Friday, May 30, 2014

10 Years Ago Today...

Today marks 10 years since I graduated high school. I wasn't able to locate graduation pictures, but I found this cute prom picture on my computer:

I went to prom with one of my best friends, Cole. We knew each other primarily from theater where he was the President to my Vice President of the drama club. My best memories of prom are of eating out at Castle Hill that night (the restaurant was replaced by a Tex-Mex place, which is tragic. I also celebrated getting into NYU there with my parents). We didn't rent a limo, but were happy taking Cole's car, which we had taken to many football games over the years. We both already knew that we were about to live across the country from each other come fall...I was headed to NYU in New York, and Cole was going to USC in Los Angeles. Over the years, Cole remained one of my best friends, and Cole was even a groomsmen at Brendan and I's wedding in July. 

I remember being so excited for my high school graduation. A lot of my family came in from out of town for it. I had a job at Amy's Ice Cream, and I remember feeling very grown up that I came home from "work" to find all of my family at my house. If someone had told me at 17 that I would be living in Midland, TX at 27, I would have never believed it! I was New York City bound, and "so over" Austin. Now, I realize what a cool and amazing place Austin was to grow up in. I haven't lived there, with the exception of an 8 month period between college and graduate school, since I moved away at 18. 

I think if someone told my 17 year-old self that I'd go to graduate school for creative writing and English and become a college English Instructor, I would not have been surprised. I had already dappled in playwriting and fiction writing by that age, and I loved my high school English teachers Ms. Lardon, Ms. Morgan, Ms. Troy, and Mr. McArthur so much. I was always, always reading at that age (in between classes, at lunch, during downtime at rehearsals), and my mom teaches at Texas State, so it makes sense that I would follow in her career footsteps. 

I also wouldn't have been surprised to hear that I'd be married at 27 (I think at 15, I wrote that at 25 I thought I'd have a marriage, a career, and children. Doing all of that by 25 now seems hilarious to me--though I know many people do). I wouldn't be surprised to hear that I have two lovable cats...I've always been a cat person. 

I would be sad to know that I would lose one of my two living grandmothers (Mom's Mom) and three very good friends (Neal, Dina, and Jesse), one of whom I did not even know yet (Dina). If I would of known these things, there are things I would have done differently...mostly just spending more time with those people and saying "I love you" even more. The lessons that I learned from their lives about myself and about life in general are ones I won't ever forget.

I would be happy to know that I still have many of the same friends: 

I would be thrilled to know that my little brother finished high school and college, and would even be in graduate school! 

The 10 years since high school have been a wild ride...I finished 3 degrees, lived in 3 new cities, met many new people, began my career, and married the love of my life. I am hopeful that the next 10 years have just as many great things in store! 


Monday, May 26, 2014

Memorial Day Weekend

We had a great weekend with Erica! She is with us one more night due to bad weather flight delays. Here's a look at how we spent the long weekend:

Playing Ticket to Ride--Europe (Zoe is a competitive player).

On Saturday, my parents drove to Midland for the day (they were staying in nearby San Angelo) and Brendan and I showed them and Erica the tour of the model house in our development that uses the same floor plan we choose. Our house will be a bit different, but it gave them a pretty good idea of what to expect. Everyone loved the house, and afterwards, we all went to La Bodega for delicious Mexican food:

We cooked lots of good food while Erica was here and even made heavenly homemade peanut butter ice cream following this recipe. Our Kitchenaid Ice Cream Attachment is one of my favorite things (thanks Molly and John!)

We also took Erica to the I-20 Nature Preserve where we spotted rabbits, lizards, butterflies, and pretty birds including some cardinals.

Of course, no visit to Midland is complete without a trip to my favorite place, the drive-in movies. We saw the new X-Men movie and Neighbors, which were both okay. The drive-in experience was fun in itself! 

We hope you had a great weekend too! 
(and E!) 

Friday, May 23, 2014


Happy long weekend everyone! 

While Memorial Day does not vastly impact our work schedule (other than not feeling the need to check our online classes as compulsively), we are very excited because our friend Erica is arriving in an hour or so to spend her long weekend with us. We're looking forward to lots of fun this weekend and to just relaxing. 

