Monday, January 31, 2011

January - Goal Update

Can you believe that January is already over? I sure can't! Even though the work days seem to drag by, time still seems to be flying!

The last day of January seemed like the perfect time to reflect on how I'm progressing with the goals I've set for myself for 2011 (plus a few I added along the way) and also how I'm doing without the 11 things my life doesn't need in 2011 (probably one of my favorite #reverb10 posts!).

Goals Accomplished!

Personal Training - A week or so ago, I finished the 8 personal training sessions The Hubs got me for Christmas. I had a really awesome time learning new workout skills and techniques. Even though I hated being pushed by the trainer while I was in a session, I always felt so accomplished afterward. When it came time to sign up again, the trainer was pretty hard core about getting me to continue, but the true cheap skate in my passed. I feel like I shouldn't let money stop me in my training goals, but just the thought of dropping $600 - $1000 for a month or so of sessions is really hard for me... We'll see where this goal goes for the rest of the year. For now, it's transformed into a resolution to get into the gym 4-5 times a week and doing both cardio AND weights.

Take a Trip - Although we haven't yet gone on or even planned a big trip for this year, I DID spontaneously plan a trip to San Luis Obispo this past weekend. It was a great way to unwind after what was a crap work week for me. It is amazing how even a short trip recharged my battery, even if it was only a little bit. I think it is probably the reason for me not coming into work today crying my eyes out (which happened pretty much every day last week!).

Avila Beach - Jan 2011

Take a Class - I took a meditation class in the beginning of the month, which I really enjoyed. I do however need to find more time to practice what I learned. I would like to take a class a month, if possible, so I need to start doing research into what classes are available in the topics I want to study.

Buy Stuff - The Hubs and I bought an area rug for the living room...a small step in the right direction (see before and after below). We still need curtains for the bedroom and a TV console, but research has begun in at least one of these areas.

Living Room - Before
Living Room - After

New Habits Started

Flossing! - I started flossing twice a day at the beginning of the year and I'm happy to report that the habit has stuck! I did skip over this past weekend since we were on vacation, but I got right back on the wagon last night and this morning. It is amazing how quick of a task flossing really is and how much cleaner your mouth feels after!

Making the Bed Daily - I had read on BlogHer awhile back about changing up your morning routine for a better day, so I thought I would start by making sure the bed was made every morning. It takes a little bit of extra time, but I have found that if I start making the bed, The Hubs will usually help out making the process a lot faster. I love that it makes the room look clean and less chaotic. I need to get a habit like this started in the kitchen by dealing with the dishes sooner rather than later!

I haven't had soda all month! It has helped that we haven't had any available, but I do know that The Hubs has some in his truck. I almost caved yesterday and had one, but stopped myself before I even had The Hubs go get it.

I have been fairly good about not using plastic bags at the grocery store. I've been better at remembering to bring in my reusable ones or I go back to the car to get them if I do forget. One hard part has been remembering a reusable bag when I go to the drug store or to the mall, places where I don't normally bring them in. I ask for no bag when I have a few things that I can just carry to the car, but this is hard to do at the mall when a bag is necessary if you are going to continue shopping around. Plus, you don't want people thinking you are stealing things. I'm not quite sure how to deal with this part of it yet...

Celebrity blogs are no longer on my blogroll, but I do occasionally peruse them when I need some mindless thing to do.

Cursing and harboring animosity are still things I'm working on getting rid of, as they are harder habits to break, but I have been trying to be more aware when I find myself doing either one of these things...

I'm still working on getting rid of the other 8 things. I either haven't had time to get to them or they are substantially harder to do.

I am very proud of what I've done so far, although I still have a long way to go and quite a few goals to accomplish and things rid myself of for the rest of the year. Writing this has reminded me of what I want/need to accomplish to make my life brighter and to be a happier person (which is sometimes lacking these days...).

For those of you still reading this, thanks! I love that blogging makes me accountable to all of you for keeping on top of myself to continue growing and accomplishing!

How have all of you done on your resolutions/goals so far this year?

Friday, January 28, 2011

Hiking with the Pup

Last weekend, The Hubs and I thought it would be a good idea to get out and enjoy the beautiful weather. The Hubs had done some research and really wanted to go on a hike in Big Sur at Pieffer State Beach to see some amazing waterfalls. However, he also sorta wanted to include The Pup on our little outing. After a little more research, it was decided that dogs were not allowed at these beaches in Big Sur because of the the endangered snowy while plover (whatever the heck that is!).

I then remembered that our friend Teresa had just posted a blog about a hike they went on with their dog up in Marin. So we decided to head up to beautiful and dog friendly Marin to take The Pup on his first hike around Phoenix Lake.

Phoenix Lake is located in the small town of Ross at the Mt. Tam Watershed.

We attempted to park in the small parking lot that was at the entrace to the park, but it was SO crowded, with additional cars just parked waiting for the next open spot. We decided to park outside the park about a mile or so on the street. This allowed us to get a closer look at the beautiful tree-lined street with HUGE houses on it that led up to the park.

