Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Keep that summer glow all winter long!

Good morning lovelies!  One thing I've read on a lot of the blogs I follow lately is how to transition your wardrobe from Summer to Fall.  I'm loving all the tips, because as we know, I'm somewhat fashion challenged.  Today, though, I want to go in a slightly different direction.

I was blessed with my mother's (and her mother's, and her mother's) Irish skin.  It's pale, it's really dry but also oily in places, I have patches of what I call "chicken skin" - tiny raised red bumps on my arms and legs...I also have perpetually rosy cheeks, which is probably a mild form of rosacea.  I am covered in moles, several which have been deemed 'precancerous' and have had to be removed, thus leaving me with some gnarly scars, thanks to a tendency toward keloids.  I'm also mildly allergic to the sun (I break out in hives with too much exposure).  Let's just say I'm incredibly blessed when it comes to my skin.

rock that sunhat, gurl.
ironically...this is the day that I got one of the worst sunburns of my life.  i was methodically applying and reapplying sunscreen every 30 mins, but apparently missed a spot.  it was more than 3 years ago and i still have the 'tan line' .
All that being said, I have come to accept and embrace a lot of those...shall we say...quirks, as part of who I am.  And I'm learning to work with them and tailor my beauty routine around it all instead of trying to fight it.  In the past, I tried tanning.  That's no longer an option because...hives.  and cancer.  I rock some SPF 50 all day erry day.  For my wedding I did a spray tan, but that can get expensive and time consuming to try and keep up.  I've tried self-tanners, tinted moisturizers...the works - but if you know anything about me, it's that I'm completely uncoordinated and I always end up streaky and with orange hands.  With time, I've actually come to love my pale skin (at least from the waist legs are still pretty scary and see-through pale, which is why I tend to keep them covered when I can).  Plus, if you'll remember from a friday 5 post many moons ago, red lipstick looks totally fab on my light skin and dark brown hair (just call me snow white, y'all)!

So when I was approached about doing this post about keeping that summer 'glow' through the fall, I was initially hesitant.  I'm not sun-kissed by any stretch of the means.  And my rosy red cheeks negate the need for blush or bronzer.  In fact, I tend to avoid much makeup on my face, because it makes my skin look more dry (not that I haven't experimented).
this is how you contour...right?
But I quickly realized, glow doesn't necessarily equal color.  A glow can be natural.  And in learning how to love and care for my skin type, I learned the products that help give my skin a healthy, natural 'glow', all year round.  Especially as the weather cools down and the air gets dryer, I have had to learn how to adapt my skin care routine in order to keep my pretty porcelain face looking on point.  The key to that?  MOISTURE!  I can't stress enough how important proper moisturizing is to great skin.  For me, proper moisturizing involves 3 steps.

Step 1: Hydrate!

1. 24 oz Tervis Tumbler | 2. Fruit Infuser Water Bottle | 3. Propel Water | 4. Water with Lemon
Drink ALL the water.  Good skin, great health, it all starts on the inside.  I'm the first to admit I'm a little bit of a tea junkie.  And I've recently found an affinity for iced coffee.  The problem is that the caffeine in those drinks is SO dehydrating.  So you have to drink more than the recommended 8 glasses of water per day to make up for it.  One way I do that is to keep my Detroit Tigers 24 Oz Tervis Tumbler at my desk and keep it full all day.  This results in several trips to the rest room, but keeps me nice and hydrated.  I try to refill it at least 3 times a day to get all my recommended water.  Bonus?  I get to show my home town pride!  I know what you're thinking though - water is so BORING,  Frankly, I don't share those sentiments.  I love water. But ok, I can work with that.  Spice up your water with a little bit of flavor.  One way I do that is with an infuser.  I throw some of my favorite fruits into my infuser and I get my water with some delicious extra flavor.  There are other health benefits to drinking infused waters when you are mindful of your fruit combinations.  Here are some healthy fruits and their benefits -
Lemon, Lime, & Cucumber: Hydration, Digestion, & Appetite Control
Lemon, Lime, & Orange: Immune Defense, Digestion, & Heartburn
Cucumber, Strawberry, & Kiwi: Blood Sugar Support & Digestion
Green Tea, Mint, & Lime: Fat Burning, Digestion, & Headaches
Pretty sweet right?  And all so yummy sounding right now!  Add a capful of Organic Unfiltered Apple Cider Vinegar and get a whole host of other benefits like suppressed appetite, digestive health, lower cholesterol & blood pressure, indigestion prevention, clears sinus drainage, gets rid of dandruff, boosts energy, clears acne, reduces bad breath, reduces nighttime leg cramps, whitens teeth, fades bruises, controls blood sugar, wards off kidney stones...the stuff is my (not-so) secret miracle worker!

