Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Okay, I'll Bite: 2013 in Review


The blogosphere has been overflowing with "year in review" posts----people reflecting on new houses bought, babies born, college graduations attended, trips to Europe, yada yada yada.

I'm usually not one to participate in such posts---I mean, even just reading about some people's years makes me feel a little inadequate because we haven't exactly reached some of the big milestones that other people our age have (babies, mortgages, knowing our general future plans, etc.).

But that's not to say that we haven't had a GREAT year--sure, it's been filled with the usual ups and downs, but overall, it's been a year for the books.

Some of the hard stuff:
- I lost my dear grandpa in January
- I learned a lesson about judging people and accepting criticism the hard way
- I finished my first year of teaching and started my second, but still sometimes wonder if teaching is something I can handle long-term

Some of the firsts:
- first time buying a DSLR
- first time planting our very own vegetable garden and first time canning produce
- first time for me visiting Bryce Canyon
- first time for Matt visiting my dad in Kansas City

Some of the fun stuff:
- I went to girls' camp as a leader for the second year
- We went to a "Highland Games" family reunion, which was basically awesome
- We took a trip down to St. George with my mom and stepdad after the school year was over to decompress

Some of a little of everything:
- I had to get a colonoscopy (my first) in November to check out what has been ailing my stomach for the past several years
- Despite getting back into running, I still didn't lose weight (but learn that that's not the only indicator of progress)
- Got massively sick with the flu over Christmas (still am sick, as a matter of fact), but still managed to make my first roast turkey and finish my goal of organizing my entire home by the year's end

What did 2013 hold in store for you? What would be in your "year of review?"

Monday, December 30, 2013

Day of Reckoning: 2013 Goals


As the excited buzzing of a new year approaches, new resolutions are being made left and right everywhere I look (mostly, it seems, due to overindulgence by the population at large over the long holiday). And while I myself am gearing up for a new year filled with new goals, I can't very well move forward without looking at how far I've come with this current year's resolutions.

Sometimes I feel like I'm the only person in the whole world who actually keeps myself accountable for new year's resolutions set last January first.

This might be a sign that I need to surround myself with more motivated Facebook friends :)

All that aside though, I present to you my progress on my 2013 resolutions:

Goal #1: Eat like a vegetarian at least 3X a week.

Although I was much better at keeping this during some times of the year (summer) over others (now), I would say it's safe to say that I kept this resolutions 80% of the time. In fact, I got so comfortable with the idea of meatless cooking that I actually picked up a vegan cookbook the other day, a feat I would not have dreamed of just a year ago.

Overall, my goal was to spend far less money on meat this year and to learn to get more comfortable with vegetable-based meals, and I would say that I definitely met that.

Goal #2: Read Two Chapters of a Book on Most Days

I think this is the resolution that surprised me the most---I didn't think it would make that big of a difference, but it totally shifted my habits after work and made me much more conscious of how much time I spent on the computer. Before I set this goal, I usually just watched movies or bummed around on the Internet looking at blogs until bed. Now, I usually go up to bed at 8:30 so I can fit in plenty of relaxing reading time before sleep. Not only has this helped me to actually reach this goal, but it also meant that I was much more able to fall asleep quickly.

Plus, the numbers speak for themselves--in the past two years combined, I read 42 books. This year, by this time tomorrow (most likely), I will have read 39. I would say that's pretty darn successful.

Goal #3: Completely finish Baby Steps #1 & 2 of Dave Ramsey's Total Money Makeover plan, and start on Step #3.

Check, check, and check! In fact, because I'd been so focused on getting our money in order this year, I was able to not have to go into debt when I unexpectedly had almost $2000 worth of medical bills in November. I definitely could not have done that last year.

Of course, now I'm working hard on building those emergency savings back up after those medical bills, but it felt good knowing that we HAD the money when an emergency really did come up.

