Tag Archives: family

The Coolest 15-Year-Old in the WORLD

My brother, Luke, sent his writer sister (that’s me) an essay to look over this evening. The essay was titled “Laugh, Play, Family” and in it he wrote:

“Finally, I cannot live without my family; they are the most important people to me in the world. My sister, Caroline, is one of my best friends in the world and without her to keep me in line I do not know where I would be today.”

He continued on to speak of my sister, youngest brother, mom and dad.

How did he get to be so cool and wise at 15 years old? Hell, I would love to think I played a part in it.

Hey, Luke, without you, honey, I would not be even a smidgen of the person I am today. Thank you for teaching me something new every moment since the day you were born.

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Filed under August 2008, Eat, Pray, Run

I Have Moved in With Amphibians . . . and Crickets.

Whew! Moving, well, sucks. Sorry, mom, I know how much you hate that word.

But it does. Suck.

On Sunday, we got all of our stuff schlepped over to our new apartment in Ohio, and we sweated, groaned and struggled to do just that. I have places that hurt on my body that I did not even know had the ability to ache.

Oh, well, it’s over now, and we spent much of yesterday evening beginning to get all of our crap organized. We still have a long way to go.

On an exciting note, however, we absolutely love our new home. It is by far the best place either of us have lived. We even have a laundry room! And for those of you who have been spending your quarters on coin-operated machines, you know just how glorious that little factoid is.

We are back in Pittsburgh now, and will be spending the next three and a half weeks with my parents. Dan has some work to finish up here before we make the final move to Ohio.

It has been a while since I have slept at my parents’ for more than a day or two, let alone bunked with my youngest brother, Isaac. So, needless to say, last night was an “interesting” experience. Dan, of course, shared a room with the teenage brother (Luke) who passed out nice and quietly last night. Lucky for them. (;

I, on the other hand, not only roomed with Isaac, but seven other animals and a bag of crickets. Isaac owns a gecko, two frogs, baby turtle, lizard and food for a few of the critters (gecko and lizard) to munch on. Add the amphibians and insects to my two cats sleeping on my bed with me, and I felt like Dr. Doolittle last night.

I nodded off to Cooper and Emerson crunching their kitty food, water swirling in the turtle’s aquarium and, of course, Isaac’s childlike, incessant questions (gotta love him) of “What if the world ended right now?” and other matters of the sort. When the crickets started chirping at 3 a.m., I considered submerging my head in the turtle’s water or smashing Gary the gecko’s cage over my head.

I exaggerate, but I am wondering if perhaps Isaac could at least consider turning off the multicolored lights that adorn the cages. Dimming them?

I woke up in the middle of the night, unsure if I had stumbled into a bad, bad, horribly-themed college keg party.

With amphibians.

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Filed under Eat, July 2008, Pray, Run

Make Sure to Play Hard in This Game of Life

The 30-Day Challenge posts will be back soon, but I feel a need to take a brief hiatus today and address the “pray” sector of this blog with a little more of a thought-provoking post. Enjoy!

As you have all witnessed throughout the last few posts, my family and I have been on vacation for the last two weeks. This weekend, we are all journeying home and going back to our respective duties, bearing, of course, in mind that vacation is over and the so-called “real world” is an ever-present factor.

I always try to walk away from a fabulous trip like the one I just experienced and keep in mind that I should be thankful for the beautiful gift I have been given — this time with my family, this vacation and so forth. And I am so thankful. It is hard, however, to not reflect on the great passage of time that the end of a vacation represents. I, for one, very much so use vacations as a time for personal “improvements” so to speak, and the end of this summertime life-marker often feels like the beginning of a new year.

My parents ventured home yesterday, and left the four of us — me, my sister and two brothers — to spend one more day on vacation. Dan and my sister’s boyfriend, Anthony, stayed with us as well.

We started the evening with ice cream in Thousand Islands Park, a food tradition that my mother refers to as “eating backward” because you are eating dessert before dinner. It was a perfect occasion to sit outside and eat ice cream as quickly as possible in an effort to keep the hot sun from melting it all over the front of our shirts.

After we all finished, — I had a spectacular dark chocolate and mint ice cream — my youngest brother, Isaac, suggested we test out the see-saws at the town park. At first, I thought, “Definitely not my thing.” But then I realized that my stuffy notions were unwarranted — “Why not?” I asked myself.

We decided to go for it, even though I decided to swap the see-saws for a swing — more my style. I have to admit, I initially felt a bit nauseous; the ice cream and swing combo just was not working for me.

But once I was at it for awhile, I shook it off, and the swing ride felt so good. I completely forgot how freeing it was to pump your legs on a swing and “Swooosh!” into the air.

