Friday, August 28, 2015

September Book Club Selection: The Help

Hello, everyone! I have no idea how it's already the end of August. I get so distracted with everything that's going on in my life that time seems to fly right by. Anywho, with the end of another month comes the arrival of a book club selection! For the month of September, I'll be reading The Help by Karthryn Stockett, and I'd love for you all to read along with me!

This novel has been popular for quite some time, and with the release of the 2011 film adaptation, has continued to stay relevant throughout the 2010's. I came across a damaged hardcover copy in Barnes & Noble that was marked way down back in January (I believe it was around $8, marked down from around $30, just because a box cutter slightly damaged the cover. #score), and since I'd been wanting to read this book I couldn't pass up the opportunity to add it to my collection. I'm so happy to start reading this novel this month!

Three ordinary women are about to take one extraordinary step. 
Twenty-two-year-old Skeeter has just returned home after graduating from Ole Miss. She may have a degree, but it is 1962, Mississippi, and her mother will not be happy till Skeeter has a ring on her finger. Skeeter would normally find solace with her beloved maid Constantine, the woman who raised her, but Constantine has disappeared and no one will tell Skeeter where she has gone. 
Aibileen is a black maid, a wise, regal woman raising her seventeenth white child. Something has shifted inside her after the loss of her own son, who died while his bosses looked the other way. She is devoted to the little girl she looks after, though she knows both their hearts may be broken.
Minny, Aibileen’s best friend, is short, fat, and perhaps the sassiest woman in Mississippi. She can cook like nobody’s business, but she can’t mind her tongue, so she’s lost yet another job. Minny finally finds a position working for someone too new to town to know her reputation. But her new boss has secrets of her own.
Seemingly as different from one another as can be, these women will nonetheless come together for a clandestine project that will put them all at risk. And why? Because they are suffocating within the lines that define their town and their times. And sometimes lines are made to be crossed. 
In pitch-perfect voices, Kathryn Stockett creates three extraordinary women whose determination to start a movement of their own forever changes a town, and the way women—mothers, daughters, caregivers, friends—view one another. A deeply moving novel filled with poignancy, humor, and hope,The Help is a timeless and universal story about the lines we abide by, and the ones we don’t.
I'm a handful of chapters into this book and I'm already in love. The voices that Stockett has given to these characters ring in crystal clear and all I want to do is learn more about each one of them. Every time I pick up this book I feel transported right into the homes of the women that Minny and Aibileen work for and it is so easy for me to get lost in these pages for hours. I already highly recommend picking up this book if you haven't already! I'm looking forward to reading the rest of this book and to see what you all think of it! :)

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Elephant Awareness Month | Why I Love Elephants

It's no secret (especially after this month!) that I love elephants. I know that I mentioned it in my The Elephant Pants unboxing video that I've always loved elephants, ever since I was a little kid. I can't remember having any other favorite animal (although dogs are a top contender!). I remember being really little and seeing elephants on a cover of a ZooBook and instantly falling in love. I remember doing multiple research projects and papers on elephants throughout elementary and middle school. I have so many memories of being fond of these animals throughout my entire life, and the more I read about them the more I love them. I thought I'd share a few reasons why I love elephants so much, and maybe you'll fall in love with them too!

Elephants are empathetic. There have been countless reports of elephants sensing distress in other elephants and comforting them. When I read Love, Life, and Elephants, Dame Daphne Sheldrick spoke of the elephants she reared caring for not only other elephants, but other animals as well who were grieving the loss of their families. Like humans, elephants can feel the pain of others and offer help in dealing with that pain, and that's a beautiful thing.

Elephants have a strong memory. No matter what happens to them, whether it's something good or something bad, elephants remember. There is a reason why wild elephants do not trust humans - because there is a long standing history of poaching and other forms of violence against elephants by humans. It's a fact that aside from lions who occasionally prey on weak elephants in the wild, elephants have no natural predators, so it really is a shame that humans are almost exclusively wiping elephants off the face of the earth.

On a happier note, elephants can remember other elephants or even people after years and years of separation. Though males tend to leave their herds in their teenage years to live in solitude, they can always remember which herd is theirs, and they are always welcomed back with open arms (open trunks?). It's really, really awesome to think that there are many other creatures out there that have memories that are as good, if not better, than ours.

