Monday, November 30, 2015

Happy Thanksgiving!

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone! (a little late, I know, but photo collection and editing took a little longer than I expected...)

Ted and I drove to Virginia for the holiday - about 8.5 hours of driving time. The kitties didn't come with us this time, but they'll travel with us for Christmas.

Thanksgiving Day was much easier than usual this year, thanks to some division of labor in the kitchen. The menu included:
  • Organic, pre-cooked turkey (yum! and easy)
  • Sweet potato and marshmallow casserole
  • Mashed potatoes
  • Green bean casserole
  • Stuffing, stuffing, stuffing
  • Kale salad with butternut squash
  • Brussels sprouts
  • And all the fixins (cranberry sauce, rolls, gravy, etc)

Try your hand at the twin game: Ted or Paul? ;)

In addition to delicious food, we got lots of time with Ted's family - playing at the park, several family dinners, and sorting through the storage shed!

If you think it is easy to get a clear photo of a 3-year old, then you must not know any 3-year olds.

And of course, what would a family gathering be without a little photo shoot?

the beautiful Paige

We were a little sad when the time finally came to leave, but our own pets were very, very happy when we came back home:

And since we needed just a little more Thanksgiving turkey, I roasted a half turkey from a local farm today! These are the kinds of things you do to fill your time when you only work two days a week...

Now all we need is a little cranberry sauce, some mashed potatoes, stuffing... 

Sunday, November 29, 2015

Christmas Crafting

It's the most wonderful time of the year! This year I am feelin' the Christmas spirit. I've already done most of my Christmas shopping, I listened to Christmas music BEFORE Thanksgiving (blasphemy), and I am really looking forward to some Starbucks' peppermint mochas in the upcoming weeks (despite the sinister red cup drama).

To kick off the Christmas season I got the decorations out of the basement today, including some cheap plastic ornaments I bought at the Dollar Store two years ago. I had this wreath project in mind then, but I never actually got around to doing it.

To set the mood for crafting, I put on some Christmas music and lit my new favorite Bath & Body Works candle, which is the "invigorating fragrance of snow-dusted balsam, fir trees and eucalyptus leaves." I highly recommend it, however it is STRONG, so you can only have it lit for short periods.

To begin, I bent a wire coat hanger into a circular shape and started threading my cheap plastic ornaments onto the wire. 

Once I had them all on there, I fiddled with them til they looked pretty good and glued them to each other using a hot glue gun.

To finish it off I taped the two loose ends together and glued one final ornament over the gap (reserved for this purpose).

To cover up the few areas that were less than perfect, I glued on some gold poinsettia flowers and finished with a glittery gold star in the center of my wreath.

Voila! My Christmas wreath is finished and hung. Even though the ornaments are cheap, they look pretty from afar (they're not even that bad close up).

Come winter, my front door will look like this:

Actually, I probably can't leave this up in rain or snow since the ornaments are covered in glitter - I don't want it to wash away. It's a nice pop of color on our white door, though, and I hope it spreads some Christmas spirit to our neighbors!

Monday, November 23, 2015

Put a Bird On It

This past weekend I had a little friend date at IKEA. When the weather turns cold, it's nice to have an "indoor hike", and IKEA is the perfect size for about 1.5 - 2.5 hours of walking (depending on how much stuff you stop to look at). One of my favorite purchases this time around was a package of wall decals.  

I have been wanting to put some art on the large wall above my bed, but I am afraid to hang anything framed for fear that it will fall on my head in the middle of the night (with cats who get into everything, this is a very real fear). When I saw these wall decals at IKEA, I realized I had finally found the solution.

While fairly easy to apply, I must say that Saturday Night Live could probably do a pretty good skit about the experience. Once you peel the decals off the paper, they have SO MUCH static cling in them; they're like living tentacles that grab at anything within their reach - the wall, the bed frame, your arm, your hair, a cat... Trying to put the long, skinny branch stickers exactly where I wanted them on the wall was a little hilarious, but I got them up eventually.

