Month: December 2013

Best of 2013

So 2013 will go down as one of the best ever for me- new house, roommate and tenants, new friends, social media galore, tons of fun experiences, 2 challenging open water swims,  and a job change. Add a boyfriend on there and you’d about be perfect!

But let me fill you in on some other ‘best of’ from 2013

Best Movie- Gravity.  Still say its a masterpiece.  One of the best movies I have ever seen period.

https://smilingldsgirl.com/2013/10/18/gravity/

Best Music- Michael Buble- To Be Loved album

Best Song- Sara Barellis- Brave

Best New TV Show- The Goldbergs (trust me on this one.  It is much funnier than it looks)

Also Super Fun Night

Best Reality Show- Survivor: Blood vs Water.  I had my doubts but the new twist of family on family really created fireworks.

https://smilingldsgirl.com/2013/10/24/survivor-blood-vs-water/

Biggest TV Letdown- Downton Abby continued the drab season 3 with a drab season 4 (sorry US viewers but it’s a doozie).

Best Book I Read- Nothing new really caught my fancy. Book Thief, Gift from the Sea and North and South were welcome rereads

Best Theater- I think In the Heights at Hale Theater Orem caught me off guard.  A welcome surprise.

https://smilingldsgirl.com/2013/10/12/hale-center-theater/

Best Concert- Michael Buble was amazing!

https://smilingldsgirl.com/2013/11/21/michael-buble-2013/

Best Restaurant- I love Couscous Mediterranean Grill

http://couscousgrill.com/

Best Bakery- Bake 360

https://smilingldsgirl.files.wordpress.com/2013/08/bakery.jpg

https://smilingldsgirl.com/2013/08/20/bake-360/

Best Food Subscription Box- Nature Box

Best Treat Box- Treatsie

Best Makeup Box- Birchbox

Best Lifestyle Box- Pop Sugar Must Have

Most Read Blog Post- Top 10 Overrated Movies

Goals Achieved- bought house, moved in, had custom made cake done for me, GSL and Deer Creek finished, and finished nanowrimo second time

Other highlights- white water rafting in America River, LDS Storymakers 2013, Disneyland with fam, finished eye therapy, new family ward, new friends.

And one of the highlights of my life and TV swimsuit debut!

What were some of your 2013 highlights and favorites?

2013 in photos

2013 has been a pretty amazing year. The highlights were buying my house and finishing the gsl swim and my disney trip.
The true highlight was all the great moments with friends.
Happy new year!

Sick Christmas

So remember how I wrote about this being the ‘perfect Christmas’?  Well, I had a feeling I was jinxing myself and I sure did.  I had been dealing with a cough for a couple of weeks but then on Monday I really started to feel poorly.  Enough so that I went to the doctor just in case it was an infection.  Turns out it was a virus.  No big surprise.

I was hoping it would just be a little thing but Tuesday (Christmas Eve) I wasn’t feeling great but I pushed through the day.  My throat hurt and I just didn’t feel good. I got through the day and then stumbled home and crashed sleeping till 10 am.  I felt pretty rotten but I went up to where my parents are staying and got my presents but I kept falling asleep (a bad sign.  I never take naps unless I’m sick) and after about 12:30 I felt so bad I had to go home and spent the rest of Christmas Day in bed.

Then yesterday and today came with more time in bed and I still feel very rotten.  I can’t talk, my throat hurts and I just feel awful.  Thank you to my home teachers who gave me a blessing this morning and my friend Tanya who brought me dinner.

I hope this weekend I am able to improve.  We will see.  At least I have some time off work to heal.

Send out a prayer my way.  Thanks.  Thanks to my family for coming out here.  I am soooo grateful to not be traveling with this sickness.

Merry Christmas 2013

Just wanted to wish you all a Merry Christmas!  I’ve got a bit of a sinus infection today but other than that this holiday season has been perfect.  A dream come true.  I am so grateful for my family coming to Utah for the holidays.  Especially being sick I am SOOO grateful that I don’t have to travel right now.

I am also grateful for my house and the chance I’ve had to make it a Christmas home with lights outside and my first real tree inside.  I am grateful for my memory ornaments and twinkle lights.  I’m grateful for the tree in my room and the goodies I’ve made in my kitchen.  I’m grateful to have a home that I love, a wonderful roommate and amazing tenants leaving and great one’s moving in.