Step 2: Exfoliate!

1. St. Ives Apricot Scrub | 2. Perfectly Posh Classic Snarky Bar | 3. Perfectly Posh The Stripper mask | 4. Perfectly Posh I'm Shrinking mask
Exfoliation is key to smooth skin.  Putting lotion on top of dry, flaking skin is going to do a big fat nothing for you.  I have a few exfoliating and pore cleansing/shrinking products that I love, love, love.  The first is nothing so special - just your basic, everyday St. Ives Apricot Scrub.  I love this stuff.  Been using it forever.  It's my daily face wash and it works so great - exfoliating with crushed apricot pit instead of those awful microbeads.  And it's gentle enough to use everyday.  The second is my body exfoliator (skin care doesn't stop at your neck after all).  I can't stop singing the praises of Perfectly Posh's Classic Snarky Bar.  First, the scent is to die for - bergamot, mandarin, freesia, lily, and sandalwood - I can't get enough of it (no for real, I think I own almost every Snarky scented product they make)!  More importantly though - it is the most effective exfoliator I've ever used.  They call it snarky because it's pretty a hurts so good way.  It takes some getting used to, but I've seen a major improvement in my overall skin smoothness and my chicken skin is actually clearing up a little.  This is another everyday product.  The next two I don't use everyday, but more when I'm having some trouble and need a little extra help.  The Stripper is a detoxifying mud mask for your face or body.  It pulls out all the nasty gunk that might have built up.  It's not for overly sensitive skin and has a burning/tingly feeling that lets you know it's working.  Another hurts so good product.  Finally, the I'm Shrinking pore reducing mask.  That's another thing I was blessed with - massive, highly visible pores, that get gunked up pretty easily (another reason why I avoid makeup for the most part).  I use this about  once a week to help keep those bad boys in check.  It's another tingly mask and does leave my face a little red immediately after use, but the results really speak for themselves, so I don't mind. 

Step 3: Moisturize!

1. Clinique Clarifying Lotion | 2. Clinique Dramatically Different Moisturizing Lotion | 3. Perfectly Posh Moisturize 911 | 4. Perfectly Posh Snarky Butter
So, once you've given your skin a healthy foundation by keeping hydrated, and gotten rid of all the junk on the surface, you're ready for the final step - the moisturizer.  I was raised on the Clinique 3-step system (I get the full system every Christmas) and have not found a toner that works better than my level 2 clarifying lotion.  It perfectly preps my skin and opens up my pores just enough to allow the moisturizer in.  I tag team with my moisturizers.  Because the skin on my face is super combination, I have to be very careful about what lotions I use and where.  On my oily spots, I use the Clinique Dramatically Different Moisturizing lotion - a classic, which moisturizes just enough on oily skin so as not to encourage blemishes.  On my dry spots, I use Perfectly Posh's Moisturize 911.  It's a thicker cream that really penetrates the dry skin.  It's also caffeinated to brighten and tighten (I've heard some people tell me that if they use it at night, it keeps them up.  I haven't experienced that, but if you're really susceptible to caffeine, stick to morning applications with this one)!  Finally, for the below the neck moisture, I am addicted to my Perfectly Posh Snarky Butter.  This stuff is AH-MAZING.  It's full of so much good stuff - shea butter, cocoa butter, sunflower seed oil, almond milk, honey - plus it's got the classic snarky scent that I adore.  I've never gone through an entire container of lotion in my life.  I emptied out my first 8 oz tub of Snarky Butter in a matter of months and am into the second.  Addicted.

