Tuesday, October 30, 2012

NaBloPoMo 2012: This is my JAM!

I've successfully participated in National Blog Posting Month ("NaBloPoMo") every November for the past three or four years. I have also, pretty much every time, fallen off the blogging bandwagon for like, the entire month of December (and sometimes much of January and February). Blogging every day for a month can be kinda draining!

I wasn't even thinking about doing it this year, mostly because 2012 has completely blindsided me and I still haven't quite grasped the fact that NOVEMBER IS THREE DAYS AWAY. But I am also kind of wary about it because I don't want to get burned out on blogging (again).

So here's what I've decided. I am going to participate in NaBloPoMo this year, but I'm not going to let it stress me out. And the way I plan on avoiding stress is this: if I don't have anything to say, I'll just post a picture. Ain't no rule in the NaBloPoMo handbook that says every post has to have words!

I'm also going to try to use the month of November to focus more on what fills me with joy. One way I plan on doing that is by finishing up my Scotland recaps. It's been almost two months since we got back, and I need to get the rest of those memories recorded now before I lose it all!


I just came up with THE best slogan for my joy theme: "This is my JAM!" AKA: Joy All Month!  

(If you are shaking your head and feeling embarrassed for me right now, you clearly don't know me. Newsflash: I AM A WEIRDO!)

We'll see where my JAM takes me, but I'm looking forward to a little challenge to help me keep the ball rolling on this new blog through the crazy holiday season!

If anyone else feels like joining NaBloPoMo, go here to sign up!

And if you want to focus your month of blogging on joy, too, feel free to join me! I'd love to know you're doing it so I can check out your joyful posts. Here's a little badge I made just for the occasion (and don't even act like it isn't cool that "JAM" kinda fits in with my whole grocery-store imagery for "Aisle Hi-Five" here, mmkay):

Click the image and you can copy/save the image to add to your own blog.
If you wouldn't mind linking back to me, that'd be great!

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Thirty Before 30

I've been thinking about this post for a few years, but always put it off because: a) 30 seemed pretty far away when I was 24; b) I don't like it when I make a list and don't follow through with every single item; and c) I was pretty much just being lazy.

But I think it's time to accept that 30 is really NOT that far away anymore, and realize that although I may not finish every item on a list, it's having a list that helps me get more things accomplished than just letting ideas swim around in my head. So, without further ado and in no particular order, here it is. (Also, if you were a reader of my former blog, some of these may be familiar because I stole them from my abandoned 101 in 1001 list.)

