Monday, December 31, 2012

Looking Back: 2012 in Review

From my husband's broken shoulder to the devastation of losing my Nana to advanced cancer, 2012 was in many ways the most difficult year of my life to date. Still, even in light of the tough times this year brought, it also had its positive moments, including my completion of graduate school and our fabulous fall trip to Hawaii in celebration of my in-laws' 40th anniversary. Here, a New Year’s Eve look back at the good, the bad and the ugly of 2012.


-- Began my final semester of graduate school
-- Joined the ROW80 writing challenge as I got serious about working on my first novel, which is still in progress
-- Celebrated Stephen’s 29th birthday, plus the one-year anniversary of our adopting Molly and Twix


-- Saw my article on 2012 wedding trends published via The Favour Shoppe Blog
-- Attended the Kennedy Center lecture Budapest, Prague, and Vienna: Where the Coffee House Influenced the Opera House


-- Attended a Washington National Opera performance of Mozart’s Cosi fan tutte 
-- Viewed a special 70th anniversary showing of Casablanca at a local movie theater
-- Took a sushi-making class, where Stephen and I learned how to create delicious California and spicy tuna rolls
-- Toured DC's gorgeous cherry blossoms in honor of the blooms' 100th anniversary


-- Sadly discovered that my 80-year-old Nana had been diagnosed with terminal cancer 
-- Rushed to the ER the very next day after Stephen fell down and broke his shoulder while trying to rescue a stray dog in the street
-- Helped create wedding-related infographics and blog content while working as a editorial consultant
-- Watched the space shuttle Discovery fly above DC en route to its new home at the Air and Space Museum


-- Took the first in a series of trips out to California in order to spend as much time as possible with Nana and my family
-- Completed my two-year term as secretary of the board for Wish Upon a Wedding DC
-- Graduated from The George Washington University with my master's in publishing


-- Breathed a huge sigh of relief when Stephen's shoulder was declared fully healed
-- Saw my article on wedding photography and videography trends published in Inspire Smart Success Magazine
-- Returned to California to celebrate my grandparents’ 60th wedding anniversary, their last together


-- Attended The George Washington University’s annual publishing conference
-- Celebrated with friends and former classmates at our summer graduation party
-- Attended a tasty BBQ at Vintage Ridge Vineyards, my favorite Northern Virginia winery


-- Channeled my inner teen at the American Idol concert 
-- Celebrated Molly's second birthday
-- Took another trip out to California for more family time
-- Traveled to Seattle, where I explored the city with friends and spent an adventurous weekend hiking in Mt. Rainier National Park


-- Welcomed the final year of my 20s
-- Celebrated Twix's second birthday
-- Attended a Kennedy Center lecture on the symbolism behind Mozart’s Don Giovanni
-- As Nana’s health declined, returned to California once again in order to be with her during the final weeks of her life


-- Said my last goodbyes to Nana as she left this world behind following a courageous six-month stand against her disease
-- Celebrated Stephen’s acceptance into USC’s 2013 distance-learning astronautics graduate program
-- Took part in the White House's Fall Garden Tour


-- Attended The George Washington University’s annual publishing career night
-- Volunteered with a friend to help drive voters to the polls on Election Day
-- Spent a glorious week in Hawaii celebrating my in-laws’ 40th wedding anniversary
-- Attended a Thanksgiving weekend performance of Jekyll & Hyde at the Kennedy Center


-- Attended a Kennedy Center performance of JUBA: Masters of Tap and Percussive Dance 
-- Spent a week in California enjoying pre-Christmas festivities with family and friends
-- Returned to the Kennedy Center yet again for a holiday performance of the opera Hansel and Gretel
-- Celebrated Christmas in DC by enjoying a delicious dinner with a friend and her family 

Happy New Year's Eve, everyone! Since Stephen will be working overtime tomorrow, we'll likely keep things low-key here at home with homemade pizza, a glass of wine, and maybe even an extra helping of champagne as the night wears on. Do you have any special plans, or will you also be ringing in a quiet New Year? Either way, here's looking ahead to a fabulous 2013! 

