A year in review

I was looking back at my goals this year and I’ve been super happy with my progress.

-I’ve donated 790 items and I’m close to my goal of 800

-I’ve had 131 workouts with my trainer out of my goal of 130

-I’ve read 60 books out of my goal of 52

-I published my print book

Since it’s not fun to look at the items I’ve donated or workout selfies, I wanted to take a look back at the books I read. Instead of grouping them by month, I sorted the books into general categories.

Category 1 : Autobiographical (comedy) 

10 books in this category and these were mostly fantastic, strong women with a few (British) men included.

Favorite Pick: Scrappy Little Nobody & It’s Not Me It’s You

Category 2 : Alphabet Series Mysteries

25 in this category which makes up nearly half of my annual goal. I read A to X from Sue Grafton plus Kinsey and Me. Great series and really got me back in my reading groove.

Category 3 : Vonnegut

Years ago someone suggested reading one or two Vonnegut books a year so you’ll always have a new novel and I tend to follow that advice. Also, I can’t read too many in a row or I go a little crazy. 2 in this category this year.

Category 4 : Graphic Novels

3 books in this category and these came recommended from MSNBC host Rachel Maddow. I can’t recommend them highly enough. Should be required reading for all Americans.

Category 5 : Food

Total of 3 in this category in 2017. I started the Whole30 in May and read these books over the second half of the year.

Category 6 : General Fiction

4 in this category and the Handmaid’s Tale was my clear favorite.

Category 7 : Non-Fiction

Five this year and it’s so hard to pick a favorite. I was so impressed  with Gloria Vanderbilt – her life stories and intelligence into her 90s was inspiring. Paul Kalanithi’s When Breath Becomes Air was so beautiful I cried. The Psychopath Test was really interesting as a subject and while I loved the content of Braving the Wilderness, the font and type was so poor that I struggled to understand the message.

Category 8 : Mystery / Drama

Just 4 this year, but I made the Sue Grafton books separate for a reason. If you haven’t read Murder on the Orient Express it’s a great read, reminds me of Sherlock Holmes. Otherwise John Grisham’s Rogue Lawyer was a favorite. Steve Berry is very similar to Dan Brown only… better.

Category 9 : Real Life

These were more real life non-fiction and both were enjoyable. I recommend the Women in Science book for anyone with younger children. The illustrations are beautiful and I’d like to pick up Women in Sport next year

Category 10 : Fantasy

While this is not typically a favorite category of mine, the Sarah Maas series came highly recommended and I read the first 2 books on vacation this summer.

Total Read: 60

I do have quite a few books that I’ve started and not yet finished. I purchased a half dozen more for Christmas but I also want to finish up the ones I started earlier this year. Here are the 4 I have in progress:



8 hours starting… NOW

I was up early this first Saturday in 2017 to take Wilson to the vet. It’s raining pretty steadily so not the most fun way to spend my 7:30am but he’s good for the next year and was able to warm up in the car thanks to a nest of blankets.


I take the car in for repairs in 9 days + the house is a bit of a mess so I decided to make this an 8 hour get-shit-done, finally clean the house, finish trim, be productive and go to bed exhausted work day.

It’s almost 10am (don’t ask what I did from 8am-now, I think I was in a stupor) which means I can work through to 8pm, factoring in 2 breaks for lunch and dinner.

Once an hour or so I’ll pop back in and share what I’ve been up to. For reference, during the week I managed to get the quarter round trim installed down the hall and in 2 sections in the living room, leaving me with 8 more sections to finish the living room. Currently Jackson is sitting on his bed in the middle of the living room while the dachshunds are making a big nest on my bed to stay warm.

First up: some basic cleaning because before I add more chaos I better start with a clean slate.

10:35am – I’ve mostly focused on the kitchen for this first little burst, filling the sink with water to soak the dishes and filling up the dishwasher. I cleaned up the spice cabinet, put some food in new containers, took canned goods and extra jars out to the garage, hung up the dog leash, put away food, put out the recycling, moved the toilet paper in from the garage, put away new pillows, cleaned out and put away my purses, cleared off the kitchen table and started washing the bigger pots and pans.



and after:


Not too bad for 30 minutes!

The other side of the living room is still pretty bad:


Yes, I am watching Star Wars while I work.

