Tuesday, December 22, 2009

a snowy proposal story

I obsess over beginnings. If someone’s telling me a story, I want to know how it all started. Where they were and how they were feeling. What they were wearing and what they were thinking about. I want to be in their head, to figure out every detail that made it whatever it was. 

And so when I first thought about how I would post this story, I thought back to the beginning of “me and John” and realized that on Saturday, it happened in much the same way. That is to say, while I knew it would happen one day—first meeting John and later, getting engaged—the way it all fell into place was so simple and felt so easy. Like it was always meant to be this way.

Back on a Saturday in 2005, I went to a bar that I never really went to, on a night that I probably shouldn’t have gone out. It was raining and I worked late. My friend and I had made plans to hang out, and after I picked her up, we contemplated going back home and then, once on the road, going to a restaurant instead of out for drinks. But we didn’t. At the bar, we met a friend we knew. We started talking. His friend walked over. I looked out at the crowd for a second and when I turned back to the table, there was John. He was standing in front of me, his hands in the pocket of the red jacket he was wearing. I think he said hello. He might have shaken my hand.

Fast-forward four years later, to another Saturday. He and I weren’t supposed to hang out that day, or at the very least, not until later that night. But I was stressing before I even woke up. In that time between sleeping and being fully awake, I lay in bed, mentally running through a checklist of things I had to do. Wrap Christmas presents. Finish a blog post. Take my cousin’s shopping. Drop them off at my grandmother’s. Later that morning, I called John. I vented. He offered to come down and pick me up so I could get out of the house for an hour, before my cousin’s woke and up and before it started snowing. We were set to have some foot of snow later that night.

At first, I said no. It’s not worth it. Don’t worry about it. I feel guilty leaving my cousin’s here. He didn’t listen and an hour later, we were in his car. I assumed we’d go to lunch. Instead, he said his heat broke in his apartment and we need to go there to fix it. Broken heat? And you want me to go there? No way. He kept driving and for once in my life, I stopped complaining.

We arrived at the apartment and I saw the bottle of champagne on the table. I walked in and when I turned my head toward the living room, there was the Christmas tree in the corner. It was covered in white lights and there were red roses underneath. Beside it, were three red wine glasses and inside each was a round, red ornament. Later, I realized it wasn’t cold in there at all.

We sat near the tree and he started talking about us, our relationship, why he thought the apartment was the best place to propose. He handed me one of the ornaments, on which he had written the date, 12.19.09. He talked about the past four years, everything that had happened. The next ornament said “Us.” He told me the ornaments were shatterproof. On the final one was written “Love,” and when I looked back at him, after putting it on the tree, he had gotten on one knee. Tearily, he asked me. Crying, I said yes.

The next few hours were a blur of champagne and pictures. We drove to John’s parents house, and, thanks to the impending snowstorm, everyone was home. There were tears and cookies and toasts. We went to my house. My mom, who always knows everything before anything actually happens, already knew. Little did I know she had gone with John a few weeks earlier to look at the ring. Around the same time, John had asked my dad’s permission. He said yes. He was crying and congratulating us all at the same time. It was exactly as I’d imagined it.

I had always told John that I didn’t want to get engaged while on vacation. I wanted to be able to tell everyone in person, right after it happened. We’re both so close to our families, that they’re part of what makes us what we are to each other. I wanted them to celebrate that with us. And so thus began our little "engagement caravan." At every house, came more congratulations and excitement, more toasts and tears. One of my grandmothers’s actually said she was happy because she got to be alive. We all yelled at her for this. It made me happier than anything, though.

Later, a bunch of us got snowed in at my house. We ordered food. Karen made cookies. We watched Love Actually.

I was in a daze through most of it, remembering all the things that happened over the past four years. I felt lighter somehow. Not in an “ Everything is easier now” kind of way but more in a “Yes, right, perfect” kind of way. Because without knowing or realizing it back at the beginning, it turned out that the boy in the bar that Saturday would be the boy that many Saturdays later, knew exactly what made me, me. Exactly what made us, us.  

p.s. special thanks to my new fiance for sending me these pics at 6am! 

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Where did you travel this year?

My lovely friend Danielle (that's her above) just got back from visit to Marrakesh with her boyfriend. Her photos were so pretty that I asked her if I could share some here. It seems like the whole trip was is in shades of blue... 

