Monthly Archives: November 2014

The Land of the Fun and the Sun

November 22, 2014

i got to spend five weeks in California. five whole weeks.

before this rotation, i spent a whole four days in California during my life. i never had a reason to visit California. it is not exactly close to my midwestern hometown. i have very few friends located out there. i have no family out there. and i never really needed to visit the beach.

all that being said, it was nice to have an excuse to visit for an extended period of time. actually get to know the area. instead of basing my perception on a quick weekend stop over.

after my five weeks, i found that California is a very polarizing place. it evokes surprisingly strong emotions in me. which i did not think a place was capable of doing.

top five things i loved about California:

1. the weather. i have mentioned that i hate being cold. i really hate it. deep, dark, fiery burning passion hate it. California is not cold. at least where i spent my five weeks at in southern Cali. i was wearing shorts while my sister whined about the snow at home.

2. the scenery. i know that sounds weird because i am not particularly fond of the beach. it is really the sand that gets me. and it gets everywhere. seriously everywhere. otherwise i like the beach. except when the water is cold. or when it is particularly windy. okay okay. i am picky about the beach. but i love the view of endless water.

3. my mini cooper. i rented a mini while i was in California. it was white. sassy. fun sized. needless to say, it fit me well.

meet mini.

4. the food. there is some incredible food in California. the Mexican was delicious. the fish tacos were delicious. the fruit was delicious. and much fresher than home this time of year. and i guess the sushi is delicious. if you like that sort of thing.

so much sushi.

5. sea world. see this post. i do not need to say any more.


top five things i disliked about California

1. everything is brown. there is always a drought in southern California. always. so most of the things are brown. i am not particularly fond of brown. especially when i am missing the beautiful reds, oranges, and yellows of fall at home. that one killed me.

so much brown.

1a. the water tastes funny. due to the before mentioned drought, water has to be piped down from northern California. that is a long way for water to be piped. and then adjusted with too much water softener. it tasted funny. i was not a fan.

2. there are no seasons. it feels as if time stands still. it remains constant. unchanging. stagnant. there is no mark of the changing colors of the trees. there is no white of snow creating a Christmas blanket. there is no rebirth of spring. just summer. only summer. it feels as if no time passes. until you are suddenly twenty years older and unsure how the wrinkles appeared on your face.

3. it is expensive. gas was a dollar more expensive per gallon than in Illinois, which is not known for cheap gas. fruit is a dollar more expensive for half the quantity. i do not even want to know what the housing costs. yikes.

4. i am allergic to something there. i do not know what it is. but i must be allergic to something there. especially in LA. i am sure it was some plant i had simply not been exposed to previous. but i could not stop sneezing.

5. the culture of constant comparison. everything is compared. houses. cars. clothes. people. salaries. hobbies. possessions. preferences. it is exhausting. how do you keep up with that? do what you want because you want to. you have nothing to prove to me. you waste your time trying to please everyone.

California was polarizing, yes. but i am glad i was placed there. i got to explore someplace new. to see a different part of the country. to experience a new area. and to be warm. that was my favorite part.

Veteran’s Day

November 21, 2014

i do not deserve to have a holiday for veteran’s day. i have done nothing to deserve it. i have friends and family that have served. that earned the recognition. that earned the holiday through years of hard work, sacrifice, and bravery. and for that, i owe them all my gratitude for my much treasured freedom.

as usual, even though i did not deserve it, i was granted a day off of work. it was a day well spent at least.

i was split my from San Diego trio to visit a district manager for a week in Anaheim. so i was on my lonesome to spend an entire day as i pleased. so what did i do?

i slept in. in my big comfy, pillow topped king-sized bed with plenty of blankets.

i ate a delicious breakfast compliments of the hotel.

i went for a hike in Chino Hills State Park.

there is very little change in elevation where i come from. it is flat. very flat. in every direction. and any time i encounter even a minor change in elevation, i am compelled to trek my way to the top: whether it is a curb, stair, bench, hill, bluff, tree, or (much to my mother’s dismay) a roof. it is probably compensation for my vertical shortcomings. but i am no psychologist.