Thirty Before 30

  1. Read the entire Bible.
    I want to add "in a year," but let's just see if I can manage to finish it in the next 2 1/2 years.
  2. Go skydiving.
    This is something I've been meaning to do for awhile. It WILL happen.
  3. Crochet a blanket with an actual pattern and more than one color. (02-26-13: Done!)
    Made this for little Ezra, my nephew who arrived on February 26, 2013!
  4. Memorize the book of Philippians 1 Thessalonians (HCSB).
    I've always wanted to memorize an entire book of the Bible, and I like the challenge of doing it in a version I'm less familiar with. Update Oct 2014 - Decided to go for 1 Thessalonians since it's part of the study I'm doing right now!
  5. Grow my hair out my natural color. (10-27-14: Gonna call this done, even though I did add some super subtle highlights this summer.)
    Basically this one should be easy; I just have to resist the urge to dye/bleach it.
  6. Run another 10K or 15K and consider a half marathon. (03-26-13: Done!)
    I ran the Old Agoura 10K and am hoping to tackle the Semana Nautica 15K on 4th of July this year...
    I don't want to insist on a half because it really depends how good I can get at the shorter races.
  7. Learn to drive stick-shift.
    It's gotta happen one of these days.
  8. Read Pride and Prejudice. (In progress!)
    Seriously, I don't know why I haven't done this yet.
  9. Hold a plank for 90 seconds. (In progress -- I can do 1 minute pretty consistently; working up to 90 seconds!)
    In proper form and all! Probably I should also get this on video as proof.
  10. Go to a concert with Joe. (06-29-13: Done! FishFest in Irvine)
    Seriously can't believe this hasn't happened already.
  11. Successfully cook one Thanksgiving turkey.
    It's okay if I have help/supervision, but I want to feel like I actually accomplished this one.
  12. Make a lemon meringue pie from scratch.
    I figure since it's my favorite dessert EVER, I should probably learn how to make it myself.
  13. See the Butterfly Preserve in peak season. (12-31-12: Done!)
    Considering my love of butterflies, it's a wonder I haven't already attacked this one.
  14. Advance at least three belt levels in karate (yellow, orange, purple). (On hold since we aren't going to martial arts anymore.)
    This will depend on whether I EVER master a spinning crescent kick. So far it just isn't happening. :-P
  15. Get pretty good at swing dancing with Joe.
    And by "pretty good" I mean, be able to follow him and not trip all over myself.
  16. Try surfing at least once. (05-16-14: Done!)
    I do live in a beach town, after all.
  17. Go on a hot air balloon ride.
    This one has been on my list since I first learned to SAY "hot air balloon!"
  18. Find an older Christian woman to be my mentor.
    Like, on a regular basis.
  19. Beat Portal and Portal 2.
    Because it's possibly the only computer game I will ever not be terrified of playing. And it's like a puzzle!
  20. Carve a pumpkin.
    This is on my mind because it's the fall season, but I had to add it because I realized I've NEVER carved a pumpkin!
  21. Go whale-watching with Joe. (07-07-13: Done!)
    We were supposed to do this with a Groupon deal but it expired. Wah, wah.
  22. Do 30 push-ups. (In progress.  I think I can do about 10 right now - May 2014.)
    Again, proper form and on video if possible.
  23. Complete a cross-stitched piece (with an existing pattern).
    My mom and I used to cross-stitch together and I miss it! Think it'd be fun to pick up again.
  24. Become an early riser.
    At the very least, learn to QUIT the snooze button. Ideally, be up early enough for morning workouts/runs at least a few days a week.
  25. Plan a really awesome and memorable five-year anniversary trip/outing. (08-08-14: Done - Ojai! I mean, I guess maybe it wasn't "epic" but it was lovely all the same.)
    The elaborateness will depend on whether we have kids by then or not, but it'll be EPIC no matter what.
  26. Write a poem. (10-02-13: Done.)
    Mainly just to get my creative juices flowing, but also to see if I still have a knack for it. (Our yearly Christmas poem doesn't count toward this.)
  27. Go ice skating outdoors. (12-13-14: Done! Union Square in San Francisco)
    Again, something I've always wanted to do. Doesn't have to be on an actual frozen lake (in fact, eek! I'd rather it be man-made).
  28. Learn to tie a tie.
    I feel like it's something I should know as a wife (even though Joe wears ties like once every six months, if that).
  29. Wear a sequined dress to a party.
    Because after 30, it may not be so pretty. (Kidding, kinda.)
  30. Make a homemade cheesecake. (09-09-14: Done, maybe?  I made mini pumpkin cheesecakes, does that count? Still wanna try to make a full size one.)
    Supposedly it's easy. I'll be the judge of that.

Monday, October 22, 2012

God is so ridiculously, unbelievably good.

You guys. I just... I don't even know where to start.

This past weekend, I went to Reality's fall women's retreat. I knew it was going to be awesome, but I could not have anticipated that it would be SO full of blessings and revelations and answered prayers and basically LIFE. The theme Scripture passage for the weekend was Matthew 11:28-30:

"Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light." (NASB)

It was exactly what I needed, and so much more.

There were four main sessions, each covering a portion of the theme passage, and then we had the opportunity to choose two out of four workshops to attend, based on their subject and applicability to our current life situations. I went to one workshop called "The Danger of Quieting the Conscience" and another called "Hearing from God in Prayer."

