9/28/2012

Friday Letters

Dear Blog,
I'm so sorry I've neglected you over the past couple of weeks. You must feel like a spanked puppy, and that's downright tragic. The reason for this unjust behavior is simple: Life has been busy and I've been distracted (i.e. I've been really focusing on my running, I've had cakes comin' out of my ears, and Carl's just got me the latest season of The Biggest Loser. I'm o-b-s-e-s-s-e-d). Nevertheless, I promise my absence will be short-lived. You need not fear, I'll be back on this blogging wagon again next week. No lie.
Dear Fall,
I know I say this often, but it's just a testimonial to my true affection. I adore you. Almost as much as I adore back rubs, rainbow bubbles in the bathtub, or Olive Garden bread sticks. You're by far the most handsome, rugged, vibrant and modest of all seasons (shhh, don't tell Summer. There's potential she'll become emotionally unstable and paranoid)  and if it weren't for you, my morning runs wouldn't be as comfortable, beautiful and truly enjoyable as they have been. More importantly, I wouldn't be able to stroll down the sidewalk, crunching on crisp leaves dreaming of piping hot French Onion Soup, sporting my favorite knee-high leather boots. So, please, stick around for a while why don't ya? We're in the process of doing some kick-ass bonding.
Dear You've Got Mail,
As far as I'm concerned, you truly are one of the best films ever made. I love you so much that I've watched you 4 times this week alone..4 times! And we both know that's not at all sad or pathetic. Hell no. I just don't know what it is, but there's something magical and enchanting about Tom Hanks (so what that my fondness is ever so slightly linked to the fact that we share the same birthday) and I always find myself wishing that I could be Kathleen Kelly for a day and own The Shop Around The Corner. It's my idea of heaven: a children's book store in the West End of New York City, just a block away from Starbucks The Heavenly House of Pumpkin Spice Latte's. I mean come on? Who could ask for anything better? Seriously?
Yeah, that's what I thought.
Anyway, I'll wrap this letter up with one of my all time favorite and most poignant movie quotes:
"Once I read a story about a butterfly in the subway, and today, I saw one. It got on at 42nd, and off at 59th, where, I assume it was going to Bloomingdales to buy a hat that would turn out to be a mistake - as almost all hats are."
Amen, Kathleen. Amen. 
Thank you. Thank you for bringing me so much joy and pride. Thank you for making a dream come true and thank you for giving me hope. I'm enjoying every single minute on this sticky cake-covered roller coaster ride. Today, I completed and delivered my very first 'official' cake order and it was an outstanding success. I grinned from ear to ear as my very first customer smiled at me and said 'These cakes are so lovely, Amanda. Thank you! You can't go back to America, I've just found my cake girl!" 
This is only the beginning of exciting and wonderful things. I can't wait for the future. Bring on the next cake order! Let's do this thing! 

Happy Friday, love bugs!
Lots of love, love, love,

9/24/2012

Caketastic Confections

Happy Monday, love bugs!

Here in England Fall weather is truly upon us. It's chilly, damp and it's been pissing down from the time I went to bed last night to the time I woke up this morning. Oh, and it's not supposed to stop for another 5 days. Ah well, I really shouldn't complain. Aside from the fact that I'll come home from my runs closely resembling a drowned rat, I'm really just a sucker for the beautifully calming sound of tiny raindrops ping ping pinging off of leaves and rooftops. And the truth of it is that I really could not have asked for a better soundtrack as I type this post; aside from maybe some David Gray playing softly somewhere in the distance. Raindrops and David Gray accompany each other well. Everyone knows that. And besides, the relentlessness of this gloomy Eeyore like weather means that I haven't felt guilty in the slightest while I snuggled into some cozy blankets, cupping a nice big cup of tea, in order to share with you the exciting cake news I promised on Friday!

