Tuesday, December 31, 2013

2013 - In Review

2013 was a FABULOUS year. Dan and I had so much fun together. As it comes to an end, however, I am not sad. 2014 is the year we have been waiting for for FIVE YEARS, and I am ECSTATIC to see it finally here!

Some highlights from this year (links when appropriate):

-learned to sort of enjoy skiing
-joined a church
-Baptized at church

-enjoyed the touristy things around CO when Olly visited
-celebrated four years with Cadet Lovemuffin

-finished a fun study of The Books of the Bible with Dan, Mike, and Ellen
-traveled to Glenwood Springs
-my mom visited us in Colorado
-lots of skiing

-celebrated Dan's 24th birthday
-ran the Glow Run 5K

-attended the Flying Team piano burn
-enjoyed the end of the school-year with a great group of kids
-USAFA Ring Dance and the accompanying weekend

-Manitou Springs Wine Festival with Dan and Eryn
-Lucy and Simon visited all the way from England!
-watched one of my best friends (Lizzie) get married - finally!
-traveled back to Missouri while Dan was leading Boy Scouts around

-Dan returned to Colorado from his Philmont Boy Scout program in New Mexico
-had engagement photos taken at the USAFA Airfield
-created my 30 Before 30 List
-left to Visit Joe and Ellie (and baby Tyler) in Ohio
-created a list of my top 15 books of all-time

-welcomed a new group of wonderful 8th graders
-saw a surprise Sky Sox game
-went to an air show where I was able to climb through a B-24 (my favorite) with Dan and Aaron

-had a wonderful final Parents' Weekend at USAFA (#5 of 5)
-climbed to the top of Bishop Castle
-participated in a blogging challenge

-watched many Air Force football games
-worked hard to make my Etsy shop (Two Cats Decorations) take off
-spent my last Halloween alone (next year, Dan and I will be married and living together!)

-went on a wine and painting double date with good friends
-traveled home to Kansas City for Thanksgiving

-found out Dan is officially going to be a pilot in the US Air Force
-skied my first blue run at Steamboat Springs
-spent a wonderful weekend at Steamboat with Dan, Aaron, Jorden, Lindsey, Kaylon, and Matt
-signed up for my first full marathon (in April of 2014)
-traveled to Oregon to see Dan's family
-traveled to Pennsylvania to see Michelle and Lydia (separately)

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

To All - Merry Christmas

So far, this winter break has been a wonderful one because I have Dan by my side! :)

We are visiting his family in Oregon right now, but we fly out tomorrow (on Christmas day) to see some friends we haven't been able to spend time with in a long time. I'm so excited!

Since we'll be traveling tomorrow, I wanted to say it today:

M E R R Y 
C H R I S T M A S ,
E V E R Y O N E !

Thursday, December 19, 2013

December Update

Wow, it's been a while since I've posted. I've been BUSY, BUSY, BUSY, and that is my only excuse for being such a bad blogger.

In December, I have:
  • driven across Kansas to return to Colorado from Missouri, where we went for Thanksgiving break
  • suffered through proctoring tons of district assessments with my students (BORING)
  • spent a wonderful weekend with Dan and friends in Steamboat Springs
  • skied my very first BLUE run (Heavenly Daze at Steamboat Springs - thanks again, Aaron!)
  • fulfilled 10 magnet orders from shoppers on Etsy (and made over 250 magnets for those orders)
  • completed seven canvas collages for buyers from my Etsy shop {click here to visit my shop}
  • celebrated the completion of the first semester with my students and colleagues with food, Elf, foosball, ping pong, and dancing
  • tried a new (and delicious) cookie recipe
  • celebrated Dan receive PILOT as his job and finish his ninth out of ten semesters at the Air Force Academy

As of this this evening, I have ONE work day left for the semester... and it's a teacher work day! Yay! We will soon leave to visit Dan's family in Portland and then a couple friends in Philadelphia. Both trips should be fun, and it'll be nice to experience a new city (never been to Philly).

I just wanted to post a quick update since it had been over a week... oops! 

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Marathon, Here I Come!

I can't believe I am actually doing it. FINALLY, I am really going to do it. I am going to accomplish a LIFELONG dream on April 27th, 2014, just one month and three days before my wedding.


