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Web Wandering

February 27, 2015

web wandering

Woohoo! It’s Friday! Killing time at work till 5pm? Or want to read some fun things this weekend? Let’s wander the web together!

This is one you might want to share with your man (lovingly, of course). A Quora user asked this question: What are the best romantic relationship hacks? There are tons of good suggestions for keeping romance alive in your relationship and making your partner feel loved.

If you’re just starting to work on your side hustle, here are 23 Ideas for Your Email List Opt-In Freebie. If you’re stuck thinking you don’t have a carrot to offer your blog/website followers, surely one of those 23 ideas will spark something genius for you.

Get ready to bookmark this one too. Marie Forleo shared this on her facebook page the other day. It’s 300 Awesome Free Things which is really a list of tools and resources that are insanely helpful for your website, blog, side hustle, and day job.

I briefly mentioned the other day that I started a gratitude journal as part of my new routine. If you’re interested in doing the same, or trying to add any new habit to your life by starting small, Nicole Antoinette has the deets on How (& Why) to Create an Anchor Habit.

I’ve gone low-carb which is tough when it feels like everythinghascarbs! This week one of our dinners was salmon meatballs and they were delish over a spinach salad. How Sweet Eats just shared Tortilla Crusted Chipotle Salmon Sliders and I’m excited to try those too. You can’t go wrong with her recipes.

“Just do. Put your mind completely in the activity, in the motion and ideas and emotions, in your body and breath and surroundings. Be completely mindful, completely immersed.” Zen Habits spoke to me with the notion of Getting Lost in Just Doing.

This is an oldie but still applies: how to finally do a pull-up. I’m working on these with my trainer, Matt. I have a loooong way to go but we’re making progress and I’m super excited. It’s been my goal for YEARS!

Another recent favorite from Nicole Antoinette: How Will You be Brave Today? It’s as simple as “Bravery is what happens when you try.” I freakin love her.

And finally guys, if you haven’t signed up for the 30 Days of Gutsy course, what the hell are you waiting for? You must register by tomorrow (2/28) and the course starts on Sunday (3/1). This is the course that helped to get me from dream to actual idea to busting my ass to physically holding my dream in my hands (the FRESH START calendar). If you’ve had a big goal or dream in your head for a while but feel completely overwhelmed by it, the 30 Days of Gutsy course will hold your hand and take you step-by-step through knocking down the wall of fear and building up a fortress of awesomeness. Or something like that. Basically it’ll help you get out of your own way and do something rad. Just take my word for it and register.

Have you been wandering the web too? Got something to share? Link to it in the comments!

6th Annual Chili Cook-Off

February 26, 2015

Yesterday was the 6th annual chili cook-off hosted by my employer. I’m considered the Assistant Director of Fun there and I still don’t know how we settled on having a chili cook-off six years ago. We’re a company of mostly dudes who don’t cook. Figure that one out.

This year was probably the best showing yet: nine chilis!

2015 Chili Cook-Off

I’ve participated in the chili cook-off every year despite the fact that I don’t like chili. I don’t eat meat and I don’t like spicy foods. That pretty much settles that.

So every year, I make a non-traditional chili. Highlights include seafood chili (which won!), vegan quinoa chili, taco chili, chili lasagna (lasagna… with chili in it), and breakfast chili. That one was my favorite. You know… for a food I don’t like.

Chilly Morning Breakfast Chili

Originally I wasn’t going to participate this year. It’s expensive and I end up giving my chili away or throwing it out. Plus it takes a lot of time to research recipes, buy groceries, make the chili, then lug everything into work. I would probably feel differently if it was a sprinkled cupcake bake-off. Of course ;)

At the last minute, I decided I’d make a chili. I don’t know what’s wrong with me. I just like to participate in fun things and help an event be successful!

I had all kinds of big ideas for fusion recipes, like chili with french fries, biscuits and chili gravy, chili breakfast burritos, and other strange things that probably don’t sound good in word form but might taste delicious. Since I decided to participate at the last minute though, I wisely took it easy on myself and went with the least complicated thing I could come up with: chili cupcakes.

Chili Cupcakes

The base is honey cornbread. I cut a circle out of the middle, spooned chili in, topped with freshly shredded sharp cheddar, and put the lid back on.

