de-clutter your life

As I sat in the surgical waiting room this morning, I picked up an old issue of Women’s Day Magazine (April 2012, so not super duper old).  It featured a small story called “De-Clutter Your Life,” on the cover, so I paged through and found it.  I love things like that.  Sometimes, I feel as though I get so caught up in life that I lose sight of who I am, so I re-visit some of my favorite books (“The Four Agreements” is a great one) to reconnect with myself.  Sometimes, I happen upon something that clarifies things ~ sort of puts life back in perspective.  Those are such refreshing moments.  The article from this morning felt like that ~ a little surprise to help me remember myself.

But let me rewind a little to come full circle.

A few days ago, as Lucy and I meandered through the woods on our morning walk, my brain was whirring a mile a minute.  I was frustrated about some things, and often times, when I walk or run all my mixed-up muddled emotions come into focus ~ I figure out what I’m upset about specifically, I address it, and I figure out how to get my brain around it and move on.

That morning, I realized the following ~ when a person has low self-esteem, it’s hard to decipher real friends from faux friends.  Faux friends seem real, because they reinforce all the things that ‘insecure you’ already focuses on ~ your faults, your flaws, your short-comings.  It’s easy to mistake this person for a friend, because their ‘honesty’ is played off as ‘support.’  Real friends aren’t like that.  And as a person’s self-esteem builds, growing pains exist in the faux friendships.  All of a sudden, that ‘honesty’ about all your ‘short-comings’ feels a lot less supportive and a lot more judgemental.  I’ve had my fair share of faux friends.  Realizing it is like tasting a bitter pill.  But the truth is this ~ I don’t want people in my life who stress me out, magnify negative parts of who I am, or bring nothing positive to the table.  Friendships are tough, and being honest about them is hard ~ but it has to be done.  That, or you just suck it up and endure the misery of a friendship that is no longer nourishing.  That prospect is a little bleak.

So I had all those thoughts, and the more I distilled it down, and peeled away all the layers, the more I was certain that I was unhappy about some of my relationships.

Fast forward to this morning and this little blip of an article.

The seven tips were as follows:

1.  Re-frame your ‘to-do’ list.  Think of it as “What I get to do today!” My mother has a quote that hangs beside her bed ~ ‘Change your thoughts, and you will change your world.’  It’s amazing how changing the way you address something can change your whole perspective.  

2.  Figure out your goals.  I loved the explanation under this one ~ it was about physically writing down goals, then figuring out the most attainable and starting there.  The author also suggested imagining what people would say about you after you died.  Would you want to be the person who always hated their job but never did anything to change it?  I used to have a list of things I wanted (written in 2008 when I was re-building my life).  I wanted to own a Mini Cooper -check!- have a dog -check!- live in a townhome (I don’t know why but I have always loved them … I didn’t want to own, because I didn’t, and still don’t, want to be tied to a single location) and have a job I liked -95% check!.  Considering I have met most of those goals, it’s time to go back to the drawing board, and dream bigger.  But I also want to do what I do with integrity and passion, because I would like to think that when I go, those left behind could look at my life in a positive way.  It’s an interesting perspective and worth exploring.  

3.  Purge toxic friendships.  How relevant.  The author suggested recognizing which friends serve which kind of purpose in your life and keeping expectations for each friendship within those ‘niches.’  It also suggested having a conversation with friends you may feel aren’t supportive, or are too ‘needy’ ~ allowing those friends to respond to how you are feeling before writing the friendship off.  All good advice.  What I think is important to remember (personally) is the idea that if a person’s influence in your life is unbalanced toward the negative, how much does that affect your daily existence/perspective, etc.  I find that when I am around negative people, it’s much easier to slip into negativity/judgement of others, etc versus being around positive people discussing ideas and theories instead of other people.  

4.  Fight fatigue.  Loved this.  Did you know that losing an hour of sleep a night (aka not getting in the minimum of 7 -8 hours) ages your brain seven years over a short period of time, and adversely affects memory? Didn’t think not sleeping could have such an impact, huh? The article also suggested setting a bedtime routine to help ease into sleep and have a more restful night ~ I’ve read that in a few different places, so it warrants heeding the advice! 

