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Longtime readers of this blog may remember that at the end of every school year, my teacher friends and I all make music mixes for our MixClub.  On the last teacher workday of the year we exchange CDs filled with our mixes.  The mixes vary greatly, but each one shows some theme, some personal journey of the mix-maker.  While it takes some effort, a bit of money, and a lot of time the idea of getting 10 or so new mixes to listen to all summer makes it worth it.  The only rules are that each mix should be filled with 20 or so songs, that no artist can be repeated in a mix, and that there should be some overlying theme that is evident.

I knew my mix had to encapsulate this phenomenal year that I’ve had. I’m really proud of what I came up with, and I hope you enjoy it.  I’ve been listening to the CD nonstop this summer, and everyone who’s in my car always comments on how much they like it.  I created a playlist of my mix on 8tracks so that you could listen to it, too.

Liner Notes:

For so many reasons, this year has been amazing for me, and this mix reflects that feeling.

Personally, I’m finally living the life I always dreamed for myself. It hasn’t been easy, but it’s definitely been worth it. Losing the weight was the one thing I had never been able to do, and it was one of my deepest desires. Achieving this great goal has transformed me, inside and out.

Professionally, it was a thrill to get the Teacher of the Year honor during my tenth year at Prospect. In fact, that’s what gives this mix its title. I started seeing emails sent to me with T.O.Y. in the subject line, and I thought, “T.O.Y.land is the perfect way to name this awesome year that I’ve been experiencing.”

This mix is filled with upbeat, happy songs that reflect how I feel. It has songs that are deeply personal. It has songs that I use to inspire me when I’m pushing myself in my workouts. And it has a few songs that I’ve discovered more recently at the Bottle Rock Festival in Napa last weekend. In any case, this mix has been in the making throughout this wonderful year, and I hope you enjoy it.

 Cover Art: (click on the photo to go to the playlist on 8Tracks) Toyland

 

What songs are you loving this summer? Let me know in the comments!

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Goal #10 for my 13 in 13 is to go to bed by 10pm.  This doesn’t mean that my light will be off by then, but that I’ll get into bed, read, and hopefully fall asleep at some point thereafter.  Which is a huge improvement over what I’ve been doing: staying up until after midnight watching t.v. or YouTube videos and then heading to bed.

As I was going through my Google Reader yesterday (Goal #8), I came across this “40 Minutes to Snooze” playlist from FitSugar.  I’ve never been one to listen to music while I try to sleep, but 2013 is about trying new things, and since I love music, I figured why not incorporate this into my nightly routine.  Or at least give it a try for a week and see what happens.

Since I know a lot of you also need to be better about getting more sleep, I figured I’d share.  Sweet Dreamzzzzzzzzzz.

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Throughout the month of December, I’ll be participating in #reverb12: celebrating the successes of 2012, honoring the challenges of 2012, and planting the seeds for a rich and rewarding 2013. December is the perfect time to reflect on the year that has passed and start to manifest dreams for the new year.

Day 11What was music to your ears in 2012, literally or metaphorically?

Music is a huge part of my life! I’ve come to learn that I do my best work (grading, cleaning, working out, etc) when I have music in the background. As someone who’s iTunes collection is so big that I had to buy an external hard drive to house it all so that it didn’t overtake my laptop’s memory, it’s interesting that in 2012, most of the music I’ve listened to wasn’t music that I purchased.

I’ve been really getting into music sites like

  • 8tracks where you can listen to pre-made playlists based on mood. Cleaning + upbeat and rain+indie are favorite searches of mine.
  • Spotify where you can listen to whole albums from artists you like or you can make playlists to share with friends. I’ve become a big fan of the FitSugar playlists.
  • Rock My Run where you can download DJ mixes to match the bpm you want to sync your workout to. I have downloaded tons of Rock My Run mixes and use them to help me get through especially challenging workouts.

My musical tastes are eclectic, but if it’s 80s, alternative, Madonna, or indie pop, you can be it’s in my earphones.

