Saturday, December 31, 2011

Plans for ringing in the new year

I hope most of you have far more exciting plans for this evening that Jim and I do. I'm always torn on New Year's Eve. The thought of going and doing something wonderfully fun is always appealing. But then again, so is staying home with a bottle of champagne and a table full of munchies...which is the itinerary for tonight.

I used to want to go to NYC and see "the ball drop." But in recent years, that plan seems less and less attractive. I mean, the actual drop of the ball isn't that interesting. It's not like it even drops. It just sort of slowly slides down the pole, almost as if it's got honey in its track or something. Not to mention the herds of people, the freezing cold....we seem to forget that part when we're sitting in our nice warm living rooms. If I were to spend New Year's in New York, I'd want to find a place to go where there's a party inside and a nice place on a roof somewhere to watch the fireworks. OR....I'd want a fancy schmancy suite at the Marriott Marquis that faces out to Times Square and room service filling every surface. That's how I'd do New York.

[caption id="attachment_401" align="aligncenter" width="570" caption="travels.com"][/caption]

Other possibilities:

Sydney. I've always wanted to go to Australia. I visited New Zealand a few years back. It was pretty lovely. I'd go again. But it's definitely not the same as Australia. But on New Year's Eve in the southern hemisphere, it's summer. How weird would it be to celebrate the new year in WARM weather? Weird, but definitely cool. I'd do Australia.

[caption id="attachment_402" align="aligncenter" width="757" caption="acrossoceana.com"][/caption]

Seriously, though. I think you'd need a boat. How cool would that be!?

Seattle. I know, I know. We were talking about cold. And honestly, I've been in Seattle on New Years. At the foot of the Space Needle to be exact. It was cold. It was not, however, too crowded. I wish I'd had a better camera because the views of the fireworks behind the Space Needle were incredible. On the other hand, if I were to go again, with my nice shiny wonderfully adept camera, I'd probably go to the party at the top rather than hang out at the bottom. What the heck good is a $200 per ticket party if you can't even drink? (I was 19 at the time).

[caption id="attachment_399" align="aligncenter" width="520" caption="seattlecitymonorail.wordpress.com"][/caption]

So far, I think those are the only other places I have a real interest in going. That being said, I'm sure that any city that I love would be cool to go to. I mean, take Paris, for instance. It's supposed to be the most romantic city in the world (I say supposed to because I went with a friend...not a lover [ala Carrie Bradshaw] and it was NOT the romantic experience you would expect...I mean, obviously), I'd imagine huddled together with your lover with a steamy cafe latte and fireworks over the Seine with the Tour d'Eiffel in the foreground would be a pretty amazing New Year's too.

[caption id="attachment_398" align="aligncenter" width="507" caption="blackparistours.com"][/caption]

Alas, my couch calls my name. And the freezer full of fattening goodies my husband and I will consume tonight along with our bottle of peach flavored champagne (neither of us likes regular champagne...in fact, we toasted wine at our wedding)...and any other bottles of goodness we may find in the kitchen....

....assuming we make it past 10 p.m. We're so old.

Happy New Year!


Friday, December 30, 2011

2012 goals and a small clarification

In my last post, I made some comments about my dislike for "New Year's Resolutions," but I'd like to clarify my thoughts a little bit.

I'm not entirely opposed to the concept. I think it's a great idea to have goals and to work toward making yourself a better person in some way. I personally enjoy having goals, and I'll go into mine a little bit more later. My problem with resolutions is that people expect a miraculous change, in the form of reaching their goals, but also in their own motivation to work toward them.

Nothing changes between December 31st and January 1st that couldn't change between March 18th and March 19th. So while the new year provides a fresh start and a great place to begin new goals, it's unlikely that huge life changes will take place, simply because it's time to buy a new calendar.

That being said, I do have some goals for the new year. A lot of them have to do with our finances, which makes the new year a good place to start because it's the start of the fiscal calendar too. And some of them are personal, too, and a lot of them have come about because of recent changes in my health. So the new year really has quite a small role in my goal planning.

As I was browsing some of my favorite blogs yesterday, I came across this post by Tina at Best Body Fitness. She bases her new year's goals on a theme, rather than a list of desired results.

The concept fascinated me, and I instantly remembered a conversation with my good friend, Christie, last week. We were talking about how I don't have the energy to go to the gym even though it's the option for my evening that I should choose. Christie responded by saying she always tries to make the right decision, even if it feels too hard. And, as a result, she ends up feeling better than she had when she'd made the decision to do the harder thing.

