Friday, January 7, 2011

Beautiful Evening

As the risk of sounding conceited, I am here to declare that we get the world's most breath-taking sunsets in the southwest. This evening only proves that with the clouds turning all sorts of orange, then pink, then purple, then blue. It almost looks fake because the colors are so intense and expressive.

I made it home from the grocery store, luckily in one piece. Distracted, I kept gawking out the window to stare at this beautiful scene being painted by the setting sun. Once I was safely parked in the garage, I grabbed my camera (always in my purse for moments just like this) and got to taking pictures.

The sunsets here are one-of-a-kind. And I love 'em.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

The Newest Member of Our Living Room

I use my credit card to buy just about everything. The result? About $300 every year that I can spend on anything I want. Last January, my cash-back purchased an iPod Touch. It's been an enjoyable year using a toy that was free to me! And this year? I found a beautiful rug at TJ Maxx that earned the ability to be my cash-back prize for the year.

Reasons I Love This Rug

1) Though something dirt-colored usually comes with a bad reputation, this rug will forever hide stains, dirt, and accidents for many years to come. Remember, some children eat dirt because they like it so much.

2) I love the subtle's a shade lighter than the rest of the rug and therefore noticeable, but it still blends well and doesn't make too much of a statement. The floral pattern is big but not too feminine. A man lives here too, after all.

3) We now have a soft place for babies to play in plain sight of the rest of the party. No more bruised tiny knees! They can play on something cushioned while the adults can supervise and not miss out on anything.

4) It's really thick. I've been searching for quite some time for a thick and comfy rug that stayed within our price range. I just couldn't justify spending $700 on a rug this size, though that's what they usually cost. This puppy is 8x11 feet and fits perfectly in the living room! TJ Maxx came to the rescue once again!

5) The color may be boring, but I am doing all the big stuff in neutral colors so I can accessorize and pop with lots of color. It's easy to change out some pictures in a frame or some vases, but something this big and expensive had to be something that we could use for years. This one fit the bill perfectly.

In addition to grounding our living room with a new rug, we also found some end tables that I really love. They look lonely and out of place for now, but when we get new couches and finish furnishing the rest of the room, they will fit in perfectly. I'm thinking ahead here, people. I love the modern yet simple curves. I love the bright white color. Again, something neutral that will be a great starting point for tons of color on top! My next mission is to find the perfect table lamps to fit nicely on these tables.

As much as I hate Christmas being over, it's always nice to get the house back to normal. However, after being so decorated with stockings, wreaths, and twinkle lights, my Great Room was looking desperately boring and empty this past week. Costco came to the rescue by printing some photos I've taken, and then I put them in frames already owned. We also moved the big painting to over the game cabinet next to the fireplace, and I love how it bursts with color when you come around the corner. It's a better location since it no longer competes with the table setting. I am thinking about doing some more black and white photos on the wall in between the window and the door but will need to think on that some more. I am so in love with the sideboard that John made me. We use it so much, and it is so gorgeous in that room!

Piece by piece, this house is coming together! I sure love being home to get it all done!

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

A Step In The Right Direction, After All

After my little self-pep talk yesterday, I am tickled to say I've since made improvements! I made some returns at Walmart which resulted in a $40 gift card to the store. I have really been wanting a workout system on the Wii. Yes, I DO have a gym membership to 24 Hour Fitness. What of it? I've discovered, especially in the past two months, that I easily make excuses not to go to the gym since it takes about twenty minutes to get there and another twenty back. I wanted some back-up plan to execute here at home in case I feel I have too much to do to sacrifice two hours round-trip, including the workout. So I put that gift card to good use yesterday and bought the new EA Active 2 for the Wii.

The package came with wireless arm and leg bands, as well as a heart-rate monitor. I strapped everything on, set up my fitness profile, and was soon working out with my personal trainer! It was a lot of fun, which is important for me to keep coming back, and I accomplished a lot in the twenty-minute workout. I think after I do some chores this morning, I will do another twenty minutes and get my heart rate going again. I don't want to mention how shaky I feel right now...after finishing my first workout in way too long. I guess around Thanksgiving, I just gave up trying to think healthy. I haven't been on the scale because I'm scared of what it will say...summarizing all the things I've eaten over the holidays without much physical activity to burn it all off. But I feel great about the changes being made! It feels wonderful being back on track and getting back to me. For me personally, when I work out I am much more careful about what I eat. It goes hand-in-hand for me, and I really need both to be successful!

The exertion levels can be changed, and I began on wimpy easy today because I haven't been all that active in the past few months. My customized workout consisted of twenty-six activities, including mountain biking, basketball, running, hammer curls, and squats, just to name a few. I love variety and fun, which helps me want to come back for more. After the twenty-minute workout, I had burned more calories and achieved a higher heart rate than we had originally planned. Success! The game also comes with a USB drive to track all progress, and I can upload this to an online account. I enjoyed the healthy journal where I can record what I eat, drink, and sleep for that day. It's an overall great way to track improvements physically!

