Wednesday, December 28, 2011

I'll Be Seeing You...

On January 3rd! Until then I'll be staying in a hotel and going to a ton of events for GAME WEEK...I know I'll have a lot of catching up to do but I can't wait to read about all of your post-holiday fun! Have a very Happy New Year!


P.S.- Here's a fun present that the court and I each got from one of our chaperones! It's my dream come true! :)

Friday, December 23, 2011

Cookie Exchange

I finally have a few minutes to post about my cookie exchange! It was a only a few days ago and yet almost all of the cookies are gone- thanks to extra help from my dad and brothers.

So I can relive the fun & you can experience it for the first time, here are the photos!

All of our delicious cookies!
Creative wreath cookies!

She used pretzels in hers- delicious!

Look at this amazing Christmas sweater!

Ali pointed to a random recipe her mom's cook book & it was a big hit! And she couldn't find an ugly sweater- she opted for a cute one instead!

*This is my best friend, the one who just got engaged :)
She put Reese's in peanut butter cookies... my favorite cookie! I'm a peanut butter addict!

The little puff balls, as I called them! Allison packaged her cookies in the cutest snowman tins!

We almost made the same cookies! Cookies & cream cookies inspired by Pintrest!

Elle went above and beyond! 2 different treats- including smores bars!

Peanut butter & chocolate.... another one of my favorites!

My peanut butter Oreos- cookies & cream cookies!

I am so blessed to have such wonderful and supportive friends. We sat around the fire pit with peppermint schnapps hot cocoa and laughed non-stop. We even had a live performance from my twin brothers that play guitar and bass. We had a blast!

I must confess, I was a nervous host. I wanted to make sure everyone was happy and having a fun time. But then I realized that these are my closest friends and I don't have to impress them. We're all pretty low key so we didn't need games or movies to keep us engaged. Instead, we laughed about the past and even the future. Yes we did mock our technologically challenged parents who need written instructions to turn on the computer. Then we realized that's going to be us in the blink of an eye. But most importantly, my sorority sisters finally got the chance to meet my best friend since she goes to another university. I couldn't have been happier.

I can't wait to host the cookie exchange again next year. I've already got some new ideas up my sleeve- including edible name tags for the cookie settings- thanks to today's episode of The Talk. The little gathering helped remind me just how blessed I am and it also helped get me into the Christmas spirit... I feel like I had so much more to say about the exchange, but that's what I get for waiting so many days.

Have a happy Friday... WAIT, how is it already Friday?! XO

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Another Day, Another Excuse

I'm sorry... but this excuse for not blogging is legitimate.

My best friend just got engaged! I'm just to excited and have tons of errands to run!

I hope you all have a wonderful Wednesday!

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Contagious, Unconditional Joy

Today I visited Phoenix Children's Hospital to deliver over 300 coloring books and boxes of crayons to hospital's patients. I organized the drive so each child could have their own coloring set during the holiday season. We made stickers that say "This book belongs to" so that everyone could write their name on and it and if lost, it would be returned to the right patient. I'm so thankful that the drive was so successful and that everyone believed in the cause.

Today I relearned a special lesson. Despite these kid's circumstances, they find joy in the simple things. And shouldn't we all be like this?! The entire time I was there, the smile never left my face. I met a very young girl undergoing cancer treatments and regardless of what she was feeling, she took the time to color a picture for me. Her spirit was contagious! She even told me to go to Walmart so that I could get the same furry boots as her! Too cute.

My heart is melted and I'm yearning to volunteer at PCH. Ash, who is a cancer survivor, has volunteered with the hospital for years but I've never been able to witness it first-hand. I'm making a promise to myself that once I return to Phoenix for graduate school, I will dedicate my time and energy to all of these precious kids. It would be phenomenal to volunteer alongside my boyfriend and it would help me to understand what he went through as a 10-year-old with AML Leukemia.

I'm rambling- sorry! I'm just so on fire to volunteer!

