Friday, December 28, 2012

8 Tips for Sticking to Your New Year's Resolutions


Let's look at common New Year's resolutions:
  • Lose weight/exercise more/eat healthier
  • Quit smoking
  • Spend more time with family/friends
  • Save money/get out of debt
  • Learn something new
  • Volunteer
These are also the New Year's resolutions that people usually forget about within 6 weeks of the start of the new year. So, what can you do to help you get on track and stay on track with self-improvement?

SweetGreen Dupont Circle by Elvert Barnes, Flickr
1. Make a better list of New Year's resolutions. You know what's missing in that list up there? Specificity. How much weight? How much money? How much time? Quantify the list and make sure it's realistic. 

2. Along with specifying quantity, make a plan that involves micro-actions (term borrowed from Tammy). On a daily, weekly, and monthly basis, how will you be working towards accomplishing the Big goal? Consider forgetting the resolutions altogether and make a list of tasks rather than Big Goals. For example, "Bring my lunch to work every day" is a smaller task that you can focus on more easily than the Big Goal. Even better: "Learn to make fun Bento boxes to take to work," is a great micro-action that gets your mind off the Big Goal while still working towards it. 

3. Make sure your resolutions are goals you really want. Duh. It might be that what you want is to look in the mirror and be happy with the person you see. That doesn't necessarily mean that you need or want to lose weight. Get it?

Monday, December 24, 2012

Christmas in my neck of the woods

There's so much goodness happening in such a little place. Here's what Christmas is looking like in my apartment. 

First, batch #2 of gingerbread cookies. I made cookies for my knitting group last Sunday, but I didn't use all the dough. The recipe I used is here, and the fact that the dough stayed good for a week is pretty impressive too. 


Last night, I was abruptly inspired to make paper snowflakes. I quickly realized that I needed to go back to first grade because I kept cutting wrong and they fell apart. Not to be thwarted, I still used the small pieces. By the way, the snowman painting on the refrigerator is from last year. He's a permanent fixture. 


Smile! I kept making faces and things that looked more like ancient alien artifacts and tribal masks than snowflakes. It was all unintentional. 










Do you see it? I saw a bull at first and then decided it was a Viking and then decided it was Yoda. I'll bet you've never thought about those things having similar silhouettes. 

Another by the way: Vikings in unexpected places make me laugh. For example, I laughed hysterically when I saw a young man wearing a Viking helmet while just driving around town one day. It's the horns. 



And I made a "snowflake" from one of the small scraps that looks exactly like a Christmas tree. Again, totally accidental. It's good, though, because now I can say I put up a Christmas tree. 








But since I don't have an actual tree to decorate, I strung up some lights around my front window. Hi, parking lot! 


On the string of lights, I've hung some of my ornaments collected over the years. My family used to do an ornament exchange each year, which sounds so lovely and Martha Stewart-like until you see the dinosaur and wooden fish and robot. 




Goody! Yellow sludge! Yesterday, apparently I suffered a fit of domestic goddessness because I also decided to make a hand/body scrub based on this recipe. I don't have any pretty mason jars (this is an old pickle jar), so it doesn't look very nice, but it works like a charm. Oh, and it's completely edible. I used grapeseed oil instead of olive oil.

I've been a knitting fool these past couple weeks! I just finished a baby blanket for my friends who are expecting (below), and hours after I finished weaving in the ends of the blanket, I started on this really easy hat for my sweetheart (pattern here). I'm almost finished as you can probably tell. I hope to finish today! 



Here is the baby blanket. I really like how it came out. The yarn is a smooth, lovely cotton (no, really), and it's self-striping yarn, which I adore. I think the colors are great for a late-spring baby. It was a quick knit (pattern here).







I'm not sure my camera and the lighting are doing the colors justice. The hat above is actually a very dark navy. The blue-green color in the blanket is kind of an emerald or tropical green and the red color is a cherry red. 

So that's my simple Christmas this year. I'm thoroughly enjoying my time off work. Aside from all these projects, I've been sleeping a ton, which is nice.

I hope you're all having a wonderful holiday season.   


Thursday, December 20, 2012

New Year's Resolutions

First, how did I do this year? 

✔ Run a half-marathon. 

✔ Eat healthier and more economically. Mostly, yes. I resolved to eat more vegetables, which I have since becoming a weekday vegetarian, but I still need to work on my sugar intake.


✔ Increase flexibility and strength. And people keep telling me I look like I've lost weight!

✘ Find a suitable dwelling. Sadly, no. I continue looking, but it's probably not going to happen for a while. 

✔ Knit more. 

✘ Read more! Not really. 

 Take more risks. I think quitting a good full-time job to go back to juggling part-time work was kind of risky. The bf moved in with me. And I've recently decided to invest in myself a bit by taking classes that might not immediately pay off. 


Considering I kind of forgot what my resolutions were soon after I wrote them, I did spectacularly well. It goes to show you that change starts with really wanting it. The question is: what do I want for the upcoming year? 

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

8 Current Projects

It's finals week, and I'm not feeling very inspired to write my list of 8 things! So, here's a little update disguised as a list:

1. Knitting yoga socks. They're socks with the heel and toe part left open. They keep your feet a little warmer while still giving you grip. And, they're much easier to knit than actual socks. 

