Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Looking Back

Call me a typical girl, but how in the WORLD is it already the last day of 2013? I feel like I was just ringing in 2013, and I had absolutely no idea what was ahead of me. 2012 ended on a rough note for me, as I lost my grandmother just before Christmas, and though I miss her every single day, I know she's got the best seat in the house, and that she has been cheering me on every step of the way. 

So, I was more than ready to start 2013 with a clean slate, and what a year it was. Though it started with a broken toe, which resulted in me being unable to participate in the Aramco Houston half marathon,

it was only uphill from there.
  • There were many more races in my future, and the three major races were each very special. I got to go to Dallas and run a chocolate-themed race with one of my YoungLife teammates and we were fortunate enough to stay with the incredible Davis family, which allowed me to relive Crooked Creek Ranch memories,

  • I got to run the Austin half marathon with one of my best friends and roommates, Katie,
  • and to top it all off, I got to spend a perfect weekend with my sweet mom in San Francisco.

  • I celebrated my 21st birthday with friends and family,

  • Gayle and I celebrated ten years of friendship (and ten years at the Houston Rodeo)

  • I graduated from middle school and moved onto high school with my way-too-cool for me YoungLife girls,
  • I watched my not-so-little brother graduate from high school (and start college at that school on the other side of the Red River)
  • I watched my sweet teammate Alyssa marry her best friend with some of my best friends,

  • I spent an incredible summer in Austin,

  • I survived Dylan meeting my parents,
  • I got to be a part of the engagement of one of my oldest childhood friends,
  • I interned at Westwood High School,
  • I lived life with the greatest roommates in the world,

  • and I got to round out an incredible year with some of my best friends in my favorite city. I always love catching up with high school friends, and now that we're officially old, it's fun to catch up and talk about our hopes, our dreams, and what might be in our immediate future.

Jesus has blessed me abundantly in 2013, and it will certainly be a hard year to beat, but 2014 is sure to be one wild ride! Thanks for sharing in this journey with me - you guys motivate me to write! :)

Monday, December 30, 2013

Lucky Seven

I am making good on yesterday's promise, and I am sneaking in a post before the day is done. Today has been a day full of baking, running errands, and doing a little bit of review for my certification exam. And when I say a little bit, I mean a very little bit. I'm just having a hard time motivating myself to study when I'm on Christmas break. Oops! Maybe the motivation will hit come January 1st.

It took me a while to get motivated enough to squeeze in a workout, as today was a very bitter day. The sun never came out, and the temperature never rose above 46 degrees. Around 4:00pm I bundled up and ran my favorite neighborhood route. After 5.5 miles, my hands were very chilly, but it was some nice running weather.

Tomorrow you can expect a very cliche look back at the year / New Years Resolutions-type post, so tonight I will focus on some supposed "lucky" food that is supposed to bring about prosperity and good health in the new year.

Greens are eaten on New Year's Eve because they resemble money. I'll get my greens in early on in the day with my favorite egg whites and spinach breakfast.

Beans resemble coins, and they are said to bring prosperity in the New Year. In the South, black-eyed peas are said to show humility, and as I made sure to pick up some black-eyed peas at the store the other day, you better believe I'll be cooking some up for my family before we all go our separate directions to ring in the new year.

Fish scales resemble money, but they also swim in schools, which promote the idea of abundance. While some might choose to see this as an abundance of money, I'll view it as an abundance of love, good conversations, friendship, and other things that money can't buy.

I learned something new today - pigs never move backward, so pork is thought to symbolize progress. This is a big one for me, because with this new year comes quite a bit of change, and I hope to progress in many, many ways.

Circular Foods
Because they symbolize "coming full circle," foods in the shape of a ring are thought to bring good luck. I'm going to put my English degree to good use and do a little interpretation on this one. I've experienced a lot of the "grass is always greener" phenomenon, especially with this being my final semester of college. The truth is, the grass isn't always greener on the other side, and you might have to dig a little bit deeper to find the good in the things that you have, but once you find that good, it's sure to be very rewarding.

Go ahead - eat that cookie! You'll run it off tomorrow.
Long Noodles
Popular in China, Japan, and other Asian countries, these long noodles signify longevity. Apparently, the longer the noodle, the longer your life, but take care not to break it before you get all of it in your mouth. If you eat noodles, it's sure to be a meal filled with lots of slurping!

