Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Countdown to 2014 in Photos: 1...

Welcome to the last day of the photo challenge.  And the last day of 2013.  It is “New Years Eve”.  Our house is a mess as evidenced by the photo above.  At least three out of the five of us are sick or getting sick.  Our dishwasher broke today and our sink spewed water at its seams, down the cabinets, onto and all over the floor.  My grandma’s still not feeling well.  I can’t think of a worse New Years Eve, but it’s ok.  Every other year, I’ve had a blast and they haven’t always been the best years.  Maybe this is the year, the one that starts off rocky and ends amazingly.  After all, when we write, when we dream, it’s always about happy endings not perfect beginnings.

Read All About It: 30 Day Trial Expired

After today, December will be done and so expires my first 30 Day Trial.  I can honestly say (sorry guys!) I did not read everyday as intended BUT I did read most days and many days I read for much longer than my allotted hour.

Not only did I find reading to be a source of relaxation after busy days, but it was exhilarating and inspiring as well.  There is something so necessary about reading in a time when the act of watching has become so commonplace.  The process of having someone sketch another world in your mind while you simultaneously color in all the details is a beautiful one.  It is something that is lost when we plop down on the couch and become purely spectators.

In addition to reading the first two installments of The Hunger Games trilogy, I read a lot of blog posts.  For someone who aspires to write, reading is essential.  And, for someone who aspires to be a blogger, reading blogs is imperative.  Through this process, I realized how unfair it was of me to ask people to discover and appreciate my work when I hardly made an effort to seek out and take in the works of others.  I will not make that mistake again.

All in all, I’d say December’s 30 Day Trial was a success for me.  I’m not sure if anyone joined in this month, but if you did feel free to comment and let me know how it went.  Come back tomorrow to read about - and maybe even take part in - my 30 Day Trial for January!!

<3 n

Monday, December 30, 2013

Countdown to 2014 in Photos: 2...

“Night” is the photo challenge today.  After a long day of cleaning, a hot bath seemed like a great idea.  I’m going to keep this short as the water is waiting, I'm not feeling too well and it’s getting late.  Goodnight everyone!

What's on the Menu Monday: Back on Track

Breakfast: Since the New Year is upon us, the time has come for me to once again attempt to adhere to refreshed regimens and work toward unattainable goals.  I started today by eating healthier and remembering to take my vitamin.  For breakfast, I had Cheerios with honey and Caribou Reindeer Blend Coffee.

Lunch: Half a falafel wrap from Zankou Chicken with a Trader Joe’s salad (pictured above)

Dinner: In addition to a better diet, we’d like to start 2014 off with a clean, well-organized home.  Because of this, J, Ella and I cleaned all day today.  We had a quick, light dinner consisting of baked potatoes (and chicken for everyone but me).

Dessert: After dinner, I had Chips Ahoy Reduced Fat Chocolate Chip Cookies and a glass of milk.  J bought these by accident, but it worked out well because they were actually really good.

Sunday, December 29, 2013

Countdown to 2014 in Photos: 3...

Today’s photo challenge is “Smiles with a Friend”.  Sadie has recently begun to smile at her toys, so I thought photographing this would be appropriate.  Although she’s only been in the world for two and a half months, she’s growing up far too quickly it seems.  Chubby cheeks have replaced her once sharply-edged jawline and the little baby who used to be blissfully unaware of her surroundings is now alert and reactive to her environment.

Saturday, December 28, 2013

Countdown to 2014 in Photos: 4...

The photo challenge subject for today is “Scarf”.  This is by far my favorite scarf as it was a Christmas gift from and made by my grandma.  It’s super long and warm and cozy, so it’s the perfect winter accessory.

Friday, December 27, 2013

Gifts from J: Christmas 2013

J is amazing at gift-giving.  He always knows exactly what to get me and often surprises me by giving me things I’ve forgotten I’d even mentioned to him.  Here’s a quick look at what he got me this Christmas…

1. Nike Free Run+ 3 Running Shoes - I’ve been in love with these for a while, but I never purchased a pair as I rarely wear athletic shoes.  I don’t think Nike even makes these anymore, so J had to do some hunting in order to find them.  Either he really loves me or really hates my old clunky cross-trainers!

2. GlamGlow Gift Sexy Set - This looked promising so I pinned it via Sephora’s site a while back.  I’ve only used each product once so far, but I did enjoy the results.  My skin was definitely visibly smoother and my pores seemed smaller.

