DIY Autumn Wreath!

With the sudden drop in temperature, I had the urge to decorate for the upcoming season. Shopping around last week, I noticed there were already a lot of fall decorations displayed in the stores. Whilst trying to find a little something to spice up our new apartment, I couldn’t help but look at these small pointless pieces of decor and think that I could make something that looked better and costed less. The imitation flower aisle was filled with lots of beautiful autumn colors, different shades of orange. red and yellow. The flowers were basically screaming for me to turn them into a wreath, so I grabbed 4 small bundles of different flowers at 97 cents each and one large bouquet of mixed flowers for about $5. I got a small grapevine wreath, a mini hot glue gun and two different types of ribbon which I thought might match well with the flowers.

Here’s what you’ll need if you’d like to make one of your own:

Wreath making supplies
1 grapevine wreath, 1 large wired ribbon, 1 small ribbon, 1 hot glue gun (and glue sticks) and a few bundles of the flowers of your choice.
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These were the flowers I chose for my wreath. The bundle on the right was the pre-made bouquet. The quality of the flowers were a little better and it had more variety so it made a big difference.
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After you plug in your glue gun, start by stripping flowers off of the stems. They will pop right off and you’ll be left with flowers that have small nubs on the back. This is where you will be placing the hot glue to stick the flowers in place.
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Next, you’ll start sticking flowers in one by one. Try to mix it up and make sure you’re not putting all the same flowers in one area. This photo shows what it looked like when I was half way done.

P.S. I wrapped my wreath with the ribbon before I started since I wasn’t sure if I would have enough flowers, but I ended up having more than enough so this was basically pointless other than the fact that it may help the flowers stay in place longer.

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After I made the bow, I attached it with a piece of the stem from the fake flowers. The easier option would be to buy some pipe cleaners and use one of those to tie it on, but I stuck it in with lot’s of hot glue for extra assurance.
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VIOLÀ! The finished product!

I hung the wreath with a 3M command brand damage free hanging hook so that I will be able to pull it off without damaging the door when we move out.

I hope this post will inspire someone to make a wreath of their own or at least get someone excited to start decorating for the holidays! If you have any questions feel free to ask. Thanks for reading 🙂

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Put down that Pop-Tart

There’s nothing quite as satisfying as that compliment, “you look really good, have you lost weight?”

I’m no fitness model or nutrition specialist. Im just your average 23 year old female, constantly struggling to keep my weight in check. Within the past 3 years or so I have learned a lot about diet and fitness and I’ve made some lifestyle changes that have had a major impact on my overall appearance and health. As a taller person, it is easy for me to pack on a few extra pounds without people noticing since my weight is distributed more evenly. I knew I was overweight but I was good at dressing to hide my flaws. I didn’t have the motivation or willpower to change my appearance until my brother started body building. I could see how hard he was working to mold his body into supreme shape in order to compete in a body building competition. I used to think he was crazy for wanting to workout every single day and for sticking to such a strict diet. Eventually though, his willpower and determination had an impact on me and I started to become more aware of my unhealthy habits.

My mom has also been a great example of living a healthier lifestyle. A few years ago we both started to make changes in our lives to feel better about our appearances and we unknowingly motivated each other. She has always reminded me to love myself no matter what but to continue to work on becoming the healthy person that I want to be. She has educated me on which types of food are good for me and which ones aren’t. As a kid when my mom took me grocery shopping, she would always make me look at the nutritional value on the boxes of cereal and I was forced to give up all of my hopes and dreams of eating lucky charms for breakfast and settle for a healthier option. Although I would scoff at her advice when she gave it, since I would have much rather snacked on a box of candy than a bag of almonds, I have grown to appreciate the knowledge that she has shared with me.

Once I was finally motivated enough, I signed up for a gym membership and made a goal to go at least three times a week. 20 minutes on the elliptical seemed like an eternity for the first couple of weeks but eventually my body started to get used to it and the task became less agonizing. When you’re out of shape it is easy to be discouraged after your first workout. Everything seems so difficult, but if you stick with it, you’ll find out that it becomes a little bit less horrible each time and eventually you may even enjoy it.

When I started to lose weight and gain muscle, I could feel the difference. When my pants weren’t too tight around my hips and my form fitting shirts didn’t make me feel like a human muffin, I realized that I never wanted to go back to being unhealthy. Now, I’m not saying that I’m the most health-conscious person in the world. I always have and always will love candy and sweets, so I often have a difficult time saying no to sugar. That’s why working out is so great, I pretty much only workout so that I can occasionally indulge in the types of foods which I know are not good for me. To me, dieting is much less effective than exercise. Diet is an important part, but without exercise you won’t be able to burn fat, build muscle and tone. It’s also important to be realistic when you set a weight loss goal for yourself. You can’t look at pictures of someone who is anatomically smaller than you and think that you can workout and make your body look like theirs. You have to be realistic and focus on creating the best version of yourself.

