Dec 16, 2013

Procrastination Nation

Yuck, finals week is upon us.

I'm one final deep and I already just want it to be over with. I'm thankful for a mild finals schedule this semester because I don't think I would successfully handle anything more than what I already have. Anyone who is currently in college or has ever been in college knows the level of procrastination that occurs during finals week. I'm not here to give anyone advice on how to avoid it because I'm likely one of the worst offenders. This doesn't just stem from college, I've been this way my whole life. Ask my mom, I'm sure she'd fully agree to that!

In full blown procrastination mode over the weekend, I stumbled across this pin:

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If that's not the truth then I don't know what is! So far today I've made a full breakfast (I never eat breakfast and if I do it's a piece of toast or a clementine), checked every form of social media at least 543,867 times, cleaned out my Bloglovin' feed which included actually commenting on posts, worked out, cleaned the kitchen, and walked my dog multiple times. All before taking the only  final I needed to take today. Plus, I'm blogging now which almost never happens on a Monday.

Now before you start thinking I completely fail at being an adult college kid, I did eventually step up to the plate and take my final. It was an online final that opened up this morning and is open until Wednesday night. I have two finals tomorrow and one on Wednesday, I figured that smart choice would be to take it today. I'm happy I didn't push it off until this afternoon because about an hour after I took the final I got an email from the teacher saying the version I took had multiple mistakes. Since I already took the final, she just gave me the points for those questions that were messed up. I can almost guarantee that I would not have scored any better on the correct version so by not procrastinating even more, I gained myself a few points. Yay me!

That's my ramble blog for the day. Good luck on your finals to anyone who's taking them, don't let procrastination bite ya in the butt too hard!

Happy Monday folks!
Love,
Mandy

Dec 13, 2013

Finals Week & Playing Mama Bear

Happy Friday!

I'm especially excited because this is my last Friday of the semester! To say I'm over this semester is a major understatement. I have a pretty easy finals lineup this year. Two open book finals, a test that's not cumulative, and a presentation that I might not even have to present because how can 80+ people present in 2 hours?

So, yesterday I had the day off from classes and I wanted to be productive. My entire college life, I've naturally taken over the mama role with all of my friends. I've frequently heard "yes mom.." coming from their mouths haha. One of my favorite things to do is bring them little surprises. It probably has to do a lot with the fact that my love language is receiving gifts but I've always loved to make little things to brighten someone's day. I frequently find myself baking tons of cookies/bars/cupcakes and then quickly dividing it up and dropping it off at their doorsteps!

Most of my friends have a crazy hectic finals schedules this semester. Many of them are stressed to the brink of crying and meltdowns which I have experienced more than once! So I start brainstorming, what can I do to brighten their moods even just a little? Care packages! I was putting one together for M and his buddies anyway so I just made an assembly line and packed them all up! Each one was a little different from the next. I made 6 care packages in all for 10+ people in just one afternoon! Then I spent a few hours delivering them. Can I just say that taking care of my friends like that literally makes my heart so full I thought it might explode! Never have I felt more in place than I do when I'm taking care of the people I love.

When I look back at the end of my life, if I was a great mom (even if it ends up being just to my friends) and a loving wife then I will have accomplished everything I ever wanted! There are not many things that make me feel as happy as those two things do!

I thought I'd share a little of what I put into the packages in case y'all want to send a care package to a college student in your life. ;)

It started out with the thought "I'm just going to bake a ton of chocolate chip cookies, that will be good enough!" Yet I never let myself go the simple route. Back and forth in the grocery aisles I went, thinking about all the fun things I'd want if I got a care package. I was giddy to get home and get them put together!
Care Package

I mixed up the packages to make each one more personal but they all included coffee, homemade cookies, juice pouches, and ring pops. That meant sugar, something warm, and a little bit of energy to pull themselves together! I also hand wrote each of them a note on some fun Christmas cards I picked up from the dollar section at Target. Some of them were in $1 bowls from Walmart, others were in Christmas gift bags. All extra portable which was fantastic when I delivered them!

Gigantic bag of choc chips that started it all!
Mmm, cookie dough! I was so excited to make them that I ended up eating my lunch cold..
Four of the six packages just before I re-organized them!
So what are you waiting for? Put together a care package for a family member, friend, or even as a random act of kindness! I guarantee it will put a smile on someone's face. :)

What would you want in a care package?
Love,
Mandy

Dec 10, 2013

How do you keep from going crazy?

