April 16, 2013

Mixed Emotions

I've been on a little bit of a forced spring break, but with less fruity drinks and sand in annoying places, and more working late hours, major spring cleaning, and, yesterday, sitting glued to the TV with my head shaking sadly. While I don't really have the words (or, sadly, the time right now) to express what's been running through my head since yesterday, I can say that I'm sad but hopeful, confused, inspired, and comforted. For every terrible act of unkindness, it seems there are a hundred more wonderful, helpful acts that tilt the balance of the world for the better. Runners are a resilient community, and their spectators are just as amazing. My thoughts are with Boston and all the people who are healing today, as well as with the police and firemen, doctors and nurses, and the brave bystanders who saved lives yesterday.
On a happier note, today I am feeling so incredibly lucky to celebrate two whole years of marriage to my very best friend. It is hard to believe that it's been two years, but as Kermit reminds us, "time flies when you're having fun" (or was that something about eating flies? hmmm...) I love him even more than the day we got married (though I would have sworn that day that such a thing was not possible) and I can't wait to spend so many more years together!


April 9, 2013

A Brief Woof

Nothing like the flu to slow you down a bit... yuck. Getting sick was definitely not on my to-do list this weekend, but it certainly got checked off. Thanks to this stellar timing, I am running a bit behind this week, and it may be a little quiet around here until I can get some real things checked off that looooong long list. Meanwhile, I leave you with a laugh for your Tuesday:

Gee, I feel like that reminds me of someone...

Happy Tuesday!


April 5, 2013

Friday Notes

This week has been exhausting, and I am even more grateful than normal that Friday has finally rolled around with a little reprieve. I have so much to get done this weekend, but I'm determined to squeeze in some time to relax a little too. Since I haven't found much time to blog this week, here's a little recap of what we've been up to:

 -- We saw Admission last Friday night and loved it! Tina Fey is adorable and fantastic (as always) and the storyline was just the right balance of sweet and hysterical. Definitely recommended!  
-- I'm hanging in there on the "lift heavy things" addition to my workouts. My soreness is finally gone, and I'm starting to find that some of the  are getting easier. Surprisingly, my biggest challenge in the past few weeks has been running -- I'm not sure if it's the strength training or just a typical wane in my endurance, but for a while there I was clocking only a mile or two a day, and even that required a serious self-pep talk. Last weekend I headed out for a run on a beautiful day and it turned out to be one of the most pathetic few miles I think I have ever covered. But yesterday and today I got through a 5k without too much mental anguish, so hopefully I'm getting back into the swing of things.
 -- We had a quiet but lovely Easter last weekend (last weekend? seems like forever ago!) My sweet hubby filled my Easter basket with a few of my favorite things -- pretty colors and lots of chocolate:
(with only the slightest of hints when it came to the nail polish). I've been wearing the mint this week, and while it's definitely a change from my typical pick-a-shade-of-pink, I think it's perfect for spring.
 -- The weather was overcast but relatively warm on Easter, so we took the pup for a long walk and stopped at a nearby creek to play a bit. We brought Dan's nice DSLR along and snapped some adorable pictures of Teddy splashing around and following his daring dad across fallen trees. He had a blast and we did too -- it's so much fun to watch him play and explore. Once I get the pictures loaded, I'll share a few.
we've been letting him sleep in bed about one night a week -- he loves it, and I usually wake a up with a paw or three invading my space
 -- Speaking of the pup, he has made it halfway through his first session of puppy classes and is impressing both us and his trainer with how quickly he picks up on things. He's got sit down (although he has known that for months) and he's a pro at "loose-leash walking" (essentially heel). This week we are working on down and "leave it," and he's catching on so fast. I joke with people that he's smarter than Dan and I, but sometimes I wonder if it really might be true. The best part, though, is how much he loves going to class each week. He gets so excited when we get in the car and he can barely contain himself when he sees the trainer. He plays with the other pups really well (thankfully he hasn't dragged any of them around lately) and loves to get attention from the other owners. We are seeing a difference at home too: he has always been well-behaved but his hyperactive energy seems to be settling down a bit, thank goodness.

a rare quiet moment
 -- Our other poor furball has been sick this week. He's been sneezing like crazy for a few days, and this morning his congestion seemed better but one of his eyes was running. He hasn't been too lethargic and his appetite is normal, so we've just been keeping an eye on him for now. Hopefully he starts feeling better this weekend, because his poor little sneezes are breaking his mother's heart!

