Wednesday, January 31, 2018

Novels With Nell - The Unfinished Journal of Elizabeth D.

I've always liked the idea of journaling. It is not something that I've ever really kept up with though. When Nell and I were talking about the book she was doing for this week's Novels With Nell post we   both agreed that the idea of journaling was great, but how much would you actually disclose in a journal? Today's novel, The Unfinished Journal of Elizabeth D.  shares Elizabeth D.'s journals which kind of feels like an invasion of privacy. Fortunately, since this is a novel, you don't have to feel too guilty about reading them. Unless you happened to get rid of any journals you may have written (I think I'm way too sentimental for that) who's to say that one day your journals wouldn't be read. While I haven't read this novel, I'm interested in the story since it shows the difference in perception and reality of this one woman, Elizabeth D. I'm interested to hear your take, would you want to read your friends journals if they were left to you? I think we are all nosey by nature but I'm not exactly sure what I'd do in this instance. 

By: Nichole Bernier

From a winter read last time to a beach read this week, seems fitting considering how dramatically the weather has been fluctuating lately. This book is one I just happened to stumble across at the library and really enjoyed. There were some heavy parts and themes as the novel explores questions like, “How well do we really know a person? How does someone control others’ perception of them based on what they share with the people in their lives?  What parts of our own stories do we keep hidden from people? Does keeping some things secret have positive or negative effects?” and the reminder of “things aren’t always as they appear.” This sounds way more dramatic than the book actually is but it does make you think. The story follows Kate, whose friend Elizabeth left Kate her journals after her death. As Kate reads them, she learns that Elizabeth kept some things, bits of her past and present struggles, to herself, leaving Kate with some questions about their friendship and the Elizabeth she knew.

“Summer vacation on Great Rock Island was supposed to be a restorative time for Kate, who’d lost her close friend Elizabeth in a sudden accident. But when she inherits a trunk of Elizabeth's journals, they reveal a woman far different than the cheerful wife and mother Kate thought she knew.

The complicated portrait of Elizabeth—her troubled upbringing, and her route to marriage and motherhood—makes Kate question not just their friendship, but her own deepest beliefs about loyalty and honesty at a period of uncertainty in her own marriage.

The more Kate reads, the more she learns the complicated truth of who Elizabeth really was, and rethinks her own choices as a wife, mother, and professional, and the legacy she herself would want to leave behind. When an unfamiliar man’s name appears in the pages, Kate realizes the extent of what she didn’t know about her friend, including where she was really going on the day she died.

Set in the anxious summer after the September 11th attacks, this story of two women—their friendship, their marriages, private ambitions and fears—considers the aspects of ourselves we show and those we conceal, and the repercussions of our choices.”

“I loved this bittersweet novel, which manages to be both a compelling mystery and a wise meditation on friendship, marriage and motherhood in an age of great anxiety. Bernier will have you thinking about her characters long after you've turned the final page.”—J. Courtney Sullivan, New York Timesbestselling author of Maine

Tuesday, January 30, 2018

Valentine's Day Gift Ideas

January is quickly coming to an end. Bring on the pink and red and hearts and chocolate. Valentine's Day has never been a huge deal to me. As a teacher, it seems like I'm going to have to get used to it being a big deal. My students are already starting to ask questions about sending Valentines to one another and what we are going to do for our class party. 

Personally, I like the idea of Valentine's Day to send friends a little happy. This year, I am more excited for Valentine's Day than other years since I am heading home for an extended weekend that day. Whether you love Valentine's Day or think it's silly I'm sure receiving a treat from friends or family wouldn't be too disappointing. I decided to put together a cute little gift guide for any of you shopping for a treat for friends or yourself (or any guys shopping for their girl friends). Below are some of the cute things I found:

I'd love to hear which of these items you'd most love to open up on the 14th!

Monday, January 29, 2018

Step Into My Week

Another weekend has come and gone. I always end Sunday night confused as to how quickly the weekend has passed by. Why can't the weekdays do that on occasion? Can y'all believe that last week was my first full week of school since December? I most certainly can't, but come Friday I felt it. Getting back into the five work day routine was eye opening.

I knew the week would kick off to a busy start with commitments after school Monday through Wednesday. It's a bit harder to try to balance things when 5:45 was the earliest I got home those days. I tried to plan ahead more this past weekend so I wouldn't be leaving y'all without posts again this week.

Monday and Tuesday night I had class for grad school back at Furman. It's been interesting trying to force myself into focusing at night for those classes. I am definitely way more productive in the morning. Despite it being tricky to try to balance those classes with teaching and that being a challenge, it's kind of nice to know I'll get to see my friends during the week. I have also been reminded of how much I like being a student. I know that probably sounds really dorky but after gaining a better perspective of all that comes with teaching and managing a large group sometimes it is really nice to just sit and learn.

poncho // pants // boots // watch

dress // boots 

I used Hello Fresh again this week which made figuring out what I was going to eat really easy. I wish their meals weren't so expensive otherwise I'd see a lot of value in ordering it more often. The first meal I made this week, a spin on orange chicken, wasn't quite as good as I was hoping although I honestly think that's my fault since I could have easily missed a step. It was much more involved than I was anticipating. Fortunately, my other meals weren't too tricky and turned out to be delicious.

