Thursday, March 31, 2016

1,000 Days of Marriage

Greetings faithful readers.

Today, Brendan and I celebrate the kind of occasion that only someone with an abnormal focus on the passage of time (me) would even notice: we have been married for 1,000 days.

I've learned a lot in that time period, and, like all opportunities for reflection, I'm excited to share. It's not advice so much, but just what I've observed about our relationship and how it has evolved since we married. Here's what I now know!

Change is Inevitable
Though 1,000 days isn't a particularly long period of time, our lives have changed a lot. A month after marrying, we started working together as faculty members at the same school. Being colleagues feels pretty natural to us (since we met in graduate school), but it was totally different than working at two different schools. Our financial priorities have changed as well: we decided to start saving more for retirement and also made the decision to purchase a house, which changed how committed we are to the city we live in and also our daily lives. When we married, there was really no way that we could have predicted all the changes that were going to occur. I feel like though our goals may have changed, we still have the same core values as people that we did when we married. For instance, we'd still both rather spend money on experiences and on seeing the world than on material things. I think what I've learned is to realize that priorities are flexible and ever shifting. It's good to be open to new ideas and goals. Change is inevitable but also good, as long as both people are involved in the decision making process.

His Problems Aren't Necessarily Mine 
I've learned that, when it comes to conflicts with others or inner conflicts with ourselves, it's best if we just let each other fight our own battles rather than getting involved in each other's problems. If someone asks for advice or help, that's different, but otherwise, we just deal with our own stuff. This is different than my views at the beginning of our marriage, and it's easier said than done, but it's something I remind myself of now.

Share Your Goals  
Whatever my goals are: wanting to write more, stick to my exercise routine, get a conference submission turned in, I have learned that I am much more likely to be successful with Brendan's support. Spouses can help each other in ways that are HUGE and make all the difference. The key is good communication. If Brendan knows that I'm working to meet a goal, he will pitch in more around the house to give me more time to work or help me by providing feedback or motivation. I do the same for him. Every week is different. Some weeks, we're cooking fancy dinners and spending a lot of time together in the evenings, other weeks (like this one) dinner is easy and quick, and we spend our evenings working on separate projects.

Marriage Takes Effort, But I Wouldn't Call it "Work"
I don't really relate to the phrase "marriage takes a lot of work!" Each person should make an effort to prioritize the other person, and each person should make the effort to contribute equally to the relationship. This requires being conscientious and considerate, but I would not call this "work" but rather "paying attention." We say "I love you" a lot, make time to spend together, and mutually take care of all that needs to be done. To me, marriage feels like having another person to help me and love me. Sure, you have to remember to express gratitude for the other, apologize when you have been a jerk, and listen to each other, but those things don't feel like work.

Relish in Separate Strengths 
I'm great at managing our monthly spending, and Brendan is our retirement savings guru. We have completely different teaching and grading styles, different tastes in literature, and different approaches to writing. Brendan can make an amazing dinner using ingredients we have on hand, and I like to follow a recipe every time. I'm our social planner, and he's our landscaping planner. I've really learned how to embrace and appreciate all of our differences. The fact that we're good at different things means that together, we make one extremely capable person :)

A Part of Each Other's Families 
One thing that marriage definitely changed is our relationship with our families. I feel closer to Brendan's family and truly think of them as my own family. What I mean by that is that the unconditional love part of my brain has expanded. It has also been amazing to see Brendan form his own relationships with my family members. As we've learned more about each other's family dynamics, our own relationship has grown stronger as well.

Love Grows
This is cheesy, but when I married Brendan, I thought it wasn't possible to love him anymore than I already did. Love isn't something that's easily measured or quantified, but what I'm trying to say here is that the more we go through together, the more I see how much we mean to one another. We've truly seen the best and worst of one another, and our love for each other is constant. Of course, I loved Brendan on our wedding day so much, but now, I have even more memories of times that he has been there for me, and I see all of that every time that I look at him. His presence is so calming to me. When Brendan is with me, I know that, whatever I'm going through, it is going to be okay.

