Saturday, March 26, 2011


Sometimes, in my days of running, working, typing, writing, taking pictures.. I forgot how to stop. How to do nothing but enjoy the moment, how to take it all in. How to breathe. And while there may be plenty of photos and now a little writing to go with them, this week, I finally took the time before the week caught up with me.. so now, you're getting Tuesday's story on a Saturday and well, I'm okay with that.

to breathe.
to relax.
to love my life.
to love my friends.
to laugh.
to have some fun.

My tuesday started off with two of my favorite little people and birdhouses. I walked into an empty playroom. Odd. Downstairs, spread out on a wrinkled paint-splattered tarp were two littles, two bird houses, plenty of paint brushes, and playdough cups filled with smudgy water.
If one creative endeavor a day isn't enough, we ventured to the kitchen for a different adventure. Spring shaped cookies, covered in colored sprinkles. Suns. Birds. Clouds. Flowers. Tulips, especially.
Dont worry, folks. That "Grandma Corbis" container is full of applesauce.. we only make cookies from scratch.
I watched as the girls stretched on their tippy toes to cream the butter and sugar. Laughed as they snuck bites and balls of dough from the bowl, thinking I wouldn't see it.
So we (well, not me) ate cookies, took baths, and watched "Barbie: A Fairy Secret." What a day. But gluten-free me was asked for my cookie recipe, imagine that.

But the day didn't end there. After missing free-Rita's-cause-Spring's-here-but-the-lines-are-sooo-long-day, I was craving some sweet, cold ice to sooth my sore-wheat-poisoned throat. I spooned it in and fought off a brain-freeze quickly enough to make it to my English midterm.
After sitting through a lecture, presentation and exam, we called it a night and headed on a fix-the-house shopping spree. As Hana and I filled our cart with pillows, fought funny looks from employees ready to go home - we stopped to laugh. It's a rare occasion that we have free time, let alone free time to spend together without the presence of homework or astronomy exams. (Welcome to college, I suppose.)
Then we met with friends to nourish our starving tummies and to drink up the beauty of good friends. We ate burritos, slurped down soda, avoided my camera in Sam's hands and laughed... laughed a lot.
If you've ever wondered why I never end up in the photos.. it's because I always look like a hot mess.
We like each other. Apparently, a lot.
Since that night though, life hasn't seemed to stop for a moment. Tomorrow, we move into the house officially. That's meant multiple trips to Lowe's, Walmart, Ross, Staples, Target... you name it. In between, cleaning things to put back upstairs. Packing the things at the hotel. Hanging photos. Building furniture.. a lot of that, actually. But that's a story for another time, when life seems to stop again.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Well, hello spring!

In case it happened to slip by you unnoticed, spring is here. And thankfully, it's brought us warm weather and sunny skies too.

Springtime means some of my favorite things are blooming back into my life, some new favorites and some old. Here are a few things I'm loving this week as winter leaves us for it's sweeter, more optimistic relative.

1. Aiden's new found love for my Mac & the wonderful world of YouTube. (He'll be the next Rebecca Black, I swear!)

2. The boots have been retired and replaced by my favorites: a new pair of Sperrys. I mourned the loss of my many pairs of shoes to smoke but I rejoiced in the opportunity to pick these up today. After all, turqouise and brown plaid does not sing spring. (Besides, I've bought three pairs of shoes in three days...)

3. Chalk, bike rides, and time at the park. All in the same day. (Plus, I just love my girls - no matter the season.)
"Lets swing! Jen!! WHY are there words on the swings?! Who would write on swings with markers? I don't want to sit on the words!" (I don't love graffiti so much)
4. This camera strap is next on my list of "must haves." A few months ago, I purchased a new strap from Sassy Strap (complete with adorable ruffles). I accidently ran into it on her etsy shop today. 40% of proceeds from the sale of this strap goes to benefit Band of Parents - a group of parents who raise money for the Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center (MSKCC), an institution that treats more cases of neuroblastoma than any other hospital in the world. The strap was inspired by her little friend Morgan who was diagnosed with Neuroblastoma at the age of 5 and has been battling for two years. Keep it up, Morgan! Want to purchase your own? Click the pic.

