Saturday, December 31, 2011

Goodbye 2011, Hello 2012

We are finishing up 2011 in Lake Charles, LA, where we went to graduate school. It has been so great to see a lot of our friends here. We also stopped and saw my grandma near Houston for a couple of days, so it has been a nice end to a fantastic year. The kitties are in Austin with my parents. Lola has been sick, but it looks like she is going to be just fine.

Do you ever think about the highlights of the year? For me, they were...

Jan-Going on a week long eastern Caribbean cruise with my mom.
Feb-Starting my blog 
Mar- Going to our first wedding together, Peggy and Eric's in Chicago 
Apr- Finishing my thesis and passing my defense
May- Graduation, and our families coming to Lake Charles to support us and meeting each other/Going on a trip to Alabama with my family
Jun-My 25th birthday
Jul-Getting our job situations figured out and finding a place 
Aug-Brendan's family trip to Maine/Moving in together and starting new jobs
Sept-Feeling used to our new situation
Oct-Going on a bed and breakfast trip to Fort Davis/Celebrating one year of dating
Nov-Spending Thanksgiving with Brendan's family in Washington, D.C. 
Dec-CA trip/Spending our first Christmas together/Brendan's 30th birthday

2011 has been a great year, and I have a feeling 2012 will bring wonderful things. I've made a few resolutions:

My advice is to start small, add some resolutions to your list that are totally attainable. For me, those are:
Call and write to my grandma more often
floss more often

Then, work your way up
I want to do more yoga
I want to run another 5K

And my big resolution...
Write more often. Regardless of what happens with publishing

Brendan's one resolution...
Keep in better touch with people

What are your small, big and bigger resolutions?

Happy 2012 everyone! May your year be filled with health, happiness, and love!
<3 Stacy, Brendan, & Lola and Zoe

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Happy 30th Brendan!

Today is Brendan's 30th birthday. I feel so lucky to have him in my life. He has some of the best qualities...

Patience: Once, for a Mardi Gras Ball, Brendan let me paint his face like a mouse. In everyday life, he is always patient with me.

Thoughtful: Brendan is always doing little things for me, like picking flowers, cooking us dinner, or picking up around the house while I'm out of town. He is one of the most considerate people I know, and he thinks about what is best for others before himself.

Determined: Whenever Brendan sets a goal, he stays motivated. This year, he contributed to helping teach me to run a 5K, and we did it, twice!

A Fast Friend: Everyone that meets Brendan becomes his friend quickly. My brother, Graham, and he were fast pals. Many people, including me, consider Brendan a best friend. He is loyal, kind, and has a great listening ear!

A True Romantic: Brendan is always surprising me with his ideas. This is a place in Louisiana that we used to go together and watch the sunset.

Up for Adventure: Whether we're hiking together or moving to a totally new place, Brendan is always up for something new! He keeps life fresh and interesting.

A Family Guy- Brendan has a great family and has a special relationship with each member. He is proud of all of them and a source of love and support in their lives as they are in his.

A Great Cook-Brendan cooks me many wonderful meals, and we also cook a lot together. He is not afraid of trying new things, but he is very passionate about wanting things to turn out just so. I have to remind him not to take it so seriously sometimes!
A Funny Guy-Brendan has a great sense of humor. He never fails to crack me up.
Loves Cats/Let me Buy This Painting- enough said. I just feel like he gets me.

Promised He Would Make This His Profile Picture- I just put this here as a way to make sure he does that.

An Awesome Friend- Before Brendan and I were a couple, we were friends for two years, that friendship continues to be the foundation of our relationship. I loved him so much as a friend, and now, I love him in a whole different way. When we met in April of 2008 at a coffee shop, we spoke very candidly, and Brendan apologized, saying he normally wouldn't share so much information when first meeting someone, but talking to him felt totally natural even back then. Of course, I had no idea what role Brendan would play in my life, or I in his, but he is an example to me of how life has a funny way of working out. We both have had our own journeys that intersected at many different points before we even knew each other (we both went to NYU, lived in the same neighborhood in NYC, both lived in Austin-Brendan only blocks away from my mom's house), but ultimately, we ended up in exactly the same place, and I'm thankful to spend everyday with not only a partner, but a friend.

I love you Brendan, and today, I will be celebrating YOU!
<3 Stacy

Sunday, December 25, 2011

100th Post and Merry Everything!

This is our 100th post! We'd like to wish everyone a Merry Everything! Whatever you celebrate, we hope it's fabulous in every way. Brendan and I celebrated our first Christmas actually being together.

