Weekend Recap {6/23-6/25}

Folks, I don't know what the temperatures have been like where you live, but summer is in full force here in Florida. With the exception of one year, I've lived in Florida my entire life. Yet, the heat and humidity levels never cease to surprise me from summer to summer. I love it and I hate it.

Slade was out of town for work this past weekend, so I took the opportunity to catch up with some friends and cross some stuff off of my to-do list. Here's a recap!

My friend Ashley came to stay the night with me on Friday. We went downtown and started the night with drinks and dinner at Boca Fiesta. It was my first time there, and I can honestly say that I think they have the best margaritas and steak tacos in Gainesville. After dinner, we walked around downtown for a bit, had a few more drinks, and wrapped up the night with a bit of dancing. I always have such a fun time with Ashley...it was exactly the kind of night I needed!

Saturday morning was spent lazing around my apartment. We did make a quick trip to get some breakfast from Chick-Fil-A, but that was about it for the first few hours. We eventually had to get up and get ready, as Ashley had to head home and I had a hair appointment. I have to admit, I am that horrible person who gets a haircut/trim a whopping one time a year. And, the older I get, the less I can tolerate long hair in the hot weather, so that one time a year always involves chopping several inches off. It just feels so much better!

After my hair appointment, I went to lunch with Taylor, who is one of my best friends from high school. We hadn't seen each other in a little over a year, and it was wonderful to spend a couple of hours catching up. She also had her niece Camilla with her. She is just over a year old, and is the absolute cutest.

I spent the evening at home, making myself relax...which for whatever reason has been super difficult for me to do lately. I feel like I always have to be working on something...not sure what my deal is. I discovered World of Dance on On Demand, and got sucked in. I am such a sucker for any type of dance show, and this one is awesome!

Bell and I slept until about 7:30, and then I got up and did my weekly Sunday morning cleaning. Once that was done, I left to go to the gym. Sunday is normally a rest day for me, but I didn't go to the gym on Saturday morning like I usually do, so I had to make up for that. During the week, I do cardio and strength training, and on the weekends I focus just on cardio. I had a great workout on the treadmill this day!

With my workout out of the way, I drove over to Kohl's to see if they had a pair of sandals I was wanting. They did have them, and even better, they also had my favorite sports bras on clearance for $10 apiece so I got two more colors. I then had to run into Publix to get a couple of things I needed for a new recipe.

Bell and I went for a walk when I got home, then I showered and hunkered down to write blog posts for the week. I also finished up the last couple of available World of Dance episodes, and then moved on to catching up on the new season of So You Think You Can Dance. (It's an addiction, I tell ya.)

It's now another Monday, but I'm choosing to believe that this week is going to be a good one. After work I have to head over to an appointment at David's Bridal. One of my best friends got engaged back in May, and her and her fiance have decided to get married this fall, so it's bridesmaid dress time! I'm really looking forward to it, and all of the wedding festivities!

How was your weekend?



"Some things fill your heart without trying."

In the first post I ever wrote about her, this was the quote I used to describe the way Babybel makes me feel. That post was written back in December, when Bell was just a clumsy, playful, and completely precious two-month old puppy. She was 11 pounds, full of snuggles, and at that perfect, curious puppy age. She thieved my heart the moment I picked her up out of the squirming mass of her brothers and sisters. I immediately knew she was going to be Slade and I's first big adventure.

Now, Bell is 51 pounds, constantly exudes crazy amounts of energy, and only sits still long enough to snuggle on the rare occasion. She likes to walk by and give me random licks to remind me that she does love me, even though she's super busy doing dog stuff. If Slade and I show the slightest bit of affection towards one another, she has to get right in the middle of it. Her favorite past-time is running full speed to the kitchen whenever she hears a cabinet door open, because she just assumes that we're pulling out the peanut butter jar.

Bell isn't always easy, and she definitely isn't always well behaved. She's quirky, and stubborn to boot. But, the joy she brings into mine and Slade's lives every day just can't be measured. She isn't just our pet, she's our child. (Call me dramatic, I don't even care.) She completes our little family, and with every pound she grows, our love for her grows ten fold. 

We adopted Bell from Helping Hands Pet Rescue here in Gainesville, Florida. The Gainesville area has many reputable pet rescues, and I know people that have adopted from most of them and had great experiences. Slade and I knew that we wanted to adopt instead of buy. Our main reasoning for that pre-Bell was that we wanted to provide a home to a dog that desperately wanted/needed one. I think that is the primary reason that anyone wants to adopt a pet from a shelter, but after learning more about Helping Hands and actually getting a dog through that process, we learned so much more about how "adopting rather than shopping" benefits pets in need everywhere.

As you keep reading, please keep in mind that I'm absolutely not saying that there is only one "right" way to obtain a dog or cat. Pets are one of the greatest gifts in life, regardless of how they are acquired. I'm simply sharing some information about something that is near and dear to my heart.

