Monday, June 30, 2014

How to Eat More Fruits & Vegetables

About a year and a half ago, I set a goal to eat more fruits and vegetables every day. I'd been feeling bloated and sluggish and unhealthy, and I knew I wasn't getting nearly enough fresh produce in my diet. The adventure that followed was a little unexpected--what started out as a simple quest to try and actually hit the 5-8 recommended servings of fruits and vegetables a day turned into a bit of a diet overhaul over the ensuing months.

While the process of adding more produce to our diets seemed a little unnatural at first (like I had to overplan everything), I gradually started working my way into some relatively sustainable eating habits that I have tried hard to maintain.

I'm not saying my diet now is anywhere near where I'd like it be (coming from the girl who literally just ate a big ol' fingerful of raw cookie dough from the fridge), but I have improved it a LOT.

Here are some strategies for fitting more produce into your diet that have worked for me.

1. Set a rule--today!--that you must eat at least one fruit or vegetable at every meal. Granted, this will likely just net you 3 servings of produce a day at first, but the process is all about baby steps. (And yes, my diet really was that bad before starting to do this--there'd be lots of days when I would get just one or two servings of fruits/veggies a day before I started living  by this rule, if I was lucky.)

2. Put fruits and vegetables in clearly visible locations so they're one of the first things you see when you go looking for a snack. It amazes me how much more likely I am to eat something if it is in a place where my eyes see it a lot. So use that human trait to your advantage---put your "snack" fruits and veggies in clear locations (read: NOT the crisper) and in clear containers. In our apartment, we always keep a bowl of fruit right out in the center of our kitchen's island---it is almost always stocked with some easy-to-grab fruit (like apples, peaches, oranges, bananas, etc.), and because I see it a lot, I tend to reach for something out of it at least once or twice a day.

3. Plan your meals. If I'm always planning my meals around what is easiest or what sounds the best at the moment, I rarely work a lot of produce into them. However, when I actually take five minutes and plan out a meal that has a good mix of nutrients, I not only tend to eat a lot healthier but I also tend to waste less food because I'm planning around perishable items (like fruits and veggies) that I need to use up quickly.

4. If you have a blender or a juicer, take advantage of it. I personally don't have a juicer, but I have gone through four blenders in seven years because I use them so often (true story). I even gained a bit of a reputation for becoming something of a smoothie savant (click over to this post to find out some secrets to perfect smoothie-making). Because smoothies and juices are in liquid form, it's a lot easier to pack a lot of produce in because you don't have to go through the trouble of peeling, chopping, or even chewing. Most of my smoothies net at least 3-4 servings of produce, so it's a pretty good way to fit in the nutrients my body needs without a lot of effort.

5. Eat like a vegetarian/vegan at least once or twice a week. Last year, when I started to really crack down on what we were eating, I set the habit of eating like a vegetarian for two full days each week (so at least 6 meals). The habit forced me to start planning more meals around produce (especially vegetables), and I also noticed that we saved a lot more money on groceries as a bonus (since I wasn't having to buy very much meat).

6. Here's a trick--next time you're feeling like a snack, ask yourself if an apple (or peach or plum or banana) sounds good. If it does, eat that. If it doesn't, chances are you're just bored, and you probably should go find something else to do.

7. Grow your own garden. I can't tell you how much of a difference our garden has made in our consumption of fruits and vegetables. Not only does growing your own food save money, taste better, and connect you more with nature, but it also is HIGHLY motivating to eat something that you've been coddling for the past several months as your own personal outside project. Even if space is limited, try out tomatoes in a container or see if there's a community garden nearby (which is the route we took). The payoff is worth the investment.

8. Once you're firmly into the habit of having at least one fruit or vegetable at every meal, set the goal of having at least one "superstar" meal a day (when you get at least 4-5 servings in one sitting). During the summer, that meal for me is usually breakfast (because I can just throw a bunch of random veggies and some eggs into a skillet and call it a frittata or make myself a giant smoothie), but I often will plan lunch of dinner around large portions of fruits and vegetables as well.

9. Buy produce in season. Not only does it save money, but it makes a HUGE difference in taste. Even better than just buying in season? Buy locally. Often, local farmers will grow heirloom varieties of fruits and vegetables (that naturally have more flavor than produce that has been genetically modified to be able to withstand long transportation trips), and many local farmers use organic methods naturally anyway (without charging extra for it). Right now I'm on a serious cherry kick (hence the pictures), but there's a lot to choose from right now when it comes to buying in season---take advantage of it!

