Tuesday, December 31, 2013

2013: A Year In Review

I picked a good year to do the Year in Review Jar. Granted, it wasn't easy to keep up with it (my dry-erase calendar became my "to write down" calendar, forcing me to do the project at the end of every month before I erased the marker), but this year has been pretty intense:

It was the year I left preschool teaching. I make no bones about the fact that, to this day, I am still coming to terms with leaving the profession I swore was tailor-made for me. But a change was overdue (way overdue) and I don't regret leaving it in the least. If I had to give 2013 a title, it would be: "The Year I Learned It's Okay to be Lost."

It was the year we bought a house. I'm still amazed at how quickly (or relatively quickly) it all came together. One minute we're saving every penny we can, the next, we're closing on our house. And while the homebuying experience left little to be desired, we couldn't have asked for a nicer house in a nicer town.

It was the year we drove across the country and back. I'm all about knocking at least one thing off my bucket list per year, and this year it was the cross-country drive. I'm still posting pictures from it (because I took just that many) and it was an experience I won't soon forget. I realized I had judged a lot of cities wrongly (like Salt Lake City or Cheyenne) while other places were exactly what I expected (like Reno). We then drove to Ohio and back for Christmas, because every good cross-country drive needs a good cross-1/3-of-country drive to complement it.

It was the year I got signed to a new agency. And to an agency that rejected me when I first started out modeling. The path that getting me signed has been a pretty stellar one. I'm not exactly raking in the dough (or flying off to Milan), but working in a Volvo commercial and getting to audition for names like Saks Fifth Avenue and Neiman Marcus is not a bad way to be.

It was the year that I finally got to call myself a writer with some authority. From two viral essays, to winning NaNoWriMo for the second year in a row, to working with a website's publishing house for a potential e-book/collection of essays deal, I can finally call myself a writer and have the chops to back it up. I still don't make a living with it, but it's a long way's away from shrugging my shoulders and going, "Well I have this blog...and I write stuff that no one has read..."

It was the year I learned just how much I love Boston. The bombing attacks shook me to my core, proving that you never know how you are going to respond when it's your town they attack, when it's your streets that are littered with debris. The attack brought us all a little closer together, made us appreciate what we have a little bit more, and motivated us to go just a little be farther. I know I'm not alone in the newfound motivation to run distance in the name of their city.

2014 is shaping up to be just as insane of a year. From the Chicago marathon to my new tai chi job to going back to school to become a registered yoga teacher. I'm looking in a few new avenues for my writing, so we will see how that goes. I like living interestingly, even if that means being stressed or frustrated or confused, so here's to an exciting and eventful (and interesting!) 2014.

Friday, December 27, 2013

Photo Friday: The Last of San Francisco

And the sun sets on San Francisco -- both figuratively and literally. It seems fitting that I finish off the year with photos of a setting sun. I know they're as clichéd as clichéd can get, but I still enjoy taking them, editing them, and posting them. So hopefully you'll enjoy looking at them =).

Good news: I didn't take nearly as many photos on the way back as I did on the way there. So maybe -- just maybe -- we'll finish up photos from the road trip soon. Not like I've been taking many photographs as of late, but hey, who knows. Maybe with the start of 2014 -- as well as my new tai chi teaching position and my yoga training classes -- I'll find the extra gumption to take some photos as well.

Monday, December 23, 2013

Christmas Megapost #2

Christmas Eve might be tomorrow, but that won't stop me. If you are still looking for decorating ideas, you've come to the right place.

I want to put this one first because it's probably the most ingenious idea. Invented by my husband after the cats knocked down the candles for the 50th time, this is a foolproof way to keep your candles in one place. Place a plastic ziptie around the base of the candle, and wedge the end of the ziptie into the window. You can add a second ziptie to the cord to keep the cord from getting in the way.

Since this is our first Christmas with a house, this is also our first Christmas with a Real Tree. I'm not one for tinsel, but I do love getting that extra shine. The solution? Crystal (or, in this case, glass) balls that help reflect the Christmas tree lights.

