Monday, December 31, 2012

The last day of 2012

As it comes to the last day of the year, there is no greater feeling but to reflect on everything that 2012 brought me.  2012 was a year for new beginnings and growing up and after everything that has happened, I wouldn't change a thing.  I started this year off with optimism and confidence in myself and my life which ended up in meeting the love of my life.  Although there were some troubles in 2012 with friendships and such, I still believe everything happens for a reason and things had to happen to make me ultimately happy with my own life.  People that bring other people down because it makes them feel better about themselves should never call themselves a friend.  Even though I had to learn that the hard way, I realize now more than ever, that it was an important lesson I needed to learn in order to make myself a better person and improve the relations between me and others.  Nowadays, I know who my true friends are and I wouldn't have it any other way. 

There are so many exciting things to look forward to this next year.  2013 will be one fabulous year for me and Danny.  Besides getting married in March, we can't wait to buy our own house and hopefully add a furry friend to the family when we do! So many good things coming our way and I honestly feel so blessed to be living this life that God gave me.  See you in 2013 friends!

Sunday, December 30, 2012

Christmas 2012

This years Christmas was nothing short of amazing. I had the opportunity to be apart of two family Christmases this year which made things that more special for me. On Christmas Eve, we spent the time with Danny's Aunt and Uncle in Dayton. This was nice because I got to spend time with this side of the family more. Danny's cousin, Kristen is going to be a Bridesmaid in our wedding in March, so I had so much fun hanging out with her and getting to know her better. I also got to spend time with Danny's grandmother. Since I didn't get the chance to have grandparents growing up, it was so special to spend 1 on 1 time with her and talk with her. The Anderson's surprised me with a customized Green Bay Packers jersey with my future last name and Danny's college baseball number on it. It was quite the surprise that I was literally in awe. The rest of the night, we played games, ate good food, and even took a dip in the hot tub. It was a great night with my new family!

Me and Danny at the Anderson's

My Christmas present!
On Christmas, we drove to my parents house in Columbus to spend the day with them. Unfortunately, I had to log in and work from home for four hours throughout the day, but nothing was really going on, so it was no big deal. We preceded to open presents including a Bengals snuggie for Danny along with xbox games and some blu-rays. I got some really great gifts for my kitchen as well as things for our house!  Danny and I also got luggage to use on our honeymoon in March!  All in all, a fun Christmas morning!  There was a blizzard scheduled for that next day so instead of staying in Columbus to risk the possibility of being snowed in, we decided to leave that night for Cleveland.  Even though it was a short time together it was great to see my parents and share in the joy of Christmas.

Danny's new Bengals snuggie

At the Sharpnack's
Our attempt at a family picture with the cats
The weekend after Christmas, we concluded our Christmas week long celebration with Danny's parents at their lake house.  Since we had a blizzard in Cleveland a few days before that, there was definitely plenty of snow to go around up north at the lake house.  We got in Friday night and spent until Sunday morning with them.  We opened presents when we arrived on Friday which made me feel like part of the family with all of the thoughtful gifts they had bought for me.  Danny received a lot of IU gear to wear and for his future man cave! I received a lot of cute outfits that I can wear for work, including a major accessory, two coach wristlets! Both of our families definitely spoiled us this year.  We are so lucky to have family members that love us and know how to spoil us to make us feel loved! Thank you to everyone that made this Christmas truly special! It was an amazing holiday this year and it made Danny and I both feel so much more apart of each others families.

At the lake house with the Steele's

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Giving back

I have a friend on facebook that decided to do something different this year for her birthday.  In light of everything that has happened lately, most recently the Sandy Hook Elementary School shootings, she was inspired by Ann Curry's idea of 26 acts of kindness.  These 26 acts are to represent something good for each person or child who lost their life in that elementary school just a few weeks ago.  She started this movement by tweeting, “Imagine if everyone could commit to doing one act of kindness for every one of those children killed in Newtown.” My facebook friend took this idea and decided to have all of her facebook friends participate in one good act on her birthday to see all the good things that can come of a small act of kindness.  Once I was invited to the group, I knew it sounded like a great idea to get involved in and to help make a difference this holiday season. 

