recs

even more podcast recommendations.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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shoutout to my passion planner.

Dear Passion Planner,

Thank you for helping me get through this week. It was full of all kinds of ups and downs — some I expected, others I didn’t. 

You helped me stay focused and motivated in my new daily routine, despite the fact that I’ve really struggled to keep my head together and be creative in my work amid all the ugliness of our world these past few days. 

For the last eight months, you’ve indulged my crazy obsessive behavior, provided me with plenty of space to doodle and draw, and given me an excuse to invest in lots of colored pens. When I look through all of your pages, I see a full record of my first full year working out on my own, and that’s pretty cool. On the days when I wonder if I’m actually getting anything accomplished, you remind me that I’ve already made so much progress. 

Basically, Passion Planner, you are one of the better decisions I’ve made in the process of revamping my work and life over the past year, and you can consider me a true lifelong fan. 

Thanks! (No, seriously, thanks so much.)

Alli 

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Working on putting together my schedule for next week. 

For the record, this is not a sponsored post, and I am not a Passion Planner affiliate. I just really love this product, and I want to give it the credit it deserves. 

People often ask me what’s helped me be successful working from home, and my Passion Planner is easily one of my best secret weapons. But why should I keep it a secret? You can get your hands on one, too, and I totally think you should.

I’ve tried so many different planners and planning systems over the years, so why do I love this one so much? It gives me so much space. I use the classic size (instead of the compact), and it allows me to break down my day into hourly chunks. Since I make my own schedule, I find this really useful. I also love being able to get creative with all the white space! I keep a set of colored pens (I like Paper Mate Flair felt tips!) with me at all times, and noting my appointments, deadlines, and to-do lists in such a fun and colorful way makes the chaos seem a lot more approachable. If you’re someone who likes journaling and periodic goal-setting, the Passion Planner is especially perfect for you, because it prompts you to reflect on the progress you’re making both personally and professionally at the end of every month.

I wanted to let you all know that Passion Planner is currently running a Kickstarter for pre-orders on 2018 planners. There are tons of product options (including a new eco-friendly line), and for every planner sold during the campaign, Passion Planner will also plant a tree. What’s not to love about that? Inventory is often backordered later in the year, so if you’re interested in getting your hands on a Passion Planner for 2018, this is the right time to do it. I, for one, pre-ordered my Rose Gold Blossom planner earlier this week, and I can’t wait to get my paws on it in a few weeks when the Kickstarter is finished.

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Feel free to reach out to me with any questions you have about how I use my Passion Planner. If you haven’t figured it out by now, I seriously love talking about it.

Are you pre-ordering your 2018 planner? I’d love to hear which one you picked in the comments below!

Have a great weekend, everyone! I’ll see you back here next week for the AUGUST GIVEAWAY!!!!!!

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my fave summer reads of 2017.

Word on the street is that I missed National Book Lovers Day.

I know, I know — I’m so embarrassed.

If you’ve been following the blog for any length of time, you’ve probably figured out that I’m a serious book lover, so the fact that yesterday’s celebration was so far off my radar feels to me like a failure to wish my mom a happy birthday or to celebrate Valentine’s Day (and I love Valentine’s Day). I can’t believe I didn’t know anything about it until I checked Twitter in the late afternoon to see that just about every one of my favorite authors and publishing pros was sharing their thoughts on the books that had changed their lives. Way to drop the ball, Alli. Way to be out of the loop. (picture me slowly dragging my hand, palm-down, from my forehead to my chin)

I know everything is supposed to be super immediate and quick these days, but I can’t let the opportunity pass to share some book recommendations — even if it’s a day late.  I’ve been planning to put together a summer reading list before the end of August, anyway, and I don’t think there could be a better time than National Book Lovers Day (or, well, right after that) to do it.

Here are five books I’ve read and loved this summer. Consider this your cue to run, don’t walk to wherever you buy your books and pick up any titles that aren’t already on your shelf. While these were my favorite summer reading books, I’m sure you’ll love them just as much as I did any time of year.

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#1: The Animators by Kayla Rae Whitaker: Any book that tops my list is bound to be driven by incredible characters, and this is no exception. I loved the quirky and creative world of The Animators, and I truly fell in love with main characters Mel and Sharon. (Also, I hate to tell you that there’s a twist at the end, because then you’ll know to look for it… but it’s such a good twist that I just have to give it a shoutout. I promise you won’t see it coming, even with this subtle spoiler.)

wangs#2: The Wangs vs. the World by Jade Chang: I picked this up for our trip to Turks + Caicos at the recommendation of a friend, and I have to admit that it was a total surprise for me. The Wangs is the perfect mix of relatable familial dysfunction, laugh out loud hilarity, and twenty-first century cultural commentary. Also, who else gets addicted to a good road trip story?