 -- I've been dying to try Starbucks' new hazelnut macchiato to see if it lives up to all the recent hype, but I'm always a little nervous ordering something different there... I know that even if it's terrible I'll still have to drink it, because who throws away $5 coffee? I've been getting tired of chai, though, so I braved it this morning on my weekly Starbucks run and I'm so glad I did. Definitely worthy of all the hype and more. It was wet and chilly this morning so I opted for the hot version, but I can't wait to try it iced this summer!
Just a few highlights from an exceptionally busy week -- I'll be kind and won't bore you with work, laundry, cold rain, and similarly exciting occurrences. Thankfully, this weekend is supposed to be warm and beautiful. Hope that you have a wonderful one!


April 4, 2013

Lots of Words on Productivity

At the risk of being that annoying facebook friend:
(I know, it drives me crazy too, and I'm sorry)
... there are some big changes right around the corner for me. I wish I could share them in detail and I can't wait until they're official so that I can do just that. (And no, none of these changes involve a baby, so you can cross that off the list.) Rest assured that they are exciting, challenging, and a little scary, as all changes should be... or so I've heard. If you remember, I'm not a huge fan of change. So for now, to keep from completely freaking out while I wait for the wheels on this wagon to start rolling, I'm channeling my inner boy scout and trying to get prepared.
Most of the preparation is mental: these changes are going to necessitate a jumpstart in the productivity department. I've never been particularly good at time management (see also: master procrastinator), but since college my efficiency rate has been in steady decline. So over the next few weeks, I've got to get my tush back in gear, shaking off the lazy habits and getting ready for the major to do lists that are headed my way. Here's a little peek at my gameplan:

