Can I truly “unplug”?

Not me... or my vacation spot. But my vacation is just as awesome as this picture looks.

I am currently on vacation…and thanks to much prep work and a great trip, I have actually been able to “unplug” more than I have on other vacations in the last few years.  (Hence my lack of blog post last week…but don’t worry, you are getting two posts from me this week, just in case you missed me. 🙂 )

There is still work that has to be done, but I am pretty proud of myself and the fact that I have been able get done what I have gotten done and then go right back into vacation mode.

But I truly wonder, in today’s society of constant contact and ability to be reached at anytime and anywhere – can we truly unplug?

We set the expectations in our lives, and for many of us, we have set the expectation that we are all available – all the time.  Any time, any place, no matter what we are doing, no matter who we are with.  Whether for family, friends or work – we are always “on”.

I think we all strive to find a good balance in life and having a great trip where a glimmer of “unplugging” has been shown to me has taught me that it is possible to have a fulfilling day without checking facebook, replying to too many emails (but yes, I did check them daily) or having my phone glued to me all day.

Now that I my eyes have been opened to this, I plan to continue down this path… What do you do to find a good balance or “unplug”?

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A healthy & affordable snack: (self) roasted almonds

It seems that every couple weeks my husband and I have a chat about eating healthier … but every week the same crummy snack foods end up on the grocery list – doritos for me (cool ranch are my weakness) and cookies & other sweets for my other half. Now, it’s not as bad as it sounds… I buy the carrots, apples and other healthy stuff, but the crap food is usually the first to go. And when I do spend the dime on healthy options, like berries and nuts (which I’d personally prefer to eat over that crap food), it’s gone in the first 2 days and I’ve spent 2-3 times as much.

A small step in the right direction…
After my hubbies frugal but smart suggestion, I’ve recently started to purchase raw almonds and roast them myself. The bags of raw almonds are still a bit pricey, but they are cheaper and healthier than the other roasted nut options the stores offer as I don’t coat them in sugar or salt.

It’s a simple as this…
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
Spread the almonds flat on an ungreased cookie sheet.
Roast for 8-10 mins.
Allow to cool and store.

A HUGE lesson learned to share here is that the oils in the almonds continue to cook the nut for a while after removing from the oven. I’ve made the mistake of tasting upon removal – thinking they were still too chewy and throwing them back in the oven. The result if you aren’t patient … burnt almonds.

The result if you are patient … a crunchy, delicious, affordable and convenient snack for at home, on the road or at work.

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The snooze button – friend or foe?

Let me start out by saying I am a social, sane and pretty optimistic individual, BUT every time that darn alarm goes off in the morning, I have the hardest time dragging myself out of bed. These winter months seem to make it especially difficult … its dark, its cold and nothing is sweeter than hitting the snooze (if even for the fifth or sixth time), rolling over and burying myself under my heavy, warm comforter.

So, what’s the problem you ask…? No children, right? … “you might as well enjoy it while you can!” While you are right and I realize I have it easy in that respect, I’ve ultimately found myself with too much to do and not enough time to do it. While cloning myself would help, it’s highly unlikely to happen in the next decade … or two. And if it did, it’s highly likely to drive my hubby up the wall. I’ve determined I need to make my days longer and the only way to do that at this point in time is to get my ass out of bed earlier.

And this I’ve tried… tried and failed morning after morning. After months of failure, I’ve finally realized I need a solid plan to initiate change. Here are some tips I’ve found, along with some of the trials and tribulations on my journey to becoming an early riser …

1. Be realistic. Don’t make drastic changes… you’ll only set yourself up for failure.
Baby steps it is! And like a big baby, I’m able to make an excuse for not getting up.

2. Go to bed with a plan and STICK with it. Don’t talk yourself out of getting up early.
That means no more “just another 10 minutes.”  Unfortunately that evil, sleepy voice wins… every. single. time.

3. Go to bed early to make sure you get enough sleep.
This is a work in progress for me. Some nights are better than others. Despite my best intent, there is always something to do. By the time I realize it, it’s already “time for bed.”