Goal #4: Completely De-Clutter our Apartment by Doing a "50 Weeks to Organized" Post Each Week

This one I didn't complete to the letter of the law, but I would say I've completed the spirit of the law on this one. About halfway through, I realized the pace I'd set for myself of doing a project a week was unrealistic, so I scaled back. However, with only about 36 hours left of the year, I only have part of one room left of the house to go through, and it should be done by then. So I think it's safe to say that I literally went through every scrap of our apartment this year and consciously decided to keep or not keep everything in it.

That's pretty nuts, considering how much stuff we started out with.

As for the sub-goal on this to get rid of 500 things this year, I've met that goal. I have my one final load packed and ready to go to the DI, and it's filled with almost 100 items.

Nailed it.

Overall Thoughts

As I mentioned in my post about a week back, I think more than anything, this year I learned the importance of doing a little bit every day instead of waiting for the great surges of energy to come every now and then. Not only did I more or less get my home and finances in order and take better care of my diet, but I feel like I'm less likely now to procrastinate things than I was before because I was more used to just doing a little bit every day (of organizing, of simplifying, of grading, etc.).

Plus, I was also able to start up running again this year AND really start going for some of my photography goals, so I feel like those were a nice bonus (courtesy of being motivated from completing the goals I'd made above!).

Do you remember the goals you'd made at the beginning of this year?

Sunday, December 29, 2013

50 Weeks to Organized: Week 47 (Photos)


Here we are, mere days away from the end of the year, and I'm still tying up the last of my organization project for the year. I would have posted on today's subject (photos) about 2-3 weeks ago, but you'll see later on in the post why I waited.


For basically my whole life (well, at least since I was about 12 or so), I feel like I've been "the official photographer of life, family, and the friend group" wherever I go. Growing up, I had numerous friends tell me that they were so glad that I was taking pictures of everything because they knew they could just steal some doubles off of me. Since our purchase this year of our first DSLR, that expectation has only gotten even more pronounced.

So, with over 15 years of avid picture-taking under my belt, you can probably imagine why the "before" shots of my photos look the way they do. The funny thing? I already DID have a lot of pictures sorted into albums (about 10 photo albums, to be more precise) before ever attempting this project. But since my acquirement of a digital camera, my organization basically had gone to the dogs.

In my teens, my film camera was with me wherever I went, and I took in a roll to get developed about once a month (more or less). I would eagerly wait (hardly able to stand the excitement of not knowing what was going to come out!) for the arrival of my pictures, and my friends and I would sit for hours poring over the results. Eventually, we all would carefully hand-select the ones that would go into the picture albums that were always on display in my room, and you never knew photo albums to be so looked-over and adored.


I don't know what it is about digital cameras, but for some reason, it made the magic of getting pictures developed go away. (Maybe it was the lack of surprise?). Whatever it was, I stopped getting pictures developed regularly, and whenever I actually DID choose to develop my photos, I did it only once or twice a year (if even that), and I did it in gargantuan amounts, which meant that the task to sort them into albums seemed a little overwhelming.

But no longer---I set out to sort those photos for once and all (at least for now), and I wanted my photos to be in a format I could actually ENJOY so that the sight of that haphazard photo box could stop filling me with shame.

Photo To-Do List
*Buy a couple photo albums that could house several hundred photos apiece
*Put all digital prints straight into the photo albums (since I only developed the good ones, and I only got single prints)
*Go through the rest of the film photos and sort:
        -throw-away pictures (blurry, finger over flash, etc.)
        -pictures I wanted in the new photo albums (put into piles by year)
        -pictures I had in other photo albums already
        -doubles that other people might want
*Deal with each of the piles
*Mail out the doubles along with our Christmas card for a little holiday surprise to the people in the pictures :)

Still Needing to Do:
*Decide which digital photos I still need to develop and develop them
*Organize the remaining negatives/leftover doubles by year
*Label the backs of all the photos with the date and the people in them (this might have to be a goal to accomplish over the course of a whole year)


My favorite part of this whole process was going through the doubles and getting them ready to send out to everyone. I'd hardly told anyone what I was up to, so I hope that some of my friends and family got a fun surprise when they received little photo packages in the mail.

Now I just have to tackle my last remaining project of the year:

Our bedroom.