Today, I surprised Brendan with a special cake from Nothing Bundt Cakes, and we made a wish together:

Happy 1,000 days of marriage Brendan; I am grateful for each and every one.

<3 S

Sunday, March 27, 2016

Happy Easter!

Happy Easter, friends.

We hope your day is going well. Our long weekend has been nothing but nice.

On Friday, I went to a short but tough barre class, and Brendan met me at Mulberry Cafe for lunch. The tomato bisque soup reminded me of La Madeline's, which means I will be back! While our housekeepers were cleaning, we ran errands and did more work in the front yard. Brendan planted a Texas Mountain Laurel inspired by our Davis Mountains State Park hike, while I filled in the front flower bed with some annuals since our drift roses won't fill the space by themselves this year.

Here are the results:

After working in the front yard, our next priority was to clean in the backyard and re-open the patio for spring. We celebrated the accomplishment with chips, salsa, and mojitos.

The chips were so filling that I didn't eat dinner until after 9:00PM. I had a phone date with my friend Kelsey, and then Brendan and I watched House of Cards and ate hummus, veggies, and cheese for dinner.

Saturday, we slept in, and then I went to the barre studio for my sixth and final workout of the week. Upon returning, we made the Kerbey Lane lemon poppy seed pancakes with lemon glaze that I was raving about in last weekend's post.

After breakfast, I finally finished Fates and Furies by Lauren Groff. Back story: I started this novel back in the fall, but I stopped reading it. A few weeks ago, I was talking to my friend Emily from graduate school, and she mentioned loving the book. I told her I had stopped reading it because I hated the main character. She told me to keep reading and that I was supposed to hate him. I took her advice, and I'm really glad I did. The second half of the novel went much faster, gave me so much to think about, and was really chilling. I'm glad I stuck with it, and I would wholeheartedly recommend the novel. It's worth pushing on for.

After finishing the book, I worked on a story before we left to go to Dagan and Steph's house. We had a delicious dinner and a wonderful evening with them and made it home a little before 11PM.

This morning, we started Easter right with mimosas and quiche. I saved this recipe from People magazine, and it didn't disappoint.

I finally finished my story. Though I'm sure there are still edits to be made, it felt great to finish. Brendan and I did a lot of work in the backyard this afternoon. We separated pups and offshoots to replant, and the backyard is looking better each and every day.

Tonight, I have a feeling there will be more House of Cards in our future, and I've already started on a new book. I'll definitely be making progress on grading as well (it's really not optional!) Just wanted to check in, say hi, and wish everyone a happy Easter. We do miss our families today, but we're making the best of our break. Lola and Zoe are certainly enjoying having us here 24/7, and the cuddles are non-stop.

We hope you are in good company too.

Thursday, March 24, 2016

Building a Front Yard: He Does All the Hard Stuff

Greetings friends!

I haven't done a landscaping update since we got our trees at the end of August last year. Winter was incredibly mild here, and as a result, spring is in bloom with several backyard plants already making a comeback; also, two of our four trees have leaves already.

Brendan has been working incredibly hard. The yard is his second full time job these days. I honestly feel a little guilty that I haven't pitched in much, but I've been trying to make up for it by doing other stuff around the house.

This week, Brendan's project involved a trip to the nursery to pick out more limestone, another trip to the nursery together to pick out plants, and a trip to home depot to buy sand. Then, he did a lot of moving rocks and digging to build us a flower bed in the front.

We choose drift roses for the front flower bed. The reason is because they come back year after year, bloom continuously, and don't require much water. We expect them to grow out rather than up. 

There were several different colors to choose from, but I'm happy that we went with coral.

In other news, we are officially on Easter break! We have both Friday and Monday off, and we plan to enjoy the pretty forecast by working on the yard. We are looking forward to spending time together and sleeping in. Of course, we still have grading to do, but the break will be much appreciated.

What are your plans for Easter weekend? We hope it's going to be just what you want and need.


Sunday, March 20, 2016

What's In a Weekend?

What's in a weekend? Two days off by any other name would be as sweet! We seriously had one good weekend.

