30 December 2013

My One Word, Revisited

Instead of resolutions this year, I picked one word to focus on.

My word for 2013 was . . .


I had 4 categories, along with just a general focus.

Let's take a look-see:

Physical Strength: I started the year lifting actual barbell weights (squats, bench press, etc.) with B. We lasted until March or April. I didn't really love it, never felt like I got my form correct, and I didn't feel like I was making much progress. Then the weather got decent, and I started running and didn't look back. My endurance definitely got stronger, but since I completely abandoned lifting, I was only working those running muscles.

After the nice weather ended, my running slowed. I have started Zumba and Zumba Toning, and I am back at the weights. However, this time I'm using more machine-based stuff instead of free barbells. It's still hard, but it's more my style. I also do assisted pull-ups now, and I'm starting to add more of my own weight on that. I'm currently running indoors and doing the elliptical when I feel like it.

Strength in Family Life: This one has been a doozy. Parenting a toddler is HARD. Dealing with a husband who worked 7 days a week was HARD. (He's thankfully back to 5 days for now.) However, I have said "I'm sorry" A LOT, and I know when I'm in over my head. This area still needs a lot of work.

Strengthening My Faith Life: This has been up and down. I do think I pray more, mostly because I'm in a Facebook group where people ask for prayers a lot. Other families need a lot more prayers than I do, so I try in earnest to at least offer a "Hail Mary" for these intentions. As for intentional devotions and family prayer time, this is a nope. We have sadly abandoned our weekly family meetings and haven't had one all year. We need something like it, though.

Strength In Numbers: It was my goal to make 2 good, local friends by the end of the year. Well, I made one early in the year, but then she moved away. :-(  (I did visit her and her kid when I was driving through where she moved, though.) I have some "library friends"--gals who bring their kids to the library on Friday mornings--but nothing major. I think if the budget permits I will be joining MOPS this year. I was really bummed about not being invited to many Christmas things. What was a busy time for a lot of folks was really low-key around here, and this extrovert had a big frown through most of it.

As for the year 2014, I haven't picked a word yet, and I'm not completely sure that I will. The word "JOY" refuses to leave my head right now, though.

I didn't mean for this post to be so depressing. 2013 was actually a good year. Here are my best memories from it:

23 December 2013

This Year's Card

Just thought I'd show off our Christmas card for the year, now that most of our family members have received it!

The back had a picture of us in front of our new house with our address. I made this on picaboo, which I had never used before but had the best deal for what I needed. It was pretty easy and I could customize almost all of it, including the back.

 photo christmaslinkup_zps5800f5af.jpg

And Cora got to see Santa this weekend! She was not amused.

B says it looks like last year's picture, so let's compare:

He has a point.

Happy Christmas, everyone!

18 December 2013

On Holiday Traditions and In-Laws

Let me start this post by saying that I have fantastic in-laws. After hearing about other friends' MIL horror stories, I sometimes think I won the in-law lottery.

However, I now live near them. And not near my family. This is actually a really good thing, most of the time. They live 2 hours away, and B stays with them on his drill weekends. I sometimes come with him and have help with Cora. One time he even took Cora down there without me, and I had a whole weekend off! (Well, not really, I had stuff to do! But it was nice.) We have similar values, and I fully trust them with the care of my daughter.

The one big problem with being enmeshed in your in-laws' lives and nowhere near your own family of origin is losing your own traditions to theirs. My husband is no help in this--he seems not to care about traditions. My in-laws like to do a dinner when all their 5 kids and partners are actually in the same town. In the past years, it has been on Christmas Eve, and then we all exchange gifts with one another. I caved last year (it took some prodding), and we went down there after B got off of work on Christmas Eve, then we drove back here the next morning after attending Christmas morning mass (we didn't go to mass with them because it was when we were driving). The whole lot of us drove back up to our city of Fort Wayne to go to his aunt's house for Christmas. And THEN that evening, Cora finally got to open her presents from Santa/my family/us. And after all that, we got Cora into her pajamas and drove BACK to Indy so we could spend a few more days with the siblings. (I wanted to leave the following morning, but there was a blizzard in the forecast for that time, so we needed to outrun it.)

Cora with her gifts last year
So that was last year, and while it was mostly fine, I must say that Christmas morning itself was kind of . . . anti-climactic. I brought one toy from Santa for Cora to open. I don't even think we had stockings. It was also rushed because we had to get to mass on time and then leave immediately from there to go to Fort Wayne.

