three month recap.

Since I spent (almost) five years working in sales, I have a lot of experience splitting things up into quarters of the calendar year. Like any other corporate organization, my company set goals for Q1, Q2, Q3, and Q4, and much of our day-to-day language was based around making the most of those time periods.

It’s hard to believe that I’ve now officially made it through “Q1” of my freelance life. For some reason, the three-month mark feels so much more significant than the two-month mark — maybe because I’ve been trained to think about my professional life in terms of three-month increments.

Last week, I was catching up with one of my closest friends, and as I was updating her about recent developments with my work, she said, “So, basically you’re constantly applying for jobs, right?” And with that, she described the way I feel so perfectly. Being a full-time freelancer means that you’re on a hamster wheel of researching new work opportunities, making the right contacts, and preparing to sell yourself for those opportunities. It’s a never-ending learning experience, and even three months in, it feels like I’m figuring out new things every single day.

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Just like I did at the other monthly milestones since leaving my old job for the last time, I’m happy to be sharing a little three-month recap with you (you can read the other recaps here and here). Here are some updates from the last month:

  • Some of my old workaholic tendencies are coming back. In high school and college, I was almost annoyingly competitive. I LOVED the adrenaline rush of throwing myself into work. Although I was grateful for my old job, I never felt 100% connected to it, and I was more than happy to work hard at the office but keep that separate from the rest of my life. I missed the feeling of loving what I do so much that I couldn’t help but blur the lines between the personal and professional, and it feels good to be tapped back into that part of my personality.
  • I’m trying to care less about telling people how busy I am. Early on, my insecurities about leaving the corporate world came out mostly when people asked me how work was going and I would just say, “So busy!” I didn’t want people to think that working for myself from home meant that I was sitting around watching TV, so I overcompensated by leading with my busy-ness instead. I’ve noticed that it’s become a pattern, and one that I would like to break. With each day that passes, I feel less like I have something to prove.
  • I’m feeling comfortable in my own skin. I’ve struggled with anxiety and body image issues for most of my life, and I always find that when I’m fulfilled in the important areas of my life (work, relationships, etc.), those inner demons get a little quieter. While I don’t think I’ll ever be totally “healed,” I’m happy to report that I’ve been having more good days lately than I was a few months ago.
  • Taking time out is important. One of my favorite things about the end of the year at my old job was taking random weekdays off in order to use up my remaining vacation days — and I miss that! Just like telling people how busy I am, hustling constantly has been a way for me to show others that the work I’m doing now is legit. Since September, I’ve done at least some work every. single. day (weekends included). With the holidays upon us, I know it’s time to cut myself some slack and allow for at least a little planned downtime. Working from home, it’s so easy to get involved in projects even if I have every intention of taking a break for a few hours here or there, so I think I need to learn how to better designate real “time off.”
  • I’m better understanding my goals. When I first started on this journey, people would ask me what my writing goals were, and I wasn’t sure how to answer — I just wanted to get started! As my portfolio of clips grows and I continue to better understand my strengths as a writer, I’m starting to have a clearer picture of where I’d like to go next.
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a love letter to nyc.

This weekend, I played host to my sister Katie and her best friend, who were visiting Brooklyn for the day to celebrate Katie’s 18th (WHAT! when did that happen?) birthday. My family hasn’t had a chance to explore my neighborhood very much yet, so I love any opportunity I get to show them some of my favorite places. Matt and I took the girls to check out the amazing views at Brooklyn Bridge Park (plus Jane’s Carousel), we had (a very un-memorable) lunch (sorry, Katie) near the water, and then we hopped over to check out the indoor Brooklyn Flea Market, which is currently set-up in a super cool old building with a ceiling so beautiful that I couldn’t stop staring. We finished up the day with (in my opinion, anyway) the most delicious hot chocolate EVER from One Girl Cookies and a few hours of holiday-themed cooking shows in our apartment.

