2019

Okay. Time for me to own up to the obvious: towards the end of 2018, this blog slipped a bit in terms of its placement on my priority list. For my faithful readers (my mom, my grandparents, my best friends…) I’m sorry for my silence, but you are also among those who know how absolutely nuts the last couple of months of the year got for me. Work was overwhelming — in the good way! — and between that, travel, and spending precious time over the holidays with the most important people, and babies, in my life, it just all went a little wonky. 

So, sorry about that. I fess up. But honestly, I’m not all that sorry because – you know what? – life happens.

(I also do realize that this is very similar to every rambling apology for a hiatus I’ve ever given before. That, I’m not so sorry about either. There are, after all, only so many ways that one can announce “I’ve been busy.”)

That said, I do want to make this blog more of a priority in the coming year. I’m not the resolution type, but I do like to goal set. Tangible goals, that is. Goals that are measured not by their ability to be completed in an arbitrary 365 trip around the sun, but just in general. Goals like “journal regularly,” “be more present,” and “blog more.”

In case you were wondering – yes, those are my 3 goals for 2019.

Now, you might be asking (I am) how the second and third goals work together. How can I be more present if I’m also trying to blog more? The long and short of it is that I want to bring this blog back to what it was intended to be – a place for my own self expression; a place to ramble about things I just might think some other people could care about, things like friendship and love and family. Yes, that means you’ll see less product reviews. Let’s be honest – I don’t spend a lot of money and am subsequently bad at those. No, that doesn’t mean I won’t post recipes or restaurant reviews when I think there’s one in particular of note. And no, it definitely doesn’t mean the travel diaries are going away. I’ve got some good trips coming up this year, one in particular that I am tingling with excitement for, and Lord knows I love those travel diaries, if only for my own self-reflections. And speaking of the Lord (was that a passe way to transition?) you’ll still see me talking to Him, about Him, on here. I can’t promise the regularity with which Testimony Tuesdays once appeared, but I can promise that it’ll happen enough. 

Okay, expectations aside, I’m now here to say what I really initially hopping on to say:

Happy New Year, friends. May the coming 12 months be filled with positivity, grace, love, and accomplishment – especially for those of you who, unlike me, actually are resolution-setters (I admire you).

As for me, I plan to spend the next 12 months working on, as I said, being evermore present, evermore thoughtful, and evermore diligent about documenting all of the good – and some of the bad – that is inevitably to come.

Cheers, 2019.

Fitting Friends In

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Let me preface this with the obvious: ideally, friendship is not something you have to “fit in” to your schedule. However, life is funny, and inconvenient, and uncooperative sometimes and in those cases, friendship, just like anything else, can take some work.

I feel like this is especially the case as us twenty-somethings start to tackle adulthood head-on. Every time I talk to people lately, it seems we’re answering the question “How are you?” in the exact same way: “I’m busy.”

Busyness is certainly something to be acknowledged in our culture, but that’s probably a blog post for another day. Whether it should be this way or not, there’s no denying that our age group is consumed by the concept, the allure, and the stress of being constantly busy. I’ve done a lot of thinking on this lately, and I think it’s a combination of being physically busy, and never turning off. (That said, I’ve made a pact to do “switch-off Sundays,” during which I turn my phone off and take a bath and read a book, a sort of digital detox to start my week off right. It’s done wonders for my mental clarity.)

Anyways, I’m getting off subject.

The point is, we’re all inherently busy, and as twenty-somethings, I think we’re still smack-dab in the middle of the required learning curve for dealing with said busyness. That can take a toll, on ourselves, and on our friendships.

One solution?

Fit friendships in. 

It doesn’t sound natural to have to schedule in fun but, let’s be honest — between work meetings, workouts, church commitments, date nights, and family time, it can be easy to let something slip.

My pro tip: don’t let it be your friendships. 

Community is so important. Time with your best girls keeps us grounded, and offers important perspective we might not get from the people we see each and every day. And as much as I love my group texts, nothing replaces laughing together over some charcuterie and sav blanc.

