Sunday, December 29, 2013

New Year :: New Goals 2014

We all get in the goal-setting mood at this time of year, yes? Well it's upon me again. However, I've been in the goal-setting, motivational mood for about a month. I've just been a bit busy with work and church Christmas things that I haven't been able to do anything about it. I've just been stashing ideas away in my brain and hoping I don't forget anything.

I figure I should look back and review how I did on my goals for 2013. 
Here were my goals for 2013:
-Keep a cleaner/more organized home. - Eh, not much improvement here.
-Make more lunches at home for us to take to work.
-Keep doing the dinner meal plans each week.
-Follow our stake goals: 1 Christian act per day, arrive to church meetings 10 minutes early, and study scriptures for 15 per day.
-Do something active to help me feel healthier.

Well, I don't know that I followed all of these throughout the entire year. But I know I did all of these at some period of time during the year. I know for a fact we did much better at being a bit more active (thanks to an assignment to go on a 3 day hiking/camping trip with the youth in our ward). I did yoga at work with a friend for about half the year as well. But the second half of the year got away from me. Whoops.

We also did pretty well on planning meals and taking more lunches to work. There is still room for improvement, but I feel we did much better.

Here are my goals for 2014:
-Keep my kitchen clean.There are many things that go into this goal. But our kitchen often just gets overtaken with dirty dishes all over the counters. I usually blame this on our lack of a dishwasher. (Oooh, how I long for a dishwasher.) However, I know plenty of people that also do not have a dishwasher and keep their kitchen clean every single day. So I have no excuse....except that I hate doing dishes more than nearly anything else in the world.

-Do some sort of physical activity at least twice per week. I don't care what this activity is...but something. Through some funny circumstances, we got a treadmill for free! And it works great. We are very excited about this so we can walk inside and we don't have to breathe our dirty winter Utah air.

-Drink at least one water bottle of water per day. This may seem silly for most people. But I really don't enjoy water. People say, "but it doesn't even taste like anything!" But it does to me. And it's not my favorite. But it's good for me (if only that logic helped me with my picky eating) and helps me feel better about myself if I ever start to count calories again. (Which I won't because it's really discouraging for me.)

-As time and funds permit, I want to get things done in the house, DIY style. We are currently saving up for new windows, which will hopefully help with how drafty our house is. And I need to paint, upcycle, and plan some things.

These are my biggest goals/resolutions. These are parts of and include many other smaller goals. Obviously I want to lose a little weight and be healthier in general, and I want to have an immaculately clean home all the time. But we are trying to make goals attainable so I don't get too stressed and upset when failure happens...because it almost always happens at some point.

But if there is one thing I needed to hear at church today, it was that we do not need to be perfect today. We just need to be trying to improving every day. And I think we are all doing that as best we can.

Have a happy new year!!!

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Christmas Fun

I can't believe how quickly Christmas has come this year. I have been busy with a winter talent show for my division at work and helping Steve plan the Christmas program for church. We decided to do a pretty small Christmas for each other this year. It's been nice to not worry too much about gifts. It was nice, not only because we were busy planning other things, but because it helped to encourage us to think of the real meaning of Christmas.

Here has been a little bit of what's been going on around our house as Christmas has been nearing.

We've been getting snow! Usually we don't get much snow until after Christmas. So we're excited to have a white Christmas.

We went with family to the Christmas Village in Ogden. It is always fun to see the lights and displays companies come up with for this fun tradition. It is stinkin' cold lately, so we were very bundled up!

PS - I figured out that Google is what makes my pictures do cool things. So fun!

We also made some treats as thank you gifts for those that helped and participated in our ward Christmas program. We made chocolate covered pretzels and my favorite Christmas cookies for the choir members and speakers. We had a hard time not eating them along the way. Luckily there were a few cookies left over for us.


And I've still been crocheting up a storm in our home. I've gotten most of the gifts finished, but there are still a few more I need to finish up quick!!

Steve and I planned our ward's Christmas program today and it turned out so wonderfully. We are so grateful for all that helped us pull everything together. All the singing and speaking was perfect and really helped invite the spirit of Christ into our meeting and our lives. We are so grateful for our talents and the talents of those around us.

Merry Christmas friends and family!

Saturday, December 14, 2013

DIY Paper Christmas Trees

Here is this year's first Christmas DIY project! Woohoo!!

I made these right after Thanksgiving, so I'm not sure why it took so long for me to post this.

And this is a post where you really get to witness my skills at NOT being a photographer. You are welcome.

To get started I gathered a bunch of paper. Some paper was Christmas-y, some was only somewhat Christmas-y. But putting some papers together makes it all look Christmas-y.