Ever feel like a few weeks out of the year your schedule is just so packed you don't know how it will all work?

This year I have six Christmas get-togethers I have to get into my schedule, plus making time to see all the people I haven't seen since this Summer. Holy hectic! I sat down to figure out where I'd be for the almost month long Christmas break I have this year and I was a little overwhelmed. My family has a few unusual schedules to work around this year so we just got one of the get-togethers on the calendar this morning!

One thing that helps me keep it all together is my Erin Condren Life Planner. I was so excited to get it back in July and start planning out my days! I take the planner everywhere I go, whether it's in my bag on the way to class or in my purse when I'm out and about. The only way to keep it all straight is to have everything in one place! I write down all my tests and assignments, any major events I need to remember, and even my photography sessions now. The pockets in the back are fantastic to hold any important papers I might need to bring with me.




I've also been make tons of lists to keep track of all the things I need to remember in a day/week/month. I love to hit up the Target dollar section to find some cute notepads for this purpose! I've got a good stockpile going but I always find one or two more to add to the collection. :) My favorite one lately came with this cute little clipboard which is handy because I never know what odd places I'll find myself making a list in.


Even with all of that, somedays I find myself feeling a little crazy when it comes to my schedule! On days like that, I take a deep breath (occasionally a nap, too) and thank God for blessing me with so many opportunities in life that I have a chance to stress over. Now I'm off to make another list and add it to my planner!

How do you keep your schedule organized?
Love,
Mandy

Dec 5, 2013

Off the Deep End

Holy moly, it's a cold one out there today. I think I might actually take back the gloomy weather from yesterday over this stuff!

I was up real early (0600 is early for me at least) this morning to wish M good luck on his test today and now I'm feeling productive! I probably could have gone back to sleep but Gage chasing after bunnies in 10 degree weather woke me up too much for that. So here I am posting at 7:30 and I've got a long to-do list to hit before class!

Over the last few days I've been thinking a lot about meal planning. I've planned a week of meals a few times but never really planned out all the ingredients or done the prep work to go along with it. After reading this post from my friend Amberly, I got the final kick in the butt I needed to start planning.

So I set out for Pinterest because where else do people start looking for things these days? After a good hour of searching (sorry Pinterest followers) I have a pretty good amount of pins on my meal planning board. That was just the beginning though! I knew Miss Alexa had written some meal planning posts in the past so I sent her an email last night pleading for help asking for some tips. Being the awesome blog friend that she is, she emailed me right back! I'm so excited to sit down and read her tips followed by actually clicking on the links to my meal planning pins! With blog friends for inspiration, I'm determined to do this!

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Do you have any tips for me? Wish me luck!

Love,
Mandy

Dec 4, 2013

A little bit of this and that

Man is it an icky day out here! Foggy, cold, and rain/sleeting make for a fun walk to class.

There's really not much point to today's post other than to stop by and say hello! Despite some frustrations on the home front (which I'm sure most college students are feeling as finals week approaches) and the weather being blah, I'm finding reasons to smile today.

Like having the chance to wear my rain boots out and about for the first time! That may not seem exciting to you but it's been years since I've owned a pair and now that I have some I'm having a good time. Although out of habit, I still avoid walking through those big puddles on campus. Maybe when I get home I'll go splashing through the puddles just for fun. What else are you supposed to do on a gloomy day?

Or waking up to our song (Then by Brad Paisley) playing this morning and some sweet good morning texts from M. Usually we get to talk for about a half hour in the morning before he has to put his phone away. Today, fingers crossed, they started actual training so he was out before I even woke up. I'm excited to hear what his day consisted of and I'm happy for him because now he won't have to sit around all day doing next to nothing.

Or current countdown ticking away on my phone. Seriously, just seeing that number puts a permanent smile on my face! I cannot wait to have M back in our apartment, living normal life! I know there will be a new normal once he comes home and some readjusting to life living with each other again but I say bring it on!

That's about all I've got for you today friends!

Playing around with some engagement pictures!
Even the shortest Skype date makes my night! He doesn't like it when I snap pictures of him :P

A December photo challenge I spotted on Instagram yesterday. Maybe I'll actually keep up with this one?
How's the weather near you? What's putting a smile on your face today?

