Sunday, January 29, 2012

Recent Reads

I didn't get much reading done during the craziness of the holidays, but I more than made up for it when I was bed- and couch-ridden after my surgery. I've enjoyed all the recommendations I've gotten from my previous "Recent Reads" posts - keep 'em coming!

Kissing Games of the World, by Sandi Kahn Shelton
Rating: 3 stars

I found this book through Kat's blog, and picked it up as something a little different than what I would normally read. Jamie is a struggling artist and single mother to her five-year-old son, Arley. In somewhat strange circumstances, they live with Arley's best friend, Christopher, and his grandfather, Harris. Harris had a less-than-stellar reputation with women, which led to several rumors about his living situation with Jamie once he passed away. His death also brings his estranged son, Nate, back into Christopher's life to take on a fatherly role. There are a lot of mixed emotions for everyone, as Christopher is more family to Jamie and Arley than to his own father. Through a lot of heartbreak, pain, and confusion, it turns into a very sweet love story.

The Paris Wife, by Paula McLain
Rating: 4 stars

The Paris Wife was another recommendation by my friend, Kim. I had heard from several people that it was not a happy book - depressing, in fact. However knowing Hemingway's history, and knowing how it would end, I thought it was an interesting perspective from his first wife on their marriage. I could tell almost from the very beginning that it was not a happy marriage and that it would be doomed no matter how hard she tried, which was sad. Ernest Hemingway is Bo's favorite author, and I've added A Moveable Feast to my "to-read" list, which is his memoir of his time in Paris, so I am interested to see how similar or different their two stories will be.

Snow Flower and the Secret Fan, by Lisa See
Rating: 5 stars

Several people recommended this book to me, and I borrowed my mom's copy when I was home for Christmas. I loved it. Cover-to-cover, I read it in about 5 hours the day after my foot surgery. I thought it was a very sweet (and at many times, bittersweet) story of two girls, their friendship, and their fates. The story is told by Lily, a 7-year-old girl in 19th century China, who is paired with Snow Flower as laotongs, or "old sames" - meaning that they will be lifelong friends. They suffer many pains together - footbindings, arranged marriages, family deaths, the constant feeling of worthlessness, and a falling out due to a misunderstanding. Their laotong pairing results in the greatest love either of them will ever meet in this world.

The Art of Racing in the Rain, by Garth Stein
Rating: 4 stars

Yet another recommendation from Kim (and a few other friends). The story is told by Enzo, Denny's dog, who is about to die and recounts his life. His owner, Denny, is an aspiring race car driver who faces far too many struggles through their time together. Though it is very much a sad story, in the end I found it very uplifting and hopeful. As a dog lover (and now owner) I thought Enzo's point of view was funny and to-the-point. Sure makes me wonder what Molly is thinking :)

Jane Eyre, by Charlotte Bronte
Rating: 5 stars

A few years ago, Bo bought me a few "women's classic" novels that he thought I should read instead of the "terrible" (his word, not mine) chick-lit books that I so loved. I didn't read for fun all too much back then, so needless to say this was not the best way to get me back into reading. Jane Eyre and a few others have sat on our book shelf for years, slowly collecting dust ever since. It was also somewhat intimidating at 524 pages, but I finally picked it up. The writing is just so different from what I am now used to, that it took a while for me to get into, but once I did I was hooked (though it still took me about two weeks to finish). It was such a great book. I'll admit this one time, Bo was right. It was way better than typical chick-lit (that I do still love). And I'll be adding the other classics into my every-growing "to-read" list.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Happy Birthday to Me!

I love my birthday. Especially this year, because for the first time in my adult life I did not have to work on my actual birthday, and it was not during busy season crunch time.

Since my college days, I've celebrated my birthday every year with a keg party. This year was no different - Saturday night we had a bunch of friends over to our home, and apparently had too much fun to bother taking any pictures.

