I'm in Kentucky, and it's winter. The leaves of the trees are just memories. And everything is a bit gray. Winter in states that get lots of snow can look quite pretty and white. Winter doesn't look as nice when it just brings cold and gray.

The best part about winter here is that it helps you really appreciate spring. When spring comes, it's such a new beginning. Pops of color and green really get your attention and bring a new sense of hope.

I don't miss winter here, but I do miss that the sense of renewal aspect. It's kind of ironic that my favorite seasons in Kentucky are spring and fall, and I always wind up only visiting in summer and winter.

This morning on the elevator a man tried to make small talk with me.

"It's windy out there," he said.

"Yes, it is," I said, and then added, "but it's beautiful."

He said, "I just got back from Kentucky. It was 22 degrees in Lexington."

I said, "I'm from Kentucky. I'm going to Louisville tomorrow. Oh me. That's cold."

Even when you try to avoid it, the cold weather report will get you--even on the elevator. Because of this news, I tried on various North Face jackets at REI. Sometimes I can find great winter gear buys here, because no one buys any of the cold weather merch to wear it for two weeks. The jackets were all still close to $100, so I'll go home uncool in the outdoor gear world, but be physically cooler.

Sometimes Mondays are hard. Especially when you start them off trying to swim in an outdoor pool in the winter. After watching this video, I feel better: WATCH ME.

Maybe my hair and make-up and outfit choices aren't so bad today. Maybe I am completely more mentally stable than I realized. I hope you feel better about yourself, too.

I drink a lot of water. More than the average bear. And when I don't, I get really thirsty. Actually, I get parched very easily. I think I've built up my water tolerance to such a high level, that if I don't stay super-hydrated I get really thirsty.

Years ago, I had a water bottle that had a name, Mr. Sippy. It was back in the 90s when paint pens were the rage, so I drew a happy face on my water bottle, and he came to life.

Mr. Sippy traveled everywhere with me. As a camp counselor, all the campers knew Mr. Sippy and made sure I didn't lose him. When I became a teacher, I would take Mr. Sippy out on the playground while the kids played in the sun. One day, I forgot to bring Mr. Sippy inside from recess. A few days later, I found Mr. Sippy's lid lying on top of a pile of trash. I found his main body in another location in the dust. It was a tragic day. I couldn't use Mr. Sippy for my water bottle anymore. It wasn't the same.

Yes, this is a weird story about a girl and her water bottle. Perhaps I was a little old to have a problem with a bottle attraction. But I needed to tell Mr. Sippy's story.

I have a Nalgene bottle now. I refuse to ever put a face on a bottle again. No one can ever replace Mr. Sippy.

(For those of you who know the complete story, yes, there was Mrs. Sippy. But I never felt like Mrs. Sippy had the same love of life that Mr. Sippy did.)

How to Make *Bucks-Like Coffee Treats in the Breakroom

Supplies needed: work breakroom, work pre-made coffee, little creamer packs, hot cocoa mix, a spoon or stirrer, water, and a mug.

1) Start off with 6 oz of normal coffee.
2) Add three creamers.
3) Add as much hot cocoa mix as possible.
4) Stir.
5) Add a little more hot water.
6) Stir again.
7) Drink your yummy drink!

I got a voicemail from God. Actually, a service called 411 God left me the message. It's a little devotional that comes to your phone. It's pretty neat. I was pleasantly surprised that the people that leave the messages aren't annoying. It's a mini-devotional and a scripture reading.

Last night, I had a lot of thoughts rushing in my head and debated calling someone on my phone to talk, but the little voicemail I got gave me some encouragement and a refocus.

I almost got a dog today. I wandered into an adoption center, and found the perfect, shaggy mutt. He was the perfect size. The attendant let me walk him around and let me take him in a back area to bond. There were several other groups of people in the back as well with their would-be dogs. It was kind of like speed dating with dogs.

Bucky or Buddy or whatever-his-name-would-be and I tried to play a game of sit. I would ask him to sit, and then give him a treat. The volunteer who introduced me to him could have him sit, but everytime I tried, nothing happened. She kept saying that if he became my dog, maybe we could attend an obedience class together. She was making me feel like we need couple's therapy before we were even a couple. I got Bucky/Buddy to sit once, but he also scratched me a bit on the arm. I tried, but I didn't feel a connection with Bucky/Buddy. We just didn't have chemistry.

There were two other dogs that I liked, but I couldn't figure out if their pitiful little faces were from disease, or if they really just had the puppy-dog-eyed look.

I left the dog adoption and spent the money I would have spent on a dog on items at Target. The timing isn't right quite yet, but maybe someday soon, I'll be ready to be an ODO (official dog owner). For today, I just have a new lamp from Target and a dog scratch.

Everyone thinks that the kids in their family are funny, but mine really are.

My sister just called and told me that my niece, Emily, was getting ready for a birthday party tonight. Emily came down the stairs and my sister (her mom) said, "Why, Emily, you look nice!"

Emily replied, "I'm looking good, and I'm ready to par-tay!"

My sister is trying to blame this scenario on cable, but Emily was pretty much birthed this way. Emily favors my sister in every way, except personality, and that must come from my gregarious brother-in-law. We've all been quite impressed with her extreme self-confidence and sense of style. I need to hone those skills for V-day.

Tomorrow night, my mirror-pep-talk will be: "I'm good enough, I'm smart enough, and I'm looking good and ready to par-tay!"

I am buying myself some nice presents for Valentine's Day this year.

I really like the perfume Falling in Love by Philosophy because it smells like cotton candy. So, I'll buy a little bottle of that. And I'm going to get myself some fancy chocolates. I could buy myself any gift, but I choose to stay traditional. Who knew?

