Monday, October 27, 2014

Building a House, Month 7: Electric, Plumbing, Inspections, Oh My!

My month 7 update is coming five days early this time because I'll be in Orlando this Saturday and unable to update.

When we last left off, the house had just gotten a garage door, making it officially "dried in."

A week later, on October 11th (an unseasonably cool day for Midland), things were looking basically the same on the outside:

October 11th 
However, the half circle window on the left was new. Compare to this photo from October 4th:

October 4th 
To see most of the changes, you had to venture inside:
Look for the little blue boxes...those are electrical switches and plugs, and they are now everywhere!
View from kitchen

Framing for kitchen counter 

Notes about our upgrades in spray paint everywhere

Some passed inspections 

Uh-oh...this wall needs to be moved. Make way for the whirlpool tub! 

View from entry
We also saw the insulation waiting in the garage, and the fireplace was unwrapped:

We didn't get to visit for two more weeks because we went to the conference in Austin.

When we returned October 25, things were the same one the outside:

October 25
View from entry 
I actually found two mistakes on the inside with our bathrooms:
We paid for a nicer bathtub (second bathroom)

We paid for a nicer shower (master bath) 
I informed the office, and they are correcting the problem ASAP. Bring on our upgraded bathrooms. 
In our backyard, our two neighbors to the left have their slabs poured (neighbors to the right just closed). 

Also, we failed a fire inspection :( Better luck next time house!

Please fix the fire stop and blocking...whatever that means. 
We had lots of plumbing and electric in place:
Bring on the toilet (master bath) 

Bring on the dishwasher (kitchen) 
We had to schedule a builder meeting with our new builder, Fernando, for today.

Unfortunately, Fernando had jury duty today, but Matt, his apprentice, is amazing. He has worked on buildings for Oxford, so we talked about Europe while waiting for Brendan to arrive. Matt pulled our plans and our upgrades record from the office, and we reviewed:

Glad you guys have it color coded 
I felt so excited today about our house. I can't wait to live in it with Brendan and make it all our own :) This is a special time in our lives, and I'm trying to treasure every minute. The community is coming together too.
The swimming pool is dug:
It will be 4'6" deep

Pool bathrooms/changing area

View from entry to neighborhood 10/27/14

In other news: I just bought Taylor Swift's new album 1989 (the deluxe version at Target, of course), and I LOVE it. It's completely different from anything she has ever done. I'm so happy for her; it's awesome!

Happy end of your Monday everyone!

Sunday, October 26, 2014

A Weekend Home

This weekend was my last weekend at home for a couple of weeks, as I will be in Orlando next weekend and Boston the weekend after that.

I made the most of it. Friday, after Brendan made dinner, we watched a documentary about the making of Nightmare on Elm Street called Never Sleep Again (a fun watch for NOES fans, but way too long...we stopped less than halfway through). We also watched slasher film You're Next this weekend (only okay, not great). Guess I'm in a horror movie mood for Halloween! Saturday, I made us breakfast, we visited the house (update coming tomorrow), and I worked on my paper for the Orlando conference. Saturday night, we visited with friends Jennifer and Mike, and Jennifer made us a delicious dinner of red curry and a fabulous apple crisp dessert. I also got about twenty hours of sleep this weekend. It was amazing.

This morning, Brendan made us apple dutch babies:

I finished my paper, Brendan read it and gave me notes, and I did all my revisions, plus, I started laundry and made us dinner: BBQ baked tofu, plus beets, and a side of butternut squash fries.

Making these butternut squash fries was easy: I preheated the oven to 425 degrees, Brendan cut a large butternut squash in half, we saved half, and he peeled the other half, scooped out the middle, and cut it into strips. In a large zip lock bag, I mixed about 4 tablespoons of olive oil, 1 tablespoon each of salt, pepper, and cinnamon, and then I added the squash strips, sealed the bag, and moved them around until coated. Then, I put the strips flat on a cookie sheet and baked them for 30 minutes, using a spatula to flip them over every 10 minutes. The result? They taste just as good as sweet potato fries!
Total prep and cook time: 35 minutes.
Deliciousness Factor: 5 out of 5 stars: they taste super good and are certainly more healthy than regular french fries!

We also gave to two great causes this weekend. The first was the West Texas Food Bank. Did you know that each dollar donated can make one full meal for a hungry fellow Midlander? With the holidays coming up, it was important to us to think of our neighbors that won't have a meal to eat without the services of WTFB. The second cause was for the son of a friend of a friend. 18 month-old little boy, Radley, was diagnosed with a rare form of Leukemia a few days ago. We were happy to give a little to help his family with the expenses of chemotherapy. Please keep Radley in your thoughts and prayers.