As for the actual chili, I very loosely (as usual) followed a recipe that included pumpkin puree and peanut butter in the ingredient list. For real. Here’s the original peanut butter chili recipe but I cut some things (corn, hominy, kidney beans), added others (Old Bay, pineapple), and obviously used veggie meat crumbles instead of actual meal. I wouldn’t use faux meat for myself but I work in an office full of meat eaters so I had to trick them. Or try.

There are prizes every year for chili cook-off winners of different categories. The Overall champion gets their name on a plaque! My name is there once… and the other five years the winner has been one person: my friend Christina. Everyone loves to hate her when it comes to chili.

I usually win at least one small category though. The past years’ prizes were gift cards to Chipotle which I always saved to give away during 25 Days of GivingThe prizes were different this year: $10 cash and a cupcake! My boss’s wife makes the best cupcakes. Mmm!

My chili cupcakes won Best Creativity. It’s a fitting category for me to win, don’t you think? :)

2015 Chili Cook-Off Most Creative

I’m back to swearing that I’m not making chili next year. But… I can always be swayed. Do you have a stellar go-to chili recipe? Do you have ideas for a funky, fusion, non-traditional chili I should attempt?

Struggling with Sleep

February 25, 2015

Are you a napper? I’m not the kind of person who loves to nap. It just ain’t my thing. If I’m that exhausted that I can’t possibly keep my eyes open one more second, I might take a nap but I inevitably wake up grumpy, groggy, and with a headache. I’d rather feel extremely tired than like that.

Gavin and Lexie sleeping

The problem is: I don’t get enough sleep at nite. This dates back to… probably elementary school. Causes: having an older brother (I can’t miss out on anything!) and being Type-A (I want to do eeeverything!)

I’ve always joked that I’ll sleep when I’m dead. I function well (or I think I do) on the 5-6 hours I get each nite. If I could get away with sleeping less than that without falling asleep on my keyboard at work, I would. That’s because my brain is messed up. ha. In my head, I feel like I’m not taking full advantage of the day if I’m not productive AND stay up as late as I can that still allows me to be functional the next day. To me, there are certain activities that just aren’t worth our time: sleeping, video games, being nasty to others (just to name a few).

For a few years now, I’ve known that I need to completely reframe the way I think and feel about sleep. I didn’t want to but I knew I needed to. Two weeks ago I had a near-meltdown with my personal trainer because I wasn’t seeing the results I wanted but felt like I was doing a lot of positive things. One of the things we talked about then was getting more sleep, for my sanity and for strength training recovery. This was also when I was in the midst of getting back into a routine.

I’m still doing that and I am (surprisingly) happy to say that part of my new routine is attempting to get eight hours sleep each nite!

Yesterday marked the tenth day of my new life and sleep schedule. I have all kinds of evening reminder dings on my phone that tell me when to get ready for bed, what to do before bed, when to stop reading, and to set my step tracker to sleep mode. I’ve been doing that so I have a log of each nite’s sleep.

Here’s the last week of sleep times:

sleep time graphLook! I did pretty well! I don’t feel a difference yet but we’ll see how things progress. I have high hopes.

Last nite was my low point: not even 6.5 hours. I was up making chili for my office’s chili cook-off today and then I stayed up even later finishing Insurgent.

sleep last niteFunny enough, an 11:05pm bedtime is still at least a half hour earlier than I would have normally gone to sleep.

You’ll notice in the graph above that my activity level drops off pretty quickly when I go to sleep. That’s because luckily, I don’t have trouble falling asleep, I just have trouble getting myself to actually want to. My stepdad and John both joke that my Mom and I are asleep before our heads hit the pillow. I feel very fortunate that I don’t have issues falling asleep or staying asleep.

All of that to say: I’m working on it. I’m doing my best to get as close as I can to eight hours each nite and track how I feel as time goes on. I’m hoping that I will eventually feel so amazing that I’ll wonder why I never let myself regularly get eight hours before. And I’m definitely hoping that part of that feeling amazing thing will be muscle definition and loss of body fat. A girl can dream!

Have you experimented with sleep? What do you struggle with when it comes to sleep? Are you a morning person or night owl?

Finding Time to Read

February 24, 2015

I’m finally reading again!

