Wednesday, July 16, 2014

While We're Waiting … Janine's Dr. Seuss Themed Baby Shower

First off .. wow … I just realized the last time I blogged was February. Man, that's terrible. Life has been crazy, but all good things!

Currently my third nephew is 3 days past due, so while we're waiting for the bambino to arrive, I thought now would be a good time to share some pictures of the Dr. Seuss-themed baby shower I threw for my baby sister last month. It was a fun theme and everything came together nicely!

If you know anything about me, you know that I love sweets (hence the blog title). So every party, every shower, every event I ever plan, you can count on one thing: a candy bar! This one was complete with wide variety of sweets and sours, topped off with some amazing red velvet "Thing 1 & Thing 2" themed cupcakes. 
We also had a fun " One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Swedish Fish!" guessing game where the closest guesser took home the fish bowl.
For the menu, I tried to stick to things I could relate to a Dr. Seuss title or famous phrase, so we had things like Green Eggs and Ham and Turkey Sandwiches, Noodles for Poodles (pasta salad), Bar-ba-Loot Truffula fruits (fruit salad), Cat in the Hat kabobs, and Hunches in Bunches of Green Salad. 

The drink menu for the day consisted of "Oh the drinks you can drink" including "Pink Ink Yink Drink" (pink rasberry lemonade). 

Outside, the patio set-up was perfect for an early brunch by the pool with some of Janine's closest family and friends. 
Momma Janine and her BFF.
Is she not the prettiest preggo you've ever seen?! Girlfriend has got the glow!
Momma Nellie just trying things out - making sure they work :)

It was such a fun day celebrating the upcoming arrival of the latest addition to our family. Now if only that little guy would get here … he has lots of people waiting patiently for him :)

We love you baby Lovotti! See you soon little man.
xoxo Auntie Ste

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

NBA All-Star Weekend 2014 - New Orleans

Recently I was lucky enough to head to The Big Easy for NBA All-Star weekend. With this being my third All-Star trip, I was prepared for the organized chaos that would ensue over the course of 4 long days in New Orleans. Between appearances, Foundation events, meetings, and walk-throughs, the whole trip is always a whirlwind, but a good one. It's one of those "pinch me" experiences that I still can't believe I am lucky enough to have.

What started out as another promising, productive trip got off to an unfortunate start when I landed in NOLA to some sad news. My grandma had passed away. When I left California, I knew she had a post-surgery infection, but never in my wildest dreams did it even occur to me that it was life-threatening. When I got that call from my family, I was in my room at the Windsor Court Hotel overlooking the buzzing city of New Orleans, and I fell to the ground in complete shock. How could this be possible? I didn't even get a chance to tell her good bye. I miss her sweet voice more than anything, but I still haven't really come to terms that she's gone. Luckily, I was surrounded by wonderful people on this trip who took good care of me and made sure I was ok at all times. I appreciated their support more than they know. 

So in between work commitments, we did make a little bit of time to see the city including sunrise runs through the French Quarter and nightly dessert on one of the top floors of our beautiful hotel. New Orleans is an awesome city and I got to experience a lot of the culture and eat a lot of the food, which was all amazing!
The entrance to my hotel, morning in the French Quarter & candle-lit dessert with a view. 
The view from my hotel room at the Windsor Court Hotel
Sunrise run along the river.
Every year, in every All-Star City, LeBron and his Foundation completely renovates a local Boys & Girls Club, and the Westbank Unit in New Orleans was one of our best ones yet. After briefing LeBron on the event and all of his to-do's, we executed an amazing reveal for the kids that was covered on the NBA's All-Star broadcast on TNT, which was a major score. Overall, it was another successful LJFF event. 
Images courtesy of my friends at the LeBron James Family Foundation. 
After a busy day, we headed over to a local art museum to help set up and manage LeBron's GQ Magazine cover launch party. It was a lot of work managing the outrageous guest list and incoming media requests, but it was all worth it when I got to walk LeBron on the red carpet. Just another one of those moments I will be telling my grandkids about someday!
Caught in a picture on the red carpet. 
Despite the rocky start, overall it was an awesome weekend full of experiences I am more than thankful for. But no matter where in the world I go and what adventures my job takes me on, nothing is better than coming home to Corey & miss Ruby. Corey was waiting for me with flowers since we were both gone for Valentines day, and Ruby was full of happy kisses. Coming home is always the best part.
xoxo Steph

Monday, February 10, 2014

Pixie's Perfect Proposal

A few weekends ago, I was fortunate enough to be part of an extremely special day for my baby sister. It was a beautiful moment with the most beautiful background - but it's also sort of a funny story…
The scene: The Beach Retreat in Lake Tahoe. 

