MDW vibes + may giveaway winner announced!

Good morning! I hope everyone had an AMAZING long weekend. I spent most of the mini-vacation right here…

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There’s no filter on that view! How beautiful, right? Getting out of the city is always such a breath of fresh air — and when I get to relax in a beautiful setting like this, it’s that much more refreshing. If you follow me on social media, you also know that I’m totally losing it over the book I read during the long weekend, Tuesday Nights in 1980. If you’re looking for a great read, this has to be it. Pick it up, and then tell me how much you love it!

Today, though, it’s back in the work routine. No more beautiful river views, but we do have a wedding to look forward to this coming weekend, so I’m just trying to keep my head down and work my little booty off so that another round of fun can begin!

In the meantime, though, I’m so happy to announce that this month’s giveaway winner is KIMBERLY KORN! Kimberly, I’ll be in touch later today to work out the details of getting you your prize. Congratulations!

As always, thanks to everyone who entered the May giveaway drawing! If you’re still interested in checking out the Beautycounter line, you can shop this link. I’ve loved all of the products I’ve tried so far, and I’m excited to keep growing my collection, and to make my skin care/beauty routine as safe as possible.

teeny tiny space entertaining.

There’s a lot out there about “small space hacks,” for everything from storage to decorating to entertaining. Let me tell you though — when you’ve been living in less than 700 square feet for over two years with a 6’2″ man and all of your combined stuff, this idea of “small space” starts to feel a little like an understatement. We are so blessed to live in such an amazing apartment, but it is definitely cozy, and as happy as I am to have been able to stay here into a third year (who wants to deal with a move???), there are days when it feels like the walls are closing in on us a bit, because no amount of obsessive cleaning and organizing (guilty!) can stop your life from growing over time — which is what it’s supposed to do!

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Even with the limitations of our teeny tiny space (yup, I’m not even calling it “small” in this case), I absolutely love opening up our home to friends and family. We’ve actually hosted people here at the apartment four of the last five days! Here are a few tricks I’ve picked up to help make teeny tiny space entertaining easier and more fun:

  • Get through your backlog of dirty dishes before your guests arrive. Whether you have a dishwasher or are the dishwasher, make sure you’re starting with a clean slate of plates, cups, and cutlery before your friends and family walk in the door. If your teeny space is like mine, your sink is practically IN your living room, so the more you can do to avoid an overflow situation at the end of the evening, the better off you’ll be. Plus, you’ll free up dishes to use, so you won’t have to wash as you go!

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  • Food-wise, don’t try to do it all. Even in an average-sized kitchen, serving your guests appetizers, a main dish, sides, and a dessert is a hefty undertaking — so don’t expect to do it and make it look simple in your smaller kitchen. I like to focus my hosting plan to make prep and clean-up easier, and to avoid running out of room in the apartment! Earlier this week, we invited friends over for fresh berries, homemade whipped cream, and champagne. Last night, I simply put out meats, cheese, veggies, and a tray of frozen Trader Joe’s appetizers (guys, these are lifesavers — and even if you pride yourself on your cooking, there’s no shame!). One of my favorite things is to invite people over for a simple bagel breakfast. Don’t do too much!
  • Keep it casual. When you’re moving furniture around to accommodate extra bodies and squeezing past each other to find a seat, you get over the formalities of entertaining pretty quickly. Early on, this kind of embarrassed me, but I’ve now embraced it! I find that it makes my guests feel comfortable in my home really fast, and I love that my friends feel free to grab their own glass from the cabinet or to kick their shoes off at the door without asking me first.
  • Consider a solo clean-up. always appreciate it when my guests offer to help pick things up after we’ve spent time together, but given the size of my kitchen, I’ve realized that it’s often easier to gracefully turn down the extra set of hands and just handle it myself. When my apartment gets too cramped with people trying to tidy up (as nice as that can be!), it tends to get me a little overwhelmed and stressed out. (I’m also a control freak, so admittedly, this may just be a weird personal preference!)

Do you have any tips for entertaining, regardless of the size of your space? I’d love to hear them in the comments below!