Holiday Decor
Holiday Decor

I am grateful for the stories of Christmas whether it be in a movie, book or play I love Handel’s music, Scrooge’s redemption, Ralphie’s red rider bee-bee gun, or George Bailey’s epiphany.  I like the sappy movies on Hallmark and all the Christmas carols even the silly one’s.  I love the gifts I was able to give this year and excited to get a few tomorrow.

I am grateful for our Christmas traditions of German food and a nativity play.  I also had a lot of fun spending time with my siblings this week including playing games yesterday and getting Christmas manicures with 2 of my sisters.

Nativity play.
Nativity play.
I got a Christmas card from the main office today and it meant a lot to me. Being a telecommuter it was nice to hear their words
I got a Christmas card from the main office today and it meant a lot to me. Being a telecommuter it was nice to hear their words
Our traditional German meal
Our traditional German meal

Most importantly I am grateful for Jesus Christ.  His birth, life, suffering and death makes it possible for all of us to be redeemed from sin and despair.  He has walked where we have walked . He has understood all and he loves us like nobody else could.  I know he is my Savior and He has never forgotten  me even when it seemed I was totally alone He was there. Gloria! His name be praised.

I hope He is with you this time of year and always.  Thank you for all your support on the blog and the love and fun we have together.  Thank you and Merry Christmas!!!!

To any of you that are alone this Christmas, I’ve been there and love you.  Christ loves you.  You’ll get through it and next year you may find you’ll have the best Christmas ever.  I know what that is like. 🙂

 

How Spaghetti Changed My Life

spaghetti singing

I know this is an odd post for the holidays but I am working on a personal essay for the BYU Studies contest and it is due Dec 31st.  I was wondering if any of you would be willing to read over my rough draft and offer me some guidance, editing.  Whatever you feel comfortable or have the time for would be great.  I can email you the .doc if you would like.  Just put your email in the comments section and I will send it your way.  Thank you in advance.

Most everyone has heard this story.  I have posted it in 2 different forms on this blog but this one is more personal and in depth than the 2 others.  I love it.  I think it is one of the best moments of my life.  I hope I have captured it even a little.

(and don’t worry I don’t love it too much to be unwilling to have it critiqued).

How Spaghetti Changed My Life

The stack on my desk seemed to be screaming with each piece of paper “Go home” and yet the existence of the stack meant I could not go home.  My boss Tanya had already read me the riot act about entering all the AP by the end of the day if you ‘can do something right’.

“I’m sorry.  I will try” I mumbled.  I had given up arguing with Tanya years before.  She was convinced I was an idiot along with most everyone else in the office.  If she had her druthers she would do everyone’s job because it would all finally be done right.

Normally I didn’t mind working late and doing the mind numbing work but today I had a reason I had to be out of there and the longer I stayed the more frustrated I felt.  It was like each invoice was a slap in the face.  I wanted to speed up but that would make for more mistakes so a slow well-done data entry was required.  Ugh….

This wasn’t how it was supposed to be.  Every now and then I would look at a photo of me at graduation and the excitement on my face would both inspire and confuse me.  How had I ended up here? I wasnt supposed to be the girl with a stack of papers to enter and boss breathing down her neck, yet here I was

The truth is I looked around, interviewed and the only offer I had was to work in accounting for our corporate office.  It was the last thing I ever imagined I’d be doing, balancing books and entering AP but it was a job and in 2008 you took what was offered and felt grateful.

It was never a great fit, but I worked hard and gained many new responsibilities.  In fact, 2 people had quit and I had absorbed most of their work in addition to my own. This despite receiving little to no training and working with a manager who treated me like a bug she wished she could squash.

Somehow I had managed to last 2 years but each day I felt lower and more despondent about my life.  It seemed like madness to quit my job and dive into nothingness but the staying was like one of those Roadrunner cartoons and I’m Wyllie Coyote getting hit with the anvils of misery and depression.

Indeed, God had told me to make a change many times. Prayer after prayer I heard the words ‘make a change’, but I set it aside as impossible. Sometimes I would ask God ‘how?’  ‘How does a sane person quit their job that has benefits in a recession?  That’s nuts!’ but on the other end, ‘how does someone live life with a cloud surrounding their every movement, a cloud of stifled dreams and confusion that weighs you down until you  want to cry.

So on this day, like many others, I continued down the pile until all the AP entry was done.

“There!”  It was 6:30.  I had worked overtime again but I had done it and at least Tanya knew that my 10 key was insanely fast, faster than hers, so if that’s how long it took me that was the fastest it could be done.

Of course she didn’t praise my speed but offered me a curt goodbye.

