Friday, August 29, 2014

Literally, A Trip Down Memory Lane

Who's eager for the long weekend?! 5pm can't roll around soon enough. But at the same time, I need to keep reminding myself that I took a full week of vacation from work to join the Delinko's on our annual vacation to Martha's Vineyard. That last day of work always seems like a big ball of stress - trying to button up as much as I can while remembering that work will still be here when I get back.

Yesterday I read a post from newly-followed blog Simple Capacity, that inspired me to kind of just "let it go." That's what vacations are, right? To get away from your current reality, to try new things and see what life is all about. We get so caught up in the everyday - the get up, go to work, come home, cook dinner, watch TV, shower, sleep, repeat. Day in and day out. I am so excited for a week-long getaway to revisit a place that is so dear to me. The place where Jay and I got engaged back in 2012. And it will be our one-year anniversary when we return! I have a feeling this trip will be just as, and if not, more meaningful than ever.

Once we hit that ferry Sunday afternoon, I will let all my worries and anxiety drift away in the distance. This trip will not only put me on a metaphorical island, away from it all - Martha's Vineyard is literally an island. So I will definitely take advantage of the space between. Jay woke me up this morning and whispered (half in his sleep, with one eye open), " more day." One more day of work, and then we are smooth sailing!

I am going to try to document this trip as much as I can - I hope to relive the steps we took as we walked to the cliff overlooking the lighthouse where Jay proposed. I will make sure to divulge in all of the amazing food one can get near the ocean. Fresh-caught fish, lobster, the works! And let's not forget the fritters, which are about the size of two fists, but the bellyache will linger for days. That is OK in my book because they are the most incredible fritters I've ever had. Not like your old Dunkin Donuts fritter. This thing is sold like drugs out of the backdoor of a bakery. You can buy them late at night and wait in line for probably an hour. But it is so worth it!

 This may be a great opportunity to try out the whole photo diary that I see people doing on bloglovin. What's better than telling a story through pictures? And Martha's Vineyard will do itself justice.

Here are a few flashbacks of our last trip. Hope everyone has an amazing long weekend!

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Perks of Work - Finding Love on the Job

New to the working world and eager to make an impact; Fresh out of college and excited to take on the world. I was young and pretty clueless when I started my first full-time job in New York City. Those few weeks in the beginning put me in a whirlwind of buses, bustling people, small offices, expensive lunches, and an even longer ride home. The commute from New Jersey into the City was almost as confusing as the passengers on board. Nobody wants to help you out and no one cares that you exist. You're lucky if you even get acknowledged with a quick glance or a nudge down the aisle. What was I getting myself into? I remember the feeling so clearly. A mixture of nerves and anxiety, but the good kind of anxious. When you don't really know what to expect but you know your life will never be the same. How will my first day go? Would I make friends? Would I even make it through Port Authority? Lucky for me, I had probably the best first day a young woman could have. And the best thing I got from it all was my husband.

Yes, this is the story of "Us." This is where it all began. I was fidgety as I sat at my new desk in an attempt to try and let it all sink in. And get passed that overwhelmed state where you get introduced to a million people but can only remember one or two names. Then, this confident (but not cocky) young man in slacks and a button down, with the sleeves rolled up his forearms, waltzed over to me and introduced himself as Jay. The usual small-talk came next, "Where you from?" and as I answered Parsippany, a smile came to his face. Something along the lines of "No way, I'm from West Orange," and as he finished his sentence I realized he only grew up maybe 10-15 miles down the road. A 20 minute drive on a bad day. I remember thinking what a coincidence it was that I trekked all the way into NYC and met someone that I could have passed driving down the highway hundreds of thousands of times. We realized we had a lot in common and the rest is history as our friendship evolved into a relationship.

Flash forward over four years later, and this man is my husband. And he's been my husband for almost a year! You must be thinking, get to the point already. I'm telling this story because I am a firm believer that it is possible to find love in the workplace. You are with these people more hours of the day than you are with your own family. Hell, I probably talk more to my boss more than I talk to my brother. You are bound to be around people that share your interests. Or even the same goals and aspirations. You have committed majority of your waking hours to a career that fulfills your monetary needs. It gives our lives purpose and drive. What's not to say your perfect match is a cube or two over?

