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In April I Will…

April 1, 2015

March was pretty darn good to me. It helps that a third of it was spent in Europe!

I’m sharing monthly what I tackled in the last month and what I’m working towards in the coming days.

March goals

In March I wanted to…

Finish reading The Giver. We are soooo close. It’s getting to the suspenseful parts so I suspect we’ll wrap it up in a day or two.

Continue de-cluttering the house. Didn’t do a damn thing. I sort of pushed this much lower on my priority list and accepted several weeks ago that I wasn’t going to get anything done. However, I did unpack from Europe immediately after getting home so I suppose that counts as a little de-cluttering? I have to get some sort of points for that because normally my bag would sit around for at least two weeks.

Have fun in Germany! Umm YES! That was an easy one :) I can’t wait to tell you all about it!

Complete the 30 Day Gratitude Journal Challenge. Completed and going strong. I shared some of my thoughts on gratitude journaling here.

What I didn’t get done rolls into April, plus:

April goals

In April I will…

Learn a new skill. I have brainstormed so many ideas for this but it comes down to how much time I have and what classes are available (if necessary). I might end up pushing this to another month if I find a class offered during a different time.

Continue de-cluttering the house. Yup. I’m still on this kick. It’s just really, realllllly bothering me how much worthless junk is sitting around.

Hike somewhere with a waterfall. Don’t waterfalls make everything better? So much beauty and peacefulness.

Complete two nagging tasks. “Nagging tasks” are a term I learned from Gretchen Rubin in The Happiness Project. Essentially it’s those things that take up space in your brain but that would take less time to complete than the time you spend thinking about them. I’m picking two nagging tasks this month and getting my butt moving on completing them.

Try one new-to-me relaxing activity. I’m going to have such a busy (hopefully fun!) month that relaxing isn’t even on my radar right now. Does it count if I just schedule the relaxing activity? ha. Sure. These are my rules. We shall see what happens!

Oh my gosh. April feels full. Luckily I’m feeling good, feeling motivated, feeling like I’m ready to put in some hard work and plan things out. I need to take some time to break down these goals and make them realistic. I know it’s possible and even if I don’t complete everything, progress is progress. 

What are you tackling in April? Are you looking forward to actual Spring weather?

Currently – 3/31/2015

March 31, 2015

reading with J-slice

Reading with J-slice. We’re so close to finally finishing The Giver.

Planning a short getaway to Philly.

Putting together a list of goals for April.

Avoiding April Fools Day jokes. I don’t do them. It’s not my thing.

Cooking again now that I’m home but totally not feeling it. Can’t I just have eggs every nite?

Feeling really good and very motivated to get some cool shit done.

Loving that Hersheypark is open for the next two weekends. Rollercoasters!!!

Missing breakfasts with Hootie and her family.

Wanting lots of new sneakers for Spring/Summer. Is there a New Shoes fairy? I need her in my life.

Watching both versions of Married At First Sight because a) I would totally do that and b) the new guy, Sean, is incredibly handsome. Also… love <3.

Preparing for soccer season to start next week. I’ll have three days of soccer and three days of personal training. Holy whoa.

What’s currently going on in your life? Share with me!

How to Break Down Big Goals

March 30, 2015

Big goals can feel super overwhelming at first, especially after the initial excitement wears off. The key is to break down big goals into smaller, manageable steps.

Even though you then have a giant list of things to do, the benefits of having smaller steps is that they feel do-able, each one completed gives you a boost of confidence and momentum forward, and it’s easier to later timeline your goal to success.

I’ve found that I’m half decent at breaking down goals. (It’s the starting part that gets me sometimes!) I guess it’s the Type-A planner in me.

I have a couple of big goals I’m working on right now, including my huge 30 Before 30 project. I got a late start on the project so with less than 12 months to begin with, breaking down each goal is the best chance I have for accomplishing all of my goals by my deadline of September 13th.

With my recent experiences breaking down goals, today I’m sharing a few of my best tips so you can start tackling your own big goals.

