Thursday, January 31, 2013

48 + 14 Questions (And Answers!)

I  am feeling totally uninpired lately when it comes to blogging, so I decided to "borrow" a couple of questionaires from blogs I read. These 48 questions from Nicole over at Peace|Love|Nicole. :)

1. Were you named after anyone?
Yes, my Aunt (great aunt?) Opal. I know virtually nothing about her so it's never meant much to me. On my bucket list is to someday legally change my middle name.

2. When was the last time you cried?
Sunday night - I had a really powerful dream and woke up drenched in tears (lol). Come to think of it, I also cried while watching NCIS, when Kate dies. And again when Gibbs got blown up. Sheesh. I swear I'm not normally a crier - I've just been super emotional lately and I guess tears are my stress release valve! :)

3. Do you like your handwriting?
I have no strong opinions on my handwriting? It's mostly legible. :) I do hate writing on those little electronic screens at credit card portals though - my handwriting always ends up looking like I waved the stylus back and forth no matter what I do, so now that's pretty much what I do.

4. What is your favorite lunch meat?
Roast beef.

5. Do you have kids?
Not of my own, but I like to borrow other people's! :)

6. If you were another person, would you be friends with you?
Absolutely! And we'd have a TON of fun!!!

7. Do you use sarcasm a lot?
Yes, I admit it, I do. But I never do it meanly, lol, and mostly self-deprecatingly.

8. Do you still have your tonsils?
Yup. And my appendix. And my wisdom teeth. I come with all my original factory parts. :)

9. Would you bungee jump?
If my best friend would do it with me. Or if I ever fell in love with someone I totally trusted, and he'd do it with me.

10. What is your favorite cereal?
Hmm, I'm not a huge cereal fan, but when I do get a craving I love Life or GrapeNuts.

11. Do you untie your shoes when you take them off?
Well, I only have one pair of shoes with laces, and they're new, so I'm not sure. I'm guessing only if I can't get them off my feet without untying.

12. Do you think you are strong?
Yes! But not through my own power - "I can do all things through Christ, who strengthens me" (Phillipians 4:13).

13. What is your favorite ice cream?
Pretzel! Or cookies and cream. Anything with more "stuff" in it than ice cream.

14. What's the first thing you notice about people?
The way they carry themselves, shy or reserved, arrogant, open, etc.

15. Red or pink?
Hmm... tough question. I like them both! I love to wear red when I want to make a statement, but I love pink, too...

16. What is the least favorite thing about yourself?
Hmm. Um... I dislike that I tend to fall apart when I don't get enough sleep. I'm not one of those folks who can run on coffee indefinitely.

17. Who do you miss the most?

18. What is the technique that you need to work on the most?
Sewing - I'm a terrible sewer and I take out twice as many stitches as I ever put in.

19. What color shoes are you wearing?
Denim. But I just got a new pair of shoes - aren't they cute?

20. What was the last thing you ate?
Mexican! A burrito, rice, and beans.

21. What are you listening to right now?
Well, right this second, I'm listening to Abigail breathing on the baby monitor, Maggie watching and episode of The Fugitive, and my fingers typing. Lately, I've been listening to 2 new CDs I found in the $5 bin at Wal-Mart: Johnny Cash and Il Divo's "Siempre." Yes, I have eclectic musical tastes.

22. If you were a crayon, what color would you be?
Burnt orange! Or glittery silver :)

23. Favorite smells?
Hmm... My favorite sandalwood candle. Guys that have just cut the grass (a little bit of sweat, gasoline, and fresh-cut grass lol). Babies right out of the tub. The air right after a good rain.

24. How important are your political views to you?
They're only important to me as far as they're tied to my personal beliefs. If my current party changed their stance on the issues that are important to me, and another party adopted them, I'd change in a heartbeat.

25. Mountain hideaway or beach house?
Beach house!!!

26. Favorite sports to watch?
Figure skating. Other than that, I'm not a huge sports fan.

27. Hair color?

28. Eye color?

29. Do you wear contacts?
Yes! I'm blind without them and I hate wearing my glasses (they're an old prescription and they give me a headache). The last thing I do before I go to bed is to take them out, and the first thing I do in the morning is to put them back in. If I have to get up in the middle of the night, I don't usually even bother to turn on a light, because I'm essentially as blind without them as I am in the dark.

