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3.27.2015

Four Things Friday | 8

I'm on my way to Charlotte, NC today, so the prompt for this week's Four Things Friday is very appropriate: four places I have been.

Hawaii | My parents took my brother and I to Maui for spring break when I was a sophomore in high school and my brother was a senior.  It was such a fantastic family trip.  Some highlights for me were going to my first luau, seeing the huge banyan trees in Lahaina, and driving through the rainforest while listening to Hawaiian music.  I tried snorkeling for the first time on that trip, too, but I didn't realize just how bad my fear of fish was...I seriously had a panic attack right there in the ocean as I was surrounded by fish!  I appreciated the experience much more as I sat in the boat looking at the fish from the glass panel in the floor of the boat.  (So ridiculous.)
A view from when we spent a day driving around the island of Maui through the rainforests.  GORGEOUS.

I went to Hawaii again during my sophomore year of college.  My college had a J-Term, wherein students took a course for the month of January to earn 4 credits.  There were also short-term study abroad options for J-Term as well.  At the time, I wasn't sure that I could handle a whole semester of study abroad, so instead, I decided to do a short-term trip.  The trip to Hawaii was a perfect fit for me: I already knew I loved Hawaii (although this trip was to Oahu, and I had only been to Maui before), the course that corresponded with the trip was in the Sociology department (my major), and the faculty member teaching the class was my advisor (I loved her!).  I spent a month traveling the island with my classmates and taking a 4-credit class while we were there.  We studied the history of Hawaii, the tourism industry, how tourism affects the native Hawaiian people, etc.  We learned about what life is like in Hawaii for people.  Spoiler alert: there is tons of poverty in Hawaii.  We toured an elementary and middle school in a rural area, and spent a day touring and volunteering at a homeless shelter on the island.  Talk about an eye-opening experience.  People tend to think of Hawaii as utter paradise, but the vast majority of people have no idea what life is actually like for the people who live there.  I absolutely want to go back to Hawaii again, not only to experience some of the fun touristy things (like parasailing, going to luaus, and visiting the Polynesian Cultural Center), but also to learn even more about the lives of Hawaiians.
One of the beautiful sunsets I captured during my month-long stay in Hawaii.

Alaska | My brother lived in Alaska for about 3 years - he moved there during my senior year of college.  My parents took Kevin and I there to visit him after he had lived there for a year.  It was such a fun trip!  We got to do a lot of fun, touristy things like visiting museums, exploring all the quaint little Alaskan towns, walking around the mountains, and going to all kinds of fun restaurants.  However, we also got to see a little bit about what life was like for my brother there.  He was a youth director at a church in Wasilla (yes, where Sarah Palin lives - he actually met her and spent quite a bit of time with her family!!), so we got to see what his church was like and have a delicious meal of freshly-caught salmon and moose at his pastor's house.  I'm not sure I've ever been anywhere so gorgeous - I want to go back again and see more of the state!
Me, my brother, and Kevin near the stream in Hatcher's Pass (aka, we were on a mountain!!).

Portland, OR | Kevin and I are a very non-traditional couple, so for our honeymoon, we knew we didn't want to do the typical tropical vacation that most everyone we knew had done for their honeymoons (not that there's anything wrong with that...we just aren't sit-on-the-beach kind of people).  We'd both so badly wanted to visit Portland and Seattle, so we decided to spend our honeymoon in Portland!  We had an absolute blast there!  In just a week, we packed a ton of things in: the Japanese Rose Gardens, the Portland Zoo, whitewater rafting, ziplining over a gorge, a day trip to Seattle to experience Pike Place Market and the Seattle Aquarium, driving to the ocean to see Haystack Rock (from The Goonies!), and more.  It was a fantastic way to start our marriage :)
One of my favorite views at the Japanese Rose Gardens in Portland, OR.

Yellowstone National Park | The summer before I started graduate school, Kevin and I went on an RV trip with his parents and his youngest brother, Michael.  We spent just over a week on the road, with the majority of our time spent at Yellowstone.  I absolutely fell in love with it!  I'm not much of a nature girl, so I was a little nervous about the whole RV situation and spending all of our time outdoors looking at animals and geographical features, but honestly, it was one of the coolest things I've ever experienced.  I was absolutely fascinated by all the different things we saw there, ranging from they geysers to the hot springs to the mountains to the waterfalls to the incredible wildlife...it was all utterly amazing.  I yearn for the day when we can go on another RV trip - we had such a fun time bonding while we drove, and I actually loved all the outdoorsy activities we did!
We woke up very early one morning to see wildlife, and we were lucky enough to see this mama pronghorn and her babies frolicking around for nearly an hour.  At one point, the babies were bouncing around within 2-3 feet of where we stood!  Amazing!
I'm mesmerized by water in nature, especially waterfalls!  My father-in-law snapped this picture of me staring at one of the huge waterfalls in Yellowstone.  It's one of my all-time favorite photos of myself!