[caption id="attachment_389" align="aligncenter" width="572" caption="How lucky am I that my close friend is also an ordained wedding officiant?!"][/caption]

So my blanket goal for 2012 is to always make the decision that seems right for the situation, even if it's the harder of my possible options. That's not to say that the right thing will always be clear. There's still an element of judgement in there, but usually I know what I should do versus what I want to do.

And yes, I've already started. Last night, as my eyes drooped to the floor and my muscles gave me hell the entire time I was changing into my tennis shoes and stretchy capris, I went to the gym. And no, I didn't spend an hour doing a wonderfully intense workout, but I did my best. I gave it all I had (which happened to be 30 mins of cardio, but hey, it was something!), and I felt good about it when I got home, took a shower and allowed myself to flop ont he couch with my book until my husband came home and I had to make dinner.

Along with my blanket goal of trying to always make the right decision, I have a few small goals.

1. I'd like to get my finances in order. And when I say that, you probably imagine a gigantic mess, but really, I don't think it's as bad as I make it out to be. We have our wedding to pay off, most of which is on my credit card and we would like to get our savings built back up so we can have a down payment for a house in the near future. I think mostly I feel uncomfortable carrying a balance on my credit card. I'm one of those pay-it-off-every-month people, and seeing multiple thousand dollars on it just freaks me out!

2. I've already started this one, but I'd like to feel like I'm comfortable being me. And I'm not even sure what that means or who I actually am, but I figure there are a few pieces of this puzzle.

a. I need to learn to let go of the things. A good example is my sister-in-law. She drives me nuts because she moves before she thinks and a lot of times she comes off as being very selfish and controlling. And I don't surround myself with those kinds of people. But she's family now. So I need to learn to just let it go. Another good example is my messy house. I'm messy, and as much as I'd like to be a neat freak, I'm not, and I need to learn to accept it.

b. I need to listen to myself. I think I ignore myself when I feel things I don't want to feel. I think I have this image in my head of the person I want to be and I ignore all feelings, thoughts, etc that don't fit into that image.

Awful, right? But part of my journey to this goal has been trying to figure out why I do it. And I've come up with this: It's never been okay to just be me. For example, my grandmother used to take my spoon/fork/crayon/ball out of my left hand and put it in my right because she didn't want me to be left-handed. My other grandmother's favorite phrase was "that's not ladylike." So I've gone my whole life watching my every move to make sure it's going to be acceptable to everyone around me. Let me tell you, it's exhausting!


Check it out. In both photos I'm using my left hand...

But it's time to care about what I  think, what I  want and what works best for me (...and my husband of course).

I don't, however, know exactly how I plan to do that. The process has been etched into my brain. It's how I think, it's my natural instinct to consider these things before I speak, before I act. And my goal is to retrain myself to think about me first.

So those are my goals. The past year has been pretty crappy, but I have hopes that 2012 will be a year of growth and change and hopefully lots of joy.



Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Resolution Schmesolution

I dislike "New Year's Resolutions." I mean I get the idea. I get that we all want to better ourselves and what better way to start fresh than the beginning of a brand new year?

But to me, shouldn't the desire to be a better person in some way be reason enough to make a goal? Why does the new year have to mark your starting point? It's December 27th, why not start today instead?

Because that's not how you do it, I guess. People would rather wait until January 1st to flock to the gyms, where they'll then leisurely stroll along on the elliptical machines in their brand new perfectly matched gym outfits and talk on their cell phones for ten whole minutes of cardio! When that gets boring...oh, about March at the very latest, the gyms will go back to the manageably crowded places they are for nine and a half months out of the year.

Sometimes I think people make resolutions just for the sake of making them. Maybe so they can tell their families and friends to prepare for the day when the brand new shinier, thinner, smarter, happier version of their former selves will emerge.

Mostly, though, I believe people have good intentions. They truly want to make themselves better. But I think making a "New Year's resolution" might just be setting them up for disaster. Rather than setting a life-altering goal, we should set smaller goals that maybe don't look as fabulous as the New Years Eve dress you plan to wear with your new body next year, but that are actually possible to achieve.

Or maybe I'm just cynical. That's a possibility too.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Feeling more like myself again

I don't know whether it's excitement for the holidays, maybe I'm sleeping better, or the "crack" energy drink my mom has been feeding me lately, but I'm feeling more myself the past week or so.

Really, there's far too much good stuff in the world to not feel excitement, even if it is because you don't have the energy to.

Like these clouds from my drive home the other night:


I'm not proud of this, but I almost ran off the road trying to take this photo. But it was worth it!


 It really is the little things that make life wonderful. Like how excited I am to go home and be with my husband who I still miss every single day when I'm away from him, even after being together for three years.


