Tuesday, January 15, 2019

Resolutions Galore

Cheers to the actual New Year, but also
to round five of monthly resolutions!
For the second year in a row, I started my New Year's Resolutions in September and with the intent to tackle one resolution each month, rather than following the more traditional route of starting January 1st and attempting one or two resolutions over the course of the year. I gave "themed" resolutions a try during the first month, but quickly learned that I need more flexibility than the category system could provide and went back to choosing resolutions as they come to me and according to what I feel I need to work on as each new month rolls around.

I didn't share updates on my November and December's resolutions (as individual posts) because I resolved to do the same things in 2018 as I had done in 2017, but I'll include those updates in this post. So here we go - an October update, November and December recaps, and my January plan!

January Resolution(s): first, write for at least one hour a day. This seems like kind of a silly resolution, since I consider myself a writer and all, but it surprises me how often I get to the end of the day and find that despite accomplishing quite a bit, none of those accomplishments include making significant progress on my assigned posts and articles. Second, complete Emily Ley's 2019 Simplicity Challenge. I'll share more about this process next month, once I've worked my way through it start to finish, but in a nutshell, it's a series of one-a-day steps that can be accomplished in 15 minutes or less and together add up to achieving a more simplified life. You can read about the Challenge on the Simplified Instagram page if you'd like to give it a try!

December's Resolution: read to my kids every night. I resolved to read to my kids every night last December as well; doing so happens less and less as they get older and I wanted to "make" myself get back into the habit of snuggling up next to them and either reading to them or letting them read to me. I loved the precious moments we spent together - and losing ourselves in all of our Christmas books - so I brought this resolution back for a second round. How did it go? Reasonably well. I would estimate that Hallie and I read together two out of every three nights, and Will chose to join us for about half of those read-aloud sessions. As was my goal last year, I am doing my best to continue these reading sessions in January, even though our nights have become both fuller and later.

November's Resolution: write in my gratitude journal daily. Doing so has been my November resolution for the last few years, and because I love intentionally documenting one thing for which I am thankful every day between November 1st and Thanksgiving Day, I kept the tradition alive. How did it go? Quite well! I missed a couple of days as usual, but upon realizing I had done so, and because I remembered the days I accidentally skipped with relative clarity, I was able to go back and update my gratitude journal.

October Resolution: use what I have, specifically beauty and skincare products, makeup, cleaning and household products, and food in my pantry and freezer. I had so many freebies, sample-sized "gifts with purchase", and full-sized products purchased at the recommendation of others, and because I wanted to start streamlining what I buy and use in each of these categories, I decided the time had come to "use it or lose it". How did it go? Incredibly well! I used up multiple lotions, shampoos, conditioners, body washes, makeup and perfume samples, and chapsticks. I tossed lots of items that had reached the end of their lives or surpassed their expiration dates. And I donated a bag of unopened samples, set aside a box of assorted products for my next garage sale, and still have a couple of brand new, unopened, full-size products available. (Anyone need Lemongrass Spa Anti-Aging BB Creme in medium or Pure Haven Essentials Tinted Moisturizer in beige?) I continue to use up the last of a few different bath and body products I have on hand, and expect to be fully cleaned out in a month or so!

September Resolutions: sleep seven hours every night; play with my kids, husband, and friends; and manage my social media stress. How did it go? I did well at tallying seven hours of sleep a night - I think I only missed the mark three times, and none of these nights were because of simply staying up too late. Second, I did horribly at (officially) playing with my kids, husband, and friends because...I completely forgot about this resolution, which perfectly demonstrates why I can only have one resolution each month. I did play with the kids, go on a date with Tom, and go out for dinner and drinks with friends, but not once did any of these activities remind me that I had pledged to do more. And third, I did moderately well at managing social media stress. I unfollowed quite a few people and sources and sites that regularly made me feel worse rather than better, and I added a few to lift my spirits.

Did you resolve to change anything about yourself or your life this year? Last month? This coming month? How are those resolutions going?

Friday, January 11, 2019

High Five for Friday (1.11.19)

One
As a little girl I couldn't sleep over at friends' houses. I would panic as soon as others began drifting off, I think because I was afraid to be the only one awake in the house. I tried as hard as I could, both to fall asleep and then to stay calm when sleep eluded me, but eventually I would give in to the tears, find the mom of the house, and ask her to call my mom to come pick me up. This happened quite a few times, until I reached the sixth grade and successfully stayed over at the home of an extremely good friend with whom I could be honest about my sleepover challenges.

Fast forward to Will and Hallie sleeping over at friends houses; both had their first sleepover around age seven and neither have ever had a significant problem. Until last weekend... While we (me and my friend/Hallie's friend's mom) are not entirely sure, we think Hallie fell asleep around midnight but then woke up a little later - after a long enough "nap" that she couldn't fall back asleep - and started to panic. My friend did her absolute best and went above and beyond to help Hallie through her crisis (at 2AM!!!), but Hallie cried so much that eventually she started to feel sick and there was just no saving the night. I picked her up at 3am, took her home (where she still couldn't fall asleep for another hour), and wrote that sleepover off as bad luck.

