Friday, January 31, 2014

Take Out Fake Out Beef & Broccoli

Sometimes, there is nothing better than ordering take-out to eat at home. No cooking, minimal clean up, and no stress. But unfortunately, that usually includes meals that are not so healthy for you, and it can be expensive. We like to eat our fair share of ethic food, but sometimes get in a rut of eating the same thing over and over. I especially love ordering Chinese take out, but hello MSG!

I found this little gem while perusing Pinterest a few weeks ago, from the blog Table for Two.

Take-Out, Fake-Out Beef & Broccoli. Doesn't it look delicious? 
The best thing about this recipe? It's in the crock-pot!! There is nothing more I love about cooking than the crock-pot. It's so easy to fix it and let it go for the day, doing it's little cooking thing while I'm working. Also, I don't really like cooking, so this little machine that cooks for me....pure magic. Here's the recipe

Take-Out, Fake-Out: Beef & Broccoli {Crockpot}
Yield: 4 servings | Prep Time: 10 minutes | Cook Time: 6 hours and 30 minutes*

1 lb. boneless, beef chuck roast, sliced into thin strips
1 cup beef consumme or beef broth (low sodium)
1/2 cup low sodium soy sauce
1/3 cup dark brown sugar
1 tbsp. sesame oil
3 garlic cloves, minced
2 tbsp. cornstarch
4 tbsp. sauce (from the crockpot after dish is cooked)
Frozen broccoli florets (as many as desired, I believe I used almost 2 cups)
White rice, cooked

1. In the insert of the crockpot, whisk together beef consume, soy sauce, dark brown sugar, sesame oil, and garlic. Gently place your slices of beef in the liquid and toss to coat. Turn crockpot on low and cook for 6 hours.
2. When done, in a small bowl, whisk together cornstarch and cooking liquid to create a slurry, pour into crockpot, stir to mix well. Toss in your broccoli florets and cook on low for an additional 30 minutes to thicken up the sauce.
3. Serve hot over white rice.

*Note about cooking time: Your crockpot may differ in temperature than mine, I suggest cooking this for 4 hours on your first go-round of this dish. 6 hours in the crockpot seems to be giving a lot of people “shredded” beef instead of slices, so decrease cooking time by 2 hours and go from there. Mine turned out fine with 6 hours.

This was a huge hit in our house; even Emily ate her entire serving! Plus there's enough for a left-over lunch the next day. We will definitely make this again!

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

I'm in Awe

In the running world, there are all types of runners. Those that do 5K's just for fun, those that push themselves to do a little more like half and full marathons, and then there are the crazy, the dedicated, the insane....ultra runners.

Ultra runners are those that run long distances like 50, 100, or more miles in one race. Why? Good question. Maybe to just do it, or test out what their body can do, or they just really like a lot of solitary time. Who knows? But they are the epitome of a long distance runner.

There are a lot of ultra marathons such as Leadville in Colorado - 100 miles at the highest elevation in the continental US. The Badwater Ultra in Death Valley, held in July, is one of the hottest runs on the planet. The runners wear white suits during the hottest part of the day to reflect the heat.
 Known to be the "world's toughest footrace" for good reason. No thank you!

I was surprised to learn that my little frozen tundra state has an ultra marathon as well, the Arrowhead 135. It started at International Falls, on the Canadian border, with a windchill temp of about -50, and goes to Tower, MN. Participants could choose to bike, run, or cross-country ski the race, which started Monday morning. The first runner finished it this morning (Wednesday) with a time of 43 hrs and 26 minutes. Holy.Cow. The runners do have check points where they can stop to rest, and I believe there are two that most of the runners took a longer break of 3-5 hrs to sleep. The first runner's average run time was 19:30 minutes/mile. Seems slow, but when you're dealing with sub-zero temps, snow, and wolves (yes wolves on the course!) I think that's pretty dang awesome. Actually, I am in awe of these runners.

Also, they have to pull a pack with all their gear in it:
This year they had 142 starters, and 92 have dropped out so far. As I write this, there are still runners on the course. Some bikers too! The cutoff time is 60 hours. Can you imagine, even for just one second, running for that long? Nope, not me, no thank you. I will stick to my fair-weather races and running short distances above 10 degrees.

