Tuesday, December 31, 2013

My 2013 in One Picture

Link up here!

Well, it's NYE.  I can't say that I am sad to see it go.  Did I have some great moments?  Absolutely.  I fulfilled my dream of going to the Galapagos Islands in March, I celebrated my 29th Birthday in NYC, had frequent trips to Chicago (my favorite American city), spent time with the in-laws in Portland, OR, and finished my Master's Degree.

But this year challenged me.  I was so busy with school, I forgot about so much else.  I wasn't very good at cultivating the friendships I had made, and subsequently lost a few amazing friends this year (well, we are still friends, but it's not the same).  All that hard work I did in 2012 to lose a bunch of weight went into the trash in 2013.  I gained all of it back.  All of it.  I also had my dreams dashed of going back to Germany to live, and instead am heading to Korea, which is full of unknowns.  I have to sell my first home soon, one that I love and put a lot of sweat and tears into, my car, which is a ton of fun, and my friends, who have made this duty station so memorable.

But, as this year comes to an end, I am going to try and focus on the good that has come, and the good that will come.  Moving to Korea means that there is little change that Joel will not deploy for two whole years!  He's had three deployments and a short tour already, so this is huge.  I am moving to a foreign country, which will cure much of my wanderlust that I've been without.  And hey...I graduated!  No more school (hopefully) for a little while, and prayers that I can use this new found degree when I move abroad.

So my picture of 2013 will be a happy one, highlighting my biggest accomplishment.  And here's to an eve better 2014, where I hope to get back on track and not sweat the small stuff.

Monday, December 30, 2013

Weekend Update

Did this weekend go by insanely fast for anyone else?  I feel like I barely had a whole day off.  The two days I had off for Christmas were delightful, and then the weekend came and BAM...it's Monday.

Well, anywho.  I want to have a moment of silence for the destruction of the Miami Dolphin's playoff hopes.  It was a sad game that I actually got to watch due to Direct TV's Sunday Ticket.  I was so disappointed in our boys and especially our QB, who I've never been the biggest fan of.  Oh, and if you're a football fan, I'm trying to get #firejeffireland trending on twitter, just in casies.

Well, on to better weekend things!  Friday night, Joel and I wanted to get out of the house and go see American Hustle.  We went to a theater in downtown St. Louis called MX Movies.  I love the theater itself, which has a full bar and wait staff to feed you during the movie.  The food is less than spectacular, so we usually just go and get appetizers and drinks.  And the bonus?  Comfy leather chairs!  If they happened to recline, I don't think I could see a movie any other way.

There wasn't too much exciting news on Saturday.  The dogs had obedience class, we ran some errands, and napped (oh, glorious naps).  We went out to dinner Friday night to a spot that had seasonal pumpkin pie martinis on their menu, which they actually didn't have.  So I proceeded to pout and not take any pictures.  The food was fine as always, but I was really craving that pumpkin pie drink.

Sunday I cooked a football spread and decked out in Dolphins gear in hopes that the boys could pull one out.  For some reason, all of our pets joined me in the kitchen during this time.  You would have Thought I hadn't fed them in days...

Unfortunately, my heart was broken by their elimination from the playoffs, so in the meantime I will be a temporary Cincinnati Bengals fan.  They did their part to help us get in, and we couldn't muster up a win.  There's always next year, right?  Right???

Friday, December 27, 2013

Christmas Recap

Gosh, this has to be one of the best Christmases on record.  We were sans family this year, who we miss, but it made everything so relaxing because everything was on our schedule (and we barely had one) and full of cookies, naps, and pug cuddles.  It was fantastic!

We started off Christmas with a bang!  We went and saw the Trans Siberia Orchestra on Monday night, and it was quite the show!  I had never been before, and didn't really know what to expect, but I figured this was our last chance to go for some time, so we took a chance.  There's a small story involved, which was kind of weak and didn't make a whole lot of sense with the music.  There was a lot of ling hair Rock N Roll and some incredible singing, and a whole lot of crazy lights.  All in all it was a good night, but it was also a long night.  They went on for three hours!!

Christmas Eve is when our family had most of our Christmas celebrations, since we have German heritage,  We opened our gifts and I cooked a massive Thanksgiving dinner for two (we still have leftovers)!  I didn't take pictures of our gifts, but I got a gorgeous set of earrings, a case for my autographed Dan Marino helmet, and a lot of other little stuff.  It was perfect!  We couldn't stay awake for midnight Mass, so we went on Christmas Day.  That was followed by Joel's family tradition of eating bagels with various cream cheeses, meats, and regular cheeses.

