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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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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a random fact for every mile.

I never hit “publish” on a blog post in the middle of the night, so by the time you’re reading this, it will probably be a perfectly acceptable hour on Friday morning… but, for the record, it’s currently 1:16 AM.

Until now, it’s actually been a really great week for me where sleep is concerned (a cause for celebration over here!). It should come as no surprise to any of us, though, that the insomnia that I so love to hate is back at it so close to tomorrow’s half marathon. I have to check in at the start of the race at about 5:45 AM on Saturday morning, which means I am now about 28 hours away! Please cross your fingers right along with me that I’ll be able to wind down for a solid night of sleep later tonight. (Tomorrow night? It’s unclear. But you catch my drift.)

In honor of the 13.1 miles I have ahead of me — and also because it’s fun — I’m sharing 13 random facts about myself below. I bet even my close friends and family members won’t know them all : )

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Don’t mind the man lurking behind me. I’m just hangin’ out in my favorite hat.

  1. It took me a truly embarrassingly long time to learn to ride a two-wheeler. By the time I had it down, I was probably closer to seven than six. Even then, I refused to turn left, and instead rode loops in one direction for hours at a time in the parking lot of my dad’s high school (which was the place where, after months of hard work, I finally figured the whole thing out).
  2. The fact that our guests weren’t allowed to shower Matt and I with rainbow sprinkles as we walked down the aisle after our ceremony was one of the very few things about our wedding that didn’t go the way I wanted it to. Believe me, I asked. More than once.
  3. I played Kim MacAfee in a Girl Scout camp production of Bye, Bye Birdie circa 2003. It was the single highlight of my musical theater career.
  4. Since moving to New York, I’ve developed an irrational fear of falling down the stairs. I blame all of the frantic trips down the subway steps.
  5. It took me three tries to get my driver’s license, but I haven’t so much as scratched or dented a car since then (knock on wood).
  6. I know every word to “Paradise By the Dashboard Lights,” thanks to a loooooonnnngggg family road trip to Canada a few years ago during which we listened to an old Meatloaf CD and little else.
  7. I bake a mean chocolate chip cookie.
  8. Halloween is my absolute least favorite holiday. I know this is a highly controversial opinion, but I hope we can still be friends.
  9. Disneyworld commercials make me cry. Ever since our honeymoon to Antigua, ads for Sandals all-inclusives have the same effect.
  10. As a teenager, I was one of those girls who thought it was super cool to wear cheap stilettos from Payless and the Macy’s double clearance rack to school. I felt totally fabulous, but believe me, it didn’t really match my image. Ironically, I could probably count the number of times I wear a heel annually as an adult on my fingers.
  11. When I was in third grade, I started a class newspaper.
  12. On the rare occasion that I go on a YouTube binge, I typically stick to videos of Jimmy Fallon’s Puppy Predictors and clips of “Hot Topics” from The View.
  13. I’ve always hated coffee, but now that so much of my work life revolves around meetings and work sessions in coffee shops, I’m learning to drink it. I have to admit that in the hot temperatures we’ve had in New York for the past few days, an iced coffee feels pretty good.

Happy weekending, everyone! If you’re feeling inspired by my random confessions, feel free to leave a random fact about yourself in the comments below. In case you couldn’t tell already, this is a judgement-free zone.

And don’t forget to check back in early next week… Tuesday is giveaway day! I can’t wait to share this month’s prize with you! 

 

lessons from the mothers in my life.

One of the biggest blessings of having grown up as a child of divorce is the fact that, compared to most, I’ve had (quite literally) double the family: double the people to laugh with, double the people to cry to, double the people to learn from, and double the people to hug through the good times and the bad. With Mother’s Day coming up this weekend, I feel especially grateful to have been inspired by so many amazing maternal figures in my almost-27 (eek!) years of life.

I have a mom who’s been my very best friend for as long as I can remember, a stepmom who totally accepted me as her own daughter when I was three years old, and grandmothers who have given and loved me with all that they have every single day. These women are the foundation of everything I am and everything that I believe, and I am endlessly, humbly grateful for their influence, generosity, and love. In honor of Mother’s Day, I’d love to share with you some of the lessons I’ve learned from the mothers in my life over the years:

  • Don’t wait around for other people to define you or give you permission to be yourself.
  • It’s OK to be sassy sometimes.
  • Always do the right thing, even when it’s hard.
  • You never know who you’re going to run into. (I know this one means I shouldn’t leave the apartment looking like a mess, so I’m sorry that I don’t follow it all the time).
  • Your friends are a reflection of who you are.
  • Keep a healthy perspective. There are always people in the world with struggles more serious than your own.
  • Eating ice cream for dinner is allowed in the summertime, and cake for breakfast is required on your birthday.
  • Take good care of your skin.
  • It’s never too late to start over, or start again.
  • You are the only one responsible for your own happiness.
  • There’s no shame in doing things that other people don’t understand.
  • Doing well is important, but doing good is even more important.
  • True kindness is about doing something nice for someone else and not telling them about it.
  • Staying in bed too late is a waste of the day.
  • There is always more you can be doing with your time. Use it, because you’re capable of more than you realize.
  • When it doubt, go to the beach. Or find a puppy to hug.
  • Don’t let anyone or anything break your spirit.
  • Make your home a place where people know they can find good food and a good listener.
  • Never be a quitter.
  • Being kind to everyone isn’t the same as allowing others to be unkind to you.
  • Celebrate every last little thing.
  • Family comes first, always.

I could probably spend three more hours adding to this list, but I’m starting to tear up so I’m going to stop : ) How lucky am I? These women in my life are wise and loving rock stars, and I hope I can grow to fill even a fraction of their shoes.

One of my favorite parts about my wedding was having a chance to take photos with some of the most special people in my life. Here are a few of my favorite pictures from the day, of me with my mom, stepmom, and grandmothers. It broke my heart that one of my grandmothers wasn’t there with us, but I was wearing her bracelet in her memory! I know she was there in spirit.

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Happy Mother’s Day to all of you amazing mamas out there. You make us who we are! I hope your weekend is full of homemade cookies, family hugs, and sunny weather. xo

on blogging insecurities (+ doing it, anyway).

This week, I’ve been working on a really cool project. I don’t want to give too much away, because I can’t wait to share it with you in full, but essentially, I’ve been writing an article about this totally kick-butt style entrepreneur who got her start as a fashion blogger five years ago, when she was a freshman in college. This woman is super cool and so inspiring, and after getting the chance to interview her last week, I’ve been reading through her blog archives for research. She’s totally gorgeous and effortlessly fab, and while she got her start taking outfit photos in the dim lighting of her dorm room, the pictures on her site now are professional and stylized. There were moments during this process that I had to remind myself to keep my journalist hat on so that I didn’t swap in my blogger hat and start getting down on myself.

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About as fashion blog-y as it gets around here (for now)!

Here’s a Friday confession for you, friends (and you’ve probably heard it from plenty of other bloggers, but it’s my turn): this whole blogging thing feels really hard sometimes. No, I don’t mean solving-quadratic-equations hard or curing-cancer hard — the stakes aren’t that high, of course. It’s difficult in that I want to continuously put myself, my thoughts, and my experiences out there in new and fresh ways, and I don’t always know if my approach is the right one.

I’m not a fashion blogger, but I still wish I could fill this site with photos of me looking casually stylish, going about my daily life with a cool bag on my arm and the perfect looking-past-the-camera pose. I constantly wish I had more original images to use here, or that I had it in the budget right now to do an awesome layout redesign. Now that this amazing blogging journey has started, I want to be able to own my blogger status by doing things that other, apparently more fabulous bloggers do. With work and life and relationships and money, though, it’s not that simple! Building this blog — along with my writing career — is really about taking one step at a time, but if it seems that I’m taking those baby steps patiently, then I guess I’m just a really good actress : )

What I’ve learned over the last few months, though, is that launching new projects and chasing your dreams is largely about having insecurities, giving yourself just a little bit of time to sit with them and then basically saying to yourself, “Get over it. Do it, anyway.” Over the last year or so, I feel really lucky to have stumbled upon the stories of other women who have gone out on their own and risen above their insecurities. I love listening to them share their experiences, especially knowing how successful they’ve become! For anyone looking to make a major life change (whether or not you plan to share it so openly on social media!), I would say this is key. Find people who are out there in the world living the kind of life you want to live. Take comfort in the fact that they didn’t always feel like they were the best at what they do. Stalk their Instagram feed, because chances are, there’s a great story of highs and lows right there for you to see.

One of my personal inspirations has been Ashley Lemieux, the founder of The Shine Project (if you’ve been reading the blog for a while, you know this organization well!). She’s honest and authentic and silly and creative and the ultimate jump-in-with-both-feet entrepreneur. She’s also a lipstick lover like me, which I dig.

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Luckily for all of us, Ashley recently wrote How to Start Anything: A Quick Guide to Jumpstarting Your Dreams. I’m super excited to be involved with sharing this eBook and all of the other awesome things Ashely is cooking up right now (wait ’til you see what comes next!). The book is available for FREE right now at this link, and I’d love for you to check it out so you can get a sense of the amazing “make it happen” philosophy that has inspired me so much over the last few months, especially when I’ve been feeling secure.