Saturday, I went to barre class, and we made breakfast tacos together when I got home. That afternoon, I got a much needed manicure and pedicure in preparation for our Saturday evening plans. We don't have many chances to wear black tie apparel, but this weekend was a rare opportunity when we volunteered at the Museum of the Southwest's Black and Gold Auction.

It was a late night but a very beautiful event. Many of our friends work for the museum, and all of their hard work was evident. They put so much thought into details. I, for one, was blown away. 

After sleeping in this morning, we made these Kerbey Lane lemon poppy seed pancakes with lemon glaze and eggs. Buy this stuff now...they were were the best pancakes! 

This afternoon, I went to Bend and Beer at the local beer garden/nursery. This was my first time checking out the space, and I loved it. I felt like I was doing yoga in the Garden of Eden with all the beautiful plants and flowers around, and it was the perfect way to ring in the first day of spring (and complete my 6th workout of the week). My usual yoga teacher, Jessica, did a great job teaching the class of mixed levels. The experience was well worth the $10 participation fee, and I would recommend Bend and Beer to anyone. I can't wait for the next one! 

After class, I went to HEB to pick up a few odds and ends for the week ahead. After kitchen cleaning, class prep, and some laundry, we made quesadillas for our Sunday night dinner. I ate too much, and now I'm uncomfortably full.

All in all, it was a great weekend, but it went by way too fast. Luckily, Easter break is just around the corner once I make it through a few work days.

Happy Spring everyone! We hope you rang it in with some time outside and reflection on the good things to come.


Friday, March 18, 2016

Halfway Boogie

Happy Friday night, Friends!

There's a dance that every teacher knows: the halfway done with the semester boogie!

Okay, it's not a real dance, but if it were, it would look something like this (ignore the inappropriate quote at the beginning):

Probably the best news of my week is that Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt's second season is coming out next month. If you haven't seen this on Netflix, forget Fuller House and watch this instead.

I have submitted final grades for my eight week course (so proud of my students--everyone that continued attending passed with a C or higher and is cleared for credit level English-woohoo!), but this week wasn't easy. Here's a recap:

We were adjusting to horrible daylight savings (why do we do this?) AND Brendan's car decided to not work. Everyone was in a bad mood. After work, we stopped by Autozone to get a new part. I returned to barre class after nine days off (ouch). My day was brightened by my two week old $4 bunch of flowers staying fresh. Sometimes, it's truly the little things in life, you know?

Brendan's car still wasn't starting, so he had to drive me to work and drop me off at the last minute. I suggested a new battery, and lo and behold, that WAS the problem. Just call me mechanic Stacy, auto guru. Brendan used his work from home day to grocery shop and made us this awesome dinner while I was at barre. I love him!

This entire week has been rough for Lola and Zoe. We were out of town four days, in town five days, and out of town for a week because of our work conference and spring break. Lola and Zoe are completely spoiled and definitely miss us when we're not around. This week involved a lot of putting aside work tasks (literally) just to hold these two spoiled cats. It also involved a trip to PetsMart for some calming collars since Zoe has been anxious and chewing on things. Calm down babies; we're home to stay!

Mad faces: stop life planning and pay attention to us!
No one showed up to yoga, so I got my own private lesson. Afterward, Kristen and Alex came over for pizza and salad dinner. These two really brightened up the week for us. Yay friends!

I woke up early to attend barre, but I was in a terrible mood when I left the house because I haven't been sleeping well due to the time change. Class cheered me up, and I came home with renewed energy: I made us breakfast tacos and used my work at home day to do endless (okay four) loads of laundry. I got three of them put away too...only one load is still in the dryer. Let's call that a win!
We did absolutely nothing to celebrate St. Patrick's day (sad, I know), but I did text my friend Kelsey to say happy fourth wedding anniversary! I can't believe it has been four years since we were celebrating Kelsey and Amir. Time flies!
We attended Bill Nye's lecture at the college Thursday evening. This was such an outstanding talk, and it was absolutely packed. The college truly finds some amazing speakers, and these talks enhance the community in many powerful ways. It was interesting (and just as entertaining) to see Bill Nye speak as an adult after watching his show as a child.

