Monday, December 30, 2013

NaBloPoMo

I've seen other bloggers who participate in NaBloPoMo in the past. I like these blog "challenges" because there is a level of accountability. As I anxiously await the arrival of our daughter, I thought blogging throughout the month of January would be an excellent way to occupy my time (along with watching copious amounts of TV and catching up on leisure reading while I can).


NaBloPoMo January 2014

My pregnant brain also finds it appropriate that the theme for January's NaBloPoMo is pressure. I put a lot of pressure on myself in all areas of my life - and this pregnancy has not been immune to my self-imposed pressures. The irony of it is that I have been dealing with blood pressure issues since my second trimester. I never thought I would literally put pressure on myself, but don't worry, I'm following doctor's orders and baby and I are just fine.

I will most likely schedule posts in advance in case baby girl decides to arrive early (but we're aiming to cook her as close as possible to her due date in mid-February). I hope to pepper my posts in January with photos of the good stuff going on in life as well. As I type this, my husband is building baby girl's dresser which is the last piece of furniture needed for her room. I'm tickled to get her room decorated and everything put up now that all the big components are just about complete.

But I promise not to put too much pressure on myself to get it all done in one shot. 

Here's to January 2014!

Saturday, December 28, 2013

Thrifty: Thirty-One and Vera Bradley

It’s been a while since I've highlighted some of my thrift store finds. I haven’t gone out much this fall or winter because time just hasn't permitted, and when I have trekked out, I don’t find anything worth purchasing. However, two items that I have found in the past six months have made me a very happy thrifter.


I love the Thirty-One line of bags and totes. Everything I have seen from this company is absolutely adorable, and their products seem to hold up very well. The prices for some of the items aren’t bad, but if I can hold out and get something for less, I’ll do it.




I found this tote (referred to as the “organizing utility tote” in the Thirty-One catalog) at a baby consignment store while I was visiting family for Thanksgiving. It has a couple of scuff marks inside the tote. The outside is in beautiful condition. The tote through the catalog is $30. I snagged it for $6.50.




I found this Thirty-One zipper pouch at Goodwill several months ago. It currently corrals my lip balms, cosmetics, and other miscellaneous beauty tools I carry in my purse. The catalog price? $15. What did I pay? $2.




And speaking of name brands, I’m also a Vera Bradley fan. However, I am not a fan of the prices. So when I saw this wallet (which has been my wallet now for at least a year) for a whopping $2.50 at Goodwill, I was tickled! It has seen quite a bit of wear since I’ve been using it, but I purchased it like-new.



Several months after I purchased the wallet, my mother-in-law found a purse in matching print at a yard sale. It was also like-new. She paid a whole $5. The print I have is retired, but similar pieces currently sell for $32 (wallet) and $38 (purse). No, thank you!



I don’t shun paying retail for items, but I challenge myself to be patient and wait to find high quality items at thrift stores, consignment shops, and garage sales. It really does pay off - and I like the thrill of the discovery!

(Disclaimer: I've linked to the companies mentioned, but the links are not affiliated.)

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Monday, December 23, 2013

Book: Fangirl

I read next to nothing for fun during semesters. This past fall semester was a bit brutal, but I made it through with straight As and to the halfway point in my program. I knew after this semester that I would be taking a break for the spring and summer to welcome our first bundle of joy. From the time the semester ended, I knew I wanted to get some reading for pleasure done. Sadly, a lot of what I had picked up just didn't make me happy. 

And then I chose Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell... and I may have fallen in love with Ms. Rowell.

It has been a long time since I have fallen in love with a character. I immediately wanted to become BFFs with Cath once I started reading. I seriously could picture myself in the story with Cath, reliving my freshman year in college. Navigating classes, dorm life, boy stuff, friendship - the entire book had me reminiscing about my own college experiences while staying completely engrossed in Cath's world. There's humor, drama, romance, and characters you can't help but relate to. I'm so happy I picked up Fangirl because it really rejuvenated my desire to read for recreation (you get into reading ruts, right?).

At the recommendation of my husband, I'm reading One for the Money by Janet Evanovich at the moment. Crime novels aren't my thing, but there's plenty of humor to get me through the messy parts. I also have Rowell's Eleanor & Park sitting on my nightstand, along with a handful of other YA choices I'm hoping to get through in the next few weeks.

Is reading awesome or what?! (Says the girl who works in a library and is pursuing a Master's degree in library science - I'm not biased or anything.)

Disclaimer: Yes, I've linked to where you can learn more about these books and authors. No, I'm not making money off the links.

Saturday, December 21, 2013

Pregnancy Non-Essentials

I discussed my absolute must-haves for pregnancy, which got me thinking about the things I really didn’t like or was disappointed in. This is just one mama-to-be’s opinion, but I hope my opinion might save someone a little bit of money. Slap “maternity” or “pregnancy” on just about any product and you’re looking at a nice little price increase. As I like to err on the side of frugality, my non-essentials list revolves around how I've tried to save money during pregnancy.


1. Motherhood Maternity. I can’t completely knock this company because it’s been the only place that I have successfully found pants for work that fit me. I applaud them for providing plus-size maternity options (the few that they do have in stores). My complaint is that after a few wears and washings, the clothing begins to look and feel worn out. I didn’t want to make a big investment in maternity clothes because it’s a temporary wardrobe, so I purchased simple pieces (black dress pants, khaki pants, basic colored tops) with the hope that they’d last me throughout the pregnancy and some of the post-pregnancy time. Some items might, but I’m afraid some will get retired fast. The prices are reasonable but the clothing quality is awful (you get what you pay for). I had little luck finding options at thrift stores, so I wore pieces that were in larger sizes than my pre-pregnancy size to supplement my wardrobe.

