Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Happy Halloween!

Happy (almost late) Halloween!

I had such a hard time getting with it today since this was my first "normal" day this week with hurricane Sandy throwing everyone off. I am definitely not a big Halloween person, but I did "celebrate" with Skinny Taste's Pumpkin Spice Cupcakes! I absolutely love these cupcakes (pictured above). They are now my Halloween staple, if you will. They're light, easy to make, and always a crowd pleaser.

I also made a "cookie cemetery" for my church group last night. It was a huge hit! It was really easy to make and was totally delicious. I will admit, the picture for it is pretty awful, but that's all I had time to snap before it was devoured. While I'm definitely not into Halloween, I absolutely love making holiday-themed desserts and food. Well, that's all for now!

What do you think about holiday-themed desserts/food? Does it appeal to you or make your eyes roll? 

Monday, October 29, 2012

Daily Imperfection: Hurricane Sandy

Usually when I think of topics for my "daily imperfections" posts, I think of little small annoyances in my day like traffic, getting food on a piece of clothing, forgetting to thaw the meat I'm using for dinner - small fries. Today's daily imperfection is a whopper of an "imperfection" if I say so myself. I sit here in the dim light of my thankfully still-lit living room welcoming the forceful wind and battering rain against my windows from Hurricane Sandy. Yes, today has been quite an interesting day. Nothing quite like a hurricane to throw off all your plans! [For informational purposes, I am located in Massachusetts.]

The Beginning

It all started last night when my husband realized his workplace was closed. This was really unusual, and made me take this all a lot more seriously. Friends of mine were posting on Facebook that their school or workplace had been closed, but I didn't think much of it until my husband's workplace was closed - a very rare occurrence for his workplace. We found this out at about 11 pm and immediately proceeded to make preparations in case we had to leave soon. We filled a bunch of containers with water in case we lose power. We brought in a cooler from our car and started making extra ice, also in case we lose power (for food). I went to bed past midnight last night and could barely fall asleep realizing that this storm was coming.

This morning, we woke up early and went right to the store. Normally, my shopping day is tomorrow, so we were pretty low on food in general. At 7 am, the grocery store that is otherwise usually packed was rather quiet. I was surprised and thought for sure it would be a mad house. We got a lot of canned and nonperishable food, and also got some gas for the car. However, two hours later when we went out to get more dog food, the store looked packed. I realized Beans was running quite low on food, so we decided to go back out to get some more. I was so surprised that Petsmart was open when many other store were closed.

Right now, there are high winds outside and rain. I live on the top floor of an apartment complex, so I'm not worried about flooding of my home. No one in Massachusetts has been ordered to evacuate except those in the Cape or near the beach. We're most worried about the power going out for an extended period of time. And if it does, we've got candles, food, and water.

An Imperfect Day

So, onto the (many) imperfections... The biggest thing that threw me off is that today was supposed to be my first day of work at a new job. That was cancelled, which yes, I am bummed about because I am excited to start my new job, but I am also not complaining. Among other things, I've had such weird thoughts running through my head today. When I took I shower, I couldn't help but think what if the power goes out right now? Because I realize the power could go out (and I've literally been expecting it to go out at any minute all day), I have the mindset of "what if?" What if I can't heat up our leftovers later? What if I don't have water to wash the dishes? What if we run out of food? What if the bottom level of this building floods? There are so many "what if's" to consider and they've all been racing through my head all day. I'm not necessarily worried by any of this, like I am fearful of it happening. But I think I am just becoming mentally aware of the grandeur that the situation could hold.  It's amazing what we take for granted: running water always available, electricity for the computer and other electronics, food, shelter, and safety. I never really think about these things, but a situation like Hurricane Sandy has prompted me to realize that all of those things we think are "givens" can actually be gone soon.

Sandy has basically thrown off my whole schedule and the schedule of those along the East Coast. Today is normally my cleaning day, but I didn't clean because it just didn't seem logical. Tomorrow is normally my shopping day, but I went shopping today and got very different items than I would normally get so that they would keep. I also am planning on making dinner for some friends tomorrow, but I didn't buy the food I was planning to prepare in case power was lost. And just a few days ago, I was thinking Monday would be one of my run days this week. Yeah, right! All my plans have been renegotiated in the wake of Sandy. I really can't stand changes to my schedule in normal days, but I've had so much peace about my schedule (or lack of) today because there is absolutely nothing I can do about it.