According to the National Humane Society, around 3.7 million animals are euthanized each year. The ASPCA has also done studies that show these animals are euthanized because there is no one to adopt them, and only 10-20% of animals owned are adopted from shelters. That is a super small percentage, especially when you stop to think about how many animals we have in the world. 

So, you see, when you adopt instead of spending possibly thousands of dollars on a new pet, all of these things happen:

*You give an animal the opportunity to grow up in a loving environment.
*You support the shelters that make it their mission to save as many abandoned and neglected pets as they can.
*You take support away from puppy mills and breeders, and the often horrible treatment that takes place within some of those establishments.

Maybe you aren't in a position to adopt and care for a new pet, and that is completely understandable. There are others ways to help if you are interested in supporting rescue shelters. Here are a few ideas:

1. Donate money or food to a local shelter. Your contribution can go towards the care that the animals receive while they are in the shelter waiting to be adopted. 

2. Sign up to volunteer. Shelters are always looking for people to help with feeding, transportation of the animals, and adoption events. 

3. Apply to be a foster. Give a dog or cat a place to stay while they are waiting to find their forever home. 

4. Fund raise, fund raise, fund raise. Work with the shelter you volunteer for to create new and exciting fundraising events. To make the process easier, use an event planning service such as Eventbrite to promote and advertise. 

5. Follow shelters in your area on social media. Help them spread the word about their amazing animals and events. 

Ready to get going? You can find a list of animal shelters by state here. A quick Google search will also bring up a list of the ones in your city. Even the smallest contributions can make a huge difference in the lives that we are able to give innocent animals. Just prepare to have your heart completely stolen by wagging tails and cuddles.

*This post was written in cooperation with Eventbrite, in order to spread awareness about their non-profit event planning platform. The topic was chosen by me, and all opinions are my own.*


Getting Hired with VIPKID

Last week, I mentioned that I was going through the hiring process for an online ESL teaching job. I'm now really excited to say that I was offered the position! I'll be working as an independent contractor for VIPKID, which is a company located in Beijing, China. I'll have the flexibility of building a schedule that will work around my full-time job and other obligations, the pay is nothing to complain about, and best of all, I'll get help young Chinese students learn another language.

VIPKID is actually in the middle of a pretty large hiring spree at the moment, so I thought I would share a bit about the job and the hiring process for anyone who is interested in this type of work. Teaching English as a foreign language is such a rewarding opportunity. I earned my TEFL certification in Prague, taught there for a year, and I've been looking into somehow getting back into teaching ESL since I returned home a year ago.

Here are some questions I would ask anyone who is interested in teaching ESL. More specifically, since VIPKID is geared towards teaching children ages 5-11, here are some questions I would ask anyone interested in teaching ESL to young learners:

1. Are you encouraging, upbeat, and energetic?
2. Are you okay with being silly?
3. Do you have a passion for seeing students learn and improve?
4. Do you have a good grasp of English spelling, pronunciation, and grammar?

If you answered yes to all of these, VIPKID may be a good fit for you! So, what else do you need in order to apply?

*At least 7.5 hours of availability each week. 
*A willingness to work strange hours...peak times are super early morning (5am-9am EST, and even earlier for other time zones, or there is also the opportunity to work overnight hours on Friday and Saturday.)
*A Bachelor's degree in any subject. 
*A native North American/Canadian accent. 
*Experience working with children. (This doesn't necessarily have to be teaching experience...babysitting or camp counseling or anything like that is great as well!)
*A headset with a microphone, a webcam, and a well-lit, appropriately decorated teaching space. Props, flash cards, etc. are also encouraged! (You don't absolutely have to have all of this for the interview...but if you are hired these are must haves!)
*Bonus: A TEFL or TESOL certification. (Not required, but helpful if you happen to have one!)

Still feeling like this could be for you? Great! The first thing you'll need to do is fill out an application. If you use my referral link to apply, I will be more than happy to answer any questions you have and provide support to you during the hiring process. Well, I'll be more than happy to do that anyway...but I would really appreciate if you would use the referral link. :)

If your application is accepted, you will have the opportunity to choose an interview date and time. During the interview, you will have a basic question and answer session with a VIPKID representative in Beijing, and you will also teach a demo lesson to that same representative, who will pretend to be a young child. (Sounds strange, I know. But...it works!)

If you pass your interview and demo lesson, you'll have to review the VIPKID protocols and course content, then pass a short quiz. After that quiz has been passed, you'll go on to teach a mock lesson with a mentor teacher. Within a day or two after the mock lesson, you'll get an email letting you know if you have been offered the job or not. The final step will be uploading all necessary documents (degree, certification, ID, etc) and then creating your teaching profile and opening your availability.

Trust me, I know it sounds like a lot. That's because it is, but it's totally doable and completely worth it if you really want the job. I'm planning to do some more in-depth posts on the interview and mock lesson portions, but for now, please let me know if you need further clarification on anything!

I'm also excited to share my new home office and classroom space with you very soon! I've had a lot of fun preparing for this. I can't wait to see where this new endeavor takes me!

Happy Wednesday, and Happy Teaching!


