Everyday Inspirations


Alright, go ahead and tell me I am sharing the obvious -- but I have gone more than two decades without this divine inspiration so perhaps some of you have too. Plain Cheerios are sort of meh to me. I like them and tolerate eating them fine, but it's not like I ever crave them. In fact, my husband told me to buy them because he likes them, but because he doesn't eat cereal much we've had two big boxes just sitting there for months (yes, and then I hear "we have no food honey" but that's beside the point).

So this morning we are out of cereal except for plain Cheerios. I'm sort of disappointed because it's Monday and I was really wanting a delicious breakfast of champions to start out my crazy week. So I pour a bowl and it hits me...just add honey! I love Honey Nut Cheerios and when you add some fresh honey to the top of these, it's possibly even more delicious! Plus, you're not adding refined sugar, which is always a plus. And when then honey mixes with the milk -- yum!

Go ahead, tell me, "DUH, we've been doing this for years" or "how have you never thought of that? It's so obvious." But this little tidbit of inspiration was exactly what I needed to get me through the first day of an overly exciting and exhausting week to come.
Share |


A few of you may remember my post about my favorite earrings. I am so very sad to report that I now have only one favorite earring.

It really was a bummer, that moment when I realized I was wearing only one beloved earring. I had dropped the other in some dressing room after a night of shopping. I mourned a bit in the car (really, I did), then decided I'd have to just turn the earring into something else...
One lonely earring plus one unused chain equals a new piece of jewelry!

Since I'm in no way a jewelry making expert, I just used stuff hanging around my house to twist the earring post into a loop to thread through the chain.
Um, I don't think this is what this tool was intended to do...
I formed the earring post into a kind of cursive S-shaped loop:
I then easily slid the earring-turned-charm onto the chain. Voila!

Three reasons why this project rocked:
- I saved my favorite earring from a life of sitting alone in my jewelry box.
- I found a job for an unused chain.
- I spent no money and have a new necklace. Woohoo!
Share |

~ how to ~


It's Sunday night, which means it's time to prepare for another week. (By the way, how do weekends manage to fly by so quickly? It doesn't matter if I'm resting or relaxing -- before I know it, it's Sunday.)

Instead of branding Sunday night as the dreaded "night before Monday," use the evening as a time to relax and mentally prepare yourself for another week. Establish a relaxation ritual that is unique to you. Get rid of clutter so you don't wake up to messes that will stress you out. Make sure you eat a delicious, healthy meal. Avoid caffeine, alcohol, or sugar if they affect your sleep. And don't forget to end your night with an activity that relaxes you, such as enjoying a warm beverage with a book or taking a bath.
Share |

~ how to ~

We are all different. Not everyone does things the way you would or makes the decisions you'd make. Sometimes we celebrate that. Sometimes that can be frustrating, hurtful, or confusing, but that is exactly what makes them who they are. Our differences make us all unique and that is beautiful. Take a moment to remember that it's all those things that make every person who she is and embrace the same with the different. 

~ how to ~


Happy Sunday, everyone! I hope you're all having a fabulous long weekend. Mine is a nice mix of rest and productivity. In addition to accomplishing several chores that have been on my mind, I also (FINALLY) purchased a new phone. This is kind of a big deal since I have pretty much complained nonstop about the darn thing for months, anxiously waiting for my contract to end. Now I can stop stressing any time I need to make a call (seriously, I had to keep it under two minutes or the phone would shut off). And, happily, I now can stop throwing my phone. Not that that ever happened. Not even five or six or fifty times.

Because my phone can do lots of amazing things, it now has Kanye West's latest album on it. Oh man, you guys. I am so obsessed with this album it's not even funny. I even gave my iPod a much-needed rest and took the phone to the gym this morning so I could listen to Kanye as I did a hill workout on the treadmill.

If you read this blog regularly, you know how much I dislike the treadmill. But it's a necessity for me, especially when Salt Lake is experiencing bouts of nasty air. I've developed a number of little tricks for treadmill workouts, and one of them is using music. I know most people use music every time they run, but I only really like it at the gym. When I'm outside, I prefer to go without. In fact, during my last half marathon, I only used music for the last mile or two so I could push myself a little harder.

