love rules.

How was your weekend? Ours was pretty magical. As I mentioned in my last post, Matt and I road tripped up to Mystic, Connecticut to celebrate the wedding of two of our very best friends. Taryn was a college friend of Matt’s when he and I started dating in our sophomore year, and she and I quickly bonded — and not just because I was desperate to make some girl friends among his group!

Over the years, Taryn and I have become super close, and when she met Steve the summer after graduation, it was almost like a match had been made in heaven between the two couples. We’ve loved hanging out with these two over the past few years, and I was so excited to be a bridesmaid in their wedding!

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The setting couldn’t have been more beautiful (seriously, did someone order that gorgeous sunset?), the live band had all of the guests singing and dancing like crazy, and the whole weekend was an amazing reunion with friends who we love and don’t get to see nearly enough. As if the festivities couldn’t get any more perfect, Taryn and Steve got a quadruple rainbow during their rehearsal dinner. These two don’t need any luck, but if that’s not a good omen, then I don’t know what is. We’re sending the new Mr. + Mrs. so many good wishes for may years of health and happiness ahead. YAY! You did it!

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Recently, a reader responded to my latest blog survey (it’s not too late to share your input here!) with some questions about my family, and how I maintain positive relationships with them. First of all, thank you so much, wherever you are, for sharing your own story so openly, and for all of your kind words. In the interest of privacy, I don’t want to get too specific here about my amazing family and how me make all of our craziness work, but I am happy to share some general “love rules” for how I approach relationships with all of my loved ones — friends, family, and husband.

1. Take people from where they are. You know your loved ones better than anyone, so you should know that the ways in which they communicate and show love — as well as their capacity to openly do either of those things — is unique and specific to them. I try not to hold my friends and family members to equal standards, because each one of them is different! It’s unfair to expect everyone to build their relationship with you in the same way, and if you do, you’re in for a lot of disappointment. Take people for who they are and love them just like that.

2. Figure out your special “thing.” love having elements to each of my relationships that feel really specific and personal to “us” — an inside joke, a shared love for a certain type of food, a standing date to do the same thing together every month, or even just a weird facial expression that we flash to each other across the room if a situation gets weird. I think that finding this “thing” is really helpful, especially when you’re struggling to find common ground with someone you care about at any given time.

3. Communicate. Ohhhh, if Matt had a penny for every time I’ve dropped this word over the past eight years, we’d probably own this apartment (and maybe even a house in the suburbs, too) by now. I don’t communicate with all of my loved ones in the same way (see #1), but I do try to keep open lines of communication open with everyone as much as possible — and I’ve learned that the ways that I interact with people evolve, too. Maybe it’s time, or maybe I’m just getting wiser as I get older (yeesh!), but I find that — in most of my relationships — communication improves over the years. That brings me to my last suggestion…

4. Relationships evolve! You and your friends and family members probably don’t interact with each other now the same way you did five years ago, which means your relationship still probably has a lot of changing to do over the next five — or ten, or twenty! — years. If you’re not totally comfortable with how things are going with a specific person in your life, don’t be hard on yourself… and try not to be hard on them, either. Relationships aren’t static, and as long as you’re actively working to figure out how you and that person can treat each other more lovingly and respectfully in the future, you will get there — even if it’s a process.

I hope that’s helpful! I’d love to hear your tips in the comments below, too.

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the appreciation game.

Less than a year in, Matt and I are hardly experts at this whole marriage thing. I shared some of my newlywed tips recently over at Mrs. K-Fit (I guest posted there again yesterday with one of my favorite recipes!), but really, we are learning every day about being husband and wife — and I like it that way! As of our wedding day, we’d been together for nearly seven years, so it’s refreshing to find that there are still plenty of new things to figure out at this stage of the game.

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Today, I wanted to share something that we’ve been doing recently at our house that’s been absolutely amazing for our relationship. It’s a small, easy habit that anyone can work into their routine, and I would recommend it a million times over.

