I’ve been working on a few projects in the yard. First up, a status check on that front flower bed:
Last year’s drought was tough on this bed so the plants that made it are real survivors. We lost all the dwarf rhododendron early on and both the azaleas and one hydrangea were lost by late summer. We still have the hydrangea on the left and it’s getting a solid leaf base early on. The pink and white rhododendron in the back–are both purple but very alive so we’ll take them. We added six geraniums last year that stayed green all winter and we’ve got a clematis climbing the trellis in the middle. There are some plants to replace but it’s looking alive again.
My corner flower bed has a project going on that’s about 90% complete. I’ll share it soon but here’s a hint:
Last week I saw flurries again. Can you believe it? Last year I was trying not to turn on the AC and this year it is snowing a month past spring. In the same week I saw 90 degree temperatures and two trips to the basement for tornado sirens. And it’s flooding. Welcome to Missouri.
I’ve got another project about 40% complete. One day I came home from work to catch my husband digging in the yard. He’d gotten off work early and decided to start another flower bed. Forget a nap or a beer, he likes working after work. We’ve planted a shipment of hostas, a new jack frost brunnera and my lovely coworker just gave me some elephant ears that are likely to end up in here too. We’ve filled the car up with mulch twice but we’ve only gotten so far. Compared to a photo two summers ago, I think the yard is finally making some progress.
I decided not to finish any of these projects today. Sure I could have but I’ve been running around working like crazy, gardening, cooking meals for the week, and planning my high school reunion. Then I saw this face and realized you have to make time for the important things in life, like playing with a pitbull and her ball.
How could I resist a face like that?
My life hasn’t seemed that blogworthy lately. It’s been hard adjusting to 2013, a year where I seem to be sick or exhausted at every turn. I promise to try to make more of an effort if you promise not to judge my lapses and lack of major DIY. With spring coming I’m hoping to escape the house soon and get out in the yard. Right now my yard is filled with 6 inches of snow being rained on and snow is about 20 minutes away again. Last year at this time I was regretting not already planting grass so my March 1 deadline for 2013 seems a bit off. I’ll let you know when I get there.
So what has my life been like lately? Full of work. I’m really trying to reshape my department at the job I don’t blog about and I have tons of ideas. Since I don’t want to share details of my work too much (don’t want to lose this job!) I’ll share some highlights of my day that I kept inside my head without any real details.
- While reviewing old files came across what looked like black mold. Sneezed. Worried this means I’m dead and realized dead people shouldn’t be worrying.
- Went to a higher-ranked person with a file and got this as an exact answer “I promise to look up that thing you asked and give you a vague and confusing answer” and then 4 hours later he delivered exactly what was promised.
- Spent 20 minutes discussing why my software cannot work more than 2 weeks in a row with my tech consultant buddy. He gave a lot of tech speak but I think it was something like “we do not want you to achieve greatness” which I get. Don’t want to make everyone else look bad.
- Found a dead spider in another file. Wondered if this was better/worse than mold. Then realized file should be in a different location and sent it on its way. Yes, with the spider inside. No one will ever open it and if they do they will remember why they shouldn’t have.
- Work. Lots of work. No details here because it makes my eyes glass over so yours will too.
Then I went home, dreamed my software worked and then for what seemed like hours I input data into that software. I used to dream these outrageous things like my dog was on trial for being Fidel Castro and now I dream about filing and typing numbers. I really need to get back to a hobby.
I do have some crafty ideas. I’ve bought some pots for a garden decoration, I’ve bought what might be the beginnings of a Mother’s Day gift idea, and tomorrow I’ve got a special pork loin recipe that just might make the cut. I don’t cook dinner that often now since I arrive home last in the evenings. I usually prep the meal while Daniel cooks it. I’m a bit of a control freak (and I don’t want to do burgers and Easy Mac 5x/week). Sometimes I just let him run wild and he’s been getting very creative. He’s taken to watching America’s Test Kitchen and Cook’s Country and I’m hearing requests for gumbo or being advised on the proper knife techniques. I won’t complain if he makes dishes like the maple mustard salmon he made a bit ago.
