My Happiness Project

I've been reading this book, you see? I'm not exactly a cutting-edge person - it was published two years ago. But right now it is surprisingly applicable to my life, being that sometimes it takes a bit of a conscious effort to find happiness when things feel stressful, uncertain, and generally less fun than college.

Gretchen's project made me realize that it is less about becoming happy and more about acknowledging the happiness you already have. She tackles seemingly tiny things in her life by changing her approach - stop nagging her husband, start a collection, organize her closets - and in implementing those tiny changes, she is able to uncover her happiness, and acknowledge all of the happiness that was already in her life.

My list is a spin-off of many things that Gretchen takes on in her project, mostly because we are pretty similar people. At least, according to how she portrays herself. My idea was that I want to uncover that happiness in the things I do all the time, and perhaps create some happiness just by asking myself why I do certain things.

1) Smile and say hello to strangers.
Toll booth attendants. TSA agents. Checkout ladies at the grocery store. I encounter these people all the time and it's amazing how happy an interaction can become when you approach it with a positive attitude. Just this weekend a toll booth attendant complimented my sweater. The TSA agent said that my driver's license ID photo was "nice". No one had to be nice, but maybe because I engaged, smiled, and said hello, they decided to reciprocate. Happiness is contagious.

2) Plan for the things you might otherwise have just "fit in".
Knitting makes me really happy. Almost as happy as a chilly run makes me. But most days time to knit gets pushed to the wayside because I could be "doing something better" with my time.

Instead of waiting for the illusive "free time" in which I'm inclined to knit, I'm going to schedule it into my week. In fact, I've made some knitting friends. I think it's going to be neat.

3) Don't expect gold stars.
This one is taken right from Gretchen. I like to be acknowledged for my efforts. I love that pat on the back and the positive affirmation. But it's not reasonable to always expect praise for the nice things you do. I need to find my own happiness in my hard work and my above and beyond efforts, because my pride in those efforts can't be dependent on whether or not someone else appreciated them.

4) Don't beat yourself up.
I'm terrible at asking for help. TERRIBLE. Unfortunately, I find myself in a lot of situations where I need help. I'm convinced I'll be happier if I accept that it is entirely okay to need help, and  on top of that, I should ask for help. No one expects me to have all the answers (except for me).

5) Stay in touch with friends.
I have a crippling fear of interrupting people's lives. Which is a reason (and a poor excuse) for how terrible I am at staying in contact with the people closest too me. When I go to pick up my phone, a thousand things that person may be doing flash through my mind, and because I don't want to interrupt them, I put down the phone.

To overcome my fear, I'm going to set aside time to reach out to plan a phone call, which is the best of both worlds. I know we'll both be free when we choose to chat and I can set up our phone date via an unitrusive text or e-mail.

What little thing would you implement in your daily life to acknowledge your own happiness? Did you read The Happiness Project? What did you think?

Happy Saturday!

Saturdays are just full of potential. So much time when I'm not at my desk means so much time for me to make things in my kitchen, run errands, run miles, write things, and watch things on TV. Saturdays are a happy day. 

1) Pretty Pictures

I took these photos last weekend in an effort to recreate these cookies. The ingredients were way prettier than the end result, which quickly became a gloopy mess of fudgy chocolate and pomegranate seeds.

Delicious, but definitely not cookies.

2) Shit Project Managers Say

Yep. Basically what I do all day at work. Awesomesauce.

3) Running

Aren't you hoping you'll see me on my long run today? I tend to wear obnoxious color combinations and have snot frozen under my nose. It's really glamorous.

4) The Beauty of the English Language

5) Science Things

The Whisky Water Trick from Casey Neistat on Vimeo.

Have a great weekend!

Snowy Sneaks, Chilly Cheeks

Finally! It's here! What everyone's been warning me about since last March when I decided to move to Wisconsin!

SNOW. In all of it's glittery, powdery, fluffy glory.

And you know what my absolute favorite thing to do in the snow is?