Get excited! Is it possible you’ve been procrastinating on your goals because you’ve felt a smidge overwhelmed? Go to your favorite coffee shop, take a walk to first quiet your mind, or whatever gets you going, do it.

My first step is always to find a fun notebook and colorful pens. (If you’re into pens too, my current favorite is this Le Pen set). Having color present gets me pumped to stop procrastinating and start working.

This is the notebook I’ve been using for dreaming, brainstorming, and tracking goals:

goals notebook

Start with the first step. Deep, I know. But seriously, think to yourself “If I started working on this goal right this very moment, what is the first step I would need to take?” The answer is often completely obvious but I write it down anyway.

For some of my goals, the first thing I needed to do was actually define what that goal meant to me. For example, one of my 30 Before 30 goals is to “complete three house projects” but I hadn’t yet chosen those projects so my first step was to do so.

Brainstorm now if the ideas come to you. After stating that I needed to define the house projects goal in detail, I also brainstormed project ideas while I was at it. Getting started by writing down the first step will often get my brain going so ideas and the next steps just pour out of me.

breaking down big goals

When you’re not sure, a broad topic can be a step. If the next steps don’t come to you, you can just write down broad topics (like “research how to…” or “figure out costs”) that you know you’ll need to address and break those down later. This is helpful when you don’t know yet what you don’t know. I ran into this with the FRESH START calendar and shared the 25 things I didn’t know.

Don’t worry about the order of events. When breaking down big goals, just getting your action items written down is what’s most important. What might work for you is a giant brain dump that you can put in order later. Maybe you type them up because cut + paste is awesome. Maybe you write each step on an index card so you can easily shuffle them around. (Plus, index cards give you the option to either lay them out to see them all at once or stack them so you only see one at a time!) Just do whatever works for you.

Use verbs. My biggest tip for breaking down goals is to use VERBS! Verbs are your friends. You’ll notice my 30 Before 30 list includes verbs like: plan, research, ask, choose, take, schedule, do.

breaking down big goals

Fill in gaps by referencing articles and blog posts about how others have done something similar. I say “fill in gaps” because I like to plan things my way first because that’s what works for me. Then if there are things I’m not sure of, or I’m stuck, I reference how-tos from others.

You probably already read several articles or blog posts “for inspiration” but now go back and read them to pull actual action steps and fill in what you missed.

Don’t worry about your timeline yetAt this point I don’t even worry about actually timelining the goals and action items. That’s way too much to handle all at once. The most important thing is to break down a goal into small, manageable steps, documenting as much as you know right now.

Overall, breaking down your big goals will get your brain actively thinking about pursuing the goals, something you might’ve avoided for a little while. Taking the opportunity to piece a big goal together through small action items will help you feel more comfortable with tackling your big goals.

What’s your best tip for breaking down big goals? What works for you? Is there a big goal you’re working on right now?

PS – I’m back from Europe! I’ll be sharing my adventures later this week and into next week. Can’t wait to tell you everything!

Web Wandering

March 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!

The other day I stumbled across the Gratitude Journal app. It’s $1.99 but has some super cool features, like built-in reminders and easy ways to share. Plus they’re developing an export-to-PDF feature so you can have a print version of your journal. If I wasn’t gung-ho on handwriting, I’d download this app in a heartbeat.

My Mom and I have always encouraged experiences over things. Duh, I’m an adventures kinda girl. Here’s support for our approach: Why Experiences Trump Things and Bring Us Closer.

I pretty much want to BE this woman.

One thing you probably know about me by now is that I love handwritten notes. I write them myself but Mashable recently shared four online services that help you fake a handwritten note. The one that uses actual humans to do the writing? I think they want my handwriting. Right?!

This guy is my hero. Randy Olson created an algorithm that, among other things, determined the most efficient road trip stopping in each of the 48 contiguous states. He also plotted out a road trip covering Europe. I’m obviously bookmarking those to reference after purchasing my RV.

Speaking of travel, here are Unconventional Ways to Save Big on Travel Costs. I had never thought about work exchanges but that could be a fairly easy way to stay somewhere new for a while.

