Book Talk [February]

My favorite thing to do is cuddle up with my big purple blanket, a cup of coffee, and a book. I have found that the Internet…and Netflix…and apps on my phone…well, they make this very simple task of curling up with a book seem like a challenge. But, I am always much happier and more relaxed when I make time to read. 🙂

Here’s what I checked out from the library this month:

The Residence by Kate Andersen Brower

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This nonfiction book is all about life inside the White House. The author gathered these stories from White House domestic staff like the butlers, maids, gardeners, maintenance men…you know, those people who work there for years and years and see more than one Presidential family come through. It was SO interesting to read how they prepare for a new family and what kinds of things they are expected to do. Plus, most of the people who have these jobs have them because someone in their family worked at The White House, too, so they REALLY know a lot about the people who have lived there! When I visited Renwick Gallery a few weeks ago, I waited in a long line outside the museum, which happens to be right by The White House, and I talked my friend’s ear off with all the new facts and stories I learned.

A few fun ones:

Lyndon B. Johnson was obsessed with having a very intricate shower built in his bathroom. Ha!

The Clintons were the loudest, most argumentative First Couple.

One of the butlers joked that he had never heard Mary J. Blige played in The White House until the first night the Obamas were there. 🙂

The First Families pay for all their own food! –> I thought this one was so interesting because there are so many luxuries that they have just by living in that house, so it was a surprise to read they still have that same normal expense as the rest of us!

Secrets of a Charmed Life by Susan Meissner

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Perhaps my FAVORITE book. I started it on a Saturday night and finished it on Sunday morning, thanks to Blizzard Jonas. This historical fiction book is about two sisters living in London during WWII. As the war moved closer to England, children were sent to the country, with the thought that they would be safer there should anything happen to the city. The first chapter starts out in present day and HOOKS you right from the start. I couldn’t wait to see what happened, and I couldn’t predict it, either! I was so sad when this story ended because I wanted to keep reading about the characters. It was the perfect ending. This is my favorite time period to read about, which I always feel weird saying, because there was obviously a war taking place, but it is just fascinating to read about everything that went on at that time.

The Trump Card by Ivanka Trump

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You are more than welcome to judge me for this read, but I got this book from the library in audio book form and I really enjoyed listening to it on the way to and from work. This book is essentially written for someone who is just beginning their career, and I loved the perspective and motivation she provided for someone (like me) in that stage of life. Though she did relate many of her explanations to the business world, I still felt myself relating and engaged. She only talks of her father as a father in this book, and that was enough. 😉 #savethepolitics

I stole 2 of these 3 book recommendations from Allie’s recent book post, so now I need some more help! What should I read next?

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Tourist Tuesday

So I might have mentioned that I went to New York City with my family. No? You don’t remember talking me talking about that? Well, you can read about it here and here. 😉 I feel like I have done so many recaps of this trip, but I have so much to say!

Today I’m talking about two of the “tourist-y” things that we did while we were in the city. After we ate dinner, we liked to have a plan for the evening. Simply walking around did not seem to appease my brothers as they liked to have an end destination in mind, so we ended up at two different locations right near each other on two different evenings.

Madame Tussaud’s Wax Museum

I SWEAR I have suggested this museum every single time we have gone to NYC in the last four years and no one has taken me up on it until this past year! In fact, my mom suggested it as if it was some kind of new and amazing thing. I was quite offended. 😉 I vividly remember her telling me it would be “boring” in the past, yet once she decided to go, she was all in!

First of all, I had no idea that Madame Tussaud was actually a real person who had a traveling exhibition similar to the museums almost 200 years ago. All I knew is that I was going to a museum with wax figures of celebrities that look seriously life-like! Upon walking in and starting up the steps, you see the musician Pink floating in the air, similar to her performance at the Grammy’s a few years ago!

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We waited in a bit of a line for the elevator, which takes you several floors up to the top of the museum, and you work your way down. I snapped pictures in the meantime!

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Justin Timberlake, Bruce Willis, Jennifer Lawrence as Katniss, Kelly Ripa, Morgan Freeman 

Morgan Freeman and Anderson Cooper looked EXACTLY like they look in real life. Some looked almost perfect, but you could just tell that something, somehow, was off. Like Kelly Ripa…I LOVE her, but I knew she was a wax figure. 😉 It was strange to see celebrities with sunglasses vs. celebrities with just their regular face. When you could see their eyes, it made them so much more life-like!

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Kim Kardashian West, Robert Pattinson, Jimmy Kimmel, The Kennedys, Benjamin Franklin

The coolest people to see “in person” were the more historical well-known Americans. The Kennedys, The Reagans, Abe Lincoln…it was kind of weird to see those faces because they aren’t in our news as much as the other more current celebrities! Of course, there was a line to see The Obamas. My brothers and I all took a picture at The White House podium as if we were giving a press conference, too! The funniest picture is definitely one of Alex scratching Lenny Kravitz’s head. We had so much fun being ridiculous here!

Let’s take a moment for The Spice Girls…because they are my favorite. Do you see the woman with the camera on the left? In the museum, she is in front of The Spice Girls, so it looks like she is taking a picture of them. And she is wax. And I stood behind her for a few minutes before I realized she was fake. Hahaha!

The museum takes an official picture of you and your family/friends while you are there that you are able to purchase at the gift store on the way out, but we didn’t purchase ours because we took too many other good pictures ourselves! This was one of my favorite places to go. You can’t NOT have fun here!

Ripley’s Believe It Or Not!

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Jake loves all things historical and fact-based, but he is just as intrigued by random oddities, so this place was right up his alley.

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We were welcomed by the tallest man in the world, who beats both of my 6’5″ brothers by just a few feet. 😉

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There are two floors to this place, and I didn’t take many pictures because I was either reading the facts that went along with each exhibit or I was interacting with it! I was surprised to find a lot that we could do while we saw these random things. The best was a tunnel with flashing lights called “The Black Hole”. The object was to walk across the bridge (which was moving) while walking through the tunnel. It was trippy!

