From the Drafts // Hiking with Leah

Every time I look through my drafts folder, I think "wow, I should really post this!" or "why did I never finish this and post it?!" and I decide that I will make a post series of forgotten posts in my drafts folder, but I never do. Well friends, today is the day that changes! So enjoy this post from last March that I, for whatever reason, never hit the publish button on...
This past weekend, I met up with Leah of The Ordinary Snowflake (edit: now Leah Joan) for a hike in Marin County! I wanted to show her somewhere new in the Bay Area, so we decided to check out China Camp State Park. It was a lovely spring morning here in Northern CA, perfect for a little hike!hiking-2hiking-3
At China Camp there are several trails to choose from and many people like to mountain bike here. I've never been much of a mountain biker (read: have never mountain biked ever in my life haha), so we just stuck to walking through the trails. It is definitely nice to have a hiking buddy, but really, it's just nice to have a new friend in Leah! She is all around pretty awesome! I love that she is such a great person to talk to and is so very intelligent. She always has something thoughtful to add to the conversation! I also like that we have both been interested in nutrition lately, although she is definitely more well researched than I am!
hiking-6hiking-7Hello from me, that goofy girl waving! It is so nice to be able to spend some time outside in the sunshine! Unfortunately, it has been pretty chilly and a bit gloomy since this day, so I am glad we took advantage of the nice weather while we had it!
After hiking a bit over two miles, we decided that it was time to move on to the next event: lunch! Let's be real, food is what we are really into haha. We drove just a ways down the road to Sol Food for yummy Puerto Rican food. It was a nice place to relax after our hike and enjoy some delicious house-made drinks (sparkling limeade & mango orange iced tea oh my goodness...).

That was actually a legitimate, pretty much complete post! Why or why did I never publish it? I will never know, but at least it is now out there and not just left to die in my drafts folder :)

If I were to add something, I would say that I hope to go on more hikes as the weather gets nicer! That still definitely holds true for this year too :) The only bummer now is that Leah moved to Utah last month, so it will be a while before we get to hike together again... Although, you know I love an excuse to travel ;)

Do you like the idea of sharing old drafts that never got published? Do you also hoard drafts in your folders?

Have a great weekend, friends!


Thoughts that Come to Me in the Shower

I often wish that I could write while I am in the shower, since it seems that is where inspiration tends to strike for me. Tonight was one of those nights. I was standing there, rubbing coconut shampoo into my hair, the hot water beating down on my back and suddenly had a flow of thoughts about life lately that I wanted to write down.

First of all, the new semester started last Thursday and it was a bit of a drag going back to school after a 7 week winter break. I was definitely spoiled with all that time off! I think my classes are actually going to be pretty interesting thankfully, but I am already a little stressed out thinking about how I will manage four classes (on top of work) instead of two like I had last semester. The class I am most concerned about is my design class, which is the next level of the class I was in last semester. It was definitely a very time consuming class, so I am worried about being able to balance my other classes too. I know I will figure it out though and that everything will be ok!

A second major thing is that I am starting a new job in two weeks! When I started my new school and moved in August, I kept working with the same nanny family. It was a struggle though because they now lived 45 minutes to an hour away, depending on traffic, and I was spending so much money on gas and precious time driving back and forth. It is most likely the thing that made last semester the hardest and I knew that over winter break I had to find a new job much, much closer to home. After a bit of searching and a few interviews, I finally found the perfect new family to work with!

Though I am very sad to leave my current family since they have truly become like family to me (and have supported me like no other), I am really looking forward to this change. It will seriously vastly improve my day to day schedule! Now that I will be working close to home, I will have time to go home after class to have lunch and see Marly, and will get home at a very reasonable time in the evenings. Aside from the kids being great, the family owns a local bakery and has even asked me if I'd be willing to help with design needs and photographing food as extra hours. Of course I immediately said HECK YES! So there's that.
Like most people around this time of year, I am trying to be healthier. Dai and I have been eating a lot more veggies and salads, and have been skipping dessert. We even went out to get ice cream one evening and while we were waiting for our turn to order, we actually left because we realized that we didn't need ice cream. What?! I know. Dai also gave me a Fitbit Aria smart scale since he was gifted an extra one by his work. Even though I am not a big fan of scales for obvious, painful reasons that a lot of women can relate to, I must admit that it is a pretty cool device. Also, since I will actually be spending my week days near home, I am considering joining a really awesome, reasonably priced gym. I've never really done the whole gym thing before, but I've been going to this one for the past few days with a visitor pass and it's been pretty fun! I don't know much about working out yet and know that I will have to start little by little. I just need to start being active and think that this would be a great way for me to begin!

I've been pretty excited about blogging lately. I know that I haven't always been the most consistent, but I am really trying to set realistic and manageable goals for myself when it comes to this blog. I would love to spend time churning out posts for every day of the week and doing all of the proper networking things to promote myself, but honestly that's just not what my life will allow at the moment since I am in school full time and work 20 hours a week. That being said, my hope is to not let this blog be silent for weeks on end! I am working on finding balance.

