Full of Thanks


'Giving Thanks' is one of fifty labels I use to categorize my blog posts (see 'What I Blab About' on the righthand side). When filtering for just it this afternoon, I found that it fit the bill in some way, shape or form for most of my entries to date. Others, like 'Greek Life' and 'Gossip Girl', got more usage from BOD circa 2009-13. 

I'm thankful for that evolution as this blog has grown up with me--to see that this space has always offered me a place to pinpoint things that often get taken for granted. I'm equally thankful that there's a day (a long weekend, really) devoted to doing the same. As you may have guessed by now, it didn't seem right to dedicate this week's post to anything but the wonderful reason for the season. Here's this weekend's edition of what I'm thankful for:

Skipping the stores and instead, spending quality time with my sis, scavenging the sales in cyberspace with champagne & a new do, courtesy of her at-home beauty salon braid service.

Her son and my oldest nephew, Sam, reminding us all of the great gift that is wi-fi during our family's circle of Thanksgiving. 

Blessings really do come in all shapes and sizes. Like my big girl nieces, Ceci and Ana, who painted pottery with me. Then, there's our brand new baby boys,

like Maximilian James, whose big family joined together to witness him join his bigger Christian family last weekend  

and baby Benjamin, who can nestle in my arms whenever he needs a nap.

Last but not least, there's littlest Lucas, who lit up the room as I took him on a FaceTime tour of his wild turkey family down in Texas.

courtesy of MK's Snapchat feed
For that, I'm thankful for my phone, allowing me to connect with loved ones near and far, like Merl, who I had a morning chat with, already making my day and bound to make my week, too.

At the same time, I'm thankful to unplug and the time to flip through a new book as well as an old journal, finding an abundance of answered prayers.

All last week, I watched my mom use her forty years of experience putting food (& flowers!) on the table for our happy (and always hungry) family. No surprise then that her children--and my siblings--did wonders with side dishes and dessert.

Then, I witnessed my dad's ability--after many years of experience also--to not let a disappointing loss for his Fighting Irish football team rob him of any joy or entertainment from a good game. 

And of course, sharing all of the above with William and in turn, being treated to the company of his also sizable family, a set of six sons and two parents who value their time together and share something just as special. 

There's an overwhelming trend as I read through what I've deemed worthy of mentioning. Above all, I'm thankful for my people, this weekend and every day. 

I hope you and your people enjoy this upcoming holiday season!

paix & prières & a post for Paris


In light of the attacks in Paris, I didn't want to wait any longer before posting this in dedication to a city that I--like many, many others--love. It has sat in my drafts for some weeks now as I've had recurring thoughts on my time spent there. Since it's been a work in progress prior to the attacks, the tone and mood of the content by no means reflect the weight of the tragedy that took place there last week. Still, it's a small way to reflect on the big part the city has played in my life. So, without further ado...

You may recall my trip to Paris last summer. What I failed to mention is that I packed all the wrong things. I discovered fairly quickly that not only is Texas bigger than France, it's also much, much warmer. My suitcase was stocked with several new sweaters and scarves upon my return, and I'm happy to report that over a year later, these items are still on heavy rotation. I've worn through a fitted white tee from a store I can't remember the name of; there's a lightweight Zara scarf I wrap around my shoulders at work once a week, if not twice; and, a black top with leather sleeves from another chain has become this year's fall's favorite transition top to throw on.

What seemed like nothing special in the stores--just solutions to my packing oversights--turned out to be everyday staples. I'll be the first to raise my hand in recognizing that the French have that certain "je ne sais quoi" when it comes to style: chic but simple, effortless but elegant. After people watching on the streets, perhaps I picked pieces out with that sense of style in mind, so they have naturally withstood the test of time. What's more likely, though, is that their permanent place in my closet reflects the permanent place Paris holds in my heart. In other words, the sentiment of the city reigns supreme.

That's why I rested a Paris metro map on my desk at home with Post-its pointing out the places where memories never to be forgotten were made. That's also why I'll always pick the croissant at a pastry window as the taste takes me back to the sweet smell of morning walks. And that's why I loved watching Sabrina for the first time, finding out she was the first to utter the phrase, "Paris is always a good idea."

