As I write this post, I am truly at a loss for words (friends may find this hard to believe… somehow I always have something to say :X) But I really am having a hard time finding the words to describe the remarkable beauty we encountered throughout this entire trip. To explain the feelings I had upon departure of the island, my eyes quickly filled with tears as the taxi dropped us off at the Cyril E. King airport. I was saddened to put an end to a week full of exploring, relaxing, reconnecting with the earth around me, and simply clearing my mind in order to return home refreshed and refocused. After doing some research on Pinterest, Google and the traditional asking locals around town, I can confidently share what I feel to be a solid list of things to do in St. Thomas!
Hi everyone~ I hope you had a lovely Christmas! My favorite time of the year, mostly because it means we’ll be trying out and playing with new toys! This Christmas I decided to gift myself with the amazing NuMe Lustrum hair wand. They were running a deal on Groupon – only $99 for the entire set. && guess what?!? It’s still on sale here! Naturally I had to buy it for myself, and I had to try it for the first time on the blog!
This YouTube video is a clip of me trying the NuMe Hair Wand for the FIRST TIME EVER ~ so yes, I am not an expert at using the wand yet. BUT – that’s besides the point. I absolutely LOVE this wand. It comes with five separate attachments to match the five different moods you find yourself in on the reg (or maybe you only have one mood-that’s cool too!). The wand is hot enough to keep your hair curled all day with just a little hair spray. They also provide you with a glove so when you’re a newb like me, you don’t scorch your precious fingers on the iron because let me tell you, it’s not a cakewalk in the beginning.
If you know me, you probably know how big of a sucker I am for a good sale. Whether it’s the Nordstrom Anniversary sale on products for the upcoming season or a sale on “last chance” AKA clearance items, I’m always on the hunt for a deal. Last weekend, I received an email from bareMinerals about a sale they were having on all “last chance” items in their inventory.
I don’t consider myself a huge make up junkie, but I do love make up that is quality but also not harmful to your skin. I’ve been using the bareMinerals powder foundation on my face for about ten years now and it’s the only foundation I trust. I’ve tried others that offer more coverage with a more “finished” look, but they weren’t a good fit for me. With bareMinerals, I don’t have to worry about breaking out, I can sleep in it if I forget to wash my face at night and this product line simply does not irritate my skin. It also gives me a more natural, youthful look – which I love! So low and behold, when I got the email about a sale, I had to look and see if I was in luck. And that I was! I found four products for under $50 that I now truly love!
What if you could control what people thought of your business before they ever got the chance to meet you face to face and shake your hand? I’ve got good news…. you can! A website is a first impression for anyone who doesn’t know you yet. Many times, people will find your website through search engines such as Google or through other people talking about you on social media. With so many tools available to build your own website, many are quick to think “this will be easy!” WordPress, Wix and Squarespace are all great places to get started with many tutorial sources available. You have a website, but does it do what you want it to do? Have you thought of a strategy for how your website will perform? Are you converting your visitors to readers? Customers? Fans? Based on experiences in different industries and different types of websites, I’ve compiled a list of six “universal” ways to instantly improve your website.
#1 – Convert Your Visitors
Whether the goal of your website is to sell a product online, inform new customers about your brand or service or simply gain a following for your blog, you want to be converting your visitors. What does converting a visitor mean? It means either they buy your product, leave their information with you so you can contact them or they can easily find how to email or call you directly from your site. There are several tools out there to help you convert visitors depending on which platform your site is on. Add an email subscription pop up to your site so whenever someone lands on your site, they are given the option to leave their contact information. Yes – these can be annoying, but you have to make it easy for people to subscribe or sign up for email reminders. Add a contact form or ask a question box on every page of the site. Include a contact button in the main menu navigation so users will find it in an obvious place. Include you NAP information in the header or nav. The idea is to make it as easy as possible for site visitors to convert.
#2 – Be User Friendly
I never stop hearing from clients about how they much love the Apple website – and I 100% agree. I may be bias since I have to have Apple everything, but do you know why the Apple website is so appealing? Simple: it’s user friendly. It’s easy to navigate and easy to find what you’re looking for. Keep your menu short with 5-7 main menu options. Make the answers to visitors questions about you or your product easy to get to with organized navigation in sub menus. Make the purchase process simple. Make it easy for the visitor to get in touch with you. Keep the content clean and organized. Leave room for white space. An easy way to test your site is to have a friend or family member spend 15-20 minutes clicking through the pages and giving their feedback on how they think the site flows.
#3 – Tell Your Story
Just because you might be in an industry or business that isn’t necessarily interesting or new doesn’t mean you can’t make it interesting and new. Use your website to tell your story. Who are you? Where did you come from? How did you get here? What are your goals? Who works for you? What’s their story? Who are your customers? What’s their story? How are you helping them? How can you help me? How are you better than your competitors? Many of these questions are meant to be answered creatively and in a way that draws a potential customer in, yearning to learn more. It’s the story of your business or blog. Add a page to your site with the story, then add a main menu option “Our Story” or “Who We Are” or “About”. You can also include it in a slider banner on your home page. People are more interested than you might think to learn about your story and what you’re all about. Talk about you, I want to know!
#4 – Call To Action
Does every page on your website have a call to action? This doesn’t necessarily have to be a conversion. Does it urge the visitor to do something, such as go to another page, fill out a form, call, add to cart, see what’s new, suggest another post, etc..? Your home page isn’t the only place where a call to action is important. Look at the different pages you have and see if you can find opportunities to add a clearer action item for new visitors. Tell them where to go or what to do next.
