Monday, November 23, 2015

November 2015 Stitch Fix

On Friday, after a long week of work, I was looking forward to my Stitch Fix. Last month's fix wasn't so great, so I was hoping to redeem it. I need some winter weather stuff, and I'm pretty lazy when it comes to shopping, so I asked my stylist to send me some jeans and some plaid for Thanksgiving.

I don't think she got the memo. Up first was the Queensland Dolman Jersey Top.

This top was super soft, but it is boxy on me. Brendan said it best: "This top was made for someone wanting to hide a tummy, and that is not you." I was bummed that this was sent to be because I sent back a similar top last month and added a "no 3/4 sleeve" note to my style profile.

Up next, the Cusco Crew Neck Top:

Again, boxy and oversized. It just isn't flattering or made for my body type. I felt like this style is for a woman one or two decades older than me.

Up Next was the Cordelia Striped Boat Neck Sweater:

Finally, something warm, fitted, and wintery. This was my only keep of the box. I felt like it was exactly the kind of thing I would pick out. I love those really classic styles that last season to season.

Next was the Dexter Faux Wrap Dress:

I wanted it to work because it was so soft, but look how large and low cut it is in the bust. I literally could not wear this out of the house. Yikes.

Up next, the Ashlynn Trumpet Hem Skirt.

It's cute, and I like the color, but it was not flattering since it was so tight.

At least the returns are free, and I got one good sweater out of the deal. If you are interested in your own fix, please use my referral link to sign up. I'll give Stitch Fix another try in a few months. For now, I went online and ordered myself some jeans and some plaid!

In other news...

We had a very cozy weekend. The temperatures finally dropped below freezing and killed some of our plants :( We had to turn on the heat for the first time. But, in good news, Brendan discovered a neat place to walk near our house where we can see giant jack rabbits, and we enjoyed a great Friday evening walk before the cooler temperatures set in. We also started addressing the holiday cards and prepping the Thanksgiving meal this weekend.

Today, I went to a new dentist in Midland and was given good news that all is fine (Remember my terrible dentist experience last fall with the dentist that lied to me? This is the second dentist to confirm that I am cavity free). Tomorrow, we take about 18 honor society students to see The Hunger Games, and Brendan's parents arrive late tomorrow night. We can't wait for several days of fun with our family. We have twelve bottles of wine, games galore, and a turkey defrosting in our fridge.

How is your holiday prepping going?
We hope it's good!

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Not Too Late to Notice

It feels like everything is stressful right now (am I right?). Recent events exacerbated already existing world and national problems, there are statewide problemslocal problems, and a large and never ending workload for these English teachers (hello tutoring until 10:30PM last night, only to wake up and teach class at 8:00am today). There are a lot of reasons to be anxious, worried, and unhappy. But everyday, I remind myself of a lot of reasons to choose not to be. Make no mistake, I'm still concerned, but I also realize that some problems I have no control over, so I can't let the worry control me.

The other week, as I left the house for yoga, this is what the sky looked like:

I pulled over, and I took this photograph. I was just in awe of the beauty of this world, and I stood there for a while just looking at the sky. 

Today in class, my students and I could not stop laughing. Perhaps the stress has finally made us all loony, but I think we were all choosing to have fun and find some joy in the task of writing great thesis statements. 

When work gets stressful, I remind myself that it is only stressful because I am needed. To be able to help other people is, honestly, more of a gift than an annoyance. I remind myself that if everyone's need for me suddenly disappeared, I would maybe be relieved for an hour, and then I would feel pretty sad. 

I also like to think about how I'm being supported by so many people. This is an opportunity for me to realize how many people I truly have trying to help (through kind words, favors, and expressions of love and friendship), and many of those people are facing a lot of stress themselves. 

In addition to being great foot warmers, Lola and Zoe are a constant reminder to not let life get you down. Check out how Zoe just is not worried (turn your volume way up):


I hope that the current problems of this world are temporary, and I hope they are not soon replaced with new problems (wishful thinking?). For my part, I'm having discussions with my classes, and I'm trying to get my students to become politically engaged (which seems to be the way we can effect change over some of the earlier mentioned issues). I'm donating to local charities to address hunger issues here in Midland. I'm getting up everyday, and I'm doing my best. It may not solve much, but it's what I can do. Then, in my free time (what little there is), I have to make like Zoe and chill out. 

