• You've stumbled upon 'The Good Stuff.' Whether you're here to share in my adventures or just passing through, I'm glad you're here!

  • #InstaLife

    @nicoleerceg and I always joke about how we practically have the same life story. Both Northeast Oregon girls with roots in @oregonffa who went to @kstateag to study #agcomm and had internships in the grain industry. And both of us ended up on the East Coast where I eventually hired her to do freelance work for my organization... which happens to be part of the grain industry. And that doesn't even cover all of the other interests we have in common. But while we laugh about it when people ask us how we know each other, its actually the perfect example of how important it is to cultivate and invest in meaningful relationships, both personally and professionally, because you never know where that connection might lead you to or how that person might impact your life many years down the road. On Sunday, Nicole and I were able to share that with @agfutureamerica students visiting #DC for #NationalAgDay. We shared that we are better people and better ag communicators because we blend our personal and professional relationship. We support each other’s careers, the successes and DEFINITELY the challenges, but we are able to do that because of our friendship and respect for each other. And as a BONUS, it is just plain fun to have people to continue to share those life experiences, like #AgDay with. This is year's theme was "Food for Life" and I choose to think of that in terms of the relationships and my network in the #agriculture industry, and how that fuels my life in every way. Without that network of people that makes me want to always strive to be better, I certainly wouldn't be where I am in a job and industry that I absolutely love. 💚🌾 #OnTheBlog #LinkInBio: Finally kicking off my #traveljournal posts from my trip to #Thailand and the #Philippines. First up... covering the work part of my trip with the #USWheat #SouthAsia Board Team. One of the highlights of the team was seeing how the end-products made with U.S. #wheat are made including these cookies that were my favorite! Stay tuned for more posts this week! #theyearof26 #ilovemyjob #TheGoodStuffBlog "The world is far from small, and her heart is the center of it all..." 🎶🏝☀️ #shewillbefree @joshabbottband #theyearof26 Bangkok's sidewalks were preaching it today 🙌🏻 #Thailand #theyearof26 My work travel is done and now its on to #vacation with these kiddos. 
#family #Thailand #worldtraveler #watpho  #theyearof26 I haven't posted personally yet on this trip because I've been busy working, but as the week on the board team wraps up, I want to say how thankful I am for Matt, Joe and Roy. These gentlemen are my colleagues working in South Asia markets for U.S. #wheat farmers, but they are also mentors, friends, examples of hard work and most importantly they LOVE their jobs and it shows in every way. Thanks for continuing to share all the tricks with the new(ish) kid and organizing an AWESOME trip. #Thailand #Philippines #theyearof26 #mylifebelike #USWheat #ilovemyjob
  • My Favorite Words.

    'The LORD will fight for you; you need only to be still' -Exodus 14:14

    "You've got to know your limitations. I found out what mine were when I was twelve. I found out that there weren't too many limitations, if I did it my way." - Johnny Cash

    "Courage is the ladder that all virtues are mounted on." - Mr. R. Crosby Kemper, Jr.

    "It's your choice, Ace. People can live a hundred years without really living for a minute. You climb up here with me, it's one less minuteyou haven't lived." - Gilmore Girls

    "Faith, it does not make things easy, it makes them possible" - Luke 1:37

    "I am not bound to win, but I am bound to be true. I am not bound to succeed, but I am bound to live by the lights that I have." -Abraham Lincoln

    "Writing is a struggle against silence." - Carlos Fuentes

    "At the end of the day faith is a funny thing. It turns up when you don't really expect it. It’s like one day you realize that the fairy tale may be slightly different than you dreamed. The castle, well, it may not be a castle. And it’s not so important happy ever after, just that its happy right now. See once in a while, once in a blue moon, people will surprise you, and once in a while people may even take your breath away." - Grey's Anatomy

    "Imperfection is beauty. Madness is genius. And it's better to be absolutely ridiculous than absolutely boring. And when it comes down to it, I let them think what they want. If they care enough to bother with what I do, then I'm already better than them." - Marilyn Monroe

