Alexandria Apartment {Entry and Living Room}

You know how I've been telling you for, oh, you know...a year and a half now...that I'd give you a tour of our Alexandria apartment? 

You've seen a preview here and here, but you have yet to see it all (as if it's all interesting or whatever).


Let me take you on a tour of our first place together. 
*Please excuse the "unfinished" look. We kind of halfway unpacked since we knew we'd be moving again only 11 short months later. Plus...we only had 550 square feet. Excuses, excuses!*

Our entry way. 
From the front door, looking to the right? Our not so awesome Goodwill couch. 
Right side of the couch housed blankets and miscellaneous living room type things. 
The left side is where we kept XBox controllers, remotes, and one of my unfinished DIY projects.
This is what our coffee table usually looked like. 
Our TV set-up. 
The back door and deck. 
That's all for the entryway and living room tour. Stay tuned next week for the rest of our humble first home. :) 


How To Find Pleasure In Cooking

I inherited a love for cooking from my mom who has spent countless years cooking for and entertaining others. She's one of those women who has "signature dishes" that people request when she attends an event. Her chocolate chip cookies are famous at graduation parties and baby showers.

Mom's famous chocolate chip cookies.
I've learned a lot from my years in the kitchen with her and I feel the desire to pass on some kitchen wisdom because I've come across more and more people who get overwhelmed by preparing meals for their families. Either they believe that cooking is too time-consuming or that they just don't know how. The truth is that if you just take the time to understand the process, you'll learn that cooking can be easy and fun.

*Take an hour out of your week to plan your meals. It really is that easy. Spend 30 minutes on Pinterest, Eating Well, or wherever you like finding your recipes. Choose your recipes for the week in 30 minutes (or less) and spend the other 30 minutes jotting down your grocery list for these meals. Keep your list on the fridge and don't worry about adding your additional groceries (milk, cereal, eggs, bread) until you you notice you're running low. 

*Read the entire recipe before beginning. Just like you'd read all of the instructions before taking a test (or at least that's what our teachers would hope), you should always read all of the instructions before jumping into a recipe. When you understand what you need to do next, it makes the process smoother.

*Get all of your ingredients and materials out before beginning. The same goes for this step. When you've got all your ingredients, measuring cups, pans, etc. out before you begin, the entire cooking experience immediately becomes 10 times easier. You won't be running around looking for the red pepper flakes like a chicken with your head cut off, which allows you to give more time and attention to making delicious food.

*Become one with the process. I know this sounds ridiculous, but I'm serious. The only way you'll enjoy cooking is if you take the time to understand your ingredients and how to prepare them and cook them properly. Pay attention to their smells, how they cut, and what they pair well with. If you don't know how to cut something (say, and avocado or a mango), take 5 minutes to look up a tutorial on Youtube. Appreciate how all of the pieces of the puzzle come together to make something delectable.

Homemade fruit leather = a very looooong process.
*Learn what you like and what you don't. My mom likes her veggies chopped so fine that you can't even seen them - I like my ingredients chunky and colorful. I used to think I hated brussell sprouts, but after experimenting I learned that I hated the way they had been prepared the one time I tried them, so I made them my way and now I love them. Also, if you don't like a particular ingredient, feel free to substitute with something you do like. 

*Keep track of your favorite recipes. Pin them on Pinterest, save them in a Word document on your computer, or keep an "old fashioned" cookbook filled with recipe cards. This will help when you're stuck on what to make for dinner for those picky eaters. 

*Make your kitchen a place you enjoy being. When you purchase anything for your kitchen be sure it's great quality, attractive to look at, and fun to use. Before heading to bed at night, be sure your kitchen is clean. It's easier to clean up one day's worth of dishes than it is to clean up after an entire week of cooking messes. A fun kitchen makes all the difference in your cooking. Plus, who doesn't like waking up to a clean kitchen?