Wish me luck :)

Do you develop pictures less now that digital photography is so popular?

Friday, December 27, 2013

Christmas 2013 in Pictures


I'd planned to do a big, fancy-pants write-up of our Christmas this year (honestly, more for my sake than for anyone else's), but then I got knocked flat on my back by the flu, which meant that I spent Christmas hacking it up and the day after Christmas barely able to move, watching old seasons of Biggest Loser while a humidifier blew up my nose.

I'm not sure if I've ever spent Christmas sick before, but it's not exactly a route that I'd recommend.


The good news is that most of our Christmas festivities happened before the actual holiday this year, so I was still able to participate fully (or nearly so) in my family's gift exchange, Matt's extended family's big party, and in my mom's traditional "Jerusalem dinner/movie night" that we do every Christmas Eve.


Although the sickness definitely put a bit of a damper on our holiday, I still tried to soak it all in the best that I could, especially because we have no idea where we'll be next year; I mean, we could be living in the exact same place or be somewhere halfway across the country, so I'm trying to soak in all this family time that's been able to come so easily for us since we still live so close.

I'm still not feeling exactly up to snuff (I was devastated that I had to miss my morning run yesterday, especially since I'm trying to still figure out my Garmin GPS running watch that I got that I already LOVE), but I'm still going to try and make it out to Layton today to spend some time with my dad before he has to head back out to Missouri.




Have you ever been sick on Christmas?

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Merry Christmas!


Here's the card I actually managed to print and send out to a few people this year. (Note to self: next year, I definitely need to print out more copies.)

This was the first year in history that I actually followed through with my goal to do the "Christmas card thing," and I have to say, it was a lot more fun than I thought it would be. Not only did it give me a chance to reflect on what a great year we've had, it gave me the opportunity to give a little heads-up to some of our family and friends as to how we've been doing.

As I get older, it gets way too easy to lose touch with people who I really don't want to lose touch with. So even though it was something small (and I didn't print out enough copies to send to everyone I wanted to), I'm glad I did get this out this year. I can't guarantee it will be an annual tradition, but at least I can say I did it once!

Merry Christmas to all of you readers---I want to warmly thank you for your friendship, comments, and support in this little virtual space of the online world. It is YOU that keeps me coming back to the blank page, day after day, and I can't wait to continue to get to know you more over the new year!

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Santa Always Comes Early At Our Place


I've mentioned this on here before, but Matt and I do Christmas a little strangely---since we typically spend Christmas Day not at home (instead, we're down in Bountiful with our parents and siblings), we always do "our" Christmas for each other a few days before the actual holiday.

This year, our Christmas hit especially early---Saturday morning, to be exact. We admired the snow falling out the window, put on a little holiday music courtesy of Pandora, and dug into the stockings Santa had left for us.

Even though we both basically knew what we were getting (because we both wanted "big-ticket" items this year---a tablet for Matt and a Garmin GPS running watch for me), there were still a couple surprises:

Matt got me a new potato masher (hooray! my other one was the worst utensil ever created!), and I got him a shoe rack, which---I'll admit---was more for my sanity than his.



Later that night, we did our traditional "nice" Christmas dinner with just the two of us (since our friends all seemed to be busy), which ended up working out well since the craziness of the work week had left me with literally zero motivation to do absolutely anything productive.

Usually I go all out on this dinner by making crescent rolls from scratch, whipping up a big ol' pot of homemade mashed potatoes and gravy, and having a main dish stunner, like a large ham or pot roast. But this year, it was all I could do just to get up from playing Bejeweled on Matt's new tablet, so our big dinner just consisted of a small roast turkey (my first time cooking one ever!), a can of green beans, some Rhodes rolls, and a little "Mormon wine" (aka Martinelli's sparkling cider).

Sometimes simple really is best---not only was my stress level at an all-time low that day, but both of us were perfectly satisfied and full when the meal was over.




My mom always acts so shocked every year when we tell her upon driving down that we've already celebrated our Christmas, but I absolutely love it---it means that Christmas day can really be focused more on family than presents, and that we don't get that "What now?" feeling when all the gifts are unwrapped that I've felt sometimes during other years.

