Birthday Bear Turns 19!

Today our beloved Essy Francis turns 19 years old!  Essy is the shining sun in my life, the stars in my sky, my heart pitter-pattering.  I love her dearly.  Happy Birthday Essy Mom Cookie Bear!  You can have unlimited Fancy Feast and white bread all day today! 
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Essy received special emails, tweets and voicemails on her birthday! <3
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This is Essy when she was 1!  What a cute baby.
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Have a great day Essy.  Relax with some catnip!
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HAPPY BIRTHDAY ESSY!
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PS. Don’t forget to check out her blog! It’s been active since 2006!

Window Farm Cleaning

Our Window Farm has been feeling neglected the last few months.  It had a few basil plants that were drying up naturally and a swiss chard plant requesting love.   We kept saying we were going to clean it out, but we got busy with other things.  So last night we planted new herb and vegetable seeds and today I cleaned out what was in it.
Here’s the Window Farm before.  The good part of this is the majority of the basil was already dried so I just collected it, crumbled it and now have dried basil for recipes.  Not like I need it though. I have 6 jars of it still left from the summer.  Does anyone need dried basil?
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There was still some green fresh basil on some of the plants.  These were picked and will be used for pizza later this week.
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Swiss Chard is so pretty isn’t it?  It’s the best shade of pink.  WP_20130130_011
Here is proof that hydroponic roots can grow big!  This is the roots of a basil plant.  If you have a Window Farm you have to be sure these don’t clog up the bottles or your plants below it won’t receive water.  Also you will have a flood. Trust me on this one.  
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Dried and fresh basil all picked.
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Here’s the seeds we planted for the next round.  There’s plenty of basil, buttercrunch lettuce, black seeded lettuce and dwarf pok choy (Thank you Wanda for the seeds!).WP_20130130_017
So now we wait.  Once the seedlings are big enough to stand on their own, then we will sprinkle off the dirt from their roots and transplant it in a rooting sponge.  The dirt like sponge has great aeration, it’s made from composted organic materials with a special water based polymer that ensures just the right amount of moisture is maintained
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Chicken Noodle Soup

There used to be only one chicken noodle soup recipe in my life.  But now there’s 2.  Let me introduce you to my new friend chicken noodle soup. You guys will probably get along good.  Chicken noodle soup is really nice and makes you feel special.  It takes care of you when you’re sick.   When it’s winter it warms you up.  It really is a great friend to have.  Please get to know one another.

You can find the recipe I used here.  Print it out, bookmark it, cherish it forever.

Also, I am obsessed with the new video service Vine.  You should follow us on it.  I made a Vine for this recipe.

There is a few things I would like to say about this recipe:
1.  I will make homemade egg noodles whenever I can for the rest of  my life.  Honestly, these are the star in this recipe. I could just eat them by themselves.   They are so good.
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2. I will make homemade chicken broth whenever I can for the rest of my life.  No more bouillon cubes or broth in a plastic box.  No way.  Give me chicken bones, let me simmer and magic will happen.
3. Homemade chicken broth does stain.   Example, if you are using a white spoon, it will turn yellow.  Mine did.  The good part is that it looks like a dip dyed spoon that I would probably buy for $20.  Instead  I got it for free.  And chicken broth.
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4.  This recipe will make 4-6 servings.  So if you are cooking for 2, this will easily make 2 meals.  We had it Friday and Saturday which was great because those days were brutally cold.
5.  Serve it with a warm roll with butter.  Everything is better with warm rolls.
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6.  I did not know white pepper existed.  Then I saw this recipe and had to find it at the Supermarket.  My soul told me if it was less than $3 I could buy it.  It was only $1.79 so I bought it.  I’d say white pepper is more tangy, but less milk than black pepper. White pepper consists of the seed of the pepper plant alone, with the darker colored skin of the pepper fruit removed.  Some people use it when they don’t want to see black pepper flakes for aesthetic reasons, like in white sauces or mashed potatoes.  Try it.
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7.  If you are lazy and don’t want to cut up your own chicken you can buy a chicken already cut up for you $0.20 more per pound.  I totally did this.
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8.  I didn’t use a onion in this.  Of course not.  I cut up carrots and celery.  These are the same carrots from our garden from the Fall.  Man, carrots store amazing.   I heard someone once say that carrots only last them a few days in the refrigerator.  I turned to stare at that person in disbelief and might have rolled my eyes.  Don’t be mean to carrots.  They are the warriors of your crisper drawer.
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9.  I never call it a crisper drawer.  Only when I want to make myself giggle.
10 .  Make this chicken noodle soup.  People will cheer for you.  I got told by Matthew about 10x that I won a life award with this soup.  I have no idea what this life award is, but when someone says you win at anything you hold your head high and smile.
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Homemade Egg Noodles

