Category Archives: parties

Mummies, Monsters and Sweet Little Pumpkins

You may be wondering where this post is going based on the dichotomy of a title, huh?

Me too.

Don’t worry we’re all in this together.

I sometimes wonder what it’s like to plan out blog posts. To have them be strategic and organized versus a brain dump of the tiny elements of creativity or life updates I’ve managed to throw together last-minute in an effort to get them out of my head and onto your smart phone.

In reality it would take far more monetization of this blog and likely the hiring of an assistant to ever get to deliver you the content strategy you deserve.

In the meantime (aka always and forever) you are stuck with my random frequency and rogue content. Chances are if you’ve stuck around this long, a small part of you may even appreciate them.

Moving on.

If there’s one thing to get me back on track with blogging it’s a holiday. There’s a voice in my head in the month leading up to said holiday that starts to whisper:

“So, what are you going to make for Halloween this year?”

Soon, the whisper turns to a normal speaking voice that says:

“Only a few weeks left to decide. Better get some supplies just in case.”

It’s not my fault that this voice comes out more frequently whenever I’m near the baking or holiday aisle at Target. It just does.

By the holiday week, the tone gets an attitude and says things like:

“Well you might as well pack away all those new Halloween cookie cutters and sprinkles you bought for this year because there’s no way you have time to make spiders and cauldrons and headstones now. Don’t blame me, I’ve been bugging you for weeks to decide.”

And then, like most things in my life lately, I decide to throw something together last-minute after Matt suggests we just “buy some cookies at the store or something.”

“Blasphemy. Doesn’t he know we have a reputation to uphold?” 

So in the spirit of upholding reputations as we enter into another holiday season, I present a simple way to make a “homemade” Halloween treat fit for kids and adults alike.

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Mummy & Monster White Chocolate Oreos

  • 1 package oreos
  • 1 package vanilla almond bark
  • green gel food coloring (I used wilton leaf green)
  • candy eyes (wilton-baking aisle)
  • Edible food marker (black)

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In a large ceramic bowl, melt half of almond bark brick in microwave at 50 percent power for 2 minutes. Stir.

Using a wax paper covered cookie sheet as your landing spot, dip Oreos into white chocolate until covered and set on paper. Once all are dipped, place candy eyes and then put cookie sheet in refrigerator to set chocolate.

In a separate bowl, melt the other half of almond bark until creamy. Add a few drops of gel food coloring (water-based food coloring will stiffen your chocolate) and mix until you get your desired monster green.

Repeat chocolate dipping process on another wax paper covered cookie sheet. Add eye and sprinkles or any other monster features you see fit. Or add another eye and now that I look at them you have a pretty close resemblance to a Ninja Turtle.

Cowabunga.

While green monsters are cooling in fridge, pull white mummies back out and use remaining white chocolate to make mummy wraps. This works best if the chocolate has slightly stiffened but feel free to re-melt in microwave for thinner gauzing.

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So now that we got the spooky stuff out of the way, let’s randomly transition to the sweeter side of the season where pumpkins are growing and so is the size of my belly.

Last weekend we were fortunate to get together with our Chicago/Zalewski side of the family for a shower celebrating the upcoming arrival of Baby Z.

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All fall-themed decor credit goes to my sister-in-law and mother-in-law who created an adorable shower for Matt and I. Would you just look at those cookies?

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little pumpkin baby shower, baby, party, little pumpkin, gender neutral baby shower

little pumpkin baby shower, baby, party, little pumpkin, gender neutral baby shower

It was so nice to get together with everyone ahead of the holiday season. We can’t wait to celebrate with the rest of the family in just a few weeks.

 

Red, White and Blue Roundup

Well lookie there. Another month or so has gone by and I’ve left you all alone, uninspired and wondering if I’ll ever get back a normal blogging schedule again.

Short answer? Maybe? Hopefully? Probably.

I had a Memorial Day post planned for you but then I forgot to take a picture of my triple berry crumble with the topping on it.

So all of a sudden, a delicious last-minute BBQ dessert became a topless triple berry something or other.

And since I’m not sure how WordPress handles nudity, I just decided against posting it all together.

