It’s a… !

It took us a little longer to be able to find out the sex of our baby due to our out-of-state move last year and new insurance with a new job. I wouldn’t recommend switching insurance in the middle of pregnancy if it can be helped, but it did mean we had ample opportunity to practice patience and letting go of things that were never in our control to begin with. Hooray for life lessons!

Last week was a big week for us. With approximately 10 weeks to go before we get to meet baby, we found out that it is a girl! I had had this strong feeling that it was going to be a boy, so when the ultrasound technician told us the news, it was hard to hide the skepticism in my surprise. I think she and Eric were both confused as to why I was so thrown off when it was a 50-50 chance all along. My first inkling of mother’s intuition failed me terribly.

But it doesn’t matter now because we couldn’t be more excited about this glimpse of what we have to look forward to. Eric has kindly informed me that she will be allowed to start dating when she is forty. So, if anyone wants to take bets on how long that will last, I won’t stop you.

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Oh, do you want to know her name? We have had our girl name picked out for about three years, so it has felt kind of dream-like to be able to talk about her as a real person.

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Just think, Violet has never taken a walk through the woods, or seen the stars at night, or tasted flourless chocolate cake. She currently does not even know that life consists of more than the confines of the width of my body. Isn’t she in for a good laugh?

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31 Ways to Start Fresh in 2015

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I recently slipped out of the habit of washing my face at night and making my bed in the morning. Those two things don’t exactly sound related, but they are–very much so. They both start and end the day on a disciplined note. And even though the discipline is minute, it made a huge difference in how I viewed my day to day routine, and how I felt about myself.

I’ve gotten back into the habit of taking good care of my skin at night, and making my bed and doing a very quick straightening up of the house in the morning. Just doing these small daily acts makes me feel so on top of things!

Since this is the first time in a long time I haven’t been working full time, there has been a little bit of a learning curve in spending my days productively. Some sort of structure and routine (even if it is only starting the day by making my bed) has proven to be extremely helpful. I want to bring our baby into a home that has order and calm, starting with the first day of his or her life. That’s provided some pretty good motivation for me. (Did I just describe nesting?)

Because it’s January, and the feeling of a fresh start is in the air, I put together a little round up of posts that might inspire you to switch up some part of your daily routine and infuse a little creativity into the things we’ve got to do and the things we ought to do.

I’d love to know if you plan on switching anything up or trying something new this year!

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Morning Routine

1) Two new ways to drink your coffee: one that adds iron, calcium, and magnesium to your day and one that will give you a healthy energy boost (perfect for curing the afternoon slump).

2) Tone your skin with this kitchen ingredient before putting on your makeup (or after you take it off).

3) Exfoliate your skin with two natural ingredients.

What You Eat

4) Start eating the salt that is actually good for you.

5) Learn the health benefits of this stuff you probably already have in your kitchen (and start adding it to your water).

6) If one of your goals for the year is to be healthier but you don’t know where to start, try a different approach and simply start with the basics: learn to truly enjoy food and not be afraid of it. Here are some of my favorite inspiring food-appreciation books.

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Develop Your Personal Style

7) I am continually having to remind myself to sit up straight, especially when sitting in front of my computer. Here is why you should also make good posture a goal for 2015.

8) Three tips to bend your wardrobe to your will.

9) Three important ways to think about style.

10) My attempt at a ten-item wardrobe (it’s easier than you might think).

Books to Challenge the Way You Think

11) A book that sheds new light on just about every “normal” thought you have ever thought.

12) A book to help you cultivate a daily routine at home that will translate to everything else you do.

13) Read this if you are crazy busy (or even just a little bit busy).

14) Read this if you aren’t crazy about the idea of always being “connected” or if you wonder if technology is really as great as it’s cracked up to be (you might be surprised).

On Setting Goals

15) Don’t overlook the significance of seemingly small decisions.

16) Don’t let big goals bring you down. Remember: you just have to take the first step.

17) It doesn’t mean you aren’t sticking to your goals if you don’t feel 100% motivated 100% of the time.

18) Are you waiting for the stars to align before you start that project you’ve been wanting to start? Why you may not need a plan.

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Good Habits

19) Why you should make your bed every morning.

20) Why you should get back into journaling this year.

How to Do Things

21) How to use creativity to find contentment

22) How to worry effectively

23) How to travel with friends without killing each other

24) How to change your life

25) How to start a blog (2015 is the year to do it)

26) How to be jealous (the right way)

27) How to stop being so darn creative and full of ideas

28) How to make your boring office job more bearable

Things to Remember This Year

29) If you are anything like me, you need to hear this on a daily basis: stop being so hard on yourself!

30) Starting really is the hardest part. This year, instead of making sweeping goals that get forgotten after a few weeks, resolve to simply start.

