Tuesday, December 31, 2013

...And A HAPPY New Year!

Reflecting back on 2013, I have come to the conclusion it was probably the most stressful, difficult year of my life. I tried to chalk it up to something else, a year of growth and overcoming hardships, but let's be real, 2013 was not kind to us.  Starting the year with a debilitating hip surgery, having James get laid off not once but twice, having my 21-year old brother-in-law diagnosed with cancer among so many other serious family illnesses, not to mention the financial hardships we have had to endure from existing on my [small] income alone, 2013 kicked our butts.  Maybe the '13 should have given it away, an ominous number looming on the end of every date, or maybe it was the work of God trying to teach us each something greater. It wasn't what I expected for our first year of marriage and it wasn't a year I ever want to repeat.

As we look to 2014 we have great hope that it will be so much better.  Some huge changes are already in the works and I am already learning that sometimes you have to sacrifice the things you want to get the things you need. As I look back on 2013 there are so many things I know I could have done better, so many selfish decisions I made that should have gone another way, and by the end of 2014 I don't want to have those same regrets.

As I packed up our Christmas decor and boxed it up for next year I added a special touch--I wrote 2014 Amanda a note from current 2013 Amanda, describing our present situations and struggles and our hopes for the future. I wrote about the person I hope to become in the next 366 days and I even included a checklist of small but reasonable goals. I encouraged my future-self and even added in a few jokes. I'm already excited to open it next Christmas.

As I put away all our Christmas cards from friends and family I also found our Christmas card from last year. I put them side by side and I was amazed to see how much we have changed even on the outside. You can see this year all over our faces. Our first Christmas we were still so bright and shiny, never really having to put our marriage to the test or endure anything too difficult. This year I feel more like a wife than ever before--I honestly don't know how I could have endured any of it without my partner and best friend and I am even more thankful for him and this union than ever before.


So here's to 2014, may it bring good tidings and growth to you and your kin!

Saturday, December 14, 2013

Tree WIlly

This year we were stoked to get our first real Christmas tree; after going back and forth about whether it was worth the maintenance, we gave in and went tree shopping.  And the result was our beautiful little noble fir--Willy! (After all, a noble fir needs a noble name, like William.)
James calls him Tree Willy.

(Is it just me or does the twinkly-light bokeh just look so much more festive than the real thing?)

He might be kind of small and wonky but he makes our house smell wonderful and we love him.

It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas!

Saturday, November 23, 2013

The Big One

Right in line with the title of this blog, I feel it's about time to confess this exciting little secret I've been holding onto for some time now. There are so many fears and reasons why I haven't wanted to directly divulge what's been going on behind the scenes but I think it's time to "come out."

I'm gonna be a photographer!

If you happen to read my blog frequently or any time in the last few months you might recall my excitement over my new camera that I bought this year in preparation for our summer vacation. I never wanted or planned for it to become a career, and heck, I didn't even buy a DSLR, just a nice point-and-shoot. But I fell in love with it. I started seeing everything through photo filters, not my own eyes, but in the way it would be captured. What intrigued me even more was the film aspect--making movies and capturing the little moments. I toted my camera around Vermont documenting every moment of my family's reunion (celebrating my grandma's 90th birthday!) and I was totally, overwhelmingly consumed by the end of the trip as I scrambled to put together a little video to send back to the fam.

I never thought much of it, I just headed back to work and my daily tasks, but secretly kept watching my video whenever I thought of it; it made me happy on those long days.  One day near the end of August I was chatting in Starbucks with a friend when it hit me--this is what I want to do with my life. It was crazy. My brain immediately attacked the idea. I went back and forth convincing myself it could never happen. Or could it....?  I told my friend that I would start small, maybe someone would let me take video footage of their wedding for free, if I offered to make a little wedding video for them...   But then that was it. A dream deferred. It was a silly thought, and I have bills to pay, right?

