Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Document: January (12 in 2012)

Is it the end of January already?  Oh my!

Normally, I don't speed through January.  The last five Januarys I had my birthday quickly followed by (or during) RA mid-year training, followed by a few days of welcoming students who were in for intensives or who had transferred mid-year before classes began.  Week 1 of classes is no big deal; everyone is happy to be back at school and full of stories from Break; February is looming and seems forever away.  But this year, no way!

As far as decelerating goes, January was my first crash-and-burn month.  There were a few things out of my control that led to this (getting stranded at a friend's house in Richmond due to inclement weather, Doug's grandfather passing away), but overall I fell into the one trap I was trying to avoid -- Resolution Overcompensation.  I purposefully spend time trying to figure out everything I wanted to do this year and splitting those things up into the 12 months of the year.  Did that stop me from trying to get too much done?  No!  The 444 Plan was delayed due to the aforementioned circumstances, which pushed them into the first week of classes, leaving me stressed out by my own arbitrary deadlines.  I'm not going to "fail" or "get fired" from housekeeping; everyone has incidents and emergencies that take extra time and energy to handle.

Anyways, I am back on track now! (Especially since my husband sat me down last week to tell me to chill out and stop killing myself over reorganizing closets -- have I mentioned how amazing he is?)  Our living room is redecorated and usable.  We have an extra end table (also functioning as our game cabinet) and an area for me to keep my school work and textbooks organized.  I am still waiting to get my curtains put up, but that is a minor addition.   
Textbooks ready to use, remotes handy, and some extra lighting available.
Perfect space to hold our games and have and end table.

Our bedroom is much cleaner and more organized, including a finance center and mail center.  Our kitchen is clean and organized.  We finally got our Baker's Rack set up and everything placed where we wanted.

The Baker's Rack fit perfectly next to our pantry.

We finally have a usable table now that it is not against a wall.

I have read 14 books so far this year (including 6 new books).  I have tried 5 new recipes, and I have made up 2 of my own recipes -- Alfredo Spinach Lasagna Rolls and Apple, Onion, and Cheddar Grilled Cheese.

Grilled Apple, Onion, and Cheddar Sandwiches -- perfect blend of sweet and savory!

I also have more materials to begin on my February Resolution to get our Scrapbook up to date and our pictures organized.  I am starting to lose weight and inches at the gym (whoo-hoo!) and have started using their electronic personal trainer.  I should be attending my first Zumba class this week.

I think the biggest difference is that I have made a much bigger effort to stay connected with my friends; Doug and I have had so much happen in the last 6 (almost 7) months of our marriage that has kept us too busy or traveling non-stop to spend a lot of quality time with our friends.  In the week, I have been able to set up weekly lunch dates with one friend, catch up over the phone with another, and catch up with 3 other friends.  We are having some of our closest married friends over for dinner tonight.  We made plans for friends to come in and visit with us.  It's just too easy to get stuck in the details of life and drop the things that really matter, but when you focus on what matters, those details just seem to fall into place.

Monday, January 23, 2012


Disoriented (adjective):  confused, mixed up, not adjusted

What is that they say about the best laid plans of mice and men?

After finishing up most of the 444 plan, I had shared how Doug and I were going to be working to finish organizing our apartment by the end of January.  Well, things don't always go as you plan them.  Classes began last week, taking up more time than we realized it would.  On top of this, Doug's grandfather passed away, requiring time and travel (not to mention a lot of emotions) during the middle of the week.  When we started to get back into the swing of things, we had a lot of schoolwork to make up and a lot of apartment left to clean!

We were able to catch up with school and get a few things set up (like the Baker's Rack in my kitchen), but dishes and laundry pause for no man!  To me, getting all these things done in a week's time was ridiculous; Doug had to remind me that I was trying to keep up with my own deadline.  Isn't it funny how things like that just creep up on you?  Having our apartment done by January was just chosen in order to spread out my "resolutions" throughout the year in order to stop myself from trying to accomplish too much at once, and I was running myself ragged trying to get too much done!

So, here I am, taking another day off from maniacally cleaning and reorganizing in order to enjoy life.  I had lunch with a friend.  I had a phone date with another friend.  I got to hang out with my husband.  I might even take a nap *gasp*  The point is that I am still learning to decelerate; I am still adjusting to living life based on values and priorities, not deadlines and expectations.  And I think a lot of us are fighting that battle!

Anyways!  My point is that goals and resolutions are good things, but we need to focus on the reason behind the goal much more than the expectation or deadline attached to it.  I hope this realization encourages you as much as it has encouraged me!

P.S. Don't worry, I will still post re-organizing pictures and updates on how we got our apartment into working order!!!

Friday, January 20, 2012


Discover (verb):  find, encounter

The majority of my time recently has been in trying new recipes and new books -- my two passions:  cooking and reading!