*Enjoy your hard work. Cooking takes time and effort. Reward yourself by sitting down at the table with your family or friends when you eat what you've prepared. Savor each bite and don't be afraid to make a little noise if you like it! ;) When I've made a meal that my family enjoys, it makes me very proud to know that my hard work paid off. Making something with your hands is one of the greatest feelings in the world. Indulge in your success. :) 

How do you feel about cooking? Do you love being in your kitchen or is it a place of stress for you? Share your tips for enjoying cooking! 


21 in 21 {22 in 22}

I'm a little late on the " _ _ in _ _ " train with Erin from Living In Yellow, but I thought I'd jump on anyway. Besides, you can never have too many random list posts, right? 

Erin had a birthday last week and made a fun list of all the things she'd like to do in her 26th year of life. Since I'm about half way through year 21, I thought I'd push it to 22! So I've got roughly... 1.5 years to complete this list. Easy peasy, lemon squeezy! :) 

1. Get professional pictures taken of us, just because.
2. Get to know Champaign as well as the back of my hand. 
3. Host a legitimate party (not the college keg sort) at our apartment. 
4. Make at least 3 new girlfriends and keep in touch/get together regularly. 
5. Achieve a weight or size that makes me excited to put on skinny jeans. 
6. Nix fast food. For good. Except Wendy's...you can stay.

8. Join our local CSA at the beginning of the next season (March 2013).
9. Successfully potty train Ava and Eli. 
10. Purchase my first Erin Condren planner and my first Scentsy (it's the little things).
11. Surprise Joshua for his 21st birthday. :) I've already got plans swimming in my head!


13. Pursue my love of cooking OUTSIDE my kitchen.  
15. Attend BlogHer 2013 or 2014.

16. Open my own retirement account. 
17. Complete at least one book and one Pinterest project per month that is NOT a recipe. 
19. Grow my blog to 500 followers. That's achievable, right?
20. Participate in a Color Run.
21. Plan and budget for more creative date nights. 
22. Make eating dinner together with NO TV a priority.

What would you like to accomplish in your next 365 days of life? 


Friday's Letters


Dear Mom
You've been so strong these past few weeks and especially the past few days. I know that you're struggling with the major changes your life has taken, but I also know that you'll get through it and continue to be a blessing to the world. 

Dear Doctors F, R, F, and R (yes, all of her doctors have the same initials)
Thank you, thank you, THANK YOU for taking such fantastic care of my mommy and for being kindhearted and gentle through this tough time. Your skills have saved her life and for that, I can never repay you. 

Dear Nurses D and D
You both have such gentle hearts. You truly have a gift of making people feel cared for, without making them feel helpless. I know my mom appreciates your care, and I also appreciate you taking such great care of her during her stay. Thank you. 

Dear Joshie
Sometimes you drive me crazy. And sometimes I just want to slap you. But all the time, I just want you near me and holding me tight. I'm sorry for my attitude lately and for being so preoccupied. Thanks for putting up with my bullshit. 

Dear Target and West Elm
You seriously need to stop with all of the attractive home decor that my wallet can't afford. 

Dear Bloggie Friends
Never, in a million years, did I think I could be friends with people I've never met. But you have all been so supportive and caring through these crazy times in my life and I greatly appreciate your thoughtfulness. If only we all lived on a secluded island just for bloggers so we could party all the time. 


The Nail Files

Happy Friday, everyone! 
Today I'm linking up again with Tara and Vicki for The Nail Files. 

I've been on a real nail-painting kick lately. I think painting my nails has taken the place of stress-eating for me the past couple of weeks. Pretty good trade-off, I'd say! ;) 

Week 6. I was going for a semi-nude and got just that! {Sally Hansen Nail Growth Miracle} Bold Buff. 
I also decided to paint my toes for the first time in forever! {Sinful Colors} Sharon's Heart.
Unfortunately though, the polish stared peeling after my shower the next morning. Boo! 
 After all the color I'd had on my nails the past 6 weeks I decided to give them a break and let them go nakey for a few days. But then I received my first Julep Maven box! I was so excited that I couldn't wait to open it and I painted my nails the second I got home. 