My friend Corley wrote a beautiful post about how, when facing pressures to make the right choices or leave an amazing lasting impression on this world, we forget that our purpose is to simply live and enjoy our one life. Her writing really resonates with me. If anyone is feeling down lately, I suggest that you give yourself permission to see the good around you. It's not too late to notice. 

And for me, I have yoga tonight, we have two outings with the honor society that we co-advise coming up in the next six days, and Brendan's parents will soon be joining us in our home for Thanksgiving. All of these things are fun, and I'm going to give myself permission to enjoy them. 

Everyday, we make the choice: either keep going, despite all that isn't going right, or give up on joy. I don't want to give up on being happy. I want to notice all the reasons to keep going. Call me ridiculous, but maybe we all need to be reading news on SunnySkyz.com every now and then. Maybe we all need to light a candle and drink some wine. 

I think I'm going to do just that...except replace wine with tea (wine is for after yoga) and add a hot bath! 

We hope you notice the things that are going right too,

Sunday, November 15, 2015

A Week's Worth of Eating

Happy Sunday evening, friends.
A week ago, I started writing down everything I eat in a day as a kind of experiment. I just wanted to see what my choices looked like on paper. This is a total typical week (no dieting or restriction involved), and I thought it'd be interesting to share what that looks like for me. The purpose of this post is to give other people meal plan ideas and also give a glimpse into a vegetarian diet, which many of our friends are curious about. I'll also address how we make cooking and meal prep happen when we're busy at work. Enjoy!

I started the day with Green Monster smoothies for us both. These things are filling and make for a really fast breakfast.
Lean Cuisine Lasagna: It's not bad and easy to heat up at work.
Low Fat Cottage Cheese with fresh blueberries, strawberries, and raspberries.
1/2 of a quesadilla, a cup of chili, and 1 homemade corn muffin (all leftovers, so totally easy prep), plus a glass of red wine.

Oatmeal with fresh blueberries, strawberries, and raspberries and a sprinkle of cinnamon and honey.
Salad (Spring mix+granny smith apple slices+cranberries+bleu cheese+walnuts) with Ken's light Apple Cider Vinaigrette. Again, this is easy to eat at work, and I made it while the oatmeal was cooking.
Cherry Chocolate Protein Smoothie 
BBQ Tofu, potatoes, green beans (Brendan made this while I was working out) + a glass of red wine and one fun size peanut m&m's

Egg Sandwich (toast an English muffin, microwave 1 egg for 25 seconds and then top it with low fat cheese, and microwave another 20 seconds. Put the egg on the English muffin and boom, breakfast).
Morning Snack
HEB Cheese Stick
Leftover pasta with pesto and tomatoes (gotta use your leftovers)
Afternoon Snack
Fruit Smoothie
While Brendan is teaching his night class, I make this Santa Fe casserole. I actually prepped it before yoga class and then baked it after, which was smart because class leaves me pretty tired, and I usually only beat Brendan home by about 40 minutes. I served this with one leftover corn muffin for each of us. I had a very generous glass (some may say a glass and a half) of red wine.

Low fat cottage cheese + 1/2 a grapefruit (I'm OBSESSED with grapefruit and so happy they are back in season).
Same salad from Tuesday's lunch
Green monster smoothie from Monday's breakfast
 Brendan puts together this green curry, and I have it with (predictably) a glass of wine.

I start the day with low fat cottage cheese and 1/2 a grapefruit again
Morning Snack
HEB Cheese Stick
We have a lunch meeting at work catered by Jason's deli. I have a veggie wrap, small bag of chips and 1/2 my giant cookie. 
Afternoon Snack
A grande passion fruit tea at Starbucks and later an 8oz Clamato & Bud Light 
Leftover Santa Fe Casserole + 1 corn muffin+ a glass of red wine. Brendan brings home my favorite sour gummi worms. There are 3.5 servings in the bag, but I manage to only eat 1.5 servings. 