30. Favorite food?
I'll eat almost anything, but my favorite "comfort food" is macaroni and cheese or pizza.

31. Scary movie or happy endings?
If it's one or the other, I'd choose happy endings - I've only seen two horror movies in my life and that was MORE than enough! - but I'm okay with movies that end unhappily, too, as long as they're good movies.

32. Last movie you watched?
The Odd Life Of Timothy Green. I liked it well enough.

33. What color shirt are you wearing?
A tribal print.

34. Summer or winter?
Summer, if I have to choose, but I'd rather Autumn.

35. Favorite dessert?
Normally I'd say Tiramisu, but when my BFF was up visiting we had some amazing creme brulee that may have converted me.

36. Strength training or cardio?
Strength training.

37. Computer or television?
Such an open ended question! If I had to choose one to live without, it would definitely by television, because I need my computer, but if you're asking which is my favorite time waster, it would have to be television.

38. What book are you reading now?
The Mysterious Benedict Society, by Trenton Lee Stewart. So far I love it!

39. What is on your mouse pad?
I don't have one right now - I just use my tablet mostly.

40. Favorite sound?
The night breeze.

41. Favorite genre of music?
Tough one... either oldies or whatever genre Andrea Bocelli falls into :)

42. What is the farthest you have been from home?
"You carry home with you." But the farthest place I've been from the physical place I live is probably Texas.

43. Do you have a special talent?
I write.

44. Where were you born?
San Diego, California!

45. Where are you living now?
Beautiful Maryland!

46. What color is your house?

47. What color is your car?
Burnt orange!

48. Do you like answering 48 questions?
Sure! Easy blog post during a time when my mind if dry of ideas. :)

And these 14 questions are from Kellie over at Nothing Less Than Bread.

1. What's your favorite thing to do with you're feeling uninspired?
Sleep. :) I always dream, whether I sleep for ten minutes or ten hours, and a good dream is my best inspiration.

2. Tell us about a really great movie/show you've just discovered.
NCIS! I would kill to go work in that office, even if I was just the coffee-fetcher. :) Actually, I used to have a boss just like Gibbs, so that kind of cracks me up because a lot of the things his team does around him, I remember my coworkers and I doing, too.

3. What do you like to do to change your mood?
Again, sleeping tops my list, but a good long hot bubble bath is a good alternative.

4. Your favorite drink is currently...
A vanilla spice latte, if we're talking hot. Cold, I'm still hooked on virgin mojitos.

5. When you hear the word exuberant, what's the first word that comes to mind?

6. What made you smile last?
Feeling the sunshine on my face today - it's gorgeous out and I love it!

7. What five songs would make a playlist to describe your week?
Oh, gosh, I'm terrible at this sort of thing... I guess I'll try to give it a stab, though:
- Had A Bad Day by Daniel Powter
- Bring On The Wonder by Susan Enan
- Immenso by Andrea Bocelli
- Just Breathe by Pearl Jam
- Of Whom Shall I Be Afraid - the version sung by Jim Byrnes in the Sanctuary episode "Fugue"

8. What's at the top of your creative to-do list?
Finish that darn peplum top I've been working on!

9. The last thing you crossed off the above list was...
I refinished my dresser! Sanded, painted, and gave it new hardware!

10. Quickly - the first movie quote from the top of your head, please?
 It's not from a movie, but I heard the greatest quote on an NCIS episode last night, where Ziva goes undercover as a geek on a speed-dating service; the first guy tells her to "tell me about yourself" and she responds, "Well, I like computers... and that thing you do... with the yarn..."

11. The best thing about January is...
Well, my BFF comes to visit, but after that, nothing much comes to mind. January is kind of bleh.

12. The worst thing about January is...
That it's so darn long. And so far removed from spring.

13. What's your #1 resolution for 2013?
Keep on going!

14. And lastly, share a quote of verse that you've found inspiring lately:
Deuteronomy 33:27: "The eternal God is your refuge, and underneath are the everlasting arms."

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Sunday Randomizer


~ I went to church alone today, sans family. I was prepared to be lonely and had a lineup of friends I was going to beg to sit with - but when I got to the auditorium, everyone was already seated and had no seats left, so I ended up sitting alone. And it was exactly what I needed, especially since we had no "fellowship time" (you know, that time during baptist church services when we all get up and mingle for exactly as long as it takes to get too far away from your seat to make it back quickly when the pastor unexpectedly calls for everyone to sit down? lol). I got to sit quietly with nobody squishing me, no distractions, and just focus on the songs and sermon for an hour. My soul was refreshed, and I am grateful.

