Friday, December 30, 2011

2011 :: In review.

Well I figured I'd do a quick little recap of my 2011.  Honestly, it was filled with ups and downs but mostly downs.  I'm looking forward to a new year (with a bright, shiny new computer) and a new slate.

January started off pretty terribly.  I was hating my job but had a seemingly hopeful new job prospect.  I was constantly broke as we were saving diligently to buy our home.

February came and I tried to be more positive.  We finally closed on our new house!

Unfortunately, I was sick for much of that month.  That hopeful job prospect also fell through which was disappointing (although in retrospect, I'm always amazed by how things work out).  February also marked tax returns (note: getting married does NOT get you the tax breaks they say), but I finally got myself a much needed hair cut.

March brought some really awesome things.  D and I celebrated our first anniversary, and I worked diligently to make a homemade anniversary gift.

[Framed maps of US and all continents marked with every place we've been together]

March is always a special month for us since it marks lots of anniversaries and firsts for us.  We celebrated by having a cabin getaway in the NC mountains whilst planning our big road trip in April.

The most significant change I made in March was to start running [again].  I made the commitment and started dabbling in running again.

With spring beginning to shine it's sun again, we had a pretty busy April.  We officially had our spring break road trip planned, which gave me something to look forward to.  I was reading a lot, and becoming inspired by other bloggers training for half marathons.  We had quite the scare when Raleigh was hit by a major tornado only 2 miles from our house.  Being lucky enough to have zero damages at our house, we road tripped it in D's new car to Philly and NYC for the week.

May brought lots of stress with standardized testing at school, but I managed to make it through and continue running!

June brought the end of school and the beginning of summer.  We road tripped again to Birmingham to see my friend KDS get married!  

July was definitely a month of frustration and sadness.  I finally got offered a job at an elementary school, which was amazing.  Within the same week, we lost a great friend and one of the best people I've ever met.  The loss of BFW changed so much in ours and our closest friends' lives.

In the midst of the tragedy, I missed my first 10k, but continued to run before beginning training for my first half marathon.

August was a month of recovery and good things.  We celebrated my birthday at the beach.  I got some amazing gifts, and officially started training for my half.  I also started my new teaching job, which I was loving.

September was a month sprinkled with good and bad.  Running was going really well at the beginning.  I had some family drama (which has unfolded and continued to remain pretty negative over the rest of the year).  I did run my first long run of nine miles in September though!

October was an emotional month but lended breaks and a trip to Georgia.  I ran my first 10k and did tons better than I thought I could (thanks to the support of great friends getting up early and cheering me on!).  We traveled home where I spent quality time with my family and celebrated the great life of BFW.

I did get sick immediately following this trip which was nerve wracking as I was preparing for the half in November.

November was a pretty good round-out for 2011.  I succeeded in the biggest accomplishment in my life so far, finishing my first half marathon.  I'm so grateful for D's support and that of my family and friends!  

Finally, December has been good to us.  I PR'ed on my first 5k since the half marathon.  D and I celebrated pre-Christmas in the Bahamas.  Santa was so good to me.  

 [So lucky to have D to support my running endeavors]

I'm looking forward to closing out 2011 and leaving the sadness and family drama in the wind for a bit.  It's nice to look back and see that really there's been lots of wonderful to at least balance out a lot of the big shit from this year.  I really am such a lucky girl.

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Turns out I was pretty nice this year.

I mentioned a few things I definitely wasn't getting this year, a MacBook was at the top of my list being the most expensive thing on there.  As it turns out, I was good enough to have to extra cash floating around to get this beauty...

While my wallet/2012 travel budget aren't thrilled with the purchase, I certainly am!  I'm really excited about the possibility of this increasing my blogging ability and frequency.  Don't expect any 2011 recaps from me since I did not even bother with transferring all of my old pictures over to clog up my MacBook's space!  I will be checking in later this week or early next to tell you all about our fabulous trip to the Bahamas + a few bits about Christmas.

I hope you all had a great holiday filled with your favorite traditions!

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Closet Craving :: What I'm not getting for Christmas.

I told you about our trip and my stocking stuffer cravings, but I have a few things I can only dream of getting for a gift.  Here are a few items I’m lusting over.

Macbook Air

 [So sleek and pretty! Image via Google]

Don’t get my wrong; I’m so grateful for my little Dell hanging in there for as long as it has.  If I ever get my act together and buy an external hard drive, it’ll probably [knock on wood] last me a lot longer.  Nonetheless, I am still running on Windows XP.  Um, the Apple iCloud won’t work with Windows XP.  I could die.  I can’t upload my my iPhone pics as effortlessly as I should be able to.  I'm scared to upload more pictures in worries of overloading it.  If I’m going to make the new laptop plunge, it has to be a Macbook.  I can get a teacher’s price, but take my word for it, it’s still not cheap.