I went down through the list of ideas that my facebook friend had posted and I came across one that caught my attention right away:
I have always been an animal lover and animals have always been a part of my life.  I've had cats, dogs, fish, and hamsters growing up and I've been a vegetarian for 9 years because I can't stand the thought of eating an animal.  I spoke to Danny that day and we decided to buy bags of food to donate to a local humane society in the area.  I went on the Geauga's Humane Society website and they actually had a "wish list" of what they needed for their animals.  This list made it easier to figure out what kinds of specific food they need and what would benefit them the most. The next week, Danny and I went to PetSmart and bought two large bags of cat food (kitten chow and cat chow) and two large bags of dog food (puppy chow and dog chow). 

Last night, we drove out to the Geauga's Humane Society and delievered the food.  I stayed near the car since Danny thought if I went into the building, I might adobt every creature I saw.  However, it was still a wonderful experience for me.  Danny said they had a pile of donations that other families had bought for the humane society.  I felt really special helping out a place that helps out animals and I'm hoping one day we can adopt an animal from this shelter.  All in all, it was a good day for a great cause.  Danny and I loved it so much, we want to make it a tradition to donate to the local humane society every year around Christmas.  Its all too often that we lose sight of how much we actually have and not think of those that don't have those things that we take for granted.  For more ideas on the 26 acts of kindness movement, check out their facebook page.

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Wedding Invitation day!

Today, Danny and I sent out our wedding invitations for our March 16th wedding! This was a very exciting turning point for us because it announces the special day to our family and friends. We have been looking forward to this day for so long and it's weird to think that the time is actually going by way too fast! We have 84 days until the wedding and before we know it, it'll be here. I am just excited to spend these little moments with my future husband like we did this weekend. It's nice to share these moments together before we have the big moments ahead in our lives... like tying the knot. I am truly thankful for everything that has happened to me and to us this year. I could not be more fortunate as I reflect back on this amazing life God has blessed me with around Christmas time. I'm looking forward to getting response cards in the mail as family and friends RSVP to our wedding!

Friday, December 21, 2012

S'mores Popcorm Mix

This year for Christmas, things were a little different.  Since this is our first christmas together, Danny and I split the holidays with our families.  Ever since I started dating Danny, I heard about the famous Christmas Eve nights spent with his cousins playing song games, eating finger foods, and exchanging Christmas presents with his mom's sister's family.  This year, I wasn't sure if I would be able to make it, realizing that I would have to work until 10 pm on Christmas Eve, however, my coworker came to my rescue and decided to work the holiday shift for me.

I wanted to do something special since this was my first Christmas with the Brickner's.  I looked up on pinterest recipes that I could make and I came across a blog for holiday popcorn mixes.  If its one thing this family loves, its popcorn.  When I met Danny and first went to his apartment, I remember vividly he had a case of beer in the fridge, 10 boxes of popcorn and a bag of animal crackers in the cupboard.

I wanted to make a recipe that everyone could eat so I tried the S'mores popcorn.  The ingredients are just popcorn, Golden Grahams cereal, mini marshmellows, and chocolate chips.

This recipe was so easy to make.  You simply pop the popcorn, mix all three ingredients together (popcorn, Golden Grahams, and mini marshmellows) in a large bowl and then spread mixture evenly on a cookie sheet.  Then you melt the chocolate chips in the microwave and drizzle over the mixture.  After the cholocate dries, the mixture is complete.  I put the popcorn mixture into Christmas tins I found at JoAnn's.  They make a great package and keep the popcorn fresh.  Check out the popcorn blog for this recipe and other great holiday popcorn recipes (Danny wanted to try them all!).  Merry Christmas friends!