10. Make eating fruits and vegetables convenient. While it would probably save me money to buy whole carrots and cut them up myself, I'm much more likely to actually eat them if I buy pre-peeled baby carrots that all I have to do is grab. Grocery stores now have a lot of options that make eating produce more convenient---try picking up a party platter of pre-sliced veggies at the store and just snacking on those throughout the week, or take ten minutes when you get home from the store to section out portions of grapes or celery sticks into baggies for easy access. In other words, the easier and more convenient you make it for yourself to succeed, the more likely it is that you probably will.

What strategies do you use for fitting more fruits and veggies into your diet?

Friday, June 27, 2014

Life Around Here Lately

Eating Lately: More greens than I should (my GI doctor told me to lay off 'em, but I can't help myself) and equal weights of fresh produce and popcicles/ice cream. Apparently, I seem to go through cycles---some days, all I want is to eat me some chicken, veggies, and fruit, and other days all I want is burgers, shakes, and homemade chocolate chip cookies. Good thing I lost all the weight I was planning to BEFORE summer hit, right?

Watching Lately: Seasons 1-6 of Big Bang Theory on DVD and a chick flick about every other day. I tried getting into The Bachelorette a few weeks back (just so I had something to talk about with people who actually watch current shows), but gave up after two or three episodes. I just couldn't take it anymore.

Doing Lately: More days than not for the past week, I've been trekking over to our garden and trying to get on top of the mass of weeds that threatens weekly to overtake all our plants. And although I come home with stained palms and dirty fingernails (because I've always avoided wearing gardening gloves if I can help it), I have still found a strange satisfaction from my daily efforts in the dirt. Tonight, Matt and I are planning a "boring date" to the garden to hopefully finish up the rest of the heavy-duty weeding so we'll just have to worry about rough maintenance from this time forward.

Growing Lately: Our beans (pictured below) are growing like mad and have produced tiny, mauve-colored buds in just the past week. A few of our tomato plants also have little green tomatoes, and we have one single tiny green pepper on one of our six plants. We have eaten a total of 5 strawberries from our own garden, and our potato plants look like a massive carpet of green lace. We're still waiting for the watermelon, cantaloupe, and cucumber plants to start doing something. I swear they're hardly bigger than they were a month ago. And the way the corn is sprouting up, you'd think it was a competition or something.

Photographing Lately: a bridal session last weekend, our trip to Minnetonka Caves yesterday (post to follow eventually), and random locations around where my photography class is held. I'm also shooting my first wedding tomorrow (eek!) and am more than a bit apprehensive about the whole thing.

Reading Lately: The second book in the Divergent series. A book by The Minimalists called Minimalism: Live a Meaningful Life. All the magazines that are finally getting forwarded from our old address.

Unpacking Lately: Honestly? Not much. After the initial frenzy of the first week of moving here, when I was motivated to find everything I really needed, I haven't really touched the boxes still lying in every room of the house. Perhaps it's a sign that I could just get rid of a lot of them?

Running Lately: Most weeks, I run just over ten miles a week (3 sessions X 3.5 miles/apiece), which, although it's significantly less than what I was doing to prepare for my half, has been a pretty good "maintenance" plan for me. Today I inadvertently found myself right in the middle of a race while out on my morning run, inconveniently running against the tide of racers. Many course officials kept telling me to turn around, and I even came across a cousin of mine, who I had no idea would be up in Logan for the race. (It was one of those moments where you're both (literally) running away from each other, looking over your shoulders, and waving and shouting at each other.) Small world.

Basically, life lately has been a combination of ease and voluntary work (mostly photography-related, although I did suffer through a teaching conference in Ogden last week). Some days I find myself with a lot more motivation to be "productive" than other days, but all in all, I'm enjoying the chance to pursue things I don't normally have time to during the school year.

Sometimes I wish I had more motivation to do stuff all the time, but I think a lesson I really need to learn is just how to be tranquil and at ease and enjoy relaxing--I've realized recently I have a problem with enjoying "lazy leisure" (such as watching movies or just sitting around not doing much of anything), and I want to be better at enjoying ALL my leisure time.

Is that weird? Do you ever have a hard time relaxing and enjoying leisure time too?

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Read Recently

It's been several months since I've done a reading post, so I feel a little rusty (and a little guilty that I haven't been reading as much as I feel I "should" be). But I have read some pretty decent reads lately, so I figured I'd pass some along.

Key to Rating System:
5 stars = changed my life
4 stars = loved it
3 stars = liked it
2 stars = it was okay
1 star = hated it

Cry, The Beloved Country by Alan Paton

This book is on my 100-Most-Recommended-Classics list, but it's not nearly as daunting or unintelligible as some of the choices (probably because it was published just a few decades ago, as opposed to during the 19th century). The plot is set in South Africa and is largely about racial divisions and familial love. Basically the story is that a well-respected religious leader's son is found guilty of murder, and it's about how that leader heals and forgives and moves on.