I look at all the dating world has out there today, whether it is online, a bar, or even a quick stop at Starbucks. Why count out the place where you reside from 8-5? People used to snark, "I don't know how you guys work together. Didn't you get sick of each other?" My honest answer was always "no," which sounds crazy. But it worked for us. And I'm not saying that it will stand true for everyone. Jay and I were able to diverge ourselves in our jobs and keep professional. I wouldn't even see him for most of the day unless we made a point to have lunch together. It's actually one of the things I miss now because we recently went down our own paths at two different companies. Since moving back to New Jersey, Jay commutes into the City (oh how the tables have turned), and I drive myself to the other side of town. But at least I know I'm coming home to the same person that I met over four years ago on the first day of my very first job. 

This is us from the early days, one of the perks of being in NYC. Always had the chance to hit up a game after work. :)

Monday, August 25, 2014

Learning From a Little One - Becoming An Aunt

Whenever I declare that I'm not ready to have a baby, majority of the response I receive is, "You're never really ready. And then when it happens, it becomes second nature." If that is the case, I think Jay and I will take our time. In reality though, I think it is impossible to be prepared for any major life change, whether it's becoming a mom, or even becoming an aunt. I never knew what to expect when my first nephew came into the world eight months ago. It's hard to believe that so much has changed in under a year. How much one tiny human being has had such an impact on the person I am and who I eventually will become. All it took was one look, which eventually turned into a smile, and Judd Harrison had my heart.

I have to admit, when Judd was born I was deathly afraid to hold him. I hadn't been around babies since my brother (and I was only 5 at the time). The anxiety kicked in when it was my turn to hold him. But I knew all I needed to do was sit incredibly still and everything would be alright. Judd's calmness eased my fears as I held him in my arms (although I was awkward as hell). I remember he was sleeping for most of the visit, but for that one moment, he opened his eyes and looked at me as if he knew who I was. I knew my life was never going to be the same. At that moment, I decided I would be that role model for him as he gets older. I want to be there to support my brother and sister-in-laws whenever they need me. To stop by, babysit, or even just be there if they need a familiar adult face. It is so important to me that I be in his life and I wouldn't change it for the world. And I know when it is mine and Jay's turn, Judd will be the cousin that our child can look up to. And play with, and take family vacations down the shore. It is an unbreakable bond and it will be cherished forever.

Judd is special in so many ways, but one in particular that I adore is that he shares the same birthday as my dad. And Christmas Eve at that! There will be so many things to look forward to this winter. By that time, I have the feeling Judd will be walking. He's already crawling, but in a downward dog position on his feet! I've never seen anything quite like it. The kid is strong and boy, is he quick. I spent my Friday off last week with my sister-in-law Caryn and the Juddster. To my amazement, he was picking himself up on the safety gate all by himself! And not only standing, but bobbing up and down like he was dancing. If I didn't know better and met a baby like Judd on the street, I would think he's closer to ten months old. He is so smart and eager to observe the world around him. He even looks different each time I see him - I notice the smallest of changes, like more hair on his head and new facial expressions. It has been a journey to watch him grow and I don't even know what to expect in the next week, or the next month even. But I do know that I'm loving every minute of it.

Judd has also helped me realize that I will be a good mom someday. And although I may not think I'm ready for it, I could evolve into that maternal figure. For now, I can enjoy witnessing all of his defining moments. I can learn from Judd just like he can learn from me. Practice makes perfect, after all. And there is nothing better than learning from your own nephew.

Friday, August 22, 2014

Quick Re-Read: The Giver

Two book posts in a row? Is this girl nuts? It may seem slightly over-achieving, but not when I picked up Lois Lowry's The Giver for a second time. I got my hands on this small paperback in middle school and dreaded the read because its sole purpose was for summer curriculum. We were forced into this selection as we would field discussions and quizzes in class come September. But The Giver was different then as it is now. It was probably one of the first books I ever completed for school and actually enjoyed. To read in a second run was even better - I literally opened to the first page on Monday and finished last night.

Most of you I'm sure know that the movie came out on 8/15. I recently joined a book club and this was on our list. Eager to see if I would remember anything, I dove in quickly and was shocked that I had no true recollection of the plot. The story takes place in a utopian world where there is no pain, no feeling, no emotion. Lowry refers to this living state as Sameness. The communities are regulated by a council with organization so superior that it is the norm. The main character, Jonas, is about to learn his fate when his occupation is assigned to him as "the Receiver" during the ceremony of the Twelves (twelve-year-olds). I guess in this society, they believe you are an adult at the young age of twelve. Could you imagine what life would be like if your fate was handed to you at twelve? I couldn't even make a mature decision of my own at the age of 21, let alone 12! As the Receiver, Jonas bears the burden of taking in all memories of the past from the previous Receiver, now known as the Giver (how original). He witness the "before Sameness" when things were much different. The good memories and the bad. He discovers what life could really offer and questions the only state he has ever known.