But seeing as how holidays seem to inspire me to write blog posts more than any other time lately, I figured I’d be remiss if I didn’t at least show you part of the journey that was a pretty tasty triple berry crumble.

Provided my blog platform doesn’t block the photos for their content, of course.

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Triple Berry Crumble

  • 2 C blueberries
  • 2 C strawberries
  • 2 C raspberries
  • 1/4 Csugar
  • 1/4 C flour
  • 1/4 tsp cinnamon

crumble topping:

  • 1 C old-fashioned oats
  • 1/2 C flour
  • 1/2 C brown sugar
  • 1/2 C sugar
  • Pinch of salt
  • 1/2 C (1 stick) cold unsalted butter, cut into small pieces

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Preheat the oven to 350°F.

In a large mixing bowl, toss berries with the sugar, flour and cinnamon. Place in a prepared pie plate.

In a separate bowl, combine the oats, flour, brown and white sugar and salt. Use a pastry blender, a fork, or your hands to cut butter until crumbly. Sprinkle evenly over the berries.

Place the pie plate on a baking sheet. Bake in the center of the oven until the fruit is bubbling and the topping is golden brown, about 1 hour.

Remove the crumble to a rack to cool slightly. Tasty on it’s own but you can also serve it with whipped or ice cream.

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There’s something about a patriotic holiday that inspires me to throw fruit and crust together last-minute and see what comes out. Take, for example, last year’s 4th of July when a late afternoon pop-up shower sent us back home from the neighborhood pool just in time to play iron chef with the ingredients in my fridge in an effort to bake something red, white and blue.

No party to attend, only two people to serve and a limited amount of pie crust, but a patriotic pie nonetheless.

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So what’s on tap for this year? I’m thinking of really going outside the box and revisiting a trusty Triple Berry Trifle.

Three cheers for fruit that matches the colors of our flag.

‘Merica.

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Confessions of a lonely extrovert

Editor’s note: I started writing this post two weeks ago when Matt was still in France. Then I picked it up and finished it a week ago after my family left town except I never hit publish. Please forgive me for the segmented nature of the following excerpts. Just further proof of my struggle as a halfway blogger.

They say introverts relish in quiet time alone. That spending too much time in a loud setting with lots of activity and people can cause them to shut down in an effort to conserve energy. That downtime is not a waste of time but rather necessary and satisfying.

I am not an introvert.

So you can imagine how an extremely extroverted person deals with their spouse being away on a work trip for 12 days?

  • First and foremost, she has a lot of conversations with her dog.
  • She also shops because well, shopping, but also the majority of retail workers are also extraverts and she finds comfort in random musings with strangers.
  • She spends equal amounts of time at the gym and fresh kitchen.
  • She bakes.

Yes, you read that correctly. She bakes. She finally throws some flour and sugar in a bowl a bakes a flippin’ cake. Remember when this blog actually had photos of cakes in regular rotation?

layer cake, easter cake, baking, pastel layer cake, rainbow layer cake, vanilla cake, dessert, Easter, birds nest cake topper, robin eggs, white layer cakeMuch to the delight of both my mother and mother-in-law, I did not spend Easter alone. Which is good, because it would have been incredibly awkward to eat this entire cake by myself while binge-watching Fuller House* on Netflix. Instead, I took it over to my co-worker’s house in celebration of both Jesus and she and her husband’s birthdays that weekend. The spouses birthdays and Jesus houdini-ing himself out of the tomb of course.

I appreciate the concern of my mother(s). After all, I do mention nearly every month that [insert holiday] is my favorite holiday so I can understand their sympathy calls and flight searches at the thought of me spending one alone. Fortunately, both seemed happy to hear that I was bribing my way into someone else’s home with four layers of sugary sunshine and the return of Matt and a visit from my sister just a few days later.