I had such a fun day with these two amazing girls, who are both in the middle of all of the senior-year-of-high-school craziness that is both exciting and terrifying at the same time. Experiencing Brooklyn with them reminded me of all of my own visits to New York City when I was a teenager, and the way I was so dead-set on building a life here for myself one day. Sometimes, it’s still hard for me to believe that it actually happened. In other ways, my life is entirely different than what I expected, but I did manage to get (and stay) here, and that feels like a big accomplishment.

New York City gets a bad rap, and believe me — I get it. Most people who are visiting this town only get as far as Times Square and the theater district, and I have pretty negative feelings toward those areas myself. Add that to the widespread stereotype that New Yorkers are nasty (i.e. the woman who kicked me out of Panera a few months ago), and I don’t really blame other people for steering clear. What you learn when you live here yourself, though, is that everyone ends up with their own version of New York apart from the crowds and tourist attractions — and I have to say, I think my version is pretty great.

New York City — You’re not always easy to love, but maybe that’s what makes me love you a little harder. This is the only place where I know a life that’s all my own, and that life is one filled with incredible people, constant learning experiences, and delicious food. I’ve fallen in love so many times here — not just with Matt, but with the friends I’ve met who continue to make this place so special. I don’t know how long I’ll be a New Yorker — there are days when I wish I could just get out, and other days when I can’t imagine living anywhere else — but I promise to stop saying mean things about you. You’re pretty amazing. — AHK

With the end of the year coming, I’m obviously feeling a little extra reflective : ) So, to cap off my little tribute to NYC, scroll down for a few of my favorite pictures from my New York experience these past four-plus years. I had so much fun looking through old photos to pick these out, so thanks for bearing with me!

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My first holiday season after moving to the city. Matt would take the bus in from PA to visit me.
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I lived about as far east as you can get on this island (and about as far away from anything convenient) with these two.
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Thank goodness for NYC for reuniting me with my journalism camp bestie. Seriously — thank goodness.
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Nights were (and still are) the most fun with my two middle school loves.
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Getting ready to run my first Brooklyn Half Marathon!
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I have so many amazing memories of exploring this city with my mom. Here we are with my favorite cupcakes at Molly’s in the West Village.
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At my old apartment, we had a cat neighbor who would sit in the space between the wall and the open door and watch us come in and out. I thought it was the cutest thing ever.
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Sometimes, my fellow suburban transplant and I like to pretend we are housewives shopping for home goods back in PA.
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The night we got engaged, right here in Brooklyn!
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The night we signed the lease to our new apartment.
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Our first night in Brooklyn! What you see on the counter is pretty much everything we had ready to move in at this point.
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Hosting my precious high school family for boozy brunch. Who says you can’t fit lots of people in a tiny NYC apartment?
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Trying on my wedding dress for the first time! Even as a little girl, I always imagined I’d buy my dress in New York.
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Another holiday season with one of my oldest and most special friends.
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At home, in my element.
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The first (and possibly last) time I successfully convinced Matt to run the Brooklyn Half with me.
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This is NOT a cute photo of me, but my bestie was such a beautiful bride, and here we are together on her wedding day, in this weird little place we both call home. (Photo credit: Lauren Gibson Photography)
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A few of my beloved NYC girls squeezed into one photo. Always grateful to this city for my friendships, most of all. (Photo credit: Bri Cibene Photography)

 

 

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real talk #1

I think we can all agree that social media and the Internet in general is pretty awesome. Right? In the last few months, especially, I’ve gained a new appreciation for the opportunities that all of this connectivity affords us, and I certainly can’t imagine a world where I don’t feel totally up-to-date on the lives of everyone I care about simply because I’m following them on Instagram.

Unfortunately, there is a darker side to social media. There’s been a lot written about how curated feeds and blogs have created a new standard of perfection that feels almost impossible to meet (this Bustle article sums it up pretty well).

