Wednesday, December 31, 2014


Well, 2014, you've outdone yourself! What a wonderful, crazy year it has been, filled with some of the highest highs, and of course, a few lows. I'm seeing so many recaps online today and thought it would be nice for myself to have a recap of some of the moments that stood out in 2014. And for anyone else out there, please bear with me on my trip down memory lane!


  • Celebrated my Grandpa's 84th birthday!
  • Celebrated Team Ross' accomplishments with our first annual Light the Night Fundraiser
  • Mourned the loss of my Grandpa only a few short weeks after his birthday (I like to think he got a chance to see all the people he loved most in the world at his birthday and decided he was satisfied and ready)


  • Traveled to Orlando for the best Bridal Shower and Bachelorette Party ever! I have the best family and friends in the world and they made this weekend so special for me.
  • Spent a week in Chicago with the first bout of Hemolytic Anemia (little did we know what was ahead...)
  • Our Wedding!! Headed down to New Orleans March 12 - 18 for an absolutely unforgettable, incredible wedding weekend. I was (and still am!) so thankful to be able to marry my best friend, and on top of that, have the most beautiful, perfect celebration (thanks mom!) with all of the people I love most.
  • Back to Chicago for a very scary battle with Hemolytic Anemia. Hemolytic Anemia is a condition where the body has an immune reaction and begins to attack its own red cells, completely decimating the body's hemoglobin supply. We spent nearly an entire month in Chicago trying to right this wrong. It wasn't without many sleepless nights and scary blood tests, but finally the genius of Dr. Stock prevailed and she was able to stabilize the hemolysis. This is something we are still grappling with to this day, but I am so thankful that it is stable, under control, and hopefully dissipating underneath the medications.
  • May was a much-needed quiet month with as much rest as possible between work.
  • June threw us another curve-ball in the form on Pneumonia. As we were planning to host some friends for CMA fest (luckily, they cancelled), we ended up spending that Friday night in the ER, followed by several days of treatment and recovery from Pneumonia. Another very scary time, but in the end Vanderbilt was able to knock it out and send us home.
  • Ross' sister and husband came to visit us a few weeks later and while we tried to take it easy, we had a great time showing them around the city and just spending time together.
  • I led my first official Federal Grant and killed it! (if I do say so myself). I later learned that the proposal was funded for $5 million over 5 years - a huge win!
  • Spent 4th of July in North Carolina with my family which was a blast! We needed the beautiful scenery and fresh mountain air to recover from the past few months of stress and spent the weekend hiking, chasing waterfalls, and checking out the local breweries.
  • Took a weekend trip to Chicago for a happy occasion - a birthday! It was a great weekend with family and I especially loved seeing my niece and nephew (who at this point were obsessed with Frozen). 
  • Started the month out with great news - a promotion! 
  • Packed our bags and headed to France for a once-in-a-lifetime trip for our Honeymoon! We spent two weeks exploring Paris, Avignon, and other small cities in Provence and had an absolutely perfect experience. I've never felt so happy, excited, relaxed, and at peace in my life. I am so grateful for the time we had just the two of us to be a married couple in good health, happiness, and love!
  • We hosted our second annual Light the Night fundraiser and raised over $13,000!
  • Ross got a job in the legal field and it is the perfect transition - hooray!
  • We added a new family member - our lab, Mae! I introduced her officially a few weeks ago, and she is growing quickly, around 40 lbs at about 5 months. She is a sweet pup with more growing to do and much more training to go, too.
  • We celebrated Ross' 2 year anniversary with so much joy and love. I am so proud of that man and in awe of him every day.
  • I took a weekend trip down to Miami to spend a girls' weekend with my best friends! We drank wine, caught each other up on everything, supported our Miami Hurricanes, and just had the best weekend. It has been almost 10 years since I first met these girls and here we are still as close as ever across time and distance.
  • Happy Thanksgiving! We headed back down to Florida to spend time with my family in Orlando. We helped my mom host 15 people for a big turkey dinner and spent the weekend with the extended family at Universal Studios checking out Harry Potter. I also got to sneak in some coveted Black Friday shopping time with my mom - a tradition we've had for years now!
  • And here we are in December! Fortunately it was mostly a quiet month spending time with each other and Mae until...
  • Christmas in Chicago! We took the pup and drove up to Chicago for almost a week of festivities with family and friends. We had delicious home-cooked dinners for Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, hit the Museum of Science and Industry, spent time with friends downtown, and checked out the Lights at the Lincoln Park Zoo. I feel so fortunate to have two families that I love so much, so it is always a great time to be around everyone and step into my role as Auntie Rachel. 
And that leaves us with tonight, New Years' Eve. I hope I captured most of the highlights from this year, and after writing this, even with the few scary blips, I am kind of sad to say goodbye to 2014. We had so much to look forward to and celebrate and it pretty much all went off without a hitch! But, with that said, I have my eye out to the future and all of the good health, happiness, and fortune I hope 2015 will bring!

