My Happiness Rules

In Gretchen Rubin’s book, The Happiness Project, she comes up with her own “rules of adulthood”.  Truths she’s found living her life that are helpful to remember in times that might not be the most happiness-friendly.  I came up with a few of my own.

1.  Forgive (especially yourself), and let it be

2.  Anything worth doing is a pain in the ass at some point – enjoy the process

3.  Moving ahead doesn’t necessarily get you ahead  – stay in the moment

4.  I had another one I can’t remember right now, hence why I need to write them down.  It will come to me at some point.  

The first rule is simple and self-explanatory.  I added the part about forgiving yourself because this is usually the hardest, at least for me.  You said something stupid, did something embarrassing, made a mistake.  FORGIVE YOURSELF.  Tell yourself it’s okay, you will learn from this.  Then LET IT BE.  Move on, and stop obsessing over it.  I have to apply this rule at least once a day.  The reason I like having it as a rule is, the sooner you remember it, and apply it, the better you feel.  By having this mantra to turn to as soon as you something happens, you can have yourself back on the road to happiness in no time.  Of course, this is important with others too.  We’ve all heard the saying about anger and resentment being like taking poison yourself and expecting the other person to die.  It doesn’t get you anywhere, the sooner you forgive, and truly let it be, the faster you will be happy once again.  

My second rule came to me when we returned from our vacation only to find our garden completely overriden with weeds.  I’ve never before seen what two weeks of negligence can do for weeds.  It took my husband and I about three hours to get everything under control.  Not to mention, it was approximately 95 degrees and humid.  I was shocked when my husband took a phone call from his friend.  I overheard his conversation, it went something like this, “ya, we just got back.  had a great time.  weeding the garden right now, it is filled with weeds.  Oh, well, (shruggs) its good, healthy work…”  WHAT??  I was ready to dig up every plant in the garden weed or not, and call this year a failure.  I was sweating, dehydrated, my knees were cramping up, and yet he was so, happy.  What am I missing here, I wondered.  The epiphany didn’t come until a few days later.  I got up early and went out to water our garden.  It looked so amazing now that the weeds were cleared.  I noticed a few blossoms on our cucumber plants, and it seemed like our squash plants had doubled in size overnight.  I stood there, in the morning glow, ready to burst into tears.  I was so happy.  I just kept thinking about when we bought the house two years ago, we wanted to start a garden, and now we finally were.  Sure, our plants were smaller than my moms or my father-in-laws (have you ever hear the saying, comparison is the killer of all joy?, well its true – so try not to do it, another good rule), but they were ours.  We did the work, and it felt so good.  We were making our dreams come true.  Even though weeding was such a pain in the ass, it was worth it.  If I had just thought about the end result while I was weeding and enjoyed the process,  I would have been so much happier.  I realized my husband already knew this rule, but I guess I had to learn it for myself.  

Moving ahead doesn’t always get you ahead – we’ve all been there.  You are late for work swerve around the car in front of you to pass them like a maniac, only to end up at a red light two seconds later with them right behind you giving you the finger.  You didn’t really get ahead.  You are in the exact the same place you would have been if you didn’t cut them off.  SLOW DOWN.  Reminding yourself of this rule can help you stay in the moment.  Its fun to notice when other people are not applying this rule as well.  When someone is sprinting through the airport and almost kills you with their suitcase, then ends up getting stopped at security and you breeze right by them, take notice.  Noticing how foolish this is when others do it can help prevent you from making the same mistake.  

Just as an update, I have managed to stick to my workout schedule!  I’ve been able to wake up earlier and squeeze in my workouts.  I feel so accomplished!  Everything they say about exercise is completely true.  It makes you feel good, gives you more energy and relieves stress (which I need for sure, but we’ll get to that another day).  I have two more work days left, so I need to go to bed! 

Day One Down!

So I managed to do the impossible and wake up at 5:17 AM!  I got up, watered the garden, and started my workout!  I decided on a weight-lifting plan from The Woman’s Home Workout Bible, by Brad Schoenfeld.  About a year ago I decided to stop wasting money paying gym fees because I never went.  It was quite a dilemma for me because I felt like if I stopped belonging to a gym I would never start working out.  However, I’m old enough to realize that just because you spend money, it doesn’t mean you are going to do something you don’t want to do.  Money alone was not a big enough motivator for me to drive 40 minutes round trip and spend another 1-2 hours working out.  

