Friday, December 30, 2011

Book #18: A Christmas Carol

Title: A Christmas Carol
Author: Charles Dickens
# of Pages: 110

This novella has been on my to-read list forever, and, when I found out how short it actually was, I was sheepish that it had taken me 25 years to finally get around to it. I mean, this is probably the most quoted Christmas text next to the Bible, and I, as an English major, should have checked it off my list many, many years ago.

But the past cannot be changed.

Although, as we learn from this tale, the past can indeed come back to haunt us...and change us. Besides the obvious appeal of the plotline (three ghosts coming to haunt a miserly businessman on Christmas Eve), I found myself immersed in the book for other reasons, too--mainly, I found myself dissecting it for the inherent spiritual meaning that I was sure it held. And I was not disappointed.

Maybe it's just the fact that I've been taught how to over-analyze everything thanks to the Lit Theory class I took back in 2006, but I found deep, very personal meaning embedded in each small chapter of this book. You see, I myself have been a bit of a "Scrooge" about Christmas for the past decade or so. and, since I felt that this year I was finally starting to get over that, this book especially hit home for me.

Although I won't bore you with all the details of my personal revelations while reading this, I will say this: there is a reason that Scrooge needed the ghosts of Christmas past, present, and future in order to experience the metamorphosis from misery to mercy. His past reminded him not only of why he perhaps had become the way he was, but also gave him snapshots that life had not always been so bleak for him. Likewise, we can bunker down in the past and continue to think to ourselves, "Poor me," or we can realize that our past has its ups and downs and its joys and sorrows, which means that our future and present can hold such things as well. I liked how the Ghost did not only show him his past Christmas joys, but that he also showed him his past Christmas sorrows. I liked that fact because it reminds me that "without the bitter, we could not know the sweet." And it's important to know that we will always have both, and that's okay.  It's so easy sometimes to just think, "This past event is why I am the way I am," and leave it at that, but we should rather think: "I have had some hard times, but I have also had some joyous times." It's all about what we choose to focus our attention on, really.

The Ghost of Christmas Present in the book was not the gluttonous phantom often portrayed in the movies (okay, I'm mostly thinking of just the Mickey Mouse version, since that's the only one I particularly remember); in fact, in the novel, the Ghost of Christmas Present does not sit idly and enjoy the pleasures of Christmas by himself or merely show Scrooge the current situation of his acquaintances--on the contrary, this ghost adds to the merriment and cheer of everyone he comes in contact with, and shows Scrooge that even the poorest of the poor can have cheer on Christmas day. The message I got from this was that to enjoy Christmas, we should share in the cheer of others--not just look at others' situations and be jealous (because they have it "better" than us), or depressed (because they have it "worse" than us).

Finally, the Ghost of Christmases to Come reminds Scrooge that our current decisions affect our future outcomes. Although Scrooge's future in these particular scenes is bleak and lonely, Scrooge himself hits on the truth of the matter when he realizes that his future doesn't have to be that way--that he, in fact, does (to a great degree) affect how his own future will go. And so do we all.

So although I'm still not the type to put up Christmas decorations in October or claim Christmas as my favorite holiday, I know I've made some big changes this year: I recognized the joy and sorrow in Christmases past, I shared in the excitement and love of Christmas present, and I know that I can control my attitude towards Christmases in the future. Isn't that a great thing?

And to think I could gain all of this from such a short little book.

Marvelous, isn't it?

My Rating: 5 Stars

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Our Christmas: Just the 2 of Us

Even though we knew Christmas Eve and Christmas Day would be spent back home with our families, we still wanted to start doing our own Christmas traditions.

Each night this whole month, Matt has been reading me a Christmas story.

Every day last week while we were driving somewhere, I would read aloud from A Christmas Carol.

Thursday night after work, we made a big roast turkey dinner, popped open some sparkling cider, and watched a movie. It was originally going to be a Christmas movie, but upon realizing that we had exhausted our only Christmas-ish movies in the past weeks (The Holiday and While You Were Sleeping), we just watched Enchanted. Next year we'll do the holiday stuff.

Friday morning dawned cold and clear, with presents from Santa already under the tree and in our stockings! (Crazy how Santa knows how much Matt is obsessed with Oreos)

First item  on the list: opening the stockings.

Funny story: so I was figuring we'd fill each other's stockings, right? Well turns out, Matt's Santa had different ideas in mind. When I came home from work on Thursday night, all prepared to start stuffing, I discovered that his stocking was somehow already stuffed full. Even funnier still? Both of our "Santas" got the same things for him (Magic cards and movies, luckily not the same ones). In fact, Matt's Santa had done such a good job stuffing his stocking that some of his gifts had to be re-routed to go under the tree, and one of them even ended up in my stocking. Weird. Santa sure is getting forgetful, considering he visited Matt twice. Matt didn't seem to mind though.

After we did the stocking thing, we tore into our presents. I was just excited to finally give Matt the gift I've been making for him since October: a journal filled with pictures of us where I had written him a letter every day (well, every day I could find the time).

 When all was said and done, we came away with a LOT of movies and a LOT of food. And Matt got me two things I've been really needing: a new memory card for my camera and a cooking thermometer.

