2016 Reading Challenge – final report.


The 2016 Reading Challenge final list!

Allow me to begin with Ava’s current book total – she ended the year with just under 900 books.  She is so close to hitting the 1000 books before kindergarten mark and she’s not even 15 months old.  :)  We used to just read over her as she played – baby’s version of Audible.  Now she’s starting to get into books and she’ll pull out book after book and hand it to us with an urgent grunt.  “Please!  Read this now!  I must know about Brown Bear, Brown Bear!”  It’s really cute and we love that she loves books.  We’ll complete the 1000 books before kindergarten challenge and then take a break from recording her book count.  I want to do it again in a few years when she’s able to sit and understand and interact over the stories and pictures.

Now on to me, me, me…  Here are the categories and the book(s) I’ve read for each:

A book published this year.
Eligible by Curtis Sittenfeld – 4 stars
The One You Really Want by Jill Mansell – 3 stars
The Woman in Cabin 10 by Ruth Ware – 4 stars*
A Gentleman in Moscow by Amor Towles – 5 stars
The Dollhouse by Fiona Davis – 4 stars

A book you can finish in a day.
Polish Your Poise with Madame Chic:  Lessons in Everyday Elegance by Jennifer L. Scott – 4 stars
Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein – 4 stars

A book you’ve been meaning to read.
The Hypnotist’s Love Story by Liane Moriarty – 4 stars

A book recommended by your local librarian or bookseller.
The Readers of Broken Wheel Recommend by Katarina Bivald – 3 stars

A book you should have read in school.
There was nothing that I should have read in school that I didn’t read in school, so I decided to choose a book that is commonly read in school.  It actually wound up being one that I’d already read, but it had been many years and it was nice to re-visit Thornfield Hall.
Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte – 4 stars

A book chosen for you by your spouse, partner, sibling, child, or BFF.
Blood and Thunder by Hampton Sides – 5 stars

A book published before you were born.
Rainbow Valley by L.M. Montgomery – 4 stars 

A book that was banned at some point.
I just couldn’t muster up the energy to read a book in this category.  As a general rule, banned books deal in heavy subject matter and I just wasn’t up for heavy this year.

A book that you previously abandoned.
The Secret Keeper by Kate Morton – 4 stars

A book you own but have never read.
Rilla of Ingleside by L.M. Montgomery – 5 stars

A book that intimidates you.
The Bully Pulpit:  Theodore Roosevelt, William Howard Taft, and the Golden Age of Journalism by Doris Kearns Goodwin – 5 stars

A book you’ve already read at least once.
Amy & Roger’s Epic Detour by Morgan Matson – formerly 5 stars; this time around I felt more like it was 4 stars
The Language of Flowers by Vanessa Diffenbaugh – formerly 5 stars; this time I’d give it 6 stars if I could

Here are the books I’ve read that don’t fit into a category.  They are:

Astonish Me by Maggie Shipstead – 4 stars
We Were Liars by E. Lockhart – 3 stars
We Never Asked for Wings by Vanessa Diffenbaugh – 4 stars
After You by Jojo Moyes – 3 stars
Baby Led Weaning: Helping Your Baby to Love Good Food by Gill Rapley – 4 stars
The Invention of Wings by Sue Monk Kidd – 4 stars
Twenties Girl by Sophie Kinsella – 5 stars
Secrets of a Charmed Life by Susan Meissner – 4 stars

Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell – 3 stars
Waiting for Birdy: A Year of Frantic Tedium, Neurotic Angst, and the Wild Magic of Growing a Family by Catherine Newman – 5 stars
Paris for One and Other Stories by Jojo Moyes – 4 stars
The Girl with the Lower Back Tattoo by Amy Schumer – 3 stars*
The Secret Life of Violet Grant by Beatriz Williams – 4 stars
The Yonahlossee Riding Camp for Girls by Anton DiSclafani – 3 stars
Love the One You’re With by Emily Giffin – 4 stars*
Dress Your Family in Corduroy and Denim by David Sedaris – 4 stars*
Tiny Little Thing by Beatriz Williams – 3 stars

That was a total of 34 books for the year – far more than I expected to read, but a pleasant surprise in the end.  I just love reading and prioritize it over many, many other things that I could – and sometimes should – be doing.