Sunday was my actual birthday. I spent all day in my pajamas watching football (yes, even when our friends came over!) and it was fantastic. I was actually born on Super Bowl Sunday - and as my mom shared on facebook, my dad was really glad that I was born in the morning :)  It's no mystery where my love for that sport comes from!

Later that night, we got all dressed up and Bo took me to a celebratory dinner at Canoe. We heard so many good things about this restaurant and were glad to finally go.

We both thought it was amazing. I had lamb, and Bo had monk fish (it was a special). We shared our meals and the portions were large enough that I even got to enjoy leftovers the next day for lunch. As always, however, there was no leftover wine.

It's a little out of the way (as in, outside of our Virginia Highlands "bubble" that we prefer to never leave...) but totally worth it - we will definitely be coming back. Apparently in the spring when it's warmer they have really awesome happy hours and a live band at the outdoor bar along the river.Who wants to come with us?!

It was a great birthday weekend! 28 is off to a pretty good start so far :)

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Anniversary Dinner: 2 years, 6 months

In the midst of my recovery week from surgery, we celebrated our monthly anniversary for two and a half years. I've missed a few of these anniversary dinner posts because I kept forgetting to take pictures of the food, and I just don't enjoy posting without pictures! Plus, when I post about the meals, I can keep track of what we've had so we can keep trying to come up with something new each month :)

This month we had lobster! I was a little freaked out about them because they were alive. As we were trying to prepare dinner, every few minutes the lobsters would spaz out in their little boxes on the kitchen counter. One guy even busted the bottom of his box. So I put them on one end of the counter, and I stayed on the other side of the kitchen to let Bo handle them all by himself, which he of course loved.

"enough with the pictures already"

I love watching them turn from muddy brown to bright red.

While the lobsters cooked we munched on an artichoke, one of our favorite appetizers.

Maine lobster served with rice pilaf. Two thumbs up for Bo's presentation skills.

Paired with our newest bottle of Chandon.

Our best monthly dinner yet! It will be a difficult one to top next month...

Monday, January 16, 2012

Nurse Bo

About a week and a half ago I had surgery on my right foot. Last summer it started to really hurt for a few months, but I had convinced myself it was nothing and I was just being a wuss as usual. Of course, it continued to worsen, to the point where it was extremely painful to run, high heels were no longer practical, and even going for a walk with Molly started to hurt. That was the point where I decided it was time to self-diagnose myself on Google/WebMD, and determined that I had bunions, which my doctor confirmed a week later.

Contrary to popular belief (as in, the beliefs of Bo and several of my friends), bunions have nothing to do with old people. So, to set the record straight - in layman's terms, a bunion is when your big toe bone sticks out to the side of your foot instead of being straight, and all the bones are no longer aligned with the rest of your foot as they should be. Bunions are typically genetic (Mom/Dad - which of you do I have to thank for this??) and are worsened by certain conditions:

1. Flat feet (which I have)
2. Frequent and/or strenuous exercise (which I do most days)
3. Wearing uncomfortable shoes for the sake of fashion (which I have done 5 days a week for 4 years now)

No joke, the x-ray of my foot looked a pointy-toe high-heel shoe. So my doctor suggested that I get rid of all my pointy-toed shoes (tear), and start wearing flats and round-toed shoes. (This has resulted in a major overhaul of my shoe wardrobe.) He then ordered me some really sweet shoe inserts that could help with the pain, which did make me feel like an old lady.

I tried them out for a little while, but they were annoying, they didn't fit right in all of my shoes, and they also didn't reduce my foot pain as much as I had hoped for. Surgery is the only permanent fix, and because Bo's insurance plan is amazing and covered it 100%, I went ahead and scheduled surgery for my right foot. My left foot looked exactly the same as my right foot, however it was not in any pain, so I decided to see how this one goes and wait before doing surgery for the left foot. Some people do both at the same time, but I didn't need to and I'm really glad I only did one.

Leading up to my surgery date, everyone kept asking me if I was nervous. I wasn't, which meant that I started to get nervous about the fact that I wasn't nervous about surgery. Should I be?! It was just my foot. No big deal. And in hindsight, it really wasn't (whew).