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This month I’m participating in 30 Days of Thanks (#30DaysofThanks) by writing a blog post about 30 things I’m thankful for. To join in, go to the link above. The best part is, you don’t need to have a blog or even be on social media to take part in the project; you just need to be thankful. I can’t wait to see how my life might change by spending the 30 days in November giving thanks for things in my life — every single day.

Today I am thankful that my sister and I found some time in our busy schedules to slip away and go to see The Perks of Being a Wallflower before it left theatres.  If you didn’t get to see it, do.  If you haven’t read the book, read it.  Go buy the soundtrack, it’s fantastic.  Or, if you want, just go listen to it on Spotify:

The movie was beautifully done.  I think it helped that the novel’s author, Stephen Chbosky, wrote the screenplay and directed the film, too.  As much as I loved the book, I think this film might have been even better.  Although that might have been because the actors were so endearing.  It was truly one of the best movies I have seen in recent memory.

Afterward, LC and I went to Starbucks for a bit of an afternoon pick-me-up, and to take advantage of their “buy one holiday drink, get the other free from 2pm-5pm deal”.  I treated myself to a Grande Skinny Peppermint Mocha for 130 calories.  It was a delicious treat.

Weekends like this one, where my sister and I get to spend a lot of time together (we lounged around for much of the day yesterday, too) are all too rare, making them all the more precious.  I’m so grateful that my sister is my best friend and that she and my nieces live right next door.

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Last night my friend Ani and I went to see Girish:Remixed at one of the local yoga studios I like to go to.  I had been on their site looking up a class for my sister when I happened to look at their upcoming events and saw the show.

REMIXED links Sanskrit mantra and chant with modern grooves in a heart-opening, soul-stirring union. This is sensual, funky, yet deeply devotional music that will have your body moving and your heart soaring.

REMIXED joins Girish’s lush, soulful voice and transcendent melodies with a dazzling array of international musical luminaries including Mac Quayle (Sting, Beyonce, Madonna), DJDrez (Black-Eyed Peas, Bombay Dub Orchestra), Herb Graham,Jr(MacyGray), Desert Dwellers, Rara Avis, Shujat Ali Khan and more.

REMIXED is an inspiring blend of musical styles ranging from dubstep to reggae, from dance to electronic – while maintaining the devotional heart and soul of Girish’s music. This is music to put your prayers in motion!”

I love music of all types, and I’m always looking for something out of the ordinary to do, so I figured it was a nice way to spend a Saturday evening.  I asked Ani to join me because she’s always up for new adventures. And I did something really a-typical for me – I didn’t research more about the music online before the event.  I wanted to experience the evening fresh, without any preconceived notions.

This is the Luna room at Breathe, where they hold their aerial yoga classes, among others. It was the beautiful setting of the evening’s music.

While I wasn’t sure what to expect, but I knew I’d hear some interesting music in a tranquil space, no matter what.  And I did.  We sat on blankets and bolsters on the ground, and most people were wearing loose, easy clothing.  I was a bit overdressed, but very thankful that I’d chosen to forgo my jeans, which would have been much too uncomfortable for sitting on the floor for two hours.

The music was based on chants from sanskrit, many of which are used in yoga practice.  I was actually shocked at how many people in the small group of 30 knew the chants by heart. The Girish website has samples of all the songs we heard last night, and here’s a sample of one of my favorites from last night, Jaya Hanuman. The thing that you don’t hear from the samples is the way that the songs built up in intensity and tempo.  As the description wrote, many of the songs took on a funky, jazzy vibe, courtesy of brilliant bass guitar playing and drumming.  Those were the moments I enjoyed the most, when I could just forget about everything else and FEEL the music.  And I guess that’s really the whole point, to let all of your troubles go and just be in the moment, exactly as you are when you’re practicing yoga. 

The only song I didn’t like was one that was sung in English and sounded more like a Christian revival meeting.  (It was something more impromptu, and not part of the CD or the samples).

