Monday, October 31, 2011

KB's Wedding...

I think I mentioned that Micah and I went to Houston for one of my best friend's weddings.  Everything about was gorgeous, and I FINALLY got my pictures uploaded, so I thought I'd share a few. (And I'll apologize in advance for the quality of the pictures.  I had to zoom in on most of them, and my kit lens maxes out at 55mm, so they're grainy.)

Isn't she gorgeous?  She was such a happy, radiant bride.

And her venue was gorgeous.  So much pretty, natural light.


I loved her cake and the cute airplanes they had everywhere (Clinton's a pilot and proposed to her while they were in the air).

Me and all the UH Law girls.  It was so wonderful to catch up with everyone. (And commiserate about work. Ha.)

This was my attempt at artsy-fartsy photography.  Never mind that there are fingerprints all over my glass. :)

First dance.  Clinton was so cute - he twirled and dipped her all around that dance floor.

I adore this girl and was so happy to get to celebrate with her on her special day. 

To Kristen and Clinton - may you always treasure one another and seek to keep God first in your marriage.  Ecclesiastes 4:12: A cord of three strands is not easily broken.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

The faces of Stella Jo...

This little girl has just melted my whole family's heart.

Sometimes she just looks so darned earnest.


Adorably angry.

And if you get her in front of a mirror? Say goodbye to your heart forever.

Aunt Brig is showing Stella the "girl in the mirror."

Who is this pretty girl?

I think I know her.

Oh yeah.  I definitely know her. 

Mirror, mirror on the wall...

As I was perusing my Ballard Designs catalog the other night, I stumbled upon this gorgeous mirror.

It's not my typical style, but for some reason I was drawn to the pretty scalloped edge - it reminds me of a mermaid tail or something.  So I dogeared the page so that I could go back to it later and figure out whether or not I wanted to pay the $200 price tag.

Fast forward to yesterday.  Micah and I were in JCPenney, returning some furniture we bought for the laundry room that ended up being not good at all for the space (I really wish I was one of those people who could just envision what a piece of furniture will look like in a space.  It would save me a LOT of time and shipping costs.), and I saw the exact same mirror on clearance for $108.  Micah wasn't crazy about it, but he humored me and let me buy it anyway. 

So we bought it and came home to find the perfect spot for it.  I decided on the wall above the console table in the master bedroom, and my sweet husband did the hard part and measured it all out. 

(Don't mind me there in the reflection.  I'm just chilin' like a villain. And it's not nearly as gold as it looks.)

I'm pretty much obsessed.  It's just so different from anything else in my house, which can sometimes be a really good thing.  In fact, I was so pleased with out productivity that I got inspired to hang (i.e. ask Micah to hang) another mirror I found on clearance for $20 at HomeGoods in the hallway.

(Oops... there I am again.)

And then, because I was on a roll, I went ahead and added some wine corks and vintage keys (bought here) to this vintage-looking lantern I bought from One King's Lane a few weeks back.

It's sitting above my refrigerator with a couple of other pretties, and I really like it there.

I'll post more about our weekend later.  For now, I've got to try and get all my contacts transferred over to my new iPhone.  Apparently AT&T couldn't figure out how to transfer just the contacts on my old iPhone without including every single contact I had on my work email.  Frustrating.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

"Healthy Macaroni"

Yesterday I mentioned that I snuck a couple of bites of "healthy" pasta at the pumpkin-decorating party I went to on Tuesday night, and I got the recipe so that I could share it with you.  It's a baked macaroni and cheese dish, and it apparently still has 8 tablespoons of butter, but you could probably get away with less if you really wanted to keep it light.  But please, oh please, don't leave out the truffle oil.  It's the (and a little goes a LONG way).

Truffled Macaroni and Cheese

1 lb elbow macaroni
4 T. Butter
3 T. Flour
4c non-fat evaporated milk
1/4 t nutmeg
1 1/2 c Fontina, shredded
1 1/2 c sharp cheddar, shredded
1/2 c Parmesan
Salt & Pepper to taste
1 t white truffle oil
1 1/2 c Panko bread crumbs
4 T butter

1. Preheat oven to 400. Cook macaroni in a large pot of salted boiling water for 6 minutes. Drain and rinse with cold water to stop the cooking.

2. Coat a large baking dish with cooking spray, set aside. Melt butter in medium pot over medium heat; add flour, whisking to combine. Cook, stirring, about 4 minutes.

3. Slowly whisk in milk until smooth; add nutmeg. Reduce heat to med-low and cook until sauce has thickened and coats the back of a spoon, 6-8 minutes.

