Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Christmas in July

I've always wondered what the crap people were talking about when referring to "Christmas in July." After a quick Wikipedia read, apparently it's in reference to the southern hemisphere, whose winter is actually in July. This means countries like Australia and South Africa have Christmas-like events in July so it feels more winter-ey. Keep in mind, this does NOT replace Christmas. I mean let's not be silly.

Who knew.

Now that we've established THAT, welcome to July! I have a great way of bringing some Christmas tales to you this sultry day. Remember my post in May about my Oma? Well, I gave a brief eulogy at her funeral in May and I told three Christmas stories that encompass our relationship. She really loved Christmas and always made it a big deal for us. I really love these stories, so thought that I would share them with you.

The first story is about my first Christmas. I was a really sick 3-week-old, and near death in the hospital on Christmas Eve. Everyone was praying a lot to help me make it through the night, as the doctor's said that would be a miracle. I've been told that grandma actually prayed that God take her life instead of mine. I'm glad he didn't, and gave us some time together first, but that really speaks to her faith and love for others. Especially for me. Perhaps I have her to thank for this life?

The second story was a few years later. As a kid, I really wanted to give my family Christmas presents but with no money and no transportation, that was hard. So, I ran around the house and wrapped each person's most prized posessions. That Christmas, I left the room, came back with the presents and said I was Santa's Elf delivering the presents. Everyone was pretty weirded out and perterbed that their item had been missing so long, but grandma played along. "Oh, Santa's Elf THANK YOU!" I appreciated that. She always gave us what us grandchildren wanted, and most of the time that was a lot of hugs, love, and unwanted wet kisses.

The last story is about my last Christmas with her. I gave her a book I made on Shutterfly of pictures I took when Ryan and I were in Schwetzingen, Germany. This was the town she grew up in, and lived on the castle grounds there. When she opened it, she broke down and started bawling. She cradled it in her arms and said, "This is the greatest gift I've ever gotten. I'll treasure it forever." I was really glad to do that for her and give her a last glimpse into her childhood.

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Cold turkey on JUNK

From June 2011 to November 2012 I lost 30 pounds. In between that were a lot of ups and downs but I was happy with that loss. Maybe a little too happy.

After I hit that nice, low number on the scale just after Thanksgiving I kind of let go. At the time, I was working out 2-3 times a week and eating very well. I let that go by the wayside over the past few months and gained over half of that back. Bleck.

So, it's time to get back on the horse! I know I'm not the only one who let go of that healthy lifestyle for a bit, so I don't feel like a failure. It's just high time I get back to business. I will say this is not to fit in a bikini or weed my garden in a tube top. I feel beautiful no matter what that number on the scale says, and I have a husband who sees me the same way. However, I know what being overweight does to your body. The benefits of a healthy weight are astounding. It starts with my knees. Did you know that losing one pound is the equivelant of taking four pounds of pressure off your knees!? For someone with Patella Femoral syndrome I say, SIGN ME UP!

ANYWAY, back to that wagon I fell off. Here are some things I'm doing for the next month to get me back on the right track. For 30 days I'm going to follow these rules. NO exceptions! I'm trying to figure out a way to motivate me as I work well with a visual that I see every day. Perhaps a sticker for each day that I follow all of these? Maybe a checkmark for each rule I follow each day? What do you think I should do?

Here they are:

1. No candy. Goodbye Sour Patch Kids.

2. No cupcakes. I'll miss them, but I don't think Scratch will go out of business from this move.

3. No beer! Yes, that's right. I drink heavy, delicious, 9% alcohol beers. They have to go. I'm going to drink gin and tonics or something light as an alternative.

4. No (non-diet) pop. I'm doing to try to make this no pop in general, but a Coke Zero every now and then might occur. Pop is so, so, so bad for you. I once heard you can lose 10 pounds just from cutting pop out of your diet. Whether or not that's true, I just don't need it in my body in the first place.

5. No White Chocolate Mochas. Yea, so this blog post telling you my obsessions with Scratch and Starbucks. Yep, they go. Everything goes!

