Feature Friday with Anthony Valdez & Austin Stapp

TGIF friends! Doesn't it seem like these weeks are flying by? How is it already almost the end of April? Our friend Ashley from South Carolina is coming to stay with us this weekend for her birthday, which happens to be today! Happy birthday, Ash!!!! We also have something fun planned on Saturday that has to do with old homes in the downtown area that we will talk about next week. What are you up to this weekend?

We are so obsessed with this week's FF's story, y'all. For some reason, it feels familiar to us and really reminds us of our own story. Isn't that weird how that happens sometimes? Of course, it's unique and special because it's their own; with their "love at first bite", little parties they throw, and love of Mofongo (YES), we found it to be such a fun read. We think you will, too. Take a look below...

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Where are you from? We were both born and raised in opposite sides of Texas. Both from rural towns, Anthony is from Linn in south Texas, and Austin is from Eldorado in west Texas.

Where do you live? We both live in Austin, Texas now.

What’s your Instagram handle? @ajvaldez and @austinryanstapp

Age: Anthony is 24 and Austin is 23

Relationship status: Dating, coming up on 4 years. 

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What is your favorite place you have traveled to and why? In August Anthony surprised Austin for his college graduation with a trip to Puerto Rico. This trip was significant for us in many ways including celebrating our third anniversary together and it was also the first time that we traveled together without friends or family. We instantly fell in love with the culture surrounding the island, everyone on the island embraces differences and celebrates life in such a unique way...not to mention the delicious food (Mofongo – if you don’t know what this is, look it up! You won’t be disappointed). This will forever be a very memorable vacation for us not only for the beautiful destination, but also because of the important milestones in our lives together.

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How did you guys meet? Who asked out who? We met at Texas A&M University. Our first date was on August 23, 2014 at Sonic Drive-In. Anthony had a strawberry limeade and Austin had an ocean water. We sat in Austin’s car for a couple of hours and talked all night. After Austin ordered the second round of tater tots, I knew it was love at first bite. We actually consider this day our anniversary since we have been dating ever since and no one officially asked the other. We’ve had many more tots since then.

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How did you know each other were “the one”? We have always heard, “when you know, you just know.” And this is definitely true for the two of us. After a few days of knowing each other, (4 to be exact), Anthony had a drink or two and let the words “I love you,” slip out. Of course, these words can either really freak you out, or let you know that you feel the exact same way. Being that drinks were involved, we decided to wait and see if the feelings were still there in the morning.

They were.

Knowing that you have found “the one” is such an incredible feeling, and it comes with loving and growing together through the pains of life. Our lives have had plenty of pains, but we are lucky enough to have be each other’s “ones” to get through it all.

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Any big plans for the future? Where do you see yourselves in 10 years? We both love living in Austin, Texas but wouldn’t be opposed to trying out a different state or even country together. We’re both fairly new to the “adult” world and are still figuring it all out. In 10 years, buying a home, marriage and starting a family are all in the plan. But for now adopting a golden retriever may be the best place to start.

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How would you describe your home decor style? Mid-Century modern with classic and artisanal touches. We both love design and décor and take pride in our home being a reflection of who we are creatively. Our goal is to always make sure our guests feel at home and comfortable. While we don’t always initially agree on the same style choices, we somehow manage to come to an agreement that we are both pleased with.

What is the last show you binged watched? Schitt’s Creek. If you haven’t seen it, then please change that.

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How do you guys handle arguments? We hash it out for a few minutes and both get a little sarcastic THEN we realize how unreasonable the argument may be, and take a moment to breathe and talk it through. We usually sit down and talk about why one of us became upset in the first place and why the other may have made the situation worse. After that, we try to establish things we will both work on in the future to avoid a similar situation. A kiss usually seals the deal.

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How old were you when you came out and what was your experience like? Anthony – I was 20 when I came out to most of my friends in college and was 22 when I came out to my parents. I grew up knowing love and support and that hasn’t changed.

Austin – I came out to the majority of my friends and family when I was 19. Both my friends and family have met me with love, understanding, and acceptance. I have been very fortunate.

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Have you faced any backlash as a couple since coming out? If so, how do you deal with that? We have both been lucky enough to have a strong support system that loves and accepts us. Though every coming out experience has its trials, in the end we have realized that those who love us are happy to see us be ourselves. In the difficult moments, we remember that we cannot be the best version of ourselves unless we can forgive others, accept ourselves, and work towards acceptance for all. We truly believe that love conquers all.

