Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Playing House

The house.

The car.

The kids.

In early September, my sister, Meg, and her hubby, Jeff, found an awesome flight deal to San Francisco and couldn't pass up the opportunity for a long weekend sans kiddos. Since I wasn't working and wanted to make sure that they'd take advantage of this opportunity, I quickly volunteered to play Mommy while they were gone. So about a month ago, Luke and I packed a few bags and headed over to the Peck house for Sunday through Tuesday.

Since Shelby is in 1st grade, Coleman in pre-school, both kids involved in sports, and Tuesday was picture day for Shelby, we had a busy couple of days. Our mornings started by waking both kids up around 6:30. We had a quick breakfast, dressed and grabbed our backpacks before heading out the door. I was surprised by how non-chaotic the mornings were. (However, if I also had to get myself ready too, it probably would have been much more difficult. All I had to do was throw on some workout clothes and pull my hair back into a messy ponytail before heading to the carpool line.) Both kids woke easily and knew exactly how the morning routine would go. The first morning when I went to wake Coleman up, he had this huge smile on his face. I thought he was just super happy to be awake but turns out he was still sleeping and in the middle of a really good dream (probably involving ninjas or swords.) It was one of the sweetest little faces I've seen.

After dropping both kids off at their respective schools, I did what any good stay-at-home mom would do and went to the gym. Following my workout, I prepped dinner, ran errands, etc until it was time to pick Shelby up at 3:20. My mom laughed at me when I told her that the days went by so quickly. I seriously don't know exactly what I did, but before I knew it, it was time to pick up Shelb, and I felt like I hadn't sat down all day! Haha. Both days I picked up Shelby first and then we went together to get Coleman. Back at the house, Shelby and I did her reading homework before starting our other evening activities. (BTW, she is becoming quite the little reader these days!) Monday evening, the kids and I walked down the street to watch Richland High School's (my alma mater) homecoming parade. The parade wasn't all that impressive, but it was a nice evening to be outside and the kids enjoyed seeing the band, football players and cheerleaders. Tuesday evening, we went to Coleman's baseball game and then met Nonny, Poppy, Luke, Mimi, Jack and Randy for dinner. Our days went by so quickly, and it was a nice little preview of what family life might be like for us one day!

During our time together, the kids said such funny things, and I'm kicking myself for not writing them down. I do remember one little story that I'll share. On the first day in the car pool line at Shelby's school, I couldn't figure out how to unlock the door. So this woman is standing outside of the car ready to help Shelby out, and I can't get the door unlocked! When I finally figured it out and the lady opened the door, she said, "Your mommy just wanted to keep you today!" Then as Coleman and I pulled away, he said, "But you're not really her mommy." He said it in such a sweet little voice, and I think I suspected just a hint of questioning in his voice. Like, please tell me that my mom is coming home, and you're not taking over! Luckily for us all, Meg and Jeff got home safe and sound on Tuesday night. Thanks for trusting us to take care of your family, Meg. We love them so much!

Monday, September 19, 2011

Just Another Madrid Monday #3

Well, with our original plans, we should be leaving for Spain sometime this week with Luke to start work on October 1, but that isn't happening. Long story short; We've been delayed. Our new expected departure date is anywhere between now and January 1, and January is probably the more realistic expectation. Although we're not too upset about the delay, it's a bit frustrating for a couple of reasons.

We found out about the delay one day after leasing our house. We'd known all along that a delay was possible, but because we'd already provided all of the requested documents without receiving any updates or requests for more information, we were operating under the assumption (we all know what happens when you assume) that all was on course and October 1 was still our date. We kept lowering the rent on our house, packing things up, etc... in order to prepare. So it's been a bit of a frustrating process; however, we're still so thankful for Luke's company and all they do to help us in obtaining visas. They have lawyers and translators and all kinds of people to help get all of our documents in the correct form with all the required notaries, jurats, etc...So hopefully, everything will be accepted by the Spanish government the first time through. Seriously, I don't even know how we would begin if we were doing this on our own.

Also, I'd already told my company that I would be leaving around the end of September, and acting accordingly to what I told them, they hired my replacement, who started at the end of August. So despite not leaving until potentially January, I'm out of a job September 29th. Although this isn't ideal, it will give me a lot of time to focus on Rosetta Stone, and I've also filled out substitute teaching applications to maybe help keep me busy until we leave. Everything will work out. And truth be told, I'm not too terribly upset about this. :)

Despite those frustrations, being delayed isn't all that bad. First of, regardless of the timing, we are very glad to have leased our house. Even though we may have been able to get more rent for it if we'd known we had more time before leaving, we're glad that we're no longer stressing about whether or not it would rent before we left. And the family that moved in seems to be very sweet and will hopefully take good care of it. In fact, the husband works in construction and seems to be very handy, so we're hoping they leave it in better shape than they found it! :)

We're also really glad that we will (hopefully) be here for the holidays with our families and get to enjoy all the goodness that fall has to offer with them. And a delayed departure date means a delayed return date. We'd love to have 2 summers over there instead of 1!