Those of you who are closest to me, or follow me on Instagram, Twitter or Facebook will already know what I'm about to say. But for those of you who do not, please feel free to act surprised as this is super-duper-pee-your-pants exciting for me. It's a dream that's swam around in the deep dark crevasse's of my mind ever since I was in my early teens and I truly feel accomplished and proud that I'm finally, slowly, starting to turn one of my dreams it into a reality. During my senior year of High School I was part of a special program at the New England Culinary School (NECI) which allowed specially selected culinary students to attend and start their culinary college courses while still completing High School. I'm not going to lie, it was hard work. Confusing mumbo-jumbo about graduation credits were forever being calculated to make sure all the t's were crossed and i's dotted, and there were also some emotionally draining moment's where I cried myself to sleep at night. Let's just say some chef instructors are better suited as US Marine Coprs Drill Sargent's. For cereal. Nevertheless, my time at NECI was an unforgettably wonderful experience that changed me forever. And although I excelled at culinary school, I realized somewhere along the way that a restaurant career where I'd spend a ridiculous amount of hours on the line in a sticky hot kitchen beating up my body was just not for me. I wanted a family someday and I knew in my heart that I wouldn't be comfortable working every weekend or spending every holiday away from my husband and children in order to feed  hungry strangers.  So, after a very long, deeply heartfelt and tearful discussion with my Mom, I decided to leave NECI shortly before graduating in order to follow my heart and peruse my elementary school teaching career instead (which inevitably lead me to Liverpool). The honest truth is that decision - to leave something I knew I was good at, to leave a place where I'd grown up and always had my support system  around me - my home - was one of the hardest things I've ever done. Attending University all the way across the world was scary - so very scary -  and the day I set foot on my Continental Airlines flight to Manchester England I waved to my family through an egg shaped window as crocodile tears streamed down my face. My stomach did somersaults and for a few minutes I wondered if I was making a smart choice, if I was doing the right thing. Thankfully, 4 years, 2 degrees, a husband, a set of amazing in-laws, handfuls of new friends and countless treasured memories later I know that it was absolutely the right thing and I could not feel more blessed than I do today. Everything certainly does happen for a reason.

And now that I'm a very proud qualified teacher who's hectic - yet entirely rewarding and wonderful - life is destined to be consumed with Kindergarteners, snotty noses, children's books, stickers and macaroni crafts, I realized that I was still spending the majority of my spare time baking. The older I've become the more I've grown to appreciate that my heart truly belongs in two places: a classroom and a kitchen. That's where I'm happiest and thrive most. I've also continued to notice that I get the same sort of warm, effervescent, tingly satisfaction in sharing my yummy concoctions with friends and family as I do with teaching a child to write their name or count in 2s. And so, finally, this lifelong dream of creating my very own small cake business from my home dug it's way out from the deep dark crevasse's in my mind and eventually blossomed into something much much more. Today, ladies and gentlemen boys and girls, please put your hands together as I excitedly introduce you to my baby, my latest endeavor - something sweet and precious to my heart - I give you the one, the only...



With the help of Caketastic Confections (big shout out to my blog besties Nina and Jen for all of their support and advice along my Caketastic Confections journey - love you girls), I now spend my free time sporting a big cheesy grin all the while covered in icing sugar as I frantically wave a pink polka dot spatula in the air as if it's a princess wand. The extra downtime here in England has really been a blessing in disguise as it's provided me the opportunity to get all of my ducks in a row and make something of this ambitious goal I've always had festering inside me. While I plan to begin my Caketastic journey here in England, fear not because once the hubs and I are back on VT soil I will most definitely continue this sweet adventure (this is a not-so-gracious shout out to all of my Vermont peeps as I beg you to please remember me when you need a cake or cupcakes for a special occasion! Because I am most definitely your girl!)
So there you have it, folks. My sugary dream on a platter covered in sprinkles and edible glitter. Won't you please join me in this caketastic journey. Let's cup our sticky-frosting covered fingers around our mouths and sing in unison something very wise that was said a very long time ago. On the count of three, cake lovers. I want to hear you scream it from the roof tops. Ready? 1...2...3...


 Head on over to to show your support and help spread the cupcake love!

9/22/2012

The first day of Fall

I'm sure the majority of you will already know what I'm about to say, but I plan to say it anyway. Because today, love bugs, isn't your every day ordinary Saturday. Oh no. Today is special because it marks the beginning of something wonderful, crisp, cool and beautiful. Today is monumental in the land of Amanda, for it  is the very first day of Fall.

Can you hear them?  The choir of angels singing? Squint and focus real hard and you'll see them. High in the clouds. Chapping and a swayin' like a Mississippi gospel group on a hot summer Sunday. 
Halle-freakin-lujah. 
Fall is here. 


This morning as I woke up, stretched my arms and wriggled in my bed like a worm, I noticed something different. Something I've been looking forward to all year. And as I crawled out of my warm blankets to open the curtains to let the golden morning sunlight trickle into our room, I smiled as the goosebumps on my arms grew like teeny tiny ant hills. Our window, which (as with every night) was cracked, left open ever so slightly, as to welcome the cool evening air inside. There are two things you need to know about me. 1) that I cannot sleep without a fan blowing on my face, and 2) my bedroom window must be cracked open all night long. Thankfully, Carl is easy going and for the entire 10 years we've been together he's never once protested my need for the hum of a fan and fresh air at night (which is good because I'd have told him tough shit. Haha!) I'm one of those people who truly relies on the big, soft, coziness of blankets to keep me warm - I can't sleep in any room that's stuffy, perfectly silent and hot. No sir. Anyway, this morning as I pushed the curtains open, the crisp, damp and slightly musty morning air was refreshing and far cooler than it had been all year. I balanced on my tippy toes to peek through the browning tree leaves outside our window and smiled like Alice's mysterious Cheshire Cat friend as the honk honk honking of geese echoed across the sky. I counted 4 perfectly formed Vs as they danced over our house and I felt that little tingle of happiness that comes every year. That excited, comforting tingle that signifies I can finally celebrate the first day of Fall. 