Here's a VERY quick video from this morning and a few photos. The video could only be 15 seconds long, hence why we're speaking at lightening speed.

How cute is this little one!?

Alyssa and myself!

Oh and don't worry, I'll blog about the cookie exchange later today! I just wanted to quickly share my heart with you!

Monday, December 19, 2011

Cookie Overload

My friends just left and I'm proud to say that my first cookie exchange as a host was a success! Mom's spicy queso dip was a crowd pleaser and so was the peppermint schnapps.

I have a few things to do tomorrow morning so I won't be able to blog until later, but I'm so excited to share all the happenings- and of course tell you about the delicious cookies.

Here's a quick group photo! I am so blessed to have such amazing friends. :)


Saturday, December 17, 2011

Guest Blogging

Good morning! Today you can find my post on My Beautiful, Crazy Life! Miss Breanna asked for a guest blogger and I jumped at the chance. Make sure to visit & follow her blog!

I hope you all had a great weekend. Today I'll be busy having lunch with friends, going to a wedding shower & preparing for my FIRST experience hosting a cookie exchange!

Here's what I'm making for the cookie exchange.... YUM!

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Help Me Out!

Calling all experienced- or HTML savy- bloggers.
As you may or may not know, I'm relativley new to the blogging world. As great as these pre-made templates are through Blogger, I'd love to add some personal touches to my page. So instead of posting about me today, I would simply like to ask you all for help & tips to making your page personal. Because I share of my life with all of you, I want my blog to reflect who I am. If you could please give me some suggestions, I'd really appreciate it.


Life is Good

Prepare yourself- this is going to be a very disheveled post!

Here's the deal: I'm finally learning to accept the cards I'm dealt, go with the flow (as much as possible) & express my gratitude. Therefore, LIFE IS GOOD!

Here's why:

This semester was a challenge. I was entirely overcommitted and constantly exhausted. But, I had support from my wonderful family and friends- they constantly helped me to push myself harder. And even though I didn't get to spend much time with them, they supported me the entire way. Throughout it all, I accepted the cards I was dealt and those which I chose to play.

Although I normally strive for straight As, I just knew I wouldn't get a top grade in my Reporting Public Affairs class. No matter how hard I tried, I felt as though I was constantly falling short. There's much more to this story, but for brevity.... I GOT AN A! But here's the deal. I had finally come to terms with getting a B in this class. It was extremely challenging- there were many sleepless nights and tears. Even though I was awarded an A for my hard work, the journey taught me something. Although we like to think we can, there is no way for us to control EVERYTHING in life. One of my favorite quotes from the book Epictetus says, "There are things which are within our power, and there are things which are beyond our power." Sometimes we just need a little reminder that we are only human.

Oh yes, and I am learning to go with the flow. Ash (I came up with his pseudonym) and I did not get to spend the entire day together yesterday, as I'd planned. It was an extreme case of miscommunication... but that's okay. We did get to see Breaking Dawn and grab dinner. No, I didn't get my Christmas shopping done- I only purchased one present. But, I did learn a lesson last night: Don't go shopping with Ash again, or at least when I plan to be at the mall for more than 1 hour! Ha! I guess it just gives me an excuse to shop more before Christmas day!

And then there's gratitude. I think I've always been good at saying thank you. Since I can remember, my parents have always made sure that my brothers and I wrote and sent thank you cards before we used a gift. And to this day, I always thank anyone for driving me somewhere- even if it's my brothers or parents. But the art of taking the time to share your heart those in your life is crucial. Whether it's a quick thank you, or a long talk on a coffee date, make sure to share your appreciation with those in your life. I hope my friends, family, acquaintances and strangers accept my words of gratitude, even for the smallest things.

(Have I lost you yet?!)

Well that's my jumble of words for the day. I hope you have a blessed day! I am thankful for each you who inspire me on a daily basis.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Date Day Is Here- With Some Freshman Year Flashbacks!

