31 August 2017

TBT: College and Beyond


College was definitely some of the best years of my life. I met my future husband there. I made some friendships that will be with me a lifetime. I gained great leadership experience through the various groups in which I participated. I grew deeply in my faith as a Christian. I also gained a mountain of debt, like most college kids. Today, I'm participating in Throw Back Thursday, and looking back on my time in college, what I learned, and what I might have done differently to set me up for even better success!



My deets....
... I went to Rochester Institute of Technology
... studied a five-year program in Computer Science, focusing in Computer Security
... minored in Spanish Language and have a concentration in IT- Website Development
... did a full year of required Co-ops (paid internships) at EMC (but before Dell acquired it)
... was a Resident Advisor (RA) for 3 years- ResLife! Whoohoo!
... did a Graduate Assistantship with the RIT Leadership Institute (RLI)
... participated in InterVarsity Christian Fellowship (also where I met my hubby!)
... co-leader of the InterVarsity women's Small Group Bible study
... co-founder of the (albeit short-lived) RIT Country Line Dance Club



Memories...
... deepening my faith in Christ through Friday night InterVarsity meetings, prayer partner meetings, Small Group Bible studies, overnight retreats, accountability partners
... two Missions trips to Guyana, South America helping to paint a children's camp & orphanage, minister to the Christian churches there, and teaching American Sign Language to families who had never been able to speak to their own deaf children or siblings before
... many midnight bonding sessions- like frisbee games in the parking lot, walks around campus in the snow, slumber parties in the dorm lounge
... so many RA rights of passage- from using up all the laminator materials and construction paper making bulletin boards and the organized chaos of move-in day and New Student Orientation, to deep discussions during rounds of the dorms and full contact ultimate frisbee
... food with friends- from progressive dinners, to cooking for friends who lack culinary skills, to the annual Women's Appreciation Dinner hosted by the men of InterVarsity
... learning a new language- American Sign Language- and making new friends in the Deaf and Hard of Hearing community
... dates at Panera and Tim Hortons with my future husband
... Thursday nights dancing up a storm with friends at The Roost, our local country line dance bar
... epic study sessions for finals- like all of campus laying outside in the sun studying in May because it was the first time since winter that it broke 40 degrees, or midnight study groups in the campus library coffee shop



If you'll notice, the common thread was not time spent in classes, but rather time spent with people and the experiences. That is what truly makes college some of the most memorable years ever- those lasting friendships, relationships, leadership experiences. Don't misunderstand! Study your butt off and do well in your classes, because that is what will land you a job when you're all done! Just don't forget to work in a healthy dose of fun and friendships in between hitting the books :)

So... what would I have done differently, you ask?
... always be asking questions! 
I was 1 of 7 girls in my major my first year in college. I believe only 4 of us made it through to graduation. Admittedly, it made me nervous to ask questions in class- I didn't want to look like the "stupid girl" in the room! If I had to do it all over again, I would have pushed myself out of my comfort zone to ask more questions- in class, at open office hours with my professor, in the student help lab. Don't be afraid to learn! I know I could have done even better in my classes and walked away with a more solid understanding of the materials if I had just asked more questions.
... save money!
Seriously. You never know when you might need to make your money stretch. Who knows? Your job's start date might be in September, but you graduate in June. It might take a little time to even find a job after graduation. You may have an unforeseen emergency- broken down car, medical bills, etc. Whether during college, after, or years down the road. Nine years after graduation, our family is going through some tough financial times. I only wish I had saved more of my money back then to have at my disposal now! When I did my co-ops, it was the first time I had to budget, and I definitely spent way too much on frivolous things.
... apply for financial aid!
Take the extra time to research and apply for any aid available to you. I had some scholarships from high school, and partial aid through being an RA and Graduate Assistant. I wish I had gone the extra mile and tried to cut down my tuition bills even more. Since you're going to have to pay back those student loans sooner than you realize, when the time comes, again, do your research! Companies like Earnest can be a huge help when you're facing those looming loan bills, especially if you are looking to refinance your student loans.
... don't be afraid to take a non-traditional route!
Maybe a trade school is more up your alley. Go for it! Don't be deterred by society's obsession with college. Check out mikeroweWORKS for scholarship opportunities in the skilled fields! Maybe you want to work for a year or two before pursuing college. Know yourself- if you feel unprepared, want to build up your savings first, or explore your interests to find a field you might want to study, do it! Maybe night classes while working full time, and/or distance learning fits better with your life. More and more people are choosing alternate routes of pursuing knowledge.

15 August 2017

Swedish Country Dream Dining


Hey y'all! So clearly I've been on a decorating kick recently! Today I'm putting together my dream dining room. I've always said, when decorating, invest a little extra money in quality pieces. Too often I've tried to save money by buying the lowest priced items. Not only do I have to buy them again a few years (or sometimes months!) later because they break or wear down quickly, but I'm usually really dissatisfied because I settled on something I didn't completely love. So whether you're outfitting your own new dining room with purchases from your local vintage shop or buying new dining pieces from a shop like Arhaus, make sure you're getting well made, solidly built pieces that will stand the test of time! If you're crafty, you can even DIY pieces for a completely tailored-to-you look!

We've recently moved (that makes 7 moves in 8.5 years- such is the life of a Veteran spouse hehe) and so my mind always wanders towards our dream home one day. The hubby likes dark wood cabin man caves, and I like bright and white! I may have discovered a great blend of the two, which we shall call Swedish Country style! Inspired by Nordic farmhouses, it is clean and airy meets rustic, cozy charm- think lots of natural woodtones and pops of metals, very earthy, but usually with a white wash or earth-tone pastel tones. So, what would that style look like in my dream dining room? Well, let's explore...



