Category Archives: 33 before 33

Carpet cleaning

I made a list of 33 things I want to do before I turn 33 in June 2014.  See the full list here.

5.  Get our carpet cleaned.  A few years of normal wear and tear plus several construction projects have left it in rough shape.


It’s the most wonderful day of the year!  By “a few years of normal wear and tear” I really meant that the carpets hadn’t been cleaned since Chad bought the house…5 years ago.  And, I’m pretty sure the previous owners had pets.  They were in rough shape.  Sorry, everyone who has ever been at our house.

But, today. Today was carpet cleaning day.  I got a couple of estimates and went with the guy who was cheapest, who also happens to be the closest to our house.  Who also happens to own a paint ball company.  So there’s that.

2 hours later, and you guys.  It’s amazing.  The carpet looks (and smells) fresh and clean and the big weird stains that I pretended to ignore are gone.  Hooray.

Cleaning 1

Exhibit A of the nice clean carpet – weird spots in the guest bedroom upstairs.  Gone.

cleaning 2Exhibit B of the nice clean carpet – weird spots (and feathers…don’t keep extra pillows under the bed, I guess).  Gone.

I couldn’t be more pleased.


Surviving No Money March

I made a list of 33 things I want to do before I turn 33 in June 2014.  See the full list here.

18.  Institute a No-Spend month.  31 days of not buying stuff.  Read this for more.


I did it!  I survived my No-Spend month!

  • I didn’t buy any clothing or shoes for myself.  We did replace Chad’s bum around the house sweatpants after he ripped an unfortunate hole in them.  Because comfy pants are considered a necessity around here.
  • I didn’t buy any home decor or throw pillows, or even go to Home Goods just to look.
  • I didn’t buy any craft supplies or books or clearance necklaces or makeup or other super fun but unnecessary Target splurges.
  • In fact, I didn’t go to Target at all.  The whole month.  This alone should be celebrated.
  • I didn’t spend my little Starbucks budget on lazy solo trips – I used it on visits with friends. Okay, truth?  I did once dig spare change out of my car to buy myself a Bad Day Starbucks.  It was Secret Starbucks at the time, but I’ll come clean here.
  • I DID actually manage to clean out my refrigerator, organize my freezer and purge my itty-bitty pantry of out of date food (Clam sauce from 2008?  How was that still in there? And why did my husband ever buy clam sauce?)

Overall, I’m calling it a success.  Hooray.

She works with willing hands

I made a list of 33 things I want to do before I turn 33 in June 2014.  See the full list here.

1.  Make yeast dough from scratch.  My mom makes wonderful bread and cinnamon rolls, but I’m terrified of baking.



 I have my mother’s hands.  Small wrists, sharp angled knuckles, prominent veins.  We’ll never be hand models.  But we are women who work with our hands, making, creating, cleaning, caring, loving.  Baking.

Well, at least Mom bakes.  An oven with uneven temperatures, a high-humidity house, and a few unfortunate sticky-dough experiences later – I’m officially scared to bake.  So, in order to conquer #1 on my 33 before 33 list, I knew I’d need help.  Mom took a day off work and came to Omaha to teach me how to handle yeast dough.

2PicMonkey Collage.jpgWe started with a herbed peasant bread recipe that I love – it makes the best toast and grilled cheese sandwiches.  We dissolved the yeast, mixed the herbs and flour (by hand, thankyouverymuch – no Kitchen Aid here!), and then came the kneading.

Grease and flour the counter, oil your hands, turn and knead the dough, turn and knead, turn and knead.  Feel the rhythm, count the minutes, learn the dough.  The dough rested on its heating pad nest, the yeast doing its growing work, the balls doubling in size in time.  There’s no rushing dough rising.

PicMonkey Collage.jpgWe worked on whole wheat cinnamon rolls while the bread dough rested.  Turn and knead, turn and knead.  I had to call in reinforcements (Mom! Help!) when the dough got sticky.  Turns out keeping a steady rhythm is important.  No stopping to chat while turning cinnamon roll dough.

After the cinnamon roll dough had rested, we mixed the butter, sugar and cinnamon, rolled out the dough, spread the filling and rolled up the dough.  Rolls get cut with string, just like Grandma did it.  Her hands look like ours, too.


Golden brown and delicious.  I need to work on consistent roll sizes.  Still a lot to learn.  IMG_2416

Also?  Do not forget the frosting.  More butter more cream cheese more better.  That’s important.

IMG_2418I love spending time with my mom.  I love getting to know her as a grown up.  I love the way she shares her heart and her story with such grace, the way she’s finding her strength and voice, the way she pours into her family and community from the deep wells of her faith.  I love learning about her and learning from her and I’m so thankful for the time she gave me this weekend.

IMG_2363But sometimes, Mom learns from me.  Like what it means to “Let’s get a Sonic.”  Excellent.

No Money March

I made a list of 33 things I want to do before I turn 33 in June 2014.  See the full list here.

