Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Christmas Thoughts

I'll just go ahead and say it: Christmas may not be my favorite holiday.

Go ahead and cue the "boooo" and call me call me a grinch. But before you pass any ultimate judgement, let me explain.

I dislike what the holiday of Christmas has become. Sure, it's fun picking out gifts for people. But when your family begins growing into ridiculous numbers (marriage tends to contribute to this), it can get stressful and incredibly expensive. You feel like a jerk if you don't get every single relative a gift. But you also feel like a jerk if you do and your gift is small because you have 50 people on your list so your "per-person" amount is a bit puny. So this beef is really with the commercialization of Christmas rather than the holiday itself. 

But these next thoughts on Christmas might redeem me if you're still convinced that I'm a heartless grinch.

I absolutely love the family time. My family is a strong contender in the contest of how spread across the country you can get. With family members in states on every coastline/border (yes that includes north, south, east and west) it's nice to be able to see at least part of them during the Christmas season. It can mean some intense schedule arranging and trying to allow time to breathe in between Christmases, but the memories are worth it. 

And one more very random thing I love about Christmas are the cards. And I don't mean the ones you buy in boxes with a creepy picture of Santa on them. I mean the family photo cards. This year I grossly underestimated how many I should print (sorry if you got missed!), but I vow to do better next year. In the spirit of the season, here is our card for this year, furbaby included. And don't even ask how long it took to get her to sit still for the self-timer.

Merry Christmas to you and yours! Hope your Christmas is full of family and laughter.

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

A Ponytail Memoir

If you have known me for long, you probably know how insanely long and thick my hair was. Not to mention unruly. But I loved it. Long hair was a staple of my existence for the past decade and a half. When I did manage to find an hour to fix it, it was fabulous. Thick and shiny with lots of natural bounce. However, most days ended up being ponytail days.

I am not a morning person (surprise, surprise), so when I got a grown-up job, getting up an hour earlier than necessary to fix my hair just wasn't an option. For several months I contemplated chopping off my lovely locks, but could never quite bring myself to do it. I pinned lots of ideas that I loved, but when it came down to it, I was too chicken.

But like every small annoyance, you eventually reach a breaking point. Mine came on a Saturday morning when I threw my hair up in a ponytail, as usual. I looked in the mirror and just decided I was done. Done with everyday ponytails, done with an hour to fix my hair. I walked into the living room and briefly warned the hubs of my plans and then headed off to the salon.

I thought the woman was going to have a stroke when I told her to chop it all off. She told me that I had enough to donate to Locks of Love, and that only convinced me more that this was what I wanted to do. She put my hair in a ponytail, got the scissors and said: "Last chance. Are you sure?"

I took a deep breath and said "Cut it off."

It took several slices of the scissors to cut through the entire mane-like ponytail, but in a few seconds I opened my eyes as she held up what used to be my ponytail. Whoa.

After having long hair since second grade, it was surprisingly freeing to chop it off. It now takes me a glorious 15 minutes to fix my hair and I have yet to regret the death of the ponytail. 

Monday, October 14, 2013

First Time Home Buying: {The Crash Course}

As recent first-time home buyers, there were many things we wish we had known before starting our house search. And as much as we wish there had been a required Home Buying 101 course in college, we got through the process with some valuable lessons for years down the road when house number two shows up on the horizon.

So here are a few words of wisdom for anyone who is approaching the home-buying phase of life.

1. No Credit is Bad Credit
  • As much as I hate debt of any kind, you will have major trouble getting a home loan unless you have some type of credit history. My husband has always been extremely good with money and has avoided debt and credit cards altogether (Dave Ramsey would be so proud!). Not inheriting debt on our wedding day was an added bonus, but it turned out to also be a thorn in our side when we started applying jointly for home loans. If you are looking to buy a house and have never had an open line of credit before, consider getting a credit card so that you will have some type of credit history when you start the loan application process.