#5 – Social Media
If you don’t have social media pages, I suggest creating some. You don’t have to get crazy with it by creating 10 different profiles. Depending on what you do, I only suggest certain platforms. Your website is a great place to connect customers and new visitors with your business social profiles. Add social media icons to the header or footer of your website. Add buttons such as “like us on Facebook” or “Pin to Pinterest” to different pages or posts. Social media is meant to be a place where you pull back the curtain of what happens behind the scenes at your business and show customers a closer picture of what you do and why. You can use this to your advantage by attracting new customers.
#6 – Add a blog feed
Adding a blog feed to a website is a great way to keep the site fresh in Google’s eyes. If a website is constantly being updated and adding new content, it’ll stay on the top of Google’s mind. But before you go blog crazy, be very cognizant of who your readers are and what they care most about. Writing sales-y articles that are constantly mentioning “come to me!” “buy me!” “I’m the best!” isn’t the best approach. Answer a common question in your category, appeal to your audience and be genuine in your topics. One place to start when trying to think of a topic? Google.
So, what kind of things make your website successful? Do you have any tips to share that could help improve a website? I’m excited to hear what other tips are out there! Please leave a comment below or contact me to start a discussion 🙂
I know this might not seem like a true deal or steal, but I promise I have an explanation for this. Just hold tight. This month I’m sharing my first discovery under the “Deals & Steals” category where I will share thoughts on what I think is worth a little splurgey-splurge! Every month, I put aside a handful of bonus cash – approximately $100 – to spend on whatever I please. Whether it be an experience or tangible item, I’ll share what my splurge is and why I think it’s worth the extra cash.
This month, I found my way to the Nordstrom.com make up aisle after spending way too many hours engulfed in make up tutorials by the wonderful make up blogger, Jaclyn Hill. After spending a little over $100 on new make up products I’d been wanting to try, I returned several items I didn’t need and held on to the ones that worked for my skin [and let’s be real – items that fit my budget].
I think it’s always a win if you can leave Nordstrom [or Nordstrom.com] without spending $100, so if you’re looking to incorporate a little spring pop of color into your normal make up routine or just feel like treating yourself, I suggest checking out these products that really make you feel pretty and renewed for spring.
*Disclaimer: I use drug store make up, including mascara, eye liner and lip gloss and have never been into throwing hard earned money at expensive name brand make up, but these brands are worth the spend in my book. The quality, wear and lasting effects are very apparent.
This lip color is a daytime natural, bare pink hue that essentially goes with anything. I wear this to work on the days I have time to get ready in the mornings, and I feel like a real lady boss when I’m rocking this color. It completes my day to day look without overdoing it. I feel confident, complete and ready to take on the day with this color!
It wasn’t until my late college years/post-grad when I discovered all the wonderful things you can do with your eye brows. A late eyebrow bloomer, I used to apply powder that matched my eyebrow color (laughing is allowed). If you haven’t already heard by now, the Anastasia Beverly Hills Brow Wiz is pretty incredible because you can draw and fill in your eyebrow while blending it in to avoid any harsh lines that make the eye brow fill look unnatural. A defined eye brow changes a face. It’s scary how different I look with and without this little step.
Total Cost = $63.90 before tax
So, you still have $36.10 left to spend on something else like a cute top or pair of shorts. Let me know if you think this is worth the splurge in the comments below! XXXO~
Finding a clothing store that fits your style, your body and your budget actually takes a little more thought, time and research than I anticipated. For someone who gets impatient with shopping in the first place, taking time to find these stores was not at the top of my list [does this make me less of a girl?!]. Well, I finally began my quest when I decided to ask Facebook friends for their thoughts & suggestions. After a little more research and visiting numerous stores, I have found my top 5 favorite boutiques in Dallas! (Favorite department/chain stores will be a topic in the near future). Shoutout to everyone who gave me suggestions on Facebook – this is why I’m a HUGE advocate for social media! Let’s Connect <3
Please note – I know that I’m not a stylist, fashion was not my major, and I shop with a budget in mind. Nothing is free and I work hard for my money. I’m here to share my findings with others who may be like me – wanting to find cute things at an affordable or “worth it” price 🙂
| 1 | Francesca’s
This store takes first place because it simply never lets me down. I actually am more drawn to the accessories i.e. shoes, jewelry, hand bags and home goods, but I never, I mean NEVER leave without something. My most recent fave at this store are these shoes (also in pic above) that I can wear with literally anything. Funny thing is, I didn’t pick them out. The nice girl at the store said you have to try these on. I took one look, thought hmmm… okay… I’ll try them on… just to be nice, then walked over to the mirror and it was love at first site. Ever since, I’ve been watching their site like a hawk waiting for a shoe sale. Obsessed is an understatement.
| 2 | Accents
I love the cute dresses and tops in this store. I’ve managed to only buy dresses and tops here, but every time I arrive at this store I feel inspired. I’m not a natural fashionista, and I’ll never claim to be, so I love stores that piece things together for you and make you feel as though you have a shot at this game of looking effortlessly put together. The store is very well organized and just has a refreshing atmosphere. It’s quite peaceful and I love it!
| 3 | Milk & Honey
This is one of my most recent discoveries, and every time I go here I leave feeling *almost* like a real bad bi*ch. I mean, Honey, Hello I am here and have arrived. They have really cute rompers, shoes and dresses. Not to mention they have local celebs dressing in their clothes. Whenever I save up more doll hairs, I’ll be back real soon to play. See you soon Milk & Honey | TBD.