4. Get Moving
One site I read recommended breathing exercises in bed upon the sound of the alarm. All this did for me was put me back to sleep. Another suggested simply putting your alarm clock across the room to force you to get up and out of bed. I hate to admit it, but this may be my next step. Ultimately, my goal is to get in the habit of working out in the morning like my counterpart, Audi. I guess I just need to find the right inspiration OR purchase a treadmill and DVR for the basement!

5. Have a good reason for getting up early… and make it part of your routine.
This could be anything from planning a yummy breakfast to creating a morning to-do list for yourself so you feel energized and productive in the mornings.
As you can tell, I’m definitely not a morning person and as my 30’s rapidly sneak up on me, I’m finding the night owl side that helped me through my college days is slowly fading away as well. In the last few weeks, I’ve had decent success by following some of the advice above. Inevitably, there are mornings where I’ve fallen back into my old habits. Here’s to hoping the warmer, brighter mornings to come in the next few months will help put a “spring” in my step out of bed.

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Pinterest… the greatest, but best, time suck

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So, let’s talk about Pinterest.  At this point, I think everyone has heard of it, most people are on it and of those who are on it, a good chunk are officially in the “addicted” category.

Pinterest is a place where we put together our imaginary wardrobes, build our imaginary homes, dream of our amazing weddings/nurseries/holiday parties, plan our rainy-day crafting and realize how much more organized our lives could be.

To date, my girlfriend Kelsey and I have had a Pinterest recipe night (cheese roll ups and Orange Julius smoothies – yum!) and a Pinterest crafting day (ribbon wreath, pictured above, and felt wreath).  It is affecting how we find things, how we spend time together and how we view household items and garbage.  Before an empty oatmeal container was garbage, now it is a perfect headband holder.  Pinterest is changing our culture in ways that I don’t even think we realize yet… and frankly, I don’t realize yet.

So, for those of you who haven’t joined, I encourage you to drink the Kool-Aid.  But be warned, it is like potato chips.  You can’t eat just one.  You can’t pin just one.

p.s. Wow, two food references in one tiny paragraph?  I must be hungry!

Follow Jenny and me on Pinterest!

Managing Stress

Keep Calm and Drink Wine

Could not say it any better!

Today was just one of those days – a day full of the big, bad S word… stress!

Between work deadlines, personal to-dos, family strains, and just all around anxiety, I had had more than enough. And let me tell ya, the fact that I’m jumping on a plane in a week, and will be out of the country for five weeks doesn’t help matters either. (Don’t get me wrong… I’m excited for the trip. There is just sooooo much to do and not enough time to do it.)

I finally realized I’d reached my boiling point while running errands after work. Stuck in an annoying amount of traffic, I found myself letting out all my frustration by hollering as loud as I could by myself in my car. Unfortunately, it was only a temporary release … I still found myself in dire need of relief.

I then strained (and struggled) to recall an article I had read just days prior while sitting back in a stylist chair treating myself to a much needed cut and color. It was an article about stress relief – which I royally suck at. I don’t work out or get massages, instead, I pile more on my plate, hold it all in and pretend everything is okay. Well, wait… it’s not all that bad. Deep breaths and lots (I mean LOTS) of sighing help to a certain extent. I also enjoy some great laughs with my hubby and make sure to take refreshing walks with the pup every morning. But, it’s not always enough. So, while I sip my wine (wine makes it all better, right?), lets revisit the 16 lovely tips Allure magazine* has pulled together. Maybe there is something beneficial we could all strut away with …

1. Hypnotize yourself.
And no, not the “swaying pocket watches and deep trances…” They suggest simply closing your eyes, focusing on your breath and visualizing something pleasant. Brings to mind a site I need to use more often – http://www.donothingfor2minutes.com

2. (Really) forgive someone.
Sounds like a great idea… definitely one of those “easier said than done” statements.

3. Open the window.
Nothing beats deep breaths of fresh air.

4. Send yourself flowers.
While I may not “send” myself flowers, I’ll definitely take a second look at the bouquets of flowers next time I’m zipping through the grocery store.

5. Pucker up.
“A kiss (or two) a day can keep the stress away.” Kissing helps alleviate any feelings of loneliness and releases helpful endorphins.