2. A Good Mortgage Banker
  • Having gone through Dave Ramsey's Financial Peace Course, we knew most of the basic home-buying lingo. "Adjustable-rate mortgage, fixed-rate mortgage, etc." And we thought we were doing pretty good. But boy were we wrong! There are more loan options out there than hairs on my head. I really think we would have just thrown in the towel if it wasn't for our amazing Mortgage Banker (if anyone wants a recommendation, just ask!). She knew that we were new to the process and answered all of our seemingly stupid questions in ways that we could understand. She got us a great interest rate and went to bat for us several times to keep it when rates went up. Basically, she was a life-saver and we couldn't have gone through the process without her help. Ask friends and family for recommendations before you start the process and it will be one of the best decisions you'll make!

3. A Good Real Estate Agent
  • For as long as I can remember, I always thought a real estate agent was just the one who let you into the houses so you could look at them. Wrong again! We got lucky and had an agent who had been in the business for years. She knew all the neighborhoods, school districts and areas to watch out for. She showed us how to look for water damage, foundation problems and roof problems. It's my first instinct to just wander through a house and admire the floor plan, pretty cabinets and wood floors, but apparently there are many other things to be on the look out for. It may not be as fun as my way of looking at houses, but it sure saved us from some lemons. When the time came to negotiate on things like price and additional repairs, our agent turned into our personal assistant. She handled all the negotiations for us and made sure all the loose ends were taken care of. As much as I hate real estate fees and trying to find a good agent, it is 100% worth your time. 

4. Base Your Budget on You, Not Them
  • If you want to know how the housing market went bust, just go apply for a loan. If you calculate what monthly payments you can safely afford, I guarantee you'll be approved for a house that will absolutely max out your monthly income. DON'T FALL FOR IT! Know your monthly income and base your total home loan amount on what you need your monthly payments to be. Sure, you can get approved for more, but that's how people overextend themselves and forget about all the other monthly expenses. Banks make more money if you borrow more money, so it's no surprise that many people take the bait (after all, who wouldn't want a bigger house?!). Sticking to your budget will free up enough monthly income to let you continue to live your life and enjoy it. Moral of this story: own your house, don't let your house own you.  

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Megan {Bridals}

This past weekend, two of my very dear friends got hitched. It was a beautiful outdoor Oklahoma wedding full of fun and friends. Prior to their big day, I had the privilege of stealing the bride for an evening and snapping some pictures. We spent the evening in Stuart Park, just northwest of the Gilcrease Museum in Tulsa. The weather, the light, and of course the bride were perfect. After mustering all my self-control not to post these before their big day, here are a few of my favorite shots from our bridal session.

Congratulations Ben & Megan!

Monday, September 2, 2013

Our House, Our Home

Most of you know that Seth and I recently (three-ish weeks ago) bought our first house. We knew when we got married that we didn't want to rent for more than a year if possible, thanks to some good advice from Dave Ramsey. So we started saving as soon as we got married and prayed that we would find the right house when the time came along.

About 7 months into our lease we decided that we should start the house hunt. Since we were first time home buyers, it was all rainbows and butterflies at first. Looking at houses was FUN and something we filled all of our free time with. My grandma works in real estate and recommended a phenomenal agent for us who saved our lives multiple times throughout the process. She took us to look at houses several times a week and was probably about ready to block our numbers by the time we finally found the one.

By July, we had it narrowed down to 2 houses. And we were very much over the house hunting process (trust me, it loses its luster more quickly than you think). We had looked at them a couple times and gone over and over all the details on a daily basis. Basically, we couldn't decide. I was about ready to throw in the towel when one more house popped up on our listings. It was a modest, three bedroom that looked at least slightly promising. So I called our agent that night and she showed it to me the next day.

Seth couldn't get off work so I sent him a virtual tour as we went through the house (isn't technology great?). When I got home, I asked Seth what he thought. Then, out of the blue, without having even seen it, he said, "I think we should get it." I was shocked to say the least. After asking "Are you sure?" about twenty times, we called our agent and made an offer. They made a counter offer and we made several negotiations along the way, but overall things went smoothly.

Finally, after months of searching, we closed on our very first home on Monday, August 6th, 2013.