This was my first surgery other than having my wisdom teeth taken out. I wasn't quite sure what to expect, but I just hoped that they would knock me out for enough of it that I didn't have any memory - I do not do well with medical things. One thing I was really glad about was that at my pre-op appointment, they gave me all my prescriptions in advance, so I had pills ready and waiting for me when I got home from surgery. They also gave me the boot that I would be wearing so I could make sure I knew how to put it on, take it off, get my pants over it, etc.

My surgery was scheduled for 8am, and I had to be there an hour early. The surgery center was about 30 minutes away, so it was an early day. Normally I am not a morning person, but I picked a morning appointment on purpose for a few reasons. First of all, I couldn't eat or drink ANY thing at all after midnight until I had the surgery. So, the earlier the better. Second, I figured if I was super tired anyway, that I would have no problem passing out during surgery. I have an abnormal fear of waking up during surgery, so this made me feel confident that would not be an issue. Finally, since I was the first patient of the day, I didn't really have to see any other patients before my surgery. I'm pretty sure it would freak me out to see other people passed out or in pain, or god forbid something went wrong, right before I went in. As far as scheduling goes, I would definitely do a morning appointment again.

One of the few things I do remember before they knocked me out, was when the nurse took out a permanent marker. She wrote a big "YES" on my right foot, and a big "NO" on my left foot, and then had me initial next to each. I thought it was kinda funny, but I was also relieved that they weren't taking any chances about operating on the wrong foot.

Left foot - "NO"

The worst part of the surgery for me was actually when they gave me the IV. I hate needles. Every time I give blood or even have my finger pricked, the nurse gets concerned because my face goes white. I can't help it. I'm pretty sure I passed out before the anesthesia even kicked in.

When I woke up everything was over, which was awesome (and much to my relief). It took about 30-45 minutes total, from the point where they knocked me out until I came to. My foot was all bandaged up, so I couldn't even see what they had done except for in the x-rays. Which, as it turns out, I now have three titanium screws in my foot to hold the bones in place. I was told it wouldn't set off airport security alarms or anything like that, so it's fine by me.

Right foot - "YES" (covered up and bandaged...)

I've been taking painkillers and some heavy duty ibuprofen, which keep me pretty drowsy all the time. One thing I completely underestimated is just how tired I would be. In the middle of the day I had a hard time just keeping my eyes open. Yes, the meds all warned me of "drowsiness" but I did not anticipate that would mean sleeping a full 12 hours at night, and needing at least two solid naps during the day. Don't get me wrong, I love to sleep and I like being lazy sometimes, but only when I want to, not when I am forced to.

I've been confined to the couch, the bathroom, and the bed. When I do walk around, I'm in a walking boot, which is significantly better than a hard cast. One of my co-workers let me borrow his crutches, which was nice so that I could completely avoid using my foot at all for the first few days. By day 4 I was comfortable enough walking without the crutches, and as long as I'm taking my pills I can't feel anything in my foot anyway.

I went in for my post-op appointment this past Friday. I'll be in the walking boot until this coming Friday, when I go back to the doctor to have the stitches taken out. After that I can drive and wear sneakers. I'll slowly transition into my regular (non-high heel) shoes again soon after that, and once I'm comfortable enough I will be able to go on walks. It'll be at least another month before I can run. One thing I wish I would have done differently: waxed my legs before the surgery - yikes!

I've got a nice little station setup on the couch - most everything is within arm's reach, but just far enough so that I have to do crunches to get them. Crunches and leg lifts are about the extent of my exercise lately, and I'm afraid to step on the scale once I get back to exercising. On a positive note, I've made a serious dent in my stack of books to read, I'm all caught up on magazines, and I've even read my new camera manual cover to cover.

