Life Lately.

It’s been a while, actually, a long while.  Truth is, we’ve all been busy living life and I have not prioritized documenting about it.  So much has happened in the last couple of years what better way to rejoin the blogosphere and jump back into this than to give you a recap of 2017 until now?

First, the kids have gotten so big!  Actually, Cienna has gotten big and Dean is a full fledged adult, 18 years old, with a job and even going to college.  Time flies.  Cienna has started middle school and she loves it!  She’s currently in Cheerleading and Broadcast Journalism at school, so much so that she doesn’t like when the bell rings at the end of the period.

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Dean started college this past Fall Semester, he is currently attending a local community college and plans to transfer to a State University next year.  Dean is a working student, and is very interested in doing something in the medical field or technological science.  He has some time to decide, and whatever he decides, we would support.  We are so proud of that boy!

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In October 2016, we lost our beloved Junior.  We made the decision to put him to sleep, it was the hardest thing we ever have to do.  Junior was almost 13 years old, but his health took a steep decline around 2015 when the symptoms of his Degenerative Myelopathy, combined with his osteoarthritis, hypothyroid and old age really took a toll on his quality of life.  Our entire family was devastated and heartbroken, it still hurts when I think about it, even as I write this, but we were so fortunate to have 12 years with the sweetest, most wonderful, loved dog.

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After losing Junior, we thought it would be at least a couple of years before we got another dog but we adopted Cav in January of 2016.  Our home and our hearts just wasn’t the same without a pet, if you’re a dog lover, you might be able to relate.  We decided to rescue Cav from the Pensacola Humane Society.  He has been a wonderful dog and makes our family feel complete.

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Perhaps the biggest change is we’ve recently moved to California.  (I will write about everything I love about where we live now in a later post.)  We bought a house!  We were tired of renting, tired of breed restrictions and the stress that comes with finding a place to live that checked off all the things on our list. Get ready for a bunch of home improvement posts in the near future.

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That’s life lately!

Goodbye Summer, Hello Fall! 2016 Edition

It’s that time of year again, you know, when our Facebook feeds are populated with those adorable #firstdayofschool posts and pictures.  Summer is coming to a close, and I’m honestly glad the kids are back to school and we can get back to our normal routines.

With that said, we did have a wonderful, eventful summer.  Just like last year, I’m recapping it all and even throwing in a few things that have developed over my blog post from Summer 2015.

First, my first born is not a baby anymore!  Dean just started his Junior year.  I wrote last summer that he got his permit, and after one year, he became a licensed driver.  Time flies, I remember when he was playing with Hot Wheels and now, he’s taking the keys to my car to school and work!  Yes…he also found a job over the summer at a local pizza shop! *sigh*  My son is a hardworking, tax paying citizen.  We are so proud of the young man he’s growing up to be.  Here’s a pic of the day he got his license.

Cienna just started Fourth grade.  She started Taekwondo early this year and absolutely loves it!  She promoted to yellow belt in June of this summer, and participated in the Summer Tournament where she placed 2nd among yellow belts in her age level and got 4th place in the long jump contest.  Pretty good for her first tournament!  We’re so glad she found something she enjoys, and are very proud of how well she’s doing!

Here they were on the first day of school, luckily I remembered to get a picture of Dean before he drove off!

We try to go on at least one family vacation every year, not counting little staycations or mini vacations.  The highlight of our summer was a family trip back home to Washington state.  We only had a week but we were able to spend quality time with family and friends, and Jeremy and I were able to sneak in one hiking trip.  I intend to blog about the wedding and the hiking trip separately, but here are some pictures of the wedding:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

       

After the wedding, with kids were off doing their own thing, Jeremy and I were able to go on one hiking trip, it was the best way to end our trip!  Jeremy chose Mt. Dickerman. The hike was about 9 miles round trip, with about 3,900 feet of elevation gain and boy, did it ever deliver in panoramic views at the summit.  I will post more pictures when I write about the hike but here are just a few.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We also had a staycation in nearby Panama City to hang out with family, we had an awesome time!  We spent the whole day out on the water, the kids were playing and having a blast.  I was so in the moment that I didn’t take but one or two pictures!  Here’s Cienna driving the boat.

 

Speaking of not taking any pictures, we also went up to Tennessee for the 4th of July and I did not take one picture.  It was only a quick weekend trip but it was the most relaxing trip of the whole summer.  There’s just something about the simplicity and slow paced country life that helps me to unwind.  I didn’t look at any electronics, or screens, I didn’t fuss with my phone or even watch any t.v, so unfortunately, I didn’t take any pictures either.