As I touched on in the Hydrate portion, healthy skin ultimately comes from a healthy YOU.  This post was prompted by ALOHA who aims to "share the breath of life" by making health simple, fun, and accessible.  ALOHA provides different health food products like teas, protein bars, snacks and supplement 'super foods' that help you support your overall nutrition.  Besides being able to shop for their products, ALOHA's website also offers some yummy recipes (and cocktail recipes!) that I am so eager to try - especially since I'm on that new health kick.  Here are some of the ones that I'm ready to make, like yesterday...
Organic Superfood Margarita
Pineapple Punch
Watermelon S'mash Superfood Cocktail
Thin Mint Smoothie (um...yes please!)
Healthy Homemade Frosting
5 Ingredient Chocolate Protein TEE-A (Chia) Pudding
Seriously...don't those look and sound amazing?  And not too difficult to make either, which is key.  Check out ALOHA's recipe page for more ideas for food and drinks that will keep you feeling great - and give you a beautiful *inner* summer glow, all year long!

Until next time friends...

*Disclaimer - All opinions expressed in this post are my own and were not influenced by any of the featured companies.

Monday, September 28, 2015

Miles & Momma Monday

It's been a minute since my last MMM post - one that was really MMM and not vaguely child-related tips - so why not?

This weekend had some prime MM time because my parents (who we are still living with...more about that in a future post) went out of town - so it was like we were living as a family of 3 again.

We started off the weekend with dinner at Red Robin.  I wasn't super hungry, so I planned on doing something a salad.  Then I saw that they had poutine on the menu.  And my light dinner flew out the door.  For those of you reading who are not Canadian, poutine is a dish sent straight from heaven.  It's french fries with gravy and cheese curds.  And it's delicious!  I don't know why it's not a staple in our fat American diet.  Seems like it would fit in nicely.

Anyway, while it wasn't the best poutine I've ever had (that came from Crabby Joe's in Canada and had bbq pork added to it...mmm...I'm in major fat kid mode right Homer Simpson dreaming of donuts), it was really quite delicious.
And of course, because we were at Red Robin, I got the obligatory Freckled Lemonade.  Miles doesn't drink juice yet, but he had no problem commandeering my glass in order to steal ALL of my strawberries.  Little punk.

We also spent a lot of time at our home builder's office/homesite.  There has been zero progress (perhaps even negative progress, depending on how you look at it).  We had a few conversations with a few different people and while they're behind, we at least feel somewhat reassured that it's not too far behind (for now...we'll see if that remains to be the case).
Miles loves going out to the site because it is full of construction trucks, which are his new favorite thing.  My parents bought him a new book Goodnight, Goodnight Construction Site by Sherri Duskey Rinker and now he's obsessed with cement trucks ("ment"), dump trucks ("truck"), excavators, and bulldozers ("boo boo boo").  So each time we went to visit, he got to watch the trucks work a little bit, which he loved.
Because we had such full days this weekend, it also meant that lil man was pretty tuckered out in the evenings (which was fine by me, because so was I, frankly).  He went to bed early every night and he was in prime cuddling mood too, which I thoroughly enjoyed.

The one thing he was not this weekend, was interested in having his picture taken with momma.  So while I attempted to get more than just 2 pictures, I failed miserably.  I did write his name on a styrofoam cup there's that.

My parents came back last night, so now it's back to life as we know it. I have a goal to actually complete 3 blog posts this week.  So stay tuned to see it I can accomplish that....we'll see!
Until next time friends...

Monday, September 21, 2015

My latest hobby - Lettering

I'm a hobby jumper.  I find some new and exciting thing that I am definitely going to do.  And I'm going to get so good at it, I'm definitely going to make a million dollars and be able to quit my job and just live off the success of said hobby.

Recently those hobbies have included metal stamping, graphic design, Jamberry, planning, and my newest obsession - hand lettering.   Lettering isn't quite the passing fad that some of the other things have been - I have been interested and practicing lettering since high school.  It's always something I've been naturally pretty OK at.  I was blessed with (what I think is) good handwriting to begin with it, so it didn't take much to add a little flair to my natural hand.

