Decking the Halls: The Brodie Abode

We headed back to Virginia with a car full of Black Friday Christmas decor finds, a fake tree, and decorations pawned from my parents basement. It was time to get down to business.

Now, before I go into details, I have a confession: I don't like decorating the Christmas tree. I never have. Ask my parents; every year, when it's time to decorate and watch White Christmas, I'm always the one who hangs one or two ornaments and then retreats to the couch to gorge on cheese and crackers and sing along with Bing. I would decorate the tree happily if everyone else wasn't so particular about where things go, and the order of where and how you hang things. There are some things that need to be analyzed and thought through, and to me, decorating just isn't one of them. You just do it!

So anyway, I thought that maybe since it was me and Ian's very first tree, that would change. Since it was on display in our first home together, everything would have to be perfect. So as Ian assembled the tree from the box, we popped in Miracle on 34th Street and I worked on laying out all the decorations and turning our little home into a Winter Wonderland.

So I decided to help and start spreading the clumped together branches on the fake tree. "Wait, but you should put the lights on first", Ian says. Cue grumbles from Bren, who thought the branches should be spread first.

Then Ian said we should also put the garland on before we spread the branches. I didn't think so--we would put them on, and then they would get all pushed to the back and we would just have to go back and readjust. 

"But that's what you do when you decorate", said Ian. "You try something, and if it doesn't work, you go back and fix it".

"Well I think that's a waste of time!", I said, as I maturely huffed and retreated to the couch. As usual.

Next thing I knew, Ian was taking the lights down. "What are you doing?!" 

"Maybe we should spread the branches first".

Time for a Christmas meltdown, one of those where I cried and then laughed that I was crying over the Christmas tree, but really it was so frustrating because there is no reason to cry over Christmas decorating. So I stuffed my face with crackers and cream cheese as the movie played on and Ian went to work on spreading the branches.

"You know, I could really use some help with getting these branches spread..."

I reluctantly slinked down to the floor to help. And then we had some beer.

Soon, the branches were ready, the lights and garland were up, and by golly, our first tree was looking really fantastic. And Julia Child was now on TV.

Next was the ornaments. Obviously our first tree had to have a red and teal color scheme. Thanks to some super cheap ornaments at Big Lots, I was ready to bring some Martha Stewart to our Christmas tree.

Once I got into it, the whole hanging ornaments thing wasn't so bad.

Especially with the help of Home Alone.

It sure is beginning to look a lot like Christmas. Now we just need some snow...


And now on to Christmas...

But wait, Thanksgiving was really fun!

Having gone to college in my hometown, I never really got to experience "coming home" for Thanksgiving. This year, we woke up in the Brodie Abode in Virginia that morning and traveled up (without any traffic) to Central PA to enjoy not one, but two, Thanksgivings for the first time as a married couple.

And now that Turkey Day has passed, it is officially acceptable to leave the Christmas radio station on and to watch Christmas movies. And make Christmas crafts.

Stay tuned for the first Brodie Christmas decorating extravaganza! Until then, enjoy some holiday TV specials and polish off the rest of those leftovers. What's a couple more calories anyway?


The Last of the Pumpkins

Remember about a month ago, when everyone under the sun was all "Ooooh, I LOVE Fall!" and busted out their boots and blazers and pumpkin-flavored everything? Myself included?

Now, people are quickly moving on to the next-favorite holiday ever. I stumbled upon the first all-Christmas radio station, the winter coats are coming out, and it's time for mistletoe and holly. I love those J-I-N-G-L-E bells. And the holiday cups have returned to Starbucks. 


Anyway, all last week Ian had been alluding to an extra-special dinner he was planning for Friday night. Although he wouldn't give me any hints, I knew that the ground beef I picked up on Thursday was going to be included. Besides that, I really had no idea what to expect. I even had my mom and the girls at work speculating on what it could be. 

So when I got home from work on Friday to find my man sprawled on the floor playing Call of Duty, the Mean Wife automatically thought, "uh, I thought you were making dinner". And then I stopped in my tracks, because the Brodie Abode smelled fantastic.

He said, "I think dinner's just about done". Then, he told me to go look in the oven.

He was cooking pumpkins.

My mind was officially blown.

In the pumpkins were the most magical, flavorful, delicious stew ever.

A bottle 'o Red Tire Amber Ale was the perfect accompaniment. 

Is he the best, or what?

But that's not all! On Saturday, with leftover canned pumpkin in the fridge, I whipped up some pumpkin spice cream cheese that I've been eyeing on Pintrest. (Recipe here.)

We finished off a fabulous weekend with some hot cider. Oh yeah, and buying new phones.

Fall isn't over until I say it's over!

Or in four days, when Thanksgiving is over. Then it can be Christmas time.


How Bazaar, How Bazaar

One of the things I missed most about being home was weekends spent with my mom and sister bumbling around back country PA, hopping from craft fair to thrift store to coffee shop. This past weekend, while Ian and Dad went to the PSU game, the ladies and I went church bazaar hopping.

