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The proposal, part 2

2015 January 27
by Laura

Part One.

“Laur? Can you come here a second?”

I was in the bedroom, picking out my ugliest PJs because why wouldn’t I be wearing ugly clothes when I was proposed to? (Side note: I love that I was wearing my PJs when he proposed. It’s very us. I’m always wearing jamz. I’m wearing jamz right now. In fact, the other day I was wearing jeans and a sweater when Ryan came home from work and he got so excited and said, “You dressed up!” Ooops. Noted.)

Seconds earlier he was sitting in the living room with Rennie on his lap, so I asked, “What is it? Is it Rennie? Does she have a tick?”

Pause. Silence.

“Um yea….she has a tick.”

“I’ll get the tweezers.”

I will never forget that I actually walked up to my future husband on the couch with tweezers in my hand. Ryan said, “Hi,” as I sat down, and I looked at him quizzically. I reached out to pet Ren, and noticed something on the back of her collar. “What is this?”

[I won’t lie…at this point I knew something was going on. Either a big Christmas present or….a big Christmas present.]

Rennie had a playing card fastened to her collar. And not just any playing card, but a card that has some particular significance to it.


[One time when we were on vacation I taught everyone this “cool card game” I made up a few years ago. The basic premise is that I can get the player to guess a card in only three guesses. It looks like this:

Player: Seven of clubs.
Me: Lower, same color.
Player: Four of spades.
Me: Correct suit, lower.
Player: Three of spades.
CORRECT! Best game ever. Everyone’s a winner.

That’s confusing, but all you need to know is that Ryan was doubtful, he kept saying it was the stupidest game ever, and I kept running around saying “Have faith in me! Have faith in us!” (Maybe I had some wine, whatever.) Finally, Ryan yells, “OK FINE.” And, on the first guess, he guesses the 5 of diamonds, which it was.]

(There were two witnesses to this event who both found it extremely eerie.)

SO, back to the story. The 5 of diamonds was on the back of Rennie’s collar, and it had instructions on it. “Walk into the bedroom and open the top drawer of my nightstand.”

Cue giggles. I walked (sprinted) into the room and slowly headed (beelined) to the nightstand. I opened the drawer and found several (fake) candles in the drawer, all surrounding a beautiful Christmas garland, perched on top of which was a…ring box.


I picked up the box, smiled with all the brightness of the sun, turned around, and Someone was down on one knee. “Laura Sullivan…” he was saying. I think I said, “WAIT!” and thrust the box at him so he could be official. He fumbled, took it, and tried again: “Laura Sullivan, will you make me the happiest man alive and share your life with me? Will you marry me?”

I cried a little bit. I also barely remember what he said, so it’s possible I’m making that up and he actually said, “Laura Sullivan, you’re a fat toad.” But I do specifically remember him using my whole name. And I know I was nodding.

I jumped up and down. We opened the box and stared at the ring for a second. I was in awe. “OMG OMG OMG” I squealed, and both of us appeared to be waiting for something.

“Aren’t you going to…put it on my finger?” I asked.

“Oh! Am I supposed to?” SERIOUSLY?

I looked at Ryan like he was crazy. “YES!”

“Well jeez sorry it’s not like I’ve done this before!”

On went the ring. Smiles for everyone. Happy tears. Hugs. More jumping around. A selfie. (Eight.)

Ryan went into the kitchen and reappeared with a bottle of champagne (a super nice bottle) and roses. I told him promptly that we were way too tipsy to drink fancy champagne and we should wait. We laughed and kissed and smiled and I went to tell Rennie. “MOMMY AND DADDY ARE GETTING MARRIED!”

More details, and a reflection to come…in part 3. YUP. (Although I swear, I swear I’ll post it in less than a month!)


I love this picture. I look horsey and elated and that’s how I felt.

On making oatmeal palatable, part 2

2015 January 18
by Laura

Next up in our oatmeal series: Peanut butter banana.

Almond butter works better here, but if you’re out, like I am, a good scoop of Skippy will do just fine.


Prepare your oatmeal as usual. (If you usually use flavored almond milk, perhaps go for skim milk or water in this one). Drop a dollop of peanut butter on top and slice a very ripe banana into the mix. Stir, let it melt a bit, and enjoy.