1. streamline the to do list: I've tried hand-written lists, google docs, and a handful of apps to keep track of tasks. I love the feeling of fitting everything I need to do on one sheet of paper (no matter how small I have to write), but it's usually more practical to use an app like TeuxDeux, where edits and changes are quick. I also love their dual layout -- I can keep track of work projects by date, but I can also create personal lists (reading for class, emails to send, even things to pick up at the store) at the bottom.
2. break free from the social media monster: I find myself tapping the Facebook icon so often when I'm bored with what I'm doing, need a break, or reach a tough spot in my work. I waste more time than I should reading things that don't even interest me, and half of the time I end up annoyed with people who feel the need to overshare (or those people who post vague statuses... oops). I have a sneaking suspicion that I'd be better off using that time to read a newspaper article, take a walk, or knock something easy off my to do list (and I doubt I'd really miss the pictures of other people's lunches).
3. get focused: I am a classic example of how today's culture of instant gratification is frying brains. If I have to wait more than a few seconds for a website to load, I'm off to browse somewhere else (ahem... see #2). If I get stuck on something, I scoot over to read a blog instead of working through the problem spot. When an email pops up, I stop what I'm doing to read it. I multitask like a pro, but sometimes I get so caught up in doing 16 things at once that I don't do any of them well. I need to make an effort to slow down and really pay attention to what I'm doing at any given moment. Luckily, this applies to both work and play: when I'm taking time to do something fun, I've got to stop letting my mind slip back to the piles of laundry and half-finished work spreadsheet.
4. count some sheep: How many times can we beat this dead horse? I've got to start getting up earlier, which means I've got to start heading for bed earlier. And stop falling asleep on the couch. And stop hitting the snooze button. It's not complicated, it's just really hard to remember at night when I'm just not sleepy... or at 5:00 in the morning when I definitely am. It's also tough to break the mindset (perfected during my college days) that sleep is a "bonus," some activity to fill the night hours when there's nothing better to be doing. If you've ever met me on a tired day, though, it's obvious that sleep is pretty critical to my ability to function. For the past few months I've been better about aiming for 6 hours a night, but I read this week that most people actually need 7 or 8 (and I'm inclined to believe it, since I'm always tired). Going to bed at 10 just isn't possible sometimes (Dan doesn't even get off work until 10 some nights), but I'm going to try my best to spend an extra hour with my pillow whenever possible.
5. organize all the things: I work so much better when my space is clean and I can find what I need. I typically do a pretty good job of keeping things neat, but every once in a while my stuff gets ahead of me. One of my New Year's resolutions was to de-clutter, and I will be taking that to heart in the coming days. Our poor trash man is probably going to deserve a tip.
6. take a break: I love a good day off as much as the next person, but I don't always use them to their full potential. I have a tendency to pack my long weekends so full of chores, work, and errands that I return to the office more exhausted than refreshed. As life gets busier, time off (be it days, hours, or minutes) are certainly going to get harder to find, but I know that both scheduling and taking advantage of free time is going to be essential. Not that I'll be sitting around with my feet up all weekend, but maybe a few bon-bons wouldn't hurt. Honestly, I think people who spend their time off well (even if they don't get much) are harder workers and happier people.
7. set a goal or three: For a while now I've been stuck in a bit of a holding pattern, waiting things out and trying to stay content with the rut in which I'm finding myself. Although the changes ahead weren't something I actively sought out, they are a great excuse to shake things up a bit and keep the momentum going. It's a good time to look towards the horizon, re-evaluate some things, and then take a few giant steps towards... something. Still working on that last part, clearly.
8. name that priority: If I were to look back at each minute of my day yesterday, I'm sure that I'd be surprised by the time I spent doing things that didn't really matter to me. Doing dishes may be a necessary evil, but bad TV is not, and I'm never going to get that half hour back. If I'm going to master the art of fitting all of the important things into each 24 hour period, I have to start cutting out things that are just wasting space (and yes, I'll also be playing a lot of Tetris to practice).
9. one and done: Years ago, I read some brilliant article (that has since disappeared from the depths of the internet) about how to deal with everything from your overflowing email inbox to your cluttered bathroom counter. The author suggested a simple rule: don't look at anything more than once. When an email comes in, don't flag it to remind yourself to come back to it; answer it. When something lands on your desk, don't add it to a pile; take care of it. When a bill comes in, don't make a note on your calendar; pay it. The author argued that the more times you have to look at something (an email, an item on a list, something that needs to be put away), the harder it becomes to take care of. I am certainly the queen of doing this wrong: the piles on my stairs (of things to take up or down) have begun to grow roots and my email is full of different colored stars that scream "don't forget to come back to me!" Although the article didn't stick with me, the principle did, and it is past time to put it to use and stop looking at things so much.

I certainly have a long way to go: it took me all of 3 days to write this post and I'm sure I moseyed over to check facebook at least 6 times while I was "writing." But I know that it's time to make a change, and that getting good at these things will not only help make the next few months less stressful, they'll become habits and life skills that will stick with me. I'm thinking of it as spring cleaning, just for my brain and my lifestyle.

Now you tell me: what are your favorite secrets to productivity? How do you get so much done in a day? How many hours of sleep do you get? Have you found the code that unlocks 2 extra hours each week? I'd love to hear it (especially that last one)!



March 29, 2013


What a perfect little reminder for a busy day... at the end of a busy week... at the end of a busy month. Is March really almost over already? It sure didn't stick around too long -- but with all the snow and crazy weather changes it brought, I have to say that I'm not entirely sorry to see it go. 
I'm looking forward to a quiet weekend -- lots to get done (as always), but I'm hoping that the chocolate bunnies and such will make up for it. Hope that you all have a very hoppy Easter (see what I did there?) with plenty of Cadbury eggs!



March 26, 2013

And Now for a Little Excitement...