In a world full of things, our possessions tied to the places and people we love will always outshine the other stuff. Paris, you've spread good 'round the world. Prayers for you, your people and a state of peace are being sent back.

More is More


There is--and continues to be--more and more noise that clogs our ears, our eyes, our hearts and our minds. With inboxes and Instagram, ads and alerts, news feeds and notifications, it can be numbing.

I make an effort to sift through that noise to find things of note to share with you all. But, with more stuff on my plate and less time on my hands, that sifting and sharing process happens less often than I'd like. So, instead of scrolling through my photo feed and skimming recently favorited articles, I'm recycling old material tonight.

I read my post, No I In Fear, to remind myself of my resolution for this year. What caught my attention was that less fear was really just the means to my end, more goodness. I wrote,

"As I strive to live a life with intention and meaning, this goal is aiming to extract more good out of life." 

Goodness is everywhere. Stress is just a symptom of trying to manage, balance and juggle all of it during the day. The more you seek it, the more you'll find it. I hope you find the good today and store it for the days to come!

About Age


I felt under the weather last weekend--even feverish--and only yesterday did I feel like myself again. The storms sweeping Texas gave me all the more reason to make the couch my permanent residence all weekend long.

Somehow, I still managed to see nearly every nearby family member at some point or another. From sweet baby Max after mass to dear Marmie during Sunday dinner to show her last week's post dedicated to her.

When addressing questions on the size of my family, I always wind up saying something along the lines of having "the best of both worlds." My older siblings act as my sounding boards, always one to two steps ahead of me in major life stages or milestones, and the roles reverse as I act as a role model aunt to my younger nieces and nephews.

That puts me somewhere in the middle, which is kind of how I've felt at the crux of college and career all this year. Blogger bestie Annie talked about our age last week, and I am going to do the same.

William and I have talked about it at length, particularly the point that we should embrace whatever age we are. This means that at age 6 and three-quarters, you play outside until it's dark and you're called in for dinner. At 15, you should be spending more nights at your best friend's house than your own. And at 22, you accept the fact that you're still figuring it all out.

That's the overarching item on my to-don't list: don't expect to fit it all in, cross it all off, get it all done and figure it all out, all you young twenty-somethings.

And for everyone! Spend more time being, not doing.

Notes & Posts


Pictured on the far right in the pink suit is a Mom to six, a Marmie to 21 & a great Marmie to 13. 
My grandmother--Marmie, we call her--celebrated another year well-lived on Monday. A few years back, my oldest brother and her oldest grandson, Chris, compiled a book of birthday messages from her grandkids.

Marmie with her oldest son & my dad. Mom barely makes the background blending into the seventies wallpaper.
Being prompted to pause and put into words how only a wonder of a woman could raise a dad like mine was a very gratifying exercise.

I find joy in writing personal notes for most of the same reasons I find joy in writing personal posts. My current read resonated this all the more in discussing 'The Lost Art of Letter Writing': "it is cherished because it possesses a permanent, enduring quality, something often carefully saved or preserved by its owner."

Cherished it she has, having read our notes countless times since, remarking how no one time is any less touching than the time before. In this way, this simple gesture is stunning proof that letters do worlds of good on both the sending and receiving end.

So here we are again, two years later, and all that I wrote still holds true, Marmie: I appreciate your constant curiosity about our lives, goals, interests and whereabouts.

I admire how your fashion sense has yet to fade--seasonal sparkly earrings included!

And above all, I love that your favorite time is family time.

This year, I have one thing to add. Thank you for repeatedly recognizing my way with words. Your encouragement to continue writing and perhaps pursue getting published is valued more than you may realize.

So, now you know. But for today, I wanted to show you the space I put this skill into practice most. Here's to you Marm, whom I dedicate this blog post.

Happy birthday!

A & B


I am fortunate to work somewhere where keeping your personal goals in check is highly encouraged. Mine is blogging once a week and in setting this goal, I knew that at times, it would have to be short and sweet.