Weekend Recap {6/16-6/18}

I haven't done a weekend recap in a while. I would say I'm not sure why, but honestly it's just because the past couple of weekends have been pretty low-key. This one broke that streak though, so let's get going!

When I got home from work, Slade had a really yummy dinner of Asian style short ribs and cauliflower fried "rice" ready. (He really is the best.) After we ate, we went out to run a couple of errands. I wanted to go to Target to pick up a few odds and ends in the dollar section for my new teaching job. (More on that later!) Slade also bought me a new desk so I can start creating my in-home work space/classroom. Once errands were complete, we spent the rest of the evening at home, and went to bed embarrassingly early.

Saturday started with an early morning visit to the gym, followed by a vet appointment for Bell. A quick Starbucks run later, we were back at home to spend a couple of hours catching up on some stuff. If you follow my Instagram stories, you also already know that I started prepping our spare bedroom for my office space.

Then, it was time for the fun part of the day! Slade and I hadn't had a date night in a while, so we headed out to see a movie and have a cheat meal. We watched Wonder Woman in 3D, and it was so empowering. It made me want to leave the theater and kick some evil butt. For dinner, we decided to try V Pizza. We shared an order of the wood oven roasted chicken wings, I ordered a calzone, and Slade got the quatro formaggi pizza with pancetta added. Let's just say we weren't disappointed. Dessert came in the form of custard from Culver's, and then we went home and went to bed embarrassingly early again.

Slade had to get up super early on Sunday and head out for a work trip. (Insert sad face here.) I wasn't able to go back to sleep after he left, so Bell and I got up for the day and I cleaned while she tortured our cat Rizzo. My parents arrived later in the morning, and we met up with my grandparents, aunt, and cousin to have lunch and see a movie for Father's Day. We watched Megan Leavey, and it was really good, but I don't recommend watching it unless you're okay with crying.

After the movie, we ran into Target for a bit and then came back to my place where my dad put my new desk together for me. I told him he didn't have to because it was Father's Day, but he still did it and I couldn't be more grateful! They left later in the afternoon, and I made some dinner and got started on blog posts for the week while Bell harassed Rizzo some more. She did, however, take a few moments to nap on her new sloth toy from Bark Box.

And here we are...Monday, Monday, Monday! How was your weekend?


Boyfriend Tag, Featuring: Slade (Obviously)

Today's post features a special guest. Say hi to my boyfriend, Slade!

He is always such a good sport. He didn't even think twice before answering yes when I asked him to help me out with a blog post. I found this "boyfriend tag" in the depths of the interwebs. It's probably super old, but I'm a rebel, so let's do this.

//Where did we meet?
We met online. 

//Where was our first date?
Um, we went bowling. I do not remember the name of the place, and then my card got declined at the arcade area. And then we went to dinner at BJ's Brewhouse. 
He was so embarrassed about his card. He had just moved to the area and his bank flagged it as suspicious activity, ha ha. 

//What was your first impression of me? 
Oh, she cute. 

//When did you meet my family?
Um, pretty quickly. Like a month after our first date.
Yep! He met them over dinner at Metro Diner.

//Do I have any weird obsessions? If so, what?
Huh. Um, you don't have weird obsessions in particular, but sometimes you obsess over things. You're almost an obsessive planner, I would say. 
Not a lie. 

//How long have we been together?
Like a month. *laughs* About 8 months, right?
Nine at the end of this month! 

//Do we have any "traditions?"
Yes, every night we make a Kong for Bell. 
Really babe, this is the best you could think of?

//Where was our first vacation?
Um, it depends on how you look at it. But our first real vacations was probably to Nashville, I'd say. 
And it was a great vacation! 

//What was the first thing you noticed about me?
Um, your hair. I noticed your hair first because you have thick hair. 
I was kind of surprised by this answer. 

//What is my favorite restaurant?
Mmm...I don't know. 
Fair enough...I don't really have one. 

//What do we argue about the most?
Um, probably Bell. 
I agree. I think she's a perfect angel all the time, and he sees through that facade. 

//Who wears the pants in the relationship?
Um, I usually wear shorts. 

//If I'm watching TV, what am I watching?
You're generally reading really, and the TV is just on. 
Yeah, I don't really watching TV unless it's a show we watch together.

//What is one food I do not like?

//What drink do I order when we go out for dinner?
Water, generally. 
Go H2O.

//What size shoe do I wear?
Um, I think a 10?

//What is my favorite kind of sandwich?
I mean, if we're talking basic sandwich, sure. But, if we're talking amazing sandwich...I'd probably go with a Philly cheesesteak or something. 

//What is one talent I have?
Um, you're a pretty good singer. 
When I want to be I guess. 

//What would I eat every day if I could?
You'd probably eat cookies every day if you could. 
Hit the nail on the head with that one. 

//What is my favorite cereal?
I honestly don't know. If I had to guess, Cocoa Pebbles or maybe Reese's Puffs?
I really don't ever eat cereal, but if I had to choose, it would be Cinnamon Toast Crunch. 