As of today, the Global Immigration Services team that is working with us has (finally) received all of our documents with the appropriate notaries, copies, etc. Next up, we have to obtain apostille (which Google tells me is authentication of public documents for foreign use) and certifed Spanish translation of all the documents. Hopefully, this process goes quickly so that we can (finally) send everything off. We're expecting a 4 to 6 week wait once everything is received by the government (although I'm not really sure where that expecation was born from). More updates to follow I'm sure.

Friday, September 16, 2011

Work Out Wrap-Up #3

I'm back with another work out wrap-up just because I like to do it (and this way, Luke won't have to listen to me :)). Here is what my work outs looked like this week:

Not too shabby considering it was my birthday week, and I could have very easily used that as an excuse to sluff off for a couple of days! Tomorrow morning, I might go to spin, but I'm hoping I can talk Luke into an outdoor run. Now that the 100+ degree days seem to finally (hopefully) be behind us, I'm looking forward to a nice run in the cool morning (and it'll be even better with the company of my hubby!) Have a good weekend!

Friday, September 9, 2011

Chi Town

Wow! We've been a lot of places this summer! First, New York followed by North Carolina, Arkansas and New Orleans. Then this past weekend, we spent Labor Day in Chicago with our good buddy, Adam. And what a great time we had!

Luke and I flew into Chicago Friday afternoon. After several wrong turns and taking a round-a-bout route, we finally navigated our way around the city to our hotel. We dropped off our bags and then set out for some fun. Just down the street from our hotel, we spotted a rooftop bar, so we stopped there first for a little hummus and a brewski. After enjoying the rooftop view and nice cool breeze, we walked around a little more before finding another little patio to chill on and wait for Adam. Once Adam met up with us, we started back to the hotel to get ready for dinner. When we're on vacation or celebrating something, I kind of love eating out, and if we're going out of town, I usually do a little Internet research before hand to find us a cool spot for dinner. This time my research paid off! We dined at Home Bistro Friday night and loved everything about it! It was a cool, little neighborhood BYOB place that we never would have just happened upon (and even if we had, it was tiny and full so we couldn't have gotten in without a reservation). The lights were low and the place was buzzing with conversation but not too loud. Before heading out for dinner, we stopped and picked up a bottle of wine to pair with each course. (I use the term "pair" loosely because we had no idea what we would order and let's be honest, I'm no wine connoisseur...yet). But having a different bottle to go with each course was really fun, and we would have never done that if it weren't "BYOB". Along with the wine, everything we ordered was awesome. We started with Fried Oysters and Housemade Pierogi, which is a Polish dish somewhat similar to a pot sticker or dumpling. I preferred the pierogi while the guys favored the oysters, but both were very good and different. For our main course, Luke had the Brazed Pork Shank, Adam the Handmade Mint Fettuccine with Pork Sausage and me the Sturgeon, which is an ugly white fish that Luke says looks like a shark. Again, everyone was pleased with their choices, but after passing a few fork fulls around the table, I think my ugly fish took first place with all three of us. Dessert was a little bit of a disappointment. We brought a bottle of port to go with dessert and were hoping for something rich and chocolatey. Unfortunately, though, there was nothing like that offered, so we went with housemade Belgian White Chocolate Bars. Though they were okay, it's just not what we were hoping for. All in all, it was fabulous meal, and the "BYOB" allowed us to enjoy a really nice meal with a couple of bottles of wine for quite a bit less than we would have spent anywhere else. I also really liked that it wasn't a touristy spot. When Luke and I vacate, we love to find little, off the beaten path places, so this was right up our alley. If you're ever in Chicago and want to venture away from the Magnificent Mile, I highly recommend HB.

Rooftop Happy Hour.

Dinner with my two guys.

Saturday morning, we hopped in our rented Toyota Corolla (which just happened to have Texas plates...random) and drove east to South Bend, Indiana, home of the Notre Dame Fighting Irish. We tailgated with Luke's Uncle Greg and cousin Geoff, who were in town for the game from Cincinnati, Ohio before heading into the stadium to watch the Irish take on the South Florida Bulls. We had great seats on the 4th row that Adam scored from his "buddy" Kristen, who is a trainer for the South Florida team. Though the game was fun, the Irish were losing and there were a couple of rain/lightning delays, so we only stayed until half-time. After a little jaunt around campus to see the Grotto (where we got engaged more than 3 years ago) and a couple of other cool spots, we started back to Chicago. Back in Chicago, we checked into a new hotel, and I persuaded the boys to give me time to shower before dinner. (It didn't take much persuading because Adam wanted a shower too, but I did promise to put my hair up and be as quick as possible). Luke picked The Purple Pig as our dinner spot that evening. It was a good, cool place with a lively environment and group style seating. (Basically, just long tables of probably 10-12 with multiple different parties on each table.) The menu was centered around (you guessed it...the pig) and was served tapas (not topless) style where everything is small plates meant to be shared. The food was okay but nothing to write about. By far, the best part about this meal was the company. After Luke offended our waiter by referring to the bartender as "thinning hair, beard, really excited about the menu," and Adam brought back the gag symbol to show that he didn't like something, we laughed until our stomachs hurt. Oh yes. One thing about the food worth mentioning. There were not one but two hairs in our dessert that we're convinced were put there purposefully due to Luke's tiny bit offensive joke. Gross. and Rude.