6. Work out at least 3 times a week. Whether that be running, biking, dancing, or whatever, I'll get moving somehow.

7. Count all of my calories. No matter how ugly they may be, every bite is going on MyfitnessPal.

I've heard of some similar lists like this that people live by to lose weight, or just stay healthy. I have one family member who has a note on her fridge that says, "No chips or fries. Drink lots of water before each meal. No eating after 8 p.m." There's one more but I don't remember it. You get the idea.

Today is actually day 3 of this endeavor and I'm doing great. I haven't had pop of any kind, I've taken my super healthy lunch and snacks to work each day, no candy, no cupcakes, no nothing. I've counted every calorie and on Monday night Ryan and I went for a run together. We also have a 72-mile bike ride planned for this weekend, weather pending.

What I need from you: Do you have anything to add to my magical list? Do you have any suggestions on how I can keep myself accountable?

Monday, June 17, 2013

Photos for Iowa State Fair 2013

I promised that I would post pictures of the photos that I submitted to the 2013 Iowa State Fair. Setting it as a goal this year put a fire under me to get some submitted this year because I hadn't submitted in five years or so. Out of the 6 or so photos that I submitted, I've had one displayed. You can only submit four photos each year. The ones they decide to display is the honor of it.

I wasn't completely in love with one in particular. I'm not being pessimistic, but I don't think any will be displayed. I DO think Ryan's will be... and it's a photo of me. So... in a way I will have made it, no? You review and tell me what you think. I was also pretty happy with the names so pay attention to those. Keep in mind they are NOT judged on their names or mats.

I named this picture of a tree on the top of Pike's Peak Cold and Coniferous.

This is a view from behind the clock at Musee D'Orsay in Paris. I named it Time Transfixed.

This was taken in the gardens of the castle in Schwetzingen, Germany, where my Oma grew up. I named this one simply Stag.

I LOVE what we decided to name this one: Martian Winter. Adorable.

Finally, the one you've heard so much about. This is Ryan's picture of me. He named it Cheshire.

I'll let you know if either of us have something displayed. Which one is your favorite?

I golfed!

If you're following along on this blog (and I can only assume no one is), then you must know about my 2013 goals, since I include them in every post. Well, today I golfed 9 rounds at Beaver Creek Golf Course in Johnston, completing my seventh of twelve goals for 2013. Woot!

I did pretty awful. But, like most things, I found a way to have fun. And, like most things I've ever tried, I simply left room for improvement. I've always been pretty terrible at things my first try. But, I get progressively better rather quickly. It makes learning things fun for me, actually.

I had 3-4 really good shots so I tried to focus on what made them good and repeat that. Most times I was trying too hard. Some times I took my rage out on the ball and turned out a good shot. I'll definitely golf with Ryan again, but definitely not every time. A friend today told me she plays Best Ball with her husband, and I think that's a GRAND idea! We'll try that next time.

Enough talk, more pictures to tell this story.

Proof. Probably the best shot of the day (that I will post, anyway) of me actually golfing

Holy moly, LOOK at hour RED my hair is. This is ryan trying to get an artsy shot.

Cool shot of Mr. Smith.

OH, and MAN was my day made when we rode home. I got pulled over (72 in a 55, eek) and did NOT get a ticket! I was more happy about that than anything else. Score! It's the little things.

Friday, June 14, 2013


It's been a while since I've done a review blog of my favorite things. While the following items are my favorites, they are really more obsessions that I have right now. I titled this post with the "S"s capitalized because it turns out my three obsessions below all start with S. (I was never good at headline writing).

Starbucks Rewards card app: This is an app on my phone that I can use to purchase items at Starbucks. If you collect enough stars, which you earn with each purchase, you get certain rewards. What I REALLY like about the app are the free downloads. Each Tuesday they give you the code for a free download on itunes. They are more than often songs that I would purchase myself, like Stubborn Love by The Lumineers. They also give you game downloads. One week I got Star Wars Angry Birds for free. I also tried fun games I wouldn't have downloaded on my own like Heist.

