Thursday, October 24, 2013

Living Room 2.0

Our living room situation was in need of some major improvement. Primarily because the cats did some serious damage to the chaise lounge: 

But also because the chaise has never been a comfortable place to sit, and we don't have the space to host non-functional furniture at this point. 

Enter the search for a loveseat...ahhh, how we could NOT find something agreeable. We looked in stores, we looked online, and we never found something that met our criteria. Are we just crazy, or is most furniture seriously ugly?

But finally, while browsing the internet one day, Brendan stumbled upon it at West Elm. A loveseat that looked cute and decently comfortable too. As a bonus, it was custom order only, so we could pick our fabric and color. After much googling of "fabric cats won't scratch," we decided on "performance velvet" and the color "ink blue." We were even able to save 10% on the order AND get white glove delivery, where the couch would be assembled and delivered to us, with no packaging to worry about cleaning up after. 

The only issue was we were told it would be mid-November before the loveseat arrived (we ordered in September). We were happy to get a call this week that our loveseat was on its way a few weeks early. 

A trip to Pier One for some throw pillows (we saved 30%) and a throw (20% off plus $10 off), and the look was complete! 

I love it! The best part is, so far, the cats do NOT scratch it, and it is actually a comfy place to sit. While this loveseat wasn't cheap, I hope it's a piece we will enjoy for years. 

The chaise was a $150 purchase on craigslist and lasted me 5 years; it's back on craigslist for sale, and so far, we've been offered $55 for it. Whoever takes it will hopefully reupholster it, and the chaise will have a second life, so it's a happy ending for everyone. 

In other "new" news, we bought the cats another scratching post and a catnip toy as a "peace offering" for losing their favorite scratching "toy." We also decided it was time to update their collars. The original collars were a gift from their "aunt Corley," but after 5 years, they were falling apart and missing rhinestones. Here's Brendan with Lola and her new collar. He's showing off his Red Sox beard. 

Zoe's new collar:

Replacing the collars was a bit emotional. I remember every few weeks or so when they were kittens, I'd slip the collars on, but they weren't yet big enough to fit into them. It seems like they've grown up so fast, and we've been through so much together. The girls seem pretty happy with their new looks. And with the Red Sox in the World Series and the weekend fast approaching, it's safe to say, we're happy too. 

For more upgrade posts, check out Kitchen 2.0 and Patio Perfect

Happy re-dos! 
<3 S, B, L&Z 

Monday, October 21, 2013


You know that phrase, "when the going gets tough, the tough get going"?

I think it can be more accurately stated: when the going gets tough, the tough figure out how to divide and conquer their workload without going insane. 

To say that this week is going to be stressful would be an understatement. I'm starting a 1301 flex class, which means getting to know new students and getting the course off to a successful start. I literally have 75 midterm essays to grade, a slew of revisions to grade, a novel to finish, a discussion board to grade, and I'm still trying to recruit and train tutors for the writing lab. I have some substituting this week and a presentation in a few weeks to prepare for as well. The apartment is messy, and I wonder to myself where we'll find the time to straighten up, or  if I'll be able to squeeze in workouts to the already packed days.

My past experiences have collectively taught me that this too shall pass. When I hit the stressful point of the semester, I take a deep breath, and take the pressure off of myself. It won't all get done in one day, and those two weeks I always tell students they must wait between turning in a paper and getting it back are necessary. Last year, I really learned how to take my workload and divide it by the number of days I have to get through it. The result is grading a little each day, which allows me the flexibility to stop when I get burnt out or tired. After all, I don't want to grade anyone's paper when I'm in a bad mood. I know how many pages I need to read each day, how many papers I need to grade, and what small tasks I can tackle in my personal life. No, this week isn't going to feel easy, but I can make it manageable.

I highly recommend dividing and conquering to anyone that is hitting mid semester burnout.

Other tips:

Never underestimate the power of an awesome partner/spouse. Special thanks to Brendan for making a healthy dinner tonight and helping clean the kitchen.

Drink tons of water...stress is dehydrating, and go to bed a little earlier than normal if possible.

Learn your limits and say no to things you aren't capable of taking on.

Remember to balance your work life with your other shouldn't dominate the other, at least not completely!