It's been ages since I've enjoyed a Christmas so very much. And the best part was: we still had two more days after all this to enjoy Christmas even more!

Hope you all had a beautiful Christmas with your own loved ones, and that y'all have a happy new year!

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Tell-All Tuesday

*I just love this cheesy photo that we took of our celebratory Christmas feast that we had last Friday, just the two of us. We wanted to make sure that "our" Christmas as a couple didn't get lost amidst all the hoopla of our family affairs, so we set aside Friday night to have a roast turkey dinner (with sparkling cider) and then we did stockings and presents on Friday morning. I'll post more pictures a little later.

*Guess what my mom and stepdad got me? A NOOK!!! I pretty much haven't been so excited about a Christmas gift for, well, years. Not that I haven't loved other Christmas gifts (because I've gotten some pretty awesome gifts in my lifetime), but I just was as excited as a little kid when I opened my book. I haven't been able to stop playing with it since!

*I was planning on this Friday being my last day at work, but it turns out that they're not really having hardly anyone work at all this week. So it looks like today was probably my last day (although I'm "on call" the rest of the week, just in case they need someone to hold down the fort). You wanna know the weird thing? Even though I've been looking forward to this moment for months, I was actually pretty sad when the moment to say goodbye came. Had I stayed any longer, I might have gotten a little choked up. I am so WEIRD.

*I don't want to take down our Christmas tree. It's just so pretty and sparkly and mesmerizing.

*I actually finished reading A Christmas Carol aloud to Matt yesterday while we were driving back to Logan (I'll do a book review on it in the next couple days). I am now threatening to read Pride and Prejudice aloud to him just as soon as I get it on my Nook...

*Wanna know a funny story? So Matt's extended family's big Christmas party was on Saturday, and we had to bring a white elephant gift. With hours to go before the party, we finally went to my mom and asked her if she had anything we could use for gifts. My stepdad ran into the other room to get something that he was willing to part with, and then my mom pulled out this cookbook of slow cooker recipes. After just glancing at the cookbook, I told my mom I wanted it, and she said that she hadn't really planned on parting with it, but that if I were to "get" this gift in the white elephant exchange, then she would let me take it. Matt assured me that his family would definitely not be interested in such a gift, so I figured we were safe. Long story short: Matt's family rules of the game say that you can only trade one gift three times before it's "frozen." Well guess which gift was frozen immediately because literally everyone wanted it? The cookbook. My mom was so mad when she found out. And I was pretty sad, too, cuz it was pretty awesome. Oh well.

*Have I told you all before that I'm completely addicted to Tootsie Rolls? I can literally chain eat about fifty of them without blinking an eye, and still want more. Matt got me a bag for Christmas. I bet you'll never guess what's littering the computer table right now...

*Guess what Matt got for Christmas from my mom and stepdad? A GPS! You know what this means, everyone? We'll never get lost again! Unless, of course, the woman in the GPS gets lost, which, if you'll read here, can actually really happen...

*Since so many of these are about Christmas, I probably should just do a Christmas Tell-All. Hmmm....

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Triple Christmas

You wanna know one more great thing about being married?

The fact that you basically you get the triple Christmas threat: the Christmas celebration together AND the Christmas celebrations of both of your families.

It makes me love being married even more.

Tonight we're kicking off "our" Christmas celebration with a roast turkey dinner (courtesy of my boss's Christmas turkey to us, isn't that cute?) and a Christmas movie.

In the morning, since I blessedly don't have to work, we'll wake up to stockings stuffed by Santa and open up our gifts to each other.

Then it's off to a packed weekend of making chocolate truffles, having breakfast with my dad and stepmom, squabbling over the best White Elephant gifts at his extended family party, having a Jerusalem dinner with my mom and stepdad, and then, finally, CHRISTMAS!!!

Hope your holidays are joyful and spiritual, packed with family, fun, and the sweet reminders of the person who makes everything possible: our Savior.

Merry Christmas!

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

4 Ways to Make Your Food Presentation More Beautiful

Today's blogger is my dear friend Petrice of The Rosie Review. Petrice and I have been friends since childhood, and let me tell you, you are in for a treat with this post (no pun intended!).

"...YOU'RE DONE!!!"  This is one of the things my Culinary Instructor would yell, only half joking as I slid a batch of breadsticks in the oven.  I don't know if it was there in Culinary classes or later down the road of interesting events in my life that led the realization that I indeed have a passion for not only food, but making the food an enjoyable experience for those partaking.
During High School I took a few culinary classes from the local college and graduated with a gourmet cooking certificate (which basically means nothing).  Here I learned traditional French cooking (very Julia Child and Jacques Pepin-esk).
I later worked at a gourmet restaurant starting out as the "salad girl" and in less than 5 months was Sous Chef working alongside the very experienced owner/chef.  Bob (owner) was a great mentor to me and showed me that I didn't always have to follow the traditional methods, that I could have FUN *gasp* with cooking.
At age 19, I was living in  St. George, UT.  It was there, being broke and living with my sister that I had the crazy notion to start my own catering business.  How hard could it be??  I called the coordinator of the annual St. George Bridal Show and inquired about a booth for my "catering business" which didn't have a name, or a business license, or ANYTHING at that point.  It was a risky leap, I look back and still wonder what the heck I would have done if I had gotten that booth.

