Meet Honey!

This post is so exciting for me to write because our little family of three just became a family of four! I wanted to explain within this post of how this spontaneous decision of adding another puppy to the mix came to be.

After getting Mozza in March of 2017, we knew we were going to be a two dog family. We loved having a fun puppy to watch grow up and felt it always brought excitement to the day. He was (and still is) a handful! But we definitely felt like he needed a friend. Besides, when we went to pick out a puppy the first time, I wanted a girl puppy but Jared fell hard for the rambunctious Mozzarella. So of course I was going to eventually demand a girl!

We originally talked about getting another puppy directly after I graduated since that would be the perfect time for training. I was only working part time since the wedding was coming up and I would be home for most of the day. That’s how it was with Mozza and it made it easier for us and for him. We started searching around and we could only find puppies available in Ohio or Texas. And since we live in Virginia, that was way too far to travel for a puppy. We found a couple located a short drive away, but they were ready to come home late August, and since we got married the beginning of September, we didn’t think it would be right to get a puppy right before leaving for a honeymoon. So we put it on the back burner.

Two days before the end of our Ithaca adventure, we face-timed my sister to see Mozza. We both were missing him so much and started reminiscing about when he was a small puppy. That’s when I remembered that all of the puppies we originally looked at were located north. I pulled out my laptop without saying a word to Jared, and started searching. He asked what I was doing and once I told him, with a smile on his face he said “do it!”

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Honey the day we brought her home

It took a couple of hours and process of elimination to decide on what dog would be best. We knew we wanted a bigger dog than what Mozza is and any dog we got had to be hypo-allergenic due to my allergies. That’s when we decided on “Jasmine” the goldendoodle. She was brown with pretty white fur on her tummy and face. I saw that the breeder’s number was listed in the description and I shot her a text even though it was 10:15 p.m. I immediately got a response saying that Jasmine had been sold earlier that morning, but her sister was still left. She sent us a picture of Honey and I instantly fell in love. I thought back when we got Mozza and how he wasn’t the puppy we originally went to see, but instead he was the one we were meant to have. Everything happens for a reason and both Mozza and Honey were meant to be O’Hara’s.

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Once it was time to check out of our airbnb, instead of driving to New York City for the night, we drove to Ohio to pick up our new baby. It was a long, anxious drive because I was scared we would travel all the way there to discovery she wasn’t right for our family. When we finally pulled up to the house, there was Honey running full force off the porch, stumbled, and face planted. That’s when I knew she was the puppy for us (lol). She was fat, fluffy, and super sweet and playful. So we put her in the car and started home. We didn’t tell anyone about her before making the decision to keep her. We wanted to surprise our family, especially our young niece and nephew. They all thought we were crazy since Mozza still acted as though he was a puppy himself. And trust me, having two dogs is so much different than one!

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Now, were all getting used to the new normal. Mozza is learning to share and is warming up to having a friend to play with at all times. Jared and I are remembering the little training tricks we used with Mozza, and Honey is learning that were her new family. Jared and I are so excited to watch her grow up to be a cuddly, red teddy bear!

Always,

learnandbewithme

Our Ithaca Honeymoon

Denial. That is my current state when it comes to the wedding being over and done. LIKE, WHAT?! Months and months of planning, a full week of wedding festivities, a short ceremony and reception, and just like that it’s all over! Jared and I are so excited for our future and these past couple of weeks have been a dream.

When it came to our honeymoon, we were indifferent about a lot of things. We originally booked a trip to Punta Cana and then eventually cancelled the trip to save money for a house. We decided a trip such as that one would be well spent on our one year anniversary. That’s when we decided to go south to Savannah, Georgia. A place I have never been and have always wanted to experience. We were going to go to a cute bed and breakfast, roam around the city, and take in the cute southern scenery. Due to hurricane Florence making her appearance a few days after the wedding, she spoiled our plans of heading south to the Atlantic.

The Sunday after our wedding we were sitting on the couch still unaware of where we would be going for our honeymoon. We both had a week off of work and knew we would go somewhere, but completely oblivious to where that was. We decided somewhere close enough to drive was important, but not somewhere too far that it takes a whole day to travel. We knew we wanted to go north to avoid the hurricane, and we wanted it to be somewhere both of us have never been. That’s when we decided on Ithaca, New York.

It was only a 7 hour drive from Richmond, had beautiful wildlife, and was a complete mystery to both of us. It was perfect. We woke up Monday morning with no plans other than an airbnb to stay in. We had no idea what to expect and didn’t even know if there would be anything worth seeing, but we were just excited to be together and enjoying our honeymoon.

Ithaca just happened to be home to 150 waterfalls and we made sure to see as many as we could. Our airbnb was a short drive to Cornell University (if you’re a huge fan of The Office like me, than this is exciting to you) and it was full of incredible, historical buildings. The Ithaca Commons had many restaurants and bars worth visiting, and don’t get me started on how many wineries and breweries are a short distance of each other. Some of the wineries we visited were Hosmer, Americana (and Bacchus brewery), and the Thirsty Owl (which was my favorite).