Now, time to finish my laundry and rest up before Monday. Waking up early tomorrow is going to be hard. But knowing I'll be in the most magical place on earth in less than 72 hours will make it a little easier!

Here's to that!

Saturday, October 25, 2014

A Short Fast Week

It seems like the remainder of my week passed in a blink. 

Wednesday, I met my new class: all 28 of them. Having such a large flex course is going to be a challenge, but I've already revised plans to accommodate this larger group. After work, I was stressed about everything that needed to be done with grading, getting the apartment in order, and preparing for my conference, but I went to yoga and had dinner with a friend, which made the stress more tolerable. 

Thursday was my power through it day: I finished grading all pressing assignments, did lots of laundry, we prepped the apartment for the cleaners, and we did all our grocery shopping. Thank goodness for Thursdays. We also were able to attend a lecture last night by Robert Edsel, the author of Monuments Men, which was sponsored by the Museum of the Southwest. The lecture topic: "Is art worth a human life?" explains the true story of how stolen art was recovered from the Nazis and returned to the museums during WWII. It was really neat to see the lecture because Brendan and I saw much of the art on our trip to Europe this summer, and many of the museums we visited were referenced. There is now an organization dedicated to preserving art and cultural treasures during war and conflict. One takeaway from the lecture that is really staying with me is the idea that all art, architecture, and symbols of human achievement belong to us all collectively. Thus, we each are collectively responsible for preserving the achievements of mankind. Edsel was an extremely interesting and engaging speaker, and I'm thrilled that this was a free public event. Midland has a treasure in the Museum of the Southwest, and Brendan and I enjoy our membership immensely.  

Friday, after a good teaching day, I squeezed in a phase two workout from New Rules of Lifting for Life. I returned to a totally clean house. Also, I don't think we ever showed off our new to us table from Jill and Ryan. It's squeezed in a little tight in our apartment kitchen (our old table is being used as a desk against the wall in the background), but we know it's going to look lovely in our new house. It was a super sweet gift, and we're excited about it. 

Check out these flowers I found for $5.

After my workout and shower, I got to catch up via phone date with my friend Lauren. Then, Brendan made us this outstanding Delicata Squash Delight. 

Preheat the oven to 375
slice two small delicata squash in half, then slice into inch wide strips 
on a cookie sheet, toss the strips in olive oil and roast for 30 minutes, keep a careful eye on the squash because it will burn 
meanwhile, in a rice cooker, prepare one cup uncooked white rice (you could use couscous if you have it) 
Chop 1/2 medium onion and 1 shallot finely 
In a wok, cook them with olive oil until translucent 
add 1 can diced tomato, drained
1 can white kidney beans, drained 
season with salt and pepper and harissa seasoning 
cook for 5 minutes 
add 1 handful of fresh baby spinach 
cover and cook for 2 minutes, until the spinach is wilted 
remove roasted squash from the oven, and add it to the mix 
serve over rice, top with parmesan cheese, and enjoy! 

Total prep and cook time: 35 minutes
Deliciousness factor: 4.5 out of 5 stars. I LOVED the flavor of the delicata squash (even more than I love butternut squash). This recipe tasted great with a glass of Pinot Grigio. Also, the parmesan cheese brings out all the flavors. Brendan notes that it was fairly easy and looks attractive in the bowl. 

Our weekend is off to a good start. We hope yours is too. 

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Austin Stories

We just returned (as of two hours ago) from a fun filled four nights in Austin. We attended the South Central Modern Language Association conference, and I presented on a creative writing panel. We also attended some really interesting and helpful sessions related to scholarship and teaching. This is my fifth year in a row attending SCMLA, and as always, I'm already looking forward to next year. We always get to see a lot of friends at the conference. This year was maybe the biggest crowd yet, and we caught up with eight friends/former professors from our McNeese days. Having the conference in Austin meant I also got to catch up with all my friends and family too; plus, as an added benefit, we didn't need a hotel. The Austin location made for an absolutely eventful four days!

On Friday night, we arrived at the house, and my parents hosted dinner for ten. I got to see my brother and my cousins. I also had some final grades to input because as of Friday, the Fall semester was half finished, meaning it was time to submit final grades for my eight week flex course.

On Saturday, we went to Trudy's with my parents, and then we all went and got our flu vaccinations. I don't ever miss an opportunity for my vaccine, as I work around so many students every day! So far, so good. I haven't taken a sick day from work since 2011 (knock on wood!) After the vaccine, it was time for something much more fun: my hair appointment at Bob Salon.

