Thursday, December 29, 2011
I rang in 2011 at the Stones' home (Doug Stone was Alex's college roommate, and Alex and I have been blessed through his friendship and his wonderful family and girlfriend), and then kicked off the year with TCU's Rose Bowl win on New Year's Day--a good start to 2011 indeed! After watching my team fight its way from a "nobody" school to being one of the top teams in the nation, that was such a sweet victory.
After spending the holidays together, Alex went back to Los Angeles and I went back to work. Throughout 2011, I started to take on some new responsibilities at work, such as supervising our interns, which I love, doing some writing, and even taking on more social media. I even got a raise, for which I am very thankful! I continue to love what I am doing, which is more than many people can say!
February brought the "Snowpacolypse" to Dallas, meaning I had an unexpected four days off of work! I was able to spend the weekend before Valentine's Day in LA with Alex. He was an excellent tour guide and took me to one of my now-favorite places...Angel's Knoll, where scenes from the movie (500) Days of Summer were filmed. I visited my good friend, Morgan, in Houston and welcomed a new great-grandlittle, Meridith, into my Tau Beta Sigma family from college.
Alex came home for spring break, which was lovely, and then I stayed very busy until May getting ready for the first-ever Kentucky Derby party for the young professionals group I coordinate, as well as making a scrapbook for my Little, Ashley. Ash loved her scrapbook, and the party was a major success. That was my first huge event to help plan and execute, so it was really exciting to watch my hard work come to fruition and know that I am in the career path that's right for me.
This summer was filled with fun-- Alex was home for all of it, and we slowly crossed items off of our Bucket List. We didn't finish them all, but we have added some items and decided to call it our "Life Bucket List." I visited Ashley in Kansas, went to three weddings and hung out with many wonderful friends, and enjoyed having my little sister home from college.
You may remember that in a post earlier in 2011, I realized that I had become a bit complacent with my faith and wanted to focus more on it and stir up my heart. Well, I did just that, and in ways I didn't even dream of at the time...that just shows that God was at work without me knowing it! In addition to attending weekly services at Alex's church, where everyone has been so welcoming, and attending a Sunday evening Bible study with some people from the church, I also started a women's group/Bible study with some of my girl friends and even their friends. I had felt that there was something missing in my life, and so the idea of starting a group of young women to do Bible study, hang out, and just support each other in general was born. We are all around the same age and facing similar challenges in life, and we spent this semester discussing "No Other Gods," which discusses all the idols we have in our lives. It was eye-opening and so rewarding to hang out with these girls every week...I feel like I now see my friends more than ever, and I have made new friends, too! We are going to continue the group in 2012 and I feel blessed to have these ladies.
This fall was spent working, attending both Bible studies, relaxing with my parents, cheering on my Frogs, enjoying nights out in Dallas and new dining experiences with Marissa, and having fun with friends whenever possible. One of my good friends moved to Thailand in September, and I miss her and love reading about her adventures via her blog. My former roomie, Caroline, moved out to LA in October and is thriving. It is crazy how we are all growing up and pursuing our dreams, wherever they take us!My Little, Ashley, came in town for Homecoming, and I realized I am finally feeling like an alum and enjoying the time I get to spend at TCU and with the friends I made there. I also took an entire week off work for the first time and visited Alex in California. We had an incredible week together and I was able to attend a childhood friend's wedding, which was so special.
Before I knew it, the holidays arrived. We spent Thanksgiving at home and had my extended family over, and then went to my aunt's house in Dallas for Christmas. I had my second annual tacky Christmas sweater party with my friends, and have loved being reunited with so many great people while everyone is in town for the holidays.
I am continually reminded that God is good, all the time. The year may have seen a few challenges and times where I felt discouraged, but it was filled with wonderful memories and so many great people. I am thankful for each and every one of you and wish you good health and happiness in 2012!
And, just as I posted last year, here is a picture from each month in 2011:
JANUARY- TCU wins the Rose Bowl!
FEBRUARY-Angel's Knoll for Valentine's Weekend in Los Angeles
MARCH- St. Patrick's Day party with my half-Irish man
APRIL- My friend Allison turns 21!