As much as I love sharing the high points of my journey here, it’s also important to me that I am authentic. Like any other blogger, I can’t help but curate what I post, but I want to take ownership of the good, the bad, and the ugly parts of the transitions happening in my life. While I’ve been lucky to find some success pretty early on with my writing, it hasn’t been easy — there are moments where it actually feels really HARD.

I’m starting a new series today called Real Talk, where I’ll shift gears and write honestly about my more ridiculous, frustrating, and discouraging moments. My intention here is NOT to complain (I promise!), but to give you a balanced picture of the ups and downs I experience in this new chapter of my life. I’m not perfect, and neither are the changes I’m navigating. Read on to get a glimpse of a few of my low points.

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Image credit: Pinterest/spoken.ly
  • Last week, I broke down in tears and cried on the floor of my apartment because I somehow managed to lose both of my contact lenses in the same morning and I didn’t have any back-ups. (Ugh, I’m embarrassed just to admit this!) Obviously, it wasn’t really about the contact lenses (as I always say, “it’s never about what it’s about”) — it had been a tough week and I was feeling strung out in every possible way. I had also scratched my eye in the whole mess, and when you spend most of your time working alone, it’s easy to get a little freaked out that if you really got hurt, there wouldn’t be anyone immediately available to help.
  • I haven’t purchased a new piece of clothing in three months (not even a T-shirt). My amazing husband and I pool our collective income to keep things moving here financially, and my paychecks have now started to roll in (yay!), but I’m still being very conservative with spending until things get further off the ground.
  • I’m still adjusting to talking about my new job as a writer when I meet people for the first time. When I had a more traditional gig, I barely gave it a second thought when people asked me what I did for a living, but now I find myself stumbling over my words. Since this is all still new and I’m continually growing my portfolio of clips, I’m not 100% confident about how to present my career to new acquaintances in a way that will be taken seriously. (Any advice from fellow writers and freelancers on this would be much appreciated!)
  • Bad weather can be isolating. It rained almost every day last week, and the cold temperatures are finally starting to set in. I’m finding that it’s now all the more important to make a little extra effort to get myself out of my home office and into other workspaces.
  • Getting bad news is REALLY hard when you’re on your own. I’ve found that working for myself means that the professional highs feel very high…but that the professional lows feel that much lower. At my previous job, I was lucky to be surrounded by some really special co-workers who were always there to pick me up if I was having a rough day, and now it’s entirely up to me to turn the mood around. It’s also difficult not to take things personally when they don’t go my way.

These challenges are honestly so minor compared to how I felt in the hard days toward the end of my previous corporate job. Still, it’s not all about writing fun stories and making my own schedule, regardless of what my Instagram feed and the rest of this blog might suggest : )

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five great books for gifting + reading

I’ve decided that I REALLY like being a work-from-home girl at this time of the year.

I’ll be honest with you — last week was a tough one. Coming down from a few days of Thanksgiving celebrations during which I was surrounded by my family (plus our pets), it was hard to get back into the swing of things, especially when I tend to spend so much time alone in my home office. Add in a lot of rainy weather, a few frustrating personal situations, and the general bummer that I’ve always felt between the Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays (doesn’t everyone feel that?), and I just wasn’t feeling my best. Things are off to a much better start this week, not only because I’m feeling great about work, but also because life is a lot more festive around here after our Sunday of holiday decorating!

When I worked in a big office building in downtown Manhattan, we had doses of holiday spirit here and there — beautiful decorations near the front door, a string quartet that would play during lunchtime in the lobby every Friday — but there’s something extra special about spending my work days in my own little wonderland. Matt and I LOVE the holiday season, and after we went a little crazy with decorations last year for the first December in our new apartment, we upped the craziness a tiny bit this time around. As I write this, I have a glimpse of the decorations in our main room, PLUS we picked up this slightly  tacky little guy for my office.

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(I’ll spare you the rest of the photos of our decorations for now. If you’d like me to post more about them, let me know in the comments below!)

