Monday, October 12, 2015

The Name of the Game Has Changed

I've been neglecting this little corner of my universe. Since I've started this blog, a lot of things in my life have changed (and then changed some more). And yet, there's still so much that remains the same. I'm still a lost and confused twenty-something, who seems to have taken a few steps back rather than forward. I'm still trying to figure out what it is that I want to do for the rest of my life (although I do realize I don't have to decide right this second--it's still a tough time). At one point blogging was a huge passion of mine and it sparked so much creativity in me. It was something I thoroughly enjoyed doing and felt that I was getting better and better at it. There was a time when I truly wanted to be a full-time blogger and find a way to make this my full time job. Now, things are different.

One of the reasons I've strayed from the blogosphere is because of how much it's changed in the past year or so. Every other blog post I see is about "how to this" and "how to that" in regards to blogging. It's all about how to make money through blogging. It's rare now to see quality content from authentic bloggers. I am so sick of scrolling through Pinterest or Bloglovin' and all I see are these types of posts, especially from blogs I once enjoyed reading. Then there are instances when I'm reading a post and suddenly I'm smacked in the face with some product, because of course, it's a sponsored post--a good percentage of what I'm seeing out there in the blogosphere now as well. 

Don't get me wrong, I don't criticize those who have chosen to make money out of their passion/hobby, but to me it seems like it's all gotten to be too much. I've even stopped participating in Facebook groups for bloggers because nowadays all that seems to matter is gaining new followers, but there's no interaction. I think I started my blog right at the brink of when this all started to happen and I can't even imagine how seasoned bloggers must be feeling. The internet is always rapidly evolving and blogging is just the new big thing. Who knows how long it will stay that way for?

I don't want to say that I'm giving up on this blog, but my feelings towards it have certainly changed, and I guess I just wanted to put this all out there. I still have dreams of becoming an author, the one thing that's stayed pretty consistent throughout the years. I've also had ideas of starting a new type of blog, but right now that's just a distant thought in the back of my mind. For now, we'll just have to wait and see what the future has in store.

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Sunday, September 20, 2015

Life Lately: Gloomy & Gray

When I say gloomy and gray, I don't mean the weather. The weather here has actually been sunny and still really hot, which only adds to my cranky moods. I've been ready for Fall for weeks. I am beyond over the summer. There's something about Fall that awakens something in me. That whole quote about life starting over in the Fall rings so true to me. And I'm at a point in my life where I need to start over. Hence the whole gloomy and gray thing. Even if it's bright and sunny outside, everything feels gloomy and gray to me. Not to say that I'm depressed, but I'm certainly not at 100%.

This post is kind of the complete opposite of what I usually write here or at least the messages I try to send out to others. I like to be as positive as possible and I like spreading that positivity. But I also want to be real with you and right now, truthfully, my life isn't all rainbows and butterflies. On the bright side, though, I know that this phase in my life is only temporary (as I've talked about in this past post). Yet, we all know how difficult it is to convince yourself that things will be better soon when it seems everything kind of just, well, sucks.

I've been wanting to get more into my blog for a very long time now, but I suffer from writer's block, laziness, lack of motivation, etc. I've also been trying to start writing my first novel, but that project is suffering from all of the above as well. Some days are great, but most days are not.

What is most frustrating for me is that I know I'm the only one with the power to get myself out of this current gray, gloomy slump. By forcing myself to just do the things I want to do, forcing myself to get back into healthy habits, etc. It's all up to me, that I know. But I've always sucked at self-control, unfortunately.

As a society in general, we try so hard to portray our lives in a positive manner. You look on Facebook and Instagram and the majority of people are posting about happy things. Bloggers do this too (maybe even more so). It's not just that we want others to think that we are living these wonderful, happy lives, but in a way we're trying to convince ourselves, too. But we don't have to be happy, or even just okay, all of the time. It's okay to be sad, it's okay to feel gloomy. So that's why I decided to share how I'm truly feeling lately. Because I'm human and life gets tough. And that's okay.

If you ever feel you need someone to talk to, please don't be shy - shoot me an email! Sometimes gaining an outsider's perspective is exactly what you need. Or sometimes, you just need to let it all out. And I'd be more than happy to be that person for you.

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Wednesday, September 9, 2015

What's in my makeup bag?

I'm not big on wearing makeup and usually go for the bare minimum. I love any kind of "natural" look. Now that I'm working with kids again, I feel less inclined to "spruce" my face up, so the heavy eyeshadow and lipstick wear is saved for the occasional night out or any other type of dress up event. I wanted to share with you guys what's inside my makeup bag (well, the main one...) These are the items I use most frequently, but I do have two other bags full of goodies! Ironic for someone who doesn't wear makeup that much, haha.

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

The Passage of Time

How fast an hour passes by when you're mindlessly doing something you enjoy. How slow an hour passes by when you're anxiously counting down the minutes until you're free from whatever is restraining you. Time is such a funny thing and sometimes I think we have the concept of time all wrong. But it's hard to grasp the idea of time, especially when you look at how time can pass both quickly and slowly, all in one.

More than in the past, I cannot believe summer is basically over. I feel like I blinked and suddenly jumped from June to September. I blinked and suddenly I was a different person, in a different world. Okay, maybe that's being a little overdramatic, but so much has changed that it really does feel like I've entered this entirely new life, with bits and pieces of my old life left behind.

Pretty soon all the leaves will start changing and the air will get crisper. I won't hear crickets in the nighttime and the sun will start to set earlier and earlier. Wasn't Fall just here? Wasn't it just Winter a little while ago? Wasn't I just counting down the days until warmer weather? And now I'm counting down the days until the weather gets cooler? Where has the time gone?

Like I mentioned earlier, it's funny how when you're enjoying yourself, time seems to just wisp on by, and then when things are crappy, time seems to turn into a snail. In one of my previous posts, I mention how having patience during these difficult periods in your life can help so much, especially if you remind yourself that it is only temporary. Because it's true. Everything is temporary. Everything is always changing. We can't stop that, so the sooner we accept it, the sooner we can start to enjoy our lives in the present moment.