*Let’s discuss the awkwardness that is Fuller House another time

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Easter Layer Cake 

  • 1 1/2 C unsalted butter, softened (can substitute 1/2 C vegetable shortening if you want)
  • 3 C sugar
  • 5 eggs
  • 3 C flour (sifted)
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/4 C whole milk
  • 1/2 C buttermilk
  • 2 tsp vanilla

Preheat oven to 350. Ideally this is the time to grease and flour all four of your cake pans. Oh you don’t have four cake pans? Me neither. I somehow only have three so grease and flour what you have and set aside.

In a stand mixer, whip butter until light and fluffy. Add sugar 1 cupat a time. Add eggs one at a time until each is combined.

In another bowl, whisk flour, baking powder and salt.

In a liquid measure, combine milk, buttermilk and vanilla.

Add dry ingredients into wet one cup at a time, alternatingbetween milk mixture and flour. Try not to overmix.

Place four medium bowls out on your counter. Divide batter into each bowl evenly. For me it was just under 2 cups of batter per bowl. I like to use gel food coloring as I find it’s a little more accurate. For this version, I just used my pastel set of gel colors and added them separately to each 2 cup bowl.

Once your layers are colored, pour the first two into your two baking pans andbake for 20 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean. These layers are thin so they will cook relatively quick.

Remove from oven and let cool on rack for 5-10 minutes. Add a layer of parchment or wax paper to your rack before you flip them out of the pan to make turning easier for you when they are cool.

layer cake, easter cake, baking, pastel layer cake, rainbow layer cake, vanilla cake, dessert, Easter, birds nest cake topper, robin eggs, white layer cakeButtercream Icing

Once your second batch is out of the oven and cooling you can start on your buttercream icing. This stuff is indulgent so I usually keep it pretty thin. That being said both times I’ve made this cake I’ve had to make extra buttercream icing to get it covered so go ahead and make a bunch.

Buttercream Icing

  • 3-4 C powdered sugar (sifted)
  • 1 1/2 C unsalted butter
  • 3 tsp vanilla
  • 3-4 TBL whipping cream

Sift the powdered sugar into a large bowl. Cream butter in a stand mixer and add powdered sugar slowly so as not to go all King James on your kitchen. Add vanilla and cream and whip it until peaks form. Refrigerate it until you are ready to ice the cake.

Once your layers are cool, wrap each of them in plastic wrap and freeze them for a few minutes. this will make the icing process much easier. Do a rough ice and then finish it off with, you guess it, more buttercream.

Top it with a little toasted coconut and Cadbury mini eggs and your ready to go! layer cake, easter cake, baking, pastel layer cake, rainbow layer cake, vanilla cake, dessert, Easter, birds nest cake topper, robin eggs, white layer cakelayer cake, easter cake, baking, pastel layer cake, rainbow layer cake, vanilla cake, dessert, Easter, birds nest cake topper, robin eggs, white layer cakelayer cake, easter cake, baking, pastel layer cake, rainbow layer cake, vanilla cake, dessert, Easter, birds nest cake topper, robin eggs, white layer cake

 

Wedding Snapshots: the details

When it comes to wedding and party photos, I’m a sucker for detail shots. And if you’re a sucker for detail shots then we should be best friends. Which is pretty much what our photographer and I became as soon as I looked at her work and saw that she appreciated the little details just as much as I do.

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There’s just something in the details. Don’t get me wrong, you may not get the same emotion with a detail shot as you do with a candid, but I love the way that the details give you a feel for the entire day. As if the theme (if there is one) is all wrapped up into a pretty little detailed package.

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So without further ado, here are some details from our wedding day taken by the talented Wright Photographs out of Champaign.
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on girlfriends…

Sitting 30 days out from our wedding day (no hives yet), I was browsing through the photos one of my girlfriends sent to me yesterday from the festivities and I realized something. People should really get married more often.

I mean when else do you get a chance to spend time with all of your girlfriends from your whole life all at in the same place and all at once? From braces to bachelor degrees, from late night food to Sunday brunch, the chance to merge groups of girlfriends together for one mega girl’s night is pretty awesome.

