Sunday, April 29, 2012

(Sunday) Simplicity

I'm taking a little liberty with my Saturday Simplicity series today and making it Sunday. Mostly because there was nothing simple about my Saturday. So busy! But also because I'm the blogger and I think I can do whatever I want.

I had to return a few things to the mall today and wanted to at least try to use my birthday coupon for Banana Republic and came home with these...

One is a dressy boot with a truly awesome wedge.  The other is more of a riding style, rain boot.  Both will be an awesome addition to my collection of boots come next fall.

It's a miracle for someone with abnormally huge calves to find not one but two pairs of boots that fit in one shopping trip.  It's an even bigger miracle to find them both on final clearance.  Add to that the fact that I had an additional coupon and we'll just call this day truly miraculous.  All for a total of $45...

Friday, April 27, 2012

Favorite Things Friday (Birthday Addition)

First of all, this entire week has been a "favorite."  My birthday was yesterday and the ridiculously awesome outpouring of Happy Birthday messages (142 Facebook posts?!  I didn't know that I knew 142 people...), texts, phone calls, and drop-bys in the office made this one of the best birthdays yet.  It wasn't without some ups and downs but seriously, if my 27th year is half as good as my 27th birthday then it's going to be pretty awesome.

So in honor of the big 2-7, let's do a birthday themed Favorite Things Friday, shall we?

Here, in no particular order, are the things I cannot get enough of this week.

These Pants - People who know me know that I am pretty much obsessed with anything Gap, Inc.  I worked a the Gap for a brief period of time in college but even before then, I loved them.  Loved.  Seriously.  Anywho, a few weeks ago I went and used my birthday coupon a the Gap (which reminds me that I have to use my Banana Republic birthday coupon before Monday.  Crap!).  Usually I buy something new for work and something fun to wear our for my birthday (even though I need no excuse to buy new clothes) but this year, I just bought these pants.

I didn't really need red pants but I really wanted them.  And this have this incredible seam up the back that I am obsessed with.  Have any of you ladies ever worn stockings with a seam up the back?  They make your legs look incredible.  The same with this seam, only it runs all the way up so it helps make the tushy look great too.  I'm sure no one else even notices but it makes me happy and this is my favorite things, not theirs.

I wore them out last Friday with a simple tshirt, gold bracelets, and gold shoes.  Yesterday, I was daring and wore them to work with a black blazer, black bejeweled flats, and blingy jewelry.  In short, they make me happy.

These Children - Probably a weird thing to list as a favorite but still.  Don't you love them too?

These are my best friend Heidi's kids.  Trey is almost 8, Bray is 4, and Addy is the little one.  I don't know that I want children of my own but I sure love her kids.  They called me yesterday to sing Happy Birthday and even though I already knew they were going to call since we had scheduled it, I cried.  Because seriously, wasn't it like two days ago that Trey was a baby, and then it was yesterday that Brayden was a baby, and by tomorrow Addy's pretty much going to be in college.  I miss my friends of course but nothing new really happens with all of us - we talk almost every day and I'm always like "here's what I did at work" and Heidi's like "I did some laundry today" and nothing is ever really new - but it's usually months between when I see the kids and they're suddenly all grown up.  Trey will be bigger than me by the time I see them next.

My Birthday Flowers - Every year since I can remember, my parents send me flowers on my birthday.  I think it started in grade school and even though I know they're coming now, they make me incredibly happy every year.  It's something that I already know I will do if I ever have children. because it's such a nice thing to do.  This year's flowers are especially pretty.
For those of you who haven't known me for more than a couple of years, let me explain the pink-ness.  I went through a very pink phase in high school and college.  I've always been drawn to pinks and reds anyway - even though now I tend to be more of a purple, gray, and green girl when decorating the house - but for a number of years I wore something pink every day.  Pink shirt, pink socks, pink unmentionables, even pink pants.  Something about the color makes me feel especially feminine.  While I love beer and football more than most girls, I'll always be a girly-girl at heart. Thanks for enabling, Mom and Dad!