5.  Let go of grudges. Forgiveness has everything to do with you, and very little to do with the person/people you are forgiving.  It takes a lot of energy to hold a grudge and be angry.  It’s not good for you, period.  Forgiving someone allows you to move on and forget.  My favorite piece of advice?  Write down what angered you and how you felt about it ~ it allows you to release it and stop carrying it around.  It also allows you to clarify your emotions, and ultimately, forgive.  

6.  Break bad habits.  So fascinating.  A study was done about eating popcorn at the movies.  Groups were given fresh popcorn, and then stale popcorn.  Those who habitually ate popcorn at the movies ate the stale popcorn, but when presented with stale popcorn at a conference table, declined it.  This study linked habitual behaviour situationally, which makes perfect sense.  Also fascinating?  When the popcorn eaters tried using their non-dominant hand, they were also deterred from eating the stale popcorn.  It amazed me that such a small change in the routine or habit could be enough of a trigger to make people think before engaging in a habit.  I definitely want to put this theory into practice.  Need to curb my Starbucks addiction! 

7.  Add ‘me’ moments.  We all need to re-charge ~ like batteries.  I don’t think this idea needs any selling ~ but it does need scheduling.  A suggestion by this article?  Take three to five minutes throughout the work day to close you eyes and breath deeply.  Sounds silly but I’m going to give it a try.  I have nothing to lose!

I also love to remember the Four Agreements ~

1.  Be Impeccable With Your Word.  Do you have any idea how difficult this is to keep?  So challenging.  It also reminds me how often I say things that are negative.  Words are powerful and they cannot be taken back. I still remember some particularly harsh words that were directed at me, and how much they stung.  It’s never a bad idea to think before speaking.  It will benefit everyone.  

2. Don’t Take Things Personally.  I think this is the agreement that affects me the most obviously.  It’s hard not to take things personally ~ especially if you are sensitive or insecure.  But the truth is, most people are so wrapped up in themselves (as you are for thinking everything is about you) that their anger/harsh words/judgement/etc are about what’s going on with them, and has nothing to do with you.  Tough one to remember when your feelings are hurt but definitely worth it. 

3.  Don’t Make Assumptions. Oy.  This is difficult as well, but goes hand in hand with not taking things personally.  It’s easy to think there are hidden reasons and motivations for other’s actions/inactions, but making assumptions really only sets us up for disappointment.  How can someone do something without knowing you are expecting it?  People can’t usually read each other’s minds, so making assumptions can leave us all in dangerous territory.  Just sayin’! 

4. Always Do Your Best.  This rule is great ~ it pretty much says ~ ‘yes, the first three agreements are hard, and you aren’t always going to be able to maintain them, but just do your best, and then you haven’t left anything on the table and you can feel as though you are constantly and actively trying to be the very best version of you that you can be.’  I love this rule because it immediately implies that no one is perfect, and we will all struggle.  That’s a huge weight off the ole shoulders.  

oh sandy

The shelves at the grocery store last night ~ I stopped in for a couple things, and didn’t realize how serious the storm was.  Yowza.

Today, the man and I are both working from home, which has been nice ~if you can use ‘nice’ during a category 1 hurricane.  Lucy was very excited at first, but halfway through the morning, she realized that we were both more interested in our computers, and she retreated to her bed to sulk.

I cannot imagine how my mother must have felt when I pulled stuff like that.  As a doggy mummy, I felt wretched.  Finally I set up on the couch, so she could snuggle up beside me.

We just heard that one of the tall ships ~ the Bounty, off the coast of North Carolina ~ has gone down. The crew was evacuated due to Sandy, and 14 are safe, while 2 are missing.  The more we addictively we watch the weather channel, the more worrying it becomes.   I’m dreading when the power finally goes out ~ it’s been predicted to be out for long periods of time.  Which makes me very anxious.

Luckily, so far all the immediate family members are okay, which makes me feel better.

