new year, new book recommendations.

I think a lot of people out there must have “READ MORE” listed among their New Year’s resolutions for 2018, because I’ve gotten so many requests over the last few days for book recommendations. These are requests that I’m more than happy to get, since there are few kinds of talk that I love more than book talk — plus, they give me the opportunity to put my handy book log to good use.

That’s right, friends — I have a book log.

I started tracking my reading back in 2014, and it’s turned into a seriously hefty Google Doc in the years since. At that time, I was working in publishing, so it was really helpful from a work perspective to keep tabs on exactly what I’d read and how I felt about it, but I loved logging my books so much that I kept it up even when I didn’t “have to ” for work anymore. People know that I’m a bookworm and tend to ask for my recommendations fairly often, so it’s actually been really helpful to have a central list of what I’ve read, what I’ve loved, and what I’ve (sadly) hated. I won’t reveal my organization or ratings system because it’s a little embarrassing (nerd alert! nerd alert!), but I will tell you that if you’re a reader like me, you might want to consider creating your own!

Thanks to my book log (yes, that’s exactly what it’s saved as in my Google Drive), I could go on and on with recommendations for thousands of words, but I’m going to keep it short with a few quick suggestions for the new year! You may have seen me mention some of these in my recent monthly goal recaps (check out the latest one here), but I’m sharing a few more details below so it’s even easier for you to pick your next read!

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#1: The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls: It’s challenging for me to find a memoir that I stick with start to finish because I just tend to prefer books that are totally fictional, but The Glass Castle was so mind-blowing that it was hard to believe that it was actually a true story. But it is! Jeannette Walls shares the story of her untraditional (to say the least) upbringing in West Virginia, with a father whose alcoholism is matched only by his kindness and imagination and a mother who simply wanted to keep her family together. The author’s journey out of her moldy (literally) childhood home and into New York City is inspiring and emotional, and I found myself wanting to learn even more about her lfe when I’d finished.

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#2: The Best of Everything by Rona Jaffe: I read this for the first time just after I moved to New York, and it quickly became a favorite, since it tells the story of young women working in the publishing business (just like I was when I first came to the city!) in the fifties. I recently reread it, and it was amazing to realize the perspective that I’ve gained in the few years in between. It read almost like a different book entirely! I firmly believe that every woman should read this book, especially given today’s extremely important dialogue about professional parity and safe workplaces. You’ll especially enjoy it if you were a Mad Men fan, since it has the same sense of New York City glamour and excitement.

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#3: Amanda Wakes Up by Alisyn Camerota: The most interesting thing about this book was the extent to which the storyline predicted much of the media landscape during the 2016 presidential election. Author Alisyn Camerota (also one of my favorite CNN anchors) actually wrote much of Amanda Wakes Up prior to the height of the frenzy around Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton, and yet somehow, much of the events of the book came true in real life! So interesting! The world of cable news is also just fascinating to me, and if you feel the same, you’ll really love this read.

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#4: Breaking Free by Rachel Jeffs: I’m crazy intrigued by stories of cults and fringe religious communities in the same way that other people are fascinated by true crime, and this account of life in the FLDS (a more extreme, militant offshoot of the Mormon church) by the daughter of one of its scariest leaders was about as shocking as I expected it to be. I read it cover to cover in less than two days!

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#5: Crazy Rich Asians by Kevin Kwan: One of my friends has been recommending this to me for ages, and when I saw the beautifully lush preview images from the upcoming film adaptation in Entertainment Weekly recently, I knew the time had come for me to finally read it! With the holidays, I didn’t have as much time to read as I would have liked, but this is definitely the kind of book that I would have devoured in hours-long chunks if I’d been able to. The characters are amazing, the descriptions are beautiful, and the whole thing just made me want to jump on a plane to Singapore ASAP.

How about you? Have you read anything that you’ve just loved recently? I’d love to hear more in the comments below!

(Please note that, while I’ve included Amazon links for each of these books to make your life easier, I am also super in favor of you heading out and supporting your local bookseller. If there’s one in your neighborhood, don’t forget to help them out. They’re doing such important work in our communities! )

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monthly goals recap -> december + january.