But I really have to applaud these awesome athletes that may seem crazy, and probably are a little, but are doing the ultimate with just their bodies. The human body is amazing, no? Also, a shout out to the first female finisher, Alicia Hudelson with a finish time of 47:59:00. She's from Georgia, ya'll. How the heck did she train for this?!? 
Congrats Alicia!!

Friday, January 24, 2014

Checking In

I have a list of random thoughts right now, so this blog post is going to be a little ADD. Bear with me. Basically, here's what I've been doing, thinking, etc.

1. I'm back into the swing of things with working out. Yesterday I did my normal 45 min run on the treadmill, and the day before that I did 36 minutes. My treadmill needs to be calibrated, so I'm never sure if the miles are accurate. So, instead of running for distance, I run for time. 45 minutes for me equals about 5 miles, 36 min ~ 4 miles, 30 ~ 5K, or "long" runs of 60 min ~ 6.5 miles.

I had a slight freak out the other day thinking that I needed to start increasing my long runs during the month of February to get back to training for my next half marathon. False alarm! Half training starts the first week of March, so right now it's all about maintenance and keeping my endurance up so I don't have to start again from square one. Whew!

2. The book I'm reading right now, In the Garden of Beasts by Erik Larson, is a total snooooooze fest. It's about the American Ambassador and his family that lived in Berlin starting in 1933 when Hitler was coming to power. I'm about half way through, and there is still no plot. Just lots of details, dates, names, etc. I'm still not really sure if there is going to be a climax, or anything for that matter. Is he going to skip forward and actually talk about the actual war? The atrocities committed by the Nazis? I'm still not sure. I hate giving up on a book though. I should have known better; I read another one of his books, Devil in the White City, a few years ago. It was almost as boring, but involved a serial killer so at least there was some intrigue.

3. I put an outfit on Emily this morning, fully expecting it to be slightly on the big size since it's a 3T. I was a little saddened that it actually fits her nicely. The pants and sleeves are a little long, but the fit is still well. Also, I need to stop buying summer clothing. Our summer is 2 months. Mayyyyybe 3. But I can't help myself! These adorable outfits arrived in the mail yesterday:

I have no clue why Blogger wants to make this sideways, that's now how the original photo is. Anyway, just tip your head to the right. 

4. Emily looks like a dandelion most days. Seriously, girlfriend needs to grow some more hair. Right now she's kind of rocking a mullet. So, this past weekend I attempted to do something with her hair. It's too fine to really braid, so I tried to just use the daisy chain method to get her hair out of her face and into a relatively cute look. I think I did pretty well, if I do say so myself! Here's a cute picture of her before we went to a cousin's birthday party:
She looks so grown up! But hello short dress. This one will be going to the consignment store. I'm glad she got to wear it at least once though.

5. I'm really trying to reign in my food consumption and eat healthier. The holidays are always hard because there's goodies galore and who wants to be on a diet at Christmas? I use My Fitness Pal to track what I eat every day, and it also accounts for my exercise. Because I'm trying to lose a few pounds, my allotted calorie amount each day is a pitiful 1220 calories. Oh that is hard some days! But, it's all about making smart choices, and the website helps me stay accountable for what I'm eating. There are some days where I "forget" to put in a snack or so, but hey - sometimes you just need a cookie.

6. Pandora kind of rocks my socks. Literally. You can download the app on your phone, and listen to your own channels wherever you want. I know this is not new technology for anyone. I've even known about it for a few years. But I've recently started listening to it quite a bit more. I had a few Christmas stations, plus a Jason Mraz/Colby Calliat station. Today, I'm listening to classical music in my office. I needed a little quiet in my life today. And less talking. A lot less talking :o)

Anyway, that's what I'm up to and thinking about. Happy Friday!

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Not a real post...

...but I had to share that I got back on the treadmill today. Take that, Winter Blues!!

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

In a Funk

How funky is your chicken? Right now, mine is not too funky. I think I have a case of the January-blahs. I have not run in almost a week. I ate horribly last weekend. I feel very un-motivated and boring. Which is surprising because this month has been chock-full of good stuff. Book club, a fun work event, a fun work holiday party, a fun family birthday party followed up by my 2 year old dancing in a bar on a Sunday night...