I decided against doing a little synopsis and opinion of each of the above books because this post would be ridiculously long, but if any of the titles catch your eye and you want to know more, please let me know!  I’d be happy to share.

And to not leave Kevin out of this reading update, here is a list of the books he read in 2016 and his rating of those books:

The Opening Kickoff:  The Tumultuous Birth of a Football Nation by Dave Revsine – 4 stars
Influence:  The Psychology of Persuasion by Robert Cialdini – 3 stars
Bit Literacy:  Productivity in the Age of Information and E-mail Overload by Mark Hurst – 2 stars
First, Break All the Rules:  What the World’s Greatest Managers Do Differently by Marcus Buckingham- 4 stars
The Personal MBA:  Master the Art of Business by Josh Kaufman – 3 stars
Thunderstruck by Erik Larson – 3 stars*
Dad is Fat by Jim Gaffigan – 4 stars*
The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck: A Counterintuitive Approach to Leading a Good Life by Mark Manson – 2 stars*
Ghost Wars: The Secret History of the CIA, Afghanistan, and bin Laden from the Soviet Invasion to  September 10, 2001 by Steve Coll – 5 stars
Great by Choice: Uncertainty, Chaos, and Luck–Why Some Thrive Despite Them All by James C. Collins – 5 stars*
Dress Your Family in Corduroy and Denim by David Sedaris – 4 stars*
Taliban by James Fergusson – 4 stars

*Denotes audiobooks rather than hard/paperback or e-reader

What was your favorite book in 2016?  What are you excited to read in 2017?


Snapshot {December}.


Making: Lists in my 2017 planner.  I accomplish a lot when it is on a list and I know I’ll have the satisfaction of crossing it off when it’s done.  My plan is to write out in advance (like right now) five goals for each of the 52 weeks in 2017.  We’ll see how it works!

Cooking: Mmm, good food recently.  Yesterday we made the Pioneer Woman’s potato soup for dinner.  Tonight we made our favorite – pan seared chicken with balsamic cream sauce.  Tomorrow night will be our favorite beef stew and homemade bread.

Drinking: Water.  80 ounces each day.  Some days are tougher than others.


Reading: Several books.  The Secret Garden on my phone.  Team of Rivals, slowly but surely.  Truly, Madly, Guilty, my current library book.  Kevin and I are listening to Duplicity as well.

Wanting: Ava to reach the end of her current teething phase.  The first set of top molars have been visible for a week and minimal progress seems to be happening.  Poor thing.  She’s also in a developmental leap which means she’s hyperaware and clingy and doesn’t go down for her regular bedtime as easily as usual.  Will I ever stop obsessing about her sleep habits and patterns and phases?  I certainly hope so.


Looking: Forward to 2017.  A fresh year just feels so full of promise.  I don’t know how I want to capture each monthly recap on the blog, if at all.  I enjoyed this format this year and it allowed me to share my favorite five or six Instagram photos from each month.  But I don’t think I want to do another year of it.

Eating: Well.  See above under cooking.  :)

 Wishing: My parents and sister lived closer.  I know I’m very lucky that they’re only 2.5 hours away – some people are so much further from family.  But schedules prevent regular visits.  I wish Ava had the chance to know them the way she does her other grandparents.


Enjoying: Some of Ava’s newest mannerisms.  She picks up books and holds them up to us, making this cute little grunting noise to indicate that she wants us to read them to her.  She’s also started dancing and girlfriend has rhythm on par with her mom, which is to say, no rhythm.  But it’s adorable.  I love how she pulls herself up on her little bear chair and looks so proud to be sitting there.  She knows where we keep the crackers and gets so excited anytime we go near it.  She’s a master climber of the stairs and has also gotten really good at going down them properly.

Loving: My new booties.  I thought I hated booties, but maybe I am just really, really picky.

Hoping: The weather allows us to resume our regular walks around the neighborhood.  It’s really so good for the mind, body, and soul to get that fresh air and leg stretch in semi-regularly.


Needing: To remember this verse:  Ephesians 5:4 – “Let there be no filthiness nor foolish talk nor crude joking, which are out of place, but instead let there be thanksgiving.”  Amanda shared it recently and it really resonated with me as something I need to focus on myself.

Smelling: Lavender mist from my diffuser.  So soothing.

Feeling: Relaxed and happy.  I am so blessed.


