Wednesday, October 18, 2017

A 40th Anniversary Surprise

Greetings faithful blog readers,

If you know us, you know we're deep in the throes of midterms. I just finished grading one set of essays, but I can't celebrate because on my to do list is: journals, discussion board, midterms, another set of journals, a class turning in essays today, and another class turning in midterms Monday. Yikes. Send help!

In addition to all the normal midterm craziness, we've been traveling for the last two weeks. I still haven't made time to unpack from our most recent trip, but I wanted to check in and tell you all about it.

On Thursday, Brendan and I celebrated 7 years together, but there was another anniversary on our minds: his parents 40th! The three of us (Annie, Brendan and I) had been planning on doing something special for about a year in honor of the big anniversary. We officially got the ball rolling in August and pulled off the perfect plan.

Step One: We'd surprise Brendan's parents with a trip to Connecticut. Annie picked us up at the airport just in time for dinner on Thursday. We walked into the restaurant where Brendan's parents were expecting one of their kids and surprised the heck out of them. The look on their faces was priceless!

We spent the next day visiting with Brendan's grandparents and doing the number one activity on my Connecticut in the fall bucket list: apple picking!

I discovered a new apple variety that I love: the Suncrisp!

Finally, it was time for Step Two: Surprise Brendan's parents with a big anniversary party. This step took a lot more work! We'd mailed invitations back in August, but there was still day of work to pull off. Annie made an excuse about "needing to go into work," and arrived at the restaurant (Tony D's) early to decorate the tables with photographs of Sharon and Tim from over the years and flowers. Meanwhile, Sharon and Tim thought we were heading to a wine tasting and a fancy dinner, so we all got ready.

We walked into the "wine tasting," and 40 friends and family greeted them with a big "surprise!" I'd say shock is an understatement! I think we managed to actually pull of a surprise. We had an amazing meal (Calamari, bread, salad, chicken parmesan, fish, tortellini, pasta, and the most delicious cupcakes Annie picked up) and there were many champagne toasts. When the party wrapped up, we all moved to a nearby bar and stayed out visiting until 10PM.

The day was a beautiful celebration of two people I absolutely love. They've created a beautiful family, and it was so wonderful to see so many of their friends and family be there to support them. We had guests fill out memory cards on 4X6 cards Brendan's cousin Katie made and slid them into a 4X6 photo book Annie picked up. I can't wait to read all the cards on my next visit to Connecticut.

Happy 40th anniversary (and 47 years together!) to Sharon and Tim; we look forward to celebrating many more October fifteenths as a family.


Sunday, October 8, 2017

A Few Days in Tulsa

Greetings faithful blog readers,

Brendan and I returned late last night from the annual SCMLA conference. This year's conference was in Tulsa, OK; Brendan and I have never been to Oklahoma, so we were excited to check out a new place and see our friends. SCMLA is a yearly grad school reunion of sorts for us. We love meeting up with friends now living all over the place (Pennsylvania, Louisiana, Georgia, Florida), and we've met so many McNeese students from different years. SCMLA is definitely a conference I look forward to participating in every year (this was my 8th year presenting) because there is so much variety. I've presented on many topics from reading my own fiction to presenting my research in science fiction, teaching freshman composition, metafiction, and gothic literature. The conference always leaves me with a lot to think about and never fails to be a worthwhile experience. This year's conference felt especially busy. Between the friends that were there, we all went to a lot of back to back panels to see each other present.

We definitely have a work hard, play hard mentality when at SCMLA. After arriving late Wednesday, we stayed up for drinks with Rita, one of our mentors/professors from grad school. Then, we were up early to see our friend and fellow fiction MFA alum, Scott, read a short story. After that, we rushed through lunch before the teaching freshman composition session I was chairing and Rita was presenting on. Next, Brendan and I both presented in different sessions (Science Fiction for me and Gender and Race for him). After such a long day, we were all hungry and tired. Luckily, one of my students had made some recommendations: Bohemian Pizza and Hodges Bend Bar. We took an Uber to the pizza place, and conveniently, the bar was right across the street. It was a great evening!

The next day was just as busy at the conference: three sessions in a row that left us tied up from 1-6. We started the day by eating breakfast inside of Mathis Brothers furniture store (we were in suburbia, and the closet thing to us was chain restaurants and a shopping mall). The cafe was called Sponz and was actually really good and reasonably priced. After our long day, we did a big group dinner at The Vault, which used to be an old bank. The food was so/so, but the atmosphere and company was wonderful. We spent the rest of the evening bar hopping and checked out five different bars or so. The group favorite was The Max Retropub, which had a bunch of arcade games. I love any excuse to play skee ball and get my fortune told by Zoltar and watch Nightmare on Elm Street. Any child of the 80s would be happy in here. We ended the night back at Bohemian Pizza and Hodges Bend (great patios for having conversations and being able to hear each other) before catching an Uber back to the hotel around 2:30!