2. Maternity underwear. I never purchased any because of the price – I can’t justify it. My sister-in-law gifted me with a package that she purchased (and never used), and I was so happy I didn’t spend the money after trying them out. My solution? I purchased undies two sizes larger than what I normally wear… and I got the granny-panty version. Comfortable AND affordable! For price comparisons, a 3-pack of maternity underwear costs about $15 at Motherhood Maternity. A 5-pack of the granny-panty version of larger underwear is around $12.

3. Preggie Pop Drops. Maybe they work for some women, but I was far better off with Jolly Ranchers and Life Savers to help with nausea. The Preggie Pop Drops are also really expensive for how little you purchase.

4. Pregnancy books. I’m not saying don’t read the pregnancy books, but I am encouraging you to get them from your public library rather than purchasing them. If you really want to purchase a few, check out your local thrift store first. I snagged a fairly recent edition of What to Expect When You’re Expecting for myself for $1.75 at Goodwill. The rest of my reading material came from my library.

Every pregnancy is different. There are things I have not experienced (thank God!), while there are other things that I have experienced (and lived to tell about). My overall advice is to not buy into all the stuff that’s marketed towards you - your emotions are everywhere, and if you’re a first-time mom like myself, it’s easy to get sucked in to all the stuff. And remember: What I find non-essential might be an absolute blessing to someone else. Please take my opinions with a few grains of salt.

If you’ve been pregnant, what items have/did you found to be non-essential during your pregnancy?

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Liebster Award Nomination

One of my very best friends is Sarah over at One Random B. The gal is a riot, and the humor of her blog is the exact humor she has in real life. We met in college back in 2005, I think, and just hit it off. We're both obnoxious and love to laugh, and she's just a great woman to have in my life.


Sarah recently nominated me for a Liebster Award after her own nomination, and I'm touched. I think it means she likes me. Here are my responses to her questions.

1. Who was your first kiss (and, yes, grade school stories count!)?
A boy named Matthew in kindergarten. It was a peck on the cheek, but that's big news when you're five years old. We were boyfriend and girlfriend for probably all of two days.

2. Who do you think would win in a fight and why: Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles or the Mighty Morphin Power Rangers?
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, hands down. I was a huge fan of TMNT as a child - Donatello was my favorite. I had a handmade Donatello doll and everything. TMNT would never let me down.

3. As a kid, what did you want to be when you grew up?
I had my heart set on being a meteorologist. I didn't want to be a TV meteorologist though. The weather absolutely fascinated me, and still does. However, when I hit my teen years and realized the amount of science and math involved in pursuing a career in meteorology, I knew it wasn't for me. I'm definitely more of a liberal arts kind of gal.

4. Tablets or old-fashioned books? Why?
Old-fashioned books! I have a Kindle Fire, and I love it. However, I think I've read maybe two books on it in the year and a half that I've owned it. I use my Fire to play games and use the Internet (primarily while in bed). I love holding a book. I love to turn the pages. I love using pretty bookmarks (don't dog-ear pages around me - I might hurt you). I love the satisfaction of reading the last page of book, closing it up, and reflecting on the story. I just don't get that with a tablet.

5. What advice would you give to your 16 year-old self?
Calm down about your future. Everything will work itself out as it should.

6. Name 2 things on your bucket list.
Travel to Scotland and earn my Master's degree.

7. What is the riskiest action you ever took?
Moving from Florida to Georgia. It doesn't sound terribly risky, but I was terrified. We've been in Georgia now for five years, and while I miss our friends and family in Florida, I'm glad we took the risk.

8. Which song do you feel best describes your life?
I've got nothing on this one. I like listening to music, but I don't recall a song that "gets me."

9. What is your favorite quote?
"As long as you know that God is for you, it doesn't matter who is against you." - Romans 8:31

10. What has been your favorite travel destination?
We don't travel much, but I love living in the South because there is so much to explore. I love visiting eastern Tennessee (hence our season passes to Dollywood) and seeing the Smoky Mountains. Heck, living where we do affords us the opportunity to see mountains everyday, and I'm so thankful to live in such a beautiful area.

11. What inspires you?
At this very moment, our daughter-to-be is my inspiration and motivation for everything. I want her to know that she can do anything she wants in this life. I want her to be inspired by the people around her and her surroundings. I want her to see the beauty in everyday life. I know that when she makes her debut in the world, our world will be that much more beautiful and I can't wait.

I wish I could nominate 11 bloggers, but I don't read many blogs. And the blogs I do read are pretty popular already. Instead, tell me about a blog I should read to help me discover new content to fill my RSS reader with! 

Monday, December 9, 2013

LEGO Club at the Library [Library Programming]

LEGO clubs have been sprouting up at libraries in recent years. They are great programs to attract children of all ages and they are easy to set up. Honestly, it doesn't get much better than that for library staff.

As LEGO clubs became more popular, I entertained the idea of getting one started at my library. After discussion with my manager about logistics and budget, I set to work on getting the word out that we were going to start a LEGO club. The first thing I did was create in-house advertising to solicit donations of LEGOs. Have you looked at the cost of LEGOs? Definitely not library-budget friendly! 

I started the donation campaign in May, right before Summer Reading. Donations slowly trickled in; we'd get a small box here and there, and a few patrons even donated money to purchase LEGOs. The best place I found to use the monetary donations was Ebay - especially for LEGO bases. As summer continued on, the donations steadily increased. I don't have much storage space in our library, and the few months of solicitation racked up enough donations to max out what space I had allocated for our LEGO collection. But I wasn't complaining. From monetary donations, I spent about $75 to enhance our collection through Ebay. Our collection right now includes thousands and thousands of LEGO pieces, the majority through donations from patrons.

