The 2012 Bucket List

I’ve heard so many people say they don’t make New Year’s Resolutions because they never keep them.  I always make them(look like a supermodel, become Martha Stewart, etc.), but very rarely do I actually accomplish what I set out to do.

So I was inspired when I stumbled upon Lesley Carter’s Blog Indulge Travel, Adventure, & New Experiences and her 2012 “Bucket List.”  Of course she does way cool stuff like swim with dolphins and sky dive and her 2011  adventures are way more than I will probably do in a lifetime, but I loved her idea of creating a bucket list. By definition, you can’t fail at a bucket list like you can fail as resolutions.  Plus, it doesn’t have to be realistic or in any way attainable. I think this is a much more positive way to enter into the new year, so I decided to create my own.

 

Amy’s 2012 Bucket List of Adventures (and Other Stuff)

1) Get Passport stamp #4 (Ideally, either a tropical beach vacation or Paris at Christmastime, but heck I’ll take Mexico)

2) Pay off credit card debt (I got so close this year, but then we went to San Francisco.  I’m really not in very much debt at all, but I’d rather spend interest payments on something else).

3) Ride in a hot air balloon (You would think since I live in the Hot Air Balloon Capital of the World that I would have already done this).

4) Run a full marathon (planning on The Bank of America Chicago Marathon in October).

5) Run a race every month.

6) Compete in a triathlon (this will be tricky since I don’t know how to swim and I haven’t been on a bike aside from a tandem in 15 years).

7) Learn to swim.

8) Read my way through Newsweek’s Top 100 Books of all time (the list and my progress is here on my new sub page).

9) Go on a White Water Rafting expedition (I’ve been rafting once, but I would like to do one of those weekend excursions)

10) Start dressing my age (I should probably retire the flip flip/hoodie/jeans/ponytail outfit sometime soon and accept that American Eagle isn’t marketing to my demographic).

11) Visit a new state.

12) Send a birthday card in the mail to people on their birthdays.

13) Learn how to use my camera and take awe-inspiring photos.

14) Relearn French (once upon a time I spoke well enough to not have to take it in college).

15) Go horseback riding on the beach.

16) Write a novel.

17) Buy a new car (hopefully BEFORE the Taurus self-destructs ).

18) Do a massive house cleaning and reorganization.

19) Take the GRE.

20) Go to a live music festival (Coachella? Blues and Brews? Austin City Lights?).

21) Choose an NFL Team to cheer for and learn everything about them (then go to one of their games).

22) Win something (anything) in a radio contest.

23) Invest in a piece of artwork from a stuffy gallery in Santa Fe.

24) Finish a Tough Mudder (pretty much the most insane looking physical contest…you have to navigate yourself though all sorts of military obstacles and things that can electrocute you)

25) Figure out what in the world I’m doing with my life and take steps to get there.

I wish you much love and happiness in 2012.  Whether you have resolutions, bucket list items, or nothing at all, I hope the upcoming year is everything you hope for!

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2011

For as long as I can remember, I’ve done a formal, written out year in review.  I remember doing this as early as 7. I was a weird child.

Sometimes my review listed accomplishments (age 8: learned to ride a bike).  Sometimes I would list which singers I thought had the best voice (age 11: Celine Dion).  Sometimes I just apologized to people for being antisocial (age 22: quarter life crisis). 

2011 was a pretty crazy year in the world.  So many extreme and destructive natural disasters happened all over, many in places where those types of things don’t happen. Here in New Mexico we saw record-breaking cold, the a huge wildfire, and earthquakes.

Three of the world’s most controversial leaders were killed.  Governments were overthrown.  Economies crashed.  Thousands of people sold their belongings, convinced that the world was going to end. 

In the celebrity world, Charlie Sheen went nuts, Kim K ended her marriage after 72 days, Ashton cheated on his super gorgeous wife with a bimbo looking blonde, and LiLo was in jail? Out of jail? Who knows anymore.