Michael Kors watch

 [Image via Google]

Tara asked for the same thing!  I’ve had this on my Amazon wishlist for a bit now.  I’ve never spent a lot of money on jewelry, so it’s definitely a gift item.  It’s just so pretty! 

Canon Rebel Camera

I've been debating having a nicer camera but never gave into the idea because they are so bulky.  I don't necessarily quickly whip out my little Canon PowerShot, but given my love and desire for travel, I really want a quality camera to document my travels.  I'm glad I didn't bite the bullet and buy this camera yet, but I'm on the lookout.  Do you have any smaller, "quality" camera recs?

We're headed to Georgia this weekend and then to the Bahamas early next week.  I'll be away from the blog for a while but may send some quick updates your way via phone.  Happy Holidays!

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

What the holidays mean to me.

With all the gift guides and decorations, I really wanted to reflect a bit on what the holidays really mean to me.  Based on my own beliefs, part of me wants to shun the Christmas season.  I sometimes feel hypocritical celebrating a holiday that is founded on things in which I do not believe.  Upon further contemplation, I have decided the holiday season is really about what it means to me. 

Well, what exactly does it mean to me?  Let’s make this thought-provoking post a little bit simpler:

-Spending time with friends and family – so often I don’t want/enjoy traveling down to Georgia, but I actually look forward to it around the holidays.  I definitely feel lucky to have such a long break as a teacher that allows me to enjoy my time more.

 [MPK loving her gifts last year]

 [We got to enjoy a white Christmas in Georgia last year]

-Being merry – I have found this a bit difficult this year.  The school days are creeping by, and the students are acting out.  Nonetheless, there is something about twinkling lights, a warm house, and eggnog that brightens my spirits.

[Garfield Christmas and Home Alone :: My two favorite holiday movies to curl up with D to watch]

-Giving – I absolutely love gift giving.  I adore searching out the “perfect” present for everyone in my family.  There is something that is so fun about it.  This year, I’ve been into homemade gifts which add another element of pride to gift giving.  I love for recipients to have something that lots of time and love was put into making.  Gifts are a way for me to show those that I really put thought and effort into something I hope they will love.  It's a way to say thank you or I love you.  Unfortunately, D and I waited a little too late to get a student from my school to sponsor, but the season definitely makes us give to charity/help our community more than we do through out the year (which isn’t necessarily a good thing, but better than never giving I suppose?).

 [Gifts under our tree]

-Food – It’s funny how some of my favorite foods/dishes are cooked only once per year.  What better reason to look forward to a season than for food you only eat once.

 [Sweet potato souffle, mac-n-cheese, stuffing, turkey...yum]

Are my reasons superficial?  Yep.  Regardless of what you believe, I think we can all agree that the original “reason for the season” has long fallen by the wayside.  You have to make the season about what it means to you.  We have to make that special point to celebrate and remember the reason for the season, if that's what we believe.  Create your own traditions.  D and I have made our own traditions, and I look forward to celebrating those holiday traditions that are special to us.  

 [Christmas 2008 - we may have retired the tree but we're still going with artificial + the same ornaments, add a few]

 [2008 - Torturing Dressing up our cats in the same Santa costume...we're doing it yearly and it never gets old!]

 [Since 2005, we celebrated by spending Christmas night together.  A good ole steak meal was our homemade meal of choice in 2009.  We've made new traditions since moving to NC.]

 [Traveling with the dogs is a new holiday tradition!]

With 7 days until we head off to the Bahamas, who knows, maybe we'll make a tropical vacation a new holiday tradition!  

No matter what you believe or what holiday you celebrate, I hope that you are able to get past the commercialization that the season has become.  Enjoy this time to curl up with someone and watch funny holiday movies.  Try something new (like crafting a holiday gift or decor for your home or cooking)!  Laugh with family and/or friends.  Be kind and thankful.  Give to others who you normally would not give to and thank those co-workers who help you get through.  Find a new, special way to celebrate your religious beliefs with those close to you.  Build new traditions and take lots of pictures :)

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Being crafty.

I usually have grand ideas about homemade Christmas gifts.  Then I end up lazy/out of time/poor (because let’s face it, it can be pretty expensive to buy craft supplies depending on what you’re doing).  This year, I am ahead of the game.  There are some people that are just hard to buy for.  It’s not because they’re picky, but because I just am not sure they type of gifts they really enjoy.  I love to surprise people with Christmas gifts, and often asking them what they want ruins the surprise (note: everyone should create an Amazon wishlist so you can be surprised AND get what you want).  Instead of racking my brain over what to buy these people, I knew they would appreciate homemade goods. As far as pricing, Michael’s always has amazing coupons so I figured I could manage.   I know none of my family reads this blog, so I don’t think I’ll ruin any surprises. 

