There’s Something About Inner Peace

Bill said something about a week ago that really stuck with me.

We were in the car about 6 hours into a 7-hour drive, heading home to my family’s house for the holidays. He was driving, and we were tired. We were both in our go-to traveling clothes – his idea of comfort being unshaven and wearing warm-ups and a sweatshirt and no shoes, mine a faded plaid flannel shirt and stretchy skinny jeans and boots. My initially straight-up posture had evolved into the slouched posture of a slob with my butt almost off the seat and one knee up on the door. The dog had been climbing all over us in the cramped space, and we were covered with her obnoxious and persistent black fur. The sun was just about to go down to the left, and for some reason Bill kept looking over at me from the driver’s seat.

“What?”

“I don’t know.”

“Why do you keep looking at me like that?”

“You… you just look like a wife.”

Huh? “What does that mean?”

He thought about it a second. “It means you look happy, and like yourself, and like you’re not out trying to chase boys or impress anyone. You look beautiful.”

I looked down through my aviators at the made-for-comfort-not-for-impressing-boys outfit I was sporting, surprised. First that he thought I looked even remotely attractive, but then because he was right. I haven’t consciously felt fully like myself in a long time, maybe ever. There was always some motivation to be on my toes, someone to impress, or a reason to worry or feel insecure. But here I was, with the person I would most want to impress on the entire planet, and he was appreciating me as I am right now, this second. And it wasn’t the outfit, or the makeup, or the clever quip, or the funny story, or the playing hard-to-get, or even the smart anecdote that shows off an ability to converse intelligently about anything you might throw at a person. It was the rare moment of peace I didn’t know I was feeling on the inside, and Bill saw it from all the way over on the other side of the car.

I’ve been thinking a lot about that exchange in the last 8 days. How strange it was that even though I was the one experiencing the moment, it took Bill bringing it to my attention for me to truly see it. It’s sad that a feeling of calm and contentedness with ourselves is such a foreign feeling. What is it that makes us worry and stress and keep up with the Jones’, when what we really want is already there within us everywhere we go? All that other stuff that we continuously inject into our lives is actually just getting more in the way as it builds and builds, not helping us reach our happiness. So just for this second, no matter how fleeting it is – and it is fleeting – I’m going to vow revel in that feeling. And the next time it happens. And the next and the next. Maybe then it will become a more frequent realization, and ultimately, a habit.

For now, I’ll just have to use that memory from last week and let it soak in as much as I can. That memory of when my husband glanced over at me and told me I looked like a wife, and for the rest of the drive, I couldn’t help but look over at him, with our little monster of a dog on his lap, and think of how grateful I am for what I had.

Driving

That memory of when he looked like a husband, and the dog looked like a dog, and I felt like me.

Advertisements

2014 Inspirations: I Might Implode

With the end of the year fast approaching, I’m finding a familiar feeling creeping back in. Now, I’ve been known to frequent bouts of inspiration over the tiniest and most mundane of daily occurrences. (Just ask Bill how I feel about Thursdays.) However, the prospects of a brand new year always seem to elevate that to an unbearable excitement that must either be released immediately in a frenzy of creativity and fevered passion… or the alternative – namely, imminent implosion.

I don’t know about you, but I don’t like imploding.

That leaves me with a problem. How do I completely reorganize the house/workout like a maniac/dominate my finances/cook gourmet meals daily/redecorate/overhaul my life/Pinterest the shit out of everything RIGHT NOW IMMEDIATELY?!?!

You might tell me I can’t, but I won’t hear it. Save your breath, you downer.

So what is inspiring me this second? (I better not take too long to write this or the list will fall off the bottom of your screen and into your lap.)

1. Queen Bey, Mrs. Carter, Beyoncé Knowles Herself

Can we just talk about this woman for a second? She is just beyond. JUST. BEYOND. Dropping a completely new art form with her visual album with absolutely zero promotion ahead of time, only for it to be one of the most stunning works to ever have existed. It’s such a beautiful portrait of feminism, love, art, and life. And then this shows up on my newsfeed.

I am floored by this woman. And Taylon.

2. The December Issue of Glamour Magazine

This issue is my favorite every year, as it includes the Glamour Women of the Year Awards. This year, they had the honorees and the presenters write down their life mottos, so here’s a little sneak peek of the compilation, which can be found at http://www.glamour.com/inspired/blogs/the-conversation/2013/11/women-of-the-year-life-mottos.html.

Image

I especially like Seth Meyers’ little gem in there. How’s that for inspiration?

