Our Engagement

The night of Christmas Eve or I should say Christmas morning, Nick proposed!  It was such a surreal experience.  I love those moments in life where I am just completely giddy and in disbelief that something is actually happening in the present moment.  It’s like is this really happening to me?  Am I dreaming because there’s no way something I’ve dreamed about for so long is actually happening right now!!!

Ari, Nick and I went to midnight mass and afterwards we knelt down by the nativity scene to say a prayer and he took my hand, which didn’t seem strange because he usually touches my hands, but this time he was trying to put something on my finger.

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In my mind I always imagined that I would cry and give a big speech to the man I love when he proposed but, I just could not stop smiling.  There were no tears and since it was the middle of the night I had to wait until morning to call or text anyone, and there was something beautiful in that.  I had this amazing happy secret all to Nick and myself (Ari too but she was in dream mode) for an entire night.  I couldn’t even sleep that night I was so happy.

It is strange to think of how fragile the timing was when we met.  What would have happened if I didn’t look up?  Or why did we not meet sooner?  I was in Naples visiting family for the greater portion of my adult life… Were we walking down the wrong aisle in the grocery store?  I have a feeling that we met at the perfect time though and that everything we went through separately made us perfect for each other now.  Growing up apart and all that we have gone through apart I’m sure made us both more compassionate, understanding, considerate and most of all appreciative. I admire him so much for so many different reasons.  I thank God for him everyday.  I could go on and on about my love for him so I will stop!

Anyway, now we get to plan our wedding and live in this beautiful anticipation for the next several months.  The planning and the anticipation is so much fun and I realize it will go by so fast so I’m trying to enjoy it!

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Arianna’s Smoothie

Ari loves strawberry banana smoothies.  To add a little extra goodness in it, I’ve started sneaking a few ingredients in.

In this smoothie, little to Ari’s knowledge, there is a handful of baby kale and a spoonful of flax seeds.  It’s topped off with orange juice and coconut milk.

Garnished with a strawberry

Seeing Clearly Now

I have not been handling coffee or caffeine well at all.  Coffee has been making me a bit nauseous and really any form of caffeine is now giving me the shakes a bit.  I decided to lay off of the caffeine for a while, including my favorite cup of Early Grey with honey and coconut milk.  I’m also trying to stay away from sugar, so that batch of chocolate chip cookies that I really want to bake may have to wait.

I was feeling sluggish mid-day so I grabbed a few fruits and veggies to try and get my energy up naturally.  This juice is quick because there’s not much washing and cutting to do.  I’ve also been craving carrots and citrus lately so this hit the spot.

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This juice has several carrots, a few handfuls of fresh pineapple and broccoli, a generous pinch of cilantro to give it a fresh taste, the tiniest bit of ginger for digestion and half of a lemon.

The end result was everything I needed (=

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My substitute cappuccino filled with natural goodness that my body actually needs. 

 

London

Let me just start by saying the Minions movie, which Ari and I rented yesterday afternoon, was pretty accurate with regards to their portrayal of London.  From the sky line to the Underground train operator repeating, “Please mind the gap.”  And let me tell you the first time I hopped off of the train from South Kensington to Algate my gap was huge!  I had to take a running start to leap off of the train!  I thought I was in an Indiana Jones movie.  The next few train rides I noticed were different, the gap was modest and a quick step off to the walk way.  I’m not sure why my first experience was such an outlier!

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London was fantastic.  The architecture was beautiful, elegant; so much care and detail was put into every building.  The history is rich, deep and tragic.  From the hangings that took place in the center of town,the plague, the great fire and the influences of Rome and France still lingering in the churches and aroma of fresh crepes.

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The people varied.  There were a lot of muslims.  I was surprised about that.  There were also a lot of people from neighboring countries like Italy, France, Spain and Poland.  I heard maybe two American accents while I was there and I was so happy to completely immerse myself in the blend of European cultures.

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This crazy brit directing traffic dressed as a ninja turtle, not the most sober lad

I’m listening to The Beatles, “And I love her” as I write this (No I did not cross Abbey Road).  I am so deeply in love with Western Europe.  Western Europe is the fantasy that haunts my heart and never disappoints me when I taste it, but leaves me unsatisfied always wanting more, desperately attempting to keep at harbor the last bitter sweet kiss on my lips as I drag my American *ss back to the states.  Anyway, sorry for getting weird, it’s the caffeine and I am honestly obsessed with the rich bloody history, the evolved romance languages and emotionally driven art that conceived what Europe is today.  Well, everyone has their thing…

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Handsome American tourist

On this trip we had Nick and his mother May May (1st grandchild given name).  Everyday a noble trip was taken to Harrods to support England’s economy of course.  What kind of tourists would we be if we didn’t give back?  The flight there… fantastic.  Who doesn’t want an excuse to be held hostage with your selection of movies to watch for 6 hours?  Certainly not just me right?