4. Turn off heat; add cheeses, mixing with a wooden spoon until melted. Taste & adjust seasoning with salt and pepper. Add truffle oil and macaroni and mix well to combine; pour into a prepared baking dish.

5. Meanwhile, in a small bowl, mix panko-breadcrumbs and melted butter until combined. Sprinkle evenly over macaroni. Bake 15-20 minutes.


Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Some confessions

1. I cheated with a couple of bites of "healthy" pasta last night.

2. I'm still craving pasta.

3. I once bowled a 42.

4. I went down 16 stories worth of stairs and up 12 stories (I wussed out and couldn't make it all the way back up) with my friend Ashley at work yesterday, and my legs feel like jello today. Very sore jello.

5. I need a pedicure in a bad way.

6. I can't wait for November because (1) the next-to-last Twilight movie comes out and (2) the last book in the Inheritance Cycle comes out. I've been waiting YEARS for this!

7. I bought these shoes today.

... and these

 (in brown)

(Don't tell Micah!)
8. I didn't wash my hair this morning. I just used this stuff.

9. I wrote an article that was published in a legal publication this week. You can read it here (but I'll go ahead and warn you that you'll probably fall asleep from boredom).

10. I'm apparently incredibly self-absorbed. Every sentence in this post starts with "I."

Monday, October 24, 2011

Weekend wrap-up...

We had such a great weekend around here. On Friday night, Micah met me in "town" so we could have dinner and pick up our dining room chairs. We ended up at Taverna, which you should definitely try if you live in the Dallas area. It's Italian, and it's delicious. Particularly the risotto (which, sadly, I had to resist). After dinner, we walked back to Pottery Barn and loaded up our chairs (which were in boxes, thank goodness). I didn't take a picture with my good camera, so iPhone quality will have to suffice for now.

(p.s. I felt so fancy with my little table setting.  I found the white pumpkins at Kroger and filled the glass vase with Honeycrisps.  It was full, but people wanted something sweet after the game, and the apples were all I had!)

I'm seriously in love. In love. They're pretty and comfy, and they fit well with the other things we have in the house. Plus they will be low-maintenance when we've got little munchkins spilling spaghetti all over them. :)

On Saturday, we watched the game with family and friends. I hated that the Rangers lost, but we had a great time eating and visiting. And I made some really delicious dip, so I thought I'd share the recipe. I made a full-fat version (and just limited myself to 3-4 bites with celery), but it could easily be adapted and eaten with fresh veggies to keep it light.

Loaded Ranch Dip
1 packet Hidden Valley Ranch Dip mix (not the dressing mix)
16 oz. sour cream (substitute light sour cream to cut calories)
3/4 cup shredded cheddar cheese (substitute reduced-fat cheese or skim mozzarella to cut calories)
1/4 to 1/3 cup bacon bits (please, for the love of God, don't use fake bacon bits. If you can't handle the bacon, just omit it.)
Optional: 1/2 cup sliced green onions

Mix the dip mix with the sour cream until incorporated. Stir in cheese, bacon, and green onions. Garnish with extra green onions on top to make it pretty. Refrigerate for 2-3 hours (or more if you want to make ahead of time). Serve chilled with your favorite chips or chopped carrots/celery.

This is GOOD, y'all. I made mine without green onions to keep it kid-friendly, but I think it would be even better with the onions.

Yesterday, we went to my niece's dedication at my brother and sister-in-law's church. Like a dummy, I forgot to take pictures, but she was so precious, and the service was wonderful. We had lunch with Faith's family afterward, and I was reminded of how much I absolutely love them. It's still surreal that the sweet people who used let me ride their go-kart and jump on their trampoline and always had plenty of kool-aid and cheese chex mix on hand are now family. Miss Stella is so blessed to have so many people absolutely in love with her. :)

We went to my Dad's last night to have dinner with them to celebrate my stepmom's birthday and watch the game. Thank goodness the Rangers pulled it out. How about Derek Holland and that shutout!!??

(via here)

Tonight we're planning on taking it easy and watching the game. Fingers crossed that the Rangers can head back to St. Louis one game ahead!!

Friday, October 21, 2011

Show Us Your Life: Couponing Sites...

Although I stopped couponing a few months ago because I got crazy busy at work and wasn't shopping as much, I still appreciate a good deal as much as the next person. And I learned a ton of things when I started couponing that I'll never stop doing, no matter how little time I have. So I thought I'd link up at Kelly's Korner today to pass the torch, so to speak, to the next "generation" of couponers.