It was a great and relaxing holiday.  We had Thursday off, too, but are back to work today.  Then we get another two whole days off!  I must say that this Christmas may have been one of the most relaxing ones, yet.  We even had the boys in their holiday sweaters until they tuckered out.

Monday, December 23, 2013

Christmas Eve Eve

Wow, Christmas week already?  Where did this year go?  I have to say that 2013 hasn't been my favorite year, but Joel didn't have to deploy and I finished my Masters Degree, so I guess that's a partial check in the win column.  I hope to make 2014 even better, and to try to make the best out of what is to come.  I plan on working on my fitness more, traveling more (thanks to our upcoming move to South Korea), and just enjoy life a little more.  You know the expression, don't take life too seriously?  Yeah, I'm going to try that.  Sounds like a nice change.  I hope to put all of this down (and more) so I can remind myself of the goals I want to accomplish.

I don't get much time off for the holidays, but luckily since there isn't any traveling involved this holiday season, I hope to spend the time I do have off relaxing and working on neglected projects around the house.  And of course, extra snuggles with my favorite guy and the pups (and the cat, too).

Friday, December 20, 2013

This Christmas

You know...I think I am going to like this Christmas.  Usually people are stressed to the max during this time of the year.  Did they buy the right gifts, are they going to make their travel plans, will there be inclement weather, etc.  I see it everywhere.  But I have a holiday rule that we are sticking to, and I couldn't be happier.  I will only travel during one major holiday a year.  Since we went to see my family for Thanksgiving, we are staying put for Christmas. 

Selfish?  Maybe, but I'm ok with that.  I love the comfort of my own home and my own schedule and, if I'm being honest, I like Joel all to myself.  Anyone at anytime is invited to spend the holidays with us, but my mother-in-law just had knew replacement surgery and my mom is too stubborn to travel, so, we have a holiday for two planned (plus the pets, of course).

I love my family, and Joel's, but honestly?  I'm looking forward to a little downtime, just the two of us.  It's been a while since we've had any.  Gifts have been bought and delivered for family, so there's no stress there.  I'll just focus on making a nice little dinner for the two of us, Midnight Mass, and (hopefully) sleeping in.  Sounds fantastic, doesn't it?  I think so, too.

So whatever you're doing...be merry, and be kind.  I've noticed the holiday stress getting to people, but my advice is just to go back to the basics, and not worry over the little things this holiday season.

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Starting Over - Week 1

With my weight, that is.  My weight is always an up and down roller coaster.  When Joel is gone, I eat better and exercise more, which means that my weight goes down.  When he was deployed, I lost nearly 20 pounds.  He's been home a little more than a year now, and I put all of that weight back on.  I feel like I constantly have an excuse.  Some are legitimate, such as not having the energy when I was student teaching.  I could have done better, but I really couldn't stick to a schedule, because my work/school load was so unpredictable week to week.  But now?  No excuses.  Work is predictable and school is over.  Starting now, I am getting back into a routine.  I got into running last summer, and the weight dropped pretty fast.  So, I am going back to the basics.

Day one, completed on Monday.  Day two?  As soon as I get off of work.  I will stick to this.  I have to.  I feel fat, and that affects so many things in my life.  The way I feel, how confident I am, how I dress, and my energy.  I will be doing a weigh-in Wednesday in hopes that I can use this little ole blog of mine to keep me accountable.  So here is my first weigh-in.  I am hoping to lose at least 20 pounds.  Wish me luck!  And please ignore how badly I need a pedicure...

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

What You Should Ask Yourself Before 2013 Is Over - Part 2

Sharing part two of the list I found over at Everything Happens For a Reason!

11. When did I feel most creatively inspired?  During my student teaching.  I had to come up with creative lesson plans that not only excited the students, but that met specific state and University standards.  I am the least domestic gal you'd ever meet, but I had fun piecing some of these lessons together.

12. What projects have I completed? 
Other than my degree, not very much.  That's been my main focus.  We did do a bathroom reno and worked on our yard, though.  Those count, right?

13. How have I procrastinated? 
The better question would be how haven't I procrastinated.  I completely do most things last minute.  Maybe I just work better under pressure.

