Tuesday, September 26, 2017

decisions: to move or not to move? and are we?

I don't like making decisions.

That's a strange thing to say, because we make all kinds of decisions every day - to wake up when our alarm goes off or to hit snooze seven times, to heat up canned soup for lunch or treat ourselves to the Whole Foods buffet which will inevitably end up being $14, to go to the gym or skip it altogether (fun fact: I'm not even good at making those kinds of decisions. Baby decisions. Nondecisions, if you will).

Last week's crippling decision: to move or not to move?

After calculating the astronomical amount of money we spend each month driving on toll roads from our little apartment in Brandon (just outside of Tampa), the decision was practically made for us: to move. And so our own little version of House Hunters began.

Keep in mind, I'd been browsing for months in anticipation of this moment. I knew our lease was up in November, I knew we weren't ready to buy a house just yet. I knew that I wanted to move closer to the heart of Tampa, a bit closer to the beach. I wanted Ryan to be closer to work for a shorter commute, and I didn't mind being further away from my university because I don't have to be on campus all that much anymore. I felt like our requirements were simple:

  • Reasonable rent (we were even willing to spend a bit more, if it meant less $$ spent on tolls)
  • Balcony for the pooches to lounge upon
  • More storage space
  • More square footage, if possible
  • Not in the middle of nowhere
  • Amenities out the wazoo (nothing we love more than a good apartment gym)
We made the decision to move on a Sunday. By Ryan's lunch break on Monday, we made our way to our first couple apartment visits in West Shore, Tampa's business-esque "district." Our options were limited - a few brand new apartment complexes just popped up over the past year, with 650 square feet 1 bedroom/1 bathroom setups starting at $1500. Unreal.

Samantha and Ryan are in the market to rent an apartment for just one more year before buying a house of their own. Currently residing in the outskirts of Tampa, Samantha wants something a little more pooch-friendly, with plenty of shady areas for walking and leading a more active lifestyle. Ryan simply wants to save money, and is open to "whatever makes the most sense" (good to know, since Samantha prefers to go with the least sensible option...). Together, they'll find that apartment hunting is actually the worst. Is their wishlist too much for their itty bitty budget to handle? Probably, but let's watch anyway.

Option #1

We managed to find a beautiful complex, complete with a resistance pool (um, what), state of the art gym, and two pools, all within our price range (even less than what we were expecting). 

Pros: Um, hello crazy beautiful amenities. Five minute drive to Ryan's job, easy access to the highway, balcony (even though it was tiny AF). 

Cons: The apartment was a 640 square foot "studio/1 bedroom," - in other words, the bedroom actually just had an incomplete wall that didn't meet the ceiling. That's a tough situation when you consider that I'm a student and sometimes I have late nights studying - my desk lamp light would pour right over the wall and into the bedroom while Ryan tries to sleep. 

Additionally, the kitchen felt more like a kitchenette that you'd find at a cutesy boutique hotel, and it all just felt so sterile. While it was in a decent spot (and right across the street from a major mall & restaurants), it wasn't in a great neighborhood. And all of the hallways were inside with access via key only, and just a few areas to take the dogs out. Dependent upon where our potential apartment would be located, it could've been a five minute ordeal just to get outside for them to do their business. Not an opportune situation, if you ask me. 

Decision: PASS

Option #2

Sticking to the West Shore area, we hopped a bit further down the road to the next complex. I got a much better vibe here, from the staff to the apartment itself. We toured a 1/1 (a real 1/1, not a studio) that was complete with laminate wood flooring, a large kitchen, two closets, and a big bedroom.  

Pros: It was about 150 square feet larger than the last one. The hallways were still inside with a 3-5 minute commute to just get outside, but it was closer to ritzy neighborhoods (read: pretty streets lined with lots of trees) so I was feeling better about taking the dogs out. The gym was gorg, great pool, fire pit, etc. I was feeling good, feeling great. Plus: a bigger balcony than the last place.

Cons: The problem here? Price. While we'd be saving on tolls, rent was going to be nearly $200 more than what we currently pay, before pet rent (because a $500 nonrefundable fee isn't enough). We loved the setup and all the extra storage space, but we simply couldn't justify paying that much more when it was still in just an okay area.

