Tuesday, August 30, 2016

An Anniversary Trip to Remember

Yeah, so I know what you're thinking. Wasn't your anniversary way back in May? Why, yes, yes it was. However, it was a toss up between sharing this little recap late or never sharing it at all. And this story is far too good to keep to myself (or at least I think so). So, back in May, G and I made plans to go to Orlando for our anniversary. We had arranged to meet our good friends, Victoria + Sean, at Disney the day after our actual anniversary. They were celebrating too, as it was Victoria's birthday and their 10 year anniversary. Leading up to the day, it seemed like everything was working against us and we were sure the trip wouldn't even happen. From our friends not being able to get a rental car to last minute calls into work, there were countless hurtles we had to jump over to make it work. But, we all made it there.

After a couple hours at work, G and I headed to Orlando and met up with Vic + Sean at Magic Kingdom just as the Festival of Fantasy parade was getting ready to begin. They were able to save us a couple spots along Main Street, U.S.A. We had only ever seen the nighttime parades, so I enjoyed watching this one. There were a few rain clouds overhead as the parade finished and we made our way to Tomorrowland. After riding a few rides, the rain started coming down. We all ran into a nearby gift shop and purchased ponchos, then found a place to grab lunch hoping it would taper off as we ate. Unfortunately, it kept coming in waves, each one more intense than the last. We were determined to make the best of it, to keep pushing forward and we rode as many rides as we could. Once we made it to Adventureland, the wind started to pick up and the rain was coming down in sheets. Drenched and weary, it was time to surrender to the weather. We said our goodbyes and parted ways. We'd planned to meet back up with them the next morning to get breakfast together and visit another park.

G and I were soaking wet by the time we made it to our hotel room. The ponchos did a great job at keeping the upper half of our bodies dry, but did nothing from the waist down. And, of course, we didn't even think to pack an extra pair of shoes, so I placed ours on the air conditioner hoping they would be dry by morning. We ordered Chinese delivery + watched television as we were too tired to venture out for dinner. I'm not sure what time we finally dozed off, but around 1:00 in the morning, we awoke to the sound of a blaring fire alarm. Half asleep and slightly annoyed, we hurried to put our (wet) shoes on and walked outside to see what the problem was. Most of us, like the rest of us, looked dazed and confused. After a few minutes, I grabbed our car keys and told G that we should wait it out in the car. He agreed and that's where we sat for about 15-20 minutes. All of a sudden, silence. Ah, finally. I thought we'd be able to snuggle back into our bed and drift off to dreamland. Boy, was I wrong. Literally, as soon as our feet crossed the threshold of our room, the alarm kicked back in.

That was the last straw. Between everything we had to face trying to get there, to the crazy weather and finally, this, we threw up our hands and waved our little white flag of surrender. G was definitely on the same page as I was. We didn't even have to say anything to one another before we started grabbing all of our belongings from the room. I drove around, hopped out of the car and barged into to lobby in my leopard print night gown and a pair of very squeaky Vans. I told the guy manning the desk that we were checking out, not even concerned with trying to get a refund at that moment. Instead of trying to find another hotel, we drove all the way back home, in the middle of the night. After trying to be positive the entire time, that was our breaking point. I don't think I'd ever been so happy to crawl into my own bed. I texted our friends, then feel asleep. 

The next morning, I thought to e-mail the hotel in hopes of possibly getting a partial refund since we were only there for about four hours. The manager got back to me quickly, and to my surprise, he informed me that they would refund the entire night. He apologized for the inconvenience. Apparently lightening had struck the alarm system causing it to malfunction. So, as you can see, it was definitely an anniversary trip to remember! And I'm sure we'll be laughing about it for years to come.

Thursday, August 25, 2016

Currently // August

READING · I've been doing an atrocious job at putting aside time to read this month, but on the days that I do actually seem to have my junk together, I've been thumbing through the pages of Fahrenheit 451 (the book I purchased while visiting Haslam's). I haven't gotten very far into the story yet, but I like it so far. It's interesting.