As for teaching, pretty much all of the teachers at my school are in agreement that the students will not stop talking. My class definitely falls into that category which has been a bit challenging. It has gotten to the point where I have tried to give them a few minutes here and there just to chat and that's the only time they seem to get quiet. It's as if they only know how to talk to one another when I am thinking. It's reassuring to know that I'm not the only teacher baffled by this. On Friday afternoon, the students who met their reading goal for the quarter got to attend a board game party with all of the other fourth graders who had as well which was really fun. I was also thankful we did that on Friday afternoon since I'm not sure how chatty the students would have been that close to the weekend.

white sweater // jeans // shoes // hoops // watch

Thursday I left school around 3:15 to make up for all the long afternoons. I decided to go and get some work done at Starbucks before going to a friend's birthday dinner that night. It was a small group of us, but it was really fun. I attempted to go to bed early and am proud of myself for slowly getting better about that.

This past weekend was a great mix of relaxing and fun. A group of us decided to go to a sushi place on Friday night for their happy hour specials (half priced wine and sushi, we'll be back again soon I'm sure). Two of our new friends joined and then we ended up having a laid back night watching the Bachelor and hanging out. I can't say I really knew what was happening in the show since it's not something I keep up with but it was still fun to watch.

Saturday morning I slept in a little bit before running some errands and relaxing most of the day. Part of me really wanted to be super productive so that I'd have less to do on Sunday but I ended up lounging and watching TV mainly. That night we had a friend's going away party to attend. A bunch of us hung out together before venturing to our guy friends' apartment for the surprise party. Kevin, the guy the party was for, is moving back to Germany this week so we forced him to embrace as much of America as he could at the party. With brownies, burgers, American flags, and a full on joutfit (jean outfit) it was a good time. We ended up going downtown with the group as a continuation of the party. As always, the night ended at Sully's, a bagel place downtown, before heading home and heading to bed.

Sunday was super overcast which worked well for me since I had stuff I wanted to get ahead on. I started my morning with a cup of coffee, oatmeal, and laundry before working on blog posts and school stuff. I attempted to combat the Sunday scaries with productivity, my typical Sunday phone call with my parents, and a bit of TV. Ellison and I needed to catch up on the most recent episode of How To Get Away With Murder and ended up watching Home Again as well. I made my last Hello Fresh from this past week before preparing for another week and going to sleep. 


reading:  52 Cups of Coffee
I finished the Year of Yes at the beginning of last week. This gave me a bit of time to be indecisive when choosing AND ultimately decide on my next book. I ended up picking another one of the books my dad picked out for me for Christmas. 52 Cups of Coffee is about a recent college grad committing to sitting down with a different person each week over a cup of coffee to talk about their life. I feel like my dad must have chosen it for two different reasons. 1. I'm a huge coffee fan  and 2. The subtitle of the book is "inspiring and insightful stories for navigating life's uncertainties." While I know what I'm doing with my life until August, after that I'm not sure what it will look like. Maybe this book will help me to navigate. I'll be sure to let you know. 

watching: Grey's Anatomy 
I've been watching Grey's Anatomy kind of sporadically. I keep up with it for a while and then run don't watch it for a bit and come back to it. I am currently on season 7 and given how long ago I started the show I should be a good bit further. Since I like to watch TV in the background I'm never fully sure what's going, on but I still like it as background noise. 

The plague has hit our classroom...I understand that's a bit dramatic, but I am terrified of getting sick while teaching. I'm a bit shocked that I haven't missed a single day yet since kids have their fair share of germs. This past week, I had one student miss 3 days because of the fun and another go home after throwing up at school. I'm taking these gummies religiously to attempt to avoid getting sick. Keep your fingers crossed with me that I can hold off on getting sick.  

wearing: Barbour Jacket
I know I included a jacket as my "wearing" this past week, but it seems like jackets are a necessary thing as of late. It was warmer a couple of days this week but still windy. My Barbour is always a go-to. It desperately needs to be re-waxed which makes sense considering I wear it nearly daily. 

wanting: More Teaching Pants
At first I loved getting dressed for teaching in the winter. Now, I am so tired of sweaters and the same pants. I feel like I've been in a rut when it comes to getting dressed. Since my no-spend month is almost over, I'm hoping to be more thoughtful when it comes to purchasing things. Right now, I'm on the hunt for pants I can wear to teach that will mix up my teaching uniform a bit. If you have any suggestions I'd love to hear them! 

quoting: "Happiness is not a possession to be prized, it is a quality of thought, a state of mind." - Daphne Du Maurier

Posts From Last Week:

Friday, January 26, 2018

Fashionable Fitness Finds

I've missed y'all the past two days. Nothing like a five day work week complete with meetings and grad school classes to whip you back into shape after a little snow vacation. I'm hoping to be back on track now.

