On Turning 30 (and a GIVEAWAY!)

Wednesday, September 19, 2018



Last night at dinner I was telling B about my newfound confidence since turning 30 (and he was doing his best to not roll his eyes, bless him). I feel so good in this space. Every space. Even the darker ones, I feel like I can hold them and stare at them instead of forcing them down. I feel happier, luckier, prouder than ever before, and for someone who desperately craves control, in possession of it.

On New Year's Eve Brian deemed this year the year of personal responsibility (I proudly proclaimed it the year of sandwiches, and it hasn't lived up to my expectations yet) —if you want something, you have to work towards it, no more whining in our house (2017 was particularly whiny). So, with that, I set three goals — one work, one freelance, one fitness. Every week (eh... almost every week) I've forced myself to make a conscious effort towards reaching those goals, and I've realized how much is possible. You can do so much, big or small, if you want to do it. There will always be barriers of course, but I used to let those barriers carry too much weight. I also let failure get in the way of trying something. My rationale was that if I put effort towards it and it doesn't work, I'll be upset, but if I don't even try, we won't know the outcome — perhaps I could succeed.

The other thing I've learned is that you don't have to do it all. I actually wrote on this for Talkspace earlier this year. It's OK to ask for help. It's OK to divide responsibilities. It's not a sign of weakness. I've become more comfortable asking B to make dinner or pick up the dry cleaning although those are typically my responsibilities because there are days where adding those two little things to my to-do list might break me. We also recently hired someone to clean our house monthly. Taking on more freelance work has meant chasing deadlines on the weekends. In this season of my life I'd rather grow that business than spend that time on something someone else can help me with. It's a privilege, but everything's a give and take, and I've learned I have choices and don't have to take it all on by myself.

This likely isn't wisdom at all, but feeling an ounce wiser is a nice complement to having to be an ounce older. And with me being a year older, the blog is a year older — 5! I say this every year but one of the best parts of this space is the cool people and companies I've gotten to know through it. Wonderful, sweet, AMAZINGLY talented Joanne from Arnold & Bird sent me the coloring page above from my 30th birthday. I love how happy we look and think it's the perfect image for this stage of my life. B says we should have colored it before framing it, but I'm saving that for a rainy day. Or long flight.

To celebrate my blog's birthday Joanne is giving one reader a planner pad and motivational notebook to help you reach your goals (I also love this little inspirational pad to focus on the positive). Year of personal responsibility, people! Let's make the last four months count!

The giveaway will close at midnight CT on Friday, October 12. Open to all readers (not just U.S.!). One randomly selected winner will be notified by email. Good luck!!!


Video: Japan!

Sunday, September 16, 2018



We left for Japan exactly a year ago, and to celebrate, B wrapped up the video from our trip. He's been dealing with a terribly slow laptop when making these but just splurged on a new Macbook, so I've been told to expect these much quicker :)

Japan had been on my list for years and years (I had my heart set on moving to Osaka for a few years after graduating college and meeting Brian, and I haven't totally ruled it out), and it lived up to the hype in every way. I'm now obsessed with the Japanese reality show Terrace House, and I think we have to go back soon so I can explore with my newfound knowledge. If you’re at all considering it, book it and go! Given how different Japanese culture is I wanted to share a few things I learned that would be helpful for planning a trip of your own:

English is minimal: After successfully navigating the language barrier in European countries without any real troubles, I went into our Japan trip overconfident about how English-friendly things would be (I'd also read many articles about how Japanese students take several years of English in school). But, to our surprise, we hardly encountered anyone who spoke any English on our trip. The good news is that the Japanese are extremely polite and will do their best to communicate despite of the language barrier, but it was a bit tricky and we definitely got by with a lot of pointing followed by copious amounts of arigatou (thank you). Learn a few basic Japanese words and be prepared to be pushed out of your comfort zone with the language barrier. For navigating via mass transit, most signs will have words in both Japanese characters and the Roman alphabet, and train announcements will often play in both Japanese and English, which was extremely helpful.

Breakfast isn’t a thing: I’m a breakfast person and rely on my morning meal and coffee to get me started for the day and learned the hard way on our first few mornings in Japan that breakfast options are pretty minimal as most places do not open until 10 or 11 AM. Unless you’d like to eat ramen or curry for breakfast, plan out breakfast locations in advance or grab snacks and coffee to have in your hotel room/apartment to avoid a hangry, desperate breakfast search in the morning.

BYOWC (bring your own washcloth): I noticed that many shops sold small washcloths (many in adorable colors and patterns) but it took me a bit to understand why until I started connecting the dots about why carrying around your own washcloth would be useful. First off, most public restrooms do not have paper towels or a hand dryer, and while I was stuck wiping my hands on my pants, the Japanese women would use their own washcloth to dry their hands off. The washcloths also came in handy on hot days to wipe away any signs of sweat (one serious perk of Tokyo was how clean and odorless it was — even when it was hot and the subway cars were packed no one smelled or even looked sweaty!).

