2013 in review

2013? That is so 12 hours ago.

After last night’s festivities, I did the unthinkable. I slept until noon! Crazy, because I am a creature of the sun, rising early even on the weekends.

I thought I’d do a quick review of 2013. I’m a sucker for lists after all. So here are a few of my highlights from the past year.

7069The best book I read this year was The World According to Garp. It happens to also be the first book I read in 2013. It was first published in 1978 and is, in my opinion, an American classic.

This is an amazing account of a fictional writer’s life. I won’t go into too much detail, but whether you’re a writer or not, this is a beautifully crafted story. Well-written and easy to read, I just loved it.

Honorable mentions on my 2013 reading list include Maggie O’Farrell’s Instructions for a Heatwave (pub. 2013) and Hal Higdon’s Marathon: The Ultimate Training Guide (pub. 2000).

Early on in 2013 I started a new job as a writer and researcher covering the resource and energy sectors in Australia, Africa and the Indo-Pacific. I have learned so much about industries essential to the Australian economy, and met some great people.

This past year I also finally got my Australian permanent residency. It’s a long process and Matt and I are so happy it’s settled at last.

Me and Mom at the finish

Me and Mom at the finish

As for experiences, the definite highlight for this year was running my first marathon. I won’t go into detail since I’ve already written about it in the past, but working toward and achieving that goal was incredibly fulfilling. To then share the race with my mother was a dream come true. I’m planning to run my second at some point in 2014.

Perhaps the best thing about this year has been my reunion with knitting. It’s been nearly a decade since I first learned, and it’s been wonderful picking it back up and immersing myself in the hobby. I’ve learned heaps and developed my skills at an exponential rate.

Overall 2013 was a great one. It’s also ended with a bang. My childhood friend Lauren has been spending our Christmas holiday with us over the last two weeks. I’ll gather up the best photos of her trip and summarize it in another post. It’s been amazing having her here.

I look forward to the year ahead. Most exciting is my upcoming marriage to the love of my life. Since we first met in 2009, it’s been a whirlwind and I can’t believe I’ll have been in his country 4 years this July. It’s gone by in a blur, and I’m so lucky to be with him.

Here’s to a fantastic 2014, Happy New Year everyone!

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2014 and looking ahead

I just got back from a morning jog. The house is quiet, I’m the only one awake. I’ve opened the shades and windows and can hear my busy elderly neighbors hard at work to keep their dry Australian lawns alive and thriving.

This day has every promise of being a beautiful Perth summer one, and Lauren (my visiting friend from America) and I have morning beach plans.

On my run, my mind seemed to fixate on the idea of goal formation. As mentioned many times previously, I am a goal-oriented person. Ideas buzzed as I jogged along, and I contemplated what I want for 2014.

New Years is right around the corner, and I have already picked a resolution. In 2014, I want to complain less. Simply put, if I can’t say something nice, I’ll keep my thoughts to myself.

Image courtesy of weheartit

Image courtesy of weheartit

Though this will be a bit of a challenge, it isn’t enough. My mind just wants more. I want my personal 2014 to be about balancing the things I love. So my ultimate 2014 theme is: Read, Write, Sweat, Knit, everyday. It goes without saying that I want to make plenty of time for friends and loved ones, but as far as how I spend my “me” time, I want to make an effort to cover all of these things.

Lately I’ve been letting my writing and exercise slide a bit in favor of reading and knitting. I’ve still been exercising, but not as consistently, and it’s making me restless. Writing, well, that’s taken a definite backseat.

So whether it’s just a journal entry every night, a post-dinner walk with Matt, a quick chapter on my lunch break, or a couple of rows before bed, I plan to, in ways both great and small, make time for all the things I love everyday. A lofty goal yes, but I have a good feeling about 2014. What are your 2014 themes and resolutions?

The life of a reader

In this blog, I have yet to truly touch on my first obsession, which is books. These days, knitting seems to be defining who I am, and eating away (happily) at all of my free time. As 2013 winds down and I begin making my 2014 plans, reflecting on resolutions past present and future, I am lately reunited with literature, my first love.