It is so funny to me how January is always a month filled with so much motivation. In many ways I am thankful for this mentality since I would rather avoid the cold weather in the Winter. While I wish I could say I've been super great about working out so far this year, that would be a lie. Adjusting back into the routine of teaching mixed with a new weekly class for grad school and the same Tuesday class had me questioning when I'm going to find time to create a consistent workout routine. I suppose time will tell on that one. Even with that uncertainty, I love looking at workout clothes online. As athleisure has continued to remain a trend I constantly find myself finding cute workout clothes that would be just as great for working out as they would be for lounging. Since I am sure many of you have taken on your own fitness goals this month I figured it would be fun to share some of the pieces I've been seeing while browsing the web. It's a good thing I'm not spending any money on anything but food and groceries this month since I would love for any of these pieces to show up in my dresser.

If you have any good workouts that can be done anywhere and don't take too long yet make an impact please send them my way. I've done a few weeks of the BBG workouts before and am thinking about maybe doing these again since they tackle a full body workout in about 30 minutes. With limited time I am open to any ideas!



Tuesday, January 23, 2018

Night Time Winter Skin Care Routine

Winter in the South pales in comparison to Winter in many other parts of the country, I know that full and well. This year however, the South seems to be trying to prove a point with the cold snaps we've had. Someone was telling me the other day that this February is expected to be one of the coldest one we will have experienced in a long time. With these seasonal changes comes a need for a change in the products I use to combat the dryness the cold temperatures cause.

Throughout this post you'll see that most of the products are from Beautycounter. I've mentioned in a recent post that I've been slowly switching to safer skin care and I plan to post all about why I chose Beautycounter as that safer skincare company next week. For now I've had requests to share what my night time skin care routine looks like which seemed like a fun idea. I've included in this post some of my top favorites (see products with *) that seem to be making the most difference for my skin since it won't make sense to completely switch up your entire routine all at once. My skin is definitely not perfect, but I like to think that these products have helped to keep it moisturized and relatively clear so far this winter. 

I like to shower at night. I'm all about getting in bed completely clean. I don't wash my hair every night (because I'm lazy) but will still usually rinse off before putting on my pajamas just to get that clean feeling. Most of the time I try to shower a couple of hours before bed so that I can let my hair dry in in a towel for a while before blow drying it. Because of this, my skin care routine is spread out over a period of time. I've done my best to break it up into steps so that it is less confusing to follow.

Step 1: Beautycounter Cleansing Balm
Taking off makeup at the end of the day is so satisfying. I used to rely on a face wash and some eye makeup remover to do the trick, but last fall discovered a better option. I've been using this Cleansing Balm for a while now and love how easy it is to use. It's definitely expensive, but I don't doubt that this container will last me a long time since I've only recently started to make a visible dent. If I'm showering that night, I put some on my face, rubbing it in, and rinse it off first thing when I hop in the shower. The balm is really smooth and just takes a little rubbing to remove all of my makeup, including mascara. Fortunately, if you get it in your eye it doesn't sting like some makeup removers have a tendency to do. If I'm not showering and am instead going to wash my face in the sink I still use the cleansing balm but need to use the washcloth they sent with it to make sure I get it all off.

The face wash I use daily is Beautycounter's Nourishing Cream Cleanser. My friend, Sophia, gave this to me as part of my Christmas present. She loves it and was correct in that I'd love it too. It's really gentle and a little bit goes a long way. It cleans my skin while also making sure I've gotten all of the Cleansing Balm rubbed in. This is awesome to use with a Clarionic if you have one.

The reason there are two things mentioned for this step is because I try to alternate between these two products. The Charcoal Bar is hands down one of the best products Beautycounter offers and would take forever to use up. I love the way my skin feels after using it (it feels tighter almost like a mini facelift). When using the Charcoal Bar you get it wet and create a foamy lather in your hands before putting that foamy lather on your face. I think that you can rub the charcoal bar on your face but I don't feel like that is quite as sanitary even though I'm the only one using it. 

On days that I don't use the Charcoal Bar (usually days that I take a shower) I use the Nourishing Cream Exfoliator. It is similar to the Nourishing Cream Cleanser but contains itty bitty non-abrasive jojoba beads. I really like exfoliating my skin and have found this to be a much safer way than the St. Ives Apricot Scrub I used to use.

By now I've made it out of the shower and am more than likely in a robe and slippers before putting on my PJs. In the winter, a moisturizer is essential. My skin has a tendency to get incredibly dry. This year it has been a lot better than years past and I am giving all the credit to the Countermatch Adaptive Moisture Lotion. This stuff is incredible. I'm on my second bottle and don't force eliminating this from my routine ever. When Beautycounter first released this product it sold out in a day. I'm not sure the best way to describe what the lotion actually does, but this is what the website says: "Breakthrough Bio-Mimic Technology harnesses the unique life-giving properties of plants to exactly match the structure of skin, giving it precisely what it needs and nothing it doesn’t."

I've been using Beautycounter's face oils since Junior Year of college and specifically love their balancing oil. I put a couple drops in my hand with my lotion before rubbing it in. I never would have believed that putting oil on your skin could be beneficial but after reading the reviews a long time ago when struggling with my skin I knew I had to try it. It's another product that is a bit more expensive but has proved its worth over time. I also really like the brightening oil they offer but keep the balancing oil as a part of my daily routine. 

