I'm just going to lay it out there.
I am over this winter. I have no more patience for the crazy amount of wind, ice and sub zero temperatures that have defined the past month and a half.
I'm writing this as I'm laying on my couch, with no voice and deary eyes. After an amazing trip to Colorado last week (I'll share more about that soon), I've been plagued with some horrible virus.

I haven't been able to run in over 5 weeks, due to the sidewalks being coated with ice mixed with the temperatures sure to make my limbs fall off of my body. I'm not happy about that. Being stuck on an elliptical is less than ideal. Sure, I'm in a pretty pitiful state at the moment, given the fact that I'm surrounded by used kleenex and living off of chicken bullion, so maybe I'm being a bit pessimistic. Just a bit.

But my goodness. I don't remember winters like this. It's possible I have a selective memory, and at one time in my life you may have seen me making snow angels in a one piece snowsuit in weather that mimicked what we are now experiencing. I may have even enjoyed snow-cones and homemade ice cream from the freshly fallen flakes. Possible.

Sure, it's pretty and all. The white fields as far as the eye can see, the moon's light reflecting off of the freshly coated yard so it always looks bright outside, the smell of crisp air. Then, a car spins out in front of you, and that ice and snow just  lost a lot of it's beauty. When you have to go out in it, rather than look from a far. Let's be honest, Maizy (who enjoys everything!) isn't even enjoying the snow this year, it's too darn cold!

Okay, that's my rant. Maybe when I wake up from a nice slumber, I'll just be thankful to have a fireplace and hot water, and feel silly for complaining about the frigid temperatures that exist outside of the walls of our home.

Because the fact is, it looks like the next month will be nothing but the same.
I'm going to force myself to go run outside, even if it means packing on endless layers, and moving slowly as to avoid accidentally participating in the ice capades. Force myself to go make snow angels in the foot of snow outside our door. I will build a fire every night to avoid having a minor heart attack at our heating bill each month. Enjoy my hot tea, slippers and smores (my reward for fetching the firewood and building one!). Somehow, I will choose to enjoy you, winter. It just won't be until after I wake up from a drug-induced nap time.

Although this holiday season was filled with many things to celebrate, it's impossible for me to look back and not see and feel the sadness that overshadowed it.
The morning after Christmas, we got the news that my grandmother had passed away in the night. I already know what her responses would be if she knew how Christmas songs suddenly make me sad, she'd say "that is just silly!" as she waved her hand in the air. Then, she'd call me her "Mere Mere" and ask how 'the doctor' was doing, never to forget to ask how Maizy the pup was as well.

My grandma, she was something else. Her hugs were famous in our family, we call them "Grandma Stock Hugs." She'd hold on so, so tight and so long that it made you feel like the most special person in the world, always with an extra "squeeze" at the end. Her little 90 lb frame somehow mustered up enough strength to actually give hugs that hurt, in the best way possible. When she'd pull away, she'd look right into your eyes and just smile, squeezing the side of your arms with such joy and pride.

I still picture my grandmother the exact same way as I did when I was a little girl, despite the years of memories made since then. Same outfits of cropped fabric pants with a flower print, complete with ironed creases down the center, a matching pink crew neck soft shirt with short sleeves, perfectly curled short hair and glasses. And those slip-on shoes. She loved those shoes, in every color to coordinate with her shirts. I get my particular-ness from her. A sewing room so organized it would make Martha Stewart look like a disaster, every drawer complete with perfectly folded and labeled clothing, a closet that is color-coded by season, her pink towels, clay jugs she collected for years, perfectly placed papers and crossword puzzle books on the side table with a forever sharpened #2 pencil. I can even smell her when I think about her home, those small things that made up a part of her.

But those were just the "silly," things- as my favorite memories of her were with my grandfather, Mac. She'd sit on my grandpa's lap and give him a big kiss, always calling him her "sweetie," and he responding with his large smile and a tap on her bum. They traveled the states for years via RV, and you'd think they'd get tired of one another, but not grandma and grandpa. They were like two teenage kids in love, all of the time. Grandma always told me, that before all else, your spouse must be your best friend first. They proved why.
I still picture them in their Florida home, sitting in the sunroom watching hockey games together and completing crossword puzzles. When grandpa's vision started to go, grandma would explain what was happening in the games so he could still experience his Red Wings. When he passed, grandma's world turned upside down, and I'm afraid it never turned right side up. She missed her "sweetie."