Almost enjoyable!

And, per MyFitnessPal’s nutrition estimator, this has 300 calories, 7 grams of fiber, and 8 grams of protein. Should keep you full for at least 2 hours!

Let’s make oatmeal more bearable, shall we?

2015 January 16
by Laura


Oatmeal, you are the bane of my existence. I know I need to eat you, and often. You’re healthy, full of soluble fiber (which helps lower LDL cholesterol), and in the scheme of things, you’re quick and easy to make and eat. But good GOD sometimes I gag you down.

Now that I need to wear a wedding dress in a 385 days, I need to watch what I eat more than ever. I was playing fast and loose with my calories around Christmastime—there are just too many delicious things to eat—and now I’m paying for it. Cookies! Dips! Tiny sausages! Cheese! Heaven!

MyFitnessPal and I are…well, frenemies again.

Here’s a great, nutritious breakfast that helps make oatmeal slightly more bearable. In fact, at the end of the bowl, I would have welcomed another bite or two.


  • 1/3 cup quick cook oatmeal
  • 2/3 cup vanilla almond milk
  • 1/3 cup blueberries
  • 1 teaspoon pecan chips

Cook the oatmeal in a microwave safe bowl with almond milk for 2 minutes and 10 seconds. (Microwave times vary, especially if the milk is cold! Watch carefully to make sure it doesn’t bubble over!)

Add the blueberries and pecan chips and stir. Eat. When heated, the blueberries plump up into delightful little things.


No, seriously…on surviving winter.

2015 January 15
by Laura

I made some comments about January-ness in my last post, but it’s true: winter gets me down. Here are a few tips for making winter more bearable.

1. Let there be light. 

If you really may have seasonal affective disorder, get a light box. Seriously. I never feel anything while I’m sitting near the box, but around 2:30 p.m., the usual “I’m so tired I may just fall asleep standing up and also I hate life” blues do NOT set in. I have no urge for a mid-day cup of coffee and I feel like more energy creeps into my heart overall. Here is the one I use:


It’s the NatureBright SunTouch Plus Light and Ion Therapy Lamp from Amazon. I am lucky if I get to spend two mornings with it a week, but even those have me feeling better, I swear. I get up, turn on the box, and go get a cup of coffee. I get back in my bed and read by the light of the box under the covers for at least 20 minutes, longer if I have the time. Check e-mail, do make-up, bring it to your work desk…do what you can. It works.  

2. Candles.

Every day around sunset I light a candle or I turn on a fake one that we have (a great investment, because many of them have timers that come on automatically each afternoon). When it comes time to shut the curtains at 4:45 p.m., I love having additional little sources of light and warmth around. Every little thing helps!

My favorite scented candles: Voluspa, from anthropologie.


3. Music.

Afternoons and evenings can be long, quiet things. Sometimes, the TV noise gets irritating, and even though you love watching a series or show cuddled on the couch (see below), sometimes it’s nice to change it up. Listen to a Spotify playlist while you’re making dinner or cleaning. Turn it on while you have a date night with your boy.

Ryan and I were gifted with Sonos for Christmas, and it’s the greatest speaker system ever. With an app on your phone you can control the speakers and play music from tons of apps, such as Spotify, TuneIn, IHeartRadio, local radio stations, Pandora, and more.


4. Go for a walk. Outside.

Ever since we got Rennie, I’ve spent so much more time than I used to outside. Obviously, I have an animal to walk. But seriously, I think the added vitamin D I soak in just through exposure of my face and hands to the sunlight is priceless. Yup, it’s cold. And yup, I have to wear fleece-lined pants and two pairs of socks, and Rennie has to wear her coat. But getting outside—even in the winter—is invigorating.

Remind me of this the next time it snows and I complain.

5. Speaking of outside…leave the house, even when you don’t want to. 

Yes, the couch is comfy and so are your sweatpants. I am all for staying in, especially after a hard week and in the winter when it’s cold. However, every week, we’ve been trying to plan a date night of some sorts. Last winter, we made a trivia team and went to trivia all four weeks in the month of February. It was fun and it got us out of the house on Mondays. Try to find out if there’s a karaoke night or trivia night nearby your house, even if it’s a stupid bar. Even stupid bars sell beer, after all. Start a book club. Start an exercise club. Start a WINE DRINKING CLUB, aka, me and my friends. Start something!