Decision: PASS.

At this point, we were way past Ryan's lunch break, so it was time to stop for the day. Discouraged and deflated, we stood in line at Chipotle for an additional 20 minutes because #worthit. Even after just two viewings, I was ready to throw in the towel and to just accept that it wasn't going to happen as quickly as I wanted it to. If you

Option #3

(This is the street view - couldn't show you the inside because someone was still living there!)

Ryan had a lot going on Wednesday morning, so I trekked off to the viewing by myself (YIKES).

Pros: I parked across the street, as I wasn't aware of the giant parking lot behind the building (win #1 - south Tampa/Hyde Park street parking is the worst). The building dates back to the 1920s, so it was a safe bet to say it would be entirely different than what we'd seen in the last couple of brand new, luxury complexes. Upon entering, that was certainly confirmed: we're talking hardwood flooring (like the real stuff but with a laminate over the top), baseboard and crown molding, and double french doors opening into the bedroom. A tiny hallway led to the bathroom on the righthand side, and dead-ended into the kitchen, complete with granite countertops and white cabinets.

The cons: Storage space was relatively very limited with one large closet (plus a smaller one containing the stackable washer and dryer - win #2, as a lot of apartments in the area have a shared W/D or "connections"). And it was still a smaller space, coming in at 650 square feet (whoops, didn't realize that right away). And there was no balcony. Sigh. But it's so cute! And it has so much character! And I can walk to Bayshore Boulevard and take the dogs on long walks through the neighborhood and I can walk to work, to Green Lemon, to Hyde Park Village, to all the bars, TO ALL THE THINGS. In a nutshell - plenty of walking to be done.

After texting Ryan pictures, I told him that while storage space is limited, maybe we could make it work.

R- Is there a closet?
S- About the size of ours.
R- No pantry.
S- We could get something to act as one.
R- 1st or 2nd floor.
S- 2nd.
R- Cool. Parking sitch? Central air?
S- Lots of parking, central air in each unit.
R- Dope. Let's apply.

Decision: Made. LET'S DO THIS.

(Update: application approved, lease signed, baddabing!)

Was this decision impulsive? Perhaps. Was it out of our comfort zone? Entirely. But I think that now is the time to make both of those types of decisions, while we're young and on our own and still renting. And it's just one year. One year of a tiny closet, one year of living a downsized life. One year of living right in the center of one of the cutest parts of Tampa, in the center of Gasparilla madness on January 27th, walking distance from 293848 shops and restaurants and bars. I'm nervous AF but so excited!

What's the last thing you did that was completely out of your comfort zone? The last impulsive decision you made that ended up being totally worth it?


Tuesday, September 12, 2017

my hurricane irma experience.


When we first caught wind of catastrophic Category 5 Hurricane Irma sweeping across the Atlantic, through the Caribbean, and making her way up to Florida. My externship was unexpectedly cancelled for the day, so I decided to trek into Publix for regular groceries + "just in case" nonperishables. It was hardly 10 a.m., and all regular water bottles & jugs of water were gone. Drove to Costco next (big mistake - should have made this trip first). A line of 30+ cars were backed up over just to get into the parking lot, 10+ cars per gas line, etc. Solution? I parked across the street, managed to find an abandoned cart, picked up some wine & more nonperishable items...then proceeded to stand in a line to get into the real line for 45 minutes.

...and that was when it was projected to go up the east coast of Florida (I'm in Tampa, on the state's west coast). We weren't even in the predetermined path, and it felt like we were preparing for the apocalypse.

Wednesday & Thursday

Hoopla all around. A solid 50/50 combination of, "Are you evacuating? Are you evacuating? What flood zone are you in? I'm leaving first thing tomorrow, I'm boarding up my windows, I'm freaking out" and "How long have you lived in Florida? We know how to survive a hurricane. We'll be fine. Quit worrying."

Ryan did another nonperishable food run, and brought home 10 different kinds of soups.

Me: "babe, if we're without power, how are we going to eat soup?"
Ryan: "Sam, this isn't Bougie-R-Us. If we're without power long enough, we'll be eating cold soup."
Me: "..."