Wearing: Sweats and a t-shirt.  New Year’s eve party clothes.

Watching: Homeland.  We’re on the first episode of the sixth season.  Poor Quinn.

What are you wishing/needing/loving/eating right now?

To-do in 2015 – final recap.

Here I sit on the final eve of 2015.  My belly is full of beef stroganoff and there’s football on TV.  What a year it has been!  Ava wasn’t on the to-do list, but she ruled the year.  We love having her here with us and can’t wait to see what is in store for 2016.  I’m so thankful for my beautiful family of humans and cats.  And I’m thankful for you, friends.  Thank you for the kind words on my post about life now.  I have missed regular blogging (writing and reading) because I feel like my connection with all my wonderful blog friends has suffered.  Know that I think of so many of you so often.  Kevin can attest that I often start stories with, “My blog friend {insert name here} said…”  :)  This Desert Girl thanks you for a lovely year.

1. K & A:  Go to Europe.
Done!!  You can read about here.  And here and here.  And here.  Oh yeah.  And here and here

2. K: Read a classic.
Kevin read Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde – a classic tale of one man, two personalities.  He enjoyed it.

3. A: Do all Christmas shopping in local/independent stores or give homemade stuff.  Like crocheted scarves, vanilla extract (inspired by Tiffany, who gave me homemade vanilla extract for Christmas 2014!), or hot pepper oil (inspired by Allie, who blogged about it here).
I failed at this!  I wasn’t proactive and then had no motivation to shop around town close to the holiday.  I love the idea though and hope to accomplish it someday. 

4. A: Read 52 books.  (Bonus points if I manage to complete this 2015 reading challenge, which I think is only – ha! – 50 books….thanks, Tiffany, for sharing the idea!)
I read 54 or 55 books this year and finished the 2015 reading challenge.  You can read a bit about each book I read for the challenge here.

5. A:  Blog 104 posts.
I only blogged 71 times this year (well, 72 including this one!), so fell short of this goal.   

6. K & A:  Fund IRA’s for the year.
Done.  We take different approaches to funding the IRA’s:  Kevin takes the automatically-send-money-to-the-IRA-with-each-paycheck approach and I write a lump sum check.  But both methods get the job done!

7. K & A:  Complete at least one home improvement project. (New tile downstairs, master bathroom, shelves in the garage…)
We started the year with a new furnace (out of necessity), then we did our tile replacement in June.  Eight new windows were installed in July (and eight more are on the way!), we ripped out the wet bar and replaced it with built-in bookshelves and storage in July as well.  You can read about our renovation projects here.

8. K & A:  Run a 5k.
I was a lazy bum and didn’t run a 5K (or even work on training for one) at the beginning of the pregnancy or pre-pregnancy, so that didn’t happen.  But Kevin ran one for me on a random day in July.  And he ran a race for himself on October 10. 


9. K: Smoke a rack of ribs or a brisket.
My mom gave Kevin a brisket (we get all our beef from my parents, who have cattle), and he had planned to smoke it in the fall.  But fall got away from us!  Maybe in the spring. 

10. K & A:  Take a road trip to a historic destination in New Mexico.
We’re counting our trip to my step-dad’s old school in Encino.  It was really so special to explore that beautiful building with my stepdad and his brothers and their families.  You can read about that here.

11. K & A:  Try 10 new restaurants.
We have tried 11 new restaurants.  We’d like to continue to broaden our horizons, but we fully admit that we tend to get into restaurant ruts.  Delicious though they may be…

12. K & A:  Try 15 new recipes.
We’ve tried 27 new recipes.  Several were hits and have made it into the regular rotation.

13. K:  Start and complete an entire workout program.
Kevin took up Crossfit in September and completed the boot camp program at the gym he attends.  He’s hooked!

14. K:  Take a golf continuing ed class or attend three golf lessons.
This one didn’t happen.  But maybe 2016 will be the year of golf! 

15. A:  Host a theme party.
I hosted a Favorite Things party and it was a lot of fun.  Here’s more about that!

Did you set some goals for 2015?  If so, how did you do? 

To-do in 2015: the halfway point.


2015 is over half over, which is unbelievable to me.  It seems high time that I check in on the year’s to-do list that Kevin and I created for ourselves.  We still have plenty to do this year, but we’re making great progress on all fronts and have crossed off two of the biggest (and most expensive) items!