| 4 | Gypsy Wagon
I had to list this store not because I’ve ever bought something here, but because I aspire to. I plan to go here at least three more times before making my first purchase. I gotta plan for my first purchase because girlfriend wasn’t born with an Amex linked to Daddy’s bank account. Every top I picked up was no less than $100. The jeans, the shorts, the tops, the purses, the rompers, the shoes, the jewelry, the home goods, the stationary – it was all so cute & girly yet carefree. And I will buy pieces from here, but I try to limit my visits to stores like these because as I go deeper into the store, I feel the devil prying me with his pitchfork, bringing out the gluttonous, envious female we all have to push down from time to time. #RantOver
| 5 | Upscale For Less
Do you like clothes from boutiques? Do you like paying full price for the clothes you like to buy at boutiques? This store is a hidden gem because it carries the same brands you find in boutiques, but for half, sometimes a quarter of the price. It’s set up is similar to Forever 21 in that it can be difficult to find a place to start – it’s way over-stuffed with clothes. But it’s definitely worth the trip if you want more bang for your buck. Just plan to take your time and look for something you really like.
What are your favorite Dallas boutiques? My adventure has just begun, and I look forward to hunting for more boutiques and clothing stores in Dallas. I think clothes are fun and I love to hear what other young working women like myself have found!
Break Ups & Make Ups: 3 Things To Consider When Pondering Relationships
I think it’s safe to say your twenties is the prime time to date and fall in love. There’s nothing more exciting yet scary than getting to know someone and sharing experiences with them while inevitably letting your guard down and letting yourself fall in love. It’s easy to get over excited or over discouraged, but I’ve found it to be important to remind myself of what my love/life goals are and what will make me happy in the end.
| The Past |
Sometimes it’s easy, or second nature – to get stuck in the past. To reflect on every failed relationship and why it failed is often the first thought that comes to mind when thinking of previous lovers. Was it you? Was it them? Was it a combination of the two? Where did things go wrong? Is there a pattern of the same issues occurring in every relationship you are in? Are you constantly faced with new issues? 99.9% of the time, it’s a complete waste of energy to go over everything the previous person in your life did wrong or how they hurt you – or maybe how you hurt them because guess what? They are no longer in your life. If the relationship is truly over, it’s time to be selfish and work on you! When a relationship ends, after I take a day [or week(s)] off overindulging in chocolate, wine and trash TV, I force myself to positively reflect on my learning experiences by having an honest conversation with myself, something along the lines of:
-What could I have done better?
-What did I do right?
-Did I hurt the other person, and how can I avoid that in the future?
-What did they teach me about relationships that I didn’t know before?
-What kind of person do I want in the future now that I’ve learned more about what I like/don’t like?
Granted, let me just say I know it takes some time to get out of the emotional state of mind to be able to clearly think through some of these things. In those early weeks/months of going through a break up, I don’t see why anyone should not be allowed to be a little off their rocker [Lord hold us in your arms tight!]. More wine than normal is completely acceptable in my book. But ONCE you get through that initial stage of heart break, skip the loneliness stage by reflecting on yourself is a great first step to moving on.
| Present |
The present is all about focusing on what makes you happy. Many things have happened around me this year that have caused me to see things in a different perspective, one of them being life is short. How you react to what is thrown your way is all up to you. Attitude is everything. Love conquers all. Be grateful for everything. These are things I have to constantly remind myself Every. Damn. Day. But it’s important to remember.
I think the twenties should be ALL about living life to the fullest. It’s OUR time to be selfish, try new things, travel, date multiple types of people, try new jobs, put ourselves out there and make mistakes. But to put it simply: LIVE. The great thing about being in our twenties is that we are expected to mess up. This is a hard reality to accept for someone who’s very type A and strives to be perfect at EVERYTHING, but there really isn’t that much pressure if you see it as a period of time in your life. What comes after this age entails more responsibility and more pressure to do the right thing. The older we get, the more we are expected to know what we’re doing and to set a positive example. I think its majorly important to take advantage of the time we have now to do what we want, learn while we can and have fun.
When I hit a low point in my life early last year, I started thinking long and hard about what I needed to do in order to turn things around. I was exhausted, angry and lost because I had tried and I had failed. I realized I needed to do something to change the way things were going and didn’t want to waste any time.
First I faced my fears by reflecting on all the hurt I had been holding inside for too long. Some of this hurt was held in since all the way back in my late childhood. I acknowledged my weaknesses (shelfing/running from pain) and searched for ways to improve. Suddenly, my anxiety attacks became less frequent and eventually disappeared. I started reading books on my two favorite topics: business and relationships. I tried different work out classes and started going to the gym or parks with different friends. I physically felt better and more functional and alive. I started pursuing my passions in singing and piano again. I went out and met new people. I did what I love most-made new friends. It took me almost six months to realize I needed to take control of my life, but once I did – I felt better than ever.
What I forced myself to realize is there are so many people who have it way worse than I do. I am not a perfect person, but what I can do now is work on my weaknesses every day, do the things I love and hopefully encourage others, including my friends, to join me. And what’s crazy is that was just one year of my life that I turned around and gave myself a little reality check. I still have the rest of my twenties to figure out what comes next!
| Future |
What now? What comes next? Keeping a positive mind set and being open to new experiences and people creates a great base for a happy future. I’ve noticed that whenever I focus more on what’s most important to me and the people I care about, everything falls into place the way it should. When I start wasting time thinking about or doing things that aren’t bringing positive results to my life, things don’t seem to go my way.