Yup. For our first snow on Thursday, I got home and couldn't wait to put on two pairs of pants,  zip up my neon green reflective vest, and lace up my sneaks.

Sledding? Meh. Skiing? Maybe if it wasn't so money and time intensive. Or if I knew how to do it.

I've only been skiing once, and it is seared into my mind as the day an Austrian man named Lucas yelled my name as I bombed down the hill after I was supposed to be learning how to turn.

"Kaaaatiieeeeee!!!! Do da weeeddgeeeee!!!"

It was awesome.

Maybe I haven't done it since since I don't want to tarnish that memory. Nothing beats the adrenaline rush of a fifteen year old on skiis who doesn't grasp the concept of stopping.

So yeah, I've decided to stick to sneakers.

Black ice on paths can totally provide a comparable adrenaline rush.

Some people say they can't breathe while they run when the air is freezing. Some people say that they can't feel their legs after a while because the cold makes them numb.

For me, that cold air makes my lungs feel twice as big and the biting wind that blows off of the lake and smacks my cheeks just makes me want to run faster.

The faster I run the warmer I'll be.

And yes, that wind smacks both sets of cheeks. I know I'm really chugging when I can finally feel my butt again.

TMI? Maybe.

I've said it before - running in the elements makes me feel like a total badass. Pelting rain, swirling snow, something about the extra challenge makes me a little giddy.

There are also very few instances in my life when I feel like a badass. It's hard to be a badass when you do yoga, implement software, and don't eat meat.

I'm just taking advantage of a rare opportunity to be a self-proclaimed badass when I get to run in a snow storm.

Possible my favorite thing about winter running is the special runner's camaraderie between the few badasses that brave those elements. It's a different kind of courtesy wave when you have to decipher it from behind a whirling cloud of snow. And more often than not, that wave is accompanied by a small smile that says, "I'm totally digging that you're as nuts as I am right now."

That's the best smile a winter runner can get.

So next time the winter weather advisories start scrolling on the bottom of the TV, instead of putting on your fuzzy slippers, put on your sneakers. The warm shower you take when you get back will be that much sweeter.

DIY: Photo Collage

The greatest part about being almost too busy to function means that I still have time to fritter away watching shows about drug dealers. Weeds, Breaking Bad, The Wire - whatismylife???

The second best thing about being busy is that I get into super "Get 'er Dun" mode when I manage to have two seconds when I'm not thinking about software. Taking my car to the dealership to get serviced - check! Organizing my linen closet - check! Throwing away the three empty bottles of shampoo, conditioner, and face wash from my shower - check!

Don't even think about lying to me and telling me that you immediately throw away that empty bottle of conditioner before bringing the next bottle in. Okay, well you're allowed to think it, but just don't tell me. Thanks.

Kenz and I have had 11 photos, two plates, and one album cover stacked on the bottom shelf of our coffee table for an embarrassing amount of months, collecting dust as a half-completed photo wall display.

This weekend I. Hung. It. Up.

How'd ya do it? You must be thinking.

Well I'll tell you.

I finally bit the bullet and arranged them on the ground in the design I wanted them to be on the wall. I did it right in front of the wall I hung them so I had an idea of how much space I was working with.

Then I laid two sheets of wax paper on top of the pictures I arranged on the floor.

And then I taped them together with my fatty, wrinkly hands.

Once I had taped them together, I marked the approximate point where I would place the nail. No science or math was involved.

Then I hung the wax paper with all the pink dots on the wall.

Then I placed the nails and picture hooks where the pink dots were.

And for my final trick, I ripped the wax paper off the wall, and hung the pictures according to the design on the ground.


The arrangement may not be perfect, and someone with any kind of discerning eye for proportion may think it hideous, but even with the creative process of arranging the photos it only took me about 45 minutes to do, start to finish. Oh, and I am not handy by any stretch of the imagination.

I did plan far enough ahead that I know exactly which photos I'm going to rearrange so we can hang our decorative plates up there too (once I find a mechanism that will hold them on the wall securely).

