January 27, 2015

Learning to Be Intentional

What I've always said but now know for sure, is that life never stops. Just when I think I've finally "gotten a hang of it", I come home to realize I have nothing to eat for dinner but popcorn and a pile of laundry that rivals Mt. Everest. Seriously? I've been on my own for over a decade. Why does my life sometimes mirror that of a starving college student? 

Moving right before the new school year started threw me off good. I lived on a new side of town, was starting a new job, and never quite got into a routine that worked for me. Should I go to work early and work out after school? Peel myself out of bed for a 5:30am workout and stay late at school? When and where would I see Patrick? My friends? Find time for myself? Run errands? 
I tried anything and everything I could think of: taking myself on a solo movie date Monday nights, but there wasn't a movie out I wanted to see every week, plus that costs money. Working out after school, but that made me feel rushed at the end of the day and guaranteed I would have to come in early the next. Seeing Patrick only on the weekends, but that meant I didn't see him at all if I went out of town. Sigh. 
Time is like money: we have a limited amount but still choose how we spend it. Just like a financial budget, I needed to prioritize and realize where the heck all of my time was going each week. When Patrick and I move in next week, I'll finally have a bit of extra time to add to the budget. Our new place is a mere mile from my school, cutting my roundtrip commute from 50 minutes to less than 10. Patrick and I will live together, so seeing each other will (hopefully) be easier. After much trial and error, I've realized I'm a happier teacher and person when I work out in the mornings, then catch up on my to-do list after school. Besides these (earth-shattering) revelations, I've boiled my "budget" areas into Top 5 priorities, outlined below: 
1. Getting enough sleep.
Teaching is a profession where I give a lot to people all day long, and I need to be at 100% just to get through the day. If I'm getting up for a 5:30am workout, that means beginning my nighttime routine around 8pm: powering down electronics, getting ready for bed, and snuggling up with a book. I'd much rather say no to midweek socializing than realize it's only 9:00am and I just yelled at a kid for saying my name. (Long day, party of 1?)
2. Balancing work and life. 
For the life of me, I haven't been able to get into a routine this school year. Blame it on my naturally disorganized brain, the stress of Montessori training, or a million other things, but the bottom line is I feel frazzled. At the end of each week my to-do list is as long as it was when I started, and I can't seem to recall what I spent my planning or before/after school time doing. What I needed was a system, so I knew which days I worked on certain tasks, contacted parents, etc. On our most recent teacher workday, I made myself the following schedule loosely outlining each day: 
This means working 7:30-6 Monday, 8:30-6 Tuesday and Thursday, and 8:30-4:30 Wednesday and Friday. Hopefully front loading the hours of my work week will help me have a peaceful rest of the week, vs. scrambling around at the last minute like I've been doing. I'd also much rather work longer days during the week than work on the weekends, ever. I had about enough of that to last me a lifetime when I was in TFA, thank you very much. 
3. Making time for myself.
In order for my batteries to be recharged, I have to have alone time. Once Patrick and I are roomies this might mean solo trips to movies, Barnes and Noble, or just walks around the neighborhood. It also might mean I stay in a few nights when he goes out with friends so that I can have some me time. Scheduling time to blog and work out are also ways that make me feel like I've got a handle on this ol' thing called time. 

4. Making time for Patrick.
One thing I love our relationship is that we're still both independent people. We don't spend every waking moment together now, and while I know that will change when we move in together, I want each of us to maintain what makes us ourselves. For me, that means book club and watching Real Housewives with my girlfriends, for him that means sports and dinner with his friends. Since I also understand that you can live together and not actually spend any quality time together, I'd like for us to eat dinner at our dining table at least three nights per week, no TV or other distractions.

5. Making time for friends.
I'm not that girl who spends all of her time with her boyfriend, but I am that girl who is knee-deep in Montessori teacher training and trying to graduate on time. #butreally. And as much as I wish I meet friend for dinner or trivia every week, I just can't afford it. Once we move, my priority will be making plans in advance to walk, get a coffee, or having people over to our new place for drinks and something low-key.
So there you have it: my top 5 time budget "expenditures" and how I plan to spend them. Along the same lines, this weekend I purchased The Best Yes on the recommendation of multiple friends. Since it claims to help end the ache of "an overwhelmed schedule and an underwhelmed soul", I'm pretty sure it's right up my alley. Stay tuned. 

January 26, 2015

#brookesbach in Savannah

Last weekend I headed to Savannah with an SUV full of ladies to celebrate my lovely friend Brooke's upcoming nuptials. Brooke and I have been close since I first moved to Charlotte in 2009, when she was basically Elise and my third roomie and when our weekends consisted of bar, hangover, Bojangles, repeat. 

Let's just say we've all come a long way. 

