Saturday, August 25, 2012

Look Who's Here!

My friend Tony came all the way from NYC to visit us. He is back from living in Paris for six months, and in the states for a few weeks before beginning his PhD in Philosophy at Oxford (a trip to London is in our future). Tony is one of my best friends from college. We met when I was 17 and visiting NYU. Tony was a freshman Gallatin student and showed me around the town, and we've been friends ever since. He came to Lake Charles back in February of our last year in graduate school, and now, he's here in Midland. To say he is always up for adventure is quite an understatement! We have big plans: We took him out for Mexican food last night, and to the farmer's market this morning. Today, we are off to the county fair, and tomorrow, we'll hit up Balmorhea. It's a perfect way to spend the last weekend before the official start of school.

Tony & Me

Farmers market loot this week included: Purple and white onion, 3 different kinds of tomato, bell peppers, hot peppers, sweet peppers, eggplant, zucchini, yellow squash, and orange watermelon. Cooking deliciousness is in our immediate future! And now, off to make some pizza dough for tomorrow nights dinner.

Hope your weekend is fun and fruitful!

<3 S, B, L&Z (Plus T)

Sunday, August 19, 2012

One Year in Midland

I want to start out with the reflection that life is funny. When we first moved to Midland, I felt overwhelmed by the prospect of actually living here. We kept saying, "It's only for a year or maybe two." Our first night in our new place, I looked out of our window across the parking lot of our apartment complex and cried. It wasn't really because we were in Midland, it was because of the places we were not: Lake Charles, Austin, New those places, I had established friends, and knew the places I liked. Midland was just a big question mark, and I had started feeling tired of starting over. We had good reasons to be here though, and I knew I had to give west Texas a chance.

And so, the time passed. We had a lot of fun: high school football, sushi we liked, a popsicle place, and our friends the Shews nearby. We were even starting to make new friends. After just three months, I felt "at home." I was involved with the community, going to bookclub, yoga, and meeting friends for lunch. We had started to see some of the places that made us so excited about moving here initially. We spent the better part of a year here, and at some point Midland just became home. A month later, I landed my full time job, and we decided to sign another year lease at our apartment.  Friends and family have visited us from near and far. Our lives here haven't always been "perfect" (whose are?), but we've made many more good memories here than bad.

And now, when we talk about how long we'll stay? There isn't a time stamp anymore. We're just here. Living in the present, advancing our careers, and taking life as it comes. Though we've been living here and together for a year now (a separate post to come on living together), we still continue to see west Texas as an adventure. There is quite a lot of "unknown territory" here, and we have plans to see more of it. More and more friends are visiting...we're not isolated here like I feared. We spend a lot of time together, but we've also managed to establish independent lives here. Today, if I found out we were leaving, no matter where we were going, I would cry. Midland is admittedly not where we saw ourselves, but now, it is where we are; and we're thankful to be here.

So yeah, life is funny, and the other thing I'm realizing about it is that it goes by fast. Ultimately, I believe that where you are matters far less than who you are with. Today, I am grateful for all the people here that I love (you know who you are :).

And of course to my best friend, who makes any place a good place to be.

Brendan in the truck we moved here in
Here's to the unexpected. Make room for it in your life.

Because if there's one more thing I'm learning, it's that you can't plan everything.

And believe me, I'm starting to become grateful for that too.

Here's to just going with it. Shake off your pre-conceived notions and attachments and hit the road (don't forget your cats).

Because sometimes starting a new is all there is to do!
<3 S, B, L&Z

Friday, August 17, 2012

Engagement Pics, Our Tips

We recently got back our engagement photos (all 240 of them), and we've already thought of many uses for them: save the dates, framing in home and office, giving to parents/grandparents, using for wedding website, etc. Initially, I was the one that really wanted to do engagement photos, while Brendan was more in the "Do we really have to do that?" camp, but now, he says he is glad that we did. I've heard some of my engaged friends debate if engagement photos are "Worth the money." Personally, I say yes. I think it is a great chance to get comfortable with your wedding day photographer before the wedding. I also recommend doing them as close to your actual engagement as possible. That way, the photos capture what they should: the sweetness and excitement of being engaged. We did ours almost exactly one year before our wedding at the place where we'll be married. It will be fun to have the engagement and wedding pictures to look back on (and it was fun to think, wow, in one year, we'll be back here getting married).

Here are some of our favorite photos and our best tips. 

1.) Pick a talented photographer. We used Amy Kate Photography in Austin, TX. I had seen her work from a high school friend's wedding pictures and was sold. A good photographer will be able to tell you exactly what she wants you to do. Make sure you get recommendations that you trust. Also, keep in mind the lighting and weather when scheduling a session. We opted to meet at a very early 8am in order to have cooler weather and morning light. 

2.) Lay out your clothes ahead of time, and find colors that look good together. I think bright colors show up nicely. All of my outfits are from Modcloth

3.) Bring a combination of casual and a little more dressy outfits, but above all, be comfortable. You want to be able to move around and even be on the ground, and if you aren't comfortable, it will show in the pictures. Also, consider planning other trials near to the photos. For example, those flowers are my sample bridal bouquet from the florist. I kept them in the fridge for a few days and brought them to the photo shoot. 

4.) Think ahead about what you will use the pictures for. For example, we wanted to do photos as our save the dates, so we brought along some props. 

5.) Block out a couple of hours, and remember, your photographer will want to use a lot of different backgrounds. Just go with what he or she wants to try. Chances are, they have an eye for what will look good, and you'd be surprised how something can look different in a photo than in person. 

