Sunday, November 30, 2014

Skill Mastery: December Photo Challenge

With December fast approaching (tomorrow!) I'm getting into the holiday spirit! Nothing gets me in the mood for Christmas like snow, of course, all of our snow just melted. My backyard no longer makes me want to go frolic in the cold.

See ya, beautiful backyard.

Today is the day for Christmas decorating (excitement!) and I'm putting up the tree and lights despite that threat of cats getting into everything. My roommates and I should take bets on how long it will take them to knock over the tree, it's not an if but a when. 

Now that it's after Thanksgiving I can comfortably listen to Christmas music without feeling a mounting annoyance at the fact that retailers try to capitalize on holidays way before they should. But I digress. This Indie Christmas playlist is making up for the lack of snow to fuel my decorating spirit. Also this one.

The entire purpose of this post was to talk about the December photo-a-day challenge that I'm picking up. I mean, I take pictures all the time anyways, why not throw in a challenge for some fun, right? Below is the list and it seems like fun.

Join me if you like, we can compare photos! I'll be posting all of my pictures on Instagram as I take them and here on a weekly basis.


Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Events: Raclette

This party came about as a happy accident. I was talking about visiting my mom at work and all the delicious food that I was going to eat while I was there - let's be honest, I really only care about food, it's the reason I travel. I was describing Leelanau Raclette cheese to Caitlyn (because it's my favorite cheese) and Barb started talking about how much she likes Raclette. It took us a good five minutes to realize that while we were using the same word, we were talking about entirely different things. Thus, the plan to have a raclette party was born!

I know I linked it above but to clarify raclette is a cheese and a Swiss style of cooking involving (usually) a granite "grilling" surface. It reminded me of fondue in that everyone sits around the table and talks while their food is cooking. 

Barb hosted this time and provided all our delicious choices.

I baked Peasant Bread and brought the coveted raclette cheese (this is like a form of currency in my family. I had to fight off several members for the quarter wheel I got.) 

We started with some grilled onions to season the stone and then ate to our hearts content! Each person gets a little tray to put underneath to stone to melt cheese in and when the cheese it good and melty (I liked mine a little crispy around the edges) you scrape it off onto your meat and veggies as they finish cooking. Everything was so simple and delicious!

Caitlyn brought a Chocolate Mouse for dessert (so good!) and we all just relaxed and had a wonderful time. I can't wait to do this again!


Monday, November 24, 2014

Skill Mastery: Publishing

As of yesterday morning I'm officially a (self) published author. -insert fanfare-

Don't get too excited or anything, it's just a short story, but I had to design a cover and do all the formatting (not enjoyable) but it's out there and it's real and it even has an ISBN number! I had a crisis of self-worth a couple months ago, while trying to write up my author bio for an assignment, when I realized that I had nearly zero accomplishments as a writer. Nothing published in any form and very few finished projects that I was actually proud of enough to think about publishing. Leave it to school to make me have to get over that.

So here it is, in all its tiny glory.

(Click on the cover to get to the site)

It's free to read, so feel free to download it, and if you do I'd love to hear what you think either on Smashwords or you can leave a comment here.


Sunday, November 23, 2014

Events: Parties

My coworkers and I (I work at Starbucks btw) love food. And parties. So we've had a lot of food-related get-togethers over the past few months. They usually turn out beautifully, even if we plan them last minute. So without further ado, here are our parties!

"Pretentious" Tea Party:
We had a "pretentious" tea party to kick off our party list. Each attendee picked out a tea to pair their food item with. Here's the delicious spread:

Tia made Black Tea Brined Chicken (easily my new favorite chicken) and a Cranberry Feta Salad, Caitlin made Vanilla Orange Biscotti, Ariel made Coconut Macaroons, Caitlyn made Fresh Fruit Tarts, Pickle Wraps, Lemon Bars, Watermelon Pickles...there was so much good food! I provided all the teas and place settings. We even made sure to all dress up and wear fancy hats, that seemed like a must for a pretentious tea party.

Baby Shower:
Caitlyn, Natalie, and I threw a baby shower for our co-worker Caitlin (who now has a beautiful baby girl!) Caitlin really loves anything French (she speaks French too) and so we decided to go with a Parisian theme for the party itself.

I whipped up the invitations.

Caitlyn made the decor and prepared most of the food. I baked and hand painted, thank you to my assistant who helped expedite the painting process, the cakes (Red Velvet, yum!)
And then Caitlyn stuck her arm in it (good job) but I didn't mind, the food coloring stained her skin so I got mine. Haha!