Here's to Monday being over! At least that thought is positive.

<3 S, B, L&Z

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Halfway Done!

The Fall 2013 semester is half over, so after administering midterms on Friday, Brendan and I hit the road for a weekend in Austin. In two years of living here, we have never gone to Austin for just a weekend. It's a little much car time for only a day and a half with family, but we had a good excuse this time, as my brother's girlfriend, Maisie, and my cousin Elena were both in from out of town.

Friday night, we ate with my family at Clay Pit, one of my favorite restaurants and then got drinks with Graham and Maisie at Nomads, the site of our wedding after party.

Saturday was low key: breakfast at Julios with the family, shopping with Mom, drinks with friends at Rio Ritas, and dinner prepared by Graham and Maisie at Graham's new house. Maisie made her famous key lime pie, lucky us! Below: friends and fellow Red Sox fans Cassie and John at Rio Ritas.

This morning was the cousin's brunch at Jack Allen's. My first time there, and it was pretty tasty. My cousins all wrote this blog article at cousin's brunch, since they knew exactly how the entry would sound. I guess that means that they are all avid readers, right guys ;)

My dad is on a cleaning out the garage kick, so we brought two bicycles home to Midland with us. Brendan is fixing one up for me, so hopefully, I can ride around the neighborhood soon.

We're home now, and a little worn out.  I feel encouraged though: 8 weeks to go, and I know we can do it.

Here's to the second half.
<3 S, B, L&Z

With "ghostwriting" from G&M, M&A, S&C, and E ;)

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

On Ditching the Snooze Button

It's been over 4 weeks since I've pressed "snooze." That's right, I've been pulling myself out of bed at 6:30am every Monday-Friday for 4 weeks now, and I'm living to tell about it.

I have read many articles that claim snooze buttons are hazardous to our natural sleep cycles and advise readers to discontinue snoozing. I figured I would give it a try as an experiment and see what happened.

The results? I actually really love it.

First step, I had to figure out how much sleep I need. 
One article gave great advice: by establishing a sleep schedule (going to bed and waking up at the same time everyday), one will eventually begin to consistently wake up a little before the alarm. Waking up on your own demonstrates to you that you're body is getting enough rest. Through trial and error, I've found my magic number: I need about 7 hours of sleep each night in order to feel my best. Thus, I need to fall asleep at 11:30, which means, ideally, I need to be in bed before then (around 11:00).

The second step was establishing a routine. Once I found my magic number for hours of sleep, not hitting the snooze became a lot easier. At first, it was really hard because I was used to staying in bed until around 7, which only gave me 40 minutes to get ready for work. Now, I have 30 minutes to myself in the morning to eat, prepare for class, and check Facebook...and having some time to myself makes the process of getting up a lot more pleasant.

Not hitting snooze is actually pretty easy...I don't keep the alarm next to the bed, so I physically must get out of bed to turn off the alarm. Then, I have a process. I turn up the thermostat and I turn off the fan because usually the apartment is too cold. I put on my robe and move to the couch, turning on all the lights as I go. Brendan makes coffee, and we both take 30 minutes to just wake up. We don't talk to each other during that time: I have learned that Brendan does not want to talk yet, nor will he remember things discussed if brought up before coffee has hit his system!

Not snoozing has improved my life in many ways. For one, I feel more prepared for work. Two, I have been early to work since the experiment began. Three, I feel better and less cranky in the morning. Four, I am definitely more well rested, and five, I usually have time to make the bed!

I recommend ditching the snooze button for good! It will take a while to find your "magic number" of sleep hours needed, but once you do, you will be waking up on your own, and not to an annoying device beeping or playing a tune.

To reiterate:
Find out how much sleep you need
Get in bed at the same time every night
Set the alarm for the same time everyday
Put the alarm away from the bed to resist hitting snooze
Establish a routine for waking up
Part of that routine should involve leaving time for yourself to wake up
Enjoy being on time to work & feeling well rested!

In other news: Happy anniversary to my parents in-law! They've been married 36 years today! Here's to many more anniversaries to come!

