December was an unexpected month. I mean, not that exactly — I absolutely knew that December would come after November, as did everyone else who uses the Gregorian calendar or is at least four years old and living in the Western hemisphere. I mean more that this December wasn’t what I expected.
Going through the month, I felt like the days were passing too quickly and I couldn’t keep up. I searched for “Christmas spirit” everywhere but couldn’t seem to find it. I did not bake a single batch of cookies the entire month. For a girl who likes to bake at least a half-dozen recipes, bring cookies and such into work or drop goodies off at friends’ homes, and save a sampler platter to bring to her Dad in Tennessee, that was a pretty low blow for everyone involved.
While it was happening, it didn’t feel like anything. I didn’t really know what I was walking through. I didn’t really blog (sorry readers), I didn’t really work out (sorry pants), and I didn’t read very much or complete any more of the awesome online classes I started. I barely finished listening to Serial. Looking back, though, I can see that this past December was so good for me. December was a month where my loneliness was met week after week by lovely new friends.
The thing about being career-minded and married and moving to a new city as an adult is that your friends are often very far away. Instead of seeing them every other day, you see them just once or twice each year. It’s natural to feel lonely in your new city. But, if you are like me, you might not recognize that loneliness even when it is filling your life. I apparently confuse it with things like work stress, seasonal allergies, or the crippling emotional blow that is entering another winter in Chicago. (I mean, seriously. It is cold.) And then I convince myself that work stress, allergies, or cold weather are good reasons NOT to go out and spend time with new friends, which compounds the loneliness that I haven’t even noticed I have.
I can be such a dummy.
The past six weeks my Chicago people and out of town guests totally rejuvenated me. Thanks to Abby for visiting pre-Thanksgiving and reuniting me with some lovely ladies I hadn’t seen in too many months. Thanks to the awesome book release party for connecting me with people I care about but haven’t seen in ages. Thanks to little girls who take dance classes and brought me to my first-ever showing of the Nutcracker (FYI the Nutcracker is WEIRD!) — and to the awesome hosts of the post-performance shindig. Thanks to the friend who came to stay with us for a week while attending a conference in the city. Thanks to my awesome family and in-laws for fun activities and hang outs over the holidays, and thanks especially to the two couples that joined us here in our Chicago apartment for New Years’ Eve fireworks. I had forgotten how much fun it was to relax, sip on homemade cocktails, bake a cake, and just have fun.
I watched some TV and read a few books and went to some cool places over the last month, but I’ll catch you up on those things later. For now, when I think about this December, I think about you. Thanks, friends, for making this life more awesome.
As I usually do, today I’m linking up with the fabulous Leigh Kramer to share what I was into during the previous month. For great shows to watch, books to read, recipes to try and internet things to click on, check out all of the posts here.
1. Abi Bechtel for SheLoves Magazine in an essay entitled Her Face.
2. Justin Lee for Crumbs from the Communion Table with Did Daniel Pierce’s Coming Out Video Upset You? Here are 5 Things You Can Do.
3. On Twitter Reputations, “Being Kind” and the Golden Spirit, by Esther Emery.
4. Abby Norman on her blog with Birthday Celebrations and Awkward Feelings: Let the Little Children Lead.
5. Engaged in Paris, the story of my friend Katherine’s engagement which was inspired by me! (well, I mean, not entirely inspired by me. The engagement itself wasn’t my idea, just the way that they told their story. But I’m still taking credit.)
Thanks for stopping by! I’m so excited for the blog to finally be back in action. I’ve missed you guys! Did you read any other awesome things this week? If so, make sure to share in the comments or link me up on Facebook or Twitter.
It’s been a beautiful (yet freezing) Thanksgiving day in Tennessee. I got enough quiet time to read two more chapters of Sarah Bessey’s Jesus Feminist while my husband and in laws ran five miles. We had breakfast with the in-laws, thanksgiving lunch with my parents, an afternoon with my grandmother, aunt and cousin, and are now back at the in-laws for dinner. And drinking.
This afternoon we made coffee the old-fashioned way, because the coffee maker at my parents’ house was broken and we just couldn’t have cheesecake without it. We boiled water, poured it over the coffee grounds, steeped for three minutes and then filtered through a Martha Stewart tea towel. (Thanks, Martha.) It was maybe the most fun thing ever, and it tasted great.
I have a few things on my shopping list (mainly cold weather items because holy moly it is freezing in Chicago) but I’m not shopping until Friday or maybe even Saturday. For today, I’ll be at home in solidarity with the hourly workers and retail employees forced into work on this American holiday.
We spent our last night with family in one of Chicago’s top-three deep dish pizza chains. Lou Malnati’s is not my favorite of the three, but it is our guest’s favorite so that is where we went. And I’m not complaining–it was delicious.
These past few days have been so full. I’ve loved every minute but I am also pretty tired. All of the things I do to prepare for my workweeks, including those things I’ve been writing about this past week, have been set aside to make room for fun in our lives. And that’s the thing about successful weeks: you prepare for what’s coming so that you can enjoy what actually happens.
Tomorrow we’ll wrap up our series on successful weeks. Wednesday I’ll post my meal plan and cooking schedule from Fake Thanksgiving, just in case you need last-minute inspiration. Thursday through Sunday we’ll be with family and friends in Tennessee. I’ll try to meet you here each day as I finish National Blog Posting Month.
I have a blog post planned, but it will just have to stay in the cooler because there has been no time for writing today! I mentioned that H’s two brothers would be here for the weekend, and entertaining our guests and preparing for tomorrow’s Fake Thanksgiving Dinner has me exhausted. (I took a mini-nap on the L just a while ago!)
We woke up and had poached eggs and cheesy grits for breakfast this morning. I went ahead and made up two pans of cornbread to use for the dressing tomorrow before jumping in the shower. While that was baking, I threw together the cranberry sauce so it would be chilled and ready to go.