If you're looking for a way to jazz up your workouts, start using music as a tool, not a distraction.
- Pick an album or a playlist for your workout and determine the approximate number of songs you want to listen to during your workout (maybe enough for 20 or 30 minutes). Then cover up the timer (it's annoying, anyway), relax, and let the music guide you to the end.
- Cover the entire screen and let the tempo of the music dictate your pace. I find that certain songs make me feel like a rock star and want to run faster. I rarely feel that way if I'm just staring at the screen, waiting for the run to end.
- Pick a bunch of your favorite, most inspirational songs, cover the timer (see a theme here?), and use the music to help you visualize completing your goals. Visualization is truly a powerful technique and it's much easier to focus on crossing a finish line or completing a tough workout when you're not staring at red numbers the whole. friggin. time.

In case you'd like a jumping-off point, here are three albums that I can't get enough of while on the treadmill:
- Kanye West, My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy (obviously--or, as my cousin Christine would say, "Obvi!") This album is SO GOOD. However, if you really don't like explicit lyrics, I'd stay away (even though the awesomeness of the album makes up for them). Also, there is a Chris Rock skit on it I can do without. Those are my warnings.
- INXS, INXS. You really forget how good this music was. I listen to it over and over and over, even at work.
- Red Hot Chili Peppers, Greatest Hits. An fantastic collection of the Peppers' very best songs. Can't complain about that.
Share |

~ how to ~

Eat healthier
Like half of the world this time of year, I've been on a bit of a health kick lately. Many get discouraged trying to eat healthy because they limit themselves to a diet of rice cakes and carrot sticks. That is a sad existence which makes giving in or giving up easier. Not the goal right? Eating healthy can still mean eating foods you like and making substitutions is a great way to make your favorite recipes a better for you. Here are a few ways to make the foods you love a little healthier.
Recipe calls for:
white bread, rice, pasta
Substitute with wheat bread, brown rice, or whole grain pasta. Why? Whole wheat is higher in fiber, vitamins B6 and E, magnesium, zinc, folic acid and chromium. Even if the calorie count is the same, it will be healthier for you. Read more about it here.

Substitute with ham, lean pancetta or turkey bacon. Why? Generally these are all a bit lower in fat, but still give the salty taste of bacon. Be sure to check your labels though, because sometimes these can be loaded with extra sodium to compensate.

butter, margarine, shortening
If you are baking, substitute applesauce or lfor these lards. Why? In most recipes it's really surprising how little a difference it makes and it saves you a lot of calories. And of course if you're cooking, you can always substitute olive oil in savory dishes.

ground beef
Substitute with lean ground beef, ground turkey/chicken, or even spinach. Why? These are all much leaner meats which give you more nutrients and less fat. You can even add spinach to your ground meat to add extra nutrition while taking space of the extra meat. Turkey and spinach burgers anyone?

Substitute with lite mayo, yogurt, or olive oil and vinegar. Why? Depending on type of dish, all of these are lower in fat and calories than mayo. My dad makes a mean pasta salad that uses half mayo and half yogurt. Oil and vinegar can actually add even more flavor to a sandwich than mayo does.

Substitute with honey, agave, or add extra flavor with spices like nutmeg or cinnamon and reduce sugar. Honey and agave are natural sweeteners and while adding a sugary taste to your food and drink, they also bring nutrients that don't trigger the cravings that cane sugar does. Adding other spices and flavors while reducing sugar will still give you sweetness while also giving you plenty of flavor.

ice cream
Switch it up with sorbet or frozen yogurt. Why? Both of these are lower in fat, and you can also choose options with real fruit for added nutrients.

milk or white chocolate
Substitute with dark or semi-sweet chocolate. Why? Unlike milk or white chocolate, dark chocolate contains potent antioxidants while also included fewer fillers like milk and sugar.

~ how to ~

My first pair of training shoes. We've been through so much together -- I don't know if I can can ever get rid of them!