TIP: If you're able to, get in contact with someone who sorts through donations at local thrift stores (especially those that run on volunteer efforts). A patron who volunteers at a thrift store near us got word about us looking for LEGO donations, and whenever someone donated LEGOs to the thrift store, she set them aside for the library. Come to find out, the thrift stores in our area won't put donated LEGOs out to sell because the LEGOs are considered a choking hazard. 

Once I gathered all our donations and assessed what we had to work with, I set a date to hold our first meeting of our LEGO club. Once the date rolled around, it was simple to get everything set up. Here was my set up:

Tables and LEGOs equal fun!

The big totes on the floor hold DUPLO-size blocks for little patrons to participate. I put up rules around the room for the children to follow (I borrowed the rules from the Canaan Town Library). I set out various LEGOs at each table in shoe boxes. And that's it! When the children came in, they grabbed at spot at a table and started working on their masterpieces. Many would roam from table to table to borrow pieces and see what the other kids were making. I let everyone build for 50 minutes before asking everyone to help clean up. Once their creations were finished, each participant filled out a slip with their name, age, and title of their creation. I took what each child made, paired it with the respective slip, and placed the creations on display in the main part of the library for all to see. This is an excellent way to get extra publicity for the program. 

We had 20 participants for our first meeting, which is awesome! There were several children I had never seen before at a library program and I love that! I feel like I get into a rut sometimes with programming and starting the LEGO club really inspired me to seek out new ideas. Another thing I love about the ease of hosting a LEGO program is that while I'm on maternity leave, any staff member can run this program. When you're a one-person show in the youth department, that's a big positive. 

Does your library have a LEGO club? Tell me about it!

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Pregnancy Must-Haves

I’m entering month 7 of my pregnancy, and I’m doing a lot of reflecting on everything. I’m not the type to sugarcoat things - I like to be honest and blunt (when appropriate, of course). I’ve been reflecting back on my pregnancy so far, and aside from a few bumps in the road, things have gone smoothly. As a first-time pregnant lady, there are SO many resources out there that you can get yourself lost in. Everyone gives me advice from their own experiences or the experiences of others. Opinions are thrown at me left and right… and it gets to be incredibly overwhelming.

I can tell you this: Pregnancy is not easy.

I have no roses-and-unicorns stories about pregnancy… except that I can’t wait to meet our daughter. Every ache, pain, stretch mark, mood swing, craving will be worth it once our girl makes her entrance into the world. The good Lord has blessed us with an almost-completely healthy pregnancy, and for this, I am incredibly thankful.

The other night, as I was waddling to bed, I was thinking about the things that have truly made some of the hardships of pregnancy that much easier. In case another first-time preggo stumbles on this blog, I wanted to share what I have found to be necessities to survive pregnancy.




1. An amazing support system. I couldn’t do this by myself (for obvious reasons, of course). My husband has been here to bring me crackers when I’m sick, run out to the store at 9 p.m. to get me Sprite that I just had to have, calmed my fears when I feel like I can’t do the whole motherhood thing, and tells me I’m beautiful even after I’ve had no sleep and want to strangle him. Our families and friends have been just as wonderful.

2. Water… and lots of it. I’m on doctor’s orders to drink at least 100 ounces of water a day, but even if you’re not on doctor’s orders, drink as much water as you can. Sure, you’ll be running to the restroom every 30 minutes, but it’s so important. Drink up, moms to be!

The Snoogle: Preggo and cat approved!

3. A Snoogle. I went back and forth on purchasing one of these, but I found a great deal on Amazon during my first trimester and took the plunge. OMG. Best. Investment. Ever. I don’t sleep all that great anymore (which is biology’s way of prepping one for parenthood, of course), but my Snoogle is my BFF. Our cats also approve of the Snoogle, as evident by the above photo.

4. Full-panel maternity pants. This is personal preference since I entered pregnancy as a plus-sized gal, but full-panel maternity pants are fabulous! I purchased a pair of demi-panel jeans in my first trimester, and they were OK. My issue? They were constantly sagging and falling down. The full-panel options stay put and they are so darn comfortable.

5. A sense of humor. You’re going to have to laugh at yourself and some of the things you will experience. I had a woman point out my swollen feet one day, and while that initially wasn’t pleasant, I can’t help but giggle about it! I have to crawl into bed on my husband’s side because of my fort of pillows that prevents me from getting into bed on MY side, and we both find this hilarious. You have to laugh because your mood swings will have you crying enough.

If you’re a mom or have ever been pregnant, what do you consider must-haves to get you through?

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Birthday Blessings

I’ve always heard that birthdays get less exciting as you get older. I LOVE birthdays… but this was the first year that I felt my birthday was just another day. The majority of the day was unremarkable and same ole, same ole. But there were three highlights to my birthday this year that still have me smiling days after.
 
 
I was hosting a program that afternoon at work, and two siblings came in and gifted me with hand-picked flowers and candy. My heart melted!


On my drive home from work, God sent his wishes with this beautiful view. (I stopped the car to take this picture, for the record.)

And I didn’t snap a picture of the last highlight because it didn’t last long, but my mom made an amazing lasagna dinner. I hate to send her home because it’s been so nice to enjoy her cooking, have one-on-one time, and just have the comfort that only a mom can provide around.

Of course, the best birthday gift of all will be arriving in February.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

The big 2-8!

Today is my 28th birthday.

Credit: Shardayyy via Flickr
This has been the fastest year of adulthood for me. I feel like I just celebrated my 27th birthday a few weeks ago. But while it's been fast, it's been a wonderful year!

I'm halfway through my Master's degree. We purchased a second car after being a one-car family for five years. We moved into a larger apartment. We have been in good health. And, of course, the biggest news of all, we're expecting our daughter to arrive in 89 days. I've been blessed with an almost complication-free pregnancy, and the experience of pregnancy has been surreal and memorable all at once.