Perhaps by now you can imagine my surprise when I was handed one of the greatest opportunities to ever come my way. I was stopped at a red light when I heard my phone, alerting me of a new email. I opened it up and this is what I found:

(A little backstory, Yessenia and I went to college together and while we took the same classes, I never really spoke with her. Our friendship consisted merely of Facebook and Instagram interaction. She is an amazing pro photographer on the side, and just got engaged this August!)

My heart nearly fell out of my chest and my jaw hit the floor.  Me?! Are you kidding?! I felt guilty even entertaining the thought, in fact I didn't even tell James until much later! But the idea was spreading through my mind, entering every corner of possibility until I couldn't take it anymore.  Then I started asking anyone who would listen what they thought about it. I was unconvinced and I was nervous as all get out. But then my mother-in-law said one thing that really solidified the conclusion I was ebbing towards: "She wouldn't have asked you if she wasn't confident in herself that you would be ready [and able] in time for the wedding." Bam. That was all I needed to hear. I was in.

I guess the rest is history, or at least you'll have to wait to find out. We've been meeting up for photo dates, tutorials and editing sessions whenever we can find the time, and let me tell you it's been amazing. I really love it and I really fear for my bank account (why does camera equipment have to be so darn expensive?!). I love learning with no expectations and I am so thankful for Yessenia's patience with me.

I don't know where this will lead, and for the time being I still don't expect it to be anything close to a new career, but it's still exciting to think of the possibilities!  Jeeez guys... I'm shooting a WEDDING next year!! Yikes!

For the full story, or rather, for Yessenia's take on things, check out her blog post --->HERE

15 Before '15:
11. Pursue my creative dreams

Friday, November 8, 2013

Just Like That

"You never know the biggest day of your life is going to be the biggest. The days you think are going to be big ones are never as big as you make them out to be in your head. It's the regular days, the ones that start out normal, those are the days that end up being the biggest."
--Izzy Stevens

For quite some time I've been looking for a new job, one that means health insurance and a stable, calculable income, and for months I've come up with nothing.  James got hired "temp-to-hire" at Yamaha in September and while we are hopeful his contract will be bought out in December (meaning he will come on board as a Yamaha employee, with all the amazing benefits), I'd rather be safe than sorry.  

Ever since my hip surgery in March I have longed for a job that would get me off my feet. I don't know if I will ever forgive myself for cutting my rehab short and going back to work before I was painfree. I worry I've done more harm than good, working long walking hours to make ends meet while James was unemployed, and I'm honestly too scared to go back to the Ortho doctor, out of fear he will confirm that I've done more damage and that I need another surgery.  

This past Wednesday I was off from work at Stacked, about to start my day which consisted of errands and laundry when I got a phone call asking me if I had time for an interview today or tomorrow for a job opportunity that opened up.  I thought I should play it safe and pick "tomorrow" so that I'd have time to prepare, but in the end I was asked to come in merely two hours later because they had already booked interviews for the next day.  Such short notice!  I printed out the latest copy of my resume and hurried to curl my hair before pounding down an iced coffee and running out the door.  I felt wholly unprepared and a little rusty when I showed up to speak with the President and Vice President, but apparently I wow'ed them nonetheless.  They gave me the usual lip service, telling me they really liked speaking with me and that they'd get back to me the next day.  I drove home thinking I wouldn't tell anyone about this, like it never happened, because I probably wasn't going to get the job, and last time I interviewed for a job I told everyone about it just to let them all down when I didn't get picked.  As I was trudging up the stairs to our apartment I got a text from a number I didn't recognize-- "U got the job!" 