I’m a reader. Sadly last year was one of the first where I didn’t hit a minimum of 50 books read. (I blame 3 jobs, 2 major illnesses, and a running program) I did end up reading a lot of very long books (an average of 500 pages each) so I was pleased about that and I did end up reading some really great books. I wanted to share my top 5 books for 2012 and hear if you have any recommendations for 2013.
Let’s Pretend This Never Happened: (A Mostly True Memoir) by Jenny Lawson
Jenny Lawson aka The Bloggess is one of my favorite bloggers. She’s funny and beloved by the internet and she uses all that charm and love to accomplish some awesome things like the traveling red dress and a Christmas miracle. Her Beyonce story is still one of the funniest things I’ve read (and it’s in the book). I wondered to myself if I really cared enough about some stranger on the internet to read a memoir and I wasn’t sure even as I picked up the book. I just wanted to read some funny things like on the website. When I read the book, I found I liked Jenny IRL (okay, in book form) even better than her internet form. Jenny has battled a lot in her life but her humor, honesty, and taxidermic lifestyle really made this book into a fun read.
The Winter Sea by Susanna Kearsley
I have a weakness for historical fiction. This doesn’t involve a ton of “famous” people in history but it does partially include figures like James I. If you love Diana Gabaldon’s Outlander series this book is partially set right in the middle of that. If you’re more into the fiction part of historical fiction this book has a love triangle or two, a gorgeous setting, friendship, and the writing of a book. I loved this one and plan to devour some of Susanna Kearsley’s other novels.
The Mockingbirds by Daisy Whitney
The Mockingbirds might be classified as a young adult book or maybe new adult but it’s a snappy book that really emphasizes empowering young women. It’s set at a boarding school, it involves secret societies, family relationships, and a bunch of strong women. There’s also a dark plot it follows involving rape but it’s not a story about rape. I first read about this one on Forever Young Adult and they did not leave me astray. If you’re wondering about the title, it does and it doesn’t refer to Harper Lee’s classic. You’ll have to read it to see what I mean.
Zeitoun by Dave Eggers
This book is a tough one. Dave Eggers immersed himself in Abdulrahman Zeitoun’s life while writing this book and it’s packed with so much emotion that it is often hard to read. The book is set in and around Hurricane Katrina and Zeitoun’s time in the storm and in the world of the unknown. I still have tears come to my eyes when I remember parts of what he saw in New Orleans. That being said, Zeitoun has been in trouble with the law lately too. I can’t tell if this changes how I feel about the book. The text and suspense of a book that plots out a time I lived through is still haunting. Without reading the book you might not understand how hard it is to reconcile the Zeitoun of the book with the one in the news, or how easy it is to understand all at the same time. If you want a gritty read that will make you ask “why?” about everything, this is the book that will do it.
The Fault in Our Stars by John Green
Another young adult book but I refuse to apologize for loving this one. The best parts involve love, passion, mystery, and friendship. This book starts off right away talking about cancer but refusing to be a cancer book. I’m a cancer survivor and I was hesitant to start this tear-jerker worrying that it would bring back hard times for me but it was so uplifting. I started it right after I wrote my resolutions post and it was so fitting. This is a book on how to live your life and how to let go of your fears. I’m sure everyone and their mother have recommended this book to you and if you still haven’t read it, you need to take this as your final nudge.
I’m finishing my second book for the year right now and I’d love to plot out a reading list so I can stay on track. I’ve added a Goodreads widget to my sidebar on the right so you can follow along with my reading. Share your 2012 favorites and your 2013 goals in the comments!
I’m not the kind of person who makes New Year’s resolutions. I’m the kind of person who wakes up in the morning with an idea, spends hours planning the idea out, and then jumps into it before I can change my mind. I know not everyone gets that kind of an itch like I do so I get the appeal of a new year to be used as a clean slate or a fresh start. If that’s your plan, then go for it. If you sort of expect that in 6 weeks you’ll have already given up, then maybe there’s a different way.