It all began with a text message from Pixie's boyfriend, Silvio, who casually mentioned he may need my help with something this weekend. Thinking it had something to do with moving furniture or keeping preggo Pixie happy, I quickly responded "No problem!" I had no idea what he was asking would change my sister's life forever. I called him that afternoon to get the details and it turns out, he was planning a surprise proposal in Lake Tahoe and he wanted me there to capture the whole thing on film. Sort of a big deal! So we met for lunch where I was given the details (including maps and diagrams - see below), and I proceeded to round up the troops (aka my other sisters/partners in crime). 
Exhibit A: Where we should enter from. 
Saturday around noon, we headed up the hill. As we do with most family road trips, we made a pit stop at Taco Bell to discuss the specifics of our covert mission. With less than two hours before show time, we started to get nervous - if she randomly sees us on the street or on a beach in Tahoe before the big moment, the whole thing would be ruined. We needed to execute this plan perfectly. No pressure. 

P.S. How random are the Taco Bell sauce packs we picked up at Taco Bell? It was a sign...
"Will you marry me?" and "You have chosen wisely"

After lunch, it was go time. With our hair hidden under hats and beanies, we did our best James Bond-type super secret mission impressions, but for some reason, as soon as we put on our shades and played the under cover part, we turned all white girl ghetto. I think it was because our quiet, reserved big sister started blasting DMX "Party Up" on her phone. This was the scene while we were waiting for Pixie and Silvio to arrive:
Man, I wish had video of this part. It was hilarious. 
Back to the story… so after what felt like hours of waiting (it was really only 20 minutes or so), we got the text from Silvio: "Here." It was go time. We knew our biggest challenge was going to be getting all the way out to the end of the pier without Pixie spotting us. And sure enough, every time we moved an inch, she would turn and look around, almost as if she heard us. Holding our breaths, we creeped towards the Pier, hiding behind anything physically large enough to hide us, but it was a struggle. Pixie kept turning around and taking selfies of the sunset, giving us a heart attack each time she turned her head. At one point, we thought it might be impossible to get all the way out there without her seeing us, so we tested the zoom lens on our cameras - we could get it, but it would not be the money shot we drove all this way for. Just as we started to panic, a young couple wearing large black puff jackets passed by us, and we saw our opening. After very quietly and awkwardly explaining that we needed to hide behind them as they walked down the pier, they agreed to give us a hand. As we scurried down the pier in a single file line, we continued to hold our breath and pause every time Pixie started to look around. This was the most stressful 10 minutes of my life! Once we got to the point of no return, we left it to Silvio to keep her facing the right way, and to get down to business. 

It was only a couple seconds before Silvio was down on his knee… thank goodness he stayed down there a while because the super zoom lens on the fancy camera I was using was too tight of a shot and I couldn't get both of them in the frame. After nearly backing off the deck and into the ice cold lake, I got the money shot:
Mission accomplished! Pixie was so happy and so in the moment that it took her a good 5 minutes to realize we were all standing right behind her. Once she finally noticed we were there, she started crying even more:
It was such a cool moment, and we were so happy to be a part of it. And now we have the most beautiful pictures and videos to always remember it. 
We are so happy for our sister and so thankful for Silvio. He is such a great guy and we are so happy to have him as the latest addition to our family. Love you both!
XO Steph

The End.
Well, I guess the official end was when Nellie's glasses got smashed into a million pieces by an oncoming car on Lake Tahoe Boulevard, but that's another story...

Thursday, January 23, 2014

On the juice.

Part of my New Year's resolution was to kick the sugar and eat healthier. While I haven't given up my old friend completely, I have done a much better job at substituting the candy and other unnecessary sugar for fresh fruit and veggies, thanks in large part to an addition to my morning routine: juicing.