Go Irish! Outside Lou Holtz gate.

The Golden Dome.

Dinner at the Purple Pig. Before the hair.

Sunday morning, we brunched on Rush at a place called Feast. Again, everything was fantastic. Luke had challah french toast, Adam the breakfast burrito and me the Lox and Bagel. It was so nice to enjoy breakfast out on the patio in the cool, breezy weather. After brunch, we headed over to Wrigleyville for the afternoon Cubs game. After the game, we went back to the city for Chicago style pizza at Pizzano's, which is my favorite. I definitely prefer it over Giordano's because it's not quite as heavy and filling even though it is still true Chicago style. (And they serve Oprah's favorite thin crust pizza, but I couldn't talk the boys into going thin.) We made a couple of more pit stops before calling it a night and getting ready to head home the next morning. We had so much fun, and it was good to end the summer on such a high note!

Brunch at Feast.

Trying to recreate my model pose from Fenway circa 2009.


Cubs game. Not even sure who they played, but it was fun!

P90X Style.

Pizza at Pizzano's.

Zoolander look.

Other than the Notre Dame and Cubs games, we mostly just walked and talked; wined and dined. But we had a ton of fun doing it and really enjoyed spending some quality time with Adam since he's become a New Mexican, and we don't get the opportunity to see each other as frequently. And we love Chicago. It's a really pretty, clean city for being so big and urban, and the fact that it is right on the huge Lake Michigan is really cool. If it weren't for the harsh winters, it might be at the top of my list for cities I would live in (if I ever had to choose). Cheers to Summer 2011!

NOLA 2011 - A French Quarter Saturday and Sunday in the Garden District

After a long break, I'm back with the rest of New Orleans recap. (Update: I actually wrote this some time ago but am just now getting around to uploading pics due to a bad/slow/unreliable internet connection at home.)

We started Saturday with brunch at The Red Slipper, a cute little cafe just around the corner from our hotel. I love having the Yelp ap on our phones because it's so easy to locate something nearby with good reviews! And this place had a free mimosa if you checked in on Yelp! Score! After breakfast, we spent the rest of the day exploring the French Quarter. We walked through Cafe du Monde but decided against a beignet. I've tried one before, and Luke wasn't interested enough to stand in line/wait for a table. We explored Jackson Square, checked out the Louis Armstrong Jazz Festival ("Satchmo Summer Fest"), and stopped for an afternoon snack of super tasty boiled shrimp. All during our trip, we had our eye out for a ring that we might buy to replace my engagement rings. I bought Luke's ring in New Orleans when I was there on my bachelorette party trip, so we thought it'd be so cool if we could find a little something for me there. Unfortunately, the place had closed down! :( We found a couple of other beautiful sapphire, diamond rings. I've always loved sapphires because it's my birthstone, and the rings are very Princess Diana/Kate Middleton-esque. But we could never pull the trigger. Although they were gorgeous rings, we weren't sure how trust worthy some of the stores were, and because the rings were still quite expensive, we decided not to buy something if we weren't 100 percent sure that's what we wanted. So, I'm still rocking a $25 cz from Target. (Update: This past weekend my Nana loaned me her engagement ring that my Granddad gave to her 60 years ago, so I'm now wearing that ring with pride.)

Saturday night we went to dinner at Broussard's in the French Quarter. We started with the baked Oysters, and they were fabulous. Unfortunately, the rest of the meal wasn't quite as tasty. Nothing was bad, but the appetizer definitely stole the show. After dinner, we went to Frenchmen Street to listen to a little live music, but I got tired pretty quickly (like couldn't hold my eyes open tired), and we left before too long.

Sunday we rented bikes and set off to explore the Garden District. We just rode around most of the day, checking out the cool, old houses and stopping here and there for a drink or snack. Around mid-day, it started pouring down rain while we were on our bikes. I'm not talking a light sprinkle; it was a torrential down pour. When huge, loud, scary, straight to the ground lightning started, we decided to pull over at the next place we saw and take cover. I was a little embarrassed to go in somewhere because I was soaking wet, but the patrons and bartender at the little place we stopped coaxed me in after Luke went in to check it out. We froze our buns off in this little place since they had the AC going while we were soaking wet, but it was a nice place to sit with a drink and let the rain pass. The rainy day bike ride was our favorite part of the trip! At first, I was thinking I don't want to get all wet, but once it happened and I just went with it, it was really fun to ride through the rain. Not to mention we were coming from 40+ days of 100+ heat and extreme drought in Texas, so the rain was quite refreshing. After the storm passed, we got back on our bikes, stopped for a suppertime muffaletta and then called it a pretty early night. The next morning, we were up bright and early for our morning flight back to DFW. All in all, we had an awesome time celebrating our 2 years of marriage! New Orleans is such a cool city with so much to explore, and it's such a quick flight from DFW. I definitely recommend it to anyone looking for a long weekend getaway!

