Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Trudy turns one

TRUDY!

I am the mother of a one year old!
Happy Birthday, dear one.
It's hard to believe what we were doing a year ago today.


The past year has challenged me and thrilled me in so many ways. Both Bryn and I feel that Trudy is the best "thing" we've ever done; she's such a bright light in our lives. She brings us so much joy and happiness! 

We hosted a small party for Trudy last weekend. It was a wonderful gathering!


Trudy had a chance to spend some time with her BFF Lola, who turns one only a few weeks after Trudy. The party featured lots of good food, drinks, and conversations. It was as much a celebration for Trudy as it was for me and Bryn: we survived our first year as parents!


Now, I love celebrations. I love giving gifts. I wanted to make Trudy's birthday extra special by making her a gift -- something that we could both enjoy together. One day, while out on a walk, I found a box thingy on the side of the road. When I came upon it, I immediately thought I could repurpose it into an amazing puppet theatre for Trudy. I think it was some kind of candle shrine? It had some black on the interior which I would guess was from candles burning and it smelled very "artificial," if you know what I mean.


Repurposing my treasure ended up being a big project. I took the entire thing apart to see if the structure would work without the back wall -- an essential step so that it could be transformed into a theatre!

All the parts got sanded. 


Next step was priming. Another big job.


A lot of finnicky painting, several trips to the hardwore store, and one stop at Michael's for paint later... VOILA. A Trudy-rrific puppet theatre to celebrate a special little girl's first birthday.


We have it in her room now and it's a great forum for puppet shows. Thanks to Bryn's Dad for making the puppets! They were a very thoughtful gift to Trudy for her first Christmas.


Off to celebrate the day with my favourite tiny human!
And then, tomorrow, we're off on another adventure...

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

August Updates

Visitors

Bryn's sister, sister's special man-friend Matt, and our niece/their little one Zoe (6.5 years old) came up from Costa Rica this past week for a visit. It was a great chance for cousins Zoe and Trudy to spend some time together! The highlight of their stay was a trip to the Miami Zoo, where we saw all kinds of amazing animals. I really loved the rhinos and giraffes. Trudy told me that her favourites were the monkeys.


While visiting, the crew headed down to the Keys for a weekend visiting some friends. Trudy and I stayed back to watch the pugs and to give me a chance to get some writing done. I also took that opportunity to bake in anticipation of Trudy's upcoming first birthday party. What a brilliant idea... home alone with 13.5 dozen small cookies and brownies... whose idea was that?!


The coconut cookies on the left are going to be party favours and (what's left of!) the peanut-butter-stuffed mini-brownies on the right will be served during the party. (The recipe says they're cookies but I think they are far more convincing mini-brownies. I cooked 'em in a mini-muffin pan and they turned out great.)



School Stuff, Life
I am happy to report that dissertation writing is HAPPENING and going well. I managed to knock out first drafts of two chapters over the past few weeks, thanks in HUGE part to Bryn taking on a lot of Trudy duties. It's really nice to have him at home to take her when I need to get some writing done. Trudy also makes the BEST writing break. There's nothing like a dance-party with an almost-one-year old to take your mind off a stubborn passage or difficult section of writing.

I try to get outdoors when I can. It has been SCREAMING hot lately which makes it difficult. Trudy and I love to go walk by "our pool" to check on the progress. I'm thrilled to update that the pool is opening on AUGUST 16th (!!!!) and has a few hours of lane swimming each day. The flyer I picked up from the community center says that it is restricted to kids over age 3, but I'm hopeful I can convince them to let me take Trudy in to the splash pad. I am going to go the first day it is open to check it out. I CAN'T WAIT.

I don't get out as much as I'd like to anymore for long bike rides or runs. I'm trying to get as much writing done as possible while Bryn is home to help out with Trudes. I did get out for a ride two weekends ago to my favourite spot out by the water.


I love that view. It never gets old.