We're not the best hikers, so we basically just walked in about 1.5 hrs in and then back (since our car was parked in a 3 hr spot). It was really nice to enjoy the peace and quiet and just be among nature.

The scenery was awesome. There was moss on almost every tree and a little stream that ran alongside the trail.

The Pup was SO excited about this new adventure. He would keep pulling on the leash and sniffing everywhere we went (even on the way back!). His tongue was hanging out so far and he was excitedly breathing the entire time!

He was very well behaved though and met some nice pup friends along the way. We did cross paths with a tiny little pug who was very rambunctious for being so little. Rusty was afraid of him (scaredy cat!) and criss-crossed his leash around my leg causing a bruise I just noticed yesterday! (Some watch dog!)

One of the best parts of going on the hike...  This is what happened when we got home.

We had a great time on our little adventure and decided we needed to take spontaneous day or weekend trips more often.

So in the true spirit of this idea and because after the week I had I NEEDED a get away, I decided yesterday (which is SO not like me) that we would be going to the happiest (and one of our favorite) place in America this weekend. . . San Luis Obsipo! We won't be taking The Pup on this trip though, he'll be babysat by Grandpa and Uncle Michael!

Hope you all have as fun of a weekend as I hope we have! :-)

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Workin' 9 - 5 ... NOT!

Make it more like 10am - 9pm.

It has been only two days of "who knows how many" of my new work schedule. Limited equipment during the day has basically forced me to shift my hours in order to get things done. And instead of just leaving instructions for those who work at night, I am required to babysit to make sure things are done right. The experienced people who would not need as much instruction are only available during the day...but again, with no equipment available, I'm stuck!

I'm forced to get as much done as possible in a short period of time causing me to work even longer and subsequently later into the night. It sucks...especially when things on the project I'm working on don't turn out as planned.

But you know what is hands down the crappiest part?? Not seeing The Hubs.

Yesterday, by the time I got home, The Hubs had already left for a late night job walk (It was for Bart, so 10pm - 4am was the only time no trains were running.) This morning, I woke up and left before he got up. Then this evening, I got home and he was already in bed. 

My dad works swing shift and my mom always complains about it. I would tell her that it can't be that bad. He's able to get stuff done in the morning that normally wouldn't be able to be done at night. I'm eating my words now because it really can be that bad! It is REALLY hard to get anything accomplished before 10am, especially when gym time is in order!

I'm trying to look on the bright side, but it's difficult.

Do any of you or your spouses have crazy work schedules? How do you deal with it? Can you see any silver lining to this situation?

Monday, January 24, 2011

"Adventures in the Kitchen - Dessert Edition" - Chocolate Cabernet Molten Lava Cakes

It's been awhile since I've written an "Adventures in the Kitchen" post and I actually have 3 lined up in my drafts with meals I've made weeks ago! However, I couldn't wait any longer though to share this latest recipe I tried...

Now I know this dessert is not the healthiest and definitely not Weight Watcher friendly (which I have been loosely following...and I do mean loosely...I really need to get back on the wagon...), but I have been wanting to make individual molten lava cakes at home for over a year.  The Hubs and I ate at least one lava cake a night while we were on our Honeymoon cruise to Mexico and they were the most delicious things ever - cakey on the outside, gooey chocolaty goodness on the inside.

For the past year, not having the right size ramekins has always prevented me from attempting to make these, but since my mother-in-law gifted me with 12 perfectly sized 4 oz ramekins for Christmas, I now have no excuses.

So when one of my best friends who moved to London last year was in the US for a visit, I figured what better time to try whipping these up.

Here's the recipe which I got from McCormick (yes...that's the spice brand and no, I didn't use their spices!):

Molten Spiced Chocolate Cabernet Cakes

4 ounces semi-sweet baking chocolate or 3/4 cup of semi-sweet chocolate chips
1/2 cup (1 stick) butter
1 tablespoon Cabernet Sauvignon or other red wine
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup confectioners' sugar
2 eggs
1 egg yolk
6 tablespoons flour
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
1/8 teaspoon ground cloves (optional) 

Since I didn't have any baking chocolate on hand, I found a conversion online where I could substitute 3/4 cup of chocolate chips instead. (Sidenote: I was really proud of my improvisational skills here!)

Microwave chocolate and butter in large microwavable bowl on HIGH for 1 minute or until butter is melted. I ended up softening the butter first, so it was already a little melted when I put it in the microwave.

Use a whisk and stir until chocolate is completely melted.

Then add the vanilla extract, red wine (We used a Rutherford Cab. Rutherford is our favorite winery!), and confectioners sugar.

Once combined, stir in 2 eggs and 1 egg yolk.

Finally, add the flour and spices.

Butter the ramekins and then evenly divide batter into them.

