Four days of updates! Including an overnight trip and a chateau in Illinois

Well, I sort of updated from the road on our snackings (we add “ings” to just about every noun to turn it into a verb.. however grammatically incorrect). So backing up to Friday…

I was super nervous about my oral exams. It’s not that I thought I wouldn’t pass, just that I was afraid I would either forget how to speak or lose any sense of articulation I once had. However, I was quite articulate I thought (and they thought) and all went well. It was 45 minutes of them asking questions and me talking, but I did okay except for a few little flubs and fact confusion. 🙂

My big-girl outfit for oral exams 🙂

After they were over, I went to choir (I sing in the University’s top choir and we rehearse 3 days a week for an hour and a half each… yikes!). We are touring to Chicago this week and doing 5 concerts in three days, so we better get ON it. As soon as choir was over, Tim and I hit the road to our potential new home-town… what is this secret location, you ask? I can’t tell you until after today 😉 Tim is negotiating his job offer today and hopefully we will be celebrating with champagne tonight.

However, we did stay in a fascinatingly ridiculous hotel called The Chateau. It is in the style of a French chateau but it is SO TACKY like you wouldn’t believe. It was the cheapest decent room we could find for a night, haha, and we thought it’d be an adventure – and it was!

The Chateau

Our room was the one with the light on right above the arch entrance thing.

There were lots of tchotchkes….

Our friend the soldier


Tim and a random Elephant (he must be a French elephant)

Anyway, in spite of all the tackiness, it was a decent, affordable hotel that is trying just a little too hard.

After checking into the hotel, we went to a great downtown restaurant called Reality Bites – super cute with exposed brick walls and piping, etc. It was a tapas restaurant and we chose two dishes:

Lobster and chipotle stuffed wonton shells

Beer cheese and baked tortilla chips

The pictures don’t really do these justice. They were quite tasty and enjoyable, but we ordered bananas foster for dessert and it really wasn’t great. Oh well. We would go back. There was some live acoustic music which was a nice evening cap.

The next morning we got up to explore town. We hit up a Starbucks for some coffee and designed our plan of action, which ended up being “the plan is to not have a plan” and so we just drove around. We found some great places in some really cute parts of town, particularly the historic tree-lined areas near the university Tim will hopefully be teaching at in the fall. Following some house-hunting, we went over to the university and were given a tour of the School of Music by the head of the department who was a lovely fellow and we really enjoyed the tour. We even got a snippet of a violin recital and the violinist sounded very good. We explored the library, a place I can never resist, and encountered this gentleman:

Why hello, sir!

After some more driving around, and an amazing Asian Chop salad at The Noodle Shop, we headed home. My thesis stared at me the whole way home, asking to be revised:

Stop staring at me!

As you can see, using it as a footrest didn’t exactly cover it up, but I didn’t touch it the whole way home as a last-ditch effort at relaxation on our insane weekend. However, I did get up early yesterday morning and spent four hours revising. BLAHHHHHH, WHEN IS THIS DEGREE GOING TO END??! (the answer, of course, is in 32 days, which is 768 hours. I can do it, I can do it.

I am having major allergy issues this morning 😦 But oh! I wanted to talk about some workout stuff. So I got really into that Pump class at school but I don’t think I was supplementing with enough cardio – in spite of feeling remarkably strong 😉 and seeing a noticeable difference in my stamina in strength training, I started to feel… flabby! This confused me to no end because I’d always heard that the more muscle you have, the higher your metabolism. It was more an experiment than anything, and I’m going to go back to my nice balanced workout of about 60% cardio and 40% strength training which always works really nicely for me. It might not work for everyone though.

Tim and I were feeling kind of icky after that heavy dinner Friday night, so when we got home Saturday night we were ready for something light. We settled on green beans and a baked potato… it was a great, light dinner.

Garlic green beans


Yummy baked potato that took FOREVER to bake with some WW cheese and LF sour cream

Well, friendly friends, have the loveliest of Mondays. This is what our day looks like:

😦 Need I say more?


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Posting from the road!

Tim and I are on a four hour drive to our potential (secret) future home to check it out and do some house looking! My oral exams went well. I passed! One more hurdle to check off!