This last step happens right before bed as long as I remember. The Countermatch Recovery Sleeping Cream is a more intense version of the lotion I use in step four of my routine. I think the amount of lotion I use at night goes to show just how desperately my skin needs to be moisturized in the winter. This is the product I've been using the least amount of time, but I've been waking up with the softest skin ever since starting to use it. The container it comes in is super cool although it took me a while to figure out how to actually open the product (oops). Since my lips tend to be like the rest of my skin and super dry in the winter I use their peppermint lip balm to attempt to combat that issue. 

Five steps later and I'm finished for the night. While this routine has definitely been working well for my skin I definitely think it has started to help me prioritize taking care of myself as well. Certainly a win-win. I'd love to hear what products you depend on in the winter or which of these products you think would fit well into your routine! 

Monday, January 22, 2018

Step Into My Week

What have I been doing with my life? That's a really great question to reflect on today. With a one-day work week last week I'll have to answer by saying not much. Greenville county was off on Monday due to Martin Luther King Day, we went to school on Tuesday, and then were off the rest of the week due to ice and snow. Despite enjoying an unexpected five day weekend that means this week (our first full week since early December) may be a bit brutal. I have meetings/class almost everyday after school so I know I'll be appreciative of the rest I was able to get this past week when I'm feeling drained this coming week. 

If you read last week's Step Into My Week post then you know that my mom was in town last weekend. She headed home on Monday morning which led me to spend most of Monday attempting to prepare for the week while enjoying (what I thought would be) our last school break for a while. That afternoon, my roommates and I continued to make serious headway when it came to watching How to Get Away With Murder. 

I got my first delivery of Hello Fresh on Monday and started cooking my recipes on Tuesday. I had had a couple of friends try Hello Fresh in the past and since the first box of three meals was free I decided to give it a try. I've been trying to expand my recipe base (not sure if I can even call it that), and I've already thought about different ways I can recreate the meals I was able to make from this week's box. I ended up finding a coupon to get my second box for $20, so I'll be receiving another box for this week. This will be extra convenient since this week is a bit jam packed. I'm trying to find a code for y'all to get a free box as well. Right now the best I can find is trying the code TRY3FREE. If you've already gotten a free box this will get you $40 off your next box! If you decide to do this be sure to make yourself a reminder to cancel the subscription. Otherwise, you'll be charged for the next week. I canceled my subscription after my box was delivered on Monday which worked perfectly. I plan to do a post more about Hello Fresh in the future, but if you're looking for something easy for a week definitely give it a shot. 

School on Tuesday was relatively normal, and I honestly didn't know we had a chance of school being canceled until lunch that day. It's amazing how quickly word can spread among the kids about the chance of flurries. The county updated their Facebook and twitter earlier in the day saying they would let us know by that evening and later changed that saying something would be released by 6 am the following morning. It was a bit weird going to bed not knowing whether or not I would be teaching the next day. I went to bed early and woke up around midnight to messages from our fourth grade team that school had officially been canceled. It didn't take me long to turn off my alarms and go back to bed. 

We did in fact wake up to snow on Wednesday morning, which was so fun. I think I stayed in my pajamas until some time after noon. Nell and I were able to catch up on the phone that morning since even schools and businesses down our way in Alabama were closed due to the weather. My roommate, Ellison, and I decided to take advantage of the 3-4 inches we got by sledding near our apartment. We stayed out for about an hour and I was impressed by how well the storage boxes we brought as sleds worked for the activity. Unfortunately as we came back to warm up and shower we were both greeted by cold showers. Thankfully ur apartment complex fixed that fast. We found out that afternoon that school would be canceled yet again so it was more How To Get Away With Murder and a game night that evening with friends. 

Thursday morning I decided I needed to attempt to be productive before spending more time in our living room binge watching our show. I'm embarrassed to say that we are now caught up with the episodes coming out now of How To Get Away With Murder. We'd love any suggestions you may have for a new show to watch all together as we recover from being embarrassed by how quickly we caught up. I'd be lying if I said that I wasn't going a bit stir crazy on Thursday. That night we found out that we would also be getting Friday off (not sure how we managed that) so we celebrated by going out for sushi and ice cream. 

Friday morning I was super productive getting work done for my newest project. I am starting a new "job" doing social media management for the cutest PR company in February (still teaching and grad schooling and blogging, fear not), and I had the best time getting ahead on some work for them. I am so thrilled about this endeavor and will plan to share more about it once I officially get started. I caught up with a friend at lunch and then my friends and I spent the afternoon trying to figure out what we should do for fun that night. As teachers, we typically never do anything exciting on Friday nights since we are usually exhausted. It was kind of nice to have energy to be social that night without yawning the whole time. We ended up having our friends plus some new friends over before going downtown for a bit. It was a good girls night and even better that it ended at our favorite late night spot, Sully's. Sometimes the bagel I get before heading home after going out with friends is encouragement enough to go out. 

Saturday morning I went to Starbucks to continue to try to motivate myself to be productive. These snow days showed me how much more productive I am when I have a routine and structure. I felt like I got nothing done since I had all the time to do it. In turn, that meant that most of the stuff I was trying to get done just didn't get done. You live and you learn I suppose. The weather was so nice yesterday that some friends and I decided to go and have lunch outside and walk around downtown afterwards. Saturday night we had another game night complete with What Do You Meme, Fish Bowl, and Bean Boozled. Bean Boozled was new to me and I did not have the best luck with the ones I got. Barf was most certainly the worst one I had to try but I felt for my friends who ended up with dead fish and spoiled milk. I'd be interested to see how entertaining this game would be with an even larger group. We ended the night talking about the case against the U.S. Gymnastics doctor and watched Aly Raisman's powerful statements against the doctor being charged. If you haven't seen it or heard much about that case it is definitely worth reading into.

