(Installment 5) My Next 9 Weeks


My goal for last week was to cook 2 new things.

What I cooked: 

Cream cheese ball (find the recipe at the end of this post) and chicken spaghetti (read about that crazy experience here).
I also made a double-batch of chocolate chip cookies and a huge pot of puppy chow. And gained 50 pounds. But that's okay, because it's a new week, and I've got a new goal.

For this week, it's already Tuesday, so I've missed a few days. Something I'd like to do in the future is enforce a strictly no-computer Sunday. I want to at least try it for a month. But right now it's still Fantasy Football season, and I need to stay updated. (I'm first place in my division and closer than ever to my $100 prize. Watch out, boys.)

So...I need a different goal for this week. I've already failed at this for yesterday, but for this week (minus a day or two) I am going to exercise for at least 20 minutes every day. That could be Pilates, running, crunches, weights. Whatever. I'm doing it. 
Aaaaand...I might be registering for another half marathon tonight. Oye.

UPDATE: As of Friday, Dec 3, I have not registered for any upcoming races. Jordan seems to think I have blocked out how awful training for the other half marathon was and should at least fully think through the commitment required to participate in another one. So I am thinking it through. And waiting for a basket full of hundred-dollar bills to drop from the sky and into my living room.

UPDATE #2: As of Sunday, Dec 5, I am registered for a half marathon on March 5. Apparently it didn't take long for my attitude to change. My financial situation, however, has not. Still waiting for that basket full of bills...

Shutterfly for Christmas...for Free!


My friend Jessica posted a blog about Shutterfly giving away 50 free Christmas cards for anyone who writes a post about how great Shutterfly is. (To sign yourself up and get in on the action, go here.) I've actually been wanting to use Shutterfly to make some cards but haven't done anything about it yet. This could be my opportunity! Hurrah!

I love taking pictures, looking at pictures, and pretty much everything else that has to do with pictures. The only thing I'm missing is a really spectacular (ahem, expensive) camera. Maybe someday.

For now, I'll use the pictures I have and try my hand at designing some sweet cards. (Check out all of Shutterfly's Christmas cards.)

It will probably take me forever to choose the perfect design, but Shutterfly's got lots of good ones to pick from! This one's cute (minus the two random girls and plus six good-lookin' Reeses).

Or this one. (I like the ones that say "Merry Christmas.")

Plus, check this out: Desk calendars! I didn't know you could make such a thing. Well, I did, but I've never seriously considered it for myself. Now I might have to. You can also get other holiday cards here. Wow your friends with your creativity! You know you want to.

Quick question: Is it weird/strange/lame to send out a Christmas card if you're: A. Not married B. Living by yourself C. Don't own a pet. D. Not sure if you know 50 people you could send a card to?

None of these apply to me, of course. It's hypothetical. I was just wondering. I know more than 50 people...

Thanks, Shutterfly!

Reminder: you can get free stuff too! Just go here.

EDIT 12/3: Last night I was sent my code for 50 free cards! It works!

Cooking, Chicken, and Crochet


On Friday night, Jordan and I used a recipe from Pioneer Woman's cookbook and made chicken spaghetti. It ended up being delicious, but first we had to get past this:

(This obviously isn't a picture of the actual chicken we used. I'm terrible at remembering to take pictures while I'm cooking. [Maybe it's because I'm too busy burning my fingers and messing up the directions.])

Step 1: Read directions. Recipe calls for 1 fryer chicken.
Step 2: Google "fryer chicken"
Step 3: Successfully find fryer chicken in the grocery store without having to call my mom for help.
Step 4: Place chicken in pot full of water and turn burner on high.

It was at this point--when the chicken had been cooking for about ten minutes--that Jordan arrived, looked at the pot, which was just barely below overflowing, and asked me what I was doing.

I try to impress Jordan with my prowess in the kitchen, but a lot most of the time I end up making a ditzy move that he has to fix. In this case, I somehow had overlooked the part where the instructions called for cut-up fryer chicken.

Yeah, I had the entire chicken in the pot.

"I don't think that's right," he said, looking at me then back at the pot. "I'm pretty sure that chicken has all the guts still inside it."

After closer inspection of the directions, I discovered my mistake. So he turned off the burner and fished out the chicken (which he said felt like "touching a person"). Then we both stared at it for a full minute, trying to figure out what we were supposed to do.

I ended up using Google to find a video showing how to cut up a fryer chicken. It took Jordan almost half an hour to complete the task, during which time he narrated pulling out the lungs, heart, and removing what fat he could.

A few times he also said something to the effect of, "See that? That's blood. And...ugh... look at the fat. Makes me glad I'm not a doctor. That's what people look like to them."