The photo below is from our wedding, and it's one of my favorite memories and moments with my grandmother. This instance, implanted at the forefront of my mind. Dancing with her sister, my mom, and I. Clapping her hands, huge smile, full of joy.

Hello visitors from Medical Monday's week! Happy New Year!

I've been sitting on this question and discussion for some time, so I thought today would be a perfect time to discuss- given so many medical community friends (or anyone who works a lot) can relate.

Do you hire out help?
Say, a house cleaner, dog sitter, lawn mower, snow plower (if applicable ;), meal delivery...?

We've been sitting on this topic for almost a year now. We teeter back and forth every other week, and inevitably it results in us getting too busy to do anything about it.  I do realize the irony that is spilling all over this picture.

We are just used to getting things done on our own (or with our families help- see, house renovation!). So when it comes to hiring help, it's almost like we both have a twitch reaction. As if it's a bad thing. I blame Midwestern mentality. A coworker of mine just moved here from San Francisco, and he made a comment that hit the nail on the head, "Why do you Midwesterns HAVE to do everything yourselves?!! No one cleans their own home in California. Hire a freakin' cleaner...and get a dog walker!!!"

Our life has dramatically changed in the past year and half due to residency. Although we'd love to avoid the obvious, it's hard for us to both swallow that sometimes, we simply need help. We both work more than the average 40 hour work week (Kyle works way over double that each week, but don't tell the government. Supposedly there is some law against that. Who knew.)
Our time together is precious. Our time to relax is precious, and rare. WHY AM I STILL SCRUBBING TOILETS?!! Seriously, the more I write the more frustrated I'm getting. WITH MYSELF!
Maybe it's a pride thing. Maybe I'm convinced that I can and should do it all myself. Maybe I think I'm just being over dramatic. Maybe I think it's too snobby for us. Maybe I'm too cheap (no, wait, the cheap part is definitely my husband. Okay, a little bit me too. The dutch thing has definitely worn off on me in four years of marriage.)

Just one deep clean every month would be make such a world of difference. Even one healthy pre-made meal a week- amazing. Right now, I so wish we would have paid a snow removal company for the entire winter to plow our driveway. Who knew the snowpocalyse was coming??!

One day, I'll write a post titled, "why your doctor spends more money than you," and it will have nothing to do with money made, and everything to do with lack of time. Is it ironic to anyone else that residents end up spending even MORE money due to the lack of time to do anything themselves?! (I've been keeping a list for good measure...care to add to it?)

I'm not on a rant, just stating the facts...that happens to sound eerily similiar to a rant. But I promise, not complaining.

After the holidays and to usher in the New Year, I promised myself there would be no more of this pride and plenty more of hiring people who could do a job better than I can. I've looked into lawn companies for Spring and I'm making a point to interview two more house cleaning companies in the next two weeks. It's time. It's past time. We need some assistance- for our sanity and those around us (i.e. Maizy.)

In the mean time, I'm off to shovel more snow.

Holy Moly. Did this past year feel like it flew by to anyone else?
I'm realizing I say this just about every new year, but this one especially feels like a blur. Just a mush of days turned into weeks, that apparently form an entire year.

The big traveler in me can't help but do a snapshot post with the 'wheres' of 2013. I've said it before, and could probably guarantee you'll hear it again: I love to travel!
There is nothing like discovering the world. I truly believe it makes me a richer, fuller person. I work with students often, and at that age, they are always questioning what to do after college. The moment they throw out, "I'd like to travel," I immediately say "YES, do it!" Choosing to travel after college changed my life. No news sources, books or movies can replace the hands-on experience of discovering other countries. It makes me appreciate things I may have otherwise not, think about cultures and it challenges my worldview. Traveling helps me think big, and dream bigger. I'm so thankful to be able to do it!