Lucky for me, Bo was able to stay in town this week and work from home most days to take care of me and Molly. She's been a terrific snuggler and does her best to make sure I'm okay all the time. :)

Bo has been an excellent nurse to me and has taken over my usual puppy responsibilities. I am typically extremely independent and do not like asking others for help, so it's been quite annoying having to ask him for every little thing I want/need. We held up well for about five days until I became very irritable and was actually glad when Bo went back to work for a day. We just have very different styles of working from home - as in, I prefer the house to be nice and quiet, while he prefers to have ESPN on all day long. We also have different views on domestic matters - as in, his are almost non-existent, and mine are rather OCD. Which is usually fine when I am fully functional and able to do all the things by myself that I want to get done (ya know, my way). I even had this nice long list of things I wanted to accomplish during my "recovery week" - which was completely shot to hell after just one day. Those things will just have to sit around and wait a while longer. So in that sense it's been a rough week for me.

Despite my irritability, Bo has been a really good sport about waiting on me hand and foot. And often referring to me as "princess" :) ...even if he is being sarcastic. He's also been an excellent cook. I am very lucky to have a husband who enjoys cooking and who is very good at it - be jealous, ladies! But don't be jealous of the disaster he leaves behind in the kitchen. Anyway, here are the highlights from Nurse Bo's menu this week (and some practice shots with my DSLR!)...

Chicken stir fry - I could probably eat some variation of this every day, and it's one of our staples for a quick and healthy meal.

Light baked spaghetti - this was a new recipe we wanted to try from our latest edition of the Food Network Magazine, by Bobby Deen - a healthier take on his mom's recipe. We substituted turkey sausage for the chicken sausage, and it was awesome. Bo made a half-batch which lasted us for a few meals, and the leftovers were just as good. This is definitely going into our regular dinner rotation.

Master sauce beef, with vegetables. Yum! Bo loves all foods Asian, and found a recipe for the "master sauce" a few years ago in his Asian cookbook. You can basically use the master sauce as a marinade or sauce for just about anything. We freeze it, and reuse it for all kinds of things.

Turkey spaghetti - he used all the leftover ingredients from the baked spaghetti to make regular spaghetti sauce with turkey meat.

Take out from Harry & Sons - our favorite restaurant. I have my regular order of sushi that I usually get, but since we had already been there twice the week before, I ventured out and tried something new. I got the Veggie Stir Fry with Chicken, which was really good. I love that place.

Paprika chicken, broccoli, and mac & cheese - one of our typical dinners that we probably eat too often. But it's so easy and soo good!

Beef bourguignonne - this was a new recipe we tried from the recipe book that came with our slow cooker. It was pretty good. I'm not sure how often we'll actually make it, but the recipe is a keeper.


Baked lemon pepper chicken, green beans, and baked

All things considered, it was a pretty easy surgery and recovery is not bad so far. Today was my first day back in the office, and I was actually really looking forward to it. I was getting a little stir crazy at home. One of our good friends lives a few blocks away from us and he works pretty close to my office, so he is chauffeuring me all week until I can drive again. Though I did miss my little work buddy - Molly likes to help us when we work from home.

how am I supposed to get anything done with that sweet face staring at me?

whatcha workin on?

It's been great to have all this help from Bo and my friends, and I loved spending longs days at home with Bo and Molly.... but I'm not gonna lie - I am looking forward to getting out and about, and doing things on my own again :)

Thursday, January 12, 2012

2011 Year in Review

At the end of each year, I love looking back through my pictures to see what all we did that year. I'm pretty sure I would forget a majority of the things we do if I didn't take pictures! Bo and I also enjoy thinking back on what we've learned, what our most/least favorite thing was, and to look ahead to the next year for what we want to do, where we want to go, and how to actually make it happen. Last year I made a facebook photo album titled "2010 Year in Review" (mostly because I was lazy posting pictures all year long...), so this year I am doing a similar post to recap the year.

We started and ended the year in exactly the same place - physically, anyway, since we spent New Years Eve 2010 and 2011 both at Park Tavern in Atlanta.

In early January, we experienced our first "blizzard" - which, in Atlanta means that it snowed a few inches, melted, froze, and iced over all the roads. And it completely shut down the entire city for a few days. Bo and I were actually trapped in our home for a week since our driveway is hilly and shaded, meaning that was completely frozen solid, and was about the last place to defrost.