I called them back and it turns out they cancelled their interviews for the next day, and I start on Monday! :)

I wish I felt total relief or excitement at that moment, and admittedly I did a little bit, but if you know me you know that I hate confrontation and all I could think about was how I was going to explain to Stacked that I needed to quit on the spot.  The next morning I walked into the restaurant with as much confidence as I could muster, and in what has to have been an act of God, the one manager I preferred to speak with just happened to be there, and in a great mood.  He took it so well! I was honest and told him I had been working towards this for a long time, that my family needed this and that I needed this, for my health's sake.  He was completely agreeable and actually gave me many congratulations. He reassured me of my strong work ethic and said I am great.  And that I'd be great.  And that if I ever needed anything, including one last free meal, that he'd take care of me.  And most importantly, that I didn't even need to put in a two-week's notice.  And then the relief and excitement really came.  Even in my wildest dreams I could never have pictured that conversation going so well. I bounced out of there and home to my husband to tell him the good news. :)

So today was my last day of part-time life, and I have to say I am a little sad.  I will miss my mornings drinking tea and catching up on chores and tv shows.  I will miss lunch dates with friends and being able to make appointments at non-peak hours (when the working folk get their stuff done).  But I will tell you what I won't miss, I won't miss the inconsistent hours, or financial instability that came of it, I won't miss working on holidays and weekends, I won't miss the girl-drama or the not finding out about my schedule until the week before, but most of all I won't miss coming home with swollen feet and aching joints.  Call me and old lady, but that is truly my favorite part!

Timing is a funny thing.  It's like you try so hard to make something happen, you try for such a long time and you try every avenue possible, and nothing happens.  You wake up expecting to fold laundry and stay in your pajamas most of the day, and the next thing you know you're driving to the next biggest opportunity life has to offer.  One of those times where, in the blink of an eye, your whole life changes. Just like that. I guess everything does happen for a reason, and I'm so glad.

Sunday, October 13, 2013

15 Before '15

15 things I'd like to do by the end of 2015:

1.      Find a career "big-girl" job that I enjoy
2.      Travel somewhere I’ve never been
3.      Cook a fancy meal for our parents
4.      Get a pet
5.      Have a best [girl] friend
6.      Have a real Christmas Tree
7.      Visit another country
8.      Get rid of all the clutter in our house/life
9.       Be healthy again: start eating clean[er] and also exercising on a regular basis
10.    Run a marathon
11.    Pursue my creative dreams
12.    Evangelize to someone I’ve never met
13.    Figure out how I take my coffee (“Miss, how do you take your coffee?”)
14.    Finally watch the Star Wars and Indiana Jones movies
15.    Find peace.

Wednesday, October 9, 2013


(n.Derived from the German language, literally meaning "Ghostly Double". 
One who nearly or completely resembles another- but with no biological relation. 
A while ago James and I started watching How I Met Your Mother after our friends Jesse and Kelly recommended it to us and we really like it.  It's a well thought out storyline, it's pertinent to married life, and it's just 21 minutes of 5 funny people to wind down with at the end of a long day. But I'm not trying to write about the show so much as one episode in particular that we recently watched, in which the gang finds their final "doppelganger" (each person on the show had the goal of finding their doppelganger at some point in the last 8 years), and Ted (the narrator) makes a very poignant point.  He notes that apart from finding a stranger in a restaurant that looks "exactly like _(insert friends name here)_" we all become our own doppelgangers over the course of our life, or even the course of a decade (or less).  We look exactly like us, and we look remarkably similar to how we looked five years ago, but almost nothing about us has remained the same.  I guess it's not something everyone experiences, but a lot of people do.  I think especially for people that go through big life-changing situations there is just so much that happens it's hard to stay the same.  I know for us, the "little Doskocils," we feel so different than we did even two or three years ago.  I was recently going through my phone, purging camera photos in order to make more memory space, and the couple that I saw in all the photos looked so foreign to me.  We looked so little, and so happy, and so carefree. That's not to say that we aren't happy anymore, but real life hit us like a ton of bricks since then and now things are just a little harder sometimes.  But there are also things we've lived and accomplished now that I could have never imagined for us back then, and I'm grateful for that wisdom.  I wish I could say we've found our stride, but in reality everything still keeps changing.  We love the flexibility and space we have to grow, and we love a lot of our recent developments, but there are still so many moments of uncertainty and times that I just want to quit being a grown-up altogether.  I think back to my goals I had in high school, or all the conversations with friends about where we wanted to be in five or ten years, and I can honestly say I'm only fulfilling maybe half the things I had planned for myself, but I guess that's God's grace that things don't always go according to our plans.  So I think it's safe to say I found my doppelganger, and maybe I'll find her again in another five or ten years, but I know I can't wait to hear her story and see what her life is like.