2. Knitting a baby blanket for a very good friend who's recently announced she's expecting. 

3. Making laundry detergent. I found this list of 10 recipes, and I chose #4, which is one of the powdered ones. Having to heat stuff up seems too much like real work. I'm planning to track how much it's really costing me compared to regular commercial brands and, of course, how well it works. 

4. Job hunting. Oy. It never ends.

5. Making interesting concoctions with my weekly CSA share. I'm enjoying it, but it is sometimes a struggle to use everything before it goes bad. I've decided I love leeks, and I'm rediscovering potatoes. 

6. Baking stuff. Yes, it's that time of year. I've been trying to put my bread machine to use more often, and I've been baking a lot of cookies.  

7. Hanging Christmas lights. I wasn't planning to do it this year, but I invited my knitting group to my apartment yesterday, and it seemed like a good enough excuse to put them up. Twinkly lights make me happy. 

8. Signing up for classes. I've decided to invest in myself. More on this to come. It's something I should have done a year ago, but it's hard to justify the money spent when I'm already pretty strapped as it is. But, I can't keep doing the same thing over and over again and expect different results, so it's time to broaden the horizon.

What are you up to? 

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

My Zumba Story

Zumba Jam with Eric Aglia
I recently went to a workshop for Zumba instructors where we learned new choreography for our classes. The instructor leading the workshop told us his story of how he came to find Zumba and what it did for him and his family. He asked us to share our stories--with him and with anyone else who would listen. 

My story is below, but before you read, I can't stress enough that everyone should have something that brings them joy in their lives. For me, it's the sweaty combination of dance, pretending like I can sing in Spanish, and generally actin' a fool  that is a typical Zumba class. The question is: what is it for you?

Saturday, December 8, 2012

8 Lessons Learned: The Knitting Edition

I've been knitting for four years now. Although I tend to pick it up off and on, I do really enjoy it. I'm in favor of people finding hobbies of any kind, but knitting is special to me because it's what I would consider my first (and maybe only) real hobby. Here's what I've learned since I started:

1. You will have to restart every project at least once. Get over it.

Knit Elvis by Aine D, Flickr
2. Buy yarn you like (or that the recipient likes if it's for someone else), regardless of fiber. I briefly tried being a yarn snob (that is, no cheap stuff like acrylic), but that ended when I bought some pricy alpaca yarn only to find out that, yes, even buttery alpaca makes me itch. 

3. There are more knitters out there than you realize. Knitting is an at-home type of hobby, so you don't see it happening, but it's going on all the time behind closed doors. Since I started knitting, I've met a lot of people who also knit--even people I already knew but didn't realize were knitters. 

4. It's not just for old ladies. The thing about old ladies is that they generally have the time to do it and the inclination (gifts for children and grandchildren), but if a younger person also has the time and inclination, then there's no reason not to. In my knitting group, among the regulars, about half are grandmothers.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

8 Ways to Get Motivated

Lately, I've been feeling drained, which is the opposite of how I want to be and how I need to be in order to make my simple life happen. Motivation is not a mystery, but it is cyclical and therefore easy to get trapped. When you don't get things done, you don't feel like doing things. When you're motivated, you get things done and want to keep going. The trick is to get on the good side of motivation.

1. Start somewhere. Checking one item off the list is often a catalyst for another and another. So, what are you waiting for?

2. Oh, and make lists. I've been talking about making short to-do lists a lot lately, but they are that good. The key is to keep it short and realistic. Make sure the list is somewhere visible so you don't have to make a special point to see it and to give yourself some healthy guilt.

3. Schedule it. "Someday," while sounding like a day of the week, is not on anybody's calendar.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

8 Reasons I Write and You Should Too

Typewriter by munhitsu, Flickr
I posted about journaling and how I have a hard time maintaining a journal. Then I realized that I write all the time. I write here on this blog and I also write along with my students in class when I give them a writing prompt. I also often end up writing essays or parts of essays to give them examples of assignments. It adds up. I just don't accumulate all these things in one place.

Writing is a pretty simple concept yet kind of amazing at the same time. Here's why I keep coming back to it and why you should too: 

1. It makes me think. Ever wonder why you had to take those composition classes in college even though you were a computer science major? This is why. When we write, we learn. Suddenly, new thoughts come into our head when we start committing ideas to paper. Regardless of your chosen profession, the world needs more people who can understand complex problems and formulate complex solutions, and writing is an excellent way to develop those skills.

2. It helps me learn. If I'm writing, I often have to research something and discover something new and interesting. 

3. It makes me take a stance on things. It's a cop out to go through life saying, "Everyone's entitled to their opinions," and "I don't know." It's safe and easy and boring, and frankly, it doesn't help anybody come up with real answers to real problems. Have some conviction already. 

4. It makes me remember things. Thinking is one thing; committing something to long-term memory is another. Writing creates more memorable experiences just by committing those experiences to paper. Also, more simply, writing something down like a grocery list is far more reliable than my memory. 