31) If you want to write more this year, but the thought scares you a little bit, here is why you are right, and why you shouldn’t be scared.

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Things We Like Doing

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In Letters to Children, a book composed of C.S. Lewis’s letters to his youngest correspondents, he writes this to his goddaughter, Sarah:

Remember that there are only three kinds of things anyone need ever do. (1) Things we ought to do (2) Things we’ve got to do (3) Things we like doing. I say this because some people seem to spend so much of their time doing things for none of the three reasons, things like reading books they don’t like because other people read them. Things you ought to do are things like doing one’s school work or being nice to people. Things one has got to do are things like dressing and undressing, or household shopping. Things one likes doing–but of course I don’t know what you like. Perhaps you’ll write and tell me one day.

I have written before of the significance of doing the things one likes doing–an idea I find sounds a little self-centered at first glance. But it doesn’t mean putting aside the things you ought to do or the things you’ve got to do. It means putting aside the things you do that you don’t like to do, that simply waste time; like scrolling through facebook for longer than you intended, or watching the next show because it’s easier than reaching for the remote to turn the TV off, or any number of things that keep you from doing one of the three things you need ever do.

So I’m curious, as Lewis is in his letter. What is it that you like to do, that you wish you did more of? Do you plan on doing more of it this year? I like reading, writing, mastering new recipes, having people over, and painting, among other things. I want to do all of these things more often this year, if I can, along with those things I ought to do, and I’ve got to do.

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2014 Review in Books

I said I wasn’t the type of human to make New Year resolutions, but books are my one exception. For the past few years, I have resolved to read a certain number of books during the year. It thrills me and doesn’t overwhelm me like other resolutions would.

This past July, I wrote a blog post about my book goal for the year, and shared the first half of my year in books. I made a goal to read 24 books in 2014, and it happened much easier than I thought. It’s funny, because the year before, when I had made a goal to read a mere 15 books, I struggled to complete the last book in time. This leads me to believe that when it comes to books, I am a goal-oriented person, and work well with a little visual accountability (thanks goodreads!). Book goals keep me on track!

For 2015, I am tempted to up my book count again, but I really don’t know what to expect of myself as I will have a newborn to look after at the end of March. Instead of raising my book goal this year–or lowering it in premature despair–I plan on keeping my book goal at 24, and making a promise to accept whatever number happens to exist at the end of this year. Babies tend to make life a little unpredictable, so I hear.

Here are the books I finished between July and December of 2014 (you can see the first half of the year here):

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A book list is a personal thing, isn’t it? The saying is “don’t judge a book by its cover” , but I think it is also fair to say, “don’t judge a person by his reading list”; even though what a person reads offers pretty good insight into their minds… so on second thought, feel free to judge me. I guess I deserve it.

2014 re-reads: The only books I re-read this year were Harry Potter, books 1-4. I plan on finishing the series for the second time before Baby comes in 2015. I think it is safe to say that I love the series even more, this time around.

Most surprising books of 2014:  The Diary of Anne Frank was surprising in that I was shocked I hadn’t read it until this year. Not so surprising that I loved it.

Natural Hospital Birth and Ina May’s Guide to Childbirth (read my full review of Ina May’s book on my goodreads profile, if you are curious) were surprising in that I wasn’t planning on reading about pregnancy at the beginning of 2014, and also surprising that they convinced me to try my best at having an all-natural labor.

Weirdest book of 2014: Wise Blood, by Flannery O’Connor. I loved it, but it was weird in the kind of weird only Flannery can do.

First reads I plan on becoming re-reads: definitely Flannery O’Connor’s Mystery and Manners. It was my favorite book on writing I have read so far, and so full of wisdom. It’s a gem I plan on re-reading many times over.

I consider all C.S. Lewis to be re-read-worthy, but The Problem of Pain was especially good.

Most inspiring: An Everlasting Meal and At Home with Madame Chic were both domestically inspiring. They both infuse creativity into every day life, just the way I like it.

Timothy Keller’s The Meaning of Marriage was a fantastic book on a topic that tends to be riddled with cheesiness. I can’t say this one was entirely devoid of cheese, but it was at a very tolerable minimum. I highly recommend it, no matter how long you have been married, and certainly even if you are not married.

What I plan on reading in 2015: I try not to make too strict of a list each year, as I inevitably come across new books I want to add throughout the year. But a few I really hope to read in2015 are The Weight of Glory, The Space Trilogy, and On Stories, by C.S. Lewis, Kristin Lavransdatter, by Sigrid Undset, How to Write a Sentence, by Stanley Fish, Persuasion, by Jane Austen, and of course, finish all the books I am half way through right now. :) I have a bad habit of reading multiple books at once. A bad habit I don’t tend to break, I might add.

What did you read last year? What do you recommend? What do you plan on reading in 2015? Do tell!

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P.S. Are we friends on goodreads?