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Butternut squash soup

Today I woke up feeling horrible. My throat was sore, I was coughing and sneezing, and my nose has been running all day. I had to get up early today so I could meet with my manager at 7 am this morning. I went to training class today, my training is Microsoft Lync and Exchange. The class is interesting so far, however I am not feeling well today. Luckily at lunch, I decided to get my most favorite Butternut Squash soup from Breuggers bagels. This made my day :) here's to hoping I feel better just in time for Christmas!

Monday, December 17, 2012

Weekend in Chi town

This weekend, Danny and I visited Chicago.  A few months ago, Danny surprised me with Packers vs. Bears tickets that he received through his dad's coworker who lives in Chicago.  He is a season ticket holder, so we were able to buy the tickets off of him at face value.  What was even better about the game was, if the Packers won, they would clinch the division and go to the playoffs, so of course there was a lot riding on this game.  Danny and I also have a few friends in Chicago that we were able to visit while we were there.

We ended up driving to Chicago Saturday morning, so we woke up super early (at least for a Saturday) and departed from Cleveland.  The drive went by very fast except for the hour it took us to go 5 miles in downtown Chicago, it was rough!

We checked into the hotel and met our friends, Chhavi and Pritesh for a late lunch and some drinks.  Chhavi and I met back in 2009 when we interned the same summer.  Since we were the only female IT interns that year, we were roommates.  Chhavi and I have kept in contact since that summer and still see each other about twice a year which is good for our busy schedules! I met Pritesh through Chhavi, he was one of her good friends attending the University of Illinois.  We met briefly on one visit of the U of I campus, but when I found out he was moving to Cleveland for his job rotation, I was ecstatic and we became good friends from then on.  Since Danny moved to a city that was completely new to him, he and Pritesh became instant friends seeing as they have so much in common, especially sports. Thus, began their friendship and my role as the third wheel whenever we go out.  All joking aside, I love how good of friends they've become this past year.
Our friends, Pritesh and Chhavi
We met Chhavi and Pritesh at a bar by our hotel to watch the Indiana vs. Butler game.  It was called Timothy O'Toole's and they had great food and a fun atmosphere.  They have a flat screen TV above every booth in their restaurant. This made it easy for Danny to find a spot to watch the game.

Timothy O'Toole's

After our late lunch, Chhavi had to take off, but Danny, Pritesh, and I hung out and decided to explore downtown Chicago with a mini pub crawl.  Next, we went to Mo's Cantina.  This was an upscale Mexican restaurant with different mixed cocktails.  The restaurant was beautiful and was decked for the holidays.
Moe's Cantina

Next, we decided to try Redhead Piano Bar.  We saw it on the streets and we love piano bars, so we decided to try it.  It was not worth the five minutes that we were in there.  They didn't even play piano and the drinks were incredibly expensive even for Chicago.  The atmosphere itself, made me want to leave, but they did have good beer nuts.  Other than that, there was nothing that interested me.
Redhead Piano Bar
Next, we went to the Kerryman.  Once I walked in, I had realized I had already been there once before when visiting Chhavi.  It was a great place and we got a table on the top floor.  We decided to order appetizers to have a quick dinner so we weren't starving at 10 pm.  Pritesh and I ordered a spinach and artichoke dip and a smoked Gouda mac and cheese which was amazing.  Danny (the carnivore) went for the crab cakes and he said they were delicious as well.  After a few drinks including a $5 Bloody Mary that was on special, we decided to head to another place.

Pritesh decided to take us to a place to get us a "cake shake" for dessert.  This was an amazing place that made me feel like I was at a carnival.  The cake shake was delicious and was well worth the stop.
Portillo's Hot Dogs

