on waffles and the reigning christmas champion.

One of the coolest things about being married is starting our own holiday traditions. And the best part about starting traditions is letting them form organically, as if we had nothing to do with them. It’s as if traditions come unexpectedly crashing through the door Christmas morning, greeting a small family stunned and embarrassed to be discovered still situated in their polar bear pajama pants and unbrushed bed hair.

When Dan and I were engaged, I went to Bed, Bath, and Beyond to register for wedding gifts. Wedding registry is pretty typical, but I gotta be honest — that whole process really threw me. I felt so greedy and selfish. Sure, we didn’t have plates. Or silverware. Or you know. Bedding. But why should our poor wedding guests be forced to buy us those things and, even worse, buy the ones I wanted? It seemed wrong. Wasn’t I supposed to get random, hand-me-down gifts with quirks, character, and story? Was I really expected to start my new life with all new appliances on someone else’s dollar? Were my poor wedding guests assuming I only invited them because I wanted to capitalize on my nuptials? (It reminded me of my seventh birthday party. I hand-wrote in undoubtedly the most illegible handwriting known to seven-year-olds the world over on each invitation one toy I wanted to be bought for me. Each invite had a different desired gift written on them. At the time I felt like I was just helping out, you know? Just in case you didn’t know me well enough to know exactly what I wanted, I was there for you. Several years down the road I’d realize how tacky and crass I’d been that day and that action would be filed away in my failodex forever. I still feel bad about that. Sorry to anyone who I invited to that birthday party and a special apology to those who were invited to both my seventh birthday party and my wedding.) But at any rate, I did it. I registered for things I thought I’d use everyday (a waffle iron) and I ignored things I (stupidly) thought to be completely useless (a garlic press.) And, for the most part, I got everything I registered for including a waffle iron.

When I saw the waffle iron in the store, I had such high hopes for it. I had visions of me waking up before the sun every Saturday morning to make my slumbering husband waffles before he sleepily followed his nose to the kitchen to find a spread of a sweet, simple, yet elegantly prepared breakfast orchestrated by his domestic goddess.

On Christmas morning last year, we realized we hadn’t used the waffle iron at all yet. And I wanted waffles.

We Googled a from-scratch waffle batter recipe and went for it. The waffles tasted more like eggs than waffles, and we didn’t have any syrup. But we had waffles on Christmas.

dan made them, of course, because he's amazing.

the whole family got waffles!

This year, we kept the tradition alive and had waffles after we opened our gifts.

We also started a new tradition this year.

About two weeks before Christmas, Dan and I were driving somewhere and he just blurted out, “I am SO going to win Christmas this year!”

I was stunned. “What do you mean ‘win Christmas?’ How can you POSSIBLY win Christmas?!”

“Well,” he started, “you totally won Christmas last year. Your gift to me was so much better than my gift to you.”

He was right. I did “win” Christmas last year. I took my Chicagoan husband to Disney World for the first time EVER.

Now, for those of you who don’t know my husband very well, he is the most competitive person I know. He’s so competitive that he makes his sweet, passive wife a competitive machine. A monster, if you will.

“Oh no,” I said to him defiantly. “I’M GOING TO WIN CHRISTMAS THIS YEAR AGAIN! YOU WATCH!”

I didn’t win Christmas this year.

Dan got me all of the Harry Potter books because I was never in a financial position to buy them myself and therefore just bummed them off people. (He bought all of them used of course — used books are so romantic and fascinating to me.) He also got me a used copy of Quidditch Through the Ages and a Harry Potter themed journal.

All of that would have been enough for Dan to win Christmas because it was such a testament to how he really knows my heart (blah blah blah mushy stuff blah.) But at the bottom of the box there was a message in his handwriting: “Look in the fireplace.”

I looked in the fireplace to find a stuffed owl clutching a folded piece of parchment sealed with wax. I opened it to read my acceptance letter to Hogwarts, that is, my invitation to go to the Wizarding World of Harry Potter on Friday, January 7th!

I could not believe my eyes. It was the best Christmas present I’d gotten pretty much ever. What I got Dan doesn’t matter because it doesn’t even compare. (I also can’t put it on my blog because it’s one of those presents married people give each other. Okay?)

I think for next year I’m going to have a Christmas champion trophy made. And mark my words, it will be MINE NEXT YEAR.

So. Waffles and the Christmas champion. These are our traditions so far in our second year of marriage.

What crazy traditions do you have during the holidays?

caught watching food porn.

My gym membership expired this month and the temperature has dipped below a comfortable temperature at which to run outside, so my friends Zack and Sarah have graciously offered up their apartment complex gym for me to use. There is a big flat screen television mounted to the wall above the cardio machines and even though I’ve created a sweet running playlist consisting of songs that make me feel sexy and, thus, motivated to keep running (ex. “Love Game” by Lady GaGa and “We R Who We R” by Ke$ha”) I’ve found myself choosing TV over music to accompany me on my runs. This is fine, except for one problem: the first time I entered the gym, the TV was turned on The Food Network and I couldn’t figure out how to change the channel. So ever since then I’ve been watching quality programs such as “Barefoot Contessa” and “Down Home with the Neelys” while I put miles on my legs.