I stood to the side, offering to do what I could to help; mostly I think I just annoyed him. After all, it was my fault we were in this predicament in the first place. The least I could have done was warned him that he'd be on chicken duty.

For a guy who once told me the sight of uncooked chicken made him sick to his stomach, he did a fantastic job. He finished cutting it up, we mixed all the ingredients together, and it was quite a success.

He also washed his hands about 8,000 times during the process because he's super careful and scared of food poisoning. And after he finished with the carcass, I made him fish it out of the garbage and take a picture. This is his I-am-completely-grossed-out-and-my-girlfriend-is-making-me-hold-this-and-take-a-picture face.

Then he washed his hands again.

What a trooper.


On a completely unrelated note, this afternoon I was crocheting, and I broke my crochet hook in half. I'm a very vigorous crocheter. Sometimes I don't know my own strength. I'm sure the fact that it was a plastic hook had nothing to do with it.

A Thanksgiving Story and a Cheese Ball


Yesterday I had Thanksgiving with Jordan's family. I was nervous, as is to be expected, because I was going to be the unknown significant other. Note: this phrase will henceforth be referred to as USO.

Sounds like UFO. Coincidence?

Most likely another discussion for another day.
When you're the USO at a family function, you have to impress without it appearing like you're trying to impress. You have to dress cute without looking like you tried to dress cute. Like you just threw something on--something that's cute, casual, and comfortable while still appropriately dressy.

Plus, I know from experience (with cousins and siblings) that when you're the USO, you have to always be alert. When you aren't looking, people are watching you. It's true.

I heard a saying once about how people don't pay as much attention to you as you do to yourself. Well, when it refers to being the USO, that's complete crap. Everyone is watching you. Or maybe it's just my family. We're a little crazy. (Good luck this Christmas, Jordan.)


As I considered my role as USO this Thanksgiving, I hatched the perfect plan. Chocolate chip cookies. Who doesn't like a good, old-fashioned chocolate chip cookie? It's the perfect grab-and-go type of dessert, and I've honed my skills of cookie maker years ago thanks to my mother. My plan to win my way into the hearts of Jordan's family was complete.

But then, for some reason (maybe it was my stupid resolution to cook two new things this week), I decided to be ambitious. Enter a recipe I had for a cream cheese ball, compliments of my friend Cori. It's cream cheese, butter, vanilla, powdered sugar, brown sugar, and mini chocolate chips all mixed together. Serve it with graham cracker sticks, and it's a sweet after-dinner dessert.

I'd never made it before, but I'd eaten it. Once. Three years ago. But I figured I would grab the bull by the horns, as the saying goes, and make it.

I woke up extra early on Thanksgiving day to make two batches of cookies and the cream cheese ball. It went well, and I arrived at Jordan's house on time to leave for the thirty-minute drive to his great-aunt and uncle's house. I was in sort of a rush, though, so I hadn't actually had time to eat a cookie or taste the cheese ball. (I would like to also note that I was forced to use graham crackers instead of graham cracker sticks, because apparently graham cracker sticks do not exist in Oklahoma.)

When we arrived at Jordan's aunt's house, I put my plate of cookies on the counter, and Jordan's mom grabbed a box of graham crackers and started breaking them up to put on a plate along with my cream cheese ball.

Since I live close, I see Jordan's family a lot.  As moms go, Jordan's is great. I mean, obviously I'm partial to my own mother, but Jordan's mom is a perfect second choice. She makes delicious food and always does what she can to make sure I feel welcome and included. Often it works to my advantage, but sometimes I get embarrassed because her desire to include me also ends up calling unnecessary attention in my direction.

We walked into the kitchen, and people were milling about, talking and helping get the food ready. Jordan introduced me to a few of his cousins and their wives as well as his great-aunt and uncle, whose house I was in. It was a gorgeous house, and I could see why they hosted Thanksgiving dinner every year. The kitchen has one of those long counters, which is where I assumed all the food would eventually be, but at the moment it was empty. That was the moment Jordan's mom turned to me and said, "Usually Grandma's here by now with her cheese ball, crackers, and veggie platter."

Then she got some graham crackers and proceeded to put my bowl on the counter in front of everyone and announce, "Eat this. It's good. Tastes like cheesecake. Amanda made it."

I almost died.

On the inside, I was thinking, FOR THE LOVE OF TURKEY, WHAT ARE YOU DOING?! 
On the outside, I was speechless and my face was turning bright red. I know this because:
1. I could feel the extreme heat
2. Jordan told me

I was so embarrassed. I hadn't even tasted it yet! What if it was terrible? What if it tasted like mud? My plate of graham crackers would be full, my ball of cream cheese dessert would sit untouched, my shame evident for all to see. As the USO, I was placed in a very conspicuous position. Too conspicuous, in my opinion. And there was no escape.

