monthly goals recap -> november + december.

Are you ready for the very last monthly goals recap of 2017?

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Now that we’re fully in the holiday spirit over here in the Kosik household (more on that later this week), it’s a little easier to believe that we’ve actually made it to December — but I still can’t quite wrap my head around the fact that these are the last goals I’ll be sharing before totally starting fresh in 2018.

Anyway, here’s how I did in November:

  • Land one new outlet.√ YES! Catch something exciting and fun live on a new site in mid-January. I’ll be sure to share it with you!
  • Work on my book at least three days of every week. √ YES! All the praise hand emojis for the fact that I’ve maintained momentum on the book into November. If you’ve been following this journey for a while, you know how major this is. I did make an exception for this the week of Thanksgiving with all the travel and general chaos, but I’m still going to give this one a big, fat check mark.
  • Pitch something new or “big” weekly. The plan here was to stay motivated about pitching to a new editor or sharing a big idea for a new story with an editor I’ve already worked with — and to do one of those things on a weekly basis. I didn’t do this every week of November, but I did it almost every week, and sometimes more than once. I call this goal a success because it definitely kept business development front of mind.
  • Research “low stakes” writing classes. √ YES! I got the chance to talk to a few of my friends about writing classes they’ve taken here in New York. Based on their feedback, I can’t say I’m itching to go sign up for any of those options, but it’s good to have the info as a starting point.
  • Circle back with a few of my favorite outlets. √ YES! I’m working on a few pieces for The Kitchn that should be live in January. I’ve really missed writing for them!
  • Research podcasts and other new projects. √ YES! I started investigating the basics of starting a podcast, and I’m thinking more and more that it might be something I’m interested in doing in 2018. Would you listen? Is there a type of podcast that you’re always looking for, but constantly struggle to find? I’d love your feedback in the comments below! Don’t forget to check out my guest spot on the Day in the Life podcast right here.
  • Read three books. My November weekends ended up being a bit busier than I expected, so I (sadly) didn’t get a ton of reading time. I finished Sourdough (really interesting, creative magical realism vibes with an awesome San Francisco setting that took me right back to our October trip to California). I’m also quite literally a few pages away from finishing Hillary Rodham Clinton’s What Happened, which has been a bit of an emotional roller coaster. It’s a pretty intense read — and a long one, which is part of why I didn’t make my three-book goal for the month.
  • Stick to our new monthly budget. √ YES! It feels good to be tracking our spending in a more specific way. I don’t know that I would recommend launching a new budget plan in November and December — basically the two most uniquely expensive months of the year — but I’m still glad we started taking steps in this direction. And, hey, at least I already know that our spending will go way down come the new year, right?
  • Work on self care with journaling and midday walks. I’ve been a bit inconsistent with journaling, but I’ve definitely worked more walks into my routine.
  • Cultivate the holiday season early and often. √ YES! We got an early start this year with some Hallmark holiday movies (sorry, Matt) and plans for lots of fun to come for the rest of the year.

Not bad for November! After a sort of dismal goals review in October, it feels really good to be back on track this month. I’m hoping to keep it up in these final weeks of the year. Here are just a few of my goals for December:

  • Be more intentional about early morning work time. If I’m being totally honest, I’ve been feeling a little overwhelmed by my workload over the last week or so. Having a big pile of work is actually a good problem to have — but getting through that pile and somehow managing to keep your cool while you’re at it is another story entirely. Since I’m hoping to be able to take a little down time at the end of this month, I’m forging ahead, and I’ve found that setting the alarm between 5 and 6 A.M. a few days out of the week has been really helpful in setting me up for success with my to-do list. It’s nice to have some quiet time early in the day (AKA before the emails start rolling in) to get things done. I love the way it feels to look at the clock, see it’s only 9 A.M., and realize that so much has already been accomplished.
  • Start 2018 planning. I have some big picture goals in mind for the year ahead, but I need to actually put pen to paper on them and to start breaking them down into smaller pieces. I’m hoping to spend a good chunk of time doing this (in my Passion Planner, duh) during the week between Christmas and New Year’s.
  • Work on the book three days a week, every week. This goal was a great way to stay focused on my creative writing last month, so I’m bringing it back for December.
  • Read three books. I have such a stack of reading material to get to!
  • Successfully pitch to editors at my focus outlets for the month. I’m going to keep the outlets I’m talking about on the DL, but I do have a short list of sites that I’m planning to focus on before the year is out. The plan is to effectively target those sites instead of obsessively emailing new editors all month, when people are in and out of the office, anyway.
  • Avoid shopping for gifts last-minute. I’m making this an official goal because I want to get it in writing so you can (hopefully) hold me accountable to it! Somehow, no matter how hard I try, Matt and I always end up running around Brooklyn one or two days before pretty much any gift-giving holiday, gathering presents for loved ones with just hours to spare before they need to be wrapped and packed up. We still always end up with thoughtful presents to share, but I know that’s not the best way to make it happen. I’m hoping to get an earlier start this year so we’re not rushing at the final hour!
  • Continue to cultivate holiday excitement. It was so nice to make this a priority in November, so I’m going to continue it!

How are you planning to kick butt in this final month of the year? Share your goals in the comments below!

