Monday, August 30, 2010

It's Never Too Late...

To Learn to Paint

Last Thursday, I organized an event for the women at The Summit Club called Sunset and Strokes. Sips and Strokes is a popular art class that is offered in many places in Birmingham, but ours is called Sunset and Strokes because we are on the 31st floor in the city and have amazing views at sundown. The event was so much fun! A renowned local artist named Jennifer Harwell taught the class, and all of us painted our own 16 x 20 canvas while we socialized over wine and hors d'oeuvres. It's awesome to be able to get paid to have fun at work!

This was my first time to paint anything in my life! It is so easy to get hooked! I had so much fun, and it was a major stress reliever. I was really scared and judgemental of my work at first because I had no idea how to paint, what to paint, and what colors I wanted to use or how to mix them to make other colors. I was scared! I didn't want to have the ugliest painting in the room! But when it was all over and I finished, I was really happy! It was no Monet or Picasso, but it was mine. No one's painting looked alike, but they were all beautiful and everyone created their own work of art! After painting my first canvas, it was amazing how I felt. I was less stressed out, and I felt so free and much more confident to paint again. I think I may have found a new hobby, and I can't wait to hold this event at the club again this spring!

Here is my first painting!

It's Never Too Late to Learn to Paint

Allow yourself the chance.
Don't judge or compare.
Open your mind to the possibilities of your creativity.
See how children pain with abandon.
Look at the world around you with innocence.
See the colors.
Make a start.
Take a course.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Great Recipe for a Peace-Filled Life

This email, sent from my mom, has been sitting in my inbox for months. I like to read it from time to time because it is so good and so true! I wanted to share it today and bring peace to your life! Great Recipe for a peace-filled life…… 1. Take a 10-30 minute walk (run) every day. And while you walk, smile. It is the ultimate anti-depressant. 2. Sit in silence for at least 10 minutes each day. Talk to God about what is going on in your life. Buy a lock if you have to. 3. When you wake up in the morning complete the following statement, 'My purpose is to __________ today. I am thankful for______________!' 4. Eat more foods that grow on trees and plants and eat less food that is manufactured in plants. 5. Drink green tea and plenty of water. Eat blueberries, wild Alaskan salmon, broccoli , almonds & walnuts. 6. Try to make at least three people smile each day. 7. Don't waste your precious energy on gossip, energy vampires, issues of the past, negative thoughts or things you cannot control. Instead, invest your energy in the positive present moment. 8. Eat breakfast like a king, lunch like a prince and dinner like a college kid with a maxed out charge card. 9. Life isn't fair, but it's still good. 10. Life is too short to waste time hating anyone. 11. Don't take yourself so seriously. No one else does. 12. You are not so important that you have to win every argument. Agree to disagree. 13. Make peace with your past so it won't spoil the present. 14. Don't compare your life to others. You have no idea what their journey is all about. 15. No one is in charge of your happiness except you. 16. Frame every so-called disaster with these words: 'In five years, will this matter?' 17. Forgive everyone for everything. 18. What other people think of you is none of your business. 19. GOD heals everything - but you have to ask Him. 20. However good or bad a situation is, it will change. 21. Your job won't take care of you when you are sick. Your friends will. Stay in touch!!! 22. Envy is a waste of time. You already have all you need. 23. Each night before you go to bed complete the following statements: I am thankful for __________. Today I accomplished _________. 24. Remember that you are too blessed to be stressed. 25. When you are feeling down, start listing your many blessings. You'll be smiling before you know it.

Monday, August 23, 2010

And So My Widowdom Begins...

The school year has started again, which means it's work, work, work for Michael. When football games start in a couple of weeks, it's only going to get more lonely around our house! This weekend I got a little taste of what I call sports widowdom, which happens every fall when Michael's job gets busier. I am so happy for him because he has a career that he enjoys because sports is his life (well except for me and Scarlett), but I hate being by myself so much! This weekend, Michael had to work Friday and Saturday night! So what did I do while he was away...I spent a lot of time on the couch, and after I got caught up on my Project Runway Season 8 episodes, I watched 5 movies this weekend.

Three movies I absolutely loved, but two were cheesy and ridiculous! Ladies, if you are ever at home without your husband or significant other, here are a few movies to choose from to make being a weekend widow a little less awful. Unless you like it when hubby is away! I recommend the first three movies, but the last two you can rent at your own risk!

My favorite movie this weekend was Remember Me. My girlfriend Jennifer has been begging me to see this movie, and I am so glad I did. It is a great love story, and I love Robert Pattinson in this movie so much more than I like him in the Twilight Series (I know I'm going to get a lot of complaints about that comment)! The ending is the best is very surprising!

Julie and Julia is such a feel good movie. I laughed so much, and when the movie was over, I was in such a good mood! Meryl Streep is my favorite actress, so I am partial to any movie she is in, but I loved the story of food and blogging and doing what you love in life!