One of the best parts of the whole trip was the back yard of our airbnb. In the mornings when we would sit down for breakfast, we’d stare out the grand window that looked out to the back yard and watch deer graze the land. There were multiple doe and one buck that roamed the land in search of yummy food while we kept very quiet and still to watch them do so. Ithaca was anything but planned and we had no idea what to expect, but I would go back in a heartbeat. It was beautiful and the perfect kind of relaxed and active environment we were hoping to experience for our honeymoon.

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Always,

learnandbewithme

 

Engagement Photos With V!

I originally posted our engagement photos just as a simple post that acted as a photo album. But then I decided I wanted to talk about our whole experience because it honestly was amazing and I couldn’t have loved our photographer more!

We decided an urban scene best fit our interests since our relationship started in Richmond and it’s where we currently live and love to explore. I had every intension of capturing our pictures walking up and down Monument Avenue, but while driving to meet our photographer, I decided to change it to Meadow Street last minute. There were beautiful pink colored houses, cobble stone alleys, and a quaint little park all within three blocks.

Our photographer Veronica Martinez was so sweet and had no problem switching locations up. She drove all the way from Florida to take our (and a couple of other couple’s) engagement photos, so that simply was amazing of her! We then started up and down the street where she captured the most beautiful photos of Jared and me for our wedding book.

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We had to postpone the session at least three times due to bad/cold weather. I felt like winter would never end! Since summer decided to hold out as long as it could, I was actually freezing the entire time (lol). Jared was constantly warming me up by rubbing his hands up and down my arms, which she ended up catching in a few snap shots.

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One of the best part’s of the whole experience was when we were taking a few pictures in front of someone’s house with beautiful yellow flowers, when the owner came out and explained how she had a bunch more in the back that would be much prettier. So she escorted us to the backyard where we got the most stunning shots!

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Veronica was so great at making us feel comfortable in front of the camera (which isn’t something either of us are naturals at!) She got us to tell her stories that resulted in laughing fits, she had us play little games (like humming a song and the other had to guess what it was; and randomly I went with Mrs. New Booty? lol), and had us feeling excited and even happier by the end of it.

She was super flexible with locations as well, she willingly drove to where it all started just so we could get a reenactment of our first kiss!

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Yes, our first kiss was in front of a diner where I’m sure a million people saw us….haha

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Veronica will be doing our wedding photos as well and were so excited to see what she creates then! If you are ever looking for someone to do your wedding or engagement photo’s, we highly recommend Photography by V!

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Always,

learnandbewithme

Get To Know Me!

Hi everyone!

I’m Tori and if you’re here then you have discovered my blog. Yay! I know that if it were me stumbling upon a new blog, reading posts from someone I may or may not know, I would want to learn a little bit about that person. So here it goes!

I’m currently in my last semester of college where I will be graduating with an English degree. Shocking, I know, that an English major would create their very own space of ideas. That’s exactly why I am here to be completely honest. I find myself wanting to write things down often in times of stress, happiness, boredom, etc. I have kept a journal on and off for years where I would write down just about anything I could think of. I would find myself sitting for hours just writing page on page about what happened that day or just recalling an old memory I might have. I’ve even have dreams and aspirations of maybe writing my own book one day! I have no idea what the genre of that book will be, nor how I would BS my way through it. Seeing as I have never had any real experiences with writing other than lousy research papers. One day we shall see. Until then, this is exactly what I want to be doing.

A little bit more about my hobbies and passions would be focused on my family, the gym, and lifestyle! Not only do I want a place I can come and be creative and let my ideas and thoughts be free, but I also want a place to share knowledge I have learned or experienced with the people who choose to stick around and hear what I have to say. I am currently engaged to the most wonderful man I have ever had the pleasure of doing life with. So that in itself is a big life change that we can go through together. Becoming a single woman just trying to make it through school without falling into a pit of despair, to becoming a woman with another last name and going on this journey with another human by my side at all times. It’s so magical to think about. When it comes to my fitness journey in life I have been a dedicated lifter for four years now. I am very passionate about exercising and health and I would love to share that with you all through this nice little portal I’ve created. Lastly, I hope that this blog can create a safe place for me to allow my dreams and ideas to flourish. I love expressing myself through home decorating, planting (although, my green thumb is not there, but I hope some day to better that), cooking, and writing.

I want to be here to inspire all of you to go outside of your comfort zone and to try new things. Because believe me, this is really pushing myself out of the box! Every one of us has talents that we are not aware exist, and you will never know of those talents if you don’t try new things. So lets learn and be together.

Dealing With Difficult Neighbors

Jared and I moved into our newlywed apartment back in April and we LOVE so much about this place. We like that its quieter, has years of character, and has a fenced in back yard for Mozza. After having a rough six months of living with Jared’s family, we finally found an apartment we could call home for the next few years until we could save for a house.

Until we met our neighbors…

It’s three older women living right behind our very thin walls, and they have made it very clear that they do not like us. It’s a grandmother, her daughter, and her daughter’s daughter all living under one roof in a house that they have probably owned for years. If I were in my 50’s and 80’s I wouldn’t be so happy about a young couple moving next door either. With the partying, laziness, and assumed drunken nights we would be living, they had false assumptions about us from the get-go. But if you know Jared and I, then you know that this is rarely the case. I mean, we did move into an apartment because it seemed quiet and safe for our dog baby….

