Friday, January 30, 2015

Outfit: Winter White

If you follow my Style board on Pinterest, you will have noticed that I have really been pinning away with the winter white looks this year. I have a hard enough time with white jeans in the summer so I never thought I would embrace the look during my fairest season, winter. Me and my equally fair other half, Henry, paired up for a fun little embracing the winter whites. 





Scarf. Sweater (similar). Jeans. Boots.

xoxo,

Danielle

PS. I had already scheduled this post and then I saw Mackenzie posted a similar outfit (same scarf) yesterday on her blog. I personally love her cardigan, even if she thinks its mom-ish. 

Monday, January 26, 2015

Friendship

Friendships, like any relationship in our lives, are deeply satisfying yet can be difficult at the same time. The more we grow up and spread out, the more effort it takes to maintain strong friendships. Gone are the days of sitting next to your best friend everyday and sharing her perfectly homemade jello.

I deeply value my friendships and will do anything for the ones I love. I do a good job of staying in touch with those who live in different places than me and love planning trips to visit them, host them in Charlotte, or meet somewhere in the middle to explore a new city together. Finding time to see each other can be difficult and I easily get my feelings hurt when I feel ignored by someone I call a friend. Why did she come to Charlotte and not tell me? I feel like I've been to her city a few times but she hasn't been to see my apartment that I have lived in for almost two years. Why did I have to find out about this major life event through social media? Why am I always the one calling her? I know, I can be overly sensitive. I think as an only child, I place a higher value on my friendships at times and can be a bit high with my expectations.

Even with my neediness, I have managed to build some truly incredible friendships. I've had some friends for more than fifteen years and others for only a few years. I value them all the same. I am thankful I have friends who I can call on, who inspire me, who challenge me, and ultimately all make me want to be a better person. Some I talk to in some capacity every single day and others we can go a few months without speaking but when we pick up the phone or see each other, its as if time had never passed.

I have had a few not so great friendships. Since I am someone who doesn't make friends easily, I have a hard time letting friendships go. There are some that go more naturally, time passes and you fade apart. But unlike the ones mentioned above, when you pick up the phone to reconnect the calls go unanswered and when you casually see them you are ignored. Other friendships, like some bad relationships, need to be ended. These are the ones that are toxic. They don't lift you up. They are difficult to maintain and the effort is not worth it. Sometimes, a friend hurts you in some way and you can't move pass it. These ones are hard for me because I don't like letting friends go, but sometimes, you have to. Just like breaking up in a relationship, sometimes you have to have a breakup in a friendship to avoid the unanswered calls and awkward run ins. Its better to disconnect from them on social media so you aren't reminded of the negativity that they brought into your life and thats OK. Sometimes, people are brought into your life for a purpose and they aren't meant to stay for a long time but they serve their purpose while they are there.

This post is for all of my friends. The ones who read the blog daily even though they have no interest in blogs. The ones who spend hours taking pictures of me for my outfit posts. The ones who let me call them and talk about nothing every day on my way home. The ones who put up with my often insensitive commentary regarding their style choices. The ones who have listened to me complain about the same problems and challenges repeatedly. The ones who I am able to share my deepest desires and aspirations with and know I won't be judged. The ones who wake up with me at 5:15 AM to run. The ones who agreed to record a demo with me in a recording studio. The ones who made it through my phase of playing MTV VJ and filming ourselves while always making myself better than them for countless hours on end. The ones who love Oreos & wine as much as I do. The ones who've helped me push people off stage while perfecting my Mariah Carey karaoke routine. The ones who listen me to speak in my Henry voice for hours on end. No matter how long or little I've known you, I am thankful for each of you in my life.













xoxo,

Danielle



Friday, January 23, 2015

Casual Friday

Happy Fri-yay! I recently discovered a new brand that I absolutely adore, Casual Friday. I tend to stay away from most graphic tees. While I love them and often find myself laughing at their catchy, tongue-in-cheek phrases, I unfortunately spent too much of my life decked out in clothing that said "peace, love, & Juicy" and have yet to recover from the trauma instilled from walking around with the word "Juicy" across my behind. 

