September 28, 2012

Fall is nigh. Maybe.

Dress and sweater: Banana Republic outlet (similar dress) Boots: Franco Sarto, from Famous Footwear (similar here), Purse/Camerabag: Theit, Necklace: Outfit Additions

Well, well. Aren't I just the little walking blogger cliche? A striped dress, a mustard sweater, AND brown riding boots. Gotta love it.

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A few things:

- Yesterday was six months since Edd left us. I sat in front of my computer for what felt like forever, trying to find words, but even now, half a year later, words mostly won't come.  Long story short, we miss you, Edd. You're never forgotten.

- It's supposed to cool down a bit in Austin this weekend. And so begins our bipolar is it fall? Is it not fall? Should I wear a sweater? I'll be sweating by 10:30. Is that tree changing color?! Oh wait, it must have just died over the summer. Why is my AC on while my windows are open? Oh, because it's 91 out. Well, damn. Should I make chili?

- Also, have you guys seen the new Myspace? Watch the preview. It actually looks pretty rad. And I don't even use that word.

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Happy Friday, love bugs. Have a great weekend.

September 26, 2012

What I believe in

There's a post going around (originated by Erin, I think) called "I believe in..." and the more I thought about it, the more I became curious about what my own such post would include.  I've enjoyed reading a few others here and there, and I really do think you can tell a lot about a person based on what they believe in. Here's my version...

I believe in fate. I believe that certain people walk in and out of our lives for a reason and at the perfect time, and certain things--accidents, blunders, painful circumstances--are often part of a plan we're too small to wrap our heads around. But I also believe some things happen that'll never make sense. I don't  like the catch all answer, "it's all part of God's plan." I don't think it IS all part of God's plan, sometimes. That's the point, isn't it? That we have free will and often we decide to really screw up a beautiful thing? Then our poor decisions effect others, and it's a domino effect, resulting in a very imperfect world. 

But I still believe in fate.

I believe that photography is one of the best investments you can make, and not just because I'm a photographer. Photography is art, but art that captures real life and real relationships and real light and real beauty, often in unexpected ways. It captures it, then freezes it, so you and others years and years after you can go back and peek into a long gone moment, and wonder about the people and the things in the pictures, and even feel them and experience them a little.  

I believe in sweet tea. The more sickly sweet, the better.

In theory, I believe in exercise and eating healthy and not complaining about your body if you're not willing to do what it takes to change it.  In theory.

I believe in following dreams--even if it's just a little inkling of a dream--a little spark of something you find that makes you happy and fulfills you. Even when other people think it's silly or not worthy of your time.  

I believe in homemade popcorn. Once you try it, you never go back.

I believe in saying what you want and what you mean (preferably in a nice way).  Being indirect only serves to confuse others and leave what you say up to interpretation and misinterpretation. 

I believe that passive aggression is one of the worst human female traits imaginable and I try to avoid it --both doing it, and having it done to me.

I believe that reading a good book, one where you become so engrossed in the storyline and addicted to the characters, feels almost exactly like falling in love.

I believe that feeling fur between your fingers (specifically dog fur) has a medicinal effect on the SOUL. Bonus points if you wake up every morning to a tail thumping on the mattress beside you, happy you're alive and it's a new day.

When it comes to politics, I believe the truth exists somewhere in the middle. Everyone is influenced by their own unique set of factors: age, race, gender, religion, socioeconomic status, personal experiences, and upbringing. Is it any wonder there are so many different "truths?" I believe that being extreme on either end of any argument usually just makes you look ignorant.

I believe in the power of words. Or as Dumbledore would put it, "words are, in my not-so-humble opinion, our most inexhaustible source of magic. Capable of both inflicting injury, and remedying it.”

What do YOU believe in?

