Monday, January 18, 2016

If I'm Honest, I'm Afraid

Yesterday I had a bit of an existential crisis, and so I did the only thing I could think of that always puts me in a better mood: I went to the bookstore.

And as I was browsing the "Personal Growth" self-help shelves, I saw a daily journal titled something like Do Something That Scares You Every Day, full of pages with quotes about conquering fear and making your dreams come true and whatnot.

And as I flipped through it rather quickly, I kind of scoffed. This could not be useful to me. I'm not scared of anything, I thought.

So I turned away, and continued browsing, picked out a couple books to buy (Jesus Feminist by Sarah Bessey and Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear by Elizabeth Gilbert), got a latte and sat in the cafe to read the book I was carrying in my purse at the time. (Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince. A re-read. Also, very heavy to be carrying around all the time.)

But as I drove home, and made dinner, and sat in front of the fourth quarter of the football game that Matt was watching, my brain was percolating. If I'm being honest, I'm afraid of LOTS of things.

I'm afraid of falling. Of failing. Of getting hurt, or embarrassed, or hurting someone else on accident. Of disappointing others.

I'm afraid of making the wrong decision. Of permanence. Of how impermanent my existence is.

I'm scared that I won't make an impact. I'm scared of alienating people with the things I'm passionate about. I'm scared that I am passionate about too many things, and that I never make the proper effort or time to follow through with any of them.

It scares me that I still don't know what I want to do with my life. It scares me that I'm getting closer to 30 and still don't know if I want kids.

I'm afraid that I've lost my creative spark from lack of use.

It scares me that I could go so long without writing.

It scares me that I am still so ignorant about so many things, even though I am trying hard to learn more about other time periods, other cultures, other experiences.

And so maybe I need to stop thinking I've got it together, and start dealing with these fears. Maybe if I have a grip on what scares me, I won't be so afraid of squandering my own existence.

What are you afraid of? Have you taken active steps to get over any of your fears? What things make you feel better when you start questioning everything?

Monday, December 14, 2015

My Sister's Married!

It was beautiful. She was beautiful. The groom cried. I cried. I made a toast and cried some more. I made a Friends reference in my toast.

It is a love about having, and giving, and sharing, and receiving.
(Honeymoon portrait by the photographer on their cruise. Rachel hasn't gotten all the official wedding photos back yet.)

But let's be honest. What you really want to see is how her dress turned out. You may recall that Rachel went to school to study fashion design. And that she had planned to design and sew her own wedding dress.

She said she spent over 260 hours hand-beading the dress. And she looked like a million bucks.

All photos by me or via Facebook unless otherwise specified

From her bridal portrait session by Tyson Pough, pulled from Facebook. 
(It's the best photo I have of the detail, sorry if I'm not supposed to steal it, Rachel!)

I'm so impressed. Every time anyone asks me how the wedding went, I have to whip out my phone and show them her work. I keep telling her she needs to start her own business.

With our beautiful mom. Rachel didn't carry a bouquet; instead she won this dramatic bridal cuff.

I did a good job as Best Person of Awesomeness, if I do say so myself. I confiscated her phone pretty much immediately and fielded all the potential drama away from her. I did ridiculous things to try to keep her laughing. We watched/quoted the Friends episode with Monica and Chandler's wedding, because that's what Rachel wanted to do, and we probably destroyed my cousin's data plan with the Netflix usage.

Waiting around inside. It was cold and incredibly windy out.

Bridesmaid selfies! 

With my pretty cousin! 
The flowers were really beautiful. It's a shame I couldn't take them home, because Elliott likes to eat flowers.

The wedding was lovely, and the food was excellent. I ate a lot of dinner rolls and penne pasta, among other things, and Matt ate a lot of cake. We danced to Big Band-era music, with the occasional "Cha-Cha Slide" and "Cupid Shuffle" thrown in. My parents danced together quite a few times (!!!), and my mom was out on the dance floor almost the whole night!

I don't have any photos of Rachel's car, but we decorated it too, for the sendoff. (Matt thought of that. In that regard, I failed as Best Person of Awesomeness.) We got it done just in time for them to walk out among golden ribbon wands, and Matt threw some snacks and beers and waters in the backseat for them to consume later (since they left a lot of their dinner and cake plates on the sweetheart table, uneaten, FOR SHAME).

And once the wedding was over, we went back to my parents' house with some of our family members where I learned that my dad had bought not one, but THREE enormous bottles of moscato! (Regular moscato, pink moscato and red moscato! He's not a wine drinker, and I guess I didn't make myself clear when I requested red wine…) Surprise, they all tasted basically the same.

I'm so glad we had time to spend with the family and that everything turned out so beautifully. :)

Thursday, November 12, 2015

Summer in Texas, in Virginia

It used to be that every summer, Matt's family would all get together for a long weekend (or a long week) at Inks Lake in Burnet, Texas. It hasn't happened in several years, and that makes me kind of sad.

It was only a few short months after Matt and I started dating. We were sitting in a hammock together, heads on opposite ends, feet propped up. I was reading The Other Boleyn Girl for the first of many times. He was doing math puzzles.

I looked over at him, smiling. I thought, "If we're still doing this in 50 years, I will be happy."

Ten years have passed.

Matt wasn't having a very good day, as far as I could tell. My car was in the shop, so he had to come pick me up at work. He must have been tired, or at least deep in thought, because we didn't talk much. Work has been stressful for both of us lately. We let "the grind" grind us down, and we try to come up with ways to take the stress off each other.

I suggested we get Starbucks on the way home, a rare treat for us. By poor circumstance, we missed the entrance to the main Starbucks, and I suggested we go to the one in Target a few blocks up. Matt had the better idea, suggesting the 'Bux in Barnes and Noble. He won.