I’ve noticed sometimes people have an idea in their head of where they should be in life at certain stages. They need to get married by one age, have kids by the other age, have this job title or make this much money by this year. I don’t think it’s a bad thing to have a plan and I set goals for my 5/10 year mark. But it can get complicated if you worry too much about the plan playing out EXACTLY how you wrote it. That’s just not how life works. Truly accepting that you can’t control everything will bring peace to your body, mind and soul. Leave it up to the big man upstairs, after all, He’s the only one in control.
The biggest takeaway here is your twenties should be for learning, growing, changing and living. The relationships and experiences along the way are meant to encourage growth within you. Some will last, some won’t. Focus on you and what brings happiness into your life and everything will work out the way it’s supposed to.
Alright, done writing a diary post to myself. Night night!
This is the first question I asked myself after I stumbled upon the Dallas apartment of my dreams. I previously sold the furniture from my last apartment and was ready to start fresh. It was time for me to do some research and think long and hard about what exactly I wanted my apartment to convey. What is my style? Did I want to be shabby chic? Pink and classic? Clean and modern? I think I ended up with a mix of all three.
First thing’s first:
I set a budget. I had a rent budget and money saved up to buy the furniture I needed. This helped me set the parameters for my own little reality. From here, I was able to determine how much I wanted to spend per room.
How I found the place:
I used several popular apartment search engines to look for a complex within 15 minutes from work but also 15 minutes from downtown. When I was walking through a complex I had found online, I saw a taller, newer complex in the horizon, just across the street. 5 minutes later, I found it. We toured the grounds and several units…apologies to my leasing agent – but a year is a long commitment to a 24 year old, not just financially! Most my research was done online and I found my place the same day I went out to tour the complexes in person. I’ll admit, I got really lucky.
How I found the furniture:
Through a little trial and error, I furnished my apartment using four major furniture retailers: Weirs, Nebraska Furniture Mart, Target and Etsy. I bought a couch from Target that ended up being too small and stiff. After waiting two weeks for it to be shipped and being quickly let down upon it’s arrival, I put aside my pride and decided to take a stroll down the aisles of America’s furniture destination: Nebraska Furniture Mart. I was shocked to find a couch twice the size, three times the quality, and for the same price as the Target couch. And it was modern. The even bigger benefit? I took it home that night!
After working for a home builder for six months, my eye for architectural elements was enhanced. I’m in love with my complex because the designer incorporated several modern elements: single basin kitchen sink, stainless steel appliances, modern kitchen cabinets, white granite with large bar for up to four bar stools, pendant lighting, dark wood floors, wine bar, modern plumbing fixtures, under-mount bathroom sinks, ceiling fans in both living and bedroom, long and wide white tile in the bathroom, laundry chute, separate tub and shower, large walk in closet, pool view, balconies with wooden wall paneling, and my favorite – 12 foot ceilings.
Moving into a brand new complex at only 30% capacity is always nice because the gym equipment is brand new, there isn’t a ton of noise, neighbors aren’t really a thing yet and the parking garage has plenty of space. The clubhouse is accessible 24/7, so if you’re like me and one of the only people in the world without a Keurig, you can use the one in the club house. There’s also a dog park, modern pool with cushioned chaise lounge chairs, fire pit and open parking for guests on the streets and in the garage.
These photos were taken the day I first saw this complex. My dreams became a reality in a short matter of two days. Job offer came in Friday, and I found my apartment on Sunday. It’s weird how timing works out the way it does. I blame God.
This is a starting point for me. I plan to add more pieces and decor as time goes on. I had to start completely over as I had sold 90% of the furniture from my previous apartment. I decided it was time to start over fresh, with decorations and selections I chose, not hand me downs or furniture I used in college.
Shoutout to my best friend for the “When life hands you lemons grab the vodka and call the girls” dish towel and “Spoon Me!” spoon holder.
Shoutout to my handy man boyfriend for building all of the furniture in my home that I ordered online from Target. I would’ve been lost without you!
Shoutout to my dad for allowing me to shack up in your house for three months to save the money I needed to make this move.
Here’s a list of where I got everything and a rough estimate of how much I spent where:
Other: I already had bedding from my previous apartment which I bought a year ago at Home Goods. I also already had the chair in my bedroom. A handful of accessories were also carried over, most likely from Home Goods, Target or Hobby Lobby.
Grand total: I spent somewhere around $5,000 total for this move. That included moving fees, deposits, furniture, accessories etc. That’s a steal. I used Groupon for the movers. I got the first two weeks rent for free plus 1 month of rent free (divided by 12) to lower my monthly rent payment. I recommend finding brand new complexes when looking for an apartment because they typically have amazing deals to fill the place.
Ask me anything in the comments below, tell me how you made your dream apartment become a reality 🙂
What’s better than a freshly cooked meal you don’t have to prepare upon arrival at your humble abode after a long day’s work?
Yeah, I couldn’t think of anything either.
My $10 investment two black Fridays ago continues to gift again and again. The handy dandy good ole crock pot serves as my go to dinner during busy work weeks. I spent 5 minutes making my dinner today. Two of those were spent this morning plugging in the crock pot and throwing in the ingredients.
Mexican BBQ Pork Tacos
Prep Time: 5 Min.
Servings: 6 (2 tacos per serving)
Hormel Marinated Pork Filet (Kroger has buy one get one free RN)
1 can of Dr. Pepper
BBQ Sauce – pick your favorite
Butter (ICBINB Substitute)
Sour Cream (Light)
Pico De Gallo
Mission Low-Carb Tortillas
Slap Ya Mama Seasoning
In the morning, reserve a few minutes to add the pork, Dr. Pepper, half a bottle of BBQ sauce and can of tomatoes to the crock pot. I didn’t strain the tomatoes which made the pot more watery which is what I was going for. I set the crock pot to 10 hours so it would cook slowly all day and be ready once I got home.