…and once you’ve fallen even further in love with Ashley and basically everything she does (you will, I promise), don’t forget to enter this month’s giveaway! The prize just happens to be a pair of earrings from The Shine Project. All you have to do to enter is comment on my last post. I’ll be drawing the winner on Monday 5/1, so get those entries in ASAP!

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Happy weekending! xo

my bed (a sleep + work update).

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The big news in the Kosik household is that we are getting a new mattress this weekend.

If you think that I’m being sarcastic when I say that’s the big news, I promise you that I’m actually not. My husband — who is a major research buff — has been diligently (obsessively?) comparing mattress models for the past few months, and last week he finally picked one. It’s getting delivered tomorrow morning and, honestly, there’s so much excitement about it that I’m not sure anyone will even be able to sleep on the mattress we already have tonight. It’s like Christmas morning! When we moved in together, Matt inherited the bed I brought with me when I first came to New York back in 2012, which happens to be an older Sleep Number model — and he likes to joke that we’ve been sleeping on a “giant raft.” I’m pretty content with what we have, but he’s convinced that getting a new mattress will help solve my sleep issues. With that logic, I’m willing to make the investment and give it a try!

Given this major new development, I thought I’d do a quick check-in about my sleep problems — what’s worked, what hasn’t, and how I’m managing my insomnia these days. For those of you who are new to the blog, I started struggling with sleep about three years ago. I go through periods during which I literally just can’t fall asleep for days at a time, or (even worse) when I’ll sleep for a total of nine hours in a three-day period before I break down and take an over-the-counter pill. I’ve talked to several of my doctors about these issues, and we haven’t been able to work out a great solution, so I’ve more or less been figuring it out as I go for the last year or so.

When I wrote my first post about my sleep (or lack therof) a few months ago, I was totally blown away by the outpouring of love and support. It’s amazing how many people have had a similar experience to mine, and I sincerely appreciated every single suggestion I received.

Sleep — and getting back some level of normalcy with my sleep cycle — has continued to be a priority for me. Each month, when I put together my list of monthly goalsSLEEP is always listed at the top of the page. I’ve gone through a few pretty rough periods — recently, for about a month and a half straight, I was waking up at 2:00 AM no matter what time I went to bed — but in the last week or two, I’m finally starting to see an improvement. Here are the small changes I’ve made that seem to have made the difference…

  • I’m eating smaller portions at dinner. I mentioned in my last post that I’ve recently switched up my daily routine. Incidentally, because of my new schedule, I’ve been eating lunch later in the day (usually around 1:30 or 2), and I’m finding myself less hungry at dinnertime. Dinner used to be my big meal, but ever since my evening appetite has decreased, I find that I’m falling asleep faster… and actually staying asleep through the night!
  • I’ve given myself permission to fall asleep to a TV show. For so long, I was trying to follow the “no screens” rule before bed, because so many experts say that watching TV or playing with a phone late at night is bad for insomniacs. Recently, I’ve been watching episodes of The Brady Bunch on Hulu as soon as I start to get too tired to read, and usually, I’m out cold within ten minutes. If I happen to wake up again in the middle of the night, I put my headphones in, turn the episode back on, and fall right back to sleep again. It just goes to show you that everyone’s different and that rules (like “no screens”) don’t necessarily apply across the board.
  • I’m “taking back my bedroom” with my new morning routine. This one might sound like a bit of a stretch, but hear me out — in my last post, I mentioned the fact that I’ve been bringing my laptop into bed to work for an hour or so every morning. Usually, I use this time to draft emails, take care of general administrative stuff, and tend to any follow-ups… pretty much any project that doesn’t require a lot of of focused brainpower (for instance, I never do serious writing in bed). By 9 AM, I’ve completed about half of my to-do list, and the day just feels like it has a lot more momentum. Ever since I started doing this, I’ve been sleeping better. My theory is that taking this time for myself each morning (even if it’s work time) has finally made my bedroom feel like a less stressful place. For so long, I felt totally out of control as soon as I got into bed and tried to go to sleep. When I’m working, I feel so in control, and it’s like this crazy switch has now flipped in my brain that allows me to feel that same control when it’s time for bed, too.

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I knew that I was really starting to see progress when I realized yesterday that I’d been having dreams every night for the last week. Dreams! I haven’t had vivid dreams like that since the insomnia set in a few years ago. It’s been a bizarre experience having them again, but believe me — I’ll take it. It will be interesting to see if this new mattress helps even more!

It can be such a struggle not to sleep, and I hope these tips can help you if you’re also feeling the pain. Sweet dreams, and happy weekend snoozing, everyone : )

(P.S. — Monday is giveaway day! See you then!)

 

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