And don’t forget to sign up for the FREE webinar I’m co-hosting with my boss lady friend Brittney Lynn tomorrow (Wednesday 12/6) at 8 EST. The webinar is called Better Together: How to Reach Out to Journalists and Get More Media Mentions, and it’s going to be a super fun and casual (but also extremely informative!) conversation about how small businesses and hustlers of all kinds can work more effectively with writers like me! Sign up to join right here, and feel free to let me know if you have any questions!

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november giveaway winner announced!

Happy Friday, friends! Can you even believe that it’s already been more than a week since we all stuffed ourselves silly with turkey? I know I can’t.

My mom and I are currently away for a girls’ trip in Alexandria, VA. Yesterday, we explored some DC museums, did a little shopping, and saw The Nutcracker at the Warner Theatre, and today we’re planning on some spa time and (hopefully) plenty of lounging around the hotel. I’m more grateful than ever at moments like this that my mom and I both happen to work for ourselves — you can learn more about what she does here and here — because it’s nice to be able to set aside this quality time for each other while still staying plugged in and productive.

And, of course, just because I’m traveling, it doesn’t mean that this month’s giveaway winner has to wait one. more. second. to find out that she’s about to get herself TWO bracelets from The Shine Project. Congratulation, JULI! You’re the winner! I’ll reach out via email to make arrangements to send you your prize.

Thanks to everyone who entered, and please continue to spread the word to all of your friends about these giveaways! The next one will go live right here right before Christmas.

Before I wish you a happy weekend (Matt and I are spending ours decorating the apartment for the holidays and making our second annual mini Thanksgiving dinner), there’s one more thing I want to share. I’m so excited to announce that I’m working with my friend Brittney Lynn — the mastermind behind the Day In the Life podcast, which I was lucky enough to be the guest on this past week — on a free webinar, which we’ll be hosting on Wednesday 12/6 at 8 PM EST. The webinar is called Better Together: How to Reach Out to Journalists and Get More Media Mentions, and it’s going to be a super fun and casual (but also extremely informative!) conversation about how small businesses and hustlers of all kinds can work more effectively with writers like me! Sign up to join right here.

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my first WFH sick day.

FIRST OF ALL, I want to say a big, fat thank you to each and every one of you who reached out with encouraging words about my very first podcast guest spot! AHHH! This was such a bucket list thing for me, and I’m so grateful to everyone who tuned in. And if you haven’t listened yet, you can check it out here (or you can find it as the most recent episode of the Day in the Life podcast on iTunes, Stitcher, etc.).

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I’m so grateful to my friend Brittney Lynn for giving me the opportunity to share my journey with freelance writing (so far, at least) on her show. Honestly, I was nervous to listen to it myself, but once I got over the fear of hearing my own voice for an hour-plus (eek!), it felt great to give myself permission to lean back and listen to my story. I’ve definitely learned a lot in the past year!

Anyway, what I really wanted to share with you today is what I can see now was actually a pretty major milestone in this seemingly never-ending transition to working from home. When it happened, I didn’t think much of it, but Matt immediately told me I should blog about it, so here I am. (And if you don’t think it’s interesting, you know who to blame!)

The week before Thanksgiving, I was totally off my game. My throat was sore, I had a headache, and (as always seems to happen when I’m sick), I was struggling to get consistent sleep. I just felt… crappy. And run down. And, if I’m being honest, maybe even a little sorry for myself. As great as it can be to work from home and to be my own boss, it’s been easy to build up a narrative in my head about how impossible it is for me to slow down or take a day off. If I don’t do it, no one will. Nothing will get done. Which is true! I’m a one-woman operation, so any day off for me is a day off for, well, everyone. Shop’s closed, people.

When I woke up that Thursday (I use the phrase “woke up” loosely here, because I only actually slept for an hour or so), the thought of working my full Bustle shift was totally overwhelming to me. I couldn’t imagine staring at my computer for that long. It felt like my brain wasn’t working, and even the smallest amount of light was hurting my eyes. And it wasn’t just my Bustle shift! There were plenty of other things that had to get done — interview prep and blog posts a few stories with a deadline. In order to accomplish all of those things and put in my time with Bustle, I would have needed to start working the moment I got out of bed at 6 AM. On a normal day, that would have been a non-issue for me. But on this particular Thursday, I just wasn’t feeling it.

I asked Matt what he thought I should do. I texted no less than four of my friends, asking them what they thought about my taking a sick day. I asked Matt what he thought I should do again. The thought of telling my Bustle editor that I couldn’t clock in that day made me feel sick in an entirely different way.

The whole scene reminded me of the first time I’d wrestled with the same question — to take a sick day or not to take a sick day? — when I was a newbie at my corporate job. Back then, I was living with my parents in Pennsylvania and commuting back and forth to New York (yes, that was about four hours on the bus every day), so I naturally consulted with my mom first. I had plenty of sick days to use, but I was afraid of how my boss would react if I actually took one. I didn’t even know how to word the email telling her I wouldn’t be showing up.

In the end, taking that first official sick day was just like (and I realize this is cliché) ripping off a band-aid — and when I finally swallowed my own pride and told my Bustle editor that I couldn’t work that shift two weeks ago, it was exactly the same thing. She wasn’t mad. I didn’t get fired. She just told me to feel better.