My birthday celebration is low-key. My mom is visiting, and she's planning on making her amazing lasagna as a birthday gift. I'm content to spending an evening at home with my family and a delicious meal. It doesn't get much better.

I'm thankful to have another year on this beautiful Earth, and I'm really excited for this next year. 

Saturday, November 9, 2013

Small Acts of Kindness

Hey there, Wendy!
Working with the public is, for the most part, pretty enjoyable. One of the best things about working in a public library is that it brings me out of my shell. It forces me to be an extrovert. Of course, when I come home, I'm completely introverted. But I meet some amazing people, hear incredible stories, and I like knowing that some of the small things I help others with can impact them in a big way.

With the good comes the not-so-good. Fortunately, the percentage of the not-so-good is very small, but those people tend to stick out in your mind more than the amazing people. I try my hardest to remember the good and forget the bad, and sometimes that's difficult. However, in the past week, I experienced two beautiful acts of kindness directed to the staff at my library from regular patrons.

One man has brought us two "deliveries" of carnations on two separate days. The carnations were beautiful and still in displayable condition, but the florist he works at was going to just discard them. Come to find out, he was making regularly deliveries of the day-old flowers to a local retirement home, and the past few days he rescued more flowers than usual. He comes to our library at least twice a week to use a computer and thought we could appreciate the flowers. Many of the bouquets made it to vases strategically placed around the library for everyone to enjoy, while some of the staff took bouquets home to enjoy.

Fast forward to the end of the week: A patron visited us at lunch time and brought everyone one on staff a small treat from Wendy's... just because she appreciates the work that we do. Seriously.

My faith in humanity is continuously renewed by these sweet acts of kindness and appreciation. Because while it's so easy to focus on the negative, focusing on the positive takes effort. The reward for the effort is worth it though. Most of us don't do what we do for the praise or recognition -  we do what we do because we love it.

Someone's appreciation for what you do just makes life that much more wonderful.

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Black Light Party for Teens [Library Programming]

I can't express how grateful I am to the numerous librarians out there who blog about books and programs that they host. The wealth of information in the blogosphere for all types of librarians is incredible. I've been in my position as a youth services coordinator for three years now, and there are so many bloggers who have inspired me to try new things!

While I don't discuss much about my job, I have wanted to contribute something to the Internet to help out others. I've had programs that rocked and others that have been major fails. I've learned to not take the failures to heart because you have to try new things all the time. If it doesn't work, so what? You learn what you can from the failures and just move on. 

A colleague of mine had hosted a black light party for teenagers at her library, and she recommended that I give it a shot at my library. Getting teenagers into the library is like herding cats (at least, it feels like that to me sometimes). I love teenagers because they are passionate about whatever they set their minds to. I loved the library when I was a teen, but I never participated in any teen-focused events that were hosted. So when I was first hired for my job, I was terrified of working with teenagers. 

How in the world can I interact with this age group and provide good programming for them?

Three years in, I feel like I'm finally getting a handle on what teens in my community are looking for and what will bring them into the library. I'm so happy I took the recommendation of my colleague and host a black light party... it was a smashing success!

Neon paint art!

If you're looking to host a black light party for teenagers, here are the absolute essential materials you need:
  • Black light bulbs - I used nine bulbs plus a large black light a teen brought with her. Use what you need for the space you have, but you'll want good coverage. (And don't forget lamps, of course.)
  • Something to block out light if the room you're using has windows - We used black trash bags and they worked perfectly.
  • Neon paint - Don't buy glow-in-the-dark stuff. It just doesn't translate as well as neon paint does. I provided T-shirt paint and regular paint for whatever creative endeavors the teens embarked on.
  • Glow sticks and bracelets - These just add a fun element to the party.
  • Tonic water - If you're providing refreshments, tonic water glows under black light. I had plain tonic water and lemonade made with tonic water available. The teens thought it was really cool.
Twister under the black lights.
The party in full swing!
At our party, I provided arts and crafts, coloring pages (teens LOVED them!) with neon markers, the paints, snacks, and the game Twister. Most of the teens came wearing neon colors, which looked awesome under the lights. We decorated the room with neon balloons and neon paper crafts. I spent about $60 for the entire party (materials and snacks). We had 13 attendees, which is a really great number for my library. The teens I talked to afterwards said they had a great time and would want to do it again. That right there is what I consider success!

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

The #RoseVoxBox from Influenster

This is the third opportunity I've had to test out products from Influenster (here's what I've tested in the past: this and this). However, this was my first chance at an Influenster Vox Box. I was very excited to see the goodies offered and try out some new things.

The cool thing about the Vox Boxes is that you don't know what you're going to receive until the box arrives at your home. I received my Box this past week, and I was looking very forward to trying out the goodies offered.
The #RoseVoxBox offered up the following products to test (from bottom left): Rimmel London Scandaleyes Retro Glam Mascara, Dr. Scholl's For Her Cozy Cushions, belVita crunchy Breakfast Biscuits, Kiss Gradation Polishes, and Lindt LINDOR Milk Chocolate Truffles. 

Goodies!
Opening this box was a pregnant girl's dream! Chocolate! Extra comfort for shoes! Food!

During my weekend spa day, I took advantage of the nail polish and chocolate. I don't paint my fingernails because I'm horrible at it. In fact, I never paint my fingernails because I don't have the patience for the upkeep. However, I do like to paint my toenails and figured I'd try this product out that way. This trio of polishes is about as close as I will get to the nail art craze. It was very easy to create the desired effect, and while it may not look perfect, I'm pretty content with the results. 

There is no good way to take a picture of your toes.
Pardon the fact that pregnancy has turned my toes into Vienna sausages.
While my toenails dried, I indulged in the Lindt truffle. It was pure heaven. As an added bonus, our daughter-to-be clearly enjoys chocolate because she threw herself a party about an hour after I ate it. She was moving and kicking up a storm!