With this time of year also comes lots of gifting! As you can probably guess, I’m a big fan of buying books as presents, and since my corporate gig was in publishing, I’m also used to getting plenty of requests for recommendations. I’ve decided to share with you five of my favorites from the last few years. Any one of these would make a great gift…or a great read for you if you’re planning to curl up with a book this holiday season!

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#1: Freedom by Jonathan Franzen: I love anything this author writes, but this is my favorite of his novels. It’s a hefty book at over 600 pages, but it’s completely engaging and perfectly written. I read it over a holiday break in college, and I would recommend you do the same!
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#2: The Mothers by Brit Bennett: Along with many of my former colleagues, I was lucky enough to read this book a few months ago, and ever since, I’ve been itching for it to hit stores so I could recommend it to everyone I know. This is a really special read about female friendships, love, and race. The writing is stunning and I can’t wait to see what this author does next.

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#3: The Andy Cohen Diaries by Andy Cohen: On a MUCH lighter note, I breezed through this book on our honeymoon in June, and it was so much fun. It’s pure pop culture and froth, told through the interesting perspective of Bravo producer Andy Cohen. If you or anyone on your gift list is a fan of celebrities or a (closeted) Real Housewives fan (like me), this is a great choice! I recently read Andy’s more recent book, Superficial, but I preferred the Diaries.

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#4: I Am the Messenger by Markus Zusak: Markus Zusak is best known for The Book Thief (another complete game changer of a book), but I always like to give a shoutout to I Am the Messenger. I’ve given this to a few non-readers in my life who have all raved about it.

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#5: Prep by Curtis Sittenfeld: I read this for the first time when I was in high school and have continued coming back to it every few years since then. There are so many coming-of-age stories out there, and this is by far my favorite. Plus, it takes place at a boarding school, and who doesn’t love that?

(I haven’t included links to buy here, because I’m a big believer in buying your books in whatever way makes you most likely to read them! That being said, if there’s an independent bookstore in your area, don’t forget to check out their selection this holiday season :)) 

 

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monthly goals.

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Image credit: Pinterest

I’ve always had a thing for paper planners. (Since I’ve already admitted to being a nerd, this may not surprise you, but) one of the things I was MOST excited about when I started middle school was to finally get my hands on a school-branded assignment book. While I try to stay cool with higher-tech organizational tools, I just can’t seem to let go of my old-school planner.  In my office job, I figured out an easy way to keep track of pretty much EVERYTHING within that one little book, and I’ve adapted that system for my freelance needs over the last few months.

Something that I’ve added to my planner routine since becoming my own boss is monthly goal-setting . One of the biggest challenges of being on my own is the lack of feedback from others. While I have regular dialogue with editors about my work, it’s not quite the same as the ongoing conversations I used to have with my bosses about what my next steps within the company might be. I’ve built that concept into my personal process by spending time at the beginning of each month jotting down goals — both professional and personal. I’ve been doing this since September, but have decided to share it with you today in hopes that it might be a helpful tip for you in whatever work you do — and to help keep me accountable for my own “stuff” as we near the end of the year!

Something I love almost as much as a paper planner is crossing boxes off my to-do list, so I’ve had to learn to resist the urge to make my goals too attainable. I try to list at least a few items that are a stretch to ensure that I’m constantly motivated and hustling. If I don’t achieve a goal one month, I shift it over to the next month. No shame in my game there!