It's January and in Ashley's world that means it's time to start preparing for my annual run in the Salt Lake half marathon. This morning I was busy at the computer getting together my training schedule, in total disbelief that it's actually that time of year again. Even though the race isn't tied to any sort of "resolution" I set for myself, I still enjoy that my planning conveniently happens in January, the month of new goals. What's awesome is that you don't have to train for a a big race to have a schedule. Any workout goal benefits from taking time to write and follow through with a schedule. Here are a few of my tips for setting up your own.

Write it down. When I run a big race, I have to plan ahead. I write down this plan week by week and think through my personal goals (such as aiming for a faster time). You can use this writing tool for any type of workout goal, from running a race to getting to the gym more days a week. Also, add your schedule to your calendar so it becomes part of your day-to-day routine and is tougher to ignore.

Mix it up. After 7 or 8 weeks of training, I always get kinda sick of running. And that's not good. I don't want to get bored with my runs, especially when I still have another month of training ahead of me. That's why I look for a plan that includes a few activities in addition to running, such as cross training and intervals. Make sure you fit in a mixture of workouts to keep both your mind and your body from getting bored.

Be nice to yourself. Every year, I inevitably have a horrid long run, complete with evil side aches and heavy legs. It's easy to get cranky (I tend to be hard on myself). But I've had to learn that training is like life... you're going to have great days and you're going to have bad days, but you can't give up if you feel frustrated. Part of training is learning to listen to your body and understanding its needs. Trust me, you're going to discover a lot about yourself and your strengths (despite the tough days). Be patient. Staying fit isn't easy (if it was, everyone would do it).

Don't compete with anyone but yourself. Above all else, don't compare your body, weight, or strength level with others. This is much easier to say than to believe since we're constantly pounded by images of the "perfect" body. But trust me, it's not worth it to beat up yourself because of someone else. You'll just get irritated and you're more likely to give up. Get to know and love your unique, beautiful body, find a workout that's right for you, and enjoy getting fit for the right reasons.

Lots of love!

~ how to ~

Okay I'm going to be honest -- I. Am. Exhausted. Like many of you I'm sure, I have spent the last week with family and friends, socializing, partying, preparing for and enjoying the holidays and generally having a grand old time. And now? Now it's time for a long winter's nap.

I'm going to keep this short because, after all, I have some sleep to attend to. How to enjoy your long winter's nap to the fullest.

You will need:
Christmas tree lights
1 comfortable couch
A nice cup of (decaffeinated) tea
A cute puppy to snuggle with and keep you warm (optional, though I highly recommend it)
1 very very soft blanket

Turn on tree lights lights (they will be coming down soon, so may as well enjoy) then lay on couch with blanket on. The lights add a festive feel, plus they are nice to look at when your eyes are all blurry from exhaustion. Sip tea while sitting up. Do not spill. It ruins naptime with burns. Next call the dog to you and calm both of you down by petting her nose. As you pet, you will drift off to dreamland. Sleep for as long as you can or until you have to go to work next, whichever comes first. Enjoy.

~ how to ~


You know how everyone has something they never learned how to do? For me, it's how to sew (other than reattaching a button, which doesn't count). I recently discovered that a certain person in my life doesn't know how to properly wrap a gift. Which really isn't a big deal, but is a skill most people should know. So I decided to teach this person--who totally is not my boyfriend--how to easily wrap a package.

By the way, pardon my not-even-close-to-being-cute hands in these images. A hand model I am not. Oh, and remember clicking on the images enlarges them...
Proper gift wrapping tools
Wrapping paper
A box
Tags (to, from...)
Optional special touches (see this post)

To make sure you have enough gift wrap for your package, start by laying it on the floor and unrolling the wrapping paper until there is enough on each side that the two sides overlap when pulled over the box (see photo 1). (By the way, can you get over our adorable wrapping paper this year? Happy holiday puppies?! So sweet.) Cut the paper, and don't worry if the edges are ragged. We'll fix that later.

