Life Lesson #3: It’s a Small World After All

What do you get when you combine six degrees of separation with the song, “It’s a small world after all?” Well, fine readers, you get:

Life Lesson #3: It (really is) a small world after all!

Disney World – one of the most magical places on earth!

A place where kids beg their parents to go on vacation, where newlyweds spend their honeymoon, and where generations of families gather together to take in the magic found here.

There’s so much to see and explore between the various parks that it’s often hard to decide what to do first! Should I go to the Animal Kingdom and go on a safari ride?

Or, should I start with Epcot where I can travel to Italy, France, AND Morocco without ever leaving the park?

Maybe it’s better if I just start in Magic Kingdom, see a parade and some of my favorite Disney characters, ride some timeless Disney rides, and go from there?

Growing up, I was lucky enough to travel to Disney World twice- once with my family and once with my high school band. Both times were wonderful and I can safely say that I was never able to see or do everything that I wanted while I was there. I saw many parades, watched fireworks shows, took pictures with my favorite Disney characters, and rode many rides. Thinking about the rides, the ones that stick out the most to me are: Splash Mountain (awesome, but wet-clearly), Space Mountain (super fun), the Buzz Lightyear ride/game (I rocked that game), and the It’s a Small World After All ride.

If you’ve been to Disney World/Land (or even if you haven’t), you’re probably familiar with “It’s a small world after all.” If you’re not, here’s what you would experience if you were on this ride:

As a kid, I didn’t really understand or appreciate the meaning of the song or the excitement of the ride. Don’t get me wrong, I loved seeing all the different cultures and countries represented in the display…although, the song did get a little annoying after awhile. Nevertheless, I didn’t really see how everything was connected or realize how small of a world we actually live in.

 Now that I’m older and yes, even somewhat wiser, I’ve come to better understand how the song and ride is applicable in the real world.

Most of you may be familiar with the theory of six degrees of separation. It’s a theory that asserts that everyone in the world (yes, all 7.2 billion people) are connected to everyone else by six links or people.

Wow.

It’s such a crazy idea when you take a moment to think about it.

When I think of this theory, it’s hard not to imagine I’m back on that ride in Disney World. Is it possible that a girl from a  small town in Ohio can be connected to a random stranger half way across the country? It seems crazy and doubtful.

I’m not saying that I buy into this theory completely, but I can appreciate it in the context of realizing that it really is a small world after all. When you move to a new place, start a job in a city where you know no one, and are feeling completely alone – remember this.

Remember that we are all connected in some way, shape, or form. Maybe not by six people. Maybe it’s a connection through an activity that you participated in when you were in high school. Maybe it’s through a university you attended for undergrad. Or, maybe it really is by a person. I’m not saying it’s going to be easy. Finding those connections may not even be intentional. You may have to work to make those connections and to put the puzzle pieces together, but I have a feeling that if you look for it, you can find the link.

Here’s why: When my family was in Egypt when I was a baby, we were in the Cairo airport waiting for our flight. From across the airport, someone began frantically waving to my family. From what my parents tell me, they had no idea who this woman was or why she was trying to get their attention. As she approached them, she addressed them by their first names. My parents didn’t recognize her. At all. Literally. It was 2:00 am in an airport half-way across the country from our real home and here’s this woman who knows us. Apparently, she was the sister of the priest of our church in Ohio and had recognized us from a single mass when I was baptized. Connection number one.

In July, Joni and I (and Sarah, too, but she wasn’t there for this part) attended a bachelorette party in Cleveland. As Joni and I were riding in a taxi that evening, we began talking to our driver. We were talking about various topics, when it somehow came up that we had attended the same university for graduate school (not at the same time). It was so random to be riding in this taxi in Cleveland and accidentally find out that we had the same alma mater. Connection number two.

During my first year of grad school, my mom came to visit me. Naturally, this trip involved shopping because what mother-daughter trip doesn’t?! When she was there, we went to Sam’s Club. Shortly after we entered the store, we saw a man who was clearly a Coptic Orthodox priest. So, not to be too creepy or anything…my mom and I followed him and his family to the checkout lane…to talk to them. As we introduced ourselves to the family, we realized that he knew my uncle (who is a priest) who still lives in Egypt. Seriously? In a country with over 80 million people, how could be possibly know my uncle? What are the chances that when my mom and I serendipitously (is that a word?) ran into this family that we would be connected?

It’s a small world.

