Friday, December 27, 2013

Friday Favorites

I hope you all had a great Christmas. Mine was fantastic! My 2013 was also pretty fantastic, so today will be all of my favorites from the year. Thirteen is my favorite/lucky number, so I was hoping it'd be exciting, and it really was!

1. Last Christmas I told my family in 2013 I would at least decide on the direction I wanted to go career-wise because I was tired of floundering around. Two months later I not only decided, I took action and quit my job for an internship. This doesn't really sound like a great thing, especially since I am now in a second internship, but for me it was a huge step out of my comfort zone - something I typically shy away from. Even though I'm "behind" in a lot of ways from my peers, I am the closest to where I want to be since college, and that is an achievement for me.

2. We went on our honeymoon! That in itself just made my year. It was one of the greatest, most fun and magical weeks of my life and something I'll always remember and cherish.

3. This year was the year of concerts. There were so many amazing artists, but seeing Taylor again was definitely the highlight for me!

4. I finally got to see Wicked, and it was even better than I imagined!

5. I was able to go watch my younger sister and brother-in-law graduate with their undergraduate degrees at the same time my older sister graduated with her master's degree. They are so smart and gifted. I will never catch up to them, but I love them and the inspiration I get from them so much!

6. There were some hilarious comedians to be seen. Hello, Seth Meyers, Aziz Ansari and Nick Offerman!

7. I took another step out of my comfort zone and joined a rec sand and indoor volleyball team with some other Jimmies in the area. I was the worst one on the team, but I probably had the most fun!

8. Malala Yousafzai became a role model the world should look up to.


9. Another (double) sister moment: Both sisters and brothers-in-law came to visit us this year - both in not-so-great weather, but both weekends were full of fun and good food!

10. As always, 2013 saw some wonderful movies. There were so many I loved! But if I had to pick just one, it would probably be The Way Way Back.

11. It was quite a year for genius statements from the outstanding Jennifer Lawrence, and I fell in love with her right along with everyone else who appreciates blunt honesty.


12. Minnesota became the 12th state to legalize same-sex marriage! Despite the gray skies and freezing temps over half the year, it's a pretty great state to live in.


13. I started this blog:)

Have a great weekend reminiscing about your 2013!

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Six Things

6 The number of days in a row I have off from both jobs!

5 The number of different snacks I have stockpiled for the trip back to Jamestown for Christmas.
They have all been off limits during my challenge this month - but not today!

I don't like the show, but I sure do love their Christmas renditions!
4 The number of times I have played Pandora's Christmas station this month. It should be 24. I am very disappointed in myself for not listening to more Christmas music this year. Maybe this is why I haven't really been in the Christmas spirit.

3 The number of helpings I will most likely have at Christmas Eve and Christmas dinner (and lunch..and breakfast).

2 The number of naps I plan to take each day for the next week.

1 The true meaning of Christmas

Merry Christmas (Eve), everyone!!

Friday, December 20, 2013

Friday Favorites

Yay! Christmas is in 5 days! I love Christmas - lights, trees, gingerbread houses, that special, happy feeling everyone gets, the time spent with family and friends. . . and so much more! Here are some of my Christmas favorites:)

Favorite . . .

Song: O Holy Night
  -Runners-up: Every other Christmas song out there. I love Christmas music!
Movie: The Holiday
  -Runners-up: Elf, Home Alone, The Family Stone
Tradition: Reading the Christmas story in Luke. In the midst of gifts and parties, it is such an important reminder of what Christmas is truly about.
  -Runner-up: Watching home videos. I can spend hours doing this. We were so cute (and I was kind of a brat)!

Children's Christmas story: The Polar Express
I couldn't get through the movie, but I loved having this book read to me and then reading it every year.

Drink: Eggnog. Of course. MMMMMMMMM:)

Cookie: Chocolate crinkle cookies. They just scream Christmas to me!

Food: Mashed potatoes, corn casserole, my dad's meatballs. . . okay, pretty much every Christmas food you can think of. Bad example!