As I write this, there is a ton of snow falling from the sky (at crazy speeds — and in all directions!) thanks to this crazy “Bomb Cyclone” we’re experiencing here on the East Coast. Oh, I am so not cut out for winter. Nothing makes this whole “city living” thing feel or look less glamorous than a nasty snow storm. Grubby boots and grimy snow and subway rides that start off freezing and end up with you sweating like it’s the middle of the summer because you’re wearing so many layers… it’s just as fabulous as Carrie Bradshaw made it out to be, right? Check out my current view:

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Let’s just say I’m pretty happy on days like today that working from home is my default!

Following up on Wednesday’s Word Of the Year post, I’m here to recap December and January goals for you! I’m especially excited to share my goals this month, because it’s the first time I’ve been able to work on goals with my new Powersheets, which are (quite literally) a GOAL PLANNER. You know I love my Passion Planner (and I always will), but Powersheets have definitely added another layer to the way things are operating around here.

December was an interesting one for me.

Technically, it’s my second December as a freelancer, but in a lot of ways, it felt like the first. In December 2016, I was just starting out as my own boss, and my plate was a lot less full than I may have been letting on : ) At that time, I was doing a lot of outreach to editors and other potential clients, but I didn’t have many deadlines, and I was really able to enjoy the holiday stress-free. When I made my goals for December 2017 (you can read more about those here), I honestly didn’t know what it would be like to balance a fuller workload with the schedule changes and general shake-ups that are par for the course in the last month of the year. And it showed! I wasn’t as successful as I would have liked to be on my work goals for December, largely because I didn’t account for the fact that it would be harder to get in touch with people around the holidays… and to plan around my own holiday preparations! Next year, I’ll know better.

Here are all the December details:

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  • Be more intentional about early morning work time. I don’t think I can fully give myself a checkmark on this one, but I did take some baby steps in the right direction. I didn’t set an early alarm as many days as I would have liked to (partially because I was sick for a few days mid-month), but I did get myself out of bed and working (without an alarm) more often than usual.
  • Start 2018 planning. √ YES! Now armed with two planners, you can bet that I spent A LOT of time on this last month. It was exciting — if a little scary — to get specific about the things I want to accomplish in 2018.
  • Work on the book three days a week, every week.  Between being sick and traveling for the holidays and (if I’m being honest) getting distracted with the end of the year, I definitely lost some momentum on the book in December. There’s always next month!
  • Read three books. √ YES! I finished Hillary Rodham Clinton’s What Happened (which I would recommend no matter how you feel about HRC), What We Lose (a quick and beautiful — but heartbreaking — read that I don’t think you should read until any winter blues you might be experiencing have passed), and Breaking Free (say what you will about this choice, but I finished it in less than two days).
  • Successfully pitch to editors at my focus outlets for the month. December was not a great pitching month. I sent pitches to some of my regular editors, but not for anything super exciting. My head just wasn’t in the game, and I didn’t want to send anything that felt half baked.
  • Avoid shopping for gifts last-minute. I was so close to succeeding at this one! For the first time ever, I did most of my shopping online — but I ended up experiencing some shipping issues with a few gifts that forced me into a last-minute scramble on December 22.

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  • Continue to cultivate holiday excitement. √ YES! I can confidently say that I succeeded at this one! Matt and I agree that this was one of our favorite holiday seasons to date.
I’m really excited about my January goals!

I think goal-setting is most fun at the beginning of the year, when you’re feeling really clear about your vision for the 12 months ahead and can be that much more intentional about making sure your short-term plans match up with the big picture. One of my favorite things about my new Powersheets is the way they’re encouraging me to look at goals in a different way — more specifically, to break them down into monthly, weekly, and daily chunks in a way that ensures I’m still keeping my eye on the prize.

I know I talk a lot about goals here, and maybe you’re asking yourself why it’s such a focus for me, or why I need all these tools to help me get it done. Totally fair questions!

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All of this work around goal-setting does for me as a freelancer what working with my managers and supervisors did for me when I was working my corporate job. People often ask me how I’m able to work for myself and work from my apartment full-time without getting distracted, and it’s this discipline of setting goals (and using multiple tools to do it!) that’s really been key for me. I don’t have anyone giving me performance reviews or sitting down to share feedback with me after a project’s complete anymore, and this is the next best thing! I’m always happy to answer questions about all of this, though, so feel free to ask in the comments below or to send me an email.