I did not set the alarm for barre this morning, and it was a great choice for two reasons: 1.) I'm still not adjusted to the time change and 2.) due to last night's event, we didn't get in bed until after 11:00PM, so waking up at 5:00AM was not in the cards. I felt well rested all day, so I think bowing out was smart.
I got a LOT of tasks knocked out at work this week. It involved saying no to some things, but I did everything that I could. Three extra meetings, lots of administrative tasks for the club we advise, giving all my students rough draft feedback, and finishing grading for the eight week course? Check, check, check, and check!
I got to eat Thai food TWICE today (work served it at lunch AND Brendan and I went to our favorite restaurant here, Thai House, for dinner). I also got to have coffee with a co-worker/friend, and it was a fabulous start the weekend.
After dinner, I graded and submitted my grade book and final grades just in time for Shark Tank and 20/20. Afterward, it was time for a celebratory drink!
Our backyard mint is OUT OF CONTROL, so this week has been mojito week (this photo was taken Tuesday, but I enjoyed mojitos Thursday and tonight as well).

Today was chiller than normal, and I heard on the news that a cold front is moving in tonight (tomorrow's high is 59 after a week in the 70s/80s). Really life? For Saturday?

My parents return from their week long cruise to Jamaica tomorrow, and I can't wait to hear about their trip. Also, tomorrow is this gal's birthday:

Love this picture, love this girl. Happy 28th birthday, Amanda! A cousin is life's way of giving you a forever friend. I couldn't be happier or prouder to have you as mine.

Have a great weekend everyone!

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Building a House: Making the Most of Your First Year Warranty

Greetings from the midst of our "trying to adjust to daylight savings" week. There is a lot going on this week, and it is definitely "back to reality" for us after spring break. Last night in barre class, my teacher told me to work harder and joked "no more spring break." It's so true!

We just hit another major home building milestone: the completion of our last first year warranty request. Our plumbing is under warranty for another year and our foundation is under warranty for another nine years, but this request was the last one we could put in to fix just any issue.

In our one year of warranty, we've had a LOT of problems fixed. One of the problems was serious. It required tearing up floors and a wall, and the estimated damage cost to the construction company was about $3,000 (of course, the repair was free to us since it was under warranty). However, most of our problems were extremely minor. I would definitely describe most of them as "nit picky," but I have absolutely no regrets about taking advantage of our warranty to the fullest extent.

Here is my advice for anyone that is building a home on making the most of your first year warranty.

1.) Limit Your Warranty Submissions 
Our builder recommended limiting warranty requests to four total and submitting them at one, three, seven, and eleven months. We roughly stuck with that advice, submitting only four warranty requests total. The last one, we waited until three days before the expiration to submit. This way, we could truly account for every issue.

2.) Write it Down
Keep a running list (on your fridge, in your planner, etc) that everyone in the household can add to. This way, when it comes time to fill out the request, you actually remember every little thing that you noticed.

3.) No Problem Too Small 
When you build a house, the price you pay for the house is the price given for that house built perfectly. Let me explain it this way: the construction company is already adding the cost of dealing with your warranty requests into the price of the home that they sell you. This is very different from an already lived in home, which would be priced as is. We are conditioned from a young age to not expect perfection and to let the small stuff slide. While normally that is good advice, when it comes to building your house, you should get what you already paid for. Some examples of literal warranties I submitted: "the light in the pantry is crooked," "the lock on the backdoor was installed upside down," "a tile around the bathtub looks more raised than the others," and "the bathroom door has a noticeable patch, but I'd rather just have a new door." The warranty covered, you guessed it, all the issues. If you are someone that does not submit a warranty at all, you are, in effect, paying for the repairs of neighbors like me that submit every issue.

