Tuesday, July 24, 2012

simple happiness.

My other late-night weekend craft extravaganza? Switching up the frames in my room. For the last year or so, the frames have looked like this (and I’ve loved them) –

I thought, however, it was time for (another) change. I used a very simple yellow scrapbook paper from the craft store to brighten up the four square frames, and my room. I guess I’m on a yellow kick.

Then, I placed black patterned scrapbook paper in two larger frames.

    Then, I sat back and smiled.

Altogether, I’m very happy with the finished creations.

Sunday, July 22, 2012

paint positive.

I did a little late-night painting this weekend. First, I decided to paint my plain white lampshade yellow. I was thinking it would come out a paler shade of yellow (and when it is not lit up, it is pale yellow), but the surprise brighter yellow is growing on me. The striated effect was an accident, by the way. I painted and repainted, hoping for a smoother look. When I had finished painting and plugged the lamp in, that is when I discovered the streaky kind of appearance. It’s also growing on me.

The second painting experiment involved four glass bottles I had bought at the craft store about a year ago. For the last year, I had fake blue flowers in the bottles, but it was time for a change. On Pinterest, I saw a “pin” for painting vases – basically pouring paint into the container and turning it a certain way in order to get the paint spread out evenly. So, I gave it a shot. I poured yellow paint into the four small bottles and turned them so they would, eventually, be covered on the inside with paint. I ran out of paint on the last one, so the fourth bottle can never be turned to the side or the back – only the front inside is actually painted. Anyhow. Even though this little project made a pretty sizeable mess (thanks to my impatience when it comes to crafting – at times, I decided to speed the process along by shoving a paintbrush into the bottles and trying to paint the insides myself. That only coated the paintbrush in yellow, not to mention my hands), I enjoyed the painting (I enjoyed playing around with the paint mess, too, I will admit). Now, I am on the lookout for more (small) painting missions.

It makes me happy just thinking about it.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

craft magic.

“What’s going on, guys?” Stinker asked as the tiny beads spilled all over the floor.

[A very good question indeed, especially when it comes to craft experiments]

“Craft disaster!” I exclaimed, silently cursing Pinterest for its so-called “anyone-can-do-this!” crafts… and silently being thankful that Stinker is not the type of two-year old to eat small things off the floor.
[The beginning of our craft tryout this weekend]

I found the craft “recipe” online I wanted to try – using melted Perler beads to create a bowl. So, Stacy, Stinker and I gave it a shot. First, we put a single layer of the beads down into a microwaveable bowl and tried microwaving the suckers until they would stick together. No such luck. We just ended up with a really, really hot bowl (and another "what's going on, guys?" from Stinker). So, we positioned the Perler beads in an oven-safe bowl (after watching about half of them roll off the kitchen table), then placed the bowl into the oven to let the beads begin to melt.

Then, the magic began (craft magic is so cool, in a completely nerdy way). The Perler beads melted together and took on the shape of the bowl, slowly crawling up the sides. And once they had finished “baking,” and I finally got them peeled off the container (I was a little afraid for a minute I had ruined one of Stacy's bowls), we ended up with this…

Stinker and I agreed, not only was it "so cool," the bowl could be a bowl, but it could also very well be a princess crown or even a colorful hat (see the crown below). At one point later on, it also doubled as a “hot tub” for her Little People. In any case, and even with its rocky beginning, I would say the project turned out a lot of happiness.

Sunday, July 15, 2012


I spent the weekend in Richmond with my good friends, Stacy and Chris, and their two little ones - Stinker and Little Bit. Whenever Stacy visits, or I visit her, we always bake dessert (or ressert, as Stinker likes to call it). Once, we made Sesame Street cookies and tried our hand at decorating with an icing bag.

During another visit, we made Smores brownies. This go ‘round, we baked cupcakes, topped with green icing and flower petal-shaped marshmallows. Turns out, cutting a giant marshmallow into four slices gives you four shapes that resemble flower petals...

We dipped the petals into blue and yellow food coloring, and used one of the cut marshmallows as a sponge to “paint” on the color. Stinker helped, and once we had all sufficiently dyed our hands green and yellow and blue, and placed the marshmallows onto the cupcakes, we ended up with these lovely creations…

Every time we bake and decorate, Stacy and I say, "We should open a bakery!" Who knows, maybe we will some day... after we've had more practice with the icing bag and cupcake design... and after we find an electric mixer. For now, though, it's nice to have the special baking memories with such a special friend.

Crafty hands at work beneath the sound of a toddler's talk and old friends' laughter... and happiness around a receiving kitchen table.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

stencil in.

So, Katie and I decided to do a little painting this week – small flower pots. I went with a crimson color for mine, and she chose yellow. I had been excited to try out my new stencils – stick-on stencils that make the painting a lot easier – and used yellow paint to add the swirly-flowery design. Katie opted for polka dots, using a pencil eraser to paint blue dots onto her flower pot.

We both agreed – the process is more satisfying than the end product. Crafting is fun, especially when you are right in the middle of it. But, oftentimes, I notice something about my craft that was not exactly planned. Katie shared the same opinion. Maybe the paint doesn’t dry exactly the color you thought it would. Or you smear paint with the stencil. Maybe your paint runs down the side of your canvas. Or you smudge the piece with your fingertips. Inevitably, something happens, something unplanned, or something you thought you could avoid altogether. And, in the end, you’re left with something that resembles what you had in mind but does not match up exactly with the picture in your head.

I guess the thing to remember is – enjoy the painting. In those moments, whatever it is can still be whatever it might be, whatever you think it can. Your blue hydrangea-colored paint dries a blue hydrangea color. Your stenciling is clean. The paint stays in its place. And your piece is smudge-free. All of these ideas in your mind are happening in the moment. They are what you think they are and what you make of them. And if the end product doesn’t come out exactly as you once thought, at least you enjoyed the time in between (the happiness there), when it could have been anything, when it could have been exactly as you hoped it would be.

