30 December 2011

A Resolution Review

I may or may not do a year in review post like so many others. I haven't decided yet. It sounds good in theory, but if I'm honest, there's other things that are taking priority in my every day life right now. Like sewing, and making the most delicioius lemon meringue drops (only 5 freaking calories for such deliciousness!), and snuggling on the couch with Joe while we watch countless episodes of whatever tv show we choose for the day.

But, I do interupt my holiday celebrations and post-celebration relaxation to revisit a very important post from this last year.

In the beginning of 2011, I wrote that instead of a resolution per se, I was setting a word that would guide me through the year. "Gentle," I said.

My rationale was that I had become much too hard on myself. And I needed the reminder to be gentle with myself.


Truth be told, I struggled. Oh yes, I definitely struggled with this over the year.

But, my friends, I couldn't have picked a better goal for myself. Because today, looking back, I am in a much healthier, happier, and more confident frame of mind now than I was a year ago. And that tells me, I knew myself very well when I chose the word "gentle" last year.

I have learned how to reach out and ask for help.

How to talk and express my feelings instead of bottling it all up inside.

How to become comfortable, again, with solitude. This I really struggled with after so much time spent with others and suddenly working from home in a new city with a love who was busy with his own life. But I found friends and hobbies and contentment again with alone time.

I have learned I don't have to be perfect.

That I'm happiest when I am me. Not what others expect of me.

That life is too precious not to do what makes me happy. If that means dressing up to work at home, or sneaking away from my desk during the work day for leisurely lunch with a girlfriend, or crawling into bed early to finish the latest can't put down book (The Wishing Trees by John Shors), or convincing Joe we need to go out for a drink at midnight on a Wednesday, or ignoring housework for time on the beach, I'm going to do it. Chores can wait. It all gets done in the end.


I have made strides in putting my health first. Physically, emotionally, mentally, and in relationships.

I have taken care of a long term health issue (my thyroid) and am continuing to have it monitored on my way back to health.

I have finally reached out and asked for help with the adult acne that drives me nuts.

I have rejoined a gym, started working out regularly, and am taking a few gym classes to help my physical and mental well-being.

I have acknowledged my feelings, my right to feel those emotions, and tried to understand why I feel that way at that time.

Which in turn, has led to a healthier, stronger me......and that translates into a healthier, stronger, happier we. 

Joe and I have had our ups and downs this year too, but I'd confidently say we're in a great spot now too because I am so much happier and stronger and confident again.


I have achieved several financial goals this year. And, instead of being upset with myself for not reaching all of my financial goals, I've been gentle enough with myself to be content with setting myself up to achieve the remaining goals in the next year.

I have begun the process of really and truly simplifying my life.

By shopping less. By desiring less possessions and more experiences and time.

By donating goods that can find better homes elsewhere.

By slowly moving towards adopting the "is it useful and/or beautiful" mantra before I decide to bring something else home.

By reassessing things in our home and finding better ways to make our home work for us.

And my dreams?

Oh, my dreams.

They may not be the same "save the world. be a rock star. achieve insant overnight success." grandiose dreams anymore.

But I dreamed plenty this year.

And I achieved.

I took pottery lessons.

I saw the family castle in Scotland. Even if it's in ruins.

I went sailing with Joe at sunset.

I rediscovered my love of photography.

And I've dreamed some more dreams that will slowly but surely come true. Perhaps one or two wide-eyed, hopeful dreams as well.


So, my friends, even if 2011 wasn't my most extraordinary year ever. Even if the downs seemed to last longer than the ups. Even if my successes were a little closer to home and chest than in years past. I'd say 2011 was a success overall. I came so far from the girl who wrote this post this time last year, for the better.

And I'm excited to see what treasures 2012 will bring! Because this year's resolution word will be simply to "live." And in, "live every day of your life."

Happy New Year my friends!

23 December 2011

In the Words of Bing Crosby


"May your days be merry and bright......and may all your Christmases be white."

22 December 2011

Snippets of Christmas

When I was little, these guys were always up in Grandma's house. Now that Grandma lives with my parents, they're in my parents' house.


And sweet, naive, little me....it took me way too many years to understand just why they more often rearranged in this way...

19 December 2011

The Real Reason for the Season

Regardless of what your faith is or what you believe in, in the midst of this holiday season, lets all try to take a moment to remember the real reason for the season we're in the midst of celebrating.

Love.

Laughter.

Cheer.

Kindness.

Joy.

Friends.

Smiles.

Family.

Happiness.

Magic.

And when we look at it this way, suddenly it doesn't matter anymore if you don't find the perfect gift or if you still have more errands to run or if your planned cookies end up more on the floor than in the stove. There's a glow in all our hearts, and that's what makes the darkest days of winter glow so warm and bright.

From my heart to yours, whatever you celebrate, I hope it is very merry and full of laughter and love.

14 December 2011

Wordless Wednesday: Chicago at Christmas






13 December 2011

This Season is About Becoming


Orkney Islands, Scotland.