Elephant herds are strongly matriarchal. The eldest females in the herd tend to be the highest regarded elephants, and the females are the ones that tend to keep the herd - numbers ranging from the low teens to over 100 elephants - together and functioning as a community. Any community - whether animal or human - that values its women is always a plus in my book! ;)

Elephants rely on one another and form deep emotional relationships. This is probably my favorite thing about elephants. The bonds that elephants form are everlasting. They rely on one another and are always there for each other. They thrive on being able to provide care for each other which is so amazing. They know that in order to survive they must be able to create long lasting and trusting relationships, putting the herd in front of their own interests. So awesome.

So those are just a few of the reasons why I love elephants. Elephant Awareness Month has really brought my love for elephants to a new level and I hope one day to visit organizations that work to rehabilitate and save elephants. Until then, I will continue to do as much as I can from the comfort of my small town in the US to raise awareness and contribute to the efforts others are putting forth. I'm really happy to have had the opportunity to blog about elephants so much this month, and I hope that it shed some light onto how important the fight to conserve the species really is!

Monday, August 24, 2015

Mixtape of the Moment #2

It's been quite some time since the last time I made a Mixtape of the Moment post! I found that I tend to listen to the same music quite often (I like what I like, I guess), and with my crazy schedule throughout grad school I never had the time or energy to look into new music that I enjoy, but now that I have more time on my hands I'm starting to dedicate a little bit of it to creating playlists of my favorite songs of the moment.

I've found that I really like to create playlists based on the season that I'm enjoying certain songs, so today's Mixtape of the Moment is based on all the songs I played on repeat throughout this summer! Hit play for a fun, summery mix of my favorite tunes!

1. "Lean On" by Major Lazer & DJ Snake ft. MO
2. "Classing Man" by Jidenna ft. Roman GianArthur
3. "Cheerleader (Felix Jaehn Remix)" by OMI
4. "Truffle Butter" by Nicki Minaj ft. Drake & Lil Wayne
5. "Secrets" by Tiesto ft. Vassey
6. "Five More Hours" by Chris Brown & Deorro
7. "Where are U Now" by Skrillex ft. Justin Bieber
8. "Get Low" by Dillon Frances & DJ Snake
9. "Can't Feel My Face" by The Weekend
10. "You Know You Like It" by DJ Snake & AlunaGeorge
11. "Don't" by Ed Sheeran
12. "Fun" by Pitbull ft. Chris Brown
13. "Let's Go" by Cartel
14. "Oh Wonder (Melvv Remix)" by Oh Wonder
15. "Giants" by Bear Hands
16. "Ways to Go" by Grouplove
17. "Bad Blood" by Taylor Swift ft. Kendrick Lamar
18. "679" by Fetty Wap ft. Remy Boyz
19. "Sugar" by Maroon 5
20. "Sing" by Ed Sheeran
21. "Good For You" by Selena Gomez ft. A$AP Rocky
22. "Something Good Can Work" by Two Door Cinema Club
23. "The Love" by A Tribe Called Quest

Thursday, August 20, 2015

Elephant Awareness Month | The Elephant Pants Unboxing & Review

Two weeks ago I mentioned The Elephant Pants in my Favorite Elephant Saving Organizations post, and shortly after I made my very first purchase! As I mentioned, this company gives a portion of the profits from your order to various wildlife conservation organizations, mostly to those that focus on the conservation of elephants. Basically, they're awesome. I thought that I'd do a little unboxing and review for you all to show you what I bought!

Classic Prints 

I ordered 3 items outright - two pairs of pants ($18 each) and a pair of shorts ($16 each), all in classic prints (TEP donates $1 per item for classic prints). The cool thing about each design is that each is named after a famous elephant in history. When I first discovered this website I spent a solid half hour just clicking onto each design and reading the story of so many elephants. Not every story is easy to read, but it does help you remember why it's important to make an effort - no matter how small - to save these animals from harm. I wanted to share with you the stories of the elephants behind the prints that I bought.