Monday, July 9, 2012

jiggle giggles.

For the fourth, I decided to try making a festive treat. Red, white and blue Jello pudding pops.

I made strawberry Jello, berry blue Jello and vanilla pudding. Then, I cut the strawberry and berry blue Jello into small squares and mixed them in to the pudding. I spooned the mixture into Dixie cups, placed a popsicle stick into the center of each and froze the treats. They came out pretty tasty. I just wish they looked a little more like the recipe’s picture.

When I mixed the blue Jello with the pudding, it turned the pudding a shade of green. I might re-do this recipe one day and see if I can avoid the green-age (see below). I might also try other popsicles and use chocolate pudding or vanilla pudding and fruit instead.

As it turns out, Jello leads to happiness. It’s fun to make, it’s fun to watch jiggle (seriously, the jiggle made me giggle). It was fun making a new, fat-free dessert, and popsicles for the first time. Sweets and smiles...

Sunday, July 8, 2012

in bloom.

I took on another craft this past week. Making a wreath. Okay, I didn’t really make the wreath. I decorated it. I put flowers on it. But still, it’s a changed wreath.

I found the rustic wreath at the craft store (possibly my new favorite store), along with a variety of flowers, including (and especially) hydrangeas, in greens and blues and white and yellow ribbon. I passed up the clip-on butterflies and a giant multi-colored bow, and I was proud of my restraint. When it comes to crafts and me, I always add more and more. I’m trying to cut back.
Anyhow. I cut the stems of the flowers and took my time finding just the right arrangement. I played with the yellow ribbon for a long time, tying bows and winding the ribbon, then decided to get rid of it. Here is what I came up with.

Having something pretty to look at brings happiness. But the happiness started well before the project was complete. It started when the idea came to me, to make something, to pick out the pieces and put something together. It started when I began cutting the stems, positioning the flowers, tying the ribbon. It started with a simple hands-on craft and a handful of flowers waiting to bloom.

Saturday, July 7, 2012

hands at work.

There’s a certain kind of comfort in doing something hands-on. Crafting. Cooking. Gardening. And so, I decided to dedicate this month to hands-on activities.

It started off with a trip to the craft store. And, after purchasing several canvas boards, acrylic paint, a stencil, and a small paint roller (handiest discovery yet), along with three wooden words (believe, create, dream), I set up my craft corner and got to work. Yes, I actually set up a craft area for the afternoon.

First, I placed the stencil onto the canvases, and used the small paint roller to paint a robin’s egg blue onto two of the canvases, and a light yellow on the third. I haven’t had much luck with stencils in the past, but this one seemed to work out pretty well. I think the trick is… keep it simple. Instead of trying to stencil a whole wall of a bedroom.

Next, I painted the wooden words, and, because I just can’t leave anything alone, I decided to give the words an antique-look and lightly sponged paint around the edges of the wooden words.

I super-glued the words onto the canvases and... there you have it. Three wall hangings made from scratch.

I don’t paint a lot, but when I do, I find I enjoy it. A lot. There’s a concentration required yet it’s relaxed. It’s one of the few times when my mind is clear and still, and when the moment is full of only composed breathing. Of a quiet smile that reveals happiness in the hands-on.

Saturday, June 30, 2012

hear i am.

There are certain moments and times of days, times of years, that can only be filled with certain songs and certain bands. Rainy, cloudy days seem to call out for a song from the Counting Crows, playing in the car, with raindrops singing right along. The Civil Wars are good for that as well. I find Ryan Adams' music, especially "Two," "Oh My Sweet Carolina" and (most especially) "Come Pick Me Up" to be good late-at-night, headphones on, music. I like listening to Ron Pope's music riding around in the car, playing "Virginia" and "Headlights on the Highway," and pretending to be traveling somewhere. The same kind of going somewhere feeling happens when I listen to Ray LaMontagne. Dave Matthews has always been my go-to when I can't decide what to listen to, and so I guess there is something to be said for that. Rob Thomas reminds me of summer, and Norah Jones is best played in the fall. I don't know why. But it's true.

And then, there are those special songs and bands that fill the moment with memory and remembering. With familiarity. Matchbox 20, for example. I've listened to their songs for years, over and over, and they never get old, they just linger. "3 AM" and "If You're Gone," especially, are always there in a peaceful, haunting kind of way. Train has had a similar impact over the years, with songs like "Mississippi" and "Getaway" making a permament mark somewhere inside. Ryan Adams reminds me of the beach, of the road trip, "Let It Ride," in particular. John Mayer's songs have always been good for moments of hesitation, knowing I could find a sincere warmth there. Kings of Leon will forever remind me of driving to work with the lights of DC behind me. With the nighttime slowly but surely creeping in. That's a feeling that will never be shaken, but nevertheless, the memory is there. Taylor Swift's songs, on the other hand, remind me of coming home, and Sara Bareilles' of getting it back, when the lights went out over the big city.

Listening to.. many different songs tonight. Thank goodness for iPods. "Funny The Way It Is," Dave Matthews Band. "Mockingbird" by Rob Thomas. Sara Bareilles' "King Of Anything."

I think I could write about music forever. It's certainly been the easiest theme, so far, for me to write about. And I know it's because it's such a big part of me. Always has been. It's something that emphasizes the moment, that secures the feeling, good or bad. It's something that has been playing right beside me as life decided to sing along.

Sunday, June 24, 2012

boogie shoes.

Listening to… “Ours” by Taylor Swift.

Sometimes, I dance in my room at night. Usually, I put the headphones on and find a catchy song and dance. Little embarrassing to admit, but there you go.