I am not a superstar at mobile posting so bear with me… I grabbed some road eats at a gas station:


Yum! I love peppermint patties. The pringles were more for Timothy but I had a few!

This morning we had smoothies which we consumed so quickly I didn’t take a pic. Fresh strawberries and blue berries and Greek yogurt fabulousness!

Anyway just a quickie update. Plus some photos of my flowers that are all trying SO HARD to blossom!



Happy Friday, everyone!

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Study break!

I have grad schoolitis. I am so ready to be done. Yesterday I had to sit for my written comprehensive exams, two hours of writing to answer two questions, and tomorrow I have to take my oral exams… meaning my graduate committee preys on me and asks me anything they please about my last two years of study. This is basically an impossible task to study for. Sooo I’m doing my best. This is what the floor looks like beside me:

GRRRR notes and books

I’m quite over it. Hence the study break. This weekend Tim and I are taking a little overnight trip to our possible new hometown (still TBA)… we’re hoping to look at some rental townhomes and condos. I’ll let ya know how it turns out 🙂

I am so burnt out that I had a taco SANDWICH for dinner. I had a bagel thin, with homemade taco leftovers ON it. It really wasn’t great. I just needed to eat something and keep working. Boooo. This is definitely not my style.

We are finally starting to have beautiful weather so last night, in celebration of my writtens being over, we went out for margaritas:

This is not a flattering angle, but those were big 'ritas!

Yesterday I had one of those change-clothes-a-million-times days. Boo.

Outfit 1 - nixed

Outfit 2, but added a gauzy printed scarf

Here’s a roundup of today’s yummies:

Yummy PB-banana-ness

Best lunch ever... Greek yogurt, Fresh blueb'ries, organic wheat squares


And then I had one of my FAVORITE snacks this afternoon:

Edamame with sea salt

I may have also consumed a cookie or two that I whipped up last week from a recipe on Skinny Taste (my link-to button isn’t working right now, so here’s the URL:

Okay… I’m either going to resume studying or begin sleeping.


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First style post, smiles and frowns, meals, and other randomness

I have a bit of a clothes fetish. But I’m a grad student. So that means that I’m a poor person with a clothes fetish, which sucks. Fortunately, I live in nowheresville, USA, so there’s not much shopping around (until we move in the near future to a location that I have yet to announce). As a result, I do a lot of creative dressing so I don’t get tired of my clothes, and also, ANY time I go out of town I go shopping. We live near St Louis, kind of, so if I’m there, I shop. When I go home, I shop. When I go to New York, I shop. I really don’t believe in paying full-price for clothes except the occasional nice pair of pants or jeans or must-have-it dress. Anyway, I get a lot of comments on my outfits so I thought I’d share the occasional outfit. Here was a Monday basic:

Monday easy outfit

This is our guest bedroom/storage room, so please forgive the undecorated state of it. Anyway, this is a lazy day outfit for me –  gray t-shirt with woven sleeves from H&M (it’s hard to see the sleeves), forever 21 skinny jeans, wedges from Aldo, earrings from Tiffany, and headband from Anthropologie. I am sadly quite short which I never realize until I see pictures like that! 😦

Closeup of the Anthropologie Headband/uncurled hair/no makeup day!

Just add a scarf!

Given that I’m a singer, I add scarves to just about every outfit to keep my throat warm (sounds lame, but is necessary). It’s also just a nice way to square off an otherwise boring outfit like the one above. Okay moving on.


Peanut butter and honey bagel thin for breakfast

This morning was an easy breakfast morning, because I have to sit for my comprehensive exams in a couple hours. What this means is, essentially, everything I’ve learned in the past two years, my graduate committee can ask me about and I have two hours to write. The follow-up to this is oral exams on Friday when they can ask me anything else they want and I have an hour to talk. AY YI YI.

