December 2011 Round-up

About a month ago, I saw a great idea about doing a monthly "round-up" on the last day of each month on Ali Edwards' blog (the idea came from guest blogger Katie Nelson). In the round-up, you record the books you've read, the movies you've seen, the moments you'd like to remember, etc. during the last month. I thought it would be neat to try so I'm starting tonight. (And yes, it does bother me a little that I'm beginning this in December, but I wanted to get started now.)

What I Read...
  • The Hunger Games trilogy by Suzanne Collins: Yes, I'm hooked, and yes, I'm ready for the first movie in March. (I actually read the first one over Thanksgiving break.)
  • Rilla of Ingleside by L.M. Montgomery: This is a childhood favorite that I decided to reread for the first time in 10 years. It's still wonderful.
  • The Breaking Wave by Nevil Shute: I finished this book a few days ago. While I didn't enjoy it quite as much as A Town Like Alice, it kept my interest throughout.
What I Saw:
  • New Year's Eve: I wanted something light and amusing, and New Year's Eve delivered.
  • My Week with Marilyn: I saw this movie this afternoon. It was good but not great. Of course, I don't know that much about Marilyn Monroe so I'm not sure how accurate Michelle Williams' portrayal was.
  • I also watched The Help; Harry Potter and Deathly Hallows, Part 2; Elf; Love Actually; and It's a Wonderful Life on DVD or TV.
What I Want to Remember:
  • Watching Esther graduate from the University of Houston.
  • Playing handbells at Arden Courts.
  • Attending the Christmas Eve service at church.
  • Taking Christmas photos for the Gozurs.
  • Helping serve food at the Hiway 80 Rescue Mission with my family on Christmas Eve.
  • Watching Sammy play with his new toy at Christmas (and then drowning it in his water bowl when he got back home).
  • Sharing present time with my family (it was Esther's first Christmas with us).
  • Enjoying the first cookie exchange party at the office.
  • Seeing the Longhorns defeat the Cal Bears in the Holiday Bowl.
  • Finding many of my lost photos on Paul's hard drive.
  • Laughing as Mom found her "special" gift from Santa in her stocking.
  • Watching The Nutcracker at the Houston Ballet for the second year in a row.
What I'd Like to Forget:
  • Having car trouble on the same day I decided to wear a skirt and heels. And it was cold and drizzly. And we were taking our team Christmas picture that day. Fun times.
  • Getting sick a few days later. It was my first real cold in more than a year, and I did not cope well.
  • Watching Sammy climb out of his carrier about 10 miles outside of Henderson on the way home and proceed to explore the entire car — including the dashboard.
I'm sure there are other things I'm forgetting, but I can't think of anything else right now. Here's to a wonderful 2012!

How to wrap a cat for Christmas

(I think this is the world's most patient cat.)

'Tis the season...

Today was the first day in almost a week that I felt like doing anything Christmas-y. Last week was most definitely not my week (car trouble + a cold + demanding clients will do that), but I felt practically chipper tonight. I decided to celebrate by making Christmas cookies for our office cookie exchange on Thursday and finally decorating my Christmas tree.

I tried out a recipe from Pinterest for red velvet cookies, and they taste pretty good even if the final product isn't that red.

I also had fun taking pictures of my newly decorated tree. (Please note: This may become the before picture if Sammy has his way.)

I finally figured out bokeh!

Kittens watching figure skating

This is quite possibly my favorite YouTube video ever.


You know I love a good cat video...

This one was rather cute too...

Weekend Trip to Fredericksburg

Last Saturday I drove out to Fredericksburg for the afternoon. I always loved visiting the town while I was a student at UT, but I hadn't been back since I moved to Austin last year. The drive over was beautiful, and I even think I saw a little fall color along the way. Once I made it into town, it was quite crowded, and I had some difficulty finding a parking place. I was finally able to find a spot a little outside of the square and walked back into town.

The downtown area was much bigger than I remembered, but I was able to cover most of the shops in a couple of hours. Several shops already had Christmas decorations out, so it was nice to see some new decorating ideas, even if I didn't buy anything. Many of the shops also had food samples out, so I didn't have to stop at one of the restaurants downtown. (I think I may have gone into sugar shock, however; so.many.carbs)

It was a nice way to spend a Saturday afternoon, especially since my family wasn't in town for a game. Hopefully I'll be able to do more of these trips in the spring.

Of course, I also brought my camera and was able to take a few pictures. I've included some of my favorites below.