Being a freelancer is weird. I work for myself to the extent that I manage my own time, but I’m also accountable to a lot of people. And while there have been days in the last year or so that I’ve allowed myself to take it easy or to sleep in because I wasn’t feeling 100 percent, last Thursday was the first time I was in a position to ask for “permission” to be sick, largely because I work with Bustle on a per-hour — instead of a per-story — basis. It was interesting to be reminded of that feeling of clearing something with a boss.

I have zero regrets about taking that sick day. I took a Benadryl and got a few hours of sleep. I drank a lot of tea. I watched a lot of embarrassing TV. And the next time I talked to my Bustle editor, she didn’t even remember it had happened. It’s freeing to realize that these decisions aren’t quite as important as they can feel in the moment, don’t you think?

….AND don’t forget to enter this month’s giveaway! I know last week was a little crazy with Thanksgiving and family and travel, but the November prize is really awesome, so I don’t want you to miss out! This month, I’m giving away  TWO (yes, two) bracelets from The Shine Project — a white druzzy and a feather charm. Both are on gold chains and would look great paired or worn separately. 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 12/1, so get those entries in ASAP!

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november giveaway!

Happy day-after-Thanksgiving, friends! I hope you woke up today feeling thankful and rested (and also fully digested so you can dive into some leftovers).

For some of you, I’m sure today means some serious deal hunting and aggressive line-waiting. Even on a “normal” day, I’m not a huge shopper, so Black Friday has most definitely never been my thing — but if you’re tough enough to handle a day of elbow-throwing and bad-moods-fueled-on-too-much-turkey, then more power to you (seriously). You’re a stronger person than I am, and you’ll be rewarded with better prices than I’ll ever get on pretty much anything.

It just so happens to be GIVEAWAY DAY over here today, though, which means that if you’re like me and avoid the Black Friday madness, you can get yourself a chance to snatch up something super fun from the comfort of your own home — and it’s totally free, which makes it the best possible price. Take that, Target! (I didn’t mean it, Target. I actually love you very much.)

It’s been a while since I shared a prize from our friends over at The Shine Project, and since this is a company that has been giving me the coziest feels ever since I first stumbled upon it about two years ago, it seems like the perfect Thanksgiving week giveaway. For those who don’t know, this is one of my favorite companies — and it happens to also double as an amazing cause. I got involved as an ambassador for Shine last spring. 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.

In honor of the official kick-off to the holiday season, I’m giving away TWO (yes, two) bracelets from The Shine Project — a white druzzy and a feather charm. Both are on gold chains and would look great paired or worn separately. The white druzzy piece will look great with absolutely anything, and the feather bracelet has been one of my very favorites for more than a year. I’m really excited about this one, friends!

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All you have to do to enter to win this giveaway is to 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 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 12/1. 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!)

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gratitude diaries #8.

It’s almost here, it’s almost here! My very favorite holiday of the year!

Matt and I are packing up the car and heading back to Pennsylvania tonight after work, so please please send a little no-traffic vibes my way because I have no idea what to expect leaving Brooklyn on Thanksgiving Eve. (I promise to send some easy travel vibes right back atcha, so your own travel karma definitely won’t suffer.) For the past few years, I’ve traveled back to Pennsylvania a few days before Matt, but this year, we decided to make the trip together. It seems like the married people thing to do — plus, I have enough work to finish up today that I’d kind of rather knock it all out right here in my normal office so that I can go home tonight and fully sink into holiday mode.

It’s been quite a while since my last edition of Gratitude Diaries (the last entry was back in June!), and with less than 24 hours left before the most thankful day of the year, this seems like the perfect time to bring back one of my very favorite blog series. And while I’m naturally appreciative of big picture things like my family and my health and my home and my marriage, I happen to think that these posts are that much more fun when I focus on the smaller details that can be easier to brush off or take for granted. I try to practice gratitude daily in an easy way (I’ve kept more detailed gratitude journals in the past, but I find that I often fall off the wagon if my personal expectation is that the entires should be long and detailed) by noting one thing I appreciate at the end of every day on my monthly calendar. It’s kind of the equivalent of crossing days off countdown-style, but it looks a lot more colorful and makes you feel a lot better about life in the process!

Here are a few things I’ve been feeling a little extra love for over the last few weeks…

  • Afternoon walks, because whether you work in a traditional office or out of your home and for yourself, it’s important to step away from the desk when you can and get some fresh air, even if it’s only for a few minutes. So many of us eat lunch in front of our computers (guilty!), so we owe ourselves a little time away from the to-do list whenever possible. It helps break up the day!
  • Couch naps, because even with all of my sleep issues, I can still crash HARD on the sofa every once in a while on a weekend afternoon — and there are few things that feel better than that.

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  • Friends with puppies, because I’m loving having an excuse to visit with one of my besties and squeeze in some puppy snuggles at the same time. Plus, I get to be the kind of cool aunt that goes for fun walks and offers treats for cute behavior but doesn’t have to get up in the middle of the night and wait around for the pup to do his business in the cold.
  • Cookie dough ice cream, because I picked up a pint for myself the other night while Matt was out with friends and I’ve never regretted anything less.