Have any of you been to any of these places?  What are some of your memorable trips and vacations?

3.25.2015

Make a Difference

We started 4th quarter at my school this past Monday, and I'm blown away by how quickly the year has flown by.  At this time last year, I was frantically filling out job applications and wondering where I would end up and what my life would look like a year from then.  Now, I can say that I'm happily employed in a career that fills me with joy, fulfillment, and a drive to keep on changing the lives of young people.

The other day, one of my students came to my office first thing in the morning just to tell me that he had been awarded a full academic scholarship to the school of his dreams ($42,000 a year!).  He told me that he was sure that a large reason for this scholarship was the letter of recommendation I wrote for him, and thanked me profusely for helping him further his goals (he wants to major in tuba performance and music education - this kid is awesome!).  It was the absolute best way to start my day.  I've been thinking a lot about this conversation lately, and it has helped fuel me through the very tough and draining parts of my job.

The ability to connect with young people is critical for what I do.  In some regards, I feel like this is a natural thing for me.  I enjoy getting to know what makes students "tick" - what are their sparks that make them unique?  What motivates them?  I'm genuinely interested in hearing kids' life stories, and I have a burning desire to help them overcome any obstacles that are preventing them from achieving greatness.  At other times, though, I feel like I struggle.  I mean, I'm a brand new counselor, so I'm still figuring out how to break through with those students who have thick walls around them.  Being new is also tricky because students don't know much about me at this point either. [In fact, one of my students told one of his teachers that he didn't want to talk with me about his academic struggles because, "She's like 23 and what does she know about anything?"  I totally get what he's talking about, but I also hate that some students automatically don't want to open up to me because they think I'm inexperienced.  Maybe I need to start wearing more business suits to work to look older ;)]

As I've been wrestling with this idea of connection and seeking to build stronger, more trusting relationships with my students (which, my mentor has told me, inevitably will take time simply because I'm new to both the school and the profession), I've started thinking about my own experience in school with teachers and other adults who showed me that they cared.  And let me tell you, this has affected my daily work with students in immeasurable ways.

I think about one of my high school English teachers, Mrs. Norris.  When I got my schedule in the fall of my junior year and saw Mrs. Norris's name as the teacher for my College Writing class, I was absolutely thrilled to have her as a teacher.  I knew that she was highly regarded by students, and that she was a teacher who would push me to become a better writer.  As a smart student who always wanted to make the most of my high school experience, this was exactly what I was looking for in a teacher.  It wasn't until I actually sat down in her class and got to know her as a person that I really got to know how much of a gem she really was.  Mrs. Norris made it a point to connect with each and every one of her students.  She found out what we were involved in, what we liked to do outside of school, asked about our families, and wanted to make sure we all felt like we had a place to belong at school.  She had this parrot, Petey, who she brought to school with her most days.  Petey was super smart and talked a lot.  I distinctly remember one day sitting in Mrs. Norris's room when the bell rang, and he said, "Shit, I'm late for class!"  It was hilarious :)

I had a rough couple of years in high school in which I was dealing with some mental health issues, as well as three significant deaths that affected me a ton while I was in her classes.  Noticing that I was sad and unable to concentrate on my work, and without knowing details about what was going on in my life outside of school, I remember she pulled me out into the hallway one day to ask me what was going on.  I spilled to her about everything, crying embarrassingly in the hallway.  She was so understanding and empathetic.  She gave me a huge hug and said that any time I needed anything to let her know.  It was one of those small gestures (which she may not even remember) that made a huge impact on me.  I knew that she cared about me as a person, and that support and affirmation was exactly what I needed at the time.

Mrs. Norris still teaches at the high school I graduated from, and when I did my counseling internship, Mrs. Norris became a colleague.  Being able to work alongside of her and see just how much she cares about students and their learning was an incredible experience.  She fights so hard for kids in a way that I really didn't understand when I was her student.  I literally think about Mrs. Norris on a daily basis and the way that she connected with her students (including me), and it has absolutely shaped who I have become as a counselor.

