Family, Oregon

A Christmas Rewind.


Over the holidays I decided to step away from sharing on my blog and enjoy the vacation time I had at home in Oregon with my family. But before we got to far into the New Year I wanted to make sure that I documented and shared a bit about my trip home. This post will probably be pretty dull if you don’t know me or really care, just FYI 🙂

This year, I learned that cross country flights during the holidays need to be bought REALLY EARLY. Fortunately, my family was able to make it work for me to fly into Portland instead of Pasco, which helped cut down the costs. I flew into Portland the Friday before Christmas and was picked up by my Grammy. My Grampy is the interim head basketball coach at Hermiston High and they just happened to have a tournament in Portland that weekend. So my Grammy and I spent the afternoon together, getting lunch downtown with my Uncle Jay and walking around Powell’s book store. Powell’s has multiple floors, covering an entire city block and is an iconic part of  Portland. My Grammy is a big reader like me — we are always sharing suggestions back and forth — so it was really fun to spend that time with her discussing books, authors and exploring Powell’s. That evening we went to the basketball game, where I freaked out just a little when I realized I had babysat a few of the players — it’s guess its easy to forget that little kids can grow up quite a bit in 6 to 7 years. After the game we made the late night 2.5 hour trip home to Hermiston.

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As always my time at home was really busy and packed full of my favorite people. My Dad had his knee replaced at the beginning of December and was still limited in what he could and how much he could be out and about, so I spent a lot of time at home with him, taking him to PT and on a few outings, which always was a bit entertaining. It also meant that his truck was all mine for the week 🙂 I hung out at the flower shop and tried to stay out of the way (mostly), spent a few evenings catching up with my girlfriends and spent an afternoon shopping and catching up just with my sister. Josh and Sonia, my uncle and his fiance, just built a house and were just given the keys at the beginning of the week, so the rest of my week was spent helping them get everything moved in (or visiting while they worked) so that we could celebrate Christmas in their place. We did take a break though to watch the new Star Wars movie. Growing up, Josh babysat my sister and I in the summers and to say that we watched a lot of Star Wars is putting it lightly. I had texted Josh weeks before telling him that he better wait for me to go it, and I think we all but embarrassed Sonia by how excited we were.

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This is also where I should probably add the only really bad part about my vacation. To go into details about HOW, its easier to describe using my hands, but the story is that I burned the outside of my right hand pretty bad with the curling iron wand. The area is about the size of a half dollar coin and well friends, IT REALLY FREAKING HURT. The first day it took me about 5 hours before I could stand to take it off the ice pack and I cried again the first time we put Neosporin on it, which is a bit out of character for me. It’s healing pretty well now, (evident by the insane itch) and going to leave me with a pretty good scar, which just aren’t nearly as cool as they were when I was a kid.


Christmas was laid back and wonderful. It was fun to celebrate in a new place, and their home is really beautiful! We ate my Dad, Grammy and sister’s delicious food, played a few hysterical rounds of the game HeadBanz and watched the movie Inside Out. The next day I traveled back to Portland with my Uncle Jay and Aunt Michelle, so that I could catch a red eye out of Portland Saturday night. It worked out perfectly though because the Trailblazers were playing the Cavs and my Uncle and I were able sit in my Grampy’s seats and watch the game before I had to go to the airport. I don’t really like Lebron James, but I still wanted to see him play in person. The Blazers had a HUGE game though, and James underwhelmed.

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This was the first red eye that I ever took, and if you asked me how it was just based on the first flight I would have said it was great! I got a row to myself and was actually able to sleep the whole time. My connection in Minneapolis went fine and I thought from there it would be smooth sailing and I would be home and crawling into my bed for a long nap before noon eastern time. Long story short, that didn’t happen. Morning fog in D.C. didn’t allow us to land and after an extra hour in the air they diverted us to Baltimore and after MANY setbacks I was finally on a shuttle bus to D.C. and home before 5 pm.

My Christmas vacation was filled with fun and love, and I am always so thankful that I continue to get to be home with my family and that we can spend it all together.


Year in Review

Where It All Begins: 2015, A Year in Review

With the new year approaching, I was struggling to come up with a witty way to review my 2015, like I did at the end of 2014. But then again, that post always makes me laugh, because so much was about to happen and I had NO CLUE. Over the past year, I’ve thought a lot about that new year’s celebrated on San Antonio Riverwalk with my friends during our Alamo Bowl trip. I remember being really happy, and though I had told myself two months before that I wasn’t going to look, but was going to be open to new job opportunities, I really did love my life in Kansas. I had no clue that just nine days later I was going to apply for a job in Washington D.C. and that a very short two months later I was going to start all over and move halfway across the country AGAIN to the place I had dreamed about since I was little.

2015 was full of adventure and taking risks. It was a year where I challenged myself and when I really learned about value. How to work toward better valuing my friends and family, criticism and praise, life and opportunity. Many of my values were strengthened and some I chose to question. And I learned to better value myself. In the book “Let’s All Be Brave” by Annie F. Downs that I have (very) slowly been working through there is a line that says, “–that I am who I am on purpose.” That thought really struck me and I’ve carried it with me ever since (literally, as the picture on my phone’s lock screen.). In the blogging world, a lot of people talk about choosing a “focus” word or phrase for the coming year and at the end of 2014, I thought I would join. My Grammy had given me a token that said “Shine From Within,” and I thought about how that sentiment could mean so many different things. I don’t know if I “focused” on that phrase as much as I said I would, but I do believe that I worked toward being my more authentic self. Of course there are always many more miles to go, and maybe I’ll find new definitions for that phrase, but I can say in full confidence, that I like where I am headed in 2016.


Let’s not skip past 2015 though, because it’s certainly not a year that I ever want to forget.

In 2015, I took a new job and moved to Washington D.C.

On January 9th I heard about a job opening at U.S. Wheat Associates
On February 9th I accepted a job there as a Communications Specialist
On March 9th I was all moved in and had my first day as a “wheatie.”
And by April 9th, I knew I had found someplace special.
The learning curve is still really steep and I might live by “fake it till you make it” forever, but I honestly love my job. I love my office environment, the work, the farmers I work for and feel so lucky to have so many great co-workers. I love the feeling that I’m doing something that benefits others and in an industry that I believe in with every part of me.