September 25, 2012

Something Charming

Top o' the morning to ya! (or top o' the whenever-you-wind-up-reading-this...) :) I have a seriously fab giveaway for you today, from the talented Joelle of Something Charming. Joelle is a wedding planner, graphic designer, blogger, and calligrapher extraordinaire, and she has agreed to give the winner of today's giveaway their choice of either a custom blog design (a $100 value) OR a $150 credit to her shop, which you can use towards a custom calligraphy order! Pretty sweet, huh? Joelle, am I exempt from winning?! Well, darn. ;)

Enter for your chance to win below!

To Enter:
(only mandatory entry)

+ Visit both Joelle's design page and calligraphy Etsy shop and then comment here with which prize you'd like to win (blog design or custom calligraphy). Include your email address in the comment if it's not on your profile, please!

For Extra Entries:
(all represented by separate comments)

+ Follow the Something Charming blog via Google Friend Connect or Bloglovin
+ Pin a photo from the calligraphy shop to one of your Pinterest boards
+ Like A Charming Occasion on Facebook
+ Like Story of My Life on Facebook

That's five possible entries! Get ready... get set... GO.

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The winner of last week's Outfit Additions giveaway is listed below, and don't forget, you can use the code SOML for 15% off in the shop until TOMORROW only. They just added lots of cute new bib necklaces... check them out!

Congrats Colleen! I'll be in touch. :)

September 24, 2012

A fiesta, the first day of fall, and... a book club

I hate it when an attempt at alliteration gets foiled like that.

How was your weekend? Mine was jam-packed, but somehow still fun and refreshing. I woke up this morning ready to tackle the week, which is good because there is whooole lotta tackling to do. This morning I feel a funny, happy sense of contentment as pretty golden sunlight pours in my window over my desk, extra coffee is brewing downstairs, and sleepy puppies are snoring peacefully on the little bed just behind me.  Also, I just saw a teenager on the sidewalk below my window, heading over to catch the bus to the nearby high school, and I had a small surge of pleasure at the mere thought that I NEVER HAVE TO GO BACK TO HIGH SCHOOL. Ha!

Did you know yesterday was the first day of fall? I made fallish muffins in celebration, despite Texas bouncing back to very UN-fall-like temperatures. Other highlights of the weekend included a shower to attend down in San Antonio, the first meeting of a brand new book club, and an engagement session back down in San Antonio again (that stretch of I35 between ATX and SA has seeing a lot of this girl lately...).

Thanks for reading my ramblings this morning. Here's a few photos from the weekend.

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Fiesta! (aka my best friend's couple's shower...)

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Fall muffins (I followed this recipe, but made muffins instead. They're yummy with coffee!)...

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Book Club Brunch hosted by the lovely Celine. She made fabulous crepes, and it was a grand time!

Happy Monday to you! :)

September 21, 2012

A Photo + Friday Features

I just wanted to share this sweet photo from a maternity session a few evenings ago. This session really blew me away. There are so many incredibly sweet and gorgeous shots. Makes my heart happy. To see a couple more from the sneak peek, go here!

Enjoy the features today...

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From There To Here is an expat blog by Jay, who has chronicled her and husband's travels first from  Canada to West Africa and then from West Africa to Norway! It really has been a captivating journey for these two, and speaking of captivating (and magnificent, and breathtaking!) check out this post by Jay. Holy mackerel. What I wouldn't give to see that! Jay, your fabulous pictures and accounts from your life and travels will have to hold me over until I can see the real things one day! :)

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Just Bri is a lifestyle blog by, you guessed it, Bri! She's a Texas girl currently blogging all about her adventures "through career moves, long distance love, and all the moments in between" (stolen from her about page!). :) I love the post she has up this morning all about what she believes in. You really can learn a lot about someone by what they believe in most passionately! Go say hello to Miss Bri.

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Jackie is the blogger behind Sweet & Wild, and I think her blog title describes her just perfectly. :) Jackie is a newlywedded New Yorker girl with lots of spunk, which you get a taste of over here or here (hehe Jackie... the 13th boyfriend thing cracks me up!). She also just opened a cute Etsy shop with snarky, handmade cards, so be sure and check it out. 

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Happy Friday!