14. In what ways can I re-structure my time? 
I'd like to create an "everyday life" schedule, so that I have a plan to stick to.  Now that I have more free time, I'd like to spend it being (mostly) productive, so I plan on scheduling time in my day to read and exercise, and also play with the pups.  They haven't had the play time they deserve lately, and Pugsley is getting so old I don't know how much longer we will have with him.

15. How have I allowed fear of failure hold me back? 
I literally doubt every personal decision that I make, and wonder if I made the right choice.  For some reason, professionally I am confident in what I do.  But personally?  I am always afraid of the unknown and change.  I wish I could learn to be more confident all around.

16. Where has self-doubt taken over?  See above.

17. When have I felt the most alive?
  When I travel, but in 2013, most specifically in the Galapagos.  It combined my love of travel with my love of animals, and I cried tears of pure joy that I was able to have that experience.  It was utterly amazing, and I will never forget it.

18. How have I taught others to respect me?
  I honestly have no idea how to answer this one.  I am who I am, and I won't change that for anyone.  I stick to my principles, and am loyal to a fault.  Hopefully I have gained others' respect from that.

19. How can I improve my relationships? 
I can be more attentive and a better listener.  Sometimes I am so wrapped up in my own world and with what I am doing that I often don't truly listen to what others have to say.  I can also work on making that extra step in communication.  Being so far away from so many that I love is hard.  I struggle with putting in more effort than I am given, but sometimes someone has to do that, right?

20. Have I been unfair to anyone? 
I often expect perfection from Joel, even though I am far from it.  I love him with all of my heart, and I need to understand that he loves me too, and therefore tries his best.  I need to learn how to love him in all of his faults, too, because I know that he always means well.

Monday, December 16, 2013

Weekend Update!

Hello and happy Monday!  Boy, am I tired.  It's been pretty frigid here in the Midwest, and I have not taken well to the change.  I love fall, but winter is definitely invading its' territory.  Oh, well.  Guess I better get used to it, because if history repeats itself, it's going to be a long, cold winter.

Anyway, on with the update!  Joel and I went to another concert that was a blast from the past.  Michael Bolton!  His show was great, and he sang for nearly two and a half hours.  He sang some Christmas songs, which even though I'm not a scrooge I hate Christmas music, but I guess they were tolerable in MB's voice.  Since it was a small-ish show, he agreed to stay after and sign some autographs, but he was a little Diva about the whole thing.  We waited over an hour for him to come out, and then when we got close (and 6ft was the closest we were allowed), we handed our CD to a security guard who handed it to MB, then back to a different security guard to hand to us.  He didn't talk a lot, but since I got him to at least acknowledge me, probably because I was one of the few women under 50 there.

This weekend, we made the drive up to Chicago to go to their annual Christkindel Markt, which is a traditional German Christmas Market.  I've been missing Germany quite a bit lately, so Joel and I, and a friend of ours, decided to check it out.  First off, we used AirBnB to book a room, which was an astounding success.  I mean, look at our view from our room!

Amazing.  Pugsley wasn't very excited about the room, though.  He was either afraid of heights or wanted out the whole time, because he just sat at the windows and cried.

Yes, that is a crap ton of snow, BTW.

Then, we set off for the market.  I'm glad we went early and bypassed the snow that the rest of the weekend had in store.  It was great!  It had gluhwein, stollen, gingerbread, and crepes.  It even had spaetzle and curry wurst!  I am so glad that we went.  It really did "scratch the German itch."  Well, for now at least.

I also have some food reviews!  We tried a new breakfast place in Streeterville that was amazing.  It's called Yolk, and it has a few different locations.  It was packed, and luckily we only had about a 30 minute wait because we went early.  When we left, it had to be up to at least an hour.  My advice?  Go early!  Here's the scoop on what we had.  Joel and I shared two savory items.  He had red velvet french toast, and I had the cinnamon bun french toast.  Both were divine, but I have to say I liked Joel's a little better.

Red Velvety goodness in the back.

Yum, yum...

We also ate at our favorite Italian spot in Lincoln Park.  It's called Sapori Trattoria, and they take reservations, which at least on the weekend are a must.  We both order the same thing: rigatoni bolognese.  It is a must try.  Best pasta we've had outside of Italy.  Their tiramisu is also pretty tasty.  They do valet for 10$, but we found street parking for 2$ an hour, and opted for that.  But believe me when I say if you like Italian food, eat here.

