marriage

why i’m joining the wing.

In order to fill in the blanks in the title of this post, we need go back a few months — and we (well, just me, I guess) need to get pretty honest

I’ve never been that excited about leaving New York City. There, I said it.

I had moments when I first moved here right out of college when the city felt pretty miserable. I hated the subway and the crowds in midtown. I hated when people plowed me down, umbrella-first as they rushed along the sidewalk in the rain. I hated that it sometimes took me 30 minutes to travel less than a mile in a taxi late at night, a taxi that I knew I was only having to pay for because I had chosen to live in a place that I’d been made to believe was perpetually unsafe after 8 PM. I hated all of that.

When we moved to Brooklyn, I found my groove again. As a kid, I’d always dreamed of moving to New York, and finding our little niche here in Cobble Hill finally made me feel like I was the kind of city girl that I’d always wanted to be. Almost immediately, I felt more like myself, and even though I understood that there were realities of living in this city that would make it challenging to do it forever, I pretty much forgot about them.

Matt’s experience was the opposite of mine. He hadn’t grown up with aspirations of moving to a big city (he grew up in a neighborhood with woods and a stream and spent the vast majority of his free time on the soccer field or fly fishing), but when his job led him here, he embraced it pretty quickly. While I was sobbing over subway claustrophobia and stressing about my rent, he was living for New York. He loved the restaurants and the ability to walk everywhere, and since most of his friends moved here after graduation, he had a busy social life immediately. It’s only been in the last year that he’s expressed interest in leaving, and only in the last few months that it’s become a more serious conversation.

The idea of moving away started to get real back in October, when we spent two weeks traveling around northern California. Picking up and moving our lives across the country never seemed like a real option for us since so much of our community is here on the east coast, but our vacation definitely opened our eyes to the possibilities that could await us in other places. I could feel the difference in terms of quality life between New York and the Bay Area, and I found myself growing more receptive to Matt’s comments about life beyond Brooklyn.

Matt didn’t want to start seriously thinking about the move until March, so we kind of sat in that maybe-we-will-maybe-we-won’t mindset for a few months. I’m not great at being in limbo, so this was hard for me… but life basically resumed as normal. Fast forward to March of this year, when things became more challenging.

**Insert movie-style fast forward music here…**

Before I go any further, I want to make it very clear that Matt isn’t asking me to do anything I don’t want to do with this move. Ultimately, if I was fully committed to staying, we wouldn’t be leaving. I have a lot of mixed feelings about moving on from this amazing chapter of our lives, but I also understand that long-term, it’s going to be nearly impossible for us to live the kind of life we want to live here in New York City. It’s a hard reality to accept, but it’s reality. Honestly, I would rather choose to leave now, on our own terms, then a few years down the line when we realize too late that we’ve become uncomfortable in our own lives.

Here’s where it gets tricky: Because Matt’s job is more place-bound than mine, it’s naturally fallen to him to set the pace of this move, so there were days early on when it felt to me like he had all of the control and I had none. Honestly, there are days when I still feel like this, but I’ve learned that all of this is a lot easier to swallow when I realize that my husband is almost as powerless. The mindset needs to be that it’s us against the world — not Alli against Matt. I can express that clearly now, but it was pretty much an emotional roller coaster getting there. Just ask my girlfriends.

I’ve said since October that I was going to continue to live my life in New York as normally as possible, and that I wasn’t going to get too mentally tied up on when we’d pick up and move. For the most part, I think I did this successfully. I planned for the holidays and saw friends and continued to clean my apartment within an inch of its life. It felt like business as usual.

Where I struggled most to keep on keeping on was in my work. While I will be able to continue with most of my existing freelance work in a new city, there are some changes I’ve been wanting to make to my workload that I’m not comfortable making until we move. I’m excited about the chance to do a little professional pivoting and explore new opportunities, but I’m hesitant to do that now. I’d rather make all the transitions at one time. I started to feel really uncomfortable with my lack of control in a situation that was really affecting my work, and there were days that it made me resentful. Sometimes, it felt like I was just kind of standing still, like the only thing that was actually changing for me was that I was burying myself under more and more work.