Of course I couldn't have done it without the "help" of my supervisor:

Once the branches were up, it was just a matter of laying out the bird choices and then sticking them on here and there. The small bird decals were much easier to manage than the branches, and they are easy to peel off if you need to adjust them. 

I didn't love all the bird designs, so I only put up the ones I liked, and there are also 3-4 branch stickers left over. You can see in some of the photos that the decals are a bit reflective when the light hits them a certain way, but for $13 I'd say I got my money's worth. I'm just hoping they still peel off easily when we're ready to move out of this rental...

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

November Updates

Yesterday I got one of those updates from Facebook that shows me what I was posting two years ago:

A typical night in November 2013

Well, here's what things looked like as I scrolled across that Facebook update:

A typical night in November 2015

We don't seem to be making much progress here. Or, at the least, not much has changed in two years.

I feel like I have run out of things to write about on the blog because there isn't really anything new happening. The excitement of moving to a new state is gone - of experiencing each month of the year for the first time in a new place. During the first year of the blog, each day seemed to bring something new to explore or discover in Oxford or the surrounding area. Now we have settled into a daily and weekly routine - nothing is new, exciting, or unexpected. But I still feel the urge to write, so I'm going to have to dig deep to come up with some topics (suggestions are welcome).

I could write about my thoughts on current events (of which I have many), but there are other writers and other blogs that do that a lot better than I ever could. Plus, I really prefer to discuss those things face-to-face rather than via the internet. On Facebook and Twitter there is too much room for misinterpretation and too much time to fume about other people's comments before responding. And I really don't need hate comments on my blog. :)

I could write about more personal aspects of my life, but I also don't really want that on the internet for all to see. I think we're living in a time of over-sharing, and I'm not really into it. My close friends and family are the only people who need to hear about my personal life, and they are the ones who know me well enough to say the right things at the right times.

So, I think I'll just have to continue on with updates from southwest Ohio. This will (hopefully) provide some motivation for trying new things around here - you know, as fodder for the blog.

So here's what we've been up to lately:

Ted and I attended our first Miami University men's hockey game a couple weeks ago. This was my first hockey game ever, and it was SO MUCH fun! We had the "smell-o-vision" seats right next to the Miami bench, so we got the full experience - sights, sounds, and the scent of large sweaty young men.

I was a little worried about getting hit in the face with a wayward puck, as our seats were next to the one gap in the plexiglass walls, but I just ducked whenever the coaches on the bench ducked, and I made it out with my face intact. :)

The men's hockey team is one of Miami U's strongest sports teams, so they have a really nice facility and lots of entertainment throughout the game... like parachuting gift cards during a media break:

During one of the longer breaks between periods there was a performance by Miami University's women's synchronized skating team. Who knew that was a thing?! They don't get as much attention as men's hockey, but Miami's figure skating team is also one of the best in the nation.


We have tickets for another game at the end of January, which I am really looking forward to.

Next up, Ted and I recently attended a wedding in Columbus - that of my best friend from elementary school. This girl was like my sister from 1st grade until 3rd grade when her family moved to Texas. I think my mom even called her Daughter #2. I can remember playing with barbies, sharing my crayons at school, and getting into quite a bit of trouble with this girl. Her family is Hispanic, and they are probably the reason I was so interested in learning to speak Spanish as I grew up. 

Photo credit: Gregory Rodriguez, via Facebook download
I did not have my phone or camera on me for most of the wedding, as I really tried to just "experience the moment", but I took a few photos (and downloaded a couple from her Facebook page). It was a beautiful wedding in a Catholic cathedral in Columbus, with the reception at the Westin Hotel in Columbus - a really cool old hotel. 

Trying to do my hair on the drive over
(thanks, iPhone, for being my "mirror")

We try to look purty for special occasions.