I REALLY miss both Kansas and Oregon, but I am confident that this is where I need to be in my life right now.

In 2015, I explored my new home.

Looking back I don’t really remember much in March and April. I think it was all I could do to go to work and learn as much as I could everyday and curl up on the couch when I got home. But I’ve always dreamed of living here and eventually I began explore. I am fascinated by this place. So much history, so many unique people and there is always a dozen or so fun events going on here. I am continuing to slowly work my way through the tourist attractions (saving some for when I have visitors) and searching out some of the lesser known sights. I love visiting Arlington Cemetery, running on the Mall and saying Hi to Lincoln. I crossed off an item off of my bucket list and watched fireworks on the Mall and enjoyed the cherry blossoms in the spring. Anyone who would like to visit, let me know, I am honing my skills as a tour guide 🙂

In 2015, I had so many opportunities to travel.

My job took me back to Kansas, San Diego, Phoenix, Lake Tahoe and on my first big international trip to Guatemala.
I had the chance for a quick trip home and to the cabin over the summer, celebrated my sister’s 21st birthday in Las Vegas, my 25th birthday back in Kansas and witnessed my friend Blaine’s wedding. I spent Friendsgiving in North Carolina and Christmas at home again with my family.

At one point in the summer I went 8 weeks where I never spent more than 8 days in a row in D.C. This is the life friends. There is a lot of ugly that goes on in the world, but I still refuse to believe that it’s not beautiful.

In 2015, I really valued my time with my family and friends.

My grandparents are the true rockstars of the year. They cut their anniversary trip short to fly to Kansas to help me pack and then made the drive East with me. And I don’t know which was more horrible, the weather on the drive or my attitude. I put all of my stress and worry on them and all they did was love me back. I am still incredibly grateful for the help and support.

Even though I moved to the East coast I still got to spend quality time with people that I love and as I mentioned above, shared many celebrations together. I had a few visitors to my new home, including my best friend Richole from Oregon and my college friend Chelsea, who is now a fellow Virginian at Virginia Tech. And most importantly I am starting to build a life here and making new friends

In 2015, I did things that made me happy.

I became a resident of Virginia and began to embrace my new home.
I began a window garden again, and failed, AGAIN.
I continued to do some DIY projects and finished my very first crochet project.
I discovered the BEST semi-annual book sale at the local library and added so many new books to my own library.
I finally got a professional camera and am enjoying learning how to better use it and sharing those images with others.
I really dove into blogging, sharing my love for music, scrapbooking my life and felt so rewarded and motivated by my new “The Road I Traveled” series. And those are all just SOME of the highlights.

There is a lot that I am hopeful for in 2016.
I hope that I continue to grow, build my self confidence and be someone that I can be proud of.
I hope that I keep learning and become a better communicator and agriculturist. I hope to better serve others, both in my career and everyone who deserves the best from me. I hope to continue to have wanderlust and be brave enough to take risks. And most of all I am always hopeful for health and happiness, for myself and those I love.
There are a lot of things that we can be in this life, but I think just being simply happy, is the best there is.

I have lots of goals and adventures to be had, so 2016, I hope you are ready, because I am not slowing down.

And of course, my list of favorite music this year is long, but these four songs are what motivated me and spoke to my heart this year.

Cheers, and Happy New Years!

The Road I Traveled Series

The Road I Traveled: Meet Kylie

“Somewhere ages and ages hence: Two roads diverged in a wood, and I – I took the one less traveled by, And that has made all the difference.” – Robert Frost

This series highlights young professionals and their stories, because no matter our path we all have a little to share and a lot to learn. Read and learn from past feature posts HERE.

This week I would like to introduce you to Kylie, one of my new friends here in D.C. I’m laughing as I write this because just this past weekend at a holiday party one of her friends asked me, “how did you meet Kylie?” My response? “Online.” I never would have thought that the writing I do to scrapbook my life over here in my little corner of the internet would ever lead me to making a friend in real life. But early this past summer we both linked our blogs to a bigger blogger that we both follow, which led her to find mine and leave a comment. We started reading each others posts and soon learned that she had recently moved to an apartment just about a mile away from mine. The first time we hung out we kept joking that it was equivalent to the awkwardness of a blind first date. As you will read below, life here in the DC area is typically pretty busy, so we are still “becoming friends,” but I am already so thankful to have met Kylie. She is passionate about her job as a rookie 2nd grade teacher, and is humble and honest about the ups and downs of balancing it all. She has a great sense of humor and adventure, and is so easy to relate to (except for her obsession with candy corn…)


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This is Kylie’s school picture for this year… I feel like getting to take school pictures as an adult redeems one from years of awkward braces and horrible trends growing up!

Name: Kylie McGraw
Age: 24
Hometown: Pittsburgh, PA
College: Duquesne University & University of Maryland, College Park
Degree(s): B.S. Early Level Education (Duquesne), Master’s of Education in Reading (UMD)
Current Location: Arlington, VA
Current Job: 2nd Grade Teacher

Background Story: I’m the oldest of three and I love my brothers to pieces. My mom’s family all lives really close together, so I grew up knowing the family is really important. I went to school where my mom was a teacher, so I spent a lot of time in her classroom. I don’t remember deciding that I was going to be a teacher, but I told everyone who asked that I was going to be a teacher when I grew up. Hailing from The Steel City, I do in fact bleed black and gold. I like french fries on my salads, ketchup with most everything I eat, and a cookie table at every major event I attend. Pittsburgh has really grown and changed since it gained its name as The Steel City, and I really got to know it better when I went to college! I’m a self-proclaimed candy corn addict and crazy dog lady…even though Colby and Amigo live with my family in Pittsburgh. I love coffee, the dessert menu, running long distances, and laying on the beach.

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With my brothers.


How did you choose your college and your major?
I never really chose my major. As I mentioned, I decided at a young age that I was going to be a teacher and that is the dream I chased for my whole life. My mom has been teaching kindergarten for 27 years so I had a great role model!

What were you involved with outside of class? Organizations? Internships?
I had two jobs that I loved! I taught Spinning classes at the gym and worked as a tutor in The Writing Center. Last year when I was a full-time grad student, I continued both of those jobs at my new university, but I was also a research assistant. I like to keep busy!