Week 6, Part 2. Nakey nails!
I believe I was squealing "It's here! It's FINALLY here!"
Would you like to see the final result? Beware: I attempted some silly looking french tips...using Scotch tape (thanks, Pinterest!).  
In the process...
Week 7. {Julep} Hayden and {Essie} Blanc.
Excuse the horrible picture, but it's really "dreamsicle-y".  
I'm in love. 
And last, but not least.....
Week 7, Part 2. {Julep} Courteney green and {Sally Hansen} Raspberry Rave.
Unintentional Type A win? Matching your nails to your polish tote. 
Sorry for the lengthiness of this post, but I'm trying to play catch-up! :) Hope you enjoyed! 


Learning To Stress Less/The Happiness Project

As some of you know, my life in the past three and a half years has been...less than relaxing. 

Need a summary? 

Barely graduated high school after being plagued with six weeks of mono during finals week.
Broke up with my boyfriend of six months. 
Moved to Michigan. 
Started college.
Began a new relationship.
Broke off that relationship.
Worked three jobs.
Flunked out of college.
Began a new relationship.
Transferred schools and started again. 
Finished second semester and moved back home with my parents. 
Started at a third college. 
Started a new, part-time job. 
Completed Semester Three at College Three. 
Got engaged. 

Planned a wedding. 
Got married once. 
Completed Semester Four at College Three. 
"Got married" again. 
Moved 900 miles east. 
Traveled to Hawaii for our honeymoon.
Started a new, full-time job that sucked every ounce of life and fun out of me. 
Traveled home to Illinois for the holidays. 
Made the decision for Josh to join the Army Reserves. 
Josh traveled to Ohio to visit his grandparents due to many medical complications. 
Quit my job "early" and we moved in with my parents for the summer. 
Traveled to Washington for a family vacation. 
Ran back and forth between Champaign and Aurora to tie up loose ends before Moving Day. 
And now, a week from yesterday, we'll be moving again. Then Josh will go to Canada for two weeks with his buddies and I will start my new full-time job. And a week after that? Josh starts school and goes to his first drill weekend. 

For those of you counting, that's three schools, six jobs, and five moves in three years (for myself, not including Joshua).

And that's just what's been going on in my life, not to mention what's been happening with the rest of mine and Josh's families. So it's been stressful and depressing...to say the least. Not that we haven't had some fun times, but all of this change and uprooting takes a toll on one's soul.

So this year, I've got some resolutions. It doesn't matter if it's the middle of the year, right? ;) 

In an effort to relieve some stress and to add more happiness to my life I've already done a few things: quit my makes-me-homicidal helluva job, whittled my Facebook friends list down from 416 to 173, bought a new computer which offered me a fresh, organized start, started reconstructing my wardrobe, and stopped biting my nails/made a habit of taking care of my nails and painting them regularly. It's amazing what a pretty polish can do for your self-esteem.

I've also purchased The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin. I can't wait to get started with this book and learn all of the simple ways to pursue happiness. I expect great things. :) 

A few other items on my list? Exercise regularly, get back on the "good food" wagon, dress better, take a non-credit class just for fun, complete at least one new recipe and one new craft per week, get involved with other women, and read at least one book per month.

Who's going to hold me to these goals? What are some of your favorite ways to embrace happiness in your everyday life? 

I'll be publishing a tab dedicated to my "Happiness Project" to document my progress. Stay tuned and let me know if you're interested in getting involved! :)


OHPW: Hair Edition

Along with dressing better, I'd like to start putting a little bit of time and effort into my hair. I've pretty much got the nails down, so now the clothes, hair, and make-up need some work! I'd like to get a simple trim so my hair doesn't look so "blah" all the time. Blow-drying and straightening my hair on a regular basis shouldn't be so hard, right? ;)

I love the simple curls and her natural make-up. 

I've always adored how LC can pull off such a simple hair style. 
Source: google.com via Meagan on Pinterest

Totally "do"-able, right? ;)

Simple, glamorous waves.

I have no clue why, but I've always been drawn to short styles! 