11:30am – I stopped for a bit of lunch before continuing to work and found a sticky stain on my table so I cleaned that up as well. Started putting away the toilet paper in 2 bathrooms, installed 1 piece of baseboard (which is gonna need a lot of caulk!), washed a couple more pans and started a pot of water, apples, orange rinds, cinnamon sticks and cloves on the stove to make the house smell good. That’s on a simmer now and I also need to roast some veggies in the oven. Thankfully all of these things will also keep the house warm and toasty while it’s raining outside.

2:15pm – well it’s been a little slow as I catch up on emails but I also installed the trim around the living room. I just need one more bigger piece of baseboard to finish up!

(Okay, while I was working here I also had to rest for awhile after feeling like crap. Just about ready to finish the quarter round in the living room and ran out of baseboards! After a quick trip to Home Depot I’m back in business and finishing up)

By 8pm Saturday a lot was done! The living room baseboards and trim were installed and furniture all moved back into place and I set up the saw in here for future cuts. The table has been mostly cleared off and I started sorting through papers from the office I need to organize and file.

It’s challenging to keep the floors clean with the dogs in and out and constant rain but the runners are catching a lot of it. Next week it’s the trim in the bedrooms!

It’s beginning to look…

I’m just about done decorating for the holidays and planning to get a bunch of photos for the blog soon. But right now I’m just enjoying it – there are comfy blankets laid out and extra pillows, candles lit up all over the house and a pan of apples, oranges and cinnamon boiling on the stove making the whole house smell fantastic.

While I have projects galore on my mind, I am also loving the quiet days this week with less work and more downtime.

Packages are wrapped, dogs are wearing embarrassing sweaters, the house looks great and I’ve got wine. What else do you need?

Travel to Louisiana – Part 2 of Travel to Texas

While I was in Texas for my friend Melissa’s wedding, I decided it was high time I went to New Orleans. You know, experience new things and such. When I told my awesome client and friend Alyssa about this plan she got so excited all the Southern came out and she began planning my trip for me! But, as things happen, regional flooding in Louisiana devastated her small town outside Baton Rouge and there was a hurricane on the way.

So instead of spending 2 days together we carved out a couple hours beginning with lunch at Parrains Seafood, a local staple with the best oysters I have had in a long while:


After catching up over lunch we crossed the parking lot for coffee and I convinced Alyssa to begin putting her amazing stories online because the photos she takes and the stories she tells are powerful (this is her blog) and I am so excited that she’s sharing again.

We linger over coffee for awhile and then Alyssa agrees to a selfie but for a photographer that means 10 minutes to set up her cell phone on auto, even as other diners offer to help. No, this is how a photographer works 😉

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Processed with VSCO with c7 preset

Too soon I was back on my way and pulling into New Orleans in time for dinner. I stayed at a fantastic yoga studio up in the loft and while it’s small it was also perfectly situated on Magazine Street and in the middle of everything I want to see.

Wednesday morning I was off to the plantations, starting with the one that everyone knows: Oak Alley:


It’s gorgeous, the house tour is fantastic and so, so photogenic. I could string a hammock up between these trees and nap for hours:


At the end of our tour I was looking down to the back lawn where another tour guide was waiting to meet her next group. With a few photo filters this seemed to me a picture that could have been taken a hundred years ago:


I talked with a few tourists in from Australia and they recommended the Laura Plantation, just down the road and I loved my stop there.


While a much different plantation, this was a quieter stop and I had a nearly private tour (there were 2 of us plus the guide) and the history of the home and family that lived here was brilliant.


Brilliantly, we got to discuss a lot about history and I shared recommendations for my favorite new book (America’s First Daughter) and musical obsession (Hamilton) neither of which the young tour guide had read or seen. It was a beautiful place but I wanted to get back to town before traffic picked up so I skipped the swamp tours on my way back though I did stop at a beautiful cemetery.


Thanks to the elevation, floods and proximity to the Gulf, cemetery plots are all above ground here and, though different, they are beautiful.


There was a lot to explore so I made sure to try jambalaya, beignets and of course fried green tomatoes:


In the midst of my trip, I got some horrible news from a client in one of our group programs so while I was mostly “off line” and not working, I needed to be there despite my vacation. Without going into all the details, our client was in an accident where she was badly hurt and her infant son was killed. It’s still horrifying and tragic to think about and I’m glad that we could surround her with love and support as soon as it happened.