One of my best friends started working for The Wing a few months ago, and from the beginning, I was fascinated by it. To quote the Web site, The Wing is a “co-working and community designed for women.” It now has three locations here in New York City and is already growing to other cities. Girl power, people. I went to a few events with friends there, but never really considered becoming a member myself, because I was so aware that my time in NYC was ticking. I borrowed some photos of the Brooklyn location from this article in Artnet News so you can see how lovely and inspiring it is.

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When I got back from the Ignite Your Soul Summit a few weeks ago, I was feeling ready to invest back into myself and my work, and I wasn’t quite sure where to start. I’ve always had a bit of a scarcity mentality around money, and I’ve been nervous to spend since I started freelancing, even though I’m now earning as much (sometimes more) as I was in my corporate job. Chris Harder, who spoke at the Summit, really inspired me to think about money in a different way, and to allow myself to celebrate my work by putting the resources I’ve earned back into the “system” so it can ultimately come back to me and empower me to do great things.

I happened to be meeting my friend for breakfast at The Wing the morning after I got back from the Summit, and as I was walking to the Brooklyn location, it hit me:

This is the thing I need to do.

It hit me again when I was sitting in the beautiful waterfront workspace, surrounded by brilliant, independent women doing interesting work and moving forward with their passion projects. It hit me again when the woman at the next table came over and asked me about my planner (you know how I feel about my planner). It hit me again when I couldn’t stop thinking about it when I returned to my home office later that day.

I talked it over with Matt and submitted my membership application the next morning. A few hours later, I learned that I’d been accepted. When we want to, we can work really fast over here.

To be totally fair, I wouldn’t have made the financial commitment to The Wing if they weren’t expanding, and if I didn’t think there might be a chance that I could transition my membership to another location when we do leave New York City. I’d be lying if I said this wasn’t a consideration. I’m happy to be investing in myself, but I’ve hardly thrown all caution to the wind.

In the meantime, I have a sneaky suspicion that making this decision for myself is going to be one of the best things I’ve done in the last year or so. Realizing that this kind of community is available for me — down the street, essentially — was a big wake-up call in a time when I’ve felt largely out of control. It’s empowered me to reengage with parts of my life that I’ve kept at arm’s length ever since we started talking about moving away. It’s reminded me that I have a lot to accomplish and create in this transition period, and that I have every right to accomplish it outside of the confines of the home office that I’m now realizing I outgrew a few months ago.

My first day as an official member is Tuesday, and I am literally counting the days until I can spend my time in the beautiful work space in the company of so many incredible women. Making this choice has totally changed my perspective on things, and I can’t wait to see how it serves me as I continue navigating big changes in work and life.

Basically, Wing, I’m really happy you exist. 

Happy weekend-ing, friends. More Wing cheerleading to come, I’m sure.

How do you cope when you’re feeling like you’re in a rut? Tell me in the comments below!

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weekend in charlotte.

Hi everyone! I hope you had a great weekend and that your week is off to a great start, too. We’ve been back from our little southern getaway for a few days now, and I’m excited to share some of the details!

First of all, if you’re planning a trip to Charlotte any time soon, I would highly recommend the Airbnb we stayed in. It was walkable to lots of bars and restaurants (although we learned that most people don’t walk as many places as New Yorkers do — oops!) and a 15-minute-or-less drive to pretty much anywhere else we wanted to go, from the center of the city to cool neighborhoods like NoDa (my personal favorite). Honestly, the space was more than we knew what to do with — we had two bedrooms and two bathrooms — but since we’re used to living in such a small apartment, getting to spread out a little bit was really part of the vacation! You could easily fit six or eight people in this Airbnb, and Matt and I agreed that if you have plans to visit Charlotte for a football game or something similar, it would be absolutely perfect, especially since it had an awesome front porch that would be great for a little pre-game beer and snacks : )

We snapped this pic in the living room of our Airbnb, actually! I’d hoped for more photo ops during our visit and that didn’t quite pan out, so I insisted on a selfie before our last dinner out.