6. Seeing my best friends who spend nine months of the year scattered geographically from New York City to Washington D.C. Blog, meet Mark. The best friend I could ask for.. except that he lives in over three hours away. (not counting DC traffic...) 
Sorry for the blurry photo but I couldn't stop laughing long enough to hold my camera still.
I love going out to eat with them all even more at cozy little places. Even if our waiter sounded like an astronaut, overused the word "confirmed", spelled his name Karl (yes, with a K) and poisoned me with wheat/soy/both. He was sweet, none the less.

7. The plethora of Immi filling my iTunes playlist and the memories of summer that come with it. 

8. Weekend get-aways with Ryan that include nothing but laying in bed and going to the mall for a Chinese food feast. Too bad I poisoned myself with the wheat coating on my oh-so-delicious Black Pepper Chicken. To be quite honest, I shouldn't have been eating food drenched in soy sauce to begin with.. but it was worth the fortune. Not worth the sore throat, though.

I also really love writing random blog posts on Sunday nights to distract myself from a two page paper and the three exams I should really be studying for. Hopefully you were enlighted a little bit but if not, you can look forward to a week full of great pictures and stories about things like dinner at the Blue Heron since my God Momma's coming to town, trying to assemble my Ikea furniture, pictures of the house in progress and whatever else this sun-shiney week may have in store. Until then, get out and soak it up. (Rain or sun, that is. Apprarently sun-shiney is only half of the forecast for central PA.)

Thursday, March 17, 2011


Devastation. It's a word you hear in passing from time to time. "That football game was devastating, I can't believe we lost." "I was devastated when I heard my favorite band was breaking up." It's used casually, easily, without real meaning. It's a word that few understand, that few care to understand.

All images contained within this post are from the NY Times, see more here.
I know that Hurricane Katrina and the world's 7th largest earthquake (and the following tsunami) have very little in common and are not quite comparable but it was the first time that I, personally, felt the effects of real devastation.

Five years later, the city remains torn, battered and areas empty. You see buildings swept away from their foundations. You hear the stories of father and son developing lung diseases as they attempt to collect what little remains from their house which sits under a foot of water - three months after the hurricane. In Japan, many don't even have homes to collect remains from. Everything is gone.

Earthquakes are nothing new to Japan. They are the most prepared country in the world for such a disaster. After all, the island sits just left of the intersection of four tectonic plates. But nothing can prepare a country for an earthquake whose after shocks alone surpass most earthquakes felt in the United States. Besides, steel enforcement can hold a building tall in disaster but no amount of steel will make up for lives lost or family heirlooms ruined or the imminent fear of nuclear disaster.

When I received the call that my home was on fire, I immediately thought of all the things I wanted to save. I thanked God that my camera and memory cards were with me, that Aiden wasn't in the house, that I had spare clothes in the car and somewhere to stay. But I cried at the possibility of losing my dancer mail, my teddy bear, my scrapbook. Silly, simple things. Not everything. I hadn't lost everything. I had somewhere to go. And yet, it felt as if everything was turned upside down.

Perhaps what hurts the most about the continuing disaster in Japan (other than these before and after photos from the New York Times) is that the people have remained calm and steadfast in their beliefs. Anywhere else in the world, disasters have been followed with looting, murders, chaos. In Japan, the citizens remain in lines for their meager sum of groceries outside stores which hardly stand. It hurts to see such a disciplined, peaceful nation facing such a large disaster. In Psychology last semester, we discussed how in Western society, we are raised to place ourselves over the group. Though a group mindset shows itself, often in persuasive tactics, we wish to be individuals, unique. We want to improve our own status wether that hurts those around us or not. While I don't believe that everyone in all Western countries feels and acts this way, it is our cultural norm.