Gift I've received: When I was a freshman in college, Jared made the best present ever. He took the time to make a giant card out of poster board, and on the back he wrote '50 Things I Love About You.' They weren't even lame things like " I like your eyes, I like your hair." They were super thoughtful and personal and beautiful! I no longer have this, as I may have taken some anger out on it once upon a time after a breakup, BUT I will never forget it and how much I loved it!

Gift I've given: In high school I became friends with some students who were from China and had a family business in town. For Christmas they gave me a bunch of cool Chinese candy, and one of the things I gave them was a dancing Santa singing Elvis songs or something. I can't quite remember. I was working at the National Buffalo Museum at the time and got it there, so it may have even been a buffalo dressed as Santa. Anyway, they LOVED it, and it was so cool to see how excited they were!

Memory: Well, aside from getting engaged around Christmas four years ago (I mean, really, what beats that?), my favorite memory is just getting up early Christmas morning with my sisters. My younger sister and I would get up really early and go through our stockings and then go wake up our older sister with hers and go through them all again before our parents woke up. I haven't been able to spend Christmas with them for a few years, but I'll always cherish those early years:)

One of my fav pictures of us!

Candy: Reese's Trees just taste so much better than any other form of Reese's 
  -Runner-up: Any peppermint/chocolate combo


Scent: Of all the creative Christmas/winter flavored candles, fresheners, etc. they make, I will always prefer pine.

Okay, I could go on and on..and on..about everything I love about Christmas. It's just such a magical time, and it never seems to last long enough.
It's easy to get caught up in the material side of things, but what really matters is the one reason we even celebrate Christmas and the importance of showing love to others.

Have a great pre-Christmas weekend!

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

A glimpse into the life of . . .


I grew up with this special lady, and she was practically the fourth sister in my family. We all went to church together, and there weren't very many people our age there. She is creative, quirky and adventurous but also spiritual, philosophical and giant-hearted. I'm very excited to share her thoughts with you today because I relate very much to a lot of the things she's going through - even though she's across the world and doing very different things! Enjoy!
A four-year-old high quality picture of me with Emma and my
sisters during one of my visits to Utah to see them!

Current profession: I'm almost halfway through a year being a jeune fille au pair (nanny) in France. Before I arrived in France I thought I was going to be an au pair, but when I'd tell people here I was an au pair they'd get very confused; then after a second, "Oh! A jeune fille au pair!" which means I'm a young lady and a nanny. France is REALLY into gender.

First job ever: Entrepreneur - I used to sell my stuffed animals to my dad for a quarter.

Dream job: Wouldn't we all like to know! I'm very certain I'd like to have a life where I can have a very large garden and time to can and preserve the food I've grown, and I'd like to share and talk about movies with people. And I'd like to draw on fabric and sell said fabric.

Three words to describe where you're at in life right now: Searching, stretching, learning

What has been your biggest challenge since graduating college, and how did you overcome it (or how are you overcoming it)? The challenge is that I feel I'm searching for something, a way to use my talents that will better the world and give me a sense of fulfillment, but the something is still vague and nebulous. I can't grasp onto it. I was sure I was supposed to have it figured out upon graduating from
college and felt keenly disappointed with myself that I didn't. I've been coming to terms that it will take time to sort through the vague clouds of ideas. Perhaps I don't know myself or the world well enough yet to find what will be good for us. I've been learning (and forgetting and learning again) that I don't need to have the answers now; I should throw myself into the opportunities I am blessed with and just be alive, fully alive. And really, I've had to let go and put all my trust in God. That's how I ended up in France.

What would you say to someone else (like me) trying to figure out his/her life? Be patient with yourself. Don't be hard on yourself. Just focus on passions you can pursue now and don't let the questions of the future limit your ability to fully participate in and enjoy the present. And don't question yourself too much. I have an immense love for questions, but at times they're destructive. Eventually this will add up into a life you are gloriously happy to have lived. This is what I hope, anyway!