Over the past year I have worked out at home very sparingly.  We bought a treadmill (great deal on craigslist), that I’ve used probably twice – so then again – maybe I didn’t quite learn my lesson.  The fact is, I have everything I need at home to get a great workout.  The problem is the motivation.  I am the type of person that needs a “plan”.  I can’t just do something.  I need structure, goals, instructions, rules, pictures, etc.  That was part of why going to the gym didn’t quite work for me.  Once I got there I wasn’t exactly sure what I should do.  Since I didn’t have a plan, I always felt like I was missing some part of my body or not doing things correctly.  This book has helped me clear up all of these issues.  

The book lays out several different home gym options based on different budgets ranging from $100 – $2500.  My home gym is somewhere between the $100 and $500 mark.  I have everything for the $100 budget and some of the $500 budget items.  After you set up your home gym, you can choose from plans with different goals like sculpting, core stability and fat loss.  My home gym is not quite set up how I want it to be yet.  Equipment is strewn everywhere, but I decided I cannot let this be an excuse for me not to begin.  

I had to leave the house earlier than usual today to drop my dogs at daycare, so I didn’t finish the entire workout.  I still have two exercises that I am going to do tomorrow.  Once I finish those I am going to attempt to do some running intervals with the dogs, and go to yoga!  I love yoga, but I don’t do it enough, so part of my fitness challenge is to improve my yoga practice as well.

I think working out before work will help me with the structure I am craving too.  I know the days I work I am going to get up, and work from 8AM to 8PM.  On my off days, things come up – appointments, cleaning, projects, laundry, and spending time with my family.  I have a hard time planning and controlling my time on my days off.  The days I work, however, I know exactly what is going to happen.  If I wake up at 5:30AM and work out every day I work I will easily have at least three workouts a week.  If I leave things to chance on my days off, well the past year has shown me, it doesn’t work.  

Increasing my exercise and my energy level is the first leg of my own Happiness Project.  Once I have a routine in place, and have all those endorphins rushing around, I am sure I will be happier.  Then I can tackle the more annoying tasks like organizing the linen closet, which will lead to future happiness!  One day at a time!

Cancun! Honeymoon!! Happiness!!!

Two days ago, the hubby and I got back from our long awaited honeymoon!  We were married September 21, and wanted to go on a two-week extravaganza.  The only time we could patch together that much paid time off was good old July.  Supposedly it’s rainy season in Cancun at this time, but honestly we had great weather.  While on said honeymoon we did a lot of lounging around (and eating, but we won’t go there).  All this lounging around led to many Sudoku races, and a lot of reading.  A few things happened due to my reading that really made this honeymoon so fulfilling.  Sure, I got to relax and spend time with the hubby, which was AMAZING, but I also realized how much I love to read.  Its funny how we sometimes forget our passions and stop doing what we LOVE to do, just because “life” swallows up all our time.  

The first awesome thing that happened was I finally finished reading The Secret Life of Bees.  I loved it!  The more important part was at the end of the book there was a little summary about the author, Sue Monk Kidd.  She reflects on how writing this fiction novel was a lot different than writing her previous memoirs.  And there it was – an ah-ha moment.  I love writing, and I’ve always said I want to write a book someday.  I honestly don’t care if no one even reads this book, but I want to write it.  Obviously, I hope at least one person reads it, but even if its just for me that would be more than enough.  Now, I probably sound like a idiot, but I really didn’t realize memoir was a genre, or what a memoir even was.  She wrote, “I think many people need, even require, a narrative version of their life.  I seem to be one of them.  Writing memoir is, in some ways, a work of wholeness”.  I actually read these sentences over and over.  I have always wanted to write about my life experiences, but before now I didn’t realize how easy it was.  You can just do it, and call it memoir.  

Let’s clarify one thing here – I am a PharmD- Doctor of Pharmacy.  Six years of college, but all SCIENCE.  I’ve lived and breathed science basically since high school.  So that’s why I sound like such a literary idiot.  I loved reading and writing in grade school, but someone said those magic words, “you can’t make any money doing that”.  I was good at science too, and apparently you can make a lot more money (or so I was told), with science.  So viola!  I became a pharmacist.  

After reading these words from Sue Monk Kidd, I became excited.  I haven’t started my book yet – but at least I’m in the research phase!  There is hope!  I decided to learn more about memoirs I should read a few.  I immediately did a very thorough search on my Kindle, and settled on two books classified as memoirs.  The first was, The Happiness Project, by Gretchen Rubin.  This appealed to me because although I am happy,  I still feel like I am not as happy as I should be.  I have so many things to be thankful for and just be truly happy for, but I don’t always show it.  Her basic quest is to find out if she can change some simple daily tasks and make herself happier, in the life she already has.  No soul-searching quests in other countries traveling the world, no drastic life-changing decisions, just simple changes made daily for a year and kept track of on her “resolutions chart”.  I related to so many things she said in her book, and feel like I would benefit from a lot of the changes she made.  You can check out her blog if you want to here.   I’ve already subscribed to daily blog posts, and daily happiness quotes!  Now who wouldn’t want that? 

