10.10.2017

Fall Reading List

How is your 2017 reading goal panning out thus far?

Mine is...well...I'm behind. Around June, I was perfectly on schedule. Then, work hours increased, and reading consistency decreased. I'm sad about it, but at the same time...the most important thing is that I'm still reading. Right?

I've picked a few books off of my TBR to compile a sort of "fall reading list." Essentially, I have four books that I want to read during the months of October and November. I thought I would share them with you today.


I have been wanting to read this for a couple of years, and I recently found a hardback copy at 2nd and Charles for about $5. This is a re-telling of One Thousand and One Nights. I started reading it today, and so far it seems like it has a lot of potential to have a good, strong, female protagonist. Why did I choose to add it to my fall list? Well, that decision has nothing to do with the story itself, and everything to do with the fact that the cover of the book is red and gold and shiny and beautiful...which reminds me of fall. 

Ah, yes...another book that I have been meaning to read for years! The Shining is actually one of the few scary movies that I really enjoy, so I definitely want to see how the book compares. This will also be my first Stephen King read, and before my Grandpa passed away, he always encouraged me to pick up some Stephen King. The timing seems perfect, as Halloween is just around the corner. 

I know this is going to be the type of book that goes one of two ways...I'm either going to love it, or I'm going to hate it. I'm a sucker for anything set in the time period of World War II, and this sounds like it's going to be a very unique story for that time period. It also seems like it's going to have a lot of family aspects, which I appreciate. I think a good portion of this book takes place during the summer, so....not quite sure why it's on my fall list. I'll figure that out later. 

As difficult as it is to do so, it's time to move a couple of feet away from the glory that is Harry Potter, and give one of Rowling's other works a shot. This is a crime fiction novel, which just seems very appropriate for this time of year. I think it's going to be very interesting, and I'm excited to see how it reads.

What's on your fall reading list?

10.01.2017

5 New Experiences I Had in Year 27

If you don't know me in real life (or if you don't follow me on Instagram), then you probably don't know that I celebrated my birthday last week. I turned 28 on September 27th. *Insert whiny sentence about getting older here.* September was a crazy busy month, so I didn't get to do much in the way of celebration. However, it was still a great day full of well wishes and love from my friends and family. 


I thought I would reflect on my most recent year of life by sharing 5 new experiences that I had in my 27th year. Let's go! 

1. I found a family. (Well, more like extended my existing family.)
I met, and fell in love with Slade. He already had our cat Rizzo, and then we adopted our dog Bell last December. Those three are my family. I love coming home to them every day, and knowing that they are in my life brings a comfort like no other. 

2. I finally went to Hogwarts. 
Back in March, I took my first ever trip to the Wizarding World of Harry Potter. It was awesome to finally get an interactive experience of the Harry Potter universe. I loved it all...especially the frozen Butterbeer. 

3. I took a road trip to Nashville. 
For vacation this year, Slade and I went on a road trip to Tennessee, then back through Alabama and Georgia. Nashville and Birmingham were super fun to explore. Can you really ask for anything more than great travel and good food? 

4. I joined a gym. 
After falling out of my at-home workout routine, I finally decided to give myself a new level of accountability by getting a gym membership. I never thought I would be one of those people who actually kind of like going to the gym. But, here we are. I don't always go as much as I should, however, I think the most important thing is that I am going. 

5. I pretty much started a side businees. 
In June, I started teaching with VIPKID. I was in need of some extra money, and had a TEFL certification that was going to waste, so I decided to do something about it. VIPKID is an awesome company that gives me free reign to work when I want, and how I want. I'm an independent contractor with them, so I'm essentially the product that my students are paying for. I'm in love with teaching these kids, and the schedule works perfectly around my full-time job schedule. 

27 was definitely my best year of life thus far. I know 28 is going to be even better! 

What are some new things you have experienced this past year? Have you celebrated a birthday recently? 

9.21.2017

A Long Overdue Life Update

July 24, 2017: the date of my last blog post.

September 21, 2017: Today, aka as the day that I decided it was time to make an appearance on my own blog.

There's no one reason for my absence. I would say it's just a combination of working two jobs, and still trying to balance all other aspects of my life. I love blogging, but sometimes it just has to take a back seat for friendships and family and relationships...or just for a rare nap. September has also been an incredibly insane month.