This rather dramatic tale ends has a rather anticlimactic ending, I'm happy to say. Everyone loved the chocolate chip cream cheese ball. And my cookies were a hit too. I made friends with Jordan's family and charmed the fancy socks off everyone. My first experience as the USO was a success. I thank the cream cheese ball and cookies. Brilliant.

Here's the recipe:

Use a mixer to combine an 8 oz. container of plain cream cheese, a stick of butter, and 1/2 tsp. of vanilla until creamy.
Slowly add 3/4 cup of powdered sugar and 2 Tb. brown sugar.
Stir in 1 cup of mini chocolate chips.
Shape into a ball (or put in a cute serving bowl) and place in the fridge to harden.  
Serve with graham cracker sticks if you can find them. Or use regular graham crackers if you live in Oklahoma.

Make this if you're faced with USO duty or just if you need a deliciously sweet appetizer.

Flashback Friday--Faces

My family is crazy, but I love it. We often do strange things, and it's fun because everyone usually plays along.

Last year, when we were all home for Thanksgiving, my brother happened to find this Styrofoam picture frame. He immediately stuck his face through it and demanded I take a picture. Real mature. But then, somehow, someone came up with the idea to have everyone take a picture with the frame. (By someone, I mean me. It was my idea. There. I said it.) I ended up making a Christmas card for everyone using a collage of the faces. It was pretty great.

And weird, I know.

Below are the best faces...

Me, showing off the only funny face I ever make. I just can't think under pressure.

My older younger brother. His eyes get crazy when his beard is out of control.

 And then he closes them and falls asleep.

 My younger younger brother. Sometimes he just wants to open his mouth and accentuate his big head.

My younger sister. She likes to think outside the box. The best face maker of the group, in my opinion. She's so cute, but her faces can look so, so bad.

My mom. She was confused. She thought we were being weird.

My dad. He was kinda tired and only slightly confused.

One of the many things I am thankful for: a family who can joke around and be weird. Even if no one else understands what the heck is going on.


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(Installment 4) My Next 9 Weeks


It's week 4 of my little project, which means there are only 5 weeks after this. Five weeks left in 2010! Good grief. 

Here's how last week's task went: Honestly, I didn't expect to really focus on being patient as much as I did. But throughout the week I did find myself in a situation where I was starting to get annoyed and I thought, This week I'm trying to be patient and kind. Focus. So I did, and overall it went well!

It was a good exercise--one that I really should continue and practice every day, not just for a week. But that's neither here nor there, because this is a new week with a new task. 

My task for this week involves cooking. This year I'm actually not spending Thanksgiving with my family for the first time ever. I'm staying in Oklahoma to spend the holiday with Jordan and his family. Should be good times with maybe a funny story or two. 

But since I'll be home and off work for the next few days, and since I've been feeling inspired as of late, and since it's the season for eating, I'm giving myself the task of cooking. Not every day, mind you (because that would get expensive, and I already know I wouldn't be able to finish it). But I'm going to say at least two new dishes--something I've never made before but wanted to try.

Maybe I'll do three if I get ambitious or come into a lot of cash. But like I said, I'm making at least two. Hopefully I won't make a mess of myself or give anyone food poisoning. That would be really bad, since I told Jordan's mom I'd bring something to Thanksgiving dinner. 

Wouldn't want to be the girl who met everyone for the first time and ruined Thanksgiving.

On Being a Winner


I used to say I never won anything. I blamed horrible luck and all that. While my friends were off winning cars (true story) and cash, I won nothing. Ever.

Then, just when I'd begun to accept the sad and lonely life of a loser, I won something. Something awesome. Every year my company throws a Christmas party, and they give away small prizes. Nothing to be super excited about. But there is one thing to win--a four-day cruise for two and four free vacation days. Plus airfare to and from the port site. Holler.

It's a rather involved story, but the long and short of it is, last year I won! They called my raffle ticket number, and I had to go upfront and participate in a game where there was a golden apple (rather cliche, in my opinion) under a cup. The person who found the apple got the prize, and I found it!

That's how I ended up going on my first cruise vacation this past summer.

It was a great trip, and while I personally wouldn't recommend cruises as the way to travel, it was quite the experience. Like when I got lost or when I almost threw up. Yeah, experiences like those somehow always find me.

Since that major victory, I realized I could no longer take the poor-me-I-never-win-anything approach.