When my parents were in town a few weeks ago, we stopped into KK Bloom and I spotted a graphic tee that was just made for my mother "caffeine, cupcakes, & chanel." I wasn't considering one for myself until I saw one that said "on a champagne diet." I tried it on and it could have said JUICY across the front and I would have bought it. This sweatshirt is the most comfortable thing I've ever owned. If you remember, I love playing dress up with sweatshirts. I want to wear it everywhere. I haven't gone a splurge yet, but I picked out a few of my favorite from their site. Enjoy! 


The one I picked out for myself. 


My mom picked up this one for herself. 


Seriously, so comfy. 


They had this one in a long sleeve and I tried to convince my mom to get it. She says "shut the front door" a lot. 


The perfect combination? 



They posted this one on the @casualfridayapparel Instagram account this week. Definitely, one for my mother. 

Happy Weekend!

xoxo,

Danielle

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Beauty Talk: Skin Care

I don't really consider myself a beauty expert. I remember in high school, my mom got me this book by a beauty editor and after reading, highlighting, and taking notes in the margins, I then went to CVS for a few hours of reading every single active and inactive ingredient until I developed my own skincare regime for myself. My dermatologist loves Cetaphil, which I used for a while and loved, however it didn't do the best job of removing all of my make up and I found myself having to wash my face multiple times. I also tried Neutrogena but it was a bit too aggressive for daily usage. While I've certainly tried my fair share of beauty products, its difficult to think of myself as knowledgeable because I really only know what works for me. That being said, some of the products I know love, I discovered through reading blogs so I thought I would share what works for me. I also have an odd quirk where I like to use consistent brands for my skincare so I am happy to share my favorite Kiehls and Aveeno products. 


Face. I use the Calendula Deep Cleansing Foaming Face Wash both morning and night. It does a great job of removing my make up while remaining gentle enough for twice daily usage. On even numbered dates, I use my Clarisonic Mia at night for a little deeper cleansing. Once a week, or if I am feeling a little blah with blemishes, I use the Rare Earth Deep Pore Daily Cleanser. I use the Ultra Facial Oil-Free Lotion year round morning and night but in the winter I switch to the Ultra Facial Cream in the winter nights. With the cooler weather and excessive use of heat, my skin dries out really quickly. My eyes are always problematic. They are dry year round and if I don't get a full eight hours of sleep, they are extra dry and flaky in the mornings. I was so happy to try the Creamy Under Eye Treatment with Avocado which has worked wonders. It's not oily either so its great for both day and night usage. Lastly, I am not the biggest fan of make up. The idea of daily usage sounds exhausting and I much prefer the extra minutes of sleep. I initially read about BB Cream on Carly's blog and I have since become obsessed. It's tinted so it gives the appearance of make up and has SPF 50. A little BB Cream + mascara and I am usually all set. 



Body. I've been using the same body products since high school and I cannot recommend Aveeno enough. I use the Daily Moisturizing Body Wash and Daily Moisturizing Body Lotion year round. I don't like scented bath products, my skin is too sensitive, so I like Aveeno because it keeps my skin beautiful without the frilly scents. During the winter, again my skin turns to ash, I use the Skin Relief Repair Cream

Ok. What do you use? Any recommendations? Not that I am looking to alter my routine but I am always interested in new products.

xoxo,

Danielle


Monday, January 19, 2015

Being Happy


I've been a fan of Charm and Gumption for probably over a year now and have loved keeping up with the shop to see how much it continues to grow!  All of Holly's designs and creative gifts are on-point with my mindset and I think I have about half of her prints on my desk. I saw this post on Instagram over the weekend and actually stopped what I was doing and stood still because this exactly how I feel right now and what I have been telling myself I need to work on. 

I've always been a goal oriented person. I have big goals & small goals. Long term goals & short term goals. This is great way to be and I absolutely love being motivated my goals. But because I always have something I am working towards, I never feel fulfilled and capable of being truly happy in the present moment. For years, I've told myself I will be happy when I get an apartment on my own, when I get a new job, when I start saving money, when I lose the twenty five pounds I've put on over the past year and a half, when I start running half marathons again, when I get my pace back down to eight minute miles, when I move to a new city, when I start my college program, when I am in a relationship, when personal family drama comes to a conclusion, when I take a trip I've always wanted to, when I stop picking my nails, when I take the time to learn a new language, when I can afford to buy those shoes I've always wanted, and the list goes on. 