As usual, James knew just what to do when I told him I was bored and wanted something more fun. I am loving the results of my new haircut and color. He even showed me how to style it on my own.

Saturday night, we dressed up and ate out at Kome, one of my favorite sushi spots. We really went all out and even ordered dessert. It was delicious.
Then, we caught Hyde Park Theatre's newest play, A Bright New Boise, which was awesome. The show runs Thursday-Saturday next weekend at 8:00pm, and I highly recommend catching it if you are in Austin. We got to catch up with friends Allie, Cassie, and Ken afterwards over drinks. We stayed out so late just talking.

Sunday, we ate brunch with my parents and "second mom" Elda at Julios, and then we headed to the conference for some sessions. Afterwards, we got drinks at the Ginger Man and then ate at Second Bar + Kitchen with Rita, Allie, Scott, Krista, and Rachel. This was my first time at Second Bar + Kitchen, and it was pretty darn good. Not sure I would battle the downtown parking situation anytime soon to go back though, but I really enjoyed our pizza, beet salad, and gnocchi.

Monday morning, I had a second opinion dentist appointment. Back story: I have never had a cavity in my life, and I started seeing a new Midland dentist in March of 2014. At that time, my check up showed my teeth were in perfect condition. Six months later, a different dentist at the same office told me I had FIVE cavities and wanted me to schedule an immediate appointment to fill them all. That sounded a little strange to me, so I booked a second opinion appointment with the dentist I saw for twenty years in Austin. After x-rays and an examination, my Austin dentist concluded that I had absolutely NO cavities. This was great news, but I am disturbed that the Midland dentist would lie, and Brendan and I will not be returning to that office. It is sad that not all people in the health care industry are professional and trustworthy, and I think this story really proves why second opinions are necessary, especially if your gut instinct tells you a diagnosis seems wrong.

After the appointment, I picked Brendan up, and we went out for celebratory breakfast tacos at Taco Shack before heading to the conference for more panels and lunch with our former professor, Rita. Crepes and breakfast tacos in the same day? Why, don't mind if I do!

After a particularly helpful panel about online grading and feedback, we went to the hotel bar for drinks with the McNeese crowd. Then, Brendan and I met up with Amanda and Matt for dinner and visiting. We got Vietnamese food at Pho Thaison. This was our second time, and it did not disappoint. We'll be back for more pho!

Today, we packed up, met Dafydd for breakfast at Kerbey Lane, and then went back to the conference hotel for my presentation. The presentation was great, and we wished we could stay for even more, but it was time to hit the road and get back to Midland. We stopped for dinner in San Angelo and made it home after dark. Lola and Zoe were very happy to see us indeed, and we are very tired, full from all the great food, and happy from all the great company.

Tomorrow, we head back to teaching at 8:00am. I have a brand new flex class to meet, and only one week until I leave for my Orlando conference. Life is crazy, but we wouldn't have it any other way!

Thursday, October 16, 2014

The New Rules of Lifting For Life: Phase One Recap

From October 2012-June 2013, I completed the New Rules of Lifting for Women program and lost 9.25 inches and seven pounds.

After that, I purchased New Rules of Lifting for Life, intending to begin it in October 2013. I did one workout back then, but I found this new book confusing, and, to be honest, the only exercise I did last academic year was yoga twice a week.

After we returned from Europe, I knew I had to make some changes. My clothes were tight, and I didn't like it. I began The New Rules of Lifting for Life on September 6th, and I finished phase one, transform, today.

I'm really proud of all that I accomplished, and once I figured out how to do the workouts (there is a LOT more choice in this book than the women's version), it really isn't so complicated at all. I did New Rules in conjunction with RISE (Resistance, Intervals, Stretching, Endurance). New Rules takes care of resistance and intervals, since every weight lifting exercise ends with interval training, yoga twice a week takes care of stretching (and so much more!), and once a week, I've been doing running as endurance training (to prep for my next 5K). Overall, since returning to Midland on August 11th, I've done 33 workouts. Lately, I average four workouts a week.