(1) Large, solid farmhouse table- We love hosting family and friends, so an extendable table (or just a really large one to begin with! Hehe) is definitely top priority! This beauty at Arhaus fits the bill perfectly.
(2) Benches and seating galore- I love benches in a dining room! You can squeeze extra people on it, especially when there's kids about. We usually also have extra chairs in the corners of our dining room, so we can pull those up to the table when we need the extra seats at the table. While I love the idea of upholstered dining chairs, in reality, I think they're completely impractical! One spill of pasta sauce, and they're toast! So I'd opt for leather dining seat surfaces or pop on some slip covers- both easy to clean. Totally in love with this slip covered beauty!
(3) China hutch- I love a beautiful table, and we use our formal China set a few times a year, which means we need storage for such servewear and spare settings. So a China hutch is a must for us. This guy would completely fit the Scandinavian farmhouse style perfectly, and the color and detailing of this one would go great, but personally, I love ones that have a "counter" area that can function as a buffet area for large meals. There never seems to be enough room on the table for all of the platters when we cook large meals! So I love having that extra serving space right in the dining room. Ideally, I'd love to also have a butlers pantry in the pass through between my dream kitchen and dream dining room- extra storage and serving area, score!
(4) Floors and walls- This is where the Scandinavian feel starts to shine through. Grey or white washed floors, even painted white floors are really popular. Some earth tone pastels grace the walls and trim, or even some Nordic inspired wallpaper.
(5) Accessorize- Natural wood or white candlesticks, a pop of rustic iron pendants and sconces, and linens in popular Nordic patterns are the icing on the cake! Stick with natural elements, whether it's wood, metal, colors, and you're well on your way towards outfitting your dining room in the Swedish country feel. A little rusticness is good- perhaps some chippy paint on your vintage China hutch, or some rust on your metal sconce, these just add to the cozy farmhouse charm and keeping your colors light and bright give it that Scandinavian feel. Simple lines, uncluttered, homey.

Do you think this is a style you'd enjoy in your home? I think it's a great blend of the natural elements  with your shabby chic/French country type styles!

07 July 2017

Western Decor

western decor

Hey friends! Long time no talk! Lots of changes around our home here, from a move to two new jobs to two active wee ones to begin homeschooling! So as we settle into our next home, it's the perfect time to talk a bit about decor, specifically Wester Decor! I'm showcasing a few amazing goods from King Ranch today while I share some of my favorite tips for infusing western into your own home. Most of you don't know that I grew up riding horses. When I think of western decor, my mind, of course, automatically goes to horses- from wool saddle blankets to wood and iron fences, from leather tack to wide, open fields for grazing. These are many of the very same ideas that can translate perfectly into decor ideas!



horses


Horses
Western decor really has the horse at the center of everything. So, naturally, horses must play a part in your room. It could be as simple as framing up a western themed postcard set, like this beautiful set from King Ranch here, or as elaborate as a print transferred onto barn wood for a wall hanging. Toss in a few throw Mustang pillows, a wrought iron horse statue, and you've got yourself a great start!

leather and wool


Leather & Wool
"Tack" is a horse term referring to the pieces that you put on a horse in order to ride- saddle, bridle, saddle pad, etc. Leather and wool are by far the most commonly used materials, and as such, is very much a part of western decor. Maybe a big, old western saddle sitting in your sitting room might be a bit much, but there's many ways to gently infuse these ideas into a room. Leather, as a seating option, is pricey but incredibly durable. If you're going to spend the money somewhere, this would be a good place to do so. King Ranch has some amazing seating options, if you're looking for new, like this loveseat, or this incredible sofa. Another option is to shop your local antique store or consignment store. Leather often gets better with age, more supple and comfortable, provided it's well taken care of, so these second-hand options can be the best of both worlds- a perfectly primed seat at a fraction of the cost! If you don't have the money for a large leather piece, there's lower-cost methods for adding leather to your room- a few leather-bound books you picked up at the swap shop or some old luggage that your grandparents were fixin to throw out. Add a wool blanket to your sofa, in a traditional western pattern, or a wool accent rug or two, and you've got the perfect staples for a western-inspired room. King Ranch even has some adorable rug coasters for your table tops!

wood & iron


Iron & Wood
We've already talked about a few textures common to western decor, two more are wrought iron and wood. Barnwood is very in right now, but it has also withstood the stand of time, and thus makes a great addition to any decor. A sliding barn door set on iron rails is the perfect statement piece for a room, and seamlessly incorporates both textures. Maybe it's an amazing railroad-inspired coffee table or a DIY wet bar fashioned out of an old whiskey barrel! King Ranch even makes an iron bistro set with a cooler built into the barrel table- a.ma.zing. Smaller iron and wood pieces can add the perfect punch of western inspiration as well- a chunky wooden bowl or vintage wagon wheel, maybe a lamp made from reclaimed iron parts!

succulents


Succulents
The wide, open fields that you see horses grazing on, full of diverse flora, lends itself perfectly to the current trend of succulent plants. Many of the western states are perfect hosts for succulents as well, so this decor bit again works perfectly. Maybe you add in some silk or felt "plants" displayed on some chunky, barn wood pieces. Maybe you find a local artist, or support a small business owner via Etsy by purchasing a handmade print of some succulents. My favorite idea is to take an old pair of cowboy boots and turn it into a succulent planter! Not to mention, when you retire an old pair, it's an excuse to invest in a new pair of boots too, hehe ;)

I hope today's post has helped spark a few ideas of how you can refresh your space with a western flair! Incorporate just a few tips for a subtle effect, or infuse a ton of western theming by taking to heart all of the elements I've mentioned today! Happy trails, friends :)