As with the last few years, 2014 was a full year, with many school and travel adventures. The last few months were especially a transitional period – more on that in a few days – with me starting my new job at Goldey-Beacom College in August. Here are a few highlights from the past year…
January was a very cold month in Delaware with more snow than we have had in many years. This resulted in many at-home dinners and weekends with lots of Czech soup from packets and grilled cheese sandwiches. I designed some new stationery products for fun this month – I was winding down my Etsy store as I needed more time to work on my dissertation – but I had fun creating custom stationery for my Aunts which I mailed to them as a surprise. They loved it! I still remember them calling me so excited to tell me how much they liked it. I continued going up to Penn State almost weekly for work but no classes as I only had my only Statistics class left. I celebrated my “no more in-person classes” status by treating myself to a new laptop bag and shared a review of my Michael Kors Jet Set Travel Tote for Macbook here on the blog. Peter celebrated a milestone at the College – 15 years! It was the first time I was present while he received an award – it happened to take place during the winter luncheon – and I managed to grab a picture.
More snowy, cold weather in February. I started working occasionally from the local coffee shop in the mornings, in an attempt for a change of scenery to help me focus on my dissertation-writing. I got a lot of research reading done during this time, but really struggled my Statistics class. I took my mid-term and was really worried about my progress. Peter and I celebrated Valentine’s Day by enjoying dinner on the Wilmington Western Railroad Dinner train (which I almost missed because I was snowed in at the State College Hilton Garden Inn for an extra night just before Valentine’s Day!) and I surprised him with some fun personalized Valentine’s Day gifts. I tried my hand at creating my own day planner and shared a blog post about how you can create your own too: DIY: Make Your Own Day Planner. Oh, and I chopped my hair off to a rather short hairstyle this month too!
March was a really busy month! We celebrated Dad’s 79th birthday with a homemade lunch (my Chicken and Dumplings). More cold, and still more snowy weather. I continued my commuting to Penn State and worked on my dissertation as much as possible. I designed the first Box at Penn State training sessions for the new Box file sharing service and gave my first Adobe Connect training session to nearly 100 participants! I decided to dedicate the majority of my Spring Break to dissertation writing, and thought the best way to do this might be to go away on a mini-writing retreat of sorts. I used up my Hilton Honors points and Mom and I flew to San Juan. I started writing on the balcony overlooking the ocean just before dawn each day (I pushed the desk out onto the patio!) and wrote for the majority of the day. A change of scenery definitely worked. I finally finished my first three chapters and sent them off to my advisor for review the day before we flew home. Shortly after we returned, I drove down to Baltimore to present with a co-worker at my first Human Resources conference.
This is the month we lost our beloved cat Jasmine. It’s been six months and it still feels like yesterday for us.
But despite all the sad, a lot of good things happened in April too. We traveled to Boston to attend Peter’s PAX East Conference, I studied my tail off and learned I successfully completed my Statistics class! Mom and I attended the Downton Abbey exhibit at the Winterthur Museum and Gardens and loved checking out all of the costumes. We celebrated Easter with my parents, but as it was right after Jasmine’s passing, it was a very sad day for us.
I celebrated being finished my final semester with courses by joining my Mom at the beach in Ocean City for a few days – she attended a conference and I worked on my dissertation. We celebrated Mom turning 64 with a wonderful Tapas dinner, and then had a brunch together a week later for Mother’s Day. I started working outside a lot as the weather was finely nice! Peter turned 35 and we spent the day at the Baltimore Aquarium and I surprised him with a cake made by Charm City Cakes in Baltimore. I started treating myself to weekly or every other week bunches of flowers for my home office. I spent a lot of time working in there so it was a nice way to brighten my space.
We continued to work on learning how to be a family of 3, instead of 4. It was difficult to smile a lot of the time.
In June I started working on my garden in earnest. I cleaned the crazy mess of weeds that had taken over my small garden, and planted some flowers, tomatoes, and basil. I worked from home for PSU and continued working on my dissertation. After many weeks of procrastinating, I finally put together an album of every year of Jasmine’s life. We celebrated Father’s Day with my Dad – he got a huge kick out of that balloon.
We ended June by celebrating 8 years married! I felt somewhat crafty by wrapping my gifts with black and white printed pictures from our wedding day.
July brought more travel. We started out the month seeing the Oscar Meyer Mobile in person! Peter was very excited by this. It was very cool to see it in person! Next, we flew to Disney World for our annual family vacation. After going to Disney World for every year the last few years, we went to St. John last year instead. This year we were ready to go back to Disney! We had a wonderful time, despite me being very sick for a few of the days. As in, needed Antibiotics and lots of cold medication sick. Epcot was a bit of a blur. We’ve been to Disney so many times that it’s a nice relaxing time for us because we know exactly where we want to go and what we want to do. Shortly after Disney, Mom and I spent a few days up in State College for Arts Fest where we managed to get our picture taken with the Lion Shrine. I attended the PSU Network of Trainers Summer Conference and gave a presentation on Getting Started with Box for Trainers. My garden continued to grow! Lots of small tomatoes (need to figure out how to get larger tomatoes to grow!) and oodles and oodles of Basil.