Although we didn't make back to South Africa this year as I had hoped, 2013 was still full of travel adventures! The only unfortunate part is that Kyle was stuck in the hospital the majority of trips, but we still got a few good ones in together when we could.
I found myself in Nashville (twice), San Francisco, Key West, Ireland, Italy, Spain and Virginia (twice).

I escaped the freezing temperatures in Michigan around this time last year to enjoy sunshine and friends in Nashville. My first time in the music city didn't disappoint! I got to see our friends new home, their new town, and experience the unspeakable hills that killed me on our morning runs. I curse Nashville hills.

Just a few weeks later, I headed out to California for the first time. It was a worked trip turned into a vacation with my sis-in-law and I must say, San Francisco is still one of my favorites cities. I tell Kyle (often) that I wouldn't mind moving there for his fellowship, just a year of adventure and fun! It may have held an unfair advantage coming from the frigid winters to the sunny 70's, but my heart still bursts for this place (even if it almost killed us in the mini-car!) Can't wait to return this year!

Key West was our anniversary and Kyle's birthday trip. We took a long weekend and ventured down to southern Florida. Although neither of us were crazy about the town, the fishing adventures made the trip memorable! I know one person who would return just to catch another tarpon...

And then the trip that we had planned for over a year! Our girls trip to Europe (don't feel bad for the boys, they had no interest in going. Kyle would have been so miserable in Venice, I'm glad he didn't go! He would have thought it was a punishment.)

I could see us going back to Ireland just to road trip the entire country. It's breathtaking and there is just so much to discover! Many photographs in our home are now of the Irish countryside.

Although Venice challenged our motion sickness and patience with the hot weather, the city was simply incredible to see in person! Kelly and I missed our running routine, so one day we just decided that while our clothes washed, we would go for a run through the streets.  It was 95 degrees outside and crowded. I've never sweat so much in my life, nor have I been pointed at or given strange looks so many times. I'll spare you the after-picture, not pretty. Not pretty at all.

Spain has been pulling at my heartstrings ever since we departed. I'll admit I've researched quite a few more cities in Spain since visiting Barcelona! We celebrated my 28th while sailing on the water and consuming an unhealthy amount of tapas, it was perfect.

Four days after returning from Europe, I headed down to Virginia to shoot a close friend's wedding. Two weeks after that, I hopped another plane to Nashville to celebrate another bride and her bachelorette party. This is about the time when Fall turned into chaos, but it was well worth it! While there, we spent a day at the Southern Ground Music + Food Festival. What's better than listening to live country all day and taste testing some southern grub?

The last flight this year took us back to Charlottesville, our old stomping grounds. We got to revisit some of our favorite restaurants, visit our old church and most importantly, celebrate our two friends tying the knot. I still have a major crush on Charlottesville. Makes my stomach kind of sink I miss it (and the people) so much. I love that we can look back on that time and have such great memories!
(Especially right about now when we are covered in over a foot of snow.)

Trips down memory lane as so fun, thanks for taking it with me :)
2014 has been front loaded with a few vacations and work trips. It doesn't look like we will be getting in our annual anniversary/birthday trip in this year, but you'll never hear me complaining about just being able to be home either.
We shall see what the year brings us!

Did you have a favorite trip that you took this year?!

Every year, Kyle, his sister, and I reel over what to get their grandmother for Christmas. She's been cleaning out her home and was adamant she didn't want more "stuff," so, we thought an "experience" is what we'd get her. We researched broadways shows and plays, but nothing fit the days that we could do anything. Then we got more creative. Last year, we surprised their parents with a cooking class as an anniversary gift and they both loved it. Of course, cooking classes are slim to none right around the holidays, so we continued to search, and search, and search some more.
Low and behold, someone from their church just began his own catering and pastry company after 30 years of working for some of the biggest restaurant and hotel companies around the US. Eureka!

He and his wife came over GG's home, and we had an in-home cooking class earlier this week. I'm still full.

