Monday, November 28, 2011

Insta-Sprinkles

Instagram11. Flowers delivered to my office two weeks ago with a note from Matt reading "Congratulations Dr."  He's definitely a keeper :) 2. Thrifted silk top with my new favorite Loft scarf {available here} 3. White bean and chicken chili {recipe here} 4. It's almost winter in Chicago, which means a trip to stock up on firewood.  Dear Winter, please be kind.

Instagram2One of my favorite nooks in our house, ready for dinner with friends, and complete with a dinner menu for the night {apple cinnamon cake recipe here} 6. A movie date with Harry, Hermione, and Ron. 7. Nerd alert: I got in the spirit by wearing authentic Harry Potter glasses, courtesy of dollar store sunglasses with the lenses popped out.  I'm mature, I promise. 8. Homemade smores treats, so yummy!

Instagram39. Our office hosted Operation Beautiful last week on campus, and this was one of my favorite messages given out to students. 10. A trip to the dentist, aka the most horrible place on Earth! 11. Baklava at a local Greek restaurant. 12. Cute turkey cookie for the few staff members who worked through most of Thanksgiving break.  Almost too cute to eat.  Almost :)

Instgram413. Our first fire of the season! 14. Last weekend, Matt and I drove to Ohio to be with my grandmother as she had heart surgery, and we had the most amazing salad ever at Northstar Cafe.  (She is doing better now FYI!) 15. My fabulous Black Friday purchase from Talbots.  I don't know why this gold puffy vest spoke to me, but it did, and I love it.  I feel like Missy Elliott in Supa Dupa Fly meets Real Housewives of Orange County lol. (PS: Don't lie, that Missy video is an old school classic and you're secretly going to jam out all day at your desk.) 16. Pandora Christmas, a permanent fixture in my office and house for the next 27 days.  Heck yes.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Thanksgiving Snaps

I wasn't very diligent with picture taking on Thanksgiving, as I had my mind on other important things (i.e. mashed potatoes, returning for a second helping of pie, etc.), but nonetheless, I managed to snap a few pictures of our day.

B240430Our lovely Thanksgiving hostess, two years in a row (see last year here).  Terri was one of my bosses at AT, and she and her family have been so good to Matt and I since we've been in Chicago.  They have hosted us for almost every holiday since we've been here, including two Thanksgivings, Christmas Eve, New Year's Eve, and Easter.  I told you they were wonderful.  And Terri's cooking?  Oh my goodness, it's insane.

IMG 0231Quick pic of my Thanksgiving outfit, which had two requirements: stretchy pants and a top that will conceal 13 helpings of mashed potatoes.  PS: A few weeks ago, I was craving some oversized, chunky sweaters, and as a Texan, I had only two in my closet.  So I snagged this one during Loft's Friends and Family sale a few weeks ago.  (It was one of the four items I mentioned in my recent spending freeze post.)  And I couldn't be happier with the almost-Snuggie-but-still-a-little-chic oversized look.  Mashed potatoes here I come :)

Sweater: Ann Taylor Loft {here}
Leggings: Ann Taylor
Brooch: vintage from my grandma
Tee: the Gap
Ring: David Yurman

B240426Closeup of my greyhound brooch and my mixed metallic manicure (OPI Glitzerland and Ulta Chic Peek).

B240432A very festive table with a few plates already missing, let the feast begin!

B240429Getting to spend life with this guy is a big reason I am thankful, this week and always.

How was your Thanksgiving?  If you did a Thanksgiving post, please leave a link in the comment section so I can come take a peek at your celebration!  Tomorrow it's back to work, and I have a feeling this week is going to feel crazy long after having a few days off.  But I'm counting down, because the Christmas season is here, and I get to see my family in less than a month.  Eeek, I can't wait!

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Thankful

Gather{via Amanda Catherine Designs}

We just arrived home from a wonderful Thanksgiving meal.  Matt and I stayed in Chicago this year, so though we were apart from our families, we were so blessed to share a table with dear friends who have become our sort of adopted family here.  We left with full bellies and grateful hearts, for we are so very blessed.  Here are a few of the things I'm giving thanks for this special day...

a husband that loves me...
parents who support me...
a brother that inspires me...
a job that fulfills me...
friends that get me...
a home that protects me...
students that challenge me...
a chicago family that has adopted me...
a church that nourishes me...
a blog that expresses me...
men and women fighting to defend freedom for me...
a fireplace that warms me...
extended family who care for me...
a spending freeze that saved me...
stretchy pants that forgive me...