Whenever I see pictures from other places, my first reaction is to want to get up and get out of here as quickly as possible. I have this habit of consistently saying, "Oh, I want to go here." And, "Oh yea, I want to go there." And, "Ugh, I just want to go everywhere." This then results in me researching how much it will cost to fly to Australia, Moscow and/or Costa Rica, depending on my mood and the weather, only to realize that it will probably take more planning than a quick Kayak search. So, I sign up for another version of one the 10 million travel newsletters I already get, in the hopes that some amazing deal will cross my path.

That being said, what I have been doing the last few December’s is making a list of the places I’ve been that year and the places I’d like to go the following year. In 2009 I visited: 

-       the Bahamas, where I went in March for my friend Melissa’s bachelorette party. 

-       Las Vegas, which was two weeks later, at the end of March, for my friend Laura’s bachelorette party. Needless to say, 2009 was the Year of Weddings. 

-       Italy, in August, in what turned out to be the big trip of the year, and a much needed 10-day break from everything. 

-       Aspen, in October, with John and Miriam, where we (sort of) surprised John’s cousin Paul for his birthday.

I don’t want to be too presumptive about 2010, given that I don’t know where I’ll be on the financial end of things, but if I could dream up anywhere, it would be to go to Iceland and Spain. I’ve wanted to visit both places for years – particularly Iceland – so maybe a 4 or 5-day trip can be squeezed in there somehow.

And you? Where did you go in 2009 and what would be your dream trip(s) for 2010?


Friday, December 11, 2009

Friday Favorites

A rotating roster of inspirations 


I am slightly (or not so slightly) addicted to chaptstick. I was gifted this lip balm from the Philadelphia Reading Terminal Market recently and love it. I’ve been using it all week, and even though I’ll probably lose it in the abyss that is my bag my the end of the month, for now, it’s my favorite. I tried to find a link for it, but I think the company is just really small. Burt’s Bees is similar, though.



I’ve been trying my hand at a whole slew of creative projects lately and these letter stamps from A.I. Friedman have been providing quite a bit of fun.



Back in October, World Hum posted a link to a video asking people “Where would you wish to wake up tomorrow?” If you click back to the original site, you’ll find a few more. It’s really simple and nostalgic (a mood I’ve been in as of late). If I could wake up anywhere tomorrow it would probably be on a beach somewhere, which is slightly cliché, but I don’t care, since it’s 26 degrees in NY. http://www.worldhum.com/travel-blog/item/video-you-must-see-where-would-you-want-to-wake-up-tomorrow-20091019/


I’m not so sure about this, but do radio DJs not listen to the music their stations play when they’re On Air? Because, you know those stations that play 24-7 Christmas music? Don’t the DJ’s go crazy after a month+ of nonstop All I want for Christmas, Grandma got Run-over by a Reindeer and Christmas Shoes?

I blame the below sentimentality on the constant Christmas music on Lite FM.

This photo is actually from 1989, but I think Miriam would have had a heart attack if I put up a more recent one. 

I spent most of my summers growing up splitting my time between two towns in Italy. This is relatively equivalent to parents who send their kids to summer camp. Mine just happened to be a bit further away, although I can guarantee your summer camp probably had more people than my small town.  That being said, it was the single experience that has changed my life the most.

And having Miriam here has been sort of surreal in the sense that, when I was 16 and wished that the half of my life that I lead in Italy could be lived here, I always imagined the two of us laying on my bed and looking through pictures and laughing at how ridiculous we (and our taste in boys) was.

And then last night we did.

We spent awhile going through pictures of summers in Calabria (our family is from a town about an hour outside Reggio Calabria) from 1998, 2001 and 2003. It was amazing, especially considering these pictures were stashed away in a flower-patterned box for years. Granted, we had awful haircuts and awful taste in clothes. There’s one picture from, I think—and sort of hope—1998 because then it would be slightly more excusable, where I’m wearing a white t-shirt, a calf-length pink and white patterned skirt with white and purple Puma sneakers. Together. Seriously. And I thought this was Cool. 

