Thursday, December 29, 2011

2011 Year-End Review

Around this time of year, I'm always bombarded with questions about resolutions. Did you meet yours for this year? Are you making any news ones for next year? Would you like fries with that?

I've never been a 'New Year's Resolution' kind of girl. I don't have goals for a year; I have goals for my life. I kind of think of it like a company's long-range plan. Your overall goals should never really be met since they are constantly evolving with you. You can achieve the smaller objectives that support your overall goals, but those goals serve as the road map to your life. They end when your journey does.

2011 has been a year of huge changes for me and my family. At the end of last year, we welcomed our first son. In the spring of 2011, we moved into our new house. We went on our first 'family vacation' this past summer and this fall I completed NaNoWriMo for the first time. In a day and age when things are rough for everyone, I count my blessing daily and am so thankful to have the most wonderful friends and family. Things can be hard. They can be crappy. They can suck big time. But when they are, I try to push my eyes away from the ugly in front of me and focus on the horizon. The bigger picture is sometimes a lot more cheery than the narrow view of today.

That said, I do have some things in 2012 that I want to do:
  • Run a half-marathon
  • Finish my novel and start sending out queries
  • Learn to knit and sew
  • Find a volunteer opportunity
These aren't resolutions per se, they're things I want to accomplish to support one of my life's true goals: be good to myself and be good to others. I want to spend the time when I'm laying bed before I fall asleep reflecting on the day and knowing that I've done just that.

Happy New Year!

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Book Review: Clockwork Prince

I know I said that I was done blogging until after Christmas, but I really wanted to get this one out before I lost it!

I usually don't "review" books, but I read quite a bit and love to share my opinions on everything. I had the stomach flu last week and while I was laying miserably on the couch, I decided to catch up on my reading. Luckily for me, Clockwork Prince had just come out. So I spent one entire day lost in the Shadow Hunting world of Cassandra Clare.

For those unfamiliar with this awesome, Clare's The Mortal Instruments series delves into the world of Shadow Hunters, a race of people sworn to protect the world from demons. It a fantastic series that draws from a beautifully constructed and intricately woven story world tapestry. If you're into fantasy and appreciate great worldbuilding, you probably have already read Clare's work. If by chance you live under a rock with no access to a computer, Amazon, or Goodreads, well now you have something to read. But I digress. The Infernal Devices is a prequel series to The Mortal Instruments. It takes place in Victorian England and is fabulously Steampunky (see definition link below if you don't know what Steampunk is). The first in the series, Clockwork Angel, introduced us to Tessa Gray, an orphaned American teenager come to England to reunite with her older brother. Tessa's situation quickly deteriorates as she discovers things about herself and her family that she never knew possible and is introduced into the world of the Shadow Hunters and the mercurial (but devastatingly handsome and charming) Will Herondale and his best friend the kind and gentle Jem Carstairs.

The recently released Clockwork Prince picks up where the first book left off and we gain more insight into what Tessa is and completely develop the love triangle that was only hinted at in the first book. Readers get a better look into the secret world of the Shadow Hunters and develop a better relationship with the minor characters who are as delightful and well drawn and the primary ones. It is packed with demon hunting fun, Victorian intrigue, and a good bit of tortured teen romance. I love this series and am waiting with breath that is bated for the third installment next year.

Educate yourself on the topic in this post:

Monday, December 19, 2011

Yummy Eats: Pumpkin is My Favorite

After last week's cupcake debacle, I was a little gun shy getting back into the baking saddle. So this weekend, I decided to go with a tried and true favorite to get my baking mojo back - delicious pumpkin bread (and easy to make too). I'm happy to report that it was a total success :) I even received a text from my husband this morning raving about it.

Here's a link to the recipe I use:

It's super delicious and pumpkin-y and nutmeg-y.

I'm feeling really encouraged by my success and it could not have come a moment too soon. With Christmas this weekend, I know that my future will be coated in sugar and dipped in chocolate. Growing up my family was never into the whole "Cookie Christmas" thing, but it's now a tradition in my own home and I can't wait to get going.

I love the traditions of holidays and the spirit of sharing treats baked with love. It makes me feel all warm and fuzzy. In that spirit, anyone have a great cookie recipe to share? I'm always looking for new suggestions ;)

Since this will be my last post before the holiday, Merry Christmas to all!

Monday, December 12, 2011

Cupcake Fail

I love baking. I actually want to write a story about a pastry chef someday. That's another blog post though...this post is about my failure at cupcaking.

Yesterday was my mom's [redacted] birthday. For her birthday dinner, I decided that I would make cupcakes from scratch. I trolled the internet and found a couple of recipes for red velvet and carrot cake cupcakes with a separate recipe for the cream cheese frosting.

The cupcakes came out in a more-than-edible state, but I was heartbroken over what I saw to be abject failure. I had never attempted any of the three recipes I tried yesterday, but like everything else I do in life, I expected them to turn out Happy Cakes quality the first try. (If you don't know Happy Cakes, check the link at the the bottom of the post and discover greatness.) Even though everyone who tried them (my husband, friend, mom, dad, brother, sister-in-law, and sister-in-law-to be (I have two brothers, one didn't try the cupcakes)) all assured me that they turned out good, I was near tears.

