Wednesday, December 31, 2014

My 2014

Another year has (quickly) come to an end. I'm so looking forward to what 2015 will bring. I'm sure it will be a year filled with happiness and adventures and unexpected moments. I'm thankful for every new year, just as I'm thankful for every year that we say goodbye to. Now, I'm excited to look back on 2014 and look forward to the what comes next.

We started off the year with a trip to Minnesota in the middle of their coldest winter to date. We went to The Mall of America and visited family and friends. We'll go back again soon, but hopefully in warmer weather this time. 

Also in January, we took our engagement photos, which also just so happened to fall on the coldest day of the year. I couldn't feel my toes by the end of the shoot! But the photos are still great. 

We celebrated our one and only Valentine's day as an engaged couple this February with a fancy dinner at a dimly lit Italian restaurant and a lovely cake made by my MIL. 

In March, AJ and I moved to Boston for his final internship before his graduation. He worked a lot and determined that he did not love working in an out-patient facility and I read, wrote, and worked in this lovely city. 

I turned 22 on April 10th while we were still living in Boston. My mom and godmother drove up from CT to be here and a few friends from the North Shore came for a dinner of pizza from Fig's. 

May was a busy one! First, I celebrated Mother's Day with this pretty Mamma in Boston. We did all her favorite things, which included relaxing in her apartment in the morning with coffee, followed by a walk through the Public Garden where we sat and people watched from many different benches, book browsing at Barnes & Noble, and pizza from Upper Crust.

 Also in May, I graduated from Fairfield University! I really graduated in January, but I walked with my class in May. Luckily, it was a beautiful, warm Spring day and all my favorite people were there to watch me walk. I was also treated to a delicious brunch at my favorite restaurant in Connecticut, Centro.

AJ graduated, too! After a few years of constant studying and working, AJ graduated with a degree as a Physical Therapist Assistant. He then passed his licensure exam and was offered a job in Boston!

Every year in June, we go to Chatham for a relaxing week and this year was no different! This was AJ's second time joining our family trip to the Cape and I think he's starting to love this beach town almost as much as I do! I can't wait for our next trip out there to eat lobster rolls and Chatham Candy Manor chocolate and to sit on the porch for hours every morning, reading and watching the gentle waves get closer and closer. 

We celebrated our fourth 4th of July together with a family barbecue at my cousins' house and reminisced about the past four years. 

At the end of July, we celebrated our four year anniversary together with an al fresco dinner of finger foods followed by a movie and macaroons. 

In August, I finally visited my sister in New York City and spent a weekend with her and her friends all around town. 

I was also lucky enough to celebrate my wedding with the best bridal shower, thrown by my mom and sisters at my mother's house. All of my favorite ladies were there to help me celebrated and I was so generously gifted beautiful gifts along with a delicious brunch followed by cake and cookie trays. 

At the very end of August, AJ and I moved back to Boston for his new job and for me to start school. We are so happy here and were so excited when we moved back!

AJ turned 24 in the beginning of September and we celebrated with a delicious Italian dinner in the North End and some gifts, which included a magic bar cake. 

I also started grad school in September and quickly got to work reading, writing, and figuring out how to balance my classes and my teaching job. 

October was the most important month of the year because we got married! We had a lovely ceremony in New Canaan, Connecticut and had the best time at our reception in Darien. Every time I watch our wedding video, I wish we could have the exact same party all over again! This was definitely the highlight of our year. 

In October, we also did some festive, New England activities, such as eating apple cider donuts and picking apples at an orchard in North Andover and visiting Salem the week before Halloween.

In November, we celebrated Thanksgiving on our own. I cooked a big meal and we happily ate together before taking a nice walk through the Common and Beacon Hill before we started decorating for Christmas! 

And finally, in December, we decorated our cozy apartment for the holiday. We baked, watched Christmas movies, and burned candles that smelled like pine to get in the spirit of Christmas before heading home to celebrate with our lovely families. 