Food

I got a spiralizer to try out making veggie noodles and whatnot. It's an amazing contraption that turns things like zucchinis and sweet potatoes into noodles. It also has a chopping blade that can come in handy for veggie prep. I've been spending a lot of time learning about its possibilities by reading this site. My first recipe attempt was Mediterranean Zucchini Noodles. Sounds delicious, right? Zucchini noodles with olives and artichokes and feta? Who wouldn't love that. Well, me. I somehow forgot in my excitement to SPIRALIZE that I don't really like zucchini unless it's mixed into something else (like veggie enchiladas or in a pasta sauce.) Thankfully Bryn loved the recipe so it didn't go to waste. I am going to try again later this week to make a Brussels sprouts and bacon dish with sweet potato noodles.

I've been making a lot of "power bowls" lately for lunches. I cook up some quinoa in the rice cooker, saute a bit of kale on the stove top, and then mix those together. I put a bit of meat on top (whatever we have left in the fridge), some raw veggies, nuts, and a bit of sauce (usually teriyaki sauce or something like that.)


They are easy, nutritious, and excellent fridge-cleaners.

While Bryn's family was visiting, I made an old favorite for dinner: Ranch Chicken Chili in the slow cooker. That is a recipe that never disappoints.

I also made an Eggless Chocolate Cake for dessert; it was easy and delicious. There's still half of it in the freezer (along with the 13.5 dozen cookies mentioned earlier.) I'm really testing my willpower here.

To balance the sweets, we've been eating salad whenever we can. I like to prep six or so at a time so they are always in the fridge, ready to go. 


We had some friends over for dinner about a week ago. We made peas and cheese (an FSU family favourite, thanks to Neil) and a lovely almond cake with blueberry compote and whipped cream for dessert. 


Oh, and I tried this recipe for stuffed buffalo chicken breasts a few nights ago.
 It was a big hit and went very well on top of a salad.



Trudy


Our little love nugget continues to grow like a weed. She's constantly eating!


Trudy's really starting to develop a hilarious little personality:


She loves to shake things and dance and ga-ga-ga as much as possible.
She's a maniac (on the floor.)


Next up: TRUDY TURNS ONE (can you believe it?) and the fourth and final installment of "Four Trips in Four Months."

Monday, July 28, 2014

Two weeks in Canada in July, or "The GREAT Great Grandma Trilogy of 2014"

Let's celebrate for a moment - this is my 200th blog post!

Where has the time gone?  I wrote my first blog post in April of 2006. I did a few entries in 2007 and 2008. I did not write any in 2009. 2010 saw the beginning of me taking this blog more seriously; it was also the year I started sharing my postings with a wider audience via Facebook.

200 postings have seen me gain and lose a large amount of weight. They've seen a marriage, a baby, the completion of several degrees, and lots of moving, cooking, eating, exercise, traveling, triumphs, self discovery, and struggles.

This blog has been such a helpful tool for self-reflection and for connecting our lives with friends and family who live far away. Thanks for reading!



Here comes the third installment of...


A quick summary of this trip: over the course of two weeks in early July, Bryn, Trudy, and I traveled from Miami to Toronto to Winnipeg to Kenora to Winnipeg to Toronto to London to Toronto to Fort Myers (unplanned airplane detour due to weather) and then home to Miami.

Just over two weeks of traveling brought us face-to-face with the following relatives (listed here from Trudy's perspective):

3 Great Grandmas
2 Grandmas
2 Grandpas
7 Great Aunties
8 Great Uncles
2 Aunties
2 Uncles
2 Cousins
...oodles of first cousins, once removed and a whack of second cousins

Family included Brackens and Rivingtons (Jillian's side) and Hughes and Georges (Bryn's side), oh my!

Here's a recap:

July 2, 2014

We flew from Miami to Toronto. Trudy, as always (it seems--lucky us), was a wonderful flyer. Bryn's Uncle John picked us up from the airport and we stayed with John and Bryn's Auntie Joanna for this one night in Toronto. It was a wonderful visit, as always! They are spectacular hosts and great conversationalists. We had a barbecue in their backyard with Bryn's Oma. Bryn's Uncle Dave stopped by for visit, along with a few other friends and two very special surprise family guests!

