Monday, January 13, 2020

A Little R&R

I came into the new year with high hopes for major productivity and lots of goals, and then nothing turned out as planned. In reality, January so far has thrown me lots of curveballs and unexpected detours, and even though my winter "break" wasn't all that long ago, I could really use some R and R.

I'm sure I'm not the only one... I think that after the holidays, everyone feels like they're in a bit of a slump, or a rut, and could use some time to themselves and to take some time to get back into the swing of things. So I'm sharing some of my favorite things to do when I want to relax.

Fuzzy Blanket
Seriously, I cannot tell you how much I appreciate a warm, fuzzy throw. I have way more throws than places to actually "throw" them. But there's no relaxing for me without being wrapped in soft, cozy warmth. This blanket seems like it would do just the trick.

A Good Book
Getting lost in a good book is the ultimate relaxation to me. It's perfect for when you don't have anywhere to be, and you can just fully immerse yourself into a story. This memoir by Julie Andrews is next up on my reading list.

Cup of Coffee
I know that people drink coffee to stay awake, and I am fully addicted to caffeine, but I also just love to sip at a cappuccino while I'm lounging around. These cute glass double-walled cups are perfect for that.

Face Mask
Maybe it's just me, but doing a face mask just seems so pampering - and as an added bonus, your skin looks and feels better after you've taken the time for yourself. I tried this mask by Drunk Elephant at the end of last year, and was really impressed by how well it worked!

Good Music
I'll often have the TV on "in the background," but I'm trying to get away from mindlessly watching. Listening to music is equally, if not more, relaxing, and you can either play the music in the background or go all out and have a personal karaoke show - whatever your prefer. I got an Echo Show 8 last year, and the speakers are pretty decent. I use it all the time as a speaker - I can even pair it with my phone to listen to my own music.

What's your go-to R and R method?

Wednesday, January 8, 2020

Organizing Update: Using my iPad as a Digital Planner

I mentioned that one of my goals this year was to feel like I'm more on top of things. By the end of last year, I kept feeling like I was always two steps behind... like I was letting things slip through the cracks, and that I just didn't feel like I was making progress on anything because there were always more things to be done.
This isn't exactly a simple goal, and there's not one quick fix to it. It's going to take continued time and effort throughout the whole year. But one thing that I wanted to change was my planner system/to-do list. I changed from a paper planner to using my iPad as a digital to-do list plus Google Calendar a year or so ago, and I like the digital way of doing things, but it needed a little bit of fine-tuning. I missed seeing my week laid out in planner style, as great as Google Calendar was for more long term tracking. So I wanted to find an in-between solution.

I was updating my resume last year (I hadn't done a real overhaul since graduating college, and a lot has changed since then!), and I bought a template for my new resume from Etsy. I don't have the graphic design skills to make things look polished, and Etsy has so many options of things that look polished and professional. So after that success, I decided to look for a digital planner template on Etsy, too.

I'm kind of picky when it comes to planner formats, even if they are digital. I don't like monthly or daily views - I just want to see the whole week at a time. I want the week to start on a Monday, and I want the blocks for weekend days to be the same amount of space as weekdays. It's a bonus if there's space for a to-do list, too, on the same page as the week itself, so that I can dot things down as they come up.

After lots and lots of searching, I found this template, and it's perfect. It has everything on my "wish list," and it works with Good Notes, which is the app that I was already using for list making. It was super easy to download and start using - there wasn't really any set up involved at all. It's been great in keeping track of my weeks, and I love that I can "erase" things digitally when plans change - the perfectionist in me always hated having things crossed out when they were cancelled!

My fingers are crossed that this helps me feel a little more in control of my day-to-day, and helps keep me productive and on-task, too. I just feel so much calmer and more relaxed when I'm on top of my schedule!

Monday, January 6, 2020

What I've Been Reading

I got a LOT of reading done in December, and it's what encouraged me to make it a goal in 2020 to read more consistently. Especially with books that I really love - they just stick with me for a long time after I read them, and it's just like listening to a really great song. They get under my skin in a way that TV shows and movies usually don't!
Know My Name by Chanel Miller
This is an incredible book, and one that's so important to read. Chanel Miller was the victim in the sexual assault trial against Brock Turner, the Stanford student. She was Jane Doe through the years of the trial, but now she's ready to speak out and ready for people to "know her name." It's tough to read, but not because it's graphic - it's just a really good look at the frustrations that she went through during the long trial process.

Once Upon A River: A Novel by Diane Setterfield
I started this one and then had a long pause before I finished it, and it took me some time to get back into the story. I love books with intertwining stories, and this one definitely had that, but I think that it could have moved a tiny bit faster. It had a bit of magical realism, which is one of my favorite genres, so I loved that aspect of it.