Some of my favorite movies of all time are historically based movies set in England. It must be the beautiful love stories and the fairy tales of kings and queens and life at court. Plus, the scenes in English movies are so beautiful! I want to visit every place in The Young Victoria, and I want Victoria's dog named Dash. He is a tri-colored Cavalier King Charles Spaniel who follows Queen Victoria during the entire movie!

I expected When in Rome to be a cheesy love story...but that's putting it lightly. I didn't stop playing the movie, but it hurt a little to watch it until the end. I can't decide if I am a Kristen Bell fan, and the movie was more than predictable with a terrible story line. It was worse than your typical romantic comedy, but if you want a simple movie with pretty people, then it's worth a $1 at the Redbox.

Hot Tub Time Machine is vulgar, ridiculous, and stupid. Not much more to say than I got up and did laundry during the movie because I couldn't bare another second! I would actually save your $1 and skip this movie! Even Michael thought the movie was bad!

Are there any good movies any of you can recommend for my next Widow Weekend?

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Scar Scar the Agility Star!

Earlier this afternoon, we took Scarlett to the dog park. They just opened a new park about a mile from our apartment, so we've been taking advantage of it quite often! Funny enough, Scarlett doesn't really play with the other dogs in the park. She sticks with Michael and me mostly, but stops every now and then to give out a sniff or two! Since she refuses to be social, we have been working with her on the agility equipment they have for dogs. She is the only little dog that plays on the equipment, and she is awesome at it-well to us, she is awesome! Everyone comes by and asks us how we have trained her. It's simple really! Treats are close to Scarlett's heart, and she will do literally anything as long as she gets a treat out of it. I don't think you will be seeing her on Animal Planet anytime soon, but she is our little agility star! Ahhh...I need to get a life!

Here are some pictures of her today at the park!

Getting her attention with a treat of course!

Here she comes!

Michael holding up a treat :)!

The seesaw was the last thing she accomplished. She was scared of it at first when it started tipping towards the ground. But as you can see, Michael has a treat, so she has easily overcome her fear!

She loves going through the tunnel!

Of course she found something to roll in!

She loves her daddy!

After playing, we walked to the creek so she could cool off!

Such a happy girl!

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Calming My Anxious Heart

When we moved to Birmingham, we began going to a church called Church of the Highlands. I wrote about our first experience visiting there a few weeks ago. This is a huge church with 8 campuses, so small groups are a main focus of the church; in fact, over 1,000 small groups will begin to meet this fall beginning September 5! I am so excited about trying out a small group for the first time!

My friend Jamie joined a small group last spring. Her group was a bible study for women, and they read a book called Calm My Anxious Heart. Jamie, who had gone through some trying times before she read the book told me how much this book had changed her life and how it made her realize the importance of being content with today and the time you have and focusing on the gifts in life rather than being anxious all the time about what you don't have. I've admitted time and time again how anxiety has always been a part of my life, but seeing how the book had helped her, I asked to borrow it and began reading it last week. One chapter in, and I was so happy I had found this book!

In chapter 1, the author Linda Dillow talks about a missionary named Ella who lived happily in Africa for fifty-two years under desolate living conditions with no electricity or air conditioning during days when the temperature soared to over 120 degrees. Meanwhile, Linda's neighbor Meredith, the whiny socialite in the suburbs with two beautiful kids and a husband living in a large home with air conditioning, electricity, and the internet is the most negative person Linda has come to know. She spends the chapter comparing Meredith and Ella and the ironies of their lives and how it would seem obvious that Meredith should be content while Ella had more than enough justification for being negative with her life! Unfortunately, reading about Meredith reminded me of myself and a lot of women I know. All of us are so lucky to be alive and have what the luxuries we have, but we always find something to complain about! At least I do!

At the end of chapter 1, Linda uncovers Ella's prescription for contentment in her life - a set of commandments for contentment found in Ella's diary:

**Never allow yourself to complain about anything-not even the weather.

**Never picture yourself in any other circumstances or someplace else.

**Never compare your lot with another's.

**Never allow yourself to wish this or that had been otherwise.

**Never dwell on tomorrow-remember that tomorrow is God's, not ours.

I love Ella's prescription for contentment, especially her last commandment. I hope I can learn from Ella and make a daily pledge that today is all I have, I am blessed to be alive today, so I need to give it all I have. Worrying about tomorrow is useless and wasteful...tomorrow is God's anyway!