Has living in France changed your perspective on anything?
On a million different little and big things. One of the biggest realizations has been about being courteous. I'm not a particularly discourteous person. I've always tried to be respectful of people and have tried to follow the Golden Rule: love thy neighbor as thyself. And even the bit about love thine enemy. Courtesy seemed like a set of rules superimposed upon the process. I'm finding, though, that the rules of being courteous are providing me ways to react when I'm confused (which is A LOT of the time while living in a foreign country where I'm barely at an intermediate level in the language) or when I'm stressed or sad––all of those times when a fight or flight instinct might kick in, shoving aside ideals of respect and love. Really, I'm learning a lot about love. About showing love and enthusiasm without waiting for someone to love me first.

What is the hardest part about living in France, and what is your favorite part? Aside from the difficulty of satisfying my super specific peanut butter needs? The hard parts are also part of what I love. Submersing myself in a country and culture that are shaped by a foreign language is an exciting and interesting challenge, but at times I miss being able to have really great conversations full of banter and/or philosophical ideas. The differences in the culture at times leave me feeling lost and alone but at others totally invigorated and delighted. I started off in the south of France at the family's summer home, and at the end of August we drove nine hours north to the home in Paris. We drove past a medieval village! I knew they existed, I've seen them in movies and in TV, but it is still mind-blowing to DRIVE PAST A MEDIEVAL VILLAGE! And it's so blasé to them! Those buildings are older than my country!

What is the most valuable lesson you have learned throughout your 20s so far? To keep a strict bedtime. I'm still fairly terrible at it, but EVERYTHING goes better when I stick to it.

When you are 50 what do you want to be able to look back and say about your life right now?
That I cared for the earth and for people, that I traveled and learned and changed and that I ate well.

Emma eating well
How do you define success?
Being at peace with myself.

Who has been your biggest influence, personally or professionally?
My sister. If I have to pick one person, it will always be my sister. She's wise, kind, gentle, full of love, watches BBC comedies with me, has answers to many of my questions, listens, chastises, encourages and is so patient. I'm always in awe of her and am always encouraged by
her profound love for me.

Two books that have inspired you:
The Oxford History of World Cinema by Geoffrey Nowell-Smith. It was through this textbook and my film history classes that I learned how ridiculously excited I am about this subject. The first day in class I sat on the edge of my seat barely able to breathe for joy. Maybe someday I'll get my masters in film history but though I've researched schools and programs for this and other related fields I just keep getting the feeling that this just isn't the right time for it, if ever. But if life feels bleak, I think on this book and the delight I find in film history, and I'm ready to jump back in.

Please allow me to cheat and reference a book series, The Chronicles of Prydain by Lloyd Alexander. My dad read them to me when I was younger and I've reread them a few times since. It's along the same lines as other fantastical adventure children's series like Chronicles of Narnia, but Prydain has a few things that have always stood out to me. There's an entire book, Taran Wanderer, that digresses from the main story arch of the series.
The main character travels around the kingdom hoping to find out who is parents are and what he's worth (he's a commoner in love with a princess). He meets and lives with several different people learning about the way they live their lives and grows to have such profound respect for each person despite how different they may be. SPOILER ALERT: Towards the end of the series there's a great war and Taran's mentor Col dies. Though Col had been a great warrior in his youth and died as a warrior, Taran had learned from him what Col had felt was the most honorable endeavor of his life: the portion he spent on a farm raising Taran. So he made him a makeshift headstone and on it inscribed, "Grower of Turnips." That always strikes me as such a beautiful, tender thing and a true thing to honor in a person. Not that we shouldn't honor soldiers and all those who sacrifice their lives for us in combat, but that Col wished that the world had never needed warriors.

What hobbies and activities do you enjoy in your spare time?
Reading, drawing, cooking, riding bike, imagining whales in unlikely places, asking questions, watching films and doing research on them, people watching, camping, kayaking.
(She also blogs! Check it out here.)

What is number one on your bucket list?
It's a tie between hiking in the Alps and seeing some Norwegian fjords. I hope to be able to do both in the next year, but we'll see how it works out!

Favorite ice cream flavor:
My favorite is to have vanilla and mix in chunky peanut butter. I never knew how obsessed I was with pb until I moved to France!