I really want Cora to eventually have the whole bounding-down-the-stairs kid-on-Christmas-morning experience I remember from my youth. My sister reminded me that I needed to start putting my foot down now so I don't get steamrolled and "stuck." My mom told me a story about my uncle (dad's brother) who used to take his family back to NY every Thanksgiving, but as the kids got older they had too much going on to do it, and it caused a big stink. My mom has always been very supportive of doing "whatever we need to do." I think it helps that I am a 3rd generation of spouses who are not from the same state and don't live nearby (if that makes sense--my mom is from FL and Dad from NY, and I grew up in GA, and I won't bore you with where my maternal grandparents are from). The general rule in our family was to stay put on Christmas; my first Christmas Day away from GA was the one immediately after I got married.
Our tree last year. 3 feet tall.
My one request this year was to wake up in my own bed on Christmas morning. I'll make some cinnamon rolls (from a can probably), the stockings will be full of fun stuff for all three of us, Cora will get to open and play with her gifts, and we won't be driving 2 hours back to our own town on Christmas morning. We'll definitely still go to his aunt's house later in the day for the festivities over there. Soon enough, our little girl will probably be singing in the choir at Christmas Eve mass, so I think it's good to just start this now.

After hashing out some options, the in-laws and I reached a compromise, and we will have the dinner two nights before. There will still be a bit of back-and-forth, but with a bigger gap this time.

I know that when you get married, you need to start your own traditions. Four years into this thing, and we're still working on it. I think some of the problem is that we haven't been given the chance for it for Christmas Day until now. (Okay, that's not completely true. We had our own small Christmas in FL when I was 35 weeks pregnant.) I think that traditions are important for kids (and their parents!), and I'm glad we're working this out, but sometimes I feel like such a jerk!

13 December 2013

7QT: My Christmas Wish List

Hey, a Christmas wish list post! Because why not? This is technically 8 Takes, but I'm also joining up with Mary Kate's gift-giving guide link-up. If you have a 29-year-old gal in your life, something on here might just be what she wants.

This is my big-ticket item, and I haven't had one of those in YEARS. The Ninja Mega Kitchen System 1500. Not only is it fun to say, it's what I hope to be an awesome blender/food processor system. I currently have a blender that works okay but hates frozen fruit and takes forever and a lot of armwork on my part to make a decent smoothie. I also don't own a food processor, but have wanted one. Bam, 2 birds with one stone. Oh, it has a dough hook, too, and I watched a video on how to make pizza dough in it. That would be amazing!

A personalized welcome sign for our home. We just bought our first house this year, and I have the perfect place to put a nice sign with our name on it. The one pictured is from the Etsy shop Chapter Red Studio. I would also think this would be an awesome gift for any newlywed couples you know.

Food food food. Oh, glorious food. I don't really like cooking, so anything that could take that burden away would be great! My husband B was given Omaha Steaks for his birthday once, and I think it was more of a present to me! We didn't own a grill (still don't, actually), so I just broiled them in the toaster oven. Is that actually considered cooking? Barely.

It's a sign of a good gift if you took a picture of your freezer!

Organized Simplicity by Tsh Oxenreider. I have heard sooooo many good things about this book! Truth be told, I have actually checked this out from the library and am currently working my way through it. But I think this might just be one of those books I need to actually own.

A necklace/jewelry tree. My dresser is a mess, and this looks like a pretty way to fix that.

The slightly embarrassing yet highly practical gift: razors. Specifically a gift card to the Dollar Shave Club. I gave up on crappy disposables  this year, and now I'm tired of digging for coupons for good razors (currently have a small stock of Schick Hydro, thanks to coupons and Target deals). The club has a few levels, but the one I want is the 4-blade razor. It sends you 4 cartridges a month for $6. That's $1.50 per cartridge--delivered to your door! I don't go through razors that quickly, so a $25 gift card to this would probably get me a year's supply of razors!

Pope Awesome by Cari Donaldson. Her blog is hilarious, and I've heard lots of great things about this book! Also, I don't think my library will be stocking it--just checked, and still a nope--so I wouldn't mind actually owning it. (And then I can lend it to friends!)

Functional and (can be) pretty: a Kitchen Canister Set. I would like to be able to scoop flour, sugar, and, hey, maybe even M&M's out of these lovelies. There are lots of fun designs out there, but these are probably going in our large pantry, so clear would be nice to see the contents!

For more Quick Takes, visit Conversion Diary!

Also go check out Mary Kate's Christmas Gift-Giving link-up. There are lots of great ideas for all ages over there!