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  • My new holiday dress. I fully plan on rocking this little number from Shop Ashley Le Mieux as much as possible this season! The boutique has tons of great — and affordable! — pieces available for holiday. Shop this link to check it out. I think they’re running great sales this weekend, too!
  • Vitamin Dbecause, as I mentioned in this post, it’s really helped my sleep and generally made me feel a lot better.
  • Grown-up friend sleepovers, because there are few things I find more hilarious than spending a Sunday morning lounging around on an air mattress with friends from out of town after a long night out.

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  • Zumbo’s Just Desserts, because it’s my new Netflix obsession and I’m trying to get everyone to watch it. Picture your favorite American baking show, but add desserts that are as magical as anything out of Willy Wonka, plus some seriously amazing Australian accents. My only complaint about this show is that there is only one season so far!
  • Hot chocolate, because ’tis the season! I’m going to be totally honest with you — sometimes, I’m only in it for the whipped cream and/or marshmallows… but no one can tell me how to drink my cocoa!

Friends, I’m certainly grateful for you, as well — today and always. I am so appreciative of how you continue to grow this community with me, and I can’t wait to see how we continue to support each other and celebrate life’s moments in the future.

Happy Thanksgiving to each and every one of you!

And if you’re already thinking ahead to all of the shopping opportunities ahead of you post-Thanksgiving, then you best stop by again on Black Friday! I’ll be kicking off the November giveaway… which means you’ll be able to grab something fun for yourself without waiting in crazy lines or even paying a dime.

 

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10 thanksgiving recipes i have my eye on.

With Thanksgiving falling so early this year, it looked for a hot second there like Matt and I weren’t going to be able to find a time to have our second-annual mini Thanksgiving — but, thankfully, we got it on the calendar. It’s a good thing, too, because there would have been one very unhappy husband over here if we hadn’t been able to make it work. Don’t get me wrong… I would have been bummed if we hadn’t been able to find a time for it, too (putting off a tradition after just one year? how lame is that?), but I’m pretty sure Matt would have cancelled the holiday season altogether. We’ll have to wait until after “real” Thanksgiving to make our own, but I’m glad that we’ll be able to extend our favorite occasion and throw ourselves into enjoying it in a way that we wouldn’t have been able to if we tried to squeeze it in before we travel back home to Pennsylvania next week.

Now that the plans are officially underway, I’ve started pulling together recipes, and it’s making me even more excited. There were a few dishes we made last year that I think will become a staple for us moving forward, but it never hurts to add in a new twist for a new season. I thought I’d share some of the ideas I’d come across that looked especially delicious in case you’re also on the hunt for something fun to make for a Friendsgiving or family feast.

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1. Creamy Pumpkin and Cheddar Scalloped PotatoesI get the coziest, most nostalgic feelings anytime there’s a scalloped potato situation happening within a few feet of me, but the pumpkin flavors added to this recipe kick it up a seasonal notch. (via Cooking For Keeps)

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2. Shaved Brussels Sprouts Salad with Apples, Hazelnuts & Brown Butter DressingWe’re big fans of Brussels sprouts at my house (tell that to six-year-old Alli and she’ll scream “Gross!” and run away). The combination of these ingredients sounds like it would make for a fantastic Thanksgiving salad. (via The Kitchn)

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3. Roasted Brussels Sprouts and Cranberries with BarleyI’ve already professed our love for Brussels sprouts, and Matt snacks on cranberries like they’re going out of style, so I think this dish might be a big hit. I always love experimenting with different kinds of grains, as well, so why not barley? (via Cookie + Kate)

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4. Parmesan-Thyme MushroomsIt only took me eight years, but I recently discovered that my husband loves mushrooms, so I’ve been collecting ideas on how to prepare them. This recipe only takes 15 minutes to make, and it features my very favorite kind of cheese. (via The Kitchn)

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5. Roasted Butternut Squash RisottoI have no word for this other than this one: YUM. (via Cookie + Kate)

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6. Creamy Cauliflower SoupI would very much like to be the kind of person that makes and serves a hearty soup for Thanksgiving. I’m not sure I’m quite there yet, but a girl can dream, right? (via What’s for Lunch, Honey?)

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7. Buttermilk BiscuitsI’m delving (slowly, cautiously) back into the world of gluten (you can read more about that here), and I think that trying my hand at some classic homemade biscuits this Thanksgiving would be the perfect way to celebrate that. (via The Kitchn)

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8. Pumpkin Biscuits with Brown Butter and Cinnamon SugarThese could definitely be a contender for my “gluten, I’m back!” celebration, too. Is it socially acceptable to make and eat two kinds of biscuits? (via Cooking For Keeps)

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9. Pumpkin Dessert LasagnaI’ve never quite learned to enjoy pumpkin pie, so I’m always in search of another pumpkin dessert that I could make for Thanksgiving. This “lasagna” is assembled with cream cheese mousse, pumpkin pudding, caramel sauce, and spiced whipped cream. (via The Kitchn)

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10. Caramelized Peach + White Chocolate Oatmeal Skillet Cookie PieWhite chocolate is one of my favorite flavors for Christmas desserts, but I’m thinking of getting a jump on it a little early this year! I also fell pretty hard for caramelized peaches over the summer — this recipe is seriously calling to me. (via Half Baked Harvest)

Do you have any fun recipes planned for this Thanksgiving? Tell me more in the comments below! 