//Where was our first kiss?
On my couch!
While watching Scrubs. 

//What color are my eyes?
Um, they're like greenish/hazelish. 

//Who is my best friend?
Amber. I mean me. 
Ha ha ha.

//What is something you do that I wish you wouldn't do?
Mmm, leave messes. Or work out of town. 
I understand the working out of town thing. But, yes to the messes. 

//What kind of cake would you bake me on my birthday?
Chocolate. But I wouldn't, I would buy you one. Cause that's just not my thing. 
At least he's honest. 

//What can I spend hours doing?
Um, reading. 

//If I could live anywhere, where would it be?
Um...I don't know. Does anyone really know?
True...there are a lot of places I would live! 

Thanks for playing along Slade! You know me and our relationship pretty darn well. 


Favorites as of Late

I've chosen some pretty simple topics for my posts this week. I'm going through the training/hiring process for a part-time job teaching English as a second language, and the preparation for that is taking up pretty much all of my free time. My fingers are crossed that I'll have the job by the end of this week, but for now, here are some things that I'm really into these days.

*This post contains affiliate links. Full disclosure can be found here.*

//This print from Blue Poppy Gallery.

//These Huarache sandals from Target. I'm not kidding when I say I wear them almost every single day.

//This poster that I fell into love at first sight with at Ikea. It's now hanging in our kitchen.

//Luigi's Italian Ice. 100 calories, refreshing, perfect for summer, and reminds me of being a kid.

//My S'ip by S'well squirrel water bottle. It really does keep water cold for a super long time.

//This Tek Gear sports bra. Hands down, my favorite sports bra to date. It's comfortable and has just the right amount of support.

//Nature Valley Granola Cups. They're like Reese's cups, but healthier and a much more filling snack option.

//These podcasts: Magic Lessons with Elizabeth Gilbert and Style Your Mind by Cara Alwill. They are both so motivating, and have really helped me keep my mind in the right place lately.

What are some of your recent favorites?


Quotes to Keep You Going at the Gym

After about six months of slacking off, I have finally jumped back into a workout routine. A couple of weeks ago, I signed up for a YouFit membership, and things are going pretty swell so far. Going to the gym is one of those things that is often hard to talk yourself into, despite the fact that it is actually pretty enjoyable and makes you feel great. When the endorphins just aren't enough though, I have to find extra ways to stay motivated. Here are some quotes that keep me moving. Maybe they'll help you out too!

"Your body can stand almost anything. It's your mind that you have to convince."

"You're far too smart to be the only thing standing in your way."

"I go to the gym because I think my great personality could use a banging body."

"Exercise is a celebration of what your body can do. Not a punishment for what you ate."

"I never regret when I do it, but always regret when I don't."

"Wake up with determination. Go to bed with satisfaction."

"The best thing I ever did was believe in me."

"If at first you don't succeed, fix your ponytail and try again."

"Fall in love with taking care of your body."

"Think of your workouts as important meetings you've scheduled with yourself. Bosses don't cancel." 

What keeps you on track? Do you ever turn to quotes when you need motivation? Which of these is your favorite? 


East 59 Vintage and Cafe

Why yes, I am still talking about our vacation that ended a month ago.

But, really, we did a lot of stuff and I've been trying to space out the posts, so here we are.

A visit to a cool coffee shop is a must when exploring new places. Birmingham has a lot of promising looking ones, but we pretty quickly settled on East 59 Vintage and Cafe. Not only did the menu look great, but the aesthetic seemed to be right up my alley. Plus, it's a cafe and thrift shop in one. Win. Win. And win.

East 59 Cafe is located in East Lake, which is a neighborhood in Birmingham. The location was actually really convenient, as we stopped by on our way out of town to head to Columbus. East Lake seems to be going through a lot of change, and I think the cafe probably does a great job of bringing visitors to that part of the city.

Let me just say, that if my home could look just like the inside of this coffee shop, it would. The ceilings are exposed, the walls are unfinished in a way that perfectly matches the feel of the cafe, there is quirky furniture and the perfect wooden tables, and books are everywhere. (Ok, so my home actually does have the books everywhere thing down, but that's about it.)

The antique store is awesome. It sells a variety of vintage items and tshirts. They have a giant chalkboard calendar on the wall that displays important dates and local events. I definitely wouldn't mind a giant chalkboard calendar in my house either.

Now, for the most important aspect of this visit...the coffee. I ordered a cold brew, and Slade tried the peanut butter cup smoothie. (Coffee isn't his thing.) My coffee was perfect...just the right combination of sweet and bitter. I tried a sip of Slade's smoothie and I would definitely order it if I went back as well. The prices were very reasonable, and while we didn't try any food, it all looked fresh and delicious.

I certainly wish East 59 was located in closer proximity to me. I would be there all the time! What is it about a coffee shop that is so calming and relaxing?

What types of places do you look for in new towns? Coffee shops? Bars? Bookstores? Tell me about a really impressive one that you have found!


