Anniversary

Today is the anniversary of the day I married Hubs three years ago.  I’ve said it before, but marriage is hard work and it’s about making a choice every day to be present in the marriage.  Hubs pretty great and I knew that then, but I’m not sure how much I appreciated it.  We have made huge strides with each other lately and the other day, as we discussed a future that may involve living apart temporarily in order to set ourselves up best for each having an opportunity to fulfill our callings in the same city in the future, he said something along the lines of, “We’ve grown up together so much recently and I’m so happy with where our relationship is now, I might not want to be apart from you.”  Friends, my cup runneth the eff over!  So in honor of our anniversary, I’d like to highlight some improvements between us since we tied the knot.  (This is by no means an exhaustive list).

1.  Hubs is a good cleaner upper.  When we first moved in together, a couple of months before we got married, I had never lived in close quarters with a man, having not grown up with brothers.  I was SHOCKED by the base level of cleanliness that seemed acceptable to Hubs (how low can you go?) and I didn’t handle it well.  As I am not one who really keeps feelings to herself and at times blames them on other people, I was a, ahem, challenge to live with until we worked that all out.  What helped eventually was me being reasonable about what I was asking, giving advance notice of chores I felt needed doing, and avoiding the following:  hysterics, gross generalizations, and unrealistic expectations (this last bit involved a compromise from both of us on a mutually acceptable base level of cleanliness).

2.  I try to be nice to him ALL THE TIME.  Growing up, it was really easy for me to treat my parents or my sister badly if I was having a bad day.  They quickly forgave snappiness and rudeness, and I don’t think I heard enough that it wasn’t okay to take my feelings out on other people.  Like most of the other things I’d been doing for my first 23 years, I brought this modus operandi with me to my marriage.  It wasn’t ’til I was spending time with family that my eyes were opened to a different way to be.  My dad’s sister said that when she first started dating her partner, he said to her, “You can’t treat people like that.”  She now makes a concerted effort with everyone, especially him, to behave better when she is in crisis.  I realized that weekend that I needed to change the pattern of behavior in my own life, and I set out to be nice to Hubs all the time, even when I’m mad at him.  This effort has not been without its failures, but we are both SIGNIFICANTLY happier than we were.  The commitment to this new way of interacting was also much easier for me to make and keep than I thought it would be (though looking back, I’m not sure why I thought it would be hard; I hate acting like a bitch and always regret treating people badly).

3. Our sex life.  (YESSSSSSSS)

So what’s the key to this pretty great list?  Communication.  1, 2, and 3 are a result of us trying to be tip top communicators.  I’m one who’ll talk a subject to death, and Hubs keeps things locked up inside, but now we exist mostly in the happy medium of being able to share and confide and also let each other have time to process things alone (Hubs) or with extramarital support (me).  I’m pretty thankful for the past three years and psyched out of my mind for the rest of our marriage.  If we keep improving at the current rate, we’re going to be the best married couple EVER.

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Making the most of my 168 hours

After my outlook on life changed dramatically about a month or so ago, Hubs and I had a serious talk about cleaning our house.  Keeping the house clean doesn’t take us too much time, but that is mostly because we try to stay on top of things.  And let me tell you, with three [extraordinarily] furry friends in the house, “clean” probably means a different thing to us that to people with no pets.  We’ve talked before about paying someone to clean, and it always seemed unnecessary to me because we equally share the responsibilities.  Plus, once we had a housekeeping service come out to give us a quote, and it was OUTRAGEOUS.  With me re-focusing [or perhaps truly focusing for the first time ever] on grad school, however, it seemed like it might be time to reconsider having someone help out.

Over at 168 Hours, Laura Vanderkam always stresses that, in order to make the most of your 168 weekly hours, you should pay people to do the things you don’t have to do.  This way, you allow yourself to fully enjoy the time you’re not working or to truly apply yourself to work when it’s work time.  This idea has always made tons of sense in theory, but now faced with the goal of [actually] applying myself to finishing my PhD and knowing that the best way for me to not lose steam is to practice self-care by giving myself real time off (weekends filled with crafts rather than chores), we set out to find someone to clean our house.