We drove northwest of Chicago so the boys could spend the afternoon hitting golf balls at Top Golf. I went along because of an exciting detour involving wildlife that I will share once the photos are edited! I sipped a hot toddy and read a magazine for a few hours while I watched them play from the warmth of the lodge.
It’s freezing out, and I’m wearing my down coat, two sweaters, tights under my jeans, wool socks, and fleece-lined boots. I found the bright green hooded scarf (with pockets) that my mom gave me five years ago for Christmas for my first winter in DC, and today it is the only thing keeping me from giving up and staying inside forever.
We are now at the Bad Dog Tavern, Chicago’s University of Tennessee bar, watching the UT-Vanderbilt game. When UT scores they play rocky top and the food is honestly pretty great. They have nachos with short ribs. AND the whole place is totally decked out for Christmas!
So, how was your Saturday? Have you started holiday shopping yet? I can’t wait to dig into the sales next weekend!
When I hear the term “meal planning,” I think of housewives with a half-dozen children driving from soccer practice to dance classes. And that is so not my life. A lot of online resources for meal planning are keyed toward families and children, but even if you are single or childless you can save a lot of money and time by planning your meals — and your grocery shopping — in advance.
Over the weekend, H and I take a few minutes to talk through our work weeks so we know when one of us is expecting to work late, grab dinner with friends, or eat lunch out instead of packing lunch. Then, we throw out ideas for what we’d like to eat the next week. I typically like to make one nicer dinner we can look forward to, but otherwise we like to keep it simple and 30-minutes or less. Here’s what we’re eating this week:
As you can see, this is a piece of paper folded in half with the dinners written on the left and breakfasts and lunches written on the right. It’s not rocket science. We choose meals in advance but for breakfasts and lunches we keep options ready that we can grab and go if needed. I eat the exact same lunch every day: turkey or chicken soup packed with veggies, carrot sticks and hummus, and grapes; I take a LUNA bar for mid-afternoon snacks. I change soups from tomato-based to broth-based or throw in an apple and pretzels instead of grapes and carrots when I need variety. It’s a simple life.
We talk about what we want to eat, I quickly sort through the cabinets to see what we have and look in the fridge to pull out anything that’s expired, and then we write down our plans for the week. We put the items we’ll need on our grocery list, and we don’t buy a lot more than what’s one the list. Some, of course — is the beer we love on sale? Are cranberries in season? [I’ve been hoarding cranberries in my freezer like a crazy person.] Did we just discover that there are Triple Double Stuf Oreos? Then we’re totally buying that too. But overall, we stay close to the list.
Using the paper method is helpful on the front end: we spend less at the grocery store. Because we are working on managing our budget better, we’ve been trying to keep our weekly grocery bill under a set amount that is right for us. It’s easy to over-spend at the grocery store if you don’t go in with a plan, but even if we weren’t saving money with this system [we are], I would do it because it is such a stress-killer. Ever walk into your apartment/home and think “what should I make for dinner?” Ever had someone you love ask you “what should we have for dinner?” Ever think that choosing something to make for dinner is too hard and even if you could choose something that sounded good it would be too hard to make, so you should just order a pizza or grab some takeout because decisions are hard? That’s me pretty much every day.
When you have the paper on the fridge, it’s easier to stay on track. The answer to the question “what’s for dinner?” is written on the paper you taped to the refrigerator. You don’t have to decide anything — just read. It is a great plan. Not feeling what is listed for the evening? You have all of the other nightly meals you can choose from before you resort to the takeout option.
Do not think that we don’t ever resort to takeout even when we have perfectly good groceries in our kitchen. We absolutely go off the list all the time. But we do it less, saving money, time, and benefiting our health while being less wasteful overall. It works for us, and even H agrees that it is a good idea.
Do you plan your meals in advance? Do you eat the same breakfasts and lunches every day, or do you need daily variety? Any other tricks for staying on-plan during the week?
When I announced my decision to join NaBloPoMo this month, I mentioned that using Sunday afternoons to prep a few advance posts for the week makes a huge difference in my ability to post daily. The first week of November, I did this well and had a pretty great week, on the blog and otherwise. Last week, I didn’t make my time count over the weekend and spent the entire week paying the price. It is only half-way through the month and already I am frustrated with having to blog each day; the timing of my postings is getting a little later each night of the week. So today, while the rain and wind and thunder and hail bounce against our windows, I’m putting in the time it takes to get things back on track.
While planning for the blog is a big part of what I do on the weekend to prepare for the workweek, it isn’t the only thing I need to prioritize if I want to be successful. When I’m being responsible, I take a few minutes on the weekend to make some decisions in advance so that I can head to work each morning with minimal stress and spend my weekday evenings doing things I enjoy instead of constantly playing catch-up.
I know that doing these small tasks on the weekend makes me happier and more successful, but I don’t always do them. I sometimes struggle to follow through on things I want to do, especially if they are good for me. As we enter the busy holiday season, I must remind myself how important these small things are for my own satisfaction and save time on the busy weekends to take care of myself. H and I have two special guests arriving mid-week and staying with us until we all leave for Thanksgiving in Tennessee, so I need to fit in all of my usual tasks along with the extra baking, cleaning, cooking, and shopping I want to do so we all have a wonderful, stress-free weekend and holiday with our families.
Since it’s timely and a needed reminder for myself, I’ll be posting a bit this week about how planning ahead helps me stay on-track in the following areas:
- Arriving at Work Professionally Dressed
- Healthy and Budget-Friendly Meal Planning
- Keeping your Apartment Comfortable and Welcoming
As we go through the week, please be sure to share your own weekly and/or nightly rituals that keep you on top of your game.