Monday, February 20, 2012

Guess who's 6?

Kathleen turned 6 a couple of weeks ago! Pictures to come of the girliest pink and rainbow party ever. It was a fun-filled weekend with aunts and cousins galore!

Sunday, February 19, 2012


A winter sunset on a fiercely cold northern Virginia day.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Winter Wine Tasting

 A couple times this winter I've visited Loudoun Valley Vineyards. My friend Tim and I had some "holiday bonus" envelopes we had to redeem that could contain discounts or free stuff. Our first visit we won a free bread & cheese basket, and our second visit I won a 10% discount and Tim got a free glass of wine and bowl of soup on a Saturday of his choosing... looks like he's going again soon!

What's funny is that each time one of us has gone to the vineyard this winter, it's been snowing. Which is somewhat rare for northern Virginia. It was complete deja vu yesterday when we walked out of the tasting room and there was a soft blanket of snow all around yet again.

The staff there is fabulous- friendly, extremely knowledgeable, and willing to answer my many questions (What are the typical elements of a Syrah? Is it strange making wine on the east coast after being trained on the west coast? Have you heard of the movie "Somm," about the Master Sommelier exam? How do the oak barrels not mold inside? Do you actually drink wine in your off time?). The answer to the last was a resounding "no!" because they like to enjoy beer and other types of alcohol after talking about, pouring, and making wine all day.

I highly recommend Loundoun Valley Vineyards if you're in the area and want to taste some delicious wines! My favorites were the Route 9 Red (a chilled, slightly fizzy, sweeter red) and the Traminette (a sweeter white blend of two grapes).

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Cupcakes with Friends

Delicious chocolate cupcakes with raspberry jam filling and real raspberry icing. Made by my fabulous friend Kristin.

This is my friend Angie.

[photo: Annie Harton]

That's her- there on the left. She is an all-around awesome person. She has a quiet but wicked sense of humor, a ridiculous work ethic, a penchant for befriending religious folk, a stellar social work resume, a love of Stephen Colbert, and a talent for getting into the very best grad schools. In her downtime she enjoys watching hilariously bad karaoke singers at a dive bar called Trevi's with her equally-awesome mother.

 Angie and I met in Rome, hung out by the real Trevi fountain, and continued our friendship in South Bend, Indiana at Saint Mary's College. We may or may not have cranked up the radio and belted to Lady Gaga's Bad Romance on many occasions... while driving to 7am mass. It's also possible that we celebrated the end of our college years at a dive bar called Trevi's, watching some hilariously bad karoke singers, with her awesome mother.

Together with classmates at the real Trevi.  [photo: Mary Miller]

Tonight I had a conversation with Hannah about how going to grad school right after college is not the best idea for a lot of people.

"Except Angie, of course," I said. "She's like a grad school machine."

"Definitely," Hannah agreed, "she's totally meant for academia."

"Yeah, and religious stuff."

"She is social work + academia."

"Religion-Social Work-Academia-World. That's her."

And then Hannah pops out, "You know what? She should just be the Pope."

As I burst out laughing, she continued, "No, but seriously though- if I was a cardinal I would vote for her. Absolutely. She needs to just be the Pope already."

So, Angie: if I don't get to see you in more of these graduation caps, you best be sporting your Pope hat and robes.

Angie between our lovely mothers.

You always wanted to go back to Rome anyways, right? ;)

P.S. Angie, will this do for that recommendation of yours that I'm supposed to write?

Thursday, January 26, 2012

A Plea: Love Yourself (Part 1)

Awesome print by  Kal Barteski & Karen Walrond.
     If you're one of those people that whines and says "I think I'm fat," or "I feel fat today," we're probably not very good friends. Because my friends and I are not about that crap. If we're in front of a mirror, or trying on clothes, that is not the first thing on our minds. I remember talking specifically about this with my best friend, as a young high schooler, and agreeing upon not putting up with negative body talk. The more you hear it- from your own mouth, from your friend's mouths, from your mother's mouth- the more you'll bring your body into your self-worth. And I wasn't about to start that cycle. I've seen how other girls in high school and college stepped into this, and started the ball rolling down that slippery slope. Of course, there is a balance at stake here. It's good for your health to be fit, eat right, and not carry too much excess weight. It's also good for your health not to stress and agonize over eating and weight and make those part of your self image. My self-worth does not depend on what I look like. Your self-worth does not depend on what you look like. I choose to spend time with people that value themselves on more than just weight. I love the strong, confident, and imperfect people that my friends are.

Perfectly imperfect and beautiful us!
 It breaks my heart when people I love, like my aunts, say some offhand negative body image comment. And even more when they don't think they're beautiful. Are you kidding me?! They don't see their beauty? It is so apparent for me in their comforting words to me, their intelligent speech, their awesome freckles, their unending kindness to all their family, and that unique red hair. I can't imagine not believing and seeing that you are beautiful. How is it that one variable, ONE variable! -fat- has the power to change everything and whisper to us that we're not beautiful? There can be other variables, like how long or short some part of your body is, but weight seems to be the main factor for most people. We can't let one, or two, or three variables about our physical body instantly make it so we dip below the "I'm beautiful" mark. Listen up:  if you lost some weight, or made your legs longer, THEN would you be happy? THEN would you be beautiful? Just how many alterations would it take? If you're no satisfied with being YOU, then it's never going to stop. I think you're beautiful right now.

(Most of) the beautiful women in my family
 IMPERFECT = PERFECT. If we were all Stepford wives perfect, you would be boring because of your conventional beauty. I don't want your conventional beauty. I want your unconventional, imperfect, wonderful, confident YOU, and whatever weight, scars, and imperfections you have. It would also help us both out if you would love yourself all the way- because it's hard show you all of the ways I love you if you don't accept them yourself.

 I don't like it when people slosh the word "fat" around every other conversation, or even sparsely. With a female 6 year old little cousin (who feels more like a niece because of the age difference), I worry more and more about body image for younger kids. Of course, I don't have any kids of my own, but reading about girls as young as kindergarten age thinking things are wrong with their bodies is SCARY. And because my little cousin Kathleen means the world to me, it's enough to get me thinking on the topic as pertaining to young girls. If you haven't noticed, kids are extremely observant. They pick up on everything, especially from those they love. Much of this comes from moms. Much of it comes from society and peers at school. After reading this article, it seems like such scary waters out there for girls Kathleen's age- even if mother and families do a good job of educating girls on positive body image, society can still creep up on them. It seems so unfair, and so much worse than when I was her age. I don't remember any negative body talk until about late elementary school, which is bad as it is. But kindergarten age? Wow.

Kathleen and I
 So this is my plea to those I love & to those who might be reading this (and not just women): Love yourself. For you and the example of those around you. Base your self-worth not off of weight and appearance, but on your character. Embrace yourself, and all that is perfectly imperfect about you. As Karen Walrond says, know that I really am WILDLY CONVINCED YOU ARE UNCOMMONLY BEAUTIFUL. How great is that?

P.S. I would love to hear your thoughts on this- leave a comment below if you would like!
More musings on this topic coming. And read this- hilarious!