December 31, 2015

Looking Back Over the Year

Ah, once again it is the end of the year.  Time to look back and reflect upon the things that were, then turn around and wait in anticipation for the things that are to come.

As I did in 2014, I went through each month and selected a photograph.  Some months it was harder to find a photo... some months it was hard to choose just one!  I enjoyed taking the time to go revisit the past year and remember all the things that happened.

Lets get started  then, shall we?

I began 2015 by flying out to surprise my Knight with a visit on New Years Day.  We had planned on him coming out to visit me, but he wasn't able to get the time off of work and... well, I had the time off already, so without telling him I flew out him and gave him a shock at 1 am after he returned from work!

In February I made a trip downtown with my sister T to audition for the singing competition show, the Voice! It was a lot of fun waiting in line, getting to talk to the people around us as we all eagerly awaited our chance to sing.  Neither of us got a call back - but it was a great experience, and we followed it up with a grand time at the Field Museum.  Maybe next year?

In March I got old and turned twenty three, and got my very first ever smartphone!  I do love my Samsung Galaxy S5 and Instagram and Snapchat and apps and stuff. It can be a little bit of a struggle to not get too attached, at times, but I am enjoying the convenience of having everything right there. Not giving up the laptop though, ever. I like the phone for simple browsing and photos but I hate extended swiping/typing on it. Give me a keyboard any day.

Happy Easter!  I was a less prolific writer this year, so I honestly can't recall if anything terribly spectacular happened this month.  Moving on...

May brought another visit from my Knight, the wedding of the older sister of one of my longest childhood friends, and my very first business trip!  I interned for two years with a medical association, and last year their annual meeting was in Montreal and I, alas, was unable to travel there.  This year however, it was right here in Chicago and I was able to go and work for the first two days.  It was exciting, and tiring and a really great experience. 

I hit the ground running in June by starting a brand new job on the very first day.  I said goodbye to Marriott and my limited service TownePlace Suites and said hello to Hilton and my first experience at a full service convention property.  The change was a little overwhelming at first - so many rooms! and all kinds of hallways and confusing routes because the thing is a maze! - but it's been fun, and exciting and really frustrating at times. But I love it, and even though it is far from the perfect work environment and has a lot of s*%& that it needs to get together, I love the people I work with and it's provided a lot of great opportunities for me to advance further along my career path.

In July, my Knight and I celebrated four years of dating. (Where does the time go??) We were unable to visit then, because a large group from Palestine had taken over the hotel and no one could take time off, but we did celebrate with adoration and a lovely coffee date afterwards. At the end of July, my family and I took a week to camp and travel around Wisconsin with stops in La Crosse - where we went swimming in the Mississippi and visited the Shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe; the Wisconsin Dells - where we spent the day at Noah's Ark, rode in the Duck boats and ate at Paul Bunyan's; and made a day stop in Champion - where Our Lady appeared to Adele Brise in the only approved North American apparition. I think we were all a little done with the close quarters by the time we got back home, but it was a great vacation.

A few years back, my Knight gave me Kenny, the brown guitar on the left, for an anniversary gift after I had expressed interest in taking guitar lessons.  It took me a little while to get around to it, but I did learn how to play, and he was good guitar to learn on.  My teacher recommended that I look into getting a little bit of a higher quality instrument, now that I could actually play and I ended up purchasing Kelly, the blue guitar on the right. She is fantastic (I still love you too, Kenny!). Oh, and I bought my first car. Gosh I love that Jetta. She's great.

September was full of school and work and celebrating my mom's 50th birthday basically all month long, and visiting with dear friends. I met Katie and Amber back in my North Central College days, and we've stayed close ever since.  Katie is a teacher now and working down state, so for a weekend Amber and I packed up and took a little road trip to have a fantastic time. As I've grown older, I have realized more and more how rare and precious good friends really are.  I am truly blessed to have these two!

We started October with "Hmm, we are looking for a house" and ended it with "Okay, it's moving day!" The perks of renting - not having to sell your house when you are ready to move!  It was a little bit of an adjustment, but it already feels like we have been here for so much longer than only two months. I'm fifteen minutes closer to work and we're only seven minutes away from most of the things we do in our daily lives, and it's been awesome on the gas mileage. We have neighbors that we obsessively stalk because they have a son in the seminary and so we know waaayyy more about them than they do about us thanks to the bio from the Diocese, and we live right across the street from the library, which has been fantastic. Moving has been great y'all. 

No sooner had we settled into our new house then we headed out to Iowa for a weekend when the second of my cousins got hitched. Hurray for dancing, and weddings and family!  Later in the month, I went on my second business trip when I was selected to go downtown for a few days and take part in a workshop with other hotel employees in my hotel's management company group.  It was a really good experience - dampened somewhat by a nasty cold, but fun nonetheless - and I have a feeling it played a part in my being offered a somewhat promotion at another one of the management company's properties.  I couldn't accept, unfortunately, for various reasons, which were all graciously accepted with the assurance that it would not effect any future consideration.  Still, it was exciting to be noticed for both experiences!

And now, December.  I finished my associates degree in Meeting and Event Planning and am now wondering how on earth I'll keep myself occupied in the slow months of the hotel business with no school.  I have begun to think about continuing on and getting my bachelors degree, but not just yet.  My Knight visited the weekend before Christmas, got to experience the full drama and high emotions that comes with decorating our house, and we set aside our hockey differences for an evening to enjoy a minor league Chicago hockey game together. 

That brings us to now.  There were quite a few big changes over the year.  Some were expected, some were not, there were some changes that I had hoped for that didn't happen.  But overall, it was a really good year, and certainly a memorable one. 

Here's a toast to 2015, and another toast to 2016.  I can't wait to see what it will bring.

December 7, 2015

Time for Hot Chocolate!

Hot chocolate is seriously the best. If you are like my family, you drink it all the time as soon as it gets cold. However, if you are like my family and there's a lot of you, you also go through it really fast.  Buying all kinds of containers can get pricey, plus they manage to stick all kinds of ingredients in hot chocolate, so for a cheaper and healthier option (or, as healthy as hot chocolate can be) - we make our own!

It it's a pretty simple recipe, and doesn't take up too much time either. We make a giant batch of hot chocolate so it lasts a little longer, but I'll give you the measurements for a normal size batch as well.

All this recipe calls for is baking cocoa (we've tried it with dark chocolate baking cocoa as well, and that's pretty amazing), arrowroot powder, sea salt, sugar and instant nonfat dry milk.

First, you'll mix all your ingredients together in a large bowl.

Look, I made my first gif for this post!
Then you'll want to run it through a blender, to smooth everything out and get it ground nice and fine.  You can put in a few cups at a time. I typically go in three cup batches.

And then you are done!  Go ahead and store it in a Tupperware container or a couple big mason jars - whatever kind of container you have laying about. For measuring it out, we've found 2-3 tablespoons of mix typically works the best for your standard size mug.

Measurements for Standard Recipe:

2 1/2 cups non-fat powdered milk
2 cups sugar
1 cup cocoa
2 teaspoons arrowroot powder
1/2 teaspoon salt

Measurements for Giant Recipe:

5 cups non-fat powdered milk
4 cups sugar
2 cups cocoa
4 teaspoons arrowroot powder
1 teaspoon salt

Makes 5 1/2 cups or 11 cups, respectively.

Using a food processor, combine all ingredients thoroughly until no lumps or visible bits of brown or white can be seen.