…and don’t forget to enter this months’ giveaway! The prize is a Charcoal Cleansing Bar from Beautycounter, a product I’ve been loving over the past few weeks. Even with so many guests in and out of the apartment recently, I’ve been totally makeup free! All you have to do to enter to win is comment on my last post. I’ll be drawing and announcing the winner on Tuesday 5/30, so get those entries in ASAP!

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may giveaway!

Happy Giveaway Day, everyone! With more bad news in this world coming every single day, we all need a little extra sunshine — and if I can contribute in this ever-so-small way, then I’m happy to do it… especially for all of you, who bring so much positivity into my life!

I am constantly humbled and inspired by the way that social media has given me the opportunity to connect and re-connect with so many wonderful people, and a few months ago, I was lucky enough to get back in touch with one of my closest friends from elementary school, Alexa. I have so many distinct memories of hanging out with Alexa at recess (I was really into the swingset) and of going to each other’s birthday parties, but since I moved away right before middle school, we didn’t get a chance to really grow up together — so it was fun to stumble upon her profile again all these years later. When Alexa got involved with Beautycounter, a skincare and makeup company with a health-focused mission that I can totally get behind, I immediately asked for a catalog!

Here’s what Alexa has to say about the company:

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!

Super cool, right?

One of the first products I ordered was the Charcoal Cleansing Bar, and I’ve had so much success with it over the last few weeks that Alexa was kind enough to partner with me this month so we can offer it as the prize for May’s giveaway!

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I’ve been lucky enough to have pretty good skin for most of my life, but for the past year or so, I’ve been struggling with breakouts on my chin (ugh). Charcoal masks have helped a lot, so trying out Beautycounter’s Charcoal Cleansing Bar felt like a no brainer — and I’ve been super happy with it so far. Within a few days of using it, my major blemishes had totally cleared, along with some of the redness I’d developed in that area over the last few months. When I broke out this past weekend (thanks to inconvenient monthly timing, shall we say?), I found that it healed up a lot faster than usual because I was using this product. After a long winter, I also was feeling like my complexion had become sort of dull, and it’s definitely brightened me up. For the first time in almost a year, I’m walking around without makeup and not feeling embarrassed about it — and if that’s not a vote of confidence, then I’m not sure what is. I’m even posting a makeup-free picture! Eek!

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If you want to get in on this, all you have to do to enter to win a Beautycounter Charcoal Cleansing Bar 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, Tuesday 5/30. 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!

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

a random fact for every mile.

I never hit “publish” on a blog post in the middle of the night, so by the time you’re reading this, it will probably be a perfectly acceptable hour on Friday morning… but, for the record, it’s currently 1:16 AM.

Until now, it’s actually been a really great week for me where sleep is concerned (a cause for celebration over here!). It should come as no surprise to any of us, though, that the insomnia that I so love to hate is back at it so close to tomorrow’s half marathon. I have to check in at the start of the race at about 5:45 AM on Saturday morning, which means I am now about 28 hours away! Please cross your fingers right along with me that I’ll be able to wind down for a solid night of sleep later tonight. (Tomorrow night? It’s unclear. But you catch my drift.)

In honor of the 13.1 miles I have ahead of me — and also because it’s fun — I’m sharing 13 random facts about myself below. I bet even my close friends and family members won’t know them all : )

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Don’t mind the man lurking behind me. I’m just hangin’ out in my favorite hat.

