NYC

finding a summer state of mind.

If you’ve been following the blog for a while (first of all — thank you!), you might remember that my first summer as a freelancer in 2017 proved a bit of a challenge.

I came out of a corporate job that was wildly generous with its benefits, one of the biggest of which was summer Fridays. Between Memorial Day and Labor Day, all employees would work an extra hour Monday through Thursday, then leave at lunchtime on Friday. The hours themselves were great, but the spirit of summer Fridays bled into the culture of the company for the whole summer. Obviously, we worked hard in the summer months, but everyone felt a little lighter. The promise of a shorter workday on Fridays changed the whole tone of our weeks. It was kind of the best.

Summer Fridays aren’t unusual here in New York City, and many of my friends have adjusted schedules at this time of year, so when I watched last year as my pals began posting photos of Friday afternoon happy hours and regular long weekend trips, I couldn’t help but feel bummed out. Yes, I had left my former job with eyes wide open about the benefits I was losing, but giving up summer Fridays felt particularly sad.

You’re probably thinking something along the lines of, “But you work for yourself! Don’t you have full control of your schedule?”

Well, you’re right and you’re wrong. Freelancing is kind of funky, because while I don’t technically have a Boss (yes, with a capital B), I still work for plenty of people, and I’m constantly hustling to deliver work to those people on time and to put myself in front of other people who might be interested in hiring me in the future. I don’t quite have the flexibility that other entrepreneurs (in the truer sense of the word) have, because I don’t get to call all of the shots in my work. I probably call about half of them. Once I’m in a successful business relationship with an editor or client — which is obviously my goal — there are only so many liberties I can take with my schedule and workload. Since I’m always balancing a handful of clients and a lot of deadlines with my own passion projects, that can mean that I’m working 60-65 hour weeks… even in the summertime.

I spent a lot of time thinking about this last summer. A few of my freelancer friends and I even thought about trying to hold each other accountable for taking summer Fridays and granting ourselves a little more down time! That didn’t quite work out, and since I have even more on my plate this summer, it’s not exactly happening in 2018, either. Still, we’re now halfway through the summer (?!?!?!), and I want to find small ways to make the season feel more special, even if I can’t take a ton of extra time off. Ever since I started working from home, I find that minor changes to my routine can make all the difference!

Here are a few of my ideas for finding those summer vibes even in the craziness. Maybe they’ll be helpful to you if you don’t have any big trips planned or are feeling overwhelmed by work, too : )

1. Get outside. It sounds simple, but making a point to step outside of my home office is big for me. Summer in the city can be hard because there’s not a ton you can do to minimize the heat, but I walk to and from The Wing whenever I can, and if I know I have a crazy day head of me, I’ll take an extra lap or two around the block on my way to the gym in the morning.

2. Treat myself more often. I’m naturally pretty frugal, and one of my biggest concerns when I started working from home was that I would constantly be tempted to buy myself lunches, Starbucks, etc. This summer, I’ve been allowing myself a few extra indulgences — especially strawberry bubble tea from the Vietnamese restaurant under our apartment! These drinks are a great way to cool down, and they taste like summer to me.

3. More date nights. Summer is one of the best times to live in New York (as miserable as the heat can be), because it’s easier than ever to explore your neighborhood. Matt and I have been making it a priority to go out more frequently on weeknights, even if it’s just on a walk to the bookstore or to get an ice cream cone. There will be plenty of time to curl up on the couch and watch TV in the winter!

4. Get dressed up. If you work from home, you know all too well how easy it is to keep things casual — to put it generously — in your day-to-day life. Most of the time, if I don’t have meetings or events, I throw on a pair of leggings and a sweatshirt and call it a day… but I’m trying to do that less this summer. I always get such a boost in confidence at this time of year, so I’ve gotten reacquainted with my closet and have been much more likely than usual to actually put on an outfit, even if I’m planing to work out of the apartment. I still don’t wear a ton of makeup most days (better for my skin that way!), but fully embracing my boho style with maxi dresses and long skirts and rompers on a daily basis has been really fun.