I am just amazed at how EVERY moment of this weekend (I'm not even exaggerating when I say Every. Moment.) was so perfectly orchestrated and relevant for what I've been going through, and everything seemed to be interwoven in a way that was almost creepy (good creepy, if there is such a thing). Like, I bought a whole mess of books that looked good and/or were recommended to us by the ladies who organized the retreat, and when I "randomly" chose one to start reading during our free time on Saturday, the first chapter started out with "Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest." And the whole book is about learning to abide in Christ (basically be in His presence) and why so many Christians miss out on it (guilty!).

The sessions on the theme passage, the two workshops I attended, the conversations I had with the girls in my room...everything just lifted me up and encouraged me and brought so many things to light that I had been missing or needing or struggling with. (And you guys, I'm only telling you MY experience from this weekend; I could share so many other stories from the girls who were there who all had similarly amazing encounters with God, despite the fact that we're all dealing with completely different things in life.)

But the biggest ridiculously, unbelievably good thing that happened to me this weekend was that God finally showed me (or more like, I finally took the time to stop and listen to Him say) that I needed to accept His forgiveness. And to fully explain that, I guess I have to point you here and add a little more back-story. (If you didn't click on the link in that last sentence, you are probably going to be confused by the next part of this post.)

The whole thing with Kris was happening during the weeks that led up to our church's Easter service. I was a part of the large choir that would be singing during the service, so we had weekly rehearsals in Carpinteria. And almost every week before those rehearsals, I was meeting up with Kris for coffee beforehand. On Easter Sunday, I sang all the songs, heard the incredible message, and a few days later finally told Joe about everything. 

One of the songs we sang at Easter was "Ten Thousand Reasons" -- it's an incredible worship song which had, prior to the whole Situation, become one of my favorites. But after that Easter service, all the way up until right before this weekend, every time I heard that song, I would burst into tears. These weren't tears of joy or intense worship; I was instantly filled with anguish and sorrow whenever I heard this song, and I didn't know why.

Fast forward to the retreat. On Saturday night, I sat in my seat during the second worship set after an incredible message, and I thought about the workshops I had attended that day. The conscience one was pretty easy to recognize as totally relevant to the Situation with Kris; it was about how the conscience is there to help guide us to make right choices, but it can be corrupted, quieted, ignored, etc., and ultimately we have to lean on the Holy Spirit to help correct our consciences by taking every thought captive. (It was WAY more detailed and amazing, obviously, but that's the gist.) I had realized this relevance during the workshop, but I wasn't thinking directly about it that night during worship.

The workshop on prayer was clearly also intended for me because the main point was that we need to train ourselves to spend time waiting quietly, listening for God to speak to us (rather than yapping nonstop and saying Amen and moving on with life). Prayer is not a one-way conversation (duh). So anyway, I was thinking about that workshop in particular as I sat there singing the worship song, and then I stopped singing and found a corner of the room to kneel in. I prayed, "God, I'm here and I'm listening. I don't know if you have something to show me right now, but I want to start giving you more chances to speak to me by shutting up once in awhile."

And then the song ended, and the next song started: "Ten Thousand Reasons." And in that moment, I felt overwhelmed with that same grief I had been experiencing for months upon hearing this song. But I also felt the Lord say, "You confessed to your husband, and you confessed to your girlfriends who keep you accountable, but you never confessed this to me. I want to give you complete forgiveness and freedom."

So I confessed it aloud (something I don't know if I have EVER done in the presence of God) and I felt this wave of relief. A heavy burden I hadn't even realized I was still carrying was lifted off my shoulders, and I received Jesus' easy yoke. And I stood up and sang that song with tears of joy and grateful worship pouring down my face.

That was the highlight of my weekend, for sure, but God didn't even stop there. I came home last night and told this story to Joe, and he was quiet for a minute before he said, "I played that song on repeat for DAYS after you told me everything about Kris. It was what helped me get through that whole Situation."

Seriously?! I don't think there is enough space on this blog (and I know that doesn't even make sense because it's basically limitless) to express all that God did in my heart this weekend. And then he topped it off by giving Joe and me yet another thing to share together in our healing process.

I know there is a ton more I wanted to write about, but I think this is a good place to stop. I kind of want to just cherish the special gift that this weekend was to me. Suffice it to say, though, that I am going to do everything I can to make sure I'm at the next retreat. 