4.) Warranty Repairs Won't Cost Money But Will Cost Time 
Keep in mind, every warranty repair takes up your valuable time. You have to be home when the repair people come. Unfortunately, this sometimes turns into a game of missed connections: the repair person goes to the wrong house or comes during the only thirty minute window all day when no one can be at home (true story). Sometimes, you will have multiple missed appointments. It gets annoying fast. Be sure to let the builder know if you are taking off work. Communication is key. Suggestion: always confirm every appointment a day ahead and thirty minutes ahead. If someone is thirty minutes late, let your builder know right away. Try to get a firm time rather than a time window whenever possible. Be polite but firm. I speculate that some people give up on repairs out of frustration and vow to fix things themselves but never get around to it (or aren't actually capable of it). It takes immense patience (I think I was stood up four appointments in a row once?), but it is worth it in the end if you have what you want.

5.) You Pay For What Isn't Fixed Too
When it comes to problems with your house, you can pay now in time (by spending the time waiting for the repairs) or pay later in money (by losing value on your house when you sell it). Remember that issues that are minor to you could very well be a deal breaker to a future homebuyer, and issues that seem small could worsen and become major without needed repairs. We had some of our brick torn out to re-set a window. If we had skipped this, it could have led to insulation problems later on.

6.) Ask to Keep Leftover Material
Due to the above mentioned brick issue, we have a stack of extra bricks in our garage. If something like this happens to you, make the most of it by asking to keep the extra material. You never know when it might come in handy (we have already used some of our extra brick with a landscaping project).

7.) Monitor Repairs Carefully
I was sure that some flooring had been damaged after a leak (the house's one serious issue), but the repair people told me it was just the coloring of the wood. It wasn't, and I re-submitted a request and got the flooring fixed properly. Monitor repairs carefully, and don't let yourself get talked out of wanting issues fixed.

8.) On Paint 
Today, we had our entire painting job touched up. Everywhere that had a texture issue, crack, scuff, mark, or minor imperfection was attended to. This is a good thing to have done. After all, you already paid for it (technically!) It's also a good idea to find out the name and brand of your paint colors (interior and exterior). After a few years, you'll have to do touch ups yourself.

9.) On Mirrors 
Check for discoloration. We had a mirror replaced because the backing was causing strange marks to appear at the bottom edge. Don't ever use windex on your home mirrors as it damages them.

10.) It's Good to Care
Take it from someone that spent a painful eight hours sealing grout and backsplash on day one of homeownership: there is no such thing as treating your house too well. One day, you'll sell it, and in the meantime, you live in it, so be kind to your house. In the end, you'll be nothing but glad that you were.

Happy Home!

Saturday, March 12, 2016

Big Bend Brewery, Davis Mountains Preserve, and McDonald Observatory

Greetings from back home!

Brendan and I finished our week in Alpine with some more adventures. We graded some more on Thursday, and then we set out to Big Bend Brewery for an official brewery tour.

For just $10 per person, you get to try all the beers, have a full pint of the beer of your choice, and take your pint glass home. It was a great time.

We saw how the beer was made and also learned about Big Bend Brewery's plans to expand their business. We even tried some of the new beers.

Someone may have had a little too much fun on the brewery tour:

Once home, we made macaroni and cheese and green beans for dinner. Later, we headed back to the Rangra Theatre to catch Hail Caesar! The theatre was empty, so we got our own private screening. I thought the movie was really funny and enjoyable. Brendan said he thought The Witch was a better movie but Hail Caesar was worth the price of our $6.00 tickets.

The next morning, we woke up, made some oatmeal, and surprise: graded some more. Once we got the work stuff out of the way, we were ready to take advantage of the beautiful day. We left our casita around 1:00PM and headed to the Davis Mountains Preserve to hike the Madera Canyon Trail. 

The hike was a 2.4 mile loop, and it was more like "hiking" at Bull Creek in Austin. In other words, it was not very strenuous, which was fine by us. We enjoyed the scenery, the sunshine, and being together. We did see a rattlesnake, and we think we heard some other rattlesnakes.

The hike only took us about an hour and a half, and the drive back to Fort Davis brought incredible views:

We stopped in Fort Davis for dinner at Maddog's Cantina (I had the veggie sandwich and the hand cut french fries--very tasty!) and Ice Cream at Herbert's Caboose . Then, we were off to the McDonald Observatory for our star party.