So, why am I telling you this? I think it’s as much for you as it is for me. I think it can help you realize that no matter how far you go from home that you’re not alone. You’re not disconnected. The connections are there, you just might have to look for them. You might think you know no one. You might think that there’s no one around who can possibly understand the uniqueness of where you came from. But, in some way, the connection is there. It may be unexpected and not in the way that you had anticipated, but I have confidence that you’ll figure it out.

Now, go forth and enjoy the ride! Find those connections.

Who knows, maybe you’ll discover how you’re connected to your favorite actor, musician, or politician!

Cookie Table Project, Part Deux: Spritz Cookies

You’d think that since summer was over that would also mean that wedding season was over too — but not for me! In fact, my wedding season is just getting started for 2013. And, just like last year, that means cookies. If you don’t know what the heck I’m talking about, check out my series of posts from 2012 talking about the Cookie Table tradition that we have here in Northeast Ohio.

My cousin gets married in two weeks and my mom and I have been making a variety of cookies for the event. Last year, I blogged about how Pinterest helped me find new cookie recipes. This time around though, I decided to focus on tried and true recipes that I or my family have been making for awhile.

First up: Spritz Cookies.

Spritz cookies are great because they’re versatile. You can make them using a cookie press (like in this recipe) or you can simply make the dough, roll it into balls, and drop them on the cookie sheet. They really don’t need frosting or a lot of ornamentation — a little decorative sugar is a perfect complement. They’re also a great Christmas cookie to make.

photo (3)Makes 6-7 dozen small cookies

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup margarine, softened
  • 1/4 cup vegetable shortening
  • 3/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 2 cups flour
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking powder
  • Decorative sugar

Equipment Needed:

  • Stand or hand mixer
  • Spatula
  • Measuring cups and spoons
  • Electric or manual cookie press (optional)*
  • Cooking spray
  • Cookie sheets
  • Cookie cooling racks

*If using a cookie press, I highly recommend purchasing an electric one.

Instructions:

1. With the mixer, combine the margarine and shortening. Beat thoroughly approximately 2 minutes.

2. Once the margarine and shortening are thoroughly beaten, add the sugar gradually. Continue to beat the mixture for approximately 5 minutes until it becomes light and fluffy.

3. Add the egg and vanilla extract. Continue to beat the mixture.

4. Add baking powder. Gradually add flour, mixing the dough slowly until all ingredients are fully incorporated. Mix well for approximately 1 minute, making sure you stop to scrape the sides of the bowl to incorporate any lingering ingredients.

5. Once fully mixed, the cookie dough will be stiff.

6. If you are using a cookie press, now is the time to assemble and fill it. Please follow the directions included with your cookie press as they differ from one brand to another. For this recipe, I used a Cuisinart Cookie Press (available for less than $30). If you are not using a cookie press, simply make drop cookies.

Using a cookie press takes practice. Do not expect to make "prefect" cookies the first time you use a cookie press.

Using a cookie press takes practice. Do not expect to make “perfect” cookies the first time you use a cookie press.

7. Once you have assembled and filled your cookie press with dough, press the cookies onto a greased cookie sheet. Leave approximately 1-2 inches between each cookie.

I used the Flower design.

I used the Flower design.

8. Decorating the cookies with sugar is optional, but since the color scheme for this wedding is purple, I went with purple decorative sugar.

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9. Bake at 350 degrees Fahrenheit for approximately 8 to 10 minutes or until edges are lightly golden brown. Reduce temperature to 325 if needed. Be careful not to overbake.

10. Remove cookies from cookie sheet immediately and place on cooling rack.

11. Serve and enjoy!

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The Dresses I Didn’t Pick

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I know I said I didn’t want to overwhelm this blog with all kinds of wedding stuff, and that’s why I started Twyf Becomes Wife. However, since Joni was here for this excursion, I thought I would share my experience finding my wedding dress. As you may know, I have been working as a Wedding Consultant, helping other brides find the dress of their dreams for their big days. But, due to Valentine’s Day being a particularly slow day at work, I had the opportunity to try on a few dresses. I have known since January what the dress for me would be, but since I don’t plan on having to shop for another wedding dress ever again, I figured I might as well put on a few that weren’t really my style. I will say this: I didn’t pick any of these dresses for myself. As I often tell my brides, each of these dresses is beautiful, but they belong with someone else.