Yeah, we do things a little differently, but it works for us, and that's what counts :)

Do you have any unusual Christmas traditions that people give you a hard time for?

Monday, December 23, 2013

Holiday Card Outtakes (aka What Makes a Picture NOT-Holiday-Card-Worthy)




One nice thing about a blog is that I get to control the content. And in particular, the nice thing about a blog is that I get to control what pictures of myself are released into the wild of the World Wide Web for all the universe to see.

It's not like a driver's license shot, where there are no do-overs or Photoshop edits---on my blog, I get the pure pleasure of being in control, all the time.

I always suspected I was kind of a control freak.

But, just in case you get the wrong idea and start thinking I'm just particularly photogenic (since I usually only post semi-decent pictures of myself on here), I thought I'd get a bit real today and show you some of the shots that DIDN'T make the holiday card this year---the shots that I usually would just delete (except for the fact that my husband freaks out whenever I start hovering the mouse over the "remove" button).

So here you go, folks: my list of things that make a picture NOT worthy to be sent out on the holiday card:

1. Creative Ideas Gone Wrong

To break out of the funk of the typical "stand and smile" shot, Matt and I usually attempt a few shots that are a little more, um, creative. Take the picture at the top of this post for example---we'd planned to use the sign and just edit out the "wreath" at the bottom, but the word "Christmas" by itself didn't exactly send out the message we were going for either. Of course, it didn't help that (as a joke) Matt lay down in front in his "model" pose, which made it so that neither of us could keep a straight face.

2. Spontaneity at its Most Awkward

I'm married to a pretty fun-loving, spontaneous guy; I will often find myself being pulled along as Matt starts to skip, or laughing as he starts singing loudly in public. In one of his "freer" moments on this particular shoot (Matt's mom was our photographer, btw), Matt decided to show our joy and love for Christmas by instructing us both to spread our arms wide in welcome of the season. Or something like that.

 
3. Location, Location, Location
 
As a budding photographer myself, I'm always on the lookout for unusual places and backgrounds to shoot at. The problem with many of these locations is that it usually requires the subjects (us, in this case) to finagle our way through hidden puddles, thorny weeds, and apparently awkward plant fluff that sticks to your bum. Not exactly holiday-card material (especially when you get a shot of both Matt and I looking at my butt to try and see what was on it).
 

 
4. Truly Candid Shots That Just Prove You're Not Photo-Worthy Every Second
 
Matt is a big fan of the candid shots, which has come to mean that I try to have a pleasant look on my face at all times because I never know when he'll be taking a shot. However, I seem to let my guard down when someone else is behind the lens, thus accounting for lots of shots like the one below.


5. Shots That Show Ourselves Just a Little TOO Honestly

Although I'm trying to look cutesy in the picture below, Matt is letting his true colors fly. I'll have you all know that he makes that face about 15 times a day.


6. Primping and/or Talking

In many of the shots that didn't make the cut, I seem to be fixing either my hair or clothing, while Matt appears to be directing his mom or cracking a joke. And therein lies our essences: Me = Vain, Matt = Wise Guy.


Did you take pictures for a holiday card this year? Which ones didn't make the cut for you?

Friday, December 20, 2013

How a Bunch of 7th Graders Brightened My Day


(Picture taken today at our "candy bomber" activity at the school, which was inspired by the famous Gail Halvorson)

It is hardly a secret that the age group I teach is often referred to as "difficult" or "awkward." Whenever I tell someone that I teach 7th graders, I usually get a reaction like the following:

"Ugh, I'm sorry."

"Wow, that's brave of you."

"Ha ha! I'm sorry!"

"I hated 7th grade."

Etc. Etc.

However, what many people don't realize is that 7th grade can be a fascinating age group to teach because their brains are just starting to really develop critical thinking skills, which makes them SO much fun to be with. At the beginning of the year, many of my students still have very childish ways of thinking, but as I teach them critical thinking and reasoning skills, it is pretty amazing to see those lightbulbs go off for the first time.

