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Friday, January 31, 2014

four simple goals: february

It's time for a new series here on Finding Joy!  Each month I'll be sharing four simple goals on the blog.  You can join along by making your own four simple goals for the month - things that you might not do if you didn't commit to it, but not anything that feels overwhelming or that can't get done in a 28/30/31 day period.  You can also use my monthly image (above) on your own blog if you'd like, just link back to here and share a link to your blog below in the comments section so I can check it out!   

A big thanks to Melinda for inspiring me to just go for this.  I mentioned a couple of days ago that I was having a hard time figuring out what to do with my goals for this year, and a comment from Melinda made me decide to take a chance with this.  What do I have to lose? 

These are the four simple goals I would like to complete in February. 

1. Plan my garden: Will I rent a whole 4 x 8 plot at the community garden again?  Try to fill my new spacious front porch with potted vegetables and flowers?  Just stick to something simple and get the majority of my veggies from our CSA and farmer's markets?  Time for some decisions so I can get the seeds I need.

2. Decorate for the season: The Christmas decorations are down, and things are empty.  I need hearts, and pink, and flowers in my house!   

3Take an overnight trip with Paul: We made a resolution as a couple to make this our "recharge" year.  I got the inspiration from a coworker who started assigning a theme to each year with her husband.  Last year they made it a "fun" year because they were putting so much time and energy into their jobs.  This year is a "wellness" year so they will both be exercising and eating better.  With Paul working and going to school and me keeping myself busy with all my work and hobbies, we decided we would do well to take time for little recharges throughout the year.  This will mean taking little step backs from everyday busyness with overnight trips and special dates - and will also mean making an effort at better self care individually.  Basically like a treat-yo-self year (which sounds a lot more fun than "recharge"!).    

4. Check Facebook once a day: It's embarrassing that I have to put this on here.  But in an attempt to be more present and less addicted to my computer, I'm only going to check Fcebook once a day.  I have a strange habit of just automatically opening Facebook when I have a couple of free seconds in front of a computer.  I usually see the same posts, the same articles that I had already seen earlier in the day, so there was no real need to go back.  Time to get this social media habit in check!

(If I would have made a list for January it would have included: sign up for a roller derby bootcamp (check!), make homemade ice cream (check!), plan a trip (check!), and finish all my 101 goals (complete un-check!).  

Four simple goals before 2014 -- Four simple goals before 2013

What are your four simple goals for February? 

Thursday, January 30, 2014

a great life

Oh January.  This month is always full of high hopes and freezing cold days and nights.  I love the excitement of starting a new year, and I've done a better job the past couple years of enjoying myself despite the frigid temperatures.  But even though there are many parts of January I find joy in, I can't deny that it can also be a difficult month.  It's the month of realization that winter is really just starting, and we've got another few months of layers and low temps and boots.  

January usually requires a little extra effort to see the good in my life.  There's a reason that December ends with festivals of lights.  You need boosts of hope and good will in the darkest time of the year.  

Tonight it wasn't difficult at all to feel gratitude and be aware of all the love in my life.  

I came home three days this week to special packages - a belated Christmas present, a package of cookies, and a thank you letter with really kind words about my painting.  How did I get so lucky?  So tonight my heart is warm, and I'm watching a little Downton with Paul and our pups.  So simple, so lovely, so homey.  

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

four simple goals

Remember when I wrote about accomplishing four simple goals before 2014?  I was working on a post about my New Year's resolutions, and I realized I never did a final check in post about how I ended up doing.  

1. Visit our neighborhood bakery: I doubley checked this one off my list.  I visited Amarynth Bakery shortly after I wrote this goal list and also made a few stops to Rocket Baby Bakery.  It's silly now looking back that I even needed to put this on my goal list with how much I love bakeries. 

2. Make Kombucha: I made a valient effort at this, but I didn't find my efforts worthy of a blog post since black mold grew on top of it.  But I did end up getting a new SCOBY, so I think this will be worth another try.  And when I have something that I find worthy, you will definitely be hearing about it. 

3. Clean my wedding dress: the only outright fail of the group.  I realized how expensive this was going to be, and I decided to wait until the new year to do this.  It will be going on my 30 before 30 list.  It's something I still want to do, but I have to be able to afford it. 

4. Start a new sketchbook: Another success!  I never ended up taking pictures of it, but I definitely started a new sketchbook.  It's not pretty or fancy, but it exists, which is more than it was before I made this list.  I'd love to keep working on this so that my sketchbook is pretty to look at, but that would really just be icing on the cake.  

