Saturday, April 19, 2014

Europe 2014

View Travel Itinerary in a larger map

Brendan and I have good news...we're headed to Europe this summer! 

We've been planning the trip with our friend Tony since May 2013. The whole idea started because Tony is a PhD student at Oxford...in the past seven and a half years, he has visited me/us in Austin twice (once for my 21st birthday and once for Brendan and I's wedding), Lake Charles, and Midland, so I've been telling him we owe him a visit (the only issue being that he has lived overseas for the past several years). We figured once we made it to Europe to see Tony, we might as well stay and see as much as possible :) Since all of us are off in the summer, it became the perfect plan. 

We made the last of our reservations about a week ago. The above is our actual itinerary, but don't worry, we'll only be driving the last 1,207 miles (yes, part of this has involved me learning to driving standard...buckle up Tony!) 

All of the logistics are taken care of...we have our new passports, and with Tony's expertise and some insights from Europe on a Shoestring, plus the help of plain old fashioned google, we've managed to book all of our transportation (planes, trains, and automobiles + one ferry) and accommodations (apartments, hostels, and hotels). We'll be in Europe from June 12--July 30, giving us 7 weeks to cover our itinerary. I was overwhelmed when we first started, but we managed to get it all booked. Tony was instrumental in staying on top of it all. I think between the three of us there have been 1,000 emails at this point! 

The total expense for everything so far was half of our planned budget, the other half we'll spend on eating, gas, and entertainment. So far, I'm surprised at how far our money has stretched; of course, this is something we have saved up for (and having a year to plan certainly helped!) I have some planning on a budget tips that I'll do a post about when we return. 

The other part of our summer travels includes a week in Austin with my family and a week in New York City with college friends beforehand and a week in Maine with Brendan's family afterwards. We'll probably spend a few days in Austin recovering before traveling back to Midland. So, in total, we'll be gone about 10.5 weeks. 

The whole plan is a little crazy, but it is something we've wanted to do for a long time. As teenagers, we both traveled to Europe with class trips or summer programs, but it has been over a decade since either of us has been (plus, going as a teenager is a different experience, of course). On this itinerary, I've only seen Oxford, and Brendan has seen Oxford, near Saint Contest, and Paris. Almost all of it will be new to both of us, and a lot of it will be new to Tony as well (though he has traveled Europe more than both of us.) 

I think the three of us are going to travel really well together. We all share a lot of the same interests, world views, and sense of humor. Tony speaks some French and some German, and Brendan has been refreshing his French on his iPad. Though I took three years of French in high school, I've retained nothing, and Brendan's French program is more focused on teaching people ridiculous phrases (think: "I am a little frog") rather than practical phrases like "Where is the bathroom?" Everyone says I'll be fine, or, as Tony states honestly "the days in the Czech Republic are the only ones during which we'll be 100% lost and helpless." I'm sure that there will be some interesting moments, and I'm sure some things will go wrong, but I also know it's going to be an adventure. 

And now the biggest question of all...What about Lola and Zoe?! 

Don't worry, they will live in Austin with their "grandparents." Lola and Zoe get spoiled rotten by my parents (they get cans of Fancy Feast every night), so they might not even miss us! I certainly will miss them though, and leaving them makes me sad to think about! 

We'll that's our Europe news for now. I plan to blog about our travels and use the blog to keep in touch with our family and friends....but despite all the excitement to look forward to, I'm not wishing time away. We still have a couple of months before we leave, and I'm planning on making the most of the Spring. 


Thursday, April 17, 2014


Easter vacation is upon us, and people who know us have been asking where we're headed, as we usually travel anytime we can make room for it.

Our answer? Nowhere. And we couldn't be happier!

We're going to have a staycation, and this morning, I was singing "Staycation All I Ever Wanted" in the shower. We have some things we need to get done: cleaning up the apartment, gathering our loan documents and visiting with lenders, and making some decisions on the house. Then, we have a long list of things we want to do: writing, making homemade pizza, seeing a movie at the drive-in, Easter brunch with friends, Game of Thrones with friends, reading for fun, spending time outside, hitting the farmer's market and cooking some new recipes.

So far, all we've managed to do is nap! I think that gives you an idea of what kind of week it was. but it was a good week too! I enjoyed seeing the "blood moon" on Tuesday morning (Brendan woke me up around 2:30--it was so neat!) and yoga, which was much needed to bring my stress levels down! We also made this epic pizza on Tuesday night.

But best of all? My beautiful cousin Allie had a healthy and perfect daughter, Aubrey Grace, on Tuesday evening.

I cannot wait to meet baby Aubrey!

Do you have tomorrow off? Either way, we hope it is a Good Friday! :)


Monday, April 14, 2014

Recipes Worth Following

Just thought I'd pop in and share what we cooked for dinner last night because it was very good! We made this recipe, but we didn't have feta cheese on hand, so we used Parmesan. It was honestly very delicious and healthy too! We made a few other tweaks, like using 1 bunch of Swiss chard (as called for) and 1 bunch of beet greens (as we didn't have 2 bunches of chard available). Here is the result:

Another nice thing about this recipe is we have another 2 servings leftover. We can add a fresh egg and bake those servings for dinner later this week. 

