Starting a Gratitude Journal

Thursday, November 3, 2016

“I’m grateful…”

That’s how I start every entry in my gratitude journal.

Now that it’s November and Thanksgiving is just a few weeks away, I thought it’d be the perfect time to share my new hobby and encourage you all to join me in journaling.

I started my gratitude journal after hearing the idea during an episode of the Young House Love podcast. During the episode Sherry mentions that she’s kept a gratitude journal for years and I was immediately interested in the idea. So, a couple days later I bought a cute journal at Target and started writing.

I didn’t want this to end up feeling like a chore, so my only rule is that I write at least one thing I’m grateful for every day. But if I miss a day, it’s not a big deal. I try not to write entries like “I’m grateful for my family” because I want to focus on things more specific to each day (and because obviously I’m grateful for my family).

The entries don’t need to be deep and meaningful either. For example, a couple of my past entries are that “I’m grateful that a new episode of How to Get Away with Murder = cuddle time” and “I’m grateful that my coworker brought in leftover Halloween candy”. Neither of those are momentous events, but after sitting in a cubicle all day, a bag of Swedish fish at 3 p.m. was exactly what I needed to get through the last hour of work.

So why should you start a gratitude journal? Well, studies have shown that focusing on gratitude:

1. Leads to improved physical and psychological health
2. Enhances empathy and reduces aggression
3. Improves self-esteem and reduces social comparisons
4. Reduces stress and increases happiness
5. Helps people sleep better and longer

You can read more about the benefits of gratitude and writing a gratitude journal here. If that still doesn’t convince you, maybe Oprah can convince you (she’s written gratitude journals for over a decade).

If you are thinking about starting a gratitude journal, I’ve rounded up some of the cutest journals currently available on Amazon. I ordered #1 for myself a couple days ago and I'm hoping it's in the mailbox when I get home today!  Prices are as of 11/2/16, but are subject to change because Amazon does whatever Amazon wants.
1 / 2 / 3 / 4 / 5
6 / 7 / 8 / 9 / 10

I’m trying to convince my boyfriend to start his own gratitude journal. He’s kind of into the idea, so I might just buy him one in hopes that he’ll actually use it. He would probably be happy with just a plain notebook, but I like these for him. I’m leaning towards the lazy panda.

1 / 2 / 3 / 4 / 5

So, what do you think? Are you ready to start journaling? Or do you already keep a gratitude journal?

Friday Five

Friday, October 28, 2016

One – Mumford & Sons Concert

A few weeks ago Adam and I went to the Mumford & Sons concert. It was such an amazing show! They sounded SO good in person and played all of my favorite songs. The show was at Ak-Chin Pavilion, which is an outdoor venue. Luckily it’s finally starting to cool off at night in Phoenix so the weather was perfect during the concert. We had lawn seats, but managed to get spots in the very front, middle so we had a really great view too. It was such a fun experience and totally worth suffering through the following early morning at work.

Two – Vino and Canvas

A couple weekends ago my friend Jaime hosted a paint night at her house. She hired a local company called Vino and Canvas to teach the class. I’ve done quite a few paint nights, but this was my first at-home event. We painted a winter scene, snacked on appetizers, and had plenty of wine. It was so much fun! 

Three – New Kitchen Rug

Last time I went to Target my shopping list consisted of sandwich bags and body wash, so of course I bought a new kitchen rug too. It was on clearance…I couldn’t help myself. I also bought an embroidery craft kit that was on clearance…

Four – Ringo and Abby

Last week I wrote an entire post about our foster dog Lilly. I can’t let her have all the spotlight, so I decided to give a shout out to Ringo and Abby. I love these two goobers so much and we’ve been trying really hard to make sure they still get lots of attention, so they don’t get jealous. It helps that we crate Lilly at bedtime, so they still get to sneak into bed with us in the middle of the night and have that time to themselves.

Five – Fall Chalkboard Art

I finally updated our living room chalkboard for fall! I used this design from Mint and Honey Design as my inspiration. I’m not very artistic and I don’t have fancy handwriting, so I like to have a picture to follow as I draw. I love how it turned out! I’m going to be so sad when I have to erase it…

I hope you all have a great weekend! Anyone have any fun weekend Halloween plans? We don’t have anything planned except for a house warming party on Saturday, so we’ll probably just work around the house.     Cup

Travel Tuesday: Pompeii

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Almost a year ago to the day, we were walking the ruins of Pompeii. I can’t believe it’s taken me this long to fully recap our Italy trip, but this is finally the final post. As you can probably tell from the title, our last full day in Italy was spent exploring Pompeii.