My life was much less dramatic.  Still at the same job, still married to the same person, still living in the same city.  But looking back, I think I had a pretty great year, did some pretty fun things, and realized that anything I accomplish or don’t accomplish is a direct result of my actions.  I’m not so sure I ever really believed that before.

So…here it is….2011 according to Amy

January

*Rang in the New Year at a secluded cabin somewhere near Las Vegas (NM…not NV). Aside from the pipes freezing, it was a lovely start to 2011.

*Watched CNN as Egypt started a grassroots revolution.  No multi-billion dollar war, just the will of the people to do something about their basic human rights. 

February

* Endured one of the coldest few days in New Mexico history.  Made me wonder why I wasn’t living in Chicago if we had worse weather than them.

* As a result of this cold weather, resolved with 4 other couples to go to Jamaica.

* Got the worst fever I’ve ever had accompanied by a sinus infection that made food taste terrible for several days…lost weight due to this!

* In trooper style, got dressed up and had a lovely Valentine’s Day dinner despite being sicker than a dog.

March

* Started this here blog.  So far, it has been a really fun way to write and connect with peeps from all over the place.

* Woke up to the news of a terrible earthquake in Japan, and watched in horror as a giant tsunami took out entire villages in seconds.  The picture of the tsunami hitting San Francisco is haunting.

April

* Kissed my dreams goodbye as I watched  Prince William marry my BFF Kate at 3 a.m. 

* After 3 years, FINALLY lost every last pound of the 15 I gained when I started my first big girl job and first started dating Aaron (and thought I could eat as much as him).  

May

* Watched completely engrossed as Harold Camping and the end of the world people waited for the world to end…I admit….I took a deep sigh of relief at 6:00 pm MST when it didn’t.

* Went to JAMAICA! Enjoyed a week of fun, lounging on the beach, drinking tropical drinks, and hanging out with friends.  Overcame my intense fear of snorkeling.

June

* Giuseppe.  Our lives have been forever changed.  Yes, I know I talk about him like he is my child.  Sometimes I really think he is.

* Signed up for my first half marathon.  I was scared.

July

* House trained Giuseppe.  HUGE accomplishment for 2011.

* Professionally, organized a large veteran Job Fair.  Proudest moment as an event coordinator and probably the most I’ve worked in 1 week ever.

* Mourned the death of my favorite modern day musician, Amy Winehouse.

* Watched in sadness as Casey Anthony was found not guilty.  While I think the jury came up with the right verdict based on the evidence, I find it hard to believe that she didn’t do it.

* Finally saw a production of La Boheme.  Puccini is my musical soul mate.

August

* Watched as the overhyped Hurricane Irene caused lots of damage but not as much as predicted.

September:

* Turned 27, and still haven’t accepted it. Sometimes I feel unaccomplished (both the facebook dude and the new dictator in North Korea are my age), sometimes I just feel plain old (people born in the 90’s can now buy liquor????).

* Helped Casa Rodena winery harvest grapes for wine.  If the 2011 Serenade tastes bad…it isn’t my fault.

* Went to a Broncos game and a Rockies game.

* Went to Denver’s Oktoberfest (one of the top 10 in the country) and ate brats and pretzels.

October

* Continued my time honored tradition of going to the Balloon Fiesta at the crack of dawn.

* Ran my first (and best) Half Marathon at the Duke City Half.  An obsession was born.

November

* Spent a few days in San Francisco and remembered why I love that city SO MUCH.

* Took my first actual walk down Lombard Street.

* Ran my second (and worst) half marathon at the U.S. Half.  Immediately signed up for Rock and Roll Arizona to make up for it.

* Celebrated our 2 Year Anniversary by eating at a fancy restaurant that requires a password for entry. (Still crazy about the guy too by the way).

December

* Finished the gingerbread house project for the first time since 2007.