Here are a few of the lovely ladies who attended with the Baby Mama. 
(from left to right: Me, Caitlyn, Caitlin (baby), Tia, Andrea, and Amy)

Oktober Fest:
We also really like LOVE beer, so of course we had to have a party solely about our favorite beverage.
There was so much food and beer. I can't even begin to start on everything.

Ramen Party:
Instead of your traditional Halloween party, we decided to have a Ramen party instead. Ramen and I have a long an healthy relationship, unfortunately its nearly impossible to find ramen of any kind in West Michigan (yes, a Ramen shop recently opened up nearby, but it's not traditional ramen and this make my heart sad). Caitlyn and Chad lived in Japan for five years so they understand my love affair with ramen and shared my need for it.

Chad made the ramen from scratch (it takes two days) and it was pretty dang close to exactly what I wanted.

I made Onigiri (riceballs) and Caitlyn made Gyoza.

I told you we really love food. I'm so glad that I got in touch with this amazing group of people. We have so much fun any time that we get together.

Our last party is going to get its own post, so keep an eye out for that.



Saturday, November 22, 2014

Status Update: The Tl;Dr Version (Too long; Didn't read)

It's been a long while, hasn't it? I'm sorry. I've been a terrible friend. Can you ever forgive me? You can? We'll get past this and it'll be just like old times? I knew we were friends for a reason! So where was I? Ah, yes, updates!

I made some things:
So many perler beads, but I finally finished this! Three months later! (It's about 3 feet long)

Finally repainted the mirror I've had sitting around for months a year. Now it hangs beautifully in the living room.

I cooked a lot:
Black beans & Rice, Homemade burgers

Beer can chicken (with sides), Burgers, grilled salmon, corn, etc (this is what happens with my family)

Spaghetti & Meatballs, Pumpkin cookies

Peasant bread, Oktoberfest stew

Double fudge cookies (made by the cousin as I made more bread), Personal pizzas

Shrimp scampi

I moved, again, but now I live with friends (and crazy cats) and we have fun.

The first load of boxes, and modeling my collection of scarves (I have a problem) (and yes that's a person under there)

I went to New York & Seattle over the summer:

New York! (More on this later, probably)

Seattle! Featuring the Bridge Troll and the skyline! (more on this later too)

Some friends got married:
Lisa & David

Raina & Daniel 
(me with the bride, Daniel ran off somewhere)

And finally, I made my own change from this to this:

Yeah buddy!

All in all a good time! I'm break down some of these into their own posts as I have a lot of pictures from trips and parties that have been attended. 

Until next time!


Thursday, March 20, 2014

Deep Thoughts: What I've learned

I've been doing a lot of self-discovery lately (it's a very long, on going process). A lot of thinking, reading, talking, thinking again, making decisions, changing those decisions, etc. It's exhausting most of the time, but I think I've learned a lot.

Most recently I found out that all of my previously-thought-to-be-unrelated personal issues indeed can be traced back to one thing and are all related. I'm a codependent. It doesn't sound like it's that bad of a thing, codependency, the word itself illicits feelings of cooperation and coexisting with someone. Oh you coexist, sure, but it's not as rose-y as it sounds. There is no one true definition for codependency, it all changes depending on who you're talking to, but this one hit the nail on the head for me:
Codependency is "an emotional, psychological, and behavioral condition that develops as a result of an individual's prolonged exposure to, and practice of, a set of oppressive rules - rules which prevent the open expression of feelings as well as the direct discussion of personal and interpersonal problems." (Beattie, Codependent No More)
You see, most codependents spawn from living, and dealing, with substance abusers. The first codependent support group was formed by the wives of recovering alcoholics way back in the day. So while I could relate to these personal confessions that I was reading about, I could understand why I was this way. No one in my family had a substance abuse issue, I grew up in a good family. Where had a developed this from? Then I read that definition and the lightbulb clicked on in all its blinding glory. I almost cried, seriously. Growing up, we didn't talk about feelings in my family. We just didn't. You solved your problems on your own. I was ridiculed for my interests, not blatantly, but enough that it made me quietly ashamed of them. I still enjoyed them, but I didn't discuss them with my family, they were reserved for my friends.

All these years I've been called many things; clingy, demanding, bitchy, controlling, manipulative, lazy and more. I've had a lot of failed relationships and I blamed myself for not being able to keep it together, for not being able to suck it up, deal with it, and fix the problem. But I didn't know what the problem was exactly. I just wanted to love but people didn't seem to want my kind of love. "But it's love!" I'd think, "why doesn't anyone want it?" I wanted to be helpful and people didn't want my help. I continually blamed myself for failing while at the same time being absolutely terrified of failure, of being a failure. You can see where that was going.