I was recently upgraded to their highest level of rewards - the gold level. I was excited, but quickly realized this is a pretty ridiculous thing to show any excitement over. But, apparently you do get a pretty sweet personalized card. (see picture I grabbed online below). Maybe I'll post a picture when I get mine.

Song: Take it on faith, by Natalie Maines. This is a free song I got from the above obsession. It's a 5 minute song off her new solo (as in not with the Dixie Chicks) album Mother. Based off this song I just might buy the entire album.

Scratch: If you're an Iowan, I need say no more. This is a cupcake place in West Des Moines (and Waterloo and Cedar Falls) that has the best cupcakes in the world. No, I'm serious. On Saturdays, you have to stand in a 20-minute-long line to get a cupcake. And it's worth every minute. I get these as a surprise dessert for Ryan and I sometimes, a treat for coworkers, or just because I wanted it, damnit! My favorite is the Salty Dog. It's vanilla cake, salty peanuts and the most important part: buttercream frosting. I'm not sure what's in this amazing frosting other than peanut butter, but it's making Des Moines folk addicted. YUM!
The Salty Dog. Sorry it's not a full cupcake, but I couldn't resist..

Update on my goals for 2013:
-We are registered for one day (July 23) of RAGBRAI. Yes, I made us register and pay. After all, we might need to use the bandwagon.
-We are going for a round of golf next week. Next week! We borrowed my father-in-laws clubs for the occasion. I'll have to have Ryan take some pictures.
-We are two sessions away from completing our Alpha course at church. YAY! We actually miss our old life group from church, whom we left to do Alpha for a bit. We are excited to touch base with them in July.
-I submit my photos THIS WEEKEND for the Iowa State Fair. I'll be honest, I'm not confident about them, nor very excited about any in particular. I did convince Ryan to submit a picture that he took of me. I think out of all five (four from me), his is the only one that will be chosen to be displayed. So... in a way I'll still make it to the display, right? I'll post better pictures later, but for now I need you to help me name the last two pictures. Below is an awful shot of them I took with my phone.

Please help name! I was thinking for the one on the left calling it "Identity Crisis," because they are desert rocks covered in snow. Thoughts? (Please actually comment on blog this time).

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

KITTYS!!! (... and other reasons I'll never be able to run for office)

I always joke that if I ever run for office, an opponent simply needs to place a kitten in front of me during a debate. I would lose instantly due to the squeals that would explode out of me. I love cats. This XKCD comic does a pretty perfect job of explaining my reaction when a cat is around.

Here's the twist: I don't have a cat. That lovely man that I live with and happily vowed to spend the rest of my life with is deathly allergic to them. You honestly won't hear me whine and complaining about it because there was no "choice" about it. I wanted a cat, he's allergic, I love him more than anything in this world, I choose happiness. Case closed. But, I do long for a kitten snuggle every now and then, so I decided to fulfill that by volunteering at two different animal shelters each month (twice a month).

They both are very different, and both provide very fulfilling experiences for me.

The Animal Rescue League of Iowa is one of the shelters. Every other week I take pictures of the cats for adoption. Those pictures are used for posting ads online. They were at capacity for their cats when they rescued 50 cats from a hoarder this week. This means they need help, and have lowered their cat adoption price down to $25 a cat. That's a HUGE deal. If you're like me and cannot have a cat, consider donating to them. You get the newsletter if you donate $30 or more (and yours truly was in the newsletter last month). The other thing you can do is SUPER COOL! You can have cat food sent straight to their doors using this Amazon Wish List. OR get free shipping on

KCCI also did a story on it. The ARL Facebook page is following some of the adoptions, and telling some great stories along the way.

I feel bad now that I've talked so much about ARL, because it's this next shelter that really fills my heart. The Animal Lifeline of Iowa is a no kill, special needs animal shelter. I volunteer helping the cats every other week. Right now, they have FIVE litters of kittens. You'd think I'd be in heaven in a happy pile of kittens, but that room is stressful making sure each kitten has been fed and watered, had their litter cleaned, and had their medicine. The medicine is the craziest part because each kitten gets a gulp of medicine. Keeping track of that is quite the task, and usually takes three of us volunteers.