Left to Right: Tyke pants, Billie shorts, and Black Diamond pants

"Tyke was a circus elephant who on August 20, 1994 in HonoluluHawaii, killed her trainerAllen Campbell and gored her groom Dallas Beckwith, causing severe injuries during a Circus International performance before hundreds of horrified spectators. Tyke then bolted from the arena and ran through downtown streets of Kakaako for more than 30 minutes. Police fired 86 shots at Tyke, who eventually collapsed from the wounds and died." 

"Billie was a circus elephant who was known for rebelling against trainers and their abuse. She was rescued along with fifteen other elephants by the USDA from a barn where she had been retired to after attacking a trainer. Her life is documented in the book 'Last Chain On Billie'."

"Black Diamond was an Indian elephant with Al G. Barnes Circus."

Mystery Box 

As I was shopping around the site, I noticed that they had Mystery Boxes available. These tend to sell out quickly, so I knew I had to scoop one up. For $25 (promting a $1 donation), you receive a pair of classic pants as well as two mystery gifts (one that usually is in the $10/$15 range and one that is a bit smaller) - not too shabby! I was very eager to receive this mystery box to see what kind of items were coming my way, and I definitely wasn't disappointed.

I received a beautiful pink and maroon pair of pants (which I later found out were the Ruby pants), a canvas tote, and a TEP Sharpie! (I can only assume that the Sharpie is intended to fill in the blank on the tote design!) I was pleasantly surprised with how much I loved the design of the pants I received. I don't think I would have ever picked out the Ruby design for myself (for whatever reason I tend to go for cooler colors when I shop for clothes) and I'm so happy that these were the ones I received. I was also PUMPED about the canvas tote! I was really considering buying the "This Bag Helped Save and Elephant" canvas tote and ultimately decided to wait 'til next time, so when I saw the tote in my Mystery Box I was VERY excited! (Oh, and who doesn't love a good Sharpie?!)

"Ruby was an elephant artist, resided at the Phoenix Zoo; at least one painting was sold for $100,000."
And since this is a haul post of sorts, I figured I'd also try on the items I bought for you, to show you how they look. (Please forget the lighting and the down angles that are inevitable when taking a mirror selfie of your legs!) For reference, my pant size can range between 7-10 depending on the pair of pants (amirite ladies?), and the elastic waist accommodates shapes between 0 and 12! My runner butt and thighs fit super comfortably in each pair of bottoms, and each item is super light, airy, and COMFY AF. I'm SUPER excited to start creating some outfits with these beauties!

Clockwise from top left: Billie shorts, Ruby pants, Tyke pants, Black Diamond Pants

I spent a total of $77 dollars and got a decent amount of gear that I know I'll be wearing regularly. The shipping is free after $75 and my order got to me relatively fast (I ordered late on a Tuesday Night and I received my package on Monday). The pants themselves are made in Thailand (information on how the pants are made and how the employees that make these pants are treated is available on their website, if that is an area of concern of yours) but they ship from NYC, so if you're in the US I'm assuming you'd have a similar shipping timeline (though I live in MA - not far from NY - so maybe it will take longer). 

I am thrilled with this company and the products I bought and I'm so excited to be sharing this awesome company with you all. I would strongly encourage you to consider making a purchase at The Elephant Pants, and if the pants aren't your style, consider donating to one of the organizations that this company supports!

If you would like to see my unboxing & review video, check it out below!

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

So, You Want to Start a Blog

I've been blogging for quite a while now (more than half my life!). Blogging was introduced to me by my neighbor and childhood friend when I was in middle school and I've been reading and writing blogs ever since. I always get so excited when one of my "in real life" friends start blogging because it's been one my favorite hobbies for such a long time and I would love to have that in common with more of the people in my life.

It's interesting to me that some of the comments that I get when someone I know wants to start blogging include things like "I don't think I would have anything interesting to share" or "I don't think that anyone would read it". I also get questions along the lines of "how do you continue to find things to write about?" or "how did you start a blog and how have you kept it going?". In my opinion, I don't think my blog is all that interesting and I'm pretty sure my only regular readers consist of my parents, sister, and friend Cassie (my blog's #1 fan). But I continue to blog because it's something I really like to do. Chronicling my life, opinions, and interests has always been something I've loved doing and that's what has kept me going, regardless how many people are reading.

