March 5, 2015

Stuff and Things 3/5

+At least it's March. Right?

+Again, I started a post, finished it, re-read it, didn't like it, and I started again.  This is getting to be a problem.

+Monday was particularly stressful for some reason.  I had made Jett a vet appointment because he has two little bumps near his eye that just popped up last week.  I have no idea what/why other than the fact that he suffered from clogged tear ducts when he was really young and maybe it was related.  In order for me to get him to the vet by 4:30, I had to leave school early.  I had to find someone to cover my class for 15 minutes, fill out paperwork saying I was surrendering 15 minutes of personal time, and find someone to cover my crosswalk duty.  Then I had to drive home, pick up the dogs (can't leave Scout behind), drive to the vet, deal with that, stop for gas, not feel motivated enough to stop for the spinach and bananas I wanted, and then run the dogs around on the four-wheeler once at home because they need exercise everyday.  By 6pm, I was on the couch with Weeds reruns and a quesadilla.  I don't know why things always seem/appear to be harder than they are.

+Speaking of the vet, I'm still not sure how I feel about Fountain Creek Vet.  I don't like the lady we saw Monday and I always feel like they have sucker-punched me and stolen my credit card on my way out the door.  She didn't think the bumps around his eye were a huge deal.  Just said to watch them.  (I actually get the same kind of things on my eyelids every once in awhile...I was just worried about infection.)
But then she starts talking about how "does he run okay?" like there's something wrong with him.  She said we should x-ray his hips within the next year; because one happened to crack when she was manipulating his legs. I mean, he's gangly and kind of uncoordinated, but I don't think he's in pain, you know?  As for the running, we've clocked him with the four-wheeler.  He runs over 20 mph.
This is also the same lady who sold me an antibiotic and a probiotic for Scout last summer "just in case".  Both of which I never gave him because we didn't want him to become dependent on medicine and his digestive issues cleared up just fine. Everyone here swears by Fountain Creek Vet but I just don't know how I feel...The reason we've kept going there (after this post) is because Scott figures it's not worth it to switch again and all of our neighbors had nothing but good things to say about the place.  Really, I can't find one negative review anywhere.
Anyway, we've had 3 vets in the last two years and my favorite was Best Friends Animal Hospital in Missouri.

+Here's a few snippets of what I get to listen to everyday...

After hearing "I'mma Be" by the Black Eyed Peas at an assembly:  "Mrs. Darhower, is this song called Bumblebee?"

10 year old kid:  "Were you alive when Elvis died?"
Me:  No.
10 year old kid: "What about Michael Jackson?"
Me: Yes.
10 year old kid: How old are you?
Me: 29.
10 year old kid: Hey, so's my dad!

After being instructed by another teacher to do so, we wrote thank-you notes to a guest speaker...
Kid: So are these like actually going to him?
Me: What do you mean?
Kid: Well, you know, teachers say they're delivering them and then they never give them to the person, so it's like why are we even doing this?
Me: I'm assuming she'll give them to him.
Kid: Okay. Just checking.  (but he's making a JLaw face)

They're always so skeptical of my motives.

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March 3, 2015

February Books

#9 Pioneer Girl: An Annotated Biography edited by Pamela Smith Hill A
This is Laura Ingalls Wilder's original version of the Little House books.  It was a manuscript she wrote, getting down all of her memories, and then sent them off to her daughter, Rose, who was an author herself and knew several publishers.  After years of going back and forth, it was published into Little House in the Big Woods, Little House on the Prairie, etc.
This book is for the serious Little House fan.  As someone who has been to the Wilder home in Mansfield, Missouri three times, and has read almost every book on the subject, I think I qualify. I pre-ordered this book on Amazon in November and didn't receive it until the last week of January. Release dates kept getting pushed.

It includes LIW's text that she originally wrote with pencil on school tablets at her Rocky Ridge Farm.  On the sides of the pages are annotations and explanations of what was happening.  LIW didn't give a whole lot of context as she was writing her memories, so the editor provided that.  I knew a lot of the information, but found it very interesting and informative anyway.