Thursday, November 8, 2012

8 Weekday Vegetarian Pros and Cons

At the start of this year, I became a weekday vegetarian. I went veggie for a short time a few years back, and I liked it but didn't really put a lot of effort into eating balanced, healthy meals, so it wasn't good for me to keep it up. I wanted to try again but allow myself to eat meat if I truly wanted to. I'm happy eating this way, and I have no intention of stopping now. Here's what I've learned over the past 10+ months:

1. It really is nice having the freedom to eat meat. It's the whole "don't think of an elephant" thing (you just thought about an elephant, didn't you?). If you tell yourself you can't eat meat, it'll be all you think about. Sometimes I really want a ham sandwich or a pepperoni pizza. This way, I don't feel deprived. It gives me flexibility rather than a strict regimen, and it's probably what's allowed me to keep it up for as long as I have.

2. It's hard to explain to others. I actually thought that people would totally get it, but I guess it's not a common concept. Maybe people think it seems non-committal or maybe they think I'm trying to ride the ethical coat tails of vegetarians while not actually being one. I don't know.

3. Red meat does not sit well with me anymore. At all. Bleh. I now feel how bad red meat is for the body. Today I smelled a hamburger from the college cafeteria, and it smelled like heaven. But I can't imagine actually eating another hamburger ever again.

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

My only brush with the spooky

Splotch Monster 171, steve loya, Flickr
I am more than a little intrigued by the supernatural. I can't pin down exactly what I believe or disbelieve, but I love hearing the stories. I also hate hearing the stories because I am a weenie and I get spooked easily. However, despite knowing people who've had supernatural experiences, I have just one personal story about something spooky and unexplained.

In my early twenties when I was an undergrad, I worked at a hotel.

>Cue images of The Shining.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

8 Tips for Being Known for Something

I routinely have identity crises. It likely stems from my nomadic life, marrying young, divorcing young, and having two degrees in English.

Who am I?
How am I going to make a mark on this world?
Am I known for anything?

If you're anything like me, maybe you have these questions rolling around in your head too. I think it's important to be known for something, to be recognized as the go-to person for certain things. It makes you feel useful and better understood. Call it a niche or a personality trait, but you have a great deal of control over how people perceive you and what they come to you for.

One of my professors once announced to the class that the best way to dodge responsibility is to mess up the first task you're given. Then no one will bother you with more tasks. Yes, these are my role models, folks. Anyway, he was right, but the street goes both ways. I can't tell you who you should be, but I can offer some suggestions for making an impact.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

8 Things You Can Do Right Now to Simplify

I'm all about people finding their own ways of simplifying their lives, but if you'd like some inspiration, here are some things you can do with little time and effort to streamline, reduce clutter, and enjoy life just a little bit more.

1. Sort your mail. Mail is one of those things that builds up in my home--how about in yours? Go through it right now. Pay the bills, recycle the junk, and neatly put away the things you have to save for later in a designated area.

2. Take 10-20 minutes for a thrift store/Freecycle sweep. Look at your clothes, books, DVDs--whatever you tend to collect--and grab the obvious choices for donation.

3. Take 10-20 minutes to clear out the refrigerator and/or freezer of gross stuff. Really.

4. Take 10-20 minutes to clear your head. Turn off the TV, the computer, the cell phone. Just relax. Take a walk, have a cup of tea, do some stretches, take a nap, or just sit quietly.

Monday, October 8, 2012

8 Tiny Pleasures

Tammy at Rowdy Kittens recently asked readers to share 3 tiny pleasures, but you know 3 just isn't enough for me :) Here are 8 of my tiny pleasures. What are some of yours?

1. Getting my feet dirty.

2. Soup.

3. Cookies: baking them, eating them, or just the thought of them really.

4. Hanging out at The Works in Pacific Grove. It's my favorite of all the places  my knitting group has visited. It's not very close to home unfortunately, but it's breezy and sunshiny unlike so many dark coffeehouses.

5. Spooning.

6. Someone massaging my hands.

7. Board games.

8. Oatmeal stout.

Friday, September 28, 2012

8 Lessons Learned: Journaling Edition

I have no business telling people how to journal and feel good about journaling. I have never been totally happy with the way I keep or don't keep a personal journal. But I've recognized and responded to a few issues I have with journaling--namely, what keeps me from using them regularly and what keeps me from liking what's in there. Instead of offering some really neat tips on keeping a personal journal, I'm going to share with you my real mistakes and discomforts about journaling and what sometimes helps get around them. Deal?

Monday, September 24, 2012

My First Trail Race - Toro Trail Run

Sunday I ran the Toro Trail Run (a.k.a. Quad-Killer-Rockslide-of-Death). It was my first trail race, and I think it was a good initiation considering that it was a 10K and the first three miles were uphill. Actually, I use the word "ran" loosely--I estimate I ran only about 2-3 miles during the race. But, I got to run just a few feet away from some cows. That was different.

Since I write a lot about running on this blog, I figure there might be questions regarding my shoes and my sanity and so forth, so I'll see if I can preemptively answer them.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

8 Places I've Lived (in case you're wondering)

I've talked about moving and living in different states before, so I thought I'd offer a quick snapshot of 8 places I've lived. You know, if you're considering a move or a vacation or maybe you're just nosy (that would explain why you keep reading my blog--kidding). 

Here they are (in no particular order):

1. Marysville, WA. It's about an hour's drive north of Seattle. If I can say I grew up anywhere, it would be here. I lived here from about age 5 to 11. Rain? Yes. But when you're a kid, rain just means you get to jump in puddles. I think it made the sunny days that much more special. When it snowed, school was cancelled because it happened so rarely. We had a Fred Meyer store, which was awesome, no Wal-Mart, and a Taco Time. I only went into Seattle a few times, so I can't say much about that. It was a pleasant place to grow up. 

