Thursday, January 31, 2013

January 2013

Highlights of the Month

Cancun, Mexico Wedding
Dreams Cancun Resort & Spa
Frenchie and I
Last Brother-In-Law gets married!!
Congratulations Robyn and Marc!
Photo by: Dean Sanderson Weddings
Their wedding was so low key and beautiful. Had an amazing time with family and friends. Meeting up at a resort is definitely the best family reunion I can think of. We will be heading to their current home this weekend for the wedding reception to celebrate with everyone who wasn't at the wedding in Mexico. Should be a fun event!

I did a lot of soul-searching this month and I believe 2013 will be a year of doing. 
Life is too short to be unhappy. 
You're never too old to make changes. 
Spend time on the things that make you happy.
There is so much in store for us this year.

I had originally planned on reading 40 books again this year. I have to revise it to 30 in 2013. A few of the things I have up my sleeve for this year will cut into my reading time greatly. While they are still books, they are of the textbook variety.

Book Recap

You have read 3 books toward your goal of 30 books.
Great work, you're 1 book (2%) ahead of schedule.

What I Read
2 Stars - review here

3 Stars - review here

Shadows (Dark Touch, #1) by Amy Meredith 
2 Stars - review here

What I'm Currently Reading

Monthly Book Spending:
My plan this year is to try and use the library, borrow from friends/family and read what I already have on my shelf. There are currently 48 books on my physical to-read shelf. I've run out of room to put new ones so they old ones must be read!
Spent: $16.99
Saved: $16.97


Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Happiness Project - February 2013: Energy

February is a good month to focus on Energy. I turn another year older (Happy Birthday to me!) and I'm finally out of vacation mode. While it's a great idea to start the year off on vacation, it takes that much longer to "get going" when you get back. Plus, everyone around is already in go-mode.

Take care of my body and mind.
- Focus on working out twice a week with weights according to my chiropractor. I need to kick my own butt and start healing. "My body is the only one I have" and if I don't take care of it, it will breakdown. I'd like to be a smooth running brand new Ferrari over a 1980's clunker.
- Focus on running 2 - 3 times a week. I will be signing up for a 5K this May with my sister and need to get myself running more consistently.
- Keep up the gluten-free diet. I can't believe what a difference it makes. I need to start baking muffins again so that I stop buying them at work. Not only are mine gluten-free (work ones aren't) but I'll save money too.
- Cut the caffeine. I really need to stop going to Starbucks. There is no reason I need it. I can still go for a break with the rest of my coworkers, but I can have tea instead. I have so many different kinds, it's well worth the Starbucks break-up. And I can't be doing the once a week thing. I tried that. It then became 2, then 3, then every day. Cold Turkey. I think this be the hardest resolution to keep.

Get ready for bed an hour before bed time.
- I say an hour because that will give me a chance to settle, relax and watch a show or read. Then when it's time to go to bed, I can fall into bed without going through a huge process. My hope is that I will also fall asleep more easily as well as get more sleep altogether.

Organize: Punt/Keep
- I'd like to focus on not only cleaning out the closets but the basement storage rooms as well. There is a lot of stuff in bins that I didn't even know we had. That should tell me something. There is also a lot of things that I can either sell, or donate or put in a garage sale and get rid of it!
- I also want to clear out my online life. Being away for a week and coming back to so much email is ridiculous when I deleted close to 3/4 of them. I should be feeding myself useful information that I actually care about. This includes Twitter, Facebook, blogs, etc.

Nagging Task
- I've had a bag of clothes that needs to be fixed or hemmed sitting in the closet for months. It's time I find a seamstress and get things taken in, hemmed and fixed up. I do have more clothes than I think, it's just not wearable at the moment.

Since February is a short month, I think this will be a good start. Hopefully the first two will become habits, and the third one will be ongoing. Spring Cleaning/Organizing is great, but it can be daunting and exhausted. A monthly purge of a shelf or a room does wonders. The last one is a "just do it already" thing.


Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Happiness Project - Personal Commandments

It took me a while to come up with these. These are things I believe in, phrases I love or words of wisdom (or not) that have gotten me through unhappy and happy times alike.
These are my top 10, but I had to include the others because they popped into my head and they must have for a reason.

My Personal Commandments
Embrace who I am
You'll get there when you get there
Be honest
God doesn't give you anything you can't handle. 
Live, Laugh, Love
Smile often
Stay in touch
Accept the things I cannot change
Laughter is the best medicine
My body is the only one I've got

The Others
You have to hit bottom before you go back up.
Fake it til you make it
It's not worth worrying about
It's OK to be late


Tuesday, January 22, 2013

3/30: Shadows (Dark Touch #1) by Amy Meredith

Shadows (Dark Touch, #1)Shadows by Amy Meredith
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

Format: Paperback
Read from January 16 to 20, 2013

From Goodreads: Fifteen-year-old Eve Evergold is cute, sassy and enjoying a busy social life. What she doesn't know yet is that someone close to her is an evil demon that only she has the supernatural power to defeat. She needs to work out who it is - and fast! Because although there's something very attractive about the dark a demon? Pure hell!

I won this book on Twitter about a year ago and never got around to reading it until this year. I won it and ordered the second one at the same time because I thought it would be a great series. I'm a little underwhelmed. thankful that the font was fairly big and the read was quick. I may read the second one just for a quick in-between books read. A follow up to a heavy read later this year perhaps.

It was ok. Nothing I haven't read before, and not as well done as others. The characters were shallow, but that is expected given the setting of the Hamptons and reference to brand names and celebrities. They were meant to be that way. Gucci, MK, and Jimmy Choo really didn't need to be name-dropped as often as they were, but it did get the point across that these girls had money to burn and not much else going on.

There was little depth to the story, and was great for a YA age story, very innocent. I did find that the characters were very accepting of the supernatural and didn't question it. This strikes me as odd that there was no freaking out or disbelief. You find out there are soul-sucking demons taking over the town and just accept it? I guess.

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Monday, January 21, 2013

Happiness Project - Getting started

Where do I even start? I have the "big topics" as laid out in the book that I like and plan to keep. They are general and apply to most of my life. I'll have to change a couple (no kids here, so no parenting, unless you count my fur-babies, which I might. Training right?)

There is a number of questions in the book that I thought would be a good start to answer.

What makes you feel good?
- spending time with family
- cooking/baking with my husband
- dancing
- reading
- making other people happy
- running
- watching movies
- lunching with friends
- organizing
- doing things I like

What makes you feel bad?
- being late
- disappointing people
- doing things I don't like
- not having direction
- failing to reach my goals
- forgetting to do something
- being talked down to
- feeling like I did something wrong
- leaving the house at night

Is there any way in which you don't feel right about your life?
- I feel like I'm meant to be doing something else as my job
- disappointed that I can't figure out what I want to be when I grow up, nearing 30.
- pulled in too many directions away from what I want more of in my life

Do you have sources of an atmosphere of growth?
- my day job (if I applied myself)
- teaching piano - learning how to be better
- Epicure Selections - being more outgoing
- playing piano - increasing my skill


Thursday, January 17, 2013

2/30: The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin

The Happiness Project: Or, Why I Spent a Year Trying to Sing in the Morning, Clean My Closets, Fight Right, Read Aristotle, and Generally Have More FunThe Happiness Project: Or, Why I Spent a Year Trying to Sing in the Morning, Clean My Closets, Fight Right, Read Aristotle, and Generally Have More Fun by Gretchen Rubin
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Read from January 10 to 16, 2013
Format: Paperback

Reading this book as a memoir rather than a "how-to" is highly suggested. I only say this because it's not a self-help book. It is an account of Rubin's year. I had sort of expected a how-to, which is why I mention this tip. After the first chapter, I shifted my perspective.

I really enjoyed reading about Rubin's year focusing on Happiness. I read the majority of The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin while on vacation. Most people would read something light or a typical "beach read" rather than a non-fiction self-help memoir type book. I had intentions of reading a new YA book, but never got around to it.