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This was the first dress. From the Vera Wang White Collection, this ivory ballgown has 100 yards of tulle(!), which is about 10 times more than I can deal with. It has always reminded me of a very extravagant ballet tutu. Its an absolutely gorgeous dress, but I feel like I could have camped out under it. I just don’t have the personality to pull off this kind of gown, and I wouldn’t be able to get anywhere near Brian.

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Ugh. Please ignore the weird claw thing I’m doing with my hand. I don’t know what to do with my hands in pictures; you’re lucky most of these aren’t in Madonna-esque “Vogue” poses.

dress

The champagne embroidery on this dress is really nice, and I love the shape the corset gives me, but I wasn’t feeling how the back was split… or how long the train was in general. This was getting closer to what I wanted (nothing poofy), but still not it.

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Then there was this dress. I absolutely love the illusion back, especially with the lace and the buttons — my consultant didn’t button all of them, that would have taken quite a long time because they’re tiny and there’s a bunch of them. The ruching on the front was nice, and it also helped emphasize an hourglass figure, but I felt like the heavily beaded lace on top was a little too much. It emphasized a little too much, if you catch my drift. I like how it looked from the front, but then, there was the back…

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Um… I just don’t think I care too much for the train on this. I would have wanted it bustled up for the entire ceremony, because that line down the center just doesn’t look right to me. The longer I look at it, it kind of reminds me of something from Star Trek… Sorry. Its a lovely dress, and if it weren’t for that train, it would have been a very serious contender.

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Maybe I’ll be able to actually pull of this whole “bridal” look…

So,what does my dress look like? Well… it doesn’t look like any of these dresses. I waited until I could come back with my mom and sister to order it, because there was no way I was doing that till my mom got to see it. I will tell you that its soft white, not super white. I don’t want to channel Casper the Friendly Ghost. I’ll have a color accent to match my Maids of Honor and my BridesDames. Its very me. If you want to read more about my adventures in wedding planning, and other wedding-related topics, please check out Twyf Becomes Wife! However, I plan on being able to reveal my dress in about… oh.. 13 months. 🙂

A Few of My Favorite Things

You kids need to get out of my room.... you're all up in my personal space.

You kids need to get out of my room…. you’re all up in my personal space.

I’m not entirely sure how it’s December already. Summer doesn’t seem like it was so very long ago, and I can’t remember having a distinct “fall” season this year. I’m sure no one needs to tell you that all of this means that the holiday season is well under way. Christmas trees were on sale before Halloween, and radio stations started playing every version of “The Christmas Song” the week before Thanksgiving. To the Targets, Macy’s, Wal-Marts, and other retail stores of the world, I simply say,

Stop it. Just staaahp, please.

One of the songs I’ve noticed on the radio is “My Favorite Things,” which I had never actually considered to be a Christmas song. I just thought it was the song Maria sang when the Von Trapp kids were afraid of the rain. My cousin’s daughter is in love with The Sound of Music, and it’s been quite a while since I’ve seen it. I recently read that Carrie Underwood will be playing the part of the rebellious nun-turned governess in NBC’s remake of The Sound of Music, which is scheduled to air sometime during the holiday season in 2013. (I think I’ll pass on that version.) The song made me think about a few of my favorite things, whether they’re cool products I’ve seen in stores, shows, holiday traditions, or other items… that rhyme with “things.” 😉

Bath & Body Work’s French Baguette Candle

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This candle is nothing short of amazing. It *literally* smells just like fresh-baked bread. Brian and my sister, Carmen, both make fun of me for my need to smell all the candles I see. I think it’s a tactile+smell thing; the act of picking up the candle and smelling it are soothing for me during a trip to a crowded mall. I’m sure you’ve smelled at least one candle in your life and thought to yourself, “You know, I wouldn’t mind living in between that space between the wax and the lid…” No? That’s just me? Ok, nevermind. Anyway, search for this one next time you’re in Bath & Body Works. You won’t be disappointed.

Adventure Time

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Is it weirdly animated? Yes. Is it aimed at young boys? Probably. But, over the past summer, I’ve become hooked on this cartoon. It’s about a boy named Finn and his magical dog, Jake, who encounter many strange adventures with plenty of odd characters in the Land of Ooo. Finn and Jake serve as the doers of good in Ooo, performing various knight-like tasks and protecting the citizens of Candy Kingdom, which is ruled by Princess Bubblegum. If my sister was a cartoon character, she would be Lumpy Space Princess.