After making myself some toasted poppiseed nutty bread, eating a bowl of tangy raspberries and a sweet banana, I traded my comfy striped pj's for my yoga pants, sports bra and running shoes. As I shut the front door I hummed along to the tune of Free Fallin' by Tom Petty and carefully pressed the 'start' button on my Endomondo and C25k Running apps. Last night I'd planned a lovely 6.27 mile run (my longest so far) around the village and today, on the first day of fall - with the light wind, billowing sunshine and cool temperatures - I let my mind slow down and feet bounce along the pavement. Aside from the splitting stomach cramps/stitches at the 4 mile mark, my run went amazingly well and as the little robotic woman bluntly  announced '6 miles!' through my headphones I smiled and allowed myself the luxury of a power walk for that remaining .27 of a mile. As I slowed down to catch my breath and look around the recently harvested wheat field, I noticed that some of the leaves have already started to change from a vibrant green to a pale golden yellow. The sidewalks are sprinkled with dancing crisp leaves that float in the occasional gusts, and the old men out walking their dogs have traded in their buttoned up t-shirts for beige knitted sweaters. 



Although there are the occasional pings of sadness followed by a desire to be enjoying this beautiful season at home in my Vermont (where thousands of people travel from all over the place to visit because of our famous stunning fall foliage) I am trying to appreciate and soak up every last bit of Fall in England before we leave. Unlike at home, there aren't bustling apple orchards with the sweet scent of fresh apple cider doughnuts on every back road, but there are still simple things, like perfect Vs of geese flying south, that I'll miss when we're not here. 



Before I leave you for the evening (we're off to enjoy a relaxed night of cocktails in our local pub) I want to share with you this lovely old poem by Katherine Mansfield. It makes me smile and I hope it does you too.





Vermont
Autumn Song

Now's the time when children's noses,

All become as red as roses.
And the colour of their faces,
Makes me think of orchard places.
Where the juicy apples grow,
And tomatoes in a row.

And today the hardened sinner
Never could be late for dinner.
But will jump up to the table
Just as soon as he is able.
Ask for three times hot roast mutton--
Oh! the shocking little glutton.

Come then, find your ball and racket,
Pop into your winter jacket.
With the lovely bear-skin lining,
While the sun is brightly shining.
Let us run and play together
And just love the Autumn weather.

9/21/2012

Bloom

First things first...

Happy Friday, love bugs!

Secondly...

I have some very special cake-related news which I am beyond excited to share with all of you. The ugly truth is that I had fully intended to have written and published my fantastic sharing-of-big-news-post earlier today, but I've been a busy bee from 8:45 this morning until 7:30 this evening. The sad fact of the matter is that I ran out of time. I mean, I suppose I could have busted it out if I really wanted to, but the previously mentioned 'exciting cake-related news' is something special to me and I really feel I owe it the appropriate amount of time, love and graciousness it deserves. I know what I'm like, and I know that spelling/grammatical errors breed like rabbits if I'm in a hurry or hungry (don't look at me that way. You know that you too turn into an impatient, grammar abusive, pain in the ass when you're starving) so in an attempt to prevent an influx of unnecessary commas, apostrophes and extra p's, I'll wait until this weekend for the big reveal. Stay tuned, folks!

Nevertheless, I did want to take a couple of minutes before snuggling into bed with Carlos to say two very important things.

1) A colorful, bright, smiley, excitable, and extremely heart felt  HAPPY BIRTHDAYto my bestest English bud, Toni (you know, the-soon-to-be-Mama to Baby Rooneywho turns 29 today! Laugh until your baby-belly jiggles, kiss your pain-in-the-ass-yet-undeniably-lovely hubby way too much, and dance the night away. A special birthday girl like you deserves a special birthday celebration :) Love you