Like a prisoner getting a pardon, I grabbed my bag and raced home.

You see there was particular urgency to get home tonight because I had a meal to prepare.  Most of the times I was too exhausted to cook, but when I did I loved to make a big to go of it.  There is nothing grander than the large pot of soup simmering for hours or a turkey with crispy skin on the outside but moist meat on the inside.  Yum! My roommates and I lived in the tiniest apartment in a basement with basically a bar-sized kitchen, but I could make masterpieces when given the encouragement.

Luckily such encouragement had come a few months before.  My ward did a service auction every year to raise money for sub 4 Santa.  It was something I had spearheaded many times, even in high school, and I would have liked to this year but I was too busy at work, especially in the busy holiday accounts and end of the year reconciling.  January, the month of my birthday, was even worse.  I thought about it with a shudder….

At the auction I didn’t know what to donate but I knew that many knew what a great cook I was so I offered up 3 meals of your choice made by Rachel Wagner.   The bidding started and it was pretty brisk than Darren came through with the win.  I must admit I groaned.  He was the last person I wanted to win. Not because he wasn’t a nice guy but he was so boring.  I had tried so many times to start up a discussion and nothing, no opinions or thoughts on anything!  It kind of made me nuts (and not a nuts you kind of like him nuts, just nuts!).

After the auction I met up with Darren and I asked him what meals he would like.

“Well, whatever.  I’m sure it will be great”

“No, it says your favorite 3 meals?” I pressed him further.

“I don’t really have a favorite”

“Ok.  Is there something you don’t like?” I asked

“Mustard.   I don’t like mustard”.  I was honestly proud of the boy.  An opinion had been shared for the first time in 2 years of our friendship.  The boy didn’t like mustard!  But that really doesn’t help me with my meal.

“Well, if you aren’t going to decide than I will.  I will make my favorite 3 meals without mustard, which is basically all my favorite meals!”

So he agreed and I made a couple of unmemorable if tasty meals and tonight was the coup de gras- my favorite food period: spaghetti and meatballs with homemade marinara sauce.

This was to be a meal never to be forgotten.  A sweet and spicy sauce with tender meatballs, spaghetti, parmesan cheese.  Perfect.

I had done all the shopping beforehand but by the time I got home I had an hour to make the entire meal.  My roommate doubted if I could pull it off and kindly said:

“Maybe we should just go out to eat”

“No! I’m tired of mediocre food.  I had promised this meal to myself (and Darren) and I was going to get it!”

“Ok.  Let’s help.  I’m mixing the meat and then we will be rolling meatballs.  Can you fill the pasta pot up with water and get started on the sauce?” I asked my roommate.

At this point my hands were submerged in meat.  Going against the grain I used pork, beef and Italian sausage (which I realize is pork but different).  Veal was out of my budget but the sausage has a bit of spice and tastes great.

I had learned that both dry and wet breadcrumbs are key to a moist meatball and a cookbook I read also suggested putting a tablespoon or two of water when you are mixing.  How can water not make something moist!

Eventually the meat mixture was done and I started rolling.  It was already 7 by then and I had just started. The sauce was bubbling and smelled great.   My phone kept ringing but as long as it wasn’t Darren I kept my head down and rolled as fast as I could.   Finally, after what seemed like forever it was done and the raw beauties sat out in front of me ready to go into my Dutch oven for browning.

The meat sizzled as it went into the hot oil and all the spice and fat smelled delicious.  I felt myself deeply breathing in the glorious aromas and my cloud of anxiety and depression went away for a few minutes.  I felt lightness and happiness I hadn’t felt in many months.

Unfortunately as I looked up the pasta water had boiled down to nothing and our kitchen looked like a sauna with the windows fogging up.  So I filled the pot again and literally waited for it to boil.  It really feels like it will never boil!

Eventually we had pasta cooking and I moved the meatballs into the sauce to cook together for a time.  Darren was there by now, and he was giving my roommate his normal annoying answers- poor girl.

I cooked with a form of devotion veering on madness.  This one thing in my life I would do perfectly right.  I was tired of screwing up all the time and having my boss remind me of each and every last time.  Goodness knows she’s totally ignorant of all that I do and how to do it so it’s easy to criticize me for my flaws.

I took a deep breath and said to myself ‘I need to not think about her the rest of the evening.  No more’

Easier said than done but I sat down in a dining room chair waiting for the meatballs to finish cooking.  I felt exhausted.  My whole body hurt.  My brain hurt.  I was ready to hibernate for months, preferably until summer.  I was totally spent.