And my super-cute little nephew, Tucker.



I mean how can I not enjoy life when this little guy is in it?


Even smaller things, tiny things you wouldn't even think of can give you joy.



Like this salad my mom made us for lunch. It had mixed greens, avocado, pears, blueberries and gorgonzola cheese on it. Talk about happy in the tummy!


I know it's probably not going to last forever. I'm sure my energy is going to dip again, but as long as I've got it, I plan to love every minute of it!


I hope everyone is having a wonderful day and has plenty of lovely little things in life to make it worth breathing for.



 

Three more days!!!

Is anyone besides me entirely unprepared for the arrival of Christmas?

I JUST started my shopping yesterday. No, that's a lie. I started  my shopped over a month ago. But none of the items I ordered stood alone, so what I really started yesterday was my supplemental shopping, so to speak.

But I've hit an obnoxious snag: my husband, I've decided, is expensive. I have been flooded with ideas for his gift....but all of them are well beyond my price range this year.

From tickets to games of his favorite teams to parts for his car, I just don't have the funds to give him the perfect gift. And it's discouraging me. Sure, I have a few small things. But this is our first married Christmas, and I want to give him a gift that says "wow, she really knows me. I know I married her for a reason!"

So does that mean just sucking it up and shelling out the extra money for one of the perfect gift ideas I have?

Or do I just suck it up and accept that I can't get him exactly what I want?

Seems like a lose/lose situation to me. Either way, I have to suck something up.

Despite the frustration and anxiety about gifts, I am definitely excited for Christmas. We are spending Christmas Eve in Santa Cruz with Jim's grandparents house with his parents and some other family on his mom's side. Then we're doing dinner at my mom's house after with my brother's family and a couple of close friends. It should be a really good Christmas.

Is anyone else having crazy problems finding the perfect gift? What are your plans for the weekend?

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Holiday parties and half-asleep days

I just checked my last post. It was ten days ago.

And in those last ten days, I thought about posting, even opened up a new post and stared at the screen for sometimes hours (between other things of course), but I just haven't been able to bring myself to write.

For starters, I had no idea where to start, what to write about. I stared at the screen and nothing came to mind.

The other, probably more prominent reason, is that I've been walking through life only half awake. I feel like all I want to do is sleep all the time. Everything feels hard. Cooking dinner feels hard. Putting up our Christmas tree felt hard. And writing a post just seemed too hard. Every time I went to write, I stared at this screen and almost cried. If I can't even come up with the energy to do the thing I love most, how am I going to get through...life?

So I did what any normal person would do: I called my doctor. A prick in the arm and vial full of blood later and I've got myself low T3 thyroid hormone uptake. Another visit to the doc's office and I've got a possible referral to a specialist, potentially more pricks in the arm (I hate those!!) and still no answers as to why I've been so tired.

That being said, life goes on and there's still fun to be had in the world, so while it took me ten days to find the energy to write on my own, when there are other people involved, there aren't many other options besides sucking it up and putting on a pretty face.

Fortunately, I was able to find a small amount of extra energy at the end of the week and even managed to bake three different types of cupcakes for our annual holiday party at work.

Gingerbread with eggnog frosting, Maple walnut, and Peppermint hot chocolate. They were quite the hit!

And the whole evening was a lot of fun. Despite a beyond-crazy day wrapping 40 prizes for our casino-themed party as well as a gift for every employee, rebaking chocolate cupcakes (I tried a new recipe and it turned out SOOOO dry!), frosting all the cupcakes, decorating the room where the party was held, and squeezing in six sporadic hours of work, I had an amazing time and didn't once count down the hours until my bed and I met again.

We also decided this year that we would invite more than just our employees to the party. We invited everyone who was important to us, to our family, and we ended up with a room full of people we love and care about. I don't think it could have been a better evening.


My brother, Matt, teaching my little nephew to play poker.


Our employee's daughter playing with her winnings.

 Christie married Jim and I. Her husband, Nic, is to her left and our employee, Mark is to her right.

My sister-in-law's camera had all the photos of me and Jim on it. Obviously, I can't take photos of myself so well. I'll have to post a few of those when I get them from her.

But the party really was the perfect holiday celelbration. Filled with good food, amazing friends and family and all the laughter you could ask for! I hope everyone's holiday season is exactly that!

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Feeling....blah

Lately I've been feeling entirely uninspired. I've been exhausted. A little overwhelmed. But mostly exhausted, and that leaves me wanting to do absolutely nothing...except for sleep.

...I've been trying to write this post since 10 a.m. and it's just not happening.