Mrs. Norris and I are friends on Facebook and continue to keep in contact with each other fairly regularly.  We typically just "like" and comment on each other's photos and Facebook statuses, but every once in a while, we'll actually catch up with one another.  We talked last night for a while about how things were going at each of our respective schools.  I wanted to take the opportunity to tell her about what a difference she made in my life as a high school student, and now as a professional, and how I still think about her every single day in my work.  It's an amazing and humbling feeling to tell someone what kind of impact they've had on your life, and it's something that I've been trying to do much more of regularly.

I encourage all of you to reach out to those people in your lives who have made a difference to you.  It feels incredible to share with those around you, and occasionally being on the receiving end of that conversation, I can tell you it feels equally as meaningful and rewarding.

3.23.2015

Sweatshirt Dress

Dress: Old Navy | Jacket: Levi's | Tights + Boots: Target | Necklace: Simonson's Jewelry

After a couple of weeks of wonderful, springy weather, we got absolutely dumped on last night.  I haven't heard official totals of how much we got, but I'm guessing it was at least 6-7 inches.  For having a fairly mild winter, and knowing that March is historically the snowiest month in Minnesota, it's not too much of a shock.  Actually, it's quite beautiful outside, and I like having the excuse to wear my boots a little bit more before the flats and sandals I'll be sporting all spring and summer.

I'm still very behind on blogging my outfits, but I happen to be wearing a very similar outfit today as well.  This gray sweatshirt dress is one of my favorite things in my closet.  It seriously feels like pajamas and I love the way I look in it!  Plus, it can be worn in tons of different ways.  Being sleeveless, I can even wear it through the spring and summer, as well.

3.20.2015

Four Things Friday | 7

Top: Gap | Pants: Simply Vera | Boots: Target | Scarf: Kohl's

This simple outfit is one that I wore back when the temperatures were hovering around 30-40 degrees several weeks ago (yes, I'm very, very behind on blogging, haha!).  I needed a little lightness in my outfit, so I wore my favorite gray ponte pants and black boots with this much-loved swiss dot popover and a pink scarf.  It's nothing special, but it certainly worked.

In my Four Things Friday post last week, I talked about foods I don't eat.  Today, I'm talking about four of my favorite foods!

Raspberries | I'm a huge fan of fruit - I'll basically eat any fruit, but raspberries take the cake for me.  I LOVE THEM.  I like that they're sweet, but not too sweet.  I like how they can be eaten in so many ways: in yogurt, smoothies, scones, cakes, with chocolate, or my favorite way, which is just plain.  I pop them like candy, haha!  Plus, they're one of the cutest fruits out there.

Tacos | I've always loved Mexican food.  Kevin and I make tacos every single week - they're so delicious, and easy to make.  There is always a lot of leftover black beans when we make tacos, too, so generally it means we can have leftover tacos (also delicious) or make nachos with the beans.  A close second favorite Mexican food is a plain old quesadilla (especially with spinach!).

Brownies | Okay, there had to be a sweet treat in here somewhere.  I used to not really be much of a chocolate eater, but I have come to really appreciate a good brownie.  And while I generally prefer homemade versions of baked goods, I actually really like boxed brownies.  They're easy to whip up, and they always have the perfect flaky crust on the top (which for me, is the best part about brownies).  And for the record, I much prefer girl brownies (no nuts) and brownies without frosting...although I'll eat any brownie that comes my way :)

Chips + dip | This might be super vague and a bit of a cop out answer, but I'm going with it anyway.  Whenever I'm at a party or social gathering, if there's a bowl of tortilla chips and any kind of dip nearby, you can bet I'll be filling my plate with copious amounts of chips + dip.  I'm not super picky about the dip - it could be salsa, guacamole, queso dip...you name it, I'll probably eat it.  If I'm being super honest, sometimes I'll just eat chips + dip for an entire meal.  It's just that good.

3.19.2015

Music!!

Shirt + Vest: Old Navy | Pants: Simply Vera | Boots: Target | Necklace: Forever 21

I absolutely love music - I sing all the time, I play instruments when I'm bored, and I constantly am listening to tunes at work and when I'm dinking around at home.  I'm not too terribly picky about genres (although I'm not a huge fan of a lot of rap and I dislike heavy metal and twangy country music).  Music typically evokes strong emotions for me.  Like, whenever I listen to the Spice Girls (which I do regularly, because GIRL POWER!), I think about the shows I'd put on for my family with our exchange students from Northern Ireland back in 4th-6th grade.  Whenever I hear music that was in our wedding, I think about how much fun that day was and what those songs mean to me.  Whenever I listen to Steely Dan, I think about this awesome cover band that my family and I have gone to see for years (Steeling Dan - such a clever name for a cover band!).  Whenever I listen to soundtracks of musicals I was in, I remember the choreography and costumes and all of the inside jokes I had with my high school theater friends.  See?  Lots of emotions and memories.