Dance, like music, has also always been in my life. I’ve heard I was tapping my feet and dancing around to music from the very beginning (I’ve seen it, too, in our old home movies, dancing on the stairs to “You Can’t Hurry Love”). I quickly earned the nickname Boogie. And from the time I was three until I graduated high school, I took dance lessons and taught dance my last two years of school. Dance has remained a part of my life since, thanks to countless ballets and dance performances and music videos and dance shows (I think I could watch dance all day, especially ballet). And we can’t forget the classic kitchen dances...

Music has forever moved me to dance.

And, every now and then, I just have to dance. It’s always a bit silly, random, but there I am, listening to the music and boogie-ing around.

Florence and the Machine has a couple songs in particular that are fun to dance to, including “Shake it Out.” Kelly Clarkson’s “Stronger”? Also a good dance-around-your-room song. I remember the first time I heard Hanson’s “Give a Little,” and I literally jumped up and started dancing. It’s impossible not to when it comes to that song. But, no matter the song, I move, I smile and I’m happy.

Music has always stirred in me in one way or another. It’s a feeling, a rush, it’s moving. But, just as often as it moves me emotionally, music moves me.

And then, all she wants to do is dance.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

flowers follow.

Of all the Counting Crows’ lyrics that have stuck with me throughout the years, there’s one phrase in particular, from a little song called “High Life,” that has attached itself to me in particular.

A sea of flowers won’t bloom without the rain.
I’ve written about it before. I think I even said at one point that if I ever got a tattoo, it would be a tattoo of those nine words. And, in a lot of ways, that statement could kind of define this blog altogether… and the last four years or so.

Goodness knows it hasn’t all be easy. But, without fail, everything “bad” has been followed by generous, genuine good that, without the “bad,” would simply not have happened. Sure, other good would have followed, but not this good. Not the good I know, love and treasure. The good I wouldn’t change for anything. The good that was worth the “bad.”
There is a peaceful feeling that has settled in. A familiar sense of quiet and calm rising out. I can’t say I am happy every second of every day, but I can say there is an underlying, ever-constant feeling of happiness within. The trustworthy feeling that everything will be all right. Plain and simple. The understanding that, even with the rain, flowers follow.

Listening to… The Wallflowers, “One Headlight.”

Thursday, June 14, 2012

in my car.

One of my very favorite things to do is drive around listening to music. I know it seems simple, but I enjoy it and always have. I’ve always thought that music sounds best in a car (or with headphones on). It’s as if you can hear it better, really hear it. I like to turn the volume up especially loud, to the point the side-mirrors are shaking a bit and I can feel the sound in my heart.

I find it particularly fun to listen to new music in the car. New music in itself excites me, but it’s especially exciting to purchase a new cd and rush to the car to listen to it, and listen to it loudly. And then, I begin my usual new-music-in-the-car-routine, listening to each song briefly, and finding those three or four songs on the album that almost instantly become my favorites – the songs I end up listening to about twenty times in a row (literally). There’s something about listening to one of those songs in a car – it’s a certain feeling, a very special kind of happiness.
The newest album I picked up was John Mayer’s Born and Raised, and right away, I found my favorites, driving along. “Something Like Olivia” got to me first. It reminds me a lot of Tracy Chapman’s “Give Me One Reason,” another song I’ve always loved. “A Face to Call Home” also hit me from the very beginning, with its lyrics and memorable sound. And there I was, driving around and tapping my hands and feet to the songs.

I can’t remember all the times I’ve jumped in the car, eager to turn the music on and just drive. It may seem simple – it’s anything but.  To me, it’s happiness ringing in.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

beautiful words.

Lyrics have always had a special place in my heart. And my happiness. I read them like poetry. I read into them for deeper meaning. I keep lists of them, even a journal of lyrics. To me, lyrics are nearly-equally important as the music itself. Inspiring, understanding, moving, and some lyrics, just plain beautiful.

Inspiring.. encouraging.. a pick-me-up, a mental note
Get right to the heart of matters
It's the heart that matters more

If you've never stared off into the distance, then your life is a shame

I can't remember all the times I tried to tell my myself
To hold on to these moments as they pass

Understanding.. meant for the moment, the moment's feeling
A long December and there's reason to believe
Maybe this year will be better than the last
I can't remember the last thing that you said as you were leaving
Now the days go by so fast

Moving.. chill bumps and all
I wanted to see you walking backwards
And get the sensation of you coming home
I wanted to see you walking away from me
Without the sensation of you leaving me alone

Carrie's down in her basement all toe shoes and twinned
With the girl in the mirror who spins when she spins
From where you think you will end up to the state that you're in
Your reflection approaches and recedes again

Beautiful words
I walk along these hillsides
In the summer 'neath the sunshine
I am feathered by the moonlight
Falling down on me

On certain Sundays in November
When the weather bothers me
I empty drawers of other summers
Where my shadows used to be
She is standing by the water
As her smile begins to curl
In this or any other summer
She is something altogether different
Never just an ordinary girl

Step out the front door like a ghost
Into the fog where no one notices
The contrast of white on white.
And in between the moon and you
The angels get a better view
Of the crumbling difference between wrong and right

All of these lyrics are from the Counting Crows (listening to.. "Mrs. Potter's Lullaby"). Though I have been a lyrics-enthusiast for many years, their lyrics have always been the ones I come back to again and again, and read over and over. They call me back. And whether they move me personally, or just move me because of their beauty, their lyrics are the lyrics that move me, stick with me, like no other. Happiness, in the lines of a song..

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

listen in.

I enjoy finding and hearing new music. I will admit, though, I tend to stick with the same bands and singers and look forward to new music from my regulars. Every so often, a new band or singer will pop up, whether on the radio, or in a movie, or even on a television show. Many of my favorite songs can be found in the background of a movie, like Ryan Adams’ “Answering Bell” in Bridesmaids, “You Are the Best Thing” by Ray Lamontagne from I Love You Man, and Norah Jones’ “Come Away with Me” from Maid in Manhattan.  I even found one of my all-time favorite songs, “Poison and Wine” by the Civil Wars, in an episode of Grey’s Anatomy.