Yesterday was a throw-together lunch that was yummy in my tummy! Whole wheat wrap with Annie’s organic vegetarian refried beans and a little bit of weightwatchers shredded cheese:

MMMM beans and cheese

And a side of leftover fruit salad

Timothy was out of town Sunday night for some business schtuff and I missed him terribly! I was ready for him to come home and thought he was on the way when I sent him this text:

Waiting for Pump class to start and telling Timothy I'm ready for him to come HOME

But then his flight got cancelled a few hours later which resulted in this:

still sweaty in gym clothes and sadddd

To continue an entirely non-cohesive post, yesterday I got to school and needed a breath freshener and at a lack of gum, I found a mint halls cough drop. Check out the encouraging wrapper!

How positive!

To end this post, I’d like to pass on a couple things: first, something Julie from Peanut Butter Fingers posted today. It’s super positive and lovely:

Handbook to Life


1. Drink plenty of water.
2. Eat breakfast like a king, lunch like a prince, and dinner like a beggar.
3. Eat more foods that grow on trees and plants and eat less food that is manufactured in plants.
4. Live with the 3 E’s — Energy, Enthusiasm and Empathy.
5. Make time to pray.
6. Play more games.
7. Read more books.
8. Sit in silence for at least 10 minutes each day.
9. Sleep for 7 hours.
10. Take a 10-30 minute walk daily. And while you walk, smile.


11. Don’t compare your life to others. You have no idea what their journey is all about.
12. Don’t have negative thoughts over things you cannot control. Instead, invest your energy in the positive present moment.
13. Don’t overdo. Keep your limits.
14. Don’t take yourself so seriously. No one else does.
15. Don’t waste your precious energy on gossip.
16. Dream more while you are awake.
17. Envy is a waste of time. Be grateful for what you have been given.
18. Make peace with your past so it won’t spoil the present.
19. Life is too short to waste time hating anyone.
20. No one is in charge of your happiness except you.
21. Realize that life is a school and you are here to learn. Problems are simply part of the curriculum that appear and fade away (like algebra class) but the lessons you learn will last a lifetime.
22. Smile and laugh more.
23. You don’t have to win every argument. Agree to disagree.


24. Call your family often.
25. Each day give something good to others.
26. Forgive.
27. Spend time with people over the age of 70 & under the age of 6.
28. Try to make at least three people smile each day.
29. What other people think of you is none of your business.
30. Your job won’t take care of you when you are sick. Your friends will. Stay in touch.


31. Do the right thing!
32. Get rid of anything that isn’t useful, beautiful or joyful.
33. God heals everything.
34. However good or bad a situation is, it will change.
35. No matter how you feel, get up, dress up and show up.
36. The best is yet to come.
37. When you awake alive in the morning, thank God for it.
38. Your inner most is always happy. So, be happy.

The last thing I’ll leave you with is a TED talk I watched this morning about how active compassion could bring world peace, as a Google employee philosophizes. Have a GREAT day!


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Flowers, stormy weather, and cookbook ponderings

Bouquet of flowers (x2)

My family got my lots of beautiful flowers for my recital! And now they are gracing my home. Nothing like fresh flowers to brighten up a room – and April always has the PRETTIEST, happiest flowers! Look at those colors!


At the reception my mom had tons of vases of gerberas and spider chrysanthemums. Two of my favorite flowers!

This morning I woke up to a VERY dark house and bedroom. There are bad storms all around and some tornado watches and warnings to boot. Great. April showers, not kidding.

Angry 9 am sky

My parents got me and Tim a weather radio for Christmas. Well, it’s been really great and really annoying! A couple of times it truly has potentially saved our lives. One night there was a tornado nearby and the radio kept us VERY updated… loudly… at 3 AM. It forced us to wake up and be alert, which is definitely a good thing. And this morning at 7:15, the radio let me know there was a tornado watch. And also at 7:30. And about every 7 to 15 minute increment every time the warnings changed. Arggg! But I am thankful for it.

I thought I’d start the morning with some cookbook chat. I suppose it has come to some people’s attention that I like to cook as every time I see my mom she has a new charming cookbook for me, and Tim’s mom gave me a great cookbook for Christmas. Check out some of my faves:

Martha Stewart's Great Food Fast

This book is something we used to go straight to for recipes… now I go to it more for ideas of simple recipes. The truth of this book is that it’s not that fast. I get irritated when a recipe states “20 minute prep time” when that means “20 minutes after you have gotten everything out of your fridge and pantry, measured 30 ingredients, found the right bowls, and chopped 16 onions.” So, no offense Martha, because I love ya, but I don’t have a sous chef (well, I have Timothy but he’s not always around). So I tend to look at these recipes as inspiration for something I can simplify.