Tonight I am planning a delicious chicken noodle soup where I will eat it in my pajamas, with a blanket on top of me and then afterwards not get off the couch for hours.    You see it’s very cold here to the point of where I text before I get home so someone can have a hot cup of tea ready for me.   Also today I hurt my shoulder blade (I call it my “angel wing” which confuses everyone) carrying a 24 pack of Fancy Feast.  Dont ask.  Just know I love cats so much I injure myself while freezing out on the street.  Where was I?

Egg noodles! So I went to the store because I was looking for frozen egg noodles – something more tasty than the bagged ones.  Something that just has flour, eggs, salt and butter in it.  Something that doesn’t have ingredients like FERROUS SULFATE (IRON), THIAMINE MONONITRATE, RIBOFLAVIN, FOLIC ACID in it which honestly I don’t know what they are.  You know what I mean?   Something that my mom would have made.  Well actually I don’t think my mom ever made noodles from scratch.  But you know what I mean, I know you do.

So after I struck out at the supermarket where they don’t sell frozen egg noodles I set off to make my own.  I’m so glad I did, I’m not sure if I can ever buy them again!  Please try these! You can use them right away, refrigerate for later in the day, or freeze for whenever you want!

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Full recipe and walk through behind the cut.

PS. This post brought to you by one covered in flour phone.
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Brussels Sprouts + Beans

Tonight while the other half is out enjoying his monthly “Man Club” where they do manly things (actually they play video games and eat tacos – I’m not sure if this is exactly “manly” but I will let them believe that) I decided to make myself a good fish dinner.   I don’t get to eat my beloved fish too often as Matthew dislikes it and usually we are cooking for 2, so when the chance comes up to eat alone I will usually spoil myself with either salmon or sushi.  Tonight it was salmon – but what for a side? This delicious Brussels Sprouts and beans dish!  This would be a great side dish with any type of meat or fish.  It would be great on pasta too!  Actually it would be great as a main dish with some crusty bread.  What I’m trying to say is it’s really good and if you love Brussels Sprouts you will be very happy.  I love them!

The below ingredients are for 3-4 side dish servings.  I kept a good bit to snack on for lunch the next few days.

Ingredients:
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 pound Brussels Sprouts (cut them in half)
3 cloves garlic minced
1/2 cup chicken broth
1 can (15 ounces) cannellini beans (drained)
1/2 tablespoon butter
Parmesan cheese to sprinkle

Directions:
In a large pan add 1 tablespoon olive oil and heat up to medium-high heat.  Add your Brussels Sprouts and sauté until they are browned on both sides.   Remove the Sprouts and put on a plate.
Add the other 1 tablespoon of olive oil to the now empty pan, add garlic.  Stir until garlic is browned.
Put the Brussels Sprouts back in the pan and then add the chicken broth.  Toss the Sprouts to get them fully coated in the broth.  Let them cook in the broth for about 5 minutes.
Add the cannellini beans and butter.  Stir until all the butter has melted.
Remove off the stove, and add the Parmesan cheese on top and stir.
Enjoy!

Prepping:
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Browning:
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Setting the Sprouts aside to brown the garlic:
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Mixing everything together:
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Beautiful, isn’t it?
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Served with some salmon and ginger ale:WP_20130124_027

Have a nice dinner!