And I guess that's kind of where I'm getting at with this. I feel like my summer flew by, but at the same time while I was actually living it, there were many, many moments in which I wanted time to speed up. Now I'm looking back and wondering if maybe I should have tried to enjoy it more. So now, looking at the beginning of a new season (because aren't we always so inclined to measure our lives season by season, year by year?) I ready myself to enjoy the present more. Who knows what changes will come in the next couple of months. Things can't stay the same, whether good or bad. So enjoy the present while you still can. You'll thank me later ;)

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Thursday, September 3, 2015

Sweet & Savory Roasted Root Vegetables

I'm a "dance to the beat of your own drum" kind of gal and that definitely applies to my cooking as well. I usually don't follow recipes and kind of just wing it. Sometimes it's a fail, but once in awhile I come across something that's ah-mazing—so of course I want to share it! When I bought parsnips and carrots, I had different plans for each of them. I love making peanut butter crusted parsnip fries. But since I had to use both sets of vegetables before they went bad, I decided to throw them together. Luckily they pair well together because they're both root veggies. I thought about sticking to the tried and true method of roasting veggies with olive oil and some herbs, but I was feeling kind of adventurous SO I present to you my recipe for...

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Patience: The Hardest Lesson to Learn

I have never been a patient person. Whether it was dealing with mundane tasks like standing in line at the post office or sitting in rush hour traffic, to waiting for my diet to finally start giving me results or waiting for "time to pass" so my emotional wounds can heal, you could pretty much say I have had zero patience in life. But has that changed how fast things come to me? No. Has it delayed good things from happening? Probably. Has it frustrated the hell out of me? ABSOLUTELY!

I certainly don't think I'm alone in this kind of mentality, but in the past I've definitely thought that out of all my friends and peers, I've had to be the most patient of them all. It seemed the more patience was needed of me, the harder it was to get through anything. Having patience (and I mean truly having it—not just convincing yourself otherwise) has been something I've been "working on" for years now, but it's only until this summer or so that my lesson in patience has really kicked in. Let's just say that this summer has been one hell of a roller coaster ride, one that left me (and my life) hanging upside down for awhile.

Through all that's been happening in my life, however, I've found some kind of peace. If you told me a year ago that I would be the person I am now, I would have never believed it (because I was stubborn back then and thought my world was doomed 75% of the time). Part of this new found peace (and patience) I can contribute to growing older and maturing.

The other part? Finally accepting the things that I cannot change. Appreciating the good in my life. Believing that the best is yet to come. Excitement for the future rather than worry. Taking it one day at a time. Not putting so much pressure on myself. Allowing myself to have bad days, while realizing that they will pass and tomorrow is always a new start. The list goes on, but I think you get the gist.

Post-grad life has not been easy, especially when it comes to patience. Although at this point is it even considered "post-grad" life, since I graduated over two years ago? I guess not! I'm starting to shift into a more comfortable, confident position in my life. The funny part is that not much has changed externally. I'm still searching for that "dream job" and have had several different positions since graduating. I'm still living at home, for the time being, until I can get a solid financial foundation going. I'm still single, although that part isn't necessarily a focus in my life right now anyway. My point is that what has truly changed is me. And that's what I was missing this whole time.

Sometimes we get stuck in the mindset that "if only ____ would happen, then my life would be better" or "if I had ____ in my life, surely everything would fall into place", etc, etc. I was a slave to this way of thinking for years. I definitely knew better, but it was very difficult for me to break this habit. I was so convinced that I needed my life to change externally in order for things to change internally.

Don't get me wrong, I still make mistakes. I still fall into this mindset (a lot more than I care to admit). But what's changed is that I've learned to be patient with myself and with my life. I know that when I start thinking this way, I either need to let myself ride it out or talk myself out of it because I know better (it all depends on my mood that day, haha!)

I hope that you're able to take away something positive from this post. I know how difficult it is to be patient, not only with your life, but with yourself as well. Ironically, I'm writing this right now while in a terrible mood. Yet, I'm able to control it because I know it's only temporary. So next time you feel like you just can't take anymore: close your eyes, take a deep breath and remind yourself that everything will be okay. Be patient with yourself. 

Thursday, August 27, 2015

Songs I'm Loving Lately #9: Great Tune, Great Lyrics

It's been so long since I've done one of these posts! Most of my past Songs I'm Loving Lately have had some kind of theme, but I was really struggling to find a common theme for all of these songs.  I guess you could say they're all love songs in a sense, but really, what song isn't? What I finally realized is that while all of these songs have a great tune (in my opinion) they also have great lyrics. Nowadays it's getting harder and harder to find songs that actually have lyrics that don't make you cringe. I chose these songs not only because they're catchy, but because a lot of their lyrics really speak to me.

When You Were Mine - Night Terrors of 1927
ft. Tegan & Sara
Okay, admittedly I love this song because it's catchy, as with most of my favorite Tegan & Sara songs (even if they're only "featured" in this one). The main point of this song is looking back on a relationship that has ended, but it's not necessarily a "sad" break up song. To me it's more like you're looking back on the time spent with this person. My favorite line in the song is "the hottest love has the coldest end." and boy, oh boy, can I relate to that!

Great Summer - Vance Joy
I've been on a Vance Joy kick lately. There are so many songs of his I can choose from, but this one in particular is my favorite right now. It's from the soundtrack of that movie "Paper Towns" which I still haven't seen (but really want to!) Another catchy song and fits quite perfectly for this time period since we're just about done with summer. The part of the song that speaks most to me is "the kid you used to be, well, I know that you're still there." Since I've been going through some rough times, I can really relate to this because despite everything, I know that "the kid" in me is still in there and I'm trying my best to reconnect with that part of myself.

Only Love - Ben Howard
Perhaps the mushiest song on this list, "Only Love" is a beautiful love song. It's the most personal to me, so I can't really go into detail on why, but my favorite lyrics are "darling you're with me, always around me."

Cecilia & The Satellite - Andrew McMahon in the Wilderness
Truthfully, this song I like mostly for it's sound and all of that. The lyrics are pretty standard and not much stands out. If I had to chose, though, I'd pick "how a face can change when a heart knows fear." Also, I knew his voice sounded familiar, so while writing this post I decided to google my suspicions and discovered that Andrew is in fact the same Andrew who was the lead singer of Something Corporate, one of my favorite "emo" bands from back in the day!