Today and everyday, I strive to be thankful.  I have so much love in my life, so many blessings around me, and I am grateful for a day that reminds me to focus diligently on these.  Happy Thanksgiving to you and your loved ones.  May we all continue to be thankful this week and always.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Happy Lately List

Peppermint{via pinterest}

Today I am excited to be sharing Shelby's Happy Lately List with yall!  (And if I can add just one little happy lately fact for me, it's that I am heading back to Chicago late this afternoon for four whole days with Matt, woo hoo!) Ok, enough of me, on to Shelby :)

Bringing out my fun leather bomber jacket for fall...
Using the fireplace finally! (love that I can start a fire by flipping a switch!)...
Country Music Awards last week – love listening to Brad, Carrie, Kenny and Jason...
Thinking of Christmas ideas, gifts, and d├ęcor inspiration via pinterest...
Peppermint hot chocolate in red cups...
The heart of college football season! Go Ducks!...
Psalm 118:24...
Getting recognized for hard efforts at work...
Rediscovering necklaces and bracelets that have been in serious hibernation in my jewelry box...
Knit scarves and boots...
Fun sparkly manicures...
Surprise date night from husband...

Remember, if you want your Happy Lately List featured on this here blog, just shoot me an email, and we'll make it happen.  Have a wonderful Thanksgiving, and whatever table you're gathered around this year, may it be full of conversation, laughter, and of love.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

The September Spending Freeze: Lessons Learned

Creditcard{via pinterest}

It's been a month and a half since the end of my September Spending Freeze.  My month of "no spending" came and went, and since that last day in September, I haven't talked too much about what I gained from the Freeze.  However, I haven't forgotten the Freeze, or the lessons I learned along the way.  In fact, it's quite the opposite.  I've been doing a lot of thinking, some of which was prompted by a friend's question of "So now that September is over, are you just going to go back to spending like you used to?"  My initial answer, "Of course not," was soon followed with some self-reflection about what would change following my month of no spending.  I realized I needed to redefine my spending style, nailing down what needs continued attention and effort when it comes to spending.  So here are the highlights of my Freeze, as well as the biggest lessons learned along the way.

1. I spend entirely too much on clothes. This is without a doubt, the biggest and most uncessary source of spending in my life.  I won't act totally surprised, I knew I was shopping a bit more than I should have been, but when I crunched the numbers and saw just how much I was spending, I was astonished.  It was literally sickening to see how much I was spending on clothes and accessories.  I wish I could pretend it was a top here, a dress there, and a cute scarf every now and then.  But it wasn't.  It was out of control.  This part of my spending absolutely has to change.  I cannot claim to be a responsible adult and continue to spend so much of our income on clothes.  I can't, and I won't.

2. I don't wear the things I love nearly enough. One day in September, I wore one of my very favorite things to work (hint: this orange sweater.)  By 10:00 am, I'd gotten more than a handful of comments about the sweater and how great it looked, followed by a comment from one of my coworkers, "Is that new?"  "Nope," I replied.  "I've had it for a while."  The minute the words left my lips, I realized something.  This is one of my very favorite things from my closet, yet I've worn it one time in six weeks (and still haven't worn it since).  How is that possible?  I realized it's because I have a lot that I love hanging in my closet, so much so that I only wear it once or twice a season.  And I realized how insane this was.  Why buy another gold statement necklace when I don't wear the three I have nearly enough?  Why look for a second leopard button up when I've only worn the one I love twice this fall?  Somewhere along the way, we've gotten the message that new is better, and it's simply not true.  I need to wear what I love and if that's not happening, then I need to get real with myself and realize it's because I have entirely too much.