* Got a fancy camera that I don’t yet know how to use.

* Did lots of Christmasy things.

So now that that’s done, time to stop reflecting on the past and look forward to the future!

Tomorrow I will post my 2012 Bucket List.

I hope your 2011 was full of fun experiences, lessons learned, and proud accomplishments!

Training Tuesday and a Looming Half Marathon

All of the sudden we only have 19 days until our next half marathon.  I’m super motivated….now.

Last week I did only a few shorter treadmill runs in between sugar gorging and Christmas Cheering (not nearly enough mileage), so needless to say yesterday’s 11 mile run has left my poor muscles in a state of disarray. Despite the pain, yesterday (the first time I’ve run more than 8 miles at a time since the U.S. Half almost 2 months ago) felt pretty good, and I kept a pretty consistent 9 minute mile pace which isn’t completely unpromising (I typically run more than a full minute faster per mile during races than I do in training). 

I also tried out GU for the first time ever yesterday.  I had been kind of resistant to gels because I was doing fine without them.  I felt great during the Duke City Half and I had a ton of energy the whole race, so I didn’t think I would ever need to rely on a gel supplement  to keep me going.  But by the end of the U.S. Half, I was so tuckered out at mile 12, I couldn’t recover from a very small hill put in my way.  I don’t want the same thing to happen at Rock n Roll Arizona, and judging by the course elevation map, I have another little hill at the very end overcome after running uphill for the first 9.5 miles.

So yesterday, I took some (ate some?) GU right before heading out on our run. For some reason I was expecting it to make me violently ill, but it didn’t.   I didn’t finish the run with a super hero amount of energy, but I didn’t ever feel drained or tired.  Plus, the stuff tastes really really good!   I plan on eating some even when I don’t have a run to go on.

So now, the next (less than) 3 weeks will be devoted to a completely clean diet + wine (except for New Year’s Eve weekend because…yeah right), lots of speed training, losing the Holiday chub to shave off precious seconds, and hot yoga to keep my muscles limber and ready to go.  And staying healthy.  I think everyone decided to get sick and then share their cups to get everyone else sick this past week. 

I know my recent training habits don’t suggest it, but I want this race to go really well.  I KNOW somewhere way deep in there I have it in me to finish in 1:40, but I’m afraid that I haven’t been trying hard enough the past month and a half and it might be too late to improve my speed.  Turns out I haven’t outgrown procrastination.

Meanwhile, in between lamenting over my holiday laziness, I’m also looking back at the progress I’ve made over the past year.  Last December, I hadn’t ever run more than 6 miles at a time, and I had only participated in 1 race.  PR strictly meant Public Relations, I didn’t understand why having a Garmin was a big deal, and just the thought of running 13.1 miles made my feet hurt.

Now, a year later, I have 6 races under my belt including 2 half marathons. 

Will Run for Beer 5-K in April

Run for the Zoo 10-K in May

Das Hustlehoff 5-K in September

Duke City Half Marathon in October

U.S. Half Marathon in November

I’m no longer intimidated by 13.1 miles.  I worry about things like PR times (not to be confused with Public Relations times…if that made any sense…) and corral placement.  Good running shoes have taken on a whole new priority as has not wearing cotton shirts.  I’ve been splurging on athletic apparel more than on clothes that I wear when I’m showered. Target jeans? No problem.  Target running shorts? No thank you.  And GU.  I really like it.

So, here’s to the year that I became a runner.  Even if I don’t reach my goals in Arizona, at least I’ll be way ahead of where I was 1 year ago.

A Lovely Christmas Weekend

December 26th is one of the worst days of the year.

The radio stations have stopped playing Christmas music.  Everywhere, people are (prematurely in my opinion) taking down their lights from their houses.  The presents have been opened.  The cookies have been eaten, and now I just feel fat. 

And the weather is cold.  Around Christmas, it is acceptable.  Now, I’m miserable and so ready for Springtime.

