It's been rough, but even the workload from my graduate courses has been contributing to my spirit; though stressful and time-consuming, I truly love what I do. I love the reading and writing and researching that come along with advanced studies in English. It's why I look forward so much to teaching at the college level, and why I dream about someday pursuing my Ph.D. The unexpected thing has been how interested Adam has been in a lot of my studies. He has asked questions and listened patiently as I explained the plots of several books, and even filled in some gaps in my knowledge of British history. It was kind of endearing to see how proud he was of me when he practically forced me to explain one of my theories about Uncle Venner from The House of the Seven Gables to my mom during breakfast on vacation.
So while life as of late has involved lots of sitting and turning pages and squinting at computer screens, it has also brought a tremendous sense of accomplishment and balance to me and my little family. Here's a rundown of what has been making us feel so great.
A New Favorite Book!
In some ways, that's not saying much because I have quite a few favorite books. But in other ways, it's pretty spectacular because it's been a long time since I have added to my list of favorite classics. Interestingly, this one was published around the same time as one of my other all time faves, The Great Gatsby. I haven't read anything else by Willa Cather (I know, I can't believe it either!), but I feel like I will now...once I get finished with all the other reading I'm required to do during the next ten months. If you'd like to learn a little bit more about this spectacular novel, check it out on Goodreads.
Other books I've read and actually liked this summer: Oroonoko, A Simple Story, Northanger Abbey, The House of the Seven Gables, The American. And a killer Hemingway story called "Big Two-Hearted River" from In Our Time.
Some New Favorite Recipes & Kitchen Organization!
I've been cooking up a storm! I'm actually kind of proud of myself. I really enjoy cooking, but it's one of the first things that goes when I get stressed out and overwhelmed. It's so easy to get in a habit of ordering out. Last week, we really enjoyed feta-stuffed chicken burgers and lots of grilled veggies. We also had chicken stir-fry with broccoli, yellow bell peppers (the red ones at Kroger looked old), and cashews.
As an evening treat, we tried popcorn sprinkled with PB2, and it turned out really delicious. If you haven't tried PB2, I highly recommend it as a diet alternative to full-fat peanut butter. I know there are some debates out there regarding its elimination of the healthy fats in the original, but as long as your diet is balanced elsewhere and it is used during dieting rather than over the course of your lifetime, I don't see the harm.
Another simple treat we tried just today was pretzel nuggets drizzled with melted chocolate chips. Of course some of us ate more chocolate than pretzels during the process, but it was a really fun low-point snack to make with Bella.
I've been making my meal plans and grocery lists on Google Docs these past couple of weeks, and I have to say that I love how organized it makes me. Tracking points and keeping track of recipes has been effortless. Keeping my plan, recipes, and list all together has helped me stay focused on healthy eating, and I have lost five pounds since I got back on Weight Watchers, so it seems to be working! I really like the portability, too, since I scan foods in the grocery store with the WW app and then can switch back over to my grocery list in the Docs app. I think it will be great during the school year, because I can recycle weeks that I've already created. Here's what the upcoming week looks like, in case you're interested:
Getting a Little Crafty!
I can't believe I actually took the time to do it, but we made our first seashell stepping stone. It was actually way easier than I thought...probably because Adam gladly did the hard work of mixing up the concrete. We only had enough concrete on hand to make one, but we are going to make more because it was so easy and fun! We used a disposable baking pan as the form, so it ended up having these really cute scalloped edges, and because it was quick set concrete, we were able to remove it from the pan after just a few hours.
Obviously we have more than enough shells to do this again...
How stinking cute is this?
Bella also finally decorated her daisy pot and planted the flowers.
Now I just have to overcome my black thumb and help her get them to grow. Oh, boy.
Lots of Planning, Listing, and Pinning!
One of the things I have learned from meditation is that when thoughts arrive when you don't want them or need them, you have to address them anyway and then let them go. So when you're meditating and you start trying to remember if you put butter on the grocery list, you acknowledge the thought and file it away for later as quickly but gently as you can, so you can get back to the important business at hand. Thinking about August has been like that for me all summer. It keeps creeping up and threatening to derail my focus, but I address it and let it go.
This means anytime I think about something that needs to be done around the house or something I need to work on for school, I have to do something about it, but that "something" can't be too intrusive because it's not yet the time or place for me to worry about it. For me, that means planning and listing. I try to give my mind over to those topics when I'm doing something mundane like washing dishes or vacuuming. Then, I go to my running list on my phone and add whatever seems pertinent before moving on. I know I can safely focus on today and that those thoughts of the future have been preserved. Because I'm a big time planner, this is really important to my sanity. Pinterest works in much the same way for me. When I know I'm pinning things for my classroom or for the re-decorating and cleaning projects I'm planning for next week, it's safe for my brain to move on. And that helps me on an even bigger scale because it allows me to live in the moment, something that can be hard for my planner's brain to do!
It's pretty harmonious around here. Striking this balance helps me feel powerful, effective, and well-rounded. Gotta love summer, right? Here's to hoping my tune is this positive a month from now!