WATCHING · Near the beginning of the month, we binge-watched Stranger Things in about two days. Then we decided to watch it all over again (it's just that good). From the 80's vibes to the characters, I have nothing but love for this show. After that, we began watching The Strain. Basically one of the weirdest + grossest shows I've come across so far. The story line is extremely weak and the character development is nonexistent. I'm surprised that we made it through both seasons as quickly as we did. Our most recent find would be Wayward Pines, which is turning out to be another binge-worthy show.
LISTENING TO · I've been on an 80's-inspired kick lately (mostly synthwave). My husband introduced me to a few new artists + I've been jamming out to them relentlessly, but Dynatron has been on repeat more often than others.
DISCOVERING · That there's so much peace / freedom found in leaving everything (I mean every single thing) in God's hands. I've been doing a lot of that during this season. If a problem arises or something seems like it's not going to work out, I simply throw my hands up and thank God for working it all out. I don't have the time or energy to worry about things that are out of my control.

PLANNING · A day trip to Disney tomorrow with a very good friend who will be moving away in a few months! We're planning on tackling all 4 parks tomorrow Magic Kingdom, Epcot, Hollywood Studios + Animal Kingdom. I know, we're crazy. We'll see just how much we can get through in the 14 hours we'll be there! The pricing was too good to pass up as they were offering $79 park hopper tickets for the family members / friends of passholders.

CRAVING · G and I have been doing very well as far as counting calories go, but I've been craving a big juicy burger from Burger Monger for the past few days. Geez. The struggle is real. I mean, just look at what they have to offer!

WISHING · That I was finished with the last portion of my GED testing so that I could go ahead and enroll at SPC. Even if I was only able to take 1-2 classes a semester to start out with, it would be better than waiting until G completes his degree. I'm about 30% finished with my prep book + I'm planning to take a practice test within the next few weeks. So, we shall see how it pans out!

FEELING · Content. Work has been going smoothly, G is loving his classes + fall is literally right around the corner.

PRAYING FOR · A fresh outpouring of God's presence in my life. I feel like my spirit needs a reboot.

Monday, August 22, 2016

Top TV Picks · Vol. 2

Well, about a million years ago a year ago, I shared my first round of top TV picks with you guys. Obviously I wanted to divvy out more suggestions before now, but it is what it is. There are many binge-worthy watches out there. And, as I stated in my previous picks post, there's a crazy amount that I would consider to be personal favorites. You'll notice that the majority of shows I enjoy watching are classified as science fiction (real big shocker there). So, without further ado, here's round two.

Sunday, August 21, 2016

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Local Love · Haslam's Book Store

Roughly two weeks ago, I was finally introduced to the magic that is Haslam's Book Store. If you weren't aware, I've been eager to visit this book store for a long while now. Over the years, my brother has raved about how glorious each of his endeavors within this store have been. He even takes one whole day off of work each year just to venture throughout this literary wonderland with one of his good friends. Haslam's Day, as they so merrily call it. His love for this book store is apparent. My good friend, Charlene (from Charlene Zale), has also spoken very highly of this place in the past. With all that being said, I obviously had to visit too.

The store is located just on the edge of downtown St. Petersburg, which luckily for us is a mere 30 minutes away from home. In the months prior to our little adventure, I had snagged a $20 Groupon deal for a restaurant near St. Pete Beach called The Salty Rim Grill. We're always a little leary of the places we find on Groupon as we never know what to expect, but we were hopeful in our persuit of some yummy grub. Let me start by saying, we will certainly be back. Their menu provided just the right amount of choices (both for the seafood lovers + those who stray away from all things fishy). I made my decision as soon as I saw that they offered tequila lime chicken tacos + french fries. I'm one of those in-betweeners when it comes to seafood. You know, the type of person who only orders it occasionally (I wasn't really feeling it that day). I also got one of their sunset ritas. G opted for the fried shrimp basket with fries as well. Everything that we ordered was so fresh and full of flavor. And the portions far exceeded what we had expected! We're planning on going back with my mama sometime soon. I've been craving more of those tacos already!

Now, onto our book store experience. The time we spent at Haslam's put me into a state of euphoria. G enjoyed perusing the science, mathematics, and computer sections, as I burrowed through every nook + cranny of the entire store (spending the most time in the science fiction section, of course). There was so much to examine, so many aisles one could easily get lost within. Just as I thought we had reached the end, we turned a corner only to realize that the path kept going. On and on, row after row. Books on books on books and cats! Yes, cats! There are several of them who reside within the store (so you know that I was in heaven), but Teacup was my favorite since she's the only one I had a chance to briefly bond with. And, by bond, I mean I was able to pet her + take a photo of her before she scurried off. The atmosphere is dreamy, to say the least. Sadly, we couldn't spend the entire afternoon there as we wanted to beat the 5 o'clock traffic that would soon plague the Howard Franklin Bridge. I ended up purchasing a copy of Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury (as Charlene had suggested). There was also a neat collection of William Shakespeare's Star Wars books that I had my eye on, but I later added them to my birthday / Christmas wish-list instead.