This Label - My other best friend Lauren was awesome and sent me wine for my birthday because she couldn't come visit me in Lexington this year.  Greatest idea ever.  But not so great when a box with this label got delivered to me at work...
Yep, that went through the campus mail room.  Gotta love FedEx.  Every time I see this picture, I laugh.  Do not deliver to intoxicated person?  Like a drunk person is ordering wine and getting it shipped same day because they are too lazy to go out and buy it at the liquor store.

And those my friends are my favorite things right now.  Enjoy your weekend!

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Book Review: The Witch Who Made Adjustments

As I (sorta) mentioned last month, I am a sucker for free Kindle books.  I'll read almost anything and on a limited budget, the last couple of months I've been stuck with trashy romance, Christian romance which are in no way trashy (Surprise!  You never see those coming!), and pretty bad suspense stories.  But considering I have over 100 books saved to my Kindle, and I'm back to reading about a book a day, I'm clearly surviving.

Before I get to the book review, I often get questions about how I find said free books.  Honestly, once a week or so I go through the "Best Sellers" and download anything free that sounds remotely interesting.  Anything not-free I save to a wish list until I'm ready to read it.  That's my secret to keeping the Kindle costs down.  I never pay for anything until I'm ready to read it, that way I'm not wasting money.

I digress...

I had a pretty rotten afternoon so I came home and picked up my Kindle and a glass of the aforementioned Trader Joe's red wine and sat on my porch until my toes got too cold.  The first "new item" at the top of my Mystery Suspense Horror collection* was a novella called The Witch Who Made Adjustments which sounded interesting.  I think it's technically a long children's story and honestly, it would be excellent to read with older children so that wouldn't be wrong.

The story is about a woman who enters a town and makes "adjustments" - basically switching products between the town's stores - and then seats herself in the middle of the town until Halloween.  The story follows a (presumably) young boy who works at one of the town's stores.  It's a simple enough story loaded with meaning.  I knew I was hooked from the first paragraph.

The witch came into town in the early days of autumn, when the first curling leaves fell from the maple boughs and the breath of the world cooled along the cobblestones.  She was exactly what a witch might look like, except she wasn't.  She was neither old, nor ugly or wart-nosed, or stooped over.  Neither did she wear grimy black clothing or a pointed hat.  But somehow everyone knew what she was, with her large, dark, bruised valise, and a sizeable aspen-wood walking stick. 

After a grouchy day, that paragraph was exactly what I needed.

The story continues in such a manner.  It really is simplistic.  Nothing about it is difficult but it still manages to explore some pretty incredible themes (friendship, longing, losing and finding, first impressions) and allows you to grow as a reader (perhaps as a person?) while enjoying the story.  The story is technically a "Halloween" story but since the weather has dropped sharply here from the early start of spring, that didn't bother me in the least.  I can't wait to read it out loud, snuggled next to a campfire, with a child on either side of me.

The book was free when I downloaded it but it's now available for less than $2.  It would be a great book club read for people who never have time to finish the book - my book club is the worst at this! - as it took me less than 30 minutes to read (probably an hour for the average reader).  There are so many things about this book that I would love to discuss.  Apparently I'm also able to lend it to someone for free so if you're interested let me know and I'll try sharing it with you.  If you don't have a Kindle, you can still read Kindle books online or using an app for your computer or phone.

*Am I the only one who names "collections" in such seemingly vague and weird ways?  You should see my Pandora station list.  I honestly have stations called "Hauntingly Beautiful," "Dad's Music," "Work Safe Rock," and "Late 1990s and Early 2000s Awesomeness."  That's what they are to me!

Something to Celebrate (and a Special Challenge for You!)

This past weekend was arguably one of the best weekends I've ever had in Lexington.  None of the people that I have been spending a lot of time with were in town so I wasn't expecting it to be quite so much fun.  But it was.  And I have to thank all of the people who went out of their way to make it awesome.

Going into this week on a happy note was a wonderful change compared to most Monday mornings.  I think it's because, even in spite of my meltdown last week about missing my friends and family, my work has been incredibly rewarding lately.  The awesome thing about working at a college is the fact that I feel like I make a difference in someone's life every day - whether that's true or not doesn't really matter because I feel that way and that's half the battle.  And honestly, without sounding conceited, I know it's true.