  1. It took me a truly embarrassingly long time to learn to ride a two-wheeler. By the time I had it down, I was probably closer to seven than six. Even then, I refused to turn left, and instead rode loops in one direction for hours at a time in the parking lot of my dad’s high school (which was the place where, after months of hard work, I finally figured the whole thing out).
  2. The fact that our guests weren’t allowed to shower Matt and I with rainbow sprinkles as we walked down the aisle after our ceremony was one of the very few things about our wedding that didn’t go the way I wanted it to. Believe me, I asked. More than once.
  3. I played Kim MacAfee in a Girl Scout camp production of Bye, Bye Birdie circa 2003. It was the single highlight of my musical theater career.
  4. Since moving to New York, I’ve developed an irrational fear of falling down the stairs. I blame all of the frantic trips down the subway steps.
  5. It took me three tries to get my driver’s license, but I haven’t so much as scratched or dented a car since then (knock on wood).
  6. I know every word to “Paradise By the Dashboard Lights,” thanks to a loooooonnnngggg family road trip to Canada a few years ago during which we listened to an old Meatloaf CD and little else.
  7. I bake a mean chocolate chip cookie.
  8. Halloween is my absolute least favorite holiday. I know this is a highly controversial opinion, but I hope we can still be friends.
  9. Disneyworld commercials make me cry. Ever since our honeymoon to Antigua, ads for Sandals all-inclusives have the same effect.
  10. As a teenager, I was one of those girls who thought it was super cool to wear cheap stilettos from Payless and the Macy’s double clearance rack to school. I felt totally fabulous, but believe me, it didn’t really match my image. Ironically, I could probably count the number of times I wear a heel annually as an adult on my fingers.
  11. When I was in third grade, I started a class newspaper.
  12. On the rare occasion that I go on a YouTube binge, I typically stick to videos of Jimmy Fallon’s Puppy Predictors and clips of “Hot Topics” from The View.
  13. I’ve always hated coffee, but now that so much of my work life revolves around meetings and work sessions in coffee shops, I’m learning to drink it. I have to admit that in the hot temperatures we’ve had in New York for the past few days, an iced coffee feels pretty good.

Happy weekending, everyone! If you’re feeling inspired by my random confessions, feel free to leave a random fact about yourself in the comments below. In case you couldn’t tell already, this is a judgement-free zone.

And don’t forget to check back in early next week… Tuesday is giveaway day! I can’t wait to share this month’s prize with you! 

 

eight month recap.

Hi, everyone! I hope you all had an amazing weekend and that you showered the mamas in your life with all of the love and rainbow sprinkles-covered ice cream sundaes they deserve. My heart also always goes out at this time of year to anyone missing their mom. Along with so many others, I usually share thoughts about my own loved ones on social media on occasions like Mother’s Day — and as much as I enjoy doing that, I imagine that it’s not easy to scroll through Facebook or Instagram on a day like yesterday when you are mourning someone special in your own life. If that situation sounds like your own, please know that I am sending you a hug : )

Matt and I were on the road again this weekend, celebrating my sister Juli’s college graduation in Pittsburgh! We are so proud of the amazing things she’s done over the last four years, and I just know that she is going to do even more amazing things in the future. I hope some of you are lucky enough to have her as your kids’ teacher! It was really fun to be part of the weekend — and to pretend (for a few hours on Saturday night, at least) that we were back in college ourselves.

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We’ve been doing so. much. weekend. travel. recently (mostly for really fun stuff, so I don’t mean to complain!), and my eighth month of freelance life (eight months?! can you believe it?) has had a different kind of rhythm. I’m finding that what’s been most difficult and overwhelming for me these past four weeks has been managing my ongoing to-do list. We’re so all over the place with our travels that it’s hard to get into a consistent routine where I can jump into the swing of things every Monday and accomplish everything that needs to be accomplished.

In my “old life” — and for the first few months of freelancing — I really prided myself on always having 100% of my to-do list finished. My boss and I would communicate about the tasks needing to be completed, I would organize them daily or weekly, and a few check marks later, I’d be all set! Lately, I’m realizing that I’m carrying over a lot of tasks or goals from one week to the next (and sometimes to the next week after that). Let me tell you — for a perfectionist like me, this can feel a little bit like failure.

I thought more about this over the weekend, though, and I’ve realized that — far from failure — this eighth month has just been a transition. My to-do list feels a little long and unmanageable now because, in addition to the shorter term assignments that I can more easily accomplish on shorter deadlines, I’m keeping track of bigger picture tasks — longer-term stories that I want to find homes for, contacts that I want to make at new outlets, and ideas on how to grow my writing career and this blog. These projects can’t happen overnight, and they don’t have firm deadlines, so it’s natural to tackle them more more slowly. I need to keep reminding myself that all to-do list items are not created equal. In this busy season of travel, those bigger items may take longer to complete, but they will be completed — as long as I can take control of my perfectionist tendencies and resist the urge to freak out each time I carry over a project to the next week!