Even when I've accomplished some of these goals, I do not allow myself to be truly happy because there is still so much that I am working to achieve. I've realized this recently (with some professional help) that I have an obsession with lists and goals and accomplishing them so much that I all too often forget to be happy with where I am. I don't celebrate my small (and large) successes and triumphs along the way, because I am to focused on the "I will be happy when..." 

I know for 2015 I am focusing on self discipline but I also need to focus on being happy with what I have, while working for what I want. 

Thanks Charm and Gumption for the sweet, needed reminder. 

xoxo,

Danielle

Friday, January 16, 2015

My Dream Career

As you all know, I care deeply about women in the workplace. I enjoy articles like this one and I even had my career profiled on The Everygirl. But each day, when I leave the house to head into work, I can't help but think that I have really missed my true calling... a stay at home dog mom.


Every morning, I wake up to my first alarm and snuggle with Henry until the second alarm starts to jingle. At which time, he bounces off the bed in a frenzy, I feed him, and then we go outside. Once back, I quickly get ready for work while listening to the news then I make breakfast for myself and catch up on social media while Henry follows me around occasionally posing for an #ootd picture. Then comes the dreaded part, I have to leave for work. Henry has these eyes. Well, they could be set to a Sara McLachlan song and you would instantly invest every dime you have because it seems like the only logical thing to do. Before I leave, I tuck Henry in - either the couch or my bed depending on his mood, and then make sure the TV is on and one set of blinds is open and then we have a brief kiss session where I drown my outfit in dog hair and tell him repeatedly how much I love him and how I can't wait to come home to him that night. I then head to my car and fight back tears as I leave my sweet baby home. I do this... every. single. day. Issues, I know!

Each day, on my way out, I just think how lovely it would be if I were a stay at home dog mom. Think about it. We could wake up at our leisure and snuggle in bed all morning long. I could probably be more diligent with his food and nutrition. One morning this week in a state of partial slumber, I threw a handful of treats on the floor for breakfast instead of his dog food. It wasn't until he sat in front of the closet door with his food that I realized what I had done.


We could go on long strolls together with the other stay at homes and Henry could make a few new friends in the community. Puppy play dates anyone? He could even potentially work on being able to walk an entire mile without laying down and rolling around in the grass. This goal may be a bit too lofty but I think the former half marathon trainer could push it to his youthful levels of athleticism with a stay at home.

Henry has thought about dabbling into the social media world but we haven't had the time to commit. Imagine the Instagram cuteness that would follow from Henry with a stay at home and an Instagram account. Double tap.

They days would be perfect. Time spent snuggling on the couch together binge watching our favorite Netflix series. We could snack on apples more often instead of just during our nightly routine. Even have time to read a few books together. (Henry loves books by the way. Last summer, he enjoyed them so much, he ate five books!)

I am not sure logistically how this would work. How would we pay our bills? Maybe Henry could take up modeling, start performing, or do singing lessons (he does have the voice of an angel.) Hmm... I am not too sure at the moment which is why this career will have to stay a "dream career." At least its the weekend and we can have two days of bliss before the painful five days of daytime separation.

Still dreaming...

xoxo,

Danielle

PS. Yes, I realize how ridiculous this post sounds. Yes, I am partially kidding. I say partially because each day, I do think about how simply wonderful this life would be.

Photos by the every so talented JJ Horton Photography 

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Self Discipline


I never make New Year's Resolutions, mostly because I know I won't stick with me past like a day. Remember that time I was doing to do 1,000 sit-ups a day just like Britney Spears? Or the year I was going to write in my journal every single day? Or that time I vowed to read one new book a week? HA! Pretty sure none of these made it past day one.

I love the idea of New Year's Resolutions, setting goals for yourself and working towards achieving them throughout the year. It's not that I am goal-less, I am constantly setting goals for myself both personally and professionally and mapping out paths for myself to get there.

In lieu of a resolution, I have decided to make 2015 the year I focus on my self discipline. If someone is holding me accountable, I can do anything, but as soon as I only have to answer to myself, nothing happens. Why is that? Shouldn't I value myself more than others? Shouldn't I be working towards satisfying myself everyday? Well, thats my new plan.

