Sunday, November 30, 2014

End of November + "Ready" for December

Our Thanksgiving vacation was wonderful! On Wednesday, we made it to Austin in time for dinner and enjoyed a family meal at Pho Thaisun. This was our third time eating here since my cousin Amanda and her fiance, Matt, introduced us several months ago, and it never fails to please.

On Thursday, my brother, Graham, hosted Thanksgiving at his house and a delicious feast was cooked for nine!

Graham and his turkey
After the feast, we caught a showing of Interstellar at Alamo Drafthouse. The movie was really zany and pretty fun. We suggest not thinking about it TOO hard, as some of it makes very little practical sense, but if you are ready to suspend your disbelief, you like distopic/speculative "science" fiction, and you have nearly three hours to spend at the movies, then Interstellar is the movie for you.

On Friday, we avoided "black Friday" in every way. Instead, we ate family breakfast at Cisco's, and we did some online shopping (my annual Christmas cards are on the way!). We also researched summer travel plans, enjoyed spending time outside (the weather was in the 70s the entire time we were in Austin), and ate dinner with my parents at El Arroyo. Cole came over Friday night, and we played my Dad's favorite board game, Ticket to Ride, and visited until past one in the morning.

On Saturday, we ate breakfast with my parents at Trudy's, relaxed a lot, and played two more rounds of Ticket to Ride. Saturday night, Brendan and I attended my ten year high school reunion on sixth street. It was good to catch up with people I hadn't seen in ten years and hear what people are up to now. It was a small group of maybe forty people (my graduating class was 369), but it was a good size reunion to really get to visit with everyone.

This morning, we ate family breakfast with Matt and Amanda at Taco Deli, and then we hit the road for our return to Midland. We arrived in town at 4:30, but ran an hour worth of errands (including checking on the house) before actually returning home. Lola and Zoe were glad to see us, as usual, and I was so happy to see them. I missed those fur cats!

After dinner, we put on some Christmas music and decorated. I knew if we didn't get it done today, the busy week would go by without decorating, and we wouldn't have any time to actually enjoy the tree and lights. This year marks the sixth and last year for this tiny tree to be our main tree. When we have the house next year, we'll upgrade to a bigger tree and maybe use this one as small decor somewhere else.

Big thanks to Brendan for hanging the garland, ornaments, and the lights above the door. Zoe kept trying to "help" him by jumping up on the stool; it was pretty cute.

We literally store all the Christmas stuff in two boxes in our closet. This is the fourth time we've decorated in this apartment, and we have it down so well, we can do it in an hour!

It makes me happy to see the decorations. Two things I don't think I can ever give up, no matter how busy life gets in December are decorating and mailing out Christmas cards. I love this time of year, even if I never quite feel "ready" for it. This month will be so, so busy (as usual). We have at least five work related Christmas parties to attend, we have all our shopping and wrapping ahead of us (I have a few gifts, but nothing big), and, as of tomorrow, we have twelve days until Fall 2014 grades are due.

Ready or not, December is two and a half hours away!

We hope you and yours are able to embrace all the holiday season has to offer.

Cheers to being merry!

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Big Time Thankful

Hello and happy (almost) Thanksgiving. Brendan and I are teaching tomorrow morning, and then we will head to Austin to be with family for the holiday. I am looking forward to some MUCH needed rest and relaxation (and, of course, I'm also looking forward to the food!).

Before I leave, I wanted to reflect on some of the things I am thankful for this year. Here is my list of gratitudes, in no particular order:

I am thankful for my students. I ended up with some good groups this semester, and I have extended my efforts to really encourage them to come work one on one with me. They have taken me up on the offer this semester, and I have seen a lot more students in my tutoring and office hours. As a result, I've been able to really get to know them as the wonderful individuals they are, and their research papers are evidence of their hard work and personal growth. I am beyond grateful for this opportunity to teach to, and to learn from, my students. I love getting to know a new group every semester and helping them grow as writers and thinkers. I often catch myself thinking "I can't believe this is my job." The classroom, for me, is a joyous place to be. I am thankful to be able to create a nurturing and positive environment for my students to learn in. We have computers in our classroom, a printer, and a Smartboard, and I am thankful for these resources that allow me to make learning hands-on, engaging, and fun for them.