2013 Garden Has Begun!

The subject is very exciting – the 2013 garden has begun! Seeds have been planted for broccoli, cauliflower, onions, kale, spinach, cabbage, lettuce, brussels sprouts tonight.
Broccoli – 8 plants, hopefully as lovely as last year,  stay away aphids.
Cauliflower – 8 plants (2 different kinds – hybrid, giant of naples), hopefully as delicious as last year, stay away aphids.
Onions – hopefully as lovely as last year, this was matthews pride and joy last year.
Kale – hopefully will be monsters like last year, stay away white flies.
Spinach – i lied in this post, we are growing it again this year.  we have 2 different kinds – hybrid, new zealand.
Cabbage – never grew, please be successful so I can make halupkies.
Lettuce – never grew from seed, please be successful.
Brussels sprouts – never grew, please be successful because I  love you so much.WP_20130112_041
So there it is – what the Spring garden looks like so far.  Sugar snap peas and carrots will be planted directly into the soil on the roof sometime in late February, early March.  Whew!  Lots of greens, very excited.
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I know I say it every year but it always amazes me that this little seed can turn into this big guy. Man, nature is amazing, I can’t even understand how it does what it does.  Thank you life. Thank you world.  Thank you to the plant gods that I love dearly and sing and dance to in the garden circling our plants, showering them with love and hopeful dreams of becoming big and strong.  I respect you nature.  You are A+ in my book. I give you so little and you give me so much.  Please love me back.
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This is seedling box 1 of 2.  There’s alot of things going on.  I graphed everything out and wrote everything down but somehow a cabbage will get mixed up in the lettuce section and cause me anxiety for a week.  It always happens. I swear they come to life at night and move around.
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Shout out to the best helpers in the world too, Brother Bear and Xanadu Pluto.  Xanadu just wanted a pencil I was writing with while Brother wanted every single seed packet.  We could not find the cauliflower seed pack anywhere, turns out Brother Bear laid on it and it was completely hidden under his belly.  He was also very fascinated with the Brussels sprouts.  What a guy.
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This year we also got a new grow light system going on.   This used to be the old set up.  It was one small 24×12 shelf with 3 6500 CFL bulbs.
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This is the new system.  It’s a 48×12 shelf with 4 4ft 6500 fluorescent bulbs.   We looked at premade kits on all the garden websites but they are so overpriced.  $200 for 2 bulbs and a light fixture? You out of your mind. So we went to Home Depot and bought our own supplies.  This setup cost about $70.  *High Five*
Have you started anything with your Spring Garden yet?  While at Home Depot we were overly excited to see they have a full selection of seeds, trays and supplies all ready to go.  Last year I don’t think they got their seeds until March.  I hope I had something to do with it as I constantly went there every single day pleading for potting mix. The garden section manager eventually just gave me his business card so I could call him for updates.  I felt both cool and pathetic.
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Happy garden planning!

Quay Brothers at The MOMA

One of my wishes for 2013 was  to see more in NYC.  That means not to give excuses for not seeing shows before they end.  I listed pros and cons in my head while laying in bed early Sunday deciding if I should go or not.  They went something like this:
Pro:  I should see it, you know you will love it.
Con: But that means I have to get out of bed and the blankets are so warm!
Pro:  It ends tomorrow, you will never see it again.
Con: But my pajamas are so cozy! And I wanted to wear them all day!
Pro:  You will get in exercise and get Fuel points.  You will be doing 2 great things!
Con:  But I want to go the store and buy supplies to make chili.
Pro: You can go to the store on the way home and buy those.
Con: But I have work to do, editing needs to be done.
Pro:  Just stay up later, stop being a baby, you don’t want to miss this show! Also MOMA has good chocolate croissants.  And you get in free with your faculty cards!
Con:  I want to stay in my pajamas.
Pro: MOMA always has their Christmas cards on sale in January.  And I know how much you love those cards. I know how much you spent on them last year when they weren’t on sale.
GUILT.
Ok, I will go!
So I got myself out of bed, threw on a pretty skirt, and took the G to the E and went to the MOMA.