I've been taking a LOT of pictures at this shelter each week. Currently, this beautiful little girl is my favorite:
And here are some more adorable kittens up for adoption there:

AND, here are some alumni of the shelter.

This one is Cagney. She was my very first little favorite kitten. She came in skin and bones, and got snagged up pretty fast because she is quite loving.

And this one is Kringle. He's blind, but you wouldn't be able to tell when he plays. He is also very lovey, and was adopted quickly.

I thought this was an appropriate blog topic today due to the timely needs of the ARL. I have 5-6 rough drafts of blog posts sitting in the queue, so stand by for more exciting updates on the life of Mrs. S.

Monday, June 3, 2013

Summer plans

Holy moly who can believe that summer is almost here?! Frankly, I can. Here in Iowa, Mother Nature has had Tourette Syndrome. We had snow in May, 70 degree weather back in January and February, and 50 degree weather in June. As the saying goes, "If you don't like the weather in Iowa, wait 20 minutes. It will change." Anyway, I'm ready for summer.

Do you have anything super fun or new planned for this summer? Here are some things on the list for the Smiths. Like my 2013 goals post, I'm hoping this can serve as motivation to actually do all of these things.

-LDDS (A driving school that our BMW club puts on each June. It's our first time to it)
-Trip to Kansas City for BBQ and Beer with our BFFs (the couple that inadvertently introduced Ryan and I)

-Earlham Freedom Fest (where I will run... walk... the annual 5K)
-80/35 music festival
-Annual Jobst Fishing Trip
-RAGBRAI. (We'll do the Tuesday bike ride from Perry to Des Moines).

-Iowa State Fair
-Start my Masters program at Drake (August 27 is my first class!!!!)

And of course, all summer we will be patiently tending to our garden. Here are some hashtags to keep up with our summer garden from planting to canning and/or eating (riveting stuff, I know):

Not that we need anything more to do, but do you have any suggestions for things we should do this summer? Have a book to recommend? Any date night ideas?

Monday, May 27, 2013

Danke, Oma

Sunday, May 19, my grandmother Hannelore Rosa Elizabeth Auer (Lore), passed away. I mentioned this on Facebook, but she was the strongest, bravest, woman I've ever known. Everyone says that about their grandmothers, or mothers, but I have evidence that mine is the strongest. My grandma faced adversity unheard of (and, these are just the stories that I can actually tell you). Unfortunately for you, the ones I cannot tell you are what define her, and humble me.

You can start by reading her extended obituary here, or I could just give you the basics. For starters, she lived in a castle. No joke. I visited said castle on my honeymoon last May. She lived in the old horse stables, which had been converted into apartments, with her eight siblings during WWII. She faced Nazi soldiers and literally spit at their feet - and lived to tell that tale. She taught herself the English language by reading comic books and listening to country music. She was a single mother, so she worked many jobs to support my mother. This included restaurant Bolton and Hay where all the big deals in Des Moines ate. This included former Iowa Governer Robert Ray, who was a lawyer at the time. As a waitress at that restaurant, she was referred to as "Dutch." She was called some no-so-nice names by her customers because Germans were not really accepted yet. (They called her a Nazi).

She overcame some of the toughest obstacles that some of us will never encounter. She was discriminated against, and yet you'd never be able to tell. She never held a grudge on life, she had a heart of gold, and always put us first. It doesn't feel like she's gone. We have some amazing memories, stories, and beautiful pictures to help us keep her in our hearts. Here are some of those pictures to illustrate her life.

This is a picture that a Des Moines Register photographer took of her. It's our absolute favorite:

I think this one looks like my older sister:

This one illustrates where I got my personality:

This one is at my wedding. I love this moment between her and Ryan:

This picture is special to me because it makes me think of my favorite story of grandma. When I was born, I was really sick. Very sick. A lot of people were praying for me to survive. I've been told that grandma was the one who prayed that God take her life instead of mine. I'm thankful he didn't, and gave us both some time together before she left us. After that, like many other people, she loved me so much and always gave me what I asked for (see cookie and kisses in photo).