I am thankful for all the things that keep me healthy: my weekly yoga classes, my free access to the college gym, my healthcare, and my dental care. I am grateful to have these resources and to be healthy. In the last few years, I have learned that my body is so much stronger than I give it credit for. I truly can do almost anything that I set my mind to.

I am thankful that we have a nice place to live and that we have transportation. These things are easy to take for granted, but our lives would be very hard without them. I'm also grateful for all the necessities: food, electricity, running many people live without these things. I'm thankful for my ability to give back to my community and to communities outside my own. Lending a helping hand is always a worthwhile endeavor. As the Muppet Christmas Carol movie says "Live in peace and love."

I am thankful for our ability to travel, and, specifically, I am thankful we could take the trip to Europe this past summer. I learned so much about history and about myself on that amazing adventure. Visiting champagne caves, salt mines, museums, palaces, and castles, taking a hike through the Black Forest, driving through the Bavarian Alps...the whole trip was beyond anything I could have ever dreamed of. I am grateful to have those memories.

I am thankful for my family. Brendan is the best husband I could have ever asked for, and I love and cherish cozy nights with him, Lola, and Zoe by my side. Our relationship is supportive, loving, and equal, and I feel so glad to have him as a partner. I'm thankful for our parents and siblings. They are always there for us and make life exciting. I'm thankful for our grandparents, aunts and uncles, and cousins. We are truly lucky to have so many caring individuals in our lives. We are grateful for friends: old and new, near and far, friends add meaning to our lives.

I am thankful to be alive. Each day is a gift, so you have to get up and live it.

What are you thankful for? We hope it's a lot!

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Lola & Zoe's Holiday Boutique Sale with Chloe + Isabel!

If you are anything like me, you're already into holiday shopping. Also if you're anything like me, you're using said shopping as an excuse to buy a few things for yourself too.

My friend from graduate school, Angelina, teaches just like me, but now she has a part time business selling jewelry with Chloe + Isabel too. She asked me if Lola and Zoe wanted to host an online party where all our readers and friends would get four days of Chloe + Isabel discounts, and of course, they said "meow," which means "yes."

A little about the brand: It's a mix of the trendy (Chloe) and the traditional (Isabel). All pieces are hypoallergenic and come with a lifetime warranty.

About the deals (Good November 20-24 at
Free studs for the first 3 orders placed (your choice):

Free shipping, all orders, use this link
Free shipping and free studs, orders of $125 or more
Free shipping, free studs, and $50 off orders of $200 or more
Each time you spend $20, you will be entered into a raffle to win $25 off of a $75 purchase

Also, this gift set of Lola and Zoe's favorite things is $158 and comes with free studs (and free shipping of course).

One thing I really like about Chloe + Isabel is that they have a lot of options under $25, which is perfect if you are exchanging gifts with a lot of girlfriends this holiday season. In that section, I'm really eying the aquamarine and teal studs, the braided double leather wrap bracelet in navy, and the art deco hair pin duo. What do you have your eye on? If you're on my X-mas list, you just might end up with it under the tree ;) but you gotta tell me! I can't read minds!

Shop for you and yours until November 24th at the link

Merry wish fulfilling!


Sunday, November 16, 2014

Building a House Month 7.5: Would You Like Walls With That?

When we last left off on October 27th, the house had plumbing and electric in place, a failed fire inspection had caused things to slow down a little, and the insulation would waiting in the garage.