Barefoot Contessa: How easy is that?

Tim’s mom gave me this book for Christmas and I actually really love it. She has some FASCINATING recipes with the most breathtaking pictures, and the day we got home from Christmas vacation I already had it open and was ready to cook. My only complaint is that it has no breakfast recipes, but I don’t do a lot of breakfast entertaining! The tips are a great addition and her anecdotal writing style is really pleasant.

And now for some entertainment…

Charleston Receipts!

From the Charleston Junior League of 1950...

This book is very dear to me. I was born and raised in North Carolina, but this cookbook is from Charleston, South Carolina. Girls that grew up in the deep south and were exposed to any kind of Southern literature unavoidably daydream about growing up as a daughter of the Junior League or Symphony Guild of Charleston, South Carolina, as their debutante balls are unmatchable! And they still do them, just as crazy expensive and elaborate as they did a hundred years ago.

Anyway, this recipe book is a collection of recipes (“receipts”) from the members of the 1950 Junior League. Some of the recipes are just fabulous, and really entertaining (hominy, sillabub…) and others are appalling (stewed squirrel, hasenpfeffer, opossum). I am loving it. Some of the measurements are interesting (1 dessertspoon of sugar…?) and I’m not entirely sure on the consistency of temperatures from 1950 to extremely accurate temperatures now. Some even say “cook in a moderate oven.” WHAT? I made the popovers and they didn’t come out as  light as I’d hoped. But I’m going to keep on tryin’!

Here’s the latest addition to my collection:

Savannah Style Recipes!

Another Junior League recipe book, this time from Savannah, GA! Mom brought it to me this weekend. I can’t wait to dive in. I had some time to flip through it and a couple of things definitely caught my eye.

Ok so, here’s my thing with cookbooks:

I am a BIG proponent of printed cookbooks. On the flipside, I am also guilty of spending lots of hours flipping through recipes online and bookmarking them, especially healthy recipes from bloggers who are not print-published. There are recipes on my favorite blogs that you would NEVER find in a cookbook. However, the mere charm of a cookbook, of skimming pages, of seeing my grandmother’s markings on the pages of some of the recipes – it is a true experience and much more sensory than staring at a computer screen. Especially these old cookbooks, which have anecdotes from the creators of the recipe – including the nannies and cooks from the 1950s, wrote in dialect – I LOVE IT.

These crack me up

I’m a history lover, I enjoy imagining these recipes in their hayday, being made and enjoyed around an entirely different table than mine, in entirely different clothing, with an entirely different appreciation than ours. I also imagine being a housewife in 1950 and sitting at the dinner table with my mouth shut because my husband is “in charge” and then I become a bit  feminist! See, the journeys of a cookbook!

And now some more Anne Taintor images to get your Monday started…



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A week of meals and my GRAD RECITAL!

Holy goodness, what a week! As many of you may know, my graduate recital was last night and it was a big freaking deal for me. I have no fear of performing; however, being the only performer, for over an hour, and singing my brains out – scary experience! The dresses worked out great though. Here’s one:

Mom, me, and my sister! Don't know what is up with the red eye.

Overall, it went really well. This week has been a whirlwind – Tim had an interview at a university on Thursday, so we were both on pins and needles over that, and he got home Friday. I had my dress rehearsal Friday night, which was its own stressor, and my family drove 12 hours to get here and so we went and had some dinner at their hotel restaurant when they arrived around 9. I was already freakin’ exhausted!

Yesterday morning, I had them all over (mom, dad, sister, bro-in-law, Grandma, and aunt) for brunch. I made a blueberry crumb cake (yummy, not healthy!) and these little egg cups, both courtesy of Martha Stewart. Mom brought fresh fruit and it was a nice breakfast feast!

