January/February Book Reviews

Jan_Feb Book Report

Some days I can get so crazy stressed with that feeling that I just don’t have enough time in the day to do everything.  And yet . . . I make time for reading.  I don’t think there’s ever been a time where I’ve been stressed while I’m reading for pleasure.  It’s such a happy place to be in.  My reading times are sporadic . . . while cooking dinner, while driving (as a passenger ;-) somewhere, waiting for laundry, weekend mornings, before bed, while eating . . .) which is why I tend to take a book with me everywhere I go.  Honestly, I don’t mind if I look a little bookworm :-)
Yes, Please by Amy Poehler
After hearing so much buzz about this book, I was completely ready to dive in too!  I’m a fan of Amy Poehler I was really eager to read about how she got to where she is today.  This memoir has many laugh out loud moments, but it’s also very real and doesn’t try make light of serious situations.  Poehler doesn’t try to sugarcoat her life experiences but she also doesn’t play up experiences to add drama.  She’s candid about her life and very open about her flaws. I really appreciated this look into the life of such a strong woman whose made a successful career for herself in doing what she loves..  This book is a fun ride (and if you see the format that the book is written in you’ll see what I mean!)
The Opposite of Loneliness by Marina Keegan
 I usually avoid books full of short stories/essays.  In truth, I’ve probably missed out on reading some great literature because of this, but I feel like it takes me at least 10 pages to get into a good story and with a short story it’s already over in 10 pages! The real life story surrounding this book is very tragic- the author was killed in a car accident a few years ago at the age of 23.  This book is compiled of a bunch of short stories that she wrote while in college.  As I read this book I got a peek at how talented this young woman was. The stories she wrote (both fiction and nonfiction) were sometimes haunting given the truth of what would happen in her life.
The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo
 I might be a little weird for loving this book . . . but I can see I’m not alone when I read the Amazon reviews!  Some of the ideas of this book were a little far out for me (I don’t really think inanimate household objects have feelings) yet I can understand the author’s point of appreciating and taking care of the things we have and love.  She discusses the ways to do a complete tidying home transformation with the basic principle of only keeping objects that “spark joy.”  She also has some great organizational tips (one simple clothing storage tip has changed my life!  Seriously . . . try storing the clothing in your drawers vertically instead of using the stacking method and you’ll be smiling from ear to ear). This book totally spoke to my tidying tendencies . . . now if you’ll excuse me- I’ll be working on tossing out at least half the items I own.
Currently reading Big Little Lies by Liane Moriarty.  What have you been reading lately?

Our Wedding Album

IMG_5123 IMG_5126 IMG_5127 IMG_5128 IMG_5134IMG_5131It may have taken me a year and two months to put our wedding book together, but I finally made it happen!  Our photographer gave us over 500 photos from our special day and it was quite a feat to select, resize, and organize some of our favorites into a memory book.  I hope one day our kids stumble across this book in a similar way that I stumbled across my parents’ wedding album when I was a little girl.  I remember that moment feeling completely magical- like I had found some secret treasure where I could visit that day and imagine what it must have been like.  I know that’s totally the romantic side of me talking, but how can you not get a little over sentimental when you’re talking about weddings and love? Gah! ;-)

I used Artifact Uprising to pull this book together.  I loved how easy the website was to use, how personal the whole experience of using this company felt, and of course how the end product turned out.  My completely honest opinion- two thumbs up!

Zion National Park

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There are many things to love about Zion National Park.  I love the fact that one can get an overall sense of the park and see a lot of the scenery by just spending an hour in the car driving through.  However, if you’re more of an adventurer, there are also many areas to explore on foot by way of trails.   Omar and I had read that the traffic and parking within the park can get pretty horrible (there’s only one lane with very few pullouts) which is why they have a tram to take you into the park.  We found that traffic was minimal during the early morning hours in the off season.  It’s pretty cold, but still bearable ;-)

On our short trip we tried to do a little bit of everything.  We took a drive into the park before sunrise so we could watch the sky change colors against the massive canyon walls (fyi- it’s really hard to find a good place to watch the sun come up when you’re in a canyon! Ha!). Then we took some time to drive through the whole canyon, stopping along the way to take pictures and touch the canyon walls.  We also went on a hike after getting some advice from a local shop clerk (and avid hiker!) as to where the “if you could only hike one trail in the park it would be  ___” trail was.   

Taking a trip through Zion is a really fun experience.  The natural setting is eye candy and you just might see a deer on the side of the road if you’re lucky :-)

You Got This!

