December 31, 2011

[11-in-2011] The End

I had a great time completing my "just for fun" list this year. 2011 was definitely the year of books and yoga! I feel so blessed and grateful to have a life where my biggest problem is looking for new ways to spend my days and enjoy life. I can't wait to see what fun the new year brings.

11 Things in 2011 Challenge:
  1. Take a camping trip or two Eisenhower State Park, Lake Ray Roberts, Big Bend
  2. Make homemade biscotti Yum
  3. Practice yoga 52 times 118 practices (and over 200 hours of teacher-training too)
  4. Read at least one book every month At 57 books it looks like I underestimated the amount of "just for fun" reading I do, guess it just never seems like enough! My favorites ended up being A Painted HouseLittle Bee, My Lobotomy, and The Year of Magical Thinking - all great, especially if you love the "sad memoir" and "troubled childhood" genres as much as do. :)
    I also read around 500 titles to consider for the 2012 2x2 Reading List, and dozens more children's and young adult books for work and fun too - yes, that was a crazy amount of reading and I really only remember about half of it, nature of the beast I guess.
  5. Spend a month as a vegetarian January
  6. Listen to live music somewhere Arboretum Concert & Picnic
  7. Celebrate a few food holidays Bundt Day and others too
  8. Spend some time on water Lake Grapevine (Who wants to go again this year?) and Lake Sam Rayburn
  9. Do a No Spend Month challenge April
  10. Go on a picnic
  11. And continue to post a photo of the week:
    January | February | March | April | May | June | July | August | September | October | November | December
Adios 2011! 

December 30, 2011

Beautiful Big Bend

We spent the first week of winter break out west this year and had a blast. Winter is officially my favorite time to travel, just like our Virginia trip last year, nothing is crowded and you really get a front-row view to all the attractions.

We knew Big Bend would be worth the drive, but it really did exceed our expectations. The park was beautiful and diverse with plenty to see and lots of great hiking trails. I would love to go back and see the cactus in bloom. The trip totaled 1,700 miles of easy, scenic driving (complete with lots of West Texas windmills) plus David Sedaris audio books and Bon Iver to pass the time.

  • Sand-surfing at Monahans Sandhills State Park
  • A free suite upgrade at Alpine's historic Holland Hotel and a fancy dinner at Reata the first night
  • A fabulous view of the park from our room at the Chisos Mountain Lodge in Big Bend (and no TV, Internet, or phone-reception either!)
  • All-weather days - it seemed we felt every season everyday (freezing, AC-required, and in-between)
  • Amazing star-filled nights
  • Animal sightings: deer, javelina, roadrunners, and rabbits, no bears or mountain lions though!
  • Exploring the unusual Terlingua Ghost Town and a fun dinner with Christmas bluegrass at the Starlight Theatre
  • Impressive Fort Davis National Historic Site on the way to New Mexico
  • And since we were in the neighborhood (meaning only 5 hours away) a quick trip to the awe-inspiring Carlsbad Caverns National Park before heading home
[Miles and Miles of Texas]
[Monahans Sand Hills]

[Chisos Basin, Big Bend]

[Window Trail Pouroff - Matt's Favorite]

[Boquillas Canyon Trail - My Favorite]
[Mule Ears Trail]

[Carlsbad, New Mexico]

Be sure to add Big Bend to your list of places to visit soon - it's just ten quick hours from DFW. ;)

December 28, 2011

Challenge :: 2012

I'm looking forward to starting something new this year...

Reading Challenges! 

I've tried a few different challenges in the past with fun results (11 Things in 2011, 30 Before 30, Project 365) and now that the obscene amount of 2x2 committee reading has come to an end I'm excited to add new reading goals to the to-do list for 2012.

On par for the new year...

British Books Challenge @ The Overflowing Library
Read 12 books by British authors from any genre

E-book Challenge @ Workaday Reads
Read 25 e-books from any genre [DVD Level Challenge]

Mystery & Suspense Challenge @ Book Chick City
Read 24 books from any mystery or suspense sub-genre [Level 2 Challenge]

YA Challenge @ The Eclectic Bookshelf
Read 20 young adult books in any genre [Fun Size Challenge]

YA Historical Fiction Challenge @ YA Bliss
Read 10 historical fiction books written for young adults [Level 2 Challenge]

I'm sure most of the books I read will qualify for more than one challenge, but if I read each title separately the count comes to 81 books. Plus I plan to still read other books for fun and work too. The challenge for me will be to read genres and authors I'm not used to more than anything else.