This is one of those times. So, this post is short, and it's dedicated to two people who make life sweet.

win or lose, always smile with you...but, glad we won :)
Annie! Thank you for never failing to find me despite whichever frenzy of fans might be in our way. Last year, it was the masses of music festival folk at Austin City Limits. And this past weekend, you circled the Cotton Bowl round all the way to your rival's side to reunite a year later.

Between our annual encounters, I admire watching how you work then write, play 'til you can post, and bake for your blog's sake. It's not easy, but Take a Bite is a testament that no stage in life is too busy to put posting on pause. I can't wait for TAB's face lift at the end of the month!

thanks for taking a breakfast break with me, BB!

Now, from A to B. I am rich in both quantity and quality where siblings are concerned, the benefits of which are many. My sister Amy's bestie, Brettne, is something I wish I was--an avid reader. She turned this passion into her profession as a literary agent in New York. A group of four make up her newly established boutique firm, The Book Group, and it's with this that she has done what we all aspire to do--fulfill a dream.

She was with Amy the night I was born and has since watched the budding writer in me unfold on BOD. She's no stranger to bloggers turned book authors as she collaborated with Camille Styles and Erin Gates of Elements of Style on their first published works.

If she caught their attention, it should come as no surprise she's had mine over the years and the admiration of many. When I made a trip up to Manhattan at the end of last month, I made sure to ask her advice on how to continue to finding avenues to write that didn't involve crafting an e-mail. After all, she makes a living out of "cultivating writers throughout their careers."

She told me this, "Read. Read what you love, and figure out why you love reading it. Then, write without reason."

So, I spared not a second more before heading to Central Park with the book I had borrowed from my mom and brought on the plane, The Lost Arts of Modern Civilization.

The preface starts off with this: "The only end of writing is to enable the readers better to enjoy life," from Samuel Johnson. And this week, I leave you with that, in hopes that one part of this literary piece, more basically called a blog post, enabled you to better enjoy the life you live today.

Wonderful Whirlind


A "wonderful whirlwind" are the words Merl and I chose to describe this phase of our lives. It's fast and it's furious. It's full of newness, yet we're expected to go forth on just knowing the old. Days look the same but can feel so different. 

One of my tricks to navigating times of transition is making time for reflection. I haven't made that time up until this past weekend and didn't want it to end there. So, it continues here as I write on nothing more than this and that and all the things that make this whirlwind so very wonderful. 

Pie in the sky! To-go for two from our favorite, Solario. The simple weekends can sometimes be the most fulfilling. 

Her old soul fits her cozy law school abode. I'll work from your home any day of the week, Moll.

They say the Red River Shootout is anyone's game, so I remain hopeful for a victory in Dallas this weekend. Rest assured all will feel right when these roomies reunite in Nico's new Dallas digs.

Studying Bible study at a Bible study was exactly what I needed yet failed to realize until the opportunity fell into my lap thanks to a co-worker, Caroline. We're reading this book, which inspires ways to read and reflect on the text more thoughtfully.
Stay tuned! Spreading the love into several more posts.

Six Smiles in Chicago


I spent just last summer abroad. Still, it seems like a lifetime ago.

I remember returning home with all intentions to continue traveling, knowing full well obstacles would present themselves, excuses would be easy to come by and it would be easier thought than done. With time, though, I have found domestic journeys to be very doable. So, when Labor Day rolled around, there were way too many reasons to go to Chicago and hardly any not to. Below are six (and then some) things that made me smile on my first trip to the Windy City:

happy happy happy birthday today!

Annemieke, my partner-in-crime who keeps me cool, cosmopolitan and carefree.

A private campus tour with my brother Chris's (class of '95) personal touches 

Fijis reunite in South Bend

Fraternity fans,

ND grads with their Longhorn ladies

familial fans,

Mieke & Kevin, William & me, Caroline & Brad

and friendly fans

all under the watch of touchdown Jesus. 
Post game-day brunchin' with the best of 'em

before the next ball game at another famous field

order the carrots and stay for a most delicious cheese plate

followed by a final night under these indoor city lights at The Publican in Fulton Square Market.

The nightcap at The Chicago Athletic Club punctuated the weekend perfectly; it's not pictured as is to be expected with some of the best moments of all...like the view from the 96th floor of the Hancock Tower, seas of orange and cowboy boots storming the streets of a midwest city and a drive along Lakeshore. 