6. Take a time-out.
A simple minute or two break to again do nothing can do wonders. Too bad we didn’t realize how valuable those time-outs were growing up.

7. Take it easy.
Work out, but don’t push yourself too hard. According to Allure experts, a moderate to light workout will be more mentally beneficial than an intense one.

8. Say “OM”
Yoga! And yes, I’m all for introducing yoga mats into our office decor.

9. Go into the light.
Oh, sunshine, how I love you.

10.Watch a tearjerker.
Only if the hubby lets me have the remote…

11.Treat your allergies
Makes sense to me… irritating allergy symptoms = increased stress levels

12.Drop an f-bomb.
Unfortunately, no problems in that department.

13. Get busy.
Get off the couch or the computer and stop dwelling on the inevitable or uncontrollable. Do something – anything – to get your mind off all those things causing you stress.

14. Surround yourself with beauty.
Look at pretty pictures – or in my opinion even better yet, do something that makes YOU feel pretty!

15. Be a pescatarian. (one whose diet includes fish but no meat)
I don’t think I could swing being a full pescatarian, but the benefits of the omega-3 fatty acids found in fish are enough to encourage me to reconsider my entree order or home menu for the week.

16. Play a video game.
The key here is that they be nonviolent video games … probably not an issue for most of us. Who knew I’d be able to justify downloading more ridiculous games on my smartphone.

Well, that wraps it up folks. I know I’ve found this beneficial. What about you? Are there any other tips or tricks you’ve found that work? If so, please share. I’d love to hear them and give them a shot!

*The 16 tips outlined above are from Allure Magazine’s article, 16 Ways to De-stress.
http://www.allure.com/beauty-trends/how-to/2012/16-ways-to-destress

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A whole lot of nothing… and it was amazing.

When there is a moment of nothingness in today’s world of being scheduled to the hilt, obligations galore and feeling pressured with everything that “must” get done… it can be terrifying or absolutely amazing.

Over the weekend I had many (many!) things I could do or wanted to check off the “back burner” list, but ultimately there was nothing that was time critical, needed to get done, or was breathing down my neck.  Hubby was in the same boat.  We each had things we could do, but ultimately we tossed most of the to-do’s out the window.

We did a whole lot of nothing.  It was a-m-a-z-i-n-g.

We ran errands (so yes, we were somewhat productive), talked about our future, enjoyed a good friend’s birthday and, most importantly, enjoyed each other’s company.  It was the best weekend I have had in I can’t remember how long…

I have to admit, throughout the entire weekend I was worried I would wake up on Monday morning and kick myself for not taking the time to tackle X, Y or Z.  But you know what?  I didn’t.  I woke up with a smile on my face because I had an extraordinary weekend enjoying the company of my husband and doing a whole lot of nothing.

I guess the point I’d like to make is this – when the “do nothing with the one(s) you love” opportunity presents itself … take it.  You may hear a voice in the back of your head saying “you could organize your bathroom cupboards”.  Ignore it.  In today’s world we don’t get many “nothing” moments.  Treasure them.  They are pretty awesome to reflect on.  🙂

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What People Don’t Tell You About Trying to Get Pregnant…

Welcome to the ride... did you bring your airsick bag?

When hubby and I were in the process of trying to get pregnant I knew I wanted to write this blog post.  I felt it would be great for me to reflect on the process, as well as help others so they aren’t as blind sided by all the things you don’t know (or at least, I didn’t know) about trying to get pregnant.  So, here we go…

Is there ever a “right time”?

Hubby and I have been married 6 ½ years, so you would think that we have been harped on about having kids.  We haven’t.  We have an amazing family that knew it would happen…eventually.  We decided over the summer that I would go off the pill on January 1, 2013.  Clearly, we are planners, but planning only gets you so far…

One night, to be specific, on October 27th, after attending an event and having enough drinks to feel good, hubby and I were talking and after many “Are you sure?” “Is it the right time?” “Why wait?” “It’ll take time and won’t happen right away.”…we decided to go off the pill the next day.

Enter Friday, October 28th.

   Hubby: “Did you take your pill today?”

