Friday, December 9, 2016

The Best Hostess Gift / What to Bring to Christmas Dinner

Let's cut right to the chase.

We've all been in the situation when you are invited to a friend's house for dinner, or a Christmas party, or a gathering really of any sort and you feel like you can't show up empty-handed. What's the easiest thing to bring?? Why of course -- a bottle of wine.* But everyone does that and the host probably already has a ton of wine on hand since they are hosting the party.

So here's what you should bring:

Trader Joe's Syrah-soaked Toscano cheese.

And you should bring it with one of these cracker options, also from Trader Joe's:

And you can thank me later. 

I'm not joking. 

If all else fails, you could always find a cute hat and scarf combo from JCrew. 

Life-size dollbaby not included

For realz, this cheese is something else. It's just that good! I first had it last week at a friend's baby shower and my life hasn't been the same since. Go get it now at Trader Joe's. Go go go!

*I have nothing against wine. I love wine. If you are still worried about bringing only cheese and crackers as a hostess gift and feel like you need to pack an extra punch, of course you can still bring wine. Make it a red though.


Thursday, December 8, 2016

A Scene from the Sofa

Sometimes Michael and I will play Catch Phrase with each other as we sit on the sofa. We just go back and forth with each other over and over until the buzzer goes off. (Think this is weird? Yes, perhaps.) Yesterday, Michael's phrase was "Anne Frank."

He said:

She's was a pioneer of woman's suffrage!

I said:

Susan B. Anthony!

He said:


And then the buzzer went off. I then asked who it was he was trying to get me to guess.

He said:

Anne Frank!

I said:

What?! She died in the Holocaust.

He said:


So there you have it. In school, I excelled in the humanities. Michael was all math and science. We go together like ra-ma-la-ma-la-ma ka-ding-a-la-ding-a-dong. But really, here's hoping that Liza Love gets the best of both of us.

In other important news, Liza Love is now 21 months old and is hilarious. She packs more personality in her little 27 lb. bod than most do in their full-grown frames. She is super aggressive in her loving, and I have to watch her like a hawk around other kids her age lest she grabs someone's hair or knocks anyone down.

She currently does this face that we've dubbed "The Fish Face" -- she tilts her head back and looks down her nose at you while opening and closing her puckered lips -- just like a fish. Last Sunday, while picking up Chinese food after church, we discovered a fish tank that we hadn't seen before. WELL. LL thought stars were falling from Heaven!





What are these slippery creatures



This picture kills me

Holding me hostage to discuss the plan about the fish


I love this chica.

Saturday, August 27, 2016

(Late) Summer Reads 2016

I know that summer is basically over, but maybe you are still in search of a great read to carry you through Labor Day and into the fall??

Reading is for meeeee

Gosh I am practically brimming over with excitement for the fall, really for one reason: PUMPKIN SPICE LATTES.

No, I'm kidding. I just said that to be cliché. I don't even like those things. The real reason I am humming with excitement for fall is because I don't know if I can survive one more day of this summer heat. Beating the heat is what I'm about right now. The name of my game is "What To Do With A 17-Month Old Toddler and Not Melt??" I'll tell you what: stay inside and play Noah's ark for the 100th time.

Anyway, here are a few books that I've read lately and have greatly enjoyed.

When Crickets Cry -- Charles Martin: I'm hesitant to say this because I don't want to dissuade you from reading it, but this novel sits like a Nicolas Sparks novel: Beautiful southern countryside, good people who are down on their luck, and a little bit of love. I loved the characters in this book so much that I found myself worrying about them throughout the day and having to remind myself that they weren't real. It's beautifully written and makes you cry, laugh, celebrate, and want to sit on the front porch with a beer and a friend.

The Kitchen House --  Kathleen Grissom: This is a story about slaves and their masters on a Virginia plantation and a young white girl caught between those two worlds. It'a a fictional but flabbergasting account of what use to be commonplace in our country, and I couldn't put this book down.

When Breath Becomes Air -- Paul Kalanithi: This fabulously-written memoir about a young neurosurgeon's struggle with his own mortality after being diagnosed with terminal cancer had me at hello. It felt especially personal to me because Michael is a neurosurgeon, and it helped me understand his world much better. But don't let that stop you from reading it -- countless people who aren't immediately connected to neurosurgery have talked with us about this book. Don't read this without tissues, but man, it's good.