Overall, there is some beautiful prose in this book--I like how the beginning and end are framed around almost identical paragraphs, but you look at those same paragraphs so differently by the ending. For a classic, this is about as quick and easy a read as they probably come (not to mention enjoyable). Plus there are some poignant philosophies on race and human nature throughout---so many, in fact, that I had to start highlighting and marking them because I loved them that much.

Overall Score: 4 stars (out of 5)
Cleanliness: It's been awhile since I read this, but from what I remember, it's pretty clean. There is some violence and sex, but it's usually implied rather than explicit.

A Long Way From Chicago by Richard Peck

A bunch of my students were reading this Newbery Award winner for their historical fiction book project, so I figured I'd better read it first to make sure they weren't making stuff up. Basically the book is a collection of short stories set over a series of summers during the Great Depression. It follows two kids (a boy and a girl) as they go to visit their somewhat eccentric grandmother each summer out in the country.

Although the book isn't as "meaty" as I usually prefer my books, reading this felt like a light snack, and I still remember some of the stories from it vividly, even a few months later. More than anything, this is a fun read that's largely about making the most of your circumstances and not always going with the flow of what everyone else is doing.

Overall Score: 3 stars (out of 5)
Cleanliness: This one was squeaky clean---I would recommend it to anyone, including children.

The Paris Wife by Paula McLain

This bestseller had been sitting on my shelf for over a year until I picked it up, and I'm sorry I didn't pick it up sooner--it tells the story of Ernest Hemingway's first wife and their marriage and story, and it follows her thoughts and feelings as her husband gets more and more wrapped up in the world of expatriate Paris, and she feels more and more isolated from her husband's group of artists, models, and writers.

The writing in this is lovely, and I got immediately caught up in the world of 1920's Paris and all the American writers who were living out there at the time. This is a great read that you'll have a hard time putting down after you've picked it up.

I will say this though---although I loved the rest of the book, I was less than impressed with the ending. I'll leave it at that.

Overall Score: 4 stars (out of 5)
Cleanliness: This had a little bit of language and explicit sex in it, from what I remember. They weren't in there very often, but they were in there.

The Signature of All Things by Elizabeth Gilbert

This long-awaited fictional debut by the author of Eat Pray Love had been screaming at me from all the magazines and newspapers---it seemed like everyone was reviewing it and loving it, and I just didn't want to be left out. The story basically follows a woman raised by a botanist who becomes passionately interested in studying mosses (in an age where women were typically not making contributions to the scientific world). One of the biggest conflicts of the story is of her love life that always seems destined to fail and disappoint her.

I'll try not to go into too much detail here (in case anyone still wants to read it), but I have to say, I was hugely disappointed in this book. While I will always love Gilbert's writing style, the book felt VERY long-winded (it was over 500 pages, after all), and I hated how the majority of the book was focused around the main character's obsession with sex. There were SO many awkward-to-read parts in this, and throughout the book, I kept thinking that Gilbert was taking the motto to "Write honestly" a little too far.

I would not recommend this book to anyone--even the exquisite prose was not enough to save this one for me.

Overall Score: 2 stars (out of 5)
Cleanliness: This book has a LOT of sex--explicit and implied--as well as some language. Tread carefully.

Divergent by Veronica Roth

Oddly enough, I actually saw the movie of this before reading the book, which is not typical Torrie behavior. I actually had no desire to read this trilogy at all, but when I saw the movie (and really liked it!), I figured I'd better give the series a try.

Rough plotline of book = a dystopian society where people are sorted according to ability + lots of action + a love story + complex villains that aren't all bad

Although the writing isn't anything too special, this was a fun read. Some of the descriptions were a bit sparse, so I had to go back and re-read parts to make sure I understood what was happening, and I didn't care as much about the characters as, say, in the Harry Potter books, but this was an enjoyable read. (Hint: I liked it enough that I'm almost finished with the second one now.)

Overall, it was kind of nice to read the book so I could participate in the hype over the movie.

That's all.

Overall Score: 3 stars (out of 5)
Cleanliness: There is quite a bit of violence in these books, but it's not too explicit (until you see the movie, of course...)

Have you had a chance to read any of these? And have you seen the Divergent movie yet? What did you think?

Monday, June 23, 2014

The Summer of Photography

In order to semi-wisely use all my extra free time during the summers off from teaching, I tend to develop a "thing" each summer---last summer it was the "50 Weeks to Organized" thing, other summers it's been reading books off of all my lists like mad or dating like it was my hobby (before I got married, obviously).