It was a crazy, amazing, and fun year and I'm so thankful for all of it. This was a big year of change for me but I had family and love surrounding me every step of the way and it could not have been better. I hope all of you had a wonderful 2014 and I wish you all a very happy new year!

Monday, December 29, 2014

A Very Cabrera Christmas

Even though our short trip home felt very short, we had a wonderfully fun time with our families and celebrated Christmas to its fullest!

Christmas Eve morning and afternoon was spent eating fish and lots of fish at my mom's house and enjoying the company of family. 

Then at 7, we joined AJ's family for 7 o'clock Christmas Eve mass. The church was decorated beautifully and I was so happy to hear Christmas Carols sung during the service. After church, we packed up the gifts we brought for the Cabreras and brought them to AJ's uncle's house. There, we had a big dinner of turkey, ham, green bean casserole, potatoes, and Panetone. We opened gifts around 11 at night and had fun watching everyone enjoy their presents. 

At about 12:30 on Christmas morning, AJ and I drove back to my mom's and promptly fell into a deep sleep in bed. I woke up around 7 and put on A Christmas Story and turned on the fireplace, enjoying the tree and the lights and the look of wrapped presents beneath the green pine. Once my grandmother came over, we all sat around the tree opening gifts and being happy to be together. 

Around 2 in the afternoon, we had our Christmas day meal of cavatelli pasta with meatballs, sausage, spare ribs, and beef followed by ham, sweet potatoes, and veggies. My mom made pie and we had many cookies to munch on the rest of the day. 

The following morning, my mom and sister drove AJ and I back to Boston. Even though Christmas is over, this time before New Year's Day still feels festive because its that in between time where not much gets done and everyone is still in the holiday mood. 

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Celebrating Christmas

Since we started dating, AJ and I have been pretty good about splitting the holidays between our families as best we can but this year, since we'll only be home for two days, we're doing everything we can to maximize our time with both families!

What makes this a bit easier for us is the fact that our families have different traditions. Being from South America, AJ's family opens their gifts at midnight on Christmas morning while my family has always had the tradition of waking up early Christmas morning to open gifts. Growing up, my sisters and I always had to go to bed early on Christmas Eve so Santa could come. 

This means that this year, AJ and I will get the best of both worlds! And, because we want to see both our families on both Christmas Eve and Christmas day, we are doing just that rather than being with one family one day and one family the other. 

So, this evening we are hopping on a 6:51 Amtrak that will get us to Stamford around 10 (if everything goes well!) and we'll go straight to the Cabrera's home for the night. I'll go to my Mom's the next morning to help her prepare Christmas Eve dinner (which is eaten around 1 in the afternoon). We typically do the traditional Italian Christmas Eve dinner of fish, although we don't make 7! We'll eat an early dinner with my family and in the afternoon we will meet back up with the Cabreras to go to 7 o' clock mass. From there, we go to AJ's uncle's house for a later dinner (we'll be eating a lot I think) and wait until midnight to open presents! It will be very fun to see AJ's little cousins and siblings ripping through packages and boxes with excitement. When the festivities die down at his uncle's and everyone heads to bed, we'll drive back to my mom's in the middle of the night to sleep there so that we can wake up and open the presents under my mom's tree on Christmas morning! See, best of both worlds, really! My family also eats Christmas dinner around 1 o' clock so we'll spend the morning and early afternoon with them before going back to AJ's uncle's where all his family will still be. They spend Christmas day in their pajamas and make ceviche! That is a very good tradition in my eyes! So, we'll be back to spend time with them again before we spend the night at my mom's. We have to wake up first thing on the 26th and drive back to Boston because AJ has to work in the afternoon!

This is a photo from Christmas last year, a little over a month after we got engaged and it is so crazy to think how quickly the past year went by! How is it Christmas time already? I love this time of year and I always feel anticipation leading up to Christmas Eve and Christmas Day but this year is different because now the anticipation is less about gifts and the festiveness of Christmas morning. This year, the anticipation is all about seeing our families and hugging and kissing them and catching up! Not to mention, we'll get to meet this little guy!