I'm very much looking forward to my next Haslam's adventure, be it with my brother, the lovely Charlene, or my hubby again. If you are ever in the vicinity of downtown St. Petersburg, you should make it a point to stop in and experience the magic yourself!

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

6 Ways to Improve Your Marriage

I don't know about you guys, but marriage advice is something I tend to soak up like a sponge. For as long as I can remember, relationships + people in general have intrigued me. I like trying to figure out what makes people tick, as well as deciphering the reasoning behind certain traits they may exhibit or actions they carry out. I guess that's why I'm somewhat surprised at myself for not sharing more posts like this with you all in the past. I'll never claim to be an expert when it comes to this stuff, but I'd be more than happy to share from my own experiences from time to time. While I'm fully aware that there are countless ways to help improve a marriage, these six in particular have stuck out to me over the course of our marriage so I'll start here.

Whenever arguments arise (you know they will), it's best to suck up your pride right then and there. You need to quickly determine if you were the one in the wrong before things escalate, as they so often do. Were you being unreasonable? Apologize. Did your attitude need some serious readjusting? Apologize. Even if you're technically right, the way you handle yourself before or during a disagreement (your tone, your body language, the words you use to defend your position) can require an apology too. Being quick to say "I'm sorry" can diffuse an argument before it gets totally out of hand. Humble yourself, swallow your pride, and apologize.

This kinda goes hand-in-hand with the point above, as it will also require laying down your pride. And, as hard as it may be, you'll have to set aside your emotions most of the time too. Let's be real, the majority of arguments you'll face will more than likely be over something petty or something that won't amount to much in the long run. In my experience, I've found it best to look beyond how I may be feeling in that moment (angry, sad, frustrated, etc.), and choose forgiveness instead. No good will ever come from holding onto every word that was spoken or feeling that was felt during the heat of the moment. The only thing you are doing by harboring unforgiveness is planting a seed of bitterness. Once that sucker takes root in your heart, it's a tough beast to battle.

The sooner you figure out that you don't have your spouse all figured out, the better off you'll be. There will always be something new you can learn about the person you married, no matter how many years of matrimony you have under your belt. Be open to learning more about your spouse as he / she changes throughout different seasons of your life together. In doing this, it will help you to understand where they are coming from and how their logic / mindset concurs with or differs from your own. Knowing these things up front can essentially help a great deal whenever disagreements emerge. As long as your spouse has a mind (which I'm assuming all do), they possess the ability to change it. With that being said, it's always a good idea to communicate with each other as these changes occur so you both remain on the same page.

I bet there have been times when you find yourself focusing on all the things that your spouse has done wrong, but when was the last time you redirected your focus to everything he / she has done right? It's easy to get caught up in the negative aspects of your spouse's character, but please don't dwell on them. You have to remember that we are all a work in progress. Your husband or wife isn't a perfect person, but here's a news flash ― neither are you. Always strive to appreciate what they do right and show extensive amounts of mercy + grace towards their weaknesses, the same way that Christ handles our shortcomings.

This one is relatively self-explanatory. Your spouse is not a mind reader. They won't always know exactly what you expect or want from them, so just save yourself the trouble and be up front with them from the get-go. If you need or want your spouse to do something, ask them when you have their undivided attention. If you aren't feeling loved or appreciated, just be straight up with them. There's no need for mind games or manipulation to get what you need + want. It's really quite simple (not rocket science).

Flirt, touch, kiss, cuddle, hold hands, make love ― as often as you possibly can. I really cannot stress how important it is to connect physically with your spouse. Intimacy (especially sex) isn’t just a physical enjoyment, but also one that is both mental and spiritual. Research suggests that sex can have a multitude of emotional and physical benefits as well. By putting your sex life on the back-burner or refusing to make it a priority in your marriage, you're basically showing your spouse that he / she isn't worth your time + energy. Believe me, I know it can be extremely hard sometimes to carve out that special time in the midst of crazy work schedules and busy seasons (I can't even imagine adding kids into that mix), but it's not impossible. If you start gettin' it on more often, I'm sure you'll notice a huge difference in the way you guys connect outside of the bedroom.

Well, that's all I've got for now. We've got a little over six years under our belts and we're still learning more each day. I hope these points will help some of you as much as they've helped us over the years. Marriage can be hard work, but it's worth the effort!