We hit a few other spots as well — the slides and merry-go-round — and I eventually made it to the see-saw as well. Dan even had a go at the sandbox, but then I reminded him that it was similar to a giant cat litter box, and he quickly stepped out. (;

I laughed watching my goofy fiancé, a 24-year-old big child, on the horse, and I sent secret messages via the “telephones” that were stationed throughout the park (apply the tin can with a string theory here) to my sister and brothers.

On the way home, Dan looked at me and said, “Whew! I played hard. It makes you wonder how kids do it all the time — I’m tired!”

And I laughed.

It’s so true: How did we forget to play as hard as we did when we were children?

Yes, we work and run errands and deal with financial stress, but where is the play time?

By the way, those things are all very valid thoughts and actions, but it seems a shame to go through life forgetting to take a ride on a swing or merry-go-round. When Isaac looked at me as we were leaving and said, “Good idea, huh?” I shook my head with a resounding, “Yes.” I was so glad I listened to his suggestion.

I know there is not always room, but try to keep it in mind the next time you are hurrying past a playground.

That see-saw might just change your world.

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Filed under Eat, June 2008, Pray, Run

I’m Doing the Vacation Happy Dance!

V-ee are here! (That one was for my future father-in-law!)

I know I have already told you all about how fabulous this place is, but, seriously, it is really freaking fabulous.

This is my view every morning from the kitchen table . . .

Totally fabulous, right?

So, anyway, lets kick this Monday off with a little run-down of my weekend:

I left you last on Friday evening, before I had eaten dinner. I can’t really even talk about the modge-podge of a dinner that occurred, but all I can tell you is that it involved leftover soba noodle salad and a few more pierogies — I shudder at the thought of eating another potato-filled noodle pocket any time soon.

Saturday was mostly spent in the car — it takes about eight hours to get to our cottage. Dan and I met my parents at their house and brought McDonald’s Egg McMuffins for everyone (my Dad had a craving). In case you did not know by the way, Egg McMuffins, while not that ultimate breakfast choice, are not a bad option when on the road. At 300 calories, 12 grams of fat it is an Eat This! choice in my favorite Eat This, Not That! book.

I, of course, also had some coffee from my all-time favorite Pittsburgh-based coffee shop, Coffee Tree Roasters — it was much needed after only about 4 1/2 hours of sleep the night before. Packing and my obsession with cleaning before I leave to go anywhere for an extended period of time kept me up a bit later than I would have liked. (Again, please ignore the chipping nail polish . . . my nails have been neglected these past few days).

Also on the road were some Peanut Butter M&M’s, cheese and rye crackers, 1/2 a peanut butter and strawberry jelly sandwich on whole wheat and a few Sour Cream & Onion Pringles. One thing I hate about road trips besides a sore ass from sitting so long — the junk food that often gets mixed into the trip.

The plus: Listening (and dancing) to music from the 90s, playing “I Spy…” and, of course, creating inside jokes that will last the entire vacation.

When we arrived at the cottage, we unpacked and ordered pizza from none other than CAVALLARIO’S!! Now, I know you cannot understand the glory involved in this pie. But, I swear, if you were here to taste the cheesy goodness of it all, then you would get it. I went for two pieces of one of my faves — Pesto, Artichoke and Feta Cheese pizza. Mmmm … I am getting hungry now!

Breakfast the next morning was a small bowl of about 20 Frosted Mini Wheats with about one cup of 1% milk, followed by a sliced apple and coffee.

After breakfast, my mom, sister and I did the leg segment from one of my most favorite workout DVDs, I Want That Body!. Of course, I have only ever done the leg section on the DVD, but, lemme tell you, it is one heck of a workout! I can feel leg muscles today that I didn’t know I had yesterday. All three of us are so pathetic; every time we go to move, we all say, “Oh, my legs! Oh, my butt!”

Following that sweat-session, I slathered myself in SPF 50 and hit the deck with my sister to sunbathe and read for a bit. Of course, I am still white as hell, but the sunshine felt nice. I am currently reading about five books, but the one I am so much enjoying right now is Bird By Bird by Anne Lamott.

A passage to enjoy from this incredible writer:

“For some of us, books are important as almost anything else on Earth. What a miracle it is that out of these small, flat, rigid squares of paper unfolds world after world after world, worlds that sing to you, comfort and quiet or excite you. Books help us understand who we are and how we are to behave. They show us what community and friendship mean; they show us how to live and die. They are full of all the things that you don’t get in real life — wonderful lyrical language, for instance, right off the bat. And quality of attention: we may notice amazing details during the course of day, but we rarely let ourselves stop and really pay attention. An author makes you notice, makes you pay attention, and this is a great gift.”