Sunday morning reality kind of struck that it was back to work today. I tried my best to be super productive during the day in order to make this week a little less stressful. I woke up early and went on a run and showered before grabbing brunch with a friend. We went to Biscuithead a popular newish spot in Greenville. The line was long but it was worth the wait and we saw lots of familiar places while we were there. I spent the afternoon getting more work done in order to go watch a little bit of the Jaguar-Patriot game with friends downtown. I think by keeping myself busy I did a decent job of trying to combat the Sunday scaries. 


reading:  The Year of Yes by Shonda Rhimes. 
Yep, still working through this. I suspect that I'll finish it up this week, and plan to start something new. I'm not positive if I'll go straight into another self-help type book or maybe a psychological thriller. I'll be keeping you posted right here next week.

How many times will I mention this tv show in one post? At least one more I guess. January has been the month of Shonda Rhimes. I want to watch Scandal but can't picture myself going through another show so quickly. Maybe I'll take a break from starting a new show for a bit. You can bet we will be watching new episodes of this on Thursdays or Fridays though. 

I mentioned this in a Step Into My Week post at the beginning of January, and I am so glad I decided to get it. On my 101 in 1001 list I have a goal of keeping up with a daily journal for a year and I am so hoping that I'll stick to this one. It focuses on changing your mindset to be more appreciative which fits well with my word of the year, Gratitude. I fill mine out in the morning and at night and think that adding this to my routine will hopefully help me to better appreciate what I'm ding at the moment. 

wearing: Down Jacket
When my mom came to visit last weekend she was sure to double check if there was anything I needed her to bring me from home. My one request was a white North Face puffer jacket that I got before going to Washington D.C. on a class trip in eighth grade. EIGHTH GRADE...I was so relieved when it still fit as it has been perfect for the cold weather we've been having. My students told me that I looked like a marshmallow when we went out for recess on Tuesday which was a real confidence booster. Regardless, this has been so nice to have especially with the snow. 

This is kind of a ridiculous want and something I will not be getting any time soon. Our keurig coffee has been tasting kind of weird as of late. Ellison and I were both terrified that we had become coffee snobs while at home for the holidays and were relieved to both realize that something made it taste weird. I started looking at Nespresso machines when they were on sale for Black Friday. I'm not sure why I think it would be so amazing but I really want to try coffee from one. If any of y'all have one I'd love to hear your take on it. Maybe someday WAY down the road I'll be fancy enough of one. Amazon has a pretty good deal on a small one so it's a good thing that I am avoiding spending any money on anything aside from food and groceries. 

quoting: "Time spent enjoying yourself is never time wasted" - You Are A Badass Calendar (thanks, dad)

Posts From Last Week:

Items Mentioned: 

Thursday, January 18, 2018

8 Random Things You Don't Know About Me

When I was at home over Christmas break I constantly had a notebook with me to write down different ideas for blog posts. While my list has grown since that time, finding time to write about each of those ideas will take time. My dad walked in at one point and told me he had come up with an idea for a post. And if you're tracking right I bet you can go ahead and guess that it is this very post. Initially when he suggested this post I wasn't fully committed, but when I looked at when the last time I introduced myself on the blog I realized it has been while. Typically I assume that anyone who clicks over to my site has been here since the beginning even though I know that's not the case. You can't always get the full scoop on someone based on their instagram or about me page (mine needs a serious update, oops). So, hopefully this allows you a fun (read:silly) way to get to know me a bit better! 

1. I can never find the perfect windshield wiper speed preset. 
Whenever I am driving in the rain I have the hardest time of deciding on the speed I want my windshield wipers to go. Most of the time that leaves me controlling them on my own. I had no idea I did this until a friend jokingly pointed out that what I was doing could be done automatically. Now, when riding with other people I pay attention to whether or not they control it on their own or are decisive enough to stick to a preset. I have only ridden with one other person who seemed to prefer controlling the wipers on their own, but I am sure it's not as weird as it sounds, right?

2. I am very sarcastic in real life.
This isn't something that most people assume about me at first glance. I blame my dad and brother for  this since they also embody this trait. Fortunately, my friends are used to this and can assume that at least half of my responses are going to end up being relatively sarcastic. In high school, my senior superlatives were "most organized" and "sassiest" and those witty comebacks have seemed to follow me over the years.  

3. If I put my hair in a middle part I look like Snape.
One summer at camp a group of my friends and I all dressed up as the cast of Harry Potter. Somehow, I ended up being assigned as Snape. In order to get in character I had to part my hair straight down the middle and it became scary how quickly that made me look like him. While our features are very different I am fully convinced that I will never be able to wear my hair in a middle part (nor do I have nay interest in doing so) without having some sort of resemblance of him. 