I'm feeling like I need some music overhaul in my life, though.  I haven't bought new music in ages (although I'm eyeing up Taylor Swift's newest album...).  I need some suggestions from you all!  Expose me to some new artists - who are you loving listening to right now?  I especially love music that has beautiful melodies and is more on the acoustic side of things - think along the lines of Ingrid Michaelson, Sara Bareilles, Adele, Ed Sheeran, Sam Smith, Colbie Caillat, etc.  I also love music that I can dance around to and that energizes me.  Help me revamp my music collection!!!  Who can't you stop listening to these days?

3.16.2015

Infinity

Shirt: Target | Pants: Simply Vera | Boots: Fergalicious | Scarf: Gift

I love the blank canvas that a white tee provides in an outfit.  Paired with my comfiest ponte pants, some boots, and a lightweight scarf, this outfit was an easy one to put together (and I seem to have less and less energy for putting together outfits these days...).  Also, I've really come to the conclusion that I much prefer infinity scarves to regular scarves - no awkward ties or worrying about having one side longer than the other, and I like that you can wear them more cozy around your neck or loosen them up a bit so they're a little less collar-like.  Have any of you turned your regular scarves into infinity scarves successfully?  I worry that some of my more lightweight scarves are too thin and flimsy to have the ends sewn together...

Here are a few weekend highlights as well:
  • I had a great reading kick this weekend - finally finished Watership Down, read all of The Reader, and began Feminist Theory: From Margin to Center.  My goal for 2015 is to read 12 books, and I'm already on my 6th for the year, woo!
  • Judged speech at my high school's home meet - so much fun to see my students succeed and grow over the course of the season!
  • Went to a dinner at my brother-in-law and sister-in-law's house to learn the sex of their baby - I'm getting a niece!!
  • Tried going to an open house for one of the houses we're most excited about, but they ended the open house a half an hour early so we weren't able to see it!  Super disappointing!
  • Had a fantastic dinner and game night with some of my family's closest friends, and wound up not getting home until after 11:00 last night...making it very hard to wake up this morning (I'm usually in bed by 9:00, haha!).  Good thing we had a great time!!
[Also, I'm still so, so far behind on commenting on blogs and responding to comments on my own blog.  I've been so busy lately and am still fighting with my old laptop (it seriously takes FOREVER to do anything on that old dinosaur!!).  I am still reading all of your posts and comments on my phone every day, but as far as actually being able to comment, I'm a little limited for now.  Bear with me! :)]

3.13.2015

Four Things Friday | 6

Dress + Tights + Boots: Target | Cardigan: Old Navy | Scarf: Gift

I just really love this marled dress...and of all the ways I've worn it before, I think this is my favorite.  I like how the light pink cardigan and gray knit scarf soften the overall look.  I'm really excited to wear the dress this summer without a cardigan or tights, too.  I think it could look cute with my olive utility vest and some flats or sandals.

For today's Four Things Friday, here are four things I don't eat.

Ketchup and mustard | I am one of those strange people who absolutely detests most condiments.  The worst offenders are ketchup and mustard (with mustard being the absolute pinnacle of nasty).  My world completely opened up to me when I realized I could order a plain cheeseburger in my McDonald's Happy Meal when I was young, so that I didn't have to eat the nasty chicken nuggets every time.  Every so often, I'll try dipping my fries in ketchup (I really do want to like it and be normal, ha!!), but I really just can't stomach it at all.  Mustard, however, I can never try - I hate everything about it...the way it looks like baby poop, the way it smells, the taste, blech!  It's the worst flavor.  [By the way, I typically only like Italian dressing, some Caesar dressings, a small amount of French dressing, and barbecue sauce.  All other condiments are dead to me.]

Meat | I've been a complete vegetarian for about 9 months now.  Getting to that point was a bit of a journey for me.  I honestly didn't eat all that much meat in the first place after Kevin and I got married (he's been a vegetarian for about 10 years so I never made it), so it wasn't an entirely inconvenient decision for us as a couple (in fact, it made things a lot easier on us!).  I had considered vegetarianism for awhile, for environmental reasons, health reasons, animal rights reasons, etc., but it wasn't until last June that I read a book that really convinced me to take the plunge into vegetarianism.  Honestly, I haven't considered going back to eating meat at all.  [And I will never be high and mighty about my choice to eat vegetarian - I think it's rude when people analyze my own choices regarding to my diet, so I will never do that to another person.  It's such an individual choice!]