5. Drinks! A few months ago, I stopped drinking almost entirely. I’ve never been a huge drinker, but in the late winter and early spring, I was finding that even a glass or two of alcohol here and there was seriously messing with my stomach and giving me a raging headache. I don’t think I’ll ever be someone who likes to drink a lot, but I love me some rosé and girly cocktails in the summer — our summer social life in the city involves a lot of rooftops, and a girl needs rosé on a roof! — so I started working the occasional drink back into my rotation a few weeks ago. It hasn’t been making me feel sick… only celebratory!

What do you do to capture summer vibes? I’d love to hear about it in the comments below!

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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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a day off.

For the last two months (check out my February and March posts for proof!), I’ve been prioritizing a day off. Not just a Friday afternoon that frees up by default because we have to drive somewhere or a holiday like Christmas day when everyone has off. A real day off — the kind I used to take when I worked a corporate job that usually involved little more than binge watching the Real Housewives and getting a manicure. Putting this kind of day for myself on the schedule didn’t pan out for the first few months of the year for a variety of reasons, but about two weeks ago, I glanced at the calendar and realized that last Friday looked promisingly free. I immediately blocked out the day in my planner and started thinking about ways to keep it free. I got weirdly protective of Friday the 13th. It was all I could think about.

So, yeah, I guess you could say I really needed a day off.

I don’t think it’s easy for anyone to put on the brakes and step out of the work routine for a day — let alone a week! — but I’ve found it even more challenging to do so since I started freelancing. There’s no one else who can serve as my email back-up, no reliable colleague who can handle any surprises in my absence. Plus, since so much of my workflow now revolves around rolling deadlines, I almost had to pull back on commitments for the whole week leading up to my day off, simply to ensure that there wouldn’t be a last-minute Friday deadline added to my calendar and that I didn’t leave anyone hanging on emails about big new projects! As a result, I ended up with a slightly calmer week, which was just what I needed. It’s nice to be reminded of what it feels like to work an eight- or nine-hour day (instead of a twelve-hour one) and to realize that, even if you bring in a little less money than usual for a week or two, there will still be plenty of opportunities waiting for you when you get back.

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Somehow, I lucked out and ended up with the best weather day of the year for my day off, which was the cherry on top of an already perfect sundae. I tucked away my winter coat and broke out the denim jacket I bought when we were in Charlotte a few weeks ago and pulled out my favorite sandals from the back of the closet. Here’s how I spent the day off…

  • I stayed in bed until 8 AM — which is pretty late for me, even on the weekend — watching old episodes of Trading SpacesI’m so glad they brought this childhood favorite of mine back to TLC, and as fun as the reboot is, having access to the classic shows might be the best part.
  • An unhurried workout! It’s nice to have a little extra time to play with at the gym.
  • A stop at Books Are Magic, the independent bookstore here on my block that I mentioned in last week’s Brooklyn-themed Gratitude Diaries. I picked up copies of Text Me When You Get Home (the next pick for my book club!) and The Female Persuasion, written by one of my all-time favorite authors Meg Wolitzer. Both books were signed, which makes them that much more special.
  • As soon as I officially decided to take a day off a few weeks ago, I booked myself a massage at Element Healing Arts here in Brooklyn. At this point in the half marathon training process (more on that later this week!), my body is never very happy with me, so it was nice to have some of my knots worked out… though I was pretty sore after!
  • I treated myself to a makeup facelift at Sephora. As I’ve started prioritizing taking better care of my skin, I’m also trying to test out different kinds of makeup. Since I work from home, I don’t put on a full face of makeup every day, which has given me some wiggle room to spend a little more money on higher-quality products. My favorite buys? The Anastasia Brow Wiz (how have I not been using a brow pencil for all these years???) and the Smashbox Be Legendary lipstick in Pretty Social. With springtime almost in full swing, I wanted to treat myself to some new goodies so I can feel totally confident and fresh.
  • met Matt near his office in Bryant Park and we went to grab a drink with a friend at a patio bar in Midtown Manhattan. From there, we got a bite to eat at the Urbanspace food hall and finished the night with some spontaneous McFlurries on the steps of the New York Public Library.

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Start to finish, it was a pretty perfect day.