A Blessing

But, changes to the schedule aren't always that bad. I've had time to give myself a fancy manicure, do some reading and watch a movie. In my Bible study today, I was prompted to read Psalm 136, which repeats the phrase "His love endures forever." I'm glad I was reminded of this today. I've been resting in peace with the knowledge that God's love never fails, even when we can't "see" it at all times. I was also prompted to read Zechariah 9:14-15, which says, "He will march in the storms of the south, and the Lord Almighty will shield them." I'm always amazed at the relevance of my related readings for my daily devotionals. God always puts a perfect scripture in my life when I need it most. I truly believe that God will shield those affected by the storm. Today has not been a "perfect" day as I would have envisioned. Rather, it has been a day of reflecting on the life I do have and what could become of it all because of this storm. Praying for the whole East Coast now! Stay safe!

Monday, October 22, 2012

What's Stealing your Joy? Part I: Social Media & Other Things that Waste our Time

Let's just start with this: I have been dying to write about social media for quite some time. This year, I seemed to have really seen through the facade that social media is, and yet also used social media myself more than ever before. Social media is the new everything. Every business and person these days is using social media to reach as many people as they can. Yeah, it's the "wave of the future," but it's also making me really unhappy.

Have you ever thought about it? Please take a moment to assess your relationship with social media. I'll wait. Think about how much time you spend on social media either wasting time or procrastinating/avoiding things you really could be doing. Think about how the things you see on social media make you feel. Another person engaged? Another ten pins about so-and-so's wedding. [Insert negative feeling here]. How many times does your phone beep at a new like on Facebook or tweet from your bff? Maybe you don't feel as annoyed by social media as I do, but taking the time to assess our relationship to the media we expose ourselves to is worth some serious thought. I personally feel that social media is relentlessly pursuing us - day and night, night and day. Did you ever stop to think if you wanted a relationship with social media in the first place?

My Personal Social Media Battle 

Personally, social media gives me a little anxiety. All this info about myself out there for who knows to see. Kind of weird. But our culture pushes social media so hard. It's the only way to stay connected! Everyone else has it. Oh, you don't have this new app yet? You better get it! Relentless. And this is where the joy stealing comes in to play. Social media is pushed on us so heavily that we're almost forced to get whatever the latest thing is. But what if I don't want yet another app or another thing to check? Too bad - you're a total weirdo if you don't have Facebook nowadays. And if you have it, you better be checking it all the time. "You didn't see that on Facebook yet?" We've all had one of those comments thrown our way, as if we should feel guilty for not letting our news feed be our homepages. But enough ranting, let's get to the question of why social media can steal joy.

Why Social Media Steals Joy 

1. Habit. You have to constantly check it or it constantly reminds you to check it. This is just another thing to do. This kind of task doesn't get put on a to do list, though. It just happens. It becomes a habit, and probably one you never wanted to have.

2. Facade. It's a false view of reality. Most of the time, anything on Facebook is everyone's best. No one updates their status with "I'm so anxious today" or "I hate how all my clothes look on me right now." No one is going to be that honest with such a large audience, usually. People show their best and hide their worst. But you're usually left comparing your worst or how you really feel to everyone else's best. It's a completely skewed vision of your friends and the world around you.

3. Bragging Rights. Along with the last one, social media is now basically a socially acceptable way to brag. You got a new hair cut? Instagram it. You got a new car? Put photos of it on Facebook. You're getting married? Better pin ten new wedding planning ideas to Pinterest, stat! No, there's nothing wrong with using social media as it was intended, but you know that some people take it too far.

4. Wastes Time. I never use social media, and then when I'm done say, "That was time well spent" (okay, unless it's Pinterest, but that's just because Pinterest fools us into thinking we actually "did" something). There's so much information online that it's hard if not impossible to catch up with it all again. You can just keep clicking to your heart's content forever, if you let yourself. There's always something new and with so many new social media apps and websites being introduced, there's always more to check and thus waste your time.