Pompeii was an ancient Roman city near the Bay of Naples. In 79 A.D. Mount Vesuvius erupted and buried the city in ash. Explorers rediscovered the site in 1748 and found that Pompeii was still mostly intact under that thick layer of dust and debris. Even after 2000 years, most of the buildings (and skeletons) were still intact and archeologists even discovered preserves and loaves of bread.


During its heyday Pompeii was a luxurious resort area for wealthy Romans. Our guide told us that sex and “immorality” ran rampant throughout the city and some even compare it to Sodom and Gomorrah. I never knew this about Pompeii so I was pretty surprised to hear the stories and to see all of the penis shaped souvenirs available. This is probably where I should mention that if you are offended by the shape of a penis carved into a wall or faded sexual mosaics, you should probably not read the rest of the post. I don’t think it’s that graphic, but I don’t want anyone to claim they weren’t warned first.

Anyway, we only had a few hours to tour the ruins so we didn’t get to see everything, but we did see the large outdoor theatre and one of the city’s public baths.


Our guide also pointed out the raised stepping stones in the streets. They allowed people to cross the street without stepping in water or waste. They were also spaced out so carts and wagons could still pass through.

And as I alluded to earlier, we saw the brothel. Penises carved into the walls and streets lead the way to the brothel, which features
stone beds and erotic wall art.

This picture is one of my favorites from the trip – that’s Mount Vesuvius in the background!

Mount Vesuvius, located 5 miles from Pompeii. It’s the only active volcano on mainland Europe and is considered one of the most dangerous in the world due to the large population in nearby Naples and surrounding areas.

One of the last areas we checked out featured a large collection of pottery and artifacts that were uncovered during the excavation.

Also on display was a plaster cast made from one of the bodies discovered during excavation. Hardened ash from the eruption preserved the victims’ final postures at the moment of death. Archaeologists were able pour plaster into hollow pockets to preserve the body shape. After the plaster hardened for a few days, they chipped off the outer layers of ash and were left with cast like the one pictured below.

It was a sobering reminder of the suffering and devastation caused by the eruption. A once thriving city was completely destroyed in only a couple days. On that note, it seems kind of insensitive to say that we really enjoyed our visit to Pompeii…but we did. I would highly recommend visiting if you are ever near Naples (or I think you can also take a day trip from Rome).

And with that, our Italian adventure is complete. We had the most amazing time exploring Italy and had such a wonderful experience with our tour group. You can read more about our decision to use a tour company and our overall experience here, but I just have to reiterate that I’m so grateful to have the opportunity to share these adventures with my mom. She truly is my best friend and travel buddy. Last month we went to San Francisco for a week together and we’re already discussing our next trip!  Maybe Africa?


Meet Lilly + Our Decision to Foster

Thursday, October 20, 2016

I want to introduce you to our foster pup Lilly!

She’s about 10 months old and was a stray at Maricopa Country Animal Care and Control – West. We don’t know anything about her past life, but based on how skinny she is, she was either not well cared for or was on her own for a quite a while. When we first met her she was sweet, but very timid.  It only took a few days for to come out of her shell and now she’s a spunky little pup.

We’re fostering through a local rescue organization called Mountain Girl Transport Rescue. Mountain Girl Transport Rescue saves e-listed Chihuahuas, pit bulls, and fearful dogs in Arizona and transports them to no-kill shelters in the Pacific Northwest and Canada. There’s less of a supply/more of a demand in those areas vs. overpopulated Arizona (Maricopa County is the second-largest shelter system in the country and has one of the highest kill rates).

Anyway, during the last Mountain Girl Rescue transport, all 34 of the dogs found homes within a few days through their partner rescue. Thinking about how many of those dogs went from the kill list to happy homes is what inspired me to try fostering. Luckily my boyfriend is amazing and was into the idea too.

So a few weeks ago I contacted the rescue group and we were set to foster a dog named Gonzo the following day. Let’s just say things did not go well. We kept having to break up fights between Gonzo and Ringo. Ringo doesn’t like conflict, so he spent most of the day trying to hide from the new dog. It was really stressful. As much as we want to help other dogs, Ringo and Abby’s happiness and safety come first.

Luckily the lady who heads the rescue completely understood and we met to give Gonzo back later that night. He was a good dog, but just wasn’t a good fit for our house. A few days later she sent me a video of Gonzo playing with two big, young females. He just needed a couple women to put him in his place ;)

So anyway, she recommended we try this sweet, unnamed stray instead. Two days later we were meeting one of her volunteers at the pound to pick up Lilly (we got to pick her name). Things were SO much easier when we brought her home vs. the previous experience.