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

NOLA 2011 - Friday Night on Bourbon Street

This past weekend, Luke and I visited New Orleans to celebrate our 2nd wedding anniversary. Luke was in Seattle at the end of last week, so we met up at DFW. He didn't even leave the airport! He landed and made his way from terminal D to terminal A! We only had about 50 minutes between his first landing and our departure to NOLA. Luckily, though, everything worked out just as planned, and he even made it in time for a pre-boarding cerveza at TGI Fridays. The flight there was great. We were at the back of the plane, which I usually don't like, but this time it was kind of nice. It wasn't crowded at all so we could talk and be silly without feeling like you were bothering people around you. The flight attendants also gave us a complimentary glass of wine, beer and cheese/cracker/nut plate. Thanks, AA!

Once we landed, we checked into our hotel. We stayed at the Sheraton on Canal Street. It was really nice and within walking distance to everything we wanted to do. And when we checked in, there was an awesome cheese plate waiting for us. There was a card on it for Ms. Jennifer Sarah Gonzalez, but we just ignored that and dug in. After a little snack, we headed to Bourbon. The rest of the night involved several drinks, an awesome Jazz band, a mechanical bull and late night hummus. Basically, it was perfect! Here are a few pics:

There's a funny (at least to us) story to go along with the smallish, nothing special about them drinks in the last picture. While we were hanging out listening to a really cool jazz band, I went to the bar to get us two drinks. I ordered a whiskey coke and a vodka water with a splash of grapefruit. When the bartender asked me what type of liquors I wanted, instead of saying "house" or "well" or whatever you say, I said the first thing that came to my mind. Makers Mark and Grey Goose. (I guess I had alliteration on the brain.) Keeping with the alliteration theme, those two drinks cost us a pretty penny. (Just so you know, Luke and I aren't big liquor drinkers. We typically play it safe with beer and wine, so we definitely didn't have a preference on the liquor. I'm just a goof.) Oh well! What a fun night and awesome start to our trip!

Thursday, August 4, 2011


I'm just a tad bit jealous of my husband who flew off on a jet plane to Seattle, trading the 107+ heat for a high of 77 degrees. But I'm glad one of us got to escape the heat, and I guess he's more deserving since he's been driving around in this hot as Hades Texas summer without A/C. (I'm not sure how he does it, and with temps as high as they've been this week, I've honestly been a bit worried about him in that hot car and am glad he got a break from driving for at least part of this week.) And I can't wait to meet up with him this weekend for a 2nd anniversary rendezvous in New Orleans!

We're going to dine. We're going to drink fine wine (but probably not really that fine). We're going to ride bikes. But mostly we're going to celebrate our sweet marriage that has now been alive and well, thriving even, for two full years. Now that's nothing in the whole scheme of things, but every year holds memories to be recounted and milestones to be celebrated, and I can't wait to do just that all weekend long. No dishes to do. No groceries to buy. No workouts to dread. Just the two of us with a change of scenery. Happy (almost) anniversary to us!

PS: New Orleans recount to come next week. Hopefully, we'll remember to use the camera so that I can include some fun pics! That always makes my writing a bit better. :)

Monday, August 1, 2011

Preparing for Madrid Monday

We've done a few small things to begin preparing for our move to Madrid, like cleaning out junk filled closets and gathering all the information we need to obtain Visas, but this weekend we did the first big, big thing. We put our house up for lease, and now the move feels really real and really soon.

We met with a realtor on Saturday morning, signed all the paperwork and put the sign in our yard. After she left, Luke and I created a Craig's List ad for it just to get the word out a little more. On Sunday morning, we got an email from our Craig's List ad, and then a call that someone wanted to look at it. So we quickly made sure everything was picked up and left for a little while. We heard from the agent that showed it that they liked it and were going to call our listing agent. Hopefully, they were being honest and follow through. What a blessing and relief it would be if the house would go that quickly! Until then, my fingers (and toes) are crossed!

Friday, July 29, 2011


Since I crazily, maybe even stupidly, named our blog "Matthews, Table for Two" I figure I might as well talk about a restaurant every now and then. That brings us to Mexicali, a hole in the wall Mexican restaurant on Northwest Highway just a couple of miles from our house. Luke had just seen it in the Advocate, a local neighborhood magazine, so when we needed a place to eat on Tuesday evening (because I was exhausted and starving and not willing to wait for food to cook in my kitchen), it was the perfect choice.

The place looks like a dump from the outside. And to be honest, it also looks like a dump from the inside. All of the booths were cracking, and there was (literally) a huge hole in the wall next to our table. Appearance aside, though, we liked it, and I'm sure we'll go back soon. The food was pretty good. We split fajitas for one, and there was more than enough for both of us to fill up and take some home (which Luke ate about 2 hours later and the next day for lunch). The chicken was better than the beef, but it was all a bit salty, which makes sense because the waiter told us they use soy sauce in the preparation. We had a bit of a miscommunication with the waiter (or more like he just thought we were dumb). I begged Luke to ask them to not put butter on the fajitas, and for some reason it turned about to be a little bit complicated and the term "non-sizzling" was used a time or two. But I think it turned out the way I wanted because the peppers and onions were most definitely not cooked in butter. (Thanks, Lukas, for always doing the talking for me.)