The Shoemaker's Wife -- Adriana Trigiani: Oh for the love of all things beautiful, stop what you're doing right this minute and go read this book. It's the greatest love story stretching from the Alps of Northern Italy in the early 1900s, to New York City in the 1920s to Minnesota in the 1940s and beyond. I simply adored it. Enza and Ciro will forever be in my heart! I did have a friend who actually didn't like this book.... if you are not into gorgeous (sometimes long) descriptions and a sort of drawn out love story, then this book isn't for you.

Eligible -- Curtis Sittenfeld: This is a modern day retelling of Pride and Prejudice. It's a total chicklit page-turner that I flew through, despite it being very ribald and off-color. I felt like the author felt a need to blow the roof off every social issue of our times (transgender issues, racial issues, premarital sex, feminism) while also going down a strange plot centered around a reality TV show. I don't think everyone will like this book, and it's not a work of literature by any stretch, but it's a quick and entertaining summer read.

The Royal We -- Heather Cocks and Jessica Morgan: I actually read this one last year so the details are a bit fuzzy, but the bottom line is that I loved this book. Just like the previous description, it's not a work of fine literature by any means, but it's an absorbing look into a fictional account of Prince William and Princess Kate -- their meeting, courtship and engagement. It's another one that I couldn't put down. It's nothing life-changing, but the pure entertainment and insight into the royal world made it worth it to me.

Loved Walked In -- Marisa de Los Santos: Despite all the characters being too rich or too smart or too kind or too handsome or living in a too perfect home, this story made me smile from ear to ear. It also sort of broke my heart at times, but it ends well. Gosh I wish all books could just be like this one: redemptive, quirky, and romantic.

That's all I've got for now. I hope you at least read one book this summer that you loved! And that you can make it to the beach if you haven't already.... or at least get a beach read and pretend you're there. The beach sure is different for me now with this chick in tow:

"You shall not read. You shall play with me at all times."

"I laugh at your attempt to read! There are birds! We must point at the birds!"

Oh little one, you are a hoot.

Saturday, July 2, 2016

5 Years

Today is our 5 year anniversary. Woot! 

It's your anni???

Let's go dance!

Lend me the mic for a minute here: 

I have a man who (for some reason) loves me and who has the most gorgeous eyes in the world. I could stop right there with that but I'll go on. He is my Italian stallion who still makes my heart go wubba wubba (go with it.) He can cook, he can garden, he can do brain surgery (well... he's getting there,) he can't sing but he can dance. He is crazily in touch with his emotions -- way way way more than me, he is kind and genuine and smells good, he cries with me when we watch Parenthood together, he looks hot with a weed wacker, he somehow can stay focused on whatever he's doing even when Liza Love is being THE cutest nugget in the world (this being the reason why I can't get anything done... I stare at her all day.) He tries everyday to honor Jesus with his thoughts, words, and deeds, and he is the best loser when I consistently win at gin and speed scrabble (why yes, actually we are indeed 75 years old.) Gaaa I love my man. 

That very same man just started his second year of residency and is crushing it so far. Unfortunately for us with today being our 5 year anniversary, he's on call at the hospital today and tonight. (PSA: Being "on call" as a lower resident means you are actually in the hospital; you don't get to take home call until you are a senior resident. The things I learn...) So we haven't actually gotten to spend time together today, aside from 15 minutes of coffee sipping at 4:30 this afternoon when LL and I paid him a brief visit at the hospital. 

Now let me be clear: this is NOT a pity party here for me right now. I am feeling loved and celebrated by Michael with a great dinner and a movie last weekend, and today with some fun pampering activities that he booked for me. In fact, the fact that I'm sitting on the sofa alone on a Saturday night is honestly ok with me! If Michael was gone every Saturday night, sure, that would be hard (and actually that sort of is the case this year,) but I've got a good book and I need to catch up on the Bachelorette (true story) so I'm in good company. And there are early 4th of July fireworks going off outside so that's fun. Until they wake up my sleeping baby... 

The whole reason I even opened my computer and started typing all that I just typed is because I am feeling so grateful to a dear friend who brought me ice cream tonight! She knew I was alone on my anniversary evening and popped over just a few minutes ago to bring over some Graeter's. Another PSA: if you don't know about Graeter's, honey you are missing out! I'm saying this like I'm some loyal devotee to the brand. I'm really not, except that it is pretty dang good and I have a happy memory of a friend from college bringing it down to UVA from Ohio. To this day, I still remember how amazing the coconut flavor was. I mean, Graeter's is the stuff of dreams! Or maybe the fluff of dreams? Anyway, it's an Ohio ice cream company and lo and behold, it's sold here in Durham! So maybe they sell it near you, too. Woooo -- ALL THAT TO SAY -- it was a sweet and simple gesture that my friend brought over ice cream, but it has made me so happy tonight and feeling loved and known and cared for. I am singing the Lord's praises for her and the gift of a friend that she is. 