Remember how I mentioned that I'd been doing a "mini happiness project" with my kids? If you don't remember (or didn't know), during our Christmas Carol unit, I made them all set 2-3 goals based on the research that had been done on the "secrets" to happiness. Just so you know, some of the things proven to bring the greatest sense of wellbeing are: getting enough sleep, serving others, strengthening relationships with loved ones, and feeling in control of your time.

Today, on the last day of school before the long holiday, I had my students summarize what they had learned from doing this happiness project. I'm sharing below some of the responses that particularly brightened my day. (Hopefully they bring you a little bit of cheer too!)

*all errors are theirs, not mine :)

"The biggest goal that made a difference was spending time with my family because I wouldn't spend a lot of time with my family before unless I had to. What surprised me about this project was that I didn't think it would work as well as it did! But it worked better than anything else I had tried. I don't know what I would've done without these goals! I am so happy that I set the goals I did."

"[From doing this], I seem to have a lot of good days. Most of the time when I'm feeling down, I do my goals, and it makes me feel good again."

"The project surprised me by how much of a difference it made for me. There was a noticeable difference before I started the project and when I did finish."

"The [goal] that made the biggest difference to me was the smiling because I used to never smile. Now that I've set this goal it now seems like a habbit to me. It also made me feel better when I smiled. The thing that surprised me on this project was that smiling can make you feel happy when you're sad. On some of the days when I was sad I just smiled and felt better."

This one came from a kid who put "Bah humbug!" on his card when asked to write down the secret to happiness and who comes from a rougher home life:

"The thing that surprised me is how happy I was when I was done and how awake and refreshed I was. I agree that setting goals and doing them makes me happier. With my experience from it, I find I'm happier than usual."

"The differences that I noticed about keeping my goals that changed my life is that I feel like a better person because of it. Also because it puts a smile on their face too. I think the smiling to a person every day was the best because I felt that I was being friendly and some people I didn't know before, I am now friends with."

"The thing that surprised me about this project is that I felt happier after doing my goals. I felt that I don't want things because the things I need are right in front of me."

"The goal that made the biggest difference in my life was practicing the piano for an hour and thirty minutes each day. It made a difference because when I would play my song over and over again, I heard it getting better and better. I felt more accomplished, and everyone at my piano recital thought I did the best."

"The biggest difference was my brothers also acted different, and were happy when I came out of the black hole that I pretty much live in. Why that made a difference is I got to know my brothers more and they got to know me. My older brother was still in his black hole (as we call our rooms), but he began coming out too, so I was setting an example for my brothers."

"When I keep my goals I realize that it makes me a lot happier and so is my family and when I started walking my whole family joined me. So not only did it make me happier but it made my family happy too."

"My biggest goal was to tell my family two great things about them because every time I did, they said that you made my day or they said something else good back to me. I was surprised about how good I felt and how good I made everyone else feel."

"The biggest difference that made me change is doing exercise. Because when I wasn't doing exercise I felt lazy, and didn't want to do anything. Now I do a lot of stuff. Doing exercise every day is fun, and healthy, so it is easy. These things make you happy, and being happy is so cool. Being happy for me it mean a lot. Because when I didn't do these goals I was always with a serious face."

And at least HALF of my students wrote a response like the following:

"What surprised me about this project is that I didn't think it would work. I didn't think it would make me a happier person, but it DID."

I love it when I'm right :)

Here are a couple things that surprised me:

- I had a few students (only about 10 total out of 120) who didn't take the project very seriously and set goals like "Play video games for 30 minutes" or "Eat sweets every day." Because it was their happiness project and not mine, I let them go ahead with their goals. Almost every single one of those students admitted to me in their paper today that they really wished they'd chosen harder goals that were more in line with the research because everyone else seemed so much happier from doing theirs.

-About a third of the students responded that if they were to change anything, they would either have set more challenging goals to begin with or they wished they could keep doing the project and try to add onto their goals or try out the rest of the research. Considering that this group largely seemed to be of the attitude that they wanted to do the least amount of work possible most of the time, this was a big deal for me to hear.