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even more podcast recommendations.

If you follow me on Instagram, you probably already know that Matt and I took quite a road trip this past weekend. We jumped in our trusty RAV4 and drove our friends to rural Ohio (by way of Philadelphia) so they could pick up their new golden retriever pup! Cars are few and far between here in New York City, and since we decided to invest in one last year, we like to take opportunities wherever we can to give our friends a lift for a good cause — and there are few causes better than a puppy. Let’s be honest: I’ll do just about anything if there’s a golden retriever involved.

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The drive was long (we were in the car for about 14 hours on Saturday) but incredibly fun, and I’d do it all over again a million times. Matt and I were honored to be part of such a big day for our friends, and we’re always up for a good road trip! One thing I’ve been really loving more than ever on road trips lately is the time it gives me to binge on podcasts. I’ve offered podcast recommendations in the past (here and here), but here are a few more you may want to check out as you kick off your holiday travels next week.

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1. The Amber Lilyestrom ShowThere are few things I enjoy more than the chance to spend what feels like one-on-one time with a soulful, successful boss lady, and Amber Lilyestrom is my latest podcasting girl crush. Amber is a branding strategist and business coach who left a decade-long career in collegiate athletics to build what’s since become a six-figure business — a business that she now runs while having regular dance parties with her adorable daughter and taking daily walks with her husband, who was recently able to retire from his job as a police offer to work with Amber full-time. I love the way Amber encourages her listeners (as well as her clients) to come back to themselves and figure out how to integrate their work and passion so they can live one seamless life of purpose. There are plenty of work-related gems on her show if you’re an entrepreneur, but if you’re not, you’ll still love her (check out her Insta for a taste of the inspiration she so beautifully serves up).

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2. Day in the LifeMy friend Brittney Lynn — who I was lucky enough to connect with in both life and business a few months ago — recently launched a podcast of her very own. I would have been cheering her on from the virtual sidelines no matter what, but I’m here promoting it (enthusiastically!) because I really love what she’s doing. Every week, Brittney interviews a different personality about what a day in their life looks like, and the conversations reveal fascinating details about work, relationships, and just generally being human. If you love Humans of New York or Grub Street, this is a must-listen! And who knows? You might just hear someone you recognize on the show one of these days : )

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3. Watch What Happens Live With Andy Cohenlove me some Bravo and I find Andy Cohen to be one of the most fascinating people alive (I’d pay good money to live a day in his shoes), but I’m never up late enough to watch his talk show. Andy and his team recently did a great service to morning people like me by streaming the audio from episodes of Watch What Happens Live as podcasts! The episodes are short and pure fun — great for listening to during a quick walk or errand.

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4. The Creative Empire PodcastHosted by a business coach and an attorney who caters to creative entrepreneurs, this show has been a real eye opener to me in terms of the diversity of people out there making a living in solo businesses and passion-projects-turned-empires. I tend to get pretty addicted to any show that features interviews with interesting people, and this definitely fits that criteria! I also find that listening to this show can turn what otherwise feels like down time (driving, cleaning the apartment, etc.) into valuable hours.

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5. Good Christian Fun: Before you scroll past this one because of the title – DON’T! I’m not an especially religious person and I don’t declare myself Christian, but that’s most definitely not what this show is about. GCF is a fascinating discussion of Christian subculture, and as someone who’s always been interested in what makes different groups of people tick, I’ve become pretty addicted to this one. The hosts are twentysomething churchgoers who take a frank look at various elements of modern Christian music and movies and it’s reliably hilarious (I came to the show in the first place because one of the hosts also hosted the Gilmore Guys podcast, which is a long-time personal fave). They bring on guests of many faiths (or no faith at all!) to analyze and often criticize this unique subculture and they always make laugh in the process. I beg you to give this one a shot — there’s no preaching whatsoever, just super cool cultural analysis.

Do you have any other podcasts you’d recommend? Tell me about them in the comments below! 

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healthy work-from-home habits.

When I put out my last call for questions that you’d like to see addressed here on the blog (you can still submit them here!), a few people asked me about how I’ve kept up a healthy eating and workout routine while working from home, and if my approach to it has changed at all since I left my former life in corporate America. Due to some recent circumstances, I’ve made a bunch of adjustments to what I was doing before — both a few months ago in my freelance life and a few years ago in my 9-to-5 life — so it seems like the perfect time to share what’s been working for me lately!

Some of you may know that I’ve been working through some more general health concerns over the last few weeks, a process that’s forced me to take stock of how I’ve been treating my body and what I can do to better serve it. I’ve been pretty passionate about nutrition and exercise since my early college days, but the (thankfully minor) bumps in the road I’ve encountered these past few months in terms of my health have been a welcome reminder that there are lots of ways to be “healthy.” Just because I think I’m doing all the right things to stay well and in shape doesn’t mean that those hard and fast rules work for my body. For many years, they did, but I’m learning to make adjustments and it’s actually been a really good thing.