Here are some things that have been going on in my world over the past couple of months!


//Slade accepted an offer for a new job! He's been out of town for the past month training in a different location, so it's just been Bell and I holding down the fort. We're more than ready for him to come home.


//I've established a pretty full teaching schedule with VIPKid. I teach from 5am-8am before I head off to my full-time job, and I also teach about 10 hours during the weekends. I LOVE this job. I have some adorable students, and there's something completely awesome about knowing that I'm interacting with these Chinese students across the world.


//Hurricane Irma blew through Florida earlier this month. It certainly shook things up for a couple of weeks, and I feel like the state is just now beginning to work its way back to "normal." My family, my friends, and I, were all very lucky! No one had any major damage, and most people had power back within in a week or so. Hurricanes are always scary endeavors...everyone is frantically trying to prepare their home and evacuate, and people become animals when it comes to everyday necessities such as gas and water. Bell had a grand old time in the post-hurricane mud though. In the picture above she was drying off after we had to give her an impromptu bath.


//One of my best friends got married! I have known Liz since first grade, and yesterday I was lucky enough to be the maid of honor in her wedding. It was held at the most beautiful venue, and I don't think anyone could have asked for a better day. The weather was awesome, and everything was 100% perfect. It's so awesome to see friends happy!

My birthday is coming up next week! I will be turning 28 on September 27th. Slade and I will also celebrate our one-year dating anniversary on September 29th, AND Bell turns one-year-old on September 29th as well. So much happens around this time of the year!

I'm going to make a personal goal to write one blog post a week. One post is super doable, and I think if I just post at random instead of making myself commit to a specific day, it will be much more likely to happen.

What have you been up to lately? Tell me about all things new and exciting!

7.24.2017

3 Things to Treat Yourself to This Summer {Featuring Warby Parker}

Why yes, I did disappear for an entire week without warning. The flu is a sneaky, sneaky snake. Last weekend was spent on the couch with body aches, a blocked nose, a cough, a fever, and all of the loveliness that comes with those things. It took several days for me to begin feeling normal again. But alas, here I am.

That is out of the way...now let's talk about something more pleasant. As an adult who works two jobs, I often find the summer months a bit depressing. (I'm aware, that doesn't sound pleasant, but stick with me.) You know how it goes...you open up the ol' Facebook or Instagram, and you're slapped in the face by vacation updates and travel photos and general fun in the sun that others have posted. All the while, you're sitting at your desk because money and vacation time are sparse.

Sometimes, you just have to say no to summer trips and shenanigans. Sometimes money has to be saved, and those paid days off have to be used towards other obligations...such as fall wedding season, ha ha. However, this doesn't mean that you can't fit in a bit of summer fun between your responsibilities. Here are some small things you can do to treat yourself amidst a long, hot work week.


1. Have a relaxing day off.
A 24-hour time period can be more than enough to relax. Instead of sitting in front of the TV on your rare day off, go do something that is going to rejuvenate you. Have a spa day. Drive to the coast or to the lake. Go on a mini adventure with your significant other or your BFF. Do something that is out of the norm for you. You'll be glad that you did!


2. Try something new and yummy.
Summer is a time for cold, delicious treats. Ice cream, of course, is a given on any summer day. But, if you really want to treat yourself, go for something that is a bit more exciting. Maybe you want to try your own recipe? Maybe there's a new place in town you've been meaning to hit up? Whatever it is, make sure it's something that is a rare treat...such as the edible cookie dough pictured above!



3. Buy yourself a pair of quality sunglasses.
If I had to choose one summer MUST-HAVE (besides sunblock), it would be sunglasses. The summer sun is no joke, even if you are just back and forth in your everyday life. Investing in some good sunglasses is awesome for a couple of reasons...they protect your eyes from harmful rays, and...they're cute! Throw them on while you're driving to work, and you'll feel like a new person.

Warby Parker just released their newest collection called the Sculpted Series. These glasses are made in Italy, and they have two layers that create a really cool dimension. My favorite style is the Stella, which is pictured above. They are such a beautiful neutral color, and they almost have a retro look to them, which would make them a perfect accessory to add interest to any summer work outfit.