1. K & A:  Go to Europe.
Done!!  You can read about here.  And here and here.  And here.  Oh yeah.  And here and here

2. K: Read a classic.
He has a few in mind as options.  He’s in the middle of David McCullough’s Truman right now which is 900+ pages and quite the commitment.  But the classics are on his radar. 

3. A: Do all Christmas shopping in local/independent stores or give homemade stuff.  Like crocheted scarves, vanilla extract (inspired by Tiffany, who gave me homemade vanilla extract for Christmas 2014!), or hot pepper oil (inspired by Allie, who blogged about it here).
I haven’t made too much progress on this, but there are still plenty of shopping days to Christmas.  The problem is that there seem to be fewer crafting days to Christmas….  My goal for July is to start some mint extract a-brewin’ with the mint we’ve been growing in our garden! 

4. A: Read 52 books.  (Bonus points if I manage to complete this 2015 reading challenge, which I think is only – ha! – 50 books….thanks, Tiffany, for sharing the idea!)
I’m on track to finish this one!  I think I’m on book 40 right now (Pride and Prejudice – for the category “a classic love story”).  My most recent check in post is here, if you’re interested. 

5. A:  Blog 104 posts.
I’ve only poster 41 times this year and the summer fever blog hiatus is not helping.  I guess I need to step it up!   

6. K & A:  Fund IRA’s for the year.
In progress & done.  Kevin takes the automatically-send-money-to-the-IRA-with-each-paycheck approach and I write a lump sum check.  So he’s over half funded for the year and I made the contribution in April.

7. K & A:  Complete at least one home improvement project. (New tile downstairs, master bathroom, shelves in the garage…)
Boy howdy, have we ever!  We started the year with a new furnace (out of necessity), then we did our tile replacement in June.  Eight new windows are being installed this week, and we’re ripping out the wet bar and replacing it with built-in bookshelves and storage this week or next.  We also have some shelves for the garage and they WILL be installed this year so that we can get that mess organized. 

8. K & A:  Run a 5k.
I was a lazy bum and didn’t run a 5K (or even work on training for one) at the beginning of the pregnancy or pre-pregnancy and I won’t even pretend that it’ll happen this year after the baby is born.  So Kevin has selflessly volunteered to run two 5K’s this year and we’ll call it good.  He’s planning on one in September and maybe one in August. 

9. K: Smoke a rack of ribs or a brisket.
My mom gave Kevin a brisket (we get all our beef from my parents, who have cattle), and he’s excited to use the smoker attachment on the grill.  This seems like a good fall activity. 

10. K & A:  Take a road trip to a historic destination in New Mexico.
We have a few ideas on where to travel.  Some are day trip and some are overnight.  We’ll probably do the former, but that still leaves us with plenty of options.  There are so many cool historic destinations in this state!

11. K & A:  Try 10 new restaurants.
We have tried 4 new restaurants together.  Each of us have tried new restaurants separately this year as well, but we’re only counting the ones we go to together. 

12. K & A:  Try 15 new recipes.
We’ve tried 9 new recipes.  It’s hard to be motivated to cook in the summer!  I think we’ll finish this goal off in the fall/winter. 

13. K:  Start and complete an entire workout program.
He’s researching 5K training programs now, so that could count, but he has also been working his way through a strength training program. 

14. K:  Take a golf continuing ed class or attend three golf lessons.
Kevin has checked the schedule for CE golf classes, and that could be an option in the fall.  Otherwise, he’ll easily be able to attend three golf lessons at a club in town. 

15. A:  Host a theme party.
Leann and I are in the very early stages of planning a cocktail/mocktail (can you guess which part of that duo I’m in charge of?) party withthe “Favorite Things” theme. 

Did you set some goals for 2015?  If so, are you making good progress? 

The most delinquent holiday recap and etc.

Grab a cuppa something and let’s catch up, shall we?  Because I know that you have been anxiously awaiting my minute-by-minute holiday recap.  Cackle.

Don’t worry – I’ll be brief.