    “It’s not that I believe everything happens for a reason. Some things are meant to be broken. Imperfect. Chaotic. It’s the universe’s way of providing contrast. There have to be a few holes in the road. It’s how life is." – Sarah Dessen, The Truth About Forever

    "Opportunity knocks; that doesn't mean you have to knock the door off the hinges." - Sam Herringshaw

    "Grace doesn’t depend on suffering to exist, but where there is suffering you will find grace in many facets and colors." – William P. Young, The Shack

    ‎"You're only given a little spark of madness. You mustn't lose it." - Robin Williams

    "I think I'd miss you even if I'd never met you."-The Wedding Date

    "If you don't even believe in the possibility of magic, you'll never ever find it." - Castle

Travel Journal: USW South Asia Board Team to Thailand and the Philippines

Sawasdee Ka!

(Hello!)

If you know me personally or follow along on social media, you know that I just returned from three weeks in Thailand and the Philippines!

The initial reason for the trip was for work, but I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to tack on a vacation to the end.

Every year, U.S. Wheat Associates (my employer) invites farmers (selected by state wheat commissions) to participate in teams that travel overseas to follow their wheat and offer the opportunity to learn from customers about the wheat quality characteristics needed in those markets. I served as the staff team leader for three great farmers: Denise from Montana, Clint from South Dakota and Dustin from North Dakota. Once we were over there we were joined by various members of our overseas staff as we visited multiple flour mills and end-product manufacturers, as well as a baking school and bakery fair.

Overall, I am incredibly thankful and excited that it was (FINALLY) my turn to lead a team. The wheat industry is complex and fascinating, and in the almost two years that I have been in this job, it has become an industry that I am proud to represent. And while I am continually learning new things everyday, nothing beats getting out of the office and learning by seeing and experiencing the industry from the perspective of the customers who buy and use U.S. wheat.

I am also thankful for the time I had getting to know my team of farmers. I have said many times (especially here on the blog) that I firmly believe that farming is one of the most honorable professions there is and that I consider it a privilege to have a career in agriculture and use my words on their behalf. When the day-to-day of my job gets stressful or I get discouraged, it is the farmers that I get to know and their stories that help bring things back into perspective for me. Denise, Clint and Dustin were wonderful representatives for their fellow U.S. wheat farmers and I enjoyed getting to share this experience with them.

To read the full story on my work trip visit HERE —> “U.S. Wheat Farmers Get the Chance to See How Overseas Customers Value Their Crop.”

AND if you want to see more pictures than what I’ve included here on my blog, you can find those on the USW Facebook page HERE.

I took A LOT of pictures that I want to share from the entire trip, so today I am featuring the time I spent with the board team and then over the course of the next week I am going to share posts on my vacation with my grandparents and great aunt.

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Before heading over to Asia, the team met for a briefing that USW West Coast Office in Portland, OR, where they also visited the Wheat Marking Center and  the United Grains terminal.

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We arrived in Bangkok late on Saturday night and had most of the day Sunday to adjust to the time change a bit and be tourists.

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We visited two temples, Wat Pho, which is home to the “Reclining Buddha”, and Wat Arun. I did take a lot of photos around the temples but since I also visited the temples again with my family, I am going to share those in a separate upcoming blog post.

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On Monday, we visited the United Flour Mills (UFM) Baking School. USW has had a collaborative relationship with the school since 1982, where we host preeminent bakery training courses every year. I have heard so much about the work that happens there so I was excited to be visiting.

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UFM also has grocery stores, so after visiting the baking school we swung by. For the most part it was your typical grocery store, with the exception of a few things that I didn’t recognize, but I was amazed by the produce! There was quite a bit more packaging, versus fruit and veggies being just out in the open air and it was all amazing quality. And these were hands down the most beautiful strawberries I have ever seen!

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Japanese noodles… which I loved so much that I took my family back to the  same spot a week later and ordered the same thing.

