Archive for December, 2008

2008 was quite a year, wasn’t it?  So many challenging things occurred around the world and here at home, but we made it through.  Some of us just barely, but we ARE here to live again another day.

Personally, 2008 was a pretty good year for me.

  • I started on a serious weight loss journey that involved trying the South Beach Diet, medically supervised fasting, Medifast, and finally Weight Watchers.  I lost a lot of weight, but more than that, I gained a whole new perspective about how I wanted to live my life.  I decided I wanted to live in a healthier, happier way.
  • I graduated with my Masters in Educational Leadership in May.
  • I bought a beach cruiser and rediscovered how much I love riding my bike.  It doesn’t really matter what the destination is; it just makes me feel happy to feel the rush of wind as I pedal as fast as I can, or slowly cruise by.  I love looking at life and the things around me at a bit of a slower pace than normal.  It’s like I’m taking time to breathe when I’m on my bike.
  • I went to CTLB’s wedding in Connecticut in August, and I was able to travel all over Massachusetts (Cape Cod, Boston, etc).  It was a trip I had been looking forward to for at least a year and half, and it was awesome.  I can’t wait to go back to  visit CTLB and her new hubby at their new place in Southie (South Boston).
  • I made sure that my life had more balance.  I left work at work, which was HUGE for me.  Never before in my life have I had the sense that work is just work (although I love it), but that there is so much more to life than your profession.  I am still working towards figuring out how to define myself past what I do, but I know that will come in time.
  • I started cooking for myself. All the time.  Delicious, healthy dinners.  And along the way, I discovered that I not only enjoy cooking, but that I’m really good at it.  I can’t wait to try out a bunch of new recipes (at least 1 a week) in 2009.  (I’ll be writing about those on Bella on the Beach, if you want to check them out).
  • I started reading again in earnest, once I no longer had grad school books to read.  I’ve borrowed a ton of books from the library since May, and truly, it has been one of my greatest pleasures.  I even started a book club with some friends, something I had always wanted to do.  I really like the discussions we’ve had about the book choices.  Plus, it’s a great excuse to get a wonderful group of ladies together for an afternoon.
  • I organized my life.  Top to bottom.  Floor to ceiling.  I feel in control, at ease, and happy.

Even with all of the positive things that happened to me in 2008, I am really looking forward to 2009 even more.  I have a terrific feeling about this upcoming year.  For myself personally, I think it’s going to be MY year, filled with many new triumphs and discoveries, capped off in October with my 20th high school reunion.  But thinking in a more global sense, 2009 means change.  Change in political leadership in our country, change in our perspective about how we should live our lives, and change in the way we deal with nations and people around the globe.

Tonight, New Year’s Eve, I am a bit sad that I don’t have that traditional “date,” but I know all good things will come in time.  HE is out there, I just have to wait and not settle for the Mr. Maybes of the world who might distract me from HIM.

As we welcome 2009 tomorrow, what is the thing you’re most looking forward to?


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At the beginning of 2008, I posted what I called New ME Resolutions. These were commitments I was going to make to myself, in lieu of making New Year’s Resolutions.  I thought it might be fun to  take a look at each one and see how I did and whether they’re as important to me now as they were then.

  1. Get more sleep. This continues to be a struggle for me, although I made great strides in 2008.  My goal was to get to bed my 11PM each night.  I didn’t always make my goal, but I did get a lot closer than I was in the past.  This will continue to be a goal in 2009.
  2. Get into a nightly ritual. This involved cooking dinner, washing/putting away the dinner dishes, making my lunch for the next day, washing my face, brushing my teeth, and reading something for pleasure (not for school!!) before finally closing the light at night.  I did great on this goal, most nights.  There were of  course some nights that I was so exhausted that I went to bed without washing my face, or when I fell asleep on the couch, but overall, I did really well on this one.
  3. Make exercise an almost daily activity. I had wanted to start Couch to 5K and get to the gym every other day.  This didn’t always happen, but I did make exercise more of a priority.  I bought a bike and found out how much I loved riding it.  I also made going to the gym a much more frequent habit.  I even entered a Turkey Trot.  I still have a ways to go with this goal, but it’s still a priority.
  4. Quit smoking. I attempted to quit, signed up for smoking cessation classes through Kaiser with BFF, and stopped smoking for 3 entire days, which was huge for me.   But I picked it back up again, and for now, I’m not going to try to quit.  I know I should, but I’m simply not ready yet.  I have cut way back on smoking, and can go for much longer periods without a cigarette, which is a real improvement.
  5. Cook dinner every weeknight. I did really well on this goal.  I didn’t cook every weeknight, but I did it more often than not, and found out how much I enjoy planning, preparing, and cooking for myself.  This will be a goal moving into 2009.
  6. Continue to lose weight. I did really well on this goal in 2008.  I’ve changed my entire mindset, lost 4 pants sizes, and feel so much better about myself.  This is my main focus in life right now, and I write about this journey in my weight loss blog almost every day.  Check it out.
  7. Live a balanced life. This meant that I need to find a way to balance work, school, and family/friends.  Once grad school ended in May, I did a fabulous job on this goal.  I’m really pleased to say that work is only one aspect of my life now.
  8. Explore spirituality. This goal wasn’t a priority for me at all. I’ve decided to live a good life by being a good person, and doing good things for others, which is my version of The Golden Rule.
  9. Leave work at work. This was really difficult for me from Jan.-June, but once the new school year started in August, I was amazing with this goal.  I decided to stay after school for 2 hours everyday to keep up with paper work, and vowed not to bring grading home at night or on the weekends.  I’ve succeed completely, except for 2 weekends, during grading periods, which is perfectly fine with me.
  10. LIVE life. I definitely accomplished this goal.  I spent so much more time with family and friends in 2008, and started some fun traditions, like Sister Day (where my sis and I get together, just the two of us and hang out).  I hope to do even more LIVING in 2009.