Does spaghetti squash count as noodles?
This one has a lot of good luck attached to it (which might go along with the fact that they take a very long time to eat), but their red color symbolizes life and fertility; their medicinal properties represent health; and their abundant, round seeds represent prosperity.

Does pomegranate frozen yogurt count?
Do you have any "lucky" food traditions that you plan to enact tomorrow? If so, please share them with me!

And with that, I'm off to continue cheering on my Longhorns in their final game of the 2013 season. Not only that, but tonight's game is the end of the incredible Mack Brown era. It would be hard to find a guy classier than Mack, so today, win or lose, we celebrate him. Thanks for a great 16 years, and for everything that you did for the university. The eyes of Texas will ALWAYS be upon you, Mack.

“Don’t let this be the greatest thing that ever happened to you.” (Source)

Sunday, December 29, 2013

(Almost) A New Year

I have been very bad about keeping up with this little blog over the break. To keep you up to speed with what I have been doing:
  • Eating at some of my favorite restaurants in Houston
Black Walnut Cafe - Pulled Pork Carnitas Tacos
His and her gelato - Pistacio and Raspberry Sorbet
  • Catching up with high school friends
  • Going on beautiful runs (and walks) around my neighborhood

  • Watching entirely too much football with my family - Go Eagles and Longhorns!
  • Braving the crowds at City Centre and the Galleria
  • Resting
One of my favorite skylines
It was a crazy semester, and I am getting ready to start an even crazier semester, so, with this new year (my graduation year, eek!) quickly approaching, I figured it would be a good time to reflect on this year and what I'm looking forward to in this new year. 2013 will sure be hard to beat, but 2014 will certainly be a big year, too. Mainly due to the fact that I will be making my grand entrance into the real world. Yes, it's a thought that scares me too!
  • A bad habit I'm going to break: Worrying about things that have not yet happened. I have a really bad habit of fretting about things that are way off into the future, and are often times not worth the wasted energy spent worrying. I want to really learn how to take one day at a time, and live in the present, enjoying what is in front of me for that very moment.
  • A new skill I'd like to learn: I'm about the least crafty/artistic/musical person on this planet, so I'm going to go with something in that category. I love the idea of scrapbooking, but I feel like this blog is the equivalent of a scrapbook. I would love to be hit with the design and decorating bug, as I will no longer be residing in suite 1 as of July 31st, a thought that makes me very sad. However, I want to put my pins to good use and transform my future living space into something Pinterest worthy. I always have these lofty ambitions, but I tend not to follow through with them, so let's hope that this is the year!

  • A person I hope to be more like: At first I found this to be a tough question, but it's really pretty simple. I want people to see Jesus in me - I want to love people extravagantly, I want to live simply, and I want to be joyful always.
  • A good deed I'm going to do: I am always so touched by the "pay it forward" stories, and, if you remember, that sweet couple who bought Dylan and I dessert on his birthday, so I would love to have my own pay it forward story, though it probably won't be as meaningful if I share it with you guys, huh?
  • A place I'd like to visit: Washington D.C. - more on that to come soon!
  • A book I'd like to read: My list of books I want to read is never-ending. Though there are plenty of books that I want to read, as evidenced by my Pinterest board and GoodReads account, but two books that I really hope to read are:
  • A letter I'm going to write: That is one of my major 2014 goals major - more letter writing. I don't know anyone who doesn't love receiving a handwritten letter in the mail, and, I have tons of stationary that I just love. So, on that note, I'm going to try to write at least two letters a month.
  • A new food I'd like to try: One of the (many) great things about dating Dylan is that he forces encourages me to try new food. I used to be the world's pickiest eater, and I would never try anything new. However, I've really improved on that front. While I still can't bring myself to try sushi, I hope to bring myself to try Indian food, Lebanese food, or maybe even get fancy and order lobster one of these days. Luckily, there is no shortage of new and ethnic restaurants in Austin!
  • I'm going to do better at: There are so many things that I could do better at, but one of them, and that goes along with the bad habit I want to break, is living in the moment. So often I find myself with a group of friends, but I will be worrying about something else. I want to focus on the people I'm with. I also want to be better at understanding the value of a dollar. While I've made a little bit of progress on that front, I still have a long way to go in just five short months!
And on that note, I'm off to get in a quick swim before getting organized and maybe even study for certification exam #2. It is my remainder-of-2013 goal to blog every remaining day of this year (I know, two whole days, what a big commitment), so I will be sure to be checking back in with you guys soon. Have a great Sunday!