~ A friend was asking me today how to find my Pinterest account, and I stumbled for a moment - I knew my username had Taleia in it, but I couldn't remember if it was taleia_and_company, taleia_and_co, taleiaandco, or what. Imagine how stupid I felt when I got home and looked it up and it was just "taleia". So, if you too would like to see what catches my eye and give my gazillion boards a perusal, you can check me out here. :)

~ I am beginning my hunt for new digs this week! I have queries out to about half a dozen places renting rooms. This week I'm going to schedule appointments to go see them all and continue to keep hounding the classifieds section. I'll prolly rent a room for a couple months and look at getting an apartment later this summer, but really, I'm hoping my wanna-be roommate gets the job she interviewed for so that I can just move straight to the apartment hunting and have a partner. :) Gonna admit, I was pretty devastated about this forced move for awhile, but now I'm starting to move into the anticipation stage; I've been checking out Apartment Therapy for ideas on decorating tiny spaces, pinning ideas like crazy, and I've even picked out the first meal I want to make when I can officially say "I have my own kitchen" - Low Country Shrimp And Grits. If, when the time comes, you volunteer to help me move, I will invite you to stay for dinner. :)

~ Speaking of food: I was struck with the urge for soup this weekend, and I had some milk on hand. This rarely happens, so I decided to make corn chowder. My favorite cooking buddy Rachael Ray :) came through for me with this amazing recipe that not only features corn and potato (!!!) but Old Bay seasoning, too! I had a bowlful for lunch, and the rest is waiting to be lunch this week - I know I'll be eating at least one bowl over rice, one with shrimp added, and (if there's any left) one casserole style with a crust of cheese.

~ When I managed to make it out on Friday, before the snow started AGAIN, I found season 3 of NCIS for only $20 at Wal-Mart. I've been enjoying the show when it comes on during Abby's nap, so I brought it home. Love it. I think I found a new show!

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Snow Day

So, we have snow.
It was mentioned last night that we might get 2-4 inches of snow that would be so powdery, it could be removed not my shoveling, but by leaf-blowing.
Seriously, that's what the news said.
So you can imagine my surprise this morning when my uncle texted me to stay home, my aunt had called from work and said the roads were not good.
We were going to wait a few hours and see.
A few hours later, the verdict was that he was staying home today, and I had the day off.

I should be excited about the snow - I guess. But the truth is, when I looked out my window at all the white stuff, I groaned. I'm missing work, missing my favorite day of work (our Thursday lunch date with Mags), and I'm trapped until the roads are better. This is not a good time in my life to feel trapped.

If I'd had time to plan for a snow day, maybe I'd feel differently. I'd have laid in a supply of fontina cheese and mushrooms and could have spent the morning trying to exactly duplicate that amazing sandwich I had at the sculpture garden cafe the last time I was there with Robin, Joe, and Khy. It would have brought back great memories, cheering my heart.

I'd have a supply of Redbox movies on hand, and I'd be losing myself in scifi such as Total Recall, Looper, and MIB3.

If Maggie and I miss our sister date tonight, I'm gonna be seriously disappointed.

All I can say is, I hope the shining sun makes short work of the white stuff.

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Sunday Randomizer

Randomizer time!

- I have tomorrow off! Which normally doesn't mean much to me (I'd just as soon go to work, lol) BUT it's pretty cool that I get to sleep in. Because I didn't actually get to sleep in this weekend lol. My plans include mostly sleeping in, then sanding and painting my new dresser (more on this in a minute). And maybe finishing my new peplum top if I get extra time.

- Apparently furniture refinishing is my new hobby. It's more fun when you're not up against a deadline LOL! I bought a new dresser at the thrift store - kinda looks like this one, but with uglier hardware - and I'm going to repaint it in the same shade I did my thrift-store side tables in (Man Cave). Looking forward to it!

- For the first time in my life, I am so ready for spring. I have a whole Pinterest board full of springish ideas just waiting for some warm weather. :( For some reason, the air today even had a springish feel... sad to know it's still a long, looong ways away...

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Reading List For 2013

I finally got a start on my reading list for 2013; I pulled together all the unread books on my bookshelves and set them aside, found my special bookmark (the one my bestie gave me :) - it's metal and unbreakable!), and started this post to document what I'll be reading this year!