Apparently I’m on a travel kick. Six Reasons Why You Should Live in an RV During Your Twenties shares at least four reasons why I desperately want to buy an RV. That’s the second share from Heath Padgett, my favorite RV blogger, and it miiiight help that he’s a fellow ginger.

In addition to a gratitude practice, this Quora question curates the top answers to simple things you can do to make yourself happier.

As a female, I am thrilled to see the growth of How Did She Get There. I learned about HDSGT through Strands of Genius and it features weekly interviews with successful women. Hell yeah!

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

6 Tips for Writing a Letter to Your Grandparent

March 26, 2015

Exactly one year and one month after sharing my letter to my Grandpa with you, he passed away. I re-read that letter after his services were over and pretty much bawled. It was perfect. I wouldn’t change or add a thing.

Letter to my Grandpa - December 2013

I can’t tell you how much that letter means to me now. How much it means to me that I got to say everything I wanted to say to him. And that he got to hear it, know it, and feel it.

me, Grandpa, Mom - my 29th birthday

I didn’t get to write a letter to my other Grandpa because I didn’t know he was that ill until it was too late. I should’ve written to him sooner.

grandparents, Dad, J-slice, and John

So I did write to his wife, my Grandma, to make sure she knows how I feel and that I really admire her for how she has handled Grandpa’s passing.

A Letter to My Grandmother

The thing about grandparents is that they are amazing people. Loving, wise, experienced, and know who they are and what they want for their family. The other thing about grandparents is that we don’t get to keep them forever, as much as we’d love to do just that. It’s those two factors combined that urged me to write the letters to my Grandpa and Grandma.

Writing a letter to my Grandma

There’s no right or wrong way to write a letter to your grandparents. I mean, don’t say things about them dying if they’re in great health… but I think that’s obvious.

With two letters under my belt and a little feedback from my maternal Grandpa and paternal Grandma, I’d love to help you write your own letter.

Here are 6 tips for writing a letter to your grandparent:

1. Write it. No typing. Handwriting. Then snail mail the letter to them like they’re used to because that gives them time to read the letter on their own.

2. Just start writing. It will come to you. If you’re not sure how to start, kick off the letter by telling the story of a memory you hold close to your heart.

3. Say all of the things you’d want to say if they were dying. You might not get that chance in their last few days so say it now and start the conversation.

4. Talk about their impact on your life. Share what you admire about them. Share what qualities will live on through you. Share what they’ve done for you. Share how they’ve influenced you.

5. Thank them. For their love, support, or whatever they’ve given you. For their laughter, positivity, or a unique quirk you love the most about them.

6. Tell them you love them! Simple as that. If I love you are the only words on the page, that’s okay too.

The most important thing is that you just sit down and write. Write the darn letter. Spill from your heart to the page. You and your grandparent will both be incredibly grateful that you did.

By the way, I asked my maternal Grandpa for advice on what he would want to hear in a letter from a grandchild. He emailed this to me almost exactly one year ago:

Hi Janelle, 

Here are some of the things I’d like my grandchildren to share with me, either in a discussion or by writing a letter: 

What did you do recently, like in school, with family, work or recreation?  Favorite school subjects.  If you are a teenager, college student, or working adult, what kind of career interests you?  Do you have any opinions about social or political issues (legalizing drugs; homosexuality; armed police guards in schools; wars; etc.).  I’d like to know my grandchildren’s thoughts about religion and if they have any questions.  I’d like to know about their friends and what they like to do with their friends.  Maybe they would like to discuss a book they read, or a movie they saw.  I’d like them to feel free to discuss any problems they have with family, friends, school, work etc. 

I hope this is helpful but if not please let me know and I’ll give it another try. Thanks for asking me to do this.  It gave me a lot to think about. 


According to my own grandfather, you can take a completely different approach in your letter and just share things about yourself. Your thoughts, your feelings, what’s going on in your life. (My Grandpa was a pastor and loved intellectual discussions so I’m sure some of the topics you share or discuss with your grandparent will be different than mine). This may seem boring to you but it’s incredibly interesting to your grandparent because they want to know you. Plus this opens the door for so many future conversations, and hopefully, future letter-writing too.