18.  Institute a No-Spend month.  31 days of not buying stuff.  Read this for more.


28 more days of not buying stuff, actually.  Hello, March 3.   I was inspired by Rachel at Small Notebook‘s no-spend experiment a few years ago, and have always wanted to try one of my own.  She defines the process as “no spending except for basic necessities” and I think that’s a good way to define it for me as well.  Here’s my guidelines for myself this month:

  • I won’t buy clothing.
  • I won’t buy home decor.
  • I won’t buy colored markers, lip gloss, washi tape, or a new pair of shoes, simply because we did actually need toothpaste.

Target, I’m looking at you.

  • I will spend my small monthly Starbucks budget while getting together with a friend, rather than on days when I’m feeling lazy or just have a craving.  I’m a junkie, it’s true.
  • I won’t get a haircut or pedicure or buy makeup or skincare products unless I legitimately run out of lotion. Because winter.
  • I will be intentional about meal planning when we are home, organize my small food cabinet to use up what I have on hand, and eat out less.

I will still buy groceries, I will still buy gas for my car, we will still go to Denver for a pre-planned weekend getaway with a friend, we will still pay our regular bills.  Since we never know how many days each month we will actually be home rather than traveling for work, I haven’t set a specific lowered budget for the month.

The goal is to not spend money on anything other than necessities.  The goal is to allow a little more space in my brain. Space to think less about what I could buy that might improve my home, appearance, or productivity.  To be grateful for what I have.

Let’s go.

Everyday love

I made a list of 33 things I want to do before I turn 33 in June 2014.  See the full list here.

33.  Love my husband everyday.


Our love looks different every day, doesn’t it?  Maybe that’s why Paul gave it so many words.  I can hardly manage patience and kindness and holding my tongue all at the same time, but I hold onto grace in each moment and know love covers it all.  This is supposed to be about me loving you and I just keep falling back to how you love me.  


When the snow blows hard over the road, they say it’s a ground blizzard. Your tail lights keep growing smaller in the distance as I follow you.  You drive faster than I want to but I keep up, trusting.  Tired, scared, I can’t talk to you on the phone or the tears and fear take over.  But you know these roads and you know me and you believe in me better than I do.


The harsh words boil over and pour out and I wonder which grandparent’s stubbornness is showing in me today.  It runs real deep and it’s hard to shake.  But I know you’re right.  I can’t look at you and I don’t want to talk to you and you always manage to make me laugh when I’m mad and do you know how maddening that is?  You look at me and your grace and patience wash over me and the joy I feel for you just can’t help but bubble out.


When I’m feeling a little sorry for myself, wondering if you notice what I do, if you notice me, if you see me for who I am and you walk through that door. Gifts aren’t either of our primary languages, but so much love spills out of that bag of dark chocolate-covered pretzels you have for me you don’t even know.  A little bag full of surprise love and grace.  My favorite.

You’re my favorite.


In 2014, I’m reclaiming (and writing about) the word GRACE with OneWord 365.  Read more here.


Breweries in Benson

I made a list of 33 things I want to do before I turn 33 in June 2014.  See the full list here.

8.  Try one new Omaha bar or restaurant each month.  We love our city, but tend to go to our old favorite places all the time.  Time to branch out.  (see new restaurants #1-3)

Benson is a historic neighborhood in Omaha, just about a mile from our house.  It’s a quirky little place, full of live music venues, cigar bars, coffee shops and restaurants.  Two local breweries have opened up recently and we tried both in December.

Benson Brewery – new restaurant #5

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We popped in the Benson Brewery one night with a co-worker.  I wasn’t very hungry so I just got the olive plate and fries.  So healthy right?  I didn’t love the olives as they had been soaked in a beer brine, and I thought that taste over powered the olives themselves, but our colleague really enjoyed them.  I did love my fries, and the malt vinegar they’re served with, as well as the bit of cheese and bread that came with the olives.


The Wagyu burger was a hit with the men, with bacon and a fried egg on top.  They also both enjoyed their beer, although I have no idea what they got.  An IPA maybe?  I’m so bad with my craft beers.  Really need to rectify that.

Overall, I’d give it a thumbs up.  I’d like to try their chicken pot pie and pork belly sandwich on a day when I have a bigger appetite (pretty much any other day of my life).  I would note, however, that the lights seemed very bright for evening dining.  A bit less light would have upped the ambiance considerably, I thought.   We actually tried to make a return visit last week, but there was a wait for a table, which led us a couple blocks down the street to…

Infusion Brewing Co. – new restaurant #6


Infusion is more tap room and less restaurant, with only a few deli selections and individual pizzas on the food menu.   I tried the Unclearly Wheat, the only type of beer I’m ever comfortable ordering off a craft menu.  It was good, with a bit of a sweeter edge than Boulevard.  Chad had a holiday special, with notes of nutmeg and other seasonal spices.

photo[1]Our pizzas were just okay.  I think we both would have preferred a meat & veggie combo, but they just offer meat or veggie.  The spent grain crust was alright, but a little overdone.  As with Benson Brewery, I thought the lights were turned up way too high for evening.  Give me some atmosphere, people!  