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Jake walked through with Alex and then ran back to find me and my mom. He made me hold his hand the second time, which he will never admit…but look! I have proof! 🙂

A glass floor with sailboat models below, a mind game that made it look like Jake lost his legs, a two headed cow, and a train made solely of tooth picks. Yes, that huge train is made out of JUST toothpicks!

I had my fortune told by Zoltar (any other Tom Hanks “Big” fans out there?!), my mom and I found each other in a mirror box, and I climbed the Empire State Building. You’re so convinced, right?! 😉

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We, of course, bought the classic picture. 🙂

Both Madame Tussaud’s and Ripley’s are right on 42nd Street in Times Square, so if you travel with people who are looking for an end destination while you walk around, I would highly recommend either of these places!

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Linking up with Stephanie for TWOsday!

Christmas Traditions

The best way to spread Christmas cheer (besides singing loud for all to hear) is to partake in your family’s favorite traditions. These are the little things that just make the holiday meaningful for you. These are the little things that your family talks about and looks forward to all year long!

– Decorations –

As soon as Thanksgiving dinner is cleared from the table, Christmas decorations are a go in the McGraw house! Usually, we wait until Black Friday to bring out the decorations, but this year it was Thanksgiving night when my mom and I dragged the huge boxes filled with Christmas tree up the basement stairs!

We build our tree one branch at a time. When I was younger, I remember having a real Christmas tree, but I also remember how much my mom disliked vacuuming the pine needles ha! I guess that is part of the real tree charm. 🙂 When I was 10 or 11, my parents found a 9 foot tall artificial tree on major clearance after Christmas. They were sold on this huge tree when they also found a rotating base to put the tree in. So we decorate all sides of the tree because it spins!

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When we moved to our current house five years ago, we started decorating a tree in the game room, too. This tree holds all the homemade ornaments that don’t make it on the tree in the family room upstairs. 🙂

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I always have some kind of tree in my bedroom. This one was pink, if you couldn’t tell. 😉 When we were younger, we had little green trees that were about this size with M&M character ornaments. We called them our M&M trees! Now, I am actually really sad, because I don’t know what happened to the M&M trees ha!

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I spend Christmas (and the days leading up to Christmas) at my mom’s house, but I still like to decorate my apartment. This is a picture of my apartment in college! I still have that tree but it is in storage at home and since I flew home for Thanksgiving, I wasn’t able to travel with any of my decorations…so now my current roommate is talking about buying a new tree. We must!

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I also did this to my fridge a few years ago. What, you don’t have random colors of construction paper on hand? #teacherproblems

– Desserts –

Pizzelles are our FAVORITE holiday treat to bake. The first set of pizzelles always turns out like that. Stuck to the iron! I like to make a big batch and put them in cute Christmas bags as a little treat at school or work for friends or coworkers.

We also love to bake my Grandma’s Candy Cane cookie recipe and steal cookie ideas from Pinterest. That particular year, we didn’t even need an oven! We used Nutter Butters, M&M’s, pretzels, and icing to assemble our Reindeer cookies.

– Activities –

I take pictures of every Christmas tree I walk past. And if the opportunity presents itself, I will hop in the picture, too. 🙂

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Why not shop and take pictures, too? #alltheChristmasthings

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And of course I drink my coffee and tea from all the fun Christmas mugs!

I love any and all holiday attire…including these reindeer antlers. Me, 4 years ago, loving life…and then this past weekend, we had Amigo in antlers…he was embarrassed.

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Colby’s thoughts on Christmas dress up? Side eye. He did wear the Christmas socks, though. 🙂

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Amigo HATES having his paws or legs touched, so the fact that he was in Christmas socks was no easy task! And truthfully, he loves the Christmas sweater because he is always cold.

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Another one of my favorite traditions is opening my birthday presents…because they are always under the Christmas tree! My birthday is December 10 and since the tree is already up, I have to take advantage of it, right?

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We also LOVE making gingerbread houses! My mom makes the best homemade icing to hold our houses together. She has a big gingerbread house decorating event in her kindergarten class, too. We have an expert building with us!

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I’m not sure if this is a ‘me’ thing or a family thing, but I love Christmas lights! Whether it’s driving around neighborhoods or actually going to see a display, I love the lights.

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Hershey Park 2005

A huge park in the Pittsburgh area called Hartwood Acres used to have the best light display. You could tune your radio to a certain station and hear Christmas songs that sang along with the lights as you were driving!

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Hartwood Acres 2012

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Sadly, Hartwood Acres doesn’t have their huge light display anymore. Last year, I made my mom and Jake drive with me to Overly’s Country Christmas. The line of traffic to get up to the farm was LONG but it was so fun!

There are so many fun things to do during the holiday season with friends, too! I’ve run a Reindeer 5K, seen the floral and light displays at Phipps Conservatory, heard Trans-Siberan Orchestra in concert, and run the National Mall past all the big Christmas trees.

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A tradition that is pretty unique to my family is taking a little trip right after the holiday. In the week or so between Christmas and New Years, my family likes to go away for a few days. We definitely haven’t done this every year, but as we’ve gotten older, it’s easier to get away. As you can see, when we were really little, we visited Hershey Park in central Pennsylvania. They, of course, have a huge light display too! My favorite.

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Last year, we went to Disney World. The Osborne Family Spectacle of Dancing Lights is just that…a spectacle! Somehow, they even manage to make it snow!

– True Traditions –

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Our stockings are always on the floor and they are always the first thing that we open! Our stockings are the only time that we open presents at the same time.

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We always celebrate with these people at my Uncle’s house on Christmas Eve. If you saw my Thanksgiving picture, you know that we try to take a picture in height order. In this picture, we were being obnoxious. There is no order! No age order, no height order, nothing. Just fun. 🙂

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We always make a fun breakfast to eat together after we open our presents! It’s just me, my parents, and my brothers for breakfast.

I always get some kind of new running gear so I have to test it out after present opening and breakfast eating. Of course Colby and Amigo love to join me. 🙂 This picture was actually Amigo’s first run with me EVER in 2013!