MAY- Okay, I cheated. Two photos for this month-- first ever Derby Dallas party and Mica's wedding...the first for our pledge class!
JUNE-Dinner with some of my faves!
JULY- Okay, two for this month again! July was a big month and I had a hard enough time narrowing it down to two! Concert at the Glass Cactus with Maris and Bree, and my high school friend Liz gets married!
AUGUST- I'm not in this one, but this was a renion dinner with good friends from high school. I love getting together with these people when we are all home.
SEPTEMBER- Dodgers game during my week visit to LA!
OCTOBER- TCU Homecoming and roomie time before Care moved to LA.
NOVEMBER- Thanksgiving with my sister
DECEMBER- Part of my women's group celebrating Christmas together
Monday, December 26, 2011
I am by no means a food critic, but I want to start posting about my Dallas Dining experiences and let you in on all of my favorite spots! My favorite thus far is still the very first restaurant we went to, Nosh, but for my first post in this series I will start with our most recent adventure-- Tillman's Roadhouse.
There is also a Tillman's in Fort Worth, but Marissa and I went to the one in the Bishop Arts District in Oak Cliff. The Bishop Arts District itself is adorable, and even though you have to go through a slightly unsavory area when you exit the highway, it wasn't too bad. I definitely want to explore more of the Bishop Arts District during future visits!
We made a reservation for a Saturday night and only had to wait a few minutes. One thing to keep in mind if you visit Tillman's--there's a little shortage of convenient parking. If you want to keep it simple, pay the $5 for valet. Otherwise, there is a lot at the end of the street and a few smaller lots around the area. After losing the battle for a spot in the big lot, Marissa and I got lucky and found a spot near the restaurant.
Tillman's decor was very unique. The best way I can describe it is "rustic meets elegant." I've posted a few pictures below from their website, but the inside basically included fake animal heads and other items that made it live up to its roadhouse name, combined with huge chandeliers in the center to up the elegance of the restaurant. They had a movie projected on the wall of the bar area, which was neat. The whole restaurant is very open, and we were seated close to the couple next to us. They also had Christmas music blasting so it was almost difficult to maintain conversation at some points. This restaurant wouldn't be ideal for an intimate, private dinner experience, but if you are looking for an upbeat atmosphere or an energetic group dinner setting, Tillman's is the place for you!
Now, the most important part...the food. Tillman's serves Southern comfort food that fills you up and satisifies you, but it is taken up a notch from what you expect of your traditional chicken fried steak. They start you off with a little bowl of kettle-cooked popcorn, which was the perfect pre-dinner snack. With many restaurants that serve a basket of bread, you fill up before you even order your dinner, so little bite-sized popcorn pieces were an excellent snack to take the edge off of our hunger. Marissa and I ordered our classic favorite cocktail, prosecco, and debated about our entree selections. Tillman's has many delicious-sounding options, so I would love to go back and sample something else!
I went with the coffee-crusted prime rib and my only regret was that I didn't have more room in my stomach! The prime rib itself was delicious, just a huge slab of meat that I had no chance of finishing! The wild mushroom ragout and asparagus it came with were also tender and delicious. Asparagus is one of my favorite vegetables, so I am a tough critic! Horseradish cream was served on the side and made a cool, flavorful dipping sauce for the meat. They don't have a picture of my entree on their website, so here is one I took on my phone.
Marissa ordered the chicken fried steak, served with garlic roasted mashed potatoes and poblano cream gravy. I sampled a bite of hers and it was also delicious and a more manageable portion!
Although they charge a small fee for splitting plates, I recommend it so that you can save room for dessert! We were too full to try any, but the couple next to us had the huge slab of red velvet cake, and they also have tableside s'more that I would love to try!
My rating system-- I will rate each restaurant on a scale from 1 to 5, with 1 being a terrible experience and 5 being an excellent experience that I recommend to all of you.
My rating for Tillman's Roadhouse: 4 out of 5
I definitely recommend this restaurant if you are looking for a satisfying meal in a unique area--great for groups of friends or an energetic date night!
Tips to remember if you dine at Tillman's: Come with cash for valet or be prepared to walk a little, share entrees or come very hungry, and don't plan on an intimate dining atmosphere!