This list is incredibly likely to grow, lol, but I'll be adding to this post as it does, and linking to reviews as I finish them! :)

*The Westing Game by Ellen Raskin
*The Maze Of Bones by Rick Riordan
Impulse by Ellen Hopkins
The Zucchini Warriors by Gordon Korman
*City of Ember by Jeanne DuPrau
A Tree Grows In Brooklyn by Betty Smith
Gracious Living In A New World by Alexandra Stoddard
The Looking Glass Wars by Frank Beddor
Following Gandalf by Matthew T. Dickerson
The Eleventh Plague by Jeff Hirsch
Racism Explained To My Daughter by Tahar Ben Jelloun
Monday Mourning & Bare Bones by Kathy Reichs
The Book Thief by Markus Zusak
The Mysterious Benedict Society by Trenton Lee Stewart

bold = read/reviewed
italics = started/in progress
* = acquired through

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

What's For Dinner Wednesday: Wasabi Salmon & Maple Glazed Brussel Sprouts

It's taken me a little while, what with holidays, company, and whatnot, to get back into the swing of cooking again, but hopefully from this point forward I will be more consistent! :)

This week: Wasabi Salmon (my own invention!) and Maple Glazed Brussel Sprouts (inspired by the Caramelized Balsamic Glazed sprouts over at Simply Scratch!)

First, the fish:

I don't really like fish. Bones gross me out, and the whole fishiness kind of icks me out, plus I feel like fish is so easy to destroy - overcook it and it turns rubbery, undercook it and you risk a slow, painful death by food poisoning (ok, I might be exaggerating a tiny bit lol), and it's expensive, so it's not something that I've had a lot of practice cooking. But I was trying to eat really well over the weekend (detoxing from a week of way, waaaay too much good food with Rebekah and Joe) and salmon was on sale at the local grocery store.

Salmon is one of the few fish I feel comfortable cooking and enjoy eating (though not from a can - bleh! hi Joe! :)). So I bought some, and cooked it up with brussel sprouts, and it was amazing. So much so, that I decided to cook enough for my whole family on my night to cook this week!

As usual, not a recipe per se (measurements are VERY approximate), but an overview of what I did. :)

Last night, I whisked together some of my new wasabi oil (bought with Rebekah and Joe when we ducked into a cooking shop), (maybe 1/2-1/3 cup?) with some wheat-free soy sauce (about 1/8-1/4 cup), a good squirt of lime, a heaping tablespoon of minced garlic, and a couple of very good shakes of ground ginger. If this sounds like a lot, I put it on 6ish pounds of salmon. :)

I laid the salmon out flesh-side up in a 9X13 baking dish and poured the marinade over, then refrigerated overnight.

Tonight, I transfered the salmon, also flesh side up, to a baking sheet, and brushed the excess marinade on top. I cooked it for about 25-30 minutes on 400, until not shiny anymore (because apparently that's how you know your fish is done).

Amazing! Just enough wasabi to be amazing, and overall the marinade was gentle enough to not overwhelm the fish, but enhance it. :)

Now on to an amazing side dish: glazed carmelized brussel sprouts!

I don't really like brussel sprouts, either, but frozen ones were on sale for $1 a pound, and they're a vegetable, so I got them, remembering a recipe for them on Simply Scratch. Upon further inspection I realized they had bacon (pork), onion (not a fan), and balsamic vinegar (which I love, but I was looking for something sweeter). So I ditched the recipe, kept the inspiration, and did this instead:

Cut your (frozen) brussel sprouts in half. Pour a couple "glugs" of olive oil into a pan (I used cast iron, nothing like it for browning food!), heat on medium, and place all the sprouts cut-side down. I added a little water (just enough to cover the bottom of the pan) and put a lid on them to let them steam and soften for a bit.

When they're mostly soft, drizzle 1/3-1/2 cup of pure maple syrup evenly over the tops, and add a little more olive oil (they soak it up!). Keep the lid off so that whatever water remains will cook off. Add additional maple syrup and/or oil as needed.

When the bottoms are very brown, use a spatula to flip, and cook a minute or so to finish off the tops. Serve!

These are not overly sweet - my mom hates the taste of maple but loved these.