3. Mossimo “Camp Fox” Sweatshirt - Two words… Love. This.

4. BaubleBar Neon Nightingale Necklace - I pinned this on Pinterest not long ago onto my “Nicky’s Wish List” board (LINK) and, thanks to my honey, it ended up under our Christmas tree this year.  What’s that quote from Field of Dreams?  If you pin it, it will come?  Hehe.

5. Faux Leather Leggings - I’ve actually never thought of buying super shiny pants for myself.  I had red pleather shorts in high school and let’s just say it didn’t work out between us.  These leggings, however, were a nice surprise.  They look really cute, so I’m glad J went with his style instincts and bought them.

Countdown to 2014 in Photos: 5...

Today is “Fun” day for the photo challenge.  This collage is of Hendrix playing in his new Avengers tent that J’s mom got him for Christmas.  He had a blast crawling through and sitting inside it, especially when his daddy joined in.  Seeing my little ones laughing and playing is definitely something that makes the holiday season so special to me.

Thursday, December 26, 2013

Countdown to 2014 in Photos: 6...

The photo challenge of the day is “Bundled Up”.  Above are two of my cozy Christmas presents that I used today as I’m sick.  The zebra print blanket was from J’s mom.  It’s so warm and soft and it definitely kept me cuddly in bed today.  J bought me the “Camp Fox” sweatshirt.  I fell in love with it during a routine Target trip, so he went back and picked it up for me for Christmas.

Very Thankful Thursday: Here's to Health

This is going to be a super short post because I'm a bit physically and mentally drained today. I've been sick for the last couple days and, what's worse, my grandma was hospitalized yesterday due to an illness. She's doing ok now - well enough to talk to me and comfort me and tell me to stop crying over her - and she should be home soon which is something I'm very thankful for.

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Countdown to 2014 in Photos: 7...

“Morning” is the subject of today’s photo challenge.  When I think of Christmas morning, two things come to mind - presents and pajamas.  My little ones (minus Sadie who slept through most of her first Christmas) opened their gifts from Santa shortly after they woke up, still wearing their nighttime attire.  Ella received a Pokemon card set, Hendrix got Transformers and Spiderman action figures and Sadie was given a pink rattle ball.

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Countdown to 2014 in Photos: 8...

The photo challenge for today is “Holiday Tradition”.  I can’t think of one Christmas ritual that I loved more as a child than leaving a note and cookies for Santa along with sugar for the reindeer (does anyone else do the sugar part or was it just my family?).  This year, Ella and I baked Snickerdoodle and Molasses cookies and set them out with milk, a sugar/cinnamon mix and a coffee cup with a Reindeer Blend K-Cup inside so that Santa can help himself to some coffee.  Ella is a little on the fence this year as far as her belief in Mr. Claus, but with a little explanation from me and a couple confirmations from the Norad Santa Tracker, she decided the big guy is still worthy of the annual note and snacks.

Merry Christmas to all and to all a goodnight!!

<3 n

Monday, December 23, 2013

Countdown to 2014 in Photos: 9...

Today is “Presents Under the Tree” day!  When I was little, I was always very excited about Christmas and extremely anxious to rip into all of my presents.  That’s pretty natural for a child.  Now that I’m older and I’m on the giving end of gifts however, I get far too excited about seeing other people open presents.  I’ve been guilty, once or twice, of forcing my family members to open gifts prematurely.  More often, I have the horrible habit of talking to the recipient about their gift without saying what I actually bought them.  I just can’t stand the wait!  Because of this, I think last-minute shopping and wrapping actually help me since I know I don’t have to wait too long before giving my loved ones their goodies.  I’m weird.  I know this.

What's on the Menu Monday: Did I Eat Today?!

Breakfast: Starbucks Pike Place Coffee with International Delight Sweet Cream Creamer

Snack: Nope!

Lunch: Nothing here either!

Dinner: In-N-Out Animal-Style Grilled Cheese and Fries

Dessert: Another round of Starbucks Pike Place Coffee with International Delight Sweet Cream Creamer anyone?  I needed a little boost to finish wrapping presents tonight.  Don’t judge me.

As you can tell, it was one of those days when life itself keeps you from doing the things that are essential to living (i.e. eating, sleeping, occasionally stopping to breathe).  Between last-minute shopping, feeding babies, bathing babies, changing babies and, oh yea, showering once, it was hard to find a moment for a real meal today.  I’m also feeling kinda sick, so I think that killed my appetite as well.

