Monday, December 31, 2012

2012 In Review

It's that time of year again, to look back and reflect. To prepare yourself to look forward. To end one year and begin the next. 2012 was a pretty decent year. I say decent because, well, we had some hard times, but we also had some amazing, wonderful times too. Here's my attempt to sum it all up:

At the beginning of 2012, we found ourselves in a rough spot. Chris's contract job with the visual effects company had come to an end and he was now unemployed. He had gone through all the necessary steps to receive benefits and we were hopeful that this wouldn't last long.

In January, we headed to Vegas for my sister's wedding. She was beautiful and we all had a great time. I loved spending that week with my family and getting to see Las Vegas for the first time. A few weeks later, I gathered my courage and started riding my bike to work each day. I've been doing it ever since and really enjoy it most of the time. You've read about my embarrassing fall and recent quote in the paper about double parked cars. Other than that, it is a huge improvement to riding the bus or driving everywhere.

February was a good month to get my do-it-yourself bum in gear. I focused a little more on healthy cooking and homemade goods. There was also the 1st Annual Oscar Party which I had a blast getting ready for and participating in. I'm already getting ready for the next one! (Hope you all can make it.)

I started getting a little crazy with my coupon shopping in March. I don't know how much I've saved so far, but I can tell you my stockpile of razors, shampoo, and toothbrushes should last through 2013. I've had fun doing it, but realize that since my living space is a little limited, I may have to slow down a little. By March, Chris had been getting really tired of looking, applying, and not hearing anything from anybody in his job search and realized it was time for a change. He took up writing as has long been a desire of his. He woke up when I did and began his 8-hour-a-day writing career.

In April, I joined a gym. It started as a one-month pass which has continued now for nearly nine. It's not as thrilling as it once was and I don't go nearly often enough anymore. But it does still offer me a space (and motivation) to do my physical therapy and a bit of cardio two to three times a week. Biking as become my other daily workout.

We took a little road trip to Sonoma in May and toured Jack London's home as well as had a picnic at Cline's winery.

In June, I gave myself a 30-day sugar free challenge. Looking back it was definitely a good move, something I probably need to do again. Although it didn't take away the pain of inflammation I was hoping it would, it did help my overall feeling more healthy.

July was a big month. We celebrated our 3rd wedding anniversary by seeing Les Miserables and going on a camping trip in the Redwood National Park. We had such a great time together. I also hit my 200th blog post in July and did my first giveaway! A very exciting event for this little blogger. I also took a bigger plunge into my passion for photography and had my first real "session" (okay it was a practice session -- but it was with real people!). My friends let me take their maternity photos which was a blast, and I think they turned out pretty good, if I may say so.

In August, I turned 29. Chris gave me a tripod and camera remote for my birthday . . . guess I am more invested in this photography stuff now! (love it!) Chris finished the first draft of his novel in August and sent it off to a few trusted friends for a first review. He also was hired to do editing for a sports equipment company working with their online videos. This had a bit of a commute, but we were thankful for it anyway! The unemployment had ended!

September was the month we were all waiting for . . . it was finally time for Chris and I to go to Europe. We had been saving up for months . . . maybe even a year or more, it's hard to say. All I know is that every month when we did our budget we were so grateful (and in awe) that we could tuck away a few hundred dollars into our savings account. You can read more about our trip here. It was an amazing adventure, something I will cherish for a long time!

I started to cut gluten out of my diet in October. It was a 45-day diet prescribed by my acupuncturist. I wasn't excited at all, but it turned out to be a good thing. I do believe my inflammation is triggered by gluten, at least to some extent. The acupuncture has also been helping tremendously. I will be continuing these two things in 2013 for sure!

In November, Chris's parents came to visit. We had a great weekend in Napa and then mom stayed with us a few extra days. It was wonderful to have them visit and see our apartment in the city for the first time. We celebrated Thanksgiving with our extended family up north near Mount Lassen, and although it was a little chilly, it was beautiful and very relaxing.

In December, Chris made a decision to quit his editing job that had been morphing into less-editing, more-mundane tasks and accepted another job that was in the city. Although perhaps not a move in the film-career direction we were hoping for, it saves us a lot on gas money and his life is better not spending hours commuting back and forth each week . . . do I need to mention the traffic and the bridge tolls? We celebrated Christmas with my sister and her husband in Las Vegas. It was a wonderful time together. We cooked and baked, watched movies, and played games. We're making plans to visit them again next year when their little baby enters the world! Congratulations Sister and Brother-in-Law!