2. Jacksonville, FL. Jacksonville is probably the least favorite city I've lived in. Let me clarify: I had some great friends in Jacksonville. I met people that I'm still in touch with, people who I feel I have a real connection to, and I miss them a lot. I had fun times there. But. The vibe of the place is yucky. There's a lot of racism. There's an odd mixture of fast-paced city attitude and old South. No one who worked in customer service understood the meaning of the word. You can drive for 45 minutes, with little traffic, and still be in Jacksonville. There aren't many mom-and-pop restaurants. It's hot. Then it pours down rain for 10 seconds and gets even more humid than it was before. The beach is lined with tall hotels and the water is kind of brown. And there are a lot of Republicans. 

3. Olathe, KS. This is another place I sometimes cite as the place where I grew up, but that's normally only when I meet someone from around there. Olathe is located in Johnson County, which is The Hills of Kansas. Olathe isn't snob central by any means, but they're around.  Not only that, but the predominance of Christianity makes for a strange mix. People seem to believe that their wealth is directly related to their faith (God's on my side so that's why I'm rich). The schools are good, maybe not as good as they say, but I've learned that I had it good compared to what most kids deal with these days. People generally drive 10 mph below the speed limit, and there are a lot of smokers. There are definitely seasons there--sometimes all four of them in the same week. I'm not joking. 

Thursday, August 30, 2012

August

This month, I've tried to stay offline. I'd say I've done a decent job of changing my internet habits but not so much limiting the time I spend online. I still call that a win.
  • I have visited Facebook plenty; however, I rarely comment on or like posts. I just read everyone's updates and then get away from the site. 
  • I'm using Stumbleupon a lot, which is a tool that allows me surf the web for specific topics instead of just going to same sites over and over again and reading everyone's Facebook updates a hundred times. Stumbleupon has given me lots of inspiration for writing and DIY projects. I really, really want to learn how to sew! 
  • I even stumbled upon a site that might lead to some published writing projects in my future--fingers crossed!
  • I've combined my love for getting rid of stuff with my internet use by giving a bunch of stuff away on Freecycle.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

8 Reasons You Should Unplug More

This month I've been trying to stay offline more (another post about that to follow), but I thought I'd talk a little about why it's good to unplug.

I'm not anti-technology, although I don't like certain kinds of technology and certain uses of it. It's become more than something we use in our lives; it's become our way of life. It's here to stay, and I'm okay with that. Obviously--here I am typing up a blog post. I like being able to stay in touch with friends and family who are scattered across the country (and sometimes in other countries), and I like that I can learn about things quickly and easily. I'm not advocating for getting rid of the internet, but as always, I'm in favor of getting some perspective. Because cell phones, computers, and everything else digital have become our way of life, when we unplug or reduce our dependence on them, we see our lives differently.

Here are some of the things I notice when I spend more time offline:

Saturday, August 18, 2012

8 Tips for Relocating

I'm not the most nomadic person I know, but I am often the most nomadic person other people have met, so I believe I'm qualified to say a little something on this subject. I've lived in 6 different states and at least 9 different cities (can't tell you how many residences), attended 7 different K-12 schools, and taken classes at 7 different colleges. I've had approximately 17 jobs since I started working at age 16--slightly more than 1 employer for each year of my working life.

So, let's talk about moving and adjusting to relocation, shall we? Here are a few tips to help make an out-of-town move something you can look forward to. 

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

8 Lessons Learned: The Body Image Edition

1. Everything I do doesn't have to be sexy. 

2. Attractiveness comes in all shapes, sizes, and ages. 

3. What's considered pretty/ugly, sexy/unsexy, attractive/unattractive, healthy/unhealthy is defined by our culture. There is no objective definition of any of these. We can make some generalizations based on biological selection, but mostly these categories are defined by cultural norms.

Monday, July 30, 2012

On Competition

Recently, I was on a blog looking at a recipe, and in the post the author had mentioned that she has a distaste for competition. She went as far as to say that competitiveness is a symptom of a mental illness. But what I found really odd was this comment on the post: "A little competition is good for the soul. I think today's young woman (and I'm 52) is fearful of those things and they teach their kids (liberals do) that everyone should win and that's just not the truth in real life."

Where to start?

Saturday, July 28, 2012

8 Reasons to Get Out More

I chose the theme of community once again for my summer classes. We read Ray Oldenburg's The Great Good Place during the second part of the term. Oldenburg explores what he calls "third places." Basically, home is first, work is second, and any informal gathering place outside of those is third. Oldenburg argues that these places are disappearing and the ones that do exist aren't being used very well. The problem is that these places serve important functions in our lives and we're missing a lot by not having them.

Examples of third places might be coffee shops, barber shops, bars, "Main St.," and anywhere else where people socialize and catch up on the happenings of the community. It's easy to see that these places are still around, but they're not what they used to be. People live in isolation even when they're in public. The idea is to bring back the spirit of what they used to be.