12 December 2013

Liebster Award

My blogging buddy Britt from Tales From a Sailor's Soul Mate nominated me for an award. I'm positive I've been nominated for it before, and I'm 99% positive I've never actually participated. So why now? Because I feel like it, that's why. (That is such a MOM answer!) Also, I guess after 3 years of blogging, I thought I'd have more than 200 followers, but whatever. It's not like I do this for money, or even put a ton of work into it.

The Liebster Award is used by bloggers who have 200 follows or less to promote each other in order to make more friends in the blogging community and attract more attention to their blog! Each nominee must first list 11 random facts about their self, then answer the 11 questions provided by the person who nominated them. Lastly, choose 11 bloggers who have 200 followers or less on bloglovin' and ask them your own 11 questions!

The rules:
Thank the person who nominated you and link them in your post.
Tell 11 random facts about yourself.
Answer the 11 questions provided by the person who nominated you.
Choose 11 blogs you like and link them in your post.
Write 11 questions for these bloggers, so they can answer them.
Go to their page and let them know that you nominated them.

Eleven facts about me...

1. I'm half-Lebanese, but I hate hummus. Cora loves it, though, so I buy it and make it.
2. I have sung in some type of choir from the time I was 5 years old all the way through the end of college. I've sung in some community choirs since as well. I want to get in with one again soon.
3. I played soccer for my high school's JV team, but I was terrible. There was a shortage of players, though, so anyone who could run a mile and show up for practice basically made the team. I did all 4 years on the JV team, and sat the bench for a few Varsity games at the end of senior year.
4. I only read books once, unless they're some sort of reference or cooking book.
5. I've had a name picked out for a son since before I met my husband. Hopefully, we'll both like it if we ever have a boy! (And no, I'm not telling you what it is.)
6. I get pretty into football when my team (the Georgia Bulldogs) is playing. Jumping around and screaming and "callin' the Dawgs" and all that fun stuff.
7. I was raised Catholic, and although I have questioned my faith, I have never strayed from the Church.
8. I research the crap out of most things I purchase (except food). Sometimes I research it so much, I get indecisive and end up not buying the item.
9. I ate PB&J for lunch almost every day of high school.
10. I hate swallowing pills and will opt for liquid or chewables if given a choice.
11. I loathe ironing.

The answers to Britt's questions:

1. What was the first date you went on with the man who would become your husband? Our first real date was in September of 2006--unsure of the actual date--when he volunteered with me at Habitat for Humanity (I bossed him around because it was my job), and then we went to dinner at a place called b.b.'s in Jacksonville.
I'm pretty sure he still owns this shirt!
After dinner, we walked along the river. I have this picture from that night framed on our wall:
Okay, I still own that skirt and wear it in the summer!

2. Do you open your Christmas gifts Christmas eve or day? Used to be only on Christmas day, but B's family likes to exchange gifts with each other on Christmas Eve, so I do that now, too.
Cora on Grandpa's lap during last year's Christmas Eve exchange.

3. What is your favorite Christmas candy? Oh geez, what ISN'T?? I love M&M's, no matter what color they choose to make them. Those Snickers tree things are yummy, too. Really, if it has chocolate and peanut-something, you can't go wrong.
4. What is your dream job and why? Ugh. I know, I know, most gals I know would say, "A stay-at-home mom, I'm living the dream!" But I don't think it's my dream job. I still think I would like to be a Family Life Educator and teach budgeting and parenting skills to people who want to learn them. And I would do it part-time so I could SAHM it up the rest of the time.
5. Were you named after anyone? Nope. The story goes that my mom always loved the name Catherine, but when they adopted my sister a bunch of her friends had just named their kids that. When they got surprise-pregnant with me, she basically said "Oh well, I'm using it anyway." Sometimes I think about if my sister's name and mine were flipped. It would be weird to be a Carolyn.
6. If you could pack up your bags and go anywhere in the world right now, where would you go? Somewhere warm! It was 5 degrees here this morning. I just don't do single digits (or negative temps). I need to cross Hawaii off my list of states, and you don't need a passport (mine is expired, and I haven't gotten a new one yet), so that would work!
7. Where is the furthest you have traveled from home? Rome, Italy. (I had to plug a few cities into a distance calculator for this!) I studied abroad in Italy one summer in college, and we ended our trip in Rome.
8. If you were told you could only read three books for the rest of your life, what would those three books be? Ugh, that would suck (see #4 in the first section). I would probably pick the Encyclopaedia Brittanica #25 because I think it's the S's and looks to be the biggest, the America's Test Kitchen Family Cookbook, and, ugh, maybe some type of parenting book (the only one I've actually read was The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding, but perhaps Parenting With Grace would be better for the long haul, but I wouldn't know.) So, yep, I'm a total pragmatist.
9. Do you play video games? Sorta. We have a Wii; I play it rarely. If so, which is your favorite? My favorite game is a tie between Samba de Amigo (maraca game!) and Lumberjacks (exactly what it sounds like, and an awesome party game). I want to try some of the Zumba games for Wii.
10. Would you rather go to the movies or wait until it comes out on DVD and watch it at home? I haven't set foot into a movie theater in TWO YEARS, so actually, that's kind of appealing to me now to just escape my house for a bit. As long as someone else is paying and will buy me the overpriced popcorn.
11. Were you ever in any plays throughout your school years? Sorta, not really. I was a "chorus member" for Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat when my 8th grade chorus put it on. I wore all black, but still had to do hand motions and such. Then I did the musical revue things in high school (blogged about here), which weren't really plays. In college, I definitely DID do a play--the 24-hour play project! Our group had to write a play from scratch and then perform it 24 hours after we got the theme. Ours was called "Let's Eat Out!" (the whole play was laden with innuendo), and I played an Indian woman who worked at Outback Steakhouse because the ignorant manager thought she was an Australian aborigine. It was a riot!