As part of this 2015 focus on self discipline, I am going to focus on my health and my finances. Both of these are two areas of weakness. Sure, I don't need an entire bag of Oreos and I was full after one sleeve, but I keep eating them anyways. Yes, I am full from my burger with onions, pimento cheese, bbq sauce, and onion brings but please bring me a large cookies and cream milkshake to go! I tell myself I can't wait to wake up at 5:30 AM to go run and then when that alarm goes off, I simply snooze past even my regular time. I've joined yoga studios, barre studios, and signed up for too many half marathons but still find reasons not to go. For my finances, I tell myself no shopping this month. Except, these shoes were on sale. I tell myself I am going to save and then order out for every meal for both lunch and dinner. I start to save a little bit and then realize I have enough for an impromptu trip to see a friend.

Not that I don't want to ever enjoy an Oreo, press snooze, or splurge again, but I need to be more disciplined instead of constantly rewarding myself. While in Africa, when I was tempted to check social media, one of the girls said to me "to treat yourself, is to only cheat yourself." As simple as it sounds, it stuck.

Here's to a year of focus on self discipline that will last past 2015.

xoxo,

Danielle

Monday, January 12, 2015

The Game of Life


Growing up, I loved playing The Game of Life. Naturally, I always started with "college" and would request a redo until I laded the career of either a "Doctor" or "Athlete" (HA!) upon my college graduation. Shortly after graduating from college or starting your career, all cars reach the STOP sign where you excitedly add a spouse to your car to play life with you. Of course, mine always had a name as I cared way more about what happened while playing life than necessarily having the most money at the end (I think that is how you win.) Anyways, once married, your car travels alongs (at different paces than your opponents, depending on what you spin) until you reach the next big STOP, Buy a Home. Again, if you were concerned about winning, you probably went with the reasonably priced Cozy Condo, Farm House, or even the Split Level. I however, always wanted the Victorian. Not just because it was the most expensive, but it was also the most traditional option. In consistent with Danielle rules, I would request a redo until I selected The Victorian and occasionally if I was playing with a stickler for the rules, I would settle with The Tudor, Beach House, or Farm House. Once I selected my house, I conveniently landed on all of the spots to have a baby. Twins! Adoption! The more the merrier. I was a pro a manipulating the spinner. Sometimes, I even needed a separate car to carry all of my kids in (safety first.) After this point in the game, all of the players sort of glide through life peacefully collecting pay days and picking up Life Cards but again, following the "road map" of the game.

While I enjoyed playing the game, it's not real life. DUH! Maybe I was more naive than I perceived myself as a child but I really pictured life consisting of this similar road map. I would graduate, find a job, get married, buy a house, have kids, travel, earn a PH.D, receive a promotion, and so forth until I reached blissful retirement at the Millionaire Estates. Sure while playing the game, some of my friends/opponents would reach the marriage and house STOP before me, but you wouldn't buy a house without first getting married. And you couldn't have kids until you had a house to live in. As youthful as I may have been, I did realize life wouldn't be as simple as spinning a wheel and landing on a colorful space. I did however crave a similar "road map" for my life.

As a continue to creep further and further into my twenties, it's the one thing that seems to bother me the most. I don't know what's next. Will I travel? Buy a house? Start a new career? Receive a promotion? Adopt a new pet? Get married? I am sure some are cringing at my lack of spontaneity but as an over planner, it's what I do. I like having a road map and sometimes, feel more trapped without one than necessarily liberated from all expectations of having one.

I've discussed these anxieties before and my fear of a lack of provided "road map." As part of my New Year mantra, I am trying to let it go like Elsa and live freely without my map. If life were as easy as a board game, wouldn't we find the simplicity of it boring? So, if you see my hinging on the border of a mental breakdown without a map this year, just remind me that one day, I too will have my Victorian home with two cars parked out front overflowing with pink and blue pegs.

xoxo,

Danielle

PS. Anyone want to play The Game of Life with me? I promise not to cheat.

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Uganda

First off, Happy New Year! This has probably been the longest break I have taken from the blog since I started it this past summer so I am happy to be back and am ready to keep blogging in 2015!