In the evening, take a large serving fork and pull apart the pork. Instant pulled pork tacos are underway. Next, pull out your tortillas and add the pork, sour cream, cilantro, pico and cheese. Take a small bowl, add the frozen corn, butter, cilantro and seasoning and heat in the microwave 1.5 minutes. I like to heat the tacos 30 seconds to melt the cheese and warm up the tortillas. And you’re done!
That’s the short of it, my prediction of the final rose recipient. Just go to :20 in this video below. First impressions are everything and I could tell in the way Ben reacted when he saw Lauren B. that he would be choosing her.
I may not be a professional matchmaker yet, but I have a lot of confidence in my decision. My top 3 (in the slight chance I may be off) are Lauren B., Olivia and Caila. Olivia because she’s a beautiful TV anchor with a lot more to offer than just good looks. Stalk her Instagram here. Caila because she’s also a quirky, fun, playful, borderline dorky software sales rep like Ben. All three of these women seem to fit Ben’s style. He needs a woman with a down-to-earth personalty who has a sense of reality. He seems less drawn to the flashy, ditzy, Instagram model, bottle service hopping twenty-somethings. Not to say that no men like women like that – trust me, I know some do. But these three I have chosen appear to be above the other women in that they haven’t been sucked into the Hollywood reality-scripted-TV-persona that many of the other women have already portrayed.
You might ask why this matters and who cares? Well, let’s just say post-grad life (it’s almost been two years) becomes less exciting when it comes to extracurricular activities. I don’t get home until the sun is down (cross off any fun outdoor activities) and bar hopping during the week, [despite the instant FOMO I feel deep in my soul every time Drake tells me I should be going up on a Tuesday], is just not in the books for me anymore. So to make my week more exciting this winter, I chose to follow a dating reality show on my Mondays because it’s fun to make fun of people, it’s fun to play a guessing game, and it’s fun to be right. Which I will be when Lauren B wins the Bachelor!!!
Wanna become a super freak and fill out a fantasy draft for this life changing show? Go to the link here, let’s compare players. That’s enough for now. PS Tell me who you’re guessing is going to win!
As I hid tucked away in a study closet, I realized one thing. This weather sure does not feel like Christmas. The moment our phones buzzed with the “tornado warning” message in sync with the tornado sirens outside, John was ready to herd Zoey and I to the downstairs “safe room”. They say over time dogs inherit the personality of their owners. I like to think it’s more situational – but on this day, I’ll admit… both the dog and I showed signs of similarity as we were corralled to the first floor closet. Sarcasm came from my mouth “there’s not even a tornado outside, I don’t see it” while befuddlement and mass confusion shook from Zoey’s hind legs as she darted from corner to corner before John finally captured the animal. Once we made it to our shelter, we locked ourselves in. After a short sixty seconds went by, the drama ended as we were relieved to hear a silence outside, the tornado alarm slowly fading away. Relief was felt for half an hour before round two.
The second tornado warning was taken more seriously. At least by me. My heart fell to my stomach as my fear level went from a mild 15% to a more appropriate for any normal person in this situation 60%. My thought process started to hinder as the idea of a tornado happening became more of a reality. I started rationalizing the tornado in my head “well, today was unusually muggy, humid and way too warm for comfort. Mid-70s on the day after Christmas? Could this be the beginning of Armageddon?” By this time, Zoey was panting loud and couldn’t keep still as the entire back half of her body was shaking in fear. John grabbed a flashlight and here we were again, this time streaming WFAA from my new pride and joy/Christmas present (thanks Dad-told you I needed it!) Luckily, we survived the theoretical Plano tornado. Others weren’t so lucky.
We’ve been involved with several events lately as the holiday season is coming to an end. The weekend before Christmas included six events – Friday night was a birthday party and ugly sweater party. Saturday, my mother and I united to engage in an annual tradition of having lunch at North Park and picking out some last minute Christmas presents. Saturday evening was my work Christmas party at a new, badass bowling ally in Plano. Sunday afternoon was spent with my little as we enjoyed a free BBBS event at Top Golf hosted by the Dallas Maverick’s Raymond Felton. And finally, Sunday evening, John’s mom took us to to see the Trans-Siberian orchestra at the AAC. *takes breath after this long run on sentence*
All the hustle and bustle of researching gift ideas, ordering presents online, shopping at malls, attending parties while maintaining your normal life took it’s toll on me this year. I almost started to forget the true meaning behind Christmas.
Then there were those three days at work just before Christmas Eve. Can I just say it’s nice to not have to fight traffic commuting during the holidays? But really – these days were breathing days as I’m getting caught up and all trained up at my new job.
Our Christmas Eve and Christmas Day events were not any less crazy. Christmas Eve morning I fought my way through Central Market grabbing the ingredients I needed for our lunch. I took a risk and made a Pinterest inspired ham and cheese casserole for John, John’s Dad, my Dad and I. If you know me, you know I won’t cook anything if it takes more than an hour. Very easy to follow recipe and a HIT, especially with hungry men. It’s so delicious- Hawaiian rolls filled with fresh deli maple ham and your choice of cheese topped with a butter sauce (worcestershire sauce, butter, dried onions).
We exchanged gifts with our dads (thanks dad for my present-I’m putting it to use now writing this blog 🙂 and spent time enjoying each others company, sharing stories and eating good. Good as in yummy, yummy as in carbs… the not so healthy ones. But that’s the point of the holidays right? No boundaries.