I'll be posting updates throughout the year and have added a page to this blog to keep track of everything. I'm looking forward to a great year exploring new books. I've already got my to-read lists forming and my library digital wish lists packed full and ready for checkout.  If you want to join in the fun visit the A Novel Challenge blog soon for dozens of reading challenge ideas.

Happy New Year & Happy Reading!

December 26, 2011

[Weekly Shots] December

49 | Welcome Winter

50 | Window Paint

51 | Big Bend

52 | Advent

We wish you a Merry Christmas!

Celebrating the holidays this year has been a treat. Parties with friends, fun at work with cutesy elementary-school stuff, stockings at home, and a fun trip to Waco with my family has made the season happy and bright. Plus we still have a few fun things to look forward to before the new year begins.

This was our first year spending Christmas in Waco and everything turned our great. Maggie and Jimmy were excellent hosts, the late service at St. Alban's was beautiful, and my mom and dad brought lots of thoughtful gifts (as usual). 

Highlights from the menu included delicious tamales, tortilla soup, and queso on Christmas Eve; fancy cheeses and dijon pork loin for lunch, Cowboy Cookies, Walnut FudgeGooey Pumpkin Bars, and coffee galore - yum!

Duncan even got to travel too and celebrate with Lady Dog.

Hope everyone had a wonderful holiday with family and friends as well.
Merry Christmas!

December 22, 2011

To One Cool Dad...

Hope your day is great. Love ya!

December 6, 2011

Pomp and Circumstance

It's official, I'm a 200-hour certified yoga teacher.

I complete my last yoga teacher training workshop last weekend and passed my teaching practicum and exam. After six months of training, hours of home study, and a few years of yoga I am "ready" to teach.

I completed my training through Purple Lotus Yoga and had a great experience. I'll admit it was a little more intense than I was expecting, I would actually compare it to a graduate course when you factor in all the reading and homework hours plus time spent taking yoga classes (and time spent exercising in general so you can keep up in all the yoga classes). I learned a lot about the body, mind, and spirit, and truly feel like my yoga journey is just beginning.

A few "a-ha's" and highlights:
  • Your yoga is your yoga. Practicing yoga should be fun, not a chore. It's OK not to like all styles and types of yoga. Turns out I like teaching kids-style classes the best and enjoy practicing yin yoga and guided meditation just as much as the usual vinyasa-flow classes.
  • I had never given much thought to the way people felt in the past and, of course, they felt the exact same emotions and stresses we feel today in the same way back then. Yoga was originally developed as a tool for coping with human challenges approximately 5,000 years ago, so being "stressed out" is definitely not anything new, it's just part of being alive. More people really do need to give yoga a try, if only for the stress-reducing benefits.
  • Obviously yoga is not a religion, but the 8-limbs of yoga compliment Christianity (and I assume most religions) quite well. Yoga's influence on life and health is everywhere too once you know how to recognize it.
  • If you're looking for some good yoga-reading I recommend Journey into PowerThe Guru in YouThe Heart of Yoga, and The Key Muscles of Hatha Yoga just for the great illustrations.
  • I finally got Matt to give a home practice a chance after complaining about low back pain. He was "just going to try some stretches instead" - um, that would be yoga. :)
  • Connecting with your breath, controlling your movements, living with intention, and staying in the present moment is always a good idea!
What's next? I completed teacher training because I wanted to learn more about yoga and challenge myself, not because I want a second career. My plan for now is to start looking into teaching children's yoga classes over the summer and possibly substitute teach for other yoga teachers. I am open to other yoga opportunities too, but I don't want to take on too much or lose the fun of doing yoga on my own. I might start teaching tomorrow or maybe not for five years - we'll see I guess. In the meantime, hooray for yoga!
[Mountain top meditation in beautiful Sedona, Arizona]

December 2, 2011

[11-in-2011] Camping @ Lake Ray Roberts

Last weekend we decided to extend our anniversary celebration (and enjoy the Thanksgiving break by doing something opposite of Black Friday) with a fun quick campout at Lake Ray Roberts. You will have to double-check, but I'm pretty sure it was the best experience of Duncan's life.
It was too windy to bike, but we had a great time hiking and spotting deer, and the trails even had fall color too! For dinner Matt was a genius and made hobo dinners with Thanksgiving leftovers before smores. I think we almost earned a polar bear patch at night, but since (the best part about the Isle du Bois campground) we were home and warm in the morning in less than 30 minutes being cold didn't spoil any fun.