Happy New Year!!

Monday, December 8, 2014

"Until one has loved an animal, a part of one's soul remains unawakened." - Anatole France

Looks like the last time I posted was about three years ago... and let's just suffice it to say a lot has changed! Some quick highlights: we moved to Nashville, had the best wedding ever in New Orleans, traveled to France for our honeymoon, and became the proud new parents of this brown eyed beauty, Mae!

We've been coveting dogs for several years now, having both grown up with wonderful dogs, and upon seeing a serendipitous facebook post about the availabilty of a 10-week-old black labrador retriever, we hopped in the car and drove straight up to Kentucky to pick up our girl. We've now had her for about six weeks and she has drastically changed our lives, for the better of course (most of the time!).
October 25, 2014: In the car with Mae on our way home from Kentucky!
Here's what Mae is up to at 16-weeks:
  • Weighs 33.2 pounds (Dad is hoping she doubles that when she is full grown!)
  • Long and lanky with huge paws and her face is cute as a button. It seems everything is growing but her face is staying cute like a puppy - and I'm okay with that!
  • Definitely knows her name and responds when called (when she feels like it)
  • We're working on training daily and she is learning to sit, stay, lay down, and go to bed.
  • She loves playing fetch in the park, especially with sticks. She'll run at least 30 yards to get the stick and comes back with it easily. Her attention span for fetch is anywhere from 5 to 15 minutes, with a few breaks to chew on the stick, of course.
  • About 90-100% housetrained. We had to board her at a kennel for Thanksgiving, so she regressed a little when she came home, but I think we've almost conqured her accidents.
  • Teething and jumping and excitability, oh my! Mae looooves to show us how excited she is to see us and play with us by mouthing and jumping, all normal (yet super annoying) behaviors for a four-month-old pup. She is exploring anything and everything in her environment, especially with her mouth and by jumping up on any surface she can. We're working on teaching her "off" to stop the jumping and replacing things like our hands and feet with delicious chew toys (current favorites: Kong, rubber nylabone, and an awesome antler from grandma - thanks grandma!) and redirected energy (read: obedeince training!)
  • And my absolute favorite: Lap Time! The first few mornings with her, I would wake up, let Mae out of her crate, and bring her downstairs to do her business. Once we got upstairs I would sit on the carpet and invite her in my lap, letting her sleep or holding a bone for her while she chewed and I calmly pet her. Now, each morning when we get back upstairs, she runs to the carpet and sits patiently, waiting for me to sit on the floor for some lap time. It is truly one of my most cherished moments of each day, and I hope she never grows out of it, even when she is a 60-pound pup :)
November 1, 2014: Obviously Mae is a huge Miami Hurricanes fan!
October 25, 2014: First day at the park with Mom and Dad! RIP Bear Toy :(
I feel so lucky to have Mae in our lives. While of course owning a dog is a lot of work and responsibility, adding Mae to our little family has brought so much laugher and joy and I know that she is going to grow into a great dog. Welcome to the family, Ms. Mae! xo ~ Mamasita

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

"Each cup of tea represents an imaginary voyage." - Catherine Douzel

The weather is officially in the 60's here in the South (aka New Orleans), which means it is tea time! When I was in India, I became quite the dedicated tea-drinker, and even brought home some authentic loose teas back to the States with me. I purchased Darjeeling, Mango, and Asam - which is used with Masala spice for delicious Chai Tea. I have a cool little loose tea to-go container from Teavana, but nothing to strain loose tea in my favorite Life Is Good mug.

So, I got creative, and now I will share my little discovery with you!

DIY Tea Strainer

What You'll Need:
Your favorite loose tea (I chose Teavana's Snow Geisha for my demo, but I had my Darjeeling earlier)
A coffee filter
A pencil
A cozy mug
Hot water (duh.)

Step One: Put desired amount of tea in the coffee filter. I like my tea pretty strong, so I covered the bottom of the coffee filter for extra flavor.

Step Two: Fold the coffee filter in half, and poke your pencil through both sides. Dunk the pouch in the hot water and balance the pencil on top of the mug to let the tea steep.

Step Four: After the tea steeps, remove the pouch and toss used tea leaves. Voila! You have freshly brewed loose-leaf tea! Add sugar or milk, and enjoy!

Have a beautiful Wednesday and stay warm out there folks!

Oh, p.s. I got all of my Indian teas from this guy: The Spice Maker. Check out his website!