On my 26th birthday I decided it was time for me to try to be healthier. I’m a cancer survivor and I’d finally reached that critical 5-year point most survivors look to as proof they just might make it. I don’t even think I’d realized I’d been holding my breath until I finally let it out. I didn’t want my goal to be losing weight (though like many people I welcomed the possibility) but rather I wanted measurable proof that I was healthier. I’d seen my body become so weak once, my lungs strained when I walked, my bones hurt under my skin, and I felt afraid to move on with my life. It was time for me to take action.
I got a Wii and a Wii Fit and some fitness games and started building up strength. It wasn’t easy. I also took up running and made it into an activity my whole family could enjoy. I ran a 5K on Thanksgiving morning this year. Then 2 weekends later I ran another one 2 minutes faster than my last. Even better, when I went to my regular oncologist visit I saw real proof I was getting healthier–my blood oxygen levels were at their best since I had started chemo almost 6 years earlier. There it was again, letting out another breath I didn’t realize I’d been holding.
I went on a long trip this year. The kind of trip I never thought I’d take. One day I just took the plunge and realized if I lived my whole life waiting for some sign that I’d be waiting a long time. Part of living through each day as a cancer survivor is the uncertainty. It’s hard to plan a trip 6 months down the road when you think in the back of your head you might not be okay in 6 months. But being alive is about taking risks, living in the moment, and enjoying what you see. Spending every day dreaming “next year will be different” was preventing me from living, truly living. I knew I had to get back to being me again and I couldn’t wait for that elusive date in the future when it just might happen.
My whole year this year was a year of accomplishing the dreams I’d put on hold. I hadn’t held a steady job since graduating college. I’ve known for a while that holding temporary jobs was a way for me to be available to leave a job in case I got sick again but at some point I’d apparently decided I wasn’t going to put my life on hold like that again. I took a job that isn’t just a job but a place where I can grow a career. Don’t get me wrong, I have a lot of safeguards I’ve put in place should something happen to my health. I just try to live my life knowing there’s a lot of possibility in my future, especially if I put my mind to it.
Source: thefirstgradeparade.blogspot.com via Tobi on Pinterest
For me, holding back on a goal until January 1st of the next year rolls around is putting your life on hold. It’s saying you don’t believe in yourself yet but refuse to make any preparations to get yourself in a place you can succeed. If you keep making the same goals year after year are you really reaching your potential? If you plan to set a big resolution, maybe resolve to be more open to possibility. When you get those little nudges of inspiration, be willing to listen and take some big steps forward. I’ve had some set backs in those moments but I’ve also seen and done things I’d never trade.
This past weekend I tried a bit to get into the Christmas spirit. Christmas can be a hard holiday for me. I feel like if I don’t get something done then I’ve let people down and if I do get it done it’s often to the sacrifice of my own happiness. Awesome, right? I’m sure I’m not alone but it’s a constant struggle for me to find some balance.
This weekend was spent trying to find that sweet spot. I went with my mom down to Cherokee Street in St. Louis. If you’ve never been, it’s a walkable street with brick historic homes and storefronts. Many shops are filled with antiques or crafts. If you visit, you’ll notice the amazing food in this area too. It’s sort of the Mexican food capital of St. Louis. Today was also what is known as the Cookie Spree where every shop on the street that is participating has a cookie tray inside. Can you say way too stuffed?
I ate lunch at a place called Neveria La Vallesana. Very good burritos there. I also did a ton of window shopping. If you want some fun places to shop, The Purple Cow, Retro 101/Cherry Bomb Vintage, and St. Louis Curio Shoppe are your stops. If you want something practical, check out China Finders, Lady Jane’s, Haffner’s Antiques, or Hammond’s Books.
My two favorite shops of the day both heavily featured antiques. Elder’s Ltd had 3 stories of some of the most beautiful antique/mid-century furniture at reasonable prices. It’s a shame I wasn’t looking for that this time but I’ll definitely be back. My other favorite was the place I got my big purchase of the day, Bella. I’m not sure my dog is impressed but I’ve got high hopes for turning this tea cart from Bella’s into a bar cart. There was a 20% off sale going on today and they gave me a great deal and I can’t wait to get to work on this beautiful piece.