4. I used to be really good at soccer.
When my dad mentioned this post idea this was one of the things he thought I should include. For those of you who may not have been around the blog during my high school days you may not know that soccer was my thing. My life pretty much revolved around it year round when I was younger and then in high school from December until May. I played on a travel team when I was much younger and started to play with the varsity team for my school in seventh grade. I usually played left mid (despite being right footed) or forward depending on the game. I wish I knew how many goals I scored while playing for my high school since they definitely added up over the years. I racked up a number of awards during my time on the team and even got to play in a few all star games as I got older. By the end of my senior season I was a bit burnt out, but that only lasted until I realized that Furman's soccer season was in the fall and I started to miss it a lot when I went away to school. 

5. I can't swallow pills. 
This little tidbit leaves many people's jaws on the floor. I am in agreement that it is kind of ridiculous that I can't swallow pills and fear not I've heard all of the tricks. I think that people assume they are helping by sharing those things (which I can pretty much guarantee I've already tried), but at this point I think it's all mental. I'm ;ducky in that I've never had to consistently take medicine so in a way I never really had to learn how to swallow pills. I'm hoping eventually someday I'll master this skill but for the time being I am a pro at figuring out how to mask the taste of any medicine I may have to take. 

6. If I'm in the zone I do not like working with others. 
I love being productive but can't always get myself in the zone. When I do finally get to that point I'm warning you now to not distract me (unless you want a sarcastic response to whatever you're trying to ask/tell me). I'd much rather work alone when I'm feeling super productive so that I can eliminate distractions and get what I need to get done accomplished. While that may not be too strange, I also really don't like getting reading with other people around. I can't think of a dance or event where people haven't wanted to get ready together and I always avoid it. I would get ready early enough so that I could show up and enjoy other's company without having to actually get ready with them. Can we tell I can be pretty task oriented? 

7. I can do a really good Gollum voice. 
I don't know why or how I discovered this one but it's the truth. If you haven't seen Lord of the Ring's then you may not know this raspy/creepy voice but I do a great rendition/ It comes out on occasion and I'll agree with you that it's weird but I doubt any of y'all knew this about me! 

8. I am pretty sure I'm tone deaf.
Karaoke? No thank you. I have an awful singing voice and am about 98% sure I'm tone deaf. When I was my sorority's president I would have to start the ritual songs and I hated it so much that I made sure we had a song chair so that no one had to listen painfully to me singing. In the car with my friends I will ask them to turn up the volume of a song just so that I don't have to hear myself singing it. I like to think I'm doing us all a favor at that point because it just isn't pretty. I'm a bit jealous of all of you that have good singing voices because I am lacking in that department. 

I hope that you found this post entertaining, and I'd love for you to share one random thing that other people may not know about you in the comments! 

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Novels With Nell - The City Baker's Guide to Country Living

One favorite of 2017 had to be adding in different categories of posts to Prep In Your Step. I love that after Nell had spent so much time helping me behind the scenes that we were able to come up with a series for her to do for y'all. Novels with Nell couldn't have been a better fit. It's been a bit since her last one since I had other content that needed to go live, but I couldn't be happier that they are officially back today.

If you're new to the blog (welcome!) Nell is one of my best friends. We lived together both freshman and senior year of college, traveled abroad together, and consistently have 3 hour phone calls when we are apart. I wish that I were more like Nell when it came to sticking to my bed time and reading more consistently. Novels with Nell will be back every other week for y'all!

By: Louise Miller

As you could probably tell due to my consistently starting these posts with, “I read this in high school,” it has been a little while, probably a few months, since I’ve been in a good reading groove. Between finishing up prerequisite classes and labs to apply to PA school, working, volunteering, and studying for said classes and labs, I wasn’t reading for fun regularly. Thankfully that time is over and I’m back to the (non academic) books.

I just finished The City Baker’s Guide to Country Living per Carly’s (of Carly the Prepster) recommendation. Carly described it as a “cozy” read, and I have to agree! I’d call it the winter equivalent of a beach read. Apparently I have a thing for books where the characters make major life changes to go work at quaint, cozy inns in Vermont (see previous post on Whistlin’ Dixie in a Nor’easter). This book has some classic small town rivalries, explores family ties, and of course, a love interest for the main character. A great “winter read,” perfect for those of us in the Southeast with “snow days” today!

“When Olivia Rawlings—pastry chef extraordinaire for an exclusive Boston dinner club—sets not just her flambéed dessert but the entire building alight, she escapes to the most comforting place she can think of—the idyllic town of Guthrie, Vermont, home of Bag Balm, the country’s longest-running contra dance, and her best friend Hannah. But the getaway turns into something more lasting when Margaret Hurley, the cantankerous, sweater-set-wearing owner of the Sugar Maple Inn, offers Livvy a job. Broke and knowing that her days at the club are numbered, Livvy accepts.
Livvy moves with her larger-than-life, uberenthusiastic dog, Salty, into a sugarhouse on the inn’s property and begins creating her mouthwatering desserts for the residents of Guthrie. She soon uncovers the real reason she has been hired—to help Margaret reclaim the inn’s blue ribbon status at the annual county fair apple pie contest.