I thought that writing up a few of my pointers about blogging would be an awesome resource for those in my life (and maybe even a few people across the interwebz!) that are thinking about starting a blog, or are struggling to maintain their already established blog. If you're interested in starting a blog, I hope that you will find these tips helpful and that they encourage you to jump in and try it out!

1. Do it for you. 

This is 100% the most important thing to remember. Blogging has been a hobby of mine for such a long time because it's something that I genuinely enjoy. I don't think I've ever had a significant audience on any of the blogs that I've maintained over the years and though I think it would be great to grow my readership, it's never something that's bothered me to the point of wanting to completely give up. I maintain my blog so I have something to look back on as the years go by, and the very act of sitting down and typing out a  post is a lot of fun for me, so I continue to do it. I think once you get into your mind about "my life's not interesting" or "no one is reading this", that's when you'll lose confidence and perhaps want to stop all together. Like anything, if you love what you're doing and you're doing it because you get enjoyment out of it, then that's all you need.

2. Make yourself a schedule and stick to it. 

Over the last year, I've made it a point to pick a specific topic I want to write about on a specific day, and it's worked wonders in curing writer's block. The topics I choose can be anything from a update about my life, a Favorite Links post, an issue that's really weighing on my mind, or an idea that popped into my head randomly while jotting down ideas - like this post! Picking a posting schedule that works for you is also crucial to keeping blogging fun and less of a burden. I've been working off a Tuesday/Thursday schedule for the past year and it's been perfect, but sometime's I'll adjust if my personal schedule gets really busy (and you won't see me for a few weeks like you did at the end of grad school this past spring - oops!) or if I have a lot of ideas for posts and I want to post more frequently, like I have been this month. However, sticking to that baseline of Tuesday/Thursday posting has made me a much more consistent blogger and has helped me to look forward to that next time I get to sit down and type.

3. Come up with a blog series. 

I've had  so many series on this blog now it's almost hard to remember them all (Favorite Links, Monthly Favorites, Book Club, Stumbling Through 26.2, Organize My Life, College Survival Series, most recently an Elephant Awareness Month series... to name a few!). I really like coming up with blog series because if nothing too exciting has been going on in my personal life and I'm stuck for a topic to write about, I always have one of those that I can contribute to. Coming up with a series is also a really great way to make your blog unique and attract more niche audiences as well. The easiest way to come up with an idea for a series is to take a look into what you're really interested in and come up with something creative surrounding that. Most of my series are centered around my personal interests (running, organization, working with college students, elephants, reading, etc.) and I often have the best time writing a new installment of a series. Of course, you don't need to have established series on your blog to keep yourself blogging, but sometimes it can be a handy trick if you're feeling stuck!

4. Follow blogs that you like and draw inspiration from there. 

By no means do I mean compare your blog to another or completely copy what your favorite blogger is doing. (The world needs YOU, not a replica of another blogger!) If I'm feeling stuck I like to scroll through my Feedly feed to see what other people are writing about, or peruse the #ontheblog hashtag on Twitter to find new bloggers to follow. Reading other blogs can often spark a post idea in my head or make me remember something I wanted to write about months ago but completely forgot about. The blogging community is a really cool place with a whole cast of characters with their own stories to tell and reading those stories can take you far in your personal blogging life!

5. Be yourself. 

Ah, the annoying age-old piece of advice everyone gets when trying something new. It's really no different in blogging. You have a unique story to tell and that's what is going to make your blog interesting, even if you might not think it is. I always find that the blogs that I love the most are written by people who are unapologetically themselves, and I'm sure many others would agree. The whole point of a blog is to share your thoughts and opinions, so make sure to include a bit of personality into every post!

(Anyone else a Just Friends fan?)

I hope that these quick tips were helpful to all of those beginner bloggers out there. Finding your blogging style definitely takes some time, but as long as you continue to have fun and always why you started your blog in the first place, everything will fall into place! Good luck and Happy Blogging! :)

Sunday, August 16, 2015

A Few of my Favorite Links - The "I Miss My Dogs" Edition {#14}

Hello and welcome to yet another edition to my Favorite Links! As I was getting the links together for this post I noticed that it was extremely dog heavy... I must be missing my pups lately! Don't worry, there are a few other pieces of internet goodness sprinkled throughout the post, so be sure to check it all out below, and don't forget to share some of your favorite links in the comments!