Lastly, here are Ryan and I posing in front of the castle in Schwetzingen, Germany, where grandma lived.

Looking back v. Living in the moment

I've waited a few weeks to write this post as to avoid spoilers. We watched the wonderful, perfect farewell to The Office on Thursday, May 16. It made me think back to when I first started watching the show. I was a freshman in college, and the boys down the hall had downloaded the show and invited us all to come watch. We all thought Michael Scott was hilarious. We also watched the special before the season finale where they interviewed the cast. They mentioned in the special that their first season wasn't watched by many, but it was downloaded by many more and #1 on itunes. That's how I got into the Office, so... you're welcome, Office.

The themes in the farewell can touch anyone's heart. The characters thanked the documentary makers (within the show), for documenting their lives. They all felt thankful to see their lives unfold before them, and to relive the good times. Andy's character really touched me when he said this line through tears:

"I wish there was a way to know you were in the good old days before you actually left them." ~Andy Bernard (Ed Helms).

When I look back, like I've done on this blog, or when I go through scrapbooks, or I have a school reunion, I always think that. I think about the things I would worry about in that time of my life, and how they'd be so trivial now. My heart always soars when I think of the good things, especially when I see things I'd forgotten about. For example, I was scouring through old blog posts and found this. It's the last blog post I wrote while working at The Des Moines Register. In it, I highlighted my top ten favorite moments as a MOJO there.

The intent of the message, however, is to remind yourself to live in the moment. This is something people think my generation can't do. Conan O'Brien said it best in his introductory remarks at the White House Correspondent's Dinner:

"Quick announcement, before we really get going, before we continue, if any of you are live tweeting this event, please use the #incapableoflivinginthemoment." ~Conan O'Brien

So. True. So instead of sappily going through the great oldies, I'm going to list a few things that make today, right now, the good old times. When I wrote down to think about this list, I instantly thought of the biggest loves in my life: My husband, our marriage, my friends, my family, my garden, my health, my house, my car, etc. So many things fill my heart. In true Niki-fashion, I'm going to try to be unique and list a few different things.

1. I can hop on my bike nearly anytime and ride just about anywhere. This shows not only that I have my health, but I have the time to go biking and have the beautiful bike trails in Iowa to accompany me. (Including the only 100-mile bike loop, set to open June 1).

2. I can buy a beautiful tree, flower, or vegatable and plant it. As a kid, I would always admire the beautiful flowers in the greenhouses, and longed to make a garden of my own so I could watch them grow. We just planted two trees in our yard this weekend, and it was quite lovely. I love having a yard as my canvas to work with.

I'm going to stop there, mainly because this is actually really hard to do. Perhaps that's because you don't know what you've got until it's gone.

Are you living in the moment? What makes today the golden days for you?

2013 goals update:
-I ordered my 8x10 pictures to submit to the fair. Next stop: submit my photos on the deadline date, June 15. Once they have been submitted, I will post pictures of the ones I chose here.
-I went to the golf range. Next stop: golf COURSE for a full round!

Friday, May 17, 2013

The things we worry about

I wrote a few weeks ago about how I do a weekly high/low/looking forward to email with my friends. Something I've really enjoyed about the weekly emails is reflecting on my lows.

Let me explain.

In general, I try to stay pretty positive. If something is not so pleasant in my life, I don't normally tell the world on Facebook or Twitter (I'm not a fan of those depressing status updates). I usually tell my friends and family. Even then, I end the sentence with a positive note, like this: "My car is in the shop, BUT it's under warranty so it won't cost a dime." This is for my own personal reminder that things will be ok, and many things are hardly worth worrying about. Because they are OK. Things always will work out, in one way or another, thanks to this awesome thing called God.

I like reflecting on my lows because I know in a week, or a month, or a year, or five years, they won't be my low anymore. They will become a past experience that I overcame. How cool is that?! This is some super effective therapy for someone with anxiety. If I go back and read those past wrories, like when I wrote that blog post that showed how much my life had changed in two years, I see that very few things in life are actually worth worrying about. I used to worry about some of those things two years ago and now I'm in bliss. I'm happily married, healthy, have a beautiful home and a job I enjoy. I've learned so many things and have seen so many places.