Speaking of blogging, I am also working on some changes for Blog Buddies Network. It is officially one year old and it has been great being an admin for the group, but it is time that BBN refined its focus and we revamp it a bit. Stay tuned for details! Also, if your interested, you can request to join this awesome group of bloggers that support each other :)
One thing that I'm not looking forward to now that I am going to school more than I was last semester and will be spending most of my time in the city I now live in, it means that I will just be seeing Dai on the weekends now. It is a bummer and will take some adjusting to get used to, but I know that we will be alright during this season of life. It is simply where we are at with me in school and everything and him working full time. We will just do our best to make our time that we do have together wonderful and hug each other a little tighter <3

Well, I think that's all for now! Good talk, yeah? There's just something about showers that allow for such clear thinking. I recently remembered how nice it is taking showers at night, too. The other day I was talking to the 6th grade girl that I nanny about my morning routine and she was like, "why don't you take showers at night to save time?" and I was like, "I don't know." And then I started taking her advice and decided that that tween might be on to something. Plus it is so cold in my house in the mornings, especially in the bathroom, so after a shower all I want to do is get back into my warm bed. I also discovered that if I turn my heating blanket and space heater on before I get in the shower, when I come back to my room, the whole place is nice and toasty. It is quite magical!

Overall, I'm just really feeling good about everything that's happening right now. 2016 has been off to a great start so far! I'm excited to see where all these good things lead :)

What's been happening with you lately?


10 Years of Marly & Me + A Giveaway with Chewy!

Tomorrow marks exactly 10 years since my dad and I brought Marly home from the humane society with us. I was 12, in 6th grade, and had been dreaming of having a dog of my own for years, but we hadn't gotten one yet since we were renting houses and had moved around quite a bit. That Christmas right before we got him, my dad gave me a wrapped up box filled with dog toys and food & water bowls. You should have seen my face when I opened it, I was completely shocked and so very excited! I couldn't believe that my dream of getting a dog was finally coming true!Marly-2Marly-3
For the entire month of January, I spent hours scouring the local humane society pages and we made several visits to check out all the possible pups. There were a few that we considered, but didn't quite find the right fit for us. During this month we also had started looking at houses to buy and it was a bit of a bummer because they were all too expensive or in locations we didn't want to live in. So, after a particularly downer Sunday of looking at houses, we decided we needed to end the day on a positive note and went to the humane society once more. That's when we saw him, that beautiful boy up there.Marly-4 Marly-5
There were actually two dogs that caught our attention that day and we decided to spend time with them both. One of them was a girl, very sweet, and had huge paws that indicated she was likely to be a dog bigger than we would like to have. Then, there was Marly (or 'Carlton' as the shelter called him...) who was this friendly little black dog who liked playing ball and that just hopped up on our laps for affection. After spending just a few minutes with him, we knew that he was the one we had been looking for.
Marly-6 Marly-7
Unfortunately, since it was a Sunday they stopped processing adoptions early, so we weren't able to take him home that day and they couldn't put him "on hold." On our ride home, we decided that we would be back on Monday afternoon as soon as I got out of school and my dad got home from work to adopt him! That was the longest day of school ever! The entire day I was just praying and hoping that no one adopted him before we could get there.Marly-8
And of course, as you probably already could guess, there he was. Waiting for us to bring him home.
We signed the adoption papers and I picked out a red collar and leash to bring him home with. We walked out of there with our new pup and life was never the same.

After we left the humane society, we went to the pet store, where we got him food, more toys, and a name tag. We brought him home and showed him around his new house and backyard. That night, he settled in under the covers in bed with me and that's exactly where he has slept every night since. I had never been happier in my life.

That was 10 years ago now and I cannot believe how much has happened in these past years. We moved from San Diego to the Bay Area. I finished middle school, graduated from high school, and am now in college. My dad got remarried. I met Dai. Marly and I moved out on our own.

It has been a wonderful 10 years and I know that we have been so lucky to have each other. That little black dog is my best friend and I wouldn't trade him for anything in the world. I love having him greet me at the door when I come home and seeing him excitedly running around the house looking for his ball so we can play. I love how he loves adventure just like I do and is happy to get in the car to even just go to the grocery store. I could go on and on about how wonderful he is.

To celebrate this milestone in our lives, I wanted to have some portraits taken of us together. My friend Leah was just the person to do that and I truly love all of these photos that she took of us. I cannot wait to frame so many of them and to have them to look back at for years to come.

To also celebrate this great occasion, I've teamed up with Chewy to giveaway a prize box filled with treats and toys for the special pup in your life! I think Chewy is a wonderful company and I am so happy to be celebrating pets and their owners being together with them! Good luck!

a Rafflecopter giveaway
* For shipping reasons, this giveaway is open to the Continental US only. Thank you for your understanding.