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#3: Commonwealth by Ann Patchett: It’s been a long time since I fell so head-over-heels in love with a book written in interconnected stories and criss-crossing perspectives. If you’re looking to really get into the thick of a family’s history (we’re talking about some serious baggage here), this is the book you need to curl up with ASAP.

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#4: Lilac Girls by Martha Hall Kelly: Every once in a while, you find a piece of historical fiction that breaks your heart and gives you hope and makes you feel totally gutted — all at the same time. I’m still 100 pages away from finishing Lilac Girls, but this book has already made me feel all of these feelings (and more!), so it more than deserves to be included on this list.

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#5: Tuesday Nights in 1980 by Molly Prentiss: I’ve already sung the praises of this book several times here on the blog, and each time I mention it, I find it harder and harder to describe just how much I adored it and why it’s easily my new favorite title (like, ever). Read it. Please just read it. Then call me or email me or text me so we can talk about it right away.

What an amazing summer of reading it’s been, friends! As far as I’m concerned, any season that brings me to this many great new reads is an incredible success.

How about you? Have you read anything that you’ve just loved recently? I’d love to hear more in the comments below!

(Please note that, while I’ve included Amazon links for each of these books to make your life easier, I am also super in favor of you heading out and supporting your local bookseller. If there’s one in your neighborhood, don’t forget to help them out. They’re doing such important work in our communities! )

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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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more podcasts for summer.

This week, I’m back on the road! After spending the weekend in Pennsylvania celebrating one sister’s high school graduation and another sister’s Sweet Sixteen, I — along with my laptop and everything else I need to keep my writing business going — drove down to Ocean City, New Jersey. The festivities are rolling on for my newly graduated sister, and I didn’t want to miss the chance to hang with her and her besties for their beachy Senior Week! I’m heading back to New York tomorrow, but in the meantime, it’s been really nice to squeeze in a few hours in the sun between stretches of work. At heart, I’m a total Jersey shore girl, and this change of scenery has been good for me. Plus, I got to watch an old school Disney Channel Original Movie (DCOM, anyone?) with the girls last night — and when else would I have an opportunity to do that?

With all of the driving I’ve been doing over the last few days (plus some beach time!), my podcast listening is at an all-time high, so I thought I’d round up some of the shows I’ve been loving lately as a sequel to my last post of podcast recommendations. Check these out!

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1. Young House Love Has A PodcastAbout two years ago, I become totally obsessed with HGTV. For a while, it was pretty much the only thing on TV that Matt and I could consistently agree on, so our television viewing was more or less limited to House HuntersProperty Brothers, and the occasional episode of Love It Or List It (Matt’s not a huge fan of that one). Young House Love Has A Podcast is basically the audio equivalent of all of my favorite HGTV shows — plus, it has the distinct advantage of being hosted by a couple that you can’t help but fall in love with. Because we rent a teeny apartment in New York City, a lot of the home improvement tips don’t directly apply to my life right now, but I still love the way John and Sherry talk about their space, and it’s definitely teaching me a lot about how to do things beautifully and on a budget someday when we do have a house! These two are super relatable, and the podcast has also been a good entry point for me into their blog (also called Young House Love), which is really awesome, too.

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2. The DailyI think I speak for many of us when I say that, with all of the crazy and intense things happening in our world lately, it’s easy to feel totally overwhelmed by the news. It’s really important to me to stay informed about current events, but if I’m being honest, I sometimes can’t bring myself to turn on the news or take a deep dive into my Twitter feed. So much of what’s out there feels sensationalized, and I really don’t think we need the extra drama. For me, The Daily (which is a podcast by The New York Times) has been a really great solution to those problems. They release a new episode every day, and each one highlights the most crucial developing stories in 25-35 minutes. My favorite part is that the journalists who run the show dig a little deeper beyond the headlines to get at the heart of what’s really going on, and to explain to listeners what things mean and how they may have started.

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3. Watch What CrappensAt the total opposite end of the spectrum from The Daily is Watch What Crappens — a Bravo recap show that (literally) had me doubled over with laughter the first time I listened to it on the subway last week. I didn’t even care that I was creating a bit of a scene in public! I was loving the podcast so much that I didn’t want to wait until I got home to listen. As many of you know, I am a huge (and only slightly embarrassed) fan of the whole Real Housewives franchise, and the hosts of this show recap every episode with absolutely hilarious impersonations of each cast member. If Bravo is one of your guilty pleasures (yes, I’m talking to YOU!), then I suggest you run — don’t walk — to your device of choice and start listening.