Our Chicago trip was amazing, and even though it was bitter cold and snowing, we enjoyed our big city life for the weekend.  Until next time, Chi-Town!

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

More to Do in the Lou

So, since it seems like I am leaving the great city of St. Louis, I realized that I need to get working on my 101 Things To Do In the Lou list!  I've slowly been knocking some of the items off, but I haven't done a very good job of blogging about it.  Let's hope I can check at least half of the items off before we go.

12. The Saint Louis Zoo penguins.  Check!  We did this last winter, in fact, and their enclosure was great!  It really allowed us to get up close with the little guys.  I'm sad to say that right now they are doing some renovations and you can't visit the penguins, but if you get the chance, it is totally worth it!  Joel had to keep me from stealing a penguin or a puffin and taking him home.

30. Drive down the river road in the fall and stop at Eckert’s Orchards in Grafton to pick your own apples.  This was an easy one!  Growing up in Indiana, I loved picking (insert fruit here) anything with my parents, so we made sure to make this a stop.  We went to the one in Belleville, though, because they had a country store and restaurant, with the bets fried pickles I have ever had.  Yum, yum!

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

What You Should Ask Yourself Before 2013 Is Over - Part 1

I recently read a blog post over at Everything Happens For a Reason, and she mentioned this article about questions you should ask yourself before the end of the year has come.  Being that it is December, I guess there's no time like the present.  So, here goes - part 1!

1.  What am I most proud of this year?  This one is easy.  I am most proud that I finished my Master's Degree.  I debated many times on whether or not I should keep going on with it or quit.  It was an arduous program, at I can't believe that I can finally say I'm done.  It's done.  And with a 4.0!!

2.  How can I become a better _____________? 
Gosh, what couldn't I put here.  I want to be a better friend, wife, fitness freak, scholar...so I am going to go ahead and say that I want to learn how to be a better "me."  Not many people know this, but I'm pretty insecure about all aspects of my life.  I need to learn to have more confidence in myself, and then I can work on all of the other things.

3.  Where am I feeling stuck?  In my career.  While I enjoy what I do, it's not where I pictured myself at this point in my life.  Hopefully now that I'm done with my MA program, I can work on bettering that.

4.  Where do I need to allow myself grace? 
In life.  Too broad?  I need to realize it's not ok to be perfect, and that everyone has their faults.

5.  Am I passionate about my career? 
Not my current career, but I'm passionate about moving forward and having that career where I am making a difference.

6.  What lessons have I learned?  How to accept others (more) for their differences, how to have patience, and how to be less awkward around children.

7.  What did my finances look like?  My finances were comfortable, but a little more tight when I was student teaching.  Now that I am back to a full paycheck, I feel good about my financial state.

8.  How did I spend my free time?  Traveling when I could, going to shows, and being with those I love.
9.  How well did I take care of my body, mind, and soul?  Not very well.  I have not been kind to my body with the right foods and exercise, I haven't let my mind be curious and explore (too much schoolwork), and I haven't been in touch with God like I should have.  I'm hoping to work on all of these things soon.
10.  How have I been open-minded?  I am trying to be open minded about this upcoming move to Korea.  I loved living in Germany, but Korea is so (excuse the pun) foreign to me, and I don't know what to expect.  I am not excited about this move, but I am trying to stay open minded about the whole thing, rather than just pout and be miserable.

Monday, December 9, 2013

Weekend Update

This weekend was actually a pretty low-key weekend.  Friday officially marked my last day of student teaching.  The most ironic thing happened, and we ended up with a snow day that day and I didn't go in.  I don't understand that call, as there was very little snow and the roads were all clear in the morning.  But, it was nice to get to stay home.  I'm sad, though, that I didn't get to say good-bye to my kiddos!  I'll have to go in one day to see them.  A couple of them let it slip that they made me something, and I know it'll break their hearts if I don't go and pick it up.  But, either way, I am done.  And come 2 January, I will be a fully certified Special Education Teacher.  Hopefully that will help me find employment in Korea.

Saturday was doggy training with the boys.  Since we are probably going to be in an apartment in Korea, some of their behaviors at home won't be as welcomed by our new wall neighbors, so we are trying to work on bringing those behaviors down a notch.  Gomez is the smartest thing ever, but man...he is such a squeaker!  So odd!  And Pugsley just mimics him, so we are trying to quiet our cute little stinkers.