I was definitely feeling very raw and found myself crying when I thought of her loss so I took advantage of one of the perks of staying in a yoga studio and signed up for the evening ‘restorative yoga’ class with the studio’s owner. As it turned out, no one else showed up so I had a private lesson!

Friday brought a long drive back to Dallas for my flight home, made longer by the fact that my rental car did not have cruise control. It did, however, have a total of 7 miles on the odometer when I picked it up.


Friday night I stayed with my aunt, uncle and cousins in Dallas before returning the car and catching an early flight home Saturday morning. Not too bad of a trip to Dallas, Austin, Baton Rouge and New Orleans in 9 days!

Travel to Texas – Part 1

Recently I considered reactivating my defunct travel blog but bah, I don’t have the energy to keep up here, much less in 2 spots. I figure that the reason I was thinking about it was reuniting with my Scotland travel buddy Melissa, who recently got married in Texas. By the time I started adding all the pictures I needed a couple of posts so this is the first leg of the trip: Texas. Warning: there will be sweat.

I flew into Dallas late on a Friday, picking up my rental car and checking in for 2 nights. Since my body was still on California time I had a late dinner at Torchy’s Tacos: I picked the Republican and the Democrat and both were tasty (unlike real politicians):


Despite the time difference I was up early and headed out to the Dallas Arboretum and spent a couple hours walking around with my camera.


Melissa mentioned it was one of her favorite places in Dallas so I knew I’d have to see why.


Hard to argue with that.


The best, very random part, was that Saturdays in August were a steal with $5 parking and $1 to get in because who goes outdoors in Texas in August anyways?


Since the wedding wasn’t until the afternoon I had a little time to get ready before heading out. Like a good guest I didn’t take pictures during the ceremony but it was hard to hear Melissa at times and I resisted the urge to yell “LOUDER, CLEARER” during the vows like we used to do to each other during debate drills.

The reception was at the Chase building downtown in the Sky Lounge and it was beautiful.


It was awesome to catch up with my college friend Kirsten and her husband Hays over dinner:


And then dance with Melissa and her new husband Scott:


After dinner and dancing there was cake but also popsicles because this wasn’t a fussy wedding. In fact, we debated in the elevator what made it down to earth. The mac and cheese, said one guest, no, the onion rings with the veggies argued another. It might have been the popsicles or the confetti canon that exploded in the lobby when 50 people threw bundles of confetti on the departing couple.

Sunday morning I was up and out of town early, heading south to Austin. I had a meeting lined up with a Conquer client at the Whole Foods flagship store and their parking garage was the most technologically advanced thing I’d seen in a long time. Mary Ann and I worked on her funnel and business and had a great time!


In Austin, I chose to stay in a cute little camp trailer just for shits and giggles. Though the bathroom was tiny (smaller than an airplane’s) it had all the necessities.


I forgot to coat myself in a couple layers of OFF! so I got eaten by mosquitos and spent the rest of the trip scratching my poor legs. Sunday night I met up with my friend Vasavi for dinner and talking:


The next day (Monday) I was up early for a client meeting with my long-term client Maya (2 years and first time meeting!):


By this time my hair was saying “NO MORE HUMIDITY” but alas, there was little I could do to control the weather. I headed to a coffee shop to work for a bit and then met up with my awesome friend Kendra:


So all in all Austin was wonderful and weird and full of great people and I must go back. Monday night I was on the road again and made it to the eastern side of the state before I stopped for the night.

Not much to see since I took the backroads to avoid Houston traffic but there was a fantastic double rainbow that I had to pull off the freeway to snap:


Next up: NOLA


By the Dozen

I’m liking this new format of tracking all the little things I’ve done in a week!

1. The sewing spree continues and I am just about done with all of outer bags that were cut for the corn bags. Here they are:



I’m now working on mass producing the inner bags which will hold the corn, I’ve already gone through 2 spools of thread and will need to pick up more soon.

2. When my local feed shop went out of business I worried I would need to go out in the country for feed corn, which fills the corn bags, does not pop in the microwave, and is about $15 for a 50-lb bag. Luckily the Tractor Supply Co had bags in stock for under $10 and now I’m awash in corn!