This summer, it's photography.

Backtracking a bit, it should have been obvious to me years ago that photography was something I should pursue more seriously--I was always the one who seemed to be trying to catch all the best moments on film during all the parties and family gatherings and weeks at girls' camp, and when I got my first digital camera, I was out taking pictures like crazy of everything: the snow, the flowers on the windowsill, my mom reading in her chair...

And that love for taking pictures never really died, but I thought I would never pursue it more than just being the official photographer at every family function.

Then blogging entered the picture.

You know, blogging's a funny thing---I initially saw blogging as a faster way to keep a journal, and since I didn't have many qualms about letting people peek into those journal entries, I kept it public. When I REALLY started getting into Blogging with a capital B, I noticed that the "big" blogs seemed to always have photos attached, and not just any photos---gorgeous, "pin"-able images that captured these beautiful small moments of each day, like eating a particularly picturesque bowl of fruit for breakfast or the way their feet looked after a pedicure.

The more into blogging I got (and the more I tried to become one of those "big bloggers"), the more I started to get into photography.

And that's when the hobby kind of morphed into something else.

You see, it seemed that for awhile, photography was just a means to an end--if I upped the quality of my images on my blog, I would draw more views, and if I drew more views, I could finally maybe make some money off my writing.

But something changed along the way, and suddenly, I wasn't just taking pictures to attract page views or blog about them---I was taking pictures and studying composition and lighting and trying to turn my photos into my own art form, since I seem to be the only one of my siblings who didn't get any hand-to-paper art talent.

And now, it's become such a dangerous passion that I've even started letting myself dream big about it---

I've even started my own little small photography business.

And even though I know it's probably crazy, and even though I think to myself that it might not come out to much more than just a little side gig, sometimes I wonder--

What if it does turn into more? What if this---this obsession with composition, this devotion to chasing the next favorite image, this constant daydreaming of bigger and better cameras and lenses and photographs---becomes more than just a little side gig? What if it becomes, a few years down the road, one of those "things" that I felt like I was put here on earth to do?

Dreaming big is scary---failure is always just around the corner, and people with a "scarcity complex"--aka people who think that there is a limited amount of space and demand in the world for a certain product or service--often mock and jeer at you, especially if they're a bit further down the path than you are.

But then I think to myself:

What do I have to lose?

How will this NOT be a valuable learning opportunity?

And I dive in.

(By the way, I took all these images at a little fashion photo shoot I did last Friday--
it was my first time shooting in a studio of any kind, and I had a blast!)

What dreams have you had that scared you? Was it worth it to go all out to try and reach it?

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

19 Ways to Motivate Yourself to Clean the House

Here's a Torrie Truth for ya---

I am most motivated when I am incredibly busy, under a deadline, and/or stressed out of my mind. That is probably why I continually put things off until the last minute, even though I know it's an unhealthy behavior. What can I say? I'm a procrastinator and proud of it, through and through.

And therein lies the downside to having a lot of extra time on my hands during the summer due to my not teaching--I find that it gives birth to the worst kind of irony:

 When I have all the time in the world to do whatever I want, I rarely  have the motivation to do anything.

When I hardly have any time to do whatever I want, I have all the motivation in the world to do everything.

It's kind of a problem.

So, to help myself through these months of lackluster motivation, I have devised some tricks and strategies to force myself into getting at least some productive things done each and every day, even when I absolutely don't want to.

Without further ado, I present to you 19 tested-and-proven strategies for motivating yourself to do something when you really don't want to. (And yes, I do many of these on a regular--if not daily--basis.)

19 Ways to Motivate Yourself to Clean the House

1. Turn on a song you like and tell yourself that you only have to do a certain household chore (like the dishes) for the length of the song. (Spoiler alert--you'll usually end up doing more.)

2. Think of ten tasks that take less than ten seconds to do apiece and then do those ten things.

3. Watch Hoarders. (If you don't feel inspired to clean and purge after watching that show, nothing will ever motivate you to do so.)

4. Bribe yourself---after ten or fifteen minutes of solid effort, reward your efforts with something pleasurable, like a popcicle or sitting down with a magazine.

5. Use your cell phone games to your advantage. Since my vice is Candy Crush, I make myself do one productive household thing (whether it's putting a dish away or folding two shirts) before I let myself play another life/round.

6. Challenge yourself--how can you significantly improve a space in 7 minutes? Set your timer for the amount of minutes you've specified, and get to work.

7. Read a minimalist/simple living blog for fifteen minutes for motivation, like Becoming Minimalist, The Minimalists, or The Gardener's Cottage.

8. Put on an episode of your favorite show and have it playing in the background while you do something in the same room.