What were your biggest challenges or obstacles in college? Anything you would change?
Every so often, there would be some roommate drama. Living with good friends can be harder than you think! I am the kind of person who doesn’t want to hurt anyone’s feelings, so instead of addressing issues that would come up, I would just ignore them. Senior year, I ended up not talking to one of my roommates (the one I actually shared a room with) for almost four months. We said “hello”, “how was your day”, and “bye”, but that was about it. I wish I hadn’t worried so much about hurting her feelings and just said, “Hey! How can we fix this?” Eventually I addressed all the problems that arose, but not without a long awkward period in between the incident and the talk.

I also struggled with my health and body image. College is the first time when you are really in control of what you eat and how much you work out, and I was a statistic. I went to college and gained weight. I only gained about 9 pounds, but I felt puffy and bloated and I wasn’t happy with how I looked at all. I started to change my eating and exercise habits healthfully, but then I got really extreme and struggled with a little bit of orthorexia, which is an obsession with eating foods that you consider healthy. I only ate certain foods, I counted every calorie that went inside my body, and I worked out more than once a day. Most people were telling me that I looked great, but it wasn’t until a few friends said something not so nice about me behind my back that I realized I was doing something wrong. I never sought professional help for these issues because since I recognized them in myself, I felt that I could fix them, with the support of my family and friends. My mom and my best friend at the time were my go-to people if I ever needed someone to remind me that I did NOT in fact need to work out again or I was actually “allowed” to eat the piece of bread on the table.

I wouldn’t change either of these experiences because they made me more confident and healthy post grad.

What one piece of advice would you give a student during their senior year?
I would tell a senior in college to take advantage of all the events that their campus has to offer. You and your friends DO need to go to a football game, eat the special Thanksgiving dinner in the dining hall, and go to the Christmas Ball. All of the things that you may have skipped in previous years — get your friends and go do them. On the other hand, it’s just as acceptable to stay in and watch movies because your stress levels will probably rise as you finish up your final classes and start thinking about the real world. Remember that there is a whole summer after graduation, so if you get your diploma and you still feel like you have no idea what you’re doing, it’s okay. Make decisions about grad school or your first job, but take a breath. I realized that in the real world, no one really knows what they’re doing…but as long as you put your best foot forward, you’ll go places. 🙂

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Colby (bottom) and Amigo (top)

Post Grad

Tell us about your career so far?

My plan for grad school was to go to UMD for 2 years to get my Master’s in Reading and then move back home to Pittsburgh. Once I moved to this area, I loved it and couldn’t imagine leaving so soon. I was a person who said they would never do their first year of teaching while they were still in grad school because both are such huge time commitments and I wanted to make sure they were both getting my “all”. Since I took most of the classes for my Master’s last year, by the end of the spring semester, I felt like I would be able to manage my first year of teaching and taking one night class. I interviewed at a few different elementary schools in Virginia in June and finally found the right school for me. I was offered a second grade teaching position at the end of my interview! My coworkers are so supportive as I figure out what it means to finally be in charge of my own class. I expected some of the challenges I have faced so far, but sometimes I really have to go back and kind of reteach something, especially when it comes to classroom routines. This is not something that I anticipated and I feel really guilty when I have to make time to do something like that. But, my coworkers always remind me that it is vital and that they still have to do that sometimes too. My students are only 7 years old so behavior is a learning experience each and every day! I really do have a great class so I feel very lucky in my first year of teaching. 🙂

How have your experiences and involvement in college set you up for success in your career and life post grad?
When I was choosing colleges, I didn’t look very far away from home. However, it was really important to me to go to a school that would let me be in elementary classrooms all throughout my program. Years ago, education students would take college classes for 3.5 years and then step into a classroom for the first time during student teaching. That was a shock for some who ended up realizing they weren’t where they wanted to be. At Duquesne, I was in a variety of different kinds of schools every semester of college leading up to student teaching. Some of my friends even switched majors (think elementary to middle school) after our first field experience! I think going to all of the different schools let me figure out what kind of school and what age I wanted to work with. Since my mom teaches kindergarten, I always thought I wanted to do that, but I had a lot of experience with second graders during undergrad and now that I am actually teaching second grade, I can’t imagine being in a younger grade (at least right now)! I was also involved in an several organizations in the School of Education that worked to support families in the community. Volunteering with families at places like the Ronald McDonald House opened my eyes to what a student’s life could be like outside of school.

On the flip side, what are the biggest challenges or differences you’ve experienced post grad that you didn’t expect or didn’t feel prepared for?
I didn’t expect to still feel so stressed about money. In college, you know your funds are going to be a little limited. Apparently, I had this great vision that once I finally had a “real job”, I would exhale and feel totally calm about money and buy whatever I wanted without feeling guilty. Ha! Not so. Currently, I am living within my means, but I always wonder if I can be saving more, donating more, and so on.

As far as my job goes, I didn’t expect to second guess myself so much. In each of my field experiences and in student teaching, I always felt confident in the choices I was making, but that’s probably because I had a lot of guidance. My coworkers and I plan as a team, but I still have a lot of my own choices to make in my classroom. It’s hard for me to understand that I can plan the world’s best lesson and it’s possible that it might not reach all of my students for one reason or another. I can ask thoughtful questions, assign engaging projects, and still reach the end of the lesson and see that some of my students don’t “get it”. Even though there are many reasons why a student might not get it (academic, social, emotional, etc.), I take it personally and wonder what I did wrong. I try to channel those negative thoughts into positive ones, as I am always asking myself what I can do better tomorrow, but it’s still a tough pill to swallow!

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What apps, technology and resources do you use regularly to stay organized and do your job?
I don’t know that these resources will be of any interest to the regular person, but they make sense for teachers! My teammates and I use an online planbook to write and share resources for lesson plans. I like being able to have everything in one place because if I wrote my lesson plans with pen on paper, I would probably have half my resources printed out and another half in an electronic format on my laptop! With our online planbook, I can log right in, see what I have written for that day or week, and print everything I need from one place. We also use Microsoft OneNote to plan future units and share student data. My students use TumbleBooks and PebbleGo to listen and read stories electronically. They also use Dreambox to practice their math skills in an electronic format. Dreambox is awesome because it teaches them in a game-like format and they are taught based on their current level of learning. So, for example, if they advance to the next math concept and they get a certain number of questions or problems wrong, the game automatically bumps them back a lesson to reteach the concept they are struggling with.