I added a pot of rice as a final side, and we were set. The entire meal took less than 30 minutes (not counting the overnight marinade). I knew the meal was a hit when I was complimented again the next day by various members of my family. :)

Sunday, January 13, 2013


It's Sunday - time for a post about all the random things that don't quite fit anywhere else! :)

- Remember how I've been yearning for an orange Keurig? You'll never guess what my bestie and my bestie's fiance got me for Christmas! :) Truly one of the bestest gifts I've ever gotten. I've drunk more coffee this weekend than I care to admit LOL! Since I've almost burned through the sampler pack that came with it, it's time to start hunting down sales and deals on boxes of K-cups. I love shopping. :)

- My bestie also got me hooked on Fruit Ninja... lol JUST what I needed - another mindless game to waste time on! :) But it's okay, cuz I just completed all the free levels of Flow Free: Bridges (my other obsession) with perfect scores! Still working on classic Flow Free though...

- Have you seen these essential oil light bulb ring diffusers? (try saying THAT three times fast!!!) I found them in the candle aisle of Wal-Mart for 97 cents right before Christmas and got two as stocking stuffers, one for my mom and one for me. I pulled it out this weekend to burn some lavender oil (supposed to be amazing for stress - more on this later) and I love it. I don't have to worry about blowing it out (like a candle), it doesn't take up room (like a freestanding diffuser) or need an electrical plug. Plus, it's ridiculously effective. Hit up your local Wal-Mart and grab yourself one (it's by the incense in my local store, just FYI)!

- That lavender oil thing? Totally true. I want to get some pharmaceutical-grade oil now to add to a hot bath.

- The material that I was ogling for my new peplum top? I got it! And on clearance! :) I think that's going to be my evening project this week.

- I made stoup in my new (orange) crockpot today. It smells amazing. :) Here's the recipe: 1 can of chickpeas, 1 can of kidney beans, 1 can of Italian-style diced tomatoes, 2 stalks celery (chopped), 4 small carrots (sliced into "coins"), 1 6 oz bag of baby spinach, a good tablespoon of my absolute favorite beef stock base, 2 cups water, and whatever leftover cooked rice you have in the fridge. Stir it all together in the crockpot, turn it on high, cook until the veggies have reached your favorite level of tenderness.

- I spent most of today reorganizing my bookshelves. I managed to cull out a whole stack of magazines to take to the thrift store, but I couldnt find a single book to get rid of. Not one.

Saturday, January 12, 2013


It's been a really long week, and it was full.

It was amazing having my best friend, her fiance, and my lil boo-bear here.

It was excruciating watching someone I loved, this same week, go through one of the hardest times of their lives.

It didn't take long before I was feeling both drained and filled to the brim.

Drained of all energy, expended both in the making of beautiful, precious memories (carrying Abigail around Washington DC on my back, hiding under the covers with Khy, listening to Joe's sonorous Southern accent) and in grief, watching someone I love suffer.

Full of contentment (because my heart is never quite fully complete without my BFF nearby) and full of - not exactly fear, though that's a word I've used to describe it - but of gnawing, biting uncertainty.

The dichotomy of this week was indescribable. Immense happiness and immeasurable grief danced at my fingertips, never far from reach, and all I had to do was to reach out and grasp and the full depth of either would have washed over me.

And yet, floating in the middle, I have never been more divinely aware that I had a choice about how to respond to the storm of emotions whirling around me. I could choose to be angry, to be afraid - or I could cease, like a child, choosing a sort of surrendered helplessness, resting (literally, it sometimes felt) in the arms of Christ.

I can say with 100% honesty that the presence of God as Father had never been more real, more felt, more present to me than it has been this week. Especially in the absence of my earthly Father (who was hundreds of miles away on a business trip), I have never felt the peace of God so present when I needed it. Just as I was so aware of how close happiness and pain constantly were, the "peace that passes all understanding" was also near, almost silent, never shouting for my attention, but constant and available whenever I turned for it, grasping.

This week has been a snapshot of life - full of happiness, full of pain. Perhaps they rarely walk so closely, vie quite so vigorously for dominance, but I can say with certainty that I can see His hand in my life right now with a clarity I can only find intoxicating. In a way, I am basking in His presence, knowing that this level of peace and comfort is a gift offered to those who are in crisis, and (while I have no desire to live my life in a constant state of crisis), I know I will miss it when the supernatural fades back to everday grace, and the practice of faith begins again.

I am in a valley, on a mountaintop. I can see clearly, and I cannot see at all.