In Japan (and most Asian cultures), things are different. We learned that standing out of the group is not ideal. Their cultural is more homogeous than ours. And it leans itself toward discipline and groupthink. If I had any doubt that this was true, it has been erased from my mind. The absence of violence and robbery in Japan astounds me more and more as each day passes since the disaster. In New Orleans, one single day after Katrina, madness struck. A tourist, Denise Bollinger, snapped photos of looting in the French Quarter and described it as It's insane." In Japan, everyone is working together to make sure that as many citizens survive as possible. I firmly believe that if a country and its people are doing everything they can to ensure stability and safety - then we can do our part to help as well.

A friend of mine, Savannah of Savannah's Savoir Faire, tweeted about a project in the works to raise money for Japan - a blogger's day of silence, For Japan with Love. The project began with two bloggers at Utterly Engaged and Ever Ours and has since expanded to over eighty bloggers. It started with a goal of $5,500 raised for ShelterBox but that total has been almost tripled. At last check, over $14,250 had been raised.

The mission is simple. Be quiet. Take a day as a moment of silence for everyone who has lost their life or who remains missing in Japan. Our hope is that you will recongize those losses not only by seeing our silence but by contributing.

All funds raised through the project will be donated to ShelterBox. The money is then used to send lifesaving supplies to families in devestated countries. Their work is not only being done in Japan but Madagascar and Bolivia as well.  Each box contains emergency supplies tailored to the area and the crisis which is occuring - these supplies include a tent (which can house up to ten people), blankets, a tool kit (with a hammer, axe and more), a stove (which can burn easily available substances including diesel or old paint) and my favorite supply of all? A "smile pack" which provides small toys, crayons, and other fun things to children involved. After the fire, my heart broke for Aiden who was left in a small hotel room with no toys. no video games. Now, I know it sounds silly that crayons are vital after an earthquake but if that "smile pack" can distract a child from even a moment of the crisis around him/her, it is crucial. It gives parents one less worry, it allows them to focus on getting things done and moving forward. It is perhaps the single reason I have fallen in love with the work that ShelterBox is doing. If you care to learn more about the organization, you can visit them online here.

Today, I have said much about Japan. Tomorrow, I will say nothing. Please join me in making a difference for families in Japan, bringing smiles to children, and even saving lives.
For Japan, with Love.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

How I Found The Food That Loves Me Back

& how you can too.

Lately, I've been craving many things. Fish, mmm. Chai Tea. Good friends. A good book. Naps. And luckily for me, I've been able to cash my cravings in for delicious moments.

I spend so much time reading for classes and well, reading blogs. I read and read and read. Hours a day. But the last time I read a book? An entire novel? For fun? That was uhm... well. Quite some time ago. Winter typically finds me book-in-hand but with the business of a full semester, two jobs and THON, this winter passed without the flip of any pages.

With Border's closing, I've been forced to relocate my love of reading to Barnes and Noble. While the Starbucks cafe and neatly labels sections are alluring and hip, I found myself wandering the aisles, trying to guess where a non-fiction memoir of a gluten-free life might be. After receiving an offer for an internship with my favorite gluten-free company, Udi's, I thought I should maybe expand my gluten-free-allergy-free horizons. I know many things about my diet, how to eat well and just what gluten can do but other perspectives never hurt. Besides, I needed a good book.

The associates at the "information counter" weren't all too sure either when I asked for "Gluten-Free Girl". The computer registry showed it in Health & Fitness but no one seemed to be able to find that section. Was it under health? Fitness? Diet? Cookbooks? Three associates later, and a copy of the book was in my hands.

I can proudly say that in less than twenty-four hours, I've finished 102 pages. (And managed to sneak in a night of sleep, three hours of babysitting, homework with Ryan, a nap.. from staying up late reading, a TV show and a night class.) I quite frankly cannot put it down. I've read it walking down the Penn State halls, during commercials as I watched Skins last night - I even packed it in my lunch box in case Erika was still asleep when I babysat this morning. In fact, sitting here with the book folded on my lap is tempting enough.