Even though I didn’t completely feel like I belonged there (just my own thing, not because anyone was unwelcoming), I still really enjoyed the evening.  I liked the experience so much that I think I may go to the OM Music Festival in Santa Cruz in October.  I think it speaks to the fact that music can bridge all sorts of gaps.

Do you ever go to events that are very out of character for you?

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Before I get into the fun of today’s post, get in the mood by pressing play…

Last Friday I was catching up on my blog reading, when I came across this post from Amber @ Hungry4aHealthyLife. (The post itself is so inspiring – Amber spent over 3 hours at the gym one Saturday doing her own sprint tri (she swam 750 meters, biked 12 miles, and ran/walked 5K! Go read the whole post, it’s a great one). In the post, Amber mentions that to help keep herself motivated during the swimming she was using a Speedo AquaBeat – an mp3 player made to wear in the water! How cool is that?

I literally left her blog and headed straight to Amazon to buy one. Amazon is usually my go-to for this sort of thing, but the prices were more than I wanted to pay – $140 for just the player, no headphones (those were another $20-40). So I headed to eBay, and found one that was brand new and included the Aquabeat player, headphones, and a bag (plus charger and USB cord) for $75. The seller was excellent (which is why I’m including the link to his store), and I received the Aquabeat yesterday. Fast!

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It’s really light as a feather, and the size of a pager (remember those?).

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My attempt to show you the headphones. I thought the cord was in the shot. 😛

The headphones are earbud-style with wraparound earpieces and the cord is nice and short.  It comes with an extension cord, although I couldn’t imagine swimming with a long cord dangling. The packaging says that it slips over the strap of goggles or a swimsuit, but I couldn’t figure out how that would work. I don’t use goggles when I swim, and the strap of my swimsuit didn’t seem to fit. But it didn’t matter, I just tucked the Aquabeat into the top of my suit.

Before I go into what it was like to swim with the Aquabeat, I want to go on a mini tangent to show you the new swimsuit that I got today (perfect timing!). I had to buy a new suit because one of my older ones got a rip in it last week when I went swimming with my nieces (not sure how that even happened). I headed to QVC because I’ve had good luck with their swimsuits in the past, and found this one from Isaac Mizrahi. I was drawn to it because it was sophisticated, yet modest. I was so thrilled that it was on my doorstep as I got back from the dentist this morning. I immediately put it on, and really liked what I saw in the mirror:

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This is the first swimsuit I can say that I actually love the way it looks on me. (Yes, I love the swimsuit with the cherries, but I don’t love the way that I look in it). I adore the length of the skirt, since that’s my trouble area. The cut of the suit accentuates the positives and definitely minimizes the negatives. It’s light and comfortable; so many swimsuits with Lycra are really heavy, but this one isn’t. I also liked that it was mostly black, with just the edging of leopard print. Cute!

I liked the suit enough that when I arrived at the pool and saw 4-5 preteens/teens, I didn’t even think twice about taking my coverup off and getting in the pool. I was utterly confident with how I looked – I love that! It’s rare when I’m wearing a bathing suit, let me tell you.

The reason I wanted to get the Aquabeat was that although swimming is really peaceful and tranquil, after 20 or so minutes, it can also get a bit monotonous. I’m left with my thoughts, but there’s only so much thinking a girl can do, you know? I’ve been striving for those big calorie burns, and the way to do that is to keep swimming for 30+ minutes.

So I got to the pool and started listening to the Rock My Run mixes I’d loaded onto the Aquabeats. (Side note: in order to use songs from iTunes there’s a whole process that you have to go through to convert the songs to mp3 format which I didn’t feel like doing today (though I will eventually), so I just used the mixes that I knew were mp3s already). I love Rock My Run because of the mix of music they offer. I started off with some Latin/Miami beats aka PitBull.

I swam/water-danced to the songs, and before I knew it, I’d done 45 minutes! It was so fun to hit my strokes in time to the music, and when I type “water dance” it’s because I felt like I was really grooving through the water. It was so much fun!

