's such a mess and needs sorting. I've thought back on all our silly fights. All my pushy, bossy, terrible, no good, troll under the bridge older sister moments. All of his at the time annoying and intolerable behaviors. And through it all, I just shake my head and sigh, because I know that the majority of the time, it was mostly my fault. The kid has his faults, but in general, he's a pretty sweet and caring person. Quite the people pleaser, he was always out to make others feel special, even if they (me) didn't appreciate it, and I'm so very ready for him to be home again.


{December in a Nutshell}

OY. It's been awhile. Which is frustrating, personally. I enjoy blogging as a form of catharsis and as an element of journaling and documentation. There have so many things I've wanted to write down, but haven't quite gotten around to putting to paper, or didn't seem worth standalone entries. So, here we are - a hodge podge update entry!

Jeff and I have been BUSY. Between job hopping to find hours and pay that works for our needs ( mostly on Jeff's part, bless his heart), unpacking what seems like an overwhelming sea of boxes with no idea where to put things ( indecision on my part, again, bless Jeff's heart), and the plethora of other complications that just seem to pile on due to daily life as an adult, I just can't seem to catch up with myself.

Jeff and I were asked to organize the giving tree for our ward at church this year. I don't know who they thought they were dealing with, but organization is not a strong suit at the moment. Thankfully, between coordinating and delegation with some fantastically generous time givers, we've managed to be successful in this endeavor so far. Consequently, this also means our kitchen is STILL covered in glitter a week after we finished making ornaments for the tree. The end result is absolutely worth the sparkly meatloaf (Patent pending).
Jeff has been working at a gun shop managing their online sales, and engrossing himself in the business while finding as much work on the side as he can fit in. He's a trooper, and a dedicated individual. He's also fighting off getting sick and handling that with... some...grace. I guess. Nobody is perfect.

I've been plucking away at a case management firm helping out with billing and expenses while I slowly build up a case load. Slowly as in... I started my first one... this week. Hopefully things will pick up in the new year and I'll be drowning in advocacy in no time. I'm sincerely loving it so far, and excited and eager to get rolling. I really think that it's going to be something I'm going to be great at, and have an awesome set of resourceful people to help me pick it up quickly.

In my spare time I still manage to find time to relax and enjoy time with family and friends. I've turned a new leaf with baking, thanks to China, and have a new appreciation for good recipes, and the extra time that goes into them instead of relying on a box. I may not be good at math, art, sewing and crafts, but I'm feeling more and more accomplished and able to express myself through baking for others.

So much has changed in a year, and it's crazy to think that this time a year ago I was in my first few days of Shanghai. It's been an amazing, stressful, revealing, bonding, heart aching, healing, and trans-formative year. I can only imagine what this next one has in store.

Here's to a new adventure on every horizon, and a positive perspective.


Saturday, November 24, 2012


It was a beautiful day, and I got to enjoy it with my dear friend Joy catching up and walking around a beautiful park. There's something beautiful about every place I've lived in my life. I simply didn't realize how beautiful Kentucky is until I left. The crystal blue sky, clear air, and stunning landscape made me so grateful to be home. That, and it's great to be able to reunite with friends. It's been a long time!


Friday, November 23, 2012

{Thanksgiving in Pictures}

Old recipes, with some new ones mixed in, Lots of smells wafting, mixing, and setting an excellent mood that lasted throughout the day. We had an amazing dinner with some exceptional food served on wedding china, our first opportunity to use it. The rest of the day was spent grazing deserts, watching movies, and playing games. It was good to loose track of time, divvy up food, and go to bed full and happy.

We had a lot of good conversation, and the ability to enjoy our time together as a family. This year has certainly not been a conventional one, and has provided it's share of trials for everyone. It's been a blessing to have a balanced perspective, and to have been able to come home when we did. If there's anything I've learned in the past couple of years, it's that through all of the difficult trials, there is always the promise of good things to come, and that happiness is a decision, not a result.  I'm so grateful for the two wonderful, funny, supportive, and good men I have in my life.  They are my happiness. Well, them and pie.

Happy Thanksgiving everyone!

1. Apple Pie
2. Grandma's Oyster Stuffing ( one without , for Jeff)
3. Flowers from a thoughtful husband
4. Pumpkins for Pie. No cans here!
5. Pinterest experiment of the night - cinnamon roll crust.
6. Creamy, spicy, and ready to be a pie!
7. Finished Pumpkin Pie. Yum!
8. Crust results. Not bad, eh?
9. Bananas waiting
10.  to be this
11. Fuel for the morning
12. Grandma's yeast rolls
13. Table setting starting to come together
14. Wedding china
15. Wealth of food
16 &17. Perfect company

Not Pictured: Jeff's 3 bean salad, green beans and bacon,, broccoli cheese casserole ( ALL YUM), and the best turkey I've ever eaten. 