Monday, December 23, 2013

Heights Lights

Happy Christmas Eve Eve! It's hard to believe that there are only two more sleeps to Christmas, and lucky for us Houstonians, it's finally starting to feel like Christmas, as we have finally started to experience some colder weather. You know I prefer the warm weather, but it is nice to have an actual cold Christmas!

Last night Amira, Lindsay, and I partook in our second annual Christmas lights-looking expedition. Last year we went to look at the mansions in River Oaks, but this year, after indulging in some frozen yogurt from Pinkberry in Highland Village, 

we trekked on over to the Heights and spent our time not only admiring the lights and decorations, but talking about how precious the houses are over there. It kind of reminds me of the neighborhoods in Austin, as the houses are all on the older side, but that definitely adds to their charm. We had a great time walking through the streets, but we all agreed that our hands were a little on the cold side by the end of the night!

Only in Texas
In front of the house that won "Most Wattage"
This morning I slept in until about 9:00 (I guess this semester was a bit more taxing than I thought, as I've been sleeping between nine and ten hours a night since I got home), and got up and ate some breakfast - egg whites and spinach, of course - along with a few cuties and some of my banana-oatmeal-almond butter muffins.

That was more than enough fuel for a few hours of cleaning and organizing. My room looked like a tornado blew through it, and it was time for me to get some order out of the chaos. I went through my drawers and my closet and filled four bags to take over to Goodwill, and a majority of the t-shirts I donated was the result of six years of club volleyball.

And this isn't even half of them
I still have some more organizing to do, but my (and my mom's) stress level should go down, because I will no longer see clothes strewn all over the floor every time I walk into my room.

I was more than ready for some fresh air, so I laced up my tennis shoes and went for a beautiful 5.5 mile run around my neighborhood. The weather was just perfect, and it felt good to get another good run in. I also ran yesterday and experienced a minor setback when I looked away for a minute and twisted my ankle when I stepped in a hole in the road, so I was glad to see that this injury is nothing compared to last year's broken toe!

After my run, I battled some serious traffic to get to Town and Country so I could eat my favorite La Madeleine salad for lunch. It was more like linner, as it was almost 4:00pm at this point, but it sure hit the spot.

I then ran a few more unsuccessful errands - most of the time, I love living where I live, but being so close to the mall and City Centre is certainly having its drawbacks this holiday season! - before returning home to get to work in the kitchen.

I am hoping that Dylan won't read this until after we exchange Christmas presents tomorrow, but I'm willing to take my chances. I am making the trek to Friendswood tomorrow, so I decided to bake some Christmas cookies to take to his family. After all, the way to a man's (and hopefully his families') heart is through his stomach, right?

I made up my own recipe, based on the very popular peanut butter blossoms recipe, but I will call these Kelli's Christmas Reeses' Sugar Cookies. It really rolls off the tongue, I know. Anyway, I know (now) that Dylan prefers sugar to any other kind of cookie, but I also wanted to include a little bit of chocolate, because who can say no to chocolate around the holidays?

  • Sugar cookie dough (or you can make dough from scratch, but who has time for that these days?)
  • Red and green sprinkles
  • Miniature Reeses' cups (approximately 30)
  • Cooking spray
  • Mini-muffin tins
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F
2. Spray each tin with cooking spray
3. Put a generous amount of red and green sprinkles together into a bowl

4. Roll the dough into 1-inch balls and roll in the sprinkles until covered
5. Place the balls in the cups of the mini-muffin tin (do not press to the pan, keep the dough in balls)

6. Bake for 9-11 minutes, or until light golden brown and slightly puffy
7. While the cookies are baking, unwrap miniature Reeses' cups

8. Remove tins from the oven and immediately press a miniature Reeses' cup into the center of each cookie
9. Let cool for at least 10 minutes before removing cookies from the pan
10. Enjoy!

My dad so generously taste-tested one for me, and said it tasted great, so I'll consider this one to be a success! Nothing beats some festive baked goods, right?

And with that, I'm off to do a little bit more baking, and a little bit more cleaning, before settling down to do some reading. I can't say that my book choices have been the most intellectual, but they are certainly keeping me hooked! Have a great evening!