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Dog Days of Summer

As you may or may not know, James was laid off almost 2 months ago and I am now more than ready to leave my current serving job in order to work full time.  We have both been applying to hundreds of jobs, going on countless interviews, and getting our hopes up and down faster than the Tower of Terror ride.... but all of it really has me wondering, if it keeps not working out, maybe there's a reason why.  I guess what I keep asking myself is where to draw the line of desperately needing something, anything, to tide us over for the rest of the year, versus holding out for the job that will make me happiest in the long run.  As much as I want a 9-5 with a 401k and health bennys, I want to make sure I pick the right one.  And something else I can't escape is the feeling that I'm leaving any and every hope of being a graphic designer in the dust.  I am an artist, I'm creative, I can't go more than a few days without making some new little thing in Illustrator, but is it really anything someone would pay me to do for a living?  A girl can dream.  Even in my current job situation I feel stifled by the lack of encouragement and the overwhelming sense of competition.  People take the fun out of serving others and turn it into a game which inevitably screws over the people who are there to work hard.  I like to think I am one of the hard workers, but it's just so difficult to keep working hard when you feel you are being taken advantage of.  It seems like an easy choice, just pursue my dreams, but when you are barely scraping by on monthly payments and can't even go to the doctor's due to lack of insurance, it makes the decision a bit more complicated.  I mean, I guess it's something I just have to keep praying about and thinking about, and hopefully soon something will pan out.  Until then, I found this cool comic that more than expresses my current frustration (Click on link below):

Saturday, August 31, 2013


I could blog up and down about my reaction to the latest reveal of Pretty Little Liars, but I think I'll keep it to myself for now.  Instead I've decided to post my 2 favorite memes.

Also, for any PLL fans reading this, check out this great theory (she called it spot on!):

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Anniversary Celebratin'

Originally for our first anniversary we wanted to do something awesome, like go out of town and spend the night in a beach city, or even hop on a plane up to San Francisco, but 3 weeks before our big day James got laid off and money got a lot tighter.  Some friends of ours also happened to be getting married the day after our anniversary so we knew that meant we weren't going anywhere for the weekend (not that we minded! I love weddings!).

Instead we merely drove out to Lake Forest, had a wonnnderful dinner out there at a fancy restaurant called the Bru, then headed to 1,000 Steps beach and watched the sunset before returning home.  In the morning we ate our One-Year-Cake, and not that it tasted bad or anything, but that tradition is just bizarre.  Who wants to eat cake that is one year old just for the heck of it?

It was a lovely little day, one that we joked could easily be topped in the future, but one which was perfect for us right now.  I can't believe a year has already FLOWN by, and that we are no longer newlyweds...

Here are some pictures from the day!

Delicious food!

They gave us this free dessert and decorated it for our anniversary, but it was possibly the best dessert we've ever had.  On our honeymoon cruise I used to order this dessert every night--the Warm Chocolate Melting Cake--and without even knowing it this dessert was just like eating it again! It was half baked, half melted brownies with vanilla gelato and a shot of hot whiskey poured in the bottom, topped with whipped cream.  IT. WAS. SO. GOOD!

A year ago we took this photo on our honeymoon when we were in St. Maarten, so this year we decided to continue the trend:

A beautiful night.

We were only able to eat about 1/16 of what was on this plate... it was so rich! Especially after a huge dinner the night before!

