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Since Madison was born 9 1/2 months ago, Bryan and I have gone out without her 8 times that I can think of, and only 3 of those times have been just the two of us!  Last night was #3, and so that was exciting.  Here’s a list.  The bold ones are the times when it was just the two of us:

  1. We went out for dinner (sushi) and saw a movie (James Bond) back in November when my mom was visiting.
  2. We went out to a hockey game with Bryan’s family when we were in San Antonio visiting for Thanksgiving, and Bryan’s mom and cousin stayed home with Madison.
  3. We went to Bryan’s work Christmas party at the Angus Barn, and my mom and Tom watched Madison for us.
  4. My mom was visiting (in March or April I think?) and Bryan and I went out for drinks in town at the Aviator bar.
  5. We were in Chicago in May, and a babysitter watched Madison while we went out with Bryan’s parents and their friend Chip to dinner and a play (first non-family babysitter!)
  6. We went out to celebrate our 2 year anniversary while we were in Blacksburg at the end of May.  We ate dinner at Cabo Fish Taco and then played darts at Champs while Madison stayed with my dad and Ivy.
  7. We paid a babysitter a few weeks ago (daughter of Bryan’s co-worker) to watch Madison while we went to a crawfish boil party.
  8. Last night Bryan’s mom stayed home with Madison, and Bryan and I went out for dinner and a movie!

It’s getting easier now that Madison’s getting older, and her bedtime routine is a bit more predictable, so hopefully we’ll be able to get out more regularly.

We left home around 6:15 last night, and I took a picture of Bryan in the car as we drove out of the neighborhood:

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We had made reservations to go to Bida Manda in downtown Raleigh.  It’s a restaurant that I went to last week to celebrate Amanda’s Birthday.  I loved it and wanted to go back.  Our reservations were for 7:45 pm, so we went next door to Tir Na Nog for a couple of drinks first.

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Dinner was wonderful.  It inspired me to try making some Thai food for dinners at home this week, so pad Thai, chicken curry, and salad with peanut vinaigrette are all on the menu for our upcoming meals…

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We decided to go to the 3D IMAX theater downtown after dinner to see Man of Steel, the new Superman movie.  The movie didn’t start until 9:55 pm, so we walked over to the theater and bought our tickets, and then walked back to Tir Na Nog to have some dessert while we waited until it was time to go back to the theater.

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We had a Guinness float for dessert, which was interesting.  It was Guinness with chocolate ice cream topped with whipped cream, caramel, and hot fudge.  It was a unique thing to try, and I’m glad we tried it, but I wouldn’t order it again.

The 3D glasses are kind of funny looking!
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Man of Steel was really good for about the first hour, and then it dissolved into a bunch of unnecessary fighting scenes, and really went down hill fast.  Too bad.

It was a fun night out though!  We got home around 12:45 am.  Late night out 🙂  Madison did really well with her Nana.  They enjoyed dinner and play time together, and then at bedtime Nana read stories and gave her a bottle.  She went to bed at 8:20 pm, and only cried a nano-second before falling asleep.  Good girl 🙂

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Bryan and I just got back from a little trip to Charleston, SC.  I officially completed the last of my research papers, projects, and final exams on Tuesday, which is such a relief!  I am actually done with all of my required courses now for graduate school, which is crazy.  But I am taking one last online elective this summer because I needed 3 more credit hours in order to get my license.  It’s an online class, and it’s only 1 month (well, technically 5 weeks), so I’m not sweating it.  Then, next Spring I will do my full time internship, and THEN I will really be done, and I’ll finally graduate with my Masters in Career Counseling!

So, anyway, Bryan had a work trip to Charleston planned, and I agreed to go along because I knew I’d have just finished my classes (I actually took one of my final exams early so that I could go), and I love Charleston.  Bryan and I have always talked about taking a trip to Charleston together, and since this is the only kind of trip we can really afford right now (AKA paid for by Bryan’s job), we took this opportunity to enjoy the city together.  A sort of baby-moon I suppose, since this is probably as close as we’re going to get to taking one of those!

We drove down Thursday morning, and arrived just before 3pm.  It’s close to a 6 hour drive when you factor in stopping for a meal and a rest stop.  Bryan immediately had to go to work to set up for the conference, but he was done setting up within an hour or so, and so we took a walk and explored King Street.

Our hotel, the Francis Marion was in an awesome location, right in the heart of downtown Charleston, so we were able to walk everywhere in the city from there, which was wonderful.