Lifelong friend, right here

The Columbus Westin Hotel, site of the wedding reception
(Ted and I highly recommend this hotel)

What did people do at weddings before photo booths?

Aside from these events, we've mostly just been hanging out at home and working a lot. Well, Ted is working a lot. I've gone back to part-time employment, so I've been using my extra time to try to cook us healthy meals and keep the house clean. 

This fall, it's been all about soups so far. I've particularly enjoyed a curried carrot soup from the Conscious Cleanse book, a minestrone soup adapted from Deborah Madison's Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone, and most recently, a delicious red lentil dal from the Oh She Glows blog. I've even had the time to make my own vegetable stock. 

I know. Domesticity, man.

Homemade minestrone!

Red lentil dal, cilantro lime rice, samosas

While Ted and I aren't quite willing to commit to a vegan or even a vegetarian diet, we are trying to eat a lot more vegetables - at least one vegetable-based meal every day. We feel better, and I think we're starting to look a little better, too. 

So there you have it, a really random post about some of the things we've been doing lately. I'll try to do something else that's interesting this week so I have more to write about in a few days... Until then, feel free to make post suggestions!

Friday, November 6, 2015

Cleaning (My Mental) House

I just deleted over 1,800 email messages from my Gmail account... without even looking at them. Wow, it feels so good.

I mean, I had read most of them (all but 128), but for some reason they were all still sitting there, clogging up my Inbox. In the past, I would have carefully looked at the Subject line of each one and saved all of them that contained photos or nice notes or memories or receipt information, and it would have taken me hours.

But just now, as I sit in a coffee shop, trying to plan my classes for next week, I decided to just do a blanket delete. That hovering red number next to my Mail icon was just stressing me out too much! *Unread messages!* *More things to do!* *Bleh!*

Now I have 4 messages in my Inbox. ~Big, cleansing breath~ ~Big smiley face~

Does anyone else feel like their life is full of mental clutter? I try to keep my house clean and organized, but somehow my life still feels chaotic. I think most of it is mental clutter: keeping in touch with too many people, overstimulation from commercials and advertisements everywhere I look, being pulled in too many directions (and my life is not even that complicated)! Things should be a lot simpler than they are, and part of my Baby Steps program that I wrote about in the last post is to slowly clear out the mental clutter.

The next step is a technology cleanse. Wait a minute, this is sounding familiar... I feel like I've blogged about this before... But seriously, I was laying in bed in a half-awake state yesterday morning, thinking about all the things I had to do that day, and I suddenly realized that I was organizing all these tasks in my head like a computer. My thinking was literally along the lines of swiping from one task to the next just as you would swipe between screens on an iPhone and plugging each task into a grid-type calendar in my head, adding notes, reminders, etc. Whoa! I need to lay off the iToys.

On Monday Ted and I are starting our 3rd Conscious Cleanse (just on our own - not as part of the program), and I think I'm going to also consciously limit my screen time. As always, I'll let you know how it goes. ;)

Sunday, November 1, 2015

Baby Steps

As it turns out, I am in the worst shape of my life right now. Well, 4th grade was kind of my pudgy phase, so maybe that was slightly worse. We'll say I'm in the worst shape of my adult life right now.

About a year ago, my life changed a lot as I took a full-time job as director of the English language program at school (a 40-minute commute from home). This was my first desk job, and I felt a heavy weight of responsibility on my shoulders as I was in charge of not only an important university program (a BIG money-maker for our floundering regional campus), but also the lives of young adults from halfway around the globe. College is not like elementary school, I learned. You can't expect every student to succeed - after all, they're adults in charge of their own decisions at this point. But still, I tried. I tried so hard to make sure every student got exactly what they needed, passed all their classes, was happy and healthy, and felt secure so far away from home. Spoiler alert:  I was not successful in saving every student. **Add more weight to shoulders**

Amidst the stress of commuting and keeping my head above water as I learned SO MUCH in my new position as director, I stopped working out and started parking my butt on the couch a lot more. And let me tell you, I am feeling it in my body.