Tillman's Roadhouse – Dallas
Bishop Arts District
324 West 7th Street
Dallas, Texas 75208
Monday, December 12, 2011
I am currently sitting on my bed, next to my boyfriend who is home in Texas for an entire month (!!!), and we decided we had neglected our blogs for far too long! So check out his blog (alexmckeemusic.blogspot.com) and then read below to hear a little about what I've been up to!
A majority of my time has, of course, been occupied by work. This is a good thing, however, because I really enjoy what I am doing and (most of the time) it doesn't even feel like work. As I've mentioned in my previous posts, part of my job involves coordinting the Center's young professionals' group, the Think Ahead Group, and at the beginning of November we celebrated two years for TAG! Alex was able to be there and see me in action/finally understand this organization that I am always talking about! The event was both of a time of celebration and a time of sadness, because the mother of three siblings who were part of TAG's founders passed away from primary progressive aphasia, a type of frontemporal dementia, the day before the party. Their mom was a huge inspiration for the creation of TAG and has left behind such a legacy.
Having Alex home for a few days in November was wonderful....and now have having him here for a month is a dream come true! Hopefully we will have lots of good pictures and memories by the time he has to return to Los Angeles for the last semester of his master's degree.
Thanksgiving was spent with my lovely family! As is tradition, the Carter sisters took a Thanksgiving photoshoot. The last one is going to be our Christmas card picture!
And, of course, I have been spending time with my sweet friends! Sometimes we are bad at taking pictures, but these hit a couple of the high points--last TCU home game of the season with Jenna, and my Women's Group Christmas Party! Looking forward to even more fun in 2012 with these ladies!
Oh, and somewhere in the middle of all of this, I turned 24! I don't feel that old, but somehow I am! My wonderful co-workers surprised me for my birthday, complete with pink and purple cupcakes, and after work I had delicious sushi with Marissa and Jenna!
Stay tuned for my next post...I hope that the topic is going to become part of a regular series for me! (If I can remember to update this thing!)
I hope you are all doing well this Christmas season and filled with joy from our many blessings as we celebrate the birth of our Lord and Savior. I know I have much to rejoice in!
Sunday, October 30, 2011
My roomie of four years, Caroline, moved to Los Angeles to pursue her dreams. She's going to be a production assistant for CBS Films, and I am so proud of her!
We threw her a going-away party before she headed for the West Coast:
Me, Caroline, Jenna....roomies forever!
Rachel, Kayla, Caroline, Callie...plus a photo bomber!
Never forget your roots!
Care and Alaina
I went to the State Fair of Texas for the first time in many years with a few good friends. When we were leaving, we ran into one of my best friends from TCU who I had been thinking about just the night before, and who Caroline had really wanted to see before she left for LA. God is so amazing!
Jessica and Caroline
The photographer was supposed to get Big Tex in this too, but oh well!
Last weekend was TCU Homecoming. This is my second homecoming as an alum and the first one where it didn't feel strange to not be a student anymore...guess that means I'm growing up! The weekend turned out to be a blast- I spent time with some of my favorite people and there wasn't a dull moment! My little Ashley came into town and ended staying with me for the whole weekend, which was so fun. We headed to campus Friday night for the parade and pep rally, then had delicious tex mex and margaritas at Yucatan Taco Stand, one of my faves. Saturday was the TBS alumni reception and the game, where we beat New Mexico 69-0...GO FROGS! After the game, Ashley and I had sushi at another Fort Worth favorite, Edohana, explored Charming Charlie's, and then met the rest of our TBS Pink family for dessert.
Sarah, Hannah, Me, Kim, Ashley O., Kimmy, Ashley L.
Allison and I....love this pic of us!
My Little and I, cheering on the Frogs like old times!
Meridith, me, Ashley, Kayla, Callie, Audrey
Frogs for the Cure
I got to enjoy more Frog football on Friday night with Morgan at the Frogs for the Cure TCU vs. BYU game at Cowboys Stadium! We beat the Cougars 38-28 and it was fun to hang with Morgan--I'm so glad she's back in Dallas!
Morg and I!