5 Reasons YOU Should Start a Blog

First of all, I'm not writing this post because I feel like I'm some sort of pro blogger. I'm not. I've been blogging for a long time, but I'm not professional by any means.

(Quick off-topic thought...whenever I begin a paragraph with "first of all," "to begin with," etc...I automatically go back in time to 4th grade when we were learning how to write standard five paragraph essays. Then the anxiety of preparing for the Florida Writes test consumes me, even though I'm almost 28-years-old.)

 Back to the topic at hand...recently, I've had a few friends ask me about starting a blog. They have asked what platform I use, how I design my site, how I create post topics, and more. Then, some of these friends have went on to tell me that they are really interested in blogging, but they don't feel like they have enough to say, or they don't feel like they're creative enough to keep it going.

If there is one thing I have learned about blogging, it's this...anyone can do it. If you want to blog, there is no reason to talk yourself out of it. Blogging is for all levels of writers, and advocates of all topics. There is no limit to what you can discuss. You don't have to fit into a certain "mold."

So, if you're interested in starting a blog, here are five reasons that you SHOULD. (Spoiler alert: these are not going to help you if you're interested in starting a blog strictly for monetary means...these are more for those who want to write and create content for the art of enjoyment.)

1. You need an outlet. 
If you consider yourself the least bit creative, you probably know what it feels like to have creative energy. You probably also know that this creative energy can feel a bit overwhelming if you don't have somewhere to channel it. A blog can be a perfect place to pour that energy into. Blogging is enjoyable, and the added perk is that you get to see your creativity manifest physically. Whether you are writing or designing your site or taking photos for your posts...you're going to be proud of the end result.

2. You enjoy documenting your life. 
I believe that memories are best stored in the form of words. Think about it...after you have had something memorable happen in your life, whether it be travel, or a big milestone, or a major change...writing it down while it's still fresh in your mind can ensure that you have every little detail accounted for. Let me tell you a secret. Sometimes, I stalk my own blog. I sit down and read through my five years of posts and look at the photos and reminisce. A blog is the perfect place to keep these memories.

3. You want to meet new people. 
It's no secret that the internet can introduce us to people we would have otherwise never met. Blogging is an amplified way of meeting new friends. Through blogging, it's easy to meet people who share your interests, but it's also an encouragement to get to know people who are completely different than you. I have met a lot of wonderful human beings through blogging, and have even had the opportunity to meet a couple of them in person.

4. You want to be constantly inspired. 
Your blog can be the ultimate "you" space. It can be a place to share your soul, to talk about your goals and hopes and dreams. It can be a place to share your thoughts and hobbies and pictures. Doing this regularly can help you strengthen your talents, and appreciate yourself. Reading other blogs can also keep you in a positive, inspired state of mind.

5. You want to share your voice. 
We all have things we want to say. We all have topics we want to discuss. Everyone's voice deserves to be heard. Whether you have five readers, or five thousand readers, you're always going to find someone who will appreciate what you are writing.

If you don't have a blog, have you ever considered starting one? If you currently blog, what made you decide to create one? What would you tell someone who is considering a new adventure in blogging?


Goals for June

June is always a pretty hefty month. It's the month that my mom, dad, brother, and Granny celebrate their birthdays. It's the month that we celebrate Father's Day. It's the first month of full-blown summer temperatures here in Florida. And, this year, it's the month that marks one year of me being home from my year abroad in Prague. Oh time, how you do fly.

There's something about this time of the year that makes me extra ambitious. Maybe it's the sunshine. Maybe it's the fact that the year is almost half over. Regardless, here are some goals that I want to accomplish this month. 

//Implement a new posting schedule. For the past few months, I have been posting every Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, and Friday. Now that I have a blogging "groove," so to speak, I'm going to move to a three-day posting schedule...Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. 

//Get a custom URL. I had one in the past, then I took a blogging hiatus and let it expire. It's time for a new one! 

//Work on my book three times a week. Right now, my book writing schedule is pretty random...a bit here and a bit there. I'm going to try designating a more solid schedule...three sessions a week, the days depending on where my free time falls. 

//Add 10,000 words to my novel. This seems daunting, but it's completely doable. That's only 2,500 words a week. Split between the three times a week I'm going to devote to sitting down and writing, that's only 830 words (give or take) at a time. 

//Have more confidence. I go through phases where I get really critical of my writing. I second guess everything and end up frustrated. I'm going to try to be a bit kinder to myself, and stay inspired by listening to writing related podcasts and thinking positively. 

//Go to the gym four times a week. I worked out regularly for the second half of last year, and I loved it. Needless to say, I fell off that wagon a bit and stopped going to my workout group because it was almost an hour's drive away. I recently FINALLY signed up for a gym membership. I went yesterday morning for the first time, and really enjoyed it. I'm aiming to go at least four times a week...Saturday, Monday, Tuesday, and Thursday. 

//Pay more attention to my environmental footprint. I need to be more conscientious of the products I use, the items that I recycle, and the good that I do for the environment. 