I am in the dwelling place of the eternal God, and underneath are His everlasting arms.
Those who sail the sea of faith find out before too long
How quickly blue skies can grow dark, and gentle winds grow strong.
Suddenly, fear is like white water pounding at the soul
Still, we keep on, knowing that our God is in control.
He has a reason for each trial that we walk through in life.
And though we're shaken, we cannot be torn apart from Christ.
No matter how the driving rain beats down on those who hold the faith
A trusting heart will always be a quiet, peaceful place.
 Sometimes he calms the storm with a whispered, "Peace - be still."
He can settle any seas, but it doesn't mean he will.
Sometimes he holds us close, and lets the wind and waves grow wild.
Sometimes he calms the storm, other times he calms His child.

Thursday, January 10, 2013

A Handmade Christmas: Gifts For Guys

Guys are so hard to shop for!!! Unless you have a) tons of money, or b) a guy who has an obsession - a favorite sports team, video game, movie, etc. If you have one or the other (or both!) of these things, then you're set. Even then, though, there are only so many sports jerseys, memorabilia, etc, that you can give a guy. And guys are hard to make gifts for, because whatever you're making can't. look. cute.

I feel like I have it especially tough because neither my dad nor my bro are into sports - as in, I don't think either of them could name three professional teams in any sport - nor are they gamers. Generally - as in, all the time except Christmas - I like these traits. :) When Christmas rolls around, I wish they were a little more stereotypical.

This year, with my goal of making every gift, I must have googled "handmade gifts for men" a dozen times, and read through literally hundreds of ideas. Here are the best of them!

First, a few I came up with:

Homemade car "emergency" kit - My brother is sixteen this Christmas and just a few weeks away from getting his license, so for Christmas I made him a "car kit." While I did buy the contents of the kit, I did assemble it myself (lol) and I sewed the actual case (although I didn't use a tutorial, this one right here looks exactly like mine - shh, don't tell the guy in your life that it's a makeup case! :) I made my version out of vinyl and a heavy-duty zipper, so it's water resistant and hefty).

With the exception of jumper cables, which I got on a fantastic sale on Black Friday, I got all of the following items at the Dollar store: a roll of duct tape (in his favorite color), a clip-on booklight (I figure it's useful if he has to make repairs by himself in the dark), a regular flashlight, an ice scraper, a tube of super-glue, a box of bandaids, an interchangeable-head screwdriver, a tire gauge, a roll of shop rags, and a can of auto wipes.

I'm not much of a mechanic (can you tell? lol) so I focused more on filling the kit with things that were "generally useful" (i.e. duct tape, super glue, flashlight) than tools. If you're a little more mechanically minded, you can google "emergency car kit" and get more ideas!

Barbecue kit - Some of my favorite memories from this year are of grilling with my BFF's fiancee, Joe, so when I started thinking about what I could make for him, some sort of grilling/barbecue related gift came to mind. This is sort of like the above gift, in that it is mostly buying things and "assembling" them (lol), but it still counts in my book. :)

My barbecue kit included: 2 hot mitts that I monogrammed for him using fabric paint, 2 towels, also monogrammed, and a jar of bacon salt (if bacon isn't his thing, swap it out for a jar of smoky BBQ rub). If I knew how to can, or if Joe lived locally, I'd totally throw in a jar of the best barbecue sauce ever. But since I don't, and he doesn't, and the jar would have to survive a 12 hour road trip unscathed, I can't. :(

Other ideas (that I had, but that didn't work for the guys in my life):
  • An iPod or iPad case - if your guy is tech savvy. The great thing about this is that by varying the material and/or embellishment, you can make them as masculine or feminine as you want.
  • Make a "movie buff" kit - mix up some homemade popcorn seasonings in salt/pepper shakers (check thrift stores and/or Ross or Marshalls), a box of plain microwaveable popcorn (or loose popping corn, dependings on how you like to make your popcorn), or make a batch of kettle corn. Put it together with a couple of new movies (raid the $5 at Wal-Mart), tickets to the movie theater, or a gift certificate to his favorite movie rental place (did you know that you can give gift certificates to Redbox? I didn't either!).
  • If your guy is a reader - well, you've scored a good one! :) Make a book kit instead! Include a manly bookmark (Check the thrift store for old copies of titles like "The Last Of The Mohicans," "Ivanhoe," etc, and replace the raffia/ribbon with leather thong). Add the fixings for his favorite hot beverage, and why not make some coasters (using the covers of the book you cannibalized for the bookmark, lol) while you're at it? Last (but not least), slip in the book you know he's been dying to read, or a gift certificate to the local bookstore. Or the Kindle store. :)
  • Fill his fridge - What guy doesn't love food? If you have a bachelor on your list, why not make a huge batch of lasagna, mac-n-cheese, or whatever your signature dish is, portion it into individual-size containers, and freeze? Print some labels that include reheating instructions, and you're set to go! (If you really want to go all-out, include a homemade "gift certificate" that entitles him to one free refill). Or try making a sweet edible bouquet. :)

Other people's ideas:

These are all the ideas I could come up with! :) What have you made for the guys in your life?