Yes, it's July and our Christmas cards are still on the fridge. These are our people!

If you're still reading this, hit pause while I go fix myself a bowl of ice cream right quick. If I don't return, it's because I've died and gone to heaven.





Or actually, I'm just out of things to say for now. I love my man. I love my ice cream friend. I love my friends who are all gathered at a Texas lakehouse this weekend to celebrate their 30th birthdays. I love my snapchat friend who keeps snapping me from that lakehouse to keep me in the loop. I love my baby girl. I even love how North Carolina has brought out the country in me so much so that I have this song stuck in my head right now. One word: TWANG. 

5 years!

Saturday, June 11, 2016

Mon Petit Pomme Frite

The Art of Eating a French Fry
Liza Love Catalino

Hit pause and admire that little neck


French fry compliments of HopDoddy Burger Bar in Dallas, Texas on April 21, 2016. 

Tuesday, March 1, 2016

Goodnight Georgetown

Little big girl cruisin' the hood.

It's been nine months since we moved away from DC. And it's been nine months of not a single day going by without something triggering some thought, memory, person, scene, or scenario from our life there. I might be in the grocery store buying apples and recall my love affair with the amazing apple selection from the Georgetown Safeway (best apples ever!) I might be taking a walk around our neighborhood lake and still expect to see hundreds of people by the water before I remember that Durham, North Carolina is a lot less densely populated than Washington, D.C. I might be looking at Instagram and notice that a DC friend posted a pic of a new Georgetown restaurant and momentarily forget that I don't live there as I get excited to try it out.

Tricycle date with our man E

The first several months in Durham felt to me like an extended stay in someone else's house. It felt like we were just waiting for another away rotation to be over so we could return home to our Georgetown apartment. I couldn't believe that I actually had to load Liza Love in the car (gasp!!) and drive to the grocery store instead of walking there in five minutes. And with that, of course, came a little something called MEAL PLANNING which I had never done before in my life. I learned pretty quickly that I better jump on the meal planning bandwagon or I was going to spend my life loading LL in the car and driving back and forth to the store to buy food for dinner.

And who's got time for that??? 

I've also noticed how much one season changing to the next creates such a longing in me for my old city. When summer slowly turned to fall, I daydreamed about the city-wide phenomonon of women switching from sandals and skirts one day to boots and leggings the next. I can hear the clicking of boots on brick sidewalk, I remember the excitement when pumpkin-spice lattes came out, and how crazy the Halloween decorations are that show up every October in Georgetown. When DC got dumped with snow a few weeks ago, I so wanted to be there to be snowed in and forced to walk to friends' houses to watch movies and drink hot chocolate. And with spring right around the corner, I know that the tulips in our old front yard are going to pop up, red and welcoming, just like they did the previous four years.

"Hi. I'm #1 and I love my tongue" - LL 

I miss so much about Georgetown. So many things come to mind that were seemingly small and insignificant but meaningful to me nonetheless: the beautiful flowers on the corner of Q and 32nd Street and the big white retriever named Cody-Dakota who always lounged on the sidewalk; Montrose Park where I used to take a book and a blanket to read and sunbathe; walking by Los Cuates and always getting a wave from the waiters who knew Michael and me so well since we ate there all the time; the old lady named Joy who always (I mean always) wore all white and walked her little white dog, Valentine, everywhere she went; the cars honking in the morning on 33rd Street trying to turn left onto Wisconsin Ave.; Santos, our little waiter friend at Casbah Cafe, and his genuine excitement whenever we came in to eat; my favorite running loop down Q Street and up Mass Ave. and remembering the exact spot where I took a huge tumble once while running with Michael; the roses that climbed the wall of my friend Jessie's house; the waterfront and the throngs of people strolling hand in hand on every warm weekend afternoon; the kayaks and paddleboards on the Potomac; evening walks with Michael and peeking into the beautiful Georgetown homes and commenting on the usually gorgeous (but sometimes creepy) interior decorating; the African Union Mission across the street from our apartment and the kind chauffeurs who smoked and chatted as they hovered around their cars all day; the line at Thomas Sweets every summer night that always surprised me at how long it seemed but how short the wait actually was; Michael's walk down Resevoir Road to the med school and how I sometimes would surprise him and walk home with him at the end of the day; the crazies who stood in line at Georgetown Cupcake waiting for a little sweet treat; the little Italian women who stuffed raviolis in the window of Filomena; the hidden streets and quiet gardens that Michael and I loved so much; the black SUVs always sitting outside of Secretary Kerry's house on O Street; the insane Georgetown undergrads who never had coats but always had the tiniest skirts on while going to bars in the middle of winter; sitting at the Volta Park Pool and overhearing a wide range of conversations - from where to buy weed to how to teach your child to swim; and Book Hill Park and how much I loved going there for a quick jaunt outside, even with the homeless men always asleep on the benches.