First, I took some recipes that I already liked (i.e. broccoli cheddar soup) and tried some similar recipes (like broccoli potato soup) that I found through Taste of Home's website.  I also picked food that I really like (i.e. calamari) and found recipes with those ingredients (Calamari, Asparagus, and Tangerine Salad).  Taste of Home also send e-recipes on a daily basis (and some specialty items on a weekly basis).  That has really opened up my recipe list!  Different blogs I follow and Pinterest have also given me a lot of recipe and recipe ideas.  I also love watching Food Network; you can learn a lot of techniques and a lot about rare ingredients by watching different shows.

As far as reading, I have a long list of books I want to read (or re-read), but I have also been interested in some newer books, particularly a few that have become movies.  Something that really has helped with this is my Nook; I was able to download some free book previews to read a bit before buying the book.  Of course anyone can do this in most bookstores, but having it anytime on my Nook makes this really simple.

Over Christmas I re-read the Percy Jackson series and the available books in the Heroes of Olympics series (Mark of Athena comes out this Fall!); my husband bought me the Hunger Games trilogy, which I read in under 48 hours -- Warning:  I was so emotionally attached to the characters that it necessitated me finishing the books so quickly.  If you are not very empathetic, you might not be as drawn in, but the books are still very interesting.  I also really enjoyed Something Borrowed and Something Blue; it reminded me of Sarah Strohmeyer's and Sophie Kinsella's books.  One for the Money was also very good; I read before going to bed, and it became a little intense for me, but I enjoyed the book.  Doug just started reading Harry Potter for the first time; since I have only read through them once, I decided to read through them again!

For those of you who want to read more, I really suggest finding about 30-40 minutes every day that you can read.  Most of the time I read before going to bed; it helps me clear my mind for the day and begin to rest.  My husband reads more in the morning to wake up his mind.  The point is, anything that really matters to you, you will make time for.  Also, don't start with War and Peace (unless it's your favorite or something).  Pick an author or series that you like (or have friends who like) and start with that.  I like working through different series because the story lasts longer this way; plus, you already know the characters and context!

Anyways!  There is much more to discover than recipes and books; just don't be afraid to try something new or work to make yourself better!

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Determination: January Update

For my 12 in 2012 resolutions, I am working towards an organized apartment.  As the 444 plan nears completion, Doug and I sat down to write out what else we need to accomplish to get our apartment in working order.  For us, the easiest way to do this is by handling one room at a time.  Not only does it seem easier than tackling the "whole apartment,"  it is encouraging to finish one place completely and use that space as motivation to work on the rest, kind of like the snowball method of paying off debt.

To finish out the 444 plan, we need to work on the bedroom first.  Since I lived in our apartment before we got married, most of my things are in our bedroom, including the fact that I am taking up the entire closet right now.  Once clothes are sorted (and hopefully many given to charity), there should be a lot more room in our closet for Doug's clothes.  Doug has also been using the guest room dresser, so we are moving that into our room.  This should take about 3 days to accomplish.

We need to work on the living room, too.  We still have our Christmas decorations up (scandalous!), and our tree takes up a good amount of space in our living room.  Once all the furniture is back where it belongs, we can move our game cabinet out to the living room, Doug can hang up our curtain rod and curtains, and I can set up my school books for this 8 weeks.  Pretty simple stuff -- 1 day to do!

Next we are going to finish the kitchen.  It is much more streamline and usable now, but we want to make sure that every storage space is being used its best capacity.  We have a beautiful Baker's Rack (courtesy of my Gram and Pap Finnigan) that we have been using for storage in our pantry; however, the bottom shelf is completely empty, and we only use the closet edge of the shelves.  By moving this out next to our pantry (and maybe adding some wicker "catch all" baskets), we can fully use this lovely rack.  Our pantry also has a bar under the shelving where we are planning on hanging some closet organizers to store snacks and boxed items.  I am also hoping to get a few nice containers to hold pasta and rice.  Then we are going to be rearranging a few cabinets and drawers...anyways!  You'll see when it's finished ;)  This might take a whole week.

Finally, we tackle the guest bedroom.  I have wanted to change the set up of that room since June, but we were either travelling, had visitors, or were too busy with school to move things around.  Doug's desk takes up the middle of the room, which has made it difficult for us to have guest comfortably; by moving his computer to the far end of the room and relocating the guest quarters closer to the door, we should be able to maintain both more easily.  This should take 2-3 days.

That leaves three days to clean the bathroom (no reorganizing necessary), clean up the front closet (make sure everything is put away), and clean up the linen closet (stack towels nicely, make sure sheets are folded).  We should begin February clean and organized!!!  And this time, I will remember to shoot some before pictures ;)

Devise: Finishing the 444 Plan

Well, in 3 days my deadline for the 444 plan will be upon me.  I think I have done a pretty good job of my plan so far!!!