I got out, took in some rays, and was going to call it a day until I realized that the teens had left and I had the entire pool area to myself. That hasn’t happened yet this summer, so I wanted to take advantage of it. I also wanted to listen to the Madonna Madness mix (I’m obsessed, okay?). The mix was 30 minutes, so the plan was to keep swimming until it was over. I kept vogue-ing/swimming and pushed myself to go farther. Madonna is a great workout inspiration because she kills it; whether it’s 3 hours on the Stairmaster in the late 80s, yoga/running in the 90s, or Barre3 today, she’s a machine. She’s got the body to prove it – can you believe she’ 54?! (Someday I’ll write an entire post about my love of Madonna, but that’s enough of the Material Girl for tonight). Anyway, I kept going and going and finally had to get out of the pool because my fingers were getting pruney.

When I checked out the length of the Madonna Madness mix, it was 60 minutes, not 30! I’d been swimming for another 35+ minutes. 80 minutes of swimming in one afternoon = 1290 calories burned. Wooohooooo!

I had the BEST time today, and I have to give a lot of credit to the Aquabeat. It’s going to be a staple in my pool bag, for sure!!

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For the month of December, I’ll be participating in #WEverb11. Each day gives a new prompt, each of which is a chance to reflect and look forward.

December 29: Gush

Begin to create a plan for “My Friends Day Out 2012” – tell us what you envision.Contributed by Julie Jordan Scott.

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This prompt is a really fun one for me and one that I hope to actually put to use.  Scale Warfare and I have been friends since she left her first comment on my blog, back on March 19, 2009.  That was 384 comments ago.  (Yes, I checked).  In the 2 1/2 years since we first connected, we’ve become amazing sources of support for each other.  As I’ve said many, many times before, SW is one of my best friends.  Yet we’ve never met in person.

Well that’s changing in 2012.  We’ve decided the only city ready for our first meetup is Vegas.  Summer 2012.  Exact date to be decided.

So this Friends’ Day Out plan is for Vegas, Baby:

(We’ll arrive in Vegas at some point on Friday, and we’ll spend that first night talking, drinking, gambling, and who knows?  This plan will be for the next day, our first full day in Vegas).

Morning:

  • An early morning (which in Vegas could mean 11am!) walk along the strip, taking in the scene.
  • Breakfast at one of the many buffets. As long as there are Bloody Mary’s I don’t care which.
  • Pool time.  It’s bound to be HOT in Vegas in the summer, but if we can handle it, getting a few rays earlier in the day would be great.

Midday:

  • Shopping.  Hello Forum Shops at Caesar’s Palace.
  • Riding the roller coasters – this is a significant NSV, because before we each lost weight, we wouldn’t have fit into the rides.
  • Checking out the beautiful hotels – Wynn, Bellagio, Venetian, etc.
  • Some spa time.

Evening:

  • Drinks at a hotspot lounge.  It’s been 10 years since I was in Vegas, so I need recommendations. At that time, I loved the rum bar at Mandalay Bay, but I have no idea if that’s even there still.
  • Dinner at a 4-star restaurant.
  • A show – Cirque du Soleil, comedy, music – depending on who’s playing when we’re there.
  • Dancing at another hotspot – one that’s not overrun with wannabe’s.  Just a place were we can have fun and let loose.
  • Gambling.
  • Repeat, repeat, repeat.

The most important part of the trip is that we’ll be meeting up for the first time, the rest of it is just icing on the cake.  I’m really looking forward to our trip!

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If you’d like to join in on the daily writing prompts, go to WEverb11, sign up for the email notifications, and join us! Or follow along on Twitter using the #WEverb11 hashtag!

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For the month of December, I’ll be participating in #WEverb11. Each day gives a new prompt, each of which is a chance to reflect and look forward.

December 2: Listen
What song did you listen to in 2011 to completely change your mood? Think about ways you can you add more music to your life in 2012. Contributed by Bella

(Hey, that’s ME!!!! How exciting that they chose one of my prompts for Day 2 of this!!)