Part of this month, I plan to try out new music altogether. But for now, I’m going to check in on some new songs by my old favorites… John Mayer’s new album came out a couple weeks ago, and I have to say, “Walt Grace's Submarine Test, January 1967” – a song about a man who builds a submarine and travels to Japan to start a new life –  is my favorite off the cd. Jason Mraz also has a new album out, and his song “I Won’t Give Up” is, well, beautiful and moving and something I can’t stop listening to. Sara Bareilles, another of my favorites, released a few new songs recently as well, and I can't wait to listen to her new stuff, just as I’ve enjoyed hearing her previous songs, especially “Basket Case,” “Gravity” and “City.” Finally, the Counting Crows put out a new cd called “Underwater Sunshine” about two months ago, and the album featured all cover songs – with songs like “Amie” and “Mercy.” It’s been a good season of music, and I still have more music to check out, including the recently-released newest Norah Jones album, “Little Broken Hearts.”

I get really excited about new music. It’s nice to have so many of my favorite singers and bands with new music out now, all within the last couple months. New music overload. Almost. So, while I plan on finding brand new singers and bands this month, I’m content knowing my usuals are still around.

Listening to… Jason Mraz’s “I Won’t Give Up.”

Monday, June 4, 2012

where music rests.

I can’t remember a time when there wasn’t music in our house, when music wasn’t in my life. Whether it was new cds being shared with my mom, dad and brother, or my dad and brother playing guitar, music has almost always filled our home and hearts. One of my favorite memories… the four of us sitting around, listening to the sounds of guitars being played.

My family. That’s how I grew to know and love music.

It’s been a constant friend of mine for nearly 28 years now. A driving companion, a nighttime lullaby, a quick and dependable pick-me-up, a reassuring and understanding ally, a hopeful whisper, and a lyrical connection to everything that means, and has meant, the most to me in life.

Listening to.. "Answering Bell" by Ryan Adams (with a little help from Adam Duritz).

To me, music has always been a feeling, something to be heard, not just listened to, and felt within. I guess it all comes from my strong ties to it from the time I was very young until now. Just like my family, it has forever been by my side, it has forever been a part of me.

Friday, June 1, 2012

the music begins to play.

So, I’ve decided the theme for June is music (I also decided it will probably be August before I tackle my closet)… the music that has made me happy for years, and finding new music that, more than likely, will lead to even more happiness.

Currently listening to… Taylor Swift’s “Eyes Open.” Headphones on.

Music has always played a big part in my life. And it all began about 27 3/4 years ago, thanks to a very musical family. Oldies were always on the radio in our minivan, and songs like “You Can’t Hurry Love” and “Ain’t Too Proud to Beg” still move me (literally, gotsta dance) to this day. Other family favorites included Dwight Yoakam, Ricky Nelson (there’s an old home movie of my brother and me performing “It’s Late” in the basement… singing into microphones and my brother playing the guitar), Rodney Crowell and the Eagles (I’ve always loved “New Kid in Town” the most), and I don’t think there has been a beach trip yet that hasn’t been filled with their songs... with my dad singing and my mom humming along, and my brother's foot tapping right alongside mine. We’ve never been a big “sports family” or “outdoorsy family,” but we have always been a family of music and concerts. And over the years, the oldies have been joined by… John Mayer, Counting Crows, Hanson, Ryan Adams, Rob Thomas, even NSYNC for a brief time about 14 years ago (and, yes, I can still do the Bye Bye Bye dance). We’ve shared concerts together, cds (listening to them loudly in the kitchen or the car, complete with feet-tapping), concert specials on tv, and that very special sound of guitars in the basement rising up.

Currently listening to… the Eagles, “New Kid in Town.” Headphones still on.

Not entirely sure where the month of May went, but here we are in June, and I’m excited to start a new theme… especially one that involves music (and lots of it). Old music, current music, and music I hope to find soon. Music in itself is a very special, very specific, kind of happiness to me, and I’m looking forward to writing about it.

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

everything but.

okay, so, i never cleaned out my closet. time is kind of getting away from me lately. but i have managed to start, and keep up with, some smaller ongoing "projects" instead.. to keep organized, uncluttered.

i've been trying to open any mail i get immediately, instead of letting it pile up for a week at a time. and i've been organizing any mail or magazines as i go.

i have made a point to make sure my lunch is packed before i go to bed at night.. and my outfit is (basically) picked out for the day ahead.

i love to-do lists, but i have been trying to limit my post-it notes and, instead, just do whatever it is when i am thinking of it. sometimes this is just not possible (i wish i could get everything done at one time), but i am making an honest effort to just do it.

i cleaned out my email, which was a small, yet rewarding, project. i deleted old emails i didn't need any longer, and made files for my emails based on the people who email me. i like having this little organizational system going on and i'm making sure to keep my inbox clutter-free.

did i mention i like filing? i went through my school and work documents, certifications, etc, and placed them in separate, labeled folders for safe keeping.

so, yes, the closet still has yet to be cleaned out. but i still have a day left in may, right? truth is, it might not get done this month, but i've decided that's okay. this month was a very productive, rewarding month. even with a still-messy, still-in-need-of-serious-help closet, i still managed to get just about everything else finished that i wanted to this month. and i have to say, it makes me pretty happy (and excited to see what june might hold).

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

small smiles.