Oh and notice my blue dining room rug in the background? It got moved to the living room this week. I don’t know why, I just decided to mix it up. I might end up with a new rug in the dining room and it’ll work with this new bar cart look. I’m just trying to decide if I want to stick with blue as my accent in the dining room of if I’d rather go with a bolder color. Stay tuned for updates one day on that front.
The dining room did get a bit of a new look minus the rug being taken away. We put up our Christmas tree! It may not look like much, being a $16.99 purchase from back in 2005 but it means something. The year my husband bought it was his first in a new apartment back when he was still just my boyfriend. I was really sick that winter and had just gotten some bad news that I’d need more treatment so I am pretty sure he bought that cheap little tree to cheer me up at a time where money was tight.
I think that’s the important way for me to find some balance this season. Just stop and take a step back and remember all the little reasons to try hard this season. I don’t have to do everything right or everything perfect but I should try to do it with love and care and let the pieces fall where they may.
Who doesn’t love a 4-day weekend? This one was much needed. I started my new job the day after waking up at 3:30 AM and getting to bed at 12 AM and I was still behind on sleep 2 weeks later. I know, some people say sleep debts aren’t real but tell that to my lazy butt.
I say that but in reality I had a very busy weekend. I woke up early Thursday morning and drove 30 minutes to head to a Turkey Trot. My husband and I ran our first 5K run together! I had trained but switching jobs to something with a longer commute + the end of daylight savings time really cut into the hours I could run in a day. The race was hard, lots of hills in a mall parking area but in the end I finished and ran the whole way. My husband stayed by my side (even though he’s a much faster runner) and I shaved over 4 minutes off my previous best.
After the run I cleaned up a bit and then headed to Thanksgiving lunch with my in-laws. She had turkey, dinner rolls, sausage stuffing, cranberry sauce, and mashed potatoes. My sisters-in-law each made desserts and I brought a very empty stomach. I definitely didn’t leave with an empty one though. I didn’t take pictures because I was devouring but I did want to share my mother-in-law’s pretty centerpiece.
After a filling lunch, Dan and I then headed over to my parents’ house. Luckily our house is about 10 minutes away from each of their houses and they live about 10 minutes away from each other. Unluckily that did not allow a lot of time to digest. We had a deep-fried turkey that my dad fried, my mom tried out my sweet potato recipe, there were at least 2 casseroles, a jello salad (a true must), and a Thanksgiving miracle occurred when my baby brother tried and liked my cornbread dressing. We ate on my great great grandma’s china that my mom was just given.
That was all in one day!
The rest of my weekend was spent on a project I highly regret starting. Remember: when your husband says “Do you want to start on the fireplace or just put up the Christmas tree?” choose wisely. I was desperate to start on a makeover of the ugliest fireplace ever. I did not realize I would be dealing with moving furniture, flying debris, dust, 3 extra loads of laundry, eating on my bed, buying new tools, and realizing public enemy #1 is my former homeowner.
Has your past homeowner ever done anything to deserve a public shaming? Uncle Albert sure does. Letting someone set tile in concrete and using concrete as a grout is the.worst.idea.ever. There are not enough evers in a Taylor Swift song to cover the amount of worst idea evers in this situation.
I know this sounds like a busy weekend but I promise you I slept in till 10 AM, ate chili dogs, and watched The Walking Dead. I also caught up on giving my puppy some extra loving and I did not do a bit of shopping all weekend. It was bliss! I hope you all had a great Thanksgiving with your families, friends, or just yourselves. I’d love to hear about how you do Thanksgiving your style.
It’s been a busy fall at my house. I’ve been finishing the final weeks on my work’s big project and soon I’ll be moving on to a new office and new responsibilities. My husband and I took a big trip to Europe. I finally finished the Couch to 5K program and I have 2 races lined up.