What is a bazaar, you might ask? Contrary to my belief, it turns out not everyone grew up with such delights. Think of a little country church with little old ladies. 

Add in some homemade crafts, and a handful of garage sale-type junk. 

Then, top it off with some fantastic baked goods. 

We also made an appearance at the fruit farm, where I stocked up on some PA apple butter. And showed off my new ride.

The next day, I met up with some of my best friends at a local downtown breakfast spot, where we were awkwardly creeped on by a waiter who knew no boundaries. It started with some friendly banter, but as our orders began coming out wrong, it quickly became less and less funny. It escalated to him pulling up a chair and asking if he could sit with us (uh, no), and culminated with my pancake arriving fresh off the griddle with a whipped cream heart.

How bizarre.



About one week ago, Ian bought Penn State football tickets after hearing the rumor that it was going to be Joepa's last home game. 

 Later that day, all hell broke loose. 

I didn't hop on the blog bandwagon during those days of scandal hype last week, because as I read everybody and anybody's opinion on the matter, I found that there was really nothing new to say. Despite what side you were on about the administration drama--should Joe Paterno have been fired? Did he do the right thing? Why was Sandusky allowed to continue having access to PSU campus and young children? --I think everyone can agree that the horrific events of one man shook a town where bad things just don't happen. I consider myself incredibly lucky to have grown up in Happy Valley, where the worst headlines usually involve underage drinking, small robberies, or kids breaking into abandoned farmhouses. Never could anyone have ever imagined a State College icon, one who I went to church with when I was a kid, no less, could have been capable of causing this nightmare unfold that Ian and I watched all over the news.

Like every Penn State alumni, I found myself angry, confused, and disgusted over the whole mess, almost to the point where I didn't want to drive our car with the WE ARE PENN STATE sticker on the back. However, being a State College native added a whole new level to the situation--despite the university's size, people forget that it's a small town. It was surreal sitting in our apartment in Virigina, seeing our town get ripped to shreds with news media and rioting students. That, while only the names involved were the big names you saw on the news, it all affected everyone who lives and works there. Trying to explain this to people who were on the outside looking in, who had only seen and believed what the news had told them, was no easy task. 

Which is why, after an absolutely crazy week, I was more excited than ever to drive up to Pennsylvania. To drive up that familiar highway, to my parents house, to be welcomed by the same sights that remain unchanged. We went to the candlelight vigil at Old Main on Friday night, which despite my usual lack of school spirit, gave me chills to see the lawn filled with others who were heartbroken by what has happened. Seeing that, even though the media made the town look to be completely destroyed, everything still had pretty much remained the same. Going to church on Sunday and praying for the victims, surrounded by my family and closest friends.

It was hard to leave, but I came back to our new home in Virginia feeling refreshed and confident that my little home town is going to pull through. 


Collecting the Moments One by One

I was listening to Feist's Mushaboom on my way home from work the other day. I've been listening to her since senior year of high school, and this song has always been one of my favorites (and of course, its inclusion on the 500 Days of Summer soundtrack made it that much better). I've listened to it a million times, but never really heard the lyrics.

But as I listened to it on my commute home from work, the lyrics rang a special bell with me. Why? Because as it turns out, its all about newlywed life.

Helping the kids out of their coats
But wait the babies haven't been born
Unpacking the bags and setting up
And planting lilacs and buttercups

But in the meantime I've got it hard
Second floor living without a yard
It may be years until the day
My dreams will match up with my pay

Old dirt road
Knee deep snow
Watching the fire as we grow old

I got a man to stick it out
And make a home from a rented house
And we'll collect the moments one by one
I guess that's how the future's done

How many acres how much light
Tucked in the woods and out of sight
Talk to the neighbours and tip my cap
On a little road barely on the map

Old dirt road
Knee deep snow
Watching the fire as we grow old
Old dirt road
Rambling rose
Watching the fire as we grow well I'm sold 

More often than not, the sentiment of people who find out that I'm married at the ripe old age of 22 is pretty much the same: "Good for you, but I would want to wait until I had more money". Or "am more well established". Or "are ready to settle down and have a family". 

I won't lie--there were times in the wedding planning process when I wondered whether we should have waited until we had more money. Were we in over our head? I particularly wondered this the week of our wedding when we sat on the floor of my State College apartment and added up all the expenses that still needed to be paid at that point, realized that it was more than either of us had in our bank accounts combined, and watched as Ian sold off his mutual funds so we wouldn't be washing dishes at the Elks Club on our wedding night. 

When we moved down to Virginia at the end of July, I was still unemployed, and we weren't expecting a paycheck for Ian until the end of September. Meaning we had two months to live off of wedding money (which went fast), gift cards, and making sure we didn't overspend the credit card. Here we were, living 20 minutes away from Washington DC, near buzzing nightlife, exciting events, and fabulous restaurants, and we hardly had the money to drive to the grocery store. I was so antsy to go explore everything, to live an exciting city life, and blog about all the eclectic food we were eating. Add this on to my mixed feelings of excitement about being married, getting to live with Ian (!!!) in a beautiful neighborhood with anxiety on finding a job, and homesickness for my family and friends. It was a mixture of feelings, and at that point I wasn't really sure what to do with it.