With a little help from the month of May, I decided to start yet another ongoing project (I hope I keep up with all of this…) Anyhow. I heard one of my professors say a while back that it might be a good idea to keep a list of the funny, or sweet, things that kids say. That way, on those not-so-good teaching days, you have something to make you laugh and smile and remind yourself why you are a teacher. I started my list (see below) and also found a box in which to put special memories from students. For instance, I have all the Valentine’s I received from my preschoolers this year, along with some of their very creative drawings. The plan is to print out my "kids saying" list, cut out the individual sayings and place them in the box as well… to be added to for years to come.
Some of my favorites…
If you eat 100 hot dogs in one day, you become a hot dog. If you eat a bird, you can fly.
You can come to my birthday party and God and the tooth fairy can come too.
I went to Pump it Up for my birthday – kid one. I went to Japan – kid two.
The devil is in my heart, and he makes me do bad things. Jesus is in there too, but the devil always wins.
You can have a play-date at my house, and we’ll play cars and watch V for Vendetta (a five-year old).
How’s your new baby sister? – me. She’s bad. She lets food come right back out of her mouth.
 “This is how we do it!” – singing Montell Jordan
Laughter. Smiles. And happiness. All from a small, yet very meaningful, little project, and all from small, yet very special, little people.

Monday, May 21, 2012

return to me.

I've had this weird fear for a while that one day, I’d go to check or update my blog, and it would all be gone. All the writings from the last three years. And, since I don’t have the entries saved anywhere else, they would be gone for good. So, for a while now, I’ve been telling myself to copy and paste each post and save or print everything. Until this weekend, though, I still hadn’t gotten around to doing it. This month inspired me to do it, to get it done.

So, I copied and pasted every entry, all 151 of them, into a word document for safe keeping. Then, I printed it all out, all 170 pages of it, placed every sheet in a plastic sheet cover and placed everything into a binder. For some reason, I’ve always loved looking through finished projects like that. When I’ve completed scrapbooks in the past, nothing quite compares to flipping through the entire book, page after page, and having it all there. Altogether. Now, I can do the same with my blog entries.
I noticed some changes over the years with the blog. At some point along the way, I apparently decided it was cooler to use a center format than to align the text to the left. I got really into adding pictures there for a while, and I remember taking good amounts of time trying to find the right one. I moved from using lyrics and quotes as my titles to coming up with them on my own, something I enjoy. I've had several different themes throughout the years, the happiness commandments, lessons learned, firsts, and now, back to the theme of happiness.
I promised myself I would keep up with this saving and printing routine, and I plan on it. Of course, now that I’ve tackled the biggest part of it, it will be easier to keep up with the smaller parts of keeping up.
It’s a pretty big deal to me, not to sound conceited. But it’s a good feeling knowing I’ve kept up with this blog for three years now. Sure, there have been weeks or months when I stopped writing. But I have always come back to it. And to me, it’s a pretty neat thing. A pretty happy thing.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

a life's to do.

the closet is just going to have to wait.
about two years ago, i started a word document i titled bucket list. but the document didn't just contain my life's to-do list; instead, it also held different lists: the books i had read and the months in which i had finished them, recipes i had tried and when i had attempted them, and the dates on which i had completed any bucket list item. for instance, become a registered nurse, february 2008; buy my own first new car, april 2010; go to a major league baseball game, august 2010. then, there are the to-dos left to do: go zip-lining, read the Bible from cover to cover, make my own bread. though some items were one-time experiences and could be checked off, others were ongoing, like my book list, the recipe list, and my daily journal, which i tried to keep up with fairly regularly (for whatever reason, this mini journal found its way into this same document). for the past several months, though, i have gotten away from my bucket list, my book list, my recipe list and the daily journal. i wanted to get back into the habit of keeping up with these writings, and i figured this month, in the spirit of organizing and decluttering (apparently, uncluttering and uncluttered are not words), was the perfect time to do it.
so, i started looking over the bucket list to see if i had anything to check off since the last time i'd visited it, but i didn't have anything new to check off. i hadn't ridden in a hot air balloon or learned to drive a stick shift, and i still hadn't made my own pasta or traveled to italy. but that is okay with me. the list is there, and i have been checking it off since i created it, and i know i will continue to be able to check things off the list, and add more to it, as the days go by.
then, i updated my book list with the books i had finished this year, adding heart of the matter and falling together, and soon, i'd be adding the happiness project. they joined a list of wonderful books from the last couple years, including water for elephants, beach music, eat pray love, a moveable feast, the last song, and so many others (and a very special one, family remains). and i already had books in mind to add to the list, including baby proof and stern men (as well as the books picked out in my new book club). on a side note, it's been a real joy having the time to read so much lately, especially on these rainy afternoons, with the windows open and the rain falling down outside. anyway.
next, i decided to add to my recipe list, because there have been many new dishes i have tried in the last few months, and they most certainly needed to be on the list: roasted two-potato salad, artichoke and spinach grilled cheese, parmesan-crusted pork chops. who knows, may i might even add the low-calorie enchiladas (but probably not. i'd like to forget that cooking experience).
now, the daily journal. i have to say, when i was keeping up with it regularly, it was fairly easy to do and stick with. i wouldn't write complete, descriptive sentences; instead, i would just write a short sentence or two, pointing out the major highlights in any given day, and sometimes, i would include my favorite phrases from a conversation or an email. i always love looking back on those days. i stopped adding to the journal in november. there was no reason for it, other than a busy semester, and then the holidays, and then, well, i just got out of the habit. but i'd like to get back into writing in that journal more regularly. starting today. and today's "entry" goes a little something like this: had lunch with julie at olive garden after work, read the happiness project, went to our first book club meeting with meg and casey, thunderstorm... i know one day, i'll be glad to have these memories, these moments, to look back on, all the while adding to my book list and recipe list... my life list.
i also liked something i read in the happiness project about writing one sentence every day about the happiest moment of that day. i may decide to add that to my daily journal, i may not. either way, i am happy here.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

get cooking.