 It's nothing fancy, but it's full of fun potential. And most importantly, it's now where we call home :)

The kitchen/breakfast nook with a wonderful brick arch over the stove:

The living room (with previous owner's old couch) and formal dining room:

The master bathroom with its weird tile floor and open vanity bathroom (toilet/shower to the left, closet to the right):

Two guest rooms and the guest bathroom:

Stay tuned for a plethora of DIY home improvement blogs from two clueless new homeowners!

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Through the Lens

On one of my many quick day trips to Norman recently, I decided that an impromptu "learn your camera better" session was in order. So I called up my long-time friend and partner in crime to join in on the fun. Janelle and I took off driving through south Norman until we found the perfect unfenced field to wander through. And it could not have been prettier!

We are both amateur photographers and spent the evening discovering spot metering and playing around with different exposures. Our cameras are still smarter than we are most of the time, but I think we are finally catching up!

And anyone who knows one or both of us also knows that we rarely take pictures without a few crazy faces creeping out. Let's just say that if we ever do become movie stars like we used to think we would, there will be plenty of people getting rich by selling our embarrassing pictures.

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Great Gatsby {Styled Shoot }

I recently had the privilege of participating in a style shoot with the talented Jami Leavitt and Whimsy & Wonder Events. We drew inspiration from the Great Gatsby era and added some vintage flair of our own. I planned to post these much sooner, but as they say, better late than never! Enjoy.

Attire: Red Hot Designs 

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Things I Don't Buy (Part 2): Shower Cleaner

Anyone who has ever cleaned a bathroom tub knows that one of the most dreaded things to try to remove is soap scum. It's that icky film in the bottom of the tub that makes it look dirty and dull. And it's also that coating on your faucet that makes OCD people like me a little stressed.


There are a million cleaners in the store that can remove soap scum for whatever price they deem their "miracle product" to be worth. But what's in these that makes them work? Chemicals. Loads and loads of chemicals. Personally, I'm not a fan of fearing chemical residue when I'm trying to get clean. I'm also not a fan of letting my niece, nephews and fur baby bathe in a tub that could be laced with who knows what. 

SO, I ventured onto Pinterest to solve my housecleaning problem (like I do with most household problems). And I found a solution that works! Plus, it's free of any crazy chemicals that warn you to avoid skin contact. 

Here is what you'll need:

  • an empty spray bottle
  • Dawn dish soap (I like the Apple scented kind)
  • white (or apple cider) vinegar
  • water (optional)

  1. Combine ingredients- 2 parts vinegar, 2 parts Dawn and 1 part water (the water is optional)
  2. Shake until mixed well
  3. Spray on tub, tile and door/curtain 
  4. Let it sit for about 10 minutes and then rinse off (for hard soap scum, wipe over with a scratchy sponge before rinsing)

  • I have heard of people adding some lemon juice to the mixture to help cut through the soap scum and give the bathroom a fresh scent (the vinegar smell is offensive to some).
  • Several pins I saw recommended heating the vinegar in the microwave before mixing it together with the other ingredients. Not sure what this will do, but maybe it helps!
  • Baking soda is also in several recipes, but be sure to carefully and slowly mix it with the vinegar first to avoid a nasty explosion.
  • If you don't like the smell of vinegar or lemon, you can add some drops of your favorite essential oil to the cleaner to make your bathroom smell the way you like!

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Living on Tulsa Time

We have been living in Tulsa for almost 6 months now (crazy!) and I am finally starting to feel like this is home. And for someone who has lived in Norman her entire life, that's a big step. We are part of a church and community group that we love, we have regular games of spades with the in-laws (I know, we're nerds) and we are starting to find new places to hang out and socialize in Tulsa. Daisy even made a whole new group of friends on our first trip to the dog park today. It was a proud dog mom moment!

As most of you know from my Facebook post, I also landed my first big girl job this past week! On March 18, I'll be rejoining the OU family as the Associate Director of Recruitment for NE Oklahoma. I'll be teaming up with the awesome people from Prospective Student Services and bringing the OU experience to all the high school kids in my area. Talk about a fun job! It combines the marketing aspect of my degree with talking about my favorite university. What could be better?!