On to the good stuff. They have all day happy hour on Monday and Tuesday, which meant $1.50 margaritas and draft beer. Luke went for the margarita. I stuck with Bud Light. And the best part. Our entire bill was $21. Pretty super cheap for fajitas and a couple of drinks each. I plan to stock up on Tex Mex in the next few months because it's going to be pretty hard to come by on the other side of the pond. :)

Weekends Galore

Well, apparently I only blog on Fridays. I guess it's better than nothing for the time being. I seriously cannot believe that it's (nearly) August. The summer has flown by, and our time left in the US is dwindling down. When we first found out we were moving to Spain, October 1 seemed so far away. Now, we've only got about 8 (give or take a couple) weekends left before we'll be boarding the plane with a one way ticket to Madrid. (I wonder if we'll be red flagged due to our one way tickets???) Our weekends left, especially in August, are quickly filling up.

Next weekend, we're heading to New Orleans to celebrate our 2nd anniversary! We had been planning to just stay in Dallas and go to a nice dinner or something, but yesterday I discovered that we had enough AA miles to get us to NOLA for free. I told Luke about it, and we decided to do a price line bid for a hotel. If our bid was accepted, we'd go. Well, we're going! At first I had a little regret thinking that we might want a quiet weekend at home blah-blah-blah, but I've gotten over that. (Side note: I'm not sure I've ever made a decision without at least a tiny bit of regret.) We like to go places, and if we're able to right now before we have a family, we might as well go when and where we please. (Hopefully, that theory won't send us straight to the poor house.) So I'm super excited and have spent the whole morning researching restaurants and things to do! There's a huge, free Jazz festival while we're there, and a bunch of the restaurants are participating in Coolinary, which is basically NOLA's version of Restaurant week, so we shouldn't have a problem keeping ourselves entertained or nourished. (Not that I was ever really worried about that. :))

The following weekend we're headed to Norman to hang out with Luke's family and hometown friends. This most likely we'll be our last chance to see everybody before we ship out. The last 2 weekends in August are currently free, but I'm hoping we'll be packing and moving out of our house. We're meeting with our realtor tomorrow and officially putting our house up for lease. I'm crossing my fingers that it goes sooner rather than later. Number 1: I don't want to have to worry about whether or not it will lease before we move and Number 2: I want a good excuse to move home with my padres for our last month in Texas. That way, we'll all be good and sick of each other and won't even be sad when we move 5,000 miles away. :)

That brings us to Labor Day weekend, and we'll be going to Chicago with Adam, where he will meet up with his homegirl. The next weekend falls right before my birthday. We've tossed around the idea of going to Little Rock for a Razorback game, but no for sure plans have been made yet. The rest of September, I'm sure we'll be packing, finalizing details for the move, and soaking up all the time with family that we can get.

This weekend, we're meeting with the realtor, finishing the final touches on our new fence that our family so graciously helped us with last week and enjoying date night on Saturday to use up a groupon before it expires next week. Happy weekend!

Friday, July 15, 2011

Work Out Wrap-Up #2

This week I wanted to focus on getting back in the habit of morning work-outs. While Luke was working late during busy season, I started excercising in the evenings since I wasn't in such a rush to get home to an empty house. Now that it's so hot and we have more going on in the evenings, I really want to amp up the AM workouts. I did good in the mornings Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday. Thursday was a rest day, and Friday I ended up working out during lunch because we stayed up cleaning way too late the night before and couldn't make it out of bed. Here's what the week looked like:

We have family coming into town this weekend to celebrate Luke's birthday on Sunday, but I'm planning on getting one more workout in to make it 5 total for the week. I'm thinking I'll get up early on Saturday morning and try to get a run in before everyone else is up and going. Cheers to a wonderful weekend, and happy birthday to my sweet husband, Luke! Hopefully, I'll be back next week with a birthday recap!

Aunt Jan

I hate reading/subscribing to a blog, and then the only time it's updated is for the writer to say, "Sorry! I've been so busy. I haven't had time to blog!" Unfortunately, it looks like I'm that type of blogger (at least for now while I'm working). I hope that during my 18 month sabatical I really keep this thing consistently updated to document all of our experiences in Espana. But anyway, I've been so busy I haven't had time to blog. This was actually my first week back to work after three weeks, and I think we all know that I'm not going to take time away from my free time to blog. :)

Why was I away for 3 whole weeks? First, we went to NY for the GEP orientation, which was really helpful. Maybe I'll talk more about that in my next "Just Another Madrid Monday" post. (Sooner than later, I hope). We came home from that trip late on a Friday night and left early Sunday morning for a week in Outer Banks, NC with Luke's extended family. What a great week we had! The beach and beach house were beautiful, and there really is nothing better than waking up whenever you want, leisurely enjoying breakfast and coffee, and then heading down to the beach for the rest of the day. We got back from that trip on July 2nd, and unfortunately, on the 4th, we learned that our family had lost my mom's youngest sister, my Aunt Jan. So we all packed up and headed to Arkansas to be with our family.