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A chance made even better if they all get along. Think about it. Chances are you align yourself with similar types of personalities throughout the years. And let’s say, for example, the middle school and college versions of two life of the party personalities meet for the first time in Vegas and realize how much they have in common, you just facilitated perhaps the greatest (or most dangerous) girlfriend setup in history.

bachelorette party, chicago, girlfriends, wedding, spring, friends, travel, family

As my nephew would say, it’s pretty epic really. A chance to spend time with that all the females you love all at once and question why you don’t do this more often. We should really do this more often.

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Weekend recap: Chicago style

Historically I’ve not been the best at weekend recaps. Especially weekends that involve all of my favorite females in one room, baby snuggles and Chicago nights. I suppose it could be because recapping a weekend means it’s over and I have to accept the finality of it all. And just like knowing when to end conversations with strangers after several shots of tequila, I tend to have a hard time letting go.

You know what doesn’t seem to be have a hard time letting go once you turn thirty?

Hangovers.

I hope you’ll forgive me if my sentence structure is off today. Earlier I blasted one of the walls of a cubicle while walking out of my office. And we’re not talking about my usual slight shoulder tap due to a clumsy streak that I’ve never seemed to grow out of, but rather a solid clavicle impact that left the metal frame ringing.

You’ll forgive me if I’m not myself today. My flight home last night was terrifyingly turbulent thanks to an apparently unavoidable line of weather. And the moment in which the pilot decided to bail on the landing about two feet above the runway was just a cherry on top. I feel like a well-shaken margarita, which isn’t very far off considering the amount of them we consumed Saturday night.

But it wasn’t a completely horrible travel day. I got expedited through security at O’hare yesterday and avoided bending over to take my shoes off, a perk I can only assume was given to me when the TSA saw the pitiful look of nausea on my face. And when I sought relief in greasy fast food in Terminal C, I was both pleased and disgusted to find a bonus order of french fries in my mighty kids meal. Pleased at the luck and disgusted because I could no longer stomach the idea of airport french fries about two minutes later.

It was thanks to an experienced pilot and a very calming ARMY sergeant seated next to me that our second landing was much more successful than the first (we actually landed that time) and that I now have a horrifying story to pass along to my future children and secure my newly developed fear of flying for another generation. I suppose I could accept the encouragement my future husband had for me when I text him what happened and he said, “Wow. Good for you. Now you’ve lived a little. Haha.”

And lived we did. Both literally and figuratively. We lived it up for all the new babies born who were finally spending a Saturday night alone with their dads, for a chance to get the gang back together and for a solid rendition of friends in low places at the best little karaoke spot in bucktown.

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April Showers

It’s wedding season! Doesn’t it seem like just yesterday we were all getting together for bridal showers and bachelorette parties every other weekend?

Truth is it’s been a while since we all got together to celebrate a wedding. That’s why Matt and I decided to be the last. You know, to build the suspense and excitement.

And to give our friends a chance to go out for a night and leave their kids with grandma and grandpa.

We ventured home last weekend for a weekend full of wedding festivities and Easter celebrations. After a brief pilot strike, new flight schedules and a detour in Chicago, we made it to Springfield around 1 a.m. Saturday morning. This was our third trip home that we arrived after midnight so we’re hopeful that by the time the wedding comes, the travel gods smile down on us instead of pouring their flight delays and traffic jams all over us.

Travel woes behind us, we spent Saturday amidst family and friends and if you ask me, there’s no better way to spend a weekend day. It meant so much to us for both sides of friends and family come into town, something I appreciate so much more living thousands of miles away from them.

My mom and sister handled all of the planning and execution of the shower so while I can’t take credit for any of the details, I did manage to snap a few photos to share with you. I think we both know I’m good for little more than photo posts at this point so here’s a mash-up of the weekend.

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wedding shower, bridal shower, babies, wedding season, spring bridal shower, champagne bar, wedding cake

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wedding shower, bridal shower, babies, wedding season, spring bridal shower, champagne bar, wedding cake, save the date cookie

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wedding shower, bridal shower, babies, wedding season, spring bridal shower, champagne bar, wedding cake, save the date cookie

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wedding shower, bridal shower, babies, wedding season, spring bridal shower, champagne bar, wedding cake, save the date cookie, family

wedding shower, bridal shower, babies, wedding season, spring bridal shower, champagne bar, wedding cake, save the date cookie, family

wedding shower, bridal shower, babies, wedding season, spring bridal shower, champagne bar, wedding cake, save the date cookie, family

We had a great Easter celebration and are continuing the party this week with the boys visiting Florida for their spring break. You’ll have to excuse my delay in posting as a certain spunky younger brother is turning 5 tomorrow and I’ve got some decorating to do but I’ll leave you with a few shots from Easter Sunday.