Little ham. (Clearly, these pictures do not correspond with this post.) 

I realize of course that now with a little one in tow, much of these things (like the fun of being snowed-in) probably wouldn't hold as much as the charm now that they do in my memories. And I'm certainly not forgetting that there are so many things about DC living that were hard (like trying to drive anywhere between 4 and 7pm.) But we lived in a historical and influential and often crazy city that deeply impacted our lives. I wrote this recently in an email to a friend:

GIRL. Can we have a moment of lamentation for DC?? Not a day goes by when I don't miss it. Actually, LONG for it. I miss the people and dear friends of course, but I think what I feel on a daily basis is more of an innate missing for the city as a whole. The traffic, the sounds, the people out walking their dogs, my local Georgetown spots that I knew and loved, the weather, the changing seasons, my runs (that had turned into walks with a stroller by the time we moved away last May) up Mass Ave. past the embassies, the "important" feeling you often had because you knew you were living in an "important" city, walking to church in Chinatown, the amazing restaurants a stone's throw away, the history of the place.... oh I could go on and on. I miss it deeply and often think about what it would have been like to still be there even with Ms. Liza Love.

I'm easy. I fit in anywhere. I love you.

We are really happy in Durham, but it's quite different. It's slower here, and I don't think that it's just because I'm home more often than I was before. Michael and I knew we were going to really miss DC when we moved away, but to my surprise, even Michael has said that he could see us moving back there, or to another big city, in the future. Of course, that is still at least seven years away, so who knows what our lives will be like then.

2 margaritas has us like... 

But for now, I miss DC. It's been nine months and we are definitely where we are meant to be, but it's not easy to let go of a city that you lived in, loved in, and that shaped so much of you. It's where Michael and I spent our first fours years of marriage -- and those are some special years. I hope that we can grow to love Durham and Chapel Hill in the same way.  It's where we are!


Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Goodbye in her Eyes

Our trusty, faithful Jeep has been towed no less than fifteen times in the past five years. I'm pretty sure she's just begging for us to let her wander off to a body of water to die (this is what dogs do... FYI), but we keep giving her the courage to keep on keepin' on. And by courage, what I mean is that we have pumped mucho dinero into her these past several years, so the thought of letting her go makes me mad at all the mechanics who have promised that she's still got some miles left in her.

Whenever she gets another tow, I've gotten in the habit of always taking a picture juuuuust in case it's the last time I see her. For the record, I realize that not everyone gives their car a masculine or feminine pronoun (a lot of people do name their cars...weirdos...) but saying "it" just doesn't sound right. I can totally relate to Sarah in season 1 of Parenthood when she cries as her old, junky car is towed away forever. How can you not tear up over the car that's been with you since you were seventeen? Mariposa (oooops, caught me... the Jeep has a name) was there for HP cross country practice in scorching, triple digit, late August heat. She took me to and from UVA eight times. She survived Snowmaggedon in 2010 and the streets of DC for six years. She was there when I fell in love with Michael. She didn't drive Liza Love home from the hospital but that's only because we walked. She didn't tucker out on us when we made the move to Durham. She wasn't jealous of my new car and didn't throw a tantrum when she was bequeathed to Michael for his sole use. She even made it out a few weeks ago during the snowstorm to make sure we didn't starve because yours truly didn't stock the pantry with essentials. She's been there for me for over 13 years! Not a lot else has been with me, I mean physically in the same place as me, for that long.

As the Jeep was being towed away today, "Goodbye in her Eyes" was playing on repeat in my head. Is that a sign???  It might be the last time I see her, but maybe not. I think Michael and I were hoping to NOT buy a new car this year, but time will tell.

In other news, Liza Love is 11 months old. Excuse me while I go cry in the corner.

"Hi, I'm Liza Love and I don't sit still."

"I dare you to try to get a non-blurry pic of me."

"Ok, how about a non-blurry pic where I'm actually looking at the camera."

"Bahaha I laugh at your effort, mom."

Monday, January 4, 2016

2015: A Year in Review

(This post's a few days late,
It's how most days unfold;
All I can say in defense is:
Blame my 10-month old!)

Who, me?? 

Look what we have here!
Will wonders never stop??
A year come and gone,
And this one's hard to top. 

