Month : December 2010

Health and Home: Goals for 2011 (Part 1)

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About this time last year, I proclaimed my goal of "Health" for 2010.

While there have been some disappointments – I didn't lose as much weight as I wanted to, I had setbacks due to shin splints, I battled pneumonia for six weeks this summer and lost a lot of ground – I can still happily say that I made progress overall, and significant progress at that…so let's focus on the good things, shall we?

GOOD THING #1:

I am truly committed.

In January, I joined a gym – the single best decision of my year. According to my membership records, I visited 117 times this year. Considering I did nothing during the month and a half I was sick this summer, did a fair share of my spring/fall workouts outside when the weather was nice, and have also been working out at a separate yoga studio, I think this is a real victory. Gym workouts alone count for 1 in every 3 days of this year. Money well spent? Definitely.

GOOD THING #2:

I've pushed myself out of my comfort zone, and in more than one way.

This time last year, I got up the nerve to walk into a hot yoga class. Thank God I did – I am addicted and it has become one of my favorite workouts – excellent for strength, meditation, and flexibility. I signed up for my first 5k – scary! But it was just the goal I needed to push myself to keep running. I didn't run the race time I had hoped for – but that is what will propel me to work even harder before the next race in 2011. I got into the lap pool. As a way to offset my aching shin, I tried swimming for the first time since my sixth grade swim team experience. After about four laps, I thought I might puke I felt so out of shape and I was convinced my arms were going to fall off. But I kept at it, motivated by the fact that it was so damn hard, and now a typical swim workout (every Monday night!) consists of a solid half hour of non-stop laps.

GOOD THING #3:

I'm seeing some results.

Maybe it's not the drastic results I was initially expecting, but when I go to my annual physical next week, it will be nice to see that the numbers will have improved over last year. My weight is down, and all numbers effected by this should be better as well. I may not be down a full size as I had hoped to be, but the clothes that were tight before are definitely fitting better.

GOOD THING #4:

I feel hella better.

I used to experience an almost-daily crash around 3pm. The LAST thing I wanted to do was drag my butt to a gym rather than drive straight home after work. I won't say there isn't an ocassional day like that still, but they are far less frequent. I feel stronger, and more in control, both mentally and physically. I like knowing that if we're traveling, or going out to eat, I can still make the health thing work by squeezing in a workout and having the willpower to avoid the fried section of the menu. When I'm in the middle of a workout, I can literally feel the spike in energy level as opposed to this time last year.

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All in all, a well-met goal, and one to keep working at in the coming year. As always, no set numbers – no particular weight, race time, or number of gym visits – just continue to work towards a healthy lifestyle. For me, the specifics of this will be continuing to attack the food side of things (sugar is the weakness), and incorporating some kind of activity during the nine-hour workday (currently much too sedentary). Here's to even better health in 2011…stay tuned, 2011 Goals: Part 2 ("Home") is up next!

note to self…

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…Liz, you regretted not doing much holiday decorating this year. In 2011, set aside time to do it all out!

While I've prided myself this year on leaving time for everything like wrapping and baking without being too crazed, that is in part because we knocked out the tree and some basic decorating all in one evening, kept it simple, and called it good. While it was efficient and nice to only have the red and green plastic tubs all over the house for a mere 24 hours, I missed the process of going room by room and holidayifying (yep, just made that a word) each one. I like taking time to really play and try some new things instead of the "this goes here…just like last year" approach which I defaulted to this year.

Next year, I will do more than a single tree and a simple centerpiece. And not because I feel like I scrooged by not doing it, but because now that it's the week of, I MISS having all of the trees up that we usually do, and feeling that extra glitz in each room. Now that I've had a little time to get caught up on my reading/surfing, I see so many fun things on blogs and retail websites that are inspiring me. I've been bookmarking like crazy, and next year, I will have plenty of inspiration to work from.

For now, I'm enjoying my lovely tree and this centerpiece I keep neglecting to blog about. Very simple, easy to set up/clean up, but it makes me happy. (And those candles look very ivory here – they are snowy white same as the runner in real life – what gives, camera??)