Later that month, I celebrated my 27th birthday with Ginny and Adrienne at our tri-birthday bash.

Ginny, me, & Adj

In February, my cousin Dawn's stepson, Jordan, passed away at age 16. Less than a year earlier, he was diagnosed with a rare blood disease, HLH, and had an unsuccessful bone marrow transplant just weeks before he passed away. He was a great kid and we all miss him so much even though we know he's in a better place where he no longer suffers.

Jordan with his siblings and cousins

As most of you know, Bo and I both worked for Big 4 Public Accounting firms, and we were both in audit (sorry, but no, we cannot do your taxes). Therefore, we spent the remaining parts of January and almost all of February/March in absolute hell busy season - which was a black hole in my life and therefore I have no pictures or stories because we really didn't do much besides work. Except for the one time I had a complete meltdown at work, followed by a meltdown on the phone with my dad (again, sorry and thank you), only to come straight home (at 10pm.... on a Saturday night) to find Bo and a bunch of friends having a party at my house. Under normal circumstances, this would have been a totally normal occurrence and I would have joined in the fun. But working 42 days straight and pulling an all-nighter at work are not normal circumstances. So I had yet another meltdown in front of everyone and kicked them all out of the house immediately. I almost kicked Bo out of the house, too. I have a newly-earned level of respect around here, but it was definitely my lowest point of the year.

Though without that lowest point, I might not be where I am today. That night, I decided that I had had enough. I had been considering a career move for a few months, but this time it was serious. I was completely burnt out and ready for something new. Something that would not require 16-20 hour work days, 7 days a week. Or anything even remotely close to that. So the next morning I updated my resume, made some phone calls, had a few lunch/dinner meetings and interviews, and on March 31 I accepted a new job offer. I am loving it and could not be happier with my decision. And after going through hell and back at my old job, I will still say that it was the best start to my career, and given the choice I would do it all over again. The experience I had taught me so much and without that background I wouldn't have been able to get my new job. So while I am grateful for everything I learned, I am just as grateful that I have moved on.

At the end of March, right before I left my old job, I surprised my friend Sonya and headed to Destin, FL for her bachelorette party in Destin, FL. We had a blast!

Sarah, Heather, me, Amy, Sonya, & Ashley

I took a few weeks off work in between jobs to sleep get my life organized and ready for my new job. Bo spent a week at Augusta National for the Masters Tournament, and since they were a client of his, he got to play the course. I am not a golfer, but I know this is a pretty big deal.

On Easter Sunday, Bo and I hosted an Easter Feast for our friends in Atlanta who are also far from their families.

Lizzy, Katie, Christy, Margaret, me, Sarah, & Lauren

Andrew, Bo, Shawn, Drew, Chris, & Josh

Later that month, we flew to Tampa to celebrate the marriage of our friends Doug and Gillian. Doug and I were in several high school classes together and have been good friends ever since. It was great to see so many old friends at their wedding.

Doug & Gillian

Jesea, me, Jackie, & Gen

In late May, after years of begging and researching and begging, Bo finally let me get a puppy and we decided on a lemon beagle. We were so excited to welcome little Molly into our family. We fell in love instantly and now have a teeny tiny understanding of those parents who say they don't remember life before their kids.

June was an exciting, yet very emotional, month. We spent a week in California to celebrate the marriage of our friends Sonya and Brandt. Sonya and I were Chi Omegas together at UF, and she met Brandt here in Atlanta. She was also my last roommate before I married Bo. Our friends Sarah and Adrienne (also Chi O's at UF) traveled with us, and we all spent a few days in San Francisco, a day in Napa Valley, and two days in Carmel for the wedding. This was one of our big vacations for the year and we had such a great trip. However, we also mourned the passing of Heather's dad and Ginny's miscarriage at the same time.

Full House scene!