On a lighter note, we had a great tailgate at PSU this weekend, despite the very disappointing loss to Ohio State.  My little bro has a Halloween addiction, so he had pumpkins and was dressed in an amazing costume ~ we also had candy and Halloween cupcake cookies (seriously ~ ah.may.zing) plus incredible pulled pork, butcher sausages and multiple other munchies.

We had additional seats for this game, so the man and I got to watch from the west side of the stadium (a rarity for me ~ we’ve been in EF/ EFU my whole life!).

My daddy, me and Richie Tenenbaum, er, my little brother.

The man and I at half time.  It was a White Out, and we were a little tired (we certainly look it!).  We managed to rally for the second half (it didn’t help PSU) and we were there to sing the Alma Mater post-game.  Bill O’Brien is a cool, classy coach.

My brother’s pumpkins … sadly, we had to leave them behind.  But they were pretty cool.  And he carved them all free-hand, which was uber impressive.  He’s a talented guy, my little bro.

 

We Are (Always) Penn State

It’s been nearly a year since everything about being a Penn Stater seemed to change.  This weekend marks our (my family and friends) first big tailgate of the season and we have spent this week preparing and emailing furiously amongst our group laying the plans for an it to be epic.

I mean, when you combine the Ohio State game with Halloween, there is only one logical conclusion ~ amazingly fun time.  Obviously!

It feels familiar and good to be heading to State College amped up for a football game.  And despite everything that has come since November 2011, I can say with certainty that not much has changed about being a Penn Stater.  We’re still incredibly proud of our university, fiercely supportive of our players, and always ready to stand up and be heard.
We Are.

Always.

Penn State.

***

Love ya Lions.

dinner date downtown

Every once in a while, the man and I enjoy dinner on the town.  This past weekend, after the executive decision was made that I would have to run a half marathon another day (Side note: I feel a little like a 90-year-old because I’ve been having issues with my hip … it hurts!) we decided to have a date night.

We took Lucy Lou for a nice hike at Valley Green (she loves running off the leash and Valley Green has a doggy paradise) in the morning and then headed downtown to meander.  I had to stop in at work and afterwards, we just enjoyed the city on a beautiful Saturday afternoon.

And then we hit up an amazing restaurant for dinner.  We went early (further cementing my 90-year-old status) but on the plus side, we got great service at a busy restaurant on a Saturday night, and we got home before Lucy decided to disown us as terrible doggy parents.

We arrived shortly after the restaurant opened, and while perusing the wine list, discovered our favorite local vineyard (previously only featured at one restaurant -now closed- in Chicago, Charlie Trotters).  Then we made the executive decision to do the Chef’s Tasting Menu.

Delish.

I won’t go into detail about each course ( two amuse-bouche, four full courses, a cheese course, dessert and a final bite) ~ but it was an incredible and worthwhile experience.

I will say that I loved the autumn spaetzel and New York Game Hen (the fourth course), the ridic Fois Gras Tart and Cranberry Compote (first full course) and the Sweet Pignoli Cookies with lemon curd perhaps a little more than the rest.  But what an experience.  Our server was equal parts friendly conversationalist and informed foodie (side note: I actually hate that word but use it here with much respect for her knowledge and enthusiasm).  We received a complimentary glass of bubbles for our Tasting Menu order as well as granola to bring home and had an incredible dinner.  I could wax poetic about it for paragraphs but I feel as though that would be extremely excessive.

Something else that was impressive to me ~ the cheese course, which consisted of three Pennsylvania cheeses, one New York and one Virginia.  Pretty locally awesome.  Loved it.

A detail that also made my heart swell?  The quote at the bottom of the menu ~ by George Eliot (considered one of the most prominent writers of the Victorian Era).

weekend bonfire

Okay, so I’m still working on getting good shots with the panorama feature on my phone, but this is a (bad) picture of our kitchen mantle, after I got a little enthusiastic at Michael’s (fall leaf garlands?!? = must.have!).

And here is our living room mantle (pop quiz: name a benefit of living in an apartment that was originally an antique store?  yup, that’s right folks ~ two ornamental mantlepieces!).

