Wednesday, July 22, 2015

24 Things I've Learned This Year.

Soooo, today is my birthday. The big 24. Not really a huge deal, but one step closer to be 1/4 of 100. Pretty crazy, huh? Well, anyways. Last year, I did one of these posts, summing up a few things I learned over the year. You can check out last year's by clicking here, if ya really want too. These are the things I learned THIS year.
1. People are 98% talk when it comes to making plans. "We will have to grab lunch sometime!" "Let's plan a trip!" People love to throw out these phrases but rarely follow up with them. I'm guilty of this as well, but I'm tired of getting my hopes up for trips and events that never occur. I'm going to try to be more aware of what I say. 

2. Subscription boxes will bleed your wallet dry. They are oh-so-fun, but usually not worth the price tag. At one point this year, I was subscribed to 3 different boxes and spending more than $65/month. I have since canceled all of them and while I do miss finding the boxes on my doorstep, I don't really miss what's inside. 

3. Heartbreak hurts. I've gone through some painful stuff over the past year and while it wasn't fun, I see now that it was necessary. I am not the same naive little girl I was this time last year.

4. For someone who hates procedural crime dramas, I have no problems with Criminal Minds. Perhaps it's Reid's adorable little face?! Or Hotchner's?

5. It's really fun to be brave and try new things. 
Me and Krystle at the Insane Inflatable 5k, something "old me" never would have done!

6. When your sister gets married, you gain a brother. (and if you are lucky, he's really awesome!)

7. Meeting people online isn't as scary as I first thought, if you are smart and careful.

8. Cooking is really fun!

9. Chris Traeger is lit'rally my soulmate. 

10. Sometimes you have to say "No" and you shouldn't feel guilty. I am such a people pleaser but I will gladly say that this year, I've had to stand up for myself. At first I felt guilty and mad at myself, but once I realized I did the right thing, I was proud. 

11. Banana peppers are the bomb diggity. And they can make almost any sandwich much more delicious. Try it with chicken salad. Mmmm.

12. The Ninja Kitchen System is awesome! I got this for my birthday (waay early, but I didn't mind, haha). So far I have used the processor for so many things and it has been fantastic so far! My favorite dish so far was the mashed sweet potatoes. The processor took all the lumps and created a really smooth finish. I have never cared for sweet potatoes but this is definitely a side dish I will make again and again. Also made regular mashed potatoes...almost cried because they were perfect.

13. I go through highs and lows in my relationship with reading. For the last couple of years I have set lofty reading goals and then knocked them out of the park! But this year I have been struggling. I have only read 11 books this year. I ready 53 last year. Whoops.

14. Natural light is KEY in photography. Natural light produces some killer results, people. I love it.

15. Lemon water is basically a cure for all that ails. Okay, that may be a bit much. But I have a new found love for lemon water. It has helped my skin by leaps and bounds AND I have found it to be a cure for headaches. It also is like a natural energy stimulant when you are feeling tired. I'm not gonna lie, it's not like some richly sweet lemonade, so don't go into it comparing it to that. But it definitely dresses up a plain glass of water!

16. Because other people don't want you to be alone is the WORST reason for you to fear being alone. 

17. The ability to speak is a God given gift and we shouldn't waste it with idle gossip or tearing others down. It should be used as an encouragement to others.

18. The first 5 seasons of the Office (U.S.) are incredible. I can't believe I was so late at discovering this show, but I gotta tell you, I love it. I can always count on Michael Scott to cheer me up if I am sad.
How I feel about my dreams.
 How I feel about my dreams.

19. Toby will literally chew through ANY cord. I've gone through 2 sets of speakers and 3 sets of headphones. The little creep is going to electrocute himself eventually.

20. Going for a walk without music can be therapeutic. I have literally gone 23 years without once going for a walk by myself with no music. I did it for the first time this year and found it to be so calming. I spent it talking to God and really assessing things. It also caused me to speak to more strangers.

21. Doing things alone is kinda fun. Hey, you don't have to worry about embarrassing anybody else.

22. Things don't make you happy. They just cause clutter. Possibly one of the most important things I've learned this year. I wish I had figured this out before I was in credit card debt, but it's where I am currently. (I will say that photographic equipment does not fit this. It does make me happy. And one day I might make a dollar from it, so ...)

23. Pale skin is beautiful. I am tired of feeling like I need to be tan in order to be beautiful. Such a ridiculous theory. I'm proud of the skin color I was given and I'm even wearing shorts this summer. That's a big step!

24. Instrumental music makes me sooo happy. Like this one: 

Sunday, July 19, 2015

Gratitude List #4

  • Simple pleasures such as coffee time before work or watching Frasier with my parents.
  • Beautiful soundtracks, like that of Pride & Prejudice.
  • Cool mornings in the midst of this crazy heat! 
  • Air conditioning.
  • The random rainstorms that accompany summer.

Friday, July 17, 2015

101 Things // Numbers #77 and #82

One of the things on my 101 in 1,001 days list was to see a play. I was soo excited to mark this one off by attending the Alabama Shakespeare Festival's production of Disney's the Little Mermaid. Another thing on my list was to visit an art gallery and luckily for me, the Montgomery Museum of Art is right beside the Shakespeare Festival! 

My friend, Sarah, and I packed a lunch of fresh tomato sandwiches and had a picnic outside the museum. It was ridiculously hot but our bench overlooked the water, so we still enjoyed our lunch. After finishing our picnic, we headed into the (thankfully) air conditioned museum and enjoyed some very interesting pieces of art. The art museum is free and offers many different types of art to appreciate.

Isn't the festival building absolutely stunning? I'm a sucker for pretty architecture and it was certainly not lacking in this place. To the right of the building is a lovely little garden in which I'd love to read. Or live. 

Unfortunately, taking photos during the play is frowned upon. In fact, they won't allow it. But that allows you to focus all of your attention to the production instead of trying to get 1,000 photos. The play was amazing! The acting/singing was superb, the orchestra was fantastic, and the costumes were beautiful. I definitely wouldn't mind seeing it again! The ASF is set to perform Cinderella and Disney's Beauty and the Beast next season and you can bet I will be buying tickets. I always forget how much I love going to plays until I go to one. I'm definitely going to start making this a tradition.

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Thursday, July 16, 2015

Blueberry Cream Cheese Streusel Cake

This recipe is divided into 3 sections that are all combined before baking to create the delicious masterpiece. 

Streusel Topping
1/3 cup of flour
1/3 cup of sugar
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 cup of unsalted butter

Cream Cheese Filling
8 ounces of softened cream cheese
1/4 cup of sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 tablespoon flour
1 egg

1 cup of flour
1/2 cup of sugar
1/4 cup of softened butter
1 egg
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/3 cup of milk
1 cup of fresh blueberries

1. Preheat oven to 350. Spray cake pan with nonstick cooking spray.

2. Combine streusel ingredients in a bowl. Mix with a pastry blender or fork until mixture is crumb like and set aside.

3. Combine cream cheese filling ingredients in another bowl. Mix with an electric mixer until ingredients are soft and smooth and set aside.

4. Combine all cake ingredients except for berries with an electric mixer. Mix until well blended and smooth.

5. Evenly distribute the cake batter into the cake pan.

6. Add the cream cheese filling on top of the batter.

7. Scatter the blueberries on the cream cheese filling.

8. Top the cake with the streusel crumbs.

9. Bake for 1 hour.

The list of ingredients looks scary because it's quite long, but the assembly is actually very easy. This makes a delicious breakfast cake that goes perfectly with a cup of coffee.

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Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Things I Learned // From my Sister

My sister and I are 2 and 1/2 years apart. We were inseparable growing up and honestly, her moving 13 hours away is one of the hardest things I've gone through in my adult life. But I'm soo thankful that she found such a great husband, who has seriously become my brother. I just wish they could live a little closer. Like, my backyard would be acceptable. ;) Even though she isn't that much older than me, she has taught me many, many things.
...never let what other people think bother you. You are here to live your own life and to be YOU. Don't let anybody else ruin your day and/or life.'s okay to be a nerd. Embrace the lifestyle of a Whovian. Cosplay when necessary.

...don't be afraid to share your talents. She can sing and play guitar like nobody's business. I, on the other hand, cannot. But I've learned that I'm passionate about photography and cooking. If it weren't for her persistence that I discover my own hobbies, I don't think I would have even cared. I probably would have been content with just watching Netlix in all of my free time. But now I love them and they are an integral part of my life! can transform yourself. She lost 65 pounds by completely changing her diet and radically changing her fitness routine. She really inspired me to make fitness and nutrition an important part of my own life.

...correct grammar is everything. If your grammar is improper, just ...don't...even...

...don't allow yourself to get in credit card debt. Wish I had listened to this advice sooner...

...never be too scared to go after your dreams. Whether it's completing a degree or entering a modeling contest, she has always 100% supported me. Even when nobody else did!

...there is nothing wrong with being pale. It's beautiful. Embrace your skin color!

...don't say "yes" to something you don't want to do. Being a people pleaser isn't something to aspire to be.

...always set goals for yourself. And make sure to list them. Lists are critical to a happy life. something that scares you every once and a while. Live on the edge. As they say, YOLO. Like the time she got a pixie
I love you, sissy! 

Monday, July 13, 2015

50 Questions to Free the Mind

I'm sure many of you have wondered why I've posted so frequently this week. Truth is, one of my 101 things in 1001 Days was to post 7 days in a row. This is day 7, so .

Another thing on my 101 Things in 1001 Days list, is a link to answer the 50 Questions to Free the Mind. I finally finished these questions and decided to share them. There are quite a few of them, 50 to be exact, heh, so it's a bit wordy. Don't say I didn't warn you! But here they are. Kudos to anyone who actually takes the time to read any of these!
1. How old would you be if you didn’t know how old you are? I would likely be a LOT older than 23. I’m going to pick a random number and say 48. I have an old soul. I feel a lot older than I am and I find it much easier to talk to people that are older than myself. Perhaps it is the fact that I was homeschooled and most of my contacts were the elderly women in my mom’s Sunday school class. Regardless, I feel much more comfortable with people who are older and wiser than myself. I also feel a strong attachment to old books, old movies, and old music. I can be found listening to Frank Sinatra while reading Jane Austen and drinking a cup of coffee. And then heading to bed at 9pm. How many normal 23 year olds have days like this?
2. Which is worse, failing or never trying? I feel like the “correct” answer to this question is never trying, but I have to admit- failure sucks. Big time. But you know what? Success is really amazing. So, yes. Failure sucks. But if you fail, at least you did try. Never trying doesn’t even offer the possibility of success. So by all means, try, little duck! TRY!
3. If life is so short, why do we do so many things we don’t like and like so many things we don’t do? I think one of the cruelest parts of life is the fact that when you are mature enough to pursue your passions, life throws responsibilities at you. We spend a heck of a lot of time pursuing things that are just expected of us, more than things that we want to do. That’s why I think it’s really important to discover your hobbies and make time for them.
But sometimes things really are only good in small doses. Sometimes, I think the reason things are so wonderful to us is simply because they are rare.
4. When it’s all said and done, will you have said more than you’ve done? Honestly, yes, I think I will have said more than I have done. Talk is cheap. 
5. What is the one thing you’d most like to change about the world?I wish the world was a more loving place. Life is short and it passes so quickly. Why do we waste so much time being angry?
I wish fear didn’t have to exist. 
I wish society was more accepting of cat people. I mean, dogs are cool too…but what’s with all the hate towards felines?
6. If happiness was the national currency, what kind of work would make you richHugs. Okay, that’s lame. But seriously, my absolute favorite part of my job is when people tell me that my kindness made their visit to the doctor better. I’m definitely not passionate about being an x-ray tech (at all…like seriously…at ALL), but I LOVE being nice to people.
In a perfect world, I could have a job helping people and I’d be outside in the environment and then have time off to write about my experiences on my *extremely* popular blog. And I’d take so many epic photos to share. 
7. Are you doing what you believe in, or are you settling for what you are doing?Oh no…I don’t like this question. I’m definitely settling for what I’m doing at this point. But why is it so hard to determine what you love or what you want out of life? I’m not at the point where I know “what I want to do”. For now I’m pretty content with settling during my work week and devoting my 7 days off to the things I actually love and enjoy.

Sunday, July 12, 2015

Things I Learned // From my Mama

I was homeschooled all the way until 9th grade, so I am blessed to have always had a very close relationship with my mom. She has taught me sooo many things, it's hard to pinpoint just a few. But 
here are some important lessons she taught me. 

...a smile is worth a lot. Always smile; smile to your friends, your enemies, and to complete strangers. Never underestimate the power of a smile.

...wait on the Lord. His plan is different from ours', but He definitely knows what is best for us. HE created us. Do we really think He doesn't have a plan? your gut. If something doesn't feel right, it probably isn't. 

...everyone should be treated the same. You should treat every single person you meet with the same amount of kindness. You never know what someone is going through or how you can impact their lives. content with the here and now. Live in today and be happy there! Learn to appreciate what you have. can never say "I love you" enough. There are times when this gets on my nerves, not going to lie. Every time I go to bed, every time I leave the house, everytime we hang up the telephone, it even seems like when I check the mailbox she says "I love you!". But as cliche as it is, wouldn't you rather say it too much than not enough?

...always be on time. Or two hours early. I definitely get my punctuality from her!

...prayer and reading the Word are vital to a walk with God. Always keep in touch with God through His Word and talking to Him. 

...always check out the clearance first. I can probably count on one hand how many times I've bought a clothing item at full price. appreciation. Never forget to say "Thank you" when someone does something kind for you or helps you out. 
Since the last one was show appreciation, this post is to say thank you to my wonderful mother! Love you more than words can say, Mama!

Saturday, July 11, 2015

Infused Water: The Benefits and My Favorites

I have no doubts you've heard about the Infused Water craze that's all over Pinterest and many health sites right now. I wasn't too sure about it, but I'm always looking for ways to help me consume more water. So I purchased myself this nifty bottle on Amazon. After my purchase, I was excited to start trying different "recipes". I put that word in quotation marks because cutting up fruit and pouring water over it is hardly a recipe, but I digress. The first one I tried was just watermelon. It was meh. Then I moved on to pineapple. It was awful. I ended up eating the pineapple out of the tube and dumping the water. Needless to say, I was discouraged. 

After about a week of drinking sweet tea and sodas again, I decided it was time to give the bottle another try. This time I did a combo of lemon and strawberry. My first success! This combination is fantastic. It's basically a sugarless strawberry lemondade, which doesn't sound appealing, but it's actually very good!

I have done just plain lemon water for several days and I love it. It's citrus-y kick has been a fantastic morning drink and I have noticed many good benefits from this infusion. 

My favorite fruits and combinations are:
Strawberry Lemon
Blueberry Orange
Lemon Orange

An important tip: Make sure you shake your bottle for best results! 

So what are some benefits of drinking infused water? 
  • You'll drink more water! I can drink 4 of my bottles (20oz) by dinner, fairly easily. I have always struggled with drinking my daily amount, but I find it's much easier when I'm excited to try a new flavor.
  • It is thought to treat headaches. A lot of headaches are caused by dehydration, so it may be the water alone that is treating it. But I have a lot of headaches and since I started drinking infused water, they have just stopped. In fact, I woke up with a headache and 1/3 of the bottle of lemon water stopped the headache. (An article about headaches and water can be read here.)
  • Increased energy level. Lemon water is especially good for this, so I drink a bottle when I first wake up every morning. 
  • Improved mood. Seriously. I can tell a big difference in my day when I drink infused water.
  • Nutrients from the fruit are, for lack of a better term, infused into the water. 
  • It is said infused water can aid in weight loss. 
There are different benefits with different fruit. If you are looking for a specific benefit, do some research and see which fruits are best to attain results!

And obviously, all the fantastic benefits of drinking water apply to this too.