Movie theater popcorn | Dang, guys...it smells so damn delicious, but I just can't eat it.  I'm going to leave this short and sweet...but I have a remarkably sensitive digestive system, and let's just say that movie theater popcorn does not agree with me at all.  [I could have written the same thing about Chinese food, too - so delicious, but it makes me feel like crap...and yes, I used the word "crap" intentionally here, hahaha.]

Most raw veggies |  Call me crazy, but I think that most raw veggies taste like dirt (literally).  I hate the crunch and how you have to chew approximately 392 times for each bite in order to swallow them.  Because I dislike condiments (see above), I'm not the kind of person who can mask the gross dirt flavor with any kind of dip.  However, I really like most cooked, steamed, roasted, etc. vegetables.  Green beans, carrots, and broccoli are my favorites!

What are some of the foods you don't eat?

3.12.2015

Picky Patterns

Dress + Cardigan + Scarf: Old Navy | Tights: Target | Boots: Bare Traps

I don't have a ton in my closet that's printed/patterned.  I tend to be very picky about the types of patterns I like.  I don't like abstract patterns or overly huge patterns, but I also don't like tiny, dainty patterns either.  I tend to be a precise person, so I like patterns that are regular/predictable (if that makes sense).  Hence, most of the patterns in my closet are stripes, with the occasional leopard print or floral print tossed in there.  This dress is definitely going to remain a staple in my closet, though.  Not only is it very versatile with the black and white stripes and the 3/4 sleeves that can work for a wide range of weather conditions, but it's a little bit unique with the narrower and wider stripes.  I've often accented the dress with red, but I kept it neutral this  time around.  To bring a little added interest, I added my leopard print scarf (stripes + leopard print are about as adventurous as I'll get with pattern-mixing).  It's a simple outfit, but one I felt great in.

I'm super excited to wear this dress in other ways as the weather warms up.  I'm thinking it would look great with some flats and a pendant necklace, or with sandals and a colored belt.

3.10.2015

A Work-end Outfit

Tank + Chambray: Old Navy | Pants: Simply Vera | Scarf: Gift | Boots: Fergalicious

I've mentioned before that I love wearing an outfit just like this on the weekends.  I just feel so comfortable in a chambray shirt, leggings, boots, and a scarf, and because I like it so much, I decided to see if I could make a similar outfit that was also appropriate for work.  Luckily, I have these fantastic gray ponte pants that take the place of leggings...and just like that, the outfit is ready for work!  I definitely can see myself wearing an outfit like this over and over again, even as it warms up.  Replace the boots with some cute flats and the scarf with a necklace, and I'll be good to go!  I also have a couple of different pairs of ponte pants that I could easily swap out these gray pants for to vary up the looks even more.  To be honest, an outfit like this is exactly what I reach for on days when I can't figure out what I want to wear.

3.09.2015

Weekend Recap

Dress + Leggings: Old Navy | Boots: Fergalicious | Scarf: Gift | Belt: Target

Oof, y'all.  Sometimes this whole school counseling thing is rough.  This past week has been filled with student crises, intense parent interactions, and general craziness as our students were registering for classes.  I'm so grateful to have some phenomenal coworkers who really understand how taxing it can be to work in a helping profession.  We all know how important it is to step back every day and think about the wonderful parts of life and laugh together, especially when we have tough weeks.  I honestly don't know what things would be like if I didn't have such amazing colleagues!

As a result of the crazy past week (actually, it's been kind of insane for the past several weeks, but it all came to a head last week), I was so ready for the weekend!  I went out for a little happy hour with my coworkers on Friday afternoon, which was the greatest way to kick off the weekend!  Kevin picked up an extra shift on Friday night, so I was home alone with the pups (we watched Gray's Anatomy <3).

On Saturday, I spent the afternoon with my parents, just hanging out, which was fun.  In the evening, I had a date with my BFF who lives in Minneapolis.  We had a long, wonderful treat-yo-self dinner together.  I hadn't seen her since December, so it was awesome to catch up and be silly together!

Yesterday, Kevin and I cleaned our house from top to bottom and even opened all of our windows to let some fresh air in (it was in the upper 40s - hallelujah!!).  I painted while Kevin slept during the afternoon (he worked overnight) and listened to some kickass music by female artists to celebrate International Women's Day.  I ended the night with some outfit planning and two episodes of The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt (which is hilarious, by the way).