9. Make a to-do list of 5-7 household tasks that don't take more than 10 minutes apiece and post it somewhere where you'll see it a lot. Keep a pen (or Sharpie!) handy for putting a big black mark through it when you're done. I don't know why, but crossing stuff off lists for me is a disproportionately huge motivator.

10. Commercial Break Challenge: grab as many things as you can find in 30 seconds that are out of place or that belong in another room and put them there--quick--before your show starts up again.

11. Give yourself some choices (use a little Love & Logic on yourself)---"I can either do these dishes/sweep the floor/unpack this box, or I can do 30 push-ups/50 crunches/75 squats." (The best part is, even if you choose the strength training, you're still doing a good thing for yourself.)

12. If social media feeds are your favorite time waster, make yourself a deal---"For as long as I get off my butt and go clean/organize, I can get onto Facebook/Instagram/Pinterest." (Word of advice: do the cleaning BEFORE you get onto the social media, not the other way around.)

13. Count how many steps it takes to take out the trash (while you're taking it out, of course).

14. Make yourself a cleaning project outline (like I did with my "50 Weeks to Organized" project). Nothing motivates me more than starting something new.

15. If you have someone else around that will help clean, do rock-paper-scissors for who gets to do which chore (like the winner gets to do the laundry, the loser gets to do the bathroom).

16. Invite people over for games/dinner/dessert tonight or tomorrow. Trust me, the cleaning will somehow get done.

17. Set a goal of how many things you want to get rid of--permanently--today. Then go find those things right now.

18. When desperate times call for desperate measures, don't let yourself eat/sleep/go to the bathroom until one particular thing is done. Works for me all the time.

19. Write a blog post on cleaning the house. Hey, the accountability alone will be enough to make you want to get up and go do something.

How do you motivate yourself to clean house? Or what habits are you already in that keep your house clean most of the time?

Monday, June 16, 2014

A Little Beauty Routine Simplification

I've been wearing makeup since I was 12, and I honestly hadn't changed my beauty routine much up until about a year ago. For the longest time, my makeup routine looked the exact same:

(in this order)
1. foundation all over
2. powder
3. eyeliner
4. mascara

Sure, there were some tweaks sometimes, like adding eyeshadow when I wanted the look to be a bit more smoky and dramatic and the occasional dusting of bronzer all over to try and make it look like I wasn't as fair-skinned as I actually am.

But the variation was minimal.

Later on, I tried a lot of pretty intense makeup routine stuff, like major contouring using bronzer, four different eyeshadows at a time, intense lipcolor and eye makeup at the same time, etc.

But in about the last year or so, I've really hit on some little tweaks that have made all the difference in how I feel after putting on makeup---I feel like although these things are small, they have streamlined my routine and made me feel I have enhanced my features to their full potential.

Here we go:

1. To minimize time spent on actually doing my makeup, I pull everything out of my makeup bag that I'm going to be putting on that day. Above would be my selection for a date night or a day when I want to look more put together. For a more natural, quick look, I would eliminate all of the eyeshadows. It sounds like such a small thing to just pull out everything you'll be using before you start, but it seriously saves me so much time (and stress) having to hunt through my bag for the one thing I'm looking for. And when I'm finished using one product, I put it right back in the bag so I can visually see how much I still have left to apply.

2. I used to hardly invest any time in making my skin look good and just focused on defining my eyes (since they seem to get the most attention anyway), but I've since changed my ways--I now spend double the amount of time on my skin as I do anything else, and now I feel like my features have a nice "backdrop" that enhances rather than dulls the rest. Like I said before, I used to just do foundation and powder and that was it. Here's my routine now:

-foundation on ruddy areas (forehead, cheeks, nose, and eyelids)
-concealer under eyes, on the side of nostrils (and underneath), and chin
-matte powder to set everything
-bronzer under cheekbones, on temples, and across forehead
-blush on apples of cheeks and down center of nose
-highlighter on tops of cheekbones, browbones, and the inner corners of my eyes

I don't go too extreme on the whole idea of contouring unless I'm really dressing up, but even just slightly using some of the same techniques to accent my cheekbones gives my face a lot more structure than it appears to have with only foundation and powder.

3. When defining my eyes, I don't neglect to fill in my brows anymore. I have pretty strong eyebrows on their own, but those few little extra strokes of a brow pencil really bring the attention to my eyes even more. It took me awhile to get used to my face with a stronger brow, but now I love the effect.

4. Here's a recent trick I picked up: when putting on mascara, feather the strokes up and towards your nose rather than out to the outer edge of your eye. Since slanting my lashes ever so slightly towards my nose, I've noticed that I look MUCH more awake and that my lashes appear much more defined than they used to from slanting them the other way.