I took a traditional calligraphy course at a local community college before my wedding so that I could address all my invitations.  I loved it.  It was so much fun and it was awesome to be able to add one more little personal touch to my invites.

Since getting into planning, I've re-discovered the fun of hand lettering though and have started to seriously practice it again (instead of just writing someone's name nicely on a card at their birthday or whatever).  It began with the Llamas Love Lettering video tutorials I found through one of my planner groups (no wait...I found the planner group through the tutorial how did I find the videos?  I honestly can't remember.  Oh well).  She gave some great tips on "faux-ligraphy" and I've been obsessed ever since.  I started following a crap-ton of letterers on instagram and have gone crazy trying to mimic new fonts and styles and find my own 'voice' in the world of calligraphy.  I'm lettering everything lately.  Everytime my kid wants to color or play with sidewalk chalk, I color and chalk right with him - making fun, pretty letters (espeically the letter R.  kid loves his letter R.)

I also keep a lettering notebook at my desk at work for when I need a break from whatever it is I might be doing at the minute or have a little downtime.  I just open up to the next page and start writing.  So far my book is filled with a month long lettering challenge (via Llamas Love Lettering) and witty quotes from other people.

Lettering is also the way I fill up my planner without all the required stickers and washi that the #plannerfamous girls use.  I started an album today of my most recent work.  I'll keep adding to it as I go, so if you're interested in following my lettering journey, you can always revisit this post or follow me on instagram (links in the sidebar).
Keep in mind, some of these projects are straight copies of other artists work - think about it.  When you first learn to write in elementary school, you're given worksheets and told to copy the shapes that were each letter.  It's how we learn to write.  Eventually, as we get more comfortable with the shapes, we develop our own personal touches and each end up with our own unique hand-writing.  I subscribe to the same thought process for learning letters.  I can copy other people's way of doing things until I get comfortable enough to add my own flair and personality into each work.  Any piece that is, shall we say, "inspired by" another artist is appropriately credited in the caption.

For the time being, I'm doing this for fun.  As a way to de-stress, unwind, let my creative juices flow.  If it turns into something where I can sell prints on Etsy or get commissioned invitation work or something and make a million dollars, quit my job, and live off the success of my hobby - well so be it.

Now, go check out some of my favorite Letter Artists and maybe find some inspiration of your own:

Cindy Guentert-Baldo (Llamas Love Lettering) | Website | Instagram

Jessica Garvin (Garvin & Co) | Blog | Etsy Shop
Natalie Keller Parianoof (Natter Doodle) | Website | Instagram

Lauren's Letters | Instagram
Until next time friends,

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Getting Fit - Getting Fancy

I had every intention of writing a post about how I wanted to use my ECLP (Erin Condren Life Planner for the n00bs) vs how I'm actually using it, but being the ever prepared blogger that I am, I had not taken any pictures yet and apparently, I left my poor LP at home today...oops.  The bigger problem?  LP holds my list of potential/alternative blog topics and my memory is so excellent - I could not even begin to recall what might have been on it...So as I sit here trying to figure out what to write about instead, I realized how crazy sore I am right now - my abs and thighs especially and boom - there was today's post.

I realized a couple of weeks ago (or perhaps more accurately - as someone so lovingly pointed out), I've gained about 10 pounds since we moved to Tennessee.  My quest to be more fashionable is going to be for naught if I can't fit into any of the clothes I'm buying, I guess.  When I really started thinking about it, it made sense - I went from a job where I worked mostly on my own - so I brought lunch every day.  I had gotten into the habit of pushing my lunch time to the latest possible hour, many days skipping it altogether (I understand that this is not exactly 'healthy', but my body was used to a lower calorie count each day).  My job was, for the most part, completely sedentary and my own exersize came from playing with my toddler.  So I wasn't fit, I probably wasn't "healthy", but I was at an OK weight (not my ultimate goal, but not too far over it) and I was feeling, generally, pretty good.