I’m not usually one to love shopping or pampering myself, but when I do, I go big… in case you couldn’t tell from that list : )

The biggest lesson I learned from this day off is that email has far too much power over my time and mental health. I knew that in order to really appreciate some free time, I would need to ignore my inbox, but I took the extra step of deleting the Gmail app from my phone entirely. I didn’t reinstall it until Sunday afternoon, and I can’t tell you how big of a difference it made. Now that I know how great it feels not to be so tied to my email 24/7, I’m going to try to make more of an effort to avoid obsessively checking it on my phone whenever I have a free minute. It’s all about phone boundaries, right?

What does your perfect day off look like? Tell me more in the comments below!

Finally, if you have a small business or side hustle that deserves a little love for press and podcasts (or know someone who does!), check out this deal that Brittney and I are running for our complete Partnering for Press series! Through tomorrow, we’re offering 25% off, which grants you lifetime access to all of the highly informative free webinars we’ve been running over the past few weeks, as well as an invitation to an even more comprehensive live session tomorrow night. You’ll also get a set of customizable tools that you can use to pitch your own business to the press so you can increase your reach and revenue! Click here for all the details — and to register! Feel free to let me know if you have any questions.

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gratitude diaries: brooklyn edition.

This week is a special one around here, because yesterday marked a whopping three years since Matt and I made this cozy little corner of Brooklyn our official home.

If you’re reading this from the house you’ve owned for more than a decade, I understand that this seems insignificant, but it’s a pretty big deal for us. My fellow New Yorkers know how rare it is to find an apartment that you want to stick with for longer than a single lease term — but beyond that, even the math speaks for itself. Matt and I aren’t 30 yet (though Matt’s a whole year closer to it than I am!), so we’ve lived here for more than 10 percent of our lives. That’s a pretty big chunk! Growing up, we also did some moving around, which gives me an even greater appreciation for the roots that I’ve grown here in Brooklyn.

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Getting ready for pizza and wine on the first night in our first home together.

This milestone also has a bittersweet element this year, since it’s very likely the last one we’ll celebrate in New York City. As you may know, Matt and I are in the early stages of exploring a move to another city (don’t worry — more on that soon), and while a new beginning brings some exciting (and scary) new promises, it also means the end of a chapter that I can only describe as amazing. There will be plenty of time for me to get sentimental about this — and trust me, I will — but for now, all I can say is that I’m extremely grateful for the three years we’ve had and the thousands of memories we’ve made here in Brooklyn. With that in mind, I thought today would be the perfect day for a special edition of Gratitude Diaries, dedicated to my beautiful borough.

Here are just a few of the things I’m grateful for in Brooklyn, especially my Cobble Hill neighborhood:

  • Our local bookstore, Books Are MagicIndependent bookstores are (very sadly) a dying breed, and we’re lucky to have gotten a special one right here on my street last year. I’m so grateful to be able to take a casual stroll over to Books Are Mag, where I can always find something to buy, even if I don’t technically “need” it.
  • The dozens of restaurant patios where you can sit and enjoy drinks and snacks (when the weather is actually good, of course). I could go on and on about the restaurant scene here in Brooklyn, in general, but something that especially struck us when we left Manhattan and started life here was the availability of outdoor space! If you don’t live in New York City, this might not seem like a big deal, but it’s been a game changer for us. We love wandering the streets of Cobble Hill, Carroll Gardens, Brooklyn Heights, and Park Slope in the spring and summer, finding the perfect patio where we can set up shop for a few hours.
  • It’s so easy to get around! City living is at turns wildly accessible and incredibly inconvenient, but this neighborhood in particular has been a great home base for exploring so much of New York. We’re walkable to so many awesome nooks and crannies of Brooklyn, but our location on the greater NYC transit system also makes it easy for us to get into Manhattan within just a few minutes! There are plenty of moments when I miss having the ability to jump in the car and drive anywhere, anytime, but it’s also hard to imagine not being able to walk or subway
  • We don’t have a dog — yet — but as a serious dog lover, I really appreciate living in such a dog-friendly neighborhood. Pups of all shapes and sizes are a part of pretty much everything in our area —they’re sitting outside at bars and browsing through shops with their owners and snacking on the treats that a lot of storeowners leave in a dish outside. It makes this whole city living thing feel warmer and fuzzier.
  • I know it sounds a little nerdy, especially since I’m no architecture buff, but I just love the look of our little neighborhood. The buildings are older and have so much character, and while I can occasionally catch a glimpse of a more traditional, modern “skyline,” I think the mix of old and new that we have in the architecture around here is really unique.
  • Summertime. If you’ve never had a summer in New York, you need to at least plan a day trip over the next few months so you can get a taste of it. It’s absolutely magical! Summer is a special time of year no matter where you live, but I’ve grown partial to the New York kind over the last few years : )
  • Our favorite local ice creamery, Ample Hills — which is one of my favorite parts of a Brooklyn summer! The location that’s closest to us in Gowanus even has a roof deck, which makes an ice cream date feel a little extra sparkly.