At least I have the memories of this weekend to reminisce on.

Friday night we had our friends over for a small gathering.  Our signature “Poinsettia Cocktail” slightly based off a Martha Stewart recipe was a big hit! (Vodka, cranberry juice, Martinelli’s, and orange zest). 

Saturday night we took Giuseppe and walked around the Ridgecrest neighborhood to see the traditional New Mexico luminarias. Ridgecrest is a very charming old neighboorhood, and the medians are lined with little bags of light.  It was pretty cold, but definitely worth it!

Sunday, Christmas Day, bright and early, we went over to my parents’ house (in our Christmas pajamas) for presents, brunch, and the Disney Christmas Parade.  Then we went to Aaron’s aunt’s house (after changing out of our pajamas of course) for Christmas dinner and board games. 

Instead of buying each other gifts, Aaron and I opted to each put in half toward a fancy Canon Rebel EOS T3i camera.  (Silly Aaron bought me something anyway which was against the rules!). I am amazed at the difference in picture taking between this camera and our little old one.  I suddenly feel like a real photographer!  I am a little intimidated by it though.  So many settings and options that I don’t understand.

We were able to get some pretty good pictures of our Christmas weekend, even if we did stay pretty much on the automatic setting!

Tomorrow, it’s back to work, back to a diet that isn’t completely cookie-based, and back to our half-marathon training regimen.  Today’s 11.1 mile run was a little torturous after all the merriment.

I hope you had a lovely and merry Christmas, that you got to spend time with family and friends, and got everything your heart desired!

Eve of Christmas Eve! (And a Completed Gingerbread House)

In the word’s of one of my favorite literary heroines, Eloise, “It’s the Eve of Christmas Eve!”

I discovered this year that The Plaza Hotel unveiled their Eloise tree, designed by the Queen of whimsy, Betsey Johnson.  AMAZING!

In other news, I finished my Gingerbread house this morning! This will mark the first year since 2007 that I actually followed through the whole project.  Aaron will be happy that no miscellaneous gingerbread parts will be laying around the kitchen until April.  He’ll get a fully constructed house instead!

I baked and constructed and frosted and decorated, and ate a lot of raw gingerbread dough (and fondant) along the way.

I kept taking pictures of the progress, afraid that I would come home from work to find it collapsed and lost forever and we’d have another year of an unfinished product.

But, after 6 days of waking up at 5:30 a.m. to work on it, working on it during my lunch hour (and returning to work covered in flour), and spending every waking hour since Saturday morning working on it, I am finally finished!

Now I have to go be a good little elf and clean/bake non-gingerbread things/cook/shop/wrap presents/frolic (run) in the snow/sing Christmas songs loudly to spread Christmas cheer/and of course get the obligatory Christmas mani/pedi!

Only 2 days until Christmas!

(Is everyone else this excited?!?!)

 

It’s Beginning to Look A Lot Like Christmas

Can you believe it?

In one week from now, the Christmas parties will be over, the presents will be opened, the cookies will have been eaten, and the magic, engery, and excitement will be fading.  I’m trying really hard not to think about it because it makes me sad.

So until then, I plan to cram as much Holiday Cheer as possible into my hours.

We’ve made our wine stop at our favorite winery, Casa Rodena, which was decorated for Christmas!

My house is finally all decorated.

The Christmas shopping is *almost* done.  I only have 1 more thing left to buy. Aaron on the other hand hasn’t even started…. (typical).

The Christmas cards have been sent.  And thanks to my mom the photographer, and Minted the amazing photo card design company, they are looking quite spiffy I must say.

Project Gingerbread house is on schedule to be finished by Friday evening.

Now all I have to do is wrap presents, and watch Love Actually/It’s a Wonderful Life/Miracle on 34th Street/Home  Alone/Eloise at Christmastime/The Polar Express/How the Grinch Stole Christmas/The Christmas Story.  In fact, the only Christmas movies I’ve watched this year (aside from the Hallmark Channel/Lifetime ones) is Home Alone 2: Lost in New York and The Holiday.  I have a lot of  catching up to do.