But for now it brightens up our little ol' hallway.

The best part about this method is that it saves you from making nail holes in the wrong place, or trying to measure or draw some kind of grid directly on the wall. And wax paper is great for spreading on top of counters for extra cooling space for your double batch of cookies. I love multi-functional household items.

So find your favorite pictures! Grab some frames! Go to town!

Happy Photo Walling!

2011 Dids, 2012 To-Dos

Things I "did" in 2011, things I'm going "to-do" in 2012.

Don't worry - this isn't a list of 2012 things I'm going to do this year. I would never do that to you.

Remember when I made a list of all of the things that I wanted to accomplish in 2011?

There is absolutely no reason for this photo other than it's pretty and delicious and makes me happy.

Probably not, but last year I wrote all of my New Year's goals in a blog post, which is kind of awesome because I don't remember another year in which I was cognizant of my New Year's goals for the entire year.

Sorry I just used the word cognizant. That was weird.

In looking back at those goals, I think it's pretty cool how they guided my year, but also how life got in the way of them, but mostly for the better. Let's take a stroll down 2011 Lane, shall we?

Goal #1 - Get my personal training certification.

Reality #1 - Fail. I went to quite a few of the classes but in the long run it didn't really end up making sense for my life, and given that I have a full-time job I wouldn't have been able to do any training anyways.

Goal #2 - Become a rock climber with Kenzie.

Reality #2 - What was I thinking making this a goal? I don't think rock climbing once counts as "becoming a rock climber". But we did it! And now I can probably convince her to do it again. Maybe we'll do it twice in 2012?

Goal #3 - Run at least 4 half marathons.

Reality #3 - I ended up running 2 half marathons - the Naples Daily News Half Marathon and the ND Holy Half Marathon - and my first trail run, the Mountain King Run, which was a 10k. Unfortunately, I had a major setback with my running due to a Crohn's flare-up, so I didn't meet my 4 half-marathons goal.  But now I'm back in my sneaks and ready to hit the pavement in 2012!

Goal #4 - GET A JOB.

Reality #4 - NAILED IT. Not only did I get a job, but I moved halfway across the country, moved into an apartment, and oh yeah, these people are actually paying me to do my job. I'm just go ahead and say that I knocked this one out of the park. Since you know, I kind of failed my last three goals...

Goal #5 - Blog.

Reality #5 - Done and done. I blog at least once a week now, and most weeks I get three posts published. I love it so much, and I hope you kind of dig it too. I'm also really proud of how far they've come. For nostalgia's sake, check out my first post ever. I wrote it almost 2 years ago. 101 weeks! Sheesh, I'm old. And yeah, I still miss London.

As long as you're hanging with me, there are a few things that happened in my life in 2011 that I could have never seen coming, and I'm so thankful that they happened. In a way, not sticking to some of my resolutions allowed me to make even more positive changes to my life.


1) Yoga Love
Remember when Hot Yoga was a new thing? Well, nary a week goes by now that I'm not on my mat. Mun even told me recently that he was under the impression that I was "a lifer". I have so much yogi spirit now that I don't even know what to do with myself. What up.

2) Sushi-Vegetarian

Yeah, I'm a vegetarian who eats sushi. Deal. The bottom line is that my stomach is happier, and it's easier to say I'm a vegetarian than explain the philosophy of my diet. While I still miss eating ribs at a tailgate, eating a plant-based, whole foods diet has encouraged me to expand my horizons and unconsciously work more vegetables into my diet. I eat beans and spinach now (whoa), and I feel better. Matt's still conviced that it's "just a phase", but for now, it works for me.

Even if I do have to order the Thai chicken salad from Panera with no chicken.

3) Real Personhood
That's kind of the essence of this blog - everyday things that are special because I managed to do them. I think the biggest lesson that I've learned is that it is totally legitimate to have a meltdown (believe me, I've had my share), but that meltdown always seems to put everything into perspective.

Einstein said, "Putting your hand on a hot stove for a second feels like an hour. Sitting next to a pretty girl for an hour feels like a second. That's relativity."