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On the second day, the team visited a cookie and cracker manufacturer. I was excited to learn a little more about the marketing side of the business and about consumer trends. This visit was also a great example of the technical service that USW does. One of our baking consultants actually worked with the company on developing two of the products above that got to try.

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We also had a tour through their plant. All of the different assembly lines and processes were so cool!

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We were visiting on Valentine’s Day, so one of the companies gave us these small cakes. And I ate the whole thing for dinner. #noshame

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Before we had to leave for the airport in Bangkok we made a impromptu side visit to this world market grocery store which is touted as “one of the 25 grocery stores you should visit before you die.” Tally for the bucket list that I didn’t even know I needed. It was a pretty cool.

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We then traveled to Manila in the Republic of the Philippines. Our first day we traveled two hours down to Botangas to visit the country’s #1 flour mill and were privy to this amazing view. The drive there and back was obviously long, but it gave us a great opportunity to really see the countryside.

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The final day in Philippines and on the trip was spent at the 9th International Exhibition of Bakery, Confectionery and Foodservice Equipment, known as “Bakery Fair 2017.”

Bottomline: It was seriously cool.

And the party started early in the morning before I had a cup of coffee.

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USW’s booth got a lot of great attention. This piece was amazing!

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As was all of the “cakes” on display. You know there are times when I think of myself as artistic… this was not one of those moments.

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These are my co-workers, Matt, Joe and Roy that work overseas in South Asia. I was so thankful to get to know them a bit better. They are my colleagues but they are also mentors, friends and examples of hard work. Most importantly they LOVE their jobs and it shows in a every way.
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In the afternoon we had just a little bit of time to play tourist so Joe took us to Intramuros or the “Walled City” in the heart of Manila.

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Sometimes I struggle to explain all that my organization does (because sometimes I don’t see the entire scope of it) so hopefully this shares a bit of insight into wheat export market promotion.

Stay tuned throughout the next week for temples, elephants and postcard worthy beach scenes…. the picture sharing has just begun.

Cheers!

{2016} My Year in Review

Over lunch earlier this week, I had intended to throw together a different blog post, but discovered that somehow I had written my 2016 year in review post and then completely FORGOT to publish live. So here I am (on a plane to Thailand!!!) tweaking my introduction because posting it a MONTH LATE probably is going to get me some eye rolls.

Some people might say that is reflective of how 2016 went, but I do not necessarily share that sentiment. Believe me — there some parts of 2016 that just flat out sucked, but there is no way I can look through this post and label 2016 negatively.

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Early in 2016, I stumbled across the image and words above while scrolling through Instagram. It struck me as an odd phrase, but I somewhat absentmindedly took a screenshot and saved it to my phone.

“…stay in your magic?”

What does that mean?

It is easy to be caught up in the world around us. The way we spend our time and who spend with it obviously have a huge influence on our decisions and beliefs, and for the most part I think it is a positive thing to constantly be challenged. However, I think what the above phrase is saying, is that “your magic” is our core. It is our quirks that override trying to fit in, beliefs that cannot be swayed by other’s reasoning, thoughts we keep to ourselves, a sense of home and being grounded. My life continues to be filled with rewarding challenges, great adventures and even greater people, but as I navigated through 2016, these words came back to me again and again. They made me slow down and steady myself a bit more than the stubborn, quicker pace that I usually move at. I would like to think that it has made me strive to be a better person and to better appreciate what makes others unique.

It certainly was an interesting year, and I am glad I got to tag along for the ride.

In 2016, I traveled, because, you know sitting around at home really is for suckers.

I know I said this at a dozen times throughout 2016, but really, I AM SO LUCKY, that I have a job that allows me to travel, both for work and for fun. There were only two months out of the year (February and August) that I did not leave DC at all. Many of those were shorter weekend trips but when you lay it out like that it really adds up! Much like the previous year, my summer in DC sped by because over the course of six weeks I only was there for 10 days.