I have lots of specific things to blog about, so stayed tuned! : ) Happy almost Halloween to all!
Thursday, October 20, 2011
A Dog's Purpose
"Being a veterinarian, I had been called to examine a ten-year-old Irish Wolfhound named Belker. The dog’s owners, Ron, his wife Lisa, and their little boy Shane, were all very attached to Belker, and they were hoping for a miracle.
I examined Belker and found he was dying of cancer. I told the family we couldn’t do anything for Belker, and offered to perform the euthanasia procedure for the old dog in their home.
As we made arrangements, Ron and Lisa told me they thought it would be good for six-year-old Shane to observe the procedure. They felt as though Shane might learn something from the experience.
The next day, I felt the familiar catch in my throat as Belker ‘s family surrounded him. Shane seemed so calm, petting the old dog for the last time, that I wondered if he understood what was going on. Within a few minutes, Belker slipped peacefully away.
The little boy seemed to accept Belker’s transition without any difficulty or confusion. We sat together for a while after Belker’s Death, wondering aloud about the sad fact that animal lives are shorter than human lives.
Shane, who had been listening quietly, piped up, ”I know why.”
Startled, we all turned to him. What came out of his mouth next stunned me. I’d never heard a more comforting explanation. It has changed the way I try and live.
He said,”People are born so that they can learn how to live a good life — like loving everybody all the time and being nice, right?” The Six-year-old continued,
”Well, dogs already know how to do that, so they don’t have to stay as long.”
Remember, if a dog was the teacher you would learn things like:
When loved ones come home, always run to greet them.
Never pass up the opportunity to go for a joyride.
Allow the experience of fresh air and the wind in your face to be pure Ecstasy.
Stretch before rising.
Run, romp, and play daily.
Thrive on attention and let people touch you.
Avoid biting when a simple growl will do.
On warm days, stop to lie on your back on the grass.
On hot days, drink lots of water and lie under a shady tree.
When you’re happy, dance around and wag your entire body.
Delight in the simple joy of a long walk.
Never pretend to be something you’re not.
If what you want lies buried, dig until you find it.
When someone is having a bad day, be silent, sit close by, and nuzzle them gently.
ENJOY EVERY MOMENT OF EVERY DAY!"
My dog, Jager, as a puppy
Kimmy and Coda--We will miss you, Coda!
Sunday, October 9, 2011
I arrived in Los Angeles bright and early Saturday morning. Alex had training for the outreach program he's involved in, so I took a nice long nap and relaxed until he was done. Later that afternoon, we went to a barbecue with Erik and Alaina, Alex's roommates. I learned to play ladder ball...has anyone else ever heard of this game? Apparently people play it at tailgates, but this was my first time playing. Basically, you have two ladder-like contraptions and small ropes with golf balls on the ends of them. You stand at opposite ends of an open area facing one of the ladders, then throw each rope and try to hook it onto one of the rungs of the ladder. The top rung is worth one point, the second one is two, and the bottom one is worth three. Once you've made your three attempts, one of your opponents next to you has their chance and tries to sling theirs onto the rungs for points, while also trying to knock yours off and reduce your points. You have another teammate and opponent on the other side who try to do the same thing with the ladder on your side of the "court." Hopefully that explaination wasn't too confusing, because it was really fun!
We also had some delicious food, and it was really nice to meet Erik and Alaina's friends. From there, we went to the LA Dodgers game....my first one! The tickets were cheap, it was a nice night, the fans did the wave about 10 times in a row, and the Dodgers won! All in all, an excellent start to my trip.
I love Alex's church in California. I blogged about the first Sunday's sermon in my last post, so check it out if you haven't already. I think about it every day and need to keep repeating to myself, "Better than I deserve."
After church, we had a really yummy brunch with our friend Clayton and his girlfriend, Tala. Alex and I went to high school with Clayton and Alex played in a band with him, so it was great to catch up and also meet Tala. The last time I saw Clayton was when we both happened to be in the exact same museum in Paris in 2008...it is crazy how small the world is!
After brunch, we headed up to USC because Alex played in a saxophone quartet for someone's doctoral recital. USC campus is so pretty, and I got to meet some of Alex's saxophone friends and hear him play. His awesome friend Ben took this picture of us that I really like!