With the joys of a fragrant kitchen, the sound of banjos and fiddles being tuned in a barn, and the crisp scent of the orchard just outside the front door, Livvy soon finds herself immersed in small town life. And when she meets Martin McCracken, the Guthrie native who has returned from Seattle to tend his ailing father, Livvy  comes to understand that she may not be as alone in this world as she once thought.

But then another new arrival takes the community by surprise, and Livvy must decide whether to do what she does best and flee—or stay and finally discover what it means to belong. Olivia Rawlings may finally find out that the life you want may not be the one you expected—it could be even better.”

Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Goals for 2018

Over time, the word resolution has started to get a negative rep. In some cases, people's New Year's Resolutions do only last until mid February although I know plenty of people who stick to this kind of commitment. Personally, I prefer to set goals at the start of each year. If you're looking for ideas of good resolutions/goals to make this year that have nothing to do with fitness I highly suggest looking at The Every Girl's list. For one, I love their site. And secondly, the ideas they included helped me when it came to setting my own goals for the year.

This post has been on my to-do list since 2018 started. I always like to take my time working through the details of my goals since it makes me want to consistently work toward them. I also refer back to this blog post all year long to keep me on track. So, if you haven't made your own goals for 2018 let me be your proof that it's not too late. But, let me also encourage you to write them down and put them some place where you can continue to refer to them.

When thinking about what 2018 may have in store for me I foresee a lot of uncertainty and change. I've been reading Shonda Rhime's book, The Year of Yes, and she put it best by saying that up until college graduation you always have an end goal in mind. Getting that diploma or landing a job is great but then what goal are you pushing towards next? She is real in stating that post-grad comes with a lot of independence, but figuring out what to do with that independence can be tricky. Take my word on the fact that she articulates these thoughts a lot more gracefully than I am now. I may have to do a whole post on some of the best books I've read that talk about this unknown after graduating and well into your twenties and how to make the most of it, but right now I'll focus on my goals. I like to break mine down into categories so I can think of how to better apply each of these goals to my life at the moment. Some of these goals are more fluid from being involved with my personal life and transferring seamlessly to career and social goals while others seem to better fit within their own categories. 


Make more choices for myself.
Even when you don't want someone's opinion, it's not uncommon for them to give it anyway. I've always been a bit of a people pleaser and over the years have started to move away from that. I can't say that I'm fully at the point where I don't care what other people think (is it actually possible for someone to get to that point?), but I'm making noticeable progress. My guess is that come June I will have some big decisions on my plate that will/and have already started to take a lot of things into consideration. I want to be sure that this year I'm not afraid to make more decisions for myself. While other people have my best interest at heart they may not always understand where I'm coming from so I'd like for them to not have as much sway as they once have. Whether it's a big decision or something small, if it's not something I want for myself then it's a no. We'll see how well I do with this one...

Over the summer and Christmas Break I read so much. Reading is something that I really enjoy and because of that I'm going to try to make it a priority to give myself more time to read each day. So far this year, I've been ending my day reading half a chapter or a chapter of whatever book is currently on my nightstand. I'm hoping this will help me to wind down at the end of my day and better prioritize myself and what I enjoy each evening. It's also helping me to make progress with my next goal.

Less screen time.  
In a way, screen time is part of my job. With blogging and social media I'm bound to spend time behind my computer and phone in order to "get the job done." Unfortunately, my phone can also be a major distraction keeping me from being productive or going to sleep at a reasonable hour. I am going to make a conscious effort to be better about putting my phone away when with friends and attempt to not use it after 10:00 on week nights. 

C A R E E R & B L O G

Save more. 
A little fun fact for you, until January I haven't been getting full pay. The way my program through Furman works has it so that we start getting full pay in January since we don't end up with our teaching certification until December. I could rant about this for a while but will save you all the pain. A teacher's salary isn't anything to write home about but it definitely feels like more now that it has increased in amount. Right now, my goal is to ignore that additional amount and instead get better about saving it. Whether that saved money is used for rent in the future, moving expenses, or even just a nest egg in case of emergency I know that it would be nice to have to fall back on if push comes to shove. So far this year I've done a good job of saving (especially since a friend and I are both only buying the essentials in January) and I'm hoping to keep it up as the year progresses.

Take more risks and embrace them.
In 2017 I became a lot more transparent in real life about my blog. Years ago I was absolutely terrified about the idea of people I know finding my blog. I would get so embarrassed and want to change the conversation as quickly as possible. Now, I love talking about it because of how proud I am of myself for committing to keeping it up with other jobs/activities as well. I still get a bit terrified about my students finding it (no idea how they would especially since half of the internet including my blog is blocked from school wifi), but being more vocal about it has definitely become more natural over time.

With that in mind, I'm hoping I can take more risks when it comes to blogging in 2018. While these risks may not be as noticeable to everyone knowing that I am taking them and trying to create opportunities for my little corner of the internet is empowering. Not all risks I take will be successful, I'm fully aware of that. Hopefully, the ones that are continue to lead towards growth and passion for what I am doing.

Make connections.
One of the books I read over the summer, The Defining Decade, had a whole chapter about the strength of weak ties. Embarrassingly, I find myself looking back at that chapter frequently. I've already seen success in making connections this year and it has led to an opportunity I am overjoyed to have. From creating a linkedin (yep, Im new to that you can be shocked) and making connections on there, to talking to followers more through direct messages on instagram, and even to having meaningful conversations in real life I foresee this being a fun goal to have. 