I traveled home to Oregon THREE TIMES! I don’t think I have technically done that EVER since I moved out for college eight years ago. In January (shortly after I had been home for Christmas), work took me to Portland for a few days and I was able to sneak home for the weekend to celebrate my best friend’s baby shower. In July, I was back for over a week to spend some quality time at my family’s cabin and to celebrate my Uncle’s Josh wedding. Then in December, I returned for a long holiday vacation and enjoyed my parent’s new house and farm.

Work took me back to my beloved Kansas in May where I was sidestepping tornadoes, sharing wheat quality with overseas customers and squeezing in as much time with friends as I could. In July work also took me to Fargo, ND (a new state for me!) for a board meeting, and to St. Louis, MO, for the annual Ag Media Summit. The big surprise from work came from the late decision to have me tag along on a conference that my organization was hosted in Guam in October!

My weekend trips included two trips to Blacksburg, VA, in April and September, to visit my friend Chelsea and watch some VTech football (aka relive my college tailgating days), a day trip to Morgantown, WV, in September, to watch K-State football play WVU and a quick trip over to Baltimore in June, when another K-State friend was passing through. Two of my favorite weekends were spent on an epic girls weekend to NYC with my best friend Megan in April, and returning to Kansas City in November, for the AFA Leaders Conference and Alliance Forum, and to celebrate the 20th anniversary of an organization that I love dearly.

In 2016, I grew a lot at work and continued to love the industry and people that I work.

I celebrated my one year anniversary and took on more responsibilities. Everyday I learned more and more about the wheat industry, took on new challenges and even survived a few growing pains. It also became more apparent how lucky I am to have a boss and co-workers that support me both personally and professionally. They are a team who genuinely love the work that they do, and I have found that when challenges arise, I am very grateful for their attitudes and guidance.

In 2016, I celebrated new life and became a new surrogate Auntie to two adorable babies.

A year or two ago I think it would be safe to say that this season of change was a bit overwhelming, but in 2016 I fully embraced it. Two of my best friends became mamas and I was overjoyed to see them start their families and am honored that even though I live far away, they want me in their baby’s lives as much as possible. Richole and Dustin welcomed Wesley Ray on Mar. 4, and Leah and Ryan welcomed Robin Michele on Apr. 4. (Thank goodness that is going to be easy to remember!) My work and personal travel allowed me to visit both of them twice, and I got in all of the baby snuggles that I could.

In 2016, I had more new visitors to DC.

After spending my first year and half with a roommate, I decided I wanted to go back to living on my own. Of course the timing of it had to be difficult with a week-long work trip and a few big project deadlines all right before the start and end of my leases. So my wonderful Mom made a last minute trip to visit and help with the move. I honestly couldn’t have done it without her! We also managed to fit in just a little bit of “fun,” including walking and sitting in the pouring rain because we were determined to see the Memorial Day concert of the U.S. Capitol West Lawn.

One of my biggest highlights of the year was having my best friends and college roommates visit DC. Megan and Kyla, and Kyla’s husband Nathan (a veteran when it comes to dealing with the three of us girls together on his own), have practically been planning for this trip since I first moved to DC. I had a blast sharing my new home with these guys and we definitely made the most of it!

In 2016, I really branched out and made new friends.

It is no secret that I am pretty outgoing, but in spite of that, I have always taken a bit longer to make friends. It is something that used to bother me quite a bit, but overtime I have learned to be better at embracing that it is a part of what makes me, well me. As DC started to really feel like a home, 2016 became all about putting myself out there a bit more and making new friends.

In 2016, a lot of the small moments, stand out as big ones…

I survived #WinterStormJonas, 2 feet of snow and a city completely shutting down.
I gained an aunt (but really a sister) in Sonia.
I celebrated turning 26, and am a-okay will being closer to 30 than 21.
I cheered on my Wildcats on lazy fall Saturday watch parties.
I became a Lifetime Member of the AFA Alliance.
I went on my first East Coast hike, and know that it will not be my last.
I was thankful for technology so I could watch my sister graduate college even though I couldn’t be there in person.