The coordinator also owned Vintage Celebrations (a high end wedding and events company) and told me she was looking for a new Head Chef and wanted me to cook her a food dish of my choice.  I told her I was not interested (because I was scared spitless), but she insisted.  I ended up making her a simple chicken dish in a pinot grigio reduction.  I wasn't even old enough to buy the wine myself!  I had to have my older sister go to the liquor store for me.  Debbie (owner of Vintage Celebrations) ended up hiring me on the spot and I became her new Head Catering Chef.

Debbie taught me and helped me develop what I find most exciting about food... the experience.

It must be BEAUTIFUL!

 I don't care if it's Ramen!  It can either be Ramen sloppy in a tupperware bowl (because all your other dishes are in the washer), or it can be Ramen carefully twisted in the bowl, on a matching plate, with silverware set, resting in steamy broth adorned with a cilantro garnish.  You do not have to be a gourmet chef to appreciate a little care given to your food.  I know I'm super nerdy, but I LOVE to beautify food, especially for my husband and kids.  Seeing their eyes light up for even our scrambled eggs in the morning starts the day off right for me.  

Here are a few examples of food that I've created.  Take the few extra seconds and try these four tips to help your mouth water a little more when serving up your food.

1- Add COLOR:

Mixing things together that have a variety of color makes it look so LUSH doesn't it??
I'm kind of drooling.  All over my keyboard.

While these fruit kabobs are not difficult to assemble, they don't look simplistic in this gorgeous fruit montage.

2- Have fun GARNISHING:

A perfect little blackberry adds the finishing touch on this delectable kiwi cheesecake...

A yellow pepper turned "flower" adds to this simple salad...

Thanksgiving Turkey needed some loving, so we added parsley and little "Cutie" oranges.  Now that's one good looking bird...

3- Add LEVELS:

When you put little cakes on a pedestal... 

Or use a two tiered platter, you add levels, which pleases the eye.

Can you imagine if this buffet were flat? 
Icky No! Let's not go there.

 You don't need fancy platters in order to create levels.  With this buffet we just put cardboard boxes underneath the table cloth to create the desired effect.  It's an easy way to make your table look like a million bucks!  

4- Where is the LOVE?
You are welcome for that song being stuck in your head for the rest of the day.
the LOVE.
the love.
the LOVE!

I think the most important thing about putting the finishing details on your food is the impact it has on others.  You can help someone feel more special or like they are getting a better deal for what they paid for.  Whatever the situation, you are spreading love.

Here is my cute Hubby and our little boy sitting at the table as we prepare to eat dinner.  This is one way I can show them how much I care about them.

I find the most joy in cooking when I serve others.  I am certain that by serving others with what you are passionate about, you will be happy.  Happy Cooking!

WOW! Petrice and I have been close friends for YEARS, and I never knew all the details behind her fancy-pants cooking skills--don't all those photos just make you wish that it was lunchtime RIGHT NOW? (Maybe that's just me). I, for one, can attest to Petrice's fabulous cooking skills--I mean, she has been cooking for Matt and me twice a week this whole semester.

It's been heaven.

Thanks so much, Petrice!

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Tuesday Tell-All

*Between me leaving my camera at home and our laptop not working until just now, I didn't get a chance to blog about our killer weekend full of Christmas celebrating, great food (see pic above), sugar cookie decorating, and way too much Catan playing. If I'm not too tired later, maybe I'll get around to it. But no promises.

*I'm super excited to have a little Christmas with just Matt and me--we decided to set aside Friday as "our Christmas" day (a fact that got even merrier when I discovered I didn't have to work that day), and we're going to do our own little shindig with just the two of us, complete with sparkling cider, stockings, and a great meal that I haven't decided on yet. Maybe steak. Yeah, steak is Christmas-y, right?

*We have a taco soup simmering on the stove as we speak, and I think my stomach is so hungry that it's eating itself. Matt had better hurry up in the shower, before I eat the whole thing myself...

*Can I just say how great it is to have our laptop back? I sure have missed being able to watch all of our favorite shows every night of the week (since we don't have t.v.). Once Upon a Time, here we come to watch you first!

*My dad's flying in from Kansas City on Thursday, and I can't wait!

*Last night for family night, I convinced Matt to let me start reading A Christmas Carol to him. I'm positive I enjoyed it more than he did, but it was awesome. I just have this thing about reading aloud or being read aloud to----it's just this obsession I have.

*I didn't get any reading done over the weekend. I kinda feel like a slacker.

*Okay, time to eat. Bye!

Friday, December 16, 2011


As much as I love checking out all the new Christmas decorations at work, I am SO done with this work week. I am, however, beyond relieved that this semester is finally over for both me AND Matt.

Just think, in just a few short hours, I'll be eating a massive dinner at Outback Steakhouse,

then watching the Biggest Loser finale (none of you'd  better spoil it and tell me who won early),

and looking forward to our niece's birthday party tomorrow and my family's gift exchange on Sunday.

Love this time of year!!

Anyone else got big plans for the weekend?