Christmas Eve in 15 words or less:
6 dozen luminarias ~ hosting family ~ posole & tamales ~ The Christmas Story

Christmas day in 20 words or less:
Kevin & Amy traditional leisurely morning at home ~ lunch at Craig & Sue’s:  prime rib, mashed potatoes, asparagus = gluttonous ~ nap

New Year’s Eve in 15 words or less:
Dinner & movie with friends ~ CPK & Unbroken ~ in bed by 10:30

New Year’s Day in 15 words or less:
Hearty, artery clogging breakfast of pancakes & bacon ~ football ~ reading ~ nap ~ pizza delivery


My birthday marked the official end of the holiday season.  I turned 30, as you know from this.  Kevin took me out to my fav-or-ite restaurant on Saturday the 3rd.  We both had the lobster ravioli, split the chocolate mousse, and toasted ourselves nice and pink at a fireside table.




Lisa was in town so she went to breakfast with the regular crew on the 4th.  I did absolutely nothing productive on my birthday except guzzle a peppermint mocha.  Dinner was at a favorite Mediterranean spot with Kevin’s parents, followed by tiramisu at their casa.


Since then it has been back to work as normal.

Kiki and Rue are doing well and growing accustomed to each other.  Kiki watches Rue with fascination as the latter tears around the house at kitten speed.  Rue mimics Kiki’s behavior by sitting or lying down in an identical pose – classic little sister.  Kiki will play with Rue and then stop on a dime and hiss at her – classic big sister.   Rue tries to pounce on Kiki…and human feet under blankets…and any strings that catch her eye.  Especially the hoodie drawstrings around the neck/face and the PJ pant drawstrings around the private parts – it’s everyone’s favorite game.  And by everyone, I mean only Rue.


In other news, our downstairs furnace isn’t working,so…there’s an expense to start off the new year real fine.  Real fine indeed.

In other other news, my mother-in-law had a knee replacement surgery a week ago.  She’s breaking in that new knee like a champ and we’re all super proud of her progress.

I’ve kept you long enough.  From my winter wonderland to yours, happy Thursday.  {If you’re local, you know this picture is from a few days ago – today brings bright sunshine and frost, but no snow.}


Have you seen or read Unbroken?  What’s the weather in your neck of the world?


30 by 30 – Fourth {and final!} quarter update.

Today, I’m 30.  I am delighted that I managed to cross every item off the 30 by 30 list. As I look over the list, I’m reminded of how amazing the people in my life truly are.  How blessed I am.

Creating and following this list was so fun and I recommend that everyone do one before a birthday – any birthday – at some point in life.

{Original List}   {1st Quarter Update}   {2nd Quarter Update}   {3rd Quarter Update}

Here’s the final graph of quantity items, followed by detail for each individual item.

30 by 30 4th Quarter Progress Graph

1. Find a flattering (key word) red lipstick.

With the help of an expert lipstick consultant, Leann, I discovered Brave Red at MAC.  The name is quite fitting, and I love the color!


Red lip and fleece. A winning combination.

2. Sit at a floor table for dinner at Pars (a Greek restaurant). 

Kevin and I met up with two of our good friends at Pars for dinner in January. Not only did we sit at a floor table, but it was also a belly dancer night.  Kevin and I find the belly dancer nights to be a bit awkward, so we try to avoid them.  But it seemed appropriate that we had the full experience at the floor table.  I love Pars, but I’ll stick to regular tables.  I’m not an especially tall person and my legs were aching by the end of dinner, crammed under that low table!

Pars with K & N - January 2014.

Pars with K & N – January 2014.

 3. Buy a designer purse for myself.

I bought one.  And I love it.  But I’m also struggling with a case of buyer’s remorse.  It is just so expensive.  Thus far, its life with Amy has been spent in the closet, tags and wrappings still intact.  I reserve the right to return and find something, umm, less pricey.  Like a wallet.

Update:  I returned the purse that I’d originally purchased (see the 2nd Quarter update post for a picture), and found another one that I love so much more.  It was still a lot to spend on a purse and I don’t foresee myself regularly purchasing designer purses, but I do really like it.


4. Fund IRA for year.

5. Plan and execute a surprise date.

Read about it here.  It involved choose-your-own-adventure kind of fun and included sushi, bookstore, and game night at home.