And baking.  My goal is to make 2 varieties of cookies and 1 batch of cupcakes by Saturday. Sometime, in between work, sleeping, half marathon training, finishing my gingerbread house, cleaning the house, hosting some friends for a gathering, prepping some food for said gathering, wrapping, and helping Aaron with his gift purchases, I will do the baking!

Christmas music will be played non-stop unless a Christmas movie is on. Here’s to a very Christmas 7 days left of Christmastime!

The Art of the White Elephant

Tis the season for lots of Christmas parties.  Whether they be office, friend, or family, it seems like our whole December is filled with them. 

Where the idea of a “white elephant” gift exchange came from, I have no idea (I’m sure it would take about 5 seconds on google to figure it out).  Sometimes, the gift exchange is cordial.  You give fancy chocolate sauce, a bottle of wine, or gift certificates to Starbucks.  While the gift is typically useful and appreciated, it is also very boring.

Sometimes, the white elephant is tacky.  The purpose is to hand off some terrible present that you’ve received in exchange for something equally terrible that someone else didn’t want.  Useful, no.  Entertaining, you bet.

We went to one of those last weekend. 

Aaron and I don’t have a lot of terrible gifts in our house, and the ones we do have were given to us by very nice people, and we’d feel bad if they ever knew we gave their treasured gift away in a white elephant gift exchange. So, we had no choice but to head to Goodwill and do some treasure hunting.

I don’t really go to thrift stores too often, but maybe I should start.  Where else could I find some of these amazing treasures! If I ever need a VCR, a figurine, or some vintage 90’s decor, I know exactly where I’m going!  In addition to getting some pretty marvelous White Elephant presents, I got a $6 tennis racket in great shape, and a $1 vase.  Can’t beat that!

This was one of the winners!

This was another winner!

I don’t even know what this is…

One of the rules of White Elephant is that you can steal other people’s gifts, but usually the gifts are so hideous, no one wants to do any stealing.  Apparently that didn’t apply to the ones I chose.  My gifts got stolen TWICE.  First, I was deprived of a genuine Village People Live and Sleezy record. I guess there will be no dance parties at Amy’s house anytime soon.

THEN (and this one hurts), a bottle of rum was stolen from me (the person who brought this obviously thought this would be a cordial White Elephant exchange).  We ended up leaving with a lovely mermaid figurine that is meant for hanging (don’t think that it isn’t!), and a lovely box full of incense should I ever need to conceal certain aromas. 

Lesson learned from all this….Goodwill is a good source of entertainment.  So are white elephant gift exchanges!

River of Lights

I am on a mission to be as Christmasy as possible.  This weekend Aaron and I went to River of Lights, which is Albuquerque’s version of a large scale light display of happiness hosted by the Botanic Gardens.  Neither of us had been in years, and it looks like Christmas light displays have come a long way since then.  Before, there were a lot of flat light displays.  Technology now allows for 3-D animated light figures! My newly discovered “night scenery” camera mode was in picture taking heaven!

The River of Lights opens at 6:00 p.m. daily and runs through December 30 (closed Dec. 24 and 25).  Tickets can be purchased online or at the door.  Adults are $8.  There was plenty of parking when we went and it was free.  Hot chocolate is available throughout, which is nice because standing outside for over an hour at night makes for some very numb fingers and toes.

Cactus

Oh Christmas Tree (and an evil virus)

Wednesday, in an absent-minded moment, I noticed a notification pop up out of my task bar.  Something about low memory.  I’ve seen these before, and really, after 2 years of downloading pictures, music, and other files, a low memory notification wasn’t all too surprising. I clicked to close it out.

