Monday, December 5, 2016

Straight No Chaser 20th Anniversary Tour

My mom and sisters are seriously the best. It had been too long since we had a girl's night out so when we heard Straight No Chaser was coming to town it seemed like the perfect way to celebrate my sisters 25th birthday. I bought tickets the morning they went on sale and just managed to snatch four...who knew it was such a hot show? 

We started off with dinner at Nido's. We are super critical of Italian food but this was seriously amazing. So good I had just about cleared my plate before I took a photo...this is a common theme with me. But seriously, even the remains look tasty, no? Two words: Veal Parmesan. It was so nice to just sit and chat about what we are feeling and everything going on in our lives.
On to the main event. I love a capella and Straight No Chaser has become a holiday staple in my family. Their recordings are great but until you hear them in person it is hard to understand how brilliant it is that all those sounds are created with human voices. "Uptown Funk" sans synthesization...honestly, wouldn't have even thought it was possible. And you just have to appreciate "Single Lady" sung by ten men. But "The Twelve Day of Christmas" will be my forever favorite...they actually managed to make twelve verses of repetition an enjoyable experience. Check it out here
Overall such a fun evening...girls, let's do it again soon! Raise a glass and drink to sisterhood.

L'Chaim. Salute. Cheers.
Brianna

Friday, December 2, 2016

Progress

photo from 11/23/16
These four walls have got a story to tell // The door is off the hinges, there's no wish in the well // Outside the sky is coal black, the streets are on fire // The picture windows cracked and there's no where to run // I know, I know // This house is not for sale 

Drove a spike into the ground and I staked my claim //Standing on the dirt where they'll dig my grave
Now what built these walls is in my veins // No time for looking back, the wolf is at the door // This heart, this soul //This house is not for sale

This house was built on trust // That's what it is and always was // No wrecking ball could knock it down // This house was built on higher ground

I set each stone and I hammered each nail // This house is not for sale // Where memories live and the dream don't fail // This house is not for sale // Coming home I'm coming home


Just a quick house update...we now have siding and (some) shutters! Doesn't it look amazing?? I've taken to randomly walking outside to look at it. So much work still to go (I've pretty much dabbled in every trade by this point #girlpower) but it is so exciting to see it taking on the feel of our home.

By the way, thoughts on Bon Jovi's new album? This song was released just about the time construction began. The first time we heard it on the radio we claimed it as our theme song for this project. (Divine timing, no?) It fits our house and family so perfectly. Love, love, love. The rest of the album is fabulous as well, totally true to Bon Jovi's style.

Happy Friday!
Brianna

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Thanksgiving 2016

Happy Thanksgiving, friends! Did you have a good holiday? Thanksgiving is seriously my favorite, even better than Christmas. For me, it is the beginning of the Christmas season and, perhaps I am twelve years old at heart, but the anticipation of a whole season of Christmas makes me happy!

The Planning
As  long as she has been hosting Thanksgiving my mom has been planning the menu with the November 1994 issue of Bon Appetite. The first week of November the well worn magazine makes an appearance and it's pretty much the first sign that the holidays are just around the corner. Sometime before Thanksgiving my mom, sisters and I sit down with all the coffee for a major menu planning session. We love tradition (the essentials -gravy, dressing, mashed potatoes and cranberry sauce- are set in stone and there will always be stuffed mushrooms, forever and ever amen) but we enjoy getting creative with the appetizers, sides and desserts.

The Prep
The Wednesday before Thanksgiving is all hands on deck for serious cooking. It is sun up to sun down Christmas music and good smells and fighting over stove-counter-prep-space with occasional coffee breaks to energize and strategic refrigerator packing and so much dish washing. So. Much. Fun. The day ends feeling exhausted but extraordinarily accomplished.

The Parade
One million and one things to do before guests arrive at two but first! The Macy's parade with so much protein, pajamas, clementines and of course, coffee. I cry every year because the emotions of holiday commercials are real #noshame. Hands down favorite: Christopher Jackson on the Sesame Street float.

The Food
Every year I have noble intentions of photographing the whole menu (because who doesn't love photos of food?) but every year eating wins out over posterity #priorities. For you viewing pleasure: boiled eggs with pickled veggies and mustard, frosted cranberries and brie, stuffed mushroom, caramel pumpkin tart, mocha pecan pie and cranberry lime pie. (All equally amazing.)