Adj, Sarah, and us at Chandon

Sonya & Brandt

July was action-packed. Bo had also been considering a career move, but wasn't entirely sure what he wanted to do until his friend Josh (who was seriously job searching) found a position that Bo was really interested in. I never really believed in the saying before, but it literally fell in his lap. Josh decided to take a different job, and kindly provided a reference for Bo to interview for the open position. Bo accepted the offer and started his new job in mid-July. He also loves his job. His career move made July the very first quarterly reporting period that we weren't working crazy hours (yay for new jobs!), so we took full advantage of it. We started with July 4th weekend in Blowing Rock with Bo's family.

I jumped on the blogging bandwagon, and started this here blog! It's been a lot of fun so far. Thanks for reading :)

We celebrated our second wedding anniversary at Bacchanalia, and the following weekend we drove down to Gulf Breeze with some friends for Blue Angels weekend.

I ended the month with a weekend trip to Gainesville to visit Alisha (and her son Mason!), Kelly, and Tara - friends from college. Not knowing I'd get to see ALL three of them again this year :)

Me, Alisha, Mason, Tara, Kelly, & Brittany

The first weekend in August we flew down to Palm City to see Amy (back in the states from Dubai!) and more girlfriends from college.  Love them!

Tara, Kelly, Tricia, Alana, Kim, Me, Leslie, Amy, & Kelly

me, Amy, Kelly, Leslie, & Kim

The following weekend, I met my mom and sister in DC for a mother-daughter trip. We had so much fun and hope to do a trip every year if we can.

Later that month, my parents came to visit and we attended the German Beer Festival here in Atlanta.

In September, I went to London for the first time! I was there for a week for a work trip and stayed through the weekend to go sightseeing, which was also my first time traveling alone. I loved every minute of it. I'm tentatively planning to go a few times a year, depending on my projects at work and our scheduling.

In October, we held our annual Chi Omega reunion tailgate at the Florida-Alabama football game in Gainesville. Alisha came and surprised us all so I got to see her again! It was great to see so many friends.

me, Alisha, Sarah, Susan, & Kelly
Dani, Kristin, Mom, Susan, me, Laura, Kelly, Katrina, Ginny, & Sarah

A few days later we flew out to New Orleans to spend three days there (here, here and here) before driving to Baton Rouge for the Florida-LSU game.

We held our annual pumpkin carving party the weekend before Halloween.

I flew to Chicago for a quick work trip, and then we ended the month in Jacksonville for the Florida-Georgia game, making us 0-for-3 in Gator football games this year. We also mourned the passing of Adrienne's dad in October.

I became addicted to joined Pinterest, Goodreads, and, love, love.

In November, my friend Jenna welcomed her first child, a baby boy named Cameron. He's such a cutie and I hope to meet him sometime in 2012! Later that month we celebrated Thanksgiving with friends in Atlanta, celebrated the real Thanksgiving and Bo's birthday in Blowing Rock with family, and picked out our first tree from a farm.

December was a complete whirlwind way to end the year. Bo and I enjoyed lots of holiday traditions, decorations, and parties before heading down to Florida for Christmas.

part of the Morgan family branch

Bo, Mark, & Bobby

We made a pitstop in Orlando on our drive back up to see Amy & John (back from Dubai again!), dropped off Kelly, and picked up Sarah along the way. It was a great day with great friends and we loved seeing Harry Potter World.

Kelly, John, Bo, me, Amy, Sarah, & Leslie

In early December, my friend Ashley also welcomed her first child, a baby girl named Kensington. She is such a sweetie. Leslie, Mom, and I got to visit with them the day after Christmas.

Mom & Kensi

We ended the year back in Atlanta for New Years Eve and enjoyed spending time with friends while Susan and Adrienne were in town.

Adj, Ginny, Sarah, Kelly, me, & Susan

Overall, 2011 started off not-so-great, hit rock bottom, and then turned around into a pretty awesome year for us. But as awesome as it turned out, I'm not completely sad to see it go, since we already have so much to look forward to in 2012!