Or FaceTime. Can I just give Apple a huge shout out for enabling us to stay in face-to-face contact so unbelievable easily? (Actually, I suppose that shout out really belongs to whomever invented the first video chat, and giving the kudos to Apple is akin to thanking Kleenex for creating facial tissue. Man, branding is a tricky business.)

Ramble about video chats aside, I really am so appreciative for them. Sometimes, it’s just not physically feasible to get together in person — for example, due to a certain Shining Twin living a few too many states away. And while that might not be the best example, considering her and I literally work opposite schedules, when we do get a time to connect via video, it’s the biggest blessing. And if that’s what it takes to fit friends in, then by all means, I’ll do it.

Now, I’m not saying I’m perfect at fitting friends in. I’m an ambivert by nature, so while I love, love, love socializing, there are certainly times when I’d prefer to block out the word in favor of curling up on the couch with some tea and Netflix.

But I always feel better after some solid friendship time. After all, spending time with loved ones is just as important as eating well, getting exercise, and sleeping enough.

So fit it in.

If anything, you’ll never be sorry for spending a little extra time with the people you love the most.

Life Lately: What I’m Thankful For

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Hey, guys. It’s been a while. If you think I didn’t notice, believe me: I did. But sometimes, you can have grand plans for things — like this blog — and life will just get in the way. That’s certainly what happened on my end. I have a plethora of saved blog posts, series I planned to launch, and a schedule I had hoped to keep to.

And then, well, life just got too busy.

But you know what? That’s okay. 

It’s something I’ve had to preach to myself often during this blogging journey. I find myself frustrated that I, quite frankly, haven’t made the time to get this little platform of mine to where I’d love for it to be. But then I remember that the reason I haven’t been as diligent about setting aside time for the blog is because I’ve been so busy doing other things, things that I’ve deemed as a bigger priority. All year, I’ve been trying to focus on balancing what’s work and what’s fun, what’s necessary and what’s a bonus, what’s rewarding and what’s stressful. I never wanted to look at this blog as a job, something I had to do. So, yes, sometimes, that will mean I disappear for a month. It means I’m not quite so good at that blogging planner my best friend bought for me. It means I won’t post as much on Instagram.

That’s perfectly, 100% okay.

So anyways. Long rambling reasoning for my temporary absence aside, here I am.

It’s Sunday morning, and it’s a little chilly outside, at least for Arizona. I haven’t opened the windows yet, at least. The tree outside our apartment is finally shedding some leaves and turning a proper orange; I’m loving it. Currently, I have a pumpkin candle lit and some pumpkin creamer in my coffee. It’s finally feeling like fall.

So, naturally, I decorated for Christmas last night.

Before you all jump on me with “it’s too early!” or “Thanksgiving first!” — I just gave you all examples of how the pumpkins have decidedly not left yet. I just added some Santas and a Christmas tree to the bunch.

Needless to say, the holidays are my favorite time of year. Christmas is my number-one favorite, but Thanksgiving is a close second. Partly because I always go home. Partly because there’s stuffing and mashed potatoes. Mostly because it gives me a chance to look back and reflect on what I’m most thankful for this year.

This year, I’m thankful for the little lessons.

I’m thankful for the growing pains. It’s been a year of transition in some ways. The boy is hard at work studying for the CPA exam, and at some times, that’s been a little taxing on both of us. On top of it, there’s definitely been moments when I’ve unfairly taken my own stress out on him, whether that’s with snippy words or general disinterest. But we’ve continued to learn and grow through the more challenging seasons, and in the end, we’re learning to love each other better. I know this is a natural progression of a relationship, and I know that we are stronger for it. For that, I’m ever so thankful.