Reading this particular book when the only thing I had to worry about was whether I remembered my sunscreen and what drink I was getting next made it the perfect read. I had time to really think about her project and how it could apply to my own life. There are definitely things in her project that wouldn't be in mine, which is a given since each person is unique and has their own interests and life. It was more the idea of it that struck me as useful. She may have done this project for a year, but the effects and habits that can be formed will make a last impression on yourself and those around you.

Each chapter had something that different. The book has dog-eared pages throughout for things I want to come back to and think about in more depth. I consider myself a happy person these days. I have a wonderful life and there isn't much I want for. Don't take this as me saying my life is perfect. It's not. But it's the only one I've got and I want to make the most of it. Being completely disconnected from the internet for a week was SO refreshing. I got back to reality and realized that there are things in this every day life that don't make it richer or more fulfilling. I know I was on the beach and in that paradise mode, but why do I have to leave the country to get that feeling? Shouldn't it be felt in the here and now? Not every day is unicorns and rainbows, that wouldn't make for an interesting life, but I do think we can maximize the good days and the good moments.

When I got back from vacation and turned on my phone, I had 68 emails. I deleted, without reading them, 45. Why do I get so much email in a week that is completely useless to me? Then I got to thinking about what else in my life is like that. What information am I feeding myself on a daily basis that is really unimportant? I think I was supposed to read this particular book at the beginning of the year, while I was on vacation. I feel rejuvenated and ready to take a good look at everything I do, the things I have and those I don't. It's time to look at making happiness more prevalent in every moment.

My sister called me when I got back and since she has also read the book, we are going to start in February doing our own Happiness Projects. I'm excited to get started but I also need to remind myself, one month at a time.

Favourite quote: "The days are long, but the years are short" So true!

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Tuesday, January 15, 2013

More piano students!

Last May I finally made the decision to begin teaching piano in September 2012. It was a decision that wasn't taken lightly and discussed and budgeted (money and time).  I had set my sights on having 3 to 6 students, knowing that I'd be thrilled if I got 3 at most. September brought me 5 students. I couldn't believe it! Two complete beginners, 3 transfer students.

Fast forward to January 2013. I have two new students joining me. Both adults, one is a transfer moving to the neighbourhood and the other really wants to learn. It will be completely different teaching adults, and I think just as rewarding.

I had no idea that in my first year teaching I would have 7 students and love it this much. It makes me happy to think that I can do this and love it for a lot of years to come.

Now if only I could kick my own butt into practicing more...

Friday, January 11, 2013

1/30: Days of Blood & Starlight by Laini Taylor

Days of Blood & Starlight (Daughter of Smoke and Bone, #2)Days of Blood & Starlight by Laini Taylor
My rating: 2 of 5 stars
Read from December 11, 2012 to January 02, 2013
Format: Hardcover

From Goodreads: Once upon a time, an angel and a devil fell in love and dared to imagine a world free of bloodshed and war.

This is not that world.

Art student and monster's apprentice Karou finally has the answers she has always sought. She knows who she is—and what she is. But with this knowledge comes another truth she would give anything to undo: She loved the enemy and he betrayed her, and a world suffered for it.

In this stunning sequel to the highly acclaimed Daughter of Smoke & Bone, Karou must decide how far she'll go to avenge her people. Filled with heartbreak and beauty, secrets and impossible choices, Days of Blood & Starlight finds Karou and Akiva on opposing sides as an age-old war stirs back to life.

While Karou and her allies build a monstrous army in a land of dust and starlight, Akiva wages a different sort of battle: a battle for redemption. For hope.

But can any hope be salvaged from the ashes of their broken dream?

I hate writing bad reviews. Especially for books in a series where I loved the first book. Daughter of Smoke and Bone was fabulous and I couldn't wait to read this one. There was something unique about the series.

I got bored with the second one. It didn't move fast enough and I found that I skimmed dialogue for the last half of it. Karou also became incredibly annoying in this one. Perhaps there was too much time between the two books for me to really remember her pain and betrayal, but it seemed like she was holding onto something that was so far in the past that it made little difference in the here and now.