Despite our stops at two breweries this month, neither of us are big beer drinkers, and I don’t know if we’ll return to Infusion anytime soon.  I would recommend it to a beer aficionado based on the beer, but not for dinner.


BB Photo Credit

Travel Abroad

I made a list of 33 things I want to do before I turn 33 in June 2014.  See the full list here.

3.  Travel abroad. This girl’s got some wanderlust, and Canada doesn’t count.

It’s happening!  Today, in fact.  Call it an anniversary trip if you want; we’re vacationing in Ireland and Scotland for a couple weeks, then hopping over to Holland for a few days of work meetings. Follow along on Twitter or Instagram for all the pictures you can stand. I’m @annawastell on both.

Piggy Wig & Piggy Wee

I made a list of 33 things I want to do before I turn 33 in June 2014.  See the full list here.

15. Visit an open air hog farm.  I support a farmer’s choice to raise animals the way they want (as long as they’re healthy and well cared for), and I’d like to experience how the other half lives.

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Most of the hog barns we visit are modern indoor facilities.  Confinement, some call it. 90% of all pork is raised indoors, in fact.  And these indoor homes are actually pretty comfortable – they’re temperature controlled all year, the pigs are protected from sunburn (yep!), other weather elements, pests and predators, and fields are protected from the damage that pigs cause, and their valuable manure is easily collected for fertilizer.

There are some benefits to raising hogs outdoors, but I had never been on an outdoor site before.  We happened to visit a unique sow farm and finishing site a few weeks ago that combined some of the best of both worlds.

The sows were in large group rooms, fed in Freedom Stalls, and had some straw bedding and outdoor barnyard access.

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This particular grower thinks the sows produce better with the varied living conditions.  He also finishes some hogs outdoors (with on-the-ground feeding), but farrows inside in individual crates, and his nursery pigs live indoors in “typical” nursery pig housing.

Outdoor 5

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I definitely thought his pigs looked healthy and well cared for, which is great, but mostly I’m glad that growers have the option to choose which strategy works best for him or her.

Throwback Thursday

I made a list of 33 things I want to do before I turn 33 in June 2014.  See the full list here.

30.  Organize the photos on my old laptop.  It’s about to die and I don’t want my pictures to die with it.

Ranae AnnaCheck out this gem, you guys.  Ranae & me, circa 2007.  We were at a bridal shop, helping a friend find a wedding dress.  Clearly a football Saturday, as we’re rocking team colors from our favorite teams.  Short hair, plastic earrings! and a non-iphone selfie.  Ah, the good old days.

I got all the photos from my old laptop moved to an external hard drive and organized by month and year.  I had originally thought about categorizing them further, but EXHAUSTION.  I’m calling it good.

I love old pictures and I’m glad I got life from 2006-2010 saved before the laptop dies.  The end.

Simple Hospitality

I made a list of 33 things I want to do before I turn 33 in June 2014.  See the full list here.

31.  Practice hospitality.  Invite people over, don’t worry about how clean the house is.

hospitality banner 1I started working in the hospitality industry the summer I turned 15.  Deb & TIm hired me to clean rooms and wash dishes in their Bed & Breakfast south of my small hometown.  I’m sure my impeccable homemaker Mother tried to instill these same values in me, but when I look back, it was Deb that taught me to double-check to make sure the towels were completely dry, lest they get moldy in the closet.  It was Deb that taught me to vacuum my way out of a room so my footprints didn’t show on the carpet.  It was Deb that taught me to artfully arrange crostini on a platter and throw pillows on a king bed.  It was Deb that taught me to eat steak medium, instead of well-done, like I thought I liked it.  I soon graduated to helping with prep cooking in her small catering kitchen, was given the opportunity to plate meals, and served hors d’oeuvres and cocktails at events.

Another fancy restaurant job in high school taught me to make a mean espresso and cappuccino, run an industrial meat slicer and dishwasher, and gave me confidence in waiting tables.  By the time I was 18 years old, I had fallen in love with the industry of hospitality.

I worked for various hotel companies after college and worked my way up the ladder.  I was a Divisional Global Director of Marketing for a Denver-based hospitality management company when my position was eliminated in 2010.  I survived the recession, but my job couldn’t survive poor business management and a portfolio fire sale.  I left the hospitality industry exhausted and a bit jaded.

As the months have passed and the bad taste left after my last job have faded, I realize that I may never be involved in the industry again, but I still love the art of hospitality.  

It’s easy to be distracted by feeling busy, or tired, or like I don’t have time, or by thinking my house is too messy, or I don’t know what to cook, but at the end of the day, “Most of the people we invite into our homes have food in their own refrigerator and are hungry instead for personal connection, words of warmth and love and encouragement.”

This is an ongoing internal work, but I’ve been trying to be more intentional about inviting people over, by enthusiastically saying “yes” to out of town guests, to friends dropping by.  I want our home to be a place where hearts are nourished, bellies are fed, and where grace is experienced by all.

Kelly of The Complete Guide to Imperfect Homemaking, a blogger I follow, penned the quote above, and has been writing a 31 day series on simple hospitality.  I  love her suggestions and ideas – pop on over to read all her wisdom and encouragement.