<3 n

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Countdown to 2014 in Photos: 10…

Today’s photo challenge is “Red”.  Since most of our holiday shopping bags and buys feature this rosy Christmas color, I decided to photograph a few of them.  Included in this picture are a Macy’s bag containing a Gap sweater for my dad, a Victoria’s Secret bag which holds a gift set for J’s mom, Snickerdoodle and Molasses cookie mixes for Santa’s snack, Target bags filled with various goodies for J and Sadie, and a Vans bag which houses a gift for one of my best friends.  Parking at the mall was absolutely horrible.  It was like trying to find an inn with a vacancy on Christmas Eve.  Nevertheless, Ella and I braved the crowds to purchase the presents listed above.  The venture reminded me of the wonderfully chaotic Christmas shopping trips I've taken with my mom over the years.

Saturday, December 21, 2013

Countdown to 2014: The Last 10 Days in Photos

This month, in addition to my first 30 Day Trial, I’m participating in a daily photo challenge created by Lianne Stewart, author of the Lulabelle blog.  Since I started off poorly (I missed days one through five), I thought I’d finish strong by posting the remaining days’ photos on my blog - where they will be full-sized with bigger, better descriptions - as well as on my Instagram page.

Check back tomorrow for day one of the countdown.  If you’d like to join me in sending off 2013 with a photographic finish, visit the link above to view the photo challenge details!

Friday, December 20, 2013

Meet Hendrix!!

Name: Hendrix Rome Matthew

Birthday: October 1st

Likes: biting on everything, Yo Gabba Gabba, puppies, being held, playing telephone, long walks, following his big sister around, warm baths, power naps, Trader Joe’s Dixie Peach Juice

Dislikes: washing his face, sleeping through the night, inedible objects

What makes Hendrix special?
Despite being born seven weeks early, he only spent twenty-one days in the NICU. He quickly proved he didn't need a breathing tube and moved on from a feeding tube to a bottle as fast as his tiny body would allow. He was 3lbs 15oz at his lowest weight and now he's taller - and heavier - than most children his age. He was and continues to be one strong little man.

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Very Thankful Thursday: Back to Work

This week, I am very thankful for everyone with whom I have the extreme pleasure of working.  I took a break from maternity leave to visit the office for my baby shower today (baby, pictured above, was in attendance as she came a bit earlier than expected).  Little Sadie received so many beautiful gifts including enough clothing to keep her decked out for months.  The trip to the office was a reminder that my postpartum vacation will be coming to an end soon.  Although I’ll miss my little ones terribly, I get to resume working with some pretty amazing people so it’s not so bad!

What are you thankful for this week?  Comment and let me know!

<3 n

Monday, December 16, 2013

What's on the Menu Monday: Minute-Saving Meals

Breakfast: I had Starbucks House Blend Coffee with International Delight’s Salted Caramel Mocha Creamer.  Since I was focused on cleaning this morning, I returned to my coffee-only breakfast routine.  Our house was a disaster because we ran around all weekend and I completely neglected to clean.

Lunch: For lunch, I ate a bagel with cream cheese and sliced avocado along with a cucumber, corn, tomato and feta salad.  The salad, which I made last night, was even better today as the dressing thoroughly infused the other ingredients during their sleepover in the fridge.

Snack: Half a banana

Dinner: We have A LOT to do tomorrow so I opted to not make a huge mess of the kitchen by cooking tonight.  Instead, we ordered cheese pizza from Little Caesar’s.  Really bad, I know, but it kept me from having to do more dishes!

Dessert: Vanilla ice cream with chocolate syrup

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Very Thankful Thursday: Watch and Learn

I wasn’t quite sure what I wanted to write about for this week’s Very Thankful Thursday post, but then it hit me.  Tonight, as I was adorning the rim of a coffee mug with peanut butter and graham cracker crumbs, I realized how grateful I am for YouTube videos.  As silly as it sounds, they really are wonderful.

I can’t remember the last time I purchased a beauty product without typing the product name into the YouTube search bar followed by the word “review”.  I can (and many times I do) read up on things about which I am curious, but I don’t always have time to sit down and perform my own extensive research.  Not to mention, I don’t have the money to throw away on products that don’t work, so review videos certainly come in handy.   My go-to YouTuber for advice on beauty products is usually Dulce Tejeda (aka Dulce Candy on YouTube).  With her extensive tutorials and detailed reviews, she’s definitely earned her title of “Beauty Guru”.

The coffee mug laced with graham crackers was for a delicious recipe posted by Ingrid Nilsen (aka missglamorazzi).  This month, Ingrid is doing a daily video series which she’s dubbed “DIY December”.  So far, she’s provided the YouTube community with eleven great DIY ideas including yummy recipes, fun and easy crafts and even the reminder to donate to less fortunate children this holiday season (with accompanying footage of her trip to the toy store).  It’s ideas like these that also make YouTube very valuable.  Again, when you’re pressed for time, quick videos are a great source of information and inspiration.