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Yesterday my sister and I went to see Seven Pounds, the new movie starring Will Smith.

I really didn’t know what to expect from this movie, because the reviews had been mixed.  My local paper gave it 3 out of 4 stars, which is pretty good.  Many other papers, including the SF Chronicle and the NY Times didn’t give it favorable reviews.  But my sister and I love Will Smith, and were intrigued by all of the mystery surrounding the movie, so we decided to risk the $10 and go see it.

It’s really difficult to give much of a review of this movie without giving too much away.  Part of the experience of seeing this film is uncovering just what it’s about.  As I sat in the theatre and watched it, I had moments where I knew exactly what was going on.  And then I had other, more frequent moments, where I felt like I knew nothing.  Toward the middle of the movie, things started to fall into place, and I guessed much of what was going to happen, but I don’t think many could have guessed exactly what was going to happen by the end.

In my humble opinion, this movie is worth your money.  It’s about atonement, doing the right thing, and what being “a good man”/person is all about.  It is one of Will Smith’s most subtly acted, yet strongest performances to date.  Rosario Dawson shows that she’s more than just eye candy.  I liked the disjointed scenes and camera work that Gabriele Muccino uses.  I don’t think you’ll be disappointed.

I loved the soundtrack to this movie because it was unobtrusive and light.  So many times in movies the music overtakes the scene, but no so in this film.  One of the best songs to appear in the movie isn’t included in the soundtrack, which is a shame.  It’s Nick Drake’s “One of These Things First.”  Here’s a listen, for those interested:

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It’s been a fun few days in Bellaland.  Lots of present giving and receiving, great food, good times, and a moment or two to realize how lucky I am.  Truly, very lucky.

I have amazing family and friends who love me and are always there to offer support, encouragement, and a kick in the ass, if necessary.  My life would be nothing without them. And as cliched as that sounds, that really is the best gift of all.

I’m looking forward to going to my great uncle’s house for dinner with all of the extended family – there are going to be over 50 of us there this year, and it will be so much fun to catch up with all those relatives I haven’t seen in a couple of years.

The rest of this week and the next is spread out before me, and I can’t wait to see what I make of it.  It’s so nice to have 2 weeks off with nothing in particular planned.  This way, it gives me the chance to do some things I’ve been wanting to do, but without a strict schedule.  Freedom!

Merry Christmas to All!!


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Don’t you love it when you discover new music?  Last night as I was online, I found My First Earthquake.  They’re a local San Francisco band, and I’m loving their 80s pop sound.  Their music is so upbeat and fun, and I’m hoping I’ll get a chance to hear them perform live at one of my favorite SF venues sometime soon.

This video was filmed in SF, and shows a few of the beautiful houses The City is famous for.


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I’ve been thinking a lot about the simple pleasures in life.  Relishing the little things in life that make it special or fill it with joy.

I just finished teaching my classes about Transcendentalism, which is one of my favorite units of the year.  I like teaching the students about philosophy, because most of them haven’t read any before this unit.  Ralph Waldo Emerson and Henry David Thoreau were masters in reminding us how to live a simple life, unfettered by materialism.

Yesterday was a day filled with simple pleasures for me, and although none were as profound as those espoused by Emerson or Thoreau, they still made me happy.

Comfy yoga pants. Ideally, I would’ve gone to a yoga class yesterday, but I guess I did the next best thing.  Last night I lounged in my new yoga pants that my sister gave me for Christmas. They’re soft, comfortable, and oh so cozy.  I love taking off my more restrictive clothing and putting these pants on.  They’re symbolic of relaxing to me.

Uggs boots. Along the lines of soft, warm, and comfortable, these boots are perfect for the wintry weather we’ve been having lately.  Again, these were a Christmas present from my parents.  Even though I asked for some knock-off brand, they splurged and bought me the real thing, and I couldn’t be more grateful.  It’s so nice to go out in the rainy, cold weather and know that my feet are completely warm and dry.  Cuz when your feet feel good, everything feels good, right?

Fresh, clean, high thread count sheets. I’m on a roll with these warm, cozy Christmas gifts, right?  My parents also gave me a new set of 620 thread count sheets for Christmas (don’t I have a generous family?).  I washed them yesterday and made my bed with them.  All day I was looking forward to climbing into bed and sleeping in these luxurious sheets.  Nothing is better.  Well, ok, maybe having someone to share the sheets with would be nice, but hey, I’m making the best of my singledom.