I’m thankful for distance. I won’t lie — it’s hard to have your best friend live several states away. It’s hard to not be near the majority of your family. There are times I wish I could just show up at my Grammie’s house, or call up the Shining Twin and demand a chips and salsa-fueled Friends marathon. But as I get older, I realize that there’s a level of effort that goes into maintaining relationships over distance. This is something I used to take for granted, especially when it comes to my family. Yes, family will always be there, but you’ve got to work at it like any other relationship. I like to think I’m getting better at managing the distance. Who knows if that’s true? But I’m grateful for the opportunity to learn from it.

(And, of course, this isn’t to discount my friends & family that are here. I’m of course so thankful for the immediate family that is nearby; not everyone’s so lucky to have their parents, siblings and brand-new niece less than 30 minutes away.)

I’m thankful for stress. This sounds weird, I know. But I mean it more of this way: I’m thankful to have a job I care so much about to be so stressed about sometimes. Granted, it’s not always stressful. It’s less often stressful than it is not, really. But there are certainly times, as with anything we care about, where pressure mounts — whether that’s to hit a deadline, to prove you can do it, or just to get the job done. However, I do think that a lot of my own pressure is self-inflicted, and I know for a fact that I do it because I want to excel in this position I love so much. Ultimately, that’s a wonderful thing.

Three simple things, and three big lessons I’ve learned this year.

So while I do apologize for not being as consistent with this blog as I might ideally like to be, I don’t apologize for the reason behind it. I don’t apologize for learning to be more present when I need to be, I don’t apologize for spending more time Facetiming than doing Instagram photoshoots, I don’t apologize for setting aside my side hustle for my main one. Life is about prioritizing sometimes, and in different seasons, different things will be important.

This blog is still my outlet, and I hope to have more time to devote to it once life calms down a little. For those who are hanging in there: thank you. I’m endlessly thankful for you, too.

Happy Thanksgiving, friends.

Travel Diary: A Surprise Denver Reunion

Here’s the thing about surprises: I’m not so great with them. When it comes to surprises for myself, you’d better hope it is actually that — a surprise. I don’t do so well when I know something’s coming, but can’t be told what it is. (And by “don’t do so well,” I mean that I will bug you incessantly and you will end up regretting everything.) I only like surprises if I am genuinely, completely caught off guard.

And when it comes to pulling off surprises of my own? Well, I like to talk a lot. Things sometimes slip out.

But when they’re important, they never do.

This past weekend, we pulled off one important, wonderful surprise for my best friend.

I headed to Colorado for a work trip, which Jen was well aware of. We’d already planned it out: I’d go to my event in the Springs, she’d pick me up at the airport afterwards, and we’d spend the weekend together doing all of the autumnal things.

Little did she know, we’d have someone else with us.

Our friend Makenzie — Jen’s best friend since high school, and my subsequently “good friend” 😉 — has been in Spain all summer. She and Jen hadn’t seen each other since January.

So, naturally, we had to get them back together.

Guys, I was shaking by the time Makenzie got to the Denver airport. I was so nervous that, for some reason or another, this wouldn’t work out. There were a lot of moving parts, after all: I’d fibbed to Jen and said I had a client dinner that would keep me from getting back to the Denver airport until 9:30 that night (in reality, I’d been sitting at the airport since my shuttle from the Springs got me there at six); Jen said she was heading to the airport before Makenzie’s flight even touched down; we’re all connected on Find My Friends so there was always the chance she’d look and catch on. I was fidgety and nervous and excited and anxious, all at once.

And then, we totally pulled it off:

Naturally, once it was discovered that we had an extra member of our little crew that weekend, our plans shifted a bit. A pumpkin patch first became brunch, then became s’mores, then became a fall festival in a trendy alleyway in downtown Denver. The barre class Jen and I planned on taking got pushed back a day and was also Makenzie’s first introduction to the workout. We discovered the glory of cinnamon-sugar donut bites, and the unfortunate irritation of bad service when you’re waiting for brunch and hungry. (In case you’re wondering – Jelly Cafe has amazing food, but don’t go when it’s busy.)

But most of all, we reunited.