Come to mama!
I was most surprised that I liked the belVita breakfast biscuits as much as I did. The blueberry flavor was delicious! Of course, I took no picture of the food because I inhaled them. I had never tried these tasty little suckers before, but I will definitely give them a chance again. 

The cushions and mascara will come in handy for my work weeks. I don't often wear mascara, and I didn't notice anything spectacular about this kind (for me). I'm also severely deficient in understanding how to apply makeup properly - I only wear a tinted moisturizer and lip balm on a regular basis. My tootsies will appreciate any extra comfort now that I'm at week 25 of pregnancy. 

Overall? I was highly impressed with the products offered in this Vox Box. If a girl like me who has the most minimal get-ready routine can handle a mascara wand and multiple nail polishes, I can only imagine what you ladies with skills can create with beauty products. 

In full disclosure, I received these products complimentary for testing purposes from Influenster. I received absolutely no financial compensation for my review. The opinions here are all mine.

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Spa Day for Mental Health

There's comes a time when you're just about to crack from all the craziness in your daily life. Between a full-time job, grad school schedule, R's schedule (it's football season, so there's always something going on!), church, and oh yeah, pregnancy and the prep for baby's arrival... life is pretty ridiculous. I do love to be busy, but then that point comes where I don't want to be busy anymore.

We looked at our schedules and discovered a Saturday where we had nothing planned. No work, no family plans, no errands that needed to be immediately done... this is rare, and I know it's going to be even more rare when this little one is born. I could have spent the day getting caught up on school work, house work, and whatever other work needed to be, or I could take the day to myself for a change. I swallowed my guilt about not getting work done and decided to do something for myself.

The best way to do that? An at-home spa day!

Here are my necessities for a spa day in my tiny little bathroom:

Spa day essentials ready to go!
1. Good reading material. I like to choose magazines when I'm relaxing. I snagged the October 2013 issue of Real Simple from my library for the insane price of just 10 cents.

2. A warm bath with Epsom salts and bubble bath. I'm definitely feeling the aches that come along with the 25th week of pregnancy. I try to take a warm bath at least once a week to relieve the aches. Adding Epsom salts and bubble bath up the relaxation.

3. Pedicure tools. I treat myself to a professional pedicure maybe once a year. Because I'm a cheapskate, I do my best to do my own pedicures. A pumice stone, exfoliating scrub, nail tools, and sometimes nail polish are all you really need.

4. Eyebrow tools. Again, I'm cheap and don't go to get my eyebrows done. It's been years since I've had them professionally groomed. I learned the basics of keeping my eyebrows in check, and that's sufficient for me. (However, I have an opportunity coming up to get my eyebrows groomed for free [thanks to my sister-in-law], and I think I'll have to take advantage.)

4. Trash TV. While painting my toenails, I like to indulge in trash TV. If it's on Bravo, I'll probably watch it.

5. Chocolate. Does this really need an explanation?

Along with the pampering, I spent the day doing whatever the heck I wanted to do. I stayed in bed 'til 9:30 a.m. I ate a delicious pancake breakfast. I crawled back in to bed to read through the pile of library books I have checked out. I had a slice of pumpkin pie. I may kick myself for putting off some of my responsibilities, but everyone needs a mental health day.

What do you like to do on your mental health days?

Friday, November 1, 2013

Big News!

Remember when I alluded to something pretty big back in July?

The cat's been out of the bag now for a few weeks (and by out of the bag, I mean we made sure everyone and their mother knew): We are expecting!

As I write this, I am 24 weeks pregnant with our daughter-to-be. Our little lady is scheduled to arrive in February. I'm excited, terrified, stressed, overwhelmed, and all-of-the-above in the emotions department.

This year (meaning 2013) has been a year for my husband and I to really let go and let God. As we have grown in our faith, we have really started to let our controlling natures go and put our trust in the Lord. It scares both of us because at our hearts, we are both planners and control freaks (although I take it to more extremes).

We purchased another vehicle earlier in the year (April), well before knowing that we would become parents in the immediate future. We celebrated six years of marriage (May). We found out we were expecting (June). We moved to accommodate our growing family (July). Of course, our focus now is preparing to go from a family of two to a family of three. We are feeling so incredibly blessed by these big life changes, and while the changes can be scary, we're embracing these new paths with the knowledge that God is right there at every step of the way.

Credit: superelahstic on tumblr

So that's the big news. I'm feeling energized to get things going around here; if nothing else, for a way to get lots of pregnancy thoughts out into the blogosphere. Pregnancy has made me crazy, and I know I can't be the only mama-to-be who feels like she's losing her mind.

Here's to life changes, big and small. My prayer is that we can handle it all.

(Like my sweet rhyme? Admit it, you do.)


Sunday, September 29, 2013

Crazy Good

I warned you all that I'm not good at keeping up with a blog.

I have been debating just chucking the whole thing out the proverbial window. But then, like right at this very moment, I need to get something out there. I love the idea of blogs, I love reading them, but for the life of mine, I can't prioritize keeping a blog for my own enjoyment.

Since the last time I wrote, I've started a new semester in grad school. This semester is kicking me in the rear. If I'm not at work, I'm trying to stay on top of my reading and assignments. Fall is always a busier time in our family. Husband's work schedule and football schedule keeps him away pretty frequently. Just the other night we scheduled a dinner date at 10:30 in the evening at Waffle House because we hadn't seen each other in 24 hours. We recently went out of town for a weekend, which means the inevitable game of catch up one plays when getting back to real life. My biggest accomplishment as of late? Getting ALL of our laundry washed and put away yesterday. I love those little victories.