Because I like illustrating with pictures, here are some pictures to explain. Here are some things I worried about before, after, and during our trip to Colorado: (Please note, some of these weren't really worries, but more things that I thought about, or had on my mind).

Before we left, we got our anniversary tier out of the freezer. It smelled like play dough while it was unthawing, making me worried about its taste. Turns out, it tasted as amazing as it did one year ago. Score!

Before we left, I also worried about the weather in Colorado. It had just snowed nine inches there. Turns out, the weather in Iowa was just as bad. This is what it was like outside on May 2 when we left for Colorado. We were welcomed to Colorado with sunny skies, clear roads and beautiful landscape! It ended up being perfect timing.

DURING the trip, I was worried about our drive up Pike's Peak. I get vertigo sometimes (have an Rx for it, actually), and wasn't thrilled about the drive up 14,000 feet to the summmit. But, I did just fine (medicine free), and got some amazing pictures. To prove it, here is us as far up as they would let us drive.

Also during the trip, and before, we were worried about getting our garden planted. All done!

And finally, I am confident about going back to school to obtain my Masters degree. Mainly because I'm very excited to get back into the classrom. But, I do think about the time it will take and if I will be able to fully commit myself to it. I think I can. I think I can. I hope to revisit this in two years and see that I have.
Wow. I worry a lot... is what you're probably thinking. I really don't. As I warned, these were mostly just things on my mind. If you still think I'm a worry-wort, look at yourself. What do you think about all day? What do you worry about? Do those "lows" and "worries" turn into an experience? Something positive?

Just something to think about. Stay positive, readers (whoever you are).

Monday, May 13, 2013

First anniversary! Trip to Colorado.

We just celebrated our FIRST anniversary! What?! Everyone says the time flew by, and some still call us newlyweds. I'm not saying it went slow, but I definitely don't feel like newlyweds. Maybe someone can shed some light on this feeling, but I feel like we've been married for years. We have this thing nailed down and I'm ready for another 80 years. Can anyone relate? 

We had a BLAST in Colorado on a MUCH needed vacation. I won't go into the boring travel details, just short of a slideshow at your neighbors. I will say each view was breathtaking. I definitely want to go back and do it again someday, even though I got some mad car sickness going up and down and around and around the mountains. The highlights included the New Belgium Brewery tour - the best brewery tour we've been on (and we've done a LOT). The food, the view, the relaxing hotel. Thanks, Colorado. We needed that.

So that's that. I'm trying really hard to keep up on this blog. I like seeing everyone's unique ways of blogging - favorites, recipes, reviews, etc. I just don't want to copy everyone. I'll just concentrate on keep coming back frequently.

Update on my goals post. Add pay off student loans to the list of COMPLETED goals! Woot! Just in time to start saving for school. Yep. I'm going back to Drake to get my Masters of Communication Leadership, and crazy enough we're going to try to pay for it without taking out any loans. (donations accepted).

Also, we're currently in the Alpha course at church, and I have the instructions printed off for submitting photos to the Iowa State Fair. I'm on my way to completed a few more and this blog is keeping me in check. 

Friday, April 26, 2013

Exciting dates - trying new things

At  our wedding (which was almost a year ago now – my goodness WHERE does the time go), we asked people to answer questions in our guestbook instead of sign it. They were questions like: What should we do to keep the fire burning? Where should we go for our first anniversary? What date should we go on? Etc.
Admittedly, I haven’t looked at that guestbook since our wedding, but we have definitely taken the “date night” suggestions seriously. We both love trying new things and make a definite effort to keep life interesting. The evidence may be in our recent super-packed super-fun date-nights the past few weeks.
Bowling at Bass Pro – This is one that we’ve been wanting to try since the store opened in Altoona.  I toured the shop when it opened in 2009 and thought the bowling area looked fun. Every time we drove by on our way to Iowa City we would say, “We really need to go bowling there.” Finally, I just planned a date with my step-brother (the outdoor enthusiast) and his wife so we could finally cross it off our list. I didn’t take any pictures from said date (Fail), but here is what it looks like. I just loved that underwater feeling the alley gave. It was a bit pricey (which I was told beforehand), but we were glad we did it and we had fun.