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

{Little Miss Sunshine*}

I am in a GREAT mood today.

For all you nay sayers of this progressively cooler weather, I am simply happy to be so far removed from the China summer. My arms and legs are bite free, I'm not currently driven crazy with the unceasing urge to itch or take a shower and I will gladly put on an extra layer, scarf and mittens to not go through that for a LONG time.

I am currently working TWO jobs. One is at the testing center I worked at a couple of years ago. I know the people well, we get along great, it's a mindless and conducive job for multitasking errands and to do lists that have been piling up on me as we work on getting re-established. For example, while doing my job (which I happen to be pretty great at) I also managed to research, call, apply, and get some really fantastic health insurance for Jeff and I - Something that has been a major stressor since before we got back from China.

The second job is what I'm even more excited about. Before we left for China I was working as a companion for an awesome woman who had Down Syndrome. During that time I fell in love with the area of work, and got to know the case managers and what they do. When I got back, I looked up some of those connections, had an interview and am currently working on getting established with a case load of my own. In the mean time, they are also letting me make money helping with billing and expenses, something I had already had experience with while working with them in the past. This is something I have been looking forward to, and honestly what I was really planning on doing when I got back. Everyone has been asking me if I plan on teaching again, and while I still love being in a classroom and working with children, I honestly am so burnt out ( or bitter , as Jeff puts it) with the education system. This new direction I'm taking will allow me to work with the same people that I wanted to work with as a teacher, but with less  different obstacles.  I'm very, very excited about this change.

While I'm not loving having less days off, I am loving being able to come up with enough time to run errands, unpack things around the house, and have dinner cooked before Jeff gets home. Almost every day this week we've been able to enjoy a home cooked dinner together, in our kitchen sitting at our dining table.

Finally, I'm SO relieved to finally have a place of our own that we see ourselves sticking to for a while. I hate moving OH.SO.MUCH. While our apartment still looks a little chaotic with boxes still threatening a hostile takeover, we get a little more done each day, and each day it looks a little more like home. Eventually, when I'm satisfied that it looks worth sharing, I'll give you a tour.

For right now though, I'm satisfied for the daily progress and the little things that keep me upbeat. Tonight, Spiral ham, asparagus with hollandaise sauce, parsley potatoes, and banana pudding.


*Also the name of my lemon of a car. 

Thursday, November 8, 2012

{So Here We Are}

I want to write something, and honestly, there's a lot of things I have to say and get off my chest. Unfortunately, a lot of it is inappropriate for airing in public.While I am happy to share select things about my life with others, and I know some are interested and inquiring, I firmly feel that conflicts that involve people that are close to you such as family members are not something that every Tom, Dick, and Harry needs to be bothered with, tantalized with, or polled about for their opinions.

So, I'll say this. We're back, in Kentucky. We've been busy little beavers hitting the ground running trying to make sure the most impulsive decision we've made thus far in our relationship leads to a fruitful end, and that we can continue to sustain ourselves as two adults should. It hasn't been easy. I'm starting to hate the metaphor of the roller coaster, because it has been so fitting. Still, We've had more ups than downs, and that's what counts. That's what we choose to focus on.

In a lot of ways, I think my perspective on life and how I treat and understand people has changed significantly. I'm learning to let go of grudges, prioritize my life, and surround myself in environments that are condusive to my progression as a person, and a child of God. It's made a tremendous difference to have my faith in this situation, and while I have never been one to push my beliefs on anyone, I will say that for myself, I have been able to find a boon of peace and understanding because of my knowledge of the gospel. This has been a testimony building experience on many different levels, and I'm grateful to have the ability to move on and live my life in a land that allows me to have my free agency.

Jeff and I were both blessed to be able to secure jobs the day after we landed, were able to find a nice, affordable, and safe place to live so that we could continue to be independent, and have had amazing support from some family members who have made this transition a less terrifying one. I've had some interviews for some promising new opportunities that I am pretty confident in, that will allow me to switch my career to something I have been looking into for a while, and will give us the income to save and pursue future interests in education and life.

In all things, I see a masters touch, lining up events, circumstances and decisions that make things happen in such a way that you can't help but feel blessed. I'm working up the motivation to keep the blog going, as there are still a lot of things we want to share, to document, and to remember from our wonderful adventure abroad, and the one that lays ahead of us.

