December Wrap-Up

B L O G  P O S T S

The "Finding Your Spark" interviews are my favorite conversations to have, and this month I talked to my very dear friend about her experience moving solo across the country and loving it. Posted just in time for the holidays but perfect for any time of the year, I shared five cookie recipes that everyone will ask you about. I talked endlessly about my trip to Arizona, recapping my highlights and recommendations. Ever park on the street and have trouble finding your car on the way back? I've got a solution with five helpful apps I've come across. I reflected on 2017, a year that proved to be very difficult. On Sundays, I talked about avoiding the word "challenge," a 45-minute long conversation with a customer service rep, the magic of B96 Jingle Bash, and actually appreciating snow and the cold. Lastly, my final book count for the year was 45, ending with these.

December Reads

Book 44:
"Lilac Girls" by Martha Hall Kelly
Plot: "Lilac Girls" is a story about World War II and the Holocaust, namely about the medical experimentation on Polish women at Ravensbruck. The story is told through the perspectives of three different women – Herta, a German doctor conducting the experiments; Kasia, a Polish teenager drawn to the underground resistance movement and eventually captured; and Caroline, a New Yorker working at the French consulate and organizing care packages for orphaned children.

3 Things From The Past Week // 19

1 | Tuesday was the last day of the year that my whole team at work would be in the office together, since various people have different days off during the last two weeks of the month. To celebrate, we went out for drinks after work, then hung out and played games. We met one coworker's wife and another's boyfriend. At one point, he turned to her and said something like, "Are the people you work with like this? Like, you can tell these guys are actually friends."

I know I've said before how special it feels to be friends with the people I work with, to get along with them and enjoy their company. But I'm saying it again.

Reflecting On 2017

It was a lot.

My word for the year was LEAP. I wanted to jump into new experiences and changes, even if they scared me.

Looking back, I made a lot of leaps. Most significantly, I started a new position at my job, moved in with my boyfriend, and took a few trips just for fun without worrying about money. Yet, while I did do those things, there were also a lot of moments where instead of leaping forward, I froze.

5 Helpful Apps To Download Now

I'm sure our phones share a lot of the same common apps. Instagram, Google Maps, Target, Shazam. We've all heard of them, we all use them.

Every once in a while, though, I'll come across one that's a little different. Here are five helpful apps you may not have heard of:

3 Things From The Past Week // 18

1 | On Tuesday I flew back from 75-degree Phoenix to 22-degree Chicago. It was... cold. But in a way, I was also happy about it. December doesn't feel like December without the cold. The holidays don't feel like the holidays without some snow. It's good to be back.

My First Trip To Arizona: Highlights & Recommendations

It's amazing how many activities you can squeeze into three days when you're somewhere new and excited to explore. My boyfriend and I were in Arizona last weekend from Saturday to Tuesday. While it was only three days, we made the most of it and saw some places we'll never forget.

Since we were on a budget and bought the plane tickets that only allow a personal item and no carry on, I didn't vlog this trip. But I did still want to share my favorite things for you to keep in mind if you ever go to Arizona (which you should). 

Five Cookie Recipes Everyone Will Ask You About

If you know me, you know that during the first weekend of December, my family and I do a crazy amount of baking for the holiday. And I'm not just saying the "if you know me, you know" part. My friends and coworkers know when it's coming. Once Thanksgiving is over, they always ask, "So that means baking is soon, huh?"

We make around ten different kinds of cookies every year and a lot of them. Last year I gave a little behind-the-scenes look at the insanity.

It's been an annual tradition for literally my entire life. When we were kids, we'd stick to the basic chocolate chip and sugar cookies. As we've gotten older, we've tackled more complex recipes and have found some that are really cool. If you try them out, I can almost guarantee that people will ask you about the recipe.

Here are five of my favorites that we made this year, festive treats for the holidays but perfect to try any time of year.