I worked lunch, which is normally crazy busy. Instead, the restaurant was a ghost town. We stood around for most of the day - conversations still a jumble of "I'm evacuating tonight!" and "C'MON, it's only going to be a Category 2 by the time it gets here, we're having a hurricane party!" 

...until later in the afternoon, when we caught wind (ha...puns) that the storm track changed, and she was heading straight up the west coast, beginning with Key West as a projected Category 5, with plans to plummet through Tampa Bay as a Category 3 or 4. Suddenly, the mood took a real turn. Everyone was hypersensitive, people were calling out of work left and right to make last minute evacuations. I had a pit in my stomach for the rest of the evening as we were met with a sobering feeling that this storm could change everything about the city we love.


Ryan and I spent the morning cleaning the entire apartment. We figured that if we were stranded without power for days on end, we may as well have dusted shelves and an organized pantry. My good friend, Lauren, who was in flood zone A (aka a mandatory evacuation area) took refuge in our apartment for the weekend, and showed up with Oreos, bagels, and even more wine.

We made one last trip "out," and it was a ghost town. By 3 p.m., all the Targets in the area closed, so you can imagine my panic was starting to set in real quick. Everything was closed. Most weekends, I like to stay in, watch movies at home, and avoid spending money. But I always have the option to go out, to pick up a shift at work, to have an impromptu date night. Never have I ever wanted to go out and do something more than when I didn't have that option.

Cue endless games of Joking Hazard, getting Lauren hooked on The Mick, and Ryan heating up three frozen pizzas while we guzzled back wine and called it a night before "the big day," aka when Irma was scheduled to hit.


Irma moves swiftly through Key West, devastating everything in her path. Downtown Miami suffered from horrendous flooding. We stayed glued to our Snapchat maps for video updates, kept the news on, and waited. Ryan has family in both Naples & Fort Myers, so we kept in contact with them while they still had power.

We made the best of the waiting game and made egg scrambles & drank mimosas. Pro-Hurricane tip: buy more than one bottle of champagne. Tip #2: always add peach schnapps to your mimosa because it makes it so much better.

Ryan took it upon himself to set the apartment to 68 degrees in case we lost power, so the apartment would stay cooler longer. It was quite the sight to see the three of us bundled up in long pants, fuzzy socks, and sweaters when it was still 80 degrees outside. Two mimosas later, Lauren and I fell asleep on the couch for two hours because #lightweights.

We started getting wind gusts around 7 p.m. with sideways rain. I'll cut to the chase here - we were very fortunate, and did not take a direct hit the way we anticipated. Due to her prolonged amount of time on land, Irma had weakened to a Category 2 storm by the time she reached us, and moved a bit to the east toward the center of the state. We only lost power for about three seconds, and haven't lost it again since. We stayed up until around 2 a.m. watching movies (Get A Job & American Beauty), drinking even more wine, and watching the trees thrash around in the wind.

The extent of the damage to our complex and area in general was minimal. The gusts brought down a few trees in our complex and overflowed the lake across the grass and into the pool (talk about "lagoon-like"). My parents and many of my friends have not been so lucky - as of 9 p.m. last night, my parents are still without power. It was a bad storm, but it could have been so much worse for us all.

In conclusion:

To say we've all been in some kind of suspended state of living is an understatement. This week feels like a blur. My university is closed until Thursday, so my Monday & Tuesday classes were cancelled. I have no idea when I'll start my externship back up. Even our apartment complex gym is closed until further notice. Despite the fact that I've had the last week off from virtually every responsibility, I haven't been relaxed. I didn't get much homework done, I didn't make a dent in my new library book, I certainly didn't eat very well. I haven't even worn makeup in three days (okay, that's been kind of great).

Needless to say, I am so ready to get back into a regular life and routine. I'm ready to get ahead on schoolwork, to get back in the gym, to make plans with friends and have date nights, to put this entire hurricane fiasco behind us. Again, we are so fortunate to have experienced as little damage as we did. My heart is with those in my state who were not as lucky. This storm was not one to mess around with, and I am so thankful that she finally passed us. 

