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I’m not one for New Year’s Resolutions and I find myself nauseated by the onslaught of what seem to be overly dramatic New Year’s related posts as I scroll through my Facebook newsfeed. I don’t always enjoy all the “Best of 2012” articles or “My Year in Review” summaries, but maybe I’m just grumpy. However, on this first day of another year ahead, I can’t help but sit and reflect on where I am in my life, the things accomplished, and the dreams for the future. I can’t say that I know what to expect in this coming year but I do know that I am hopeful, optimistic, and excited about where my adventures are headed. This past year hasn’t been all sunshine and rainbows, things didn’t always turn out as I had hoped, I have had some real lows and a few painful disappointments, but in the words of my father-in-law, “It’s life.” You get the good with the bad, it’s a package deal, and I don’t expect anything less in this coming year.

One thing I know for sure is that I am blessed. And I actually mean it. I’m not trying to be cliché or trite or grossly sentimental. I am a very lucky girl! I have so many things to be thankful for and so many things to rejoice about. My life is not perfect, by any stretch of the imagination, but perfectly imperfect in so many ways and I am grateful. I do not wish to recap my whole year with you today nor do I want to give you a list of my accomplishments. I’m also not all that interested in sharing with you a bunch of resolutions I intend to keep in the new year. Instead, I want to share with you a few moments from the past few weeks that I am looking back on with a grateful heart…

Hard at work

Hard at work!

I spent an entire day in the kitchen, baking Christmas cookies with my mom. I love Christmastime, always have, always will, and nothing else marks the start of Christmas for me like holiday baking. My mom and I have always made Christmas goodies together, as far back as I can remember, and it’s one of my favorite traditions. We don’t always make the same recipes, it’s not always just the two of us, and sometimes scheduling can seem daunting but we always seem to work it out. This year especially, I cherished the quiet calm of just mom and me, baking dozens of cookies, trying to remember old recipes and looking up new ones (sampling as we went along), chatting about all the happenings of our lives, and sharing a moment in time together…then, watching my dad gobble up some of our bounty when he made it home from work!

Sweet Ashlyn Grace

Sweet Ashlyn Grace

I got to crawl around the floor, play in the snow, and chase my beautiful niece, Ashlyn, around my parents’ living room on Christmas day and for two days after! I don’t get to spend as much time with this sweet girl as I would like to and sometimes I get sad to think she doesn’t know her Auntie as well as she should. But for a few days, during my favorite time of year, we played together. She laughed and squealed and giggled, ran around in circles, had moments of total seriousness, played catch with my sweet puppy Nina, let me hug and kiss her, and I was in heaven.  She loved the little wagon we got her for Christmas and I watched her push it around with delight… it doesn’t get much cooler than that!

For New Year’s Eve this year, I spent the day doing some of my favorite things. I went up to Runyon Canyon with Eddie and Nina in the morning for some fresh air, exercise, and quality puppy time. Then, Eddie and I went to the movies and watched “This is 40” which made me literally laugh out loud (embarrassingly) more times than I can count. And instead of going out to some club or party for NYE festivities, we went to my in-laws’ house where we ate a home-cooked Mexican feast and then enjoyed our food coma, snuggled up by the fireplace. We “camped” with our nephews, sang at the top of our lungs, played the “quiet game” and “Simon says”, and laughed until we cried. At midnight, we shared big hugs and sent all the kids running to wish their parents a Happy New Year! Best. New Years. Ever!

NYE

These are the things I am remembering today, with a smile and a heart full or joy, and these are the things that will help me get through some of the harder moments. Like I said, I am a VERY lucky girl.