Next we shuffled our way to Southlake to spend time at my mom’s house. She had spent the entire day preparing our meal. A talent I commend her for that I did not inherit. Maybe one day 🙂 Her food is always amazing. We were served filet mignon with a mushroom sauce, four cheese potato casserole, asparagus and homemade popover rolls. So delicious. Thanks Mom!
The next event of the evening was attending the Christmas Eve candlelight service at our family church. A wonderful combination of music and scripture reminded us of the true meaning behind the season.
We ended the night unwrapping a couple of gifts. Zoey was being especially cuddly, so we had to snap a picture of my princess-angel-face for the books.
This was my favorite day. We were served yet another fabulous meal (Mom shoutout!) for breakfast, pic below. We opened presents and ended the morning with a walk to the park with the dogs. There’s a pretty little park with a small wooded area near my mom’s house with land and horses. I love walking around that area in hopes the horses will be right up on the fence. We let Zoey off her leash so she could run around. She looked like Bambi gallopping through the meadow as she was hopping and frolicking around like she’d never been set free before. Then she stopped- a dead stand still as if someone had just frozen her in a game of freeze tag. Knees locked, ears tall & tail vertical, pointing to the sky. She found the horses.
-And that’s all that happened. There was a fence that stopped her dead in her tracks, no herding or nipping happened. Moving on!
Next, we drove out to McKinney to spend time with Johns mom and grandmother. We were so happy to be able to spend time with his grandma as she just broke her hip and had to get a hip replacement over Thanksgiving. Luckily she was home and we were able to have our Christmas with her in her own home (not the hospital). By this time we were stuffed like turkeys, but we enjoyed yet another delicious meal. We opened presents, sipped wine and everyone was very lucky this year. With a group of four and several gifts to open, it was fun to watch each present be unwrapped. Some of us who weren’t used to this tradition got a little ahead of themselves (me) but it’s okay. We enjoyed ourselves.
We ended our night at the Gaylord Texan with some good friends that John’s known since he was a kid. At first it was a mad house and we started to question which part of the world we were actually in, but after grabbing a drink, the crowds died down and we walked around, enjoying the beautiful scenery and magical Christmas decorations.
2015 was a good year for most people, including myself. The economy is back up, more people have jobs, and a lot of people had success. I personally made some career moves that ultimately were a pretty big risk but advanced me at a faster pace. Retail was very successful this year during the holiday season as people are buying things and everyone seems comfortable.
The entire season of Christmas was very busy for my boyfriend and I and sometimes I’d question why we put ourselves through so much stress. Whether it’s attending all the events I wanted to be at or shopping for friends and family, even though it’s all fun.. I still end up ungrateful or tired or stressed or simply aloof (apparently this is a dominant trait of the aquarius-so I’ll blame my astrological sign). But that’s when I realized it’s not about me, or the things I’ll buy, or the gifts I’ll give, or the food I’ll eat, or the outfit I’ll wear to that party. It’s about giving and showing my love for the people that have been with me throughout the entire year. Spending time with family and friends is, after all, my favorite thing to do. But most importantly, it’s about the love God has for us, that he gave us his only son to save us from our sins. The worldly “us”. The girl like me that gets wrapped up in the chaos and sometimes forgets what this entire season is truly about.
The tornado that happened just the day after Christmas left me feeling sad. I had just spent two days being showered with gifts and enough food for a small country. I had just spent two days with the people I love the very most, and I could sleep knowing I’d see them again soon. After the tornado hit, I was quickly reminded how fast things can be taken away. Why do things get taken away from people? Why is it that some people end up without their family, or shelter, or food, or a job?
A lesson I learned earlier this year after losing a friend taught me how thankful I should be for my life every. single. day. Even on the bad days. My bad days don’t even compare to other people’s bad days. This season I was reminded to cherish every moment, even during the super busy and stressful times. I’m blessed beyond words for the people in my life today. My relationships with my family continues to grow and get stronger. My new family through my boyfriend has been nothing less than amazing. Christmas to me is all about being thankful for all of your blessings and spreading love to those around you. Every day can be a struggle if I allow it to be, but God has bigger plans for those who seek to have bigger minds and hearts. So thank you God for giving us a season to get us back on track and remember what it’s all about.
I wanted to share some fun photos and memories from my very “Mary” Christmas. I also wanted to share what I gathered from this season. Thank you to anyone who made it this far down my blog post. I wish everyone a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!
For more information on how to donate for those affected by the tornado, go to this link. 11 people didn’t survive and hundreds were left homeless. If you can’t donate, spread the word on how others can. <3
Let’s be honest- I don’t create wonderfully delicious salads on a daily basis. But when I find a new recipe that includes ingredients I’m fond of and willing to mix together into one light, crisp, fresh, delicious ensemble of love on a calorie budget – I share it with my friends. Because that’s what friends do.
