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2013: A Year in Review

This past year was definitely one for the books…

In January, I spent a weekend in Vegas with some of my closest friends.

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In February, after the sweetest proposal, Sam and I got engaged.

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In March, I celebrated St. Patrick’s Day with some close friends. From a homecooked breakfast in the morning to some pizza in the evening (and a few beers in between), we had a pretty great day.

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In April, Sam and I officially booked our wedding venue and our engagement suddenly became 6 short months. I also spent a weekend in Chicago with the other TAF Program Directors to kick off planning for TAF 2013. It’s always a wonderful experience to work together with people who are passionate about something you hold so close to your heart. It also doesn’t hurt when they’re some of your lifelong friends :)

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In May, I went to New York with some friends for a music festival. It was exhausting but so much fun!

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In June, our friends threw us not just one, but two lovely wedding showers and we spent some relaxing weekends at a friend’s lakehouse.

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In July, I went to TAF and served my final year as a Program Director. It was a wonderful year, and I couldn’t imagine having a better co-PD or staff. The fact that we still all group text each other makes me so happy.

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The Youth program has my heart – now and forever.

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In August, my first nephew was born (!!!) and my best girlfriends threw me quite the bachelorette party.

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In September, I married my best friend and celebrated with my favorite people in the world. I’ve never been one of those girls who dreams about their perfect wedding, but it ended up being everything I could have wanted and more. You can check out more of our photos on our friend and photographer Anna’s blog here!

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In October, I celebrated Halloween and my close friend Lou’s birthday. We were basically the only people out that night in costume, but we still had a blast.

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In November, Sam and I celebrated Thanksgiving twice – once with a Thanksgiving brunch in Cincinnati (he had to work that evening) and once with both of our families together in Columbus. We’re definitely blessed to have families who get along and like to spend time together :)

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I also did one of my favorite Thanksgiving traditions – went shopping with my friend, Hope, to fill our boxes for our church’s Thanksgiving Food Drive. It’s always so much fun and a wonderful feeling to be able to give back to our community. Each year, we try to do one more box than we did the previous year. Those carts got pretty hard to push towards the end :)

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In December, Sam and I celebrated Christmas by having dinner with both of our families. My mom cooked a TON of delicious Taiwanese foods, and it was wonderful to have everyone together. My brother couldn’t be home because he had to work in St. Louis, but he was there in spirit!

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It was a fantastic year, filled with lots of memories, great friends, challenging moments and new experiences. I can’t wait to see what 2014 will bring – I have a feeling it will be awesome.

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Letters From My 14-year-old Self

Hey, remember me? I guess I’m still really bad at this blogging thing.

Anyways, I was cleaning out my room at my parent’s house this weekend, and I found a letter I wrote myself at TAF 2002 as a JH camper. I’m still contemplating writing a TAF 2013 reflection, but thought I’d share this in the meantime. I wrote it over a decade ago, and I have absolutely no idea what some of it means, but other parts of it still ring true for me. Maybe it will for you, too. Here’s a peek into my 14-year-old brain.

Karen,

So… it’s been 5 months since TAF. Time flies! Ok well just never forget what you learned at TAF 2002. To communicate better, seek to understand, rather than be understood. Put yourself in other people’s perspectives, in their shoes. Don’t expect that people are gonna know everything (formation game), be clear and thorough. Don’t fight with Mom, Dad or Jason so much. Try to understand where they’re coming from. Always use micro, mezzo, and macro relations. Don’t jump to conclusions or pre-judge. Be open and honest. Use both verbal and nonverbal communication. And never ever forget being ILT. Hanging out & bonding with your friends and the rest of staff, TAF love, meeting new people. Never forget the awesome feeling that your campers appreciate you. Keep all the memories close to your heart and keep in touch with everyone. Communications are so important. So reach out, communicate to someone… you never know, you could be changing their life! Never forget SALSA and the other awesome small groups. Being on staff was so amazing… you can never forget that feeling. Keep yourself open to new people and experiences. Don’t forget how much power there is in just saying HEY! to someone. Always communicate, share, listen and love. Be the best person that you can be. Reach out to someone. Just LOVE!