Another fantastic thing about YouTube is the fact that you get to see unscripted people engaging in actual life experiences.  In today’s world of faux reality television, it’s refreshing to watch real humans do real stuff.  Anna Saccone (see Anna Saccone and SACCONEJOLYs) is a perfect example of this.  I like watching her (along with her hubby and adorable daughter) because they’re a regular family just like mine and because they live in Ireland so I get to see a bit of a different culture which is pretty awesome.

As usual, feel free to comment and tell me what you’re thankful for this week, whether it’s small or big, silly or serious!!

<3 n

Monday, December 9, 2013

What's on the Menu Monday: Soup Weather

Breakfast: As we headed out the door to the gym this morning, I quickly ate some shredded wheat cereal with sliced banana.  For some reason, I haven’t had cereal for the longest time.  It was a nice change from my usual coffee-only breakfasts.

Lunch: Nothing complements cold, windy weather better than soup.  I made a pot of sopa de fideo (with shells instead of regular pasta).  The recipe is borrowed from J’s mom with a couple of very slight modifications.

Snack: Raspberries and blueberries

Dinner: Sopa leftovers!

Dessert: For dessert, we had cake baked by my mom and decorated by Ella (as seen above).  I’m still not quite sure what the inspiration for her design was.  She drew several things onto the frosting in icing and then proceeded to cover most of it up with the green sprinkles.  In any case, it tasted great!

Friday, December 6, 2013

Mini Haul: Target and Victoria's Secret

Today, J and I enjoyed a little alone time while Ella was at school and J’s mom watched Hendrix and Sadie.  We ventured to the gym, then to lunch and afterwards did a little bit of shopping.  Since I love watching haul videos, I decided to do a mini haul blog post about what we bought.  We didn’t get much at all as we need to focus our funds on Christmas shopping (and other fun stuff like rent and food), but I thought it’d be fun to post this anyway.

’Tis the season for a Victoria’s Secret sale!  Until Sunday, you can get five pairs of undies from the PINK line for just $26.  I posted the accompanying photo in hopes that it would provide you all with an idea of what I purchased without being too inappropriate.

Free PINK Puppy
With my Victoria’s Secret purchase, I received another adorable mini dog to add to my collection.  I’ve actually given most of them to Ella over the years, but looking back I kinda wish I’d kept them all in mint condition.  Oh well!  I’m still very much enjoying my new blue iridescent doggy.

Baby Wipes
Scented Up & Up brand wipes from Target.  Gotta have ‘em!

Two Basic Tanks
When we left Target, J asked if these tank tops are for the gym.  Silly man!  The reason I bought two simple, neutral-colored tank tops is because they’re super versatile.  “They’re for the gym, for home, for going out, for anywhere,” I told him.  Besides, women don’t sweat to the point of spoiling clothing like guys do - most of the time anyway.  Just in case I should require more, Target currently has them on sale for two for $16.

Sadie’s Snuggly Suit
It was imperative that we purchased a warm winter suit for Sadie as the weather’s been very cold for us Southern Californians the last few days.  Now, when I say “very cold” I’m talking highs in the 60s and lows in the 30s.  It’s not that cold and there aren’t any snowflakes in sight, but she does need to stay nice and cozy so we bought the suit.  Pink is my favorite color and the polka dots are very cute.  Bonus - the suit matches the Victoria’s Secret shopping bag which, I informed J, I will most definitely be hoarding as it’s just too beautiful to toss.

Big Sis/Little Sis Headbands
These Cherokee brand headbands from Target are labeled “one size” so, thinking that they’d work for both of my girls, I bought two!  The headband’s a little large on Sadie (it fits but the flower decoration is a bit massive), so I think it will only be practical for photography purposes for now.  Ella will get a lot more use out of hers as the proportions are more appropriate for her.  We briefly toyed with the idea of getting Hendrix a black bow tie, but J reminded me that there’s zero chance of him keeping it on.

The Trader’s Joe-Joe’s
These seasonal cookies are absolutely delicious.  If you haven’t tried them, they’re essentially Oreos but with candy cane cream filling.  Personally, I think they taste better than Oreos.  They seem to be less processed or more natural-tasting, if that makes any sense at all.