There has been good stuff! That's what I need to focus on, the good stuff. I will get back on my treadmill. Not tomorrow, but definitely Thursday (I have a schedule people!) It will eventually warm up and we won't feel like hibernating quite as much.

So, here are some things I am looking forward to:

Today, some of my co-workers and I are going to stuff backpacks for the United Way's Buddy Backpack program. Basically, they send food home on the weekends with kids that may not get healthy meals (or any meals) when they are not in school. We are lucky and fortunate not to need this in our own home, but I think it is such a great service the United Way is offering to local families. Emily does get a free book every month through the Imagination Library program, sponsored by our local United Way. This is such an awesome national program that promotes literacy, and Emily loves getting her book every month. So I am more than willing to support the UW in return.

Tomorrow, the ladies that I work with are getting together to have a birthday lunch for one of our co-workers. We do this for all the girl's birthdays, but it's always nice to get together for a little while. We don't have a lunch room at our office, so usually everyone eats in their own offices or cubicles. Apparently my subconscious is very concerned about this because I have had several dreams about getting a lunchroom in the building. Very odd.

Thursday, we are having a company pizza party to celebrate the fact that our company raised over $10,000 in donations to the United Way through our 2014 campaign. For a company of just under 100 employees, I think that's pretty great. I also really like to eat and get free food.

This weekend, I'm going shopping! Not for me though, just for Emily. She's growing out of her 2T stuff, so it's time to start compiling a 3T wardrobe. I'm hitting up my favorite consignment shop, plus the mall with some really great coupons. Also, for the first time ever, I'm going to a "nicer" Savers (like Goodwill) to see what I can find. A lot of girls on my facebook selling sites find some really great things at their local Goodwill, Salvation Army, Value Village, etc. I'm hoping to score some good deals there!

So, January will soon be long gone, and we'll move on to more exciting things like Valentine's Day, our 5th wedding anniversary (holy cow, how did that happen!?!?), and Spring!!

Speaking of Spring, I will be running in the HOPE Springs 5K this April. This is a local race, and proceeds go to our local oncology patients for their daily expenses like gas, food, etc. So many cancer patients end up having to quit their jobs or go on unpaid leave during their treatment. This fund is really a great way to give these patients a little more HOPE! You can check out the race and donate on my personal page here.

Saturday, January 18, 2014

A Post for Meg

This post is dedicated to Meg Menzies, a fellow runner who was killed by a drunk driver on January 13th of this year. She was a mother, marathoner, and her life was cut short by some irresponsible idiot.

A Facebook site has been set up in her honor, and today people are running all over the country as part of the "Meg's Miles" movement. T-shirts can also be purchased here, all proceeds go to her family. She lived in Massachusetts, so I did not know her, but I will be running in her honor this weekend. Unfortunately, I have to run inside, but stories like these are a reminder for the rest of us to be safe.

Here are some running safety tips:
1. Run during the day when possible.
2. Wear reflective gear, even during the day, and bright clothing
3. Run without headphones, or at least with the volume low.
4. Run on the left side of the road. This way you can see oncoming traffic and act accordingly instead of having cars coming up behind you.
5. Bring a cell phone.
6. Run with a friend or dog.
7. Know where you're going, keep your head up, and look confident.
8. Do not take short cuts through woods or poorly lit areas.
9. Tell someone where you are going.
10. Carry mace, and consider taking a class on self-protection.
11. Always assume that drivers cannot see you. Let them go first..

There have also been too many stories about women being abducted and/or killed while out running. Some of these safety tips apply in that respect.

I will admit that I do run in the dark, early in the mornings for part of the year. I run alone. But I always tell my husband where I'll be, I always have mace on me, and I always carry my phone. I run familiar routes. I also greet people I see walking, running, and biking so that they know that I've seen them. This may be something I'm completely making up, but I feel like it makes me seem more aware of my surroundings and the people in them.

 I know that most of the women you see out running know these tips already. Sometimes bad things just happen. But being aware and remembering basic running safety can help keep us vigilant and not get comfortable in our surroundings.