2) Last week I finally got around to reading my all time favorite Blooger, Kelle Hampton's, much talked about and loved memoir, Bloom (which I've been desperately wanting to read since April, but forced myself to delay in buying as I was responsibly trying to avoid stuffing another book into my elephant sized suitcase...needless to say once I found out we'd be in England a bit longer I caved).
I can honestly say that this book was everything, and ever more, than I had dreamed/heard of. It has easily become one of my all time favorite books, and one that I plan to read frequently in order to remind myself that life changing beauty can be found in situations you never thought you'd be strong enough to overcome. Kelle is so honest, true and genuine and her writing has striking similarities to that of the magical dancing mop in Fantasia. It's beautiful, poetic, elegant and utterly mesmerizing. I cried oh, I don't know, about 849 different times throughout the 278 pages of this enthralling memoir, and truly fell in love with not only little Nella, but Lainey, Kelle and all of their truly amazing family members and friends. But, as with every single good book, I had a favorite part/chapter/couple of pages. In Bloom, it was Chapter 12: Jeremy, and I read that chapter 3 times in a row. I cried, I laughed and my heart tingled with love for people I'd never met, and probably never will meet. It was beautiful, a eureka moment, which honestly touched my heart (if you want to read what I'm rambling on about flip to my favorite pages: 225-232).
As soon as I closed this book, teary eyed and nostalgic, I turned to Carl (who is well versed in little Nella, as for about a year now I've shown him a constant stream of Instagram/Twitter/Enjoying The Small Things pictures of this little girl who I absolutely adore) and said 'You know baby, if I ever spotted Kelle on the sidewalk with Nella and Lainey I'd have to run over to her. I'd be compelled - it would be a gravitational pull and there would be no way I couldn't. I'd walk right up to her and say 'Hi Kelle, you don't know me but I just have to say that I love you, I love Nella and Lainey and I'll quite happily send you a lifelong supply of homemade cupcakes if I could just give you a hug and your girls an extra big cuddle.'"  He looked at me momentarily with this 'you sound like a stalker' smile, until he leaned in and hugged me. I could feel him jiggling as he laughed at my sappiness and seeping affection for complete strangers, but I didn't care. I was serious and I fully intend to say just that if  a day ever presents itself where I meet Kelle and her beautiful family. 

Moral of this long winded rambling: get your hands on a copy of Bloom as soon as humanly possible. It's one of the most touching books I've ever read in my life and I promise you won't regret it. In the meantime, while you're waiting for your Amazon shipment to arrive, stalk up on tissues, watch the trailer, read the blog and just like The Grinch on Christmas day, feel your heart grow 3 sizes
Enjoy the rest of your Friday, love bugs! 
I'll be back over the weekend to share my very special "caketastic" news!

Lots of love, love, love,

9/18/2012

Frustration

I feel like I'm super glued to a rickety old wood table in some rickety old wood house where the wind howls through the tiny cracks in the window frames. But as I loosely dangle my feet over the hard wood chair ledge I'm not even phased by those haunting howling ghost noises which normally produce mosquito bite sized goosebumps.Oh no. Because all I can focus on is that little plastic popper in the middle of the plastic board game. 

Pop. Pop. Pop. Pop.

No matter how many times I slam my palm down on that irritating bubble I can never ever roll a 6. I can never get out. Never race around the game board.  Never join in the fun. Never get all of my little pieces to their home.

Pop. Pop. Pop. Pop.

 1. 4. 5. 2.

 Damnit. I need a 6. For sobbing out loud just pop a goddamn 6. 

Pop. Pop. Pop. Pop.

Finally. Two perfect rows of 3 black dots balance and fall. For a brief moment I smile and simultaneously pinch my fingers over one of my tiny green (always green) plastic pieces and slam it into the lime green  START column. Yes. I've done it.

"Finally! I'm on the board! I'll roll again."

Pop. Pop. Pop. Pop.

1.

Damnit.

And so I move just one space and cautiously watch as the next person pushes hard on the plastic hemisphere. All the while I whisper - beckon - that tiny die not to produce a 4. Anything but a 4. Don't let them land on my little green guy. Please don't knock me back, I only just got out. I've only just found start.

Pop. Pop. Pop. Pop.

4.

Damnit.

And so I watch as they giggle and clink their shiny red piece on top of my sad little green one. 
"Sorry!" They say. But they're not sorry because, let's face it, that's the whole point of the game. And the truth of the matter is that everyone is only looking out for numero uno. Everyone has their eyes on their very own finish line. So I sit there, once again, staring at all of my little green pieces in a nice straight row. They can't move though because they're stuck there, kind of like I am to that hard wood chair, waiting to make a move. Waiting to get involved. Waiting to start again. Waiting to get home. They're stuck there, impatiently waiting for me to roll a 6. A 6 that just will not come. But still I try again.

Pop. Pop. Pop. Pop.

1.

Damnit. 

And the game goes on and I force myself to sit up tall and not let them know I'm filled with frustration. And as I swing my feet and drown out the howling of the wind outside I can't help but wonder how long I'll have to wait beforel I roll that 6 I so desperately need. But still I try again.

Pop. Pop. Pop. Pop.
~
It's kind of been one of those days. Well, months really. I miss my home. I miss my friends and family. I miss my independence. I miss teaching. I miss driving. I miss the smell of Vermont. I miss Carl and I having our own home. I miss a routine. I miss normalcy. 

And I'm so very sick of waiting.

But they say that tomorrow is another day, so who knows? Perhaps it's finally my turn to roll a 6.