I was always confused, as a child, how these books could be "fiction" when they were clearly the story of Laura's past.  This annotated biography sums it up well:  Laura wrote her original memories, but got a lot of names, places, and dates confused.  The timeline is also sometimes out of order.  She knew this was happening in most cases but decided that for the flow of the story, that was how it had to be.  There was a greater theme (that of westward expansion and the strength of the pioneer family) and that was held true to until the end of These Happy Golden Years.  The best example is that Little House on the Prairie comes after Little House in the Big Woods but, in reality, the family lived in the Kansas territory before Little House in the Big Woods took place.  It wouldn't have made sense (in the theme of "expansion") if the family had moved from Wisconsin to Kansas and back to Wisconsin.  That's what happened though in real life.  Also, Laura was only 2, 3, and 4 years old when she lived in the Kansas Territory, so her memories are enhanced for the book.  So there.  A long-sought childhood mystery explained to me.

Speaking of enhancement...Rose did most of the enhancing.  This book and other biographies explain it better than I ever could, but Rose was the go-between among Laura and the publishers.  She "adjusted" the story in order to get it to sell and Pioneer Girl was originally intended for an adult audience.  It was changed to make it fit the genre that would make it profitable: children's literature.

Speaking of Rose...I don't like her.  She was very bossy, very assertive, and did whatever she needed to in order to get ahead.  Rose Wilder Lane is virtually an unknown author today, but she was quite famous during her lifetime.  However, her book Free Land was essentially a rip off of Pioneer Girl, which is probably why she insisted on adjusting her mother's story so much; didn't want it to sound too much like her own.  If you happen to be near Mansfield, Missouri (you won't be), a visit to the section of the museum dedicated to Rose will probably cause you to agree with me.

My only real complaint is that this story didn't go into the history of Farmer Boy.  I would have liked that.

Honestly, I could go into further detail but, truthfully, if you're a fan of LIW, it's already on your to-read list and if you're not a fan, you've probably already stopped reading this post.

#10 A Year of No Sugar by Eve Schaub C+
I really like food-related books.  I really like challenge-oriented books.    I've also been into non-fiction lately.
However, this book...maybe it's because the narrator's voice was awful.  Maybe it's because the privilege of the Schaub family practically bled through my car's speakers.  Either/or.  There was an air of "wealth" to this narrative.  As in, "we can give up sugar because we can afford to spend all day researching and cooking our own food".  She didn't seem to have a job. They went on many trips in just this one year and it's implied that they travel a lot. I mean, if your biggest issue is that you don't know how you're going to say no to multiple gelatos during your two weeks in Italy, then I can't relate.
Also, if you read her 10 year old daughter's journal entries, she keeps calling it a "diet".  And there seemed to be this constant theme of restriction.  Eating a lettuce and plain veggie "sandwich" because that's the only thing that was available?  If you were truly hungry, you should've been better prepared and/or should've done some research. This book would probably be very triggering to someone with an eating disorder/disordered past and I think Eve could've easily screwed up her daughters' view of food and eating with this challenge.
Most reviews on Goodreads mention that it wasn't a year of no sugar.  It was more like a year of focusing on only certain kinds of sugar.  They ate lots of dextrose, but wouldn't touch honey.  Meh.
It was an interesting idea, and I like memoirs, but the writing was incredibly annoying.  Also, terribly sorry your trip around Italy was so difficult, Eve.

#11 Me Before You by Jojo Moyes B-
I never read books like this.  But this had a couple of things going for it.  It was a rather non-traditional love story, it takes place in England (not some Sparksy location in a Carolina), but the main character was annoying. I did find Louisa to be very bland in the beginning.  Kind of simpleton-ish.  Just didn't seem to strive to get anywhere in life.  It made me sad.  She had no desire to do anything.  She was the absolute opposite of empowering. I mean, she was 26, never went to college, she worked at a coffee shop, lived at home, etc.  That's all well and good, but she didn't even have a fun hobby or something.  I'm not sure what she did with all her time.
Was it a sad story?  Eh, I guess.  Was it tragic?  A bit.  I think it'd make an okay movie.  I think the characters' families were the depressing part of this book.