3. $5 lattes are insane. This lesson isn't a shocker, and I'm betting most of you learned this long ago.  I did too, really, but I pushed it aside, trying to convince myself it was okay.  It's not, not for me anyway.  I'm sitting on a giant pile of Ph.D student debt, and its insane to be shelling out $25 a week on coffee.  (Sidenote, that's $100 a month; $1200 a year.  On coffee!)  That is just crazy, crazy, crazy, and I can't do it.  I've left myself a little bit of room by allowing Starbucks when we travel and some Monday mornings when I make the two hour commute back from Chicago, but that's pretty much it.  Until my next trip, goodbye grande soy sugar-free caramel latte.

4. Preparing for the grocery store and being a bit more flexible can save me a lot. I've mentioned my awe for the extreme couponers before.  Getting all those goodies for close to free, who wouldn't be impressed?  And while I don't take near as an extreme approach, I have learned the value of grocery deals and steals as well as how to shop with an eagle eye.  Since we don't get a Sunday paper, I skip on clipping coupons, and instead use the online program offered by Dominicks.  By using a combination of their digital coupons, personalized offers, and deal matches, Matt and I have been able to save 25-50% on our grocery visits.  Not bad for an extra 30 minutes of prep work before a trip to the store and some extra diligence while shopping the aisles.

5. Accountability is key. The dedicated work out people and the bible study regulars have known the value of this lesson for a long time, so I'm clearly a slowpoke for just now catching on.  It's true; having people know your goals helps you stick to them.  Plain and simple.  When I wanted to cheat, I thought about this blog and the people who knew about my challenge.  That snapped me back real quick.  Enlist the support of people close to you: friends, family, coworkers, etc.  You'll be surprised how much it helps.

6. The ordinary can become extraordinary with just a few details. The no dining out rule was a bit challenging for us, especially living in such a fun foodie city.  I like the experience of dining out, the atmosphere, the music, the fun cocktails, the ability to try new things.  And while these are all fabulous at restaurants, they're also fabulous at home.  A Sunday lunch at home is suddenly spruced up when you pack it in a basket and take it across the street to the park,  An easy at home pasta is a bit more fancy with candlesticks and a bottle of wine (even if it is 2 buck Chuck.)  We've got the ability to make things more special; it just takes a bit more tweaking.  Read more about the power of recreating here.

7. Wanting something does not mean I need something. Nor does it mean I deserve it.  I had this little ephinany halfway through the freeze, and its one of the most powerful things to come out of my spending freeze.  There is a big difference between my wants and needs.  I have to remind myself of this on a weekly basis, and whenever I'm feeling particularly entitled, I reread this.  Major lightbulb moment for me.

Now let me be clear that in no way am I all of a sudden a spending expert.  Even with these lessons, I still find myself wandering into stores, tempted beyond belief.  And while I've gotten better at handling that temptation, I'm not perfect.  Since the Freeze, I've purchased 4 articles of clothing, and though I tried to reason myself out of buying those pieces, I didn't quite succeed.  But I'm getting better, one temptation at a time.  Each time I say no to myself, to Starbucks, to my online email offers, I can feel myself getting a little a bit stronger.  Another thing that's gotten stronger?  Our bank account.  The freeze and the lessons learned have drastically changed our spending and in turn, our bank account.  We're still sitting on a big old pile of Ph.D debt, and that will take us years to work through.  But we're plugging away, doing much better than before.  And that would not have happened without the Freeze.  If you are at all wanting to take a look at or revamp your spending style, I highly suggest doing a spending freeze.  I promise, if you stick with it, it will change how you spend and how you see your bank account.

So for those of you who participated in the Freeze, what did you learn?  And for those of you who didn't, do you think you would learn anything from a month of essential only spending?

Monday, November 21, 2011

Dissertation Celebration Part 2: OU

I'm back with the second part of my disseration celebration weekend.  And before I get going, I want to express another big thank you to yall for your kind words of support and congratulations.  Defending felt awesome, but getting cheers and virtual high fives from your blogger friends, well, that makes me feel even better :)

B040350As I mentioned in my last post, the timing of my defense was quite crafty.  I knew Dad's Day Weekend at OU was the first weekend in November, and ever since I was a student there, my whole family would come up for both Dad's Day and Mom's Day.  So now that my little brother is an official Sooner, I thought I'd get in on the family tradition and crash the visit.  And I'm so glad I did.  Seeing Ryan in his new environment was beyond delightful.  He seemed so grown up, so calm, and so well adjusted.  My brother is lightyears ahead of where I was at that age, and I'm so very proud of him.