Lots of love, love, love,

9/17/2012

49 Today

Today, someone very near and dear to my heart turns the ripe old age of 49 21. 

Someone who absolutely loves his old cars.

Someone who is the most hard working, committed and determined person I know.
Someone who inspires me.
Someone who built not only our house but half the population of Vermont's home as well.
Someone who can't have a phone conversation without doodling silly squiggles.
Someone who uses duct tape to create top-secret doughnut traps in order to keep his doughnut loving daughters out of their Mother's homemade goodies.
Someone who loves old Western movies, idolizes John Wayne and has seen every single episode of Gunsmoke there is.
Someone who uses phrases like 'that was cornier than a corn field' and imitates a baby crying when either my sister or I whine.
Someone who is unique, hilarious, goofy and all together dorktastic.
Someone who itches his foot with a back scratcher.
Someone who is always antagonizing my cat.
Someone who sings like Elvis while he makes homemade Spaghetti, loves mashed potato and is the only other person on the planet who enjoys  bread dough as much as I do.
Someone who taught me how to drink the last of the VT Maple Syrup from its jar.
Someone who looks especially cute in cowboy boots, and dances the best two-step in the land.
Someone who is not only sweet, caring and thoughtful but gives the very best 'whisker tickling' kisses around.
Someone who has blessed two girls with a fantastic father...
and a lucky woman with a husband.
Someone who has gone out of his way to give his family the best life he possibly could.  Someone who is valued and appreciated more than I think he knows. 
 Someone I look up to, miss on a daily basis and can always rely on to be brutally honest and straightforward. 
Someone who is cuddly, fuzzy and always smells of Old Spice and sawdust.
Someone who I love so very dearly I often think I may explode, is one of the most handsome men around (and the spit of Burt Reynolds) and who I'm lucky enough to call my Dad.
So here's to you, my handsome Daddy-O, on your 49th birthday. Sit on the couch tonight with a plate full of Mom's Pineapple Upside Down Cake, a can full of Michelob Light, and a smile on your whiskered face. Pull that recliner lever back so that your feet rest comfortably in those fuzzy leather slippers you've had since cave men walked the Earth, and enjoy some Pawn Stars, American Pickers and Ice Road Truckers. Laugh that belly laugh that is so infectious, pick on Sheester that little bit extra and give Mom those puppy dog eyes so she caves and rubs your feet. Soak up the extra pampering, eat that annual bag of Peanut M&M's Sonya will (no doubt) buy you, and feel extra special and loved because you are. 
We  all love you to the moon and back, and I wish so badly I could be there to spoil you too. But I take comfort in knowing that very soon, I will be. So in the meantime...

Happy Birthday, Daddy-O!! 
Lots and lots of love always, always, always,
Mandy xoxo

9/14/2012

Fitness Friday: I'm a Runner

Happy Friday, love bugs!!!

On this fantastic Friday I'm helping to support one of my bestest buddies, Jen, in her latest blogging endeavor. So, ladies and gentlemen, lets give a nice warm welcome to Fitness Fridays. A link up designed to help encourage and motivate each other to get healthy by sharing fitness goals, healthy recipes, exercise routines.
For my first attempt at Fitness Friday's, I'm going to be rambling a bit about running. My latest love. You'll remember from this post that Jen is the person who truly inspired me to get off my ass and attempt to make my running dreams a reality. It was her new found and unexpected love of running, her determination, her drive, her commitment and the sweet success of her first half marathon this past July that really motivated me to believe that I too - the big-boobed-pudgy-girl who loathed pounding pavement - could become a runner someday. She made me believe that against the odds it is possible to fall in love with running, regardless of any agonizing, breathless and boring childhood experiences you may have encountered during elementary, middle and high school. 

I'm sure you'll recall my long winded rants about plans to begin the Couch-to-5k upon my arrival back in Vermont. My baby sheester, Sonya, had agreed to embark on the adventure with me and we'd made a sisterly pact to sign up for our first 5k together once we'd completed the C25K program. Nevertheless, truly remarkable impatience is an irritating trait of mine and I got fidgety waiting for the weeks to creep by. So, to nobody's surprise, I decided to begin the program - mostly as a way to get in shape for when I properly start it back home with Sonya - towards the end of August. In the beginning I had fully intended to rotate doing weeks 1 & 2 until I stepped foot upon lush Vermont soil, but you'll remember from my London Post last week that things have - yet again - changed. I'll now be in England for at least another couple of weeks - and potentially another couple of months. And so, rather than slowly morphing into Bill Murray in Groundhogs Day (one of my favorites, by the way) I decided to ditch the repetition of the first 2 weeks and carry on with my C25K journey. I knew Sonya wouldn't mind, and I looked forward to being able to support her better during her C25K adventure. 