Good times with good folks.

July 3, 2014

After a good but quick visit with Joanna and John, we packed up and headed back to the airport. (Thank you again, guys, for transporting us around and taking such good care of us!) 

We parted ways and jumped on a plane to Winnipeg!

At the Toronto airport... so much stuff!

Another great flight brought us to Winnipeg. My parents met us at the airport--they'd driven over several days from Victoria, BC! We (including my sister and her family, who were also flying that day) were meeting in Winnipeg to head out together for a week in Kenora leading up to my cousin's wedding. 

July 4, 2014

While in Winnipeg, we stayed with Bryn's Uncle Ivan, Aunt Angela, and their two kids, Thea and Toby. It was a great opportunity to visit! Trudy had a chance to play with Thea, and Toby, who are both really neat kids--I hope Trudy grows up to be just like them. They're fun to be around, sweet, and smart. I think their super-cool parents must have something to do with it...

Cousins

We stole away that afternoon for a Rivington (my side) family reunion-of-sorts at my Grandma Rivington's condo. Grandma would not be able to attend the wedding in Kenora, so this was her chance to spend time with the family. This was Trudy's first opportunity to meet her Great Grandma Dorothy!

Four generations!

We returned to Ivan and Angela's that night for a viewing party of their new documentary about mosquitoes in Winnipeg. It was a great night! (Thank you, Ivan and Angela, for housing and feeding us. It was a wonderful visit and it meant so much to us to see you all!)

July 5, 2014

We traveled this morning to visit Bryn's Grandma George. This was Great Grandma visit #2, and Trudy's first time meeting Grandma George. We also had a chance to visit with Bryn's Uncle Doug and Aunt Liza! It was a wonderful morning. (Thank you, Doug, for driving us around and for facilitating this visit! It was great to see you, even if it was a brief visit.)

A very George reunion.

Following that visit, we reconnected with my parents and my sister for brunch before heading out to Kenora for a week. (Does anyone else hear "Yakety Sax" playing in the background or is it just me?) We convoyed in two cars. My sister's kids slept all the way, while Trudy had a small nap and then entertained herself with an apple.

Sleep, sleep, foooooooooooood

July 6-11, 2014

The nine of us stayed for a week in a wonderful lake house just outside Kenora, ON on Lake of the Woods. It was a beautiful spot. (HUGE thanks to my parents for putting this all together, driving us around, and making a truly wonderful, memorable family vacation possible.)

The lake house.

Beautiful view from the dock.

A pelican flying away.

One of the many glorious sunsets!

We spent the majority of our week in Kenora at the lake house. We took a trip one day over to Rushing River Provincial Park for a swim and picnic lunch, and took a few trips into Kenora for groceries and for one nice family lunch. Thanks to my parents babysitting, Bryn and I also got to go out for dinner with Greta and Mark at the Lake of the Woods Brewing Company.

The weather was a bit chilly at times (spoken like a true Miami girl) but it didn't keep us from spending as much time outside as possible! We had a chance to do lots of swimming, canoeing, and fishing. Trudy was amazing in the cold lake. I hope she grows up to be a fish like her mommy (and her Grandma!)

Outdoor fun.

I can't remember what the finally fish tally was, but Mark definitely topped the leader board. One of Greta's fish was big enough to eat -- nothing beats lake Pickerel! Yum.

Mark and Greta catching a fish (and the sun!)

Aside from all of the outdoor activities, the lake house was a great chance to cook and eat together, to play cards, to talk, and to watch the three cousins play together.

Trudy, Henry, and Lulu

July 12, 2014

Wedding day, on which my cousin Chris married the woman of his dreams. Mom and Dad attended the ceremony while the rest of us stayed back with the kids for nap time. 

Congratulations, Kaela and Chris!