Right after the holidays, there was a little tension in the Kosik home. After weeks of travel and generally being out of our normal schedule (in case you haven’t figured it out, we are very much about our schedule over here), Matt and I weren’t doing a great job of listening to each other, and we weren’t prioritizing quality time. I think everyone can probably relate to what I’m talking about — daily life gets in the way, and you can easily find yourself simply going through the motions with the person you love the most. It happens, and it’s totally normal! If you ask me, the important thing is that you know when to say “stop the presses!” and figure out how to get back on track.

During that time, we implemented something that I call The Appreciation Game (honestly, I’m looking for a better name, so I’d welcome your suggestions!). Every night before bed, we each tell the other person something we were grateful to them for that day. If one of us is traveling, we still make this a priority over text or a call. The first rule is that it needs to be something specific. You can’t just say “you were really nice today.” (Let’s be real… if we didn’t think the other person was nice, would we even be married?) The second rule is that you also need to explain why you are appreciative for that specific thing. Putting your gratitude in context  is one tiny little extra step, but it’s really nice to be on the receiving end of it. And that’s it… the only two rules!

This exercise will literally take you two minutes, and it’s totally changed the way Matt and I relate to each other. I find myself paying more attention to all of the wonderful things he does every day (even if I’m annoyed at him which, yes, does still happen), and I’m now more aware of the specific things I can do that will mean something to him because I take the time to ask. I promise — you’ll be totally blown away by the things your partner notices and appreciates. Give it a try!

***Don’t forget to enter the March giveaway so you can win this amazing Lovely Lips lip Balm from India HicksAll you have to do to enter to win is comment on my last post here. I’ll be drawing and announcing the winner on Thursday 4/30! ***

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six months married.

Hello hello! I hope everyone had a beautiful weekend of holiday celebrations (no matter what you celebrate!) and that this last week of 2016 is off to a good start, whether you are still in holiday mode or back at the office. Matt and I are staying here in Pennsylvania for the rest of the week — it’s rare that he gets to take time like this off from work, so we are logging some serious down time and I am working from my parents’ kitchen table. Not a bad way to wind down the year!

In the excitement of the holiday season, I missed the opportunity to more officially celebrate our six-month wedding anniversary. I’m sure decades from now, when we’ve been married for years and years, these monthly milestones will seem less significant, but for now, half a year still seems like a pretty big deal! We’ve now been together for almost eight years, but this six-month anniversary of our marriage feels monumental compared with every other unofficial anniversary we’ve celebrated.

I never doubted that Matt would be an incredible husband, but he’s surpassed even my expectations. Neither of us expected that our lives would so drastically change in the months immediately after our wedding, but thanks to my major career shift, it’s been a bit of a roller coaster ride for the second half of 2016. Matt has never once questioned our ability to weather the changes as a team, and he’s never given me a reason to question myself, either. He’s consistently been my supporter, a mirror for my optimism — and on the days when it’s harder to feel confident, he’s strong, reliable, and reassuring. He is capable and selfless, and he makes me laugh for all the best (and weirdest) reasons. He has somehow helped to make what could have been a scary and overwhelming time feel comfortable and full of promise.

Ours is not a perfect marriage, and we are learning all the time. But I don’t think I could have possibly wished for a stronger foundation to build my adult life on, and I know I could not have wished for a better partner to do it with. Matt, thank you for standing by my side and loving me so well for these last six months. I can’t wait for the hundreds and hundreds of months still to come.

Check out some photos from our wedding below — I wasn’t blogging then, so this is my first chance to share them and brag a little about my brilliant friends at Bri Cibene Photography! Seriously, Bri and her husband Michael are incredible, and I can’t imagine anyone capturing our day better. You can check out her blog post about our wedding here, but keep scrolling for just a few of my (many) favorite images.

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Oh wow, I really miss this day : )

***One last note… don’t forget to enter the December giveaway so you can win this beautiful bracelet from The Shine Project!  All you have to do to enter to win is comment on my last post here. I’ll be drawing and announcing the winner this Thursday, so you only have two days left! ***

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a mini thanksgiving.

Happy Thanksgiving week, everyone!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Check out some of our photos below!

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Blurry, but so proud of what we made!  Also, I’m breaking out my fall lip colors again and it makes me all kinds of happy.

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Matt gets tasked with taking a lot of our selfies because his arms are so much longer than mine…and this time it really paid off because you can see our table, too!