I intend to do a full 2013 in review post closer to the new year, but this morning on my commute, I was thinking about next year and all the wonderful books I want to read. Every year I try to read 50 books, a tradition I started back in 2009 when I was living in France and had hours of leisure time every week to devote to books. That year I read 55 books; a number that I have yet to match.

This year I’m at 48, and I suspect that for the first time since 2009, I will actually attain the 50. In 2011 I fell just short, reading 47, but in 2010 and 2012 I made a very poor showing of it, only getting to the mid-30s. It’s been fairly easy to reach the goal in 2013, though I will admit that this year has seen a lot more “fluff” books on the nightstand than past ones. Being such a competitive person, having a goal like this is helpful. It’s no big deal at all if I don’t achieve it, but it’s there to subconsciously remind me not to neglect reading.

Here are a few of the books I can’t wait to read in 2014:

1. The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle by Haruki Murakami (a favorite author of mine) – I’ve put off reading this one for so long because I was “saving it,” whatever that means. I want it to be my first book in 2014.

2. Outlander by Diana Gabaldon – The TV series is coming out, and I like to have knowledge about big pop culture phenomena coming up. It’s actually been in my “to read” shelf on Goodreads for years, and now’s definitely the time to jump on the bandwagon before it explodes. I already have it on my Kindle.

3. Life After Life by Kate Atkinson – Have heard good things, I think I’ll listen to this one as an audiobook.

4. Dark Places by Gillian Flynn – Read her other two books in 2013, and though they are super creepy, I’m eager to read this one too.

5. The Glass Castle by Jeanette Walls – Another that has been on my “to read” shelf for ages.

6. What We Talk About When We Talk About Love by Raymond Carver – Both Matt and I have been dying to read this seemingly forever, but we can never find a copy!

7. The Post-Birthday World by Lionel Shriver – Loved the other two books of hers that I read, so I’d love to try another.

8. The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay by Michael Chabon – Yet another that’s long been on my radar.

9. Allegiant by Veronica Roth – This year I read the first two books in the Divergent series. I realize these are teen novels, but like I said, I like to be up to date on the big pop culture phenomena. This certainly doesn’t hold a candle to The Hunger Games, but the movie is coming out, so I’d like to finish off the series. Though I’ll admit I really didn’t like the second book, so I have been putting this off since the third came out.

10. Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World that Can’t Stop Talking by Susan Cain – Heard about this one on a podcast and it sounds fascinating.

I am a great lover of audiobooks, and recently I gave in and signed up for an audible account. When a typical audiobook costs around $30 on itunes, it’s been totally worth it to me to pay less than $23/month and get two for free and the rest at very discounted prices. November was the first month I had the account. It was helpful while doing NaNoWriMo to be able to just shut my eyes and listen to a book on the bus or before bed after computer overload.

2013 is also the first year I’ve had a Kindle. It was a Christmas gift from my parents, and it’s been excellent to have any book you want just a click away. It makes the transition between books quick, and I’ve even used it to “check out” ebooks from my library back home in Hennepin County.

The other thing I might try is to re-read a few books this year to see how they “hold up.” These wouldn’t count toward the 50, but it’s an idea that’s been marinating a longtime.

What are some of your “to reads” for 2014? I have many more, so watch my On the Nightstand space in the sidebar to keep up with what I’m reading!

Music as motivation

It’s crazy to think it’s only been two months since I ran my first marathon. It feels like a lifetime ago.

Since my training ended, I’ve been having fun getting back into classes at the gym, doing yoga, and going for long walks with Matt. I’ve even been able to start riding my bike to work again on days the rain chooses to subside.

It’s been an unusually long winter in Perth, with the rain lasting late in October, when normally we’d enjoy a beautifully sunny spring. Between early morning wind and storms, knitting into the wee hours, and my busy gym and work schedule, I have let my early morning run routine fall to the wayside. ENTER: Music and sunshine.