I then put the filled ramekins in the fridge. I took them out 30 minutes before I planned on baking them. I then  baked at 425°F for 13-15 minutes. The cakes were done when a toothpick came out clean near the edges, but it was loose and jiggly (a technical term of course).

Let the cakes sit for 1 minute and then use a knife to loosen the edges.

I placed a plate on top of the ramekin, then quickly flipped it over to remove the lava cakes. I sifted a little powdered sugar on top for presentation and then served immediately with ice cream.

Cooked just perfectly!! Doesn't it look delicious!!!

I must say that these lava cakes are WAY easier to make than I thought. A gourmet looking (and tasting) dessert in under 30 minutes! However, if I were to make these over again, I think I would omit the cinnamon, ginger, and clove spices. Being a chocolate lover, these spices totally overpowered the chocolate and Cabernet flavors.

I will definitely be making Lava Cakes again soon!

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Valence, Valence on the Window

Don't you sometimes wish that pieces of your home would be like the "Mirror, Mirror on the Wall"and tell you what would be the loveliest decorating choice of them all?

I know I do! I definitely do NOT have a knack for decorating and design. No matter how many times I review the tips Sherry and John give over Young House Love or how many HGTV design shows I watch, I am still indecisive on what to actually do with the blank slate that is our home.

Out of all the rooms in our house, our bedroom seems to be the one that is closest to being "done".

We found a great piece of art to put over the bed... that we both agreed on! Kris finished putting up the crown molding (although we are still debating on what color to paint the ceiling - white or a gray that makes the molding pop).

Here's a picture of our room (Ignore the non-existent crown molding corners! They are there now!):

All that's left seems to be finding curtains, a couple more pieces of art for the walls, and a sconce for my side of the bed. (I want a sconce so that all my bedside table space isn't taken up with a lamp.)

Curtains have been the HARDEST thing to decide on. I'm pretty sure that I want a valence, as the room isn't that large and I don't really want anything too heavy. Plus, we have an odd corner window that is right next to the bed that would make long curtains a challenge.  The problem is finding a pattern or color that will look good with our dark blue bedding. Do we go with a contrasting color, a similar color, or maybe just white? The Hubs and I have done lots of searching in stores and online and even bought a couple of curtains to try, but nothing looks quite right.

Here's another couple of pics of our windows...

So since I know that there are lots of amazing designers out there, help a sister out!

Does anyone have any recommendations for curtain colors or patterns that would look great in our space?

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Lookin' for a Quick Getaway

The Hubs and I are not ones to take elaborate vacation (although it is a goal to getaway more in 2011).

In addition to my severe fear of flying, I'm a saver. A saver of both money and vacation which are both necessities if one want to get away for awhile. (As a sidenote...can anyone guess what I'm saving for?? Maybe for someone who isn't even a twinkle in my eye yet?? hehe :-) )

This has led me on a search for more weekend getaways that are close to home (within a few hours drive), but won't break the bank. We live in the San Francisco Bay Area which has so many beautiful places to see (and many of which we haven't explored), but since many of these spots are still "touristy", hotel prices are never cheap.

Some areas I've thought of going...

Close to Home

Good ol' San Fran -Can you believe this Bay Area native has never walked or even driven across the Golden Gate Bridge? I think it's high time that The Hubs and I make it to that part of the city which is NOT BART accessible!

Sonoma - A little less pretentious (and expensive) than Napa, but with all benefits of wine, food and a cute downtown.

Downtown Sonoma, Napa, United States
This travel blog photo's source is TravelPod page: Napa and Sonoma County

Big Sur - The Hubs just mentioned going to Big Sur, so I'm thinking we may go out there for a day trip this weekend (The weather is supposed to be AWESOME!). Big Sur is a beautiful place where you can just get away from it all. There are excellent hiking trails to see amazing waterfalls.

A Little Further Away

Avila Beach - The Hubs and I both went to Cal Poly San Luis Obispo, so this would be sort of like being in our old stompin' grounds, but a little more adult. We could then go into SLO to hang out and visit my sister who now goes to school there.

Tahoe -I still really want to go snowboarding this winter (although I hate driving in the snow). I'd really like to stay and play at Squaw Valley USA, as it looks like there is SO much fun stuff to do right at the resort without having to leave. Too bad it's expensive though...

Any locals out there know of some fun fairly local destinations that aren't too expensive? Know of any hotels that are nice, but reasonably priced? This girl needs a getaway!

Image Sources: ladybugbkt, Bryan_TDestination360, Aparajith

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Inspiration for Women in the Workplace

I had been meaning to post a link to the awesome Ted Talk I watched given by Sheryl Sandberg, the COO of Facebook. I figured now would be a great time, after my post yesterday on my struggle with figuring out how to have a Career and a Family.

I always love hearing women who have successful careers talk about how they managed having a career and a family. Now, I know that in most cases like this, these women are so successful that they have all the help (and money) they need in order to manage. However, I am still inspired to hear them discuss what they learned when they were navigating the career/family situation.