30 Things to Be Thankful For - Day 30

I am thankful for the promise of tomorrow. I'm not quite sure what the future holds for me, but I believe that the next 30 years will give even more reasons to be grateful for my life, my family, and my place in this world.

30 Things to Be Thankful For - Day 29

I am thankful to live in the United States. Our politicians may argue, and things may not be exactly how I think they should be, but we definitely live in one of the best countries in the world.

30 Things to Be Thankful For - Day 28

I am thankful for my time at Boston Children's Museum. I believe that working as an intern and later full-time employee there taught me so much and helped me along my professional path. (And seeing excited little kids every day wasn't that bad either.)

30 Things to Be Thankful For - Day 27

I am thankful for friends, old and new, young and old. Over the last few years, I have met so many interesting people, and I am grateful for their presence in my life.

30 Things to Be Thankful For - Day 26

I am thankful for making the commitment to be healthier a few months ago. I may not look as good as I did back when I wore blue leotards, but I'm happy to say that I'm slowly but surely getting used to my new health regimen.

P.S. Paul, sorry for including you in this embarrassing picture, but it just wasn't the same without you.

30 Things to Be Thankful For - Day 25

The last few mornings have felt so much cooler and crisper, reminding me how much I love fall. I feel so blessed to have spent four years in New England with its glorious fall foliage. Texas may not have the best falls, but I love these last few months in the year most of all.

30 Things to Be Thankful For - Day 24

I am grateful for our family vacations when I was younger, especially those to the National Parks. Paul and I learned so about the country, different cultures, and history through our travels, and I know that my love of American history developed during these childhood trips. America truly is a beautiful country, and the National Parks are definitely America's Best Idea.

(P.S. I created this collage in Word a few years ago for one of my grad school classes. I think it looks pretty good for my pre-Photoshop self.)

30 Things to Be Thankful For - Day 23

I am thankful for home. Even though I've lived in four different states and seven different cities since I graduated from high school, my parents' home has remained the same. I love going back home for a weekend and sleeping in my childhood bedroom. Or hanging out up front and eating pizza on Friday nights. Austin may be my home base now, but this house will always be HOME.

30 Things to Be Thankful For - Day 22

I have had some rather interesting jobs over the years...
  • Substitute teacher
  • Probation office "helper"
  • Disney cast member
  • Legal secretary
I am thankful for these jobs because they showed me what I wanted to do with the rest of my life, and most importantly, what I did not want to do.

A Pumpkin Tale

This post is a brief break from my thankful posts. And it's all about PUMPKINS!

This past weekend, Mom came down to Austin for the Texas Book Festival. While she was here, we decided to carve the pumpkin I had bought from the pumpkin patch at church. We had a lot of fun working on it and thought the design came out pretty well.

He looks a little like Mickey Mouse, right?

Flash forward to Tuesday evening. I came home to discover that the pumpkin had collapsed. Even worse, there was pumpkin juice all over my dining room table and mold in the pumpkin.


So much for having the Halloween spirit.

30 Things to Be Thankful For - Day 21

It's easy to take so many things for granted. Tonight I am grateful for the basics — a roof over my head, plenty of food to eat, nice clothes, and a reliable car. These things definitely aren't glamorous, and I often wish I had things that were nicer. However, as I move through this project, I want to remember that for many people, these items are luxuries.

30 Things to Be Thankful For - Day 20

I am so thankful that I've been able to learn more about photography over the last few years. It has definitely become one of my favorite hobbies, and I'm excited to learn even more about it.

30 Things to Be Thankful For - Day 19

For as long as I can remember, I have been a book worm and a compulsive reader. When I was little, I escaped to the world of Green Gables, Orchard House, and River Heights and wanted to be just like Anne, Jo and Nancy. Today it's very rare to find me without a book in my hand. Books have taught me so much about the world around me and given me insight into human behavior and different cultures. I am grateful for the role they have played and will continue to play in my life.

30 Things to Be Thankful For - Day 18

The fall figure skating season begins tonight, so I thought it was appropriate to give thanks for my favorite sport. I have loved watching figure skating since I was 10 and even had dreams about becoming a famous figure skater myself (these dreams, alas, were never fulfilled). Figure skating has not only brought me so much joy but also introduced me to new music, cultures, and traditions. I love this sport and am proud to consider myself a fan.

30 Things to Be Thankful For - Day 17

Tonight I am giving thanks for our farm. Throughout the years, it has been a place for family gatherings, church events, and holiday celebrations. It is also one of the most peaceful places I have ever known, and when I think about "getting away," I often dream about sitting at the edge of the pier, gazing out at the pond. The farm can be hard to explain to people who aren't familiar with it, but to me it's always meant one thing: home.