We got all gussied up and headed over to my Uncle Jim's house for the wedding! Trudy in a bonnet... I know, right? Why had I waited this long to put her in one? Too adorable.

All dolled up! Thank you, Auntie Ariane, for Trudy's outfit!

Uncle Rob, Mom, Uncle Jim, and Uncle Ted (the four Rivington siblings)

Grandpa, Grandma, and Trudy at the reception

We were able to stay just for a few hours of the reception. Trudy was fussy, I was really tired and, as things tend to go at weddings, dinner had not appeared by around 7pm (nearing Trudy's bed time.) We had a 45-minute drive back to the house where we were staying, so we not-so-covertly sneaked out the back of the reception tent. I was sad to only a very brief visit with the Rivington clan, but was grateful to at least have a chance to reconnect with a few relatives, if even just for a short while. From what we saw, it was a beautiful reception and Bryn, Trudy, and I wish Chris and Kaela all of the happiness in the world! 

July 13, 2014

We drove back to Winnipeg this day. Bryn, Trudy, and I got on a plane to Toronto while Greta and family flew back to Victoria, BC. My parents began their long drive back to Victoria. (HUGE thanks again to my Mom and Dad for shuttling us around. It was such a wonderful trip and I'm glad we got to spend so much time together.)

Upon arriving in Toronto, Bryn and I picked up a rental car and drove to London!

July 14-15, 2014

We had a quick but absolutely wonderful visit in London! Trudy loves her Amma and Bopa so much and I'm certain the feeling is intensely mutual!

Laying down some phat beats on DJ Trudester's kool keyboard.

It was a short visit -- just enough time for me to head up to the University to chat with my dissertation advisor, and for some family time with Amma, Bopa, Jonny, and Cass. (Thank you, Amma and Bopa, for babysitting so Bryn and I could hang out with Jonny and Cass. We love you all so much.)

July 16, 2014

We drove back to Toronto, dropped off the rental car, and connected with Bryn's Auntie Trina. We stayed with Trina for a night, and had a great chance to visit with Trudy's Omama (the third Great Grandma in this trilogy, who we also saw briefly at the beginning of the trip.)

Visiting with Omama
Trudy with Auntie Trina (left); down by the lake (right)

A big thank-you to Trina for driving us to and from the airport, feeding us, and for giving us a place to stay! It was so nice to have some time to spend time with you.

July 17, 2014

We boarded a plane back to Miami. We had a temporary diversion to Ft. Myers when we were unable to land in Miami due to weather! Needless to say, we eventually arrived and were thrilled to be home.

And that's that! What a trip it was!



Coming up next (or next-ish, most likely):
Trip #4 (the last!) in the series, later in August -- stay tuned!

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Who's down with OKC?


Time for installment #2 of my Four Trips in Four Months series!

(Apologies for the wonky formatting;
I don't have the mental energy to fight with this blog post.)

This trip started out as a SUPER-SECRET adventure. I began planning it early in 2014 in conjunction with a whack of dear friends from FSU who have all managed to congregate in close proximity to one another. I mapped out the trip without Bryn knowing and kept it a secret until the morning we departed!

I had done my best to keep Bryn totally confused about this trip. As I mentioned in an earlier post, he'd been given the following tidbits of information prior to our departure:
  • We are not leaving the US
  • We are going somewhere we've never been before
  • We will be visiting multiple destinations: we arrive and depart from different airports
  • We are flying to and from our initial and final destinations
I made a little worksheet to have Bryn fill in his travel predictions and gave it to him a few days before we departed. Surprisingly, he got most of the information right! He had things flipped around (SPOILER ALERT: we went to OKC first and flew home from Dallas/Ft. Worth) but he was, for the most part, right on the money. He later told me that the "number of friends/family" question gave it away! Ah well. I'd been doing my best leading up to the trip to make him think we were going on a sexy cruise to some hot destination in the Caribbean. I guess it's a good thing that I'm not totally awesome at keeping secrets from my special man friend?

