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By Candlelight

Jackie Kennedy lighting candles in a very glam gown

Jackie Kennedy lighting candles in a very glam gown

When I traveled back home to Massachusetts this summer, my mom revealed to me that my grandparents ate dinner by candlelight every night of their marriage. In fact, she said she didn’t think there was a single night in her entire childhood or adulthood where her mother forgot to light candles at the dinner table. This got me wondering whether the ritual of striking matches and sharing glances through flickering flames was one of the secrets to my grandparents’ successful marriage.

These things always sound trivial on the surface, but I think tradition really does count for something. I’m not saying taper candles are a substitute for strong communication, but I do think that holding true to simple rituals or romantic gestures just may have the power to act as an anchor, keeping our relationships steady whenever we face choppy seas. And, isn’t that one of the greatest goals of being in a relationship for the long haul — to be each other ‘s constant in this crazy, modern world? What do you think? Do you have any romantic rituals, like lighting candles or scheduling weekly date nights? I’d love to hear your take! Leave a comment.

Image via Pinterest.

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Cinnamon and Soderbergh

Two goofballs in Laguna Beach, feeling just as giddy as the day they met

Two goofballs in Laguna Beach, feeling just as giddy as the day we {err, “they”} met

The Halloween to Thanksgiving stretch always feels extra special to me, because it marks when my sweet and I first met and began courtin’ (as some of the old-fashioned Southerners I was friendly with at the time called it). Right about now marks the fifth anniversary of that super-nostalgic feeling for me, and whenever I breathe in the crisp air of fall I can’t help thinking about my husband’s and my first date in a Mexican cantina, where we sat on the patio for hours, had a Diet Coke drinking contest, debated the merits of Soderbergh films, and I proceeded to question him relentlessly about every last piece of minutia of his work and personal dreams. It’s crazy to think that since then we’ve both quit drinking Diet Coke and moved halfway across the country from that cozy patio. But, funnily enough, our new home is right up the street from a Mexican restaurant by the same name as that Austin-based cantina, and each year since we’ve been in Los Angeles my husband has brought home takeout carnitas on the anniversary of our first date.

Over the next few weeks, I plan to bask in all the memories that Mexican takeout and chai-spice lattes conjure up, while I soak in fleeting sunsets and experience what little glimpses of fall Southern California has to offer. Now that I think of it, enjoying the nostalgic powers of seasonal smells and cinnamon-filled drinks is yet another great way to beat the Daylight-Savings blues. What do you think?

Psst: After chowing down on carnitas takeout, we took a three-day vacation in Laguna Beach to celebrate the anniversary of our “meet cute” last weekend. It was so nice to take a little time off from work and stroll by the seashore whenever we pleased, especially since our wedding anniversary this year was so low-key (and very work-filled). Is there a special way you like to celebrate anniversaries? Do you like alternating between keeping it laid-back and doing full-blown celebrations, or do you like to stick to routines and very specific traditions each year? Leave a comment.

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Two Days/Years/Lifetimes

My sweet and I playing with our pup on our two-year anniversary

Silly selfie of my sweet and me playing with our pup on a very low-key wedding anniversary {we both worked in the morning, then played Bananagrams in the backyard and went to an outdoor taqueria}

My husband and I celebrated our two-year wedding anniversary this month, and — man, oh man — there’s nothing like a milestone to make you abundantly aware of what a trickster time is. Lounging in our backyard playing with our dog and his crush of the moment (a squeaky, stuffed-cow toy), my husband and I marveled at how vividly we can still remember our wedding day. I can recall not only every minute of that day, but all the emotions, smells, sounds, and other sensations, too. The way I’m able walk back through that day in my mind and relive all of its mushy moments is beyond photo-realistic, making the phrase “it feels like only yesterday” seem like a major understatement. And yet, when I think about all that has happened since those moments of white satin and purple lisianthus — about the career changes, moves, house renovations, and different health crazes passionately adopted then quickly abandoned by a certain well-meaning-but-chocolate-addicted someone — our wedding seems like it happened way more than just two years ago.

So, exactly how is it possible that a day can exist 24 hours and a lifetime ago all at once?