At this stage, what are a few of your strengths and weaknesses?
I am a team player but I also appreciate a little bit of independence. Being a teacher gives me a lot of independence in deciding how I want to teach a certain lesson, but I definitely don’t isolate myself from my coworkers. The other second grade teachers and the reading specialist have been such a huge support system for me as I get all of my ideas in order during this first year. Because of that, I try to share my ideas with them when I can! I want them to see me as a team player, too. On the other hand, I’m a worrier and I want to do everything right. I ask a lot of questions (which is a good thing), but sometimes my questions are more along the lines of, “Is it okay that I did/said ________?” I want to work on having more confidence in my decisions!

How do you stay motivated when work gets really busy or difficult?
I try to have conversations with my students that aren’t about school. They bring so many random trinkets to school and they always have a story to tell, so if I make sure to find an extra few minutes for them to share something either with me or with the class so that we can all relax. And because I am still taking a night class this year, sometimes a motivating thought is, “Life won’t be like this forever.” Regardless of what your life is like, you don’t want to wish time away, but sometimes the thought that things WILL change is a positive one.

Work-life balance? How do you stay afloat and refreshed?
I love to work out. I love to Spin, I love to attempt to lift weights in the fitness studio in my apartment, I love to try new classes at the gym, and I especially love to run. There are plenty of people that I know who ask me how I have time to work out while working full time, being in grad school, and trying to maintain a social life, but the saying is true: I don’t have time, I make time. I don’t get home from work and immediately feel like changing into my gym clothes, but I do. Deciding to do your workout is the hardest part. While you are running or biking or lifting, your mind is cleared of all the stress from the day. Then when you have completed the workout, you feel accomplished and oh so proud. It also helps that my principal supports a work-life balance. She encourages us to have other hobbies and interests outside of our classrooms, which is wonderful!

What in your #PostGradLife are you most proud of so far?
I’m most proud of the fact that I moved away from home and created a life for myself that I love. I never thought I would be a person who moved away from her family, for whatever amount of time it may be, but here I am. And no one tells you the rollercoaster of emotions that comes with moving away from everyone and everything you know. All you hear about is the excitement of that new place! At first, you won’t have friends. You will have to go places by yourself. You will feel like everyone at home is having so much fun and you’re “stuck” in this new place alone. And then pretty soon, you learn how to put yourself out there and make some friends and life starts to feel pretty great.

What does life look like right now? Hobbies and interests? What outside of work are you passionate about?.
I am passionate about Jesus, my family, fitness, healthy eating, reading, and writing. Monday through Friday, I am very focused on my job and my workouts, but I try to work out with friends to make it even more fun. 🙂 Come the weekend, I am oh so tired, but I try to get out at least once a weekend to do something new and/or fun! I still consider myself new to the area and there is so much to see and do. I’ve made new friends at running groups that I attend and I’ve made new friends at church, so it’s important to me to make time to see those people!

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Running group friends.

Just for Fun

What is essential to your morning routine to start the day off right?
I intentionally set my alarm a bit early so I don’t have to pop out of bed when it rings in the morning. I like to lay around for a few minutes and read one of my devotionals. I have my Bible, Jesus Calling, my journal, and whichever faith-based book I am reading at the time on my nightstand, so I pick one of those and read for a few minutes before I get up. Right now, I am reading my pastor’s (Mark Batterson) new book called “If”. Once I am up and moving, I turn the TV on in the family room so I can listen to Good Morning America while I get ready! And typically, I am at work about an hour early. I eat breakfast at my desk and just get my mind right for the day (and usually get 107 things together before the students show up).

Do you have a must-have vice like caffeine or item you can’t live without in your workspace?
I just have to have some kind of beverage! I drink water on the way to work, I sip on my coffee all morning, and then I keep refilling my water bottle all day. Sometimes a little Peach Tea Crystal Light in my water or an extra cup of coffee in the afternoon happens, but I like to think I am pretty low-maintenance (and not caffeine dependent!) when it comes to beverages. 🙂

If you were to have another career, all limitations aside, what would it be?
I would want to be a magazine or newspaper editor in New York City. In this life, I will write in some capacity for my career one day. I’m working on that now. 🙂 In college, I started writing my blog so that I could share my new adventures in running and healthy eating. The perfectionist in me wants to have a great post every day, so my blog has ebbed and flowed since it began in 2013. 2015 is actually the first year I have blogged consistently, and I am so happy to be writing more and connecting with the blogging community. You can find keep up with all of my adventures here HERE.

Moment of truth, what do you really miss about college?
I am pretty introverted and I love hanging out by myself, but honestly how nice was it to have all of your friends either in your room or right next door?! There was always something to do!

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Kylie, thank you so much for being a guest on this series and being so genuine. I am so glad that these little blogs of ours brought us together!

As always, thanks for reading friends!


Linking up this Monday with these bloggers:


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Life Notes

My First #CCBeautySwap

I have always been interested in doing a blogger swap of some sort, and the #CCBeautySwap, hosted by a fellow K-State alum Crystal Cattle, looked especially fun. Up until now I either wasn’t very active on my blog or had some other excuse. Needless to say, I was very excited to participate.

My interest in makeup and beauty products has always been on a roller coaster. Growing up I was a dancer so I had a bit of an earlier introduction to it and I couldn’t wait until I was old enough to wear makeup outside of dance. Hair products were a different story. My hair was thick, curly and usually really frizzy, so I started teaching myself to style and take care of it fairly early. But I also started to get psoriasis on my skin and scalp when I turned 14, so most of high school was a struggle just trying to figure out what products worked for me. Through college, I cared less and less, unless I was going out on the weekend #teamnosleep. Now that I live in DC though, my interest has jumped again because being fully “put together” is a bit more of a standard. I enjoy it though, because I really believe in the mantra that looking and feeling your best helps you perform better.