I have more ribbon than I know what to do with. Simple solution? Tie bows into the tree. Since the fake tree was a lot more sparse than our real one, so it was nice to fill the rest in with ribbon.

Between feeding the chickens and going on my runs, our back porch gets way more traffic than it should in the winter. That's why I got a standard floor mat for wiping off shoes -- as well as a bathroom mat to store the shoes. I figured a bathroom mat would absorb the wet snow a lot more than a regular mat, meant more for wiping off the yuck more than anything else.

And of course sometimes those mats are meant to absorb fat chihuahuas with identity issues.

I looped the holly around my coffee bar, because I learned the hard way that garland over the kitchen cabinets is more hassel than its worth.

It's funny, going from an apartment where you feel like you are one purchase away from completely bursting out of, to a house where you don't even have enough furniture for all the rooms. Our dining room now hosts a decorative side table and a card table in the center and little much else. So, why not turn the dining room into the showcase for a tiny Christmas village?

The infamous library room. Once a place where we stored all our boxes in our move, now a place where we store my husband's vast collection of books (not pictured: three full-sized shelves filled to the brim with sci-fi and fantasy books) and we (at least I) work out. It's tough to decorate a room that is used so pragmatically, so I just looped a silver tinsel garland over the cabinet doors.

I love centerpieces on our table, but both my husband and I prefer to have as little on the table as possible. The solution? Snowman cookie jar as a centerpiece (not pictured: the Christmas "Joy" placemats I got at Target.)

I love the open foyer in our house, and I was psyched to decorate the railing facing the door with garland.

I love garland, but I worry about the gaudiness of using too much of it. Solution? Use the garlands made of pearl-beads and wrap it around a bannister.

The red bow was facetiously bought when I finally got a car of my own (being a Bostonian, I hadn't own a car since high school, and I biked everywhere after our initial move out of the city). Because, as I saw it: Lexuses get the big bows -- Subarus get a $2 one from Target. But, being the sentimental person that I am, the last thing I was going to do was throw it away or use it on someone else's present (and have them throw it away). I decided to accent the other handrail with it instead. All I needed to do was feed a ribbon through two of the back loops and tie it to the base of the handrail.

This slowly-dying kitchen mat is now at our front door. Just a little extra guard between the snow and my house (which I still treat like my baby).

Hey, remember my Ribbon Christmas Wreath? It has found a home on the front of the basement door. Since the garage is in the basement, that door is used more than our own front door. So why not spruce it up a bit? (And it definitely looks a lot less depressing in a house with white doors and lots of natural light, as opposed to a dank apartment complex).

I found this little lamp at Savers -- essentially a GoodWill+. One of my snowglobes broke, but instead of throwing it out, I just (carefully) removed all the glass and turned it into a miniature figurine on a pedestal.

These little bowls I got at the Christmas Tree Shop a while back. Perfect for M&Ms.

And, on our coffee table, I found this little Christmas tray at the Hobby Lobby, which now houses 3 different types of Hershey kisses (can you tell someone in this house as a sweet tooth?)

My husband isn't exactly a fan of putting garlands in front of the TV, so I compromised with a few small jars of fake poinsettias.

Speaking of fake poinsettias, I accented our side table with a vase full of them (as well as the angels from my husband's grandmother and, of course my charging station.

Extra ornaments? Put them in vases. Excuse to buy more ornaments and more vases.

I'm pretty sure I'm in the vast minority of people who actually use their throw pillows. They're decorative in their own right, but, come time to sit down and watch TV, I am snuggling that pillow like a Harry Harlow monkey.

Ideally, I would've down a bunch of long exposure nighttime shots to show our Christmas lights. But, alas, things have been a bit nutty, so a quick shot with my point-n-shoot will have to do. Not pictured is the green garland that I have wrapped around our mailbox and the column on the opposite side of the driveway (which promptly disappeared under the snow after the first blizzard).

I hope you all have a great holiday season! If I don't find the time to edit a few more road trip photos, I'll see everyone in 2014!

