New Year’s Resolutions Part 3

put down the iPhone

In July, after a three-year-old baby-sitting charge dropped my cell phone in a pile of wet sand, I became a smartphone user. And it’s since then that I’ve realized the real danger that is smartphone-use while driving. In the past, I’d never had much of a problem leaving my phone in my purse while in the car. Sure, I’d answer the occasional phone call or send the a quick text while sitting at a stoplight, but I never considered myself one of those “dangerous” cell phone drivers.

All that changed, though, when Gmail, Facebook, and WordPress landed straight in the palm of my hand. Available to me at any time, the urge to check my email and scroll through status updates is far too strong. I find myself subconsciously reaching for my phone while behind the wheel entirely too often. I know the statistics. Seriously. (If you leave me some long-winded comment citing percentages of accidents, trying to force me to see the error of my ways, I’ll be really annoyed. I get it.)

So, I’ve decided it’s time to change this habit. So, in 2012, my iPhone will be riding in my trunk any time I’m traveling solo. No text, no call, no status update is vital enough for the distraction and risk that is smartphone-use while driving.

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New Year’s Resolutions Part 2

be more inventive in the kitchen (a two-part resolution)

We run our dishwasher at least once a day, which may seem like a lot for a household of two. But the higher water bill is offset by our economically-friendly habit of eating at home. During our dating years, B and I were in the habit of eating out almost every time we shared a meal. It was just easier; I lived with my parents, and B’s apartment was a bachelor pad in every sense of the phrase, right down to his bare refrigerator. If we wanted a little privacy for a meal, we had to 1) kick my parents out of their house, 2) cart all the ingredients from their house to B’s apartment, or 3) eat out. For simplicity’s sake, we usually fell back on the latter choice. However, when we moved in together and took a closer look at our budget, we knew that for our wallet’s sake, that habit would have to change. We now eat out, on average, once a week. The rest of our meals we cook at home.

In the past eight months that we’ve lived together, we’ve developed a standard repertoire of dishes:

Occasionally we’ll venture out and experiment with some ground beef or throw together a different kind of soup or pasta, but overall, we’re stuck in a bit of a food rut. Much of this is my fault–I do most of the cooking, and am constantly scouring cookbooks, websites, and magazines for recipe ideas. However, during the work week, I just plain don’t feel like figuring out a new recipe. So, part one of this resolution is to:

try new recipes

But, wait! There’s more. Since moving in, we’ve really only hosted dinner for other people three times, and I’m embarrassed to admit that each time the menu was the same. I blogged about the menu of our first dinner party in July, and it really was not that astounding. But every time we’re set to have people over, I get nervous. I don’t want to try out a new recipe on guests; what if it’s awful? So, I end up making our same-old go-to dish.

A couple weekends ago, my good friend and her boyfriend had B and I over for dinner, and I was so impressed with the menu. She had cheese, bread, and grapes for appetizers, a seasonal salad, lightly-glazed roasted chicken, and a Pinterest-inspired potato dish. Not only that, but the presentation was lovely. For dessert, she’d even put together a little picnic basket with all the makings for s’mores. The whole evening was beautiful, comfortable, and adorable.

Therefore, the second half of my food-related resolution is to:

learn some guest-worthy dishes and host dinner parties

Not only will this two-parter of a resolution spice up our dinner life a bit, but I plan to keep you all up-to-date with my kitchen accomplishments, as well. Coming soon is a page with some of our favorite recipes, the tried-and-true as well as the new.

Actually, here’s an idea–let’s make this a back-and-forth. If you’d like to share a recipe with me, I’d love to try it out!

Update: Check out this new page, where I’ll keep track of some of our favorite recipes we try throughout the year!

New Year’s Resolutions Part 1

be less prejudiced

prej-u-dice /ˈprejədəs/ Preconceived opinion not based on reason or experience

So often we think of racial, religious, and sexual prejudice. Though the word is often used in regards to one’s bias towards a group of people, my trouble with prejudice is largely more personal.