Tonkey Bear on Instagram

Who doesn't love a good dog Instagram account? Casey, my PC co-advisor at BSU, and I are huge fans of Wafflenugget, an adorable Bernese Mountain Dog on Instagram, so when I came across Tonkey I knew I had to share my love with not only Casey, but the world. He is legit a dog-bear and it is freaking ADORABLE. If you need a daily dose of cute on your feed, consider following Tonkey! (And Wafflenugget!)

Marvel Superheroes Reimagined As Different Dog Breeds

Though the artist of this series is quite clearly biased toward pugs, these pieces are so great. As you can probably tell my favorite installment is Thor, but there are so many other great reimagined dog heroes. I love it, and more things like this need to be made on a regular basis. Keeping my fingers crossed for a DC version in the future!

I've been a huge fan of subscription boxes lately. Though I haven't indulged in any myself, I bought my mom a gift card to Stitch Fix for Mother's Day and my dad a couple of months worth of Mystery Tackle Box for Father's Day this year, and they both have said that they're really enjoying them so far! I came across Try the World on a Facebook ad (Google ad sense has me totally figured out) and I am so intrigued by it. Each subscription box features different foods from a specific city around the world, which is so awesome because my favorite part of traveling is trying the food of each region I visit! I could totally see myself subscribing to this at some point.

Men React to Their Girlfriends Getting Catcalled

Catcalling is one of the most frustrating things that can happen as a woman*, and it happens so, so often. This is an interesting project of men reacting to their girlfriends getting catcalled. It's too bad that it takes their girlfriend getting harassed on the street to see how much it can really impact a woman's daily life, but at least it's continuing the conversation about the matter.
*Keep in mind that catcalling and street harassment does not happen to women alone. It is an issue that impacts many demographics. As a woman, I am reacting to this video from a woman's perspective. 
The Lovely Drawer

Design blogs are among my favorite type of blogs to follow. I stumbled across this lovely gal, Teri, while perusing through Pinterest in search of a new desktop background for my work computer, and she has so many adorable freebies! The more I sift through her website, the more I fall in love with it, so I highly recommend checking out her blog and her work!
26 Struggles Every Dogless Dog-Lover Will Understand
These words have actually come out of my mouth on more than one occasion.
Ask Brett.

Buzzfeed has a few lists like these, but it they are always SO ACCURATE TO MY LIFE. I wish I had a place big enough and a schedule flexible enough to have a dog in my life at the moment, but it's just not in the cards for me right now. I just have to continue to really take advantage of all of my Kiwi & Mikey visits and become best friends with every dog I meet. #doglessprobz

Celebrating World Elephant Day

If you follow me on any social media platform, you would probably know that this past Wednesday (Aug. 12) was World Elephant Day! I'll spare you my outpouring love for elephants (for now) as I have a few more Elephant Awareness Month posts lined up throughout the rest of August, but I thought I'd share a video the DSWT posted on their Facebook that talks a little bit more about what they do for Elephants. I would also encourage you to check out and sign the pledge to spread awareness of what is happening to this beautiful species. You can click the link in this post, or click the badge that I under my "Community" section in the sidebar (it looks just like the image above)!

Every day at the DSWT is World Elephant Day! But today is a chance for us to celebrate the species together and let the...
Posted by The David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust on Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Saturday, August 15, 2015

Elephant Awareness Month | Book Review - Love, Life, and Elephants: An African Love Story

I bought this book in late February to take along for my family vacation, but I never got around to reading it until this summer. It just so happens that I finished up reading this book smack dab in the middle of Elephant Awareness Month, which made reading this memoir all the more special. I learned about this memoir at the same time I first learned about the David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust and I knew I had to read it. I was definitely not disappointed. This story chronicles the life of Dame Daphne Sheldrick, the founder of the DSWT, from her childhood growing up in Kenya, to her marriages and children, and - most importantly - her many relationships she developed with orphaned animals while rehabilitating them and reintegrating them back into the wild. This is a story of great love and (sadly) many great losses in her life. 