The next place we stopped was called, The English.  It was a neat looking bar that had empty seats at the top level bar, so we settled in.  At this point, we were communicating with Chhavi to decide when to meet her.  A half an hour later, we decided to meet up with Chhavi and her boyfriend, Alex at Barleycorn for their friend's birthday.  We stayed for a short while and then left to get an early start for the next day's exciting festivities.
The English and Barleycorn
The next day, we were supposed to be out of the door at 8:00 am however, we rolled out of bed at 10:00 am.  We headed down to the tailgating lot to meet up with Danny's dad's coworker, Steve.  Him and his family and friends had a large tent set up with a deep fried turkey and various other game day foods.  After spending time tailgating, it was time to head to the game.  They actually had buses set up for taking people from the tailgating lot to Soldier field.  The line for the buses was really long and it started getting really cold since the wind was picking up.  There was a man outside of the line selling Green Bay Packers hats.  Since we didn't have hats and Danny said his ears were cold, I decided to buy two.  I was so excited to not have to buy a Bears hat since Danny had threatened to wear a Bears hat since he was that cold.

The game was amazing and not just because the Packers won and clinched a spot in the playoffs.  I had so much fun with Steve and his friends.  They all gave me a hard time for being a Packers fan, but were good sports when it came to the game.  The weekend was a wonderful success.

Friends, Food, and Fire

Last Thursday night, Danny and I went over to our friends, Doug and Melissa's house.  They bought their first house a few months ago and moved in 3 weeks ago.  Their house looks amazing! Not only do they have a house now, but they have a new family member too.  Melissa has been excited to get a kitten as soon as she moved out of their old apartment. Her name is Lily, she is 8 months old and the most adorable little kitten.

Lily - 8 months old
Doug and Melissa made us a wonderful dinner comprised of homemade pizza and fresh salad.  After dinner Doug and Danny hung out in Doug's new closed-in front porch, while Melissa and I caught up about our upcoming weddings and life in general.  Melissa and I have been friends ever since freshman year of college.  She lived in the dorm room across the hall from me and we were in the same major.  We stayed in touch, but after freshman year we joined different sororities and had different friends.  We became close again when Melissa and I decided to study abroad in Europe with the business school.  Because of all of our adventures in Europe like navigating our way through Paris or getting pick pocketed in Pisa, we've remained close.

Melissa and me in Cinque Terre, Italy in 2008
That night at Doug and Melissa's house, Melissa and I built a fire for the first time in their new house.  It was a fun experience since I used all the tricks of the trade that my Dad taught me as Scoutmaster of the Boy Scouts, he would be so proud!
All in all, it was a great night with the future Hogan family! I'm looking forward to the next time we can see each other!

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Danny's 26th Birthday

This past November, Danny and I had a special milestone, Danny's 26th Birthday! Plus, it was the first birthday of his that we spent together which made it extra special.  Danny decided he wanted to go out with some of our friends that Danny has become close with since he moved to Cleveland and some of my friends that I had already known since living here.

We had people over at our apartment first and had food prepared for everyone to munch on before heading to downtown Willoughby.  I also wanted to do something special so I got him a cookie cake with his name on it in red icing for IU basketball of course!
The food table and Danny's cookie cake
After hanging out for awhile and playing a few games, we headed out.  We enjoyed a great night of food, friends, and fun! It turned out to be a successful night out together.

Celebrating with the Birthday boy!


Today is 12.12.12.  This is a really neat concept.  To the average person this might not mean anything, but to me, I love number sequences.  Today marks the last time in our lifetime that we will experience a three digit combination like this. 

Danny and I are getting married on March 16, 2013.  We didn't choose the date specifically because of it, but it is a palindrome of numbers (31613).  I actually stumbled across a wedding website that had upcoming unique number combinations as the dates for brides that wanted to be married on a special day.  My brother and his wife were married in 2007 and I recall that this was a big year for couples to get married on 07/07/07 since it landed on a Saturday.  They decided to be different and get married the week after on 07/15/07.

I am a very logical thinking person.  I love numbers.  I was always good at math in school and it was part of the reason why I wanted to become an Accountant when I was little because I liked to add and subtract numbers and saw different patterns within them.  Even though I'm not an Accountant today, I still work with numbers and sequences in my everyday job as an IT analyst.

There is also a pattern of dates in my family.  My close family has four members and we all have the number 3 in the day we were born.

