SPRING BREAK and March (Birthday) Madness!

Exploding Cake

The title of the post may be misleading, it is not really my spring break (because that isn’t a thing after college); it is Zach’s. Though, it is my birthday week. When I was in college, I always thought it was great that my birthday fell during spring break. I could always relax, go on a cool trip and not have to worry about studying.

Less cool, is that I was born during March Madness. Literally. My dad tried to watch the tournament while my mom was in labor. She had to yell at him to turn the TV off because doctors and nurses, who were not her doctors and nurses, kept coming into the room to talk to him and to check the scores of the games.

Growing up, this meant that the little girls coming over for birthday parties would hear an orchestra of obscenities flying from the living room as my dad yelled at the TV. In Utah, where the culture is predominantly Mormon, this is kind of a big deal. My dad isn’t Mormon, but most of my friends growing up were and Mormons don’t swear. I’m sure more than a few kids went home from my birthday parties knowing brand new words.

The year I turned 15 my mom was out of town, so my dad was in charge of being the adult at my birthday party. He promised that he wouldn’t cuss out the TV when my friends were over. And… he did his best.

That night, after my party, I told him, “Dad, you were swearing a lot when my friends were over.” He denied it, said that he had purposely held back and that he was sure he hadn’t let anything slip. He was so convinced that he was right that he called my friend Shae, who only lived two doors down. He got her on the phone and she told him the same thing I had, he did say, “quite a few bad words,” while they were over.

I don’t know that point of this story, except that every year my birthday has coincided with a lot of basketball.

Except, this year! Zach and I are going to Oslo. We leave on my birthday and come home a week later. So finally, 27 years into this thing, I have figured out how to escape basketball on my birthday– flee the country.

My Very First Snow Day

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It is snowing here in Seattle, which is not something that occurs often. We have just a few inches of snow and the flakes are the soft and fluffy type that everyone loves. It isn’t a bad storm. It is a nice storm. However, since this is Seattle, where it rarely snows, everyone is losing their minds.

Every single one of my friends here has posted some version of, “Look at this Winter Wonderland!” or, if they are not Seattle natives it is closer to, “Can you believe the city is shut down for this sh*t?”

I’m on the “can’t believe they shut everything down” side, but it is still kind of nice. The city looks beautiful and the University of Washington canceled school, so Zach is parked on the couch for the day.

I have never had a snow day before. Northern Utah will not shut down for anything. When I was a junior at Weber State University, there was a big snow storm rolling in that everyone nicknamed, Stormageddon. I had an evening class that day and was hoping that I wouldn’t have to go. Driving up the side of a mountain in a snow storm in the dark in my little Toyota was not my idea of fun. But, they didn’t cancel so I still had to go. I passed car after car that had slid off the road on the way to class and had my fair share of scares.

The next year, there was a massive windstorm. Winds reached up to 102 miles per hour. Trees were blown over and I was blown halfway across campus. Some very nice stranger, had to grab my arm and walk me into a building. He literally pulled me up off the stairs that I was braced against and took me into the student union building.

I think they technically canceled classes that day, but they wouldn’t let us leave the buildings since it was deemed too dangerous with all of the debris in the air, so I still had to go to class. Since I went to all of my classes that day anyway, I don’t count this as a day off.

I’m not sure that I can count today either. Since I don’t work in an office here, it isn’t really a snow day for me. But I really want to count it anyway because I’m 26 and … SNOW DAY!

xoxo

Books + Life: The Happiness Project and #Happier2017

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I was serious when I said that I’m going to actively pursue happiness this year! So serious, that I ordered a book about it called The Happiness Project. I heard about the book because I listen to the author’s, Gretchen Rubin, podcast. In the podcast Gretchen and her sister, Liz, discuss all things happiness and well being. I recommend the podcast if you are looking for a boost or some tips for sticking to your resolutions. It isn’t too heavy and usually they have pretty fun conversations with good advice to boot.

The book is of this same vein. Yes, it is a self-help book, but for the most part it is in first person with bits of research here and there to backup the things Gretchen is trying in her pursuit for a happier life.

I’m only in chapter one, so I guess nothing I say should start with, “for the most part.” The book and her project is broken down into twelve sections and twelve ways that she wants to improve her life.

This book speaks to me because Gretchen is happy. She realizes that she has a great life, doesn’t want for anything, a stable family and healthy kids. I often feel this way. I have everything I need (and more), but still feel dissatisfied. First. World. Problems.

My goal isn’t to change my life; my goal is to change the way I look at my life and embrace it. I’m going to break my year down into twelve parts and twelve areas where I need an attitude or lifestyle adjustment. For example, stop complaining so much (attitude adjustment) and get to sleep at a decent hour (lifestyle adjustment).