so when i was picking a trail, i naturally chose the one that lead me to the highest point of the park: San Juan Hill. it was a treacherous journey up the south ridge trail. on a wide, beaten path that has clearly seen many travelers. it was not the typical path i would seek, but it still provided the sights i wished to see.

view from the top.

the majestic marker was perfect to sit on.

and there were these weird things.

after my two hour hike, i ventured back to my hotel. to soak in my jacuzzi tub for far longer than my wrinkled skin preferred. and drink raspberry tea from the adorable owl mug my best friends sent me. i have not pampered myself like that in years. years. i do not think i could pinpoint the last time i took a bath. but it felt wonderful. at least once my skin smoothed back out.

feeling more than i little antsy, i decided to venture out of the hotel again. i ended up at Newport Beach to watch the sunset.

and i made a new friend. he was shaggy, golden, and friendly. it is like he knew i was missing my own dog. i named him Charles. regardless of his actual name. but Charles did not seem to mind. he settled right down into the sand to keep my legs warm while i scratched his ears. i could say more, but i would hate for my pup to turn green. i much prefer her blue-black coloring.

meet Charles.

i finished my night with panera and a call to my sister. those are two of my favorites.

in all, it was a pleasant day. i do not always have quite so much time to explore my area since we move so frequently. and the wanderer in me aches to leave the office and explore the cities i travel to. it was a much needed, unexpected holiday. i did not deserve it. but i really appreciate those who made it possible.

Better Than Take Out

November 16, 2014

it is that time again. i am all packed. leaving another hotel in another city in another state.

off to another plane to go to a different city in a different state and stay in a different hotel.

there has been one thing i have been greatly missing this past week as i stayed in my hotel suite with a sitting room and jacuzzi tub. it is a little thing, i know. i won’t pretend that i am not spoiled. it is just a little thing, but it can make such a difference in my life.

i missed cooking.

i was spoiled in Georgia. i had a kitchen available to me. time to prepare meals. someone to cook with. it was the trifecta. it was perfect.

and then it was ripped away from me. rude.

i mentioned Ryan in a previous post about Cartersville. you remember him, my friendly giant that loves mint chocolate chip ice cream. well he can cook. and he likes cooking. both capable and willing. indeed, it is a rare combination. and one reason why i am a very lucky girl.

as many of you know, cooking by yourself can be time-consuming. tiring. painstaking. but with the right knowledge help, it is a blast.

Ryan likes to try new things. recipes and flavors and variations that i would not think of or instinctively gravitate to. but that is what makes cooking fun. and i guess the whole eating part after. that is a nice perk too.

so Ryan and i tackled the kitchen as a team. and made some incredible meals. what were the top 5 recipes? i am so glad you asked!

5. breakfast:

we mastered this. maple smoked bacon. garlic hash browns. scrambled eggs with veggies. the occasional addition of cinnamon rolls or blueberry crumb cake. oh, so simply delightful.

it was the best part of the weekends.

unless we went to the nook to eat tater tot masterpieces. that one is hard to beat.


4. chicken tikka masala:

this was a new one for me. it was Ryan’s idea. as you’ll find later, his insistence paid off more than once.

we did not have all the spices that we needed. a challenge of living out of a suitcase. so it was a smidge more mild than a traditional tikka masala. but we cooked the chicken in the marinating sauce so that it was moist and delicious. clutch move, Ryan. clutch move.

pair it with some naan bread and a budweiser. you will thank me.


3. romano’s pasta:

this one was all Ryan. i will not even pretend that i helped make this dish. i might have cut peppers one of the nights we made it. that was it. he was too good at it. and one should never get in the way of a master.

it is rich. and creamy. and tastes as if Ryan’s Italian fairy godmother sprinkled fairy dust in it. except he isn’t Italian.