The "class" latest about three hours, and included 2 appetizers, a salad, two entrees and two desserts. It was so incredibly fun!!! For someone who is not exactly a whiz in the kitchen, I not only learned a lot but it helped spark my interest in all of the amazing things you can do with food.

The whole night was meant to be hands-on, so Scott and Terri showed us what to do, explained how and why, and let us do it all. They also knew we liked healthier food so they catered the menu to lighter dishes (minus the creme brulee, of course)

First appetizer: Brussel Spout Chips

You'll hear me say this after every dish, but these were delicious!
The 2nd appetizer was a BBQ Chicken Pizza on rosemary foccacia, complete with homemade bread and BBQ sauce.

This is one of my favorite pizzas of all time, and I must admit it will be hard to beat this homemade bread. I'm not sure our beloved Cottage Inn stands a chance.

While Linda and I were busy making the appetizers, GG and Kelly were preparing GG's all-time favorite dessert: creme brulee.

After we finished the appetizers, and snacked on some amazing bread, we started on the entrees and a "very pretty salad!" In the mean time, Scott also worked on some sugar concoctions and flavorings for the meat.

At this point, I didn't get many pictures of the main entrees, mostly because my hands were dirty and my stomach was almost to bursting point.

The sugar tooth in all of us couldn't wait for the grand finale of the dessert! Who doesn't love some creme brulee?!

From start to finish, the whole evening took about 3 hours. It went so smoothly, was easy and fun! (and of course, very, very scrumptious!)

I couldn't locate the website for our cooks, but I did find a great article written about Scott when he worked at Amway as the Executive Pastry Chef. You can read it here.
If you are in Michigan, I'd highly suggest getting in touch with them! He actually specializes in wedding cakes and pastries, and plans to open a storefront in Grand Rapids this year.

From now on, I think we need to buy more "experiences," rather than "stuff" for everyone in our family :)

Over the summer, I shared a bit about what "up north" is to us folks in Michigan. A few months before that, I posted some photos from a little valentines day getaway that Kyle and I had up at the cabin. (Also deemed "up north.")
In the winter, "up north," holds the same sentiment as it does in those warm summer months, just different activities. It's not water skiing, but snow skiing, fishing becomes ice fishing, a walk involves snowshoes and most of all, there is hunting. That ever-favorite activity of my husbands that is the source of every argument we have between September and December. Wish I was kidding.

Kyle had the week off over Christmas, which meant he wanted to go hunting as much as possible. We compromised and spent two nights at the cabin. My brother and dad also joined us, since Kyle has seemed to lure my brother into the hunting scene which only means double date hunting weeks in our future. (Thankfully I love my sis-in-law :)
Just as going north in the summer means relaxing, going north in the winter gives us the same joy. The lack of internet, only five television stations and the closet city miles and miles away, you are in your own little universe. You can be completely unplugged and feel good about it. Surrounded by endless hills, trees and wildlife, all coated in fresh snow. I don't think I've let myself relax that much in months, it was truly wonderful.

Meet Buster, a deer Kyle shot last year.

I've been debating on sharing the details of hunting, mostly for the sake of any vegetarians that could read this blog. It's not for the faint of heart, but it does take up a huge (way too large, if you ask me ;), part of our Fall. Every.Single.Year.
It can't fairly complain though, considering I have never shopped for meat and our extra freezer is full of every cut of venison possible. It's the work of processing to get it from the field to the freezer that tends to grind my gears. No, we don' t hire a butcher, Kyle is the butcher.

My brother and I won. This photo is solely to record our victory in Euchre.

While Matt and Kyle hunted, I stayed put in the cabin and kept watch. I'd text the boys if I saw a deer and inevitably answer the "how big is it?!" question. I was so excited to see so many visitors lingering by the food plots by the driveway: 

This is my dad's new pup, Paige. Aka, love of his life. She and Maizy are becoming buddies.

The boys didn't get any deer on this trip, but I must say, I'm quite thankful for that! Kyle has already gotten three this year, and my patience for processing deer has become hummm...slim to none. I think three is plenty :)

Were you able to get away at all during the busy holiday season? We only snuck away to the cabin for two nights, but it was just what we needed to feel refreshed.

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