ANYWAY, here’s what’s up for January:

  • Create a list of target outlets for the year. So many exciting things happened in 2017, and I want to make sure I continue to create opportunities for myself and my writing in the new year. I’m going to spend time this month putting together a list of “dream” sites and outlets that I’d love to be published in by the end of 2018.
  • Work on the book three to four times a week, every week. The chaos of the holidays is behind me, and it’s time to re-focus on this very important passion project.
  • No sweets during the week. If you’ve been reading the blog for a while, you know this isn’t the first time I’ve challenged myself this way. This kind of health goal works really well for me because I’m not trying to lose a lot of weight or revamp my workout schedule — I just know that my sweet tooth is probably my biggest downfall in this area, and by retraining my appetite for a while, I know I can get it back under control so that I don’t need to restrict myself anymore.
  • Get back on track with weekly pitching. Once again, I’m aiming to send one “big” pitch or pitch to a new editor every week. Something I’m planning to incorporate more in 2018 is batch working, which means that I’ll try to block out my time in such a way that I’m doing similar kinds of work all at once. At this point, I think that Fridays are going to be my pitch days. I’ll spend a few hours each Friday at a coffee shop (maybe eating a pastry) and putting together ideas for my editors. The biggest hurdle I find with pitching is that it’s easy to get distracted with other, more urgent work while I’m trying to do it, but by Fridays, I’ve usually met all of my deadlines for the week — and I think that getting a change of scenery will help, too!
  • Eat better lunches. I’m really bad at eating lunch. I either don’t eat enough or I go way over the top with something too involved and complicated. I really want to work on this in January!
  • Continue podcast research. Starting a podcast is one of my “big” goals for 2018, and while it feels like an extremely overwhelming project, the best way to start is, well, to start! I did a little research about the logistics of podcasting at the end of 2017, but I want to do more this month so that I’m ready to start brainstorming concepts for my show in February. (Ahh! So weird putting that out into the universe!)

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  • Plan weekend trips with Matt. Ugh… isn’t the post-holidays winter so depressing? Matt and I want to plan some little getaways for the first few months of the year, so we need to get on that.
  • Read 3-4 books. My goal for the year is to read 40 books, and I’m ready to get back into a good groove with reading now that life has settled down a bit.
  • Stop checking Instagram first thing in the morning. Four days into this one, and I can already tell you that it’s been worthwhile. I’ll report back with more when I recap January!

What are your goals for January? I’d love for you to share them in the comments below!

 

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my word for 2018.

Happy New Year, friends!

I hope your 2018 is already feeling great, and I’m happy to report that mine is! We spent the holiday weekend with friends in Philadelphia, and it was the perfect way to kick off the new year. It’s become a tradition for us to spend New Year’s Eve with Matt’s best friend and his fiancée, and this year, we had another set of friends fly in to be with us, too! Matt’s really lucky to have a close-knit set of friends from college — and I’m just as lucky to have been adopted into this group of truly good guys and the women they’ve chosen to spend their lives with. We ate sushi, played board games, drank wine, danced to our friends’ soon-to-be wedding band, and celebrated the stroke of midnight high above Philadelphia surrounded by windows, so we had an amazing view of the lights below and, of course, the fireworks. We also spent a few hours at a trampoline park (yes, that’s right, a trampoline park), which was as fun as it sounds! The six of us were easily the oldest people there without kids, and the jury’s still out on whether or not everyone else was thrilled to have us there — but we had a great time, and it made for a great workout, too. Who knew you could be so sore from climbing out of a giant foam pit? Not me. (I wish I had photos, but I was afraid my phone would fall out of my pocket and break!)

It’s never easy to come back to reality after a holiday, but I have to admit that it’s been nice settling back in here in Brooklyn. I was still mostly plugged in and working while I was staying at my parents’ house last week, and as much as I love the flexibility of working for myself and being mostly mobile, it’s definitely easier to get things done from my own apartment and office. I also always love the feeling of being home and back in the routine of buying groceries and cooking meals and going to the gym. Last night, we took down all of the holiday decorations, and even though it always feels a little sad to clear out the tree and all the tinsel (how does the season always go so fast?), it was nice to be able to deep clean the apartment and get back into our usual groove. When you live in a tiny little space, that tree takes up valuable real estate!