2. pepper jack and spinach stuffed chicken:

i forgot to take a picture of this one. because it was late. like 11 pm late. and there was not any leftover at the end of the meal.

this is an old speciality of mine. it is time intensive. but it is well worth the effort. done correctly, it is the perfect combination of spice, spinach, cheese, and juicy chicken.

we tried pouring beer into the bottom of the cooking pan. it was Ryan’s idea. it was ingenious. but use a real beer. none of that light nonsense (we made that mistake the second time). and only cook it for twenty-five minutes if you have thinner chicken breasts. dry chicken is the worst.

we made it for some friends. who made a great sacrifice for the cause while trying to peel potatoes. but do not fret. we managed to keep the blood out of what would become the garlic mashed potatoes.

we also paired it with roasted broccoli. and followed it with the famous Harwood chocolate chip cookies. i do not think the boys talked through the whole thing. just occasional mumblings of tastebud satisfaction.

1. beef wellington:

now this was a delight. and a challenge. i had never made beef wellington before. and it was time intensive.

we had a free weekend and decided we would do a little cooking. Ryan was really wanting to try this new recipe out. i was a little hesitant at first. i had not taken on that big of a task in a while. and i was a little out of practice.

man. i was glad he talked me into it. it was melt in your mouth delicious.

we axed the liver pate. i do not feel the need to explain this decision.

it calls for beef tenderloin. which is really just filet mignon before it is cut. but the grocery store did not have it as the whole tenderloin. so we settled with the filet cuts. and used extra puff pastry wraps to cover the extra surface area. well, we actually used pie crusts on two of them. and puff pastry crusts on the other two. we had to be resourceful. both versions were delicious. but i think Ryan liked the pie crust version just slightly better.

either way. it was phenomenal. paired with roasted broccoli and cinnamon sugar sweet potatoes. and of course a budweiser.


we made some incredible sides too. the cheesy biscuit bombs. champagne pear gorgonzola salad (no peppers). roasted broccoli (just olive oil, salt, and pepper). cinnamon brown sugar sweet potatoes. garlic mashed red potatoes.

and do not forget dessert. my personal favorite. the famous Harwood addictive chocolate chunk cookies. mouth-watering dutch apple pie with vanilla ice cream and salted caramel. melt-in-your-mouth triple chocolate fudge brownies. but those are trade secrets.

IMG_1623 IMG_1663


mmm. it was good. all of it. it was, without a question, better than takeout.

are you hungry yet? because i am.

No Good, Dirty Rotten Monday

November 12, 2014

it was a terrible case of the mondays.

the worst kind of monday. the kind that hits you after an incredible and inevitably too short weekend. it creeps up on you. silently and swiftly to steal all of your joy and happiness. like a thief in the sunday night. that kind of monday.

we reported to work at 6:15 am. the sun was not yet brightening the sky. the birds were soundly asleep in their nests. the flowers were lazily resting their petaled heads. there was no one awake yet to show off for.

and we were at work. we were the ONLY ones at work. i am currently in a development program. it is terribly hard to learn from the industry experts when you have no one present to learn from.

what did we do?

i am so glad you asked.

Laura and i left. adios. adeus. adieu. au revior. arrivederci. daag. sayonara. ciao. hasta la vista baby.

for only thirty minutes. to go to starbucks. it was necessary. even though i cannot have caffeine. straight sugar can be a substitute. and that is exactly what a vanilla bean creme frappuccino is. delicious, sip-able sugar. at 7 am. it was one of those kind of mondays.

and then we went back to the office. for what would surely be the worst monday of the year. maybe even the decade. the sun still just barely cresting the eastern sky.

we returned to find that the lady we were supposed to shadow was unfortunately suffering a severe migraine. and she was not going to be able to make it to the office that morning. well, that left us with an entire, unplanned day. surely to be thrust upon some unsuspecting victim who would not have a plan or faint outline of possible important topics to cover with us. we would inevitably become a burden on the poor soul. and as much as he would insist that we were not a hassle, we would have been. and our no good, dirty rotten monday would be forced upon him as well.

but oh, how the tables of fate would turn that monday morning at 7:30 am.

no poor soul was burdened with the terrible pain of our presence. no unfortunate being had to attempt to entertain us. no downtrodden human was forced to pretend that he was happy to have us wreck his already miserable monday.

no. no, that did not happen.

instead they sent us to sea world.


we frolicked. we played.

we made friends with sea turtles. and sea lions.


this guy.


and sharks.