That hasn’t stopped me from having some fun either. I went with some friends and family to my old high school’s Homecoming football game. My littlest brother still goes to school there and it was a big anniversary for me as well. I was most excited to see the marching band. I’m a former member and my little brother (that’s him on the 45 yard line playing the sax) has won several championships at competitions this year. I’m a proud big sister. As a bonus, the football team pulled out a win as well.
I’ve been dressing the house up for fall too. Some pumpkins and some coleus plants add a nice seasonal look with purples and oranges. I have a yellow wreath I use each year. This year I paired it with an owl hanging I found at Michaels. I love the bottlecap eyes…and the fact that it was on clearance.
Here’s a glance at the garden as of 2 weeks ago. Since then we had a tornado warning that knocked down leaves and now a frost warning that froze everything up. The garden barely survived the horrible summer. Remember how gorgeous it looked back in May? I had a hydrangea die, one just barely survived. All the dwarf rhododendron died before the end of June. We planned to replace them with more boxwoods but after a boxelder bug invasion I’m not so sure now. The regular rhododendron made it till July but then they died too. The azalea survived. My husband had bought some geraniums and added them and they thrived as did our coleus plants. We’ll definitely be trying to makeover this garden again next year. I’d like to imagine this year was just a freaky year of drought but I need a low-maintenance plan that can survive drought, massive rains, hail, winds, and me.
For my October table, I wanted to use complementary colors. I know a blue and orange table isn’t traditional for October but I loved how rustic it felt. I was able to shop my house for this project, using my blue willow china and blue cobalt glasses. The matching cobalt wine bottles are from some riesling I drank and the pumpkin votive holders are from Pier1. They match last month’s design. The flowers in the basket were actually a gift holder my husband gave me years back that comes in handy every year.
The only new item I bought for the table were the mini pumpkins. I wanted to buy some napkins but I had the hardest time finding some matching blue napkins. Has anyone seen some deep blue napkins that might match my blue willow or blue cobalt? I’d love to find some before the next time I use them all on the table again.
How was your month of October?Pin It
So before my big trip, I planned out some outfits so I would be able to pack as minimally as possible. I wanted to followup on that post to let you know how successful I was. First up, I didn’t end up doing laundry on board the cruise ship. I used my cruise credit for drinks and cupcakes. I’m a glutton, deal with it.
The only difference that made was I needed to double up on a few tanks for layering and bring the full amount of underwear to last me the trip. When I got around to packing it all, I realized I had more than enough space. I was pleased because my plan was to bring home souvenirs so I was more than set. Just to be safe, I weighed my luggage and the heaviest bag was 32 lbs, so I had well over 10 lbs of “souvenir space” to work with. Perfect!
Here you can see me in my green capris and blue striped shirt in Park Guell (Barcelona), my green capris and tan top in Toulon, and in jeans and a white top in Amalfi.
I ended up swapping some outfits around, like after a freak rain storm soaked my outfit in Monaco; that outfit needed some time for the pieces to dry so I just swapped what day I wore things. Same thing with my landing day, I ended up not changing until dinner. I was able to do that because I chose to pack 3 additional pieces over what I listed in my planning post. I brought a dinner sundress for my time in Barcelona (since I didn’t want to wear the same thing I wore to the beach or to hike) and I brought one casual outfit, some sweats and a t-shirt. That was a great choice since I just lounged on our room’s balcony for much of the time. I wanted to be cozy on those crisp Mediterranean mornings. Since I did that, there was an entire outfit I never ended up wearing. I had overpacked!
Some of my most versatile pieces were my denim shirt, my khaki skirt, and my pink and green capris. You can see me wearing these pieces in (clockwise from top left) Nice, Trevi Fountain in Rome, Pisa (that’s the Leaning Tower behind me), and on board my cruise ship the last night playing mini golf.
I always felt comfortable in my pieces (always pack clothes you’ve worn several times before!) and I never stood out in my pieces. I chose colors on a same color palette to maximize mixing and matching–lots of browns, blues, greens, pinks/reds, and whites. Before packing, look at what colors highlight your closet and try to choose 3 or so favorites with 1 or 2 neutrals.
