A BLOG ABOUT A LITTLE BIT OF EVERYTHING

Friday, January 29, 2016

Ready, Set, Weekend! (Plus a White Plum Discount)

Greetings, friends.

It's been a productive week! There was a lot to do for work and for life, but we did take time to celebrate our year of homeownership last night with homemade (get it?) ramen noddles. I saved a recipe from Food Network magazine, and Brendan made it while I was at barre class. There's even a poached egg in there. We both went back for seconds.


Today, I tried out something new to me: morning exercise! My alarm had to be set for 5:00am (gulp), so I needed to get into bed by 10:00pm. Unfortunately, someone had other plans. 


I was a little restless last night (kind of how you are before you need to catch a morning flight), but I woke up at 5:00am feeling well rested and refreshed. I jumped in the shower because I knew there wouldn't be time after class. After my shower, I half blow dried my hair, ate 1/2 a grapefruit and 1/2 a cup of low fat cottage cheese, dressed for class, and re-set the alarm for Brendan (who, along with Zoe, slept through all of this). I made it to the studio about five minutes before 6:00am. It was just enough time to get set up. I thought I'd be exhausted, but I had tons of energy, and everyone else was cheerful and talkative too. I attended Natalie's 5:45PM class last night and her 6:00AM class this morning. Natalie is a fellow teacher (fourth grade), so I felt like we were in it together as I made it through another challenging class. I made it home at 7:15AM (the drive was dark both ways) and had just enough time to make green monster smoothies (I added a drop of vanilla extract and some ice to the recipe) for both of us, finish blow drying my hair, put on make-up, and dress for work. I pre-selected my outfit last night, which helped save me time this morning (thanks to my college roomie, Lauren, for that life lesson). I made it to work just in time for my 8:00AM office hour, and my verdict is that I would definitely do it again. I've always been an evening exerciser, feeling quite intimidated by early wake up calls, but today, I learned there is nothing to fear. How about you: would you exercise at 6:00AM?

Speaking of outfits, I'm excited to share my new discovery White Plum.  I saw other bloggers writing posts sponsored by White Plum, but I never gave it much thought. Then, it occurred to me that my winter work wardrobe isn't that comfortable, and I frequently wear four different things per day (work clothes, lounge at home clothes, workout clothes, pajamas). I wanted some leggings and long sleeve dresses, so I could be both warm and comfortable in winter. Mission accomplished. 


I love my three pairs of leggings and two dresses. Everything I got is super, super soft, and I love the variety in all the prints they have leggings in. Hey, just because I like you, I'm sharing my discount code that came with my order. Use: JANUARYJOYS to get 25% off any order (expires Sunday 1/31/16 at 11:59 PDT). Note: White Plum didn't pay me or give me anything for free, and this is not a referral code; I just like their clothes and am a happy customer!

After work, I got a much needed manicure. 


Then, I came home to this: 


Is Lola trying to send me a message? 

Look Lola, it's still my pillow. 

Happy weekend! 
<3

Thursday, January 28, 2016

A Year of Homeownership

It's hard to believe, but so true: a year ago, we closed on our home.

There have been high and low points to homeownership, but mostly it has been a wonderful experience. We are really happy in our home and about ten times more comfortable here than we were in our apartment. We both lived in apartments for over ten years before becoming homeowners, so it was a big change, but one we were definitely ready for.

I've only been a homeowner for one year, but I feel like I've learned a lot. Here is my advice for anyone considering taking the plunge into homeownership:

1.) Make sure you are really prepared to commit to the area for at least five years. Good questions to ask yourself (or yourselves) include: is my job stable? Do I like my job? Do I like this area? Is it possible a better opportunity will come up for me somewhere else? If so, will I be alright turning it down? The financial loss that you would take if selling too soon after purchasing is real, so commitment to the area should be definite.