We had a stop in San Angelo, Texas on Friday night to celebrate with my Mom's family. I was given these Christmas pajamas, which are a very special tradition in my family. My grandmother on my Mom's side wore them every single year on Christmas for about 55 or 60 years before she passed away in March of 2009. Needless to say, there were some tears when I opened that package! Now, I'll wear them on the years when I celebrate Christmas with my family. I'll have to find some pants though, my aunt Lisa made ornaments for everyone in the family using the fabric from the pants. Now, we all have a piece of Mimi's iconic Christmas tradition!

Christmas Eve, we drove to my home in Austin and did the traditional Austin Family Christmas party, because of the yucky weather, not many people made it out, but my best friends from high school Cole and Corley stopped by and it was wonderful to visit with them. Last night, Lola and Zoe were angels and slept at the foot of the bed all night. No mischief at all, so we know they must have been tired!

This morning, we did Christmas at home. It was beyond perfect. We received some wonderful kitchen goods that we are so excited to cook with, Brendan's parents sent me many lovely gifts including philosophy bath stuff in my favorite scent and some wonderful cat themed coffee table books. We had a delicious breakfast after Christmas morning, and we called all of our family that isn't with us. We feel so lucky and grateful for all the wonderful people in our lives, they are truly the most magical thing about Christmas.

Christmas was so wonderful, I wasn't so sad about losing my fantasy football finals game. My quarterback (Tony Romo) was injured in the first quarter, so he didn't get to play. Second place looks good to me; not bad for a rookie!

Merry everything friends near and far! And happy 100th post to the blog!
<3 Stacy, Brendan, Lola & Zoe (and the Austin's)

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

On Advancing to the Fantasy Football Finals!

I'll be advancing to the finals ladies and gentleman! It was a close game this weekend and Monday night, and I came out only 5 points ahead, but won my 11th game in a row. A friend has recently dubbed me "Little Miss Braggy Pants," but can't a girl just keep her loyal readers informed? Anyway, I was out to see what fantasy football was all about, and my investigative journalism has uncovered that really ANYONE can play fantasy football. It's all luck...sure, there are decisions involved, but I'm going to compare it to playing yahzee, the draft is the initial dice roll, and you have to play your odds (I guess I can credit myself for believing in you, Tony Romo!). Win or lose in the finals this weekend (where I play the number 1 team), I'll be proud of my efforts. I've never wasted time and won something because of it. But my seemingly calm attitude doesn't really reveal how much I want to win. I'm emotionally invested at this point!

Here's other posts about my fantasy football journey:
Finding out I won the quarter finals 
On my winning streak
On the win that started it all

In other news, Brendan and I are on our last night of the California vacation. We went on a lovely hike this evening: 

View from our hike!
It's all pizza and Christmas movies tonight...we are driving the 940 miles back to Midland tomorrow! Then, it's to Austin with a stop in San Angelo (which means traveling two days with Lola and Zoe, who I can't wait to cuddle). It seems like we never slow down, but hey, that's life!

Here's to a little healthy competition. I hope the guys don't take it too hard!
<3 S

Monday, December 19, 2011

Vacation, All I Ever Wanted

Brendan and I are vacationing in Palm Springs, CA with my family this week.
It's very nice to get away from it all! We are with my mom, my brother, Graham, and Maisie, Graham's girlfriend. Also, Cole, one of my best friend's from high school came up for a day and a night.

We drove here from Midland, TX with my mom, which was an insane idea. With breaks, we were on the road for nearly 17 hours! Still, it was all part of the family vacation experience and the views were grand. It was exciting to see this part of the country in all its glory. I promise to write more about our trip later. For now, we're enjoying not answering emails and being done with the semester!
View from Brendan and I's balcony

Oh yeah, and there's always that.

I hope everyone takes a much needed break this holiday season!
<3 S, B, L&Z

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Trend I Love: The Boyfriend Sweater & Other Cool Gift Ideas

Greetings! In the cold months, I find it harder to adhere to the rules of fashion. For one, it's cold, and for two, my life becomes total chaos around the end of the semester. A remedy for this situation? The boyfriend sweater. I'm not advocating going out and buying a new sweater, I'm saying steal your boyfriend's or guy-friend's sweater for the day and you'll look cute in that "not trying too hard" way.

Exhibit A
Brendan's v-neck sweater from Banana Republic with the sleeves rolled up paired with my jeans and boots is quite cozy and cute. Wear with minimal make-up and messy hair (thank you bobby pins-remember: "Sally's makes the only bobby pin worth having"-my friend, Emily Alford). Note: Adorable cat not required. Doesn't this look just say "I love you, now give me all your best clothes." Thought so.