I could go on and on, but I think I’ll save the rest. I’m going to get sappy if I go further!

In the meantime, I know I’ve made a lot of attempts to capture this special place with my phone camera, but I don’t think I quite do it justice. Check out these fun Brooklyn photos I found via Unsplash! So cool, right?

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Photo by Carl Solder on Unsplash

 

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Photo by Jason McCann on Unsplash
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Photo by Jahsie Ault on Unsplash
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Photo by Robert Katzki on Unsplash
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Photo by David Cruz on Unsplash
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Enter a captionPhoto by Anthony DELANOIX on Unsplash

What are you most grateful for where you live? I’d love to hear more about it in the comments below!

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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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ten month recap.

Happy Monday, fabulous friends! Matt and I spent the weekend here in Brooklyn for the first time this summer, and I’ve gotta say, it was pretty magical. We slept in (which, for me, means I stayed in bed until a little after 9… luxurious!), went to brunch with friends at Rucola (this is one of our favorite spots, and if you’re in Brooklyn, you should definitely check it out — and get the smoked salmon), drank watermelon margaritas at Bar Bruno, watched movies, napped, read books and the newspaper, baked these Brownie Krinkle cookies, went to the gym, and explored a Bastille Day festival hosted by a French restaurant on our block. It was a weekend of yummy food and of summery drinks and of catching up with our NYC community and of cozying up in our little home and of spending low-key quality time together. I loved every minute of it, and I’ll admit that I had some serious Sunday scaries last night (while Matt watched the Game of Thrones season premiere and I sat in bed and wrote, which becomes our Sunday evening routine as soon as GOT is back on — sorry, I just can’t get into it).

I’m a few days behind on my monthly recap post (you can check out the last one here), but I’m happy to report today that I’m now ten months (and a few days) into the freelance journey. It was this time last year that I begin to do some serious soul searching about what the next right step for me would be. While I love celebrating each milestone of my “new life,” it’s difficult for me to look back on how I was feeling and what I was walking through twelve months ago.

Matt and I were newly married, and while I’d struggled to decide whether or not I was built for corporate life before our wedding, I’d fiercely hoped that, once all the chaos of planning our big day had died down, I’d feel comfortable and confident at the office again. I wanted things to go back to normal for me, emotionally. I wanted to wake up every morning and know that I was going to the right place and doing the very best I could for both myself and my co-workers. I always felt very blessed to work for my company — I still feel very blessed to have had the opportunity to start my career there — and I was enormously conflicted about the fact that I couldn’t make it work when I had so clearly landed my dream job.

And so, coming back from our honeymoon last July, I started riding an emotional roller coaster, knowing that I still wanted to be part of the something greater that my company represented, knowing that I wanted to figure out why I suddenly felt so confused so I could fix it and stick around, but also knowing — in my gut, which is where I feel things most intensely — that I needed to make some changes. It took many more weeks and many more tearful conversations for me to figure out what to do next, but July is when my wheels started turning, and I can’t help but think of that now.

Working from home and being out on my own was not then and still is not now a simple solution. As all of you know better than anyone, this journey continues to be an emotional roller coaster, and there have been plenty of moments when I’ve wondered if those scary thoughts I started thinking last July brought me to where I’m truly supposed to be.

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All of that said, though, I feel really happy writing this today, because today is a really good day. This last month has led me to some of my favorite projects to date, and since I’ve freed up a little extra time here and there in honor of the summertime to allow me to invest more in working on my book lately, I’m feeling more creative than ever. I’m obsessed with writing. I think about it constantly.