The story of how I came to find Gluten-Free Girl is a bit of a funny one. I've been eating gluten free for months and after obnoxious trips to health food stores, I've resorted to leaving my gluten-free research to online forums and blogs. I've considering jumping into the world of gluten-free blogging but have never done more than dip my toes. But about two weeks ago, I was blogging about the world of Chuck E Cheese and said "Despite the change in age, I'm almost positive that there is still no better pizza.. says the gluten-free girl." I liked it. The way it rang. It was silly and oh so me. I had used the phrase "gluten-free girl" countless times in conversations but in print, it was much more bold. Maybe that was the inspiration I needed so, I googled it. And some one had beaten me to the title. I laughed, with a bitter undertone. I didn't know then how happy I would be that author/blogger Shauna James Ahern had beaten me to the name. Her blog is clever, enlightening and fun. Her book? Even more so. 

It is full of recipes, advice and funny (or sometimes serious) anecdotes. Every few pages, I sigh with an "amen" at the symptoms of poising your body with food. At Shauna's first attempt at a gluten-free Thanksgiving. How to eat in restaurants and how difficult or rewarding that may be for you. The restaurant part, I found ever so true as a gluten-free eater and a waitress who often caters to other sufferers of food allergies. It feels so good to not feel alone. It's like having a close friend to share stories with. A friend who like me thought "there goes Paris and french cooking" only to be pleasantly surprised. A friend who knows that cheating isn't worth the consequences. A friend who won't tempt me with freshly-baked-but-oh-so-gluten-full chocolate chip cookies. When I finish the book, I'll maybe dip my toes in the world of book reviews but until then, I'm going to flip back to page 103 and a recipe for barbecued pork... 

As for that appetite for good friends and good fish? Tomorrow's plans include a trip to California Cafe and a shopping adventure afterwards. Look forward to a post on my gluten-free dining adventure and reunion with the best friends I never see. 

Monday, March 14, 2011

Luck of the Irish

For those of you who know anything about my family's life of late, you know that the luck of the Irish is something we haven't had. Not lately, at least. Don't get me wrong. Life's not bad by any means but that doesn't mean that we don't have bad luck.
In case you missed it, the transmission went out of two cars in two weeks. To replace them, mom bought a car. The car my mom bought? Broke down. Fixed. Next day? Hit and run. Real classy Dillsburg.

But this week I was lucky enough to spend a sunny Saturday at the York Saint Patrick's Day Parade (#yspdp) with some of my favorite littles. A parade filled with free potato chips (thank you, Martin's!), lots of green and bubbles, too.

There isn't a whole lot more to say about the parade, so I will leave it to pictures.

It couldn't be a Saint Patty's parade without some kilts.. lots of them, actually.

More kilts! What a surprise?

I hope that the week of Saint Patrick's Day finds you with the luck of the irish, plenty of green and delicious Irish food.. whatever type of food that might be. For me, it means the end of spring break, eight consecutive days with my girls, the daylight savings time switch and (hopefully) finally painting my room with a terrific "Arizona Sunset".

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Det Goda Livet

Despite the tiny-sized coughs and whimpers coming from a sick five-year old, life is good here at the Lake house errr, hotel suite. Spring break is in full swing and is quickly coming to a close. (The closing part.. not part of the good life.) Spring break has meant a busy, full, week and better yet, a good one.

Spring break finds friends from near and far home from school, friends I don't get to see often. Luckily being at home means that I get multiple weeks of enjoying my friends, not one like most students. (I'm really looking forward to Mark and Steph being home next week and when I say really, I really mean, REALLY. You know? But in the meantime, having Ryan & Nikki has been fabulous.)

Spring break also means time to trips to see Kasey (two in one week?!) and mini-road-trips to King of Prussia and back. Nothing could have prepared me for the fabulousness of either, let alone both in one day.

Tuesdays are great. Tuesdays mean sleeping in and only having to attend Business Law class - my FAVORITE. (Really! No sarcasm here.) This Tuesday meant Tom finally joining me to meet Kase. (and Stacey and Yoda, of course).