Without going into too much detail about all the nasty ways they have expressed their disliking for us, let’s just say that after only six months of living in our apartment our neighbors sent in a complaint to our leasing office and had us fined for $30. Claimed it was for the “excessive barking of our dog” (even though we hear their dogs barking constantly)… We’re fine, everything is FINE! *sheds tear*

So if you are like us and are renting (or own your home) and have issues with your neighbors, I figured this post could help you!

Calm Your Enthusiasm and Think About the Basics

Jared and I were so eager to move in that we forgot to think about the basics of apartment shopping. Think about the area and the people surrounding it. Does your life style compliment theirs? Do you have a dog who barks every time the mailman pays a visit or loves to bark at squirrels? Then you might want to consider finding a place with thicker walls between you and your neighbors. For us, our issues emerged because on the weekends we like to enjoy our backyard with friends, but our neighbors go to bed much earlier than us. Even if you know you’re being quiet and respectful of those around you, your neighbors might be way more sensitive to the subject.

Consider Asking the Old Tenants of the History

Shortly after moving in, I had my first incident with the youngest woman next door. One morning, after having a few friends over the night before, she stuck her head over the fence and yelled at me with very foul language accusing me of something I never said. The next week the old tenant dropped by to pick up his mail that hadn’t gotten changed yet and I was so tempted to ask him about his experience with the neighbors. I felt embarrassed to ask and never did, and it’s one of my biggest regrets while living here. I feel like a lot of other incidences could have been avoided if I looked into this while searching for apartments to rent.

Make Nice Quick

Since the moment I moved in, I had been nice with my neighbors. I introduced myself, said hi and waved every time I saw them, and even had conversations with one of the ladies. But if I had put a little more effort into getting to know them, they might have thought twice before sending in the complaint. Ever since the youngest daughter yelled at me, I had avoided their presence like the plague. I averted eye contact, stopped waving, and gave up on saying hi completely. This inevitably resulted in more hatred towards us. What I suggest doing once moving into a new place is to inform your neighbors of who you are and what they have to expect of you. If we would have just told them that we had a small dog who likes to bark at _______, ______, & ______ then they might have looked past it. Also, if we would have explained where we are in life, such as newly engaged, getting married, and finding our place in our careers, then they might have had different assumptions about us than that were just a young couple looking to party every weekend.

If You Have Issues, Report It First

My last piece of advice is certainly the most important one. After months of disputes and feeling unwelcome in my own home, I never reported their inappropriate behavior to the landlord. And there was definitely some issues! They yelled at my sister, friends, and myself. Banged on our walls causing Mozza to be even more upset. They complained about our friends being over, and I even found them peeping through my door and disturbing the peace of my dog and me while I was home alone. I never reported these incidences because I wanted to make peace and move past them since we are stuck living next to each other for the next eight months. But because I didn’t record this, they were able to complain on us for silly reasons and our landlord had no reason to believe that we aren’t the true disturbances.

Neither Jared and I have ever had such serious issues with neighbors before. And Jared has had four different apartments in Richmond since he was 19! These are the best advice tips I could come up with relating to the issues. If anyone has more tips or stories to share, I would love to read about them in the comments! Obviously this isn’t fun circumstance to be going through, but I hope after reading this I can help other tenants, like myself, avoid unnecessary drama from their neighbors/roommates!

Always,

learnandbewithme

FabFitFun Review

This past winter Jared surprised me with a subscription to FabFitFun for a Valentines/anniversary gift, and I couldn’t be more grateful about it. In February I received my first box, that was supposed to lead me into the season of spring, and after it arrived in the mail, it felt like Christmas or my birthday all over again! It was so exciting to discover what was inside and after opening my first box, I knew the summer edition had to be documented.

If you haven’t heard of FFF before, it is a subscription for a seasonal box filled with merchandise that fit your preference at a discounted price. Each box is $49.99, but the value of the items are way more than what you spend on the subscription. For example, the summer 2018 box was worth $367.99 with all the items I received. And each lotion, makeup, face cleanser, etc. is the full size sold in stores! They don’t send you the cheap travel size or the testers. They’re all the real deal. What more could you want?! The best part about what is inside, is that it’s all products that you wish you had, but couldn’t justify spending $50+ on. It’s treating yourself without emptying your whole wallet.

When you sign up for FFF, you answer questions about yourself so they are more aware of what you would want to receive in your box. They ask what kind of skin you have, that being sensitive, oily, combination, etc. They also ask you what your hobbies might be and if you enjoy things like makeup and exercising. They ask your size in clothing, and if you rather have lipstick or eyeliner. Literally anything you can think of, they ask. This is to ensure that what your receiving in your box isn’t unsatisfying to you and your wants. So far, with the last two boxes, I haven’t been disappointed in what I was given, and I get excited about every product presented to me. I love every time I get an email saying it has shipped, and I would highly recommend purchasing it for yourself, or sending it as a gift to a friend or family member! Who doesn’t love treating themselves?

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First off, how cute is the box itself? So colorful and fun, it can put anyone in the summer time spirit! Each box comes with a mini magazine explaining all of the products and the original price. It also has some great tips on how to use the items and beauty tips.

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One of the coolest parts about this box is that it came with a cardboard straw that says “this straw saves marine life.” Inside the magazine is a note from the Wildlife Conservation Society on the harmful use of plastic straws. Giving up straws has been one of the hardest adjustments in my day to day life, but I try my best to help limit the waste of plastic for our environment. I even have a few metal straws to supplement when I can!