 

This is my “I’m back” pose…this gem was snapped during our trip to Vegas

I bet you thought I had forgotten about this thing, didn’t ya’? Well, no, not exactly…I just took a… well…let’s call it an unofficial hiatus, yes? I offer no real excuses for my absence, at least not any that I think you would buy, so instead of going on and on about why I am perfectly justified in my actions (in some lame attempt to make myself feel better about the whole thing), I will simply say that I wasn’t making it a priority. Understandable or not, I was putting other things in my life ahead of keeping up with my blog and my followers (haha! Followers! Hi family! ). If you read my post about procrastination, this should have come as no surprise! Nonetheless, I am back and I am going to try my best to be better at this whole thing, if for no other reason than to prove to myself that I can do it! Let’s move on, shall we?

I have done a lot over the last three months, but unfortunately none of those things resulted in me making millions or becoming a household name; so, no, I will not be changing the title of my blog anytime soon. I did however, have a lot of fun and create a lot of art with the beautiful people I have been lucky enough to find in my company. I am truly blessed in so many ways and, as this year winds down into a period of time that is excruciatingly slow in our business, I must constantly remind myself of the many wonderful things I DID get accomplished this year.

Unfortunately, I cannot include on that list all of the summer projects I laid out for myself to get done. I had high hopes but, alas, in true Jean fashion, I still have a pile of unfinished projects I need to get to “when I have the time”. Let’s take a look at that original list…

My Summer Projects:

1)      My Eddie & Jean Scrapbook – I started this scrapbook while Eddie and I were dating, hoping to chronicle our time of courtship. I think after almost 4 years of marriage it is time to finish!

Yea…didn’t happen…but I have 6 more pages done that I did at the beginning of summer and I have set to work on it again. Let’s get it done before 2013!

2)      Get prints of our Wedding Photos – This kind of goes along with the first project. I think it is finally time to get some prints of our wedding photos and fill those wedding picture frames that have been lying empty in the closet all this time.

Mission accomplished! Woo hoo for me!

One of several frames now hanging beautifully in my apartment

3)      Make Bedroom Curtains-To be fair, this is a new project for my new apartment, but if I don’t include it on this list I will end up with old sheets hanging on my windows until it’s time to move again! This includes little curtains for the kitchen hutch we turned into bedroom furniture.

Although I did get the curtains done (finally!), it was not without a lot of effort and struggle. I was most shocked at the price of fabric! Will I make my own curtains again? Probably not…just go buy the darn things!

A swatch of the fabric I finally found

4)      Chair Cushions-We bought a second-hand dining room table and chairs when we moved into our first apartment and I remember thinking back then that I should make some chair cushions to cover the scratches and ugly marks on the seats. Clearly this never happened, but now I am using the chairs, without the table, in various places throughout the new place. They need cushions!

My chairs do have cushions now but I did not make them. When you can buy them for $5 at IKEA, why bother making them yourself (see curtain note).

5)      Guitar Pick Earrings-I know this sounds totally random, but I have had a box of guitar picks for many years now (I am afraid to do the math to find out exactly how long) and I have never put them to use. I hardly play the guitar and when I do I don’t use a pick. At one point I tried to give them away! I saw someone a while back with these really cute earrings made out of guitar picks and I thought, “I can totally do that!” And I will.

COMPLETELY forgot about these…anyone want some for Christmas?!

6)      Jar Candles for Outside-I’ve been saving glass jars for months now without a specific project in mind but with the thought that someday I would be really glad I saved all of them! I almost threw them all out with the move but something told me to hold onto them. Now, I’m glad I did because I saw a project online for making outdoor candles using glass jars! Plus, we have a mosquito problem in our new backyard and we plan on spending a lot of time grilling and chilling back there this summer. So, I plan to make them citronella candle jars!

This absolutely happened, and were beautiful, but only slightly helped with the mosquito problem. I was still eaten alive for most of the summer.

7)      T-Shirt Quilt-Eddie has a GAZILLION t-shirts and some of those t-shirts he doesn’t even wear anymore; he just saves them for sentimental value! I have a few also, but the question has always been, “What do we do with all these t-shirts?!” Then I saw this project for a quilt made with old t-shirts and I got excited. Finally, a fun and useful way to hold onto all these memories. But in order to get rid of the garbage bag full of t-shirts under my bed, I have to START and COMPLETE this cool project.