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

mid-week boost: documenting life

I know I say this every week, but I'm super excited about having Mary from mary plus vince blogging here today! Mary's blog was THE blog that made me want to start documenting my own life more by blogging; that's why I think it's so appropriate that she chose to write on this topic, because she's so good at it!

hi! i'm mary from the blog mary plus vince, where i blog about my life and adventures with my husband. i'm so honored that torrie asked me to post for her mid-week boost series! i have a lot of passions in my life, which makes it hard to narrow it down to just one thing to write about. i am obviously super passionate about my relationship with my husband -- he is my absolute best friend. i'm also very passionate about photography -- but more so than that, i'm passionate about documenting life. so, i decided to kind of merge those passions and talk about documenting life.

i've always been a journaler. even before i could write by myself, my parents kept a journal for me where they would ask me what i wanted to say and they'd write it down word for word. i pretty much love reading those now, they are so hilarious. because lets be honest -- kids are awesome. as i got older i went through journal after journal. at my height of journaling i think i'd go through one journal every 3 months!

i've also always loved taking pictures. from the time i could get my hands on a camera, i always had it with me and was constantly going through tons of rolls of film. i was always ready for those "kodak moments", and because of that i have a lot of pictures from junior high and forward. so i will always remember the doofy hair cut i got in 8th grade, what my friends and I did to entertain ourselves on friday nights, and anything and everything else that happened to me.

in 2005 i started my blog. i was living at home, going to the university of utah, working a part time job, and waiting on a missionary. life was fun and exciting and i had a lot to document. a blog was the perfect way to do so! it was like writing in a journal, but so much easier and faster! by the end of 2005 i had met and started dating vince (not my missionary -- so glad that didn't work out!) and i had so much more to write about!

i love being able to look back and remember all sorts of things i am positive i'd forget about if i hadn't taken a billion photos and written about in a journal or on my blog. for me, its like re-living those memories! what a treasure.

i sometimes get panic attacks -- i don't want to forget.

[not my image, original source here]

and so i keep on documenting life. i write about the small things and the big things. i take photos of what we ate, where we go, what we do. and years down the road, i can look back and i won't have forgotten. its like a time machine! and my kids can read about our silly little adventures -- trying to figure out adulthood and holding on to childhood; they can read about our struggles and our triumphs; they can learn from our mistakes. what an amazing gift for them!

if you aren't a writer or a poet or a photographer or whatever else you can think of -- it is ok (because heaven knows i'm not most of those things)! it doesn't have to be deep or something breath-taking ... what is important is just that you are documenting your life. take a few moments a day, or once a week, once a month -- whenever! write it down, take more photos. just get to it! i promise, you will be so grateful years down the road that you did! :)

So true, Mary! I'm a bit of a journal freak myself, so I can definitely attest to the value of recording down our memories because I, for one, do not remember anything unless I write it down.
Thanks for sharing with us this week!
Now I just want to go out and take pictures of everything...

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Student Teaching Placement

I had meant to post this when I found out about it. But then I forgot because I somehow thought that I'd already done it. But then I remembered that I never did.

So I got my student teaching placement.

And I'm at a middle school.

The problem is, I never even WENT to a middle school.

What I mean is, when I went to that nightmarish in-between school, it consisted of grades 7-9 and was called junior high. And I hated it.

But now they've apparently invented middle school for grades 6-8 and left the 9th graders to fend for themselves in high school.

I could be teaching TWELVE-YEAR-OLDS, people. That's crazy.

If I wanted to be an elementary teacher, I would have gone into elementary.

But after reflecting on it for the past two weeks and wearing everyone out with my complaining,
I decided I'd better just be happy about it because it means that I'm that much closer to getting to where I want to be: a graduated 25-year-old with a teaching license.

So there you go.

But if any of you have any encouragement for me, I won't complain...

In fact, I could really use some.

Feel free to encourage away.

Tell-All Tuesday

*Sorry I slacked a little bit over the weekend...truth was, I was too busy turning in assessment portfolios, having my car stop working, having our laptop stop working, and wishing that I could stop working...

*First good news: the car was just the battery. So instead of having to get a new car, I just had to pay over $100 for a new battery.

*Second good news: amidst all the studying I was supposed to be doing over the weekend, I still managed to go to Maple Grove Hot Springs with Matt and our friends Kayla & Sam, watch "While You Were Sleeping," watch the last Harry Potter movie, start a new book, and work out at the gym. Basically what happened was that I decided I didn't feel like studying for my finals (and the crashed laptop didn't help), so I didn't. The sad part? I still got A's on all of them. Education program, how easy you are!!

*I am officially DONE with ALL finals, homework, and classes for my whole undergraduate career! Hurrah!

*Have I mentioned on here about our work door? We have heavy-duty double doors that you push on to exit. In case you're wondering why that's important, I'll let you know that when winter started, we've taken to locking one of them. (Can you all see where this is going?) Anyway, I kinda wish I had a camera set up, because there's nothing funnier than watching every single person run straight into the locked door on their way out. Am I terrible for laughing about this?

*Everyone at my workplace (literally, everyone) is in a meeting except me. They've actually entrusted me to run the entire operation for the next two hours, even though I can hardly tell a septic tank from a grease trap. Good thing no one's coming in...

*The unfortunate thing about everyone being in a meeting is that I drank a LOT of water about an hour ago and now have to wait until the meeting is adjourned before I can rid my system of it. When I told Matt, he said that that was just my curse in life: always having to go to the bathroom at the most inconvenient times. So true.