Although I need to take care of some business first (I'm working from home today), date day is finally here! I finished my research paper late last night and slept in until 8 a.m., for the first time in months. I'm officially done with my coursework for the fall 2011 semester. I can't believe I only have one semester left of my undergraduate education. I might as well post a few photo for good measure...

Freshman year flashback!

After Chi Omega Initiation!

Here's my boyfriend and I after our first "official" date dash together! Can't you tell we're the couple that would rather be cozy and comfortable than dressed up! While other people went out, we cuddled up to watch Step Brothers, our favorite movie.

This was the sunset on the first night he said "I love you."

I can't believe that it's been almost three years since we've been together, and three and a half years since I started college. WOW!

But speaking of my wonderful boyfriend... I've been trying to come up with a pseudonym to use for him while I'm blogging. He's currently applying to medical school and I'd rather use a "fake" name, just in case I embarrass him once or twice! If you have any ideas, send them my way. He's kind, caring, a former fraternity guy, intelligent, great with kids..... you catch my drift! He's amazing. But for some reason, I just can't think of a suitable name to use.

Well, I'm off to begin my work from home! Sorry for the "mashup" of a post today.
Have a fantastic Wednesday.


Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Finals Motivation

I can see the light at the end of the tunnel. I'm almost done with finals and need some motivation to get me through the end of today! The biggest encouragement is knowing that tomorrow I'll get to spend the day with my boyfriend. Because we've been so busy, it's been months since we've gone on a date. We've promised each other that tomorrow is OUR DAY!

What does my ideal Wednesday date day look like?

1- Finally getting the time to see Breaking Dawn.

2- Christmas Shopping- My guy is in desperate need of new jeans.

3- Lunch somewhere?! Mexican food is our favorite, but we'll see what sounds good tomorrow. How cute is this photo!?

4- A nice run- We're both training for our favorite half marathon in January! Too bad there aren't beaches in Arizona...

As of now, that's all that's on the date agenda! Thank goodness the fun plans will help me get through my 10-page research paper about the media leaking health information of public officials!

Happy Tuesday!

Monday, December 12, 2011

Mindful Monday

I think I've found it! It seems as though almost every blog I follow has a weekly tradition. Whether it's words of wisdom, a fashion tip or funny quotes, there's the weekly post that I am always excited to read- not that I don't enjoy everything else you all write. :)

After weeks of thinking, I think I've come up with something that suits me. I always like to have a goal in mind and for years, I've enjoyed starting the week off with something encouraging. So tonight, "Mindful Mondays" are born!

This week I'll focus on the small actions, words and touches that make a difference. Whether it's calling a good friend to catch up for a few minutes, or driving them from your garage to their parked car (shout out to my best friend for doing this tonight), the little things matter. This week I'll attempt to make a little extra effort to let my friends and family know they're appreciated. "The little things" are what warm my heart & I hope to soften the souls of others too.

My you be mindful of the little things this week & be encouraged by this fabulous quote.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Shopping for a Cause

Last week, my roommate held a 31 Bits holiday party at our apartment. Jewelry parties are always fun, but they're ever better when you're shopping for a cause. The 31 BITS story is amazing. Watch the video to find out why I'm so passionate about this organization.

Not only was all the jewelry beautiful, but also before shoppers left the party, they were asked to write a thank you letter to the designer. These notes will then be sent back to the Evelyn in Uganda. I love that she will get to see how appreciative all the buyers are. Positive affirmation is always beneficial. This is such a special touch.

One of the most powerful elements about the 31 Bits story is that the brand was started by young females! Our generation is truly making its mark. This next inspirational company could be started by you or me! I hope you're inspired by this story. If you don't make any purchases, at least understand that you can make a difference in this world if you do what calls your heart.

Happy Sunday!

Friday, December 9, 2011

Playing Catch-up

Happy Friday!

Where did this week go?