Here are some other things that are too cool for school (literally, is it winter break yet?): 

Rare Books:

Okay, maybe I really just wanted to show you the newest additions to my library, but remember, you can click on these pictures to order (and I can add revenue to the 96 cents in profit my blog has earned). The first is Margaret Atwood's book on science fiction In Other Worlds, but it is a special edition that is printed on paper made out of straw as part of a new initiative to print books without cutting down trees. Plus, Margaret Atwood signed it herself! This was my 1 year together anniversary gift from Brendan, but I just received it because it had to ship from Canada. It is the perfect present. Maybe you know someone who loves science fiction or Margaret Atwood (or both) too?

Speaking of science fiction, I was lucky to get my hands on an early release copy of Julianna Baggott's Pure, which is first in a series of a young adult trilogy that is going to be like the next Hunger Games (seriously Fox bought the movie rights and producer is Karen Rosenfelt who produced the Twilight films). Anyway, Julianna signed the book, which thrilled me to the core, and I've been racing through it. It is seriously one of my most enjoyable reads this year, and I might even like it better than the Hunger Games. Though the book won't be released until February 8th, why don't you do yourself a favor and pre-order it now. (PS-look for my official review in January).

Amazing Art

Again, this could just be an excuse to show you the first art Brendan and I purchased together, but if this piece doesn't strike you as high art, I don't know what to say to you. We bought it from a Midland College student, Aubany Shick, after I saw it on display and couldn't live without it. It is maybe the best money I've spent in a while. Watch out for Ms. Shick, I know she is going places!
Baked Goods 

Finally, this might just be me showing you that I have friends that baked me goods for Christmas. I have to assume you already know baked goods make excellent gifts, but let me remind you, in the form of these cookies and pound cake we received.

Lost about what to give and you only have 11 days to go? Check out this post for ideas under $20.00 or browse through 21 posts with the "gift ideas" tag (you might have to dig some). Have you found a way to give back this holiday season (through volunteer work or a donation)? If not, check out my post on Toys for Tots. There is still time to help every child have a memorable Christmas!

Here's to whatever you think is cool,
<3 S, B, L&Z

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

On Advancing to the Fantasy Football Semi Finals

Last night, I officially won my quarter final game, making it my 10th win in a row! I was nervous because my opponent had a good game, but once my quarterback Tony Romo and wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald took the field, I knew I had nothing to worry about! Next week, I will go against a tough team. That team's records include: most kicker points in a single game, and tied with me for the season average, most points from drafted players this season, most touchdowns this season, most passing yards in a single week and as the season average, most rushing yards in a single week, and most field goals in a single week. Click here to read about my season records. This team is 3 in the league of 12 (my team is still 2). In other words, my team has to bring it!

I'm very excited to have made it this far, but I really want to go for the ultimate win! I've started to become really obsessed: checking my fantasy score while watching a movie with Brendan, in the middle of cooking dinner, and even staying up late to see the results of my game (not a real game, mind you, but my fantasy game, you know, the one that is only happening in the pretend world). Brendan lost his game in the quarter finals, so really, it is up to me to represent us in the M.F.A. Kaufball.

So, the question remains: Will I win my semi-finals game and advance to the finals? If so, can I beat the number 1 team? Stay tuned faithful readers, stay tuned.

In other news: Brendan and I have acquired our wardrobe for the annual Christmas card photo. I'm sure this will be the best Christmas photo ever.

Also, my parents sent me this photo the other day of our tree at home and it made me SO ready for Christmas. Notice the stocking for Brendan (Lola and Zoe's are at the bottom), it made me smile. Time for the official countdown: 12 days until Christmas! If I win fantasy football, I really hope I get an ULTIMATE FANTASY FOOTBALL M.F.A. KAUFBALL CHAMPIONSHIP WINNER t-shirt.

Hey, a girl can dream, right?
<3 S, L&Z

Friday, December 9, 2011

Merry Christmas to Me!

Every year during the holidays, I usually take advantage of the sales and score myself some sweet treats. This year, I was thrilled with Modcloth's As You Wish Sale, in which a few hundred of their most wished for items were 1/2 off. More than anything, I really wanted to pick up some flats for this winter. They go great with party dresses, or jeans, and feel more dressy than my Keds. Here are the flats, which are, unfortunately, no longer on sale, but if you want to score yourself some sale shoesies, here are the current offerings.

Plaid Thai Flat
Taming the Concrete Jungle Flat
I <3 flats. What are your must haves for the winter season? You know, something you want so much, you used the old "A Christmas gift for myself" excuse?