We had a wonderful summer, we hope all of our family and friends had/have a great one too!  Here’s to an amazing school year ahead 🙂

Top Ten Tuesday: 10 Dream Hikes

If time, responsibilities and resources weren’t a factor, what would you spend your life doing?  What would make you most happy, give you the most peace and contentment?  My husband and I were thinking about this a few weeks ago, and our answers were identical.  If nothing else mattered, we would spend our days exploring the world’s most majestic hiking destinations.

This Top Ten list is my favorite one to write, but also the most challenging because it’s difficult to choose just ten.  To create my Top Ten, I scoured the internet and researched many lists by the authorities on all things outdoors, nature and hiking: National Geographic, Backpacker and Discovery just to name a few.

My brainstorming process started big and got smaller, I began with the geographic destinations with the most splendid and scenic destinations (Everywhere from Arizona, California, Hawaii, Washington, Peru, Japan).  Then I thought about mountain regions known for the best hiking (The Andes, Appalachians, Sierra Nevada) and I finally narrowed my list down to what I thought were dream hikes, but I also added “bucket list” hikes that are totally doable.  Here are my Top Ten!

10.  Kalalau Trail – The Kalalau Trail winds along the Na Pali Coast located on the island of Kauai.  It’s a strenuous 11 mile hike (22 miles round trip) that begins at Ke’e Beach.  The Na Pali (Cliffs) Coast is described as a very special place because the rugged and narrow cliffs provide the only land access to the remote and legendary Kalalau Valley.  Most people think of tropical beaches when they think of Hawaii, but it’s so diverse in landscape that there’s much more to do than just swim or sunbathe.  This trail is considered one of the best in Hawaii and an absolute must.  Learn more about the trail here.

9.  Half Dome Hike – According to Yosemite’s website, the Half Dome hike is considered the ultimate day hike in Yosemite, “the one you must do before you die, but one you might also die while doing.”  Well of course if they put it that way, it has to be on my list. Honestly though, this is one I could only do in  my dreams due to my fear of heights and fear of falling.  Half Dome is 14-16 miles depending on where you start from, there’s about 5000 feet in elevation gain from the valley, and the most arduous part is the famous -or infamous- Half Dome Cables.  This a section that hikers must climb (without climbing gear) using metal cables, it’s a 400 foot ascent to the summit.

8.  Grand Canyon Rim to Rim – They don’t call it the “Grand” canyon for nothing.  I’ve visited the Grand Canyon before as millions of people have, but according to the National Park’s website, less than 1% of visitors experience the real grandeur, which lies below the Rim.  Just visiting the Grand Canyon and taking in the scenery is like seeing art come to life, or like being on another planet.  I imagine hiking Rim to Rim would be an absolutely unforgettable experience.

7.  Inca Trail – Part of the Andes Mountains, located in Peru, the Inca Trail is undoubtedly the most well known trail in South America, and considered one of the greatest treks in the world.  The trail covers diverse landscape in just 26 miles, from beautiful mountainside to subtropical jungle, and archaeological wonders like the Inca ruins.  The trail ends in the breathtakingly mystical Machu Picchu.

6.  Wonderland Trail – This is one of the most amazing, yet serious hikes in Washington. The WT is 93 miles of splendor circumnavigating Mount Rainier.  With varying degrees of elevation gains and losses daily, and every mile promising different awe-inspiring terrain such as lakes, waterfalls, glacial valleys, alpine and sub-alpine meadows and lush forests, no part of the journey will be identical.  It’s like 9-10 different hikes in one. Experience and skill is recommended  if venturing to hike the WT, and only lucky people that win the annual lottery are given permits for it.  This is a bucket list hike for sure!

5.  Everest Base Camp – There’s just something about accomplishing something that ordinary people don’t get to do.  Towering at 29,029 feet, Mt. Everest is the highest peak in the world.  About 1,000 people a year climb Mt. Everest but probably less than half reach the summit.  It cost something like $30,000 or more to attempt this feat without a guarantee of reaching the top,  not to mention the price one’s body pays at those extreme altitudes.  That being said, the 38 mile trek from Lukla to Everest Base Camp is a demanding expedition in itself.  People can do this for a fraction of the cost (about $6000), it’s no stroll in the park, but just to be able to discover the history and culture of Nepal, would be the adventure of a lifetime.