Oh that's right, it went to many hours of writing my final papers & crafting my coworkers' Christmas gifts. I have tons to blog about but need to wait until I arrive home tomorrow afternoon. If anyone else is traveling this weekend, be safe.

Here's a quick photo of the yarn wreaths I made as gifts! All together it took about 10 hours, but I think it was well worth it.

Enjoy your weekend- I look forward to reading your posts last few posts!

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Repeat Offender

That's right, I'm a repeat offender. I've worn my black North Face jacket and Ugg Boots everyday this week. It's not my fault though - I'm not cut out for the cold! But maybe the fact that I don't have the proper winter attire is the real reason why I don't dress well in this weather.

My hope is to hit the sale racks after Christmas so that I can amp up my winter wardrobe. This is where you come in! I'd love some cute, classic and WARM suggestions. I am a college kid, so nothing too extravagant please! I'd love to know what keeps you cozy and chic during the winter months! I look forward to your suggestions. Oh & feel free to post pictures. Sometimes I put together my favorite outfits after some photo inspiration.

Thank you! Have a happy Wednesday!

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Passing the Torch

Tonight marks the end of my term as Vice President of Risk Management for the Panhellenic Council at my university. If you don't know much about Greek Life, this means that for the past year I've overseen the health, wellness and potential risk of all Panhellenic women in my community. If you're still lost, it means I was in charge of making sure thousands of sorority women on my campus were healthy and happy.

If I were to tell you about my job description and all the programs I was in charge of you'd become mentally exhausted. I speak humbly and not overconfidently, but it was a very large task. I know that I made improvements but that there were also plans I made that were not executed. I tried my absolute best, but as we all know, there's always room for growth.

The reason I'm writing about this is because passing the torch and title means that I will regain a great deal of time in my life. This leadership position took up nearly 10 hours a week, and often more! Do you realize what this means? I will now have more time to blog, train for my half marathons, see my friends, go out, be with my amazing boyfriend, read and finish the last semester of my college career with a little less stress! I'm thrilled just thinking about it.

I absolutely loved my role as VP of Risk Management. My passion in life is to care for others and ensure they are healthy, both mentally and physically. And I can't say enough about the wonderful women I served my term with. As a council, we took so many steps forward. We instituted new educational programs, increased accountability and created new initiatives that have already shown success. As crazy busy as we all were, we became very close friends. I don't regret one moment of the last year and am so thankful for the hundreds of Greek women I came to know. I wish the newly elected Panhellenic Council the best of luck!

I love my council!

Cheers to a great year!

Photo credit: Lexi Moody Photography

Monday, December 5, 2011

Don't Rain On My Parade

The truth is it rained throughout nearly the entire APS Light Parade on Saturday evening. But, that didn't stop us from riding in our Cinderella-like carriage! Yes we were freezing, and a little bit wet in our evening gowns & wool shawls, but it was quite easily one of the best times of my entire life. And I think I may have mastered "the wave"...

Although I was going to keep my "title" a secret, I thought I'd share with you a video from the parade so you'd have the opportunity to critique my newly acquired skill - although I don't think you could even call it that. Please keep in mind this is after riding in the carriage for about 30 minutes so my fingers were a bit numb!

Enjoy the photos & video. We're the second "appearance" in this video and I'm on the right.

It was truly a night to remember...

Trying to stay warm in the car before getting into the carriage.

There we are!

The thing I loved most about the night was not feeling elegant in my dress, complete with princess gloves and a crown. Instead, I felt the true Christmas spirit when I looked out from under the plastic that was hanging over the top of the horse-drawn carriage and saw thousands of people, both young and old, sticking out the rain and the cold just to celebrate the holiday season with one another. Now isn't that what this time of year is about? I only wish I could have taken my own video to show you how many people were there, even without umbrellas, smiling and waving, all the while yelling "Merry Christmas."

I hope you had a blessed weekend.

