Grad School Survival Kit

I recently completed coursework for my master’s degree. During the last year and a half, I’ve been exhausted, overworked, and pushed to my breaking point, but I have proven to myself time and time again that I am far more capable than I give myself credit.

Along the way, I’ve relied on a few simple things to keep me motivated and productive. Since school is back in session for so many this month, it seemed like a good idea to share the products that helped me through my accelerated master’s program.

First up on my list is AdvoCare Spark Energy. Last fall, I relied on coffee to give me the extra boost of energy I needed in the morning. However, I crashed HARD every single afternoon, and I was gaining weight from the tasty additions (flavored creamers, sugar, etc.) to my morning brew. With Spark, I have lost weight while receiving not only a morning boost but also mental clarity that lasts all day long. I can’t imagine starting my day any other way now. Plus the flavors are absolutely delicious.

The next item on my list is tiny but crucial to my ability to focus: bobby pins. (These are my favorite!) I have spent countless hours at my desk every single day for the past year and a half hunched over textbooks, and bobby pins ensure I can focus on the task at hand by keeping my hair out of the way. It’s a simple thing, but it makes a big difference.

A good planner. It’s been said time and time again that one simply cannot be organized without some type of planner, whether digital or paper based. In my world, if I don’t write an engagement down, it doesn’t exist. I’ve used a leather Day-Timer planner with monthly and weekly calendars for the past two years, and I love it. On each week, I insert a to-do list for all of the assignments I must complete each week. The entire thing zips up so it’s professional enough when I need to travel for meetings, etc. Plus, the entire thing is customizable to my preferences. I can also stuff quite a few extras inside it (calculator, pens, notes, business cards, etc.)

School Survival at BetweenWeekdays.com2

Lots and lots of paper. As an MBA student, I find myself constantly scribbling formulas and notes. I really like larger notebooks with dividers as well as project planners for individual assignments. The larger notebooks were especially handy for the math required in my accounting and finance classes, while I preferred the project planners for the individual projects required for each class as well as work meetings and projects.

I also discovered that I definitely have a preference when it comes to highlighters as gel highlighters are so much better than their marker counterpoints. I prefer the Sharpie brand of highlighters. Gel highlighters are mess free, and honestly, they’re just more fun to use.

Felt pens are also one of my favorite office supplies at the moment. I liked to use different colors for different classes when taking notes or filling out my planner. I also liked to coordinate my pen colors to my highlighter colors for study sessions. Having that visual representation in color really helped me when studying and preparing for the week ahead. (Felt pens are also good for taking mental health breaks to color  in adult coloring books!)

Tabs make it easy for me to reference my textbooks for important information. I adore the Martha Stewart Home Office with Avery Tabs for several reasons:

  1. They’re large enough for me to write on.
  2. They’re pretty.
  3. The tabs remove easily when I’m done with the subject and it’s time to return my textbook.

I certainly am glad to not be heading back to the (virtual) classroom this semester, but I do hope some of these products may be beneficial to others who are. I still have one academic requirement left to complete before I can don a cap and gown again to earn my MBA this December, but, in the meantime, I’m glad to return to a slower pace for a few weeks and hopefully resume blogging on a more regular schedule soon.

16 Personal Fun Facts

I’ve been watching Food Network Star all summer. I was definitely team Damiano, but I was happy for season winner Tregaye Fraser. After her win, Food Network revealed some trivia regarding her favorite foods. I thought it would be fun to answer these questions, too! See my answers below.

Favorite Late-Night Snack: Popcorn

Favorite Smell: Tomato Plants

Guilty-Pleasure Food: Macaroni and Cheese

Best Advice You’ve Ever Been Given: “If you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all.”

Strangest Thing in Your Refrigerator Right Now: There’s a lot of butter in my fridge right now!

Favorite TV Show: Downton Abbey

One Dish You Always Order Out and Never Make at Home: Fried Rice, Eggplant Parmesan, and Tiramisu

Favorite Burger Toppings: Sweet Chili Thai Sauce and Asiago Cheese. Turkey burgers only, please.