Friday, January 17, 2014

Potty Training...or, How I Would Like to Send My Kid Away...or, Ignore This Post Because I'm Going to be "That Mom" and Talk About Potty Training

Part of being a parent means you do a lot of stuff that you'd rather not. Clean up puke & poo, watch Disney movies on loop, lose a lot of sleep, etc. It would be so much easier if kids popped out self-sufficient and with the knowledge of say, an 8 year old. Still plenty of time to teach things and enjoy "kid stage", but old enough to be independent and have a basic grasp of most life skills.

However, that's not how it works unless you adopt, and this is what I signed up for. Right? I know, I know, it is. For the most part, all of these things are well worth it. 99% of it. However...the time I spend hanging out in the bathroom are minutes of my life that I'm not getting back, friends. 

Ok, I know. All time spent with my kid is precious. Sure. Let's go with that. But, to be honest, I don't think potty training is fun nor do I love all the bathroom time we spend together. Especially when it's a battle of wills and there are tears involved. 

There are a lot of opinions on how to potty train your child. Let them tell you when they're ready methods. 3 day training methods. Cold-turkey-we're-not-wearing-diapers-anymore methods. I really, really, really, wish there was a method that involved sending my kid away and she would come back magically potty trained. Sort of like summer camp and doggy training camp rolled into one. But, I'm not so lucky.

We decided to try a variation of the 3-day method over Thanksgiving weekend. Friday morning, we all work up, told Emily that she was a big girl and got to wear underwear now, and hoped for the best. A big part of this method includes sitting them on the toilet or training potty every 1/2 hour or hour, not going anywhere all weekend, and rewarding them (bribing to some) with candy or stickers or whatever. We used candy and stickers. 

My daughter is pretty stubborn. I'm not sure where she gets that from (stop smirking), but we work with it. Soon into the first day though, she was over potty training and told us she did not want candy or stickers. But we held out and continued training. By the third day, every potty trip included major tears, lots of bribing, and little results. We had some wins, a few accidents, but overall the hubby and I felt that she most likely was just not ready. So be it. 

You know what, though? I am so ready to be done with diapers. That is a $36 investment that goes straight into the garbage every month. I am so ready to have my $36 back!!!

At this point though, we're kind of in no-man's land with potty training. We went back to diapers, and stopped pressuring her. She does have some successes now and then for #2 (cover your eyes if that's TMI), but #1 is completely off her radar. But there's hope! This morning, I put her on her training potty before I got her dressed and, despite some weak protest from Em, she went! I read a couple of books to distract her for a few minutes, and shabang! She was quite proud of herself and said "I did it! I get candy!".

So maybe there's something to this bribing thing after all...

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Book Review: Someone Else's Love Story

I probably sound like a broken record, but Joshilyn Jackson writes good stuff. Someone Else's Love Story is her latest novel, released back in November. I had to wait all the way until Christmas to get my hands on this book, but hubby surprised me with a signed copy. Ok, I admit, I was not all that surprised. I only sent him 43 emails with the links to buy the book. I was surprised by the inscription from Jackson on the inside.

Funny stuff! Ok, on to the review.

First of all, this book is so pretty that it warrants being mentioned. The jacket cover is shimmery and pretty. The birds and fireworks at first will not make sense to you, but they are in the pages. You just have to pay attention.

The book is about Shandi Pierce, who is a young mother trying to finish college and keep the peace between her slightly over-bearing mother, her father, and her step-mother. When step-mother Bethany finds out that Shandi's young son, Natty, has scored off the intellectual charts, she suggests that they move closer to Atlanta to have "better opportunities". We later find out that Bethany has ulterior motives for this move, but that's really subplot at this point.

The action really starts when Shandi and Natty are on the way to Atlanta, with the help of Shandi's long time best friend Wolcott, when they stop at a gas station because Natty is getting car sick. What seems like an innocuous event turns to a life-changing one when the gas station is held-up at gun point while Shandi and Natty are inside. There, they meet William, and Shandi says that she fell in love with immediately. William is handsome, but he is also large and tries to protect Natty from the gunman. Of course Shandi would start to develop warm feelings for him.

They make it out of the hostage situation when William clobbers the gunman over the head with a glass paperweight, but he is accidentally shot in the chaos. We learn that William was once married and had a little girl who died tragically in a car accident a year to the day of the gas station robbery. Now that he is living the bachelor life, Shandi takes it upon herself to be his nursemaid. She invites herself and Natty into William's home, cooking, cleaning, and caring for William in the hopes that he will start to feel something for her. She does go home every night though, when Paula comes over. Paula is William's oldest friend, a successful divorce attorney, and does not take kindly to the presence of Shandi at all.