*Sometimes I feel like twirling around like a crazy ballerina at my workplace. Especially on days like today. Pandora, why must you be so great?

*Why IS it that the phone will be silent forever, and then EVERYONE decides to call at the same time? I just had four people call in the last three minutes. And then two more people call within a millisecond of each other. I have taken down NINE message in the 30 minutes this meeting has been going on. I think this is a sneaky test that my work is giving me to see how I handle it...I bet they're all not even in a real meeting. They're probably all just upstairs eating donuts and drinking orange juice and laughing at me run the whole place. That's what I would do if I were up there.

*13 more days here at work. Not that I'm counting.

*Today I woke up to Matt just holding me and stroking my hair. The weird thing was, somehow that all got worked into my dream. But the best part was that when I woke up, it was real :). Morning cuddling is the best.

*All right, I'd best at least pretend that I'm doing something while the phone isn't ringing off the hook. Hope you all have a lovely Tuesday!

What's going on with you today?

Friday, December 9, 2011

Book #17: Chains

Title: Chains
Author: Laurie Halse Anderson
Number of Pages: 300

It's been awhile since I've read a really well-crafted historical fiction novel, so I was glad when an assignment in my Teaching Social Studies class forced me to read this one. You see, even though most students hate being forced to read anything, I love it because it gives me a deadline and an extra push to read books that I usually want to read anyway. I was especially excited to read this book, because it's by the same author as Speak, which is one of the most brilliant YA novels of all time (and one of my all-time personal favorites). So when I heard that Anderson's latest novel Chains had also won multiple awards, I knew I had to get in on the action, and quick.

It didn't take me long to get into the story of Isabel, a young slave girl living during the Revolutionary War. After the death of her last master, Isabel is sold to a wealthy Loyalist family in New York and thrust into the midst of the struggle between the Colonies and Great Britain. The main quote on the book jacket is: "If an entire nation could seek its freedom, why not a girl?" Isabel is headstrong and independent and has a loyal heart, though she doesn't always know it. I love that Anderson's female protagonists are always so multifaceted and independent, plus she just knows how to write a compelling story.

What I especially liked about this book was that although the narrative is familiar (a slave seeking her freedom), the time period is not; while most slave narratives follow the period of time right around the Civil War, I like how this one is over 75 years earlier, during a different period in American history. Not only does it give an interesting account of Isabel herself, but it often portrays the other side of the Revolutionary War--the Loyalists and the British troops--which we don't usually hear about in history classes. I also liked how each chapter began with a different quote from a historical document of the era--it really served to set the tone and to thrust you into the time period. (Side note: this could definitely be a novel that I could teach in a secondary ed classroom). Loved this!

And the greatest part? The story isn't over yet--there's a sequel called Forged that I'll be starting tonight. Hallelujah for a good story not being over (yet)!

My Rating: 5 Stars

Thursday, December 8, 2011

O Tannenbaum

There's just something so magical about putting up a Christmas tree...

Magical because each ornament represents something:

A milestone... 

Old memories and favorite childhood decorations...

Or constant reminders of our parents' love (each year my dad gets us a personalized ornament that reminds him of us in some way, and the gorgeous gold, white, and blue-themed ornaments were a wedding gift from my mom).

And when all is said and done and Matt is finished grumbling about all the "sparklies" everywhere,

there's just nothing like sitting in the darkness

and basking in the glow of tiny Christmas lights,

hand in hand with the one I love.

It's going to be a beautiful first Christmas together.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Mid-Week Boost: Positive Thinking

 Photo taken by Matthew Meidell

Hey, everyone! I'm excited about this post because it's something that I know I need to work on in my own life, and who better to share it with you (and me) than someone who has lived one of my own dreams [of becoming a published author]?. I am so glad that Karey White was willing to come and share her thoughts with us here; you should check out her blog here and check out the book she's published here. I think she is truly an inspiration to people everywhere that living your dream is always possible, regardless of how busy you are. Thanks for posting, Karey!

I was excited when Torrie asked me to be a guest blogger about something I’m passionate about. I thought that would be easy. I’m passionate about writing (I write). I’m passionate about creating (I always have to be creating something and often have several projects going at once), I’m passionate about reading and cooking and sewing and I love, love, love to travel and see new places. So I came over to Torrie’s blog to check out the other posts and discovered that writing has been covered, traveling has been done, and there’s a post about creating (and in it cooking and sewing).

So what could I write about that would be different and still, hopefully, worth reading.

What I came up with is a little different but I hope it resonates.

I’m passionate about our thoughts. I absolutely believe our thoughts make us what we are.

I’ve wanted to be a writer since high school. I took writing classes in college, but then got married, had my kids and most of my creative energies went to being a mom and doing things that helped pay the bills, like making wedding cakes and sewing. About six years ago, my family gave me an online writing class with a focus on getting published. It got me writing again, but the biggest thing I took from it was this line.

If you want to write, you have to think of yourself as a writer. If you can’t call yourself a writer, even to yourself, you’re simply not a writer.