- I thought that the "top" students in my class would be among the only ones to really take this seriously (so would therefore be the only ones really affected by it), but I was SHOCKED at how much some of my struggling students took this to heart. I had some students who have had a history of not doing work in my class or not participating or really struggling write some of the most astounding answers. And it seemed like this happiness project actually made the BIGGEST difference in their lives, rather than in some of my "top" students' lives.

- I was nervous that the students wouldn't get that into it, but the fact that I made them track their goals daily and report to their desk partner made most of them want to do them more so they could report they'd actually completed them. Greater Accountability = Greater Goal-Keeping!

- I can unequivocally say that this project---more than anything else I've ever done with my students--has easily made the most visible impact in my students' behavior. Not only did my behavioral issues drastically decrease, but my students as a whole just seemed more cheerful, which made me respond more cheerfully to them, which made all of us grow closer. Thanks to this project, I can finally say I'm starting to genuinely enjoy this group of kids as much as I did last year's.

And THATS something that's made ME pretty happy.

I'll definitely be doing this again next year :)

Thursday, December 19, 2013

A Little Hot Stuff on a Cold Winter's Night (+ Creamed Eggs Recipe)


I think everybody has their go-to comfort foods for cold winter nights when the thermostat seems frozen at about 15 degrees---whether it be hot cocoa, herbal tea, or a hot meal, there's just something so festive about a steaming dish warming up cold hands.

Last night, after a rather unsuccessful run (in which I had to walk half the distance because I literally had ZERO energy left over from the school day), I just needed something easy, fast, and HOT to warm up my chapped face and numb hands.

Enter my all-time favorite breakfast from my childhood:

Creamed Eggs over Toast.

Now, whenever I've told people this in the past, the "judgmental eyes" come out like slits, and the person usually sniffs and says something to the effect of, "Creamed eggs? That sounds downright disgusting."

To which I say, you really shouldn't judge a food by its name (or even the way it looks). Because lemme tell you something---this here is about to become your next favorite breakfast-for-dinner meal EVER. I promise.


Creamed Eggs Over Toast (serves 2-3, with enough for about 2-3 pieces of toast per person)

2 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons flour
1 cup milk
salt (to taste) - I think I use about 1/2 - 1 tsp.
3 eggs
bread

1. Place unpeeled eggs in a small saucepan and cover with water. Boil eggs for at least 8-10 minutes.
2. While eggs are boiling, melt butter in a small saucepan on medium heat. When butter is melted, whisk in flour until clumps start to form. When all the flour has mixed with the butter, SLOWLY pour in the milk, stirring constantly.
3. Allow milk mixture to come to a slow boil, stirring frequently.
4. Peel the hard-boiled eggs after they've boiled for at least 8-10 minutes. Separate the egg whites into one pile and the egg yolks into another. Mash up (or tear) egg whites into small pieces, set aside. Mash up yolk with a fork; set aside.
5. Put bread in toaster.
6.When milk mixture starts to bubble, it will thicken considerably. When the texture has reached a thick, creamy consistency, add the salt and the white part of the eggs.
7. Once toast has popped up, spread the bread with the white mixture and sprinkle egg yolk on top.

Enjoy!

Serving Tip: This meal is fabulous with grape juice and fruit salad, as pictured here. For the fruit salad, I just like to combine a can of fruit cocktail, a can of mandarin oranges, a fresh banana, an apple/pear, and some grapes (basically whatever fresh stuff I have on hand), and stir in some flavored yogurt.


What's your favorite "go-to" hot meal for a winter's night? I'm on the lookout for new recipes to try!

Oh, and has anyone else ever tried this recipe but my family? I once ran into somebody here in Logan who'd had it (and loved it), but they are the only ones I've ever met who ever ate it other than the people I've fed it to...

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Lights, Camera, and Music (...and Ice Cream... and Traditions)


Matt and I have a longstanding tradition of going to the Mormon Tabernacle Choir Christmas concert each year (a fabulous---free!---way to quickly get into the real spirit of Christmas) and stopping by Leatherby's before.