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Merry Christmas

Merry Christmas, from our family to yours! 

May your day be filled with family, food, friends and lots of fun! 

Friday, December 21, 2012

I’m Dreaming of a LUSH Christmas…

Along with dollar-store jingle bell collars for the kitties, plus a couple secret Santa surprises for Stephen, another fun discovery I made during last week's trip out to California was the existence of LUSH, an innovative beauty brand that specializes in handmade cosmetics. From the decadent bubble bath bars to the freshly mixed masks made with natural oils, fruits and vegetables, my Christmas list definitely got a mile longer the minute I set foot inside their store!

LUSH's acne-fighting Cupcake facial mask. Image Source: LUSH
Even though LUSH does sell a variety of its products online, visiting the store in person was actually half the fun, since the workers were incredibly friendly and quick to offer samples, demonstrations and advice about the best products to suit my skin type and beauty goals. While I definitely couldn’t squeeze everything I wanted inside my carry-on bag, you can bet I’ll be paying a visit to the LUSH nearest me just as soon as the holiday traffic has cleared! 

Are you a fan of LUSH? Which beauty products are at the top of your holiday gift list this year? 

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Not Silence, But Action

Many of my fellow bloggers participated in a day of silence yesterday in honor of the Sandy Hook victims, and while I too am keeping them in my heart and thoughts this week, it is also my personal choice not to be silent. This is because I believe that what we need in the wake of this tragedy, like so many others that have come before, is not merely remembrances, thoughts, words and prayers, but genuine action.

I strongly believe that the increasing prevalence of events like this one is a multi-faceted crisis that needs to be addressed in a comprehensive manner. Easy access to guns, the state of our mental health system, exposure to violence within our culture and the way some young men are socialized surely all play a role in contributing to these types of atrocities. No one factor acts alone, and therefore, there is no "easy fix."

So, while I do think that tougher gun control laws and an improved mental health support system would be positive steps in the right direction, I also think that until we get serious about examining all of the interlinked causes and committing as many resources to solving this epidemic as we do to fighting other evils in the world, nothing will change.

Thoughts and memorials are beautiful things, but only action has the power to save lives. 

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Staying Fit During the Holidays

Greetings from California, where I’m celebrating Christmas with my family a couple weeks early! So far, I’m having a great time catching up with relatives and friends, and it’s even kind of nice to be here ahead of schedule for a change, especially because it means that more people are still in town for dinners, parties and get-togethers before heading off on their own holiday travels.

Speaking of dinners and parties, if I have one key goal for this trip, it’s to maintain the hard-fought health and fitness progress I’ve made throughout the past month. The summer months were definitely a low-point for me, not only in terms of dealing with a lot of stress and tough family issues, but also because my weight shot up and my confidence took a major nosedive.

Image Source: MyFitnessPal

But no more! I’m happy to say that over the past several weeks, I’ve been working hard to get back on track by eating right and working out for 30 minutes at least five days a week. One tool that has definitely helped me stay motivated and on top of things is the MyFitnessPal program, available both online and as a free app.

Tracking my daily calorie intake and exercise sessions has already helped me drop a few pounds, and even though I still have a decent way to go before reaching my goal, seeing the forward progress I’ve made helps give me the push I need to keep trying. Here’s hoping that by the time my sister-in-law’s wedding rolls around next July, I’ll be back down to the weight I was on my own wedding day two and a half years ago!

How do you stay fit during the holiday season? Are there any apps or online tools that help keep you on track? If you’re using MyFitnessPal, feel free to come link up with me @ htsapphire28. 

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Blogger Linkup: 10 Things About Me

Instead of participating in today's Throwback Thursday, I’m linking up with Sunshine from Such Life in the Tropics for something a little bit different  answering a series of “getting to know you” questions she posed to her readers last Wednesday. I always love writing and reading these types of posts, and because it's been a while since I've done one, I figured this would be as good a time as any to jump back on board. 