Thank you to everyone for your kind words and encouragement throughout the preparations and thoughts and prayers during my trip. I loved Uganda. The country was beautiful. The people were beautiful. It was lovely yet challenging all at the same time. I debated for a while about how to do a post on my experience and decided I would go with the one overly lengthy post. So, prepare yourself.

I knew Uganda was far. Obviously. But I really didn't put into perspective just how far it was until I embarked on the 25+ hours of travel it took to make the 7,500 mile trek. Whew. That part alone was exhausting. Once there, I found that time in Uganda moves at a glacial speed. Without my typical day to day sense of urgency, I literally had no idea what to do with myself. There wasn't always a task for me to accomplish and I didn't know how to simply be present.  It took me a few days to adjust to this concept and to allow myself to soak in the beauty that was my trip.


I will lead with the best part, the kids. The kids are wonderful. Sozo has done an incredible job of building these incredible homes for the children to grow up in. All together, there are four Sozo homes with about 80 children. I spent majority of my time at House 1 which is also home to the largest number of kids. These kids are resilient. There were so many instances when I was thinking, oh my goodness, this one is about to cry or that one is about to get seriously injured, but I don't think I heard a single weep all week. They fall to the ground and bounce right back up again. They manage to occupy themselves all day without television, iPads, laptops, and going places. We played basketball, soccer, cards, read, played this tag game with a ball that I am still not sure I understand, did yoga, and were simply present enjoying our time together. It was refreshing. 


The kids all have chores within the home. From laundry to preparing dinner, they each knew what they had and got their chores done first thing int he morning. As part of the team, I typically would help with the chores in some capacity. Usually, this consisted of me being told I was doing something improperly by someone of a single digit age, but I did my best to go with it. The children prepare the dinner which is fascinating to me. They would spend all day working on these meals, making breakfast, lunch, and dinner for a house of probably 40 people when you counted me and the other guests. Ugandans love their carbs. Rice. Pasta. Potatoes. We had them all. 


This may possibly be my favorite picture from the trip. On New Year's Eve, we went into a village about an hour away to share some of our blessings of rice, salt, and sugars to build community with their village. We split into teams and also had the goal of sharing the Gospel with those we visited which was terrifying to me. I've never felt so far out of my comfort zone as I did that day. We shared our gifts and then would talk to the families about Jesus and their relationship with God. I don't even like discussing my own relationship with God with others so talking to complete strangers in a different language was so incredibly difficult. I was asked to pray aloud over families for pregnancies, elderly, and prosperity. Aside from the traditional Hail Mary and Our Father, I don't pray out loud. I was honestly shaking as I prayed over these people aloud for my group to hear. I was struggling with the day craving to slip off and hide somewhere to avoid the discomfort. Then we came to this house through the trees and I was humbled. We met with this grandmother (pictured above) who demonstrated such beauty and strength that I was in awe to be in her presence. She herself had three daughters and then they too had daughters. As a symbol of strength for her family without men, she stated a farm. And now, her and her daughters, granddaughters, and even grandsons have this beautiful farm of corn and coffee that is sustainable and they are able to share with those in their community. She told us of how she wanted to provide for her girls and I was so deeply touched by her story. She held my hand and thanked me repeatedly for the gifts that we brought. I was asked to pray aloud for her ailing health as she has not been doing so well these past few months. I had this moment of panic and then felt relief come over me as I held this woman's hand and prayed for her life and her family. 


The hospitality of the Ugandans was like no other. We would visit the different houses for dinner and each of them would treat us like royalty. We were served first. They would display the meal for us to enjoy. I was so gracious for their hospitality as I don't always remember to offer my guests a glass of water. As gracious as they were, it was so difficult for me. This was one thing I had not prepared myself for. I don't know why I envisioned stoves and ovens and other luxuries that I no longer take for granted, but I did. Even in America, I don't eat food that was prepared in other people's homes unless I know them really well. I am a freak about germs. I constantly worry about the temperature of my food and if it was cooked long enough to kill all bacteria. So at first, I was repulsed that I was expected to eat the food. I am embarrassed to admit this. Did I think of myself as above the Ugandans and that I am better than eating a meal prepared outside without a stove? In my mind, I was obsessing over all of the various diseases I could potentially be getting with each bite. I am ashamed to admit this. I value people and their culture and don't think of myself as above others. I always accepted a meal, of tiny proportions, but I wish I had done a better job preparing myself for this aspect of my experience. 