I made a template on Microsoft Word of a Christmas tree. It probably wasn't perfectly symmetrical, but I was just hoping for it to work out.

I traced and cut out a ton of little trees. Then I put the trees into groups of 4. I'm sure this could work in groups of 3 or even more than 4. I tried to make each grouping have something like 2 mostly-green and 2 mostly-red trees. And I didn't plan it that way, but I actually had the perfect amount. I'm obviously a genius.

I folded each tree in half. Then I got the little scrapbooking sticky square things and used those to stick the trees together. I just lined up the folds because I knew the outsides probably weren't symmetrical.

I moved some of my mantel pictures and put all the trees on my mantel around my stocking hangers. It was like a cute little colorful forest. And it was free! Can't beat that!

Again, my phone does random, cool things to my pictures.

That is our family Christmas card this year. Love us. I have the coolest family. Not exaggerating.

I love these little trees!!! This craft was so easy and I really enjoyed how they turned out. I'm excited to be able to use them year after year.

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Salt Lake at Christmastime

We finally got down to Salt Lake to see the lights. It was freezing cold, so we saw everything quick and got the usual pictures.

Ooooh phone pictures...

Can we talk again about how my phone will randomly add cool things to my pictures? It's one of the reasons I keep using my phone for pictures...I have never seen this feature. Yet, when I was uploading pictures for this post, this snowfall just showed up on the picture!! I originally took this picture because of the really cool mohawks the sheep had.

Because it was so cold, the water had a really cool fog over the nativity.

Not only did we see the lovely lights, our neighbors were kind enough to give us tickets to the huge Christmas concert with the Mormon Tabernacle choir and other special guests. We were so excited because we have been trying to get tickets to this concert for years, and we were never lucky enough to get chosen.

This year the guests were Deborah Voigt and John Rhys-Davies. Deborah Voigt is an internationally known soprano - it was pretty amazing to hear her voice. John Rhys-Davies is a British actor. You may remember him from Indiana Jones or The Lord of the Rings. He was narrator for part of the concert.

Seeing that amazing organ solo by Richard Elliot really inspired me. Now that I've started playing the organ, I really want to learn it well. His solo was incredible!!

After I took this picture, we realized that we were in the balcony and our tickets said terrace. So we got to move even closer!

My phone did all the work for me again. I'll take it. Here are many of our attempts to take a good picture. I like that it progresses from regular smiles to really excited smiles. Enjoy that!

What a lovely night we had together enjoying music, good stories, and the Christmas spirit! 

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Grandma's Sugar Cookies

First, I must say that I love Christmas treats. It's one of the best parts of the Christmas season. I'm not an expert baker, but what I make is still pretty yummy!

Making sugar cookies with my grandma's favorite recipe is one of my very favorite Christmas traditions. I will always remember my mom rolling out the dough and then letting me do the cookie cutters.

Don't mind the slightly burned snowman - he was a little too thin. But for the second time I've ever made this recipe by myself, I'd say it turned out pretty well. I may need to make them again to prefect my baking techniques. ;) And I guuueesssssss I could give some away to neighbors. Or eat them all within 24 hours of making them.

I hope your Christmas season has gotten off to a merry start!!

Monday, December 2, 2013

Thanksgiving Weekend

Did you have a good Thanksgiving weekend?? I hope so. Ours was great. Very relaxing and nice to be around family. It was so nice to eat good food and just chill in our family cabin.

Here was one of my favorite little passing moments with one of our nephews. He loves his uncle Steve.

Playing on Steve's phone

This game never gets old with little ones

Then we got to enjoy a lovely sunset on the drive home. We have so much to be grateful for this year.

Can't wait to immerse myself in Christmas music, Christmas crafts, and Christmas traditions!!

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Happy Thanksgiving!

Thought I'd show you how colorful our Thankful Tree got. And show you a close up of some of the things we are thankful for.

I realized that a lot of the things are kind of silly. But I'm thankful for them nonetheless.

I think we'll keep this tree up for a while longer. Even though it won't match the oncoming Christmas decor, I don't care. The Christmas season still makes me feel so thankful.

I hope you have a fantastic, love-filled Thanksgiving! 

Monday, November 25, 2013

Counting stitches

Like I said in the last post, since I finished my big test I've been relaxing and counting stitches. I made these four owls for my friend to give to her friend's kids. (That is like a riddle.) I've been looooving making these sweet little owls for Christmas presents.

I love their little wings. They look like they are saying, "fly away!"

Saturday, November 23, 2013

My tips for taking the GRE (or any huge standardized test)

*biiiiig sigh* I'm finally done with the GRE and I can breathe!!!

