Monthly Archives: December 2011

101 in 1001 challenge – December 2011 update

Can you believe 2012 is just around the corner? I have no idea where 2011 went but I’m glad this year almost over. I’ve found it very trying for our family in many ways and even though we overcame most hurdles, the journey was difficult, even painful at times.

I started the year by learning that my estranged father had passed away. The event brought back painful memories but also ignited some curiosity about someone I never knew. I see some good things coming out of it, eventually. Then I had to get another dental crown because an old filling was expanding and cracking my tooth. I had to put my 14-year-old cat to sleep with no slow warning that something was wrong with him. My back pain reached excruciating levels and lasted for months until I stumbled upon an Indian herb (Holy Basil) that seems to work wonders. My freelance business did better than I expected and I had the chance to define the types of projects I really want to work on in the future. My husband had to deal with some demons of his own and it made things difficult for all of us for a while. My youngest started preschool and was great at the transition, while my oldest started kindergarten and had a rough start. He now behaves well 95% of the time and as of this Christmas, he can mostly read on his own. He also had hernia surgery in the fall, which was super stressful for me. My garden was under constant attack for half the year and my crops weren’t as plentiful as expected. And of course, we all got sick with the nastiest stomach bug just before Christmas. As I said, I can’t wait to wish 2011 goodbye and welcome 2012.

It’s been a long time since I’ve done a 101 in 1001 challenge update and I thought, what better time than today, as my last post of the year? This update includes what I completed in October, November and December 2011, so there was quite a lot of time to catch up with, and unfortunately, I didn’t complete as many projects as expected. As I said, better luck in 2012!

Home & Organization
15) Install microwave oven over the stove or repair the current oven (1/1) – DONE
16) Get our gas stove burners fixed (1/1) – DONE
18) Sell or donate the baby toys and clothes in the closet and garage by end of summer 2011 (1/1) – DONE
32) Print memorable photos of my oldest child for the large photo collage frame I bought and put it on the staircase wall (1/1) – DONE
33) Print memorable photos of my youngest child for the large photo collage frame I bought and put it on the staircase wall (1/1) – DONE

I got so pumped up about getting 32) and 33) done that I bought more photo collage frames to document the first couple of years for each kid. I won’t add this new project to my 101 in 1001 list but I’m looking forward to taking care of it eventually.

Writing / Creating (I’ve nowadded Creating to this project list title)
34) Spend 3 hours a day on writing activities (paid or not) during the week, 2 hours a day on weekends (138/1001)
36) Post once a week to my Perfecting Motherhood blog (61/143)
38) Post once a day to my Every Day I See a Cow blog until December 31, 2011 (243/244)

I’ve decided to scrap item #39) (Post 2 to 4 times a month to my Buy Products From France website) . I’m not motivated to maintain this website and the revenue generation is not enough to motivate me further. So I’m rewriting this item with a new project. I’ve been wanting to sell my photographs and other art for a while and I’ve found a few websites I could try out. Putting it on this list will hopefully make me take action.

NEW – 39) Post photographs and other art for sale on and a few other similar websites (0/1)

44) Read one book a week (44/143)
47) Read 5 to 7 new books with my kids every week (33/143)
48) Learn 3 to 5 new words every week and keep a log of them (20/143)

I haven’t done any of these two items yet and 2011 is over. Can you see how screwed I am?
52) Create an Excel spreadsheet for my business expenses and income for 2011 (0/1)
53) Track and document my business deductions and receipts for 2011 (0/1)

Family & Leisure
I’ve done pretty well in this category and was able to make some numbers move up a bit.
54) Spend one-on-one quality time once a week with my oldest (26/143)
55) Spend one-on-one quality time once a week with my youngest (28/143)
57) Cook one large family dish every week (18/143)
58) Make/bake one family dessert every week (13/143)
59) Try 10 new recipes (3/10) (Halloween cookies)
60) Bake Christmas cookies and share with friends and family (1/3)
This is the first time I’ve done this. My chocolate chip cookies didn’t come out as planned but I still managed to put some goodies together and mail them to friends and family. At this time, this is quite an accomplishment for me.