Be more creative when it comes to cooking.
I miss home cooked meals and a meal plan. Home cooked meals are probably a given, but a meal plan? Yeah, I didn't really expect myself saying that either. Really, I miss the convenience of having a plethora of options for a meal where I've done none of the prep work. I'm pretty good about cooking in but tend to rotate through the same meals and most of these are far from exciting. This year, I want to work at being more creative with what I am cooking. I know that most of these meals will still be pretty quick to make since coming home from school I'm usually pretty tired and don't want to spend hours in the kitchen but there are plenty of great ideas for delicious recipes out there. I'm kicking off this goal this week by trying a free box of Hello Fresh. There are three different meals included and I am actually looking forward to making them.

Branch out. 
Staying in the same city where I went to college has been convenient in so many different ways. I'm lucky to be familiar with the area, have friends at Furman I can see, and even have Furman friends living with and around me. With that being said, I haven't really branched out much in trying to get to know other people. I'm hoping to get better about this in 2018 since I don't necessarily plan to stay put in Greenville forever. Making friends without the connection of Furman and teaching will be important at some point so why not go ahead and start now.

Accomplish at least one 101 in 1001 task each month. 
Back in July of 2016 I made a list of 101 things I'd like to accomplish in 1001 days. While I've made significant progress so far I'd love to do better about focusing on some of these tasks each month. I have until April of 2019 to get these all done so with this being my last full year with the list I want to make it a focus. Accomplishing or at least working towards accomplishing one task each month would definitely help to make getting these 101 tasks completed more of a reality.

Go to bed. 
I stink at getting enough sleep each night. As a teacher, I am up at around 5:15 each week day. I love mornings and am usually most productive then but I also find myself getting a second wind at night. Often that second wind leaves me awake much later than I should be. I am hoping to get better about going to bed earlier this year. By no means do I really expect myself to always get 8 hours but getting closer to that would be ideal. I've started working toward this goal by setting the bedtime alarm on my phone. We shall see if that helps.

This list is going directly on my bulletin board (both at home and at school).

Each year I like to choose one word to focus on. Even if all of my goals aren't at the forefront of my mind I can try to work toward accomplishing the goals when thinking about this one word. Last year I chose the word "intention." I wanted to be intentional with all that I chose to do/invest my time in. While I think that is still a good word to keep in mind this year's word is a little different and needs some explanation before you classify it as being too generic.

word of the year: gratitude

I was having some trouble choosing a word this year. I knew I wanted it to have something to do with attempting to be positive and had thought of the word gratitude, grace, and grateful before 2018 had even arrived. I wasn't committed to that until I was reading the beginning of The Five Minute Journal that I recently began. This book is meant to help to focus your mindset on the positive by choosing what situations you focus on. So far I've really enjoyed the journal but even more so I enjoyed its description of gratitude. The book explains that it is ok to be grateful for things that haven't happened yet. This idea is completely different than how I had previously thought of the word. Seven more interesting to me was the definition it gave for the word. "Gratitude derived from the Latin word gratis (meaning grace, graciousness, or gratefulness) eludes easy explanation by academics. Definitions such as 'the willingness to recognize the unearned increments of value in one's experience.'" This explanation sold me on the word. A lot of what I'm doing currently isn't necessarily going to reap benefits for me at the moment so the word gratitude will help to remind me to recognize the unearned value in what I'm doing currently. Being derived from the word grace, hopefully it will remind me to give myself a little more grace in situations and not be so hard on myself. The word willingness in the definition also reminds me that overall, this is my choice. I must choose these things in order to make them a reality. As if I wasn't already sold, the following statement also helped.

According to the book, "A 2003 study by Emmons and McCullough found that keeping a daily gratitude journal leads to better sleep, reductions of physical pain, a greater sense of well-being, and a better ability to handle change."

Better sleep, a greater sense of well-being, and a better ability to handle change all fit into my goals for the 2018 and expectations or what the year might hold pretty well. So, gratitude it is.

This year I also decided to choose a song of the year. Honestly, this song could have easily classified as my song of the last few months, but I think it encompasses a lot of my thoughts right now as well. If you haven't heard it I've included a link to it on spotify as well as some of my lyrics below.

song of the year: Happiness by Need to Breathe

"I've got a homesick heart but a long way left to go
I've been doing my part but I ain't got much to show
I'm asking you to show me some forgiveness
It's all for you in my pursuit of happiness"

"These days are tough, these days are long. Sometimes it's hard to carry on.
I hear a voice raging, and I know it's true.
I've got dreams that keep me up in the dead of night.
Telling me I wasn't made for the simple life.
There's a light I see but it's far in the distance.
I'm asking you to show me some forgiveness.
It's all for you in my pursuit of happiness."

"These days are tough, these days are long. Sometimes it's hard to carry on."

So now that you've seen a maybe overly transparent about my thoughts as we enter into the new year I'd love to hear some of your goals below!

I've included some of the books mentioned above for you to look at if they sounded interesting. I've also included a couple of others along the same lines that I've read and would recommend as well:

Blog Design by Get Polished