A new year, of course, means new resolutions, but if you’ve been hanging around here for a while, you might remember that I actually prefer to share a word of the year, instead of a specific set of goals. My word for 2017 was ABUNDANCE (you can read all the details here), and I can honestly say that keeping it top of mind — and on my desk! — was a driving force for me over the past 12 months. This last year was an abundance of work, opportunities, challenges, fun, and growth for me. I think I was able to frame it that way for myself because I’d decided to be intentional about seeking abundance in my daily life. Otherwise, it may have just felt like straight-up overwhelm.

Knowing how much I benefitted from having a focus word for 2017, I was really excited to choose one for 2018. I recently invested in a set of Powersheets from the awesome team over at Cultivate What Matters (I’ll share more about this later in the week when I post my goals for January), and I loved the process it laid out for figuring out the perfect word of the year. Thanks to Powersheets and some soul-searching on my own, I came up with…

WELCOME

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Friends, this couldn’t be more perfect for the year I have ahead. Here are some of the notes I jotted in my Powersheets that led me to choose it.

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2018 is likely to be a big year of change for Matt and I. There’s a good chance that we’ll be making a major transition to a new city, which brings with it all kinds of other transitions. I want to start this year with a mindset of welcoming change and embracing the opportunity it presents to continue to grow my marriage and make me a stronger, more adaptable person.

I want to welcome hard work, welcome new avenues for my writing, welcome new ideas, and welcome people with less judgment. I want to escape some of the internal “noise” I have about money and instead welcome the fruits of my hard work and use those resources to give back to others and make myself feel special, too! I want to welcome opportunities to try new things both in my work life and my personal life. I want to welcome good habits and embrace an attitude of health and consistency. I want people to feel welcome in my home. I want to feel welcome in my own skin by cutting back on the negative self-talk that so many of us are guilty of every day.

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Just like ABUNDANCE before it, WELCOME is now framed on my desk, ready to help me kick the new year into high gear. I would be lying if I said that the changes ahead of me this year aren’t a little intimidating, but I am going to try to do more than tolerate or deal with them. I want to do my best to welcome them!

Do you have a word in mind to inspire you in 2018? I’d love to hear more! Feel free to share in the comments below.
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december giveaway winner announced!

It’s officially my last blog post of 2017… and the full weight of the fact that I’ve now completed my first full calendar year here on Finding Plan A is hitting me (quite literally) as I type this. As always, I’m grateful to all of you for your support this year, and I’d love for you to continue to read and share — let’s grow our community, shall we? — in the months to come. Friends, you’re really the best, best, BEST!

That said, I’m psyched to announce the winner of the last giveaway of the year, based on a random drawing. Thanks to all who entered to win this month’s prize (a $30 gift card to Barnes & Noble)!

Congratulations to…

Maddie Boardman!

Yay! You’re the winner! I’ll be sending your prize via email by the end of the day today. 

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I’ll see you all on the other side of the new year (we have some serious 2018 and January goals to discuss, people). In the meantime, have a fun, safe, and happy celebration!

 

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2017 in review.

Hi, friends! I hope you’re having a great week!

Both the Christmas and New Year’s holidays fall in such a weird way this year, but I hope that — whether you celebrated Christmas or not — you’re able to steal at least a few minutes here and there to rest and recharge. I’m currently back in Pennsylvania spending time with family, which has been really nice. One of my sisters was studying abroad this past semester and another was away at school, so this is the first time in almost four months that we’ve all been together! The time apart makes you that much more grateful for the hours you do have with family. Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to take this week off from work entirely, but I’m happy (as always) to have the flexibility to write and log hours from anywhere so that I can spend a few extra days with them. I’ll head back to New York City tomorrow afternoon to prepare for our New Year’s travels, but in the meantime, I’m soaking in all the binge watching and leftover Christmas cookies I can!

With 2018 just a few days away, I wanted to take a few minutes to reflect back on some of the high points (and even some of the not-so-high points) of the past twelve months. 2017 was quite a year, and there’s no way for me to include everything, so I thought I’d do what any Instagram lover would do and use my #2017bestnine as a starting point.

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Initial reactions? Including Matt in my Instagram posts obviously makes them a lot more popular! Matt, prepare to continue seeing your cute face all over social media in the new year. Let’s give the people what they want!