Allow me to illustrate this point with a stoy…

One afternoon in the weeks before Christmas, I rushed off to Target between work and handbell practice to pick up a few things–namely, gift wrap, Play-Doh, and a book for my book club’s Christmas exchange. With less than 20 minutes to shop and get to church, I quickly chose the latest Lisa See novel, Shanghai Girls, sped through the aisles, and was disappointed to find only three open registers. I chose the shortest line–and quickly regretted my choice. The sales associate was an older, larger woman with huge, thick glasses. She had a nasally voice and was talking in a slow drawl with the customers in front of me. Each conversation seemed to go on far too long–every item she scanned invoked a story about her grandchild, or a discussion about the sale price. I considered jumping in another line, but at this point felt like I’d invested too much time waiting. Compulsively checking the time on my phone (and realizing I was, without a doubt, going to be late and hungry), I had certainly pre-judged this woman. From her appearance and the comments I’d overheard, I’d (unconsciously) decided she was uneducated, unintelligent, and just plain a hindrance to my busy evening.

Finally, it was my turn in line. I placed my three things on the belt and greeted her with a cursory “hello,” meant to indicate my hurry. Picking up Shanghai Girls, the woman commented, “Oh, this is a fabulous book.”

I looked up, a little surprised. “Well, good,” I replied, “I’m looking forward to reading it.”

“Have you read any of her others?” she asked me.

“Actually, I did my junior project on Snow Flower and the Secret Fan in college,” I answered.

“Oh, that one was wonderful. You know what else I just read that I really enjoyed? Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet.”

“I love that book!” I gushed. “I just read it a few months ago.” The woman, who was so clearly the opposite of all the preconceived notions I’d made about her, went on to name two or three other books that are on my To-Read list.

“Well, honey,” she said as she handed me my back, “you come back and tell me about what else you’re reading!”

“I will!” I said. As I walked out to my car, amidst the other holiday shoppers rushing to and fro without an ounce of patience for one another, I thought about how that experience at the register had really put me in my place. Who was I to judge someone based on their appearance or their career? How unkind, prejudiced, and un-Christian was that?

I truly feel as though God chose my line at Target that Wednesday. Since that evening, I’ve thought of that woman often; I even considered returning with an invitation to join my book club, since I know it would match her tastes. So, one of my 2012 resolutions is to judge less, practice patience, and endeavor to see the good in people.

Mixing It Up Challenge 2012

In 2012 I will be participating in the Mixing It Up Challenge. You, too, could participate in this challenge and expand your reading repertoire. Just go here for more information and to sign up.

In an effort to round out my reading this year, I’m vowing to read one book from at least 13 of the 16 listed categories. Although I’m tempted to go for the All the Trimmings and a Cherry on Top participation level, I’m keeping it real and admitting that between my two book clubs, I may be over-committing. So, I’ll be a Two-Tier Cake-r this year. Confused yet? Read this blog for more information on the challenge.

Without further ado, the categories, and my brainstorming:

CLASSICS

Considering some Willa Cather, but considering going back to some of those should-have-read-in-high-school novels, such as Scarlet Letter or Three Musketeers.

BIOGRAPHY

I absolutely love reading biographies, but to be honest, don’t have any on my “to-read” list. However, I know that Cleopatra by Stacy Schiff has been getting a lot of attention recently, so I may have to check it out.

COOKERY, FOOD AND WINE

The author of this challenge suggested a book on wine for this category. If I can pair this with some real-life research, I’m down!

HISTORY

On tap for my July book club meeting is Unbroken by Lauren Hillenbrand, a WWII story named by TIME magazine as “the best nonfiction book of the year”. We also have Franklin and Eleanor by Hazel Rowley and Harry Truman’s Excellent Adventure by Matthew Algeo coming up in February and April.

MODERN FICTION

And this is the category where I’ll fit in my recent addiction: Meg Cabot’s Queen of Babble series.

GRAPHIC NOVELS AND MANGA

This genre will (would) be entirely new for me, and quite a stretch out of my comfort zone. May be one of the 1-3 genres I skip. We’ll see…

CRIME AND MYSTERY

Paying homage to my mother, I will probably zip through an Agatha Christie or two in 2012, but I also plan to enjoy a few more of the Stephanie Plum series. In addition, Hardball, by Sara Paretsky, is on my book club’s list for March.