The high five in this lengthy story, you ask? Friends who do their absolute best and go above and beyond to help your kids through their crises, especially when those crises happen at 2am.

Two
While Hallie slept over attempted to sleep over at her friend's house, Tom and I took Will to College Station's new Brazilian steakhouse. I didn't really want to bring Hallie (I knew she wouldn't eat anywhere near enough food to justify how much it costs to basically just walk through the door), so her playdate on an otherwise leisurely Thursday night created the perfect opportunity for us to take Will out on his own. Tom and Will both tried all 10 cuts of meats, and I think I tried eight, about six of which I enjoyed. I liked the massive salad bar more than anything else though, so if we ever return, I would consider purchasing only that...along with a glass of their delicious Riesling, of course.

Three
Tom and I enjoyed our last weekend before we headed back to work/school (with the exception of the last two hours, but that's another story for another time), but Hallie's weekend took the cake: on Friday she and two friends went indoor skydiving in Houston, on Saturday she got her ears pierced (again), and on Sunday she jumped her heart out at our local indoor trampoline park. Minus one tweenager snafu (yet another story for yet another time), Will also had a great weekend: he had two friends over on Friday, met two friends at the park on Saturday, and went to another friend's house on Sunday. High five for a fantastic finale to our winter break!

Four
We kicked off our second semester with a pretty full week, so as much as I love soccer, I couldn't help but appreciate that Will's spring season doesn't start until this coming Monday. The extra week of slightly less crazy evenings helped us get ease back in a little more smoothly!

Five
Happiness Highlights
Tux and Will had a bit of an altercation (while snuggling, someone
scared Tux and he caught Will's face as he tried to escape - this pic
was taken after I used liquid skin to close the injury back up 😬), but...
...within a few minutes they forgave each other like best friends do.
The many gingerbread houses we built and decorated in Wisconsin
are now being enjoyed by the hungry squirrels scurrying around my
parents' yard. So fun to make, so fun to "dispose of" after the holidays!
Lunch and ice cream out with these two cuties!
Last but not least... While at the library, a little girl - probably about
four years old - walked up to Will and invited him to attend her puppet
show...and he did. It was such a small and simple act of kindness, but I was
ridiculously proud. (And the little girl's mom was extraordinarily grateful.)

Happy Friday, friends!

Linking up with High Five for Friday here:

Tuesday, January 8, 2019

Monthly Medley: December 2018

Writing
I have articles in the December and January issues of Texas Living Magazine, have knocked out five short articles for the neighborhood magazines to which I recently started contributing, and started writing my first article for Roots and Lace. December was a good month!

Reading
I read - and enjoyed - The Lying Game by Ruth Ware. I have heard her novels described as psychological crime thrillers, and while this story started off a little slow for my taste, it definitely picked up speed throughout and ended with a satisfyingly massive bang.

The kids and I visited the community library in Bryan on a dreary day last week, so all three of us are once again stocked and ready to delve into our fictional worlds!

Watching
Fuller House, anyone? I just adore this show, both because it brings back such fond memories of my own childhood (eating pizza, drinking orange juice, and watching TGIF with my family on the hide-a-bed every Friday evening) and because Hallie loves watching it with me.

Beyond Fuller House, we watched mostly our holiday favorites in December: Home Alone, Home Alone 2, Elf, and...Clue. It wouldn't be Christmas without a viewing of our favorite murder mystery, and this year's showing was particularly fun because we let Will watch for the first time.

I just realized I haven't watched Love Actually yet this season...I'll add that to my to-do list for January.

Listening To
I find myself in something of a holding pattern with my podcasts right now - I'm caught up on almost all those I listen to regularly, and I haven't yet found a new winner. My list of podcasts to try includes Homecoming, Casefile True Crime, and A Murder on Orchard Street.

As a quick summary, and to remind you of the podcasts I like in case you are currently shopping for something new... I'm caught up on and waiting for new episodes of the stories Gone, The Phenomenon, and Lake Clarity. I'm caught up on and waiting for new episodes of This is Love, Criminal, and Young House Love Has a Podcast. I've listened to all three seasons of Serial, the first season of Cover Up (not sure of the status on a second season) and the one season story, Deadly Manners. I enjoy both For the Love with Jen Hatmaker and Mama Bear Dares, but I don't listen to every episode or follow either podcast chronologically.

Wearing
Anyone else having a hard time transitioning back to regular clothes after Christmas break? I wore (almost exclusively) pajamas, leggings, sweatshirts, and athleisure attire for two weeks straight, and having to put on clothing with zippers and buttons made me a little sad.

I picked up these deeply discounted athletic shoes at Marshall's in Madison over the break. They are perhaps more fashion-oriented than fitness-oriented, but with the addition of my arch support inserts, I know I'll be able to wear them for at least a few miles at a time.