3 Things From The Past Week // 17

This week's 3 Things is coming to you pre-scheduled because by Sunday morning, I'll be in Arizona! And considering I bought the cheapest plane ticket that only allows me a personal item and no carry on (i.e., I will somehow be packing four days' of stuff into a backpack...), I will most certainly not be bringing my laptop with me. Or my camera, for that matter, so no vlog for this trip.

Anyway! Here are some things:

Finding Your Spark: Finding Where You Belong And Enjoying The Ride

I decided to start the "Finding Your Spark" series to shine a light on different types of people who are following various paths – their OWN paths, whatever those may be. The whole idea is that there's no single way to live life and a person doesn't have to be "famous" to inspire others. These individuals have found what inspires them, motivates them, makes them happy. And they've run with it. Read all posts in this series here.

3 Things From The Past Week // 16

1 | This weekend is my family's annual Christmas baking weekend. It's literally a whole weekend event, since we'll make around ten different kinds of cookies and a lot of each. This year I bought a "holiday baking squad" shirt for each of us so of course we're all wearing them and baking in uniform.

November Wrap-Up

This month flew. I can't even believe it's the end of November already. Where have I been? What did I do? I feel like I don't even have much to share this time around, which is disappointing.

I decided to omit the "In My Life" section of these wrap-ups because they felt like repeats of my Sunday reflections, and I don't want to stop doing those since they keep me thinking and writing more often.

I feel very conflicted about it all and it's probably because I am trying to appeal to the most amount of people but it's also about what I feel best doing. So that's the verdict. (For now.)

B L O G  P O S T S

I spent the first weekend of November in Colorado, so I shared five of my travel essentials and put up a vlog from my trip. I collaborated with my friend and fellow blogger Laura to put up a fun post about why we started our blogs and what keeps us going, plus what post she's most proud of and what blogging has taught her. In the spirit of Thanksgiving, as well as turning 25 this month, I made a list of 20 things I don't want to spend energy on anymore and five that I do. On Sundays I thought about when I'll feel like a real adult, some good things that happened on my birthday, an app that does some good, and an old Thanksgiving tradition my family had. I also read three really good books this month.

November Reads

Book 41:
"Our Dark Duet" by Victoria Schwab
Plot: In a world where monsters are bred from acts of violence, "Our Dark Duet" picks up several months after the first book in the series, "This Savage Song." Kate is hunting monsters and August is fulfilling his duties as a monster, reaping the souls of sinners. Tensions between the two sides are rising, and there's a new monster in Verity, different from any others they've seen. Kate must return home to fight – back to Verity, to August. The war has begun.

3 Things From The Past Week // 15

1 | Thanksgiving was last week, of course. I love this time of year. Thanksgiving is the kick-off to the whole holiday season.

When my sisters and I were younger, my family would do Thanksgiving letters. We'd draw each other's names out of a hat and whoever you picked was the person you had to write an anonymous letter to about why you're thankful for them. Then at dinner, we would each read aloud the letter addressed to us. We don't do that anymore, but we all still get together that day for dinner and games.

Caring About The Right Things

For those of you who celebrate it, happy Thanksgiving! This post is partly Thanksgiving themed and partly me reflecting on turning 25.

Since my birthday landed on a Sunday, I wrote about three things that day as usual and decided I'd put up my birthday-based post today. It was going to be about 25 things I don't waste my energy on anymore. Things I no longer care about, in a good way.

But today is also Thanksgiving, and it felt a little weird to be putting up a list about things I don't care about on a day that focuses on expressing gratitude, even if my message was still positive.

So, I'm combining those feelings.

Here is a list of 25 things. Twenty that I don't care much about these days, plus five that I do.

3 Things From The Past Week // 14

It has been a rough few days. I've been anxious and frustrated and sad and overwhelmed. I've been annoyed at myself for feeling those things. It's felt like two steps forward and one step back.

Today was better. Not totally absent of those feelings, which, considering it's my birthday, is disappointing, but such is life.

I'm 25 now. Still anxious, still human, still trying. But proud, and happy.

We Fed Giraffes In Colorado

If you follow me on Instagram, you know that two weekends ago, I was in Colorado visiting my friend. It's my third time going to Colorado in a year, BUT it never gets old, because my friend is an A+ planner. We always do something different and each trip has a new experience.