Then I was alone.

Even better, I was alone and depressed (with anxiety and panic attacks). I'd failed again and again (and again). I had failed at what I thought was the love of my life (it wasn't), I had failed my family (I hadn't done that either), I'd failed at life (also not true), and I hated myself. Everything felt so out of my control and I physically couldn't do anything, there was no reason, I'd just fail again, there was no motivation, no drive. I'd spend hours laying on the floor in my room in silence, staring at the ceiling as my thoughts spiraled around my failings.

I'd like to point out right now that I was never suicidal. And all of this took place while I was in counseling, so I was trying to get help.

I couldn't enjoy anything. A friend pointed out that I'd actually accomplished a lot in the 6 or so months since I'd felt that I hit rock bottom. She asked me why I wasn't enjoying these little accomplishments? My only answer was "I can't" and I cried, sitting out on the deck in the sun on a beautiful summer day. She was right of course, I had done a lot but I didn't derive joy from any of it. I just thought about all the things I hadn't accomplished and felt guilty because of it. Guilt was a constant and heavy companion through all of this, it still is.

My mom told me to stand in front of the mirror and tell myself that I was allowed to enjoy these things and that I'd done a good job. I tried. I couldn't look at myself. I put on sunglasses and that helped but then I couldn't say the words. I choked, I cried, it took 30 minutes. I was mentally exhausted and felt no better. I still couldn't look myself in the eye. It was terrible.

I'll spare you more of the gritty details of my "blue period" and just say that I feel better now. I'm not "recovered" but I feel better. The codependency thing has really helped. Instead of just feeling and reacting when I'm upset, I can stop myself and think objectively about it. Why am I feeling this way? Do I need to react to it? Am I overreacting? It's helped just in the few weeks that I've been working on it. I haven't finished reading my book yet (Codependent No More by Melody Beattie) but what I have read has really helped me. Knowing that there's a reason for my reactions has helped but knowing that I can fix it has helped even more. I feel like I can go somewhere with this.

And that is a great feeling.

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Deep Thoughts: Beliefs

Today's Tea: Vanilla Cream from Octavia Tea
Mood: Contemplative 

I'm going to start by giving yesterday an overall rating of excellent, despite what could have dropped the day to rock bottom. 

But let's start over. While talking with Lisa yesterday we got on the topics of life changes and beliefs, since both of us have been going through some major changes lately. (Sorry if I've been particularly unbearable at times to anyone. Most of it felt beyond my control and for someone who needs to be in control of most things that's really hard to deal with. I sincerely apologize.) I was raised in predominately Christian homes, Lutheran mostly, and though I fell out of practice both of my parents(and their families) are still quite active in their church-going and involvement. I personally didn't care for it. 

I like the ritualism of church. The order of things, I still to this day can recite The Lord's Prayer and most of the commonly practiced responses by heart. The feeling of awe I get when walking into a cathedral has to do with more than just the architecture. But I find that, in general, I greatly dislike the Christian belief system and after being confirmed I dropped it. That was way back in the day, and since then I've dabbled in adopting different beliefs. The one that I've always come back to is Wicca, though I'd prefer to just use the term Paganism. Wicca makes me think of baskets (no disrespect). I was really interested in high school, bought books, studied the magickal properties of herbs and stones, collected bits of things to keep in my box since I didn't feel comfortable setting up an alter lest my family question it (they were not so open-minded and understanding as they are today). 

But people were judgmental and at such a pivotal point in life I didn't like being judged. I hid it. I stopped practicing, kept my boxes under my bed and only pulled out my tarot cards and books when I knew I was alone. That just made me feel like a sham, like I couldn't call myself a practitioner because I wasn't. So I fell out of that too.

It wasn't so bad for awhile. Life took over and I didn't really think about it. I'd pull out my boxes every so often to smell my herbs and read a tarot spread but mostly they sat untouched under my bed (even through moves) for years. 

Now is different.
Now, I've spent the last 8 months reevaluating my life and the decisions I've made. Things are missing. Lots of things and I've tried to fill them with the wrong pieces. It was really bad there for awhile (ask any of my close friends) but I'm starting to figure myself out and maybe it's time to open my boxes again. I do miss them.

My belief is in nature. A closeness with the elements fueled by a higher power and life force running through everything. I need to find my center and maybe this is one thing that I need to do it. 

Last night we had a bonfire party and I used the opportunity to burn some baggage that I'd been holding on to for too long. It felt good to stand there amongst friends and let things go as I watched journal pages curl up and ripple beautifully with fire. I feel relieved and rejuvenated. I'll figure this out eventually.