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This seasonal box was full of lotions! My box came with a brightening exfoliator, a papaya enzyme mask, organic sunscreen, and a muscle gel.

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I haven’t gotten around to trying this product yet, but I am always excited to try a new exfoliator! The original price of this Vasant brighten up enzymatic face rejuvenator is $45. That right there in itself was almost as much as the whole box all together!

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I tried this peel last night for the first time after my shower. It was interesting to me because it felt more like a gel than a mask like I am used to. You apply it to dry skin for ten minutes and then rinse with warm water. It went on clear, and smelt wonderful. It definitely left my skin feeling refreshed and smooth.

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Okay, this was by far the coolest thing I got from this box. It is a Foreo Luna fofo face cleanser that has the ability to detect your skin type, how to improve your skin, and what age you are, all by using it when you wash your face. There is a free downloadable app that goes with it when using the product. I haven’t had the chance to use it yet because my face wash is grainy, and it suggest not using it if that is the case to avoid damaging it, but I am so excited to give it a try. It uses Bluetooth technology to know when you have successfully cleaned your skin and helps you through the app the whole way. The original price of the fofo is $89!

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I’ve heard of this product before and was always curious to whether it was worth the money or not. I used it before working out in the yard this afternoon, and so far no sunburn! It’s not thick like a lot of other sunscreens which means its quick to apply and doesn’t leave your skin feeling oily. The price of Coola sunscreen is $32.

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How cute is this ring holder from Pier 1? No one could ever have enough ring holders throughout the house. I like to keep them in my bathroom and bedroom for when I need to shower or take my jewelry off for the night. This ring holder goes for $14.99 in stores.

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Tarte is a product that is all the rage right now. A lot of the Instagramer’s and YouTuber’s that I follow can’t stop talking about how much they love their Tarte markup. I even had bought my own Tarte highlighter to test out. And I can’t forget to mention how amazing it smells! Every product so far smells like sweet coco. This Tarteist Pro glow highlighter and contouring palette is the perfect accessory to anyone’s makeup bag. The price for this palette is originally $45.

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This aromatherapy lotion is meant for de-stressing over-worked muscles and joints. It’s made from essential oils that are known to help calm and warm your body. It has ingredients such as rosemary, black pepper, lavender, and ginger. You simply apply the cream to your overworked muscles and massage it into the skin. It will do the rest for you! A bottle this size goes for $39.

Again, I am amazed with these boxes and the products that come inside. The fact that the box is only $49.99 a season, with full priced products, is worth it for sure. I will continue to subscribe to FabFitFun and I’m so excited to see what is in store for the future shipments!

Always,

learnandbewithme

What Four Years of College Has Taught Me

I’m in complete awe at the fact that I am sitting here, as a college graduate, writing about what the last four years has thought me, even though it was nearly impossible to see the end. Last Saturday I had the privilege to walk across the stage (that was technically just the front of a church) to receive my diploma of completion in school and it essentially started the beginning of my forever. W H A T   T H E   H E L L! I remember plain as day being an eighteen year old walking onto the campus of a community college and registering for classes, having no idea what to expect. It was only one year later that I worked up the courage to stop settling and apply to a four year college attending Virginia Commonwealth University. I originally attended community college to save money and figure out what I wanted to do with myself, but I also knew that I needed to push myself out of my comfort zone in order to succeed. One month later I found myself turning in VCU’s application and I received my acceptance letter in the mail of April 2015. VCU is where I made my home for the next four years and where my heart will forever live even long after I am gone.

My constant remark made about college is, “I’ve learned more in college than I have the entirety of my life” but when that question is followed by “well, what did you learn?” my immediate response is, “I have no idea.” This sums up my college experience to a T.  Within this post I will try my hardest to express what four years of studying, writing papers, reading hundreds of books, late night group projects, and crying over literally everything has taught me and made me the woman I am today.

No One Knows What the Heck They Are Doing

Or I should say, I don’t know what the heck I am doing, and that’s okay! My senior year of high school the question of what I wanted to go to school for was very prominent in my life and became a very scary topic to talk about. When I spoke of being a journalist for National Geographic or moving to California to start my own fashion magazine, my dreams were shot down so quick I couldn’t even finish the sentence. I look back at that now and I think, yeah I was shooting a little too high, but damn, If I had the encouragement I could have been there by now. In all seriousness though, I pursued the path of becoming a high school English teacher from the beginning of my college journey. I was always told I would be a good teacher and people always said they could see me conducting a classroom, although I was not too fond of the thought that I would be in a school my whole life, I was sure the more I worked towards it the more I would be excited about it.

I continued on with the English and writing path and found myself to be very good at what I was doing. I struggled in so many classes due to lack of interest, but my English classes never failed to amaze me. I was receiving mostly A’s in all of my major courses and knew I was exactly where I needed to be. When it came to my education classes, I couldn’t really say the same. Fast forward to my first semester of my senior year, and I was completely done with the thought of teaching high school students or being anywhere near a school for that matter. I starting hating my education class and dreaded filling out the graduate school application. I was terrified I was letting myself and my family down. My fiance had always been so proud of me for knowing exactly what I wanted to do and sticking to it. Especially with how common it is for undergraduates to change their major every five months. But with much thought and a lot of tears, I had decided against grad school and will pursue the path of an English major, and I’ve never been so happy about it. I finally feel free to express my true passion of reading and writing without the assumption that you have to be a teacher to do it. So, the first lesson, and it is one that came much later in school, is that it is completely, 100% okay if you have no idea what you are going to do with the degree you have. You should just be proud of yourself for completing the degree in one piece.