Guys, it feels really good. At least right now, it feels like I made the right decision — and that, even better, the decision kind of found me.

I love when I can share a recap like this one, because it’s satisfying to have an emotional high point so perfectly match up with a chronological milestone in this ongoing transition. I also know that these moments of reflection don’t always feel this great, so I want to celebrate the ones that do.

These next two months are bound to be a little extra emotional, since they not only mark the anniversary of starting my life as a writer, but also the anniversary of the period when I started questioning myself, wondering what I was supposed to do, and ultimately, making some really difficult decisions. I can’t believe so much time has passed, but I’m humbled by the way it’s played out, and so grateful for the chance to revel in the little victories. Thanks to each and every one of you for being along for the ride. You rule, each and every one of you.

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teeny tiny space entertaining.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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seventh month recap.

Happy Monday, friends! Whether you celebrate Passover or Easter, I hope you got to enjoy some quality time with loved ones over the last week. Matt and I were traveling to see family for the weekend, but just like that, it’s back to the grind today! Saturday marked seven months since I left my job in corporate America, and since I was busy watching my sister’s college team kick butt on the lacrosse field, I’m sharing my monthly recap today instead (you can check out the last recap here).

Check out some of this month’s developments below. The spring weather (and blooms!) has really given me a new outlook on work, life, and everything in between. I’m loving it!

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  • I’ve been switching up my routine. Initially, I was more or less sticking to my old 9-to-5 schedule: get up and out of the apartment early, get to the gym, then switch into office mode for the rest of the day. In the last few weeks, I’ve sort of naturally changed things around, and I’m really liking the way it’s flowed. I’m still up and moving by 6:30 or 7 at the latest (I’ve always been an early riser, plus Matt is out the door by 6:30, so I’m usually awake, anyway!), but instead of getting right into my workout, I’ve been doing an intense hour-ish of work — and usually in bed. I know, I know… I was pretty high and mighty early on about “never working from bed,” but I find that if I can get the bulk of my administrative work and emails out of the way first thing, it gets my day started on a really productive foot, and if bringing my laptop under the blankets with me from 6:30 to 8 makes that easier, then why not? Lately, I’ve been getting to the gym for a workout (usually a run, since the Brooklyn Half is just a few weeks away!) sometime between 11 and 1, which is a nice way to break up the day.
  • I’m feeling healthy again. After the holiday season, I found myself in a bit of a rut with my exercise and nutrition. I was struggling to control my sweet tooth, having trouble finding ways to eat healthy during the day, and generally feeling icky about myself — and the lack of Vitamin D certainly didn’t help things. Over the last week or two, I’m finally starting to feel back on my game, and I think that changing up my schedule has had a lot to do with it. As much as I love to stick to one consistent ritual, I’m realizing that making small adjustments can totally change my outlook and state of mind.
  • I’ve started taking advantage of outdoor workspaces. I can definitely admit that this is a luxury of working from home, but I’m happy to say that in the first week of spring weather, I indulged in it — enthusiastically. Who knew that so many of the city’s outdoor spaces have WiFi? Over the years, I’ve struggled a lot to figure out if NYC is the right place for me, and I’ve been finding that when I have more opportunities to explore it in the fresh air, I feel a lot more at peace with being a New Yorker. Pretty soon it will probably be too hot to bring my laptop outside, so in the meantime, I’ll enjoy this fun little season of afternoons working on rooftops and in Bryant Park!
  • I’m having to say “no” to things. It’s hard to believe that seven months ago, I was practically begging for any gig I could get my hands on. I still have a long way to go in building out my writing career, but there have definitely been periods lately when I’ve had to force myself to politely turn down new projects, or press pause on hustling for new opportunities. It’s a delicate balance between stalling the growth of my business and letting things get too out of control, and figuring out that balance seems to be an ongoing process!
  • Money is finally feeling less stressful. My natural state is to be frugal, so I don’t think I’ll ever be totally comfortable financially, but seven months in, it feels like my income is now reliable (knock on wood, right?). In the beginning, I often thought to myself, “There’s no way I’ll be able to earn money like this again next month,” and I’m finally starting to believe that my work is paying off in the form of consistent paychecks. It’s important not to get complacent, but it does feel good to be able to take a deep breath and relax about money… and to treat myself to a new pair of shoes every once in a while : )

On to month eight! Thanks, as always, for being the best cheerleaders out there!