And I am probably going to have this song on repeat all day:


Thank you so much to the women who planned the retreat, and all the amazing speakers who blessed me with their totally ordained messages!

Friday, October 12, 2012

On my first BIG decorating project: The Gallery Wall.

I'm interrupting my Scotland recaps for a bit because...well, because I can! And I have other things in life to talk about besides my trip to Scotland, believe it or not. But I'll resume really soon, promise!


I've FINALLY finished the gallery wall for our bedroom. The first spark of an idea happened over a year ago, when I crafted some of my very first Pinterest-inspired artwork:

I made these two melted-crayon pieces on 12x12 canvases, stuck them up on the bare wall above our bed, and thought, "Geez, they look so lonely up there." At the time, Joe and I were just beginning to plan our trip to Scotland, and he suggested we would probably have a great photo that we could blow up onto a gigantic canvas, and it would match the green-and-brown color scheme we had chosen for our room. Then I could scatter the crayon pieces on the adjacent (smaller) wall where I had already hung a couple small shelves with some various decorations.

When we came home from Scotland and I began browsing through my photos to see if there were any that might fit the bill, I realized there were a lot MORE than two or three photos that fit the color scheme, and they ALL needed to live on my bedroom wall! I started seeing gallery layouts in my sleep. I had a fleeting thought to send the photos off to Costco to have them printed up on canvases, but then I was like, "Wait a minute. I can do that myself for less money and WAY more fun."

And it was extremely fun. But also a LOT of work, and a little bit of frustration toward the end. Still, it was so worth it, because I am thrilled with the end result. I'm going to show you the whole thing first and then we can talk details on how it all came together.


So yeah, it looks pretty fantastic, right?

Well. There was a minute when I thought it was gonna be a complete disaster. But I'll get to that.

I used a couple different Pinterest ideas for the artwork. This one, where you basically glue an actual photo onto the canvas, was easy and fun, although time-consuming.

I saw a couple different methods for making your own photo-on-canvas, but this one seemed like the easiest, and I liked the sponged-on paint border for an added effect. I also followed her idea to use scrapbook paper on the short edges of the canvas.

Sponge-painted border detail
Scrapbook paper edges

In retrospect, it would've been much easier to just paint the edges the same color as I used for the sponge border, but I do like the scrapbook paper I used, and I feel like it brought everything together  nicely. The only other thing I would've done differently on these photo canvases is using a foam roller to apply the Mod Podge over the top. It would've been WAY faster, and the texture would be a little better than the stripes that subtly come through with the brush I used. (You can really only see this if you are standing right in front of the artwork, which requires standing on my bed, so...yeah. Don't stand on my bed, weirdo!)

The other Pinterest inspiration was transferring a photo onto wood, and I honestly didn't think it would be as easy or AWESOME as it was. Here's the original pin:

Source: youtube.com via Tabitha on Pinterest

Man oh man, this was SO easy! I think using black-and-white photos might be a little more forgiving than using color (which I did), or maybe I just need to perfect my method. My two wood pieces are not perfect, but I think that's part of what makes them so wonderful. (I also made a few wood pieces for my mother-in-law, but I never took photos of them.)

I knew this photo would be just right for the rustic-looking wood (both pieces found at Michael's). It's hundreds of years old, so the wood gives it that antiqued, historic look, don't you think?

This one was a little iffy, because I wasn't sure how well the blue sky would transfer onto a yellowish-tan background. (I also didn't seal the photo on very well in the dead center, which is where you see a little green blob if you look closely. The picture actually rubbed completely off in that spot, so I had to grab some green Sharpie pens to fill it in and make it less noticeable.) I still love how it turned out, though.

So let's talk about how I set out to plan the layout and get these up on the wall. I saw an idea on Pinterest that had to do with using wax paper to trace the frames and mark the nail holes, but it wasn't until after my little SNAFU that I revisited the pin and saw what I did wrong(ish).

The pin (above) instructs you to lay out the frames/pieces however you want them, then flip the pieces over to show the backs. Then you place wax paper (taped together to cover the whole area) over the whole thing, trace the frames and mark the spots for the nail/hanging apparatus.