For my big vacation, I had a bit of a time figuring out how to pack for the trip. I’ll be gone for 10 days, I’ll be seeing varying temperatures, some days I’ll need to dress modestly and others more formally. On top of all that, I wanted to leave plenty of room in my luggage to bring home souvenirs.
The first thing I researched was if laundry services would be available for my trip. I’m cruising with Royal Caribbean so I located their laundry service price list to plan out if laundry services were even in my budget. I also learned via Cruise Critic that Royal Caribbean has a wash-and-fold special where for $25 you can get as many socks, underwear, tees, shorts, swimwear, and pajamas washed as you can fit in the bag they provide. As part of our booking special we were given some on-board credit that can easily be applied towards laundry.
My next priority was to map out each day’s outfit needs. For example, day 5 of our trip will have us touring the Provence area of France for a short time, enjoying some quiet time on our ship, and then eating a formal dinner. So a touring outfit, a swimsuit, and a formal dress were all necessary for one day. Since I’ll be changing so much, I know I can get more than 1 wear out of most items. So I made a chart of my outfit needs for each day.
I took some advice from Audrey over at Putting Me Together on the importance of wearing colored bottoms. I’m bringing 4 different bottoms but I can wear clothing for at least 10 days. I’ve actually limited my re-wears of key pieces simply because I don’t know how hot it might get or how clumsy I might be this trip.
I tried to choose a color palette to work with for the trip too. I’ve always been a fan of navy and white and by sticking to a palette it means I can bring just 1-2 belts some brown and white shoes that should work with every outfit. My suitcase is basically filled with these key pieces, though some are just similar and not direct matches since I don’t buy a new wardrobe every year.
I made sure to choose cardigans to layer since some places like Rome require me to have my shoulders covered and nights on a cruise ship can be cool. I also chose several knit pieces for their strong anti-wrinkle tendencies. I’ll also have the obvious things packed like socks, underwear, PJs, and my swimsuit but I’m feeling pretty set with these pieces. I’ll let you know after the trip what worked and what didn’t so you can better prepare for your next vacation. (Now that I’m back, here’s that followup I promised!)
Wow, I did not intend to be gone that long. I even have a vacation coming up that I don’t plan on being that quiet for.
After posting 2 Mondays ago I was busy pushing for a work deadline when I started to feel kind of bad. I sort of chalked it up to the stress of the job and just kept pushing on. Eventually “kind of bad” turned into pain in the night which would last 30 minutes and then I’d be fine in the morning. That wasn’t cool but I figured I’d get to the weekend and I’d feel better. When the weekend came I started to feel worse and I passed on skipping a marketplace I’d been looking forward to all summer just to try to relax. I figured whatever this was had to be all in my head from the stress, right? The deadline at work was finally over and I could just calm down.
Monday I was a little worse so I called into work and ran to the pharmacy to grab some unrelated items and in the short time I did that I had a fever jump several degrees. That was a little scary. The rest of Monday, all of Tuesday, and early Wednesday were just a blur to me. I had such high fevers during that time and some other scary side effects that I really had no clue what was going on. I ended up going to the Urgent Care, having the Urgent Care get freaked out enough they wanted me in the ER and then I got some medications in the hospital before coming home. Major infection and 4 medications needed in the hospital + 3 more outside.
I expected when I was released that I’d start feeling better but I was just as sick and it took another few days for the meds to kick in. My fever finally broke after 6 straight days of 103+ temps and then I started finally being able to hold down food and water. I’m still on some meds but I should be fine (or at least good enough to move around more) in another week or so with some more rest and learning how to take it easy for a bit. I’m just glad I was able to catch things when I did and that I have so many people like my husband, parents, and in-laws who helped out when I needed the most.
I do hope to do some casual postings between now and Labor Day but I have some resting up to do in the meantime so forgive me if I’m a little quieter than usual. Have a good week everybody and remember to take it easy!