I love that part of the book– and I have read it over and over again — because I could not have put better into words exactly how I feel about the gift of books and writing and language. I cried the first couple of times I read through Ms. Lamott’s words.

After being out in the sun for awhile, I was really quite hungry, so my mom, sister and I made some tuna fish with light mayo, sprinkled it with light cheese and put it on whole grain bread. It was so yummy, but I was stuffed! Something about being in the sun for a bit makes me not as hungry … who knows.

Lunch was followed by my brother, Luke, convincing me to go kayaking with him. He had already spent about two hours and three miles on the thing with Dan, but he wanted to keep going.

Now, lets get one thing straight here: I am not exactly coordinated. I never played a sport that involved balls, bats, sticks or paddles — or anything of the sort — and did it successfully. I was the girl in volleyball class who tossed the ball in the air before my hand hit it just so I could avoid serving the ball the proper way.

So, I was not immediately gung-ho about the event. But I love my brother, so I decided to be a good sport. Truth be told, however, once I got out there I was totally fine. We went about 2 miles and I got an awesome arm workout. Of course, I cannot move too well today, — especially after the dang leg workout — but we had a great time. I love spending time with that kid; he is just hilarious and one of my most favorite people on planet Earth.

I came in and had a few Triscuits with hummus and a small handful of peanut M&M’s while we made dinner. Dinner was grilled ahi tuna and chicken with salad and baked beans. I had a small piece of tuna and chicken; salad with dried blueberries, spicy pecans, apricot cheese and a low-calorie, Trader Joe’s Cranberry Walnut dressing; and a scoop of baked beans.

Later, I had a small bowl of Trader Joe’s Oat Bran Swirls with skim milk for a snack.

I was so pooped by the end of the day that almost as soon as I hit my pillow, I passed out. I slept for about seven hours — a nice change from the usual five.

Today is another beautiful day. So far, I have had a bowl of Barbara’s Bakery Shredded Oats and 1/2 of a semi-sour grapefruit.

And, now, I am just enjoying a cup of coffee (I always drink it black and bold, by the way) and writing to you!

I hope you are all having a fabulous Monday. Enjoy the day wherever you are — it is a fantastic one!

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Filed under Eat, June 2008, Pray, Run

This Train Has Been Delayed … And So Has Her Yummy Food.

Bad news: We didn’t end up leaving for vacation today.

My baby brother (Look at his little face, at right) is sick — fever, backache, the works — and we thought he would be better off resting at home rather than spending eight hours in the car.

So, an early-morning departure tomorrow it is!

Since I haven’t given details yet, here they are — my family and I vacation every summer in The 1000 Islands. It’s a fabulous place located in upstate New York, just along the border of Canada. This place means so many things to us, and it has just become a magical vacation spot. As the story goes, when my grandfather (my mom’s dad) was visiting family in Canada (he was born in Ottawa), he would often cross the Canadian/New York bridge — the 1000 Islands Region spans far into Canada — that crossed over the St. Lawrence River (home to The 1000 Islands). And he would always tell his parents that, some day, he would take his family there — and he did. My mom and her six brothers and sisters have all been vacationing there since they were quite young; my mom was about six when they first visited. And now, they all take their families — my mom’s older brother and his wife takes their four children and their significant others; my mom’s youngest brother and his wife take their three kids who have grown to know vacation = 1000 Islands; and my mom’s younger sister, her husband and two girls are also continuing the tradition. Some of her other siblings go for some solo time, and her mother (my Gram!) is also still making her way to the place she and her husband passed along to their children.

My Uncle Russ (my mom’s younger brother) and Aunt Amy not only named their dog, Alex, after a town in the 1000 Islands Region — Alexandria Bay — but he also proposed to my aunt more than 10 years ago at a special picture place that he, his siblings, mother and father used to visit often.

It’s overwhelming when I think of all of the special memories that have been created there — some, of course, better than others. Like vacation songs, and a split lip (good one, Amanda), and pizza at Cavallario’s, and planting a tree, and walks in Thousand Islands Park, and romantic dinners at The Wellesley Hotel, and two gimps walking/running 6 miles back to the cottage (Thanks, again, Amanda), and THE notorious argument about who forgot to bring the baked beans — and the SPOONS!! — to a picnic (aha, ha, ha, ha — you know who you are!) — just to name a few.

So, anyway, our spot. And we love it.

Now, given that I thought I was leaving today and I have been cleaning out the refrigerator all week, today’s food options have been pretty slim pickins, but I am making due.

First off, last night’s dinner — we had leftover pierogies (again, I had about six) and Dan cooked up a side of chicken sausage, green peppers and onions. It was tasty, but I am kind of over the whole pierogies craving for now.

I had a treat, too: One and a half of Whole Foods’ delish cookies! They were oh-so-yummy, but I was feeling pretty full afterward.

