Gifts.  Sometimes we get gifts that we don’t want or need.  Are you honest with the person who gave it to you?  Or do your gift givers follow a tried-and-true wish list?  If you’re returning a gift this season, what is it and why?

My mom does most of the shopping for the family presents. By most, I mean 99%.

For the first 20 or so years of my life, she just shopped. All year long, she kept her eyes peeled for stuff we’d like and she picked it up when she saw something. Super thoughtful. Very generous.

She is also extremely good with money. This is a trait that Kate inherited and I…well…did not. When you are that good with money, wasting even $2 on a stocking-stuffer rubs you the wrong way so Ginzo has pretty much always encouraged honesty when receiving gifts you’re not crazy about. “If you don’t like it, it’s silly to keep it.” I assume that has a lot to do with not wanting to waste money.

It also has to do with her almost obsessive (love you, mom) need to make things “even” amongst her daughters.

Side Note: Kate will argue that it is not now, nor ever will be even because I went to basketball camp and on a trip to Europe with my Girl Scout Troop when I was in high school and she went to Canada. For a weekend. Once.

Side Note to the Side Note: My now and forever rebuttle (she could say it along with me as I write it) is this: I paid a third of my trip to Europe. Our troop raised a third and yes, Jeff and Ginzo kicked in the other third. I worked hard for that trip. As for basketball camp, which I attended for three or four years, I also paid for half of that fee every year as well. I don’t actually remember doing that, but after calling the homestead, pops told me I did and I believe him. He thinks the camp was $300. I’m going to guess that was less than 18 years of ballet lessons. #micdrop

Side Note to the Side Note to the Side Note: My parents have always helped me financially. Probably a little more than they should have (aka loaning me first and last months’ rent for my next apartment because I never had enough saved to pay it until I got the previous apartment’s deposit back. On multiple occasions. As recently as 2008 or 2009). In other words,  Kate probably has a pretty good argument, it’s just not about Europe or basketball camp 🙂

Back to the topic at hand…

As we got older and moved into legit “adult” life, my mom started asking for lists. Very specific lists. I can’t blame her. We are hard to shop for because for the most part, if we want something, we have the means to buy it. (Blessed!) Also, we live far away. Exchanges and returns are much more of a hassle.

This year, I think we had a pretty good gift-giving-receiving year. I don’t think I needed or wanted to return anything I received – Well done, Family! We had a few exchanges for size/fit/color – but I think people really did well shopping for each other – with and without a list!




#reverb16//26//Boxing Day

Boxing Day.  What does this holiday even mean?  I think Harry Potter does it.  But how do we unwind after the holiday?

I don’t know what Boxing Day is.  I am not a Harry Potter fan (throw eggs if you must). However, I can discuss unwinding after the holidays without referencing muggles or magic so I shall. 

The day after Christmas this year was less than relaxing. I was fighting a pretty bad cold, we were driving back to Alexandria from Manchester and we got a late start. 

Cue traffic. 

A regularly 5.5hr drive took us 11.  

Eleven hours. 

It was miserable. Mark and I managed to keep it together for the first seven hours. After that, it was…tense. 

And there were tissues. So many tissues. 

The highlight (for me) was stopping at Friendlys for dinner. It was delicious. Every buttery, cheesy, glutenous (yes, gluten-ous, though gluttonous would probably work, too) bite. 

We arrived home sometime around 11-11:30pm with Sam Adams in tow after scooping him from his Aunties’ house and we threw everything down and went to bed; cuddled together like a family. 

That part was heaven. 

Photo Credit: Auntie Jaime 


Preparations.  Do you like to prepare waaaay in advance, and be prepared for every scenario?  Or do you just do things on the fly by the seat of your pants?

Oh lord. I’m a planner. I plan for planning time. I schedule time to make a list of things to plan for and then make a written list as well and email it to Mark so I don’t forget what needs to be planned. 

I get it from my momma…

I have issue with anxiety. The only thing that calms it is to have a well thought out plan for, well, everything.

Quick example:

We hosted Mark’s fam and mine for Thanksgiving a few years ago. I made lists for EVERYTHING. I made a list of food to be served – some traditional Ventura dishes, some traditional Ouellette dishes. I made a grocery list. I made a list of people attending. I made a list of serving dishes for every food item (Mark rolled his eyes 1000 times at this but in the end it def made the day go more smoothly and I think he’d agree). 

There were lists of appetizers and lists of desserts. There were time tables for what got cooked when. 

Was it overboard? Sure.

Was I able to enjoy the day?


Worth it.


Weekend Instagram Challenge! @change_the_tape

Treats!!  Show us your favorite treat for yourself- it could be a favorite holiday indulgence, or a little gift you got yourself to reward all the gift buying you’ve been doing for others.