Anyway, for my first swap I was paired with Lacey, a farm girl and high school teacher from Arizona. Lacey blogs over at Calamity Lace, (LOVE her blog name) and just based on our few conversations and scrolling through her posts, I could definitely see us being friends outside of the blogger world! I shared with Lacey that I have mostly worn Mary Kay because my Mom sells it, and that even though I still really like it, I wanted to venture out and try some new brands.

#CCBeautySwap (1)

1. Urban Decay Naked Skin Weightless Complete Coverage Concealer – The main thing I told Lacey I was interested in trying was a concealer. We chatted about the fact that we both have (and like) our freckles but that we need something that conceals, yet blends in well with our natural skin. To quote Lacey’s email, this concealer “Is Everything!”…and though I don’t have anything to compare it to, I TOTALLY AGREE, and already know that I will be buying it again. I received it in the “Light Warm” tone and it was a perfect match for this time of year.

2. Josie Maran Argan Black Oil Mascara – I laughed when I opened the box and saw two mascaras (other below.) I am pretty married to the mascara I use from Mary Kay but since I am going home to Oregon soon I didn’t want my Mom to have to send me a box and I was struggling to make my current tube last. Perfect timing! Both came in black, which is a bit outside my comfort zone ( I wear black/brown) but I was surprised that I did like the change. Overall, I’m torn on which brand I liked better. This one applied better a bit better, but I thought they both were great for volume and lasting throughout the day.

3. Benefit Cosmetics Air Patrol BB Cream Eyelid Primer – To be honest I haven’t tried this one yet, because I haven’t stopped using the one featured below…

4. Bumble and Bumble Hairdresser’s Invisible Oil Shampoo and Conditioner – I am OBSESSED with the surf spray from this brand, so I was really excited when I saw these in the box. Gals, I just used this last night, and my hair SMELLS SO GOOD! I currently use the DevaCurl brand and only wash my hair about twice a week because of its dry texture, but like that brand, I liked that this shampoo doesn’t have a lather and is more of a cleanser. On Day 1 of “new hair” it is particular soft, but I’ll have to wait and see what it is like on Day 3 to make a better judgement.

5. First Aid Beauty Facial Radiance Pads – I regularly exfoliate and have always liked the idea of using a toner in my routine, but my psoriasis has always made both of those a constant battle. I already love this radiance pads. I’ve had a psoriasis breakout along my hairline all week but continued to use these around those areas with no irritation, and I did think that my face was a bit more balanced and definitely refreshed.

#CCBeautySwap (3)

6. Too Faced Hangover Replenishing Face Primer –  I’ve never used a face primer and I don’t know if I have used this long enough to notice what it is doing, but I love that it is light and has a light coconut scent. Based on the name, maybe I should have had this in college for both studying hangovers and real ones…

7. Too Faced Shadow Insurance – I’ve never used an actual eyelid primer. In the summer when its humid is the only time I find that my makeup really struggles to stay on the way I applied it, so in the past I always just used a bit of foundation, which never really worked great and it was heavy. So far I love this stuff and I feel like my eye shadow goes on more smoothly. Excited to see how it holds up in the summer.

8. Too Faced Better Than Sex Mascara –  See above.

9. Too Faced Melted Liquified Long Wear Lipstick –  I told Lacey that I always love a good lip color and love trying out new kinds. This ones name is definitely true to form. It goes on more like a gloss but definitely has the finish of a lipstick. She sent me the “Fig” color, which is a bit out of my wheelhouse of tones, but again, she knew best and I really like it!

10. Too Faced Soleil Matte Bronzer – I’m pretty sure that the bronzer/blush pack that I got Lacey, also had this kind in it. Since I don’t like to wear a lot of heavy makeup on my face, bronzer tends to be my jam. I loved how light this was and how well it finished. AND it faintly smells like chocolate, which weirded me out first but I surprisingly liked it.

Ugh. Selfies. I don’t wear my hair straight often but it was just so soft when I woke up that it sounded like a great idea. I’m also wearing the “Fig” lipstick, but the picture doesn’t quite capture the tone as well.

Lacey, you did a fabulous job with my gift, thank you! I know you are much more knowledgeable about makeup than I am and it definitely showed by your choices and pushing me out of my comfort zone a bit. Teach me your ways!

Check out others’ posts from the swap using the hashtag #CCBeautySwap.


Creativity and Organization

Office Winter DĂ©cor

When I first moved into my own office and decorated for fall (see that post here), I really only did so because fall is my favorite season and I thought the decorations would go well with the burlap wreath I had just made. But then my co-workers asked if I planned on switching it out for each holiday or season, and I suddenly realized I had somewhat unintentionally committed .

I don’t mind though, I mean decorated and doing things like this are kind of in my blood. Plus, when people come off the elevator into our lobby they can see straight into my office so I like that they have something nice to see.

I decided though that planning to change things out for each holiday just wasn’t practical, so for the most part, I have settled on the seasons.

I STILL haven’t finished organizing my shelf or hanging up some of my regular stuff, but winter has officially arrived in my office!

To make my decorations last through February I tried to focus on the winter season instead of just the holidays. For being 25 years old I have a bit of an obsession with the character Olaf from Frozen. I would like to clarify though, that I did not buy him for myself. Last year before Christmas, I kept sending pictures to my Mom of all of the giant stuffed Olaf’s I saw in the store or mentioned on Facebook, and joked that it was too bad that I was WAY too old to have one. So, of course this more practical sized Olaf found his way to my stocking. Anyway, after brainstorming what kind of theme I wanted to go with for my decorations, snowmen, blues and golds just seemed like the perfect fit.


This display sits on one corner of my U-shaped desk. The table top tree and the couple of snowmen ornaments are actually mine from when I was a kid. (Thanks for sending them Mom!) The ball ornaments that you see here, as well as in the picture below in the terrarium and the wreath are all from Target. The tree skirt is actually a  small table runner from, also from Target. I originally bought the gold sticks as ornaments, but they overwhelmed the little tree so I stole the mason jar that I stash my makeup brushes in at home, and problem solved!

I realize the tree is still more of a Christmas decoration so I’ll have to eventually decide if it is going to come down much sooner than everything else.