($4.65 for everything at Target)

1) Don't Be Intimidated
First, don't let the extreme couponing hype scare you away... you don't have to buy seventeen newspapers a week to save a big chunk of change. In fact, I cut my grocery bill from ~$125/week to ~$45/week by just buying one newspaper a week (which I got for an amazing $1/week in Houston) and a little time and creativity. When I was in law school and money was tight, it was more than worth the couple of hours it took each week to cut/organize the coupons and plan my shopping trips. If you get to a point at which your time is worth more than the money you're saving, then stop. But for me, $360 a month went a long way for a long time.

1) Learn the Basics
There's no sense in me reinventing the wheel here. There are people far more clever than I who have already broken this down for newbies, so go here or here to find out how to get started. In general, My Litter was my favorite couponing site because she was honest, funny, and had good regional deals - she lives in Houston and, when I lived there, provided the best local deals. I also loved Hip2Save, My Dallas Mommy, and Money Saving Mom, as well.

2) Start Clipping Coupons
Buy a paper and start a good collection of coupons. There are tons of ways to organize them, and Tiffany at My Litter suggests a few good options. But don't clip them all. The question I always asked myself was "if I could get this item for free with this coupon, would I buy it?" If I said no (as I did with a lot of things), then I didn't clip it.

3) Wait for a Sale
You shouldn't go out and use your coupons immediately just because you have them. The best approach is to keep them all organized well, wait for store sales, and pair the coupon with a great sale. This will require you to (1) figure out what stores you want to shop at {I chose Kroger/Target for groceries and CVS for toiletries because they were close and usually had the best deals} and (2) subscribe to a blog that posts grocery store sales each week and tells you which coupons to use (see below).

4) Make Your List and Let Others Do the Work
There's no need to reinvent the wheel - there are wonderful people who take the time to dig through all the sales and pair coupons for you, so just find them (Hip2Save is pretty great for all regions) and, when you're making your grocery list, look at what's on sale, and make sure to add anything that is at rock-bottom price that week. I did a menu each week, so I would plan our meals around what was on sale. If chicken and corn were super cheap, I'd seach my recipes for yummy recipes with those things in them to take advantage of the sales (here's one of my favorite chicken/corn recipes).

($3.82 for everything at Target)

5) SHOP!
Once you've got your list, go shop!  And, for non-grocery deals, make friends with Amazon.  I honestly can't tell you how much money I've saved by shopping at Amazon.  Go here to see some of my best deals (and learn about how I was a borderline shopaholic last Christmas.  Go ahead and judge. :))

Again, there are other places to get a super-detailed tutorial, but this is just how I always approached couponing. One thing to remember is that most people don't love the lady who's checking out with a huge stack of coupons to get through. So try and be courteous by having everything organized ahead of time and by being an honest, fair couponer.

Happy shopping, y'all!

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Things I bought yesterday...

{Update - my sweet husband pointed out that I didn't pick these things out by myself, so, in the interest of accuracy and truthfulness, I've made a few changes.  I particularly like the changes to the last sentence... :)}

Yesterday was the last day of Pottery Barn's Friends and Family event (yeah, I'm VIP - who wants to know?), so I we took the plunge and finally bought the two things I've we've been drooling over for months, since I we got them for 20% off.


... times eight.

It hurt my heart to hand over my credit card (figuratively speaking, considering that I we ordered them over the phone), but I was we were done trying to fight the urge.  I've We've done my our research, and these are what I we want.  So, happy early Christmas to me us!  And anniversary.  And birthday...

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Come thou fount...

This Pinterest find deserves a post of its own.

It's obviously beautiful to look at, and I'm already convinced that I'll be making something like this to hang in my house somewhere.

But it also speaks to my soul. It's a line from Come Thou Fount (please listen to the video below if you've never heard it), which is one of my top five favorite praise and worship songs. I start to cry every single time I hear it at the exact same line.

Oh to grace, how great a debtor daily I'm constrained to be.
Let Thy goodness, like a fetter, bind my wandering heart to Thee.
Prone to wander, Lord I feel it -- prone to leave the God I love.
Here's my heart, Lord, take and seal it -- seal it for Thy courts above.

I picture my Lord, faithful as ever, watching me make the same mistakes, commit the same sins over and over again. I picture Him watching my heart wander, and it just shatters me. But then I remember that I'm no longer a prisoner to my sin because Jesus paid it all. I may be prone to wander, but He's always waiting for me to return. All to Him I owe.

My Music Wednesday...

It has been awhile, but this song popped up on my Pandora this morning, so I thought I'd share it with y'all because it always makes me smile.

Good Directions by Billy Currington

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Thoughts on Slim4Life...