The second book I bought, I have not finished, but its about an ongoing interest I’ve had throughout my life.  Its called, The Year of Living Biblically, by A.J. Jacobs.  He also sets out on a year long quest, but of quite a different nature.  He tries to live by the Bible as literally as possible, living by all of the rules set forth in the Old and New Testaments.  So far, it has been very informative and interesting.  It may disturb some people because he describes himself as secular, and some feel you should not be living by the Bible if you do not actually “Believe“.  However, I found his non-biased approach very eye-opening.  He doesn’t take sides, just explains passages and beliefs of different religious groups in a very matter-of-fact way.  He is very thorough and doesn’t only go by what is in the Bible itself, but talks to his “spiritual guides” that he has employed for his year of research.  These guides are religious leaders from several different religious groups.  I was raised as a Catholic, and although I am definitely Christian,  I struggle to accept everything in the Catholic faith.  I have been going through my own personal journey exploring this over the past several years.  Jacobs’s book is very enlightening. It helps highlight what is actually in the Bible versus how different groups interpret it.  

I will finish this up with a funny story.  While I was in Cancun reading away on my Kindle, I absentmindedly left my Kindle sitting on a beach bed when we returned to our room.  I didn’t realize this lapse until about 5 hours later.  We rushed to the beach bed and of course it was gone.  We ran to the front desk and it had not been turned in at all that day.  I basically gave up hope, and returned to our room dejected.  I’m a big believer in Karma, and I’ve never stolen anything in my life, but I figured sometimes Karma doesn’t always work in exact terms.  Still, I decided to check one last time before we left the resort.  Low behold someone had finally turned it in!  I was so happy and really just hopeful about human society as a whole.  As I opened my Kindle to make sure everything was in working order,  I realized it was open to the cover of The Year of Living Biblically.  Of course this is only speculation, but I have a feeling someone did take my Kindle, turned it on, and saw this book.  At this time they were immediately stricken with guilt, and turned it in!  I have no idea if this really happened, but it seems like a reasonable explanation!  

Anyway,  we had a great vacation, nothing was stolen, and my love for reading and writing is renewed.  I can’t wait to start my own happiness project.  It is beginning tomorrow because one of my resolutions is work out every day before work (remember when I said we did a lot of eating…).  Hello 5:30 AM, we haven’t met before.  EVER.  Wish me luck!

Recipe Review

Lately, I have been starting to use Pinterest A LOT.  I originally used it to find recipes and then branched out into all sorts of other categories.  I have been finding DIY crafts, organization, cleaning, sewing and decorating tips.    However, many times I wonder if some of these claims are “too good to be true”.  For example there is a pin circulating around about putting brown sugar in your hair to miraculously straighten it without using a straightening iron.  Clearly, that will not work.  There are many other tips though that are not as outrageous, and that I would like to try when time allows.  I have decided whenever I try one of my pins I am going to review it here, so others can see what works and what doesn’t.  I will also be adding on any improvements I have found when trying out these tips or recipes.

Last week, I pinned a pork chops recipe from thecookinghusband.com.  View the recipe here.  Although my husband liked it, I found that it was just average.  I also don’t feel pork chops lend themselves to slow cooking well.  There was a lot of sweetness in this recipe and not enough acidity to balance it out.  I would like to try this again, baked in the oven, and possibly add some vinegar to give the recipe a little more balance.  So if you were to try this recipe, that would be my suggestion.

On Tuesday, I had another opportunity to try a recipe I pinned.  I was very excited about this one – it was called John Wayne Casserole, and I pinned it from navywifecook.com.  You can view the original post here.  I am going to re-post the recipe here, as well as a few changes I am planning to do next time.  I absolutely loved this recipe, it was easy and my husband raved about it.  Eventually I would like to make my own taco seasoning for it, but this time I just used store-bought.  This would make an excellent pot-luck dish, different than lasagna and the usual pot-luck standbys.  If I were making this for a crowd, I would opt for mild taco seasoning, and leave out the jalapenos.  You could bring hot salsa and pickled jalapenos in separate containers for guest to add to their taste.