This display sits on top of my bookshelf. The little evergreen “tree” is from Trader Joes (only $4!) and the sign is from Target (only $3!) The glass terrarium is from Michael’s, along with the smaller fillers. After growing up in a flower shop I should have known better than to buy so many things covered in glitter. I guess for some reason I didn’t think these silks would shed as much. But no, they did. MY OFFICE WAS COVERED. It’s a good thing I’m a pro at cleaning it up and that’s not something you typically get fired for.



Thankful for Friends.

First, I’m just going to put this here…

“23 Greatest Thanksgiving Moments From “Friends”

thanksgiving GIF

…please ignore the fact that this post is more than a week late…

I might have a pretty strong argument for Manhattan, KS being the happiest place there is, but I’ve also always said that I truly believe that you can and will find great people wherever you go if you are open to it. Over the past two weeks though, those people have just so happened to be from that happy place and for that I am extra thankful.

At the end of November I made the trek in holiday traffic down to Raleigh, NC (a 6.5 hour drive that should have only been 4.5) hours to spend Thanksgiving with a group of Oregonians transplanted on the East Coast. I originally met Jake and Nicole back as Oregon FFA members and eventually played a role helping recruit them out to K-State. Now Jake is wrapping his first semester of grad school at NC State and Nicole will be joining him in NC after she graduates from K-State (holla to a fellow ACJ grad!) this month. We enjoyed a relaxing weekend with great food ( I’m mean REALLY great food) and even better company.

Thanks for the invite!

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With Jake and Nicole.
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Friendsgiving 2015 Group

This past weekend I enjoyed a visit from another Kansas favorite. My friend Chelsea is one of the first friends I made when I first moved to Kansas. She was a year ahead of me living in Smurthwaite Scholarship House and became my official “Big Sis.” Many times those pairings don’t turn into friendships or only last during your time in Smurthwaite, but Chelsea was the perfect match for me and I am thankful that we are still friends today. Chelsea is currently working toward getting her PhD at Virginia Tech and was able to get a weekend off to visit and join me for the last K-State football watch party of the season!

We enjoyed a pretty laid back weekend and of course a WILDCAT VICTORY! Saturday was beautiful with sunshine and temps hanging around in the upper 50’s so we also detoured for a walk by the White House Eclipse to see the national Christmas tree and holiday decorations.





 Each state and U.S. territory had its own little tree. I thought it really strange that every single tree was decorated with big glass balls filled with things representative of the state… EXCEPT for Oregon, which had a bunch of additional, and in my opinion, weird decorations. #KeepOregonWeird?



Thanks for a great weekend Chelsea! It was great getting to catch up!


The Road I Traveled Series

The Road I Traveled: Meet Michael

“Somewhere ages and ages hence: Two roads diverged in a wood, and I – I took the one less traveled by, And that has made all the difference.” – Robert Frost

This new series highlights young professionals and their stories, because no matter our path we all have a little to share and a lot to learn. Read and learn from past feature posts HERE.

Everyone, meet Michael. Featuring someone in grad school has been on my list of priorities for this series from the beginning and Michael is a great example of someone who spent a little bit of time in the industry after his undergrad, before returning to academia for grad school. I also want to make sure that he gets a proper shout out… generally student schedules are a bit more hectic and all over place, especially near the end of a semester. Well this kid still went ahead and returned his questionnaire back to me well-before the deadline. That’s impressive! Anyway, Michael is one of my fellow AFA Student Advisory Team alums. A few years younger than me, I first remember meeting Michael in Track 2 at AFA Leaders Conference when I was on the team and leading that track. Since then, I’ve always been able to count on him for a witty tweet and a good laugh. I think Michael is a great (and somewhat rare) example of someone who pursued a degree in production agriculture, without really having a true background it. His passion and curiosity is genuine an contagious. Plus, he’s just an all-around fun,  great guy to be around.
– Amanda

The RoadI Traveled- Michael

Name: Michael Carlson
Age: 23
Hometown: Johnston, IA
College: South Dakota State University
Degree(s): Bachelors of Science in Agriculture: Agronomy
Current Location: Brookings, SD
Current Job: Graduate Research Assistant


How did you choose your college and your major?

Having grown up in Des Moines, I didn’t even know until my senior year of high school that SDSU existed. I grew up right next to Dupont Pioneer’s corporate headquarters, so I had quite a few neighbors and family friends involved in agronomy and plant sciences. I didn’t really know what all was involved, but thinking that it might be interesting I decided that I should major in agronomy and figure it out as I go! That narrowed down my choice of schools to primarily land grant institutions. I really enjoyed my visit to SDSU, but what sealed the deal was going to a program called “A Day in the Life,” which was put on by the College of Agriculture and Biological Sciences. This program allowed me to interact with professors, sit in on a class and network with agriculture students. After that visit I was counting down the days until I could head up north!

What were you involved with outside of class? Organizations? Internships?

I was heavily involved in the College of Agriculture and Biological Sciences Ambassadors, where we went out to schools in South Dakota, Minnesota, Iowa and Nebraska to talk about why students should study agriculture and why they should consider attending SDSU for their post-secondary career. I was also involved with the Agronomy and Conservation Club, serving as the club president for a year. I was also able to serve as the Honors College Student Organization Secretary for a year, along with being a mentor as a Teaching Assistant for the Honors 100 class. The last organization that I was involved with was Agriculture Future of America where I served on the Student Advisory Team in 2013. I had an internship every summer between semesters. After my freshman year I worked as a crop scout in SE South Dakota. The following summer I worked as a field research intern for Dow AgroSciences in South Dakota, and during my last summer as a college student I was the seed treatment intern for Winfield, a Land O’Lakes company.

With 4 of my closest friends, and past Student Advisory Team members at the AFA Alliance Forum

What were your biggest challenges or obstacles in college? Anything you would change?

Time management was by far my biggest obstacle! Getting to know and understand how to manage time between classes, work, social life and different activities. Another obstacle I personally had was my very limited knowledge of production agriculture, but I soon found that all I had to do was ask and someone would willingly answer my questions! Personally I think the only thing that I would have changed were maybe to have taken another year of college to finish out some different minors or an undergraduate research project.

What one piece of advice would you give a student during their senior year?