Favorite Pizza Topping: Fresh Tomatoes

Favorite Food Location to Visit: Chattanooga, TN

Favorite Ice Cream Flavor: Mint Chocolate Chip

Best Meal I’ve Ever Had: This is an impossible question to answer, but I’d have to say tapas in Las Vegas.

Favorite Vacation Spot: Hands down my favorite vacation destination ever was St. Lucia.

Favorite Person to Cook For: I love cooking for my Dad. He loves everything!

Favorite Person to Cook With: I absolutely love cooking with my teenage cousins and teaching them cooking techniques and tricks in the kitchen.

Dish or Ingredient You’ll Never Eat: Beef

Read more at: http://blog.foodnetwork.com/star-talk/2016/08/02/16-things-you-didnt-know-about-tregaye-fraser-food-networks-newest-star/?soc=foodnetworkstarsocial_20160803_64456916&adbid=10153690592141727&adbpl=fb&adbpr=20534666726&oc=linkback

2016 Goal Check In

Back in January, I made a list of goals for the year ahead. Since the year is halfway over, I thought it might be a good idea to check in to see if I’ve made any progress and also to see if I need to make any adjustments to my goals for the remainder of the year.

House Goals

I hope to accomplish much around the house this year. There’s a slight chance we will need to consider moving after I complete graduate school, so as much as I do not enjoy the thought of moving again I would like to be prepared as much as possible. Also, it’s much easier to coordinate home improvements while I’m working from home, which also may change after I have that diploma in hand. June update: we are no longer considering moving. My future job situation is still very much TBD.

The Blue House at BetweenWeekdays.com

  • Finish painting all of the doors black throughout our home. There’s only three left!
  • Complete the kitchen cabinets. After months of working with a contractor, we are on schedule to complete the kitchen cabinets in the next few weeks. June update: thankfully this never-ending task is DONE. 
  • Tile kitchen backsplash. June update: this should probably move to 2017…possibly 2018.
  • Replace dining room table. We’ve ordered a custom dining set, and we’re just waiting for it to be delivered.
  • Continue to steadily reduce clutter. June: steadily making progress.
  • Update the guest bathroom.
  • Continue the master bedroom closet makeover. June update: see the finished space here!
  • Stain the front porch and deck. June update: we’ve stripped the old stain from the porch!
  • Add risers to front porch stairs and skirting below the porch.
  • Continue making improvements to the outside of our home. In 2015, we repaired our fence and began working in the landscaping. This year I hope to accomplish a few more items to continue adding curb appeal to our blue house.
  • June update: finish my new sitting room. Details to come. 😉 
  • June update: take some new photos of the outside of our blue house. The one above is very old. 

In addition to this list, there are several other home-related tasks we will consider adding depending on what our long-term plans look like in a few months.

Personal

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  • Graduate from my graduate program. I am on track to complete courses at the end of the summer and to graduate in December with my MBA. June update: I have five weeks left of classes, a field test, and an exit survey separating me from my MBA. 
  • Celebrate our 30th birthdays. We will both turn 30 in May this year.
  • Complete two Advocare 21 day challenges. June update: I’m down 15 pounds and feeling fabulous. Message me if you’re interested in learning more about Advocare. I plan to complete two more challenges this year.  
  • Blog one time per month. June update: so far, so good! I very nearly forgot to blog in May, though.
  • Apply for adjunct professor positions. There’s a new program in our home state of Tennessee that provides a scholarship for high school seniors for two years of free tuition at community and technical colleges. It’s a wonderful program, and I’m hoping the influx of students will create more adjunct professor positions in our area.

And that’s it! This year is really going to be about focusing on schoolwork for me. I may update these goals a bit as the year progresses, but as of right now, my focus is on continuing my education. June: at this point, I’m almost singularly focused on completing grad school. 

Summer Garden Update

I planted my garden back in March, and I promised to update on whether or not my new weed prevention methods work. So far, the new planting method is working absolutely perfectly! (Click here to find out how I protected my raised bed against weeds!) I hardly ever have to weed my small garden, and my veggies and herbs are growing spectacularly well.