I know that I could do so much better in every aspect of my life, including being in shape. I thought I was so fat in high school, but I was working out three hours daily with my (first volleyball, then basketball, then softball) team each day all year long. I ate whatever I wanted because it didn't matter. Everything got burned off right away. Thinking I was fat then just makes me smile now...what I wouldn't give to be that "fat" again! So I'm on my way to working it back down. The goal is to love being me more! To love how I how I feel in my how I present myself to the world. I've let some self-confidence trickle away because of the lack of physical exertion, and now I'm on the path to getting it all back! I hate to say my self-worth is related to how I look, but I just want to know I'm working hard at doing better! The results will come, and I will be happier with myself as a person. This, in turn, will no doubt positively impact every other part of my life. I can't wait for the domino effect this time!

How about you? Any changes you've been making as we start this new year? What goals do you have?

Monday, January 3, 2011

The Impact of Reading A Great Book

I feel like I've forgotten who I am these past few months. I love reading but haven't let myself do it for quite some time out of sheer guilt that I should be doing something else...something productive. We have a house now, and there are endless projects that I could work on to make it our home. I'm happily married, and there is always something that I could be doing for my husband. I work full-time and am gone from home a lot, so my time spent here is precious to me. Sometimes it can simply be difficult to allow myself the pleasure of turning the pages of a good book. For many reasons, I've not really allowed myself "joy reading" for a while. I've got too much to do to justify sitting down and doing one of the things I truly love.

The past few months have been a real struggle for me. I feel self-absorbed, like all I ever think about is which couch to save money for our living room. Or which picture should be hung where. I haven't taken the time to really reach out to others around me. I've become so worried about what goes into the house that I've made it harder for it to be a home. I don't feel like I've been a very good friend or neighbor or daughter or sister or wife. I haven't been the one reaching out to others around me who probably need the love and presence that I could easily provide. Without a better way to describe it...I've become lost.

Noticing these changes in me, and not liking them one bit, I finally gave in and allowed myself to read a book. I was hoping doing something that has always brought me such happiness would remind me of who I could be. The book I chose couldn't have been better for my "getting-back-into-it" reading. My sister-in-law let me borrow it, and I can't believe how long it has taken me to read the 451 pages...almost two weeks. Have I really gotten out of the habit of reading that much? I could usually do something like that in four days! Needless to say, I loved becoming a reader again. I loved picking up the book instead of doing something electronic or mindless.

The book of discussion is The Help, Kathryn Stockett's first novel, and a true gem. She wrote about her experience growing up in a white family in Mississippi in the early 1960s. Everyone had black maids back then, but she brought to light, through well-written fiction, the situations these women faced as they worked to raise the children and keep the homes of women who degraded them constantly.

Perhaps I grew up in a sheltered location, but I am still shocked when I learn about situations involving racism. It blows my mind to think it could ever exist, let alone be so cruel and abusive. With knowledge that it still goes on today, it was so enlightening to read about how, just fifty years ago, some people didn't think other people were people. I read about their experiences and their interactions and their unwritten laws that had to be followed in the deep South during that time. And I just kept thinking about the stupidity that was being shown. We are so loved, no matter what we look like, where we live, or how many pieces of serving silver we've had to polish that day.

Reading this book has made me want to be nicer...waving to people while I drive and striking up conversations with people as I wait in line at the bank. This behavior isn't something new. I've always "bothered" people when I am in crowded public places. I've always strived to make every situation personal by smiling at those I meet. But I feel like my perspective has changed...I want to know about them, and not just have them feel welcome because I'm being friendly. I want to knock on doors of those who live close to me and introduce myself. With a plate of cookies, of course. I want to help the stranger lift something into an elusive shopping cart, and then just be happy that I helped without needing anything in return. I want to be there for others, and stop being there for me.

The timing comes into play that we've just begun a new year. It's a great time to start fresh and feel renewed. Now is my chance to be a better person. A better woman. A better friend. The Help was a wonderful read that has only positively made me change my way of thinking. I want to do better at living because of what was held in between the front and back covers of this book. I recommend reading it to see how it impacts you.

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Great Balls of Cheese

I love Costco for many reasons. Getting a shopping cart is a rare occurrence for me, simply because I can go hog-wild in a place like this. I am kept in check because I have to use my debit card and therefore don't get any credit card points. Is that the wrong reason to use self-control? Because I won't get any cash-back? On Friday night, John and I decided to pop into Costco for a few items. Little did I know, the cheese ball jackpot would be hit instead.

We got the jalapeno poppers John had been craving and found some mozzarella sticks that I would enjoy. As we were walking towards the check-out, we accidentally passed the salty snacks. I almost heard a choir of angels as I slowly crept up towards the largest container of cheese balls I've ever seen. It was a little shocking to me that I was having such an out-of-body experience with something other than chocolate or red velvet cake. And when I saw the price tag of less than $6? Done deal. In the cart. John just smiled. He likes salty things, so this was a win-win. Although for some reason, he vetoed the forty-pound bag of M&Ms. At least one of us exhibits some sanity when in such a fun place as Costco.

This weekend has been spent in a LOST marathon. I have been avoiding it like the plague, knowing I would love it and wouldn't be able to stop. We started it Friday evening and have been going almost non-stop! It think we watched six episodes yesterday alone. And the endless container of cheese balls has only made the entire experience that much more enjoyable.

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