Tenerife Sea - Ed Sheeran
Ah, Ed Sheeran. Perhaps the master of love songs. This is one that hasn't reached the radio (yet) so enjoy it while you can and it doesn't get overplayed. I pretty much love all of the lyrics of this song, as usual with anything Ed Sheeran. But when he sings "so in love" my heart melts a little bit (or a lot a bit). 

Are you a fan of any of these songs? Or do you know any similar songs that I may enjoy? Please share! I'm always looking for more music :)

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

P.S. You're Not Old

I had a conversation today with my oldest friend (and by oldest, I mean the friend who has been around the longest—since our angst-filled middle school years) and it sparked something in me, something that I think goes through the minds of everyone and seems to start a little after you graduate college and enter "the real world."

When you're 21/22, you feel like you're on top of the world. Hell, you think you're on top of the world even before that, but even more naively so. I've heard it said many times that your college years are the best years of your life. There was even a show called "The Best Years" that focused on a girl in college (anyone remember that on The N?!) I always got so angry when I heard that, though, because first of all, at the time, I thought my college years sucked. As I look back on them now, I yearn to go back way too often, wondering if they really were in fact the best years of my life and I took it for granted. Spoiler alert: they weren't. My best years are still to come. And maybe even my worst years (please no haha). Who knows!

It is so easy to get trapped in this mindset because once we graduate college, we are hurdled into what everyone loves to call "the real world" and with that comes a wave of responsibilities that coincide with all the fun and adventure being sucked out of your life. I'm only 24 years old and I'm already seeing fellow peers getting married, engaged, having babies, getting promotions at work, moving cross-country, etc. It's hard to take a look around your world and think that you're still young, because so many of us are doing such "adult" things.

Part of my conversation with my friend today involved a lot of reminiscing, especially since due to certain circumstances, we're both back in our home town. As we talked about the high school kids of today (and thought about our own high school experience) I got to saying, multiple times, "GOD we're so old." And at that point I'm pretty sure Kate wanted to smack me in the face, because in her eyes we're not old, we're still just babies. And she's right.

We're still in our twenties. We still have years to make more mistakes and learn from them. We still have years to experience new things, meet new people, live in new places. We still have time to figure out what exactly it is that we want to do. We have all the time in the world. Just because we're done with college and expected to do all these things (thank you, society, for all that pressure), doesn't mean we have to. And just because you're 24 and already married and having babies and living your dream life, that doesn't mean you're old either. You still have so much ahead of you, both good and bad. We all do.

I'm done thinking my friends and I have gotten "so old" especially because I know ten years from now I'll look back at this time period and think "What was I thinking! I'm so old NOW!" (Which by the way I won't because I very much plan to implement this new mentality ASAP). If I keep thinking the way I do, then I'm not going to enjoy life. I'm not going to enjoy my twenties and all the upheaval it brings. Because no, we can't drink like we're tanks anymore and we can't go on reckless adventures (or more so don't want to because we've become "responsible" and all that). But that doesn't mean we have to stop having fun. It doesn't mean we can't go on any adventures. It doesn't mean we have to become a corporate drone, and live just to work and get by.

There's no one answer that will satisfy everyone's question of how exactly you do any of the above. For some of you, it may mean you travel—see the world, meet new people, experience new things. For some of you it means picking up a new hobby and/or doing something you never in a million years thought you would do. For others it may simply mean starting your own family, because of course that's an adventure in itself. Some of you may find that simply hanging out with old friends can do the trick. Remembering old memories and making new ones. The answer/solution is different for everybody. The important part is that you get out there and DO something. Get out there and live. Don't get stuck in the past.

When I say that 24 is not old, I also mean that 34 isn't old—neither is 44, 54, etc. It's never too late to change your life. It's never too late to do something new. Sometimes we get too stuck in the past. It's okay to get nostalgic, but don't let it run your life. I say this as someone whose been this way for a very long time. I rarely enjoy the present because I'm stuck in the past (or worried about the future... can I get an amen? Ha.) But I'm trying really hard to change that about myself, and I hope you can, too.

[Kate and I years from now, obviously still complaining about stupid people]

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

The 7 Best Movies to Watch in the Summer

We may only have a few weeks left of summer, but what better way to embrace it (besides going outside and enjoying the sunshine and warmth as much as you can!) than to watch movies that remind you of summer? I find myself watching some of these movies throughout the year and they always just scream "summer" to me, probably because they are set in the summertime (duh) but also because something about this season always reminds me of two things: love and friendship. These movies perfectly capture those themes. And while it may seem counterintuitive to celebrate the last bit of summer by staying indoors and watching movies, we all know some nights we just need to stay in and relax - but you still want to enjoy summertime! Hopefully watching these will also help you halt the excitement you may be feeling for fall to get here already and remind you just what summer is really about.

Possibly THE ultimate summer movie for me. Who can resist this steamy love story?! Set in the Poconos during the summer of '63, Dirty Dancing is a classic. Patrick Swayze is some serious eye candy and I can only ever dream that I would have the dance skills of Jennifer Grey.

Okay, maybe I lied, because this may be the ultimate summer movie for me... or at least comes as a close second. This beautiful story of friendship takes place the summer of 1970 in a small town and truly captures the essence of growing up, especially that awkward stage where you're still technically a kid but also on your way to becoming a teenager. Red rover, red rover...

I may be a little hypocritical here because I have actually never seen this movie (YET!) but you bet it's on my must-watch list before August is over. It's similar to Now and Then in the sense that it also takes place in the summer and is also a story about four 12 year old friends. Another coming of age story that has touched the hearts of so many.

This was one of my favorite movies growing up. I still cry every single time I watch it. It's one of the sweetest movies I've ever seen.

(1 & 2)
I'm combining both the first and second installment of this movie because I always saw it as one movie. The best part about these movies is that it captures friendship, family AND love. It also shows how sometimes your friends become your family, despite how far apart you may be. 

Here's a movie that'll really throw you back into the 90s (even though it came out in 2001). Out of all the American Pie movies, this one's my favorite for several reasons. First off, it takes place in the summer, so you know, duh. Secondly, it's when Jim and Michelle finally get together. And perhaps most importantly, it's a perfect example of what happens to groups of friends after they've gone away to college and come back for the summer. It's hard staying in touch with your high school friends and this movie really touches on that (in a hilarious way, of course).

