christmastime is here

It’s been so long, it’s hard to know where to begin. I haven’t visited my blog for so long. With three posts in my cue, I question why I never shared them.

And I know why. This has been such a year that it never felt appropriate to post something. People were/are/will be dealing with so much, that I didn’t know how to add to the conversation, and I didn’t want people to think I was out to lunch (mentally) either. (Although I will say, ignorance is sometimes bliss these days.)

That said, I have missed writing, so here I am. Back, older, not sure if wiser, but eager to share again. So, here goes!

Merry Christmas, everyone!!!! Christmas was a little crazy for us this year, in that our plans were ever changing. We try to alternate Christmas every year, and this year was scheduled to be at the farm. We were there the weekend before for an extended family celebration (a fun, delicious, whirlwind of a weekend!), and were due to go back on Saturday morning.

We got the call that Nate’s Mom had been sick in bed, as so many have already been this cold and flu season. Eek! So we decided to postpone our visit to next weekend when all are better.

So what would we do? Luckily my aunt gladly took us in for Christmas Eve, and the plan was to go to my mom’s or sister’s on Christmas Day.

An interesting note: Since we’ve been married, Nate and I have never been in our own apartment for Christmas Eve. Never slept at home. Never put out cookies for Santa. Never opened presents with just my husband and now daughter.

Let me tell you, it was simple and nice. This is the first time Ellie is really into Christmas, and it’s been such a joy to share it with her. Decorating cookies, teaching her patience with the Advent calendar, sharing both our Swedish (Nate) and Polish and Catholic (me) traditions. Her excitement is infectious, her joy never ending. Truly makes my heart happy.

And on Christmas Day? More sickies entered the picture (my Dad and nephew), so we just enjoyed a quiet day at home, with the exception of a visit to my Grandma’s house with my mom (who is also now sick). It was fun to watch her play with her new gifts (like her Melissa & Doug salad set) and just relax. We are always on the go, that it’s nice to sit back and breathe.

And for dinner? Some good ole Trader Joe’s veggie fried rice, orange chicken, and dumplings with edamame on the side. You know, because we were not prepared for a traditional feast thinking we would be elsewhere. Who knows, maybe it’ll be a new tradition!

In the middle of dinner, Ellie randomly said, “Amen!” So we decided to hold hands and say a little prayer. Ellie liked this so much that we held hands and prayed a few more times during our short meal. She surprises me, that one.

What did I learn? Roll with what life gives you, and make the most of it. You can celebrate with family any (and every) day, so don’t sweat it when things don’t go as planned. Who knows, it might just be quite wonderful.

Hope everyone had a great holiday weekend! More soon, I swear!

5 Lessons from My Dad for Father’s Day

I’m pretty blessed to have a lot of amazing dads in my life. I know everyone isn’t as lucky, and I don’t take it for granted.

For this Father’s Day, I thought it would be nice to share some lessons from my Dad. He’s always been a good teacher and wants to give advice. So, here are just five of the many lessons from my Dad (in no particular order).

1. Put family first. My Dad’s family life as a kid was less than ideal, and he made sure that when he was a father, he would be an active part of our lives. We were fortunate because my Dad worked mostly from home growing up, and my Mom was a full-time mom, so we were together all of the time. My Dad was my soccer coach, went to my holiday concerts, and was there for dinner every day. 

2. Education is important. My Dad always pushed us to do our best academically and to take advantage of all our extra-curricular activities. I liked school from a young age; we used to “play” with my sister (she would make my younger brother and I do her homework!). But working hard had its benefits. I had a 4.0 GPA all of high school, and enjoyed things like choir, cheerleading, year book, class council, and more during high school, and my siblings were just as motivated. I wouldn’t be where I am now without the academic support and motivation of both of my parents.

3. Travel. My family is big into travel, and we’ve experienced a lot of vacations together. Skiing, going to Disney World, cruising the Virgin Islands, driving the road to Hana in Maui, sailing in Mexico–my Dad instilled the importance of traveling, seeing the world, and learning about different cultures. I’ve been bitten with the travel bug and it’s in my veins. It’s not a coincidence that I work for a study abroad non-profit now! 

4. Work hard. My Dad has literally made a life for us out of nothing, and showed me that I can do the same. In conjunction with #2, I knew I didn’t just have to be good in school, but also get a lot of work experience. For example, my senior year in college, I did all of my class work, was the co-editor and a writer for the Latino newsletter, was a writer for the school newspaper’s magazine insert, and designed page layouts for the newspaper, too. It wasn’t always easy, but I knew if I wanted to be a journalist, I needed the experience. I still have this same work ethic, and I’m grateful for that.

5. Follow your heart. When it comes to love, my parents have a pretty amazing story of how they met at 15 years old, and have been married for 40+ years. They’ve been a great example of what true love is, and have urged us to find the same. When I fell for Nate at the end of freshman year at U of I, I knew he was special. The more I knew him and spent time with him and his family, the more I wanted us to be together. Thirteen years later, I still feel the same way, and love him more now than I could have before.

Nate is going to be a dad again (don’t forget Georgie!) very soon. I’m due with our first baby in five days (ah!), and look forward to sharing this advice with our child. What a journey it’ll be, and I’m so excited to share it with my Dad, Nate, and all of you.

Happy Father’s Day to all of the dads! Know that you are special and loved! XO

Spotlight: Nice, France

Well, talk about a throw back! It’s about time (almost 5 months) I share some pictures with you from my time in Nice, don’t you think?!?

Back in January, I made my second trip in Nice; my first time was for two days when I was 18 years old (needless to say, it’s been awhile) while on a European getaway with my friend Ali. 

Although I was there for work this time around (I know, my job IS awesome!), I was able to enjoy lots of good food and see the city, and even visited Cannes and Monaco. 

I was also 14 weeks pregnant at the time, so no tartare, soft cheese, or wine for me! Well, I had one sip…guess I’ll just have to go back!!!

I am not really sure how to share a week in paradise with you, but I’ll share some of my favorites moments, meals, and memories (through photos) with you! 

Nicoise cuisine is a mix of French and Mediterranean, including lots of fresh fish and seafood, olives, veggies, cheeses, and don’t forget the rosé wine! Here’s a good article on 5 things to eat and drink from Nice.

Some of my favorite meals and snacks included:

  • Farcis: a classic Nicoise dish made from vegetables like tomatoes, eggplant, and zucchini, hollowed out and stuffed with ground meat, garlic, and bread crumbs.
  • Fresh clementines I bought from a local grocer (they sell them with the leaves and stems still on)
  • Red mullet fish and greens 
  • Artisan apple tart
  • Coq au vin 
  • And lots of croissants! 

Take a look:
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Want more? Check out this video I made for work: http://m.youtube.com/watch?v=TNJBzXIlN_k 

Au revoir for now!