We explored the mountains, ate good food, went to a zoo, Netflix n chilled, brunched hard, walked around Denver, looked at street art, and came face to face with a deer. It was a very awesome weekend.

Whenever I travel, I debate vlogging and oftentimes I opt out so I can really enjoy the place. Carrying around a camera can be inconvenient and, sometimes, a distraction. But we did such cool things and saw such beautiful places that I'm really glad I vlogged this one.

3 Things From The Past Week // 13

1 | Last week after my Colorado trip, I took Monday off of work, which was my first day off that was an actual day off in a long time. Definitely the first one this year.

I slept until 8, did a long yoga session in my living room, read (a lot), did laundry, worked on editing my vlog from the trip, caught up on tv, did dishes. It was productive and relaxing.

I still haven't completely unpacked.

Why We Blog // A Collaboration

A few weeks ago I put up a post "What If I Stopped Blogging?" In response to that, my real-life friend and fellow blogger Laura texted me saying she wanted to collaborate on a post about why we blog. I thought it was a great idea.

Not only could sharing our stories be interesting for others, but it's good for us as bloggers to take a minute to reflect on why we're doing all of this anyway. After wondering What if I stopped?, I reminded myself Here's why I haven't.

My Travel Essentials

Today – Friday, the day this is being posted – I am flying out to Colorado to visit my friend. The fact that this post is going up on Friday means it was written beforehand which means I didn't wait until the very last minute to pack! Go me. This might be a first.

I almost always wait until the last minute to pack, and I also almost always overpack. I am indecisive about my clothes and over-prepared for situations that will not happen. I am the worst. I tried really hard this time to only pack what I needed. Surprisingly, I kept it down to only two outfits AKA the exact amount I needed, instead of packing two extra "just in case." 

Aside from the obvious things like a toothbrush, contact solution, phone charger, etc., here are my travel must-haves:

October Wrap-Up

Happy Halloween, friends! This is the first year I'm actually dressing up at work. The scarecrow costume I did on Saturday turned out so well that I decided to do it again today. I also bought a big bag of candy in hopes that kids in my apartment building go trick-or-treating inside the building, but that could be wishful thinking.

B L O G  P O S T S

This month I thought to myself, what if I stopped blogging? Obviously, though, I didn't stop. The whole process can be motivating and discouraging and rewarding all at once. It's a coin I'm willing to flip. I wrote about living in the suburbs and why I like it. For anyone considering the Bikini Body Guide fitness program, or just curious about what workout routine I follow, I talked about my experience with BBG, sharing my takeaways and pieces of advice. My weekly three things included running into an old friend for the first time in three years, a reminder that fitness journeys don't have a finish line, and a theory about compliments we receive. Both of the books I read this month had me emotional and rooting for the main character.

October Reads

Book 39:
"The Help" by Kathryn Stockett
Plot: Set in Jackson, Mississippi in 1962, "The Help" is the story of rich white women and the black maids who raise their children. The lifestyle is accepted, never questioned. That is until Skeeter, a recent college graduate and aspiring writer, well, questions it. She wants to hear the perspective of the help and write a book about it. She meets with maids in secret, interviewing them and writing their stories. Though these black women have been with their white families for years, there's a lot they haven't said, until now.

3 Things From The Past Week // 12

1 | I am having the coziest weekend of reading and writing and, of course, watching "Stranger Things 2." Most of my time has been spent on the couch, and I'm very okay with that, even though my Apple Watch probably thinks I'm dead.

I did get off the couch for a while last night to go to my friend's Halloween party, which was a lot of fun. I've gotten very good at coming up with costumes that require absolutely no purchases.

My Experience With Bikini Body Guide

I've been a member at my gym since I started college, working out regularly for the past six years or so. Generally, I work out about 5-6 days per week. The fact that I go to the gym is consistent, but what I do at the gym varies.