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Here are a few more highlights of our trip!

(Fair Warning: Most of them involve food. Hey — we were just trying to get a feel for the culture of the city! And isn’t food love in the south?)

  • Driving through the Dilworth neighborhood and eyeing up all the beautiful old houses from the car. It’s basically everything you ever imagined that a beautiful Southern city could offer.
  • Exploring NoDa and brunch at the Crepe CellarNoDa was the closest thing to Brooklyn that I saw while we were visiting Charlotte — funky artists selling their work on the sidewalks, cool paintings on the building facades, funky stores, and cool bars. A friend recommended Crepe Cellar to us for brunch and the four cheese savory crepe I had there may have been my favorite bite of the trip. We also stopped by Amélie’s French Bakery & Cafe to get Matt his coffee fix — another suggestion from a friend!
  • Reading and relaxing in Freedom Park. So much of what we enjoyed about our weekend getaway was the weather. After a long few months of cold temperatures here in New York City, it was such a treat to enjoy a little sunshine and 75-degree air! We grabbed our books and spent a few hours on a bench reading.
  • A night out in downtown Charlotte, starting with dinner at Sea LevelWe ate dinner outside (did I mention that warm weather?) and tried oyster shooters for the first time (yum!). After that, we took a little field trip to the Howl at the Moon piano bar because we thought it would be fun to listen to some live music, and we got way more than we bargained for. If you follow my Instagram Stories you know exactly what I’m talking about… there was a banana-themed citywide bar crawl happening all across town, and we spent the evening watching hundreds of people in banana suits belting out the oldies on stage. It was amazing.
  • Breakfast at Sunflour Baking CompanyThe multigrain bread I ordered with my breakfast sandwich was quite possibly the best bread I’ve ever tasted. And Matt is still talking about the fact that he didn’t get to go back here to try a chocolate chip cookie!
  • Checking out the U.S. National Whitewater CenterGiven the timing of our visit, I’m not sure that we saw this landmark at its best, but I can imagine that it would be an awesome place to explore in the late spring and early summer. You can buy a day pass and have free reign of all of their adventure activities and ropes courses, and they also have a beer garden smack in the middle of it all.
  • Getting a great deal on a denim jacket at the Gap outlet store. I don’t usually like to shop on vacation, but we had some rain on Sunday afternoon and decided to check out the Charlotte Premium Outlets on our way back from the Whitewater Center. By the end of last summer, I’d more or less worn out my trusty old denim jacket, and I found a new one for $40.
  • A feast on our final night! I had one of the best Italian meals of my entire life at Fiamma restaurant (hands down!) and we — of course— made an ice cream stop at Golden Cow Creamery. Did you really think we’d last a weekend in another city without checking out the ice cream scene?
  • Trying the steamed bagel sandwiches at Owen’s Bagel & DeliI have a blog reader to thank for this one (thanks, Victoria!). I can’t quite explain why these steamed sandwiches were so much different than other bagel sammies I’ve had in the past… but they were really different and really good.
  • Getting through the Charlotte airport so. fast. I know this sounds a little silly, but I can’t say enough about how easy it was to travel through this airport. At the last minute, we decided to switch our tickets onto an earlier flight, and we made it from the rental car dropoff through to our gate in 25 minutes flat.

Thanks for letting me share the highlights of our trip with you!

One more thing…

Don’t forget to enter the February giveaway! This month’s winner will take home a $30 gift card to Barnes & NobleAll you have to do to enter to win is comment on my last post (linked here!). I’ll be drawing and announcing the winner this coming Friday 3/2, so don’t miss your chance to enter ASAP!