As cliche as this sounds I would say to enjoy all of the experiences from your last year of college. And when looking for a career, don’t worry about if it doesn’t work out like you think it is supposed to, as life likes to take different twists and turns, most of which you never see coming.

Post Grad

Tell us about your career so far?

After I graduated from SDSU I started as a sales trainee for Dow AgroSciences in Minnesota and Wisconsin. I was able to learn about the sales process and to begin to call on customers for different reps while working on different projects. I then made the jump back to graduate school this past April to work on an organic weed control system.

How have your experiences and involvement in college set you up for success in your career and life post grad?

Working in the corporate world has definitely given me another view which I think has helped me succeed now that I am back in graduate school. The idea of bringing added value to tasks performed isn’t emphasized as heavily in graduate school as it is in the world of sales but the idea of bringing more to the table than what is expected is still a big deal.

On the flip side, what are the biggest challenges or differences you’ve experienced post grad that you didn’t expect or didn’t feel prepared for?

The biggest challenges that I have would be getting used to different managers. I’ve found that it’s best to ask more questions than you think you should because it’s better to ask to much than come back at the end of the year and not have done enough.

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My mother and I at our first Green Bay Packers game back in October!

What apps, technology and resources do you use regularly to stay organized and do your job?

I use my MacBook Pro every day, but the calendar is my biggest life saver! Putting down any appointments, classes or due dates definitely helps keep my cluttered brain back in order!

At this stage, what are a few of your strengths and weaknesses?

I would say my biggest strength would be drive and a strong sense of responsibility. I would say a weakness would be sometimes jumping the gun on things without asking all the questions I should.

How do you stay motivated when work gets really busy or difficult?

I take a lot of breaks! I don’t worry about whether or not I will get the project done in a timely manner as I tend to not put tasks off to the last second. Sometimes this means I may work wild hours, especially with my field work I have to do the work when Mother Nature allows me to.

Work-life balance? How do you stay afloat and refreshed?

In grad school it sometimes seems as if there is not much of a balance, but as I found from working in the “real” world it’s all up to yourself for creating that balance. I have a good group of friends here in town which helps me to detach from the constant questions I have about my project.

What in your #PostGradLife are you most proud of so far?

I am most proud about making the jump back to graduate school. It was a nerve wracking decision but I am glad that I chose to continue my education and contribute to new ideas and information.

What does life look like right now? Hobbies and interests? What outside of work are you passionate about?.

Life looks hectic! Running my samples and finishing up my classes this semester are taking a lot of my time lately! But I make time to go out with friends and read a few books when I’m not reading some scholarly articles!

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Me and my close friend Whitney touring hiking around Spearfish canyon in the Black Hills of South Dakota.

Just For Fun

What is essential to your morning routine to start the day off right?

Coffee! And looking over a simple plan of what I have in store for the day! As this has been important when trying to get my field or lab work complete when everything is a rush!

Do you have a must-have vice like caffeine or item you can’t live without in your workspace?

Definitely caffeine — coffee makes my world go round. Also, my music. When doing doing lab work, field work or office work,  it seems about impossible without excellent music to get me motivated.

If you were to have another career, all limitations aside, what would it be?

I would be a ski bum! Just relaxing on the slopes living in the mountains sounds like the perfect life to me!

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Me on top of Lone Peak at the Big Sky Ski Resort in Montana.  Turns out I still have work to do on my technique to ski from an alpine like peak!

Moment of truth, what do you really miss about college?

As a graduate student, I miss not having to worry about my project and any lab work that is looming over my head at all times! Haha!


Michael, thank you so much for taking some time out your hectic schedule to participate and share a peek into life in grad school. Good luck on your research and projects!

As always, thanks for reading friends!


Linking up on this Monday with these bloggers.

hello monday country fair button

Music - What I'm Listening To

Friday Jam Session Vol. 23

I love music. My taste is very diverse — continually being shaped by an unique combination of people, places and experiences. I never try to pawn myself off as someone who “knows music,” because I have too much respect for those who do. I did dance and took piano lessons growing up, but trust me, you do NOT want to hear me sing. But music is a topic that I never tire of and I love swapping recommendations. Please join in and share your own picks! View past posts HERE.

Friday Jam Session

1.Favorite New(ish) Album
Illinois – Brett Eldredge

I’ve been meaning to feature this album since it came out in September. Even though his voice is very recognizable, Eldredge wasn’t really someone who was on my radar that much. I liked a few songs from his debut album, but he didn’t stick with me, and I listen to enough music that that’s an important factor. With his new sophomore album, I feel like we get much more genuine personality and there is a really good balance of the types of songs that are on it. I am loving the stripped down version of the single “Drunk on Your Love” above (original HERE), and also enjoying “You Can’t Stop Me” ft. Thomas Rhett, “Wanna Be That Song“and “Fire

2. Favorite New(ish) Collaboration
Back Home – Owl City ft. Jake Owen
Listen HERE

When I saw this in a playlist of new music on Spotify, I clicked out of pure curiosity. I never would have imagined putting these two voices together. I’ve never been much of an Owl City fan and I like Jake Owen, though sometimes he can be a little too much for me. Coincidentally, I’ve actually seen both Owl City and Jake Owen in concert.

I LOVE this song. It’s sweet and simple, and I enjoyed the contrast in their voices, especially in the harmonies. And really, I’m a sucker for any song that is an anthem for small towns, the country and anything that reminds me of home.

3. Favorite New (to me) Artist or Band
Chris Stapleton

I am all about finding new artists and there is a special place in my heart for outlaw country and red dirt music, but I get kind of annoyed when people insist that anything else labeled “country” is trash. OK, maybe we need new labels, but I do enjoy a lot of the new acts from the last few years. Anyway, when Chris Stapleton was nominated for CMA New Artist of the Year, people were beside themselves and carrying on as if the guy was an unsung legend, though surprisingly, I had never heard of him. I never got around to listening until his performance at the award show with Justin Timberlake blew up the internet. Holy crap, I regress. I totally understand the fuss now. That performance, shared above, as well as the performance of Timberlake’s “Drink You Away” immediately after, was amazing. I’m definitely a fan now. Off his new album I’m also really liking “Traveler“, “Fire Away“, “Nobody to Blame“, and “When the Stars Come Out.”