Love,
Mandy

Dec 3, 2013

Do I have to be productive again?

Hello and happy Tuesday friends!

Since I finally decided to become a productive member of college life again (taking a two week break makes that a struggle) I thought I'd rejoin the blog world as well!

After bouncing all over the place and spending way too many hours on the road over the last two weeks, can you blame me for spending all day yesterday lounging around? I got an email late on Sunday night saying my only class yesterday was optional which meant my break got extended by one more day! I had a mini movie marathon and the puppy got lots of snuggles before I headed out to run some errands.

Let me tell you people, the post office is a zoo these days. Everyone is trying to send out some holiday cheer and that's making it pretty hard for me to send care packages to M! I won't complain though, everyone there was in a really good mood and the workers were pretty friendly for a change! Then I made my way to Target and the dollar section got me again. At least I got a few Christmas decorations for cheap! Those window clings are my favorite. Once I pulled myself away from all the temptations Target has to offer, I moseyed on over to the black hole known as Walmart. The bell ringer played me a little tune with the bell and tambourine he had, I walked through those big doors and instantly regretted my choice. Madhouse doesn't even describe what that place looked like. Let's just say I grabbed the food I needed, picked over the Christmas aisle quickly and got my butt out of there. The sketchiness that comes with Walmart was upped another level when I walked out to see a cop just chilling outside the doors.

I was so excited to unpack my Christmas goodies and get to decorating! Christmas music on full blast, I set out to make it look like a holiday explosion happened in our apartment. This year, all things red and white have been catching my eye so that's sort of my "theme" for decorations. Then Gage had other ideas for me. All he wanted to do was play! After reading this post and ending up in tears, how could I resist his pleas for play time? By the end of the night I managed to get one of our two baby trees put up and a small coffee table centerpiece put together. Fail on the holiday explosion. Yet I don't mind, those minutes spent playing with Gage are totally worth it if he's happy! Hoping I can get the rest of the decorations put up when I get home from class!

Class optional = more time to relax!
No red bulbs means the tree gets to be patriotic this year! It seems appropriate :)
Umm, I blame the holiday spirit for this one.
Snuggled up
Even if it is slightly off-key ;)
Have you put up your Christmas decorations yet? Had to deal with the chaos that the holidays bring?

Love,
Mandy

P.S. If you're looking for someone amazing to sponsor in blog land, Travel Babbles should be your go-to gal! She's hosting an awesome giveaway right now that you really don't want to miss! How cute are these sweatshirts?



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Nov 27, 2013

Finally Reunited and Feeling Army Strong

Good morning! 

I've avoiding talking about the trip I left for a week ago in hopes that if I don't talk about it, when I wake up tomorrow I will still be on an Army base. That's not how it works? Well shoot. In that case, I'll tell you all about it while I sit here and pout a bit more.

Last Tuesday I anxiously packed up the car, baked a pan of coffee cake (one of M's favorite desserts), then headed off to class. I dipped out early when I found out we weren't really doing anything in class. I grabbed Gage, hopped in the car and hit the road for a 7 hour drive by myself!

Though I decided the GPS hates me after getting me lost multiple times, I finally made it to the hotel. I hiked up and down the two flights of stairs to our room to get everything inside. I unpacked and tried to head to bed but I knew I wouldn't sleep. And I didn't.

I "woke up" Wednesday morning with all sorts of butterflies in my tummy. Just a few hours stood between me and seeing my best friend for the first time in over two and a half months. That's the longest time we've ever been apart! I took off over a half hour early because I knew I would struggle with finding the building he was in. Fifty minutes later I finally found the right building after the GPS took me to many places that were in fact not the building he was in. I was upset, felt terrible for being late, and was pretty close to tears when I saw him for the first time. Just like that, none of it mattered!

The distance, the days apart, all the tears, disappeared when I finally found him in the sea of men who looked exactly alike. Though PDA had to be kept to a real minimum, the reunion will always be in my mind! We took off for the hotel and drove around for half an hour trying to find it before I stopped to ask for another map. I'm telling you, this place is HUGE and the buildings are only marked if you are on the right side of the building. We spent the rest of the day just soaking up each other's presence. It was glorious! Dropping him off made me sad but I knew I would see him early in the morning!