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

gratitude diaries #3

I’ll be honest — this week has me feeling just a little disoriented.  I spent the majority of the week working from Pennsylvania where my family lives, and while I was able to use that time to get lots of work done and also do a little fresh-air-reboot outside of the city, the mid-week travel has set me off of my game.  The regular deadline cycle I’m now working on means that the weekends require work and research and Monday through Wednesday are the most intense days of writing, so I’m also adjusting to a bizarre-feeling schedule where Thursdays and Fridays are naturally a little quieter.  Add in a brewing cold virus and I’m just not quite myself.

What better way to perk up than a little Gratitude Diaries?  Here are a few things that I am feeling especially thankful for right about now:

  • Matt.  While I’m working hard to respect the privacy of my loved ones and avoid sharing TOO much about them here, it’s basically impossible for me to leave my husband out!  He jokes that he’s become the “star of the blog,” which is particularly funny given the fact that he’s about as removed from social media as you can possibly be in 2016.  I’m pretty sure that this is the only thing he reads online other than the news, which I guess I should take as a major compliment : ) ANYWAY, I’m going to embarrass him just a little bit today because he is at the top of my gratitude list.  We spent the majority of the week apart while I was working and spending time with family, and being away from him really reminded me of how much I value our little life here in Brooklyn.  Matt is my truest friend and such an incredible cheerleader for everything I do.  I’m pretty sure we both laugh about ten times more often when we are together than when we are apart, mostly about the silliest things.  I appreciate all of our weird conversations (last night, we may or may not have talked about the movie Babe for about 30 minutes) and inside jokes.  I feel really lucky to have him as my husband.
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My current favorite wedding photo (it changes weekly, thanks to the genius of Bri Cibene Photography).

  • Semi-sick days.  My throat started hurting while I was in Pennsylvania, and I’ve been feeling increasingly crummy ever since.  One of the awesome benefits of my old company was an amazing sick day policy, and I’m seeing that one of the both advantages and disadvantages of working for yourself is not having “official” days off when you’re not feeling well.  Especially in this early stage of building my business and body of work, I’m not comfortable taking a full day off just because I’m sick, but I’m also far from operating at 100%.  It feels weird to be taking breaks to relax and watch TV throughout the day, but I’m trying to be kind to my body and remind myself that, even though I may lose a few hours this week, I’m still getting a lot more work done than I ever did when I was sick at my corporate job.  I’m grateful for the flexibility I have to take better care of myself these days.  Feeling under the weather has also been a good reminder of how much I enjoy what I’m doing for work now, because it makes me sad that I’m having to scale back while I get better.
  • Good Girls Revolt.  Matt and I tend to have a really hard time finding TV shows that we can agree on, so most of the time we end up binge watching our old favorites over and over again.  I’ve never watched any of the Amazon original shows before, but “Good Girls Revolt” caught my eye last week, and we finally got around to watching the first episode last night.  I would absolutely recommend it!  I’m a big fan of music and fashion from the ’60s and ’70s, so the setting totally appeals to me, PLUS it’s about a bunch of fierce female magazine writers who I’m kind of obsessed with.  I’m especially grateful that we stumbled on this show just before the weather starts to get cold so we can start working our way through it as winter hibernation sets in.
  • My new laptop.  Somehow, my old MacBook Pro was still hangin’ in there from my college days, but it was realllllly starting to slow me down now that I’m working full-time from my home computer.  Thanks to contributions from my family members as my birthday gift, we were finally able to pick up my new MacBook Air this weekend!  Since I’m pretty frugal, it’s rare that I make big investments like this, which makes me all the more appreciative when it happens.  My old laptop was wasting even more of my time than I realized, and working on a better system is making it a lot more fun to come to work.  (PLUS, I ordered a really fun girly case that makes me smile every time I see it.)

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  • Lemongrass Grill.  Because we treated ourselves to take-out when I got back from Pennsylvania and this is my absolute FAVORITE place to order from, especially when I’m sick.  Thank you, Lemongrass, for magically making my throat feel a little better!

Happy weekend, everyone!  Is there anything that you’re feeling extra grateful for this week?