Summer Garden Update at BetweenWeekdays.com

After my original planting post, I also added a cinnamon basil plant and a zucchini plant. My area was late to receive zucchini plants, so it didn’t go in the ground until about a month ago. Even though it got a late start, it’s grown extremely well and is already quite a bit larger now than it was when I took this photo merely a week ago. I will actually be able to harvest my first zucchini later this week. I don’t really know what I’m going to do with the cinnamon basil, but it was too lovely and fragrant not to add it to my small bed.

Summer Garden Update at BetweenWeekdays.com2

I chose to plant the cinnamon basil in a pot rather than directly in the garden bed for several reasons. First, I didn’t know a lot about this plant, and I didn’t have time to research it. I knew it would need to be transferred to some good soil before I would have the chance to properly research how to plant this herb. Second, I considered placing this plant on my back porch for decoration and easy access. However, after doing a small bit of research a few weeks later, I learned that cinnamon basil is a helper to tomato plants and can increase the taste of the tomatoes. So, I put the pot by the tomato cage. It receives better lighting there than it would on the porch anyway.

Speaking of tomato cages, my tomato plant has already completely outgrown its 5-foot cage! I’m sure to have more tomatoes than I know what to do with this summer, which is definitely a good problem to have.

Within the next week, I should start seeing veggies ready for harvest as I already have a red pepper waiting to turn red, a small zucchini, and several green and growing tomatoes. Happy gardening, friends!

Fake it Until You BECOME IT

If you’ve ever felt like a wallflower or as if you are powerless in your personal or professional life, I encourage you to take a moment to watch this TED Talk.

Body language not only shapes who you are but also how others perceive you. This is a lesson often hard learned by many introverts like myself in today’s society. Here’s to faking it until we make it!

 

Stripping is Hard Work

Here’s what I learned on Memorial Day: stripping stain off of an extremely weathered front porch is seriously hard work, ya’ll.

I wrote about my desire to tackle a front porch renovation more than a year ago. Since then, I bought a bench and a few other miscellaneous pieces for the porch, while the stain continued to deteriorate. It was seriously embarrassing. After pressure washing the layer of grime off the porch, we were left with this unsightly mess:

Stripping Stain from Porch at BetweenWeekdays.com

This is when we knew we’d need to use a stripper on the wood in order to totally clean it and rid it from its terrible stain. We chose to use Goof Off All Purpose Stripper, which we found at our local Lowe’s.

Stripping Stain from Porch at BetweenWeekdays.com2

There are two things you should note about this product:

  1. WEAR GLOVES. This stuff burns if it gets on your skin.
  2. It does not remove stain as well as it removes whatever is pictured on the can. However, it definitely will remove stain from wood with a bit of patience and elbow grease.

We found it was best to apply a thick layer of the stripper with an inexpensive paintbrush, wait a few minutes, and then apply another layer before even attempting to remove the stain. If the stain was still somewhat thick, we could scrape most of it off. However, the majority of the stain had to be scrubbed off by hand with a stripping pad. We found it was best to keep the stripping pad wet while scrubbing and to work in small sections so the stripping paste wouldn’t dry.

Stripping Stain from Porch at BetweenWeekdays.com3

After many, many hours of labor, we now have a front porch that is mostly stripped of its stain! However, we still need to remove the stain from our stairs before we can move on to the rest of our porch renovation plans.

The next step in the process is to choose a new stain color! Then we have quite a few other projects to tackle before we’ll be able to call this space complete. I’m hopeful removing this huge project from the list is just the motivation we need to finally get this space finished up!

Star Wars Meets Disney Wedding Shower

Recently I was fortunate enough to co-host a wedding shower for my cousin and his fiance. We loosely based the theme on their wedding colors, her love for all things Disney, and his love for all things Star Wars.

StarWars Disney Wedding Shower at BetweenWeekdays.com2

The photo backdrop was one of the easiest projects we made for the shower and easily one of the most fun details from their shower. All we did was hang Dollar Tree table clothes from a string wound through the ceiling tiles. Easy peasy! The bride liked this idea so much, she took all of the tablecloths with her to possibly use at their wedding reception.