Answer: I have no frickin clue.

Only adding to these confusing properties of time is the fact that I’ve been expecting to feel a shift in our relationship after being married a while, and this simply hasn’t happened. It’s not that I’ve been sitting around waiting for the other shoe to drop or praying that we’ll magically transform into a perfect 1950s-style couple, but hearing frequent jokes along the lines of, “Just wait until the honeymoon period is over,” I couldn’t help but keep an eye out for a new phase of marriage somewhere on the horizon. And so, over the past two years in which we’ve been insanely busy with work and travel, I’ve also had my nose to the ground trying the sniff out any sign of change in our relationship. There have been plenty of changes around us, sure, but I feel like our relationship is one of those rare things that remains constant and keeps going…My husband and I just keep on trying to be the best possible partners for each other — offering support, romance, sympathy, and space whenever the other person needs it — and we keep doing this day after day, and year after year.

No matter what other work emergencies or enticing adventures come up, we know we have to make time to be there for each other and actively love one another. I guess this is the one piece of wisdom I have gleaned from our still-very-young marriage: you need to make time for each other and you need to do it often. Lather, rinse, repeat. Perhaps I’ll find that this repetition-steeped approach to our love and life together is blinding us to relationship changes that are actually happening before our very eyes, or maybe it’s simply what’s making the years blur by so blissfully. Only time will tell. But, time is such a tricky minx that I doubt she’ll give anything but the most cryptic of answers.

Psst: You can relive my wedding day right along with me here, here, here, here, and here…Do you feel like relationships have phases, or do you feel like time plays tricks on you? Are there any tidbits of relationship wisdom you’d like to share? I would love to hear from you! Leave a comment.

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Vintage Valentine

Coca-Cola ad circa Valentine's Day 1969

Coca-Cola advertisement circa Valentine’s Day 1969

It is no secret that I am a sucker for all things vintage. Sometimes it’s because of the simplicity, yet others it’s all about the ornateness. I guess I’m smitten with this vintage Coke ad thanks to a combination of the two–that lacy doily fills me with nostalgia for making Valentines out of red construction paper and doilies with my grandparents so many years ago, and the caption (as commercially driven as it is) makes me smile in wonderment at all the simple ways there are to be romantic with our sweets. Wishing you a happy day filled with two straws, one glass, and lots of love! Leave a comment.

Image from Pinterest via Snippet & Ink.

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Love, Travel

Coronado Island

Hotel Del Coronado, a wooden Victorian that’s been standing off the coast of San Diego since 1888

Let the veil of mystery be lifted…My husband surprised me with a trip to Coronado Island last weekend for our anniversary! Coronado is a tiny island off the southernmost tip of California and it requires sitting in some pretty sluggish traffic to get there, but it was worth it to get away from the routine of everyday life and all the work that tends to follow us home. We stayed at the Hotel Del Coronado, which is the beautifully maintained, giant wood structure that actually served as the location for one of my favorite movies, “Some Like It Hot.” We sipped red wine, slept in, ate too much (the most notable dish was fried prosciutto with a dipping sauce that tasted exactly like sour-cream-and-onion potato chips), and I made the delightful discovery that wedding anniversaries are like birthdays on steroids. This is to say: as I shared a simple, seaside stroll with my love and we reminisced about exchanging our vows, I had the giddiest feeling that I never wanted the day to end. Here are some snapshots from our little getaway…

I couldn’t help marveling at how massive yet ancient this seaside structure was

Our anniversary date written in the sand

I don’t think I’ve had sour-cream-and-onion potato chips in years, but this fried prosciutto took me right back to elementary school lunches

Chocolate caramels and red wine didn’t exactly remind me of childhood, but they were yummy

My sweet and I as the sun set on our first wedding anniversary

Sunsets and palm trees…

The rooftop of the hotel looked so cool all lit up at night

Psst: Isn’t it neat that this big structure has been standing for so long, and that its wood has weathered so many years by the sea? Do you remember seeing this building in “Some Like It Hot?” Leave a comment.

