Thoughts about my First Bracket

The morning of March 16th, I woke up to a Facebook Group invite to an "All Girls Bracket". This was something a few friends and I chatted about in a group text the night before. Our husbands were all in multiple brackets and we decided we wanted apart of the action. The stakes: a bottle of wine. Needless to say, we were very invested.

We agree not to take it too seriously, allowing ourselves to choose teams based off silly things like their colors. According to ESPN and CBS, brackets would be locked in by noon EST that day, so I printed a bracket and grabbed my pen.

After a quick moment of examining the teams on the bracket and trying to remember what I knew about college basketball outside of the Big12, I chose my winner. From there, I filled out the rest of my bracket. It started easy, usually choosing the higher ranked team. But when I hit the Sweet 16, I realized upsets are a guarantee every year. (see a 2015 ISU game for reference). So I began to mix it up more. In the end, I had North Caroline winning. I took a picture and uploaded it to our Facebook group.

Once my bracket was completed, I set my it aside and moved on with my day. It wasn't until 6 hours and 5 games later that I received a message. I had chosen the winner of all 5 games so far! I was equal parts shocked and excited. I was hooked. A few hours later, I was checking scores of games with teams I had never heard of before. I was having so much fun. Despite the silliness of it all, it was quite thrilling to be invested in this culture affair for the first time.

Yes, that is right. I never filled out a bracket before this year. Honestly, it never appealed to me. I didn’t see the value of investing X amount of dollars into something that couldn't hold my attention. So I was very surprised when I saw how much fun I was having with March Madness.

Below are some phrases I uttered multiple times throughout the last few weeks.

"I knew I should have picked Northwestern! My bracket is screwed now!"

"I can't believe Iowa State lost…"

"Am I actually rooting for Kansas right now?"

"Three of my Final Four teams are out already!"

"Well at least North Carolina is still in it."

"Oh My God! I won!"

And I did, I really did. I actually won my first bracket! It was just so much fun than I ever expected. My friends and I fully plan on doing this again next week (same stakes of course!)

As always, thank you for reading, XO-

P.S. If you liked this, you will also like Binging Podcasts is the New Black and Must-Follow Instagram Accounts

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Our Gallery Wall


My husband instilled something in me when we first moved in together. At the time we were recent college grads and newly engaged, and I wanted this first apartment of ours to look amazing. My instinct was to go to Target and buy wall décor to fill space and cover our ugly beige walls. But Steve stopped me when I was discussing my plans. He told me how he prefers the décor in his home to be personal. Rather than picking up items because they "looked cute", he wanted to have items I created or prints that had meaning to them. With this in mind, I abandoned my original plans and took a look at what we already had. A few worthy item according to the new criteria and some obvious gaps that needed to be filled. Given how I now wanted everything to have meaning, I didn't rush the process. It's now been three years and we've gone through 4 versions of our gallery wall. I think this one is the best by far. In those three years, I've added items and taken some away, but the purpose has always remained the same.