6. Find a great new show you’re excited to binge watch, or do some sort of challenge. 

Challenge yourself to make the couch and TV more exciting. For example: Watch every single Academy Award Best Picture winner from the 90s. Watch all the nominated films from last year. Watch the top 25 best documentaries on Netflix. Watch an entire series of a random show, or rewatch all the best seasons of The Office or Friends. Ryan and I recently picked up Cheers, and we’re loving it.


Make your own popcorn at home and make a night of it. Dim the lights. Rearrange the furniture so it’s as comfortable for viewing as possible. Drag the comforter off your bed or splurge on a Pottery Barn throw like this.


7. Water.

Several subparts to the water category: First, moisturize with good lotions and creams that smell delicious. Dry skin is a no-go for me, and I will spend money on good lotion to prevent it. Get a summery scent to remind you of better days ahead. Use Bag Balm on the cracks on your knuckles.


Second: Drink it. A lot of it. We sweat less than in summer, sure, but you still need to hydrate, as that water is constantly evaporating off your skin and through your exhalation into the much drier air around you. Staying hydrated helps you fight germs and illnesses, too.

Third: Put it into your air. A few years ago I splurged on an ultrasonic humidifier (buy one at Bed Bath and Beyond with a 20% off coupon!). Best decision ever. I sleep better with the humidifer; the inside of my nose doesn’t burn and my eyes don’t get irritated and painful each morning. (We see lots of corneal ulcers and tears in the winter time in the ER because of dry conditions!) I used to have terrible eczema breakouts that are now few and far between, as the moisture in the air helps seal moisture into your skin. Someone (Rennie, obviously) snores less with humid air. It’s great for everyone!


8. Wash your hands. And then wash them again.

Leaving the gym? Go wash your hands before you get in your car. Went to the grocery store? Wash your hands before you touch your food. Pump some gas? Keep a small travel-sized hand sanitizer in your car cup holder and use it before driving away.


PSA from your friendly emergency room nurse: It’s flu season. People—regular, healthy people—are hospitalized because it’s so bad this year. The only thing that can make a bad winter worse is being sick for the majority of it. Some people get sick in January and don’t kick that cough until March or early April. Don’t be one of those people!

Wash your hands. Drink a glass of orange juice every day. Pop a multivitamin. Exercise. Take care of yourself.

9. Get a lot of sleep.

Because….there ain’t nothing else to do, right?


10. Take a tip from Denmark: get some hygge.

I read an article about how Danes are the happiest, even though they have crazy long, dark winters. They have a cultural concept called hygge, which is basically a sense of comfort, coziness, and well-being. Read an article about it here.

From a Lonely Planet guidebook: “Usually it is translated as “cozy” but hygge means much more than that. Hygge refers to a sense of friendly, warm companionship of a kind fostered when Danes gather together in groups of two or more, although you can actually hygge yourself if there is no one else around. The participants don’t even have to be friends (indeed, you might only just have met), but if the conversation flows — avoiding potentially divisive topics like politics and the best method to pickle herring — the bonhomie blossoms, toasts are raised before an open fire (or at the very least, some candles), you are probably coming close.”


What are your winter tips?

Annnnnd, we’re back!

2015 January 13
by Laura

Sorry for the interruption, folks! Not sure what happened there but my trusty friend Doni set us straight and we’re good to go.

What’s been going on?

The rest of the proposal story is coming, I promise, but in the meantime, here’s some January for you.


Rennie likes it. She enjoys the snow, which fell somewhat unexpectedly last week, making a monster of a commute and sending local news teams into the ER to ask us, seriously, “Do more people fall when it’s icy?”


Yes. Yes they do.


I went home for a spell to celebrate my Mama and her brilliance. Happy birthday, favorite lady! Your birthday helps make January a happy month.


Rennie loves the grandparents’ yard and house. And them. They give a lot of treats.


After heading home, we came back to celebrate…oh yeah. Nothing. Because January is cold and stupid and dumb and awful. Last weekend we decided to get over ourselves and actually leave our house on a Friday night, and then got accidentally too drunk and had to have the Big Gulp Sprite Hangover Cure.


Oops! Tequila strikes again.