We go to brunch for our friend's birthday, and we split Huevos Rancheros. The order comes with a tortilla, egg, refried beans, and potatoes for each of us. I also have a Bloody Mary. 
Leftover pasta with pesto and tomatoes+a glass of red wine+ a serving of sour gummi worms
Late Night Snack
We stay up until 2:00am playing a game and hanging out with friends. I ate cheese, crackers, nuts, and some leeks with this great dipping sauce + another glass of red wine (do you see a pattern here?) 

2 eggs + Instant grits w/low fat cheese 
The final serving of sour gummi worms 
Braised tofu, potatoes, roasted garlic, cauliflower, and Brussel sprouts + a glass of red wine

All in all, that's a totally typical week for me. We try to make use of leftovers, cook a fair amount, eat fruits and vegetables, and have some indulgences too. I hope the "a glass of red wine per day for good health" thing still holds true. I stuck to my typical workout routine this week: 1 hour of barre on Monday, 1 hour of barre on Tuesday, 1 hour 10 minutes of yoga on Wednesday, 1 hour of barre on Thursday, and 1 hour of barre on Saturday. 

All in all, this was a delicious week. I just hope next week is just as tasty! 

Friday, November 13, 2015


In my senior year of high school, Ms. Larden, my English teacher, had us each select a poet to study on our own. I spent a very, very long afternoon in Barnes and Noble that weekend. I wanted to select the perfect poet for the assignment. I was eager to read an entire collection on my own, eager to have to work to find meaning without a teacher explaining the symbols and metaphors. Finally, after several hours of searching, I selected my favorite from the stacks, Wendall Berry. 

The Peace of Wild Things

When despair for the world grows in me
and I wake in the night at the least sound
in fear of what my life and my children’s lives may be,
I go and lie down where the wood drake
rests in his beauty on the water, and the great heron feeds.
I come into the peace of wild things
who do not tax their lives with forethought
of grief. I come into the presence of still water.
And I feel above me the day-blind stars
waiting with their light. For a time
I rest in the grace of the world, and am free.

It is only now, years later, that I realize why my English teacher gave us this assignment. When the world is unexplainable, when sadness is paralyzing, when we seem to have every reason to expect the worst...the right words have such meaning at those times. I cannot even begin to imagine the grief of those that have lost a family member or a friend. The sorrow I feel is not even a fraction of that pain.

 But I wanted to share Berry's words because I think they are powerful enough to calm. Because I have to believe there is still grace in the world. I have to believe that it is still possible to find peace, even if only temporarily and only sometimes. I wanted to share the words because they remind me that we have to make meaning from our own lives; they reminded me of sitting on a bookstore floor at seventeen and trying to do just that--find a meaning. They reminded me that I'm scared, but that I'm connected to other life both because of and despite those fears. The words made me feel small, which I am, but they did not make me feel irrelevant. Sharing the poem helped me say "I'm sorry this happened." 

I hope we can all find a place to rest tonight. 

Monday, November 9, 2015

Needs and Wants

Hello, friends. How is November treating you? Over here, we're pretty drained (it's that time in the semester). I'm still managing to workout, cook and eat mostly healthy, drink water, and get sleep, so I feel like I'm doing better than average for one month left of the semester. We also had a nice relaxing weekend. We saw David Sedaris read on Friday night, went to a fun get together afterwards, and met a sweet baby on Sunday. I also cooked a lot and caught up on laundry. Weekends are a blissful invention. 

Lately, I've been thinking a lot about needs vs. wants. The reason? A MILLION holiday catalogs are arriving at the house each day, and I can't help but flip through them. They are great for gift ideas, but inevitably, I also find things for myself to desire and admire. The other reason I have needs and wants on my mind is because, as Thanksgiving approaches, I've been stopping and thinking about all that I have to be grateful for. It's freeing to realize that you already have everything that you truly need. I'm enjoying throwing away the catalogs, ignoring the promises of great deals sent to my email inbox daily, and appreciating what I already have rather than filling an online shopping cart. During this time of year, it gives me more joy to buy gifts for others and to have money to spend on the things that really matter to me (fitness classes, holiday cards to mail out, a nice Thanksgiving meal, being able to contribute to a favorite charity, etc), so I'm being more mindful of separating out the wants that aren't as meaningful to me and ignoring them. 