Now that I have taken the GRE I'm practically an expert, right??? Right, I am. I decided I'd share of few of the tips that I found most useful during this crazy, stressful time. These are mostly tips for the actual test day because that was the part that stressed me out the most.

Get a prep book/take a prep course if you can afford it. Do some sort of preparation. I decided not to take a prep class because that seemed like a waste of money (in my opinion). I'm sure it would've been a great way to get prepared. But just using the book was enough preparation for me. I loved being able to practice concepts that would be on the test. Almost more than the concepts, the book just helped me get familiar with what the test would be like. It was great at telling me how the scoring works, strategies for being logical, and just the general format. For me, the unknown is what makes me anxious. So just knowing what to expect truly helped lessen my anxiety level.

Absolutely follow the suggestions and dress in layers to accommodate for any changes in temperature. I was so glad I did because I rolled up my sleeves a couple of times. In conjunction with dressing in layers, dress in comfy clothes. You don't want to be squirming around in your seat trying to get comfortable during the test. It's hard enough to focus already, so making sure you are comfy in the first place is a must. Additionally, if you have long hair, tie it back or bring a hair tie. I like having my hair down because it's most comfortable, but sometimes it just gets in the way.

Figure out a way to calm down and reset ahead of time. I'm kind of an expert to letting one little detail affect how the rest of my day turns out. Anyone else great at that? Not something you want to have happen on a big test like this. So I had to think of what to do in my short breaks to reset and be ready for the next set of questions. For my general relaxation methods, I love imagining I'm laying on a cloud, completely weightless, and letting my stress rise away from me. I adapted this imagery for my breaks between sections. I decided to close my eyes and imagine that section of the test sitting on top of a cloud and floating away. I just smiled and waved as it rose into the sky. I also forced my face into a smile. I recently listened to a Ted Talk that mentioned if you even just put your face into the shape of a smile you will feel happier. I figured that couldn't hurt, right??

Figure out your way to wake up. I honestly believe that half of this experience was testing my endurance more than my knowledge. Four hours? Really??? It was insanely long. And there were a couple moments during the test when I got tired and started not comprehending what I was reading because I was bored. I did expect that. Sometimes the questions or readings just aren't very interesting. But it was at the end of the sections right before my break, and I did not want to run out of time. And ya know what I did? I scrunched my face up really tight and clenched the butt cheeks. I heard in one of my classes that it's a very effective way to stay awake and alert. I probably looked weird, but I was awake, so I don't mind. I did that a few times and it seemed to at least get my muscles active again.

Just relax. First, relax during the test. If you have very high anxiety for situations like this, research some relaxation techniques that you can do before and during the test. Second, relax after the test. Celebrate that you just took a big test that you have probably spent hours, weeks, or months preparing for! I was so happy when it was over, and my sweet hubs took me out to dinner afterward. And I got a facial today to kind of give me a "detox" from all the stress that has been building up for weeks.

Now, I'm going to go hang out with my yarn. I can finally focus on starting Christmas presents and projects. YAY! :D

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Back to studying

After I graduated with my bachelor's degree, I never thought I would go back to school. I was done and tired of school work, tests, and papers. Then a few months after I graduated, I saw the description for the Master of Professional Communication at Weber State University and actually thought the classes looked enjoyable.


After denying it and then going back over it and running in circles in my mind, I realized I loved learning. Like book learning. I love school. It's hard, but I love it. You could say that I have a strong penchant toward learning. ;) And I realize it's a blessing to love school because so many people have had terrible experiences in educational settings.

Ultimately, I decided to take the GRE and apply to that Graduate program. I got this Kaplan GRE prep book and have been making random flashcards for vocab words and math concepts. It hurts my brain because these are not the things I want to learn. But it's required for applying. Boo.

I've been studying away off and on for a few months. I took a practice test and did "average" on the scores. I'm not super worried about passing. I think I'll be fine. But I'm very nervous. It's a test scheduled to be 4 1/2 hours long, people! My brain will probably ooze out of my ears when I finish. I take the test this Friday, so you probably won't be hearing from me until after then.

I often make this face when I realize how close the test is...

In other news: I'm really enjoying my shirt today. :)

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Secret Service Date Night

Well today was the first official snow of the wintery season. There was a time of slushy snow once, but this was actual snow today, ladies and gentlemen. And I didn't mind it. Especially since we got to stay home all snuggly and warm today. 

The only thing we had to do today was go on a date! WOO! I decided to give my big curling iron another try. In previous tries I have never liked the result. My hair would just end up curling under or out. But this time, it looked sa-weet. Holler. I loved it. Not sure what I did differently, but it looked great.