That's right. My amazing friend Lizzie (who blogs over at Seis Matters) and I decided to finally bite the bullet and do what we've been talking about. We registered for the Oklahoma City Memorial Marathon, and I booked my flight there. I'll be staying with her that weekend in Enid, about 90 minutes from OKC. We are STOKED, nervous, and excited!

I started running when I was very young. I ran with my dad in the afternoons. Then, in seventh grade, I joined cross country and track. I ran both events until I graduated from high school. I have run countless 5Ks and one half marathon. I have ALWAYS dreamed of completing 26.2 miles, and now I finally have my chance.

I'm slow. I've never been great at running; it's just something I do to ease the stress I have from daily life. It's not going to be easy, but it is going to be completely worth it.

I'm scared, and training is going to be tough, but I can't wait to kick asphalt next April! 

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Exciting Air Force News!!!

As many of you know, my fiancé is graduating from the United States Air Force Academy on May 28th, 2014.

We have been in suspense for a while now, waiting for his AFSC (Air Force Specialty Code... or job title), especially since the government shutdown happened in October when the Firsties (seniors) were originally supposed to find out.

Well, they had their AFSC Drop Night tonight, and it's a darn good thing his butt looks so cute in a flight suit because...


We will find out in early 2014 if we will move to Texas, Oklahoma, or Mississippi for his pilot training, and we will head there after his graduation/our wedding. 

I am SO proud of him. He has worked his butt off for the past four and a half years, and all of that hard work is finally paying off! God is good. 

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Wine & Painting Date

A few weeks ago, our friends Rianna and Aaron invited Dan and I to go on a double date. We love hanging out with them, so of course we went! We ended up doing a wine tasting at The Sweet Elephant in Old Colorado City, followed by a group painting class, where we painted the Kissing Camels at Garden of the Gods with Pikes Peak in the background. We all had a blast, and I wish they weren't moving away so soon!

This is the painting we were trying to recreate. Beautiful, right?

And this is the one our instructor painted while he taught the class. Gorgeous.

How ours all turned out -- looking good!

Here's Dan's. It's actually not bad at all! Notice the disproportionate F-22 above the Kissing Camels, haha.

This is my finished piece. I really like it, but I was also VERY frustrated while painting it.

Side by side! :)

Looking silly side by side over the fireplace... no, I did NOT leave both of them there!

Holding mine proudly! :)
  • Have you ever been to a painting class?
  • What is your favorite thing to paint?
  • Do you have any ideas for fun, creative double dates?

Friday, November 29, 2013

The Holiday Week

This week has been different from normal, and it has thrown me off completely. 

I'm going to back up JUST A LITTLE BIT, though, and go to last weekend. I started receiving several orders from my Etsy shop (Christmas gifts, I assume), so I'm feeling overwhelmed there, but it's also a great feeling. It was wonderful working on those orders in the sunlight of my home with my two fur-babies. 

Gilligan always has to be near me - even to help me make magnets!

At least Stormy stays away and lounges in the window... in awkward positions.

On Saturday, I drove over an hour away all by myself to see a movie that was out on limited release. The Book Thief by Markus Zusak is one of my favorite books, so I headed to a suburb of Denver to see it, and it was INCREDIBLE. Seriously, guys. IT is definitely the best book-to-movie adaptation EVER. Read the book. Go see the movie. Just do it. 

After the movie, I headed to Denver International Airport to pick up Dan. He had been in California at Edwards AFB for one of his classes, and he had a BLAST out there! We stayed in a hotel in Denver that night and headed to Winter Park to hit the slopes with a friend all day Sunday. Skiing was amazing, and the mountains were beautiful, as always.

I had to work on Monday and Tuesday, which is unusual for Thanksgiving week, but it was fun because Dan came in and did physics experiments with my students during their science class, and I got to help out with that. They had a BLAST and paid SUCH good attention to him. It was incredible. I took a ton of pictures, but I can't show their faces, so I'll leave you with this one of three of my rowdy boys completely engaged with what Dan was telling them.