we walked among flamingos.


we fed manta rays. the spotted eagle rays are my favorite. but be wary of the cownose rays. they will suck your hand off if you let them. the southern stingrays were monstrous. and one had a litter of babies.

courtesy of Laura Slater.

i am still unsure of that sensation. courtesy of Laura Slater.

courtesy of Laura Slater.

we rode roller coasters. over and over and over again. there were no lines. we never watched our step and exited the ride. i think the attendants knew our names by the end of the day.

we were splashed by shamu’s cousins. they seemed to enjoy it a little too much.

courtesy of Laura Slater

we met a baby dolphin that was 2 days old. it would not leave its mother’s side. swimming right along her side and blissfully leaping out of the water at times.

can you spot the little guy?

we reenacted the titanic. fortunately we found a door big enough for two.

we floated over the harbor to take in the sights of san diego.

we watched a pair of sea lions solve a murder mystery. and there was the otter with them. oh, how i loved the otter. i would have taken the ornery booger home as a pet.

now i know what you’re thinking. it was monday. we were supposed to be working. it simply is not fair that we were off playing for the whole day in the delightful san diego weather. but that would not be a fair assumption. we worked very hard to evaluate current market trends and promote our brand. it was a tough day.

in case you could not gather from the pictures, we had a marvelous day. like all scary monsters hiding in the closet, when the lights turned on, we found that our no good, dirty rotten monday was really the best monday of the year.  

Kansas City, MO/KS

November 9, 2014

i have never particularly loved Kansas City. whether it was the Kansas or Missouri side.

it all started my freshman year of college. i went to the mizzou versus ku grudge match in arrowhead stadium. back in 2008. i should probably first mention that i do not particularly love football. but my friends were going. and i really like my friends. because they are incredible friends. so i went along.

well the weather was miserable that year. it snowed. and it rained. and then there was freezing rain. for the entire four hours. and even hail sometime in the second half. and as i mentioned in my last post, i am not a snow bunny. i hate the cold. i hate being cold. and i particularly hate when i am cold AND wet.

so after the game, i am frozen and on my way back to a friend’s. and mind you, i was rocking my savvy flip phone that did not have connection to the internet. or gps. so i managed to get  a little lost. but before you make an assumption about me being a terrible driver on the sole factor that i am a female, there is an exit for 87th street on both the Missouri and the Kansas side. and i forgot to cross over to Kansas before i exited. fail. i was cold and wet and lost. it was not my favorite evening. it was a poor first impression. and as i am sure you know, first impressions are crucial and memorable.

all that to say, i am growing more fond of Kansas City. slowly. it really has surprised me. but the more i visit, the more my heart softens. and it is no longer fair to say i hate it. because of weekends like this.

so anyways. my weekend.

i arrived in Kansas City to the sight of one of my best friends, who was a gem and picked me up from the airport. we talked nonstop on the way back to her apartment. because we are girls. and i missed her. i really am very lucky. i have great friends. i mentioned my incredible high school best friends here, but my college best friends were of no lesser caliber. i am spoiled.

flying the friendly skies.

we chatted and had a splendid time. she caught me up on the recent happenings in her life. and she laughed at my drama until she had to sleep. because she had to work in the morning. and i got to sleep in. on a friday morning. it was splendid. and then go for a run. if you want to know what happiness is, it is a long run on a crisp fall day in the midwest along a leaf-covered trail. that is my happiness.

it is necessary to step on all the crunchy ones.

to make it even better, i went to lunch with my roommate from college. and i don’t feel the need to specify which year we were roommates, because we were roommates for all the years. i moved in with her the second week of freshman year. and lived with her ever since. she is a beautiful girl. genuine, caring, spirited, independent. i had not seen her in a year and a half. that is a lifetime after living together for five years. and we had so much to catch up on. we ate delicious Indian food. and she told me of her recent engagement and trips to Haiti. it was just like old times sitting around the kitchen table or watching endless Disney movies as we knit scarves like old women. i had missed her and seeing her again so happy made me even more happy, if that was even possible.


miss molly.

then i spent some time with my parents. who i love dearly. and spoil me relentlessly. but i will talk more about that later.