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There are certainly upsides to keeping it simple this year – for example, I only spent a mere 4.95 on the diamond confetti from Pier1, and that was the only house-related holiday item I bought all season! (Okay, so we did replace our tree, but that was a must). There's also the consolation that taking decorations down this year will be a blissfully simple and quick task because there just isn't much to pack away.

I will do more of this type of thing next year. And here's a sample of that bookmarked inspiration I was talking about. I'll be drawing on this come Christmastime 2011….

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sweet treats: holiday 2010

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It was so fun to log some serious hours in the kitchen this past weekend. It has been such a busy month that I haven't been able to do much cooking or baking – both of which I truly enjoy, but only when I have the time to really dig in and enjoy the process without being rushed by the clock.

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First up were the classic sugar cookies. After reviewing my list of recipes, and knowing I wanted to focus my energy on the decorating part of these, I opted for ready-made dough (yep! cheater!) and zipped ahead to cutting out shapes and icing them. I did much less red and green this year and instead opted for non-traditional colors like blizzardy light blue and nutracker ballet pink. 🙂 Here are a few of my faves…

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Next up…dipped delights. I made a stack of Ritz peanut butter cracker sandwiches and tore into a bag of the holiday peppermint Oreos. Oreos were dipped in white chocolate (which I later colored to various shades of pink keeping with my nutracker color scheme hehe) and the Ritz sandwiches were dipped in milk chocolate. I like the peppermint oreos for something a bit more festive and holiday-ish, but they are SO rich with the white chocolate, I think next year I will swap back to regular Oreo cookies. They do make for a lovely bite though with that pinky-red filling! I didn't do as many dipped items as last year because I had so many other sweet recipes I wanted to try but in previous years, I have dipped giant marshmallows, Twizzlers (sounds weird, but SO good), and pretzels.

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My two new sweet recipes this year came thanks to the HyVee Seasons publication that showed up in my mailbox. I LOVE this little mini-mag that the grocery store chain puts out every other month. Not only are the recipes delicious, but they always are accompanied by excellent packaging and entertaining ideas. The first of these recipes is for Chocolate-Espresso Cookies. (shown above – photo by HyVee). I loved everything about this idea – I'm a sucker for chocolate – and when infused with a little coffee to bring out the flavor it's downright heavenly. I also loved the packaging idea. I could literally smell the coffee beans looking at this glossy photo and knew I had to give this one a try. I found some boxes very similar to these at Target, and here is my version of the finished product. 🙂

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My final recipe will have to wait until we get back from our holiday travels. I am going to be making these Raspberry Triple Chocolate Cupcakes for a gathering of friends on New Years Eve. Also courtesy of HyVee, I thought this recipe was perfect for a party – makes several bite-size servings and raspberry + chocolate = can NOT go wrong. 🙂 Here's a preview of how they should turn out…hopefully mine look the same come the 31st!

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I will never again complain…

…about my small townhouse kitchen.

More than a few times this year, I have sighed in annoyance that I don't have enough pots and pan storage, that the pantry is too awkward and small to get things in and out of, and that the lighting leaves a lot to be desired.

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Photo from Apartment Therapy

In your holiday rush, IF you have the time – check out this micro-sized kitchen. Seriously, this is the tiniest (but functional somehow!) kitchen I've ever seen! I thought I was looking at a bar at first, but oh no – this is her WHOLE kitchen…within a – get this – 170 square foot home. Crazy!

All of this leads me to one of my "resolutions" if you will, for 2011.

I am not big on resolutions – rather, I prefer general goals to improve. I don't like to set exact numbers or concrete outcomes that either do or do not equal success. To me, the success is in making the effort to start a journey, take on a new outlook, and in general, make steps toward a happier, healthier life. I am pleased with the progress I've made on my goal of "Health" for 2010 (which I will write about in a later post and plan to repeat again in 2011) – but another goal for this coming year will have to do with "Home".

Because we rent, and because I know we won't be here forever, and mostly because I get frustrated with the limited space I'm working with, I have not put much effort into our home this year. Any projects to do with decorating or working with what I have on hand tend to fall to the bottom of the pile. I have virtually NO storage, so I don't do much switching out with the seasons. I don't do much painting because ultimately, there will be a round two of painting it all back when we leave.