It was a nice weekend to get re-energized from the previous week and get geared up for this week!  It's another busy week with tons of meetings and registration clean-up work on top of all of our other duties, but I'm feeling ready to take it on!

And as for today's outfit, I really liked this one.  This black fit & flare dress is so comfortable and versatile.  I toughened it up a bit with a studded belt and my gray moto boots.  I'm so glad I included so many dresses in my winter capsule - they truly are my favorite things to wear and I always feel good about myself when I'm in a dress.

3.06.2015

Four Things Friday | 5

Dress: Old Navy | Shirt + Tights + Boots: Target | Necklace: Gift

Happpppy Friday!  I'm so glad it's Friday...this week has been utterly insane at work, and I'm in need of a weekend!

This outfit was a little bit outside of my comfort zone, since I layered a turtleneck underneath my dress.  I was inspired by my girl Nicole, who does the shirt-under-a-dress thing like a boss.  I felt a little insecure about it at the beginning of the day (as I typically do when I try something new), but I got some great compliments on the outfit, so I felt much better about it eventually.

Alright, after a little break in my Four Things Friday series last week (ugh, dumb computer problems still), I'm back this week with four places I have lived...

St. Louis Park, Minnesota | Good old SLP is my home.  There are about 45,000 people living in St. Louis Park, but it's also directly next to Minneapolis.  It was the best of both worlds.  I got to experience the tight-knit community of St. Louis Park and went to a smaller high school (I graduated in a class of 287 - way smaller than most of the other suburban high schools around us!).  However, I was able to have many cultural experiences that the city offers as well, because my mom and dad's house is a brief 10-15 minute drive into downtown Minneapolis.  I loved growing up in my community - it was very diverse then (and is even more so now!!), so I grew up with all kinds of people who were different from me.  Fun fact: my entire extended family on both my mom's side and my dad's side (with the exception of one aunt/uncle who live about 30 minutes away) lives in St. Louis Park...within a mile of my mom and dad's house.

St. Paul, Minnesota | I went to college at Hamline University, which is located in St. Paul (right by the MN State Fairgrounds!).  It's a smaller college (2,000 students!) and the campus is pretty compact.  I absolutely loved my time at Hamline, though!  I lived on campus all four years of college and loved being in such a diverse neighborhood.  We would walk to restaurants right near campus to try all kinds of different ethnic foods - my favorite restaurant was called Black Sea, which had all kinds of authentic (and delicious) Turkish foods.  The owners were so sweet and would close the restaurant occasionally so they could visit their family in Turkey.  I also loved taking walks around campus with Kevin and my friends.  The old houses in the Midway neighborhood of St. Paul are huge and beautiful, and I love that every house has its own character!

Decorah, Iowa | After graduating from Hamline, Kevin and I got married, and I moved to Iowa (Kevin graduated a year before me so the year we were engaged, he was living and working in Iowa).  Kevin worked in Residence Life at Luther College in Decorah, so we actually lived on campus there!  People often make jokes about how Iowa is boring and there's nothing but cornfields there, which I definitely know is the case for much of the state, but we were lucky enough to live in the pretty part of Iowa.  Decorah is a small town - 12,000 students when the college students are there - in northeast Iowa.  There are huge, beautiful bluffs and a river running through the town.  We used to go tubing down the river right near campus and spent lots of time exploring the bluffs and springs tucked away Decorah.  Don't believe me that it's beautiful?  This was the view outside of one of our apartments...

St. Peter, Minnesota | We moved back to Minnesota for grad school.  Kevin found a job working in Residence Life at Gustavus Adolphus College in St. Peter (again, we lived in the residence halls in an apartment!), which was about 15-20 minutes from the university we attended in Mankato, MN.  We didn't love living in St. Peter since there was not much to do there, but I liked that we were closer to Mankato, which had a mall, a Target, a Chipotle, a Panera...you know, the essentials :)  It was while we were living in St. Peter that we really decided that eventually, we'd like to end up in the Twin Cities again...we're just not small town people.

Have you lived anywhere more exciting than me?!  ;)

3.04.2015

Currently | March

Sweatshirt + Jeans: Old Navy | Clogs: Sanita | Scarf: Gift

Here's a nice, easy outfit for a weekend.  This leopard sweatshirt is hands down one of my favorite things in my closet - I love how it fits me and it's SO soft!  I like that I can even get away with wearing it to work, too!  These flare jeans are pretty great as well.  I'm excited for the springtime so I can wear them with ballet flats and sneakers.