Here are some of the major steps I’ve taken towards living a healthier lifestyle;

NO SODA

This was my first big step towards a healthier diet and it was no easy task. I was huge fan of soda and energy drinks. I would sometimes have multiple energy drinks in one day and also found myself going through drive thru’s just to satisfy my craving for a soda. I slowly switched from coke to diet coke, and regular to sugar free energy drinks. Eventually I was able to stop drinking them all together and it turns out I have more energy without the energy drinks. Now my go-to drinks consist only of water, flavored sparkling water, tea and coffee.

NO FAST FOOD

Fast food is a quick and easy alternative. Unfoturnately nothing worth having is ever easy and if you want to be fit you have to say no to the french fries and hello to a homemade meal. Saying no to fast food was one of my biggest steps toward a healthier lifestyle. I used to eat fast food almost every day. Especially when I was old enough to drive, I took full advantage of my drivers license and went straight to the Taco Bell drive thru for lunch. Not only was it easy, but it was also cheap. The problem with fast food is that it has no real nutrition. Shortly after eating it, I found myself hungry again. I stopped eating anywhere with a drive thru once I realized how unhealthy their meals really were. The few exceptions I made were el pollo loco, because they have much healthier options and of course I still couldn’t resist the occasional trip to In N Out.

LEARN TO LOVE SALAD

Salads don’t have to be gross and unsatisfying. When I started to learn how to make delicious salads they became my go-to meal. I like to prepare my ingredients before hand so that when I get hungry, it makes it easier for me to quickly throw a yummy salad together. I peel and chop a cucumber/red onion/bell pepper (or any other salad-appropriate vegetable) and place them in ziplock baggies at the beginning of the week. I also like to cook chicken breasts, cut them into strips and keep them in a tupperware container. When I get hungry, I pull out my spring mix add my veggies and some chicken strips for protein. Then I’ll top it off with a little bit of feta cheese, avocado and a light champagne dressing. YUM! Quick and easy. Salads are just one of many delicious healthy options to prepare. I love finding new recipes that taste good and are actually good for me. (Stay tuned for some blog posts with my favorite recipes in the near future.)

WORKOUT

The hardest part is getting started. Once you get a routine going you can eventually add extra distance to your cardio or extra reps to your weight training. I have never pushed myself to the point of feeling sick because I don’t want a bad experience to keep me from continuing to workout.  I started out doing a mile of cardio every day and eventually that turned into two miles. Don’t forget to add the weight training. Using weight machines can be confusing, but I recommend risking making yourself look like an idiot trying to adjust that seat because the machines are really helpful when you’re not sure where to start. You can simply look at the picture and description on the side of the machine and start building the muscles that you don’t normally use. Learn to love your soreness… weights will leave your body feeling.. well.. in pain, especially two days after an intense workout. It may be miserable at first but you’ll learn to love this feeling once you start to feel your body change. You’ll know that soreness is just the not so subtle reminder that you have done a good job and your body is on it’s way to becoming stronger.

DRINK MORE WATER

This one pretty much says it all. Just drink a lot of water. You may have to pee more often but your body will thank you for it.

Our trip across the country

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It was an early morning in July… we had our whole lives packed into a 5′ by 8′ Uhaul trailer and we were ready to begin our first major journey as husband and wife.

The day before we left consisted of a lot of packing and a lot of goodbyes. This was the hardest part for me because my family and friends are a very important part of my life. Although I was excited about finally beginning this new adventure, I was also scared. This would be my first time living anywhere other than the city that I had lived for my whole life and I wasn’t sure if I was truly ready for it. What I came to realize once we made it here and settled in, is that we are never really ready to do the things that scare us, were simply thrown into new situations and forced to learn how to live with them.

Now, when you think about a road trip across the country, you probably think that there are a plethora of cool places and things to look at along the way but this was not the case.. at least for us. Sure, we could have stopped at the grand canyon or the petrified forrest, but this would have taken us an hour off course meaning we wouldn’t get to our hotel until after check-in time. Unfortunately, our trip was mostly filled with wide open ranges and long stretches of road. This was not all bad though, because when we did finally reach a big city or anything more interesting than cows and grass, it made it even more exciting and we would look around at everything that we could possibly see to try and take it all in. As much as we would have loved to stop and explore different cities, we were also eager to get to our new home and we were trying to keep from spending too much money on hotels along the way. Originally we had planned on only stopping two nights, once in Albuquerque and once in Memphis but we quickly realized that this was not a very realistic plan when we began to experience the time skipping ahead an hour each day we drove. If we stuck to our original plan we would have made it to our new home the night of our third day of driving with no bed or keys to enter our apartment. So, in our better judgment we decided to reserve a hotel for the third night as well.

It took us four days to reach our destination and each day was filled with many different sights and emotions. The bulk of my post will be split into four pieces, (one for each day) and I’ll describe what kind of things we experienced.

Day 1: California, Arizona and New Mexico. 

