Tuesday, July 31, 2012

House Rules

I just finished reading House Rules by Jodi Picoult this weekend. A friend of mine was getting rid of a stack of books so I grabbed a few before they were dropped off at the Goodwill. I've read a few of Picoults books and although her style isn't really my favorite, I still am drawn to her stories. Often times they are fairly traumatic and bring you on a roller coaster of emotions. (Sounds fun, right?!)

This story is about a boy who has Asperger's syndrome. And as in typical Picoult style, we get to read how that affects each person in his family - the boy included. The boy, now actually an adult, is fascinated with forensic science and solving crimes. Eventually, this interest becomes real life as he is on trial for the murder of his tutor.

For the most part, I enjoyed reading it. I felt like I learned a lot about aspergers, too.

Monday, July 23, 2012

Quick stop at Walgreens

I can never say that I have a quick stop at Walgreens. Usually, I can never find what I'm looking for and if I do, the price doesn't match the ad; if it does, they won't accept my coupons, etc. You get the idea. Shopping at Walgreens has never been easy.

Today was different. Granted, I had to ask the manager for help three times, and the prices didn't match the ad, but he was really nice and I was able to remain fairly calm. The girl checking me out didn't freak out that I had coupons or multiple transactions. This was seriously, the best shopping experience I've had at Walgreens in a long time. Sometimes I leave so flustered and angry it wasn't worth the savings at all.

When I am getting ready to do a coupon-shopping trip, I get pretty excited. Usually on Sundays I'll spend sometime looking through the ad and comparing it to what I have coupons for. My goal is to use coupons on sale prices so the product is even cheaper.

Sometimes, that same excitement is with me while I'm doing the shopping (but usually not at Walgreens for the reasons stated above), and sometimes, I come home so excited that Chris thinks I won the lottery. Today, after I got home from the store, that excitement sort of left as I realized, that nothing I bought today was actually needed. It was all for the sake of my feeding my coupon addiction.

Anyway, I'm not going to feel too guilty because well, I still feel like I got a pretty good deal.

Today, I had two transactions.
1) Venus razor, Regular price: $12.99 on sale for $8.99 plus get $4 in Register Rewards
     -- I used a $4 off coupon
    Page protectors were on a crazy sale for $.39 for a package of 10, the normal sale price was $1.99
    **I spent $6.20 including tax and received $4 in Register Rewards to use on my next purchase**

2) Clear Eyes eye drops were on sale for $4.29 and had a Buy One Get One Free Deal
    -- I used two $1.00 off coupons
    Blue Diamond Almonds were on sale for $3.79 and also had a Buy One Get One Free Deal
    -- I used a $.75 off coupon when I buy two.
    ** I used my $4 Rewards from my previous purchase and spent $1.69 out of pocket**

My total: $7.89 and I get to try one of those crazy name-brand-5-blade-razors myself without feeling too guilty.

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Camping Among the Trees

In addition to having a date night to celebrate our anniversary we took a three day camping trip in Northern California at the Redwood State Park. Chris and I have only been camping one other time together and that was in a large group. This was just the two of us!

We've lived in California for over two years and rarely get out and explore. A few months back I was getting restless and told Chris we needed to do something or go somewhere. Little did we know that most camp sites are booked solid all summer long (well in advance). So, we altered our plans and instead of going to Yosemite National Park as we had talked about, we drove north to the Redwoods. Chris had driven through them years ago and had always wanted to go back, so this worked out great.

We got to our campsite Friday late afternoon. Driving into our campsite was just the beginning of the beauty we would experience in the days ahead. Once we got our tent set up we set out to explore a near by trail.

The trees were so tall and the colors so beautiful, it was hard to stop taking pictures! For dinner that night we had sausages and hobo-potatoes (which take forever btw). On Saturday we got a fairly early start and drove to a few highlighted spots the ranger told us about.

But first we had to get gas . . . at the only station within 20 miles. Check this out! They had one pump and charged an arm and a leg and only took cash. But what other choice did we have? 

Fern Canyon is exactly what it sounds like, a canyon covered in ferns. It was so green! The trail was fun too. At points there were planks to walk across since there was a bit of a creek running through the canyon. And at other points you had to walk across small rocks and try your best not to get wet (this really tested my balance). 

There were two trees the ranger told us to stop and look at.  The first is called "Corkscrew" and is three trees that wrapped around each other twisting all the way up. It was huge and really neat. I was even a little adventurous and climbed up in it! Chris took a vertical panorama shot of it since you couldn't see the whole tree in one photo.