Warby Parker's glasses (both sunglasses and eyeglasses) are super unique, and you can tell how much care goes into each item that they craft. They also partner with non-profit organizations in order to provide glasses to those who need them, but cannot afford them. When you purchase a pair, they donate a pair. This helps to ensure that people everywhere have the means to read, learn, and grow.

These sunglasses will make you feel great about yourself, but they will also make you feel great about helping others. Click here to check out their new sculpted series.

How do you treat yourself when you're in the middle of a work-filled summer? Tell me in the comments below!

7.14.2017

Rise Up

I would always open up the door
Always looking up at higher floors
Want to see it all, give me more
I was always up for making changes
Walking down the street, meeting strangers
Flipping through my life, turning pages
 
I'm bursting like the fourth of July, so color me and blow me away
I'm broken in the prime of my life, so embrace it and leave me to stray

Is anyone else a fan of Imagine Dragons? I LOVE them...they are one of my absolute favorite bands. I had the opportunity to see them in concert when I was living in Prague last year, and it was such a great experience.


Today, I thought I would share my favorite song off of their new album, Evolve, with you. It's called Rise Up, and I cannot begin to explain how much it speaks to me. If you struggle with a restless soul, I know it will grab hold of you as well.


Have a great weekend!

7.12.2017

In-Home Classroom and Office Space

I'm really excited to share this post with you today! For a while now, I've been wanting to create an in-home office space for myself. Getting an online ESL teaching job with VIPKID finally gave me the push to actually make that space happen. Keep reading if you would like to see my new little sanctuary.

I wanted to put together an area that would be a functional "classroom," but that would also serve as a cozy corner to blog/write. Luckily, we have a spare bedroom that only has a bed and a few boxes in it, so I was able to steal a bright corner and set up shop.


Behind my chair is my "classroom" background. This is what my students see when I'm teaching. It won't always stay exactly this way...I plan to change it out fairly frequently. The polka dot tapestry is from a photo booth set that I purchased at Walmart, and the world map and ice cream banner are from Target.


Since my students will never see what is in front of the camera, that is the area that I really used to be myself. Slade bought the desk for me. It was only $40 at Walmart, and it's really cute! I'm eventually going to buy a good desk chair, but for now I'm just using one from our dining room table. I keep a blanket to put over my legs when I get chilly, and the orange shirt I have to wear while teaching hangs over the back of the chair for easy access. Sometimes I sit on the yoga ball instead of the chair to change things up a bit.


I don't like clutter, so I try to keep the top of my desk pretty sparse. The file folder organizer is from TJMaxx, and the globe tape dispenser and both lamps are from Target. I originally intended to just keep the brass lamp on the surface, but I need the white one for extra light while I'm teaching.


My favorite part of this space is my gallery wall. Along the bottom, I have three cork boards that hold a variety of memories. There are post cards from my European travels, concert tickets, and some of my favorite photos. It's so nice to be able to look up from working and reminisce about some of the best times of my life. The prints above the cork boards are from a variety of places, including Etsy, Blue Poppy Gallery, and the market in Charleston, SC. The green print was a bridesmaid gift from my cousin Taylor's wedding.


Below the desk is the not so pretty part. This is where I keep all of my teaching props and supplies. One day, I'll have a better storage system for all of it, but this works for now. The world map step stool was a Christmas gift from my parents a couple of years ago...I'm not positive where it's from. The pink and white box that is sitting on top of it at the moment is the maid of honor gift I received from my friend Liz for her upcoming wedding. Fun fact: I've had the yellow teddy that is sitting in the crate since the day I was born. 


And there you have it! It's not much, but it's mine, and I'm so happy with it. It keeps me motivated, and makes me actually want to sit down to work. I would say that alone is a win. 

Do you have a home office space? What is your favorite part of your home? 

7.10.2017

Calories Shmalories {Pinterest Recipe Experiments}

As you may or may not already know, Friday was Slade's birthday. And, what do you do on birthdays? You throw calorie intake out the window, and you feast. You eat whatever the heck you want to eat.