   Me: “No”

   Hubby: “Are we sure this is the right time?”

   Me: “We gotta do this sometime…”

   Hubby: “Ok (sigh) let’s do this”

Later in the day on October 28th, enter my first freakout…. frantically texting a friend, “Did you freak out when you stopped taking the pill?”  Her response: “Oh my god yes!!!”  (insert huge sigh of relief that I am not the only one who freaked out when they pulled the goalie)

And so began the task of trying to create a tiny human being…

We are at a good age and healthy so this should be easy, after all teenagers get pregnant all the time and people get pregnant from one night stands… Then you start to do research and you realize that it isn’t so easy.  You find out things like sperm only stays alive inside the female for up to 72 hours…and that the female egg only lives for 12-24 HOURS once it released.  So basically every month there is a 12-24 hour window to get pregnant…. yeah, that isn’t depressing to think about at all!

Then you find out that they don’t even consider talking about fertility treatments until you have been trying for a whole year!  A year!  Damn it, I want to have kids now!  You inevitability start reading about the people who have had multiple miscarriages, multiple chemical pregnancies (which I had never even heard of before), have been trying for years (plural!) and the emotional rollercoaster begins.  Welcome to the ride.

The sex factor…

Basically your month breaks down like this:

   Period: No sex

   Next week: Sex

   Fertile week: Lots of sex

   Two weeks of waiting to take a pregnancy test (while still having sex…but mainly for stress relief/fun/distraction)

Those last two weeks are like nothing I have experienced before in my life.  It is the ultimate emotional rollercoaster – wondering if you’re pregnant, trying not to get your hopes up and be realistic, but wanting to get excited in case you are… trying not to read too much into your (insert symptom here – headache, nausea, boobs hurting and so on), being excited and dreading taking your pregnancy tests all at the same.  Excited for a yes, terrified for a no.

On an island… (yep, by yourself)

You really don’t want to tell people you are trying because you don’t want to take them on the emotional rollercoaster with you.  It’s hard enough to be let down when you get a “no,” let alone have to tell others that you got a big fat no that month as well.  This is when I started my journal (which I have gotten horrible about writing in now that I am pregnant…) to help me download everything I was feeling and going through.

Don’t get me wrong, hubby was great…but the emotional rollercoaster isn’t the same for them.  It isn’t their body psyching them out with symptoms, or what they think are symptoms.  It isn’t them waiting every day to bring them one day closer to peeing on a stick.

What shocked me more than anything about this process is how easy you think it is going in – emotionally, physically and all the way around.  You start the process and you quickly realize that it is one of the most emotional and frustrating things you have done and NO ONE talks about it – at least no one I’ve been around.  I felt completely blind sided by how this “easy” task became so emotionally Herculean.

The first month I was off the pill we weren’t really “trying”… mainly because I think we both thought that if you have sex with no protection – BAM! – you get knocked up.  Then, after not getting pregnant that first month (while thinking I had all the “symptoms” and I totally must be knocked up), I started to do all the research I referred to above. I found out that this process – while it should be enjoyable, actually kind of sucks.  It isn’t as simple as “Put Part A into Part B and baby is made”.

Then, begins month two of trying…

This month, we were more dedicated to the timing of our polka dances, tried to be relaxed about it all, I kept myself (somewhat) sane with my journal and learned some things from some message boards.  I didn’t think I was pregnant.  I had no symptoms and figured we were definitely in for a third month of trying to conceive a little alien – I mean, human being.

Because I have no patience, I started taking pregnancy tests five days before my missed period.  I knew the chances were slim, but what can I say, I am glutton for punishment.

Friday, December 23rd …  the day I refer to as “Holy S#!* I’m pregnant.”

Hubby was (literally) on the other side of the world on “Holy S#!* I’m pregnant” day… I had all these grandiose plans of telling him in some elaborate way when he got home, but those flew out the window.  I told him over the phone.  His response: “Awesome.”  (insert another huge sigh of relief that the response wasn’t… “Really? Oh.”**)

**Note: For the males reading this, yes, we do worry about that kind of response.  Be excited – even if you are terrified.  Because we are T. E. R. R. I. F. I. E. D.  We have just learned that we have a human being growing inside of us.  Act excited, no matter how terrified you are.  I guarantee we are more terrified than you.  (This may not apply to those on their second, third or twentieth child…but it definitely does to the first one.)