As I debate moving out on my own, I debate what time of puppy I will get. I refuse to move out unless a puppy is involved though lord knows I haven't cleaned Delilah's cage since... err well.. You get the picture.

Kasey, our local 11-year-old dog expert, has been the greatest help. I've got great demands - small, quiet, hypoallergenic (yet fluffy) and of course, cute. This meant our visit was filled with giving Yoda treats and scanning Kase's collection of doggy books and encyclopedia for the best and brightest options for my apartment.. and laughing at the ugly not-so-cute-and-kinda-goofy-looking pups we found.

In addition to calling herself a dog expert, Kase can also call herself a fashionista. Honeslty, if I had half her fashion sense, I'd be ecstatic. I love that she's feeling good enough to put on her fabulous outfits and even more fabulous jewelry. And well, I love that she's been doing so well as she pushes through with chemo. (You rock, Kase. Always.)

Kasey has also managed to obtain quite a collection of silly bandz throughout her treatment. And unlike most fifth graders, she took the time to color organize them. Too bad Tom added more, throwing off the order but what's cooler than an "FTK" silly band anyway?

You can finally order your own online by clicking here. Remember, THON season never stops.

(I'd like to take a moment here to apologize for the overabundance of paranthesis and to say that it's ever so difficult to write a blog with a clingy, feverish, whimpering five-year old tugging your left arm in an attempt to convince you to take photos with him on Photo Booth..... Note: don't introduce kindergardeners to Photo Booth. Big regret on that one..)

In the meantime, Tom managed to get "The Future Freaks Me Out" by Motion City Soundtrack stuck in my head.. so, welcome the song to my little blog home, here.

(Now there's a pillow in my lap, topped with a little blond head... and I'm realized it's a bit of a stretch to the keyboard...)

But time with Kasey is always cut short by my never ending to-do list. This week it happened to be a trip to Ikea. (Hence the Swedish title above.) Better yet - my first trip to the Ikea store.

I was blown away with every show room, especially the closets. And some day, I will have an Ikea kitchen. And we couldn't complain about having the store almost all to ourselves. Apparently, tuesday afternoons aren't a busy time - who would've imagined? But it meant that we took plenty of time to enjoy every bed, couch and chair we could find and in Ikea.. well, there are plenty.

And yes, I do wear jeggings and Easy Tone sneakers together and I enjoy it. 

Ryan may have enjoyed the furniture a little more than I did as I stumbled from room to room, measuring furniture, scratching down bin numbers and snapping photos of my silly boyfriend.

While it makes sense that each room is filled with Ikea products wether they be mirrors, art work, tables, chairs or beds, I was amazed that every book shelf was stocked full and each room had its own flat screen TV (and sometimes even an xbox?!). Of course, all books were written in Swedish but one happened to catch my eye.. Authored by Hugh Laurie? THE Hugh Laurie? I don't think he's Swedish but we still got a laugh out of it.

I spy with my little eye, a not-so-nice word..
All in all, it was a successful trip. I found everything on my list (and then some). Luckily for me, Ikea is found of the color orange too and I found lots of fun compliments for my burnt orange and green decor. Besides, the dressing table I drove to Conshohoken, PA (Pronunciation please?) for was on sale for $50 off the online ticketed price - score! We loaded our cart full in the Marketplace and after getting Ryan to stop riding the furniture flat cart, we loaded that too.

Somehow, we managed to make it through Self-Serve checkout without a hitch.. meaning that we only spoke to two store associates our entire trip.. the cashier for food and a lady we bumped into in the kitchen table department. And then, by some miracle, we managed to get the oversized table into the backseat of my car and we waved goodbye to the blue and yellow warehouse.

Unfortunately, going home included a few wrong turns and doubling the time it should've taken from point A to point B but luckily I had good company and good music.

Those are the things Spring Break is made of - good company and good music.

Ah, the good life. 
Or as they might say at Ikea? Det Goda Livet.