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We always watch and record Michael Buble’s Christmas special. Then we watch it over and over and over again. This year, we played his show from last Christmas while we made Thanksgiving dinner. Ha!

*The two movies I watch the most are Jim Carrey’s The Grinch (hilarious) and The Santa Clause with Tim Allen.

*Even if my Dad and I have all our gifts wrapped, we like to run out and shop for a few hours on Christmas Eve.

*My parents wrap our gifts in different wrapping paper instead of putting name tags on everything. We figure out which presents are ours when we see the little mini gifts wrapped in our stockings!

*I always sneak downstairs in the middle of the night to see what Santa left behind. When I was younger, I was convinced I could hear him on the roof!

So tell me…what’s your favorite part of Christmas? I obviously can’t just pick one thing!

***

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Northwest Native & Say Yes To Happy

Scarves & Books: These Are A Few Of My Favorite Things

Hello, friends!

In case you were wondering, I say the word “friends” approximately 157 times per day. At least. At my school, I have noticed that a lot of teachers say “friends” when they are referring to their entire class, and I have also noticed that I have started doing the same thing. So for example, instead of saying, “Hey guys, stop that”, I might say, “Oh no. My friends are walking in the hall quietly. They are NOT talking.” And then suddenly, everyone pops to attention. 🙂

Anyways.

Today’s post is brought to you in part by two duos: Rachel & Astleigh and Katie & Molly!

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Floral and Fudge & Hill Collection

A few weeks ago, Rachel and Astleigh announced that they were going to host a scarf swap. I love reading both Rachel and Astleigh’s blogs because they truly appreciate the little things in life and both seem so joyful. They are a little bit older than me, so in reading their blogs, I find myself looking up to them a little bit. So of course, when they mentioned their idea, I loved it! Those who were interested in this white elephant exchange sent in their name and address and received a name and address in return. This exchange had my name written all over it because I love to shop and I love to send and receive mail! I think mail, especially fun mail, makes the day so much more exciting. I was happy to make someone else’s day with a scarf! My email said that I would be sending a scarf to Becky over at Little Loud Life. I purchased a violet colored, lightweight scarf that is perfect for fall, yet can be worn all year long for my new friend!

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This is Becky wearing her new scarf! Not only did I get to send her some fun mail, but I also got to know another fellow Pennsylvania blogger. She writes about every day life with her family and I can already tell that she is someone I would love to know in real life. She seems so down to earth and her two kiddos seem so sweet!

Early last week, I opened my mailbox to find a package from Blake over at Forever Callahan. If you recall, I was so excited that I threw my new scarf on over my workout clothes…and I had just finished working out! Ha!

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The scarf that Blake sent me is totally something that I would pick out myself, yet I have never seen anything like it before. It has a pretty purple, pink, and gold paisley pattern and is lined with purple tassels. It’s also an infinity scarf, which is my favorite kind of scarf to wear because it styles itself! I often find myself tying “regular scarves” together on opposite ends so that I can make them infinity scarves. It’s just my favorite way to wear them!

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In 2.1 seconds you will understand why I’m not a fashion blogger. Or any kind of legitimate blogger, for that matter. I am already jealous of the pretty pictures that Astleigh posted of her and her scarf earlier today! However, I have yet to wear my new scarf and so I have attempted to style it a few different ways that I think I may wear it in the future. 🙂

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Let’s look at the worst picture first so we can move on. 😉 This maroon shirt from Old Navy is loose and falls slightly off the shoulder, so though I mostly wear it in fall and winter, I always find myself wearing a scarf with it so that I can cover up! It’s lucky that the color matches perfectly since this is a “scarf” shirt for me.
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Next, just a regular V-neck t-shirt that is in the purple family, but isn’t too matchy matchy with the scarf. Jeans and brown boots and I’m good to go!

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And finally, I keep seeing and reading that white jeans or pants are appropriate in the fall. Well, how about this chambray shirt, this scarf, white pants, and brown boots? I think I would look like a Pinterest model. #justkidding

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Better Off Benedict & Colors Of Life Blog

Last month, I told you I was reading a lot of books about teaching since this is my first year. Since then, I have tried to make some more time for reading for fun…and especially reading for fun off screen. When I say that, I mean not on the computer or my iPad. I don’t spend a ton of time looking at a computer at work, but I feel like I have a lot of screen time in my free time, so I am trying to split that time up between the computer and books!

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I got this book at the local library’s huge sale a few weeks ago. It’s written by Ann Brashares, who, if you remember, is the author of The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants series. This story follows the girls several years later when they are all grown up! Right at the beginning, the story takes an unexpected turn, and I wasn’t really happy about it! Even so, I am interested to see how it plays out. I loved these stories when they first came out and I love that the author wrote a book about the girls as adults!
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I’m also reading this nonfiction read that I ordered from Amazon. I don’t remember where I had heard someone mention this book…but I do remember wanting it right away and then just never ordering it. The title speaks to me because I still struggle with food and exercise sometimes, worrying that I am not eating my best or doing enough at the gym, even though I am not as obsessed as I once was. I don’t know that I expected it to be a story, but I did expect chapters of some sort.

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Strangely enough, it can be a quick read if you want it to be. Each “chapter” is about 2-3 pages and they are not specifically about eating or working out. As you see above, this chapter is about making the choices that will allow you to live your happiest and healthiest life. There are also little sections about surrounding yourself with the right people and not wanting what other people have. Even though it is not what I expected, I am liking it so far!

Alright, I think we are all caught up. I wish this post had gone live at 9 o’clock this morning instead of 9 o’clock this evening, but one month into school, I finally caught my first sickness! My throat felt strange all day on Sunday and by Sunday night, I was talking like a frog. I felt fine on Monday, I just had no voice, which made for an interesting day of teaching. 😉 Tuesday I woke up all congested…so last night, I went right to sleep as soon as I could! I’m feeling better today but definitely still sound froggy. I can’t whisper, because no sound comes out, and I can’t yell, because my voice cracks like a teenage boy. So it’s one volume for me. My students love it. Happy Wednesday!