2 became 3

2015 started in the car,
Driving down through the south;
Michael's residency interviews came a'callin,
With lots of candy in my mouth.

Why, dare you ask? 
Because I was 8 months preg-go;
Baby girl kept my sweet tooth strong,
Counting the days til she said "hell-o!"

And swiftly that day came,
Early March heard lots of coos;
For right after a big snowstorm
Liza Love made her debut! 

hi baby love

This girl rocked our world
Holy cow, we're parents now!
Lucky for us, she slept a lot
Giving us time to learn how... 

To change her diapers and wash her feet,
To make her smile and be discreet;
To get the stroller down the stairs,
To make sure all her socks had pairs.

To nurse her long and love her good,
To take thousands of pictures in our 'hood;
To cherish every moment sweet
With this girl we were so glad to meet.

Just wondering  -- what do we do with you??

No wonder we all slept so much.
Cutest things in the world


Just two weeks with the wee one - 
Yes, life really was groovin';
Michael matched at UNC
To Chapel Hill we were a'movin.

It was pretty amazing how much stuff we had in our TINY apartment

Leaving DC wasn't easy,
In fact, much sorrow it did bring;
Such fond memories were made there,
I hope to visit in the spring. 

Last picnic at the Waterfront

To say goodbye to dear friends,
Surely this was no easy feet;
We loved our spot, we loved our 'hood,
Right there on 33rd Street. 

Last Jetties lunch

But the Lord went before us,
That alone I know is true;
He welcomed us to Durham
Where all the world is blue.

First meal in the new house

There's those Duke Blue Devils 
That Michael once called his kin;
But now we are fair Tarheels - 
Light blue sweatshirts for the win!

At the Duke lacrosse alumni game. My boyfriend/husband even scored a goal! Swoon.
With Rameses the Ram
We slipped away in June
And took our baby on a trip;
To Colorado with best friends,
They make our hearts go skip.

Then residency - Oh the beast! 
It started fair and square. 
Need a young neurosurgeon?? 
I know one with pretty hair :) 

See what I mean?

Michael's learning up a storm,
Is it time yet to retire??
But he's got time for his girls,
He even makes us fire!

We've made some dear friends here,
In that the Lord sure does provide;
A small group through our church - 
A safehaven to confide. 

I've also met some friends
Whose husbands also wear green scrubs;
We encourage and love each other
To encourage and love our hubs.

"Yiza" and her boyfriend Ezra whose dad is also a resident and whose mom if my dear friend.

Young love

Liza Love, she made the rounds:
The beach, Dallas and C-ville;
This girl's got some travel prowess,
And she's got looks to kill.

Beaching it with the Cats! 

She leaves her mark when traveling,
I can see her strategize;
Both a diaper explosion and some vomit...
Southwest Airlines, I do apologize. 

Cute but deadly

My family came for Thanksgiving,
A joyful time was had by all; 
We laughed and ate and stayed up late,
And Michael didn't have night call! 

And then, it happened!
Alas, I cannot lie;
I turned thirty in December
Geez Louise - time sure does fly. 

Dear Durham friends at a little bday brunch

A surprise bday paint party with my sisters in New York!

I still feel sixteen,
Young, wild, and carefree... 
Oh wait! A baby's in the room!
Down there, pulling at my knee. 

Excusez moi...

Reality checks can be rough,
But there is always quite a need,
To thank the Lord for his blessings
And the good ways that he leads. 

Reality check for LL = realizing her parents have officially lost it and put her in a pumpkin
Christmastime then came,
Oh that glorious winter season
We all went up to New York,
But it didn't snow -- which up there is just like treason! 

Chief and his granddaughter getting into trouble... 

Liza Love and her Great Grandma Lee :) 

Watch the roads!
Don't hit that goose! 
All's not safe 
With LL on the loose. 

Learner's permit

Oh wow, what a year!
2015 went by way too fast;
Liza Love told me to tell you: 
Wave "bye-bye" to the past!

Let's get this show on the road, mom.

2016's here in full force,
Coming in hot like TSwift
So many days to discover
That each day is quite a gift. 

Here's hoping she'll always want to dress the same...
What will we learn this year? 
How will each day unfold? 
Let's all have minds like children,
So many wonders to behold. 

The end. 

...Plus a few extra pics,
Thrown in for good measure;
No rhyme or reason, 
these pics I just treasure: 

Little Miss Muffet screamed through her baptism, but she's now in God's covenant family so I'd say it was worth it :)

Let's talk about those cheeks
Let's talk about those thighs

LL's first wedding

School's out for forever!