John Wayne Casserole

2 pounds ground beef, cooked and drained
*I used ground bison instead for a leaner option
1 (1.25-ounce) packet taco seasoning
*I used El Paso spicy taco seasoning
4 ounces sour cream
4 ounces mayonnaise
8 ounces Cheddar cheese, shredded and divided
1 yellow onion, sliced
2 cups biscuit mix
*I used Bisquick, more about that later
2 tomatoes, sliced
*This was not enough to cover my pan, I would use at least 3 tomatoes
1 green bell pepper, sliced
1 (4-ounce) can sliced jalapeno peppers
*Omit if making for a crowd.  I used fresh peppers and just sautéed them with the bell pepper and onion.  If you are going to do this make sure you turn on your oven fan because these produce a spicy gas that makes you cough when you breathe it in!
Directions
1. Heat oven to 325. Brown ground beef and add taco seasoning and water, according to packet instructions; set aside.
2. In a separate bowl, combine sour cream, mayonnaise, 4 ounces of cheddar cheese, and half of the onions; set aside.
*I think in the future I would add some salt and pepper to this mixture.  It tastes good with everything else but is very bland on its own.  A little S&P never hurt anyone!
3. Stir biscuit mix and water (directions on box) to form soft dough. Pat dough on the bottom and one-half-inch up the sides of an 9 x 13 in. greased casserole dish.
*This step really baffled me.  First of all Bisquick directions tell you to mix 2 and 1/4 cups (not 2 like the recipe says) of mix with MILK not water.  I decided to just go with the box directions.  Also, when I tried to spread the dough on the bottom of the pan and up the sides this proved to be nearly impossible.  The dough was so sticky, and did not lend itself to “spreading” at all.  I coated my hands with flour, and patted the batter the best I could to cover just the bottom of the pan.  There were some holes in it, but that was the best I could manage.  It still came out fine, but these directions are misleading.  
dough
4. Saute remaining onions and bell peppers until slightly tender.
5. On top of biscuit mix, evenly distribute ingredients in the following order: ground beef, tomato slices, green peppers, onions, jalapeno peppers, sour cream mixture and end with remaining shredded cheese.
* As I previously mentioned, two tomatoes were not enough for me to make one layer over my casserole dish.  Maybe I cut them too thick, but I love tomatoes, so I just cut up another one, and it was delicious in the final product.
peppers
6. Bake for 30-40 minutes or until edges of dough are lightly browned.
 *I was short on time, so I only baked for 30 minutes.  However, I would probably bake 10-15 minutes longer, or place under the broiler to really brown the cheese up nicely.
 
And there you have it – my version of the John Wayne Casserole!  Maybe if I were bringing this to a party I would re-name it Taco Casserole or something like that so  people would have a clue what it might taste like.  It would as be neat to use a DIY idea I found but haven’t tried yet, which involved painting glass jars with chalkboard paint.  This way you could write the names of your toppings on them and have an easy way to transport everything!  Hopefully I get use this soon and try all of my great ideas.  Happy pinning!

Spring into a Fresh Start

Yesterday was the first day of spring, and with that came the realization that I haven’t blogged in five months.  Count ’em, 1, 2, 3, 4, 5.  WOW.  This isn’t the fist time I’ve thought about the blog, but I finally think I figured things out.  My goals for the blog were to motivate me to do all of this research about bees and gardening, but in reality my life doesn’t always lend itself to hours of research and planning.  I’m sort of a learn-as-you-go kind of girl.  And a perfectionist.  So that doesn’t always mix.  I don’t know all the answers, it wasn’t perfect the first time, so I get discouraged and don’t post.  Or I don’t take a picture, and then – boom- the perfect excuse not to post.  

But, I am done with all of that negativity.  This is my blog.  It doesn’t have to be perfect.  It doesn’t ONLY have to be about bees.  I am going to blog about things I do EVERYDAY.  Some days it is bees – a lot of days its not.  I want to change the goal of my blog from motivating me to things I don’t usually do, to simply celebrating the things I do every day.  And in the spirit of not overwhelming myself I am not going to do a huge post “catching-up” on everything I missed.  Over the next week or so I want to take the time to review what has happened over the winter.  

1.  The Bees DIED, yes they died.  More on this later.

2. I bought new bees.  Yes its that simple, I went online and bought them!

3. I became obsessed with Pinterest – my goal is try the things I find on Pinterest and review them here.

4.  I harvested the honey (before the bees died) and I took pictures!

5.  Paul made beer using our home-made honey!

6.  I gave honey as Christmas gifts.  Talk about an awesome home-made gift!

So there you have it, six upcoming posts.  I am not going to put too much pressure on myself.  I cannot “fail” at my own blog.  It might not be as flashy as some; and I don’t have my own Facebook, and Pinterest, and Twitter account dedicated solely to my blog – YET.  It’s a work in progress and there’s nothing wrong with that!  Oh ya, ANOTHER thing – I can’t post every day.  I work full time, and on my days to work its no joke, my hours are 8 AM to 8 PM.  So needless to say, I don’t really feel like doing ANYTHING when I get home. Thankfully the hubby cooks dinner those nights! <3.  