The relationship dynamics in SELS is very interesting. William and Paula are two broken individuals, for their own reasons. You could almost say that Shandi and Wolcott are a younger version of them. Although, I feel like Shandi is probably the most normal of all the characters we see in this book. Paula is loud, opinionated and has an interesting past. We learn that William's social skills are zilch, largely due to his Autism/Asperger's. Wolcott is a bit flamboyant, and uses poetry to woo conquests and express feelings like a young want-to-be Shakespeare.

Another interesting theme in SELS is how Natty was conceived. It's actually a big part of the book, and I don't want you to think that I'm making less of it just because I'm covering this last. Technically, Shandi was a virgin when she got pregnant and delivered him. She has repressed the memories of the night Natty came to be, but ultimately comes to terms with the fact that she was raped. However, I'm not so sure that that was the case. Yes, she was taken advantage of, there is no doubt about that. But I think there are opposing ideas to how the conception can be perceived. Without giving too much away, I will say this: we are in control of our actions and must deal with the consequences of such.

There's so much more I can say about this book, but I don't want to give away the ending for you, dear reader. I want you to read Someone Else's Love Story and love it just as much as I did. Love it or hate it, but read it. Jackson has such a way with words that you really dive headfirst into this story. She doesn't pull any punches, and leaves you guessing until the end. If you do read this, please let me know. I'd love to hear what you thought!

Giveaway (and not a real post)

One of my favorite blogs, the Lady Okie, is doing a giveaway for a really awesome infinity scarf (handmade by her!) and a fun chalkboard cheese tray. There are tons of ways to enter, and you can also enter through the Dearest Love blog. Check them out!

The Lady Okie

Dearest Love

Go forth and enter!

Monday, January 13, 2014

Book'em Dano

I've decided to start adding in some book reviews to my blog. Mainly, it gives me something to talk about (here and in real life). Also, I read a lot. Ever since my Dad started bribing me to read with $5 bills at the tender age of 7 or 8, I've had a love of reading. Sadly, I don't get paid to read anymore (any takers? I could totally do this for a job!), but reading is still one of my favorite past times. Also, we have basic cable. I know it is far wiser to turn off The Bachelor and read something that is actually going to stimulate me rather than kill brain cells.

I think we covered this, but in 2013, I read 40 books. I won't give you the full run-down, but I thought for my first bookish post, I would cover the books from last year that I like and recommend.  Not every book I've read is both or either. Here's my list, chronologically:

11/22/63 by Stephen King - This was a fantastic book. Not a short read at 800 pages, but one that you won't be able to put down. King is most notable for thrillers, and while this is definitely a mystery, I assure you that it won't scare you. It shouldn't anyway. No guarantees. Basically, the main character finds a portal to go back in time where he can spend years in the past, but only spend 2 minutes of his real life. He's convinced by a fellow time-traveler to go back to save JFK from assassination. But he has to spend about 5 years in the past to do so. This is a page turner so worth your time; you will not regret this read.

Damned by Chuck Palahniuk - Damned isn't really one I'd recommend, but I liked it. The story follows a 13 year old girl, the daughter of a famous rock musician, after she OD's on marijuana and winds up in Hell. It's funny, and interesting in a train-wreck kind of way.

Jellicoe Road by Melina Marchetta - Jellicoe Road is one of those novels that is ethereal in some places, leaves you questioning what's really going on, and might even confuse  you. But you have to keep reading to get to the bottom of the story. Taking place in present day Australia at a boarding school with strange territory wars and seemingly no supervision, Marchetta weaves the past in to create a story literally unlike any I've read before.

Grown-up Kind of Pretty by Joshilyn Jackson - Jackson is one of my favorite authors. Maybe the favorite right now. Really, she can do no wrong in my eyes. In this novel, she gives you three generations of women all living together in a small town where secrets are hard to keep. Told from the point of view of a 15 year old girl who finds a small box of bones buried in their backyard, and occasionally from her stroke-silenced mother, you will not be able to put this one down until you learn their secrets.