That is how Slade and I ended up grubbing on Cracked Out Tater Tot Casserole, followed by Bacon and Beer Cake for dessert. I had a couple of people on Facebook and Instagram ask me for the recipes, so here we go!


The original recipe for this dreamy dish can be found over at Plain Chicken. I modified it a bit, by opting out of adding chicken, and adding real bacon instead of "bacon pieces." You will need:

//One 2 pound bag of frozen tater tots
//2 cups of shredded cheddar cheese
//1 packet of Ranch dressing mix
//1 can of Cream of Chicken soup
//1 package of bacon, cooked and chopped
//16 ounces of sour cream

After you cook and chop your bacon, mix it, the cheese, Ranch dressing mix, Cream of Chicken soup, and sour cream together in a large bowl. Add the tater tots to the mixture and make sure they are all evenly coated. Dump it all into a greased pan, and bake at 350 degrees for about 45 minutes. If you love tater tots, this is for you. Plus...who doesn't LOVE ranch? The casserole is very rich and heavy, but also delicious and indulgent.


Beer and bacon are two of Slade's favorite things, so this recipe from Brit + Co swiftly put a halt to my birthday cake scavenger hunt. I also altered this one, by choosing to make a cake instead of cupcakes, and taking a lazier route to making the icing. Here's what I used:

//1 box of butter yellow cake mix
//1 bottle of beer of your choice (I used Michelob Ultra)
//1 container of vanilla frosting
//6 slices of bacon, candied 
//2 eggs

The first thing you're going to want to do is prepare your bacon. Lay the slices out on a sheet pan, sprinkle some brown sugar over the top, and bake at 350 degrees until it's good and crispy. Next, prep your cake mix by adding the eggs, and about 3/4 of the bottle of beer. Pour it into a greased pan and pop it in the oven for 15-20 minutes at 350 degrees, or until it turns that nice golden brown color. Scrape the icing into a bowl, and stir in the remainder of the bottle of beer until it's nice and creamy. Once your cake is cool, add the frosting, chop up your bacon, sprinkle it over the top, and enjoy. Honestly, this was SO good. The beer made the cake nice and fluffy. Plus, candied bacon? Can you really go wrong there?

These recipes were highly approved by both Slade and I. He loved both dishes, and I loved how easy they were to prepare. We were both certainly very full afterwards, but it was nice to enjoy his birthday treat!

Have you tried any super indulgent recipes recently? Would you try beer and bacon cake?

7.07.2017

Happy Birthday, Slade!

My boyfriend Slade is 26 today! Fun fact: he's almost two years younger than me! I'll be 28 in September. Never thought I'd end up with a younger guy. ;)


In honor of his birthday, I thought I would write something special. Slade, here are 26 things that I love about you:

1. Those blue eyes of yours. If we ever have kids, I hope they somehow inherit your eyes!

2. Your dad jokes. I never thought I would find someone who has the exact same sense of humor that I do, but here we are.

3. Your laid-back personality. You take things as they come, and you are always able to handle life with a level head.

4. The fact that you can cook, and you also enjoy it. Otherwise we would be eating a lot of scrambled eggs and sandwiches, ha ha.

5. How determined you are. You know what you want in life, and you are working hard to get there.

6. I never feel silly talking about trivial things to you. You always make me feel important.

7. On that same note, you always know how to handle me when I'm being overly anxious or obsessive. Instead of rolling your eyes, you hug me and help me work through it.

8. Your spontaneity.

9. You're always up for anything...whether it's getting out and adventuring, or staying in to watch a movie.

10. Your optimism, and how it sets off my natural pessimism.

11. How you're such a good pet parent to Bell and Rizzo.

12. The love that you have for your family and friends.

13. How cute you act when you know there's some sort of surprise coming your way.

14. The fact that you never pass up an opportunity to tell me you love me.

15. How your laugh is always 100% genuine.

16. Your ability to adapt to any situation, even if  you feel out of place.

17. You're a Hufflepuff.

18. You have a great taste in music.

19. Even if you initially don't want to, you always give new things a chance.

20. You genuinely try to appreciate things you know I enjoy.

21. Your unfailing honesty.

22. How you are always yourself.

23. The fact that we can always communicate without arguing.

24. How you're always happy to see me, whether it's been two hours or two weeks.

25. Your ability to appreciate everything and everyone.

26. How you are, without a doubt, my other half.

Here's to 26!!!