But, I realized, particularly in 2001, how much fun we had. It was back when most of my Italian friends were 18 or slightly older and had just learned to drive or just gotten hold of their parents’ car for the summer. We would drive from our town in the mountains to the beach 10 minutes away and spend afternoons alternating between swimming and lying on the beach. We’d trade towels and lay all over each other. We were too tanned for our own good. And then, later, at night, we would make our way back down to the beach and do the same thing, minus the swimming and the sun. We’d make jokes and say things we shouldn’t say, and wear things we bought from the mercato because that’s what we saw everyone else wearing. But we didn’t care because we didn’t really realize any of it at the time. It was before broken hearts and before we had time to stay in one place for too long. It was like a movie with no real plot. And sure, it sounds sentimental, but it was.

Things there are different now. Everyone has moved out and on. Some of us talk, occasionally, some of us don’t. This summer, I was walking through the park where many of the pictures from 2001 were taken and there was no one there. The park that used to be filled with some 20 kids on any given night was scary-empty. I think it took awhile for this to feel like the past for me, but then one day, that’s what it was. And it was ok.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Chocolate overdose (Or, why eating chocolate for breakfast is always a good idea)

I have this habit of eating junk food for breakfast. Not donuts or Danishes or other um, normal, breakfast “sweets,” but ice cream, cake, chocolate, cookies, left over Halloween candy…. I blame this on that fact that I’m Italian, and for generations we’ve relied on a steady steam of sugar in the morning to get us going. Case in point: My cousin Miriam, who’s been visiting from Italy since October, came over for breakfast a few weeks ago. Did she want bagels? Yogurt and granola? We both went with Nutella on toast.

So, take this whole chocolate-for-breakfast thing and factor in that I come from a family of self-professed chocoholics and you can see why my brother, Carmine, Miriam and my boyfriend, John, and I were quite excited to go to the World Chocolate Expo in White Plains on Sunday  “morning" — I think it was slightly past 12 when we got there. A better breakfast couldn’t be had.

We walked into the auditorium at the County Center—which I don’t think I’ve been in since my high school’s Cheerleading Competition in 2001—and found more chocolate than anyone (or their stomachs) could want before lunch. There were three long rows of booths with chocolate-flavored coffee, truffles, fudge, toffee, maple syrup, fondue, cupcakes and lots of non-desserts like jarred peppers, cheese and wine. And the best part, I think, was that most of the companies were from the Hudson Valley, with almost everything homemade and/or handmade. Is there a difference? Hmm..anyway, needless to say, we all left with a slight sugar-rush. Take that, Cheerios.  

Oh, hello there fountain of chocolate. 

We bought Keuka Lake Coffee Roaster's Italian chocolate raspberry coffee. Usually, I'm not a huge fan of coffee's that are sweet, but this one was perfect in a not-overwhelming type of way.  

 Miriam had toffee for the first time. This almond-flavored version is from Chappaqua Toffee Co

Ok, this picture totally sucks, but that hand painted piece of chocolate is a s'more. I have it sitting here at my desk and I'm totally tempted to eat it. And, so cute, owners Heidi and Arthur are father and daughter. 

Oliver Kita made this gorgeous chocolate-covered apple. I would be so sad to eat it! 

More pretty Oliver Kita chocolates

Chocolate-covered pretzels rank up there with one of my all-time favorite foods. Seriously - salty, sweet, perfect. And this one from Fretzels by Jill has all of their toppings. All of them. Amazing. 

We love, loved this fudge by FudgeLuscious. Wouldn't the candy cane be great as a hostess gift or to bring as dessert to a holiday dinner party? 

Fudgeluscious also has these make-your-own-fudge Oreo kits. (You can see it on the left, right next to that little cupcake tin full of fudge.)

Miriam holding up her maple syrup-flavored cotton candy from Breezie Maples Farm. We tried their organic maple syrup too, which was amazing. 

Our happy—and full—little group. 

Thursday, December 3, 2009

For starters

So, for the past couple of years I’ve had this habit where, whenever I find a blog I like – or don’t really like – I search out the very first post to see what the author wrote about. Most fall into two categories: they either just post a quick “Hello, welcome! I hope you enjoy!” Or, they get right to it, jump in and start talking about whatever they intended to talk about in the first place.

I, on the other hand, have no idea where to start. See, I’m not that good at beginnings. I prefer to walk around the periphery until it seems safe enough, think about it, then think about it a little more, and then finally talk myself into actually doing it. Does this explain why its 2009 – no, DECEMBER 2009 – and I’m just starting this blog now? But I’ve found myself with a bit of free time at the moment, so I figured time to make the move. Now: Hello! Welcome! Let’s get to it.