Thank you, Emma!

Friday, December 13, 2013

Friday Favorites

This week Jared and I went to our second KDWB Jingle Ball! Yes, the one featuring MILEY at the end!

 We actually went to a LOT of concerts this year (one of the best parts about living here - I need to remind myself of this as I freeze from November - March). Jared went to even more than I did, but I narrowed down my 5 favorites in case you have the same taste in music as me (so..if you're 15 or 50).

1. TAYLOR SWIFT. Love. her. always. It was my second time seeing her, and I will go to as many of her concerts as I can! She puts on the best actual show of any other act I've seen.

2. The Killers. I'm not sure who loves Brandon Flowers more - me or Jared - but it was amazing to finally be able to see him (them)!

3. Fall Out Boy. I will always love these guys, and I hope they never take a break again!

4. Imagine Dragons. I only knew the two or three songs they had on the radio at the time I went to see them, but I pretty much like everything from Utah so I had to give them a shot, and I was SO impressed! W.o.w.They were amazing live, and it was cool to see the wide variety of people in the audience.

5. Michael Buble. He makes you melt. Period.

I have tickets to just one concert so far next year (and it will be magical), but I am excited to see who tours the area in 2014!

Have a good weekend:)

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

11 dessert-less days

Today is the 11th day in a row I have not had dessert in any form, from candy to ice cream, eggnog or cookies. I have never gone this long without my favorite food group, but with the way I’ve been eating lately, especially around Thanksgiving, I knew something had to be done.


I cannot tell you how many times I have tried to go cold turkey or even just cut back on my junk food-loving ways. I’ve never followed through like this before - mostly because I didn’t really have an actual plan in place and I was doing it alone, which meant only I was holding myself accountable, and my self-control is pretty pathetic when food is involved.


This time I decided to force include Jared in my little scheme, and it has helped immensely. I guess I do better when I can bring people down to my level to suffer with me:)

First of all, this isn’t some temporary attempt to try to lose weight or anything like that. I am trying to make lifestyle changes by developing healthier, realistic habits I can maintain long-term.
For me, though, getting started on something like this has to be all or nothing. After I realize I’m completely fine without certain things, I am hoping I will learn to treat them as, well, treats, instead of constant staples in my diet. 

However, you’ll notice I won’t be giving up all sugar because for me that would be too extreme – I still need my peanut butter and Greek yogurt – and I will never realistically be able to maintain that. I just don’t want to spend my life counting the grams of sugar in every single thing I put in my mouth.

December is both the best and worst month to do this. Normally between Thanksgiving and Christmas, I am constantly inhaling all kinds of goodies and justifying it because “it’s the holidays!” 
This means daily eggnog frozen yogurt as long as it’s available, caramel corn, various baked goods from pumpkin bread to red velvet cupcakes, glasses upon glasses of eggnog and hot chocolate with the works, plus comfort foods like pizza, pasta and all those other yummy white carbs. I am both glad and sad to not be giving in to all of these indulgences.

So, here’s how it works:

Jared and I each set a goal to achieve for each week of the month. It can be giving up a certain food or food group or committing to a daily healthy habit, like drinking a certain amount of water or doing a certain exercise. The next week we choose a different goal, but we have to maintain the goal(s) from the previous week as well.

If we follow through each week, we get a (non-food and inexpensive) reward. If one person does not follow through, not only does he/she not get a reward, the other person gets two.

Three exceptions (because I get to choose the rules and I am weak and love holiday food too much to pass it up completely): Christmas Eve, Christmas Day and New Year’s Eve – anything goes:)

Starting Dec. 1 we both gave up desserts. This was much harder for me, but it won’t exactly be a walk in the park for Jared as the month goes on. We both followed through (even after I entered The Cheesecake Factory just to stare at and drool over all of the cheesecakes on display), and we also both chose free, healthy rewards for the week. We haven't had the time to actually receive them yet, but mine will be a nice, long back rub from Jared, and his will be a foot rub from me. I’m pretty sure I'll be getting the better end of that deal.