I don’t have much else to say other than this salad was DELICIOUS and I stored in the fridge to eat for leftovers the next day. Note – I stored the chicken in a separate container and did not put dressing on the salad until I was ready to eat so the lettuce wouldn’t get soggy. Here’s the recipe and some shots of prep/ingredients:
1 package of chicken tenders (boneless, skinless)
Salt, pepper, lemon pepper seasoning
1/2 cup chopped green apple
1/2 cup seedless red grapes, cut in half
1/3 cup sliced almonds
2 green onions, sliced
1 tablespoons chopped fresh basil (I used freeze-dried basil)
A drizzle of balsamic vinaigrette salad dressing (see below)
8 cups shredded romaine lettuce
Cook the chicken tenders in olive oil on medium heat in a skillet with the lid shut. Add the salt, pepper and lemon pepper spices after turning the chicken once. Let simmer for about 10 minutes, flip 3-4 times. Once the chicken is not longer pink in the middle, pull out and set on a plate with a paper towel to soak up some of the excess olive oil. For the best texture, be careful not to overcook the chicken. I was able to pull apart the chicken tenders with a fork as if it were rotisserie chicken. While the chicken was cooking, I washed and chopped the lettuce and put in a large bowl. Then I sliced the apple, grapes, green onion and basil. Toss all chopped/sliced ingredients into the bowl and add the almonds. Let the chicken cool for about 5 minutes. Add chicken to the top and drizzle on the salad dressing-whichever dressing you desire and as much as you want. I chose balsamic vinaigrette, but the recipe called for a light honey mustard (pic of my dressing below – only 30 calories per serving). You can refrigerate the chicken for an hour and serve on top of the salad cold – either way works, whichever you prefer. I ate mine while the chicken was still warm and it was simply fantastic.
It doesn’t matter what scenario you plug it into, it’s always important to have a strategy. How do I define strategy? In short, it’s simply a plan. In long, a well thought out actionable item designed to improve or increase something (i.e. sales) that includes a goal, steps in place to reach that goal, and lastly ways to measure the success of the strategy put in place.
Strategy is the bread and butter of marketing and advertising, but often times looked over. I can’t help but often wonder why this is so? I’ve come to a few conclusions based off observations of others and even myself: lack of focus, too many tasks at hand, a level of comfort, use of copy and paste strategies, lack of innovation, use of strategies that were created five years ago that are no longer relevant and/or engaging, lack of creativity, auto-pilot mode kicks in and poof there it goes; right out the window.
I’m definitely not perfect and am willing confess I sometimes hit walls. The good thing about working on a team is that if I can’t find a solution or come up with a different yet creative way of thinking or communicating, I can collaborate. To me, this is simply a fresh approach to the amazing reward that comes with planning, brainstorming and organizing thoughts into one gorgeous, electrifying, profitable and STRATEGIC marketing plan. It’s simply what we do, and that’s why we love it!
So…why strategy? Well, here’s a thought: have you ever wondered how a business is started? One of the first things an entrepreneur does (well a smart one) is they put together a business plan – or strategy – if you will. Typically it outlines the concept of the business, finances, timelines, marketing plans, goals and how the goals will be reached, products/services, markets served, and staffing of management and key employees. An entrepreneur comes up with a great idea or product – but in order for it to play out the way they envision it, they must put together a plan. If any elements are missing from the plan, they most likely will miss the mark, won’t reach the goal, and sometimes, unfortunately…. completely fail.
The same idea applies to a marketing plan. Marketing largely contributes to a companies success. Alongside the sales team, it sells the product or service. Without a proper strategy, marketing simply doesn’t work.
How do you come up with a good strategy? Depending on what tactic you’re going after, the first thing to do is research in order to have a better understanding of current trends. The way we view media and are served ads has changed and continues to change at the most rapid pace ever in history. With the super fast pace of changing technology, it is a MUST to stay on top of the newest, latest, greatest advertising tactics and platforms. Magazine and newspaper circulation is on the decline, physical pieces of mail that go inside your mailbox outside on your street have decreased, live TV viewership is heading south, mobile device usage is on the rise and has been over the past decade. Traditional advertising mediums such as TV stations and newspaper companies are opening new departments specifically for the digital ad space. Google, Bing, Yahoo, pay per click ads, display ads, online video ads and mobile app ads are more present than ever before. Staying on top of the trends and learning how these platforms work, how their algorithms perform and who they’re reaching is the biggest and number one way to stay on top of your marketing strategy. Hire an advertising agency that has experienced, qualified leaders in their digital departments if you need advice and help pulling your head out of the sand caused by this sudden dust storm they’re referring to as the digital revolution. Or, if there are budget limitations hire someone who has worked in these agencies.
Once you have a solid understanding of the current advertising trends and platforms, the second most important thing to have is a strong, actionable message. Who are you going after? What are you trying to tell them? What do they want? How will you give it to them? Do they know you have something they might need? How do you make them realize it? Consumers are losing focus. With Mom on her iPad looking at Pinterest recipes, Jimmy on his Android listening to Jay Z, Sarah on her MacBook chatting it up on FaceTime with her friend traveling abroad in Spain, Jane on the Smart TV watching Netflix and Dad on his iPhone watching video clips on his SportsCenter app, it’s important to catch these people’s attention who are getting more and more used to getting what they want when they want by a simple tap and slide of a finger. With the right messaging, you can break through. Think about your product. Think about your target audience/consumer. Creatively yet strategically marry the two.
Lastly, there needs to be a timeline in place with actionable items to follow through with. Set the goal, list out what needs to be done in order to reach the goal (tactics), and next to each tactic list a date it needs to be done by. During the process, be sure to check in on these important dates to make sure smaller tactics are being done. At the end, it’s always important to reflect and look for benchmarks of both success and failure of the strategy. Take what you learned both good and bad and refine your next strategy. As you’ve heard, with time things get better, stronger, smarter and quicker. Efficiency is the goal but without innovation, creativity and strategy you’ll never reach ultimate success.
In short, putting together or refining strategy is an ongoing process that should never take the back burner. There’s many exciting things happening out there in the world of marketing and advertising and more tools than ever to make it successful.
The fun thing about marketing is you can apply a lot of the same principles to business in general.
And just to further dwell on my statements above regarding mobile usage, this entire entry was written on an iPhone 6 with WFAA on mute in the background. But don’t worry. I’ve already scheduled an appointment for my carpal tunnel screening. Happy Monday y’all!