Painting class
This one was a surprise for Ryan. I knew these “Social Art” events existed in Des Moines, and I kept that a secret from him so that I could surprise him with it some night. Social Art is basically regular folks getting together and painting – simple as that. The teacher makes it easy for everyone to do and some mix a little BYOB in.
We both love art, so this was a no-brainer. In Europe, it seemed like all we ever did was explore the beautiful art – like the Van Gogh museum in Amsterdam. We love Van Gogh and have a print of Starry Night in our blue bedroom. SO, what a great idea to PAINT it? I for one, loved it. I was really surprised how everyone’s turned out so completely different even though we were essentially painting the same thing. It was pretty cool to watch how everyone’s turned out. One guy used pink and red tones and it looked like a volcano scene. We used El Arte Uncorked for this event (and the Groupon helped), if you’re interested in doing it yourself.

Golf range – THIS is one that’s in the books. It’s been unseasonably cold here in Iowa, so we haven’t had the itch to do this one. Soon, we will go across the street to the golf range by our house so I can start working on one of my goals for this year.
I always tried to do fun and new things when I was single as well, so don’t you just think this is about coupley nights. On my own, I’ve gone grape picking at Summerset Winery in Indianola. When I was a reporter for the Des Moines Register, I explored something new every day – arm wrestling competitions, golf outings, fairs, markets, church concerts, doggie dates– you name it. Do you do anything fun to spice up life?

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Resolutions? Nope. Goals

I’ve never made a new year’s resolution. I was never passionate enough about a year-long change to make one. If I make goals, they are to be met in an attainable time-frame, and not confined to a specific time. If I make a lifestyle change, it’s for the better – not just for a year. Make sense? Ok, moving on...
This year, however, I did try something along those lines. I made a list of things I wanted to do before the end of the year. Some are goals, some are bucket-list items, and some are simply “to do” items that if I put on a list they were more likely to get done. After I made the list, I realized there were 12 items, one for each month. Convenient.
While these items don’t completely fit into the box of being completed in a specific month, it’s slowly working out that way. It’s April, and I have four goals completed. I’m currently working on two that should both be completed in May and June. Two others are planned for July and August. Brilliant! I make sure I’m always working on one or two items on the list at a time. They are panning out themselves. It’s quite nice, and proof that I should chill out more.
Since I’m trying to be more open, I’m going to actually share them with you.

::deep breath::

To do:
-Golf. For the first time ever. (This is a bucket-list-type-of-entry). Completed June 17, 2013.
-Pay off student loans (scheduled to happen the end of May. YAY!) Completed May 1, 2013.
-Do a day of RAGBRAI (This bike ride across Iowa in July conveniently goes through Des Moines this year).
-Get to XYZ weight. (Yea, not telling you that, sorrynotsorry)
-Run a 5K in 30 minutes. (Probably my loftiest of the bunch)
-Take Alpha course at church. (We’re signed up for the May-June session)
-Submit pictures to the Iowa State Fair (For August. I’ve done this before, just need to get my butt in gear. Trip to Colorado will help). Completed June 15, 2013.
-Cookbook. I want to make a cookbook of all the recipes I have and use most frequently – in a standard format. (This one stresses me out the most)

-Make a will (Legalzoom made this a breeze)
-Get a new car (THIS goal is one I'd had on the list since I graduated college. Felt great to achieve).
-Buy a life insurance policy (these are all so adult!)
-Renew my passport with married name (easy, but expensive)
-Pay off student loans (Due to a miscalculation, we got this one done a month early)
-Submit pictures to the Iowa State Fair

In general, I feel I got the easiest ones out of the way first. Maybe they just feel easy now that they’re done. I’d like to keep you updated with my progress throughout. Now that I’ve shown them to the world, I feel obligated to complete all of them. This will be especially helpful in the weight-related item. Something tells me I’ll push myself to achieve these before the year is out.