//Sell or donate unwanted clothing. It's been about two months since my closet transformation. But, wouldn't you know that the stuff I decided to purge is still sitting in a big bag in my closet floor. I think I'm going to try to sell some of it on Poshmark or a similar site, and then donate the rest. 

//Finish applying to go back to school. Maybe? I extensively discussed this here. The jury is still out on exactly what I'm going to do though. I may continue the application and apply for fall. I may wait and apply for next spring. I guess a better goal for this would be...make up your mind about school, Miranda. 

Let's do this! Do you have any goals for the month? 


A Short Stay in Columbus, GA: Riverwalk and The Black Cow

During last month's road trip, Slade and I decided to spend our final night in Columbus, Georgia. We both knew that the city is home to an Army base, but besides that, it was a bit of a mystery to us. However, a quick Google and Pinterest search convinced us that it would be a quaint place to spend a few hours.

We arrived in downtown Columbus late in the afternoon, and we were both starving so a good linner (late lunch/early dinner) was first on the list of to-do's. We chose to check out The Black Cow, which offered a mix of seafood dishes and good ol' Southern food. I was a terrible blogger and only took one photo while we were there, but the environment was cozy and the entire staff was really friendly.

For food, Slade ordered a burger and I ordered the chicken and grits. I've eaten my fair share of shrimp and grits, but chicken and grits was a new venture for me. It was delicious...my favorite food of the trip! It consisted of a fried grit cake, covered in a creamy cajun sauce that was full of sausage and chicken. I fully enjoyed it.

We only had a couple of hours of daylight left after we were finished eating, and the weather was starting to look a little questionable, so we decided to check out what we were most interested in...which was the Chattahoochee Riverwalk. The Riverwalk is a 15-mile park/walking trail that goes along the Chattahoochee River.

The river isn't the only sight to see along the path. There are also some pretty iron bridges, and several different little monuments along the way. I think the Riverwalk is a really great representation of Columbus and its history. We wandered along about a mile of the stretch, and it was such a fun way to get a feel for the city and work off some of the lunch we had just eaten.

Even though we weren't able to do much in our couple of hours there, Columbus was still a pleasant surprise for me. It's a great example of a quaint, Southern city. I hope to explore more of it one day!

Have you ever been pleasantly surprised by a destination you have traveled to in the past?


Keep Moving

When I was a kid, my grandparents would go out west every year or so to visit our family that lives in that part of the country. Upon their return home, my brother and my parents and I, as well as my aunt and all of my cousins would go over to their house to welcome them home from their trip. During this time, my Granny and Grandpa would also distribute the little souvenirs they brought home for all of the kids. I remember always being excited about this. At that age, Utah and Arizona seemed worlds away, so getting to hear about their trip and receiving a gift from somewhere I had (and still have) never been was pretty mind-blowing to me.

One year, my gift was a ring that had been purchased from one of the Native American reservations. It was turquoise and maroon with little gold symbols around the band, and I immediately loved it. The only bad thing about the ring, is it was too big for all of my fingers. Except...for my thumb. That is how, at 10-years-old, I began wearing a thumb ring.

That thumb ring eventually became "my thing." It was a constant for me...I didn't go a day without wearing it. It eventually rusted and broke, and my parents bought me another ring to replace it. The second ring was a gold band that had the word "love" written out in cursive. It went through my middle school years with me, and when I was in 8th grade I lost it in a swimming pool at Girl Scout camp. I was heartbroken over losing it...some tears were even shed. Not long after that, my brother and my mom surprised me with a third ring that my brother had picked out...it was a simple gold band.

The gold band went with me through high school, college, and beyond. It actually amazes me how long I wore it. Reflecting on it now, wearing a thumb ring became so much more to me than just a "signature look." It became a constant in my life; a sense of security; something to fidget with when I was feeling anxious or nervous. Within the past year or so, I stopped wearing it as much because it has been fitting really loose since my weight loss. I was afraid of it slipping off and never returning.

Over the past couple of months, I have been keeping an eye out for a replacement thumb ring. I didn't want to spend a lot of money on it, but I also didn't want to buy the first cheap ring that I saw either. I just figured I would know it was the right one when I saw it. And...I finally found one! At Charming Charlie's for $5, nonetheless.

A couple of years ago, I purchased two compass necklaces; one for my friend Elena, and one for myself. We were both at a place in life where we were getting ready to make some big decisions, and I thought the necklaces would be a nice reminder to keep moving forward. My new ring is very similar to that necklace that I wore until it broke. It will be a reminder to continue moving, to fight complacency.

Keep moving. Those are two simple words that hold so many meanings...important meanings that I need to think about on a daily basis. Important meanings that we could all reflect on every day.

Keep moving...physically. Take care of your body. Exercise it, push it, let it accomplish what it is capable of.

Keep moving...to new places. Explore near and far. Travel. See different places and meet different people. Appreciate the variety that the world has to offer.

Keep moving...towards your goals. If you have had a dream to do something since you were a child, you're most likely meant to accomplishment that goal. Work for it. Fight for it. Don't be lazy in the pursuit.