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Just a couple of English majors reading in a pumpkin patch

You Can Be Drunk and Still Get an A

You can’t be considered an alcoholic if you’re still in college! 

College is a stressful time in someone’s life, especially if you’re juggling relationships, jobs, and a social life all at the same time. School is more expensive and a lot harder than when our parents were in school, so remember that when they say you’re just complaining and they went to school uphill, both ways, with no shoes on. But something that I have learned with this stress is that it is okay to let lose every now and then and have a couple of drinks. There have been many times that I take a break from studying to enjoy a margarita with my friends, or finished my homework just in time for wine Wednesday’s and thirsty Thursday’s. And we can’t forget those nights you’ve had one too many Miller Lights and you remember that assignment is due at midnight. You just simply places yourself in a quite corner and knock that assignment out like a boss. When you get the assignment back with a fat ‘A’ stamped on the front with a note from your professor saying, “I love the creativity!” you know you’ve made it. College has truly thought me the juggling act of partying and getting work done efficiently, and not being judged for drinking a little too much; because remember, college is the only time in your life where it is acceptable to be hungover the next day in class.

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Champagne to celebrate my graduation

You’re No Better Than Anyone Else

Once you move on to the continuation of your education, you start to notice those who didn’t make that same decision as you. You’ll notice the same students you went to high school with are working a full time job without taking classes on the side, some got married and started their families, and some are chilling at their parent’s house trying to decide what their next move is. Being at a university can create condescending personalities, and I’ve found myself  being guilty of this negative trait a time or two. It’s hard not to when everyone around you is judging those who aren’t going to college to better themselves. They say that they’ll never get a real job without a degree and they messed up not going to school. But I am here to tell you that just because you attend a four year college does not make you better than anyone else.

College cost money; money that most students aren’t even paying themselves without the help of loans or their parent’s savings accounts. Not everyone has the privilege to attend a college and not everyone is inspired enough to go. I am the first child out of four kids to graduate with a degree, and the first one in my family entirely. My parents are the two wisest people I know, and they didn’t need college to achieve that. Even with my degree I will always look for their guidance and knowledge in life to help me succeed and to be a better person. You might be working hard in a classroom everyday to create better opportunities for yourself, but someone is doing the same out in the workforce getting a completely different experience and knowledge than yourself. Working hard is important and don’t sell yourself short of an opportunity, but open your eyes to learning from others no matter where they come from, their background, or what degrees they hold. I will never encourage someone to skip out of going to college, because the knowledge I have gained in those classrooms has been life changing, and I believe everyone has the ability to succeed in school. But that doesn’t mean that I would ever judge someone for not going to a university because my degree will never make me superior to anyone else. It simply just makes me different than others. I appreciate the diversity in my family and in my peers and I take time to learn as much from them as I can. I can only hope that others would take time to learn from me.

 

Obviously these aren’t the only lessons I have learned after spending thousands of dollars in school, but I like the think they are the most important ones. Yes, even the lesson on being drunk and getting an ‘A’. The fact of the matter is, I have learned so much at my time at VCU that it would be impossible to list them all. I have experienced paying bills, how to work through issues, and built relationships and let go of old ones. All in all I have become the woman I want to be; educated, understanding, and loving. Also, I never, NEVER would have made it this far without my family’s encouragement. So don’t forget to thank whoever has pushed you to be your greatest self; they deserve it as much as you do.

Always,

learnandbewithme

My Fitness Journey

Fitness journeys are all the rage in social media right now with people telling their stories of how they lost 60 pounds, found themselves through yoga, or how this new fad diet changed their life. I definitely fit into this category of life changing discovery through fitness, but in a much different way than a lot of my peers at the time.

Starting from the beginning, I cheered for the four years while attending high school and that was my source of activity that kept me in shape. I was a late bloomer when it came to puberty (I didn’t hit puberty until the middle of my freshman year!) so I came into high school relatively slim and a lack of a woman’s figure. Once I started my senior year I found that I was putting on weight much faster than I could keep up with maintaining. Once cheerleading season was over, it left me with almost no physical activity at all. By the end of my high school career, I was close to 150 pounds and didn’t really feel confident in my own body.

(Left: my freshman year of high school , right: beginning of freshman year of college)

I would never consider myself ‘fat’ or ‘ugly’ by any means. I was just simply not satisfied with my health or my physical ability. I never had a gym membership or the knowledge to know what I had to do to reach the goal I wanted to achieve. The summer before my first year of college I can remember getting out my journal and writing down how I was uncomfortable with how I let myself go. I wasn’t eating healthy options, I wasn’t exercising enough, and I had put on a lot of weight in the span of three years. I wanted a change. So I wrote in my journal that I was going to become the ‘best me’. I started jogging around my neighborhood for about thirty minutes a day and then practicing ab routines for a cool down. I found my brother’s old dumbbell weights in the attic and would do bicep curls and squats. This is all I knew how to do and I resulted to Pinterest ‘at home routines’ and thought that was enough. I changed my diet to eating ‘healthier,’ but I didn’t understand what portion control was.