Watching White Christmas

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White Christmas is one of the only holiday movies I actually enjoy watching. I remember my dad teaching me the song when I was little. Later on, one of my uncles introduced me to Bing Crosby, and I grew to appreciate the jazz standards. There’s something about the “Hey kids! Lets put on a show!” mentality that always seemed fun to me. When we were growing up, my sister and I would participate in “productions” with our cousins whenever they’d visit. They grew up on the other side of the world, so it was always a big event whenever they were here. One year, we performed our version of “The Nutcracker,” and I starred as Clara. White Christmas is a classic (and hello! Rosemary Clooney!), with so many great songs, including this one…

History Channel Series

history channel series

I’m fascinated by History Channel’s original programming, and this year, they really stepped up the game with Hatfields & McCoys, The Men Who Built America, and Mankind: The Story of All of Us. Hatfields & McCoys spurred my search this past summer into my family’s genealogy, since my mother’s family came from the same area in southern West Virginia where several events of this story unfolded. I really like how politicians, entrepreneurs and businessmen, news figures (like my manfriend, Brian Williams), and other public figures are used throughout the other series to help tell the story of the birth of America, the great wars, and the innovations that would change the world. Reruns of these shows are still better than new episodes of a lot of other shows.

Being Engaged!

my ring

I know, it’s on the wrong finger, we’re going to take it to get resized soon. I just really wanted to take it home to show my momma.

Yep, I’m engaged! The night before Thanksgiving, Brian made me a very happy gal and asked me to marry him. Two days before he asked me, I had interviewed for a part-time bridal consultant position, and after the interview, I met him for dinner at a Chinese restaurant. His fortune cookie wasn’t that great, but mine read “A good message is on it’s way to you.” Not twenty minutes later, I received a call from the store manager, offering me the position. I think my fortune cookie was extra-strength, since it held out for another few days. I’m beyond excited to spend the rest of my life with Brian, and I can’t wait to start planning, but first, I want to spend some time getting settled into my new job. Until then, I plan to start putting together my own wedding blog since I don’t want to overwhelm this blog with all of my wedding-related posts. (It’s a good thing I’ll be working at a place where I’ll be talking about weddings all the time.) Whenever that’s ready, I’ll share the link. I’m so happy that I’ll have my Dames by my side, too, along with my sister and best friend since pre-school, who is also in the process of planning her wedding. (All this wedding business makes that separate blog really necessary.) But anyway, yay!

What are some of your favorite things of the season? 

Having a Good Hair Day: A Sleek, Sophisticated Up-do Idea

Good hair days and bad hair days. We all have them. I sometimes feel like my bad hair days greatly outnumber my good hair days. Mostly, this is because I generally hate my curly hair — I much prefer it when it is straightened. But, we all want what we can’t have, don’t we?

So, when my cousin’s June wedding was approaching, I knew that I needed to find a good hairstyle to rock. I wanted something sleek and sophisticated. Something that was an up-do, but not too fancy. And most important, a hairstyle that wouldn’t fall completely down after a 10 hour day full of smiling, crying, hugging, celebrating, and dancing.

Up-dos are always a gamble. I’ve had enough in my life to worry about whether I’m going to like what my hair looks like on the day of the event, let alone cringe years later when I looked at pictures. Looking back, I don’t think that I ever had a formal up-do/hairstyle that I ever completely liked.

I was always pushing curls down or making my hair look less puffy. I would agonize in the mirror and ask myself if my hair looked stupid.

My senior prom hairstyle finally gave me something that was close to what I liked:

Senior Prom, 2006. Close, but no cigar.

Then, my cousin got married in 2007 and  again I thought I had an up-do I liked, but now when I look at myself in pictures I pretty much hate how my hair looked:

June 2007. In retrospect, not so great.

 

Finally, finally. Fast forward to June 2012. I did my research. I looked at pictures on Pinterest.

I had a vision. And when the stylist doing my hair started an up-do that I didn’t like, I spoke up. A quick and easy change of tactic got me exactly what I wanted.

Finally, the sleek, sophisticated up-do I desired and a truly good hair day:

June 2012.
Side view.

Back view.

 

Front view.
Bonus: You get to see what I look like with absolutely no make-up on!

 

 

Post-ceremony. 6 hours in. Still looking good!

 

So, I hope you’ve enjoyed my little hair fashion show! Even if you didn’t perhaps I’ve provided some good hair day up-do inspiration in the process. 🙂