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happy (early) birthday, matt!

Birthdays are a pretty big deal for me. Not so much my own lately, but everyone else’s. I love any excuse to celebrate something special on a random weekday, and birthdays always seem to be the best way to make that happen. Plus, they give me the chance to love on someone I care about a little extra and to take some time out of the normal routine to recognize (even in a small way) how important they are in my life.

Matt’s birthday is coming up on Monday, and I’m so excited about his birthday that I thought I’d get an extra jump on things and embarrass him just a tiny bit on the blog today. Plus, Monday is giveaway day (!!!!!), and he shouldn’t have to share the spotlight with the awesome October prize that I hope you’ll all enter to win : )

We’re not doing anything too crazy to celebrate — just a really special meal tomorrow and then whatever else he wants to do. Our big night taking a cooking class at a beautiful hotel in the shadow of the Golden Gate Bridge on the last evening of our big California trip was the major trick I had up my sleeve for this birthday, but we can still celebrate with some dedicated time together now that we’re back in Brooklyn.

Matt’s one of those cool cats who’s somehow managed to stay totally off the social media grid (though he does read this blog — hi, Matt!), so I don’t get to give him as many twenty-first century-style shoutouts as he deserves. (Also, we have a joke between the two of us in which Matt has been running a secret blog of his own for the past few years. HAH! Cracks me up every time.) Anyway, here goes:

Happy (almost!) birthday to my husband, my truest friend, and the one that’s become my partner in every adventure and mishap and victory. You teach me something new every day about how to take things in stride and look at things from a fresh perspective. You’re smart, driven, dependable, compassionate, patient beyond all reason, and you somehow manage to laugh at most of my jokes (which I know isn’t always easy). You’ve made our tiny little Brooklyn apartment feel like home and you’ve become an incredibly thoughtful and sensitive husband in this first year and a half. Thank you for supporting me in all the curveballs I’ve thrown you and for letting me clog up our DVR with all of my bad TV. Can’t wait to celebrate you this weekend and always! 

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If you have some birthday wishes of your own for this awesome guy, feel free to add them in the comments below!

And don’t forget to hurry back on Monday for the October giveaway : ) You KNOW it’s going to be good.

Happy weekend, friends! For some weekend reading, check out my guest post over on FoodWaterShoes, where I share some of my favorite Brooklyn spots.

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tips for traveling with your s.o.

Matt and I have always been pretty good travel buddies.

On one of our very first dates, we took a somewhat spontaneous road trip from Hershey, PA to Washington, DC. Four hours in the car together each way, still basically strangers, not even sure what kind of music the other person really liked listening to or what kind of car snacks would make them less annoyed by traffic. We managed to get through those trips with only minimal awkwardness, which was an early sign (to me, at least) that there could really be something to the relationship.

Since then, we’ve taken countless long drives together. I’m pretty comfortable as the navigator, while Matt’s great in the driver’s seat. Eight and a half years later, I know that he likes listening to country music (or, more recently, podcasts*) and that a purple Gatorade and Clif Bar is his ideal driving food and drink combo.

More recently, we’ve started taking longer trips together, too. It took four years for us to get on a plane together, but since then, we’ve had a chance to explore some amazing places, especially in the last year or two. I feel lucky that we’re pretty naturally compatible when it comes to travel, but we’re still always learning how to do better, and since the trip we’re on is the longest yet (you can read more about the first few stops here), we’ve definitely picked up a few more best practices over the last few days. Here are a few (Matt-approved) tips for traveling with your significant other that we hope will help minimize tension and maximize fun!