Well, now that I am crying after writing all of this, I will sign off for now. I hope you enjoyed reading a bit about our history! As you can imagine, I couldn't picture my life without that little dog of mine and look forward to many more years together.


Outfit // A Voodoo Vixen Valentine

As you all know, I am a big fan of Voodoo Vixen and their beautiful dresses, so when they contacted me about selecting something from their new collection to try out, you bet I was more than excited. Each vintage inspired piece I have gotten from Voodoo Vixen has impressed me more and more, and I always love pouring over their site when they get new things in. I just wish they had a store I could go to see all the pretty dresses in person!vv-dress2
After browsing through all of my options, I finally settled on the Blair dress, this red beauty! I loved the unique cut and how it was different than anything I already had in my closet. The neckline was interesting and I thought that the velvet peacock feathers were such a cool detail. Plus, a woman can never go wrong with a beautiful red dress, right?!
I'll be honest, I got this dress before Thanksgiving and it wasn't quite fitting me right. I think it may have been a bit too tight and I got discouraged that this lovely dress wasn't fitting me, especially since I really wanted to wear it for the holidays. I decided to give it another try though and now it somehow fits me really well! I don't really know what happened, but I was not about to question it and decided to instead finally photograph it :)vvdress6
One thing that is nice about this dress is that it really seems to look nice from all angles, which is definitely helps a girl feel confident! Also, it passes my twirl test, so I am a fan :)vv-dress7
Though red is a beautiful color, it can be tough to know when to wear it. For me, it is definitely more of a fall and winter color and we all know that it screams "holiday season!" Now that it is January, however, that does not mean that the red has to stop! There is still plenty of winter left (although California may disagree!) and Valentine's Day--the second most red holiday of them all, which is exactly the occasion that I plan to wear this dress for again :)vv-dress8vv-dress9
When it comes to shoes, I am more of a classic girl and can't help but love a good pair of Mary Jane heels or flats with just about any outfit. When choosing what to pair this dress with, my instincts were no different! I think that these surprisingly comfy wedges of mine added just the right amount of fanciness to this look and that the silver bracelets were a nice touch too.vv-dress10
Though I did not get to wear this dress for Christmas like I had planned, I think it will make the perfect outfit to wear for Valentine's Day with Dai :) I have absolutely no idea what we are going to do yet, but either way, you can bet that I'll be dressed up in this beauty!

This is the fourth Voodoo Vixen addition to my closet and my love for their designs definitely won't be fading any time soon :)

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Dress // c/o Voodoo Vixen
Shoes // Cathy Jean
Bracelets // borrowed
Clutch // Sears

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Disclosure: This was a sponsored post. While I may have been compensated in some way, all views and opinions are my own.


My New Photography Site! It's Finally Here!

Guys, you cannot believe how very excited I am to be sharing this with you all! After dreaming of this, trying out several platforms, and putting it on the back burner, my photography site is finally here and I am ready to start taking on clients!
Aside from this blog, creating a small photography business on the side has been one of my passion projects. I have been so excited to start photographing people more often and growing in that passion of mine! Of course, it will be a nice way to make some extra money hopefully (which all college students could definitely use!), but I'm mostly just looking forward to being able to further develop my skills and meet new people while I'm at it.

I'd love it if you checked out my site, Jessica Noel Photography, and even passed it along to your SF Bay Area friends if you are feeling nice :) And of course, if any of you readers are in the Bay Area and want to set up a photo session, I'd be sure to give you a great deal, so please do reach out :)
Since we are on the topic of photography, I thought this would be the perfect time to share some of my favorite shots from a session I did just the other day with my best friend, Nayeli, and her boyfriend, Greg. We made a day of it and grabbed brunch before heading to Golden Gate Park in San Francisco to shoot these photos!NG2
Golden Gate Park is such a huge place and I wasn't quite sure what I was looking for in the perfect spot, but we lucked out and found several great settings for photos. This is easily one of my most very favorite portrait sessions I have ever done and I am so happy with how they turned out :) Enjoy!NG11NG4 NG5 NG6 NG7 NG8 NG9 NG10
Nayeli and Greg are such a cute couple and are definitely our favorite couple to hang out with. From pumpkin carving, to softball games, to cookie decorating, to dinner dates, and nights out bar hopping, we always have so much fun with them and are constantly laughing!

I have been friends with Nayeli since our freshman year of high school when we met playing on the softball team, and though we did lose touch for a while in between that time, I can honestly say that she is one of my closest, funniest, kindest, and faithful friends. We reconnected just last spring after not talking much for a few years and easily picked up right where we left off, and are closer than we have ever been. I think that's how you know you have found a true, lifetime friend :)

Well, enough gushing about friendship for now (although I do plan to write an entire post on it soon)! I hope you enjoyed these recent photos and my new site! Like I said before, I am just so very excited to see where this adventure takes me!

Thank you for all of your support :)

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