We also followed this recipe for roasting beets...I wish we had bought two bunches at the farmer's market. They were unbeatable! (get it?) Fun fact: I never ate beets before dating Brendan, but they've been a staple in my diet for the last 3.5 years. 

We also watched the movie August: Osage County last night. We were fortunate enough to see the Zach Scott production of this in 2011...it definitely makes a better play than movie (or maybe that's because I saw the most talented cast), but if you don't have the opportunity to see the play, the movie still has some amazing moments that left both of us teary. 

In other news, I swooned when I saw these pink tulips at the store the other day, and I had to get them for Brendan. I think tulips are the quintessential spring flower. Seeing flowers on my kitchen table just puts me in such a good mood. 

I'm also looking forward to seeing friends tonight for our weekly yoga, dinner, and bad TV routine. Having something to look forward to on Mondays has made for a happier semester.

And speaking of the semester, we're in the teens now! Week 13 ends in a four day weekend (no school Friday or Monday for Easter), so that has me feeling optimistic. I'm relatively caught up on grading, and have a meeting to lead tomorrow. It's definitely a busy time, but it is also feeling manageable.

Here's to the Monday workday ending...get out there and do something fun this evening (though I recommend indoor fun for Midland--the air is dusty and pollen filled today).

Saturday, April 12, 2014

We Heart Saturdays

This past week was busy, especially because Brendan and I traveled to Lubbock on Friday to check out the awesome Texas Tech Writing Center. It was a very productive week though, and we even have a little mini Easter break to look forward to at the end of next week.

This morning, we woke up early to check out the Farmer's Market. We scored: Lettuce, Beets, Rainbow Chard, and these tomatoes:

I can't wait for Brendan to make some pizza! We got breakfast tacos from Oscars and coffee from Starbucks...in the morning, the temperatures are in the 60s/70s, and it feels so nice!

We also worked at See/Si MC event for a couple of hours. This is an event that the college puts on for the entire community. There were jump-jumps for the kids, prizes, lunch, presentations, and a DJ. It was a fun event! Our temperatures are hitting the 90s today...already feels like summer out there!

Up next? Dinner with our friends, but first, a nice relaxing afternoon (and maybe even a nap!) We wanted to say thanks for all the congrats about our big news last weekend. We are excited and will post updates. March was actually our biggest month ever on the blog, with 5,140 pageviews! Thank you for reading :)

Happy weekend everyone!

Sunday, April 6, 2014

We're Building A House!

In what was the biggest decision of our married lives thus far, we bought a really expensive pile of dirt today, otherwise known as a lot! 

Right where we are standing, we are building an 1,870 square foot 3 bedroom/2 bathroom/2 car garage home. If all goes according to plan, our new digs will be ready January 2015. 

So far, we've picked our floor plan, lot, and brick. In the next month or so, we will meet with the builder and finalize all of our selections. They expect to "break ground" in June. This option will allow us to build our home with all of our desired amenities (hint: our kitchen is my dream kitchen!) This will be part of a subdivision by the way...we aren't just building a house in the middle of nowhere! The community will have a pool, splash pad, and playground. 

Our decision to look to buy a home came recently, as we have decided that we intend to spend several more years in Midland. Our jobs are going really well. A few months ago, I was made the chair of a committee to build a Learning Skills Center, and Brendan, as of earlier this year has a place advising in the Honor's College Program. If courses make, we will both be teaching creative writing in the fall, and we are still happily advising the English Honor Society together. I will be traveling some for work, including a really neat conference at Disney World regarding tutoring centers. Long story short, we feel invested in what is going on, and once we knew we intended to stay, buying a house was the next logical step (rents continue to be ultra high here). 

Are we happy? Yes. Are we scared? Also, definitely yes! Thankfully, we have family members to look over paperwork and make sure we get the best possible deal on the financing end, and so that part is made a little less overwhelming. Of course, as with buying any home, there are elements of the unknown, and our closing on the new home will be pending inspections after the builders are done, so nothing is absolutely final yet.

That's our big news for now! Stay tuned for more updates, including, hopefully, an actual house where this pile of dirt is!

<3 an excited

Thursday, April 3, 2014

April 2014 Stitch Fix Review

Happy April! I really meant to do a post welcoming April earlier this week, but I was so busy at work that I didn't get around to it. I love that we're getting into spring and warm weather. I also love that April is the last full month of the Spring Semester. I'm not going to wish it away, but I do love summer if you know what I mean ;)

I have another Stitch Fix review to share with you.
Check out my last two boxes here: February and March 

Unfortunately, this box was not a success at all, which was a total bummer. The clothes were not my style and all fit baggy and loose (I'm a fitted clothes kind of gal). To understand what a miss this was for me, check out my Pinterest board, which I think shows what kind of clothes I like. Also, keep in mind that I asked for colorful clothes for spring and no jewelry. I was happy that they honored my request for no jewelry this time.