It's the end of the school year so I get to hear good great news every... single... day.  The students who I have come to know so well are all getting interviews for big-kid jobs, being offered said jobs, or getting accepted to grad school.  Students who graduated in the last couple of years are off doing awesome things* and I get to sit back and watch them enjoy the ride.  I get text messages, emails, phone calls, or visits constantly from students and alumni telling me about the fantastic things they are doing and I couldn't be more proud.  Even though I don't technically work directly with the students any more, I still know that the work that I do is making an impact in their current lives and will continue to make an impact long into the future.  I truly believe in the work that I do.  These students would not be given these awesome opportunities if this university did not have such amazing donors and I am blessed to work with both of those constituent groups.

Many of the people I have worked with, worried about, supported, nurtured, encouraged... on and on... in the last 10 years have overcome so much and are out there changing the world.  Getting married, having babies, making a huge impact on improving the world we live in.  All of that is cause for celebration.

Last week I spent an entire post complaining about missing my family and this week I'm going on and on about how much of a difference I make.  I do know that it's not just me of course.  But it's an awesome feeling to know that I might have had even a teeny tiny part of that success.

As someone who has overcome some pretty big things in my life, I understand the power of a seemingly simple moment brought on by a completely ordinary person.
The boss that singled you out to tell you what great work you did when you were just doing your job
the teacher who took a minute to congratulate you on great work 
the mentor who said "you know you really could do that when you grow up, right?"
the friend who gave five minutes to ask the right question and listen to the answer
...on and on...
I have been blessed to have all of those people in my life and all of those moments have literally been life changing for me.  I'd like to think that I've helped pay that back into the world, even just a little.

As I launch into this week of celebrating - a friend's birthday, an end-of-college gathering with some of the students who I have gotten to know so very well, my birthday, and then reunions at the school where I work - I have a challenge for you.
Take one minute to celebrate with someone who has accomplished something they may not even know is a big deal and be that small, seemingly ordinary moment that may or may not go on to make a huge difference in their life.
You never know how that moment might change someone's life.

And a HUGE congrats to all of those people out there, especially to my current and former students from one of the many institutions I have been blessed to be a part of, who have done something so great in the past couple of weeks.  It's worth saying again.  You all make me so proud.

*If you're into hiking, check out this blog chronicling a former student's adventures on the Appalachian Trail.  I'm hooked... I wish I had half the courage she does!

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Saturday Simplicity

Stealing another series idea from a friend. Anna, a friend from college, is a wonderful blogger who started a Sunday Simplicity series a while back.  She shares a simple photo with a few short thoughts - or sometimes just lets the photo speak for itself - and it really is a wonderful moment free of clutter. I'm modifying it a bit since Saturday is typically my "simple" day but I don't think she'll mind! 

I went out last night to celebrate my birthday and am now spending a day being lazy with the cats. There is nothing like a rainy Saturday, two balls of purring fluff, and a Hallmark Channel movie marathon to instantly turn me into a puddle of non-productivity. Dishes and laundry can get done tomorrow.

How can anyone not love a day like this?  They have been snuggled up almost all day and it's exactly what I needed.

Friday, April 20, 2012

Favorite Things Friday (Week 1)

I'm going to steal a series idea from my friend Wendi whose blog I follow.  Favorite Things Friday is an excellent way to make sure I post at least once a week.

Here are the top three things I'm obsessed with this week:

The Itty Bitty Kitty Committee - My friend KP posted this link a few weeks ago because she was going to be hiatus-ing from her blog and she thought this (among other things) might keep us entertained.  I cannot get enough.  Seriously, this woman fosters the cutest kittens ever.  I love my girls and I think they are adorable but this site is full of cuteness.  I hope you didn't click that link without wanting to "aaawwwwww"
This tank top - I own it in three different colors now and I honestly wish I could wear it every day.  It makes me feel girly and comfy all at the same time and it's pretty much become a game changer at my house.
Boxed Wine from Trader Joe's  - Talk about a game changer!  This was made specifically for busy women everywhere who like wine.  It has taken me weeks to get through one box and the wine hasn't gone bad!  I love a glass of wine at the end of the day but once you open a bottle of wine, you have to hurry up and drink it and then you end up with a nasty headache and in the end, you should have just skipped the wine.  This is $10 per box (approx. $2.50 per bottle!) and you don't have to feel guilty for only wanting a small glass of wine and not finishing the bottle in one night.  Amazing.  Thanks to Lindsay for picking some up for me last time she was at Trader Joe's..
Also, I'm glad I could give a shout out to some of my awesome blogger friends in this post.  Woo whee!  Happy Friday!

