31 December 2012

December's Top Picks

I hope you all had a fantastic 2012 and I wish you nothing but the best in 2013!

Rentals in Quebec City that are ah-maz-ing!

Amada Restaurant in Philadelphia has some of the best tapas around.

On that note, explore here in that city.

My obsession in cooking this month.

This book and this article on the book's author, Deb.

and...since it is that time of year...

Auld Lang Syne by Robert Burns
Should auld acquaintance be forgot,
and never brought to mind?
Should auld acquaintance be forgot
and days of auld lang syne?
For auld lang syne, my dear,
For auld lang syne,
We'll take a cup o' kindness yet
For auld lang syne
We twa hae run aboot the braes
And pou'd the gowans fine;
we've wander'd mony a weary foot
Sin' auld lang syne
We two hae paidled i' the burn,
Frae mornin' sun till dine;
But seas between us braid hae roar'd
Sin' auld lang syne
And here's a hand, my trusty friend,
And gie's a hand o' thine;
We'll take a cup o' kindness yet
For auld lang syne
Should auld acquaintance be forgot,
and never brought to mind?
Should auld acquaintance be forgot
and days of auld lang syne?
For auld lang syne, my dear,
For auld lang syne,
We'll take a cup o' kindness yet
For auld lang syne

Joyeux Noël et Bonne Année!

Over the past week and a half, I've had the opportunity to soak up some holiday happiness with my family in New Jersey and then with Dave in the most French of all Canadian cities...Quebec City. 

I got the chance to get some time in at home, prepping the house for the arrival of my sister, her husband and their three awesome kids.  Bunting was hung, a huge tree was bought, ornaments were stacked and stockings were pulled out of their bins for another go at the fireplace.  My parents and I celebrated a little down time in the preparations by heading to Philadelphia to enjoy the German Christmas Village where the aromas of spiced mulled wine and baked goods filled the air.  We wandered from stall to stall, taking in the sights and admiring the artistry on display as we oohed and aahed over carved wooden boxes from the Ukraine and hand-blown glass ornaments from Germany.  After all the hoopla at the market, we ate a fantastic dinner at Amada Restaurant...a great tapas spot in the Old City.  It was the perfect way to spend a chilly, pre-Christmas day.

The next day, the rest of the family showed up by sleigh (and by sleigh, I mean "family van") and we quickly sped off to the local mall to get one more meeting in with Kris Kringle before the big day arrived.  I mean, the next day WAS Christmas Eve!  The kids made their wishes known and we bid the days of preparation "adieu" as we sat down for a big family meal around the dining room table.

The next morning I awoke bright and early...I was off to the airport to meet up with Dave in Quebec!  Traveling on Christmas Eve is quite lovely.  The airport was festive and most travelers seemed genuinely excited to get going to their next destination.  The staff and crew were all in good spirits and the short hop over the border ended uneventfully.

And, what to my wondering eyes should appear, but a miniature town with snow, and lights, and a fresh market and my husband!  We quickly taxied to our apartment for the week, dropped our baggage and headed out into the cold winter air to buy goods for meals.  We were told about the Marche du Vieux-Port by our apartment host and we couldn't wait to go. 

It was magical...fresh breads, fruitcakes, local wines and cheeses, handicrafts and maple syrup all jostled for attention at each of the market stands.  Vendors were selling local vegetables which we snapped up along with some olives, jam and crusty bread for a Christmas Eve tapas dinner.  I could have spent hours in there.

Christmas Eve was quiet and lovely...we played music, hung our stockings, put up our paper Christmas tree from last year, strung up some lights and enjoyed being with one another.  After dinner, we headed out into the snow to see Old Quebec.  Old Quebec sits behind an old stone wall that fortified it during conflict with the British.  We snuck into the Notre-Dame-de-Québec Basilica-Cathedral for an early Catholic Christmas Eve mass which was lovely and then over to the Chateau Frontenac to watch the ice float by on a dark Saint Lawrence River.

We've been here a week now and let me just say one word...magical.   I can't even begin to describe this city's beauty and I know I've only seen a bit of it.

Happy New Year to you all!

20 December 2012

"Exciting Destination!"

I realized from a couple of posts back, I noted I was heading to an "exciting destination!"  My destination was...Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan!

For many, the Jaw might not conjure up ideas of excitement, but for me, that is where my home with my husband is, where friends are and a place where I can revel in the peace and quiet that only emerges under a sky as vast as the one in Saskatchewan.

It was a fantastic trip that started off with a holiday cookie exhange with friends and ended with a holiday party on the military base.  Dave and I snuck in a date to a not-so-great restaurant in Regina and took walks in the single-digit temperatures outside.  Let me just say that long walks outdoors are just fantastic this time of year.  Dave and I ventured out to Wakamow Valley to soak in some sun, listened to some Vinyl Cafe, and sipped on some tea as we wandered around in the snow.

In short, it was great to be home.

Cookie exchange...success!

I was feeling, from hotel to hotel and flight to flight, that I was missing out on the holiday season.  The time from Thanksgiving to Christmas is jam packed with meetings and conference calls.  All exciting stuff, but I love absorbing this of year.  I love walking slowly past brightly lit store windows on State Street in Chicago, seeing the ice skaters at Millennium Park and hearing the jingle bells ring of those seeking donations on the street corners.  It wasn't until I arrived in Moose Jaw that I felt I could take a breath, slow down a little and begin to enjoy the holiday season.  Sure, I was working from home and had things to do, but I was able to turn on some holiday tunes and spend the evenings with Dave...what could be more merry than that!