Back in March of last year, I tried Kayla Itsines' Bikini Body Guide, a 12-week workout plan consisting of circuit workouts Monday/Wednesday/Friday and low-intensity steady cardio Tuesday/Thursday/Saturday.

I went through the guide twice, then took a break for a while. Now, I'm working through it again.

For anyone who's interested in trying out Bikini Body Guide, or is just curious in general how my experience has been, here are my main takeaways and pieces of advice:

3 Things From The Past Week // 11

1 | It's finally starting to look like fall around here. Usually by the time we get this far into October, all of the trees have changed colors. For whatever reason, most are still green, but we're starting to see some yellow and orange ones pop up, and I am loving it.

What If I Stopped Blogging?

I hate when I start writing about writing, or blogging about blogging, because I feel like it makes me look like a try-hard. It makes it seem like my thoughts aren't genuine even though they are.

On my drive home from work yesterday, I was thinking about my blog.

About how I haven't put up a post during the week in two weeks. How that's the first time that's happened since May. How I haven't been on Twitter much lately, so I haven't been promoting my blog over there as much, but does it even matter since I barely have any followers anyway? Do my "promotions" actually do anything? Surely there are bloggers out there who don't use Twitter but still have an audience. I wonder how long it took popular bloggers to attract a lot of readers. I wonder if they ever doubt themselves. How long can I blog without an increase in my readership before it's embarrassing?

3 Things From The Past Week // 10

1 | This is the first time in a long time that I haven't had a blog post go up during the week. I haven't had any ideas on what to post about. None. I'm a little disappointed in myself but now is when I'm glad I started this series. This is the time when it's really helpful. When I don't have any ideas on what to post about, at least I'm still getting something out there once a week.

3 Things From The Past Week // 09

This is the first 3 Things post that I'm writing in advance and scheduling. It feels weird! Even though I jot myself notes throughout the week, I don't actually write out these posts until Sunday morning. I don't know why – scheduling posts feels better and productive. I guess for these, I just like doing it in the moment.

Anyway, I'm away for the weekend with my family and our Sunday is starting bright and early, so I'm writing this Saturday night.

Beauty In The Burbs

I live in the suburbs of Chicago. I always have.

I grew up in a suburban house, a 40-minute train ride away from the city. The college I went to was not only in the suburbs but was set apart a bit because it had its own airport. When I moved out and into a place of my own, my apartment was only a few towns over from my parents' house. Then I moved in with my boyfriend, to another nearby town.

I've always lived in the suburbs, and some people don't get it.

3 Things From The Past Week // 08

It is October first and I'm spending my morning out on my balcony with a blanket and a cup of s'mores coffee, so, I AM HAPPY.

September Wrap-Up

B L O G  P O S T S

After a rough night, I put up a post talking about how I don't always like who I am, as a reminder to you that you aren't alone in your struggles. I also wrote about my current beauty favorites, if you're looking for new affordable products to use, and six things I'm glad my parents taught me. One of my favorite posts (and maybe yours too, based on pageviews!) went up this month about how the Internet keeps telling me to quit my job but I don't want to. I kept writing three things every Sunday, including thoughts about seeing the same people in my neighborhood every day on my way to work, society's views on turning 30, screaming into the void (AKA blogging), and more. Lastly, I only read two books this month, but I've now hit 38 for the year, so that's something.

September Reads

I only read two books this month, which is not many for me. There were two others that I started but couldn't finish.

First was Phoebe Robinson's "You Can't Touch My Hair: And Other Things I Still Have To Explain." I listen to Phoebe's comedy podcast "2 Dope Queens" and think she's hilarious, so I was looking forward to reading her book, but... eh. I only got through a few chapters. There were too many references and jokes that she tried to slip in that it became distracting from the actual story being told. If I pick it up again, it'd be the audiobook version.

The second was "The Glass Castle." I wanted to like this one so much but couldn't get into it. I made it halfway through and had no desire to keep going. It didn't feel like the story was actually leading anywhere. I do still plan to see the movie. I'm hoping I enjoy the story in that format more.