While there are many funny anecdotes about the animals she and the Trust reared, it is not without deeply disturbing stories of poachers and violence against wild animals and the mistreatment of those held in captivity. Being a lover of animals, especially elephants, there were definitely parts of this book that were very hard for me to read. Unfortunately, the sad stuff is the reality of the situation for wild animals in many countries and it has been for years. As hard as those stories are to read, it does have the ability to spark your inner activist and make you want to do all you can to protect the gentle and empathetic animals that this memoir focuses in on.

If you're an animal lover like me, especially if you're a big fan of elephants, I would highly recommend this book. Learning about Dame Daphne Sheldrick, an outstanding conservationist who has quite literally given her life to helping animals, has been one of my favorite things I've done this summer. She has lead an extraordinary life that is nothing short of inspiring.

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Life as the New Kid: My First Month as an #SApro!

I can't believe I've already been at Mount Holyoke for a month. It still seems like I'm stumbling through the daily functions of my job and the students haven't even arrived yet! I know it's all part of the transition process, though, and soon I'll start to really get the hang of everything. I know I haven't really been writing about my experience at MHC so far, and that's because I really wanted to get settled and acclimated before sharing anything. Now that a month's gone by, I feel like I have a few things to talk about!

You know your institution is legit when it has its own Snapchat filter. :P

For those that may be confused on exactly what my job is, my official title is Student Event and Special Programs Coordinator, meaning I get the awesome task of working with all of our 130ish student organizations on campus and helping them along the event planning process. I'm also responsible for some of our office's signature events such as No Study Zone and Pangy Day, as well as hopping in on various campus-wide programming like New Student Orientation, January Intersession programming, and student leader socials. Basically, I'm going to have a hand in almost every student event on campus that isn't sponsored by athletics or an academic department - pretty crazy!

My very minimally decorated space. I left lots of room for new memories! 
(And yes, I have two computers. #commandcenter)

I had my first official day on July 7th, and was welcomed by my supervisor and colleague, Kris and Erin, with flowers and cider donuts - a staple out here in Western Mass. My first week was a whole 'lotta not knowing what I'm doing, which is always frustrating when you're coming from an institution you felt you knew like the back of your hand. However, my colleagues made me feel very welcome and right at home in my new space. They had even ordered me a great new desk (put together by Erin and her husband - thanks, guys!) and set up a beautiful iMac for me! (I'm usually a PC gal, but if I have to use a Mac, I'd rather use an iMac!) We also got the chance to celebrate Jaime's (another one of my colleagues in Student Programs) birthday that week by going out for sushi & ice cream. Any staff that's a fan of sushi and ice cream I know I'm going to fit just fine into. ;)

The following week, Erin invited me to join her and some of her friends in Harry Potter trivia at this local bar called The Quarters (packed to the brim with old arcade games - so cool!), and of course I had to say yes! We were team Snapes on a Plane (genius) and though we didn't place, we didn't do too shabby for the kind of questions that they were asking! Props to Erin and her husband Cullen, though - they dominate me in the HP knowledge department. It's great to be a part of a staff that also wants to make an effort to do some outside staff bonding, especially when I'm still getting to know everyone!*

Some of the major projects I'm working on right now are bus trips for the fall, a movie musical series, an after-dark festival called NightFest (which I've been booking food trucks for which I think is just about the most exciting thing ever!), and social events for fall orientation. Erin and I have also taken it upon ourselves to revitalize our office's social media (We call ourselves the Brain Trust... #weloveScrubs), so if you'd like to follow us we're on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook! I always love having the opportunity to work with social media in my day-to-day life, so I'm very excited that we've started on this project together.

Things are a bit on the slow side right now (as they usually are throughout the summer) but they are absolutely going to start ramping up soon. Our Orientation Student Staff will start arriving back to campus on the 25th, the new international students arrive on the 31st, all new students will arrive on September 2nd, and all returning students will arrive on September 6th! That's less than a month away... YIKES! I'm very excited for what's in store for me this year, though, and I'm so happy I get to be part of such a wonderful staff throughout my first year as an #SApro! :)

*The one other staff member in Student Programs that I haven't mentioned yet is Tim, and that's because he's been mostly out of the office on vacation since I've started, but we're going to work very closely together in our roles, so I'm sure he'll be popping up in my work stories quite often in the future!