As a result, I'm feeling great; however, I haven't put any emphasis on tracking inches or pounds lost. I find tracking inches confusing (how do you know that you're measuring in exactly the same spot?), and my weight has stayed pretty much the same. I just know that my clothes are fitting better (today, I put on a bridesmaid dress I bought this summer, and the seamstress wanted to take it in where it had been tight before). The most important thing to me is that I'm feeling strong and healthy. Here's a look at my improvements:

Stability: Planks from 30 seconds to 60 seconds
Dynamic Stability: Plank and Pulldowns from 30 pounds to 40 pounds
Lower Body Power: From level 1, box jump to level 3, kettleball swing with 15 pounds
Upper Body Power: Elevated Explosive Push Ups (I thought I could never do them, but I do 8 with ease...time to move up to level 2!)
Squat: From level 1, body weight squat, to level 3, front squat with 20 pounds
Pull: From level 1, standing cable row with 30 pounds to level 2, kneeling lat pulldown with 95 pounds.
Hinge: from level 1, swiss ball supine hip extension, to level 2, cable pull through with 30 pounds
Single Leg Stance: the dreaded STEP UP is back. I went from 10 pounds to 20 pounds.
Lunge: from level 1, split squat, to level 2, dumbbell reverse lunge with 20 pounds
Push: My push ups are awesome! I can do 15 with perfect form. I could hardly do 10 at first.

My tips are:
Plan for each workout to take about 1 hour.
Be committed: I've worked out in a super crowded gym and when I had to return home to get clothes because I forgot them. Take a no excuses approach.
Put a hair tie in your gym bag: always. Likewise, try to always have a snack on hand if pre-workout hunger strikes.
Write down your workouts on index cards, so you don't need to carry the big book around the gym.
Look through the book every couple of weeks to determine if you are ready to progress in level.

Now, I kind of wish I had taken good before photos, so I could compare them to after photos, but oh well. I'm excited to move on to phase two, develop, next week, but first, I'm prepping for a trip to Austin to present at a conference. We leave tomorrow after work, and I couldn't be more excited to see my family and friends.

Happy almost weekend everyone!

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Heavy Hearts

Today, we had four adults, one baby, two cats, and two dogs in our 964 square foot apartment. And you know what? It felt like one big happy family. The occasion? Our friends Jill and Ryan officially closed on selling their Midland home today, and they move to Frisco, TX with their daughter, Riley, and their two pups, Loki and Brutus, tomorrow. Since they are, as of 3:00pm today, officially homeless, our home is their home for the night (minus Loki and Brutus, who only stayed here for an hour and are now at another friend's house). To say they will be very missed is an understatement, but, of course, we're happy for the next chapter in their family's life. Still, I can't help but get sentimental tonight thinking of all that we have been through.

I first met Jill in the fall of 2011, a month after Brendan and I moved to Midland, at a yoga class at Gold's Gym. I asked her a question about her t-shirt, and we quickly found we had a lot in common and lived only a few blocks away from each other. We soon scheduled some "couple's dates," and when Ryan and Brendan got along, we knew we had a good thing going. Many "couple's dates" of game nights, cooking dinner together, trips to the movies, to bars, and to brunches ensued, and, of course, Jill and I occasionally went to some Saturday morning yoga classes still.

Since we lived so close to one another, we became the natural choice for pet-sitting or house/apartment sitting for one another. A fun fact is that each time Brendan and I dog sit for Loki and Brutus, Jill and Ryan end up stranded in airports because of freak weather. However, Brendan and I never mind a few extra days with the pups! We love taking them for walks. Another fun fact is that Ryan checked our mail and kept an eye on our apartment for two and a half months this summer. Now that's a long apartment sitting gig.

Okay, back to the story. In May of 2012, I texted Jill from Austin to share the happy news of Brendan and I's engagement. She immediately said she wanted to throw my bridal shower, and, a year later, she did. That's just the kind of friend she is. In the fall of 2012, Jill and Ryan had big news too: they were expecting a baby! A month after my bridal shower, I helped host her baby shower. Brendan even helped Ryan paint the nursery. July 2013 was such a special month for all of us. I can still remember exchanging wedding pics with newborn pics via text messages I sent from Hawaii. I'll also never forget returning from our honeymoon and meeting Riley for the first time; she was so tiny, precious, and loud! She is now a gorgeous, talkative, and curious 15 month old toddler. Where did the time go? That is what all of us want to know.

Coincidentally, we have both been building a new home at the same time. Construction on Jill and Ryan's new home in Frisco began earlier this year, and construction started on Brendan and I's future home in August. It has been interesting and funny to be going through the building process at the same time, and it has been nice to have a couple we can discuss all the minute details with.

Tonight, we went out for a last (for awhile) dinner and exchanged going away presents. We got Jill and Ryan a copy of our favorite game: Ticket to Ride (The Nordic Edition), and they got us a fancy bottle of Bordeaux and took us out for dinner. For them, today has been ultra surreal, as they closed a four plus years chapter of their lives. For us, it's pretty surreal too, since Jill and Ryan have been our friends down the street for as long as we have lived in Midland.