September 20, 2012

Warning: this post contains meat

I've thought about becoming a vegetarian. On principle, and because I love animals so much. 

But then there are places like the Saltlick BBQ, and carnivores like the man I happen to live with/be married to, and the prospect of vegetarianism working out in my life seems slim to virtually none. Plus, I love meat too much. There, I said it.

We visited the Saltlick a few days ago--Austinites, you know of what I speak. I'm a bit ashamed to admit it, but this was my first time there, and I must say, I was impressed. Not only was the food amazingly delicious, but the employees were so, so nice! Our server saw me clicking some pictures and insisted I follow him back into the kitchen where he would show me "the best shot in the house" of the  fire pit and grill piled high with sausage and ribs. It was so fun, and I thought it was a friendly, Texan touch to invite me back behind the scenes, so to speak.

If you're in Austin, you've got to make it out here! The grounds themselves are beautiful and surrounded by vineyards (I wish I was able to take more pictures outside, but it was pouring rain!). People come from miles in every direction to experience this place. Here's a few shots I managed in between chowing down on the best BBQ of my life. :)

September 19, 2012

Dream Following: a pep talk

photo by Brittney Squire

All around the blogosphere and Pinterest and in popular self-help literature and TV shows you hear lots of talk about dream following. Just on my own Pinterest page I must have 50 pins about doing what makes you come alive and about following your dreams even when they scare you and about being whoever you want to be, no matter your age. I see these little nuggets of wisdom and I momentarily swell with some brilliant sense of inspiration and empowerment--a fleeting thing I wish I could hold onto every day and night.

But the truth is that following your dreams, if you have them, really is a scary thing, and it takes more than just an inspiration board on Pinterest to keep you pursuing what you love. Ever since I was little, I knew I wanted to be a writer--not a blog writer, but a book writer. This past year I decided to make it happen, so I bought some books about novel writing and started setting aside time to work on my first book. I was obsessed with the idea of it all: fleshing out the characters and weaving a tale worth reading.  But it so happens that the story never really materialized, and I found myself frustrated and not really ready, somehow.  So I decided to pursue other passions for the time being--passions that fall into line with my overarching goal, which is to be my own boss and work from home. That's when j. noel photography was born. It was born as a wee little "well, this will have to do since I really do enjoy it and since I'm constipated in the fiction writing department" (or maybe just not good enough, so says the little voice inside...) And you know, it's been so fulfilling for me so far. Photography is something you can absolutely excel at if you have the passion and the talent and the time.

If you're like me, though, your fears get in the way sometimes. I can't tell you how many times I've, just before a photo session, wondered wildly if there was a way I could get out of it. I'm not sure why I have that impulse, but I think a lot of us do. The impulse to run the other way when something seems too big and important and scary and potentially life altering and fulfilling. And then sometimes, when you see things working out for you, you wonder when it's all gonna go to pot  and you'll find out you weren't good at it after all and people were making fun of you behind your back.

I just wrote this in an email to someone, and I'll say it again here. In times like these, you have to learn to just put your head down and barrel right through those emotions and those insecurities...  like a bull, not looking back or left or right, but straight ahead, at the waving flag. Maybe you're not perfect yet, but who has ever started out at something and been immediately the greatest? No one ever, that's who. Because there's a gap, and when I realized that, it changed everything for me, and helped me to be OK with not being perfect for a while, or maybe ever. The point, though, is to be moving in the right direction. I am someone who likes to stay where she is, to a fault. Likes to dream about where she'll be one day, but never making steps towards it, out of fear or insecurity or just plain laziness.

So, yeah. I guess what I've learned so far, on this journey that I'm still traveling and sometimes messily, is that you have to be a bull when it comes to getting what you want, or you'll never get it. I don't mean you need to run over other people to get what you want, but more that you need to run over your own damn self and tell yourself to stop getting in your own way.