This week has been a busy one. We had another big meeting about the house yesterday and finally paid our percentage on all the upgrades (the only thing we added to this list is a ceiling fan on the back patio). Of course, we've been keeping up with our respective classes, which are flying by. My conference call yesterday went really well. It took a lot of time to prepare for it, so I was happy that it had a good outcome. We've also been going to a lot of doctors appointments between the two of us to get all check ups taken care of before we leave town. I finally got my car cleaned and got an oil change today, so we're ready for our trip to Austin next weekend. I checked us in for our flight to London today. We arrive in 3 weeks, which doesn't feel real. Maybe it will really hit me once we start packing...that's going to be a process! We always travel in two carry-ons each, which will be quite a feat for being gone for 10 weeks. Maybe I'll do a blog post about it :) 

I hope everyone has a great long weekend. 

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

May 2014 Stitch Fix Review

I got my Stitch Fix today, and unlike my past boxes, I really need help deciding what to keep this time.

If you don't know what Stitch Fix is, please read my first ever review, which explains the concept in detail. If you want to give it a try yourself, you can sign up using this link, and I'd most certainly appreciate the referral credit.

My fix this time was SO MUCH BETTER than last time. My stylist was Suzanne, and I really appreciate that she stuck more to my price range than past fixes have, with all my items falling in the $34-$58 price range.

Up first was the Edmond Chevron Print Henley Shirt:

This shirt is super soft, and Brendan and I both think it looks cute. It would be a good shirt to travel with this summer, and it is also work appropriate with a pencil skirt for the fall. My gut instinct say "keep it."

Next was the Kahlo Embroidered Racerback Tank:

I had pinned this in black and yellow, a combination I think I prefer to blue and white, but blue is also nice. This is a size small, but as you can see, there is a lot of material to it and it is flowy. Brendan said he like it, but we both wondered does it look sort of maternity-ish? The back is racerback. Obviously, if I wore this out, I would use a bra strap converter.

Third, was the Ellington Raglan Striped Shirt:

I really liked this shirt because it is made of a sweatshirt like material. I think it would be good for traveling to wear with jeans or pulled over other clothes. My gut instinct says "keep it."

I'm more conflicted about the next item, the Addison Striped Cardigan. When I pulled it out of the box, I loved the color and material, but the shape of it is strange. I can't figure out, am I supposed to tie it?

Or just let it hang:

I'm not usually into the half or 3/4 sleeve look, but I noticed most of my pieces in this fix have unusual sleeve lengths, and I didn't particularly mind. These are things I probably would have never tried on in the store, but that is part of the fun of Stitch Fix.

My last piece was a maxi skirt, a style I would never try on my own:

Eh---I liked it better as a dress:

But I don't think the color looks good with my complexion.

My gut instinct says "send it back."

So, if you were me, what would you keep, and what would you send back? Help quickly please!

UPDATE: I kept the Chevron top #1 and the Raglan top #3. Thanks for your help!

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Home From Houston!

Brendan and I had a great time in Houston. Our work meetings were super helpful, and I feel confident that we can use all we learned to help design an amazing Learning Center at MC. I've got some work ahead of me in the next few days compiling on the information we now have. We also managed to keep up with our online courses despite travel schedules and sometimes spotty hotel internet. Best of all, we had a lot of fun.

We were able to visit with my grandmother for several hours, and we were so happy to see her. She was in good spirits. We also ate our way through Houston: Vietnamese food at Saigon Pho in Lake Jackson, TX, Thai Food at the amazing Thai Jasmine in Houston (which won points with us for being BYOB), and amazing diner food at City Cafe, also in Houston.

After Thai last night, we went to the Sundance Cinemas and saw the Grand Budapest Hotel, which was delightful. This is a movie that likely won't come to Midland, so we were glad to get to see it when we had the chance.

Despite all of our "big city fun," we were still glad to return home. And guess what arrived shortly after we did? My new shoes! These Reebok Skyscrapes are going to be my Europe shoes...they are super light (5 ounces), no socks needed (machine washable), cute, and best of all comfy! They aren't running shoes, but they feel perfect for being on your feet all day. Much to Brendan's satisfaction, I've come a long way from my wearing heels everyday days of yore.

Now that we're home, there is a lot I need to take care of in the next couple of weeks before we leave again. I'm going to make a list and chip away at it, but for now, I'm just loving on the cats and kicking up my feet ;) Have a good night everyone!