Anyway, here are a few more thoughts about these best-liked photos and how they were significant to my year.
  • In July, Matt and I traveled to Turks & Caicos with some of my family to celebrate my little sister’s high school graduation. My sisters didn’t know that we’d be coming, and it was so fun to surprise them at the airport with our bags packed and ready to go! This trip was especially significant because it was the first (and only, honestly) time since I’ve gone freelance that I officially went out of office. (Sigh.)
  • In June, we celebrated our first wedding anniversary with a trip to southern Maine. Marriage continues to be such an incredible experience, and doing life with Matt is the greatest blessing. Halfway into Year Two, I can say confidently that it’s only getting better and better!
  • September marked one full year since I left my corporate job and began working for myself. Even though it’s now been three months since I enjoyed this milestone, I still find it hard to believe that I’ve been at this for a full calendar year… but then again, I also kind of feel like I’ve been doing it forever. I continue to feel nothing but gratitude for all of the opportunities that I’ve had over the course of this journey — even the ones that come disguised as challenges!
  • Matt won the Hamilton lottery the week before Christmas, and we got to enjoy our favorite show from the second row. Such a fun surprise! The timing was tough, since my family lost our cat the same day, but I did my best to go with the flow (not always my best thing!) and feel all of the things at once. We lost our dog on the other side of my family this year, as well, so 2017 was a hard year of goodbyes to my childhood pets.
  • Marriage isn’t always easy, and Matt and I continued to work hard at learning more about each other and at being good partners (and at taking good pictures, of course). One thing we’ve found especially helpful is something we call The Appreciation Game — and it’s been fun to hear our friends talk about how they’ve adopted it since I shared it here on the blog! Every night before bed (even if one of us is traveling), each of us shares one specific thing that the other person did to make them grateful that day. Sometimes, it can feel like a stretch (just being honest!), but being intentional about that time daily has been really beneficial for us.
  • We spent the first two weeks of October traveling in northern California, starting in San Francisco, driving down the coast to Monterey, and finishing up with ten days at a cozy Airbnb in Mill Valley. Read more in my recap posts here and here.
  • We laughed a lot. That’s really all I can say about photo #7 up there.
  • We celebrated the wedding of two of our favorite people in Mystic, CT. And somehow we ruined a perfect sunset with a hilarious, mean muggin’ personality pic.
  • We experienced off-season at the Jersey shore for the first time — and we loved it! The only thing better than laying on the beach in a bathing suit is exploring the beach in a cozy sweatshirt.
What were the highlights of your 2017? I’d love to hear more about them in the comments below!

….AND don’t forget to enter this month’s giveaway! One lucky winner will receive a $30 gift card to Barnes & Noble. Literally, the ultimate prize (if you ask me, at least). All you have to do to enter to win is comment on my last post. I’ll be drawing and announcing the winner here on the blog this Friday 12/29, so get those entries in ASAP! Be sure to send the link to your bookworm friends so they have a chance, as well! 

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december giveaway!

I’ve been writing a lot of astrology content for Bustle this week, and between that and all of the last-minute holiday shopping issues I’ve had, I’m now fully convinced that this whole Mercury retrograde business is very, very real. (Good news, though — retrograde is over as of today! I’m basically an expert now.) The sick irony of the whole thing is that this year, I did all of my shopping online a few weeks ahead of time precisely to avoid the last-minute scramble. Typically, I buy gifts in-person, because I actually like the experience of being in the store, but I tried to catch up to the rest of the world by sticking to online shopping this year. Anddddd of course (as I’ve now been assured by customer service representatives at no less than three vendor help lines), I somehow ended up as part of the very unlucky 1% of people who find themselves at the receiving end of incorrect tracking information and/or items that just don’t seem to have shipped even though I was told they’d been put on a truck days ago. What. are. the. odds? HAH! So, that’s where we are. Thanks, Mercury!

All of that being said, I am extremely happy that it’s GIVEAWAY DAY, because it means I have the chance to gift one of you with something fun — absolutely no hassle required.

The December giveaway prize is a $30 gift card to Barnes & Noble!

You all know how much I love to read, so this is a prize I would definitely like to win myself! The amount should cover one hardcover or two paperbacks, and I’m happy to offer a few recommendations to the lucky winner. I already have a few ideas in mind!