7.05.2017

I'll Take All the T-Shirts, Thanks

T-shirts have always been my favorite article of clothing. Ask anyone who knows me...they'll probably roll their eyes and tell you it's true. I'm a plain Jane, and I'm not even ashamed.

Here's my prerogative...they easily go with anything. Jeans? Obviously. Shorts? Match made in heaven. Skirts? Why not! Dress 'em up? You bet. Bathing suit cover-up? The easiest and coolest option. In a rush? Just throw one on!

And best of all? They never really go out of style. Hence...here's my style in a nutshell.


//T-shirt: Target // Shorts: Walmart //Shoes: Target  //Purse: Target
 
HOWEVER, not all t-shirts are created equal. You have to be willing to put a lot of time into finding just the right ones. They can't be too tight, but also shouldn't be too loose. They should be thin and airy, but not so thin and airy that every little thing underneath shows through. They should hold their shape after you wash them. And, preferably, they should come in a ridiculous amount of colors so you have one for every occasion.
 
Do I sound like an addict yet? Great. Since I have been through the tough and tedious task of finding acceptable t-shirts over the years, I thought I would share some of my favorite, budget-friendly brands. These are in no particular order:
 
//Mossimo Supply Co. brand from Target. These come in V-neck or scoop neck. You can get them with a pocket or without. Their are tons of styles to choose from, the fabric is really soft, and best of all...they are usually on some type of offer. (Right now they are 3 for $20!) Another one of my current faves is this tie-dye one.
 
//Old Navy boyfriend tees.  Again, there is a nice variety of styles, colors, and patterns to choose from. It's usually best to size down with these, since they do run so loose. (Hence the "boyfriend" name.) These are usually on sale too!
 
//Sonoma Life and Style brand from Kohl's.  I feel like most people view Sonoma as a somewhat "elderly" brand for some reason. This is not true at all. In fact, I would go so far as to say that it has become my favorite clothing brand over the years. Everything they make is simple and comfortable and has a very natural/slightly bohemian feel to it. They always have a wide variety of t-shirt fits and styles to choose from, and they are awesome at giving simple things a different touch.
 
What item of clothing is essential to your wardrobe? Have you spent a lot of time over the years trying to find the "perfect one?"  
 
Happy Wednesday, and if you celebrated the 4th of July yesterday, I hope it was a great one!
 
P.S. This isn't sponsored in any way...I just really love t-shirts.



7.03.2017

Happy 4th


Wishing you and yours a safe and fun Independence Day! 

See ya on Wednesday!

6.30.2017

On Having a Full Plate and An Anxious/Obsessive Mind

This has been a weird week for me.

Over the past few days, I have been in a constant state of mental struggle. It's worrying me, because this is the first time in a while that I have felt extremely anxious about life for more than an hour or two. I've been grumpy, and emotional, and overly sensitive, and ridiculously hard on myself about the things I have or haven't been accomplishing. I'm tired, and having to force myself to do things even though I'm super unmotivated. It's a really terrible feeling.


Since I have struggled with anxiety for basically my entire life, I've learned to try and pinpoint where the negative feelings are stemming from when I'm feeling this way. What is going on in my life? What am I doing well? What am I failing at? Where is my time and energy going? Can I change any of these things to make myself feel more relaxed?

While driving to work yesterday morning, I asked myself these questions. And, what I discovered can essentially be summed up in one sentence: I have a lot on my plate right now.

Life is busier than it has been in a while for me. I have a lot of responsibilities, and a lot of personal commitments. I'm now working two jobs, I'm trying to sort out my finances, and I'm really trying to eat healthy and get to the gym most days of the week. I like, and need, to keep up with my blog for my own sanity, I have a ton of upcoming expenses that are kind of just lingering above my head, and if my house doesn't stay clean...I feel like I'm going to lose it.