For our date we went to a new BBQ restaurant. It was called Dickey's Barbecue Pit. It was like a fast food feel with walking through the line and ordering. It was okay. We still like Famous Dave's better. :) This place had all-you-can-eat soft serve. So we tried it, and we're pretty sure it was nearing the bottom, because this is how the ice cream looked. Whoops. But I had a good laugh about it for a few minutes.

And my lovely hair lasted throughout dinner and until we got home to make silly faces at each other in the mirror. YAY for date night!! For the rest of November we will be "secretly serving" each other to help us remember our blessings.

Friday, November 15, 2013

Thankful Banner

YAY! I finally got the time to make another Turkey Day/autumn craft!!

Well I've seen a bunch of different kinds of Thanksgiving banners on Pinterest lately. Banners are kind of the cool thing to do right now. I would show you some of my favorites, but I'm too lazy. Just find me on Pinterest. ;)

Since it's Friday, I finally got to workin' on my own Thankful Banner. I had a few different styles in mind, but I finally chose this one. It worked best for the supplies I already had on hand. So there ya go.

I had the big letter stencils and I traced them onto paper. The white paper actually has some small leaves and twigs on it. Then I got a bunch of different brown/dark red/green papers from my collection of scraps. Traced, measured, cut, measured, cut, traced, cut, punch holes, string with yarn. TA-DA!!

I was worried that the letters would be too big and that the banner would turn out entirely too large for the area. But after putting it up, it actually worked out great for the spot I put it in. I love when things work out better than expected.

It was super-duper easy, and free.  WIN!

Then I decided to decorate my two candles that I used for my Harry Potter Halloween. I had also seen similar (cuter) ideas on Pinterest. I just cut out leaves again like I did for my Thankful Tree. Then wrapped some paper around the candle and tied the leaf on with twine. BAM. Easy and free again. I'm not really sure where these are going yet.

My Thankful Banner is definitely quirky because it has a bunch of different paper patterns. But I actually think I like it that way. As I've been decorating the house little by little, I've realized that my decorating style is simply that: quirky. So I'm running with it and really enjoying it! As long as we like it, that's all that matters, right?

Have fun decorating for the holidays in your own style!

Sunday, November 10, 2013

You Are My Hands

"As we extend our hands and hearts toward others in Christlike love, something wonderful happens to us. Our own spirits become healed, more refined, and stronger. We become happier, more peaceful, and more receptive to the whisperings of the Holy Spirit."
-Dieter F. Uchtdorf
"You Are My Hands"
April 2010 General Conference

So grateful for my hubby's talk in church today. He quoted from this talk (highly recommend reading/listening to it...right here on, and this part really touched me today.

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Monogram Collage

I have been eyeing these awesome monogram collages on Pinterest for quite some time.

Here are my faves:
This one over a headboard from DIY Home Pin
especially this one from Dear Lizzy.

Well I've been collecting the letter H for maybe a year and have finally decided to make the collage! Yesss - productivity! So I laid out what I have on the folding table. I got 4 cute little plates from the DI to fill space so it wasn't just H's. (Spoiler: They didn't even work out!)

Here was my first (of many) arrangements.

I have seen some people make cute little random quotes with these collages and I love them. So I made one. Just got some scratch paper that somewhat went with the colors I had already and stamped the words on there. Easy peasy.

I added that into the collage and rearranged a lot of things. I wanted to see what a diagonal design looked like and tried it. Eh. Not diggin' it yet.

Then I asked for friends to give me some input to get things balanced better and some people said it looked like "ho ho ho" for a Christmas decoration. So now that's all I can see! Boooo.

Out went the plates. And after much deliberation, I even took out my cute little quote. Because all the H's were wood and stuck out from the wall, the paper just wasn't working well with everything else. But I still wanted this diagonal layout for some reason.

I guess I should've gone with the simple route that I usually take. It practically always works.

I went with just the H's. And I tried to put them in a diagonal type of clump again. Not sure how well it worked. But I'm actually diggin' it. I realize that some of my letters are crookedy - but on a couple I haven't actually use my more permanent hanging devices. That will be good if I decide to move things later on, I guess.

Please excuse me for being extremely lazy and using only my phone camera for pictures lately. I know the pictures aren't as sharp or true to their colors. But my phone is easy because it sends pictures directly to my account. Win, right?? Yes.

I am really enjoying it so far. And I think there is room to add more H's when I happen to find them. Just like my mantel picture collage seen here, it makes me smile when I see it. So I think that's a plus. We'll see how I feel a couple weeks. Actually, I probably won't care about it for a few weeks until I'm done taking the GRE. *stressssssss* 

Happy DIY-ing!