5. Self-focused. While Facebook and Twitter certainly do have capabilities to interact with others, the majority of the way these platforms are used is for thy self. Facebook's status bar always has the question "What's on your mind?", as if everyone you're friends with really needs or wants to know. Ultimately, social media, whether I want to admit it or not, has turned into "all about me" things instead of connecting with people. It's more about what you can show others, not the other way around.

Obviously, this is a pessimistic view of social media, but to be honest, social media has gotten me pretty down lately. As a person trying to live intentionally - setting goals, using my time wisely, not worrying, being self-controlled - I find social media counteracting my personal goals. I've unfortunately felt like (since working on this post for a while now) that social media is something that we can't live with or without. I feel even more tugged in two directions as a blogger. If I want my blog to grow and succeed, social media literally IS the only way to do that now! Yes, there are many ways to get blog traffic, but read any recent article on how to direct more traffic to your blog, and social media is at the top. Anyway, it's hard to think I want to unplug and be done with this nonsense when our culture is driven by technology and social influences. I've considered writing off all online everything altogether, besides my email I guess, but then I feel that I would be left in the dark - not about people's lives but with up and coming technology.

Finding the Balance 

For now, the balance remains up to me. I have the power to say no to any social network or app that I don't want to be a part of. It's easy to feel like if everyone else has it that you too must partake. But do you remember life before Facebook or, dare I say, MySpace? I hardly do since I was quite young when these networks came around, but yes - there was life before Facebook and Twitter and even Pinterest! People lived without social media for years, and probably much happier than our addicted-to-being-online culture does now. The balance rests in my hands, sometimes literally. My phone is always at my finger tips. My laptop flicks on as soon as I open it. Social media is always waiting, but you don't have to be. There are a lot of ways to limit your use of social media. I could probably write a whole other post about that! But some simple things I've learned is to turn off notifications on my phone for pretty much everything, or I'm just glued to it as soon as it beeps. I try to have "phone-free" time and limit my time mindlessly using my computer. Just remembering that I am in control and things don't control me brings back my sense of joy that I so long to have.

How do you feel about social media? Does it ever feel like it's taking over your life or do you have a pretty good grip on your daily dose of social?

8 Tips for a Deep Clean

A few weeks ago, I was getting ready to go on a vacation mid-week. One of the tasks I always do before going on vacation or any trip is cleaning. I love nothing more than coming home to a spotless house after vacation. It'd probably be my worst nightmare to come back from a relaxing, fun vacation to see a dirty and messy home! While I was cleaning, I started thinking of some things I do to deep clean my home. Since I want my cleaning to last from now until I get back home, I went the deep cleaning route. The tips below are nothing revolutionary, but they urge you to clean a little further than normal to get that lasting sparkle. I try to complete the following cleaning activities about once a month. Fellow cleaners, read on!

8 Tips for a Deep Clean

1. Wipe off baseboards with a dry microfiber cloth. Wipe over them with a dryer sheet to prevent future dust build-up (the dryer sheet repels dust).

2. Take everything off your kitchen counters (yes, everything) and scrub counter tops with the rough side of a sponge, getting all the caked on food build up and crumbs in the corners. If you have darker counters or just don't do this often, you'll be amazed at what is still hanging out on your counters. Finish with a disinfecting wipe before putting everything back.

3. Take every item off of a piece of a wood furniture (dresser, bookcase, table). Mist a microfiber cloth with pledge or your dusting cleaner of choice. Wipe down the whole piece, rubbing the pledge or oil into the wood really well. Put items back and enjoy the shine. I do this to all of my furniture at least once a month. It's a lot of taking off and putting back together (especially for my 16 cube Ikea unit!), but it's worth it get the dust away for real instead of just wiping around things.

4. Deep clean the bathtub by using a vinegar and blue dawn solution once a month. Let the solution sit for as long as you can stand (the longer, the better). Wipe clean with a sponge. The solution mixture can be found here.

5. Get on your hands and knees with a dust pan and brush to sweep the floor. Stuff piles up in the corners that a normal broom or swiffer miss. Take your time and dust up the hidden crumbs!