I NEVET get my nails done and I only get pedicures quarterly, but before the holidays and pre-Brazil, I treated myself 🙂


Time.  It’s something we never have enough of and can never get back once it’s spent.  How do you prioritize your time?  What would you like to make more time for?

TIME? WHAT IS TIME? WHO HAS TIME? Whoever you are….I want some. I’ll buy it from you. Pretty please?

Anyone see that Justin Timberlake movie, In Time?  It gets a whopping 36% on Rotten Tomatoes, but the premise is so interesting. People stop aging after 25 but are engineered to only live one more year. In order to live longer, you have to pay for time. Time becomes the currency. Want a coffee? That’ll be 15 minutes off your life. A cab ride? 60 minutes. The rich live forever and the poor…live hour to hour…minute to minute.

Gives a whole new (literal) meaning to “time is money,” doesn’t it?

Take my advice. Do not pay any currency to watch this movie. 

Although…you do get to look at JT for an hour and 49 minutes and let’s be honest – that’s worth something.

This movie makes me consider how I spend my time. Do I use it well? How much do I waste?

And what constitutes a “waste” of time? 

I struggle with differentiating between “wasting time” and “down time” or just relaxing. I toggle between not being able to sit still and completely zoning out for hours at a time. 

I generally have to be doing something. If Mark and I are watching TV, I’m most likely folding laundry, food prepping, creating class playlists, or writing my #reverb16 post. 

But if Mark isn’t home and I have the TV to myself? Yikes. I can binge watch just about anything and do nothing but surf Facebook while doing it. 

If the second scenario happens, I often feel a lot of guilt for not accomplishing something within that time. I have projects I want to do and goals I’ve set, but in those zone-out times….ugh. Nothing gets done. 

Do I just need that down-time? Or is that wasted time? 

I continue to wonder about this and have made a goal to try some new hobbies in 2017. We’ll see how that goes. 



Achievement.  Tell us about one thing you did or overcame this year that you are really proud of.

I bought a bike.

Not just any bike though…

The fastest, orangest, bike ever made: The Dolce, by Specialized.

Cue Choirs of Angels Singing…

It was love at first ride… It was so light and fast and it felt like I was RPM’ing-it-up only faster.

I’d only been on a hybrid/straight handle bar styled bike as an adult and only a few times. As soon as I was crouched over my curved handles…I was home.

Part of why I made this purchase (thank you, Ginzo and Dad for my early birthday present) was because I signed up for Bike to the Beach, DC. Bike to the Beach is cycling series that benefits autism. They are held in multiple locations and most have options for how far you want to ride. Friends for whom autism hits close to home rode it last year and suggested we join them this year so Mark and I signed up.

The ride starts in DC and ends in Dewey Beach, DE. We raise money and then we ride.

This was no small deal. Mark only learned how to ride a bike a few years ago. I don’t mean he “re-learned” after a normal adult bike-riding hiatus. I mean, he didn’t learn as a child and a few years ago, he decided he was going to fix that.

He signed up for a one-day class through the Washington Area Bicyclist Association. He bought a hybrid and bless his heart – he literally learned how to ride a bike in a day. Click here if you want to learn, too!

Now, he didn’t immediately start racking up the miles, so when we all decided to sign up for the century ride (100+ mile option), that was an aggressive choice for all of us, but definitely for Mark. But if he was game, I was game.

We trained. We trained mostly on the W&OD trails from Shirlington heading west. We rode in the Bike DC event on May 22nd, in the cold and the rain. It was a 17 mile, super crowded, slippery ride. It was less than fun, but we did it!


We consistently upped our mileage and two weeks before the “big ride,” we did our longest training ride: 50 miles. About 5 miles in, Mark took a really bad fall. I was up ahead with Jaime and Julia was back with Mark. Julia texted to hold up, they’d be a minute. I don’t know what I was expecting when they got there, but it definitely wasn’t what I saw.

Mark had torn up his elbow, knee and hand pretty badly.

He was bleeding a lot and like all good novice riders, we packed food, but no first aid kit. He was a TROOPER.

There is NO WAY if I had taken a fall like that (never mind just 5 miles into a 50 mile ride) would I have continued, but he did. I still can’t believe it. Below are his injuries a few days later…

100 Miles. Ready…Set…Wait!fullsizerender_4

Finally, it was the big day. We got up super early, our ridiculously nice friend, Jill, offered to stay at our house and drive us into the city at 4am. We get there and it’s drizzling out. No big deal.

Then it was POURING. They delayed the start as long as they could but finally had to get us on the road before rush hour.


We stepped out from our shelter and BOOM. No more rain. It was a miracle.

I’m not going to lie. That might be been the last time I had positive thoughts about the ride until it was over.