The afternoon brought relaxation – Tim and I watched 30 Rock (we are on Season 4) and a little bit of Father of the Bride, one of my all-time favorite movies, and then it was time to shower and get ready. I left the house and realized when I got to the church where my recital was being held that I forgot my pink bag full of EVERYTHING including makeup, hair pins, jewelry, shoes, etc. So sweet Timothy rushed it over to me and I got ready and then it was TIME!

The first piece went well although I could feel my ankles shaking, haha! Good thing my dress was HUGE. The first art song cycle went okay except I royally screwed up by blanking so I gave my accompanist a little solo! Haha. It was ok, I came back in and then there were really no mistakes for the rest of the recital, thank GOODNESS! I am SO glad it is over. Afterwards my parents threw a catered party at this cute place called Kindling and I was ready for some wine! It was a great night.

This morning Tim had to fly to another interview for another university (where the helen are we going to be in a couple of months?!) and my family split as well, so I was left here by my lonesome to nap and enjoy our first 80 degree day of 2011.

Here are some meals that got me through the week (mostly breakfasts):


Blueberry Kashi waffles... mmmm

I like Kashi waffles because I feel like I’m getting a treat and it’s not made of crap. And it’s easy! I don’t like syrup on my waffles 🙂

Egg whites and low fat white cheese on an everything bagel thin

I looooove bagel sandwiches for breakfast, especially with egg whites!

I enjoyed it...

(Check out these cute plates…)

Annnnd I enjoyed it some more. All the way to Paris!

Greek yogurt concoction - YUMMMM

This breakfast occurred two mornings in a row this week – Fage 0% greek yogurt, Full Circle Organic Wheat Squares, Fresh blueberries, and honey! AMAZING.

I was having a stressssful day one day and interrupted it by going to one of my favorite places in town, Longbranch Vegetarian Cafe. I got African Sunset Roiboos tea and Almond Chocolate Chip biscotti.

I think the tea brand is Two leaves and a bud... cute!

That break in my day totally helped, as did the SUN which FINALLY CAME OUT that afternoon after lots of gray chilly days:


Aren’t these gerberas gorgeous?! Happy spring inDEED!


Anyway, I hope everyone has a beautiful Sunday and my apologies for this week lacking in posts!!! I will be MUCH better this week!!

Smiles and love – Natalie

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Weekend update and Grumpy Chicken

In spite of my feeling icky on Saturday morning, I had to finish my gown shopping. I know it seems ridiculous to have two gowns, but who cares! I found one, though – it’s a very simple long red matte satin Calvin Klein gown with thick halter straps that cross in the back. The skirt is cut on the bias but is mostly fitted through the waist and a little through the hips… anyway, it was a miracle purchase. I can’t find a picture online… sorry!

Shopping took it out of me so we decided to do a super easy “Asian” dinner. I buy these awesome vegetable dumplings from our International Market, and when you heat them up in chicken broth they’re super tasty. I whipped up a side of lo mein noodles with some peanut sauce, and couple of organic spring rolls from our co-op. It was a decent meal.

Due to my not feeling well, I’ll be honest, the most exercise I got this weekend was shopping! I always struggle with whether or not to work out when you’re feeling crappy. I read an article once that said if your symptoms are neck and above, you’re okay to work out, but below the neck, not to. I’ll take that one step further and say that no matter where your symptoms are, if you feel too tired or crappy to go, then don’t.

Yesterday involved church, a run through of my recital (which went quite well), a high-speed house clean, and a dinner of [Oven] Fried Chicken and [Pot] Mac and Cheese. The brackets are replacing, in order, “Pan” and “Skillet.” I had to make some adjustments. 🙂

Cooking Light's Chicken Fingers

Cooking Light's Easy Mac n Cheese

Anyway, Tim renamed the chicken “Grumpy Chicken.” He was having an allergy attack and attempting to help, and the more he sneezed the more stressed he got and the less help I wanted, so I kicked him out of the kitchen! Haha. He then deemed it Grumpy Chicken because he said it made me grumpy. But I wasn’t. 🙂 And we both really enjoyed it!

Today I’m really still not feeling great but I guess I better just push on through and rest when I can. Happy Monday, everyone!

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