About a month into freshman year, I met Jared. We exchanged numbers and during the ‘getting to know you’ phase, I sent a text saying, “brb, gotta go workout.” He was very intrigued because he was attracted to athletic girls who took care of themselves and wanted to know more about my normal workout routine. I explained what I did, and after that he probably concluded that I had no idea what I was talking about. This is when he mentioned lifting weights and how I should think about getting into it. My first initial thought was, “no way! I’m not going to become manly just for some guy to like me!” But I told him I’d give it some research. He suggested some YouTube videos of lifters who he would occasionally watch and I gave them a shot. Flash forward to a few weeks and my best friend and I started planning days to go to the gym together to test the waters. I even found myself doing research for class projects on why lifting weights as women is so important! I became addicted. Jared and I started lifting and going to the gym together and it eventually became one of our favorite things to do as a couple. I always thought that women who lifted weights ended up with manlier figures. This was very naive of me and with some research and understanding, I came to the realization that muscle mass means strong, not bulky. A little definition never hurt anyone’s self esteem! If anything, seeing more muscle definition has increased my self esteem over the years tremendously.

At this point I then understood what it meant between sets and reps, separate days for each muscle group, how to work each muscle differently, and how often I needed to train to make a difference. After lifting for a year, I went on my very first cut. Jared helped me through it all and encouraged me to keep going when I felt like giving up. He truly helped make a difference in my life. I started my first cut (weight loss) in January of 2016 alongside Jared. I lost a total of 24 pounds through the span of about a year and I never felt better about myself. I became stronger, more confident, and aware of the decisions I was making. I found that I was no longer craving fast food or junk food such as chips or high calorie drinks. I was choosing to go to the gym than to sit on the couch and watch TV all day. I even feel that lifting changed my outlook on education and doing well in school than the usual thoughts I had about just getting by. It taught me hard work pays off, and if I wanted to get to the gym and lift, I knew I had to get my homework and studying completed before doing so.

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The left was from the start of my fitness journey, and the right was one year later

The cut took a lot of dedication and I found it to be very difficult a lot of the times. I had to plan my meals out daily instead of just reaching for the closes thing in the pantry. I would weigh out each food options to make sure I was eating the correct amount per serving and made it to the gym daily. My consistency is what got me to this point in my fitness journey that I am so incredibly grateful for and remain proud of myself everyday. This was results with little to no cardio included and it was only 20% going to the gym and 80% diet. It is so important to understand that it takes time and patience. Results don’t just happen over night. Once I changed my mindset to making it routine in order to feel good each day and forget about waiting on the results, the faster the process felt. One day I just woke up, looked in the mirror, and was amazed with what I saw. It also can’t only be about wanting to look good in a bikini in the summer; you have to want to make a change in your life for your physical and even your mental health. You’ll find that you have more energy, you sleep better, you feel stronger, and you’ll find that it’s easier to make better habits for yourself such as going to the gym consistently and choosing to eat foods that nurture your body. All of these things are what encourages me to keep pushing myself in and outside of the gym.

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Last summer at my lowest weight

Lifting weights is not for everyone, and I’m definitely not saying that’s the only way to reach your goal. It’s about choosing something you’re passionate about (it could be running, yoga, gymnastics, cross fit, literally anything you want) and dedicating time out of your day to practice that. And learning that food is to help your body, not to make you feel bad about yourself for eating. I continue daily to improve my fitness and health due to this realization I had a few years ago and I hope after reading this it will encourage you to start on your own path towards greatness. I’ve never felt more confident in myself like I have the past three years since lifting has come into my life. I look in the mirror and love the way my body looks. I continue to make goals for myself because I know I can reach them with some hard work, knowledge, and dedication.

This blog post was meant to share my fitness journey of where I started to where I am today. For those who may be interested, I will be sure to break down exactly how I reached my goals and tips on how to maintain your muscle and weight in a separate blog post.

Always,

learnandbewithme

New Apartment Tour

If there’s one thing you should know about me, it’s that I am in love with interior decorating. Ever since I was younger, I can remember getting excited about Saturday morning trips to Home Goods or World Market with my mom. I grew up sharing a room with my older sister, but about the time I started high school, my sister had moved out and I got to create a space that was all my own. My mom purchased a beautiful greenish, grey colored bedroom set, a full length mirror to match, and an elegant bedspread all for my new room and I fell head over heels with it. Ever since then, I have continuously re-amped the spaces I have consumed. I asked my dad to build me these sort of floating shelves to put above my bed, and on those shelves I stacked books, plants, little trinkets, anything to add character and personality to the room. Now that I am a grown woman with many rooms to decorate, I find it a privilege to have a whole apartment that I get to illuminate. Oh, and Jared gets a say sometimes too (lol).

This apartment has already become something so close to our hearts. This will be the house we come home to once we finally say our “I do’s” and become Mr. and Mrs. O’Hara. It’s perfect for a young, newlywed couple who enjoys having a few drinks with friends and walking to local stores and restaurants. Just two blocks down from our house we have a popular coffee shop and two of the most cutest secondhand boutiques. And only about four blocks down are all the good bars and restaurants. We have a fenced in back yard for our dog Mozzarella to run around in and a nice back deck for our fire pit evenings. God truly had a plan for us when offering us this safe haven known as our home, and I’m so excited to share that all with you!