Something you may not know about me, I'm a perfectionist. (If you hadn't guessed, this post is more about me and how I deal with the less-than-perfect in my life instead of cupcakes.) I was so disappointed because I actually tried and didn't live up to my own expectations. There is very little in my life that I don't think I can do if I really apply myself. I'm not sure if this is a result of an overinflated sense of self-confidence or because I'm just that awesome (usually). Throughout what some have called a charmed existence, I have found that I am a capable person capable of good things.

I came to a resolution last night while I was moping in the car on the way home; it's ok for things not to turn out perfect the first time, or even the second and third times. Some things take practice and I need to be patient with myself. I certainly don't expect others to do things exactly right the first time through and I need to learn to apply that same mindset to myself. So expect to see a post (or two) about future baking adventures, because a little stumble won't keep me from Daring Greatly in the future. Not with baking, not with writing, not with anything.

Educate yourself on the topic in this post: - Happy Cakes greatness :)

Monday, December 5, 2011

Memory Lane

I recently read an article by Laura Pritchett of the Denver lifestyle magazine 5280. I generally like 5280. I enjoy reading about the happenings of the city where I live and they always have great restaurant recommendations (I fancy myself a foodie, so they're my go to resource). Upon reading this article, I was posed with an interesting opinion on mementos and keepsakes. The author declared herself unsentimental, but would, on occasion, find herself strolling down memory lane. So the article begged the question, is there value living in the past when you could miss your own present? (How Carrie Bradshaw did I just sound?!)

I wouldn't consider myself an unsentimental person, but I am a far cry from my own mother who holds on to everything from years and years ago. I get the value in keepsakes. I keep a lot of things from really important events - wedding invitations, the program from my college graduation, pressed flowers from a special bouquet, etc. But for the most part, I'm not much of a keepsake keeper. I usually don't want a tchotchke to help me remember, I want something that will actually help me remember, like a photo. I love taking pictures. I snap pics of beautiful sunsets or moments of my husband and son. I take random pictures at dinners and lunches because I couldn't bear the idea of losing a memory from that particular event. 

I disagreed with some of the points Ms. Pritchett made about the value in looking back. I understand you can't spend too much time in the past, but the moments in our lives that are special are because they're worth remembering. You can't have one without the other. Dwell on them? Not so much. Cherish them because they represent a moment in time when there was something special happening? Always.

Educate yourself on the topic in this post:

Friday, December 2, 2011

Christmas Time

I love Christmas time. It really is the most wonderful time of the year. One reason I love it is because I feel like it's a great opportunity for Christians to share their faith. Kind of like when the Olympics come to a city it's that city's chance to shine in the spotlight. Christmas is a time that centers on a holiday that celebrates the birth of Jesus. I'm not a preachy person, but I like to talk and I like Jesus, so it's a win-win for me.

My message is this: Christians, don't waste this chance to show people what we're all about. Which, in case you don't remember anything from Sunday School, is love. We're about love. Love for one another and love for God. Take a chance this holiday season and share a bit of that with someone in need. It doesn't have to be flashy. It can be as simple as wishing someone who's having a rough go of it a "Merry Christmas". It can be as easy as dropping a buck in someone's cup. It can be whatever you want. You don't have to buy everyone bibles for Christmas. Just be the light that shines so brightly that it causes someone to wonder what you're all about. Then it's up to you to share as little or as much as you'd like.

One of my favorite Christian groups, and I realize that there are a lot of them out there that aren't good, is Casting Crowns. To use their words (because if someone more talented than you says something better than you ever could, you should just use that):

But if we are the body
Why aren't His arms reaching?
Why aren't His hands healing?
Why aren't His words teaching?
And if we are the body
Why aren't His feet going?
Why is His love not showing them there is a way?
There is a way

It's early and you might hear it often from me, but Merry Christmas!!!

Thursday, December 1, 2011

NaNoWriMo Winner!

Part of my challenge to myself was to do things I've always wanted to do. Writing is a passion, and whether or not I'm any good,  it is something I love. So in keeping with my challenge, I decided to write. Fiction that is.

NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) is a month long writing blitz. Each November thousands of crazy people, of which I am one, try to bust out a novel. The challenge is 50,000 words in 30 days. If you do the math, it's about 1,667 words each day. That's a whole lot of writing. It kicked my butt, but I finished! It's the first complete (or very nearly complete) manuscript I've ever written. I still have a bit of work to do to get it complete, then I let it rest a while, then it's time for revisions!

I'm mentally exhausted, but so happy and proud to have completed the challenge. What's in it for winners? This little beauty right here:

There's no "prize" per se for completing the 50k words. But, I can tell you that the satisfaction I got from meeting my goal was more then worth it. 

Educate yourself about the topic in this post:

Monday, November 14, 2011

So this is love?

Wow! I've wanted to blog for a while. Then I thought - why not? I think I'd like to respond to more things in my life with a 'why not'. Why not go out and do what you always wanted to do? Why not try something that you've always been to timid to try before? Why not take a risk? It could be worth it.

This blog gets its name from one of my favorite quotes by Teddy Roosevelt:

"The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena; whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs and comes short again and again because there is no effort without error and shortcomings; who knows the great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at best knows in the end, the triumph of high achievement; and who at worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly; so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who know neither victory nor defeat."

I am no cold or timid soul. So, this is me writing about how I apply this notion of 'daring greatly' to my everyday life. Whether it's work or play, I want to go to sleep each night feeling like I left everything on the field.