5. For eyeliner that stays put all day, I trace the tops of my eyes with liner (sometimes the bottoms too, if I'm looking for a more dramatic look), and then I follow up the liner with a smudging of black eyeshadow right over the liner line. I do this pretty much every morning, and it ensures that I don't have to reapply eye makeup again before going out at night.

Below's face is what I did this morning using only the five things I said in this post, and I'm ready to go!
(and with laying out all the makeup I'll need before, the whole thing took 6 minutes)

What are some of your best beauty tricks for looking your best in a hurry?

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Tuesday Tell-All

For a throwback to good ol' blog-times past, let's do a little Tuesday Tell-All, shall we?

*For starters, I call the picture above, "Sweet Taters Through Steam." Sometimes I think my calling in life is making food, taking pictures of it, and then eating it. I'm perfectly okay with that life vision for myself.

*Apparently when you move to a new apartment (at least in some areas), you have to call the gas company to, you know, not shut off the gas. Otherwise, you wanna know what happens? Two days in, your showers start to seem suspiciously lukewarm, and then on the third morning, neighbors everywhere wonder why there is intense shrieking coming from your bathroom (maybe with the movie "Psycho" coming to mind?).

*Good news though, folks---we wised up to our mistake, called our manager and the gas company, and all should be fixed by 1:30 PM today. (Which is a good thing, because my husband and I were starting to smell a bit because who's going to take a shower in 20-degree water, really?).

*It must be the month of making phone calls because this morning found me on the phone trying to add the new (used) car we just bought to our insurance and trying to figure out the maze that is car registration through the DMV (it's mostly just complicated because we just moved and have no idea where anything is).

*One important fact you must know about me---I absolutely DESPISE talking on the phone, especially to people I don't know about issues that I don't want to deal with. I thought my mission would cure me of that (since I regularly had to make those calls daily, and in Spanish no less!), but it didn't---in fact, I think I might dislike it more than ever, largely due to the fact that many of the phone calls I was making during the school year were to parents whose kids had been acting up like crazy. I wish I knew some way to get over my phone phobia that didn't involve actually making a lot of phone calls, but I'm coming up blank. Do you hate talking on the phone too? (Or maybe you're actually a "real" adult, and I just need to grow up about my fears of making my own doctor appointments. Or something like that.)

*I love breakfast in the summer because it gives me an excuse to try out new things in the kitchen without feeling overwhelmed (aka, inventing a dinner or baking recipe = me being overwhelmed). But breakfast? It's really hard to screw up breakfast. You just add whatever vegetables you have on hand to a little oil in a skillet, cook 'em 'til they're soft, throw on some eggs, and top off the whole thing with cheese. See? Impossible to go wrong.

*(And yes, that's exactly what I did in this breakfast you see pictured here---all it consisted of was a sweet potato, a little onion, and some sliced yellow and green peppers mixed in with a little apple cider vinegar and olive oil. After those got soft(ish), I added two eggs, some thyme, rosemary, and salt, and topped it off with Parmesan cheese. Btw, it was delicious, thanks for asking.)

*Unpacking Update: our front room and kitchen are pretty much entirely unpacked (mostly because we had friends staying over last weekend). As for the rest of the house, well....the bathroom's about done, anyway. I don't even want to talk about the spare bedroom. And we have a grand total of two things hung on the walls. (Translation = you might not get to see pictures of the new place for a long, LONG time.)

*"But wait a sec, Torrie," I hear you say to me. "Don't you have all summer off? Isn't that kind of the whole point of becoming a teacher?"

"Why yes, smart reader, it is the whole point. And you know what I do with those summers off?"

(You blink at me in undisguised anticipation.)

"NOTHING," I say with an evil gleam in my eye. "Well, nothing apart from eating ice cream, trying to avoid the box elder bugs around the place, and watching all the t.v. and movies I missed while working."

*Yeah, summers as a teacher are pretty much the life.

*(Note: I actually DO accomplish SOME things on a daily basis, such as getting ready for the day, reading a few chapters (or maybe a hundred pages) from some book, and possibly making dinner. But after the first week after moving in is past and gone, I find it difficult to keep up the motivation to continue unpacking when I pretty much have almost everything out that I need. Maybe this is a cue to me to start getting rid of more stuff.)

*Some things I do have to get done this summer though? Help Matt apply to grad school (again) in July, attend two different teaching conferences, be a proctor for the occasional test up on the local college campus, and work on fulfilling my new church calling (which is now "gospel doctrine instructor," by the way). So I do have to do SOMETHING, sometimes.