Of course all that corn was to fill smaller bags and so I got 28 done before we ran out:


3. I’ve been procrastinating on the kitchen cabinet trim but just got sick of looking at it undone so I set up the saws in the backyard so I could make the angled cuts without kneeling on the ground:


4. Once they were cut and dry fitted I took them back outside for staining. The smallest container of golden pecan stain was more than enough and it took 2 coats to get them closer to the right shade of the cabinet:



5. At least one of my outdoor goals is done, I removed the raised flower bed from the backyard under the guest room window and need to break up the wood for recycling. Of course I immediately filled the spot with the big dog crate, wood storage and some gutters I’m working on to prevent the dogs from using the dirt patch as a toilet so it doesn’t actually look much better.



6. In the front yard I cleaned up some of the debris, washed off the bench and put out the outdoor rug making a nice clean slate:


7. I grabbed the pruning shears and attacked the rose bushes that I hated and wanted out. I still need to dig out the roots but it’s a good start!

8. After picking up some muslin, I started to line the curtains in the kitchen. Can you tell which ones having lining?


9. I picked up 2 dozen new bottles for spices (these ones) and decanted all my random spices into the bottles and labeled them.


10. At the same place I picked out 4 glass bottles for oils:


and I moved these to the baking cabinet so they’re easier to get out for cooking (they were above the stove). A few of the original bottles still had some oil so those extras are above the stove for refills.

11. Thursday was my monthly day off so instead of going out somewhere I spent the majority of the day in the backyard cleaning. First I used the string trimmer on the lantana:


and swept up the side yard walkway really well. It’s a mess again after I started raking and pruning the lantana in the raised bed but progress was made.

Then, 12, I tied back the bougainvillea which is beautiful but has the most dangerous spikes! Using some rope from the garage I pulled it up and back into the fence so I could work around it. I don’t have pics of that since it’s hard to see and I’m in the midst of working on a trellis that will allow the bougainvillea to grow UP and not OUT – right now it’s a bit dangerous to walk thru the side yard because those thorns are super spikey and painful.

I can’t wait to get the backyard looking better!

A dozen little things

I’m discovering that most of the work I need to do is the super small, annoying stuff that lingers instead of the big projects. To “finish” rooms I made a long list room by room of all the things that need to be done and I’m checking them off little by little.

Here’s what I accomplished this week:

1. Finished installed the front door transition. This one was by far the hardest as I kept having to cut into the boards piece by piece. But it’s secure and looks wonderful!


2. Installed a new shelf in the garage. These brackets were from the shelf I used to have behind the sofa and I just used some spare 1x3s for the shelf. Eventually I’ll get a larger piece of lumber or join them with the Kreg Jig but for now it’s just holding outdoor stuff that’s not breakable if it falls.


3. Hung the air dryer up on the wall just to get a little more room beside the washer and dryer. Luckily this is super lightweight!


4. Installed hooks for the extension cords, although I could only find 1 of the 3 I own…


5. Cut a bunch of spare wood into uniform lengths for a game of giant Jenga. I thought I had so much wood but it looks like I need a LOT more to make a serious tower.



6. Began installing the quarter round trim on the kitchen cabinets. These came up when I installed the floors and the originals are so splintered and crappy I got new ones.


7. Went through all my DVDs and wrote them down in a Google Drive Excel sheet. It’s nice to have everything I own in one place and I also threw away one DVD that wasn’t working and returned a duplicate TV season to Target.

8. Cleared off the front of my fridge. It’s a small thing but feels so much cleaner this way. On the side I still have some cute magnets and the folder for my receipts but it’s otherwise clean!

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9. Purchased a new frame at Ikea for the picture in my bedroom that went crash! boom!


10. Bought 2 cheap pool noodles and cut them with a serrated knife to fit my boots. Now the boots stand straight up in my closet.


11. Hung the chalkboard I made in the garage. I need to pick up some old school chalk to season it but then I’ll probably just use my chalk pen.


12. Stuffed the back pillow from my office Ikea chair with a ton of poly. This one was so wimpy, especially with the dogs sitting on it all the time so I opened up the seams and stuffed until it was more supportive.

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