Bryn's pre-trip predictions

This trip had been a beacon of hope and excitement for me for many reasons for several months as the details came together. First of all, my life is pretty darn lonely on a daily basis. Yes, I have Trudy. Yes, I have dear friends and family only a phone call/Google Hangout/FB post away, but otherwise, I'm pretty much on my own with Bryn. I planned this trip to reunite and reconnect with some of my (our) favourite people in the entire universe. Second, Bryn and I have not been on a trip that didn't involve an academic conference or a whack of family visiting since our honeymoon seven years ago. We were in need of a vacation! And, third, now that we are a family, it's time to start doing some real family vacationing!

Now, time to share all of the super-secrets!

June 11, 2014

We woke up bright and early, grabbed our bags (I'd packed Bryn's bag for him the night before), and hopped on the metro to the airport. I gave Bryn his first clue, which he read with great excitement:


Today we fly from here to there to THERE, we’re on the go!

Up soon, a jaunt from way down south to where the peaches grow.

So, can you guess? You have a clue… some info I will tell:

We’re flying first from MIA up north to ___________!



ATL! Our first day of travel involved two flights, so I gave him another clue right away.

Our second flight will take us to the place we’re going to stay.

A far off land with several folks… but who? I will not say.

I’ve heard it is a windy state with wavin’ wheat to see.

Our second flight departs from ATL to ________!


OKC! OKC! As soon as the cat was out of the bag, a flood of text messages were sent to let everybody know we were on our way. It was great to finally have Bryn in on the first part of the super secret trip and to watch him get so excited about the folks we were going to see. Did I mention I love surprises? Facilitating things like this make me feel so alive.

It was an easy day of traveling. Our seasoned flyer, Trudy, was a superstar. We flew Delta for both of these flights and were really amazed with the high quality of service. They insisted that we pre-board and were wonderfully helpful and accommodating. Very impressed, Delta. 


We landed in OKC in the early afternoon. It had been a perfect day... and then I had to go and lose my wedding and engagement rings. Devastated. Stupid me. Just before getting our bags at the OKC airport, I stopped in the bathroom to change Trudy and use the facilities. I was washing my hands and stupidly decided to take my rings off. In the chaos and hubbub, I forgot about them for a split second and exited the bathroom. When I came back, gone-zo. Nothing. Airport police were contacted. I asked everyone I could find. I've filed a claim through my renter's insurance. Though I'm 99.9% certain I'll never get my original rings back, I will get something to help me replace them. I've got a lovely ring I inherited from my Grandma Bracken and I think I'll use the claim money to get a band made to match. Silver lining, I guess?

June 12-13, 2014

We stayed with two dear friends who graciously put us up for the first few days of the trip. It was an EPIC FSU reunion full of MORE surprises, even for me! A few special guests joined the party and made it one of the most memorable vacations I've ever had.


We were all together for Sarah and Bruce's 11th wedding anniversary!
Congrats, guys. What a truly wonderful couple.


Trudy had a blast meeting some new folks and reconnecting with some of the people she'd met last year at SMT (music theory nerd fest) in North Carolina.


June 14, 2014

The surprises kept coming! Bryn learned on the Saturday morning of our trip that OKC wasn't the only stop on our journey. Poor guy - I gave him this clue early in the morning. Neither of us were very awake and we were quite exhausted from a few consecutive early mornings with a baby who was still on Eastern Time. I promise he was a lot more excited about our next stop than this video suggests :


Our time in OKC is quickly coming to an end.

How lovely it has been to spend some time with such good friends.

Now, what could make this trip of ours an even greater thrill?

How ‘bout a car ride south to TEXAS… first to _________________________!


We got a ride out to the OKC airport (thanks, Rob!) and picked up a rental car. We drove from OKC down to Stephenville, TX to reunite with some friends (the "he" of the couple taught with Bryn at Ithaca College two years ago.) They had their little boy four days before Trudy was born. 