Eventually the water bubbled up over the pan so I checked the pasta and it was al dente.  The meatballs were cooked all the way through and we had a light salad made on the side.   It was finally done and only 1 ½ hours late!

So we sat down my friends and I and said a prayer over the food and then dove in…

The spaghetti noodle rolled around my fork for a few minutes until it was about the size of the meatball.  I cut the meatball in half and it became the perfect bite.  As I feasted on all those flavors I tasted acid, sweet, earthy parmesan, hearty pasta.  The meatballs were light and full of flavor.  Everything was delicious and I said to myself:

“This is the best meal I have ever made and I feel sublimely happy. I feel like I could conquer the world!”

And then in one of those moments of clarity we all have in life, I looked up at my friends and said

“Why isn’t the rest of my life this good?”. The question hung in the air like the steam from the boiling water.

Indeed, why wasn’t the rest of my life as good as this amazing plate of pasta? I had every life advantage and there was no reason to be miserable all the time. It was a question I pondered on for many weeks.  Eventually I realized that I could either be keep being unhappy and have a true nervous breakdown (already had a panic attack so it was coming) or I could start having joyous experiences again. I could find things that make me as happy as that spaghetti.

So I quit. I quit and I’ve never looked back.  It was the best decision of my life and it was all from a bowl of spaghetti.

It’s a Wonderful Christmas

I know I’ve spent my fair share of time complaining on this blog so let me give you a bit of joy.  I have had such a great December.  I feel happy.  I feel light and joyful (although the news last night left me a bit miffed but I’ll proceed).  Anyway, I can say with 100% assurance that this has already been the best Christmas of my adult life.

Yes, you read right.  The best Christmas of my adult life.  Like I explained in my previous post I’ve gotten to do everything I want to do at Christmas from attending Tabernacle Christmas Concert to watching every Christmas movie I can think of.  My trees are beautiful, treats have been yummy, friends have been great and today I had carollers at my house!

I think part of it is it’s my first Christmas in my own home and there is something very comforting about and isn’t Christmas all about comforting?  In some ways I feel like it has been my first Christmas at home since Maryland (that would be 1998).  I was always visiting except for last year which doesn’t count because I was in boxes waiting for this house to be done (worst Christmas ever).

I know people say that home is whereever your family is but I don’t know if that is true for me.  Maybe it would be if I never saw my family but I see them every couple of weeks (or at least my Dad) so when I’m in California it really is traveling and being away.  Also I realized in September that traveling isn’t as much fun as it used to be.  If it isn’t at the beach I’m kind of over it. Anyone else relate to that?

It’s not that I wasn’t happy before but I can’t deny that I have felt a lightness and happiness lately I haven’t experienced in a long time.  It makes me happy that I’m happy. :).

Even my Mom was saying today that she notices I’m a different person when I’m home, and yet I don’t mean to be.  I can’t explain it, but I am so grateful.  I’m grateful my family came out here and grateful for every part of this great Christmas including all of you!  Merry Christmas!!!

It’s a wonderful life and time to be Rachel!

Best Christmas of my adult life.  Any of you relate? Are you ever puzzled by yourself and how you feel?

(skip the bad santa clip)

Perfect Christmas

Rachel2013 back up

Both of my Christmas Trees
Both of my Christmas Trees

So I don’t know if you can knock on wood via a blog but if I could, I’d knock.  This has been such a great Christmas season that I’m afraid it is all going to explode and suck but I’ve got a week left and that doesn’t seem likely.  I suppose part of it is that last year’s Christmas was pretty rough and stressful living out of boxes and being alone that it set the bar for a great Christmas pretty low.

Even so look at all I’ve done (and I still have a week of Christmas left!):

Gone to BYU Christmas choir concert

Put up 2 Christmas trees including my memory tree and first live tree

Attended Christmas dance with friends

Made fudge and watched- Elf, White Christmas, Muppet Christmas Carol, Charlie Brown Christmas, Christmas Vacation

Gone to Christmas Carol at Hale Theater

My family is here so I don’t have to fly!!!!

gotten all my shopping done and gifts wrapped ( I think I scored this year!)

Performed at Christmas Recital

Went to Tabernacle Choir concert and saw the lights at Temple Square

Put lights on the front of my house

Done anonymous act of service (yes even from this blog!)

and still worked very hard and a week left to enjoy the holidays (tomorrow I am going to the messiah sing in!)