Fortunately, I've been blessed enough to not have had to say good-bye to very many family members. In fact, this is the first close family member we've lost that I'm actually old enough to really remember and truly understand. It's not easy. For anybody. So many people are affected. I love my Aunt Jan so very much and will always miss her, but my heart deeply hurts for her husband, who will have to find his way through this world on his own now; for my Nana, who had to bury her youngest daughter; and for my mom and her siblings, who lost their baby sister. Pray for those people and for our other family and Jan's friends who have been affected by her unexpected passing. She will be so very missed for so long.

Everyone who knew my Aunt Jan knew that she was full of life and lived every minute to the fullest, and you could go on and on about how care free and always ready for a party she was. But, instead of doing that, I want to share my most favorite memory of Aunt Jan. She was a teacher, and while we were growing up, she got her first classroom at Beard Elementary in Ft. Smith, AR. Everytime we went to visit, she'd take us up to her classroom, and let us write on the chalkboards and projector, help decorate for the first day of school, and play teacher for as long as we wanted. This may not sound like much, but for a little girl who was literally OBSESSED with becoming a teacher, it was a dream come true. Then for one of my birthdays (I can't remember which one exactly), she got me the teacher's edition of a 3rd grade English book. Are you kidding me??? It was awesome! It had the answers and everything, and I sure did use the heck out of it, right along with my grade book that was filled with the names and grades of 24 fake students. I think that is one of the most memorable gifts from my childhood.

Last week in Arkansas, everyone talked about how much Aunt Jan loved teaching, and it made me wish that I had followed my heart and done that instead. Hopefully, when we come back from Spain, the education budget drama will have turned around, and I can pay honor to Aunt Jan by making a career change and hopefully continue in her legacy of loving those children, loving learning and forever making an impact on young,needy lives through teaching.

Please keep my family in your thoughts and prayers.

Friday, June 17, 2011

Just Another Madrid Monday

So I'm starting a new "series" that I'll call Just Another Madrid Monday because....Luke and I are moving to Madrid, Spain! For my first Madrid Monday, I'll go back to the beginning and how this all came to be.

I think it all started some time in mid to late February. I was working from home that day due to icy conditions, but Luke was braving the roads into work because he had a few important things to wrap up and was supposed to have lunch with Scott, the partner on his main client. Just randomly before he left, I told Luke to tell Scott that he was quitting in August unless he could do the Global Exchange Progam (GEP) and go work abroad for a year. At the lunch, Scott did ask Luke about his plans for the future, and Luke mentioned the GEP to him (although he probably didn't exactly say, "I'm quitting unless...."). Scott was really open to the idea, told Luke that he had just seen an email about the application process and that he would look into it as soon as they got back to the office.

Back at the office, they found the email and realized that the first application was due that Friday. I think it was Wednesday at this point. Luckily, there wasn't too much involved (on Luke's part) in the first stage of the application process. Basically, before you are even allowed to submit an application for the GEP, you have to have the support of your own home office and the National office in NY and be selected to continue in the application process. With Scott's help, the appropriate people knew that Luke was interested in the GEP right away, and they included his name in the list of the potential candidates that was due to the National office on that Friday. A few weeks passed before we found out that Luke had been accepted in the first round and could submit an application.

So begins the second stage of the application process. In this stage, Luke had to provide all his personal information, submit a resume and answer a few questions such as "Why are you applying to the GEP?" and "How will your home office benefit from your participation in the GEP?". He also had to plan out what destination he wanted to go to and what clients he would work on while there. This part took a lot of talking/planning between Luke and Scott, and Scott also helped out a lot by making connections with people in Spain, which was Luke's targeted destination. After submitting the application, there was a lot of waiting. We submitted it at the very beginning of March. It wasn't until April 1 that we found out that the US office had accepted his application, but that was only half of it. He also had to have an interview with the Spanish office and be separately accepted by that office. So after April 1, we just continued to wait. We knew that Luke would have an interview but we had no idea when.

Finally, on May 19, Luke was contacted by the Spain office and an interview was set for Monday, May 23. On May 23, Luke had his interview in SPANISH over the phone. He left feeling okay about the interview. Before this point in the application process, though, we didn't realize that there would potentially be people from all the world interviewing and trying to go to Spain. So, while Luke thought his interview went well, he thought it probably didn't go as well as say an interview with somebody from Latin America who speaks Spanish as their first language. We dropped the probability of being chosen down to less than 50% and continued to wait two more weeks, which was when they told him he would hear back from the Spain office.

Two weeks passed. And then three weeks passed. Then three weeks and three days in, we finally heard that Luke had been accepted, and we would be going to Spain. And before I go any further, let me take a minute to brag on my amazing husband. Luke was 1 of only 18 people from all of North America that was accepted into the GEP. And Ernst & Young is no joke. They hire the best, and they demand a TON. So for him to be accepted is a major accomplishment. And they made the right decision. Luke is such a hard worker, full of integrity and taking ownership in all he does. It doesn't matter if it's the smallest task or something he is dreading having to do, he does it all the way. It's nice to know that the people who work with Luke recognize this as well and have been behind him 100% throughout the whole process. And now back to Spain. :)

Right now, we still have a ton of questions. We know that Luke will be expected to start work in Spain on October 1 (though this is subject to change if the immigration process takes longer than expected), and we know that the term of his contract is 18 months, which will put us back in the good ole US of A in April 2013. But that's literally all we know right now. We're heading to NYC tomorrow morning for GEP orientation, where we hope to get answers to some of our questions.