Yesterday I completed Week 3, Day 2 and tomorrow (blisters allowing) I'll finish my 3rd week, and eagerly look forward to beginning Week 4 on Monday. I've found the program SO easy to follow, totally manageable and a great tool in terms of easing me into running. Carl's also been following the program and he's love-love-loving it too. Every week we have our runs together and our childlike rivalry means we're continuously racing and attempting to out-run the other. It's healthy competition and it's also alarmingly fun to bat my eyelashes at my sweaty hubby on the treadmill to my right (totally a ploy to distract him. Muaha!)

I can honestly say that for the first time in my entire life, I - like Jen and so many other C25K enthusiasts - have fallen in love with running. I adore it. Every day I wake up and look forward to my runs and get giddy and giggly as I plan future routes or set new goals in hopes of improving my pace. Running has become enjoyable, liberating and the very best avenue I've found for stress relief. If ever I'm feeling frustrated, homesick, sad, worried or angry I tie the laces on my Asics, crank the tunes on my iPod and hit the road. It's refreshing and so rewarding to find something new to fall in love with, especially when I know it's benefiting my life and allowing me to come closer to crossing something off of my bucket list. That half marathon someday doesn't seem quite so far fetched now.

Paranoia that everyone would think I looked like an absolute numpty meant that I refrained from running down the streets of our local town, and for the first 2 weeks of the program I stuck primarily to treadmills at my gym. But the more I ran, the more I loved it. My confidence slowly grew and before I knew it I began to feel like I fit in. For the first time in my life I actually felt like a 'runner' who deserved to be out on the side walk with all of the other 'runners'. I no longer viewed myself as the black sheep or ugly duckling. I no longer cared about my tata's, or my tomato-like-face, or sweaty armpits, or whether people thought I ran 'like a girl.' Instead, I felt accomplished, healthy and proud. 

And so, with this new-found confidence, I set to planning  my very first run around Formby Village. In an attempt to determine the total distance/route of my run (what can I say? I didn't want it to end up doubled over in a puddle somewhere soullessly mumbling "I cannot go on. I didn't know it was so far") I set to Google in search of a great website that would allow me to plan my running route. And finally, after about 20 minutes and a couple of duds, I stumbled upon this little gem: FavoriteRun.com. This handy dandy website was straight forward and very simple to use (which tickled my fancy as I so could not be assed with something finicky and complicated). Within the space of 10 minutes I had mapped my very own personalized running route before I ever set foot outside the house. I knew the roads I'd turn down, the distance I'd run, and the estimated amount of time it would take. Marvelous. 
But previously mapping my run wasn't enough. Not for this chick (OCD peeps, HOLLA!) Again turning to my best pal, Google, I began researching user ratings in terms of the best running apps. Jen had previously suggested her favorite app Nike+ Running, but that parade was shortly pissed on as I realized that app isn't yet available to Android users. Boo. Thankfully, I stumbled upon a review of the top 8 running apps for Android and was introduced to their number 1, and my top choice, Endomondo. As you can imagine, this nerd was unbelievably excited to give the app a go during my first carefully planned run. The night before I entered all of my personal information (weight, height, age, gender etc) and scoured the different versions of 'workouts' in order to make sure I'd selected the correct one (in the end I chose the 'basic workout' where the GPS saves your run and allows you to 'favorite' the route for future reference). That night I went to bed with my running apps at the ready (I also planned to simultaneously use my C25K app in order to incorporate my Week 3 Day 2 training into a big-ish run), my workout clothes were neatly folded and my iPod was fully charged. The OCD God's smiled down upon me and I slowly drifted to sleep. I was as prepared as humanly possible.

And so as my alarm clock sounded I rose simultaneously with the sun and hurried to brush my teeth and pin my hair back. Sporting my running clothes and a few butterflies, I finished gobbling down my banana and closed the front door. Rounding the corner of the house, I unlocked my phone and, before slipping it into the small slit of my arm band, thought I pressed the play button on my fancy new Endomondo running app. With an extra spring in my step I began my 4 1/2 mile journey across Formby, excitedly anticipating the finish where I could, for the first time, read and log the stats (speed, pace, duration, total calories burned etc) of my first big run. What was to be my benchmark for improvement.
...If only that effin play button had worked.
To say I was irritated would be the understatement of the year. As I ran to the front door of our house and hurried to free my phone from its plastic armband coffin, I was suddenly faced with the ugly truth. An entire page full of nothing but 0's, aside from that condescending 9, which laughed in my face as if to say "Haha dumbass, I'm still here! You never hit play!" The truth of it is that I swore like a sailor, contemplated throwing my phone and sat on my bed on the brink of tears for about 5 minutes. Although I've been doing my running on the treadmill in the gym, I was really looking forward to using this, my first 'big' run outdoors, as a benchmark to help improve my pace, count calories and gauge what type of distance I could handle in the future. Clearly this was a sign from the running Gods that it just wasn't meant to be. 