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I absolutely love music, and have since I was in middle school. I grew up in the mid to late 80s, and if you know anything about 80s music, you know that it was eclectic, raw, and moody. Bands like The Cure, The Smiths, and Depeche Mode were all playing in my Walkman constantly in high school. At the same time, I loved Wham, Madonna, and the B52’s. As I grew older, music would take me through my workouts, would travel with me in the car, and it would accompany me as I moved through my To Do list. Music always made the most mundane tasks more palatable. Music made me feel alive. It still does.

I love the fact that music can completely change my mood, and I use it that way all the time. I’d say the song that I played again and again in 2011 was Adele’s Rolling in the Deep. I adore her voice and think the entire 21 album is brilliant, but there’s something about this song that just speaks to me. Reminds me of my one true love that I lost so long ago, when I was 24. It’s about love and loss and betrayal. But mostly, to me, it’s about emerging from the hurt stronger than ever. It’s about showing the world (and the person who hurt you more deeply than you knew you could be) that you’re not down and out. That you will be fine. And it’s about Karma. When I listen to this song, it makes me nostalgic, but it also reminds me of how far I’ve come. Of how strong I am. Of my power. I always come away from this song feeling better than I did before it started.

Here, listen for yourself.

And for 2012, I think Shake It Out from Florence + The Machine works well. Her voice is haunting, and the song is filled with dark, ghoulish imagery, yet at its heart I think the song is completely uplifting. It’s about leaving the past in the past. It’s about shaking off the things that hold you back and keep you down. It’s about the DAWN. A new day, a new life. And that’s exactly what I’m expecting from this new year.

As she says, “It’s hard to dance with the devil on your back.” So it’s time to shake off this weight and start dancing as if no one is watching.

As always, I’m going to make 2012 a year filled with music by rewarding my accomplishments large and small with new music – to work out to, to celebrating with, and to simply drive home from work. Music has the power to move me, and I’m going to let it.

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If you’d like to join in on the daily writing prompts, go to WEverb11, sign up for the email notifications, and join us! Or follow along on Twitter using the #WEverb11 hashtag!

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Today was one of those days when I’m just happy to be alive!  I haven’t felt this content and “smiley” in about a month, so it’s a welcome change.  Sometimes it’s important to just appreciate the simple pleasures life brings us, which is exactly what this post is all about.

One of my recent goals was to spend more time with my friends and today I met one of my best friends, Di, for coffee and to catch up on the past month or so of our lives.  Di and I talked about everything – Lulu’s death, her ex, my sister/nieces, her kids, taxes, my weight loss, her work, my work, lap and surgery, being (almost) 40, and how excited I am about Sofi (whichever puppy she may be). It was so good to catch up, and we both said we wanted to make sure that we got together again soon.

Now, normally I wouldn’t celebrate potential sun damage, but I was just happy it was sunny enough today for me to get a bit of a color.  I NEVER burn, but I guess the sun was just intense where Di and I were sitting.  The day started out overcast, but as we sat there for 3 1/2 hours, the sun came out in full force.  The nice thing is that this mark will be gone by tomorrow morning. The sad thing is, so will the sun: the weather forecast is calling for morning showers.  Ugh.  But “April showers bring May flowers, right?”

Pandora!  I absolutely love this new Lenka radio station I made about a month ago.  Lots of A Fine Frenzy, Kate Nash, Adele, and even some Jason Mraz.  Having music in the background just makes any other task more manageable, to me.  This afternoon I’ve been grooving to this music and making dinners, doing laundry, changing sheets, and blogging.  I’ve been using Pandora for the last 3 years or so, but I’ve noticed that it’s becoming more popular lately. Do you use Pandora?  What station do you love?  I’m always on the lookout for new music.

My sister picked my nieces up from their old house today (they spent their week off with their dad) and she brought home a bunch of lemons from her old Meyer lemon tree in the back.  Thankfully, my sister shares!  I love the way that lemons brighten up everything from fish, to salad dressing, to water.  I can’t wait to use these all week.