2.) Don't look at it as an financial investment. Look at it as an investment in your comfort and quality of life. I know what you read, and it's true. If the market does well, you CAN make a ton of money off of a house when you sell (if the market plunders, you can lose a lot of money too). But I would strongly advise not to think of your home as a plan for making a lot of money. The true incentive for buying should be quality of life issues like privacy, space, a garage, a backyard, a larger kitchen, more storage, etc. Expecting to make a huge profit is setting yourself up for disappointment. Enjoy living in your home. If you make a profit, see that as a bonus.

3.) Save, save, save, and save some more. We felt financially ready for a house when we bought our lot in April 2014, but we had nine extra months to save due to construction time, and that turned out to be great. This past year was the most expensive of our lives. Moving into a new home, you instantly have more space, but not furniture for it. Landscaping is not cheap. Property taxes and home insurance are also new expenses, and unfortunately, the tax breaks you hear about for homeowners don't seem that substantial. Of course, your down payment and closing costs are the obvious expenses, but try to think well beyond those when preparing to buy a home. I would never suggest buying above your price range. We were approved for loans far larger than what we agreed would be smart to spend. Remember, the bank just wants your money. Just because they will give you a certain size loan, it doesn't mean it would be a good idea to take it.

4.) You'll know what you want when you see it. Brendan and I looked at three houses before we bought our lot and decided to build. When we saw an option that was new construction, a floor plan we liked, close to work, and in our comfortable price range, we took it. Remember, you are never going to find 100% perfect (I wish our laundry room and extra bedrooms were a little bigger, for instance), so stop expecting to. When you see mostly perfect, make an offer. If you are looking for 100% perfect, it may be a sign that you aren't actually ready (and thus, you will second guess houses that are actually a great match). Being decisive can save you a lot of time and torment. This advice applies to a lot of things outside home buying, and I wish it was advice I could always figure out how to take!

5.) The actual move and first few weeks will be stressful. I think I expected the whole process to be all romantic and Pinteresty (you know, we'd order pizza to the empty house and eat it on a picnic blanket with champagne). In reality, though it was exciting to move in and there were romantic moments, there was also a lot of stress. I wish I had known to expect that. Any move is a major adjustment, but the change between being a renter and an owner is really anxiety provoking. Also, your house doesn't feel like a home at first. It takes time to feel settled.

6.) Yes, it does make a big difference. I never knew how happy our house would make me until I got here and got settled. It truly is wonderful to come home to a place that is all your own and to not share walls with anyone. Decorating our home and designing our backyard has given us a fun and meaningful project to work on together. We no longer deal with many of the inconveniences that were a result of renting, like hunting for parking spaces, having to defrost our vehicles in winter, carrying gallons of water and groceries up three flights of stairs, going outside to do laundry, etc (I realize every rental experience is different. That was just ours). On a daily basis, I truly feel happier and more relaxed because of our home. It has even made a difference for Lola and Zoe. They seem more content now that there is extra space for them to roam.


If the timing is right, getting the keys to your new home is one of the best feelings.

Here's to home.
<3

Monday, January 25, 2016

Hello Friends

Hello Friends! 

How was your Monday? Mine was super productive. I put spinach in our smoothies, and I think it got us off to a good start. 

Backing up, we had a great weekend. We did not have the wintery weather that the rest of the country has been enduring: it was nearly 70 and sunny in these parts, and we enjoyed it. Friday, we ate delicious Thai food out and watched TV at home. Saturday, after barre, Brendan made us breakfast. Then, I organized the pantry, and he did some work in the yard. I started a book I'm really enjoying called However Long the Night, sipped on tea, and loved cuddling with Lola and Zoe. Saturday night, we went and saw the new Star Wars movie. I thought it was awesome, and it's safe to say that it made me an official fan. I went to bed at a decent hour while Brendan stayed up making his own ginger beer (more on that to come). 