Turns out this was a great choice because the exhibition was pretty amazing.  It was 3 floors worth of their video work, props, sets and drawings.  I also learned that they grew up on the Schuylkill River in Pennsylvania, and I’m from Schuylkill County, so we’re basically friends.  The Quay Brothers just don’t know this yet.

Background information that I’m summarizing from Wiki/myself: Stephen and Timothy Quay (born June 17, 1947) are American identical twin brothers better known as the Brothers Quay or Quay Brothers.  The Quay Brothers reside and work in England, having moved there in 1969 to study at the Royal College of Art, London  after studying illustration at the Philadelphia College of Art.    They are influential stop-motion animators and set designers that are known for their dark, creepy style. Most of their animation films feature puppets made of doll parts and other organic and inorganic materials, often partially disassembled, in a moody atmosphere. The Quay Brothers’ works show a wide range of often esoteric influences, starting with the Polish animators Walerian Borowczyk and Jan Lenica and continuing with the writers Franz Kafka, Bruno Schulz, Robert Walser and Michel de Ghelderode, puppeteers Wladyslaw Starewicz and Richard Teschner.

Quay Brothers ends at the MOMA Monday.  Go see it and be amazed.
Come on in with me…

Their exhibition at MoMA in 2012 featured work spanning their entire career tracing back as early as childhood (including photos of their ice skating mother), with much of the material shown for the first time.

Some of the highlights for me:
I love Kafka’s Metamorphosis so very much, so I was delighted to see that the Quay Brothers adapted the story and created their own stop motion film on it that incorporates stop-motion animation, puppetry, and live-action pantomime.  On display was one of the actual sets which I just stood in front of for minutes with a giddy smile on my face while others walked by creeped out by the bug (or by the girl with the big smile).  Unfortunately I wasn’t able to see the film, but hopefully I will be able to someday…
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There’s really something special to get up and close with their dioramas.
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I had no idea that the brothers did the stop motion animation for Peter Gabriel’s amazing video “Sledgehammer”.  Word on the street is that brothers weren’t very pleased about the outcome but I love it.

Lastly, I found this interview that the brothers did and wanted to share some of my favorite parts as I can definitely feel a connection to what they’re saying.
How much do you think that your commercial work of the past ten years has fed into your film shorts and features?
Timothy:  It’s just the opposite. We’re hired to do commercials because of previous work. I don’t think there’s been any commercial [job] that’s informed us. The only thing that a couple of commercials did was allow us a bit of post-production work, digital post-production, which we got familiar [enough] with to know “Ah, we can do this.” Commercials have big budgets. Whereas usually, like on Street of Crocodiles or any of our animation films, there’s never any budget for post-production. None, ever. You try to do as much as you can inside the camera.

What is your scheme, then, for pushing yourselves ahead, creatively speaking?
Stephen: Ideally, what we’d like to do is Bruno Schulz’s novel Sanatorium.We don’t have grand schemes. It’s better that we be pushed into a corner. Our idea is to be pushed further and further into a corner where another kind of infinity opens up. I mean, to do In Absentia II would be great. We wanted to do it from the husband’s point of view, but nobody’s bitten. Every time we’ve had a project, like Benjamenta, it’s closed doors for us. Absentia closed doors for us. On Crocodiles, we got Peter Gabriel’s “Sledgehammer out” of it. Otherwise, basically, we don’t get any work.