And lets be honest, it's taking a lot of self restraint for me to discontinue the use of that excuse! Internet shopping can be dangerous. Luckily, I am pretty good with the self discipline. But I think every girl deserves a gift (or two) from herself, so these are mine :)

<3 S, L&Z

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Ornaments On Our Tree

Since Brendan and I live together now, this is the first time our tree has been made up of both our ornaments. While we decorated together last year, it was really just my stuff, so it's fun to see our combined tree this year. I took some pictures of my favorite ornaments, hope you enjoy a glimpse at our tree!

A tradition I have is collecting ornaments from trips I take, so we've kept it up. This is from our first trip that we took together. We went to Las Vegas in November of 2010 to celebrate Thanksgiving with my family. I always like to find ornaments with years on them if I can, the years help me remember special things about the trip.

 This ornament is from New Orleans, and it reminds us of our experience living in Louisiana for 3 years.
 This is an early Christmas present I gave to Brendan this year. The Boston Red Sox are his team, so I knew they needed to be represented on our tree, and I had the ornament personalized for him.
 This is from our trip to Washington D.C. this year to celebrate Thanksgiving with Brendan's family. It is kind of a joke because I kept talking about going to see the White House, but we didn't make it there. Still, the ornament reflects a historic landmark in D.C. and my obsession with it. We did make it to the history museum (but Annie, Brendan's sister, had to reassure me like three times that yes, we were going inside the museum. I suppose I'm an anxious tourist, surprised? Me either). 

 We have several homemade ornaments from Brendan's neighbor in Connecticut on our tree. We have a snowman, a book of carols, and a piece of candy. They are all super adorable and make me wish that I too had the gift of knitting, so I could create ornaments for my friends.
 This ornament says "Our First Christmas Together" and has our names and the year. When I told my mother, she was confused, citing that we were together last year, but this is our first Christmas we'll actually spend together, so I wanted something to commemorate it. 
 This is from the lake in Maine where Brendan's family vacations every summer. This year, they invited me to join them, so it was my first Maine experience! I loved it, and now I'm remembering the beautiful and warm days on the lake.
 Our friend Erica gave us this beautiful ornament last Christmas. It's a bird that says "love" on it. I think ornaments make great gifts, I always remember who gave me each one.

I have a LOT of traveling ornaments, but this one is special because it's from when my mom and I went snorkeling in St. Thomas on our cruise to the eastern Caribbean this past January. It was SO beautiful, and honestly, it ranks among the best days of my life. Plus, I think it's cute!

To me, Christmas is all about remembering the best times from your life and sharing those memories with others. So, here's to that!

<3 S, B, L&Z

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

On Dominating My Fantasy Football League

Some of you might remember my post on winning my first fantasy football game ever a couple of months ago. Well, since that time, I am proud (and more than a little shocked) to say I have never lost a game. That's right, I am on a 9 week winning streak, and next week, I head to the playoffs. I've started to care way too much about the fantasy. And I get more than a little stressed when it looks like I might lose, after all, I'm #2 in my league of 12.

Using the fancy record keeper that I found on yahoo, I can also tell you some other brag worthy things about my team. I have the longest winning streak and the current streak (9 games baby!), the largest average margin of victory, most kicker points this season (tied with another player), most defensive points this season (Thank you 49ers!), the most points from post-draft acquisitions in a single week record (yeah, Brendan explained this like three times, I'm still not totally sure), AND the most field goals this season. In fact, this record keeper has been better for my self-esteem than any other procrastination activity that I participate in. Fantasy football isn't just a waste of time, it's a waste of time that keeps track of everything you did well when wasting time! All in all, I'm gunning to be the most everything this season. That's right. I want to win the big one, the championship, the final round of playoffs!

But first, I have to make it through the next 2 weeks of playoffs, and Brendan can no longer be counted on for advice. Last week though, I picked my own line up and won 119.06 to 41.58! So, what happens if I win you ask? Absolutely nothing. No money on the line, just pride and glory. I will probably run around the apartment declaring myself the victor.

Or, I don't know, maybe Brendan will take me out for dessert?

<3 S, L&Z

Monday, December 5, 2011

Snow Day in the Desert!

Here are some pictures I took from the balcony this morning...

 Needless to say, we do not have school today. Brendan and I were watching Twin Peaks, our favorite 1990s TV series, last night, when it started to thunder and snow started to come down heavy. It was hard to capture a picture of this because it was so dark outside, but I snapped this one.

This crazy desert is always surprising me! Guess I'm spending the day being cozy with Brendan and these two cats. It sure was special that it snowed our first winter here...makes me really happy we put those Christmas decorations up.