S, B, L&Z

Sunday, October 13, 2013

3 Years Together

October 12th is no longer our "real" anniversary, but we'll take any excuse to celebrate. Instead of our normal weekend trip, we went out to dinner last night and saw the British farce A Perfect Wedding at the community theater here. From now on, we'll save the trips for our "real" anniversaries, but perhaps still do something small for October 12th.

Coincidentally, our wedding anniversary and anniversary of dating are 99 days apart, so it was also fun to reflect on our first months of marriage.

We picked up our wedding rings just two days before our wedding. I remember looking at them and  thinking, okay this is finally happening. It felt like we were engaged forever. Time definitely moves faster on the other side of marriage!

A few people have asked us how married life feels; basically, it feels the same, except now our kitchen is much fancier (thanks to all the wedding gifts) and our finances are officially 100% combined, which makes it easier to plan for long term goals together. We were off from work for 6.5 weeks after our wedding, and that was really ideal because it allowed us to have a super long honeymoon and still have time to come home, organize the gifts, write thank you notes, deal with my name change process, etc. All of that time, we were 100% focused on newlywed bliss mode. We've been back at work for about 8 weeks now, and that has been really busy, especially because we both have overload and because I'm just starting at Midland College. Even though we've returned to the "real world," I would say newlywed life still has a certain novelty about it. It's really nice to finally be husband and wife, and I enjoy having the same last name. The name change took some getting used to, especially since it's the only name my students use (I still have a bit of a delay when responding to it!), and while I've switched over everything important, there are still numerous accounts (frequent flyer, store credit cards, etc.) that I haven't changed yet. I'm still working on some wedding projects (like photo albums), and we are expecting our wedding video back soon.

In other news, we're hanging on with this crazy semester. Next week is midterm week, and also the end of my 8 week flex course in developmental writing. I'm hoping over 3/4ths of my students will move up with me to Composition I for the second 8 weeks. It's hard to believe we're almost halfway there. I am excited for fall weather (we've finally been enjoying some cooler temperatures and it's thundering outside!), and the semester definitely gets easier once everyone is adjusted to being back.

Happy Sunday, Funday everyone!
<3 S, B, L&Z

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

The New Rules of Weight Lifting for Women, Stage 7 Recap

My Stage 1 Recap is here
My Stage 2 Recap is here My Stage 3 Recap is hereMy Stage 4 Recap is hereMy Stage 5 Recap is here

My Stage 6 Recap is here

I realize that I was awful and never did a Stage 7 recap. I finished Stage 7 a week before our wedding, and life was just too busy to update. Then, I forgot all about it, until I realized I was planning to start on the New Rules for Life program today. 

So, what were my overall results? 

I lost...
2 inches from my bust 
1.25 inches from my band 
No inches in right or left bicep
1 inch from my waist 
1.5 inches from each thigh 
2 inches from my hips
a total of 9.25 inches and 7 pounds

I took 9 months to complete the program. I also did yoga twice a week and trained for a 5K during the program.

Here is what is funny about these results: I went into this program wanting to tone my arms! Even though my arms were the one area that didn't lose inches, my strength improved a lot, and I still think they look more toned, despite being the same size. 

Stage 7 was brutal. The workouts had me doing 4 sets of 15-20 reps of every exercise. It was completely exhausting and took a really long time. I was glad to be done! 

I was happy with the results, and even though they felt so gradual, I sometimes questioned whether or not anything was happening, or if my measurements were off, when I look at photos, I can definitely tell a difference. These photos were taken July 2012, three months before I started the program:

Compare to these photos (same photographer) taken July 2013 (about a week after I finished the program): 

I can even tell the difference in my face. Friends that had not seen me in over a year said "Oh, you lost a lot of weight!," but in reality, I had only lost 7 pounds. This program taught me that it really is possible to look better without losing much weight. 

The best part of the whole experience was that I could go on our honeymoon and do a 17 mile kayak trip of the Na Pali coast. I don't think that ever would have been possible without the strength I developed in this program. I was also able to run faster and yoga classes became a little easier when my upper body strength increased. 

I would highly recommend this program because I think anyone could do it, as long as they committed the 2-3 days a week to go to the gym. It isn't instantaneous, but the results are real and can be maintained. 