Ever since I read that, I try to remind myself that in reality, the hardest times are really just like a second on a hot stove. It'll be over soon - it's all relative.

This is it! Here we go! 2012 To-Dos!

1) Get involved.
Tutoring on the weekends? A big sister program? I'm looking into it. I think it might be too good to be true if someone needed a volunteer to take care of puppies, but that would be the bees knees.

2) Six (6) races.
I'm not going to classify the type of race, but I'd love to do more trail runs, as well as a duathlon or a (gasp!) triathlon? Hopefully my leafy diet and all the yoga will help keep the Crohn's at bay this year.

3) Flow into a headstand.
Yep, it's a yoga goal. I'm still way too self-conscious to pull my mat over to the wall during a class to do a headstand inversion, but I'm a big weirdo who practices headstands at home and I'm getting better at it. If anyone is willing to spot me and possibly get kicked in the face I'd love the help!

4) Learn how to use my new camera.

I already feel like I've learned  lot, but for as much as I learn I feel like I need to learn eight more things. By the end of 2012, I would love to be confident in fully manual mode, snapping all sorts of pictures like nobody's business.

5) Take life as it comes, when it comes.
If you've been reading this blog for two seconds you know that I like a plan. In 2012, I'm still going to make plans, but I'm only going to plan for the things I have control over. When the unexpected comes my way, I'm going to do my best to take it in stride, one step at a time.

What are your goals for 2012? Tell me!

Home Sweet Home

Walking into my apartment at 9:30 on a Friday night, suitcase in hand, straight back from the airport, I had never felt so happy to be home.

I was so happy to be home that I reorganized our cabinets. And cleaned the trash can. You know, like, the outside and the inside of it. Icky.

If you ever want fun ideas on how to spend a Friday night, I would think twice before asking me for ideas. I was sleep-deprived and my judgement was cloudy. Depending on my state I may suggest anything from drinking beers out of boots (fun) to pulling the nest of hair out of your shower drain (not fun).

This week was a whirlwind of work and travel and having to explain that turkey still counts as meat, even though it's not red.

I've got a resolution post coming your way tomorrow, recapping the goals I set last year and filling you in with what I've got in store for 2012.

 But today I wanted to share the list of cast-off blog topics that never made the cut on their own. The best part about self-publishing is that no one can tell you that 5 bad ideas don't make a good one. In my world it does, and that's a beautiful thing.

1) I'm now the girl that cleans her trash can and organizes her cabinets on Friday nights.

We'll go ahead and check that one off the list...

2) A left-handed problem

Being left-handed is only a handicap when you are in the fourth grade and you have to get a note signed saying that you can't write with the required erasable pens because as soon as you write anything it rubs off on your hand. I was perpetually the confused fourth grader who handed in smudgy spelling tests and walked around with a black and blue ink stain on the side of my left hand.

To all of the left-handed fourth graders who don't know why their language arts essay has disappeared when they go to turn it in, I'm sorry to say that you are most likely not the next Harry Potter who has made invisible ink. Get your mom to write a note so you can take your next test with a real pen.

3) Argyle Wisdom Necks

Have you ever sat behind an old man and noticed that the creases on the back of his neck make an almost perfect argyle pattern? I do not have photographic documentation of this, but whenever I see this, I think that man is probably really wise.

Or spent way too much time out in the sun with no sunscreen.

Argyle is a sophisticated pattern.

4) Fat Chef

January 26 My two favorite shows mash-up to create Food Network's Fat Chef. You have no idea how excited I am to see the perfect combination of The Biggest Loser and Top Chef .

Speaking of, the premiere of Season 13 of The Biggest Loser was this week. They showed an emotional victory for a former athlete and then immediately went to commercial to show the trailer for Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close.

Now you know the perfect formula for getting me to cry alone on my couch at ten o'clock in the morning.

5) The evidence from my New Year's Eve

Oh, that and my outrageous cab fare. If anyone has any more evidence I would love to see it.