All I feel like doing is sleeping. Or watching tv. Or reading. Or anything else I can do from a horizontal position.

I'm still waiting to hear back from the doctor about my blood work from last week. People keep telling me my symptoms sound like a thyroid problem, but I was tested for that a few years ago, so I don't think it's that, although I guess things can change. I think mostly I am afraid they're going to tell me that nothing is wrong at all. That I'm feeling tired all the time and there's no reason for it.

I'm also afraid they're going to tell me it's due to stress. I know I have a lot of stress. Today was a classic example: bills + family issues + me taking on extra things I want to do, but don't have time for = a nice little pain in Stephanie's chest and an almost breakdown at work.

And I think that's all this post is going to get from me tonight.

Monday, December 5, 2011

We have our Christmas tree!!!

This weekend was kind of a blur.

Friday night was slumber party night at the vineyard, although my mom got sick and wasn't able to make it. The three of us had a ton of fun anyway. We worked on my cherry zinfandel fudge recipe...which didn't quite work the way I wanted it to, although it tasted AMAZING. We worked on decorating and had a delicious dinner and watched Christmas in Boston (has anyone seen that? It's soooo good!). It was a long night, but full of much needed fun and relaxation!



The next morning we began working on putting lights and decorations up at the shop. Lack of sleep + people not showing up who promised to made me kind of cranky early on, but as everything started going up and becoming festive, my mood changed (putting on Christmas music helped too!).

In the afternoon, my mom and I went to a Christmas tea that my friend, Liz, from college and her mom and sisters host every year. Liz moved away to go to grad school, so it was nice to see her and catch up. It's something my mom and I look forward to every year. Just sitting there, sharing tea memories and steaming cups of the delicious drink and so much food we never leave hungry. It's a delightful break from all the madness!

That evening I went home, changed for the third time that day and Jim and I met his boss and a client of theirs for dinner at Scott's Seafood in Sacramento. We ate and drank and sat and talked for hours. I had never met the client before and he and his girlfriend were lovely people. She and I were sitting at one end of the table, so we talked about food, cooking, kids, crappy mattresses and how different it is to live with men than alone!

All in all, it was a pretty great day. I fell into bed and was asleep almost immediately.

Sunday we got up late, I made gingerbread french toast that didn't quite taste enough like gingerbread but was still delicious and we went out and got our Christmas tree!


We went with Jim's mom and step dad and his little niece, Mya.  She had so much fun, especially because there were free cookies and hot cocoa.....



With PINK marshmallows!!!



They were peppermint flavored. So yummy!




[caption id="attachment_334" align="aligncenter" width="416" caption="Mya and her pink marshmallow hot cocoa"][/caption]

We went out to lunch at Max's where Jim's step dad is the general manager and I am a server (although technically I haven't worked a shift in 5 months. eep!), and then went home to decorate!


Since our apartment is rather small, we tried to find a tree that about matched its size. When we got the thing in, I was worried that it wasn't going to fit in the corner we had our tree last year (and the only corner that would actually fit a tree at all!), but even with the angel on top, it fit in perfectly!




[caption id="attachment_326" align="aligncenter" width="522" caption="Jim fighting with the net around the tree"][/caption]


 


One of our favorite ornaments my mom got us in Alaska last year


Despite being totally exhausted, it was a really fun evening. We ate our usual Sunday "nosh" (maybe I'll post about that next week!), watched a Christmas movie (which I fell asleep in the middle of), and fell into bed without an ounce of trouble falling asleep.


How was your weekend? Do you have your Christmas tree up yet?

Friday, December 2, 2011

Thoughts on weddings

I was watching Friends last night, and it was an episode from the season where Monica and Chandler get married. She's talking about all the things that could possibly go wrong and how she wants to be prepared for any situation.

[caption id="attachment_317" align="aligncenter" width="483" caption="photo courtesy of comedy central"][/caption]

I've watched the episodes from this season several times; its one of my favorite seasons actually. But since I've been through my own wedding, somehow it just seems....different...to watch people on tv or even in real life talking about planning theirs.

I guess it's because if you haven't had one, weddings are sort of a mystery. They're built up as the most wonderful day of your life, something you need to pour tons of money and time and energy into. There's a stigma about becoming a bridezilla and yes, there are a hundred things that could go wrong. But also there are tons of little details that you can't even dream about until you've been there yourself. Watching Monica in that season before I had my own wedding, I couldn't even picture myself in that position. Granted, I was not a girl who began planning her wedding when she was six, either. I began about December, 2010...just after Jim proposed.