All you have to do to enter to win this giveaway is COMMENT on this post! As always, I’d love to see you share this link with friends so that more people have a chance to win and ring in the new year with a great read (and to check out the blog!). I run a giveaway every month, so you can count on another opportunity to win something else very soon. I’ll draw the winner randomly one week from today, Friday 12/29. The winner will be announced right here on the blog. Good luck!

In the meantime, I hope that all of those celebrating have a very merry, cozy Christmas! May you eat lots of cookies and stay in your pajamas for as long as possible.

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cookie swap 2017.

Like the rest of the world, I’m running around at a million miles per hour this week taking care of final holiday preparations, wrapping up a few work projects (even though it looks like I’m going to have to plenty to do next week, ugh), and getting ready to travel this weekend. I don’t have a ton of time to blog (sorry!), but I did want to check in quickly and share a few notes about our cookie swap this past weekend.

We had our first cookie swap last year (you can read more about that here),and pretty much decided the following day that we wanted it to become an annual thing. Matt’s love language is cookies and I’ll take any opportunity to throw a party (especially around the holidays) — plus, we loved the fact that it gave us a chance to raise some money for a good cause during a season when it’s easy to forget to be generous. Every person who comes to one of our swaps brings $10 with them, and we donate all of the money to Alex’s Lemonade Stand. The organization benefits, the guests leave with bellies and bags full of cookies, Matt’s drowning in leftover baked goods for weeks… everybody wins!

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I try to make a few dozen cookies myself to take some pressure off our guests and to ensure that there are plenty of cookies to go around. Baking is one of my favorite things, anyway, and I always find it to be a super stress reliever. This year, I made a few of my go-to recipes, plus some new things, and I was pretty happy with how all of them turned out!

  • Peppermint Bark: Not officially a cookie, but always a hit at holiday parties and bake sales. They look kind of fancy and everyone’s impressed when they find out you made them from scratch, but it’s one of the easiest things I’ve ever made! This is a great recipe to use as a starting point, but I always swap semisweet chocolate in for the milk chocolate. I also find that it really helps with the texture (and prevents the chocolate from burning), when you add a bit of canola or vegetable oil to the saucepan as you melt both types of chocolate.
  • Cranberry + White Chocolate Chip Cookies: Take your favorite standard chocolate chip cookie recipe (I have one that I’ll never share!), swap white chocolate in for semisweet chips, and add craisins. Instead of vanilla extract, use almond extract (a little bit less almond than you would vanilla). I swear on rainbow sprinkles that this is the ultimate holiday cookie, and I look forward to them all year long.
  • Double Chocolate Oatmeal Cookies: This was a new one for me! I’m generally not a huge cookie person (which makes it a lot easier for me to have all of these cookies around the apartment for the swap!), but I’ve been really into oatmeal cookies this year, so I wanted to make a version for the party. I used this recipe and sprinkled metallic sanding sugar on top for some festive sparkle.
  • Cut-Out Sugar Cookies: I shared all my feelings about cut-out sugar cookies on Instagram over the weekend, but suffice it to say that I kind of find them to be a HUGE. PAIN. They’re labor intensive and really messy (have you figured out that I’m a neat freak yet?), and I’m just not totally convinced that the finished product merits all that work. But, Matt loves them and they’re basically the ultimate holiday treat, so I caved and brought them back for this year. I used this recipe from The Kitchn, which I would recommend hands down. The cream cheese adds a great flavor, and they were really easy to roll out. I used powdered sugar instead of flour to work the dough for the first time (a little trick I picked up from too many hours of watching baking shows), and I think that also made a big difference. Who knows? I might even make them again next year without complaining!

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Do you have a favorite cookie recipe that you bring out for the holidays? I’d love to hear more about it in the comments below!

AND check back here on Friday for the final giveaway of 2017! I heard a few of you loud and clear when you said you’re looking for non-jewelry prizes (it’s not too late to take the survey if you haven’t yet!), so I’ll be shaking things up for December. See you then! 

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how did i do this year?

You already know this if you’ve been stopping by this space for a while, but I love getting feedback from readers — which is why I ask you for it every few months.