I spy a selfie stick!

But when shiny object syndrome takes over, one must snap away to say you've Bean there, done that.

Next stop on the all-American tour is a city that still feels like home, Austin. Stay tuned for the final Six Smiles post of the summer before a trip to a destination that never disappoints.

Six Smiles


I write this post with a tall glass of water: water before coffee in the morning is part of my ongoing efforts to form good habits, habits that make for a happier me and a more satisfied self.

Making time to blog is another. Starting the Six Smiles series this summer was such an approachable way to stick with it. And while Labor Day seems like the season's closing ceremony, I will savor its last days until the calendar strikes the official date, September 22nd, when the days get shorter and the temperatures get cooler.

So with that,

electing to rock any and all linen and white items while I can
Take-out is trending as friends find their own places to call home (sans parents, that is!). Josephine and Alexa's apartment has stunning skyline views of Houston,

not unlike this one from my overnight stay in Dallas for work training in Victory Park.

Love Field, ILY. // french vanilla bean & peach gelato

Always take advantage of the airport treats available when forced to wait. 

photo via Caitlin McCullough Photography
Big brother Sam is cute as ever in a camera shy moment during the family of five's photo shoot. 

sold at most drug stores, Whole Foods &Amazon
A daily beauty regimen I adopted from Emily's Monthly Beauty Buys to make a final make-up swipe in the morning. 

 I made my own granola! Homemade sure tastes good, but so does Purely Elizabeth.

not pictured:

My best friend has an Instagram inspired by these words: "Here's my heart Lord, take and seal it, seal it for thy courts above." Which is one of many reasons why she's a best.

Vanity plates always seem to fit the wheels they ride on. William, my brother, sister-in-law and I have a text thread showcasing Houston's FIN3ST...

While reminiscing on Mary Kate & Ashley movies with Mieke, we concluded Passport to Paris is the unanimous favorite amongst us all. 

This four day week! Happy Friday to all, and stay tuned for next week's special edition of Six Smiles, straight out of Chicago. 

Six Smiles


Living according to the calendar year has me a little thrown off. My mental clock is set for another semester of school and a built-in social schedule surrounded by all of my friends; but, it will soon find that the structure of a work week punctuated by weekends is here to stay.

I'm not complaining. I'm just adjusting to managing my many blessings on this schedule, like these six things:

this aluminum tray from Rice Village party good haven Sloan Emerson serves as a casual alternative to a more formal entertaining piece

Post-grad perks include learning to play hostess, which I did with snacks and sparkly beverages for a homey happy hour with Caroline and Alexandra.

on the menu: Greek salad with orange vinaigrette, grilled Halloumi & zucchini // homemade flatbread with grilled chicken & tzatziki sauce // honey-glazed figs & frozen yogurt
Learning to cook makes the list too, so I eagerly accepted Nicole's invitation to join her at this Sur la Table Greak Greek Cooking class.  

a foot's happy medium between heels and sandals
My mad search for a pair of flatforms came to an end just in time to sport them for the final days of summer.

ADAMS, an Austin-based vanilla extract maker, now churns out ice cream.
All credit for discovering the best, fluffiest carton of vanilla ice cream stocked on the supermarket's shelves goes to Mr. and Mrs. Andrew McConn.

Remember this? Claire Martin Designs turned a photo of me and Merl into artwork to display in her D.C. room during our long distance friendship.

the second publication from Cupcakes + Cashmere (to add to the first!)

Thumbing through what came inside my market bag from Moll, I found the best thing inside our first favorite blogger's new book to be the home decor tips for renters, which I hope to soon be!

+6 more not pictured: restaurant research for Labor Day in the Windy City: intrigued by this patio brunch spot, Parson's (all recs welcome!) // might have found my first Netflix binge series, Peaky Blinders // never have I ever had such silky smooth hair 'til ESPA shampoo and conditioner (sad to say only the body wash is for general sale) // DJ Weezy on the track // establishing a Sunday smoothie run tradition with WD //  call people, print photos, clean make-up brushes and 10 other things we should do more of

Happy Friday to all!