62) Try 10 new restaurants (5/10)
72) Watch one new movie with my husband every other week (12/72)
74) Email or call my sister at least once a month (5/33)

Health & Personal Growth
There’s definitely room for improvement here in 2012…
87) Get at least 7 hours of sleep every night (105/1001)
88) Take my vitamins every day (165/1001)
89) Eat at least one good source of protein every day (156/1001)
90) Drink Diet Coke only twice a week (12/143)
91) Exercise (strenuously) at least 2 times a week (35/246)
92) Check my blood pressure twice a week (10/246)
93) Get 2 mammograms (1 a year) (1/2) – one down!
101) Develop 3 new friendships (0/3)
I almost want to mark 2/3 for this last item because I made friends with two great ladies in my town this year, but I’ll wait a little while longer before I go ahead and make it official.

I found out today from Sarsm that we got lots of new 101 in 1001 challengers (look in my left sidebar for the complete list (please give me a couple of days to add them). If you’d like to join us in this challenge, it’s not too late and the start of a new year is the perfect opportunity to take on new challenges. If you want to sign up, just visit Sarsm and let her know. We’d love to have you join us.

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Our favorite adult literature and children’s books of 2011

WWW Wednesdays

You may have noticed I didn’t post a WWW Wednesdays update yesterday. I simply ran out of time. It was my mom’s last vacation day with us and I couldn’t find enough time in front of the computer to write up my weekly update.

Between shades of gray by Ruta Sepetys

Between shades of gray by Ruta Sepetys

I did want to share with you a wonderful book I just finished a few days ago called Between Shades of Gray by Ruta Sepetys. What an amazing book to learn about this less often told part of history, i.e. Stalin’s own ethnic cleansing of large parts of Eastern Europe that killed 20 million people (he sure got bragging rights over Hitler in the genocide category). Sepetys based her book on her own family’s experiences as well as testimonies from many Lithuanian families. This gives her story a very real feeling when you understand this type of events really happened to millions of uprooted families sent to Siberian forced labor camps. This is a poignant, personal first novel I highly recommend.

Now, instead of doing my weekly WWW Wednesdays update, I thought I’d make a list of our favorite books we read in 2011 and I encourage you to read them too.

My best adult literature book picks of 2011

A dog's purpose by W. Bruce Cameron

A dog's purpose by W. Bruce Cameron

A Dog’s Purpose by W. Bruce Cameron. By far the best book I’ve read this year. It made me laugh, it made me cry and made me enjoy a story about dogs when I’m a cat person. Great storytelling.

The Lying Game by Sara Shepard. Such a great premise and angle for this murder mystery book. I couldn’t put it down and went on to read book #2 in the series, Never Have I Ever. Read it, you won’t regret it.

Room by Emma Donoghue. The first third of this book (the captivity part) kept me on the edge. The rest of it sucked me right in and surprised me several times on the way. This is a wonderful book on a very painful subject.

My best children’s book picks of 2011

The Gruffalo by Julia Donaldson

The Gruffalo by Julia Donaldson

The Gruffalo and The Gruffalo’s Child by Julia Donaldson. Rhyming stories of a tiny mouse outsmarting a terrifying larger than life gruffalo.

 The Mr Putter & Tabby book series by Cynthia Rylant. These are wonderful, funny, kind and sweet stories about Mr Putter, his cat Tabby, his neighbor Mrs Teaberry and her dog Zeke. Our very favorite are Mr Putter & Tabby Paint the Porch, Mr Putter & Tabby Pick the Pears (zing!) and Mr Putter & Tabby Feed the Fish (bat bat bat…).

There Are Cats in This Book and its sequel There Are No Cats in This Book by Viviane Schwarz. These are interactive, hilarious books to read over and over with the kids, even if you’re not a cat person. Kids love to memorize all the lines and read the story on their own, laughing out loud.

What are your favorite book picks for 2011?

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I believe in Santa Claus and you will too!

Merry Christmas cat in a Santa hat

Merry Christmas cat in a Santa hat

Last night I read one of the most wonderful Christmas stories of all times. It’s so wonderful I thought I’d share it with you and I’m sure you’ll want to share it too. I read this story on the San Diego KPBS website .

Take a minute to read this story about a cat named Merry Christmas (no, I’m not making this up) and just in case you were doubting, you’ll truly believe there is a Santa Claus.


San Diego, CA, December 22, 2011

A Merry Christmas came a couple of days early for a 7-year-old Oceanside girl who received exactly what she wanted today — the return of her missing cat.

The 4-year-old tabby that belongs to the Hess family is appropriately named “Merry Christmas,” Kelli Herwehe of the Humane Society said.