If you're skeptical, here are 8 reasons that the spirit of getting out and enjoying the third place spirit will improve your life:

1. Spontaneity and variety. Chances are, at home and work, you know who you're going to see and even what you're going to. There is a lot of routine, and events that seem different or new (like, say, watching a new TV show or making something different for dinner) still happen within a pretty predictable boundary. At a place like a bar or cafe, the mixture of personalities, of strangers and regulars, means you're more likely to run into the unexpected. Spontaneity and variety keep us feeling like our lives are interesting.

2. Conversation. One of the key elements of a third place, what makes a third place a third place, is conversation. We tend to think that people go to bars to get drunk, but that hasn't always been the case. What if you went to a bar to have a couple drinks but spend most of your time catching up with the other patrons? You could have the opportunity to share something, to help someone, to learn something, and maybe even to make a friend. Conversation seems to be a dying art. This could help revive it.

3. Exhibition. Oldenburg says that in a third place, a person can become a singer, a dancer, a therapist, or a hero. It's not truly an escape from your life; it's another side to who you are and a way to handle the stresses of life.

4. Caring and safety. If you live alone but you have a place you visit regularly, people will know something's up if you don't show up. People will be concerned.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

8 TED Talks You Should Watch

1. Erin McKean redefines the dictionary. A lecture on dictionaries? How fascinating does that sound? Really, it's fun and thought-provoking.

2. Steven Johnson - where good ideas come from. Apparently, they come from coffeehouses. 

3. Charlie Todd on shared experience of absurdity. Funny how talking about funny things is funny. 

4. Any of the videos by Ken Robinson, but this one is probably my favorite. They're all about education and the need for personalized education with an emphasis on creativity and passion in learning. 

5. Patrick Awuah on educating leaders. It's essentially a defense of a liberal arts education. He gets a little rambly, but it's worth it.

6. Kathryn Schulz on being wrong. It turns out that being wrong makes for much better stories than being right.

7. The antidote to apathy. Why don't people get involved? Why don't we change the world?

8. The power of vulnerability. I know it sounds a little hippy-dippy, but Brene Brown is quite eloquent as she talks about connection, shame, compassion, and of course vulnerability. 



Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Confession: I'm not that tidy

My tidiness has come up in multiple conversations lately, and I feel I must come clean (pun intended). Some people visit my apartment and think that I am a very neat person. One of my friends asked how I do it--do I have some magical Ikea storage unit that hides everything away? Do I clean up every day? Absolutely not. 

The truth is that I really don't keep much stuff, so there isn't much to leave lying around. I love to take my shoes off as soon as I get home, and I hate putting them away. You know, because the closet is so far away.  I leave odds and ends on my dining room table. I leave half-finished projects wherever I was last working on them. I leave dirty dishes in the sink for a day. Maybe two. Sound familiar? I promise, I'm terrible at picking up after myself. It's just that I don't have that many pairs of shoes or dishes, so even if I left all of them lying around, it wouldn't create a huge mess. Get the idea? 

This is also why it doesn't bother me too much when I visit a place that's cluttered. My lack of clutter is not a cleanliness compulsion like it is for others. Clutter doesn't make me anxious, but I prefer a neat space and I prefer not to have to work very hard to keep it that way. 

So, that's it. If you want your space to feel uncluttered but don't want to spend your valuable time tidying up all the time, then make sure you don't have much to tidy up. 

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

June recap and what's up for July

I said that June would be my month to make better eating choices, and I think I have. I'd like to be a bit more committed, but it's hard to make the time to prepare fresh, healthy meals, and going out to eat pretty much spells disaster.

This summer for 6 weeks (just 2 more to go), I am teaching what equates to a full-time course load. I am also still working a few hours a week at the marketing job, and of course I still teach Zumba. In my spare time (!), I'm trying to hit the gym a little more, plus I have a knitting group to organize and a boyfriend to adore. Oh, hey, there's this whole blogging thing too.

Thursday, June 28, 2012

8 Lessons Learned (the marriage edition)

When it comes to relationships, I'm certainly no expert; all I can do is share what I've learned and hope I don't keep making the same mistakes. It's been more than a year since my marriage ended, and, well, hindsight is 20/20. Here are some valuable lessons and suggestions for a strong relationship:

1. Love. Don't underestimate love. It's everything. Without it, you don't have a relationship. You'll lose respect for each other and you'll stop caring what happens, so you have to take care of it.

2. Act. Love looks different on each of us, but however you do it, do it. Love as an emotion feels wonderful for the person who feels it, but that doesn't do much for the other person. Love is an action.

3. Read. Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work is a fantastic book on marriage and relationships in general. I realize that a recommendation from someone whose marriage didn't work out might not mean much, but I promise, it's insightful and will have an impact on you. And it has games!

4. Share. If your goal is to share your life with someone, then share it. Some couples value their individuality, and leading somewhat separate lives doesn't bother them. But at some point, even the most independent person must share feelings, physical space, or activities with his/her partner. Otherwise, why bother being together? Keeping feelings secret, in particular, is a great way to breed resentment, fear, and distrust. Be curious about the other person's thoughts, feelings, and actions.

Sunday, June 24, 2012

A Recipe Pho You

There's a great little Vietnamese restaurant that my friend introduced me to about a year ago, and I've been hooked ever since. I had not, in fact, eaten Vietnamese food before that day, and I did not know what I was missing. It's great! We have since discovered a vegetarian Vietnamese restaurant that is now known as The Best Restaurant Ever. 