4.  Mt. Fuji – Speaking of summiting peaks, there’s a special feeling of accomplishment and pride after reaching the highest point of something.  Mt. Fuji, or “Fuji-san” is Japan’s highest peak, rising at 12,389 feet.  It’s no Everest, Denali or K2 but it’s a summit that I believe I could take on, because I know people who have.  My brother, my husband and some of friends have climbed to the top of Mt. Fuji, and they’ve described it as a unique and memorable experience.  Despite steep slopes and challenging sections, Mt. Fuji is not limited to experts, people young and old of all shapes and sizes climb this beauty every year.

4.  Anything in Utah – Bryce Canyon. Moab. Zion.  Anything in Utah.  We’ve hiked mountains, forests, and volcanoes, but to hike in a desert like area where you can sleep under the clearest skies and a billion stars would be so awesome.  Utah has the most unique rock formations, and is considered canyon country in the US.

4.  John Muir Trail“The mountains are calling and I must go.” – John Muir.  John Muir is known as the “Father of National Parks, his strong influence helped to create the parks we’re able to enjoy today: Yosemite, Sequoia, Grand Canyon, and others.  There are trails, parks and even colleges are named after this man, who as a naturalist and conservationist, taught us the importance of protecting our natural heritage.  The John Muir Trail is an ultimate hiking destination in the US.  The 211 mile hike winds through the Sierra Nevada, beginning in Yosemite and ends at Mount Whitney, the highest peak in the continental US.  To hike the John Muir Trail would be an homage not just to John Muir, and what he stood for but for my personal love for our natural world.

2.  Pacific Crest Trail – The Pacific Crest Trail (PCT) is something I could only do if it were possible to take a 6 month break from life, and have all my affairs and responsibilities (my bills, my children, my home) taken care of.  All things considered, and if I was physically able, the PCT would be a dream come true.  The PCT isn’t just a hike, but a journey of 2600+ miles that starts in Mexico, traveling through California, Oregon, Washington, to the Canadian border.  Notable sights include the picturesque Sierra Nevada and the Cascade Mountain Ranges.  When I think of what completing the PCT would demand of my body, mind and spirit, I admit it’s a pipe dream, but I’ve always been a dreamer. Dreaming is free, so dream big right?

1.  Appalachian Trail –  Everything I said about the PCT, ditto for the AT.  Another pipe dream but this is a “Dream Hikes” list after all, and sometimes dreams do come true! We’ve hiked a small section of the AT, and seeing and meeting people along the trail makes me believe it’s not just possible but totally doable if we had nothing but time, and can take a break from life.  Now that is living the dream!  The AT is approximately 2,190 miles starting from Springer Mountain in Georgia, ending in Mount Katahdin, in Maine.  The AT crosses 14 states and numerous national forests, national parks and state parks.  Notable sights include the Great Smokey Mountains, Blue Ridge Mountains, Alleghenies, Catskills, and more.

Have you hiked any of these famous trails?  With so many hikes out there, it was hard to choose a “Top Ten Dream List”.  Is there a hike you’ve done that rivals one on my list?  Share your thoughts!

DIY Wedding Ideas II

A while back, I blogged about my sister’s wedding, you can read about it here.  The wedding is less than a month away and we are so excited!  As I was going through the wedding planning check list, I realized it’s been a long time since I’ve blogged anything else about the big day.

Honestly, it’s been awhile since I’ve blogged at all.  So busy with life and everything going on that I guess I just haven’t made time to put pen to paper, or in this case, keyboard to word doc.  Blogger’s block I call it.  I finally turned on my laptop this morning and decided to share another DIY wedding idea.

To complete the flower girls’ look, we decided on cute flower crowns.  Flower crowns aren’t just gorgeous, they’re a simple way to add an elegant touch to any look.  They’re inexpensive, available online, in stores like Claire’s, or you can make them yourself.  Just google “how to make a flower crown” and you’ll find plenty of blogs, articles and video tutorials on how to DIY.  Here are the sources I used to get started:

Click here for step-by-step instructions.

Or check out YouTube here for video tutorials.

Look at these beautiful flower crowns:

I spent less than $12 on materials to make three flower crowns (and I still have lots left for other crafts.)  Materials can be found at any craft store or your local Walmart. Here’s what you’ll need:

  • Floral wire
  • Floral tape
  • Wire cutter
  • Real or faux flowers and/or greenery

The article or video above provide detailed instructions, but here’s a diagram.  It’s so easy!