My mom went and bought herself a Christmas puppy, Stuart! We can't wait to meet him!

Wishing everyone a very happy, joyous, and blessed Christmas! May all your days be merry and bright! Safe travels!

Monday, December 22, 2014

Christmas Literary Links

Spotted this at Brattle Book Shop today while strolling. Probably one of the greatest Christmas trees in Boston. 

I have two links (both from The New Yorker) for today as we're closing in on Christmas! I can't wait to be back in Connecticut, celebrating with family and sitting around my Mom's Christmas tree! This is such a fun time and I feel like it's coming and going so quickly this year!

The New Yorker put together a list of Christmas related readings. They're all great, but Jhumpa Lahiri's is really, really amazing!

Next, I know that every website and new site has published at least one (although probably 4 or 5) lists of the best books of 2014 and the best books to come in 2015. Most of them feature the same books but The New Yorker's is different. On this list, you'll find a variety of texts, including international books that I've never heard from but am definitely adding to my to read list. 

Happy reading!

Sunday, December 21, 2014

Close to Christmas

My recent blog-silence is due to a few different factors. The semester just wrapped up so I was busy working on my final projects and grading final exams for the class I assisted. Christmas shopping. Spending two days straight baking for a Christmas party (because the first day was a failure). Wrapping presents. Writing thank you cards. And watching Christmas movies.

I'm not complaining  though, it was all fun stuff. In two days, AJ and I will be taking a late train to Connecticut two spend two short days celebrating the holidays with our families before coming back up to Boston with a few family members in tow.

The city has been feel pretty festive lately. After a pad thai dinner on Boylston the other night, AJ and I walked home down Comm Ave. It's filled with lights and we spent the whole walk pointing out pretty Christmas decorations on the exteriors of buildings and noticing lit up trees in windows. We did the same in the North End last night, there are some beautiful wreaths along Hanover. And today, walking down Newbury among Christmas shoppers, it started to snow very lightly and carolers were singing in the distance. It couldn't feel more like Christmas if it tried.

Friday, December 12, 2014

Christmas in Connecticut

My blog-silence over the weekend was due to the fact that, after working for two weeks without a day off, AJ took a few days off so we could spend a long weekend in Connecticut with our families. After a yummy dinner at Boloco, we hopped on Amtrak and got to Stamford around 10. AJ's dad picked us up with Christmas music on the radio and took us to his house where we slept and caught up with AJ's family.

The next morning, I ran some errands with my mom and had lunch with her before we picked up AJ again and headed to Kiwanis Park in New Canaan for our tree! This has been our tradition ever since we moved to CT. Everyone at Kiwanis is a volunteer and the money you spend on the trees all goes to donation. The trees there are all perfect and we usually end up buying the first one we see. This time, we got one that's about 6 feet tall and very full! The volunteers strapped it to the top of the car and we headed to my grandmother's house nearby to pick her up so she could spend the night at our house.

Once we headed home, we realized that the tree was probably not going to make it home so AJ opened the sunroof, grabbed the tree by the trunk, and held onto it that way for the rest of our drive home. It also started hailing at that point so we all got a bit pelted with ice but it's all in the name of a good tree!

We spent the rest of the day decorating the tree and my mom's house while watching Elf. My sister came home from Manhattan, too, to help decorate.

I'm really glad that we were able to go home to pick a tree and help my mom set it up. It's one of my favorite things to do and AJ and I have been doing it every Christmas since we met. I'm glad we could keep it up! I know my mom appreciated the help, too, and it wouldn't have felt like Christmas without picking out a real tree and stringing it with lights!

We had so much fun being home with our families and tried to fit in as much fun time with them as possible. Thankfully, AJ was able to workout his schedule so that we can be home for Christmas, too! We'll head home late on the 23rd, spend Christmas Eve and Christmas Day in Connecticut and head back first thing on the 26th. I know we're lucky that even though we live in a different state than our families, we're still relatively close to them and it's an easy train ride to get home. But we are both so close to our parents and siblings that we feel we can never see them enough! We're very lucky to be able to go home when we can and we are especially blessed to be able to spend this holiday with them.