The next morning I woke up to many texts from my family, realizing I'd overslept by more than an hour and had to be at the graduation site in a half hour. Thankfully I already had everything set out, I knew where I was going, and my hair cooperated for once! My family and M's family drove down as well so I met up with them and we waited for the whole thing to start. I'd be lying if I said I wasn't in tears as these men and women became soldiers of the U.S. Army!

After the ceremony was over I ran through the massive crowd and found M. He was so happy to see me! I met one of M's best buddies from basic and his buddy's girlfriend. It was so cool to meet all the guys he'd been telling me about, the ones who were there for him when I couldn't be! We took a ton of pictures before heading out to eat. We sat all 9 of us around a big table, enjoyed way too much food, and listened to lots of stories. My family had to turn around and make the 8 1/2 hour drive back so they headed out with Gage right after lunch. M's family brought us back to the hotel and then headed out as well. We spent the afternoon hanging out, watching movies, and enjoying junk food. Other than taking pictures and a few texts here and there, we put our phones away the whole time we were together. Best decision we could have made! It let us enjoy the moment instead of responding to all the people who were excited for us. Dropping him off was awful. We had no idea whether or not he would get a weekend pass since he was staying in the same place for AIT. I didn't know when I would see or talk to him again. He told me to stay for formation so I waited around with some of the other families as they lined up. Up until this point, he'd had his phone sporadically over the two day period. Then I watched him frantically text me one last time before his phone was taken away again and they headed inside. Somehow through the tears I made it back to the hotel and tried to pull myself back together. A little while later I got a phone call from M saying everything was fine and he got to keep his phone!

The next morning he "shipped out" to AIT which was just a little ways down the road. A few hours later he let me know he was getting a pass for at least the day and to be there in half an hour. Holy #^$%. So I jumped up, threw on some clothes other than PJs, and ran to the car. Thankfully I found the place with just a few minutes to spare. After sitting in a little room and listening to a brief from the new barracks, I signed him out for the day. We talked about how his graduation date was actually about 3 weeks later than what we were hoping for and that he only got a two day pass instead of three. After minimal pouting, we spent the day goofing off and reconnecting. I only teared up when I dropped him off and went back to my room.

When I woke up Saturday morning, I didn't want to get out of bed. I knew it was my last day with M and I just didn't want to get up because I knew that meant the last day had started. I signed him out and brought him back so we could figure out our plan for the day. We ended up designing our Christmas cards, calling some friends to talk for a bit, a little bit of shopping for Army apparel, driving around talking the way we used to and then many tears on my part. I was a wreck and I will own up to that. The days didn't pass too quickly but they just weren't enough time. I wasn't ready but I couldn't do anything about it. The past few days most of the soldiers were back in the barracks about a half hour before the deadline. This night, we all clung to our soldiers until literally the last minute. We finally forced ourselves out of the car and the no PDA rule had to be broken. I was not about to leave my husband without saying see you later one last time for awhile. All of the cars sat in the parking lot for a few minutes after all the soldiers had disappeared inside. I let myself have a little bit to be upset in the parking lot and then I pulled myself together. It could be worse, at least I know he will be coming home to me soon.The next morning I packed up the car and made the 8 1/2 hour drive back home by myself. No Gage for entertainment, it was pretty awful but I made it!

I'm so thankful for all the prayers and well wishes y'all have sent our way throughout the past few months! We reconnected and our marriage is Army strong that's for sure! I'm grateful that the trip down and back went off without too many problems. I'm thankful that our families could help us celebrate as well. I'm thankful that M gets to keep his phone now that he's in AIT. Most of all, I'm just so thankful for the opportunity to spend a few days enjoying the company of my husband and best friend. And a special shout out to the milsos (military significant others) who kept me sane and supported me throughout this journey. No one understands it better than someone who's already been through or is currently going through this!

Here's to hoping AIT passes as quickly as BCT did!


Pretty sunset with a little dog slobber on top
My handsome soldier <3
The first thing he wanted was caffeine. Starbucks was definitely our friend!
The men and their ladies!
So in love with him!

His and hers.

Skyping now that we're apart again..

Love,
Mandy

Nov 20, 2013

On the Road Again..

When I head out on a roadtrip, I don't head out empty handed. Here are a few of my favorite things for a successful trip!