Do you — either of you — ever have a desire to work alone, apart from the other?
Stephen: No, you’re sort of joined both psychologically and metaphorically at the hip or at the heart. I think the kind of work that we do is very demanding. Most animators tell us how they envy our duality. We’ve grown up together our whole life. We went to art school, and we each did our own art, but when it comes to film, we have to come together — they’re not going to give you two budgets to make two films. And it’s forced us to work things out. And who better than identical twins could feel at home with the other? If Timothy has an idea, immediately you sort of build on it, and it goes quickly. It’s really just focusing it, where you’ve got lots of bottles of wine on the table and notepaper and the film evolves. Timothy: There’s a lot of intuition. And when we start to actually make the puppets and build the décor — it’s a stage where you really open up. That’s where the journey really starts to take place. So it’s very important, that expiration, that sigh, it’s very important for us. And if it was somebody else you were working with, they’d [say] “Well, what are you doing?” and you’d say, “I’m exploring.” They’ve usually got storyboards, and it’s all blocked out. But we don’t have storyboards, we have it here [points to his head], between us. On a commercial, they ask for storyboards and we do it, reluctantly.

I’m so happy I ended up going and getting able to see all their work.  I would definitely recommend checking out their work if you like what you see above.

Mexican Velveeta Cauliflower

Look, I love Velveeta.  I’m not even trying to hide it.  I would walk down the street with the Velveeta block in my hand nibbling on it if society would not frown upon that.  Instead, I will sit at my desk and eat it.  I love everything about it.   I love it cubed.   I love Velveeta macaroni and cheese (it’s the best). If you don’t like Velveeta I’m not sure if we can really be friends (just kidding, sort of).  I also love cauliflower, it’s yummy and good for you!  I bought some cauliflower a few days ago and planned to make cauliflower soup but today I was craving cauliflower and cheese, so that’s what I made for dinner. I know cauliflower is good for you, but this recipe probably wouldn’t be considered healthy so just a warning.   This was a big hit, as soon as Matthew tasted it he said “Write this recipe down!”.  Calm down man.
I love this recipe on a cold night, or just a “cheer me up” meal. It’s very delicious and quick to make.  It also only needs a few ingredients!

Ingredients:
1 head cauliflower
1 block of Velveeta (16 oz)
1 15 oz can of diced tomatoes
1 4 oz can of diced green chiles

Directions:
Steam your cauliflower for a few minutes until it’s tender but still has a crunch.
Cube your Velveeta.  Take one cube and just eat it.
Put Velveeta, diced tomatoes, chiles in a small pot over medium low heat.
Keep stirring until it’s melted completely.
Pour over steamed cauliflower.
Enjoy!

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Full walk through behind the cut.

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Garden 2013 Planning

You know why I love having a garden? Because it’s January, feels like 22 degrees out and I can look in my freezer, grab some frozen soy beans I preserved a few months ago and have fresh edamame in a few minutes. It feels like summer now! Minus the 3 pairs of socks I have on and that I’m sitting in front of a heater.
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In just a few weeks the 2013 garden will be started.  We will start plotting the outline, and then seeds will be started inside.  This year we’re going to move some of the boxes around, try a few new vegetables, not grow some and continue to glare at the person who constantly shuts off our hose in the laundry room.

Here is a table on what we’re hoping to grow this year..
Yes Will Grow: The usuals, vegetables we have grown before.
New First Time: New vegetables we want to try growing.
No Won’t Grow: Grew them, but decided not to this year.

YES Will Grow NEW First Time NO Won’t Grow
Broccoli Brussels Sprouts Red Beans
Cauliflower Lettuce Spinach (maybe)
Onions Pickling Cucumbers Potatoes (maybe)
Kale   Flowers
Sugar Snap Peas    
Carrots    
Tomatoes    
Green Peppers    
Corn    
Green Beans    
Pumpkins    
Watermelon    
Soy Beans    
Strawberries    

The yes column is pretty self explanatory.    These are the usual cast of characters and have grown successfully on the roof.
New this year we’d like to try Brussels Sprouts, lettuce and pickling cucumbers from seed.  Last year we had lettuce but it wasn’t from seed.  Also, we had success last year with regular cucumbers but I want pickling cukes so we will try Kirby cucumbers. I’m obsessed with Brussels Sprouts so that is understandable.
There are a few plants that we have grown but most likely won’t grow this year.  The red beans grew amazing and looked like tentacles, but we would rather green beans.  The spinach was successful as well but besides cupcakes we really don’t eat it.  Lastly, our luck with potatoes has been good and bad.  Some years they grow great, some years the heat kills them.  For the amount of soil they need, and how cheap they are to actually buy in the store (compared to the price of seed potatoes) it might be most economical to just not grow them this year (even though this breaks my heart).  Also this year I really don’t want to grow flowers unless they’re Rhododendrons or varieties like this.  Growing flowers just doesn’t excite me as much as growing a pumpkin.