Friday, December 2, 2011

Elbow Elbow, Wrist Wrist

By reading the title, most of you will probably can predict the topic of this post. If you Google this phrase you'll find various sites explaining the appropriate way to wave if you're elected as a president or queen. But what does this have to do with me? I'm certainly not the next ruler of a country...

This Saturday I'll be taking part the in the APS Electric Light Parade in Phoenix. I'll have the opportunity to ride in a carriage, bundled from the waist down in blankets, while trying to remain composed and elegant in by evening gown dress. Why would I be wearing an evening gown dress in 45-degree weather? Well...

A few months ago I was selected to represent an organization that holds many statewide events, bringing nearly 3 million out-of-state visitors to Arizona. Until I'm done acting as a spokeswoman, I'll refrain from using my title or the name of the organization. But, being selected has been a once in a lifetime opportunity and I've met some of the most phenomenal people. So THIS, as vague as I've left it, is why I'll be freezing, smiling and wearing a crown, while on a carriage in the light parade.

Although the tone of my writing may not portray my excitement, I really am thrilled to be a part of this amazing festival of lights. When I was younger, I participated with my dance team in this parade. We had bright pom poms and event taped battery operated lights onto our bodies. To this day, I can still remember some of the dances we did will marching to Christmas songs.

But here's the title of this post comes into play. Although I am used to dancing down the streets, this year I must master the appropriate wave. The first thing many of my friends said to me, when they found out I was named "queen" of this organization for the 2011-2012 year, was that I had to learn to wave correctly. This was the last thing on my list!

I'm typically the girl who gets so excited to see my friends that I quickly wave my hand from left to right at lightening speed. But, I've been told this isn't the correct queen etiquette. I guess I'll have to watch The Princess Diaries a couple times to try and master the technique. Regardless of whether or not I become a waving pro, I'm excited to be a part of an event that brings so much holiday cheer to the Valley of the Sun. And guess what- we even got some winter weather last night that will bring a few chilly days, making it seem like it's actually Christmas time!

Stay tuned for fun holiday pictures from the parade and I'll make sure to let you know how the waving goes! If you're in the Phoenix area, definitely get catch holiday fever and come to the parade route. It should be an amazing time.

Happy Friday & happy 20th birthday to my wonderful twin brothers!

Thursday, December 1, 2011

When There's No Time To Blog

I'm sure we all experience the frustration of coming up with something great to blog about, but then lacking the time to sit and get it all typed up. Or maybe you sit down with the intent of producing the best blog post of your life, when you realize the sentences aren't making much sense. I was annoyed about this very thing a few days ago when I remembered something I'd bought myself a year ago to prevent this - Keel's Simple Diary.

On days when you sit down to write and the words are coming out as you wish, or when you really don't have time to blog, give this diary a try.

It will literally take you less than one minute, but helps to stimulate your brain while also recording parts of your day. Another great thing about it is that there are various volumes. Once you fill one, buy another and fill it too.

I can't wait to look back when mine is all finished and read through it. There are multiple choice questions, fill int he banks and on some days you'll even be asked to draw something! It's a different way to journal and one that can really get you thinking. The questions are insightful and there is always a quote or a statement on each page.

I am in no way a sponsored blogger but thought I'd share this fun idea with you, so that you too can ease your anxiety when there's no extra time in the day! And since the holidays are quickly approaching, you may even want to one as a gift for someone. I bought the first blue volume last year for my best friend because she was looking to start jotting down things down for relaxation.

Have a fantastic day! Happy blogging & journaling!

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Sensitivity of Words

The past few days have been a bit difficult for my family. Tuesday evening, we found out our friends' son passed away. He was only 25-years-old. His death and family's pain got me thinking, especially after leaving the services today.

Something I've realized is that our society is insensitive to the words that we use on a daily basis. Our generation has become so lax and immune to certain verbiage taking on multiple meanings. We say we're going to "die" when we really mean we're sick, tired or worn out. Some use the word "gay" as an adjective that has no relation to the true meaning of happiness or homosexuality. Just yesterday, I had the stomach flu and dramatically said, "Mom, I'm dying..." But here I am, blogging the next day.