Keep moving...mentally. Learn new things. Go back to school if you want to. Study a new language. There is no limit to the knowledge that your brain can hold. Take advantage of that.

Keep moving...towards what is right. Stand up for what you believe. Be a good person. Love others. Appreciate everyone. Be supportive of your fellow human beings.

Just keep moving.

What is something that serves as a reminder to keep moving forward for you? Do you have piece of jewelry or something similar that you rely on for daily encouragement?


What are Three-Day Weekends For?

Three-day weekends are for...

*Therapeutic top to bottom house cleaning sessions.

*Last minute decisions to drive to Jacksonville for a couple of days.

*Letting your 50-pound dog sit in your lap because her kennel takes up the entire back seat of your car.

*Spending some time with your boyfriend's family.

*A trip to Jeremiah's Italian Ice for some gelati.

*Doggy BFF playtime.

*Home cooked steak and shrimp tacos and beer with friends.

*Drives to downtown Jacksonville for brunch and bottomless mimosas at Hoptinger with friends.

*Hardcore games of post-mimosa Monopoly.

*Evening drives home with a sleepy pup in the backseat.

*Watching Daddy Day Care while eating Chinese take-out.

*Sleeping in, followed by iced coffee and time with a book.

*A lazy Monday of nothing with your little family.

*Talking about plans for the future.

*A much-wanted kick off to another hot Florida summer.

Happy belated Memorial Day, and a huge thank you to those who have served.

How did you spend your weekend?


{Babybel Blog Takeover} THE BEST SURPRISE EVER!

Hey, what's up? Hello! Babybel Rogers here.

It's that time of the month where I secretly post on my mom's blog. You'd think she would have learned by now to hide her computer from me during the day. Poor Mom, she just isn't that smart sometimes.

Something really exciting happened to me on Wednesday! I got a flippin' BarkBox in the mail! I was soooo surprised. It was my Dad's idea to start ordering them for me. I told Mom that she could learn a lesson or two from Dad. He's so cool.

Wanna know something hilarious? My mom tried to make me pose for a picture with my BarkBox before I opened it. She said something about a cute pic for Instagram? I don't know, I wasn't really listening. Anyway, I sat still for a couple of seconds, but then I was like...yeah fudgin' right Mom, just give it to me! And this was the best picture she got. Heh heh.

In the dog world, BarkBox gets a lot of...what is it called? Oh, hype. It gets a lot of hype. So, for a second I was really nervous that I wouldn't like what was inside. And...I didn't like what was inside. Because, I LOVED it! Ask Mom, I went crazy for my new toys!

My mom sometimes does book hauls on here. (Lame though.) I'm going to do something much more entertaining. I really wanna show you my new stuff, so here's a BarkBox pawl! (Swiped these pics from Mom's phone while she was in the shower this morning. Luckily she took them, because, you know, I don't have thumbs and stuff.)

I got two new treats and two new squeakies in one day! Can you believe it? Look how cool this stuff is. The pretzel was my initial favorite, but then I got tired of it because it didn't have enough salt. My actual favorite is the Statue of Liberty ball! I've already chewed a hole in the soft stuff and tried to rip it apart. I haven't been successful yet, but there's still plenty of time. I'm just a young pup!

My Dad gave me one of each treat and I would say they're both pretty solid. The Lamb Lung toasters are pretty good...very lamb-ey. I think the Sojos are the best though, because they're bacon and cheddar flavored and those are my two FAVORITE foods! Plus, I think that little cartoon dog on the box looks kinda like me...just not as cute obviously.

Oh, I almost forgot, I did get a beef chew but my parents haven't let me have it yet. I tried to tell them that I have to eat it so I can tweet about it, but then I remembered that Mom banned me from my Twitter account because I pooped on the stairs the other day. (It was POURING outside. So sue me! You wouldn't wanna poop in the rain either.)

I guess you could say I'm obsessed with BarkBox. So OBSESSED.  I can't wait until next month.

I'm gonna go now. I have dog stuff to do. It's the last day before the weekend, so I have to take advantage of my parents not being home. There's just so much stuff to lick and destroy.

Paws and love, y'all.


Going Back to School?

Can we have a little chat? Blogger to blogger, or blogger to reader? We can? Great. Grab a coffee or something, this could take a bit.

August of this year will mark five years since my college graduation.


For the most part, I look back on college with fond memories. I worked my way through school, had somewhat of a social life, and still managed to keep a good GPA. My degree in Social Science is something that I'm still proud of to this day. My studies provided me with a lot of important knowledge, and I've been lucky enough to land good, stable jobs fairly easily.

I've always been someone who enjoys learning and is interested in a variety of subjects. In fact, when I was in college, I changed my major twice. I began with English, then quickly shied away from it after people kept telling me it would ruin my love for reading and writing. (Pretty sure that wouldn't have been the case, but I was young and irrational then.) Sociology was my next endeavor because I found it fascinating. Interdisciplinary Social Sciences was my final stop, because it allowed me to continue with Sociology but also take more Geography courses.