And honestly, it wouldn’t have mattered what we did. We could have sat on the couch watching How I Met Your Mother all day, petting the dogs and eating pickled green beans and we would have been completely content. (Oh wait – we did do that…)

All that mattered is that we pulled it off.

And it was one of the best weekends we could have asked for.

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[Special shout out to Quinn, for knowing about it the entire time and not saying a word, and willingly giving up the entire ground floor of his house for the weekend.]

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Cheers until next time, Denver.

5 Ways to Fully Fall for Fall

Like most girls in their mid-twenties I am, basically and unabashedly, in love with the season autumn.

However, living smack-dab in the Sonoran desert doesn’t exactly offer a bunch of puddles to splash in or leaves to pile up to add to the autumnal atmosphere.

Thankfully, there’s Target to help combat that. And, thankfully part 2, pumpkin patches still exist in the desert (but – and this question is directed at anyone who owns, or knows someone who might own, a pumpkin patch… are they grown here? Are they imported in? However they get to the Valley of the Sun, I appreciate it.)

If you, like me, live in a place where the leaves don’t actually change and drinking a pumpkin spice latte seems a little odd with temperatures as warm as they are (here’s looking at you, Southern California), I’ve rounded up some ways the fully fall for fall, if you will:

1. Embrace the pumpkin candles. 

I’ll start with the obvious here. Scent is one of our strongest human senses, and has the power to bring about a plethora of emotions. That cozy feeling of fall is one of them. I’m just saying – the Bath & Body Works fall line is not just hype; it really adds to the atmosphere of things, even when it’s eighty degrees outside.

2. Hey, find some hay! 

No matter where you’re at, fall activities will indeed, inevitably, pop up. I’m sure even Hawai’i has a corn maze or two this time of year. Whether it’s a full-on fall festival, complete with said corn maze and turkey legs and what have you, or just a pumpkin patch on the corner of an intersection, a little hay goes a long way.

3. Movie marathon. 

One of the best things about fall is that it’s the start of the generally festive time of year — and there’s a movie for every moment. Halloween, Thanksgiving, general, golden-leaf loveliness: it’s a romantic setting overall, and makes for a wonderful movie backdrop. So light that pumpkin candle and pop some popcorn for an all-night autumn extravaganza. Personally, I suggest You’ve Got Mail, Halloweentown, Hocus Pocus (duh)and, of course, Remember the Titans. (Before you argue with me on that last one, football season is in the fall…)

4. Road trip! 

Even if you are a desert dweller, chances are, drive a couple hours in one direction or another, and you can find a place where fall actually does exist. For us, it’s only an hour, hour and a half tops, to the nearest trace of foliage. So if you have a free day, hop behind the wheel and go to where the temperature drops and the trees change colors.

5. Find a fall menu. 

You don’t have to wait for Thanksgiving to gorge yourself on seasonal root vegetables and freshly baked pies. Granted, as much as I love baking, I usually actually do save the pies for Thanksgiving (you can’t beat my cousin’s apple crumble… as long as I don’t pick all the crumble off pre-dinner). Ramble aside, I do love a good seasonal recipe. Pinterest has a wealth of them, and hopefully, you don’t end up on the Pinterest fails hashtag, like I am prone to do.

Combine any pick of these 5 things with a splurge in the dollar section at Target, and I guarantee you’ll be feeling the fall festive spirit. And once you’re in it… it’ll be time to start blasting the Christmas music 😉

*raises apple cider mug* Cheers!

GNO (or in!) Like a Pro

Ladies, I think we can all agree that some of our best times are spent with our best girls. However, sometimes (or, all the time, if you’re notoriously indecisive, like myself), figuring out how to get some quality gal pal time in can be a bit tricky. There’s just so many options — which, oddly enough, tends to feel like there’s nothing to do at all!

So in the spirit of helping out all my other can’t-make-a-decision-to-save-our-lives readers, I’ve rounded up some of my favorite ways to GNO (or in!) like a total pro. No matter the budget, time, or preferences of your squad, any of these are guaranteed to be filled with lots of laughter and plenty of bonding.