Off to the library to read the days by.


To make the afternoons less long (or short? because of how early it gets dark?), I’ve started to watch The Bachelor again (only while I’m cooking or cleaning, I swearsies). I’ve decided why it’s great: everyone is drunk. All the time. And now? THEY’RE ALL YOUNGER THAN ME.

Look at this chick’s hair!


Also, this year’s bachelor is kind of…dumb. Sorry not sorry.

Moving on to what else I’m watching: Breaking Bad. I told Someone once that I wouldn’t watch it until we were engaged, so lo and behold, he pulled out the DVDs on December 21st with a smile. I couldn’t resist. So far, halfway through season 2, I am less bored than I was during season 1 and I hate Walt. Team Skyler 4 Life.


Someone and I have been cozying up with pho this winter. The first time I ate a bowl, I was like “hmm, what the crap is this?” It grew on me, however, and by the end of the evening I was basically face-in-bowl. The basil, the broth, the lime, the chili sauce and noodles. It’s delicious. Also good for hangovers, cold rainy nights, and feeling very cultured.


Wait, a quick pic of Rennie and Riggy…



OK, we’re back on track. Tonight I’m making a big pot of Chicken and Wild Rice soup and perhaps some crackers.


I hit my personal best day on FitBit yesterday: a busy Monday in the ER = crazy number of steps.


And I’ll definitely be snuggling it up with Ren a bit more tonight, too.


Stay warm and dry, friends! I’ve missed you.

The proposal, part 1.

2014 December 30
by Laura

[Ed note: Yup, I’m making this two parts. Sorry not sorry.]

Simple. Private. Romantic. Perfect.

I’m not going to lie: There have been several times during the past few months when I thought Someone might be proposing.

There was one moment in Bar Harbor when he gazed out at the coastline of Maine and across the ocean, and then turned back to me and told me he was staring at something only half as beautiful as me. The romance… and the look in his eye… I got super nervous, bracing for the question…and then he walked away toward some rocks and that moment was over.

Ha! Oh well. During a Thanksgiving toast at my parents’ house, he lamented, “Some really exciting things are coming up, and I wish things had gone a little differently…but anyway, Happy Thanksgiving, so much to be thankful for.” (I found out later that the jeweler designing my ring had fallen ill, delaying the processing of my darling precious diamond and frustrating everyone involved. At the time, I just confusedly cheers!-ed and then bottomed my wine.)

One day in December, we met up with his family at a fundraiser in Annapolis, and I just had a feeling that everyone was acting a little strangely. Someone seemed on edge, and he insisted on retrieving “ornaments” from his parents’ car but wouldn’t let me help him. (He carried three large containers and refused my assistance at all. Chivalry or secrecy?!) He was whispering a lot with other people. Hmmm.

But no proposal. And when I looked at the December calendar, it seemed the only free time possible—a day when neither of us had work the next day and when we had nothing else planned—was Christmas itself. I figured it would be a Christmas proposal, if anything. Perhaps even something in 2015.

The 19th of December was a great day. I cleaned for a Christmas party we were hosting, I made sangria and several appetizers. I walked Rennie and listened to Christmas music. I wrapped presents and hung lights. I youtubed “holiday makeup tutorials” and then didn’t do anything differently with my face. You know, a typical day.

Random selfie I took (the only photo of me from the party!) because my mom said, "What are you wearing?" I even happened to capture my little naked ring finger in the shot, not knowing this was the last ring-less day of my life!

Random selfie I took (the only photo of me from the party!) because my mom said, “What are you wearing?” 

I even happened to capture my little naked ring finger in the shot, not knowing this was the last ring-less day of my life!

My friends arrived around 7, and we ate, told stories, laughed, and drank. Coming off a string of up-at-the-crack-of-dawn-day shifts, I was exhausted around midnight. I finally shouted “last call!” so as not to fall asleep on the couch in front of my guests.

I started doing dishes and cleaning up the apartment, replacing pillows and collecting solo cups. Someone ran out to his car to “get the groceries” he left in there earlier. He returned empty-handed and said, “Oh, I guess I didn’t leave the strawberries in the car after all.” I thought nothing of this.

I was changing into ugly PJs when I heard him call me from the living room. He was petting Rennie, who was sitting on his lap.