But that's life, and I'm embracing it. I'm thankful I can do our laundry at home and have clean clothing to put on each day. Grocery shopping needs to happen very badly, but the fact that we can buy groceries is a blessing. I slept for maybe four hours last night because of some anxiety, but hey! I had a comfortable bed with lots of pillows and two kitties to snuggle with while trying to will myself to sleep. Things are far from perfect, but I'm here. And I'm thankful I can get a few thoughts out in the blogosphere.

I'll take the crazy because it means life is full. And it is good. And I am thankful.


Thursday, August 15, 2013

Books: Hoop Genius and Odd Duck

Now that a new semester has started, summer just feels over to me. I know it's definitely not over in terms of the weather - we went to a cookout this past Sunday and the heat made me miserable. During the summer I did my best to get through my extensive to-read list, and I am trying really hard to manage my time better so I can continue to make progress this fall. But when I'm feeling bogged down, I like to pick up "light" reading.

"Light" reading for me is children's books!

 
Basketball is big in our home and in our marriage (never thought I would ever write that). I like to order nonfiction books for my library that are unique and aren't covered by other materials. Hoop Genius by John Coy is a quick read that gives kiddos a basic explanation of how basketball became basketball. Of course, Richie knew the story well before I had ever heard of this book, but I enjoyed the lesson.

 
Odd Duck by Cecil Castellucci is classified as a graphic novel at my library. I know I've mentioned how awesome graphic novels are, and I love seeing lots of graphic novels coming out now for the preschool/early-elementary crowds. Odd Duck is hilarity with a moral - be yourself. This is the perfect book to start a discussion on fitting in (or not).
 
Disclaimer: Yes, I've linked to where you can learn more about these books and authors. No, I'm not making money off the links.

Monday, August 12, 2013

New Semester, New Study Habits

Today begins another semester of grad school.

I took the summer semesters off because my work schedule is intense. I won't lie: I loved coming home, having dinner, and spending the rest of my evening doing whatever the heck I wanted. But the nerd in me is missing the academics.

I only take two classes each regular semester. I could probably add one more to the mix, but I'd like to have some sanity in my life. The program I'm in requires you to finish the degree in 7 years - while I hope it doesn't take me that long to complete, it makes my two-classes-per-semester the perfect pace for me. I like that there's wiggle room in the program because life happens.


My study setup last fall. Our poor dining room table.
Our fall schedule in our home is hectic. Richie's high school start started back, which means fall and winter sports are about to kick up (he also works for the high school's athletics department). I try my best to go to as many games as I can. With his schedule and my schedule during the week, my intention this semester is to reserve Saturdays as my "big" schoolwork days. Our weeks get too busy for me to stay up until the wee hours working, so my prayer is to knock out the upcoming week's work the Saturday before.

Do you have any study/schedule tips for me?

Saturday, August 10, 2013

Product Review: Lifeway Kefir

I signed up for Influenster via Sara (who is launching a new website today!) back in October of 2012. She would review products she received through the program, and of course, I wanted to sign up. (Being able to try new products without wasting my hard-earned cash? Heck yeah!) It takes a few weeks to get going, but I am reviewing my second product through the program already, and it's fun!

This time around I'm reviewing Lifeway Kefir probiotic drink. I actually tried this product once before at a friend's house - and I never wanted to try it again. I tried the raspberry flavor, which isn't my favorite flavor in general. For this process, I picked up the blueberry drink. On its own it's good, but I decided to make a smoothie with it. I did one cup of the drink to one cup of frozen strawberries. I added no sugar or sweeteners. The smoothie hit the spot! And my favorite part about the kefir? One cup has 11 grams of protein.

Saturday smoothie goodness!
I'm fortunate to have no food allergies. If you do have 'em, this product is 99 percent gluten and lactose free. It only has a handful of ingredients. And who doesn't love ingesting good bacteria? Yeah, I'm a fan.

(Disclaimer: I received a free coupon to try this product. I received no financial compensation for reviewing this product.)

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Movie: Struck by Lightning


In the midst of my summer laziness, Richie and I have been perusing Netflix for something to watch. Our habit is to typically find a show, watch every episode possible, then find something else. We are currently working through How I Met Your Mother and Private Practice.

(For the record, it takes us months to get through shows. When fall rolls around, our TV gathers a good layer of dust.)

Over the weekend neither of us felt like watching a show and decided to watch Struck by Lightning. Have you seen it? It’s a sweet movie about realizing that you don’t have to be defined by the label given to you. Of course, a teenager dies from being struck by lightning… but you just have to watch it to understand the significance of his death. It’s not a tear-jerker; it’s a feel-good movie. Even Richie enjoyed it and he doesn’t generally choose “feel-goody” movies. I definitely want to check out the YA book now (because you know it’s a book, right?).

Do you have Netflix? Can you recommend something for us to put in our instant queue?

Sunday, July 21, 2013

20 Days

It's been 20 days since I last wrote something here. And I'm sorry.

I wish I could say the last 20 days have been intensely exciting. On the contrary, life has been moving along at steady pace of work, home, church, and general life happenings. We do have some pretty exciting things going on behind-the-scenes, but I'm not one to spill the beans until I know things are 100% going to happen. I guess you could call me superstitious.

Sadly, I have had little to no motivation for recreational activities lately (I consider this blog recreational). My reading list has been pushed off the table, my to-do list of projects around the house is somewhere, and I'm just generally feeling blah. I blame the summer heat. But lo and behold, my daily e-mail from Money Saving Mom alerted me to a new blog series she's writing: 10 Guaranteed Ways to Never Run Out of Blog Post Ideas. Sign me and my lack of motivation up! I'm hoping to get some ideas for blogging ideas because I'm just... blaaaah.

What do you like to read about on blogs?

Monday, July 1, 2013

Book: Trinkets

I’m gaining momentum on my to-read list. I had a few duds where I stopped reading them after starting. I used to have such guilt about not finishing books that I started. I’ve trained myself to stop reading if I am not genuinely interested in the plot. The time spent reading is too precious to waste on books you don’t enjoy.