Moose Jaw has a small-town charm this time of year that can't really be described.  When Dave and I went out for a tea one evening, we got to Main Street and I said "I always expect to see George Bailey running down the street, screaming 'Merry Christmas!' to everyone this time of year!" 

Classic lights are strung up over the main drag and there is always a good amount of snow on the ground which lends an extra-certain-something to the electric glow of candles in windows.  Moose Jaw is the kind of town you can wrap yourself up in holiday style.  In fact, a holiday movie was filmed there a number of years ago...a movie starring one of Canada's own, Ryan Reynolds!

Ahem.  I digress.

I was grateful for my time in Moose Jaw...time to reconnect with friends, catch up on marriage (imagine that!) and just sink into the holidays...which are right around the corner!

19 December 2012

Airport Layover Post

I've talked about it before, but I am on the road...a LOT.  In fact, I just achieved yet another status jump on an airline due to the amount of flying I've done this year.  Let's just say it involves over ninety flights with one...single...airline alone this year.  As such, a lot of my time is spent shuttling from airport to airport, hotel to hotel with my life summed up in a suitcase and carry-on bag.  If you truly want to know what you can live without, I recommend going on a five-week travel spree that includes climates ranging from the deep south to the icy north. 

I am re-thinking my closet and what I really need as we speak.

Lucky for me, I love my work and it takes me to interesting places to do great stuff with great people.  This time of year, especially, I am reminded of how very fortunate I am to have the position I do and the opportunities I have to interact with the individuals and organizations that truly make positive differences in people's lives.  My every day consists of seeing a diverse array of individuals benefiting from the services my organization provides and it fills my heart with love and pride that I am so fortunate to be a part of it.

Humanity reveals itself in a variety of ways...last week, we were reminded by the events in Newtown, that all of us have a stake in ensuring the best quality of life - including mental, physical and spiritual health and safety - for everyone.  I am deeply saddened and troubled by the events of Newtown and it makes me wonder, especially as I see and work with people from every walk of life on a daily basis, what more can be done to ensure that we are providing one another with the best life possible.  How can we support one another, make each other feel valued and loved, help each other to realize our full potential and, most of all, encourage one another to be our very best selves each and every day?

My belief system involves my belief in the best of humanity.  I believe that we are all connected and I choose to seek the best in each person, meet them where they are, listen to their story and do what I can to make each individual feel welcome, comfortable and supported.  Whether it is a smile at someone over a coffee counter or having a deep discussion with my family about religion and politics, my goal is to hear each person and truly listen.  I may not always agree with everything a person says, but I strive to understand their experience and better acquaint myself with what informs their perspective.

I hope we can all strive to meet each other with compassion, love and with our very best selves on display.  As I sit here on my layover and I look at loved ones greeting each other at the airport, business men and women shaking hands and the lone travelers looking for their luggage, I feel the connection of our humanity.

Until my next flight...

08 December 2012

Sick (not Sleepless) in Seattle

What a week!
From sunny and warm San Diego to chilly and rainy Seattle...

I was doing really well...
Even managed to punch out a 12-miler on the treadmill on Tuesday.

By 2 AM on Thursday morning, the story was quite different.
In short...

I love Seattle.
I do not love being sick.
In fact, I am an awful patient.
For this trip to Seattle, my body said a big "WHOA" and "Slow Down!" and "get-thee-to-an-urgent-care-ASAP."

So I did.

I spent two days holed up in my hotel room, sipping tea and nibbling on Saltines, hoping beyond hope that I would feel better for my 6:30 AM flight on Saturday morning.

And here I sit, ready to depart on my next flight, still sipping tea, but happy to have rejoined those who are out and about.

NOT the best way to end a business trip. 
C'est la vie.

More to come...I'm off to a very exciting destination!

02 December 2012

On the Road Again...

[Source:  Cherry Blossom Blog via Pinterest]

Friends, December is a crazy/wonderful/massive travel month.
Personal and professional trips are going to intermingle in the countdown to the Christmas holiday.

Just so you know where I'll be...in no particular order...

New Jersey

Traveling almost everyday is SO glamorous!


I've managed to pack five weeks of clothes, shoes, work stuff and other necessities into two bags.

Along with a partridge in a pear tree.
Packing genius.

Just saying.

I'll update you along the way...it will be fun experiencing the December rush in a variety of different places.
I'm looking forward to it!

01 December 2012

November's Top Picks

Frosty Georgia Morning

I suddenly turned around and there it was....

December 1.

Can you believe it?!
To usher us into the last month of the year, here are my November top picks.


Patagonia's "buy less" campaign makes you think.

Doctors that are trained to make people feel better when they have serious illness.

Training for the Goofy Challenge!

Friends who send you amazing cards and homemade gifts (Sarah H!)

Officially being able to play holiday music on my computer

52 marathons in 52 weeks...go, girl, go!

Looking for good recipes here and here

Spending quality time with my sister, nephew and two nieces

An hour at an airport to catch up with my parents!

Lots of great images