Wednesday, August 26, 2015

National Dog Day! We Love our Pooch!

If you follow me on instagram (@SarahNolanPhoto) you probably have realized that our adorable pup has her own hashtag #lirapuppy because she debuts on there at ton and is pretty much the most adorable, sweet, neurotic, and precious puppy in the whole world!  We love her so so so much!

This summer has been filled with allergy issues.  First the vet thought she had the Tidewater Itch which is basically bug bites in the Tidewater area that were really impacting small dogs.  She sits so low to the ground, was super itchy and had lots of the symptoms, so we treated them with antibiotics,  an allergy medication, and a bland diet.  Well, three weeks later everything came back.  Round two.  I spoke with the vet and he indicated that it could also be a food allergy, so our little princess has been on home cooked meals since July and she seems to be doing much better.  We have narrowed it down to gluten and possibly dairy.  I need to be really diligent about only giving her one of those for a week or two.  She has an egg and protein and little bit of rice for breakfast, snacks on our lunch with us, and gets her own dinner plate.  Yes, she is eating well, probably better than most humans.  It's a little nutty, but we want her itching to stop and her stomach antibodies to be healthy, so we've adapted and she hasn't complained.  She's our little princess!

In honor of National Dog Day, I took her outside for some pictures and in true Lira fashion, she wouldn't look at the camera no matter what tricks I pulled on her.  She's a stubborn one.

Here are some things Lira has taught us:

1. Love unconditionally, with every part of your being and if the people you are loving, aren't loving you back, just continue to paw their face!
2. Get excited when family comes home!  Kiss them, jump on them, hug them, lick them!
3. Don't be insecure, belly rubs and full body rubs are the best!  Enjoy them!
4. Puppy eyes really do work.
5. Naps are pretty much amazing especially when you are preggers!
6. Be loyal to the ones that love you and be hesitant around strangers.
7. If you are hungry, EAT!
8. Puppy dreams are adorable!!
9. Walks are SOOOO much fun! And they are good for you! 
10. If you get a bad haircut, it will grown back & let the wind blow your hair!

Why do we love our dog so much?! Because she's the sweetest little puppy who loves her mama and her papa and her J-man so very much! She may look insanely sad at times, but if you know her, you know she's playing us like crazy because she is beyond spoiled with 2 long walks a day, homemade meals, 4 beds, tons of full body rubs, and lots of snuggles.  She sure has us wrapped around her little puppy paw and we are A-ok with that!

Much love.

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

17 months & we have a positive

Back in November of 2013, Ryan and I went to Jamaica thinking it would be our last trip without kiddos, well it was, but that's only because we didn't plan one the next year, silly us.  We wrote in our Christmas letter that we were officially trying for a baby and believe me, I was bombarded by my aunts that Christmas!  We were excited, but looking back on that letter, I really wish we would never have said anything because it took a lot longer than expected.  After a year of trying and having fun of course, we decided to look into infertility.  Ryan was totally fine and I had a fibroid that was discovered during an internal ultrasound.  The doctors wanted to make sure it wasn't blocking anything, so I had an Saline Induced Sonogram (SIS) performed.  They basically put a teaspoon of saline into my uterus to make sure that the fibroid wasn't protruding into it at all and preventing implantation.  I actually cried as I watched it happen on the ultrasound screen. Every ultrasound throughout this process I cried.  There's something about ultrasounds and the possibility of seeing a little baby growing inside of you that makes me tear up.  It turned out that we are both completely healthy which was s huge relief, but also scary because the doctors basically told us that the next step was for me to take clomid, be given a trigger shot to ovulate and to have timed intercourse.  If you know me, you know I am a very natural person.  I don't take meds for really anything and I like it that way, so I freaked out.  

I picked up the prescription, never used it, and God blessed us with a positive pregnancy test that month! When I missed my period, I waited two days to take the test because I was  so scared to have a negative.  When it was positive and then positive again, I ran out to tell Ryan, but he was pulling away on his way to work.  Ahh!!!  I couldn't wait to tell him, but I knew I couldn't tell him over the phone or a text message.  It had to be in person, so I had to keep this little secret to myself all day long.