My obsessive compulsive disorder developed when I was young, so I honestly don't know what it feels like to NOT obsess over everything. I can make a million to-do lists, but my brain still refuses to relax. I find little relief in crossing things off of said to-do list because I automatically move the obsession associated with that task over to another task so there is twice as much obsession. "Taking one thing at a time" has always been ridiculously difficult for me, which results in my brain looking like this 99% of the time:

I need to finish that task at work NOW. But wait, have I paid that bill? Do I have money to pay that bill? Oh, I still need to send out the invitations for the bridal shower...that can't wait. Why aren't I teaching more classes? Maybe parents don't want to book me. What's wrong with me? How am I supposed to make money if I don't teach classes? Did I finish that blog post for tomorrow? I should probably respond to blog comments. Dammit, I didn't make the bed this morning. I really need to do laundry. I should have done that last night. And the house is a mess. Why haven't I lost any weight this week? What is wrong with me? And what about that work task? Am I doing a good job at work? Maybe everyone secretly doesn't like me. But wait...the bridal shower invitations!

I know that things will slow down, and I know that this phase will pass, but for now...I just needed to get it off my chest. I've been blogging for a long time now, but it's still difficult for me to post these more "honest" posts. All I can think about is how everyone has a lot going on, and how everyone has difficult weeks. But, then I remember, that maybe someone who also has anxiety and OCD needs to read this today. Maybe they need someone to relate to, and someone to assure them that it's going to get better again.

For now, let's just remember this:

"Sometimes, the best thing you can do is not think, not wonder, not imagine, not obsess. Just breathe, and have faith that everything will work out for the best."

6.28.2017

Crazy for Quinoa {Healthy Recipe Experiments}

One evening last summer, my mom made us a dinner of grilled chicken topped with mango salsa, and a side of cilantro lime quinoa. I still think about that perfect summertime dinner often, because it was all so delicious and fresh. (I really do need to get that recipe from her.) It was also the first time that I remember trying quinoa, and ever since then, I haven't been able to get enough of it. Anytime I'm at a restaurant, especially since I've been eating healthier, I always go for a quinoa option if available. 

Luckily, quinoa isn't such a bad food to be addicted to, ha ha. It's full of protein and fiber, and has many other benefits that we typically don't even stop to think about. It's also super versatile, and easy to use as a base for a variety of meals. 

Until recently, I had never actually cooked with quinoa myself. Slade does most of our cooking and he isn't really a fan of it, and I'm not the most critically-acclaimed chef in the world. (Understatement of the year.) Since he has been out of town for work over the past week, I thought I would venture into the wild unknown and give some quinoa based recipes a go. I made two different ones, so keep reading to see what they were and what I thought of them! 


I found this recipe from Stay Snatched via Pinterest. Shrimp, black beans, lime, cilantro, and quinoa? Sign me up! The recipe also calls for an avocado to top it with, but of course the one I bought wasn't any good. (I swear, that always happens to me!) Despite not having the avocado though, it was still so light and fresh and yummy. It's incredibly easy to throw together. Just keep in mind that the shrimp needs to sit in the marinade for about 45 minutes, so don't forget to allow time for that! 


Is there anything better than Mexican inspired food? I don't think so. The flavors are just incredible, and so many of the staple ingredients can be used in healthier dishes. Pinterest led me to Damn Delicious for this enchilada casserole. I think this one was my favorite because it was super easy to prep! It's cheesy and flavorful, and the salsa and avocado on top tie it all together perfectly. The best part was that it made a ton of food...enough for my dinner, and then three days of lunches to take to work. I also have to say, that it's even more delicious when eaten the second or third day. 

Do you like quinoa? Tell me about a new and tasty recipe that you have tried recently!

6.26.2017

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!


Friday
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
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!

Sunday
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?

6.23.2017

#AdoptDontShop

"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.*

6.21.2017

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!

6.19.2017

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!

Friday
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
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.


Sunday
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?

6.16.2017

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. 
True!

//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. 
*blush*

//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. 
LOL.

//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?
Raisins. 
100%.

//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?
Yep!

//What is my favorite kind of sandwich?
Turkey.
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. 
Mmmhmm. 

//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. 
Yup. 

//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. 

6.14.2017

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?

6.12.2017

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? 

6.09.2017

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!

6.07.2017

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?

6.05.2017

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. 


Blog
//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! 

Writing
//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. 

Personal
//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? 
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