1. Clothing.  This is the one task that is not complete yet, mainly because my husband and I got behind on laundry due to our frequent travelling.  We added in an extra trip to Richmond this last week to celebrate a friend's birthday, so we got even more behind!  We have been able to get 4 out of 5 loads done in the last two days; now that I have clean clothes to put away, I can actually begin sorting!  We are hoping to have dressers and closets full and set by Monday (which will be right on schedule).

2. Kitchen.  Doug and I have done a major overhaul to our kitchen, especially in regards to furniture placement.  We still have a little work to do (mainly reorganizing a few drawers, cleaning out the hutch cabinets, reorganizing the pantry, and setting up my Baker's Rack in the kitchen).  I was so excited to get things moved I forgot to take before pictures!!!  Here's what the after looked like...just use your imagination for the befores ;)

We moved the laundry units next to the counter to the corner for more space and easier access.

By placing the dish drainer in the second sink, we could use up the corner space more practically.

We moved the grill over to where our microwave had been and added a kitchen cart for more "counter" space.

Other than "counter" space, we moved some pretty casserole dishes onto the cart for color and to free up cabinet space.

Almost all of the boxes/gadgets are down!  Now we have extra space for...something.
We also moved our table (you can see a chair in a few pics) from the space under the window to the middle of the wall.  We decided to have it stick out into the kitchen instead of being against the wall so that it would be more accessible.  We cart we got (about $40 from Wal*mart) was easy to assemble, and the racks can be positioned at any height.  That, plus a little rearranging, made such a huge transformation in our kitchen, especially making it easier for me to reach the supplies I needed to cook!

3. Menu/Grocery Planning.  I have already shown you the menus I made running from January to May; I have finally finished the grocery lists as well!  I am still planning on checking the ads each week to look for sales (example:  this week meat is on sale, so I sent Doug to pick up a few things I was planning on buying next week), but what we need is clearly laid out.  I have all the menus and grocery lists printed and placed in a binder, but I have not printed out the necessary recipes yet.  Maybe when I do the Summer Menus, I'll have time to add in the printed recipes!

4. Paperwork Clutter/Finances.  I had been planning on moving the mail/finance center to the kitchen (where we are currently storing our file box); however, this week I decided to keep all of that in our bedroom.  I want to be able to keep the kitchen table clean, which just won't happen with mail and receipts piled around it.  I have a free corner of space next to my dresser in our bedroom where our file box could fit, along with "the book" (my record of our finances).  Most of our financial information is in electronic documents on my laptop, so I can easily move and work there.  My dresser is also right next to our bedroom door, which makes a great place for dropping off mail.  Doug grabs the mail when he gets home from work and (normally) heads straight to the bedroom to change, which makes it a good "drop spot."  Unfortunately this realization must be put on hold until I get the clean laundry baskets (which are currently in that corner) emptied and put back where they belong ;)  This too should be done by Monday.

Anyways!  I hope that this encouraged you to do a little bit of work to keep you organized until Spring!

Sunday, January 8, 2012


Disappointment (noun):  saddening situation, letdown

The beginning of 2012 has been a bit crazy, but wonderful.  Doug and I relaxed over New Years and spent some time visiting with Doug Sr. and Bethany during our "weekend."  Doug took off Friday and Saturday to spend time with me for my BIRTHDAY!  I can't believe I am 25 -- a quarter century.  I really wanted to keep it low-key since we had been traveling a lot for Christmas, so he got me some presents and we went out for a nice lunch at Red Lobster.  I spent some of my Christmas/Birthday money on a Nook and downloaded about 100 books (all for free) -- my kind of Birthday!

When I woke up this morning, however, I felt disappointed.  Classes begin in 8 days, meaning I have 8 days left to complete my 444 plan!!!  I just felt overwhelmed with too much to do -- not to mention normal chores and errands.  I think a lot of people feel this way, especially at the beginning of a New Year when there is so much left unaccomplished from the last year and high hopes for the coming year.  For me, I took a break.  I gave myself an hour to just relax and enjoy a beautiful Sunday -- sunny and 52 outside in January?  That needs to be enjoyed!  After a little break, I was able to calmly prioritize my To Do list for the week.  I realized that I have accomplished much more than I thought.  More importantly, I had actually enjoyed the holidays and my birthday without worry or stress!  That is a huge accomplishment for an avid worrier like me.

I have heard that all disappointment is from unmet expectations.  I tend to focus more on the few unmet expectations than on the many exceeded expectations.  I have been so blessed this past year, more recently for Christmas and my birthday, and that should not be forgotten due to my expectations (which are often unrealistic).  Will I accomplish my 444 in time?  I think a better question to ask is "Will I accomplish what matters this week?".