The final day, things wrapped up at the conference early and we went for a delicious lunch with friends at Prairie Brewery. Brendan was very excited about his beer flight and the infamous prairie bomb.

We walked to Glacier chocolates afterwards, and I picked out sets of several chocolates for Brendan and I to savor throughout this week. I'm looking forward to trying Island Spice, PB&J, Strawberry Champagne, Banana Split, Limoncello, and PB Cayenne. We caught an evening flight home and as usual, had a great experience (as great as flying can be) with Southwest Airlines. These days, I'm sad whenever we aren't flying Southwest!

Today is hitting us hard. We're both exhausted, but we know we have to get it together and gear up for week 7 of the semester. Brendan wins spouse of the day for grabbing a few essentials at the store and making dinner. I love that man!

Hope everyone had a fun weekend.

Monday, October 2, 2017

Brendan's Apple Cinnamon Pancakes

Greetings faithful blog readers,

First of all, what happened in Vegas last night was a horrible tragedy. I hope our nation will make changes in order to become a safer place. I believe that laws will do more to protect us than words. I believe our current system is not okay. Other than these simple thoughts, I'm extra grateful for my loved ones today. I can't imagine the loss many families are facing; I wish no one had to endure such a thing, and I believe such a country is possible. It's easy to feel powerless, but we do have power when it comes to electing our representatives, and I hope people remember that.

On a much lighter note...

Brendan and I just enjoyed a lovely working weekend. We worked on conference papers, did school work in preparation for our upcoming absences, and caught up on laundry. Even though the weekend was about working, Brendan treated us both to an amazing breakfast on Saturday morning. It set the tone for the entire day (it was another rainy one, but after a week of rain, we're finally back to sunny skies). Since it's the perfect fall breakfast, I promised myself I'd share it with you.

1 cup pancake mix (we are currently using Kodiak Cakes) mixed with 1/4 cup apple juice & 3/4 cup water (instead of plain water).
1/2 cup of apples, diced.
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/4 cup maple syrup
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp nutmeg
1/4 tsp cloves


Before starting, you can pre-heat your oven to 300 degrees, so you can keep your pancakes warm.

1.) Heat a pan to medium/high heat and use non-stick spray or oil to grease the pan
2.) Mix pancake mix with water, apple juice, cinnamon, and diced apples
3.) Prepare pancakes according to package directions on mix
4.) Whisk together syrup ingredients
5.) Top pancakes with syrup
6.) Try to get over how delicious they are (you can't!)

Cook and Prep Time (with eggs): 30 Minutes
Deliciousness Factor: 4.625 out of 5 stars (Brendan always gives these a complicated rating because he thinks he's funny).

If you are going for the spouse of the day award (which Brendan won on Saturday!), serve with a homemade pumpkin spice latte.

We also checked out Mother at Cinergy in Odessa on Saturday. I was surprised the tickets were a little more expensive until we got there and I realized it is because the new Cinergy has fancy reclining seats...not going to deny that it was the most comfortable movie seat ever. Watching Mother is a disconcerting experience, but we both enjoyed talking about it afterwards. Would not recommend it if you don't like allegories or are easily offended.

Working weekend status:
Conference paper: almost done (Stacy), 1 paper done and 1 still getting there (Brendan)
Discussion Board: Graded
Sub Plans: Prepped
Groceries: Obtained
Laundry done: 4 loads (you know I left the last one in the dryer...)

Tulsa, Oklahoma, here we come! Any recommendations? We'll be staying in the downtown area.

Wishing for everyone's week to brighten. Happy October.

Monday, September 25, 2017

Fall & Pumpkin Spice Lattes

Greetings faithful blog readers,

Friday was the start of fall, and after being back at work for over a month, I was ready for fall to feel official.

Friday, we checked out Amanda and Elliot Lunson's packed art show and reception at the Museum of the Southwest, and it was amazing, beautiful, and interesting. It's going to be on display until October 29th, and we highly recommend checking it out. After the show, we returned to Thai House for the first time in months (the family returns to Thailand each summer) with Dagan and Steph. Our adults only time and meal was appreciated by all, and we stayed out at a party afterwards until nearly 2am. Needless to say, Saturday started with sleeping in!