Royal Holiday by Jasmine Guillory
This was such a fun read for over the holidays. It follows the mom of a stylist who gets invited to go to England over the holidays to style the Duchess of Sussex. Of course, romance ensues, and we get a fun look at British royal holiday traditions, too.

The Proposal by Jasmine Guillory
After I read Royal Holiday, I wanted another light, fun read by the same author. This book starts out with a massively botched public proposal (don't worry, this isn't a spoiler), and then the relationships that follow.

The Starless Sea by Erin Morganstern
This book is my other favorite of this bunch, along with Say My Name. It's magical realism, and at its core, it's a story about stories. It's so beautifully written, and I can't wait to read it again. It's by the same author of The Night Circus, and I was afraid this wouldn't live up to how much I loved that book, but I think it may have exceeded it! It's an incredibly intricate story and I highly recommend it.

The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo by Taylor Jenkins Reid
This story follows the life of Evelyn Hugo, a fictional Hollywood star, as she grants an interview after decades of silence. It sounds like a light read, but the ending is kind of dark... I didn't see it coming! I still enjoyed it, though.

The Gifted School by Bruce Holsinger
I picked this up after I saw that Carly read it, and it was a good read. It follows a few different families in Colorado who are all vying to get their children in to a new school being built in the area. It has lots of characters and plot lines to keep track of, so make sure to pay attention as you read.

For Better and Worse by Margot Hunt
This is a thriller about a couple and their relationship - I don't want to say more about the plot so that I don't spoil it. It wasn't my favorite of the bunch - it dealt with some heavy topics (child abuse) and I thought that the thriller wasn't as thriller-y as I was hoping for.

Sometimes I Lie by Alice Feeney
Another thriller! I read this one after a friend recommended it to me, and I think that I enjoyed it, but I'm still wrapping my head around it a bit. It was confusing in that you're constantly trying to figure out what's true and what's not... it's also a very ambiguous ending, which I did not love. But my friend is right in that it's a book you want to discuss with someone as soon as you're finished reading it!

Ask Again, Yes by Mary Beth Keane
This book was kind of slow at the start, but then it picked up. It follows two neighboring families throughout their lives, which are irrevocably intertwined. It wasn't a light or happy read, but it was good.

The Girl Who Chased the Moon by Sarah Addison Allen
This was another magical realism book, and while I liked it a lot, I thought that it was kind of thin and ended abruptly. I thought that we were just getting to the good part, but it was actually just done. I wanted more story, and also more explanation of the story that had already happened. 

Friday, January 3, 2020

Friday Favorites

Today's post is a short one, because I've only had a two day work week and I've been trying to not mindlessly surf the Internet while I was on break! It feels weird to go back for such a short week, but the break was so needed. I really think I was running on fumes by the end of the year (which is probably why I ended up sick).
I couldn't resist sharing this picture of Lily - she loved having people around all day over the holidays, and was so confused when we went back to work... it clearly shows on her face.

This week's favorites...

ONE - Taylor Swift's Diary of a Song
I love learning about the process behind writing music, I think partially because it's something that I just can't imagine doing. Coming up with the right words and notes to connect with people and make them feel the way that you're feeling just seems so powerful! Lover is just such an honest song, and it's really interesting to learn how it came to be.

TWO - Charlotte Tilbury's Pillow Talk
I think I picked this up at the end of the year, when Sephora had some holiday promotion going, because I'd heard/read that it's the perfect neutral, no lipstick-lipstick. I don't know if it looks like I'm not wearing lipstick, but it does look natural and doesn't look bad when it starts to wear off.

THREE - Bon Appetit Chef Makes Dog Food
I've shared some of the other Bon Appetit videos before (I've shared at least one of the Gourmet Makes videos if not more), but I don't think that I've shared this series before. This one stars an adorable dog, though, so of course I had to share!

Wednesday, January 1, 2020

2020 Goals

I've mentioned before that I'm not really one for New Years resolutions... but this is the beginning of a decade, and that just makes it seem like so much more of a big deal. It seems like a real opportunity to make some changes and improvements, and I want to take advantage of that feeling. So I'm going to set three goals (not resolutions!) for 2020.
ONE - Read More Consistently
I fall into the trap of feeling like I'm "too busy" to read, and putting on something mindless to watch instead. But I definitely read more overall this past year than I have in the last few, so now in 2020 I want to make it more of a consistent habit. 

TWO - Stay On Track
By the end of 2019, I felt a little bit like I was spinning out of control. It just felt like I couldn't keep up, like every time I accomplished something I just added five more things to my list to do. I don't want to feel like that in 2020! So I want to start the year by getting back on track, and then I want to maintain that.

THREE - Send More Snail Mail
There's just something about a handwritten letter/note/postcard that feels so personal! I know I'm so excited to get something in the mail that's from a person and not a business. So in 2020, I want to send more handwritten mail.