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Carousel 1 that spun so fast Nick was afraid to get on

The first day it was a bit of a struggle we tried to drug ourselves with espresso shots, cappuccinos, mochas, whatever we could to trudge through the jet lag.  I must say I’m proud of myself, I made it the whole day without passing out for a snooze.  We had truffle pasta at the bottom of Harrods.  Our next meal was Japanese food at Sakenohana.  It was the best Japanese food I have ever had. I wish I could tell you what I had but it was so different and unique and I really don’t know what 75% of it was.  There was some sort of sushi that had mango on it, so good.  I ordered a fantastic mix of fresh juices  (I was a little tipsy on the airplane so I had to take it slow for the rest of the day).  I have to say London was very nutrition forward in their selection of healthy food options and almost every restaurant had freshly squeezed juice to offer.  Vegans and Vegetarians take flight!

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The next day Nick took us to a few more places, Covent garden being one of them.  As a garden lover I was so excited to see a true English garden!  People, this was not what I found when I got to Covent garden.  It was a shopping district and it was nothing but lovely.  We had freshly roasted chestnuts and mulled wine.  It was a great walk that offered plenty of photo worthy shots.  We also went to New Bond Street and took a few more photos next to Christmas trees, themed lighting on each surrounding street, fake snow (Nick was convinced it was real snow… but he was wrong, I had to show him that it was just foam.) and surprisingly a lot of ferris wheels and carousels.  That is another thing that I love about London, there is plenty of entertainment for everyone!  Children had their joy with all of the carnival like set ups throughout the city with special recognition to Hyde Park’s winter wonderland, luminaries had their mecca in the pubs that Dickens and other writers notoriously visited and fashion worshipers could easily drop what could pay one year of a child’s college education in twenty minutes at the plethora of infamous designer label shops.  I started a new addiction to Chanel shoes, thanks Mr. Lagerfeld.

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We like to pose for photos in front of Christmas trees

The next day Nick had to go to his business meetings so May May and I got on the Original Bus Tour!  It was awesome.  We stopped at Buckingham palace and since the queen was having such fantastic sales I went crazy in her gift shop, juggling souvenirs as the young cashier kept saying “buy one get one free, go get the other color!”  We went to The London Eye and saw Big Ben, Parliament, Westminster Abbey and a few London Bridges (I heard the original was sent to Arizona… random).  We passed by St. Paul’s cathedral, crossed over Tower Bridge and I had this wonderful visceral euphoria as I recognized all of mankinds struggles and triumphs to build this city and keep rebuilding each time it was put to ruins by plague, fire, attempted conquest, bombings; the human spirit invigorates and inspires me.

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The next day May May went home, Nick went back to his meetings and I was left to explore London on my own.  I wanted to hop a train to Paris but the Eurostar’s rates were a little outrageous and I didn’t want my first trip to Paris to be a solo one.  I was determined to wake up early, walk around Hyde Park, get back on the tour bus, take the boat tour and buy Christmas presents for Ari.  I woke up late.  So, I went to the French book store, stopped for a chicken and leek pie, mocha and went Christmas shopping.  By the time that was done I had to meet Nick and his business friends up.  I had to get on the train and this is when I had to take the pole vault worthy leap over the gap.  I did also manage to find the best chocolate chip cookie in the world on my way.  Ben’s cookies!  http://www.benscookies.com/  They were so good, as a chocolate chip cookie connoisseur I give them 5 stars.

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photo of a chocolate chip connoisseur

Nick’s business friends were a lot of fun and showed us a few more historical places like the old meat market and some new places like the ingeniously designed sky scrapers.  The next morning it was time to pack, get all of our tax free receipts ready and rush off to Hyde Park for a stroll.  Then we said goodbye to New Bond St. got back on the train and left London for The New World.  I missed London but it was wonderful to see everyone back in the States again, especially my little Ari.