6. Wash your rugs (if they're machine washable). I wash my bathroom and hallway rugs once a month. You can also fluff them up in the dryer for ten minutes or so with a dryer sheet between washes.

7. Windex your windows! I was amazed when I started doing this, and couldn't believe I wasn't doing it before. You can see out of them again afterwards - go figure! This also applies for anything glass: the fireplace doors, French doors with windows, etc.

8. Wipe down the front of any cabinets you have (kitchen, bathroom, etc.) I usually use a disinfecting wipe for this because my cabinets aren't wood but plastic laminate. Again, I was amazed at how much grossness I was wiping off when I started doing this. My cabinets are white too, so this makes a world of difference. If you dare... wipe down the inside of the cabinets as well, especially if you keep your trash under the sink.

I hope these inspire you to clean! What other deep cleaning tips do you have?

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Pumpkin Butter Oatmeal

Good morning!

Today I got up frightfully early at about 5 AM. This isn't a normal occurrence in my household, so my body was a little shocked. Normally when I get up earlier than usual, I'm not hungry until my normal breakfast time. Food just doesn't sound good to me, and sometimes I neglect eating for an hour or so. However, I actually woke up starving. But knowing it was so early, I wanted a breakfast that was satisfying and that would stick with me until lunch time. Thankfully, I just pinned a recipe from Skinny Taste last night for Pumpkin Spiced Oatmeal that was perfect for all my breakfast needs and my appetite for all things pumpkin! I also just got Trader Joe's seasonal Pumpkin Butter, so it was perfect. And if you've never had pumpkin butter - now is the time to start enjoying it! It's amazing if you love pumpkin.

Gina's recipe calls for regular oats, but all I had were steel cut oats. I find that the steel cut oats serving size is too small, so I usually up it to two servings, which changes the calories. Here's my take on the oatmeal:

Friday, October 12, 2012

Daily Imperfection: One of those Days

Today turned out to be what I call "one of those days." You know, the ones where everything is just kind of in a funk from the start? Not really a bad day necessarily, just an "off day." Those are the kind of days that make me feel like I just can't wait until tomorrow, a different and new day. But I've really been working on trying not to wish away my time. This is all the time we get, after all, so why not live it with grace? It's been no easy task to simply "accept things the way they are" as nice as that always sounds. But the path I have been on - trying to let go of perfection and accept reality for what it is - has actually delivered me to "just accept it."

The reason why today was "one of those days" is because I knew I needed to make a doctor's appointment, but was resisting. Thankfully, I followed the advice of my wonderful husband, who encouraged me this morning to just make the call and go in. But, it being a Friday where the clinic I go to has limited hours and it's hard to get last minute appointments at this place anyway, I was not optimistic. I called and the office put me in for an "on call" appointment, meaning they would call me within the next four hours. Just what I wanted to hear, right? Does that mean in thirty minutes, or the whole four hours - I'd never know. But I hung up, satisfied that I had at least broke down to make the appointment, even if it was lost in limbo for the time being.

The doctor's actually ended up calling me quickly, within an hour, but - of course - right in the middle of my workout. Typical. So I had to give up on my workout (oh, darn...) and go to the doc's. The whole experience at the doctor's office took me nearly two hours, though! I was seen quickly, but then asked if I wanted to wait around for the test results and then possibly get medication. I said I would wait, but I ended up waiting about an hour and fifteen minutes! They said they would call me when the results were back, so I could leave and then come back. I did leave and went to Dunkin Donuts (and had a very disappointing and dry apple orchard donut) and window shopped for a while, trying to take my time but listen for the call. Well, no one ever called me, and after over an hour, I decided it was time to head back to bug them. They saw me again and confirmed my results, telling me I needed some meds. But then I had to go to the pharmacy to wait for those for twenty minutes... You see what I mean about one of those days now?

Thursday, October 11, 2012

I did it! Musings of a Half-Marathon Runner

After twelve weeks of training...

I did it!!!! I ran 13.1 miles and lived! Hooray! 