Friday nights are the worst for heading out of town (driving after a long week = no bueno),  but our friend Erin was able to rent us a sweet ride so a bunch of us could carpool down to Savannah together. #heckyes

You didn't plan on actually using your rearview mirror, did you? 

Instead of a million hotel rooms, we rented a sweet house right in downtown Savannah that slept all 12 of us. All the better for day drinking and strolling, made all the more fun since Savannah has no law against open containers. 

Turns out strolling is a lot less fun than just plain drinking, so after cruising around a good part of downtown we parked it at a bar with views of the river for the afternoon. The entire afternoon.


We made some new friends

I'm awkward


Somehow we made it home, rallied, and were able to make our 7pm reservation at The Old Pink House. Literally the only two vegan options on the menu were chilled gazpacho and a house salad, so that's what I had. Oh, and a jalapeno margarita #duh. The waitress was really helpful and knew everything that had dairy and egg in it, so I have to give her props for that. I generally don't eat salad for dinner (no surprise there), but this one definitely sufficed.

All the ladies after dinner at Pink House
Our after dinner activity was a Haunted Pub Crawl, which basically involved going into creepy places like this with a beer in our hands: 

Turns out I was like, the only one who believed in ghosts, so I may have gotten a tad more freaked than anyone else. Plus our tour guide kept showing us videos with creepy orbs in them. Don't ask. 

besties with vesties

After that, the cool crew stayed out and another group of us headed back to the house for a long winter's nap. There were plenty of years I could be hungover two (or more) days in a row, but those years are long gone. Mama needs to hydrate and get eight hours of sleep. 

Our Sunday morning brunch spot was literally next door to our house, which made everything ever so easy. 

Knowing I'd need coffee desperately, I brought my own soy milk...

...only to discover they actually had it on the menu! Whaaaaaaaaaat. Happy dance. Then I promptly hid my carton of soy milk under the table because what kind of freak brings their own milk to a restaurant? 

I ordered the Black-eyed Pea Cake Sandwich, which was basically a black bean burger on crack. So. Freaking. Good. 

Since brunch is generally the hardest meal to eat out at as a vegan, I was more than happily surprised that they had an option for me. Plus the waitress didn't blink an eye when I asked for the sandwich vegan (aka no cheese), so I have no doubt they would have made me something else yummy if I'd asked. 

I generally only order a sandwich so there's an excuse to have french fries. But really.

Overall, it was an awesome weekend with the perfect balance of alcohol and grown-up decisions. I'm super excited for Brooke to marry a great guy and I'm so honored to have been included in the celebrations.

With that said, I leave you with a GIF that I like to call #bacheloretteprobs:

Happy Monday and cheers to Brooke and Pat!

January 15, 2015

Beauty Bargains: Giovanni Styling Lotion

In the words of my hairdresser, I have the worst hair ever. 

Ok, he didn't exactly say it like that. But he did tell me that my head full of fine, slightly wavy hair was "the hardest texture to work with". Hmpf. Basically: I have fine hair that hardly holds a curl, but so much of it that hairdressers often have to take a break to rest their arms during my appointment. It breaks easily so I have to keep the ends extra moisturized, but goes limp if I apply too much product to the roots. 

Basically: I have major #firstworldprobs.

As I've mentioned before, finding awesome beauty products from the handful of companies that don't test on animals is no walk in the park.  As I've used up hair and makeup products that I've had since before I became vegan, I've spent a good amount of money trying to find worthy replacements. Le sigh. 

In some cases, I strike gold when the new product I find is a fraction of the old price and works just as well. That was the case when I stumbled upon Giovanni Sunset Styling Lotion Hair Changer as a replacement for my Bumble and Bumble version. $7.99 > $29.99 in my book any day. Why in the world was I spending thirty dollars on a hair product? Live and learn, people. Live.and.learn. 

The ingredients are slightly different, but the effect is the same: apply to wet hair for style and hold while blow drying. Since I have a major cow lick right where my part is, this is of particular importance to me to avoid having a single corkscrew curl amidst my otherwise straight hair. Not a good look, trust me.

While the Bumble and Bumble version is a spray, Giovanni's is more of a cross between a spray and a gel and is a thick liquid you pour straight into your hand. Since my hair is short, I place a quarter-sized dollop in my palm, rub my hands together, and get all up in my cowlick. I sometimes dab a bit on my ends so they stay straight, then blow dry as I usually do. 

The result? Straight ends, bouncy volume, and not a corkscrew curl in sight. The $20+ I save doesn't hurt, either. 

You can find Giovanni products at health food stores or on my Amazon page. (Affiliate link.)

Do you have any favorite cruelty-free hair products? 

Cheers to good hair days!

January 14, 2015

5 Tips for Talking Home Decor with Men

As Patrick and I are T-minus a little more than 2 weeks from moving in together, we're officially in strategy mode. What time should the movers arrive that Saturday? When can we pick up our keys? When are you taking the recliner to Goodwill? (I haven't mentioned the last part yet, but I may be paying off the movers to "lose" a few things.)