I enjoyed doing things I love by decorating my new apartment, a few crafts and a few live concerts.
I developed plantar fasciitis in my foot and will forever regret buying shoes just because they are cute
I had a great stay-cation over Labor Day weekend with a visit from my friend Nicole to DC.
I took the holiday season by storm with multiple Friendsgivings and holiday parties.
I found a church home and community in NCC.

I took way too many A LOT of pictures out and about exploring DC.

And while I certainly enjoyed getting to know those new friends, I also embraced the old ones that have stuck around and continue to enrich my life.

Oh 2016, you really weren’t all that bad. But I am looking forward to what in store for me in 2017.

Cheers.

The Country Christmas Connection: Gift Reveal

Though I don’t blog much about specific agriculture topics, I still label myself as an ag blogger to some degree, because it is the industry that I work in and am passionate about. Last year, I joined a Secret Santa exchange for ag bloggers and really enjoyed it, so I decided that it was something I wanted to participate in again. It is a great way to get to know more people in the industry, and obviously it’s fun!

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I was given Gracie Weinzierl who blogs at A Farm Kid’s Guide to Agriculture. Gracie is also in ag communications, working at an agency in St. Louis, where she works with a variety of clients in agriculture. She is originally from Central Illinois where she grew up on a small corn and soybean farm. Right away I saw that Gracie had some things in common, like our love for coffee and DIY. She wrote all about the gifts I sent her over on her own blog post, which you can read here. I did have to laugh though. Gracie is a HUGE cat lover, something that I don’t understand AT ALL.  I mean don’t hate them, but I’m not really a fan. My sister is the complete opposite though, so I am used to buying gifts for “those kinds of people,” and buy the sound of it, the quirky little cat pen that I gave Gracie was a hit.

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A snapshot of the things I sent Gracie.

My secret blogger was Hannah Neuenschwander who blogs over at Texan Meets Midwest. Hannah is a Texan who relocated to Illinois for her job as a entry-level manager at a Monsanto soybean production facility. My first thought when I was looking through her blog was how much I appreciate that there are other young professionals in agriculture that make big moves like I did for my career, and those like Hannah are willing to share about it on a blog.

I was a bit late to open my gift (not Hannah’s fault) because I wasn’t able to get it from my apartment office before I went home on a long holiday vacation. Which is quite all right because who doesn’t like opening gift on a random day! When I picked it up from the office, the manager was very enthusiastic and said, “Oh Amanda, it looks like your new TV came in, you must be really excited.” Instead of trying to explain to her that I was positive that it definitely was not a TV, I just went along with it. But it definitely made me really curious and excited to get back to my apartment to open it!

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Now I wish I could have had someone taking a video of me when I opened my gift from Hannah, because I literally shrieked out loud. Hannah did a great job “stalking” my social media and blog to learn that I love decorating my home in styles that I love and personal touches that reflect who I am, and also that I LOVE a good quote. So she had a local friend and small business woman (Tina Gonnerman at TMG Designs in Ashton, IL) make this sign specially for me. I have a few of my favorite quotes and verses on the left sidebar of my blog, but Exodus 14:14 is my FAVORITE VERSE. Up until now I have kept it written on the white board in my kitchen. Plus, the colors and style go perfectly with my decor in my living room! Really Hannah, you could not have sent me a more PERFECT gift than this. Right now I have it propped up on a book shelf in my living room, until I decide whether or not I am going to hang somewhere else or just leave it there.

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Isn’t it great!?

Thank you to Darleen and Jenny for being this year’s hosts for the blogger exchange. I really enjoyed participating again!

Be sure to check out the linkup, where all of the other participants are sharing their posts.

Cheers!

Feeding Cows with Dad

There are fewer things that I love more than being home with my family in Oregon doing everyday things, and there are even fewer things that I love more than seeing my family happy.

My parents have always dreamed of having property and cows, and of a farmhouse that they could call their forever home.

Once they found what they wanted there were a few frustrating years before it all came together, so when it finally happened it was that much sweeter.

It was a bit overwhelming at first when I came home. I was walking into a completely different place than where I grew up, but with every room and little detail that they showed me, it became more and more clear to me. This home is perfect for them.