IMG_5102Cheers to this Monday morning, when I’m celebrating the fact that I have a new laptop power cord and trying to forget the fact that I missed out on a day’s worth of work because my computer couldn’t charge.  Cheers to writing a real time blog post because I didn’t have something ready to go this morning due to previously said fact.  Cheers to waking up at 5:30am and celebrating with a girlscout cookie.  Cheers to being okay that life is never a smooth course, but you can learn to kick butt at taking on the bumps . . . that sounds like a quote I read somewhere.  I think everyone needs their own personal cheerleader on Monday morning saying, “it’s Monday, but you got this!”  Let’s find little ways to celebrate this Monday.   You got this!


Our Trip to Canada (Part 2) : The Butchart Gardens

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Are you ready to explore my favorite place in Canada?  If you missed Part 1 of this two-part travel post, you can find some pretty pictures here.
In my last post I mentioned that my favorite spot from all the areas we visited in Canada is a place in Victoria, BC called the Butchart Gardens.  It’s truly a hidden gem that you can visit by hopping on a ferry in Canada OR Seattle- win!  A few people had recommended this spot to us, but it wasn’t until the second day of our trip that we decided we should go (yes, we really are last minute planners when we feel we can get away with it, and yes, that really is something I’m trying to stop doing!). On our last day in Canada we bought our ferry ticket and headed over to Victoria.Right as we got off the ferry I felt the small town vibes.  We didn’t stay in the charming downtown area for long since we wanted to spend as much time as we could in the gardens while there was still daylight, but we did make time to eat lunch at a little Swedish cafe where I had the best tomato bisque soup I’ve ever tried.  Great, now I’m craving tomato bisque soup . . .

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Even in December when the flowers were not in full bloom and the sky was overcast and dreary this place was still amazingly beautiful.  We knew we were visiting in the off season, but that actually worked in our favor because we had the whole garden to ourselves!  The experience of walking through the giant garden in the quiet was incredibly zen.
Another bonus of visiting in December was experiencing the 12 Days of Christmas light display.  It was so beautiful and it totally made me feel like a kid on a treasure hunt as we went searching for each display representing each day from the 12 days of Christmas.  And then there was also the experience of listening to carolers and a brass band singing/playing Christmas music while bundled up in our winter coats and enjoying a latte.  The whole experience was quite magical.  I would definitely go back, and my vote might be to visit in the Winter again!


Revisiting 27 Goals


January is flying by!  Did you make any New Year’s resolutions for 2015?  Mine always seem to be similar generic goals: be more food conscious, be more green (use those darn reusable bags!), and drink more water. I just can’t seem to lock in specific goals for the first month of the year. Maybe I’ve been jaded over the years because I always hit burnout by March.  My enthusiasm for setting specific goals usually hits right around my birthday . .  . there’s just something about realizing that I’m a year older that gets me wanting to accomplish some big things in the next year.

Last August I set 27 goals for myself and shared them on the blog.  Now, after about 5 months of having this list, I’m ready to discuss what’s been crossed off (and reveal the things that haven’t!). Also, I should mention that this list has been so much more to me than just a handy checklist where things can get crossed off.  Truly, this list has pushed me to do things that I normally would have either put off or changed plans on.  I love having a focused list that moves me towards my goals.

1. Take a Photography Class

2. Visit a new Country: We traveled to Canada in December and had such amazing experiences!  Part 1 is here and Part 2 is coming soon.

3. Improve my wardrobe: Working on it.  In mid-October I created a capsule wardrobe (and talked about it in this post) in an effort to better define my style and invest (rather than waste) money on really good clothing that I can wear again and again.  So far I feel like I’ve been doing a really good job with this.

4. Simplify the items in my life (embrace minimalism): This is a constant effort.  For anyone interested in approaching minimalism, this blog is a fantastic resource.

5. Sign up for a kickboxing class– So far I haven’t found any classes nearby.  I might have to adopt a good workout DVD to work on this goal.

6. Practice yoga more frequently– It hasn’t become a regular thing, but I’ve definitely started doing it more frequently and found a couple of classes I really enjoy.  I’ve also determined that yoga instruction by way of DVD just doesn’t work for me.

7. Set up an Etsy Shop

8. Start Juicing

9.  Host an awesome Friendsgiving: It really was awesome, and hopefully a new tradition :-)

10.  Continue to work on Project Life Consistently: FAIL

11. Make a vacation video-Footage has been captured. The making of the video is in progress and will be shared on the blog soon.

12. Make a video tutorial

13. Make time for reading– Almost every night- even if only for 15 minutes.

14. Set large financial goals– It’s an ambitious one for sure.  Now I just need to flesh it all out.

15. Improve Snowboarding Skills– Check! Thanks to the Canadian ski slopes!

16. Weave something awesome

17. Become fluent in Spanish– This is probably my most ambitious goal.  I practice with O when we remember to do so.  Remembering seems to be the problem.