What I did do today is make a smoothie.  I didn’t measure anything and it wasn’t perfect – but it was delicious.  And it contained bee pollen! and honey!  Excellent for allergies.  So I’m calling it the sneeze – smashing smoothie.  I used a teaspoon of bee pollen and a tablespoon of honey, strawberries, plain greek yogurt, milk, bananas, and flaxseed oil.  After that I went to the store and bought some unsweetened whey protein powder and almond milk, for future smoothie-making.  I love the yogurt but I don’t want to overdo it on the dairy so I am going to replace the cow milk with almond milk.  Yum! Can’t wait to try it with a new twist tomorrow.  Trust me on this one, you can’t taste the bee pollen!  Try it for yourself!

Its been a while!

Well, I started off on a good kick, but life got the best of me this past week!  Has it really been that long?  Don’t worry, I haven’t abandoned the bees, (yet).  Today, I finally made it down to the bee-supply store closest to home.  For me, thats New England Bee Supplies, inc. in Tyngsboro, MA or online at nebees.com.  I purchased a bee suit for my husband, mite treatment, gloves and syrup to feed the bees.  I’ve also included a picture of hobby-inspired bridal shower gifts I received.  The mite treatment I purchased are sheets that I am to lay inside the hive for one week.  They apparently smell like vinegar, and work great!  They feeding syrup I purchased contains essential oils that help prevent the bees from getting disease.  They’ve nick-named this concoction honey-bee-healthy, totally clever and cute!  Right now, the hubby is heading out to unscrew all the boards we had holding the hive together when it arrived.  Tonight we hope to take the top two supers off of the hive leaving just the two brood boxes.  If time allows, we will lay the mite treatment down and possibly start feeding the bees as well.  Look for pictures and progress reports to come!  On the dinner menu tonight – honey delicata squash with a twist of my own.  Will post recipe here!

Feeding syrup with honey-bee-healthy

Mite treatment for our hive

The bee suit, all they had was an XL

My hubby’s gloves, to complete the suit

My bee-inspired shower gifts!

 

The Hive in All of Its Glory

The first day we brought home the hive was a little stressful.  I had to work at 9, so we headed out on our journey at 5am.  When we got home, I barely had enough time to shower and change, so Paul was in charge of placing the hive and letting the bees out.  The wood you see on each side isn’t normally there; that was put in place just for transportation to hold everything together.  However, we still haven’t taken those off, and we need to as soon as possible to start preparing the hive for winter.  The entrance of the hive was blocked with a piece of wood, which Paul was completely in charge of removing since I was rushing off to work.  He reported to me that he took the wood out and the bees did exactly what they were supposed to do.  They flew up, circled the hive to orient themselves, and then took off to find the nearest source of pollen.  I wish I had been there to see it, but unfortunately, duty calls.  Since then, the bees have been flying around happy as can be.  Another thing we missed, but were told would happen is before the first frost the worker bees (all female, I might add) kick the male bees, known as the drones, out of the hive.  They don’t want to waste any of their precious food supply on them over the winter.  Girl power!  I knew there was a reason I liked bees.

When Life Gives You Lemons… Make Beer

Last night we had plans to meet for dinner after work, but due a bottling conundrum I came home to this, and takeout. When Paul dry-hopped his beer, instead of syphoning it into another carboy before adding the hops he just did it in the same container.  This led to a massive amount of yeast and residue buildup at the bottom of the carboy.  So, when he tried to bottle the beer it would not come out of the spout.  Therefore, he had to funnel all of this beer into our glass carboy, clean the plastic one then pour the beer back in and start bottling.  Needless to say, this took much longer than anticipated, hence the cancelled dinner plans.  Always transfer into secondary fermenter before dry-hopping… lesson learned.

With the carboys empty, I started thinking about our next brewing endeavor.  I wanted to find a recipe that we could possibly use some of our own honey in.  Well I didn’t have to look very hard, because apparently President Barack Obama had the same mission.  I found a recipe for a Honey Porter brewed in none other than the White House itself.  But even more exciting than the beer recipe, I found out the White House has its first ever bee hive!  I don’t want to get into politics too much here, but bees are great for the environment, and I think this is a great example to the American people.  Props to the president!

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