Mom- May 3
Brother- December 13
Me- April 23
Dad- October 30

My sister-in-law felt left out when she joined the family that she was really excited when Danny didn't have a 3 in his birthday either.  What's even crazier is my niece was born on May 23rd and oddly enough my nephew's due date is December 23rd.  I hope he stays true to the day so he can go along with tradition, although I think my sister-in-law is secretly hoping he is born on a different day!

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Our First Christmas

This year marks our first Christmas together as a couple.  We did a lot of special things this season to get ready for holidays.  We set up our tree in the middle of November because we were both just too excited to wait any longer.  Danny had to deal with my color coordinated tree and did not hesitate to tease me about it.  He thinks I'm going to make our kids only make red, green, or gold Christmas ornaments because anything else just wouldn't go with the tree.

Our Christmas Tree 2012
We had a fun night of decorating the tree, watching Christmas movies, and even baking chocolate chip cookies.  The kitties loved watching us put up the tree because they love playing underneath it so much.  They are constantly underneath it up until it gets taken down after the holidays.  Hence, the main reason for shatterproof ornaments.

Teddy and Rosie underneath the Christmas tree
I also tried a Christmas craft this year.  I was in the mood to make something for the holidays, but I didn't know quite what I wanted to make.  Luckily, this is why Pinterest was invented.  I came across a craft to hold Christmas cards.  This was perfect because I always have Christmas cards, but I never know what to do with them or where to hang them.  After I took a trip to JoAnn's for all of the supplies, I put together my Christmas craft and was pretty proud of how it turned out! The actual instructions for this craft can be found here.

Christmas Card Holder

Life Update

Since I haven't blogged in over three months, here's an update on everything that's been happening in my life.  We scheduled our engagement pictures for the end of September and at that point I had a total weight loss of 15 lbs.  I was ecstatic with the progress I had made and it reflected in the pictures.

Engagement Picture - September 2012

Also, the weekend after our engagement pictures were taken, Danny and I ran our first 5K together which was one of my original goals when I started this journey.  The 5K was so much fun and I enjoyed having someone to do it with and encourage me to my fastest mile (while also left me somewhat dying).  Overall, there was a lot that we had accomplished in the last few weeks.
At the Miller Paul Marut Memorial 5K Run in Concord, OH

Nowadays, I am continuing my healthy lifestyle aspirations and looking forward to the next step which is my wedding dress fitting in February! We have 95 days until the wedding!

Monday, December 10, 2012

Hoosier Weekend

This past weekend, Danny and I went to Bloomington, IN to celebrate his 26th birthday.  Even though his birthday was over a month ago, we were finally celebrating with the gift that I gave him, IU Basketball tickets.  Danny has grown up a huge IU Basketball fan his entire life and I decided that it would be the perfect gift since he had never been to a regular season game.  Even better was the fact that IU was ranked number one in the country.

Rankings as of 12/8/12
After a few altercations like forgetting the tickets at home and driving in the fog and rain through Ohio and Indiana, we finally arrived to Bloomington.  Our first night was like most nights when we have nothing planned, we watched tv and passed out to get sleep for our exciting day on Saturday.

The next day, the game was scheduled for 6 pm, so Danny and I got out to explore the town of Bloomington during the day.  We ended up at this local pub called, Nick's.  I loved the look of this place on the inside.  It was the definition of college town pub.  They served their beers in mason jars and have the nicest people.  We met someone at the bar with a Cleveland Browns jacket.  After striking up a conversation, we learned that he was from Tremont and had just moved to Bloomington.  He was so excited to meet someone from Cleveland that he bought us a beer!
Danny at Nick's

After drinking a couple of beers at Nick's, we proceeded to head to another bar called Kilroys.  As soon as we entered the vicinity, we were asked for a $5 cover each.  This was a bummer but we soon got over it when we found out we got a free jersey!

6 pm was vastly approaching so we started heading to Assembly Hall. The game was great and IU beat Central Connecticut State University by putting up 100 points.  It was a great game.

Outside of Assembly Hall
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