The holidays can be stressful. We all want to create those perfect holiday memories. We all struggle to balance work and life at this time of year. We are all trying to stay healthy in the face of many social gatherings with tons of delicious and tempting foods. For many, retail therapy is a stress reliever. However, it's totally liberating to realize that most wants are honestly just fleeting and temporary. So, before I replaced my coat that is still fine, spent hundreds on beautiful looking holiday decor, or drove myself mad searching for a piece of furniture that we're really just fine without, I considered the spirit of the season and saved myself the trouble and the money. 

Instead, I'm focusing on enjoying the little indulgences: a movie on Netflix, a cup of hot tea, a cat in my lap, a good book I've been meaning to read. This time of year is special, and it's going too fast as it is; as I actively practice thankfulness, I find myself happier.

We hope all of your needs and wants are met this holiday season and that you take time to appreciate what you have and the little things that truly make the season special. Happy Thanks-giving. 

Thursday, November 5, 2015

A Few Days in Nashville

Greetings! It has been such a busy week around here. On Friday night, after my last blog entry, we went out to vote, eat dinner, and mail back the items from my Stitch Fix that I decided not to keep. Then, we had to pack. We set the alarm for 4:30AM on Saturday (painful) and caught a 6:30AM flight to Dallas. Our second flight to Nashville got us in a little after 10:00AM. We rented our car (a Prius, which was a little weird to drive since I'm not used to hybrids but also got AMAZING gas mileage) and drove to our hotel on the Vanderbilt campus. Though check in wasn't scheduled until 4:00PM, we got lucky and our room was ready. We relaxed and ate a light lunch. Then, Nancy, our friend from grad school, arrived, and we met for drinks in the hotel bar before a poetry reading at the conference. Afterwards, we ate a great dinner at The Row Kitchen. Their Quinoa burger was to die for, and I enjoyed the live music and seeing everyone else's Halloween costumes. I was a bit sad to miss our first Halloween in our new neighborhood, but next year we'll be dressing up to hand out treats.

After dinner, we took a much needed walk back to the hotel, and I made final touches on my conference paper. I presented at 8:00AM on Sunday (but got an extra hour due to the time change). I was worried that no one would attend the panel because of the time, but our Teaching Freshman Composition session had about twenty in attendance and went really well. I even volunteered to be the 2016 secretary and 2017 chair (Dallas and Tulsa, here I come!)

After my presentation, Brendan worked while I attended another session and then went to lunch with Nancy and Rita (our teacher/mentor from grad school). I brought Brendan back a smoothie, and he drank it while we drove to Andrew Jackson's mansion. I really wanted to see this, and I'm glad we made time for it. We were able to do the tour of both the mansion and the wagon tour of the property that talked more about the history of slavery there. I thought the museum did a decent job of realistically portraying Andrew Jackson. Jackson was both a slave owner and responsible for some additional atrocities towards the Native American population, and the museum did a good job of not glossing over these details to give a full picture of Jackson's life. The museum has preserved an important piece of American history, and I would recommend going if you are ever near Nashville.

Afterwards, we met up with a former student and honor society member for dinner. He is now at a University in TN, acing all his classes and having a blast. We are so proud of him! Back at the hotel, Brendan caught the end of the World Series game, which his parents and cousin were at. Unfortunately, the Mets lost and ended the series early :(

The next day, Brendan gave a poetry reading bright and early at 8:00AM. He had a decent sized audience. Afterwards, we went to The Pancake Pantry with Nancy (highly recommended--Brendan's dish, the Santa Fe Cornmeal cakes, was incredible, but all the pancakes were delicious). 

After, we shopped at Bookman/Bookwoman, and I bought a copy of the new Margaret Atwood novel The Heart Goes Last, and I am almost finished reading it (it's incredible, but you knew that). 