“He went missing the day after Halloween, and the family had just about given up,” Herwehe said. “(The girl) went to see Santa Claus last week and the only thing she asked for is for the cat to come home.”

As it turned out, a good Samaritan found Merry Christmas and took him to the Humane Society on Sunday. Herwehe said the feline was identified through a microchip and returned to the Hess clan.

Animal services officials encourage pet owners to get microchips in case their animals disappear. Several pets have been reunited with their owners this year after going missing for long periods of time, thanks to the tiny computer chips.


How amazing is that? And I thought watching “It’s a Wonderful Life” was the perfect thing to put me in the Christmas spirit.

Now, what the news story failed to say is, the girl decided to take her cat Merry Christmas to say thank you to Santa Claus and this is what happened:

Typical cat, quite ungrateful by nature.

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WWW Wednesdays – December 21, 2011

WWW Wednesdays

Did you notice I revamped my blog yesterday? What do you think of the new look?

I was going to work on my “101 in 1001” update late last week when, one by one, each member of our family got attacked by the nastiest stomach bug. It looked like we had an exorcist visiting our home and working its anti-demon moves on all of us for several days. As a parent, there’s nothing worse than being sick as a dog when you have to take care of your kids (whether they’re sick or not themselves). We’re now recovering and finding the energy to get out of the house for fresh air. My advice to you: use hand sanitizer everywhere you go! That bug is NASTY.

My bookshelf

Between shades of gray by Ruta Sepetys– What I’m currently reading
Between Shades of Gray by Ruta Sepetys. A fascinating novel written by the descendant of Lithuanian refugees. In 1941, 15-year old Lina and her family are deported to a forced-labor camp in Siberia. I’m a third into the book and even though it’s definitely not a book to put me in the Christmas spirit (interesting to note it arrived at the library right after I finished Man’s Search for Meaning), I can’t wait to see what’s going to happen next to Lina and her family.

– What I recently finished reading
Man’s Search for Meaning by Viktor Frankl. A fascinating memoir of Frankl’s years spent in various concentration camps during World War II and his analysis of what makes man want to survive such atrocities rather than give up on life. As you read this book, or any book on similar inhumane situations (e.g. genocides, ethnic cleansing, slavery), it’s so hard to believe these still happen in so many places around the world, every day.

– What I think I’ll read next
Deck the Halls by Mary Higgins Clark and Carol Higgins Clark. It’s the prequel to The Christmas Thief, which I just read a few weeks ago. Since it’s set around Christmastime I thought it would be a good change from the horrors of the concentration camps at this time of year.

My kids’ bookshelfThe Berenstain Bears save Christmas

What they’re currently reading
Lots of books with a Christmas theme!
The Berenstain Bears Save Christmas by Stan & Jan Berenstain and Michael Berenstain. A great story to remind our little ones what the true spirit of Christmas really. The Berenstain Bears help Santa Bear find it amongst the Christmas gone-crazy lights, shopping and overall holiday extravagance.
Mr. Willowby’s Christmas tree by Robert Barry. My kids LOVE reading this story. They’re amazed to see how one Christmas treetop that gets chopped because Mr Willowby’s tree is too tall can keep on giving a Christmas tree to so many families. A lovely Christmas story to read all together.
Mooseltoe by Margie Palatini. Papa Moose is taking care of all the Christmas decorations and preparations on his “check” list but his family makes him realize he forgot one crucial item: the Christmas tree. But Papa Moose is here to save Christmas!

What they recently finished reading
How The Grinch Stole Christmas by Dr Seuss. I’m not a big Dr Seuss fan (his over-the-top play of words using made-up words usually drive me nuts) but I’ll admit I really like this story, especially around Christmastime. We also watched the original How The Grinch Stole Christmas DVD based on this book and the kids liked it a lot (it’s about 25 minutes, just right for little ones).
A Sick Day for Amos McGee by Philip C. Stead. A very sweet story about an older gentleman, Amos McGee, who spends time every day with his animal friends at the zoo. When Amos finds himself too sick to go to the zoo, his friends decide to return the favor. 
Look! A book! by Bob Staake. By the author of  The Red Lemon (another great picture book), this is a great seek-and-find adventure picture book with rhyming text and lots of die cuts on every page to find hidden objects and characters. My kids liked reading this book with me and on their own.  
– What I think they’ll read next
There are a few books already waiting for us at the library so I’ll have to pick them up by the end of this week and see what great stories are waiting for us.
What about you? Any books you or your kids are reading you’d like to share?

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