Dear Me, Love Me [Day 9]

Wednesday, September 9: Write a letter to sixteen-year-old you. Any funny advice or stories?

I actually wrote this letter to my sixteen year old self when I was 21, but I edited it today to cover what has happened in the last two years. 🙂

When I was 16, I definitely had a lot of thoughts, dreams, and hopes about what would happen in the future. Some of those dreams became a reality, and other things I never would have expected!

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Dear 16-year-old Kylie,

The doctor did tell you that you would be tall, but he forgot to mention that your two little brothers would be giants! You will have to remind people that you are, in fact, the oldest.

Big feet will teach you that looking for the size “10” or “11” on a shoebox is more important than seeing if that shoe is actually cute. Size first, cute factor later.

The boy who gives you your first kiss will never be your boyfriend. And the next boy you have a crush on won’t feel the same way either. Hold on to your heart. There is someone amazing waiting for you.

The new church that you and your family started going to? You are going to become so involved with Youth Group and their summer camp as a counselor. You will meet amazing people.

It’s been a year since your Pap Pap passed away. Your Grandma will be sad for a very long time, but she will be part of your family for a few more years. She will see you graduate and go to college and she will be SO proud.

Dance classes will remain one of your hobbies for many years to come. But guess what? You’re finally going to be able to call yourself an athlete because you are going to find a sport you are actually good at…running. You’re actually going to love running long distances. Weird, I know.

Because you love running long distances, you will finally join the cross-country team after thinking about it since middle school. You will love it and wish you had been part of the team sooner!

You’re going to become very close with your younger brothers. I know you fight right now, but you’re going to become their biggest protector in just a few years. It will be awesome.

You will always be the kind of person who has a few really good friends rather than a huge group of “sometimes” friends. There will be many friends who are in your life for just a short time and that is okay. Remember that your friends are not always right and focus on what is really important to you.

You will get your drivers license exactly 6 months after you turn 16 and not one day later! Unfortunately, you will be putting the final touches on a project before you present at school and you will have a seizure. It will involve lots of neurological tests, tears, and will impact the rest of your life. I’m sorry you have to go through this.

Your best friend and family pet, Buddy, is going to be as energetic as ever until he is ten years old. The house will feel so empty when he passes away, but your family’s sadness will fade in time. Colby will make his entrance as a McGraw and you will wonder if there is something wrong with him because he sleeps all the time. Newsflash: puppies are like babies. They sleep a lot. 😉

Even though you think you are going to go to IUP or Slippery Rock because they are teaching schools, you’re actually going to fall in love with the campus at Duquesne. You will love being so close to home.

Pay attention to the people that you meet during Orientation your freshman year of college. Those are the people that will become your best friends and closest confidantes.

You will stop obsessing about your hair and makeup. In fact, you will probably simply brush your hair and wear no makeup some days. Can you believe it? Your aunt still won’t!

You are going to meet a boy who loves you just as much as you love him. He is someone that you will notice the first time you meet him, but you will be friends for a while before you start dating. You will be in a very serious relationship with him for 15 months – learning what it means to love someone that you see every day and love someone who lives far away from you – but he will break your heart. Luckily, you will have the best memories. You will find peace with your break up…but it will take a while. And that’s okay too.

You are going to try so many new foods and start to understand what it means to eat healthy. But first, you are going to chase the dream of being skinny. Being skinny will not make you happy. Don’t count calories and don’t workout because you ate “bad” food today. Eat because your body needs it and workout because you love it. This will be a mental struggle even after you have overcome this problem.

You will achieve a 3.94 GPA in college. No, that number will not round up to a 4.0. When you take your first science class in a lecture hall, I suggest you pay attention. But still, you will graduate summa cum laude. You go, girl!

You are not going to stay in Pittsburgh forever. I know that is shocking. You are going to discover that you want to attend graduate school and you want to attend graduate school in another city. Your heart will be set on the University of Maryland and that is where you will go. You will not know a single soul in Washington, DC but you will get a job, join a running group, find an amazing church, and love every second of it.

You will be pretty indecisive at times. Work on that. 😉

You will realize that “being an adult” means that literally no one knows what they are doing EVER and everyone just makes it up as they go along. TRUE STORY!

You will call your mom six times per day (at least) to ask for her advice. Take it every time.

You’re going to become a Spinning instructor and a PiYo instructor. Do you even know what Spinning or PiYo classes are? You’ll learn. And you’ll love it.

If you think you’re blessed right now, just wait until you’re 23. Your life is going to be amazing.

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Seasons of Love [Blog-tember Challenge Day 8]

Tuesday, September 8: Tell us about your favorite season. Why is it your favorite and what does it say about you?

Linking up here.

It’s hard for me to say that one season is better than another. For me, I think there is something awesome that happens during every season…whether we are talking about a season defined by weather or a season of life.

Spring is literally a breath of fresh air after the long winter. In Pittsburgh, we don’t start seeing warm days until late April or early May. This makes you so appreciative of blooming flowers, sunshine, and wearing a light jacket instead of your bulky winter coat!

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Lots of moments in my life are defined with my running shoes.

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I love the traditions that come along with holidays in the Spring, like Easter. Egg dying and uplifting songs at church are my favorite!

Moving from Spring to Summer is almost effortless in Pittsburgh. Spring doesn’t actually really exist…we go from cold to hot with little to no transition! The weather in DC is a bit more typical of four seasons, but weather aside, summer comes with such excitement. My mom is a teacher so she was always home with my brothers and I in the summer and that was so special for us.

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We always looked forward to trips to amusement parks…and hey, we still do!

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You can do simple, yet fun things like go to carnivals, visit farmer’s markets, take long walks, and pick berries.

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And of course, I could spend the entire summer in Wildwood if it was possible. One of these days that dream will be a reality for me. 🙂 The ocean is just soothing. You cannot help but feel relaxed when you are on the beach! As you make it halfway through the year, it feels good to recharge with sun, sand, family, and friends.