At my new job, I work as part of a very close team who like to socialize - and food is a big part of the team dynamic.  That means we go out to lunch pretty much every day.   It also means that someone brings donuts or fast-food breakfast sandwiches once or twice a week.  And it means that we have a cabinet full of treats for random snacking throughout the day (which is separate from my personal snack drawer - but I also had that in MI, so that's not really a change).  Bringing or skipping lunch with the team means missing out on that socialization - which changes the dynamic in the office.  So I was introducing a LOT more calories without changing my exersize habits at all.  I was getting fat and my body was getting really, really fatigued.  I realized I had to make a change.

I'm not a fan of exersize.  Like at all.  I'm lazy and I know it.

Plus, I don't have a lot of time.  I prefer to sleep as long as possible in the morning and play with my kid in the evening (and at the moment, I have zero energy, so even that is hard).  I decided it would be easier to just change my diet.  My brain said the best way to do that would be to cut down on carbs.  I'm not sure what my brain was thinking.  I love carbs.  I'm Italian - we have pasta at least once a week.    I snack on bread because it's delicious.  I'm also Irish and potatoes are a staple side item for most of our meals.  Oh but sure, Chel, just stop eating all of your favorite things ever.  That's a completely brilliant plan.  I lasted about 5 days.  Then I said - OK start researching 21 day fix.  I've seen lots of people lose a shit ton of weight on that.  Um...measuring?  planning? and I have to get special color-coded portion control containers? No thank you - way too much work (have I mentioned I'm lazy?)  OK FINE.  I'll start exersizing.  UGH.

I thought I would take 20-30 minutes each day after work and go use the workout machines my parents have in their bonus room.  This was difficult because once I came home, Miles wanted to hang out with me and it was really hard for my mom or Chad to keep him away (kid loves his mom...can you blame him)?  I also had to make dinner twice a week.  So that wasn't going to work.  I couldn't use the machines in the morning, because Miles sleeps in the bonus room.  Luckily (?) my parents have 2 exersize bikes, so we moved one into our room.  I could get up 20-30 minutes early and ride that before I had to start getting ready for work (super).  I did that for a few days.  It was going well.  I was catching up on my neglected YouTube subscriptions.  But I also realized that I realize a lot of things I can't just ride an exersize bike for 20 minutes a day and expect to lose weight and tone up.  I started scouring Pinterest for some easy starter workouts that I could do in the morning with no special equipment or skill to help me start to feel healthy - think 30 day ab/plank/arm type challenges here (I'm really not going for much at this point.  I want to be healthy.  I want to have energy again.  I want to lose those 10 lbs I gained and then maybe (maybe) go for 10 more to get down to my goal and then maintain...maintain, maintain, maintain).

So for now, my plan is to bike or do some other form of cardio 2-3x per week, then do one of my pinterest workouts the other 2-3 days (and rest on the weekends). The last 2 days, I've been doing the *scientifically proven* 7 minute workout.
I don't know how sound the science behind it really is, but I do know it's doing something.  I'm unfortable while I'm doing it, it gets my heartrate up, I sweat, and my muscles are sore when I'm done.  That's the sign of a good workout right?
I've lost pretty much all of my upper body strength, so I'm doing modified pushups at the moment, but hopefully in a few weeks, I'll be able to do real ones.  Then apparently, there's an advanced version of this that I can try out once this becomes 'easy'.  

Before I got pregnant (yes...3 years ago...don't judge me), I had also started a couch to 5k (which I never finished because I had some terrible morning sickness on the day of the race) and a version of ab ripper x - which is 300 ab reps in about 15 minutes.  Here's the thing...I hate running, I have terrible knees, hips (see previous post for that explanation), and flat fee.  Running is not for me, but I did love the ab workout.  So I might get back into doing that a little.

And then for the days when I'm just having a really hard time getting out of bed and I realize I needed to get in the shower 6 minutes ago if I wanted to leave for work on time (and those happen more often than I would like to admit), I found these fun one-song workouts so I can squeeze in some high-intensity exersize in 2 or 3 minutes.

So that's my short term plan for getting fit and fancy.  Do you have any tips to help me along the way?  What are some of your short, home-workout favorites?  I'd love for you to share them in the comments!