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

BirchBox May 2014 Review

Greetings from the Midland airport...our flight to Houston was supposed to be at 8:30, but we are delayed until 10:00 (fingers crossed we make our meeting today). I thought I would take advantage of the unexpected down time to do my May Birchbox review.

This month's Birchbox was pretty good! The theme was "Freewheeling Fun."

I received: Beauty Protector Protect & Shampoo and Protect and Condition
This is the same brand of the detangle spray that arrived in my first box, which I later bought a full size of. Like the detangle spray, the shampoo and conditioner has an amazing smell. The products left my hair feeling great, but the full size prices of $22 a bottle are too much for me. Still, I'm happy to have the samples, and they are the perfect size to travel with!
Supergoop! Everyday SPF 30
I really like this is non-greasy and does not have a strong smell like many other sunscreens. It does not burn or irritate my skin. You can use it on both face and body. The full size sells for $48 for 18oz, which is a very large bottle. I would consider it if I was going to be home this summer, but since I'll be traveling, I am glad to have this purse friendly mini.
LAQA & Co. Sheer Lip Lube Pencil in Coral 
This was a full size of the product, which usually sells for $18. I love when I receive full size goodies in my Birchbox! The pencil contains shea butter, so it is super moisturizing. I like the color, which is subtle but pretty. There is a slight minty flavor. This pencil should last a long time.
My "lifestyle extra" was two packets of the 32 Oral Care Breath Crystals
This product was interesting to try, but it is really not my thing. The crystals have a texture like Poprocks, and you swish them around in your mouth while they freshen your breath...then, you are supposed to swallow them. This is gross to me, and I would much rather chew gum or have some mints.
My last Birchbox surprise was a coupon to, a website that is new and part of the Kate Spade brand. The coupon is good for $25 off your purchase of $75 or more and does not expire until July 1st. I probably won't use this because I've already done some recent shopping. If any reader wants to claim my coupon code, you can send me an email at and it's yours. Check out the website, and see if it is something that you would actually use.

Well, that's my Birchbox review!
We are now delayed until 10:30...that 1:00 meeting is going to need to be pushed back. Wish us luck!

Monday, May 12, 2014

Start of Summer

We kicked off the first official weekend of summer with lots of fun...

Graduation was Friday night. I wrote a recommendation letter for a student's scholarship application, and we found out at graduation that she won $25,000 to attend UT-Austin and earn her Bachelors. That made me so happy!

After graduation, we hung out with some co-workers and enjoyed home brewed beer outside on the patio. The days are hot, but the evenings are cool and pleasant. We found out a co-worker we really like is moving to Dallas next year for a new job. We are happy for him, but we will miss him

On Saturday morning, we hit the farmer's market, and even though we didn't find much (heirloom tomatoes, duck eggs, and peach mimosa jam), it was enough to inspire Sunday and today's breakfast of poached duck eggs (they taste a little richer than chicken eggs, but similar) with heirloom tomatoes.

Directions: Pre-heat oven to 350. Spray wells of muffin tin with non-stick spray. Fill each with 1 tbsp of water. Crack egg into wells you will use. Bake for 17 minutes and remove with a spoon. Easy! 
Saturday afternoon, we met the Sigma Kappa Delta club at school for an end of year pizza party. We talked transferring in the fall jitters and summer job plans. We really enjoyed advising the club this year and will miss all the students that are moving on, but of course, we are happy for them!

Saturday afternoon and evening, we hung out with friends, played lawn games, and enjoyed a generally lazy few hours.

Sunday, we called all the moms and grandmas to say happy Mother's Day, and we both spent lots of time setting up our interim courses. Brendan thought he had lost tons of work in the transfer of new online teaching programs from last year to this year, but with an hour and a half of computer research, we found a way to recover it all. Thank goodness!

We then went and watched Game of Thrones with some friends, including this one:

It was a great weekend. Today, we're keeping busy with starting our online courses, straightening up, and packing for Houston (our flight leaves tomorrow). I'm looking forward to yoga tonight!

Hope this week is the start of something great for you as well.

Friday, May 9, 2014

Finishing the School Year

Grades are submitted, our graduation regalia is ready to be donned tonight, and we're exhausted. It can all only mean one thing: the 2013-14 school year is complete.