I hope all of you have great plans for this Christmas!

Thursday, December 11, 2014

On My First Semester of Grad School

This past Tuesday I had my last class of the semester. And, while I still have two assignments to turn in next week and some grading to do for the professor I assist, it feels weird to be done with classes for a few weeks. Actually, I have over a month until next semester even begins!

The semester went by crazy fast and I feel like I learned so much without even realizing it until now, when I think back on the semester. My writing habits have changed but could be improved even more and I think that I have gained a bit more confidence since my workshop (although I'm still waiting on my grade!) The other class I took focused on getting us prepared to teach in Emerson's first-year writing program so I learned a lot about pedagogy, teaching techniques, and theories that had never been part of my education before. It was an interesting class and I'm hopeful that one day I'll be able to use what I learned as a teacher. My final for that class is a semester long outline of a sample class...I should be working on that now.

Next semester, I'm changing up my schedule a bit. Instead of taking only two classes, I'll be taking three. And instead of having classes only at night, I'll have two that are a bit earlier in the afternoon. I'm going to try to get another position as a TA but with three classes I know my time will be a bit more limited. I am looking forward to taking lit classes and to seeing what other workshops will be like.

Even though classes are done, I still have work to do. Today I have to proctor a final exam for an undergrad class and then grade them before sending them off to the professor. And, like I said, I have some final assignments to finish up, but by Wednesday at noon, I'll be able to say that my first semester in grad school is officially done. Feel free to celebrate with me.

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

December Decorations

Well yesterday certainly did not feel like December! It hit 55 degrees, if not more, and the sky was clear during the day. I walked home from the gym in a T-shirt (although some people were still bundled up!) and then walked back to the gym because I forgot my keys on the elliptical.

Although warm weather is nice and makes me happy, it's disorienting to be so warm in December! I lived in Minnesota for a long time and we always got our first snowfall by Halloween. I'm used to December first looking like this:

I love to have a little snow fall on Christmas Eve or Christmas day, it doesn't feel like Christmas without it, so hopefully the forecast will show some snow soon! Either way, I'm definitely doing what I can to get in the Christmas spirit. Our teeny, artificial Charlie Brown tree is lit up and decorated, we put white lights around our window, and I have a few festive decorations on our mantle. I've watched a few Christmas movies so far (Home Alone, Miracle on 34th Street, part of Christmas Vacation, and part of Elf). Plus, all the wreaths and bows that are going up in the Common and on apartment buildings are really starting to make it feel like Christmas. The top photo is of the front doors of our building and I was so happy to find them decorated! Now we just need some snow to bring it all together.

Monday, December 1, 2014

Happy December!

I love this month. It's so festive and fun and spirited! Every day brings us closer to days dedicated to family and every single day is one to reflect on all the blessings we've had this year. 

This is my first year spending Christmastime in Boston and there are so many festive things to do! AJ and I have already attended two Christmas events, the Faneuil Hall Christmas Tree Lighting and the Tuba Concert in Faneuil Hall. And we have many more planned! If you live in the Boston area, or want to visit, consider putting these on your calendar!

Dec. 1 Commonwealth Avenue Mall Lighting

Dec 2. Copley Square Tree Lighting

Dec. 4 Boston Common Tree Lighting

Dec. 5 North End Holiday Shopping Stroll

Dec 11. Beacon Hill Holiday Stroll

Not to mention countless shows and performances to get you in the spirit! What are your plans for this month?

Saturday, November 29, 2014

A Day at the Museum

Last weekend, my mom and her cousin came to visit with the specific purpose to visit the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum in Boston's Fenway neighborhood. Mom had gone once before and was amazed by it. Whenever she would talk about it, I got the urge to go and see just what made it so great.