Tuesday, December 31, 2019

2019 In Review

December seriously seemed to fly by, and I cannot believe we're at the end of 2019 - at the end of the decade. I know that really, this year ending is no different than any other year ending, but doesn't it being the end of a decade make it feel so much more important?

I don't want to do a month-by-month recap of 2019 - if you wanted that, you could just go back and read the posts! But I thought it'd be fun to share the things that stick out to me the most from 2019.
This year took me to cities I'd never been to (Philadelphia, Easton, Columbus), cities I hadn't been to since I was super young (Dallas), and cities I've been to but love to visit (DC). Sometimes, especially for a few weeks in the summer, all of the traveling felt exhausting, but ultimately I loved getting to visit all of the places that I did.

Accessible YOUniverse Summit
This was obviously a hugely exciting part of 2019, so it has to top the list. I never expected to found an advocacy organization and hold a Summit, but seeing it come together was so incredible. I was equal parts terrified and excited leading up to it, and equal parts excited and relieved when it was over, too.

Meeting Leslie Odom, Jr.
I mean, I guess this one sounds like I'm bragging... but it really does top my list when I think about what happened in 2019. It just felt so surreal - partially because it came so close to not happening! There aren't words to describe the whirlwind of the morning that led up to our very brief meeting, but then I actually got to meet him and just couldn't believe it.

Access + Ability
The Access + Ability exhibit at the CMOA was one of the most exciting things that I've seen in a very long while. It was a disability-centric exhibit without attempting to be inspiring - it was just a showcase of so many cool adaptations and accessories for different kinds of disabilities. Seeing that kind of an exhibit in my hometown museum just felt huge.

Warhol Museum Gala
Another pinch me moment - being asked to join the board at the Warhol, and then getting to attend such an incredible evening to support the museum! Getting treated to a private concert by Matthew Morrison and Joan Jett was truly once-in-a-lifetime and something that I will never, ever forget. And being a small part of a museum that has made such a huge impact and is such an important part of Pittsburgh is equally unforgettable.

Time With Friends
This isn't one specific moment in time, but rather a lot of them - just spending quality time with the people in my life. It's something that I value a lot - just catching up with my friends, spending time with them, keeping friendships strong! Especially now that my friends have started having kids - it's a different kind of getting together that we do now, sometimes, but no less enjoyable or important.

Monday, December 30, 2019

Home for the Holidays

I hope that you all enjoyed your holidays! The time off was much-needed for me, especially since I got sick the week before Christmas. Luckily, I was feeling better in time to celebrate with family, and I got to enjoy some relaxation, too. There were a few days where I didn't even open my computer! I think my time in college really conditioned me to think that busier was better - it was always an (unhealthy!) competition of who was doing more. Now I'm much better about appreciating the need to take time off to actually work harder and better afterwards.
So this time off, for me, was the perfect combination of relaxing plus spending time with friends and family. I definitely watched my share of Netflix, and I got to really throw myself into reading (so look out for an updated post on what I've been reading next week!). I also finally got to see the Mr. Rogers movie - A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood. Pittsburgh has had more movies filmed here recently, so it's not that uncommon to see the city on the big screen, but rarely is the movie actually set in Pittsburgh. And Mr. Rogers is such a hometown hero and source of pride for Pittsburghers - it was really excited to see his story being shared. Especially because its a story of warmth and care and just being genuine - that's such an important story to be told. When we got home, we even found the picture of me and my sister with Mr. McFeely, when we were in Pittsburgh's Christmas parade years and years ago.
My family spent Christmas Day slightly differently this year. Usually, we go to mass on Christmas Eve (which we still did this year), and then spend Christmas Day brunch at our house with some of the family on my Dad's side. As my cousins and I have gotten older, though, and "the kids" started having kids, it's become more difficult to coordinate schedules. So this year, it was just me, my sister, my mom, and my dad for most of the day, and we celebrated in our pajamas. It was different, but if there was a year for a chill Christmas, I felt like this was the year.

And don't worry - we still definitely celebrated Christmas with friends and family! Each year, the day after Christmas, my dad's side of the family all gathers at my aunt and uncle's house - we've done it for as long as I can remember! It's where we play the (often crazy) white elephant/grab bag game. I say often crazy because we have a rule of a maximum of 3 gift "steals" per person until the gift permanently becomes yours, and sometimes when it starts to come close to the limit, people will try to hide a gift that they really want. Oh, and one year there was a live lobster. We got together with my mom's side of the family last night - it's a much smaller gathering, but no less fun!
I think my favorite part of the holidays, though, is my family's after-Christmas Christmas party. This is also something that we've had for as long as I can remember, though it's morphed a bit over the years! It started out as my parents friends and family as the guest list for the party, and now, it's my parent's list, plus mine, plus my sister's... so it's grown. Sometimes it's the one time each year that my friends and I are together as a group, and it's always such a blast. And now that my friends are having kids, there's a new generation at the party, too. The more things seem to change, the more they stay the same, right?