Dark Places by Gillian Flynn - Gillian Flynn....need I say more? This is Flynn's second book turned film, expected to be released later this year. The main character is the sole survivor of her family's brutal mass-murder, except for her older brother who is in jail for the crime. Libby Day is wasting her life away when she meets "The Kill Club", who want to help her discover what really happened that night. Another page turner that you'll thank me for recommending!

Gods in Alabama by Joshilyn Jackson - Yup, Jackson again. This time we've got high school, football, the South, and possibly a murderous female lead who has sworn to never lie or fornicate outside of marriage again. Interesting, right?

Born to Run by Christopher McDougall - It should be obvious why I liked this book, but it really is an interesting read! McDougall chronicles a Mexican tribe that can run up to 200 miles a day, every day, for no other reason then they needed to go talk to someone. He gets into the science of the human body and why we were made to run, but in a down to earth way that any layman can understand.

City of Thieves by David Benioff - Set during the Nazi's seige of Leningrad, Lev Beniov is arrested for pick-pocketing a deceased soldier. Beniov is promised his freedom by the Colonel if he can find a dozen eggs for his daughter's wedding cake. Paired with a Lothario traveling companion, their harrowing journey will make you laugh and cry - sometimes on the same page.

So, those are my recommendations from my 2013 book list. I always have more, if you're looking for something to read. Stay tuned for 2014's reviews!

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Dressing My Kid (or how mama loves a deal)

You know they say "kids grow like weeds"? Well dang it all if they aren't right. Kids do grow like weeds. All wild and unpredictable. Then just when you think you've got a handle on them and they finally fit in what you've bought, they shoot up and suddenly everything is too short, or too tight, or a combination of both.

Now, we all know that I like to shop. But I also love a bargain. My mama didn't raise no fool. I'm not paying full price for anything. Especially my kids clothes. Do you know how expensive kids clothes can be? Stores like Gymboree and Baby Gap have cornered this market and are not letting go. However, there are ways around this. My top three are:

1. Coupons and clearance sections
2. Consignment stores
3. Online selling communities

1. Coupons and clearance sections - I pretty much only shop in the clearance section, or whatever is on sale. Since our winters are so long, it seems like sweaters and long sleeve shirts go on clearance long before Emily stops wearing them. Coupled with some good coupons, I can usually score some pretty good deals. One time I walked out of our local department store with over $200 worth of merchandise having only paid $48. That's a good deal if you ask me. Also, I think the sales associate that rung me up did something wrong, but I'm not telling.

2. Consignment stores - this one is a little tricky. Not every consignment store has good stuff. I do not shop at local consignment stores for a few reasons. The main two being that we only have four local stores to shop at:  JCPenney, Walmart, Target, and Herberger's. Now, Herberger's does carry Carter's and OshKosh, which are two brands that I like and fit Emily well. Technically they are the same brand since Carter's owns OshKosh. But my other reason for not shopping locally is that my idea of "excellent condition" does not seem to be the same as other locals. 'Nuff said. I have found a consignment store about 1.5 hours away that I love. She carries good brands in good condition, has excellent prices, and has a buyer-rewards program. Gotta love it.

3. Online selling communities - did you know these even existed? Mostly on Facebook, these are private pages dedicated to the buying and selling of brand-specific clothing. I personally belong to a few Gymboree pages, one Carter's, as well as my local children's clothing site. I may not want to buy locally, but I sure as heck will sell locally. Again, these can be tricky. They have their own rules and lingo, and it is best for a newcomer to stalk the page for a little while to get a grasp on things. Also, read the rules. Every page has rules. You break them, you're out. No if's, and's, or but's about it.

I have to admit that I was addicted to these sites. They seemed like such a gold mine at first. There are photo albums dedicated to the size you need, and prices are usually very good. However, after receiving things, I'm usually more disappointed than elated. Again, my idea of "excellent used condition", or EUC, is often higher than others.

I've been somewhat successful at selling my items on the national pages as well as the local one, so that's what I mostly use them for now. The national one can be a bit of a hassle because then you have to ship your items. But, using paypal to invoice and create shipping labels makes this easy peasy.