6.) Wear cute shoes. They show up a lot in the pictures, but also, can make for a cute photo by themselves. 

7.) Make sure to get some individual shots. They are prefect for parent/grandparent gifts, but also useful for the website for your bride/groom bios. Plus, I plan to frame that one of Brendan and put it in my office, and he's doing the same with the one of me. A note about hair and makeup-I did my own, and I'm glad I didn't hire someone. I think the more natural, the better, because the more it just looks like you. 

 8.) Be silly and have fun. Let the photos capture your spirit at one of the happiest time in your lives.

9.) When you get your photos back, look for the candid ones. They might be some of your favorites. 

I really love this photo because one day on a walk, Brendan held my hand, and it reminds me of that moment when I realized my best friend loved me too.

What a wonderful world...

Here's to your engagement and capturing the love you share!
<3 S, B (L&Z)

Book I Read in July

Uglies by Scott Westerfeld

This book was one of several birthday presents from Bren, who knows that I harbor my own dreams of one day writing YA (and I love sci-fi, though I don't write it). This is one of those books I had been wondering about for years, but just never got around to purchasing for myself. Uglies seemed like the perfect novel for me. It's one of those books that the premise is so good, I could just sit around and think about the concept for days. Uglies is a fast read, but I wouldn't call it "smart YA" like Julianna Baggott's Pure or the Harry Potter series, etc. In the end, I found it predictable, and the characters were hard to side with at times, because they come from such a superficial society, they sound like whiney teenagers (which, I get it, is probably the target audience here). In the end, I won't be reading the sequels, but I think a young teen or pre-teen would very much enjoy this book (I am basing that on my experience, plus the fact that the book, and sequels, are all well rated on Amazon). It's essentially about a society where citizens are controlled by the promise of cosmetic surgery on their 16th birthday. The government delivers, but gives a lot more than people bargained for. The movie based on the book is listed as "in development" on IMDB. I could see this trilogy making for a good film, in the style of the Hunger Games. And if it is a film, I'll be glad I read the book first.

As you can see, I didn't get much reading accomplished in July, but I'm reading a great August book to review in early September. Stay tuned and forgive this month's book review delay!

Happy page turning!
<3 S, B, L&Z

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Home And Other Updates

Well, our 3 and 1/2 week vacation has come to an end, and summer 2012 is calling it a wrap (for me at least, I headed back to meetings on Monday at my new job).

Honestly, this has been the best summer of my life, but in a way, it all feels like a dream.

We had an awesome trip visiting NYC, CT, Jersey City, D.C, Boston, and Maine (with stops in Virginia, Rhode Island, Maryland and New Hampshire). 10 states in 3.5 weeks. Wow, no wonder we're tired! We are so thankful to everyone that hosted us on our big trip, and to my parents for keeping Lola and Zoe.

Check out some of my favorite photos for our epic trip (I have more photos on my camera, these are just from my phone):

 Out with friends in NYC:

 Engagement cupcakes Brendan's mom had made :)

 Out in Jersey City:

 Fresh produce from the grandparent's garden:

 Baseball game at Fenway with Brendan's aunt and Uncle:

Quilt show in CT with Brendan's family:

 Maine: Blackberry picking, kayaking, fishing, Brendan's mom's blueberry pie, etc!

 Here's my philosophy about summer: don't be sad that it's over, be happy it happened!

Starting the new job after traveling all day Saturday and most of the day on Sunday was hectic, but I feel like I'm settling in nicely. I won't meet any students until the 27th, so I'm doing everything I can to prepare.

Lola and Zoe are happy at home.

It was a very special summer for us, and no doubt, one I will always remember. I look forward to updating more regularly now.

Here's to closing chapters & beginning new ones,

<3 S, B (and finally all together) L&Z

PS-Promise to have book I read in July up soon. Better late than never!

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

7 States, 2 Weeks

In the last 2 weeks we've visited 7 states!

New York, where we stayed on the upper east side with my friend Jen for 2 nights.
Connecticut, where we've spent 4 nights so far at Brendan's parent's house in Quaker Hill.
New Jersey, where we stayed with friends Peggy and Eric in Jersey City for 4 nights.
Washington D.C. (sort of a state?), where we stayed for 3 nights for Brendan's cousin Jack and Becky's wedding.
Virginia, where we went for dinner in Vienna to meet my friend Heather.
Maryland, where we went for an after wedding brunch at Brendan's Aunt and Uncle's house.
And Massachusetts, where we stayed for a night in Boston after seeing a Red Sox game with Brendan's other Aunt and Uncle.

As you can see, we've been quite busy, but we're loving every minute of our vacation. I am, however, falling asleep while writing this.

And now, some fun trivia before I totally fall asleep:

Beds/Futons we've slept in: 5
Trains we've taken: 6
Subways we've taken (NYC, DC, Boston): Countless
Hours spent in the car: 11
Times we've done laundry: 1
Times we've unpacked and repacked: 5
Times I've missed my cats: Countless
Times we've missed the weather in Midland: 0
Miles we've walked: ?
Maps we've consulted: ?
People we've seen: nearly all our friends and nearly all Brendan's family

Up next: 3 more nights (including tonight) in Connecticut, followed by 7 nights in Maine (for our 8th and final state). Are we crazy? Yes. Is it worth it? Totally.

But I do miss those cats!
<3 S & B
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