I should know better than to even think of using the word "dying". My boyfriend had AML Leukemia as a child and had a greater chance of losing his life, rather than living. I lost my amazing grandfather just over one year ago. Regardless, the word tumbled from my lips like it was nothing.

Here's my challenge: When I'm about to use words like these, and there is no direct correlation to the true definition, I will motivate myself to search for another. To me, people's ability to curse every other word, or use "gay" or "dying" to be dramatic, reveals a lack of vocabulary.

I'm not claiming to be vocabulary genius. In fact, I often wish I would have taken my honors english vocabulary tests more seriously in high school. And to be frank, I sometimes let a curse word slip off my tongue when I'm angry. But, from now on, I'm going to make a bigger effort to search for better words to explain situations.

The reality is that we never know what a friend or acquaintance may be going through. If I would have told my mother's friend I was "dying" yesterday, she would have broke down due to the death of her son. You see... We need to be more sensitive to others' feelings and circumstances.

I'm hoping that this challenge becomes a habit and that I no longer will find myself using unnecessary words for dramatic effect. I'm sure I'm not alone and I wish you the best of luck if you join me and attempt to find more tactful, articulate and realistic vocabulary.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Giving Thanks

Happy Thanksgiving!
Although this day is dedicated to thankfulness, I hope you'll always continue express your love and gratitude to those in your life.

Just a quick shout out to my wonderful & talented twin brothers! This is us one year ago today!

Monday, November 21, 2011

Do What YOU Do

My entire life, I've always carefully considered others' advice. I think that in many situations it's important to learn from the experiences of others. But, when you calm your heart and take a deep breath, you have to realize that you are not living anyone else's life but your own. Here's how I'm currently trying to live out MY life, instead of making decisions based on those around me.

Since summer, I've been meeting a friend for lunch regularly. I'll admit, I even call her my mentor. :) She can attest to the fact that when we grab a bite to eat, our conversations quickly turn into my own venting sessions which then leaves me pleading for life advice. After lunch is over, I then spend the next few days trying to figure out how I can use her words of wisdom to make my own decisions, whether they be small or big.

Here's my problem. I often admire others' circumstances and life choices and hope mine will one day mirror theirs. It's almost as if I need to examine a rubric or blueprint of others' choices before acting on my own. Of course there is nothing wrong with asking someone for advice. In fact, I think it's 100 percent beneficial. It's what you do after you receive the guidance that can take a turn for the worst.

For example, my longterm boyfriend of nearly three years is currently applying to and interviewing for medical school. I too have been contemplating which graduate schools to apply to. Without stressing about the matter, the situation is relatively facile. I want to obtain master's degree in higher and postsecondary education and participate in assistantship programs that will help me gain experience in the field. To my fortune, the friend I mentioned earlier- we'll call her Kate, was in a similar position about five years ago. She fully understands what it's like to make sacrifices for loved ones and to make decisions based off of them. Kate's boyfriend at the time, and current husband, was also taking the MCAT and applying to various medical school programs. And ironically enough, she is currently working in higher education. Don't you see... our lives could be nearly identical?! There are many more crazy similarities but I won't waste the time listing them here.

The reality is this:

Although many times I've said that I want my life to be JUST LIKE THEIRS, I know it will never be. Circumstances vary and plus, I should be thankful for all of my own blessings.

For example:
I will probably never own a cat like they do because I'm allergic. I also don't have to hop on a plane to get to the destination where my childhood home is, but Kate does. I will never be a traveling consultant for my sorority because I simply am choosing not to apply... and the list could go on and on.

You catch my drift.

So this past weekend, I made a few big decisions of my OWN. It took all that was in me to realize that although I hate making mistakes, I cannot pattern my life after others' simply because I'm afraid of falling flat on my face. So here's what I decided:

1. I moved my GRE to March, instead of it being in five days. The program I'm applying to doesn't require it so instead, I'll do more studying & hope to use that score while applying to a PhD program within the next five years (crossing my fingers).