I actually had a newborn session that morning, went to it, loved on that little baby boy, and didn't say a word.  I got home, put a little package together of a onesie and the positive pregnancy tests, and then I waited.  Ryan came home and was really worked up about something; I can't really remember because I wasn't listening. Yes darling, I normally remember everything, but I simply didn't care at that moment because I had the best surprise ever for you and I knew whatever you were complaining about didn't matter as much as the news I had to tell you.  Once Ryan was done venting, I told him I had a present for him.  He looked at me funny, opened it, looked at me with a huge smile on his face, picked me up and spun me around!  It was heavenly!  I just remember crying and smiling and hugging and Ryan touching my belly!  **This is August 28th 2016

Ryan thinks that the extreme lack of stress from quitting my corporate job for real in March is what did the trick and I can't really blame him.  I think that coupled with the SIS, having more time for family, friends, working out, reading, etc. did the trick!  We definitely had our ups and downs during the 17 months both emotionally and physically, and I definitely tracked everything for a couple months, got discouraged and stopped tracking everything for a couple of months, read lots of books and blogs, cried, got frustrated and the list goes on.  We had discussed the possibility of never having children together and knew we would be ok because we love our life together and we could embrace that life and love together.  Taking the stress of "we need to have a child together" out of the equation was huge for us.  I know that in the grand scheme, we had it easy compared to a lot of couples and I am truly grateful for that. I pray for everyone facing infertility and challenging pregnancies.  

In early May, before extended family and the social world knew a thing, Ryan and I took a trip to The Players Tournament  in St. Augustine, Florida!  It was a wonderful golf trip and I felt pretty good the entire time aside from the 9 hour drive and the random nausea and constipation.  Seeing Tiger and Rory and DJ and all the guys up close and in person was absolutely amazing!  We walked an average of 8 miles per day and made sure to stay super hydrated!  It was a really really nice babymoon that wasn't originally planned as one.

We kept it our little secret, for the most part, until our 7w1d ultrasound on May 20th where we heard our little baby's heartbeat for the first time and saw our peanut wiggling around!  I cried all over again!  It was heavenly!

Our precious baby's first gifts were from Gramma and PopPop, my parents, and they are super cute! I cannot wait to cuddle and read to our bundle of joy this January!  That blanket is so soft and will definitely be used a lot!

Much love.

Monday, August 24, 2015

It's been a long time since I blogged...

I know it's been quite some time...err...19 months since I last wrote a blog post, but I am back and I am excited about it!  My little family has had a ton of changes over the past year, mostly for the better too!  Back in November 2014 I resigned from my full-time corporate position and went part time until March 2015 to pursue my passion as a photographer and to be less stressed and have more time with my family and to myself.  Then on April 28th 2015, we found out we were expecting our first baby together!!  More to come on that, I promise!  In July, Jared came back with us!  He is 13 and headed into the 8th grade!  Pretty insane if you ask me.  August brought a move from a 3 bedroom 2 bath house to a gorgeous 4 bedroom, 2 bath house in a wonderful neighborhood to accommodate our growing family.

If you are new to the blog, this is me!  I'm a photographer with a big smile and tiny eyes, a wife to a navy man and a golf lover, a stepmama to a witty teenage boy, pregnant with a bouncing baby boy, and a puppy mama to an adorable, fluffy Lira puppy!!  

My goal for this new phase on my blog is to write about my personal life updates, my husband's amazing cooking, the challenges and joys of raising a teenager and a baby, my pregnancy journey, DIYs, running my own business, and if I can twist his arm, I want my husband to post a bit now and then.  He is a phenomenal writer and I absolutely love to read life through his eyes! 

If there is anything you would like me to write about, please don't hesitate to let me know in the comments below!  

Much love. 

Friday, January 10, 2014

Butter Lettuce Wrapped Tacos

Ryan and I are changing our eating habits.  We aren't notoriously poor eaters, but we have our bad habits.  I have a sweet tooth and love my dark chocolate.  Ryan loves his beer.  Those two loves have not been in our lives since Monday morning bright and early.  We eat eggs for breakfast, 2 pieces of fruit and two dairy products (I opt for coconut/almond milk) before 2pm, unlimited lean protein and unlimited vegetables.  We also drink lots of water and green tea.  Since it's been a little chilly, we have been drinking hot green tea.  I know this diet sounds pretty intense, but it's not that bad (for me).  I eat fairly similar to this on a daily basis, but my husband does not.  Let's just say he is not enjoying it.  We are loosing weight though.  I am down a little over 4 lbs and he is down a little over 5 lbs.  I doubt I will lose much more because I'm close to my natural/healthy/comfortable weight. 