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Don't Forget How Lucky You Are

I started writing some stupid post about how fast this year is moving and how I'm a terrible blogger and all of that.  And then I realized that it was just about the worst post ever and I have better things to say.  Sappy things, but better things.  Hang in there, friends.  This is going to be a bit of a rant and I'm going to sound "emotional."

It has been a very long couple of weeks.  I absolutely love my job and have made some wonderful friends here so I don't want people to think I'm just being ungrateful for what I do have.  But let's be real, I have really been missing my close friends and family.  People who can see their best friends and family anytime just do not understand. 

Note to my Kentucky friends before I proceed:
Please know that I am in no way saying in the rant that will follow that you all are not important to me!  Just been a rough couple of weeks to be so far away from the people who have known me for so long and I suppose I needed to take a moment to tell those people that I am missing them.

I go months without talking to my friends from college because we all live in different time zones (and on different continents for that matter).  I hear about big life news third hand or through Facebook or never hear it at all until it's brought up months later.

I wasn't there to celebrate when my best friend's son turns four last week and I already know that I will miss her older son's eighth birthday.  It took me months to see her daughter after she was born.

I can't be there to meet my other best friend for happy hour on a day when we both just really need it.  She isn't going to be here to celebrate my birthday this weekend and I can't tell you when I will see her next.

To add to the stress and homesickness, in the last few weeks I've had multiple friends lose their parents.  We aren't even 30 yet.  We should not be thinking about these things.  It is so incredibly hard to know that I can't just jump in the car, drive over, and hug them.  I know that being there would not fix the fact that their mom or dad just died.  But this has happened to some of the people who I hold most dear - people that I know would do just about anything for me if I asked.  And I cannot even hug them, tell them that I love them and that I'm thinking about them, hold their hand while they cry.

All of the things with my friends' parents make me miss my mom and dad.  I don't think you ever get so old that you stop needing your parents.  At least, I hope I never get too old to want to be with them.  A friend of mine posted this blog post on her Facebook page and it made me cry.  I had some of the best parents anyone could ever ask for.  Our house wasn't always spotless.  We ate a lot of macaroni and cheese because it was quick and easy and they both worked a lot in order to give my siblings and me everything we could ever need.  We didn't have the fanciest clothes, we don't have the biggest house, and we sure as hell did not have "magnetic, alphabetized spice containers" but we did have a lot of love, a lot of laughter, and hours upon hours of great memories - going camping in the summer, splashing in the pool, softball practice, reading books out loud, Sunday afternoon movies at the West Picture Show....... I could go on and on about things that mean so much to me.

I am so incredibly blessed to have such a wonderful family and to have found friends who are as important to me as most people's families are to them.  I am proud of all of them every single day.  The thought that they may not always be there crushes me.  No, they aren't going anywhere tomorrow, god willing, but that doesn't mean that we shouldn't cherish every single day we have with them.

Technology is great in that I never truly feel disconnected from any of these people who I feel so close to.  I talk to my best friends almost every day, my sister almost every night, my brother at least once a week, and my mom and dad multiple times every day (even if my dad does think I only call to talk to Mom...).  But g-chatting with your best friend isn't the same as being able to call them up and drag them shopping with you while you look for the perfect outfit for a big night out.  Talking to your mom on the phone is not the same as cooking her dinner and enjoying a beer while planting your garden.  Texting your sister to give her insight into wedding planning is not the same as sitting on the floor with wedding magazines spread everywhere, planning a magical day that we have been dreaming about since we were children.

The next couple of months are full of celebrations, so I will be seeing my family a ton - a friend's wedding in a few weeks back in Wisconsin, my future brother-in-law's graduation the next week in North Carolina, then more weddings and events, until the biggest moment of the summer - my sister's wedding.  Unfortunately, all of those weddings mean that I won't have time this summer to see my best friends.

I know that I am sounding like I'm whining here.  There are people who live halfway around the world from their families so at least I get to see them every few months.  I'm not trying to whine.  I'm just trying to get an important point across.