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Then, there is the beloved fall. Fall is the beginning of the year for me. My brain works like a school calendar, which is beneficial because I am a teacher. 🙂 August and September are the months that I am winding down from summer and setting new goals for myself for the coming year.

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Just as I was so excited in summer to do #allthethings, come Fall, I am ready to make another bucket list. I want to go to apple festivals, visit the pumpkin patch, celebrate Halloween, and bake with seasonal flavors! I am also always ready for a change in wardrobe. Shorts and tank tops are comfortable, but I could live my life in pajamas, so I love the coziness factor that comes with scarves and boots and sweaters!

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And of course, I love the weather. I mentioned that in Pittsburgh, the weather tends to skip right over Spring and go right from cold to hot. DC makes no mistake about letting you know that it is summer. #hellohumidity The crisp fall air is REAL and it makes running so much more fun. 😉

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Is there anything happier than the holiday season? Whether you celebrate Christmas or not, the Thanksgiving to New Years time of year is just the happiest time of year. Everyone is a little kinder, a little happier, and a little more excited about life. I love the traditions that come along with this season, too: the music, the snowstorms, the gingerbread house making, the family visits, the present wrapping…and of course, winter holds a special place in my heart because this is when I celebrate my birthday. 🙂

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Snow is fresh and clean and just magical. I get just as excited for the 10th snowfall as I do for the first. Although come March or April, I am moving on from snow and it does not always feel the same way;)

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I think the fact that I cannot choose one season as my favorite says a lot about me. I am thoughtful in my choices, though some may call me indecisive. The verdict here is that I like transitions. I like moving from one season to the next. I appreciate the season for what it is while I have it, and then I am ready and excited for what is to come. I would call myself an ambitious person, so I think this thought of moving forward appeals to me because as they say, “the best is yet to come”.

Five Summer Favorites

Today marks the last day of my first week of work as a teacher! I guess I can’t really celebrate yet…I haven’t actually met my kiddos or started teaching…but I have learned a lot and I am adding things to an ever-growing to-do list. So little time, so much to do. 😉 (Side note: does that phrase make you think of anything specific?! I start singing the theme song to Mary Kate and Ashley’s TV show So Little Time:))

I have a long list of things that I wanted to do this summer, and unfortunately, I have yet to complete a few of those items. Even so, I had an amazing (though busy) few months! Here are five highlights in honor of the DC Trifecta’s link up today. 🙂

– ONE –

Exploring Old Town Alexandria. One Saturday after I volunteered at church, I decided that I wanted to explore that part of town. Who was around? No one but me. So me, myself, and I went to brunch and walked the pretty streets of Old Town.

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I tried a new restaurant, which helped me check something off my summer to-do list…

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…I got coffee at a shop with the cutest menu ever…

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…and I sat by the water and took in the sights of people enjoying a summer day on their boat. Of course, I also went shopping. So really, it was an absolutely perfect day. 🙂

– TWO –

I was able to travel back to Pittsburgh for a few weekends in June to see Kenny Chesney and Taylor Swift with my friends. We all had so much fun!

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I haven’t seen Kenny perform since I was really young, so his concert felt like one big throwback for me because he played all of his best hits.

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Taylor Swift truly is a performer. Her concert was amazing! The radio DJs occasionally make me hate Taylor a little bit because her songs are so very overplayed, BUT I do love her. And her songs. Just not when the radio tells me to listen to them. 🙂

Of course, I also love seeing my family…but my favorite thing that I did with them was not in Pittsburgh…

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No one loves the beach more than we do. 🙂

– THREE –

I started reading the Bible! I have gone to church my entire life and I was really involved as a teenager, but I don’t feel like I have a good understanding of the Bible. I know verses and stories, obviously, but I want to know more. I could have started by doing a Bible study of a certain chapter, but I really wanted to start at the beginning!

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Starting on May 1, I tried to read my Bible for 15 minutes every day. Honestly, it’s the perfect amount of time. The early books of the Bible are filled with so many names and family trees that it can be hard to read through sometimes! Also, if the names aren’t tripping me up, sometimes I just start having so many questions and thoughts about what I am reading that I need to process. So, my phone alarm beeps after 15 minutes and I can process what I’ve read and start fresh the next day. I really cannot say that I read for 15 minutes every.single.day. I will say that I did this for the month of May and June. During these months, if I “missed” a day, I made up for it the next day by reading for 15 more minutes at a different time of the day (ex: morning AND night). But then July rolled around and I was busy with online classes and going on vacation and moving and now I am SO behind that I cannot possibly even try to start making up for it. So, I’m just starting again. Forget the days I have missed, just keep reading. 🙂

– FOUR –

On that note, I moved to Arlington, Virginia to be closer to my job. I love, love, love my new apartment. Love.

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I live in a 2 bedroom, 2 bathroom condo with a living room, a kitchen, and a balcony. I LOVE that I can go outside! I have never had that luxury before…except of course at my parents’ house. 🙂 My new roommate, Carlin, is the same age as me but works in a very different profession than teaching…she works for an IT company in the suburbs. So far, we get along great!

– FIVE –

One day, while reading blogs, I came across the lovely Courtney at Eat Pray Run DC. This led to an invitation to brunch, which of course I was excited about because who doesn’t want to eat all the food after a Saturday morning long run!? Lots of DC bloggers got together to chat about all things running, food, and blog-related. It was such a great Saturday!

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Fall is a-comin’ friends. I know it by the slowly disappearing humidity and the bags of candy corn in every store;) I have always loved this time of year. It’s more like a fresh start to me than the actual holiday of New Years! I run on school time. Summer was wonderful, but there is so much to look forward to. Set goals and get excited. Start the new year (or season) off on the right foot. 🙂

Happy Friday! Have the best weekend!

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Bloggers, looking for a link-up? Click over to any one of these amazing blogs to join us for Friday Favorites!