Peter and I attended the local ice cream festival at the Woodside Creamery, just down the road from our house. Jasper hung out with me in the office while I worked on my dissertation or watched me through the window when I worked outside. I finished up my summer teaching (Microsoft Word and Excel courses) to undergraduates at the College. We celebrated with Krispy Kreme!
At the beginning of the month, I shared on my blog that I had accepted a new job as the first Instructional Technology Coordinator at Goldey-Beacom College. Mom and I celebrated this news with a mini trip to New York City! We had a lovely lunch on the Highline, enjoyed tea at the Ritz Carlton Hotel, and attended two Broadway plays – Matilda and Jersey Boys.
I reconnected with my brother Joe after many years during a family dinner in Dover. We connected on Facebook as well and it has been such a good thing to get to know him. My brothers (I have four) are much older than me, so we have not been very close. That has changed quite a bit as I’ve gotten to know Joe, and more recently, my brother Tommy. I made my last drive up to State College to finish out work responsibilities, one of which was giving my last Box training session. I had a lovely lunch with co-workers from Training Services, who I spent the last three years with while working as a Graduate Assistant. More dissertation writing this month!
Mom and I had a great lunch at the Tapas Restaurant we went to for her birthday. I got a great Groupon deal that we couldn’t pass up. Peter and I went on our first picnic of the year (first, ha! we typically go on one per year so I can say we went on a picnic!) and tried a new park near us. I filled out my health insurance and other paperwork for my new job. I was starting to get pretty nervous and excited for my new job to begin!
I gave a mini training session to ITG faculty (teachers who teach Microsoft Office courses) before my job officially began because we started using a new software and I wanted to make sure everyone felt comfortable with the new technology. It went well and it was starting to sink in that soon I’d be starting a job that I was very excited about!
I officially started working at the end of August. My first day was on a Saturday and Peter and I walked to work together. I love this picture he took of me in my office. It was sweet to see how proud of me he was to start my job! One of the really great perks about working for the College is that is across the street from our house. I really enjoyed this during the warmer days as I walked to and from work at lunch time! I quickly learn that Jasper expected me to hold him the entire time I was home for lunch. This meant I needed to wear an apron so he wouldn’t get fur all over my work clothes.
Shortly after my new job began, we flew out west to Seattle for Peter’s PAX Conference. We had a great time, and ate a lot of really good food – like Chicken and Waffles! We had our pictures taken by the super talented Barbie Hull again at the University of Washington.
September was crazy busy! I didn’t post on my blog once. Adjusting to my new schedule, setting up my office, working with many faculty on new and existing technologies, trying to make progress on my dissertation, exercising (occasionally, but not as much as I wanted to), I was really just in survival mode! Highlights from this month include: harvesting more mini tomatoes and basil! My basil plant just kept on producing this month. The rest of my furniture arrived for work and Peter and I picked out a coffee table from IKEA. We finally upgraded our Microsoft Surface tablets to Surface Pro 3s. I used mine just about every single day at work.
This month I attempted to find more balance between work and personal by planning our meals more in advance and using the crockpot! This worked, sort of. Peter only likes using the crockpot sometimes (it’s a pain to clean and he is head dishwasher in our house), so I didn’t really find the balance I was looking for. I started taking less lunches as breaks and more as dissertation writing time as I worked really hard to progress towards my Comps exam. Looking back now, I realize that this is when I really started to feel stressed out. We went to the College’s Homecoming and local craft fairs, and made it to the Czech festival in Baltimore. I designed a new mini planner for myself to use at work and that helped (when I was dedicated about using it!). We got our Microsoft Bands – aka Microsoft’s version of a Fitbit, and I decorated my office for Halloween. I also shared a Before/After look of how my first office came together on the blog.
In November the weather finally became cold enough to get my beloved hot Starbucks drinks. The leaves finally started to change and I made more soups (this Beef Stew recipe was really good!). Lots and lots of early mornings of dissertation writing and working. I ended up scheduling my Comps exam for early December – yay!
Mom joined me and we flew to Jacksonville for the AECT Conference. It was the first conference I attended as a guest and not as a presenter. I had a good time, but Jacksonville was a bit of a bust. There just wasn’t much to do there. I got to connect with several PSU friends that I hadn’t seen in several months though!
I made a huge batch of Chicken and Dumplings and we ate that for several meals. I continued my tradition of crocheting more cowls and scarfs than one person will ever need and finished one in the College’s colors. We tried our first Shake Shack for dinner one night and met my parents for dinner at a restaurant where my former co-worker is the head chef. And I found that Starbucks mug with red stars and I absolutely love it!
