Wednesday, December 28


Well, with only 3 days to spare, I am happy to report that I have finally finished my 12th book of the year! Reading 12 books in 12 months was one of my goals for 2011, and I am thrilled that I met my goal! Thankfully, I was way ahead of the count before I started school, because I haven't had much time for leisure reading since June! Here is the list of my 2011 reads and links to my book reviews if you're curious about any of them :)

3. The Art of Racing in the Rain --- Tied for my top read of 2011!!!
9. Hunger Games --- Tied for my top read of 2011!!!
12. Room --- see review below

Room, a novel by Emma Donoghue, is unlike anything else I have ever read. Inspired by true events, although a fictional story, Room is narrated by our 5-year-old protagonist Jack. Jack's mother was kidnapped off the streets at 19 years old, and has been held captive by Old Nick for 7 years. Jack was born into captivity and has never set foot outside of their soundproof, escape-proof shack located in Old Nick's back yard. To Jack, Room is home. 

Eventually fed up with the life of slaves, and willing to risk everything for freedom, Jack's mother devises a plan for escape. Throughout the book, Jack's perspective on reality undergoes drastic changes. To begin with, he only knows tangible things in Room to be real; everything else is only on TV. Then, his mother tries to explain to him about the world outside of Room. But how impossible would it be to imagine the vastness of the world having never set foot in it? Then, upon his escape, he must relearn everything he thought he new about the world.

Though the setting is a seemingly tragic situation, Room is a beautiful story. It is one about the bond between a mother and a son. It is one about how confinement affects human development. And it is a story of healing after pain. 

This book is told from a perspective unlike any I have ever read, and I highly recommend it. It is thought-provoking, and unique in that a 5-year-old is the hero of our story. :)

What were your favorite reads of 2011???
I still have 2 1/2 weeks left of break and I'd love to squeeze in a few more reads!
I've been working on Elizabeth Gilbert's Committed, her follow-up to Eat, Pray, Love for nearly 6 months...and let's just say it's nothing like her best seller! Any recommendations are greatly appreciated!

Cheers to literature and expanding our viewpoints beyond any perspective we've ever imagined :)

Tuesday, December 27

doing good = feeling good

I definitely MEANT to write this post before Christmas. But I got completely wrapped up in Christmas Eve and Christmas Day festivities with my family. Technically, it is still the Season to be thinking about our lives, reflecting on our blessings, and sharing what we can with those who are not as fortunate this year.

I think you know by now the last 4 months of my life were probably the most challenging months I have ever had to go through. The constant pressure to study for exams was too much for me at times. I failed to maintain any balance between my studies and everything else that would potentially bring me some balance and peace. The gym? Once a week, if I was feeling truly overwhelmed. Walking the dogs? Every other day. Cooking fresh healthy meals? Ha, right. It was a combination of these things in which I lacked balance that caused me to gain weight and feel like it was a perpetual rainy day in my head. It really truly broke me for a while. I felt inadequate and incapable. But throughout all of my personal struggling, I did have the love and support of my husband, family, friends, and classmates. Without them, I don't think I would have stayed int the program.

I'm sure it seems pathetic to be whining about my life, when really it is a very blessed one. I have a home, a husband who would do anything for me, family with nothing but encouragement for me, and friends who believed in my way more than I did in myself. I'm in a prestigious program that I am grateful to have been selected to be a part of, yet I whine. What really saved me from spiraling down that twisted path of self pity this fall were the times when I was given perspective.

And these opportunities to gain perspective couldn't have had better timing.

In October, which was probably the most difficult month of all of this fall madness, I was given the opportunity to volunteer at a Halloween Party at the Children's Hospital. I dressed in my Tony the Tiger costume, helped set up games and craft stations for the children, and waited. When the kids started to arrive to the party, perspective slammed me in the face like a brick. Here I was, crying over my stressful study schedule...when there are all of these sweet children faced with life threatening medical conditions. I felt like such a fool, and it warmed my heart to do my part to give them a holiday celebration. I painted faces, made crafts, and just talked and laughed with some of these kid. The fact they they were going through their current situation and still managed to keep smiling made me determined to be thankful for my life no matter how much stress I may face.
That volunteer opportunity could not have come for me at a better time. I needed a healthy dose of reality and perspective. My next dose of perspective came in November when I asked my husband what he wanted for his birthday (Dec 13th). He said he would not accept any material gifts this year, and that he wanted everyone who would normally give him a gift to instead donate to a charity of their choice. One that means something to each donor. You see, my husband is this incredibly selfless human who is much better than me at realizing there isn't a whole lot we actually need, so he wanted to be able to help out those truly in need this holiday season.