Monday was a lazy day, which was just what I needed! Alex and I did some errands, and while he was in class, I worked out in his apartment gym. That evening we watched School of Rock, one of our favorite movies!
I spent a large portion of Tuesday taking it easy (which I was so thankful to do for a lot of this trip--I needed a break!), worked out again, and then cooked dinner for Alex. I made pork chops, asparagus, new potatoes, and sourdough bread. I still have a lot to learn, but I really enjoy cooking and baking, especially for him! : ) We ended the lovely evening by watching our favorite movie, I Love You Man. I can never watch it without Alex and am pretty sure we quote it daily.
Wednesday was an epic day! Alex and I crossed a major item off of our bucket list and went hiking! We went to Solstice Canyon in Malibu and hiked for several hours before deciding it was time to eat lunch. The weather was gorgeous, the views were incredible (as you can see from the pictures), and it felt like such an adventure. We had never done anything like that together and I loved it!
After meeting our exercise quota for the week, we had lunch at the Malibu Country Mall and saw a horror movie being filmed! We walked in the back of the shot and hung out there for a bit before we were asked to move. It was cool! We then took a stroll along Malibu Beach.
That evening, we went on a fun date--Barnes and Noble, one of our favorite places, and Indian food. It was delicious!
I relaxed and read a ton on Thursday. I love reading but hadn't been doing much of it because of "life" getting in the way. My trip allowed me to read again, and I've been making more time for it in the several weeks that I've been back home. Sometimes it just takes a little vacation to rejuvenate you!
Alex cooked for us that night. He made his amazing stir fry, and then we finished the evening with Jersey Shore and smores.
Alex and I hit up a different beach on this day that is just a few minutes from his apartment. It was gorgeous. I wish I could go to the beach all the time! There are all these homes/apartments right along the beach, and we were wondering just how much it costs to live there. If you're curious, too, we saw a sign that had an apartment (or maybe it was just part of apartment, who knows?) for rent for $3,000 per month...unreal!
We made Tex-mex that night and called it an early night because saturday was going to start bright and early..
Saturday was VERY epic! We woke up at 5:45 a.m. and got all dressed up for my childhood friend's wedding, then hit the road for San Diego! We stopped in Irvine at Cars and Coffee, which I've enjoyed attending in Dallas with Alex, and now we've been in California too. I think we should take some serious roadtrips and try to hit up others around the country too! ; )
From there, we drove the rest of the way to San Diego and made it to the naval base for the wedding. The ceremony was beautiful, right on the water, and Rachel looked gorgeous and so happy! It felt surreal to be there. Rachel and I were best friends as little girls, and her family moved to Michigan when we were 7, followed by California. We lost touch for a while, but had reconnected thanks to social media. I literally hadn't seen her in 16 years until her wedding day! Thank you, Rachel (now Mrs. Rosner!) and the Bourne family for including Alex and I in your special day!
After the wedding, we headed to Pasadena for dinner with Alex's community group. They were all so nice, and it was great to see the kind of support system he has there. We finished the day by stopping by a party in Beverly Hills, then finally headed home and crashed after our epic day!
My last day : (
We went to church again, and it was another great sermon...I want my next blog to be about it and how it applies to my life these days. I also met a former Horned Frog next to me, which was so cool! After church, it was time for lunch and then Alex dropped me off at the airport. It was so hard to leave him after a wonderful week together, but he will be home in a month and I feel so fortunate to have had all that time with him. An exciting thing happened while I was in the airport...Gerard Butler was on my flight back to Dallas! I was staring at him and was literally five feet away from him at the gate... I could have been a crazy fan and touched him, but I played it cool. Still wish I had gotten an autograph or photo, but oh well...celebrity sighting success!
Alex asked me what my favorite part of the week was, and as far as activities, it was definitely our hiking excursion. I felt so alive and got to marvel at God's beautiful creation. The best part of my visit, though, was just getting to essentially live with Alex for a week and everything that our days encompassed. I hope to never take him for granted, even the little things in our daily routines, because I know what it's like to be apart, and it's hard.
Looking forward to my next California trip!