tips for traveling with your s.o.

Matt and I have always been pretty good travel buddies.

On one of our very first dates, we took a somewhat spontaneous road trip from Hershey, PA to Washington, DC. Four hours in the car together each way, still basically strangers, not even sure what kind of music the other person really liked listening to or what kind of car snacks would make them less annoyed by traffic. We managed to get through those trips with only minimal awkwardness, which was an early sign (to me, at least) that there could really be something to the relationship.

Since then, we’ve taken countless long drives together. I’m pretty comfortable as the navigator, while Matt’s great in the driver’s seat. Eight and a half years later, I know that he likes listening to country music (or, more recently, podcasts*) and that a purple Gatorade and Clif Bar is his ideal driving food and drink combo.

More recently, we’ve started taking longer trips together, too. It took four years for us to get on a plane together, but since then, we’ve had a chance to explore some amazing places, especially in the last year or two. I feel lucky that we’re pretty naturally compatible when it comes to travel, but we’re still always learning how to do better, and since the trip we’re on is the longest yet (you can read more about the first few stops here), we’ve definitely picked up a few more best practices over the last few days. Here are a few (Matt-approved) tips for traveling with your significant other that we hope will help minimize tension and maximize fun!

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  • Share luggage space. We haven’t always done this, but for our last two trips, we’ve been more flexible about maximizing our joint carry-on and checked bags by squeezing both of our stuff into the spots where it makes the most sense — even if it’s not “my” or “his” bag. Admittedly, I can be a little territorial, so this was hard for me to come around to, but it’s allowed us to save money on luggage fees and to pack more of what we want.
  • Don’t overbook yourself. We find that it’s best to leave as much flexibility in our travel schedule as possible. Typically, we start a vacation with a list of things we want to see and do, but we don’t usually have them scheduled ahead of time. This allows us to get a feel for the area and ease into travel mode for a day or two before we start sketching out a plan. Leaving some margin in your schedule also gives you a chance to have a little extra downtime. As much as we love seeing cool sights and trying great restaurants while we’re away, we also find that some of our favorite moments on vacation happen when we’re casually wandering around town or watching movies in the hotel. Those moments only happen when you build in some extra free time!
  • Over-communicate. Let’s be honest — I’m pretty much an over-communicator no matter where we are. BUT, a little extra communication is even more important when you and your S.O. have invested time and money into a vacation that’s meant to be special for both of you. Early on in this trip, for example, I had a feeling that Matt and I were maybe prioritizing different things as we started to plan our itinerary, and I could see that it might cause tension (at least on my end!). We talked about it right away so that we could avoid a bigger issue later on — and it worked!

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  • Understand what’s most important to your S.O. and let them take the lead on it! Friends, it’s taken me a long time to learn this one. One of Matt’s favorite things about travel is exploring great restaurants and trying new foods. I love a good meal as much as the next person, but it doesn’t make or break a vacation for me, and it’s not always where I’d choose to spend the biggest chunk of our travel budget. In the name of compromising, I’ve learned to let my husband research (read: obsess over) restaurants and make most of the decisions about where we eat. It really excites him! Since food isn’t as much of a “thing” for me, this is a place where I’ve learned to step back a bit, which gives him a chance to vacation the way he likes to — and I can speak up when it counts for me, too.
  • It’s OK to do your own thing. Matt and I live in a 700-square foot apartment in New York, so we’re not really phased by sharing small hotel rooms, but we’re also introverts, which means that if we don’t get a little quiet time for ourselves here and there, we aren’t exactly our best selves. We’ve learned over the years that it’s really important to grant each other the occasional hour of alone time when we’re traveling. Time to exercise or nap or take a quiet walk is super important, and we always come back together ready to enjoy our trip even more. It’s not the mark of a bad couple’s vacation to spend some time alone!

I’d love to hear your tips for traveling with your significant other! Leave them in the comments below.

**And if you’re a podcast fan like us, I have great news for you. My friend Brittney’s new podcast Day In the Life just launched TODAY! Check it out here on iTunes. It’s a super cool peek into the lives of some awesome people. You’re gonna love it! 

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san francisco + monterey.