Well, here's what I did.

I laid all my pieces out on TOP of the wax paper, traced their outlines, and then painstakingly measured the back of each piece to see how far across the width and down the height the nails needed to be placed. And since I didn't really take into account the fact that my outlines were not exactly the same size as the pieces themselves, things didn't end up lining up so perfectly.

So I got the wax paper up on the wall and began nailing holes into the wall.

And several pieces were just NOT in the right place. I was pretty furious for a minute (especially since I started hammering on Monday morning before work, so I had to admit temporary defeat and spend the day stewing in frustration at work). But luckily, things were lined up closely enough that I was able to adjust a few pieces, hammer a few more holes, and everything turned out to be okay!

This is probably my favorite photo of the bunch. My triumphant husband! :-)

Oh, and here's a terrible shot of the adjacent wall where I have a few more green-and-brown things hung (and where I was originally thinking of putting the first two crayon pieces if I found one giant picture to put on canvas for above the bed).

See the round piece underneath "love"? That's yet another Pinterest-inspired craft. I used scrapbook letter stickers to write "Always be joyful." (1 Thessalonians 5:16), then painted over it with acrylic paint, and gently peeled off the letters. Then I hot-glued a few little brown flowers onto it for an added touch.

Here it is before the flowers went on. (Again, I forgot to take a picture of the final product. Maybe I'll add it here later.)

So, we finally have a bedroom that looks a little bit more lived-in (aside from, you know, the mound of clothes on the floor most days)! I am so excited that this project turned out so well, despite a few little bumps along the way.


Thursday, October 11, 2012

On a Cooking Frenzy!

I'm interrupting my Scotland recaps for a bit because...well, because I can! And I have other things in life to talk about besides my trip to Scotland, believe it or not. But I'll resume really soon, promise!


Today I want to brag about all the cooking I did last weekend. If you know me, you probably know I am not one of those people who cooks on a regular basis. Realistically, I think I average about one homemade meal every three months -- and I wish I was exaggerating. Now, that doesn't count stuff like heating up a Trader Joe's frozen meal or slapping together a turkey sandwich. I'm talking about actually cooking stuff on the stove or in the oven. Mixing ingredients. Following a recipe. I just haven't really incorporated cooking into my wifely routine.

Why? Well, mostly because I'm lazy. But also because cooking tends to stress me out and leave me feeling disappointed with the results.

Let me tell you, if every cooking experience was more like the ones I had last weekend, I would be cooking a LOT more often. I like it when I can get through a recipe without completely destroying my kitchen, and it's especially satisfying when the food tastes good, too. This, unfortunately, is not always my luck when I brave the kitchen for anything more complicated than peanut butter and jelly.

So anyway. Last Friday, I signed up to take dinner to my friend Danielle who had a baby a few weeks ago, and I knew I wanted to actually cook something versus getting something ready-made. I checked out tons of recipes I had saved on Pinterest and settled on chicken and zucchini. I'll link to the pins and tell you about each dish.

"OMG Chicken!"

The original recipe called for a mayo-based spread over the chicken, but I'm pretty obsessed with Greek yogurt so of course I swapped the mayo for Fage.

I also made my own bread crumbs! I had a bag of Panko crumbs in my pantry that I couldn't remember buying (which meant they were easily a year old for all I knew), so I did a quick Googling and found that it's theoretically pretty simple to make your own bread crumbs. I had whole wheat English muffins in my fridge that were beginning to get stale, so I threw one in my Magic Bullet, pulsed it to bits, and then thought, "Hmm...how do I make these more crispy?" Turns out I should've toasted the bread in the oven first, but it didn't seem to hurt doing it the other way around; I spread out the crumbs on a cookie sheet, tossed on some herbs and garlic powder, and let it sit in the oven at 300 degrees for about ten minutes. Perfection!