once the school organizing project was over, i decided to tackle another project i've been meaning to start for a while. organizing recipes. after cutting out various recipes from food magazines and printing recipes that i've found online, i set about arranging the recipes. i found a small expandable file folder and made different sections, appetizers, sides, soups, salads, main courses, desserts, and placed the recipes in their proper place. i'm not sure what it is about having everything in its proper place, in neat categories and in one neat container that amuses me. but it does amuse me.

now, i know this is another fairly small project, just like cleaning out my purse. but it was a project i've been meaning to do for a long time, and it felt good to complete. or, i guess, get started. plus, i've never had a recipe book before, so it's also a good first. i usually just look up a recipe online and read the ingredients and directions off the screen as a cook. i think now, by having the recipes at hand, i'll be more likely to use them, and will be able to use them more easily. i'll also be more likely to cut out and print as i find interesting recipes, and will be able to add to the book for years to come.

i read something in the book the happiness project last night about how doing small projects, like organizing recipes, can help give you more energy and, ultimately, happiness. the projects may seem a bit tedious at the time (for instance, cutting out recipe after recipe), and maybe not be the most fun while you're doing it. but, when they are complete, you receive a sense of satisfaction. so, even though i've been fairly tired this week, with work and with these mini projects, in looking back on the last four days, i feel pretty happy with what i've gotten done, and i feel energized and excited to do more.
next? my closet. it is a wreck and is in desperate need of help. the clothes are smothering each other, my shoes are all over the place, and i've stored the most random things in there for years (all my old nursing school books, for example). i already know, once i finish cleaning my closet out and organizing it, that will also be another check on the list of furthered happiness.

Monday, May 7, 2012


may's theme is organization, and i'm pretty excited about it. i have to say, organizing makes me happy. unfortunately, when the school semesters get busy, stuff seems to get a bit unorganized. so, now that i have a little break from homework and studying, i decided it was time to tidy things up and sort, sort, sort. the first project? cleaning out my purse. not the most significant project of the month, but still, a very necessary one. my second clean-out project, however, was a bit more meaningful.

this afternoon, i tackled my school books and materials. thanks to several very nice people, i have been blessed with many children's books, teacher idea books, supplies and even bulletin board materials. i have also been adding to my own collection, complete with markers and crayons and stickers, and all things an elementary school teacher has to have. up until today, though, these things were, well, all over the place. my closet, the car, a kitchen basket. but now, i've found a spot in the basement for all my school goodies to go.

my favorite school goodies? all the books. i love books. i'd love to build a book fort and.. read in it. some of these are books i've been able to share with my preschoolers over the past year, and some are books i look forward to reading to children in the years to come.

having it all in one place is.. comforting. for whatever reason. i like having one corner of the house filled with all the things i'll need to teach elementary school one day. plus, it's nice to able to see it all. i know that sounds simple and silly, but it's true. back when i first decided to take on teaching, i kept thinking of all the books and materials i would need one day, and at that time, it seemed like it would be impossible to collect all that i needed. seeing it all together now, and knowing that the piles and collections are growing more and more, i am comforted knowing i will have all i need.  as i always do.

being able to see it all also gives me the chance to look back on the past year i've spent teaching preschool. i've learned a lot, including.. stickers are gold, kids will put anything in their noses and mouths (including mini craft pom poms, mulch and play-doh), giving a child his or her own pencil or pen equals happiness, markers are way cooler than crayons, dora the explorer and thomas the train equal immense happiness, repitition is key, three words: criss cross applesauce, full moons almost guarantee a whacky day, and nothing calms or quiets a group of three-, four- and five-year olds like a book. especially one that rhymes.

may has just begun and so has the organizing.. and the reminiscing that goes along with it.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

double bogey.

during a vacation to the beach with my family and grandparents one year, we all played a round of golf together. for whatever reason, probably laziness, i decided to use one club for the entire course and for every putt i attempted. the driver. after i tried my best first shots with the driver, my grandpaw would then help out and hit the first "reeeally long" shot. then, i would take it from there. did i change clubs, though? no. i stuck with the driver and carried it around with me all over the course. i putted with it, amused by the laughs it seemed to get, and claimed it was silly to use any other club. "it doesn't make any difference," i would say. my all-in-one discovery was good enough for me.
i find the same philosophy popping up when i'm in the kitchen as well. i regularly use the wrong utensils for the job and often omit ingredients or steps, telling myself, "it doesn't make any difference." and most of the time, it really doesn't (unless i'm baking, and then, i do stick to the recipe). i leave out ingredients at times because i don't have them on hand. i replace one ingredient with another, thinking it will do, but not really knowing if the two ingredients should be substitutes for each other (for instance, paprika and cayenne pepper. sound like a good sub pair?). i merge two or three steps of recipes together to save time (and another messy bowl). in general, i try to take the driver route way too often in the kitchen.
sometimes, i wonder if my cooking, and if the food itself, would improve if i did use the proper utensils and if i did honor all the ingredients. the truth is, as much as i enjoy cooking, the end result oftentimes frustrates me because the flavor is off or the food doesn't look as pretty as i would like. maybe, by taking the time to find the right utensils and use the right ingredients, then i would be more satisfied with the end result.
this week was successful cooking-wise, i will say. my favorites? a roasted two-potato spinach salad and a spinach and artichoke grilled cheese sammich. and i followed both recipes pretty closely, only admitting the garlic from the sammiches, and taking the time to thoroughly drain the spinach and artichoke mixture, boil and peel the eggs and chop the onion for the salad (i usually get pretty lazy with my chopping, so this was an accomplishment). i'm probably a little behind with this, but i have to say, roasted potatoes are delightful, and they were a nice addition to the spinach salad (kind of like a soft, warm crouton). i did, however, catch myself using a plastic spoon to try and scrape the potatoes from the roasting pan, instead of using.. well.. something with more umph and strength. and i did not make my own honey mustard dressing, but maybe next time. but, hey, i'm still getting the hang of this cooking thing. and, regardless, it always brings a smile to my face to cook. i find some kind of happiness there.
i'm still not convinced that following every little step or rule exactly is necessary. the optimist in me likes to think you can golf an entire course with a driver and fix and enjoy your a meal your way, using what feels right to you. but the questioner in me still wants to find out what it is like to use another club and to follow a recipe to a.. tee.
(easy and quick) recipe happiness..
roasted two-potato salad http://www.acouplecooks.com/2012/03/roasted-two-potato-salad/