Anyway, as an almost-vegetarian, I really like vegetarian pho. I finally decided to try making it a little while back. I started with this recipe, and then simplified it, considering the ingredients I'm likely to have on hand and the energy level I'm likely to have to have on hand as well.

Vegetarian Pho
Basically, I sauté some onion and garlic for a few minutes along with tofu if I have it. Then I add about equal parts vegetable broth and water, then the soy sauce, anise, coriander, ginger, cloves, and cinnamon. Then I add whatever vegetables I have handy and some kind of Asian noodles. If I don't have any noodles on hand, I'll put quinoa in (which probably isn't Vietnamese but is healthy and filling). If I actually plan to make this soup, then I'll have lime juice, basil, and jalapeños as garnishes, but it's still good without the garnishes if I'm in a hurry. It's customizable for your taste. What I think makes it pho is the flavor of the broth. 

Enjoy!

Monday, June 18, 2012

8 Things I'd Like to Buy for You

There are some products/services that are so great that I'd like to share them with the world. Normally, I'm all "To each her own," but, damn it, there are some things that I think should come standard with every household because they're good for everyone (but, you know, to each her own). 

1. Some kind of vertical garden apparatus. Like this. That one was an early birthday present, thanks to Mom and Dad. People are making vertical gardens from old wooden pallets and shoe organizers. I just can't get over how happy the concept of vertical gardening makes me--I'll let you know how my own adventures turn out. 

2. Massages. Yes, it takes time to find a massage therapist or a type of massage that works for you, and maybe you don't even need to seek out a professional, but caring, human touch is therapeutic. Everyone deserves a good rub down, even if it's only a foot massage or a hand massage (hand massages are awesome, especially for someone who knits and grades papers). I have a membership to Massage Envy, and it's quite affordable and totally worth it. 

3. Chalkboard paint. I am obsessed with it. I can't paint because I live in a rented apartment, but someday ... In the meantime, I want everyone else to be using it. 

4. Reusable shopping bags and produce bags. Here's a tip for all of you who say, "I always forget to bring them with me." Buy some that fold up so you can keep them in your purse or glove compartment. You just have to commit to it, friends. But once you do, you'll never go back.

5. A Trader Joe's store (for those who don't have one nearby). Not just the products--oh no. I'm talking the entire store. It's more than the sum of its parts. It's not flawless, but it's pretty close. I love that I can't get lost staring at half a dozen varieties of red kidney beans. They have one kind, and it's good quality. That pretty much describes the entire store. If I can't buy the entire store, I'll at least buy everyone a box of their rosemary and raisin crackers. 

6. Netflix. You mean you don't have Netflix? Netflix isn't as cool as it used to be, but it's still great, and it's an inexpensive alternative to cable TV if you're thinking of giving that up.

7. Minimalist shoes. I'd like for everyone to at least give them a try. By the way, I get tons of compliments on my New Balance Minimus cross trainers, and I've had someone in my Zumba class buy a pair after seeing mine.

8. A memory foam mattress. I was skeptical about how great a Tempur-Pedic could be, but it really lives up to the hype. No back pain, and I did fall asleep quickly, which is something I've always had problems with. I didn't keep the Tempur-Pedic in the divorce, but I bought an inexpensive Serta memory foam mattress from Overstock.com, and it's still a great mattress.

It's your turn now. What are some really great products or services that you'd like to share with the world?


Saturday, June 9, 2012

Have I mentioned that I love cake?

My previous post about cooking is actually related to my theme for this month: Better Eating Habits (the capitalization is for dramatic effect).

Let me explain a little bit about my philosophy when it comes to eating. I do not diet. I do not deny myself things that I truly want. I enjoy what I eat.

Friday, June 8, 2012

8 Ways to Be a Better Cook

I've heard about people who "can't cook," and I have to say that I'm perplexed by this idea. Cooking is a skill. It can be learned. I can cook now, but it wasn't always that way. I had to practice, and I am very much still learning. If you're embarrassed that you are of a certain age and you still don't know how to cook, I imagine it's because you haven't practiced it much over the years. You will not wake up one day knowing how to cook. And like anything else, you can't expect to master something the first few times you try.

If you simply don't want to cook, that's okay; there are other cooks in the world. But I find cooking to be quite rewarding, so I think everyone should give it a shot. Here are the cooking lessons I've learned over the last 10 years:

1. Start cooking. Duh. You can't win if you don't play. If you want to get better at it, you can't avoid it. Get in the kitchen and get to work. Practice, practice, practice.

2. Make a list of your favorite dishes or ingredients and prepare meals that incorporate your favorite stuff. Don't just go for the easiest recipes out there. Make sure that what you're making is something that you'll likely think is tasty when it's done. There's something to be said for putting your heart into a meal.

3. Do follow recipes. I started off making meals that came from boxes (and I don't recommend this, but it is one way to start off easy) where the ingredients were minimal and everything was spelled out pretty clearly. Even a package of rice or pasta will have cooking directions on them. Almost everything I make started off with a recipe that I've memorized or modified over the years.After a short time, you'll begin to see recurring themes in the recipes, and soon you'll be on to #4.