Until next time, friends...

Monday, September 14, 2015

MMM: Home Depot Kids Workshops

One thing I've noticed since we've moved to Tennessee is that we are finding so many more fun free or cheap activities to do as a family - I love that.  We're mostly homebodies, but that can get pretty boring, pretty quickly - so finding new, fun things to do without a big investment is awesome.

One of those things we've found is the Home Depot Kids Workshop.  On the first Saturday of each month, every home depot offers a workshop for kids to build a fun little toy or game.  The kids learn some great skills - they get to pain and hammer and assemble the project each month - and have lots of fun doing it.  As a parent, I just love watching my little guy participate and learn.  He LOVES banging the nails with the hammer :-)

The recommended age for the workshops is 5-12 - we clearly do not fit into that bracket yet, but the Home Depot employees still welcome Miles eagerly each month.  No one can resist those cheeks!

At their first class, your child will get a genuine Home Depot orange apron with their name on it (written in Sharpie, just like the pros!), then you get your kit.  All the tools you need are at the tables.  The class is come and go style - so arrive when you can and leave when you're done.  Take as much or as little time as you want.  Once the project is complete, your child will get a certificate and a pin to celebrate their completion of that month's project.  I also recently discovered that at their 10th and 25th classes, they get a special pin to mark that achievement!  We've only got 7 more classes to get to our first milestone!  And of course, they get to take their project home with them to play with.

I wasn't sure what to expect when we went into our first project - a minion scooter (which coincided with the Minions movie release).  I've been pleasantly surprised with the results every time.  So far we've made the Minion scooter, a chalkboard door hanger, and a football toss game.  Each project has exceeded my expectations for quality and, despite being about 3 years under the recommended age for the build, I've found that the finished product is also an age appropriate toy for my 2 year old - which is great!

If you're interested in taking your kids to the next workshop (Firetruck - Oct. 3), you can sign up here.  Pre-registration is recommended so that each store has enough kits on hand, but if you forget one month, they won't stop your child from participating (but it's also first come, first served, so if you go later in the morning, you may miss out).

  funny that this is a miles & momma post and momma is no where to be found in these pictures...the problem with being behind the camera I guess.  I'm involved in all of these fun activities, but Chad gets all the glory - this past weekend included when we went to Cheekwood, which is a local botanical garden and fine arts center.
Ah well...

So tell me mommas...what kind of fun activities do you like to do with your littles?  I'm always looking for more recommendations, and I'd love for you to share them with me!  So until next time...

This post is not sponsored or endorsed by The Home Depot.  I'm really just a big fan of these workshops and wanted to share them with all of you!

Friday, September 11, 2015

I remember and I hope

I decided in 8th grade, after attending public school my entire life, that I was terrified of attending the public high school in my town.  It was big, the upperclassmen were mean, and surely, I would never make it.  So I convinced my parents to send me to the all-girls catholic high school, one town over.  The school itself was about the same size as the middle school both in terms of physical size and number of students - so despite only knowing the 3 or 4 girls from my school who were also going (instead of the entire 8th grade class), it seemed less 'unknown'.  And I hate the unknown.  After my freshman year, we moved.  It was not a big move - practically across the street, but far enough that we had changed towns and school districts.  This wasn't a big deal at the time - I was at a private school, so school district didn't matter, and I wasn't any further away from my friends.  Cool.  Except for what happened during my sophomore year.

I was on the varsity competitve cheer team.  About midway through the season, at one of our night time practices, we were drilling our switch splits - a move where you go into your splits on one side, then without coming up off the ground, pivot your hips so you're on the opposite side.
To make this look cooler in competition, while we were in our right splits, and before switching to the left, we leaned all the way forward and touched our nose to our right knee, quickly got back up, then pivoted to the left.  The whole move was done in less than one 8-count (and if you know what that is, you know it was a quick progression).  So anyway, somewhere in the time it took to the lean down, get up, switch, I felt my hip pop.  I had dislocated it.  I couldn't walk, it hurt, it was generally awful (as you can imagine).  The doctor said I should recover in about a week, but it took nearly the rest of the season for me to get my full range of motion back.  When I finally did, it was just in time for our regional competition. And my coach didn't let me compete.  Not competing in regionals meant that I also would not get to compete in states (if we qualified - and we did).  She essentially kicked me off the team just in time for the most exciting and important part of the season.  I was crushed.  I went home and sobbed in my mom's bed for 4 hours (I was a teenage girl in high school...this shit was important)!  Then I decided I was not cheering for that team again.  So naturally, this meant I needed to switch schools.