So, in closing, my project is going pretty well so far. I am working hard on keeping my resolutions and to enjoy our new life here. The other day, I told my friend Caitlin that, “If I don’t think about it, I don’t hate Seattle that much.” And, it is true! In little ways, it is feeling more like home.  When Zach and I got home from Christmas in Utah we redecorated the apartment and that felt good. I’m working harder on building relationships here and strong friendships. I’m getting involved in the community and projects that I care about. All good things.

Xoxo

Books + Life: What I Talk About When I Talk About Running

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Last Christmas Zach got me a book called, What I Talk About When I Talk About Running. I didn’t read it. I had no interest in it, mainly because I was worried it would stress me out — Would it make me feel incompetent? Or that my running schedule wasn’t good enough?

I finally gave it a chance last weekend as part of my New Year resolutions…and to get out of skiing because cold and gross. But mostly, I figured reading a book about running would be a good boost for me as I start running again. And, I’m really glad I gave it that chance.

There was nothing anxiety inducing or even eye-opening about the book. I don’t mean that in a bad way, but I knew a lot of the stuff he was talking about. It felt like a conversation.

The book is simply Haruki Murakami‘s love letter to running. The book was originally written in Haruki’s native Japanese and translated by Philip Gabriel. It details his experiences training for the NYC Marathon and other races in between. It talks about the places he has traveled and the people he has met along the way, and at the center of it all is running.

I connected with this book. I felt like the things Haruki wrote about were things I would write about from the kind of music he likes to listen to, to eating habits — a developing aversion to meat and sweets.

This book was the perfect way to start the new year and jump-start my goal of running more this year. I’m sorry to Zach for avoiding it for one whole year, however it seems like I picked up at the perfect time in my life. It is funny how things work that way!

Vegan Hot Buttered Rum

Whenever I try to make something new, especially something that is not vegan to begin with but that I have to make vegan, I go to the internet and read a ton of recipes. Usually, between five or ten, but sometimes more.

When it is finally time to make the thing, I leave the recipes behind and put something together using whatever I decided to take away from each recipe — or more realistically, what I can remember from each recipe.

This amounts to me leaving out the parts that sound gross and adding stuff that I think might work, even if no recipe called for it. For example, I like to add spice to everything. Even things that no one would ever want to eat a spicy version of.

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Some like it hot.

This means one of two things happen when I cook; it tastes gross and we never want to have it again or it tastes AMAZING but nothing like the original. Zach is a really lucky man.

Earlier this week, I made torta. The first of those things happened. I mainly left out the non-vegan ingredients without replacing anything, so we ended up with weird, mushy potatoes. I mean … it was potatoes … so I still ate everything. But, it could’ve been much better.

Tonight, in an attempt to redeem myself, I made hot buttered rum. It didn’t turn out too bad! If you make this recipe and think it is gross, then just add more rum and you won’t remember whether you liked it or not.

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Makes four to five servings.

I like the idea of making the mix and adding the rum later. This is good if you have little ones or non-drinkers in the family who also want to enjoy a cozy drink.

  • 1/2 Cup Brown Sugar
  • 1/4 cup Vegan Butter (I used Earth Balance)
  • 1/4 Teaspoon Cinnamon
  • 1/4 Teaspoon Nutmeg
  • 1/4 Teaspoon Ground Cloves
  • 1/4 Teaspoon Pumpkin Spice
  • Dash of Vanilla
  • 2 Cups of Non-Dairy Milk (I used almond)
  • 1 1/2 Cups Water
  • Orange Zest (optional)
  • Vegan Whipped Cream (optional)
  • A Dash of Red Chili (COMPLETELY optional)

Add everything but the butter into a saucepan and bring to a boil. Once boiling, reduce the heat and add the butter. Stir until it melts completely.

To make into a cocktail, add one shot of spiced brown rum into a mug and 1/2 a shot of white rum. Add one to 1 1/2 cups of mix.

Enjoy!

Five Ways to Create Holiday Cheer

Being away from home is hard! Being away from home during the holidays is even harder. It’s only been in the last couple years that I have had to spend any time away from my family during the holidays. While it has been difficult, I’ve decided that this year I’m going to keep my spirits up with some FORCED holiday cheer.

Recreate Your Traditions

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At first, it’s hard to carry out a holiday tradition when you aren’t around those you love. However, once I started to recreate some of my favorite holiday traditions, I started to feel better and less homesick. Yes, I cried. Yes, I felt sad for a little while. But, once the tears were finished, I was able to focus on all of the happy memories I had and even make some new ones with Zach.

Pick One Festive Thing to Do Every Day

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How many times will I watch Love Actually this year? SO MANY

This tip comes from my very smart friend, Caitlin. She suggested doing one festive thing every day in December, an anti-homesickness advent calendar if you will. As I write this post, it’s only December 2nd, but even in the days leading up to December I started to have fun planning out all of the fun, festive things I am going to do this month.