My daughter and I made them together.  I added some champagne colored beads to the flower crowns for a jeweled look.  They turned out nice, this one is my daughter’s!

Flower crowns are so versatile!  Bridesmaids, flower girls and even brides can wear them, and they can be worn for other occasions as well.  You can make a simple crown using baby’s breath, or go crazy and add flowers of all colors, shapes and sizes.  The best part? They’re cheap, quick and easy.

Stay tuned for my next blog and find out what we did for centerpieces.

Tales from the Trail: Fiery Gizzard

On our last backpacking trip on the Appalachian Trail, we met a couple of experienced backpackers.  I followed one of them on Instagram, and was in awe of the many different backpacking destinations they have hiked.  Backpackers love sharing experiences.  When we were planning our first trip for the year, I knew right away which one I wanted to do.

The Fiery Gizzard Trail is part of South Cumberland State Park in Tennessee.  It’s considered to be one of the most diverse and beautiful in the whole state.  It’s also rated one of the Top 25 in the country by Backpacker Magazine.  This trail is my favorite so far.

Fiery Gizzard had everything: waterfalls, easy gentle terrain, steep arduous gorges, and boulder fields.  Because it’s 13 miles long, we thru-hiked, staging our car at the end of the trail and got a ride from a nice local to the start of it.  We did a lot of research prior to the trip, we talked to a lady that worked at the Park’s Visitor Center who we actually met when we picked up our permit.  She gave us some good information about a reroute on the trail due to a land dispute, and told us about the Dog Hole Trail junction that was easier than hiking Fiery Gizzard the entire time.  Her description of the different parts of the trail were spot on and it’s always wonderful to talk with someone who doesn’t just work for the Park Service but knows the trails because they’ve hiked them.  There is apparently a boulder field on the trail that is nicknamed “the trail of broken ankles” where many rescues were called to, so we took the Dog Hole junction to avoid added aggravation and risk injury.

Follow me as I relive the best backpacking trip yet!

It was a 7 hour drive to Tennessee and we would normally pack our backpacks when we get to the hotel, but we packed early to save time.

Once in Monteagle, we stayed at Jim Oliver’s Smokehouse Lodge for the night, and headed out the next morning.  This place was nice, fairly priced and conveniently located near the trailhead.  Maybe next time we’ll stay in one of their cabins for a more rustic experience.

The trailhead was only 15 minutes away, this is the first time we hiked anywhere so close to town, which is awesome because we didn’t have to drive far afterwards to civilization, to use a real restroom, get a hot meal and get back on the road.

Here we are, ready to hit the trail!

Within just a just a few minutes, we saw the first of many beautiful waterfalls.

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There were also several of these man made bridges along the trail:

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Here’s a bridge made by a fallen tree (not for our use):

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More waterfalls!  Just beautiful…

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Another beautiful sight were these interesting stone walls that I thought looked like a huge stack of crepes:

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At about 2.5 miles, we reached Flat Rock Lookout:

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Flat Rock Lookout

At the 4.5 mile marker, we made it to Raven Point where we took time for lunch and to admire the view:

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Raven Point

The trail seemed to go for miles and miles, I run half marathons but this trail made me question if I really know how long a mile is!  With daylight fading, we knew that we had to reach Laurel Gorge because navigating over boulders in the dark would be dangerous.  This was the arduous point during the hike where I put on some tunes and get to moving!  Thank goodness for motivating music and the second wind 🙂

Finally seeing Laurel Gorge was like seeing the finish line of a race; spirits immediately lifted and we felt relieved, it was a long trek, and we were almost to the end!

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Descent into Laurel Gorge

Anderson Falls was a breathtaking sight to behold once we climbed to the top of the Gorge:

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We had hiked a total of about 11 miles to Small Wild campsite where we’d make camp.  The next morning, we would only have to hike 3 miles out to Foster Falls where our car was parked.

Yay for setting up the tent before dark!

Our campsite was huge!!  It could accommodate 6-8 tents.  There were others in the site but they were a good 100 feet away, so we felt alone but not completely isolated.  The thing I loved most about this trip was that we were able to make a fire, something we usually don’t get to do in Washington in higher elevation.  There’s just something about a fire that is comforting, and makes us feel safe.  Instead of having dinner right away and going into our tent, we were able to sit by the fire, eat, drink our tiny plastic bottles of wine and listen to music out in the open.

Pad Thai and Rice for dinner!

We really enjoyed this trip, we can’t wait to explore more of beautiful Tennessee.  There’s nothing like escaping civilization and getting out into nature and the wilderness.