2. I will only apply to one graduate program and risk the fact of being rejected and/or not being in the same location as my boyfriend, if/when he gets into medical school.

Although these seem like very simple decisions, they were not. It took tears, hours and a few pros/cons lists to realize that as much as I'd love to make all of my decisions the same as my Kate did in her past, that would not be me trying to live my own life. That would be a foolish attempt to live up to the standards of others.

So from now on, I promise to continue to ask others for advice, knowing full well that I will use it to help me make my own decisions, which will be based completely off my heart's desires, passions and convictions. I think acting by means of improvisation, based on the knowledge of others and the passions within, will help me to make the best choices!

Simple Reminders

This weekend I finally got to go for a long (10-mile) run. I can't even remember the last time I was able find some free space in my schedule for this. While the run did require me to get up at 6 a.m. on a Saturday and challenge myself, it was completely worth it. My favorite part of the morning actually happened pre-run. As I was in my car driving down the freeway to meet up with other runners from Tribe Multisport, I carefully took a snapshot of the amazing sunrise.

This is what makes getting up early worth it. I believe that it takes the smallest reminders to motivate us to get back to our routine or even to encourage us to try something new. May you find time to catch the beautiful colors of the sunrise sometime soon, too!

Do you have any simple reminders that motivate you?

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Lessons in Domesticity

Shannon is my name, but domesticity is not my game... At least not yet!

As embarrassing as this is, last night was my first experience “truly” cookie baking. Okay, not even TRUE (from scratch), but the kind where have to use a rolling pin, flour, cookie cutters, parchment paper, wax paper, spatulas and the oven. Oh and, pre-made cookie dough. You might be thinking that this sounds like simple baking, but to a girl who didn’t grow up cooking or spending much time the kitchen, this was quite the ordeal.

I’m planning a women’s breast health event and in preparation I wanted to make bra and panty cookies for the attendees to decorate. Baking became a bit more difficult when the Facebook RSVP list was over 300. But let’s be realistic, most people don’t actually attend even when they say they will on a social media site. Regardless of the daunting number, I went to the grocery store and bought all the necessary items. Wait, no, I had to make three trips to get everything because baking is so out of the ordinary to me.

So here’s the breakdown:

A college girl without a rolling pin – typical.

The girl next door who suggests I use a wine bottle – brilliant.

It took a while for me to realize that I needed a ton of flour so the dough wouldn’t stick to the bottle and for the spatula to successfully pick up the tiny bra and panties without catastrophe.

A bottle of wine, a few friends and six hours later, the cookies were done. Unfortunately I’m not exaggerating about the time it took either. But I am accounting for the few hours I wasn’t using the makeshift rolling pin and was flattening the dough by hand.

What’s the moral of this story? I should attempt to do things that are out of my element a bit more. The only way to become a professional or call something a hobby is to practice. I’m even thinking about asking for cooking lesson for Christmas. As minuscule as that task was, I learned a lot. Improvisation is key and I’m ready to do so more often.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

The One-Minute Rule

Most who know me understand that I have a knack for a few things that include organization, timeliness and kindess. The first two often result in an inner battle, especially when it comes to checking items off my to-do list and racing to my destinations. This summer, I read the book The Happiness Project, by Gretchen Rubin. For those of you who are looking for an easy and yet, self-motivating book, I'd encourage you to pick it up.

One of the things Rubin encourages her readers to do is "observe the one-minute rule". Thereby, if you can accomplish any task in under a minute, you might as well take the time to do it. While I started to focus on this idea during the summer by organizing my room before bedtime, I've quickly fallen away from the habit. Instead, I'm worried about getting articles done on deadline, getting a few hours asleep and making sure my coffeepot is set for the early wake up call. Lately, I open the door to my room and see sweaters and boots that have been thrown across my bed, stacks of envelopes on my dresser and even water bottles collecting on my night stand. Please note: I am a self proclaimed "neat freak" so this is VERY out of the ordinary.