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4. How I Built This: NPRMy budding entrepreneurial spirit goes nuts for this show, which profiles the founders of various businesses and tracks the stories of their success. So far, I’ve listened to the episodes about the visionaries behind Whole Foods and TOMS, and both have been super interesting — but they’ve also been good reminders that anyone can have a good idea, and that even the entrepreneurs behind the biggest names in business had to start somewhere. How I Built This is an NPR podcast, which doesn’t hurt its credibility!

What podcasts have you been loving recently? I’d love your recommendations in the comments section below!

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can we talk about podcasts?

PODCASTS.

Oh man, I really can’t get enough of them.

I’ll admit that I was pretty late to the party with this whole medium. For years, I would hear people talk about their favorite podcasts and just sort of smile and nod, never understanding how I would be able to work yet another form of pop culture into my life. I tended to read on the subway, listen to a favorite playlist while walking around the city, and binge watch reality TV when it was time to unwind at home. I was covered.

My first foray into podcasts was The Lively Show, which I’ve mentioned a handful of times here on the blog and will plug again later in this post : ) Jess’s focus on interviewing interesting, successful, creative, and entrepreneurial women totally lit a spark in me, and as soon as I discovered her show, I tore through the entire archive (clearly, there aren’t many things I do halfway).

Over the last year or so, I’ve started trying out new shows, and more recently, I discovered the app Stitcher, which has been kind of a game changer. As great as iTunes and the standard Podcast app are, I don’t think they’re the best for discovering new content, which is why I love Stitcher so much. It blows my mind how many smart and funny people are out there producing their own shows, and I’m loving the process of finding so many of them, one by one.

These days, I listen to a lot of podcasts — while I’m running errands, while I’m in the car, while I’m getting things done around the apartment, while I shower (yup, while I shower). Obviously, working from home on my own can get quiet, and most of the time, I don’t mind it, but it’s really nice to be able to queue up a show on our Bluetooth speaker every once in a while and have another voice around.

I was with some friends last weekend who are also big podcast listeners, and we were swapping notes on our favorites, so I thought I’d do the same today! Keep reading for info on five shows I’ve been loving lately. If you’re a podcast doubter (like I was), I think any of these could be a good place to start. You might just get addicted like me.

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1. The Lively Show (obviously): I’ve definitely plugged Jess before, but by way of giving you more details, I’ll say here that I’m actually most fond of some of the older episodes of this particular podcast. Jess switches up her approach fairly regularly (which I actually think is really great and dynamic), and these days, she’s been talking more about her (amazing) globetrotting adventures and some of the soul-searching she’s been doing along the way. If you hunt through her archives, though, you’ll find more of her interview episodes, which are my favorite. I learned so much about taking risks in life and business from those shows, and I can honestly say that they helped give me the boost I needed to start this freelancing journey in the first place. My favorite episode is actually the one that introduced me to Ashley LeMieux, founder of the The Shine Project (which you all know is so close to my heart).

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2. The Goal Digger PodcastJenna Kutcher is doing now what Jess Lively was doing a few years ago — interviewing really fabulous female entrepreneurs, most of whom are running creative businesses and doing generally cool things. Jenna also brings her years of experience in building a wedding photography business to the table, and I’m finding that I have a lot to learn from her from a professional development standpoint. She’s also really likable and has lots of amazing connections (I just saw on Stitcher today that she once interviewed the woman who designed my wedding dress … you can bet I flagged that one for later!).

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3. Gilmore GuysThis one is just pure fun. I’ve talked previously about my love for all things Gilmore (I’ve probably mentioned this podcast, too), and it makes me so happy to listen to Kevin, Demi, and their guests totally deconstruct every episode of the show. If I need a pick-me-up, I’ll dig into their archive and find an older episode about one of my favorite Gilmore Girls moments. These days, they’re actually discussing Bunheads, which doesn’t come anywhere close to Gilmore, but I’m enjoying the mindlessness of watching this new (to me) show week-to-week and listening to the guys banter about it. It’s refreshing to hear people who really understand pop culture talk about it in an intelligent way.

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4. S-TownYeah, yeah, I know… everyone is talking about this show right now, so I’ll add my voice to the chorus. I actually just started listening yesterday, and I’m already hooked! If you loved Serial (or if you never got around to tuning in, but always wondered what the fuss was about), it’s definitely worth trying this one out. For the record, I’ll pretty much listen to anything associated with This American Life, but S-Town doesn’t disappoint.

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5. we are the REVELERSI’m a huge fan of anyone and anything that celebrates life’s small and special moments, which is why I’ve really enjoyed the episodes I’ve heard so far of we are the REVELERS. The show is hosted by a husband and wife team who are “on a mission to romance the ordinary and revel in all the bits of glorious lining the insides of our lives” (really, who could say it better than that?).

Really, this is just the tip of the iceberg… there is SO much great content out there that I’ve been listening to and enjoying! Are there other podcasts that you can’t get enough of? I’d love to hear about them in the comments below!

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