I'll leave you with my favorite quote:

“You can only become truly accomplished at something you love.  Don’t make money your goal. Instead, pursue the things you love doing and then do them so well people can’t take their eyes off you.”  --Maya Angelou

Crockpot Chili Stew

I actually shared this recipe last year, but it is SO good that I figured I may as well share it again, for those of you who missed it. This one really is the perfect dish going into fall and winter... hearty, warm, flavorful, and delicious. Definitely a favorite around here, and freezable, too! Matthew and I always argue over whether it's chili or stew. Finally, we just started calling it chili stew. I'll never make chili any other way again. Hope you try it!

Yields: 6-8 servings

You’ll need:
2 1/2-3 lb beef stew meat, cut into 1-inch cubes (I trim off excess fat)
2 tablespoons flour
2 tablespoons oil (I use extra virgin olive oil)
4 1/2 teaspoons chili powder
2 teaspoons salt
2 teaspoons ground cumin
2 dried bay leaves
1 1/2 cups beef-flavored broth
1 can (28 oz) diced tomatoes, undrained
1 cup chopped onion
1 cup green bell pepper (I leave these out since I don’t like them)
3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
3 tablespoons cornmeal
1 can (15 oz) black beans, drained, rinsed
1 can (4.5 oz) chopped green chiles

Garnish with:
Freshly grated cheese
Sour cream
Chopped fresh cilantro

1. In a large resealable food-storage plastic bag, place half of the beef and 1 tablespoon of the flour; seal bag and shake to coat. Repeat with remaining beef and flour. In 4-quart Dutch oven or other large pan, heat oil over medium-high heat. Cook beef in oil until brown on all sides; drain, if desired.

2. Transfer meat to crockpot and stir in remaining chili ingredients except cornmeal, beans, and chiles. Cook on low about 6-8 hours or on high about 3-4 hours (it’s done when the meat is melt-in-your-mouth tender!).
3. Stir in cornmeal; cook and stir about 1 minute to thicken. Add beans and chiles; cook until thoroughly heated. Remove bay leaves. Serve chili with garnishes and biscuits or cornbread. Enjoy!

September 18, 2012

Outfit Additions ($50 giveaway!)

Matthew laughed at me when I bought these rain boots a while back, but he wasn't laughing this weekend when I was stamping through muddy puddles and he had to take the long route around them. Just sayin'.

boots: Hunter, jeans and shirt: J.Crew, bag: Theit, necklace: Outfit Additions

Anyway, my necklace in the above photos came courtesy of a new online shop called Outfit Additions, which I'd like to say a few words about, if I may. This shop is stocked full of a fab assortment of jewelry and accessories--really, there is something in it for everyone and every taste.  The necklace was even nicer than I expected it to be and great quality, too (that doesn't happen very often anymore!), so I'll definitely be checking out Outfit Additions for my future classic or statement jewelry needs. :) Here are just a few of my other favorites in the shop!

Lucky for you, the fine people from Outfit Additions are giving one Story of My Life reader a $50 store credit and 15% off your purchase for all the rest of us! (coupon code SOML) Keep in mind that the coupon code expires on September 25th, one week from today, so get on that! :)

And enter below for your chance to win the $50 credit...

To Enter:
(only mandatory entry--open to US residents only)
+ Visit Outfit Additions and comment here with an item you'd choose if you won (and leave your email address if it isn't on your profile, please!)

For extra entries:
(all represented by separate comments)

+ Sign up for the Outfit Additions newsletter (bottom left on the left hand column)
+ Like Outfit Additions on Facebook
+ Like Story of My Life on Facebook
+ Pin an item from the website onto one of your Pinterest boards
+ Include a link to this giveaway on a blog post of your own - THREE extra entries! (please remember to leave a separate comment for each)

Good luck! :)

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And the winner of last week's Alana In Love giveaway is...

Congrats to you Alison! I'll be in touch! :)

September 17, 2012


As far as I'm concerned, fall has officially arrived in our household as of this weekend. We have been having some pretty fabulous cool and rainy weather already, so on Saturday Matthew brought me my boxes of fall decor down from the attic, and I had fun placing a few little autumnal touches here and there around the house. I made chili, this "apple pie breakfast" in the crockpot (I added raisins before serving), some hearty lasagna, and of course burned plenty of fallish candles I had left over from last year. It was heaven.