Hi from Mill Valley, California, everyone! Yesterday, Matt and I checked into our Airbnb in this amazing little town about 15 miles north of San Francisco. We’re just a few hours into this leg of our trip and loving it already — but more on that next week! First, I want to share a little bit more about the first few days of our travels…

We landed in San Francisco late Saturday morning and got settled at our hotel (The Marker, which we liked a lot!). Since we’re city dwellers who do a lot of walking in our everyday lives at home, we tend to like exploring new places on foot whenever we can, so we threw on our sneakers and took to the streets! We’d heard a lot about the Mission District and all of the great places you can find to eat there, so we headed in that direction and stopped to have lunch at Gracias Madre. I’m not the biggest fan of Mexican food, but the menu looked pretty good, and I’ll never complain about chips and guac : ) Within a few minutes of being seated, we figured out that it was a vegan restaurant, which threw Matt for a bit of a loop, especially! The meal was delicious (can someone teach me to make sweet potato tacos with pumpkin seeds, please?) and I think it may have even opened up Matt’s mind to trying vegan dishes in the future. Maybe. From there, we walked to Mission Dolores Park, where we found a spot on the grass to people watch (or, if you’re me, dog watch) for a few hours.

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I wasn’t crazy about how we spent the rest of Saturday night (dinner was a serious flop for me — I don’t want to dish the bad stuff here!), but my body was (and, four days later, still is) on east coast time, so it felt pretty great to get back to the hotel and crash.

Sunday morning, we were up bright and early with a list of other things we wanted to check out in the city. We set out toward the water and spent most of the day walking along the bay and then straight up a very steep hill to the famous Lombard Street. For me, the best part of the day was the early morning! We walked to the Ferry Building, grabbed breakfast from Cowgirl Creamery, and sat by the waterfront looking at this view while we ate!

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Visiting Ghirardelli Square was another Sunday highlight. Matt and I split their original hot fudge sundae for lunch, and it was by far some of the richest chocolate I’ve ever tasted.

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Shoutout to the guy who most definitely had too much to drink before he walked past us sitting on this repurposed ski lift and insisted that the moment called for a photo. He has a good eye! These are seriously some of my new favorite pictures (well, maybe not the one with him in it).

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Monday was a big day for pictures, because we spent the whole morning driving down Highway One to our second hotel in Monterey, then the afternoon making a loop around Pebble Beach (I posted some of those photos here). My entire camera roll is pretty much photos of incredible blue water from the window of our rental car, plus some shots we took at the Pigeon Point Ligthouse. They’re all too pretty to delete!

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Monday night, we drove down to Fisherman’s Wharf in Monterey for dinner. For my fellow Jersey shore folks, the Wharf was basically a miniature boardwalk, with a higher proportion of seafood restaurants and a lower proportion of T-shirt shops. I’ve never seen anything like it — every. single. restaurant was giving away free samples of New England clam chowder to everyone who walked by. I guess that’s what you have to do to keep up with the competition, right? The strategy worked on us because we were sold on the chowder at Crabby Jim’s and ended up sitting down there to eat.

Tuesday was our busiest day yet, and it was a big one for me because I finally got to see the sea otters at the Monterey Bay Aquarium. When I was really young, my grandmother visited the aquarium and brought me back tons of otter souvenirs — a book, a shirt, and a stuffed animal — and I became totally obsessed with them. It’s been a bucket list item for me to go visit the otters myself ever since. I’m not going to say that I teared up when I saw them up close for the first time, but I’m, not going to say that I didn’t, either. They’re such happy, interesting animals, and it was great learning more about what the aquarium is doing to keep them safe and rebuild their population.

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After I’d recovered from all of the otter excitement (just kidding— I still haven’t recovered), we drove back into Monterey and had lunch at The Poke Lab. I’ve been wanting to try poke for, well, forever, and it didn’t disappoint!

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We had a few more spots we wanted to see south of Monterey before heading north to Mill Valley, so we jumped back in the car and drove to Big Sur. So many more incredible photos through a car window added to my phone! Guys, California is seriously beautiful.