Leatherby's is "our" place ever since we first played hooky one day and sought it out (because I'd eaten there a lot as a kid but then it moved, but Matt and I found it one day together one summer when we'd skived off some other duties we were supposed to do.)

Although traditions can seem kind of stressful sometimes (because there's that pressure to do the same thing, year after year), there is a certain power in having some holiday traditions that are more or less fixed in place. It gives stability to one's life, you could say.

Would you agree?






I do like mixing traditions up a little bit though (so that they don't get TOO stale or predictable), so we usually try to make each year unique by inviting different people into the tradition with us. This year, our good friends Kayla and Sam were nice enough to join us for enormous sundaes and the best fries you'll ever eat before we all headed off to the Conference Center for the concert.

Later on this week, we're participating in another of our newlywed Christmas traditions---making a big ol' Christmas dinner (that usually consists of pot roast or ham) the night before we play Santa and give each other presents (which, coincidentally, is usually a few days before the actual holiday since we usually travel down to Bountiful to spend Christmas with our families.)

To mix that up, we're inviting some friends from up here to join in the fun (and hopefully turn it into a game night as well!).


Do you sometimes feel pressure to keep on doing the same traditions each year? Or do you consciously seek out ways to make each year a unique experience?

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Maybe the January Diet Needs to Start Early...


I am currently reading Happier at Home, in which Gretchen Rubin talks about two types of dieters: moderators and abstainers. She says that some people in their diet will only succeed if they eat in moderation---in other words, if they try to cut anything out of their diet or make something "off limits," they are more likely to fail because they do better when they eat less of certain foods rather than cutting out those foods entirely.

Abstainers, on the other hand, should never let themselves be tempted with even a small bite---their lack of self-control once starting to inhale their favorite junk makes them much more likely to succeed if they just cut out the food group entirely.

I always thought I was a moderator, but with my massive intake of heavy sweets this season already (most days I have literally taken in more sugar foods than non-sugar foods), I'm beginning to think that maybe I'd better swear off junk food until the actual holiday.

I mean, you know it's bad when you're already feeling sick from eating so many sweets, but all you crave is more sweets because real food has lost its appeal. You also know it's bad when you catch yourself saying this over yet another bowl of ice cream: "December is a month for excess. January is the month for dieting."

No bueno.

On the other hand, many of my favorite foods (peppermint fudge ice cream, gingersnaps, candy cane fudge) are generally only available now, and a small part of my soul just wants to die at the thought of not being able to get in my fair share of them this holiday.

It's a dilemma of the worst kind for the sugaraholic.

In good news, I am still managing to run three times a week.

In bad news, I am still gaining weight due to the massive intake of said sugar. (At least I haven't touched Diet Dr. Pepper for over a month now----gotta count those small victories.)

So, I think I might have to try and avoid the treats in the faculty room this week and start pawning more sweets off on Matt. Sounds like a plan.

Are you a moderator or an abstainer? And are you already thinking of your January diet?

Monday, December 16, 2013

Red, White, & Blue for Christmas

 (Note to self: do not put hand over stomach like so in pictures--makes it look like I'm preggers)
 
Yesterday was our Christmas program at my church, which I was a part of (as a member of the choir). Generally my plan on such occasions is to look a little festive for the holiday as I'm getting dressed, which in years past has always seemed to mean red and black (with occasional green thrown in).
 
Not this year though---this year, I decided to rebel a bit against tradition and went with berry, navy, and white for the occasion, which I believe I pulled off without looking too much like I'd dressed for the wrong holiday.
 


Here's a secret---

I like being a little different in the ways I do things.

(That includes the way I do Christmas colors apparently, as well.)

True story: the holiday colors in our decked-out apartment right now are green, silver, gold, and blue---hardly traditional Christmas colors, but I LOVE the way they look together.

In fact, for Christmas, I'm almost always drawn to more unusual color combinations and tend to shy away from pairing the traditional red and green. Some of my recent favorites are: pink and silver; cream, gold, and green; and berry-red and white.