I might take pictures someday of the house, maybe even on this trip.

But I knew even before I came home, that the first thing my camera lens would focus on were my dad and those beloved cows.

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In case you are wondering, these “Oreo” cows are the breed “Bue Lingo.”

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Breakfast time.

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I am only slightly upset that my family finally got cows AFTER I left home…

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This barn cat came with the property. My dad has renamed it “Talks a Lot.” It follows him EVERYWHERE, and well, never stops talking.

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This is what a very happy, new farmer looks like.

Cheers!

{2016} Holiday Partying

This year I attended a lot of holiday parties, so I thought I would do a quick round up here on the blog.

The first party was organized by a group from my church, and proceeds went toward the DC Dream Center. 

I decided for this party I would try out “Rent the Runway” for a fun holiday party dress, and after struggling a bit to lock one that I wanted (note for the future, you have to order earlier during the holiday!) Once I actually got the dress I was even more excited about it than when I first reserved it. It was perfect! And Rent the Runway is SO EASY to use. I would definitely recommend it!

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The party was fun and I just loved seeing everyone dressed up!

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I didn’t include any full pictures of the dress, but it was the “Blue Botany Dress” by Badgely Mischka. It was pretty heavy and had a large keyhole opening in the back. It was also little longer on me than on the model in the picture because I’m really short.

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I loved how my hair turned out! Like usual I started with one idea and it just transformed into something different by the time I was done.

My next party was my holiday party at work.
I don’t have any pictures from the actual party, so I included a few of the cinnamon rolls I made for the office for breakfast.

I love my office’s party though. We all go to lunch and then head back to the office gift exchanges, drinks and dessert. Our office stays pretty busy year-round, and someone is always traveling, so it’s just nice to enjoy the time with my co-workers.

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The next party was with my small group (through church). I joined this group just this fall, and am so thankful for the people and conversations its brought into my life. Our party was full of ugly sweaters, yummy food, white elephant gifts and some intense rounds of Catchphrase and Heads Up.

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My last party was hosted by my friends Kim and Sarah and their roommates.

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Lucky for me, they live only two blocks away from my apartment, so I didn’t have to spend money on a cab. But I did have to trek over in my snow boots, because I’m pretty sure my heels wouldn’t have fared well on the ice.

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Kylie and I have an unique friendship in that we actually met through blogging! It had been a while since we caught up, so I was so excited she was at the party! She’s also one of the first people who told me about National Community Church (NCC), which is how I met the girls who were hosting the party.

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I think I actually like this picture better than the first. We have a similar sense of humor… so this fits us.

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New, newish and older friends all at once.

(Also I love that my bridesmaid dress from Kyla’s wedding two years ago doubles as a great holiday dress!)

And since we are talking about holiday parties, I thought I would share that the entire Spoo family is getting festive.

My parents and sister attended the school district staff party (my dad is the high school principal) and my Dad ROCKED the ugly sweater.

This might be my new phone screensaver…

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And that’s it!
I hope everyone is having a wonderful holiday season with your friends and family!

Cheers!

So There’s That Vol. 19

{Sort of like  a “Friday Five”  or a “Life Lately” except it’s probably not Friday, and I gave up on the idea of a catchy alliteration. These are some bits and pieces of my glam #postgradlife. See past posts HERE}

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Once again it has been almost two months since my last So There’s That post.

And this time I can’t even say that I was “out of my mind” busy. Oops.

Well settle in, it will be a long one…

1. Celebrated My Birthday

One of my friends from college is in DC for a year-long fellowship and offered to throw me a birthday party this year. It was a great little get together, and though somewhat unplanned it ended up being all Kansas people.

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With Logan and Emily. Happy to have so many K-Staters here with me.

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We all share Brandi as one of our closest friends, so we decided she needed some Snapchat spam.

2. Beware of Jalapeno’s

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I am pretty sure I will immediately regret including this picture, but I always say this blog is about my life, so some funny/embarrassing stories and pictures just are not allowed to be omitted.