B040366Whenever I visit Norman, I always make a point to stop by and see my old boss, Andy.  He recruited me to be a Sooner and later recruited me to work in his office.  He was a huge influence on my years at OU, and I can't pass up a chance to stop by and see him and the rest of the PSS gang.

B040353Nothing making me happier than walking on campus, with my family, preparing for the craziness of gameday.  Seriously, there are few things in life that measure up to that feeling.

B040376When Matt and I first started dating, I always thought it was a little weird that he didn't know my OU world.  The craziness, the magic...I was a little nervous he wouldn't be able to get just how much this place means to me.  But after his first visit two years ago, he quickly caught on, and it's so fun to have him share the OU experience not just with me, but also with Ryan.

B050386As we were walking through campus, Matt scurried ahead to snap this pic.  Oh how he loves Cameron :)

B050403Gameday started off early Saturday with a trip to my little brother's fraternity house for a Dad's Day BBQ and then to campus corner for some tailgaiting.  And there's no one I like tailgating with more than this crazy girl.  Jacque is one of my dearest friends from college, and I don't get to see her nearly enough!

B050402I also got to see little Kelby, one of my sweet KKG sisters.  You know those people you haven't seen in years, and when you hug them, you literally think, "Omg, its SO good to see you!"  Kelby is one of those people.

B050404And of course, we had to be those girls...representing our old school Kappa love :)

B050392It's official.  My life would be boring and sad without this guy.  I'm certain of it.

B050399Family pic and definite Christmas card contender.  Since we're all rarely together, getting a family picture was my mom's main goal of the weekend.

B050407Gametime woohoo!  PS: it's so funny to go back through the college and see it through the eyes of a dude.  Such a diffferent experience lol.  And yes, I realize I'm not really "going back through college," but given the fact that I'm an overbearing, creepster big sister, it kinda feels like it :)

B050410A sea of crimson and cream always looks good to me.

B050411The student section was full of these reversible roll out banners with BOOMER on one side, SOONER on the other.  We entertained ourselves for a good twenty minutes coming up with different word possibilities.  This one was obvious after A&M's first touchdown.

B050420Another bonus of the trip, getting to see my dear friend Quy.  Quy and I were on homecoming court together our senior year and became quick friends.  He's now a big time VIP, advising the biggest student group on campus.  I literally could sit and talk with him all day.  Love me some Quy :)

B050401Getting to spend the weekend with my whole family in a place that means so much to me was the best end to my celebration.  My love for OU is pretty insane, but now that Ryan is there, it's even crazier.  I miss the little dude so much, and I'm already counting down the days till Christmas when we'll get to see each other next.

So now that the celebrating is over, I'm working to crank out the final edits and official copyedit stuff.  I can't believe I'm so close to being D-O-N-E with the craziness that has been this Ph.D journey!  PS: I hope everyone is getting to enjoy a short week, with Thanksgiving on Thursday.  Most students are gone, which means I can finally tackle the mound of paperwork sitting on my desk.  Have a wonderful week, friends!

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Dissertation Celebration: Part 1

By now, I'm sure you're sick of hearing me talk about my dissertation defense.  And to that, I say "too bad." :)  I worked for a looooong time on that dang thing, so you better believe I'm going to revel in the excitement of being done.  I was pretty creative in the scheduling of my defense, which allowed me to squeeze in some extra friends and family time.  Here are a few snapshots from the big day, with more pictures of the long weekend coming later this week...

B030325This was me and my anxious self an hour before the defense.  My old boss and dear friend Jenny let Matt and I hole up in her office prior to the big to-do, and I kept vacillating between my presentation and my i-Phone, reading all the sweet and thoughtful texts coming in from friends and family.  (Have I ever mentioned that I have the best friends and family in the whole wide world?)

B030330Two hours later...DEFENDED!  This is me with my chair and advisor, Dr. Castillo.  I meant what I said in my dedication, when I said that she has been an incredible source of support through this project.  I'm not sure I could have made it without her.