My sister bought me these Stella and Dot earrings for Christmas, and they're just so fun - what a great idea, creating one product that can be worn so many different ways!
Each part of each earring is reversible so they can be assembled
and worn with quite a few different layering and color combinations.

Trying/Using
As I do almost every late December, over Christmas break I reignited my love for puzzles. With a little help from others here and there, I finished three 1,000-piece puzzles, one of which I plan to hang onto to assemble again next December.
This one was so hard!

Eating/Drinking
As I mentioned in my Christmas Recap post, I did A LOT of baking in December...and many of those recipes ended up in the winners column. Here are a few that went over well with my people!
  • Laura Bush's Texas Governor's Mansion Cowboy Cookies I cut both kinds of sugar by a 1/2 c. and left out the pecans because I wasn't sure of the recipients' allergy profiles. These cookies baked a little flatter than I like, but the flavor was amazing.
  • Soft and Chewy M&M Cookies Once again I cut both kinds of sugar, this time by a 1/4 c. I don't usually like M&M cookies myself, but these tasted better than I thought they would and were a huge hit with the kids.
  • Cream Cheese Sugar Cookies I cut the sugar by a 1/2 c. but otherwise followed the recipe exactly. Another hit, with kids and adults alike.
  • Red Velvet Chocolate Chip Cookies The only change I made to this recipe was using dark chocolate chips instead of semi-sweet chocolate chips. Will prefers dark chocolate, so I thought he would like the cookies better with this slight adaptation; I was right, and he ate more than his fair share.
  • Nothing Bundt Cakes Copycat Red Velvet Cake I also tried this red velvet cake recipe, using milk chocolate chips instead of semi-sweet chocolate chips. Don't make this change unless you have to (my mom only had milk chocolate chips and it was too late on Christmas Eve to go to the store), as the milk chocolate chips melted into the cake - rather than holding their shape - more than the semi-sweet chocolate chips would have. The chip switch didn't affect the flavor though, and the cake disappeared quickly on Christmas!
  • Orange Fanta Cupcakes Last but not least, I made these orange Fanta cupcakes for Hallie's Mini Company Director's birthday celebration. (Each time the recipe called for Crush I used Fanta instead.) I didn't eat one myself, but two people who did told me these were the best cupcakes they'd ever tasted. I made slightly different frosting - using half butter and half cream cheese instead of all butter - which I think really sealed the deal.

Feeling Good About

How as your December? Anything fun or new to share?

Friday, January 4, 2019

High Five for Friday (1.4.19)

One
Home again, home again, jiggity jig! After spending a week in Wisconsin with my parents, sister, bro-in-law, niece, and nephew, we returned home to Texas last Sunday. We had a wonderful visit, but were excited to get home to see our best buddy.
Tux must have REALLY missed us while we were gone if he
was willing to hang out on Hallie's shoulders when we returned...

Two
It might sound kind of silly, but I have to send a high five out to our mail carrier. We held our mail while in Wisconsin, so when two packages arrived at our house via another delivery service, our mail carrier knew we wouldn't be home to bring them inside. She picked up the packages, took them back to the post office and put them with our held mail, and called Tom to tell us what she'd done. She then delivered the packages when she brought us our regular and held mail on the day we returned to town. We have mostly bad luck with the post office itself (for example, last summer we held our mail while in Wisconsin and they lost it - all nine days of it - and we never got it back) but our mail carriers are the absolute best.

Three
For a number of reasons we celebrate Christmas a second time - just the four of us and in our own house, in front of our own Christmas tree - once we return to Texas. We eat Mexican food and watch a Christmas movie on "Christmas Eve", and then on "Christmas morning" the kids open the gifts we couldn't take with us on our earlier holiday travels (usually their "big" gift and books, which are often too difficult and heavy to ship affordably) along with a couple of family games and a few more stocking stuffers. After presents, we make breakfast, lounge around in our pajamas, and eventually go for a family walk or bike ride, this year to try out Hallie's new scooter!

Four
Soon after Second Christmas, the holiday decorations come down. As much as I love putting up Christmas, I also love taking down Christmas. I need to start the New Year with a clean slate, and for me, a clean slate includes a clean and organized house. It feels so good!
Tom and I tackle a number of projects on/around
January 1st, including replacing air filters, changing
lightbulbs, and cleaning all of the light fixtures and
ceiling fans. We both love when we're all finished!

Five
Speaking of the New Year, we had a great time counting down 2018 with friends. Cheers to 2019!
Cheers!
This picture makes it look like the kids were calm
and quiet throughout the evening. They were not.

Happy Friday, friends!

Linking up with High Five for Friday here:

Wednesday, January 2, 2019

2018 by the Pictures

The paragraphs and statistics are no doubt valuable, but as the saying goes, a picture is worth a thousand words. Here are about 52,000 words worth of pictures - one picture for each week of the year - and a non-chronological glimpse back on 2018 through the lens of my camera.

That was actually 62,000 words worth of pictures...I couldn't narrow it down. 😉

Farewell, 2018. Bring on 2019!