The Decor
The final product of the table design! This was SO much fun to put together. Due to technical difficulties we were not able to move the table or use the wood as charges BUT spray painting the pineapples worked out PERFECTLY and I love them to little itty bitty pieces. The greens are cut from established bushes in the yard (love working in a little nature). Overall I am so happy with the result!

The Guests

We were so blessed to be joined by both new friends and friends so dear they are now family. A wonderfully loud dinner conversation with so much laughter it made my heart so very grateful. Our friends came from Cameroon, France, Poland, Jordan...seeing so many cultures represented was just the best (plus makes for really interesting discussions!). I for one am so very thankful for the many nationalities that together have woven the framework of America.

After dinner the guests all pitched in with washing the dishes (apparently they actually look forward to the dish washing part??? Obviously we are just that much fun. :)) before heading downstairs for fishbowl (the BEST party game) and air hockey (the LOUDEST party game) and pie eating (the TASTIEST party game). The last guest did not leave until 11:30 (I love when people have so much fun and feel comfortable enough to stay late) at which point I promptly changed in PJs and ate a turkey sandwich (TURKEY) before falling asleep on the couch.

All in all, a beautiful holiday. The older I get the more grateful I am for every. single. holiday. I spend home with my ten favorite people in the world.

So tell me...what was your favorite part of Thanksgiving 2016?

xoxo.
Brianna 

Friday, November 18, 2016

Five on Friday

+Last week we had a major flood in the (finished) basement. This is the third (or fourth?) since we finished the space so cue pulling up flooring and laying tile. Laying (Lying? Laying.) tile is actually kind of fun, howbeit torture on the back and knees. (My hat tip to tile craftsmen everywhere.) Also damaged was the vintage buffet we use when entertaining. Eventually there will be a custom built piece to replace it but we need something through the holidays. Somehow I ended up volunteering to restore it so that has been my project this week. With finals due my days have pretty much been sand, stain, study...repeat times infinity. Will be sharing pictures of the finished product shortly!

+Did you know it is possible to finish a tube of lip gloss? It took three years (yikes!) but I did it! Ha! Now I am on the look out for a good replacement. Recommendations? As an Italian passionate about my food I hate how lip gloss doesn't last past one bite. Trying this one from Maybeline in everlasting wine because of the long lasting claim. We shall see!

+I have been on a serious John Grisham kick recently. Just finished reading A Time to Kill and, have to say, I was disappointed. Pros: the autobiographical main character and interesting insight into racial tension in the south. Cons: Too graphic first chapter and dragging story....I kept expecting some great plot twist that never came. Overall you can definitely tell it was his first novel. I would not recommend reading this as your first Grisham but if you have read any of his other novels it is an interesting example of how he has developed as a writer.

+Just listened to an amazing TED talk by deaf percussionist Evelyn Glennie. It definitely gave me some points to think about as a musician but what really spoke to me was how her story changed the acceptance of students with disabilities into musical institutions in the UK. Addison has such a passion for music I would love to see him pursue someday but I do wonder about finding a teacher willing to meet his needs. This gives me hope!

+Today my very favorite radio station begins 24/7 Christmas music! With the music and Starbucks Christmas cups (can we all agree this years cups are the best?) I am so ready. Too early? Maybe earlier than I would prefer but after this crazy year...who doesn't need some Christmas?

Happy Friday!
Brianna

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Thanksgiving Table Design Inspiration

(Thank you to Carmel for reminding me to post my Thanksgiving table inspiration! You guys, this easing back into blogging is an adjustment.) 

My mom taught me the importance of the dining room table. Her table is twenty-one feet long, four feet wide and seats twenty. She saved for years to have this table custom built. The carpenter tried to talk her into building benches instead of chairs but she insisted on the chairs, despite the cost. Long after dinner talks around the table are such a huge part of our family structure and benches do not encourage sitting and relaxing like a well built chair. 

Setting a table, and particularly a holiday table, is just as much a part of the meal as the food on the plates. Thanksgiving is a big deal in my family. The guests include all immediate family, almost no extended family and about twenty of our closest friends, most from a variety of countries around the world. We plan months in advance, cook for days and consider it one of the very best days of the year.

Typically I have the task of setting the table. (SO much wiser than asking me to bake something!) There are a few guidelines I try to follow as far as spacing and design but generally the goal is to keep it fancy but not fussy and 110% festive. This year is particularly exciting because for the first time the table will be expanded to its full length, thanks to the house project. Twenty-one feet of centerpiece...bring it on!