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The old and the new

 

 

Our Trip to Naples

Nick and I spent an amazing weekend in Naples, Florida.  I never really appreciated Naples until I met Nick.  It is obviously a beautiful place with vividly colored flora, wildlife roaming around in their natural habitat and the ocean, but paradise is nothing if you are there alone.  When I met Nick he showed me parts of Naples I had never even seen before and perhaps maybe even forgot about.  Since I have been with Nick I can finally truly enjoy the beauty of Naples.  It is also a sentimental place because everywhere we go reminds me of the first time we met.  There is something special about each place there now.

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In front of the Japanese restaurant where we had our very first date!  It was the best date I have ever been on.

We went to Naples for a wedding.  We arrived Thursday morning and met up with Nick’s friends throughout the day.  We had lunch at Bice and afterwards Ari left to spend time with my family in Naples.  It was so nice to be back on 5th ave.  It is one of my favorite places in Naples.

 

We walked down to Venetian Village afterwards and saw so many dolphins on our walk to and from.  It was surreal.  I’ve never been that close to dolphins!

 

That night we had dinner at AZN in Mercato.  We also walked down to The Blue Martini where Nick and I met.  Nick and I didn’t stay for long as we normally never really go out to clubs and bars but I loved being able to return as a customer instead of a girl that worked there.  I drank half of a mango mojito (I’m not a big drinker) and just had to take a deep breathe.  I don’t know how to explain the feeling… but I am so grateful to God for everything he has done for me.

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Our five minute trip to the Blue Martini

The next day we returned to 5th ave and ate at the Cafe.  It was great.  I had a wheat grass shot, a freshly squeezed juice and a veggie omelet.  The rest of the day was spent by the pool followed by a walk on the beach.

L’Angelou is a restaurant that Nick and I have been to twice now and it never disappoints!  It’s always good company and always a wonderful meal.  The first time we went it was with Jim.  We stayed there until way after the restaurant closed having a wonderful conversation with the owners who also own Malto (I love their pizza).  This time we were with all of  Nick’s friends.  L’Angelou looked very different (in a good way) and we quickly found out that Bice had bought it.  I have to say I had the best pasta carbonara I have ever had that night!  Afterwards we had drinks and dessert with the bride, groom and their family.  We were in love with the milk chocolate covered pretzels (or maybe that was just me).

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We had so much fun and lots of laughs with all of these guys

The next day was the wedding!  Nick and I wake up pretty early so as soon as 8 o’clock rolled around I hightailed it to Whole Foods and picked up coffee’s for our group and cafe con leches for Nick and I.  I made breakfast for everyone and soon enough it was time for the wedding.  The wedding was at St. Williams church.  I always cry at weddings.  They make me so happy.  Anytime two people choose to love each other forever in perfect fidelity and in God’s house it really touches me.

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After the wedding we went to the Ritz Carlton, the place where Nick and I had out first date.  The reception was held there and it was absolutely beautiful.

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The Ritz!
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The beautiful Katie and me

The next morning Nick and I went to mass at a church that I had previously written off and I must say afterwards,I was pleasantly surprised and take back my initial judgement.  I normally don’t crack a smile in mass but this one really had my attention.  I’d go as far as to say that it was my all time favorite mass.  As we listened to the priest’s Latin we quickly realized that he was French.  He spoke about not only the power of prayer and praying for souls in purgatory but of the tragedy that had occurred in his hometown of Paris.  He touched upon serious matters but also made the parishioners laugh with his lively personality.  I don’t know if it was the French in me or what but I really enjoyed mass!

Afterwards, we went to brunch with the wedding party followed by a quick trip home to work on some writing for me and for Nick to watch his football game and nap.  I had been begging Nick to take me to 3rd st.  3rd st. is absolutely beautiful and the restaurants there are as well!  We went to Campiello a restaurant that Nick had taken me to when we first started dating.  Everything was delicious of course and after a glass of Abruzzo I was feeling very good.  Red wine makes me so giddy.  We walked around, danced a little bit and returned home.  I was out like a light shortly after.  The trip was memorable and I had to get it all down so that it would be impossible to forget.

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I am the lucky one

 

 

Healthy Muffins

These muffins are made with orange juice and zucchini for a healthy twist!  I’ve been making these muffins for Ari and friends since she was a baby.