Yesterday, we attended a birthday brunch where our host made us the most delicious Challah Bread Creme Brulee French Toast. It was as good as it sounded, and I enjoyed three mimosas to go with it! We sat outside and soaked up some sun since it was unseasonably nice out. Once home, we really didn't do much outside of laundry and some class prep. Thanks to my cousin, Amanda, I had Sunday night dinner on the table super fast. She made this pesto back in September and froze it. Last night's dinner was every bit as delicious as the batch we ate fresh. Thanks, Amanda! 


This morning, there was an exciting addition outside my office door. I wondered if they thought my students would be lining up for office hours? No such luck, but it was a great teaching day. This week, I seem to have all my old energy back (maybe more energy than my students wish I had). I even wrote a letter of recommendation during my office hours in addition to my other work. All my cylinders were fired up (but maybe it was the leftover pesto I had for lunch).


After work, I waited in line (not nearly as fancy as the one outside my office) at the post office to mail back some ski clothes we borrowed. Once home, I submitted our last warranty AND filed our 2015 taxes (I honestly enjoy doing taxes, and I usually file the day our W2s come out. Even though we never get money back anymore and always owe, I still find filing taxes satisfying...note: this does not apply to doing other people's taxes, sorry). Then, I went to barre class. After that, Brendan and I ate dinner and watched X-files in our pajamas. Brendan says I have asked him a dozen times why the return is only a six episode special. X-files is too fun, and I wish it could go on and on. Bring it back forever, FOX! 

I got a new coat today (I'm sure there will be a picture of it on here soon, unless the weather stays so warm), but tragically, I broke my sunglasses of five years. I will definitely need a replacement. Any ideas? 

We hope your Monday set you up for a great start to the week, 
<3

Friday, January 22, 2016

Friday, Friday, Friday OHHHH!

Do you guys remember this? The video is the inspiration for today's title. It was so bad but so good.

I am feeling so joyful and relieved after just learning that my Mimi is being released from the hospital today. Suddenly, the world looks a lot brighter now that I know she is okay.

The rest of our week went by super quickly.
On Wednesday night, I made Vegetable Root Stew (in the newest issue of Family Circle) in the crockpot, and it was so tasty.


Every time I see a recipe in a magazine that looks good, I buy the ingredients and immediately make it. If it's good enough, I save it in a recipe box and keep it in my growing repertoire. Crockpot recipes always win extra points with me because I can throw the ingredients in when I get home around 2pm and dinner can be ready around 7pm when we normally eat.

Last night, Brendan whipped up Inspiralized Apple and Cheese Buns for dinner with salad. We could not get the apples and potatoes to stay in bun form, so it was more like hash brown consistency, but that was fine with us. We ate the leftovers for breakfast this morning with fruit (so good!) I don't know about you guys, but I have a serious addiction to grapefruit. Anyone else? I could eat multiple grapefruit per day and never get sick of them. How do they taste so good?!

Today after work, I came home and did workout videos at home while Brendan played basketball. These 3 videos made a nice 30 minute workout:
Total Body Tone Up
Holiday Hustle 
Movie Night Workout

I like the Tone it Up workouts because they are free, easy to follow, use little or no equipment (other than a mat), have a lot of variety, and use some of the same moves from my barre class.

I have now worked out everyday this week due to the videos today, Barre class Monday, Tuesday, and Thursday, and yoga on Wednesday. I really enjoyed Wednesday's yoga class because it was all about tree pose. I appreciate any chance to work on my balance, and this class had me feeling calm and meditative by the end.

I'm very much looking forward to this weekend. Tonight, we are eating at my favorite restaurant, and I'm watching my Friday night line up (Master Chef Jr. on Fox and Shark Tank and 20/20 on ABC). Call me boring, but I love staying in on Friday night and relaxing. Other than that, the weekend brings barre class Saturday, a friend's birthday party Sunday, and time to catch up on laundry and organization.