You have no idea how much this delights me. I LOVE books. I LOVE reading. I LOVE zooming through a book and telling everyone I know that they should read it too. (Although… I hardly ever fly through a book. I’m not a fast reader).

Last year I fell out of the reading habit for many reasons: time, priorities, and starting a few books I didn’t like enough to finish. Interestingly enough, I was super into non-fiction which was difficult because my brain was fried by the time I could read each nite. I guess I decided that if I couldn’t read the non-fiction I was excited about, I wouldn’t read anything.

I don’t think that’s exactly how the thought process went. I never chose to not read; I just… didn’t.

I read a whopping eight books last year. Eight. And seven of those were in the first five months! Eight is an all-time low, apart from the college years when I was in school full-time and working three jobs.

reading in February 2015

Luckily, I still gazed longingly at books and continued to add to my to-read list on Goodreads. That’s fortunate because when January rolled around again, I was ready.

As I was making plans to go to California (here’s part 1 and part 2), BFF Lauren texted me to ask what books I was taking. Even though she always asks me, I completely forgot… I forgot that I would want to read on my trip. How ridiculous is that?!

So I took two along and per usual, I spent the entirety of my four flights reading. Well… I took a quick snooze once and did a little people watching (it’s a requirement!) but other than that I was reading.

I read two books while on my five day trip and had to buy a third book in the airport before my flight home. I was SO excited to be reading again!

My reading time dropped off a bit when I got home from California until last week when I started my new routine. I’m going to bed (what feels like) insanely early – at 9:15 – which I am not at all thrilled about. I mean, I enjoy the extra sleep, but mentally I am not excited to cut my evening short and head to bed.

reading in February 2015

What gets me there? The promise of reading in bed for 30 minutes before I go to sleep. I set aside that time when I created my new daily schedule, thinking reading was the only way I might actually feel tired enough to sleep that early. Turns out that I really love having that reading and relaxing time, especially since John isn’t in bed yet so the kitties snuggle up next to me and purr.

Reading is the perfect way to end the day.

Like many things, a little bit of regular reading time makes me want to read more often! When I do have a little bit of free time, I find myself debating in my head whether I want to do X… or read. It helps right now that I really want to get through Insurgent because (spoiler alert) it’s not that great. And yet I will probably read the next book in the series. ha. Classic.

How do you find time to read? Do you prefer mornings or evenings or all day Sunday lounging in your PJs? Does reading put you to sleep or keep you awake?

Getting Back into a Routine

February 23, 2015

As a Type-A, routine is how I function. It’s not that I’m inflexible, I just like to be prepared, and I can only be prepared if I know what’s coming ahead. I’m pretty sure it has something to do with this never-ending need to feel productive, like I’m always using my time wisely and for a purpose.

I was totally in a great groove this past Fall, specifically in November. I had just started getting up early, realizing that I write better in the mornings. I definitely wasn’t getting enough sleep but I was exercising so I felt good about the place I was in.

When I started working on the FRESH START calendar, I got even less sleep. I worked on it mornings, evenings, and weekends and was planning 25 Days of Giving as well. Then my paternal Grandpa passed away, followed shortly after by my maternal Grandpa. Thankfully I had off work for the last two weeks of my maternal Grandpa’s life, so every waking moment was spent with him.

With all of that going on, I pretty much had no schedule anymore. I didn’t cook, I barely slept, I scraped by on 25 Days of Giving, and everything was done last-minute.

It took me about a month to get back into my usual groove of blogging, working, cooking, exercising, and life. Friends would ask how I was doing and the only thing I could come up with was “I’m struggling to get back into my old routine.”

I said this to Nicole, the brilliant accountability coach I worked with in December, and she gave me one of those that’s-so-obvious-how-did-I-miss-it? thoughts: get into a new routine. Let the old one go and figure out what works for me now. 

That is definitely what I needed. It’s not like I could turn back time and make my grandfathers come back, so why did I think I could go back to my old routine and it would still fit my needs?

Like a typical Type-A, I made a list of things I wanted my new schedule to include: working out, reading, getting up early to do creative work, and sleeeeeeep. I downloaded a spreadsheet template so I could easily manipulate blocks of time until I figured out how to incorporate everything and when.