What are YOUR 2013 goals? Do you make and/or keep resolutions? How do you make yourself accountable for those goals? Share, SHARE!!!

Friday, April 5, 2013

My favorite things... of the week

Apparently, this is turning into the blog of me copying everyone. Just trying to find my blog voice, I suppose. I’ve seen this on various blogs – people sharing pictures, links and musings about their favorite things. I mean, who isn’t just waiting with bated breath to hear what things I like? Wait no more, my minions.

Twitter feed: @seinfeldtoday. Hilarious. They are tweets giving synopses of shows if Seinfeld were on today. Some of my favorites are…

“Jerry goes to Easter mass and dinner with his girlfriend. Her whole family looks at him whenever the Jews are mentioned.”

“Kramer and Jackie sue 5-hour-energy drinkfor only working four hours.”

Hilarious. Thank you, @seinfeldtoday.

Song: I’m obsessing over this song, Crown on the Ground by Sleigh Bells. It’s used perfectly in the trailer for The Bling Ring.

Etsy item: I’ve gotten tons of compliments on my snuggly green scarf from this Etsy shop. I’m trying to justify buying the blue one. Easter’s already gone… hmm… our anniversary is May 5… so…

Charity: We Care Solar is something I found randomly this year. It’s unique, has a focused mission, and is doing something pretty awesome if you ask me. Basically, women in Africa are dying during child birth due to the lack of lighting. Yep. Lights. We Care Solar is making solar-paneled light packs to keep in African hospitals for when the lights go out. Providing some light to the world is the least we could do.

Music video: It’s not really new, but I think the music video for Scream and Shout by Will.I.Am., featuring Britney Spears is art.

I realize now that this particular list has no theme or focus. Well… welcome to this blog, I guess. After all, it certainly is the obligatory blog about nothing.

What are some of YOUR favorite things?!?!

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Highs and Lows

My friends and I do a weekly email where we exchange our high, low, and looking forward to for the week. I truly look forward to it each week because it makes me slow down and reflect on life – and I get to hear all about what’s up with my girls. It’s so simple, and the best way for us to keep on top of what is going on with each other. I especially love the support they give when I share my lows – something I’m not always comfortable with doing. I force myself to dig deep and really share what moment was the hardest for me that week. I not only get some love back from my friends, but it forces me to review that moment and put it into context. I sit back and take a look at it from a bigger picture perspective and I always tag it with my positive spin. In turn, I get a chance to support my friends in their times of need. Even if it is just virtually, sometimes it’s all we have.
Here’s an example to paint you a picture:
Low: Ryan is gone to a conference for work and I miss him. But, he’ll be back soon and in the meantime it’s giving me some time alone.
A week later… High: Ryan is back!
See what I did there?
Supposedly, 80% of what we worry about never happens. (I’ll put aside the point that I think that number came from no scientific study). So, perhaps sharing our lows, making them positive and working through them with somebody is the hardest thing to really do? Make sure you’re doing that in some way. You’ll be glad you did.
And of course, who doesn’t love sharing their high-points of the week?! Or, what we are looking forward to. Here is my blog-friendly version for the week. While I get the irony, I don’t feel comfortable sharing my lowest of weekly lows to, well, the world. That’s what my friends are for. So you’ll have to settle for this:
High: My peony plant, which I planted two years ago, is sprouting! I’m so excited!
Low: It’s still too cold to really get down and dirty with my garden. I’ve been literally dreaming about
all of the flowers I will plant.

Looking forward to: Ryan and I have tickets to David Sedaris on April 17. He will be doing readings from his new book, Let's Explore Diabetes with Owls. Should be a hoot...
I won’t be doing this each week, I just wanted to share this story. Perhaps you might want to do the same? SO how about it – high, low, looking forward to?
Here are some more pictures… just because!
This fluffy wonder has made my week. Found this on the Twitter page @earth_pics.
Ryan and I dyed eggs for Easter… Breaking Bad style (points to who knows what that means):