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What’s Up?! [August]

I love to reflect on what I’m doing and I love hearing about what is going on in other people’s lives, so this link up is one of my favorites! 🙂 Join Mel, Shay, and Sheaffer on the last Wednesday of every month to share what’s up with YOU!

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What I’m eating this week:

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“Back to school, back to school, to prove to Dad I’m not a fool…” #youknowyousangalong

I’m not QUITE back to school yet, but I am at teacher training all day long so I prepared salads and snacks for the week on Sunday night. There is spinach and broccoli slaw in each salad container, and then the night before, I add my salad toppings: chicken, turkey, cheese, nuts, etc. Whatever I am feeling! I also put dressing in a separate mini container  AND I put paper towels in all containers/bags that have vegetables in them to soak up the moisture so they stay fresh. 🙂

What I’m reminiscing about:

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I’m doing a lot of thinking about how to welcome my kiddos to second grade…but wasn’t I just a little person myself?! When did I gain all of this responsibility?!

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It’s equal parts exciting and terrifying. 🙂 P.S. Don’t mind my super short hair cut…I don’t know what 4th grade me was thinking. Hahaha

What I’m loving: 

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Sitting on my balcony and reading or blogging or just watching the sun go down. Last night, I read until I couldn’t see. 🙂

What I’ve been up to:

I’ve been learning how to wake up early, put on real clothes, and be a first year teacher.

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What I’m dreading:

On Sunday, I get to try running again. I hope it doesn’t hurt. The stationary bike is so dang boring!

What I’m working on:

Mentally organizing my classroom (I can get in on Friday!) and trying to make time to read for fun every day.

What I’m excited about:

The first day of school!

What I’m watching/reading:

I’m always a fan of anything Bachelor related and Extreme Weight Loss. The Bachelor is just mindless and entertaining, but Extreme Weight Loss is so inspiring. I love working out and eating healthy so watching other people discover their love for that makes me happy! I’m reading Bookends by Jane Green, Innocent In Las Vegas by A.R. Winters, and The First Six Weeks of School by Paula Denton & Roxanne Kriete. I’m sure you don’t want to read that one, but I’m just keepin’ it real over here. 😉

What I’m listening to:

This is on Pandora right now!

What I’m wearing:

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These fun pants from Gap (I got them last year!) and new flats from Old Navy. Old Navy is having a HUGE sale right now for back to school and I was so excited to find these flats for $12. I was also excited that they fit because I wear a size 10 or 11 in shoes…it depends on who makes them. I can get away with Old Navy flip flops but their shoes don’t typically fit me. Did my feet shrink!? We will never know…but I love these. 🙂

What I’m doing this weekend:

I have no big plans yet! There is a free workout at the new Chelsea Collective store at the mall that I want to go to and then I’ll go to church on Sunday with my friends. Other than that, I’ll relax and/or make plans as I go!

What I’m looking forward to next month:

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My Dad’s birthday is September 1 and my brother Alex turns 21 on September 14! You know how much I love to celebrate birthdays, so even though I won’t see them for their birthdays, I’m excited to celebrate long distance and send them gifts!

What else is new:

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I reclaimed my car when I took all of these boxes to my classroom two weeks ago…and then somehow, I filled my car back up again. With more things that my classroom “needs”. I can’t wait to reclaim my car AGAIN. And take pictures of my newly organized room. Stuff, be gone!

Bonus Question: What’s your favorite back-to-school tradition?

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We always take first day of school pictures! This is from 2013 so I was a senior in college, Jake was a freshman in high school, and my mom was going to her twenty-something year of kindergarten. 😉 The first day of school picture is extra fun because we always get a new outfit!

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And of course, we get new shoes. Jake was just asking my mom about his “school shoes” when I was home visiting last week. When we were younger, we always got a pair of tennis shoes, which we actually probably needed because we were growing. Now it’s just fun to get new shoes! Last year for my first year of grad school, I bought Toms wedges. 🙂

I currently have no idea what I’m wearing on the first day of school and my Old Navy flats don’t count as my new school shoes because they were an impulse purchase haha! I need to get to shopping. 🙂

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Happy Wednesday! What’s up with you!?

Show ‘N Tell Tuesday: The High School Me

It’s a Show ‘N Tell Tuesday! Today, I’m linking up with Andrea to share a little bit about my high school self. This is a trip down memory lane for me and a picture overload for you. 🙂 What’s the first thing you think of when you think of your high school self?

I think awkward. Hahaha

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My friends and I all really really really liked to take pictures, and we would find any excuse to do so. Tall, skinny giraffe? Why not! I’m sure the people in this random Myrtle Beach gift shop didn’t think we were strange at all.

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Casual shot at the park. 🙂 One of our friends was into photography so we were her subjects one summer night. But honestly, there are people TODAY walking around taking pictures with their iPads and selfie sticks, so picture taking may have just gotten weirder over the years. I, on the other hand, like to think I got less weird over the years. Ha!

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I almost wish my high school friends had blogs so they could comment and share their thoughts on the “me” of high school. I would describe myself as kind, studious, and introverted. I was (and still am) a total girl’s girl, so I loved spending time with my girlfriends. I also spent a lot of time with my family, which is not always typical of a high school student! When I think of my younger brother, I remember him enjoying spending time with us, but always being go go go and making plans with a friend. I never felt like I had to have plans and I’m still that way today!

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I spent a lot of weekends at basketball games watching my brother, Alex. For a few years, Alex and our cousin, Nick, were on the same traveling basketball team, so that was even more incentive for me to go because I knew two people who were playing!

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Nick’s brother CJ is the same age as me and he played baseball, so I always went to those games too. I was on the yearbook staff and I often volunteered to take pictures of these events since I would be there anyway. 🙂

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I have lots of pictures of my family in Indianapolis from these years for some reason. We see my Dad’s family a few times a year, but it seems like in high school, we were in Pittsburgh for one holiday and Indianapolis for the next!