7-Eleven, we love you: It was super interesting to see so many familiar brands in Japan, but the most surprising was 7-Eleven, which was seemingly everywhere. Instead of simply being a connivence store, it’s a one stop shop for everything, including great meals (there are lots of lists on the Internet about the best 7-Elevens in Tokyo, and many of them have long, long lines at lunchtime). Also, their ATMs will allow you to withdraw yen from your foreign credit cards, saving you the hassle of dealing with having currency exchanged.

Public transportation is your best friend: The Japanese mass transit system truly puts everywhere else to shame. We would not have been able to do and see as much as we did without Tokyo’s subway system — it is incredibly efficient and easy to navigate, trains are always on time and much faster than the trains we have in the States. We ordered a seven-day pass before we arrived in Japan and used it non-stop, including to go from Tokyo to Kyoto, which made the pass pay for itself.

So much love for you, Japan. Can't wait to go back someday soon <3

P.S. All of our Tokyo photos, Kyoto photos and our traveling tips!

Indoor S'mores

Thursday, August 30, 2018


Every summer I make a long list of things I want us to do, and every summer we barely scratch the surface. Going to a public pool in the city has been on the list for years now. Maybe we'll go on Labor Day? Probably not. Biking to the Botanic Garden? At this point, I think it likes being on the list, never to be crossed off. I also typically claim a number of nights I want to sleep outside this summer in May, and we never get close. The bar was set low this summer: two — but it's looking like we won't get to camp at all, unfortunately. All of this is understandable — we traveled a lot this summer, have attended a handful of weddings (and still have six left!) and have prioritized other fun, memorable activities over these, but I can't help but wish we had done more as summer comes to an end (I actually just wrote a piece on August anxiety for Talkspace).

One of the big reasons I love camping is for the s'mores (exhibit a, b, c), and I like them so much I've gotten pretty good and making them at home in the oven. They don't taste as good, but they're really close (85% there, I think). They only take a few minutes to make and you can eat half a dozen on the couch while watching Terrace House, so you end up not missing camping at all, really :)



I bought Brian a Bodum bread box from Wayfair to store the loaves he makes in hopes of us not eating them in one sitting like we have been, but since we continue to eat them in one sitting, I've been using the bread box to house my s'more ingredients. I love that the top is a cutting board and that it's easy to swipe open and close but keeps the food sealed well — nothing worse than stale bread or marshmallows. Well, maybe a few things, but not many ;)

Ingredients:
32 miniature graham crackers or 8 regular size graham crackers, broken in half
2 milk chocolate bars, the kind that can be broken into squares
8 marshmallows

Directions: 
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.

Lay 1/2 of the graham crackers on a cookie sheet. Top with chocolate pieces to cover. Use kitchen scissors to snip the marshmallows in 1/2 horizontally if using miniature crackers and place 1/2 a marshmallow on top of each graham cracker. If using regular size crackers use a whole marshmallow.

Bake until the marshmallows are puffed and golden brown, about 3 to 5 minutes. Remove from the oven and top with the remaining graham crackers, pressing down slightly to make a sandwich. Serve immediately, while still warm.

(This post was sponsored by Wayfair. Thank you for supporting the brands that support Make the Most.)

Block Party!

Friday, August 24, 2018



I mentioned earlier this week that I'm between jobs and taking two weeks for some r&r, and what I knew would happen and feared would happen is happening — I don't want it to end. I'm excited for what's next, but I'm loving these slow, easy days. Per my friend Jessica's recommendation, I've gotten super into Terrace House and feel good about the neglected list of things I'm finally getting around to (even if it means giving an entire paycheck I'm not making to the cobbler...).

Last week was our block's annual block party, which felt like a kickoff to my staycation. It's something our neighbors take very, very seriously! The planning meetings start in the winter (B was on the party committee last year but didn't feel he could take on the responsibilities this year because they're  no joke)! We actually saw our place exactly two years ago, a weekend after the block party had occurred. Sitting on the curb, confused about what to do next, we ran into a couple that lived in the building and asked them a bunch of questions. They told us about the block party, and we were amazed. It's the perfect example of the small-town feel of this little neighborhood, which we love so much.

We invited some friends to join us last weekend, and we had so much fun eating and drinking on the street all day. The party starts in the morning with a bike parade and people are still dancing in the street around midnight. We love this tradition and look forward to it as soon as it feels like summer.









B and my friend Kelly beat more than 50 people in the egg toss competition, which is arguably the biggest deal of the day. They were treated like royalty and everyone wants to know their secret (soft hands and teamwork, they say). On the other hand, of surprise to nobody, my friend Nicole and I got dead last.

 


There are activities all day (volleyball, bags, bounce houses, a water slide, dunk tank, face painting, pinatas), and my favorite is the cake walk. Have you heard of it? Numbered squares are laid out in a circle. Tickets are sold and people walk around the path in time to music, which plays for a bit and then stops. A number is called out, and the person standing on the square with that number wins a cake. Hoorah!