My current obsession is pumpkin spice lattes, which I understand is "basic" or whatever, but I don't care. I started both my weekend mornings with one, and it felt indulgent! Brendan has been making them for me at home, so I don't have to go buy them at a coffeeshop. Here's our recipe in case anyone else wants some fall in a cup:

1 cup milk
1/4 coffee
1 cinnamon stick
2 cloves
2 tbsp maple syrup
2 tbsp pumpkin puree (canned)
whipped cream

1.) Start brewing coffee
2.) On the stove, bring milk, maple syrup, pumpkin puree, cloves, and cinnamon stick to a boil. You need to watch carefully and remove from heat as soon as the mixture comes to a boil.
3.) Remove the cinnamon stick and cloves with a slotted spoon
4.) Whisk the milk mixture until it foams (you have to whisk fast to do this--thus the reason Brendan usually does it for me!)
5.) Combine the foamy milk mixture with 1/4 cup coffee.
6.) Allow it to cool for a minute or two before topping with whipped cream and sprinkling with nutmeg.

Saturday night, we went to the movies for the first time in a long while. I debated what to see (we were interested in It, Mother, and Wind River), but I ultimately settled on It because I love the original (and Stephen King) and didn't want to take a chance on not liking my first movie in awhile. It was outstanding! It was scarier than the first, I think, but still so fun. I was gripping Brendan's hand the whole time. Like any good horror movie, it made me think about bigger issues too (in this case, how the horror we inflict on each other is much more "real" than our childhood fears and how innocence is thinking that the monsters we imagine are the real threat). 

Our evenings were all for us, but our weekend days were spent productively. For me that meant grading a discussion, finishing edits on the first half of my manuscript, researching/reading/and starting my conference paper, and reading for class. It was the best kind of working weekend there is, and we hope for a repeat next weekend. 

Week five of the semester is a busy one for us! We have an evening event, extra meetings, programs to run (for me), and more grading piling up (as usual!) 

Cheers friends: may your work weeks be productive, and may you fill your days with small joys (a candle, a good book, a yoga class, a nap, or a latte--whatever does it for you!)

Happy Fall! 

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

A Quick Visit With My Parents

Greetings faithful blog readers! 

I hope everyone's week is off to a good start. We had a fun weekend when my parents stopped by for a visit. The next several weekends are busy for all of us with travel, so we figured it was now or never as "weekends" become more like "grading time" for Brendan and I once the semester is in full swing. 

My parents arrived in town around 7PM on Friday. Brendan and I were busy preparing this dish since my mom recently started eating low carb. We needed something that was both low carb and vegetarian, and that was not an easy find. This dish seemed to satisfy everyone though. It was exciting to show my parents our backyard and catch up with them before bed. 

The next day, we were up early for brunch at The Bar. My dad's favorite meal is breakfast, and Brendan and I are always searching for new spots to take him to. The Bar was dad approved. They don't open until 10AM, which is my dad's only complaint (he is an earlier riser). After breakfast, my mom decided she wanted a pedicure. I'd had one recently, but I took her to my favorite spot (Midland Nails & Spa) and sat and visited with her. Brendan stayed home to grade, and my dad watched football. Once we were back, we all played a new game, Saboteur, which we all ended up really enjoying. When it was time for dinner, we headed to Basin Burger and made it home just in time for the UT/USC game to start. The game was actually the most entertaining football game I've ever watched (probably because I actually paid attention + there were two overtimes). While the longhorns lost, it was such a close game, and they played well. Graham facetimed with us during the halftime. I was exhausted by the end of the game (it was almost midnight!) and I slept soundly. 

The next morning, it was time for, you guessed it, more brunch! We took my parents to Twist (inside the Sheraton), which was good other than the miss advertised price of the mimosas. I'm still dreaming about the Nutella stuffed french toast I ate with berries (yum!) 

After brunch, we played more Saboteur and then my parents left at 2PM. Brendan and I spent the remainder of the day resting and prepping our classes for Monday, which came way too fast. 

Hard to believe that after this week we'll be a full month into the semester. I'm ready for fall to begin officially (it was 99 degrees when I left work today, and I'm ready for fall weather!) but I also have a lot I need to accomplish between now and early October. 

I was thankful to get in some time with family before things become too chaotic. Also, we now have confirmation that our sleeper sofa is actually comfortable for sleeping on. 

Cheers to family & weekends; now, back to reality: time to read for tomorrow's classes before we head out to hear Elizabeth Smart speak at the college tonight. I read her book, My Story, last week, and it terrified me but also inspired me to see Smart overcome a harrowing ordeal and not let it define the rest of her life. I'm looking forward to hearing all she has to say. 

Happy Tuesday everyone! 

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

September 2017 Stitch Fix Review

Greetings faithful blog readers,

If you've been reading the blog since 2014, you've probably heard me talk about Stitch Fix. If not, please review more details in general about the service in my first Stitch Fix post. If you decide to give it a shot based on my review, please use my referral link to sign up. I'd greatly appreciate the referral credit. As always, I pay for my own fixes and I am not compensated by Stitch Fix in any way for my reviews.