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This is my cousin’s daughter, Lucy. My cousins are the same age as my parents because my Dad’s siblings are much older than him. Anyways, I still call Lucy my cousin. She’s ten years old now which blows my mind, but she’s still my little baby doll. 🙂

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I did a lot with my church in high school. I went to youth group on Sunday nights, worked as a counselor at Summer Blast day camp in the summer, and went to a bunch of events with my “church” friends at other times throughout the year, too! Some of my church friends and school friends were the same, like Kristin. 🙂 The things I remember doing most are the 30 Hour Famine, ice skating, small group meetings at Starbucks, and weekends away at JTown, a Christian camp in Jumonville, PA.

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Ice skating at Schenley Park

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My favorite small group girls!

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Me and my youngest brother after the best event at summer camp…

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…when the local fire station sent a fire truck to spray us all down. 🙂

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I was in two musicals in 9th and 10th grade: 42nd Street and Singin’ In The Rain. I took chorus as one of my electives and though I don’t think I have a particularly great singing voice, apparently it was good enough. 😉

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But my hard work in chorus class paid off because we were invited to go on the band trip when I was in 10th grade. This was my first visit to New York City! We sang while we were there, but I mostly remember sightseeing and going to shows. 🙂

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I was also a dancer for most of my life, but if you put me on So You Think You Can Dance, I would get voted off the very first night. Hahaha!

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I have rhythm and I like to dance, but I don’t think I am naturally gifted at it. In our recital videos, I never looked as graceful as I felt. 🙂 Over the years I took jazz, lyrical, and hip hop. I was never a ballerina or a tap dancer, though I did have to learn a little tap for the musical one year!

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My parents let my brothers and I try every sport we wanted…for me that meant dance class, gymnastics, cheerleading, bowling (yes, I’m serious), softball, basketball, and then my senior year of high school, cross country! I liked to run but a bigger part of me just wanted to be on a team and cross country had no try outs;) Running became my favorite, and that’s a good thing because here’s how the rest of my athletic career went:

Cheerleading: after one season as a six year old, I was cut because I refused to do a back handspring without someone spotting me.
Bowling: Just for fun! I was in a bumper bowling league as a kid and then I did the after school bowling program in elementary school.
Softball: I was the world’s worst player…I somehow swung the bat so wrong that I lost two fingernails in the process and could never figure out where left field and right field were located. As catcher, I would turn my head to the side when the pitcher threw the ball because I was afraid of being hit in the face (even with a mask) and I would volunteer to sit on the bench when we had extra players. Hahaha
Basketball: No good or bad memories from this one; I think I just preferred dancing!

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I always knew I wanted to be a teacher, so when I was able to fit another elective into my schedule, I worked in the preschool at our high school. There’s a morning and afternoon program with a head teacher and an assistant teacher. The high school students who choose to take this class are only in there for one class period with the little ones. Sometimes we observed through a one way mirror (we could see the kids but they couldn’t see us) and sometimes we were actually teaching a lesson to the kids. These were my co-teachers!

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My best friend in high school was Maria. We met at church and she went to a different high school, so we always had fun catching up on the weekends. She knew a lot of people who went to my school because of our mutual friends at church, so she was like an honorary Plum Mustang;)

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Maria and I all ready for 11th grade 🙂 NOT! This is the first day of school, but the night before the first day was so stressful! I was always in honors English classes so I had required summer reading, but in 11th grade, I took an advanced history class of some kind that required me to take notes on every chapter in the history book over the summer. Well, apparently I procrastinated HARD because the night before school started, Maria came over to talk me off a cliff since I wasn’t done taking notes. And then she pulled an all nighter and finished taking notes for me so I could go to bed. Perks of having a friend who went to another school!

When the word “selfie” became a common word in recent years, I guess we all assumed no one took selfies before. Wrong.

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All three of us are holding cameras. I can’t. Hahaha

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And thank God we either gave up on or got better at text on photos…

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I was the kind of person who loved going to dances, with or without a date. Luckily my friends felt the same way. The same group of us went to 9th and 10th grade Homecomings together!

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9th Grade

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10th Grade

We got our acts together by junior and senior year and found dates for Homecoming and Prom. 🙂

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This was such a fun dress to wear! Junior prom is one of my favorite high school memories. At our school, you weren’t allowed to attend Prom until your junior year, even if you were asked by an upperclassman, so it made it that much more exciting when you finally were allowed to go. I just remember this night being filled with lots of picture taking and lots of dancing! Our high school didn’t have an After Prom, so we all went to our friend Kristin’s house to watch movies and continue our craziness ha! God bless her parents for hosting our big group!

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At our school, most people wore short dresses for Homecoming and long dresses for Prom. We were thinking these would be nice…

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But this is what we decided on instead. 🙂

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Senior Homecoming

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Senior Prom

Looking back at my pictures, I realized my friends and I liked to go places in big groups (besides dances!).

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Ice skating

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Taylor Swift concert

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Apple baseball at Danielle’s house…we literally played baseball with apples from the trees in her yard!

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NHS Induction

And then one summer one of our friends planned a scavenger hunt for a bunch of us! Danielle and Kayla and I were all friends, and then my cousin CJ joined in with his best friend, Zach!

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I wonder what we ate to make our tongues blue!?!?

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Spelling the word “love”. 🙂

If I had to pick my favorite year of high school, I would say senior year. My brother, Alex, and I got to go to school together for the first time since elementary school!

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He was in 9th grade and I was in 12th grade. He really loved me once I started driving him to school. 🙂

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This was my first car! A red Ford Escape who my friends and I named “Skyler”. Then once Alex started driving, we shared this car. Alex was notorious for coming home with the gas light on!!! One time I left to go to the gym and I KNEW I wouldn’t even make it there without running out of gas. That’s how low the gas gauge was. So I started driving to the gas station and I ran out of gas on my way there. I WAS SO MAD!!! Luckily my Dad came and saved the day. 🙂

Senior year bought lots of fun events, like the Powderpuff football game, where the junior girls play the senior girls and the boys are the cheerleaders. 🙂 The senior girls (my team!) won this year!