Sharing a few of my inspiration for this year’s table....
The linens will be the same we use every year...white cloth, brown and gold accent layer, and the cloth my mom brought home from Italy...because tradition, you know? White napkins because there are enough for the crowd. Burlap runners because I love them.

I will probably be spray painting a truckload of fruit the day before...I would prefer to have them finished sooner but I am a little nervous about how long they will last. I’m totally digging this rose gold spray paint so that will be happening. The wooden chargers are from a tree cut down back in spring. For the feathers I am using a variety of (faux) pheasant and guinea fowl...because hello, feather awesomeness.

Photos of the final result to follow in the Thanksgiving recap post… I would love to hear what’s inspiring your holiday decorating!

Cheers!
Brianna

Thursday, November 10, 2016

The Election of 2016

"The people are asking to hear my voice, 
But the country is facing a difficult choice
And you were to ask me who I’d promote… Jefferson has my vote
I have never agreed with Jefferson once… We have fought on like 75 different fronts
But when all said and all is done… Jefferson has beliefs; Burr has none"

(Please indulge my Hamilton moment. It’s just that the election of 2016 is so like the election of 1800 I think the song should be renamed. On the off chance there is anyone who does not have this show memorized, you can listen here.)

This was my first presidential election. Four years ago I was anticipating election day. After what has to be the longest campaign season in the history of the free world I am just so happy to be done with the whole ordeal. Voting was anticlimactic, at best. I am sad that of all the amazing people in our country we were presented with two (in my humble opinion) equally poor choices. Who I voted for isn't important (hint: didn't win).

Don’t get me wrong. I understand voting is a privilege not everyone has and I am grateful to live in a country where the people chose their leaders and everyone is entitled to a vote. It is politics in general I have an issue with. Or maybe not politics so much as what politics does to otherwise decent, socially acceptable human beings. Politics fuels emotional fires fed by hatred, fear and anger. The theme of this election has been division...he said...she said...he did...she did…my candidate...your candidate...my ideals...your ideals.  The divided house doesn’t stand any better than it did at Gettysburg.

Somewhere along the line we inflated the importance of politics. Is it important? Sort of. And I am all about fulfilling my responsibility as a citizen by taking an active interest and participating in the process of selecting our representatives. But let’s be real, you guys. Politics is such a small speck on the vast canvas of human existence. We have given politics too much power when we allow it to divide.

There is a higher calling.

There are hearts to be healed. There are broken spirits to be encouraged. There are young lives in which to invest. And when you fulfill these callings, you have exercised a power greater than any president will ever possess.

I am sad and concerned about the hatred the president elect has in the past expressed, specifically regarding minority groups, and a part of me wants to fear for the future. But you know what? Our country is more than one person. We need change but the change will not come from an elected officials. Real, powerful change comes from within. When we love our neighbors, when we go the extra mile, when we pass on our values to our children...in short, when we are representatives of Jesus' love here on earth...we shape the future.

I am far from hailing the chief but I believe in the system and respecting the office. I believe in the passion of my fellow millennials for positive change. I believe in the American experiment and the American people. I believe left and right ideals working together form a centered, healthy, balanced society. And I believe hope is found not in a government...an election...a candidate...I believe hope is found in Jesus Christ. Friends, let's not loose allow our focus to be distracted from those eternal investments capable or reaping compounded gains.

AND NOW... on to more important matters: I'm looking at you, Thanksgiving and Christmas. Peace on earth, good will to all men. YES, PLEASE and thank you, sweet Jesus.

Monday, November 7, 2016

So that happened...

 Annnnd just like that ten years of planning became reality.

My family has loved our sweet little house for fourteen years. Okay, so maybe we didn't exactly love it at first. There were tears shed (not the happy kind) when we moved in. It was a sad, far from attractive 1970's ranch with smoke filled wallpaper and kitchen flooring from hell. But fourteen years of love and hard work has made our home.

Guests always say they love how cozy our house feels. This could just be their way of politely commenting on the size of our house...because it is that small and being filled with eleven people and all their baggage does not help. We choose to take this as a compliment. Have you been in those houses so perfect you don't want to breathe for fear of breaking something? That is not our house. My parents have done an amazing job of remodeling and updating while keeping everything 110% livable and kid friendly. It is an awesome place which always makes me happy to come home.

After so many prayers and more than a few tears (this time more happy and scared than sad) the time arrived for the little house to grow! The day the upstairs walls were on it seriously looked like a house on steroids. Pretty sure in our hearts we were all apologizing to the cute little house for adding this horrible growth!