#1 – What is your favorite part of the day, and why?

I just love the evening hours. There’s something so calming to me about the day coming to a close, the fading of the colors against the horizon, and the promise of a tasty meal alongside a refreshing glass of wine.

#2 – If you could meet anybody, dead or alive, who would that be?

Abigail Adams, wife of one former president, mother of another, and an all-around smart, inspiring woman who was far ahead of her time intellectually.

Image Source: Wikipedia
#3  Are you a "half full" or "half empty" kind of person?

I try to be a “half full” girl, but it honestly depends upon my mood at any given time. I can start feeling pretty down pretty fast when my stars don't align as I'd hoped!

#4  If you could ask me any question, what would that be?

What was the happiest moment of your life?

#5  Have you ever been to place you feel as if you've been to before, but haven't?

Maybe I will someday, but there are none I can think of at the moment!

#6  What is the one thing you’d most like to change about the world?

Less focus on power, competition and violence, and more focus on supporting one another.

#7  What are you most grateful for?

My good health, my family, husband and friends, my beautiful kitties, and the freedom to pursue my goals and dreams.

#8  If you just won a million dollars, would you quit your job, and if so, what would you do?

I don't currently have a traditional 9-to-5 job to quit, and I definitely wouldn't give up any of my writing endeavors. I would, however, take more of an opportunity to travel, assist those in need and help support my family. 

#9  Who do you consider to be your best friend?

My mom, sister, husband and the amazing girls I’ve known since elementary and middle school.

#10  What would you like me to blog about someday?

Sunshine is a huge animal lover, and I always enjoy hearing more about her fun experiences with her own pets and other creatures! 

Have a great rest of the week, everyone! This weekend, I'll be off to spend another few days with my family out West for an early holiday celebration. Plane tickets for the actual week of Dec. 25 were astronomically high this year, so I'm saving a bundle by traveling right at the midpoint between Thanksgiving and Christmas. 

I'm hoping I'll be able to share a quick post or two while I'm there, but if not, I'll check in again as soon as I get back. As always, feel free to follow along on Instagram @heather_28 for updates. Happy holidays! 

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Royal Baby Buzz: Too Obsessed?

By now, you’ve surely heard the buzz about Duchess Kate’s pregnancy, which was officially confirmed  yesterday afternoon. As a former wedding blog editor who followed the royal nuptials right down to the smallest detail, I am of course very excited for Will and Kate! At the same time, I can’t help but feel awfully sorry for these two about having to constantly navigate such personal matters in the public eye.

After all, the only reason the pregnancy was likely announced so early – still during the first trimester – is because poor Kate has been hospitalized with severe morning sickness. I don't know about you, but having my personal medical information publicized throughout the international media is not something I would be especially thrilled about, especially since the coverage comes complete with a few ignorant and inaccurate comments about how morning sickness shouldn't require medical attention. Furthermore, the unending royal pregnancy speculations published over the summer, complete with doctored “baby bump” photos, were nothing short of headache-inducing, to say the least. 

Image Source: Official Royal Wedding Website
Every bit as ridiculous are the statements I’m now seeing plastered across the Web explaining how great it is that Will and Kate are “finally” having a baby. I mean, for Heaven’s sake, these two have only been married since April 2011. That is almost a full year less than I have, and I can tell you right now with absolute certainty that I am still nowhere near ready to start breaking out the baby furniture just yet! 

The truth is that the more coverage I read, the more it bothers me to think that even in today’s modern society, a royal woman’s primary "duty" is still thought to be providing an heir, just as was true hundreds of years ago. Sadly, Kate may have never been accepted as a "suitable" match for William if she was physically unable to have a child, or God forbid, was one of a great many women who just don’t want to have kids.

Do you think people are already too obsessed with the news about Kate’s pregnancy? Would you ever want to live a life in the spotlight for the sake of being a royal?