Being on a diet like this makes us be creative in how we see foods and especially how we make dinner, well how my husband makes dinner.  I work longer hours and don't enjoy cooking nearly as much as he does, so he is the resident chef.  Last night he made Pulled Chicken Tacos in Butter Lettuce Wraps!  Oh my heavens!  They were amazing!  

  • Chicken breast
  • Black or Pinto Beans
  • Avocado
  • Lime
  • Jalapeno Pepper
  • Onion
  • Tomato
  • Garlic
  • Butter Leaf Lettuce
  • Salsa
  • Salt & Pepper
  • Slow cook chicken breast & pull apart (we used leftovers from another meal)
  • Prepare guacamole using avocado, lime, garlic (minced), salt and pepper
    • Chop & mash avocado
    • Juice half lime
    • Mince garlic
    • Mix together
  • Prepare Pico de Gallo
    • Finely chop Onion, Tomato, and Jalapeno & mix
  • Cook beans on stove top until mushy
    • Smash with back of fork
    • Add salt to taste
  • Rinse Butter Leaf Lettuce and pat dry
  • Serve
    • In lettuce leaf, put beans, guacamole, chicken, pico, salsa (your choice)

Wednesday, January 8, 2014


My back that is...  I don’t know what I did exactly, but I have strained my lower back.  I have pain in the front of my hips, my lower back and sometimes my diaphragm.  From my research I strained the diamond shaped muscle that surrounds your spine in your lower back (Thoracolumbar fascia).  
It is connected to ligaments that hook into the hips and connect to the diaphragm.  When I read the pain described, I instantly thought it was right.  In more research, I learned that it is a common injury in dancers, high heel wearers and those who have hyper-extension.  It results from a lack of core control.  Well ladies and gents if any guys read this, I do and have all of those things.  Oh and I sit all day so my hip flexors are extremely tight.  They started bothering me when I was training for my half marathon back in September and ultimately ended up straining my IT band. 

In my opinion, the lower back pain and hip soreness/tightness are all linked to having a desk job, running on slanted roads and not stretching enough.  I never had any issues when I was active for the majority of the day and I when I ran/walked much shorter distances. I will not be running at all for quite some time and I definitely will NEVER run anything over an 8k willingly.  My distance running days were short lived and I am a-ok with that.  Instead, I will be doing  more yoga and weight training.  I won’t be the body builder type, but I do recognize that I need to focus more on toning and strengthening.  The stronger I am, the less likely I will be to get injured because all my muscles will be working together as opposed to one muscle/muscle group bearing the brunt.  

Since I am not one to sit around and let my body heal all by itself, I have been actively working on healing it.  I'm doing yoga poses and specific stretches for my legs and back multiple times a day.  I started a light medicine ball workout to strengthen body entire body.  And I stopped wearing high heels {tear}. It's been about 4 days since I've started all three and I am feeling much better!  I jump started this entire healing process with a 90 minute hot yoga class.  It was my first hot yoga class, but it won't be my last!  I will be a weekend hot yoga goer!  First of all, 90 minutes is really a long time, but you aren't really thinking of time because you are so focused on breathing deeply and not swallowing your sweat.  The "Hot" part is true.  It's 107+ degrees.  You literally are dripping sweat from every pore in your body and your clothing is so wet that your husband will think you jumped into the pool.  It's insane and totally awesome!  You are so flexible because your muscles are so warm.  It's really neat to see just how flexible you can be at your first class.  I can't wait to see my progression.  

Have you every tried hot yoga?  What are your thoughts?

Much love.

Sunday, January 5, 2014

Christmas Morning

Christmas mornings are about Baby Jesus and children...and coffee!  It's a tradition in our house to all gather in the hallway and sing Happy Birthday Baby Jesus in the most amazing morning voices and we do it without shame.  It's a little tradition that some think is goofy or silly, but I love it!  It's free, it's unique, it keeps Christ in Christmas and it's our tradition... I am a sucker for traditions and am beyond excited to have babies and carry on and create traditions for my little family to be. Singing Happy Birthday will definitely be carried on! 