Work-Out Warmth
Last, but not least, J got a pair of lined leggings for the gym.  I tried them on when we got home and I think I might need to get a pair of my own.  The inside lining is nice and fleecy and, since I get cold very quickly, that would certainly come in handy.

So that’s it for my first haul blog post!  I hope you enjoyed it.  Please comment with a link to your haul posts or videos and I’ll gladly read or watch them.

<3 n

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Very Thankful Thursday: It's That Time of Year

Since I was busy cooking and stuffing my face on the most thankful of Thursdays, I neglected to write about what I was grateful for last week.  This week, as we are now post-Thanksgiving and pre-Christmas, I’ve decided to write about that thing that makes the holiday season so truly special.  Family!  It’s extremely cliche, but the holidays do seem to be a grand reminder of the importance of one’s kinfolk.

Admittedly, I am the worst at keeping in touch.  I’m constantly telling myself, “I’ll call [name of loved one] as soon as I finish [task that is currently petitioning for my time and attention]!”  And then that never happens because something else comes up and before I know it it’s tomorrow and I start that same cycle all over again.  Nevertheless, I love and appreciate each one of my family members - and friends as many of them are so close to me that they’re practically family and I consider them to be just that.

I’m so grateful to have people I can confide in, laugh with and even vent to when necessary.  They accept me no matter how wacky I am and they’re always there to pick me up regardless of how down I get.  My parents and siblings have been, and remain to this day, beyond supportive and I’m so thankful for each of them.  I’m blessed to have a wonderful partner who doubles as a best friend and three beautiful healthy children.  Even when Ella is talking back or Hendrix and Sadie are wailing simultaneously, they’re precious and their presence in my life is invaluable.

So, although I shouldn’t require a reminder, I’m glad the holidays have come around once again to help me remember to be super thankful for my family.  Here’s to another year of being surrounded by the most amazing people I know!

Please comment and tell me what you’re thankful for this week or what you’re most thankful for during the holidays!

<3 n

Monday, December 2, 2013

What's on the Menu Monday: Leftover Thanks & Bday Cakes

Breakfast: Starbucks Pike Place coffee with pumpkin spice creamer!  That’s been breakfast lately, but starting tomorrow we’ll be back on track.  J and I have just rejoined the gym, so we have a newfound motivation to whip our diets into shape.

Snack: Butter waffle cookies and pistachios (more bad stuff!)

Lunch: As we’re still grazing on Thanksgiving leftovers, I had my mom’s homemade sweet potato pie for lunch.

Dinner:  I ate Turkey Day overstock for dinner as well.  This time it was string beans, Brussels sprouts and portobello mushrooms.  I also had a slice of pizza J’s mom brought for his birthday.  He’s 29 today.  Yay!

Dessert: Birthday cake! (also courtesy of J’s mom)

Sunday, December 1, 2013

30 Day Trial: Read All About It!!

I have a confession.  I am not a reader.  I’d love to be a reader.  I’d love to be one of those people who immerses themselves in literature and simply can’t put a book down once they’ve picked it up, but I’m not.  Lack of time combined with an unwillingness to dedicate my attention to anything more than a short news article or the description section below a YouTube video, has made me, well, not exactly book club material.  I realize that, as someone who enjoys writing, this is extremely detrimental.

And so, I pledge to read for at least an hour each day during the month of December.  This shouldn’t be too difficult, in the beginning at least, since I just bought The Hunger Games trilogy for my Kindle.  I downloaded it as soon as we got home after watching Catching Fire.  I can’t wait to know what happens in the third book, but I figured I should read the first two books instead of relying solely on their cinematic counterparts.  Yes, I understand that the series is geared toward young adults but hey,  I’m trying to get back into reading.  Starting with something simple that I know I’ll enjoy is probably the best approach.

I’m hoping that this month-long commitment to being a bookworm will help me establish a regular reading routine.  If it does, I’m sure I won’t be the only beneficiary of this experiment.    I’ll be able to set a great example for the kids (mainly Ella as she is the only one who can read at the moment) and spark a love of books in each of them.

Be sure to check back on December 31st for the results of this month’s 30 day trial!

<3 n

Welcome to the 30 Day Trial!!

In order to become a healthier, more well-rounded individual, I will be trying something new every month.  On the first of the month, I will explain my new venture and tell you why I’ve decided to explore it.  Then, on the last day of the month, I’ll report back to you with the outcome of my trial and let you know what I learned and/or gained from the experience.  As always, feel free to comment or, better still, take part in my 30 day trial!  That way, we can do this together and you can comment on my end of the month post with details about your own experience.  I’d love to hear from you!

<3 n