And what a success his birthday idea was! I chose to donate to Heifer International, one of my favorite charities of all time! If you've never heard of this organization - you should know about it! It's based on the idea that if you give a family in need something that can help them sustain themselves for years to come, that gift is more useful than a one time donation of food or money. The organization donates animals such as camels, water buffalo, cows, llamas, pigs, goat, sheep, rabbits, ducks, chickens, geese, and honeybees. Each animal makes a difference somewhere in the world, and the families that receive them make a promise that they will in turn give a gift of their own. When their gifted animal has offspring, they are supposed to give the offspring to a family in their community that they can see is in need. It is a beautiful cycle of continual gift-giving that has the potential to allow entire communities to thrive. To learn more, go to

For the other part of Tyler's gift, I donated to PetSmart Charities - an organization aimed at saving homeless puppies. That charity is meaningful to me because we adopted both of our puppies at PetSmart's Second Chance for Love adoption events, and it so important to me that this organization can continue to find puppies new homes. On a side note, our dog Penny became the Pet Adoption story of the month on their facebook page! It is so sweet :) To see her picture and adoption story, click here:!/savehomelesspets. Proud mama!!!

For my family's birthday gifts to Tyler, they donated to a variety of organizations! They filled some shoeboxes for Operation Christmas Child (gifts of toys, school supplies, and basic hygiene items are sent to children in need all across this world), donated to Adopt-A-Family (a local drive in our high school to gather supplies/food/toys for local families in need), as well as they donated to the Children's Hospital, an area of medicine near and dear to our hearts. To learn more about Operation Christmas Child, please visit To donate to The Children's Hospital, please visit

Tyler's parents bought a tricycle for Tyler, which we chose to donate to Toys For Tots. We're hoping it made someone's Christmas very very special :)

For one of our personal holiday donations this year, Tyler and I decided to donate to KLove, the local Christian radio station. We can't ever donate as much as we would like to, but I can't tell you how many times listening to KLove on the way to school helped me to at least start the day off on the right foot. It is such a positive way to start your day, so we wanted to express our appreciation to the station.

Volunteer work has always been a HUGE part of my life. Ever since junior high when I started working at local homeless shelters, doing Meals on Wheels, canned food drives, Habitat for Humanity, and many other projects. I have always found myself at peace when I am giving of myself so that others can have more of a chance at life. It is at once selfless and selfish, because while I am putting in my time and money, I get so much more in return. I have definitely been yearning for the opportunity to volunteer for SOMETHING, ANYTHING, and once school was finally over for the fall semester for us, we were finally able to do some hands on volunteer work at the Ronald McDonald House. For all the negative press McDonalds gets these days, I am at least thankful for their part in creating the Ronald McDonald Houses. If you are unfamiliar with what they do, you should definitely check out this link: Ronald McDonald Houses provide lodging and meals for families of children who are staying in hospitals. They also provide programs aimed at strengthening families during these most trying of times, which I think is a wonderful service! So anyway, last Monday Tyler, myself, and some of my PA School classmates went to our local Ronald McDonald house to cook and serve breakfast to the families staying there. It wasn't anything over the top, but it was nice feeling like we were chipping in. These families have to endure so much, and at least they don't have to worry about cooking and cleaning.

I am just so filled with love this time of year. Love for my family, love for my friends, and love for complete strangers who I don't know the first thing about, but whom I know need our love nonetheless. I hope as you count your blessings and your Christmas gifts you've received this year, that you take a minute to share something of yourself with people who need you. Be it a monetary donation or a volunteer activity, it will change your life as well as impact other lives.

Happy Holidays to you - I hope they continue to be very blessed!!!
Cheers :)

Monday, December 19

taking a break

Since getting out of school at noon on Friday, we have been taking FULL advantage of being on holiday break!!!
I started out the break by going to BJs with my anatomy lab group - we still can't get used to not spending 30 hours a week dissecting together, and I love that we get together every other month and have a lunch/vent session/chatathon!!! :)

Friday evening I did break right by heading to Kona Grill for Happy Hour with some of my girls from my old job at Rose! Best happy hour ever!!!
Loving this chardonnay!!!

Margherita Flatbread, drool. 

Loving seeing my girl Lauren!!! 

We LOVED the giant tree outside of Cherry Creek mall!
It was really exciting at that moment in time.

Saturday we took a trip to Fort Collins to reconnect with friends and visit new hot spots people have been telling us about (okay, not that Tony's is a hot spot, but I was pretty impressed with the heated rooftop bar they now have!!!).
First stop - Ace Gillete's with Robin! My new FAVORITE bar!

Tell me that doesn't look divine. 

A trio of Creme Brulee and a Raspberry Lemonade Martini??? Talked me into it. 
Delicious food. Perfectly made drinks. Beautiful live jazz music. The ultimate ambiance. Obviously, I recommend it. As a bonus, the experience of finding the doorway entrance to the stairs that leads to the brick-lined tiny alley that leads to the entrance to this little gem reminds me of going to Diagon Alley. I'm just saying. :)

I love Fort Collins - and I love holidays - and I love Old Town lit up to sparkle during the holidays! (complete with the random pianos hand painted by local artists!!!)