This is the thing: When you hit 28 or 30, everything begins to divide. You can see very clearly two kinds of people. On one side, people who have used their 20s to learn and grow, to find … themselves and their dreams, people who know what works and what doesn’t, who have pushed through to become real live adults. Then there’s the other kind, who are hanging onto college, or high school even, with all their might. They’ve stayed in jobs they hate, because they’re too scared to get another one. They’ve stayed with men or women who are good but not great, because they don’t want to be lonely. … they mean to develop intimate friendships, they mean to stop drinking like life is one big frat party. But they don’t do those things, so they live in an extended adolescence, no closer to adulthood than when they graduated.
Don’t be like that. Don’t get stuck. Move, travel, take a class, take a risk. There is a season for wildness and a season for settledness, and this is neither. This season is about becoming. Don’t lose yourself at happy hour, but don’t lose yourself on the corporate ladder either. Stop every once in a while and go out to coffee or climb in bed with your journal.
Ask yourself some good questions like: “Am I proud of the life I’m living? What have I tried this month? … Do the people I’m spending time with give me life, or make me feel small? Is there any brokenness in my life that’s keeping me from moving forward?”
Now is your time. Walk closely with people you love, and with people who believe … life is a grand adventure. Don’t get stuck in the past, and don’t try to fast-forward yourself into a future you haven’t yet earned. Give today all the love and intensity and courage you can, and keep traveling honestly along life’s path.

12 December 2011

Homemade Holiday Gift

This is what I spent my weekend finishing. I'm definitely a beginner and there's still lots for me to learn, but I think it came out quite well. Isn't it darling? SO excited to give it to the lucky gal on Christmas!


07 December 2011

Life

Life gets in the way sometimes of all the little things I plan to say or do on this sweet little blog of mine. 

Life is messy and real. It can be complicated and stressful. It can be sweet and endearing. It can be challenging and empowering. 

And right now, we're in the midst of several stressors. External ones. So I'm trying my best to keep the stress from becoming too overwhelming. And doing my best to keep up the holiday cheer to bring smiles to both our faces. 

But rest assured, when the stories are done, I'll be sure to share them. Some will help on a practical level for others to know as well. Some will just help to celebrate. But they will be shared when the time is right. And in the meantime, be aware, I may be a bit too tired to share as much as I'd like. 

02 December 2011

Friday Randoms

Have you ever seen a baby giraffe run? So adorable. 

A great consideration of what makes you beautiful.

An older piece, but a message worth sharing: you are not crazy.

It's time. Oh yes, it is. 

01 December 2011

Welcome December!

Alternatively, it's the most magical time of the year!

Or, if I'm being honest after looking at these pictures, the snowmen are here. (Apparently we've accumulated a lot of snowman items for Christmas decorations....)

 The little light-up snowglobe snowman will be gifted to Grandma, especially after her excitement over the ghost one I gave her for Halloween.

The perfect-sized tree for apartment living. And look! There's a present under the tree already!

He makes me smile. And he makes the apartment smell like Christmas because he's also a candle (soon to be turned candy dish once the candle part is finished and cleaned out.)

And this year, even our fridge got into the Christmas spirit thanks to some Frosty magnets gifted to us by Mama Mac. 

A little bits of cheer, because, after all, how can you not smile when you surround yourself with cozy lights, sweet smelling candles, and smiling snowmen?

30 November 2011

Wordless Wednesday: Chicago Love



29 November 2011

Thankful For: The Memories

This Thanksgiving weekend was spent in Michigan and some sweet memories left me so incredibly thankful for the magic of making them and for the wonder and pleasure remembering will bring me for years to come. 



 I finally got to introduce Joe to the simple pleasures of a day trip to Frankenmuth, complete with a family-style chicken dinner, a stop in Bronner's (we got several goodies to add to our Christmas decorations), and a horse and carriage ride around town.



And while we were in Frankenmuth, Joe and I decided to try a bottle of Michigan wine. Can you believe it? I grew up in Michigan, but had never tried a wine from Michigan. We shared the bottle with my parents, and most surprisingly of all, with my Grandma. I've never had a drink with Grandma before, so this was a special memory for me. Making a sweet weekend even sweeter. And truth be told, I liked the wine. It was a bit sweet, but I prefer sweet wines. Michigan's grapes and cherrries are grown in the Traverse Bay area and are some of the sweetest in the world, no lie. If a bottle of Michigan wine crosses your path, enjoy it!

28 November 2011

Some Breathtaking Beauty to Start Your Week



23 November 2011

Love

With the upcoming Thanksgiving holiday spreading warmth and cheer and love all around, take a minute and read this. Have a happy Thanksgiving, full of love and good cheer!

22 November 2011

Us

Joe just sent me an email, linking to this page

His email says, "The last one made me think of us."


I think he might be right about that. This whole strip looks just like the two of us. It's adorable. 

Celebrate the Little Things

Peeps, if you know me by now, you know that I'm a big believer in celebrating the little things. 

Case in point?

Tonight Joe wraps up a phenomenally successful semester. 

So to celebrate, I've purchased him a bottle of his favorite liquor and some soda as a mixer. 

Such a little moment, such a little reward, but absolutely still worth celebrating. 

Keep that in mind as we head into the holiday season!