Monday, August 9, 2010


Do you have those few little things in your world you call Lifesavers? For me, Lifesavers are the bits and pieces of life that make it easier to get through the day by taking stress out of my life. Like the famously addictive candy, they add sweetness to my life! When I first started writing this blog, I talked about the things I couldn't live without, which encompassed my favorite trench coat to my camera and peanut butter! My lifesavers our different. They are people, moments, decisions, and objects that are enriching my life as we speak. Some are simple but others are so important to me that they should probably top a new "Things I Can't Live Without" list. Here lately, I've been blessed with a few lifesavers: Dinner Time - I am happy to have a job where I am able to come home almost every night and have dinner with Michael. For two years, I didn't get home from work until 8:00 p.m., and it caused a lot of discouragement for us, especially for Michael who always had to be home early to take Scarlett out and then prepare dinner by himself. Our health was also affected because we ate so late every night, and eventually we began to eat freezer meals most nights because it was easy--and we all know how good freezer meals are for you! Salt and preservatives are your best friends! Now, I feel so fortunate to be able to come home and cook healthy dinners with him every night. That time with him is a lifesaver, and the calories we spare by eating better and earlier is saving my waistline! Simple Recipes - Going along with dinner, I have surprisingly found a lifesaver in Woman's Day magazine. Michael will not let me live down the fact that I have a copy of Woman's Day in our living room! "Really Brandi, are you 40 years old!" If any of you haven't read this magazine (please note I am talking to my female readers) you must because they have some of the simplest, cheapest, and healthiest recipes I have ever seen, and I have come across a lot of recipes! By the end of this week, I will have made a whole grain apple cinnamon cake, tamale pie with grain fed beef and fresh corn, lean skirt steak with homemade chimichuri sauce, and tilapia with crispy pesto. All of these meals came from my latest issue. They are so good and so easy to make. Ladies, don't worry if people make fun of you for reading Woman's Day in your twenties, this magazine is a lifesaver! Envelopes - Here lately, we have also been working on our financial fitness. During our entire marriage, Michael has handled the finances. He's great at it, but it's important for me to know where our money is being spent and it also takes the pressure off of him. When we moved to Birmingham, we decided to trade off every other month to be in charge of the budget. Our August budget was my first time to handle our money, and let me just tell you that when I actually crunched numbers and saw what we actually made after taxes and what we spent our money on, I nearly croaked! Not because Michael had done anything wrong for the past four years, I just lived in a fantasy world without taxes, insurance, and bills figured into spending! Of course for my first time handling the family finances, I had to reinvent the wheel and I decided to use the envelope method of finances. To Michael's chagrin, he finally gave in to my plan...not without calling me the "Evil Envelope Nazi" of course, and we are trying the envelope plan where we dedicate a specific amount of money assigned to an envelope. Once the envelope is empty, we can't spend anymore in that category. It's not easy I promise, but it's kind of fun challenging myself to decide if I really want to spend my money on something unecessary. For August, here are the categories of our envelopes: Groceries Dining Out Michael's Spending Brandi's Spending Scarlett Tithe Entertainment Our gas and bills are still paid through our checking account.

This method isn't new to many families, but it's new to us, and if we can continue to budget this way, I think we will be happy in the long run. Maybe the envelopes are going to turn out to be huge lifesavers!

Sunday, August 1, 2010

How did the "kid's discussion" lead to Europe?

Call it being scared of getting closer to 30 or call it being secretly jealous of women my age with egg shaped it what you will, but the kid discussion has been happening a lot lately in our marriage. It's crazy! Until literally a few weeks ago, I've never really wanted kids, I hated babysitting as a teenager, I've grown tired of endless posts on facebook by love stricken mommies (they should seriously think about a facebook for moms), and I am not one to oooohhh and ahhhhh over other peoples' children. So why all of the sudden do I have this need to maybe produce a child of my own. Is it because our close friends are trying to conceive and others are talking about trying? Is it because I turn 28 in a few months, and I realize my eggs are withering away as we speak? Are all the perfect families I see every Sunday at church making me yearn for a family of my own? I don't know what it is, but this baby talk is driving Michael insane. I can be certain of that. Finally, after the 10th or so conversation we had about kids this week, Michael sweetly turned to me and said, "Brandi, I'm sorry, but right now not one ounce of me wants chidren." GULP! Not one was hard to swallow as he told me this on one of our nightly walks this week, but hey, at least he's honest. Of course I didn't know what to say, so I kept walking for a while, then I finally asked him why he doesn't want children. He's so good with kids, so why not have kids of his own? His response was simple. He likes being married and being able to do what we want, and he feels there is so much more for us to do by ourselves before we have kids. So what was my clever response..."Well, fine Michael. If you don't want kids because there is so much we need to accomplish, then let's quit talking about all the things we want to do and actually do them!" We've been talking about a trip to Europe ever since we got married. I had the opportunity to go in 2003 right after we started dating, but Michael didn't get the chance to go with me. We've both been talking about going together for years, but of course talking and doing are two different things. We talk a lot..... I pry a little deeper as we walk, "What about that trip to Europe we are always talking about?" He responds, "Is that what you want to do?" "Of course that's what I want to do...I would love to go!" (Putting my intense hatred of flying aside of course)! "Alright, let's go" he says. By the end of our walk, the trip was planned. For five years, I've been trying to get him to actually take me to Europe rather than just talk about it. And all I had to do was tell him I wanted babies! Who knows, maybe I will get both! (He's going to kill me after reading this). So, if all goes as planned, we hope to go to Europe next spring to celebrate our 5th anniversary! I wonder if it will do me some good to bring up kids around my birthday this year? I bet he would get me something good!