But we got to know the area. We started making friends. I got a job, and we have a landlady who always seemed to bring us Greek food and Yuengling on those days when I was feeling down. Not to mention we discovered the Super H Mart, the Asian-run grocery store where we get fruits, vegetables, and meat for dirt cheap. (How many newlywed couples do you know that eat salmon at least once a week?) We bought a car--a 10 year old Chevy that we found on Craigslist that its owner kept in almost perfect condition--with my first paycheck. We've started to scope out the cheap restaurants and entertainment. Call me biased, but I would say we are doing pretty well.

There are certainly quirks to living the newlywed life--just the other morning, as I sat sipping my coffee with the loud and squeaky clothes dryer tumbling Ian's wrinkled shirt, he said to me, "These are the times we're going to remember when we're older."

Yes, we will remember the old appliances, the casseroles made up of what's left in our cabinet that night, and nights spent watching old movies. But I truly wouldn't have it ay other way. Because I've got a man to stick it out, and make a home from a rented house.


Soundtrack of a Wedding: The Reception

Warning: photo heavy post!

You all know by now that the music selection for our wedding was not something I took lightly. I had seen at other weddings that aside from the couples first dance and maybe a few other select songs, the music was pretty much at the mercy of the DJ. Which, for many, is fine! You pay the DJ a lot of money to set the perfect soundtrack for your wedding, and if you aren't particular about what songs you want.

However. I was particular. Bren the Bridezilla again.

Ah, but not really! Our DJ, Ron Banerjee, was awesome and totally willing to work with us on making sure our reception music was totally and completely us.

After our downtown photo sesh, we arrived to the Elks Club with just enough time to have a drink and grab a snack. Then, it was time to line up at the top of the stairs. When the music started, it was party time! I snuck a peek into the hall; it was such an amazing feeling to see months of hard work and inspiration to finally come to life. Every detail--the paper lanterns, the candy buffet, the guest book table, EVERYTHING!--was perfect. It was exactly as I had always imagined.

**Photos by Meagan Jepson Photography**

Our parents and the bridal party were introduced to Michael Franti and Spearhead's Say Hey (I  Love You), the perfect song to dance down the stairs to, and long enough to play for all eighteen introductions. At the last minute, each pair decided on a different dance move.

Among the madness, we had a robot...

A sprinkler...

and the best man and maid of honor raised the roof.

And then, the opening of Michael Buble's How Sweet It Is began. It was the song that I knew from the very beginning that I wanted to enter my wedding reception to. Like, even before I was engaged. Finally doing it felt like a dream. The doors opened and we boogied down the stairs to our seat...

We cut the cake to the sounds of U2's Sweetest Thing, one of our favorite songs because of the line "A blue eyed boy meets a brown-eyed girl..."

After the absolutely beautiful toasts by my sister and Ian's best man (and a surprise toast from my seven sisters!), it was time for our first dance to Paul McCartney's This Never Happened Before, the song that was playing in the background when Ian told me he loved me for the first time. (Side note: it was playing in the movie credits for The Lake House. Ha.)

Moving right along, I danced with my dad to Natalie and Nat King Cole's Unforgettable. Maybe not the most original, but it really is a special song for us.

Ian danced with his mom to Rod Stewart's Have I Told You Lately. So sweet!

For our bridal party dance, instead of making my best friends awkwardly dance with Ian's best friends, we decided to just do something crazy and have everyone dance to Mika's Love Today.

Then we made some cash for our dollar dance. At the risk of it lasting way too long, we limited it to three songs: Ingrid Michaelson's The Way I Am, The Lovin' Spoonful's Do You Believe in Magic, and of course, Michael Buble's Everything

We did all the "special dances" while the guests were still eating to get them out of the way, so to speak. Really, it was so that everyone's attention was still there, and we didn't have to awkwardly break up the dancing later on. It worked out really nicely.

Finally, it was time to open up the dance floor! I am not lying when I told you everyone danced--not a person was left in their seats! Even Ian's grandma was cutting a rug.

Photo by Ian's cousin Kelly!

Ron worked through the decades, starting with some 1940s swing, movin' on up to the 70s and 80s, and then finishing the night off with Top 40 hits that the younger crowd really got down to. He sprinkled in special songs that we had requested--including the Beach Boys God Only Knows.

Another photo by Miss Kelly.

We ended the evening with one last dance to Ray LaMontagne's You Are the Best Thing, which ended with a big group hug.

Once the music died down and the lights came on, everyone assembled outside. And we hopped into our lovely-decorated chariot as we rode off into the night...
*Video by Tyler Capozzi*

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