Back to that early morning in July,  we got in the truck and headed off with our Uhaul filled to the brim, our bag of road trip snacks, and our dog Skippy. We were headed to New Mexico for the night and we were just a few miles away from Arizona when we got a speeding ticket, unfortunately if we would have already been in Arizona we wouldn’t have been speeding since the limit is higher there. The CHP wouldn’t give us a break but we wouldn’t let his $300 speeding ticket ruin our trip, so we kept going and ignored the ticket… but did NOT ignore any of the speed limit signs from that point on. We passed through Arizona and into New Mexico as the night began to fall. About an hour before we got to our destination in Albuquerque, we drove right through a lightning/thunder storm which was quite possibly the most frightening part of the whole trip (aside from the cicada bug that attacked me while I was trying to find a place to pee in Arkansas). The worst part about the storm wasn’t that I was scared of it but that at that exact moment it began to hit me that my life was about to change drastically. Blake must have seen that I was uncomfortable because he took my hand and comforted me, letting me know that he was proud of me because he was fully aware that this was something I would have been way too scared to do if it were only a year ago. This was what gave me the strength to continue our trip confident that I was embarking on an adventure with someone who was sure to take care of me.

Day 2: New Mexico, Texas, Oklahoma, Arkansas and Tennessee.

The second day was the longest, consisting of about 15 hours of driving. New Mexico and Texas were nothing but wide open ranges. We stopped once in Texas taking a very risky lunch break at a gas station/burger joint near the freeway. The service was slow… like really slow, but I assume that’s because there was only one lady who must have been been in her late 60’s cooking the burgers. It turned out that she was a master griller because those burgers were delicious. We stopped in Oklahoma for an oil change which added another hour or so to our trip, this was when I started  to realize how drastically different the weather was on this side of the country and how spoiled I have been my whole life for being raised in a place where humidity is a rarity. As we were waiting for the oil change to be done, we walked to a nearby Starbucks and it began to rain. I felt sticky and sweaty and at that exact moment that I knew I wouldn’t be spending a lot of time outside. We approached Arkansas as it got dark and stopped for gas as we would every couple of hours or so. The place we stopped did not have a bathroom and neither did the Taco Bell/KFC that was across the street. As I was searching for a large bush to hide behind I started to hear bug noises.. but not just any bug noises. These were noises I had never heard before, noises that sounded like they should be in the background of a suspenseful scary movie. Just as I was headed towards a bush, the most terrifying creature flew right at my head making the loudest clacking noise I’ve ever heard from a bug and once I got a good look at it, I decided I would be better off holding it in for the next two hours. I later came to find out that this was a cicada beetle and unfortunately they also reside in North Carolina, right in our backyard.  (I still freak out when I take Skippy on a walk and hear one of their creepy noises in a nearby tree.) We ended our second day of driving in Memphis, Tennessee. This was the night we realized that the time change was taking a toll on us and we needed to sleep in the next morning and extend our trip another half of a day.

Day 3: Tennessee, Mississippi, Alabama, and Georgia.

On the third morning we took our time getting back on the road and also stopped at a nearby Starbucks as we had every morning since we left thanks to my brother who gifted us a very generous amount of Starbucks gift cards. We weren’t in Tennessee very long as we only drove through the southern west corner of the state, soon we were in Mississippi and driving through a rain storm that would pass just as quickly as it began. Rain was another thing I realized I’d better get used to since it occurs much more often over here than on the west coast. Mississippi was pretty but for whatever reason it was Alabama that really stood out to me, everything was so green and beautiful. We thought about staying the night in Atlanta, Georgia but after a quick internet search of the crime rate in the area, we decided to go a little further and stay in Augusta, thus shortening our final day of driving. By the third night we were both on edge, the only thing we had eaten that day were bagels from Starbucks and the time flew three hours ahead of what we were used to. Traveling with an animal is never easy, even one as small as Skippy.  Having him with us made it hard to stop anywhere to eat a good meal since I wasn’t willing to leave him in the car, especially with the increase in humidity. We were starting to get on each others nerves when we couldn’t agree on a place to eat OR find a place that was open after 9pm OR that had outside seating so that Skippy could come. Finally, we agreed upon takeout from a nearby buffalo wild wings. We got to our hotel, ate our food, watched a funny movie and all was well again.

Day 4: Georgia, South Carolina and FINALLY North Carolina. 

Our final day of driving was the shortest, but it still seemed to take forever for us to reach our new home since we were so excited to get there. We quickly noticed the endless amount of pine forests stretching along each side of the freeway. Pine trees are the new Palm trees! We finally got to our new apartment and it was just as nice as we could have hoped. We quickly ran out to find a mattress so that we wouldn’t have to sleep on the floor our first night. With help from our roommate and his wonderful family we moved all of our belongings into our apartment in no time. And then… we were finally able to open all of our awesome wedding presents.

This trip was an experience I will never forget. It was the longest period of time I had ever spent in a car and the farthest I had ever traveled from home. But most importantly, it was a great bonding experience for Blake and I as a newly married couple,  somewhat of a testament to our relationship with one another. There are very few people I could stand to be stuck in a car with for even a few hours of driving. Luckily I married someone who keeps life interesting and there is never a dull moment.