Sometimes though, I do hit the clothing jackpot. Here's Miss. Emily in a Gymboree outfit I bought via the Facebook site:
Original retail price for this total outfit: $77.00. I paid $25, or 32% of the original price, and these were all brand new or like brand new. The sweater and turtleneck still had the original tags on them. I'd say that's a pretty good deal.

Monday, January 6, 2014

Nice Things

I like to have nice things. Little things that make me feel slightly luxurious. Nice bath gel or lotion, a bottle of nice wine, pretty things to decorate my home. However, I have a two year old who clearly cannot differentiate nice vs cheap at the moment, nor does she care that nice things should stay nice. Sometimes I think my husband is of the same mindset.

I have to admit though, I am not the most graceful person. Actually, grace and I don't know each other at all. I drop things, I break things. Yes, even my nice things. For example, our pretty wine glasses that we got for our wedding. I had a set of 8 at one point. At my last count, we were down to 3. Yikes!

So for Christmas this year, I asked for new wine glasses. With the silent promise that I would treat them nicely and be careful. We don't have a dishwasher, so I have to hand wash everything anyway. I'll just be more careful when hand washing my future, new glasses.

Santa delivered, and bought me these lovely glasses, made in Italy. Santa only brought a set of 6 though, to see how I liked them. They are wonderful, and delicate, and beautiful wine glasses. I love them. But 6 is not enough should we ever have a dinner party, or for when we host Christmas dinner. So I bought a matching set of 6 in the larger version. The original 6 hold 11 3/4 ounces of wine. The new set holds 20 ounces. Whoa baby.

In my head, that's not a huge difference, but these bad boys are huge. Like, the bowl is as large as Emily's head.

Santa's gift on the right, gift to myself on the left.
These glasses are so tall that I had to rearrange my cabinet with all of our drinkware. For a long time, this cabinet held not only our regular drinking cups, coffee mugs, and hodge-podge of old wine glasses, but also an array of water bottles and koozies. Given all our indoor time due to the frigid weather we're having, I made it my mission to declutter this cabinet and give the new wine glasses a proper home. 

Mission accomplished. Don't they look pretty? I really think so. Also, the most important part: they are great for drinking out of.
A wine glass is always better when it's full. 
So, I am trying my hardest to treat these nicely, and to be delicate with them. I've got my fingers crossed that they will last for a long time. A long, long, long time...

Friday, January 3, 2014

Surviving Winter

Mark Dayton, the governor of the great state of Minnesota, has officially declared this the coldest winter in the last decade. 10 years? What did we do to deserve this? Also, apparently it is colder in Minnesota right now than it is on MARS. I knew I moved to a foreign and sometimes strange land, but I had no clue that Minnesota is an entirely different planet. 

This is what I wished our winter looked like. Pretty, no? Sunny skies, fluffy snow hanging from the trees. The catch is that when it does look this pretty out, the cloudless sky gives up all our heat like $2 hooker and the temperature dips far below normal. 

But we're surviving. Our furnace pretty much runs all the time and we wear a lot of layers. There is no partaking of outdoor activities for anyone. You run from your house to the car to give it a start and let it warm up, then run back into the house to minimize frostbite exposure. Wait 15 minutes. Run back to your car to drive to work, then run into the office building like you're being chased by a rabid T-Rex. Follow these steps backwards for the journey home. 

I'm still running, but on the treadmill. Or dreadmill...
Isn't this great? Pretty much how I feel. Courtesy of KathieOnTheRun
In attempts to not fall off on purpose and let my head bash in against the wall behind me out of boredom, I've started watching TV shows on the Wii while running, and movies for my "long runs" on Sundays. Right now, I'm in the middle of Season 2 of Revenge. A full episode is 43 minutes worth of running, so I add a few minutes on and that's about how long it takes me to run 5 miles. However, I'm only half sure of what's going on because I can't get the TV loud enough to hear everything clearly over the treadmill. But this morning I discovered subtitles!! Sometimes I'm a little slow on the uptake...