3. The Likes of Women Bloggers

There is a new club on the internet, consisting of family women who have taken their previously unrecognized talents of beautifying their domestic worlds and just living, and creating their own careers by writing, photographing, and inspiring us about it all. And when I say all, I mean ALL. There is some backlash that these women are furthering the anxiety and need for perfection in our already susceptible female population, and that is true in some cases, speaking from experience. But following the lives of these women has given me, a newlywed domestic disaster, a sense of camaraderie and that ever-elusive permission to be myself. For instance, my personal home-life idol, Jordan Reid of Ramshackle Glam, who readily owns up to “the occasional mini-disasters that come along with… the idea that true personal style is all about constant experimentation”. Then there is Jen of IHeart Organizing, a mother of three boys who constantly dominates the chaos that is life at home with affordable and innovative solutions that put Martha Stewart to shame. And, of course, Sherry and John (okay, okay, I threw a husband in there because husbands are great too) of Young House Love, who turned their love of both home renovation and the documentation of it into a full-fledged online following. All of these women are extraordinary for the very reason that they are ordinary. Yes, they are beautiful and talented, but they are also smart and hilarious and educated and RELATABLE. They have children and families – do not miss the inspiring story of how John and Sherry’s daughter Clara came into the world here: http://www.younghouselove.com/2011/04/claras-birth-story/ – and they have made their own careers out of celebrating much scrutinized path of mother and homemaker. But the best part is that they see your ideals and raise you REALITY, thereby making it okay to mess up, to take risks, and hell, to be a hot mess if you so please, damnit.

4. The Lorna Jane Philosophy

Love LJ

That’s me, loving life and LJ.

I used to describe this activewear company as the Australian Lululemon, but now that they are here in California(!), I don’t have to! The philosophy behind this company, started by Lorna Jane Clarkson, is all about active living. Their logo is three symbols next to each other, and they stand for Move. Nourish. Believe. I let Lorna explain in her own words:

Active Living

Not only is the message behind LJ incredible, but their marketing and their blog MoveNourishBelieve are amazingly motivating. I am so inspired by this company and their founder Lorna Jane Clarkson, and my life, my happiness, and my health are benefitting. This New Year, go ahead and start with their Self-Love Contract, and just be better for it already, okay?

Self-Love Contract

5. And lastly, THIS.

Sunshine and Laughter

And maybe tomorrow too.

(Image found via Pinterest via iheartinpiration.com)

Happy New Year! You can find me loving like Beyoncé; dominating like the Glamour Women of the Year; celebrating like Jordan, Jen and Sherry; and living my most active life. Wanna join? ❤

Be of Good Cheer

On our first Christmas as Mr. and Mrs….

20131225-213908.jpg

Happy Holidays from the Halters!

A Well-Read Woman

I have a problem. I love books.

A Well Read Woman

Or maybe it’s the world that has a problem.

(Couldn’t help myself… Image found via Pinterest via la femme d’à côté)

Okay, I hear you saying that that isn’t so much of a problem, but you might be wrong. Case in point:

  • My bedside is completely unnavigable due to the stacks and piles and mounds of books, constantly teetering to the point of impending avalanche.
  • I spend an obscene amount of time and money at Barnes & Noble, and I was born hardly capable of walking past the entrance to one without going in.
  • When I start reading a book (although starting just one is unlikely… I’m usually reading four), I think about it ALL THE TIME. Like, completely engrossed. Like, I wonder what this character is going to do next. Like, I can’t wait to get home/on my lunch break/wait for that meeting so I can devour a few more pages.
  • I had eye surgery in August, which put me stuck inside in the dark for a week. One of my top concerns was not my health, not my tan, not my social relationships, but more along the lines of I CAN’T READ FINE PRINT.
  • The single.most.annoying.thing.ever is when you are reading the last 10 pages of any and every book you’ve ever invested yourself in and any interruption that can occur most definitely will. EVERY. SINGLE. TIME.

Life and Reading

Now I won’t go into how overloaded my Amazon wishlist is, or the fact that my upstairs hallway has built-in cabinetry that is overflowing with paperbacks and hardcovers that I can’t bear to let go of, or that when anyone asks me what I collect the answer is quite obviously “books”. And shoes. But books.

So imagine my amazement when I realized that I had not even vaguely heard of GoodReads.com. The purpose of the site is well-explained by their tagline: “Meet your new favorite book.” Yes, please. You can connect with your friends through your social networks, which (don’t you roll your eyes at me) I was surprised to find that apparently no one wants to willingly own up to their nerdiness because a full 59 of my Facebook friends have GoodReads profiles. FIFTY-NINE. And I was utterly incredulous about a few of them, but I won’t name names. My favorite part, though, is that you can pick your favorite genres, scroll through lists and lists (if you so choose) of books in those genres, and rate the ones you’ve read. The site will then generate recommendations for you based on your ratings for your personalized to-read list, with the option of saving those that look the most interesting to you with the click of a “Want to Read” button.