I called seven (count ’em!) cleaning services and filled out as many online forms and I didn’t hear back from a SINGLE ONE.  (Maybe it was the truthfulness of my applications.  On the scale that you could use to rank your house: 1 – fairly clean, 2 – Some dust and dirt, 3 – Lots of dust and dirt, and I chose 3 every time.  If given an option to include more information, I put something like “we have a lot of fur here”).  I’ve let it just sort of simmer since I made the initial push, but the whole situation got me started thinking about how I spend my time.  Honestly, an hour or two of cleaning a week isn’t breaking the self-control bank, but dedicating time to things that don’t fill me up at least as much as I am pouring out is.

So I really carefully examined my time, and I realized that I needed to quit coaching Ultimate and cancel cable television.  I love coaching, and if I had a 9-5 job, I would continue to do it as long as I could.  Quitting was an extremely difficult decision, much harder to make than the choice to quit playing, but the emotional energy and time that I was dedicating to coaching had become too much.  The decision to cancel cable was easy:  I hated that the TV was always on, that watching TV was my main relaxation activity (rather than reading books, which I LOVE), that Hubs and I watched TV together but didn’t have as many good conversations, take as many walks, or enjoy as many meals together.

I tearfully informed my team and am now navigating a new life of not traveling multiple weekends for Ultimate or being committed to four+ hours a week of leading and planning practices.  We kissed our DVR goodbye and said hello to free DVDs from the library, streaming shows we love on the computer, and an antenna that lets us catch the NFL games of the local team (in HD!).  Hubs and I are having great conversations, and I’ve been able to [mostly] stay motivated at work.  Yesterday I met with my counselor, and it was one of the first times in years that I haven’t cried throughout the session.  These changes in my life have been varying levels of challenging to enact, but I am SO GLAD I have.

How could you make the most of your 168 hours?

Party Time

I co-hosted a combo wedding shower/bachelorette party for a friend this weekend and I was in charge of my two favorite things:  drinks and decorations.  I’ll save the sangria and margarita recipes for another post because I am super-excited about the crafting I did for the decorations!  We had the party in the clubhouse of the condo complex where the bride and her roommate (another co-host) live and I hadn’t seen the space before.  I was pleasantly surprised by how much light there was and how it was already decorated (fairly simply, but with some cool touches like bamboo trays, brightly upholstered chairs and a vaulted wooden ceiling).  The final product:

You can see the bamboo trays in the center, a corner of the cute chair in the bottom right, and the wooden ceiling across the top.

For inspiration, I scoured the internet and found so many good ideas.  I ended up doing some bunting, a garland, very simple flower arrangements, and tissue paper poms.  I worked on all of this off and on from last Saturday, which was perfect because Hubs was at a meeting all this past week so it was a bit lonely at the homestead.  I always forget how much I love doing creative things until I do them, and it makes my work life easier if I go home and use a different part of my brain.  Here are the specifics:

H-A-P-P-Y W-E-D-D-I-N-G

I got the idea for the bunting here (another ‘roo!) and modified it somewhat.  I bought scrapbook paper at Joann’s on major sale and also bought ribbon to use as the connector.  I only bought one spool of ribbon and so I had something like 12 yards for 30 flags, which dictated the size of the flags (they were 7.5 inches across the top and I used the whole length of the 12×12 scrapbook page so they were something like 13.5 inches diagonally).  I was able to cut two flags for each page of scrapbook paper (using a cutting mat and my rotary cutter) and used 15 different prints for the 30 flags.  I printed the letter templates on regular computer paper, used an exacto knife to cut them out from coordinating solid paper, and glued them to the flags with DAP One Stik adhesive.  I was going to glue each flag onto ribbon, but ended up machine sewing them together because it was waaaaay easier, meaning that I could have made them whatever sizes I wanted.

If you click, you'll be able to see the two different color threads.