6. 52 hours of volunteer work. 52/52

4 hours – El Ranchitos de Los Ninos
5 hours – Chocolate Fantasy gala
3 hours – Charity Cruise gala clean up
3 hours – JL rummage sale to benefit Henderson House
5 hours – JL new member advisor
1 hour – official HUG card writer for JL
4 hours – The Storehouse
3 hours – The Curiosity Collaboration
4 hours – Rio Grande Food Project
3 hours – Mystery Masquerade Red Carpet fundraiser for JLA
1 hour – Coordinating T-day pie donations for Barrett House
6 hours – Festival of Trees benefitting Carrie Tingley Hospital Foundation
1 hour – Stocking stuffing for St. Michael’s
1 hour – Foundation board meeting/planning
2 hours – DIAD planning
6 hours – Miscellaneous JL activity

7. Read 48 books. 53/48

1) Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire – 4 stars
2) Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix – 4 stars
3) Anne of Windy Poplars – 4 stars
4) The Fault In Our Stars – 4 stars
5) Devil In The White City – 4 stars
6) Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince – 5 stars
7) The Silver Star – 3 stars
8) Princess Academy – 4 stars
9) Divergent – 4 stars
10) Roots of Empathy:  Changing the World Child by Child – 4 stars
11) Confessions of an Ugly Stepsister – 3 stars
12) The Husband’s Secret – 4 stars
13) Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows – 4 stars
14) Breakfast at Tiffany’s – 4 stars
15) Me Before You – 4 stars
16) The Paris Wife – 3 stars
17) The Other Typist – 3 stars
18) The Last Summer (of You & Me) – 3 stars
19) Her Fearful Symmetry – 3 stars
20) Heart and Soul – 3 stars
21) I’ll Walk Alone – 2 stars
22) My Name is Memory – 3 stars
23) Dollface – 4 stars
24) The Giver – 5 stars
25) MWF Seeking BFF – 4 stars
26) Sisters of Treason – 4 stars
27) I’ve Got Your Number – 5 stars
28) Girls In White Dresses – 3 stars
29) The Lost Art of Keeping Secrets – 4 stars
30) Amy & Roger’s Epic Detour – 5 stars
31) Lessons From Madam Chic – 4 stars
32) The Happiness Advantage – 4 stars
33) Paris in Love – 3 stars
34) Night Diver – 2 stars
35) Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me?  (And Other Concerns) – 3 stars
36) Life After Life – 4 stars
37) The Hobbit – 3 stars
38) The Girl You Left Behind – 3 stars
39) Gathering Blue – 4 stars
40) The Paris Architect – 4 stars
41) Remember Me? – 3 stars
42) Tara Road – 4 stars
43) The Goldfinch – 3 stars
44) Insurgent – 3 stars
45) The Power of Habit – 4 stars
46) The Language of Flowers – 5 stars
47) Ain’t She Sweet? – 3 stars
48) The Last Letter From Your Lover – 4 stars
49) Beautiful Ruins – 3 stars
50) Messenger – 4 stars
51) The Secret History – 3 stars
52) What Alice Forgot – 4 stars
53) Orphan Train – 5 stars

8. Take Kevin to an OK State football game.

He loved it – I wrote about it here.


9. Send 24 just-because letters or gifts to friends. 24/24

10. Go on a blate – with a blog friend that I have not yet met in person.

Click here for a post about my blate (blogger + date) with the lovely Jenny over at Jeneric Generation.


11. Complete the Photo-A-Day challenge following Fat Mum Slim’s prompts. 365/365

You’ve seen the Instagram posts.  You know.  Oh, you know.

12. Run a 5K.

Tiffany decided to do a little informal 5K on the morning of her wedding.  There were six or seven of us and we went at our own pace through the countryside.  It was beautiful and peaceful and I managed to jog the entire 5K without stopping so I’m counting that baby as my official 30-by-30 5K.  And I didn’t even have to pay an entry fee.


Photo courtesy of the official race photographer, Annie B. I’m the one in the purple.

13. Host a murder mystery dinner party.

I hosted a murder mystery party in June and it was so much fun!  Read more here.


14. Visit the Grand Canyon.

I have the best in-laws in the world.  They surprised me with an early birthday trip to the grandest of canyons on the weekend after Thanksgiving.  I wrote about it here.


15. Weekend trip with my mom and sister.

Schedules being what they are, we didn’t manage to get away for a full weekend of fun at the Grand Canyon or Vegas (two ideas we’d tossed around).  But we did enjoy an excursion to some local petroglyphs.  The adventure is recapped in full here.