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I’ve written previously here about both my chronic insomnia and my long-standing digestive issues, but what I haven’t shared is that I also deal with intense hives. Without allergy medicine every day, I will literally find myself covered in a hot, itchy rash 90 percent of the time. At one point, I thought it was simply sensitive skin or a harmless allergy, but as it grew worse earlier this year, I began to wonder if it was somehow connected to my sleep and stomach issues — and if all of these problems could be addressed with one magic solution. Over the summer, I met with an allergist and immunologist, who worked with me on a few tests that were ultimately inconclusive. I have some other doctors to see that will hopefully have more answers for me, but in the meantime, I’ve adopted some new habits at the recommendation of the immunologist, and they’ve definitely impacted my general health!

Our recent trip to California also forced me to take a step back and reconsider my health habits. I guess it’s pretty cliché for my New York self to come back from the west coast with a new lease on food and fitness, but what can I say? Call me cliché! In the three weeks since we’ve been back from our vacation, I’ve noticed some changes in my health philosophy. Combined with the changes suggested by the doctor, those mental shifts have felt really good, especially within the framework of my work-from-home life.

  • Sleep: You may already know that I’ve been dealing with insomnia for the better part of four years now, but one tiny little adjustment has made a big difference recently. Vitamin D! My autoimmune doctor suggested it and I’m so grateful. It’s just the generic drugstore kind, but one pill a day has been making it a lot easier for me to fall — and stay — asleep. Game changer!
  • Diet: Since my sophomore year in college, I’ve been managing chronic digestive issues that are still generally undiagnosed. Thanks to some changes in my diet, my belly problems have gotten mostly better, but our trip to California inspired me to test out some other dietary routines, and I’m so happy did! What I realized in California (warning: another total cliché coming up) is that I haven’t been placing enough emphasis on real, well-made foods. I’ve been focusing so much on what’s gluten-free that I’ve almost totally eliminated foods that can actually fuel me, turning instead to anything that had that “GF” label on the package. And guess what? A lot of those foods aren’t really that good for you! I realize how lucky I am not to have Celiac Disease (I took gluten out of my diet a few years ago — along with garlic and onion — when I experimented with the Low FODMAP diet, a process that really did cure most of my symptoms), and I thought it was time that I start bringing a few whole wheats back into rotation. I’m still sticking with gluten-free pastas and staying away from anything too gluten-y (I know it’s not a word), but I’m feeling much healthier since I said goodbye to gluten-free packaged snack foods and started allowing myself a fresh piece of bread here and there. I’m leaner and more energized, and I suspect that this change might also have helped my sleep. Garlic and onion are still my major triggers, so I won’t be bringing those back any time soon.
  • Exercise (and not exercise): For years and years, I’ve relied on exercise as the primary factor in my health. I viewed myself as a healthy person because I worked out six days a week, and I pretty much assumed that the rest would fall into place. Exercise is still really important to me, but when I last went to see my doctor, he schooled me on how much stress I put on myself when I go to the gym on just a few (or zero) hours of sleep. This is the kind of stress, he said, that causes hives and an intensification of my stomach pain, so I’ve tried to force myself to take more rest days — and I definitely don’t push myself toward a hardcore workout after a sleepless night. Instead, I’ll take a long walk outside mid-afternoon, which has the added benefit of clearing my head and getting this WFH-er into the outside world! I’m still going to the gym about five days a week, but I’m also looking for other opportunities to be active in different ways when I know it’s better for my body.
  • Meals: Figuring out my meal schedule — and resisting the urge to snack constantly from my all-too-available kitchen — has been an ongoing process since I started working from my home office, and lately, I think I’m in a good groove. Here are a few tips:
    • Make breakfast the night before. I prep my oatmeal every night before bed so that it’s ready and waiting for me when I wake up the next day. This way, I’m not tempted to creep (yes, creep) around my kitchen considering less healthy options, and I know right when I wake up that there’s a hearty, delicious meal on tap.
    • Maintain consistency. When it comes to breakfast and lunch, I pretty much eat the same thing (or a variation of the same thing) every day, at least for a few weeks at a time. It takes the guesswork out of planning my meals for the day and helps me avoid those bouts of hanger that will typically lead me to a handful or five of chocolate covered pretzels. I picked up this routine while working in a more traditional office, and it hasn’t failed me yet!
    • Take advantage of meal prep and leftovers. I love a good Meal Prep Sunday as much as the next girl, but we’re on the road so often on the weekends that I usually can’t swing it. Instead, I’ve been upping the quantities I’m cooking at dinnertime (especially salads or veggie side dishes) and packing them away for the next day.
    • Plan your snacks. I’m a grazer by nature, and no matter how hard I try to resist temptations, my fridge is always going to be just a few steps from where I’m working. Instead of driving myself crazy fighting off snack cravings, I plan ahead by buying snack foods that won’t make me feel sick or guilty, and budgeting time to eat them into my schedule.

If you’re still working on your health journey (or if you’re in the market for advice that’s way more expert than mine!), check out the Kickstarter campaign for my friend Meghan Meredith‘s Whole Body Fitness planner. I can attest to the fact that it’s an awesome product! It’s also really special to be able to support Meghan’s big dream, which has been such an investment in time and sweat equity for her. Check out Meghan’s recent guest post for a preview of what this resource is all about — then pledge your support on Kickstarter if you’re feeling inspired! 