When I was finished, umm, my week looked pretty awful. I did not want to live that life. Most of my evenings looked like this: work, gym, dinner, read, sleep. No free time!new routine

BFF Lauren told me I was nuts. She was right. I didn’t even bother attempting that schedule.

I talked to my personal trainer to see what changes he wanted to make to our workout plan, then I devised a new schedule that actually includes free time. I have fortunately found a way to get up early for creative work, go to my day job, work out, eat dinner, read, and get to sleep early without feeling crazy or like I’m sleeping the day away.

I even started including a new bedtime ritual: writing in a gratitude journal. I’ve been wanting to do this for years! I’ll share more on that as I get further into it, just like this new routine.

For now, I can say that sleep still feels odd to me. My whole life I’ve felt like if I don’t stay up late, I’m not taking full advantage of the day. For the last few years, I somehow functioned on 5-6 hours of sleep on week nites, max. I’m now getting close to 8 hours and like I said, it still feels strange. I’m only one week in though so I’m taking notes and will fill you in on details as I have more to share.

When your schedule gets thrown out of whack, what do you do to get back into a new routine? Do you have any tips on getting the sleep I need while not feeling like I could be using my time more wisely doing something else?

More Love Letters – February 2015

February 20, 2015

These are my first notes for More Love Letters since December! Wow that feels like foreverrr.

If you find yourself with a spare few minutes this weekend, try writing an uplifting note for someone in need. Here are the letter requests and you just have to get your notes in the mail by Tuesday February 24th.

More Love Letters - February 2015

The post office I go to doesn’t carry those “Sealed with Love” stamps so I ordered them online from USPS.com where I also found some pretty rad patriotic stamps. If you get mail from me, you’re pretty much guaranteed to get a cool stamp now. Actually, you might still get a holiday stamp. Sorry! Don’t you love Frosty year round?

Anyway, back to More Love Letters.

I love responding to MLL’s letter requests for two reasons:

  1. It’s fun and somewhat therapeutic to write a positive message to someone in need
  2. It’s an excuse to buy more notecards :)

By the way, the kitties wanted to get in on the love note action, specifically Lexie but then Mr Curious came wandering in too. It was either that or I was hogging their sunlight spot. Perhaps both?

More Love Letters - February 2015

There are a few of you reading who have declared many times that you want to write some notes. Here’s your time! Do it!

Pennsylvania Travels: Flight 93 Memorial

February 19, 2015

The first part of our time in Pittsburgh involved food, more food, and Garth Brooks! After a fun less-than-24-hours in Pittsburgh, we decided to use the trip home to stop at the Flight 93 Memorial.

John had been there once, before any sort of memorial was constructed and the road was still gravel. John and I wanted to see what had been done with the area, plus J-slice was born after 9/11 so we thought it was important for him to understand what happened that day in our own state.

There were signs like the one below along a walking path that described the morning’s events from New York City, the Pentagon, aboard Flight 93, and in this rural town of Shanksville, PA where the plane crashed in an open field.

Flight 93 Memorial - Shanksville PA

Far beyond that is a wall of the crew and passengers’ names, including a woman who was pregnant. That hits you hard, doesn’t it?

There’s a small building with some information inside and a place to write your thoughts on Flight 93 and the events of September 11, 2001. I left a note and pinned it on the wall.

Flight 93 Memorial cards - Shanksville PA

A visitor center and learning center are under construction which should help visitors get a much better understanding of what happened here, especially for those who weren’t born yet or were too young to remember that day.

The crash site, a massive crater, was returned to its original state so you just see a field. In our case, we just saw snow. The area is notably missing several trees that were damaged by the flames so while the field is still a field, you still get the sense that the space was altered in a way that can’t ever fully go back to its pre-crash state.

Flight 93 Memorial - American flag - Shanksville PA

I definitely want to return after construction is complete. It’s heavy but it’s necessary, not only for J-slice to learn about something that has impacted his entire life directly (his dad) and indirectly, but also to honor those aboard Flight 93, their families, first responders, and more.

The Flight 93 Memorial has been created with respect and I was really impressed by that. While Shanksville isn’t quite near any typical tourist spots, the Memorial is certainly worth a visit.

Have you been to the Flight 93 Memorial or any other memorials central to United States history? We live so close to NYC, Philly, and DC that I feel like we’ve seen them all but I know that isn’t true. There’s so much to see and learn!

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