Thankfully my trusty C25K app had my back, and although the majority of my run wasn't logged, I was at least able to collect some stats which were recorded during the first 20 minute portion of my Week 3, Day 2 run! 
Moral of the story my friends: NEVER TRUST A SHITTY TOUCH SCREEN!

But in all seriousness, shitty pause button aside, I ended my first big outdoor run happy. Although I was rockin the 'hello, I'm a tomato' red face, I wasn't gasping for air, my legs didn't feel like lead and I survived. I ran nearly 5 miles and I really survived. 

And for the first time in my life I can really say: I'm a runner

9/11/2012

Let us never forget

On this day 11 years ago, thousands of innocent lives were lost or changed forever. Hearts were broken, dreams were shattered and families torn apart. Yet through the darkness and devastation, an entire country united more than ever before and held hands while picking up the pieces. That day is and always will be engraved in my heart as a day of cataclysmic sorrow, but also the day that I learned to love my country more than I ever had before. 
God Bless the USA, my home sweet home. 
Let us never forget the victims of September 11th 2001. 

Every year I watch this video, and as I sob uncontrollably I am again reminded that tomorrow is not promised. And I am privileged, as are you, to be here now living a healthy, happy life. 
Take this day to reflect on how lucky and blessed you are to wake up every morning and hold your loved ones tight. There are some who are not as fortunate. 
Live each day as if it were your last. 

Lots of love, love, love.

9/10/2012

London

Happy Monday love bugs!

I know, I know. I've neglected my precious blog, and consequently all of you, for an entire week. A WEEK! I'm sorry! But as awful as that is, it was for a good reason. Trust me. Over the past 7 days life was hectic with many life changing events (some of which I feel more comfortable discussing at a later date, so stay tuned) and I needed a week free of blogging in order to take a couple hundred deep breaths, cry crocodile tears, smile cheesy grins, laugh like Jimmy Carr, contemplate tough discussions with friends and family, hug and kiss and cuddle my husband, and say a few prayers each night before bed. But I'm back now, filled to the brim with optimism and excitable anticipation for what the future holds.

 As you'll remember from this post, Carl had his final Immigration meeting bright and early this past Thursday at the American Embassy in London. You'll also remember from my rants about the cost of train fares, that we caught a high-speed Virgin choo-choo down from Liverpool the day before and spent the night in a Travelodge near Kings Cross station. In an attempt to be 'sensible adults' we went to bed relatively early on Wednesday night (watching the BBC news, how very boring and grown up of us) and woke up Thursday morning before the sun. I'm one of those people who needs a cup of tea and some groggy quiet time in order to mentally and physically prepare for the day, so I took a nice long shower and spent an extra five minutes blow drying my hair in the morning. A few days before heading down to London, Carl and I discovered that I wouldn't need to be present at the interview as the official paperwork stated only Carl needed to attend the arranged appointment. I'd be lying if I told you I wasn't relieved. Creepy government officials (no matter what nationality) with their greasy side comb overs and fancy words intimidate me and make me more uncomfortable than my Bridget Jones scary-stomach-holding-in-pants on a night out. I knew that Carl was a bit nervous, however, and so I did my best to reassure him that everything would be okay and within no time we'd be together in Vermont starting the next chapter of our lives. And so in an attempt to cheer him up and calm his nerves,I made a nice cup of mint hot chocolate while he was showering and childishly arranged our Starbucks teddy bear, Philippe Mario, in a hilarious position for when he emerged from the bathroom. By 7:15am we were all dolled up, smirking 'wish us luck!' grins for the camera, and hurrying to sit in our entirely too expensive London black cab headed for Grosvenor Square.
 You'll be glad to know that although there was a minor hiccup (i.e. the Embassy failed to inform us in ANY of their provided paperwork that we'd need to bring passport scans for both of my parents - verifying that they really are US citizens and not 3 eyed aliens from outer space - so we came passport-scanless, obviously). We were, however, able to rectify this snare by waking my poor mom and dad at 6 in the morning and begging them to scan and email the requested documents pronto. Thankfully my Mom is a scanning ninja, and within an hour we'd forwarded the requested documents to the Embassy where they'll soon be processed and Carl's Immigration Visa will be sent via recorded courier to the house. Of course the hubs and I were a little bummed that we weren't able to leave London that day with his Visa, but we are thankful that this is only a minor bump in the road and were reassured that within the next couple of weeks it should be here, with us, in our hands. I've never been so excited to breathe a big fat sign of relief in my entire life. I'm praying it comes sooner than later.