On a chilly Friday morning, we got a cab on Charles Street and went to the museum. We were a bit early (it opens at 11) so we stood outside in the heavy winds with quite a few others, waiting for the museum to open. Once we were let in, we went to buy our tickets and I was happy to find out that, as an Emerson student, I get free admission! So I will definitely be returning many times while at Emerson.

The entire museum is beautiful and there is so much to see, plus there is a lot of history behind the museum and Isabella Stewart Gardner's life that led up to the creation of this beautiful place. In short, Isabella was a woman from New York City and was educated in Paris. She married John "Jack" L. Gardner, the brother of a classmate and Boston's most eligible bachelor. After losing their only child at 18 months old, they threw themselves into their passions, which included art and travel. They traveled widely and Venice became Isabella's favorite place. After Jack's death, Isabella decided to have a museum built in the Fenway neighborhood (which was considered country in when it was build in 1903).

The museum is clearly inspired by Venetian art and architecture. There is a courtyard in the center which is filled with flowers, fountains, and statues and is covered by glass panels so there is natural light constantly. Isabella meticulously chose where each piece of artwork was placed in every room and, per her request, nothing is allowed to be changed, altered, or moved. Where Isabella chose to place everything is where it will always remain.

There are so many rooms to see and paintings and sculptures to admire. There's a small sanctuary on the first floor that is beautiful and every room is enviable. The staircase is spectacular.

There is a lot to see and in the addition that was build behind the museum features space for exhibits and an acoustically amazing music room where performances are often held. I definitely recommend making your way to Fenway if you visit or live in Boston. This museum, because it was a residence at one time, is very different from any other museum I've visited and it one I hope to return to often, because there is so very much to see! Not to mention, when you pull up to the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum, you will feel like you are seeing a small slice of Venice in the middle of Boston.

Friday, November 28, 2014

Thanksgiving Recap

My first Thanksgiving cooking the whole meal went surprisingly well. The day started off early. AJ had to work a half day so we were up at 6 and he was gone by 7. I took a little time in the morning to journal. I wanted to ensure that I would get to record what I was thinking and feeling on our first Thanksgiving here and together as a married pair.

I started preparing in the kitchen by 9 as a the parade started. I also called my mom and sister in Connecticut to wish them a Happy Thanksgiving and for a bit of cooking advice! Then at 10, I watched the Friends Thanksgiving marathon on my laptop because I couldn't decide between that and the parade! I'm sure I wasn't the only one with that dilemma.

I made mashed turnips, cranberry sauce, and gravy on the stove top early so I could just reheat it all when it was about time to eat. At 11:30, I put our turkey breast in the oven. I ended up ordering a pre-stuffed breast from Whole Foods so that I wouldn't have to worry about doing my own stuffing. It was tiny, little 3.5 pound breast and perfect for just us! I assumed the turkey would take 1.5-2 hours to cook but when I checked it around 12:30, it looked pretty cooked! So then I started to rush. AJ got home right around that time and I hadn't yet started the brussels sprouts or sweet potato casserole! I had already mashed the sweet potatoes and put them in a baking dish so I quickly put that in the oven with the turkey and started to sauté the sprouts with garlic and turkey bacon. Before it got too dry, I took the turkey out of the oven and covered it with tin foil and a dishtowel to keep it warm while I started reheating everything on the stove. I threw some pecans and marshmallows on the casserole and set the oven to broil. AJ helped put everything into serving dishes, opened the wine, and got the turkey onto a serving dish. But before we could eat, of course, we had to get a few photos of the table.

As we sat down to eat, AJ suggested we listen to Christmas music—which made me so happy because I love Christmas music but AJ usually does not like it until Thanksgiving is all said and done! He knows the way to my heart.