Last night, in an effort to meet people and get involved, I went to a craft party of sorts at my church. To be honest, I felt kinda lame about the whole thing. Lame and nervous, I might add. Showing up to something by yourself is never fun. Unless that something turns out to be a surprise party--which this wasn't so forget I said that.

We put our names in a jar for door prizes, and I would have walked right past the table if someone hadn't reminded me. In any case, I wrote my name down and proceeded on my merry way.

I was happily engaged in something crafty, thoroughly enjoying myself, when I heard my name. I was confused at first until it hit me. I'd won something!

Turns out, that something was this: 

I was so excited! Mostly for the following reasons:

1) I would never have bought a wreath for myself.
2) Now I can hang it up and fully embrace Christmas cheer.
3) It's got all these pretty pine cones and berries on it.
4) It's fake, which is great because I don't have to worry about the needles falling off everywhere.

So maybe I win stuff occasionally. That's fine with me. Which brings me to reason #5 why I was happy: 
I happen to like winning. A lot.
Does that, like, totally make me a terrible person? No, don't answer that. But seriously, who doesn't like to win stuff?

**Volume #3: Things that make me happy. (For other things that make me happy, go here and here.)

Flashback Friday--Camping Old School

Two weekends ago my family went camping. According to my mom, we hadn't gone in about 10 years; but I still have many fond memories of camping growing up. Our recent trip to middle-of-nowhere Texas made me wonder how things looked back then.
Here's our campsite in Door County, Wisconsin, circa 1992. Check out the leaves! There's nothin' quite like fall in Door County. That I can promise you.

 *Dear, yellow and blue tent, thanks for keeping the rain and wind off me while I slept.*

Here's my brother and me standing next to our blue station wagon with good old "Reese 14" license plate that is now hanging in my parents' garage in Texas. Note: the license plate is hanging in the garage. Not the car. I'm actually not sure what happened to our trusty blue friend. 

Notice the bike racks on top of the car. One time, my dad forgot those were attached and started pulling the car into the garage. That was funny.

We always pack the car with stuff. At least back then, when I was a smiling six-year-old with bangs, I had a seat all to myself. Now there are four of us kids--and we're bigger, of course--so that eats up space like you wouldn't believe. 

Ah, camping. Sleeping on the ground hurts my back. My dad's snoring wakes me up in the middle of the night. My toes are cold in the morning. My face gets hot standing by the fire. I have to pee in an outhouse. I accidentally get ashes on my hot dog. And leaves in my s'more.

Wouldn't trade it for anything.

(Flash forward to two weeks ago. That right there's grown-up Texas camping in 2010. [Note: that is not the same tent. We borrowed a bigger one from our neighbors. One that would actually fit six people.])

In case you're wondering, yes, that is my crazy slept-on-the-ground-last-night mess of morning camping hair you see popping up over the blue chair.


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Zombie Infestation


I think I've made a very bad decision. Let me explain, and you can decide for yourself.

Since I read all day for work, often I find it hard to get excited about reading when I'm at home. My eyes get tired, and sometime I just can't turn off the editing switch no matter how much I try. I also have a problem finding a new book to read. Sometimes I just want to read something random--an author I've never heard of or a book I have heard of but haven't had the chance to read.

I've had some pretty good books recommended by friends lately. There's a book I'd like to read but can't find at the library. And since I'm too cheap to buy said book, it's fallen off my radar.

Jordan, however, has his own smallish library in his room. I mean this guy has tons of books. Granted, most of them are not really my style, which is why I have yet to raid his bookshelf. He likes books about other worlds. Strange worlds. Worlds with their own phrases and characters I don't quite understand. One time I read the prologue of a book he was reading and didn't know how to pronounce half the words. And no, it's not because I can't pronounce words. They weren't real words! At least, that's what I tried to tell him as he laughed at me. Jerk. 

But in an effort to embrace the unfamiliar (and to get back into reading for pleasure), I asked Jordan to choose a book for me. Any book he wanted, and I would read it. Looking back, I realize this was a bit too idealistic. I mean, I know what sort of books he owns, what sort of books he likes to read. Why, then, was I surprised when he arrived at my apartment last night carrying the book. The book he'd chosen for me. The book I was now gonna have to read.

It's a documentary of a zombie war. 
Really? Really? Zombies, Jordan? Really? 
I get scared watching stupid movies like Scream and I Know What You Did Last Summer. Movies that clearly aren't real and are actually so ridiculous only a moron would be scared after watching them. Newsflash.
Me = moron.

I can picture it now: Me, huddling in the corner of my bed, by myself in my apartment, waiting for the zombies to get me. 

"Is this going to scare me?" I immediately asked him upon seeing the cover. "Cuz you know I get scared easy."