The next one is called "Big Tree"as it used to be the tallest tree in the park until 8 feet of the top broke off. Now it is the second tallest tree. It's 302 feet tall and 21 feet wide. This is also a panorama shot of about five photos put together.

Then came the longer hike we had planned. It was just over 3 miles and made a loop cover three different trails. It was gorgeous. The first half of the hike was really fun (and mostly flat); I did make one bad move and ended up on the ground but thankfully was not injured. . . falling down just feels wrong . . . and totally embarrassing. Like it should not happen after you learn to walk, you know!

The second half of the trail was a bit harder, more inclines and narrower paths. It seemed like it would go on forever . . . and about one mile from the finish line, I started complaining and getting tired. But, then it was over and it felt good to push myself and finish (that really wasn't a choice!).

After finding a place to have a picnic lunch (found a place with a view of the ocean . . . foggy, just like the city) we drove to the north end of the park and found new favorite spot. This grove was absolutely gorgeous. And the drive to get there was pretty amazing too with trees on either side of you, curving roads and beauty all around.

And then we stumbled on to a beach! There was sun and warmth and rest to be had! We stayed much longer that we had planned but still made it back to the tent in plenty of time to make dinner. We had hamburgers and roasted corn on the cob. It was so good!

Sunday we packed up camp after breakfast (banana-nut oatmeal and eggs) and headed home. Chris wanted me to get some more practice driving his standard truck so I took the wheel for about 30 minutes before my legs started getting sore (whimpy, I know). It was good to get another go at driving stick. . . it had been three years since my last attempt!

It was a short weekend getaway, but it was great!

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Marriage and Les Miserables

Last Wednesday was our 3rd wedding anniversary. To celebrate this odd-numbered milestone, we had dinner at a nice place with views of the ocean and went to the musical, Les Miserables.

It is probably one of the most famous and well-known musicals, but I had never seen it before. Not even the movie! I had heard the premise of the story long ago but I really didn't know much. I loved seeing it for the first time and not really knowing what to expect. My favorite character was Fantine--the actress playing her had a wonderful voice that left me sitting in awe, wanting to take it all in. I also enjoyed watching the children who were in it too -- I'm amazed at the talent young children have and glad that some children have the opportunities to show it to us! (Maybe secretly, I wanted to be a child-actress when I was a kid.) And of course, the music, set designs, and everything were in my opinion fantastic.

I really enjoy these special date nights; we get dressed up, go somewhere we wouldn't normally go and do something we don't normally get to do. It makes me feel like I'm being pursued and courted all over again, when everything was new. I don't want to take these dates for granted! And I don't want to take for granted the effort my husband puts into them! One of his many talents is knowing how to make me feel special.

Our third year of marriage went by so fast! It felt really smooth and easy most of the time but reflecting now I know there were things we worked through:

We learned a lot about our preconceived gender roles this year. We both grew up in households where the husband worked and the wife was the primary home/caretaker (even if she also worked). We switched it up a bit this year, and it was a lot harder than I thought it would have been. In November, Chris found himself unemployed and once again, the months just kept passing without much work at all. Thankfully in July he found another short-term contract job. But in those in-between months we often struggled with our roles. I had a hard time letting go of the things I thought were my responsibility, even though I was exhausted from work, working out, and doctor appointments. Chris was more than willing to do (more than) his part, but wanted more than anything to be bringing home the paycheck. This also meant we had a tighter budget which made for some interesting conversations and realizations that we have not yet arrived to "where we thought we'd be by now."

I think we've grown a lot in the ways we communicate with each other. It's gotten easier to actually say what's on my mind and share my worries out loud and honestly. Chris would probably say I've gotten more bold or courageous by facing my fears like riding my bike in the city.

I've learned that relaxation is really important to my husband (and it's important to him that I relax too!). We've done a lot of things intentionally to make time to relax. Like driving south to sit on a warm beach for a few hours, go for a hike or bike ride, or watch a movie together.

We talk a lot about the future and what we want to see and do. It will be exciting to see what year four has in store!

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

And the Winner is . . .

Thank you all for reading my blog and telling me who your favorite band or musician is! I now have a list of bands to check out! I used a random number generator program and the lucky winner is #12 Sheryl B!

For those interested in hearing more of David Abramsky's music you can check it out at CDbaby.com. or at the Jews for Jesus Store. It really is a beautiful album and I know you will just love it.


Saturday, July 7, 2012

My 200th Post -- and a Giveaway for You!

I can't believe I've been blogging for two and half years already. I can't believe this is my 200th blog post! And because I feel like celebrating, I'm going to throw a little blog-party and have a giveaway just for you!