However, when I look back on the things I DID do, it gives me great satisfaction – to the point where I'm wondering why I don't do more, since I enjoy the outcome so much. I did give our bedroom a much-needed facelift this spring, and almost every single day I think at some point about some element in the room and how much I enjoy it, or how glad I am that I did this, or did that. Therefore, my "Home" goal for 2011 will be to tackle a few projects that I otherwise might have poo-pooed in the spirit of "Eh, we won't be here much longer, it doesn't even matter". More on the 2011 goals, soon….and pictures/recipes from a weekend of holiday baking! 🙂

 

t-minus 8 days until Christmas…

It's eight days until the 25th and I'm ticking through the holiday things I want to get accomplished. Aside from reading this post about my Grandma's fabulously decorated home and wishing I had abandoned my theory of "keeping it simple" in the decor category and gone all out this year, holiday progress is being made on all fronts.

My problem is that every year I want to totally immerse myself in the holiday and do it ALL which for me, means doing it all….ALL OUT. I've realized that you just can't do it all and keep your sanity, so I've made my peace with my simple decor (which will be oh-so-easy to take down come January), and have focused on putting my creative energy into tasks that seem much more "manageable" right now.

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First up it was gift wrapping. Next up….a run to the store for some supplies to take on BAKING. The key to this is that the more I bake, the less of it I myself will eat. 🙂 So family and friends be warned…some sweet treats will be gifted your way very soon!

I will be back at the end of the weekend to show off my sugary creations and hopefully share a successful new recipe or two! 🙂

 

it’s better to give…

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One of my favorite holiday tasks this month has been shopping for our office's adopted family in need. The family has three children – a 12-year-old girl, a 2-year-old girl, and a 3-month-old boy. We've been collecting clothing items and toys from the wish list provided by the mother, and will drop off the wrapped packages to the coordinating center tomorrow morning. Personal shopping fun aside, it has been so good to focus on a project where the recipient really NEEDS the items being received (some of the most basic being socks….SOCKS for crying out loud). The whole experience has been humbling and centering amid all of the "for fun" giving during this season. So happy to be working with a company that is more than willing to take projects like this on and provide enough leeway that we can make a significant impact for this family.

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On a similar note, Page and I recently listened to the audiobook of President Bush's Decision Points while on the road for Thanksgiving. At one point, President Bush quoted a phrase I have heard many times before: "To those whom much is given, much is expected." Fueled by this idea, Page and I felt compelled to add some less fortunate recipients to our own holiday shopping list and have purchased a handful of goodies for Toys for Tots. We've never stuck with any one holiday charity, but we love that this one in particular benefits children – more specifically, children of those who are serving/have served our country. It was fun to shop for kids – we don't often get to. I just hope we picked out some decently cool, "in" items. 🙂

Do you participate in any charitable giving – time, gifts, or otherwise? I would love to hear about it. Don't you just love the season of giving?

ugly sweater party resourcefulness.

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So here was the situation. It was a blizzardy Saturday, and the Smiths had no ugly Christmas sweaters to their name. The party started in a mere few hours. What to do?

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The answer: Play opposite day. Make signs, dress to the nines, and get ready to party!

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As it turned out, we weren't the only ones who didn't go the traditional sweater route (phew!). As you can see here, where Page is posing with Buddy the Elf, and Eddie from Christmas Vacation (where is your moose-shaped mug of eggnog, Eddie??)

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This pic is one of my faves from the night – Julie meticulously fixing Eddie's hat, while Eddie sips from a leopard-print Baggolita koozie.

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Boys….

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…plus girls….

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…plus Julie's famous Jello shots equals one fabulous Christmas party. 🙂

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Hope your holiday season is progressing merrily!

it’s a wrap: part 2 (Check!)

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It's official. The last two gifts arrived/were picked up this weekend and I did one more marathon wrap session. EVERYTHING – I repeat – EVERYTHING is wrapped. Can I get a halleluiah?!

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Getting very excited to give all these gifts away to their new owners 🙂

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