Like I said when reviewing Gone Girl, I really don't want to give too much up. It would be silly to spoil such a quick and interesting read. I highly recommend this for anyone, even if reading isn't your thing. 180 pages goes really fast (not to mention the book is tiny in size). I am also interested to see how they spin this in the movie - like most movies they never compare to the actual novel. I mean, Taylor Swift is in the movie after all!

I do not regret my decision on re-reading The Giver. I am actually surprised that they chose this book for a 6th grade summer read, because it was graphic at times and explored topics that I probably wasn't ready to face as a young adult. It made much more sense reading now and I really hope the movie doesn't spoil the true message behind the tale.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Book Review: Gone Girl

One of life's biggest challenges is finding extra time in each day. And once we realize we have a spare second to relax, how do we use that time? More recently than ever I've picked up reading again. When it becomes an elective pastime instead of school curriculum, we can find things that we enjoy and read for leisure. I tend to stray off the bandwagon until a novel has long fell off the radar from when it first came on the scene, and one I had been hearing a lot about Gillian Flynn's Gone Girl. The cover image is slightly intimidating with frail, red lettering and a black background. Was I setting myself up for trouble? Would this book be disturbing and keep me up at night? It was worth a shot to at least begin reading to see if it sparked any interest. And as the days went by and I got deeper and deeper, I couldn't stop. I was actually sad when I turned the last page, but looking back I am pleased that I spent that sought after extra time reading this tale.

I don't want to give too much away, especially to those who are considering to read Gone Girl. It is one of those stories where you bounce back and forth from side to side, hearing the tale from two narrators, who just happen to be husband and wife. It is easy to follow because each person alternates chapter by chapter. It begins with the love story of how the duo met in the Big City (NYC). Then, flashing forward to the hot, southern backdrop of the Mississippi, Amy Dunne goes missing on their fifth wedding anniversary. The reader is questioning "who done it?" over and over again. It is difficult to speculate even though we all have our theories; Was there a motive for Nick Dunne? Did he want to escape his marriage? Is it someone from Amy's past? You end up playing games in your mind like a game of chess, when really the easy answer isn't always the right and obvious one.

I was most impressed by the author, who gives all readers the capability to step into the mind (and shoes) of both Amy and Nick. The way their thoughts are articulated really put you in the brain of the character. I found myself struggling to choose between "Team Amy" and "Team Nick," but the manipulation of each chapter made me teeter on a balance beam. In a sick and twisted way, you felt like you knew them and justified their reasoning. You begin to understand their thought processes and anxiously await the answers. And when the reader hits that epiphany of what has happened, everything makes sense.

So if you are looking for a quick and exciting read for the end of the summer, please pick up Gillian Flynn's Gone Girl. I was so intrigued by the author that I have began to research more of her novels and cannot wait to see what else is in store.

Monday, August 18, 2014

Facing Our Faces

At what point in our lives do we face reality? I mean literally face it - that we are aging everyday. And although we may be one more day the wiser, what about our skin? Are we doing what we can to prolong the inevitable? That as we get older, so does our skin. And particularly the look and the feel. When is it okay to decide to take preventative measures and slow down the natural course of aging?

I have never been one of those people to use anything more than SPF 30. Hell, I'm lucky if I use 15. Like most of us, we enjoy building that summer glow as we bask in the sun and pray for a cloudless day. Even after my last annual trip to the dermatologist; I didn't need a little old (but adorably sincere) man stress the importance of wearing a tee shirt as I sit next to the pool. "You have an over abundance of beauty marks on your shoulders, arms, and chest. Make sure to use that SPF 50!" Okay doc, thank you so much (in my head I'm laughing and thinking yeah, right)! Aren't they called beauty marks for a reason?! Now I'm really starting to believe they are equivalent to the rings inside a tree trunk. Every ring equals another year of life. Maybe the more beauty marks we have, the more "wise" we are? However we try to spin it, we need to keep in mind that we're not suffering the consequences now, but we may in the future.

Getting back to my initial proposition: what is the right age to anti-age? The answer is really up to the individual. I'm not going to sit here and say that I regret slabbing baby oil on my body as my only means of protection as a teen. I may have waited until 27 to start taking new measures, particularly for my face, but here are some of the best products I've used (some of which I currently include in my daily regimen). It's true, the price of healthy skin can start to accumulate, but it may just save us the trouble later on. So I will do what I can with what money I have and hope that the future me will say thank you.