So Thursday afternoon we walked around a bit, and then went to dinner with Bryan’s co-workers that evening.  After dinner that night Bryan and I walked down to the waterfront by the aquarium, which was of course closed by that point, but it was beautiful weather for an evening stroll – 80s during the day, 70s once the sun set.

Friday morning Bryan worked at the conference until a little after 1pm.  I slept in, read some of the book I’d brought along, and went downstairs to talk to the concierge about making lunch and dinner reservations as well as ideas of things to do and tours she recommended.  She said that Husk was recently named “the best new restaurant in America” by Bon Appetit Magazine in September 2011, and therefore it was impossible to get dinner reservations there, but we were able to get a 2pm late lunch reservation.  So off to Husk we went!

It was in a charming Southern style home with the big front porch and balcony, and definitely delicious food!  Our favorite meal of the trip.

Also our only picture of the two of us together of the trip, standing in front of Husk!  A nice woman walking by offered to take it, and I’m glad she did!

After lunch we walked down to the waterfront park where Bryan took his first official pregnancy photos of me!  This was our first pregnancy photo shoot!  Only took 5 months!  Hopefully from this point on we’ll have more time and opportunities to take more pictures.

Speaking of which, on the day of these photos, I was exactly 21 weeks along – so, 5 months and 1 week for those who don’t speak in terms of weeks (I don’t.  I think it’s weird and much easier to think in terms of months).

Like I said, the weather was lovely during our trip.  Unfortunately for these pictures, there was a lot of cloud cover during the first part of the afternoon, but it made walking around much more comfortable since the sun wasn’t beating down on us.

And, unfortunately, that is the last that you will see of Bryan.  He took the remainder of the photos that day.  I should have grabbed the camera and taken some more with him in them, but I didn’t.  So, the rest of the pictures are of me and the scenery 🙂

We walked through the park over to the pineapple fountain, which had several kids swimming in it.  I took off my shoes and waded in the water because it felt very refreshing!

They actually had a sign posted explaining the rules for swimming in the fountain, so it was perfectly acceptable behavior, as long as kids were attended by adults and you showered before entering the water, haha!

From the fountain, we walked over to the marketplace.

We did not buy anything, and basically just walked through because it seemed like one of those things that you should do when in Charleston.

Halfway through the market, I started fading, and needed to sit down and get something to drink ASAP, so we cut out of the market, and walked into the first place we came to that looked like we could do both of those things, and it just so happened that we walked into Kaminsky’s!

And it just so happens that Kaminsky’s is sort of famous for their fabulous desserts!  So, we enjoyed an afternoon snack of pecan pie along with ice water, iced coffee (for me) and hot coffee (for Bryan).

Hooray for happy accidents!  When we walked past Kaminsky’s later that evening, there was a line about a dozen people deep stretched out on the street of people waiting to get in to get a taste of those desserts… and we had the luck of just walking in and sitting down not even noticing where we were!

After the refreshing pause, we decided to take a ride of the trolley, because it’s free.  So we walked back down to the end of the market were there was a trolley stop, and waited.

And waited.  And waited.  And waited.  I think we must have waited at least 20 minutes.  It got to the point where we were just waiting because we’d waited so long already that if we gave up now it would make all the rest of the waiting pointless.  In the time we spent standing there waiting for the trolley, we could have easily walked up the street to our next destination.  But by that point, we’d made a commitment, so we stuck it out.  Finally the trolley arrived.

And it was PACKED!  I was able to grab a seat next to someone else, but Bryan was left standing in the back, and so many people piled on that it was standing room only.  Not exactly the quaint little trolley ride that I had envisioned.

So we rode our 3 stops, and got off.  My recommendation for anyone going to Charleston: don’t bother with the trolleys.  You can easily and efficiently get anywhere you want to go by walking, and you can get there faster than the time you’ll spend waiting for the trolley!

After our awesome ride, we strolled through the streets, and Bryan snapped some more pictures of the pretty buildings and pretty flowers.

We made our way over to a French chocolate shop that the hotel concierge had highly recommended to me.  We were still full from our pie, but I wanted to buy chocolates and take them home with us to enjoy later, since I feel you should never pass up an opportunity to enjoy really high quality hand-made French chocolates.

The chocolates at Christophe Artisan Chocolatier were beautiful!  And so far they have all been really delicious as well!  We still have 3 left as of today (Sunday), but I’m assuming the last 3 will be quite yummy as well 🙂

After our stop at the chocolate shop, we walked back to our hotel to rest our feet and take a break before our 7:45pm dinner reservations for that evening.

We had dinner at Muse, which was good, and had a lovely atmosphere, but was not as tasty as Husk had been at lunch.