Clearly, the purpose of this stop on our trip was to discuss the dowry and formalize an arranged marriage between our 10-month-olds.

June 15-16, 2014

Our time in Stephenville was amazing. Our friends were great hosts and it was a real treat to connect with friends who were going through the same baby-driven life transformation that we were.


We ate great food (most cooked by our talented and gracious hosts), traveled to Dinosaur Valley State Park, played board games, talked about being parents, and toured Tarleton State University.

I think this might have been Trudy's favourite stop along the way!


Bryn and Troy were together to celebrate their first Father's (Fathers'?) Day(s?) together. And Trudy and Winton got to know each other, which was awesome.



We're thinking a June 2033 wedding sounds nice.

While we'd been on the road at this point for almost six days, the surprises were not yet over!

June 17, 2014

Bryn had figured out at this point that our final destination was Fort Worth. I neglected to give him the last clue, which I think I had originally intended to give to him at the same time as the Stephenville, TX clue.
Oops. Here it is:

A few days there: we’ll spend with Winton, Steph, and Troy, how great!
A favourite friend may too pop by, he lives in the same state.

The day before we fly back home, we’ll have one last “hurray.”

Our final stop: ________________, great for an old time ‘Nole soiree!


In the end, the "favorite friend" (a certain cellist) was not able to come up for a visit. Next time!

We left Stephenville and made the short drive to Fort Worth where we found our dear chum Marty. He put us up for a night, fed and entertained us, and we hung out with a few other good friends.


June 18, 2011

We flew home from DFW to MIA on a later flight than originally planned. I got a text at 6am that morning that our first flight (to Charlotte) was delayed, making it impossible for us to catch our connecting flight. I called and re-booked us on flights that us into Miami only a few hours later than originally planned.

We drove our rental car back to the DFW airport and found some breakfast in the airport. We boarded our flight to Charlotte. As we've always done, right before getting on the plane we handed the gate agent our "gate check"-tagged stroller and car seat. When we arrived in Charlotte, our items weren't there. We were informed that they weren't "in the belly of the plane." Huh? How did that happen? And if they weren't here, where the heck were they? After some frantic, moderately-heated exchanges between me, Bryn, and several completely unhelpful airline employees, we were told to keep going, catch our final plane to Miami, and file a claim there. Ridiculous. We got to Miami, filed our claim, and were given a loaner car seat so we could safely get Trudy home. 

Our trip home involved an American flight followed by a US Airways flight. Apart from the luggage going missing, both companies offered lackluster service. We weren't allowed to pre-board with our tiny human and all of the employees seemed unhappy.

If you have the choice, fly Delta.

Our stroller and carseat arrived three days after we did. They went to Newark, NJ. No one knows why.

I have since written a letter requesting that the airline pays for our cab fare home. If they hadn't lost our stuff, we would have taken public transit. 



Reflections on the SUPER-SECRET-SURPRISE TRIP


All of you--the wonderful folks we saw along the way--thank you for your hospitality and kindness. You are lovely human beings. Thank you for welcoming us into your homes and your hearts. Thank you for being a part of our lives. Please, even if we can't be together all of the time, let's make the most of the times we can (as we did on this trip!) and let's try to be together at least once every few years. All of you--you are amazing people. Successful, kind, funny, smart, interesting, inspiring!. I have nothing but love for each and every one of you. Please come visit us in Miami. You are always welcome!

Our tiny human was a superstar traveler on this trip. There were a few early mornings and a few fussy moments, but Trudy was great for the vast majority of our adventure. It was fun to see her explore new places and to meet people who both Bryn and I hold so dear.


So, tell me Trudy, what did you think of the trip?


That's two trips in two months... two more summer months remain and two more trips to go! Our next journey takes us up to the motherland in a little over a week. We'll be hitting a whack of cities in two provinces, attending a Rivington (my Mom's side) family wedding, and catching up with as many folks as we can (including 40+ Hughes, George, and Rivington relatives!)