HORROR

I can honestly say I’ve never read a horror novel, but on my to-read list for quite some time has been Truman Capote’s In Cold Blood.

ROMANCE

The latest Nicholas Sparks? Yes, please.

SCIENCE FICTION AND FANTASY

Ugh. This is my general reaction to science fiction and fantasy. If I re-read the Harry Potter series, does that count? (Maybe I’ll sign up for the Harry Potter Reading Challenge.)

TRAVEL

B gifted me with travel guides on London and Paris in preparation for our 2013 European vacation, so you can bet I’ll be scouring these in 2012.

POETRY AND DRAMA

I always enjoy poetry more than I think I will. Since I honestly never think to sit down and read it, I will appreciate taking the time to do so this year. I’m thinking some springtime reading…

JOURNALISM AND HUMOUR

This genre will take some research for me. It’s another one that I’m not too familiar with. Maybe I’ll check out one of those Chelsea Handler books that always look like they’ll annoy me… or maybe I’ll delve deeper and read a journalist’s collected works. Hmm….

SCIENCE AND NATURAL HISTORY

After reading The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks this year, I’m honestly not sure I can put myself through another work in this genre so soon…

CHILDREN’S AND YOUNG ADULT
In my profession, this one should not be a problem!
I’ll keep you updated on my favorites of 2012.

SOCIAL SCIENCES AND PHILOSOPHY
I gave B a copy of Plato and a Platypus Walk into a Bar by Thomas Cathcart this Christmas. The subtitle, Understanding Philosophy Through Jokes, sounds like it’s right up my alley.

Not sure this challenge is for you, but interested in learning about some others? Check out this blog, one of my favorite literature-based reads, for some more ideas.

Completed Reads

CLASSICS

The Great Gatsby by F. Scot Fitzgerald

BIOGRAPHY

Half-Broke Horses by Jeannette Walls

COOKERY, FOOD AND WINE

Julie and Julia: 365 Days, 524 Recipes, 1 Tiny Apartment Kitchen by Julie Powell

HISTORY

Harry Truman’s Excellent Adventure: The True Story of a Great American Road Trip by Matthew Algeo

MODERN FICTION

The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time by Mark Haddon

GRAPHIC NOVELS AND MANGA

Homecoming by Meg Cabot

CRIME AND MYSTERY

The Girl Who Played with Fire by Stieg Larsson

HORROR

ROMANCE

The Villa by Nora Roberts

SCIENCE FICTION AND FANTASY

Cinder by Marissa Meyer

TRAVEL

POETRY AND DRAMA

JOURNALISM AND HUMOUR

Drop Dead Healthy by A. J. Jacobs

SCIENCE AND NATURAL HISTORY

CHILDREN’S AND YOUNG ADULT
A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle

SOCIAL SCIENCES AND PHILOSOPHY

Love Wins: A Book About Heaven, Hell, and the Fate of Every Person Who Ever Lived by Rob Bell

Resolutions Revisited

If you have a Mac, you are probably familiar with Stickies. For those of you who still live in the PC-world, Stickies are basically ePost-Its that you can use on your computer. I LOVE stickies. I use them for usernames/passwords, Christmas wishlists, books to read, hotel confirmation numbers, etc. Upon opening Stickies today, I found one I created last year at this time. I must have know this was going to be a more permanent sticky, because I took the time to add a title in a fancy font. The sticky reads:

Resolutions
eat less processed foods
walk delilah daily
run another 1/2 marathon
make time for myself
be more tolerant (of others and of myself)
form & maintain friendships

Now, being the last week of 2011, seems to be a good time to reflect on this particular sticky. I clearly remember typing this list; feeling inspired by my success with my 2010 resolution (drink only one Diet Coke/day), I was feeling particularly optimistic.

eat less processed foods

One of our favorite fresh vegetable dishes--found in this cookbook

I’m feeling pretty good about this one. Although I still enjoy the occasional Fiber One bar or Goldfish cracker snack, my intake of fruits, vegetables, and lean meats has gone up, I’ve switched from instant to regular oatmeal, and I’ve nixed the 100-calorie packs.

walk delilah daily

Cannot honestly cross this one out… We got into a pretty good habit this summer when the weather was nice, but now that it’s starting to get colder (and we’ve gotten busier), we use the excuse that our 5-lb. dogs get plenty of exercise just playing in our apartment.

run another 1/2 marathon

No, I do not know that guy--but he sure seems intent on beating me!