We are so excited for this next stage in our lives. I expect that there will be many highs and lows, triumphs and challenges, smiles and tears. Leaving our family will be extremely difficult, but we're already making plans for trips back to the states and trips to Spain (as long as Mom can find enough happy pills to last the full 9 hours of flight time :)). I imagine 18 months will fly by, as time seems to do these days. So though some times will be more difficult than others, I can't imagine that we will ever look back on this time with regret.

Look forward to more Madrid Mondays, and eventually Madrid every day, as I definitely plan to use this blog to keep up with family while we're away and to document our experience from the big move to our European travels to how we settle into our new normal in Madrid.

Work Out Wrap-Up

Luke and I are currently in the 3rd week of P90X although it's taken us more like 3.5 weeks to get to this point due to our trip to Nashville and other random excuses. I still can't do as many pull ups as I could this time last year, but I feel myself getting stronger and improving. We've primarily been getting up in the morning to get the workout over with, and it's nice to have each other as motivation to get going so early. This morning, however, we failed. We should have gotten up to do Shoulders and Arms, but we just weren't feeling it and decided to put it off until tomorrow since we have plans with the fam tonight. I told myself that I would go to the gym at lunch to make up for not getting the workout in this morning, and all morning I was dreading it. Finally, at 12:30 I made up my mind that I was going to force myself to go, like it or not. I headed over to to arm myself with one of her interval workouts. On a lazy, lacking motivation day, I figured it'd be better to go in with a plan to make sure I didn't just waste my time. As soon as I saw the lazy girl workout, I knew it was the one for me today! I printed out the plan and headed to the gym to complete a workout that looked like this:

I altered it just a little from the lazy girl workout, and tacked on 2 extra minutes at the end because it bothers me to get off the treadmill at a random distance. The 2 extra minutes got me to an even 4 miles. At first, I thought it was going to be a little bit too easy, but once I got to minute 25, it really picked up and got my blood a pumpin. I left the treadmill with a raised heart rate, sweaty clothes and glad that I forced myself to do it even when I didn't want to. After that lazy girl work out, my week looked like this:

All in all, it was a pretty good week, especially considering how much we had going on in the evenings. Tuesday night we went to spin and dinner with Chandler; Wednesday was Ben Folds with the Dallas Symphony Orchestra, and Thursday I met up with Luke and some of his work buddies for a happy hour (times 5). Saturday, we're going to get back on track with P90X Arms & Shoulders, and I might try to talk Luke into another spin class as well but we'll see how that goes. Sunday, we'll either run, rest, swim or P90x. Next week, we're traveling to NYC so I'm going to arm myself with many more treadmill workouts from so that I won't draw a blank once I drag myself into the hotel fitness center in the wee hours of the morning. I can't wait for NYC, and I'll surely have some good food to write about after that trip! Ready for the weekend!

PS: This little wrap-up was fun, so I think I'll strive to make it a weekly occurence. :)

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

ATTN: Sales - Stolen Sylvie Wedding Band and Engagement Ring

Thursday afternoon, I went to LA Fitness, like I frequently do, on my lunch break. When I came out of the gym about an hour later, I was shocked to see my front passenger side window shattered and my purse gone. Seriously! I was parked in the front row within eye sight of the entrance, and it was the middle of the freaking day!!! I mean, who does that?

After I called Luke and calmed down a bit, I went back into the club to tell the manager. He was already aware of the break in because somebody had told him, but apparently, no one saw it happen. I told him it wasn't that big of a deal (though it was a huge hassle) because I had my phone with me and could just cancel my cards, and he gave me the non-emergency number to report it to the police.

While I was on the phone with the lady at the police department, it hit me. Both of my wedding rings were in my purse. I literally lost it on the phone with the lady and could barely finish giving her my information. I immediately called Luke and he, of couse, was not mad at me, but so sad as well. After waiting and talking to the police and crying my eyes out, it was late, and I was too upset and tear stained to go back to work. I went to get Luke a little early, and we found a place with Wifi where we looked up numbers for pawn shops in the area (just in case). While calling around to the pawn shops, we found out that there's something called the National Pawn Shop registry. Basically, pawn shops are supposed to report merchandise they buy to this system, and then police departments are able to search it for stolen items. So we got the name of the lady in charge of the Pawn Shop detail at the Irving Police Department and made sure that she had the best possible description of my rings. Unfortunately, I would say there's slim to no chance of the rings being recovered, especially as time passes.

To have something stolen from you is such a devastating feeling, and really, there is absolutely nothing I can do to make it better. I've walked through a pawn shop or two with no luck. (My ring would have stuck out like a sore thumb from what I saw.) We've called and faxed descriptions of the rings to the local Gold & Silver exchange buyers just in case. And now we just wait. And hope for the best. And hope that as time goes by, the sadness and thoughts of "what if" go away.