Writing all these memories down is sad, but I know we will now have another excuse for a weekend trip, and we look forward to hosting them at our new house. We've even talked about meeting in another town for a weekend together. I know that, no matter what, we will keep in touch. It isn't goodbye, it's just so long for a while!

Farewell friends and best wishes! We will miss you.

and your little massive dogs too! 


Sunday, October 12, 2014

On Being Crazy For Someone

Today marks four years since Brendan and I shared that first kiss that has led to so much wonderful in our lives:

Leading up to today, I had been thinking a lot about our relationship and how lucky I am to have Brendan by my side. I'm lucky because Brendan is an amazing person that gives me so much affection, love, and care, but I'm lucky for a reason beyond that: I found someone to spend my life with that I am crazy about.

My mother-in-law, who has been married for 37 years on Wednesday, once told me that marriage is hard. I know that she is right; marriage can be difficult at times. But if you find someone you're crazy about, the hard parts don't seem to matter so much.

When I think back to four year ago, I remember life being wonderful and agonizing. Wonderful because I was so in love, and because every time I was with Brendan, I was so happy. Agonizing because I was so vulnerable in how much I loved him. I finally felt the real thing, which nothing else in my life had compared to. I had a realization that this was what I had been looking for, but I never had found it because I didn't know what it was until I had it, and it was agony knowing I could end up heartbroken if it didn't work out. But now, I think the only relationship worth having is that one: the one where you are so crazy about someone else that that person is all you can think of. The one where you would drive to the store in the literal freezing cold to pick up ingredients to make that person a warm dinner. The one where you can't spend a weekend apart.

Now, I look back on falling in love, and I know that I would have never felt so much for another person, all that passion or pure joy, if there wasn't such intensity to the depth of my feelings. Yes, I really felt like my life depended on how things would turn out, but honestly, it wouldn't be my life without him. And that feeling is what makes our marriage.

Our relationship has taught me so much about compromise, putting another's needs in line with my own, and being there for someone whether it's easy or hard, but though the past 1,462 days have changed us, one thing is still very much the same: I'm still crazy about him.

Happy four years together, Brendan. I've cherished every day.
<3 S

Monday, October 6, 2014

Another Weekend Gone

This weekend went by in a flash! We were super exhausted and didn't really do much. On Friday night, we made dinner and watched Europa Report on Netflix. We both really liked this Sci-fi/Thriller and would recommend it to anyone.

Saturday, we skipped the farmer's market to sleep in, and Brendan made us amazing omelets. This omelet featured both basil and rosemary from our friend's garden plus bell peppers, onion, and cheese. Who would have thought that rosemary would taste so amazing in an omelet? Now you know!

Also on Saturday, I squeezed in my fifth workout of the week (I'm proud!) by running a treadmill 5K. I'm back up to my slowest ever speed, which tells you a lot about how fast not running will deteriorate one's endurance. But, the good news is, I'm only four minutes away from my fastest time, which I hope to beat in six weeks. Brendan has offered to run with me to help me pace. I see no more walking breaks in my future. On the bright side, I made a running playlist of some awesome tunes, which helped my run feel faster and a bit less painful. On my playlist: Duran Duran, The Dresden Dolls, Cee Lo Green, David Bowie, Taylor Swift, Katy Perry, Meghan Trainor, Pharrell Williams, Nicki Minaj, Ariana Grande, Imagine Dragons, and Charli XCX.

Saturday night, Brendan suggested seeing Gone Girl, but regrettably, my energy was long gone. He made us an old favorite, and we watched The Double on Netflix instead. I fell asleep before the movie was over. It wasn't a bad movie, but it was depressing. We are planning to see Gone Girl next weekend, as everyone, including both of our moms, has already been! 

Sunday morning, we slept in until 10:30, and it was blissful! When I woke up, I wanted pancakes, so that is what I got.

The rest of the day was dedicated to laundry, grocery shopping, and watching football.

I love having a full fridge! 
On Sunday night, I made the most amazing soup from this month's issue of Food Network Magazine. I only half followed the recipe though, and, in making the dish vegetarian, I also made it more of a pasta dish. It was delicious though.

In other news, I received Magic Bands for my trip to Orlando, FL this month. My mom is meeting me there, so we can go to some theme parks when I'm not tied up at my conference. We are staying at a Disney Resort, and this band serves as room key, park ticket, and credit card, so we don't need to carry anything with us during the day. It also stores digital Fast-passes for the rides, which you can reserve in advance on your mobile phone. I'm totally excited about my Magic Band! I even got to pick the color.

Bring on Disney World in 23 days! Until then, bring on another productive week and beautiful weekend!


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