 

Stay tuned for future Tales from the Trail!

Jaye’s Anatomy: How I Got My Groove Back!

I’m a creature of habit.  I love routine, and when I get comfortable in a fitness routine, it takes a while before I get bored with it.  Sometimes along the way though, our fitness routines hit a speed bump.  Whether it’s because you want to change things up a little bit, get bored, or maybe trainers move on for whatever reason (gosh darn trainers and their lives, they’re supposed to be there for us, ALWAYS!  Lol.)

A while back I wrote my first Jaye’s Anatomy post about my fitness routine.  I loved that routine.  It had a full body workout, cardio and a Pilates/Yoga class.  I consistently attended each class, ran before some classes and did my long run on Saturdays.  Due to a trainer injury, and another trainer getting pregnant and moving out of state, my routine has changed.  I hit that fitness routine speed bump.  For a few weeks, I wandered around the gym, searching schedules to see what I could fill my days with.  I tried an aerobic step class, a Boot Camp class, and I ran now and then, but I was in a “fitness funk”.

I’m proud to say, I got my groove back!  I tried a few new things and I’m surprised to see I actually love things I initially thought I did not like.  My new fitness routine is pretty similar with a strength training class, cardio and a Yoga/Pilates once a week.

Monday – I start my week off with a HIIT (High Intensity Interval Training) class called Total Body Sculpt on Mondays.  This class replaced my favorite class Body Pump. The instructor is awesome, and I learned a few new things like a “Deck of Cards” work out, and how to massage myself using a tennis ball, who knew?!  I love that we rarely repeat exercises, and we use different equipment like a Bosu that I’ve never used before.

Tuesdays/Fridays/Sundays are my days off!

Wednesday is Cardio!  I will either run a short distance (1.5-2 miles) and attend a PiYo class, or run a longer distance (3-5 miles).

Thursday is another Cardio day and a 30 minute class.  I go for one hour of Spin (which I previously disliked, and now love) and I also attend a short Abs and Glutes class, also known as “Butts and Guts!”  Two classes in one day, the police have to be called on Thursdays because I’m killing it in the gym, lol! 🙂

Saturday is a long run day, usually 5 miles.

We all experience fitness funks.  It happens to the best of us, what’s important is to find ways to get ourselves out of that funk.  Here are some ideas, (what I did that worked for me) that might also work for you.

1.  Join a gym or try a free trial. – Many gyms offer free trial periods before you are expected to sign up.  Use that trial period to try different classes, and maybe attend a class more than once because you might like the class, but maybe the instructor isn’t someone you connect with, or vice versa.

2.  Mix up your routine! – Our bodies get efficient at doing the same things.  While all exercise is of course great for us, our bodies get used to a routine, our minds do too.  Frankly, we get bored.  So try something new, or give something another try!

3.  Phone a friend. – I love the group fitness setting.  Being in a group motivates me.  Join a friend, or a group of friends, or make new fitness friends.  Sometimes we need people to help keep us accountable, and it can make all the difference.

4.  Go alone.  I love group settings, but I run alone.  I run alone because I’m slower than everyone I know, lol.  Going alone sometimes helps us to focus on something we want to improve.  Maybe going alone will re-energize you to get out of that funk!

5.  Write down your schedule. – Make a “To Do” list of your workout routine, set it in stone, or your calendar.  Having a clear, specific goal written down will make you want to check it off, because who likes a “To Do” list that isn’t checked off?  Take it a step further and post of your accomplishment on social media, “make it Facebook official” as they say.

Health and fitness is a lifestyle.  Sometimes we get burnt out or exhausted with our routines, and that’s okay.  Maybe the fix is taking a short break to help us to reflect and recharge, that’s okay too.  What’s important is we take steps to get back on the path to wellness, we have to find ways to get our groove back!  Have you ever been in a funk?  What did you do to get out of it?

 

 

A Letter to Myself

Turning 37 had me feeling reflective.  How many of us have uttered the words “If I only knew then, what I know now…?”  Have we ever finished the sentence to fully state what we would really do differently if we knew then, what we know now?  If  we could give our younger selves some words of wisdom, what would they be?  What advice would you give yourself?  Would you take that advice?

A Letter To Myself

Dear Jaye,

I just turned 37!  Rounded up, that’s the big FOUR-OH.  I know that seems like a big number, but it’s fine.  It’s really amazing the clarity and wisdom that comes with getting older.  So since I’m older and wiser now, I thought I would give you some advice as you journey into becoming quite a wonderful person, in a really great place.  These lessons are free.

