I'm about to let you all in on a secret, and I must admit I'm a little nervous.  I'll admit to the truth if anybody ever asks me or the subject comes up, but I never blatantly go around pronouncing the following declaration.  I do not really enjoy shopping.  I know I'm really girly and like looking nice from time to time, so this may come as a surprise.  I don't know what it is, but I just don't have the patience to look through racks and racks of clothing only to find a couple of pieces of clothing I really like, and those couple of pieces may or may not even look good on me after trying them on.  That's another thing I hate.  Trying on clothes.  It's an ordeal to not smudge makeup on the clothes, and my hair's always completely ruined when I'm done.  And if the store has tons of people in it, and a lot of them are trying to look at the same section as me, forget it.  I have a thing about personal space, and I just get irritated when people are in that bubble.  Okay, well now that I have complained enough, and you probably think I need to be treated for perhaps multiple disorders (I promise I'm not THAT weird), let me get to the happy point.

 Although I don't like shopping, I do like T.J.Maxx, especially the Cool Springs T.J.Maxx in Franklin, Tennessee.  Not only do I usually find a ton of things (more than at the T.J.Maxx in Rivergate, which is closer to me), but as most people know, T.J.Maxx is all about some deals.  I'm always amazed to look at the original price of the clothes and compare that to the T.J.Maxx price.  That's a big point with me, because another reason I dislike shopping is because I can feel sickened over spending a lot of money on clothes, unless it's something I've been obsessing over for a long time and it's something I'll wear frequently for a long period of time.  (Example: In my opinion, a nice pair of jeans, a peacoat and even a handbag are good investments.)  I just can't spend a ton of money on a few casual tops.  Anyway, this T.J.Maxx is about 45 minutes away from my house, but even for a nonshopper like me, the drive is totally worth it.  That being said, I can only handle this shopping spree about two to four times a year, but when I go, I load up.  I've been out in Franklin this week for work, and on Tuesday, we ate lunch right next to T.J.Maxx and then called it a day, so I decided to stop in.  I had no idea I would find 27 articles of clothing to take to the fitting room.  Yeah, 27.  My cart was overflowing.  I knew people probably thought I was a shopaholic, and I was a little embarrassed to tell the fitting room attendant the number of articles of clothing I had.  After some eliminating, I walked out with nine tops and one skirt.  Because I'm excited about my rare haul of clothing and the amount of savings, I decided to do a little blog post about my finds.  A lot of the tops are simple sleeveless, flowy tops.  They are my favorite thing to wear during the summer, because they're so comfortable, and they can be dressed up to wear to my internship or dressed down just to run around town or hang out.  Here we go!

Warning: I've been having to use my iPhone for all my pictures, which I know does not really do the pictures justice.  My camera broke a few months ago, and I haven't gotten it repaired or bought a new one.  I'm holding out, because I think I'm going to ask for a DSLR camera for Christmas, and honestly, my camera was so old, I'm pretty sure my phone's camera is of equal or better quality.  Just keep that in mind. :)


Rose & Olive Light Pink Top
Original Price: $34
T.J.Maxx Price: $16.99


Calvin Klein Yellow Top with Lace Detail and Back Zipper (The color is much brighter in person.)
Original Price: $59.50
T.J.Maxx Price: $24.99

Ellen Tracy Black and White Polka Dot Top
Original Price: $69.50
T.J.Maxx Price: $19.99

Willi Smith Blue Top
Original Price: $28
T.J.Maxx Price: $16.99

Violet & Claire Pink Top with Gold Buttons
Original Price: $34
T.J.Maxx Price: $16.99

Leo Meets Virgo Cream Top with Black Collar
Original Price: $18
T.J.Maxx Price: $12.99

Willi Smith Black Top
Original Price: $28
T.J.Maxx Price: $16.99

Willi Smith Orange Top (Same as the black top above.  I just liked it so much, I got both colors!)
Original Price: $28
T.J.Maxx Price: $16.99


Cynthia Steffe Pink Top with Navy Back Zipper
Original Price: $60
T.J.Maxx Price: $29 then on clearance for $20

Willi Smith Tweed Skirt
Original Price: $42
T.J.Maxx Price: $24.99 then on clearance for $15

If I would've bought all these items at their original prices, I would have spent $401.  The amount I spent at T.J.Maxx was $177.92.  I saved more than half off the original price!  I think that's a pretty stellar price for nine articles of clothing.  And this, my friends, is why I love T.J.Maxx and am totally okay with just a couple of shopping trips a year. :)


Although this is old news, I still feel like it deserves a post now that I've gotten to know her and we've truly bonded.  One month ago, I adopted the most precious puppy.  She is a female Westie named Winnie.  

I have always been a huge animal, and especially dog, lover.  My family had a dog, a miniature Schnauzer named Gretchen since before I was born that I grew up with.  A few years after she passed away when I was in eighth grade, my mom's friend rescued a male Scottie, who I named Spunky.  We were so attached to each other, but he unfortunately passed away only a year and a half later due to many health issues.  I have been wanting a new dog for years now, and I was finally able to welcome a sweet puppy into my life six years after I lost my last one.

I have loved the Westie breed ever since I was a little girl.  I mean, I really don't know how anybody could look at one of their faces and not think it's a cute dog.  It's the sweet face you see in Cesar dog food ads.

 

Also, girls might know the breed from American Girl's Coconut.

Besides being so adorable, I found out that Westies are good for people with allergies, because they don't shed.  I have allergies, and honestly, I just wouldn't want to constantly be picking dog hair off my couch and clothes, so I figured this was a good sign. :) I also talked with some people I know who have Westies, and they all highly recommended the breed.