#12 The Family Romanov by Candace Fleming B+
Having only ever read books and fictionalized diaries from the Romanovs' point of view, this was kind of refreshing.  To know what was actually going on in the whole of Russia while the imperial family was in power was sort of mind-blowing.  Some of it was really drawn out and, even though I know it was written toward the young adult market, parts were kind of repetitive.  The talk of government officials and explanations of laws went on for awhile.
My real takeaway from the book was that the Romanov children were terrors.  I mean, the descriptions of the things they did and how they acted...made me want to write out an office referral slip.  However, I think that Nicholas and Alexandra were fools themselves, so I find it not to be surprising that their children were horribly behaved.  Parents and children haven't changed much in a hundred years I suppose.  As in, the apple doesn't fall far from the tree.

#13 I Survived The Great Chicago Fire by Lauren Tarshis B-
It would only make sense, I think, that I read and review a kid's book each month.  And it is a chapter book, so I'm counting it.
I love the I Survived series but, more than that, I love how much kids love I Survived books.  This is the newest in the series and I got one for each of my students for Valentine's Day.  I enjoyed it about as much as I enjoyed all the others.  My favorite is still the Titanic one.
I liked the nonfiction blurb at the end that gave background information.  The characters weren't well-developed. The Titanic one comes first in the series and, I think, had the best backstory.

and then there was Lincoln in the World by Kevin Peraino  D for didn't finish...
See review here.

I'm working on two other books right now but didn't finish them in February the way I originally wanted to.

What was the best book you read this month?

March 2, 2015

Crockpot Chicken Curry

Recipe challenge, week nine.

So, let's say you have naan leftover from all that naan pizza you anticipated making last week?  I mean, eight naan pizzas would be a lot to eat in one week.  Even for me, the adult who will admit that pizza is her favorite food.  

Well, you can make some curry and dip that naan in it.

We have a friend who loves to make curry but won't give me his recipe because he claims he doesn't use one (I don't believe him).  I've done curries in the crockpot and have been very satisfied with the results, but sometimes I just don't want to put dinner in the crockpot at 10am in order to have it ready by 6pm.  This curry cooks super quickly on low in the crockpot because I gave it a headstart on the stove.  While this may defeat the purpose of a slow-cooker, it lets you control when dinner is ready AND the chicken gets brown and crispy and more flavorful.  

Crockpot Chicken Curry
serves 4-6

1 lb. boneless skinless chicken tenders, cubed
Olive oil
1 tsp salt
1 tsp pepper
1 tsp curry powder
1 tsp cumin

Coat the bottom of a frying pan with olive oil and heat to medium.  Add in the cubed chicken and sprinkle with spices.  Toss to coat.  Brown the chicken for a few minutes, but you don't need to cook it all the way through.

In a 4-quart or 6-quart Crockpot, add:

1 medium onion, finely diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 inch of ginger root, peeled and grated
1 1/2 T. curry powder
1 T. tomato paste
1 can full-fat coconut milk

Stir all those ingredients together and then add the chicken.  Stir again and put the lid on.  Cook on low for 2-4 hours.  It won't take very long!

Serve with naan, couscous or rice.  

February 27, 2015

Said by Scott

The good news is that Scott does have a cell phone on this deployment.  The bad news is that these are the text messages he often gets from me now.

So if that doesn't make you feel bad for me...

He doesn't leave the phone on all the time, so we don't get to talk all the time because of the time difference.  But it's nice for him to have as he travels.


Listening to this song on the radio...
Scott: All you have to do to be a rapper is say things three times.
Me: Okay.
Scott:  Don't tell 'em, don't tell 'em, don't tell 'em... you ain't even gotta tell 'em.  See? Three times?
Me: Can we change this now?

A dog jumps onto the bed in the middle of the night.
Scott: Which one is it?
Me: I don't know.
Scott: Pet it.

Scout and Jett have very different fur and that's how you can tell them apart in the middle of the night.


Scott: What are you getting me at Costco?
Me: Salmon.
Scott: What kind of salmon?
Me: …pink.
Scott: …..
Me:  chum…
Me:  Red.
Scott:  Otherwise known as…?
Me:  Sockeye.
Scott:  And none of that God awful Atlantic salmon.  Don't come home with that.

I was playing dumb there. There are 5 rankings of salmon. King/chinook, Silver/coho, Red/sockeye, Pink/humpback, Chum/dog. You don't want to actually eat the pink or the chum.  That's the stuff they make dog food out of.  You can take Kristin out of Alaska, but…


As we're driving out of the driveway with the dogs…
Scott speaking for Jett:
You never let me go anywhere.
Me:  Get in the back.
Scott speaking for Jett:
But there's so much to see!