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  • Share luggage space. We haven’t always done this, but for our last two trips, we’ve been more flexible about maximizing our joint carry-on and checked bags by squeezing both of our stuff into the spots where it makes the most sense — even if it’s not “my” or “his” bag. Admittedly, I can be a little territorial, so this was hard for me to come around to, but it’s allowed us to save money on luggage fees and to pack more of what we want.
  • Don’t overbook yourself. We find that it’s best to leave as much flexibility in our travel schedule as possible. Typically, we start a vacation with a list of things we want to see and do, but we don’t usually have them scheduled ahead of time. This allows us to get a feel for the area and ease into travel mode for a day or two before we start sketching out a plan. Leaving some margin in your schedule also gives you a chance to have a little extra downtime. As much as we love seeing cool sights and trying great restaurants while we’re away, we also find that some of our favorite moments on vacation happen when we’re casually wandering around town or watching movies in the hotel. Those moments only happen when you build in some extra free time!
  • Over-communicate. Let’s be honest — I’m pretty much an over-communicator no matter where we are. BUT, a little extra communication is even more important when you and your S.O. have invested time and money into a vacation that’s meant to be special for both of you. Early on in this trip, for example, I had a feeling that Matt and I were maybe prioritizing different things as we started to plan our itinerary, and I could see that it might cause tension (at least on my end!). We talked about it right away so that we could avoid a bigger issue later on — and it worked!

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  • Understand what’s most important to your S.O. and let them take the lead on it! Friends, it’s taken me a long time to learn this one. One of Matt’s favorite things about travel is exploring great restaurants and trying new foods. I love a good meal as much as the next person, but it doesn’t make or break a vacation for me, and it’s not always where I’d choose to spend the biggest chunk of our travel budget. In the name of compromising, I’ve learned to let my husband research (read: obsess over) restaurants and make most of the decisions about where we eat. It really excites him! Since food isn’t as much of a “thing” for me, this is a place where I’ve learned to step back a bit, which gives him a chance to vacation the way he likes to — and I can speak up when it counts for me, too.
  • It’s OK to do your own thing. Matt and I live in a 700-square foot apartment in New York, so we’re not really phased by sharing small hotel rooms, but we’re also introverts, which means that if we don’t get a little quiet time for ourselves here and there, we aren’t exactly our best selves. We’ve learned over the years that it’s really important to grant each other the occasional hour of alone time when we’re traveling. Time to exercise or nap or take a quiet walk is super important, and we always come back together ready to enjoy our trip even more. It’s not the mark of a bad couple’s vacation to spend some time alone!

I’d love to hear your tips for traveling with your significant other! Leave them in the comments below.

**And if you’re a podcast fan like us, I have great news for you. My friend Brittney’s new podcast Day In the Life just launched TODAY! Check it out here on iTunes. It’s a super cool peek into the lives of some awesome people. You’re gonna love it! 

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back to where it all began.

Matt and I are heading down to Washington, D.C. tomorrow, and I couldn’t be more excited! I went to college in D.C., and a lot of my closest friends from school still live there. Earlier this year, one of Matt’s best friends from college (who I’ve since stolen HAH!) and her (new!) husband bought a house outside the city. I can’t wait to check out their home and to catch up with some of my very favorite people.

Sometimes, I really find myself doing a double take when I remember that my friends and I are now in our mid-twenties (creeping up into that late-twenties category, too, yeesh!) and spread across the country in different cities, living our crazily different routines and digging roots in new places with new people. It’s always a treat to get a little glimpse into what those lives look like, and to be reminded of the fact that time and distance are really not a factor in your most significant relationships. Plus, you know I love any excuse to jump in the car with Matt, put on a great podcast, and drive down some new roads. (And maybe — just maybe — I’m also kind of planning the weekend around getting my favorite s’mores milkshake at a diner near my friend Gail’s apartment…)

D.C. was such a special place to go to school. While I wasn’t always crazy about my college specifically (that’s a topic for another post!), it was a pretty incredible experience to “come of age” (that’s a weird expression, but it fits here) in a city that was so vibrant and alive. When I think about the fact that I was 17 years old in my suburban hometown one day, and the next was set loose in Washington, D.C. among cabs and motorcades and inaugural crowds and a seemingly infinite number of bars and clubs, I can’t help but laugh. I really had no idea what I was getting into, but I firmly believed then that I did — and, luckily for me, I found the most amazing friends to explore it all with.