One year of sitting at a desk for 8 hours a day has destroyed my neck, shoulders, and core muscles. I didn't realize it while it was happening, but I can feel it now.

I thought going back to teaching would feel so good, but after a couple weeks of moving around and standing for hours, my body started to ache. More than ache, actually. Some nights I have had so much pain in my neck and shoulders that I needed to take ibuprofen just to sleep. Some days I could barely lift my arms to write on the board during class.

I starting going to a massage therapist once a week, but it didn't help. In fact, it seemed to make the pain worse as she dug into all the knots in my shoulders (including underneath my shoulder blades) and tried to release the tightness in my neck. She told me my shoulder blades are sitting much too high - a result of tightness in my pectoral muscles from sitting hunched in front of a computer. My chest muscles are literally pulling my shoulder blades up - like tightening the straps on a backpack - which has caused me pain in my jaw, neck, shoulders, back, and core.

Now, I am a firm believer in the power of diet, exercise, and mental well-being in curing whatever ails you. So you'd think it would be easy for me to eat more vegetables, start an exercise routine, and do a little meditation in order to end this excruciating pain in my body. Another spoiler: It is not easy!!! I am so out of the habit of healthy living that my body and mind reject every attempt at it, despite the fact that I know I'll feel better.

Why is that? I'm sure everyone reading this has had a similar experience in some area of their life. Why is it so hard to do what we know is best for us? How do we break bad habits? Of course, I've read plenty of articles and seen enough TED talks to "know" the answers to these questions, but still. I wish it weren't so hard.

In any case, I'm ready to make a commitment to healing my body, starting with what I'd like to call my Baby Steps Workout Plan. I've been an athlete in one capacity or another for most of my life: ski team, volleyball, fast-pitch softball, indoor soccer, slow-pitch softball... I was always up to try anything, and I was typically able to do anything because I was in good shape. All these activities helped me to stay fit, sometimes without even making a conscious effort to work out.

But now I feel weak. My arms are weak. My legs get tired. Core muscles? What are those? I can't even do the lighter workouts I used to do, like jogging and yoga. I have zero stamina, and I've lost most of my flexibility. Thinking of this makes me feel very depressed, which makes me want to go lay on the couch and watch Netflix series while eating cheese.

Instead, I've decided to get back into shapes with a baby steps approach. I will do something every day, no matter how small or seemingly insignificant, and I will record it in a journal. My hope is that all these little "workouts" will start to become longer, more challenging workouts as my motivation comes back and I build up stamina.

For example, on Tuesday of this week, I did about 2 minutes of a high intensity workout that should have taken about 15 minutes. Why did I stop? Because I literally could not go on. I was gasping for air, my legs felt like jello, and I just couldn't do it alone. But in my journal I dutifully recorded my two minutes of burpees and lunges, vowed to not judge myself for being SO out of shape, wrote myself a motivating message ("a little at a time"), and moved on with my day.

On Friday, I did about 6 minutes of a 30 minute yoga video (I was not kidding when I said I am seriously out of shape). It is recorded in my journal.

Yesterday I did a 28 minute foundational yoga video. It led me through very simple poses, mostly seated stretches - easy stuff, but hey, I did it. I'm counting it as a workout, and I proudly recorded it in my journal with another motivating message to myself ("stick with it - you'll get there").

The cats are very supportive of my yoga efforts.

Today, two more yoga videos. Again, they were easy, foundational videos, but they are exactly what I need to start re-building my strength and gaining confidence. I realize now that if I try to jump back into my old exercise routine, I will give up because I'm not at that fitness level any more. It's simply too hard, and it kills me to say that because I used to be in such great shape! I used to lift heavy objects without thinking twice! Now I'm that girl that asks men to carry things for me. Ugh. I will get my strength back.

So, that's my Baby Steps Plan. What do you think? Anyone else want to join me in a Baby Steps Plan of your own?