In keeping with my Scrumptious Sunday, I did a little bit of make-ahead cooking today.  I was starving after my coffee chat with Di (it was 2pm!) so I decided my Lean & Green was going to be a late lunch.  I’m so glad I did that because now I have 4 other meal replacements to enjoy throughout the course of my reality-tv-watching Sunday evening.  I made ground turkey taco salad today, and have enough seasoned turkey for two more salads.  I also baked a piece of salmon that I’m planning to have with asparagus tomorrow night.  So, 3 other meals ready and waiting for me.  Friday the rain is finally supposed to end and I’m hoping I’ll be able to bbq some chicken.

I’ve been reading A Dog’s Purpose for the last 3 weeks, but today I got some solid time to read quite a bit of it, and I love it.  I started it right after Lulu died, and I have to say that reading it has really helped me get through her death and the loss and emptiness that has come with it.  The book is told from a dog’s perspective, and it actually gave me a lot of insight (even though I know it’s fiction).  The author consulted with lots of dog behavior experts, including Cesar Milan, and so I think he was able to capture life from a dog’s perspective perfectly.  This book is for anyone who loves dogs, and it has truly offered me a huge amount of comfort.

While my official weigh-in isn’t until Wednesday, I am confident to report that since Wednesday I have already lost the 3.6 lbs that I gained last week.  I have been following Medifast strictly since then and it is definitely paying off on the scale.  I’m thrilled that a bit more effort on my part is going to pay off.  I should hit my mini goal in no time at this rate.

And, finally, I’ll end my Sunday Smiles with new photos of flowers that I’ve put all around the house.  I’ve never considered myself a great floral arranger, but lately I’ve been impressed with the way I’ve been able to display all the flowers we have in our garden.  I wanted to make sure to cut lots of flowers today because of the rain in the forecast for this week.  The flowers make me feel like I’ve brought a bit of springtime into the house and that definitely makes me smile.  Enjoy!

Cala Lillies are my favorites, and I love the way this looks in my living room.

Basically the same bouquet as last week, but the lighting was different and made the roses look almost florescent.

My favorite bouquet of the week. The vase matches the bathroom perfectly, the freesia smell heavenly, and the colors - gorgeous!!

How was your weekend?  What did you do that brought a smile to your face? 

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Last night one of my cousin’s came over to my house for the first time, and he was truly impressed with it. He couldn’t get over how large it was, the size of my yard (not that it’s THAT big, but for a rental), how great the “flow” is for entertaining, and how I’ve decorated it. He made me feel so good about it. I’m really proud of where I live and how I’ve decorated. Which makes me feel like the extra money I spend every month in rent (compared to my last place) is totally and completely worth it.

Today I woke up late, and decided to honor this sense of gratitude I feel for how lucky I am to live here. So today I’m doing a photo “essay” post, filled with all the things that are making me smile on this gorgeous Sunday.

I bought these mums yesterday and they are so vibrant and firey. A perfect addition to my outdoor table. I love seeing them as I look out the window.

I bought this fall bouquet yesterday, since I knew I was having people over. Plus, I haven’t bought fresh flowers for myself in a long time, and I thought it was about time.

Lulu always makes me smile. Even with her recent naughtiness, Lulu is such a joy in my life and I feel like she’s the best thing that’s happened to me in the past year.

Naughty #1 came Friday, when Lulu decided to use my power cord as a chew toy. Luckily I avoided having to spend $80 to replace it because my dad can literally fix anything.

Naughty #2 came last night, after I had been out for about 4 hours. Lulu was so excited to see me, and we were playing. Then I went into my room to get changed and she jumped on the bed and we played a bit more. Suddenly she was getting into this strange pose. Before I knew what was going on, I realized she was peeing! On my silk duvet!! So I sopped up the pee with a towel, treated the duvet with Zout (before reading that it wasn’t recommended for silk), and washed it on the delicate, cool water cycle. Then I put it in the dryer on no-heat fluff. I closed the garage door, went to bed, and hoped for the best.