Check out a few of my goals for the month of December (by the way, how is it already December???):

  • Cut down on sweets before the holidays. As I’ve shared before, I have a raging sweet tooth. Since I’m generally very healthy, I try not to obsess too much over what I eat, but after a little too much Thanksgiving, I’m doing a mini-cleanse for the first half of the month. Sweets and desserts are a total trigger food for me — once I start snacking on them, it’s hard for me to stop — so I’m cutting those out for now and also laying off the booze so I can feel my best for the rest of the holiday celebrations!
  • Break into at least one new outlet. A big challenge with freelancing is juggling multiple streams of income and reminding myself to constantly explore new projects. I never want to stop exploring new opportunities, so I’m continually pitching stories to new outlets. I’d like to make progress with at least one new publication before we hit 2017.
  • Run five miles. Three years ago, I trained for my first half marathon, and I’ve been running them every spring since then. My favorite race is the Brooklyn Half Marathon, which I run each May. I train really hard starting after New Year’s and usually switch up my routine away from running once the race is over. In December, I like to start gearing up again so it’s not too much of a shock for my body when I start running more regularly in January.
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Crossing the finish line at this year’s Brooklyn Half Marathon!
  • Hit 35 blog posts. This is post #25, so look for ten more before the end of the year!
  • Confirm first copyediting gig. In addition to writing, I’ve always enjoyed copyediting, and I’m currently in conversations with a few people about taking on those projects on a freelance basis. I’d like to confirm one of those this month. (If you or someone you know needs something copyedited, feel free to reach out!)
  • Write another piece for The KitchnI had so much fun writing this essay, and working for this site was a great experience overall. I have a few pitches in right now and have my fingers crossed that I’ll have the opportunity to write for them again.
  • Expand the reach of Finding Plan A. I’m always grateful for my audience here on the blog, and I hope to continue growing it. Please do continue to share the site, and encourage anyone interested to subscribe so it comes directly to their inbox (instructions here)!
  • 20 pages OR a substantial outline for my book. My biggest profesional insecurity is the BOOK I’ve always wanted to write (just typing that out here for you to read gives me butterflies!). Since I’ve made space in my life to write, focusing on that book is a major priority, but I’ll admit that I’ve really struggled with getting it started. Lining up paying gigs has been my immediate priority, but I know I need to stop making excuses and really dig into this project. I don’t really believe in New Year’s resolutions, but I am planning to jump into the book more starting in January. I’d like to go into 2017 with 20 pages or a substantial outline. In both October and November, my monthly goal was to have 50 pages written, which I think may have spooked me a little. This month, I am setting my sights on something a little more attainable in hopes it will be the kick in the butt that I need to get working!

Now that I’ve put this list out into the world, I feel a little extra pressure to get it accomplished! Thanks for helping to keep me accountable — your support (and tough love) means a lot.

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lessons from corporate america.

I’ve written here and there about my old corporate gig, and the circumstances that motivated me to leave it behind and go out on my own. If you’re new to the blog, you can check out a piece of that story in my one-month recap — but today, I’d like to focus on the many ways in which those experiences have proven so valuable in my new work.

My low point this last summer was only one piece of my journey in corporate America. Regardless of the frustrations I experienced at my company more recently, it wouldn’t be fair for me to leave out the part where getting hired there almost five years ago was hitting the ultimate jackpot. As a lifelong book lover, I could hardly believe that I would be working right in the middle of the publishing industry. It was an incredible opportunity then, and I am still so grateful for so much of the experience.

The industry was a lot more Corporate (with a capital “C”) than I predicted. When I was in college, I used to declare that I would never end up working for The Man, and ultimately, that’s exactly where I landed. While the corporate environment proved one of the biggest factors in my decision to leave the company, it also gave me a valuable set of professional tools that I firmly believe have given me a leg up in the first few months of my freelance life. I’m sure there are many people that become successful freelancers or who become self-employed without corporate experience, but for me, those five years in a more traditional work environment have been key to my transition.

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My corporate ID badge. This photo was taken on my first day at the office in January 2012 – I was so proud of my new blazer!

Check out this list of lessons from corporate America that have helped me since I’ve been out on my own. I have some great bosses to thank for these, and I hope I can pay it forward myself someday.