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Something that I find so incredible about these old, city houses are the details such as this antique doorknob. They’re attached to these french doors that separate the living area to the dinning area and it has become one of my favorite things about this house.

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Speaking of detail, this brass fireplace cover adds character to the whole living space. The green tile around it isn’t my favorite, but I do enjoy the pop of color it adds to my neutral color pallet.

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The mantle over the fireplace has definitely been the most exciting for me to fill. I’m not completely happy with the look right now, but I can’t ignore the cute books and little Terrrcotta man I found at some antique shops I like to go to. Antiquing and thrifting play huge roles in my decorating. It adds a sense of homeyness to newly purchased items creating a space that looks put together, but also welcoming.

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If you don’t have anything gold in your house, you better get to it! Gold works with a classic style, a modern, bohemian, chic, you name it. Im especially obsessed with gold picture frames if you can’t tell. The small gold frame I found at Goodwill a few years ago and I put a polaroid picture of Jared and I the first summer we started dating inside. The other frame was a gift from Jared’s mom for Christmas with a picture of when we got engaged. These pieces are two of my most cherished items in the whole house and just looking at them gives me the biggest smile on my face.

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My green thumb is something I constantly thrive to improve, and the best way to do that is through practice. I am so proud of these two babes I’ve got soaking up the sun in my living room. The mini tree was a house warming gift from Jared and I’s first apartment, and I’m glad to say that was a year and a half ago and it’s still going strong! The plant on the right has been growing non-stop and I couldn’t be more happy about it. The aloe plant has its own little nook in our main bathroom. Not only do plants purify the air, but they truly brighten up any room. And of course you need little accessories to go with it. You can purchase the plant mister shown above at Urban Outfitters.

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This little woven basket has been so useful for us in our home. Our shoes don’t always make it upstairs where they belong, so placing this basket next to the front door to collect the stragglers has helped me maintain a clean and organized life.

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Surprisingly enough, the bathroom was the first room that was finished in the whole house after we moved in. It has enormous amount of natural light that flows in throughout the day, and the white interior helps brightens the space. Above it shows our ‘his and her’s’ towels that I have displayed behind the door. I’m obsessed with the pink and white combination I used for this room.

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Small black and white patterns, like on the shower curtain, add texture to the space and goes with just about anything. So if you ever get bored of your color scheme and want to change things up, black and white patterns, such as this, will adjust to whatever you would like!

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I guess you truly are an adult when you start getting excited over things like kitchen towels and measuring cups, but seriously how cute is this herbs towel from Target and this pineapple measuring cup from Anthropology? (Unfortunately, they don’t have this measuring cup anymore ). I’m obsessed. Oh, and you can’t forget the fridge! If you want your rented apartment to feel more like home, try adding some polaroid pictures of you, friends, and family to the front of your fridge for you to glance at everyday (especially if you have an old. scratched up fridge like we do).

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While taking photos around the house of my favorite things, I noticed Jared and I’s shoes lying next to the back door. We always need slip on shoes readily available if we need to go out the back door for some reason (usually to drag Mozza inside). The little things such as matching shoes laying side by side in our little home brings me so much joy. I am so incredibly lucky to live the life I have and to have a loving partner who can enjoy these habits with me. Do you and your partner have cute habits together like this, if so, I would love to hear about them 🙂

 

 

Again, I can go on and on about how captivated I am over the details of this house. There’s something so unique about having older pieces in your home that make you appreciate it so much more. This brass colored thermometer on our back porch will last for generations.

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Nothing brightens my day more than walking outside to see that the flowers are blooming for Spring. I’m not sure what flower this is, but a tiny bush along our fence started sprouting these colorful beauties to welcome us into our new home. I can’t wait for the weather to stay consistently warm enough for us to tackle the back yard. We have big plans this summer of growing our own herbs and planting more flowers along the porch.

Although my house is not nearly as decorated as I would like it to be, it’s slowly but surely coming all together. My best advice for decorating a whole house, is to start with one room and focus in on that. You’ll find yourself getting frustrated if you jump from one room to the next. Pick a room you want to redecorate and only work on that room until its completed. Decorating a house doesn’t happen all at once, and it takes time and patience. It could take weeks, months, even years to get it where you want it. It’s more about getting excited for those weekend trips to Home Goods, or taking 20 minutes just to pick out a paint color. If you enjoy the process along with the results, you’ll be a much happier in the items you choose to fill your home with.

Always,

learnandbewithme

How I Managed School and Planning a Wedding at the Same Time

If somebody told me when Jared and I met, that three years down the road I would be preparing myself for graduation and planning our wedding all at the same time, I would have never believed them. But something I have learned through this journey is that life never goes as planned, and I couldn’t be more happy about that! Originally, my advisor didn’t want me to pursue graduating in four years since I was behind from transferring, but that was a goal I was determined to make. After long semesters of 18 credits worth of criteria, I persevered and was informed that I could graduate after only four years of school. Getting closer to the end of my journey, Jared and I were getting more and more impatient about marrying each other. We knew we wanted to be together forever and had dreams of buying a house, owning a farm, and having many kids together. We didn’t want to waste anymore time. I set restrictions on our relationship saying that he had to wait until I graduated to propose because I didn’t want to get caught up in getting married and letting my dream of graduating in four years slip from under me. His original plan was the ask me the day of my graduation to marry him, but like I mentioned above, life never goes as planned and he asked me to be his forever at the start of my last semester of college. Which meant that I had to finish off school, and get to plan a wedding all at the same time, and I wouldn’t want it any other way.