The other great thing about this job is that Seth and I will now be able to buy a house this year! If you've gone through Dave Ramsey's course, you know renting is a drain on your income that you can never get back (although it is necessary sometimes). Thankfully we will soon be able to plug that drain and finally have a place to call our own.

Like any overeager, first-time home buyers, we have been prowling the Internet listings of homes for sale in the Tulsa area. At this stage in the process, house hunting is pure fun. We ooh and aah over all the new floors and kitchen cabinets and imagine what it would be like to live in the $3MM mansion we found on Craigslist. Soon enough we will have to start the not-so-fun part of loan approval, inspections and all the things we are currently pretending don't exist. But until then, it's happy hunting and happy times for these Tulsans!

Monday, February 11, 2013

Things I Don't Buy: Laundry Soap

You've probably seen all the pins about homemade laundry soap on Pinterest. Genius. Talk about saving money. The problem? All the recipes I tried were for liquid laundry soap, which involves boiling, mixing and cooling. Altogether, a good forty-five minute process at least. Ain't nobody got time for that.

So I started on a mission to find a homemade laundry soap recipe without all the hassle. I found this one on Pinterest, and with a slight modification, it was perfect.  

Here are just a few of the pros about this recipe:

It's powder instead of liquid, so it goes A LOT further.
The whole process of making it took about 15 minutes.
There is no measuring, boiling, etc.
It can easily be made into an all-natural laundry soap just by using some type of organic bar soap.
It is CHEAP to make (perfect for poor newlyweds!)

  • 1 large box (4.75lbs) of Borax - $3.38
  • 1 large box (4lbs) of Baking Soda - $2.24
  • 1 large box (3lbs 7oz) Arm & Hammer Washing Soda - $3.24
  • 3 bars of your favorite soap
  • a big container for your detergent (there's another picture of the one I used at the end!)

  1. Add all the ingredients except the soap to a large container and mix well. 
  2. Grate the soap and then add it into the mixture.* 
*This is where I changed the recipe up a little. If you have ever grated soap, it is a terrible process that takes forever and usually results in more missing skin on my hands than grated soap in the bucket. So, I decided to try a little experiment. 

First, I chopped up the soap into small(ish) pieces with a kitchen knife (don't worry, soap is surprisingly easy to chop up). 

Then I stuck it in my Black & Decker Handy Chopper and let it do the grating for me! Talk about a life and time saver. 

Once the soap is chopped up into fine pieces, add it to your mixture and you're done! I used Zest soap, which made the mixture (and my clothes after washing them in it) smell AMAZING. 

It only takes about 4 Tablespoons (1/4 cup) per load, so the batch of detergent last a LONG time. Not to mention it was so much cheaper than store-bought detergent! 

Here is the finished product as well as my sweet Daisy peeking in the backdoor. 
She hates anything that doesn't involve her getting all the attention :) 

Thursday, January 31, 2013

Choosing to Love

It doesn't take much effort to think of a topic that causes political and social division. In today's world, they seem to be a dime a dozen (I thought of 5 off the top of my head while writing that sentence). As our country begins to bring about change on these issues, people scramble to affirm their beliefs and blast those who oppose them with hateful comments, campaigns and publicity. I've seen friendships ruined and people deeply hurt because people can't let go of their hatred for the other side of an issue long enough to remember that there are people behind that issue. People like them who have feelings and fears just the same. 

So why the random political topic all of the sudden? No, I'm not becoming a political opinion blogger or trying to get people to take sides on an issue. In fact, quite the contrary. This blog is centered around an article I read in the Huffington Post today. 

If you don't want to read the entire article (it is a bit long), I'll give a quick recap. First off, it's written by Shane Windmeyer, founder of Campus Pride and "lifelong gay rights activist." For anyone acquainted with the fissure between the gay community and Chick-fil-A, the title of the article is shocking to say the least: "Dan and Me: My Coming Out as a Friend of Dan Cathy and Chick-fil-A.In a nutshell, Shane tells his story of how he became friends with Dan how they each display a level of humanity and love that has thus far been absent from the "gays vs Chick-fil-A war." Yes, Dan believes in a biblical view of marriage. Yes, Shane believes in marriage equality. But they both also believe in something more important: showing love to others.