We had a nice midday dinner around 1. We ate and talked, had seconds and drank wine. After eating, we left all the dishes on the table and took a nice walk through the Common. It was a beautiful afternoon, chilly and cloudy but no wind! There were a few other people who had the same idea as us, but the city was very quiet! The Common is already decorated for Christmas and it looked beautiful! We walked down Joy Street to Mount Vernon Street and then home. We cleaned the dishes and put away leftover before taking out the dessert and pouring coffee. I think I stuffed myself the most with dessert! We didn't have pie this year, but we had chocolate chip pumpkin blondie bars and pecan bars. We watched football and then started taking out some Christmas decorations. We were slightly surprised by the fake tree we got. It's maybe 3 feet tall and completely looks like a Charlie Brown tree, which is a bit endearing really. And some how the strand of lights I got for is still not big enough! So we left that to decorate until I get more lights but we did string some white lights over our window and it looks like Christmas!

Today, we woke up to a bit of snow outside and it flurried for part of the morning. Later, I'm going to brave the crowds to do a bit of shopping...but if the lines are long or the stores are super crowded I will turn around and come home! I'm not big into Black Friday crowds.

I hope everyone had a wonderful, enjoyable Thanksgiving. I hope everyone was able to spend time with family and the people they love, that is what this time of year is all about!

Christmas in Faneuil Hall

Now that Thanksgiving has passed, I'm ready to start sharing Christmas related posts! Last Saturday, AJ and I had a wonderfully fun evening with a big crowd of people getting into the Christmas spirit. The Faneuil Hall Christmas Tree Lighting is the first tree lighting of the season in Boston. It's a big, fun event and everyone crowds around the tree (which is bigger than Rockefeller's Center tree!) and the stage where performers and celebrities entertain until the tree lights up.

AJ and I started the night with mass at St. Leonard's and then walked over to Caffe Vittoria on Hanover Street to kill time before making our way to the tree. I had a cappuccino, AJ had an affogato, and we split a slice of tiramisu. The caffe was decorated beautifully with lights and garlands and we were lucky to find an open table!

From there, we walked to Faneuil Hall and stopped in a few stores, including Newbury Comics were I bought 7 Christmas movies that I can't wait to start watching! It was already getting really crowded so we made a quick trip through Gap before squeezing our way towards the stage. We stood in a good spot, we couldn't see the stage but we could see the screen and the tree perfectly. There were so many people! Families with little babies, high school students, young couples, everyone!

From 7-8, a band played pop music with some Christmas songs thrown in, and the real celebration started at 8. It was led by local radio DJs and they had performers from the Nutcracker, a Red Sox player, a taped performance by Meghan Trainor, and then Mayor Walsh read The Night Before Christmas.

When the tree lit up, it was amazing. The tree is so tall and so full and, in Faneuil Hall, there is always a light show. It happens from 4-10 every afternoon, every half hour. The lights on the tree and the lights around Faneuil Hall synchronize with Christmas music to put on a great Christmas, show.

Thursday, November 27, 2014

What I'm Thankful for This Year

The title of this post is probably a misnomer because these are things I've been thankful for in the past and that I will be thankful for in the future. In the spirit of Thanksgiving, I want to share the (many) things I am most thankful for in my life.

My husband, of course. And I'm thankful that we are spending this holiday together as man and wife for the first time! I'm thankful for our relationship and the love he gives me. I'm thankful for the way we work as a team and for the conversations we share on a daily basis.

My family, including my amazingly wonderful mom, my two sisters, my grandparents, my in-laws, my many cousins, and all the friends who are more like family than friends. This year has really shown me how much love my family has for each other and I can't believe how lucky I am to have so many great people in my life.

My education, past, present, and future included. I went to a great public school in Minnesota that taught me so much. The university I went to for undergrad is where I learned to love learning and where I cultivated my interesting in writing, reading, and academics. And now, I am pursing my master's degree and I am really enjoying what I am learning and studying.

This place where I live. Boston is a fun and inspiring place to live. There's so much to do and see. It's a city that really feels like home and I'm happy to be spending my newlywed years here with AJ.

Lastly, I am the most thankful for the fact that the things I just listed are daily blessings and that I am able to be thankful for them all year round. Let's all strive to give thanks every day for our many blessings and for all the moments that make life wonderful.

HAPPY THANKSGIVING to you and yours! Enjoy this day with family, friends, and loved ones who make you happy!