Haven’t even taken the bag out from under the bed ONE TIME!

 

So I’m 4 for 7. Not bad, but I can do better. I’d like to think that I will be able to check a couple more off my list before the end of the year but we can pretty much count on that NOT happening. But as long as I still have the list, I know what needs to get done, right?

I’m glad to be back and I am looking forward to sharing with you more crazy stories and some of my NEW favorite recipes. Although I was gone, I wasn’t dead. I have been cooking up all kinds of fun new recipes, seeing lots of great places, and baking up a storm. Stay tuned…

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I know, I’m in trouble…it has been a ridiculously long time since my last blog. Writing 1 post every 3 weeks is not the goal! If you are reading this now that means you haven’t completely given up on me yet and I am very grateful for that. My only hope is that this next series of posts will more than make up for my absence. We’ll see…

I am not trying to make excuses for myself but I just got back from a 10-day trip to Florida. And although at one point I had hoped this would be a good opportunity to catch up with my blogging, clearly that was NOT the case. With my laptop stolen shortly before I left, I traveled without a computer of my own (I know, tragic!) and I am not quite skilled enough to write and post on entire blog post via iPhone. So there I was, 10 days away from home with a LOT of down time and no computer to fill the void.

How did I survive you may wonder? Well, I’ll tell you. A kick-ass Florida roommate (Shar Gabriel), lots of mindless TV, a beach and pool right outside my hotel room, and a good, old-fashioned BOOK! Yes, that’s right! I started and completed an entire 500+ page book while I was away. Hardcover. No digital gizmo or gadget. I can’t even remember the last time I sat down to read anything that wasn’t a play or screenplay, let alone breeze through hundreds of pages. It felt good!

 

I sent this picture to my mom when I landed in Fort Lauderdale

 

The book of choice was Her Daughter’s Dream by Francine Rivers. This was book 2 in a 2-part series by one of my favorite authors. My mother and I started reading Francine Rivers back when I was still in high school and she might be the only author we still agree about. There are other books I have loved and my mother hated and vice versa but we never disagree about a good Francine novel. My absolute FAVORITE by her is Redeeming Love and if you have some free time for a good love story, do yourself a favor and read it! But honestly, you can’t go wrong with this author.

Francine Rivers writes Christian fiction novels but don’t let that scare you away. They are simply classic stories of love, family, and struggle that always have a vein of finding one’s faith along the way. You are never beaten over the head with her religion but rather you are presented with realistic depictions of people struggling to find and keep their faith in the world around them. And man! Does she write some of the greatest love stories!

Her Daughter’s Dream is so great because it is a totally female-centric story. Over the course of 2 epic novels, we watch 5 generations of mothers and daughters struggle to relate to and understand one another. As the outside observer, we watch their mistakes and yet at the same time understand their motives. We see how each woman tries to be better than their perception of their own mother but still ends up making the same mistakes and often creating the same divides. The second book takes place entirely in California and relates to more current events than the previous book. These women battle illness, women’s rights in education and work, drugs, sex, war-time, love and most importantly that always touchy relationship between a woman and her daughter. I found myself desperately wanting these women to finally come together and just BE HONEST! Come on ladies, talk it out and work it out!

I saved the last 100 pages or so for the plane ride home because I knew it would be a long flight and that I would need the entertainment. I found myself having to stop and take breaks from reading in order to keep from crying like a baby. It was, after all, an airplane and I was sitting in a middle seat between two young gentlemen that I didn’t know. I didn’t want them thinking I was CRAZY! But this was such a good book that no matter how hard I tried NOT to make a fool of myself, I did let out a couple of tears in the end. Whatever, I’m a crier, I can’t help it!

The first book in the series is Her Mother’s Hope; start there and enjoy this wonderful 2 part family saga.

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