But every day as the gables, shingles and porch have been added it has taken on it's own identity. The little house is still there...just new and improved.

A home is more of a house and a family is more than a home. But there is something to be said for the memories we have made in these four wall. A relationship develops with the physical framework which contains so much family life. It is a beautiful feeling. No matter what life may throw your way there is a sense of stability in having a place to call home and always knowing, come Thanksgiving day, there will be a turkey on Mom's table in the cozy not-so-little house.

Monday, October 31, 2016

Getting Back to Even


Hello.

I don't know if there is anyone there...it's been a while since this was a consistent blog. No apologies. The last few years have been a crazy time and the more I practice the art of adulthood (and all the joys and tears that come with that crazy adventure) the more I've moved away from this space. Ironically, the crazier life got the more I needed to write. And so we now find ourselves coming full circle. Gosh, I've missed writing. Part of me is sad I do not have a more consistent journal of the past few years (because wouldn't that be interesting to review?). But again, no apologies.

I am learning to live without apology. Life is stressful enough without giving thought to what other people think. Don't get me wrong...I'm all about loving your neighbor and putting others first. But when it comes to your life choices... Absolutely be considerate of how your decisions affect others but never forget you are the one who has to live with the life you make.

I am learning about priorities. Is this not the hardest part of being a woman? The never ending juggle of balancing work and family and friends and school and our responsibilities to everyone and our dreams and ambitions and making sure everyone and everything gets the just the right slice of our time and attention they need. Setting priorities makes that act so very much easier. I am far from having figured it out but I'm starting to understand the necessary rhythmic dance we must learn to have and give and serve and be it all.

I have tried to say this blog was unnecessary, an easy thing to trim in the name of time management...the truth is, some outlets are necessary not to life but to sanity. And the time investment up front reaps compounded earnings to our emotional well being. Whatever your outlet may be...chocolate, time with friends, girls night out, hot baths, crafting, reading, working out or blogging...it's not selfish if it ultimately makes you a better person more capable or being who you need to be for the people in your life.

So here we go again. The goal is to post once a week. Four times a moth. Easy, right? Actually no. But part of learning balance and adulthood is learning to make time to accomplish goals. A completed goal, no matter how small,  makes me feel pretty much like I can conquer the world.

I'm forming a vision for this blog. Most posts will probably be quickly scribbled in the early morning hours while the house is still asleep so I promise imperfection. I want to talk with you about what I'm thinking. I want to talk to you about adulthood and womanhood and what I am discovering about this ever evolving identity. I want to talk to you about Jesus because his love is pretty amazing and I'm seeing him work in so many ways and that is enormously exciting. Occasionally I want to talk to you about style and projects and books and movies and food because they are things I enjoy and look back two paragraphs for the importance of the things we enjoy. I want to talk about social issues because those issues matter and we need to have those conversations free of argument and judgement. I want to talk to you about my family because they are pretty much my favorite people on the planet and I have some pretty darn cute little tiny siblings.

So hello to anyone who may be there and if I am just talking to a great dark void, hello great dark void. But to you, whomever you may be, I want to say thank you for sticking with me. Blogging is about writing and self expression and creative outlets but it is also about community and relationships that run deeper than 140 character social media posts. I appreciate so very much each and every one of you I have had the privilege to encounter over my blogging years.

Let's talk about what you are thinking, feeling, learning. I want to know what priorities you are making, what outlets contribute to your well being, how you are living without apology. I want to know what being a womam and adult means to you. I want to know what you are thinking about people and family and God and relationships. It's going to be real and I can't wait to get started.

xoxo,
Brianna

Friday, July 29, 2016

Shout it out loud

Two weeks in a row, at two concerts Addison has been reprimanded for his presence.

"You know he has to stop the noise when the music starts?"

"He is ruining this tribute."

"I'm not talking about his ability..."

"He is distracting."
"He is a disturbance." 

The words. The hate. The ignorance. The lack of understanding and acceptance.

Stomach clenching, heart racing, hands shaking. A physical body protesting, wanting to shout...

"For thousands of years you've had your way! The inconvenient people...the people you don't want to deal with or attempt to understand...they have been kept out of sight, out of mind. But those days are over. This is our era. We are trying to take the shitty world you have given us and transform it into a place of tolerance and inclusion. Your time is over."

But deep inside a troubled heart...something says...no. A flicker of remembrance,

When Jesus saw the multitude he was full of compassion.

Bleeding and aching by their hands..."Father forgive them." 