I’m beyond excited for this. If reading is not your jam, then I’ve exposed a part of myself that may make you feel slightly less cool when in my presence. If this IS your jam, you haven’t even thought about how your social status will plummet when we hang out and probably stopped reading half a blog post ago to sign up for your own account. (Ahem, Mom.)

Happy Friday, all! I’ll be spending the holidays with my nose stuck in a book. But in the meantime, leave me your favorite reads in the comments! I’m always looking for recommendations.

Obviously.

Bright Spirits, Light Hearts

You know that scene in How the Grinch Stole Christmas when Cindy Lou Who sings “Where Are You Christmas?” Well, yeah. That’s happening.

Christmas has been elusive this year, and I’m not sure what happened. I was so beyond enthusiastic about Thanksgiving, compensating for missing my family by making the Newlywed Halter’s first meal an experience to remember. But now, who knows what’s going on? I’ve gotten most of my shopping done – early, in fact. Giving presents is probably one of my very most favorite things to do, yet everything is still unwrapped and hidden around the house. Normally, I would be baking up a storm, singing Christmas carols along with Pandora while flinging flour everywhere. But Bill doesn’t eat sweets, and when no one will enjoy them but me… Well, that sounds more like a recipe for holiday chub and a whole lot of lonely sugar binging. So I’ve made healthy Caramel Apple Oatmeal Cookies, but it’s just not the same. And then, of course, there is the fact that it was sunny and 75 degrees out today. I would never complain about that, unless it was both December AND my world was lacking some holiday spirit.

So what’s a girl to do when her heart isn’t as light and her spirit isn’t as bright as it should be?

Listen to her mom.

My mom called today, exploding with excitement that OMG Michael’s had decided to mark all of their Christmas decorations down to 70% off, and OMG my stepdad was going to be something just short of livid when he comes home to see that Wonderland that I’m sure is my mother’s house. Funny thing though, is that it just so happened that I was at Michael’s this very morning, albeit 429 miles away, and I not so much as noticed the Christmas extravaganza. And I’m observant. And usually squee myself over things like garland, glitter, and little reindeer statuettes. She told me to go. I told her I’m broke. She told me to decorate. I told her we only had a week before we leave for vacation. She told me to put out our fake tree. I told her it was small and pathetic. She told me to knock it off, as much as my sweet little mother would tell me to knock it off. I tried. It didn’t work.

Talk about a Scrooge. Sheesh.

But it turns out that trimming my pathetic fake tree all alone, by myself, on a dark Sunday night with only a week left before we abandon it was exactly what the doctor ordered. Every year it seems like it takes a grand gesture, a Pinterest-sized effort, holiday rat race to get in the spirit, and for some reason, I just haven’t had it in me this year. And it’s so easy to forget that even the smallest gesture can bring big changes. Proof?

Little tree, big cheer.

IMG_3817

The lights were already on it. I stuck 8, maybe 10, obnoxious glittery snowflakes on it, which clash tremendously with the bright red tree skirt. This is the only decoration I currently have in my house, and you know what? That’s okay. It’s been a big year, and I’m giving myself permission to bow out of the pressure to be the domestic queen of the holidays. Honestly, I’m just so content to sit back with Billy and drink some hot chocolate from our cute His and Hers mugs without worrying about comparing myself to everyone around me.

IMG_3770

Doesn’t that just look so (devastatingly-ordinary-and-oh-so-vanilla-deep-sigh) NICE? It’s strange how being at peace with an underwhelming Christmas performance can ironically stoke that internal holiday cheer fire. All of a sudden that heart we were talking about earlier is a little lighter. And those spirits we mentioned? Well, they’re – you guessed it – a little brighter.

IMG_3816

So there it is. Let’s all just sit back and enjoy everything we are, instead of worrying our little Grinch hearts out over everything we’re not. Happy (half-assed) holidays everyone!

It may just be the best one yet.

Thanksgiving Domination

Soooooo Thanksgiving happened.

As you already know, I was pretty nervous about cooking my first big meal. So when I pulled something incredibly intelligent like slice my left ring finger open while trying to cut a bagel with a brand new extremely sharp steak knife the night before Thanksgiving, I not only worried about the outcome of the meal, but now about the safety of everyone in a 1-mile radius as well. I thought I needed stitches, but decided to let Bill quell my anxiety for once in my life. I cried for a while, put pressure on it with a paper towel until it finally stopped bleeding, let Billy doctored me up, and then moped for a decidedly finite period of time, absolutely sure my efforts the next day would be futile. I was done for. The turkey had already won, and it was strictly my doing. Not a great start.

In the morning, however, it was ON. I was determined to throw down. And despite the misstep the night before, here is how THAT turned out.