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Let's Talk Modeling for a Tick

With any luck, I'll have a Christmas post tomorrow. Things have been a little nutty as of late, to say the least. If you read my 365 Blog, you probably already know that the yoga studio I teach at is closing and I have been scrambling to find a new place in the New Year. And, while that finally seems to be settling down, I've been putting my nose to the grindstone writing essays for Thought Catalog, and finishing up a collection that *fingers crossed* will capitalize on the fact that I've had a handful of successful/viral articles on that site. I'm also currently in Ohio, enjoying the holidays with my in-laws (it's a lot more fun than it sounds!), which makes hunching over my laptop like the asocial introvert I am a little difficult.

For now, enjoy a little something I did. Granted, all you are going to see of me is my hands, my blurry figure, and a few shots of my back as I decorate a tree, but hey, it is a Volvo commercial, so I'm pretty psyched about that:

Happy Holidays!

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Try it Tuesday: Grow Your Own Green Onions

As I desperately try to put together a Christmas post before, gee, Christmas, I figured I would post my latest endeavor: growing my own green onions. The beauty of this bit of gardening is that all you need is a package of scallions.

Technically, all you need are the bulbs at the very end. You know, the part that we throw out anyway? Instead of throwing it out, place it about half an inch deep in soil and water regularly. You'll be amazed at how quickly they'll grow.

And when you're ready to use them? You can simply trim at the base with a pair of scissors, or pull the whole bulb out, cut to the end, and start again. I decided to plant them in a set of white coffee cups that I had purchased for a failed experiment (but more on that later). I love how the cups make everything feel a little homier, way more than a standard pot or gardening tray would.

Friday, December 13, 2013

Photo Friday: Painted Ladies and the Powell & Hyde Street Cars

How about that -- it's almost 2014 and I'm still posting pictures from my road trip in June/July. Oh well: up next, the famous Painted Ladies (or "those houses they showed at the beginning of Full House" for some of us), and pictures I took while hanging off the side of a Powell & Hyde Street Car (or "those famous trolleys you see in San Francisco post cards" for some of us).

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Pico de Gallo (aka the Simplest Dish You Can Make)

I don't know what it is about Mexican/Latin American food, but I cannot get enough of it. I can get eventually get sick of Italian food, Irish food, good ol' American cuisine ... but I could probably live on a steady rotation of tacos, milanesas, guacamole, and so on. It would be a very short life, but, man, what a way to go.

One of my favorite snacks is tortilla chips with pico de gallo. It's pretty hard to find premade pico de gallo that isn't stuffed to the gills with preservatives, so I've started making my own.

All you need is:
- two tomatoes
- one to two limes (depending on taste preferences)
- three jalapeño peppers
- 1/3 to 1/2 of an onion (again, depending on taste preferences)
- cilantro

Chop up the tomatoes, jalapeños, onion, and cilantro as finely as you can. Try your best to save the tomato juice. I prefer the tomato juice to "liquify" the pico de gallo way more than water or vinegar. Start by mixing the tomatoes and peppers into a bowl, adding in the onion and cilantro until you have a mix that best suits you (some like it primarily tomato, some like it to be mostly tomatoes and peppers, some like an even mix. I'm an even mix person myself, but everyone is different). Cut the lime (or limes) in half and squeeze the lime juice in.

Mix everything up, cover the bowl with saran wrap, and let it settle in the fridge for at least 2 or 3 hours.

And now enjoy! I personally like creating guacamole at the same time and alternative between guacamole and pico de gallo.

Friday, December 6, 2013

Photo Friday: Baker Beach

The most exciting part about finally visiting California was being able to dip my feet into the Pacific Ocean. Granted, ocean is ocean, and my toes aren't going to touch the Pacific and go, "My, my! This is so different!" But, still, it was great to finally enjoy a sunset over the ocean instead of a sunrise (one of those is a lot easier to be awake for than the other).

We decided to spend some time at Baker Beach, which is just to the north of the Golden Gate bridge. It was a gorgeous place to be, filled with some amazing geography. The only drawback is that we had to walk past the *ahem* clothing optional area in order to get to the cool stuff. Oh well -- good thing I'm not fazed by the human anatomy (although you won't catch me dead doing the same).

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