Don’t stress too much, your hair will fall out! – It’s true, it happened!  I lived it.  The effects of stress can be profound, not just on our bodies, but on our minds and spirit.  You’ve always been a worrier, but you can’t let stress consume you, you’ll lose all your hair.  Yes it will grow back, but walking down the aisle almost bald honestly kind of sucked.  Don’t stress, keep calm!

Manage your health now. – This is all inclusive.  Make time to take care of yourself: mentally, physically, and spiritually.  The great thing is when you take care of yourself in one aspect, it spills over into another aspect.  Self care is so important.  I always say it’s like “the gift that keeps on giving.”  It makes you a better everything, a constantly improving version of yourself.

Get out of your comfort zone. – I know you.  You like things that are familiar, routine, structured.  There’s nothing wrong with comfort, but amazing things happen when we step out of our comfort zone.  The things you love to do now, were all discovered when you tried something new, so get out of your comfort zone!

Your parents really do know what’s best for you. – You won’t realize it until you have your own kids, but I’ll say it anyway.  You really don’t know everything, in fact, you really don’t know a whole lot.  Your parents and those who have “been there, done that,” they know what they’re talking about.  Listen to them.

Time is the greatest gift you can give to people. – If I told you that you are currently a stay-at-home mom, and that you love it, you would probably laugh.  It’s true though.  This is one of the best personal decisions you made because time is the most important thing you can give to those you love.  Being a stay-at-home mom allowed you to spend precious time with your children while they were little.  It led to wonderful friendships with other women, and hobbies that have enriched your life.  Time is fleeting, spend it doing what you love, with the people you love.

Experience as much as you can while you’re young. – You are the product of all your experiences, people you’ve met, places you’ve traveled to, and lessons you’ve learned.  When we’re younger all we want to do is grow up and get out into the world, but trust me, being a grown up is not that glamorous.  Growing up = growing list of responsibilities, so experience as much as you can while you’re young: travel, learn new things, broaden your social network, experience as much as you can!

Living Life to the Fullest

Respect. – If there was one essential ingredient in any and all relationships (personal, friendly, or professional) that is most important, it would be respect.  Respect has to be given before it can be properly received, and it comes in different forms: Self-respect and respect for others.  Have respect for others, their time and effort, their feelings, and your differences.  Having mutual respect leads to good communication, trust, honesty and all the things that foster good relationships.

About men, relationships, and love… – I can probably write paragraph after paragraph on this topic and tell you who to avoid, or who’s a waste of time, but I’ll spare you.   Oprah Winfrey once interviewed Madonna after the birth of her daughter, and asked the question “What will you teach her about men?”  Madonna gave the most unforgettable answer, “If you learn self-respect, you don’t need to be taught about men.”  If I could add one thing, it would be: When people show you who they are, believe them.  People know themselves better than you do.  If someone shows you they’re untrustworthy, selfish or just mean, believe them the first time.

You regret the things you don’t do. – Sign up for that full marathon early, before your body really feels its age.  In life, we often regret the things we don’t do, or the chances we don’t take.  Make a bucket list, follow your heart, dream big, and just go for it!  Whatever it is, go for it!

The quality of your life is determined by the choices that you make. – Choices.  From the food you choose to put in your mouth to how you spend your money, or how you choose to spend your time, who you choose to marry, and how you react to what life throws at you. You make choices everyday that determine the quality of your life.  You’re only a victim of your choices if you choose to be.  Make good choices.

 

2015 Year in Review

They say…”the days are long, but the years fly by!”  I can’t believe how quickly 2015 came and went.  I still sometimes find myself telling people “We’re new here” or “We just moved here,” but we’ve lived in Florida almost a year!

2015 was a big year for us, lots of new things and many firsts!  This is our 2015 Year in Review.

January – We started off the year with a cross country move from Washington State to Florida.  It took us 5 days, we stopped in states like Idaho, Wyoming, Missouri, and Tennessee.  Here are some pictures of our journey:

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Road Trip!
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Someone was not happy about moving 😦

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February – February was spent adjusting to our new home and exploring our new surroundings.  I also celebrated my birthday in February!  The beach is less than ten minutes away.  Pensacola Lighthouse and Fort Pickens in Alabama were the highlight of this month.

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Navarre Beach

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March – More exploring in March.  We checked out Fort Morgan, the Pensacola Barbeque Festival and some hiking in Blackwater State Park.