i spent the rest of the evening with Jess and her beau, Nick. they are just phenomenal together. they often let me third wheel with them. or maybe it was technically Nick third wheeling with us whenever he came to town. doesn’t matter. the level of sarcasm amongst the three of us is probably unbearable for the average human being. and it is such fun.

we settled on picking up some famous Kansas City bbq from Oklahoma Joe’s, beer, and ice cream. no wonder i am friends with them. and then we proceeded to watch a terrible movie together. i had missed nights like this.

never enough ice cream.

there was a better picture of them. but it just wasn’t as fitting.

but now for the main event. the actual reason i went to Kansas City was a wedding. a very important wedding. because it was my cousin’s wedding. who is a complete goofball. and has the biggest heart. and is completely enamored by his darling bride. they were such fun the whole day. nothing makes a wedding better than a couple that is truly in love with each other.

photo cred: always19 photography

photo cred: always19 photography

photo cred: always19 photography

and i got to be with my family. oh, how i love my family. i got to see my parents AND my sister. which is often a rarity due to the hectic-ness of our schedules. but there is something about my family that always makes the world right. the fact that they have seen the best of me and the worst of me and still truly love me, is pretty irreplaceable. i am a monster when i am hungry. or in a bad mood. (i think it runs in the family). but they put up with me regardless. what more could i ask for?

i would claim them any day. photo cred: always19 photography

i assisted my sister for the day. who is an excellent photographer. she has clearly surpassed my skills. you can check her work out here. and my parents helped with the photo booth. and even took a turn dressing up. that is what is great about my parents. or one of the things that is great about my parents at least. they are still in love. after 32 years. they have their moments of irritation. we all do. but they really love each other. and that is the greatest thing they ever could have done for me. so throughout the reception, i helped take pictures and watched my parents be adorable and simply enjoyed being with my family.

they are the cutest. photo cred: always19 photography

photo cred: always19 photography

photo cred: always19 photography

when sunday morning rolled around, with a full tummy and a happy heart, i boarded onto my southwest flight for the trip out west. back to the land of the fun and the sun. but nothing can replace the midwest for me. it will always be home.


San Diego in 600 Words or Less

November 7, 2014

so back to the timeline.

after my whirlwind weekend in Golden and twenty-four hours in St. Louis, i was on a plane to California. curled up and comfy, watching an incredible sunset out of the window as we flew west.

i had no idea what was in store for me. i had been to California once before this, specifically to San Diego. it was for a close family friends wedding. a beautiful couple that i actually had the chance to see while i was out here. and they made me the tastiest pesto chicken pasta. and let me play with their dog for hours. it was more than i could have hoped for. they are precious together.

i think this should be in a movie.

the first week, we spent exploring the warehouse. learning about the operational side of a wholesaler. how the beer arrives from the brewery, is depalletized, sorted into orders, repacked, and shipped out to retail accounts.

and we learned how to drive the walkie forklifts. all i gotta say is that rabbit mode is awesome.

the next week, we unexpectedly got to explore sea world. but i will tell you more about that later. it deserves its own post. solely because there are far too many pictures.


i also spent time with on-premise sales reps, off-premise sales reps, merchandizers, delivery truck drivers, marketing coordinators, district sales managers, and senior management. i spent time in chain stores, broad market stores, liquor stores, bars, restaurants, and clubs. i spent a lot of time driving around in various vehicles with the Budweiser logo plastered along the side. i spent time unloading trucks, rearranging back storage, counting endless cases, rotating product, and freezing my tush off in the coolers.

for those of you who know me, i am always cold. always. i understand that it is 75 degrees everyday in San Diego. i still wear a jacket at almost all times. there is no farce or exaggeration to this statement. now imagine me in a 30 degree cooler. it is not a pleasant sight. i shiver, i shake, and i stop functioning entirely. it is probably my least favorite part of the program.

so i have learned quite a bit in San Diego. but i have also had quite a bit of fun.

we spent nights at the beach. we spent nights watching the sunset. we ate delicious food. we explored the Gaslamp district. we spent days lounging in the sun. we spent days exploring La Jolla. we made cookies. we worked out. we celebrated halloween. we went on a harbor cruise. we rode roller coasters. we ate lots of ice cream.  we were given delicious desserts. we saw some old friends. we made some new friends. and we took plenty of pictures.

we had to visit the scene of the crime.

yes. i wear a child’s size.