Mom and Lisa

16. Attend three theatre events or concerts. 4/3

1) Jim Gaffigan – 3/13/2014

Pre- Jim G. smiles on 3/13/2014.

Pre- Jim G. smiles on 3/13/2014.

 2) Avril Lavigne and Backstreet Boys – 6/2/2014

Pre-gaming on the lawn before BSB and Avril hit the stage!

Pre-gaming on the lawn before BSB and Avril hit the stage!

 3) Impulse dance show – 8/8/2014


4) Wicked:  The Musical – 9/18/2014

image17. Attend one of Meta’s weekend yoga retreats OR attend one yoga class a day for seven consecutive days {just in case the weekend retreat options don’t work out}.

The weekend yoga retreat didn’t work out, but the seven days of yoga did!  Read about it here.

Day 1 – 7:30 AM – hot yoga with Meta at a local studio
Day 2 – 5:30 PM – yoga at my gym
Day 3 – 7:30 AM – hot yoga at a local studio
Day 4 – 10:00 AM – Meditation class and practice at the city museum with Leann and Katie
Day 5 – 11:15 AM – hot yoga at a local studio
Day 6 – 5:30 PM – yoga at my gym
Day 7 – 9:30 PM – cosmic hot yoga with Meta at a local studio

18. Take a train ride.

I made the trip to Santa Fe on the Railrunner for a work event.  Like Sheldon, I do love trains.


19. Spend a morning shooting guns (including the one I inherited from my dad) with my friend Tom C.

I procrastinated the planning of this until the last week of December, so it was January 2 when Kevin and I drove south to do some target shooting.  As luck (or something) would have it, it was snowy and cold that day.  We still had a great time with Tom and Shawna and Keith, and we plan to go back out when it’s a bit warmer!  Here I am, with Tom and my dad’s 30-30 (I know nothing about guns and learned that it was, in fact, a 30-30 on the day we went shooting – how perfect that it is a 30-30 for my 30 by 30.).


20. Take a dance class.

I went to Nia with Sue on 11/22/2014.  I’d definitely go back!  Nia is a great way to free your mind of inhibitions and just be active and have a good time.

21. Go see Vanilla Pop play.

Vanilla Pop with the ladies on 6/6/2014.

Vanilla Pop with the ladies on 6/6/2014.

 22. Cook 15 new recipes. 27/15

1) Melt-in-your-mouth baked chicken – recipe
2) Spaghetti squash in the crockpot – recipe (if it can even be called that)
3) Swiss chard with honey roasted garlic – recipe
4) Slow-cooker beef brisket – no real ‘recipe’ but I’d never made this before, so I’m countin’ it – just cooked a beef brisket (seasoned with McCormick steak seasoning), a can of cream of mushroom soup, a chopped onion, sliced mushrooms, and four cups of beef broth in the slow cooker on the low setting for 7 hours
5) Dairy free pesto – recipe (the first time I made this, it was a complete FAIL because I over-toasted {read:  burned} the pine nuts and the pesto tasted burnt and gross)
6) S’mores treats – recipe
7) Mediterranean Orzo salad – no official recipe to share (cooked whole wheat orzo, kalamata olives, grape tomatoes, spinach, olive oil and lemon dressing seasoned with salt and pepper, and feta cheese)
8) Jalapeno cheese dip – recipe (slight variation from recipe:  I used a different brand of jalapeno dip seasoning.  It was still a hit with the family at Easter.)
9) Slow cooker brown sugar glazed pulled chicken – recipe (I didn’t have soy sauce so I used a Hickory and Brown Sugar BBQ sauce instead.  It was still tasty.)
10) Asparagus and ham sandwiches – recipe
11) Greek chicken – recipe (we did bake rather than grill, unlike the recipe)
12) Slow Cooker Ground Beef Lasagna Soup – recipe
13) Mediterranean Quinoa Salad – recipe
14) Lemon & Garlic Chicken – recipe
15) Steak Parmesan – recipe (made a few adjustments but followed the general recipe)
16) One Pot Zucchini Mushroom Pasta – recipe
17) Kale Chicken – recipe
18) Beef Stew – recipe
19) Sausage & Butternut Riggies – recipe
20) Salmon and Dill Chowder – recipe
21) Slutty Brownies – recipe
22) Crock Pot Cheddar Creamed Corn – recipe
23) Pasta with Chicken and Brussels Sprouts – recipe
24) Gingerbread cookies – recipe
25) Stuffed Bell Peppers with Brown Rice and Sausage – recipe
26) Chocolate Saltine Toffee – recipe
27) Corn Chowder – recipe

23. Go on twelve date nights. 12+/12
(This one has proven difficult to track because Kevin and I go out to dinner at least once a week and every dinner out feels like a date!  But for the purposes of this 30-by-30 list item, I counted assorted nights that felt especially special.  Let’s just say that we far exceeded 12 dates!)