Send Cards

Just because you are far away from your family and friends doesn’t mean you can’t connect with them in meaningful ways. Communication is so instant now, but there is value in sitting down and writing someone a card. My friend Amy and I love to send cards back and forth. After a long day of missing home, there is nothing I love more than seeing something from a friend in my mailbox.

Host a Party

This is not something I have done. I know if I try to do it, it will be difficult for me to get over the social anxiety. That’s not always a bad thing though! Hosting a party or event in the place you live in now is one big step toward putting down roots and making it home.

One struggle I have is that Seattle is where I live, but it isn’t home. I spend my days here, but spend most of my time still trying to interact with my life in Utah. By engaging with some of the wonderful people here and inviting them into my space, I’m beginning the process of making this city feel like home (even if I’m not ready to give it that title).

Share the Love

This is something that comes up every year — holiday giving! But, I will argue that it has never been more important than this year. 2016 was a difficult year for a lot of people; personally, professionally and nationally.

Be kind to people. You don’t have to understand or even like them, but we can try to treat each other well. If you can’t treat someone well, then just walk away instead of saying something unkind.

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One awakening for me has been moving here. Seattle has the third-highest, per-capita homeless population in the nation. Every day I’m reminded of how lucky I am with what I have and that even when I am feeling low, there is always more I can do to make someone else’s world a better place. This is not something I was ever confronted with in my safe-Utah bubble.

This month, I am determined to do better! I will be cheerful with the upcoming holidays! While being away for Thanksgiving was hard, I am going to make Seattle much more homey and put in some effort. If all else fails, only two and a half weeks until I get to visit Utah again.

Blogging & Goals

I started the WordPress Blogging Branding course. It is really fun, short (only ten days) and FREE! It is designed to help you build your blog and set achievable goals — one day at a time.

I want to do this because I’ve felt stagnant lately. I’ve been so busy getting settled that I’ve been ignoring the fun things in life and personal growth! I’ve always loved my blog and wanted to do more with it, so I’m focusing my energy on that this month! Another reason is because it is NaNoWriMo — or official novel writing month.

I have NO intention of writing a novel this month, but I do want to focus on my writing and am using this month’s focus as an excuse to do so 🙂


This course started by asking “Why do you write your blog?”

I started my first blog veganoutofthevalley.blogspot.com, my senior year of college as part of a branding project. I’ve kept blogging since then because it is something I enjoy, it helps me keep my friends and family updated when I’m away and I love reading my old posts to see what I was doing and feeling at the time.

Based on this question and a few others I was prompted to come up with three specific (and time constrained) goals:

  1. Publish at least one post per week
  2. In addition to my one post, create a weekly features — I’m going to focus on …TACO TUESDAY. My favorite day of the week.
  3. Spend one hour per week engaging with other bloggers on WordPress.

This post is the official assignment of Day One. For the next nine days, I’ll continue this challenge and then roll directly into the next one to fill up the rest of the month!

Cat Tales (Woo-ooo!)

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Don’t leave because of the scary picture!

For a long time nothing happened, and now it seems so much is happening at once. First, obviously, Zach starts school on Thursday. His new school is very fancy. He will end his first day as a Foster MBA student on an open bar, dinner cruise with his classmates. I’m not invited.

Secondly, and way more importantly, I’m going to start volunteering at PAWS. It all started one rainy day, like most things that happen in Seattle. We were simply walking a different way home from the grocery store when I looked up and saw a sign that said, “Whitney’s Heaven.” Just kidding. It said, “Cat City Adoption Center.” So, pretty much the same thing!

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I walked in and got some information about volunteering. I signed up and today, I had my first volunteer training. That’s right, first. I’ll go to two more before I actually get to cuddle some cats. When the lady began talking during the orientation, I thought to myself, “I hope that they have openings at Cat City.” This is important for a couple reasons 1) I only want to work with cats (sorry puppies) and 2) Cat city is a tiny location that is a satellite of the larger shelter in Lynnwood. Lynnwood is far away from us and where I have to go to trainings, Cat City is a block away from my house.

Not only do they have openings at Cat City, but the lady practically begged some of us to go there! I was so happy I got goosebumps. Of course, it was only after this happened that I realized that not everyone is dying to work with cats and clean litter boxes instead of walking dogs, outside, in a park.

I’m so happy to have this opportunity. So happy. I haven’t talked about it again, but Kitty passing away is one of the hardest things I’ve ever dealt with. I still miss her, I still cry whenever I talk about her. So, I’m not ready to have another cat, however, I am always ready to help other animals find a loving home.


I had so many other things I wanted to say here, but I don’t want to make this post too long so I will save them for another day.