So… I love spicy food and I love jalapenos, so when I decided to make queso dip for my birthday party it was natural for me to grab a few (4) jalapenos to add in. Now I have cut up jalapenos a dozen times before and never had any problems but this time was pretty different. A few minutes after I was done chopping, my nose and upper lip started to BURN REALLY BAD. So I immediately washed my hands with dish soap and then washed that part of my face with my normal face cleanser. And then it started to burn EVEN WORSE. So I did what every other brand new 26 year old would do… I called my mom. She proceeded to start Googling what you are supposed to do and I tried a baking soda and water paste, then lemon juice and then coconut oil, all of which helped for a few minutes and then would stop. At one point I went back to the paste, which was a REALLY bad idea because it made things worse after the lemon juice.

Eventually I just held ice packs to my face for a few hours. We eventually read that soaps actually do not help (OBVIOUSLY) and realized that every time I used my hands to apply the different mixtures it was just eventually tainting them and spreading the heat to more of my face.

So with the picture to prove it, I really can not make this stuff up, and it REALLY was that dramatic. Just ask my mom about the phone call, I am pretty sure she is still laughing about it.

3. Crop Quality Report

This project took up most of my work life in September and October. It is a report that my organization puts about every year and this year we decided to do a complete redesign with the help of an agency. The challenge is there is a LOT of data that goes into, a LOT of people that contribute to it and it gets translated into five languages.

I was pretty proud of the final product and especially of Steph, my co-worker who put in way more hours than I did. If you are at all interested at actually looking through it, you can find it HERE.

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4. The Best is Yet to Come

In October, my church, NCC, celebrated its 20th anniversary with a service that included all eight of its campus at one location, held in Constitution Hall at the DAR. It was such a fun, inspiring evening!

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One of my small groups met up for dinner at Old Ebbitt beforehand.

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These wristbands lit up in different colors, based on our motions or by the tech guys. They were so fun!

5. “Coloring Book for Me” App

Friends, prepare for your life to be changed.
I can not remember how I stumbled across this app (probably because I was so excited about it) but YOU NEED IT IN YOUR LIFE. It is pretty straight forward… every day there are new blank designs to choose from, you have a variety of color wheels to choose from and then at the end you can add treatments. Honestly, I have done one almost everyday for the past month, but decided that sharing ALL of them might be a bit much for those who do not share my enthusiasm.

And dear creators of the app? Hit me up if you would like to sign an official endorsement deal…

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6. Kansas City

In November, I was in Kansas City for a conference that I still plan to separately blog about. But that also meant that I got to squeeze some time in with one of my favorite little families. Baby Robin has become a regular in these posts, but I was also excited to catch up with Leah and Ryan. She was my roommate my freshman year  and still one of my dearest friends.

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She is 7 months old now!

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Her parents are going to regret letting her call me Aunt Amanda someday…

7. Hiking

In addition to the big hike I already blogged about... I also joined my friend Kim for an afternoon on the Maryland side of Great Falls.  She recently got a new DSLR camera so she wanted me to teach her a few tips.

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8. Sunday Funday

In November, another one of my small groups from church went out on a Sunday to a small winery, lunch and then stopped by one girl’s family farm. It was one of the first colder weekends in the area, but we had a great afternoon! Northern Virginia is absolutely beautiful in the fall!

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9. Friendsgiving

This year I went to two Thanksgivings!

On Thursday, I joined my co-worker and his wife, who are also K-State alums, along with many others who have some connection to Kansas.

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And then on Saturday, I was invited by one of the girls from one of my church small groups to join a Friendsgiving hosted for another small group that she is in.

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In the last eight years I have only been home for Thanksgiving once, but I am always reminded how big my support circle is and the kindness of others.

10. Run DC

Since my plantar fasciitis developed this summer I have not been out on a long run or walk in DC. My foot still hurts, but I have contained it quite a bit so I decided to take advantage of the last semi-warm weekends and ventured out for a run/walk that accidentally turned into an unplanned seven miles. Apparently DC infrastructure is still hard to navigate after living here two years.