In this talk, Sheryl discusses why there are not more women leaders in today's corporations and governments (including how much harder it is for women to have families and be in positions of power.)

If you can't play the video, here is a summary of the three messages that women need to tell themselves and their daughters if you want to stay in the work force and make it to the top. (Hopefully, you can watch the full video because so many of her stories and the studies she sites are SO interesting. She also has some very poignant quotes.)

1.) Sit at the table. ~ Women underestimate their own abilities and don't negotiate for themselves in the workforce. Women attribute their success to others, their team or luck. "No one gets to the corner office by not coming to the table. Own your own success."

2.) Make your partner a real partner. ~ Households with equal earning and equal responsibilities have half the divorce rate and it helps allow women to stay in the workforce if they choose to.

3.) Don't leave before you leave. ~ When women start thinking about having families, in some cases even before they are engaged, they often times have already put their career advancements on the back burner. Sheryl's advice... "Keep your foot on the gas pedal until the very day you need to take leave for a child."

I must say that I REALLY connected with her last statement. I have found that even over the past few years, before I was engaged, before I was married, and before kids had even been on the radar, I was already thinking 5, 10 years down the road and making decisions (especially career wise) based on what might happen in the future. Not taking that promotion because it would be too much work when I have kids, not taking that job because the commute would be too far when I have kids, not taking that trip because I MUST save up all the vacation I can for maternity leave when I have kids. My goal should really be to "Keep my foot on the gas pedal." although that is hard for a planner such as myself!  It is exhausting creating a life now based on a life you plan on having, even though you don't know when that new life will start. Pun intended! :-)

What do you think of Sheryl Sandberg's Ted Talk? Do you agree/disagree with her message? Have you found any other Ted Talks you find especially inspiring?

Monday, January 17, 2011

Career v. Family - How can you have both?


**This was a post I'd written a couple of months ago and I was waiting for a little more readership since I'm really looking for input on how other women deal with these types of questions.  I figured now was as good a time as any to finally hit publish!**

The Hubs and I have started the conversation about when we think we'll be ready to start a family.  Being that he's in no rush, but not really opposed to starting whenever, that leaves the ball in my court to decide when to get things rolling.  A BIG DECISION!

Being an engineer, I tend to over analyze anything and everything.  Once my brain starts going on a tangent, there is no stopping it.  To top it off, I'm a huge planner and a bit of a pessimist (My friends may say I'm more than a bit of a pessimist, but we'll leave that topic alone for now!).  So this decision, which is SOO important, has pretty much consumed me!

I know for sure that I want to have children and I always thought  that I would have my first before I was 30.  Being that I'm 28 now, that date seems to be looming closer than ever.  At the same time, I don't want to ignore my career potential.  I've got an advanced engineering degree and am a good worker who always strives to be successful and better myself whenever the opportunity arises.  When I think about starting a family though I think about all of the obstacles that I face when these potential career opportunities come up and how I will be able to achieve that work/life balance.

** Will the company be upset that I want to take time off to be with my baby?
** Will I be passed up on potential opportunities because of this? 
** How will I schedule these things when I have NO idea how long it will take to even GET pregnant? 
** What will I do with the baby once he/she is here and I have to go back to work? I'm afraid I'm going to miss important milestones in my baby's life if I'm working all the time!
** How do I decide on daycare and how will we pay for it all??

On the other hand, I don't want to totally focus on my career and forgo family.  My biological clock is ticking. I know that women are having children later in life, but I also know that fertility declines with age.  I worry that I will be the one that has trouble getting pregnant. I just don't want to have any regrets!  I want to have my cake and eat it too!

I'm really interested to see how other working mothers and mothers-to-be out there are dealing with this ever present dilemma, so feel free to share this blog post with others who may have some insightful thoughts on this situation.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

My Personality DNA

I saw this Personal DNA Test on Kimberly Michelle's blog. I guess it was all the rage on Twitter the other day, but I must of missed that series of tweets. I think I must have been caught up in the "What's your new sign?" craze.

This new personality test intrigued me since it was supposed to be more "scientific" than the traditional Myers-Briggs personality test. In the Myers-Briggs world I'm an ISFJ - Introversion, Sensing, Feeling, Judgment - just like Mother Teresa! I'm sure those of you that know me are like "Mother Teresa? Whaaatt?" Haha!

I had such fun taking this test! There were the traditional questions, similar to Myers-Briggs, that you judged how much you agree or disagree with a statement on a horizontal scale. There were other questions though where we were asked to judge two different, but related items on both a horizontal and vertical scale or rank how much a variety of statements applies to you out 100% (simulated as a tank you need to empty!).

I took the test fairly quickly so that I didn't have too much time to over analyze my answers and....

Drum roll please...

I'm a...

(For some reason the pretty picture isn't showing up in Google Reader, so head over to the actual post to see how colorful my personality is supposed to be!