On Tuesday, as soon as school was out, we left to head to Missouri to see my family in Kansas City for the holidays. We always take the cats with us when we drive, but we normally drive all the way through at once. This time, we couldn't leave until close to 5:00PM, so we had to stop in a hotel for the night. Because of this, Gilligan and Stormy got to stay in a hotel room for the very first time. They were skeptical, but I don't think they minded it too much. 

We spent Wednesday and Thursday hanging out with and talking to my family. Thanksgiving was fun, and we are hanging out with some friends tonight. Having five days away from work is nice, but I am ready (already) to get back into my routine. I'm such a creature of habit. Winter break will definitely throw me off this year, as it is two weeks long, and we will be flying to two different places during it. 

Stormy hid from us, of course, but Happy Thanksgiving from us to you. 

Friday, November 22, 2013

Book Review: Mile Markers: The 26.2 Most Important Reasons Why Women Run

When a friend recommended Mile Markers: The 26.2 Most Important Reasons Why Women Run to me, I knew I had to read it. I love running, and I love reading... so why wouldn't I love reading about running? Well, I did love it!

As always, Goodreads provides a wonderful synopsis: 

In Mile MarkersRunner’s World contributing editor Kristin Armstrong captures the ineffable and timeless beauty of running, the importance of nurturing relationships with those we love, and the significance of reflecting on our experiences. This collection considers the most important reasons women run, celebrating the inspiring passion runners have for their sport and illustrating how running fosters a vitally powerful community. With unique wit, refreshing candor, and disarming vulnerability, Armstrong shares her conviction that running is the perfect parallel for marking the milestones of life. From describing running a hardfought race with her tightly-knit group of sweat sisters, to watching her children participate in the sport for the very first time, Armstrong infuses her experiences with a perspective of hope that every moment is a chance to become a stronger, wiser, more peaceful woman. Running threads these touching stories together, and through each of them we are shown the universal undercurrents of inspiration, growth, grace, family, empowerment, and endurance.

Overall, I absolutely loved reading Mile Markers. The author is Kristin Armstrong, who just happens to be Lance Armstrong's ex-wife, so that is also pretty cool. This book was easy to read in chunks because it is split up into a series of blog posts that Armstrong has written. If you're a woman and a runner, I highly recommend this book. If you're not but you'd like to be (a runner), check it out - it will give you the inspiration you need to get started! This book makes me want to find a running group so I can become great friends with them like the women I read about. 
  • Do you like reading books about sports?
  • What is your favorite memoir type book?

Monday, November 18, 2013

Top 8 Vegetarian Side Dishes for Thanksgiving

It's that time of year! Thanksgiving is fast approaching (as in NEXT WEEK! Can you believe it?).

I am making this post because I sure would have appreciated something like it during my first vegetarian Thanksgiving five years ago. I had been meat-free for over six months when Thanksgiving hit, but it was my first true test. I made it through, but it wasn't easy. Over the years, I have come up with some delicious side dishes that fill me up and keep me happy while everyone else eats their turkey. (I'm more of a sides kind of girl anyway.)

Without further adieu, here are my top eight go-to Thanksgiving/Christmas recipes that are sure to please even those who make fun of your eating habits:

*Dish names are linked to recipes, so click on them!*

8. Cheesy Broccoli & Rice Casserole

I hope some of you found this post helpful! Even if you aren't vegetarian, these are great side dishes that accompany the rest of your meal perfectly. So now I must ask...

Are you a vegetarian?
What is your favorite Thanksgiving dish (veggie or not)? 
Do you enjoy Thanksgiving as much as I do?

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Book Review: Think 4:8

*Tyndale House Publishers provided me with a complimentary copy of this book in exchange for a review.*

Think 4:8 - 40 Days to a Joy-Filled Life, by Tommy Newberry (with Lyn Smith), is an uplifting book based on scripture.

As always, Goodreads provides a wonderful synopsis: 

The best-selling author of "The 4:8 Principle" and "40 Days to a Joy-filled Life" returns with a special edition for teens. In just 40 days, teens can change their minds and their attitudes. Tommy Newberry, together with writer Lyn Smith, takes teens from thinking negatively to thinking positively, which will change their entire outlook on life. Not only will this devotional make teens think more positively and have a better attitude, this devotional also points teens to Scripture and helps them understand more about God. The devotions not only help teens understand how their thought life determines their perspective, but they also help them focus their minds on godly truths so they can live out their faith. This book is the perfect way for teens to get a new attitude and start living a fulfilling, joy-filled life in just 40 days.