Sunday, January 6, 2013

Date Night!

Since both of us are single, Maggie and I have claimed Thursday night as our "sister-date night." :) It works out well because Abigail and I pick her up from her OT appointment, take her to lunch (Monterreys, Abigail's favorite!), and then she generally comes back to Abby's house with us and stays the afternoon. When Chris or Natalie come home, we go out to dinner, do some shopping, etc.

This week, we decided to do something a little different, and went out on Friday instead, so that we would have enough time to drive up to the next town and see Les Miserables (as our local theater didn't carry it - boo)! We looove the musical, and Maggie's Christmas present this year was a pair of tickets to go see the stage production in Baltimore. :) We figured seeing the movie would hold us over until then!

 Since it was three hours long, I have to admit, I was dreading it a little. :( Not only was I really dubious that it would be worth watching, but I had just suffered through The Hobbit at our local theater with Allen, and my back and knees were in agony (there's a reason, when I went to see it the first time, that I drove to a theater two hours away where they had comfy seats).

Well, the night ended up being one of the best. sister dates. ever! :)

First amazing thing: I went online to check the showtimes, and discovered that you could reserve seats online. I've bought my tickets online a bunch of times, but usually you still have to get there early to ensure you get a good seat. This time, you could actually reserve the seats you wanted! Nice!

Then we arrived, walked into the theater, and I almost died, because the seats were huge leather recliners! I'm not kidding - my mom had a Lazyboy when I was younger, and the seats were kind of like that - oversized, plush, with electronic recliners and footrests. I could have taken a nap (in fact, I was thinking the entire time that if I had only brought Allen here last week, I could have slept through the Hobbit, since I was so terribly bored - I tried, but the seats were just too uncomfortable). Maggie and I were hugely giddy over this discovery and acted like small children as we tried to get the reclining angle just right. :) I hadn't been to this theater in years, but when I had gone, it was pretty gleck, so I was amazed.

Finally, the movie: amazing. I'm just so hugely, hugely impressed - which is ironic, because when we found out that Les Mis was coming out, we'd joked that we'd have to see it back to back with The Hobbit, so that when it deeply disappointed us (as seemed inevitable), we could cushion the blow by immediately seeing the Hobbit, which would be amazing (as also seemed inevitable). Well, both movies ended up blowing our expectations to pieces - we LOVED Les Mis and could have left The Hobbit.

I'm not gonna do a full blow-by-blow analysis here (lol), but I will address some of the concerns we'd had before going:
  • The film is mostly the stage musical filmed. They stick almost exactly to the plot, and don't deviate much. For us, this was a huge plus!
  • 99% of the actors can sing. Nobody sang poorly enough to detract from the experience (as happens in, say, the Phantom Of The Opera movie). While some of the singers lack a certain "oomph" to their performance, again, it was never enough to make me cringe. If they I was especially impressed by Hugh Jackman and Russell Crowe! :)
  • The gritty scenes in Les Mis - the prostitution, defiling of Fantine, etc - were handled with a lot of grace. Nothing explicit is ever seen, but none of the true horror of what is going on it sacrificed. It's a tough balance, and they nailed it.
We had a great time and have decided that all of our movie-going dates will now take place at this theater! :)

Thursday, January 3, 2013

A Handmade Christmas (Part 1)