{If you’re wondering why I’m talking so much about Christmas presents and it’s only the 23rd, that’s because my family celebrated our “Christmas Eve” on Sunday night.  My sister and her husband thought they would stay home on the 24th and get things ready for Santa’s visit to my nieces.  It was nice to extend the holiday this way.  Oh, and in case you’re thinking, “You shouldn’t open presents until Christmas Day.”  We don’t do it that way in my family.  Well, of course we did when we were little and Santa brought the presents, but once we got older, we always opened them on Christmas Eve.  Late at night, after we returned from Midnight Mass.  It is a wonderful tradition that we continue today, minus the Midnight Mass part, most of the time}.

Listening to Christmas music. I know quite a few people who are so inundated with Christmas tunes that they can’t stand to listen to another song, but I am not one of these people.  I love Christmas music, and I think my playlist is awesome.  I have a nice mix of old standbys and newer, lounge music.  My favorite of the moment is Michael Buble singing Grown Up Christmas List.

What are your favorite simple pleasures?

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The past two weeks have been really busy for me.  I’m always busy at school, but the two weeks before break were CRAZY.

It just so happened that I had a journalism deadline AND a yearbook deadline within days of each other.  I’m really strict with my students about meeting the deadlines, no matter what.  In this case, “no matter what” meant staying in my room for the past two weeks, staying at school until 6:30 last Friday (Dec. 12), and going a little nuts when we ran into some technical difficulties.  But, I’m happy to report that both the newspaper and the yearbook deadline were met.  We got rave reviews on the paper, which always makes us feel good.

Couple these deadlines with the fact that I had a set of essays and 2 sets of research papers (think essays, but longer) to grade.  I was determined that I was going to grade these papers before I left for Christmas Break – no matter what.  There’s that phrase again.  This time “no matter what” meant staying up until 2:30AM on Thursday night, waking up at 5AM to continue grading, and still not finishing.  So, I stayed on Friday evening until 5;30 to get them done.  I may have been the last car in the parking lot (teachers clear out early when we have a long break like that), but I am so proud of myself for completely finishing all of the work I wanted to.

Which means I have two weeks off and ABSOLUTELY NO GRADING OR SCHOOL WORK OF ANY KIND TO DO!  (Ok, sorry for the ALL CAPS, but unless you teach high school English, I don’t think you can imagine the feeling of elation I have right now).

So, what am I going to do with myself?

  • Read books. For pleasure!  Books like Sundays at Tiffany’s, Pledged: The Secret Lives of Sororities, and A Lion Among Men.  Looking at those titles, I know they sound like quite an eclectic mix, and they are.  Recent books I’ve checked out of the library.  I’m a voracious reader even when life is hectic, but especially when I have some time on my hands.  To see more books that I’ve been reading, you can click on my Good Reads Shelf to the right.
  • Catch up on the stacks of magazines that are threatening to overtake my living room. That might be overstating it a bit, since the mags are all neatly placed in a magazine rack, but when I see 4 months worth of Vogue, Vanity Fair, Self, Real Simple, Prevention, and Women’s Health in front of me, I know it’s time to do some light reading.
  • Workout or “be active” everyday. Today’s activity was cleaning the house from top to bottom (electric broom and mop the kitchen and bathroom floors, empty the dishwasher, do two loads of laundry, change sheets, clean the bathroom, and vacuum the whole place).  Whew!  I know I probably didn’t burn too many calories, but I did all of that in under 3 hours, and I am sort of sore as I sit here tonight writing this.  It’s been cold and rainy here, so I’m afraid that most of my working out will have to take me to the gym, but that’s ok.  It gives me a chance to catch up on my elliptical and treadmill time.  I am going to start Couch to 5K and see how it goes.  I have a few other activities planned for the new year, but I’ll discuss that more on my weight loss blog.
  • Go to the movies. I love movies, but don’t find myself going to many lately.  I think part of it is that my schedule is so busy that I have to pick and choose which movies I have time to see.  There are two movies that I think look very interesting that I’m definitely making time for this vacation: The Curious Case of Benjamin Button and Seven Pounds Seven Pounds hasn’t gotten great reviews, but it intrigues me, and I think it’ll be worth $10 to find out what it’s about.
  • Spend time with family and friends. There are so many people I can’t wait to see and spend time with.  I’m sure I’ll post about all the fun ahead.
  • Go through my cookbooks. I have lots of healthy cookbooks that I’ve bought or been given in recent years, yet I find myself making my tried and true recipes more often than not.  I want to go through these cookbooks and mark several new recipes to try out in the new year.  I’m hoping to make at least one new recipe a week, just to keep things interesting.

So, there you have it.  Some rough plans for how I want to spend my Christmas Break.  I look forward to this 2-week vacation every year, and yet it always seems to fly by without very much getting accomplished.  I’m hoping that this year, I’ll make it a vacation to remember.

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