2013 seemed to be the year of writing goal lists.  With my 101 goals in 1001 days challenge coming to an end next week, I've been thinking about what kind of challenges I want to make for myself in 2014.  I've made so many goal lists lately that I don't know if they're going to be as effective for me this year.  I learned that if I have too many goal lists active at once they get kind of muddled up, and I end up not feeling as motivated to meet challenges.  So instead this year, I might stick to the resolutions I've made and just see what kind of challenges naturally present themselves.  The other idea I had was to make a list like this at the beginning of each month with 2-3 very practical goals and 1-2 reaching type goals.  Maybe I'll have to try both approaches and see what works best for me. 

What about you?  Are you goal oriented or is there another way you motivate yourself?

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

polar vortex adventure walk

I'm enjoying my fourth day off work this month due to cold.  Let me just emphasize that Wisconsin doesn't close down for anything in the winter.  And they've closed down *four times* in a month.  Winter 2014 is not messing around.  It's so intense they've nicknamed it the "polar vortex."  I fought off the cooped-up-blues today with a little trip to Lake Michigan to do what else? - take some pictures.  I forgot my real camera at home, so I made due with my little android camera, and I'm so glad I did.  

I found rocks covered in ice and snow, and I found steam rising off the lake.  Gorgeous - and so Icelandy.  It helped following my thriving in winter advice for myself: to get outside in winter, even if it feels completely illogical.How are you handling the cold?  

Thursday, January 23, 2014

36 hours in milwaukee (part 1)

If you're like many people I know, you probably rarely visit some of the top attractions in your city unless you have visitors from out of town.  The same is true for me in Milwaukee.  When the New York Times came out with their most recent 36 hours in Milwaukee guide, Paul and his coworkers decided to turn it into a challenge of sorts.  They would follow the guide with a little tweaking and get to know their city better (and I would come along because it sounded awesome).  

The 36 hours concept is simple: most people have about 36 hours in a city if they're visiting just for the weekend.  So each guide helps you prioritize your time so that you see the best of what the city has to offer in the time you have there.  We did the 36 hours in Milwaukee challenge over the MLK weekend, and I'll be sharing the highlights here in two parts.  Get ready for some Milwaukee amazingness!!

F R I D A Y    N I G H T
6:00 Milwaukee Art Museum: While I was eating pizza, the rest of the crew started the weekend at a Museum After Dark event.  Once a month, the Art Museum has an evening event tailored to the younger, hipper crowd.  This month's theme was salsa, so apparently there was lots of salsa dancing and lots of salsas to try with some fish tacos to go with them.  Next month's theme is Cocktails and Crafts which sounds amazing!  (These pictures are from past visits to the museum.  It is one of my favorite places to go, and seeing the front entrance, the Chihuly sculptures, and the Georgia O'Keefe paintings never fails to lift my mood.)

7:30 Bryant's Cocktail Lounge (not pictured): While I was watching roller derby, the rest of the crew continued on to one of the most fun bars in Milwaukee (or so I'm told).  The NYT says this about the bar:
After-dinner cocktails await in the historic Mitchell Street neighborhood at Bryant’s Cocktail Lounge, a dim, lushly upholstered time capsule of a bar inside a nondescript two-story house. On a recent evening the soundtrack was Frank Sinatra and Dean Martin playing over a vintage McIntosh stereo system.

9:00 Blue Jacket (Third Coast Cuisine): This is where I joined in!  The Third Coast refers to the Great Lakes region, America's coastal area that borders lakes instead of oceans like the first two coast regions.  Blue Jacketserves Third Coast cuisine with flare in a seasonal menu that sources local ingredients.  I noticed their menu included very simple items, most of which were known by their main ingredient (fish, brussel sprouts, soup, etc).  

Since I had already enjoyed pizza and derby, I ordered a Summer Mule (a summer version of the Moscow Mule that sounded tasty) and some ice cream.  The rest of the group caught me up on the previous two stops, and we made a plan of action for Saturday.  The day would include Mitchell Park Domes, Usinger'sMader'sClock Shadow CreameryPurple Door Ice Cream, Anodyne Coffee, Zaffiro's, and would finish with a drink at Wolski's

S A T U R D A Y   M O R N I N G
10:00 Mitchell Park Domes: These domes offer Milwaukee residents a horticultural respite from bad weather and a beautiful place to visit in nice weather.  Each dome houses a different environment, and the main dome has exhibits that change seasonally.  During the winter, the Domes house a farmer's market on Saturday mornings (which meant free admission!) and a really neat train exhibit in the main dome.  I was in love.    

Luckily the main dome also had a coffee station, so all the 36 hours participants could gear up for our busy day.  After taking some photos and buying some produce, we took stock of our day.  Because Mitchell Domes took less time than anticipated, we pushed lunch back and decided to check out Usinger's and the Wisconsin Cheese Mart first.  Flexibility is really the name of the game when completing a 36 hours challenge (it also helps to have someone who actually knows the city to help you plan your weekend as they will have a better idea of how to get in free or at reduced cost to the sites - this really helped us when we were making our schedule since it wasn't as affordable to do it in the way the NYT set it out). 