Goose, Maverick, and Iceman

lots of ice cream.

always free desserts.

Hotel Del Coronado

it has been an eventful four weeks. and i can not believe that it has already come to an end.

i am excited for what is next. i head to Los Angeles this weekend. and in celebration of that, here are a few pictures from last weekend when i went to visit!

i got to see a dear friend, Katie, who is as incredible as ever.

i could get used to this.

Words Aren’t Enough

November 4, 2014

i am throwing my timeline to the wind today. i should be writing about what i did for my first few weeks in San Diego. or Kansas City. or Sea World. or a host of other things that has happened in the last three weeks.

but i am going to skip ahead to october 25th. because i do what i want.

the 25th was a rough morning. i had a splitting headache. one that i simply could not shake. i was out running errands all morning. and nothing was helping.

i swung by the apartment to pick up my roommate to go halloween costume shopping. and there was a very heavy package inside the door. it had my name on it.

i skeptically poked at the outside. i sniffed it. i shook it. i listened for sounds of life within. but it simply would not reveal its secrets to me.

so gingerly i sliced the tape. held my breath. and cringed as i opened the flaps.

but, oh, the wonder and excitement that was held within that drab brown box!

i found caramel corn and cheese popcorn. i found cinnamon roll cake mix. caramel covered apples. bright and festive socks. vanilla scented air fresheners. caramel apple pops. an incredibly thoughtful itunes gift card. candy corn. halloween window stickers. a mini pumpkin. the most adorable white owl ceramic mug. and notes from the greatest best friends in the world.

in high school, i was blessed with a group of rock solid friends. we all went to different schools. we participated in different sports. we were active in different groups. we had different sets of friends. we lived in different parts of town. we had different backgrounds. there was really no reason for us to be friends. except that we all loved eating cookie dough and watching movies.

some how. some way. we became friends in high school. we were separated for college. each going to different schools and sometimes different states. but nothing changed.

when we were having a bad day, we would call each other. when we needed support and encouragement, we would chat on our group messages. when we missed each other, we would go visit. when we were back home, we always made a special effort to see each other.

we were awkward and silly high school girls when our friendships started, but they have become the foundation that i can always run back to. they are always there for me, and i am so blessed because of it. they encourage me. they support me. they laugh with me. they cry with me. they tell me when i am being stupid. they correct me when i am wrong. they sing at the top of their lungs in the car with me. they remind me of my value. they make fun of me. they love me unconditionally.

after being out on the road for three months, i have realized how rare and valuable that is. i realized how important it is to have a support system. to have people that genuinely care about you. who celebrate with you in the good times and support you in the hard times. people who remember that your favorite scent is vanilla. and that sunflowers are one of the few flowers that you actually like. that caramel apples are your favorite fall snack. especially when you are missing home and the leaves changing on the trees. that new music always brightens your day. and that your feet are always freezing and could use an extra layer. that owls are one of your favorite animals. those are the people that truly know you. that took the time to pay attention and care about you. whether you deserve it or not.

when i opened that package and read those cards, it reminded me of how truly loved i am. my best friends were once again right there when i needed them most. and they did not even know it. they are incredible people. and i love them dearly. i do not know where i would be without them.

so Kimmy, Cara, Tay, and Hannah, thank you. with all of the love in my heart. i cannot explain to you how thankful i am. for the package. for the memories. for the last eleven years of friendship. for being the incredible women that you are. words will never be enough to express how much i care about you. i love you all dearly. and cannot wait to see you during the holidays.


Dearest Kimmy.

Darling Hannah.

Beautiful Tay.

Gorgeous Cara.

oh, how life happens.

the awkward high school years. part 1.

the awkward high school years. part 2.

there’s always time to dress up.

best friends entertain each other in catholic weddings.

ain’t she pretty?

ladies, you are the best.