This is another year we can look back on and see just how amazing God's provision is. We will continue to trust Him with this next year (and beyond) for all the good things He has in store.

May 2013 be filled with joy, peace and faith -- and exciting adventures!

Thursday, December 27, 2012

I was quoted in the SF Chronicle

Sometime during the week before Christmas a reporter stopped me while I was on my bike and wanted to ask me a few questions. I never thought she would actually quote me, but sure enough, this morning, my name and my words were in the San Francisco Chronicle.

See for yourself!

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

All the Christmas Cards

Last year, we received so many beautiful Christmas cards and I had no idea what to do with them; a few fit on our fridge, others on our bulletin board, and the rest sat on our coffee table and I'd look through them every so often. I'd seen a few people do different things to display them and came across an idea on Pinterest that I thought would be perfect for us!  I was so excited to get our first card! Take a look at how it turned out:

I think my kitchen looks a lot more festive now and that makes it really fun! I've tried a few Pinterest-inspired ideas this fall/winter and this is one my favorites! I hope I'll remember to do it again next year! Hope you are inspired to keep sending out those adorable Christmas cards—I love to get them!

You'll have to take a closer look at this photo above . . .  it's from my sister and her husband . . . and their baby!!! Ah! I'm going to be an Aunt again! My sister is going to have a baby!! I'm really excited for them and glad I live somewhat close—hope to make a few trips to Vegas next year (with my camera of course.)

Lefse Lesson

For as long as I can remember, my grandmother made Lefse for Christmas every year. It's a thin Norwegian potato bread that you cover with butter and sugar and roll up to eat. It was one of my favorites as a child (and as an adult). My grandmother passed away several years ago, and with her so did the frequency of lefse. Just one of the many things I missed about her.

A few years ago, my grandmother's sister and her daughter taught my sister how to make it. Since I was going to be spending Christmas with sister Molly and my grandmother's sister this year, I thought it would be a perfect opportunity to learn myself.

Molly did most of the preparation work and did the first few pieces to show me the ropes and then she let me go at it! We rolled the dough as thin as we could, but often it just wouldn't hold together as we moved it from the board to the griddle. As Molly said the other day, "We had a lot of casualties." 

It might not have looked as presentable as grandma's always did, but the taste and feeling of comfort from the past were too good to pass up.

I can picture my grandma working over the hot griddle for hours as she prepared batch after batch for her large family Christmas gathering. (Could she ever make too much?) I wonder if she had casualties like we did and how much practice she had in order to make them so perfect each time.

I wonder if she learned along with her sisters from her mother and what those lefse making sessions looked like with five girls gathered in the kitchen. I think all of them continued the tradition with their own families.

I wonder what tricks she learned as she went and what tips she would offer if she were the one giving us the lesson? I think if I could, I'd ask her to invite me over next time she was going to make them, just so I could learn by watching a pro. That would have been special.

It was somehow special for me to make them with my sister this year too. Something she "passed down" to me from grandma's generation. Somehow feeling that with her and I knowing (my other relatives also know now too), this tradition won't have to fade away.

Monday, December 24, 2012

Merry Christmas Everyone!

Just wanted to wish you all a very Merry Christmas! 
I hope you are able to enjoy time celebrating the Lord's birth with loved ones!

Chris and I are spending the holiday with my sister and her husband in Las Vegas (they live there). So far we've walked the Fremont strip and went to Ethel M Chocolates where they had a lit-up cactus park. We've spent some time in the kitchen (more on that to come) and playing games. It's been a great weekend away -- and I love getting to spend time with my sister!

I will share more later, but really just wanted to wish you all a very special Christmas day! 
Blessings to you and yours where ever you are!

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Hopes, Dreams and Answered Prayers

This year, my community has spent much time in prayer for very specific things. We've expected and anticipated God would work things out according to His perfect will and—as we wait and learn what that means—He has taught us about persistence and trust. Today, I wanted to share with you a few stories of answered prayers.

There are three men* in our church who, in their late twenties/early thirties have decided to take risks in their careers and pursue something they've been dreaming of. To their wives and those around them, these dreams may have seemed a little scary but nonetheless important and worth the risk.