In a stroke of pure good luck, Patrick and I got a sizeable gift card to Southpark Mall as a signing bonus with our lease. Besides just being plain awesome (free money = holla!), it's also such a blessing because combining a bachelor pad (Patrick) with someone who's been living in furnished places for years (moi) means there's a lot of stuff we don't have. This gift card will allow us to buy things like nice pots and pans, a few small appliances, and bathroom accessories without having to spend too much of our own money. Exactly how we spend the gift card has been another story. Below are the five things I've learned when discussing the ins and outs of home decor with men. 

1. Pinterest = of no interest. 
Mi scusi? Sad but true. Whereas I can drool over Lucite chairs for hours, Patrick will take one glance before letting me know he doesn't care for "clear plastic furniture". Rude. When there's something I think we should buy or create, I have to get my point across in two images or less and be ready to explain 1) how I'm planning to pay for it or 2) the steps required to make it. Hmpf. 

2. Concepts like "color schemes" are new, and therefore take time to be explained. 
As we discussed using some of our gift card $$ for things such as bathroom accessories and nicer towels, Patrick was a little hurt that his Hokies-themed, maroon bath mat wasn't going to make the cut. Sorry that I'm not sorry, but it doesn't fit the theme. Which is pretty much this:

Bottom line: if it's not a color you'd naturally see at the beach, it's not coming in our bathroom. I may have to "lose" that on moving day as well. 

3. Get on their level.
Recliner=comfortable. Since there seems to be zero aesthetic benefit whatsoever, I have to assume that this is the appeal of such a gargantuan piece of furniture. When your man realizes there isn't room in the new apartment for the recliner (thankyouJesus) you can appease him by saying things like "I think this chair that's actually attractive may be as comfortable as your recliner was!" A for effort, amiright? It's called a win-win, people. He has to get down to my level as well, like when he made me separate my gift card wish list into things we needed (food processor) and things we wanted (non-maroon bath mats), which made our budget much more realistic. Until then, I'd lumped everything onto the "need" list, when there are plenty of things we already have. (Albeit unmatching and not cohesive with the color scheme. Hmpf.) 

4. "Solution" is a relative term.
I want six dining chairs. Our apartment really only has room for four. When expressing to Patrick my disappointment at the thought of not being able to host both of our sets of parents at the same time, he volunteered to "stand at the counter and eat". Um...no. Pretty sure we could just go to a restaurant before that happens. Sweet sentiment, though. A more feasible solution? Four chairs + a bench that could be pulled up to the table when we have company: 
Did I mention Patrick is going to make us a table and bench? Manly and rugged, party of 1. Swoon.

5. It's not all about me.
Sigh. The most important lesson of all. This isn't about the coffee maker we get to buy or where to hang a painting, it's about creating a home with the man that I love. Getting to come home to him will be the best part of my day, blue recliner and all. 

What are some things you'd wish you'd known when you moved in together? I'd love to hear your thoughts. 

Cheers to love and cohabitation!

January 13, 2015

The Vegan Traveler: The Pickled Peach in Davidson, NC

This past weekend was my monthly Montessori training weekend, where I'm holed up in a classroom taking notes while everyone else is out having the time of their lives. Or at least in their sweatpants sipping coffee. Same difference?

As much as I complain about them (sorry, Patrick), these weekends do recharge me and get me excited to head back to my classroom on Monday with all the new things I've learned. The fact that they take place in beautiful Davidson doesn't hurt either. Quaint college town + tons of independent restaurants and shops = happy me on our Saturday lunch breaks. This past weekend a few of my colleagues and I headed to downtown Davidson for lunch at The Pickled Peach:

I swear I didn't stage this bike.

Cozy interior on a chilly day
 They had a ton of vegetarian options, labeled their vegan options, and didn't blink an eye when I asked to switch from cheese to avocado on my grilled veggie panini. My kinda place.

Pumpkin soup? Yes. 

I may have taken a bite from this before I took the photo...

The weeks after my training sessions are spent catching up on all of the "weekend" things I had to brush aside, like laundry, cooking, and sleep. The next few months will consist of me buckling down in a major way in order to finish my AMS certification on time, so I'm going to enjoy these snippets of relaxation while I can. 

How is your week starting off?

Cheers to exploring new places!

January 8, 2015

Weekly Workout Motivation

With two weeks off at Christmas break, it was beyond glorious to have my day center around a 9:45am workout class. My daily to-do list went something like this: wake up, sip coffee, read, workout, run errands, relax, nap, dinner with friends. Heaven. 

And now it's back to the grind. Sigh. 

Usually I'm a big proponent of early morning workouts, but with the nightly temperatures dipping into the single digits I just can't drag myself out of bed. Turns out working up the motivation to hit the gym after school is just as difficult as that 5:00 am alarm, but I've managed to get it done this week. 