Woo-hoo! Goal achieved.

make time for myself

My favorite way to relax

One word I’ve learned this year is one that I hear most people actually acquire first in life. I guess, in this instance, I was a little behind the learning curve. The particular word I’m talking about is “No.” At the time that I made this resolution, I was working four jobs on top of student teaching, planning a wedding, on a church committee, involved in three choirs, and job searching. This year, I learned that it doesn’t mean I’m a failure, it’s not going to offend anyone (and if it does, oh well!), and it’s actually quite healthy to just say no. I now know that the time I spend catching up on my Netflix Instant Queue or reading a book just for fun is actually just as important as my other commitments. Why? Because I’ve made a commitment to myself, to keep my sanity, and out of respect for myself, I need to keep it.

be more tolerant (of others and of myself)

In all honesty, I cannot say that I accomplished this resolution this year. If this blog post has any truth in it (and it does), I still have a ways to go. A step in the right direction: I now realize when I’m being impatient/judgmental/unfair (most of the time). Now I just need to figure out how to turn those thoughts around…

form & maintain friendships

My bachelorette party

First of all, I have to say that this resolution was not some kind of “I have no friends” pity party. In December of 2010, I was in that awkward in-between stage; I’d just graduated college, where I had a group of friends, and moved home, whereas most of my high school friends were still living out of state. My goal in 2011 was to meet or reconnect with some KC-area people, while maintaining my friendships with those long-distance people. This December, I am feeling much more settled in KC. I’ve enjoyed getting to know the other women in my Thursday night Faith Club, I’ve reconnected with some friends from the past, and kept in touch with those who still live far away. So, all in all, I would rate this resolution a success.

In the next five days, I’ll be coming up with my resolutions for 2012. Some will be re-commitments, others will be new… I’ll keep you updated. In the mean time, what are your hopes, dreams, or goals for the new year?


Playing Catch-Up

Well, my goal to post once a week didn’t quite work out. Here’s a quick catch-up of the five weeks I missed:

Week of Nov. 20:

ImageCelebrated Thanksgiving with B’s family in Des Moines. After a scrumptious feast and a rousing game of Quelf, we continued the annual tradition of a Thanksgiving bowling outing. This year, though, we upped the ante by playing “Funky Bowling.” Pictured here is the Team Bowling event, which required each competitor to bowl between the legs of their teammates.

Week of Nov. 27:

ImageChristmas decorations went up. We have quite the hodge-podge of decor after raiding our parents’ retired items, things we bought on clearance last year, and a few DIY Pinterest projects (like this wreath):

ImageThe advent calendar that my mom made for us:

ImageEat one candy cane each day of December to get in the holiday spirit inside AND out!

ImageMy wonderful husband is secure enough in his manhood that he let me have my Barbie tree this year. I’ve collected Barbie ornaments my entire life, and have always wanted to have a mini-tree on which to display them all:ImageWeek of Dec. 4:

ImageImageNora has won over her father’s heart.Image

She’s still working on her mom. If I just didn’t have to clean up so much poop, and if I could just sleep past 6am during my Winter Break, she might be a little more successful in her attempts…

Week of Dec. 11:

ImageWatched the Chiefs surprisingly bring the Packers’ undefeated season to a grinding halt. A joyous Christmas miracle for the Kansas City fans, but a seasonal tragedy for the Cheeseheads.

Week of Dec. 18:

ImageMy new mom-made Christmas sweater. I requested it, as I feel that every first-grade teacher needs a tacky Christmas sweater. (Apologies for the horrible picture quality–this was a cell phone pic.) What makes it even better? B’s matching one: Image

The awkward cropping is to protect the anonymity of my students, as B was currently managing Pin-the-Tail-on-Rudolph at our first grade Holiday Party.

ImageNow that you feel as though you’ve lived these past five weeks with us, I vow to update more regularly. I promise I’m always thinking about a blog post and coming up with ideas… I just need to make the time to sit down and write them.

Merry Christmas to all!