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monthly goals recap -> october + november.

We’re two days into November and I have so many feelings about it. I know I talk a lot about how much time flies, but I think it hits me extra hard at this time of the year. I love the fall, but it always seems to me that it’s this very short little window caught smack in the middle of two much-hyped seasons that we all try so hard to savor. One minute, we’re reminding ourselves to enjoy every last moment of the summertime, and then in what feels like the blink of an eye we’re mere weeks from Thanksgiving, steeling ourselves all over again to hyperconsciously appreciate every last second of the holiday season. There’s no time to catch your breath in between, and somehow, fall always gets lost in the shuffle. Does anyone else feel that way?

This fall — this past month, especially — went particularly quickly for us this year because we spent the first half of October in California (check out those trip recaps here and here). When we got back to New York mid-month, we had the usual rush-to-get-back-into-routine-and-get-lost-in-work thing happen… and now here we are. It’s another month altogether and I’m updating you again about my monthly goals.

Friends, I’ve gotta be honest — this was a tough one for me. As I was going through the progress I made on my October goals, I couldn’t help but feel more challenged than usual by the extent to which I’ve chosen to make all of this public. When I have a good month, it feels amazing to have so many eyes on what I’ve accomplished, but it’s not easy to admit that things haven’t gone the way I planned in a month that isn’t quite so good (Is “good” even the word to use? I’m not sure!). October was by no means an unproductive month, but a lot of the specific milestones I’d hoped to reach just didn’t happen. Schedules changed and life happened in between and I (again) went back to square one with the direction of my book (more on that later!). Sometimes, I feel like you’re coming back here to this goal-setting series month after month only to find that I’m constantly taking one step forward and two steps back. Is that annoying for you? I don’t know.

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What I’m really trying to say is that this is one of those moments where this whole blogging thing feels really vulnerable. And for you, I hope it’s one of those moments that proves that the all-positive vibes you get from social media aren’t always true, and that there’s a lot of self-doubt and spinning-of-wheels that happens behind the scenes.

Alright, here we go [gulp]. Here’s what happened in October:

  • Complete a successful first month at Bustle. √ YES! This has been a really cool experience. I’m working two shifts for Bustle every week. Each of those shifts is basically a six-hour period of time where I’m communicating with my editor via gchat and working on whatever lifestyle stories she needs to assign out that day. You can check out what I’ve done so far here!
  • Research “low stakes” writing classes. This is one of those instances where I feel like I must be driving you crazy. I know, I know — this has been on my list for a few months now. Realistically, I’d like to start a writing class right after the new year, so it’s not really that big of a problem that I haven’t done this research yet — at least not outside of the fact that I said I would!
  • Break into new outlet (or two!). √ YES! My first essay on a big site that I’m super excited about should be going live this week! I can’t wait to share.
  • Pitch to a new editor every week. Nope. I was pretty overwhelmed with the projects and clients I already have on my plate this month, so it was harder for me to make this a priority.
  • Implement new schedule for working on my book. I was embarrassingly unproductive on the book while we were in California (like, I didn’t work on it at all), but when we got back, I started working on it more intensely than I ever have. Literally. I’m forcing myself to have a better schedule and I’m making lots of progress, and it’s all because I allowed myself to pivot on the premise when I realized that I’ve been stalled all this time for a reason.
  • Finish second chapter of book. No, BUT… I scrapped my original draft and started from scratch ten days ago, and (hilariously) I’m already a few pages into the second chapter of this revamped version. Those of you who have been following this journey for a while know that it took me a good six months or more to get that far on the last draft! Do you think I’m on to something? (Because I do.)
  • Stick to new blog calendar. √ YES!
  • Read four books. I underestimated how long the book I brought to California was — and more than that, I underestimated how active we’d be and how little time I would have to sit around and read! I did read The Best of Everything (an awesome classic about twentysomething women working at a publishing company in NYC in the fifties that was actually a reread for me) and Amanda Wakes Up (super fun commentary about working in broadcast news from one of my favorite CNN anchors Alisyn Camerota).
  • Stick to journaling habit. I didn’t journal every single day in October — but I did log a few entries, and I’ll call that success!
  • Celebrate Matt’s birthday well.√ YES! I guess you’d have to ask him to tell you himself, but I’m pretty sure my hubs had an awesome birthday : )

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And here are a few of my priorities for November…