Regardless, I've decided that next week, when I return from a weekend in Phoenix, I'll focus on making sure I adhere to the one-minute rule. In all honesty, I could get so much more done if I'd commit to this. Those letters could be opened and placed in a drawer and the water bottles could be refilled or disposed. Instead of racing off to a meeting, just to arrive 10 minutes early, I could arrive two minutes later, but feeling more accomplished.

You'll notice as I write that I'm simply striving to find the balance in life. I want to find that "kalos kai agathos"- the balance between good and beautiful- that Elizabeth Gilbert talks about in her book, Eat, Pray, Love.

So as I attempt to find life's harmony, will you join me in taking on the one-minute promise for next week?

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Encouragement in the Mason Jar

Today has been extremely refreshing. I planned to write about using negative people in your life to produce positive motivation, but I need to do no such thing- at least this evening.

I'm currently taking my favorite class of my college career, thus far. My professor is a 77-year-old woman who says she never wants to stop learning until the day she leaves this Earth. She has impacted my life in unforgettable ways. But, I'll save a full post about her for a different occasion. The theme of our class is "choices" and she has encouraged us to attempt to get to know each other on a deeper level than typical classmates. Our final project consists of a 5-10 minute presentation about a topic of our choice, that reveals who we are as an individual. I knew from the moment she vaguely explained the assignment that I wanted to do something unique.

I presented today and here is the rundown of how it went:

As an introduction, I read an article I'd written in high school that was published in AZ Teen Magazine. Please note, if you choose to read it, it's not my best work, but was a part of big growing process. For many years I struggled with body image and an eating disorder. I'm proud to say that I'm two-years healthy now, but the article revealed the worst of times. I read it confidently, stumbling over a few words because the reality of the past seems so far away. I then explained that without the encouragement of family and friends, through notes and messages, I may have never overcame the battle.

In preparation to take a souvenir of the class with me, I'd I brought a mason jar and light purple paper. I asked each classmate to write something on the paper, may it be funny, serious or inspirational, so I could always remember them. Before they put their notes in the jar, I placed two small, silver hearts in the bottom to symbolize my promise to always hold their words in my heart.

The notes were passed in and soon my mason jar was filled to the brim. I didn't read the torn pieces of paper until I got home from a full day of classes -- but I was anxious all afternoon. As I pulled them out, one by one, I could not wipe the smile from my face. My peers had written fun, encouraging and some of the most touching things I'd ever read. I cannot express my gratitude for each of my classmates. I know that I will always remember them personally and cannot wait to run to my mason jar on a bad day to be encouraged. The quotes, Bible verses and personal compliments will always be engraved in my mind.

I think this is one of the most simple and endearing ideas I've ever put into action. I'd advise and suggest it to anyone looking to hold tight to the memories and people they never want to forget.

Just a few of my favorites!

And I have a new decoration in my room!

Monday, November 7, 2011

Who is Hollywood?

As a child, my nickname was Hollywood. Not because I aspired to be an actress or see my name in lights, but simply because when I was supposed to be kicking the soccer ball around the field, I danced around and sang my own songs. One day my coach decorated water bottles for our team. She put "Hollywood" on mine- the name stuck!

I was always the cheerleader, rather than the all-star athlete. I didn't have to actually have the uniform on, but I was always encouraging others to believe in themselves and reach for the stars. But that's when I realized there was more to life than trying to always be the pretty, self confident overachiever. I came to terms with the fact that people are more than they appear to be on the outside. There's something more to them that makes their heart beat, brain tick and enables them to laugh without inhibition. As I grew older and hopefully wiser, I hope to gain wisdom, encourage optimism in others and help people of all ages realize that a life lived without passion, is a life lost. Regardless of who I meet and how they treat me, I always want to realize there's always more going on than they eye can see. There's something more to Hollywood...