I completely agree with the REALIST part. All of the following traits totally apply to me!

~ Your attention to detail, appreciation of how things function, and awareness of the world around you make you a REALIST.
~ Routines are reassuring to you—you feel safer and more at ease when sticking with familiar things. 
~ You like to stay close with those around you, seeking comfort from familiar faces.
~ You are interested in processes—how things work, what they do, and why—not just how things look. 
~ Sometimes you doubt that you can find solutions to problems, although you have a good sense of why things happen, and can use that knowledge to find the best way to do something. 
~ You are down to earth, concerned more with practical, detail-oriented things than with dreamy or ambiguous ideas.
~ You have a good sense of your abilities and weaknesses, and don't let your ego get in your way. 
~ You're not one to force your positions on a group, and you tend to be fair in evaluating different options. 
~ You prefer to have time to plan for things, feeling better with a schedule than with keeping plans up in the air until the last minute.

However, I don't agree with the BENEVOLENT part. I'm a nice person and all, but don't feel like I'm the type of person who looks for opportunities to go out and be benevolent. There must be something about myself that I'm not seeing though since the Myers-Briggs test also thinks I'm like Mother Teresa. Here are some of the traits associated with benevolence:

~ You are a great person to interact with—understanding, giving, and trusting—in a word, BENEVOLENT 
~ You don't mind being in social situations, as you feel comfortable enough with people to be yourself. 
~ Your caring nature goes beyond a basic concern: you take the time to understand the nuances of people's situations before passing any sort of judgment. 
~ You're a good listener, and even better at offering advice. 
~ You're concerned with others at both an individual and societal level—you sympathize with the plights of troubled groups, and you can care about people you've never met. 
~ Considering many different perspectives is something at which you excel, and you appreciate that quality in others. 
~ Other people's feelings are important to you, and you're good at mediating disputes. 
~ Because of your understanding and patience, you tend to bring out the best in people. 

Did anyone else take this test and feel it was a little bit off? Or did you think the test characterized you perfectly?

Friday, January 14, 2011

The Worst Part of Personal Training

As you know, getting a personal trainer was one of my goals for 2011. The Hubs helped in making this goal a reality by getting me 8 personal training sessions for Christmas. I'm already having session 6 of 8 this afternoon. These sessions go by SO fast when they recommend that you have two a week! I guess that's the way they make TONS of money, since they are almost $60 a pop!

All in all, I've really loved personal training so far. It's an awesome feeling to work harder in the gym than I normally would and to have something to really focus on. I often find myself so focused in a particular exercise that I don't even notice the trainer counting out the reps or time. It's also been great at keeping me motivated to hit the gym on my off days (although the last couple of days I've been a slacker because of this cold I have).

Something I was NOT expecting is what has become THE WORST part of personal training. To me this item/exercise is probably the most painful part of personal training and I have yet to see its real benefit. I'll need my PT friend Marilee to fill me in on what the REAL benefits are, cause right now I'm not sure all the pain is worth it!

What is this item that I dread each and every time we start a personal training session???



I swear, the first time I had the foam roller "done" to me by the personal trainer I thought I was going to die.

When he first brought the foam roller over, I thought that it was some sort of prop used in yoga and that it would be a soothing exercise or stretch. I'd seen others use it with ease and thought it would be great to learn how to use this new tool. Boy was I wrong!

Since I had no idea what I was in for, I thought my trainer was just making idle chit chat as I laid on my side for what I thought would be a nice massage of my outer thigh. Instantly, I knew this was NOT going to be fun. I seriously thought I was going to cry. He would ask me where it hurt and then proceed to push even HARDER on that spot for 30 full seconds. He kept telling me to take deep breaths and to think about something else, but I swear all I could think about was "Holy hell this hurts! Is this supposed to be preparing me for labor?" (The later was probably my first thought since I've had baby on the mind as of late...).

I've done the foam roller a few times myself and it is never nearly as painful as when the trainer does it, although I do think I'm getting more used to the weird sensations of knots moving strangely in my leg and giving me charlie horses.

I do think that my great hatred of the foam roller puts me in the minority of those who use them. It seems to be a tool that athletes commonly use, especially runners. I'm hoping that it just takes some getting used to and that sooner rather than later, I'll start to reap the benefits of this evil stretching technique!

Have you tried the foam roller? Do you love it or hate it?

Image Source: Power Systems

Thursday, January 13, 2011

"The Best of BH&G" - Awesome Declutter Tips

Every month, my mom gives me her Better Homes and Gardens and Sunset Magazines for me to read and look through. Most of the time, I look at the huge stack and think, "What am I going to do with all those magazines? I don't have time to read them."


However, being the great knowledge seeker that I am, I can't let all the wonderful information go to waste!  I'll typically scan through each magazine and tear out the articles that I liked best or that I wanted to take something away from them. But then, what to do with all those torn out pages? I never end up looking at them again and they end up getting scrunched into drawers or thrown away!