I've thought about getting really ambitious and try to make some cupcakes for co-workers. We'll see how much I can spread the love.

Usually, I try to buy a bunch of heart stickers and spend the day passing them out. I'll have to put those on the list, too. Sticker-obsession is a leftover addiction from childhood that still makes me happy.

Remember, there are no rules for Valentine's Day. It's not just an eros love holiday. Celebrate your love of friends--and yourself a little bit. :)

Sometimes owning a house can seem like a dream. But I've decided, that one day, I will upgrade my life and own a home. But it will be small. Check out these tiny little cutie patootie houses. I love them.

I used to live in a very small, furnished garage apartment. It was a fabulous little place. Sometimes, I kind of felt like a dog in a kennel, but it was a nice, secure spot. My kitchen was my living room was my bedroom was my dining room, but it had just enough room and all I needed.

I have a theory that in the current age of massive house construction, that we'll be downsizing very soon. If you examine history in this country, houses were really large in the mid 1800s. Later, Americans started building smaller homes--probably because if you've ever lived in a monster house, you know that it's not the easiest thing to heat, cool, or clean.

I grew up in a large farmhouse style house. I loved our house. As an adult, I don't have big house envy. If I ever have 2.5 kids, a dog, and a Ken, then I would probably see the benenfits of a larger home. Nonetheless, my message today is for you to think about not just going green, but maybe going small.

(And selfishly and very un-green of me, I would love to have one of these tiny houses for a vaca house!)

Calorie counting can be a good tool, but sometimes it can be bad when I use it to add up the calories I would take in if I ate the whole bag of chips -- or the whole box of Skinny Cow ice cream cones. Perhaps I'm defeating the purpose.

I really love those Skinny Cow cones. If you haven't tried them, pay the extra dough (but they are WAY too pricey at Randall's). There's a chocolate surprise at the bottom. YUM!

I have a favorite chocolate shop. The walls are painted chocolate brown, and the glass cases are filled with chocolates from Belgium and other European countries. I love visiting the store. I can only buy a few chocolates when I go, because the chocolates are so luxurious and expensive.

Last year, I had to come to terms with something. I didn't have a Valentine, but I realized that if I did, and he got me one of those Russell Stover's hearts, I would probably not appreciate it. This realization made me a little sad that I had become a chocolate snob of sorts who would not appreciate a working man's chocolate display of love.

My mom is a flower genius. She can name all sorts of types of plants and knows what climate they grow best in, and if the plant is a perrenial or annual. I can identify colors of plants, and can tell you the difference between a rose and a tulip--and that's about it.

Last week, my mom helped me green-up my back patio which was pretty much Dirt Land. For $20, I added a nice selection of pansies and snapdragons (?) and something called Creeping Jenny (what a weird name--and horrible for anyone named Jenny). Over the last several mornings since my mom is still in town, I've been receiving a morning report from my mom while I'm at work. Here's how the report sounds:

"Beth, this is your mother. I have bad news for you."

"What happened?"

"Well, more plants have been eaten. Whatever it is back there, it's having a good time eating all your plants!"

So, little by little, every bloom has been injested by something. It's even eating my Creeping Jenny. It's almost like some animal gang is mad at me for trying to better its hood so its taking out revenge on me and my plants.

Last night, I added some moth balls to the area to deter the vermit. But, I received another bad report from my mom again this morning.

My mom suggested a sure-cure from Kentucky, but I think it might get us arrested. City folks might contact PETA.

I miss my blooms. Over the weekend, I might keep watch over the patio and try to trap my critter. Hopefully, it'll be a possum and mom and I can have a nice stew.

My next birthday is looming. After you reach 30s, birthday change from "coming up" to "looming."

I have experienced a "compliment" (today is official quote day) quite often in the last year. The compliment--always from a teen or twenty-something--is, "Wow. You don't look 33!"

As a 33 year old am I supposed to look like the crypt keeper?

To all those in their tweenties, I can promise you that the generation ahead of you gets younger every day.

Apparently, my home state is now the Fro-Zone. Last week an ice storm hit the Commonwealth of Kentucky and attached its beautiful trees with tenacity. Through the wonders of cell phone technology, I've heard reports of cracking trees and power lines--and an utter shutdown of power in the state.

Kentucky is unique in that it is truly a temperate climate. Kentucky experiences hot summers, and sometimes severe winters. This winter is exemplifying the area's diverse climate.

My mom came to visit me several days ago (our rule is that we don't count them), and she hasn't left. Her original flight was supposed to leave last Thursday, but her plans quickly got rearranged since her home and surrounding areas had no power. We kept hearing horror stories of how our relatives were living like unprepared pioneers. So, we rescheduled the flight to leave on Sunday morning, but decided to move it again since the latest news was no power yet.

For now, she is scheduled to leave this Thursday. She's been pretty much shut in my apartment. I did manage to put together a nice selection of cleaning supplies for her so she can de-dirt my living environment, and thank goodness for the $14.95/month cable special so she has HGTV. She has also overcome a technological obstactle and can work the "On Demand" cable function with ease.

I keep telling her to keep quiet about the 60s/70s temperatures we are having to the folks at home. And she definitely better not tell how sometimes the furnace gets her room too hot at night. She doesn't want to make enemies with those that are spending there nights freezing.

Please pray for the power guys (who have been getting lots of overtime the last several months!), and pray for people to be wise with generators and alternative heating methods. Pray for neighbors to be neighborly and for God to be glorified in the communities. (For those of us in Houston, just think Ike on ice.)