Now that my fingers have thawed out a bit, I can recount our crazy, wonderful, chilly, ridiculous weekend.
It started out quietly enough (too quietly??) with a cozy Friday evening on the couch. In a sleepy haze that morning I had managed to put short ribs instead of pot roast in the fridge to defrost, so we had an odd but tasty dinner of slow-cooked short ribs over leftover mashed potatoes. It was actually so good that I might make that mistake again next time...
I got sleepy early and the hubby kindly shooed me up to bed so that he could play a video game without my constant requests to turn the machine guns down a little bit. I fell sound asleep as soon as my head hit the pillow, only to be shaken awake what felt like minutes later by Dan.
"Do you smell burning?" he asked.
"I don't smell anything. What the hell are you doing? It's still dark outside."
[I am not a very kind person in the middle of the night.] 
But something about Dan's dashing around made me sit up and sniff a little more... and then I definitely smelled it. Over the next few minutes, the smell got much stronger, but we couldn't figure out where it was coming from -- there was no smoke, no noise, and definitely no fire. Dan even poked his head up into the attic, where our resident squirrel (another story for another time...) got the fright of his life, but luckily didn't seem to have started a campfire. We hemmed and hawwed a bit, but eventually decided that Dan should call the non-emergency line for our county. I went to the bathroom quickly while he dialed, but as soon as I heard him start to recite our address, I started to get a little concerned. Dan mouthed to me "They're coming," and I'm not proud to say that my first reaction was a rather dramatic groan (safety first, all). I yanked on sweatpants and two coats, took a claw in the face while wedging one animal into a carrier, and we dragged one sleepy puppy, one furious cat, and our own bewildered selves outside.
In minutes we heard the sirens piercing through the frigid darkness, and I started to cringe. "The neighbors are going to hate us," I moaned, "Are you sure they really needed to come?"
Sure enough, we ended up with two large trucks, huge spotlights, and lots of flashing lights parked in front of our house while at least a dozen firefighters trooped in and out for an hour. Despite the fact that it felt like the middle of the night, this whole debacle actually started around 5:30 AM, so we stood in our driveway from about 6-7 (pre-sunrise), freezing and waiting for any sign of flames. Luckily there were never any of those, and the firemen eventually decided that the smell (which they smelled too, thank goodness... I was a little worried that our phone number might be destined for some kind of "boy-who-cried-wolf" list) was from a malfunctioning heat pump/air handler. Truly, I can't say enough about how kind and thorough these guys were -- they examined every inch of our house (I'm still recovering from the mortification I felt upon discovering the door to our "junk" closet wide open) and didn't complain a bit about the terrible hour or the awful cold.
In the end, we were left with a very cold house, no heat for a few days, and a lingering smell. Thank goodness for wonderful neighbors, friends, and family who checked in on us throughout the day, and one friend in particular who went way above and beyond, delivering a truckload of firewood and our two favorite little girls to play for a little while. We spent much of the day by the fire, napping off our early morning. Luckily the weather warmed up nicely, and that evening while Dan headed out to pick up dinner, I took the pup for a gorgeous long walk and dreamed of spring.
That evening, we set up camp in the living room:
(not the best picture, but you get the general idea)
I felt like a little kid in a fort, but a lot less comfortable... turns out, no matter how many blankets you put down, you'll still find at least one bone directly on the hard floor at all times.
Sunday was slightly less exciting, thank goodness (although it was my mother's birthday, and that's exciting! Happy birthday, Mom!) We slept in a bit, knocked out a workout, met up with some friends from out of town for a drink, drove around for a bit in the snow, and then headed home (with a hot cup of coffee) to get a fire going and settle into our makeshift sleeping quarters again. 
If Saturday night had been merely a little rough, Sunday night was pretty miserable. There was a lot of tossing and turning and poking my poor husband, hissing "The fire is dying! The fire is dying!" Thank goodness for him, because he got up several times each night to throw another log on and ensure my toes stayed warm.
Thankfully, after a (ahem) brisk few days (understatement), our heat was restored yesterday and I can feel my extremities again. There is still the matter of the "fixed" air handler that is now causing our kitchen floor to vibrate like a train might be passing through the house at any moment, but I am able to handle that minor hiccup much better now that the icicle at the end of my nose has melted.
Despite the annoyance, I do have to admit -- it was kind of fun to camp out with Dan and our furballs for a few days. Even though I certainly can't sleep on the floor like I used to (the days of birthday sleepovers are long gone, and you won't hear me protest), I enjoyed changing things up and hunkering down in front of the warm fire with my boys. I'd say my sore back was worth the extra puppy snuggles, laughter, and the billion or so episodes of NCIS. And now, I'm just enjoying the warmth and crossing my fingers that it will be a very long time before a fireman has to dig through my closets again.