<3 Karen

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Recent Pinterest Test Drives

Here’s a rundown of some of the new recipes I’ve tried lately, courtesy of Pinterest!

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Crockpot Chicken Tikka Masala (Table for Two) – This was super easy and actually tasted almost exactly like the real deal! I have to admit, I was a little skeptical of this one, but it was so good. Pair it with Trader Joe’s frozen garlic naan and you’ve got dinner for days!

Chicken Alfredo Rollups (Mmm… Cafe) – A few of my girlfriends and I cooked these rollups for dinner together one night, and they were SO GOOD! I also made a yummy salad with avocado, cherry tomatoes, and red onion. A-ma-zing. Bonus: the rollups reheat very well, so you can pack the leftovers for lunch or even freeze them.

Ethereally Smooth Hummus (Smitten Kitchen) – I’m always looking for reasons to use my food processor, and I love love love Smitten Kitchen. Her recipes have never failed to wow me, and this was no exception. I peeled the chickpeas while catching up on DVRed episodes of New Girl, and before I knew it, I had peeled the entire can. Freshly made hummus is a beautiful thing. If you have the time, I definitely recommend it!

Photo sources: Table for Two, Mmm…Cafe, Smitten Kitchen

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What I Wore: Lace and Cords

The temperatures have finally started to inch towards the 50s and 60s, but in classic Ohio fashion, they’ve been back down in the 30s with snow the very next day. It’s making getting dressed very difficult lately – all I want to do is wear (read: buy) spring clothes, but it’s hard to feel spring-y under layers of sweaters, scarves and coats! Here’s what I wore the other day as my winter/spring compromise (minus the Burberry trench – mine is from H&M, but I couldn’t find a picture of it and also.. a girl can dream).

What I Wore - Lace & Cords1. LOFT Top; 2. Burberry Brit Trench Coat; 3. Tory Burch Flats; 4. Gap Cords

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Grilled Cheese Gamechanger

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GUYS. Are you ready to eat the best grilled cheese ever? If so, head to your local Trader Joe’s and buy some of their English Cheddar with Carmelized Onions.

I recently discovered this beautiful cheese via a photo my friend Julie posted on Instagram. It’s lovely and delicious, and is also a grocery store version of my favorite cheese at Terry’s Turf Club. Julie’s Instagram feed also alerted me to the fact that Sam’s Club sells frozen Red Lobster cheddar biscuits. You could say she’s my photosharing food fairy godmother.

ANYWAYS, did you know that shredded cheese makes better grilled cheeses than singles? It helps the cheese melt more evenly. Chances are, you’re currently saying, “Of course I knew that, Karen. Everyone knows that. Have you been living under a rock?” (this is something that was actually said to me when I excitedly shared this “new” fact with a “friend”).

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The cheddar was super delicious on its own, but I bet it would have been even more amazing with some bacon and green onions sprinkled into the sandwich – AKA a potato skin grilled cheese (million dollar idea alert!).

Any other surprising Trader Joe’s finds out there?

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Hi.

When I was a little girl, whenever I got a new diary, I’d do the exact same thing: rush to my bedroom, close the door and excitedly write the first entry.  It would always go a little something like this:

“Dear Diary,

I’M SO EXCITED TO WRITE IN YOU EVERY SINGLE DAY!!!!!  OKAY THAT’S ALL, SEE YOU TOMORROW.

xoxo

Karen”

…then nothing but blank pages.  A few months or so later, I’d get a new diary and the whole process would start all over again.

Apparently, I haven’t changed much since elementary school.  Although I’ve had my blog on tumblr for a few years (eek, has it really been years since I graduated from college?), I never really posted anything there on a consistent basis.  I’m not eight years old anymore, so instead of buying a new diary covered in flowers and protected by a plastic lock, I’m starting a new blog!

This decision was made partially because I wanted something new, but also because some exciting things are happening in my life right now, and I wanted an easy way to keep everyone updated.

Stay tuned :)

ps. In case you were wondering, here’s the inspiration behind the blog name.  A quote from the Kate Spade Guide to Living Colorfully:

a fascinating life