I flew through my latest pick: Trinkets by Kirsten Smith. One could read this in a single evening. Smith’s characters - Elodie, Tabitha, and Moe - each have a different style of telling the story. On the outside, the three teens wouldn’t look like the type to become friends: Tabitha is the popular one, Moe is the punky one, Elodie is the girl-next-door one. However, their common bond of kleptomania brings them together at a Shoplifters Anonymous meeting. Soon after meeting, the girls “compete” to see who can steal the most expensive item they can. As time goes on, they each learn something about themselves and their lives, leading to broken families, broken relationships, but ultimately a happy ending.

As always, I borrowed this book from my local public library. I found it in the Young Adult section.

Disclaimer: Yes, I've linked to where you can learn more about Kirsten's book. No, I'm not making money off the links. 

Saturday, June 29, 2013

End of June Update

Where in the world did June go?

I know where it went. If you know a youth librarian, you'll know that summer is (most likely) their busiest time of the year. Summer Reading just consumes you. We have six full weeks of programming, and I've survived the first three weeks. It's all downhill from here. It has been such a full and fun month of sharing books during story times, having special guests present their talents, and encouraging children to read, read, read. One of the best things about my job is interacting with the kids. There's one young man (I believe he's going into 6th grade) who shares book recommendations with me and just talks and talks about books. Seriously, is there anything better?

Outside of work, life has been just as full. With R not working over the summer, he has committed himself to serving in our church over the summer. Our church participates in a government program to feed children over the summer, and he has been dedicated to taking on a leadership role in that work. God is also guiding us to some big changes that will be happening in a few weeks. I'm looking forward to sharing updates when we have more assurance that the direction we're headed in is the right one.

Tell me something good in your life right now.

Saturday, June 22, 2013

Book: 52 Reasons to Hate My Father

I finally chose a book on my to-read list (because while I am reading, I'm not picking things up that are on that list!). Jessica Brody's 52 Reasons to Hate My Father has been on my list for almost a year. I read My Life Undecided earlier last year and really enjoyed the plot (I recommend it, too). 52 Reasons sounded just as fun.

Spoiled trust-funder Lexington Larrabee is thisclose to getting her trust fund check... until her father deems it necessary for his daughter to work for that money. His plan? To have Lexi work a different blue-collar job each week for a year. Along the way, Lexi learns more about herself, her family, and just how those on the other side of the lawn live. There's humor, sadness, and love all wrapped in one young adult novel that makes for a great weekend read. It's chick-lit for teen girls, but as a chick-lit fan, I thought the book was just plain fun.

I found my copy in the YA section of my local public library. I bet you can find your copy there, too.

Disclaimer: Yes, I've linked to where you can learn more about Jessica's book. No, I'm not making money off the links. 

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Psalm 145:5

A new day

An afternoon drive

Early evening rainbow and showers
 
On the glorious splendor of your majesty, and on your wondrous works, I will meditate.
- Psalm 145:5


Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Poolside Reading

 

"That man is the richest whose pleasures are the cheapest."
- Thoreau


Monday, June 10, 2013

Book: Operation Oleander

Can you tell by my recent blog posts that I am spending a lot of time reading? Operation Oleander by Valerie O. Patterson hasn't been sitting on my to-read list for long, but it came across my desk at work and I figured I'd snatch it up before I miss my chance.

Three teenagers - Jess, Meriwether, and Sam - live on an Army base with their families. Jess creates an aid organization, Operation Oleander, to collect school supplies and other necessities for an orphanage in Afghanistan, where Jess's father and Meriwether's mother are serving. An IED goes off near the orphanage, wounding and killing American soldiers and Afghani children at the orphanage. The soldiers were delivering supplies from Operation Oleander... and one of the casualties was Meriwether's mother.

This is a short YA (young adult) read, but it's worth it. I'm familiar with military bases and life, thanks to my dad, so many details I could pass over. However, this book is an excellent introduction to the life of a teenager on a military base. It's also incredibly relevant to teens who have grown up during the Afghanistan conflicts. My only complaint? I felt the ending was incredibly abrupt. I really wanted more story.

If you're looking for this book at your public library, check out the YA section (if there is one).

Disclaimer: Yes, I've linked to where you can learn more about Valerie's book. No, I'm not making money off the links.

Friday, June 7, 2013

Participation, Not Passivity

Wednesday was my Grannie's birthday... and I completely forgot about it.

She would have been 88. She passed away in 2011 after a long struggle with dementia. Her death was the first passing I felt both sadness and relief. She really wasn't Grannie for the last two years of her life. I admit, I struggled to visit her in that time because she didn't know who I was. The last time I saw her before her passing, she didn't remember my mom (Grannie's first child). That was so incredibly painful for my mom, but she was so faithful in being with Grannie on a regular basis until she was called to heaven. I will always admire that about my mom.

But I forgot her birthday. I remembered her birthday last year. My mom and I reminisced about Grannie on that day. This year? My mom and I talked repeatedly that day without mentioning Grannie. Did my mom forget? Or was it just too painful for her to bring up?

My original intention for this blog was to highlight the good stuff in life that I let just pass me by. There is no one subject I stick with because my life is incredibly full with so many wonderful things. I'm ashamed that I forgot my Grannie's birthday (side note: My dad passed away in 2009, and I continue to celebrate his birthday every year.). However, I will never forget my Grannie and the amazing memories I have of her.

My first and middle names just happen to be Grannie's first and middle names. When I was younger, she would tell me I was her favorite grandchild. She was always slipping me little presents and dollar bills when she came over. She was the one grandparent who was consistently part of my life. She had style that, I believe, only women born in the 1920s and 1930s can pull off successfully. She was beautiful, funny, loving, and so passionate about everything she was involved with. Grannie was awesome.