She's called Joni. Get it?

She’s called Joni. Get it?

Ever since I was in college, I would always get motivated to run when I heard a great new song at a party or on the radio. I love a good beat, and although I hardly listen to the radio these days, (it’s all podcasts all the time, especially in the car – at least until the new Arcade Fire comes out this week!!) I am still exposed to good running jams every now and then.

Personally I think music – even more than friends – is the best motivator for both running and doing chores. If I can dance while mopping, all the better. This morning I decided that rather than waiting all the way to 9:15 for Body Attack at the gym (I’m an earlier riser, we’ve established this), I would go for a run. It was time to revamp my running mix with a few tunes I’ve been loving lately. Feel free to judge, I am not ashamed.

New on my playlist

1. The Wire by Haim – check out the video too, I absolutely LOVE this song. It’s not quite the usual fast beat I like to run to, but I like it so much it doesn’t matter.

2. Talk Dirty to Me by Jason DeRulo – heard this one again a few weekends ago when out dancing with friends. Certainly not family friendly, but a GREAT beat.

3. Classic by MKTO – again, judge if you will. It’s catchy

Oldies but goodies currently on my mix

1. Let’s Groove by Earth Wind and Fire – YES.

2. She Drives me Crazy by Fine Young Cannibals – great jam, totally classic.

3. Sussudio by Phil Collins – if you know me at all, you know that I LOVE Phil.

4. Dancing with Myself by Billy Idol – this has a perfect beat for running, as does…

5. Super Freak by Rick James

6. Video Killed the Radio Star by The Buggles – can’t go wrong with this one

7. Sleepyhead by Passion Pit – it’s the perfect first song on a running mix

8. Pompeii by Bastille – not exactly an oldie, but it’s been a favorite for awhile

9. 867-5309 (Jenny) by Tommy Tutone – makes me laugh

10. Nobody’s Supposed to Be Here by Deborah Cox – great motivator and great to dance to

I could go on and on, but these suggestions are more than enough to get you started. What songs are staples on your workout/cleaning playlists? I’m always open to ideas (though if you say Taylor Swift, FRIENDSHIP OVER).

Finding the knit/life balance

In the US, people are always on about the work/life balance. Work can be so demanding and all-consuming that they have to remind themselves to slow down and make time for the good things in life.

Australia is different. Here, I’ve never heard anyone complain that work is so intense that they don’t have time to eat/sleep/socialize, etc. People here seem to have more of a handle on leaving work at the office. Of course I can only speak for Perth, but this sort of relaxed and casual attitude seems to be an Aussie thing in general. And I think it’s great.

What I am having is a crisis of knit/life balance. Lately I’ve been so consumed by my knitting habit obsession that I’m letting other things slide. I still work hard when I’m at the office of course, but my free time is being bogarted by my need to knit.

I listen to all these podcasters talk about all the projects they have in the works, and I just wonder how they make quality time for their families between all the knitting, quilting and spinning they’re doing. I feel inadequate by comparison, knowing that I’ve been neglecting those around me in a haze of yarn.

I need to figure out how to fit knitting in with the other things I love. I haven’t been reading everyday, which is unheard of in my world. I’ve even been exercising less (including yoga). I stay up late clicking away at the needles and then I’m exhausted in the morning.

Normally I’d be reading on the bus and on my lunch break, I’d do a daily workout of one kind or another, and I’d spend time with Matt and do some writing in the evenings. So where does knitting fit in?

2013-Participant-Twitter-Header

My plan for this year was always to participate in NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month), where aspiring novelists write 50,000 words in a month. I recently decided I just wouldn’t have the time. But why not?

It’s October 17th, giving me around two weeks to prepare. Even if I fail to reach the 50,000 word mark, I think this is a commitment I need to make. It’s been bothering me ever since I declared I couldn’t do it. There will be time to knit. There will be time to read and to spend with Matt. My writing deserves this, and who am I to deny it?

So this week is now about figuring out how to make time for all the things I love. Wish me luck!