Here's my slightly-adapted version of the chicken recipe:

Easy Greek Yogurt Parmesan Chicken 

Preheat oven to 425 F

1 cup Fage 0% fat Greek yogurt
1/2 cup shredded Parmesan cheese
~1 tbsp minced garlic
a few shakes of Mrs Dash or some other salt-free herb/spice blend
6 boneless skinless chicken breast cutlets (about 2 lbs total)
~1/4 cup seasoned English muffin bread crumbs

  1. Mix yogurt, cheese, minced garlic and spices in a bowl until well combined.
  2. Lay chicken breasts on a foil-lined baking sheet (or use parchment paper -- I had run out of it) and spread the yogurt mixture evenly over each piece.
  3. Sprinkle bread crumbs over each piece (and top with a little more cheese if you're a cheeseaholic like me).
  4. Bake for about 25 minutes, or until chicken is cooked through and the juices run clear.
  5. I turned the broiler on high and left the chicken in for another 3-4 minutes to get it a little browner (this is optional).
  6. Sprinkle some freshly ground black pepper over the chicken, and you're done!
I totally spaced out and didn't get pictures of anything I made that day. But trust me, it looked decadent.

For a side dish, I went with "Easy Cheesy Zucchini Bake"

This one I followed pretty closely to the original from Kalyn's Kitchen, except I used minced garlic instead of garlic powder, and I couldn't find "pizza cheese" so I just used shredded mozzarella and parmesan. I also broiled it toward the end to get that nice browned cheese on top -- yum!

Unfortunately, I didn't really get to taste this! I had one piece of zucchini when I tested to make sure it was cooked through, but then the rest went to my friend because I didn't want to give her a dish with a big spoonful taken out of it. But have no fear! I made it a second time later in the weekend (without the fresh basil) and it was GOOD.

For dessert, I made Pumpkin Rice Krispies!

These were a little tricky, but I was forewarned by several comments on another similar recipe/post that said the treats turned out a little soggy from the pumpkin puree. I followed this post's instructions to squeeze out the moisture from the puree using a paper towel, but I think I didn't do it enough, because mine did turn out a little soggy. Anyway, the only thing I did differently from the recipe on Life Sprinkled with Glitter was I didn't form them into balls or top them with Tootsie Rolls; I just made regular bars.

Now, since I wasn't 100% happy with the pumpkin desserts, I decided to also make one more dessert as a back-up/bonus. While we were in Scotland, one of our B&B hosts made us a treat called Tiffin -- a chocolate bar sent straight from HEAVEN. Pauli and I made it a couple weeks ago for her birthday dinner, and it was so easy I decided to take a stab at it myself. The original recipe is here, but per the advice of Beth, or Scottish hostess, I made a few small changes. Here's my adapted recipe:

Scottish Chocolate Tiffin

4 oz unsalted butter
2 tbsp sugar
2 tbsp golden syrup*
2 heaping tbsp cocoa powder
7 oz light Digestive biscuits*
1 handful of raisins (about 1/3 cup?)
~1/2 cup multi-colored mini marshmallows
~12 oz chocolate baking chips (half milk, half dark) -- I used Ghirardelli's

*These items were found at a local British store, but you can try substituting caramel or maple syrup instead of golden syrup, and graham crackers instead of Digestives.
  1. In a saucepan over medium-low heat, melt the butter, sugar, syrup and cocoa. Add the biscuits and raisins and stir until well combined.
  2. Dump the mixture into a 9x11 Pyrex (I lined mine with parchment paper) and spread it out into a thin layer.
  3. Once the mixture is relatively cool, toss in some mini marshmallows and gently incorporate them into the mixture (or just leave them on top...no big deal).
  4. Melt the baking chips (I just heated them up in a small pot over low heat, but a double-boiler or microwave may be safer to avoid overcooking), then pour over the mixture in the Pyrex dish, spreading evenly.
  5. Stick it in the fridge and leave it for about an hour to harden. Cut it into bite size pieces and serve!
The original recipe calls for only 8 ounces of melted chocolate on top, but I wanted more. What can I say? I really love chocolate. I also didn't have a 9x11 Pyrex dish, so I used an 8x8 and layered half the biscuit/raisin/marshmallow mixture, poured on a little melted chocolate, then added the rest of the mixture and more chocolate on top. Basically, this one is pretty tough to mess up.