It was a year of major developments and change: my first year as a full time faculty member at MC, our first year advising Sigma Kappa Delta English Honor Society together, Brendan's first year as the co-director of the Honor's Program, my first year as the Tutoring Coordinator of the writing center, Brendan's first year on the budget committee, my first time chairing a committee (the committee to build a Learning Skills Center), Brendan's first year organizing BOTH creative writing contests, and the year I won the Jerry Mills Professional Development Award and Brendan won Teacher of the Year from Fine Arts and Communications Division. It was a busy year, and a very good year, but I think it's safe to say we're both ready for a much needed break.

We will still have some projects going on this month: We'll both be teaching online spring interim courses that go from May 12--May 30, we'll be traveling to Houston together next week to do some LSC committee research by visiting some community college learning/academic success centers, and I have a big conference call with grant writers on May 22 to prepare for. I also want to finally make my office presentable (I know, it's about time, right?). May is a nice transition between the full on craziness of the semester and the carefree days of summer. Even though we stay pretty busy, it does feel like a huge rest and break to not have to be waking up early and getting out the door anymore.

We have a LOT to do in these last 3 weeks of being in Midland...

I'm looking forward to Austin, NYC, CT, of course EUROPE, and Maine, but for now, I'm all about just being here and being finished.

Here's to that!

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Out With the Old, In With the New!

What's short and brown and living on my head? 

My new haircut!

I wanted something low maintenance for traveling this summer, so I headed to Maximus Hair Salon in Midland, as recommended by friends Chelsea and Kristen. The owner, Mac, is the sole stylist at the salon, and he is easy to talk to and does a great job. I gave him artistic freedom, and soon I was saying hello to my natural shade of brunette and goodbye to about 4 inches of hair.

I won't have another chance to get my hair done until August, so I hope the carefree cut and no roots color holds up nicely until then.

In other news, we're in the midst of finals week. Today is a nice because I don't need to be on campus, so I'm just at home and grading. Almost to the finish line!

Saturday, May 3, 2014

Building a House: Month 1 Updates

We cannot believe it has been almost a month since we purchased our lot. We met with our builder and realtor today to pick out all of our upgrades and preferences, and it was such a fun two hours. We agreed on all of the decisions, and for the most part, we could make them very easily.

The first thing to pick was exterior trim. We've already picked our brick, so we were looking for something to match. This is NOT our house, but this is the brick color we picked, and we matched the trim to the one in the photo. Also on the exterior, we picked our front door. Again, NOT our house, but gives you a good idea of what the front door looks like. Our front door color is "traditional walnut," which matches all the cabinets in our house.

Once the exterior was taken care of, it was time to decide on options for the interior. The look I personally like is simple and traditional, and Brendan was all on board with that philosophy. We're trying to design not only a home we will love the look of, but also one that potential future buyers would like. We did the lightest shade of granite possible, which is a ivory color with black and brown specs, with a light ivory stone backsplash. The cabinets are in "traditional" walnut. For the tile, we picked a light cream color. I was indecisive about what size tile (and Brendan had no opinion). In the model, they had large rectangle tile, which is supposedly the new thing, but in the end, we decided to go with 16x16 square tile. The walls will be beige with white trim. The fixtures (lights, facets, shower door, door knobs) will be in brushed nickel, an upgrade from the traditional shiny chrome. We picked a red brick color for the fireplace.

That part wasn't too hard, and then it was time to move on to the upgrades. We had spent a lot of time talking about these already, so most of the decisions were already made. We had set a budget for ourselves, and we actually stayed a little under it, which was great! In terms of upgrades, we decided to get those that were most important to us, plus anything that we thought would add significant future value to the home. Here is what we choose:

Outside, we added 4 down lights in the soffit, and a flood light with switch on the back patio. We added a garage door opener and keyless entry pad for the garage.

Inside, We did "brushed nickel" fixtures throughout the home. It should match nicely with our granite and cabinets.