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To finish up the day, we went to Carmel-by-the-Sea, took a walk on the beach, and explored the area a bit. Every time it feels like there can’t possibly be another adorable California coastal town, we find one more! It’s unbelievable.

As you can probably tell, these first few days were really busy. We saw a lot, drove a lot, and (admittedly) ate a lot. We covered a ton of ground and hit pretty much everything that was on our wish list for the San Francisco and Monterey areas. But it was a little exhausting! To be perfectly honest, Matt and I weren’t totally crazy about San Francisco, so we were happy to move on to the more low-key Monterey — and we’re even happier now to be unwinding in Mill Valley. I’ve more or less stayed on my east coast schedule, because I’ve been waking up super early every morning to work (I’m still working my scheduled Bustle writing shifts, for example, from 6 to 12 PST twice a week). I’m really grateful that I have the flexibility to keep up with my work while also enjoying this quality time with Matt, but I’m also ready for some good sleep! Thanks to our cozy new digs, I’m feeling like I’ll definitely be able to make that happen over the next ten days. I can’t wait to share our Mill Valley adventures with you next week.

In the meantime, for more details on our travels, follow me on Instagram stories!

 

 

 

monthly goals recap -> september + october.

Matt and I are a few days into our two-week California adventure, and I have to say that nothing is better for my soul than getting a change of scenery, some fresh air, and some serious quality time with my one and only. So far, we’ve been in San Francisco and Monterey. I’ll share more details of the trip in an official travel update later this week, but in the meantime, here are a few of my favorite photos from our drive around Pebble Beach’s famous 17-mile loop. It’s a few miles away from Monterey and looks exactly like the opening titles from Big Little Lies. No filters or editing on these babies!

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More pictures and stories from our travels to come! In the meantime, work is still in progress while we’re on the road (for me, at least), which means my monthly goals are definitely not taking two weeks off…

One of the biggest lessons I learned this past month was about adaptability. Even with the extra “margin” I allowed for myself in September (you can read more about that here, but it’s a concept I borrowed from the girls over at Cultivate What Matters), I didn’t accomplish a lot of the things I wanted to accomplish. Thanks to some changes in my schedule for September (namely, a regular contributor gig at Bustle that I’m really excited about), I had no choice but to revisit my priorities and find peace in not crossing things off the list. Plenty of items have been pushed off until October, and others? Others may just have to wait even longer.

Here are the details on my September goals:

  • Create master list of story-worthy female professionals.√ YES! This task had been on my radar for most of the summer, so I focused on working on it within the first few days of the month.
  • Research “low stakes” writing classes. I ended up with a lot less unstructured work time this month than I expected (don’t forget that I was hoping to give myself that extra margin!), so this just didn’t happen. I’ll be working on this in October (hopefully).
  • Successfully complete project for new outlet. √ YES! My editor signed off on a second draft of this story at the end of last week, so I’ll be able to share this with all of you soon. I’m really proud of this one, guys!
  • Finish second chapter of book. Let’s get real here, shall we? This month was downright dismal as far as working on my passion project. Between learning to balance hours for my new Bustle gig, finishing some more heavily reported pieces, keeping up with my typical workload, and managing some personal things that came up, I really struggled to find time for creative writing — and when I did find that time, it was hard for me to channel the creativity and emotional energy I needed. I have some specific ideas for getting back on track with this project that I’m hoping to put into place in October.
  • Break into one new outlet.√ YES! Bustle, baby!
  • Read four books. I got a little extra ambitious this month with my reading goal — which, of course, means that September was also the time I got in a reading rut. (Doesn’t it always happen that way?) I finished three books in September: Fitness Junkie (fun, frothy social commentary on our often-scary obsession with weight and the health industry), Small Admissions (the story of a mid-quarter life crisis twenty-something who gets back on her feet working in the admissions office of a fancy New York City private school), and Made for Love (quite possibly the weirdest book I’ve ever read, which I can only endorse to the extent that it was incredibly imaginative, inventive, and well-written).
  • Celebrate my one-year “anniversary” well.√ YES! I really savored this moment, and it felt great.