"Down Home with the Neelys" on The Food Network

While I was knocking out a four-miler yesterday, the Neelys were making barbecue chicken with a grilled corn salad on the side and triple threat chocolate chip cookies for dessert. I couldn’t tell if I was panting more because of how fast I was running or because I wanted so badly to lick the bowl in which Gina Neely mixed the chocolately cookie dough.

A few minutes later, Zack and Sarah joined me in the gym.

“Are you watching food porn?” Sarah asked.

Whoa. Food porn.

I’ve never really thought about it that way before, but yes. That is exactly what I’ve been doing. I’ve been watching food porn for the last two weeks at the gym. I’ve been lusting after barbecue chicken, chocolate cookies, five-layer milk bars, deep-fried deviled eggs, and more, only to go home and try to make sweet food love to my second-rate kitchen.

I mean really. How can my poor kitchen compete with the unrealistic expectations sparked by food porn? My fridge is stocked with the makings of weight-conscious recipes and low-calorie  condiments. My pantry is bursting with nothing but cans of light Progresso soup and dollar pasta.

To make matters worse, I never find myself sucked into food porn while I’m lounging on the couch in the comfort of my own home. Oh no. I only watch The Food Network while I’m sweating my life away at the gym. I’m running on a treadmill like a starving hamster in a wheel, cursing my burning thighs and the number of Weight Watchers points I’ve consumed that day, wishing so desperately to be stuffing my face full of creamy manicotti and “death by chocolate” cake instead.

Last night Sarah showed me how to change the channel on the TV. I think I’ll be okay from here on out.

thankful, but S.A.D.

‘Tis the season to be jolly and thankful and chilly and all that.

Usually for holidays my husband and I make our way down to central Florida to celebrate with my (small but fierce) family. But this time around, my mom actually came up and stayed with us for Thanksgiving. For the first time EVER I actually got to help prepare the meal! Dan was in charge of the turkey and my mom and I split the sides. I’d like to think I’m getting closer to my goal of ultimate wifely perfection, but to be honest, I think I’m just getting really good at throwing random food items into casserole dishes and operating hand mixers (though roughly five minutes after the above photo was snapped, we had to throw the mixer away because it caught fire. I’m really hoping that isn’t my fault but, let’s be real, it probably is.)

We set up our table out on our back porch and the three of us enjoyed each other and our Thanksgiving spread al fresco. It was really nice. The weather was hovering around 80 degrees, but we found comfort in a light breeze under dancing shadows of leafy (and still green) tree limbs. After we held hands and thanked God for all our blessings, my mind rested in the moment. My usually chipper and bouncy demeanor noticeably shifted to a calm, quiet, and pensive disposition. I realized that I do have a lot to be thankful for. A loving God, a cute (albeit extremely quirky and creaky) house, a sweet and loving husband, a wonderful mom, an adorably obnoxious cat, good health, great friends, incredible church family, beautiful weather…

And all of a sudden I started to feel rather melancholy for what seemed like no particular reason.

My 25th birthday was six days later. The day itself was great. I came in to work to find my cube had been decorated by my coworkers.

My boss also bought me a birthday present: a grande skinny cinnamon dulce latte from Starbucks. Yum!

Then, my good pal Randy took me out for sushi for lunch. It’s my favorite food, you know. But when I stepped outside the office at noon and was greeted by the chilling 50-degree-air, my birthday spirits were crushed by the dreary feeling I’d felt only days before on Thanksgiving.

Freaking. Cold.

I think I usually give late fall/winter a fair chance. I start out so optimistic! I think of all the turkey, birthday cake, and Christmas presents coming my way and I get so excited! Each November I start out full of hope and anticipation for what the holiday season brings. Feelings of thankfulness, joy, love, peace…

But as soon as I get a text message alert on my phone that reads, “FREEZE WARNING THROUGH 9 AM TOMORROW” everything changes.

Seasonal affective disorder is real. And each year, despite my best efforts to combat the S.A.D.ness, I become the most inconsolable person during the cold months. Going outside makes me sad. Staying inside makes me sad. Wearing eight hundred layers makes me cranky. Realizing I don’t have any suitable winter clothes makes me upset because WHY would I spend any money on such things when eight months out of the year the low temperatures barely touch 60 degrees? Drinking a hot coffee in order to warm up makes me happy only until my mug is empty. Then I am sad again, and even pissed that I found joy in a stupid cup of coffee in the first place, as if it would do anything to bring summer back. Hearing about freeze warnings and flurries in the Florida panhandle makes me absolutely livid because, WELL, it’s Florida. If you live in Florida, you’re (in my mind) naturally exempt from any winter BS. But winter proves me wrong almost every year.

I can see that I’m getting carried away.

So anyway, I’m going to try and focus on the positives this cold season as much as humanly possible. It’s going to be difficult, but each time I get pissed at the weather I’m going to attempt to counteract it by being intentionally grateful for all the awesome things in my life.

Here’s a start:

Today I’m very thankful for over-sized hoodies, under-the-covers cuddle sessions, the SERIOUSLY EFFECTIVE heater in my 2000 Camry, and the fact that no one at work judges me for wearing a Snuggie.