4. Okay, you've mastered your favorites, and you've started following recipes. Now it's time to experiment. Visiting a farmers market or signing up for a CSA is one way to encounter different ingredients that you can get creative with. I've found that going through my pantry and fridge is a good way to inspire creativity as well--what can I make with what I already have? Lately, I've also been inspired by some of Trader Joe's pre-made meals. I buy them, eat them, and then recreate them in my own kitchen.

Saturday, June 2, 2012

Gleaning

Sexiest woman alive right here. 
Ag Against Hunger, an organization that works to connect our  local agriculture industry with food assistance programs, organizes vegetable gleaning events in which volunteers go out to a designated field to harvest produce. These vegetables are either donated by the farm or would otherwise be left in the field to be tilled back in to the soil. This morning I participated in gleaning romaine lettuce at Boggiatto Produce.

Although getting up at 7:00 on a Saturday doesn't sound like much fun, I'm so glad I did it.

Monday, May 28, 2012

8 Cheap Thrills

Who doesn't want to save money? And who doesn't want to have fun? If only there were a way to unite those two desires! Here is a list of free or super cheap things to do.

1. Exploring. Get that bike that's sitting in the garage gathering spiderwebs (I'm talking to myself here, by the way, as I look at my pollen-covered bike on my balcony) and take it for a spin around the neighborhood. No bike? Then hoof it. Check out your local trails and parks. You might think there's nothing worth exploring in your area, but that's probably because you've only ever seen it from your car window.

2. High school performances and sporting events. Go to the local high school's next band performance or baseball game. The kids appreciate the support, and you'll be entertained for a few hours by players who truly love what they're doing. This also applies to community colleges, although most events there do charge. Last December, I went to a holiday performance of my college's swing band. It was free (they were taking donations for a charity, so I paid what I felt appropriate), and it was a fantastic concert.

3. Take a staycation. I can't believe I just used that word. Ugh. Anyway, take a long weekend to enjoy your city. You can probably find free or inexpensive museums, classes, or tours.

4. Go to the library! Really. Read about things that you're interested in. Sometimes, I check books out and I never get around to reading them, but just going there and gazing at stacks of books piques my curiosity. Get a book that teaches you how to do something--a hobby, bike repair, etc. There is also some great people-watching to be had at the library. My nearest library also has flyers up for other community events, which can lead to more cheap thrills.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

You shall receive

In an earlier post, I said that asking for things was something I should start doing more of, something that would likely make me happier. I have to report that, indeed, asking for things has resulted in getting things.

Friday, May 18, 2012

8 Tips for De-cluttering Your Home

I'm starting a series of posts called On the Eights. I'm going to post a list of eight tips, links, or other kinds of recommendations on the 8th, 18th, and 28th of each month. Why eight? Because it rhymes it with Kate, silly! And because I want to keep a regular schedule for posting. Here we go!

1. Get rid of multiples. When a couple gets together, they often find they have duplicates of things--movies, for example. Or, maybe some well-intentioned friend gave you something you already have. Resist the temptation to think that maybe you'll need that extra whatever-it-is someday. You know what? You might need it someday, but if your mission is de-cluttering your life today, then the duplicates have to go.

2. Get thee to the kitchen! Kitchens are wonderful places to hoard things. They're  places where all your wildest, Martha Stewart dreams come true, where all the dishes match and you have just the right size of everything. Forget it. Be realistic for your lifestyle. If you're worried that someday (there it is again) you'll have a big dinner party and you won't have enough plates, glasses, or coffee mugs, then borrow some from the people you're inviting to come over. Resist the urge to buy tools and gadgets for the kitchen. For example, I don't have a potato masher, yet I manage to make mashed potatoes. They're not the world's creamiest, award-winning mashed potatoes, but somehow I survive.

3. Make it art. Have some old t-shirts that you can't part with? Maybe it was an event tee that has sentimental value to you. That's completely understandable, but if the shirt's stashed away getting musty in some drawer, you're not exactly appreciating it. Find a way to display it like with this easy project. Maybe you have some old magazines that have an article here or there that you like, or maybe you have tons of photos. Turn them into a collage, or, better yet, scan them onto your computer.

4. Use what you have. What I mean by this is: pay attention to the items you have in your living space. Make a point to use them. You might not even realize that you have something because it's been sitting there for so long. Or maybe you have things hiding in drawers. Take inventory and come up with interesting ways to use the things you already have. I have a ton of notecards, thank-you notes, and construction paper that are just hanging around for that someday when I'll need them. Instead of waiting, though, I'm better off finding a use for them. If I truly need more in the future, I can buy more, but it's more likely that I'll say, "If I buy this, it'll create clutter. Can I live without it?" This tip also applies to the food in your pantry! Pay attention to it--eat it.

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

13.1

I was giving a thumbs up but I can't
hold a pose for more than 3 seconds
I'm officially a half-marathoner!

People have asked me, "So how was it?" My reply?

"Really hard."

I'm not joking. Before the race, my longest run was an 11.5-mile run. It wasn't easy, but mostly on those long runs I battled boredom and my general preference to be at home watching Star Trek: The Next Generation on Netflix.