It’s also worth sharing that there are always a few monthly goals that I don’t post here on the blog, and in September, I barely accomplished any of the goals I kept private. The schedule changes I mentioned really threw me for a loop this month, but they were also a symptom of growth and new opportunities. I’m learning to accept that it’s OK to adjust the expectations I have for myself, especially if it means that I can say “YES!” to trying new things and taking on new challenges.

On deck for October is a mix of totally new goals, some specific habits that I think will help refine how I approach more familiar goals, and (of course) a few old standbys.

  • Complete a successful first month at Bustle. I’m just two weeks into being a regular contributor for this awesome site (you can check out what I’ve written so far here), and I hope to continue proving myself in October.
  • Research “low stakes” writing classes. Moving this one over from September.
  • Break into new outlet (or two!). This one should come as no surprise to you. I’m happy to report, though, that I’ve already gotten some good news from a new editor in the first few days of this month about a story I pitched in September, so I’m setting my sights on growing even more in October.
  • Pitch to a new editor every week. This is a more specific goal that should help get me closer to breaking into more new outlets.
  • Implement new schedule for working on my book. As I mentioned, September was not a great month for working on my novel, so it’s time to whip myself into shape. I’m playing with the idea of building some regular time for this project into my schedule every. single. Monday, which I think will allow for more momentum throughout the week.
  • Finish second chapter of book. (see above!)
  • Stick to new blog calendar. I’m changing up the way I organize things behind the scenes here on the site, so I’m excited to see how that plays out in October.
  • Read four books. With our time in California in the first half of this month, it should be a lot easier for me to reach a four-book goal. I’m a major travel reader. I’m planning to include one “self improvement” kind of title (either personal or professional) in that list. Any suggestions would be welcome in the comments below!
  • Stick to journaling habit. I always just feel better when I make time to journal every few days. I started doing this more consistently in September, and I want to keep it up moving forward.
  • Celebrate Matt’s birthday well. Because I have the world’s best husband and he deserves some serious celebrations : )

What are you hoping to achieve in October? Let me know in the comments below!

 

september giveaway winner announced!

Happy Friday, friends! I don’t know about you, but over here, it feels like this week has somehow managed to both drag on and onnnnn AND fly by so quickly that it seemed impossible to get anything done. Time is such a weird thing sometimes.

I’m so excited (as always!) to announce the winner of the September giveaway. Congratulations, DREW! You’re the winner of the Beautycounter Adaptive Moisturizer, and I just know you’re going to love it : ) I’ll reach out via email to make arrangements for you to get your prize.

Thanks to everyone who entered this month! Beautycounter is an awesome brand, and I would definitely encourage you to check them out for all things skin care and beauty. Shop this link to learn more about all the products and to support our friend Alexa’s growing business.

Tomorrow morning, Matt and I are getting on a plane to kick off a two-week (!!!!!) working vacation on the west coast. Matt’s job requires him to take two consecutive weeks away from the office each year (it’s a regulatory rule in the finance industry), so we’re making the most of it this time around. I’m so grateful to be able to take my work with me so we can spend some real QT together. I’ll be keeping you posted on all of our travels right here starting next week.

Have a great weekend, friends!

the new normal.

How did we already get to Tuesday? Birthday celebrations rolled on into the weekend (thanks to everyone for all of the well wishes!), and I feel like I’m just now coming down from all of the excitement…

My family came in on Saturday and I got to do one of my favorite things — show them around Brooklyn! Our borough is so chock full of amazing little corners and things to see, and I can’t help but feel like it’s a personal victory when I have a chance to let out-of-towners in on some local secrets. Saturday, we caught up over coffee on the patio at the bakery across the street from our apartment (which also happens to be my favorite work spot of late), then jumped in the car and went to Red Hook, a Brooklyn neighborhood located right on the water that’s off the beaten path of the subway. Red Hook is known for its awesome views and yummy seafood, so we had a photo shoot (the barge in the photo below says LEHIGH VALLEY, which happens to be the area of Pennsylvania where we’re from!) and then celebrated my birthday at Brooklyn Crab over crab rolls and margaritas. No birthday is complete without dessert, of course, so we finished the day at Ample Hills Creamery with a scoop of cotton candy ice cream (for me, at least).