Please note that I am not a teen. I am a 26 year old woman, but I selected this book to review for two reasons:

1) I am still in the early stages of discovery when it comes to my faith, and
2) I work with teenagers on a daily basis as an 8th grade teacher. 

First of all, this book is based on a verse from the Bible, Philippians 4:8. 

What I loved about this book:
1. I LOVE how Think 4:8 is a daily devotional. It is so much easier to comprehend the "lessons" each day when you have a limited amount of reading to do.

2. I enjoyed the exercises at the end of each day's reading. Sometimes it was a challenge to fill in the blanks in the tables provided, but I was really thinking about my life, what makes me happy, and how I can add more joy to my life just from thinking like Jesus. 

3. I appreciated the reminders of the scripture this book was focused on throughout the 40 days. Philippians 4:8 will forever be in my head now, and I am hoping it will continue to focus my thoughts on positive things in life and bring more joy to my life. 

What wasn't the greatest:
1. Some of the scenarios were a little unrealistic for me, as they discussed talking to your parents, teachers, etc. about situations. As an adult, that is strange; however, I acknowledge that I am an outsider looking in as a 26 year old. I still think this book would be a phenomenal tool for adolescents who are looking to grow in their understanding of God, feel better about their own lives, and find more happiness in the simple things. 

All in all, I highly recommend this book to not only teenagers but to ANYONE who is looking to focus their thoughts on what is true, noble, right, pure, lovely, admirable, excellent, and praiseworthy. As an adult, I was only put off a couple times, and I took MUCH MORE out of this book than was lost on me. If you're trying to rid the negativity from your life and focus on the positive, READ THIS BOOK. Seriously. 
  • What is your favorite faith based book?
  • Have you ever received a book in exchange for a review?

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Have You Started Holiday Shopping?

Have you started your Christmas shopping yet? I have, and I'm overwhelmed already.

If you're looking for a fun, original gift for someone on your list, consider purchasing from my Etsy shop, Two Cats Decorations.

Check out the following products below, and click on them to see them listed in my shop with pricing and shipping information.

Custom Photo Magnets

Custom Photo Collage on Canvas

Colorado Scenery Magnets

Bible Verse Magnets

Motivational Quote Magnets

Military Leadership Quote Magnets

And since I love my loyal blog followers, I want to offer you a special discount! :)

Saturday, November 9, 2013

Book Review: Jenny Pox

I use Grammarly's plagiarism checker because I like to prove to my students that I can catch them.

When I first heard about this book, I knew I had to read it. It sounded like it would be right up my alley, and it certainly was! Jenny Pox by JL Bryan was everything it promised to be.

As always, Goodreads provides a wonderful synopsis: 

Eighteen-year-old Jenny Morton has a horrific secret: her touch spreads a deadly supernatural plague, the "Jenny pox." She lives by a single rule: Never touch anyone. A lifetime of avoiding any physical contact with others has made her isolated and painfully lonely in her small rural town.

Then she meets the one boy she can touch. Jenny feels herself falling for Seth... but if she's going to be with him, Jenny must learn to use the deadly pox inside her to confront his ruthless and manipulative girlfriend Ashleigh, who secretly wields the most dangerous power of all.

Doesn't that sound absolutely intriguing? I couldn't put this book down, and it definitely got me out of my reading slump. I know I post a lot of reviews about YA books, but they're exactly what I'm looking for. Jenny Pox was no exception. In the novel, Jenny tries to overcome being treated poorly by a girl in her town. When she finds out that Ashleigh also has a power (actually the opposite power), she knows she has to stop her in order to finally have love in her life. 

This story is a powerful coming-of-age tale with a supernatural element. Keep in mind that although the story sounds like it is suitable for young adults, there are a couple scenes in which the content is definitely only for adults. 
  • Do you read supernatural stories?
  • What is your favorite novel?