Usinger's, Wisconsin Cheese Mart, and Mader's are all located on Old World Third street, just north of Milwaukee's downtown area.  The street is home to some of the German-iest bars and restaurants in the city.  Across the street is Pere Marquette Park which hosts concerts, political speakers (I saw Bill Clinton there last year), Christmas lights, and other events throughout the year.  I've also seen a few river tours leave from the park - it's tough to see in this photo, but the river is just behind the park.

11:00 Usinger's Fine Sausage: walking into Usinger's feels like walking right into Germany.  The walls are painted with murals of "sausage gnomes" enjoying the process of making sausage (not quite as creepy as it sounds), and all the writing on the murals is done in German.  Even this mostly-Vegetarian enjoyed a trip here for the smells and history.  NYT says this about Usinger's: Usinger’s is Milwaukee’s oldest, greatest temple of sausage. You can buy the 133-year-old, family-owned company’s smoothly textured bratwurst and piquant beef summer sausage all over town, but nothing beats a visit to the downtown store, with its hand-painted elf-themed murals and knowledgeable, no-nonsense veteran clerks.

When we had our fill of sausage, we walked down the block to the Wisconsin Cheese Mart.  We were two thirds of our way through the Wisconsin trifecta of sausage, cheese, and beer.

11:15: Wisconsin Cheese Mart: Not included on the most recent list, the 36 hours sticker in the window tipped me off that the Wisconsin Cheese Mart had been included on the 2008 list.  So we must have somehow knew that we were supposed to go here even though the 2013 guide didn't include it. 

Cow butt!

The Cheese Mart, founded in 1938, sells hundreds of varieties of cheeses, and the staff will be able to point you in the right direction to find something to fit your taste.  There's always samples out, and we even managed to find a few tasty cheese on sale!  I've been to a happy hour here before and was really impressed with the food menu and the selection of beers on tap.  Definitely worth adding to a trip to Old World Third!  

Ready to book your ticket to Milwaukee yet?  It might be cold if you decide to come now, but as you can see, it didn't stop us!  In Milwaukee you just have to bundle up and go for it, otherwise you wouldn't do anything for about six months.  

*If you checked out the original NYT article, you'll notice that we've taken some liberties with the schedule.  I like to think we stuck to the heart of the challenge if not the exact timeline.  After tomorrow's post, you'll also see that we cut three locations and added others in their place.  We decided against a brewery tour in lieu of naps since we were tired and had all done tours multiple times.  We cut the bookstore (much to my chagrin) and a burger shop, but added the cheese mart, a coffee store, and another burger shop in their places.  Again, flexibility was key :)   

Check back tomorrow for part two of 36 hours in Milwaukee!

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

i belong with you

Here's yet another version of the lyric painting I've been so enjoying doing lately.  This one is the "I Belong with You" song by the Lumineers, painted for my sister-in-law who cannot get enough of teal blue and white.  I think she liked it, and it was super fun to be able to give her something meaningful and homemade for Christmas.  

I'm cold and tired today (was 1 degree when I woke up this morning at 5:45 am...ugh), so I'm keeping this short and simple.  Hope everyone is having a wonderful hump day.  Thanks so much for spending part of your day reading my musings.  

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

derby girls

My months' long wait for the Brewcity Bruisers roller derby season is finally at an end!  I'm a season ticket holder this year, so for the next few months if you can't find me, look for me at the U.S. Cellular Arena (or actually probably don't, the bouts only happen once a month so odds are I'm somewhere else).  If all of that wasn't exciting enough, this year I also know one of the Bruisers personally!!  My friend Mary has been practicing and training hard for the past two years and was drafted on to the Maiden Milwaukee team!  Congrats Mary (or Mary Mother of Quad as she's known on the derby track)!  I was so happy for her and so excited to watch her play. 

My friend Meghan and I continued our pre-game pizza tradition.  We weren't skating so we didn't have to worry about what we were eating.  After the pizza, we walked over to the arena to get good seats to catch all the action.

Here are the Maidens!  Mary is in the bottom left corner.  It was a repeat match up of last year's season end battle: the Crazy 8s vs the Maidens.  The 8s came out ahead again this weekend, but the Maidens are ready for the next match up!  If Friday was any indication, we've got a good season in store for us.

----  This is a picture of us from last year before one of the bouts (games).  I love it because Mary is taking a picture with her future teammates - with no idea that she would be in their spots in less than a year!  -----

P.S. I might be going to a roller derby boot camp this weekend, but don't tell my mom!  Don't want her worrying about me breaking any bones.  But I don't even have a derby name yet, so it doesn't really count.

Monday, January 20, 2014

today i'm thankful for...