This seems like a simple and easy to take care of style. 

I know, I'm boring. But simple is best when you've got a full schedule and you're chasing around kids all day. If I can at least banish the ponytail 75% of the time I'll consider it a Win.


Sun Savvy PSA

Girls, girls, girls.

We've grown up in a world where "tan is sexy" and "pale is gross." This makes me very sad. Not only do we have expectations that every woman should wear 10 pounds of make-up or spend thousands of dollars on designer clothes to be pretty, but now we've got this mindset that we must be TAN at all costs, even if that cost is our life.

Source: google.com via Nadene on Pinterest

Source: google.com via Gina on Pinterest

As much as it bothers me to be pale compared to most other girls my age, I've never really given in to the tanning craze, whether fake-baking or baking in the sun. I've always been extremely careful about exposing my skin to the sun and have never worn any sunscreen under SPF 45. Because of this, I've maybe had 3 sunburns in my entire life, and unfortunately, all of them were severe.

However, skin cancer can come from more than just too much sun or too much time in the tanning bed. For people like me, who are almost never outdoors without sunscreen, there are other ways skin cancer can make it's attack.

I've always been "freckled" with moles, as many people are, but never thought anything about them until I saw an episode of House where his patient was extremely sick and they couldn't figure out the cause. Turns out it was a dark mole hiding between his toes. This patient had skin cancer and it was making him deathly sick.

Since that day, I've been checking my skin periodically, just to make sure none of my moles were getting into trouble. But when I noticed a new, very dark mole between my toes I knew it was time for me to go see a dermatologist.

I made my appointment and saw the dermatologist on July 3rd. She did a basic skin check where they look between your toes, on your scalp, under your arms...everywhere. She was impressed that I had no signs of skin cancer, given my pale skin and susceptibility to skin damage, and so was I! She reminded me to keep an eye on any moles I considered suspicious and after reminding me to come in for a skin check annually, she walked me out and reminded me to "Keep wearing that sunscreen!"

Source: khooll.com via Juste on Pinterest

It's very important to take care of your skin, just like you'd take care of the rest of your body. Do you exercise, eat healthy, and visit a doctor for check-ups? Do you brush your teeth every day to avoid cavities? Then why wouldn't you also want to take care of your body by protecting it from the sun's harmful rays and seeing a dermatologist? I understand how easy it is for us to give in to looking great in the eyes of society, but you've got one body and one life. Take care of it, even if that means giving up the tanning bed.

Visit Sun Savvy for more information or feel free to email me privately if you have questions, comments, or concerns.


Sharing The Love

Well, hello there, gorgeous! 

I just wanted to stop in and share a little note to let you know that when I finally reach 100 followers I'll be having a giveaway! 

And it's gonna be good, so stay tuned because you won't want to miss out on your chance to win big. :) 

Love you all! 


Friday's Letters


Dear Body, 
I apologize for neglecting you and filling you up with garbage this summer. I know I haven't been treating you the way I should and that you've been feeling horrible lately because of it. I promise that as soon as I control the groceries again, things will get better. 

Dear Joshua, 
You are the silliest and most loving husband EVER. Thanks for bringing me presents every time you come home from a trip. I really appreciate you thinking of me when you're away, even though presents are nothing compared to having you home safe with me. :)

Dear Chinese Food, 
You really need to stop taunting me. It's cruel for you to pop up everywhere I turn when I know I shouldn't be eating you. Stop it. 

Dear Weather, 
If you could lighten up a little and back off on the humidity just a tad, I'd really appreciate it. K? Thanks. 

Dear Vodka, 
I love you. Forget what I said to Body. You and I are inseparable. 

Dear Cancer, 
You suck. 

Dear Mom, 
I can't tell you how proud I am of you. You're the strongest, gentlest, most loving person I know. I can't wait to see how awesomely you whoop Cancer's ass. 

Dear Champaign-Urbana, 
Only a week and a half until we're united at LAST! I've been dying to be with you and to explore every inch of you for so long (I know, I'm so punny). Yay for new adventures!