How could I ever be upset with that face?

Having lots of fresh fruit and veggies on hand makes me happy.

Being stocked up on food makes me feel ready for the week. Safeway had a sale on Healthy Choice entrees this week, so that’s what I got. Nothing makes me smile more than being organized.

Sunday morning ritual, part 1.

Sunday morning ritual, part 2. Although who am I kidding, I drink coffee every day.

I have an actual garden that I can play around in at this new house. These roses have been here a long time, but I’m hoping that I can learn how to care for them so that they thrive. This photo also reminds me that this spring and summer I’m going to be able to make this yard look amazing with a little money, lots of effort, and some gardening luck!

This is what I saw when I walked out of my front door this morning. It’s a gorgeous day here today: sunny, bright, slightly windy, with clear skies. Oh and lots of leaves falling from those huge trees in the center island on my street. Luckily they should all be gone within a few weeks.

These are the bulbs my dad and I planted last weekend. It doesn’t look like anything more than a box of dirt, but by the spring, they’ll be gorgeous. It’s been fun trying something as new as planting bulbs and hoping for the best.

I am so thankful to have a garage at this house. With an automatic door opener (when I lived here before, it hadn’t been installed yet and it was a pain opening the door manually, let me tell you. On these weekday mornings when the roofs have been covered with frost, it’s so nice to be able to get in a car that isn’t freezing cold.

I wasn’t sure how I was going to decorate this hutch, but I knew I wanted a wine theme in the room. So after my recent trip to Napa I decided that I’d fill it with bottles of wine. BevMo, World Market, and Trader Joe’s – here I come for some inexpensive, quirky bottles to go along with the more expensive ones I bought in wine country.

Back to the scene of the crime!

Luckily for her (and me!), the duvet came out just fine.

No stains, no shrinking, and other than being a bit wrinkled, no damage at all. It looks just as vibrant and happy as it did before “the midnight incident.”

While I’m not thrilled at the prospect of spending the day grading all of these essays and tests, I am so grateful that I get to do what I love – teach English. Every job comes with a downside, and grading is it for me. But every now and then I read a truly inspired essay and it makes me proud.

This playlist featuring Joshua Radin and Ari Hest has been the soundtrack to my Sunday, which I needed to get through the household chores and grading that I had going on today.  I learned about Joshua Radin from an episode of The Bachelorette (she says sheepishly), and FatGirlvsWorld told me about Ari Hest.  Both are mellow, singer-songwriters who add a nice bit of background music without being overbearing.

Speaking of music…

I cannot wait for this soundtrack to come out!  I have a whole playlist of Christmas music that I start listening to as soon as Thanksgiving is over.  Over 120 songs by my favorite artists.  Whenever I play the music it reminds me of the reason for the season, as they say.  And I can’t wait to add this album to the mix.

These two are the definition of adorable, aren’t they? Today LC and my mom are getting my niece’s ears pierced (she’s 8 yrs old), while my dad takes the 3-year-old niece to the park.  Wanting to do my part to make the day fun, I told my sister that she could bring Minnie over so that Minnie and Lulu could play.  These two have been great pals since they first met, and neither one plays with other dogs as well as they play with each other.  It’s the cutest thing to watch them have fun.  The added bonus is that Lulu is so tired when Minnie leaves.

LoseIt makes it so easy for me to keep track of what I’m eating.  Changing from points to calories worried me at first, but as soon as I started tracking everything in LoseIt, I wasn’t worried anymore.  It makes it so easy to know exactly where I am with my eating.

A snapshot of my iCal for the week ahead – working out, minimum days, professional development, and ending with inexpensive (but delicious) wine tasting aka Passport Weekend. We’ll see if my budget allows for me to stock up on more wine from some of these wineries.

Just a few images and words that show how truly fortunate I am.  No fancy vacation or shopping spree needed – just a camera and an appreciation for all the things that make me smile.  🙂

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