Wow! I wanted to be a writer but I’d never once called myself a writer. I’d never finished a novel and I wasn’t published. If I told someone I was a writer and they asked me questions, they’d see I was a sham and they’d probably roll their eyes when I wasn’t looking. (Or worse—when I was looking.) 

That would be so embarrassing.

But I wanted to write. And since I’d been taking the class, I’d been writing almost every day.
One Sunday I was sitting in a church meeting and I introduced myself to a new family that was sitting in front of me. We talked for a few minutes and during the conversation, the woman asked what I do. I told her I was a stay-at-home mom and then, scraping together every bit of courage I could find, I said, “and I’m a writer.” I braced myself for the questions that followed and answered them as they came. 
 No, I’m not published yet. No, I haven’t finished a novel. Yes, I’m working on one.

And she said, “This is so great. I’ve never known a writer before.”

That change in how I thought about myself was subtle but very real. I was a writer. I’d told her and she’d bought it, so it must be true.

I firmly believe that if we want something, the first thing we need to do is plant that desire in our thoughts. Then consistently water, weed and tend those thoughts. Think about them, stew on them, mull them over until they grow and become real to you. If you turn your thoughts over to them, they  have life. If you forget about them or crowd them out with negative thoughts, they die.

“As a man thinketh, so is he.” I thought I was a writer and I was. I think I can’t do math and I can’t. I think I can control my actions and reactions and I can. I think I can’t and I can’t.

Dare to think about being what you want to be even if it seems remote or impossible. Think about it long and hard. Turn off the noise in your life and ponder, desire, and believe. Good thoughts can propel you to where you want to be. But only if you’ll think them.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Tell-All Tuesday

*We did it! We finally put up our Christmas tree! But y'all are going to have to wait until Thursday to see pictures :)

*This last week of classes is insane. I mean, the last two weeks of any semester are insane, but this week is esp. bad, probably because I've never attempted the whole working full-time thing during finals. Boo. You know it's bad when you wish for the week to be over before it's even started.

*My mom got Matt and I totally hooked on this new show called Once Upon a Time. It's totally not the type of show I'd normally go for, but it's so original that I find myself addicted. Curse you, television--always sucking me in with one more show.

*I should be finishing Chains very shortly. Technically I should have finished by today's class, but I was about 80 pages short. Considering that I crammed in 110 pages in 55 minutes right before class though, I wasn't too hard on myself.

*I got yelled at today at work for transferring a call to one of our salesman's business cell. Apparently people don't like that nowadays. Just 18 more days, Torrie, just 18 more days...

*I did, however, get free cake at work today due to it being a coworker's birthday (luckily not the one who yelled at me). It was chocolate and caramel and delicious and just the perfect amount of sugar and fluff to get me past the usual 3 p.m. slump.

*After tutoring over at Petrice and Caleb's tonight, I have a new food fetish: gingerbread men marshmallows. The people over at the marshmallow company are geniuses---first really huge marshmallows, and now this. This is what the future looks like, people!

*I think I pulled about 8 muscles while hauling fences around on Sunday. Please wind, be nicer from now on.

*I have to go work on this huge portfolio that's due for my Assessment class. This assignment has been a thorn in my side all semester, and I can't wait to have it over with. Except for somehow, I keep managing to put it off until the very last minute...

*I'm really excited about the guest post-er that's doing tomorrow's Mid Week Boost---she's posting on something that I really, really need to work on.

*I was reading an article today on perfectionism and have decided that it's something I really need to work on. I think I'll start researching it a bit more and then do a little blog post about what I find. (In just writing that, I realized I probably made it sound like the most boring thing ever. I promise I'll be more spicy and creative when I actually do it and that it won't sound like the portfolio I'm about to work on).

*All right. Sigh. I've procrastinated long enough. Better go start working...

What are you all procrastinating this week??

Monday, December 5, 2011

Change It Up Challenge: Extension

Well folks, I had good intentions.

Really, I did.

And I wasn't doing too bad on my goals for last month's Change It Up Challenge either--I was finally getting into some daily habits that really were starting to make a difference in the cleanliness and organization of our home.

Then distaster struck:


In our neighbors' apartments.

Luckily, we didn't have any. But we still had to get sprayed like we did.

The pictures you see is the CIU Challenge at its lowest point (the picture below was of Matt playing a game in the only spot in the entire apartment that was wide enough to fit a chair).

So I'm asking for an extension on my Change It Up Challenge. I hate failing, and keeping a clean and orderly home is something I really want to be good at.

I'd love some suggestions on how to go about doing it: I'm already in the process of trying out some (like designating a specific chore to each day of the week).

Forgive me for not having a better report after my first month's attempt.

Month 2 will be better.

I hope.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Done List

This Week's Done List:

*Had the weirdest Sunday of my life (church was cancelled in order to prepare for the pending windstorm)

*Tore apart and hauled away about half of my family's red fence for about four hours, which had been destroyed by last Thursday's windstorm

*Made it to the last week of classes in all of my college career. I wasn't sure if it would be possible, but here I am!

*Lost the Thanksgiving weight (and then some!) in record time

*Got my butt killed this week in the gym my tough hubby. Boy, does that man know how to push a struggling gym buddy!

*Have officially honed my wishing skills: on Friday while I was at work, I wished that Matt would magically have all the dishes done AND our Christmas tree put up when I got home. Lo and behold, my wish was granted! Jedi mind powers, indeed!