Oh wait, I just forgot. My stage debut, if you will, was a Christmas production in 2nd grade. I don't remember if it had a name, but I got to sing some line like, "If you were a little cat, I'd be your meow. MEOW!" and I held out a stuffed cat and yes, actually, did a pretty good meow.

As for picking the 11 blogs, a lot of the blogs I follow have over 200 followers so I am just going to pick a few:

Beth Anne at Beth Anne's Best (She apparently has a load of FB followers, but I'm including her anyway--and she won my giveaway!)
Melissa at The Red-Headed Runner
Kayla at Number One Petersons

Now here are your questions ladies, if you wish to play along!
1. Do you shop at Victoria's Secret?
2. How long do you leave your Christmas decorations up after Christmas?
3.What is something that you're not good at but you would like to be better at?
4. If you could only eat 3 meals for the rest of your life, but your nutritional needs would exactly met with no issues, what would you eat?
5. Do you have a favorite charity/non-profit?
6. What type of music did you listen to in high school?
7. What is your favorite Christmas/holiday movie? And your favorite carol?
8. When is your usual bedtime?
9. How many pairs of shoes do you own?
10. What is the "crunchiest" (most earthy/hippy/green) thing you do?
11. Do you watch reality TV shows? If so, who is your favorite winner of a reality show?

It seriously took me 2 days to write those questions, so I hope at least one person out there answers them! If I didn't actually tag you in this post, but you want to answer them, by all means, go ahead!

06 December 2013

7QT: Family time, Singing Nuns, Snow Monsters

My entire family was here last week for Thanksgiving. They drove up in one van on the 12-hour trek from Georgia. That means my husband had to step over every single one of his in-laws for 6 days straight. He handled it quite gracefully. Also, with my niece Emma here, it meant we had two potty-training toddlers under one roof. Emma's almost 3 and we were hoping having her see Cora on the potty would help, but I don't think it did.

So yeah, we're still sorta potty-training Cora. As a cloth-diapering mom, it is sooooo nice that my kid usually poops on the potty! She doesn't really communicate when she needs to go, though, so we're definitely not there yet. I just put her on both before and after her nap, and that's usually when she poops. I've only cleaned TWO poopy diapers in the past month, and B has cleaned one! My goal is to go a bit more full-force around when she turns 2.

Family pics!
While my family was here, I forced them to take pictures for my 2014 calendar! And my wall, of course.

Cora and her 2 cousins

All 9 of us (and 2 more in my sister's tummy!)
Also, I would like to note that Cora and her cousin Emma were wearing the same shirt in different colors, and it was completely unplanned. (It's hard to see in these pics, but the shirts have sparkles across the chest.) My sister and I didn't even know they owned the same shirt until they both were wearing them that day.

Okay, who watched The Sound of Music Live! on NBC last night?

:: raises hand ::

It wasn't terrible, but Carrie Underwood is obviously not an actress. It was weird without any audience, but still being a stage version. The truth is I have a lot of respect for Carrie because I, too, am a singer and not an actor. I really do want to be cast in a stage production of . . . something one of these days. Any pointers are welcome. Also, let it be known that I suck at auditions.