Seriously. Each time I put out a survey asking for your thoughts on how I can continue to grow and improve the blog, I feel giddy with every response that comes back. Even when I find out that there’s still work for me to do (and isn’t there always?), it makes me so happy to think that someone’s taken a few minutes of their time to share their thoughts on something that’s important to me. So if you’ve already replied to one of my previous surveys — I’m genuinely grateful! Thank you so much!

With the end of the year creeping (or rushing, depending on what day you ask me) toward us, I’m starting to plan for 2018, and since I obviously want to be sure that I’m continuing to deliver content that you actually want to read and can’t help but share with your friends, I’m asking for your help… again.

If you feel inspired, I’d love if you could pour yourself a glass of wine or a mug of hot chocolate and give me a dose of real deal feedback below.

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Your feedback really does guide me moving forward, so don’t hesitate! We’re hosting our big Cookie Swap this weekend, so if your response is heavy with constructive criticism, I’ll have plenty of cookies to ease my pain and help me bounce back fast : ) Thanks, in advance, for your thoughts! And have an amazing weekend!

 

 

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the WFH challenges of the holiday season.

Happy Tuesday, friends! (This feels super weird to say because it’s a fact universally acknowledged that Tuesday is the unhappiest day of the week. But it’s the holiday season, so we’ve all gotta spread as much cheer as we can whenever possible, right?)

Tell me — do you notice anything different here today?

I should hope so! I spent some time over the weekend (when I wasn’t binge watching the most recent season of The Great British Baking Show, of course) installing a new look over here on Finding Plan A and generally moving some things around. What do you think!?!? I, for one, am super psyched about it! It’s really fun to get a jump on the new year with a fresh design and I’m feeling all kinds of energized about continuing to grow this little space with you in 2018. Thanks, as always, for your support! (Also, if you’re ever in the market for a new theme for your own WordPress, check out Bluchic. The prices are super reasonable and everything is fully customizable, plus user-friendly.)


Now that we’re done collectively fawning over the new look of the blog — you can continue to fawn if you’re not finished, of course — I wanted to share some thoughts I’ve been having recently about the particular challenges I’ve noticed about working from home during the holiday season. I’ll start with the disclaimer that I fully realize that working from home is, in many ways, a serious luxury. Having commuted in and out of a corporate office for five years, I totally feel your pain if you’re over there thinking to yourself, “This girl and her whining! She’s working out of her apartment!” I really do get it. All of that being said, I’ve been doing a lot of reflecting about this whole self-employed-freelance-creative-working-from-home lifestyle lately… and you know that I can’t help but fill you in.

This time last year, I was very new to freelancing. If I’m being honest, I was spending most of my working hours chasing down work, and I could devote all the time I wanted to my few paying gigs because, well, there really weren’t many. Officially, I didn’t take “off” at all during the holiday season — but I wasn’t exactly overextended. I remember last year’s holiday as a time to really savor the fact that I’d taken the leap and embarked on a new journey. I wish I’d appreciated it for what it was: a time to rest and relax before real work picked up and I became a full-on freelancer who also had no choice but to become a bit of a workaholic. This year, I’m faced with a very different (but good) problem: when — and how — can I take some real time off to recharge before the new year?

If it sounds like I’m patting myself on the back, I might be (just a little). The holidays always stick out in my memory, so it’s easier than ever these days to think back to last year and realize how much has changed… and what all of that means for the progress I’ve made over the last twelve months.

There are, however, some unique challenges to working from home and working for myself at this time of year. Some are serious and some are a little silly, but I’m here to share them all with you today. Fellow WFH-ers, I know you feel my pain.