Last weekend, a few of my girl friends from highschool and their guys journeyed from Philadelphia (I realize that makes it sound epic ~ we’re only 12 miles from Center City so it can be done in 35 -45 minutes if the traffic isn’t bad) to our little country house for dinner and a bonfire.

It was one of the best evenings I’ve had in a long time.

First, it was awesome to have our friends over (the man and I love to entertain) but also, isn’t it so great to spend time with people who have known you since pretty much the beginning of you?  I moved to Wyomissing between my sophomore and junior year in highschool, and I feel blessed that these two ladies are still/again in my life.  It’s comforting (I know, I use that a lot but I love feeling comfy!) to be with people who know your family, who understand where you came from.  And, both their guys are fantastic too, so all around, it was so much fun!  (I’m gushing.  I know.  But seriously.  I -and the man- had such a good time!).

Second, the man and I love doing stuff like this.  Prior to their arrival Saturday evening, we did some decoration shopping (I had this idea of how I wanted everything to feel so we went on a mission and I felt supremely satisfied after our sojourn) and meal prepping.  We were presented with a few meal-planning challenges (which is too strong a word, but my brain seems to be short-circuiting in the synonym department) because one of my friends is a pescatarian and the other doesn’t eat gluten (better women than me for staying disciplined!).  Some of our tried and true dinner menu items were out (sadly, no hickory smoked cheese bread … ah well!).  We ended up making Smitten Kitchen’s Buttermilk Chicken and cooking it on the grill, vegetarian stuffed peppers and potobello mushrooms, and oven-roasted potatoes.  For dessert, I whipped out a favorite from IGE ~ crispy homemade peanut butter cups.  We also enjoyed some amazing cookies and delicious Pumpkin Beer (I am now a huge fan!), as well as a few nice reds, a tasty white & a bottle of bubbles to celebrate bar passages and game releases, and upcoming tests, and just getting together!

After dinner we all ‘retired’ to the firepit with hot mugs of cider (some spiked, others -like mine- as is -because that’s how I like it!).  Before we knew it, it was past midnight and everyone headed home.  But what a great evening! I like remembering really fun times, and I especially like reminiscing during a particularly stressful time at work.  It cheers me up to no end.

Happy Fall!  Next up … our first major PSU tailgate for OSU next weekend.  It’s a white out ~ we have a spreadsheet for who is bringing what ~ it’s going to be epic.  (And hopefully, very organized!)

stopping in

I realize that I have become woefully negligent about this blog.

I still love it ~ don’t get me wrong.  But since my life got busy (what feels like) eons ago (but in reality was late July of last year when the ownership of the company I work for changed and my job got … well, a lot bigger) it’s been very hard to find time to try new recipes regularly, and sit down to blog about life.  In addition, I had that moment a few weeks ago when I stopped to take stock of why I do this.

This is going to sound cheesy ~ but there is something really interesting in going back and rediscovering yourself a year earlier ~ reading my thoughts, and how I phrased things ~ figuring out what has changed in me.  It’s at once grounding, as well as refreshing ~ sometimes this blog reminds me of who I am, when I am feeling a little lost, and a little far away from things.  Sometimes it sparks a curiosity I forgot I had … other times it makes me smile to have a documentation of the last year & a bit of my life.  A way to remember small things that would otherwise be forgotten.

Also, even though I am pretty sure I will never have a little person of my own, I do think about what a gift something like this would be to a daughter (or a son).  My mother writes ~ I’ve read multiple pieces of her fiction, as well as articles she’s written for magazines.  It amazes me how reading someone’s words give you a new perspective as to who that person is ~ my mother became more than my mother to me.  She became a person, full of imagination and life and thoughts and dreams and passions and intellect that had absolutely nothing to do with her being a parent.  Very powerful ~ a precious gift I would like to give any daughter of mine (real, or in my case, imaginary!).