I would love to say that Ringo and Abby like having her around, but I think it would be more accurate to say that they tolerate her. Luckily, they seem to be warming up to the idea of having another dog in the house more and more each day. The first few days Lilly and Ringo got into a couple spats, but nothing too serious. I think they are just setting (and testing) boundaries. Over the weekend we noticed that they are all starting to get more comfortable together and are starting to accept her into our pack.

She loves romping around the backyard, stealing Ringo’s ball, sleeping on the couch, eating food off the counter, belly rubs and cuddles. She’s already figured out the doggie door and we haven’t had any accidents since the first couple of days.

Lilly is staying with us until the November 30th transport. After spending two months together, I know it’s going to be hard to let her go. I’m definitely going to cry my eyes out when we drop her off. I’m getting teary just thinking about it, but I know that it’ll be the right decision for our family. For us, 3 big dogs is just too much to take on permanently. Plus keeping her would be the end of our fostering and we’d like to be able to help more dogs in the future.

Everyone keeps telling me that they’d never foster because they would get too attached and not be able to let go. That’s kind of how I felt at first too, but after reading fostering advice on forums and sad motivational quotes like “Wouldn’t you rather cry watching a dog leave your home to go to happy new home rather than cry knowing a dog died in a shelter because no one stepped in to foster?” I knew we had to try it. Seriously, don’t search “foster dog quotes” unless you want a major guilt trip.

I know not everyone is able to foster, but there are other ways you can help. Volunteers and donations are always needed. If you don’t already support a rescue organization, please consider donating to the next Mountain Girl Rescue transport. The next one leaves AZ on October 26th and donations are needed for the trip (you can donate here). You can also learn more about MGR by checking out their Facebook page. If you want to see some the rescue dogs in their happy homes, check out their rescue partner PB&CHI’s Facebook page.

Pinned It, Made It #1

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Everyone loves Pinterest. Seriously, how many thousands of projects/recipes/ideas do you have pinned on your boards? How many have you actually tried? Well, a few months ago my friend Michelle and I decided to start actually making the projects we’ve been pinning. On Saturday we had our third successful Pinterest Night, so I thought it would be fun to share what we’ve been making.

For our first Pinterest Night we made burlap bubble wreaths. I already had a couple foam wreath forms, so we used this tutorial from Coupon Closet. It’s a different method than most of the other tutorials, but it didn’t make sense to buy wire wreaths when I already had foam ones on hand.

The directions were easy to follow and our wreaths turned out pretty amazing. My only tip would be to wrap the wreath form with burlap first so the foam doesn’t show through. You might also want to buy extra burlap ribbon. I made mine really full, so we had to make a Hobby Lobby run halfway through the project to buy more.

For our second Pinterest Night we made reversible scarecrow/snowman boards. Most of the examples we found on Pinterest were from Etsy, so we just used the finished pictures to make up our own designs. We cut 1x4 boards in half for the project, so our finished scarecrows/snowmen are about 4 feet tall! Mine is on the right, Michelle's is on the left.

The following day I added a bowtie and more straw (my boyfriend called it chest hair) to my scarecrow. There was just too much blank space for my liking. When I switch it to the snowman side, I might wrap a scarf around him.

Over the weekend we had our third Pinterest Night and we made string art. We decided to start with an easy one to test out the process, so we made hearts using this template from Paige and Chris. Mine is the blue and white one.

We love how they turned out, but we didn't really enjoy this project...actually we kind of hated it. About 3 nails into the heart we were already over it, so we decided to skip the second design and just stick with the hearts.

One of my goals this year was to spend more time crafting and working on small projects, so I’m really happy we started doing these nights. It’s also fun to see each other’s creations. We both start with the same basic supplies, but bring our own flair to decorate them however we want. It’s fun to see what we each come up with!

Have you made anything you’ve been pinned lately? Any project suggestions for our next Pinterest Night?

Weekend Junk #20

Monday, September 26, 2016

Wow! Can you believe it’s been over a year and a half since my last Weekend Junk post?! I’ve still been thrift shopping during that time, but I’ve been trying to limit my purchases to pieces that I have a place for and not just hoarding things. Anyway, I have a few recent finds to share with you today so let’s get right into it!