March 22, 2013

Friday Favorites

Didn't I mention last week that my picks were a little all over the place? Well... you ain't seen nothin' yet. Today, we make last week's choices look positively coherent.

 -- First, a Friday Favorites dream-come-true: look what arrived on my doorstep yesterday...
Even cuter in real life!
decked out for St. Patrick's day
 -- The hubs and I are on a working-out-together kick -- he has come with me to the gym every day except one this week, and we've been doing stuff together while we're there. This means that for the first time in forever (forever) I've been doing strength training, core work, and all those other things you're supposed to add to the cardio for a well-balanced workout... yuck. I'm lucky to have my very own personal personal trainer to make me feel like a wimp encourage me to keep pushing, but I'm going to be very ungrateful here for a minute: this strength stuff is for the birds. I have been so incredibly sore all week, words truly can't describe it. Sitting down hurts. Standing up hurts. Breathing hurts. I can't even begin to get comfortable at night, so I've been sleeping horribly. And let. me. tell. you. I sneezed on Wednesday, and I swear my life flashed before my eyes. I was absolutely positive that my head was going to pop off in that instant. Dan keeps telling me that it will get better, and today I am finally slightly less achy (until I try to move, at least). All I can say is that this had better be worth it.
The "favorite" part of this little topic (I bet you didn't think there was one!) was that I've been able to spend lots of quality time with Dan. Because of his funky work schedule, sometimes I feel like we barely see each other during the week. But even when I was yelling at him to get out of bed already and we were glaring at each other as we got dressed for the gym before the crack of dawn, it was nice to get to see his face a little more this week. He hits just the right balance of encouragement and making me laugh like crazy... which would be wonderful if it didn't hurt so damn much.

 -- After our gym date last night, we headed to check out a new local grocery store and grab a few last minute ingredients for dinner. This place has a ton of bulk nuts, snack mixes, and candy (dangerous), and as we browsed I spotted these beauties.

I have not eaten or even thought about mustard pretzels in YEARS, but I used to love these things when I was little. I bought a little container, and oh my goodness, they took me right back to childhood. They are super salty but incredibly good.

 -- Speaking of childhood food, I whipped up another kid favorite for dessert last night. When we were grocery shopping last week, I pointed out the pre-made Jello version of the "dirt" dessert, and Dan's eyes got all wide. I sent him back for chocolate pudding mix, grabbed a container of cool whip, and even tracked down a bag of gummi worms. Last night, we indulged:

  -- On Wednesday, we took Teddy for his first real puppy class. We signed him up a month ago, but our class didn't fill up and eventually got canceled, so we're starting again now. Our new class includes a sweet Doberman, an adorable German Shepherd, and a teeny-tiny terrier mix. Teddy did pretty well and made it clear that he's going to be a teacher's pet: while the other puppies played after class, Teddy stuck close to the trainer and did his best to look cute. The trainer even picked him up (not exactly an easy feat, since he's grown so much) to give him some love, and Teddy was clearly in heaven. We definitely have a mooch on our hands. 
The best part, though? During a "puppy recess," Teddy meandered over to the other pups, picked up the leash of the little bitty terrier in his mouth, and dragged both it and the attached dog halfway across the room to us. He sat down right in front of Dan, leash still in his mouth and terrier still struggling to get back on his feet, and looked at us like "I brought you something, can we keep it??" Everyone (including the terrier's mama, thank goodness) got a good laugh.

 -- And in the interest of equal air-time for all furballs (no one likes a furry mutiny), we'll end with this little graphic that I whipped up the other day:

Truer than you can imagine... he is not a morning cat.
Happy weekend, everyone!




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