Even though two of my photo sessions got rained out last week, I'm not complaining. They can be rescheduled, and we needed that rain. Matthew's good friend Jared, who is currently living in the UK, came down to visit and apparently brought all the rain with him! But it was so, so nice, and just an overall great, cozy weekend. Wish I had something more exciting to report, but sometimes a really low key weekend is exactly what the doctor ordered. 

How 'bout you? Getting ready for fall yet where you are? I must admit, I just bought my first peppermint mocha coffee creamer of the season... jumping the gun a little? Maybe. Enjoying the crap outta it? Definitely. :)

September 14, 2012

Go Forth and Make New Friends

It's Friday, and you know the drill. Go forth and make new friends.

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Buitiful Confessions is a blog by Jackie, and yes - "Buitiful" is supposed to be spelled that way! It's a play on Miss Jackie's last name. Anyway, if you spend a little time over at Jackie's place, the first thing you'll surely notice is that this girl has serious writing skills--she's fabulous at piecing together a tale. Besides just that, Jackie is a Jersey girl currently in grad school with high hopes of a career in writing and counseling. This is a fascinating young lady, and you will love to peek inside her mind via this fabulous blog.  Get to know her here or here (on her "50 Shades" page!), and get lost in the lovely.


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Tina is the blogger behind Like Ordinary Life, a blog that chronicles life as a cat-mom, writer, aspiring law-student, and pre-k teacher married to a special ed teacher. Read more about the sweet and sometimes sarcastic miss Tina over here. And don't you love her blog's tagline? "Time stands still best in moments that look suspiciously like ordinary life." I find that to be true, as well. Go on over and meet Tina! 


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Third up today is Briana of Recipe For A Beautiful Life. Brie lives and works in Maryland and is married to a handsome officer in the Navy. Her blog covers everything from life, fashion, and beauty to fitness, food, and crafts. I enjoyed her 30 Things To Stop Doing By 30 post, and kinda think I should write one of my own. Go say hello to Briana!


September 13, 2012

A few good things

Sometimes, during my journeys around the world wide web, I find things I think you'd like. Here are just a few of them.

+ Cute cards from here

+ Hauntingly beautiful music

+ How to be a productivity ninja!  A fabulous article that makes a great follow up to my "my blog gave me ADD" post

+ Free inky Photoshop brushes and hand-drawn arrows

+ Cute wallpaper for your desktop or iPhone

+ Don't diss your past - it influences how your future unfolds

+ This girl makes breathtaking music videos. Like this one or this one or this one and this one. Lindsey, can I request Hedwig's Theme from Harry Potter next? PLEASE? :)

+ I made this lasagna the other day - best I've had, and freezable, too!

Happy Thursday...

September 12, 2012

Old friends and fine dining

Any of you Texans been to Huisache Grill in New Braunfels? SUCH a cute place. Man, sometimes I think I should have been a food blogger. But you know, not the kind that MAKES her own food. The kind that goes to cool restaurants and bars all the time and then writes them up. How do you get a gig like that?! Sign me up for it!

Anyway, yesterday I met an old friend at Huisache (pronounced wee-sach)... a friend I hadn't seen in FOUR years. Since Communication and Conflict class our senior year in college, which also happened to be the exact point in time when I met Matthew. During the course of that class, my sweet friend Erica listened as I ranted first about breaking up with the current boyfriend and then as I carried on about the dashing guy I met *ahem* two days later.  Now here we are, and I'm all married up and Erica has since graduated from law school! Man, time flies.

Another fun fact: Matthew and I went to Huisache on our third date. The food is great and the atmosphere is fabulous. If you're ever in the area, go there!

PS - I enjoyed the response on yesterday's post SO much. Seemed to really strike a chord with a lot of you. Thank you for the time you took to leave your thoughts!
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