The children.  
This year the only child, who really is a teenager and much more mature than I ever was at her age, but will always be my little sister, was quite a joy this year!  She has an extremely sweet demeanor, puts thought into Christmas presents and truly appreciates the gifts she receives.  I have my children learn these qualities as early in life as my little sister did!  She's always had a huge heart!  This year she used her own money that she earned from doing yard work for a neighbor to buy Christmas presents for everyone.  This isn't a small feat.  We have a large family.  2 parents, 5 siblings, 2 brother in laws, 4 nieces & nephews, and 2 pets.  Yes, she bought for all of them.   Here she is on Christmas morning reading about a present that hadn't arrived yet.  She was happy!

This year our little man was with his mom.  It wasn't quite the same.  Nothing is quite the same, but let me say, THANK GOD FOR SKYPE!  Seriously!  Skype has saved us this year and this holiday season.  While he wasn't with us, we were able to watch him open all his presents from us, see his face, wish him a Merry Christmas and share in the excitement of Christmas morning. 
This year we gave him woodland camoflague pants and hat, a mini Nikon camera with wifi that he can fit in his pocket and document his life and hunting expeditions in Iowa, a few CDs, a few books that he is actually reading thanks to some wonderful suggestions from my history loving best friend, an over the door basketball hoop, and I made him a quilt from all of the races we did together! Here's a cellphone picture of the quilt.  Yes, my husband is holding it up over his head.  The quilt has shirts from races we ran together with fleece trim and fleece backing.  Since him and his daddy love to golf together, I used a print that reminded me of golf.
Ryan and Lira were super cute Christmas morning.  Him in his ballcap.  Her in her Christmas sweater!  I love these two.  
And since I love surprise gifts sooo much, I surprised Ryan with...
a guitar!!!

I got it off craig's list for a great deal because I wasn't 100% sure that Ryan would actually like it.  Well, the present was and still is a success!  He has taught himself multiple chords thanks to iPad apps and youtube and he can play what actually sounds like music!  It's quite impressive!  It's super sexy to have a man who can play an instrument!  I can't wait until he's actually good and can sing too!!  Ahh!  I'm melting just thinking about it.

I hope your Christmas was amazing!  Happy New Year!  May 2014 be amazing!
Much love.

Saturday, January 4, 2014

Our 2013 Recap

Every year my husband writes a letter for our Christmas cards and I design the cards.  I absolutely love reading about our year from his perspective.  While I've edited this letter a bit, the bulk of the letter is still intact.  Enjoy our 2013 recap.
Personalized Holiday Cards (12/01/2013)
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * 
**It was written in November 2013.
Hello Family & Friends!

It’s been another crazy year for us.  I’m not sure where 2013 went, but in looking back it seems to have flown by.   Our little family continues to be blessed with knowing all of you, our steady jobs, good health, and quite a bit of fun.

Sarah has certainly had a busy year.  She still works as a financial analyst for the same coffee roasting company, and her job has grown in scope and importance.  Knowing how hard she works makes her list of extracurricular activities even more impressive.  She continues to dance competitively, and won her division in both the spring and fall Arthur Murray invitationals up in Washington DC.  I got to join her to watch one evening of the fall event, and boy is that an intimidating environment.  Hard bodies, skimpy clothes, judges with piercing looks, constant changing and dancing.  I could never do it, but Sarah thrives on it.  She’s still dancing between one and three nights a week and I join her once in a while.  We’ve made great friends at the Arthur Murray studio.  Sarah’s big summer accomplishment was training for and completing her first half marathon!  She ran the Rock n’ Roll half in Virginia Beach and survived mostly unscathed, with just some IT band pain that took a few weeks to heal.  Her friend from college came down and ran with her and they had a great time.  Sarah’s also tutoring occasionally, and for the last several weeks has spent one night a week working with a 9-year-old girl and 13-year-old boy.  She was recommended for and recently accepted a job teaching the math portion of the evening GMAT prep course at Old Dominion University, which will start in February.  On top of all this, in her “spare” time, Sarah’s become a professional-quality photographer.  She created Turnaround Photography and is in the process of gathering a client base and getting the word out.  We just heard that she’ll be taking photos for one of our favorite local bands!  Most evenings are spent editing photos with the puppy curled up on her lap.