18. Learn how to drive a manual car

19. Go kayaking or canoeing

20.  Make Curry

21. Go to three concerts: One down . . . two to go!

22. Have a picnic

23. Go camping– I got as close as I’m going to get for now with a trip to Zion and Bryce Canyon National Parks in Utah.  The only thing that was missing was . . . well, the camping (ha!).  I just can’t convince the hubby that sleeping on the ground really can be fun.  I’m giving up on this battle- for now ;-)

24. Take a cooking class

25. Worry Less: This is really hard to determine, but I really like that I included it on my list.  I feel like I’m constantly reminding myself to just take things one at a time and focus on the present.  Sometimes I’m successful, and other times are just really tough.

26. Go to a comedy show: Check.  Jeff Dunham is a riot!

27. Be more kind to my body: Heck yes.  I’ve modified my workout routines to be a little less strenuous (yet still challenging), and have started to eat more healthy. This for me has been a HUGE change.  I used to think I could eat anything I wanted if I could kill my body working it off.  I’ve slowly been changing my mindset.

As you can see from my progress, I still have a ways to go.  However, this year’s progress is MAJOR compared to previous years.  Some of the above items have already been planned out while others are going to take significant effort to complete.  I’m really happy I still have 7 more months to get to work!

Our Trip to Canada (Part 1)

Adventures In Canada Title

There were a few things that intimidated me about traveling to Canada in December.  Get ready for some pretty lame (yet very real to me!) fears. First, I didn’t know how I was going to get along in the cold weather.  Anyone who knows me knows that I’m ALWAYS cold- even in the summer when the air conditioning is hitting me too long.  Omar and I joked that I might return to California as his “wifesicle.”  Second, I knew I was going to be snowboarding. I wasn’t about to let Omar have all the fun in Whistler, but snowboarding is something that both excites and terrifies me despite the fact that I’ve practiced several times.  And thirdly, the general intimidation of traveling out of the country (a first for both of us!) . . . even if we weren’t going that far!

Once we actually got to Canada though I knew we had picked the perfect place for a winter vacation. It was a short trip (5 nights total), but that seemed like just enough time to experience all that we wanted to do.  We spent the first couple of days in Whistler- snowboarding for most of the daytime and then taking our sore bodies to wander through town in the evenings so we could look through the shops and eat some delicious food.  On the third day we packed in the snowboarding gear and headed into Vancouver.  We didn’t get to spend much time in the city, but it didn’t take long for me to fall in love with the view from our hotel room (see the last photo below).  Our final day was spent at the Butchart Gardens, which was probably my favorite day of our trip (coming soon in Part 2!)
This trip was an amazing experience, and I’m so grateful we got to go.  In the end, the cold was more mild than I thought it was going to be, the snowboarding wasn’t so scary after I had fallen a few times and realized that I don’t break like glass, and getting that first stamp in my passport was a huge moment and something I had dreamed about for years.  We have our fingers crossed that someday we’ll get to go back.

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Pulling together a Fall Capsule Wardrobe

Capsule Wardrobe Tops

One of the goals I set for myself this year was to embrace minimalism in part by simplifying the items in my life.  When I established that goal nearly 4 months ago I don’t even think I knew how I was going to approach it.  I imagine my only idea was to go through each room in our house deciding exactly what I wanted to keep and donating/trashing the rest.  Not a bad approach I suppose, but definitely easier said than done, right?
One area that I’ve attempted to de-clutter many times in the last few years is my wardrobe.  It’s overwhelming to me.  It always seems so simple- I’ll go through my closet and get rid of the things that I haven’t worn for a long time and then promise myself that for every new item I purchase I’ll donate an old item.  Despite the best of intentions this never happens and before I know it I once again have more clothes than I can deal with.  With this in mind I knew I was in need of a new method to simplify my life when it came to clothing.
This is where a creating capsule wardrobe has come in.  Even though capsule wardrobes have been around for awhile, I only recently stumbled across this idea while listening to a Jess Lively podcast with Caroline Rector from Unfancy. Today I wanted to talk about my experience of pulling my wardrobe of 40 pieces together and what I learned through the process.  This is my first attempt at creating a capsule so I really don’t know if this is a long-term solution.  However, what I do know is that in only 2 weeks I’ve noticed major benefits taking place in my life . . . reduced stress, more time, improved confidence- who knew all of this could come from minimizing a wardrobe?!!
Where I started:  Overstuffed drawers and piles of shoes in the closet could pretty much sum up my wardrobe before I created my capsule.  I knew that I was spending too much time searching through my clothes to pull out pieces I liked.  On top of that I was bored with my clothes- bored with my outfits.  I was in a bit of a slump.
Why I created a capsule: Creating a capsule seemed like a pretty straightforward way to simplify my wardrobe by pulling out the pieces I really liked and removing the rest of the items from my closet.