What’s your garden look like for 2013?

Hello 2013!

Welcome the year 2013!
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Although I will promise you I will be writing the year 2012 on everything until at least July. I don’t make resolutions per say, but here’s a few things I look forward to, and hope to push in the next 12 months.

I turn 30 this year, and it’s totally ok.  You know when you’re young and you think 25 is old, and then you turn 25 and you glare at your self in it’s youth.  That’s how I feel about 30. 30 isn’t old.  30 is still young.  Will I say this at 40? We’ll see.  But I welcome 30, even though I’m very curious what the next decade will bring in life events.
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Continue to take care of myself.  This year during June I started working out regularly for the first time in my life.  Now it’s January 1st and not only did I lose multiple sizes in clothing and currently 17 pounds, but I feel great.  I realized before how much I was just sitting at my computer and not being active.  I started to feel tired and not motivated.  Now with the help of monitoring myself everyday and knowing when I need to get up and move, it’s made me feel alot better about myself and become aware of what I need.  I also  learned how to eat better this year without starving myself.   You can still eat that piece of fudge, go for it, but it’s about learning when to stop.  This is hard when the fudge is so good, but once you learn to control yourself, it becomes quite simple to just “stop”.  I’m proud of myself for finally learning to take care of my body and I hope this continues.  One thing I want to give credit to is the Nike Fuel Band.  I received this a few months ago and I have to say it’s been very helpful with reaching my daily goal.  Sometimes you don’t quite realize how inactive you are being, and then you look at your fuel band at 8:00PM and realized you haven’t moved much at all.  Each day I need to get to 3,000 fuel points.  If I look at it at night and I’m not close to it, I will either get up and exercise (usually either running or dancing – I find dancing is a powerful workout) or take a long walk.  Do I need to get a carton of eggs? Ok, well instead of going to the grocery store a few feet away, let’s walk to one 2 miles away.  The fuel band really helps encourage to have a daily game with yourself.   If you need to get motivated, I really can’t say enough good things about it.  If you get one, be sure to add me to your friends, you can motivate each other on this and a little push sometimes really helps.
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Take more fashion risks.  Have you always wanted that shiny purse box but wasn’t sure what to wear it with?  Figure it out.  You don’t need to pair it with a sparkly dress, just wear it with your grandma winter coat.  You can wear anything, don’t be afraid.  I just got this bag and I’m in love with it.  If a little thing like a shiny bag will make me happy, then I’m going to accept that smile.
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Stop and tell someone you love them. Make sure that person you actually love or that might be weird for a stranger on the street.  Have pets? Tell them you love them.  Pets need time out of every single day for your devotion.  They become good critters because you are a good critter friend.  Let them know how special they are to you.
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February will be the month of Matthew and my 10 year Anniversary. Who knew that 10 years ago when we first met in a college dorm in Pittsburgh that eventually we would have everything we have today, because we did it together.  It’s a good feeling to realize you created what you have. Be proud of it and keep working towards better.
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Keep exploring the new.  Stay ahead of the curve, learn new things, push yourself, don’t be afraid of the unknown.  Doing the same thing is boring, don’t fall into that trap.   If you learn one thing, learn 2 more and then put them all together.  Who knows, it could be something amazing, but you don’t know unless you try.  Changes don’t come overnight, be patient.  If you’re proud of what you’re doing, then you’re doing great. It will come.
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See more. I live in one of the greatest cities in the world but don’t take advantage of it as much as I can.  Make sure to see a show before it ends. Want to try that taco place? Do it. Go to a park and do nothing.   Show NYC how much I love it.
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Get a washer and dryer.   Make my dream come true.
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