On my birthday…
Scott: We're getting old.  Like, really old.
Me: Maybe you are.  You're older.
A few minutes later..
Scott: You know I'm only like 6 weeks older than you, right?  You're aware of that?
Me:  Different year.  You're much older.



February 26, 2015

Stuff and Things 2/26

+I've started biting my nails again.  I stopped around my birthday because I told myself I was too old for that nonsense anymore.  I tried, desperately, to keep polish on them because then I won't bite them.  However, polish chips and then they look messy and then I start chewing on them again. It's a losing battle.

+This is my theory on 50 Shades of Gray:  It is really, really dumb.  It is also unnecessary and when the morning news includes a segment on it, you  know that the civilization is in probable decline. You might remember that I attempted the first couple chapters of the book before it blew up a few years ago and I was insulted by the poor writing and the fact that it was Twilight fan fiction.  My theory has evolved though. I could go on and on about how impressionable and susceptible adolescent girls are, but I won't. My overarching theory is that...have you seen The Fall?  Jamie Dornan (a.k.a Christian Grey) plays a serial killer.  A particularly sadistic one.  That character, Peter something, is much more likable than Christian Grey.  And he's a serial killer.  
I think Dakota Johnson seems about as insufferable as Kristen Stewart, but I do like Jamie Dornan. As long as he's playing a serial killer.

+I was going to complain about winter here for a few sentences.  But seriously, who wants to read that?  I don't even want to write that, so I'll keep my nasty thoughts to myself.

+Those of you with pets: How do you keep your floors clean in the winter?  We're lucky that we don't get a whole lot of precipitation here (the mud in Missouri was unreal), but when it snows and melts, they track in the dirt and mud.  It's exhausting, wiping paws at the door.  And honestly, when it's really bad, I just keep a couple of inches of water in the bathtub that is closest to the door the dogs use and plop them in to wash paws.  Yes, I carry them from door to tub.  They hate it, I hate it, and Scott laughs at me.  But I can't deal with dirty floors.  Especially because they like to nap on the bed and couch and I certainly can't deal with dirty furniture.

+Another question: Do you photoshop pictures? I've been thinking about the topic of photoshopping lately. Especially the idea that nothing you ever see in a magazine or even is movies is the real deal. Aside from playing with lighting/saturation or filtering on IG, my pictures are never photoshopped.  I would like to say this is because I have a high moral stance, but honestly, I just don't know how.  Everything you've ever seen on this blog or my IG is the real deal (I don't know if that's good or bad).

+If you're looking for a fun weekend read, check out Yeah, Maybe by Joey Hodges.

I read this young adult fiction book last summer in about two days and now is your chance to pick it up on Kindle.  It would probably also be a perfect snow-day read if you're in Colorado...sigh.

For quiet, reserved, and focused 15 year old Annie Mackey, school was a sanctuary. But when her bubbly and beautiful neighborhood best friend joins her at Willow Point High for freshmen year, her world is turned upside down. 

Everything Annie could count on for stability is shattered, and she's left feeling more alone than ever before. 

Just when she's about to lose all hope, someone unexpected swoops in and gives her a much needed lesson in perspective.

This special is good until Saturday, 2/28!

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February 24, 2015

In the throes

We are in the beginnings of another deployment and this marks the third in 5 1/2 years.

The first one was only 4 months, but they were easily the darkest 4 months of my life. I would not go back to those days for anything. The second was 11+ months and was the period of time in which I grew the most as a person.  2012 was simultaneously the worst year and the best year for that reason.  This third deployment won't be as long as the second, but longer than the first.  It's not even a "deployment".  He's in a "safe" country and, until a few weeks ago, I was actually going to be able to visit.  Which would've been really neat and fun and just...different.  Which made it not seem like so much of a deployment at all.  Then the army changed its mind and, unless some kind of miraculous R&R is granted, there will be no traveling for me.  I had seriously already started planning the trip and arranging for the dog-care.  Talk about annoying.

So, that's where we are.  Just an FYI I guess. Expect lots of single serve desserts and T.V. talk from me over the next several months.