Dreaming | I've been doing a whole lot of dreaming about home improvement projects...for a house we don't even have yet... [can you tell I'm just a little bit excited about the idea of buying a house?!]

Planning | I mentioned on Monday that one of my goals for this month is to get a blogging schedule or calendar set up and stick to it!  I've been making some plans for what I want to put on my blog as well as setting aside time to put some posts together.

Making | Lots of salads for lunches!  I'm pretty boring and eat basically the same thing for lunch every day: a salad (lettuce, red cabbage, carrots, croutons, and Italian dressing), string cheese, a banana, and a Greek yogurt.  Delicious and filling...and not all that unhealthy :)

Baking | Oh goodness, I haven't baked in a while!  I have all the ingredients to make some pumpkin muffins, though...I may make some yet this week.

Watching | Lately, I've been catching up on the previous season of Grey's Anatomy when Kevin's been away.  When he's home, we have been watching The Walking Dead (OMG I LOVE IT).  I've also been rewatching some of my favorite YouTube videos and catching up on videos on some of my favorite channels (such as PsychoSoprano, MirandaSings, Superfruit, Pentatonix, Lennon & Maisy, and The Tonight Show).

I'm linking up with Jenna and Anne for the Currently linkup!

3.03.2015

Plain to Polished + Firmoo Review!

Tunic: Gift | Leggings + Cardigan: Old Navy | Boots + Scarf: Target | Glasses: c/o Firmoo

A little while ago, I asked y'all if you'd like to see my old series Plain to Polished resurrected on my blog.  The consensus was unanimous - yes, you wanted to see it back!  I finally was able to get some technology stuff figured out and I had a chunk of time to take some outfit photos (after literally weeks of not taking one shot...), and here we are with a new installment of Plain to Polished!

Basically, what I do with this series is show how to take my outfits "to the next level," so to speak.  I start with a basic (plain) outfit, and then add different elements to enhance the look, or make it more polished.  The skeleton of this outfit is a navy tunic, maroon leggings, and brown boots.  I love the way that navy and maroon look together, and these boots have a little bit of an edge to them that I really like.  However, the outfit on its own is pretty dang boring.  By adding some of my favorite things, I was able to make the outfit on the right - something a little bit more visually interesting and with more character.  I'm a big fan of layering with cardigans, so obviously I needed to add my trusty tan boyfriend cardigan, right?  Next, I wrapped my navy paisley scarf around my neck for some pattern.  Finally, I added a headband to get my awkward-length hair out of my face.  The final result is much cuter and more interesting than the original outfit on the left, amiright?


I've also been loving adding glasses as an accessory to my outfits lately.  I have awful vision (like, if I take my glasses off while looking at this screen, I can't even see the text on the screen less than two feet from my face...) and have worn glasses since I was 7-years-old.  In high school, I got contacts and wore them primarily until my second year of grad school.  I actually love the way I look in glasses, however, and they're less of a hassle than contacts a lot of the time, so I've been wearing my glasses much more often.  At my house, I have my previous 4 pairs of glasses that I've started rotating between just to switch things up.  I love funky glasses but for the most part, the glasses I've had in the previous several years are primarily black or brown.  When Firmoo contacted me to review a pair of their glasses, I was so excited about it and knew I wanted to get a pair that was colorful.

I had a list of about 70 different frames to choose from, which was really fun and exciting!  I considered getting a white pair, but ultimately decided on these purple + green glasses (that also kind of look maroon in certain light - my favorite!).  On the website, there's a way to upload your picture and virtually try on the glasses, but I actually skipped that part.  I knew these glasses would be a good fit on my face because they were similar in measurement to another pair I have at home.  I was really nervous about entering my prescription on the website accurately, but luckily, there were some helpful "info" sections so that I was certain to enter the right numbers in the rights spots.

When I received my glasses in the mail, I was thrilled that they a) fit me, b) had the correct prescription, and c) looked awesome on me!  I love the colors on these glasses (the outside is purple and the inside is green) - they're spunky and fun, and allow me to show some of my personality!  I've been wearing them a ton since I received them, and I love how they add an extra "something" to my outfits as well.  I've gotten a lot of compliments on them, too, which is a definite confidence-booster!
I absolutely will be ordering glasses from Firmoo again!  They have so many different styles to choose from, and their prices couldn't be better!  I'm a big believer that because glasses are necessary for me to see and because they are on my face, that I should feel beautiful in my frames, and these glasses certainly make me feel like a million bucks!  I highly recommend checking Firmoo out for your next frames!