4. Jam I Have On Repeat
Lush Life – Zara Larsson

If you ever wonder what jamming out in your bedroom in front of the mirror with your hairbrush looks like, I’m pretty sure this music video is a great example. At first I thought the song was kind of flat, but over the past week on my walk to and from work I found myself pushing repeat. Don’t know how long that will last, but right now its my jam.

6. Favorite Spotify List
New Boots – Spotify

Always something new to listen too. It’s fun to think back to when so many of my favorite artists, country and not country, were just at the start of their careers.

7. #SoulMusic I’m obsessing Over
Speaking of Truth (Orchestrated) – Lelah

I heard this on a TV show a few weeks ago and instantly pulled up the Shazam app on my phone to figure out what it was. I guess you could say its a bit indie but I LOVE the artists voice blended with the instruments. This is a song that I would LOVE to see used in a dance routine.

9. Current Beat That Makes Me Want to Dance…in the Car…Jamming With the Windows Down
America’s Sweetheart – Elle King
Listen HERE

I have mixed feelings about this artists debut single, “Exes and Ohs,” but this song caught my attention right away. It’s an edgy anthem, and GREAT to jam out to in the car. I keep waiting for it to get old for me, but it hasn’t happened so far.

10. Taking Me Down Memory Lane
Eyes Open – Taylor Swift

I often identify songs that I think would make a great track on a soundtrack for books that I read, so I really enjoy seeing how the real soundtracks are interpreted when those books become movies. (For example, all opinions aside on the Twilight movies and books, I still LOVE each of the soundtracks.) I was really disappointed when I learned that the last installment of the The Hunger Games, Mockingjay Part 2 was not going to have its own.  Overall, I think the first movie’s soundtrack was my favorite and although the other Taylor Swift track got all of the attention, this one above was one of my favorites.

11. Work, Work It Out
Bitch Better Have My Money – Rihanna

Grandma, you probably don’t want to listen to this one. I’ve always been a big Rihanna fan and I love turning this one up with I’m working out. I’ve also become with watching dance videos from this studio featured in the video above. I think because I did dance growing up, I might appreciate their talent even more. Seriously, not in a million years would I have ever been that good.

12. Making Me Want To Fall In Love
I’ll Be Your Man – Zac Brown Band
Listen HERE

Zac Brown Band has one of those sounds and music personalities that remind why I love music. They have carved out their own special spot in the music industry and you can rely on the fact that they will never disappoint you. This one above off of their new (awesome) album is adorable and makes me tear up almost every time. Of course I then found this video that shares the meaning behind the song and how it was recorded, and I did indeed, tear up.

13. Guilty Listen of The Week/ Favorite Cover
Torn – One Direction (Original by Natalie Imbruglia)

Go ahead and judge me. I don’t care, I’ve explained listening to One Direction before. Before I saw this video I didn’t know that this was actually one of the songs they covered when they were on X-Factor. It’s a pretty common song to cover, but it seemed far enough out of their wheelhouse that couldn’t help but check it out. It’s different, and I still think I like it better as a female solo, but I did enjoy their version.

14. Song I Originally Loved But Now Is Overplayed
Here – Alessia Cara
Listen HERE

I wouldn’t say I ever loved it, but it was catchy and different when it first came out. Now it’s just really gets on my nerves. Definitely over it.

15. Popular Song Making My Ears Bleed
My House – Flo Rida
Listen HERE

I can’t handle this song. Flo Rida just needs to stop. Yes, I jammed in my teeny-bopper years to “Low” and a few other songs, and still would if they came on the radio, but I’m pretty sure this one is killing brain cells and you can’t even dance to ti.

16. Country Pick
It Don’t Hurt Like It Used To – Billy Currington
Listen HERE

Considering this song has been on my favorites list for most of 2015, I’m not sure why it hasn’t been mentioned in one of my blog posts yet. Billy Currington is another artists that has been around a while now and in my opinion, still doesn’t get enough attention for his talent. His voice is rich, and his sound choice and sound is always strong.


Dark – Ryan Beaver
Listen HERE

These song could fit under quite a few categories include my selections for #SoulMusic and song on repeat. For me it just has one of those smooth addicting sounds, and the lyrics stand out to me as something a bit different than what I’ve been hearing recently. I haven’t listened to anything else by this new artist yet but this particular song was perfect for his vocals.

BONUS: My Voice Picks, Week 7 – 11

We’re in the second week of live playoffs and honestly, it stresses me out. It’s so hard to choose! The contestants are just now starting to really settle into their own styles and becoming comfortable, so there are so many that still stand out. While song choice is still a big factor is what performances I like, I am finally starting to pick favorites based on wanting to hear more from them regardless of what they are singing.

Week 7 Knockouts
Dare You to Move – Evan McKeel
A Women’s Worth – Nadjah Nicole
Jesus Take The Wheel – Carrie Underwood
Turning Tables – Jeffery Austin
Cowboy Take Me Away – Emily Ann Roberts

Week 8 Live Playoffs

I Drive Your Truck – Barrett Baber
In The Garden – Emily Ann Roberts

Brand New Girlfriend – Zach Seabaugh
Something in the Water – Celeste Betton
Songbird – Madi Davis

Lips of an Angel – Morgan Frazier
Halo – Jordan Smith

Barton Hollow – Chance Pena
Say You Love Me – Jeffery Austin
Never Tear Us Apart – Blaine Mitchell

Week 9 – Top 12 Live
My Love – Zach Zeabaugh
Great is Thy Faithfulness – Jordan Smith
In Color – Shelby Brown
Let It Go – Jeffery Austin
Who Will Save Your Soul – Madi Davis
Blame It On Your Heart – Emily Ann Roberts

Week 10 – Top 11 Live
Why Not Me – Emily Ann Roberts
Love is Blindness – Madi Davis
Only Hope – Korin Bukowski
Delta Dawn – Barrett Baber

Week 11 – Top 10 Live
I’d Love to Lay You Down – Barrett Baber
Crazy Little Thing Called Love – Zach Seabaugh
Hallelujah – Jordan Smith
Go Rest High On That Mountain – Shelby Brown
She’s Got You – Emily Ann Roberts


So, what have you been listening to this week?

Linking up with these blogs today!

Here, Here and HERE.