Not exactly the best acting or the best plot line, but it's a fun summertime love story to watch. Plus, Freddie Prinze Jr. and Jessica Biel just sizzle in this movie.

Since I had such a hard time narrowing down which movies to include in my list, I had a lot left over that I still wanted to share! I even had to narrow down my "honorable mentions" list as well.

Honorable Mentions

What are some of your favorite movies to watch in the summer?

Monday, July 27, 2015

It's Time to Stop Basing Your Life on What Others Think

Lately I've been making a lot of "unconventional" decisions in my life and the direction in which my life is headed. I'm straying away from what society believes is normal and what a college educated woman should be doing nowadays. I'm ultimately making decisions with my heart, rather than with my head. And, unfortunately, many people frown upon that. But am I going to let it stop me? Absolutely not.

Every one of us may encounter a situation like this at some point in our lives, whether it's a big decision or a small one. I can already tell you that not everyone will be on board with your decision and almost everyone will have some kind of opinion on the matter. Some will voice it, others will not. It may even be your own friends and family who are your toughest critics. They may drive you up the wall. They may make you second guess yourself. They may even talk you out of something that you really, truly believed was best for you. I'm here to tell you that you cannot let that happen.

Sure, there are many cases in which your loved ones are just looking out for you and want the best for you, but you know what? You're the one who at the end of the day knows what's best. You're the one who will be living with whatever decision you end up making. It's not a bad thing at all to ask for the opinion and help from other people, especially because I do think it's important to get some outside perspective. But when it gets to the point that you're basically getting your dreams shit on (excuse my language) then it's time to start saying screw what people think, this is my life.

We live in a world where everyone's life, every single little detail, is out there for all to see (and to compare with). Unfortunately this does more damage than good. We compare ourselves too much with other people and their lives, and a lot of the time that hinders our own progress or change. I've certainly talked about this issue on my blog before, but it's that important that I feel I need to keep reiterating it (for my readers just as much as for myself). We need to stop making decisions based on what other people think and we also need to stop comparing our lives with other people. You're only ever going to get to where you're truly happy once you block out the rest of the world. This is your life, your journey - live it your way.

"The best day of your life is the one on which you decide your life is your own. No apologies or excuses. No one to lean on, rely on or blame. The gift is yours. It is an amazing journey - and you alone are responsible for the quality of it. This is the day your life really begins." 
-Bob Moawad

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

The End of an Era

Recently I have faced the end of an era, or at least what feels like the end of era to me. I'm not going to go into details because it is something very personal, but I do want to share what the experience has taught me, especially when it comes to life in general.

I always liked to imagine each individual life as a book. You fill your own book with chapters and each chapter represents different periods of your life, or maybe just certain events that were game changers. Some books are short. Some books are long. Some are boring. Some are full of adventure. Some are beautiful and heart breaking love stories. Some are filled with lessons. They all have a story to tell, though.

In my case, I imagine my life as a series of novels. Each book, even though it's filled with chapters highlighting different events and times in my life, must come to an end at some point. We are meant to move on. It doesn't mean that none of it ever happened, or that we didn't learn from it. Some stories we still have left open-ended and that is often times very exciting. Other stories...  well, we must come to terms with the fact that they have been completed. And if you're anything like me, it could be a very sad moment.
Have you ever read a book and once it was over you're filled with the strangest melancholy? Or maybe you read a series of novels (take Harry Potter, for instance) and once you're finished and you know that was the last book of the series you'll ever read, you wish you could experience it all over again. That's exactly how I've been feeling about this "end of an era" I recently faced.

However sad it may be, for reason simply being that you're filled with nostalgia of yesteryear, you eventually need to come to terms with the fact that the past is the past. I've never been good on leaving the past behind. Those who have meant so much to me, who have influenced my life at every turn—well, I have trouble letting go of that. It's always been plain and simple: I care too much. I don't necessarily view that as a bad thing. I am who I am and I like the fact that I am such a caring person (so if you ever hear me crying and cursing the universe for making me who I am, just ignore that, it usually passes).

These past twelve years (roughly) I have learned so, so, SO much. For whatever reason, I feel like I'm finally closing the door on my childhood. Up until now I saw myself as still being a girl (and really, I probably always will a little bit). However, as cheesy as it is to say, I feel that all of my experiences up until now have finally led me to become a women. I'm saying goodbye to my childhood (and I use this term to refer to teenage years, mostly) and because of that I've been feeling pretty nostalgic lately. I keep thinking back on so many memories and smiling (with some crying thrown in the mix as well, of course) but in my heart I know it's time to close that door and open a new one. I've been feeling really excited for my future and also more peaceful and worry-free of what's to come. I may still be that lost and confused post-grad millennial in some sense, but I'm no where how I used to be.

So, while this may be an end of an era, I think it's also the start of a new one. 
And that, friends, is beyond exciting.

Monday, July 13, 2015

Life Lately: Summer Break

Ah... life lately. This past month or so has sent me on quite the roller coaster ride. So much has changed, so much has happened (and yet, a lot of things are still the same, too). I've been wanting to/trying to get back into the blogging game for the longest time now and you would be shocked to see how full my notebooks are with blog post ideas. Despite my lack of being here, my mind is still whirring with ideas every single day! I know eventually I will get to them, but I've kind of been taking a vacation for myself. I left the job I had been at since January about three weeks ago, for various reasons, but I can honestly say it was the best decision I've made in awhile. I've always been a firm believer that if something is not making you happy, or if you find yourself in a toxic environment, it's time to move on as soon as possible.

I've been taking the time I have off to kind of reassess and evaluate my life currently - more or less figure out what my next move is. I have a few solid ideas for my future, but I need to get my mind sorted out first. Which is why I'm allowing myself to have a summer break, just like I used to back when I was in school. I'm not necessarily taking the entire summer off (because you know: adult life, real world, bills, blah blah blah). I do think I need this break, though, and sometimes you just need to do what is best for your own sanity.