 
 

These kids! Ha! One of the reasons we were so excited to move to this neighborhood was the family feel. Growing up we'd spend all day riding bikes and having lemonade stands outside our house. While it's a bit different in the city, the kids on our block get to make those memories (albeit, more supervised) and it's really nice to see. Maybe we can make this work in the future...

 

I love how into dunking her husband Nick Kelly was :) 

Such a fun day with such fun people. I know you know this, but I really, really love summer in this city.

Bits and Pieces

Monday, August 20, 2018

Life has been feeling incredibly speedy lately. We don't let ourselves sit still too long in the summer, and while it makes time whiz by, the weeks are packed with so many fun adventures, it's hard to regret it. I love these sticky, humid days and miss them so much when they're gone. Lucky for me, I'm between jobs right now, so I have TWO WEEKS to savor summertime Chicago with no responsibilities. Something I'm taking very seriously — it's 2pm, and I'm in my pajamas, whoopsies. I've made a short list of things I want to do (get burgers and ice cream here, check out some furniture here, visit this bookstore, try this chocolate cake) and things I have to do to get ready for my next gig, but overall I'm excited to play each day by ear. I'm taking my brother back-to-school shopping tomorrow and have a hair appointment Wednesday, so you could even say I'm busy ;)

Below are some iPhone pics from recent moments if you care to see. Hope you're taking it easy wherever you are <3









I'm 30...!

Wednesday, August 1, 2018



I turned 30 years old on Saturday. The day was so wonderful, and I'm excited for this milestone to be here. I've been ready for it, and I'm excited for my 30s. But in the spirit of transparency, for a brief couple of weeks I was very not ready for it. At a brewery in Maine last month I suddenly freaked out — did we take our 20s too seriously? Is it too late to live our dream of living abroad? What if we have kids? Is it too late to have kids? Is it time to have kids? What's going on with my career? Are we saving enough money? Is 30 middle-aged? What's life expectancy these days, anyway? I held on to 29 tightly, but when Saturday arrived, I was ready to let it go.

My 20s were truly transformative, and over dinner on Friday, I decided the word that summarizes those 10 years best is growth. My college-sophomore self seems so distant. I've learned who I am, how I work, how I think, what I need and what fulfills me. I've strengthened my education, my career, my relationships and focused on the good in my life. During the past 10 years I met mentors, friends and strangers that have become family who have shaped me. I lived in a handful of different apartments with a handful of different people. I fell in love, out of love and in love again. I worked a few jobs —  some simply to make money (not that being a camp counselor for 12 hours a day, for approximately $3 an hour, wasn't a dream), some as part of my life-long goal to pursue journalism, and some after I realized the rumors are true, the journalism industry is in fact not in its best shape, but there's a spot for me, a spot I like being in, in the corporate world. I started and grew my freelance business. I got married. I traveled to dozens of states and countries. I bought an apartment.

But alongside so many blissful events, many moments put my heart in a blender. I buried myself under the covers countless times. I cried (a lot). I grew so much, and while I was stretched thin at times, it was such a beautiful 10 years. I experienced a lot, and I'm grateful for every bit of it.

With my head and heart scattered all over the place, I decided the word that I'll go into my 30s with is focus. It'll be about the little things (less multitasking, less phone, better listening) that actually aren't that little at all, but also the big things — treating my freelance work more like a real business, putting more of myself into the relationships that matter and not carrying the load of those that don't, seeking more mentors in my career, growing more professionally, investing every bit of myself in family. I did these things in my 20s, but I just checked the boxes. I need to take inventory of everything that takes my time and energy, and focus on what matters most and how to excel at it from there.



This past weekend was the perfect introduction to all of that. It was full of so much love, and I kept reminding myself to savor it. On Friday, Brian and I went to one of my favorite restaurants, Le Colonial, for dinner. We sat on the patio and had the best chocolate cake of our lives.

I came home to a big surprise —  my best friend Lily had flown in from Atlanta! I had a hunch she might be coming, but after seeing how relaxed Brian was during our three-hour dinner (and he offered to go somewhere else for a drink after!), I figured she must not be. She totally scared me when she showed up as I was hauling packages up the stairs.








On Saturday Brian threw me a big birthday bash with some of our best Chicago friends (he also made me the sweetest basket with everything I love, and I've been smiling at its contents every day since). I've never been one for a birthday party —  growing up, either my friends were out of town or I was, and I was too anxious to host something that perhaps no one would come to — but this was such a fun day. We ate and drank and chatted (and eventually danced and sang) on our patio for hours, and I felt so, so loved.



On Sunday we spent the day relaxing with Lily before her flight. We ate pizza and donuts, walked to the lily pool and beach. It was such a nice cap to the weekend, and as always, it left me wishing she lived here.

Thank you so much for helping me celebrate, friends! And to Brian for putting this together! I felt very loved, and it made my week getting to see so many of my friends.

So, 30! Here we are. Let's do this!