Maybe I'll go out later and experience this winter wonderland.
Here's to snow!
<3 S, B, L&Z

Saturday, December 3, 2011

An Easy Way to Give Back (Toys for Tots)

It's safe to say I LOVE December. Christmas is a favorite holiday, and the fact that it is accompanied by a much needed break from school makes me happy, but what I love most about December is the spirit of giving it inspires.

Brendan and I saw that Midland College was hosting a Toys for Tots drive, so we knew we wanted to be involved. What is Toys for Tots, you ask? Toys for Tots is a national program sponsored by the U.S. Marines. The goal is to deliver new Christmas presents (toys and books) to children who are less fortunate and do not receive gifts otherwise. Last year, Toys for Tots delivered 16.7 million toys to 7.2 million children. That's a lot of Christmas cheer!

Brendan and I are both fortunate to have many magical memories from our childhood Christmases. Particular memories? Brendan remembers one Christmas where he opened every gift and then he and his sister discovered that Santa left a wooden clubhouse on the front lawn! My favorite memory from Christmas? I was about 8 years old and Santa brought me a littlest pet-shop zoo. When I opened all my presents, I discovered that I received every animal that went in the zoo, and I basically felt like the luckiest child on this earth. My point? Even into adulthood, children remember how special a Christmas present made them feel, so the idea of helping to create that for a child that wouldn't have it otherwise is really wonderful.

To donate to this great cause, Brendan and I each picked out a $10.00 gift. Brendan picked a play-doh set that has a press that allows one to make all sorts of "treats" with the play-doh (like popcorn, hotdogs, french fries, etc.), and I picked a play food set with Velcro, so the child can "cut" the fruit and veggies (playing kitchen was the best when I was a kid!) We are dropping off the toys (unwrapped) at our toy drive on December 8th.

Our contributions to Toys for Tots!
So, how can you help? Well, buy a new toy and drop it off unwrapped at a location near you. You can also donate money in various ways. And another thing to love about Toys for Tots is that 98% of donations goes directly to getting toys to children in need. The other 2% is spent on publicizing the program and fundraising for it. So NO money goes to salaries or to pay for manpower (all of the manpower, from wrappers to deliverers, is made up of volunteers). So I guess it should come as no surprise that out of nearly two million nonprofit organizations in the United States, the Foundation was ranked  #72 in the 2010 Philanthropy 400 published by the Chronicle of Philanthropy!

We really hope you'll join us in giving back to your own community through the Toys for Tots program. There are so many worthy causes, but this is one we feel really captures the spirit of the holiday, it's easy to participate in, and it's truly fun to go shopping for a child!

Here's to helping create some Christmas morning magic!
<3 S, B, L&Z

P.S.-Brendan and I spent last night decorating and...

It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas...
If you think that's a Charlie Brown tree, check out this one:
Deck the Halls!

Friday, December 2, 2011

Book I Read in November

This post sounds really lame. I'm not sure what happened to November. I know it involved a lot of grading and traveling to Atlanta and Washington, D.C., perhaps that is why I only finished one book. At least it was a good read!

The Art of Racing in the Rain by Garth Stein

This novel tells the story of one man's decade through the eyes of his dog. Denny, his wife Eve, and daughter Zoe suffer some pretty terrible circumstances and wondering what would happen to them kept me reading. I thought Enzo's doggy point of view was very funny at times, and at other times I felt frustrated by the limited access/detail he could give me. Overall, Enzo's life philosophies are mostly refreshing and I felt an emotional connection to him and his owners. The metaphor for race car driving as life felt a little bit cliche or overwrought, but at times, those sections were surprisingly insightful. I think pet lovers especially will enjoy this. This is an easy, swift read, and very approachable, anyone could pick it up and finish it in a week. To me, it really is more a book about one man's compelling battle to maintain his life when it falls apart. It might be the story of suburban hardship, but as everyone knows, I'm all for that. If you have a relative that would like an engaging book for a vacation or plane ride, consider The Art of Racing in the Rain as a gift or stocking stuffer!

It is the weekend for me! Think I'm going to enjoy a hot cup of tea and watch a movie with Lola cuddled up next to me. Brendan is doing some committee work, but hopefully, he can join us soon. We'll be decorating for Christmas this weekend, and I also look forward to telling you about that and what I bought myself for Christmas this year (you know I had to). Also, stay tuned this December for easy ideas about how to give to others during the holidays and my thoughts on dominating my fantasy football league (I'm now #2 out of 12 folks!)

Happy weekend,
<3 S, L&Z
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