      1. #Stelen2015 was our wedding hashtag. Inspired by the "celebrity name" given to us in college (Steven and Helen) and the year of our marriage. The Stelen2015 canvas was a wedding gift from a sweet college friend.
      2. A Valentine's Day gift from me to Steve, in the middle is a photo from the first time he visited me and my family in Chicago. Around the photo, I wrote the lyrics to "Crazy Girl" by the Eli Young Band. We considered it our song and eventually had our first dance to it at our wedding.
      3. Another gift from me to Steve. I took a wooden plaque and hammered in nails in the of the state of Iowa. The heart was placed in the center for the location of Iowa State University in Ames, where Steve and I met.
      4. A print from an Etsy shop. I originally was planning on purchasing one for some friends, but I felt it applied to Steve and I as well. In his job, he travels at least once a month, but usually more. Steve was also grew up moving every other year because his dad was in the Air Force. Because of this he believes in taking advantage of living in new places.
      5. A gift from Steve to me on our very first dating anniversary. The frame, from an Etsy shop, says. "I Love You to the Moon and Back".  The photo contains a picture of us a couple of days before our first date and a photo a us exactly one year later.
      6. A photo from our engagement shoot.
      7. The Kansas City Skyline print from Etsy. When we moved to KC, I wanted to buy a bunch of KC artwork to commemorate the move. The Skyline is made up of words that have to do with Kansas City.
      8. A print we picked on our honeymoon in Antiqua. It is of a part of the island that holds the National Park.
      9. A How I Met Your Mother print from Etsy. It has the famous "yellow umbrella" on it. This was a show that Steve and I loved to watch (except for the last season!)
      10. A gift from Steve to me. It says "Steve Lassos to Moon" with a image of a man actually lassoing the moon! He gave this to me because "It's a Wonderful Life" is one of my favorite movies. But the best part? It's not a print, its all sewn onto a canvas!
      11. An abstract map of Ames, IA.
      12. The cutest little print I picked up from Paper Source.
      13. This is actually a lawn sign from Iowa State's 100th Homecoming celebration. Steve and I were both on the committee to plan Homecoming that year.
      14. A photo of the Northern Lights, taken in Alaska, which is where we picked it up. If only I had seen them myself!
      15. Yes, that is a very tiny photo from our wedding, but we have much bigger ones in our living room!
      16. Another photo from our engagement shoot.
      17. This is a fun little item. I took the top off of a shadow box and left the glass and backing on. This is where we put old tickets from concerts, movies, and games.

I hope you enjoyed taking a look at our gallery wall and learning a little bit more about me, and my life!

As always, thank you for reading, Helen

P.S. You may also like Not Your Typical Headboard and International Shadow Boxes.

Anchorage, Alaska: KSxAK Part 1

It is Part 1 of my Alaskan Recap! Make sure to check back tomorrow for Part 2! We had a great time in Alaska! Including our travel, we were gone for 7 days. Since Alaska is such a visually beautiful state, instead of trying to explain everything, I'd rather show you all of the majestic scenery with captions.

How we ended up in Alaska: One of my best friends, Elena, from my childhood was relocated to Anchorage, AK for work about 18 months ago. Determined to visit her in the summer months, we planned a trip for 4th of July weekend, along with our other best friend, Alicia, Alicia's boyfriend, and Elena's sister.

- Day 1 - Flight to Alaska!Alaska_16

- Day 2 - It was just the two of us on this day, so decided to play tourist in Anchorage. We started with walking along the coast, then brunch. Alaska_1

- Day 2 - We spent the afternoon in the Anchorage Museum. It had a healthy mix of art (for myself) and history (for Steve).Alaska_2

- Day 2 - We saw on Trip Advisor that this painted wall was one of the top "Things To Do". So when we drove by it, we pulled over and made sure we got a picture with the Whaling Wall!Alaska_3

- Day 3 - The rest of our friends flew in that morning and we hopped right into the car. We started with a wildlife tour where we watched a bear feeding.Alaska_7

- Day 3 - We continued on to see a ton of other animals including bald eagles, foxes, and wolves.Alaska_8

- Day 3 - After the tour we did a quick hike up a glacier. The scenery was seriously unbelievable! Alaska_4

- Day 3 - So much fun (and weird) playing in the snow in July!Alaska_5

- Day 4 - We piled in the car and drove for 2 hours to Seward, AK.  When we got there, we began our 6 hour, 8 mile hike!Alaska_15

- Day 4 - Ed note: I'm eating pretzels in this shot hahaAlaska_10

- Day 4 - The scenery throughout the whole hike was amazing!!!Alaska_13

- Day 4 - Showing Iowa State pride at the very top! 4600ft Elevation!Alaska_11

Make sure to check back tomorrow for Part 2! You'll see pictures from a glacier the size of Rhode Island and rafting!

As always, thanks for reading, Helen

P.S. you may also like What I Packed for Alaska and Ohhhh Canada...