I returned to the house on November 5th in between trips to Orlando and Boston. I walked through with the builder and his assistant; they had questions about where we wanted the cable hookups in all the rooms. Though we will have hookups in the living room and all three bedrooms, I know the living room is the only room that will likely have a TV in it as long as we live there, and I don't think we'll ever pay for cable. The builders also delivered the good news that our HVAC, electric, and plumbing inspections had all passed: we were ready for drywall.

November 5th 

Our house had its very first leak. A plumber had to be called in to fix it. 
2nd bathroom 


Master bath
The builder also told me they were planning to start on drywall that week and finish the next week. He told me once drywall goes in, we can expect 75 days until closing. In my mind, I calculated a late January closing: perfect. However, when I ran that by the builder, he said more like late February because they would "lose a lot of time for Christmas." Even with losing a week for Christmas, 75 days should still put us at the beginning of February. I don't know if he was just being conservative in his estimate, or if construction workers take off a month at Christmas, but I told him March 1st was the latest we could close on the house (our lease at the apartment ends 3/5/14), and he seemed to think that was doable. I was a bit disappointed in the news because I don't want to wait, but I was also relieved to hear we might not be wasting as much rent money on the apartment as I had suspected (we cannot break the lease without more financial penalty than just paying the lease off). The builder also told me he would be living across the street from us in a house that was closing next week. I wonder if he realizes that I will now be at his door anytime something goes wrong?

Brendan and I visited the house together on November 10th and saw the first stages of insulation and drywall going in: 
November 10th 

Skylight with insulation 

Master bedroom with insulation 

Hallway view 

Hallway with drywall

Kitchen area with drywall

garage with drywall

Laundry with drywall

Breaker box 

We returned again yesterday on November 15th, and we were able to meet our neighbors on the right side (The Johnsons). They seem like a nice couple. They have two young boys and a dog. I said a silent prayer that the dog isn't the yappy type. They told us that they were supposed to close in August but ended up closing in October. We knew the building process would probably be slower than expected, which is why we signed the apartment lease through early March, though we were told to expect an early January completion. 

November 15th 
Inside, the drywall is about 90% complete. 

View from entry 

Master bedroom 
And the big development: we have cabinets! Of course, they haven't been stained yet.

Cabinets and kitchen island unstained
Master bathroom:
Master bath cabinets unstained
The second bathroom is the one place still needing drywall.
Second bathroom cabinet 

Living room 

Bedroom 2

Bedroom 3

Garage with attic 

Yesterday, our lender CCed us into an email to the building office asking what our expected closing date would be, and the building office wrote back and said "looking at the end of December." What? I wrote back relaying the conversation with the builder the week before, in which he said the end of February. The office emailed the builder asking him to confirm the closing date, but he hasn't responded yet. End of December would be way too early for us. We won't be in town for a good half of the month! 

So, in summary, in less than three weeks, our house got insulation, drywall, and cabinets, and we will close on it sometime between the end of December and the end of February. According to my research, up next is primer paint, brick, interior doors/baseboards/decorative trim, and paint. 

Stay tuned!

Saturday, November 15, 2014

I did it! 4th 5K day!

I felt insane when I realized I had scheduled a 5K (Face the Race) for the first weekend in three weekends that I would be in town. As I mentioned, Midland had a recent cold front, and my training plans went out the window with my trip to Florida 2 and 1/2 weeks ago, so these factors made me unenthusiastic, but there was one motivation stronger than all the deterrents: we had already paid for the race!

With my mind made up that I wasn't skipping, I set my Saturday alarm for 7:00am. Lola had other ideas and woke me up at 6:00am. It was 36 degrees. I ate an English muffin with peanut butter, hydrated, and made sure my iPod was charged. I dressed in running shorts, multiple layers on top, a band to cover my ears, gloves, and sunglasses. It all seemed like a good legs were numb the first mile or so, but they warmed up as Brendan promised. Brendan decided to run with me, which was cool. He wanted to pace me and help me beat my previous best time. I kept pace really well on my own (despite having to pass around lots of walking traffic) and listened to my Ipod but had a really tough last 0.5 mile. Brendan didn't let me walk though and kept reminding me how close we were. So much of running is mental. I know things were feeling worse than they really were, but I really wanted to slow down, and I was arguing with him (I'm so stubborn!). The cold wind in my face when we made the second to final turn was not helping, and there were no mile markers, so it was hard to tell just how far the finish was. The bottom of my foot had a blister, which didn't help matters either. But Brendan had the watch and assured me I could beat the time if I just pulled ahead, so I gave it my all at the end.