Paint & Sip Classes

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These are all over Instagram these days, and with good reason! You don’t have to be Picasso or Monet to have a blast attempting to recreate whatever masterpiece you and your friends have chosen. Add in a few of your favorite sips, and you’re guaranteed to at least spend a lot of time laughing, even if your actual painting doesn’t turn out exactly like you thought it would. (My pro tip on this one – be careful with how much wine you drink if you want to have any hope of making something decent. My cornhole skills might get better the further into our cabin’s Labor Day block party we get… my painting skills… not so much.)

If you’re in the Phoenix area, I’d highly recommend Pinot’s Palette, in Gilbert!

Budget friendly alternative: Host a paint night yourself! Canvases and acrylics aren’t too expensive at your local craft store, and we all know that a bottle of wine at the store is the same price as one glass at a bar. You can find stencils and tutorials for just about any masterpiece online! Just be careful where you do the painting — outside might be best.

Movie Night 

There’s something about keeping it traditional – a chick flick, some popcorn, and your best gal pal. Now, movie theaters are stepping it up and allowing you to get the whole dinner-and-a-movie experience in one place. At the Studio Movie Grill, they’ve got an assortment of delicious dinner choices (personally, I recommend the flatbread) and table service during the latest films.

Budget friendly alternative: Turn on the Netflix, order a pizza, and pop some prossecco or sparkling cider to keep it festive! Netflix released some killer chick flicks over the summer. There’s nothing wrong — in fact, there’s everything right — with binge watching To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before, The Kissing Booth, and Sierra Burgess is a Loser for the eighteenth time.

Dressed Up Dessert

I don’t know about you, but I love finding a good excuse to get dressed up, and I don’t have nearly enough reasons. But if you feel like splurging, it sure is fun to put on some heels and hit a swanky restaurant (personally, I’m a fan of the resort restaurants) for a glass of something bubbly and a decadent dessert. Indulge your sweet tooth and give your favorite dress some time out of the closet all at the same time.

Budget friendly alternative: Go in the complete opposite direction and make homemade ice cream sundaes in your PJs! It’s just like middle school — only, without the catty comments and awkward phases, thank goodness.

Wine & Cheese 

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This one’s a classic, and for a good reason. And, if you know me, this is my top recommendation for girls night basically every time, because I just can’t pass up a good charcuterie board. The best part is, there’s tons of places in town that offer their stellar cheese boards on special for happy hour! (Check out my post on the happiest hours in Phoenix for some of my top local recommendations.)

Budget friendly alternative: Make your own! Places like Trader Joes’ offer excellent cheese options, and addictive crackers to go with it, all at a wallet-friendly price. The best part of making your own cheese board, too, is getting to decide exactly what goes on it — which, for me, would just be Brie, Brie, and some more Brie.

Do It For The ‘Gram

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Who doesn’t love a good photoshoot? Instagram exhibits are all the rage these days, so grab your gals and head to something like the Art of Ice Cream Experience, where not only can you indulge in all the sweet treats you could possibly desire, but you’ll get some great candids out of it too, perfect for showing off what a great girls night you had to all of your followers! (Because, you know, that’s important these days… says the blogger.)

Budget friendly alternative: Insta-worthy museums can have a price tag, but a plain old wall and your iPhone certainly don’t! Grab some props, whether it’s cheap photobooth mustaches from the Dollar Spot, or your fave stuffed animal that we all know sits on your bed, and stage your own shoot! You’ll have just as many silly shots, and hardly spend a cent!

No matter where you go or what you do, though, the most important thing is that you’re spending some solid time with your best friends… cheers to that!

Real Talk: Self Care September

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Guys, I had a plan for September. I had it all laid out — every blog post, every media event, every photoshoot I wanted to squeeze in. I was ready to dive into this blog again headfirst, after the August craziness that always comes with my birthday.