Next, cut off any excess paper (photo 2). You want to make sure you'll have enough paper to cover the entire box, but not so much it becomes a total pain to manage.
Fold the paper over your first long side and secure with tape (photo 1). Remember, this side won't be seen, so it doesn't matter if your jagged scissor line shows. Next, flip your gift around and fold over the jagged edge in about 1/4 or 1/2 inch (photo 2). See? No one needs to be able to cut a perfectly straight line... and who can anyway, with those super long wrapping paper rolls? Not me. Secure your nice creased edge with tape (photo 3).
Now, the sides. This is where it gets a little bit tricky, but no fear. First, you're going to want to trim off all that extra paper. A good rule of thumb is to estimate the height of your box and keep the appropriate amount of paper. For example, the side of this box is about one inch, so I measured about an inch of paper (plus a little more, just in case) and chopped off the rest (see picture 1).

Next, hold the box toward you, grab each side of the paper, and bend in, creating two triangles on each side of the top and bottom (see photo 2; photo 3 shows the opposite side).
Starting with the bottom flap, fold the paper in to hide jagged edges (photo 1). Secure flap one with tape (photo 2).
Repeat with the top flap, folding in (photo 1) and taping (photo 2). Simple! Now add ribbons, tags, and any other special touches, and start getting excited to watch your loved one tear it open.
Share |

~ how to ~

Yesterday I called Ashley because I had to tell her how much her post yesterday inspired me. After a series of unfortunate events I was in one hell of a mood and her little holiday rant was exactly what I needed to hear. You'd think this time of year people you see out and about would be extra generous, joyous and courteous. Instead when you face the crowds during the holiday season, you meet parking lots, stores and checkout lines full of raging, greedy people who don't have patience to wait for anything. I nearly got run over by someone's cart the other day. Did the woman stop to apologize? No. Her shopping was obviously more important than my safety. There's something about this shopping pressure that turns normally kind people into idiots. All that being said, I think it is possible to savor the holiday season and not get caught up in the chaos. Here are my top five favorite things that help me keep the holidays in perspective and savor the season.

Follow traditions. Traditions represent a legacy of joy and excitement we share with loved ones. I decorate the tree with my family and reminisce trips where we bought ornaments. Every year my brother and I come up with a new dessert recipe we've never made to share with the family. On Christmas Eve we each open one gift. These are the things I remember and look forward to from year to year and make my heart smile.  

Embrace the people you love. This time of year brings together people I love -- immediate family, in-laws, friends I see regularly, and friends I haven't seen in all too long. This week I will be seeing all of those and that makes me happier than ever. These people are really what make the season the beautiful time it is and when I focus on that, the lady rear-ending my cart is a little easier to deal with.

Remember the joy of giving. Here's where people get stressed. They have to buy a gift for all these people and have no idea what to get. They rush around the busy mall trying to find something, only to battle other frustrated people. It's hard to get excited about giving in this scenario. I counteract this with a few things. First I really try to buy ahead all year. I know that doesn't help you 13 days before Christmas, but when I see something I buy it and save it for December. Goal for next year perhaps? Next, whenever I can, I buy online. There's a much bigger selection and you don't even have to get in your car much less fight traffic, angry mobs and winter weather. Finally, I keep it simple and try to really think about each person before shopping. For me the joy isn't how much I spend or the number of gifts I give, but how meaningful the gift is. I want it to be personal because the joy of giving for me is about finding something I know they will cherish.

Send kindness to others. If you're feeling like a Scrooge, try doing something for someone else. Bake a loaf of bread and bring it to work. Shovel your neighbor's walk. Volunteer at or donate to the homeless shelter. Give a needy family presents. Bringing others joy is sure to allow you to remember the happiness of this season. 

Try to slow down and take it in. There are so many parties to attend and errands to run, but sometimes you just need a breather to put it in perspective. You shouldn't run yourself into the ground to make it everywhere. Take time to enjoy the holidays exactly how you want to, rather than just the way you're "supposed to." If that means snuggling at home by the Christmas tree with your family instead of going to the eight parties you've been invited to that night, so be it.

Hope you all have a happy holiday and can savor this amazing time of year.