"No, it's not scary. Well, okay, I got scared when I read it, but that's only because I live on the ground floor. I wouldn't be scared living on the third floor like you."
"How come?"
"Cuz zombies can't climb."
Right. Duh. I knew that. No, wait, I didn't. I don't know anything about zombies. 
"So...you were scared when you read it?" I asked, glancing at the first page.
"Well, yeah. But like I said, that's only cuz I was living on the ground floor. My room had two big windows, and I got scared the zombies would crash through and start eating me."
"Right. Okay. And the third floor is better because..."
"Zombies can't climb."
"Can't they walk up stairs?" 
"Well, yeah. But all you need to do is put a couch or something at the top of the stairs."
"They wouldn't think to climb over the couch?" I'm really not sure why I was pressing the issue at this point. Considering that zombies aren't real anyway.
"No. Zombies don't have brains. They just eat brains."
Thanks. Perfect logic. Awesome.

So now apparently I'm going to read World War Z. It might take me a year to get through it all--mostly because I will only be reading it during daylight hours and when I am not alone.

This might have been a horrible mistake. A very bad decision. I'll keep you posted. Unless the zombies get me first.

(I do feel, on behalf of Jordan, the need to tell you that he does own what most would consider a normal book. He loves biographies, history books, and he actually owns a copy of Pride and Prejudice. [And, ahem, a copy of Pride and Prejudice and Zombies.] He likes Tom Clancy novels, and Sum of All Fears was actually his second choice for me. So maybe after this I'll read Tom Clancy. Less terrifying. Less chance of someone trying to eat me.)

(Installment 3) My Next 9 Weeks


If I was going to give myself a grade for last week's task of note giving, it would probably be a C+/B-. I definitely didn't fail, and I did give an average effort; but I didn't excel. I could have done better. Maybe it's because last week was busy. Like, crazy busy. Next week isn't going to be any better either. Darn.

But I can't make excuses. I've committed myself to this project of sorts, and despite a lower-than-average attempt at week 2, it's now time for task 3.
(For task 1, go here and here. For task 2, go here.)

This week I'm doing something different. Instead of a physical task, I'm going to try a change in attitude. I do have a busy week coming up, but that also means I am going to have a lot of opportunity to interact with other people. That also means more opportunity to be impatient or frustrated when others aren't acting how I'd like. 


This week I am going to actively recognize how I act when I'm around others. I will be patient, helpful, and accepting. Okay. I will try to be all those things. Give more than a C+ effort. Because that just won't cut it with this sort of challenge.



I'm embarrassed to tell you how long it took me to make my new blog header. Let's just say it took me more time than I would have thought--more time than it certainly looks like it took. But at first I couldn't get the width right, then the letters, then the font, then the color. It was a whole domino effect thing.

You see, I've been in a rather crafty mood as of late. Everywhere I go I see evidence of craftiness to the point that I start thinking, I could make that too. No big deal. Yeah right. Walking into a store like Hobby Lobby is enough to make me want to run back to my lamely decorated room, tear everything down, and vow to never attempt to decorate again. (If you could even call hanging a Cubs poster on the wall behind my bed decorating anyway.)

I like scrapbooking and other crafty things like that, but I often find it difficult--no, impossible--to measure up to the idea in my head. The real thing just doesn't cut it. I have had a few brilliant moments to be sure, but for the most part I have learned the valuable (and annoying) lesson to be satisfied with my best effort. My best effort, of course, being hours upon hours spent trying to get it to look exactly right. Hence my new blog header.

I wanted to make something that didn't look completely computer generated, and I'd seen such things on other blogs, so I knew it could be done. I just didn't know how it was done. Now that it's finished and uploaded and all that jazz, I can't honestly remember how I did it. But I know it involved a lot of clicking. And, like I said, many hours.

Hours I could have spent, oh, I don't know...sleeping, reading, working, conversing with actual human beings. Bah to that, I say. People come and go, but the Internet will live forever.

Kidding. I don't honestly believe that. Okay, well maybe I do, but I still think you know what I mean.

Flashback Friday--My Older Younger Brother


Can I just talk for a second about how awesome my brother Daniel is? He's great. I mean, seriously. And despite what you might think, he is not older than me. Everyone thinks Daniel is older, but he's not. It must be the facial hair.

He's the type of brother I'm proud to introduce to my friends. The type of brother who had to get along with my boyfriend. Or else.

He's really funny. Often weird, always hilarious. He doesn't roll his eyes and complain when he has to dress up nice. Actually come to think of it, both my brothers are often more high maintenance than I am.