This realization has given me even more respect for all managers and bosses out there, especially the ones I was lucky enough to work under during my time in corporate America. Successfully staying on top of daily tasks while also maintaining a bigger picture view of a team’s goals and next steps is no joke, friends! I’m managing a team of one (myself!) and it’s still a little overwhelming sometimes. If any of you have any suggestions about the best way to keep track of these multiple “levels” of projects/to-do list items, I’d love to hear them! As you all know, I’m a little obsessed with anything that involves my paper planner or getting things organized into a system : )

Month number eight has definitely been full of some growing pains! You can check out my last monthly recap here.

lessons from the mothers in my life.

One of the biggest blessings of having grown up as a child of divorce is the fact that, compared to most, I’ve had (quite literally) double the family: double the people to laugh with, double the people to cry to, double the people to learn from, and double the people to hug through the good times and the bad. With Mother’s Day coming up this weekend, I feel especially grateful to have been inspired by so many amazing maternal figures in my almost-27 (eek!) years of life.

I have a mom who’s been my very best friend for as long as I can remember, a stepmom who totally accepted me as her own daughter when I was three years old, and grandmothers who have given and loved me with all that they have every single day. These women are the foundation of everything I am and everything that I believe, and I am endlessly, humbly grateful for their influence, generosity, and love. In honor of Mother’s Day, I’d love to share with you some of the lessons I’ve learned from the mothers in my life over the years:

  • Don’t wait around for other people to define you or give you permission to be yourself.
  • It’s OK to be sassy sometimes.
  • Always do the right thing, even when it’s hard.
  • You never know who you’re going to run into. (I know this one means I shouldn’t leave the apartment looking like a mess, so I’m sorry that I don’t follow it all the time).
  • Your friends are a reflection of who you are.
  • Keep a healthy perspective. There are always people in the world with struggles more serious than your own.
  • Eating ice cream for dinner is allowed in the summertime, and cake for breakfast is required on your birthday.
  • Take good care of your skin.
  • It’s never too late to start over, or start again.
  • You are the only one responsible for your own happiness.
  • There’s no shame in doing things that other people don’t understand.
  • Doing well is important, but doing good is even more important.
  • True kindness is about doing something nice for someone else and not telling them about it.
  • Staying in bed too late is a waste of the day.
  • There is always more you can be doing with your time. Use it, because you’re capable of more than you realize.
  • When it doubt, go to the beach. Or find a puppy to hug.
  • Don’t let anyone or anything break your spirit.
  • Make your home a place where people know they can find good food and a good listener.
  • Never be a quitter.
  • Being kind to everyone isn’t the same as allowing others to be unkind to you.
  • Celebrate every last little thing.
  • Family comes first, always.

I could probably spend three more hours adding to this list, but I’m starting to tear up so I’m going to stop : ) How lucky am I? These women in my life are wise and loving rock stars, and I hope I can grow to fill even a fraction of their shoes.

One of my favorite parts about my wedding was having a chance to take photos with some of the most special people in my life. Here are a few of my favorite pictures from the day, of me with my mom, stepmom, and grandmothers. It broke my heart that one of my grandmothers wasn’t there with us, but I was wearing her bracelet in her memory! I know she was there in spirit.

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Happy Mother’s Day to all of you amazing mamas out there. You make us who we are! I hope your weekend is full of homemade cookies, family hugs, and sunny weather. xo

i’m all ears!

Does the title of this post make any other ’90s kids out there think about the jingle for Radio Disney? (“Radio Disney….. we’re. all. ears!”) No? OK — maybe don’t tell me. I was a big fan of all things Disney as a kid, and the radio station was no exception… even though, now that I think about it, it was actually a lot of ads and interviews with people I didn’t even know. Also, the reception was never that clear.

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In all honesty, though, I am all ears, and I’m really interested in checking in again to see what you’re thinking of the blog and how you’d like to see it continue to develop, especially since we’e gained some new readers in the last few months (hi! so happy to have you here!). I really am listening, and there are no wrong answers. I would love for you to share your feedback below. Even if you’ve responded to the other surveys I’ve posted, I think your updated opinions are really important!

Thanks so much for being part of my blog family! xo