*Speaking of that new church calling, can I just say that being a Sunday School teacher is my absolute FAVORITE calling to have? (Maybe next to being a teacher in the Relief Society, which is the women's organization?) I'm seriously excited about the fact that I get to have all the fun of teaching and interacting with people while not having to deal with any of the stress of going to meetings, planning girls' camp, or organizing weekly activities (which came with my last calling). And while I've learned to love every church calling I've been given, teaching's just kind of my thing. 

*Hence the reason I'm a teacher. Go figure.

*Okay, time to go eat a cookie and watch some Big Bang Theory. It's a hard knock life, but someone's got to do it.

Have a positively delightful summer day, and thanks for stopping by!

Monday, June 9, 2014

Set Habits, Not Goals

I've been thinking a lot about my new year's resolutions and my monthly goals lately (probably because I'm pretty much failing miserably at many of them), and for many weeks now, something has just felt OFF about them. I couldn't pinpoint it at first, but during my run this morning (and during my post-run shower, which was coincidentally shockingly freezing since we forgot to call the gas company to tell them we moved in), I had some important revelations:

With most of my goals, do I feel a great sense of accomplishment when I reach them?
(Not usually.)

Are all my goals enriching my life and making me the best version of myself?
(Not as much as I thought they would.)

Are my goals stressing me out more than inspiring me?
(A resounding YES.)

What gives?

As I looked deeper into it, studying the items off of my bucket list and glancing at last month's goals, I started asking myself questions such as, "What is my motive behind wanting to read all the books off of The 100 Most Recommended Classics list or all the Newbery award winners? Is it to brag that I've read all of them? Is it to gain admiration? Or is it to become more well-read and to fill my life with good literature?

Or how about my goal to learn to scuba dive, to go on a hot air balloon ride, or to go skiing? Are they simply to have a cool experience to share? Or are they because I want to be more adventurous? To discover new sides to myself? To experience novelty with the person I love most in the world by my side?

And after a few hours of questions such as those, I finally boiled it down to the issue itself---

It's not that I want to have those experiences just to say I had them.

I want to have those experiences because I want to be a different sort of person.

Let me give you an example of what I mean. For as long as I knew what a "marathon" was, I wanted to run one. I wasn't a runner (at all) growing up, but I wanted the experience of having trained for and done something difficult, and I wanted to discover a form of athleticism I could really embrace. I figured that if I ran a marathon, I would by default become a lifelong runner, and that part of my ideal self would be fulfilled.

Well, as the story goes, I did train for a marathon and run the entire thing. I did, in the process, start calling myself "a runner." But then I started my first year of teaching, and somehow, I went almost a year without running at all right after having run a marathon. (True story.)

Had I still accomplished my goal of running a marathon? Yes.

But my REAL goal was going unfulfilled---that of becoming a runner in every sense of the word, FOR LIFE.

And when I started running again, the feeling was completely different---I was no longer running so that I could hit some milestone or cross something off my endless bucket list :

I was running because I wanted to and because it made me happier.

That's the key, really---shouldn't all of our dreams eventually be leading us towards an ever greater sense of satisfaction and happiness with our life?

Last summer while on a road trip to visit my dad in Kansas City, I read Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life by Anne Lamott. Near the end, she says the following quote, which has somewhat haunted me ever since :

"Many nonwriters assume that publication is a thunderously joyous event in a writer's life . . . They believe that if they themselves were to get something published, their lives would change instantly, dramatically, and for the better. Their self-esteem would flourish; all self-doubt would be erased like a typo. Entire paragraphs and manuscripts of disappointment and rejection and lack of faith would be wiped out by one push of a psychic delete button and replaced by a quiet, tender sense of worth and belonging. Then they could wrap the world in flame.

"But this is not exactly what happens. . . [E]ventually you have to sit down like every other writer and face the blank page."

In other words, sometimes we hold these goals or bucket list items in front of our face like shiny gold pieces just out of our reach, thinking that when are finally able to grasp them, our lives will become everything we want them to be.

But what we don't realize is that true joy and fulfillment and happiness rarely come in arriving at the destination---they come from the training and the hard work and the learning that gets us there, which are the things that coincidentally change, refine, and improve us.

It is this realization that has made me rethink setting goals every month to cross items off my bucket list. It is this realization that has prompted me to put pen to paper yet again and instead of writing more goals and more to-do lists and more items on my bucket list, I have written a list of habits I can choose from each day that I believe will bring me that greater sense of contentment (because each habit is a process and not an end).

And because I don't need any more stress coming from these habits, I've made it just easy enough on myself that I can push myself while not burying myself---I made a list of habits, and each day, I do at least three things on the list.

I'm excited to see how this goes.