This year I decided to attempt to make all the gifts I gave. While I was mostly successful (I ended up buying three people's gifts, lol), and learned a lot, I think I mostly learned how I could have done it better. :) I'm going to be doing a post each week on how to have a handmade Christmas, including some of the best tutorials I found (or created myself!), but I thought I'd start this off with a quick recap of the biggest lessons I've learned!
  • Start planning now. Start a folder on your computer, create a Pinterest board, or start clipping inspirations - trust me, you'll want all your ideas in one place, and nothing is more frustrating that knowing you saw a tutorial for the perfect gift but being unable to find it, or having to waste a lot of time tracking it down. Also, having a list of gift ideas reduces the panic of choosing a gift for a recipient - you already have a whole list of ideas!
  • Start creating early. My original plan was that I was going to try to make a few gifts a month, thus relieving the stress of trying to finish gifts last minute. This didn't happen, but I sooo wish it had. :( Trust me, you'll enjoy the creative process much more if you're not rushing to finish things last-minute! (And just a note: plan on spending more time that you think it will take, especially if you're learning a new skill or trying a technique for the first time)
  • Invest in good materials. Your gifts will only be as good as the materials they're made of. I think part of the reason that some people shy away from making their own gifts is that they're afraid they'll look tacky or "holly hobby." Using the best materials you can afford really helps avoid this - think about it: a simple hand-crocheted scarf in cheap acrylic yarn is one thing, but that same simply scarf worked in a more expensive cashmere yarn is luxe. And if you're going to put all that hard work into it, you want it to be something the recipient will love and really use!
  • Take your time and do it right. This is my downfall... I tend to be a "forest" person (i.e. not very detail-oriented), but I learned that this is kind of in the same vein as "use good materials"... Taking the time to do projects "the right way" is what elevates handmade projects from "holly hobby". If you're refinishing furniture, take the time to properly clean and sand it before trying to paint. Use the appropriate glue. Let the paint dry before moving on to the next step. Etc. (yes, I do have a story for each of these!)
  • If you can, start "stashing." It's easier to create when you have a stash of materials to draw from. My stash was only a Rubbermaid bin, but just having that rubbermaid bin to stick stuff away for later saved me a ton of money. If you're going to be making a lot of sewing projects, start hoarding scraps of material, buttons from rag-bag clothes, etc.
I'm going to do some more posts, including my favorite tutorials, some gifts I created all by myself (lol, tutorials to come), tips, stocking stuffers, etc. So stay tuned! :)

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

A Picture Is Worth A Thousand Words

See my poor chipping french mani? Time for some spa time!!!
 Tempeh burger - my mom found big blocks of tempeh at Trader Joe's for $1.80 a block (!!!) and cooked some up tonight alongside the sloppy joes(Good thing, too, cuz I somehow ate some chicken or pork - I can't figure out how! - and my belly was not having anything to do with meat). She seared it with some teriyaki sauce, which was
I looove my new fox mug. :) I longingly picked it up all throughout December whenever I went to Starbucks, but I was not paying $7.99 for a mug. Then Christmas came and went, and the mug got clearanced for $3. So, of course, I snatched it up. :)
Our tickets to Les Miserable - Maggie's Christmas gift - arrived today! I'm super excited (even though I think I'm gonna go a little nuts waiting for April!) :)

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Winter Bucket List 2013

I've made a decision. Instead of doing one big winter bucket list that includes Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Year's, Valentine's Day, and all the fun stuff that comes with snow (lol), I've decided to break it up: one "holiday" bucket list covering Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year's (that starts as soon as my Fall bucket list ends), and one "winter" bucket list starting right after New Year's Day and running until spring. :) With that...

1. Make a snow angel or snowman
2. Have a winter photo shoot
3. Go star or moongazing
4. Make homemade playdough with Khy
5. Go sledding or snowball fighting
6. Buy new running music
7. Go see Les Miserables
8. Start a new habit
9. Plan out Rebekah's shower and bachelorette party
10. Make homemade valentines for Abby's class
11. Order prints of favorite photos from the year and put them in an album
12. Get up early and go out to breakfast by myself
13. Start a summer vacation fund & start planning a trip
14. Buy/make a cute hat, scarf, and mitten set for the first snow
15. Feed the seagulls :)
16. Start a book list and begin reading!
17. Spend time writing
18. Do something special for a family member
19. Sew/craft something
20. Find a new soup recipe for the crockpot
21. Organize my Pinterest boards
22. Start a recipe file
23. Host a game night for friends
24. Make a garden plan
25. Try my hand at knitting
26. Find a new TV series to watch
27. Try a new hairstyle
28. Go to bed early and listen to music as I fall asleep
29. Find a new favorite hot drink

I'll probably be adding on to this list as I go... right now my brain is a little addled from lack of sleep (we stayed up way, way too late last night ringing in the new year. :)).

Anyway... what's on your bucket list for this season?

2013 - A (Very Brief) Recap

2 - new things I tried this year:  growing my own (small) garden, and raising chickens
0 - traffic tickets or car accidents (yay!)
1 - new friend made this year (hey Joe)
3 - years that I've had my amazing job!!!   It gets better every day :)