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Before the weekend, Matt won the Husband Of The Year award (as if he doesn’t do that practically every day, anyway!) and gifted me tickets to Hamilton for my birthday. I still can’t quite put into words what it meant to me. We are ob-sessed with the show and its soundtrack in our house, and I’ve been dreaming of going to see it for months. Sunday, we capped off my birthday weekend with a matinee, and it was even better than I expected. This show is quite literally the best thing I’ve ever seen (yes, generally the best thing), and I still can’t believe I got the chance to share it with this special guy. I’ll never forget it, and it was a great way to kick off my twenty-eighth (eek!) year.

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Something I’ve been thinking about over the last few weeks as I’ve rounded the corner on some big milestones — yes, my birthday, but also the one-year anniversary of launching this blog last September — is the concept of “the new normal.” It’s a phrase that we all hear pretty often, and one that I can personally cop to using maybe a little too much. Heading into year two of Finding Plan A, I’ve been imagining what the next chapter is going to look like for the space, and I just thought I’d share some of that with you.

When I started blogging last year, I was mostly focused on flexing my writing muscles again as I prepared to transition out of my corporate job into full-time freelancing. I thought it would be a good way to keep my friends and family in the loop about what was going on in my new life, and I hoped I might be able to help people understand why I’d decided to go my own way and what it had taken to get there (if I got there at all, because at that point, I had no idea what was going to happen!). While this space has definitely served those purposes, it’s also turned into a community that’s kind and gracious and vibrant and supportive — and one that I’m excited to continue growing moving forward.

I would never claim to be “done” with the transition just because I have a full calendar year under my belt now. I haven’t “found Plan A” (LOL). I’m not starting an entirely new chapter here on the blog simply because a certain period of time has passed. This journey is still in progress, and I would never pretend to be an expert or to give up on learning and reflecting.

You will, however, notice some changes around here now that I have 365 days in the books. While I’ll still be doing goal recaps (like this one), you’ll notice that I’m going to be phasing out more general monthly progress updates (like this one). I’ll take a moment to call out major milestones, but I’ve graduated beyond those more regular recaps, and I don’t want to bore you with the details of the constant inner monologue that happens in this overanalyzing brain of mine : ) Moving forward (not including this month), I’ll also be making changes to the procedures for giveaways — so be on the lookout for that!

In the meantime, I’ve mapped out what’s happening on the blog for the full month of October, and I’m really excited about the content you’re going to see in this newly normal phase. I’m itching to get started! We’re stepping it up over here, friends, and I can’t wait to share it all with you!

… some things never change, though. Giveaways, for example, are always awesome.

Remember to enter for this month! September’s prize is my favorite skin care product EVER — Beautycounter‘s Adaptive Moisturizer. All you have to do to enter to win is comment on my last post. I’ll be drawing and announcing the winner on Friday 9/29, so get those entries in ASAP!

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september giveaway.

It’s that time again… GIVEAWAY TIME! And it falls on a Friday, which makes it even better, in my book. This weekend, we have some extended celebrations for my birthday on the schedule, which should be really fun. In the meantime, though, let’s get to the giveaway…

My friend Alexa was kind enough to partner with me again this month to gift one lucky winner one of our favorite products from Beautycounter. As you may remember from the last Beautycounter giveaway, Alexa and I were close friends in elementary school and reconnected through social media. In the last few months, she’s introduced me to the natural skin care and beauty line, and I’ve gradually been converting to all of the products. I loovvveeee them. As a reminder, here’s what Alexa says sets this brand apart from the rest:

I was introduced to Beautycounter in 2015 and loved the concept behind the company. It has an amazing mission; as an education based company, it seeks to inform people of the deregulated personal care industry and strives for reform through updated litigation. I was astounded to learn that the United States has not passed a major federal law to regulate the safety of ingredients used in personal care products since 1938! While this is extremely scary, the great news is that we as consumers do have safe options. Beautycounter takes the guess work out of deciphering ingredient lists. I am passionate about sharing safer beauty with friends, family, and everyone who is interested in protecting themselves from harmful chemicals. To me, Beautycounter is truly the third pillar to a healthy lifestyle, along with eating well/safe and working out. The best part is I don’t have to sacrifice amazingly effective skin care and gorgeous makeup for safety – Beautycounter provides it all in one!