Austin (18), Daniel (22), Amanda (24)

But do you wanna know the real reason he's awesome? He used to look like this (flashback to little Daniel)....

I really don't think I need to say anything else. Don't think I'm weird, but I love my brothers!

Little me agrees :) Brothers are the best.

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An Odd Birthday Request


This past weekend I drove to Texas for a family vacation of sorts. My dear mother's 50th birthday is today, and for her big celebration, when asked what she wanted most in the world, she requested the six of us go camping. Yes, that's right. Sleep-on-the-ground-in-a-tent-and-in-a-sleeping-bag-and-roast-marshmallows-and-hot-dogs-around-a-fire camping.

Mid-life crisis, perhaps? No, my family just loves camping that much. See, we used to go all the time when I was younger. I think I have more vivid camping memories than I do of anything else. Come to find out, we haven't actually been legit camping as a family in over 10 years, which is why my thirteen-year-old sister has no such fond camping memories. But she does now.

We brought a Frisbee, two footballs, and a soccer ball; and I almost ate dirt after tripping over a piece of wood trying to catch a toss from my brother. (I did catch it, by the way.) We hung our old hammock between two trees, and my dad and brothers put our tent up while us girls got all the lunch fixin's set up nice and purdy.

Later, after a late lunch and before the sun set, we walked down to the lake and spent a good half hour skipping rocks.

When it started to get dark, we laid out sleeping bags, and my mom warmed up the beef stew she'd made the night before. After that we sat around the campfire and roasted marshmallows--three per s'more for me!

Then we huddled close to the water spout and passed a tube of toothpaste around the circle, taking turns wiping our wet hands with the one towel my mom had remembered to toss in the car at the last second.

I was finally snuggled deep into my sleeping bag when I discovered I needed to go to the bathroom. My brother Daniel offered to walk to the building with me, and on the way we saw four deer silhouetted against the tree line. The stars were out, and in the middle of the Texas country, away from city lights, they were beautiful.

I woke up in the morning to the sound of my dad chopping wood for the fire. After pulling on my dirt-crusted shoes, I unzipped the tent and slowly made my way to the fire.

(But not before a sneak picture of my mom. Or, rather, the top of my mom's head.)

Soon, my mom and sister appeared from their caves; and before long, breakfast was mentioned.

There's definitely nothing quite like my dad and mom tag-teaming to make eggs (Dad) and bacon (Mom) on a skillet over a mini stove for breakfast. Freaking delicious is what it is. And I don't even usually like eggs.

See? I'm tired and I think my right eye is closed, and I'm still excited about eggs!
My brothers and sister and I kicked the soccer ball around for a while after that, and then it was time to pack up. 

We spent two days and one night at our campsite--a short vacation carved out of an otherwise hectic week. At first I thought camping was a rather odd birthday request. Turned out, it was perfect. It might sound strange, but I honestly can't think of any better way to spend a birthday.

My Smoothie Love/Hate Relationship


This past weekend I went to Texas (which I'll write more about later once I get my pictures sorted). Every time I leave to drive back to Oklahoma, I stop at the Jamba Juice near my parents' house and get a smoothie for the road. It's the perfect road trip beverage. Yesterday's smoothie was peach flavored, and it was so so so good. Maybe the best one yet.

I love Jamba Juice, but it's grown into a love/hate relationship, as I've a few unfortunate episodes courtesy of JJ. One, interestingly enough, is similar to the embarrassing car incident from a few weeks ago. In this case, I came out of JJ holding my smoothie and was so focused on getting a good sip from the straw that I opened the wrong car door and actually sat in the driver's seat before realizing it wasn't my car. To make matters worse, the people whose car it was were sitting outside on a bench with smoothies of their own and shocked/confused/slightly suspicious expressions on their faces. 

Needless to say I apologized and quickly found my own car. I'm going to be a terrible elderly person. 

The second unfortunate episode happened about a month ago. I purchased a delicious strawberry-flavored smoothie, got in my car (it was my car), and held the smoothie between my thighs while I placed my purse in the passenger seat. Why I didn't put my smoothie in the cup holder, which is specifically designed and strategically placed for such a purpose, is something I wish I knew. Anyway, then I pulled out of my spot and onto open road. As I accelerated, I grabbed my smoothie close to the lid to get a sip; the lid popped off, and it spilled all over! I mean, all over my legs, the seat, everything. 

I quickly scooped up a glob of smoothie and put it back into the cup. Unfortunately, this only caused my hand to become sticky. Luckily, I knew I was coming up to a gas station within about ten minutes; but by that time there was little I could do. I rinsed my hand, wiped up what I could of my legs and the seat, and continued on my sad way with half a cup left of smoothie. 