We really lucked out because, when we bought the tickets, the forecast was cloudy, which definitely means telescope viewing isn't good; however, we ended up with a perfectly clear night. We dressed really warmly, which we knew to do from past visits, and we enjoyed views of Jupiter, the moon, and many clusters of stars. It was the perfect end to a great trip.

By the time we made it back to the casita at 11:00PM, we were exhausted. This morning, we ate breakfast at the casita, packed up, and headed back to Midland. We listened to season 2 of Serial on the way home, and we only have two episodes left. We made it home before 2:00PM. The cats definitely missed us, and they are happy to have us back. We are happy to have one more day of recuperating and grading before jumping back into the semester.

Spring Break 2016, you were grand.
Far West Texas, we hope to be back soon. Until then, thanks for the great memories.

Thursday, March 10, 2016

Davis Mountains State Park + Marfa

On Tuesday, we had a relaxing morning in our casita and ate sandwiches here before heading to the Davis Mountains State Park in Fort Davis. Our plan was to find a nice day hike, and the park ranger suggested we take the Skyline Hike which would connect with the CCC trail and form a 5 mile loop. We thought that sounded like a good idea, and we got started a little after 1:00PM.

The hike begins by walking uphill, but because of all the turns, it really does not feel that difficult, even though the elevation was rapidly increasing. We were treated to stunning views of Fort Davis below.

Brendan really enjoyed taking photos, and we took a lot of photos of each other taking photos. That's meta!

It was cloudy and a little windy, but overall, it was a beautiful day to be outside.

One really nice part of this hike is that, halfway through, you have access to a bathroom, which is always nice in my opinion. At this point, you have to make a choice whether to do the full Skyline Trail or take the access point shortcut. We choose the full trail, and though it was quite windy on the other side of the mountain, our reward was tons of fragrant Texas Mountain Laurels.

Gosh they smelled so good! The CCC trail at the end of the hike gets really, really rocky. I was wearing tennis shoes, not hiking shoes, because I still had blisters from Big Bend on Sunday, and I thought different shoes may be better. That was true until the CCC trail. I had to go a little slower since my shoes did not protect my ankles as much, and stepping in the wrong place may have meant a twisted one. I made it through!

The hike took us a little over three hours (including time spent getting back to the car), and then we headed back to our place in Alpine. I enjoyed another luxurious soak in the claw foot tub, and then we started a nice warm fire.

Tuesday night, we ate the rest of the leftover hummus with veggies, cheese, chips, and salsa (and, of course, wine), and had a quiet night in.

Wednesday was cloudy and cold. When we woke up, we started the fireplace and made breakfast tacos. We needed to do some grading anyway, so we did that from mid morning until mid afternoon. Then, we played another game of Scrabble and enjoyed some reading and relaxing time. Before we knew it, it was time to get ready for our dinner reservations at Cochineal in Marfa. The drive from here to Marfa is just half an hour, and it's a beautiful drive. Our dinner was really delicious. I especially recommend the Gimlet, fried artichoke, and date pudding; however, I must add that what you see most of the reviewers say about the less than stellar service/atmosphere is also true. One thing you must keep in mind is that the population of Marfa is 2,021, so you really have to go in without expectations that you would apply in a larger city and just enjoy it for what it is. If you decide to give Cochineal a try, definitely make reservations.

On the way back to Alpine, we stopped at the Marfa lights viewing center. I didn't see anything that could not have been explained by headlights or a radio tower, but I was in a dress and heels, and it was cold, so we didn't stick around for very long!

Once home, I changed into jeans and a sweatshirt, and we headed to the Rangra Theatre in Alpine to catch The Witch. The movie was really excellent. It was terrifying, but not in the traditional horror way. We would both recommend it. We stayed up until almost one in the morning, and then we slept in this morning and made grits and eggs for breakfast.

Today, we have a brewery tour to look forward to, and who knows what else. Here's to that!


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