Capsule Wardrobe BottomsHow I created my capsule: I started by removing everything from my closet and dresser (gasp!)  Yes, the gigantic pile of clothing on my bed . .. and the floor . ..  was very scary, but it had to be done!  I had a donation pile, a pile I wanted to save for another season, and the pile I wanted to use for Fall.  For my fall capsule I selected mostly neutral colors because I know they can be easily paired and accessorized (especially with colorful scarves!)  The donation pile went out the door, and I’m currently storing all of my “keep for another season” clothing in a giant tub at the bottom of my closet.  It was really important for me to get my non capsule items out of sight because I knew I would grab for them if I saw them which would defeat the purpose of this exercise. If you don’t have another closet or storage space to move your “keep but don’t use” items to, I would recommend hanging them up and putting a plastic/garment bag over them.  This will keep them separated and out of sight, but still accessible when you need them for the next season.

What I chose for my capsule wardrobe: 40 pieces which includes tops, pants, a skirt, and shoes.  Not included here are 5 jackets I switch out depending on the weather, 2 formal skirts and several blouses in case I need them for meetings at work, and my workout clothing.  I also have accessories (such as scarves and jewelry) that are not included here.
Tops: I chose mostly neutral tops that could be paired and accessorized easily.  I managed to fit in a couple of colorful tops as well to mix things up.
Bottoms: SoCal weather is not typical.  While the rest of the country is going through a freeze, we’ve got sunshine and 70 degree temperatures.  I’m definitely not complaining, but it does make selecting clothes for 3 months a little tricky.  Therefore, I chose a bit of everything- a pair of shorts and capri pants, a skirt that can be worn on it’s own or with tights, and several pairs of pants.
Shoes: Same principle here as well.  I knew I should include equal parts sandals, boots, and flats for the weather variation.  Check, check, and check :-)
The Rules I’m Following: I’m only wearing items from my capsule (except for the jacket and dressy clothing exceptions mentioned above).  Also, I’m not buying any new clothing during this time.  I’ve made a pact with myself to only purchase new clothing items when I’m ready to create my new capsule.  At that time I’ll shop my own closet first and then possibly purchase some additional items.

fall wardrobe shoesI was able to make some obvious observations through this process, like the fact that I own too many cardigans and striped tops and have only one pair of jeans that I truly love, but I also reinstated some facts that I already sort of knew about myself but hadn’t called out any proof on, like the fact that I gravitate towards quality over quantity (it’s taken A LOT of time to get to that point).  By making those two simple observations, I have something to work with while moving forward with clothing shopping and the way that I think about my wardrobe.  I know that I can invest a little more money on a good pair of jeans or a nice cardigan because it’s something I’ll grab for year after year.  I also realized the pieces I need to stay away from like basic tops that lose their shape/shrink after two or three washes . ..  you know what I’m talking about- totally not worth it!  Or the uncomfortable shoes that I think I’ll break in but always give up on when I realize its not worth the pain.  Moving forward I hope to only purchase items I know I’ll wear for a long time and minimize the clutter.  It’s a process, but I feel like I’m going in the right direction.

How about you?  Have you ever put together a capsule wardrobe?  Or this something you would ever want to try?

As of late

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Enjoying- morning yoga twice a week.  Waking up at 5:30am is definitely not something I look forward to, but the peace I feel during yoga and the tone it sets for the rest of my day is so worth it.

Eating- Pumpkin pie.  Seems like November should be celebrated with some pumpkin pie.

Drinking- Lots of green tea.  It helps that I work in a freezing office and a warm cup of tea is the only thing that seems to warm me up.

Wearing- A mixture of sleeveless tops and sweaters.  SoCal weather in the Fall is so tricky!

Wondering- How on earth we plowed through 5 seasons of Breaking Bad in just a few months.  For being people that aren’t big TV watchers, we sure caught the Breaking Bad bug.

Making- A crocheted cowl.  I forgot how enjoyable crocheting can be!  Who wants a scarf/cowl for Christmas?! :-)

Ordering- this winter jacket and praying that it keeps me warm in Canada.

Planning- our Thanksgiving dinner.  We’re hosting this year and I’m both nervous and excited by the idea. It helps that we’ll have two moms in the kitchen to make up for my novice abilities as a chef!

Preparing- to design a capsule wardrobe for what’s left of this season.  I’m nervous about paring down my wardrobe to under 40 pieces but excited about all the room I’ll have in my closet!