“Laur? Can you come here a second?”


To be continued…

Can I interest you in a sensual massage?

2014 December 29
by Laura

Today I did something I’ve never done before: I massaged some kale.

I’ve made some kale salads before, but I have to be honest: the texture was a turn-off and I hated the bitterness of the greens. But kale! We’re supposed to love it and eat so much of it we turn green! Especially in the post-holiday detox in which I find myself.

I asked Facebook today, “Must I really massage the kale?” And the answer was an overwhelming, “yes, you must.”

OK, fine. I youtubed it (because how the hell did I know how to do this? Do you do them one leaf at a time? How do you do this?) and found a video of a woman digging her hands into the kale bowl to squeeze it all up. Kind of like kneading bread.

I massaged the kale with a little olive oil, a drizzle of lemon juice, and a dash of kosher salt:


It’s interesting — the kale gets kind of wilty, it really decreases in bulk. It gets tender and soft, and when you eat it, the bitterness is totally gone.

I took the liberty of modifying this recipe from A Hint of Honey. This recipe below will make 2 big kale salads.

  • 4 cups raw kale
  • 1/4 tsp sea salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon lemon juice
  • 2 tbsp red onion, diced
  • 2 tbsp dried cranberries
  • 1/2 of one honeycrisp apple, chopped
  • 4 tbsp toasted pumpkin seeds
  • 2 Tbsp. red wine vinegar
  • 1/2 tsp. sugar
  • 2 tbsp crumbled feta
  • freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Remove the stems from the kale and break with fingers into bite-sized pieces, put into large mixing bowl. Drizzle with olive oil, add salt and lemon juice. With your hands, “massage” the kale for about 2 minutes, until the kale seems more tender and the color has noticeably changed. (See photo above.)

Portion the kale into two salad bowls. Top each salad with 1 tbsp each of the red onion, cranberries, and half of the apple and pumpkin seeds.

In a small bowl, whisk together the sugar and red wine vinegar. The dressing will be way too much for the salad, so just sprinkle a tiny bit over each bowl and mix it together. Top with the crumbled feta and freshly ground pepper.


Ryan said, “Hey — this is the best kale salad you’ve ever made me.”



Christmas recap, 2014

2014 December 29
by Laura

Anyone who knows me knows that a Christmas proposal was right up my alley. I love Christmas and family more than anything, and Ryan was able to pull off a perfect, fabulous surprise. I will tell the whole proposal story in an upcoming post, but I first wanted to share some photographs and my favorite gifts from Christmas this year.



Favorite gifts I gave: A sign with my mom’s favorite hymn on it, It Is Well with My Soul (by Horatio Spafford, the story behind which is heartbreaking), made by my friend Kathryn and her shop Ava Berry Lane.



Kathryn makes custom signs and will work with you to choose the perfect hymn, word, image, whatever!

I got to give Ryan some new clothing (yay! that’s what girlfriends do best) including a sporty vest from Eddie Bauer for walking Rennie.



Ryan also got a book of untranslateable words from other languages (he is obsessed with this) as well as a special Nike super-absorbing sweat towel. (So romantic!)

I managed to get my Dad two books he hasn’t yet read (this never happens): Astoria: John Jacob Astor and Thomas Jefferson’s Lost Pacific Empire: A Story of Wealth, Ambition, and Survival…


 and In the Kingdom of Ice: The Grand and Terrible Polar Voyage of the USS Jeannette.



Overall, it was certainly the best Christmas ever. My favorite gifts included my new FitBit, several new gorgeous sweaters, and a Sonos player that is revolutionizing the way I listen to music in the house.

Get anything good this year?

Christmas photos, oops.

2014 December 29
by Laura

Well, I made it on the blog posting 25 Days of Christmas photos until Day 19.

Go me! That’s more than I would have expected. I got engaged on Day 20, and we just gave up the rest of those.

If you want to catch up on the remaining days of Christmas (which we’re all sick of now anyway, right?) please just follow me on Instagram: @sullivator.

Will you marry me?

2014 December 27
by Laura

He asked, and I said yes.

For the first time on this blog, please allow me to introduce Someone: My fiancé, Ryan!





I haven’t stopped looking at my hand since he put the ring on it on 12/20!