Then, Brendan and I set off for Long Hunter State Park, where we did a four mile nature walk. Brendan loves to get outside and explore, and there aren't a ton of options for this in Midland, so visiting a park was on our must do list. The fall colors really lifted my spirits. Thanksgiving is three weeks from today!  

Afterwards, we caught our friend Ross' panel. Then, we got drinks at The Patterson House with Rita, Nancy, and Rachel (Brendan's former French novel teacher). This place was amazing. I wish we could've stayed even longer. The drinks were so, so, so good. We had dinner reservations though at the Husk. The dinner there was the best I've had in a long while...I'm still dreaming about it. 

The next morning, we caught Nancy's 8:00AM presentation and then left for the airport. Our travel day was long (delayed flights, re-bookings, etc.), but we each got vouchers out of it (because Southwest Airlines is still the best), and we made it home by 10:00PM, just in time to sleep and then teach at 8:00AM yesterday!

Today, I will be catching up on laundry, going grocery shopping, attending a meeting, and making progress on grading. I also have my first barre class in a week (though I warmed up with some gentle yoga last night). Wish me luck. Needless to say, we can't wait for the weekend! 

We hope your Thursday is lovely. 

Friday, October 30, 2015

October 2015 Stitch Fix Review

Greetings from the end of our super busy work week.

So much happened this week. In addition to all my normal work week stuff, somehow, I managed to:
a.) grade all American Literature midterms, essays, and a discussion board
b.) grade all of my Composition I midterms
c.) prep a comma workshop and teach two sessions of the workshop to a total of a 160 students
d.) train seven new tutors to work in the writing center
e.) mostly finish my conference paper (keyword: mostly),
and f.) prep my substitute for my Monday classes since we will be at the conference in Nashville, TN.

Did I mention I was tired?

When I came home today, I was excited to see a Stitch Fix package on my doorstep. For those of you that do not know what Stitch Fix is, you can read my first review of it here. If you decide to schedule a fix based on my review, please use my personal referral link to do so, and I will much appreciate the referral credit.

 This was my 7th Stitch Fix since I started using the service in February 2014.

My fix looked really promising this time, and I was excited to get to trying things on.

Up first was the Bryant top:

I thought this top was really cute, and Brendan said I looked skinny in it, so it was an obvious win! This was a keeper.

Next up was the Corinna Stripped Dolman Top:

My reaction to this was that it fits me nicely, but it is nothing special. I already have so much navy in my wardrobe too. I would have kept it if all my other items worked out nicely, just to get the 25% keep all discount, but that didn't end up happening, so this was a return for me.

Next was the Lauderdale Knit Cardigan:

Oh, Stitch Fix. They really want me to love oversize cardigans, but I just don't. The color is pretty, but this cardigan is the kind that you can't button, and I feel like it just hangs awkwardly and isn't as figure flattering as it could be. As soft as it was, it was still a return. 

I was so excited to try on this Juniper Dress because I loved the pattern when I saw it, and the dress is uber soft: 

But, no. I swear this dress has some kind of defect because the bottom and top are sewn to make that yellow stripe out of alignment. It's also pretty darn baggy for a small. This was a definite return. Too bad. At least I learned to write "No elastic waist dresses" on my style profile. They seem to just cinch in the wrong places on me. 

Finally, could the Thea Printed Dress be a success for me? 

You know, it's cute, but it's not amazing. The elastic waistband is still hitting at an awkward place on my body. Plus, this dress just kind of looks like something I would find at Target in the summer. I buy clothes at Target all the time, so I'm not dissing Target. I'm just saying that the dress looks really mainstream and not like anything special. The colors also remind me of summer, not fall. It was a return. 

So, in the end, I only kept one item, but it was a free item thanks to your referral credits :) I scheduled another fix for before Thanksgiving, so we'll see if the stylist does a better job next time. The service is fun, but it can be hit or miss. If I had once piece of advice for Stitch Fix, I would make it to let stylists stick with their customers fix after fix. If I had once piece of advice for you, it would be to make a Pinterest board and link to it from your style profile. Also, make sure all of your measurements stay super up to date. 

Have you tried a Stitch Fix this month? Did you like what you received? 

We are off to Nashville bright and early tomorrow. Please wish us safe travels! 

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