*Got 3/4 of my visiting teaching visits done, despite my companion having the flu

*Made it through one more week at my job (only three more to go!! Just hold on!!)

*Attended my family's awesome annual extended family Christmas party and scored two useable White Elephant gifts (beef jerky, M&M's, and a brand new brownie spatula).

*Started to listen to Christmas music, even though the songs "Sleigh Ride," "It's Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas," and "Have a Holly Jolly Christmas" still drive me into all sorts of Scrooge territory.

*Bought and wrapped two of Matt's gifts (which are now under our still-undecorated Christmas tree)

What did you all get done this week?

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Mid-Week Boost: Traveling

One of my favorite pictures from my Paris trip, 2005

Due to a lack of planning on my part, I am going to be my own guest post-er for this week. Check out my blog here (ha ha).

As I was contemplating whether to cancel the Mid-Week Boost for this week or just post myself, I kept thinking about what on earth I was passionate about. Let me clarify: it was probably harder for me to identify something that I was NOT passionate about than it was for me to think of something I WAS. In other words, I have way too many interests.

One of my passions is magazines (unfortunately), and something I came across just last month in the Oprah magazine was an article about finding your passion in life (or something to that effect). There was a little mini handbook that you could fill out to help yourself discover just what it was that could become your new passion. Some of the questions that it asked were, "What did you like to do most as a child?", "What are talents or qualities that you have that people often compliment you on?" or other questions to that effect. After thinking about my own answers to those questions, I came up with three things I should be passionate about: dancing, gardening, and playing Cinderella.

Unfortunately, I haven't done much of any of those lately, unless you count all the cleaning I've had to do thanks to the roach spray.

So I started to think of my own questions this morning while getting ready for the day:
What gets me excited?
What do I always wish I had more time or money for?
What do I associate with some of my most positive experiences?

And then suddenly: The Answer:


My answer surprised yet didn't surprise me. It surprised me because I feel like it's been quite awhile since I've actually gone much of anywhere. It didn't surprise me because traveling is the perfect hobby to accommodate two other passions of mine: trying out new things and taking pictures. I started to look for evidences that supported this as one of my passions in life, and I didn't have to look far: strewn all over our thrifted coffee tables are recent issues of Budget Traveler and National Geographic Traveler. I thought of how I've begged Matt in the past 48 hours to consider the idea of us going on THREE different vacations next year (we'd originally just planned for one, but recent opportunities have made me dream bigger).

Me at the Matterhorn in Switzerland with fellow classmates, 2005

This is why traveling is one of my big passions in life:

1 - I love experiencing new things. I wonder if I had a touch of ADD as a child, because I was always drawn to the idea of NOVELTY. If something is new to me, I'm all over it. What can I say? That's why I invented the Change It Up Challenge.
2 - I love experiencing different cultures and everything that goes along with that: different languages, different social customs, different ways of celebrating holidays, and of course, different food!
3 - I love how traveling always makes me appreciate home more. Even after the most fabulous vacation, there truly is nothing to compare with that feeling of coming back home.
4 - I love how traveling gives me time to meditate on the things that matter most to me and that it gives me new insights into myself and into the world around me.
5 - I love how the experiences and memories I gain while traveling are always with me. There is nothing that can compare to a happy memory--there is no  price that can be put on that.

Despite my love of traveling, I am obviously limited by the fact that Matt and I are both students and that we both are working just part-time while going to school. Nevertheless, here are my best tips for being able to plan out a fabulous (and affordable!) vacation:

1 - If you have two incomes coming into your home, just live off of one person's income. With Matt and I, we pay all of our bills and all other necessities from mine and bank pretty much all of Matt's. It is only because of this that we can even feasibly think of going on 3 vacations next year (or even one).
2 - If you have a particular place in mind and a rough time frame, there are several travel sites that will email you every time a plane ticket or hotel dips below a certain price. Just name your price, and see the miracles happen!
3 - Dream. If there's someplace you'd really love to go, dream about it---but then turn that dream into a working plan. Start figuring out how much money it would take to go there, and make a doable plan.
4 - When you're preparing to actually leave on a vacation, don't set your expectations too high. This sounds counterintuitive, but I've found it's best not to set unrealistic expectations. Most of life's disappointments (if not all) come from expectations not being met. Therefore, if you just go into traveling with the idea of having a different experience, then you're probably much more likely to enjoy yourself.
5 - Don't forget to plan down time while traveling. While it can be tempting to just dash like mad from one location to another, vacations are for relaxation and enjoying the company of loved ones (or your own company, if you go it alone). Schedule some down time at night to check out your hotel's hot tub, or make some time in the middle of the day to take a short nap.
6 - If you can't afford a big vacation, plan a mini vacation to a nearby location. Most of the funnest vacations that I've taken have been to more local places, such as Moab or Park City. Check out what tourist locations are near you (even if they're in your same town!) and make plans to go visit.
7 - Remember this philosophy of mine: money spent on traveling is always worth it, because memories go on forever. Sure you could invest that money into new furniture or a nice entertainment center, but time spent together with the people you love truly is priceless.

Taken during my trip to Moab with friends in 2008 (we each spent only $50!)