30 Things to Be Thankful For - Day 16

Music has played an important role in my life for as long as I can remember. Growing up, I always seemed to be doing something music related at church - playing the piano, singing in the choir, or playing handbells. As I moved into high school, music became a way for me to escape from the everyday. I loved taking piano lessons from Mrs. Wagner because I was able to do it on my own, away from everyone that I saw in school each day. And of course, I love listening to certain songs - East of Eden, Turandot, Rachmaninoff's Piano Concerto No. 2 - that I discovered through watching figure skating. Those songs always have a way of making me feel at peace.

Today I am so thankful for the impact music has made on my life. It's been wonderful the last few weeks to play handbells again.

No pictures tonight, but I do have some links to music:

East of Eden:
Piano Concerto No. 2:

30 Things to Be Thankful For - Day 15

Tonight I am thankful for my sister-in-law Esther. She has been a great addition to our family and made Paul very happy. I'm so glad that she and Paul decided to go on the same mission trip to Africa five years ago.

30 Things to Be Thankful For - Day 14

I feel blessed to have traveled to so many places. From going on a safari in South Africa to seeing the Eiffel Tower in Paris, my vacations have made a huge impact on my life. I am also thankful that I've shared many of these experiences with my family.

30 Things to Be Thankful For - Day 13

I am so thankful I had the experience of growing out my hair and cutting it off for Pantene Beautiful Lengths. The process took over two years, but it was worth it knowing that someone benefited from my two ponytails.

Apologies for not posting last night — we had a late night.

30 Things to Be Thankful For - Day 12

I am so thankful I have had the joy of owning pets my entire life. My first word was Leo, the name of the family dog, and I used to tell all my middle school troubles to our cat Lizzy. Now I spend most of my time with Sammy, but I love to go home to be with Parker and Handy. My life wouldn't be the same without these furry friends.

30 Things to Be Thankful For - Day 11

Tonight I'm giving thanks for the many wonderful teachers I have had in my life — all the way from kindergarten to graduate school. I am also grateful that my family instilled a love of learning in me from a very young age.

30 Things to Be Thankful For - Day 10

When I was younger, I told my mom that I wanted a little sister. Instead I got Paul, who is most definitely not a girl (or little, for that matter). But he is the best brother a girl could have. He makes me laugh at the silliest things (including myself), knows almost every line from Forrest Gump and Sling Blade by heart, and is very patient when I talk about figure skating during UT football games. Most importantly, he is a great listener and one of the biggest supporters I've ever known. (And he married Esther last year, so I finally have a sister.)

I am so thankful for my brother. Love you!

30 Things to Be Thankful For - Day 9

Tonight I'm giving thanks for the four years I spent in New England. From leaf-peeping and touring authors' homes to learning how to navigate public transportation and driving in the snow, my experience in Massachusetts is one I will always cherish. I'm so glad I made the decision to attend Emerson for graduate school and then remain in the area for a few years afterward.

30 Things to Be Thankful For - Day 8

Tonight I'm giving thanks for my mom. She's more than my mother — she's my best friend. We share so many common interests — reading, thrift shopping, watching Dancing with the Stars, travel, and baking cookies. I love that we can talk about important things one day and then spend an hour talking about nothing much the next. She gives me great advice when I need it but lets me mess up when I need to learn that way. I am so grateful for her and everything she has done for me.

I love you, Mom!

30 Things to Be Thankful For - Day 7

I don't often speak publicly about my faith, mostly because I feel that my relationship with God is most meaningful when it's private. However, I realize that none of the other things on my list would be possible without Him, and for that, I am forever thankful.

30 Things to Be Thankful For - Day 6

Today I'm giving thanks for my dad. I feel so blessed to have him as my father. He has always been there for me, helping me with everything from homework when I was little to my big cross-country moves the last few years. I appreciate that over the years, he has always been willing to explain difficult concepts to me in a way I could understand. And of course, he brought me up as a Longhorn fan, for which I am eternally grateful! I love you, Dad!

Dad, I hope this cheers you up after the Texas-OU debacle earlier today.

30 Things to Be Thankful For - Day 5

I am so thankful that I have been preserving my memories in scrapbooks since high school. It's wonderful to look back through my albums and share them with others.

30 Things to Be Thankful For - Day 4

I love Sammy — I really do.