I’ve been so tired lately ~ so many things going on and never enough time in the day.  It’s definitely true that the older you get, the faster time slips by.  Today, while waiting for my daily Soy Chai (I have tried, in vain, to give these up ~ I swear, they are more addictive than nicotine), the lovely barista asked if I’d finished school yet.  When I said yes, he said, “No, I don’t mean high school.  I mean college.”  Ha!  What a sweetie!  When I told him that it had been nearly 10 years since I’d received my degree, he actually looked shocked.  It definitely made my day.  Anyone would love to be mistaken for being over ten years younger than they actually are ~ when a person is tired and feeling as bleh as I was feeling this morning ~ it was one of the best compliments in the world.

To add to my very sweet Wednesday, I made myself Trader Joe’s Butternut Squash Triangolini for lunch and am very excited to dive in.  I have to say, it’s pretty amazing stuff.  Last year I mixed it with chunks of roasted squash but this year, I’m going to just enjoy it solo.  It’s pretty sweet, so it almost feels like dessert.  I knew I had to make it soon, before it reached it’s expiration date ~ and I am going to take the plunge and try to give up gluten for real, so I knew it had to be eaten up, or forfeited completely!

Wishing you a happy Wednesday with lovely surprises and yummy treats, as well!

 

more adventures in wyoming

 

When we planned this trip, we had a couple ideas of what we wanted to see and/or do.  We didn’t even get half of it in, but we did do several things we really enjoyed.

A few highlights …

One of the most touristy places in town, the Million Dollar Cowboy Bar, had saddle bar stools.  I thought they were a riot.  And we each had ourselves a bottle of Moose Drool Brown Ale.  Yum.  

 

How adorable is this?  And on the other side? His little hiney hanging out that back.  The pictures aren’t very good though, because the lighting was difficult.  You will just have to imagine!

We checked out a local brewery (we tried to find a vineyard … but the only one that exists didn’t have a tasting room … bummer).  I had an amazing Sour Ale (my new obsession) and the man enjoyed a couple really tasty brews.  Well worth walking all over the quaint village of Jackson trying to find it!  We also witnessed a very beautiful moon on our way home.

 

 

 

 

We rode the Red Tram to the top of the ski slopes and, despite my paralyzing fear of heights, enjoyed the scenery, the chilly temps and the strong gusts of wind.

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Tram, and a view backward during the ride up. 

 

The valley below. 

 

 

 

 

The man out on the platform that I couldn’t walk out to ~ I even had to enter the Tram to go back down through the out-door.  (I was literally paralyzed by fear ~ the drop off was very steep, and the wind was very strong!)

 

 

 

The Teton Village is at 6100 ft, and the Tram takes 12 and a half minutes to travel two and half miles ‘up’ to 10, 450 ft.  As I mentioned, it was chilly ~ especially as it was about 72 degrees when we hopped on the Tram at the bottom!  Luckily, I was prepared with a scarf and a jacket!

 

 

My favorite pic of us from the vacation.  Too bad there is zero scenery in it!

 

 

 

 

We saw the sun rise over the Grand Tetons, saw animal herds, and enjoyed as much of the scenery as we could.  Every day since we’ve left, I’ve wished we were still there, breathing in the fresh, dry Wyoming air, and watching the sun creep over the peaks of the mountains, the colors of the slopes changing and morphing as the sun rises in the sky.

 

Entering the park on National Park Day!

At this point, we’d already seen a few elk lazily crossing the highway in the pitch dark.  Those guys are pretty big! 

 

 

 

Another elk herd in Grand Teton National Park.  

 

Even driving is beautiful.

 

 

I know all the pictures of the mountains are probably starting to look alike, but it was just so magical.  I wish that pictures could show what we saw ~ what it felt like to look up and feel so very small.  

 

 

Saturday early morning drive ~ all bundled so we could drive with the roof off and enjoy the scenery.

Driving.  

The sun rising. 

 

 

 

More mountains as the sun came up.  Aren’t the colors incredible? 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We drove around Jenny Lake, and Leigh Lake and up to Signal Mountain Lodge, along the shores of Jackson Lake.  We had an amazing breakfast at the Signal Mountain Lodge (Trout Eggs Benny ~ so good); we climbed down to the bank of Jenny Lake (still hazy with smoke from fires a few weeks before we arrived) and up to the Signal Mountain Summit where we could see the mountain range and the lakes and the valley.  Everything was more beautiful than the last ~ it was constant feasting for the eyes.