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For September, we’ll be giving away the Adaptive Moisturizer, which is probably the best skin care product I’ve ever used. No joke! I use it every morning and it’s really helped brighten and balance out my face to the point where I rarely need to wear makeup. It’s lightweight, adapts to adjust hydration levels in your skin throughout the full day, and has a really light and beautiful scent. The fact that it’s so adaptive means that you can even wear it to the gym or to yoga class!

One of the best parts about the Beautycounter line, of course, is that it’s safe and natural. The Adaptive Moisturizer’s main ingredients are squalane from green olives, arginine from beetroot, and phytic acid from green rice. I love the product even more because its elements sound almost delicious!

All you have to do to enter to win a Beautycounter Adaptive Moisturizer of your own is COMMENT on this post! That’s it! As always, I’d love to see you share this link with friends so that more people have a chance to win (and to check out the blog!) — I run a giveaway every month, so there are plenty of chances!

I’ll draw the winner randomly one week from today, Friday 9/29. The winner will be announced right here on the blog. Good luck!

(Unfortunately, you’re not eligible to win this contest if you live outside of North America, due to shipping concerns. I’m sorry about that!)

You can check out the rest of Beautycounter’s offerings right here! Please be sure to shop that link so that we can support Alexa and the awesome business she’s building.

**As always, please note that I am giving my honest recommendations for this product. I’m receiving no compensation, and simply want to share items that have offered positive experiences for me!**

27.

Today is my 27th birthday. (And thanks to a nasty sleep cycle I have going on right now, I got an extra early start on celebrations hah!)

Honestly, I’m not so sure how I feel about this birthday. 27 feels so much more decidedly late twenties than 26, and even though many people who are much smarter than I am have told me that there’s absolutely no point in sweating the passage of time, I’m just having a little trouble wrapping my head around it.

That being said, I don’t plan on turning down any cupcakes or champagne : ) After all, it’s still a reason to celebrate — and I am nothing if not always ready for a celebration.

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It’s been a big year over here. Since my last birthday, I launched this blog and became a professional writer. But you already knew that.

I also celebrated a wedding anniversary for the first time (and it was awesome). I started a book club. I got hooked on podcasts and Dancing With the Stars. I drank a little too much rum punch on a catamaran in the Caribbean. I somehow managed to pull off big surprises for all four of my little sisters. I watched two of them graduate and go on to the next step in achieving their goals (and, yes, I cried both times). I lost one very special dog, and stopped about a million unsuspecting fellow New Yorkers to love on their dogs in the middle of the street. I met a lot of incredible women. I ran my fifth half marathon. I threw a cookie swap party. Matt and I turned our apartment into a full-on winter wonderland for the holidays. I wore makeup a lot less often, but tried to learn to do it better on the days I did. I took better care of my skin. I danced at two of my best friends’ weddings (and, yes, I cried both times). I got back into yoga. I became a workaholic again and loved every minute of it. I started reading The New York Times every week, and struggled just as often with the crossword puzzle. I got new glasses for the first time in five years. I had a love affair with my planner. I watched a lot of episodes of the Real Housewives, but successfully boycotted a full season of The Bachelor (and if you know me, you know this is a big deal). I jumped into the ocean in the middle of January. I visited friends at their new homes in Philadelphia and D.C. I got love attacks from a puppy that looks like a teddy bear. I fell even more in love with my husband, and we started a new Valentine’s Day ice cream sundae tradition.

Along the way, there were plenty of moments of uncertainty, and even more sleepless nights. I spent a lot of hours sitting in traffic, and just as many overanalyzing things that I know now were silly to worry about. I stressed — a lot — about the state of the world around me. I was really hard on myself, and too hard on other people sometimes, too.

I may not be thrilled about the number 27 right now, but when I think back on the moments big and small that made me smile this past year, I have to believe that things only get better and more fun with time. So here’s to another year of adventures (and here’s to champagne and cupcakes, too)!

…and one more cheers to GIVEAWAY DAY! Come back on Friday for all the details on this month’s prize.