StarWars Disney Wedding Shower at BetweenWeekdays.com3

We included a selfie station with photo props near the backdrop, and we all had a bunch of fun taking photos in front of the decorations.

StarWars Disney Wedding Shower at BetweenWeekdays.com4

We used rented black linens for the food and gift tables, which we positioned around the perimeter of the room. This really helped to define the different functional areas of the shower by grounding the perimeter with a dark color. Plus, the table decorations absolutely popped on top of the black! We placed rows of tables in the middle of the space for guests. These tables were covered with the same purple, Dollar Tree tablecloths used for the photo backdrop. I always prefer to use plastic tablecloths where people eat for easier cleanup.

StarWars Disney Wedding Shower at BetweenWeekdays.com5

We attempted to keep the decor simple and reflective of the bride and groom.

StarWars Disney Wedding Shower at BetweenWeekdays.com6

I custom ordered the invitations from Etsy, and I couldn’t be more pleased with how they turned out. We loved the custom design of the invitations so much that we added it to the cake!

StarWars Disney Wedding Shower at BetweenWeekdays.com

We had planned on 75 guests, and the menu we planned was definitely was fit for a crowd.

Menu:

Cake (half chocolate, half white)
Pulled Barbeque Chicken and Pork with Rolls (5 lbs of each meat from Buddy’s Bar-B-Q)
Chicken Tenders and Buffalo Chicken Tenders
Meatballs
Buffalo Chicken Dip, Sausage Dip, and Salsa with Tortilla Chips
Cream Cheese Pinwheels
Chicken Cheese Ball with Crackers
Cheese Platter
Pasta Salad
Marshmallow Pops
Chocolate-Covered Pretzel Rods
Sweet Tea and Bottled Water

We had planned on 75 guests, and this menu definitely was fit for a crowd.

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This shower was definitely a labor of love for the future Mr. and Mrs., but I wouldn’t change a thing about it. Their wedding is now just a few, short weeks away!

(Click here to see a gender-neutral baby shower and here to see a pink and zebra baby shower!)

Master Bedroom Closet Renovation

You may remember some time ago when I shared our closet’s mini update. We decided to do a couple of super quick fixes before tackling the rest of the makeover. We changed the light fixture, added some beadboard to the back wall, moved in the Ikea bookshelf, and called it a day. It was a huge improvement.

A Mini Closet Update at BetweenWeekdays

We were quite happy to leave our closet at this point for several months. The bookshelf proved to be as helpful as I imagined. It’s so nice to be able to see things quickly as I’m getting ready.

However, there was still quite a bit of function we still needed to add to this space. Namely:

  1. Moving both clothes rods up since my clothes were currently hitting the ground.
  2. Removing the old, worn-out, disgusting carpet.
  3. Adding beadboard to the opposite wall.
  4. Painting the entire closet and trim.
  5. Adding new carpet.
  6. Adding a shelf above the closet door for blanket storage.
  7. Adding a full-length mirror.

Both of the closet rods (seen to the left in the above photo) were raised an entire foot. Now my clothes have proper hanging space, and honestly, the room just feels so much better. The carpet came out easily, and Travis was able to use some leftover beadboard from another project to finish up the opposite wall. He also used a scrap piece of wood (that still needs to be painted) to create a shelf over the closet door. I love that we were able to add a huge amount of extra storage in an area of our closet that was just dead space before.

Master Bedroom Closet Renovation at BetweenWeekdays.com

Soon it was up to me to paint the space. I started by painting the trim white one afternoon (as seen above). Then, the next day I painted the walls the same color that’s in the rest of our master suite: Valspar’s Woodlawn Colonial Gray.

I had purchased Flor carpet tiles several months back when the company had a large sale. I have known since we moved into this house more than three years ago that I would replace the gross carpet with Flor tiles for several reasons: 1. It’s a DIY product. 2. It’s easy to clean or replace, if necessary. 3. It’s well priced.

Master Bedroom Closet Renovation at BetweenWeekdays.com

I selected the style Reverb in Oatmeal. I knew that I did not need to spend a lot of money on one of their higher-end options because it’s just a closet. We ordered several samples, and we both agreed that we liked this style and color the best. I ended up paying about $180 for the new floor.