Morning of the Race 

Nervous as ever. I really felt prepared for the race, but my body was kind of freaking out on me. For breakfast, the hubs and I had a bagel with peanut butter and a protein smoothie. I was surprised I could even eat as early as it was and as nervous as I felt. We parked, and got to the start line area - total chaos of people walking around and it was freeeezing! It was about 53 degrees, give or take, and I was cold! This made me even more nervous because then is started questioning my clothing choices and wondered if it would make the run harder. After we waited in line for a long time to use a lovely port-a-potty, we lined up for the race. They organize people by pace time (ex: 9-min mile pace). We got into our designated spot, but people just kept piling in. I started to feel like sardines in a can right before the race started. There was hardly room for me to turn around. There were over 6,000 people at this race!

And they're off! 

When we started to move, at first all we could was walk because we were still too close to everyone else. But when I started to run, it was the most surreal feeling in the world. I was like, Okay, I'm running. Wait! I'm running! It was just so odd because I had thought about this race in my head so many times - and there it was, in reality, happening. The first five miles of the race went really well. We had really good pace, but then we had to stop for another port-o-potty around mile 6. This threw us off a little because stopping and then starting again is so hard. I also had to wait in line to go to the bathroom, which was awkward to run for 6 miles and then just stop suddenly. We picked it up a little again, but miles 11 and 12 were pretty rough. Mile 13 seemed to last forevver because this particular mile winded runners through a zoo, and there were all these loops and turns. It was also really narrow in spots, so it took runners longer to get through at that point.

Weird Race Things 

I can't really come up with a better heading than that, but there are some "weird" things about races like this that I didn't expect or realize, and just some other cool facts.
  • Volunteers provide water and Gatorade. At this race, it was every two miles. The volunteers just stand holding a cup out to their side, waiting for someone to grab it. It was so weird to just grab a cup of liquid from someone and keep running! It seemed rude, but that's just the way it works. 
  • Then after you drink the water/Gatorade, you can just throw the cup wherever you please! 
  • There's photographers. I didn't realize this before hand. It didn't bother me at all, but you'd see one and be like, Oh, I bet that was a great picture... when I wasn't paying attention. Yes, they caught some lovely pictures of me. No, you can't see them. 
  • Other people didn't get in my way at all. I was expecting to be cut off or trampled or something, but it was all fine.


We finished in about 2 hour and 19 minutes. This is definitely not a fast time, but it was better than I was expecting. I am actually thrilled with that time because it's less than 2 hours and 30 minutes, which is what I thought I would run it in. I am just so glad I finished. I could care less about the time!

I will say, the one bad thing about the race was stopping. Oh. My Goodness. My body was just screaming What did you just do to me?!?! I kind of wished I never had to stop, just to avoid that feeling... Right where we stopped, there was also a medic tent with tons of people getting ice bags taped to them, which just made me feel even worse, like all of us runners were broken or something. Both the hubs and I agreed that we felt "broken" afterward. But volunteers also gave us medals, and then we got to walk through a bunch of tents of free stuff, so it wasn't that bad.

Among the free stuff, they had bagels, bananas, trail mix, Power Bars, granola, and probably some other stuff I didn't see. And of course tons of water and Gatorade. I can honestly say the Gatorade I had afterward was the best Gatorade of my life. Never had any tasted so good!The broken feeling did go away after the Gatorade, a banana, and a Power Bar. :)

Why it was Awesome 

Honestly, it was a great race. Nothing went wrong. Imagine that! My shoes never came untied. I never got too hot. And the cold went away after about two miles. The weather was actually perfect - no rain, not hot, not freezing after a bit. My iPod magically played all my favorite songs, and the music really kept me going. The hubs ran by me as much as he could (I am a wee bit slower than he). When I felt like my legs were going to give out, I kept going. When I saw mile 12, I got a huge rush just thinking about how close I was to the finish line. When I saw mile 13, I was overjoyed! The hubs and I finished the race holding hands with our arms in the air!