Monday, August 10, 2015

The Whole Famn Damily

The past two weekends have essentially been family-palooza for Brett and I! It's always awesome to spend time with the family for both of us because when the school year kicks off we both basically drop off the face of the Earth until the holidays (sad, but true). Though these last two weekend consisted of a butt-load of driving (~3hrs both ways to NH and ~6hrs both ways to ME), the people we were spending time with made it all worth it in the end.

Photo courtesy of Brett's sister Melissa!

Two weekends ago we hiked it up to NH for Brett's Uncle Mike's wedding! The ceremony was so pretty - in the lake on a sand bar, with all of the attendees in boats surrounding them. It was a beautiful event and so perfect for the setting! After the ceremony we hung out on the boat for a little bit then headed back to the campground for a reception - complete with champagne & chocolate fondue fountains and puppies everywhere. That's my kind of wedding!

Photo courtesy of Brett's sister Melissa!

Being silly at the reception!

This past weekend we trekked up to Maine to see my extended family! I only get to see them a couple times a year, and this year it worked out that Brett could join me! This was the first time Brett was going to be meeting the majority of my extended family, so it was an exciting weekend. We left late Friday morning and spent a solid 6 hours in the car, but it was fun to hang out, talk, and listen to music as we watched the Maine scenery go by.

As soon as we hopped out of the car, my cousin Tucker - who is 9 - was ready for us to play. We walked out to the back yard and saw the beautiful image that was our view for the entire weekend:

Not too shabby, right?

We took a walk down the shore while the tide was out and saw tons of tidal wild life all over the place, including snails (I taught Tucker the trick to get snails to come out of their shells - by humming!) and tons and tons of washed up jelly fish. Tucker was immediately BFF's with Brett and they played a little bit of frisbee while we explored.

We returned to the campsite and the rest of the family arrived for the weekend. There were drinks, stories, and so many laughs shared and it was so good to see everyone - and for everyone to finally meet Brett! We enjoyed the weekend full of sunshine, sea kayaking, camp fires, good food, and good company. Oh, and not to mention the world's most breathtaking sunsets.

On our way home on Sunday, we made a few stops. First we stopped at Caterpillar Hill, which was this awesome scenic stop that overlooked a lake and the ocean. We knew we had to grab a selfie and a panoramic before heading home for good! (Panoramics were seriously my favorite setting on my phone this weekend, with time lapses coming in at a close second - check out the vlogs below to see what I mean!

And it really isn't a trip home from Maine if I don't make a stop at Pat's Pizza in Yarmouth. I don't remember when this became a tradition of my family's, but every time we drive home from Maine we have to stop at Pat's and get a personal pizza. Even though I wasn't with my parents, I wanted to continue the tradition and introduce it to Brett as well. (Success - Brett loved his pizza!)

After another 6 hours in the car we were home and the weekend was over once again. It's crazy how fast weekends go by, huh? At least they're fun! :) Of course, I vlogged throughout both of these fun and exciting weekends, so make sure you watch both vlogs below!

Brett and I took this weekend easy. We ordered take out and watched the new Netflix series Wet Hot American Summer: First Day of Camp (hilarious) Friday night, saw a show that I was asked to check out for work on Saturday (because my job is awesome and allows requires me to do things like check out shows to bring to campus), and just relaxed with some movies after my #SundayRunday 12 miler yesterday. There's nothing like a month of traveling every single weekend to make you REALLY appreciate the down time!

What did you get up to this weekend?

Friday, August 7, 2015

Elephant Awareness Month | My Favorite Elephant Saving Organizations

Happy Friday, everyone! 

For those of you that might not know, August is Elephant Awareness Month! (Don't feel too bad if you didn't know. My elephant-loving self only just found this out this year. There seems to be an awareness month for everything, so it's hard to keep up!) We all know by now that I LOVE elephants, so I thought this would be a wonderful opportunity to talk about a few of my favorite organizations whose aim it is to help save elephants from poaching, abuse, and captivity. I highly encourage you to check these organizations out - all of them are fairly active on social media and all do very cool things!