The closest I've gotten to being in a play or musical was back in high school. My school chorus would put on a musical revue every year--just singing and dancing various songs within a theme, no acting. But at least we got costumes. So here I am as a nun. (This was on VHS, and I just filmed it off the TV. Low tech.)

I'm on the left, and yes, I KNOW I'm off-key. I probably even knew that as I was singing it back in 2002.

But yeah, it's pretty obvious I don't know anything about acting.Why am I looking down? Or is that just my eyebrows playing tricks?

Oh hey, have you checked out my giveaway yet? It's buried in a post about how to actually win giveaways, because that's how I roll. Just like this is buried in Take #6 between a ridiculous video and a cute picture.

My mother-in-law got Cora a new jacket that makes her look like a yeti.

For more Quick Takes, visit Conversion Diary!

05 December 2013

How To Be a Winner

Okay okay, you're all winners in my book. But some people have noticed that I tend to win a lot of giveaways. My mother-in-law makes fun of me because whenever she sees I have something new, my answer is almost always, "I won it in a giveaway."

But how do I win all this cool stuff? Well, today, I will tell you!

Here's my list of tips:
  1. Enter A LOT of giveaways. You won't win anything if you don't try.
  2. Enter low-entry giveaways. This is probably the reason I win--the odds are better. When I won the DonorsChoose gift card (my biggest win to date), I didn't know how many people entered. However, I knew that Bing Rewards didn't have a huge following yet (nowhere near as big as Swagbucks), and it was technically a raffle since it cost me a few points to enter. I could spare a few points, so it was worth it to me to enter. Raffles generally have better odds just due to the nature of them, but only you can decide if they are worth the sacrifice.
  3. Only enter giveaways you actually want to win. If you don't want the prize and you can't think of anyone you would like to give it to, just save your time and skip it. (It took me over a year to figure this out, and I have an interesting re-gifting drawer because of it.)
  4. If you like tweeting, make an alternate Twitter account. (You could do this with FB too, but it's technically against the TOS.) Most online giveaways will have you follow a handful of accounts, and if you actually like to use Twitter to 'talk' to people, it will soon get overwhelmed with all these companies hawking their wares. You can also easily get the extra entries given for tweeting, and that helps you keep track of what you have entered. If you don't use Twitter, you may want to think about joining just for entering giveaways.
  5. Twitter parties. I've only won one thing from a Twitter party, and it was a small one (tip #2 again!), but they're fun anyway. I used to use TweetGrid for these, but now that it's defunct I don't do these so much any more because they're hard to follow. And use that alternate Twitter account so you don't tick off your Twitter regulars, especially if you're going to tweet a lot during it.
  6. Follow a few key Facebook pages, Twitter accounts, or blogs that tell you when giveaways you care about are happening. This is how I find out about 90% of giveaways. When I won the Michael BublĂ© concert tickets, I found out about it because I followed a Twitter account linked to his tour. (Yes, I followed it on my main Twitter account. Follow your absolute faves on that one.) A best-kept secret blog is Tightwad in Utah, which lists low-entry giveaways (under 200 entries) every week. 
While I have indeed won a lot of giveaways, there is one type of giveaway that has consistently eluded me: cloth diapers. I've been trying since I was pregnant to win a cloth diaper, and those giveaways just seem to have so many entries that I never won and basically stopped trying. I haven't devoted much time to them lately since they weren't paying off. Now I only enter them if they're on a blog I actively follow.

My last piece of advice: karma. Give stuff to others and good things will happen to you. I worked with a woman who won lots of awesome stuff (including a trip to Vegas!), and someone mentioned to me that she is a generally nice person who would do anything for you if needed. I don't know how true this really is, but giving stuff to others is generally a good idea.

In that vein, I'm going to do a giveaway. Right now. And lucky for you, I don't have a huge readership, so this will probably be low-entry. (I haven't actually had a giveaway on here that had more than 300 entries.)

I'm giving away this Rachael Ray cookbook to one winner. Rachael Ray is awesome, but just not for me. This has been waiting to be passed on, and is in very good condition. I'll also throw in some hot cocoa packets, and based on what I can glean in way of details about the winner, I might even add in something random from the re-gifting drawer. Good luck, y'all!

Winner must be U.S. resident or APO/FPO address.
a Rafflecopter giveaway

And if you want to feel like a winner without technically 'winning,' try to snag some freebies! Hip2Save.com is my favorite blog for finding freebies (and no, they don't pay me to say that--I just love it that much). Another place to look is reddit's freebies forum. I love getting those surprises in the mail that I had long forgotten about!