That said, it’s now the twenty-first of September (I’m noting that, just in case I don’t end up getting this post up until much, much, later), and I’m just now sitting down to blog. Not only that, but this particular post was definitely not on my editorial calendar.

And yet, I think it’s a pretty important one.

Needless to say, as you can see by that sorrowful schpiel above, this month has gotten away from me. My friend Nicole actually called me last night and we both spend a few seconds in awe of the fact that not only is it the ninth month of the calendar year… we’re more than halfway through it. Aside from the general panic that causes me about the upcoming end-of-the-year events (holidays, travel, potentially moving), it’s also just amazing to me that this month has flown by so quickly.

Don’t get me wrong, it’s been a fantastic month. I got up to the cabin, I puppy-sat for my brother and sister-in-law as they took their babymoon, my best friend came to town, the boy passed the first phase of his CPA exam (praise!), I got to work yet another rewarding work event, my mom and I took the best Rory/Lorelai trip to Tahoe (more on that later, I promise), and my little niece was born.

Seriously, it’s been a great month.

But even in the midst of spectacular seasons like this one, I often find myself caught up in it all and, as the hype begins to wind down and things settle back into a more normal routine, I tend to find myself feeling a little, well, blue.

It’s not that I’m not appreciative. I’m so, incredibly grateful for the opportunities to live a life so full, and I thank God every day for it. It’s just that, as I transition back to “real life,” so to speak, it can feel a little… anticlimactic.

It’s in seasons such as this that I rely heavily on self-care. I know myself well enough by now — I hope — to know when I’ve run myself a little too thin, and usually, this heaviness is a key symptom of that.

So, I know it’s time to take a step back and take some time to reflect, reevaluate, and, more importantly, relax. In the spirit of doing so, I wanted to share my key elements of self-care this September:

A regular routine. Oddly enough, I thrive on routine. I like to know what’s coming next — it keeps me calm, and lets me feel on top of things. That means planning out my weeks to the best of my ability, including time allotted for workouts, errands, blogging, and reading (yes, I plan out my reading time and yes, I know that’s weird).

Hit the gym. This is a big one for me, and I know it is for a lot of people. I feel all out of sorts if I’m not exercising regularly. My anxiety and stress levels skyrocket, I’m irritated, and I generally just don’t feel my best. Which is why, these past few mornings, I’ve taken advantage of working from home and dragged myself out of bed an hour early to go running — it helps, of course, that Arizona has suddenly decided that autumn can, temporarily, be a thing.

Sit still. I’m terrible at this. Ask anyone. Unless it’s on a beach with a book, sitting still isn’t my strongest point, but I know it’s important. Even if it’s sitting still as I read, binge watch something on Netflix, or sleep, it’s the stillness that’s important.

Go to church. It’s so easy for me to fall out of the habit of going to church when life gets busy. I adjust my priorities, and my spiritual health takes the hit as a result. But I know it’s important to get that structured time with the Lord, to gather an outside perspective on what’s happening, and to spend time in my church community. When I’m not doing that, I don’t feel quite right, which is why it’s always at the top of my self-care to do list.

Cry it out. Okay, yeah, so I’m one of those people who sometimes just has to release it all, and I’m learning to be okay with that. Crying is just as much of a release as anything, and while it can sometimes be embarrassing to walk back into the office with my eyes rimmed and my makeup gone, it also, 9 times out of 10, feels so much better once I’m stopped holding it in. Don’t let anyone tell you it’s not professional to cry sometimes. Who cares? It’s still human. 

That said, I’m taking this weekend to do all of these things — readjust my routine, get some good workouts in, sit still for a while, go to church and, who knows, maybe even cry a little, even if it’s just at a sad part in my book (and I’m reading Les Mis… everything is sad in that). We’ll see how it goes.

What are your self care rituals? Whatever they are, I hope you take some time to indulge in them.

Remember, even when it’s so easy to run around taking care of everyone else, it’s just as important to take care of you.