There's so much I want to write about and so much I want to share with everyone. I'm itching to get some advice and wisdom out to the world! I know I'll get there soon, though. We live in such a world that it seems "breaks" are frowned upon, or we just don't have the time or means to do so, and I think that is so very unfortunate. I feel people would be a lot happier and more relaxed if we were able to take these mental breaks from life. So do me a favor: even if you don't necessarily have the time to take a summer break like I am, take SOME kind of break - some YOU time. Spend the weekend camping. Go to the beach (a quiet one). Go be in nature. Enjoy the season. Take a moment to take some deep breaths and just think. No pressure thinking. Just let your thoughts flow. Don't stress or worry about anything. You deserve that more than you may think.

P.S. Go do a cartwheel even if you suck at it ;)

Until next time!
xo, Val

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Add this to your summer reading list

It's officially summer, hell yeah! One of my favorite parts of summer is getting to sit outside, enjoying the summer breeze, and reading a good book. If you haven't started a summer reading list I advise you do so pronto! Better yet, I have the first book you can add to your list.

Home is Where Your Boots Are by Kalan Chapman Lloyd (2011)

I’ll be honest, I was hesitant when I started this book because I’m not a big fan of the typical “chick-lit” genre. However, I was pleasantly surprised that not only was it far from one of those types of novels, but the writing itself didn’t reflect on that genre either. The narrative style comes across naturally and also humorous at times, which is just the kind of book you’d want to read during care-free summer days. 

Home is Where Your Boots Are is part mystery with some romance involved, but it’s also a story about dealing with big changes in your life, making the best with what we have and, of course, having the help of your family and friends throughout it all (something I can very much relate to right now!) One of my favorite aspects of the book is that it’s set in a small town in the South. I love reading books set in the South because I love reading about small town charm. 

While yes, this book appears to be the typical “girl moves back home and re-visits her past, including past lovers” type of scenario, there is so much more to that. The mystery in the book is enough to keep you on your toes and it’s one of those books that you won’t want to put down. It’s also an easy read, which I find perfect for summer reading lists. 

Kalan has turned this into a series, so Home is Where Your Boots Are is only the first in more to come. In fact, the second installment of the series, These Boots Are Made for Butt-Kickin', just came out this month! To get yourself a copy of either novel click here or here. To check out more information about the author or the books themselves, head over to Kalan's website.

To read more of my book reviews click here!

Monday, June 15, 2015

Sleepwalking Through Life

We're just about six months into 2015 and I feel like I've been on an emotional roller coaster that has lasted for years. This year has brought on so many changes for me, while still really remaining the same (it always strikes me as funny that life tends to happen that way). If there was a song that closely resembled myself during these past few months, it may just be Katy Perry's "Hot n Cold" song. My mind really changes from one day to the next and let me tell you, it's exhausting.

Despite all these mental roadblocks and emotional roller coaster rides I've been facing lately, I still find myself somewhat "sleepwalking" through life. I don't think I am experiencing it the way I should and I usually only feel half there. This is something pretty personal to be sharing, but I want to share it because I want others to know that if you're feeling the same way, or ever have, you're obviously not alone.

It's so easy to get caught up in the hum drum of life and suddenly find yourself just going through the motions. It's easy to stop pursuing change in your life, especially positive change, when you're just so emotionally and mentally drained. It's easy to let yourself stop taking risks or chances because it's safer that way. "Sleepwalking" your way through life is a defense mechanism we may not always recognize. Sometimes you find yourself doing so because you're exhausted, in all sense of the word. When we've been through a lot, sometimes our only option is to "shut off our brain," so to speak.

The ironic part is that my brain isn't necessarily in shut off mode, because I still find myself overthinking and worrying about the most mundane things, or as usual, situations I have no control over. My positive thinking attitude has suffered greatly because I simply find I don't have the energy to put into that anymore. And that's terrible!

I was hoping that by writing this blog post I'd find myself with some kind of advice or solution by the end of it, if not for myself than at least for others who may find themselves in similar types of situations, but I'm still clueless. The only thing I really know is that we can't allow ourselves to reach this point where we are going through the motions of every day, finding that we no longer strive for more or are in pursuit of our dreams and hopes for the future.

This whole "sleepwalking through life" mentally is one of the reasons I've been on such a long blogging hiatus. I miss it all the time and I wish I could push myself to start up this hobby I so much enjoy, especially if it correlates so much with my future goals and dreams. But if you've ever been in this type of rough patch, then you know just how difficult it is to get yourself awake!

I'm always trying to offer advice to my readers, but this time I'm asking my readers for advice. 
What do you do when you find yourself feeling this way? 
What has worked for you in the past?

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Thumbs Up Tuesday #2

I'm not really sure what prompted me to start these "Thumbs Up Tuesdays" but I'm starting to realize this is a great way of looking back on your week (or month or just a day, etc.) and being grateful for the good in your life. At first I thought this would just be a fun thing to do and a great way to get to know other bloggers and network, but now I'm realizing how much potential it really has. Of course, the things that get "thumbs up" can be small & simple, even rather silly at times, but I think that's the first step in enjoying the little things. In such a crushing world with so many obstacles to face, it's so important to focus on the good things that are happening in your life, or the things that you really appreciate. Make a habit out of doing this and you'll find your outlook on life will be a lot brighter.

Thumbs up to...

...going on a nature walk. I'm so, so grateful that the trees are finally in bloom. I feel like it happened so quickly, but I'm not complaining at all. I love the summertime and I love nature. I love going on walks in the wood and just being able to think to myself and find peace and quiet amongst the nature surrounding me.

...thrift shopping. This was a Mother's Day activity (although we do it pretty much all the time) but that's one of the things I really love doing with my mom. It's kind of just become our thing. I'm also excited about this particular trip because I found an awesome oversized lifeguard tank that I plan on wearing pretty much the entire summer.

...letting my imagination run wild. This is usually a very bad thing for me because I have the wildest, most detailed, "most unlikely to happen" imagination. I'm day dreaming at least 50% of the time. I have realized that I need to be in the present more and not let my imagination lead to disappointments. However, I haven't felt this giddy new beginning stuff in awhile and my soul really thrives on this kind of thing.