Note to the government: maybe let me know about a potential direct Hurricane hit, like, two days beforehand. This whole week of waiting + anxiety? Yeah, never want to do that again.


Friday, September 8, 2017

what i read in august.

Last month, I finally got a three week summer vacation between semesters. I spent most of that break traveling in Europe, so binge watching Game of Thrones (I just started season one!) wasn't really an option for me. Instead, I spent a whole lot of travel time reading on my new Kindle Paper White. Like many avid readers, I much prefer the feel of turning actual pages to simply swiping on an electronic screen, but let me just say that my little Kindle was a life saver on my trip.

In the summertime, I like to keep my reads light and easy. Books like Gone Girl and Girl on the Train are my favorite, but sometimes I need a mental break from dark and twisted mystery types. Ya feel me? 

PS: For future book review posts, I'll probably try to sum up the plot on my own...but my mind has been in such a whirlwind, I feel like I'd miss out on details if I tried to whip them up for you over a month later. Sorry for the lengthy summaries!
PPS: Note that this post does contain Amazon Affiliate links!

What Alice Forgot by Liane Moriarty ($11.24 on Amazon)

Summary (via Goodreads): Alice Love is twenty-nine, crazy about her husband, and pregnant with her first child. So imagine Alice’s surprise when she comes to on the floor of a gym and is whisked off to the hospital where she discovers the honeymoon is truly over — she’s getting divorced, she has three kids and she’s actually 39 years old. Alice must reconstruct the events of a lost decade, and find out whether it’s possible to reconstruct her life at the same time. She has to figure out why her sister hardly talks to her, and how is it that she’s become one of those super skinny moms with really expensive clothes. Ultimately, Alice must discover whether forgetting is a blessing or a curse, and whether it’s possible to start over.
My Goodreads Rating: 4/5 stars
How I Felt About It: I had high expectations for this book, and I think that put me in an awkward position reading it. I loved Big Little Lies and The Husband's Secret, and because this was the first Liane Moriarty book I've read following those two twisted storylines, I was slightly disappointed because this plot and its characters didn't captivate me in the same way. Having said all that, I think that if I went into this book with a different mentality, I would've enjoyed it more. Still written very well, and still worth the read (especially if you're a Liane fan). 

It Ends With Us by Colleen Hoover ($8.99 for Kindle on Amazon)

Summary (via Goodreads): Lily hasn't always had it easy, but that's never stopped her from working hard for the life she wants. She's come a long way from the small town in Maine where she grew up - she graduated from college, moved to Boston, and started her own business. So when she feels a spark with a gorgeous neurosurgeon named Ryle Kincaid, everything in Lily's life suddenly seems almost too good to be true. Ryle is assertive, stubborn, and maybe even a little arrogant. He's also sensitive, brilliant, and has a total soft spot for Lily, but Ryle's complete aversion to relationships is disturbing. As questions about her new relationship overwhelm her, so do thoughts of Atlas Corrigan - her first love and a link to the past she left behind. He was her kindred spirit, her protector. When Atlas suddenly reappears, everything Lily has built with Ryle is threatened.
My Goodreads Rating: 4/5 stars
How I Felt About It: This book was a whirlwind, and when it took an unexpected turn it did, I couldn't believe I didn't catch on to it before. The summary says it all - everything seems "almost too good to be true." Like most things in life, if you think something is too good to be true, it probably is. I felt like a lot of the events played out very rapidly over 367 pages, but I think the author did a fantastic job of wrapping it all up in the end. Overall, I loved her style of writing, and I couldn't put this book down!