Until next year!
xoxo, the Doskocils

Saturday, August 10, 2013

The First Year

A year ago today was honestly the best day of my life.  I have had many great days since then, but there is no comparison to our wedding day when everything was perfect, I felt like an absolute princess, and I got to marry my best friend.  

I am so thankful for James and his optimism, and more importantly his love for God.  He is truly a great partner, someone who can always lift me up and encourage me even in my lowest lows, and can remind me of what's really important at the end of each day.  It's a remarkable thing to have a friend like that.  Marriage has been such a humbling experience, and one that has taught me more about myself than anything else I've ever experienced.  Im so glad I have a patient and understanding husband who is willing to put up with me through the learning process, someone who I can be totally weird and silly around and who loves me for all of it.  I don't know what I possibly could have done to deserve a guy like you. 

One down, many, many more to go--there's no one else I'd rather do this with, I love you James!


Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Jesse and Kelly and a Weekend Away

This past weekend we had the opportunity to watch two dear friends fulfill their dream of marrying each other in the Julian woods, and what a sweet occasion it was.  I loved everything about the day, but most notably I was just so happy to see friends so in love, sharing the best day of their lives.  I've been to a lot of weddings recently but this time I couldn't help but notice their love practically radiating out of their faces.  It was awesome.

I also enjoyed sneaking away for the weekend to have a quick father's day celebration at home in San Diego, and then visiting Julian, part of my old stomping grounds.  Growing up, Julian was the town nearest to my own where we could see the remnants of a light snowfall, or else just enjoy some amazing apple pie.  It's always nice to visit, and on the way home from the wedding, driving through the golden hills, James and I couldn't help but fantasize about living somewhere as rural and home-y as Julian.  

After this we enjoyed a lazy Sunday and some time spent with James' side of the family; a restful day was something much needed by this point!

Wedding emotions wear us out!
(PS- This is probably my favorite thing about being married right now.. Lazy mornings just talking and laughing until we're forced out of bed to face the day.)

Congrats, Kelly and Jesse!

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

tuesdAys Are bAck!

This week my new favorite show returned to television... Pretty Little Liars! I hate to admit that I have been sucked into this high school soap opera, but it's so catchy even my husband is hooked.  I will spare you my thoughts on the season premiere because 1) most of you probably don't watch, and 2) I don't want to give away any of the big reveals for people who might eventually watch it.  ;)

I started watching PLL during my hip-surgery-rehab-couch-potato phase, which admittedly was when I was under the influence of drugs, but I can't deny that the show has an engaging quality.  So now I am subscribed to it until the end, and we will see where this fanship takes me.

Recently it took me to Warner Brothers Studio where the show is filmed, and what a fun day it was!!  We didn't really know what to expect, and we were hoping to maybe get a glance of one set or another, but in actuality it was probably one of the funnest days I've had in a while and we got to see nearly all of the set!

When we arrived we got a small video tour of all the movies and shows that have been filmed at WB studios, and then we boarded our little golf cart to tour the grounds.  We started in the Rosewood "woods" and travelled through the town, the homes, and the backyards.  We caught glimpses of different actors and sets but what made our day was spotting Tyler Blackburn, the actor who plays Hanna's boyfriend (Caleb Rivers) in the series.  He had just finished filming the promo for Ravenswood and we recognized his outfit which matched the outfit in all the new photos online.  It was a weirdly thrilling feeling, since this show has now reached such international popularity.  History being made, people!

We got to tour an indoor set but unfortunately the PLL sets were closed for tours because they were filming.  Instead we got to see the set of "2 Broke Girls" and what was more interesting than any of the facts about the show was learning how they film sitcoms in general.  We learned how the audience plays a role and even how they use many optical illusions to make a very small set appear to be life size.  After viewing the 2BG set, we got to sit on the couch at Central Perk, a "Friends" favorite. :)

The tour ended in the WB museum which contained costumes and artifacts from soooo many legendary films and shows.  The whole 2nd floor is dedicated to Harry Potter costumes and props and I couldn't believe how close I was to all the original pieces.  It was amazing to see the costumes get larger as the actors grew, starting from practically children's clothes to those of full grown men and women.