Sunday we had breakfast at McCoy's (ummm did I really go out to eat 4 times this weekend! Yikes, time to go the gym) then headed over to my in-laws for our 2nd Annual Gingerbread Village Festival! This year we all stepped it up and handcrafted our creations from graham crackers, no premade houses for us (although, legit that was hard, soooo getting a premade ginger house next year)!

My toy shop! It's a little messy inside, but that's because it's Christmas Eve and the shoppers are out of control in there!!!

The Village :)

Sunday night was a lazy movie and couch kind of night, just what we needed!!!

What a weekend...
Cheers to that!

catching up

Happy Holiday Week to everyone!!!

I am going to attempt to catch you up on life events since mid-October...

The first major fall event for us was the passing on of my dear Great Grandmother Aileen. She lived a full and beautiful life, surrounded by family up through her very last breath. While the death of anyone who has influenced your life is a sad time, I couldn't help but smile thinking of her reunion with my Great Grandpa Merle. The last time we saw her she mentioned how excited she was to see him. I keep her picture up on a shelf near where I study, and I look to her when I need reassurance or a reminder of what truly matters in life. She was one of the kindest hearts I have ever known, and I miss her every day.
Illinois, 2009

After some healing came Halloween - one of my favorite holidays! This year Tyler and I went with cereal box characters...made everything myself!

Tony the Tiger & Captain Crunch

We had a great time making/wearing the costumes!!!

And of course I dressed the puppies up too...
Sherriff Gryffin!

Penny the Batdog

It's true, I took them on a walk like this, haha. All the neighborhood kids loved it though!!!

Then came my sister-in-law's wedding! She planned it in 6 days, which sort of gave me heart palpitations, but weddings are always beautiful no matter how much time went into them!
Like my flower bouquet??? ;)

Wishing them all the happiness in their marriage!!!

Randomly we got to hang out with one of our best friends Umber! He is a man of mystery, appearing in Colorado once in a blue moon, so we were thrilled to see him! We literally hadn't seen him since our wedding in 2009!

We also managed to get a weekend off to celebrate Thanksgiving with our families! What a relaxing and joyous time to be able to be with our loved ones :)
Denver lunch and shopping date with my mama and sister!

Visiting H&M for the first time - success!

Thanksgiving dinner with my mom, aunts, and sister :)

We attempted to take a holiday family photo...none quite made the cut though (guess that means I'm off the hook for Christmas cards, eh?)

Black Friday shopping with my sister included watching Harry Potter 7: Part 2 while in line at Best Buy! Haha. Yes, it is being projected onto the side of a truck...

Thanksgiving weekend one of my dreams came true and I got to see the Broadway production of the Lion King!!! It was one of the most beautiful and powerful productions I have ever seen! The costumes were breathtakingly innovative, and the music brought me to tears. Absolutely fabulous!!!
Dinner at the Corner Office - so happy to have a date night!

Beside myself with pure glee!!!

After Thanksgiving weekend, it was a mad dash to the finish line...aka studying every waking minute!!! So there are no pictures after that haha :)

Random pics I love from fall:
Night out in Denver

Sweet Penny being sooooo bored with my nonstop studying!

Doing our part in this world by drinking wines where proceeds go to animal rescue funds! This wine is a blue heeler wine, we got it in honor of our red heeler :)

Putting Christmas decorations up! Is it bad that in one night Halloween went down and Christmas went up? I didn't get to taking down my pumpkins and bats until the end of November...

Gryffin helping me study by sitting on my notes...
Silly puppy :)

You know what? I honestly didn't realize how many smiles I had this fall. I spent so much time reading, studying, stressing, crying...overall had a lot of negative energy (posting on that later), but turns out there were lots of time where life sparkled for me and reminded me what happiness was about :)

Cheers to that!

Thursday, December 15

i see the light

My dearest blog, how I have MISSED YOU! I have missed spending weekend mornings perusing YOUR blogs, keeping up with your lives. I haven't posted since October, and I just wanted to warn you that I have a month off from school starting tomorrow, so I plan on posting/reading as much as I can! I have a LOT to tell you about - school, books, anxiety, weddings, sleepness nights, Naggie updates...

For now, I have to finish up a take-home final and perfect my Spanish presentation on Dengue Fever! Then tomorrow I'll be free for 4 beautiful weeks, and I'm sure you'll be hearing from me FAR more than you ever wanted! haha

Right now, I am ADORING this painting, and I want to share it with you...
I am wishing I were sitting on that bench, even if it were all by myself.
Just resting my eyes and soaking up the beauty around me.

In somewhat related news, I'm going to Canvas and Cocktails on Jan 14th (just saved my spot today), and our scheduled painting happens to be one of an empty street with lamp posts...I think I'll have to try to incorporate some of the gorgeous colorful magic of this painting! Oh and I would totally share the source/artist with you, except that I saw it on Pinterest and it didn't say who the artist was...


CHEERS to YOU, to US, and to my almost BREAK!!! xoxo