First Leg: The City

When you are not used to riding with traffic, it’s basically terrifying. Add in that the roads were wet and there were times we weren’t exactly sure where we were going, and I had pretty much had it by the time we reached the first stop. We were soaked through already and Mark and I were already snipping at each other.

First Rest Stop…Still Happy…ish

Second Leg: Get us to the Bus!

Holy. Hills. So many hills. ALL THE HILLS. I love standing climb in RPM, but my knee is not strong enough to support me in a standing climb on the road. I will DEFINITELY be working on that this spring. Mark also can’t stand up yet, so it was a little bit miserable and definitely blew out our legs a bit.

Just so happy to be sitting on something wider than our bike saddles!

The B2B peeps bus you over the Bay Bridge and it is a wonderful break. But you gotta get there first and we almost didn’t make it. Jaime and I had pulled ahead a bit and when we got to the bus they had already broken down the rest stop, packed up the food and water and everyone was on the bus.

We texted Mark and Julia to HURRY! They finally pull within sight and we tell the people they are coming and they wait. Thank God. Of course the last quarter mile is STRAIGHT UP. They pulled in, threw their bikes on the truck and jumped on the bus – ZERO time to spare. PHEW!


Third Leg: Hot Legs

Once you’re over the bridge, it’s a VERY flat road. But it’s also a VERY boring ride. You’re literally on the highway for most of it and there is zippy shade. The clouds from the morning had cleared and while it wasn’t awful hot (maybe low 80’s) it was SUPER sunny.

Again, we were some of the last people to pull into the rest stops and my ego was taking a BEATING. We couldn’t be the worst group there. We just couldn’t be. We’re all fairly fit. We trained. We were prepared. How could this be.

The snipping between Mark and me turned to nagging/GET OUT OF MY FACE pretty quickly. There was a 12 mile stretch between stops as one point and I just took off. I just had to go. I’m hot. I’m tired.

I have this shiny, new, super fast bike and I just gotta…GO.

So I did. And then I waited for my teammates at the next stop and we all left again together. That was mile 70.

At mile 80, there is a little road side…shack…that serves BBQ chicken and hosts one of the rest stops. We stop because…BBQ…and I think, wow, my legs feel a little warm. I look down and see this:


Whoops. I sunscreened everything BUT my quads. What was I thinking?
So what do I do? I immediately apply sunscreen.

And then I cry. Because that shit burned SO BADLY. I just kept rubbing my legs down with ice and cursing myself for being so stupid. I had been feeling really good (physically) to that point.

That was my mental turning point. We did another 8 miles or so, stopped briefly at the rest stop which was manned by a life-long medic who just shook his head at me and said, “Don’t worry. If it was sun poisoning, you’d probably know by now.” Thanks.

The next 10 miles were THE WORST. There was literally one turn at the very beginning with ZERO signs along the way to let you know how far to the final rest stop.

There was no shade and my legs were on fire. Jaime and Julia pulled ahead, but I was in a pretty bad way. After seriously losing my shit that we hadn’t come to the rest stop yet, Mark sprung into “Super Mark” mode. For 90+ miles, he had been bitching and moaning – pretty sure he hated every moment.

But as soon as I broke – and I absolutely broke (I would’ve been swept by the follow car in a heartbeat even knowing I had fewer than 10 miles to go….) – he took over.

He got me some Advil and talked me off my ledge. He reminded me we HAD to be close to the final rest stop, let’s just get there.

We get back on our bikes, ride literally one and half MINUTES and there it is: The Final Rest Stop.

We refuel. I ice my legs. We depart for the finish line. Eight miles to go…


We ride for a while and blessedly so, there was shade. Not a lot, but enough. We see the signs for Rohobath and then Dewey and we KNOW we are nearly there. My Advil kicks in; Mark plays some music; spirits brighten. We even pass Chauffeur Jill on her way to the beach house we were staying at for the weekend. HI JILL!!!!!

And then…

Thank Jesus…

The finish line. fullsizerender_7

I felt accomplished, but mostly I just felt so happy do be done. It was a fairly miserable experience that Mark and I immediately agreed we’d never do again.

What’s that? There’s one in Miami in January? Hmmm…

I’ll say this, I do have a hankering to take it on again and ride by myself or with cyclist more experienced than I.

I’m competitive. The entire time we were riding, I just wanted to be DONE. How fast can I get from rest stop to rest stop? I love my team and I couldn’t have finished it without them, but I also think if I had been able to ride at a faster pace, I might not have been so mentally defeated by the end. Being “last” killed me. I’m just that person who once I’m in, I want to push it. I want to do my best. Or at the very least, I just want it to be over sooner.

So now I know that and Mark is taking some RPM this winter and spring as he saw how helpful that was to my training. I like to ride fast. He likes to not fall down. I think we can find a compromise 🙂