B030340Immediately after my defense, my parents (who were waiting anxiously on campus but not in the room), Matt, and I headed straight to Dallas to celebrate with my friends and family.  It was SO wonderful to be able to celebrate with most of my best friends and family in one place.  It felt like a mini repeat of Matt and I's wedding; all the people we love in one place at one time!  There were several times I looked around the table, from my parents, to Matt, to my friends, thinking, "I want to hold onto this moment forever."  It was that special.

B030344These girls are pretty incredible, and its funny to think that we all met in sequins and cowboy hats.  (Thank you CHS drillteam!)  I love them so much and was extra excited to meet Kendall's baby bump.

B040348The next day, we headed up I-35 to Norman, Oklahoma where to we got to see this little guy.  The cherry on top of my celebration!  Naturally, I took a bazillion pictures while at OU, so I'm going to post those later in the week.  Looking back through all of these pictures and remembering the weekend, makes me all warm and fuzzy inside again.  The only thing better than defending was being able to share it with my dear family and friends :)

Hope you're having a fabulous day.  It's almost mid-week; hang in there!

Friday, November 11, 2011

Happy Lately List

Blankets{via pinterest}

It's been forever since I've done a happy lately list.  And since it's officially Friday and one step closer to Thanksgiving break, I figured today was the perfect time celebrate the small stuff!

The fact that my DIY manicures are finally getting legit...
Beyonce's "Girls Run the World."  My pump me up/get me through the day song...
This chunky, fuchsia infinity scarf I scored from The Loft.  (40% with friends and family going on!)...
Snagging tickets to see The Nutcracker the weekend before Christmas.  I haven't been the past few years, and I think Matt was getting sick of my whining...
Finally downloading Ellie Goulding's album and having Lollapalooza flashbacks...
Manly flannel shirts...
Breaking out the extra blankets for winter.  Beds are so much cozier when they're stacked with blankets...
Getting flowers at work from my sweet husband...
This belt tying tutorial.  Perfect for my trench coat which has been an everyday thing the past two weeks...
It's Friday.  Enough said...
Looking forward to Thanksgiving break.  4 whole days with Matt, heck yes...
Crockpot dinners, the lazy girl's guide to warm and cozy weeknight meals...
Tights and cable knit boot socks...
Defending my dissertation, booyah!  (You didn't think I'd be sick of saying that by now, did you?)...
Harry Potter comes out on DVD today.  Hell yes.  Date night planned...

What's making you happy today?  PS: I want to get back in the habit of posting readers' happy lately lists.  So if you wanna make a list of your own and email to me, I'll do my best to feature here on this little blog!  Happy weekend yall!

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

The Art of Layering

This season has been a big one for me.  After a year and a half of living in Chicago, I'm finally learning to be prepared for the weather.  (A big accomplishment, I assure you!)  Several occasions this fall, Matt and I have ventured outside, and each time I've been surprised to realize I was wearing just the right thing.  And the answer hasn't been a heavier coat or thick wooly socks.  I'm attributing this achievement to layering, a complicated art that I'm just beginning to master.  In Texas, we work in two layers...light cotton dress or naked.  Thankfully, Midwesterners have several more layers to their wardrobes, and to be honest, I'm starting to dig the extra options.

A160226Jacket: Nordstrom
Cardigan: Gap {similar here}
Long-sleeved tee: Ann Taylor {similar here}
Jeans: J.Crew
Scarf: Ann Taylor {similar here}
Boots: Burberry {here}
Earrings: gifted from a friend

A160224

I swear by Ann Taylor's long-sleeve knit tees.  I have quite the stockpile, and I wear them all.the.time I love them because I can layer them under a cardigan or blazer for a more casual look or with a pencil skirt and statement necklace for work.  I literally have to force myself not to buy them in every single color.  I love them that much!  I also rarely leave the house without a scarf these days.  It's an easy layer that takes about 2 seconds to add.  How can you go wrong with a 2 second layer?  So now that my layering secret is out, I'm curious; what's your secret to the art of layering?