This is probably one of my best finds ever! It’s an oil painting of New York City and I only paid $30 for it! I found it at Desert Thrift Shop (same place I found my EKTORP living room chair). Can you believe that I almost passed it up? I was feeling super cheap that day and didn’t want to spend $30 on thrift store art. Of course I came to my senses and bought it anyway. The frame is a little beat up, so I’ll probably paint it black or replace it someday, but it still looks perfect in the master bedroom as-is.

I also found this ironstone chamber pot at the same place on the same day. It was only $4 and right now I’m using it to hold a potted plant. 

This jewelry box is from the same thrift store too, but on a different day. I’d been looking for a simple jewelry box to hold a few of my favorite pieces, but nothing caught my eye until I saw this one. It doesn’t hurt that it was cheap too!

I’m on a handmade pottery kick right now, so I was really excited to find this vase at Goodwill for $1.99. I love the colors and it looks great in so many places around the house. It’ll probably end up on my bookcase though.

I also found this pottery piece at Savers for $3.99. I’m going to use it to replant the faux succulents that are currently in a plain terra cotta pot on my coffee table. 

Has anyone else been thrift shopping lately? Any good finds?


Friday Five

Friday, September 23, 2016

One – San Francisco

Last week my mom and I spent 5 fun-filled days in San Francisco, CA. We had a great time exploring and doing all of the touristy things in the area. I’ll write full travel posts soon, but I just had to mention our trip and share one of our pictures right away. We both agreed that our favorite stop was Alcatraz and the best meal we had was at Street Taco on Haight Street (although it was hard to pick a favorite).

Two – Blueberry Cheesecake Macarons

One of my ’30 for 30’ goals is to bake a batch of macarons. The French cookie is notoriously hard to make, so I’ve always been scared that it would end up being an epic fail. Well, I’m pleased to announce that they turned out pretty perfect. Although, I will admit that they took for-ev-er to make. I used a recipe from a Food Network magazine that I’d been saving for years (I think this is the same recipe). I was nervous because I don’t have a convection oven, but they turned out fine regardless. My boyfriend and I ate the whole batch in only a couple days!  I really want to make them again, but next time I think I’ll make chocolate with Nutella cream…yum!

Three – Presidential Podcast

I have a confession to make: I’d never listened to a podcast until a couple months ago. I know they are super popular, but I just never saw the appeal…until my boyfriend got me hooked on the Presidential podcast. Each podcast is about a different president starting with George Washington. The podcast is hosted by Lillian Cunningham from the Washington Post, but for each episode she brings on historians and experts to help explain the character and legacy of each president. We started listening to it while road tripping to Montana and at first I thought it sounded so boring, but I was hooked after the first episode. It is seriously so interesting! I’ve learned so much about each president and about the country throughout the various periods in time.

Four – America the Beautiful Annual Pass

While we were in San Francisco last week, we stopped at Muir Woods National Monument. Instead of paying the $10/person entry fee, I bought an America the Beautiful annual pass. They are $80 and cover the entry fees and day use fees at national parks, national wildlife refuges, and national forests for one vehicle of passengers or up to four adults. I used the pass for my mom and I at Muir Woods and I know my boyfriend and I will get a lot of use out of it too. One of my ’30 for 30’ goals is to visit five national parks, so this will be a great way to accomplish that.

The pass is free for current U.S. military members and for 4th graders. Seniors (over 62 years old) can get a lifetime pass for only $10. You can read more about the pass here.

Five – Laline Body Soufflé and Scrub

I’m currently obsessed with the Coconut Verbena body soufflé and scrub from Laline. We ran across the shop while we were exploring Pier 39 in San Francisco. My mom is loves fancy soaps, so we had to check it out. When we walked in the saleslady asked us our favorite type of scent (floral, fruity, or clean) and then she had us try the scrub and body soufflé on our hands. I like fruity scents so she recommended the coconut verbena and it smells ah-mazing! My mom likes floral scents so she tried the vanilla pink pepper and loved it. 

Anyway, my hands are usually really dry and pitiful looking, but they felt and looked amazing after the scrub and soufflé. They were having a buy 3 get 2 free sale, so we both ended up buying the scrubs and soufflé plus a men’s body wash for my boyfriend. I’ve used the scrub and soufflé on my hands every night since we’ve been back (I still need to try it on my body) and they look SO much better. I normally don’t like lotion on my palms, but the soufflé absorbs quickly so I don’t mind it. 

I hope you all have a great weekend! Anyone have anything fun planned? We’ll probably spend most of the weekend outside now that the weather is finally starting to cool down. Tomorrow morning we volunteered to help a nearby children’s home get their vegetable garden ready for fall planting. We’re trying to get our own garden ready too, so I see a lot of dirt in my near future!     Cup

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