Disclaimer: Firmoo provided me with a pair of glasses in exchange for a review.  All thoughts and opinions are my own!

3.02.2015

March | Monthly Goals

Recap | February Goals
1. Give myself a pedicure | Okay, so I kind of did this.  I took off my old, chipped nail polish, soaked my feet in the tub, got rid of my calluses, trimmed and filed my nails...and then didn't paint my toenails.  I've been having a hard time finding a chunk of time to paint my nails and let them dry, because a) I've been super busy, and b) it's really cold and I have my feet stuffed in slippers whenever I'm at home.  For now, I'm considering this a win, though, because my feet feel soft and pampered! :)

2. Purchase my plane ticket to Charlotte | Wooo!  I'm so excited to finally have booked my flight - I'm going to be in Charlotte for five days at the start of my spring break!  24 more days until we're reunited...time to start making a packing list, I think!

3. Make homemade pizza with Kevin | I'm not much of a cook, but I'd love to start pushing myself to be more adventurous and become more confident in the kitchen.  I made this recipe for homemade pesto focaccia pizza, and I'm super excited that it turned out so well!  I was a little bit worried about the crust (homemade pizza crust is tricky), but it was delicious!  We had plenty of leftovers and enjoyed it for several days.

4. Get our taxes done | Whew - we were able to get our taxes done this month...and we're getting a huge refund!  We'll be putting the entire thing in our savings account to put towards a down payment on a house!!  Lots of exciting things happening in our lives these days :)

5. Finish a painting | What the heck?!  I don't understand how I didn't force myself to sit down and finish my painting this whole month!  I'm such a loser.  I am completely determined to finish this painting during the month of March, though - I have some free time this weekend and I fully intend on spending an afternoon with my paints and canvas!

All in all, I finished 4/5 goals for the month of February, and I assure you that that painting will get done in the next week!

March Goals
1. Create a blogging schedule for the month and stick to it | I have really been struggling with blogging over the past several months.  It's not that I'm disinterested in it...but there are a lot of things that have prevented me from posting regularly.  The weather is totally bumming me out and messing with my ability to take outfit photos, my computer is still on the fritz and I haven't been able to use Kevin's, and I'm trying to spend less time on the computer in general.  I really want to start being more consistent on the blog this month by posting regularly, coming up with worthwhile things to write about, joining in with linkups, and participating in various challenges.

2. Make a trip to the library | I've been reading Watership Down for the past several weeks, which is really annoying.  I typically am a fast reader, especially when it's a book that I'm really interested in.  I'm not really enjoying this book very much at all, but I also hate quitting a book in the middle.  I'm halfway through with this one and have so many books that I'm super excited to read that I'd like to check out from the library.  I'm hoping that this goal will not only help me be motivated to finally finish Watership Down but also to utilize our local library a little bit more!

3. Take Pippin and Rooney to the dog park | Kevin got a new job (woo!), but it is over an hour away from where we currently live.  He works overnight shifts at a homeless youth shelter and sleeps during the days at my parent's house (they live 15 minutes from his new job) during the days that he works.  This means that I'm alone with the dogs on those days...which also means that they're home alone a lot.  We're in the thick of course registration for next school year, so I've had a lot of meetings and things in the afternoons and evenings, and our poor dogs are going a little stir crazy.  I want to start taking them to our dog park a little more frequently so they can wrestle and run and burn off some energy!  Plus, it will help get me out of the house and get some fresh air!

4. Meet with the bank about buying a house | Kevin and I are 100% city people, and have been living in rural Minnesota/Iowa since before we were married.  It's time we get back to the city - especially because Kevin is now working in Minneapolis!  We've been looking at a ton of houses to buy in Minneapolis (!!), but we need to get a better understanding of what we can afford and talk with a banker about the process of buying a home first.  [I'm still planning on keeping my current job and commuting to work from the city - opposite traffic, woo!!]

5. Begin 30 Days of Yoga | I recently found Adriene on YouTube and have really enjoyed doing her yoga videos.  She's kind of a dork and I like that she finds humor in her yoga practice.  I'm feeling very committed to getting my body back in shape and making daily activity a priority, and one thing I would love to complete over the next couple of months is her 30 Days of Yoga series.  I've already done the first day and find it so great for my mind and body.  I'd like to get through at least a third of the series during March!

Do you have any goals you'd like to accomplish this month?