Wow it’s been a long time since I’ve posted a recipe! About dang time. I decided to try something new today and I must say – I feel like a new woman! I have always been a picky eater when it comes to vegetables and seafood. Now that I’m dating again, it’s always awkward when I’m on a first date and while looking at the menu, the question “Are you a picky?” comes up… I have to think of a different answer every time. And believe me.. it takes effort! Because I have been picky, not by choice, it’s just how I am. But I am here today to tell you I am trying new things and going down crazy vegetable roads I’ve never been down before. And it feels great! So here’s a step by step of what I made for dinner tonight, the delicious AND healthy Garlic Turkey Spaghetti Squash.
-1 Large Spaghetti Squash
-2 turkey burger patties
-Spaghetti Sauce (I used Classico Spicy Tomato & Pesto)
-Salt, Pepper, Italian Seasonings
1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Take that big ole squash and cut that baby in half the long way. This was a real b$*ch, I think I need new knives. Once you get it cut in half, scoop out all the seeds. The consistency and texture reminded me of a pumpkin. Lay both pieces face down on a metal cookie sheet (be sure to spray olive oil Pam first). Then add about 1/4 cup of water to the pan and cover the squash with foil. Throw it in the oven for 45 minutes.
2.I would suggest starting the sauce process about 20 minutes before the squash is done cooking. Put a large pan on low-medium heat. Throw in the olive oil, minced garlic, and parsley. Let it simmer for a few minutes.
3. After a good simmer gets a going, throw in the turkey meat. This is when I added the seasonings. Turn the heat to medium and add a little more olive oil so the meat doesn’t dry out.
4. Once the meat is close to done, add in the spaghetti sauce. I used about 2/3 of the can of sauce, but it’s up to you if you want more or less. Once the squash is done, all ingredients should be in the pan. Pull out that fat boy and simply take a fork to the inside of the squash. After gathering a large clump of “spaghetti”, scoop it into the pan. Let the pan simmer for about 5-10 more minutes once you get all of the squash into the pan.
5. Enjoy with a little mozzarella or parmesan cheese and a nice glass of cabernet! Only 30 calories per cup of squash. With the meat and sauce added, I can’t imagine it being more then 250-300 calories per serving at max. Super low calorie and guilt free way to enjoy spaghetti. Loved it! Will do it again. One disclaimer- I will say it took more time than I normally spend on cooking…I like to spend my days free of control and free of things that take time away from the more fun and selfish things in life. But today I felt like learning a new recipe in hopes that one day I will get to spoil that health-conscious, super ripped/fit special someone with this garlicy spaghetti squash recipe. #MaryGetsDomesticated2015
On March 12, 2015, I was unaware of how my life would be changed by an impromptu ‘adult spring break’ trip to Cabo San Lucas, Mexico. Only ten months after starting my first real job, I decided it was time for me to get out and do what I do best: travel and meet new people. Growing up, my mom traveled all over the states for her job and she would bring me with her as often as she could get me out of school. Traveling is second nature for me and it was time for me to get out of my comfort zone.
I live by the idea – work hard // play hard – and I had spent the previous ten months focused solely on my job and bettering myself for my future. I did work hard, and while I took days off here and there, I hadn’t left home since before I graduated college. So much has changed since I left college in such a short period of time. So many positive things have happened, but with that, some negatives too. I hadn’t taken a serious moment to think and realize how important it is to stop and smell the roses. Advertising is a fast paced, fast moving industry which fits perfectly with my personality and skill set, but what I had failed to acknowledge is the need for reflection and self actualization in the midst of chaos. Vacation and traveling to new places brings you to a place where you can find more about yourself, who you are, what you want, and what you are going to do to get it. I was fortunate to have numerous opportunities growing up to have these kind of experiences, but now that I am the only person in control of my life, I’ve found the importance in forcing yourself to get out of your zone for a bit in order to reconnect. Without further a due, here is the story of the most amazing trip I’ve experienced.
On our first night in Cabo, we hit the town. I was shocked that the bars/clubs were actually not half bad. I’ve visited other Mexican towns and cities but Cabo’s nightlife was similar to places I’ve been to in America. First we visited Pink Kitty, from there it was a back and forth between Vaquero, Mandala and El Squid Row. During the day, we hit Mango Deck where all the college spring breakers were partying. It was pretty sick. Not much elaboration needed here – go if you want to see how bad a$* of a time it is.
On our second day in Cabo we met someone who we now consider a dear friend – Saul! – who would offer us a nice private boat ride to the Arch (famous landmark in Cabo). What we didn’t know we would experience is seeing over a dozen mother whales with their babies breeching in and out of the water. It was incredible. Another exciting unexpected event was not one but two BIG fish caught. A 100 pound marlin and a 30 pound fish (I forget what it was called :P). That was a great experience for the guys on the boat. We drank, danced, swam, fished and had way too much fun for a total of six hours on the water. I would do anything to do it again. After we got off the boat, some of the group was able to eat the fish we caught. The rest of us (the singles) went to Mango Deck for some margs!
Our hotel was all inclusive and let me just say I think I can speak for all of us that our workout regimens and diets pre-trip were completely destroyed during and post trip. But it was so worth it! The rooms were perfectly air conditioned, the pool with a swim up bar was right down the hall, and my favorite – the beach – was just beyond the pool. We played sand volleyball on the beach, threw a football closer to the water, and took TONS of GoPro footage in the water. It was pure bliss.
I could write a novel about this trip and will definitely add to this rendition, but for now I will leave it at this.