But as I was working on this entry, he was playing with the blinds, scratching the dining room chair, and jumping on and off the kitchen counter. I had to use my trusty water bottle to get him to calm down.

He's exasperating, tiresome, and sometimes such a darn nuisance that I wish I could give him away. He's given me some of the worst scratches ever and nearly destroyed my computer.

Yet when he snuggles up next to me, looks at me with his big green eyes, and purrs, I melt.

Yes, I love this cat. And I don't know what I would do without him.

30 Things to Be Thankful For - Day 3

I am so thankful for my job. After spending almost half a year unemployed, I was excited to receive the opportunity to work again. This job, however, has meant so much more than that.

I love my co-workers and look forward to seeing them every day. 

I enjoy being creative and learning more about writing and other new skills like HTML and Photoshop. 

I think working with clients can be fun (or at least, very interesting some days). 

Most of all, I'm thankful that this job gave me my confidence back and brought me to Austin.

I unfortunately don't have any truly compelling photos for today. Come back tomorrow if you really like pictures.

30 Things to Be Thankful For - Day 2

Today I'm giving thanks for living in Austin. I love this city, and I'm so glad that I live here after being away for six years. It's wonderful to be close to so many unique shops, fun cultural attractions, and of course, the University of Texas. And it doesn't hurt that my family comes to visit several times during the fall football season.

30 Things to Be Thankful For - Day 1

As many of you know, I turned 30 yesterday.


Instead of being mopey because I just turned the big 3-0, I decided to do something positive to celebrate. I've created a list of 30 things I'm thankful for and will be sharing one of them each day for the next 30 days. (I planned to start yesterday on my actual birthday, but I made it home late and had to deal with this.)

So without further ado...
I am so thankful for my family — Mom, Dad, Paul and Esther. They support me in everything I do and show me unconditional love at all times. And as this weekend proved, they definitely know how to make a birthday girl feel special! I feel so blessed to have such wonderful parents, a cool brother and a sweet sister-in-law.

Labor Day Weekend

Mom, Dad and Paul came down to Austin last weekend for the first UT football game. It was a wonderful long weekend filled with cheering on the Horns, celebrating Mom's birthday, and spending time together in San Antonio.

On Saturday, we had the entire morning and afternoon to do things around Austin since the game didn't start until 7. We ate at Kerbey Lane for breakfast, and then Mom and I went to the Citywide Garage Sale and a few other thrift stores while Dad and Paul picked up my car from the dealership (it needed a new compressor — eek!). That afternoon, we ate a late lunch/early dinner at Maggiano's and enjoyed Mom's wonderful birthday cake from Nothing Bundt Cakes. The game that night went well, and Texas started off the season with a victory. It was much cooler than we thought it would be at the stadium, even though it was still very hot.

The next day, we got off to a late start because of the late night before. We drove down to San Antonio that afternoon, stopping at San Marcos along the way to do a little shopping at the outlets. Once we made it to San Antonio, we checked into the hotel and then went down to the Riverwalk. Later we ate at Casa Rio and went to see the Alamo. It's been over five years since I've been to San Antonio so it was nice to be able to experience it again — I just love that city!

On Monday, we went to the Market before heading back to Austin. The parents and Paul headed back to East Texas after that.

Throughout our time in San Antonio, we kept hearing about how bad the fires were around Austin (and East Texas), and we could see the smoke on the drive back. It seems so unreal to have wildfires in Texas, but everything is just so dry. Hopefully rain will come soon.

I've included a few of my Instagram photos from the weekend below.

Scrapbook on the Road

Before leaving on our trip to Chicago, I decided to take Ali Edwards' Scrapbook on the Road self-paced workshop. I have always loved creating scrapbooks for my vacations, but it usually takes me a year (or sometimes longer in the case of Africa) to finish them. One of the things I loved about this project was that I did most of the creative work beforehand. I focused on writing and gathering ephemera during the trip and then added the pictures after I made it home. It's nice to have everything finished rather than adding another item to my ever-growing to-do list.

I've included a few of my favorite pictures of the book below; once you add all of the different pieces, it can be a little overwhelming to share every single page. (Note to self: I need to buy a white tablecloth before taking any more pictures on my dining room table. The pictures were way too dark before I brightened them in iPhoto.)


Title Page

An example of one of the 6x9 photos.

The bag from the gift shop at the Art Institute with the ticket stapled on.


I finally got an iPhone about two weeks ago, and I have to admit that part of the reason I wanted one so much was Instagram. I've had fun taking pictures and trying out the different actions the last few days. Here are a few of my favorites: