Tuesday, January 28, 2014

A lovely find: Laura Dro Designs

Recently I stumbled across a fun artist on Instagram, Laura Dro. I immediately had to scope out what she had to offer and I'm in love with what I have found!!

Laura offers paintings on canvas, ranging from $400-$600, which, I think is a great price for a gorgeous pop of color and original artwork! If you're not in the market to purchase art, don't worry! Prints range from only $20-$100! I think these would be so pretty in any home that isn't afraid of some bright beachy color. 

If you're like me, though, and your wallspace is (sadly) already filled and limited (at this time!), Laura also has a cute shop over on Society 6! Here she offers adorable pillow covers, coffee mugs, more prints,  even iPod cases, stationery and more! I LOVE the lucite trays, too. I think any of these would make for adorable Valentine's Day gifts (wink, wink!)! 

I always love finding lovely things to share. Laura Dro is definitely on my radar and clearly inspiring me to make my goal of picking up a paintbrush happen!! 

Hopefully this makes your freezing cold Tuesday a little brighter.

Friday, January 24, 2014

Sausage & Kale Stew

Steven and I have a Saturday/Sunday morning tradition: wake up and watch the Cooking Channel & Food Network. Not both at once, but we flip flop between shows. Saturday we were watching Giada and she made this yummy sounding stew with chicken sausage and kale. I was intrigued. We made it last night and I told my insta-g frands that I'd share the recipe! It was so good, especially since the temps were in the 20's yesterday and the wind was miserable. Here's what you need:

Vegetable oil cooking spray
2 Tbs. EVOO
2 medium fennel bulbs, outer layers removed, chopped (we used 1 large one)
1 medium onion, chopped
1 1/2 tsp. kosher salt
1/2 tsp. red pepper flakes
One 28 oz. can of diced tomatoes
One 15 oz. can of cannellini beans
One 10-oz bunch of kale, center rib removed, leaves chopped
1 cup low-sodium chicken broth
4 turkey or chicken italian sausage links (we used turkey sausage-hot!--NOT the pre-cooked chicken sausage kind. Gross!)

Place an oven rack in the center of the oven. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Spray a grill pan with vegetable oil cooking spray.

In a Dutch oven, heat the oil over medium-high heat. Add the fennel, onion, 1 teaspoon of the salt and the red pepper flakes. Cook, stirring constantly, until the vegetables are soft, about 5 minutes. Add the tomatoes (plus juices), beans, kale and broth. Bring the mixture to a boil. Cover the pan with a tight fitting lid and transfer to the oven. Cook until the vegetables are tender and the kale has wilted, 25 to 30 minutes.
While the stew is cooking, place a grill pan over medium-high heat or preheat a gas or charcoal grill. Add the sausages and grill, turning occasionally, until cooked through, about 20 minutes. Cool and cut into 1/2-inch-thick slices.
Remove the pan from the oven and add the cooked sausage slices. Season with the remaining 1/2 teaspoon of salt. Spoon the stew into bowls and serve.

We sprinkled with a little parmesean cheese and it was yummy! It came out a bit spicy with a bite. Sort of like an italian chili, I would imagine. 
My leftovers are calling my name today.


Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Escaping Winter

I don't know about you, but we're getting the heck out of the cold as soon as possible! As mentioned before, one of my goals this year is to take a Caribbean Vacation. We have so much to celebrate this year! My dad is turning 60, I'm turning the big 3-0, and then April will be mine & Steven's 5th anniversary of dating AND our 3rd wedding anniversary. Plus my parents' anniversary is in May! The four of us are heading south. Hooray!! Well, we've decided where (Ocho Rios, JAMAICA!) and we've booked our trip for March! We searched high and low for an affordable place with a wonderful value. A few things we considered? Geography, culture, and an all inclusive (adults only) resort with a couple of excursions/water sports. The fact that our resort looks SO palm beachy is just an added bonus to me! Each balcony has a pink cabana striped day bed. LOVE! 

From Amarillo, TX, getting to the islands is no easy feat. Mexico (Yucatan Peninsula area) is the easiest (and in all reality-the best value you can get out of a sunny vacation right now this early in the year), but we've been there. We were hoping to see more lush grounds, mountains, and greenery this time around. All of the St. Somethings I had at the top of my list were simply too far away & too expensive. We considered St. Thomas, but it's lacking the culture aspect. We almost booked Puerto Rico, but San Juan seemed a little overwhelming with things to do, so we were afraid we wouldn't just relax! So, after much research, we decided on Jamaica! I think the culture seems fun with the reggae music and steel drum bands and jerk chicken! Then it came down to which part of Jamaica (Negril looks AMAZING), but the resort we wanted was already booked, SO! Ocho Rios, here we come! Actually, Orlando, here we come and then Ocho Rios! We are taking two extra nights (one there and one coming back) to accommodate an easier flight schedule. #amarilloproblems!

You can bet I'm keeping my eyes peeled for some resort items to pack! Lord knows I love to pack accordingly. I came up with a little guide below. 

Flowy shorts and an eyelet tank are cute items that can just be easily carried into the summer. Unlike that banana leaf tank, they aren't too tropical looking, but I do love the flamingo print on the shorts (from Asos). I love the black and white striped sun hat! This will easily pack up and match several things. I snatched up this Southern Frock maxi at Lilly Finch, on super sale right now. I probably can't get away with wearing it anywhere in Texas, so I'm happy it was a steal!! I've been debating getting a caftan or a tunic, but actually, I found this Roberta Roller Rabbit sarong and I just love it! Paired with the leafy tropical swimsuit or with a solid bikini, I think it'll look so cute! Jack Rogers are a must. I've had the wedges on my wish list for about three years, and I just bit the bullet because I found them on sale at Amazon :) Aren't those beach pants fun?! Forever 21, y'all. Add to Cart! Karen Walker sunnies, fun thongs, and a monogram tote are  birthday presents to myself fun extras!  

Have you been to Jamaica, mon?!


Friday, January 17, 2014

Friday Frills: Cozy Chic

We are in the thick of winter, but luckily it's been a mild-ish one so far. I'm still keeping in mind that it wasn't until last March that we had the blizzard, so I'm trying to cultivate cozy outfits (from my own closet) and I'm dreaming of modern interiors with fabulous fireplaces. While the modern chic look hasn't been my past style, I love it so. Typically I'm a bit more classic with a twist, but I couldn't help but dream of being somewhere really snowy, curled up with my hubs, sipping hot cocoa...


Wednesday, January 15, 2014

A Bathroom fit for a princess!

My client snapped this quick update for me last week and I literally squeeled when I saw it! I helped design this bathroom for her little girl in their vacation home in Boulder. That pink chandy is everything for a sweet little one, no? I'm so happy with the subway tile & the penny tile floor. Even more excited to see the master bath and all the fabulous marble!
I cannot wait to accessorize this bathroom, or the rest of the house for that matter. Hopefully Steven and I will be heading up there very soon to see things in person! 

I'll be back at blogging more, I promise!

I think this was just the inspiration I needed :)


Monday, January 6, 2014

Things are gettin' weird.

Last week I shared my 2014 goals with y'all. I must say, the first weekend of the new year was off to a productive start! I'm quite proud of us. We were finally on the mend, so we dechristmassed our house, we cleaned, and we set up a new system for some of our disorganized paper areas. We also went to church, I volunteered at the Art Museum, and we attended Financial Peace University, we had a budget meeting, and we talked ALOT about this upcoming year. Who are we???? I went to bed last night feeling rather accomplished in some areas that had kind of been neglected for far too long. Yay, 2014! 

So what's FPU? I highly encourage it. We took it the first time before we got married, back in 2010 and we've pushed our way through babysteps 1-4 ( babystep 1- $1000 emergency fund, 2- pay off debt, 3- save up to a fully funded emergency fund of 3-6 months of expenses, 4- contribute to long term savings/investments (IRA/retirement), 5 -save for kid's college-NA!, 6-pay down your mortgage early, and babystep 7- build wealth & give!) My friends Emily & Nancy also have wonderful insight to financials, too. They're definitely inspiring and encouraging! So ...Steven and I are sort of in a state of reassessing our habits and such. Last year we sort of just did whatever we wanted ("within the budget"), and we were alright, but we spun a bit out of control with our spending habits and adventuring. We're about to change in a bit of a radical way because we have some goals in mind for 2014. One is, as mentioned, take a carribbean vacation---let me hear your recommendations! Another would be to save up for a car, sooner rather than later. And personally, mine is to invest what I make back into myself professionally. In doing so, we're cutting back on our monthly spending to the extreme and things are gonna get weird. You'll hear us say "NO"! Our adventures will pale in comparison to last year! (aka, my instagram feed will be filled up with Finley. Apologies in advance). We will be getting creative in terms of date nights & fun. We will definitly feel more poor than the past few months. I will certainly get frustrated, but I just have to keep the beach on my mind as motivation. TOES IN THE SAND. 
How are we going to do it?

Going back to the basics, the budget is the biggest priority. Tithing will be happening-probably the biggest adjustment in our budget from this last year. 10% YIKES! Saving will be continuing. I'll be avoiding TJ Maxx, avoiding shopping emails sites (though-I do have a couple of gift cards to use-so THAT will be some relief!), and I'll be in check with Steven. I just discovered unroll.me --DO IT. What a cool tool for decluttering your inbox! Avoid the temptation, friends. I'll also just be filling my time with GOOD things. Designing, volunteering, and maybe even a book or two. Perhaps even painting.

I find that if I'm more focused, I just won't spend much money. And this isn't about stopping the shopping altogether. I see no problem in getting the occasional pair of cute shoes or whatever. Gosh, especially when on sale and in my size. #tinyfeetproblems This is just about prioritizing for a fresh new year. Amen to that. 
How are you reaching your goals for 2014?


Thursday, January 2, 2014

2014 Goals!

Pigeon Point, California

 Hello, friends!! I hope you all had a Merry holiday season. Ours was fantastic. We spent about 9 days in North Carolina, getting to visit families & friends. We were so grateful for each visit, though, they were all too short! I neglected my place here before the trip as holiday festivities and shopping were in full swing, and in coming back, Steven and I both caught nasty colds after a day long flight delay & spending entirely too much time at Raleigh-Durham International & on planerides. We barely stayed up to ring in the new year, cozied up on our couch! (And we were still on east coast time, so we celebrated at 11 in Amarillo-ha!)
I will say, while having the crud sucks, sick days force you to rest and reflect a little. I ignored the suitcases and Christmas decor in order to think about setting goals for 2014 and looking back at what didn't work in 2013 and also what did work. 

I set some pretty lofty goals for myself in 2013. Some were WAY too specific, but I think in each area, I will try a little harder to improve. We had a VERY busy year as far as traveling (Santa Fe a few times, Albuquerque, North Carolina three times, California twice, Denver twice, Austin, Fort Worth, Oklahoma City, and Lubbock were all trips that we took! Not to mention, we moved into this house last November and we hosted my family for 10 days and Steven's mom/sister/our nephew for 10 days--whew!), socializing with new friends, and joining various causes. I think immersing into a new place is important, and we certainly made a big effort to do so, but we lost sight of a few things along the way. The transition to living in Amarillo for both of us has been tough, so staying busy/out of the house seemed really important to me. It's a small city that really hasn't really progressed in the way say, Raleigh or Austin has. Not a ton to do here, unless it's a dinner/event/fundraiser that costs $$. The local restaurant scene is minimal and the weather is extreme! The people have been wonderful, though. I think that's the saving grace for us here. We sort of find ourselves wishing we were back east or in a large city all too often. But, we're here and we have resolutions that will help us cultivate a happy life wherever we are in a better way than we did this past year. Everything has been a learning curve.

A few things that didn't work:
I rarely woke up very early and did any sort of devotional or journal exercise or blogging. Working out was hit or miss. In the last half of the year, I did start going to the gym because I found one I love, but between Thanksgiving/Christmas/being sick, I've fallen off the wagon a little. Luckily, I'm excited to get back on because the classes are something that I enjoy (TRX, barre, and metabolic/circuit training)! I'll work on those goals after I talk a little more with Suzi, who is a personal trainer. I'd feel really good about going 3-4 days a week, which I had started to do. 

Working part time. It's really hard for me to admit that because, I really didn't like my old 8-5 job back in NC. I worked in insurance. Enough said! You couldn't pay me to go back to it, but I need something more fulfilling than retail. Having a part time schedule has allotted almost too much free time in my daily routine. Though, I was able to meet some great friends through retail. I'm somewhat of a mix of a type A & B person, so it takes a bit of hardcore self discipline for me to get things done, and when I don't have a job that I have to be at or a huge project on my hands, I, sadly default to waking up leisurely, working out sometimes, watching tv, and getting sucked into social media/pinterest--Which is totally OK, but not every single day. I also keep up with our house (with some help from Steven!). In some of this boredom, I start to miss my family/friends and find reasons to socialize like a socialite with new people in town. I'm giving myself a little bit of grace here, because, this last year was a huge transition and I've been putting efforts out to find my way.  In exciting news, though, I was hired on two design projects and recently I accepted a position with a residential developer to be an in-house designer!!! Hooray!!! My biggest realization this past year was, in most part, was that I didn't quite feel confident enough to "start a business" and put myself out there as a designer....yet. I need experience first. I think forming a brand and better blog needs to go hand in hand with a business, but maybe now I'm on the right track. I think financially, since I'll have a little more leeway with the new job, more money can go back into this arena. I'd love to attend another conference (Pursue looks awesome) and I wanted to sign up for Authenticate with Whitney English, but I feel like these opportunities popped up right around/after Chrstimastime and it's just not happening in the budget.  What I can do more of, which is a bit more cost effective, is to remain in contact with my design friends from Blissdom (Whitney, Chrissi Shields, Holly Mathis, Jana Hunter) who all get this blog world/entrepreneurship arena that I find myself getting into). I can also try my hand at Wecora boards and networking with designers. I'll have to work my way up into affording those extra opportunities. 
Perhaps, I'll plan ahead better for later this year and 2015!
Our trip to Williams Selyem Vineyard,  Healdsburg, CA

 Traveling took a front seat for us because it's important to Steven and I to carve out experiences and to explore new places. In 2014 we're heading to the Caribbean with my parents (!!!) to celebrate the big 30 & 5 years of dating/3 years of marriage and my dad's 60th!!! I'm so pumped.  Other than that, we're hoping to sort of chill out a bit in this area, though, a part of me has a "why wait" mentality. I'm grateful we can just up and go! Though, I'd really like to get a few things done around our house that we ignored in the past year (painting our walls, the bathroom, and finishing our den-I just need a rug and a mirror!). We also want to make a better effort to really enjoy Amarillo, and try to not be bored here. Traveling is fun, but it's exhausting. Between getting the house spotless/packing/running errands before any trip and then the laundry/unpacking/errands after a trip, it seems like it takes me a couple of days to get back into the swing of things. And that was constantly happening this year. Also, our trips in this past year were long ones. For me, I traveled sometimes before or after Steven because I could do so.

Health-wise, a few things worked! I checked many things off of my list from last year, but one big consistent challenge was cooking. We did cook A TON, but we also dined out A TON. Mainly because of travel. I think when we did cook, we made a valid effort to cook healthy, though. We tried quinoa and whole grains and some super foods and we attempted the Whole 30 (though, I wouldn't recommend it). But, more importantly, we really try to make our meals balanced and we have been sticking to the clean eating plan on e-meals. I tend to not snack, but I could probably attempt to eat more fruit/veggies during the day and I think we could be better about planning lunch when there are no leftovers. I also don't like realizing how much $$ was spent on dining out. We both need to budget a bit better!

In the finance & life arena, we checked off several things as well. What worked? I did make an effort to shop smarter. I really scaled back shopping for clothes & when I did shop, I looked for smart pieces. I'm officially a registered Texan. We've been saving for a new car and we've focused on giving a bit more, in addition to volunteering our time. In the realm of technology-my computer got fixed and I upgraded my phone. We haven't joined a church, but we did find a small group that we are going to try out and we did find a church that we enjoy occasionally when we are in town. 

I was quite disappointed about things in the creative area of my goals. I really didn't focus on much of this. I got busy with working part time & design projects and volunteering and I lacked the motivation. Though I got my computer fixed, it runs a bit slowly so I haven't upgraded to photoshop or anything like that. It makes designing room boards difficult! This year, I may see what I can do about getting it wiped again to start fresh. While I love painting, I didn't pick up a paint brush once. I didn't feel like I had the space to get messy in our house! I'm going to push through with keeping these things in mind, but it may require more weekends at home, actually!
Don't you wish the new year wasn't so cold? Warmer weather, in my opinion, would make for a more motivating fresh start!!

For 2014, I'll be keeping many of last year's goals in mind, but my focus is going to be simple. 

I love the Day Designer that I got for Christmas! My Better Life Bag is the perfect tote for it--amazing company!

Be selfish, in a good way. THIS IS SO HARD FOR ME!
 In the realm of design, creativity, blogging, working out, and down time, I pretty much want the focus to be intentional. I think with an actual job and experience in the future, I will be more pleased and excited, rather than feeling isolated with all my ideas. I feel different than last year and maybe a year of coasting was the right motivation I needed to make this a priority--even above many things that make me happy (being a people pleaser, entertaining, shopping, & Netflix with Steven)

Be encouraging.
Especially in marriage & friendships. This past year in living 1200 miles away from those I love most (aside from Steven), I've learned to really appreciate my time with my family and friends. Though, in filling the void of missing them, I'm choosing to focus on being a better wife and better self, rather than be so "busy" for the sake of being busy. Marriage is such a great gift, and we do things to connect ( weekly date night & cooking together at home), but quality time isn't watching tv together or playing candy crush together--it's talking, getting out of the house, making valuable friendships, and giving back together. We need more of all that and a little less boredom when we're in town together. My goal is to encourage that with Steven & encourage stronger relationships with my family & girlfriends who mean the world to me, new and old.

 Get on the ball financially. 
Contribute more, spend less, attend FPU again-we're signed up to start Sunday!, give more, and feel more peaceful about our habits in general. I was not so much involved in our budget this year. Something that worked- The Southwest credit card. We saved a couple thousand dollars in flights, which was amazing! Something that didn't work? The Southwest credit card. Lord knows, I don't write down my budget/spending, and I'm not sure I even know the password to check our banking online (gasp!)--so for me, this is a huge area that needs improvement. It's hard for me to get "into" co-managing this. We were sort of all over the map in the world of finance, but Steven keeps me on track and I'm aware enough to not screw up terribly. Thankfully, we weren't in debt (other than the house) and we've built our savings up, but in the world of monthly budgets, yikes! Finn will set us straight! 

So, in January, what does that mean? I have a few goals that we'll hopefully knock out to get the ball rolling:
1-  attend Financial Peace University 
2- participate in gym classes 3-4 times/week
3- plan a couple of dates with Steven
4- set the alarm earlier than usual
5- try out a small group 
6- make plans to attend the symphony ball!
7- volunteer one evening/saturday at some point this month
8- start my new job & design, design, design!
9- head up a project for the Art museum. We're sending out "Hearts for Art", in hopes to raise scholarship money for kids who can't afford to attend art related camps/programs in Amarillo.  

There you have it, friends! Link up with your goals and recaps of this past year if you have any.