Easter, brothers, boys, photography, easter sunday, family, kidsEaster, brothers, boys, photography, easter sunday, family, kids Easter, brothers, boys, photography, easter sunday, family, kids

Can you tell they’re brothers?

 

 

Thanksgiving replay

Happy Thanksgiving week! In honor of the upcoming holiday and because I just realized that the post I was going to share with you today is nearly identical to the one I wrote exactly one year ago today, I’m re-posting it for your enjoyment. Because what is Thanksgiving than a chance to eat the exact same thing you did the year before (cranberry salsa), watch the same football teams play each other and re-invigorate that same nauseous feeling you have every time you go overboard on stuffing. Without further ado:

Originally published on November 25, 2014. Edited for relocating purposes.

OMG it’s Thanksgiving week y’all!

I know. I can hardly believe it either.

I can hardly believe it because we’ve been experiencing full-on Christmastime weather here in Chicago summertime weather here in Florida. Saturday was the annual Magnificent Mile Lights Festival, complete with 14 degree wind chills and boughs of frozen holly. Sunday was unseasonably lovely, complete with 80 degree temps and neighbors sweating while decking their halls.

As a staunch no Christmas cheer before Thanksgiving is here supporter, I must admit this weather is throwing me for a loop. Our rapid decline super cheery warm sunny weird November temps has me ever-so-close to NOT decking my halls. Pair that with an especially tempting out of context holiday collection from Target and I nearly broke my own cardinal red rule this season don’t know if I’ll ever get into the spirit this year.

I may even have purchased a pillow from the above collection new pair of sandals this weekend and tucked it away for later decorating wore them the next day.

What a difference a year makes

 

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So I invite you to join me in slowing down on the Christmas craziness. There’s plenty of time for finding the perfect palm tree. Weeks and weeks until you finally pick the last piece of glitter sand out of your hair. Let’s not be too rushed to miss the reason we gather together this week and stuff our bellies. After all, we’ve got Pilgrims to thank!

In the spirit of Thanksgiving, I offer you the most welcomed holiday recipe you will ever bring. On a buffet full of taupes, tans and cocoas, this red gem stands out not only in color, but in taste. I invite you to share it as an appetizer before your Thanksgiving feast, or carry it through your holiday parties into the New Year.

holiday cranberry salsa, cranberry relish, thanksgiving, christmas appetizers, cranberry side dish

It’s fresh. It’s sweet. It’s tangy. It’s your go-to contribution for potlucks all season long. Special shout out to my cousin Lindsey for bringing this on Christmas Day a few years ago. It’s really become the gift that keeps on giving.

holiday cranberry salsa, cranberry relish, thanksgiving, christmas appetizers, cranberry side dish

Holiday Cranberry Salsa 

  • 1 bag fresh cranberries
  • 1 green apple
  • 1 red pepper, seeded
  • 1/2 med red onion
  • 1/2-3/4 C sugar
  • 1/3 C apple juice
  • 1 jalapeno
  • zest of 1 lime (plus a little juice)
  • 1 bunch cilantro (1/4 C)
  • Kosher salt to taste

Rough chop apples, peppers and onions. In a food processor, chop fresh cranberries. Transfer to a large mixing bowl. Add apple, peppers and onion to food processor. Chop until finely diced. Add to cranberries in bowl. Finally, chop cilantro. Add sugar, apple juice, lime zest and lime juice. Add cilantro and salt to taste.

holiday cranberry salsa, cranberry relish, thanksgiving, christmas appetizers, cranberry side dish

The sugar will start to pull out the liquid in the cranberries and so be sure to give it a few hours to sit. Serve with blue corn chips as an appetizer, as a relish on turkey or over cream cheese with crackers.

holiday cranberry salsa, cranberry relish, thanksgiving, christmas appetizers, cranberry side dish

I hope you have a wonderful holiday with family and friends. What a great time to be thankful for all we have been given this year.