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We get professional headshots done for our senior picture in the yearbook but still get pictures taken on picture day. I have no idea what those pictures are actually used for (maybe school ID) so the seniors usually plan some kind of “theme” for picture day. We chose an 80s theme which is hilarious because none of us were born until at least 1991. Hahaha

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These are my professional casual senior pictures. We get a headshot done at a local studio for the yearbook and then everyone does pictures like these, too. Is that a thing where you live?!

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Two of my favorite high school memories: I turned 18 and my best friend and my mom planned a surprise party for me!

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And Snowmageddon! We had an entire week off school and then some because we got SO MUCH SNOW and then a pipe at the high school burst, so while the rest of the town went back to school, we got to stay home for a few more days. 🙂

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I would definitely say I became more outgoing as I got older…but I would still describe myself the same way. I am kind, studious, and introverted. I’m a total girl’s girl. And I love to spend time with my family. I just shared a lot of great memories with you, but there are lot of not-so-great memories that I have from high school all surrounding normal high school things like drama with friends and boys. High school was good to me, but I wish I could be the person I am now in high school all over again. I have grown up and I can honestly say I like myself haha! I DO care what people think about me, yet I don’t care at all. Does that make sense? I wish I would have stood up for myself more instead of trying to make my friends happy in certain situations. But you know, live and learn. If I wasn’t the way I was in high school, I wouldn’t have had those experiences, and I wouldn’t be reflecting on them today. High school was fun, but the real world is fun, too. 🙂

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– What kind of person were you in high school?

– What’s your favorite high school memory?

5 Things You Should Know About Running

Did you happen to know that I really like to run?
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I have run three 5Ks, one 10K, two 10-milers, four half marathons, and right now I am currently training for my first full marathon: 26.2 miles. I have been a fast runner, I have been a slow runner, I have been an injured runner, and I have been a healthy runner. Along the way, I have learned a few important things. These tips apply to you whether you consider yourself a runner or not!

Note: I am not a nutritionist, personal trainer, or running coach. I am simply sharing what has worked for me in the past. 

– ONE –

Get out the door.
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The hardest part of your run is deciding to go. The hardest part of MY run is deciding to go. But once we are out there, it feels so good! Don’t overanalyze it. Just go. Decide when you are going to go for your run and go at that specific time. You don’t cancel appointments with your doctor, and you shouldn’t cancel appointments with yourself to better your health (unless of course you are sick or injured). I personally like to run in the morning because I have no time to think about running…I just wake up and go. I start the day full of energy and feeling accomplished. There is something to be said for evening runs too…sometimes it’s cooler outside, sometimes you’re meeting up with friends, sometimes that’s the only time YOU can make it work…but again, just decide. You are going to be a better you in ten or twenty or thirty minutes when you return home, so go kick your own butt and come back feeling like a rockstar. 🙂

– TWO –

Don’t JUST run.

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It doesn’t matter if you are a brand new runner or you are in the middle of training for a race…running cannot be your only form of exercise. Running takes a toll on your body. You are pounding your legs into the trail or road or treadmill over and over again. You need to stretch, you need to bike, you need to swim, you need to lift weights, and you need to lay around and do nothing. You can still do cardiovascular exercise without running, and you should! Keep your fitness up while you give your body a break. It is easy to think that you will never get better or faster if you don’t run all of the time, but you are actually helping yourself when you take it easy a few days of the week! I wrote more about running recovery here.

– THREE –

Feed yourself.

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Maybe I am only talking to myself when I say this, but you must remember that running takes you down to E and after your workout, you have to fill your body back up to F. If you are running for weight loss, of course you don’t want to over do it and cancel out everything you just did on your run, but you NEED food. I was having a moment tonight where I legitimately felt hungry. It wasn’t one of those “am I hungry or am I bored?” moments. No, I was legitimately hungry. And instead of going to get food, I drank water because even though I ran today, I kept telling myself I ate enough today and I was fine. Not true. If your body is telling you to eat, you need to eat. If you went for a run today and you didn’t eat anything substantial, you need to. Pay extra close attention on the days that you run so that you know you are getting proper nutrition. And just so you know, I ended up eating yogurt with nuts and broccoli with salsa. Not at the same time. Don’t ask me about my snack choices. My pantry is bare. Hahaha

– FOUR –

Don’t beat yourself up.

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Look, sometimes we just can’t run. Our muscles are sore, we have 10,000 things on our to do list, we didn’t get enough sleep…the list goes on. Just like your body can tell you when you’re hungry, your body can also tell you when to take a day off. Don’t be a slave to your training plan, whether it’s official or not. You might be following a specific training plan and you might have just decided that you were going to run X amount of miles today. Either way, when the day rolls around, if your body doesn’t feel 100%, don’t hit the pavement, and don’t feel bad about it. Today I was scheduled to run 3 miles and then my next run is 13.1 on Saturday. My hip is acting up so instead of pushing myself through 3 miles, I made the (very hard) decision to workout on the elliptical and save my strength for Saturday. Did I want to do that? No. Do I feel like a failure because I didn’t follow the training plan? Kind of. But I know what I can handle, so I need to give myself some grace. You know what you can handle too, so do that. Be proactive in preventing a possible injury. Runners don’t always make the best choices about when or when not to run…but that’s because we’re crazy and we love it so much! 🙂

– FIVE –

Make it fun.

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What do YOU like? I like running outside, I like running with friends, and I like signing up for races that aren’t in my hometown. Whatever is your running happy place is the thing you should do most often! Running isn’t all about pain and agony and hunger and sleepiness. 😉 More often, it’s about being social, making yourself feel better, and exploring the world around you! It’s easy to look at social media and think that we have to be a certain kind of runner…but we certainly do not. You might like to run at the track while I like to run around the city. I like racing, you might never sign up for a race in your life. It doesn’t matter. If you are having fun, then you are a successful runner. 🙂

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Linking up with the Friday Five Link Up hosted by DC area bloggers Eat Pray Run DCMar on the Run and You Signed Up For What?! Visit the hosts and share some love with the other bloggers who have linked up!