The first man lived on the East Coast and—after years of being unemployed—was offered a job in San Francisco. I can't go into much detail about his situation, but there were issues back east that required him to move back. We gathered around him in prayer for months and hoped the situation would change—allowing him to keep his amazing job and stay in our community. But, that didn't seem to be happening. So, as he made the plans to move, we prayed that his company would offer him a transfer to an East Coast office. The process seemed to take forever and (with leadership changing) looked like it might not happen. About a week after our friend moved back to the East Coast, he got word that the transfer would go through! We praised God with thanksgiving for this job and for His faithfulness in providing for our friend. It didn't happen like we had wanted, but it worked out according to God's will, and that was good.

The second man has been trying to change careers for over a year. The application process for this particular field of work is long and strenuous. After waiting a full year and trying other avenues to get his foot in the door, he decided to take an act of faith and great courage. He applied for a six-month training program that would make him more qualified for the position. (Originally, this training would have been paid for by the company if they had hired him.) We surrounded him in prayer during this application process and prayed there would be a spot for him (as space is limited). He recently found out that he was accepted! We praised God for opening this door so he could move forward in going after his dream. Now he is taking steps of faith to see that: a) God will provide for his family while they pay for this program and live off of one income instead of two and b) he gets a job in the field after he finishes the program.

The third man moved to San Francisco with a deep passion and heart for the lost and found work in a place where Jesus is needed badly. He had hopes of starting his own business so he could more effectively share the Gospel with this demographic and has since quit his job and started working on his business plan and getting things started. We've been surrounding him in prayer for a couple of years now and as he takes these steps of faith we've seen God show up in ways that were unexpected and good. Just last week, he signed a lease for a space and is planning be open for business in the Spring of 2013. God is Good.

It has been so encouraging to see these men take steps of faith. Faith in God to provide for the dreams He has given them. Faith in God for the courage it takes to walk away from the "security" this world tries to offer and cling to the only security that really matters.

It has also been a privilege to pray for these men and watch the author of our lives grant our requests. There are still many prayers being said for these men, they each have a long road ahead but their dreams are coming true and that just leaves me with a sense of gratitude and hope. Thank you Lord!

*There is a fourth man's story I want to share with you, but we haven't yet seen our prayers answered. Please join us in praying for the Lord's provision! 

Monday, December 17, 2012

A Million Miles in a Thousand Years

Donald Miller is one of the more candid authors that I enjoy reading. Sometimes it feels like his thoughts just kind of threw up on the page; they are honest and real, and often thought-provoking. His words are deep, but in a simple way. They are easy to read yet make a deep impact. This was true when I read Blue Like Jazz years ago and it was true again when I read A Million Miles in a Thousand Years.

The book starts out as a retelling of him meeting two guys who wanted to make a movie about Don's life. As he works with them to create the screenplay, he thinks about story. What makes a good story? How do you write a good story . . . and more importantly how do you live a good story?

He shares quite a few of other people's stories. And tells how he is trying to improve his own story (his life). He starts taking risks, and going on trips, and working on projects. He starts noticing how others are impacting his life and how he is impacting other lives.

There are so many times that as I read this book, I wanted to write down what I was reading . . . but at the same time I didn't want to put the book down. So, although I can't share actual quotes with you I will share with you a few thoughts of my own.

A while back, I had blogged about story. And every time I read about story, it strikes a chord. I want my story to matter. I want my story to be a good one. I think that might be why I enjoyed Donald Miller's book so much, he feels the same way I do. We want our lives to matter.

It's hard not to let the daily-routine of life become your story. I wake up, I go to work, I come home and have dinner, watch some TV and I go to bed. It's easy to let time slip by without going after what you really want. It takes courage, energy and even creativity to live a good story.

Sometimes we fall into the trap of living busy stories. There is so much going on and so many different things to do that we miss the point of the story -- it might not be boring, but it's not the story we feel designed to live either.

Donald Miller's book was entertaining and encouraging. I hope you'll read it too -- and tell me what you think!

Friday, December 14, 2012

Weekend in Wine Country


Last month Chris and I joined his parents in Napa for a weekend of wine tasting. (I'm sorry I'm just posting this now, I didn't get a chance to upload my photos until last night! Oops!) We had done this with them last time they came to visit too . . . before we even had our apartment in San Francisco!