So I decided, how about I just summarize the best parts of my favorite articles and blog about them, hence the birth of "The Best of BH&G" and "The Best of Sunset"! That way I can easily refer back to the information WITHOUT taking up space in my house and you all can benefit from the information, as well.

From the latest Better Homes and Gardens magazine, I enjoyed an article that provided tips on how to declutter areas of your house this new year. This article couldn't have come at a better time, since I've been trying to make a conscious effort to get rid of things and reclaim more space in our house.

So without further ado, here are some of the tips that applied to me and that I found most helpful:

BEST Declutter Tips from Better Homes and Gardens - Jan 2011

#3 ~ When you're trying to decide whether to keep something, ask yourself three questions: Do I love it? Do I use it? Could someone else use it? Claire Kurtz,

#7 ~ Relegating a sentimental item you no longer have use for to a box in the closet, basement, or attic does nothing to honor it. Instead, take a photo of the item and put it in a scrapbook or load it on your digital picture frame. Then donate the item. It's both space-saving and respectful. Scott Roewer, professional organizer

#8 ~ Each spring and fall, do CPR on your closet: Categorize, Purge, and Rearrange. Carefully consider each item. If it doesn't make you feel wonderful or look fabulous, it's a no. Put it in the "to donate" box, and put that box in your car right away. Debbie Lillard, author of Absolutely Organized

#10 ~ I spend a few minute every night before bed restoring order to my purse. I remove all trash, return floating change to my wallet and replenish tissues and business cards. It makes me feel ready to start the day.
Claire Kurtz ** I've been trying to do this one daily and it seems to help.**

#18 ~ Fit a cardboard banker's box with 13 pocket folders. At the end of the school year, go through your child's artwork and school papers together to select only as many favorites as will fit in one folder. Memories from an entire school career will fit neatly on the shelf. Julie Morgenstern

#21 ~  Is your linen closet overflowing? Pare down your stock to three towels and washclothes per person, two sets of sheets per bed, plus a set each for guests Voila! A roomier linen closet. Laura Wittman

In the spirit of the article, I decided to take Tip #21 to heart a couple of weekends ago and transformed our linen closet from this...

to this...

It may not look like much to you, but wow! Having all of the towels and sheets folded and organized properly makes them so much easier to get in and out of the closet! We'll see how long it will stay like this... It's been about a week or so and things are still in order.

Do you have any awesome decluttering tips that you would like to share with all the "clutter bugs" out there?

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Dream, Believe, Soar!

Over the weekend, I attended a retreat at the East Bay Mediation Center that was focused on discovering your life's purpose. I found out about the event from my friend Teresa who knew I had been struggling with finding excitement and passion at work. We both had tried signing up for the retreat in December, but were both wait listed. It wasn't until Friday, the day before the event, that we both found out we were in. (We later found out that there were 80 people who were wait listed! Guess it was meant to be that we got in!)

Now at first I was skeptical and a little apprehensive about attending. I know that mindfulness meditation is an excellent way to curb anxiety and stress. With all of the self help books I've read over the years, I knew how mediation works with deep breathing, clearing your head, and allowing yourself to recognize thoughts that come into your mind with no judgment and then letting them pass. I'd never meditated for more than a 5-10 minutes at time though, so I was a bit intimidated about attending this all day event. I was really afraid that I wouldn't fit in.

I was SO surprised when I got to the event and discovered that the attendees were from all walks of life, of all ages, and most of them were NOT the stereotypical "hippie" that my mind automatically conjured up. Instead it was a group of people who I identified with! People who weren't happy in their current careers, who were reluctant to make a change for fear of failure, and some who also had issues with anxiety. These people were like me! How comforting to know that I am NOT alone!

My favorite part of the event was where we explored our dreams by reflecting on what things or activities in our childhood brought us joy and put a smile on our face. We formed groups and were required to talk for 4 minutes each about whatever came to mind. At first this seems like a LONG time to talk, but once I got started I remembered more and more things that I hadn't thought about since I was a child.

I remembered that I loved reading. I loved reading so much that I would read textbooks, even when it wasn't required. (Below is evidence of my love for reading a book upside down when I was barely 1 year old!) I loved going to school and was upset anytime I was sick and had to stay home. I loved learning new things and worked really hard to master any subject I was studying. I realized these are things that I still love doing today, although I don't really get to do any of them daily.  Now I'm going to try to find ways to incorporate these loves either in my work day or in other activities I choose to participate in.

What was more interesting were the things I had not remembered I loved....