I had read a lot about juicing in the past, but for some reason never really thought it was for me. I assumed it all tasted worse than wheat grass and besides, who has the time or money to grind up fruit and clean that machine every single day? But when Corey told me he wanted to start eating healthy again, I figured what better time than now to start using the brand new Jack LaLanne juicer that has been sitting on our kitchen counter, untouched, since our wedding more than a year and a half ago. So we headed to Sam's Club, bought nearly every fruit and vegetable they had, and whipped out the old instruction manual to get the juicer fired up. I have felt infinitely better ever since. 
In just a few short hours of research, I learned which fruits and vegetables were good for what and which ones juiced best. For example, I learned that celery is a good detoxifier, lemon is an amazing antioxidant, and that carrots are great for your skin while they also fight cancer and boost the immune system. I should have believed in the effects of juicing when my dad juiced daily while going through his cancer treatments. There are so many essential nutrients and vitamins in this stuff, it's no wonder I feel much more awake, have more energy, and have far fewer tendencies to snack on junk when I am juicing. 
Every day our juice is different, but I have found that the best and easiest fruits and vegetables to juice with are apples, carrots, cucumber, celery and strawberries. These all contain a good amount of juice and add just the right amount of sweetness to eliminate any bitter taste. We've also been juicing with kiwis, pineapple, spinach, oranges, lemons, broccoli, cucumbers, and any other seasonal fruit we can get our hands on. I haven't gotten all fancy with mixing certain vegetables to achieve a certain remedy for anything in particular, I just juice with what I have and haven't had a drink I didn't like. I honestly feel 100 times better when I start my day with fresh juice - I actually really miss it when I don't do it!
In terms of equipment, I mentioned that we got a really good juicer as a wedding gift, but a decent juicer can be purchased for less than $100. And in my personal experience, it is a worthy investment. Not only are we buying less food and less junk, but my body is now getting far more nutrients than it has ever gotten. 
The preparation and clean up is also what scares some people away from juicing, and I will say, it does take a little bit of time. At the beginning of the week, I wash and prepare all the fruits and veggies I can and store them in tupperware so that they are ready to be put directly into the juicer. This saves me SO much time each morning. And I've got the clean up part down to a science. The juicer comes a part into 5 pieces. I clean each one, leave them out on a towel to dry, and quickly reassemble when I get home from work so it's ready to go the next morning. Juicing probably adds 25 minutes to my morning routine, but it is more than worth it. 

With this lengthy health post, you'd think this was a paid advertisement for the juicing company, but it's not. I'm happy to share what works for me and maybe some of it will work for you. 

Happy juicing!
xo Steph 

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

It's a Boy!

This weekend we got some more good news on the baby front. My youngest sister Janine and her boyfriend Silvio hosted a fab family dinner to announce the gender of their brewing bambino. In what is sure to be a new family tradition, my sister ordered a "gender reveal" cake to let us know the good news:
Following an informal family poll (in which more believed it would be a girl than a boy), there were a couple seconds of intense scrutiny while we all gathered around to witness the happy couple cut the cake. I was taking a video of it, and kept getting blocked by a bunch of heads as everyone crammed in closer, but I heard my older sister squeal, "it's blue!" as they pulled the knife out following the first cut. I would post the video here, but then I sort of lost my mind yelling "It's BLUE! It's BLUE!" and no one wants to hear that. I really wish I would have zoomed in on my mom's face because I remember her sitting there with her hands covering her mouth and eyes wide open. "I can't believe it! THREE beautiful grandsons!" she said. There were lots of hugs and OMGs before settling into a conversation about the generation of boys we are now living in.
I have to admit, I didn't really have a feeling one way or another on this one, but Nellie was so sure it was going to be a girl, she had bought a pretty little girl present - which she had to exchange on Saturday. I am just so excited to have another nephew that I can run around with and spoil. Plus, with every male our family pops out, our odds of a future major leaguer significantly increases, so I'm all about that. 

And then ultimately, the conversation somehow always steers to me: "Steph must be next!" and "Are you ever gonna have kids?" Well, maybe and yes. Yes, I am going to have kids at some point. Corey and I definitely want a couple kids of our own, but we're just not there yet. We are very much enjoying getting our house and careers in order, and just hanging out with the two of us and Ruby. That is enough for us right now. I suppose at some point I will just know when I'm ready, but we are in no rush. When my sisters start to lap me with baby #2, then we can start talking.
My nephews digging in to the cake!

