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.


Monday, August 28, 2017

Semester Start Up

Greetings faithful blog readers!

I hope everyone's week is off to a good start. My thoughts are with those affected by Hurricane Harvey, and I plan to make a donation to United Way of Houston today. Need more ideas? Here's a list of ways to help. 

Our last week of summer went by in a flash. We got all of our annual doctor/dentist appointments out of the way, started back to our exercise routines, went to the farmer's market and cooked lots of fresh dinners, and watched some good movies on HBO Now (Parenthood and Nocturnal Animals). We read for fun and relaxed a lot and spent nights playing card games on our patio. Of course, we did some work prep too. All in all, it was the perfect end to summer 2017.

Last Monday, we headed back to school and spent our days readying our classes (developing course shells and reading lists and modifying syllabi) and in professional development meetings.

Today, we finally met our students for the first time, and all of our groups seem enthusiastic and ready to go (not the case every semester!) We're excited to teach American Literature face-to-face for the first time and happy about our new promotions to Assistant Professor II (just a title change, nothing different in the job description).

I took this first day of school selfie to show my friend Steph I'm wearing the earrings she got me for my birthday. I can't wear dangly earrings unless they are super light and these beautiful wooden ones work perfectly.

I hope to be updating again soon when I find some time and inspiration to write!
Wishing everyone a safe and dry start to the school year!

Monday, August 14, 2017

Austin + Home + Kristen & Alex Tie the Knot

Greetings faithful blog readers!

What a week it has been since I last checked in. My thoughts are with those affected by senseless violence this week. I appreciated the ideas presented in this article "How To Take a Stand Against Hate in Virginia." When feeling helpless, it is important to remember what power we do have to support one another.

When I last left off, we'd made it back to Austin last Friday. Thanks to our Cape Air caused delay and horrible Austin traffic, by the time we got home to my parents' house, it was almost 1AM. We were annoyed, but with the amount of travel we do, we almost just expect days like this (and it makes us more grateful for the travel days that go according to plan).

We went to sleep immediately (after greeting Lola & Zoe of course) and then took my dad to Trudy's the next morning to thank him for coming to the airport at midnight to pick us up. Then, we headed over to my cousins Amanda and Matt's new place. They are renting a house that my mom owns, so it's great for my mom to have such wonderful tenants. It was fun to see how the house has changed (my brother lived there a few years ago).

I was lucky that my hair stylist (Peyton at Bob Salon) could work me in for a last minute Saturday appointment (I missed my original appointment thanks to our massive delay on Friday). After getting my hair done, Brendan and I treated my parents to dinner at Brick Oven for my mom's belated birthday. Then, I pretty much insisted we all go see The Wizard of Oz at Zilker Hillside theater. We arrived at 7:45 and managed to find a spot about halfway up the hill to squeeze into. It was a great production, and I was so glad Brendan and my mom indulged me (and my dad dropped us off and picked us up, so not worrying about parking was awesome).

The next day, Brendan and I went to breakfast with my parents and then packed up the car and the cats. It was tough to say goodbye, but we had a whole host of to-do items on our list, and we were eager to get home. 

My Amazon delivery of Lindsay Hunter's new novel Eat Only When You're Hungry arrived shortly after I did. I'm proud to report that I finished it yesterday and now I can highly recommend this road trip novel about a man searching for his son who is battling a drug addiction. Touching, honest, and a true portrait of what it means to love someone you don't have control over (including yourself), I would recommend this book to anyone. 

The real reason we were in such a rush to get home was because I was hosting a bachelorette party/lingerie shower for my dear friend Kristen on Thursday. 

Kristen and I have been friends for six years. We first met in a yoga class at a gym, and she quickly became a good friend and introduced me to all her coworkers/friends too. When Kristen & Alex got engaged in the spring, I immediately told her I wanted to throw this party. 

We started out with manis and pedis. There were six of us there total, and our friend Jessica got the party started early with champagne. 

Then, we went to my house to make dinner together, open presents, and play the popular lips & mustaches game from my shower (which I reused at Amanda's shower and thankfully, Amanda still had the lips and mustaches!) 

I love playing hostess whenever I get a chance, and we had so much fun cooking, talking, and toasting with rose. 

Nothing Bundt Cakes is my go to for any celebration that needs a cake, and their lemon cake didn't disappoint! 

We met up with more friends at The Blue Door for drinks later.

The next night, Brendan and I were honored to attend the rehearsal dinner at La Bodega. We got to hear all the speeches, and it started to sink in that Kristen was moving to Seattle on Sunday! 

The Saturday wedding was at Beal Park with an indoor reception and plenty of lawn games. It was great to see my friend so happy, even though I'll miss her dearly. 

I also got to reunite with several other friends that have moved away and came back in town for the wedding!

Last night, Brendan and I went to Odessa to watch Game of Thrones with our friends Dagan and Steph. 

Our first week back in Midland was all about the wedding, and this next week, we're busy today helping to show a new faculty member around campus, and we'll meet up with him and his wife again tonight for dinner. We have one more week of summer and too much to get done (laundry, housework, class prep, revisions, etc.) but knowing us, we will make the most of our last week of summer. 

Happy Monday everyone! 


Monday, August 7, 2017

Connecticut & Maine

Greetings faithful blog readers,

We've had a glorious last couple of weeks, and I can't wait to fill you all in.

On July 25th, we left Austin for Connecticut for a wonderful ten day visit with Brendan's family. We spent four days in Connecticut, which gave us plenty of time for several visits with both sets of grandparents. Here's a photo of Boompa's garden.

We also made time for a day on Misquamicut beach in Rhode Island. 

And of course, we visited our favorite place in Niantic: Anna Pearl's Curiosities! Make sure to visit Brendan's mom and sister if you're ever in Niantic or nearby. 

Our Saturday, the six of us got our earliest ever start to Maine and avoided the traffic. We stopped for groceries before we even arrived and then immediately had time for all our favorite things like fishing and game night. 

We had the best ever fishing year (that I've seen). This was my fifth time in Maine. Check out these catches from our very first night (we put all our fish back, FYI): 

The next morning, we were up bright and early for blueberry picking:

That night, while everyone else was fishing, Brendan's mom and I cooked a feast of pasta with fresh tomatoes, blueberry pie, and blueberry cake.

The next day, we all enjoyed lobster rolls and ice cream at Tubby's before Annie and Dan headed back to Connecticut.

We found a double rainbow on our way back to the cabin. 

The four of us went fishing and caught a gorgeous sunset. 

On Tuesday, we picked raspberries, and Brendan's mom and I made the world's best raspberry pie. I mean, it was amazing! 

I don't have pictures of everything we did: thrift shopping, antiquing, more cooking, and a big game night with extended family, but I do have lots of great memories.

At least I documented all my fish, so you won't think I'm tell fish tales!

Not every catch was so good...

The best part of our trip was...everything! The worst part was our 7.5 hour delay in Boston thanks to a late Cape Air pilot (not cool Cape Air!) But after a 21 hour travel day on Friday, we made it back to Austin.

More adventures to be continued...


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