David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust

I found out about this organization earlier in the year and instantly fell in love. This wonderful organization takes in orphaned animals - primarily elephants and rhinos - and raises them to the point where the animal can live in the wild once again. Coincidentally, I am right in the middle of reading Love, Life, and Elephants: An African Love Story - perfect timing for this month! - and am learning all about the story of how this organization came to be (look out for the book review next week). They also offer a program where you can donate to foster an elephant, which I think is the coolest thing EVER. I definitely plan to participate in the foster program sometime in the near future, and would LOVE to visit the trust in Nairobi one day. They're doing such wonderful things!

Elephant Parade

Elephant Parade is a really cool art project that raises awareness of elephant endangerment and donates 20% of their proceeds to various organizations that work to prevent the poaching of elephants and improve the welfare of the species. The organization has artists from around the world paint large elephant statues in their own unique way and displays them in cities around the globe to raise awareness. You can even buy smaller statues on their online store - each one unique so you just have to collect them all!

The Elephant Pants

This style is so in right now, so why not buy a pair that supports a wonderful cause? The Elephant Pants donates $1-$2 dollars per item to various elephant conservation organizations, and during the month of August, a few select items will donate $5! I love how each print tells a story about a famous elephant in history. I could click through each item just to rad the story that goes along with it. It really reminds you why these causes are so important. They sell pants (my favorite designs are above!), shorts, bags, tapestries, and even a cute little charm bracelet. I can't wait to get my hands on my next paycheck so I can buy a handful of these beauties! :)

Do you have any favorite wildlife conservation organizations? 
Let me know in the comments because I would love to check each and every one of them out!

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

End-of-Summer Bucket List

How on Earth is it already August? It's like I blinked and the summer just disappeared. This time of year is always a bit sad. Even though there's roughly two months left of the season itself, August is a time for Higher Ed professionals to get back into student-service mode and make a few finishing touches on plans to welcome students back to campus. Essentially, the quiet days of summer have come to close, fall is right around the corner, and before we know it there will be snow on the ground again. #heartbroken

Anywho, with cold weather and busy schedules looming, there are still a few things that I want to do this summer before my schedule gets crazy once again. Sadly, Brett's already back at work for football camp so I have a bit of extra time on my hands to get some of these items done and really enjoy these last couple of weeks of summer! Here's what's on my End-of-Summer Bucket List:

1. One more beach day. I love, love, love the beach and luckily I've been able to visit a few different times so far this summer, but I could always use another! Rob (who also works in Higher Ed and feels my pain of shortened summers) and I are planning a trip in a couple of weeks and I can't be more excited! Our trip last year was the perfect way to catch up and cap off the summer, so I'm definitely looking forward to doing it again this year. :)

2. Go hiking. It's been such a long time since the last time I went on a hike. It's always hard to coordinate a full day hike with someone as you have to figure out work schedules, drive a relatively far distance, and then pray that the weather works in your favor. My parents live right down the road from a nice hiking trail so if anything, I can hike there before the summer ends!

3. Read in the grass all day long. Reading outside is one of my all time favorite summer activities. It's so relaxing and I can't think of many other things I like better than getting lost in a good book. Spending a whole day outside reading in peace sounds like absolute heaven, and it's definitely something I would love to accomplish before the craziness of the year begins.

4. One more visit home. Family time tends to get put on the back-burner once the year begins (I'm lucky I have extremely understanding parents!) so I want to take advantage of the summer slowness and give my parents at least one more visit before I may or may not disappear until Thanksgiving. (Who knows, really?)

5. One more Several more ice cream stand stops. Probably in one of my top 3 favorite things to do during the summer is go to local ice cream stands and eat their delicious ice cream. There's really nothing better than a waffle cone full of cold deliciousness on a warm summer night! I want to make sure this happens way more before they all close shops for the winter!

6. Spend a rainy day painting. Thankfully we haven't had very many rainy days this summer. When it has rained, it's either been when I'm stuck inside working all day or in short little off-and-on bursts - nothing that would really tie up a whole day. However, I'm hoping that sometime between when I post this and when the students arrive back to campus, we'll get at least one any day where I can sit inside and just paint to my heart's content!

Is there anything you want to do before the summer comes to a close?