Crocheted scarves.

I re-taught myself how to crochet last summer.  D will tell you better than anyone that I am notorious for taking up a hobby and then dropping it a month later (ahem…gardening).  I did the same with crocheting.  I hate that about myself, and I’m realizing I really need goals to work towards to keep myself at things (running is a prime example).  Anyhow, I picked up crocheting again in October.  Once I started figuring out where I was making big mistakes, I gained more confidence.  Since my sisters still live in Georgia, I wanted to give them something extra special on top of their purchased gifts. 

 [Scarf for MPK]

It actually hasn’t taken all that long to do this scarf.  I can’t necessarily work on it while watching TV because it takes a decent amount of attention and I have to count stitches still.  MPK's favorite color is purple, so I hope she'll enjoy the multicolored scarf.  I used the shimmery pink for MGK to match the gift I bought her. 

These projects have been so fun, and I hope in the long run my sisters appreciate the work and effort put into a homemade gift. 

Homemade soy candles.

After seeing this idea a few times on Pinterest, I decided to try it.  I always figured candle making would be a pricey endeavor with all the materials needed.  It turns out to not be too bad (especially with a Michael’s coupon).  I bought a 4 pound box of soy wax flakes for $22 but had a 50% off coupon!  $11 total!  Michael’s was out of pitchers, but I scored the wicks and lavender scent for $7.  I hit up one thrift store and got some mugs, tea cups, and even a small mason jar for $8.  

[Melting the wax down]   

While the process of making the candles takes a bit, it's actually really easy.  I ended up buying a large can of pineapple juice and utilizing the can as my pouring pitcher.  I started by using the tutorial on Ruffled blog for making candles.  This gave me a basic idea of what to do.  For more detailed, step-by-step instructions, I used this website.  The wax melts down a lot, even after filling the can completely.  The most time consuming part is heating and cooling the wax to the correct temperatures.  Since the can of wax only filled a few cups/mugs at a time, I had to heat up a decent amount of wax.

  [Approximately two pounds of wax filled all the mugs pictured...not the jar

[Lavender scented soy candle]

I decided not to dye the wax since I was putting it in mugs, so I only made scented candles.  I'm going to try my hand at filling Terrapin Beer barrel glasses (essentially mason jar glasses) with green candles for gifts today.

Pumpkin Butter.

I wanted people to have something a little more than a candle that will get stuck on a table and forgotten about two days after Christmas.  I was so happy to find a recipe via Pinterest for Skinny Crockpot Pumpkin Butter!  What?!  I can throw all ingredients in the crockpot on the weekend and then jar them?  That’s a gift!  And it’s healthy! The most expensive ingredient is the maple syrup, but I think a double batch should make a good portion of pumpkin butter.  Since the website recommends eating the pumpkin butter within two to three weeks, I'm not going to make it until next weekend before we head back to Athens.  I'll update with the results.

Are you crafting any gifts this year to save some money?

Monday, December 5, 2011

Christmas Craving

I’ve been counting down the three weeks until our winter break at school begins.  We’re done on December 16th, and I have THREE WEEKS OFF following that.  Like I said, I adore this school schedule.  D and I decided to do a quick little trip this year sort of as our Christmas present to each other.  We’re doing an all-inclusive in the Bahamas for four nights.  I’m beyond excited.  Since D and I are vacationing, we figured we would go smaller on the gift front and do stockings with a smaller monetary limit.  Here are a few of my Christmas cravings

Fun nail polish 

Nail polishes are the perfect stocking stuffers!  I loving matte polishes this season or any of Essie's winter collection.

Leg warmers

Olivia mentioned AA when I posted about my want for over-the-knee socks.  I think these are amazingly perfect.  Pair with some thin socks and keep your feet extra warm in winter boots.

 No, not diamonds for me.  I lost my favorite black "diamond" studs before we left Athens.  My "pearls" finally looked so awful I could no longer wear them.  The current cubic zirconias are on their last legs as well.  It's beyond time for a couple new pairs...

Elephant necklace

[J Crew, $24; on sale for $14]

I fell in love with this necklace quite a while back.  There's something about a cute critter on a necklace that I love.
Garmin footpod

 [Amazon, on sale $36]

I'm pretty sick of using my unreliable Nike+ for running.  With the cooler weather coming in, I'm doing a lot more running on the treadmill.  I'd love to finally have a footpod to sync my Garmin on the TM.
Winter weather wear

Source: via Kristin on Pinterest
Source: via Kristin on Pinterest

[AE Rainbow Loop scarf, $24.50]

Until I can crochet awesome pieces like these, I can always use more ways to keep warm!

I could go on forever, but I keep the rest on my Amazon wishlist...where I also keep my pricier wants :)


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