I made this graphic last year and now seems an appropriate time to post it.  We have a lot going on right now: my job, his job, this house project.  I have to have faith that it will all work out appropriately because, I mean, if I could make it through 2012 in Alaska by myself, I can make it through this, right?  I really wish I had known then the things I know now, but the lesson is the same:

Psalm 46:10
And yes, that is a glacier in that picture.    

February 23, 2015

Homemade Naan Pizza

Before we get to the pizza, I ordered wine on Groupon yesterday and I wanted to share this referral link.  Not only will I get a discount if you order 6 bottles of wine for $39, but you will too!  I didn't get to choose what kind I wanted to order, but it's a mixed box of red and white.  I like white, Scott likes red, win-win. I'm trying to add to our collection and possibly evolve from Yellowtail.

In case you've missed the first installments of my Recipe Challenge (52 weeks, 52 new recipes), here's what I've done so far in 2015.

1. Baked Crab Dip
2. Mint Oreo Ice Cream Cake
3. 30 Minute Leek and Potato Soup
4. Company Chili
5. Cookie Dough Ice Cream
6. Scott's Salmon
7. Homemade Marinara Sauce

Recipe challenge, week eight.  

So, what can you do with that marinara I posted last week?

You can make naan pizza.

I credit my newest pizza obsession to Joey.  She mentioned that she and her husband like to make naan pizza as a quick dinner.  I bought some naan that weekend and made mini-pizzas with it.  It was really good.  Like, insanely good.  Much better than those flatbreads I usually go for.  However, store-bought naan is expensive.  Annoyingly expensive.  $4 for two pieces.

I could actually talk about naan all day.  Scott first made naan from scratch back in the winter of 2010.  He'd just returned from Afghanistan and went on and on about how amazing the local food was there.  He spent an entire Sunday working in the kitchen: grinding spices, mixing up a rice dish, and rolling naan.  I remember how good it was.  I also remember how long it took:  all day.

That being said, I decided to embark on making my own version of naan back in January.  I actually used the recipe from Food Network's website.  I didn't add any of the spices; just followed the basic recipe.

It's a remarkably hands-off process.  You mix everything together, let it sit half the day in a place where dough can rise, and then roll it out. It cooks in about 2 minutes in a cast iron skillet.

So, once you have your naan...preheat the oven to 475 degrees.  Put 2-3 pieces on a baking sheet.  I use a thin (really cheap and half-destroyed) metal pan but you can use a pizza stone.  I let it warm and crisp in the oven for about 5 minutes.  Then I add sauce, pepperoni, pizza seasoning, and cheese.  Bake for 10-12 minutes until the cheese is browned.  I use convection*, but you can bake for 10 minutes in a conventional oven and then just broil for a few minutes.

*I've found that, because of the altitude issue here, it's best to use convection for everything. Baked goods cook evenly and without any worry on my part.  I don't mean to sound like some kind of Ina Garten with "you need to have fresh milk, fresh cheese, fresh butter...and a convection oven".  

February 21, 2015

Blogging for Books: Lincoln in the World

I took a lot of history classes in college. They always involved a textbook of some kind and then a bunch of other books the professor deemed important. I always wondered what it would be like to be a professor and get to choose the books that those broke college students "had" to buy.  Did you read your college textbooks?  I didn't.  I had the best of intentions.  I always bought the books. I rarely read them. Taking good notes on the lectures, I found, was the key to success.

All of this to say that Lincoln in the World read like one of those books a history professor would tell you to read, but you never actually got around to reading it. I'm a certified social studies teacher in two states, and  I fancy myself as someone who knows a lot about American history. I liked the movie Lincoln.  And I know a lot about William Seward after my time spent teaching Alaska history.  And one of the very first non-fiction books I ever remember reading was about Lincoln, when I was about 6.  Also, I read that Lincoln/vampire book and actually really liked it.

But I didn't get into this book.  It was full of information, yes, but wasn't pleasure-reading in any way. It was kind of a compilation of other authors' books on Lincoln instead of one person's opinion on how Lincoln helped to make the U.S. a world power.  In my personal opinion, there is nothing more boring than studying foreign policy.  The only interesting foreign policy I've ever come across was the build-up to World War II.  I just have this picture in my head of the U.S. being very isolated during its first 200 years.  You don't hear a lot of foreign policy between the Revolutionary War and World War I.  Weren't we busy with other things?  Going to war with ourselves and Reconstruction and all that.  While 19th century American history is interesting (hello, Little House on the Prairie), this book wasn't to me.