In the kitchen, we upgraded to smudge proof stainless steel appliances and a double oven. The realtor agrees with us: our kitchen is a "dream kitchen" and definitely a selling point for a future buyer. The double oven should add yet another "wow factor." Also in the kitchen, we are doing under cabinet LED lighting, and 3 hanging pendant lights over the bar (the kitchen has a skylight and looks out to the backyard, so there is going to be a lot of natural lighting too). We added a reverse osmosis system, since it is the only way to get good tasting water in Midland (I will NOT miss carrying gallons of water up three flights of stairs). I can't wait to cook in our new kitchen! It's going to be amazing to finally have the space that we crave. Plus, we got so many nice kitchen appliances for the wedding...and now we'll actually have space to display them.

In the bathrooms, we opted for tile around the showers (fiberglass is standard). In the master bath, we will have a jetted tub. These two upgrades make a lot of difference in look and desirability. I take baths constantly, so I'm very, very excited about my large jetted tub!

In Midland, the water is...bad. We added a water softener system for the house (it cleans and purifies all of your water). I hope the purified water will be better for our skin and hair.

Crown molding adds a polished look, so we decided to add it in the entry way, formal dining room, family room, and breakfast area. We added ceiling fans to the two extra bedrooms (they are standard in the master bedroom and family room). Our house will be energy efficient, but it is my hope that fans will make it even more so. Plus, if we do have children (not anytime soon), a ceiling fan in the nursery reduces the chance of SIDS. We added faux wood blinds on all of the windows (goodbye blinds our cats can destroy).

Speaking of the cats, they are related to our last and biggest/most expensive upgrade. We decided we wanted absolutely no carpet in our home. For one, the cats will destroy it, and secondly, we didn't like the way it looked. Carpet was standard in the hallway between bedrooms two and three, and we replaced it with tile. Carpet was also standard in the master closet, and we replaced that with tile as well (closet is connected to the bathroom, so it should look pretty seamless). Carpet was also standard in the dining room, family room, and all three bedrooms. We knew that we wanted wood laminate (we don't have the option of real wood, but laminate has its advantages). We had a choice of standard laminate and engineered laminate, which has texture and looks more like actual wood. The engineered laminate was more expensive, but we really liked the look of it much better, so we choose that. The color we picked is quite dark (called Hickory Chocolate) and basically matches all of our cabinets. We're really excited about the flooring. Not only will it look nice, but it should be easy to keep clean.

The next step will be a team meeting with the actual builders in a couple of weeks. They are still set to break ground on the house in June. We're feeling more and more excited about it!

In other news, we found out yesterday that Brendan won the student voted Teacher of the Year Award for Fine Arts and Communications division. I am super proud of him! He honestly is great with the students, though he is always talking about how he can be better! What a wonderful way to finish off the school year. We head into finals next week. For now, it's grading, laundry, and trying to enjoy the weekend as much as possible.

Happy Saturday!

Thursday, May 1, 2014

Hooray For MAY!

Happy May everyone! May is one of my favorite months, and I'm sure just about everyone on the college calendar system agrees: there is something magical about the excitement that is in the air on campus.

The weather is also nice...though we have some 99 degree predictions in our upcoming forecast, today was nice and cool (though a bit dusty!).

My month started out really nicely. I was surprised today at the End of Year Awards Ceremony when I was announced the recipient of the Jerry Mills Professional Development Award, an award to help a faculty member with professional development related travel. I'll be using mine to help to go to a conference in Orlando, FL in the fall. I was very honored and grateful to be chosen.

As the semester nears its end, Brendan and I are both feeling "burnt out." We're looking forward to the weekend, even if it will mostly entail grading. Graduation is next Friday, and it's hard to believe I've been at MC for one year now. It has been such an incredibly busy and full year, and even though there is always more I wish I had accomplished, I feel like I made great strides this year both in the projects I was undertaking and as a teacher. I still have a lot to learn and a lot of ways that I can grow and improve, but I don't think it would be as much fun if I had it all figured out ;)

I'm going to miss some of the classes that I've had this semester. I have some great students who have worked incredibly hard on their research projects. They tell me that they have learned a lot and really pushed themselves beyond what they thought they were capable of, but I feel like I've learned so much from them. Teaching is funny that way. The end of the semester always has me reflecting on what a joy teaching can be...sure, there is struggle too, but that is the same with anything worthwhile, right?

I'm cooking a big pot of chili right now and looking forward to Brendan getting home from teaching so we can share it.

I'm also planning to hang out with these two:

Happy May and Happy Almost Weekend Everyone!

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