Roadtrip Essentials
1. Water--definite need on long trips to stay hydrated.
2. Snacks--I couldn't make it through a trip without these!
3. Sunglasses--the sun visor doesn't do much for a short girl like me. Always have sunglasses in the car!
4. Music--a good playlist can be the difference between nearly falling asleep and jamming out the whole way.
5. Coffee--to stay awake!
6. Chapstick--gotta keep those lips hydrated too.



Passenger Roadtrip Essentials


1. Magazine--Doesn't matter which one, usually I grab whatever is cheapest!
2. Knitting supplies--I've been working on the same scarf for months. Maybe I need to take more roadtrips so I will finish it?
3. Phone--easy entertainment.
4. Chocolate--the way to my heart!
5. Canon Rebel--you never know when inspiration will strike!
6. Coffee--just as much of an essential for a passenger as it is for the driver.

What do you bring on long trips?

-Mandy

Nov 15, 2013

So Much Change

I've got this huge smiled plastered on my face. I can't help it! You would too if you were seeing your husband for the first time in two and a half months!

The number of days left on the countdown is literally so small that I could scream and shout! Took a little trip down memory lane as I was looking how much we've changed over the years. Soon I'll be able to add another photo that shows even more change! I'm ready for the weekend, hope yours is full of fun and happiness!

Just before we were "official!" We were talking as more than friends.
Prom my junior, his senior year
First Anniversary
Prom my senior year
Second Anniversary
Proposal <3
Third Anniversary
Making a new anniversary and family!
Fourth dating anniversary
First Married Anniversary
Love,
Mandy

Nov 14, 2013

An Early Present

Guys, I bought myself a Christmas present. Never done that before but it's for the good of my photography I told myself!

Last year I bought the Extremely Essential Camera Skills tutorial from Photography Concentrate after Jenni at Story of My Life mentioned how much it helped her learn to use a dslr. I ended up snagging it on sale the weekend after Thanksgiving. Though I didn't even own a dslr until March and didn't sit down to use the tutorial until May, it was worth it! I spent a few hours straight going over and over the tutorial until boom, it just clicked! Thanks to this tutorial I'm now shooting in full manual and RAW which was scary to think about when I first started. I'm no expert but if you want to learn how to use a dslr without taking a class, BUY THIS.

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My parents bought me Adobe Lightroom for my birthday this year. Lightroom is a less overwhelming version of Photoshop. I snagged it with a student discount and it's been perfect for my skill level, I've been using it ever since. Not that I know what I'm doing at all. I finally decided to check out the Super Photo Editing Skills tutorial that Photography Concentrate has. I've tweaked my editing skills a ton since I first started using Lightroom but I have a long way to go if I want to reach my goal! I cannot wait to sit down and have my mind blown once again! Plus, it gives me a nice distraction as I'm counting down the days until I see M again.

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I also grabbed the Creativity Field Guide on sale. I tend to struggle with being creative during a shoot, I guess that's a skill that comes with time and practice. Merry Christmas to me!

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Have you ever gotten yourself a Christmas present? Heard of any other fantastic tutorials that helped you learn photography?

Love,
Mandy

Nov 12, 2013

Fall Cara Box

It's that time again! When I heard about the Fall themed Cara Box I knew I had to participate. Fall has quickly become a favorite time of year for me, it was perfect!

The exchange used to be monthly but because Ms. Kaitlyn has the most precious little baby to worry about, the exchange is now 4 times a year. There will be a sign up for the Winter box at the beginning of December if you want to check it out!

Over the past two months, I have been getting to know two sweet ladies. I sent a box to Jillian over at Keep Calm and Wear Pearls, keep an eye out for her Cara Box post to see what I picked out! Natalie of Here I am, the Handmaid of the Lord sent me the sweetest box. I couldn't have asked for anything better! Check out the pictures below to see what she sent me.


She had the prettiest shipping label I've ever seen! Had to crop out both of our addresses for obvious reasons..
Fall decorations and a sweet hand written letter!
Pumpkin coffee!
Even more pumpkin flavored treats. Can you tell what one of my favorite parts about Fall is?
Handmade cards for me to send to my soldier!
Super warm boot socks! These will be handy with the cold Iowa winter on it's way!
Fall polishes!

Love,
Mandy