After years of (not so) casually bringing it up, my parents finally agreed I could get a dog if I took her to school with me and they were not responsible for taking care of her.  On the last day of exams, I was searching for Westie puppies for sale.  I was pleased to find the most adorable 6-week-old puppies in Manchester, Tennessee who would be ready for adoption in a couple of weeks.  After coming home and talking with my parents, I contacted the breeder, and she told me there was one little girl left.  She then proceeded to send me a few pictures, including these.



 I mean, how can you not fall in love?  After more correspondence with the breeder, I went to go pick up my baby on the very day she turned eight weeks old.  I was so pleased to find the breeder had a very nice ranch, and the area where she kept the puppies looked very clean and safe.  Out of the five puppies in the litter, two were left.  The breeder told me one was a boy and one was a girl, and after picking up the girl, she said, "Here's your baby!" and put her in my arms.  It truly was love at first sight.  After signing the correct paperwork and taking my picture, the breeder wrapped Winnie in a blanket with a print of pink and purple crowns on it.  (It's like the breeder knew me...)  Here's a picture of Winnie on the ride home:


She has been such a joy, and I could not be happier to be her mommy.  I was thinking about it and realizing that she will be right by my side for so many important milestones in life.  Pretty soon, she'll be with me as I'm getting my first job and my first place by myself.  Hopefully she'll live the 12-16 years Westies can live, and hopefully I'll get married and have kids within that timespan.  It's just crazy to think about how she will be with me through all those life-changing events, but it makes me so happy.  We've already gotten so attached, and I can't wait to spend the next years with her.


One of my favorites of my sweet Winnie girl :)


The other day during my lunch break, I was going on a Pinterest spree and found this recipe.  After clicking the link and reading everything people had to say, I knew I had to make it as soon as I got home.  Apparently, there is an Amish cinnamon bread that requires kneading and a lot of work.  This is a copycat recipe that is very simple and just requires mixing the ingredients.  The blogger I got this from got this recipe from her friend, and her friend said her husband has been eating this bread for breakfast every day for 20 years.  She recommended eating it warm with butter spread on top.  My family and I have been enjoying it for breakfast, and it is perfect!  It's moist and has a good flavor, but it's not too sugary or cinnamony.  It makes two loaves, so you could always keep one loaf for yourself and give the other away, which I'll probably do the next time I make it.  The recipe is below, and here is the link to the blog I got it from.

The Amazing Amish Cinnamon Bread Alternative

Batter Ingredients:
1 cup butter, softened
2 cups sugar
2 eggs
2 cups buttermilk or 2 cups milk plus 2 tablespoons vinegar or lemon juice
4 cups flour
2 teaspoons baking soda

Cinnamon Sugar Mixture Ingredients:
2/3 cups sugar
2 teaspoons cinnamon

Directions:
Mix together butter, 2 cups of sugar and eggs.  Add milk, flour and baking soda.  Pour half of batter into two greased loaf pans (1/4 in each pan).  Mix in separate bowl the 2/3 cup sugar and cinnamon.  Sprinkle 3/4 of cinnamon mixture on top of the batter in each pan.  Add remaining batter to pan and sprinkle with remaining cinnamon topping.  Swirl with a knife.  Bake at 350 degrees for 45-50 minutes or until toothpick tester come clean.  Cool in pan for 20 minutes before removing from pan.






A couple of weeks ago, I saw The Lion King at TPAC with my brother.  My parents work as ushers at TPAC and were already working that night, so they just bought tickets for my brother and I to enjoy the show, while they essentially got paid to watch it!  I'm so glad I got to see the show.  I'm a big Disney fan, and the show is so popular.  It's incredible to see how they turn humans into animals, and the animals walk down the aisles up to the stage for the opening number.  Of course the house was packed with kids, and seeing them all brought back so many memories for me.  They were all dressed up in their Sunday best carrying their stuffed Simbas and asking their parents to buy them programs and souvenirs.  It was so sweet for me to see the kids, because that was totally me back in the day.

Most kids I know grew up in families full of sports fans, and their families would often venture to games.  Well, nobody in my family is a huge sports fan.  I guess you could say my family is more...artsy?  I grew up going to anything and everything involving the arts - plays, musicals, movies, even art museums.  I was that little girl at TPAC all dressed up asking my mom to buy me programs and souvenirs.

The first show I ever saw was Beauty and the Beast at TPAC in elementary school.  I have a great long-term memory but honestly can't remember seeing it.  My obsession first started when I saw The Phantom of the Opera at TPAC in fourth grade.  That's a pretty serious musical, and I was that nerd who was all about it in fourth grade.  I even got my dance teacher to make up a Halloween dance to the song "The Phantom of the Opera" for my class that year.  Then the movie came out when I was in seventh grade, and I watched it almost every day when it came out on DVD.  It'll probably always be my favorite, especially since it's the one that really got me into Broadway.  Since then I've seen 42nd Street, Legally Blonde the Musical, Wicked, Mamma Mia and The Lion King at TPAC, Mary Poppins in Chicago and Hairspray and Jersey Boys on Broadway in New York.

I get so giddy when I'm able to go see a performance and am usually listening to musical soundtracks while on a road trip.  I wish more than anything that I had the talent of the performers and could experience what they do.  I guess because I grew up dancing and singing, there's something about telling a story using those outlets that really connects with me.  I have so much respect for the actors who perform eight shows a week and give it their all each and every time.  I'm so impressed with their ability to perform live with such passion and perfection, and I'm so thankful for my parents exposing me to something that brings me so much joy.