Three Wishes by Liane Moriarty ($6.99 for Kindle on Amazon)

Summary (via Goodreads): Lyn, Cat, and Gemma Kettle, beautiful thirty-three-year-old triplets, seem to attract attention everywhere they go. Whenever they're together, laughter, drama, and mayhem seem to follow. But apart, each is very much her own woman, dealing with her own share of ups and downs. Lyn has organized her life into one big checklist, juggling the many balls of work, marriage, and motherhood with expert precision, but is she as together as her datebook would have her seem? Cat has just learned a startling secret about her marriage -- can she bring another life into her very precarious world? And can free-spirited Gemma, who bolts every time a relationship hits the six-month mark, ever hope to find lasting love?
My Goodreads Rating: 4/5 stars
How I Felt About It: This is actually Liane Moriarty's first ever published book! I have recently become a big fan of hers, so I felt obligated to read her debut novel. As per most of her books, the POV jumped between each sister, along with a little quip at the end of each chapter from bystanders observing the triplets from afar at different points of their lives. While it was no The Husband's Secret, I enjoyed the story, and it was a cheap thrill for just $7. My biggest gripe about it: random italicizations. I don't know if it was an editing mistake or what - you could tell that just one word was meant to be italicized, but then the rest of the sentence + end quotations, etc. would be italicized, too. Had nothing to do with the quality of the story of course but wowza, it drove me nuts.

Finding Audrey by Sophie Kinsella ($7.99 for Kindle on Amazon)

Summary (via Goodreads): An anxiety disorder disrupts fourteen-year-old Audrey’s daily life. She has been making slow but steady progress with Dr. Sarah, but when Audrey meets Linus, her brother’s gaming teammate, she is energized. She connects with him. Audrey can talk through her fears with Linus in a way she’s never been able to do with anyone before. As their friendship deepens and her recovery gains momentum, a sweet romantic connection develops, one that helps not just Audrey but also her entire family.
My Goodreads Rating: 3/5 stars
How I Felt About It: While I had heard great things about this book, I felt a little "meh" about it. I felt like I kept waiting for something big to happen, or to at least find out what happened to Audrey. I found the book spent a little too much time focusing on her brother, whose storyline I didn't really care for. I normally love Sophia Kinsella, so I think I was expecting this to be more along the lines of Shopaholic...alas, it was not. However, it was a decently enjoyable book - heart warming, a bit funny at times, a good light read.

Wonder by R. J. Polacio ($9.99 for Kindle on Amazon)

Summary (via Goodreads): August (Auggie) Pullman was born with a facial deformity that prevented him from going to a mainstream school—until now. He's about to start 5th grade at Beecher Prep, and if you've ever been the new kid then you know how hard that can be. The thing is Auggie's just an ordinary kid, with an extraordinary face. But can he convince his new classmates that he's just like them, despite appearances?
My Goodreads Rating: 5/5 stars
How I Felt About It: I ADORED THIS BOOK. Although it's intended for a much younger audience, I think it contains a lesson that we could all be bashed over the head with every once in awhile: to always, always, always be kind. While the story is primarily told from Auggie's POV, it jumps around a bit to nearly everyone involved in the story, which I really liked. I laughed. I cried (quite a bit). I'd recommend it to anyone, as it really is such a heartwarming story.

Have you read any of these books? What did you read last month?


Thursday, September 7, 2017

linkup : what's new with you?

This is my first time linking up with Gretch Runs & See You In A Porridge for their monthly linkup: What's New With You?


As many of you know, August was a big month of traveling for me. I went to visit my sister who lives in Bulgaria, and spent about two weeks road tripping across the country. We even made it to northern Greece for a couple of days!

I know your next question - why does she live in Bulgaria? I totally get it - when you think of somebody moving abroad to Europe, you think England, Ireland, Germany, etc. Long story short - my brother-in-law is from Bulgaria, and a few years back, his grandmother wasn't doing so well. He asked his job if he could work remotely, and baddabing! My sister has always been a bit of a gypsy, so moving there was an adventure that she was more than happy to take on. She absolutely loves it. They've lived there since 2013, and although she'll tell you differently, she is very fluent in Bulgarian. Pretty cool, if you ask me!

I plan to do a couple of posts about my trip in the next month, if anyone would be interested to read about it.


Again, like many of you know, I'm in graduate school for speech-language pathology (just started my second and final year, woop woop!). I just began my first externship a couple of weeks ago, and I'm working with children for my third semester in a row!