So the next year, I started my junior year at the new public school in town - the one where I didn't know anyone, because we had moved.  I had made the cheerleading team and I thought that meant things were going to be great.  I had a whole team of new friends and everything was going to be awesome.  It was not.  None of the cheerleaders talked to me at school and I had no friends at school for a year and a half.  I begged my parents to let me go back to my old school.  They didn't.  Which brings me to the story I actually intended to tell today.....

It was the beginning of my senior year of high school.  Normally, this is an exciting time in a person's life.  I was still dreading going to school everyday.  I was in my 3rd season as a varsity cheerleader, and my teammates still didn't talk to me.  I was making some progress with the people in my choir class, and they would eventually become very close friends - but that wouldn't happen for a couple more months.  On particularly depressing days, I would fake sick so that I didn't have to be there and endure the loneliness that was my life everyday.  This particular day was in the middle of spirit week.  I don't remember the exact theme of the day, but for some reason I was dressed like Britney Spears (a la "Hit Me Baby One More Time").
I'm not sure what I was thinking.  I was so self-conscious when I got to school.  So it became another fake sick day.  I needed to go home.  I decided to go to choir class then call my mom to come get me before lunch.  At some point in the middle of class, Dawn got up and started to walk out.  Our teacher, G. Byron Turner (because you always need to use his full name) tried to stop her.  She shut him down real quick - saying something about a plane flying into a building in new york, she was going to find out more and he wasn't going to get in her way.  And she left.  And that was all I heard or knew.  I didn't even pay much attention really - all i remember is Dawn and G. Byron Turner getting into it and Dawn storming out.  And that was it.  The period ended, my classmates went to lunch, and I went to the office to call my mom.  When she got me she was crying and she started to explain what had happened - she was contemplating pulling my sister out as well, but ultimately decided against it.  I still didn't fully comprehend the gravity of what was happening. We went home and I laid on the couch and watched the footage over and over again.  The rest of the da was mostly a blur.  The only other vivid memory I have was watching this.

This is really the first thing I think of when I think of 9/11.  This was a senseless act of terror - yes.  But it brought our country together.  For that day, and for the weeks, and maybe even months that followed, we were one.  We were Americans.  I wonder if this would still happen today.  If this had happened today - in 2015 - instead of 2001 - what would the reaction have been?  I'm not sure we're still capable of this kind of unity and compassion anymore.  I see a lot of blaming and name-calling that would be thrown around.  I know I'm guilty of a lot one-sidedness a lot of the time.  But despite that, I still hope for a day where we're not so divided.  Where it's not the socialist liberal elite vs the conservative christian right.  Where we can live, and love, despite our differences.  Have compassion for our fellow man.  Admire & respect the value in every human life, despite differences in background, faith, belief, culture.  We are a country built on a foundation of difference and diversity.  Of understanding that we're not all going to be the same.  And that's OK.  Can we please get back to that?
What ever happened to the Great American Melting Pot??
You simply melt right in,
It doesn't matter what your skin.
It doesn't matter where you're from,
Or your religion, you jump right in
To the great American melting pot.
The great American melting pot.
Ooh, what a stew, red, white, and blue.

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Building a House...A cautionary tale

I mentioned in my life update post that we had decided to build a new home here in Tennessee.  We've been so excited about the prospect of building from scratch and getting the home we really, really want.  We had mixed reactions from friends and family to this idea.  I have a few friends who have built recently and had amazing experiences - they had so much fun with the process and would do it again in a heartbeat.  We also had some warning from family & their friends that it can be an incredibly trying and stressful process, and that some of the local builders had not so great reputations.