I only got about 5 1/2 hours of sleep again, but vacation is literally right around the corner, so I am counting on some R&R.

Breakfast today was bo-ring All Bran Strawberry Fields and little bit of ewwy Cascadian Farms, again, with one cup skim milk. And lunch was a PB and banana sandwich on whole wheat bread — again. So, instead of making you look at the same ol’ pictures I am just giving you some fab vacation photos to check out instead. How nice of me, huh?

Oh, and I just had a butterscotch treat and about 6 oz. Diet Coke.

As you can imagine, I am looking very forward to a menu change once vacation starts.

I have been working all day, and, unless a packing miracle happens, I am thinking throwing clothes into a suitcase might just have to be my workout tonight. Because once I got the memo last night that we were not going, I scratched the late-night packing session I had previously planned. Oops!

Now, as for dinner — this could get interesting ….

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Filed under Eat, June 2008, Pray, Run

Twenty Four Years of Life Created By Love

So, yesterday was my birthday (yay!).

When everyone began to ask me what I was going to do on my special day, I received with the question many suggestions as to how I should plan the festivities.

“You should go out to eat.”

“You could meet friends for a few drinks.”

“You should go to the bars and get trashed — that’s what I always do.”

And while I know these words of wisdom were not ill-intentioned, none of them — not even the last all-too-fun-sounding pearl of advice (note sarcastic tone) — involved things that I wanted to do for the celebration of my 24th year of life.

All I really wanted to do was be with the people whom I love the most — my family. So, on Saturday night Dan and I packed up our things (our kitties, too!) and headed to my mom and dad’s house.

I woke up the next morning to bagels and fresh cream cheese from my favorite joints, compliments of my sister’s boyfriend, Anthony. I went for a long walk with my mom, and Dan and my sister made me sushi for lunch. I broke out my new juicer — the one and only present I really wanted — and made juice for everyone. A few of my most cherished extended family members stopped over, and I got to spend some time with all of them — my aunt, uncle, fabulous godchild and cousin, Chloe, and her sister, Ella, and brother, Jacob. They brought me cookies shaped like 2’s and 4’s (as you can see I pretty much polished those off!). And my mom made my favorite dinner which consists of ground turkey, potatoes, carrots, mushrooms, corn and onions. I know it’s quite an odd choice, but I love it. Finally, my family sang to me and we ate cake.

It was perfect. I would not change a darn thing.

And while I already knew how lucky I am, days like this reaffirm all of those very real, true beliefs.

I. AM. SO. LUCKY.

My family is not perfect, and we have our quirks and battles. But it is so perfect for me.

Mohandas Gandhi once said, “Where there is love there is life.”

I know for sure that my “life” exists and thrives because of the love by which I am surrounded. And I am a consistently growing person because of that “love.”

Thank you . . . to each one of you who have made my life for the past 24 years.

P.S. Stay posted for awesome juicing recipes . . . I love this thing!

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Filed under April 2008, Pray

The World is Pretty Amazing

volunteer.jpg I love to volunteer. There is something about lending a helping hand that can make your whole world feel different; the air feels crisper, people seem more cheerful, you have an extra bounce in your step.

The thing is, this feeling is more self-created, than actual. Don’t get me wrong — the feeling of doing something good it very real indeed. But the way in which your world all of a sudden appears more rosy? That, my friend, is created by you.

Here’s the thing: Volunteering is so wonderful because not only are you smiling, but you are making someone else smile as well. And volunteer options are always available. You just have to be willing to step up to the plate.

I hear you, I hear you: “But I don’t have time!” I tell myself that, too, all of the time.

But, yes, you do. We all do.

Put aside a couple hours of Oprah, and all of a sudden you will have time. Or take your volunteering with you to work — a lot of organizations involve gathering money to support the cause. You can also tell your kids to take a night off from hanging out with friends, and involve your whole family — you will have time and you will be creating memories.

Anne Frank once said,

How lovely to think that no one need wait a moment:
we can start now, start slowly changing the world!”

That’s the thing about making a difference — No, you are not going to change the world over night. But imagine if you could change just one person’s world. Wouldn’t that be fantastic?!

I am just putting together some of the causes that I would like to volunteer for this year. One cool thing about volunteering is that you can combine your passions and your need to give to others. I would like to include health, fitness and writing on my Volunteer To-Do List this year.

While you are still a-thinkin’, take this survey that I put together. I would love to hear what all of you are involved in, or what volunteer goals you have for this year.

Let’s inspire each other!!

prettyboys.jpg
Emerson and Cooper at 3 months old and all dressed up — we adopted them from the Animal Rescue League of Pittsburgh.

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Filed under February 2008, Pray