Book 37:
"A Stranger in the House" by Shari Lapena

3 Things From The Past Week // 07

The past week has been pretty crazy, with a lot of feelings.

1 | Most significantly, I grew up with two yorkshire terriers. We got Molly when I was 8 and Jazzy when I was 9. I don't remember not having a dog. On Friday, we put Molly down, and it was the saddest my heart has ever been.

6 Things I'm Glad My Parents Taught Me

Whether we want to admit it or not, the truth is that a lot of the time, our parents are right. They're older and wiser and we learn a lot from them, even if we don't realize it at the time.

My parents, obviously, have played a role in shaping who I am, and I don't view that as a bad thing. There have been plenty of instances where something I've learned from my parents has come in to play and I think how grateful I am to have been taught that.

From goofy to practical, here are some (certainly, only some) of those things.

But I Don't Want To Quit My Job

For those of you who don't know, my full-time job during the week is an "office job." I'm a project coordinator at a creative studio. It's a classic 8-to-5, clock-in-and-clock-out, working-in-a-cubicle job.

And here's the kicker: I don't hate it.

3 Things From The Past Week // 06

1 | One of my neighbors in my building sometimes plays piano in the evening, and it's such a lovely, soothing thing to listen to. We hadn't heard him play in a while until one night last week, when my boyfriend suddenly said, "Do you hear that?" and we paused whatever we were watching to listen to the music.

My Current Beauty Favorites

Every once in a while I like to go the beauty-blogger route and talk about products I've been using lately. When I find something I like, I'll use it regularly until I'm sick of it. I don't know a ton about makeup, either, so if I can make it work, so can you.

Here are some of the beauty products I've using pretty much every day lately:

3 Things From The Past Week // 05

1 | On Thursday I went to my kettlebell class at my gym for the first time since June. It's my favorite class, and I pretty much go every week, except for during the summer when I go to a local food fest with my family on Thursdays.

It was nice to be back. I set up in my usual spot because even after not going for three months, it was still my spot. Two different people came up to me and said, "Haven't seen you for a while! Welcome back." I like the idea of people I don't know noticing my existence like that.

You Aren't Alone In Your Struggles

It's important to acknowledge that the parts of a person's life that we see online are not the entire picture. What we see are only the best parts.

And that goes for me too.

3 Things From The Past Week // 04

1 | Every day on my way to work, I pass the same little old lady walking down the street. We usually end up at the street corner at the same time. I'm at a red light waiting to turn right and she's crossing the street in front of me. This happens literally every day. I've come to expect it. As I pull up at the light, I realize I'm already scanning the sidewalk looking for her.

It's weird how precise the timing is – not only am I passing her every day but it's in the exact same spot. I wonder if she notices that the same car is always at the light with her.

August Wrap-Up

B L O G  P O S T S

My first post this month was about how diet and exercise don't have a rule book. It's something that's on my mind so often that I'm surprised I haven't written about it before. I also wrote about common misconceptions about yoga, because too often somebody's reason for not doing yoga even though they want to isn't accurate anyway. Sunday mornings have become my time to talk about three things from that week. I stepped a little out of my blogging comfort zone and wrote about the importance of x Lastly, I read a few really unique books this month.

August Reads

Book 33:
"Into The Water" by Paula Hawkins
Plot: There's something weird about the river that runs through town. Women have gone missing and turned up dead in the water. Most recently, it was Nel Abbott, a single mother. Her sister, Jules, takes in Nel's fifteen-year-old daughter, Lena, who is devastated, convinced Nel's death was a suicide. Jules isn't convinced. Together, the two of them have to try to put the pieces together and find out what really happened to Nel.

3 Things From The Past Week // 03

1 | Last Monday my family and I saw the total solar eclipse in southern Illinois. It was awesome. We watched it from a grassy area with a gazebo and a decent crowd of people. Everyone was gathered around together, sitting on the steps or in lawn chairs, or sprawled out on blankets in the grass.