We hope everyone has a great weekend and something to be thankful for today.
<3



Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Weeknight Updates

Greetings, friends!
I hope your work weeks are rolling right along. Brendan and I are pretty exhausted from returning to teaching. Before you cue up your tiny violins, let me explain what I mean: teaching is a surprisingly physical job. From standing on your feet the entire class periods, to projecting your voice, to having to think quickly, explain as you think, and be remotely entertaining, I often tell my students that I workout just to stay in shape for teaching (and I'm not really joking!)

We have had a mostly good few days. On Monday, we made Roasted Leeks and Cauliflower for dinner from Take One Pot. I enjoy this cookbook, but I will say, the recipes are not always super simple and sometimes do require other kitchen supplies getting dirty (thus, the title is a tad bit misleading). This recipe was delicious though and had us both going back for seconds.

Yesterday, we cooked the pho recipe from Inspiralized.  Here, Daikon Radish was used to make the noodles in the bowl. It doesn't sound appealing, but it honestly was delicious. I went back for seconds and then thirds!

After dinner, we watched the first half of Return of the Jedi. I am slowly getting my Star Wars education. After we finish episode VI, we can watch I-III, and then I will be ready to see the new film. Fun fact: I grew up watching Ewoks the Battle for Endor, a made for TV movie sequel that I actually never saw the original of (we had a recorded VHS tape of the sequel only). This movie led me to ask a mall Santa for "a bracelet that lights up when my family is dead," around age four or five, probably leading said mall Santa to be extremely creeped out. As a result of my strange childhood, I like Return of the Jedi best so far. Finally, the Ewoks are back!

I have dinner in the crockpot (Vegetable Root Stew) and yoga class in one hour. I think yoga class will be essential today for helping me relax and stay calm. I have been very sad since I learned this afternoon that my Mimi is in the hospital. Please send prayers and get well wishes. The family is awaiting news on some important tests.

We hope it's all good news where you are,
<3

Monday, January 18, 2016

Skiing at Ski Apache in Ruidoso, NM

Happy Martin Luther King day, everyone!


Brendan and I are appreciative of this day of rest after a busy weekend skiing with friends in Ruidoso, NM.

We left Midland on Friday and made it to Ruidoso in time for dinner at Cafe Rio:


The pizza was delicious and warm, but outside, it was snowing.


Our friends arrived shortly after we got back from dinner, and we played Settlers of Catan until after midnight (guess who won...me!)

On Saturday, we were up so early for a day of skiing. We had six people and one four wheel drive vehicle, so when we saw a sign saying "Tire Chains needed," this is what happened:

Kevin, Brendan, Wendy, Me, Kristen
Not pictured: Alex, our fearless driver.

We made it to Ski Apache by opening, but it took an hour to get everyone's lift tickets and equipment rentals. By 10:00am, we were skiing (PS--thanks for our family friend, Libba, for loaning us some ski apparel. We haven't bitten the bullet to buy our own!)

Kristen, Alex, Kevin, Wendy, Brendan, Me

Overall, it was a great day. The staff was not prepared for the holiday weekend crowds and could have been faster with getting lift tickets to us that were all pre-paid and dealing with the lunch crowds. Plus, a couple of lifts were mysteriously experiencing breakdowns in the middle of the day. However, I was impressed with how expedient the equipment return process was, and they gave free hot chocolate, so there's that.

We got in maybe 5.5 hours of skiing, since the last lifts were at 4pm, as the sun starts going down around that time. My favorite run was deep freeze, but unfortunately, skiing down apache bowl to get there was nearly impossible because of how deep the powder was due to a lot of recent snow. After a panic attack in which Brendan kindly stuck by my side reminding me I wasn't going to die, a snowboarder gave me the tip to lean back.This really helped me get through the power without simply sinking, and I started to relax, realizing that it wasn't, indeed, my last day on earth.