When I was younger, I was bossy, REALLY bossy, so bossy that my Kindergarten teacher told my parents that sometimes it seemed like I thought I was the one running the class. I liked being a leader. I loved dancing and performing in front of groups of people. I was the girl who always want to do solos or duets, even if I wasn't the best dancer in the class. While remembering these things, I realized it seems I have lost these "loves" as I've gotten older. I now shy away from being a leader and although I still like getting up in front of people it is not with the same level of inhibition as I did when I was younger. After contemplating why this was, I think it has to do with being conditioned over the years to know the sometimes HUGE consequences of failing when being a leader or in a high profile position. I also don't want to look stupid in front of a group of people. My fear of failure has caused me to step back both in my professional and personal life and not take risks that I might have taken when I was younger, something I really want to address in 2011.

We also practiced visualizing what it is we think we'd love to do if there was nothing stopping us and we fully believed in ourselves. We explored our fears and what was holding us back from truly soaring. The fears activity was intense as we partenred up and required to ask our partner continuously "What are you afraid of?" and only respond to their answer with a "Thank You" for 7 minutes straight! It really caused each of us to get deeper to the root of all of our fears.

Now I don't think I found my life's passion in this one day retreat, but it did give me a lot to think about and provided me with some excellent techniques for exploring my core values - the first step to finding your passion. I also learned more about mediation and hope that I can continue use mindfulness as a way to deal with my common overreactions, constant worry, and stress.

Have any of you tried meditation? Did you find it helpful in either dealing with stress and/or anxiety? Have you used meditation as a method of finding your core values and determining what you were really meant to do?

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Wishful Thinking All Day Long!

Here's our second of four opportunities to have a day full of wishes. (I forgot about New Year's Day since I was caught up with the holiday and all...)

Wish Days

I'm allowing myself to wish REALLY BIG at 1:11 am/pm and 11:11 am/pm, since the power of the 1's collides at these times.

So what am I wishing for??

For Today
A good work day that flies by and where I feel accomplished.
To take things as they come and look at all challenges as learning points.
To learn something new and interesting.
To take a little time for myself to read, meditate, or do whatever I feel like doing - for myself.

For Forever
To find what I am passionate about.
For patience with my family (including The Pup), my friends, my coworkers, and myself.
For positivity to flourish in me and worry to subside.

I'm sure I could think of TONS more, but that will do for now. If I only got a fraction of those wishes, I would be happy!

And now that I've shared, I'm curious... 

What are you wishing for??? 

Leave a comment since sharing our wishes propels them into The Universe and helps make them come true! Teachings courtesy of The Secret! :-)

Image Credit: We Love It

Monday, January 10, 2011

Holiday Cards - Remembering and Reusing

Sorry, I haven't written in a few days. Getting back into the swing of things at work and around the house after the holidays has taken its toll on my energy level. I have a lot of fun stuff to share though, including my thoughts on a great meditation class I went to on Saturday!

But for now, I FINALLY was able to get around to finishing a project that I wanted to do with the holiday cards we received.

This Christmas we got quite a few holiday cards from our friends and family. I think a lot of this had to do with the fact that we sent out our own holiday cards to most of our wedding invite list. Throughout December, the cards have adorned the entryway to our kitchen.

Now that the holidays are over and the decorations had to get put away (so so sad if you ask me), I wanted to figure out a way to save and/or reuse them.

I decided that I would do one of two things with them...

The personalized photo cards were compiled into a 2010 Holiday Card Scrapbook, with The Hubs and I's Christmas card at the forefront. I'm hoping that if we continue to receive the same types of photo cards from these families in the future, that we can see how not only our family, but the families of all these other special people in our lives has evolved over time. I've also included the cards of special family members including our parents and grandpa.

Here are some pictures of just a few of the pages:

I was really happy with the way it turned out!

For the remainder of the holiday cards, I tore the front part of the card off and plan on using it as a postcard to send holiday cards to either our troops or to the needy during the next holiday season. I've seen this reuse idea on the internet in many places (too many even to reference them all). I haven't written on the cards yet, as I need to do a little more research to determine if there are any postcard size restrictions and if it matters whether the post card is horizontal or vertical, but I figure I have a whole year to figure that out. For now, the postcards are in one of the sleeves of the scrapbook so I don't lose them!

I'm hoping to keep this tradition alive year after year, so that will have a book of Christmas memories that we can share with our children and grandchildren some day.

What do you do with your holiday cards after the holidays are over?  Was anyone else sad to see the decorations go down, but somewhat happy that the house could somewhat return to order?

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Working Out for Better Work Days

During this first week of 2011, I have been really trying to be productive at work, breathe through any over reactions I feel coming on, and generally stay upbeat. Tuesday and most of Wednesday were great. I got a lot accomplished and felt good about the work I was doing. I thought I was off to a good start!

Then yesterday afternoon, I was confronted (...well at least that is how it felt) about a mistake I had made on a BRAND NEW system we are implementing. I had to drop everything (which at the time was another important project) to not only fix the mistake, but also admit out loud that a mistake was made. I really didn't see why that was necessary, but I admitted the mistake (probably more sarcastically then I should have...), said I would fix it, and tried to breathe my way through the situation so I wouldn't cry.