Monday, August 08, 2016

Good Jams No. 2

Open Season ― High Highs ◇ Ashes of Time Audiomachine ◇ The Arena ― Lindsey Stirling
Between II Worlds ― Nero ◇ Trust in You ― Lauren Daigle ◇ Wondering ― Above & Beyond
   Hard Love ― Needtobreathe ◇ Finding Tris ― Joseph Trapanese ◇ Elegia ― New Order

Sunday, August 07, 2016

Friday, August 05, 2016

July in Retrospect

I can't say that I have a single complaint about July, other than it being hot as heck. The month really flew by, as most of them tend to do. Our work schedules had their usual highs and lows, but we took full advantage of the free days that graced us. I was trying to soak up the last bit of summer with G before he starts school this month. Even though he'll have class 2-3 days out of each week, we aren't used to being apart much. Ever since we started dating, we've worked together for the same companies (one of which is our family business). I know the space + time apart will be good for us, but it'll still take time to get used to.

The first week of July was brimming with much-needed family time. With work, it's not always possible to get together with my brother and his family as often as we would like to. But, between celebrating the 4th of July over at his house + taking my niece and nephew shooting for the first time (which I'd still like to share about), our days with them were well spent to say the least.

It's a good thing we had a lot of free time when the month first started, because I spent the entire second week working 12 hour shifts down in the port. I can't complain about the hours since the workload was significantly light. It did, however, seem like all of my friends wanted to hang out during the course of that week, and I had to decline every offer that was extended to me. The only things I was interested in doing when I got home each night were taking a shower, eating dinner, and knocking the heck out.

The last two weeks of July seemed to go by the quickest, but isn't that always the case? It's like the downhill slope of the month. Work was steady, but I still had just the right amount of time off to rest up, hang out with a couple of friends, and go on a date with G to see Star Trek Beyond (if you haven't seen it, you need to). I grabbed lunch one afternoon with my friend, Lauren, and I swear we hadn't gotten together for a few months so that was a treat. I was also able to visit Weeki Wachee Springs with my other good friend, Amanda, and her family. Hopefully I can carve out some more friend time, because it's so easy to become a recluse when you're married. I love hanging out with my friends, but hanging out with my husband is my favorite (sorry, ladies).

Besides all that, I chopped nearly 10 inches off my hair about two weeks ago! I'm still getting used to it, but initially it felt so good to say "awe, what the heck!?" + just go for it. I've found myself missing my long locks off and on, but it'll grow back ― eventually!

Thursday, August 04, 2016

Hair Product Must-Haves

Over the years, I've introduced my hair to many different products. I was on a quest to find what worked best for my hair type, but wouldn't leave our bank account crying in a corner somewhere. I think I've finally put together an assortment of items that work best for me + are extremely affordable. There are still a few that I'd like to try out, but these are my go-to products at the moment.

OGX coconut water shampoo + conditioner.
I've tried a few different variations of OGX shampoos and conditioners, but I love their weightless hydration coconut water shampoo and conditioner. My hair tends to dwell on the dryer side, but I've found that this combo works very well. The smell is amazing and it hydrates without weighing my hair down. I've actually been contemplating ditching conditioner altogether for a leave-in spray (I don't really see the point in putting it on then rinsing it right out). I'm still on the fence with that decision though.

OGX hydrate + defrizz kukuí oil.
If I did decide to discontinue using the conditioner like I mentioned above, this oil would definitely be taking its place. My mama actually picked up a bottle of this to try out last week since she'd been searching for a good anti-frizz spray or serum to use herself, but she was kind enough to let me try it too. I would have kept using it for the smell alone, but it really does a great job at keeping the frizziness at bay when humidity strikes. I'm sure I'll be purchasing my own bottle soon enough.

Herbal Essence naked dry shampoo.
I go through the dry shampoo, let me tell ya. And I feel like I've tried almost all of them that are on the market. Herbal Essence naked dry shampoo is the best I've come across so far. Same as with the last two products, the smell was fantastic. Most dry shampoos that I tried left my hair feeling somewhat heavy, but that isn't the case with this one. It is a real lifesaver for my bangs.

Not Your Mother's beach babe texturizing cream + spray.
This combo has been my go-to for a few years now. I don't always use the cream (it adds a bit more texture), but the spray is used almost daily (unless I straighten my hair). I love the waviness it adds without the crunchiness or greasiness that normally comes along with using other hair sprays. I'd highly recommend trying it out if you haven't done so already.

What are a few of your hair product must-haves?