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Tell-All Tuesday

*You know that extra pound and a half from Thanksgiving? Well, it's pretty much gone--75% of it anyway. Eating smart works every time.

*After a church leadership meeting tonight, I realized that I am grateful to be exactly in the spot I'm at in life--there are so many people facing so many problems, and my life is so simple. I love that.

*I have 3 classes that are cancelled this week. Woo hoo!

*I had fully intended to have our Christmas decorations up by now. As it stands, we only have managed to put up two nativities and a sign that says "Christmas" Oh, and a door wreath. The rest shall come out when the roach spraying mess is done away with. Which just might be never.

*One of our finds from Black Friday is a pre-lit tree that we saved over 70% on. I'm excited to post pictures of our very first Christmas tree together. I know you all can't wait.

*We're not sure if Matt's nativity from Africa has all the pieces--we think it's missing either Mary or Joseph. It's kinda hard to tell. It did, however, make sure to include an elephant and a giraffe.

*The drain under our washer was fixed today so I can finally wash our clothes without the fear of the entire house flooding. Our neighbors can also wash their clothes without giving us the fear of our entire house flooding. It's the simple things in life that matter, really.

*I supposedly find out this week where I'm student teaching. I don't know if I should be more excited or nervous about this fact.

*I'm looking forward to hitting the gym tomorrow with my friend Petrice. It will be the first time in about a month and a half that I've been able to go, and I have just been craving some hardcore body-beating.

*I am so ready to go up to bed and cuddle now. Good night everyone!

Thoughts on Thanking

I know my thoughts on Thanksgiving are a bit belated. I was enjoying my turkey and gravy, okay? But this Thanksgiving holiday really left me pondering long after the tryptophan had settled into my digestive system, and I'd like to just record here a few of the thoughts I had over the break.

I don't know really know when the pondering all started--maybe it was while Matt and I were trying to decide how to divide up the holiday or when my family was going around the table at dinner and saying one thing we were all thankful for. I do, however, know when the pondering started to stir me enough inside to make me want to change a few things: church. As I sat in sacrament meeting and listened to a woman share about how she associated gratitude with adversity but also with hope and how she was grateful for all she had even though she had just lost a newborn baby just a few months ago, I felt the familiar realization that I have been altogether too selfish and too focused on the wrong things in life.

I started to think of all the scriptures I could on gratitude and for some reason, the one that kept coming up over and over again was, "Thou shalt not covet." An odd coincidence maybe, but I don't think so. I don't know what it is exactly, but ever since getting home from my mission, I've had a serious case of the comparison crazies--because I didn't know exactly how to assimilate myself back into the American culture, I started to compare myself to others to remember my social cues and what was expected of me. The problem was, the comparison never seemed to stop. In fact, I'd say it just made things a lot worse. Whereas on my mission, I was content with the bare minimum in clothing, food, and technology, it seemed like upon arriving back in the States, all I could think about were all the things I lacked from being gone for so long. Sure, I always knew that I had gained much more than I had lost, but I still couldn't shake the nagging feeling that I needed to play catch-up with the rest of the nation. I started following blogs like crazy, which ended up being a double-edged sword: I was inspired to update my own blog and record my own thoughts, but I was also sucked into the mindset that I always needed to get MORE: more clothes, more lipstick, more DIY craft supplies for the house. And even with a bulging closet of clothes and an apartment more stuffed than a turkey, I still couldn't rid myself of the mindset that it wasn't enough.

Then the roach spraying incident happened.

I was forced to take out all of our worldly possessions and pile them in the center of the floor for the whole world to see--I felt that my own material worldliness  had been exposed. That combined with the feelings of gratitude that usually accompany Thanksgiving made something click within my head, and I realized:

I don't need to be on the cutting edge of trends.
I don't need to be as beautiful as, or as skinny as, or as well-dressed as, or as crafty as anyone else.
I just need to be me.

It will be a long process to rid myself of this comparison compulsion I've somehow gotten myself into. But I've at least gotten a headstart: I stopped following a lot of the blogs that were making me feel like I wasn't "enough" and have started to de-clutter my apartment and my head. I've started to make myself concentrate more on what I already have than on what I lack.

And you know what?

I feel happier than I have in months.

Here's to simplifying!
Here's to being grateful!
Here's to realizing that however much I have, it is enough.

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!

Monday, November 28, 2011

Last Week's Done List

Last Week's Done List

*Gained a pound and a half of well-fed evidence on my love handles. Totally worth it.
*Gathered up every item in our home and moved it all to the center of each room, away from the walls.
*Realized I had way too much stuff.
*Donated (or am in the process of donating) many lovelies to the D.I.
*Survived our first roach spraying experience
*Finished an annotated bibliography of 30 texts I might someday use in my content area
*Started a new book (Chains by Laurie Halse Anderson)
*Played Settlers of Catan way more than most humans would care to.
*Won approximately 27% of those games
*Went undefeated in my family's Thanksgiving Rook tournament with my sister Jill as my partner
*Saved over $300 on Black Friday
*Somehow convinced Matt to come with me for Black Friday (ha ha! It's a Christmas miracle!)
*Went on one glorious, one-hour walk on the clear perfection that was Thanksgiving night
*Realized just a little more how blessed my life really is.
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