BOOM.

20131202-163937.jpg

You GUYS. I did that.

I don’t have the faintest idea how it happened, but it was awesome. Getting started was tough since I get easily overwhelmed by too many things going on at once and couldn’t quite figure out where to begin. So I started by making breakfast, sitting down with a magazine, and taking a deep metaphorical breath. I highly recommend this first step to everyone. Take notes.

After that, things went smoothly for the most part. Well, besides not having any idea how to stick my hand in a turkey to pull out the neck and giblets. Or loosen the skin from the flesh. Or tuck the wings under. You know.

There was only one moment that I started to panic, thinking I bit off more than I could chew, and that, of course, was during the hour before dinner is served – that magic chaos period my mom has always talked about as if it were a swarm of locusts descending over both the kitchen and whoever pulled the short straw when deciding who was cooking dinner. But my friends, thank goodness for Bill. He has proven me wrong yet again, this time by being the best sous chef a lady could ask for. And for the second time in less than 24 hours, he managed to calm the wife-beast just as things started to spiral out of anxiety-ridden control – all while trimming the green beans, pureeing the gravy, and carving that god-forsaken bird.

As there is no way that I could give you what Bill would call the “play-by-play” of the day, because 1) I don’t think you need a tedious detailed run-down on this fine Tuesday, and 2) I most likely blacked out multiple times throughout the day just to get through it, here are the highlights:

20131202-163950.jpg

Those are fresh cranberries. I mean, really fresh. Like, so fresh I they needed to be rinsed and drained and smashed and blended.

20131202-163959.jpg

It took me a few minutes to figure out the pan… Yeah, just the pan.

20131202-164008.jpg

That was grosser than I anticipated, but…

20131202-164016.jpg

DOMINATION! I’ve been getting the “What’s in the bottom of the pan?” question a lot, and the answer would be halved pears and onions to flavor the drippings to make the gravy. (Find the recipe from Cooking Light here: Oil-Basted Parmesan Turkey with Walnut Gravy)

20131202-164023.jpg

Now that’s a man. You carve that turkey, Billy. (We all grew up a little that day.)

20131202-164047.jpg

Butternut-Bacon Stuffing from Cooking Light: Delish, especially as leftovers reheated in the toaster oven!

20131202-164040.jpg

Green Beans with Sherried Mushroom Sauce from Cooking Light… We cheated and put the fried onions on top anyway. Don’t tell my arteries.

20131202-164031.jpg

Maple-Pecan Sweet Potatoes from, you guessed it, Cooking Light! Made with real maple syrup and vanilla, these puppies are GOOD. Bill’s self-declared favorite.

20131202-164104.jpg

A relatively clean production area, obviously post-chaos hour.

20131202-164111.jpg

And homemade – 100% from scratch – Cranberry-Orange Relish. This was surprisingly easy, but for some reason telling everyone you made your cranberries from scratch is really impressive. Probably because they are so easy to buy at the market would be my guess! Anyway, this is an awesome recipe. It includes a whole orange and the zest of an orange rind, so the tangy citrus kick gives it a little something extra. It’s so great to eat straight out of the fridge as well, and it feels like a grown-up version of applesauce. Which is, obviously, rad.

20131202-164130.jpg

And here it is… the finished product! (In true do(hot mess)tication, notice the one little drip of sweet potatoes chilling on the edge of the plate. Polished presentations are for cowards.

20131202-164139.jpg

Happy husband with turkey hands!

20131202-164147.jpg

Okay, so I’m PROUD. I’ve never felt like a chef before, and until Thanksgiving, I never felt like cooking would be something I would ever be good at. There’s hope, everyone! There is HOPE.

20131202-164155.jpg

One more presentation pic for good measure.

20131202-164203.jpg

So this is how I celebrated. A much, MUCH deserved glass of wine.

All in all, I feel like the day was successful, and the biggest success was probably that despite the difficult decision to be away from my family of origin for the first time on such an important day, there were many more “best parts” than I expected. Bill and I had our first major holiday together. We got to take on the challenge in the kitchen and conquer that turkey. We proved that we are a great team, even when we have no idea what we are doing. We sat down in our sweats, fully intending to change into nice clothes and do our hair but deciding we were just too exhausted, and we ate a huge meal, just the two of us, and it was AMAZING. And lastly, I thoroughly passed out on the couch, fat and very happy, at around 7:30 p.m. in the middle of one of my favorite shows like an old grandma. It was SO worth it.

I do, however, have one main piece of advice for you when embarking on your first Thanksgiving meal. Do not – I repeat, DO NOT – slice your hand open the night before. Raw turkey juice is not pleasant to begin with, and it is even less so when it seeps into unnecessary wounds.

Just a thought.