Saturday evening we volunteered to work at a charity event for the Pujols Family Foundation.  I didn't get any pictures of us all dolled up, but it was a wonderful event.  We ended up leaving before it was over because we were just so darn tired and they had a surplus of volunteers.  They always put on such a spectacular evening, and I am still so humbled by their mission.

Sunday was a day for errands and football.  And what a crazy Sunday for football it was!  Happy that my Dolphins have a winning record again, and praying that we will be able to make it into the Playoffs this year.  It's been a long, sad time since they've been playoff contenders.   So far, we are only one game back.  Also, you know what I didn't do Sunday?  Any schoolwork of any kind.  Say wha?  I still don't know how I am going to fill my time.  I'm sure I'll find something.  Maybe I should make a goal list for 2014 to help me out.  And, for sure, the gym will be on it.  This year has not been kind to my waistline...

Monday, December 2, 2013

Coming to the year's end...

Oh my goodness, is it December already?  I mean seriously, where has this year gone?  I know where the last 16 weeks have gone.  To finally finishing up this crazy degree of mine.  This is my last week, and then I will officially be a graduate of graduate school.  Seems so unreal.  I have so many thoughts circling my head about what exactly finishing will mean for me and to me, but they deserve their own little post.  But for now, I have four days and counting...

Thanksgiving was (mostly) nice.  I miss my sister so much, so it is always good to see her.  I wish I could steal her away sometimes and keep her with me always, but I'll have to settle for seeing her as much as I can.  My step-dad (the only real dad I have known, so he is "dad") is a simple man of few words, but he is always a pleasure to be around.  He's a big goofball, but such a caring man.  My mother, on the other hand...her and I have always had a bit of a difficult relationship.  Let's just say we are very different people, and she pretty much disagrees with everything I have ever done and will ever do.  So seeing her, as much as I love her, stressed me out.  Anyways...  We had a big, delicious spread of food, but I was too busy trying to enjoy the moment that I didn't snap any photos.  In fact, the only picture I got the whole weekend was of my sister and I at IKEA.  Oh, St. Louis...the rumors better be true about an IKEA coming.  I've missed it.

Hello, Swedish meatballs!
In other news, while we don't have official orders in hand, we got sort of a "heads up" on our next duty assignment.  It looks like we are headed to South Korea this summer, and I am so torn about it.  While I loved my experience in Germany, I am not looking forward to this move.  Joel had ten bases on his wishlist, and suffice it to say this was not one of them.  I had dreamed of every base on that list, but I just can not imagine myself living here.  I'm so taken aback.  I haven't fully digested that we are leaving for Asia yet, and I'm not sure I will until he gets the orders in hand.  But, I can tell you I've cried the ugly cry about it already.  I feel like Joel worked so hard to get a good assignment, and even took a highly coveted crappy assignment here that he didn't want just to improve our chances.  The Air Force laughed and said "too bad, we know what's better for his career," and so everything he did was for nothing.  I am not a happy military wife these days, and I'm just hoping the experience will be better than what I am imagining.  The only thing I can think that it will be good for is curing some of wanderlust.

Sunday, December 1, 2013

Sunday Social

Trying to get back in the blogging groove, and what better way than with a link-up!  Follow along, won't you?

1. What is your favorite ice cream flavor?  My go-to favorite is Cookies N Cream.  Also, anything with pumpkin or white chocolate is a winner.  Starbucks had a pumpkin spiced latte ice cream one year that blew my mind away.
Image found here.

2. What is your favorite smell?  Pumpkin and cinnamon in the winter and fall, and lavender in the spring.  In the summer, it is anything fruity.

3. What is your favorite TV commercial?  Right now, it is the commercials with the AT&T guy and the kids being candid.  Those kids crack me up!

4. What is your favorite day of the week?  Right now, especially, it's Sunday.  And for three reasons:  football, football, and football.  It's also usually a day where more stuff that needs to get done around the house does, and I always like that feeling of being productive.

5. What is your favorite way to waste time?  Catching up on my DVR and Netflix queue.

6. What is your favorite article of clothing?  Do shoes count?  I'm just going to go ahead and say yes, because they are shoes, and shoes always count.  My favorite ones are these boots that were originally $200, but I kept waiting and waiting for them to go on sale at Dillard's, and when they finally did, they were only $44.  I purchased them immediately, and will wear them until they fall apart.