I've gone over and over that day in my head, and if I'd done one of a billion things differently, this might not have happened.

First, it's not a normal thing for me to put my rings in my purse. I have a rash on my finger, though, and the rings have been irritating it. The day before this happened, I left my rings at home because I'd been messing with them too much and was afraid I would accidentally lose them. This morning, for some reason, I decided to wear them again. By the time I got to work, they were already bothering me, so I put them in my purse so that I wouldn't accidentally leave them on my desk at work overnight. What if I hadn't done that? What if I'd left them at home? What if my car had been broken into the day before when I also went to the gym at lunch?

I was busy working that morning and didn't go to lunch until around 1. What if I'd gone just a little bit earlier?

When I left for lunch, I was going back and forth between going to the gym or going to browse around Target. I'd already worked out with Luke that morning, and if I went to the gym, I was only going to walk just so I could get a little break from sitting at my desk. If I went to Target, though, I'd be tempted to buy things I didn't need, and I didn't need to spend the money. The gym won. What if I'd just gone to Target?

All week, I'd still been carrying the small, tan cross-body purse that I took on our trip to Nashville. Right before I left the house that morning, I decided to switch purses back to my huge, gray purse. It's seriously large - probably more of a tote than a purse. What if I hadn't done that? The tan of the first purse would have blended in with the tan of my seats, and the small size would have made it less visible.

What if I had put my purse in the trunk? What if I had remembered that my rings were in my purse and put them back on before going into the gym? What if I had stuck my wallet into my gym bag? What if I had done something, anything, differently?

Luke has been so sweet and perfect and understanding through all of this. He says you can't do what if's because what if? What if I'd gone to Target and gotten into a horrible wreck on the way? What if I'd left the gym as soon as I was finished instead of being delayed by the break in drama? You never know.

And maybe some good will come out of this. My sweet six year old niece, Shelby, overheard my mom talking about what happened after I called her. She asked Poppy, my dad, why God would make somebody that would do that. He told her that God gives us the ability to choose, and sometimes people make the wrong decisions. So maybe she learned a big life lesson and will always choose to make the right decisions so that other people don't get hurt or sad.

And maybe the thug that stole my rings has an impatient girlfriend that's really been putting on the pressure and has been begging him to propose. Maybe this was the push he needed to finally pop the question, and they can start a beautiful life together. (Just Kidding. I do NOT hope that at ALL!)

Although I loved my rings and what they symbolized and am still very sad about what has happened, I'm so glad that nothing worse happened. We don't have the rings, but we still have each other. And maybe someday in a very long time, I'll get to upgrade. (Just kidding again. Mine were PERFECT.)

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Nashville - Days 2 & 3

We slept Friday night while visions of antiques danced in our heads. So we woke up fairly early Saturday morning, grabbed a coffee to go and headed out to the Nashville flea market. I drooled at this sign.

Despite my excitement, though, we didn't buy much. We found an old blue lantern that just happened to match the living room of Ben & Em's house, so we grabbed it for them as a small thank you gift. Hopefully, they like it. We also picked up 5 small, brown bottles. Right now, they're just sitting on the fireplace, but I hope to clean them up and come up with a better idea for them soon!

After walking around the flea market until we were sure we'd seen it all, we headed out to Franklin, a little city just outside of Nashville. Here we browsed around a few stores and got a bite to eat. While we were eating the most fabulous grilled grouper sandwich ever, we got a text from my Aunt Jana that there was live music in Centennial Park that afternoon. So we finished the sandwich, got Luke a Ben&Jerry's cone to go, and headed back to Nashville. One thing about Nashville is that it's easy to find good music. We really enjoyed the outdoor concert and visiting with Jana and Bruce.

After dinner with the Roberts, Luke and I checked out Broadway for a bit. First, we made a stop by the famous Tootsies.

It's famous because it is so close to the Ryman Auditorium that musicians used to hang out at Tootsies until the very last minute that they had to leave to be on stage. Other than that, it's tiny and crowded. After "Excuse me" and "I'm sorry"-ing our way through the packed bar, we got lucky enough to find a seat at the back.

After Tootsies, we made another quick stop for a little karaokee where we saw not 1 or 2 but 4 bachelorette parties, and then called it a night.

Day 3.

Sunday started out pretty similar to Saturday. Rise early and grab a coffee to go at the nearby Bongo Coffee shop.

This time, though, we headed out to the Harpeth River for a 9.5 mile canoe trip. We got going on the river around 10:30 and due to our expert canoing skills, we were finshed by about 1. We probably should have taken our time a little more, but we still really enjoyed our time on the river. And by the time we were finished, the river and all nearby parking lots for canoers were PACKED, so maybe it's a good thing we finished early. It was a beautiful day!

The sun and the canoing drained us, so we grabbed a bite to eat and then decided to rest for a bit. Later that evening, we had a forgettable dinner and then went back to 5 Points to take advantage of the 2 for 1 at Beyond the Edge.

Monday morning we got an early start to our 10 hr drive and were on the road by 6 am and home around 4 pm. We certainly enjoyed our time away, but it is always soooo good to be home. Now if I can just get the motivation to unpack!