Needless to say, I thought about the incident all day today creating a constant negative playback in my head. Every meeting I was in I felt like I had to be on the defensive so that I wouldn't feel attacked again. In the end, I am afraid that instead of sticking up for myself and speaking my mind, that I came off as rude and abrasive. I think sometimes I'm over compensating for trying not to get emotional (i.e. crying) in difficult situations. Up until recently I never said anything and would just go with the flow. That got me (and my projects) nowhere. However, I'm not sure that my current method is any better.

Even though I was in a terrible mood and really just wanted to go home and curl up in bed, I had to go to a Personal Training session after work that I had already scheduled. (I'll post more about how my butt is getting kicked during these sessions after I've had a few more! So far I'm loving it!)

BUT WHAT A DIFFERENCE A WORK OUT MAKES! For two hours, I was able to just focus on myself and concentrate on the muscles I was training and I was able to get in a great cardio workout while listening to TV and playing on the internet. I swear I was in SUCH a better mood afterward. It was like night and day!

I'm going to try to take this positive feeling into tomorrow and try to get back to where I was at the beginning of the week. I'm also going to try to see if I can figure out a way to practice speaking my mind in a less "snippy" way.

Do any of you have any tips on how to speak your mind in an assertive way without being snippy and/or overemotional? Do you find that working out after a rough day (even when you REALLY don't feel like it) helps turn your mood around?

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Kindle Woes

On New Year’s Eve, I went to go read my Kindle for a bit before dinner with The Fam and was SHOCKED to see this:

Broken Kindle
A small section of the screen was now BLANK! I couldn’t believe it! I had just read the Kindle the day before at lunch and everything was fine!

My Kindle 2 was only 5 months young. There shouldn’t be anything wrong with it!

Since The Hubs bought my Kindle at Target, I wasn’t sure whether I should go there or call Amazon about getting a replacement. I opted to call Amazon since it still fell under a 1 year limited warranty.

Amazon customer service was really helpful and quickly had another Kindle shipped out. I was so excited that they didn’t give me any trouble, that I FAILED to ask whether I would be getting a new Kindle (a KINDLE 3!!) or another Kindle 2.

Turns out since I have had my Kindle for more than 30 days, I would be getting a REFURBISHED Kindle 2. I was NOT happy! For $200 bucks, this thing should have lasted for more than 5 months with NO issues! I did ask if my warranty restarted with the new Kindle and Amazon said that it did. If ANYTHING goes wrong with this new Kindle (which I just got today), I WILL be asking for a NEW Kindle and will not settle for anything less. I’m crossing my fingers it won’t come to that though!

Has any one else had any problems with their Kindle? Did you end up getting a refurbished one too?

Also, has anyone read Outlander, by Diana Gabaldon? I feel like I’ve been reading it FOREVER and am only 77% done. I don’t want to quit now since I’m SO close to finishing, but I’m eager to start The Help!

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

"Adventures in the Kitchen" - Turkey Meatballs

For, the next installment (and first of 2011) of my "Adventures in the Kitchen" involves a recipe I've made before and is healthy and delicious!

These Turkey Meatballs are courtesy of my favorite gal, Oprah!

Ingredients (Serves: Makes 15-20 meatballs)
  • 2 lbs of turkey (I used 1.25 lbs and kept everything else the same)
  • 1 medium onion - chopped
  • 1/2 red pepper - chopped
  • 1/2 green pepper - chopped
  • 3 cloves of garlic - chopped
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 Tbsp. bread crumbs
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 1 tsp ground pepper
  • Olive oil or vegetbale oil
  • Flour
Directions (with a few modifications)
Heat oil in a skillet. Use just enough oil to coat the bottom of the skillet.

Add onion and stir briefly, until almost yellow.

Add red pepper, green pepper and fry for 2 minutes. Add garlic and stir for 2 minutes.

Remove skillet from stove. Let cool for 10 minutes

Mix together turkey, eggs, salt, pepper, sautéed onions and peppers and bread crumbs.

Place flour on a large plate to help create the meatballs. I use a tablespoon to grab some of the turkey mixture.

I place the turkey mixture on the flour and move it around so there is flour on all sides.

I then take the mixture into my hands and form a ball. I add flour as necessary to keep the shape.

These meatballs may break apart some since there are pieces of bell pepper and onion in them. (Don't worry! They still taste great!)

Oprah chooses to fry each meatball in the skillet until slightly brown, pressing the center slightly to ensure it is fully cooked.

I choose to place a piece of parchment paper on a shallow baking pan. I bake the meatballs at 400°F for 25 minutes. I flip them halfway through with tongs so that they brown on both sides.

Here's the finished product:

Once done, I served with pasta (whole wheat medium shells is our FAV), pre-made red sauce, and canned corn.  Leftovers are eaten in a sandwich or just by themselves (the Hubs LOVES to dip them in BBQ sauce.)! Bon Appetite!