...all the ideas I have formulating. I may not complete any of them or ever get started on half, but the fact that I am starting to be creative again and really THINK about things I want to do is such a relief for me. As you may or may not know the past couple of months were slightly rough on me, especially creatively speaking, so now that I have my creative outlet back I am starting to feel more like myself these days. Plus it gives me projects to look forward to.

...still having dreams to pursue. I may have had quite a few tumbles and there are still plenty of obstacles in my way, but I haven't given up on my dreams these past couple of years which I think is pretty awesome. I'm glad that they're stilling floating around in my head, that I'm still trying to plan for my future involving my dream, that I haven't lost sight of what I truly want. For awhile there I thought I had lost it, but it was never really lost. I just had to regroup.

One thing I realized in the process of writing these "thumbs up's" is that I always put restrictions on myself and what I want to be doing with my life because I feel I simply don't have the time. We hear it all the time, "there just aren't enough hours in the day." But I look around and I see plenty of successful people who put their heart and soul into things, even while still working a full-time job and MORE, and they manage to create beautiful things (whether it's a book, a business, a blog, etc.) I absolutely need to make an effort to stop using time as an excuse for why I am not doing what I love, what I want to be doing. If I keep saying I don't have the time, I will never reach my goals and dreams. And I think that happens to so many people. You may even be one of them. So if right now the only thing stopping you from doing something you know will bring you fulfillment and joy is the issue of "time" toss that excuse out the door. You have the time, you just have to make it work.

Now, may I present to you the first ever...

Thumbs Up Tuesday Link Up!

Thursday, May 7, 2015

5 Ways to Feel Better

Life seem boring lately? Feeling like you're in a rut? Depressed or sad? Itching for a change? Just being a lazy bum? Well friends, let me tell you, I've been all of those things in just one day. Thus, it's easy to say that I've become a bit of an expert on knowing certain things you can do to instantly feel better (even if it's only a little bit, just enough to get you to start crawling out of that hole). It's not to say that I do these things all the time, because to be honest, I rarely do them (ha). When I DO follow through with these actions, though, I always feel better. So get off your butt and start taking action!

[image source: weheartit]
  1. Re-arrange your room. I like to re-arrange my room a couple times a year or so whenever I feel like I need a change. In a way, it's kind of like taking a change in scenery without having to actually move or travel or any of that other expensive stuff. Simply switching your furniture around can give you that fresh perspective you need. This also helps in forcing yourself to clean your room and getting rid of junk you forgot you had, which leads me to my next point...
  2. Clean. Like I mean really, really deep clean. Waking up in a clean, tidy environment is THE way to start off your day. If any room in your house is a disaster, tackle it with ALL THE CLEANING SUPPLIES! Does it look like you live in your car? FIX THAT! I guarantee as soon as you're done, no matter how difficult and exhausting it may have been, you won't regret it. You'll feel refreshed. Being in an organized and clutter-free zone will also help de-clutter your mind a bit. Who couldn't use some of that?
  3. Do something nice for a stranger. This can be done anonymously if you want. You can pay for someone's coffee, put in more coins in their parking meter, write a bunch of positive letters and mail them out to random addresses, leave a small care package for your mail person, etc. The list is endless! Doing something that has the potential of making someone's day (and restoring their faith in humanity) is one of the best feelings out there. 
  4. Make a long-term plan. If you're anything like me, you need to know what's on the agenda for the rest of your life (stressful, much?) Of course we have no idea where we'll be a year from now, let alone tomorrow. Life throws curveballs all the time and I'm convinced it's the universe's favorite game to play. Regardless, thinking about your long-term plan, goals and dreams can be so helpful. It may help ease your anxiety about the future, it may help set you on the right path or it can simply help you narrow down your ideas for your future. It doesn't have to be a long-term plan. In fact, I suggest you start off small, because like I said before - life throws us curveballs. Try writing out a 6 month plan that can involve a multitude of things, such as your career plans, health goals, living situation, improving your life, etc. 
  5. Take a deep breath. Okay, this may seem so simple and cliche that it's just too good to be true, but it really can make a difference. Just close your eyes and take a deep breath (or 5 or 10) and just focus on your breaths. Then go through each of the problems you are facing and realize that everything has a solution, one way or another. Things have a way of working themselves out. Nothing is ever presented to us that we are not strong enough to overcome.


These are some things I personally do to pep myself up, so may or may not work for you. Everyone is different and you just need to find what works best for you!

  • Listen to music. I try to make a good playlist while I'm in a cheerful mood, so that way I always have it ready to go. Sometimes listening and singing along to your favorite songs is a great way to get out of your head for awhile.
  • Go outside. I really love nature. I love being in the woods, I love the way the wind blows in the trees, I love laying out when the sun is shining. The key here is to go somewhere that is peaceful enough and noise-free, so that all you really hear are the sounds of wildlife and nature itself (not cars buzzing around and people chit-chatting!)
  • Road trip alone. By "road trip" I mean short rides somewhere. If I'm not stuck in traffic, I genuinely enjoy driving long distances. One time I drove an hour to the beach by myself and was only there for a couple hours before I drove back home. It was very therapeutic though and it's a great time to just let yourself be alone with your thoughts.

What are some things you do to make yourself feel better?

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Thumbs Up Tuesday #1

I'm so excited to introduce a new series to my blog: THUMBS UP TUESDAY! It's similar to "Five Friday" or "Friday Faves" but obviously it will take place every Tuesday and it's also a lot more open as to what you can talk about/list/etc. Although it's meant to list things that you're loving lately, occasionally I might factor in some "thumbs down" items ;)

The next great news? I'm going to make this a weekly link-up! This first post is meant to be as an introduction and also to help spread the word to other bloggers. If you partake in "Thumbs Up Tuesday" then you can link-up here on my blog every Tuesday with your post! Not only is it a great opportunity to beat writer's block (if you have it!) but all link-ups are great ways of getting your blog exposed and also finding new blogs to follow. Stay tuned for next week's link-up! I will also be posting an image you can use later on this week.

Thumbs up to...

...driving under the full moon as you head back home. I've always loved when the night sky is illuminated by the moon. It gives everything such an enchanted and mystical look. What can I say? I really enjoy the simple things :)

...parents who are willing to help you out. As much as we argue, I'm very grateful for the parents I got stuck with (hahaha). They are supportive of me and always have been. I like to be as independent as possible, but whenever I do need help and ask for it, they always come through for me.