You thought I was done with all the cooking, didn't you? Well, that was just Friday. On Sunday, I cooked dinner for myself and Joe! I had bought ingredients for another dish I had in mind for Danielle if the chicken didn't work out, so I figured I'd give it a shot and also use up the rest of the zucchini and yellow squash (and get to taste that dish for myself!).

So, I made this:

Tortellini with Pumpkin Alfredo Sauce!

You guys, this was REALLY tasty, and SUPER easy. I followed the recipe pretty exactly, except I used green onions instead of shallots because I had them and I don't really know the difference. I also didn't have fresh nutmeg because I'm not a fancy schmance-pants cook like that, so I used the ground stuff and it was delightful. What I'm saying is, YOU SHOULD MAKE THIS DISH. It's a perfect fall flavor, and it went really well with the cheesy zucchini bake. AND they both tasted great as a leftover meal the next night.

So, now the trick is to start cooking more and collecting recipes I know I can make successfully. I'll let you know how that goes....

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

On productivity and domesticity (and how I don't suck at either).

I'm interrupting my Scotland recaps for a bit because...well, because I can! And I have other things in life to talk about besides my trip to Scotland, believe it or not. But I'll resume really soon, promise!


This weekend may have been my most productive EVER in the history of my life. And, even though I still didn't manage to get the condo completely clean, I felt like a domestic superhero. Let me just give you a snapshot of the things I got accomplished.

Friday, I...
  • went to Michaels to pick up the last two canvases for my gallery project.
  • went to a class at the gym.
  • made THREE recipes I'd never tried before, and one I'd made once with my mother-in-law (and all four of them did NOT suck).
  • took said dishes to a friend who had a baby recently.
Saturday, I...
  • went for a morning jog with a friend from karate.
  • went to another class at the gym.
  • finished painting and prepping all of my pieces for the gallery project.
  • arranged the gallery layout on my living room floor.
  • saw Looper with Joe (hey, productivity can also include fun things!).
and Sunday, I...
  • went to church.
  • saw Pitch Perfect with Amy.
  • ran a couple errands.
  • traced my gallery pieces onto wax paper and measured where the nail holes should go (thanks, Pinterest, for that idea!).
  • made a very Fall-ish dinner for Joe and me (and it didn't suck!).

When it comes to being a "domestic" wife, I tend to feel like I fall short in most every category. I don't cook often (and when I do, it's kind of a crapshoot whether it'll turn out edible). I absolutely SUCK at keeping my house clean and organized. I've done very little interior decorating to make our place look more homey. So it's nice when these magical weekends come along and make me feel a little better about my domestic ability.

And fortunately, Joe is never EVER the source of my feelings of domestic inadequacy. He's low-maintenance when it comes to food; he's perfectly happy eating cereal for dinner four nights a week. He is super patient with my lack of tidiness and we're working together on a schedule that will (Lord willing) help me get my act together. And he's given me (more or less) free reign to decorate the place however I want. And, when I get all mopey about this domestic stuff, he reassures me that I'm not a disappointment or a let-down in ANY way.

So my self-inflicted sense of wifely suckitude stems pretty entirely from observing other ladies and wishing it came as naturally to me as it seems to come to them. I say "seems" because probably a lot of the people I see achieving awesome domestic feats are working at it a lot harder than anyone on the outside may realize. Basically I need to quit comparing myself to others. But I also need to remind myself of these weekends when I'm on fire and realize that I AM awesome and I CAN cook and clean and decorate like a champ.

Stay tuned for a recipe/cooking recap post and a gallery wall reveal post in the next few days!

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Scotland Recap Part 5

I'm recapping my awesome trip to Scotland.  

I realized I didn't actually finish telling you about Day 6. (I know, you're like, "WHAT MORE COULD SHE POSSIBLY HAVE DONE IN ONE DAY?!")