Maybe I'm just weird. But for me, it wasn't that big of a deal. Don't get me wrong. I love my husband and our day was so special and so important. But the planning of it was nothing like the craziness Monica makes it out to be on Friends. I even have friends of my own who seem to have been frazzled to no end while planning their weddings. When I got engaged I had a sense of almost fear, and a slight bout of anxiety about the ten months ahead of me because of these things.

But, for me, it wasn't like that. Sure there were moments of tension. I stressed a bit while trying to find a location. Everything was booking up and I was terrified we'd end up in a stinky bingo hall decorated with streamers somewhere. And again, I got stressed when it came down to the wire and my budget had been almost sucked up but my expenses were still aplenty. But that was it. And on the day of my wedding, I completely floored my mom, my bridesmaids, my mother-in-law and the owners of our venue when I was completely calm, entirely rational and as relaxed as can be in the hours leading up to the start of our ceremony.

But I guess that just goes to show that everyone is different. Everyone handles things differently and reacts to things differently. My thought on it is that if you're stressing, how can you be having a good time? And if you're not having a good time, what's the point?

[caption id="attachment_318" align="aligncenter" width="550" caption="sarahmaren.com"][/caption]

Obviously, I'm  having a great time. Can you see how entirely un-stressed I am? Sure, things went wrong. Stuff didn't get put out that was supposed to. But the day was amazing. So many people told me it was the best wedding they'd been to. And you know what? It was the best I'd been to as well. :)

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Thanksgiving Review...in food

I recovered the photos from my phone!!! I'm so happy. Now I just need to find my contacts and I'll be back in business!

So here is my Thanksgiving weekend review in food.

Leftover tofurkey, gravy and mashed potatoes. It may look like just a mush pile of stuff, but boy is it a delicious mush pile!


Black Friday shopping day dessert: affogato from Il Fornaio


Saturday morning breakfast: quinoa with persimmons and pecans


Sunday night dinner: Vegetable Pho


I hope everyone had a wonderful holiday! Next up: CHRISTMAS!

My favorite place on earth

Everyone has a favorite place, that one spot where the world stands still, problems cease to exist and perfect harmony is more than just a lovely little ideal. At least I have that place, and I sure hope everyone else has one too!

Mine is Rome Valley Vineyards. It's the place where we got married, and it's funny because I booked it before I fell in love with it.

[caption id="attachment_299" align="aligncenter" width="676" caption="Sunset at Rome Valley Vineyards"][/caption]

Since booking our wedding almost a year ago, the vineyard has become a home away from home. I mention it now because I went up there for a meeting this morning, and I've been completely useless since. It's almost like taking a happy pill. It's so peaceful and serene and you walk inside the door this time of year and are washed with Christmas spirit (of course, today the Christmas spirit was more or less still spilling out of boxes). There's always fresh coffee and some sort of special flavored creamer (today was pumpkin spice....although the special creamer is for special people...regular people get plain vanilla. lol). Just looking at all the colors is amazing.


This one was taken at sunrise about two months ago when the grape leaves were just starting to change.

We went up there to help harvest the grapes. They're all picked by hand at Rome Valley. And it was so much fun! If you've never harvested grapes before, I highly suggest it!


The grapes a few months before harvest when they were "teenagers." It's been fun to watch them grow and change over the course of the year. Winemaking is something that has always fascinated me...well, you know, since I've been old enough to appreciate it anyway. And at Rome Valley the process is in its purest form. No complex harvesting machines, all the labels are put on by hand (largely by MY hands!) and if you go up for a tasting, the owner herself will pour your wine.


 What's your favorite place in the world?

Monday, November 28, 2011

Happy Belated Thanksgiving! + Good Intentions

Happy Belated Thanksgiving! I hope everyone had a lovely long holiday weekend. I know I did...for the most part, but more on that later.

Jim and I spent Thanksgiving running a muck, trying to visit everyone we loved within a certain radius.  We had our main dinner at the house where I grew up My mom cooked the usual turkey with stuffing, mashed potatoes and gravy, rolls, green bean casserole, fruit salad, etc. I cooked up my tofurkey (and I'm kind of sad I didn't bring any of it to work for lunch today...). My youngest brother came home from college and the brother just older than him brought his wife and my little nephew Tucker over.

[caption id="attachment_294" align="aligncenter" width="393" caption="Me and Tucky Boy getting ready for my wedding!"][/caption]

From there we went to visit our friends BJ and Ashley, who own the vineyard where we got married. We've become so close with them since booking their property for our wedding. They're amazing people. We love them to death! And Ashley's brother and his family were up from San Diego. They have three of the cutest little girls I've ever met!