...finally being able to sleep with the window open. This is one of my FAVORITE things about late Spring and Summer. Even in the Summer, I try not to use my A.C. I love going to sleep with a warm breeze coming in through my window and that lovely warm air smell. Plus, hearing all the crickets (and other creatures I certainly would not want anywhere near me) at night is such a soothing sound for me.

...Skype dates with long-distance friends. Okay so technically I haven't gotten to do this yet (but I will tonight!) but I'm so thankful we have video chatting. Of course it's not the same as being in person, but it certainly helps when your friends have moved almost half way across the country! It's also awesome because I don't have to go out and can just stay at home in my pajamas. Ha!

...finding a drugstore hair dye that actually works. My hair is naturally dark brown, but I've been dying it a light medium brown for a couple years now. I have to go to the hair salon so often and it gets to be pretty pricey, but I sacrificed the money because every time I've tried to go lighter with store bought hair dye in the past it's been a complete disaster. My mom came across a new dye that's meant for dark brown hair so I just went for it! Really scared of the outcome, but my roots were covered and the rest of my hair became a gorgeous color. Not too shabby for $11!

What's something you want to give a thumps up to from this past week?

P.S. Let me know if you'll be partaking in Thumbs Up Tuesday! I look forward to reading your posts :)

Monday, May 4, 2015

Inspiration Monday: Today is a New Day

Often times we find ourselves making mistakes that we immediately regret (or eventually will) and it's hard to get past that moment. You may find yourself embarrassed, angry, disappointed, sad, confused, etc.; the list goes on. The thing is, everyone makes mistakes and the sooner you accept that you are not perfect, the sooner you will be able to pick yourself up again.

It's for your own benefit if you develop a mentality in which each day is a fresh start, a new beginning. Surely you've heard this before and you've probably tested it out yourself a couple times, but has it ever really stuck? It's difficult to keep a positive mindset on a daily basis, but if you manage to start off your day on a bright note, it can certainly make all the difference.

I was inspired to write this post because it was something that occurred to me this morning as I was leaving my house to head to work. I made a mistake last night, a mistake that is frequently made, despite my efforts to change time and again. So, I had two options. I could either spend the day angry and disappointed, amongst other bad emotions, or I could look at the beautiful day ahead of me and accept that it was a new day and I could start over, leaving those negative thoughts behind.

Some mistakes cannot be fixed or made better, but when we're lucky enough to have the opportunity to change our ways and make sure those mistakes do not happen again, you have to strive for that. Do not dwell on the past. Think of today, and every day, as a new chapter in your book.

"Don't let yesterday use up too much of today."
-Will Rogers

Thursday, April 30, 2015

April Showers Bring May Flowers

Not only have I been MIA from my blog, but I've also pretty much been MIA from my actual life. These past couple of months I've felt like I was in limbo. I never really felt like myself and if I wasn't in a negative mindset, I was simply aloof and detached. I tried shaking it off and getting my **** together, so to speak, but all it ever resulted in was me breaking down in despair. Safe to say, these past few weeks have been anything but pretty and pleasant.

Ask me why I got into this state and I wouldn't have an answer for you. Ask me how I got out of it and again, I wouldn't have a clear answer for you. I think it's just a mix of everything. As a confused, clueless and unsatisfied twenty-something, this isn't really a surprise. I'm still trying to work through a lot of things and in a way I'm also still trying to figure out who I really am. My restless nature certainly doesn't help with that, because this is a process that typically takes years. I also just want things to fall in place like, yesterday, so the fact that I'm still in this endless loop gets to me sometimes.

Last week it was pouring here and I thought of that phrase "April showers bring May flowers." I felt that it was the perfect way of describing my life lately. I've gone through some pretty hectic "showers" this month, but I can already feel my attitude and mindset shifting. I'm getting to the flowers.

I know this quote is used for nature and weather purposes, but I really feel like it can be applied to life, too. It symbolizes how sometimes you have to weather the storms in your life in order to get to the part where you grow as a person and have good things come your way. So I'm really hopeful that after all my life showers, I will finally be able to enjoy May. (This sounds a bit cheesy, doesn't it?)

I've been coming up with so many blog post ideas and will be starting a few new projects soon, so I'm genuinely excited for this upcoming month. I'm also excited to share all of these new things with you. I feel so guilty for neglecting my baby, this blog, and I can't wait to get back into the swing of things.

Here's to a wonderful Spring, full of new adventures. 

Thursday, April 9, 2015

Jamberry Nail Review: Marsala Chevron

I've been wanting to try out Jamberry nails for awhile now since I've been seeing them everywhere! Thanks to Kim who sent me a free sample to test out, I finally got to see what all the hype was about :) Here's my review on Jamberry nail wraps!

First of all, I love that there are so many design choices. You can play mix and match with different nail wraps or even do just one nail and paint the rest a regular nail polish color. I think these are particularly fun to do in the Spring or Summer with a cute floral design pattern or something funky to match the season. I also immediately thought of all the girls I've babysat before and how much they would love this.

The application itself is rather easy. All you need are your wraps, a file, pair of scissors and a blow dryer (or some other kind of heating device). The wraps come in various widths to accommodate for different nail sizes (and also maybe if you screw up one nail you still have other options, haha). For each nail wrap, I heated it up with my blow dryer for no more than 5 seconds (basically until it got flexible). Then I carefully pressed it onto my nail. It'll look something like this: 

Obviously at this point you'll need your scissors! I recommend cutting as far down as you can, because the rest you will have to file down. Once you've cut and filed, you apply some more heat to your nail (again, just a few seconds should suffice) and press down again to secure the wrap.

I think in total, it took me about 10-15 minutes to do the whole set. After your first couple you get the hang of it and it goes by quickly. The best part about it was not having to worry about touching stuff once I was done, because I'm notorious for always ruining my manicures within five minutes.

Check out all the different designs they have and if you're interested in watching how the whole process is done check out this video.

P.S. I love that on their site they show real photos of people who have posted their nails on Instagram for each design so you can check out what it looks like once it's on someone's hand! 