In the end, we decided to go with a national builder - Beazer Homes - so we don't get a whole lot of customization options - but sticking to a timeline, transparency in the process, and strict quality control are much more highly scrutinized with a national company who don't just have a local reputation to uphold, but also their reputation in all areas they are building.  In our case, Beazer has communities in 13 states, so we figured they had to be doing something right.

I had read a few negative reviews online for their communities in other states - but I always try to take those with a grain of salt.  Unhappy people are much quicker to speak up than those who are incredibly happy.  And definitely more than (what I assume are the majority of) people who are adequately satisfied.  I was also comforted by the fact that a high ranking employee responded to most, if not all, of those complaints to try and help the owners come to a resolution.  So I felt pretty confident in our decision.

We even got their social media department's attention with this cutie!
Still waiting to hear from them on that advertising deal though...

But anyway, we were excited - not only to move in, but to watch and document the building process.  We chose our model and floor plan.  The home is called the Ashford.  The floor plan we chose has 3 bedrooms, 2.5 baths, a study, walk-in pantry, bonus room, and covered porch.

This is an example of the elevation we chose, along with our chosen floor plans  -

There were no model homes of this floor plan, but we loved what we saw on paper.

Once that was finalized, we made our appointment for our wiring (we're getting a cable hook up in the garage...welcome to Tennessee), and for our exterior and interior options (setting that was a bit of a hassle, but it was worked out quickly and the actual appointment was amazing (and they really liked us.  They said the average appointment was 2 hours long and they had done one the day before that was 8 hours!  We were in and out in an hour and a half...boom)!

I was/am really excited about our choices.  We went with an exterior that is very similar to the photo above.  We both love neutrals and greys for a home color scheme, so we're sticking with that.

We were completely OBSESSED with the way the kitchen was styled in the community's model home (it was not our floor plan, but had a similar open design), so we mimicked it as much as we could. 

We did the stainless appliances, White cabinets, dark island, white/grey granite and a grey backsplash.  The difference is that we chose grey paint instead of that light green, and we chose a lighter hardwood for the floors.

So naturally, we were super excited to see everything start to come together.  We signed our contract at the end of June.  We picked out all our stuff mid-July.  Here's what our lot looked like when we signed...

And here's what our lot looks like today (more than 2 months later)...

yeah...that's not a mistake.  The only thing that's changed is the house in the background is finished and just about move-in ready.  Our house?  Is now about 2 months behind schedule and instead of December, we're looking at a February move-in.

The reason?  A road on the back-half of the development area (the complete opposite side from our lot) needs to be paved before they can begin construction on those houses.  There had been a few days of rain that set back that process (how 3 days of rain = 2 months of progress...I'm not really sure).  We tried to convince the builders that the road in question did not impact our build at all and rather than just sit around waiting to get that road paved, they may as well get started on our home and keep the momentum going.  They actually entertained us for a minute.  But as it turns out, they split the phase into 2 parts.  1A and 1B.  Building permits for 1B haven't been issued yet, and won't be until the road is done.  Guess who's house is in 1B (despite being physically located in 1A)?  Oh yes.  So even though they technically could be building our house right now, they can't.  Because, bureaucracy.  The city won't even entertain a special permit to move our lot into the 1A group (at least, that's what they told us).  

So dealing with that delay has been a major headache.  We seriously considered walking away.  Especially because, with my new job, the location is no longer ideal - it's actually kind of terrible.  We looked at a few other homes and communities.  In the end (at least for now), we've decided to stick with it.  It's a major pain in the ass, but we really do love the home we chose and it is really hard to find something that lives up to it (we did find a community we liked better - but it was in an even worse location and made zero sense whatsoever, which was a bummer).  

Luckily, they just finished a new model with our exact floor plan recently.  We were able to walk through and get a really good feel for what we would be moving into (in 6 months..........).  It helped to get us excited about the situation again and reaffirmed our decision to stick with it (for now...god only knows what will happen if they try and tell us that there's been another delay).

In the meantime, I'm hoping that I'll be able to post updates about the progress very soon and keep you all posted about our experience building a new home.  And until next time.... is now storming...add another month to our  but no, really.