For yesterday's JJ experience, the only unfortunate episode was when I came to the end of my delicious peach smoothie. You can be sure I was extra careful when getting into my car. And when holding the cup to take a sip.

I love smoothies, particularly from Jamba Juice. Sometimes, though, I hate what they make me do.

Volume #2: Things that make me happy. (For another thing that makes me happy, go here.)

(Installment 2) My Next 9 Weeks


 Week 2 has begun, and that means a new task. (For the scoop task #1 read this and this.) 

This week I am dedicating myself to sending a note to a friend every day. It doesn't necessarily have to be a mailed card, but making contact of some sort is necessary. Since this is my game I'm making the rules, and I say text messages and Facebook do not count. Neither count as quality, personal contact in my opinion. 

So basically I have three choices: the phone call route, the e-mail route, or the mail route. And I already know who's gonna be first. 

Other ideas: 
Say hello to a stranger every day. 
Learn a new word (and use it) every day.
Cook one new item. 

Lemme know if you've got any other ideas for me!

Flashback Friday--Time for a Haircut?


Preview: For today's flashback, I'm going to discuss hair.

My hair is getting long again. I don't try to make it long, but I'm too cheap to pay $30 for someone to cut off something that freely grows from my scalp. It's a scam. Seriously. So I usually end up rolling into the salon sporting horrible split ends about twice a year.

When I do get it cut, I definitely need to keep it ponytail length, because I have to be able to easily get it out of my face. Plus, I just flat out don't look good with short hair. This is unfortunate, because my dream haircut involves short hair. I'm talking chin length.

Yeah, that will never be me.


But once upon a time (ahem, four years ago) I decided to be brave and selfless and donate my hair to Locks of Love. The minimum length I think is 9 inches, maybe 10.

It's the most I've ever gotten cut off all at once, and it was scary. And I was miserable and hated it until it grew back to a reasonable length. Because it made my face look fat. And because I couldn't pull it into a ponytail but was reduced to bobby pins. Bobby pins hate me.

My mom was with me for the event and took pictures. (Side note: I seem to be referencing my mom a lot lately. I promise I have my own apartment and live a good 3-hr drive from my parents. Promise.) Anyhoo, here's the sequence of events as they unfolded...

Long hair. Notice how happy I am.
Measuring the cut.


Short hair! Notice how scared I look.
Okay, now I imagine you're wondering why I think I look bad with short hair. You're comparing the last picture to the first and thinking, Actually, your hair looks better. Before it looks scraggly and awkward, like you just came from milking a cow. (My apologies for the cow stereotype.) I would agree, BUT after she cut the required inches, Stupid Salon Lady cut three more inches, and I ended up being very sad.

I'm not showing you a picture. Just trust me. It's not pretty.

Four years later my hair is long once again (I've gotten it cut at least twice since 2006. Promise.), and I'm thinking it's time for a chop. Or a cut. Or...at least a trim.


Check out Tia's blog for more flashbacks or link up with one of your own by clicking on the button below:

Flashback Friday Button

Update--My Next 9 Weeks


This morning was day 4 of my wake-up-at-ridiculous-o'clock-and-by-that-I-mean-6-a.m. resolution. (Read about it here.) The first day I was like, "Yeah! I can do it!" Day two was a bit more like, "Okay. I can do this." Day three I felt like sleeping, but I got up anyway. This morning I spent at least 5 minutes staring into space before I reminded myself that getting up early was only necessary if I actually focused on the task at hand. 

I only made this goal for a week; as much as I'd like to think I could get up early for a month, I know I wouldn't be able to. I'm not gonna lie, it hasn't been easy so far, but I have quite enjoyed spending time in the morning getting focused and writing thoughts/Bible verses/whatever comes to mind in my journal.

Yesterday my dad called with some sad news about someone who's close to me. She's sick with cancer. Dying. I cried when I heard the news. This morning I spent most of my time thinking about how I can't imagine finding out that there is something inside me, slowly (or quickly as the case may be) attacking me with orders to kill. That would be enough to scare me into a seriously concentrated effort to make the most of my life while I can. Be thankful for each day and not spend time being rude or anxious or scared or pessimistic. 

But really I should be doing that anyway.

That's essentially the reason I wanted to find something specific to do for each of the last 9 weeks of 2010. Because I'd rather do something than spend that time worrying about how fast time is going. Or how I haven't gotten this or that completed like I wanted to. I can just do it and stop with all the excuses. And if, then, something happens and I receive less than positive news about my health, I can feel satisfied in the knowledge that I made the most of what I had. And continue to be thankful for the time I have left.

On that note...