Except as soon as I clicked, another notification opened up.  I still didn’t really look at it, but it said something about something failing.  My options were to retry or cancel.  I clicked cancel.  Suddenly my computer started to shut down and restart.  I still wasn’t alarmed.  Sometimes my computer just does this to install updates or whatever.  But when it restarted, the screen was black, I had some sort of anti-virus scanning program (not the one we use) saying it was scanning for fatal errors, and my “all programs” folder was empty and my desktop and task bar icons were gone, PANIC.  Then the fake scanning program said I needed to upgrade my protection in order to get rid of the virus.  A whole evil virus concoction to get my credit card info.

This is a bad virus.  It spread through the computer FAST. It attempted to send our personal information to an outside system (our firewall blocked hundreds of attempts).  It was innocent enough looking that I didn’t think twice when clicking. And it wiped out our hard drive.

Luckily we back up our files every so often, and we didn’t lose much, but talk about a hassle.  And I had no computer for more than 24 hours. 

On the plus side, no computer meant I actually got some stuff done.  We bought our Christmas tree on Monday in the snow at Lowe’s.  Last night I finally finished decorating it! I am in need of a tree topper though.  Now if I could just get around to finishing my gingerbread house, we’d be in business! (My photo editing software isn’t installed yet, so these are unedited.  I was also having a hard time with the wordpress picture uploading thing, so these are all out of order).

Lowe's Christmas Tree Farm

Training Tuesday: Back in the Saddle

I must have been sniffing highlighters or something.

Right after finishing the U.S. Half in San Francisco, high off of two half marathons in a row, and wanting desperately to redeem myself and hit my goal finish time of 1:40, I convinced Aaron to sign up for our next half marathon, scheduled for mid-January.  Nevermind that my legs needed some serious recovery time, nevermind that the time change means darkness happens at 4:30 p.m., nevermind that the seasons change and winter is cold, and nevermind that the month of December is jam packed with Christmas goodness and free time is non-existent.  I wanted to do my next half marathon NOW.

Rock and Roll Arizona is less than 6 weeks away.  In the month since the U.S. Half, I haven’t done any speed training.  We finally did a “long” run on Sunday (my first since taper week over a month ago), maxing out at 6.3 miles (in the snow).  And with all of the candy and baked goods that are popping up everywhere in front of me all the time, I’m definitely not cutting weight like I wanted to (for every pound you lose, you shave off 2 seconds per mile).  Basically, in no way am I where I need to be 6 weeks out from a 5 minute PR time.

To make matters worse, this week has been downright freezing/snowy/icy/windy.  Running when the temperature is 5 degrees or in 70 mph wind gusts just doesn’t sound safe.  We are very lucky to have a treadmill, but it just isn’t the same, and only 1 person can be on it at a time.  Going to the gym means having to look somewhat presentable and having to interact with people while sweat drips in your eyes.  And all I really want to do is drink mulled wine while watching Hallmark Channel Christmas movies in my sweat pants/shirt and slippers.

Aaron feet

The running gods must have thought it was time for an intervention.  I found this article floating around twitter this morning.  It lists the top 5 reason to be running outside right now.  With hopes that we’ll return to normal Albuquerque December temperatures (or anything above 25 degrees) in the next couple of days, here are some little motivators for me to put the spiked soy egg nog down, pile on every piece of winterized running gear I own, and get outside and work towards not having an epic failure of a half marathon come January: (from active.com)

1) You don’t get hot (Well, obviously.  You do however get very very cold).

2) Running outside prepares you for races (I’m hoping Arizona will be nice and warm).

3) It builds mental and physical toughness. (No more wheeniness).

4) Curbs winter blues (fresh air and sunshine are natural mood enhancers).

5) Keeps off the winter bulge (and I need all the help there I can get).

Yeah…still not very motivated.  We did go to hot yoga tonight which is a whole different kind of miserable, but I have a feeling that the next 6 weeks of half hazard training are going to be pretty interesting.