Jenny Lake. 

 

 

 

 

Jenny, Leigh and Jackson Lakes are glacier lakes, so they are over 200 feet deep in places. 

 

 

 

 

The path at Signal Mountain Summit.

 

 

 

 

Another attempt at a self-pic! Crooked mountains in the background!

 

 

On Saturday evening, after all our adventuring, and another dip in the pool and hot tubs and sauna (indulgence!) we headed out to dinner by way of the park, because this little lady was determined to see a moose.  Unfortunately, we missed major moose sightings all weekend (other people were more than happy to tell us all about their sightings, which just made me more sad that we missed seeing one!).  But we did hear several bull elks bugling as the sun went down.  It was very peaceful and the man was completely enraptured.

Mr. MOOSE! Where are you? 

 

(My artistic picture of our fruit-less search for a moose.) 

 

 

Our last sunset in Wyoming.

I’m so glad we took the time to go ~ it was a part of America I’d never experienced before, and the scale of things is so unlike anything I have encountered.  I can’t wait to go back.

 

oh purple mountains majesty above the fruited plain

This past weekend, the man and I had the great pleasure of taking a little trip to Jackson Hole, Wyoming.  It was much-needed, and absolutely breath-taking.

Sadly, pictures do not do justice to the utter gorgeous-ness of the terrain, but I am going to share some anyway, because it was such an incredible and beautiful experience.  I can’t wait to go back.

We stayed at the Snake River Lodge and Spa, which has just undergone an ownership change, so I’m not sure how much of what we saw and enjoyed at the resort will still be intact when they re-open for the ski season this winter.  Buuut, we really loved the room, with the cozy fireplace, comfy bed and steam room shower, and the pool was amazing.  I realized I hadn’t been in a pool in years, so I was very excited about it.

We arrived at mid-day on Thursday, and we went immediately to the John Moulton Barn on Mormon Row in the Grand Teton National Park.  I had been hankering to see it in person after seeing all the stunning pictures of it.

Not quite what I was expecting, but oh my goodness, the mountains!  We were on the ground for less than 20 minutes, and we’d already seen antelope, a herd of bison and the barn I’d been day-dreaming about since before we planned the trip.

Ahhh.  Bliss!

In fact, I was so in awe of the sheer beauty of the mountains, I started taking pictures at the airport.  There are no ramps to board planes at Jackson Hole, so you exit the plane and walk across the tarmac.  The entire walk, I was gushing.  So stupendous.

We upgraded our rental,  so we spent the weekend driving a four door Jeep Wrangler with the front of the roof off.  Amazing.  I felt totally indulgent the entire time.

On Friday, after a good old-fashioned country breakfast, we drove over the Teton Pass into Idaho.  I was white-knuckled the entire time (good lord that road was steep, winding and seemingly narrow!).

  A view from the top of the Teton Pass.

A scenic trail in Idaho.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

It was amazing the temperature difference when we stopped at the peak of the mountains (I was also grateful to take a little break and get my feet on solid ground for a minute).

The road from a distance, heading back to Wyoming. 

 

 

 

 

The mountains in Idaho.

 

 

 

 

I was obsessed with the birch trees.

 

 

 

 

 

Bundled and picture happy. 

 

 

 

 

Sunny skies. 

 

 

 

 

The Jeep, semi-topless.  ;)

 

 

 

 

Isn’t my man a cutie?

 

 

 

 

On Saturday we took full advantage of National Park Day (all parks are free!) and got up before the sun to try to catch the herds of animals moving.  We saw a lot of elk, including two monster bull elks ~ gi-normous racks.  I’m not sure how those animals hold their heads up.  It was amazing to watch and to see the majesty of the park as it came to life.   Those pics will be up tomorrow!  I will say that Mr. Moose eluded us.  I guess we’ll have to go back!