Have you written a letter to your grandparent(s)? What tips do you have for others? What do you think your grandparent(s) want to hear from you?

PS – If you missed the tributes to my grandfathers, here they are: for my maternal Grandpa and for my paternal Grandpa. And for fun, here are my two favorite (maternal) Grandpa posts: 8 ways my Grandpa is awesome and Grandpa humor.

Create: Love Actually Quote Art for Hootie

March 25, 2015

Hootie is my “German sister” and I am with her right now!!! That deserves at least 14 more exclamation points but I’ll spare you.

We are both fans of the author Janet Evanovich, the legendary (yep I said it) TV show Gilmore Girls, and the best holiday movie ever… Love Actually.

We share a love for this scene in particular:

annual Love Actually party

I sort of re-created the sign last year and it sits in my living room year round.

Currently 12/3/2013 perfect

When Hootie asked me to make her a piece of artwork, she said that was the phrase she wanted on it. And of course it had to be red, white, and blue because that’s Hootie’s thing. You’d think she was legitimately half-American! :)

There are a few ways to make art like this but this approach is what works for me.

I started off by marking the center of the canvas and then applying letter stickers. I actually sprayed the canvas with adhesive spray first to see if that held the stickers in place better but it didn’t. Paint will still seep under your stickers. Accept it and move on :)

To Me You Are Perfect art - letters

Next I painted the canvas. Duh. Really tricky step that I’m sure you weren’t anticipating. I had to make sure I had enough paint to cover the letters so you’d be able to read the phrase at the end. See the letters camouflaged in there?

To Me You Are Perfect art - paint

A little dry time is okay but you really want to get the letters up before the paint is completely dry. I use an x-acto knife to start the peeling process and sometimes cut paint where it has dried too much to the sticker.

To Me You Are Perfect art - peeling off the letters

This is what you’re left with after pulling up the stickers. Obviously touch-ups are needed.

To Me You Are Perfect art - after peeling off the letters

I just take a tiny paintbrush and get white paint in all the nooks and crannies of each letter. This is your opportunity to transform any of the letter shapes you want to “make your own” if that’s your thing. I usually stick pretty closely to the sticker’s font because then it’s intentionally different from my handwriting.

Here’s the final art after two coats of touch-ups:

To Me You Are Perfect art - after touchups

It’s a thick canvas so it feels chunky and, well, perfect.

To Me You Are Perfect art

Hootie loves it!

What quote would you want in art form? Would it be from a movie or TV show? I think my favorites are from books. Remember this quote from The Perks of Being a Wallflower?

The BIG News I Teased

March 24, 2015

I sort of maybe kinda teased some big news here. And if you’re on Instagram, here too.

I got so many comments and text messages after that. ha. Apparently you don’t like knowing there’s a secret? ;) Well, I’m ready to put you out of your misery and spill the beans.

Here’s a clue:

Janelle & niece

Except that’s my (John’s) niece who turns four this year. And I’m not pregnant.

But my brother’s girlfriend is!!!!!!!!!!!! (<– that deserves at least 42 more exclamation points)

Their family of four is growing and so is our bigger family. My brother Ben is the tall redhead below, his long-time girlfriend Elizabeth is standing in the middle, and her son and daughter are in the photo as well.

family photo with Grandpa - April 2014

Grandpa’s in that photo too, since it was taken last Fall, and I sooooo wish he could be with us for this news. My other Grandpa would’ve been crying-happy too because he absolutely adored kids.

Needless to say, I am extremely excited for Ben and his family! I’m thrilled to welcome another niece or nephew and be a biological aunt for the very first time. I cannot wait for everything that is to come.

Thank you for sharing in my excitement and wanting so badly to know all about this big news. Our family is… ecstatic! Overjoyed! Deliriously happy! (I had to look up synonyms for “excited” because my brain is on cloud nine and couldn’t find any other words. haha). We are truly feeling all the happy feels when it comes to bringing another family member into the world.


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