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two years in brooklyn.

Two years ago this week, we moved into our cozy little Brooklyn home. I’d fallen in love with the apartment’s exposed brick and coveted outdoor space — not to mention its convenient location directly above a Vietnamese restaurant that served (so we’d heard) the best bubble tea in the borough. We had a long list of things we wanted to do to the apartment, and we’ve had varying success in accomplishing them. I have the gallery wall I always wanted in our front hallway and an (almost) full wall of bookshelves (that is now nearly at capacity) in the office, and we somehow managed to squeeze Matt’s much-desired oversized sectional into the main room. I don’t know that we’ll ever quite get around to achieving our lofty goals to “landscape” the back porch, but I’m sure we’ll put up another good effort this summer — for the first few weekends, at least.

More important than all of that, though, is the fact that this apartment has been an amazing home for the past two years. We got engaged smack in the middle of it. I planned our wedding from that oversized couch and spread my many DIY projects throughout (literally) every room. Matt carried me over the threshold after we got married. I started a whole new life from this home office. Even though it can sometimes feel like we’re bursting at the seams in this place, it really is our home, and when I think of anyone else living here, I can’t help but feel sad. After switching dorm rooms on an annual basis in college and living in a few different apartments when I first came to New York City, two years in one place feels like a really long time, and I’m so grateful that we’ve been able to put down these kinds of roots in a place we love so much.

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In honor of our two year “Brooklyn anniversary,” I’m also sharing a list of some of my favorite spots here in the neighborhood, in case you ever visit (and when you do, you better let me know!). This Cobble Hill/Carroll Gardens/Brooklyn Heights/Downtown Brooklyn area is really pretty magical, and I could go on for way longer with all of my recommendations.

  • Ample Hills CreameryThe best ice cream I’ve had in New York, plus they have an amazing roof deck at the location on Nevins Street (yes, a roof deck at an ice cream shop!) with some great skyscraper views. This is one of our favorite outings for a summer evening. Go for a scoop of Snap Mallow Pop!
  • Brooklyn Bridge Park: This one’s sort of obvious, but it still deserves a mention! Sometimes, I feel like our whole social life in New York revolves around eating and drinking, so it’s nice to have a place like Brooklyn Bridge Park to explore when you just want to get outside and move around. They have picnic tables and BBQ pits down there, too… maybe we’ll finally get around to using those this summer!
  • Lavender LakeWhen I think of spring and Brooklyn, I think of this place. It’s sort of a hole-in-the-wall tucked into a street off the beaten path, but it’s always crowded because anyone who discovers it becomes obsessed (like me). They have a huge outdoor space, and I love to spend afternoons parked at one of their tables with a glass of rosé and some yummy plates to share with friends.
  • Lemongrass Grill: Nothing fancy, but it’s a definite go-to in our house, and if you like Thai food, it should be on your radar! They have super fast take-out, a great lunch special, good food, and a dangerous BOGO happy hour.
  • Bar TabacThis little French bistro is quite literally on our corner, but we don’t get there as much as we should. They have live music there a few nights a week, which is always fun to hear when we’re out and about! Bar Tabac also holds a special place in my heart since it’s where I treated myself to wine and French fries when I left my corporate job to start freelancing.
  • LoboGreat margaritas, fresh Mexican food, and a great back patio (are you noticing a theme here? we love the back patios!).

Ugh, Brooklyn, honestly, you rule. Happy two years, my sweet little borough.

Also, please take a second to shop this link before the end of the week! Twenty-five percent of all proceeds will benefit Alex’s Lemonade Stand and their efforts to cure and treat childhood cancers, plus you’ll get to take home some super cute accessories or grab an early gift for mom. I really appreciate that my own mama is teaming up with me to make this happen for a cause so important to me. Check it out! xo 

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a love letter to nyc.