Martin Luther King Jr and his example of tireless commitment to justice

the unnamed men and women who made up the civil rights movement and 
all who fight for a more just and peaceful world

the reminder that change can happen when people stand together

national holidays that celebrate heroes of color

a day at home to relax and do some winter cleaning

the person who returned my debit card to the service counter at the grocery store

the return of Sherlock Holmes

the best weekend I've had in Milwaukee in a long time

Friday, January 17, 2014

steven smith teamaker

While in Portland we stopped by the tasting room at Steven Smith Teamaker.  The creator of both Stash and Tazo tea companies, Steve Smith now creates teas under his name sake company in Portland, and tea lovers (like me!) can stop by to taste and shop for teas. 

The tea shop was full of pretty tea pots, holiday decorations, hipsters, and plenty of tea available for purchase.  I love the Steven Smith tea packaging.  Green teas get green boxes, black get grey, and herbal get organge.  I thought I was so clever when I figured that all out of my own. 

Each tea has an assigned number, some assigned because of a special meaning and others assigned at random.

We decided to do a tea flight - and this former-beer-lover was very excited to have a different kind of flight to try out.  We did one black tea flight and one herbal/green tea flight.  Our very kind tea-rista (what do you call a tea waiter?) brought over our teas with instructions on how to use our slurping spoons and advised us to try the teas in order from lightest to darkest (the same as you do with beers!). 

The slurping spoon.

To be used just like so...?

The black tea flight.  I loved reading that each cup of brewed tea came with loose tea and an explanation card.

The whole setup!  The water is for cleaning off your spoon and the cookies for cleansing your pallet. 

Becca approves!  Note: after we had each slurped a lot of tea from our spoons, we realized we would be there all night if we didn't just start chugging.  So I got myself some cream and sugar for all my light teas and drank myself some tea.  YUM. 

After we finished our samples, I bought several packs of loose leaf teas and some iced tea for my dad (which I think he enjoyed - I loved it).  I added this to my baby collection of Smith tea my favorite sister-in-law had already given.  I used all the self control I had to wait until I was back in Milwaukee to try them out.  They tasted pretty nice in my new Anthropologie mug.  I don't know if I've ever felt so fancy. 

Gorgeous and delicious.  My favorite combination.  

Are you a tea drinker?  Do you have a favorite mug?  Mine is my new "M" mug.  The gold kind of makes me feel special. 

Thursday, January 16, 2014

new year's portland style

After spending some time with my side of the family for Christmas, Paul and I flew out to Portland to see his crazy fabulous family and friends.  We flew in just in time for a fun New Year's Eve gathering, and the party was complete with party hats for all!

Welcoming 2014 with sparkly wavey things (pre party hats being passed out)!

I just love Paul's aunt and uncle - they are some of the best hosts I know and really know how to throw a party.  I always tell them they should open a bed and breakfast.  His aunt would make the most amazing dishes, and his uncle would be the comedian who would make everyone feel at home.  (Luckily his uncle doesn't read this blog otherwise he might make me take down this adorable picture.) 

New Year's day we took our time waking up and then drove to the Oregon coast to ease into the new year in pure Oregon sytle.  During every single Oregon road trip - without fail - I feel like I'm living in a postcard.  Our view looked like this for a solid hour (the drive from Portland to the coast is less than two hours). 

My favorite trips to the coast involve a stop by the Tillamook Cheese factory.  What dairy-tolerant person doesn't love free cheese samples and triple scoop nowls of ice cream for less than $5?!  Don't introduce me to them because we might not get along.  Or maybe do, and I'll take their samples and ice cream.  (P.S. Do you see those jackets they're wearing?  It was January 1, and we were wearing light jackets and no gloves!!  I'll take winter weather like that any day.)


And then we made it to our coast lodgings, and my jaw dropped.  Sometimes in my life I feel like I have to pinch myself because I'm suddenly seeing so incredibly beautiful, I feel like I can't still possibly be in my own life.  But that's the great thing about life.  Lots of lovely little - and big - beautiful moments.

I couldn't think of a better way to welcome in 2014. 

Oh, did someone here just finish at the Tillamook Cheese Factory? 

One more photo from mine and Paul's sunset shoot at the beach.  Still haven't printed these pictures off, but you bet I'll be doing it soon. 

There was a moment on the beach when Paul pointed out a shell on the beach to me (or maybe I showed him one I picked up? do those exact details really matter?), and I got this strong feeling of "oh my gosh, I can see Paul doing this as a dad someday."  I told him that someday he'll be holding all the shells/treasures our kids find and give to him to hold.  And I'm pretty sure he just smiled or held my hand or did something very Paul-esque like that.  That little moment mixed with that beautiful sunset was pure magic. 

Oh, what's that?  You want a few more pictures of the ocean?  Well then let me share a few more!

Thanks 2014 for starting off so fabulously.  Hope there's lots more moments of magic left in you.