I also continued taking goofy selfies of myself in the bathroom at work. I had fun putting together work outfits – most of the time. After being a student for so long, dressing professionally every day has been quite the change!
Mom and I checked out the Chrysanthemum exhibit at Longwood – the flowers were simply beautiful! – and I started what later became my biggest crochet project ever – a Christmas afghan for Mom.
Thanksgiving brought good times at my parents house and lots of cooking! We had our first snow Thanksgiving week too. I was very late with decorating for Thanksgiving but managed to pull together a nice display the day before.
As usual, we went out on Black Friday to check out the deals, but didn’t go out as early this year. As a result, we weren’t so exhausted and had a really good time. We ate leftovers for what felt like forever. But they were tasty, so it was all good. We packed a ton into Thanksgiving weekend, and even put up the Christmas tree (Peter’s job and he does a great job!) while Mom and I baked Christmas cookies.
December has so many photos, it probably deserves its own post, but since I’ve already made this what feels like the longest post ever, I’m just going to keep on going
I finished teaching my first two courses at the College and brought the students Dunkin Donuts to celebrate. I took and passed my Comps exam - YAY! – and celebrated with my Mom up in State College by staying at the Nittany Lion in and going to a Manheim Steamroller concert.
We managed to get our Christmas Cards out early this year, I continued making meals with Thanksgiving leftovers, and spent every free minute I had making crochet gifts (I continued my Mom’s afghan and made my Mother-in-law a matching hat/scarf combo).
We flew to Prague to spend a week with Peter’s parents in mid-December and for the first time we were able to check on Jasper consistently while we were away via the Vet’s webcam – spotting him in his Kitty Condo was a lot of fun. Check out more about our trip to Prague in this post: Prague at Christmas
After arriving back to the States it was back to work for us, but I managed to find some time to decorate my first office Christmas tree (Peter helped!). I continued crocheting Mom’s afghan – my hand’s were really hurting at this point but I kept going. I also set up iPads to give to my parents for Christmas. My Mom’s iPad was gifted to my Dad and I gave my iPad to my Mom. I also posed with the biggest box of chocolates that we had ever seen. Gifted to us by our in-laws in our luggage as a surprise!
Peter pulled out all the stops for a whirlwind trip to New York City for my 33rd birthday. We explored the Highline together, had an amazing Northern Italian lunch at a tiny restaurant in Hell’s Kitchen, and watched Hugh Jackman perform in his latest Broadway play, The River. It was such a fun day!
On my actual birthday day, Peter surprised me by making breakfast! It was a stack waffles topped with an egg wrapped inside a strip of bacon with a candle on top. And it was really tasty! I was so impressed with his cooking skills! We enjoyed a really nice lunch with my parents on the farm too.
And then it was Christmas Eve! This day, though a happy day, had a bit of sadness to it. It was our first Christmas without Jasmine. She loved playing in all of the paper and decorations and was always underfoot on the 24th. Her absence was very much felt and missed.
I decorated the entire house (except for the tree which I was so glad Peter had already put up) on the 24th, baked the traditional Czech Christmas bread called “Vanocka” (post coming soon with details to make your own!),
continued crocheting Mom’s Christmas afghan (it still wasn’t done!), and made Christmas dinner. I was really proud to get all of that done and had dinner on the table by 6 PM with no cooking disasters. In past years it was nearly midnight when I finally got us sitting at the table for dinner. Christmas Eve is always “our” Christmas, and we had fun exchanging gifts. I surprised Peter with a cool record player – it plays records, tapes, and CDS and you can connect it via USB to a computer to rip music to digital files, along with several records from the year he was born from my Poppop’s collection. My Poppop was quite the audiophile and I loved putting that together for him. Peter surprised me with an iPad Air 2! I had no idea that was coming and have used it nearly every day since.
In what truly felt like a Christmas miracle, I finished Mom’s afghan on Christmas morning. Mom loved it and watching her unwrap it made the 100 + hours of manual labor well worth it! Mom cooked a wonderful meal and we had a nice day at the farm.
After the past month of travel, we decided to end our year in a very low-key way – the same way we’ve spent the last few New Year’s Eves – at home, mostly on the couch. I made Chlebicky, Czech little open-faced sandwiches, we had leftover potato salad, and tried some of the cookies from that huge box we found earlier in the month. And of course, I had to break out the Czech Becherovka for a New Year’s Eve toast at 6 PM – also known as Czech New Year!
Did you make it through our year? Every time I think I’m not going to pull one of these posts together, I then look back at other “round up” or “year in review posts” that I’ve pulled together previously (2013 and 2012), and check out posts by bloggers I read, and remember how grateful I always am to have a more detailed record of our year. Looking forward to more adventures in 2015!