This weekend, I played host to my sister Katie and her best friend, who were visiting Brooklyn for the day to celebrate Katie’s 18th (WHAT! when did that happen?) birthday. My family hasn’t had a chance to explore my neighborhood very much yet, so I love any opportunity I get to show them some of my favorite places. Matt and I took the girls to check out the amazing views at Brooklyn Bridge Park (plus Jane’s Carousel), we had (a very un-memorable) lunch (sorry, Katie) near the water, and then we hopped over to check out the indoor Brooklyn Flea Market, which is currently set-up in a super cool old building with a ceiling so beautiful that I couldn’t stop staring. We finished up the day with (in my opinion, anyway) the most delicious hot chocolate EVER from One Girl Cookies and a few hours of holiday-themed cooking shows in our apartment.

I had such a fun day with these two amazing girls, who are both in the middle of all of the senior-year-of-high-school craziness that is both exciting and terrifying at the same time. Experiencing Brooklyn with them reminded me of all of my own visits to New York City when I was a teenager, and the way I was so dead-set on building a life here for myself one day. Sometimes, it’s still hard for me to believe that it actually happened. In other ways, my life is entirely different than what I expected, but I did manage to get (and stay) here, and that feels like a big accomplishment.

New York City gets a bad rap, and believe me — I get it. Most people who are visiting this town only get as far as Times Square and the theater district, and I have pretty negative feelings toward those areas myself. Add that to the widespread stereotype that New Yorkers are nasty (i.e. the woman who kicked me out of Panera a few months ago), and I don’t really blame other people for steering clear. What you learn when you live here yourself, though, is that everyone ends up with their own version of New York apart from the crowds and tourist attractions — and I have to say, I think my version is pretty great.

New York City — You’re not always easy to love, but maybe that’s what makes me love you a little harder. This is the only place where I know a life that’s all my own, and that life is one filled with incredible people, constant learning experiences, and delicious food. I’ve fallen in love so many times here — not just with Matt, but with the friends I’ve met who continue to make this place so special. I don’t know how long I’ll be a New Yorker — there are days when I wish I could just get out, and other days when I can’t imagine living anywhere else — but I promise to stop saying mean things about you. You’re pretty amazing. — AHK

With the end of the year coming, I’m obviously feeling a little extra reflective : ) So, to cap off my little tribute to NYC, scroll down for a few of my favorite pictures from my New York experience these past four-plus years. I had so much fun looking through old photos to pick these out, so thanks for bearing with me!

first-christmas
My first holiday season after moving to the city. Matt would take the bus in from PA to visit me.
roommates
I lived about as far east as you can get on this island (and about as far away from anything convenient) with these two.
maddie
Thank goodness for NYC for reuniting me with my journalism camp bestie. Seriously — thank goodness.
katie-and-matt
Nights were (and still are) the most fun with my two middle school loves.
first-brooklyn-half
Getting ready to run my first Brooklyn Half Marathon!
mom
I have so many amazing memories of exploring this city with my mom. Here we are with my favorite cupcakes at Molly’s in the West Village.
cat-neighbor
At my old apartment, we had a cat neighbor who would sit in the space between the wall and the open door and watch us come in and out. I thought it was the cutest thing ever.
fake-housewives
Sometimes, my fellow suburban transplant and I like to pretend we are housewives shopping for home goods back in PA.
engagement-night
The night we got engaged, right here in Brooklyn!
apartment
The night we signed the lease to our new apartment.
first-night-in-the-apartment
Our first night in Brooklyn! What you see on the counter is pretty much everything we had ready to move in at this point.
etv-fam
Hosting my precious high school family for boozy brunch. Who says you can’t fit lots of people in a tiny NYC apartment?
wedding-dress
Trying on my wedding dress for the first time! Even as a little girl, I always imagined I’d buy my dress in New York.
me-and-mads
Another holiday season with one of my oldest and most special friends.
natural-habitat
At home, in my element.
brooklyn-half
The first (and possibly last) time I successfully convinced Matt to run the Brooklyn Half with me.
me-and-katie-wedding
This is NOT a cute photo of me, but my bestie was such a beautiful bride, and here we are together on her wedding day, in this weird little place we both call home. (Photo credit: Lauren Gibson Photography)
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A few of my beloved NYC girls squeezed into one photo. Always grateful to this city for my friendships, most of all. (Photo credit: Bri Cibene Photography)

 

 

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