I know some people think it's sacrilege to stray from the traditional red and green---that in some way, the fact that people trend towards different color combinations makes them celebrate the holiday in a lesser way somehow.

But I say, bring on the blue! Bring out the silver and pink! Go ahead and put fuchsia highlights in your hair in honor of the season!

What about you? Are you a traditionalist with your Christmas colors?


Friday, December 13, 2013

5 Things About My Family


'Tis the season to spend with family, and like any other family, me and mine have our own little special quirks. Here are five random things about my (extended) family:

1. From a young age, I have been accused of being overcompetitive. All I can say to that is this: You should see my family. I'm pretty sure that every single one of my aunts could easily find over 40 words in almost any Boggle round (and that's a regular size, little cube). So you'd better believe stuff gets intense when we pull out the word games at family events. (Coincidentally, after playing word games with me or any member of my family at least once, most people flat-out refuse to play them ever again with us.)

2. Another trait of the women in the family is that we all seem to have this habit of throwing back our heads when we're laughing really hard. And apparently, the older you get, the more it turns into kind of a cackle. Combine cackle with the head toss, and you've got a regular gaggle of wannabe witches at our family gatherings.


3. For most of my life growing up, we had a family party with my whole extended family every month. Since getting older, the parties have gotten a little bit less frequent, but I can still comfortably say that I for sure see my extended family more than most other people (and enjoy it!).

4. Every year for my entire life (with the exception of my mission), I have attended my family's extended family Christmas party, which always includes a white elephant gift exchange. We've had some real doozies over the years, too----a leopard corset (that people tried on in front of everyone, thus giving us blackmail pictures), a speedo, a terrifyingly real-looking rubber mouse that squeaked and wiggled when you pushed a button that made my Aunt Terry almost dissolve into tears (literally)...and the list goes on and on. In fact, the gift exchange actually got so crazy that we even have a poem that one of my aunts wrote about it that we used to read aloud at the beginning of the exchange every year. I am not kidding.


5. Just so the men in the family won't feel left out of this little list, all the men in the extended family take a "Man Trip" every summer, where they participate in mysterious man rituals like subsisting solely on caffeinated sodas and chips while not showering and staying up until 4 in the morning playing "Washers" (a game my grandpa instigated, and which has since grown into a tournament of epic proportions that has a golden washer for a trophy and everything.)

Are you close to your extended family?

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

If I Had to Choose a Motto for This Year, This Would Be It


As the year grows ever closer to its end, I inevitably find myself reflecting on the past twelve months.

It's certainly been a packed year full of its usual ups and downs, but I think that this year---more than any other year---I have learned the following great and valuable truth that will forever impact the way I live my life (I know there's a quote somewhere that basically says what I'm going to say, but Google has failed me when it came to trying to find it, so bear with me):

I often overestimate what I can daily accomplish, but I also underestimate how much I can accomplish over a long stretch of time by doing just a little each day.

Wow, so that's kind of a long motto.


So, maybe a better motto for my year would be:

Do a little each day.

My organization project definitely taught me this lesson---if I left all my projects until the night before I wanted them done (which I'll admit to doing), I usually didn't complete the project as effectively as I could have otherwise, and I was usually pretty cranky about it. I also noticed that the newly organized areas often didn't stay that way permanently, like I'd intended. So, lately, because I've realized that making a habit of simplifying and organizing will make a much greater difference in the long run than occasional "projects," I've kept telling myself, "Just clean or organize for 15 minutes each day. That's all."

It's amazing what a difference 15 minutes can make when you are completely focused on a single goal.

I've also proved this truth in my reading goal for the year: instead of setting a goal of how many books I wanted to read, I simply said that I wanted to read two chapters of a book on most days. By doing this, I have managed to read more books this year (almost) than I read in the past two years combined.

The power of daily, consistent habits may at first go unnoticed in the general busy-ness of our lives, but when we seize those moments that tell us to reflect backwards on our progress, our eyes are opened to the difference a month or six months or a year that consistent, daily habits make.


It is often the power of our habits, not our occasional mighty pushes, that molds us into the person we become.

If you had to choose a motto for the past year, what would yours be?
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