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Fly By Yearly

The kiss that sealed our marriage just one year ago

The smiles that followed

The even-bigger smiles that followed

And then there was giddiness for days and lifetimes to come…

Tomorrow my sweet and I celebrate our first wedding anniversary. I am still trying to wrap my head around exactly what this milestone means to me – on one hand if feels as though our wedding was just a few weeks ago, but on the other hand it’s hard to fathom that all the events of the last year took place within the span of just 365 days. Maybe I will have a better grasp on this whizzing, whirring motion of time in a few weeks, once I’ve let it all sink in, or maybe I’ll remain dumbfounded by clocks and calendars for many years to come…My love and I are taking off for the weekend to an as-yet-undisclosed seaside town, where I hope to get in lots of relaxation and reflection. I can’t wait to share photos from this mystery spot with you next week! Leave a comment.

Photos by Clayton Austin Love Stories.

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Inspiring Tidbits, Love

My Hero

Glimpse of the MTV Movie Awards set snapped backstage during a rehearsal (all those sleek, curving strips of light are my husband's latest design)

Perhaps to some it seems as though I gush about how much I love my husband far too often, but from where I sit it feels like I don’t do it nearly enough. This week in particular is one in which I feel overwhelmed by a need to somehow show him just how much he means to me. I feebly attempted to do this the other night as we watched the MTV Movie Awards (a show that also happened to be debuting his latest lighting invention all over its stage), but anything that came out of my mouth fell short. The lights were blindingly beautiful and sleek after all, much like him – he makes every task (no matter how daunting) appear seamless and under control – and I now realize this is probably what I should have said to him amidst the distracting light show. He has undertaken so much over the past few months that it almost seems absurd when I write it all down: he’s designed a bunch of crazy lighting projects for MTV and countless concert tours (so, yeah, there’s that); he’s coordinated a massive home renovation (ripping up floors, staying up into the wee hours cutting counter tops and installing appliances, and completely redoing the drainage system in our yard); and he’s even managed to get our Austin house ready to sell (it goes on the market in mid June). I know it kills him that he can’t do even more, so I only wish he could see how amazing all the things are that he does and how deeply he enriches my life…

The two handsome men in my life driving home from the beach (taken February 2012)

Not only does my husband’s presence in my life give me an endless supply of hope and faith in the goodness of our universe, but he inspires me to be better and work harder at everything I do. He makes me want to be a better woman, a more innovative creator, and just the gosh darn most genuinely good person I can be. So, this is my little shout out to my hero (if I knew he listened to the radio, I would have called in and requested a Foo Fighters song just for him, but this will have to do in an age when radio dedications simply ain’t what they used to be)…

Oh, sweet day when the new house became officially ours - I can't wait to be inspired and surprised for years to come by this amazing man in this very spot

Psst: Is there a dazzlingly special person in your life who makes you strive to be the best version of you? Leave a comment.

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Love, Sweet Nothings

Fruit and Labor

Coveted fruit picker and Sunday's crop of oranges from our backyard

For the past month and a half, the cruelest joke of my husband’s existence has been a giant orange tree in our backyard that is so tall its fruit is virtually impossible to pick. None of the branches hang low enough for even his long arms to reach them from atop a ladder, and when the fruit finally drops it falls such a long distance that its skin splits open upon impact and becomes instant ant bait. We have been so preoccupied with other house tasks since our move-in day, which has meant putting my love’s quest for fresh oranges on hold for a while. However, I have not forgotten about this quest (if for no other reason than that he hasn’t let me), and each day I’ve caught my husband staring longingly out the window and sighing with the complete non-sequitur of “Such a shame, isn’t it?” This weekend he finally decided enough was enough, declared a holiday from home improvements, and returned from the hardware store with a giant fruit picker in place of the paint can he went there for. I then proceeded to watch him roam our yard with this wonky, clawed contraption, and couldn’t help marveling at the giant, devious grin that remained plastered across his face throughout his mission.