We survived, and after a full day of skiing, we all returned to the hotel, changed clothes, and went to dinner at Grace O'Malley's. Here is our brave crew:


All in all, it was a great weekend! We returned home yesterday and finished Star Wars, A New Hope and then watched The Empire Strikes Back. Today will entail grocery shopping and barre class (though I don't know how I will get through it, my calves are SO SORE), making dinner, and watching The Return of the Jedi.

Spring semester officially begins for our students tomorrow, though I won't meet mine until Wednesday.

I hope your MLK day is restful and reflective. While we have come so far in our battle for equality, we still have such a long way to go. Martin Luther King inspires me to never stay silent about issues that matter, and always speak up for people's rights.

Here is to being inspired to do better,
<3


Thursday, January 14, 2016

First Week Back

Ah, the first week back at work. Waking up naturally is replaced with getting up at the sound of the alarm, wearing PJs all day is traded for dressing professionally, and gourmet dinners in the dining room have become more like hummus, chips, and veggies on the couch.

Okay, exactly like that:


Well, we took matter into our own hands and ordered a bar cart for our dining room. Moscow Mules, anyone?


I recommend overstock.com for affordable bar carts! 
Jokes aside though, the first week back has been fine, except for Tuesday when a headache left me in bed for five hours in the middle of the day. I rarely get painful headaches, so that was a nasty surprise. Luckily, it waited until after my meetings to start.

I returned to yoga last night, and it was so great to be back and to resume dinners with my friend Kristen (we taught her to play Ticket to Ride, and I think it's safe to say she's a fan). Barre class is still going strong for me, and things on the eating front are getting better now that I don't have five kinds of pie to choose from.

I just wanted to check in and say that we're doing well outside of the blissful break. I miss the students (greatly), but I will be ready to enjoy a three day weekend after I lead a tutor training tomorrow morning.

Baby steps, right?
<3


Sunday, January 10, 2016

Best Ending to Break

Winter break made for an awesome month. While normally, we would have headed back to work last Monday, this year, we got an extra week (the semester will end a week later now), and it was much appreciated since it gave us time to unpack, straighten up the house, decompress, grocery shop, and get our acts (a little) together.

On Friday night, I brought out my new inspiralizer and Inspiralized cookbook. I started with two easy recipes: Spicy Jicama Strings (an imitation french fry recipe to be served with our veggie burgers) and the Cucumber Noodle Salad with Feta, Arugula and Red Wine Vinaigrette. Overall, there was a little bit of a learning curve with inspiralizer, but after watching several videos, I truly had the hang of it, and the recipes I have tried were all tasty and healthy. Getting back to eating salad everyday is something my body was truly looking forward to after the holidays, and the inspiralizer has made me "inspired" (get it?) to try new and fun salad recipes.


On Saturday morning, I attended barre class, and while I was gone, Brendan put together these open faced breakfast sandwiches using the leftover salad and hamburger buns. They were so good, and I felt so loved when I came home to this.


Then, Brendan and I ran errands. One of our errands was picking up loose leaf tea at Tea 2 Go here in Midland to use with the teapot and infuser that Brendan gave me for Christmas. We loved our experience, and we will definitely be back to refill our tins. We started with three flavors: Coconut Chai, Black Raspberries and Creme, and Prickly Pear. We have tried the first two I mentioned (I'm enjoying Chai now) and they are both great. This teapot is so cute, isn't it?


Last night, we worked together in the kitchen to pull off two more inspiralizer recipes: Apples with Shaved Asparagus, Gorgonzola, and Pecans Salad and Tofu Miso-Tahini Carrot Bowl. Both were delicious! I feel like I should mention here that this cookbook is not vegetarian, so there are recipes for meat eaters and vegetarians/vegans alike. I've never had anything like the main course. It was savory and definitely stepped up the flavor of baked tofu. 


After cleaning the kitchen, we played not one, not two, but three games of Ticket to Ride. I won the first two games and lost by only one point in the third game! We honestly had a blast drinking cocktails and playing board games. It was, in my opinion, the perfect Saturday night.