Common Misconceptions About Yoga

I've been practicing yoga for about six years, and I've found that it has certain connotations that aren't necessarily true. I've had a handful of conversations with friends where they say, "I really want to do yoga, but..." followed by a statement that's either incorrect or not important anyway.

Yoga is great for a lot of reasons. Most simply, it's a block of time that you are setting aside to focus on yourself, inside and out, stretching out your muscles and getting a little peace of mind. Still, some people just aren't into it, so I'm not here to persuade you to do yoga if you don't want to. Instead, I'm talking to those of you who want to get into it but haven't because...

3 Things From The Past Week // 02

1 | I get discouraged sometimes about my numbers online – blog post pageviews, Instagram followers, Twitter followers. They're all too low considering the number of posts, considering how long each account has been around.

I said something about this on my Instagram story and received a comforting message from Afoma in response: "Slow growth means deep roots. Trust me. You're connecting with people and that's what matters." Who knows if that's actually true, but I like to think it is.

Speak Up

Generally, my blog content and the news do not cross paths. A few of my monthly wrap-ups may have included links to articles or posts related to current events, but the primary focus has never been discussing what is going on the world. And boy is there a lot going on.

I've gone back and forth many times about whether to post on here about Trump. I usually turn to Twitter for that. I like that my blog is lighthearted. I like that it's a place to escape from the dumb shit in the world. At the same time, I also feel a moral obligation to speak up. I don't want to shy away from writing about topics with more substance when they need to be written about. As somebody with an outlet not only to write but to really speak, it's important for me to do so.

3 Things From The Past Week // 01

I've decided to try out this series, which I've seen done by Rachel Del. Every Sunday, she posts a short list of three things from the past week – thoughts she had, events she went to, anything. I read them every week. It's a nice peek into her mind. I enjoy the posts as a reader, and so I thought, hey, I think I might enjoy those as a writer too. They'll keep me thinking, keep me writing, keep the wheels turning.

I don't want these posts to feel repetitive with my monthly wrap-ups. The way I see it, the wrap-ups are more of a place where I share my interests and more significant life updates. These posts will be the little things in between, a space where I can think aloud. I can record a thought I had without turning it into a full post. Sometimes a thought is just an inkling, worth mentioning but nothing to expand on.

So here we are.

Diet And Exercise Don't Have A Rule Book

Take everything you've been told about diet and exercise, and forget it.

Just kidding.
Sort of.
More like, take everything you've been told and remember that those are not set-in-stone rules. Because if there's anything that doesn't have a rule book, it's diet and exercise.

July Wrap-Up

B L O G  P O S T S

I'm proud because I managed to post twice a week this month, except for the week I was on vacation in which I only posted once which I think is acceptable because hey, I was on vacation.

I wrote about a rough weekend I had where I spent an entire day on the couch, reminding myself that life's about balance. I complimented myself, because doing that is important. I wrote a few Internet-related posts: giving tips on how I run my blog alongside a full-time job and how I edit my Instagram photos, as well as talking about why who you follow/unfollow on social media matters so much. The latest (and very exciting) "Finding Your Spark" interview went up with wife, mother, author Rachel Del on writing, reading, and investing in yourself. Lastly, I hit my reading goal for the year already! Here are books 30 through 32.

July Reads

Book 30:
"The Girls" by Emma Cline
Plot: Set in 1969, "The Girls" tells the story of Evie Boyd, a lonely and curious teenager. One day while at the park, Evie sees a group of girls for whom she immediately feels a sense of admiration and envy. They're different, carefree, wild. Evie is drawn into their friend circle, which she soon discovers is actually a cult. As the summer progresses, Evie spends more and more time in this new world, oblivious to the dangers and violence to come.

How I Edit My Instagram Photos

Of all the social media outlets, Instagram might be my favorite. I like documenting my day with a single photo, and I like seeing how others capture theirs. It's a virtual scrapbook where we can express ourselves visually or in writing, or both.

I'm not gonna pretend I don't edit my Instagram pictures. I do. We all probably do, and I don't think there's anything wrong with that. I don't think adjusting a picture so it's more clean, vibrant, or eye-catching is dishonest.