24. Enroll in a continuing education class.

Attended a HIPAA class on 2/18/2014.

25. Send twelve More Love Letters notes. 12/12

26. Take tea in a tearoom – topped off (haha!) with a fancy hat, naturally. 2/1

Tea with new work friends at Figments on 3/22/2014.

Tea with new work friends at Figments on 3/22/2014.

Tea with Joy at the Phoenician - 4/25/2014.

Tea with Joy at the Phoenician – 4/25/2014.

27. Journal 52 times. 52/52

I learned that I’m just not too into journaling….  On January 3, I wrote six journal entries.  Trust me…I was scraping the bottom of the insight barrel by the end of it.

28. Assemble a framed travel map.

Kevin bought me the most beautiful world map when he traveled to the Pacific Gulf Islands over the summer.  We had it framed and stuck some pins in it.  Learn more here.


29. Attend a festival. (Jazz Fest, Lavender Fest, etc. – whatever I happen to stumble into.  The sky’s the limit when it comes to fest-ing.)

I went to the local lavender & garlic festival one weekend in July.  Two of my favorite things under a blue clear sky on a summer day?  Don’t mind if I do.


Lavender & Garlic Fest – 7/12/2014

30. Explore a city I’ve never visited before.

Seaside in San Diego - June 2014.

Seaside in San Diego – June 2014.

14 in ’14.


Happy New Year!

As the curtain closes and 2014 is ushered to stage left, here are 14 highlights to applaud….

1. Amy started a new job.  In January I left the company I had worked with for six years to embark on a journey at a new place.

2. We saw Jim Gaffigan perform in Denver.  What a laugh!  While Brian Regan squeaks by in the front spot as my favorite comedian, Jim is hilarious and it was such a treat to see him live.

3. We traveled to the outskirts of Amarillo to watch Lisa graduate with her MBA!

4. We celebrated our first wedding anniversary with spa treatments and lobster ravioli.

5. Kevin got a new car…or rather, a truck!  A long time truck driver (not the 18 wheeler kind, just to clarify), Kevin drove an SUV for the past three years.  Although he liked his 4-Runner, it felt like coming home when he traded it in and drove a truck off the lot.

6. Amy saw the Backstreet Boys perform.  Yes, this makes the top 14 events of the year.  {The fact that she went with friends and didn’t drag Kevin to the show probably makes his top 14.}

7. Kevin traveled to the Pacific Gulf Islands on a hiking/biking/kayaking trip with his dad.  They had an awesome time being active in the beautiful PNW.

8. We lost a sweet white cat.  Pets leave paw prints on the heart and it is heartbreaking to lose one.  We miss Flo and her fiery, white-hot personality.  She had real cattitude.

9. Craig and Sue moved into the neighborhood, leaving the house where Kevin had spent most of his childhood and all of his teenage years.

10. We saw the Broncos play in warm weather and from this point forward, I am lobbying to attend only autumn games.

11. Kevin was introduced to Stillwater, OK, in all its glory and we took in an Oklahoma State football game.

12. Craig and Sue surprised Amy with an early birthday trip to the Grand Canyon.  It was grand!

13. We welcomed a new family member – Rue.  She {and Kiki} has adjusted really well and we can’t even remember what it was like before she was part of the fam.

14. As always, it’s the people and the everyday that make a year special.  There were weddings and there were babies.  There were lunches with friends, running/jogging (Kevin/Amy) on the Bosque, and trips out of town for work.  Yoga, volunteering, and happy hours; dinners at home, binge watching an embarrassing number of Big Bang Theory reruns, and 52 weeks worth of Wall Street Journal deliveries.  There was life, in all its ups and downs and twists and turns.  The calendar year was filled to the tippy top with blessings.

Thanks for being a part of our year by following along via da blog.

What’s a highlight (or 14) in your 2014?