So, when I say we were blessed – I mean it! We were VERY blessed that it only took us two months to get pregnant and I give the women (and their dedicated spouses) who go through this process for years so many kudos for sticking with that rollercoaster ride…. If I thought it was bad after two months, it must be complete hell after years of being on it.

I am going to wrap up this insanely long post (that could have easily been even longer) with some recommendations for those trying, or soon to be trying, so you aren’t blind sided like I was.

1. Be emotionally prepared.  It is hard, but so worth it.  But know going in, it isn’t a cake walk…

2. Don’t read too many stories.  They will just psyche you out.  Make your own story and enjoy the process.

3. Pregnancy tests are damn expensive!  I learned of Wondfo pregnancy tests through one of the message boards.  They are way cheap on Amazon and highly sensitive.  I got a faint positive line five days before my missed period (I just wasn’t sure if my eyes were playing tricks on me so I waited to really believe it).  Then once you have a line on one of the Wondfo tests… I would go for First Response. After that, I made sure I wasn’t totally losing it with a Clear Blue Easy Digital test.  From what I have read, Clear Blue is the least sensitive, so if that says yes – it is a sure deal.

Believe me, you will peeing on at least a dozen sticks a month… then when you are knocked up (or think you are) triple that number.  Every day you feel to have to take a pregnancy test to make sure something didn’t change over night.  Call me crazy, but wait and see… you will become an expert at peeing in a cup or on sticks.

4. Journal.  Even if it is just writing a line a day about how you are feeling.  It helps – greatly.

Well girls, I feel like I crammed what could have been a 100 page novel into a blog post, I hope it is helpful.  If you have any questions, don’t hesitate.  I am happy to talk about our process and help others deal with the emotional rollercoaster ride of trying to propagate the species.

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Showing love on V-day and the remaining 364 days of the year…

Instant Chocolate cake recipe in a Valentine's day mug

Instant Chocolate Cake Recipe in a Valentine's Day Mug

“They” always say the way to a man’s heart is through his stomach. However, I’m hoping I’ve already paved a clear path to my hubby’s heart as three years ago today he proposed to me in the most perfect way – with a Valentine heart-shaped ring from atop a deliciously sweet cupcake.

Regardless of already winning over each others’ hearts, it’s important – Valentine’s Day or not – to make sure we continue to demonstrate our love. Married folk can all agree … it’s not always easy. But, I’m here to say just because it’s not always easy doesn’t mean you have to overthink it either. An expression of love doesn’t have to come with a hefty price tag or elaborate plan (although I won’t turn away a sparkly surprise if given one!) Ultimately it’s the little things that count … and those little things can add up wonderfully – like leaving a sweet note where and/or when your significant other would least expect it. Or even sharing the thoughts in your head … if he/she looks good, tell them! Compliments, sweet notes and/or gestures can go a long way to remind the special person in your life that they still light your fire after so many years.

However you choose to express your love to your partner is ultimately up to you and your style. The important part is that you do something no matter how busy, how tired or how stressed. Stop making excuses and make the time!

And, if the love of your life has a sweet tooth just like mine, here’s a last minute, quick and easy way to warm their heart … literally.

Instant chocolate cake*

1. Whisk 1/4 cup flour, 5 tbsp sugar, 2 tbsp cocoa powder, 1 egg, 3 tbsp milk, 3 tbsp vegetable oil and a dash of vanilla extract and salt in a large mug until smooth. Optional – I used a Valentine’s day themed mug I purchased from Target. The inside bottom of the mug says “I love you” (now cue the awww’s..)

2. Microwave until puffed about 2 mins. Sprinkle w/ more cocoa powder and serve up the warm chocolatey goodness to your sweetie tomorrow!

Just a few helpful sides notes…

• I’ve found a spoon works better to mix up the ingredients… either the mug wasn’t big enough or my whisk wasn’t small

• The mug is hot… really hot, so be careful!