What is your favorite thing about one another? Anthony – My favorite thing about Austin is his willingness to always make someone smile. He will go out of his way to make sure those around him are happy and have a reason to laugh. I guess you can say he has a pretty contagious smile. When there’s a special occasion or even when I am having a bad day, he’ll do this thing where he’ll throw me a “party” and cooks or bakes, decorate the entire apartment in balloons and streamers and sometimes even a banner and makes everything about me. It’s definitely very silly but it never ceases to make me smile.

Austin – My favorite thing about Anthony (oh goodness how will I ever decide!)…My favorite thing is his compassion for others. He is always willing to go without, give his, or check on someone when he knows they need it most. He is a loyal and fiercely faithful friend, has an electric presence, and a giving heart. He meets strangers and friends with that beautiful smile, lights up the room, and makes everyone feel important. I am very blessed to know and experience him in this regard and so many others.

 

 

One Trick We Tried to Get a Better Night's Sleep

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One of the first purchases we made when we moved into our house last year was buy a bigger mattress. At the time, we still let our two little dogs sleep with us and, with a queen sized bed and four sleeping in it, things were getting tight. 

We made the decision to buy a king sized mattress and then started making the girls sleep on their own bed in the laundry room and it changed everything. It was glorious. Such a better night’s sleep! But we made another decision that’s made all the difference, too: every few months, we started switching which sides of the bed we slept on.

PJ suggested it one day, a couple of months in, just when we were getting used to sleeping on a new bed in a new house. We were both skeptical at first, but changing everything up turned out to be just what the doctor ordered. We're both so used to sleeping on one side each night that our bodies had grown accustomed to laying a certain way, and sometimes we would even wake up sore. 

Switching sides of the bed gives you and your partner the chance to experience how it feels to sleep in different directions and hopefully find the one that both of you agree on. If you don't like your side of the bed once you make the switch, you can change it in a month or two. This article  gives some statistics conducted by Saatva Mattress (a luxury mattress company) that we found interesting:

  • Right side sleeping males feel relaxed instead of stressed most of the time when compared to men sleeping on the left (71% vs. 60%)
  • Almost half (46%) say that when they first got together as a couple, both partners preferred the same side of the bed and 79% of them had to concede their preferred side to their partner.

Pretty crazy, right? Do you switch sides of the bed with your partner regularly? If not, give it a try! You might be surprised with how good you'll start sleeping.

(Bed from here. Lamps from here. Duvet from here.) 

 

When Things Don’t Go According to Plan

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Yesterday morning was absolutely beautiful. It was the first sunny morning we've had in forever and the light was pouring into the living room while the girls sun bathed. If it sounds idyllic, that's because it was.

We spent the day working on some exciting things and seeing our niece and nephews at PJ's mom's house. It was a good day. That night we decided we wanted to go to a movie since it's Stimulus Tuesday and each movie is only $5 and we are cheap as hell. But you knew that, right?

Everyone has been raving about A Quiet Place so we agreed on that film and headed to the theater. It was the 9 o'clock showing so we figured it wouldn't be that packed, but when we got there, there were only two seats available and they were four rows apart. We were, for a hot second, furious. Why were there so many people at the 9 o'clock movie?! Didn't they know we wanted to see it too? Begrudgingly, we headed home and turned on Ozark on Netflix. 

Later, just as we were getting into bed and under the covers, PJ discovered a giant pee stain on our sheets that had soaked through into the comforter, duvet cover, and mattress pad. We were beyond frustrated. We immediately knew it was Bean (Meryl) because she's the only one who can jump on the bed without our help. But we didn't see her on the bed all day and it was made since the morning, which means she must have peed the bed early in the morning and it just sat there all day. Lovely. 

After we changed the sheets and got in bed with just a thin top sheet (since we had to wash our comforter) to keep us covered, we cuddled close together to stay warm. We stayed close all night, wrapped up in each other which we don't normally do actually. We start off cuddling and then eventually break off and get super comfy; it's the only way we can fall asleep. 

We woke up this morning and thought about the day/night before. We thought about how things didn't go as planned and how annoyed we were that they didn't. But then we thought about how if we didn't miss the movie, we might not have discovered Ozark and binged the first three episodes. And if our dog hadn't peed on our bed that caused us to wash our comforter which left us with only a thin top sheet to sleep on, we wouldn't have cuddled so close together all night to keep us warm. So even though these are so minor in the grand scheme of life and we won't even remember them in a year, they serve as a good reminder to us that when things don't go as planned and it seems like the end of the world at the time, there's always a silver lining, no matter how small. Sometimes you just have to look hard enough.

It's kind of comforting and empowering to think that, while we don't always have control over the bad things that happen in life, we have complete control in how we seek out the good.

Feature Friday with Ryan Wengel

Happy Friday! How was your week? We were supposed to go to South Georgia to see Thomas' sister and her family but the plans fell through at the last minute. Womp womp. So now we're going to take it easy this weekend and get some stuff done around the house. #WeekendWarriors.