As always, thank you for reading and keeping up with us. It means a lot to know that we have so many people standing behind us, ready to support and encourage when needed, or to share in laughs, tears and the wealth of emotions that come with life. I look forward to growing these relationships with you, and continuing to share life's adventures.

Have a wonderful day.


Tuesday, October 30, 2012

{And so am I}

Well, I supposed there are silver linings wherever you look for them. I'm back in the land of pumpkin. Please excuse the emotional eating.


Friday, October 26, 2012

{Hong Kong}

We flew into Hong Kong on Thursday. When we started saving and planning this leg of the trip, Jeff had asked me to save as much money as I could on plane tickets. Okey doke. With the help of some of the girls I worked with, I searched and found the "Chinese" price on the "Chinese" websites, and got us a dang good deal on a bare-bone, no frills, "Chinese" airline. He was pleased at the lower than expected cost... until we got onto the plane. Jeff's normal discomfort on planes was surpassed with seats made specifically for the petite Asian frame, and he spent the entire flight in a near split position doing his best to grin and bare it. I've never seen him jump out of a seat as quickly as when that plane pulled into the gate.

Excruciating flight aside, 20 minutes into being in Hong Kong, we were at ease and having a great time. It was an immediate realization of how very different HK is from mainland China. In Shanghai, it's a way of life to push and elbow your way through a crowd to get where you're going. If you don't, you get swallowed by the sea of people and you never get to the front of a "line", out the car of a metro, or across the street. When people bumped into us in HK, there was a quick "Oh, Sorry" that through us so through a loop that we were left standing in a sea of people a couple of times with our luggage on the way to our hostel. One of the customs Jeff seemed to acclimate to all to quickly in china was the lack of discretion with bodily functions, including farts, spitting, and blowing noses. In HK, there were signs posted everywhere forbidding spitting, urinating in the streets, and smoking. It was a difference in night and day, and It was a welcome change. It was definitely a clear contrast of what we had been living in since moving to China.

We got to our hostel, which was small, but located in a great part of town with a fantastic view, only to piece together that it was operating illegally. However, we had paid, were the only ones there aside from a couple of stragglers, and kept our heads down coming and going. We never had any problems, and made it out just fine.

One of the perks of working for Disney, particularly as a salaried employe, is the free access to the parks, and the attractive employee discount. We spent the entire day Friday at Disneyland Hong Kong, which was the jumping off point of Ashley's wanting to visit China. A Disney nut, one of her bucket list items is to go to all of the Disney parks in the world. So far, she's got the state parks, and Paris, and now HK. I have a feeling she'll be back to China someday, because they have already broken ground on Disneyland Shanghai. Maybe she'll take me with her ;)

It was a lot of fun, and a different experience going back as adults. For the most part, the park lives up to the expectations I had, and after 12 hours there, we were exhausted. That night was the best sleep Jeff and I have had in China.

The next morning, Jeff and I groggily drug ourselves out of bed and headed to the temple located across the bay in Kowloon. We had a rough start and some tears of frustration were shed in the attempt to get there, but we made it, and had an amazing experience. It was something that had definitely been missing from our lives this past year and it was so very wonderful to be able to visit while we were there.

While we were in the temple, Ashley and her dad went off exploring Hong Kong, and while we were supposed to meet them after, I was feeling really under the weather ( and quite honestly wiped out from the previous days exploits) so Jeff and I ended up napping the majority of our day away. We met them in the evening though for a trip around the harbor on the ferry and got to see the awesome skyline lit up at night. We ended the night with Dinner and a relaxed evening back at the hostel with a movie and packing. I was a little disappointed in myself for wimping out on seeing more of Hong Kong, but was VERY happy with what I did get to do. It's certainly a place I'd like to revisit in the future.

My little friend that I made on the flight to HK. She and I kept each other entertained for the majority of the time. Such a cutie of a kid. 

The morning view of the harbor from the hostel window.

Mickey Halloween style. So many pumpkins!

Life has certainly been like barrel full of monkeys with him. I wouldn't have it any other way.

Our interpretation of drivers in China. Nailed it.

Ironic in retrospect. We were certainly ready for our next adventure though, whether it be on the moon or not!

Fact: Jeff is afraid of heights. Fact: A mans pride will overcome most fears. I'm proud to say that He braved the paratrooping ride that raises you up in the air and drops and bounces you several times and  a decent height. Fact: He still screamed and pouted after.    


Ashley got a taste of the outrageous shoe fashion. You know you want a pair.

Feeling a bit sea sick, but enjoying the ride just the same!

I'm so glad for the opportunity to have been able to have spent this time not only in Hong Kong, but to have spent it with a dear friend, and of course Jeff. We had no idea that it would be our last experience in China, but we are very glad for it.