Education. Naturally, education was my favorite part of the trip. I volunteered to take the upper level mathematics during this time of the day and I could feel the happiness radiate from me as I started to give instruction. I did a lesson on simplifying radical expressions that were not perfect squares. The kids did not have paper, pencils, pens, notebooks, erasers, calculators and all of the other luxuries that we take for granted. I had a small, individual whiteboard that I used to teach a group of about ten students. Despite the lack of resources, they were engaged and persistent to master this assignment. After about two hours, I told them that if they hadn't finished the worksheet, it was OK to stop and I would just make a note for them to keep working next time. Not one of them quit. They all kept working until they had solved every problem. Correctly. They were eager and excited and I was refreshed. It was difficult. They had to factor large numbers and know their multiplication tables that even myself would struggle with without a calculator. I'm not sure how transformational my one lesson was, but their perseverance certainly transformed my energy and excitement for them. On other days, I worked with students on preparing for the Ugandan National Mathematics Exam which is similar in style to the SAT. Difficult. But again, the resilience and determination of the students to not stop was incredibly invigorating. 


Oh, just a chicken that we killed to have for dinner. The expression "running around like a chicken with it's head cut off" has a whole new meaning to me. I also briefly considered becoming a vegetarian. 


Devotion was a multiple times a day occurrence. I pray daily. Typically a few times a day. Once in the morning. Once at night. And often times somewhere in between. Usually, these prayer times for me are brief and I say a prayer to God, recite one of the ones I know all too well, and then move along. Not in Uganda. We did devotion both in the morning and in the evening. Devotion consisted of about 30 minutes of song and dance praising God and worshiping Him followed by maybe another 30 -40 minutes of reading passages from the Bible and discussing their meaning and what we learned together. These kids, they know their stuff. When we were told what book of the bible would be reading from, the kids would all know immediately where to turn while I was there flipping through the pages trying to remember if it was New Testament or Old Testament. Their knowledge of the bible and time spent each day praising God was inspiring. Made me realize how little time I spend with Him and how I need to make more time in my life. 


We did adventurous things too like take a boat ride along the Nile and Lake Victoria, which is the "Source of the Nile." I can now say I have been in both of the rivers that run north in the world. 


We had an adorable pet monkey named MJ who I was very fond of. MJ would hold hands with you or take your watch off or try to steal your phone from your hands. I was obsessed. 


As I mentioned before, the experience was challenging. I was unplugged from social media which was far more difficult than I anticipated. I felt lost without my ability to scroll through Instagram and I could see others giving the familiar double tap and felt isolated from the world although I was right there in it. I would occasionally gain access to wifi (although I did not break my promise of no social media) and it was difficult to have only a few minutes to exchange texts with my closest family and friends while they were more than likely trying to still sleep. I missed the instant gratification of all that I am used to. I would have a question and not have access to Google for the answer. I wasn't able to check my email. While I eventually enjoyed the time away from social media and forced myself to be more present, I missed the luxury of knowing what was going on in the world. I felt like the world was standing still while I was there when I knew it wasn't. 

Another challenge for me was to be part of a group. I am so used to being on my own that I don't know to do well in a group sometimes. I had to remind myself to be conscious of others and their traveling needs and privacy. I also found myself craving time to myself. 


If Mary Kate and Ashley came to Uganda, they would definitely ride around on bodas. 


I've always felt this inner call to be part of Africa. To go. To visit. And had this underlying feeling that I would eventually be called there to serve in some type of capacity. It's funny how He works. While I loved Uganda, I feel like I was called there to realize that it's not where I am supposed to be. My passions have possibly changed or are at least different than what I thought they were. After my time in the classroom and my time spent with my girls in my college advising program, my passion is education. Maybe, I can find a way to advise the students of Uganda on the college application process and unite the two, but for now I am happy with where my heart is and knowing what I feel I have been called to do and who I was called to be. 

If you're still reading this. God Bless You. 

Don't worry Africa, I'll be back again. I just have three other continents to visit before I can return. Oh the joy of bucket lists! 

With love,

Danielle