But this race was hard. I started off with an uneasy stomach. Maybe it was just nerves and excitement or the fact that I had to run in the morning, which I never do, but the feeling didn't pass until well after the race was finished. Then there were the hills. Good grief, there were a lot of hills. Then there was the mud. It was apparently monsoon season on Saturday, so what should have been a packed dirt trail for about a mile or two ended up being mud. Then there was a potty break--I've never had to pee during a race before.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Work in progress


Sunday my knitting group got together for our 3rd meetup. This time was a little crazy. Crazy because the cafe I'd chosen closed at 4 p.m. on Sunday, and our group meets at 3:30. Yep, I'm a terrible organizer apparently. Someone suggested we head to a pizza place down the street, so off we went. It was fun after that.

Also, since we meet every other Sunday, we have a standing meetup scheduled on the website. Unfortunately, two Sundays from this meetup is Easter, and I'm thinking it might difficult to find a local coffee shop that'll be open. I hate to cancel it, but maybe I'll just offer to host it at my place.

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Actions speak louder than labels

March has been kind of a bust in terms of following a theme. I've been busy, certainly, but I just don't have the time or energy to take on new tasks right now. Maybe April will be my reading month. In the meantime, something unrelated:

Monday night this week, a woman who had just taken my Zumba class for the first time stopped to chat at the end of class. She asked me if I did any other kind of dance*.

"Oh no," I replied. "I'm not a dancer." Then she looked at me like I've got news for you, sister.
"You're a dancer," she replied.

I've also said the same thing about a running: "I'm not a runner." Yet next Sunday I'll be running a half marathon.

I think I have a problem.

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Finally a finished object for February!

The night before my knitting meetup, I finished the seemingly never-ending hat I started as a Christmas gift back in December. I kept making it too big, so I kept having to start over. It was frustrating to say the least.

Here is my honey modeling said hat. It is, after all, his.

At the last stage of the process, sewing in the visor, the yarn needle I had snapped in half. It was the only one I had, which meant an emergency trip to Beverly's at 8:00 on a Saturday night. I know how to live, I tell ya.

Monday, February 27, 2012

Stitchin' and bitchin'

Today my Stitch n Bitch group met up for the first time. I have to say I was a little stressed out over the whole thing. Almost as soon as I set up the group and the meetup, I started getting tons of responses. At first that was exciting, and then it worried me because cafes are only so big, you know? I had envisioned maybe 6 people--if that--coming to this meetup, but I think 17 people ended up RSVPing with a yes. I knew that there would be some no-shows, but I had to consider the possibility that everyone would show up.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

It's giveaway time!

I was cleaning my apartment yesterday, and as usual, I was reorganizing and looking for things to get rid of. My knitting bag was something I'd been avoiding for too long--it was a mess--and it was time for me to clean it up. I came across some knitted items that I unsuccessfully tried to sell on Etsy and ended up keeping around to give away as gifts. I've whittled the pile down a bit, but it's time for them to be gone altogether. Lucky you!

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Nice to meet (up) you

I started the Meetup group I mentioned in my last post. It's a Stitch n Bitch group, and I'm really excited about meeting some new people.

I scoped out the location of the first meeting today. It's a cafe that adjoins an independent theater downtown (they literally share a lobby area). I was deliberately avoiding Starbucks, but I was hoping to find a quiet cafe where they wouldn't mind too much if people just sat around for a bit. I hope it'll work out. Around the end of my reconnaissance mission, the cafe got pretty busy, but with the cafe being across the street from the Marriott on the weekend of the AT&T Pro-Am, I think it was probably busier than usual. 

What are your thoughts on a group like this? Any advice for me as I begin organizing? 


Monday, January 23, 2012

On being a fraud

"What did you call Katie the other day?" one of my professors asked her husband, who was also one of my professors.

"Oh, uh, Eeyore," he replied.

Yep, that's me. Eeyore. When I was an undergrad, these two instructors took a liking to me, but they were quite vocal about my lack of confidence. I wasn't sure what they saw in me, and frankly, I'm still not sure. I guess Eeyore is here to stay.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

My first awkward video post!

Here I am talking about my run last night, the bike trail, and personal records. Enjoy!


Saturday, January 14, 2012

Tonya Antle's 5 Lessons on Empowerment

Thursday I was privileged to attend a luncheon where a woman named Tonya Antle (pronounced tone-ya) delivered a remarkable speech. The event was hosted by a local women's empowerment group that works within the business community to help give women opportunities to succeed.

At our tables were small journals that were ours to keep. Tonya's speech included an interactive segment in which she described the lessons she hoped we would take away from the stories she shared, and she suggested that we write them down in the journals. Now, you know I loved this part. A luncheon that includes prompts and writing and journals?? Oh my!

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

More about running!

I haven't quite been following my fitness plans for this month, although I'm still making good progress.

Today I ran 4 miles. I've done 4-mile runs in recent months--pretty frequently actually--but I've never run this distance in my toe-shoes (the Vibram Five Fingers). It took me about an hour, although since I was on the track, running in one of the outer lanes, I think it's fair to say I ran more than 4 miles. Anyway, that means I'm a little ahead of schedule to meet my 5-mile goal by the end of the month. I hope to be at 4.5 miles by Sunday.

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Happy New Year!

Now's the time for me to dive into the all the projects that I've been too busy to deal with until now! Right?!

I'm really excited about my new year's resolutions because they are all things that I want to do, but they are also all things that I want to have as permanent (or very long-term) fixtures in my life. Real change takes time. As tempting as it is to do everything at once, I really do want to focus on one thing at a time. There's so much I want to do, but I know that if I want to do it well, I have to be patient.