The sky at that point was looking especially lovely!

After dinner we went back to the hotel for another break and resting of the feet, and then went out at 10pm for a walking tour!  We opted for The Dark Side of Charleston, which was a pretty fun tour where we saw the old buildings that used to be brothels and saw the locations of illegal bars during prohibition, and where the public hangings happened outside of the courthouse.  We opted for that tour instead of a ghost tour since both of us had already taken ghost tours in Charleston in the past, and we wanted to try something new.

The tour lasted until 11:30pm, and on our walk back to the hotel we stopped and I got some frozen yogurt.  It was a fun and action packed day!

Saturday Bryan had to work again until around 1pm, so I read my book in the room, and then we packed up and drove back home.  And that is the conclusion of our Charleston trip!

This past Sunday evening Bryan and I went to a special concert together.  We went to see Colbie Caillat at the Carolina Theater in Durham – which is special because that’s where we met each other!  We used two of Colbie’s songs during our wedding – Lucky was sung during our ceremony by one of Bryan’s friends:

And once our ceremony was finished, we walked back down the aisle together to I Do:

Plus we used Brighter Than The Sun for our Honeymoon video:

She sang that one as the last song at her concert!

Did I mention that Bryan got our tickets off of craigslist the day before, and that we had front row seats?!

Yep, front row.  So we got up close and personal with Hinder (neither of us are fans, but it was interesting seeing them up close and personal anyway):

And Hinder’s funky starry jeans:

and G105 Bob and the Showgram people who were hosting the concert:

Immediately after lifting his shirt up like that he looked down at me and said, “Oh you want to take a picture of that?”  haha

And…

Colbie!

She sang just for us… we forgot about all the hundreds (thousands?) of other people in the sold-out theater and balconies, and it felt like she was singing just to us… and she looked at us multiple times.  Bryan thinks she was looking right at him but I thought she was looking at me.  🙂

Here’s a video I took (see?  Doesn’t it look like she’s looking RIGHT at me and singing to me at several points during the song?):

So that was very cool.

Now onto the other part of this post as mentioned in the title: menorahs.

I was subbing in a class last week when we were talking about menorahs and Hanukkah and I got this overwhelming urge to celebrate Hanukkah.

I don’t want to go all out and start reading the Jewish prayers or converting to Judaism or anything.  I just want to have a menorah and light the candles on the 8 nights of Hanukkah.

Bryan thinks I’m crazy but he’s supportive.

Here’s my logic:

I don’t consider myself tied to any one religion.  I consider myself spiritual, and religious, but nondenominational and open-minded.  And I also feel discouraged by how commercialized Christmas is and how we really only pause to be spiritual or contemplative on Christmas Eve at church, and other than that it just feels like it’s all about hustle, bustle, shopping, Santa Claus, eating cookies, going to parties, opening presents, and more eating.

I remember when I was a kid going over to my friend Jenna’s house one night, and her family celebrated both Hanukkah and Christmas, and that particular night was one of the nights of Hanukkah, so they invited me to celebrate with them.  They lit the candles and the kids got presents and they read the special prayers.

But the thing I like about it is that it lasts 8 nights, and it’s simple, but it gives you a dedicated time each evening (supposed to be right after sundown I believe) when you take time to sit together as a family and light candles – adding an additional one each night, until on the final 8th night all of the candles are lit.  And I just like the idea of having a little bit of time set aside every evening to contemplate being thankful and quiet and really appreciating the holiday season for what it’s supposed to be.

So that is why I bought a menorah and candles from Target yesterday.  I think they fit right in with the Christmas stuff…

As I was walking up to the display, there was a mother with 2 young boys, around 7 or 8 years old probably, and they were looking at the display as well.  The boys were saying that they liked the menorahs and wanted to get one.  The mom said no, and the boy said, why not?  The mom said, “No, we can’t get one, we’re not Jewish, what would we do with it?”  And I thought to myself, “well, I’m not Jewish either, but what the heck, why not?!”  haha 🙂

Am I crazy weird?  Oh well.

***Update: After discussing the menorah idea and religion stuff in general with Bryan in depth over a delicious meal at PF Chang’s last week, I decided that having the menorah was actually unnecessary and perhaps inappropriate and did in fact clash with our beliefs.  So… I returned the menorah and candles to Target last week.  Oh well, it was a fun idea while it lasted, but I’ll just stick with Christmas now. 🙂  Of course if we ever had anyone in our house who actually did celebrate Hannukah, I’d be totally happy to have a menorah for them!