Lastly, but certainly not least, we made our way to Jim's parents' house for meal #2/dessert. Jim ate a whole second meal while I had a few bites of stuffing and some of the hash brown casserole his sister had made for breakfast (It's freaking delicious!) and a couple of slivers of pie. Jim's step dad manages a restaurant, so he wasn't even home until early in the evening. We didn't get to spend as much time with them as we would have liked, but we did our best to fit it all in.

That night my mom and I made our best attempt at shopping at midnight when all the stores opened. We got to Wal Mart at 10 (Gosh, I wish I'd taken a photo of THAT madness!) and promptly decided to go home and sleep instead of being at the mall when it opened. Black Friday madness can really only be endured with the right combination of caffeine and sleep. So we slept, we got coffee and we got to World Market by 7 a.m., in enough time to get our free ornament and movie ticket.

I will say one thing about everything opening at midnight: the crowds were almost non-existent between the hours of 7 am and noon. Most people, it seemed, had gone at midnight and maybe gone home to sleep and returned in the afternoon? Either way, if it means I can shop peacefully on Black Friday morning, I'm all for midnight openings (by then everyone has had dinner and spent time with their families anyway. Plus, with the economy as it is, I bet a lot of people were happy for the extra hours).

And this is where the good intentions come in. Originally my post was going to be titled: Food highlights from the holiday weekend...or something to that effect. Most of the photos from said post were taken with my phone....which happened to die this weekend. I believe we have resuscitated it, but my photos were either lost or deleted. So should they pop up, I'll add the post because frankly, my weekend in food was quite interesting and I was very excited to share it.

How was everyone's Thanksgiving? Anyone have a funny/exciting/adventurous story to share?



Wednesday, November 23, 2011

It's the most wonderful time of the year!

I looooove the holidays! And tomorrow, being Thanksgiving and all, marks the kick of off the most wonderful time of the year! I love everything about this time of year.

I love that the temperatures drop and I get to bring out all my sweaters.

[caption id="attachment_266" align="aligncenter" width="335" caption="The rain is lovely except when I'm on my honeymoon and more interested in exploring than curling up with a good book!"][/caption]

I love the smells: cookies baking and fresh rain on pavement and pine trees and cinnamon and peppermint!

[caption id="attachment_269" align="aligncenter" width="409" caption="Nephew, Tucker, and I baking cookies"][/caption]

I love shopping for the perfect gift for each of my loved ones.

I love the parties, the glitter, the shiny sheen that seems to show up on every surface of life.

I love picking out the perfect tree and decorating it with lights and beautiful ornaments.

[caption id="attachment_270" align="aligncenter" width="321" caption="Our apartment sized tree from last year"][/caption]

I love the feeling in the air, the notion that during this time of year, everyone seems to be just a little bit nicer to each other....

....granted, I will mention that the holidays also bring out the worst in some people.  The ones who cut in lines and have a constant scowl on their faces. I feel bad for people who can't just enjoy the season.

What are your favorite things about the holidays?

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Under the weather

I know. My presence has been scarce. But in my defense, I'm sick. And I don't feel like doing anything.  I haven't gone to the gym. I haven't cooked a meal. I haven't done laundry or cleaned anything. I didn't go to work yesterday. I went today, but I did a couple of things and then sat in my chair moaning and groaning until the phone rang at which point I put on my best "I'm okay!" voice and answered it.

I did get one productive thing done today, although it was not work related. I'm working on putting together a shutterfly book of wedding photos, and I got that going. So, here's a sneak peak. And that's all you get for now because I'm going to go back to dying on the couch now.



This is one of my favorites of me getting ready. My maid of honor, Kayla, was tightening my dress and I had to hold onto the bed to keep from falling over backwards!

Anyway, ta ta, folks. Hopefully I'll have more energy and things to say tomorrow.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

A favorite snack + TJs!

During my last year of college, I worked at Trader Joes. It was probably one of the most fun (also most exhausting. Have you seen those people? They're always moving!) job I've ever had. Aside from the fact that the people were cool, the benefits and pay were off the freaking wall and they were willing to work with my school schedule, I got to taste a lot of really good food!

Anyone who knows Trader Joes knows that they're pretty much the opposite of mainstream. You can't go in there, necessarily, looking for one item. It's likely not to be there, even if it was there the last time you were there. They call themselves a "specialty grocery store." That being said, there are tons of really fun, different foods you can get there.

I love looking in other people's carts while I'm there. Katie, over at healthy diva eats, calls people like me cart stalkers. And more than once I've seen something in someone's cart while on my way to the checkout and just HAD to go back and find it. Katie has taken cart stalking to a new level though, and started posting her highlights on her blog! So, here are the highlights from my trip to Trader Joes last night.