My relationship with Stitch Fix has been on again/off again these 3.5 years(!), but today's fix reminded me of how awesome the service is when a stylist really listens to and gets you. The semester snuck up on me, and I hadn't prioritized shopping. I asked my stylist to send a few work appropriate dresses and bonus points if it'd be a dress I could wear going out too. I was thrilled to see that my stylist, Christina, sent an all dress fix, especially considering last time my main priority had been finding an anniversary dinner dress and that stylist had only sent one option (which wasn't even very dressy!) It feels good when you feel the stylist read the note.

Up first was the Skies are Blue Breann Dress:

This dress is navy blue (not sure if you can), and I thought the cut was flattering. I love that it's work appropriate but also has fun back detailing so I could put up my hair and wear it out on a weekend too.

Definitely a keeper!

Up next was the Renee C Gianna Eyelet Knit Aline Dress:

This is a basic black dress, but it has cute eyelet detail (hard to see in the photo). The main reason this is a keeper? It's perfect for teaching and comfortable. Also a keeper! 

Up next, the 41Hawthorn Renesme Geo Cube Jersey Faux Wrap Dress (that's a long name!): 

I love this dress. The color is a maroon, which I don't have much of. Again, it's very comfortable and very work appropriate. It reminds me of another Stitch Fix dress that I wear all the time. I like the belt too. Another keeper! 

Up next, the 41Hawthorn Sugar Dot Print Dress: 

I was so happy when I saw this navy blue dress with white dots. It's right up my alley. Also something I'd wear to work or for going out. A fourth keep! 

The pressure was on for the last dress out of the box, the 41Hawthorn Asher Zipper Detail Knit Dress: 

This was the dress most outside of my comfort zone because of the louder print (something about it just says Texas lady, right?) And while it's not my favorite of the dress, I couldn't deny that it was comfortable and not unflattering. Plus, with a "keep all" 25% discount, it'd be literally free. 

I didn't think too hard about this one, I kept it all. I even had a credit, so I paid $50 a dress (plus tax) when it was all said and done, which I think is a decent deal. 

Thanks to Christina, I didn't have to spend time shopping (I know some people love it, but I don't!), and I have a few new things to wear to work. It was convenient, didn't cost a fortune, and definitely saved me a trip to the mall. I'm a happy customer! 

Happy hump day everyone. We're on the downward slide towards the weekend. 


Saturday, September 9, 2017

Beauty in the Backyard + What's Up With Us

Greetings faithful blog readers!

It's been a couple of weeks since I updated. I must admit that I've been feeling uninspired and just haven't had a whole lot to say. I snapped these photos of the backyard last weekend though and wanted to share. A lot has changed since Easter!

Our bird of paradise has to be the happiest plant in the yard. I always enjoy the beautiful show it puts on every summer.

Our trees had a bit of a tough year, but we think they're going to be okay. We've been doing treatments to try and help them. Pro tip: never use weed killer around new trees. We did this last year and our arborist thinks that's why the trees are looking rough. Pulling weeds by hand in our rather large backyard isn't fun, but we'll do what it takes to keep our trees healthy. Anyone have any tips for dealing with weeds without hurting new trees?

Our Turks Cap is so happy and our hummingbird friend visits our yard daily to enjoy the flowers. It almost makes up for the fact that the hummingbird didn't choose our yard to nest in this year (almost).

Herbs alive! The herb garden is doing fantastic. We don't have quite as much basil as we did in past years though (but it's still plenty for us).

The side yard remains our big project to tackle this spring. Look at how much bigger the evergreens and desert willow have gotten since Easter! 

Brendan does most of the hard work. When I look at our yard, I'm amazed at how far it's come. Remember when it was nothing but dirt? Brendan is always convinced he could be doing something better, but I'm just impressed things are alive here in our desert yard. 

As for us, we're doing pretty good. We made it two weeks into the semester. Labor Day had more excitement than we'd bargained for. Brendan donated blood and that night, he woke up to go to the bathroom in the middle of the night and ended up passing out. He hit his head and there was a lot of blood. We ended up calling the fire department because I wasn't sure I could get him to the car (I also started throwing up seeing the blood!) Once we got the bleeding to stop, the medics told us there was no need for stitches. I'm so thankful that he didn't break anything or end up with a concussion!

We both busier than usual this semester because we're both teaching literature courses face to face. I spend more time at home prepping and also have personal projects to work on like chapbook edits and a conference paper to write. Thus, I don't check in here as much!

I treated myself to a smoothie after work yesterday, and Brendan and I caught the opening night of First Date at Midland community theater. The show was cute and funny.

This morning, we had new bookcases delivered, my friend and I got our nails done, and we went to the park for a two year old's birthday. The weather in Midland has been beautiful and not too hot (highs of 87). It looks like we're in for some extreme heat again soon, so I'll enjoy the cooler temperatures while they last.

I hope everyone has a great weekend and our thoughts are with everyone in Irma's path. Stay safe Florida. This year's hurricane season is brutal.


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