Today, we were lazy. We slept in, watched the White Christmas special of Black Mirror on Netflix (creepy, of course), did some laundry, and I cooked us a fabulous (if I do say so myself) dinner. I made this Meyer Lemon Fettuccine that I made two years ago (you see, my cousin Amanda gave me Meyer Lemons from my aunt Annette's backyard again).  This time, I used 1/2 pasta and 1/2 spiralized zucchini noodles. It sounds weird, but it was really good. I also made a huge salad with spring mix, watercress, baby arugula, strawberries, raspberries, spiralized granny smith apple, and shaved Cheshire cheese. One of Brendan's birthday gifts from his parents was a Zimmerman's cheese of the month club. The Cheshire cheese came from there, and we are about to enjoy a tiny bit of cheese as our dessert tonight. This was a GREAT GIFT, and I highly recommend it as an idea for any cheese lover in your life.

Well, tomorrow, it is back to work at 8am. That is going to be hard since I have been sleeping until 9am and getting out of bed around 10am lately (I know, go grab your tiny violins). I am sad to see winter break end, but at the same time, I am looking forward to everything that the new semester will bring. We won't have students this week, so in many ways, this first week back is weird because being with them gives me so much energy and motivation, and without them, I don't feel at all like myself at work. However, I think this week will go by very fast.

We hope your weekend was restful, relaxing, fun, tasty, and everything that you wanted it to be.
<3

Thursday, January 7, 2016

Off to a Running Start

The first week of 2016 has treated us well. We got to see Corley, Elda, Amanda & Matt, and my family, and we got to eat pasta, pizza, sushi, and pho (in that order but on all different nights). What more could anyone ask for? Finally, on the 5th, it was time to stop eating and start packing up our cats and heading home.

Since returning home, we've been fairly productive as we gear up to head back to work on Monday. We enjoyed one last night of the Christmas decor on Tuesday before putting everything away yesterday. Also, I started tidying according to the wisdom in my new book The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up. So far, I have filled FOUR trash bags of tops and bottoms to give to Goodwill. I usually have a difficult time parting with things, but this book made the process so easy. I'm also thrilled with the folding solutions. For the first time ever, I feel like I am making the most of my drawer space. This book is a must read for anyone that is ready to make a change. The process is by no means instantaneous (it will probably take me a few months to get through all the categories), but I really feel these results will be easy to maintain compared to other less structured methods of organization. I'll do a blog post when I finish each section!

I returned to my barre studio in Midland yesterday and went to class again today. It feels good to be back after attending my last 7 classes in Austin (where the studio space is smaller, and I don't know the teachers as well). Despite only gaining one pound over the break, I feel like I gained more because I have indulged my sweet tooth SO MUCH lately (hello candy and all the pies). Someone needs to steal my bag of stocking candy from me!

Today, Brendan and I took out every shelf and drawer from our fridge and scrubbed and cleaned each and every piece. Tomorrow, it's pantry organization, errands, and grocery shopping. I don't want vacation to be over, but at the same time, we probably need to return to some kind of schedule.

I've enjoyed all the relaxation and Netflix binging. In the last week, Brendan and I watched all of the Netflix series Making a Murderer; I'm sure you've read about it but it's so compelling, tragic, and important. Get thee to the couch! I also finished the last season of Parenthood in the last 3 nights. If you watch, get tissues ready: the last season is everything I hoped it would be and more. I promised Brendan that Star Wars was next because we still haven't seen the new film (I guess we're in the 1% of the population on that one). Fun Fact: I've only seen most of episode IV...and I honestly feel like it's so/so, but I'm trying to keep an open mind.

Goodnight everyone. We hope the first week of 2016 went smoothly for each of you!
<3



Friday, January 1, 2016

Start of 2016 and 2015 highlights

Happy New Year, friends!

We celebrated last night by getting dressed up and eating a delicious dinner at Wink, the restaurant that we became engaged at.