I'm at the point where I still don't know if I'd like to work with kids or adults when I graduate and begin my career, but I'm hoping that once I'm placed into my adult externship next semester, I'll have a better idea. Prior to getting very involved in the field + major, I had no clue that SLPs can also work to improve communication and swallowing in adults who have dementia, or have suffered from a stroke or traumatic brain injury. I observed these types of patients at a hospital during my post-bacc classes, and I'm still very much interested in this population, so we'll see how it goes! In the meantime, I'm loving getting to play with kiddos every day. I'm slammed busy most days, but it's so worth it.

Life in general

Our apartment lease is up in November, so we're between a rock and a hard place about where to live next. Ideally, we wanted to wait until I'm done with grad school to buy a house. However, we've been looking into the Florida First Time Homebuyer grant program, as it might be "going away" sooner rather than later. If we qualify for that, we might be cracking open a whole new can of worms! But it's still way too soon to tell.

Coffee Mate Natural Bliss is my go-to creamer, and I finally tried out their salted caramel flavor. I was about to complain about their lack of fall festive flavors until I went to link it AND Y'ALL THEY HAVE PUMPKIN SPICE, BYEEEEEEEE. 

(PS: these shorts from Aerie are comfy AF - keep them bookmarked because they always have great sales. I just got them for $12 last week. YOU NEED THEM) (PPS: mug is from Target, duh).

Also, for those of you who don't know, I live in the Tampa Bay area of Florida, so it's safe to say that we've all been in a real panic about Hurricane Irma. I'll be the first to admit that I'm pretty jaded when it comes to hurricanes, because in my lifetime, Tampa has yet to get a direct hit. Even now, it's looking like it'll be heading up and along the east coast. Having said all that, Irma's diameter is literally the size of Florida, so I think we'll be getting a little sumsum no matter what. I know Key West is under a mandatory evacuation, and the rest of Florida is under a state of emergency. 

I braved Costco on Tuesday and waited in line for 45 minutes for just a few nonperishables and wine. Everywhere is out of bottled water (and gasoline), but shoutout to my boyfriend for having bought two large cases months ago "just in case we get a hurricane or something." What a guy. Anyway - we are all set to hunker down for the rest of the weekend until this thing figures itself out. I've been glued to the news, updates, etc. and my heart is just breaking for everyone in Irma's direct path. 

On that positive and uplifting note (not), what's been new with you this month?


Tuesday, September 5, 2017

what i want from september.

Labor Day Weekend has already come and gone, but I have a feeling that summer is here to stay for awhile. Despite the fall and Halloween dedicated aisles I observed in Target and Michael's this weekend, I've hardly had a spare moment to take in all the hoopla the way I normally do this time of year. Having said that, we're easing into one of my favorite parts of the year, so I'm making an effort to slow down this month and make time for the big things, the small things, and myself.

In September, I want to...

Say "no." 

My plate is super full right now, so between school work + externship + regular work + social engagements & obligations, I've hardly had a second to just sit and catch up with myself. It's easy to fall into the trap of "I'm so busy, so if I have a free afternoon, I must fill it with XYZ." Instead, I plan to start saying, "I'm so busy, so if I have a free afternoon, I'm going to keep it free." I also plan to not feel guilty about it.

Buy pumpkin creamer, festive flavored coffee, and apple cider.

Because nothing makes me feel more fall festive than pumpkin everything. And even if fall can't really happen in Florida, at least my coffee will transport me some place with colored leaves and crisp air...right? Don't even get me started on apple cider. One sip and suddenly I'm in a wood cabin in the mountains with a crackling fire and flannel blankets. Okay, not really. But really.

Get back on the "health train."

Between my two week trip to Europe, the start of a crazy semester, and attending a bachelorette party, it's safe to say that I have been way out of my usual(ish) go-to-the-gym-and-eat-all-the-healthy-things routine. This month, I intend to plan out my workouts, meal prep for externship days, and cut back on social drinking to just a glass of wine or two on the weekends. As busy as I've been, I know that making time to improve my health is so important, so I need to get back to doing just that.

Embrace every last bit of summer.

Sip sangria on the porch, dip my toes in the gulf while it's still warm, read a book by the pool, survive a hurricane (hey Irma, slow your roll, will ya?). I love September and everything that comes with it, but I'm not entirely sure that I'm ready to say goodbye to summertime just yet. 

What do you want to do this month?

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