I really think this whole experience has been God's way of teaching me patience. Because honestly, all of this waiting has nearly sent me bat shit crazy. Nevertheless, I just keep repeating that hugely obnoxious, yet entirely true, saying over and over in my mind. You know the one I'm talking about, right? The one that's a favorite to wise old grandmothers? The one that, as some point in their lives, they whisper to all of their impatient young grandchildren with big wide perceptive eyes like an aging owl. Always in the same fashion they calmly nod their intellectual wrinkled head and beckon their precious grandbaby to remember that good things come to those who wait.   

And so we continue to wait...and wait...and wait just a little bit more...
Hoping that good things will come our way.

But time passes slow when you're impatiently waiting all of the time, so we found things to keep us preoccupied in the meantime. Starting with doing obnoxious touristy stuff (which we'd previously participated in with Toni and Carl over a year ago) in London, my third favorite city (after New York and Paris) in the world. Being an obnoxiously giddy American again was fine by me...even if I had already seen it all before. What can I say? I play that part well. 

We did things like sit and drink latte's, and eat almond croissants, and read magazines and people watch in Starbucks.

Things like drool over the most gorgeous macaroons we'd ever seen perfectly displayed in one of the most expensive restaurants we'd ever seen.
Things like practically run (obviously with our mouths filled with drool, after eyeing up the previously mentioned macaroons) to my favorite cupcakery in the entire world (yes, the same one I talked about in this post). Where I dorkishly (that's a word in the dictionary of Amanda) stood infront of the famous hot pink bakery with a bag of goodies like a proud toddler in front of FAO Schwarz. Oh, and I also begged the husband take too many pictures of me eating my pumpkin whoopie pie...(which was MIND BLOWINGLY delicious, people! For cereal.)
We I did things like drop the above mentioned bag of Hummingbird Bakery cupcakes right in front of Buckingham Palace as a result of FREAKING OUT because the Royal Guards were still wearing their bright red uniforms (they change into these crummy dark blue ones for the Winter -on October 7th this year, in case you're wondering. The last time I was in London I practically cried a river because they weren't in their famous red outfits, so this time I had a kitten when I noticed their flamboyant red coats and fluffy black hats. Like a pig in shit I was). Oh, and I also shamelessly whipped little Philippe Mario out of my bag  in order to have a mini photo shoot with the guards (in case over the past year you've had your head shoved in a cave and haven't yet noticed, he's practically a part of our family and is the finest example of the teddy-bear version of the traveling gnome).
We did things like admire all of the West End shows in Leicester Square, and take pictures of double decker red buses, and eat yummy authentic Italian food. I had hand made spinach, garlic and ricotta ravioli in a creamy tomato, basil and mascarpone sauce. Oh, and a big fat slice of Lemon Torte. Oh and hell yes it was worth every single freakin' calorie. 
We did things like hold hands while walking through Trafalgar Square, St. James Park and Westminster just in time for Big Ben to chime 8 o'clock. 

Things like pay a freakin' arm and a leg to ride the hot, smelly, jerky 'tube' (aka subway) around the city. And play in Piccadilly Circus. 
And finally we did things like walk to Hyde Park and eat lunch in the very first ever Hard Rock Cafe (where Carl was in absolute awe of John Bonham's drum kit, Tony Iommi's jacket and Eric Clapton's guitar, which I bet you didn't know was what made all of the Hard Rock Cafe's what we know today!) 
Immigration hiccups, cupcake dropping and all, I'd say we had a lovely time in London. I spent the majority of our little getaway being nostalgic and attempted to soak up my surroundings like a porous sponge. I think that's why I got teary eyed as I stood in St. James park holding Carl's hand while Big Ben sang across the city. I looked up to him and I smiled because I knew it would be a very long time, if ever, that we got the pleasure of standing in the middle of London again. I soaked in the smell of the bus fumes, and the riverbank and the 90 million Starbucks'. I relished the sound of pebbles below my feet and the excitable chatter of thousands of tourists. I shielded my eyes from the sun as I watched yet another passenger plan prepare for landing at Heathrow. During our time in London, as I walked from famous land mark to famous land mark, my heart was happy and I felt blessed. Blessed to have had the opportunity to call England my home for the past four years, and blessed that I was enjoying time before I leave in it's beautiful capital city. 

But while the original plan was to leave England as soon as we had Carl's immigration visa, yet again there's a change in plans and England may now be my home for another couple of months rather than weeks. And while it's frustrating and daunting - of course I cried so hard that I broke blood vessel in my eyelids (yes, its both disgusting and true) - they say everything happens for a reason and I truly believe that these delays are a blessing in disguise. 

I'll talk more about this new revelation later down the road (don't worry, it's potentially wonderful) but in the meantime please send positive thoughts mine and Carl's way. I've never been the girl to find the four leaf clover, I'm normally the one stepping in a dog turd, but I suppose it all boils down to that damn age old saying: good things come to those who wait.

Enjoy the rest of your Monday, love bugs!
Lots of love, love, love,