Over the past few months, I have been overcome with a giant "want" to go back to school. It seems that when most people return to school after being out for a few years, they are going back to obtain higher degrees in their already studied subject. That's not really the case for me right now. There's a nagging voice in the back of my mind that is telling me to go for another Bachelor's degree...a Bachelor's degree in something that I have always known is my passion in life.

Here is the part where you may laugh or roll your eyes...I want to study creative writing.

I've been in this argument with myself for a few weeks...to apply, or not to apply? The logical side of me is saying, "No way, Miranda. You still have a ton of student loans to pay off from your first degree." The ambitious side of me is saying, "YES. Study all of the writing!"

There are two reasons I want to do this:

1. I enjoy writing like I enjoy nothing else. I know that this is an area of study that would not only teach me a lot, but would also bring me a lot of enjoyment.

2. I need some confidence when it comes to my writing. I have reached a point in my blog where I'm pretty comfortable hitting publish on just about everything. But, what people don't know, is I have three half-written novels that I can't bring myself to complete because I feel like absolutely no one wants to read anything I have created. I always start strong with an idea, and then I question myself to the point of quitting. I want to publish a book. And, I know I can do it...but I'm getting in my own way.

I'm not going to say that a degree is magically going to help me produce a novel, but I am saying that I think it will give me the tools to realize that I'm just as capable and deserving of making that happen as any other writer.

I've always been told, if you're passionate about something, you should go for it. So...I guess I have my answer right there. Maybe I just needed to talk myself through this to prove that I'm not being silly or irresponsible.

Have you ever went back to school after being out for a few years? What is something that you have always wanted to do, but avoided because it didn't seem like the logical decision? Please share your experiences with me!


Tampa Indie Flea, Ulele, and Other Sunday Adventures

A couple of weeks ago, my cousin Taylor texted my other cousin Shelby and I to see if we would be interested in driving down to Tampa to check out the Indie Flea. We were both up for it, so we made plans to go this past Sunday and create a full day of things. We ate some good food and came across some good finds, and I just can't pass up the opportunity of sharing!

We left Gainesville around 7:30am and made it to Tampa around 9:30am, so the first place we ventured to was Buddy Brew Coffee. Buddy Brew is a local coffee shop that has been in Tampa since 2010, and there are now several locations around the city. It's one of those places that you immediately love once you walk in the door.

I ordered a chocolate croissant and a cold brew coffee. Cold brew is always my go-to, so I feel the need to try it at every new coffee shop I visit. I loved the croissant...but I actually did not like the cold brew at all. It was no fault of Buddy Brew's...there was just some odd flavor that my taste buds were not a fan of. I guess you win some, and you lose some.

After coffee, it was on to IKEA! Can anyone tell me if it's actually possible to get out of there in less than two hours? We walked around the showroom to check everything out, and then spent a good portion of time collecting the items we wanted to purchase. We all found some great stuff! I walked out with new pillows for mine and Slade's bed (much needed), a new print to hang somewhere in our house, a cute little fake plant to take to work and put on my desk, and a toilet brush/holder for our second bathroom. I also found these adorable stuffed animals that look just like Bell and Rizzo, which I resisted the urge to buy in spite of how precious they were.

We had all worked up an appetite in IKEA, so lunch was next on the list. Taylor had made us reservations at Ulele, a restaurant on Tampa's Riverwalk.

The restaurant's website gives a better description than I could: "Ulele (pronounced You-lay-lee) celebrates the vibrant fusion of ingredients from Florida waters and land once home to many Native Americans, including the young princess Ulele. Expect intricately flavored, visually appealing dishes prepared on the 10' diameter barbacoa grill."

It is located inside of an old, preserved building, and has a really unique atmosphere. For an appetizer, we tried the alligator hush puppies. Yes, with actual alligator meat, ha ha. If you have never tried gator before, it is similar in taste and texture to chicken. The hush puppies were really different and tasty!

For our entrees, Taylor and I ordered the lobster roll with fries, and Shelby ordered the crab mac n' cheese. I have absolutely nothing bad to say about the food. Everything was fresh and wonderful. I will definitely pay Ulele another visit!

Once we were finished (and full), we walked to check out the fountain in front of the restaurant, which is a dedication to Ulele. I think the restaurant is doing a wonderful job with their style and their message. The fountain is proof of that.

Our last stop of the day was the main reason for our trip...the Indie Flea! The Flea takes place in the Rialto, an old theater in the heart of Tampa. Local vendors of every variety come to sell their products...everything from craft beer to tshirts to succulents to art prints.

There were so many different, quirky things to check out. It never ceases to surprise me how creative people can be. It's always awesome to see people sharing items that they put heart and soul into. I think Blue Poppy Gallery had my favorite booth of the day. They create prints with quotes and images on sheets of dictionary paper. I couldn't say no to this Jane Austen quote. It came home with me.

Do you have any events similar to the Indie Flea in your area? Tell me about something really cool that you have purchased recently.
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