  • Follow-up. In my corporate jobs, I learned to make a habit of scheduling out follow-up to all e-mails and phone calls. Most of the time, I would make a note to check back in one week after the original outreach. I’ve continued this practice. I find that editorial contacts are really impressed when I proactively check in about a pitch or question that I’ve submitted. It’s an indication to them that this is my JOB and that I take it seriously.
  • Project tracking. My creative little brain had trouble adjusting to my previous company’s obsession with all things grids and Excel when I first started, but by the time I put in my notice, they had become second nature. I learned that it’s possible to organize pretty much ANYTHING in a grid or chart, and I’ve taken those skills with me. If you’d have told me in college that I would become a writer and rely so heavily on these kinds of systems, I wouldn’t have believed you, but here I am, with my handy little Excel spreadsheet constantly open on my desktop.  It’s really helpful for keeping track of project progress, publication and payment.
  • The art of writing an e-mail. I learned pretty early about the importance of presenting yourself in a highly professional, positive way via e-mail. It was no longer enough to dash off the more casual notes of my college days and hit “send” — I realized that writing a good e-mail was worth a little extra time and care. Now that I call myself a writer, it’s especially critical that my e-mails make a good impression, because they are a piece of my work like anything else.
  • Routine, routine, routine. I’ve found that keeping some level of a routine has been really helpful in transitioning to the working-from-home lifestyle. Since I spent five years in a highly-structured corporate job, I already KNEW how to keep myself to a schedule, and I was ready to keep up with it on Day One of freelancing.

Have you learned anything from your jobs — corporate or otherwise — that you think would help me moving forward? I’d love to keep learning from you, so please feel free to share your thoughts in the comments below!

***Don’t forget that TODAY is the LAST DAY to enter the November giveaway and get a chance to win the earrings pictured below from The Shine Project. All you have to do to be eligible is post a comment (any comment!) to the giveaway entry here.***

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gratitude diaries #4: thanksgiving edition.

We’re still back in Pennsylvania, winding down celebrations for Thanksgiving.  As I mentioned last week, this is my favorite holiday, and it’s hard to believe that it’s already over!  We’ve eaten LOTS of delicious food, spent time with members of both sides of my family, and gotten a much-needed dose of the fall-on-the-verge-of-winter PA that I love so very much.

To wrap up the Thanksgiving weekend (and to help kick off the rest of the holiday season!), I’ve written a special edition of Gratitude Diaries (check out the last installment here).  Here are a few things that are especially meaningful to me on this cozy weekend:

  • FAMILY, FAMILY, FAMILY.  I know it’s sort of expected to put this at the top of the list — especially at this time of year — but it wouldn’t be ME if I didn’t!  I talked about this a bit in my first Thanksgiving post, but this holiday is particularly special for me as a child of divorce and blended families because I have a chance to see almost EVERYONE from both my mom’s and dad’s sides of the family.  I love that the primary expectation for Thanksgiving is to spend quality time with each other, and I always try to soak in as much of that as I can.  Almost six months after our wedding, I feel especially thankful for my family and all of the support and love we felt in the months before and after we said “I do.”  I only wish that my in-laws didn’t live on the opposite side of the country so we could all spend more time together!
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Both sides of my immediate family.  (Photo credit: Bri Cibene Photography)
  • My hometown.  Both of my parents live in Bethlehem, PA, and while I love it year-round, it always feels extra special as we approach the holiday season.  Unsurprisingly, we are known as “The Christmas City,” so what’s not to love?  We tend to do a lot of driving back and forth between Brooklyn and Pennsylvania in November and December, but I hardly mind, because being here in my hometown makes it THAT much easier to get into the spirit of the season.
  • Gilmore Girls.  Like so many others, I was PSYCHED about the Gilmore Girls: A Year In the Life revival hitting Netflix this week.  My mom and I spent six hours straight yesterday watching all four installments back-to-back, and even though I knew I was excited in advance, I had no idea how emotional I would feel about actually watching it!  The series has meant so much to me over the years (I think I’ve watched it all the way through about seven or eight times).  Along with the rest of the social media community, I’m still wrapping my head around how I feel about the new episodes (more on that later, maybe), but regardless, it was special to spend some time this weekend revisiting characters that feel like an extension of my family.  Did you watch the revival?  I’d love to hear what you thought about it in the comments section below!