I didn't make it through the book.  I skipped a couple of chapters here and there and...sorry, Blogging for Books.  I wanted to like it.  I just didn't.

February 20, 2015

8 months of Rodan+Fields

I started using the full line of Rodan+Field's Unblemish on June 26.  I remember this because it was my brothers' birthday.  Actually I started the last week of May, but I didn't want to commit to the whole (expensive) line at once because I wasn't sure how my skin would react to it.  After it was evident that my skin would not break out/freak out because of it, I committed to the full line of Unblemish and I've used it twice a day ever since.

The end of May 2014

I am so completely, wholly, humbly thrilled with the results.  There are no words to describe what it feels like to have bad skin.  I always had some adolescent acne, but that had pretty much cleared up by my 20s.  However, in June 2013, I stopped taking the pill and, I believe, as the hormones ebbed their way out of my system, chaos erupted on my skin.  I was good from June to probably October.  Then I started noticing how bad it was getting.

Now, do I think that, eventually, things would've cleared up on their own?  Perhaps.  Maybe it just would take that long for all the hormones to leave my system.  However, after almost 6 months of struggling with rash-like breakouts, I couldn't wait any longer.  This is part of the reason why Missouri was so hard on me.  Everyday seemed to be a struggle.  Especially because my job required me to stand in front of people everyday.  I mean, kids don't really care, but I also met with teachers, parents, and administrators each day.  It was a lot to deal with. However, I'm hoping that's all behind me.

Last week.  
This picture isn't perfect and neither is my skin.  However, while I may still get the odd cystic breakout, I do not have a bumpy, uneven skin tone anymore.  That's more than satisfactory to me.

I spend $174.90 every other month on this skincare regimen…and it's worth every penny.  I'm not going to tell you that there's specials or deals or whatever because it is an expensive brand.  It just is.  I'm not a salesperson and this is probably why: I would never gloss over the price if I was trying to get you to start this system. However, I was spending $30 or so every two months on Pro-activ and it wasn't working anymore.  Then I bought a Clarisonic and loved it for many reasons but then it stopped working.  That was like a $150 investment, plus the cleansing gels.  Plus the amount of money I'd spent trying makeups to hide the imperfections. And the frustration and heartache that accompanies bad skin.  Frustration-free living is priceless to me. I mean, we were never assured that life would be easy, but why make it more difficult if it doesn't have to be that way?

For me, the cost of Rodan+Fields is worth it and I can console you with the thought that they do offer a money-back guarantee.  I kept all the boxes from that first delivery, well-prepared to send it all back after a month. (Seriously, I would've done it.)

Anyway, I've ranted and raved about a lot of skincare over the last year so I felt an update was well overdue.

My biggest advice to anyone suffering with cystic acne or constant breakouts is to try this.  It could seriously change the quality of your life.

February 19, 2015

Stuff and Things 2/19

+I had a whole post written, realized I didn't like it, and now I'm starting over.

+The Oscars are on this weekend.  Scott has a bet on American Sniper winning Best Picture and Bradley Cooper winning Best Actor.  I actually didn't see American Sniper, but I have a feeling it will depress me.  Scott really liked it and, in my humble opinion, Bradley Cooper should win Best Actor all the time.  I still rewatch Silver Linings Playbook every once in awhile. 

+This article on Slate ranks all the Oscar nominees.  I haven't seen many of the movies because I'm not a movie person, but I did see The Imitation Game (very good), Big Hero 6 (cute enough), Into the Woods (dumb), and part of How to Train Your Dragon 2 (Scott likes animated movies).  Gone Girl is on my list, but I've seen none of the others.  I feel very out of touch.  

+But I will be watching on Sunday.  Because we have the opportunity of winning $550 and I need to celebrate if that's the case.

+Some days you feel really put together, clothes-wise.  Yesterday one one of those days. To the non-blogger though, I just look like I'm wearing blue stripes with black, and black with brown, and two different stripe patterns.  

I had trouble getting a decent picture.  I'm out of practice.

Boots: Madden Girl // Leggings: Athleta (they have pockets! acceptable for work!) // Shirt: Gap // Sweater: Forever21 // Scarf: Target