We browsed for a few minutes. He snagged a book of math and logic puzzles. I found the newest book in a series I'd loved that I had yet to read. And we got our drinks and sat across from each other at a little table in the café.

Matt got up to get a napkin, and then promptly did number problems all over it. I powered through the first 60 pages of my book.

I looked at him and smiled as he went for more napkins, having run out of room on the first.

Past Allie was so right.

I am so happy with this life.

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

A Few Hours in Frankfurt

I may have missed seeing the Red Light District in Amsterdam, but I sure found out where all the prostitutes and sex shops are in Frankfurt!

So. I got lost on my way back to the train station. I had an eight-hour layover in Frankfurt, so I planned to take the train into downtown so I could wander around and see the city. I was there on a Monday, so most of the museums were closed, which was kind of a bummer. But the one I REALLY wanted to see — the Jewish history museum — was not only closed for Monday, but closed through 2018 for renovations! #themoreyouknow

Even though my plans for the city didn't really pan out, I did wander around Frankfurt and see some cool churches and shops.

Thankfully, the city is laid out in a grid so it wasn't too difficult for me to read a map. (I am notoriously bad at directions. For some reason, my mind assumes that the direction I am going must always be north. It rarely is.)

So I had finally gotten comfortable enough with the map, in that I had managed to find my way to this cool old church (Alte Nikolaikirche) and back, so I was feeling confident enough to wander off the main drag that the helpful lady at the tourist office told me about. I moseyed through a nice park that had a statue of Beethoven that looked like he'd just been caught having a threesome.

It's totally because of the expression on the face of the girl on the right. Scandalous!

I found the Alte Oper opera house and decided to rest my legs and people-watch for a while.

Frankfurt is a big financial hub in Europe, so I saw lots of smart bank workers in fancy suits and pretty shoes.

And then, assuming that I knew the general direction from which I came, I wandered back that way. And got completely turned around.

I knew I was in the wrong place when I walked past a casino midday and saw a woman in micro-shorts and heels with her stomach bared, when I was regretting not having my heavy coat with me.


In addition to hookers, I also saw more cool buildings!

Statues holding up a bridge!

Gold detailing and strung lights!

An American restaurant that presumably serves Chicago-style food! (I did not eat there.)

One of my favorite parts of the day was ducking into the Alte Nikolaikirche church. I took some photos outside, and then I wasn't sure if it was open for visitors or not, so I tested the door, not wanting to disturb any worshippers.

Inside, it was empty save for this older gentleman. I'm not sure if he was a church member or a historian or what, but he told me all about the church, and about some of the pieces of artwork and stained glass. Some of the glass creations had survived World War II and were now on display in this 11th century building!

Gravestones depicting the man who gathered land to create the city of Frankfurt, and his rich wife.

Crazy hair day. A 4 a.m. wakeup call will do that to you.

I also loved that there was a big river that cut through the city and that there were nice walking bridges across. There was an accordian player performing on one of them! That was so cool.

There were locks all around the bridge.

After I had a quick, late lunch (not much to say about it; most places in Frankfurt I popped into to try to get out of the cold did not take credit cards and I only had a few euros that I had gotten from my co-worker, so I just had a simple sandwich), I made my way back across the bridge, back to the train station and shuttled back to the aiport in order to get ready to fly back home! (The gate agent asked me where I was headed. I said "the United States!" He told me that wasn't good enough, that I needed to tell him WHERE in the U.S. So, that was embarrassing.)

And thus ends Allie's First Big European Trip. Hopefully I'll get to go back to all these places someday, as there's still so much I'd like to see and do!

Have you been to Frankfurt? Are there any other places in the world where people actually play the accordian?! Do you prefer researching places to visit, or just wandering?

Monday, November 2, 2015

I'm Here For The Food: A Love Story for Milan

I really, really loved Milan. I got to spend four magnificent days in the city (one and a half of them on my own), and while we did some things for work, I'm not going to talk about them here.

I loved the food. Oh my gosh, the FOOD! I had fresh pasta three times while I was there, and it was just so amazing and creamy and wonderful. I had gelato twice. Gnocchi once. Panna cotta for breakfast, which blew any panna cotta I've had completely out of the water. Lemon sorbet that was more like a creamy drink than an ice cream, but was oh-so-good.

"After" photo of a melt-in-your mouth salmon taglioni in cream sauce. Sorry, I didn't get a "before," but it was basically the same but with a significantly larger amount of pasta.

I ate as much of the deliciousness as humanly possible, but almost every restaurant we went to in Europe asked me if the food was okay, because I could never actually finish everything I ordered. If only I could have taken a cross-continental to-go box!

Gelato #1 from a street vendor near the Duomo cathedral. Italian Cream flavor, and it was amazing.

Italy made me realize how much I love eggplant, when it arrived on a vegetariana pizza. (In the U.S., it's one of the few veggies I find generally kind of icky. It's that thick skin, it makes it hard to eat.)

Fresh pappardelle with porcini mushrooms. We asked the hotel concierge for a restaurant recommendation, and she recommended a restaurant where they would come pick you up (at the NH Hotel off Sesto Marelli). The sign on the place literally just said "Ristorante," and the food and wine and dessert were all fabulous.

The most unusual pasta dish I've ever had. It was a ricotta-walnut-chili pasta from the Sheraton Milan Malpensa restaurant before a 6 a.m. flight to Frankfurt. I had to ask the waiter if all the flowers and leaves were edible! Also, I love that every meal in Italy starts with prosecco. Mmmm prosecco.

I could basically just wax poetic about the food forever, but I won't bore you. If you have not been to Italy, get to Italy if just for the food! I could just eat the whole city and be perfectly happy.