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  • Our wedding video.  We got our wedding trailer about a month ago (check it out below!), but just before we left New York to come home for Thanksgiving, we got the FULL video.  It’s been really fun to relive our special day with family during our visit, and it’s been an extra reminder of how grateful I am for the events of these last few months.

I have another day or two left in Pennsylvania, and then it’s back to the city to buckle down on work for the rest of the year and get our little home ready for the holidays.  In other festive news, I’ve had some fun seasonal pieces posted to Brit + Co over the last few days, and you can check them out here!

***Don’t forget about my November giveaway, where you have a chance to win a beautiful pair of earrings from The Shine Project (pictured below).  To enter, all you have to do is leave a comment on my most recent post!  I’ll be drawing the winner this coming Wednesday 11/30. ***

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november giveaway!

To celebrate Thanksgiving — as well as TWO MONTHS since I launched Finding Plan A — I’m having another giveaway!  Once again, the prize is from one of my favorite causes, The Shine Project.

I got involved as an ambassador for The Shine Project almost a year ago.  You can read the whole story here, but essentially, Shine supports inner-city American students on track to be the first in their family to go to college by teaching them to make jewelry and offering them employment and mentorship.  Student employees at the Shine centers have the opportunity to work hard to earn money for their higher education, so the purchase of Shine products supports their academic goals.  A portion of the profits also goes toward a scholarship fund that benefits the Shine kids.  I absolutely love this organization– and I’m obsessed with the jewelry, too!  It’s easy-to-wear, affordable, trendy, and supports a really awesome cause.

Since this is a great time of year to reflect on all of our blessings and give back to others, it seems extra perfect to be spreading a little love from this fantastic company to my followers!

November’s giveaway is this awesome pair of bronze druzzy earrings!

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You’ll be entered to win this giveaway if you COMMENT on this post!  Don’t forget to give your friends a chance by sending them the link — there will be more chances at prizes in the future.

I’ll draw the winner randomly one week from today, Wednesday 11/30, and the winner will be notified right here on the blog.

Good luck, everyone!  Best wishes for a cozy Thanksgiving day tomorrow filled with love and laughter. xo

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a mini thanksgiving.

Happy Thanksgiving week, everyone!

Based on the responses from last week’s survey (it’s not too late to take it…I’d love to hear from you!), there’s interest in a little more talk about my personal life here on the blog.  Given that feedback, I’m happy that I have such a fun activity from this past weekend to share with you!

Matt and I are very different in a lot of ways, but one of the things we do share in common is a love for Thanksgiving.  We both get pretty excited about the holiday season in general, but Thanksgiving is definitely the favorite in our house.  Thanksgiving was the first holiday we spent together when we started dating almost eight years ago (!!!!!), so if I loved it before, it definitely grabbed an extra special place in my heart after that.

We’ll be traveling home to Pennsylvania to celebrate the “official” holiday feast with my family later this week.  One of the best things about Thanksgiving for me has always been the way the schedule allows me to be part of most of the celebrations on both sides of my family.  My dad traditionally works on Thanksgiving day, so my stepmom usually waits to cook the full turkey dinner until Friday.  This means that I get to spend Thanksgiving itself (and most of the long weekend, too) with my mom’s family — but I don’t have to miss out on the fun at my dad’s house.  It means a lot to me to be able to attend both.