My next step is to complete The New Rules for Life. The book has 3 phases, each with 5 levels. I plan to skip level 1, since it is for absolute beginners, and start the program with level 2. I'll keep you updated about how that goes.  

Happy Tuesday! 
<3 S, B, L&Z 

Sunday, October 6, 2013

When In...New Orleans

We had an amazing time at SCMLA 2013. This is my fourth time presenting at the conference, and New Orleans is by far the best conference city (other cities: Dallas Fort Worth, Hot Springs, Arkansas, and San Antonio, Texas). It also helped that we were staying in my favorite ever hotel, the Monteleone. Our presentations both went really well, and here were the other highlights from the trip:

Bourbon Street with our teaching mentor, Rita, and Brendan's former French Lit. teacher, Rachel. Maybe not the best idea before my 9am presentation, but I pulled it off!

Checking out the New Orleans Museum of Art and Sculpture Garden (highly recommended!):

Jazz Concert in the Botanical Garden and dinner at Cafe Degas with my Aunt Annette and Cousin Elena.

Brendan got his Oyster fix the next day at Felix's. 

All the amazing readings we saw, including Natasha Trethewey, the U.S. Poet Laureate.

An outstanding, romantic dinner at Bayona. 

And seeing our McNeese buds.

Louisiana holds a special place in our hearts, and it was wonderful to be back for a few days. We are thankful to Midland College for sending us.

We are home safe and enjoying a day of rest before the work week begins. It's hard to believe, but I'm already prepping my students for their timed writing midterms...this semester does feel fast!

<3 S, B, L&Z

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

October One; September's Done!

I need to put some pep in my step! Grading first essays of the semester for Composition I this morning has not exactly put me in a good mood. For one, I lose all of my speed over the summer, turning into a slow grader. For two, the students do not know my expectations yet, and many of them have never written a college level essay. When I get discouraged, I have to remind myself: this too shall pass. The students who want to learn will improve. I highly enjoy this essay by a fellow teacher and former co-worker: it sheds a humorous light on the sometimes depressing subject of grading.

With the new month upon us, I want to take time to set some personal goals. Having dinner with a friend last night, we discussed how happiness comes from making a conscious effort to do things that are important to you. With the demands of work and every day life, it's too easy to stop doing the things that really matter; this will serve as a good reminder to get back on track. I encourage everyone to make their own list...even share in the comments if you are so inspired. What will you make time for this month? Here's my list:

1.) Writing
I've been asked to read some creative work for a faculty presentation, so I need to use the deadline as incentive to start (and finish) something new. Submitting work is a whole different beast, but I need to put my duotrope subscription to use again.

2.) Music
I don't mean I'm going to start going to concerts every weekend, or even be "in the know" about bands, but I miss listening to new music that excites me. I'm bored of every song on my iphone, and I've finally decided to change that. I emailed my friends that stay connected with music to ask for some recommendations. Actually having a playlist I like would greatly improve my gym time.

3.) Workouts
I've let myself get in a workout rut lately. Yoga twice a week and working out on a cardio machine every Friday? Not going to cut it any longer. I need to get back into my weight lifting routine, and mix things up at the gym. I'm even toying with the idea of signing up for a Fall 5K.

4.) Reading (for fun!)
I read so much for work. I read books about how to help students succeed, novels for American Literature, research for conference papers, and that is all great, but feeling guilty every time I pick up my new Margaret Atwood novel isn't. I need to give myself permission to read for fun again.

5.) Office Space
This semester has been so busy, especially with taking on last minute overload. I never took the time to fully move into my office, and the blank walls are starting to become depressing. In general, I've always envied my office decorating co-workers. I believe that the spaces we occupy shape how we feel, so I really need to make some improvements.

I don't want to overwhelm myself with a longer list of goals. If I could improve in these five areas, I would call that a very successful October. I really do believe that writing goals down is important. For example, exactly one year ago today, Brendan and I opened a savings account and set a goal. Today, I'm happy to report that we doubled our savings goal for the first year. See? Goals really do help.

I got this sweet picture as part of a wedding gift from Antiquaria today. Isn't it lovely?

I hope everyone has a great October. I'm off to read for fun!
<3 S, B, L&Z

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