We had a great time together driving through wine country and stopping at quite a few wineries. We even got to drive over to Sonoma and take them to one of our favorites.

They treated us to a fantastic meal at Redd  -- we don't always get to eat this well. The restaurant was really nice and the food was absolutely divine. I had scallops in a creamy cauliflower sauce which, although not a big plate, was completely satisfying and delicious. Thanks Mom and Dad for taking us out!

Wineries always have such beautiful property. These next couple of photos are from Artesa. We climbed up a flight of outdoor stairs and when we got to the top this is what we saw. Absolutely stunning.

After a weekend of wine tasting and game playing we headed back to the city. Mom and Dad joined us in San Francisco for a few nights, too. I'm so glad they got to see our home and experience a little taste of our city.

Mom actually stayed for an extra couple of days and Chris got to take her biking all over the city! Way to go Mom! We loved having you both and are so glad you came to visit.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

The 2nd Annual Dicken's Christmas Fair

Last weekend Chris and I, along with a few friends attended the Dicken's Christmas Fair. You may remember my post about it last year. And once again, it did not disappoint. Walking into the arena, one was seemingly transported to another country, and era. The "streets of London" were covered in white powdery flakes and the smells of cinnamon and spice hung in the air as women dressed in lovely Victorian dresses and men in long coats and top hats strolled by. We had talked about dressing up too but didn't have the time or the funds to pull something together.

There were pubs on every corner where one could order a hot toddy or mulled wine (or apple cider for those not inclined to drink). Unfortunately they ran out of bangers and mash by the time we were ready for our dinner.

We saw a few different acts this year, some we weren't too impressed with (the saloon-type of entertainment). We sat through a reading of the Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens and witnessed a portion of Oliver Twist being reenacted. I really enjoyed the very end when everyone gathered together and sang the "Hallelujah Chorus" and "We Wish You a Merry Christmas." Chris's favorite once again was the Brass Farthing singers.

I loved looking in all the little shops. In one shop you could even watch them dip and create these beautiful candles. I could have stood there all day.

Monday, December 10, 2012

Gluten is Back . . . For Now

After 47 days of not eating gluten, the time has come to give it another try. My acupuncturist (who prescribed the diet in October) has given me the go-ahead to try eating gluten for a week. This trial week will tell me if this diet is "working" in reducing the inflammation I have in my neck, back, arms and feet. How will I know? Well, I'll be in a lot of pain. Or at least a more than I have been during this glorious, minimal-pain month and a half.

To be honest, I'm a little scared.  I don't want to feel bad again. I don't want my body to experience pain during this trial week. I really don't want to have to say "No" to whole grains and flours, and cookies and sandwiches and a lot of food at restaurants for years . . .

It really hasn't been that terrible. But I have already enjoyed getting back to my "normal" foods. I have had pancakes, sandwiches, homemade pizza, crackers and even some cookies! I love my gluten!

Also on this week's menu: Turkey Pot Pie, Red Velvet Cake, Hamburgers (with the bun!), and maybe a burrito! Not to mention whole-grain cereal like Cheerios and regular toast for breakfast!

I'll let you know the verdict after my gluten-filled week is over.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas . . .

On Saturday, during a break in the rain, Chris and I drove to Lowe's and picked up a Christmas tree. In the process we ran into a couple of friends (always love that small town feel) doing the same! Getting it home is pretty easy since we have a pick-up and only one flight of stairs. My tough husband practically handled the whole thing himself (I just came a long for the memory-making).

We spent the next afternoon listening to Christmas music and decorating the tree. I try to decorate a few other areas of our apartment too. It's not a lot. But it's enough. Enough to change my mood, my thoughts, my spirit.

I love when things begin to look like Christmas. I am overwhelmed by the reminder of God becoming man, entering our world as an infant and taking on our sins and our enemy. I am overwhelmed by the spirit of the season and find a cheerfulness, joy and happiness that had somehow escaped me between last year and now. I have a renewed peace that all will be okay -- our Savior has come!

The trees, lights, presents, and red and green decorations remind me that this season is about others, too. To show love and care for my family, friends, and even those I don't know who might be in need.

The calendar fills up fast with parties, cookie making and get togethers. It seems a little hectic when I look at my calendar already filling up, but I remind myself that this is a short season, and worth every bit of the work it takes to partake in all the festivities. I love this time of year!

Blessings to all of you this Christmas season!