Facing Our Faces

1. Clean & Clear Dual Action Moisturizer - Around $7.00 a bottle, this lotion was my go-to for majority of my life. Oil-free is one of the key components I look for, not to mention it's acne fighting ingredients. However, as I've gotten older, I've realized I may not need to focus on acne and more about the preservation of my skin.

2. Hawaiian Tropic Face - This is a newbie that goes for $9.99 and has really made a splash this summer. I literally had to order from Amazon because I failed to find it in stock at several pharmacies. It's light-weight feel is perfect for summer and also protects your skin with SPF 30. And the smell is delicious! Whenever I know I'm going out into the sun for long periods of time, I use this as my moisturizer. 

3. Estee Lauder Collection - A line that has literally stood the test of time. I was introduced to Estee Lauder by one of their most loyal customers (and one of the most beautiful), my mom. Found in almost every department store, these lotions can run more expensive than the drugstore brands, but most people swear by the long term effects. 

4. Loreal Revitalift Double Lifting - I discovered this in CVS in the fall of last year, interested in the packaging and wondering if it works. For about $18, this lotion claims to firm and tighten the appearance of your skin using both a moisturizer and gel. I definitely can agree that it aids, however you seem to run out of the gel much faster than the moisturizer. I ended up only using this around my eyes after I apply my regular moisturizer in the morning. 

5. Algenist Firming & Lifting - This is definitely one of the most pricey products I've used, almost $100 a jar, but it lasts a long time and you don't need to use much. Since adding this to my morning and night routines, I've noticed my face looks firmer and less sunken in (as I've continued to drop lbs on Weight Watchers). I have oily skin and I really don't see this effecting breakouts. Also, most firming creams separate a morning cream and night cream which can tend to increase your cost so using this for both is beneficial. 

I'm curious to see what other suggestions you may have out there. In the end, I believe women should choose to prevent aging when they deem it necessary. There is no set age because we are all exposed to different amounts of sun, pollution, etc. I just happened to start over the past year and I'm already seeing the positives. Let's face it, it is OK to age, as long as we stay smart about it and true to ourselves. 

Friday, August 15, 2014

Happy Half-a-Century Meredith (aka SolelyMer) !

When I was little, I couldn't stand the mini-me trailing behind me in every step I took. "Are you twins?" "You look like twins" "Really, you're not? Who's older?" The years would pass, and our nappy hair would continue to grow longer and knottier. Sure, we all had our tantrums as children growing up with sisters. Pulling hair, stealing each other's barbies (and popping off their heads), "borrowing" clothes (or wearing the same outfit on purpose). But as we got older, the age gap of two years seemed to close. This little sister of mine was no longer little - she had matured into the young woman that she is today. I have watched her grow from her ear-piercing screech to an eerily identical (and nasally) interpretation of Britney Spears. In all seriousness, Meredith is one of the most beautiful people I know inside and out and today is her birthday! Not just any ordinary birthday. SolelyMer is 25! A whopping quarter of a century. I know this sounds intimidating, especially to spring chickens such as herself, but she has no idea how her 25 years of life have impacted mine.

Firstly, I need to thank Meredith for massively improving my sense of style. It would probably be non-existent if she did not step in and demand that I stop wearing clothes that did not flatter my curvier figure. Before I would go out, I would seek her stamp of approval (which I almost never got on the first attempt). Let's just say some of us need more guidance than others! Meredith has always had that instinct of what works and what doesn't. Her eye for fashion and beauty was self-taught and is always evolving.

Second, and more importantly, she has ALWAYS been there for me. Even when I moved to Buffalo for 2 1/2 years, even when I was over 600 miles away, I knew I could count on her. I realized that relationships, even if you don't talk everyday, can still be just as strong and loving as any other. She is basically my twin, after all, so we must have that 6th sense. Whenever I need advice or a jolt back into reality (considering we all know how OCD I can be), or just a hug, I know I can count on Meredith. The past couple years have definitely had their ups and downs, a few tests of our own strength, and we have been able to stick together through it all.

She has one of the biggest hearts of anyone I've ever known, and I would do anything to make sure she is happy. I will be there for her in all of life's moments, as she was there to fluff my gown and hold my bouquet when I said "I do."

So Meredith, I hope you have a Happy Birthday and are enjoying the beach and sun in Wildwood today. Thank you for being the best sister and friend I could ever asked for. I am proud that we are family and today celebrates you and only you! Love you!

Here we are as kids, nappy hair and all :)

On my wedding day, how coincidental we are on the same sides <3

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