Having known such love, we cannot understand the soul deprived it's knowledge. Having never known the hate, we cannot understand the roots, sinking in and perverting down to the very organic makeup of who we are.

The spirit revolts against a person who would deprive a child...

...a child who has lost hours, days and weeks of typical play and discovery to therapy and medical appointments

...a child with emotions of a three year old who cannot fully express himself through speech

...a child with the desires of a toddler who lacks the physical ability to walk, run and jump with his peers

...a child with the needs of a typically developing child who must devote countless hours and energy he does not possess to nourish his body

Who would attempt to remove the music that has become the constant joy and comfort in this life? Passion demands the punishment of such a person.

But when we know the heart of Jesus, anger transforms into tears. When we ponder...

...the eyes that cannot see past a facial structure

...the soul that has not felt the thrill of delight at the sound of a child expressing pleasure in music

...the mind that does not know the eternal value of a human being

...the spirit that has been disabled from embracing the beautiful pattern of every individual

I will never condone their behavior. And if met that person again? I'm not guaranteeing I wouldn't tell them exactly where they can put their concert etiquette rule book.

But beneath it all...I feel sorry for those blinded eyes.

I wish instead they would have come to know Addison.

I wish they would have felt the same pride we felt in his ability to express his feelings.

I wish they would have been honored by their legacy, music appreciation being fostered in a young mind.

And, Addison? Never let anyone quiet your voice.

Those feelings? Keep talking about them, my man. When you feel the joy, shout it out loud.

Some day you will blow us all away. Keep shining bright.

Your joy will change the world.


Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Dr. Taussig

Wearing pearls and reading x-rays. Way to go, Dr. Taussig. /// image via
In honor of Elizabeth Blackwell's birthday, February 3rd marked the first National Women Physicians Day. February also happens to be CHD awareness month. The timing seems perfect to share with you one of my heroes, Dr. Helen Taussig. (Let's pretend it's still February and I'm actually finishing this on time, shall we?)

Dr. Taussig was a cardiologist at Johns Hopkins who founded the field of pediatric cardiology. She also assisted in developing the blue baby procedure (Blalock-Taussig-Thomas shunt), still commonly used today. The B-T shunt opened the world to the possibility of open heart surgery and revolutionized the treatment of babies born with congenital heart defects. Scientifically, she's incredibly hard core. But what I love most is her remarkable character which enabled her medical success.

Helen Taussig...

...was not stopped by her personal struggles. 

Dr. Taussig struggled with dyslexia which severely effected her early years of education. You guys, can't tell you how excited I was when I learned this! I was diagnosed with dyslexia in early elementary and struggled with reading for years. I am now a competent reader who absolutely loves reading (thanks, Mom!) but I am also a very slow reader, struggle immensely with spelling (thanks, spell check!), and sometimes have to stop and think when writing by hand. My mom says we all have struggles and they make us great. I wish I could ask Dr. Taussig what encouraged her to push through those pages of swimming letters and conquer reading. But I know fighting that battle gave her the endurance to face greater challenges. And knowing what she was able to accomplish because she did reminds me I have no excuse to be anything less than exceptional.

...was not stopped by opposition.
For many years, Dr. Taussig studied medicine at Harvard and Boston College but neither would grant her a degree because...she was a woman. She was not allowed to speak to her male classmates because of fear of "contamination". Whatever that's supposed to mean... But despite the chauvinistic medical culture, she kept going and eventually earned her medical degree from Johns Hopkins (in your face, Harvard).

...was a woman living (and thriving) in a man's world. 
And, I might add, she put them all to shame. Should she have had to prove herself as a woman and excellent doctor? Absolutely not. But she did not allow their disbelief in her ability to deter her. And her reward was a full professorship and equal acknowledgement.

...challenged excepted thinking.
It has amazed me to observe among Addison's caregivers the difference between the providers who accept standard teaching and those who challenge the system and are not afraid to try something new.  The adventurous ones? They are the great ones. Dr. Taussig chose hope for her terminal babies in a world where they were left to die. She was a great one.

...believed in the improbable.
For centuries the heart was considered untouchable and blue babies terminal. Dr. Taussig was willing to take the risk for something she believed in. She did not throw away her shot. (Points if you got that reference...)

And her legacy?

She changed the world.
Every 1 in 100 children are born with a CHD, many of whom will require surgical intervention. Because of Dr. Taussig, there is treatment, there are options there is HOPE of a long and meaningful life. Her work lives on in thousands of tiny beating hearts.

I would love to know...who are some of your heroes in medicine?