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Preheat your oven to 325 degrees

line 2 muffin pans with your choice of adorable individual cupcake liners

Okay, stop!!! Before you blend everything together make sure you have two separate mixing bowels, one for your dry ingredients (labeled) and one for your “wet” ingredients.  Blend your dry ingredients separately from your wet.  When both are blended, then add about a cup of dry ingredients to the mixture, blend in and repeat until all of your dry ingredients have been blended into your wet.  Just a little tip for you!  You should do this with most things that you bake.  Ooo I have another *tip now that I’m thinking about it, get a good reliable blender.  Mixing with your hand does not cut it for most recipes (think cookies where you’re using a tougher base like butter)  It will save you time and save your arm a strain.  When you’re using butter you want the butter and sugar to mix as lovely as whipped cream, blending by hand won’t get this consistency.  There’s no butter in this recipe but just thought I would throw that in there!  I use sea salt instead of regular table salt and if the salt isn’t completely crushed up (which is impossible for me blending by hand) then almost every bite you get a little salty surprise!  Yuck!

3 cups flour (dry ingredient)

1 tsp baking soda (dry ingredient)

1 tsp baking powder (dry ingredient)

1 tsp salt (dry ingredient)

3 large eggs at room temperature

1 cup canola oil

1 cup sugar

1/4 cup orange juice

3 tsp vanilla extract

2 cups shredded zucchini (I shred it with a food processor or blender.  Try to drain some of the juice out using a strainer)

4-5 tablespoons of cocoa powder and lots of chocolate chips (milk and semi-sweet) if you want them chocolatey!

OR

fresh blueberries if you want it sans the chocolatey goodness!

Then bake for about 25 minutes!  Yes, you can freeze them (for up to 6 months if need be).  I like to enjoy everything fresh out of the oven though.  I think Ari loves the batter more than the actual baked muffins these days and I have to admit the batter is delish!  *Tip:  Using an ice cream scooper saves you from sticky fingers when adding the batter to the cupcake liners

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Whenever this world breaks your heart

My time as a 25 year old is almost over.  I’m heading into my late twenties now (ahh!)  Technically I’m already 26 because I was born in Okinawa and back on the island today is the 22nd of September… Strange to think about but regardless I will continue to listen to Earth Wind and Fire’s song, “September” for the rest of the day and anticipate this side of the world’s 22nd of September.  This has been such an incredible year for me.  This time last year I was visiting my friends in North Carolina, living in Chicago and getting ready to move to Naples.

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Southport, North Carolina

Now I’m in Cleveland and the people in my life have completely changed for the better.  Not that I love anyone who has known me for a long time any less!  The good ones stayed, the bad ones God took away and paid back tenfold.  I learned a lot this year about letting go.  In so many ways my soul was forced to adapt to changes that I may or may not have wanted to happen.  I let go of bad friends and bad environments even though I was terrified of how my life would change if I left, spoke my mind or sent that letter of resignation.

When I first moved to the United States there was a woman named Laurie who used to watch me.  She taught me about God, Jesus and heaven and hell.  She was very religious and the only show that I remember her allowing me to watch had a stuffed donut named Duncan as the main character.  The show always used the metaphor of the donut hole being God’s love and how God’s love was the only love that could ever make Duncan whole (get it?)   Anyway whenever this world breaks my heart I remember this one episode when Duncan met a potter.  The episode explained that the “potter” works very hard to mold the clay.  After the potter is finished molding the clay they put it in a fiery stove.  The clay then becomes the beautiful pot that the potter had set out for it to be.  The potter is of course a metaphor for God and the clay is a metaphor for you or me.  During the rough times of this year (honestly for the past several years) I have had to think back on this concept.  I tried to always remind myself that God had me in the palm of his hand and he had to throw me in the flames to create the woman that he needed me to be.  You may think I’m silly and roll your eyes at my figurative language but I hope it helps you in moments of sadness or pain.

My mindset is so different from this time last year and I feel like a different person in many ways.  I feel more clear headed as far as who I am and my trust in other people is slowly returning as Nick continues to love me and my relationships with family and friends grow and continue.  I can lay the past to rest and appreciate its lessons.  I am excited for the future!  And I am so content in my present life.  I can not ask for more.  I really do feel like God worked in his mysterious ways and gave me a life better than I could have imagined on my own.  The people in my life are such a blessing to me.  I hope that I love them enough and that I thank them enough.  I know how much I appreciate them in my heart but I don’t know if I express it well.  I am still learning about life and working on myself.  I don’t think that will ever stop but I am happy to welcome age and the understanding that it brings.

“I hope you don’t mind that I wrote down in words, how wonderful life is…”