So, are you ready to jump on the infused water train? What combinations have you tried or are you excited to try? Personally, I want to try some lime in my water. I just haven't gotten around to it yet. There are sooo many options out there!

Friday, July 10, 2015

Insane Inflatable 5k

Wow, I cannot believe I didn't blog about this experience! I am, at times, a horrible blogger. This 5k took place in April of this year in Tuscaloosa, home to the University of Alabama (Roll tide, by the way.) Anyways. Have you heard of the Insane Inflatable Run? If not, it's basically an easier, less intimidating, inflatable version of Wipe Out. Kind of. It's a series of inflatable obstacles set up a certain distance apart, all to equal the length of a 5k. (3.10 miles, iffen you don't know.)

The race was a blast. I learned that my arms were stronger than I thought, by having to literally hoist myself over a huge obstacle with only a rope. AND I only fell once, so that's pretty impressive. You may judge, but it had been raining and this was on a farm. There was mud everywhere. On second thought, seeing as this was a farm, I sure hope it was mud...ew. But anyways, the obstacles were extra slippery and dirty. 
My friend, Krystle, and I wore our matching Michael Scott's Dunder Mifflin Scranton Meredith Palmer Memorial Celebrity Rabies Awareness Pro-Am Fun Run Race For The Cure shirts and had ourselves a great time. We were laughing the entire distance and not just by ourselves, but with complete strangers! I guess there's nothing like almost stepping on a total stranger on a giant trampoline to bring people together.
If you are scared of running, are a beginner, or have never done anything like this: I highly recommend you participate in a fun run! There is nothing like it and nothing that comes close to the fun from this kind of event. I'm already registered for my next one: a foam run. I'm slightly more afraid of this one because I have this strong feeling I may fall. A lot. Check out what fun runs are coming to your area and sign up! I bet you won't be disappointed. You'll have a great time, maybe make a friend or two, and you can say you did a 5k. ;) By the way, a fun run was also on my 101 list.
And I leave you with this, horribly awkward professional photo of me and a stranger from the race. 

Thursday, July 9, 2015

Gratitude List #3

Again, it's been much longer than I meant since I posted my last gratitude list. Hey, at least it wasn't a year this time. Here are my top 5 things I'm thankful for this week.
  • Rainy days.
  • Sharp knives. This isn't morbid! They are a kitchen requirement, thank you very much.
  • The fresh fruit that summer brings.
  • The longer days that summer that also come with summer.
  • Quiet time with the Lord.
What are you thankful for this week?

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Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Recipes Tried This Week

This week I spent a majority of my time in the kitchen. Here are some recipes I tried that turned out really well and I wanted to share with you guys! 
One Pot Cheeseburger Casserole (I substituted penne pasta because we didn't have rotini, and I topped with dill pickles.)

Pizza with homemade dough and pizza sauce. Topped with mozzerella and provolone cheeses, mushrooms, banana peppers, bell peppers, onion, and of course...bacon. The dough makes enough for at least 2 pizzas and the sauce makes a TON of sauce. I have a jar full of it leftover, though I'm pretty light with sauce.

The things I forgot to photograph:
Garlic Chicken (Really easy and tasty recipe!)
Baked Flounder (This was fantastic! Definitely will do this again soon.)

Some of these were far from healthy, but they were all very tasty! What recipes have you guys been trying lately?
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Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Currently : July

watching...Cheers on Netflix. It took several episodes but I'm pretty hooked now.
reading... The 18 Rules of Happiness by Karl Moore. This book is only $0.99 for the Kindle edition and it's been full of good advice so far.
listening...currently my phone is playing Laughter Lines by Bastille. 
feeling...Good! It's been a productive week full of trying new recipes and making goals for the month.
wanting...I'm content at the moment, although I wouldn't complain if someone brought me some fresh potatoes. Haha.
loving...the concept of minimalism. I've been toying with the idea of this lifestyle for a while and I'm thinking I'm ready to work towards it. It always makes me think of Bare Necessities. Have any of you tried the minimalist lifestyle out?
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