If you want to set your own list of habits, here was my process:

1. Make a list of qualities you want to personally possess or that you want your life to have. For example, I want to live a lifestyle that's more simplified and focused on the important things and simple pleasures of life rather than on consumerism and busy-ness for busy-ness's sake. I want to be a well-read person who can hold intelligent conversations and positively influence others. I want to be a homemaker who creates the kind of environment for her family that invites people to linger and feel comfortable.

2. Make a list of skills or talents that you would need to put your life more in line with your ideal self. Using my previous examples, I would need to learn to prioritize my time better, keep a tidier home, learn to live with less stuff, read a lot of worthwhile books and newspapers, and cultivate skills in cooking, entertaining, housework, and overall hospitality.

3. Make a list of daily habits that, if practiced frequently, would help your life to become more aligned with your ideal life. Some examples from above: spend fifteen minutes a day de-cluttering a small area of the house, spend 10 minutes in a quality conversation with a loved one either in person or by phone or Skype, read two chapters of a book or three articles in a newspaper, try out one new recipe, etc.

4. Finally, set a realistic goal for yourself to do some of those habits every day (preferably in a rotating order so you don't always do the same habits and neglect other ones). 

Are you a goal- or habit-oriented kind of person?

Thursday, June 5, 2014

His/Hers: Breakfast

One of the things I love most about summer is the slowness of the morning--during the school year, I wake up at 5:40 A.M. every morning and spend the next 45 minutes racing around the dark apartment in a crazed frenzy prepping my breakfast, doing my hair, packing a lunch, and trying to find a work-appropriate outfit. From there, my work mornings only seemed to escalate in stress as I wrangle my way through an often-frustrating commute along a one-lane highway, make last-minute copies for that day's lessons (because I'm the Queen of Procrastination), and field students' queries that seem to start from the moment I set foot behind my teacher desk to the moment the tardy bell rings.

Mornings as a teacher are exhausting.

But summer mornings as a teacher?


I'm convinced I've died and gone to some kind of warm, breezy heaven where most mornings seem to be my ideal morning: sleep in past seven (or eight) o'clock, take a leisurely run for a few miles, and then have fun playing around with my breakfast (and my camera) before eating.

And while every summer morning doesn't look this scrumptious, I sure am happy to report that at least this one did.


(Please admire the fact that his is about three times the size of mine with about double the amount of chocolate & sugar)

And now, after a run and a strawberry-filled morning, I feel ready to tackle some more moving boxes, maybe knock out another 100 pages in Divergent, scope out some good spots for my photo shoot tonight, and maybe even take a nap.

Summer, you are good to me!

What does your ideal summer morning look like? And do you get a chance to ever have one?

 (By the way, this breakfast is just a simple German Pancakes recipe (courtesy of The Food Nanny, in our case) topped with fresh strawberries, powdered sugar, and a little drizzle of chocolate syrup)

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

All Moved In & No Place To Go

Today for me marks the first "real" day of summer since it's the first time in over a month that I could sleep in without fear of missing a commitment (or like, you know, work and stuff). This morning I read to chapter five in Divergent (yes, I finally hopped on that particular train) while still in bed as the morning light streamed in through the bedroom window of our new place and as I was surrounded by boxes and mounds of things to be unpacked and sorted.

And you know what I realized?

It's going to be a great summer.

The top two photos are of the old place, and the third one is dark and mysterious so you can wonder to yourself what our living quarters look like now (since I know these are the questions keeping you up at night).

But seriously friends, this move has been the breath of fresh air that I needed. I never realized how much my lack of motivation to work on personal projects was tied to the old place we lived in--how my lack of energy to clean might have been partly due to the fact that no matter how much I cleaned that place, it just never looked that good, and how my total un-desire to create and develop and imagine might have been directly influenced by the fact that we were living in a place with little light, crazy neighbors, and a lot of problems outside of our direct control.

Our new place is a dream, and I feel like I've died and gone to apartment heaven (and for only about $50 more a month!). I can't wait to spruce the place up and post pictures after we're all moved in. For the first time in forever (yes, I just quoted that one song from that one movie), I want to develop my pictures and put them up as artwork on the walls and cook gourmet dishes just for the fun of photographing them and actually sit down and watch a movie from beginning to end instead of fretting around the apartment fussing over the constant flow of clutter and dirt and dinginess.

I'm a new woman, folks, and all it took was a move 3 blocks away.

Who knew?

(Oh, and  p.s.--the second half of the blog title is because the new (to us) car we purchased last week is in the shop getting some tune-ups and I couldn't leave the new apartment even if I wanted to, which I don't really at the moment.)

Have you ever had your perspective completely changed by a move?
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