• This recipe is good, but the addition of a fudge or other sweet topping would make it even better!

* This recipe was found in Food Network Magazine, April 2011

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Propagating the Species…

It is for real... there is an alien growing inside me.

Time for some big news!  Hubby and I are pregnant!  Well, I am the pregnant one… but WE are having a child.

After weeks of keeping it under wraps – which was probably one of the hardest things I have EVER done in my life – it is now out for the world to know.  And yep… people, it happens exactly how you are taught.  Pulling the goalie… then the birds and the bees… I really don’t think I need to explain any further.  Well, we will to our child, but I think (I hope) we have a good 12+ years to develop that speech.

The little bundle of joy – and potential terror if our childhoods come back to bite us (hubby and I weren’t always the most well-behaved children) is due September 3rd. Fortunately, my love for dresses is going come in very handy this summer…

Hubby and I are now embarking on the most exciting and most terrifying experience of our lives – parenthood.  I am sure there will be at least a thousand and one times where the “What were we thinking?!” conversation happens…but there will also be a thousand and one times where our cheeks hurt from smiling or laughing so much from the many joys this little one will bring us.

I hope ya’ll are ready for this.  I’m bringing you along for the ride.  And trust me, you will be hearing about it all – the good, the bad, the ugly and the really ugly.

Buckle up and hold on… or as Captain Jean Luc Picard would say (yes, I’m a total ST:TNG fan)…

Parenthood: the final frontier. These are the voyages of the starship Diaper Genie. Its continuing mission: to explore strange new bodily fluids, to seek out new life and new civilizations, to boldly go where everyone has gone before – except us…

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Battle of the Bathroom Sconces

Clearly Creative Collection + Moss Wreath Idea = Final Product!As I’ve alluded to in a previous décor post, my home decoration has been quite the drawn out process. So when I tell you that after 3 years, I’ve finally found sconces to flank the walls surrounding my master bathtub, it’s a big deal. (Big thanks to my Partylite pal, Jackie!) However, purchasing these 2 sconces was only half the battle. As you can see from the top left photo above, these sconces feature a unique glass component (a feature of the Clearly Creative Collection) that allows for customization – be it filler based on an individual room theme, décor trends or to show some holiday cheer.

And here in lies the start of the latter half of the battle…

I tore through old, stored craft boxes for potential supplies, perused through numerous store aisles and shelves on my lunch hours, and clicked through thousands of Google images for ideas and inspiration. I wasn’t going to settle for something that simply looked nice – I wanted something that matched my décor and fit my specific style. And because it was too easy and too canned, I immediately eliminated the option of using store-bought vase filler. I ultimately ended up with a list of potential filler ideas based on colors and theme. I hope you enjoy my brain dump and filler explorations below…

Corks in sconce

Cork filler exploration ... need more color!

Options based on the color green:

  • dried split peas or other
  • leaves
  • moss rocks
  • limes, apples or pears
  • bamboo shoots
  • dried artichoke

Options based on the color brown:

  • corks (see photo)
  • twigs, grape vines
  • coffee beans
  • pine cones

Based on the color orange:

  • varied-sized buttons
  • dried corn
Sea Shells in Sconce

The shells are neat ... but its too soft for my taste.

  • mini pumpkins
  • thumb-tacked or painted Styrofoam ball
  • marbles
  • candy corn
  • flower petals
  • ornaments

Based on a theme – earthly materials:

  • shells/sand (see photo)
  • pebbles/stones
  • leaves/twigs
  • grass
  • straw
  • flowers
  • bird eggs
  • acorns

As luck would have it during this brainstorm battle, I stumbled upon a craft flier featuring the moss wreath pictured above while sitting in the floral/craft aisle of the local JoAnns store. It combined everything I was pondering – I loved it immediately!

The assembly was pretty quick & simple. I purchased small grape vine wreath to dissemble, a box of faux moss rocks, a large combination bag of varying tones of moss and I was on the road. My initial attempt closely resembled an elementary craft project gone wrong! Attempt #2 was much stronger and the final result. The major difference – clumping the similar elements together so the differing colors popped and the varying textures were discernible. And in the end, less is more!

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