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Thinking I was the coolest on a night in D.C. senior year (at least then I had four years under my belt!). Doesn’t everyone have totally humiliating pictures like this?

Going back to Washington is also meaningful for me and Matt because it’s the place where our love story really started. We went to middle school and high school together, but it wasn’t until he and a mutual friend of ours came to D.C. for the Fourth of July the summer after our freshman year of college that we really even got to know each other (picture a high school of 2,500 students, a super cool soccer player, and the well-liked — but pretty introverted — editor of the newspaper)! It didn’t take long for us to realize that there was something more than friendship between us, and since I was working in Washington for the summer, Matt made a bunch of trips down to visit so we could figure out if that “something” could sustain long-distance once the school year started again. (Spoiler alert: we decided it could, and it did!)

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Our last visit to D.C. together… in 2013! So long ago!

After that first year, we spent most of our time together in Pennsylvania, where Matt’s college and my family’s house were just a few miles apart. Still, D.C. is where it all started, and since it’s been a long time since Matt and I visited the city together, I’ve been thinking a lot this week about the Washington milestones where we have some of our earliest memories. Here are a few of those places…

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The very first picture I have of the two of us — and I’m so happy it’s in D.C.
  • The Lincoln Memorial: On that first Fourth of July, my friends and I took Matt to watch the fireworks from just under the famous monument. We try to go back (or at least drive by) whenever we’re in town, even though I know it’s kind of a tourist-y move for someone who lived there for four years.
  • The Kennedy CenterI really wanted Matt to think I was a total Washington insider, so on one of his first visits, I took him to the Kennedy Center late at night. Fun fact (for my non-D.C. pals): even if you’re not going to a show there, you can go up to the very top of the building. It’s my favorite view of the city.
  • Good Stuff EateryOne of my best memories from that first summer is when Matt drove me back to Washington after our “official” first date at a Dave Matthews Band concert closer to home. I knew that four hours in the car together would be a make-it-or-break-it moment! Happily, we learned then that we love taking road trips together. When we got back to D.C., I told Matt that I’d been dying to try a milkshake from Good Stuff Eatery on Capitol Hill, and since he loves ice cream even more than I do, it was an easy sell!
  • The National Mall/World War II Memorial: Said milkshakes in hand (I think mine was Toasted Marshmallow), we walked down to the National Mall (can’t you tell I was trying to show Matt that I was so not a tourist? L-O-L) and wandered around. It started POURING rain and we (of course) didn’t have an umbrella, so we just hid inside the World War II Memorial. We were the only dummies out there in the downpour, so it was just us tucked into the beautiful monument late at night.
  • VapianoIn college, my friends and I thought this place was the. absolute. coolest. You could go there and customize your own pasta dish — and we did… often. That September, my mom and my grandmother were coming down to visit me in Washington for my birthday. Matt and I were barely “official,” but he so wanted to spend my special day with me that he coordinated with them and caught a ride to come see me. He spent the weekend with the three of us (keep in mind that this is a guy who’s one of three boys and was very much a fish out of water with three ladies). To this day, it’s one of my favorite things that my now-husband has ever done for me. I took Mom, Nana, and Matt to Vapiano for my birthday, and later that night, Matt told me he loved me for the first time. : )
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For my 19th birthday, my mom got me Lehigh-themed presents so I would be ready to cheer at Matt’s soccer games.

Thanks for indulging me in these memories! It’s always fun to think back on that special time — and to dig up these photos, of course. We look like SUCH babies. I can’t wait to get back to D.C. this weekend and feel even more sentimental. Hopefully, I’ll have pictures to share (newer ones, with better fashion)!