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April – It was finally warm enough for the beach!  We spent lots of time at the beach or the pool.  Jeremy and I celebrated our 11th anniversary in April.

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Happy 11th Anniversary!

May – May was a special month because my little girl had her First Communion.  Jeremy and I went on a mini vacation to New Orleans, and Dean got his Driver’s permit.

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Oak Alley Plantation
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St. Louis Cathedral, NOLA

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June – School’s out for summer!  We had a wonderful first summer in the gulf coast but the highlight of our summer was was visiting Tennessee for a family reunion!  Being close enough to drive to see family…priceless! Here are couple of pics of how we spent our time, boating on the lake.

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July – Hot summer weather calls for activities to help us cool off!  July was spent either at the beach or the pool!  Cienna learned to swim and passed her deep end test!  Summer was a blast!

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August – The kids went back to school in August, Dean started 10th grade and Cienna started 3rd grade.  Where has the time gone?

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School Year 2015

September – September was awesome!  My sweet Cienna turned 9 in September!  We truly miss the majestic mountains of the Pacific Northwest, so for Labor Day weekend, my husband and I headed to Georgia for a weekend backpacking trip to the Appalachian Mountains. These are just a few pictures of our backpacking trip.

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Appalachian Trail Georgia

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October – Fall is my favorite season, and October is the official start of Fall.  Cienna was a Sugar Skull for Halloween!

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Happy Halloween!

November – November was a great month.  My son turned 16 in November, I can’t believe how quickly 16 years flew by!  For his 16th birthday, he and my husband drove to Tennessee to watch our Tennessee Titans play.  Jeremy and I also ran our first races in Florida.  Jeremy ran the Pensacola full marathon and I ran a half marathon.  Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday and we had a simple family celebration.  Instead of spending money on Black Friday, we opted outside!  November was a great month!

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Before and After the Pensacola Marathon

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Happy 16th Birthday Dean!

December – December was low key and all about enjoying some quality family time during the holiday season.  We had a wonderful Christmas and a wonderful 2015!  Can’t wait to see what 2016 will bring.  Thank you for taking a stroll down memory lane with me and for taking the time to read and follow this blog!

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Happy New Year!

DIY Christmas Decor

I love Christmastime!  I don’t care about gifts.  I’m not really into holiday shopping.  What I do love…is the decorating!  I love pulling all the boxes out of our attic and getting the house all decked out for the holidays.  I could spend hours perusing the Holiday section in a store, I love taking my time even picking out gift wrapper.  I guess I just love to make things look pretty.

Decorating the Christmas tree is probably my favorite thing about the holiday season.  I remember being a little girl, thinking one day I would have a Christmas tree as beautiful as the ones on display at fancy department stores.  Now, thanks to things I can do all by myself, I do!

Christmastime can be expensive, and I’m not the type to spend an excessive amount of money decorations so instead of buying everything, I like to create things myself to save money.  Check out the look I’ve created in our home by “upcycling” or simply DIY!

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I love my Christmas tree!  I love even more that I didn’t have to spend a fortune to achieve the vision I had for this look.

Many of our ornaments are as old as my marriage (about 11 years old) so instead of buying all new ornaments, I updated the look and add a few new things.

The first thing I did was ornament clusters.  It’s so easy!  All I did was string 4 different ornaments together with gold string (about $1 at Wal-Mart).

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Second, I added red and gold poinsettias.  One bunch of these with about 3-5 poinsettias are only $1 at the Dollar Store, I just used wire cutter to cut them (leaving about 4 inches of the wire) and inserted them into the tree. So easy and simple!

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Our wreath was over ten years old, that’s 1 year older than my daughter!  It didn’t look too terrible, but you can’t really tell how faded the ornaments, flowers and ribbon were.

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First, I used wire cutter to cut out the old stuff I no longer wanted to use.

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Second, I added floral wire to each decorative piece and wrapped the wire with floral tape by simply winding it around.  I did this with each piece.

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Then, I attached each piece around the wreath by wrapping the wires to the base or a branch.

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Lastly, I added battery operated lights (only $1 at the Dollar store) to the wreath and tucked in the little battery pack to hide it.  Voila…a brand new wreath!

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Here’s what it looks like hanging on the door, all lit up!

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Using the same techniques above, another new thing I added to our house is a garland over our fireplace.  Pine garlands can be purchased non lit or prelit.  I bought some miniature ornaments and clustered them together and attached them to the garland.