But don't worry. Mostly I just left out dinner. After our amazing day of driving and sightseeing around the Trotternish Peninsula, we were tossing around ideas for where to eat dinner and finally one of us just asked a random lady passing by if there were any good pubs in the vicinity. She pointed down the street we were standing on and said, "The Isles Inn is just on the corner there. Can't beat it!" So we popped in, looked around, and decided it fit the bill.

I had steak and ale pie, which is basically beef stew with a big puff pastry "topper." It was absolutely splendid.

There, Day 6 is finally recapped.

Day 7: We checked out of our B&B and said goodbye to Peter and Marina, then set off for a looooong drive from Skye to Pitlochry. (Yes, I slept for much of it.)

The Carneses with Marina, our lovely B&B host at Cruinn Bheinn.

Eventually we made it to Pitlochry, checked into our next B&B, Bruach Mhor and relaxed for a bit. (Okay, Joe and I relaxed while Ben and Pauli graciously did all our laundry. I know, we're such spoiled kids. But they offered!) Later we had dinner (for the first of several times throughout the remainder of the trip) at the wonderful Moulin Inn. This place has been open since 1695! Clearly they know what they're doing.

Anyway, I must've been a zombie on Day 7 because I have NO more pictures from my camera. But it was mainly a travel day, so that might have something to do with the lack of pictures, too, considering travel is synonymous with sleep for me.

Day 8: Okay. This was the day we basically planned our entire trip around. The Braemar Gathering. About two years ago when we first started talking about a Carnes family trip to Scotland, Joe heard about this hugely-attended Scottish gathering and was determined to make it happen. We've been to plenty of Highland Games in the states, but it's a whole different thing to be IN SCOTLAND at a gathering of the clans. Since I have a TON of pictures from this day, I'll let them speak for themselves.

Basically, we sat in an enormous outdoor stadium where anywhere from three to ten different events (or "games") were going on at once. There was tug of war (WAY more intense than when you played it at recess); caber tossing; highland dancing; "weight over the bar"; a hill race; and a bunch of other track-and-field races, along with a sack race for the kids. Oh, and there were ELEVEN pipe bands, which played individually throughout the day, and then twice as a mass band marching around the field. So, yeah. It was epic. Read the captions for more details. (Also, I don't know if I've mentioned this in previous posts, but you can click to enlarge any of these pictures!)

One of the pipe bands playing informally outside the Clan
and overseas visitors' tent.

Intense Tug-of-War. The teams were all various military factions,
and they meant BUSINESS.

See? Hardcore.
Oh, by the way? It was SUPER cold and SUPER windy that day.
I was wearing like six layers, a scarf, and gloves, and I was still
shivering. But Joe wore his handsome snap-brim cap! I love how
he looks in it.

A glimpse at the mass band (all 11 together) exiting after their
first performance around the stadium.

Official soldiers lining up for a very special entrance.

The clouds parted just in time for the honorable guests to arrive.

Here's a glimpse at how many people were there. I think it was
over 10,000? You can also see where the Tug-of-War teams totally
demolished the grass after a few rounds!

Here come the special guests in their fancy cars!

Right onto the field...

Do you know who that lady is in the white hat? IT'S THE QUEEN!

Yep. That is Prince Philip and Queen Elizabeth II.
AWESOME, right?

Here comes the mass band to play for the queen and the rest of
the royal party in attendance.

The sky stayed pretty the whole time the queen was there (about
an hour total), and as soon as her car drove back out, it got foggy
and windy again. She has magical powers, I tell ya.

Caber toss. This stuff is not for sissies.

And here's a video I shot of the royal party exiting the stadium. You can also see a bit of the caber tossing, the band leading the party out, and then, in the last 20 seconds or so, THE QUEEN WAVED RIGHT AT ME! (Okay, so maybe we didn't exactly make eye contact. But she was 30 feet away from me, and that is pretty stinking cool. How many people can say they've been that close to Queen Elizabeth II?)

After yet another excitement-filled day, we wound down with a pint or two at dinner -- our second night at the delicious old Moulin Inn pub. (I had the most delightful macaroni and cheese!)

Next post, I'll cover at least two days, maybe more if I get ambitious!