18 November 2011

Friday Few

Just a few links you should check out if you have time:


The Hidden World of Girls. On NPR. I am becoming addicted.  

17 November 2011

Surprise Dates

As I mentioned a while back, I planned a surprise date for Joe and I for our four year anniversary. (Gosh, time really does fly, doesn't it?)

And the biggest surprise of it all was, I managed to keep it a secret from Joe until we were standing right in front of our date venue. 

Sure, I may have doled out a few hints along the way....."it's four hours long"......."and we need to bring three bottles of wine"......but I kept it a secret.

A half-off Yelp deal helped make this an affordable date night out for a special occasion. 

Our venue? None other than Cook Au Vin in Bucktown for a French cooking lesson.

Our menu? The Vuitton Menu:
Starter: Coquille Saint Jacques
Lutees live scallop filled with Mornay sauce and julienned vegetables.

Finished product.

What it looked like on the inside. Yum!

Entree: Poulet Chasseur
Sauteed chicken cooked in a mushroom, white wine, Cognac, and tomato sauce. 


Side: Tournee Vegetables
Seasonable vegetables cut to have precisely seven faces, cooked to perfection, served with decadent sauce.

Desert: Far Breton
Traditional prune cake from Brittany.

When we arrived, the table was set and appetizers of French butter, rosemary goat cheese, brie, and chorizio were set out alongside freshly baked bread for us to snack on as we cooked. 




I've heard reports of French butter being far superior to American crap, and let me tell you, SO true. I loved the butter. 


There were three other couples plus the charming chef. We learned things like how to roast garlic, how to perfectly roast a red pepper, that smart kitchen prep involves starting with cleanest to dirtiest (translation: prep the chicken last - you won't have to worry about contamination and you skip the need for multiple cutting boards/knives). 


We learned how to set things on fire, how to properly juilenne vegetables, and what oils to use. How to look cute in dorky hats, how wine makes everything better, and just how much the French really do love their butter (holy cow!). 


The food was amazing. The fun of the meal was in the prepwork. And I'd call our anniversary date a success! 


16 November 2011

Wordless Wednesday: Lincoln Park Conservatory




15 November 2011

Today's Must Read: Climbing Kilimanjaro

Please, take some time today and read this. People amaze me. 

14 November 2011

KtMac Reviews: The Tiger's Wife





Author: Tea Obreht

The Good: The author definitely weaves a tale that seems to bring in the richness and variety of cultures I experienced in my all too brief trips to the Balkans.

The Bad: Unfortunately, the story wasn't well woven and it was often confusing as to which character was telling what story when. I couldn't follow the storyline at all, and was barely surprised when the story seemed to just end as if the author ran out of steam to keep writing. 

The Verdict: Not often I say this, but skip. Absolutely skip. 

Alive

Alive. 


Yes, yes I am. 

I didn't mean to disappear last week. My laptop power cord died. 


But my boyfriend is a magician and magically ordered me a replacement cord for the cost of $5 and lots of kisses. So I'm back. 

With stories to tell, oh yes


Stories of successful surprise dates and weekends with friends and thoughts swirling around my pretty little head and of books read and wishes to extend. 

So, be ready my friends. Stories are coming. 


Stories that celebrate the simple, every day magic of being alive. 

07 November 2011

In Your Arms

Happy little video to start the week off right:



Thanks to Tiger for sharing this sweet video with me!

04 November 2011

Happy Weekend!

It's been a morning, my friends, and only been the slightest bit bearable because it's almost the weekend. 


I have a surprised date planned out for Joe and I on Saturday afternoon as our anniversary gift. The biggest part of the surprise is that I haven't spilled the beans yet. If you know me, you know how impossible it is for me to keep a secret when it comes to gift-giving. Stay tuned for details!


Then we have lunch plans with Joe's like a sister friend from his Peace Corps days in Albania. I adore this sassy, spunky girl and can't wait to hear about her new Peace Corps adventures in Morocco. 


And I'm sure there'll be some time spent cuddling on the couch with hot chocolate and the brothers Crane. Our three shared addictions of the moment. 


But also some down time apart. Joe playing computer games and/or working on homework. Me working on holiday cheer and starting the massive task of cleaning out and organizing my photo database. I've requested an external hard drive, but I need to do my homework before we can seriously talk about it. No need to just shift junk to a new storage location. 


Plus, I know I have so many more great pictures to share. Like these, scenes of Chicago, all taken from the L as it made its way around the Loop and back north towards home. 


I look at these pictures. Just taken on a whim. Just to play with my camera and amuse myself, since I'm still so outdated that I don't have a smartphone. And I realize, this sweet city of mine, it really captures my heart. Second only to Joe, of course. 


There's just something about this city that lets me know, no matter where life may take us, we'll always have a home here. The door will stay open and the lights are waiting. It's a blessing, really, to know you have somewhere where you'll always belong


And that little glow will keep my heart warm throughout the ugly winter that weathermen are promising us again this year. But it's Chicago, and the Midwest....every winter is ugly. Somehow, I don't mind. After all, I've got Joe and hot chocolate. Who could ask for anything more?