We took a break from FF last week to celebrate Thomas' birthday but we are back with a brand new one that we think you're going to love. Ryan gets real about the insecurities that adolescence can bring and the subtle, surprising way he came out to his mother. Take a look below to read his touching responses and to see pictures of his gorgeous kitchen!

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Where are you from?  Wisconsin born and raised!

Where do you live?  About 4 years ago, my partner John and I moved to the CUTEST small town about 20 minutes outside of Madison, WI.  We were introduced to the neighborhood by our best friends and fell in love hard!  Nestled on a perfect little lake, we do our part to enjoy everything it has to offer -- boating in the summer, ice fishing in the winter (ok, that's a stretch), and cozying up with friends by a fire year round!  You can count on Happy Hour at 5pm every Friday -- rain or shine.

What’s your Instagram handle? @mrryananthony

Age: 33

Relationship Status: Partnered up.  John and I met over 10 years ago while I was completing my degree and the rest is history!  As it goes with any relationship, there are ups and downs, but we're really lucky to have each other.

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What is your favorite place you have ever travelled to and why?  I have a total soft spot in my heart for the beach.  Being from Wisconsin, we have short summers and brutal winters, so I cherish anywhere 75+ and sunny!  Plant me on the gulf coast of Florida ... Clearwater, Fort Myers Beach and everywhere in between.  It may not be the most most exciting destination, but offers an opportunity to slow down and reset.  We also travel to Mexico (Cancun) once, sometimes twice, a year with friends and always look forward to that getaway!

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Who is your favorite artist at the moment? Favorite song? Should I be embarrassed that Shawn Mendes' - "Lost in Japan" has been on repeat since Monday?  He is such a sweet kid and his new music is my jam!  One thing is certain, Beyonce is QUEEN!   

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What is your proudest accomplishment?  Tough question!  I've never really reflected on this.  I would say that my proudest accomplishment has been all the DIY work we've tackled during home renovations.  We take so much pride and passion in turning unloved houses into really special homes. (Thanks PJ and Thomas for the kitchen island inspiration!!)

How would you describe your home décor style?  My style is totally transitional, but I love keeping it eclectic.  I'm the type of person who will go into a house and paint all the walls white, upgrade the finishes and accent with a great rug.  I tell everyone that paint on a wall is much more of a commitment than a throw pillow or artwork!  Keep it neutral and accessorize with great pieces that you LOVE.  I am good mix of Christina Moussa (gold on gold fabulousness) and Joanna Gaines (all things shiplap). 

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What is something you wish you would’ve known when you were younger?  I wish I would have known to have confidence in myself sooner.  I truly regret my adolescent insecurity and at times feel like it has built an "inadequate foundation" that I am now racing to repair and strengthen.  Most recently I am learning that you are not your day job... you are so much more than what you went to school for... and that you can do anything you want with enough ambition.  Quit doing work that you're not passionate about, leave unfulfilling relationships, and be unapologetically happy.  Life is too short to do anything otherwise.

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What is one thing still left on your bucket list?  I have a lot of places to still see.  I've never been to either coast, so NYE and California are both ranked on the list!  John and I go back and forth on getting a camper or RV and taking more road trips... what do you think??

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How old were you when you came out and what was your experience like?  Because of my insecurity growing up, coming out was more about changing my perception than it was about changing others.  It has been a progression, but most of the "sit down conversations" happened just as I was graduating college.  I took the pivotal change as an opportunity to free myself of the secret I had held onto for 22 years and allow for my life to really begin.  My best friends were first and that was no sweat.  They already knew John and were excited learn his true place in my life.  Shortly after, I told my mom in a Mother's Day card.  I asked she read it after I leave and share it with my dad when ready. Maybe cowardly, but I couldn't find the courage to have the conversation face-to-face.  Not even 2 miles down the road, my mom was calling in tears.  We continued to cry happy tears together as I drove by to the apartment that John and I were then sharing.  Everyone else found out somewhat organically because we weren't "hiding" anymore.

What did you learn about yourself in the coming out process?  I learned that it was me who had the issue (insecurity) with it and not others.  If there is a recurring theme here, it is to find your confidence and voice early on.

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Have you faced any backlash or criticism since coming out?  Looking back, I can honestly say that I've only gained from it.  I am fortunate to say that neither of us have experienced negativity because of it.

Who is your biggest inspiration and why?  If you can't answer this question with "my mom," I am truly sorry.  She worked incredibly hard to give us a good life -- something I didn't always appreciate while growing up.  Things have finally come full circle and now I get to see her enjoy more of life, collect experiences and invest in good relationships.