Seeing the simple yet scheming joy this brought my husband made me feel quirkily domesticated – in fact, I’m pretty sure John Cheever once wrote a short story about our lives. You know the one — about the wife who sat in a lawn chair slathering herself with sunscreen while her husband repelled off ledges in search of oranges, which later would become a key ingredient in the couple’s blue-ribbon-winning Old Fashionds at an alcoholic county fair…Not so long ago, this  Cheeveresque quality to our off hours would have disturbed me to no end – after all, my 20-something self detested backyards and thought weekends were solely for partying. But, now that I’m a tad older and work longer hours, I realize how ill-fitted the “work hard/play hard” model has always been for me. This is to say: I now know that the quality of our personal lives cannot be measured in guest books signed or extreme sports tackled – rather, a more accurate measurement is the way we allow ourselves to love, be loved, and indulge in whatever ridiculous creature comforts make us feel like children again. These simple and mundane creature comforts may seem staid through the eyes of some, but I think they’re actually an important part of the texture of our human lives…The proverbial “they” are always saying “it’s the little things” after all, and – judging by the way zinc oxide, wide-brimmed hats, and citrus-filled days felt this weekend – I’m inclined to agree. Leave a comment.

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Winners and Winners

Framed picture of Marilyn Monroe at Mel's Drive-In on Sunset Boulevard in Hollywood, CA

Last night I did not win the distinction of “best horror screenplay” at the United Film Fest, but I did win the experience of sharing a midnight Reuben and a heaping pile of onion rings with my husband at Mel’s Drive-In. As I sat there repeatedly assuring myself and my sweetheart that I was cool with the mere distinction of being a top-three script out of 500, our waiter came over and gave me an unprovoked high five, saying, “You two are perfect for each other!” This was so out of the blue, but – wow – if I hadn’t already been serious about the words of humble concession coming out of my mouth, this guy’s assessment of my marriage certainly would have transformed them to truths right then and there. I mean, not only am I honestly happy that I’ve had the good luck of getting my work recognized by strangers, but what our waiter’s exclamation really drove home for me is this: all the victories and failures of my life will always seem insignificant in comparison to the fact that I’ve somehow swindled my best friend into letting me eat his extra onion rings for all eternity.

It can be so easy to overlook these kinds of spectacular prizes that we already have in our lives, especially when we’re perfectionists (no, moi?) who keep driving ourselves to do more, and do all of this “more” better, bigger, and sooner. But, when we take a step back – no matter who we are or what our preexisting prizes are – we all have these moments of clarity when we’re able to see our forests for the blessings instead of the curses. My moment of clarity last night was filled with onion breath, jukebox music, and the most random of high fives, yet somehow these details collided to bring on a feeling of deeper-than-deep gratitude within me. I’m positive these kinds of clarifying collisions will be caused by an assortment of other random factors throughout my life, and I’m pretty sure the things I’m most grateful for will vary as well – many times it will be my love, other times my health, and still others my work. The one constant that will never change is the trite-and-true fact that we really are all winners – it’s just that our prizes come in many forms and sometimes they require a little extra magnification in order to see…I send you wishes for a splendid weekend filled with victories and spoils that are unique to you and you alone! Leave a comment.

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Giant golden, plastic insert from a heart-shaped box of chocolates - my sweet and I spotted it on the sidewalk while walking our pup this weekend

I read somewhere long ago that love is a verb – that love is not a noun or an abstract concept that defies categorization, but that it is a discipline we actively participate in every day. This active approach to love is what I’ve always adored about Valentine’s Day. You see, while the cupids and red roses of the holiday are things I could live without, I think any excuse to go out of our ways to make kind gestures to the special people in our lives is beyond peachy keen. These activities of love can be tiny, like leaving sweet notes on the fridge, taking out the trash without being nagged, or writing out a list of all the ways we adore our partners, families, and friends, but all these little things add up to huge heart swells for the people we share them with. Naysayers so often object to the holiday, arguing that we should show our loved ones how important they are to us every day, but it can be so easy to slip up and forget to engage in the activities of love. For this reason, I’ll gladly take anything the calendar or Hallmark throw at me to remind me that love is indeed a verb…Do you have any special plans for actively loving the special people in your life tomorrow (Valentine’s Day) or beyond? Leave a comment.

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