  • I miss all the fun holiday vibes! Working in an office in December felt a little like being back in elementary school, with gift exchanges and cookies being passed around and festive sweaters. Plus, we got to leave early once or twice for a holiday party. How great is that?
  • Our holiday decorations are admittedly a little distracting. As you know, we tend to go a little crazy around here with our seasonal decor (you can read/see all the details here), and sometimes I’m really tempted to spend more time than is appropriate just taking in the winter wonderland. I definitely allow myself to work in the living room more often than usual these days, but it’s hard to strike the right balance between my workspaces.
  • I can’t stop picking up pine needles. Here, my friends, is the downside to those beautiful holiday decorations that I was just gushing over. Our tree is pretty much shedding constantly, and neat freak that I am, I can’t help but try to retrieve every single pine needle I find on the floor. When you’re home all day, you just notice these things more! It’s driving me cuh-ray-zee.
  • Holiday snacks are ever-present. I’m usually pretty disciplined about staying out of the kitchen between meals while I’m working, but that’s way harder when there are delicious seasonal treats sitting right. on. the, counter. SOS.
  • I feel totally overwhelmed by work. The company I worked for before I became a freelancer was officially closed between Christmas and New Year’s, so there was a natural winding down process that started to happen in early December. Yes, there was plenty to be done before the holiday, but it also seemed like all of my colleagues and I could breathe a collective sigh of relief knowing that business would have to come to a halt on December 25. That’s not what happens when you’re running your own business. If anything, I feel like I’m ramping up more than ever to ensure that all of my clients and other contacts are set to go before they leave the office for their own Christmas vacations.
  • It’s tempting to work on my other holiday to-dos. In the midst of the aforementioned overwhelm (ugh) it’s easy to consider just breaking away from my laptop and getting away from work for a bit by shopping for gifts, prepping for our upcoming Cookie Swap, or doing pretty much anything that feels both festive and even the tiniest bit productive. Also, there’s a TV full of Hallmark movies on demand mere steps from where I work. Temptation, thy name is fake snow and wholesome Christmas romances.

What do you find to be the most challenging thing about these pre-holiday weeks of work — whether you work from home or in a more traditional office? I’d love to hear how you manage those challenges in the comments below! 

 

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holiday decor + mini-thanksgiving.

As promised, today I’m sharing some photos from our super festive marathon of holiday celebrations this past weekend. In case you missed it, we decorated our apartment and cooked a belated mini-Thanksgiving dinner… all in roughly 24 hours. We don’t do things halfway here in the Kosik household!

This is our third holiday season in this apartment, so we kind of have our decoration routine down to a science. We buy a tree from a guy who sets up shop around the corner (his name is José) and Matt carries it home, which is a city phenomenon that never fails to surprise the little suburban girl inside my soul.

This year, we bought a few new seasonal throw pillows and candles, plus an ornament or two, but mostly, we used things we’d already collected. The red and white paper chain you see in the photos below is something I made by hand for our first holiday in Brooklyn, and we’ve somehow managed to keep it intact for three years now! (For the record, I was fully expecting to have to start from scratch annually.) Hanging it up is one of my favorite traditions, and if you’re looking for a low-budget, high-impact element to add to your holiday decor, I would definitely recommend making one for yourself!

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Once the apartment was properly in the festive spirit, we transitioned immediately into Thanksgiving mode! As you know if you’ve been reading the blog for a while, Matt and I started a tradition of making a mini-Thanksgiving dinner last year, and even though we made it happen a little bit late this time around, I’m really glad we did it. We absolutely love the big Thanksgiving celebration that happens with family in Pennsylvania, but it’s nice to have a smaller version, too, with just the two of us — plus, we both like to cook, and it’s been fun to figure out what recipes are going to be part of our own tradition.

We reprised a lot of the classics we made last year — a turkey breast (of course), stuffing, kale salad, cranberry sauce — but we added in a new roasted potato dish and biscuits. I also finally got around to making a recipe for apple crumble that my friend Angela gave me a few months ago. She made it for us when we visited her and her sweet family back in October, and I was waiting for the perfect time to try it myself. It was as delicious as I remembered it!

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I was honestly a little worried that squeezing our decorating day and our Thanksgiving dinner into one weekend would somehow cheapen both events, but I’m happy to admit that I was wrong. Sometimes, it makes me sad to think that we’re not always able to savor things because we’re moving so quickly through this season of our lives, and I don’t like the idea of condensing the calendar simply for the sake of getting everything done. Rather than a rush, though, this weekend just felt like the perfect mash-up of celebrations, and it launched me into the holiday season wildly quickly.

(Also, we have a fridge full of leftovers, which has been especially helpful throughout this crazy busy week. Who doesn’t love Thanksgiving leftovers?)

If you haven’t had a chance to check out my guest post over on HomeBodySoul, I’d love for you to take a look! This is about as raw and honest as I’ve gotten with sharing the story of my transition from corporate America to freelancing, and I think it will help shed a little extra light on how and why I’ve ended up where I am. Thanks so much to Meghan for giving me the platform to open up! 

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