Starting Dec. 8, I have given up white flour and potatoes.  When I buy bread or tortillas I get whole wheat, but my weaknesses in this area are things like crackers, pizza, burgers with white buns and fries! Don’t worry, though – I got my fill of them last week since I knew it’d be a few weeks until I could have them again. So far, so good for me, but the week’s barely half over. Jared has committed to daily push-ups. I haven’t yet thought of my reward choice yet, but I plan to make it  a good one!

How I’m feeling:

I just want my chocolate fix! 

If you haven't figured it out by now, yes, you should expect to see something Tina Fey-related in the majority of my posts.

I am going through a lot of gum to keep my mouth busy and make cravings a little less appetizing. It has not been easy, but it honestly hasn’t been as hard as I thought either. It is also very eye-opening to recognize all the times during a single week I would normally indulge in something:

“My favorite ice cream is on sale at Target? I can’t not get it!”

“I need something sweet to round off my dinner – better make some cookies!”

“I’m getting restless sitting at my desk at work – better go wander around the skyway until I find something delicious to devour!”

“ I want something to munch on as I watch TV and dink around on my computer – Reeses peanut butter cups to the rescue!”

I felt a small sense of pride (sad) for not actually giving in to all of these thoughts that pop into my head during any given day. Sure, giving in like this is fine every once in a while, but every day? Habits like that are not setting me up for much of a future, healthwise.

I am also feeling less bloated. You know that icky feeling after you have dessert, or just something dessert-y loaded with empty calories, and you can tell you’re not really full – just big and puffy?  I haven’t had to experience that in 11 days, and it has been nice. I will never be one of those people you want to punch when they say they prefer fruit over a brownie, but I do hope to become the type of person who will make the smarter choice 90…okay, 80 percent of the time.

about halfway through this challenge, I can at least say I am enjoying the fun competition between me and Jared and learning more about when and why my weak moments occur and how to make positive changes without feeling deprived. Wish me luck for the rest of the month!

Friday, December 6, 2013

Friday Favorites

Yes, I just plain omitted last week's Favorites since I was preoccupied over the weekend with eating more than anyone should eat in a week, spending time with family, catching up on Revenge and thinking of baby names for the niece or nephew I will be getting this summer!!!!!!!!!!!! (I'm not sure 'getting' is the right word to use there, but I don't know a thing about babies, and apparently I don't know how to talk about them either).
My Thanksgiving contributions - they actually turned out pretty well!
I over-baked the pecan pie bars, but other than that -
not bad:)

Anyway, today I was planning on sharing a couple of the Cyber Monday deals I am impatiently waiting to receive, but I stumbled upon a few other randoms online during the week, so here are six favorite online finds from the week!

1. How am I, of all people, so late to the chocolate party going on here!? Create my own chocolate, choosing from tons of candy, fruit, nuts, etc.? Yes, please! The downside is you can only have up to five add-ins - all the more reason to create multiple bars!

2. This dress from H&M!

I love gray, I love flowers, and I love clothes that can be mixed and matched.This seems to fit into all of that! I ordered it on Monday - half off:)

3. HAPIfork Bluetooth-Enabled Smart Fork

I had never heard of this before, but it looks pretty cool. I used to consider myself a slow eater, but lately I seem to be scarfing everything down as fast as possible. This fork solves that by lighting up and vibrating when you are eating too fast!

4. This sweatshirt from Aerie!
How comfortable does this look!? I had about seven websites open on Monday browsing through clothes from 10 PM to midnight (of course). I didn't end up ordering it, but the more I look at it, the less I think I can resist!

5. This scarf from Nordstrom!
I like wearing either a solid, basic color like black or gray, or lots of fun colors, and this scarf has plenty of them! There are four color schemes, but I like this the best:

 6. 4GB Walkman Sports MP3 Player
How did I not know about this also?  I don't run with my music at the gym because I feel like it makes me sweat more than usual with the cords and everything going on, and I get all stressed and don't run as well as I should. I also don't like dealing with them while running outside. Problem solved:

Hopefully you like at least some of these as much as I do!
Have a good weekend, and stay warm:)