I promise I won't bore you guys with diet stuff very often, but I did tell you that I would share my thoughts on the Slim4Life system.  And since I went for my three-week weigh-in yesterday and had lost 16.6 pounds, I figured now was as good a time as any.

I decided on Slim4Life because I had heard ads on the radio that talked about (1) quick weight loss and (2) the ability to eat grocery store food and eat out.  When I did some research, I thought that it seemed like a happy medium between Weight Watchers (which is super flexible and loosey goosey) and Jenny Craig/NutriSystem (which require you to buy their food).  So I went in for the initial consultation, and here's what I learned.

1) It is $6/week, but...
... they tell you that, for you to lose maximum weight, you've got to buy their "supplements."  The supplements are (1) fatty acids/fish oil (to keep your skin tight when you lose the weight), (2) vitamins, (3) "metabolizer" (just natural ingredients to help curb your appetite and cravings), (4) protein bars, and (5) various other protein-rich snacks.  They really push the supplements, and after I bought six weeks' worth, I was out around $350-ish (and I didn't buy the vitamin or the fatty acids - when I run out of the initial sample supply they gave me, I'm just going to get them at GNC).  Plus I had to pay around $300 to join for twelve weeks.  So it's not cheap. 

2) There's a lot of food you can't eat... 
The program is based on an approximately 1500 calorie per day diet.  They give you a food list with the foods you're allowed to eat.  Essentially, you get two proteins (meat/seafood), two fruts fruits (thanks, Mom!), four vegetables, two starches, and one fat per day (plus two supplement snacks).  They limit portion size, as well as the foods you're allowed to eat.  Notably, there's almost no cheese (except cottage cheese, which I don't eat), salt (to keep off water weight), processed sugar, or caffeine.  And no Diet Coke, which was REALLY hard at first.

3) ... But it works.
After a three-day "prep" period, during which I ate 2-3 pounds of meat a day and unlimited raw green veggies, I had lost about 5 pounds.  From then on, I've continued to lose it.  It's hard at times because I really just want some pasta or a cookie.  And on Weight Watchers, I could have that.  But then I couldn't eat anything else for the rest of the day.  For me, the structure is better.  It teaches you to make good choices, and I've started to crave the things that are good for me - fresh fruit, crunchy vegetables, fresh fish and scallops.  And yes, some of the "rules" are dumb.  No carrots? Or corn?  As one friend put it, you don't get fat eating carrots.  And the no salt thing is killing me. 

But I can't argue with results.  It's working.  And doable for me.  I just adapt where I need to to stay sane (i.e. I occasionally have full-fat balsamic vinegarette dressing instead of fat free... I'm such a cheater! ;)). And I like that someone's checking up on me.  If I don't come in to meet with someone when I say I'm going to, someone calls me to see when I'm coming in next.  I try to go in twice a week.  Which can be sort of a pain, but I honestly think that's part of the magic.  It's good to talk about what's working and what isn't, and it's really nice to have the support. 

Bottom line - expensive but worth it.  At least for me. :)

Monday, October 17, 2011

Lessons from a fortune cookie...

Whew.  Glad that's over.  Now I can sleep!

But first, I'll tell you what my fortune cookie told me today at lunch:

You are a lover of words, someday you should write a book.

(Let's just gloss over the fact that the comma should actually be a period, shall we?)

Does God speak through fortune cookies?  Because I'm pretty sure He just did . . . ;)

Sunday, October 16, 2011

What I've done this weekend...


That's it.

All weekend.

Tomorrow's noon deadline (and the lengthy nap I'll be taking immediately afterward) can't come soon enough.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

The start of a new journey...

As a blogger, there is definitely a part of me that would like to share only the best parts of who I am and what my life is like. It'd be easy to paint a lovely picture of a girl who always has it all together -- the job, the marriage, the house, the dog. And, if I'm being honest, there have been times when I've held back the unflattering tidbits that aren't as fun to share.

But I'm keeping it real here, y'all. And that means also sharing the parts of me that aren't so lovely.

Starting from shortly after my high school graduation, I began gradually gaining weight. A lot of weight. I feel certain that it stemmed from my going from two-to-three hour workouts every day in athletics to absolutely no physical activity (I HATE running!), in combination with my love for all things yummy and scrumptious. (I mean, hello!)

(Junior Prom)

I yo-yo'd a bit throughout college and at one point lost 30-ish pounds on Weight Watchers.

(post-Weight Watchers)

Then I started law school, which required hours and hours of studying/reading each day and, in my mind, left zero time to worry about healthy eating or working out. (The post-law school Ryan looks back and laughs at law school Ryan's perception of "busy.") So I gained it all back. But then I got engaged and started slimming down for the wedding and eventually got to a size that I felt pretty comfortable with. (See where I'm going here?)