It was never new news that Chick-fil-A supported the traditional, biblical view of marriage. But it has recently spawned a terrible battle between Chick-fil-A supporters and gay rights supporters. I have heard people accuse Dan Cathy of being a "filthy bigot" and worse. And on contrary, I have heard Christians call gay rights activist "faggots" and enemies of the American family. At the start of the article, Shane shares his initial feelings towards Dan Cathy and Chick-fil-A:

"I have spent quite some time being angry at and deeply distrustful of Dan Cathy and Chick-fil-A. If he had his way, my husband of 18 years and I would never be legally married...Dan is the problem, and Chick-fil-A is the enemy, right?... I had the background and history on him, so I thought, and had my own preconceived notions about who he was. I knew this character. No way did he know me. That was my view... I had researched Chick-fil-A's nearly $5 million in funding, given since 2003, to anti-LGBT groups. And the whole nation was aware that Dan was 'guilty as charged' in his support of a 'biblical definition' of marriage. What more was there to know?"

Shane goes on to explain his unlikely friendship with Dan Cathy that started with a simple phone call and turned into in-person meetings with Dan and other representatives of Chick-fil-A. While Shane had never heard their side of the story, they had never heard his either:

"It is not often that people with deeply held and completely opposing viewpoints actually risk sitting down and listening to one another. We see this failure to listen and learn in our government, in our communities and in our own families. Dan Cathy and I would, together, try to do better than each of us had experienced before."

This part of the story really touched me. Here they were, the leader of a national campaign against Chick-fil-A and the founder of the company taking time to learn about the lives and views of the other. As it turns out, Dan Cathy had never had this kind of open discussion with an LGBT member before and was unaware that the financial decisions of the company were spawning instances of hatred among college students across the country. What they both came to realize was that Chick-fil-A was being used by both sides of the political debate and "the repercussion of this was a deep division and polarization that was fueling feelings of hate on all sides."

The point that stands out to me most in the story is not one about the issue itself. Rather it is Shane's description of how Dan expressed his faith and beliefs. Shane says this:

 "I gained an appreciation for his devout belief in Jesus Christ and his commitment to being a follower of Christ more than a Christian."

The difference in the two at first seems obsolete. But when you think about it, it is the most important difference there could be. As a Christian, you may be for or against certain issues. And if that's what is  most important, then hatred and anger towards the opposition is inevitable in the name of standing for what's right. But being a follower of Christ is so far beyond that. It doesn't discount what is right by any means, but rather, it reminds us that Jesus himself spent time with thieves and prostitutes and treated them as human beings and showed them love. He didn't act out in hatred and anger, although he had more of a right to than any of us. So many times we forget the faces behind issues that we have opinions on. And I am as guilty of this as anyone. But we should never forget that of all the commands given to us in Scripture, the most important is to love God and love our neighbor. This doesn't mean we should change or apologize for our beliefs, just as Dan didn't in his interactions with Shane. But it does mean that we should treat people with opposing views with love and respect. If we forget this, we have truly forgotten the heart of Christianity. 

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

How to Save an Arm Chair

We've all had those old pieces of furniture that are handed down to us. You want to get rid of it, but it's "so sturdy" or "such a good piece of furniture" and definitely "built to last." The only problem? They are always covered in fabric so hideous that it cancels out all those good qualities that you just cant find in furniture these days.

This is the tale of one such piece of furniture and its transformation from an old, unattractive garage sale piece to a modern chair that I actually love.

So here is exhibit A. The chair in all its glory, pre-reupholstery. 

Not the ugliest thing you've ever seen, but the skirt and thick, denim, cord-like material definitely give away that its prime was many decades ago. So I decided to save this chair from its inevitable end at next year's garage sale.