Do Your Research

If you’re newly engaged than the first thing you need to figure out is what your ideal wedding looks like. I created Pinterest Boards, took quizzes about what theme fits my style, and started shopping. The best thing you can do for yourself is find a wedding planning website that fits your needs and sign up immediately. I use TheKnot to organize everything into one platform and used the search engine to find my venue and photographer. It can also assists you with setting a budget and tips on how to stick to it. Which leads me to my next point, set a budget and figure out what is realistic for your dream wedding, and what belongs in your fantasy. I am not a millionaire (sadly) so i can’t afford everything I would ever want and that’s okay! Doing my research first is what has helped me narrow down what I want and need for my wedding later on in the planning process. Trust me, it can get overwhelming, but as long as you are aware of the costs then it will relieve some of that pressure.

If you want to see some of my ideas, check out my Pinterest board!

Start Early

Something that I have found that has helped me through the planning process is to get the major details checked off my list early. I was fortunate enough that I could start planning for our big day during school breaks like our winter break, so I had basically a month to dedicate my time to wedding planning while no school work was required. Setting a date is the most crucial part, so if you plan on getting married within a year of your engagement, than it is never too early to set a date. Once you find a venue you love, pick a date and stick to it. Once you have the date you can order your save-the-dates and get those out whenever you’re ready. Starting early will also help you get the date you want, if you have a specific time in mind, because trust me, you’re not the only one who is engaged and you’re most likely not the only one who wants that specific time period. So the earlier you start, the less likely you’ll have to settle or wait another year to get married.

Get the Big Finances Out of the Way

Okay, I don’t mean blow all of your life savings or spend your entire budget upfront, but start booking the ‘big picture’ things. The good thing about weddings is that you make everything in payments! So as long as you have enough for a down payment, than you’re booked and they save your wedding date and you don’t have to worry about it until the next payment is due. So start scheduling appointments to view the venues and get it booked! Once you have the venue I would focus on finding the band or DJ you prefer, the florist, caterer if your venue doesn’t require you use them for food, who’s making your cake, and most importantly, your dress. If you get those big finances out of the way early, you’ll set yourself up for a less stressful ride.

Step Away from Planning When Necessary

Planning a wedding is one of the most exciting times of your life, but it can also be the most stressful. Thanks to my winter and spring break and some reading days, I really had time to focus on wedding planning outside of school work. But if you’re like me and life is happening all at once, you need to be able to separate the two. I had an online class on Excel worth one credit that was work at your own pace. I had to learn how to operate all the function in each chapter, show up for an exam that you had one chance to pass, and get an 80 to receive the credit. It was essentially the one class that could hold me back from graduating. When it came close to exam time I realized I couldn’t focus on any wedding planning because my time belonged to studying. Which is perfectly fine! It is okay to step back and put planning on hold for awhile. Don’t worry, you’ll still get everything done in time for your big day! I kindly told my family members that I couldn’t answer any wedding questions until my exam was over. That meant no texting about decorations, taking a break from Pinterest, and no emails. Taking a break from planning can also be good for you when it’s something you have been focussing on for months at a time.

Don’t be Scared to Ask for Help

Planning a wedding is no joke, and it will be one of the biggest events you will ever plan. I mean, being a wedding planner is a real job with people out there getting paid everyday to direct it all. But if you want to save money by skipping the wedding planner, you’ll still need to ask for help every once in awhile. My mom, future mother-in-law, and sister have been a tremendous help to me. If I am busy with classes or studying, there is nothing wrong with texting one of them and asking if they can contact so and so, or email this person, or research the price of this or that. Planning a wedding is definitely a full time job, and it’s smart to divide that time between the people who will share that special day with you. It’s important that you ASK for help, not TELL your friends or family what to do. No one is going to want to help you if they see you are becoming a bridezilla and not appreciating their assistance. Lastly, if you have a vision of something you want, tell those who are helping you plan. They aren’t going to know your exact idea if you don’t communicate with them and then you both can get lost from your dream wedding.

Don’t Forget to be in the Moment

Once the dress fittings begin, the save the dates go out, and the decorations start to accumulate, you can’t forget to pay attention to the life you’re living at this very moment and to stop thinking about the future ten months from now. I’m still in school and I have plenty of friends who aren’t on the path of marriage yet. I have to remind myself that it is okay to just be a college student who just wants to drinking $5 margaritas. It’s okay to put off planning and daydreaming if it means spending time with your friends, because you have to remember that they are also starting their new lives and everyone will go their separate ways in the end. I had engagement photos one day and cap and gown photos the next. You can’t forget that you wont get these moments back and everyday of your life is just as important as the day you marry your soul mate.

 

These tips really only apply to you if you’re one, getting married while in school, and two, you’re planning your own wedding rather than opting for a professional planner. Either way, I hope these tips are helpful when it comes to you planning your own big day!

Always,

learnandbewithme

*Image by https://photographybyv.pic-time.com/portfolio*