3Master Bedroom Closet Renovation at BetweenWeekdays.com

After that, we added some finishing touches and moved our things back in the room. Naturally, I took this opportunity to purge a few items. If it didn’t easily fit, it was out. If we didn’t use it, it was out. If we didn’t love it, it was out. I found that it was easier for Travis to make these decisions if I grouped like items together (t-shirts with t-shirts, work clothes with work clothes, etc). I think it was easier to see the items he didn’t need when they were arranged in this way.

I love the new view every time I walk into my closet. (Be sure to notice the empty closet shelf! Hooray!)

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I still need to paint the shelf over the door, but I’m blown away by all of the additional storage we now have for blankets. Previously, I had a quilt rack taking up more room that I liked in our room. Now, there’s no need for the quilt rack.

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I’ve had the cork board for awhile now for some of my costume jewelry. I love that it’s tucked behind the closet door. I got it for free at a yard sale several years ago. It’s a little worse for the wear, but it packs a ton of tucked-away storage. No complaints here!

Please excuse the terrible photo below, but I love my new mirror and deer hooks. This is another area that was just wasted space before. Now I feel like I have a dressing area. I also tucked some of my large utility toes from Thirty-One between the bookshelf and the wall. I love putting dead space to use, obviously.

Master Bedroom Closet Renovation at BetweenWeekdays.com.jpg

This makeover was budget friendly, and it makes me incredibly happy every day. I wish I could show you just how much better this room feels now than it did before. It may not seem like much, but this closet makes our master suite feel like it’s finally ours.

Garden 2016

Hello and Happy Spring! I spent a couple of afternoons this week shopping for and working in my garden, so I wanted to share what I’m growing this year as well as a new weed-control method I’m trying.

Garden 2016 at BetweenWeekdays.com

This year I planted:

  1. Heirloom Tomato (my absolute favorite)
  2. Red Bell Pepper
  3. Orange Bell Pepper
  4. Yellow Bell Pepper
  5. Sweet Basil
  6. Chives

I still have two spots to fill, and I know one will be dedicated to zucchini as soon as my local Co-Op gets them in.

This year I tried something different as I was planting my herbs and veggies. I put down a layer of newspaper and then covered it with a layer of mulch. (I also added a new top layer of garden soil below the newspaper while I was preparing the bed for planting.)

Garden 2016 at BetweenWeekdays.com

Last year weeds all but took over my garden bed. I know I was a part of the problem since apparently gardeners are supposed to remove weeds or something like that. I know myself, and I know that I do not — and will not — weed my raised bed enough, so I’m trying to meet the problem head on. Here’s what I’m thinking:

  • New garden soil will be really good for my plants, and it also doesn’t already have weeds growing in it.
  • According to my research, newspaper is a chemical-fee weed blocker. Plus it has some other added benefits.
  • The mulch will help retain water (which is extremely important in raised beds), and it should further prevent weeds from taking over my garden.

Garden 2016 at BetweenWeekdays.com

The stepping stone seen above is one I’ve had since my very first garden several years ago in our First House. It says: “Dogs may not be our whole lives, but they make our lives whole.”

Here’s hoping my theory pays off, and I have a mostly weed-free garden season!

 

A New Garage Door!

I’ve been meaning to write about our new garage door for about a year now. #oops

When we bought our house, the garage door had a slight crack in one of the panels, and we knew it would eventually need to be replaced. Over time the crack grew larger.

New Garage Door at BetweenWeekdays.com

And finally, it split down the entire panel. I don’t have a photo, but needless to say, we never again opened the original garage door after that happened.

So, we called in the professions and chose a new garage door design. In just a few days, we had a brand new garage door! We upgraded to a carriage style door with tinted windows in the upper panel and decorative details.

New Garage Door at BetweenWeekdays.com

It’s pretty common knowledge that garage doors can increase the value of your home (herehere, and here),so this is one expense that should pay off for us in the long run. Most of the homes in our neighborhood still have the plain white garage doors. I feel like our garage door fits in well with the neighborhood, while still being stylish.

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