Of course, after the wedding, I was just SICK of thinking about what I ate. I wanted to cook and bake and enjoy food without worrying about the calories. So when the clothes started getting tight, I just ignored it and bought new ones.

And for almost three years, that's where I've been. I've been gaining and gaining and gaining and have honestly been pretty unconcerned about it. It didn't help that (1) my mom raised me to be a confident, self-assured person, so that when I look in the mirror, I see a fabulous, beautiful person no matter what size I am and (2) my husband is perfect and hasn't really batted an eye. It probably doesn't make any sense, but it's almost like I was in a daze for the past few years.

(last Christmas)
But apparently I've finally woken up.

It took a loving, concerned call from my brother (triggered by a casual comment I made while talking to my sister-in-law), which made me wonder how I'd gotten here and where I'd end up if I didn't do something about it. And for some reason, my brain finally just clicked into place. This isn't something that will go away on its own. I can't just cover my eyes with my hands and pretend it's not there. Yes, I still love myself and am so proud of who I am, and my self-worth will never be wrapped up in what I look like. But I also don't want to wake up in a year and be so big that I can't fit into a go-kart (my sweet Aunt Brig will get that reference) or live the kind of life that I want to live. I'd rather not get winded walking up a flight of stairs, and it would definitely be nice to shop in the "normal" sizes again.

So I started a diet. I've been doing Slim4Life for two and a half weeks (and I'll definitely do a whole post on the pros and cons of the program soon), and I've lost 12.2 pounds already! It's definitely not fun, and I haven't been totally perfect (I may or may not have had a piece of the most delectable cake ever at Kristen's wedding), but I'm committed, and I'm starting to change the way I think about food. I'm drinking 80 ounces of water a day. I've cut out all sugar (except fruit), caffeine (except an occasional glass of tea), most carbs, and, hardest of all, almost all cheese.

I obviously won't eat this way forever and will eventually add in moderate amounts of my favorite things when I finish losing the weight, but I can definitely say that I'll be making a lot of changes that are permanent. And it's getting easier every day to make smart choices. Eventually I'll add in an exercise routine, but for now I feel like I should focus on the eating right part, which I know is most of the problem. I'm trusing in the Lord to help me stick it out and relying on His strength when mine fails.

So I hope y'all don't mind if I occasionally post a healthy recipe or two and update you with how it's going from time to time. I'll try not to bore you with too much detail, but I'll be happy to answer any questions you might have (even though I'm obviously NOT an expert), via email - even if you've been a silent blog-stalker (as I often am) and I don't know you in real life. Just shoot me an email at ryanahargrave (at) gmail (dot) com.  I'm hoping that maybe there are others who might be ready to take this journey, too.  And, hey - misery loves company, right? :)

I stupidly forgot to take a good "before" picture, but hopefully I'll have a killer "after" picture in a few months. :)

What I'm Loving Wednesday...

Well, this week has been surprisingly okay! I'm busy but not overwhelmingly so. So I thought I'd celebrate by linking up to What I'm Loving Wednesday and sharing some of the things I'm loving this week!

I'm loving Shoedazzle.

I'm sure you guys have heard of it, but just in case... it's essentially a "shoe of the month" kind of site, where you sign up (for free), tell them what kind of shoes you like, and they build you a "showroom" every month with a few shoes to choose from (plus you can shop from the featured shoes for that month or even your facebook friends' showrooms). You can either buy a pair or opt out by "skipping" the month. (Warning - if you forget to opt out, I think they charge your card. I just set up a recurring Outlook reminder to help me remember.) The BEST part is that EVERYTHING on the website is $39! I got these shoes in the mail yesterday, and they are SUPER cute (and relatively comfortable!).
(I got them in taupe instead of the leopard.)

I'm loving Urban Decay's 24/7 Glide-On Eye Pencil (in Bourbon, to be exact). Stays on well, and great colors to choose from.
I'm loving the RAIN! My fellow Texans know how much we have needed it!

I'm loving that the Rangers are kicking butt and taking names in the playoffs! We lost last night, but I've got faith that we'll pull through and head to the World Series.

I'm loving this little cutie. I may or may not have bought him a little Cowboys outfit last night. (If you're reading, Diana, you can just pretend to be surprised the next time we see y'all. :))

I'm loving some recent Pinterest finds.

(Love me some Harry Potter pins.)
(Cake Batter Bars.  Amen.)
(The Help.  You must read/watch it.)
(from here)
(they lyrics to your wedding song - learn how to make it here)
And, as always, I'm loving Micah Lee.

Have a great Wednesday, y'all!

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