My favorite snack is in there. When I was working there, I went through a, like, two month phase where every day I would come home and have the same thing:


Toasted seeded sourdough bread + fresh mozzarella + bruschetta sauce = DELICIOUS!



The final product:



I added the steamed broccoli because I was feeling a little nutrient deprived.


I assume you also noticed to Tofurkey in the photo above. Yes, I'm one of those. I eat Tofurkey and I love it. And no, Jim doesn't eat it. He eats regular turkey or whatever else was cooked by whoever we're sharing Thanksgiving with.



It's really not that bad. If you've never tried it and you get the chance, give it a bite.


Tonight's dinner is another "compromise" meal. A compromise because I'm cooking it, Jim's eating it and I'm picking around it. Stay tuned for that one!

Friday, November 18, 2011

One of those days

It's turning out to be one of those days. No, not those days. Not the kind of day, FORTUNATELY!, where everything seems to go wrong no matter what you do.

This is one of those days where I feel strangely upbeat and motivated to get stuff done...except I have nothing to do. My desk is clean. Filing is done. My inbox is empty. I even got started on all the year-end stuff that will need to be done come January 1st.

I suppose now that means I'm moving on to cleaning out the fridge. It's like spring cleaning, only in late fall!

On second thought, maybe I'll leave the fridge for a later date and sit back and just read my book instead....

Yea, I think I like that plan better. :) Happy Friday, Friends!

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Christmas shopping revelation + breakfast

As I was trying to fill in my Christmas gift spreadsheet, the one I so cleverly designed for myself last week, I came to a realization about the real reason I can't finish shopping until the last minute.

I buy based on a feeling, not a list.

It's not important to me to buy my sister-in-law a scarf. Unless I happen to see a scarf at a store that screams her name to me. It's why I can never find something for my dad: the man who has everything. I put a lot of thought and feeling into what I give people. It's not just about having something for them under the tree on Christmas morning. It's about showing them I love them and appreciate their presence in my life.

That being said, I've hit the delete button on my spreadsheet, pulled out a notebook and simply listed the people I want to buy for. Wish me luck! I'm in for a long ride.

Breakfast.

Most important meal of the day, right? Also, I'd say, a lovely opportunity to combine ingredients you love.

Like oatmeal. I love oatmeal. I could (and mostly do!!) eat it every single day (you can find my favorite here). Today, I combined it with my very favorite peanut butter.

I had this peanut butter for the first time on a sandwich at the Peanut Butter and Co. restaurant just around the  corner from NYU.  At that time, you could only buy it there, but now it's in stores all over the place (thank goodness! I'm a long way from New York!)

So I added a good sized glop to my oats, and wha la! Breakfast!



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And of course, I had to lick the spoon.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Lazy girl skips the gym AND eats sushi for dinner

[caption id="attachment_211" align="aligncenter" width="538" caption="Do you love my butterfly socks?"][/caption]


That's right. I not only skipped the gym in favor of sitting in front of the tv under my favorite blankey all evening, I didn't cook dinner. I ordered sushi instead. And I don't even feel bad about it.

In fact, I'm feeling much better. See, lazy is probably the wrong word to use. My body was telling me I needed to take it easy this evening. I haven't been sleeping well again and there's only so much I can do on a few hours of sleep before I start getting sick. So, here I sit, for the 4th hour tonight. And hopefully this relaxation will lead to a night of restful sleep. Cross your fingers for me!

P.S. Is anyone else watching Hart of Dixie? I'm hooked!

Christmas comes earlier and earlier

Is it just me or is Christmas coming earlier and earlier every year? I mean sure the date is always December 25, but the holiday season seems to start earlier every year.


Like this year. For the past several years, one radio station in the Sacramento area has played all Christmas music all the time, starting the day after Thanksgiving. This year, they've already started. And the earliest I heard Christmas songs on their station was this past Saturday.

Now I don't think I actually have a problem with this. I LOOOOOOVE Christmas. It's my favorite time of year and I am all for making it last as long as possible. But every year, come December 26, I am so sick of hearing Christmas song I have no problem letting them fade away for the next ten and a half months.

One good thing about Christmas creeping up on us is that it gets me thinking about gifts earlier. I am an awful shopper. I always wait till the last-minute, not because I procrastinate but because I can never think of something to get people!

This year, in an effort to combat that, I've started a spreadsheet of all the ideas for gifts I have for each person in my life.