Before I started, I read a ton of re-upholstery tutorials and blog posts. And basically, I gathered two pieces of wisdom:

1. Take off the upholstery in order of what piece is "on top" of the others and remember the order you took them off in. (more on this later)

2. Keep all the pieces you take off so that you can cut the new ones the exact same size and not waste fabric.

Here is a little more explanation of rule #1. You need to look at your chair and determine which piece of fabric was put on last. It's important to keep this order because this is how you hide the staples that you use to attach the new fabric. Complicated, I know. But this process turns out to be more of a science than an art. 

On my chair, the back piece was put on last. So that's where I started. 

There was a strip of metal with spikes on it in each side of the back panel. The fabric is folded over this strip and then the strip is hammered to the wood of the chair. Clever little trick to hide the fabric edges. You can see some of the metal spikes in the picture sticking out of the cloth that is pulled back. 

Goodbye back panel! 

A pair of pliers and a flat-head screw driver were the tools that worked best for me in getting out the fabric staples. But be warned, there are about ten thousand, so unless you want your hands bearing the scars of your project, I advise wearing work gloves. 

On to the sides, which also used these handy metal strips. 

Some of the pieces also had cardboard strips under the staples to prevent pull on the fabric. I didn't save these to put back on, but if you are using a thin fabric, you may want to get some so that your fabric doesn't have so much strain on it from the staples. 

Next, the wings. These were tricky because they had double-cording to hide the staples that held the wing pieces on. I kept the cording to make my own with when I got to the recovering part of the project. 

This is what the wing piece looks like without the cording to hide all the staples attaching it. 

Once I took the wing pieces off, there was a foam layer that had been attached over the edges of the wing tops. I decided to leave this on the chair and simply put my fabric over the fabric that the foam covered instead of ripping up the foam and risking tearing it. 

 On to the arms. These were interesting because the once white batting underneath them was so old that it came apart easily and stuck to the fabric I was pulling off. I saved it as much as I could to avoid buying all new batting and really, you can't tell at all on the finished product. 

This next part was probably the most complicated of the entire thing. The arms of the chair has these fancy little pieces with cording around the outside. I pried them off with the screw driver and found that they were actually attached with nails on the backside. If your chair has anything like this, be sure to keep these and simply recover them instead of trying to come up with something to use in their place. 

Then just keep on ripping off that fabric. 

Soon, your ugly chair will look something like this. Not necessarily a step in the pretty direction, but I promise, its all part of the process. After taking off the second arm piece that is still on in this picture, I decided that the very front bottom piece, the inside wing pieces and the backrest piece were better left in place and simply covered over with new fabric. This would allow more strength with two layers of fabric and save me the trouble of having to redo the foam on the outside of the wings to get the inside pieces off. 

This is where the new fabric comes in. I chose a blue chevron (although it will look grey in the upcoming pictures) from Hobby Lobby. Gotta love those 40% off coupons. I bought 7 yards, although I definitely only used about 5. As an amateur, I figured better too much than not enough.

And I began the recovering process. Honestly, this was the easy part. When I was dismantling the old fabric pieces, I made a pile of them (in order) so that I could simply work backwards through the pile when attaching the new pieces. I cut the fabric exactly the size of the old pieces, which eliminated a ton of measuring and mess-ups. For my weapon of choice in this stage, I borrowed a staple gun from my parents that held small upholstery staples (from Lowe's or Home Depot). 

For the cording, I simply sewed new fabric over the old instead of taking the cording completely apart. This proved easier than expected and I definitely recommend minimizing your deconstruction.
For the double cording on the wings, I just wrapped the new fabric around the old and sewed it tight first, then sewed a line down the middle. The crease in the middle provides a place for staples that is almost unnoticeable. 

One by one, I stapled the new pieces back on in the opposite order I took them off to hide the edges. I reused the metal strips, although some of them had to be re-bent and reshaped a bit. 

Eventually, I got here! Visible progress at last! 

The cushion was the part that required the most actual sewing knowledge (of which I am extremely lacking). So this chair went cushion-less for several days while I struggled through making a new cover. 

But eventually, I finished it. And now we have a fun addition to our living room that doesn't look like something out of my great grandparents house.