The gore and torture and descriptions were a little over the top for a YA book. As an adult, I found a lot of it disturbing, and I usually have no problem with that sort of thing. There was several scenes in the book where I had to put it down and say "gross, I didn't need to picture that".  I'm not a mom, but I am an aunt and I would never let me my niece or nephew read this one just based on the gore alone.

I did appreciate the theme that good and evil does not necessarily mean good and bad. It showed a side to both the Seraphim and the Chimera that blurred the lines of who was good or bad. It showed greed and what it can do to a complete race.

I don't plan to read the next one when it comes out.

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Thursday, January 3, 2013

2012 - Books in Review

This year was a strange year for reading. I always felt behind my goal. I've read the fewest books this year than the past 4 and it was a struggle to get them all in. Either I'm getting busier, reading slower, or making less time. I've linked my reviews here so you can get them all in one shot. The books in bold are my favourite for the year.

I read 37 out of 40 books in 2012. I'll be keeping my goal the same for 2013. I plan to read through my shelf of to-read that sits staring at me from my giant shelf. It's about time I start putting a dent in it. Frenchie shakes his head every time I buy a book and have no space to put it.

What I Read in 2012 


Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Wishes for 2013

Rather than resolutions or goals, I saw a blog post that said "Wishes for 2013". What a beautiful way to put it. There are lots of wishes this year. Stability would be number one. We've had so much change in 2012.

1. To go to France with my husband. We have everything booked, just in the waiting phase!!
2. Try to start a family. We have two wonderful "kids" of the fur variety. We will see what happens!
3. Read 40 books. Hopefully most of them off my shelf at home.
4. Exercise more. Strengthen my back and have less pain.
5. Run a 5K with my sister and husband in May!
6. Work towards playing my Grade 9 Royal Conservatory of Music songs. We'll see how it goes, might do an exam in December.


2012 - Life In Review

2012 was a busy year. Full of changes, like any year is, and full of discovery. There were a lot of ups and downs, a lot of celebration and a lot of reading!

Frenchie and I have been married for 1.5 years. It seems like less most days. I feel like we're still falling in love every day.

Both of us switched jobs this year. New companies, new roles and new opportunities. It seems every few years we need a change and seem to be on the same schedule. It's exciting and stressful, but change is usually a good thing. For me, I have to be pushed to my limit before I choose change, but I'm always glad when I take the leap.

I started a home-based business. Epicure Selections. I'm almost at my one year mark and I couldn't be happier I started this endeavour  It's allowed us to eat healthier, have some extra income and add some spice to our kitchen. The plan last January was to try it and see how it went. I love what I do and have loved all the new opportunities to make new friends, spread some flavour and see people fall in love with cooking again.

On top of Epicure, I started teaching Piano lessons. I was so incredibly nervous that I would be horrible and my students would hate me or I'd be the one that makes them dislike music. I won't say I'm the best teacher, far from it, but I'm learning. And I love it. It may be a rush to get home from my day job, but after teaching, my stress seems to melt. It warms my heart to see kids excited to learn music.

Fitness wise, I failed miserably at my goals. I kept trying new things, and ultimately nothing stuck. Ballet was a great experience again, and while I miss it, the classes aren't convenient for my schedule. I'm starting to slowly get back into weight lifting after meeting with a chiropractor. He's made the world of difference in my pain levels and I'm so thankful he was able to determine what the issues are FINALLY!

Health related news was a shock this year. After what I would call a relapse into the world of stress, I went to a naturopath for a second opinion. She has helped me more than I can thank her. I'm not out of the woods yet, but my ability to cope has vastly improved. She also made the suggestion to go gluten free and I can't tell you what a difference it has made. I had no idea that food was making me feel so crappy.

Both our families have experienced big changes this year. My other sister moved to the same city as oldest sister and I. It's been wonderful to be able to see them both more often and spend time on a whim rather than planned well in advance. Frenchie's family gained 2 new little ones, niece and nephew and very shortly in the new year, another sister-in-law.

Every year I'm thankful for my family, friends and the life we have. I may complain and bitch about things but life is just the way it should be.