I ended up beating my personal record by 10 seconds, which was awesome. I was in better shape in March 2013 too, so it feels like a big accomplishment to beat that time. I came in at 35 minutes, 28 seconds with an 11 minute 25 second pace. I placed 7 out of 14 in my age group. Afterwards, I was very tired and very ready for breakfast. Brendan said he was proud. 

We had a good time, and the race benefits self esteem programs for local junior high girls. Many of the girls ran in tutus and glitter today. It was pretty cute! This is cute too: 

I love my husband :) 
We met a co-worker for after race breakfast, and then we checked on our house (update coming tomorrow). I'm feeling a day on the couch for the rest of the day (I am already sore). I have no plans other than movies and magazines. Happy Saturday! 


Thursday, November 13, 2014

16 Things I've Learned From Mimi

A week ago tomorrow, my grandmother turned 97.

I was in Boston for a wedding and unable to attend her party, but she was certainly in my thoughts all weekend, as she is most everyday. My Mimi and I have always shared a strong connection. In honor of her birthday, I'm reflecting on 16 things (9+7) that I've learned from Mimi. In no particular order, here they are:

1.) Reading is the best way to escape to somewhere different and keep your mind active. Don't keep reading a book if you don't like it, life is too short, and there's no point in that. Find books that you love and read them as fast as you can. Develop a lifelong love for reading, and your mind will stay sharp.

2.) Smoothies are the best kind of breakfast. Blend up fruit and juice, and it's ready to eat.

3.) Always send a thoughtfully written thank you note. Late is better than never.

4.) "Hiring movers now is cheaper than paying for back surgery later." Well said, Mimi, well said.

5.) You don't have to make promises that you will be anywhere. It's okay to say no or say that you are not sure.

6.) You can disagree with someone's choices and love them at the same time.

7.) Life is too short for regrets. Stop focusing on what could have been and accept what is with as much grace as possible.

8.) If you are not a good fit with someone's family, save yourself time and end the relationship. When you marry a person, you marry that person's family. Unless being close to family isn't important to you, this will be a big source of conflict.

9.) Never read your partner's mail or email or pry into that person's personal business in any way. You have to trust the other person fully to have a happy relationship.

10.) Heartbreaking, difficult, and hard things will happen to us all. This is a part of life. When bad things happen, you have to continue living. A tragedy shouldn't define the rest of your life.

11.) Don't be a person that talks constantly. This is exhausting to other people. Stop and listen.

12.) Buy things at places where you can get the best deal, even if this means making trips to multiple stores.

13.) Save your money. You never know what is going to happen to you. Being self sufficient and financially secure are more important than anything material that you could buy.

14.) Find a lot of people to love. Whether you have a family or develop rich friendships, being invested in other people will add quality and quantity to your life.

15.) Keep busy. Schedule weekly bridge games when possible.

16.) Never say no to playing a game of Scrabble.

Photo taken by my cousin, Amanda Figueroa. 
Happy belated birthday, Mimi. Thank you for all you continue to teach me. I hope I get to be 97 and just like you one day!

In other news: we got Brendan's car back from the shop today. Three cheers for having two cars again! It has also turned very cold in Midland (currently 31 degrees). I am not ready for it to be this cold, but I have no choice, so I took my boots in to be repaired, and I took my work pants to the dry cleaners. Winter is coming. Stay tuned for a 5K recap (spoiler alert: I don't think we'll be breaking any records) and a house update this weekend. Happy almost Friday!


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