For motivation, I picked my first half marathon of the year, a trail race in the middle of the state called the Sour Grapes Half & Half. It's a trail race, so when the snow finally melts (May), I'll have to do a couple of trail runs or something. Although my first half marathon was on a dirt trail and I managed just fine with all road runs in training, so we'll see. 
This race originally began with some runners who were disappointed that they didn't get through the lottery system to run Grandma's Half Marathon (technically the Gary Bjorkland Half), so they created their own race. They literally had sour grapes. I love it! They limit entries to 500, as opposed to 4500+ for Grandma's half. A race that large kind of intimidates me, purely based on the logistics aspect. Having to get there, get to the right start, find port-a-potties, having something for Travis and Emily to do, getting home, etc. I like the idea of a smaller race much better. I'm saving my first "big" race for the St. Louis Rock n'Roll half marathon in October. I haven't registered for it yet, but there's still time. So, in the meantime, I booked a room at a fun hotel with a water park for the weekend of June 14th, and off we'll go! 

Now that snow just needs to start melting. It is January, after all. Spring has got to be just around the corner...

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Happy New Year! Also, a Little Reflection

Happy New Year to everyone out there in the blogosphere! I hope that 2014 brings you health, happiness, love and blessings. I have some exciting things planned for 2014, like a trip to Florida in the summer, running more races, and both Travis and I turn 30 years old this year. Ok, well I am not really planning that so to speak, but it will happen regardless of what I do.  But that's not until October so is neither here nor there. 

The end of the year is always a good time for reflection of what's behind you and what is to come. One of my favorite new blogs (new to me) "The Lady Okie" posted a "13 Things You Should Ask Yourself Before the End of 2013" post. Some of the questions align well with my resolutions to be more present in my daughter's life everyday, to enjoy her and love her and not take for granted the time that is passing. Also, to stay active, keep running, and maybe run another half marathon or two. We'll see. So, without further adieu, here's my Q&A:

1. What am I most proud of this year?
Definitely running a half marathon. But also, keeping up with the training and being able to work towards a goal that I thought was crazy at one point. I think I surprise myself with my own dedication sometimes, which is weird because all of my family members see me as a very driven and dedicated person. Maybe I'm too hard on myself in this regard?

2. How can I become a better ________?

Mother. I mean, Emily is definitely not lacking in love or anything here, but I can always be mindful of ways to improve. That's why part of my resolution is to just enjoy her. To be patient, to listen to what she has to say (which is normally funny and sometimes insightful, even for a 2 year old), to play with her and be a kid with her. 

3. Where do I need to allow myself grace?
I suppose in not giving myself credit. Mommy-guilt can be a hard thing to deal with, but I'm doing the best I can and that's nothing to shake a stick at. 

4. Am I passionate about my career?

Hmm, this one is probably a no. I wouldn't say that I'm "passionate" about being an assistant. However, I like my job. I like my responsibilities, the people I work with, the pay, the certain level of security that has been afforded to me. Not all jobs are secure, and this I know, but for now this one is moving right along. I'm ok with where I am at this point in my life. 

5. What did my finances look like?

They look ok. But of course, we could be saving more. It's not something I want to put down as a resolution, but something I will be mindful of in this next year. 

6. How did I spend my free time?
Mostly be running and reading. This year, I read 40 books. 40! Can you believe that? I'm not even sure how it happened. One was an audiobook, so I'm not sure if it's fair to count that one. Another one was only 70 pages or so. Still, even 38 books is pretty amazing. Goodreads has a cool goal setter and keeps track of all the books you read if you put them in. Here's my year in literary review

7. What projects have I completed?

Big projects? Hmm, well we repainted our family room, then tackled our dining/living room combo. I also did some small projects with Emily. Then there was that whole training and running a half marathon project. 

8. In what ways can I restructure my time?
I could probably spend less time on the internet. Facebook to be specific. 

9. When have I felt the most alive?
Usually at the end of a race. Even a 5K. Crossing that finish line and seeing my family cheer for me is an awesome feeling. 

10. How can I improve my relationships?

I think that focusing not only on being present with Emily, but also with my husband is important. Making an effort to talk more over dinner and after the munchkin goes to bed. I'd also like to have more day dates so that we can reconnect as a couple.

11. What lessons have I learned in 2013?
That I am strong. That patience really is a virtue and it takes practice. That I can do anything that I set my mind to, unless a certain 2 year old's mind is set a different way and then we need to compromise. 

12. What old habits would I like to release?
Taking for granted that my family will be there. Also, stealing his side of the bed. But not the covers. 

13. What new habits would I like to cultivate?

Living more joyfully.