Overall, the race was like nothing I ever could have predicted. It was actually very different than I thought it would be. I had twelve weeks to envision the race, but what the race was actually like was so much cooler and not as scary as I envisioned. This race proved to me that I can do it. Physically, mentally, emotionally. I can push myself that far. When most the time my mind is saying Stop! I don't want to do this! or my body feels like it can't possibly go further, I remember that I am in the one in control - I am the one with the power inside me. The completion of the race gives me so much power and hope for my future progress. If I can commit to twelve weeks of training and running an awesome race - I can do anything then, right? That's how I feel anyway: empowered. Strong. Determined.

Of course, now that I've done it, I've already been asked if I would do another one. My answer is: absolutely. If I can do it one, I can definitely do it again, and hopefully better than before. Would I do a full marathon? I'm still not convinced on that one!

Have you run a half-marathon? Would you ever want to if you haven't before?

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

New Series: What's stealing your joy?

Hey Internet!

I've been all kinds of busy lately, and sometimes blogging just doesn't make it into my schedule. Blog topics always seem to be brewing in my head, but actually making time to write them is a whole other animal. Anyway, a topic that has really resonated with me lately is this: what is taking away from the joy you could have? What things, activities, habits, or strongholds in your life are preventing you from being happy in your every day life? Life is not always about being happy, but certain patterns and habits in our lives can take hold when they shouldn't. For me, all of 2012 has really been about discovering how to live intentionally instead of living a life that is driven by culture, which so often leads to many joyless days.

In this series, I will cover many reasons why joy can vanish so quickly from our busy lives. The goal of this series is to explore things in your life that really shouldn't be there, or things that have taken such a hold on you, that it's sucking your happiness dry. This series is a four-part blog series that will cover some serious joy stealers. The topics are:
  • Social Media and Other Things that Waste Our Time 
  • Two Friends I Know too Well: Worry and Anxiety 
  • The Pursuit of What? When Body Image Issues Take Over 
  • Doubt, Fear, Insecurity and Anything Else I May have Missed 
I'm excited to launch this series and delve deep into some hard topics. I am passionate about creating and building the best life I can but while also still being happy doing it! Too much of what we are fed on a daily basis is about perfection, and this series seeks to dive right through the heart of the matters that affect people the most. I hope you're as excited as I am for this new series. There are obviously a lot of other topics I could cover with this topic. Is there something specific you would like to see me write about? Let me know! 

Monday, October 1, 2012

Daily Imperfection: Pinterest

I've been meaning to blog about Pinterest for quite a while. Pinterest has exploded this year with everyone I know, myself included. To say I am a little addicted to Pinterest is quite the understatement. I've gotten plenty of great ideas from Pinterest, and I love that ideas on Pinterest are always changing. Sure, Pinterest is just all fun and games, but how does it affect how you think and view the world? Like my recent post about lies we believe, I know Pinterest is just another avenue to get people unhappy with what they actually have, desiring what they can't have, and becoming utterly disappointed and unfulfilled. Sound harsh? Take a look below.

8 Problems with Pinterest 

1. Pinterest can con you into believing you need crafts, things, or stuff for fulfillment

How many times do you log onto Pinterest and feel good about yourself because you just pinned five new crafts or two new sweaters you want? By pinning things to do or get (and too much of it at that), you take ownership of that thing, letting it give you a sense of fulfillment. There isn't anything wrong with being fulfilled by having purpose, but what are you letting fulfill you? Completely unrealistic things or things that are of good character?

2. Planning the perfect wedding... with no groom in sight

I get it. If I hadn't just gotten married myself, I would have done the same thing. But why are so many people pinning stuff for a wedding that is no where close to taking place? It is fun to dream, and society has taught women to dream of their wedding day for years before it even comes. But I feel that pinning dresses you like on your "Future wedding" board is a step down a dangerous path. Do you really feel like you're going come back to that Pinterest board when you are engaged maybe years later and look at all those pins? Is it really of use or is it just for dreaming and idealizing? Pinning wedding stuff now only sets your expectations for your wedding and your future groom even higher than they should be. Yeah, us girls usually have some ideas of our perfect wedding in our head, but when your man does come along, do you think it would freak him out to see your "future wedding board" and what it entails? Probably. Overall, it's unrealistic to pin the fanciest wedding garb, unless you really are going to use those ideas.

I've moved! has moved to