Monday, November 7, 2011

Insta-Sprinkles

Instagram11. My latest read 2. Breakfast at Blueberry Hill 3. My favorite beer (and the only one I drink!) 4. Impromptu picnic at the park

Instagram25. Beatles spray painting on campus 6. Our simple yet delicious dinner with goodies from this trip 7. A brand new box of crayons snagged for this project.  Seriously, is anything better than a brand new box of crayons? 8. A red velvet birthday cupcake for a fellow intern

Instagram39. Manicure of the week (Essie Pop Art Pink with OPI Rainbow Connection from the new Muppets Collection...love!) 10. A fun surprise from a coworker following a presentation I gave last week 11. The beautiful OU Kappa house which I got see this past weekend visiting my brother at school.  His fraternity house is right across the street! 12. The coffee mug that got me through my dissertation defense :)

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Defended

Celebrate{via pinterest}

Thursday afternoon at 3:10, I got the official word.  I passed.  I freaking passed my dissertation defense. I never thought I'd see the day.  Though I was insanely anxious in the hours leading up to my defense, I felt the weirdest sense of calm come over me a few minutes before I started.  (I completely attribute this to all the prayers and positive thoughts people were sending my way.)  I won't lie, there was an intense amount of anxiety as the committee deliberated and I stood out in the hallway, but when my chair came out with a handshake and "Congratulations, Doctor," I almost couldn't believe it.  I did it.

This whole thing has been a crazy ride.  There have been so many ups and downs, it's hard to believe I'm this close to being done.  As the hours have passed since Thursday, it's started to sink in more and more, and as I've celebrated with friends and family, it's begun to seem more real.  I did it; I really did it.  But I didn't do this whole thing alone, I had an insane amount of love and support from friends and family, and because of that, I wanted to share the dedication portion of my dissertation.  It was by far the best part of the paper to write, and I've reread it a thousand times, giving thanks for the people who helped get me through.  A big thanks also goes out to all of my blog readers who have sent words of support and encouragement along the way.  However small they seemed to you, they meant the world to me!

This dissertation has been an incredible labor of energy and determination.  Though my name is printed on the title page, many more deserve to have their names listed there, as this project wouldnot have happened without the love and support of so many.  I want to first thank my husband, Matt, for his unending support and guidance.  You are my partner in both personal and professional pursuits, and I am continually inspired and blessed by your love and desire for us to dream big.  To my parents, who have provided me with unlimited opportunity and support.  You have always encouraged me to follow my heart, staying close beside me for moments when I feared and wondered, “Can I really do this?”  Without your guidance and love, I would be lost.  To my brother Ryan, one of the biggest influences on my life, thank you for inspiring me in ways you will never know.  You motivate me to step outside my comfort zone and embrace life for all it has to offer.  To my friends and extended family, I am so grateful for your encouragement and influence over the course of my life.  Even when I am unsure of what I need, you know my heart and remind me of what matters most.  I am beyond grateful.

Thank you to Dr. Castillo, who in many ways, has been an unexpected but incredible source of support through this process.  You believed in me when it seemed no one else did, and I cannot thank you enough for your ability to both challenge and support me, a balance that is always difficult to find.  Thank you to my committee members, for your guidance and support during this project.  Lastly, thank you to my Access family, who has been a continual source of inspiration and support for the past five years.  You have been a safe haven in the face of sometimes daunting obstacles, and I am forever grateful for the impact you had on my personal and professional development.

I'm off to soak up the rest of the weekend and celebrate until I'm blue in the face.  I've whispered to Matt at least ten times since Thursday, "I defended my dissertation," and I can't help but smile each time I say it.  This whole thing is living proof that with a whole lot of hard work and determination, even the impossible is possible!

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Go

Confidently{via wax paper design}

Sorry for the silence around here this week; I've been busy putting the finishing details on my dissertation defense.  I'm currently at the airport, waiting to fly back to Texas to defend a project that has almost consumed the last several years of my life.  Sitting at the gate, I'm a weird combination of insanely nervous, semi-excited, and if I'm honest, slightly terrified.  My defense is tomorrow at 1:30, so if you believe in the power of prayer, positive vibes, affirmations, meditation, or anything else...please send a little my way :)  Until then, I'm trying to take deep breaths and remind myself that this is a moment I've dreamed of for a very long time...