Monday, October 31, 2011

"Eat, Drink, and Be Scary" - Anonymous

Last week I took a new route for my afternoon jog, and passed by this classic New Orleans above-ground cemetery. I knew I had some cemeteries not too far from my apartment, but I had never taken the time to go explore them - I mean, why would I? Cemeteries are creepy, right? Right. But, in an impulsive act of bravery, I returned to the cemetery (in broad daylight mind you) with my camera in hand to see what it was all about. In honor of today's spooky holiday, I thought I would share some of my favorite/eeriest shots:
A view of the cemetery from behind the fence 
Big tree + tomb stones = scary!

Pumpkin peeking out from a window!
Broken-down fence and some mourners' flowers

Have a safe, happy, and candy-coated Halloween!!

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

"Everyone must take time to sit and watch the leaves turn" - Elizabeth Lawrence

Ahh, how good it feels to be back in New Orleans just in time for the weather to start changing. I arrived back in U.S. from India a few weeks ago, and boy has it been a hectic time! I am planning to post some pictures and stories from my trip, but not this moment. After all, one of the most important lessons I learned in India, from an extraordinary Tibetan Buddhist Nun, is to be present. It is a simple lesson on the surface, but actually a truly profound message: 

Be present, as the present is your only reality, and the past and the future and simply figments of your imagination. 

So, to exist in the present, I took a personal day to live in the moment and take in the season. In short, I was a lean, mean, pumpkin machine:

Fleur de lis carved pumpkin surrounded by homemade pumpkin goodies, and of course, my personal favorite, Candy Corn!

Homemade Pumpkin Spice Bread, recipe courtesy SkinnyTaste, plus I added walnuts for a little crunch!

Salty Pumpkin Seeds made with olive oil and a dash of salt and pepper for a healthy, savory Fall snack

I am definitely a southern girl, Florida born-and-raised and living in good ol' Louisiana, but I welcome the change in temperature, and of course, the chance to wear boots.

Have a Happy Hump Day!

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

“I hoped that the trip would be the best of all journeys: a journey into ourselves” - Shirley MacLaine

So, ladies and gentleman, this is it: tomorrow I officially embark on my journey to India! But before I reflect on self discovery and all that nonsense, it would be extremely rude if I failed to introduce you to my new best friend for the next four weeks, Sandy (see us together above). Yes, Sandy is a backpack, and she is a husky lady about half my size in height and weight, thanks for asking. She has been entrusted with the ever-so-important job of carrying all of my belongs, including a week's worth of clothes, toiletries and other random necessities, as well as over 20 energy bars (have I mentioned spicy food is not my strong suit?). Vital items like my passport and cash will be stored in my straight from the runway couture money belt/fanny pack - I hear those are among the latest trends in India. Kidding, right?

Now on to said nonsense, the past few weeks have been full of emotional ups and downs preparing for the trip. By day, I am excited and running around like the Tasmanian devil trying to make sure I have what I need and that it fits in good-ol Sandy. But by night, terror strikes and I have nightmares about falling off cliffs, being attacked by monkeys, and getting trampled on by elephants (thanks Ross). I liked the quote I found today because I think it is a valuable concept. As awesome and different as India will be than America, part of the point of the trip is to take time for self-reflection - to think about where we fit into the world as people, and of course for me, as a (near) future social worker. 

I decided to take the trip because I felt like it was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, so I am going with positivity on my mind, excitement in my heart, and a huge smile on my face! 

If I have internet I'll try to post while I'm abroad, if not, I shall see you upon my return at the end of September!

Saturday, August 27, 2011

"All the world is a laboratory to the inquiring mind." - Martin H. Fischer

Today I got an early birthday present: a new fancy-schmancy camera! It is a Nikon Coolpix L120, and maybe it's not fancy-schmancy on the grand scheme of cameras, but for me, this is a huge upgrade and I'm in love.

On this beautiful Saturday afternoon, I took myself out for a walk around Audubon Park to see what my new baby could do before I take it halfway across the globe to India. I tried to play with angles, scene settings, zoom, and coloration, so I want to share some of my favorites:

Close-up of a tree swing in Audubon Park
Flowers at the front entrance of Audubon Park
Bird Island in Audubon Park
A view of the trails in Audubon Park 
Playing with the macro setting inside the trees
Looks so relaxing, right?
I love this adorable little squirrel! Little guy's munching on a graham cracker.

The bark on this tree was stunning
Stately homes line the perimeter of the park
Details from the park's surrounding homes
Beautiful architecture and coloration on this home
I'll be practicing more this evening at New Orleans Mid-Summer Mardi Gras, and then tomorrow night at my boyfriend's gig on Frenchman street. The more I practice, the more confident I will feel that I can capture my upcoming trip in photos as well as memories!

Have a great weekend!