Our family has lost many members in the past few years. My dad passed in 2009. Grannie passed in 2011. One of Richie's "grandmothers" (not blood) passed in 2011, too. My dad's sister lost her husband in 2012. One of my uncles passed this past December. Let's be honest: It sucks. But gosh, the beautiful memories we have are something to be treasured. While I will treasure those memories, I will continue to make an effort to treasure each day that is given to me. If you're reading this, look at the blessings that surround you and give thanks.

In a recent sermon at church, our pastor was brutally honest with us. He reminded us that we are only here on this earth for just a blip of time. Our time is incredibly limited. Do we want to spend it in a rush, or do we want to slow down and savor? I'm rambling here, but slowing down is something I regularly struggle with. I like to stay busy and productive. However, I miss so much of the good around me. And I missed my Grannie's birthday. I won't beat myself over that, but it was a clear reminder that I am not taking the time to absorb all the blessings around me.

Participation in life, not passivity, is what it's all about.

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Book: Sparkly Green Earrings

I read a review somewhere for Sparkly Green Earrings and decided to download it to my Kindle when it was available for free. It's not the typical memoir I'm attracted to. But the review I read had me cracking up, so I figured I'd give it a shot.

Melanie Shankle writes about motherhood in about as honest of voice as you can get. I'm not a mother, but this book makes me look forward to the hilarity that comes along with having a child. She discusses dirty diapers, over-the-top birthday parties, and public school adventures. She also peppers her stories with Bible verses and small doses of faith. I wanted nothing more than to go have dinner with Melanie and her family when I finished reading.

When something made me laugh, I'd take the time to read the humor out loud to Richie. We want to have a child one day, and this book settled some of my fears about future motherhood. Even if you have no intentions of procreating, read this book for a good laugh. I guarantee you'll fall in love with Melanie's daughter, Caroline. Caroline seems like the kind of kid any parent would be proud of.

Melanie blogs at Big Mama. If you don't want to purchase the book and can't find it at your library, read her blog. It's an equally satisfying read.

Disclaimer: Yes, I've linked to where you can learn more about Melanie's book. No, I'm not making money off the links.

Monday, June 3, 2013

Back to Couponing!

When I kept a personal finance blog several years ago, I taught myself how to coupon. I am not an extreme couponer by any means. I can't see spending hours developing shopping lists and matching coupons, then spending a few more hours shopping, bringing items home, and finding space for all the items. (However, kudos to those extreme couponers who donate goodies!) I fell off the couponing bandwagon about a year ago because my source for coupons ran dry. We live in a pretty rural area that stopped receiving a major metropolitan newspaper - we can still get it, but the Sunday edition costs around $5. I'm not paying that, so I just stopped couponing.

I noticed that when I stopped couponing and being more aware of prices, our grocery bills each few weeks were getting higher and higher. Our steady income has increased since I stopped couponing, but now that it's summer, we're looking at two months of living on just one income. I figured it was time to get back into deal-seeking and coupon-cutting. I mentioned back in April how we saved gift cards from the holidays to make up for this slow period. We used one gift card last weekend on our anniversary for dinner and a movie. I've also signed up for various reward programs to area restaurants I hadn't signed up at before to offset our Sunday-lunch-after-church expenses.

And then I discovered something awesome: The Dollar Tree store near our church sells Sunday newspapers from another metropolitan area. Sunday newspapers for $1? Yes, please!

So after church this morning, we stopped by Dollar Tree and snagged two newspapers. Each newspaper had 3 coupon inserts. I was SO excited! Richie likes to huff at me while I make sure each paper has the correct amount of inserts, but I think he secretly likes tagging along with me to find deals.

Once we got home, I spent one hour perusing my favorite deal site (SouthernSavers.com), gathering the coupons I wanted to use, and headed back out. In our little town, the three big drug stores are located at the same intersection - convenient, right? It took me 40 minutes to visit all three stores. My favorite find? Turkey bacon at Walgreens for 29 cents! I stocked up on hair products, mouthwash, eggs, sports drinks for Richie, and makeup (for me, of course).

At CVS, I saved $9.79.
(I also took home $10 in ECBs for a future purchase!)

At Rite Aid, I saved $20.94.

At Walgreens, I saved $9.80.
I spent around $30 for everything I purchased and saved over $80. It's not the greatest savings, but I'm pretty darn pleased with the savings after being out of touch with coupons for a year. And the most important part? I only purchased things we will use.

Thank you, Dollar Tree, for doing what you do.

Saturday, June 1, 2013

Book: The Pregnancy Project

I kept hearing good things about The Pregnancy Project on professional list-servs I belong to. I was waiting and waiting and waiting for my library system to get a copy. Finally, it popped up on our new release list and I was the first one to check it out. (Nerd? Yes!)

Gaby Rodriguez faked a pregnancy for her senior year project. That’s pretty intense. She discusses teen pregnancy and stereotypes from a very first-person perspective. Rodriguez’s memoir is a hard-hitting dose of reality for any teen, and she balances her personal experiences with statistics and research. She reveals the hurtful comments her classmates and friends uttered behind her back, and it's a sobering reality of what many teenagers go through on a regular basis. One quote at the end of her story stood out to me: "I hope we can change this society so that, instead of teens working hard to tear each other down and laughing about it in the school hallways, we can learn to support each other and help each other move forward when there are troubles along the way." 

Rodriguez's writing is from the heart and very easy to read. I flew through the book in two days. As an adult, it was a fascinating glimpse into the realities that some teenagers face. If this sounds like a read you’d be interested in picking up, it would be in the nonfiction area of your local public library (our copy was shelved in the Young Adult area).



Disclaimer: Yes, I've linked to where you can learn more about Gaby's book. No, I'm not making money off the links.