…AND don’t forget to enter this months’ giveaway! The prize is a necklace from The Shine ProjectAll you have to do to enter to win is comment on my last post. I’ll be drawing and announcing the winner on Monday 7/31, so get those entries in ASAP!

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first anniversary trip to Maine.

This weekend, Matt and I celebrated our first wedding anniversary. (WHAT??) I’m sure it’s hard for any couple to believe that a full 365 days has passed since they got married, but with all of the changes we’ve gone through over these last few months since I started writing full-time, it feels like the time has flown by especially fast.

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I think Matt and I were both feeling a little anxious about whether or not we would be “anniversary people.” A few months ago, we planned a road trip up to southern Maine for the occasion, but we’ve been traveling so much lately that I personally was nervous that it would just feel like one more long stretch in the car! Guys, we were so wrong. We are totally anniversary people. I honestly loved my anniversary weekend almost as much as I loved my wedding (and if I’d been able to wear my dress again and dance around to old school jams with my best friends for even an hour over the course of this past weekend, I think it would have been a tie!).

It was so nice to get away from the city as a couple and to explore a place that was totally new for both of us. We spent time in three sweet little beach towns — Kennebunkport, Wells, and Ogunquit (which was our favorite!) — and loved them all. Even better than the beautiful sights we saw and the delicious food (and cocktails) we had, though, was the chance to actively reflect on the last twelve months and how much they’ve meant to both of us. Marriage has been such a gift. Even though Matt and I were together for almost seven years by the time we tied the knot last June, there really has been something so special and distinct about this past year. I loved kicking back at our little rental cottage to go through our wedding album, watch all of the footage from our wedding day (you can check out our trailer here!), and swap favorite memories. I also made a playlist of songs from our past eight years together, so we even got sentimental with our soundtrack.

Here are some photos from our anniversary weekend!

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Checking out the beach (and this guy) from the rocks in Wells.
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Dinner (and a ridiculously strong and delicious strawberry lemonade cocktail that knocked me on my you-know what) at Barnacle Billy’s in Perkin’s Cove. This may have been the highlight of the trip for me! 
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So much lobster!
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Ice cream excitement at The Scoop Deck. (All those flavors!)
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Boozy strawberry lemonade was the theme of my weekend.
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Walking on the beach in Oguinquit. The water was so cold — the Jersey shore girl in me wasn’t ready for that.
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Dinner at Earth in Kennebunport.
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Walking on the beautiful Marginal Way in Ogunquit before we left on Sunday morning. 

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When we got back to New York on Sunday night, we cut into the top layer of our wedding cake (which had been waiting in the freezer since last year) and exchanged cards and gifts. It was nice to have one more thing to look forward to after our getaway was over, especially since we sat in three extra hours worth of traffic on the way home!

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I still love the way a ring looks on that man! 
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I’m not a huge fan of cake, but I was happy to finally get a chance to try a few bites, since I only got a taste at the actual wedding. It held up almost perfectly in the freezer, so I’m glad we stuck with the tradition.
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Since it was our paper anniversary, Matt got me a full-year subscription to the New York Times, which is something I’ve been talking about for ages. I’m so excited! He knows me well (and he loves a theme). That candle is the same one we had burning when Matt proposed, and we only take it out for special occasions. : ) 
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I didn’t stick to the paper theme, but I did have this box made for Matt. For months before our wedding, he was on the hunt for a special box for us to keep our keepsakes, and he never found anything he liked, so I thought this was the perfect way to celebrate our first year. I worked with an amazing Etsy shop on it. I also had something carved on the inside, and the finished product is beautiful. 

 

So grateful for our weekend away, and more excited than ever to see what happens in year two of our marriage! xo

ALSO…

…don’t forget to enter this months’ giveaway! The prize is a bracelet from The Shine Project! All you have to do to enter to win is comment on my last post. I’ll be drawing and announcing the winner on Thursday 5/29, so get those entries in ASAP!

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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!

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