For now, we're good with being uncle Corey and auntie Steeeee. 
xoxo Steph

Friday, January 10, 2014

Christmas catch up, New Year's resolutions, and our latest project

Phew! Is it just me or did Christmas come and go in the blink of an eye? Now here I am, two weeks later, finally sitting down to post about my holidays. For starters, they were wonderful. I had a glorious two-week break from the office with only an occasional conference call or two. I almost didn't know what to do with myself! So naturally I caught up on a lot of sleep, watched too much daytime TV, and did some online shopping -- all things I never do! I also got to spend a lot of time with my family, take Ruby for lots of walks, and got back on track with working out and eating healthy. This holiday break was exactly what I needed!

Just before Christmas, I headed back to Akron for my final work trip of the year. It was exciting for me to see snow around Christmas time, since I've never even dreamed of a white christmas, let alone experienced one. Even better, LeBron's team surprised me in my hotel lobby with a personalized singing Christmas gram complete with signs and a jolly santa. That was definitely a first, and such a nice surprise. 
I was in Ohio to manage media at the grand opening of the LeBron James Arena at St. Vincent - St. Mary's high school, LeBron's alma mater. He gave the school $1 million for the state-of-the-art facility that is quite frankly nicer than most college gyms. 
I had so much fun playing in the snow (seriously SUCH a treat for me!), and I always love working with the team in Ohio. It was the perfect way to kick off Christmas week!

When I got back from the trip, I hosted our annual high school holiday get-together with some of my favorite St. Francis girls. With all of our busy lives and expanding families, sometimes it's tough to make this meeting work - but we almost always find a way! It was a beautiful brunch with beautiful friends, and I may or may not have had one too many mimosas (thanks for keeping my glass full, Kari!).

Christmas with my family is always the best. After Christmas Eve dinner at Mikuni's with my parents and our family friends, Corey and I made the rounds and dropped off most of his Christmas presents since he had to leave for work Christmas morning. We also got to see some of the beautiful "Fabulous 40s" lights, where Corey promptly plopped down behind sponge bob for the only picture I have of him and I together this Christmas. Classic.
After we ate breakfast and exchanged our gifts on Christmas morning, Corey headed up the hill for work and I headed to my parents' for way too many presents. Santa still goes all out at the Rosa household! More than gifts, we just love to all be together. That's what matters most!

On Christmas Eve, we also got some amazing news Corey and I had been waiting on for a while… two of our good friends finally got engaged! Corey had taken Paul down to San Francisco to find a ring, so we knew it was only a matter of time for these love birds, and we couldn't be happier for them!
A candid photo of the actual proposal. Makes me so happy!

Even though Christmas flew by way too fast, we enjoyed a quiet New Year's Eve at our friends' house. But that was after Corey hosted our unofficial New Years party the night before since he had to work New Year's Day. So at midnight on Monday evening, Corey hugged everyone and wished them happy new year 24 hours early. That guy cracks me up. I have to admit, it was pretty fun and I'm glad we did it. Plus, Obie's ribs and my fettucine alfredo were pretty on point. By the time the real New Year's Eve rolled around, Corey and I were pretty much exhausted so it was nice to have a low-key night with good friends.
As for my resolutions, I don't usually make these because I regularly set goals for myself throughout the year, but the biggest thing I want to focus on this year is LESS CANDY. I've told you before that I eat like a 5-year-old when it comes to sugar, but I've been noticing my body doesn't quite digest it the way it used to. Judging by the content of my candy drawer, I may have slightly overdone it on the sugar scale. So less snacks, more fruits and veggies and more cooking at home. Corey is also eating super healthy right now, so it's easy for me to stay on track at home. Heck, he's the one that inspired me to do this in the first place. So instead of my morning cinnamon toast crunch, we've been juicing and I've been feeling wonderful. We'll see how long I can keep this up!

And that brings us to the present. This first week back to work has been a crazy one. On Monday, we got some sad news that my 98-year-old grandpa passed away peacefully in the hospital. While we were all upset, it's tough to be sad about 98 good years. Grandpa Warren was an extremely smart guy, and I will definitely miss his stories. For the first time in my life, last night I sat down to write an obituary and surprisingly, it wasn't sad. I was happy to be recounting his amazing life and just hoping my words would do him justice. 

Finally (I swear this novel will end at some point), this week we also kicked off our latest home improvement project - a complete backyard renovation. Corey and I are SO excited for it to be done… I'll be sure to share before and after pictures. For now, I'll leave you with a staged photo of me swinging an axe on the hideous man-made lava rocks that used to surround our pool. I've been wanting to do this since the day we bought our house and it felt pretty darn good!
Until next time,
xoxo Steph