Saturday, April 21, 2012

doze off.

healthier living is not just about eating better and exercising more. it also involves one key point i seem to overlook most weeknights. sleep. good, quality sleep. i am a night owl at heart, and i enjoy staying up late, watching conan (or friends on nick-at-nite), reading, writing. i spend a good hour, if not longer, stretching out the day as much as i possibly can until it is finally time to close it down. i think it all started in nursing school, when i would stay up late each night, studying and working on papers, and before i would go to sleep, i watched sex and the city from 12 to 1. it was my time at night after a long, busy day. but the early mornings still came, and still come, around just as early every day, and getting up a little before six each day of the week now is not easy. neither is making myself go to bed earlier.
eventually, somewhere along the way, it caught up with me, and i was simply no longer able to stay up as late as i used to. i hate to admit that, but it's true. so, instead of spending a couple hours every night winding down, i've been trying to put the computer and the books away and go to sleep when i'm tired. imagine that. that idea had actually escaped me until recently. go to sleep when i'm tired. i still have to get in something every night - writing or a little tv. i can't just get in bed, lie down and go to sleep. i don't think i've ever been able to do that. but instead of staying up too late, i'm learning when to call it quits.
it hasn't been easy, and some nights, i still stay up later than i should. it's hard to give up my night time, and it still feels funny going to bed before midnight. sometimes, i think it would be worth getting a mere five hours of sleep so that i could stay up and have more time to my night. sometimes, it feels worth beng tired the next day. and, whie i can't honestly see myself giving up my every night to sleep (ha), i will say this - going to bed earlier at least a few nights a week is definitely beneficial for obvious reasons - better, longer sleep equals a more productive, happier day, plain and simple. plus, it makes 5:45 am somewhat more tolerable. somewhat.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

fresh air.

april is the month for healthier living. and, along with eating better and drinking more water, i've also been exercising more. while it's usually walking or different cardio work-outs, monday's exercise was a little different. monday, i helped my family mulch our yard. pitch forks and gloves and a beautiful day to spend the day outside. i try to include a little walking in my regular exercise routines, because getting outside just feels good. i've also read that outdoor time actually enhances the effects of exercise and increases vitality. self-esteem and mood are also lifted when outdoor activities are involved. being outside all day monday felt just as great, and because we were working and having a good time, it didn't feel like exercise, even though it was definitely a good work-out. plus, we were working toward something - finishing mulching the yard - and it felt good to have that goal in mind and in sight.
a lovely spring day outside, laughter and a work-out all in one. another step in the direction of extended happiness.

Sunday, April 8, 2012

caffeine who?

along with years of not eating so well, i have also never been a big fan of drinking water. diet cokes and sweet teas always took its place.
for the past month or so, i've been trying my best to drink more water. it started slow, with just a bottle or two or day. but now, i'm up to four bottles a day, or eight glasses of water. you may be thinking, "big deal, it's water." but it's a big change for me. i've cut back to one (smaller-sized) diet coke a day (the morning fix), and i've almost completely cut sweet teas out. now, it's water after water, with the help of crystal light.
water and i got off to a slow start, but the more i drank it, the more i wanted to drink it, and the less tempted i was to reach for a diet coke and load up on caffeine. i imagine it's like many things, the more you do it, the more familiar and the more practical, the more possible, it becomes. tiny steps at first, followed by bigger steps, that eventually lead to a better way.
what does drinking water have to do with happiness? starting to drink water on a regular basis was a goal i've had in mind for a long, long time. it was something to work toward, especially that whole eight glasses a day thing, as was cutting back on the caffeine. now that i've done it, i'm happy to say it's one more step in the direction of extended happiness.

Sunday, April 1, 2012

see you later, sweet tea.

april, month one. healthier living.
i have never been one for eating well. between sweet tea and chips and pasta and all the bread you can imagine, the term "health nut" has always escaped me. i have also managed to stay my same weight and size for many years, and i suppose, because of that fact, i never think too much about changing the way i eat. but, just because i wasn't putting on the pounds, that didn't mean i couldn't, or shouldn't, be more mindful about my eating habits. there are many other reasons for me to eat better. and so i have. i have started eating better. granted, it has only been a week, but it's a step (an extra step toward extended happiness).
i no longer have a giant mcdonald's sweet tea every day (okay, i'll admit. somedays, i had two). i try to avoid the chips and dip, my favorite snack food in the world. and i'm trying to mix it up a bit and get away from the nearly-all-carbohydrate diet i was previously consuming (i do love my carbs).
i have been doing my research. i looked for foods with healthful benefits that would help inside and out, that would help me feel better, and that i could easily eat on a daily basis.
-almonds-good source of vitamin e and protein, antioxidant, cholesterol reducer, and (my favorite) a wonderful way to improve skin complexion and glow.
-kiwi-good source of vitamin c (the same, or a little more, than an orange, with fewer calories), and also great for the skin.
-broccoli, red pepper and tomatoes-also high in vitamin c.
-oatmeal-contains antioxidants, whole grains, and is good for the heart.
-yogurt-great source of potassium, protein.
and water, water, water
(more on the benefits of these foods later)
i even tried making a healthy mexican meal one night which turned out to be a bust, thanks to the addition of greek yogurt, and the subtraction of another one of my favorites, sour cream. note to self, healthy "guacomole," made with edamame, is weird. just plain weird.
i have also been fixing dinners more frequently than before. previously, i would have reached for a frozen dinner, a fast-food meal, or some (delicious) prepared pasta product. instead, i'm taking the time (thankfully, i have more time these days) to cook and to cook thoughtfully. the recipes are easy and quick and do not require a lot, or any crazy, ingredients. without these three key points, i would not be cooking. more on the recipes another time.
so, how does eating differently relate to happiness? personally, it makes me feel better, plain and simple. food and mood go hand-in-hand, i have found. the more i eat better, the easier it is to avoid "bad" foods and to want to avoid "bad" foods. and it makes me feel pretty good to want a healthy snack instead. "bad" foods made me feel bad, period. they are heavy, overly filling, and tend to weigh me down. with good foods comes good feelings, knowing you're making a thoughtful decision about the way you can feel.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

step one.