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Da Fam, Da Bears, Da Treats!

A post shared by Sarah Zalewski (@slmurphy) on

 

What music do mummies listen too?

Wrap Music.

This Halloween joke was brought to you by Brent J. from Upper Arlington, Ohio

Thanks Brent!

I apologize for my blog infrequency but you know I’m not one to miss a holiday so it’s only fitting that I bring it back for one of my favorites.

I love Halloween. I would say it’s my favorite holiday but I say that about every holiday so I doubt you would believe me if I did.

Halloween is totally my favorite holiday.

I’m the kind of girl who gets into the spirit by making an entire batch of chocolate covered pretzels 7 days ago only to find out that Halloween was not for another week.

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Speaking of spirits.

Why do ghosts make good cheerleaders?

Because they have a lot of spirit.

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I found these googlie eyes a few weeks back and couldn’t get the idea of googlie-eyed ghosts out of my head ever since.

royal icing, sugar cookies, halloween, iced ghost sugar cookies, halloween dessert, cookies, sugar cookies, goblin cookies, halloween treats

If you were ever wondering where I get ideas for things to make, the above statement about sums it up. There’s really no planning involved. An idea comes out of nearly nowhere and once it’s in my head I can’t get rid of it until the sugar cookie dough has set, the royal icing has been mixed and the googlie eyes placed. It’s a blessing and a curse really.

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I won’t get into the recipes as I broke them down in this post, but just know that if you want a soft and chewy royally-iced goblin, you are going to need a few hours of outlining time.

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And outlining time takes away from what the heck are we going to dress up as this year time so I’m off to figure that out.

What do you call a ghost’s mother and father?

Transparents.

30!

I’m thirty. 30 years old!

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Thirty! I did it. I finally passed the last milestone birthday that all of my friends passed nearly a year before me! Being the youngest of the group, I was used to being last in line for all age-related events. Last to drive at 16, last to do whatever a non-smoker is allowed to do at 18 and the last to legally drink at 21. Now don’t feel too bad for me. Looking back, I can see now that it actually worked out in my favor. I had cool friends to drive me to and from school, to book rental cars when we went on trips and to illustrate which liquor you should not make your best friend on your 21st birthday. Tequila maybe. Whiskey no way. I remember thinking that when they all turned thirty, I would still be 29. And how cool that would be to still be 29 when all your friends were old and thirty. turning 30, birthday, friends Well I realized about a year ago that it’s neither cool nor old. Thirty is not the old age I (and probably every other 24 year old who is reading this) thinks it is. There’s a shift that happens about the age of 26 or 27 where you suddenly realize that you are rapidly approaching the thirty year-old you thought was so old just a few years ago. I am now that thirty year-old that kids just out of college scoff at. Only I don’t feel very different than them. Minus pretty much all of these things. I stayed up until 2 a.m. this weekend. Only it was because my mom and sister’s flight got delayed, not because we wanted to hit up the late-night bar and watch the sun come up. I cannot tell you the last time I willingly stayed up that late. And I’m ok with that. As if last weekend’s surprise party wasn’t enough, my mom and sister came down to visit me in Florida this weekend to celebrate the official birthday. You don’t realize how loved you are until you live really far away and people go out of their way to make you feel special on your birthday. turning 30, birthday, friends   On Saturday, we headed down to St. Armands and Lido Beach. Lido Beach, St Armands, Florida, family, birthday   And on Sunday we spent most of the day at Siesta Key, followed by a sunset dinner along the beach on Anna Marie Island. beach, florida, family, birthday, swiss mountain dog, sunset, anna marie island, siesta key beach, florida, family, birthday, swiss mountain dog, sunset, anna marie island, siesta key   It was so nice to spend some quality time with just my mom and sister. If the next two-thirds of my life look anything like theirs, I can’t wait to get there. Thank you again for all the well-wishes over the weekend. I’m excited for the year ahead.