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Last but not least, the last project that I haven’t yet completed is a pine cone centerpiece for our dining table.  I picked the pine cones right out of our back yard!  I cleaned, dried (baked in the oven) and spray painted the pine cones with metallic gold spray paint ($5 at hardware store).  I just need to find a big enough vase or bowl while the paint dries.  This is how it will look:

Creating a festive look in your home doesn’t have to cost a lot of money. There are so many ideas on Google, Tumblr, and Pinterest!  It just takes a little creativity and time.  DIY Christmas decor is also something fun to do with kids!

Merry Christmas!

 

 

Top Ten Tuesday: 10 Reasons Fall is the best season!

It seems I may have already introduced this topic when I wrote about what I miss most about Washington, or in the blog post bidding farewell to Summer and hello to Fall, so it’s a no-brainer that Fall is my favorite season.  Summer is just so hot and oppressive, Winter is so cold and depressing, and Spring is just blah!  There are so many reasons to love Autumn or Fall, whatever you want to call it! 🙂

Here are my Top 10 Reasons that Fall is the best season:

10. Sweater Weather – Boots weather, scarf weather, beanie weather, layering clothes.  I love Fall fashion just as much as the next girl, but what I really love about Fall is sweater weather.  I mean…the cool and chilly temperatures mean we don’t have to walk around glistening with sweat everywhere we go.  Summer weather calls for short, close to nothing clothing because we’re itching to peel clothes off to be comfortable.  Is there anything more comfortable than a favorite sweater or hoodie?  Sweater Weather is colder, and my favorite season for working out, training for something like a half marathon.  Sweater weather is also the best weather to just chill out at home, snuggle on the couch and read a book!

9. Two words: Pumpkin. Everything.  Pumpkin picking at the pumpkin patch, pumpkin carving, and of course pumpkin flavored everything!  I love pumpkin spice lattes a couple of times during the season, my favorite holiday treats are pumpkin muffins, and pumpkin pie.  The love for pumpkin flavor during this time of year has exploded to pumpkin flavored everything, even Oreos, Pringles, oatmeal, beer, pasta sauce, you name it.

8.  Football Season – It’s that time of year when we root for our favorite football teams, whether it’s a college team, a professional team or maybe your kids play football. There’s nothing like an entire community rooting for their kids at Friday Night Lights, or the excitement of watching our college team playing for nothing but pride on Saturdays, and of course, our favorite NFL teams on Sunday, Monday and Thursdays too!  We love football in our house, football season is one of the top reasons Fall is the best!

7.  Start of Fall shows – Fall is when our television shows come back for a new season.  New shows are also introduced to the lineup.  This season, I started watching Blindspot and Quantico.  They’re great shows so far but my existing favorite shows have returned: Grey’s Anatomy, Scandal, How To Get Away With Murder, The Walking Dead, Homeland, The Voice, Dancing With The Stars.  (I know, I watch a lot of tv!)

6.  Thanksgiving – Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday of all.  By mere definition alone, it’s just a time to give thanks, be grateful and praise God for blessings.  Sure, we can’t ignore the fact that Thanksgiving has evolved into so much more than the original historical significance of the holiday.  Now, there are extravagant Thanksgiving feasts, huge football games and yes…even Black Friday shopping. But that’s what I love about Thanksgiving, people can celebrate what they’re most grateful for, whatever that is.  For my family, it’s about the Four F’s: Family, Friends, Food and Football.

5.  Fall Colors

I mean do I really need to say anything else about this?  Fall marks the shifting of seasons when the leaves change colors and it’s the most wonderful time of the year!

4.  Bonfires, campfires and starting up the fireplace – Chilly weather means we can start a fire in the fireplace, have bonfires or campfires…and you know what that means…s’mores!

3.  Kids are back in school – I actually wrote another blog post that talks a little about this!  I love summer for about three weeks, one month max, then I’m ready for the kids to go back to school.

 

2.  Comfort Food – Fall weather calls for comforting foods.  Fall is the best time to enjoy comfort food because the cooler fall weather is also the best time for working out. Casseroles, soups and stews, yummy baked goods, the kinds that stick to our ribs and warm our souls.  Our favorite comfort foods are chicken soup, chili, beef stew, arroz caldo, and many more.

1.  Finally, the last reason why Fall is the best season, especially down here in the south…NO BUGS!  Mosquitos, insects of all kinds, they go away in the colder weather.  They finally go back to hell where they belong 🙂

What do you love about Fall?  Did it make my list?