I even had my hair and make up done at Blast Blow Dry with the same stylist and make up artist that did my hair and make up on our wedding day.



It was such a fun night, and I really enjoyed dressing up. We ate the most wonderful meal (still dreaming of our cheese plate dessert), drank lots of wine, and shared a midnight kiss. It was our version of the perfect way to celebrate New Years Eve.

I also completed a big personal goal of mine yesterday when I attended my 100th ever barre class. I did this with 6 months of barre studio membership, the last 5 months being consecutive. I attended 98 of the classes at Define (both Midland and Austin locations) and 2 of the classes at Barre3 in Austin. When I got home, Brendan and my mom surprised me by putting these candles on a cake we had leftover.

50X2
 I didn't actually eat any of the cake, since that would feel pretty counter productive. I'm SO glad I discovered barre classes this year. Attending 100 classes in 2015 was definitely one of my favorite things about this past year. I feel stronger, more toned, and happier. Going into the fall semester, I doubted that I could make time to workout 5X a week every week (4 barre classes + 1 yoga class), but I did it, and I even managed to keep it up over the holidays (when I normally lose my focus). I went to class 6 times the first week of winter break, 4 times the week of Christmas, and 4 times so far this week. I have been eating WHATEVER I want (which includes a lot of sweets), so at least barre has kept me a little more balanced.


On Tuesday, Brendan had a great time at the Longhorns vs. Huskies game, especially since UConn won. I felt conflicted about who to root for, but I was happy he was happy. 

So that was the end of our 2015. It was a great year with many highlights. In January, we became homeowners, which has been a wonderful and life changing experience. I feel so lucky to live in our house. It has really improved our quality of life greatly. In March, we threw a housewarming party and Brendan got to go to Florida and see Red Sox spring training games with his Dad and grandparents while I spent quality time with friends and family in Austin. In May, I came to Austin to throw my cousin Amanda a bridal shower and be at her bachelorette weekend. In June, we cruised Alaska with my family and visited Seattle for a few days. Once home, we continued working on our backyard. In July, we took an amazing 3 week trip to Costa Rica, celebrated 2 years of marriage, and got to see Mimi and a Red Sox game. In August, we both got promotions. In September, Amanda and Matt came to Midland to spend Labor Day weekend in our new house, and in October, we flew to New Orleans and celebrated their big day. In November, a conference in Nashville allowed us to see McNeese friends and present our work. Brendan's parents came to Midland for Thanksgiving, saw our new house, and we celebrated our first holiday in our home. We ended the year by celebrating Christmas in Austin. 2015 was a great year, and I am very, very thankful for it.

2015 was also (unofficially) the year of the baby. Friends Peggy and Eric welcomed daughter, Audrey, in January. After a bit of a lull, there was a baby boom: friends Will and Missy welcomed daughter Lyla in August, while friends Jennifer and Michael welcomed son, Sidney, in September. My cousin Stephen and his wife Casey welcomed son, Callen, in October, and 3 weeks later, friends Julie and Dave welcomed daughter, Ellie. Just 2 days later, friends Lauren and Steve welcomed son, Alex. In November, friends Justin and Lauren welcomed daughter Morgan, and in December friends Bill and Megen welcomed son, William. If you lost count, that is 8 babies in 2015 and 7 of them in a span of 4 months. The fun continues next year, as friends Curtis and Katie are expecting a baby in March and Brendan's cousin Jack and his wife Becky are expecting a baby in June. We are very happy about all the new additions and thrilled for our friends.

I'm not making resolutions for 2016, except for resolving to draft a list of 6 specific and reasonable goals on the first day of each month of the year. So far, I have 3 goals for January: Organize my closet, attend 17 barre classes, and cook 3 recipes from my new cookbook, Inspiralized. Tonight, my dear friend Corley is coming over for dinner. 2016 is off to a great start.

We hope for health and happiness for each and every one of you, friends. Happy 2016!
<3

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