Now, here's what they sent. Stylist this time was "Jessica." It doesn't really help not having a last name.
Up first was the Mona Boyfriend Short and the Ritz Mixed Pattern Front Pocket Knit Shirt

Okay, so the back of this shirt is navy blue with white polka dots. It was weird because the front had a t-shirt material, and the back had a blouse material. This shirt is too casual for work and not something I would wear for fun. It was also 44 dollars, which is just too much for a casual top in my opinion. The shorts were a size 6, even though I have size 4 marked in my profile. I'm not sure why the stylist sent a bigger size, but they were loose in the waist and longer than I like my shorts. They were also 68 dollars, which I thought was way too much. I find beautiful shorts at Banana Republic for half that price.

Up next, the Adelyn Abstract Print Drawstring Waist Dress
Oh the horror! Notice my uncomfortable face (I tried to maintain a good sense of humor about it!) This dress was just awful on so many levels. First of all the colors and print are hideous. Then, there is that weird sheer V of fabric at the collar. Finally, this dress is a small, but was so baggy and unattractive. I couldn't wait to get this one off. It was priced at 48 dollars, which I would definitely pay for a dress if I liked it.

Up next was the Sylvestre Lace Detailed Short Sleeve Top
This top was sheer in the back, and that made it non-work appropriate. It was a very thin material and overpriced at 48 dollars. If this had been work appropriate and of better quality (there were already threads coming off of it), I would have kept it. I am confused why this was even sent to me because I asked for colorful clothes.

Last, I tried the Frany Cap Sleeve Cotton Embroidered Hemline Dress

Again, the size small was quite baggy on me. Again, this gray color is the opposite of colorful. The fit did my figure zero favors. My bra was showing. The only thing good about this dress was that it was priced right at 38 dollars (which I would pay for a dress I liked).

I knew right away that I was sending all of this back. The only plus was that I had credit, so I didn't actually lose 20 dollars. I signed up for another fix in May because I still have 55 dollars worth of credit to my name. Honestly, this was a negative experience, so I wouldn't have done it again if I had to front my own money. My past fixes have been better, so maybe May's fix will be good again. It is fun when the stylist is paying attention.

My referral link is here if you do wish to get your own fix (even after my lackluster review). My experiences in the past have been better, but I gotta be honest about each and every review.

Have you tried Stitch Fix? Did you ever get a total miss?

At least tomorrow is Friday!

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Orange Marmalade Stir-fry with Tofu

I realize I haven't posted any recipes on the blog in a LONG time (like, a year and a half!) Unfortunately, Brendan is the recipe inventor in our family, while I'm the recipe writer. If it doesn't get written down immediately after invention, it doesn't get posted on the blog. We'll try to do better. In the meantime, please enjoy the most amazing thing that Brendan has concocted in a while.

Ingredients: brown rice, butter, 1 bell pepper, 1 small onion, 3 cloves garlic, 1/2 cup carrots, 1 package of firm tofu, canola oil, sesame oil, soy sauce, rice vinegar, orange marmalade, ginger preserves, Sriracha, and sesame seeds.


Prepare 1 cup (uncooked) of brown rice (will make 2 cups) with 1 tbsp of butter in the water
*To make it Vegan, exclude the butter. 
Chop 1 bell pepper, 1 small onion, 3 cloves of garlic, and 1/2 cup carrots
Press 1 block of tofu to remove water
Cut tofu into thin triangles
In a wok, Heat 1 tbsp of canola oil on medium/medium-high
Fry the tofu until golden brown and crispy on both sides
Set the tofu aside on plate
In the wok, Stir-fry your chopped veggies from step one in 1 tbsp canola oil and 1 tsp sesame oil
When veggies are tender/crisp (about 2 minutes), add the tofu back to the wok
Cover with 4 tbsp soy sauce, 1 tbsp rice vinegar, 4 tsp of orange marmalade, 1 tsp of ginger preserves, and a couple of dashes of Sriracha
Toss until everything is covered
Continue stirring until sauce begins to thicken
Serve over brown rice
Garnish with sesame seeds
(Will make 4 servings)

Total Prep and Cook Time: 30 minutes
Deliciousness Factor: 5 out of 5 stars
This was an incredibly tasty meal. Brendan noted that it tasted like Orange Chicken from a chinese restaurant. I liked that it was healthy and full of protein and fresh veggies. We have one serving leftover, and I will definitely be taking it to work on Friday for lunch! It also wins points with both of us for being a fast meal to prepare that only uses a few dishes. Plus, it's perfect for vegans and vegetarians alike (just eliminate the butter to make it vegan). Happy cooking!

& Here's to hump day! Only one day between today and Friday!

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