Here are a few of my ideas for the remaining weeks:

-Send one card/letter to a friend every day for a week.
-Work out for at least 30 min every day for a week. (Weights, cardio, yoga, whatever)
-Cook one new thing every day for a week. (This one could get expensive...)
-Write 750 words of my fiction story every day for a week . (I currently have about 3,000 words.)

Feel free to give me any other ideas you think I might like! As you can see, I don't currently have enough ideas to fill the next 8 weeks.

A Gift from Dad (with some help from Mom)


Every Christmas, my family of 6 (two boys, two girls, and two parents) draws a name out of a hat. The name you draw is the name of the person you're supposed to buy a present for. You obviously have to draw again if you get your own name, which causes major confusion almost every year because someone always gets their own name, causing everyone to have to redraw. But eventually it gets sorted out, and everyone has a name. There's always some price limit to the gift, mostly because up until a few years ago my younger siblings didn't have jobs and were low on cash. 

It's supposed to be a secret whose name you have, but since my little sister has to have my mom drive her to the store to get her gift; and since at least one, sometimes both, of my brothers usually has to ask my mom for an idea for his person, the secret gets out pretty easily. 

Last year my dad had my name. I don't consider myself a hard person to buy things for. I'll pretty much like anything I get because, in my opinion, it's the thought that counts. As long as it's clear there was thought involved. I mean, don't buy me something lame. Or stupid. Or something I wouldn't like. But I'll appreciate anything not stupid or lame, which still leaves a lot of options for things I'd like.

I really didn't know what to expect from my dad, but the box I was handed on Christmas Eve was rectangular and fairly light. I tore open the paper to reveal what has since continued to make me extremely happy (as in, making me happy right now. Seriously, my feet are so warm!):

As it turns out, I had been wanting a pair of slipper/moccasin things, so I was delighted (and a bit frightened) to discover that my dad had read my mind and gotten me the perfect gift. My mom usually is the one with the perfect gift ideas, and I had no idea my dad could deliver the goods as well.

I was busy exclaiming how much I loved my gift when I saw my mom turn to my dad and say, "See?"
"You were so right," he replied. 
I asked what they were talking about and quickly uncovered the mystery of the perfect gift. 

I imagine it went something like the following:

My dad was all like, "What should I get Amanda for Christmas?" And then my mom was like, "I know! She'll love some warm, comfortable slippers." And he was like, "Umm...that's a weird idea. I don't think she'll like that." And she was like, "No, she will. It's perfect. Just like every gift idea I've ever had. You should listen to me." And he was like, "I know you usually have great ideas, but this one seems off. Have you ever heard her say she wanted slippers?" And she was like, "No, but I just know she will. It's perfect." And he was like, "Ummm..." And she was like, "Trust me. I know what I'm talking about." And he was like, "Okay, but if she doesn't like them, you're claiming it." And she was like, "Fine. That's doesn't scare me. I am the queen of gift ideas." (Okay, maybe she didn't say that last part.)

I got them, loved them, wear them often. The only reason I don't actually wear them everywhere is because I can't take the chance of them getting dirty or wet if I were to go outside. I love them too much. They're perfect.

Thank you, Dad. (With much appreciated help from Mom.)

Thus ends Volume 1 of" "Things that Make Me Happy."

(Installment 1) My Next 9 Weeks


Today, November 1, is the start of the second to last month of 2010, and that's hard for me to grasp. It marks what I'm going to call the beginning of the end of the year. Two big holidays left, which means days off work. Now it's crunch time.

I looked at my calendar and realized that there are officially 9 weeks left in the year. While that number doesn't have any particular significance, I'm deeming it so if only because it's the start of a new month and I can do what I want.

All that to say, I have decided to commit myself to 9 new tasks--1 new task for each remaining week of 2010. 

This week I'm shouldering the rather daunting task of getting up 1/2 hr earlier than I normally would to read my Bible and pray. I realized that lately I haven't been focusing on that as much as I would like, and I think an early time with God will help me be positive and focus this week. It'll be busy (and possibly stressful) at work, and I'm going to need all the focus I can get.

So...6 a.m., people! 

Today it was 6:05, but considering how tired I was because I stayed up late watching the Rangers lose to the Giants in game 4 of the World Series (insert sad face here), I'm counting this morning a success.

I haven't yet thought of what else I want to commit to for the remaining 8 weeks. Mostly because I'm not in a hurry to rush the dwindling hours of this most wonderful of years by focusing on what's to come instead of what's happening now.

But I think maybe next week I'll keep the early-morning routine alive and commit to working out for 1/2 hr every morning? Or maybe not. I'm flaky like that. Stay tuned.