My blog is basically the story of my life (starting in 2009). My comings and goings . . . my interests and hobbies . . . my scrapbook and journal. And I've invited you into my life and I want to thank you for reading, following, commenting, and being a friend.

Although I don't often share much about my taste in music here, I would like to tell you about a new album that was released a few months back. And give one lucky winner their very own copy! David Abramsky's "Revive the Heart" is just the most relaxing, beautiful music I have heard in a long time. Abramsky plays both the cello and the piano, layering them in his recordings; he's composed and arranged many of the pieces himself. He is a Jewish believer in Jesus and does include several Jewish melodies on the album. This album (his second) starts out with his more upbeat arrangements and then moves to the more calming, soothing pieces. His music really does "revive the heart."

Here's a sample of one of my favorites (Quicktime required):

So, with that, here begins the contest! To enter, please leave a comment below telling me who your favorite band or musician is (please make sure your name is included with the comment). On Tuesday, June 10th I will announce the winner on my blog and ask that they email me their address to claim their prize. One entry per person please! Make sure to check back on Tuesday and see if you won!

Eggs Benedict Day

Good morning! Yesterday while perusing the Internet and one of my favorite blogs, I came across this recipe for eggs benedict. And I happened to have everything I needed to make them, so I did! My sauce wasn't has photogenic has hers was, but it still tasted pretty good!

You can find the recipe here on The Pioneer Woman blog.
Have a wonderful weekend!

Sunday, July 1, 2012

Staying Away from Sugar: Week 4 (at last!)

I have gone my 27 days without caving into my junk food cravings! No donuts, cake, brownies, ice cream, cookies, or soda. There were several days during the last week that held temptations for me but I remained strong. Instead of turning to the sweets, I chose to eat fruit and vegetables, nuts, whole grain toast or yogurt. Having those things readily available is what kept me on track.

I also had a pretty good week of physical activity. And I am happy to say that over the past month of this self-imposed challenge, I have lost a pound and a half. I have to say that I have been, for the most part, in a better mood than I thought I would be. I didn't have wacky sugar highs and lows, headaches or sugar withdrawals I normally experience. Overall, I feel pretty healthy and clear headed.

I'd love to say my inflammation has disappeared, but it hasn't. I'd love to say that my acne has cleared up, but it hasn't. So, junk food may not be the cause of my troubles after all. Oh, well.

I fear that now my month is over, I will over indulge and be unable to say "No" anymore. I already feel a weakness to it. I still feel it is a worthy endeavor to try to limit my intake of these sugary foods, because as I mentioned before, I do feel more healthy. But I know that will be a challenge.

Through this challenge, I now know that I DO have the ability to say "No." I do have willpower stronger than I previously knew. I don't HAVE to eat whatever is put in front of me or offered to me. It is MY choice.

A Dream Takes Shape

Last week, I got to do something I have always wanted to do. Something I have been thinking about doing for a long time, but never had the opportunity or the courage to do. It's easy for me to say, "I'm not good enough, talented enough, or creative enough to actually do that." And yet, the desire was always there. Pinterest encouraged it a little bit. But my friends and husband encouraged me more. And so, I did it! Just once. And I'll need a lot more practice. But I did it, and it went just fine!

What did I do, you ask?

I took maternity photographs of a couple. Our friends are expecting their baby within the next three weeks and they let me take their photographs.

Big deal, right?

Well, maybe not. But, it was a start. I have been thinking about taking family photographs, specifically infant and maternity photographs for a long time. Like years. But I never had the guts to try it. I've seen so many really wonderful photographs that I can't beat so I just kept putting it off.  Scared to try.

I've always loved photography. I've taken my cousin's engagement photographs, later I shot another cousin's wedding, and I did my sister's reception last summer. I have a little experience, but it has always been with family. I loved doing all of it.

 I think I'd like to have a little side business someday, and it kind of felt like doing this session last week was a way to get started. I totally enjoyed the session. (I think the couple did, too!) It felt like I was doing something right - something I was perhaps made for. Does that even make sense? 

This opportunity came about in an interesting way too. I was having coffee with a bunch of girlfriends a few weekends back and I asked my expecting friend if she was going to have photos taken before the baby was born and then you know, infant photos. She hadn't really thought about it but said she could ask one of her friends who is a photographer. Another friend across the table said, "Or, Emily could do it!" I'm not sure how much any of my friends here know how much I love photography, so the comment caught me off guard. And the topic sort of settled after that. I followed up with my soon-to-be-a-mother friend just confirming my interest in doing it for her. And a few weeks later - it happened!

Here are a few photos from the session with my friends. Hopefully, there will be more opportunities to come!