I agreed to try an athletic conditioning class with my friend Erin on Sunday in the spirit of trying new things. #neveragain. Ever heard of a "Bosu burpee"? No thanks. I'll stick to my happy little barre classes. Erin's a total bada** who recently completed a marathon, so as I was gasping for air she was totally doing extra pushups not on her knees. Woof. 

The weeks before my Montessori training weekends can tend to be stressful and full of last minute assignments that I've procrastinated, which means I need my workouts all the more. My goal in the new year has been to exercise at least four times a week, preferably six. I let myself get out of my routine when the new school year started and it's time to get back on track. 

P.S., if you're in the Charlotte area, check out Carolina Barre's 21 Days to Form a Habit! $121 for unlimited classes = totally amaze.

January 7, 2015

Vegan Beauty Buys: Paula's Choice

(Note to readers: this is not a sponsored post. I actually bought, paid for, and used every product I mention here.) 

The hardest part about being vegan isn't the diet: it's finding cruelty-free (i.e. not tested on animals) beauty products that don't smell like patchouli and actually work. I've tried deoderants that did little more than moisturize my underarms, mascaras that caked, and "natural" cleansers that made me break out so badly I had to go to the dermatologist. (Mind you, these sort of things happened before I was vegan too, but they weren't nearly as expensive.)

Enter the Cosmetics Cop, aka Paula Begoun. I've been reading her books since I was 12 (yep) when I received The Original Beauty Bible as a Christmas present. I give her full credit for convincing me to stop using things like Sea Breeze astringent, which was basically just irritating the heck out of my skin and making my acne worse. She's also the reason I've been wearing SPF daily since I was a teen, so I fully expect to be like Benjamin Button as I age. 

Luckily for me, she now has her own skin care and make up line that (ka-ching!) isn't tested on animals. Paula's Choice has everything from antioxidant serum to lip gloss without a whiff of patchouli anywhere. #thankyouJesus
Clockwise from top left: //Best Face Forward Foundation//Resist C15 Super Booster + Skin Balancing Antioxidant Serum//The Nude Mattes Eyeshadow Palatte//Resist Daily Pore Refining Treatment with 2% BHA//MegaLength Mascara//Soft Cream Concealer//
I got quite a few Visa gift cards for Christmas, which I used to stock up on some of my essentials as well as some that I'd been coveting for awhile. Here are some of my favorite products: 

1. Best Face Forward Foundation SPF 25. 
You can buy a sample pack to make sure you get the shade that's a perfect match for you, which saves so much time and money it's ridiculous. Why doesn't every brand do this? I tend to have a winter shade and a summer shade, and mix a few drops in with my Trader Joe's SPF moisturizer every morning. When I need to kick it up a notch I apply it straight on. I have another post about this great product here

2. Resist C15 Super Booster + Skin Balancing Antioxidant Serum
This Vitamin C booster was something I'd been coveting for awhile and finally bought when I had a gift card. (Not that it's expensive, just that I needed an excuse.) I feel like teaching can sometimes make me look um, haggard and I need a little boost to look like I'm 28, not 48. After I exfoliate with the Resist Daily Pore Refining Treatment (below) I apply a pea sized amount of the serum and a drop or two of the C15 booster over my entire face. Serious skin-like-a-baby's-bottom in the morning. I also find that I use less makeup now that I've included this in my routine. 

3. The Nude Mattes Eyeshadow Palatte. 
Oh. My. Heavens. What more does one need? Thanks to a special they were running around Christmas, I got this gem for FREE in my order. Drugstore eyeshadow brands tends to flake all over my undereye, giving me a depressed/heroin chic look. These are not only some of the most gorgeous colors I've ever seen, but they stay put. It feels good to get rid of all the half-used tins of crappy shadow and just have this beauty sitting in my makeup bag. 

4. Resist Daily Pore Refining Treatment. 
If you're still using St. Ives Apricot Scrub, it's time to get a grown-up exfoliant. I put a few drops of this onto a cotton ball every night and apply it to my face. It absorbs quickly, never stings or makes my skin red, and make it so soft I find myself just touching my cheeks for the sake of it. (Which can get me weird looks.)

5. MegaLength Mascara. 
Done. Best mascara ever. Gives me an almost fake-lash look without sticking, flaking, or the dreaded raccoon eye. And it's the same price as drugstore mascara. Decision made. 

6. Soft Cream Concealer. 
Under eyes, breakouts...this stuff is awesome. I apply it right after my little tinted moisturizer concoction and feel like it really covers up the whole I'm-a-teacher-and-never-sleep-past-6am look. Whew. 

Buy Paula's Choice here. 

Listen to Paula's podcast here. 

What are some of your favorite cruelty-free brands/products?  


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