this blog has been a lot of things to me over the last few years but mostly, it has been a way to write through it. now, though, i would like to do something different with this blog of mine. a while back, i wrote about different commandments i was trying out in life, thanks to inspiration from gretchen rubin's blog, "the happiness project" (http://www.happiness-project.com/happiness_project/about.html). at the time, i had only read her blog entries and learned of her happiness project and the measures she took to find and create more happiness in her life. now, a couple years later, i am reading her book, also called "the happiness project," which details her year-long journey toward increased happiness. she was not unhappy to begin with, and neither am i. this project has more to do with better utilizing your happiness and taking that extra step. a couple years ago, when i came across rubin's blog, i made a list of my own commandments and wrote about them in my own blog. this list included the following:
be here now
get up and dance
write more, think less
kindness first
listen to myself
call it a lesson learned
leave the lights on
dance in the rain
let it roll
get back to basics
edit less
surround myself
now that i have gotten into rubin's book, i am once again inspired to create a new list and begin writing about these new commandments. and i think, as she does in her book, i will tackle one new "subject" each month for the next year. again, this is not, "i'm unhappy, let me try and fix that." it is, however, "i'm very happy in my life, let me try and extend that." i think i will start with the topic of healthier living. new entry, april 1st.

Monday, February 20, 2012

i see it now.

As two of my preschoolers worked ever-so-thoughtfully to put a puzzle together, they realized that a single piece was missing. Up out of their seats they flew. Around the room they hunted. Eyes-wide and searching. A sense of genuine concern for the misplaced piece. I told them not to worry, we would find it. But still, they continued their pursuit of the puzzle piece, what they needed to complete the picture. I told them to keep working, that they could still put most of the puzzle together. Except for that one empty spot in the left upper corner, the puzzle was complete, the big picture was still visible.
There may be times when pieces, little and big, seem to go missing. And it sends you searching, wildly, for them. Most of the time, though, if you keep working at it, whatever it may be, you can still reach the endpoint without having all your pieces together and just so. No matter what you have planned, no matter what you think is missing from those plans, the bigger picture is always in sight if you take the time to see it.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

crossing january skies.

every once in a while, i can hear the planes taking off at night from the nearby airport. an all the sudden stir and rumble starting to the right then moving overhead. but it is never as loud as when it prepares to take off, when it begins to climb. almost as if all its energy goes into the forethought.
and then.. seemingly silent thereafter, crossing january skies.
there are resolutions and plans to be made, i suppose. but until the flight itself matches the roar of the climb, there will only ever be..

Thursday, January 5, 2012

before we begin again.

except for a wonderful break at christmastime, and the days and nights spent with the people i love most, the past five or six months seem to have been stuck on fast forward. at the end of every week, i find myself wondering, "is it really friday already?" again and again. needless to say, the time off around christmas was a true blessing for many reasons. it was nice to spend the time how i wanted. it was nice to sleep and read and cook and lie on the couch. it was nice to not have anything to turn in or study. and it was especially nice to be surrounded by the love and laughter of my family.

the new year began and it came flying in. the late days of december were a breather, i suppose, before january pushed its way to the forefront. and here it is. another year. and the fast forward button seems to have been pressed again.

one of my favorite lyrics says, there is no reason we should be standing still. and i agree with it. i think we should fill our days and hearts with all the love and laughter and life that we can. i think there is always something more we can do, try, make better. i think there is enough time in each day to do, and i think we have room for it all. i think sometimes, though, the rush takes over what matters most.

the more i kept having those "is it really friday already?" moments, and the more my days seemed to hold, the more i kept going, the more i wanted to do.

until i stopped. until there was a break. until there was time away from the rush.

only then did i realize how much i wanted and needed the breather, and the time to spend filling my days and my heart with the love and laughter and lives that matter most.

at the end of every day, and at the end of yet another year,

we can all use a december breather before we begin again.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

until she sleeps.

i have always had trouble going to sleep when i should, or ending the day before the next day begins. a night owl by nature, i find comfort in the hours that lead into midnight and the moments that follow. gradually winding down, gradually getting to the point where i know once i place my head on my pillow, i will fall asleep soon. it just takes time, though. and i have learned over the years that, if i simply lie down and try to sleep without writing or reading or listening to music (something), i will lie there for many minutes, even hours, trying to find my way to sleep.

i've known people who are able to lie down, close their eyes and magically fall right to sleep. personally, i don't get it. and, while i used to envy this seemingly-magical ability, i now know it's simply not within me to do the same.

i spend a lot of my time during my days thinking. i suppose the night is my time to collect and organize those thoughts into something that means something to me, something that makes sense. and before the next day begins, or at least before the alarm sounds in the morning, i have to get it straight. whatever it may be. there has to be some sort of plan, if not a resolution. and, until i have it in mind, i continue to write, read, fill my ears with music. all the while thinking. and taking the time to do what i know works for me. it may not make sense to some, but it makes sense to me. and you can trust that i've thought it through, i'm thinking it through, with the night owls on my side.

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