I guess this year I like a pretty busy Christmas.  Not every year but I really haven’t hit overkill.  I’ve enjoyed everything I’ve done (except for when the tree fell on me!).

How have all of your Christmas time been going?  Is this one a good one, hard one or average?  It’s Ok to admit if it is a bit of a downer.  I’ve been there.  There is nothing worse than feigning happiness when you feel depressed, so if you need to vent I get it.

But thankfully this year is going great and I’ve been very blessed.

What traditions are your ‘must have’s’ for the holidays?  I’ve noticed that holiday food varries a ton depending on family.  My family makes a german meal for Christmas Eve and then goes lighter on Christmas but I’ve talked to people who make fajitas, breakfast for dinner, pizza, traditional turkey dinner.  What are your food traditions?  What makes a perfect Christmas for you?

Please share your comments.  I’d love to hear what you are all doing.

I will continue to keep you posted as the holidays continue.  Merry Christmas!!

5 Love Languages at Christmas

Something to think about at Christmas

Smilingldsgirl's Weblog

Having a relationship free Christmas with no family/spouse to spend it with has made me think a lot about past holidays and why some were more effective and loving than others? What made one Christmas happier and lighter in feel than others?

I’ll be honest when I was in college we had a pretty mean streak of chaotic Christmas breaks.  For about 3 years some or all of us ended up getting sick, my parents had a new baby (always tough) and they had just moved to California and hadn’t really settled in.  Life was a challenge.

That said, we did always manage to leave the season with a sense of unity and purpose and particularly Christmas Day never failed to be magical. A lot of this credit goes to my Mother who does whatever she can to make our somewhat odd family united.

Anyway, I was thinking about…

View original post 1,697 more words

Falling Trees and Christmas Cards

I’ve had quite the crazy last few days! As I mentioned in my last post I had put up my tree after a long battle to get it delivered by Five Star Christmas Trees.  The installer did a terrible job and it felt wobbly but I was feeling optimistic so I went ahead and decorated (stupidly!).

This was Saturday but it kept getting worse and worse until finally I felt under the tree and it was floating in the stand.  There are 3 screws on the bottom of the stand which the tree should be hammered into so it is secure and then 3 flat surfaces to keep it straight.  All that was holding it up was the three flat bolts and yesterday it came crashing down.

To make it worse the tree was cut at such a slant that it had no chance of being on a solid footing.  Look at the stem.

stub

The whole reason I had decided to get a natural tree was because of the install and delivery option.  A tree is too heavy and too much for one person to deal with, which I found out when I was pinned down by the tree after it fell a second time.

tree down

Thankfully none of my ornaments got broken.  As I’ve mentioned before I have collected them over years, some of them being irreplaceable.  But after the second fall I was feeling pretty discouraged and covered with tree sap and needles everywhere.  The tree was too heavy for me to lift on my own and I didn’t have a saw to fix the stem.  I called a bunch of people but naturally everyone was out on a Sunday  night in December.  It was proof positive that I can’t do everything on my own! 🙂

So I tried my bishop more of out desperation than anything else because I know how busy he is and I don’t want to be another burden.  I must admit that I cried when I talked to his wife and asked if they could do me a favor and help me out.  They came over and we sawed the tree and got it back up as securely as it could be.  Hurray!

back up

I’m grateful that I found people that were willing to serve me during this Christmas season.  It really meant a lot to me.  It’s nice to know you can lean on your safety net every now and then.  Thanks!

So remember that serving others at Christmas can be as simple as answering a phone and helping a neighbor with their tree.  It doesn’t have to be expensive or time consuming.  Just be available and willing when the opportunity presents itself and if you are praying for it will be presented!

Merry Christmas and I wanted to share with all of you my Christmas card for 2013.  I have done custom valentines and Christmas cards with my friend Joan for 3 years now and this one doesn’t have a photo.  I developed the concept from a Christmas card I had seen of Santa Claus lighting lanterns.  I thought it would be fun to showcase the year I’ve had with balloons as an homage to my Up birthday/open house from earlier this year. Rachel2013and here are my 2012 and 2011 cards

Rachel2012

 

rachel2

What do you guys thinks?  Pretty fun right! I love designing something unique and fun each year.  I have also done valentines.  See them at https://smilingldsgirl.com/2013/02/14/happy-valentines-2013/

To design your own go to http://www.bitsycreations.com/

There is still time to order your Christmas cards!

Merry Christmas and thank you all for reading!