My (husband -Ryan, author of this letter) year started with my back pain intensifying, and once my MRI finally got in front of a neurosurgeon, they made the decision to operate immediately.  My bulging L5 disc was “molesting” my S1 (sciatic nerve) according to the doc, and I had a micro discectomy in early February.  Recovering from back surgery was no treat, and was probably hardest on Sarah because I was pretty useless for a few weeks.  Still, I eventually recovered and thankfully have none of the sharp pain that I had before.  I still experience some general lower back soreness, but that has subsided over the year with exercise and stretching.  I was back to golfing six weeks after surgery and started working hard to get back to where I left off.  I had a very up and down tournament season.  On the good side I qualified for the Virginia Tournament of Champions and won my club championship by a landslide.  I also had my best ever “major” tournament finish, in the Virginia Public Links Championship at Golden Horseshoe Club up in Williamsburg, where I qualified for match play and then won all of my matches before losing 1-down on the 18th green in the semifinal match.  I sort of slumped after that though, and finished middle of the pack in the Virginia Mid-Amateur and missed the cut in the Middle Atlantic Amateur.  Still, it was a good year considering the surgery and trying to finish school.  On that note, I finished my MBA from Penn State University in August – a culmination of two long years of constant work.  I spent a week up in State College doing my final residency and capstone project and had a blast.  When I’m not golfing I enjoy cooking, walking the puppy, and date nights with Sarah.  I serve as the tournament director and secretary of my golf club’s men’s association, so I’m constantly dealing with issues that come up at the course.

Jared, or J-man as he is usually called, has definitely exited boyhood and is firmly into the preteen years (he’ll be 12 in March).  He began the year as a 5th grader and continued to do well, making honor roll every term, and “graduating” from elementary school in June.  He played baseball this spring in the pony league and had a much better experience than last year.  He’s now playing with 12-year-olds, some as tall as me, so it was kind of funny watching little J-man run around with them.  He did well though, and started most games at 2nd base.  While hitting didn’t go so well, we learned that the kid is an awesome bunter and with his speed he found the base a good percentage of the time.  The sad news with J-man is that we had to give him up to his mother for the next school year, part of a pre-arranged agreement we had, and he moved with her to Southeastern Iowa in late July.  It’s been a strange transition, especially when we’ve been used to having kids run through the house for two years.  More alone time and more golf/dance time, but I can tell you we prefer to have the kids and the mess.  Sarah and I took a road trip out to visit him in October (WAY cheaper than flying, and I have trucker blood after all), and put nearly 2,600 miles on a rental car in five days.  We got to play Jared’s golf course, explored Iowa City (home of the University of Iowa), spent time at the Amana Colonies (a former religious colony turned touristy area), and just enjoyed being together.  He lives in a very small town, less than 2,000 people, and he can ride his bike through town safely to his joint middle/high school.  He’s enjoying the 6th grade, and he’s doing better than we expected.  I can see that kind of rural life being good for him for a while.  When he comes back depends on my schedule and on when we start producing more mini-Nolan’s.  The separation has been made easier by the wonders of technology.  We have nightly Skype calls, and he can email and text now, so I’m far more comfortable than with previous separations.  Sometimes “Dad eyes” or “Sarah eyes” go a long ways.

By far the most loved and most spoiled member of the family is little Lira.  Even though she’s five years old she’s still “the puppy”, and if you haven’t met her, it’s hard to describe her goofy personality.  I’ve had some spoiled dogs growing up but this little one takes the cake.  She shares our eggs in the morning, peanut butter when I make my sandwich, and darn near eats at the table with us.  She likes to prowl the house at night but usually scratches the side of the bed until I pick her up and put her between us, usually around 4am.  She lives for her afternoon walks, sleeping in with Sarah on the weekends, and of course food!  We love that crazy puppy. 

Next year will likely be one of major transition.  Most importantly new mini-Nolan’s are on the horizon.  None baking in the oven yet, but we’re reviewing the recipe, if you will.  Uncertainty has pretty much become the norm for us, so we’re just trying to have fun in the meantime.  We have lots of plans for 2014 that we’ll try to squeeze in among the madness.  Those include a West Coast trip for my annual golf tournament with dad, the family reunion in Iowa, and several visits up to visit Sarah’s family.  As I write this, Sarah and I are four days away from jumping on a plane to Dunn’s River, Jamaica near Montego Bay.  This is our first vacation alone together since our honeymoon and we’re excited to soak up the sun and the fruity drinks (and catch up on sleep). 

We wish you and your families a safe and happy holiday season.  May 2014 be a great year for you all.