Anyway, as expected, it was a beautiful day.

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11. The People’s Tree

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So I learned this year that you have to get tickets way in advance for the Christmas tree lighting at the White House… but that the lighting at the Capitol is free. This was toward the top of the things I really wanted to do this year so I dragged my friend Logan out in the pouring rain to see it. They had a short but cute little ceremony led by Speaker Paul Ryan. The tree was from Idaho this year!

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I love Union Station this time of year!

12. Christmas Crafts

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My apartment is really small, but it had been too long since I had a fun project to do and my little windowsill was perfect to add a few things too. I blogged about making the tree and the sign last week. Read it HERE.

13. Out and About

A few snippets (and Snapchats) of life lately.

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Views from my parents’ new property.

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Enjoyed my first “Paint Nite” with Allyson!

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I LOVE this picture and this view! Photo credit to my friend Casey Droddy.

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Took this out of my plane window on the way home from Guam.

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Good morning Union Station.

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Snapchats of Jack from my sister are my FAVORITE.

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My new tennis shoes are full of inspiration

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Enjoyed catching Reckless Kelly with my Kansas guys. We do not get nearly enough red dirt bands live in DC. And I LOVE my new dress, so I had to share.

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Miss Robin was the cutest little penguin. Even if she did not think so herself.

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True friends send you pictures from Kansas to make you miss it more.

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Sunday brunch to celebrate Sherin’s birthday!

13. Chris Stapleton

Three people sent me a link to an article about this song below in a matter of a week. Obviously my obsession with Chris Stapleton has been well advertised.

HE NEEDS TO RECORD THIS!

14. My Life in Memes

Memes that are speaking to me right now… both thought provoking and just plain funny.

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**********

So, There’s That.

Cheers!

Christmas Crafting

I have never done much for Christmas decorations in my own home so far, and since moving into my new (and very small) apartment this year, finally getting a tree was still out of the question.

I do have a nice windowsill abobe my air unit where I normally display a few picture frames, and it has been way too long since I have had a creative project to work on, so I decided that I would utilize the space for a little decor.

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When I first moved in, I built a entertainment center/shelving unit out of 2×12’s (I think?) and cinder blocks, and had a few extra pieces left after the boards were cut for length

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I put two coats of regular acrylic paint on the board and let it dry.

Note to self: Do not try to FaceTime with your sister and work on a painting project, when you do not have the proper space to do the project in the first place. It is a miracle I did not get paint anywhere it was not supposed to be besides my arm.

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When I went to Michael’s for paint, I saw this flat wooden tree and broke my rule of only going in to get paint… luckily it was not too spendy. While the board dried, I painted this and alternated each row with red and bronze.

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This was the after photo for step one. I took the smaller brush that I used on the tree and did not clean it out so that there would still be some of the drying, clumpy red paint in it, which seemed to help with the uneven brush strokes. I used a dark grey that I already had and the same bronze paint. After I had made some of the bigger strokes I wiped the brush off and continued to dry brush back and forth over the color that I had just applied,

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While the board dried again I switched back over to the tree, which was now dry (after two coats) and applied these rhinestone stickers along the seam of each layer. The nice part was that the rhinestones were grouped together in strips, which is great because there is no way that I have the patience to apply each of those individually. I got them in the sticker section at Michael’s.

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Moving back over to the board, my next step was to take sandpaper to it. I varied the types of strokes I made and the pressure to get the look that I wanted.

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The final step for the tree was to wrap this garland from Michael’s around it. I tacked it with glue in about four spots to that I could get everything to hang just right. As you can see I could technically hang it on the wall somewhere but it is doing just fine propped up on the windowsill.

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The final part of the other project was to glue the ornaments to the board. I saw these ornaments at Target a few weeks ago and fell in love, which essentially inspired me to go ahead and do a little decorating. I just took all of their hangers off and used tacky glue to secure them on.

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And here is the final look! The two little ferns are from Trader Joe’s and Frosty came from my family’s store in Oregon a few years ago.

Wishing you all a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!

Amanda

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