Don't take your family and friends for granted.
Cherish every memory with them and tell them that you care.
The world we live in ensures that they won't always be there, whether we like that or not. 

For those of you who can see your family anytime you want, DO IT.  Tonight, I would trade places with you in a heartbeat.

Monday, April 9, 2012

My random thoughts for the night (or week...)

I'm only posting this here instead of on Facebook so that people can choose whether or not they want a little insight into my brain.  If you didn't really mean to step into the random-ness, I suggest you leave now...

Still here?  Ok.

Someone please explain to me why this commercial needs a disclaimer at :06 that this is just a dramatization.  You mean that the breath mint container doesn't actually turn into a minty ice cube that puts out fire in real life?!  Really???  And then it doesn't become a spinning vortex of non-heartburn, fresh breath?  Crap. 

(I hope the picture you're seeing before you click the link also has the Dramatization disclaimer and the spinning vortex like mine does.  Because that makes me extra happy.)

The other random thought for the day has to do with this...

I have a couple of (ranting) thoughts about this calendar which I could have purchased through a "daily deal" email I receive.

Do people really pay $50 for calendars?  I mean, the real question is did anyone purchase this calendar when it was full price?  $125 for a calendar!  You have got to be kidding me!  I have a hard time spending $125 on dresses or coats or shoes or just about anything that you can use for more than a few months.  In fact, I think I only spent $125 on my freaking couch!

Don't even get me started on the fact that it's already April 9 and this calendar is expected to ship sometime between April 27 & May 3.  So you're spending $50 on a calendar that you will use for approximately 6 months.  Good thing it's more than half off....  They better have specially trained monks hand lettering the calendar with gold leaf pens or something ridiculous. 

(For the friends I shared this with this morning, it's obviously still bothering me...)

Still with me?  Really?  You deserve a gold star!

Also, I'm a bit grouchy tonight.  Sorry folks.

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

First Book Review in Forever!

I recently read two books that make such a delightful contrast that I have decided to write my first book review in a very long time.

The selection for my book club*  a few months ago was Stealing Mona Lisa.  The book is about the theft of the Mona Lisa (duh) and the conspiracy surrounding the events. The Mona Lisa really was stolen in 1911 and the book tells the story of what could have happened - or what did happen, according to some skeptical sources - and is a somewhat wild ride through the Paris art scene, underground art dealing, and forgery.  I enjoyed the book, although I was admittedly a little bored and had a very hard time keeping up with the all of the characters as they all had Parisian / Italian names that sounded the same.

Two weeks ago, I downloaded Telling Lies for free on my Kindle.  Unfortunately, it's not free anymore but for anyone looking for a good book club book, I highly recommend it.  This book is similar to Stealing Mona Lisa in that it deals with the art world - underground, secret, and complex.  The story focuses on a lovable (if not unbelievably stupid) woman named Laurel who, while vacationing with her boyfriend in Italy, bumps into a man who is believed to have died in the World Trade Center attacks on September 11.  At the time of his "death," the man was brokering the sale of a  priceless masterpiece between a CEO (who did indeed die in 9/11) and a billionaire Japanese man who wants his money.  Add in a private detective who gets herself into plenty of trouble, the Isreali Mossad, and all sorts of family drama and you get yourself a good read.

Prior to these books, I was never overly interested in books about the art world.  I have a hard time keeping up since I don't know much about art, artists, or museums.  However, both of these books peaked my interest.  They were similar enough for me to compare them but had nothing in common at the same time - different masterpieces, different time periods, completely different writing styles.  But both made me think.  What do we really know about the so-called masterpieces - there are so many questions about what is original, who actually created them, etc - both in creative arts and writing (think Shakespeare!)?  Add in a bit of espionage, mistaken or changed identity, and a decent writer and you have the stuff fit for a good flight... with all the traveling, that's where I've been doing my reading at least!

Honestly, they'd make good movies.  Too bad I'm not doing the film thing anymore.

*Any of you ladies in a book club?  If you aren't, you should be.  Ours meets once a month and we spend more time eating food and drinking wine than talking about the books.  But still.  It's one of the best nights of my month - even if my friends think that makes me sound like I'm 95 years old!
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