Have you ever gotten Jamberry nails? Send me links so I can see!

Monday, March 23, 2015

Inspiration Monday: Productivity

Let's face it, my productivity levels have bottomed out. If there was an actual chart showing my productivity levels within the past year, these past few weeks probably would be in the "below zero" category. It's not to say that I've been lazy, because I think for the first time in well, forever, I've been very NOT lazy. Waking up early, working a 9 to 5 job and kind of sort of still running this blog qualifies as not lazy in my book. The problem is I know that I can certainly be doing more. I know that I have been slacking. I know that I haven't been able to accomplish anything that I've wanted to by this time, even the short-term goals I had set for myself. I haven't been productive, especially when it comes to this blog, and that is not okay with me!

So as I racked my brain for what to focus on for my Inspiration Monday this week, I decided that productivity would be a great way to not only inspire others to be more productive in their lives but also kind of give myself a kick in the right direction. Everyone has their own ways of getting to a more productive level in their life (or you're still trying to figure that out, like me). I already have a blog post in my drafts on ways to be more productive in the morning. I'm a firm believer that how you start off your day can very much effect how the rest of your day goes. But I'm also a firm believer in the fact that life throws you curveballs 24/7, so you need to stay sharp and focused pretty much the entire day. Of course, waking up on the right side of the bed in the morning can help with that.

There's also a fine line between "being productive" and being so busy that your brain hurts. It's super important to find a balance here. What I though was a "productive" phase for me a few weeks ago, actually ended up being one of those "crash and burn" kind of moments in my life. There's only SO much you can do and nothing good will come from doing too much all at once. My goal isn't just to be more productive, but to find that balance so I don't run myself dry and end up back to zero productivity because I've juiced out my brain. As with most things in life, balance is key.

I'd love to hear from you! What is your best productivity tip? What do you struggle with most when it comes to being more productive?

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

The Beauty of Online Communities

Sometimes we find help in the strangest places. A lot of people wonder why blogging has become such a “fad” and I believe one of the reasons behind this is due to the community and support that comes with being a committed blogger. It’s no secret that one of the best things you can do as a blogger is become parts of social network groups that cater specifically to bloggers. Most of these groups can be found on Facebook (some open, some private) but there are also plenty of Twitter “chats” that occur in which anyone can join. It’s a great way to build connections and find people to talk to and network with.

When I first started blogging, I joined several of these types of online communities. My sole purpose for doing so was to expand my blog, build my following and just generally get blogging tips from other bloggers. Little did I know what I was truly getting myself into. I established online friendships and also became an online presence for others to rely on, which as the caring and helpful kind of person I am, was genuinely a great moment for me. 

The best part about all of this is that the online communities I now rely on the most, and have become my favorites, aren’t even specially related to blogging. I have found comfort in #fireworkpeople and great motivational advice in The Entrepreneur Incubator. Even through blogging itself, I was able to make connections that led me to the Indie Chicks Writer Network and helped me become a part of Blogger PJ Parties (that I have co-hosted a few times and always had a blast with). Not to mention the role I now play in Northeast Bloggers Network as one of the NJ state reps and the start of my own blogger’s Facebook group, All Bloggers United.

I’ve heard it plenty of times, that the internet (more specifically, technology) will become society’s downfall. Maybe that’s true in some sense. For example, I don’t believe children should be getting iPhones. I don’t believe that we should be doing all our communicating via social media. I also don’t think it’s necessarily healthy to hide behind a computer screen all the time. It’s important to get out there and LIVE. Have adventures, disconnect from technology every so often. Back. away. from. the. email. I do, however, believe that the internet is able to provide us with the beauty of online communities. There are so many out there and most of the time you will be able to find the kind of support that you can’t really get anywhere else. Family and friends can certainly give you support, but there’s something different and special about the advice and reassurance you get from strangers on the internet. And if you’re lucky, some of these “strangers” may become some of the best friends you’ll ever have. 

What are your favorite online communities?
Have there been any instances where an online community has really helped you out?

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Hello, I'm Still Here

I have somehow gone on an unplanned blogging hiatus that has left me feeling totally empty and useless (and I'm sure other bloggers know the feeling). I'm not quite sure WHY I got into a blogging rut and I'm also not quite sure HOW to get out of it. I think working full-time finally caught up with me and all the eagerness and excitement I was running on for the past 2 months or so finally fizzled out. All I've really been doing lately is working, sleeping and watching Gilmore Girls on Netflix.

If this was just a hobby, I might not feel as guilty (who are we kidding, I'd feel just as guilty) but since I'm trying to turn my blog into a small business of sorts, I feel like I've neglected a big dream of mine. I'm trying not to pressure myself and get down in the dumps for this brain fog I'm in. I've had the support of so many other bloggers, though, and I'm so grateful to be a part of this community. If you've ever thought of starting a blog of your own, do it just so you can be a part of this wonderful group of people online supporting each other. Seriously, it's unlike any other.

To update everyone on this month's happenings:

  • I turned 24 on March 7th, which means I am officially in my "mid-twenties" AHHH! Sometimes I still feel five. Sometimes I feel 75.
  • I finally met my blog soulmate, Corinne from The Feminist Feline! She was in NYC for a week so I took a train in to hang out for a little bit. Yay for blog friends :)
  • I've hired a professional designer to re-do my blog's design and I'm SO excited and happy with how it's coming along. I'm hoping it will be up by next week! Maybe that will get me out of the blog rut, ha.
  • I am 100% done with winter. I've never been a fan of winter, but right now it really feels like it's dragging out. It's supposed to snow AGAIN on Friday, which is the first day of spring!
  • I'm trying to get back into yoga again in hopes it will help me balance myself, physically and mentally. I also currently have the strength of a jelly bean, so I'm hoping yoga will help me start getting back into shape. I bought 10 online yoga videos from my favorite yogi, Rachel Brathen, which I highly recommend! 
That's pretty much the run down on my life lately. I'm working hard to get back into my A game. I just want to let my readers know that I am still here and I am still fully committed to In-Between Life. Also - thank you, thank you, thank you for continuing to read and support me. Whether you're a blogger or not, whether you leave comments or not - I truly appreciate every single bit of love and support I get.

xo, Val <3