After the tour we spent some time buying souvenirs in the gift shop (I was able to snag a Luke's Diner mug, after seeing many sets where Gilmore Girls was originally filmed!) and then had lunch in Burbank near the studios.  I returned home with a huge smile on my face, and a little buzz that lasted the rest of the week (note: not from alcohol, but the sheer enjoyment of the experience).  It was such a fun day, and not one that we will soon forget.

Here are some of the photos I took with my phone.  They would not allow phones or cameras in the museum, except in the car museum:

Yes I stood in the bushes. Lol, had to get the proof!

The DiLaurentis House.  In real life it has no roof, so you will notice the whole house is never shown in the show. Also, as with many of the sets, it is not a real house, but just the front of one.  All indoor scenes are filmed in am indoor soundstage where they can control all the lighting and noise.

Noel Kahn's cabin, also a location in Dexter I believe (I don't watch the show but the tour guide kept pumping out facts on how each of these sets are used in multiple different shows, just decorated or painted differently).

The "barn" where Emily gets gassed and saved by Ali.  Interesting note, WB has many stray cats on the premises (on is picture skitting away on the right) but they are allowed to be there and they keep the mice population under control.

Rosewood city hall, where they have all been busted.

Rosewood High--oh how we wish Mr. Fitz would just appear in the doorway.  Interesting fact again, there is nothing inside this building but merely a few square feet of foyer area for extras to walk back and fourth as scenes are filmed in front on the steps.

The church! I took this photo from the middle of the town square, which is rarely ever shown in PLL because it was the town square in Gilmore Girls and bears too much resemblance.  In GG there is a large Gazebo where I am standing.  Also, note all the extra branches laying around, for when they have shaved "winter" trees that need to be groomed into "springtime" trees.  

Lucky Leon's, where Hanna stuffs her face as a result of a command from A, and also where Maya used to work.

The whole "town" is set up for PLL right now, but in a moment's notice everything can change for a new show to be filmed.  I wish I could have seen it as Star's Hollow. ;)

The front of Emily's house.  Also the Gellar house in Friends. 

The back of Emily's house, which is also the front of Suki's house in Gilmore Girls. 

Emily's backyard, which in the show is Spencer's backyard, and this is the barn that Spencer designed and built.

Got a secret, can you keep it, well this one you'll save, better lock it in your pocket, takin' this one to the grave...

Toby and Jenna's house, where many motorcycles are doctored.

The stairs to Toby's loft, and also the train rails from General Hospital.

Radley Sanitarium.  So small!

A random street, shown in almost every show, just painted differently each time.  I was sad because the corner where PLL films "the Grille" is also what used to be Luke's Diner, which was unfortunately undergoing heavy construction on this day and we couldn't go near it.  

On our ride back from town we passed what was Rory's ballet studio from GG.

A HUGE Roll's Royce from Arthur.  I never realized they were this big; the photo doesn't do it justice, it was nearly the size of a limo!

Gran Torino.

One of the many bat cars.

And Ron's Ford Angelina.

A visit to the preserved "Central Perk" set which is now a historical site. 

And yes, we did get to sit on their couch!  You would be amazed how small this set really is, but with optical illusions even in this photo it looks like the size of a normal room.  I'll give you a hint, the tables and pictures in the back are all very small in actuality, so in the show they appear to be far away.

The famous water tower near the parking lot that also doubled as the Helipad for General Hospital.

And a delicious lunch at Granville Cafe, in hopes of a celebrity siting.

Like I said, it was truly a great experience and now as I watch the show I can't help but squeal "I've been there!! I stood there!!" every time I see one of these locations.  I highly recommend this tour to anyone who is a fan of one of the many shows that they film there, they do not disappoint.

Until next time. --A