  • Land one new outlet. Did you think this wouldn’t be on here?
  • Work on my book at least three days of every week. Now that I have some serious momentum going here, I’m going to do my goals based on writing time rather than how much I’ve actually written (i.e. how many chapters, how many pages, etc.). I can’t wait to share updates on the book with you next month!
  • Pitch something new or “big” weekly. Rather than committing to pitching to a new editor every week, I’m going to challenge myself to either pitch to a new editor or share a big idea for a new story with an editor I’ve already worked with.
  • Research “low stakes” writing classes. Don’t hate me.
  • Circle back with a few of my favorite outlets. With some of the new business development I’ve done over the last few months, there are a few outlets that I love but haven’t had a chance to work with recently. I’m hoping to change that come November!
  • Research podcasts and other new projects. I’m starting to think about other things I could do moving forward — passion projects, really — so I want to lay the groundwork and do some research on the possibilities before the end of the year.
  • Read three books. And if I read more than that, all the better!
  • Stick to our new monthly budget. Matt and I are generally pretty good with our money, but we’ve decided to revamp our whole budget and start tracking things a little bit more specifically each month. We’re getting started with that in November!
  • Work on self care with journaling and midday walks. In addition to journaling, I’m going to try to focus on my mental health a little extra in the month ahead by stepping out more often for some fresh air in the middle of the day. Most mornings, I’m at my computer by 7:30 a.m., so I think it would be good for me to make afternoon walks a priority when my schedule allows.
  • Cultivate the holiday season early and often. Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday, and I’m really looking forward to the whole holiday season this year. I’m going to make it a priority to start getting in a festive frame of mind earlier than usual this month.

What are you working on in November? I’d love to hear in the comments below!

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october giveaway winner announced + the liebster award!

Hello, friends! I hope you all had wonderful weekends and that you’re now ready to hit the ground running with the start of another week. I’m not a big fan of Halloween myself (I know, I know — unpopular opinion), but I know this is a big, exciting time for a lot of you who love the holiday. I, personally, will be over here quietly snacking on a chocolate bar and kinda sorta waiting for the whole celebration to be over so we can start gearing up for Thanksgiving and all the fun in December. I am who I am!

It’s time to announce the winner of the October giveaway! Can I get a drumroll, please? ….

Congratulations, ANDREA EDMAN! You’re the winner of a $25 gift card to Baublebar. Andrea, I’ll reach out via email with your gift card. I can’t wait to see what you decide to buy : ) As always, thanks to everyone who entered the giveaway! I can’t wait to see you (and, hopefully, all your friends) back here next month for the November contest.

Last week, my writer and blogger friend Alex (of Authentically Alex) nominated me for the Liebster Award. Thanks so much, Alex! You’re such an awesome cheerleader for my work and it feels so great to get a little nod for this blog.

So, what is the Liebster Award?

Originating in Germany in 2011, the Liebster Award 2017 is an online award that is given to bloggers by other bloggers. Liebster translates to sweetest, kindest, nicest, dearest, beloved, lovely, kind, pleasant, valued, cute, endearing, and welcome. The Liebster Award recognizes new and upcoming bloggers that have the potential to grow and become successful influencers within the blogosphere.

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All nominees are asked to share ten facts about themselves, as well as the answers to a few interview questions, so here we go!

10 Facts About Me

  1. I met one of my favorite Instagram dog celebrities in the Delta terminal at JFK earlier this year, and I was actually fangirling. I got to take a picture with her, too, and I look at that picture whenever I’m having a bad day.
  2. My first concert was Natalie Merchant with my mom and her best friend.
  3. I make my bed every single day. No matter what. Even if it doesn’t happen until 4 in the afternoon.
  4. I’m not afraid of heights, but I am terrified of ladders.
  5. I went to college about two blocks from the White House, and while being in D.C. for four years kind of turned me off of politics for a long time, I’ve become a total news junkie again.
  6. Cotton candy is my favorite ice cream flavor.
  7. I can touch my tongue to the tip of my nose. It’s genetic. Thanks, Dad!
  8. I hate orange juice, but I love mimosas. Explain that one.
  9. When I was in third grade I wrote a “novel” called Carrie’s Ride Home about a girl who teachers her blind little sister how to ride horses. It had chapters and everything!
  10. I used to get serious anxiety about talking on the phone. I’ve come a long way, but I still get really nervous every time I have to call a source for a phone interview.

Short Interview

1. What is one place you haven’t been that is on the top of your bucket list?

Thailand! My husband and I are hoping to plan a trip to southeast Asia in the next year or two.

2. What is the most daring experience you’ve ever had? (For example: sky diving)

Two summer ago, I went parasailing with my family at the beach. Logically, I know parasailing is pretty safe, but it felt pretty daring in the moment : )

3. What is your biggest accomplishment?

If you’ve been reading this blog for any period of time, you can probably guess this one! I would call the last year of my life my biggest accomplishment. Leaving my traditional 9-to-5 job was a big deal for this rule follower, and I’m really proud of how far I’ve come in the thirteen months since.

4. What’s your biggest fear?

I’ve always been really scared of large birds (turkeys, ostrichs, emus — even chickens!), and when I have nightmares, they’re usually about being in freefall or being chased.

5. What’s a hidden talent you have?

I’m a crazy fast typer.

6. What’s an activity, craft, or sport that you want to learn how to do?

I would love to get better at hand lettering. I have pretty good handwriting, so I think that if I took the time to learn and practice, it could be a great creative outlet.

My nominees:

Meghan — Home Body Soul

Angela — Mrs. K Fit

Brittney — Brittney Lynn

Krista — FoodWaterShoes

Kristina — Simply Kristina

Task for nominees:

  • Thank the blogger who nominated you and link back to their blog in your post.
  • Upload the award to your blog. It can be done as a blog or on the sidebar.
  • Answer the questions above.
  • Nominate five blogs who you believe deserve to receive the award.
  • Notify the nominated bloggers so that they can accept the award.

 

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