I'm hoping this will work. Because let's be honest, not every person in your life is equal. There are people who it is perfectly acceptable, like extended family, to give a plate of delicious cookies to and there are people, like say your husband, who you want to spend a little more time or money or both on. Not that cookies don't cost a dang lot of time...at least the way my mom and I do them!...but there's a little less thought put into that than there is something else.

And isn't that what it boils down to? The thought. Everyone always says it's the thought that counts. So it stands to reason that you'd put more thought into gifts for those closest to you. And the fact that you give a gift to some one not so close to you shows you're thinking about them at all.

This year we have an easy gift though: framed wedding photos. That's going to be my fall back gift when I can't think of anything else. And of course, parents get them just by default.

How do you handle all of your gift giving at the holidays?

Monday, November 14, 2011

Getting to the gym + tomato soup

I seem to be on a kick. I've managed to get myself to the gym five out of the past eight days, and for me, that's amazing! The funny thing about it is it's getting easier. It used to feel so hard, first to find the time, and then to find the motivation to move for 30+ minutes when I was ready to just crash on the couch for a few hours. I couldn't be happier. I want fitness to be a part of my daily life, but the past several months it's been so hard.


When I got home from the gym, I got to work making one of my favorite soups. It was originally from Cooking Light magazine, but I've changed a few things.

Tomato Soup with Parmesan Toasts



 

1 medium-sized onion, chopped


1 fennel bulb, chopped


A couple cloves of garlic, chopped


1 tbsp olive oil


1 can diced tomatoes, with their juice


4 cups vegetable broth


bread of your choice, sliced (I used a whole wheat french bread thing from Trader Joes, but you could use a baguette or french bread or whatever you prefer)


Shredded parmesan cheese (I actually used Trader Joes' quatro formaggio...LOOOOOVE that stuff!)


Thyme (fresh or dried...I used dried because that's all I had)


Fresh basil leaves


Heat your olive oil in a large saucepan. Add the onion and garlic. Cook for about 3 minutes or until onions start to soften. Add the fennel and cook for another 5 minutes.


Add the tomatoes and the broth and bring to a boil. Then lower the heat and let simmer for 35-40 minutes. As I say, the longer you can deal, the better it will taste.


Meanwhile, spread your sliced bread on a baking sheet (I lined mine with foil first because it makes it easier to clean that way) and cover each with a pinch of cheese. Broil in the oven until the cheese melts. But watch it! It's easy to burn them.


Transfer half of the soup into a blender and blend until smooth...I like mine with a little bit of chunk left to it. I'll leave that part up to your discretion. Then do the other half. But make sure your blender can vent or the heat will make the lid pop and make a big mess (I have a Ninja blender with a little flip lid pour spout, so that works for me. If you have a regular blender, you could take the little circle out in the middle and cover it with a dish towel).


Sprinkle soup with basil and serve a cup of soup with a couple of toasts.



Delicious!


Now it's off to bed I go with the love of my life! Night!

Freaked out!

Jim spent most of last night making fun of me. We watched this movie, and it had a surprisinly negative impact on me.


I've watched thrillers before. And generally I get all stressed out and am on the edge of my seat the whole time wondering what's going to happen next and if the protagonist is going to make it out of his/her situation.


Last night we watched Frozen, an independent film about three college students who get left on a ski lift after everyone else has gone home.



For some reason, this movie had me downright shaking. And as I sat there, my heart beating a 900 miles a minute, I wondered why the heck it was bothing me so much.


And then it hit me: I was putting myself in their shoes. My brain was trying to figure out how the heck I would get off that ski lift. And it affected me all night. I was so scared I'd end up having nightmares about my friend jumping to the ground only to break both legs and then get eaten by wolves that I put The Princess and the Frog  on while we went to sleep.


When I thought about it this morning, I realized I do that with everything I put in my head. At the end of a Susan Wiggs novel, I cry when the couple who has faced obstacle after obstacle finally gets together. I feel compasion for all people, even when they are simply a story made up for entertainment purposes.


But why did this one affect me so much more than most? I think it's because it could totally happen. Granted, most ski resorts, I would imagine (I don't ski. Fear of speed + fear of pain = no skiing for me) do a pretty thorough check before shutting the lifts off, but the circumstances of their being left up there were totally plausible.


It wasn't a film about a psycho out to kill them, it wasn't about supernatural forces. It was about heights and weather and frost bite and hungry wolves and plain old bad luck. And it totally could have happened.


So I've decided, from now on, I'm only watching thriller/horror movies that have a psycho stalker/killer, some sort of aliens or supernatural entirely UNREALISTIC elements of horror to them. Go ahead and call me a baby. I AM ONE!!