Since this is our first married Thanksgiving, Matt and I decided that we wanted to start some traditions of our own, too, so we put together a smaller version of the turkey feast for just the two of us on Saturday.  We planned the menu together, went on a date to the fancy supermarket, and did most of the cooking as a team.  Like most New York City apartments, ours is tiny.  I was surprised at how well our reliable little kitchen held up, because we had it working HARD.  Here’s what we made:

  • Kale salad with pomegranate seeds, dried cranberries, toasted pumpkin seeds, and balsamic dressing.  We try to keep things pretty healthy around here day-to-day, and even though I’m all about indulging in my favorite foods, it was important to me that we have a really delicious green option as part of our meal.  Toasted pumpkin seeds might be my new favorite salad topping!
  • Turkey — duh!  Since it was just the two of us, we stuck to a big turkey breast instead of a full bird, but I’m still amazed by how much we ended up with!  We’re now on day three of our leftovers (and I have a husband that eats a lot of turkey in one sitting).
  • Stuffing made based on one of my family’s recipes, but with some of our own variations.  We added in mushrooms and apples, which I would TOTALLY recommend.
  • Brussel sprouts au gratin, which I made for the first time last year using this recipe.  This is a cheesy indulgence, but is still a slightly better alternative health-wise to the version made with potatoes.  When I made it last year, I threw in bits of prosciutto, which was a big hit with the Friendsgiving crowd.
  • (Canned) cranberry sauce, because as much as I wish I liked the homemade variety, I just love the kind that comes from a can so much better.
  • Gravy, made from scratch!  It was really important to Matt that we make our own turkey gravy, instead of buying it pre-made.  The process of making it was longer than I expected, and I was skeptical, but it was definitely worth it.
  • Apple cider mimosas made with equal parts store-bought cider and prosecco.  If you’re looking for a seasonal cocktail that won’t add a lot of extra work to your Thanksgiving menu, this is a great one!
  • Chocolate cream pie, because YUM!  We’re not huge fans of the traditional Thanksgiving desserts in our house, but I figured a fun twist on pie could be a great new tradition for us.

We dressed up the table with as many pretty things as we could make fit, and even though my beautiful china settings from our registry are still being stored at my parents’ house until we have space for them, it was fun to be able to use so many of our wedding gifts for our first Thanksgiving.  We also got a little dressed up ourselves before sitting down to dinner.  I’m usually a stickler for the “no holiday music until Thanksgiving” rule, but given the fact that the mood of the world is so icky lately, I decided we could budge a little bit with the James Taylor Christmas album while we ate.  We also went back and forth throughout the meal sharing things we are grateful for, which, as you know, is one of my favorite things.

If you’re looking for opportunities to start your own traditions without cutting ties to your larger family celebrations, I think this is a great idea.  Matt and I had so much fun being in the kitchen together, and it was really special for us to have quality time celebrating one of our favorite occasions.  In case I haven’t said it enough lately, I REALLY love my husband, and I can’t get enough of hanging out with him.

Check out some of our photos below!

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Blurry, but so proud of what we made!  Also, I’m breaking out my fall lip colors again and it makes me all kinds of happy.
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Matt gets tasked with taking a lot of our selfies because his arms are so much longer than mine…and this time it really paid off because you can see our table, too!

What are your Thanksgiving traditions?  I’d love to hear about them in the comments!

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i want to hear from you!

We’ve almost reached the end of this week, and it’s less than seven days until we are all stuffing ourselves full of turkey and mashed potatoes.  Raise your hand if Thanksgiving is your favorite holiday, too!  I can’t get enough of it (you all know how I feel about gratitude)…but more on that next week.

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An old picture of Jake, basically acting out the way we’re all feeling right about now.   

Today, I want to hear from YOU.  I’ve been working on the blog for almost two months now, and I’m so grateful for all of the support I’ve been getting from you since I launched.  THANK YOU!  In the spirit of always trying to improve the experience and keeping you interested and coming back for more, I would love if you would take a moment to give me some of your feedback in the survey below.  It will go a long way toward helping me to be a better blogger, and toward improving Finding Plan A as I continue to grow.

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