Inspiration for the garland came from here, but I also owe at least as much to this, for the idea of sewing (not gluing) the garland with different colored thread in your bobbin and main thread which does the totes adorable twisty thing in between the dots.  For this, I bought a circle cutter (a Fiskars one) at steep Joann’s discount and I REALLY LIKE IT.  Then, while watching Downton Abbey, I cut out about 300 circles from the leftovers from my bunting and from some coordinating solid paper I had and sewed them together.

The flowers were from Trader Joe’s (cheap and sustainably grown)!  I arranged them in red plastic solo cups, since I clutter-cleared a bunch of vases a couple of months ago, but the slight tackiness ended up being perfect because we were playing beer pong at this shindig.  Inspiration for these goes to my mother-in-law, who never misses a chance to decorate with fresh flowers and always does a beautiful job.

The tissue paper poms are all over the interwebs, most notably here, but I think first saw them in this Etsy blog post.  My mom also pointed out that we made a version of these in elementary school using pipe cleaners around the middles.  Instead of using wire or pipe cleaners, I stapled the middles of mine, and I hung them using sewing thread because we didn’t have any fishing line.  I got a big packet of 100% recycled tissue paper here and I can probably make about a bazillion more poms with all that I have left.  Here’s a photo of all the poms, not exactly in focus, but you can see how cute all the colors looked together:

Baking with Auntie M

Hubs and I took a trip to see family in Minnesota and got to spend time at several state parks (we saw two bald eagles and a black bear!), but really the best part was getting to be with my awesome relatives.  I’m so happy to be related to them.  These people are smart, interesting, and funny.  They also still seem to like me in spite of the fact that I regress to the maturity of a two year old, complete with a crying tantrum, when they beat me at cards.  (To be fair, I had been losing at all the games we played ALL WEEKEND and there’s only so much of that a reasonable person can take.  Please see this study, which corroborates the idea that self-control is a resource that can be depleted by difficult tasks).

The last night we were there, my aunt baked an amazing red velvet cake that really changed my mind about cake mixes.  Before, I felt like there was going to be no way I ever baked a cake from scratch because it seemed really challenging and like they just don’t taste as good.  I realize now how wrong I was and how excited I am to try some cakes from Whisk Kid.  The recipe follows, and it’s best eaten with people you love:

Cream together (with an electric mixer of some type):
1/2 cup of vegetable shortening
1 1/2 cups white sugar
2 eggs

Make a “paste” and add it to your already creamed mixture:
2 T cocoa (unsweetened kind)
2 oz red food coloring
2 oz red water from rinsing out the food coloring bottle (You’re actually supposed to put a whole ‘nother 2 oz of food coloring in, but Auntie M can’t stomach the cost or double the Red Dye No. whatever.  It’s plenty red as you can see.  Also, watch out if you have a wooden countertop and spill any red on it because that is never coming out.)

Now mix that sucker and add:
1/2 t salt
1 t vanilla

Mix and then add alternately while mixing:
1 c buttermilk (split up a bit)
2 1/4 cups of flour (split up a bit)

BEAT and BEAT

Mix 1.5 t of soda with a tablespoon of vinegar (it should fizz in a fun way) and then fold gently into the batter.  Then bake it in two 8 or 9 inch roundy pans for 30 minutes at 350 F (or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean).

While it was baking we started the icing.  This part is kind of gross because first you make a paste like when you do papier-mâché and then you cook it to thicken it up.

Combine:
5 T Flour
1 c Milk
Stir and pour through a sieve to get the lumps out.  Cook over medium high heat stirring constantly until it turns into a paste, then boil and stir about a minute.  Then remove from heat, put on the lid, and let it cool to room temperature.  While it was cooling, we ate dinner, but before that we got out 2 sticks of salted butter to soften at room temperature.

Later, cream together (until light and fluffy):
2 sticks (1 c) of softened butter
1 c granulated sugar
A splash of vanilla or almond or whatever flavoring suits you

Then add your cooled paste that you made earlier to your butter and sugar and beat it until it looks like icing.  Frost your yummo cake and don’t forget the SPRINKLES!